Where In The World Is Cress? - Adventure Blog by Cress Allwood
Blog 20: 1st May 2012
In Chile...route finding amidst disused mines and dirt tracks. I am having a brief stop in Illapel 'civilisation' for food before I head off. The 'washboard' tracks and constant snaking up & down hills is tiring, but rewarding. Clothes and body are filthy, but spirits good. Definitely in the land of cycle touring 'proper'
Blog 19: 3rd April 2012
My Meindl boots are taking me on some great journeys over here. The first picture is before the Tasmin Glacier, by Mt Cook, and the second is by Meuller Lake, same area.
I'll get some better ones when I do the Routeburn Trek over Easter!
Am in Wanaka..it's lovely. Tempted to do a sky dive. Will go and have a coffee and think about it!
Blog 18: 10th March 2012
Greetings from Auckland!
Am back from a jaunt around parts of North Island. I watched a friend take part in the NZ Ironman competition last w/e and have been inspired! I realized that I had settled into a 'lazy' touring cycling mentality when it came to daily riding distances. For some unknown reason, I saw 100k as a limit in Australia, and it seems to have stuck over here too. Altho' distance per say, is not what this trip is about, I've just opened my mind to the fact that I could, without too much difficulty, cycle a bit further some days. As I rarely decide where I'm staying the night in advance, this should be fine. I'll see how this pans out when I'm riding on South Island in just over a week. In the meantime, I'm off to the Bay of Islands for 5 days of sea kayaking. And...we're paddling from a cottage, so I don't have to pitch my tent every night: yaaaay!!
I'm delighted to say that I walked a well known route - the Tongariro Alpine Crossing last week. My 'Strides' somehow survived kicking steps in the snow on the way up to the summit of Mt Ngauruhoe (2291m) & the scree on the descent. Walking 20k in a day, when I'm used to using other muscles felt fine at the time, but my calves felt it later. Sadly, I'm not 21 any more.
What else? I have Kindle no 3. Let's hope that it survives the journey to South America! I have a spangly set of Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres in my friends' garage, ready to go on, just before Chile. Being able to buy stuff online and have it sent to an address here has been a real help. I've even ordered a map of Chile in advance - how organised is that?!! Have just purchased some Icebreaker leggings to keep me toasty in the Andes. I now have enough Icebreaker kit to open a shop! (3 t-shirts, a skirt, leggings, long sleeved hoody, long sleeved baselayer, hat, gloves, socks, bra....)
I'm taking my Gregory pack to the South Island and it'll come to S America with me. It's great for carrying everything to the airport!!
My Source is used daily - it's just one of those essential pieces of kit, that you don't think about cos it's always there, always being used. Fab.
Blog 17: 20th February 2012
A few pics in the Blue Mtns, West of Sydney - I didn't expect leeches but luckily I had some salt in my Gregory pack (left over from Borneo..)
They have all the gear from Bramwell International - Gregory pack, Source, shoes and socks. Taken in the Blue Mountains, Katoomba, Oz.
My shoes were looking very clean, after being washed.
I'm off to NZ tomorrow, so just a little bit excited!
Blog 16: 27th January 2012
I arrived on Wednesday after a brilliant day of cycling through The National Park, then taking a swim in clear water whilst waiting for a ferry. I saw blue sky all day, which made a welcome change.
Yesterday I washed everything - even my down sleeping bag, which I am ashamed to say, was absolutely disgusting. I put my Meindl Strides in the wash too - then placed them in the tumble dryer with my sleeping bag - WHICH OF COURSE YOU SHOULD NEVER DO.... to any shoe! (I couldn't find any tennis balls) Unfortunately, the foot beds suffered as a result of the heat - they're now minuscule. Oooops. Oh well. Lesson learnt and all that!
I have to say that I LOVE Australia. I hadn't really thought about before I left the UK..I was more focussed on New Zealand, but if a job came up here, I'd definitely go for it. What's not to like about great beaches, weather, lots of 50m outdoor swimming pools etc etc.
Went to a Picasso exhibition at the National Gallery today, and am doing the Harbour Bridge Climb next week, before going to the Opera. How touristy? Marvellous!
When I'm in NZ I'm going to support a friend who's doing the NZ Ironman Triathlon...am hoping I won't get any ideas!! (Don't think I could do the running, but I could maybe get back into adventure racing? Oh dear - I've been enjoying not being competitive!)
Blog 15: 7th October 2011
Borneo was GREAT! Loved the caves in Mulu National Park - saw thousands of bats flying out which was impressive. Going up Kinabalu again was fine - I wore my old Meindl fabric boots (which are going to NZ with me) & have my Gregory backback too!
