Burntmoon.com: Blog https://www.burntmoon.com/blog en-us (C) Burntmoon.com burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) Tue, 22 Nov 2022 11:49:00 GMT Tue, 22 Nov 2022 11:49:00 GMT https://www.burntmoon.com/img/s/v-12/u440714399-o407035567-50.jpg Burntmoon.com: Blog https://www.burntmoon.com/blog 120 120 A VIRGIN ON A BIKE https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/a-virgin-on-a-bike A VIRGIN ON A BIKE

 

This must be one of the most beautiful and impressive stretches of paved road in the world. I found it hard to concentrate, passing huge mountains, their curved profiles shaved to sheer vertical faces, 100’s of feet high, by the imperceptible flow of long extinct ice-monsters. Strips of snow clung to ledges and gullies where the sun had not yet penetrated. Small, snaking streams flow through valleys they can only dream of having eroded. Tree-less scars hang on the mountain where avalanches have ended colonisation, forcing the cycle to begin again.

 

I had arrived in Vancouver a relative virgin to cycle touring. A week spent cycling around southern Ireland and a week around Islay and Arran Islands in Western Scotland was the sum of my experience. Both times it was with a partner and our longest day was 50km, covering a total of 300km and 250km respectively. This time I was planning to ride solo from Vancouver on Canada’s west coast to Jasper in the Rocky Mountains and back again. In theory this was to be a 1200 km trip in practice it turned out to be 2500km and five weeks on the road. Having sat on a bike only four times in the previous two years to say I did minimal training for this adventure would be an understatement.

 

I already had camping equipment but my first task was to purchase essentials such as a bike and panniers. Not being one to take the easy option I chose a mountain bike with front suspension for the trip. A touring bike would have been cheaper and would have made the trip a lot easier. However, one of my prime objectives was to experience the off-road trails for which British Columbia is rapidly becoming renowned.

 

Three days after purchasing the bike, and the day before I was due to set off, some kindly soul pinched it. To make matters worse it wasn’t insured; I was gutted. A friend pointed out that if this had been an expedition to the North Pole and my huskies had died I would buy some more rather than pack up and go home, an appealing option at the time. So, the next day I threw caution to the wind and dwindled my meagre funds some more, buying a replica bike as if the theft had never occurred.

 

Finally prepared, I set off on the 6th June. The first day's mission was to get out of Vancouver which involved a 105km cycle ride; nothing like a gentle break-in for the legs. Trying to walk the next morning was fun, to say nothing of the anal agony caused by sitting on a razor-blade thinly disguised as a saddle. It took a week of abject misery before my bottom started to recover. My leg muscles never did.

 

On day four I hit the first major obstacle, the 1340m Allisons Pass. This was a long, slow climb on a hot, sweaty day. The next day the map showed that the road followed a river to Princeton that meant an easy day downhill, because that’s the way water flows isn’t it? (naive or what)!. Under this misapprehension I spent the morning cycling 20km of off-road trails through Manning Park. This finished on a singletrack winding around a beaver lodge and through clearings of gnawed stumps, culminating with a paddle through knee deep, icy-cold water where the river had flooded the track; bloody beavers! The easy downhill which followed turned into a gruelling assent of Sunday Pass (1280m) in the pouring rain.

 

A similar thing occurred 2 days later. Still innocently trusting my map I expected an easy, level ride along a lake shore up to Kelowna. In reality, it was a climb of over 1000m along a corrugated dirt road with frequent sand patches for 15km. To make matters worse, every pause for rest was greeted by a swarm of mosquitoes that then had a meal on wheels as they lazily flew along with me. The one good thing about this route was that it took me to Chute Lake in Okanagan mountain park. From there I cycled along part of the Kettle Valley, an old railway line converted from rails to trails, crossing two of the many trestle bridges; 100’s of feet above the valley floor. The route down was along a similar road to my ascent and here I had my first puncture.

 

At Sicamouse I headed east. The scenery changed from low farm land to a more mountainous landscape becoming increasingly dramatic as the valley narrowed to a point just wide enough to accommodate a road, railway and narrow lake. I took a rest day at Revelstoke to avoid the predicted thunderstorms and to rest tired limbs before the purportedly gruelling climbs up Rogers and Kicking horse passes.

 

East of Revelstoke the route began to climb gradually. Although the passes here are high (some twice the height of England’s highest mountain) the distances are great enough to allow a long lead-in. This was the beginning of the Rocky Mountain National Parks; the main reason for starting this trip. Although it was uphill all day the awesome nature of the landscape took away both my breath and thoughts of the pain.

 

The road still followed the railway line and occasionally a locomotive would crawl past; its hotchpotch of carriages snaking through the valley behind it. I got a thrill of child-like excitement as I waved to the engine driver and he waved back and, grinning, tooted his whistle to me.

 

Along those parts of the road prone to avalanche, tunnels have been built over the road to deflect the flow of debris away from road users. It was while cycling through one of these that I startled a shaggy-haired mountain goat and her kid. They ran alongside me for about 50m, no more than 3m away, until I emerged from the tunnel. She cut behind me and ran across the road in front of a taxi, scrambling up the embankment on the other side, her offspring faithfully in tow. I was to have a similar experience with a white-tailed deer that I startled as I flew downhill. It sprang along with me, almost close enough to touch, before veering off to lose itself in the forest undergrowth.

 

The ascent of Rogers pass was so gradual that I was at the top before I realised it and was soon enjoying an easy descent into Yoho national park. Here they have converted 6 former firebreak roads into mountain bike trails, ranging between 3 and 24km in length. I spent the afternoon riding the Ice River trail; a 17.5km (one way) ride to Lower Ice River warden cabin. My biggest worry about off-roading in Canada was the fear of encountering a bear. At nearly two metres in height and weighing over 90kg, Black bears can run as fast as I can cycle, and climb trees with more ability. In order to give any bears in the vicinity warning of my approach I sang loudly as I rode through the fairly dense bush. The fact that I did not encounter a single bear on any of my off road jaunts may be a reflection of my singing. Wherever I camped I had to hang my food from a tree away from the tent at night. It is essential in Canada never to camp with food (or toothpaste) in the tent or you may be awakened by more than a curious Chipmunk. The following day I visited Takakkaw Falls, a 15km ride along a quiet and hilly lane to the beautiful Whisky Jack youth hostel. Just across the valley are the falls which cascade over the valley wall into a plunge pool and explodes into a spray of fine mist, soaking everyone in the vicinity.

 

Next came the day I had not been looking forward to, the climb over Kicking Horse pass. Again, the gain in altitude was so gradual that I was over the pass without realising it. Here, the Great Divide, a small stream splits into two. The eastern fork flows across Canada to the Atlantic Ocean while the west arm descends to the Pacific Ocean. A few kilometres further on and I was looking out over Lake Louise; a large turquoise lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains, quite serene except for the hoards of tourists jostling for camera angles. Lake Louise the village was a disappointment, consisting of just two rows of shops bordering a large car park, a couple of petrol stations and motels. For me its significance was much more symbolic, representing the midst of the Rockies and the point where I joined the famous Icefields Parkway. This is a 230km stretch of road flanked on both sides by 3000m+ peaks that themselves are separated by glaciers. These glaciers are fingers of the Columbia Icefield; a 325km accumulation of ice feeding six major glaciers, three of which (Athabasca, Dome and Stutfield) can be seen from the road. There are two passes on the parkway, Sunwapta and Bow, the latter being the highest point of my journey at 2088m. At these altitudes it can become quite chilly and as usual in mountain environs the weather can be unpredictable.

 

 

Cycling the parkway south to north has the disadvantage of going against the prevailing winds and having the very steep ascent of Sunwapta pass. One advantage is the gentle climb up Bow pass. The road crosses alpine meadows vibrant with the early blooms of Moss Campion (Silene acaulis), Western Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum) and Indian paintbrush (Castilleja sp.). At Bow Pass I took the masochist’s route up to Peyto Lake lookout. At the summit coach park, panting and sweaty, I was mobbed by Japanese tourists wanting their photograph taken with the bike and me. Having caught my breath I jostled my way onto the platform for a view and mandatory photo of the lake and valley which is certainly one of the most picturesque I have ever seen. I returned to my bike to find it surrounded by French tourists watching a Raven shred my maps and empty the contents of my bar-bag having opened the zips with its beak. I was furious that these people had not scared the bird away. One had even captured the whole debacle on video.

 

Just past Rampart Creek youth hostel I turned off the Parkway and spent a morning cycling along the Alexandra trail which followed the river westwards. This took me closer to the mountains without any appreciable gain in altitude or any tricky technical sections. The only unfortunate thing being that the trail is through fairly dense bush so views are restricted.

 

Back on the Parkway I ambled past the Weeping Wall; a massive, vertical wall of rock with a single scar on it down which water is channelled. Fifteen kilometres further on began the ascent of Sunwapta Pass. Not such a long lead in to this one so the gradient had been reduced using switchbacks. Still, I found it hard work, and had to have a rest, thinly disguised as a photo. stop, half way up. At the top was the beautiful and rustic Hilda Creek Youth Hostel. This was a great base for exploring the heart of the Parkway as the trail heads of several walks are close. A popular and easy but quite spectacular walk is up to Parker Ridge. It is only 1.5km up to the ridge through clumps of colourful alpine flowers to a breathtaking view of the Saskatchewan Glacier and Mt. Athabasca. All along the Parkway there are rustic youth hostels where water is still drawn by handpumps or collected in pails from a cold mountain stream. Gas lamps replace the flick of a switch and chopping wood is a necessary precursor to warmth.

