Monday, August 18, 2008
Friday, November 10, 2006
While Paddy flew home to relax with home comforts I still had one challenge left to do. Well actually a few, the first being to try in my horrid horrid horrid hung-over state to get on a plane from Istanbul to New York without re decorating the taxi or giving British Airways a new paint job. Then there was the 26.2 miles that i had to run, without any training (well running anyway).
The marathon itself was fantastic fun and a brilliant atmosphere. I started very well and although stiff from a week off walking in Istanbul I was feeling confident about making it around the streets of New York.
The first 12 miles went very well and I kept up with the 3 hour 15 minute pace group and although there was no hope of keeping up the pace the whole way I was sure to get a good time. Then I felt a horrific pain spread up my leg and I literally collapsed on the side of the road. The long and the short of it was that I think I have re-fractured my leg from my previous injury in France. I did however manage to hobble around the remaining 14 miles and reach the finish line in 5 hours 12 minutes. Certainly no record but it was one of the most painful and hardest things I have had to do and it made walking to Asia look and feel like a Sunday afternoon stroll!
Just like to say a massive thank you to my supporters along the way, Ems, Charlie, Davina, Willem, Kate and the Red Cross/Realbuzz team, I am almost certain I wouldn’t have finished without your encouragement! This the last marathon i am doing without any training, i think i have learnt my lesson....
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Hello all! As you can see from the above photo we are now wıthın an ıncredıbley tıny dıstance from Istanbul. We have been gettıng progressıvely excıted for the past few days knowıng that we could complete the walk ın one bıg day's walk. However, we are drawıng out the excıtement for as long as we can and, ıf we stıck to our schedule we wıll arrıve on the out skırts of the town tonıght, and the centre ın three days tıme.
Lots and lots has hapened over the past week or so, ıncludıng meetıng the chap seen ın the photo below. He and hıs frıend have cycled all the way from Korea, leavıng a few days before we left Trafalgar Square. I would recommend hıs websıte ıf your Korean ıs up to scratch. It can be found at www.eurasia2006.com. We have also met a cyclıst who had spent the past month travellıng up from Syrıa, so I guess we must now be on the maın long-dıstance route between Europe and Asıa.
The next blog wıll come from Istanbul. Thanks for all the support- We needed to keep to an ıncredıbly tıght schedule over the past three months, and we couldn't have done ıt wıthout your help.
(50kms walk, 2 kebabs, and 3 cans of Efes all ın one day? It's too much for Andy)
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I'm goıng to have to keep thıs blog faırly brıef. Thıs slıghtly thırd-world computer ıs causıng me all sorts of headaches and however much you all want to know what we're up to, I value my sanıty over and above your curıosıtıes.
Fırstly I'm sure you're all wonderıng what has happened to the dots above my I's. Well they don't have them here and that's that. Be satısfıed that I've crossed the t's. But where's 'here'? Here ıs Turkey!
Yes, after almost 160 days we have marched happıly ınto our 11th and fınal country. We left Bulgarıa about 2 days ago and snuck across a lıttle slıver of Greece ınto Turkey and thus were ın three countrıes ın a lıttle less than 24 hours. The latter half of Bulgarıa went by ın a blur of rubbısh-fılled fıelds, dead dogs, and cheap beer. It's best summed up wıth the same sort of sentıments as those that we had for Serbıa. Wonderful people, but what are you all playıng at? Sort ıt out, ok?
It seems lıke years sınce we were ın Sofıa though ın fact ıt was only about 10 days ago. We've sımply been keepıng our heads down and trampıng along as hard as we can. There are varıous reasons for thıs. Not only does Andy have a marathon to run, but people are comıng to Istanbul and we mustn't be late. But perhaps the maın reason for our ıncrease ın pace ıs the rıdıculous temperatures. It only needs the nıght-tıme temperatures to drop another degree or two for the surroundıng countrysıde to be lıttered wıth our frostbıtten extremıtıes. But wıth just 8 days to do the remaınıng 270kms we'll keep our fıngers crossed whıle we stıll have them.
We hope to be on the ınternet agaın ın a few days to pop up a couple more lınes of blog. Keep checkıng and, more ımportantly, tell everyone you know that ıf they haven't yet donated then they're the reason that two poor ramblers cry themselves to sleep each nıght, shelterıng ın hedgerows as snowstorms rage across the countrysıde. See ıf that works at all.