Saw loads of wildlife - a 'moon rat' which looked like a white, hog (not seen one of those before), loads of monkeys, hornbill, monitor lizards, civet cats etc....orangutans eluded us, but saw their 'nests.
I'm now on an island (Phillip Isl.) south of Melbourne and am going to find a campsite then swim in the sea! BLISS. I love the weather here.
So it feels much more like a holiday, which is what I need. I have booked a ticket for the opera in Sydney for 22nd Feb, so that's my deadline.
Blog 14: 7th October 2011
We're now in Thessalonika....heading for Athens.
Am still wearing my Strides every single day (not that I have an option - it's far too cold for my sandals!) Sadly, I have a hole in the toe of my Meindl socks, due to a nail on the floor of a dodgy place we stayed in Kazakhstan. (I have been alternating with my other pair of socks and now ride in them wearing the Meindl ones at night, in my sleeping bag. They both get washed when we stop at hostels - as we are right now.)
It took us 9 days to get here from Istanbul, which sounds like a long time. You wouldn't believe the places we dragged the bikes to wild camp. After 7 days, I went for a swim in the sea, as the lack of shower facilities made it imperative. Sadly, the water was freezing, but it felt good anyway!
I have to say, I'm very glad we have a rest day today. I had to push my bike up a hill yesterday, which was a bit perturbing...my right knee was a bit sore Hopefully, it'll be fine...
I will be coming home for Christmas and I'd love to pop into the office to see everyone at Bramwell. My bike is going straight into Ghyllside cycles for a much needed bit of tlc, but we'll work around that.
So my next Trek will be up Kinabalu, Borneo, in January then cycling onward...... watch this space.......
Blog 13: 12th November 2011
Greetings from Istanbul...
Finally we're in a warmer climate! The riding in Kazakhstan was hard, partly due to the bleak desert landscape with freezing headwinds and huge distances in between towns.
The snow in Aktau and Atrau convinced us to fly here. Cycle touring in the snow is ridiculous!
Having stopped for a day, I now feel fairly exhausted - inevitable, I guess.
My Meindl Strides look like new though - not bad considering I've worn them virtually every day since September!!
You'll be pleased to hear that putting my bike together yesterday (post flight) was considerably easier this time...the panniers are always fiddly to put on, but at least I knew what I was doing this time!
The plan now is to ride to Athens, which, in theory should be straightforward. We'll hug the coastline and see how it goes. It's approx 1000km, or so. I suspect that the hardest part will be escaping Istanbul - could do with a map, really.
Apologies for my last email - it was v brief - sometimes accessing email is just frustrating. Esp. when you're composing a message and the guy says 'I'm going for lunch, so you'll have to leave!!'.
Time for some Turkish coffee. It's great being in a country where you can access such delights easily.
Blog 12: 2nd November 2011
Apologies for lack of updates. I have been cycling across the freezing desert of Kazakhstan - having a rest day by the Aral Sea (only there's no sea left!)
The last week has been fairly challenging: freezing camping (no way is my down sleeping bag efficient to -12); problems digesting food and severe headwinds made for a very miserable Allwood. However, it's amazing what a day off can do for the soul. Am almost human again!
My Meindl Strides are still on my feet - they probably smell horrible and my socks are still very comfy, altho similarly grubby! TOP kit.
We're taking a train North to Aktobe tomorrow, then hopefully will catch another one West, before cycling the remaining 430 odd Km to the Caspian Sea.
Too tired to write much I'm afraid, but do send my regards to all.
Have to say, I'll be glad to arrive in a town where you can order a range of foods - currently dreaming of marmite on toast/ steak/ salads etc etc!
Blog 11: 7th October 2011
Have just tried again to attach some photos to E-mails for this blog, but the machine doesn't want to know - it keeps crashing. Maybe, when we're in Tajikistan, it'll work!! There's no Facebook here, so I can't go down that route either. Grrr!
However - good news..I have my Kyrgyzstan. visa and tomorrow we're gonna hitch to the border (our Tajik visas are running out before we've even arrived, hence the need to hitch/ cycle through Kyrgystan and the Pamirs and pray we arrive in Dushanbe by 5th, so we can extend the visas there).
As neither of us speak Russian, it's going be interesting!!
Deb has had a spot of dental trouble, which we hope will be Ok with antibiotics and painkillers?? She has replaced her rear wheel (her bike is pretty ancient, so I'm not unduly surprised!) Fingers' crossed my bike will be OK...
