Archive for February, 2006

Time for an update!

Hi all!

It’s been more than three weeks so I thought it was about time for an update :) An extra big one with lots of photos!

Let me see, what have I been up to? Nicole and me went for an “adventure travel” the weekend after my last update. We bought a day train ticket for this area, it’s cheap and it gives unlimited travel. Unfortunately we didn’t chose a good day for it. The weather wasn’t great, but most of all: there was work on the tracks on ALL trains to the coast plus some other ones. Basically we could only get on the train to Cambridge. And so we went to Ely! Ely is not very big, but it has a HUGE cathedral, quite amazing. So we walked to the cathedral, looked around, walked along the river and then we walked back to the train station.

Ely

Yes we are so mature ;)

Ely

The cathedral, too big to fit in one picture

Ely

The cathedral and a nice house

Ely

Ely

Nicole took those two pictures of the stained glass, I really like them!!

Ely

I really liked this statue, I was surprised to find something this modern in the cathedral

Ely

Me and euhm… some famous guy!! The tourist office was also his birth home and a museum

Ely

Along the river, on our way back to the train station

Ely

I found a Dutch house boat there! It was owned by English people, but still had a Dutch name and this sticker :)

We wanted to travel more, but we just missed a train and so we decided to get the train back to Norwich but get out at Wymondham (pronounced Windham, don’t ask me why!). This is a very cute place. We walked over the graveyard before visiting the center of the town. It has a nice market place with a very old tower. We stayed for an hour, then we took the train back to Norwich where we went for dinner at Zizzi :)

Ely

Drinking tea in the train

That weekend I have also bought some plants for my room. The most exciting one is a jasmin plant, my room smells so nice now!!

Nicole had her birthday on the 10th of February and she made us an amazing dinner!! We brought candles for on the cake, but she decided not to make one… so then we just put them in 2 big bananas to surprise her :)

Nicoles birthday

We gave her the Cities and Knights set for Catan, I am spreading the addiction!!

Last week I tried to sign up for a trip to the Lakes with the Fell club, but even though I was there at 8:10 in the morning, I didn’t make it, they had too many people signing up.

The weekend of 18-19 February was fun! On Saturday the weather was really nice, sunny and even warm, it felt like Spring! I went for a walk with Colin, along the river, a beautiful area of Norwich that I had never been before. At night we had dinner with lots of people before going to the barn dance for international students. We also surprised Tanja, she had her birthday earlier but nobody knew about it and she didn’t have a good day… so we decided to make her a cake and have a surprise party!

Tanjas birthday

The barn dance was GREAT, lots of fun. They taught us English/Scottish/Swedish dances, and it’s very social since you are constantly changing partners. A great way to meet a lot of people. They made us pancakes too :) I had a great night!

On Sunday I went on a day walk with the Fell Club. Unfortunately the weather had changed to the usual weather: grey and cold. The walk wasn’t very scenic either, just lots of muddy fields. We saw a nice old church and a big industrial area with a tiny WWII memorial. The highlight of the trip was a terrain where we found huge plastic dinosaurs, apparently they were made by that factory. Really bizar! We hiked about 13 miles, stopped for lunch at a pub, and then hiked back to the train station in Salhouse (only 5 miles from Norwich). It was a nice day!

Last week was a busy one! I went dancing on Tuesday, to a Brazilian Party on Wednesday, and I went for dinner & a movie on Thursday night with people I met at the barn dance. We saw Munich, it’s a good movie but very violent and it’s almost 3 hours long. It was a bit too long, too bloody and too heavy for me! On Friday I started having a cold, so I went to bed really early. On Saturday I helped Colin who was working in Nicoles garden, that was fun! At night we went to Paolas birthday party :)

Then on Sunday I went to Cromer with Nem. We hiked on the beach from Cromer to Sheringham, it took us 2 hours. In Sheringham we ate chips and had a nice stop for some hot chocolate :) it was quite cold and windy on the beach! On the way back we decided to walk on the cliffs, good choice because in the mean time the tide had become so high that it was almost impossible to walk on the beach. Going back only took us 1,5 hour. It was a really nice day and a good walk!

Cromer-Sheringham

Nem the geologist explaining what the cliffs were made of

Cromer-Sheringham

Nice layers!

Cromer-Sheringham

The highest point in Norfolk, we were so proud of ourselves :) The church that you see is in Cromer

Cromer-Sheringham

Nice view

Cromer-Sheringham

Nem

The coming week is going to be busy again… Tomorrow is Pancake Day, the day before Lent starts. I guess that’s an English tradition, it’s new for me. Colin is making pancakes for us :) should be good!