 

Hilda Creek hostel is only 7km from the Columbia Icefields Centre, built in 1996 specifically as a tourist trap; a partnership between Brewster Transportation and Parks Canada to provide information, interpretative displays and snowcoach rides on the Athabasca glacier. It reminded me of an airport terminal and I spent as little time there as possible. The ride into Jasper was fairly easy but for the constant headwind. Jasper is a small, as yet unspoilt, mountain town with a welcoming feel to it. I called into Freewheeling Cycles for some trail info. and to try to hire some knobblie tires for Jaspers famous trails. Unfortunately I found them unhelpful on both counts,” we don’t hire tyres and all our used knobblies are in a box out back for recycling,.... but we can hire you a mountain bike with knobblies on it”. No, thank you.

 

I wandered into a local bar and spent the afternoon watching Argentina knock England out of the World Cup. Here I met David Harrap and his son Liam who kindly invited me to tea. David is a local writer and Liam is the subject of one of his books “The Littlest Hiker In The Canadian Rockies”. They gave me some useful advice on local trails and the next morning I set out on the Wabasco Lake and Valley of the Five Lakes trails. These consisted of a variety of habitats ranging from alpine meadows to dense bush to lake and marsh. Loons cried over the water and a myriad of small, colourful birds chirped their way to safety as I rode through. The alpine meadows reminded me of the High Peak Trail in the Derbyshire Peak District, even some of the flowers were the same species.

I spent the next day watching the Canada Day parade with David and Liam. Liam spent most of the time rushing around trying to collect the candy being thrown from the floats. The floats themselves provided an interesting window on the Canadian way of life. Indians with full head-dress appeared as a token reminder of the original inhabitants. Then there were cheerleaders, mounted police in their traditional red uniforms, cowboys on horseback, four-wheel drive super trucks, marching bands and the Miss Canada Day winners.

 

It was with reluctance that I left Jasper, continuing my journey back to Vancouver. But cycling past Whistler mountain, with the upper terminal of the skytram looking like the starship enterprise guarding the mountain, a memorable thing happened. Sitting a few metres from the road edge eating the blossoms of the wild flowers was a Black Bear. I did not notice it until the last minute and all I could do was hold my breath and cycle past. After all my worry and thoughts of what I’d do if I encountered a bear, it never batted an eyelid. I stopped a short distance away and watched it for a while. It appeared more beautiful than those in a zoo. The other memorable part of this day’s journey was the overpowering scent of Yellow Ladies Slipper Orchid, growing in profusion in the damp ditches by the side of the road.

 

I camped that night in Mt. Robson Provincial Park and World Heritage Site. Mt. Robson is the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3954m. Unfortunately it is also a very shy mountain, hiding behind a vale of cloud much of the time, and all the time I was there. The next two days were the longest of the trip, 147km and 187km respectively. When one spends 7 or 8 hours in the saddle ones thoughts go off at some strange tangents.

 

It would be unfair of me to mention only the good parts of my journey although on the whole the bad parts were relatively few. However there were occasions when I reached a level of exhaustion such that I was close to breaking down in despair and sobbing. This most often occurred whilst fighting a head wind when climbing uphill. I would be going flat out yet hardly moving forward: so frustrating. Screaming obscenities at the wind certainly had no affect but it made me feel a little better.

 

In Kamloops I had a rest day and spent two nights in the friendly youth hostel - a converted courthouse which has retained many of its original furnishings, including the judges podium. After replacing a split tyre at Java Cycles; a friendly and helpful shop, I checked out some of the local trails. Strangely, Kamloops seems to be located on a desert or huge inland dune system and many of the trails were on sand, which made for hard cycling. Eventually I gave up and rode along the river bank to McArthur Island; a beautiful spot popular with sporty-types.

 

After the relatively easy descent from the Rockies I started to climb again over the coastal range. I followed long winding valleys cloaked in trees. My task was not helped by the heat from which there was no escape. When I hit Penticton the temperature was up to 102º F. Whistler proved to be a little cooler but a lot more expensive. Despite being fairly new it had a traditional alpine feel to it and was full of snow boarders, skiers and mountain bikers.

 

The next day I cycled down to Squamish where I found a hostel full of rock climbers. I ended up staying here 8 nights instead of my intended one. The magnet for rock jocks is the Chief; the second largest piece of granite in the world. The rock is as sticky as English gritstone but with 2000feet sheer cliffs it leaves Stannage standing.

 

The ride back into and through Vancouver was along busy highways and an unfortunate way to end my journey. By the time I reached the youth hostel I had covered a grand total of 2476km; a feat I still find hard to comprehend. If I had to offer one piece of advice this would be it: don’t be phased by the whole, just take one day at a time and enjoy it!

 

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/a-virgin-on-a-bike Mon, 21 Nov 2022 09:25:15 GMT
ACCAPULCO DIVERS https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/accapulco-divers ACCAPULCO DIVERS

 

 

"Adios amigos" I said through a false, fear induced smile to the greasy-haired Zapata moustache, "muchas gracias". The green VW sped off in a plume of black smoke, its engine loud even for an air-cooled beetle. He couldn't or wouldn't understand where we wanted to be dropped off and so on the third attempt we'd accepted being dropped in the vicinity. Now we just had to figure out where in Acapulco we were.

 

"Can I be of assistance? asked the respectable young looking man stood in the shop doorway. He introduced himself as Carlos and invited us into his grandfather’s shop. We explained that we were looking for a room and he offered assistance as interpreter and negotiator on our behalf. Deb stayed and chatted to the grandfather while Carlos and I went to find some accommodation.

 

Deb and I had both felt that Acapulco was a must see, despite our reservations that it would be a huge tourist rip-off. The one and only thing that held our fascination were the cliff divers. Inspired by “Fun in Acapulco”, the glamour and excitement that these people seemed to represent had stayed with me. Today in this age of new fangled adrenaline sports such as bungee jumping, white water rafting, zorbing etc. the cliff divers seem to hold a flame of purity; not a fad that comes into fashion and then fades away, and not an activity of perceived danger tamed by ropes and harnesses and full body protection. Naked but for a pair of trunks, these central American Tarzans leap into a narrow channel gouged out of the rock by the continual pounding of the Pacific ocean. They then swim its width through the white, frothing foam and then climb a vertical cliff, 35metres high, barefoot and on fingertip holds.

 

 

As if that was not feat enough, they then dive from the top into the 14 feet of water, punching the surface upon entry to avoid dislocations, and arch their body with severity so as to avoid the rocks that line the bottom of the channel. This is pure, untamed adrenaline - no protection, no gimmicks, no fear. This is the skill real heroes are made of.

 

So when Carlos invited us along to the 10.30 show as his guests we jumped at the chance. Our egos were soaring as Carlos led us past the ticket kiosk; found us a space overlooking the channel and cliff, told the marshals we were his friends and disappeared, only to return with three beers.

 

That night’s performance lived up to all expectations. The divers ran down the stairs with torches flaming, pushed through the crowd and dived into the turbulent pacific waters. Emerging dripping on the other side of the channel they climbed the rough jagged rock face; each seemingly following their own invisible route on holds tried and tested and polished by decades of thrill seeking crowd pleasers. After reaching the top each prayed at the shrine of the holy virgin before climbing a short way back down to a small flat ledge each. All except one who remained on the top. Then each in turn raised their arms above their head and with a huge effort launched themselves forward and out into the waters below. One chose to do a half somersault, another a full somersault landing feet first in the water while the third added a full twist to his half somersault.

 

That just left a solitary figure silhouetted on the top. The spotlights went out leaving everyone in momentary darkness until a cauldron of flame sprang to life. This in turn breathed fire into two torches held by the diver. After an initial intake of breath the crowd fell silent. The diver moved to the edge. He stood for what seemed like an eternity. Just when we thought he had lost his nerve he raised both flames above his head and leapt out in the most perfect swan dive. His arched body glistened in the light of the flickering torches. Then he was gone, engulfed by the foreboding black waters. The crowd remained silent for what seemed like an eternity then erupted into applause as a head broke the surface and two arms were raised in acceptance of the well-deserved appreciation. My heart began to beat again, I released the air I had been holding in my lungs and I sat in awed silence.

 

The wonder and appreciation on our faces was matched by the pride emanating from Carlos. He had dived for twelve years from the age of 16. When he stopped diving he continued to hang out with his diver friends. He is the first to point out the dangers. Carlos gave up diving after the ear problems he was suffering began to worsen. Not to mention the fact that through his career he dislocated his left arm nine times and his right seven. David, a young diver and friend of Carlos, had joined us and was describing his worst accident. He had misjudged the depth of the water and had struck his face on a rock on the channel floor, splitting it open from the bridge of his nose to his top lip. He said that his main worry was that he would be badly scarred and unattractive to women. He said he now realises how superficial that was and he has learnt that beauty is what one holds inside. He has a mature and still very handsome head on his relatively young shoulders.

 

As we chatted further we learnt that both had glimpsed fame. Carlos had dived for Anthony Quinn and received an $80 tip. David has appeared on a coca-cola advert. Both had performed for a host of major and minor celebrities and performed diving stunts for several films. Carlos had even competed in the world diving championships in Hawaii. I was sat with two very handsome and charming young men whose courage and celebrity status in Acapulco was shadowed by their immense modesty.

 

We returned the following day and watched David dive. It surprised me just how much more frightening it is when you know the diver! Later David joined Carlos, Deb and myself and asked if we would like to accompany himself and Carlos to the top of the cliff to see how it felt at the top. We felt honoured and gratefully accepted the invitation. We followed them through the hotel and along some narrow alleys and up a steep flight of steps cut into the side of the cliff. Emerging from a dark passage under a tree suddenly we out on the rocky promontory, high above the crowd. Walking past the shrine we peered over the edge looking down into the narrow channel below. From here the slope of the cliff is much more pronounced, explaining why the divers put so much effort into leaping out, otherwise they would be dashed on the rocks below. David explained that the divers must watch the swell in the channel, become one with its rhythm and dive so as to hit the water just as it reaches its peak. This gives them the maximum amount of water to dive into and so reduces the risk of hitting the rocks on the channel bed.

