Everest Trek Get Together No 13

No Unlucky No. 13 for us! In fact magically lucky, yet again, on the weather front.

Friday: Lunchtime train to Newport. Rendezvous with Dave, then west to Steffi’s for a stroll in Canaston Woods followed by G&Ts, curries and port…. uh oh. Then on to Newgale and the caravan in the company of Phil and Lesley.

Saturday: A late start, handily missing the rain. The Puffin Shuttle from Newgale to St David’s, then south along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. Late lunch at The Cambrian Inn, Solva, then on via The Gribin and Gwadn to Newgale.

On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, between Solva and Newgale
On the Pembrokeshire Coast Path between Solva and Newgale

A superb sunset over St Bride’s Bay.

Sunset, Newgale beach
Sunset, Newgale beach

Sunday: A stroll on the beach ….

Newgale beach
Newgale beach

…. then LUNCH!

Sunday lunch
Sunday lunch

Manaslu & Tsum: Mini Update

Two months before I go to Nepal, this story blows up and major travel insurers threaten to pull their cover unless Nepal puts a stop to helicopter rescue insurance fraud.

First on twitter:

(Excellent summary from Alan Arnette there)

Then in the wider press:

Here’s the original story, by Annabel Symington, AFP’s Nepal Bureau Chief:

and some of follow up coverage:


All of  which brings back memories of our enforced helicopter ride from unlovely Lukla to KTM back in 2011 which marred the end of the otherwise wonderful Three High Passes to Everest trek. A different scam, but still a scam involving trekking tourists and helicopters.

It looks like a scene from Apocalypse Now. It felt like one.
It looks like a scene from Apocalypse Now. It felt like one.

In the meantime (and looking ahead!) I’m starting on my kitlist spreadsheet, checking Air India’s baggage allowance (2 x 23kg – should be plenty!!) and gradually getting my USD from Thomas Exchange Global. Turns out they can provide Nepalese Rupees too.

Oh, and starting to plan next year’s Nepal trek with Val: Mera Peak 6,476 metres (21,247 ft) – Amphu Labsta Pass 5,845 metres (19,177 ft) – Island Peak / Imja Tse 6,189 m (20,305 ft).

Update – 18 September 2018

Annabel Symington’s blogpost on her investigation into helicopter rescue fraud in Nepal:

Home from our eleven day stay at 40A

Phil and I are back from a super eleven day stay in Herefordshire.

Walked a bit, read a lot.

15 jars of August Apple Chutney – various varieties – made from Train Set Red Delicious Windfalls.

Learned how to use the sit on mower and cut all the grass. Perfected the three point turn at the grass cuttings escarpment.

Me and my mower
Me and my mower

Failed to find the lost tortoise, and marvelled at the range of the Lost! poster locations.

Lost Tortoise poster - Kerrys Gate
Lost Tortoise poster – Kerrys Gate

Caught the bus into Hereford and made friends with Dominic, the bus driver. In town, Sensory & Rye provide such a hit for morning coffee that we went back for lunch. Yum.

The local buzzard quartet provided regular afternoon displays, and one blue sky morning we received a visit from what looked like all of Herefordshire’s house martins, sitting along the wires strung out over the sheep field.

Buzzard in the blue sky
Buzzard in the blue sky

We started our holiday with a slap up Sunday lunch with dad and Jean and had a local food-tastic Friday evening meal with them at The Temple Inn, Ewyas Harold – AA Friendliest B&B of the Year Winner 2018-2019!

A leisurely mooch around Dore Abbey, and a last lunch at Abbey Dore Court Gardens….

Dore Abbey
Dore Abbey

Bargain bird’s eye chilis and ginger from the Allensmore Aladdin’s Cave that is Lock’s Garage, and the best Raisin and Cherry Tiffin this side of Offa’s Dyke helped pass the time on the three hour train journey home.

Sunrise over Grey Valley
Sunrise over Grey Valley

My photos are in this Flickr Album: Forty Acres, August 2018.

Walking in Northern Albania: We’re back!

Well, we survived Northern Albania’s Accursed Mountains, although lingering – and unexpected for us – snow patches made life a little ‘exciting’ at times.

Snow ledge crossing on the approach to the Qafa e Valbonës / Valbona Pass, Albania (June 2018)
Snow ledge crossing on the approach to the Qafa e Valbonës / Valbona Pass, Albania (June 2018) … what you can’t see is the steep drop below the snow just went on, and on, and on.

We walked through wonderful wildflower meadows – buttercups and daisies, vetch and valerian, orchids and lilies, gentians and geraniums, campion and columbine and many, many more. Beautiful both to see, and to smell as we strolled through patches of sage and mint, chamomile and marjoram. Wild strawberries lined the path in places, and butterflies and moths fluttered by.

Undulating forests full of ancient beech and oak, lime and chestnut, rowan and pine, provided cover for us from the sun, and protection for giant snails and one spooked salamander.

