As plans are now starting to shape up and as we're now finally booked to leave in just under 10 days we thought we'd share the outline of our next adventure plan. Originally arriving back in Britain in early March, we thought we'd be off on our next motorhome adventure very soon and through a series of unplanned events and opportunities, we're off on a set of completely different adventures..... So where are we off to?
The short answer is....... we're off to Geneva on the 20th to try a month of thru-hiking and wild camping (tent not motorhome) in the Swiss and French Alps following the GR5 to the start of the Tour de Mont Blanc. Then on 21st August we'll be flying off for a couple of weeks in Egypt; returning to Venice to then find a way of getting to the Dolomites by mid-September so that we can take part in a running challenge spanning 17.5 km with an altitude difference of 1,350m. After that we're not quite sure yet! We do know we'll be back in Cabo de Gata in the second half of November and in early December are planning on running the Almeria coastal 45km marathon+! We still see another motorhome as part of the plan but when we're now not sure.
So how did these plans come about??
reflecting about the lessons we'd learnt so far from our adventures and thinking about how to move forward in line with our new passions, the plan had been to undertake a series of 6 physical challenges, over 6 months, in 6 different countries in order to raise awareness of the chronic health conditions that we suffer from and the charities which support them. Each challenge was different - cycling, vertical running, walking, trekking, a coastal marathon etc. 4 of the events were officially organised which we'd entered and two we were organising ourselves. Arriving in Durham we were still finalising these plans, working towards a warm-up event maybe in Britain, like the Lake District and then off to Switzerland to start in June. Our plan was to still travel in a motorhome as it allowed us to train and build-up to the events in a variety of places but also give us the comfort of maintaining a healthy routine (sleep, food etc).
We'd planned to buy another motorhome (a van conversion) from Germany. Originally when we set off in 2014, we'd thought about it but we were in a hurry to get gone and also our budget and the exchange rate at the time meant there wasn't much savings to be had from going abroad. But now we were more certain about what we wanted from our next motorhome, Germany was offering a lot more options and value for money.
when we took our mini-trip away to the Lake District we decided to see how we felt about wild-camping again and see how rusty we were. It turned out we weren't that rusty, we still had all the gear and we actually really enjoyed being back out in nature and sleeping on the hills. So time to resurrect our old GR5 honeymoon plans which had been shelves after Dan got ill in 2014. We'd planned a 3 month thru-hiking tour following the whole GR5 route from the North Sea at Holland to Nice via the Alps. We'd been very excited about it at the time. Whilst neither of us would ever want to go through the experiences which led to us going on the motorhome tour again, we don't have any regrets now looking back at how things unfolded over the past 2 years.
we got the ball rolling by finally booking a flight from Heathrow to Geneva on 20th July thinking that this was the plan.
it did mean however, that Thursday was a bit of rushed day, checking out all the different flight options and trying to work out how to transfer money to America. But we got there in the end.
As there was no point coming back to the UK to fly to Egypt on 21st August, we checked out the airports near the French Alps, in particular Nice as it was the end-point of the GR5. However, as we had left it in airline terms 'relatively short notice' many of the more reasonable not ridiculously priced options were gone. We don't know how it quite happened but I had the idea to, instead of looking from Nice or Milan etc. to re-check Geneva to Cairo.
Long story short we made a quick decision that actually we had already spent quite a lot of time in the French Alps, especially last year and even walked section of the GR5 there before. Secondly although we would say to ourselves from the outset "we're not planning on doing the whole walk just to catch the flight in Nice" we know we might have a tendency to get over-excited and try and complete the whole walk without public transport. We wanted to take off the temptation to cover mighty distances every day so that we can make it to Nice in time. Thirdly, although more me than Dan, I do feel a great calling to and get very exciting thinking about the Swiss and higher Alpine regions.
So, we've decided to walk from Geneva from July 20th and then somehow get back to Geneva for a flight to Cairo in 21st August. We're still planning on walking a section of the GR5 from Thonon-les-Bains to Chamonix and then either consider taking on the challenge of the Tour du Mont Blanc or maybe the Tour du Vanoise before heading back to Geneva. It might change again but given it is only 2 weeks away this is our new plan (or at least outline of a plan) and what we're preparing for.
So as we needed to confirm a return flight, we needed to think and quickly, after more than 2 weeks on a meditation and sight-seeing tour of the ancient sight of Egypt, what next? We looked at the cost of flights back to Britain, Germany (to go straightaway and buy a motorhome) or returning to the French Alps as we remembered that we had still got an entry to the running event in the Dolomites (which was going to be part of our challenges) on the 17th September. We were both really looking forward to this one in particular as it was an area we'd never been to before and given that we missed that event in Switzerland in June, running along the longest European Glacier, we decided to see whether it was possible to return to Italy instead. As luck would have it, one of the closest airports (Venice) was actually more reasonable than most other European airports and much more reasonable than returning to Heathrow. So, we have now booked on to a flight from Cairo to Venice on 5th September. We had thought about buying a motorhome after the Egypt trip and driving it to Italy for the event and then going straight to Spain but it felt too rushed in 12 days after landing.
Once in Italy we're undecided if we will catch a bus to the area near the race in the Dolomites or maybe even hire a car and tour around, potentially returning to Venice airport for the flight home after the race. This is currently undecided and we don't yet have a return flight as yet. We may look at returning to Amsterdam to visit family and Oma in particular before returning to the UK. Or before returning to the UK/Holland, we may even look at what motorhome options are still available in Germany; consider another challenge in the Pyrenees on foot or bike before the snow and temperatures fall in late October, considering exploring Southern Italy or Greece....... we'll just wait and see nearer the time what and where we feel is calling us. As with a lot of our previous adventures, as much as possible we'd like to leave it fluid and flexible so that we can take up new opportunities as they arise. Had it not been for this mindset, we'd not be off on this particular adventure which is excitedly and also very scarily just 10 days away now! It's out of our comfort zone (well, me in particular as I've not left Europe before and both of us will have to careful manage our health conditions on the thru-hiking and running challenge). But we're not here to be comfortable all the time, right? Isn't pushing our boundaries how we grow as people?
So time to get packing then....... Thank goodness for all the Yoga and Pilates over the last weeks and training at the gym in Durham, it gives us a good chance of enjoying as many nights as we can under canvas in the next month! Although Homer's mattress wasn't the most comfortable by far, I have a feeling I might be missing it after week 2 on a lightweighting air mattress!
20th July - Leave Heathrow For Geneva
21st July - 20th August - Walking/Backpacking/Camping Swiss/French Alps
21st August - 1645 - Leave Geneva for Cairo
22nd August - 4th September - Egypt Tour with Agape
5th September - 0310 - Leave Cairo for Venice
17th September - Mountain Running Event in Dolomites
It might not be the challenges we imagined or planned as we left Spain but the different aspects of these plans are still going to need thinking about in terms of our health conditions and although we don't plan to journal as often as we'd planned as we go along, when possible we'll try and still reflect on some of these issues.