 

Suddenly a dripping diver climbed over the edge of the cliff followed by 3 more. While we had stood on the top the divers had been climbing the cliff face. My feelings of awkwardness and intrusion were soon allayed as we were introduced to “Mr Beer” and “the world champion” amongst others, who all greeted us with handshakes and warm smiles, seemingly not surprised to find two English people on top of their cliff. We stood to one side and enjoyed our privileged birds eye view as each “diver” leapt into the chasm below. The view from the top made the whole event look more frightening than it had from below. From here we were aware of everything at once; the slope of the cliff, the pounding Pacific Ocean, the intimidating black water far below and the strength of the wind at the top of the cliff. I am not sure what the audience made of us being up there; perhaps they thought we were part of the show.

 

By the following weekend we were home and back at work, Acapulco now almost a dream. But how cool did it feel when a friend innocently asked “what were you up to last weekend?”

 

“Oh, we spent it hanging out with the cliff divers in Acapulco” we smugly replied!

 

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/accapulco-divers Mon, 21 Nov 2022 09:25:07 GMT
DUSKY DOLPHIN DELIGHTS https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/dusky-dolphin-delights DUSKY DOLPHIN DELIGHTS

 

Having paid our money we were led through to a room out back, lined with racks of wetsuits, boxes of snorkel and masks, with fins lining the wall and puddles of water on the floor. A young man with a goatee beard and wild hair looked at me as if weighing up how many mouths I might feed at a forthcoming banquet, and selected one of the hanging wetsuits. In the gents changing room next door I stripped down to my underpants and climbed into the suit. It hugged me so closely it felt like a second skin and my voice raised an octave: actually quite a pleasant feeling, not of fetish but of security. My valuables and fleece packed into my daypack I went outside to join the other adventurers. We were handed some gloves and booties of thick neoprene similar to the wetsuit, a snorkel and mask and a pair of fins.

 

Carrying our submarine apparel, we made our way across the road to the bus. Here our young guide explained the days itinerary - what to expect; the do’s and don’ts and safety check - together with a brief biology of the dolphins, and some hints on how to attract their attention to maximise our experience making it all the more memorable.

 

Ten minutes later at Kaikoura’s South Harbour in New Zealand, we swapped our four wheels for a deck and outboard. In all there were ten swimmers and two spectators together with our guide and “driver”.

 

The boat sped out into the open ocean heading for the spot where a small group of dolphins had been seen earlier that day. Hutton Shearwaters and Wandering Albatross bobbed on the waters surface, reluctantly taking to the air on huge, outstretched wings as we approached. My expectations were of a beautiful sunny day, the light glistening off the water droplets as the leaping dolphins fell to melt into the flat turquoise expanse. The silky liquid would be broken only by their sleek, aerodynamic forms as they leapt out of the water and in a perfect arc disappeared back into their Jacques Cousteau world. Today was nothing like that. There was quite a gusty wind blowing creating a small swell and the sun remained obscured by clouds. A few people began to turn green as we moved from the shelter of the harbour. By the end of the trip three people had vomited.

 

We sat patiently until someone pointed excitedly out of the window and between swells we saw dark shapes just breaking the surface. As we neared more came into view and we congregated at the back of the boat. We lowered our masks into place and securely fitted snorkels into mouths. The gates were opened, the hooter blown and we all hurried into the water, struggling to manoeuvre over the one step in uncontrollable flippers. My anticipation of warm, almost tropical water was soon shattered as the reality of the Pacific Ocean permeated my wetsuit with the subtlety of an ice cube down my pants. In order to catch their attention I shouted the theme tune to match of the day through my snorkel and searched vainly for an aquatic audience.

 

The hooter sounded again signalling that we should all get back on board the boat. Apparently we had taken too long in entering the water and if we were to see dolphins we would have to brush up on our act! We sped off to a new area and another pod of dolphins. The boat slowed down, giving us a chance to watch their amazing acrobatics. Back flips, spins; two, three, four leaping out of the water simultaneously, seemingly without a care in the world. The engine cut and with concerted effort we quickly slid into the freezing depths.

 

Floating on the surface, moving my limbs mainly for warmth, I changed tunes, hoping to have more success with the theme from the Muppets. In-between breaths I can hear my neighbours shouting their own songs. Then, out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash as something zips past. I turn to look but it’s gone. Then another, but this time it’s a lot nearer and I’m prepared. I watch, as the dark shape swims underneath me no more than ten feet away. I can see its eyes that seem to be looking into mine; I can also see its dull, white underside and the line of its mouth. Another two swim towards me and pass within two feet. My arm darts out to the side and I stroke its tail as it swims by. That’s it: I’ve touched a dolphin! Moments later five swim underneath me, turning in unison before fading into the blue-green depths. I surface to get my bearings in time to see the last few swimmers climbing back on board and I hurry towards the boat to join them. Everyone is excited and grinning, keen to share their underwater experiences.

 

I had two more dives, returning to the boat with a huge grin after each one. The brave ones went back for a fourth dive but by this time I was starting to feel the cold. While they dived I stood on deck with a shower nozzle pushed inside my wetsuit spraying warm water to expel the cold. Meanwhile the guide came around offering hot chocolate and cookies to warm the insides.

 

On the way back there was one last, unexpected treat, the sighting of a blue shark only 30 feet off the side of the boat. We managed to get some good views before the dolphins mobbed it, driving it away

 

The weather could have been better, the sea calmer, clearer and warmer, especially warmer. But to have been privileged to experience the Dolphin’s world first hand, to see them so close in their natural habitat without any hostility, is a truly remarkable experience.

 

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/dusky-dolphin-delights Mon, 21 Nov 2022 09:24:51 GMT
Trekking the Helambu Circuit https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/trekking-the-helambu-circuit  

 

LOST AND FEARING IN HELAMBU

 

 

That morning I started with a long, steep climb out of Kutumsang. Wood smoke scorched my nostrils and scrawny hens flapped out of my path as I walked through the village. An old man, his life mapped by the lines of his face, sat on the step of his stone house, spinning a prayer wheel and mumbling incantations, oblivious to my presence. As I gained height the prickly oak woodland was replaced by huge rhododendron and blue pine trees. How beautiful this must be when the rhododendron is in bloom.

 

Think of walking in the Himalayas and what springs to mind? Everest, ice and snow, altitude sickness, danger or even death. It may surprise many to learn that it is possible to walk in the Himalayas without experiencing any of these. That is not to say that everyone can manage it. Certainly you need to be fairly fit, since it is far removed from a Sunday stroll in the park. If you can handle the peaks of the Lake District then you should be okay.

 

The Helambu trek is a circuit taking as little as five days or as long as you can spare. In relation to other treks in Nepal it is low level, but I should stress that this is relative. The highest point of the walk is Tharepati at 3490m, compared with Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Britain, at 1343m. Despite being a low level walk it provides truly spectacular views of the higher, snow-capped peaks of the Jugal Himal. It also offers a diverse range of scenery from steeply incised river valleys covered in woodland to stark, vertical rock faces looking monochromatic in the evening sun, to the giant, snow-capped summits shimmering pink in the dawn light, standing guard over the mystical kingdom of Tibet. However, the real pleasure of this walk lies in its people and their culture. This is Sherpa country, the cousins of the now famous Sherpas of the Khumbu (Everest) area and I gained a fascinating insight into the lives of these hardy people.

There are a number of options when considering how to tackle the route. You can camp or stay very cheaply in lodges (less than £1/night); hire a porter to carry your pack or carry it yourself; use a guide book to find your way or hire a guide; go as an independent trekker or as part of a commercial group. I chose to go independently and alone, and to stay in lodges.

 

The trek begins at Sundarijal which can be reached by bus or taxi, 15 minutes from Kathmandu. The trail first ascends many steps to reach a small reservoir. From here the path goes through oak woodland. In places the footpath has become like a steep sided gorge, some 10 feet deep where monsoon rains have gouged it out. The woodland soon recedes to reveal the small village of Pati Bhanjyang set on a saddle amidst an open landscape of terraced fields and dry grassland. Many people end their first day here but I chose to continue to Chipling (2170m). Having set off from Sundarijal at 10.30, I arrived in Chipling at 16.00 and took a basic but quite adequate room at the Chipling Guest House for the princely sum of NR30. I dined, as I did every night, on daal bhat (curry, rice, lentils and pickle) which cost around NR50 for as much as I could eat. Daal bhat is what most Nepalese eat but it is by no means the only food available. Many of these lodges have astounding menus including Nepali interpretations of Mexican, Indian, Italian, Tibetan and European dishes.

 

After a good night’s sleep I set off and was immediately faced with a steep climb through a treeless landscape to the saddle at 2470m. I walked to the sound of the woodcutters' axes ringing through the valley - an obvious reminder of the impact that the population has on the environment, a situation exacerbated by ever-increasing pressures from trekking.

The pass was still covered in woodland, but as I passed down the other side the trees gave way to open pasture and the village of Gul Bhanjyang. On the way I passed two Chortens (Buddhist shrine) with their colourful prayer flags flapping in the stiff, cool breeze. Off in the distance I could see a farmer ploughing a field using an ox.

 

One thing I quickly learnt about trekking in the Himalayas is that there is very little walking on the flat. The concept of contouring obviously didn’t make it to Nepal. Again I was walking steeply up. Two thirds up the hill I stopped at the Dragon Lodge for a soda which I drank while watching a grandmother weave using a complicated assortment of thin bamboo sticks and brightly coloured yarns. I was fascinated.

 

On reaching the pass at 2620m the path emerged from woodland into meadowland and descended to Kutumsang, the Jugal Himal growing ever larger with each and every step. The temperature dropped with the setting sun and I was glad I’d packed my down jacket. I spent a very pleasant evening in the company of two brothers, sat around their stove at Sagamatha lodge.