Wildflower meadow, and the Accursed Mountains (Prokletije / Albanian Alps) above. En route to Qafa e Valbonës / Valbona Pass, Albania (June 2018)
Wildflower meadow, and the Accursed Mountains (Prokletije / Albanian Alps) above. En route to Qafa e Valbonës / Valbona Pass, Albania (June 2018)

Our days also featured crystal clear mountain streams, freezing cold turquoise pools, river crossings, waterfalls and gorges; and a three hour cruise up Lake Koman, a reservoir in one of the Drin River’s many gorges, to reach the Albanian Highlands.

Cold water, shade and cool breezes were always welcome as it was hot and sticky most days, with a regular afternoon downpour around 2-3pm. Bledi, our excellent local guide, and Max, our Wild Frontiers group leader ensured early starts to avoid the rain, and the heat. They also took great care of us on those trickier sections of the trail, and numerous river crossings – most were plank bridges, but not all.

Walks ranged from a 7km stroll around the cultural sights, waterfalls and waterways of Thethi to the 1300 m ascent up to the Qafa e Thorës / Thore Pass.

Me, cooling off at Ujëvara e Grunasit / Grunas waterfall / Thethi waterfall, Albania (June 2018)
Me, cooling off at Ujëvara e Grunasit / Grunas waterfall / Thethi waterfall, Albania (June 2018)

Alpine chalet-style guesthouses in Valbonë and Thethi provided comfy beds and en suite bathrooms. Our last night’s accommodation at the aptly named Hotel Panorama in Krujë came with this super view of the old town, bazaar and castle.

Krujë old town, bazaar and castle, from the Hotel Panorama, Albania (June 2018)
Krujë old town, bazaar and castle, from the Hotel Panorama, Albania (June 2018)

Tomato, cucumber and feta cheese were staple foods for breakfast and lunch, together with boiled eggs, local bread and jams, and occasionally honey and tasty fried pancakes. To drink, gallons of water, thimblefuls of Turkish coffee and glasses of mountain tea during the day, beer and wine available with dinners which ranged from myriad mezzes to four course meals.

Best treat of the trip – afternoon tea at Bledi’s parent’s place, complete with jugs of mountain tea and scrumptious orange and walnut cake made by his aunt. Although cold beers and crisps on the balcony of our Hotel Panorama room in Krujë came a very close second.

All in all, a great way to spend a week (cheap too!), and I’ve added Albania to my list of places to return to (soon).

Walking in Northern Albania: Counting Down


A month or so to go before we set off on Wild Frontiers’ recce trip, Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains, and this has popped up in my Twitter feed:

Two Skanderbeg snippets I learned from Karen Murdarasi’s article were that he was born, in 1405, in Krujë – where we spend out our last night, and that he

“…left his homeland at the age of nine for Adrianople (Edirne, in modern Turkey), where he was converted to Islam from Christianity and given a new name: Alexander, or in Turkish, Iskander. He was trained in the art of war and granted the title bey (lord or chieftain) and so the warrior ‘Skanderbeg’ came into being.”


A few weeks ago Thelma-from-my-WF-Pakistan-Trip booked the last remaining place on the tour and is joining Hazel and me on our whistlestop pre-tour night and morning in Tirana – home to Skanderbeg Square – so I’ve changed our Villa Tafaj reservation to a triple room.


It’s a little early for looking at weather forecasts, but here they are on Yr:

I’ve raved before about Yr.no, the weather forecasting website from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.  Yr’s coverage of Albania is no less amazing.


Looking for books to read about Albania has led me down a couple of interweb rabbit holes. Join me in exploring the lives and works of:

Robert Elsie

Robert Elsie (1950- 2017): writer, translator, interpreter and specialist in Albanian studies.

His marvellous website – http://www.elsie.de/ – houses a wealth of material relating to Albanian art, history, language, literature and photography, which led me to….


Edith Durham.jpg
Edith Durham

Edith Durham  (1863 – 1944): an English artist and anthropologist, who travelled and worked in Albania between 1900 and 1914; Nicknamed the Queen of the Highland Peoples by the Albanians of the Northern Alps.

The Photo Collection of Edith Durham (on Robert Elsie’s website)

Albania’s Mountain Queen: Edith Durham and the Balkans by Marcus Tanner, book review (Anna Aslanyan, The Independent, 12 June 2014)

I read Robert Carver’s The Accursed Mountains: Journeys In Albania in 2010, and struggled through Ismail Kadare’s The Accident (translated by John Hodgson), and so based on Planning your own reading journey? on Around the World in 80 Books, I’m going to track down the following in the library – Albania: The Search for the Eagle’s Song by June Emerson and Ismail Kadare’s The Three-Arched Bridge and Agamemnon’s Daughter.

And to round everything off, I’ve just ordered Edith Durham’s High Albania and Lloyd Jones’s travelogue Biografi from AbeBooks.


I’m flying hand baggage only, so I’ll have to be ruthless. Time to start piling up the potential packing on the spare bed….

Albania - the packing commences