January 11th - 19th: A week in Jakarta with my friends at the Hafar Group of Companies helping them with some ISO decisions in order to remain compliant with ISO 9001 (Quality Management System), ISO 14001 (Environmental Management System) and ISO 45001 (Occupational Health & Safety Management System). Additionally, we started to raise awareness of two other standards: ISO 31000 (Risk Management Guidelines) and ISO 37001 (Anti-bribery Management System) within the company.
After two and a half years absence from the office I received a warm welcome from everyone but saddened that the company had lost personnel due to Covid-19.
My flight arrangements were with Qatar Airways with my arrival into Jakarta late on the Saturday night giving me Sunday to catch up on lost sleep before Monday morning. I stayed in the Mercure Gatot Subroto Hotel which is just a 5-minute walk from the office, across the road. I don't know if the hotel food is expensive, but motorcycle couriers are always out-front meeting guests with meals.
Images below show the airport facilities in Doha which are quite impressive but when I ordered a toasted sandwich an open sandwich arrived which wasn't as expected. The McLaren supercar was one of the regular raffle prizes which are a feature of most Middle East airports these days.
Flight time was 6.5hrs to Doha with a 4hr transit time and then on to Jakarta in about 8hrs. Immigration officials were impressed with my Bahasa Indonesia language skills, so I didn't have any problems getting into the country. I wish Qatar Airways would return to Cardiff.........
Extremely tired after the long flight I slept in for a while but catching up on sleep after a 20hr journey across 7 time zones is never easy. I went into one of the large shopping malls for a wander and for lunch and Porsche even had a showroom on the ground floor. I opted for tempura and sashimi for lunch but without sake, as pictured below. The final image is from my hotel room looking across at the blue-faced building, which is where the company offices are located, reached after I cross the bridge from my hotel.
Wednesday evening dinner with the Board of Directors following a visit to Pic Chinatown with my good friend and colleague Mrs Sisilia Kho. The final picture is with the President of the company with his wife Tess, whom I've know from many years ago when Emier and I both worked for Conoco Indonesia.
Friday, my last day in the office with my work completed. and a view of the Mercure Gatot Subroto taken from the 5-minute walk to/from the office.
Saturday, the long flight home with Qatar Airways via Doha into LHR T4 for the drive home to Cardiff. And it was a long flight home with 8.5hrs to Doha for a 4hr transit (and a shower) then 6.5hrs to LHR T4 for the 2.5hr drive home using the services of MET Executive Travel.
After take-off from Jakarta there were a couple of times when the crew were strapped in, but I didn't find the turbulence to be too severe. Service and food on both sectors were good but overall, I thought Qatar Airways were better pre-Covid, particularly because I could fly from Cardiff.
Food and drink wasted on me during the second sector as I was just too tired to enjoy the offerings, even the fabulous curry. I slept throughout the transfer back to Cardiff from LHR T4.
The final images below are from the airport in Jakarta (where the fire extinguishers are concealed behind interesting artwork!) and the flights home.
Earlier in the year I saw an advertisement from ECC Adventures (based in Fujairah, UAE) for UK Mountain Leaders to work for them over the winter months which is peak season in Fujairah for mountain activities. I contacted Chris Craver at ECC Adventures to see if he required any training support and he immediately expressed an interest in this.
Over the summer we discussed the possibility of delivering the following courses in Fujairah in November:
Chris worked very hard to facilitate the required approvals for me and it was agreed that my initial visit to Sharjah and Fujairah would be to deliver a REC L2 Outdoor First Aid course at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah on November 5th/6th.
One of seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah is an attractive and safe destination, rich in history and culture with friendly people and year-round sunshine. With a varied landscape, ranging from the majestic Hajar Mountains, sand dunes and pristine beaches, Sharjah is an attractive destination.
Many thanks to Rohan Designs Limited for providing some very appropriate clothing for this desert trip to the wilder and more remote parts of Sharjah.
On November 2nd my wife Yolande, and I left the UK for the UAE.
Having chosen Swiss Air for our flights from LHR T2 at 0850, it meant a very early start from home with a departure at 0315. With the ongoing round of rail strikes we'd booked a transfer with MET Executive Travel which proved to be very effective in a vehicle with plenty of luggage space as we had 4 large kitbags for the huge amount of training equipment required.
Our Swiss A320Neo departed late but the crew reassured us that the flight would still arrive on time for our B777-300ER flight to Dubai. Zurich was a new airport for us, but we found our way to E42 for the flight without any difficulties. The flight of just under 6 hours was comfortable with fairly average food and Yolande's GF/non-seafood catering request not fully complied with. The Swiss chocolates were excellent, however. Formalities after arrival in Dubai were without any problems and Chris and Karen were there to meet us and transfer us over to the Ibis Styles Hotel in Sharjah.