We're both ready to leave the city and get going. We'll see what happens! It seems like ages since we were on the bikes.
Better go, but catch up again when we next have internet.
Regards to all!
Blog 10: 20th September 2011 - China
Follow Cress Allwoods progress on her 'Spot Tracker'
Well we made it China and am in Urumqi - after an exciting journey involving some exploding bike rims and an exploding tummy (?poss from home-cooked food in a yurt at 3,700m) but am taking antibiotics some plastic surgeons we met in Pakistan gave to me!!
Tomorrow we set off on a 24 hr train journey to the Kyrg Embassy to try to obtain visa. We also need a permit to cycle through the Pamirs in Tajikistan, plus need to extend Tajik visa: both slightly problematic. Hmmmm. Might have to be chucking bike on back of a lorry or risk being thrown out of Tajik as soon as we've entered.
Once we enter Tajik. I think life will become slightly harder..we'll be at altitude most of the time, and it'll be colder, with less water available.
I wear my Meindl Strides every day on the bike, with my Meindl socks! They're both v comfy and I hope will last for the journey.
Must go, but will update and try to put some pics on when I have access to better computer.v dodgy internet: def no access to FB and can't upload any pics.
Regards to all!
Blog 9: 2nd September 2011 - Gilgit!
Am now in Gilgit - the bike has been re-assembled (well almost...once I suss out how to put the front panniers racks on - don't laugh, but it's not obvious!!) and my camera isn't working as the battery has died and isn't responding to charging ...grrr, not that the camera working would make the paniers easier to fit!
One thing I hadn't factored in was the fact that the ATM machines might have run out of money. Doh. It's Eid, so we may leave here without enough cash to see us through to China...hopefully we'll be OK.
Gilgit isn't really a tourist destination by any means. Deb & I went for a stroll and we were the only women about. A Pakistani lady stopped and insisted that we get in her car, so she could drive us to a shop to buy food, as some boys were stalking us ie. probably just being teenagers and taking the mick out of 'foreigners'. It does feel somewhat strange, but everyone here at our backpackers guest house is v friendly.
As for the lack of Kyrgyztan visa, it looks as if we'll have to take a bus for 24hrs to get to the nearest Embassy in Urumqi, once in China. I only hope that the visa doesn't take long to process, but that's a way off yet.
Am still concerned c the weight of my panniers, but am loathe to ditch any kit as it's good quality and not cheap! (No way am I getting rid of my Icebreaker tops)
Time to look at those panniers racks again - it can't be that complex, but stumped both Deb & I earlier
Blog 8: 29th August 2011 - Islamabad
Well.... I managed to squeeze into cockpit during flight! Was invited by the captain! I guess after the flight cost a small fortune, maybe I classify as 1st class; I had to buy return ticket that I wont be using & pay excess twice...but hey ho. All good.
In Islamabad..... finally, and heading North for Gilgit tomorrow early doors, who hoo!
Blog 7: 28th August 2011 - Off to Islamabad!
Hi, feeling excited as I'm flying to Islamabad later...not sure if I'll be charged loads for excess baggage with my bike and panniers, but hey ho. Looking forward to starting the trip, although' I still don't have a Kyrgyzstan visa. Byee!
.......So I wasn't allowed on the PIA flight as I didn't have a return ticket!!!
My bicycle didn't convince them that I would be cycling out of the country! Will try again on Monday.
We'll see if the return flight via Karachi actually gets me to Islamabad on Tuesday morning: will do my best to be charming at the flight desk this time & might even wear clean clothes (ish.)
Blog 6: 12th September 2011 - A moment of Calm
Am back in Kathmandu, staying at a friends' house - she's away so I'm enjoying the much needed space and the peace and quiet before the mayhem ensues. I want to do lots more trekking here, but perhaps not during the monsoon! It is incredibly beautiful although I must admit I have no energy left to explore Katmandu, after writing reports and invoices for 2days, I will save that for another trip, right now I plan to stick my head in a good book for the whole of tomorrow before I fly to Pakistan. I can't believe it has come round so quickly. I sent my boots etc. home as they are just too heavy to justify on the bike. Am going to wear my Meindl 'Strides' and see how they fair!
Blog 5: 10th September 2011 - Final news from the Anna Purna Trail
The trek was great!!! The advantage of trekking during the monsoon season is that you have the paths to yourselves, bliss! Also, tea houses etc. are cheaper.
