Volcano number 9: The boggy volcano (part 1)

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The road stretched ahead of me, weaving its way into the lonely depths of Northumberland National Park. As the boyfriend and I strolled along, the click of my walking pole on the road, the rolling mountains of the Cheviot Hills rose up around us, luring me in with their promises of high adventure.

At this point, I had a spring in my step. I was outside the concrete confines of London, relishing in the sublime English countryside, setting out to climb my next volcano (number nine) in my #40by40 quest – albeit it was an ancient one, resulting from volcanic activity when the continents of Scotland and England crashed together some 350-400 million years ago.

I breathed in the pollution-free air. Apart from the sticky humidity and spittles of rain, it felt good to be alive.

That feeling lasted all of about two hours. Continue reading

The pitfalls of preparing for volcano number nine

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The bags are packed; map directions sorted.

The boyfriend and I are about to set off up to the Scottish border to spend two days walking over the sparse and volcanically formed Cheviot Hills – subsequently bagging volcano number nine in my #40by40 quest.

I have to admit, I’m a little excited. All that fresh air and open space – not to mention another volcano – I’m feeling giddy just thinking about it.

But several weeks ago, I wasn’t this cock-a-hoop.

Why?  Continue reading

5 steps to an epic volcano-climbing adventure (without making my mistakes)

460Just over two years ago I came up with a crafty idea. I thought, why not set myself the ambitious quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 – a feat that needed to be achieved in a five-and-a-half-year time frame?

It was a bold, daring plan, borne out of a fascination of lava and plate tectonics… and the itchy-feet desire to make more of my life and challenge myself. I’d just quit my pharmaceutical journalism job of five years to go freelance and I needed a new purpose. I chose adventure. Continue reading

Volcano number 8: The accidental volcano

Yip that clock is ticking – 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40), and I’ve currently checked off… a big fat seven.

As you know it’s not quite the progress I was hoping to have made but in the name of positivity, you have to admit, it’s progress of sorts.

Now that I’m taking a more flexible approach to achieving my quest, I’m also being a little more creative and allowing some lines to be blurred. And so, when my mother informed me that Scafell Pike, England’s tallest mountain at 978m, just happened to be part of a volcanic igneous rock formation (the Borrowdale Volcanic Group) formed some 450 million years ago, it played with my mind. Continue reading

Volcano number 7: The successful New Zealand volcano

20170316_124710_resizedFinally, a day of sunshine!

I almost couldn’t believe it – I had to pinch myself to make sure – but there it was, crisp blue sky and a white-gold orb coating my immediate world in warm rays of sunshine. No rain to be seen; not even a cloud.

It was rejoice-worthy.

The majestic-ness of the day was in stark contrast to a mere few days ago when a weather bomb had hit New Zealand and put paid to my attempts at climbing the volcanoes Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Taranaki – what should have been volcanoes seven and eight in my quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40).

But finally, the weather gods were in good moods – today I was going to climb Rangitoto.  Continue reading

Another epic weather fail

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rain on the tent sounded like an army chucking thousands of buckets of water over it. It had sounded like that all night; a constant drumming as the torrential rain pelted the tree above us, which jettisoned the water directly onto our tent. To say it was wet was an understatement.

We’d completed the three-day Tongariro Northern Circuit trek the evening before and had set up camp in Whakapapa Village (it had already started to rain by that point). I was still gutted that I hadn’t been able to climb Mt Ngauruhoe – what should have been volcano number seven in my quest to climb 40 volcanoes by the age of 40 (#40by40) – because of the crappy weather. But this would be rectified – the plan today was to make the drive west towards Mt Taranaki, the 2,518m peak that pokes out the side of the west of New Zealand’s North Island. Tomorrow we would climb. Continue reading

These are the goals (not resolutions) I’m setting myself for 2017

So, the first day of the new year has come and gone. I can’t help but wonder how many people made New Year’s Resolutions and have already broken them?

By all accounts, according to the experts, the better term to use is goals, not resolutions, which can be defined as more specific, and which are therefore easier to keep than a waffly ‘lose weight’ resolution. They also say that focusing on small and easy changes, and avoiding absolutes like ‘giving up smoking cold turkey tomorrow’ will help ensure the resolutions stick. And supposedly the other trick to keeping a New Year’s Resolution is to not have too many or too many complex ones that require multiple behaviour changes.

Hmmm, I may have failed here as my hand-written list came to nearly the length of an A4 page!

And here they are… Continue reading

Volcano number 6: The first high altitude volcano

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From a distance, Mt Etna – Europe’s highest and most active volcano – seemed mysterious. She sat surprisingly quietly in the background as people wandered the streets of Sicily’s port city Catania, just the occasional wisps of steam floated above her.

Up closer, her smoking was more pronounced and the landscape changed from lush greenery to scraggly brush and the cold hardness of black, frozen lava flows. Tree stumps had been left blackened and void of life. Mt Etna (3329m tall) is one hell of a beast. Continue reading

Volcano number 3: The erupting volcano

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That moment I got up close and saw my first active erupting volcano will stick with me.

I was in the Aeolian Islands, just north of Sicily, gorging myself on quite possibly the world’s best pizza, when suddenly everyone in the restaurant went wild, turning and pointing behind us. Paula, beside me, ferociously grabbed my arm and demanded me to “look, look, look”. Continue reading