Room 1404 was very comfortable and spacious but after unpacking at around midnight we realised that the fridge wasn't working so it was a quick room reallocation down to 1104.
This morning, we drove over to the east coast.
The drive had been quite interesting as we left the sprawling west coast development to see camels in quite large numbers before, we crossed the Hajar Mountains and down to the coastal city of Fujairah. We'd lived in Dubai many years ago whilst employed by Dubai Petroleum Company and were amazed by development of all the main cities in the northern UAE.
We visited Fujairah Fort and the Fujairah Adventure Park where there are numerous hiking trails and mountain bike activities.
The 16th Century fort is part of a complex with several old houses and a mosque. It is guarded by three round watchtowers and a square watchtower. The watchtowers and main building are connected by the walls, and there is a central hall surrounded by these towers and wall. The irregular shape of the castle is due to the uneven surface of the rock it sits on. The building is built of local materials, mostly rocks, gravels, mud, hay and plasters. Radiocarbon dating has identified the date of the construction as around 1500–1550. It was then renovated during 1650–1700. The British Navy destroyed three of the towers in 1925 during an action enforcing British anti-slavery policy. The bombardment was by HMIS Lawrence, resulting in the recovery of a fine of 1,500 rupees from the Sheikh. HMIS Lawrence (L83) was a sloop, commissioned in 1919 into the Royal Indian Marine (RIM). The fort was restored by the Fujairah Administration of Antiquity and Heritage during 1997/2000 using the same materials with which it was built.
After visiting Fujairah Fort, we looked at the Fujairah Adventure Park before enjoying lunch at a Lebanese Restaurant and then returned to our hotel in Sharjah.
Chris picked us up just before 1100 and we drove to the Mleiha Archaeological Centre which is operated by Shurooq which is a Sharjah government run centre and which would be the venue for the REC Outdoor First Aid Course over the weekend. A senior manager from Shurooq showed us the small conference room and the outdoor training area which was exclusively for our course. The outside area was spacious with a large Arabic tent for us to use and perfect for our needs.
We discussed potential training for our March proposed visit and this will be held over on the east coast of Sharjah at Kalba where a new environmental centre is being constructed. After looking around the facilities we visited the Wadi Caves site for a quick look at the area before returning to Sharjah.
Mleiha is about an hour inland from Sharjah and contains a rich collection of archaeological sites with burial mounds and the structural remnants of ancient settlements where recent discoveries of 125,000-year-old stone hand axes provide an insight into ancient lifestyles in this area. The centre is worth a visit and Yolande enjoyed a VIP tour of the museum whilst Chris and I were inspecting the training venue.
REC L5 Outdoor First Aid course at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah with 12 participants - Day 1. Following on from the inspection visit on Friday, it was agreed that the entire two day course would be outdoor based in the arabic tent and surrounding area. The tent was duly equipped with a very large tv for some theoretical elements of the course which are delivered using Powerpoint.
Yolande and I later enjoyed dinner at Jones the Butcher Restaurant on Flag Island in Sharjah Lagoon.
REC L5 Outdoor First Aid course at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre in Sharjah with 12 participants - Day 2. Day 1 had worked very well with 12 participants from 8 nationalities. The course feedback was very satisfying to read:
What did you like best about your experience?
Team work - The learning, lovely group, great instructor - The variety of materials and equipment - The way Alan teaches - The actual training! - Learned new things, variety of new skills - The course was really engaging (and fun!) for all participants - It’s been years since my last first aid certification and I learned a lot of new things! - Course dynamic, lots of practical sessions and application on the theories in place after each theory makes practice session more streamline and efficient - The scenario and the analogies - New learnings that can be applied anywhere to anyone to provide help and scenarios that made us show what we have learned - The practical outdoor part was very good and skillful - The way they demo the practical things
What did you like least about your experience?
Bit of a long drive (not really a problem) and the heat sometimes (again, not really a problem) - Maybe a little bit more focused in mountains - The actual task - Heat the first day - The brevity in handling serious illnesses (only due to the amount of course time) - Toilet is a bit far. It gets hot sometimes while handling the indoor session (it felt a bit harder to focus) - Wish there will be more theory books
Other comments, suggestions, areas of improvement, etc.
Best of luck to all! - Not really - Actually going on a hike to see real hazards - Develop the course in Arabic - Provide detailed information for those interested (maybe in video format?) - Location, less sandy classroom would be better for next time - Great energy and enjoy/appreciate the patience - Indeed a very meaningful event! - Change location, more practical - Everything is nice. Enjoyed a lot
Mleiha Archaeological Centre was an excellent venue for the course and many thanks to the staff there for being so friendly and helpful.
