Monday 20th August 2018, 10.30am (day 2,552)
No commentary on this shot other than to say I like it for somehow symbolising the road that out of darkness leads up into the light. Or something like that.
Took the scenic route over to the in-laws’ in Morecambe today. Between home and there lies the Forest of Bowland — most of which isn’t covered in trees at all, this photograph is actually atypical. Nice drive to do in pleasant weather though. The year coasts towards its end placidly enough.
Commercial forestry is not inherently a bad thing: there are many beautiful and well-managed plantations in England. But there are prices to pay, and when you see a ravaged landscape like this one — well, it does make you realise that this is not nurtured land. More like arboreal strip-mining, take the products and leave a wasteland behind. In this mist it looks almost apocalyptic, like the zombies are just over the horizon. Maybe one day Treebeard will stomp out of the remaining woods, like he does in The Two Towers, and swear vengeance against the human despoilers.
In the near six years that I have been doing this blog, my spreadsheet reveals I have been to Russia on twelve separate occasions, and I know I went there at least four times before August 2011. And in all those sixteen occasions I have never been outside Moscow or its immediate environs (airports mainly).
This time is an exception. I currently reside in Khanty-Mansiysk, at 61ºN, 69ºE approximately: thus firmly behind the Urals, and in Siberia. (If Siberia, even by its most conservative definition, was a separate country it would still be the biggest one in the world.) What did I expect this place to look like — in the summer at least? Well, this pretty much sums it up. This is not out in the genuine taiga — this being a Russian academic conference they can never resist the ‘cultural programme’ so we were taken out this afternoon to the local open air ethnographic museum to see a bunch of log cabins in the woods (and the associated mosquito population). It was interesting though, and I was rather taken with this storehouse, built on stilts to keep the contents away from bears and other scavengers, but I can quite picture it as the legendary hut of the witch Baba Yaga, which could sprout chicken legs and chase after naughty children.
What goes up must, of course, come down, a job that from the summit of Kili takes another day-and-a-half of walking. The final few hours, down from Mweka camp to the park gate, was done, for us, in pouring rain, something I’m very glad we didn’t have on our ascent through the forest on day one. Anticlimactic? Of course, a bit, but it was always going to be. I got down in one piece with no ill effects and all in all must count it as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
The real point of this weekend was to meet and — hopefully — bond with the people who are going to be attempting Kilimanjaro with me. Here is a selection of them, at least. A good weekend, I think we’re more ready than we were on Friday anyway.
We went on a hike up Mount Nulakaokao (or something like that) today, 10 of us of various nationalities, led by our Fijian guide Ameo, who astonishingly, climbed up and over the volcanic rocks in bare feet. Impossible to cover the whole trek in one picture, but this one wins just for being rather different: it would have been easy to pick one of the views from and of the mountain itself, which were spectacular, but I like the flare effect on this one. This is Uli, from Dortmund, Germany.