The next morning started with an exhausting ascent, after which I dropped down to the little village of Mangengoth that consists of two lodges and an army checkpoint where my trekking permit was checked. I carried on to the junction of paths on the saddle, turning left to Tharepati. On the way I passed a small woman carrying a huge bundle of grass on her back. I greeted her with a “Namaste, Didi” which she obviously found very funny. I arrived at Tharepati tired and sore after walking for 10 hours (minus numerous photo stops). I shared a stove with the lodge owner and two Tibetans who were taking some newly acquired cattle over the Gosainkund pass to Dhunche. Although Tharepati offered superb views of the Jugal Himal it was very cold and at one point snow fell, so I took some quick photos in the evening light and then retired to the warmth of the lodge.

 

I departed at 07.00 intending to walk to Melamchigaon (2530m). If I’d read my guidebook correctly I would have taken the new route starting at the northern end of Tharepati. Unfortunately I did not. Instead I retraced my route of the previous day to the junction of paths and took the left fork. This took me through deep woodland where the path was often obscured by leaves or was indistinguishable from a myriad of animal tracks. I crossed a huge landslide, over 150m wide, and then the path ended completely. I met an old man carrying a khukri knife in each hand. With a keen-edged blade he pointed towards Melamchigaon far off in the distance. Much nearer was Tarke Gyang (2743m) which was to be tomorrow’s destination but I decided to change my plans. This was turning into quite an adventure. Although nearer, getting to Tarke Gyang involved ploughing my way through a pathless woodland, descending a steep valley, crossing two rivers and then climbing 600m. At one point I walked through a small village of half a dozen huts. Obviously they were not used to seeing white people because the children screamed and ran to their weaving mothers who eyed me with blatant suspicion. I quickened my pace for fear of being chased by their knife-wielding men-folk, and tried to avoid any more human encounters for that day. I had done two days walking in just one day. I arrived in Tarke Gyang after almost 10 hours continuous walking, exhausted, miserable and in need of a change of fortune.

 

I walked into the first lodge I came to and the Gods smiled on me. I was greeted by a charming young Sherpa girl called Pema. She showed me to my room and then invited me to sit with her brothers and sisters by the stove. Pema made me hot drinks and potatoes and then cooked curry and rice for me and the rest of her family. She also cheerfully answered all my prying questions. I could have stayed there long into the night but eventually hauled myself off to bed. These were such friendly people that I decided to spend the next night there too. It snowed for much of the next day and was very cold. These people are so hardy that Pema’s brother was washed naked in the snow while I huddled fully clothed by the stove. By the end of the day I felt I had been adopted as part of the family.

The next day I felt compelled to leave Yangri Danda guest house and said my goodbyes before heading down the valley. I soon descended from the land of the Buddhist Sherpas into the more fertile lands of the Hindu Nepalese where rice is the main crop. My intention had been to spend the night at Talamarang, but this proved to be a loud and dirty place so I carried on along a dirt road to Malemchi Pul Bazar. I arrived at 15.23, 23 minutes after the last bus to Kathmandu had left. I ended up spending the night Malemchi Pul Bazar; not an enjoyable experience. At 06.00 I caught the first bus back to Kathmandu for NR40. What takes a taxi 40 minutes took a very crowded bus over 4 hours, an unfortunate end to what had been a very enjoyable trek.


 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/trekking-the-helambu-circuit Sun, 20 Nov 2022 17:59:39 GMT
Ascent of GURUNG RINJANI on Lombok, Indonesia. https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/ascent-of-gurung-rinjani-on-lombok-indonesia

GURUNG RINJANI

     

 

 

Dawn was just breaking as Helen and I disembarked at Labuhan Lombok on the first leg of our journey to the mountain of Gurung Rinjani. The motorcycle taxi from the ferry terminal to the nearest village was a precarious sight even for Indonesia, laden with us both and two rucksacks each. A bus to Bayan and then a bemo to Senaru, the last village before the start of the trek, took the best part of the day.

 

We were dropped off at Gurung Baru Homestay where we took a basic but adequate room. Relaxing over a pot of tea at a local café, a young man introduced himself to us. Noor was keen to impress us with his knowledge of the mountain and we were happy to listen. He strongly recommended hiring a guide and porter and by coincidence he had climbed the mountain many times and offered his services. Both of us preferred to walk without guides if possible, at our own pace and with the satisfaction of independent success. Noor wasn’t impressed by our decision!

 

The motivation to climb Rinjani stemmed in part from it being the highest mountain on Lombok, and the second highest in Indonesia outside Irian Jaya at 3726m, but much more from the fact that there was very little information about it and as a consequence there would probably be few, if any travellers on route. The final and deciding reason was that what we had heard sounded stunning. The trek runs straight up the side of a steep active volcanic cone and then drops down into the crater. It then follows the edge of the crater lake, which was said to have a new smoking volcano growing up through it. I was keen to see if what I had heard was true!

 

Later that evening we went for a walk into the village to buy some food for the trip. It was the usual delightful noodles, avocados, tomatoes and bread. Standard trekking food for South East Asia! We also hired a tent and pots since I had stupidly left ours in Dempasar. On the way back we called in at the National Park ranger’s office, signed in and paid our 2000R entry fee and insurance. Preparations complete and with growing excitement I retired for the fitful sleep that always precedes an adventure.

 

Next morning we were up early and went for breakfast, pancakes and fruit to carry us through the first day of the three-day trek. In the background we could hear a heated conversation between Noor and his new Australian clients over the fact that Noor had not bought enough food. With some relief at our decision to go it alone, we left them still arguing and managed to get away by 06.30, following the road up through the small village.

 

 

 

The world was still asleep; only the smell of wood smoke betraying the unseen activities concealed within the small wooden shacks. At the end of the village the path split and I had to ask a young local girl the way. We passed a sign announcing that we were now entering the National Park and immediately after were in dense rain forest.

 

Trees closed in on both sides, their roots offering both helpful handholds and treacherous traps for careless footsteps. At one point on the path I noticed a cat-like creature with a long tail snuffling amongst the vegetation. Shortly after this I saw two fairly large monkeys with shaggy, dark brown fur and long tails, very different to the grey ones that I had seen hanging around the camps.

 

We reached Pos II at 08.30, a wooden shelter strewn with rubbish, where we ate some biscuits and drank water. Continuing through the rainforest was fairly slow going; steep, wet sections required careful negotiation before we reached Pos III at a height of 2100m; 1500m higher than the village.

 

The forest soon gave way to scattered trees set amongst a prairie of rich grassland and occasional exposures of volcanic rock. Although the trail was not way marked, its route was easy to follow - if we could no longer see any litter we were lost! We reached the rim at a height of 2600m and the view over the edge of the steep sided crater wall was stunning; a crescent-shaped lake, Segara Anak, turquoise in colour and 250m deep was set in an oval crater 8km long and 6km wide at an altitude of 2000m. Clouds floated over its rim to form a band of uniform height, while to the east, in the crescent of the lake, was a small volcano, 150m high, called Anung Baru (“new mountain”) bellowing a thin but continuous stream of smoke. Beyond this is the dominating peak of Rinjani, a sweeping ridge running to the summit and then down in a series of jagged steps to rejoin the rim. Rinjani last erupted in 1901 and is still considered to be very active.

 

On the rim we met a rather unfriendly monkey feeding from a rubbish bin, a treasure it protected with a show of its sharp canines. At noon we started the steep descent to the lake, 600m below. The terrain was rough and the going slow; I twice jarred my knee, the second time quite painfully and had to take it slowly. Helen luckily was comfortable with the descent and took the lead as we zig zagged down. We finally reached the bottom and walked along the lakeshore to reach the camp.

Vicious baboon guarding a rubbish bin.Vicious baboon guarding a rubbish bin.

Before putting the tent up we wandered down to the white springs (Kokok Putih) where sulphurous water emerges from the rock at over 70ºC. Steam swirled about the pools of scorching water and I had to go about 100 metres downstream before I found a pool cool enough for me to tolerate. Green and black rafts of algae floated on the water while the edge held deposits of vibrant orange and yellows. Careful to keep my head out of the water I let the stress of the day drift away in the stream before emerging like a floppy lobster to prepare camp.

Having soothed my aching limbs we found a flat piece of ground by the lake on which to pitch the tent. I had my reservations about drinking water taken from a volcanic lake, and the trail of human faeces did little to allay my doubts as I walked along the lakeshore looking for dead wood. I started a fire and put a pan of water on it only to discover that the pan had a hole in it. Cursing the hi-tech stove and pans left in Dempasar I fanned the fire until really hot and then put the pan at the edge so that the drips did not put the fire out. It was dusk before I’d cooked our noodles, supplemented with a shaggy ink cap mushroom that I had picked on the descent. We ate as the sun set behind Rinjani. After a desert of biscuits we sat by the dying fire and watched the stars before turning in.

Ascending through the grasslands with summit in view. Ascending through the grasslands with summit in view.

Getting up just before dawn we ate the cold noodles saved from the night before not wishing to go through the hassle of lighting fires again. Breaking camp we headed for the second rim and back out of the volcano’s crater. The long grass was soaked with dew and my feet were sopping as I squelched along the path. We contoured around the valley and it was not long before I was struggling as the path climbed steeply upwards. I don’t really know what was wrong with me but my legs were like jelly and I was having problems breathing. Helen was fine and her determination and support kept me going.

The two and a half hours it took to reach the second rim seemed like an eternity. We rested here for 30 minutes before setting off to climb to the start of the summit ridge, which we reached after quite a tough climb. An hour later I hung our packs in a tree at the bottom of the ridge, hopefully hidden from inquisitive primates. There was no way I would reach the top carrying my pack so we decided to hide them. There were no other people on the mountain above us and we could see nobody below. Carrying just cameras, water and biscuits we set off for the final ascent.

 

Leaving the ridge we climbed the edge through a weird moonscape comprised of volcanic ash and lumps of lava rock. Below the lip of the ridge the elements had carved jagged sculptures, painting them in tints of ochre and terra cotta intruded upon by thin streaks of bright red and orange. The ash and clinker underfoot was sombre grey, interspersed by patches of sulphurous yellow and the occasional lone plant; a splash of green on the edge of existence.

