Author Archives: Jools

Life Cycles by Julian Sayarer

A decent read- Life Cycles by Julian Sayarer

Working in London, I have a number of encounters with London’s bike couriers. Very occasionally I may be moving through our reception when one of their number is dropping something off. More frequently it is skipping out of their way as they purposefully carry straight on through a red light. Such are the streets of this country’s capital.

However, a few years ago, I was pleased to attend a talk to hear of a cycle courier with quite a story, and one well worth hearing. In 2009, Julian Sayarer set off to cycle round the World. He completed 18,049 miles in 169 days, a record at the time. Life Cycles is his account of, as the author puts it- ‘a roadside view of the world and its people, by bicycle‘. I found his book to be an interesting encounter with a young man struggling to find and place himself. His thoughts move at a similar pace to his wheels. Forgive him his naivety as an author, and an angry man’s railing against what he perceives as wrong, at that stage in his life. This book is an everyday man’s account of determination, grittiness and ‘can-do’ attitude, that lacks the polish and refinement of many a well sponsored alternative account. It is all the better for it. Yes, Julian had a young man’s pre-formed prejudices that shaped his motivation, journey and subsequent account, as do we all. The secret is to grow, form and develop as an individual, this account is part journey round the World, and part author maturing.

Julian Sayarer, on the road

Julian Sayarer, on the road

Julian joined me for a beer or two after his talk. We chatted about aspects of his adventures and we shared with each other some of our respective future plans. I looked forward to hearing of his account of courier work, which is recounted in his follow-up book Messengers. However I was more intrigued by his wish to hitch hike across his beloved USA. That 2013 adventure was written about in his book Interstate, that won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. As to my future Long Walk, he was kind enough to annotate my copy of Life Cycles…

Scan-9_edited-1

Life Cycles, Julian Sayarer. John Blake Publishing. Paperback edition 2014. ISBN 978 1 78219 903 8

Mark Wallington's account of a 1980s walk round, what was then, Britain's longest coastal footpath- 'from Somerset to Devon, from Cornwall to Dorset'

A decent read- 500 Mile Walkies by Mark Wallington

“Was I searching for the Man Within, the Real Me, was spiritual development my goal? Nah, I couldn’t convince myself, and in the end the best reason I could come up with was that I thought I might impress this girl I’d met at a party before Christmas”

Three Points of the Compass is not a particularly doggy type chap, nor is this book particularly well written. It is no ‘how to’ guide and you will gain little, if any, insight into what is now part of the South West Coast Path. What 500 Mile Walkies is, is a diverting, humorous, affectionate and self-deprecating account of Mark’s walk with possibly the worst, and best, canine companion it is possible to borrow from a friend relieved to be shot of his pet for a few weeks.

At first glance 500 Mile Walkies may seem a little ephemeral and lacking in observational muscle, however the author had a perceptive eye for what mattered most and makes light of what must have, at times, been a demanding walk. An enjoyable read.

500 mile walkies, Wallington

500 Mile Walkies, Mark Wallington, First published by Hutchinson 1986, my edition published by Arrow 1987. ISBN 0 09 952390 6

Two Degrees West, an English Journey by Nicholas Crane

A decent read- Two Degrees West, an English Journey by Nicholas Crane

On a mid-August morning, Nicholas Crane set off on his self-devised adventure. To walk two degrees west of the Meridian, from one end of England to the other, from the North Sea by Berwick-upon-Sea, to the Isle of Purbeck on the English Channel, and why not.

The author gave himself some leeway, he permitted himself to stray up to a 1000 metres each side of his line, between grid lines 99 and 01 on the Ordnance Survey maps that he cut and pasted together, giving him a strip route, 577.96 kilometre long, on thirty-six separate maps, folded and slipped into his trouser pocket. For all his two kilometre wide limit, the book wanders far wider, giving snippets of history and social context, though often, not quite enough.

He carried his belongings in a pack and, armed with an umbrella, sallied forth. Sleeping where he can, be-it ditches, woods or beneath motorways, he meets and engages with a hotchpotch of characters and commits to his self imposed parameters with determination. This man knows how to create an adventure, how to carry it out, and, most importantly, how to write about it.