Yolande and I again enjoyed dinner at Jones the Butcher Restaurant on Flag Island in Sharjah Lagoon for a second night.
After some post-course administration and sorting/packing equipment Yolande and I enjoyed a long (and hot) walk on the Sharjah Corniche with lunch at the Ushna Indian Restaurant on the Al Majaz Waterfront which was very good.
Chris and Karen picked us up late afternoon and we enjoyed a local meal at the Al Khayama Heritage Restaurant after which, we toured the souk before being dropped off at the airport.
Our Swiss B777-300ER took off on time I think for the 6 hour flight to Zurich where we transferred to the flight to LHR T2 where Martin from MET Executive Travel was there to meet us and drive us home.
Only on one out of four flight sectors did Swiss catter properly in respect of catering for Yolande's GF and non-seafood allergies.
Helen Menhinick (ML) of Bryn Walking giving her presentation about how she "Planned, Managed and Reviewed" her recent high altitude trek in Ladakh.
Brecon: October 12th/13th 2022
Six outdoor professionals completed this course to an exceptionally high standard - well done everyone!!!
1. The course should be part of the ML syllabus.
2. Great tempo with great interaction - great.
3. Excellent tutor.
4. Relevent to outdoor work with groups.
5. Good visual aids, Powerpoint and group tasks.
6. Very useful in my work where I run lots of off site events.
7. Great - very interactive - great Powerpoint.
8. Tutor was above and beyond - absolutely super.
9. Good range of information and support.
10. Relaxed and informative. Good visual aids. Plenty of opportunity for questions.
11. Very useful for running events.
12. Lots of delegate input, Powerpoint good, humour good.
13. More examples of UK based activities where things have gone wrong would have been useful.
14. Good balance of presentations.
15. Alan creates an excellent learning environment.
16. Excellent course.
October 1st: As we'd stayed overnight in Newbury it wasn't more than an hour's drive to LHR T4 and the car was soon dropped off with Purple Parking, a company we've used for many years for airport parking.
Air Malta check in was open three hours before the flight departure so we wandered through the shops and enjoyed a lounge breakfast, courtesy of Air Malta. Boarding was on time and the seating in the A320 NEO was 3x3 with a friendly crew on board. Sadly Yolande's GF meal wasn't on board but she managed to eat some of what was offered but the Purser took it very personally and apologised profusely whilst messaging his head office to complain.
The flight was comfortable and we landed in Malta ahead of schedule, passing through non-Shengen immigration with ease before collecting our luggage and meeting our driver for the transfer to the centrally located Cumberland Hotel in Valletta on St. John's Street.
The Cumberland Hotel occupies an old palace building almost right next to the St John's Co-Cathedral. It is managed by the NEU Hotel Group of Malta.
Room 205 was fabulous but I can't remember if I'd booked such a room or if we'd been upgraded. The room was split level with the main level being the sleeping area, office desk and bathroom whilst the upper level was a spacious and comfortable lounge area with fridge and brew facilities. The main level even had a traditional Maltese enclosed balcony with seating area.
Whilst exploring Valletta we found the Valletta Food Market with a useful basement supermarket so picked up a few items for dinner in our room. The main level in the Valletta Food Market contains lots of interesting food outlets which we used during the week.
October 2nd : After a good breakfast we walked to the Barrakka Gardens and the Barrakka Lift to descend almost 60m to the waterfront to catch a tradional Dghajsa (a small colourful gondola-like boat) across the Grand Harbour to the Maritime Museum in Vittoriosa. The museum was closed but our primary objective was the impressive Fort St. Angelo which overlooks the Grand Harbour so we walked along the waterfront and spent about two hours exploring the fort which is well worth the visit.
Vittoriosa (Birgu) is so named as a reminder of the First Great Siege in 1565 where the Grand Master La Valette and his troops had their last line of defense against the Ottoman Turks.
The fort visit was followed by a walk around the town and then out along the busy yacht moorings to the western ond of the Senglea Peninsula where, just around the corner, we found Le Regatta Restaurant. This restaurant was a hidden gem and we enjoyed a light lunch with drinks looking out over the Grand Harbour towards the cruise terminal.
Another Dghajsa took us back to Valletta where we prelaxed in our room until an evening walk with a sushi dinner at the Valletta Food Market
October 3rd: After breakfast we caught the Gozo Fast Ferry which was an exciting 45 minute ride through Force 5 waves with some passengers being quite unwell. After realising the deck/cabin crew were Indonesian I spoke at length with then in Bahasa Indonesia which they really enjoyed and my langauge skills weren't too bad considering I hadn't been in Indonesia since just before Covid struck.
After disembarking from the ferry we caught a crowded bus into Gozo's capital, Ir-Rabat Victoria to visit the Cittadella fortress complex which sat majestically on a hill overlooking most of the island. The Cittadella dates back to pre-Roman times but was destroyed during the Ottoman invasion of 1551 but later rebuilt by the Knights of St John at the end of 16th century.