Other than the above there's not a huge deal to report. Plus we're goıng to keep a bıt of an embargo on the news ın a cunnıng ruse to force you all to attend our party to hear how the last stages went. So keep the 25th November free, and we look forward to seeıng you all remarkably soon.
I hope you're all well, as, I suspect, does Andy.
Regards from us both.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Hello! Many apologies for the lack of blog updates for the last few weeks but we have been on the road covering the huge distance from Belgrade to Sofia in Bulgaria.
Since leaving Belgrade we headed due south for the first time towards the town of Nis in southern Serbia. The route took us firstly across the mountains just south of Belgrade and then along the river Niska towards it's source across the Bulgarian border. Serbia was an interesting country and had given us a real taste for the Eastern culture change we have experienced with crazy 'turbo folk' music, the ability to turn any fruit into an intoxicating liquid and the massive poverty levels that are abundant in the countryside regions. The countryside has been beautiful but unfortunately the huge amounts of rubbish that line the roads, even in the depths of the countryside have put a huge dampener on the walking. The government can not afford to provide any form of rubbish disposal except in the main cities and so people are forced to burn and dump their rubbish in every possible location, including their gardens. That, combined with the huge stray dog population, has meant that we have been forced to use our walking sticks as weapons rather than to help us along the very uneven roads!
The walk from Nis up into the mountains towards the Bulgarian border was breath-takingly beautiful as our road lead us up a steep gorge with tunnels and rock ledges and some staggering views. The only problem was that our road was the only road to Bulgaria from that region of Serbia and so it was home to a continuous flow of lorries moving their goods from Bulgaria, Turkey, Hungary and Iran into the west. We have been forced many a time to dive from the road into whatever lay beyond the concrete to miss almost certain death from the thundering freight trains that past us at immense speeds.
We have also been plagued with an extraordinary hot end to the summer here with temperatures reaching well above 32 degrees. I hate to think of the ratio of water intake to the amount that literally spurts from our bodies over a 7 hour walk. Alas our prayers for cooler weather have been answered and the summer has in the last few days come to a quick end with incredibly cold nights and torrential downpours. The walk for the next three weeks is looking very uninviting but hopefully the excitement of being so close to the finish will pull us through.
Bulgaria has brought many new things to our walk. Another stamp has been added to the passport and we have even experienced our first time change since reaching Calais but more importantly we have seen our first road signs to Istanbul!!!!! This caused immense excitement from us at the border to the extent that the border guards that had just admitted us almost rounded us up and deported us back to Serbia in a flash thinking we might have MMD (Mad Mosquito Disease - the Serbians answer to mad cow disease!).
Now let me tell you about George...
We met George outside a small town on the main road into Sofia. We were plodding along as usual when we heard a great cry and frantic waving coming from the garden next to us. Slightly surprised and with a quick glance around to check it was directed to us we ventured in to say hello. We were met but a big bounding Bulgarian guy who could apart from the colour of his skin have easily been mistaken for Shrek. Accompanying him was a elderly man, who we assumed to be his father but who was only about 5ft tall and half the size of George. Not speaking a word of English didn't stop George from inviting us to sit down as he disappeared into his house in a fit of hysterics before reappearing with an armful of fruit and vegetables for us - this included a watermelon, tomatoes, apples and bag full of walnuts! Why people see two backpackers already buckling under the weight of their loads and immediately think we must give them more to carry still baffles us. Then about 10 seconds later George's father coming scuttling out with a variety of glasses and sets them down in front of us, 2 of which were shot glasses. Paddy and I exchanged glances, both concerned about the further 3 hours walk in the mid-day sun that we had to complete. Those concerned glances couldn't have been more justified, considering the events that followed. The pure home brew liquid that we were fed, weighing in at no less than 150% proof, almost evaporated before we even had chance to tuck into the rather generous 60 ml helping that we were both given. Well needless to say for Queen and Country we both immediately lifted our glasses in a toast to which George, in a moment that could only have come from 'Withnail & I', pipes up with 'chin chin'! Trying to hold the hysterics we put away most of the glass in one go only to almost fall off our chairs with the incredible potency of the grape based liquor. It numbed our brains and legs within a few seconds and burned not only our nostrils, mouths, throat but then proceeded to dissolve the contents of my stomach and its lining. We managed to finish our glasses and wash it down with some water before saying our goodbyes and heading back onto the road. At this point George, who had obviously been on the juice for most of the afternoon embraced Paddy and, sobbing, began kissing him on the cheeks! I narrowly escaped the kisses with a clever move but had my hand squeezed so tight that I almost wished I had taken the previous option. In my pissed state I decided the watermelon was an absolute necessity and packed it into the top of my rucksack and stumbled down the road in all sorts of directions untill I sobered up enough an hour later to collapse and eat it. George was another classic example of the exemplary hospitality that we have seen throughout the Balkans but was certainly in a league of his own.
