The trek up

Molekskine entry: September 2nd, 2009

Altitude is a small problem. It takes 30-40mins to find your rhythm; breathing, walking, clambering etc… it’s hard. But when we make to the ice, things are easier. Well, I say easier. What I mean is, ‘less hard’ 😉

On thing is for certain, the view is stunning…

The big part of this challenge is being lowered down into a crevasse. Turns out the lowering part is the easy bit.

You can hear the glacier crack and move under your feet, the ground itself isn’t moving but the concerned looks on the faces of our Italian guides gives them away, it’s time to move. By the time we’re on our way back to camp, the clouds have moved in and finding the journey becomes just that little bit more precarious.

Hold hands lads, we don’t want to lose anyone out here…

Helicopters & Poison

Molekskine entry: September 1st, 2009

Food poisoning. All of us. Wiped out for 24hrs. Eugh.

Today we were supposed to walk up to the next camp. A three hour hike taking in ice climbing, hills, glacier walking… none of this happened. Instead our keeper in Italy, Dee, organised a helicopter to fly us up at lunchtime. Reluctantly and somewhat lethargically we packed our things and made our way to the heli-pad.

All of us, in bits.

The flight itself was fantastic. There’s another photographer on this excursion, Alex, and he and I keep getting bundled together. In the ‘Helipos’ it was the same. The good part being our pilot gave us the full tour ’round and over Mont Blanc.

Spectacular

Full set 74 photo set available on Flickr

We arrive, walk to the lodge and collapse. All but two of us crashing out like we’ve never slept. Sam, who was especially ill the night before, sleeps through from 2pm to 6am the following day. He needed it. The rest of us? We made it to about 7pm before we began to stir. Downstairs we tried to eat. Telling jokes, trying to will ourselves better. There are others here, they’ve been out climbing. Lucky beggars.

Later, the energy levels are up. Not refilled totally but we are on the mend, at last. We spend the rest of the evening playing poker by candlelight.

Tomorrow we’re to go out again. Glaciers await.

The Alps, Aug 31st

Molekskine entry: August 31st, 2009

I’ve not had time to do any writing as yet. We’re here, on the border of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps, looking up at Mont Blanc after a really, really intense couple of days. Yesterday, after flying in the 1hr 15mins from London, we were picked up from Geneva and drove through to Italy. I had no idea it was so close.

Within an hour of arriving we were already kitted out and on our way for a training session in the hills.

Yes. That’s me.

We walked for hours and climbed for a while too. Aside from a couple of smashed phones (my own N86 and an iPhone belonging to one of the winners), it was a good day. Intense, but good.

But that was just day one. Today, August 31st, has been one of the scariest days of my life. Being up there, in the mountains, some 3300m above sea level, with nothing but a single rope, a guide and your friends to keep you alive. It’s pretty hairy.

There was a bit, just after that I decided to cut. We stood there and just cried. Cried and cried and cried. The emotional intensity of it all. Completely overwhelming.

Pre-Alps Planning

Molekskine entry: August 27th, 2009

My Lucozade QOTD

“As your bungee footage went down so well with the facebook fans, can you take your mobile with you when you descend into the large crevasse? It’s a pretty unique experience and it should make some good footage…”

Hilarious.

————————————————————————————————–

What bungee footage? This bungee footage:

Hand held and shot entirely with my beloved N86, the video came out perfectly.

It’s funny, back when I did the jump, I didn’t make any kind of note in my diary at all.

I’m not sure why or why not. I just didn’t. In fact, I think this is the first time I’ve published it here. Apologies if you’ve seen it already but, well…  I love it.

Cruisin’

Moleskine entry: August 10th, 2009

Cruisin’ through the Zimbabwe highways (strips of tarmac laid through bare and dry surroundings), Chemical Brothers on the radio (thanks Nokia), the African outback goes pretty well with The Salmon Dance, who knew?

Today we’ve been out rafting on the Zambezi.

Hungover like you wouldn’t believe (we got in at 4am), we left the hotel at nine to traverse the gorge back down to The Mighty Zambezi (to give it its rightful name) which as well as being some 2500k long, also doubles up as the border between several countries, including this one that we’re driving on, Zimbabwe and that one over there – Zambia.

We start our descent 750ft up…

August 10th was a pretty special day for lots of reasons. But bizarrely I haven’t mentioned it anywhere in my Moleskine. Maybe I’ll put it together for another post. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do…

For the record, Zimbabwe is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to and I would go again in a heartbeat.

No need to be afraid. No need at all.

Entering Zimbabwe

Road to Zimbabwe

Moleskine entry: August 7th, 2009

We’re headed there now.

The name itself resonates in a certain way.
Say it, out loud…  Now.

Zimbabwe.

What does it do to you?

I’m ashamed to say it but at the time of writing, the very word strikes fear into my heart. The recent history of the country has been tumultuous at best and at worst, close to civil war.

“That’ll never happen.” says Ralph, owner and chief guide of Ichingo lodge, our place of rest the night before. “The Zimbabwe people are peaceful and intelligent. That’s one of the reasons this whole thing has happened; they’ve been taken for fools and their reluctance for confrontation has meant this [situation] can carry on.

If you would have told me ten years ago that this was going to happen, I would not have believed you. Mugabe is smart. He’s a cunning politician-cum-dictator who has played the system and now isn’t going anywhere…”

Having just turned 86, one has to think that Mugabe’s reign can’t go on much longer.

“The trouble is… the smart ones. They leave, they don’t want to be here. The money they send back is the only thing that’s keeping the country going right now. But with no smart ones, there’s no real chance of opposition.

The only good thing is, Mugabe has no pretender; no protégé to carry on when he’s gone. I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens when he goes.”

Ralph explains that the average time in power for Africa is something like 18yrs; “When they get there, they stay there” he says.

As we head into Zimbabwe the following morning for four nights at Victoria Falls, staying anywhere is the last thing on our minds.

Africa: 789

Moleskine entry: August 7th, 2009

Thank the lord for the wonder that is the iTrip. The journey from Botswana to Zimbabwe just got a million times better thanks to the addition of some Kings of Leon.

Stan, our driver, is cool.

My passport is filling up, the amount of times we’ve crossed the border it just crazy.

SA, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia (strangely quite comforting to be back there), and back to Botswana again.

Now we’re en route to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Bring. It. On.