After lunch at a pleasant cafe adjacent to the bus station we caught the bus back to the ferry terminal but decided on a different route back to Valleta by using the slow car ferry over to Cirkewwa Port and the bus back to Valletta which was a tiresome hour and a half.
Dinner was /Nepalli/Indian food back at the Valletta Food Market which was very good.
October 4th: More utilisation of our bus passes followed after breakfast with a visit to Marsaxlokk Bay which was filled with colourful fishing boats and seafront cafes and restaurants. We didn't stay for lunch so an hour or so was long enough there but finding the right bus stop to get us back to Valletta was a bit troublesome and it appeared that the regular (every 20mins) buses take lengthy breaks at around midday.
October 5th: Another bus ride after breakfast but this time to the western central area of Malta to visit Mdina where our guidebook referred to car-free streets in a "Fantastic location known as the Silent City where are few prettier places in which to escape the sress of modern-day life". I guess the author of our guidebook wasn't aware that the MSC Seaview was in port today and I think most of the 5331 passengers had chosen to visit Mdina today. The narrow streets were pleasant enough though and were familiar from the Game of Thrones series. We didn't stay as long as the suggested 2 hours before catching a bus back to Valletta for an onward bus to Sliema where we had an excellent lunch at a restaurant called Tommy's where we both chose salads and accompanying drinks.
After lunch we caught the Three Cities Ferry back over to Valletta for a hotel siesta. I'd found out that the MSC Seaview woulld sail at 5pm so we walked over to the Lower Barrakka Garden to watch this huge cruise liner sail. It was delayed whilst an Italian frigate entrered port assisted by two tugs but the MSC Seaview simply moved away from the cruise terminal with no tugs and sailed right past us, squeezing between the St Elmo Lighthouse and Ricasoli Point with not much room to spare.
October 6th: No buses after breakfast but a pleasant walk down to Fort St Elmo at the tip of the Sciberras Peninsula instead. The star-shaped fort location dates back to Phoenicians but was later taken over by the Romans. The Knights of St John extended the fort to protect the entrance to the Grand Harbour although it was overwhelmed by the Ottoman Turks in 1565. The meticulously restored Fort St Elmo houses the National War Museum which tells the story of Malta during World War 2, a story enhanced by the excellent range of exhibits and interpretation.
We sat for a long time on the benches above the Fast Ferry Terminal watching some smaller marine traffic using the Grand Harbour before enjoying a sushi lunch at the Valletta Food Market and this was followed by another siesta period in our hotel room. I wrote much of this blog during the afternoon and we didn't really need dinner so enjoyed a Haagen Daas treat before spending an hour or so watching over the Grand Harbour from the Upper Barrakka Gardens as the small French liner, Le Jacques-Cartier (up to 184 guests in 92 staterooms and suites with 118 crew members on board) came in and squeezed alongside in between The World and the Azure. The World is an interesting vessel and the only residential type of this vessel in the world. With only 165 private residences aboard The World, an international community of residents can spend as much time on board as they like as the vessel cruises the world. The Azure is a more typical type of cruise vessel with up to 3737 passengers on board. We waited for its 2100 departure but it didn't depart on schedule so we walked back to the hotel.
October 7th: With breakfast over we walked over to the Barrakka Lift and descended to catch a Dghajsa over to the Maritime Museum only to find it was closed for refurbishment as was the Grand Master's Palace at Valletta yesterday.
We spent the rest of the morning exploring Senglea and walking along the fortified ramparts to the pretty Gardjola Gardens on the tip of Cabo Isla with great views over the Grand Harbour towards the Barrakka Lift and the cruise terminal. All that was needed in the gardens was a bar serving cold drinks as it was quite a relaxing place to enjoy the sunshine and views. We crossed back over to Valletta for lunch at the Valletta Food Market before heading back to the hotel.
For our last night on Malta we took the bus over to Sliema for dinner where we'd enjoyed a really good lunch there yesterday at a restaurant called Tiffany's. Our final dinner in Malta was excellent and Tiifany's is to be highly recommended. We caught a very over crowded bus back to Valletta and a final stroll through the Upper Barrakka Gardens watching a small Italian RoRo vessel sail out to sea.
October 8th: With checkout time at midday we had our last wander around Valletta before going back to the hotel to collect our bags for our transfer to the airport which the hotel had arranged for us.
One last stroll around the Upper Barrakka Gardens before visiting St. John's Co-Cathedral which dates back to 1572 with the most striking interior and I often wonder how such artwork on high curved ceilings was ever achieved.
The Cumberland Hotel had been a good choice with an excellent room for the week and good breakfasts included although there was only one type of cereal available which was a bit repetetive.