 

The last section became steep and with every step forward we slipped back in the volcanic ash; it was hard on the legs and totally demoralising. After two hours of dull slogging we finally stood on the summit. We could see Garung Agung on Bali protruding through the cloud and the crater and caldera of Rinjani. Treating ourselves to some chocolate to celebrate we soaked in the view for 20 minutes before beginning our descent. This was easy and great fun, scree-running down volcanic ash!

View into crater with new volcano emerging from the lake.View into crater with new volcano emerging from the lake.

We collected our packs, which were untouched, and dropped down off the ridge to where the going was hard and slow. At the bottom we passed Noor who had just reached Rim II; he ignored us, probably further angered by our speed and success. I pitched the tent on the rim among some pine trees while Helen fetched some water. By the time she returned I had a blazing fire going on which we cooked our noodles while the sun went down. We slept well after our arduous and successful day.

 

View into crater with new volcano emerging from the lake.View into crater with new volcano emerging from the lake.
Again we were up early and ate our leftover cold noodles as the sun rose. It had rained in the night and the water had continued to drip from the trees; the tent was soaked. The descent started off steeply, passing through copses of trees scattered about the grassland. The path was wet, compacted mud with a surface film of moss which made it very slippery. I went over several times while Helen continued in mountain goat fashion!

 

Eventually the gradient eased, the copses stopped and we were walking through volcanic grassland of oat grass with the occasional patch of wild flowers. The rolling grassland dotted with isolated trees, torn apart by occasional gorges and dry riverbeds was beautiful.

 

The grassland gave way to woodland where woodsmen wielded axes. The product of their labours was everywhere; the felled trees were cut in situ into 6” square beams, which were carried out manually. We became lost on the many new paths made by the woodsmen and Helen became quite concerned. Finally leaving the woods we spotted a village.

 

We had taken the wrong path in the woods and the village we found ourselves in was called Bawak Nao not Sembalin. We sat by the side of the road for an hour waiting for a bemo to take us to Senaru. From a small wooden kiosk I bought a dozen small, spicy semosas, which cheered us up and helped to pass the time.

 

On return to Senaru we stayed at the much friendlier Puri Jaya Wijaya where we ate Nassi Goreng (fried rice with an egg on top) followed by fried bananas. Later the owner’s wife treated us to a bowl of Bubur; sago in a soup of coconut and milk with the taste of caramel, a traditional and very tasty Indonesian dish. There is no better way to end a noodle-fuelled adventure than with a large and beautiful meal complimenting a landscape that assaults the senses with such raw, primal force as that of volcanoes.

 

 

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) adventure asia backpacking camping explore forest ganung getoutside hike hiking hikingadventures indonesia landscape landscapephotography lokbok mountain mountains nature naturelovers naturephotography outdoor outdoors photography rinjani summer travel travelgram travelphotography trek trekking walking wander wanderlust https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/ascent-of-gurung-rinjani-on-lombok-indonesia Mon, 14 Nov 2022 16:00:23 GMT
Ramble in the Jungle https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/ramble-in-the-jungle

RAMBLE IN THE JUNGLE

  The story of my solo ascent of the highest mountain in Malaysia in 1997  

The night was hectic. A huge storm had descended, lightening lit up the whole campsite and thunder made the air around me vibrate. I finally slept only to be awakened by a loud commotion on the other side of the site. Twenty wild pigs were ransacking another tent, sending pots and pans and food remains everywhere. Two angry, naked occupants appeared and warlike chased the pigs back into the jungle.

 

This was just my first night in Taman Nagara, an ancient rainforest in the heart of Peninsular Malaysia. In the United Kingdom a woodland is considered ancient at 400 years. Taman Nagara, untouched by volcanic activity or the action of ice, has been in existence for 150 MILLION years.

 

As a professional ecologist and keen photographer this should have been a “must-see”. However, I’d heard a lot of negative reports about it being very touristy and expensive and it was a last minute decision to catch a bus to Temperluh and then another to Jerantut. The Jerantut Resthouse, run by Steven and his bubbly sister, was one of the friendliest places I have stayed.

 

Steven took time out to show me the local Cocoa and Palm oil plantations where I savoured the fruit both raw and roasted and that evening he shared his extensive knowledge of the area and gave me the low down on Taman Nagara. What I had heard proved to be correct; parts were touristy and expensive - but not everywhere. I could stay at Kuala Keniam Lodge or Kuala Trenggan Lodge for MR100 or I could camp for MR1. Fortunately I had my tent with me.

 

Gunung Tahan is the highest peak in Peninsular Malaysia at 2187m. It is a nine-day walk and a guide is compulsory, costing RM400 per week and RM50 for each extra day. Guides and equipment are available from the Park Headquarters. I had all the gear I needed together with a hand drawn map from Steven. Unfortunately I did not have a spare RM400+ or nine days. I decided to try it on my own and in 6 days!

 

The following morning Steven drove me to the park headquarters. Once in the park I obtained my permit, MR1 for me and MR5 for my camera! The campsite was basic but adequate. After erecting my tent I headed off to explore a nearby cave. It was very wet and soon too narrow even for my slight frame. The walls were lined with bats, which took flight as I approached until the air was filled with their wing beats. I sloshed through water that was alive with fish and frogs, which were predated on by albino snakes. I also checked out one of the hides that could be hired overnight for MR5. Although the easiest way to see nocturnal wildlife the hut itself was basic bordering on grotty. A browse through the comment's book revealed that the only wildlife seen was mosquitoes, bats and lots of rats.

 

Early the next morning I packed up my tent and headed off alone. My pack must have weighed around 25kg, not including the 5 litres of water I would have to carry for much of the way. Once off the more popular route the path became hard to find in places, with no sign of markers whatsoever. The trail was constant up and down, often blocked by fallen trees and tiring. Humidity and heat meant I was soon soaked in sweat.

 

After 6 hours of hard walking I was relieved to reach a clearing, Melental camp, my first day's destination. After pitching the tent and purifying some water I went for a swim both to cool down and to wash away the salt. The campsite was mainly on bare ground and swarming with wasps gathering mud and beautiful butterflies drinking from the puddles. I hung my clothes out to dry and set about picking the leeches off my boots.

 

At dusk the cacophony of the jungle began. The sheer volume and intensity is impossible to imagine without actually experiencing it. There were cicadas, frogs, toads, crickets and something that sounded like a model aircraft, except there were dozens of them. The fireflies gave an aerial light show while a deep “growling” began from the other side of the river. Fortunately I never found out what was making it. The noise continued all through the night and even earplugs did little to reduce its effects. The mandatory thunderstorm began and lasted for 3 to 4 hours. Something large and heavy fell from a tree with a crash to accompany the rumble of thunder. I slept not a wink. Hectic nights were obviously the norm.

 

That morning the tent was still wet from the previous night’s storm and I noticed the river had risen and was tinged brown by the sediment as I waded through. On the other side the path was fairly distinct, about 1.2m wide and bordered by dense jungle. Slippery leaves and roots made it slow going. The few other paths I came across I marked off to help me route find on my return.

 

Around noon I reached the top of a hill where the forest gave way to high bracken and fantastic views of the jungle ahead. The path plunged back into the forest where much of the light was blocked out by the dense canopy. Where light did penetrate large, colourful butterflies fluttered, and all along the path strange exotic fungi grew, many glowed with an alien-green light at night. There was the constant sound of birds calling, hornbills I could recognise and the others I named according to their sounds - cuckoo, steam train, boiling kettle and the monkey bird (which may have been a monkey). The trees were enormous, with huge buttress roots, many over 2000 years old. Every so often I would walk past one in flower; the path coloured with blossoms and the air full of scent.

 

Things were going well, I was supposed to have crossed 27 hills that day but I had only noticed one. As well as that, at the second night’s campsite I found a pair of old sandals, which I fixed and wore, allowing my boots to dry out. That night I slept like the proverbial babe. Finally!

 

The next day started well but soon deteriorated. Firstly, I nearly stepped on an iridescent blue snake with a bright orange head. Then the path running along the edge of the riverbank had been eroded in places and now ran along the edge of the river. At times I waded through the river. I was exhausted scrambling up and down the wet, muddy bank, over treacherous tree roots and fallen moss covered trunks.

 

I soon arrived at a tributary of the main river that I had to cross. I put on my newly found sandals, found a second stick and carefully set off. It was about 20 metres to the other side and the water came up to the bottom of my rib cage. Fortunately the tent was in the bottom of my pack and was already soaked from last night’s rain. Safely on the other side I stopped for a rest. I later discovered this river was home to crocs! As I got ready to leave two large black bees with attitude started to buzz around me. I casually wafted them away, and then they attacked. I raised my arm across my face and turned away as they stung me on the back of my shoulder. Running to my pack, I threw it on and power-walked until it felt safe enough to stop. My shoulder was on fire and of course my first aid kit contained everything except anti-histamines.

 

I reached the camp and was immediately plagued again by bees. I once again shouldered my pack and set off up the ridge to Wrays camp at 1100m. After 90 minutes I passed a group of Malaysian fire fighters and their guides. This was my first and only meeting with anyone on the trail. We exchanged brief pleasantries and carried on.

 

I reached Wrays camp 3 hours later. The tent was laid out to dry while I went to collect another 5 litres of water. Dining on a cup-a-soup with bread-a-la mould, and a bowl of curried noodles I reflected on my day. I treat my numb shoulder to some antiseptic and my sweaty feet to some Daktarin powder. By this time I was quite worried about the bee stings; they don’t normally bother me but these had set my back on fire and I couldn’t feel anything when I nipped my shoulder. Being days from help I reconciled myself to the situation and went to bed.

Limestone outcrop & jungle covered mountain sides.

