When is a boot not just a boot?

When it’s a trekking boot of course.

I never actually realised how many shops there are selling trekking/outdoor gear. Never having needed the services of this type of shop before, I had never really taken a great deal of notice. I knew of a couple in the suburbs but was unprepared for the choice of outlets, let alone the choice in gear, when I actually went to buy something.

A couple of serious trekking outlets had been recommended when I booked the trek through World Expeditions and I thought them the best place to start. On the one stretch of Hay St though I found, not only those two, but a further two. Add these to the ones I had ventured into in my local suburb in the last couple of weeks and you could say I was rather overwhelmed.

Not for long though. It soon became crystal clear that just as there is a great array of gear available there is also a huge difference in the service available at these outlets.

The staff at Paddy Pallin, the first place I went into, was by far the most knowledgeable, the most helpful and the most professional. As for the others, well, even once the staff had stopped chatting amongst themselves and noticed I was there, they really didn’t seem terribly forthcoming with help or advice.

Anyway, this is what I bought – from Paddy Pallin!

Aren’t they lovely? My first pair of trekking boots, in fact my first bit of trekking gear, and they are the Scarpa Kailish GTX, impressive or what? These boots and I are going to become very close over the next few months.

But here are 10 things I learnt about buying trekking boots:

  1. One trekking boot is not just like the next.
  2. You need to be able to fit trekking socks in them (and these are a whole different story in themselves).
  3. The type of trek you’re going on and the altitude, matter.
  4. Width matters just as much as length – really, it does. In a women’s boot if the length is right but they are too tight, try a men’s in the same size.
  5. They have a ramp in the shop so you can try the boots going uphill and downhill – who would have thought it?
  6. Trekking boots shouldn’t bend.
  7. Your heel shouldn’t move up and down – self explanatory really, you don’t want blisters.
  8. There are so many ways to lace a boot – and each way makes it feel differently.
  9. A Gore-Tex lining is good (see, I’m even getting the terminology now).
  10. And one last thing – my boots have a wedge in the heel for stability!

So now my boots and I intend to begin the journey, think we might take our first tentative steps together next weekend. Wish us luck.

Paris in July: A surprising discovery.

Not a long post this one but I had to share, and how appropriate for Paris in July. It’s always surprising the places that you stumble across when you’re not even looking.

This morning I had to go into the city of Perth. I don’t go very often, there’s never much need to, but today I had to go boot shopping (more about that later) and I ventured further up Hay St than I normally do.

After becoming completely befuddled by the whole array of gear available for trekkers (and the cost, incidentally) I was in desperate need of a coffee. There was a coffee shop a couple of doors away, excellent, I could sit and mull over my options in regard to the boots.

Well, did I find a gem – a FRENCH coffee shop. And I mean a PROPER FRENCH coffee shop. The owners are French, several of the waitstaff are French and the food is French.

This coffee shop, sorry Boulangerie & Patisserie, is called Jean Pierre Sancho and has apparently been in Perth since 2010. Its origins lie in the medieval town of Lodeve in the South of France, where the Sancho bakery has been in existence since 1904.

Apart from the Hay St establishment, there is one in St Georges Tce and another in Northbridge. When I’d finished my shopping I did go back and by a baguette to take home for lunch, I resisted the tempting array of pastries, but next time I might have to treat myself – for there will be a next time. If you’re anywhere near, I would highly recommend a visit.

Mountains, Mist and …. ooh, one little plane

Remind me again why I’m doing this.

I think I’ve just made my first mistake in planning this trip. I read the Wikipedia site on the airport at Lukla. Not a good idea as it turns out. Sometimes I just don’t know when to stop, because then I made my second mistake, I watched U Tube footage of a plane taking off from the airport. Google maps showing the terrain really didn’t help either. Lukla is the starting point of the trek and to get there requires a short flight from Kathmandu in a Twin Otter aircraft. World Expeditions, in their blurb, describe it as ‘a memorable flight with amazing views’.

I don’t doubt it for one minute.

Notice the mountains in the picture? Well the pilot, of a tiny aircraft, needs to navigate his way around those mountains, banking and descending through several layers of cloud and mist, apparently without the help of landing aids, using just his own keen sense of sight (one would hope that it’s keen anyway). Then he has to pull the aircraft to a halt within 460 metres – hopefully with a bit of room to spare. And then, to get out of there he has to gun his engines and race back down the 12 degree gradient hoping like hell to take off before reaching the 700 metre drop at the end of the runway.

Does it help that only the most experienced pilots in Nepal fly to Lukla? Probably, just a bit.

