Unpredictability - Good for your health

Our modern life is based on organising an environment free from the unexpected. The house needs to be as stable and reliable as possible. The job as safe as possible. Nothing should break down. Nothing but what we predict, should occur.
This is the life of the zoo animal. Let's explore the life of the Nomad. Let's live the life of the Nomad.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Switzerland - the mountain and the lady

At just over 2000 meters high Hochmatt is a good deal higher than any mountain you will find on the British Isles.  The alpine route to the top was magnificent.  Rated for climbers only, but on such a fine cloudless day with plenty of heat in the air and little wind, this was something exotic indeed for the seasoned hiker.  Without crampons, ropes and axes, such a climb during winter would be very dangerous indeed.

My guide on this mountain was a lady I shall call "S".  Having spent many years in Switzerland, and indeed a resident of the country, she was familiar to many interesting mountain hikes in the Alpine region.  In the past she had guided me across the base of a famous mountain known as the Eiger - perhaps the most memorable hiking trip of them all.  So she was the perfect guide to commission for this little adventure, and being a best friend also, meant slipping the big daily rates some guides will charge.

In Switzerland, the hikes tend to be easier to follow since various code flags will be painted at milestone points along the route.  Providing these are not covered by snow navigation is very straightforward.  At the start of the hike "S" took us on a shortcut which involved a scramble up a very steep hill face.  At one point the only way to keep going was to crawl through the trees gripping one branch after another.  Another group from below observed our progress and when they later passed us, cast praise on our extreme alpinist skills.  There was perhaps some humour behind this praise.

You can see, at about half way along the route, the stunning views- a feast for the eyes.

This gully was very steep and we rested half way up under some welcoming shade.

To get to this stage involved some very steep hiking, and with the 30 degree heat, this was very taxing indeed.  Here is where the real fun begins.  A stretch of boulders followed by a steep rocky trail with sheer face drops on either side.

 And after three hours of exertion, we arrive at the summit.  You can see the sheep hiding from the sun.

Hochmatt is located in the canton of Fribourg.  My history contains various connections to Switzerland, having lived and worked in this picturesque country for quite a few years.  And Fribourg?  Every nomad will have in his resume of places visited - somewhere that can't be put to rest and nor can it be confronted for one final last time.  So Fribourg remains what it is - somewhere this nomad avoids and doesn't avoid.

And of-course the reason is the crystal and the crystal is the woman herself - the guide.  Is it folly to look back into the past at an affection derailed by circumstance and by diminished luck?  I decided to look back; and if the future's focal point wandered like a kite in the wind - I could at least envision a connecting line between the two of them.  This time I held the woman's hand and it didn't flinch.  And so for this weekend at least, the quiet solitude of this nomad was laid aside.

And soon another adventure begins.  The plan is to be taking the children to an island located in the Mediterranian sea - Majorca.  Sea side holidays are really not my sort of thing, but it is for the children.  With all the heat, the sea, the sand and the pools - hopefully the children will find all this enjoyable and worth while.

The daily Hike

When your abode during the week is a camper van, it is a good idea to engage in some activities that will take you away from this confinement.  For me, surrounded by the stunning Pennine landscapes, hiking seemed the obvious thing to do.  Hiking is great.  Some of the benefits:

1) Relieves the stress of the day in the office.
2) Burns off calories and helps keep the weight down.
3) As with all activities, there will be a fitness and health dividend.
4) It is less stressful on the body's bones and tendons than running; and providing the route taken is not too adventurous you are unlikely to encounter any mishap.

Some hikers will never repeat a hike, but for me, situated at this campsite in Marsden - a great five mile hike was right on my doorstep.  Pule Hill. And I repeated it every evening. Here are some pics along the path.

The cross is a memorial to the soldiers that served during World War 2 with the Duke of Wellington's West riding regiment.

There are several air shafts along this hiking route.  Underneath the hill run four tunnels, one of them being a canal tunnel.  If you follow the route down from this cross you will come to the Standedge visitor centre and you can explore the tunnel by taking a tour.

Standedge Tunnel and Visitor Centre

And now my time in Huddersfield has come to an end.  The contract was extended until the funds were depleted.  There is some relief to be free of the great Northern trip every weekend.  The nice thing about working with computers is that there always seems to be more work around the corner.  The client of the consulting company offered me a contract.  And it became an option to move my caravan to Huddersfield and completely relocate.  But the contract was only verbal and there was a failure in the administration.  Meanwhile the consulting company asked me to work for them as, what they call, an "associate contractor".  This means that I work as if I am an employee, but still retain my contractor's rate and self employed status.  So now I have ongoing employment, and even when not assigned to a client, my rate is still paid.  On the other hand, I have to go and work wherever I am needed, within reason.  There is a possibility I will be working in Scotland.  I am hoping this will be the case since there is some great hiking to be done there, and I have always found the Scots to be a fun and friendly people.  I will soon find out where my next assignment will be.  But now I am free from the commitment to work for three weeks.  My holiday time begins and there are some nomadic adventures planned.

Peace to All

Friday, 3 August 2012

The Camper Van Life

During the week I have been living the camper van life.

It is not glamorous in any way.  Here would be my typical weekly activities

Sunday - Check oil, water level and tyre pressures on van.  Leave at midday and travel up the motorways for between five and eight hours to a campsite near Huddersfield.  Stop along the way for food and any other requirements.  Check in at campsite.  Spend sixty minutes hiking the Pennines.  Read a book or listen to the radio, then go to bed.

Monday-Thursday.  Wake up at 6.00.  Make a coffee.  Run to wash house for shower and shave.  Have breakfast (usually only a piece of fruit since I am on a diet).  Drive to work location.  Work nine hours.  Drive back to the camp site.  Go for a 60 minute hike, whether it is raining or not.  Go to the onsite restaurant and order soup and a glass of orange juice.  Return to camper van.  Read for a while.  Microwave my evening meal.  Listen to the radio or surf the internet.  Go to bed.

Friday.  I finish work at midday since I do an extra hour or two at work from Monday to Thursday.  This allows me to miss most of the frenetic traffic.  Arrive home to my caravan six hours or so later.  I am normally pretty tired at this point.  I order or cook a meal and go to sleep.

Saturday.  Pick children up from their Mother.  Try and entertain them while getting ready for repeating the regime in the next week.

It is not exciting at all, but the weeks fly by rather quickly.  This new contract was only to last ten days but it keeps getting extended.  Ten days at a time.  It is looking as if the next ten days will be the last - which has worked out ideal because I had reserved three weeks at this time to holiday with the kids.  We are not sure, yet, where we will be going - but it looks like Italy will win the vote.  The hassle for me is getting my new passport.  I have to sign for it and this is all a bit complicated, but hopefully this will be sorted next week.

There is a steep hill/small mountain behind the campsite.  When the weather is clear and the winds light but not dull, the para-gliders will carry their silk and string chutes up the hill.  I will enjoy spending some time watching them indulge in this graceful, if dangerous, sport of theirs.  I too am a friend of the heavens, having learnt many years ago how to fly a little cessna.  But to trust my life to silk and string!!! No thanks.  But each to their own.

To buy a twenty three year old van and expect it to do over six hundred miles a week would seem a bit crazy.  But I am getting away with it.  No break downs yet.  But then again, its engine, the Pinto - which happens to be Ford's first engine designed to metric measurment, has a reputation for great reliability.  For me it has been quite an investment.  Being self employed and nomadic means I have to pay for my own boarding wherever I stay.  And ofcourse hiring a camping pitch is a tenth the cost of hiring a hotel room for the week.  

Nothing exciting - just the usual nomadic sort of life.