Next day a steep 2-hour climb found me on a ridge reminiscent of a jungle cloaked Striding Edge, although this had much larger drops off the edge. In places large rock outcrops blocked the way. The only option was to haul myself and my pack, up the wet, slippery fixed ropes that had been fixed into place. This was hard going; holding onto the rope with one hand while moving the other to the next position - hand over hand with at times a 6m drop onto a narrow path that dropped off very steeply on either side. There were moments when I had to pause to calm down and stop myself trembling.

 

After less than 4 hours I came to a clearing large enough for two or three tents but there was no sign saying it was Padong camp, so I kept going. After thirty minutes I was stopped by a steep and mossy gully covered in small trickles of water dripping down the walls. There were fixed ropes but these were wet and half way up I decided it was too dangerous. I lashed my pack to a tree, tied the camera around my waist and carried on. Without the pack I glided up the ropes.

 

The woodland soon cleared and I entered another world. The alpine heath consisted of low growing ericacious plants and pitcher plants supplementing their meagre diet on exotic invertebrates. Mist swirled around me and through it I caught glimpses of the summit. I walked until I arrived at a path junction from where I began to count my paces to ensure I did not miss the turning on the way back. The mist began to swirl more densely and I was acutely aware of not having brought any water with me. I backed off determined to try the peak again the next day. I decided that the last clearing must have been the campsite, and if it wasn’t, I was going to sleep there anyway.

The next morning I washed down some biscuits and chocolate with the last of my water and set off back up the gully. At the top I found a small puddle, just large enough for me to top up my supply. The sky was clear and I could see Gunung Tahan in the distance, with beautiful views across the alpine flora to other smaller peaks, their lower sides cloaked in an omnipresent expanse of jungle.

 

I reached the summit at 10.00am and feeling chuffed with myself took a few photographs and headed back down. The mist came down thickly on the way back and visibility was reduced to about 50m. In places my footprints were still reassuringly visible. I almost collapsed into Padong camp but after I had packed my gear, had a cup-a-soup and a 30-minute rest I felt like a new man.

 

Shouldering my pack I steamed along although some of the fixed rope sections were still a bit of a struggle. I Reached Wrays camp with only two hours of daylight remaining but decided to push on. The diminishing light was all but obliterated by the dense canopy as I plunged back into the Jungle. After stumbling over several tree roots I put my head torch on. I arrived at Teku camp just as the light was fading having covered 30 km and descended over 2000m. I felt uneasy as this was where I’d been stung and although the pain had now subsided I knew the bees were still out there somewhere. My feet were sore and my toes bleeding. In the distance I could hear the low rumble of what I hoped was thunder. Battered, bruised, sun burnt, cut, bitten, stung, sore and very tired, I fell asleep.


View on the way up

View on way up.
 

 

On the final morning I set off without breakfast. Less than 2½ hours later I was back at the lodge. I felt dishevelled and presumed the strange looks directed at me where due to this. Nobody would serve me breakfast; surely I wasn’t that smelly? At the Jerantut Resthouse I discovered what was wrong when a young girl screamed at the sight me. What I thought was sweat soaking my T-shirt was in fact blood from an undiscovered leech! After a cold bath, clean clothes and a large noodle-free meal I felt much better.

 

On reflection this was both physically and mentally the most demanding trek I have done. It was a truly magical, sometimes frightening experience to walk alone though a forest where tiger, leopard, honey bear, panther and elephants wander as freely as myself.

On the summit.

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) adventure asia backpacking camping explore forest ganung getoutside hike hiking hikingadventures landscape landscapephotography malaysia mountain mountains nature naturelovers naturephotography outdoor outdoors photography summer Tahan travel travelgram travelphotography trek trekking walking wander wanderlust https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2022/11/ramble-in-the-jungle Sun, 13 Nov 2022 17:12:15 GMT
Tyndrum https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/9/tyndrum

This summer (2015), we camped at a place called Tymdrum, the half way point along the west highland way. Ironically I was going to walk this with a friend but we failed to synchronise our holidays resulting in him doing half of it with some other friends. It was by chance that we stopped here. Our intention was to to camp at Arisaig but it looked like it was about to pour down, bails was getting agitated after spending five hours laid on the back seat with only two breaks. It turned out to be a good choice as the site was clean, staff friendly and they welcome dogs in fact the owner has a terrier and a Hancocks lurched. We went for dinner at a fish and chip shop. I say shop, it was a strange fish cafe, with Eastern European staff and Western European customers, with not a scot in sight. As it turned out I paid nearly £20 for two small portions of fish and chips. After this we walked back to the tent in the rain as I needed to lie down in order to recover! Fortunately it was only £14 a night for the camping.

Shortly after arriving back it started to rain more heavily. Then the wind started to blow. This became progressively worse as the night went on. Bails slept in the awning in a puddle of water, battered by the tent as it was blown into him. Water poured into the ex expedition company 20 year old tent horizontally, borne on a wind that would have taken the tent with it if it wasn't for our combined body weights. Needless to say that in the morning everything was soaked and it was still raining. Welcome to Scotland!

We couldn't sleep in the soaked tent a second night so we took the audacious decision to rent a hikers hut, sleeping two, for £35 per night. This turned out to be a great decision. It had two simple single beds, a very efficient wall heater, two power sockets a kettle and cups and enough floor space for Bails to stretch out. After hanging everything up to dry and putting stuff in the tumble dryer, I sat down with a filter coffee and the iPad and started browsing vw camper vans on eBay. A camper van would have all these little luxuries with the freedom to travel and stop pretty much where we wanted, as well as providing the beatnik feel of my youth. I could become Dean Morriarty, one of my heroes; Neil Cassidy. The only problem to all this is the slight lack of about ten grand, the going rate for a cheap but reliable camper van.

Panorama of the interior of the walkers hut.

Panorama of the interior of the walkers hut.
 

 

 

Bailey making himself at home.

We stayed two nights in the hikers hut and it rained the whole time, with the odd break when the sun made a brief appearance to lull us into a false sense of optimism. We did a couple of short walks with Bailey, through coniferous woodland. Occasionally we would come across abandoned lead mines, surrounded by warning tape and signs announcing how dangerous these places are. When the sun was out the light was beautiful and photogenic. We found some great lichens and mosses covering tree trunks and rocks alike. I found some butterwort plants seemingly growing on bare rock, subsidising their existence by digesting insects, though we didn't see any hapless victims. I also found a couple of stands of another of my favourite plants, bog asphodel. These were in full yellow bloom in a wet area close to a stream, or perhaps that should be a burn! When they have finished flowering there is just the ochre orange stem, looking beautiful amongst the fresh green of the grasses and ferns. I managed to snap a couple of photos of the surrounding hills during the brief moments they were visible.

Fortunately I'd had the good sense to bring a 60mm macro lens with me, though not a tripod. This allowed me to get close to the flowers, but meant I had to use a fastish shutter speed to prevent any blurring due to the wind. As a result I had a very shallow depth of field. This wouldn't be a problem unless I wanted to submit them to Alamy. They don't seem to understand things like selective focus; if the whole image isn't spot on then it's rejected for being soft. I will be submitting them and I'll let you know what happens, if I remember.

After three nights we headed back South. We broke the journey by staying at a site we'd been to the previous year on the Solway Firth at Annan. It was a commercial caravan site that normally I walls avoid but Liz likes it so... It was only £16 a night, only! The tide was in, the first time we'd seen this. The next morning it was out, so far out that I couldn't see any water at all. We walked with Bailey on the sand. He managed to find the only mud available and was soon pitted. It's strange in that he gets covered in mud, yet within an hour or so he dries and reverts back to his spotless self. This is an art I need to master! To end the morning on a high, I watched two horse riders trotting along the beach as a grey heron flew past them, seemingly close enough for them to touch, though they remained oblivious! I did manage to get a pic but it wasn't great! 



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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) backpacking hiking scotland track trail tramping trekking tyndrum uk walk walking west highland way https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/9/tyndrum Fri, 18 Sep 2015 15:32:28 GMT
Two Little Black Numbers https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/9/two-little-black-numbers  

This shoot involved two small, hairy, black Imperial Miniature Shitsu's. I knew from the start that this was not going to be easy. The first issue arose as soon as I walked through the door. Pickles decided he didn't like Bailey and expressed his dislike by barking incessantly and running around like a loon. Coco on the other hand seemed to take a shine to me and wasn't bothered by Bails the slightest bit. I put Bailey in the car and Pickles seemed to settle down a bit, but only a bit!

I spent a bit of time getting to know them before I got the camera out. This involved then licking my face and nibbling my ear. I'm not really used to such small dogs, but these guys were adorable! However, well trained and obedient they were not! Neither were they sessile, always on the go and rarely staying still, let alone pausing for a pose.
Pickles
 
Pickles in mono
Their constant movement was just one issue I had to contend with. The fact that they were black was another. What made things especially difficult is the fact that their eyes were black too. Black dogs are notoriously difficult to photograph. I'll write a blog on this issue sometime soon. I was worried they would just look like black balls of fur, impossible to differentiate between their features. In order to try to overcome this I resorted to using a flash on one of the camera bodies. I much prefer not to have to use flash, natural light is so much better in my opinion. However, if I had used spot metering in order to correctly expose the dog, the background would have been overexposed. Similarly, if I had used the aperture compensation the same thing would have happened. So flash it was, on one body at least.


Surprisingly, one of the most problematic issues was the grass. Seeding stalks of Perennial Ryegrass, standing about eight to ten inches high, seemed to get in the way of every photograph. Pulling them out was easy enough, but I couldn't pull them all out. For some of the photographs I would be able to edit them out in the post processing in Photoshop. However, what a ball ache!
Another issue was the light. I'm not complaining about the weather at all. What we had was far better than rain or howling winds. However, the periods of bright sunshine massively increased the contrast, turning the black fur and eyes even blacker than before!
Such a confident stride for a little dog!
Posing by the flower pot.