We were early at the airport so popped down to the very good basement Food Court which was quite good. After checking in we still had time to wait until boarding which was a bit manic but we eventually boarded but were late taking off for the uneventful flight back to LHR.
September 25th to 28th with Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking and six participants with myself, ( firstname.lastname@example.org) as Assistant Leader.
This was a route I'd been thinking about over a number of years so Helen and I planned this event together, based at the excellent Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse just outside Rhayder in Mid Wales.
The Monk's Trod in Mid Wales traces a lonely route across 24 miles over remote hills and moorland from Strata Florida to Abbey Cwm Hir. The Monk's Trod was never transformed into a more solid track or road, so simply fell out of use and navigation skills are essential to safely follow the route these days. The map above is one example of the excellent interpretation panels at Strata Florida, and two monks are depicted walking towards the scenic Teifi Pools to the east.
Key equipment used by Alan: Rohan Designs Ventus Waterproof Jacket (3-layer Barricade) + Thule AllTrail 45L Rucksack + Meindle Tonale GTX Walking Boots
Key equipment used by Helen: Rohan Designs Vertex Waterproof Jacket (3-layer Barricade) + Deuter Air Comfort SL Futura Pro 34L Rucksack + Salomon Boots Quest Element.
I travelled from Cardiff to Rhayder via Brecon to pick up one of the participants before meeting Helen in Rhayder for the final short drive to the Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse. The main bunkhouse consisted of three bunkrooms, each of which were en-suite, a drying room and a fair sized kitchen and dining area. The remaining participants arrived by about 6pm ready for the traditional BBQ which are part of the Bryn Walking events. I'd purchased sirloin steaks on behalf of everyone and an enjoyable evening followed with steaks prepared to order which wasn't easy for seven steaks in order that we could all eat together.
Day 1: Strata Florida to Pont ar Elen - 17.4km
We drove in Helen's VW Transporter to Pont ar Elan to meet a hired 8 seater taxi for the one hour transfer across that area of Mid Wales to Strate Florida. The drive was mostly along single width roads passing the occasional isolated farms and through ancient oak woodlands. Arriving at Strata Florida we enjoyed a half-hour to explore the site, owned and managed by CADW.
A short drive eastwards took us to the start of our walk at the small parking area close to Tyncwm Farm and our minibus left to return to it's base. A group photo was taken and we started on The Monk's Trod soon after crossing a footbridge to a point where the Cambrian Way mid-point is reached and signed with a commemorative bench which looked new. The bridleway followed the Nant Egnant up to the dam at Llyn Egnant, one of the lonely Teifi Lakes.
After a short break we continued eastwards passing Bryn Llyn Egnant before crossing the remote and rough moorland to Claerwen Farm and just beyond we stopped for lunch. The weather during the morning had been mostly dry but this wasn't to last. Lunch was dry and sheltered but soon after we were battling against wind and rain.
Climbing the track over Esgair Gwar-y-Ty and Esgair Cywion to a 497m spot height the route then headed eastwards through the Claerwen National Nature Reserve to Llwn Cerrigllwydion Uchaf, for several kilometers, often in heavy rain, before arriving back at Pont ar Elan.
This was the longest day of our Monk's Trod route and quite chalenging due to the heavy rain experienced in the afternoon, After a short drive we were back at the cosy Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse.
Helen's Daily Log: "Most of the walk is a definite track but unfortunately due to some of it being a byway open to all traffic it is overused by motor vehicles and seriously rutted and flooded. I knew how and where to avoid the worst parts.
Our group were strong walkers and well equipped, so with the weather against us too, we battled through the day and across the remote moorland in the Monk’s foot steps to Pont ar Elan."
For further information about Strata Florida, please visit: cadw.gov.wales/visit/places-to-visit/strata-florida-abbey
CADW describes the site:
"The grand medieval abbey where generations of Welsh princes are buried. The abbey of Strata Florida – Latin for ‘Vale of Flowers’ – has stood on lush meadows beside the banks of the river Teifi since 1201.
It was established by white-robed Cistercian monks as part of a movement that spread like a tidal wave across the whole of western Europe in the early Middle Ages. Soon it became the most famous church in Wales after St David's – a place of pilgrimage and a linchpin of Welsh culture. There are unmistakable echoes of greatness among the ruins. The carved west doorway into the abbey offers an epic view down the nave to where the high altar once stood.
You can still see some of the incredible decorated tiles that would have covered the floors of the church. Griffins, birds and fleurs-de-lis surround the enigmatic ‘Man with the Mirror’. This 14th-century figure dressed in a doublet and close-fitting hood is reckoned to be a symbol of vanity. Strata Florida, or Ystrad Fflur as local people know it, is the final resting place for generations of medieval Welsh princes. The great poet Dafydd ap Gwilym is said to be buried under a yew in the churchyard. No wonder it’s been called ‘the Westminster Abbey of Wales’."
