The Ultimate Fann Mountains Trek

In September 2017 we went with KE Adventure Travel on a trek to Tajikistan's Fann Mountains, a trip which included a visit to Samarkand in Uzbekistan. It was a good trip: beautiful scenery and remote mountain walking shared with a nice group of people; but it did have some serious problems.

Tajikistan is in the middle of central Asia, remote and landlocked. It sits north of Afghanistan, east of Uzbekistan, south of Kyrgyzstan and west of China. The Fann Mountains, part of the huge Pamirs range, are north of the capital Dushambe.
On a pass in the Fann Mountains

A Dutchman on the GR1

It seems a long time ago since I walked the GR1 so it's lovely to have my memories refreshed by someone who has made the trip recently.  Ed from Holland, with his partner, walked it earlier this year and had a great time.  He forms part of a growing band of intrepid walkers who have both completed the whole of the GR1 in one go and walked from east to west.  My guide goes from west to east but Ed still seems to have found it useful.

My Bike - a Reilly Gradient

If you follow my blog you might have noticed that the beautiful black Genesis Croix de Fers have gone. Christine and I have both splashed out big time, upgraded and are now in possession of a pair of Reilly Gradient titanium bikes.

The Croix de Fers were beautiful but for some reason, they weren't that comfortable. No matter what we did, the bikes always felt a bit long. This was a big issue for Christine in particular as her bike gave her back pains. Fitted with Schwalbe Marathon plus tyres, which we use when we're touring, they were also heavy, a problem for us because we have to cart the bikes up and down several flights of stairs to our flat.

Despite these shortcomings we were fond of our bikes. The Croix de Fers have taken us across France twice and it felt disloyal even to think about getting something else. Still the longer we put it off the less use we were going to make of any replacements (we are getting pretty ancient). I then met Mark Reilly, a Brighton based bike designer with 25 years experience and within minutes had placed an order for his latest bike, the Gradient.

Out with the old

Eurovelo 1 Portugal

I think I've mentioned it before but I find maps showing long routes crossing continents particularly attractive.  I've got a map showing all the Eurovelo routes and its constantly triggering ideas for the next cycling adventure.  You do have to be careful though - not only are these routes massive - they often don't exist.

If you go to the Eurovelo website you'll find all the Eurovelo routes are graded according to progress towards full certification. Green routes have made it, yellow routes are nearly there and are supposed to have signs, and there are three levels of red, from planning through to developed. After cycling Eurovelo 1, which is graded yellow, from Porto all the way down the Atlantic coast and through the Algarve to the Spanish border, I've learnt that the designation has to be treated with a pinch of salt.
The team

Camiño Dos Faros revisited

I've just finished re-walking the Camiño dos Faros ('Walk of the Lighthouses), an 8 day, 200km, trek around Galicia's north-west coastline. I first did the route in April 2016, and after persuading Cicerone that the world deserved an English language guide I went back to finish the research needed to write it. The trip was incredibly successful and, even better, I completed the week's walking without feeling a single drop of rain.
Starting out from Malpica

Cycling the Ruta Vía de la Plata

In May 2017 I cycled the Ruta Vía de la Plata from Seville to Gijón with Christine. It was the first time we've cycled in Spain but on the basis of this experience we'll be back. It's a brilliant route.

Spain hasn't invested in a cycling network like the French and doesn't have the equivalent of the Véloroute network or even the UK's Sustran trails  – both of which often use canal paths and abandoned railway lines – but does have a relatively empty countryside.  It also has the best transport infrastructure in Europe, and its new network of intercity motorways and rail connections mean that the local roads are virtually traffic free.  It is a biker’s paradise.

The fabulous N630

Stephen on the GR1 - a guest blog

What's it like walking the GR1 - great feedback from Stephen Mulvey

Most years I spend a week cycling with friends at the end of May – always in mountains, in France or Italy. In 2016, though, there seemed to be a lack of collective will, so I started thinking about a solo walk. I googled “long walks Spain” and came across John Hayes’ blog describing his walk along the GR1. Then I bought the book and decided to tackle the first three sections (skipping the last stage of section 2 – Fontecha to Berantevilla), starting towards the end of June. The referendum on EU membership took place on my day three, as I approached the Pena Espiguete, under blue skies, and crossed the Collado de Cruz Armada. Whenever anyone mentions this fateful vote, I see in my mind's eye a winding track leading along a valley towards a conical peak.
Tiny daffodils