Lukla is the highest airport with scheduled flights in the world and acknowledged as one of the most dangerous, and I’m going visiting.

But, on a positive note, considering there are around 50 flights a day in and out of Lukla in the high season and accidents are rare, it’s probably no more dangerous than driving to work.

Enough said! Let’s move on!

Countdown to Kathmandu


I could have called this post Countdown to Everest or Countdown to Nepal or even Countdown to Thyangboche, which is ultimately the furthest point I will reach on my quest next May, but I like the alliteration so, Countdown to Kathmandu it is. Kathmandu, for those of you whose geography is a little hazy, is the capital of Nepal in northern India. It sits at 1,350 metres above sea level and is the gateway to the Nepal Himalayas. This is generally where you touch down in advance of your trek into either the Everest region or the nearby Annapurna region.

Now, I think it’s fair to say that this trek and the necessary preparations have been on my mind a fair bit in recent weeks. Ok, I’m obsessed. I have a focus people and when I have something to aim for there’s no stopping me, I need to be organised. I’m a list person, as I think I’ve mentioned before, and I’ve started several. The first one was books to read before I go. Well, where to start, or more accurately, where to stop?

Suddenly I’m noticing any book or magazine with a mountain on the front, or anything that contains mountain, Everest, Himalayas, trekking etc etc in the title. Only days after making the decision to go on this trek I came across a bookshop selling all their books for five dollars. Being one who simply cannot pass a bookshop without at least browsing, the pull of reduced price books was overwhelming and I made an immediate right turn into the shop. I think I cut off a couple of other shoppers in the process but time waits for no woman intent on buying books. Anyway, I browsed through one table, collecting a couple of books on the way, and was on to the second when I came face to face with Michael Palin staring up at me from the cover of his book Himalaya. Before you could say ‘what mountain?’ I had forked out my five dollars and figured that if ever there was to be a sign this was it. Since then I have bought one on trekking in Nepal and I’ve ordered Sir Edmund Hillary’s autobiography View from the Summit and there’s several more that I want to buy and I’ve still got 10 months to go.

Another of my lists involves exercise and lots of it. I’m relatively fit, I have a treadmill that I’ve used intermittently for the last couple of years and I like to go for a walk along a nearby coastal path on the weekend sometimes. No more intermittent exercise and sometimes walks now though. My exercise list starts off this month with 2km on the treadmill twice a week, ab crunches on a recently acquired ab crunch bench thingie and hand weights (to strengthen my arm muscles in case I need to cling to a rugged mountain climber as I trip over a boulder, or a yak, or something), with an hours walk along the coastal path every weekend. This path does have some quite steep inclines so the leg muscles get quite a good workout.

The distances and frequency will increase over the months and I’ve done some research into tracks around Perth where I can get used to a different terrain on some longer walks. Factor in a few ups and downs of Jacobs Ladder at Kings Park and you’ll see a new me in no time flat. I did mention that I was an optimistic type didn’t I? I’ve made the routine gradual and achievable and am really looking forward to the ‘feel good’ feeling that usually comes with exercise.

Also on this list are some yoga sessions. Not something I’ve tried before but something that has been on my New Years Resolution list for the past couple of years. In fact last year it was the only thing on that list that I didn’t manage to achieve. I did Tai Chi a few years ago and really enjoyed it so hopefully I’ll take to the yoga.

So that’s my mind and body taken care of, the next list I think will be a shopping list. It starts with the boots …… I’ll get into that next time.

10 months, 1 week and counting.

Paris in July: Circa 52BC

Did you ever consider that Parisians could be speaking Italian and be called Lutetians? No, I guess not. Doesn’t have quite the same allure, does it? But it could have happened, if the Roman Empire hadn’t collapsed in a heap.

Amongst the many books relating to Paris– novels set in Paris, French cookbooks, French tourist tomes, memoirs of famous French residents and those from other countries who have chosen to make France their home – one ancient literary endeavour may have been overlooked. Julius Caesar was probably the first author to use France (or to be precise, Gaul, which includes a few other modern countries) as the backdrop for his de Bello Gallico, a series of commentaries on the Gallic Wars. Now I’m sure you don’t need me boring you with a history lesson, suffice to say that, like any author, Caesar had an agenda. His commentaries were pure political propaganda aimed at establishing his military reputation. Worth a read if you like history.

