Day 2

Day 2
Culbokie to Crianlarich
127 miles

A good nights sleep, a half-decent breakfast, a bit of limbering up and the lads were off again.

Fortunately all four felt good and weren’t struggling with the previous days exploits, so on for round two, the longest individual day of the trip.

With the added miles came the added checkpoints, the lads needing to constantly rebuild their energy through Haribo sweets plus peanut butter and jam sandwiches, especially after conquering an almighty climb through the Highlands.

The journey took in some of Scotland’s most famous landmarks including Loch Ness, Fort William and Ben Nevis. All four agreed that the magnificent scenery is certainly helping them take their mind off tired legs and the views at the top were always worth the incline.

Lewis is dealing with a minor muscle strain in his right leg, whilst Wes is worried about having to wear an eye patch and adopting a pirates nickname as his eye is slightly infected.

Other than that all good.

P.S Jay has been branded with the name “Downhill Day” as he always insists on leading the pack down the hill, never up it!

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Day 1

Day 1
John O’Groats to Culbokie
108 miles

Off on an adventure, from John O’Groats to Lands End to take on the ‘End to End’ challenge.

There was a real mix of emotions as Wes, Scott, Jay and Lewis all prepared their bikes outside the Seaview Hotel at the crack of dawn in the most Northern part of Scotland.

At first the group all seemed fairly focused, making sure they had everything they needed, especially Lewis who looked all over for his sunglasses, only to realise they were hanging to the top of his shirt.

Once the lads reached the start line, marked by the signpost marking 874miles to Lands End, excitement continued to grow and after a few pics, some fist pumping and the chant of “by the power of Greyskull”, they were off at 6:45am.

Conditions were favourable, cloudy with a little bit of rain and in such a beautiful part of the world, spirits were high by they time they reached the first checkpoint in Lybster (29.7miles).

With an energy boost of sweets, crisps and flapjack they were off again following the coastline down towards Brora and a reward of a bacon and egg sandwich for lunch.

The purchase of a lottery ticket raised the question, would we carry on if we won the millions, the answer “yes, but delay the trip by a day so we can have a good drinking session in Edinburgh”. (Check back tomorrow to see the outcome)

Next we were on to Tain, meeting in a Lidl car park, not the most glamorous of locations, but it was practical and on route, plus providing the chance to stock up one again on checkpoint treats.

Everyone was still smiling and the sun was getting out, last leg on towards Culbokie, across the bridge, up a decent hill and arrive at Netherton Farm.

The guesthouse was really comfortable and had a cracking view of the trek we had just completed.

Day one complete and off for a well-deserved pint.

Wish us luck for the next EIGHT days.

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the night before

“Hello mate, I’ve just bought a bike!”

“That’s great, we should go for a ride sometime next year”

“good idea, how about John o’Groats to Lands End…”

“you’re kidding!”


“go on then… let’s do it!!!”

I’m starting to regret having the above conversation. It was about 11 in the morning and we hadn’t even started drinking. Now it’s the night before we fly and the extent of what we’re about to begin is starting to hit home. Tonights conversation is more like this..

 “what time are we flying”

“has anyone spoken to Mark (our support driver) lately – does he know where he’s going”

“have you packed the cream to rub on your crotch”

“what exchange rate did you get for your Scottish Pounds”

So we are as prepared and ready as usual. Here goes. Next update from John O’Groats tomorrow evening.

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Post trip book

Who’d a thunk it…I’ve got my own book 🙂


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Post trip video

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Ethiopia pics – blog below

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Last impressions of Ethiopia

Right then. Where do I start? The last month of the trip has been incredible. It has been full of amazing historical sights, fantastic scenery, wonderful food and some of the friendliest people in Africa. Here is a brief description of some of the highlights.

After leaving Addis I headed to Bahir Dar where I met up with an Aussie guy called Marc and we toured some of the monasteries around Lake Tana and went to see the majestic Blue Nile falls. After a couple of days there I decided to fly to Lalibella in order to catch sight of the ancient Meskal festival. Lalibella is home to a number of huge churches that have been carved straight out of the rockface and should be up there with the likes of the Pyramids and Machu Pichu as one of the great man made wonders of the world. It’s scandalous that hardly anyone has heard of this place.

After Lalibella I headed to Gondar to see some more castles and to spend a couple of nights out in some of the seediest bars I have ever seen. After Gondar I took the local bus to Debark and joined up with some Dutch and Israeli travelers for a wonderful 6 day trek into the Simien Park. We decided not to go for the all inclusive trip and instead hired our own scout (with compulsory Kalashnikov), a cook, 3 mules and off we went. It was very green, very cold and very good fun. We saw a BBC film crew following some of the endemic Gelada Monkeys (note to self to look out for Enchanted Kingdom when it arrives on screen)

After Simien I hitched a lift to Axum with some crazy Italians, took a look at the ancient Stelae fields and got blind drunk with some Russian girls. Two hours after falling asleep I was woken by the police and questioned about my Italian friends who may or may not have been using counterfeit Euros earlier in their trip.

After Axum I took the bus to Hawzein and stayed at the truly amazing Gheralta Lodge which is probably the best place I’ve stayed at in Africa. At 50 dollars per night it was about 10 times the cost of anywhere else, but as it was the end of the trip I felt like treating myself. I stayed there for four nights, met Charlotte from France and headed off into the Danakil Desert for the finale of my trip. I couldn’t have picked a better place to finish. It is one of the strangest and most beautiful places I have seen.

