Monday, 17 November 2014

Tips for walking the Three Yorkshire Peaks Challenge

It's been one week since completing the Three Yorkshire Peaks Challenge, and boy was it a challenge. 

It was easily the hardest but most rewarding challenge I've ever done; made harder by the fact that we decided to do it in November, one of the months for the shortest daylight hours... GREAT IDEA GUYS!

The average duration for the walk is 12 hours, and we really hoped to complete it in this time but we made it back within 12.5 hours, just 30 minutes over the average time. We decided to go the standard route of anti-clockwise and started in the dark at 5.30am and finished in the dark after a horrific climb down Ingleborough. Battered by gales and hailstorms at the top of Whernside (peak #2 and my personal nemesis) we were exhausted by the time we finished... but we did it! We did it!

We stayed in a lovely B&B in Ingleton (Seed Hill in case you're interested) and drove to Horton-In-Ribblesdale in the morning, you feel like it's a long drive in the car and you know you'll be walking that way in the next ten hours, which is psychologically not a great start to the walk...

Buuuuuut with the benefit of hindsight there are a few things I would have done differently that I'd love to pass along to you. Some are just plain old common sense that just didn't occur to me (thanks brain) but some are just having done it once, listen to Auntie Baxter on this:

* Get a good night's sleep the night before. Your body is full of adrenaline to get started and I only ended up getting three hours sleep despite going to bed at 9.30pm. I just kept thinking 'Don't forget your walking pole' and other annoying thoughts. Don't underestimate how much adrenaline you'll have.

* Take change for the car park (or find somewhere free to park). Funnily enough it didn't occur to us to bring change and so we wasted time moving the cars (in the dark) to somewhere free. We parked by the school which worked out fine, or you can pay £5 for all day parking.

* Take a thermos but only fill it with water at The Station pub. You'll be ready for a tea at the top of Whernside (#2) so just ask the nice folk to fill it up rather than carrying it around for the first 13 miles.

* Have a pint at The Station at your peril. It's pretty hard to drag yourself out of the pub (especially if it's raining like it was for us). It's a good morale booster to stop there but don't stay long!

* Take the gear seriously. Spend the money on your walking boots/waterproofs/clothes and your body will thank you. Waterproof socks are worth their weight in gold when you walk through the boggy fields and your boots get submerged.

* You WILL struggle with Ingleborough - the last peak. By that time you'll have been walking for around 8/9 hours and you come face to face with a mountain of stairs. I hate stairs. Then there's a scramble to the top which turns

* Bearing in mind we took the challenge in November, the path down from Ingleborough to Horton back to the car was in bad condition and tough to navigate in the dark. Pretty sure it'll be better in the summer, but don't underestimate how long it'll take you to complete the final stretch. It's still a good five mile walk from the top of Ingleborough - a long time after your final high five and photo at the top!

The time factor is annoying and I don't like that there's this pressure to get round in 12 hours (you got a certificate dontcha know?) because it's such a stunning walk and you don't get the time to appreciate it when you're head down just digging deep to climb all three peaks. We didn't get the time to stop and take in the view (mainly because it was foggy!) and you don't want to stop for too long in case your legs decide they just don't want to go any further.

Overall it goes without saying that this is a huge challenge. Expect it to be hard, expect the worst and you should even be pleasantly surprised by yourself and the walk. The views are stunning and you'll be very proud of yourself for completing it.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Stop what you're doing and look how gorgeous Yorkshire is

I love Yorkshire. I couldn't imagine living anywhere else right now.

Monday, 12 May 2014

5 tips if you're running the Electric Run

A few weekends ago I took part in the Electric Run for my sister Beth's birthday, a fun 5km run in London where you're encouraged to run and rave at the same time - my kind of exercise!

I loved it and it was so much fun, so if you're planning on taking part in an Electric Run, here are some tips to help you get the very most out of it:

1. Pick up your pack EARLY
For some reason, the fee you pay to join in the run doesn't include postage of the pack which includes a wristband, LED glasses and a t-shirt - fun! The downside? You have to queue for two hours before the run to pick up your pack unless you go to one of the pick up points a few days before the run. Again, the queues are massive there but at least you then get to go straight into the run when you arrive. So if you can, pick up your pack in advance!

2. The t-shirts come up small. Like, REALLY SMALL 
I pre-ordered a ladies t-shirt in large (on account of the boobs...) and when I went to put it on I got scared I was going to be suffocated. There is NO WAY that was a large. Luckily we did a little swapsies between us and I ended up in a men's medium t-shirt. I've never felt sexier.

3. Dress up
You might think you've got the fancy dress nailed down, you might have a wig, face paints and crazy socks but you haven't seen anything yet. Everyone really put their all into it and went crazy for anything neon, UV and I don't think there was a single tutu left in the London area by the looks of things. Go for it, you won't feel stupid - if anything you'll look stupid if you dress like you're taking it seriously.