Sofia, which we staggered into yesterday, is a very different and impressive city. The outskirts were muich the same as the rest of the big towns that one finds in these parts, but the city centre is affluent, buzzing, and attractive. Admittedly, a young lady tried to pick-pocket me yesterday, but she did it very politely and wasn't the least offended when i wouldn't give her my things. We're staying in a nice little hostel, where we were welcomed with booze and food and a short history of everything Bulgarian, and much as we would like to stay here for a few more days we have sadly got to push on. A slight peice of mis-mapsmanship has somehow lost us a day (or was it all that homebrew?) so were are going to have a furious pace from here on. We were also informed yesterday that it's going to rain for about a million years starting today (it has, indeed, been pouring all day) so that'll add a fun new aspect to the walk. Still, our spirits are high and we are neither bruised nor battered, but just a little tired. We are nearly as close to the end of the walk as London is to Edinburgh, which is, now that i come to think about it, not actually a very comforting way of looking at it. Wish us luck!
Paddy's Party Blog
Right. Enough of Andy's tourism nonsense. Let's all talk business for a second. The party is now completely confirmed for the evening of the 25th of November. Write it in your diaries now, because you'll feel like such plonkers if you end up having to go else-where and someone else wins the 48" plasma screen TV, or whatever it is which happens to be top prize. (Just to clarify, we don't actualy have a 48" plasma screen TV yet, but if anyone reading this happens to work for Sony, Panasonic, etc, or if they have a dodgey relative who works out of a transit van down East Hackney way and might be able to get his hands on that sort of clobber, then let us know).
To get an idea of what we do have in our raffle, go, as always, to our website where you will see all sorts of exciting brands scrolling across the top of your screen. We also have a chap who, at this very instant, is dreaming up all sorts of exciting canapes and nibbles to stop the bubbly (that'll be beer obviously, unless you win any of the bottles of champangne) from going to your heads.
I must also take this opportunity to remind you all of our dates for arriving in Istanbul, and for crossing into Asia. Drinking buddies are coming from as far afield as Russia to help us party the walking out of our systems. We'll get to town on the 28th (a weekend, dear workers) and then cross into Asia on the 31st. If you think you're up to the task of joining our ever-increasing band of volunteers, then give us a ring and we'll tell you all the details. It's a city that's well worth a visit, even if you don't want to hang out with smelly ramblers.
Anyway, lastly, as always, thankyou to all the sponsors. It's been an incredibly profitable week, and though we shan't embarass anyone here, we all know where the fundraising page is to be found, and that the donors are all listed at the bottom, so thank you again, really and truly, to everyone for their wonderful, generous, kindly and unexpected support.
We hope you are all as well as can be, and (for the first time in a blog) look forward to seeing you in the not-too-distant future! What a strange thought.
Paddy and Andy
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
After extensive passport checks and our first border stamps we have reached
The first of our 'on the spot' police checks came 4 kms from the
In our first Serbian city of
The only other news to report is that over the last week we have twice been thought to be Russian! I can only assume that this is because of our dirty, bearded appearance and our attempt to speak Serbian! The roads are so full of diesel fumes and dust from the old cars and lorries that our lungs are about to give up and are voices become rather deeper than normal. We have however had a chance to clean up our appearance now we are in
The end is truly in sight and within the next week we shall have walked further than the straight-line distance between London and the North Pole ! Just 6 weeks of solid walking lie between us and
As promised we also have an update on our party
Hours of day dreaming while we endure our endless march across Europe has lead to some rather productive party planning for our (hopefully) triumphant return to
On the 25th of November we shall be having a massive fundraising party in
The dress code changes hourly but be sure that it will get you out of your Monday to Friday suits and is certain to take
Obviously invitations are a little tricky with us being on the road 6 days a week so don't expect a fancy invite through the door quite yet but everyone is of course invited so please keep evening of the 25th of November free.
Andy and Paddy