Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I'm back!

A bend in the river at dawn

Canoeing and Hiking


I've just returned from 8 weeks. Most of it was spent guiding two canoe trips in the Lot and Dordogne regions of France. I also spent a few days hiking in the Vosges, also in France, as well as catching a stage of the Tour de France. In between times I was hanging out in Paris and also took time out to visit my Dad in the UK.

The canoe trips went well and we had a lot of fun with all our guests on both trips. I guided the first with Carolyn and the second with Paul. It's been a couple of years since I worked with Paul. He's a blast! It was Paul that also came with me to the Vosges.

Although I've done these canoe trips many times I still enjoy them everytime. The rivers are always different and the company is always different.My mood is also different each time so I get to shoot things that excite me at different times during different visits. I don't always get to shoot a lot when actually on the water and it's difficult to paddle and shoot at the same time. It's easier to do when paddling tandem.

More about these trips in the coming days.

The Flower Thinker

The Vosges


Paul and I took the new TGV Est to Colmar and then a little dinky train up into the hills to Metzeral. By the time we arrived we were the only two on the train! In the small town we bought some provisions in the local outdoor market and then made our way to the trail head. Luckily the trails are well waymarked and we had no trouble finding the trail which would take us up to the Petit Ballon.

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The trail zigzagged it's way up the hillside thropugh some woods giving us an occaisonal view of the village we'd just left below. Every now and then we had to pass through some stiles; some in the form of kissing-gates and others as turnstiles. We remarked that only thin people seemed to be allowed on the trail.

At one point we found our way blocked by a group of horses one of which had the temerity to push Paul out of the way. I hung back until it was safe.

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As the trail climbed it reached a more major trail and we encountered our first fellow hikers. Further on, at a conveniently placed bench, with a superb view, we stopped for some lunch. As we were sat down we were approached by a Dutch fellow, called Carl, who stopped for a chat and told us about a Ferme-Auberge further up the trail where we could get a beer. Superb news.

After our break we continued up the trail which opened out above the trees into beautiful flowered meadows. The number of butterflies around was astonishing and I spent some time trying to get some shots of them,

Eventually we came upon the Ferme-Auberge but we were disappointed to find that they had no tables set up outside. However inside we found Carl having his lunch and we joined him for a couple of pints. He told us how he comes here every summer from The Hague, and how he walks the trails every day. He also told us that he'd have to walk home as his wife now refuses to drive up the winding roads to pick him up! We quizzed him on the best place to view the Tour as it loops around this area in a few days. Unfortunately it seems that we will be unable to get a birdseye view of the climbs as they are all shrouded in trees. That means we will have to watch at the road-side. The problem is where?

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After our refreshments we continued up the trail to the summit of Petit Ballon where a group of people were flying radio controlled gliders! We then joined the GR532, which would later take us to the GR5, towards a hostel where we were planning to stay the night.

On arrival we found the Hostel closed. Paul spent some time trying to pick the lock but was unable to. We sat and read at the picnic table and had some supper. We were going to have to sleep outside. I, fortunately, was carrying a bivvy, a sleeping bag and a mat. Paul only had a sleeping bag! He used a tabletop top leant against a wall to fashion a shelter and slept under there. I just chose a soft spot to bed down. We are not plagued by any insects but are slightly concerned that some cows might wander through. The evidence that they do this is splashed around the place!

To be continued ...

Dad


My father has spent a good deal of this summer in hospital. A few weeks after returning from a holiday in Texel he contracted an infection in the valves of his heart. He had to spend six weeeks in an hospital bed whilst being dripped antibiotics to clear it up. He was at home briefly before being re-admitted with pneumonia. He now has to wait for this to be cleared up before having a heart operation. This will repair a leaky heart valve or it will be replaced.

Naturally all the family are concerned and although he's had many visitors whilst in hospital it must be deadly dull in there day after day. We are all hoping that once the operation has been performed and he's had time to recuperate from that, that he can slowly get back to a more normal, if slower, lifestyle.