6 of the team of 9 managed to summit - 7, if you count the student who went over on horseback! 2 went down with the teacher, at Thorong Phedi. I chose to go over from High Camp, so the students had longer to acclimatise, and a slightly shorter summit day. We got up at 3.30am, to prepare and set of at 5am. I think we arrived at Muktinath at 4.30pm...a long enough day with a steep descent.
5 students out of the 9 wore Meindl boots and all loved them.
2 lads wore Burmas and thought they had good soles and were v comfy
2 wore Softline Ultra, which were comfy, both of whom had used the boots for DoE in the UK.
1 lad wore Air Revolution Light, he loved them.
Half the team used Source water systems and thought they were better than other brands due to the wide opening to refill.
The Gregory holdall held out very well considering it was either on a porters' back, or thrown on top of a bus. Some other holdalls the students had didn't fare so well - tearing at the seams etc.
Only a few days left with the group - need to write my report, sort out a few visas, and then head off to start bike trip.
Blog 4: 4th August 2011 - 1st news from the Anna Purna Trail
Just a quick update from me. At Braga, on day 10 ( eeeer or day 7.... lost count!) of the trek.
Love my 'Meindl Softline Top' boots - they've been through many river crossings and over many bridges...I cleaned them the other day as per my strict instructions. They are just so comfy and so light and a pleasure to put on everyday.
My rucksack 'Gregory Jade 40' is pretty good, I like the front pocket as I keep a map there for easy access and the waistband is brill. It's perfect size wise.
Most of the students are wearing Meindl boots (prob cos I raved about them at the Build up day, when I met them last year.) Also, many have Source hydration systems.
The monsoon weather means that we've mainly been staying in tea houses - no views yet of Annapurna 3 or any of the big mountains that we know are around us.
We have a rest day tomorrow to acclimatise - we're at 3540m or so here.
Must go - Hope all's well?
Blog 3: 14th July 2011 - Getting excited FINALLY!
Finally, I have started to feel excited about 'the trip'....probably due to relieving the pressure I put myself under. (I decided a few days ago to hold off on the insane desire to complete my Post Grad course in ridiculously quick time - on top of everything else I am doing.) Thank goodness I see common sense once in a while.
Meanwhile VISA's.........after about 3 months of work, I finally have a letter of inviation etc etc from a company in Pakistan, and am praying that the Embassy will now grant me a visa. However, I still don't have visas for China or Kyrgyzstan, so it'll be a miracle if I have them in time. So much for the Visa company in London.
Good news on the house front...... I met the tenants who're going to rent my house and they want it furnished - saves me storage money, but I have to pay someone to mend two chairs and the broken shed door. More importantly, they're cyclists - hoorah!
Bought some new bits n bobs - 2x 150g Icebreaker t shirts (hopefully will be perfect for the hot weather in Nepal and Pakistan) plus 2x pairs of Endura cycling underpants; a few 'Sea to Summit' dry bags, bike spares (spokes, cables etc), camera case...SD cards...and there was me thinking that I had all the kit I would need.
I have bought my first map....Turkey!! Need to photocopy pages from Laura Stone's book & download some LP guides for my Kindle.
Collected all my kit together (see pic above) but haven't packed it into panniers yet. Just looking at at scares me - the weight! Expect I'll pare it down lots. Also need to collect a bike box (and a few spare disc pads.)Pleased with my new hub (pic below) - good job as it wasn't cheap!
Spare bits for repairs are of course very important and won't be parred down........ infact may even add an extra roll of the all important gaffa tape.
An old friend from Uni days has donated £50 on my website for Cancer Research, http://www.justgiving.com/cressallwood so that's good news. (my own site isn't finished yet, but it's just one other thing to make time for.)
My jobs list is down to 2 pages of A4 (!) believe me, the end is in sight.
So altho' my fitness has gone out of the window, the process of packing up my home, winding up my job and organising the whole trip feels OK at the moment. Emotionally, it has been a real roller-coaster recently. I had no idea it would be this hard, and yet, it will all be worth it when I'm pedalling away knowing that my friends back home are at work! Not long now - yehaaah!
Blog 2: 29th June 2011 - What's In The Bag?????
So........ when you are off on a big adventure around the world on your bike with the intention of doing some very remote mountains what do you take with you?
Cress Allwood has less than a month to go before setting off on her big trip and she is making some very big decisions about what she absolutely needs and what she would very much like to not leave behind. Every girls needs a luxury no matter how adventurous she is and I strongly suspect every boy does too!
Before even beginning to start on my packing there are some essentials to deal with that seem to take endless hours of grappling to make a dent in:
1. Secure rental on my house through an agency (has to be paid for of course)
2. Complete various tedious forms and organise gas and electricity bods to come round to give me 'certificates' (oh joy.)