Day 2: Pont ar Elan to Beili Neuadd - 16.8km
After driving back to Pont ar Elan we climbed a faint path up to Sarn Geufron before following the minor road eastwards to the bridleway which led down to the ancient ford at Rhyd Garreg-lwyd and what looked like a collapsed clapper bridge. After crossing the Nant y Sarn we rested at the old farmstead of Lluest-pen-rhiw where the old stone field boundary was quite unlike anything I'd seen before.
Crossing Llofftyddgleision we descended through Coed Nannerth-fawr to cross the A470 into the Gilfach Farm Nature Reserve. The reserve is well managed by the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust and features excellent interpretation boards and stone carvings as we made our way up to the old farm which is now a simple Visitor Centre where the interpretation and old farm relics give an idea of what farming would have been like many years ago in such a remote valley where there are still signs of the old railway line which passed through the area.
Gilfach now has 4 environmental designations:
Scheduled Ancient Monument
Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
Special Area of Conservation (SAC)
Special Protection Areas (SPA)
It was at the Visitor Centre where I fell on slippery slabs and days later my ribs where I landed are still sore. Apparently one of the group saw me fall and was heard to yell "He's down!"
We followed the Wye Valley Walk away from Gilfach Farm, after which the route back to Beili Neuadd was along quiet lanes and across fields.Between Cwmithig and Beili Neuadd the public footpath was obstructed but we climbed fences carefully and paid close attention to grazing cows which looked quite intimidating.
We spent the evening in the Crown Hotel in Rhayder where the offerings weren't to everyone's satisfaction and I wouldn't return there. After getting back to Beili Neuadd, Helen and I drove over to Abbey Cwmhir to position her VW Transporter where the walk would end tomorrow.
Helen's Daily Log: "Gilfach National NatureReserve is the highlight of the day. Somewhere I will never tire of – it truly has a very good feeling about it. Being able to look back from the Wye valley walk as we left Gilfach, and see where the Monk’s Trod comes down Moelfryn was quite spectacular and satisfying."
Day 3: Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse to Abbey Cwmhir - 10.8km
The first hour or so of the walk was along quiet country lanes, and only a short section off road. This is by no means the definitive Monk's route so we decided, at the highest point to stay high and take the path on the boundary of Cregiau NRW Forest, along the ridge of Camlo Hill to a bronze age cairn before gradually descending Rhiw Gam into the Cwm Hir valley. We thought this was just as likely to have been the route of the Monks. Reaching the boundary of the forest we stopped for lunch just before the road near Wenallt Barn.
After lunch we walked the final kilometer into Abbey Cwmhir to where the VW Transporter was parked at the village hall.
We met our local guide for a tour at 1.30pm and the tour was long and saw us visit the church, Abbey Cwmhir Hall and the ancient ruins of the old abbey. Back at Beili Neuadd Bunkhouse we packed, said our farewells and set off for home.
Helen's Daily Log: "On reaching Abbey Cwmhir we met Julian Lovell who gave us a tour of the church and abbey ruins. His knowledge of the history of Abbey Cwmhir was amazing and it made all the difference to hear it from someone who is passionate about their subject."
The Monk's Trod event by Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking was meticulously planned and extremely enjoyable for me - many thanks Helen! And thank you to all the participants who took on every challenge whether it be boggy train, driving rain or barbed wire fences, and still were all smiling at the end of the event.
Helen, "....and thank you to all the participants who took on every challenge whether it be boggy terrain, driving rain or barbed wire fences, and still were all smiling at the end of the event."
Wikipidia writes: Cwmhir Abbey (Welsh: Abaty Cwm Hir), near Llandrindod Wells in Powys, is a Welsh Cistercian monastery founded in 1176 by Cadwallon ap Madog. A spurious tale was later recorded that the abbey was founded in 1143 by Meredudd ap Maelgwn at Ty-faenor, and then refounded at the present location near the village of Abbeycwmhir in 1176.
The Abbey Cwmhir Heritage Trust: For further information please visit: abbeycwmhir.org/
"Abbey Cwmhir Heritage Trust’s purpose is to advance the understanding of the Cistercian Monastery at Abbeycwmhir, Radnorshire by providing information, events, research opportunities and continued learning in order to reveal the importance of this site in Welsh history and culture.
We host a range of regular events such as talks and tours of the Abbey. We also have a major community heritage project ‘Demystifying the Abbey’. The project involves a range of aspects of Abbeycwmhir’s heritage such as collecting oral memories, desk research and field research into the sacred landscape within which Cwmhir Abbey sits and we are fortunate to have an extensive number of volunteers/researchers active in taking aspects of this project forward."