4. Bring drinks
Because we queued for tow hours to collect our packs, we ended up getting straight in the queue and we were one of the last groups over the start line. No one checks your bag for anything so we could have got anything through. We had our own water which was fine and there's one water stop on the course so you should be fine but if you're after a little naughty water (vodka) then get it packed :)

5. Think about your footwear
The run is mostly on a road or pavement, so if you're planning on running the whole way then definitely consider decent footwear to avoid a stress fracture (do I sound like I know what I'm talking about or what?)

Look how much fun it was!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

On being married for 3 years...

The Boy and I celebrated our THREE YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY this week.

Three years.

That went FAST.

We celebrated by playing to our strengths as a couple; by drinking and eating.

We headed in to Leeds separately, I always think it's fun to meet the person you're living with somewhere other than at home, it feels more like a date instead of asking a question about the next electricity bill at the start of a night out.

The Scarborough Taps was the rendezvous point and after a swift half we headed to the Malmaison Hotel bar which is possibly the most expensive place for a cocktail (£9?!) in Leeds.

After a tap water at the Malmaison we headed to Rare Steakhouse, the only place I've ever dined next to a stuffed lifesize cow called Sue I think? Rather distracting when you're eating a steak, but it's too bloody delicious to care much.

Anyway, here's a few pictures of our evening...
Yeah you are!

Happy Anniversary to The Baxters!

Monday, 3 February 2014

I'm rather fond of Edinburgh... here's why in photos

These are photos from a visit in 2012, but I've all of a sudden got a craving to be back in Edinburgh... it's funny when that happens isn't it? You don't think about a place in aaaages and then BAM! you get an urge to get on a train and walk around in the blustery winds all wrapped up in a warm coat and stopping off for a wee dram somewhere.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

The 5 things I always regret packing...

I'm really bad at travelling light ok? I'm really trying to get better at travelling with just hand baggage for three reasons:

1. It costs less if you just travel with hand baggage (yippee!)
2. Waiting at the baggage carousel for checked in luggage is probably where I'm most angry in life
3. I'm TRYING to convince myself that clothes and shoes are just materialistic and as long as you have your passport you will have everything you need... butttt my shoes are SO PRETTY. Whimper.

My top five items I ALWAYS seem to fall into the trap of packing and not needing at all are:

1. Too many clothes

The Barney toy, the whiskey and the cat are ESSENTIALS ok?
This one gets me EVERY time. I guess I'm gripped by panic that I NEED that skirt, that dress, those shorts AND that other dress so I won't run out of clothes. But really why do I need all these things? If I took half of the items, they could be worn in different ways with different combinations or can easily be washed and dry quickly in sunshine, so why is it necessary for me to take two outfits for each day? (true story)

2. Unnecessary toiletries

I worked in travel for five years and repeatedly told customers not to bother taking toiletries with them as there are plenty of shops and supermarkets to stock up on when they arrive... and yet... when it comes to me packing my bag, I can't help but throw in a shampoo... and conditioner (NECESSARY).. and mosquito repellent... and deodorant... and a razor... and before you know it I've clocked up a kilo on toiletries alone, and that's just the miniatures! Calm it down and hit the supermercado.

3. Too much makeup

When will I learn that there is NO POINT putting foundation on in a hot country that a) doesn't match my patchy red sunburnt skin tone and b) slides off my face with the heat anyway when I do put it on? From now on I'm only going to throw in a mascara, eyeliner and THAT IS IT. Oh, maybe an eyeshadow too. And possibly blusher. BUT THAT IS IT.

4. One pair of shoes I tell myself I will wear but never do

You know the pair, slightly glitzy, maybe a heel on them, strappy perhaps. But lo and behold, heat + lots of walking = swollen, unsexy feet that will not appreciate being shoved into a glitzy pair of wedges. I know I prefer plain ol' flip flops anyway, so this one shouldn't be a hard habit to kick. Shouldn't.

5. Too many guidebooks

Too many?

In this day and age with wifi all over the world, there is simply no excuse for carrying this many guidebooks... and yet, I am a bookworm. I love having a book to take with me that contains a full history of a country I'm going to, a basic language section and plenty of other gems. This small Swahili book goes with me on every trip to East Africa and it's so tattered now but I wouldn't be without it. Plus, it's more reliable than the internet. Good old books.

So that's my guilty list, what's on yours? 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Walking from Saltaire to Ilkley...

... Or at least walking to Ilkley WAS the plan until it absolutely lobbed it down with rain and hail on Saturday...stupid England.

It doesn't matter though, I've done it before in the sunshine so I would have been super cranky if I'd been caught in the downpour on an exposed moor. Grrrrrr.