Two Degrees West is a captivating book. It is an England and its people that few bother to go and explore and meet. If ever you want a book to inspire you to look for your own adventure, then this may do the job.

Two Degrees West- Constrained by his self-imposed line of longitude, Nicholas Crane prepares for a crossing of the River Tyne

Two Degrees West- Constrained by his self-imposed line of longitude, Nicholas Crane prepares for a crossing of the River Tyne

Two Degrees West, an English Journey. Nicholas Crane, First published 1999. This edition 2000, Penguin Books

Skinners footwear

A recent delivery…

Over the years, Three Points of the Compass has struggled over what camp shoes to take. Some hikers eschew the inclusion of anything beside the boots or shoes they hike in, me, I want to change of an evening.

Synthetic trail runners in particular can really stink if wet. I want to get my feet out of my trail shoes or boots, cleaned off a bit (or a lot), dried out and rested. If I am staying at a B&B, any owner is going to take a dim view of muddy footwear going any further than the front door. If wet on the trail, you can be caked in mud and if I am on an official camp site, I don’t want to be trailing that into any w/c. Finally, many Pub landlords want walking foot wear removed at the door, as do some cafe owners.

A good pair of sandals is both comfortable and allow the feet to breathe and recover. However a pair such as these from Merrell, weigh 750g

A good pair of sandals is both comfortable and allow the feet to breathe and recover. However a pair such as these from Merrell, weigh 750g

If I am staying in a campsite or hostel where I am sharing a shower room or block, I also want footwear to reduce the chance of contracting anything nasty off the floor. Put that little lot together and a spare set of footwear it is. However just about everything I have tried is either downright ugly, heavy, or both. I loathe Crocs with a passion, but even if I could put up with their appearance, they are simply too bulky and I hate things dangling from the outside of my pack, which seems to be most hikers answer to the bulk of a pair or Crocs. Flipflops can be lightweight, but I don’t want to be wearing those for walking a mile down to the neighbouring village. I have tried wearing a pair of waterproof Sealskin socks inside wet and muddy trail runners but these begin to leak over time. However, that said, wearing a pair of Sealskinz, the heat from a dry pair of feet can help dry out a sodden pair of shoes or boots.

Three Points of the Compass was intrigued to come across a nifty design of footwear recently and decided to take a punt on a pair of Skinners. First appearing on Kickstarter, these are handmade in the Czech Republic and are made from Polypropylene, Viscose, Cotton and Lycra, they also have silver in the antibacterial yarn to reduce odour. Put simply, they are a stretchy, breathable sock with a waterproof abrasion proof polymer stuck on to the bottom and sides. There is no stiff sole and the socks/shoes roll up for carrying. They come supplied with a little cloth bag but I don’t need that as there are lighter options.

Skinners footwear- low cut, breathable, waterproof sole, comfortable, not bad at all...

Skinners footwear- low cut, breathable, waterproof sole, comfortable, not bad at all…

I ordered online, took the advice of a couple of reviewers and sized up to an XXL (I have feet size 11/11.5 UK), so the ones I ordered were supposed to fit feet size 12-13.5 UK. I should have ignored the advice and simply ordered the correct size as the XXL were way to big. The XXL I emailed Skinners to request an exchange for weighed 203g (7.2oz) for the pair. My new pair of XL fit me just fine. These weigh 183g (6.45oz) for the pair, so 91.5g per single sock. Pretty good compared to just about every other type of footwear I have taken with me for camp use. However, it remains to be seen how these will perform when used in anger. I really am not sure how I am going on to get on with what is, effectively, a toughened pair of socks.

I shall report back.

There is a fair amount of information on the box in which a pair of Skinners is purchased

There is a fair amount of information on the box in which a pair of Skinners is purchased

A small selection of herbs, spices and condiments goes a long way to improving bland trail meals

Additions to a food bag- condiments

 

The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning “spice, seasoning, sauce” and from the Latin condere, meaning “preserve, pickle, season”

Wikipedia (T. Nealon)

While on multi day hikes, Three Points of the Compass now carries food in a wide mouth food bag from Z Packs. This dedicated food bag has a wide opening to make poking around inside easier and can hold anything from pre-prepared meals, to pasta/noodles/instant mash/oats/tortillas, to pouch fish, squeezy cheese, yeast flakes, jerky etc. plus a brew kit.