The Danakil Depression is officially the hottest place on the earth and is inaccessible for much of the year. When we were there the temperature was a relatively ‘cool’ 42 degrees. We drove for two days and hiked for 3hrs until we were standing at the very edge of one of the worlds only active bubbling volcanoes. Afterwards we went to see sulphur fields, a camal caravan taking salt back to town and slept out under the stars. It’s a magical lunar-like place.

I am now back in Addis and waiting for my flight home! What a trip it has been. I’m looking forward to boring you all senseless when I’m back. See you very soon 🙂

P.S It’s just occurred to me that this is the very first time in my life that I don’t know what I will be doing next week. Or the week after. Or the week after that… It’s a nice feeling!

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First impressions of Ethiopia

“The vast majority of Ethiopians live on an elevated central plateau which covers half of the country’s surface area, enjoys temperatures of between 15-25 degrees all year round and is the most extensive area of fertile land in East Africa”

I don’t suppose you were expecting that? No, neither was I. It is green over here – very green. Yes, there is a desert and yes there is a drought and yes it is obviously very very serious, but the area affected is a relatively small part of the country in the south east where about 2-3% of the population lives. It by no means defines the whole of Ethiopia.

I arrived in Addis Ababa a few days ago without much of an idea of what to expect. I’d met a couple of travellers who had been this way but apart from “Ethiopia is amazing – you’re going to love it” I wasn’t really given much else to go on. Before I left Kenya, I spent two days searching the whole of Nairobi for a guide book and some foreign currency, but couldnt find anything anywhere.  Zilch. It’s almost as if their next door neighbour doesn’t exist.

It is certainly  very different here to the other countries I have been to in Africa. For a start its the year 2004 and when my western watch says  6am its actually 12am and when it says 6pm its 12pm. Confused? So am I. Trying to figure out when a bus is leaving is a nightmare.

So what is it like here? It’s really hard to put it into words. The people are very friendly and all speak good English, which I really wasn’t expecting. The food is amazingly good but totally different (their staple food, called Injera, looks a bit like a chamoix leather crossed with the underside of a car floor mat, but tastes better – thankfully) and the coffee is just to die for. There is definitely a ‘cafe’ culture with everyone sitting outside drinking machiatos. And i’m not surprised as it’s the best cup I’ve had anywhere in the world.

I think the fact that Ethiopia was about the only country in Africa to avoid being colonised (I think the Italians were here for a short while, but it was nothing like elsewhere) has meant that their culture, which has been developing for thousands of years, has come through relatively unscathed.

I had an enjoyable few days in Addis eating and drinking and soaking up the culture. Ethiopia’s capital city hasn’t been around for long (just over a century) and isn’t really what you’d call a photogenic place so I mostly left my camera at home. I’ve just arrived in Bahir Dah which is where all the really interesting history starts..

To be continued..

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Kenyan coast

After leaving the Masai Mara, I decided to do the traditional Kenyan ‘Safari and Beach’ holiday and so made my way towards the coast. I had to go via Nairobi which I wasn’t really looking forward to. It doesn’t have the best reputation. Six years ago, when I was last there, two of the three other people that I climbed Kilimanjaro with were robbed during their stopover in Nairobi. I also remember being endlessly hassled by touts and beggars. So it came as something of a surprise that I was able to walk around for two days without a single person hassling me. And nor have I heard of any crime. Nairobi must have cleaned up its act a bit. Either that or I’ve contracted leprosy somewhere on my travels.

The first stop on the coast was in Mombasa which isn’t much to write home about. I met up with a guy called Mark from London and a girl called Adriana from Bilbao and we all headed north up the coast. We stopped over in Malindi on the way which is a bizarre holiday resort chock-a-block full of Italians. It’s cliche, but it was great to be able to get some decent pasta and pizza.

After Malindi, we headed on to Lamu which is the highlight on the coastline. Lamu is Kenya’s version of Zanzibar or Ilha de Mozambique. It’s an island that was colonised early on and used as a trading port by the Arabs, Portuguese and Omanis. It has amazing buildings, lots of tiny shops and alley ways to explore and a much stronger sense of culture and identity than I’ve found elsewhere.  The three of us went on a Dhow trip around some of the islands and met up with two Irish girls, two English girls and a Canadian couple. The nine of us comprised almost all of the tourists on the island and so kept bumping into each other for drinks and meals. For one meal we were entertained by a one eyed albino man playing the bongos. That was interesting!

Tragically during the three days that we were there, the news was being filled up by one disaster after another. First a ferry boat in Zanzibar capsized and nearly two hundred people drowned. Then a British guy was shot and his wife kidnapped just south of the Somalian border. And then a fire broke out at a petrol pipe in Nairobi killing over 100 people. Hopefully bad news does only strike in threes and that’s the end of it.

Yesterday, Flash Mark opted for a flight to Nairobi leaving me and Adriana to brave the 18hr bus journey back to the capital. I’m only here for about twelve hours before I go to Addis. My idea of going overland has been kiboshed because unlike everywhere else I cannot get a visa for Ethiopia at the land border as they only give them out at the airport.

I can tell that I’m getting near to the end of my trip because London Calling by The Clash is starting to move up the most played songs on my ipod. Not long now. See you next month!!


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Migration pics

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