On Thursday I am going to Lowestoft for a Sea Survival Training. I need to do that for the Antarctica research cruise. It’s theory in the morning and then the rest of the day in the swimming pool, where they will simulate waves/rain/darkness and you need to save yourself. It sounds like fun :)

And next week on Wednesday I am going down to BAS to have a supervisory meeting. I need to prepare a lot for that meeting, so until then I should work really hard!!

I’ll finish with some random photos I found…

Beer Festival

This is quite a while ago.. Me, Nicole and Nem slightly drunk at the Norwich Beer Festival. I like this photo!

Christmas

Me pretending to be a Christmas tree :)

Crazy hat

The crazy hat that Nicole made for me! I don’t usually look so evil by the way ;)

Take care!

Hanneke

Winter Mountaineering Course in Aviemore

Hi all!

I came back from 5 days in Scotland last Tuesday night, had a great time! I’ll write in English this time since I think there are some people interested in reading this blog who won’t be happy if I write in Dutch :)

Thursday night we found someone to take over Nicole’s non-refundable train ticket to Aviemore: Francis! He is the new student in our project, from Fiji, he arrived here on the 1st of January. He came with me to Aviemore but didn’t attend the Winter Mountaineering Course.

Nicole helped me buying food for the trip (I bought way too much by the way) and packing my bag. I left with 25 kg of luggage!!

The trip to Aviemore was long, we left Norwich by train at 11:00 and we arrived in Aviemore at around 20:00. It’s a nice way of seeing a bit of the UK, until it got dark around Edinburgh that is. The bunkhouse was easy to find and close to the railway station. I met some of the other participants of the course, and Howard, our instructor. We went to bed early, we would have an early start on Saturday morning.

At 8:00, the course started. Howard gave us an introduction and showed what he was carrying in his backpack, so that we could check that we had everything. Though I don’t think SIX pairs of gloves is really necessary!! I didn’t have a helmet or harness with me, but fortunately some people brought extra gear so that wasn’t a problem. At 8:30 I ran to Mountain Spirit to get my boots, they were brand new but surprisingly comfortable. We were given ice axes and crampons, and then it was time to head to the mountains! Our group consisted of 6 people (plus the instructor). I had actually met one of the guys from Newcastle at the conference I went to in London, it’s a small world! And I wasn’t the only Dutch person in the group :) My name was changed to Heineken for the weekend, apparently Hanneke is really difficult to remember/pronounce ;)

The weather was cloudy and when we arrived at the parking place at the end of Ski Road, it was snowing. It wasn’t very cold though. We saw reindeers on the road!

Aviemore

Reindeers on Ski Road

Howard explained us a bit about avalanche information and the importance of checking the weather forecast, and then we started hiking. For me, it was the first time hiking with a heavy backpack and it wasn’t easy. I was the slowest one in the group so they often had to wait for me. It was a relief when Brent offered to carry my rope. After what seemed an eternity for me, we arrived at a slope where we were going to practice ice axe braking. First we had fun sliding down the slope, to make it more slippery. Then we learnt how to make walk on the slope, how to make steps with an ice axe and then it was time for action! We had to slide down the hill on our tummy and stop ourselves with the ice axe. Not too difficult. Then on our back, so you have to turn around before breaking, not that difficult either. But then we had to go head first!! And then head first ON OUR BACK. Quite scary!! It feels very unnatural to do that. But I did it, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was, and I managed to break. We also had to throw ourselves and then stop. Lots of fun, though it left me with VERY bruised knees and even my hand was bruised. Here’s a movie of Andy, Jess, Brent and Ian gliding down:

Ice-axe-braking-movie :)

Around 15:30 we put on our crampons and walked down to the parking lot.

Aviemore

View while walking back to the parking lot.

We met the climbing group just before arriving, so that was perfect timing.

I met with Francis, who had ‘climbed’ the mountain the easy way: by funicular, and saw snow for the first time in his life. We bought pizza and had a nice dinner. At night we all went to the pub next door for a few drinks. I enjoyed talking to Thijs (the Dutch guy) who has been studying in Newcastle for quite a while.

Sunday morning we left at 8:30, the weather was looking very promising. We first had to do the same climb as yesterday, this time Ian took my rope (thanks!) because I was very slow again.