I do like to ensure that I have just a few extras that may add a little flavour to my meals. For a week’s walk this has usually just comprised of salt and pepper in the little paper sachets that can be picked up in fast food outlets. But with time counting down to my Long Walk, commencing April 2018, I have decided to expand on this slightly.

Below are the handful of additions I will be carrying. The idea of carrying these may be absolute anathema to purist lightweighters, but over time, the fairly bland and repetitive nature of stock carbs can get a little boring and a handful of condiments can go a long way to relieving this. With care, such additions add negligible weight to a reasonably lightweight set-up. And a little goes a long way.

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

I could very easily get carried away with what I wished to plunder my store cupboard for, but eventually settled on just five, these are:

  • Crushed and dried chillies
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Tellicherry freshly crushed peppercorns
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Mixed dried herbs

I have found in the past that the little baggies I use tend to split after repeated opening and frequently don’t like closing after a while due to the fineness of the contents clogging the grooves of the closure. I could use contact lens cases instead but not only do these not hold a great deal but they are fairly weighty considering the original negligible weight of the condiments. Storing in straws, folded back and tucked into themselves is another way, but just a tad fiddly. The various spice holders produced by GSI are well made but simply too heavy, Tic Tac containers get crushed and split, the old 35mm film canisters (remember them?) have the lid pop off when you don’t want it to. None of the various multi compartment pill containers I have seen are light enough, So instead, I purchased a small range of cheap and cheerful lightweight aluminium tins from eBay and selected what I felt was the most appropriate size, which was the smallest, 15ml size. Each empty tins weighs just four and a half grams.

In addition, I have a small bottle of Olive Oil. This is decanted into a 60ml Nalgene bottle that weighs 16g empty. Full, it weighs 74g. The five full tins collectively weigh 72g, but that weight will constantly drop.

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available. These are fives of the many sizes on the market. 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available online. These are just five of the many sizes on the market- 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well once the lid is screwed on

I could have added dried onion, dried vegetables or dried mushrooms to the above selection but many supermarkets and smaller shops stock quite small packs of these which can be picked up in many towns on trail, unlike the more flavoursome, often uncommon, quality ingredients listed above. I am still considering on swapping out my dehydrated garlic for garlic salt, and I do wonder if I should have added celery salt or my lovely smoked paprika…

Sorting through the trip piles

Still sorting out…

Have you noticed how maps, guides, books and notes can begin to accumulate into little, and not so little, piles of ‘important planning resources’ over time.

My attempt at sorting out some of those piles has continued into a second day. Once Mrs Three Points of the Compass is happy with how much the accumulated ‘stuff’ has been reduced and sorted, I’ll try and get round to a post or two on a couple of these little adventures. One from earlier in the year, one still to come.

As Tucas

Sorting out

Sadly, despite it being a fantastic, bright and dry autumn day, needs must, and it is a day of sorting out piles of accumulated ‘jobs to do’ alongside family chores.

One of these is making an assessment of a sample of material sent to me from As Tucas in response to a request from me for a bespoke Pack Liner for my Mariposa. It is about 38g/m2, so a good lightweight material. While strong, it is not very tear resistant, but no worse than cuben which is what I originally had in mind as a liner material. This is the fabric that As Tucas use for their Millaris Bivy bathtub.

Only available in black, it is waterproof and very slippery, so contents will slide in and out easily. Marco is doing seam testing for me and we have agreed on a design and price. I am only looking to a simple design with an extended collar and no buckles to keep weight down. That is all I need as I prefer to simply twist the neck of my normal rubble sack and fold down. This is a perfectly adequate way of ensuing no water enters a liner.

I’ll be formally placing my order in a couple of days and will post a picture once it is delivered.

Fabric swatch from As Tucas

Fabric swatch from As Tucas