Here's some pictures from the sunshiney walk from Saltaire to Ilkley:

*Sigh* England, and Yorkshire in particular, really can be spectacular when it puts its mind to it... but then the rain and wind comes and it's time to stay indoors...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Create Cafe, Ilkley - A Review

Last weekend five of us got the train over to the town of Ilkley for the day to celebrate my bezzie friend Lucy's 30th birthday to get down to some seriously raucous behaviour and debauchary to end her twenties.

Or not.

We headed over to Create Cafe to get messy with paints and put our creative skills to the test by painting pottery. It possibly didn't help that we'd already been drinking on the train on the way there, so we were a little rowdy, but upon entering the (fairly quiet) cafe and being greeted by a birthday party for a young teen party quietened us down quite quickly.

We were skeptical about how the afternoon would pan out, to say the least. We don't realise how much bad language we tend to use as a group until you're being frowned at by a mum of the birthday girl.

So what happens at the Create Cafe, you ask?

Upon entering, you are asked to select a piece of pottery you'd like to paint. I was completely guided by price and wanted to choose something that wasn't overly expensive but that I would use in my home. I picked up a teapot (what? I'd use that!) and put it down VERY quickly when I saw the price tag of £18. I'll just buy one from Ikea...

I selected a ceramic tile for the reasonable sum of £7. I justified it by saying I'd put a hot saucepan on it, but in reality after spending so long painting the bloody thing I'll just display it somewhere.

So, you have your piece of pottery and all the paints are waiting for you on the table, so all that is left for you to do is think of a design and get painting.

This is harder than you think. Being stared at by a blank piece of pottery when you're a little tipsy surrounded by children's birthday parties is quite stressful. "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO BLOODY PAINT!" I cried several times.

Of course I got started and buggered it up straight away by forgetting to use the white paint first as a base coat. BLOODY HELL.

I wasn't happy with mine from the start but I refused to stop, despite wanting to run away to the nearest pub and cradle a glass of red wine.

On I went, painting and ignoring my more talented friends. There was a period of about seventeen minutes where no one talked, such was our level of concentration.

Two hours quickly went by and I got my tile to a stage where I wasn't cringing with embarrassment, and actually started to really enjoy myself and relax. Ta daaaaaaa maybe I should be a painter?

Here's a shot of our finished products - take a look at our skills!

On the whole, for a two hour activity, it's really reasonably priced when you consider it cost £9 which included a slice of cake. Of course that depends on what you choose to paint, the big bowl in the picture above was the most expensive at £30. It was fun to try something new as a group, and much more productive than drinking all afternoon...

All the materials are included, but you then have to go back and collect your item once it has been blasted in the kiln, so consider that if you don't live in the area. We had a fun afternoon, more fun that we originally expected and the only advice I'd give if you're a little creatively challenged like me, is to look around on Pinterest for some inspiration before you get started. There is no EDIT>UNDO button on pottery :)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

It's been one year since my career break*

It's been one year since I packed my suitcase, ready to leave my life as I knew it to go and live in Kenya for three months.

It's been one year since I said the most emotional goodbye to The Boy and a year since he walked out the door and didn't look back for fear of not letting me go.

It's been one year since I was shaking from crying so much and wondering what the hell I was doing leaving my entire life, my marriage, my friends, my job... everything.

It's been one year since I dragged my suitcase over the road to the bus stop, crying the whole time and easily getting my own seat because no one wanted to sit next to the crying lady with all the bags

It's been one year since I stumbled my way through departures at Manchester Airport alone, called all my family and then boarded my first flight on a journey that would take 19 hours and three planes to eventually reach Mombasa, exhausted.

It's been one year since I stepped off the plane, breathed in the hot, dusty and exciting night time scent of Kenya, one year since I was met at the airport by my friend Alice and her daughter, and one year since everything slotted into place.

It's been one year since I knew I'd made the right decision. One year since realising that life was too short not to grab opportunities when they arise. Three months is three months, you have your whole life to be together at home. Mombasa is like a second home to me.

It's been a year since arriving and I still know leaving was the best decision I've ever made, I had the most amazing three consecutive months of my life and spent every day living life, feeling alive and having the most unbelievable zest for life and most importantly, steering me in the right direction.

I don't regret a thing. I don't regret changing my flight twice and paying through the nose for doing so (screw you, Emirates). I don't regret getting a tattoo to mark the significance of everything I risked to go there. I don't regret quitting my job to try something new (sorry i-to-i, it's true!) I don't regret spending everything in my savings account on the trip, because it's just MONEY. You can replace money, I can't replace the experience I had.

Oh, Kenya *sigh* what is this hold you have over me and when can I see you again? Am I being too clingy, Kenya? Are you thinking of me too? Call me.

Until next time... here's shitloads of some photos.

 *Disclaimer - my tenses are all over the place in this post and I don't care.