This is beginning to sound like I had an horrific time, and this is far from the case. There were such cute and affectionate dogs. They obviously got along so well that I asked if they were related, which they weren't. They would play fight all the time, with Coco always the dominant one. He would run at Pickles who would be on her back before Coco was upon her. I'm not usually a fan of small dogs but these guys were so affectionate and cute!

The photos turned out just as I expected; mostly rubbish! My usual work flow is to open each image in photoshop's Raw converter and do most of my processing in that. I say most of; compared to many photographers I know my workflow is minimal. I think this is because in my head I'm still a film photographer. I still try to get it spot on in camera. However, I am getting better at being a digital photographer. I start by increasing the clarity and the vibrancy, then adding a small amount of saturation, usually between 3 and 7. I then adjust the fill light and overall brightness to suit the image. Then I add a small amount of sharpness. This is easy to overdo, and when it is it ruins an image, so less is defiantly more! The image is then opened in photoshop and saved to JPEG. In the case of Pickles and Coco the fill light feature made some rubbish photos half credible!
A rare moment of chilling in the grass.

Although the images weren't great, it's shoots like these that provide the greatest learning opportunities, and thus develop me as a pet photographer far more than shoots that go smoothly and according to plan! Having said that, I still have to explain to the client why the photo of their beloved pets are so crap, though this has never happened!

As it turned out I was quite pleased with some of the finished images. Take a look for yourself at burntmoon.com/picklesandcoco and let me know what you think by leaving a comment at burntmoon.com/guestbook or on individual images on the website
Arty Nic & Pickles

My thanks to Arty Nic and her dad for the opportunity to photograph Pickles & Coco.

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/9/two-little-black-numbers Fri, 04 Sep 2015 15:29:22 GMT
How much?!*#^*? https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/8/how-much
 
I can understand why people might think this, £49 for one hours work can seem excessive. Then I have the cheek to charge travel costs for return journeys in excess of 20 miles. No wonder I'm rolling in cash - I wish! I'll try to explain the reality behind the myth.
 
Before I even get my camera out of its bag I will have driven to the location of the clients choice. This can be up to ten miles away for no extra charge to the client, anything over 10 miles is charged at £0.45/ mile. That means I'm footing the diesel bill which can be up to £9.00. So that's my income down to as little as £40 before I have even pressed the shutter. Still, £40/hour isn't bad, or it wouldn't be if that was the case.
 
Rarely do I manage to finish a shot in less than 60 minutes, often running over to 90 minutes. However, for the sake of this example lets just suppose I'm on form and finish spot on the hour. I usually take several hundred frames. Back in the office it usually takes me an hour to have a first look at all of them. I then have a second look, deleting these that are below standard, blurred, out of focus etc. On the third view I note the frame numbers of those I want to edit.
 
The time taken to edit can vary massively depending on the subjects, location, lighting etc. I have spent over 90 minutes editing just one image  before,  cloning out distractions from the background, leads, grass stalks, stray hairs, collars etc. On average I spent around 3 to 5 hours tweaking the images in Photoshop. Let's say, to be ultra conservative, I only spend 3 hours editing. That's a total of five hours to do the shoot and edit the images. That's an hourly rate of £8/hour. Above the minimum wage but not quite the £49/ hour people seem to think I earn. Then I still have to upload them to the web site, changing the associated price list for every individual image that is not a standard size, such as panoramas or square formats. All images need key wording, one of the most tedious jobs in my remit. Let's say this takes just an hour. That's six hours work at £6.66/hour. 

Moondog Pet Photography brochure.
 
Let's also factor in the time I spend marketing my business. This involves posting on over 20 Facebook 'buy it, sell it, swap' it kind of groups nearly every day. Designing, producing and paying for the printing of pull-up banners, posters, leaflets, brochures, business cards etc. These need distributing, and there are the dog shows and craft fairs attended to publicise the business. Then I have to design and pay for my website, just the hosting of which costs over £100/ year. 
 
The client then swoons over the beautiful photographs of their beloved pet on their own web site gallery. They place an order for some prints, not forgetting to use their free £10 off photographs bought from the burntmoon web site. That is £10 less profit for me, bringing my income down to £30 for six hours work. Now I'm down to £5.00 /hour; now we are below the minimum wage. Out of this I have to pay National Insurance contributions, tax and in theory into a pension scheme. 
 
Not quite as lucrative as it first seemed. Yet it doesn't stop there. The service the client gets also involves a lot of unseen extras. £400 a year for insurances, including equipment insurance, public liability and professional indemnity. The equipment I use cost over £7000, including cameras, lenses, iMacs, flashes, pocket wizards, studio lights, backgrounds. Then I need a car to get to the locations; mine cost me £6000 about five years ago. What value do I put on the 35+ years that I've spent developing my skills?
 
Consider the fact that I have a home studio and use a spare bedroom as an office in order to try to keep the costs down. If I had to rent a studio and rent some commercial office space I would be bankrupt before I had even launched the business! I'd be better off if I paid clients NOT to hire me!
 
I'll be sending a link to this blog to the next potential customer that baulks at the prices I charge accusing me of being too expensive!
 
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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/8/how-much Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:13:00 GMT
Kaya & Poppy https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/8/kaya-poppy  
 
I recently had the pleasure of shooting Kaya and Poppy. They are both owned by a colleague at work. I wanted more experience of shooting two dogs in one location. Most of my shoots have been the one dog, one hour, one location scenario. I also did not want to inconvenience my colleague so the time and location was arranged around when she would be walking her dogs regardless of my presence. In recompense I wavered the usual two dogs, one location, ninety minutes fee of £129.
 
"Poppy is a 4 year old working cocker spaniel who’s life started on a farm in Hartlepool. Although she is technically a ‘working’ dog she spends her days wanting cuddles and treats and is known as the ‘eternal puppy’ in the household. Kaya is a 6 year old Shar-Pei who is part sloth as she sleeps 18 hours of each day. Although she is an independent dog by nature she is 100% for her owners and as long as she is with them she is happy and relaxed. Kaya is an unusual breed and is an acquired taste. What makes her more unique is that she suffers from a form of ‘hay fever’ which causes excessive itching, hair loss and bruising to the skin. She has undergone various treatments without success but still remains the most loving natured dog ever!"
 


Kaya Poppy

 

We walked along Ormesby Beck in a very built-up residential area of Middlesbrough behind James Cook University Hospital. Despite the very urban setting it felt as though we could have been in the heart of the British countryside in places. Cow Parsley was in full bloom, with Hogweed about to flower. Fortunately, unlike a lot of Cleveland's riparian habitats, there was no Giant Hogweed to be seen. This was fortuitous because, apart from the fact that it's a serious skin irritant to anyone that touches it, we also had my clients beautiful daughter with us. We were lucky enough to find a large patch of Creeping Buttercup which made for a great backdrop to some cool photos.
 
Darcy is a very small person who added a whole new dynamic to the shoot. It was nice to see her interacting with the three dogs, obviously Bailey was with us, and it was refreshing to get some nice photos of just her enjoying the nature we were surrounded by. I think there is something special about children being around dogs from a young age. It also makes for some very appealing photos. I especially like it when a small person is next to a large dog, just as I like the incongruence of when a tall person has a small dog. Take a look at this image from the 2015 SARA shoot earlier this summer; burntmoon.com/Sara.
 
 
 
 
For the most part the two dogs just did their thing and I grabbed photos as best I could. I like this style of shooting, almost photojournalist in its approach. Kaya was fairly easy in that her personally is a laid back, quite chilled one. Poppy on the other hand has an adorable, puppyish personality, together with all the energy of a dog with ADHD fuelled with Red Bull! However, this was just the challenge I was wanting. I wasn't confident about getting any great shots of her, but it would help develop my shooting skills and highlight areas for further development and practice. The potential result of not getting any decent images was another reason for not charging and not inconveniencing my client. As it turned out I was quite pleased with the results, though there were quite a few of Poppy where she had been too fast and was only half in the frame or had motion blur. I was very pleased with some of the images. Sometimes the harder a shoot is, the more stunning the results, sometimes! Facebook feedback from the client on one of the images was;
 
 
" I laughed out loud when I saw this. It totally captures her personality".   
 

 

 

 

Poppy
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check them out for yourself at burntmoon.com/poppyandkaya and let me know what you think by leaving a comment at burntmoon.com/guestbook or on individual images on the website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) animal canine cocker companion dogs pei pets photo photograph photography share sharpie spaniel https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/8/kaya-poppy Fri, 14 Aug 2015 14:21:35 GMT
A wander up Inglebrough https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/7/a-wander-up-inglebrough After a lazy start to the morning at Holme Farm Campsite, we wandered down the road to the Pen y Ghent cafe for a full English and a black coffee. The food is really nice and reasonably priced, though it does not come with toast or tomatoes or mushrooms or fried bread or black pudding and only one egg and the coffee is an extra £2.20 for a cup of caffitiere coffee. Instant is available and is a lot cheaper but tastes like hot flavoured water so not recommend. Feeling as hungry as I did when I went in, we left. 
 
Inside I'd been looking at my phone while waiting for my brekkie, and noticed a geocach just over the road. So, upon leaving I popped over to the bench. "Not in the wall, above head height" the clue read so after a minute or so, I'd found a slab of rock in a hole in a tree. It's an instant give away when you see something located where it doesn't belong. Behind the rock was a beaten up sealable plastic box containing the usual array of trinkets. The contents were damp so I didn't bother signing the scatty piece of paper and settled for just logging my find on the web site. We wandered back to the tent. 
 
I changed out of my jeans into some combats, took a small water bottle out of the car, put on a fifteen year old pair of fabric walking boots that should have been thrown away ten years ago, put my camera round my waist, stuffed a map ( remember those?), and set off with the dog on a lead to appease Liz. Once out of sight the lead came off and Bailey walked obediently to heal. We followed the thin pavement along the dogs leg in the road and wandered up a short road to the station. We crossed the railway line, through a small gate that flew closed on a highly strung, lethal spring. In front of us were open fields, strewn with occasional clumps of rushes, but mostly covered in short, sheep-mown grass. In the grass were an palate of coloured flowers. Yellow birds foot trefoil, creeping buttercup and ladies bedstraw, the white of heath bedstraw, purple common, and in places marsh, thistle and beautiful racemes of foxgloves. Amongst all of this were the obligatory clumps of sheep shit, together with their donors. Occasionally Bailey would try to round some of these up, but a command of "leave" had him wandering off smelling everything in front of him without any regard for the creature he was bred to heard. 
 
