It’s now 9 days to our departure date from the UK so the pressure for us is starting to mount, but Sooty cat is still pretty chilled!
|Catching up with friends, LtoR: Jackie, Tim, Fiona, Bill, Jill, Martina and Mark (after his 45 mile run!)|
The prospect of our trip is quite exciting but also unsettling as we’ll be swapping the unhurried, pleasant and easy living in the UK with friends and relatives close at hand, for an unknown, to us, continent where the language is predominantly Spanish, we have no fixed plan, other than two fixed arrangements and we’ll have no private means of transport nor accommodation booked.
|Abi's (and Sooty's) new conservatory in Hall Green, Birmingham|
To date, with 9 days to go, we have booked a flight from Birmingham, UK to Alicante, Spain on 14th September, where we’ll spend a week with Jackie’s dad and Elizabeth in their lovely house in Altea La Vella. We’ve also booked an onward flight from Alicante to Cuzco in Peru on 21st September, arriving there at 09:15 in the morning on Thursday 22nd September and at an altitude of 3300m. For me, at least, jet-lag and altitude acclimatisation will play an important part in wiping me out for a couple of days, so we plan to chill out in a hotel (yet to be booked) in Cuzco through to the end of the weekend.
|Sooty inspects the laminate floor we had just laid in the conservatory|
From Monday 26th we start our three week intensive Spanish course at a language school in Cuzco, coupling it with a Spanish speaking homestay for the duration, so it will be ‘sink or swim’ on learning Spanish but, by all accounts we need to be able speak at least the basics to get by in all but the main tourist areas.
In late October, charged with our knowledge of Spanish, we intend to fly to Santiago in Chile and, from there, head to the deep south of Patagonia for the Southern Hemisphere Spring to Summer season and plan 5 weeks of touring and trekking the awesome sights to be found there: The spectacular towers of Torres del Paine, Ushuaia the southernmost city in the world, Los Glaciares at El Calafate, Monte Fitz Roy at El Chalten and the Lake District at Bariloche to name but a few.
It’s going to be a hectic and a fairly expensive few weeks, but we want to do as much as possible before the crowds and higher prices start to really come in for the peak season from Christmas to early March, so we’re going to pack it all in.
|Brian and Charles construct the kite|
We’ve now applied and got accepted for a 5 week housesit in Mexico from 11th December to 22nd January, looking after 3 dogs about an hour south of Mexico City in a small village with spectacular mountain views and walks, so our 5 hectic weeks in Patagonia will be followed by 5 relaxing weeks in Mexico for Christmas and the New Year, so we’ll have plenty of time to relax and recover! It’s just a pity that we’ll have to travel 8,500km (about a fifth of the way round the world) from Patagonia to Mexico, but hey, we’ll have 5 weeks to recover and time to plan our slow trip south through Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and back to Chile and Argentina.
Anyway, that’s for the future and right now we’re still looking after Sooty cat in Hall Green in Birmingham, occasionally seeing owner Abi, planning, booking, trying to catch up with as many friends and relatives as we can, arranging to sell our car and trying to get everything up to date. That involves visits to banks, our IFA and tax returns, mundane but essential stuff.
|Caroline and Jackie add eyes and mouth|
Catching up with friends and relatives is the nice part and, the advantage of having a deadline sharpens the mind and makes us make arrangements to see people rather than thinking ‘we must catch up with so-and-so sometime’ and then never do. Just in the last week we’ve been up to Derby to see Tim, Jill, Ellie and James in their new to them but very old listed farmhouse, also seeing Bill, Martina and Allen who also came up, along with Mark, Fiona, Grace and Daniel. Unbelievably Mark decided to run from Solihull to Derby, a distance of 43 miles, starting at 05:30 and arriving at about 15:30. Why? Just because he wanted to! And that’s not the longest he’s run, he apparently has done over 50 miles in the past.
We’ve also had an evening with John, Danielle, Naimh and Erin in an Indian restaurant in Hall Green, Mike Reynolds called round one evening, last night we had an evening out with Rob and Alex and, in between Abi and her mother Mary came round on their way to a funeral in York. We drove them into Birmingham to catch a train up there then collected them again in the evening, after which they stayed here, Mary in the back bedroom and Abi sleeping on the sofa in the downstairs room while we had her bedroom upstairs! Poor Sooty didn’t know where to go! The laminate floor Jackie and I laid in Abi’s new conservatory was very well received though so we didn’t feel too bad at taking her bed!
|All ready to go - 1 bin bag, 2 sticks and a roll of string!|
We’ve also been down to see Jackie’s niece and nephew, Charles and Caroline for a day where we made a kite from a black bin bag, two sticks and a roll of string and got it high in the sky on top of Ivinghoe Beacon hill. They had never flown a kite before so thoroughly enjoyed it on top of the hill in bright sunshine, fabulous views and just enough wind to get it airborne.
|Jackie, Caroline and Charles on their way to the summit|
Also we caught up with my old business colleague Terry and his wife Sue when we went into Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter where we have an apartment that we rent out. We have just had it refurbished and met over there to put the finishing touches to it and catch up over a fabulous business lunch in a nearby restaurant. We don’t have many business meetings and business lunches these days so made the most of it, being ushered out as we finished the wine at 2:30pm as they wanted to close!
|Making onsite adjustments|
We completed our pre-trip jabs, Yellow fever and Typhoid, have visited many outdoor gear shops and now hopefully have everything we need for our trip. The ordered rucksack for me from Cotswold had vanished, never to be delivered which caused a stressful few hours as we tried to locate another one at a reasonable price. On Saturday did our first ‘trial pack’ in our new 75 litre travel backpacks that convert between wheeled and backpack. The first trial was a depressing disaster as the minimum we decided we need for 1 year away wouldn’t all go in. The second pack on Sunday, where we removed some previously thought of as ‘essential’ items, worked and we felt much happier. We’ve now got to make our minimal clothing and gear work for us, we can’t add to it as we’ll have to carry it, so we’ll have to discard something if we buy anything new and/or hire stuff if we want to do adventurous hikes or climbs. It’s going to be interesting!
|Charles attempts a running launch|
Another week now of catching up with other people, finalising our sorting and packing and, oh, we have a wedding to go to in Princes Risborough on Saturday. The busy schedule will continue until we go!
|Caroline gets hold of the camera and takes a selfie in Jackies sunglasses|