Aviemore

On our way

Aviemore

The easy way up :)

Aviemore

Howard explaining something about different kinds of snow (can you spot the Dutch guy? ;) )

We went to a steep slope (35 degrees) where we practiced walking on crampons. It was a bit scary because it’s so steep and you have to point your feet downhill, I was very afraid to fall. Howard was very patient with me and slowly I got more confidence. Andy got a chance to use the ice axe breaking technique when he fell and glided down the slope, but it didn’t work… Fortunately he was able to stop himself, he was all right though I think it was a painful fall.

Eventually we climbed the slope with our backpacks to get to the top. I was so proud when I made it to the top, and it was definitely worth it: we looked out over a world of white mountains and a sea of clouds in all directions. Wonderful!! It was great to walk over the top in the sunshine, and we had a lunch break there.

Aviemore

Yay, reached the top!!

Aviemore

The group

Aviemore

Ian, Thijs and Howard during our lunch break

Then it was time to go down again. The slope looked VERY steep but Howard told us it wasn’t any steeper than what we had done before. He wanted to teach us how to belay and he wanted me to go down first while he belayed me. I was happy with it, it gave me the extra bit of confidence that I needed and I did fine. Also some nice people carved steps in the snow which made life a lot easier :).

Aviemore

Jess coming down on the rope

It took a long time to get down to the bottom, and some parts were very icy so we had to be careful. At the bottom we took off the crampons, helmets and harness, what a relief! From there it was an easy 1 hour walk back to the parking lot.

Aviemore

Walking back with a great view in front of us!

The path was very icy though and most of us slipped a couple of times. I fell twice, the first time gave me a nice big bruise on my leg. The second time I fell in a weird position and hurt my leg quite a bit. They helped me up and divided all my stuff over their backpack, they wouldn’t let me carry anything, gave me two ski poles and this way I made it back to the parking lot. I felt quite stupid falling like that in the last hour of the course, on an easy path.

We had to wait for an hour in the parking lot for the climbing group, so we got quite cold. Thijs entertained all of us by doing a zombie dance :)

Aviemore

And I entertained myself by taking photos of the sunset :)

When we got back, most people were leaving. Francis and me were staying for another two nights, and they moved us to the disabled bunk room on the ground floor. Francis took the bunk bed, and I took the double bed for myself, what a luxury :) We also had an enormous bath room.

On Monday we decided to take the bus to Inverness. We walked around there for a while, the weather was beautiful! There’s not that much to see in Inverness though.

Aviemore

Inverness, the river is the Ness and they told us it’s the shortest river in Europe, only about 6 miles. I never believe those things though, it’s amazing how many waterfalls are the biggest in Europe for example :)

My leg was still hurting so I had to walk very slowly. We went on a trip to Loch Ness by minibus and boat. It was so beautiful, the bus driver was a bit annoying because he was constantly repeating the same things. On the way back he didn’t tell us anything new. “All right folks, as I said before..” blabla.

Aviemore

Put me on a ship and I’m happy :)

The cruise was beautiful, and we visited Urquhart Castle (or better: ruin) for an hour. Impressive!

Aviemore

Me being a real tourist posing in front of the castle (and being cold at the same time!)

Aviemore

Me & Francis. The girl that took this photo also wanted a photo of me and her.. no idea what’s so interesting about me, maybe she wants to pretend she has lots of friends!!

We watched the movie at the information centre and then we were picked up by the minibus that took us back to Inverness. From there we took the bus back and watched an amazing sunset.

Tuesday morning we had to wake up early to catch the 8:30 train to Edinburgh. The train trip was truly magical, it was clear and cold and all the trees were covered in thick white frost. It was like a fairy tale, so pretty… made me want to jump out of the train and go hiking! I managed to take some photos through the window:

Aviemore

Aviemore

Aviemore

Unfortunately, Edinburgh was grey and cold! We walked up to the castle, but we got cold and hungry so we went to Pizza Hut and had an unlimited buffet, bad idea ;)

Aviemore

Francis being very cold

Aviemore

Nice house close to the castle

After that we just walked around for a bit, looked at some shops and then we took the 16:00 train to Peterborough, then to Ely and then finally at 22:30 we arrived in Norwich!

And now I have to get back to work. I felt like the last months I have been living from trip to trip and oh right, there is some work to be done in between. Now it’s going to be a bit more quiet so that I can focus on what I came here for: my PhD :)

Till next time!

Hanneke