But, back to the Lutetians. The name Paris stems from the Parisii, a Celtic tribe that inhabited the area around the Ȋle de la Cité from the first to the third century BC. However, in 52BC, when the Parisii broke their agreement with the Romans in order to support the Gallic war leader Vercingetorix, the city was captured and burned by the Romans and a new town Lutetia established on the Left Bank of the Seine It was not until the decline of the Roman Empire in the third century AD that the name Paris was resurrected. So, as I said there was a possibility that we could have been celebrating Lutetia in July!

The Louvre is home to a wonderful array of Roman artefacts and the busts of several Roman Emperors. Not half as attractive as the current Parisians though 🙂

Emperor Hadrian

Marcus Aurelius

Septimius Severus

Abandoning my comfort zone!

Have you ever had one of those ‘wow’ moments? You know the ones, where you suddenly go ‘yes! This is me, this is what I should be doing.’ Not the run of the mill ‘this would be a good idea’ type moment or even the ‘this would be a great idea’ type moment, but the ‘wow, I have to do this’ type moment, even if it means stepping way outside your comfort zone. I’ve experienced it once before, in my 40th year, when I read an article in the newspaper that started me studying again and set me on the road (a long road I must admit), to getting my PhD. Well, it happened again a couple of weeks ago and consequently my travel plans have taken an interesting twist.

Now, any of you that have been around my blog for a few months will know that I have been deliberating for some time on my next destination. There have been a few options but I really haven’t been able to settle on anything, which is unusual for me, I generally get by planning my next holiday. Obviously there was a reason which, as I say, has just become abundantly clear.

I was browsing the internet one evening, as you do, when I came upon the website for World Expeditions. Delving a little further this is what I found:

Everest 60th

Anniversary Trek

A classic short trek combining Sherpa culture with views of

Everest and a special black tie dinner to celebrate the 60th

Anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest

So, guess who’s going trekking in the Himalayas next May? Now, I need to put this in perspective and explain why it jumped out at me. Well, 1953 was rather an eventful year, it saw not only the ascent of this great mountain in May but also the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II a few days later in early June and, most importantly to complete the hat trick, I was born in the July. So it was a triple whammy and I can’t think of a better way to prove to myself in my 60th year, that I can step outside my comfort zone, push my boundaries and step lightly in at least some of Hillary’s footsteps.

Now, I don’t intend to be silly about this, I know my limitations, but I have almost a year and a lot can be achieved in a year when you set your mind to it. I’ve chosen the easiest of five treks that will meet up in the grounds of the Thyangboche Monastery, nearly 4000 m above sea level, on 29th May 2013 for a special celebratory evening within sight of Everest.

This is something that I have never even thought about doing before, I have a long ‘to do’ list as far as travel destinations are concerned and this has never been on it, let alone anywhere near the top. Paris (again), Italy (again), New Zealand, even Turkey and Machu Pichu, they’re all there, but Nepal? The Himalayas?

But hey, I’ve booked, the deposit’s paid, the training has begun.

Stay with me, it could get interesting.

Paris in July: Paris on an angle

Magique Eiffel

I’ve always loved Paris and have been lucky enough to visit there three times. The first was many, many years ago with two very young daughters and a husband (now ex) in tow. We were travelling round Europe in a campervan and we had a ball. Somehow as we drove into Paris we managed to run straight into the Arc de Triomphe, well, not literally but you know what I mean. Stressful or what? Now I’m not sure whose fault it was that the said husband ended up having to negotiate the organised chaos that is the traffic around that monument, but as the navigator I feel that, at this late stage, I should possibly bear some responsibility. I think we missed the turn off to the Bois de Boulogne at the previous roundabout. Anyway he did an amazing job while I closed my eyes and eventually we made our way back to the Bois de Boulogne and the camp site.

That was in March, the second time I visited it was late September and finally two years ago I was there in July. Although Paris in summer is wonderful unfortunately it is also full to brimming with tourists!

Whatever time of the year you visit though, the architecture in this city is amazing. Whether it’s the Notre-Dame Cathedral, that Gothic masterpiece with its Gallery of Kings and its gargoyles, the nineteenth century Eiffel Tower with its 1200 pieces fitting neatly together or the modern glass pyramid of the Louvre, you can’t help but be in awe.

Pictures of these Paris landmarks are easily recognisable but would you pick them from these photos? I’ve also thrown in a couple of photos of Paris buildings taken from a slightly different angle – they’re probably easily recognisable as Paris but just a different perspective. What’s your favourite Paris building?

How many of those 1200 pieces can you count here?


Yes, it’s part of the pyramid.


You probably got this one of Notre-Dame


The hanging gardens of …… no, not Babylon!


View from above.