September 22nd on Mynydd Illtyd Common: I've been running my free Introduction to Mountain Navigation courses for many years now with probably over twenty free courses delivered to my social media contacts.
The objective is to provide tuition in the basik skills required for safe journeying across hill and mountainous terrain and have the participants increase their skills, kowledge and confidence. A final debriefing session allows action plans for further development to be considered.
1. Well paced course - very enjoyable
2. Inclusive - attended to all the questions/queries at a personal level
3. Confidence building
4. Excellent basic training in compass skills and map reading - feel much more confident - Good fun!
5. I think it's a very good course.
6. Very informative and will enable me to be more confident with map and compass
7. Clear teaching, bite-sized and easy to understand
PRE-EXPEDITION TRAINING FOR A GROUP OF 4 HEADED TO THE KASBAH DU TOUBKAL AND MT TOUBKAL (4167m) WITH DISCOVER LTD.
Saturday 22nd September - Assisted by Helen Menhinick of Bryn Walking I took a group of 4 out onto Mynydd Illtyd for a pre-expedition training day during which time we:
1. Had an initial briefing to review the itinerary that I'd prepared for them with Discover Ltd. and the fabulous Kasbah du Toubkal.
2. Enjoyed a 4hr walk on the common with frequent stops for question and answer sessions.
3. Enjoyed drinks back at the Visitor Centre and reviewed some items of clothing and equipment which had been brought for me to review.
4. Visited a local outdoor shop for a discounted shopping session.
September 1st - 19th 2023: This trek itinerary allows for ample acclimatisation In Leh (3500m) after arrival from the United Kingdom or the Middle East. Acclimatisation in Leh is essential due to flying into such a high altitude from Delhi.
Prior to departure from the United Kingdom, a series of pre-trek training days and walks will be offered and this will include high altitude awareness.
The approximate price for this trek will be £2500 (with a payment schedule to follow) excluding airfares but full details will be provided to those joining this trek. The normal end of trek bonus to the support crew will be approximately £100. These prices are based on international currency exchange rates effective September 2022. The airfare from the UK to Leh will be approximately £1000 with a change of aircraft in Delhi but this might require an overnight transit stop at an airport hotel close to Delhi Airport. Helen Menhinick recently travelled to/from Leh using Vistara Airlines in Premium Economy and thought it was a nice way to travel although Alan's previous trips were with KLM and Jet Airways.
Participants can opt to extend their trip with a tw0-night trip into the Nubra Valley on the ancient Silk Road or visit the Taj Mahal near Delhi after departure from Leh.
Further details of this trek can be obtained from either Alan Ward (IML + Group Technical Adviser) or Helen Menhinick (ML + Group Manager): email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.brynwalking.co.uk
After arrival in Leh we will be met by our local partners and transferred to our hotel for three nights pre-expedition and two nights post-expedition at the Hotel Osmalia which was recently inspected by Helen Menhinick and found to be very good. The location is just a short walk into Leh and the Hotel Omasila is a family-friendly hotel that brings the best of Leh to your doorstep. Single room supplements are available on request.
Guest rooms offer amenities such as a flat screen TV, and guests can go online with free internet access offered by the hotel. The Hotel Omasila features room service, to help make your stay more enjoyable. The property also boasts an on-site restaurant.
While staying at the Hotel Omasila, visitors can check out Monastery Circuit (0.5 mi) and Sankar Monastery (0.5 mi), some of Leh's top attractions. Leh has plenty of restaurants so when you’re here, be sure to check out popular spots like the Crossroad Restaurant and Tingmo at Thongsal, which are serving up some great dishes. Should time allow, Shanti Stupa and the large Prayer Wheel are some popular attractions that are within walking distance.
September 2nd/3rd/4th: Acclimatisation in Leh will see visits to important sites in and around Leh:
September 5th: Leh to Rumtse (3 hrs drive)
From Leh, the drive to Rumtse is an exciting one, with views of the mighty Indus Valley and many monasteries on the way which it is hoped can be visited. Visits to the ancient monasteries of Thikse, Stakna and Hemis are potential sites to be visited. Overnight camping there.
September 6th: Rumtse to Kyamar 4600m (4 hrs trekking)
Day one is easily manageable: we have a short walk on a rather flat terrain to aid acclimatization. We will camp overnight at lush Kyamar, near a spring.
September 7th: Kyamar to Tisaling (6 to 7 hrs trekking)
We should be fully energized today with proper breakfast for a challenging day ahead. We begin with gradual ascent towards our first pass of Kyamar La (4900 m), which gives a spectacular view of the Changthang range with its colorful rife of mountain. After the pass, we steadily descend towards the base of the next pass. Here we might come across nomads with their herds of sheep, goats and yaks. After a short rest, we set out for Mandalchan La (4950 m). From this pass it’s an easy descend to the camping site at the pastureland of Tisaling.