A fine rain intermittently soaked everything it came into contact with and the summit we were heading for remained hidden behind thick, low cloud. This made me reluctant to get my camera out, so I decided to wait to see what the weather was like on the way down. We wandered up the gentle gradient through the worried-looking sheep and a couple of lethally-sprung gates. The wet limestone lining the path proved very slippery underfoot. It was at this point that I wished I'd brought my walking pole for some extra support. Bailey walked twenty feet ahead, nose to the ground. Occasionally he'd find something worthy of an extra long sniff and sometimes he'd cock a leg and leave an "I was here" message on a tussock of grass or a larger rock. 
 
The grassy meadows started to give way to the landscape feature that marks this area of England; limestone pavement. The flora here wasn't dissimilar to that of the meadow, with the addition of the beautifully pungent and delicate wild thyme. A few bent hawthorn trees clung to existence amongst the grykes and clints, the only substantial thing managing to grow through this carpet of rocky tiles. 
 
Having passed a sign ten minutes back telling me the summit was another two miles away, it was with a degree of disappointment that I viewed a sign telling me it was now two and a half miles to the summit. Two and a half miles isn't that far but now the gradient increased and the going became harder on the old legs. I met a couple of guys in gortex waterproofs holding an iPhone six at arms length. They wanted to know the way to Clapham. I took out my paper OS map and explained  what the surrounding features were and how to get to where they were going. All the gear and no idea sprang to mind but obviously I was too polite to say anything derogatory. 
 
Through another gate and the track became wider, easier and relatively flatter. This was just lulling me into a false sense of security. This easy walking was all too short lived as I approached the steep incline to the summit plateau. Bailey flew up this with ease but I took it a lot more cautiously, partly for safety but mainly because I was bloody knackered. We were now walking through dense mist. We reached the top, but only knew this because the gradient flattened out, not because we could see anything. The map indicated the summit cairn was about a hundred metres away, but it was only after walking eighty metres that we could make it out through the mist. On reaching it I had a quick drink of water, took a selfie of Bailey and I, then headed back. 
 
The way down was lethal on the slippery rock, at least for me. No trouble for Bailey, who had to keep stopping to wait, much to his despair judging from the looks he kept throwing me.  This is where I regretted bringing my walking pole which provides a lot more stability, especially when descending. It also takes the pressure off my knees and gives my arms a bit of a work out.
 
On the way up I didn't stop to take many photos, so I made a concerted effort to do so on the way down. I took a couple of the limestone pavement with it's grykes and clints. I also found a hawthorn tree striking the classic limestone, wind blown pose one sees in so many cliche photos. I also took a couple of Bailey with Pen y Ghent in the background, as this is what we were heading towards on the way back to the campsite. I included a couple of shots of some of the interesting flora that grows in this calciferous landscape.  I took a couple of purple and also white marsh thistles, and also some of one of my favourite flowers; wild thyme. This is such a beautifully pungent, small delicate flower that it is often overlooked by most walkers. I had only brought one lens with me; a 28 to 300 general all round lens that's cool for landscapes and for shooting Bailey but not so good for flora. I could have brought my 60mm macro lens, but I wasn't that organised. That goes for my tripod too!
 
I arrived back at the tent, having walked 10.03 miles in 4.09 hours at an average pace of 24.5 mph with a total elevation of 1,822 feet, for the statisticians amongst you. I was quite pleased with this. Nowhere near as fast as I used to be but considering my lack of practice and my illness, I think this was pretty good going! Good enough to reward myself with a pint of Pen y Ghent real ale at the Golden Lion Inn.


On the summit in the mist

An obligatory windblown Hawthorn tree

Wild Thyme

Bailey with Pen y Ghent in the background
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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/7/a-wander-up-inglebrough Sun, 26 Jul 2015 18:11:49 GMT
SARA dog show july 2015 https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/7/we-recently-spent-day-being-cooked-at The 20th Anniversary SARA Fun Dog Show, Redcar, Cleveland.
 
We recently spent the day being cooked at the Saltburn Animal Rescue Association annual dog show. I already knew about SARA and the good work they do but I had never been to one of their shows. I don't have much interest in the kennel club, best breed crufts shows. Breeding for features that are detrimental to the dogs life seems a covert form of cruelty to me. However, I have to say I enjoyed all five hours of the day, despite the baking heat. Entry was free and car parking easy and ample, and not surprisingly dogs were welcome. Bailey thought he'd gone to doggy heaven with so many fellow canines about in all shapes and sizes. It took him a while to calm down. 
 
The centre of attention was the arena where the judging took place. There were 22 categories ranging from the standard best pedigree through to best legs (dog & owner), best trick, dog most like its owner and best dressed dog. Many of the prizes went to the younger owners which was nice to see and no one took any of it too seriously. No dogs were poisoned for winning a rosette at this show!
 
There was also a large marquee where the real fundraising was taking place. SARA is a charity and must cost a small fortune to run, so as fun as the arena activities were, this is where the bread and butter lived! There were a number of stalls, we bought tickets for several raffles, browsed through bric-a-brac and second hand dog books. One stall in particular impressed us and Bailey, Ve's Doggie Deli selling cup cakes, pizza, muffins and scones. They were also giving away carob truffles which looked good enough to eat myself, so I did and and I can honestly say they were wasted on dogs. Bailey finished the other half off in one gulp. Bails ate his pizza slice and loved it. I may be ordering him a dodgy birthday cake in December. 
 
In the arena Bailey entered the 'handsomest dog' category but didn't win anything. Then we tried 'the dog the judge would most like to take home' but again didn't win anything. Finally we entered the very popular  'most appealing' category and came third winning a rosette (in Hull City colours) together with a ball and a packet of doggy treats. Well done Bails!
Ve's Doggie Deli
Bailey enjoying his pizza slice from Ve's Doggie Deli
 
Liz went around being sociable and handing out Moondog Pet Photography cards to try to drum up some business. People seemed very interested but we'll see if it transfers into commissions. Interestingly there was another photographer there. He didn't have a dog and seemed not to be backwards in pushing himself forward, which is perhaps something I need to become more adept at doing. As it turned out he was from the Evening Gazette. I tended to adopt a photo journalistic approach, shooting candid shots without becoming involved with my subject. I'll discuss pet photography styles in a future blog. 
 
See more images of the day at Moondog Pet Photography web site.
The well deserved 'Best in Show' winner!
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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) alert animal beach beautiful bitch black Border canine coast coastal collie countryside cute dog domestic fur herding holiday k9 mammal nature outdoor pet portrait relax sand sea seaside sheep sky stood sun surf swell tide tranquil travel tricolor vacation walk watcher watching water wave white wild wildlife working https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/7/we-recently-spent-day-being-cooked-at Fri, 10 Jul 2015 13:03:00 GMT
My very first blog https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/7/my-very-first-blog-1 Ok, so here we go; the first instalment, or rather Post, of my blog. This is supposed to be the hub of my web site and the cornerstone of my pet photography business and indeed general photography business. So here I am sat in the local with a pint of real ale, a packet of crisps and the hound laid at my feet as I type onto an iPad. So what the hell to write about??

This week two small landmarks related to the business occurred. First,  I posted an advert onto 15 Facebook groups. This was not mean feat, involving numerous attempts. I changed the text on the web site specifically for the ad so I could embed the link directly from the web site. However, every time it kept displaying the old text. When I'd eventually found a way around  that problem I then found it kept using a photo from Holly's gallery, not the photo of Bailey with the moondog text above him. I did eventually sort it, though it took me several hours. 

I had joined about 15 selling groups so I posted my new ad in them all. Then, still exited by my little achievements I went back and 'bumped' it. I did the same an hour later. Then I got a message to read the group rules. In that particular group I was only allowed to post every 48 hours, oops! I checked other groups and found that for most it's every 4 hours. 

The second landmark was my first horse shoot. My old friend Bob bought a retired race horse a while back. We'd talked about a shoot several times but, as with so many things, it had never happened. However, now he has a big blue horse van and had discovered the wonders of the stretch of beach between Saltburn and South Gare, and sitting right in the middle; Marske-by-the-Sea. If Yorkshire is Gods Own County, then Marske is Gods Own Village!  Donald Campbell had also discovered the wonders of this stretch of beach and set a land speed record here in 1922 in a Louis Coatalen 350hp Sunbeam of over 138 mph. 

It had been a very pleasant day, quite sunny up till the time of the shoot when it clouded over, making for very flat and boring lighting. I'd hoped for a very bright day so I'd be able to freeze the action as this thoroughbred raced past me in an attempt to reach Campbell's speed. However, the lack of light proved not to be a problem as Shyla had recently had some jabs and wasn't allowed to break much of a sweat. Despite not being able to get the action shots I'd hoped for, it still proved to be a valuable learning exercise with a non-paying client. However, I did still want to get some cool shots for Bob. You can see the results at http://www.burntmoon.com/shayla
I was disappointed with the results, apart from one photo. When I asked Bob which he liked he chose a different three to mine. so, I got him to chose his one favourite and posted that and my favourite on the burnt moon page, asking for other to vote on which of the two they preferred. You can choose your favourite here http://www.facebook.com/burntmoonimages
           

Please don't forget to like the burntmoon page. I'll announce the results in the next blog!!


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burntmoon_uk@yahoo.co.uk (Burntmoon.com) https://www.burntmoon.com/blog/2015/7/my-very-first-blog-1 Thu, 09 Jul 2015 04:30:00 GMT