3. I've arranged removal of my furniture and storage of it. More costs, so I'm only just going to cover my mortgage. Not too happy about this, but that's life. I hadn't considered the fact that when storing furniture, I have to decide on how long I'm going to need a container for - tricky when I don't know!
4. Need to sort out new bike insurance and house insurance, due to letting my house.
5. Have paid off my credit card and ordered another - having a sister to oversee my accounts will (I hope) be helpful. Although, I haven't found a card which allows you to take money out, without charging you.
6. 2 essays have yet to be written for my course
7. Work continues to be busy, as I need to do the succession planning for my post
8. Have cancelled milk - am now going to cancel my paper. Mustn't forget to pay the window cleaner! (seems ironic to be worrying about clean windows really)
Now to the fun stuff……… what to pack for the adventure of a life time? Well everything will have to fit into my Gregory hold all and depending on how much of ‘everything’ I have, I will then make the decision between taking a Gregory 90L holdall or a Gregory 120L holdall.
1. Gregory Jade 40 back pack for yomping up hills when I get to them, it is really comfy!!!
2. Meindl Stride XCR’s (I have not been able to take them off as they are so comfy….. so maybe I will just leave them there)
3. Meindl Softline Top boots – light, very comfy yet really sturdy and should be just the job for Nepal
4. A spacious new tent - larger than I'm used to, positively luxurious compared with my last one
5. A Kindle and have downloaded loads of free books. Probably need to download language books and guide books too
6. A 16g Nano because if I lose my iphone and have no music, I WILL cry
7. A folding, spare tyre (Schwalbe Marathon), my pump/ Allen keys/ puncture repair kits/ spare spokes etc etc
8. Must purchase some ‘doxy tabs’ at some point (anti-malarial) - they're not cheap at the GP's
9. Sandals with rubber toe section
10. Non-lycra bike pants to wear under whatever I'll be wearing in Pakistan etc
11. My 'Spot Tracker' - buying kit is the easy bit - taking time to set things up is frankly, annoying!
12. Need to start thinking about what else I need to purchase in terms of kit
Ooooof - time for a cuppa as it's all rather droll. I could do with a week off to rattle through my jobs. Now there's an idea…….
Blog 1: 12th May 2011 - The BIG Adventure
Well planning for the big trip is well underway and getting to grips with the nitty gritty of uprooting one’s life in the name of Adventure is beginning to take on a life of its own.
I am attaching a pic of my bike (fully loaded & looking v spangly and new - a few years ago) & one of it's owner, on the top on Cota Paxi - wearing my beloved Meindl Nepal pros!!
Below is a brief overview of the trip plans to date...We're still hoping to start the ride in Pakistan, but will be keeping an eye on things. Once we start cycling, the dates will probably go out of the window!
25th July - 24th Aug: Annapurna Circuit
24th Aug - ?28th Few days in Delhi (need to write exped report!)
c28th Fly to Islamabad
29th Fly to Gilgit...put bike back together, orientate, relax, pray for good weather
c1st Sept start cycling!!
14th Sept arrive Kashgar, China
18th Sept: Kyrgyzstan
21st Sept: Tajikistan
1st Oct: Uzbekistan
20th Oct: Turkmenistan
11th Nov: Caspian Sea!!
Not sure whether we'll return South via Iran or head to Armenia/ Azerbijan & then back through Turkey & Europe...... see map for more details.....
It's anyone's guess at this time.
As for planning updates:
i. Feeling more human as I've finally completed all the visa applications - 7 in total: India, Nepal, Pakistan, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan (Turkmenistan has bitten the dust as it is just too complicated & no time to process a visa anyway.)
Top tip to anyone planning to visit these countries - allow lots of time! It has taken around 2 months to find an in country agent in Pakistan - loads of emails etc and I still don't have the exact paperwork. Am hoping I can get away with a few made up itineraries etc.
ii. Still not rented my house - but have chatted to an agency, so the worst case scenario is that I pay a % and go through a lettings company.
iii. Why did I think it would be a good idea to do another Post Grad course? Could do without the pressure of writing three essays, on top of all this!
iv. As for cycle training - does cycling to Wilfs café count!!
v. Excited about my new front wheel - does that sound really sad? It has a dynamo hub - it's still in Ghyllside Cycles, but I'm looking forward to generating my own electricity. Cool, methinks. Costing a fortune, but hey ho.
That's enough - every day I have a jobs list of things to do for the trip/ house etc. I'll need a holiday after this - or rather after Annapurna.