September 8th: Tisaling to Ponganabu 4600m (6 hrs trekking)
By now, we are well acclimatized to conquer our third pass, the Shibuk La (5000 m), an about 2-hour journey. From the top of the pass, we have an incredible view of the surrounding mountains and of our next destination, Tsokar Lake. With a breathtaking view to ease our exhaustion, we head down towards the valley accompanied by the shrill whistles of the shy and active marmots, which is characteristic of this harsh region. It’s approximately a 4 hrs walk to the Tsokar Basin, and our camp for the night will be the windy Pongunabu.
September 9th: Ponganagu to Nuruchan 4700 m (6 hrs trekking)
Today is an easy day, and we follow a dusty jeep road towards Tsokar Lake. Along the
salty shores of the lake, we have a rare impeccable opportunity to see some of the endangered migratory birds of the world. From here we carry on along the trail to the right of the lake, keeping to a barren land until Nuruchan, where we will be welcomed by a grassy land with streams nearby.
September 10th: Nuruchan to Gyamar Barma 5100m (4 hrs trekking)
Today also it’s an easy day ahead with a small pass. We will cross the icy cold stream in Nuruchan before gradually ascending Horlam Kongka La (4900 m). From the pass, we will have a view of the turquoise blue Tsokar. From the pass we will walk down to the valley and then follow the valley up until to the camp Rachungkaru (Tibetan Nomads group) with their flock of yaks, sheep and pashmina goats.
September 11th: Gyamar Barma to Gyama 5200 m (5 to 6 hrs)
Today is going to be a hard day with two passes to go Gyama camp. After the breakfast we will continue to the ascend of Kyamayuru La (5410 m) which is our first pass; this pass is challenging in nature, but the magnificent view from the top makes it well worth all our strenuous efforts. , now we head to our next pass, Kartse La (5300 m). Ascending slowly in the thin air of the plateau, we will eventually reach the pass. The trail leads gradually down to the lush green valley of the Gyama, where we spend our night. Due to the campsite’s high altitude, bad weather can make night temperature freezing, and night will be supper windy.
September 12th: Gyamar to Korzok Phu 4500 m (6 to 7 hrs trekking)
Today, we gradually ascend towards the highest and final pass on the trek. Following the narrow valley until the Yalung Nyaulung La (5440 m), we will see some of the rare flowers and herbs of the Himalayan region. The fragrances will astonish you! To our right we can view snowcapped mountains and from the top of the pass we will also have a view of the lake Tsomoriri, surrounded by snowcapped mountains such as Mentok kangri and on other side Chamser and Lungser peaks. We descend steeply for a couple of hours to the Korzok Phu, the summer pasture of the Korzok people. Overnight and meals in camp.
September 13th: Karzok Phu to Base Camp (5 to 6 hrs trekking)
After breakfast we slowly but steadily ascend towards the Base Camp of Mentok Kangri at 5330mts, approximately 5hrs trek. Rest of the day is spent making final preparations for the summit day.
September 14th: Summit day for Mentok Kangri for those opting to climb to the summit with our local climbing guides
We will start around 3:00 AM in the morning. For the initial stage of the summit day, we don’t need to use crampons. Slowly and gradually and closer to the summit there will be enough snow from there onwards, we will put on crampons, its most likely that ropes are not need but this entirely depends on our climbing guide and the situation there as you will have with you all important equipment. Approaching the summit, it will become more physically demanding, but once you are at the summit the joy will be unforgettable, with breath-taking views in all directions.
September 15th: Spare summit day
September 16th: Base Camp to Korzok (Tsomoriri Lake)
Early morning, we will have breakfast and finally pack and break camp and descend down towards Korzok to explore the area.
September 17th: Korzok to Leh (7 hrs drive)
We drive back to Leh along the gorges of the mighty Indus with all these good memories in mind, leaving behind the beautiful Lake Tsomoriri. Overnight hotel in Leh with a farewell dinner.
September 18th: At leisure in Leh or depart for a 3-day visit into the Nubra Valley
September 19th: Fly from Leh to the UK
September 12th: I was at Blandford Camp, home of the Royal Corps of Signals to deliver REC (Rescue Emergency Care) certificated High Altitude First Aid training to 9 Gurkha soldiers soon to be departing to Nepal and the Annapurna Circuit. The highest point during the trek is the cold and bleak Thorung La (5416m) in the Damodar Himal, north of the Annapurna Himal. The Annapurna Circuit was my first trek in Nepal and I have fond memories of that initial trek in the Himalayas.
This was the fifth such course I've delivered to the Royal Corps of Signals in the UK.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.