Saturday, 27 August 2011

Farewell Lancaster

As I sit here in the waiting room of the Birmingham Eye hospital listening to a phone ringing continuously in the background I think back to yesterday. It was my last day in the office before the trip. I have booked of the next week as there is a bank holiday, Eid, my birthday (yippe!) any anniversary celebration I can muster up and packing for Africa.

It was a seriously action packed day at work. Started off with a non-stop full-on managers meeting, then Jummah at lunch time (the last one of Ramadan so a biggie), back to writing a report and tying up all the loose ends before I go. An enjoyable day all round and it was nicely filled with good banter with Paul (aaahh your first mention) and Sarah (is that three??)

The day carried on for a bit though and I ended up leaving the office at 7:30pm. I Had to flee from the office to get back home so that I could open the fast on time. It was a strange and special feeling enabling my 'out of office' on my email, I guess I'll have 50.000 emails to get through when I get back!

The only snag in the whole day was that my left eye decided to flare up. During the course of the day it became redder and redder then more and more painful. It happens to my eye every now and again so I think this might be gods way of making sure I have a fresh batch of medication to take with me if it flares up in Africa! I have wondered what altitude, low temperature and low pressure would do to my dodgy eyeball.

So, report done and sent, consultation emails sent out, leaving email sent out, out of office on and so it was time to turn off the 'ole faithful machina and cycle home.

The eye? Well it got worse and worse during the evening. At Magrib prayer, my eye and nose were pouring like Niagra falls, during Tarawee prayers, they abated somewhat to make it bearable but I came home, stuck a teabag on my eye (it does work) and knocked out on the sofa. Missed all the benefit of the 27th night... (night of power... Google it).

So this morning I made a plan to get things done. There is a list that lurks in my phone today and I am hellbent on getting all of it completed...

... If I can ever get out if this waiting room...

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Black Magic and Yarnfield Flag

Went shopping in Blacks today. Woah, the place looked like Primark. It was having quite a big clearout and there were boxes full of bits. After rummaging around, I found:

- Lifesystems Suncream spf 15, 25, high mountain, and high altitude so I got all of them for £1 each

- Lifesystems Mozzie killer plug with refills, £1 each

- Billabong board shorts £5

- Oneill board shorts £5

- Berghaus waterproof trousers for Ismail £10

- Wind up torch for Is'haaq £1

- Sun hat £5

- lip balm... 10p

and a cable tidy thing for my iPhone cable...£1

I could have bought a lot more things but I was quite controlled!

Shaz was nice enough to pick up some white material for the flag as the blue on ethat I bought originally wasn't the right colour. I've given it in with very specific instructions of how it should be put together and will pick it up tomorrow morning so we shall see how it's looking!

In other news:

I got my car back! way happy with that. I also finished my Groupon Chiropractic sessions and have one booked for when I return I think I'm gonna need it then!

Anyway, it's 1.25am and I'm battered... don't you people give me a rest?!!

Only 2 weeks to go!

As we enter into our last week of Ramadan, it really dawns on us that we only really have 2 weeks left before we fly out.

Thank god, at least we have most of the fund raising done with only dribs and drabs to come in now.

That said, we have no hotels or flights booked for the extension of our trip to Safari and Zanzibar. Harune doesn't even have a decent sleeping bag to crash in!

So This weekend, off we went to Go outdoors for the first proper gear hunt. Most specifically for Harunes sleeping bag and found a very able Rab Ascent 700 but along the way, he managed to pick up some Leki trekking poles, waterproof trousers, trekking trousers, shoes and socks.

I on the other hand was far more reserved in my spending as I already have most of the gear. Though the few essentials I had listed in my iPhone before I even got to the store (lists, lists, lists). I picked up a Thermo tube for my camelbak hydration thingie. This is really quite essential as lower down the mountain, it keeps the water cool enough to drink and higher up the mountain, it prevents your tube from freezing. Dehydration is a major factor in Acute Mountain Sickness and I'm not playing ball.
I also picked up a pair of Smartwool socks. These babies are super comfortable but cost £17 a pair! The way I figure it, I desperately need to look after my feet!

I was tempted with a flow meter for my hydration pack which monitors how much water I have drank and how much is left in the reservoir but at £25 it was a bit much... I later found this for £15 posted on eBay so its on its way! Supergeek!

So that's the main stuff over with it's all the itty bitty things left now.

After scouring the internet for hotels for a couple of days, I decided to make at least one move and book the flight from Kilimanjaro Airport to Zanzibar. We've had to go for the budget flight but it's okay because at £90 it means that we get back from the Safari, straight into Kili airport and to Zanzibar within the hour. This is way better then the alternative, which is as follows: We get back from Safari, spend the night in Arusha or Moshi because the buses don't go to Dar till the morning. Get on a bus first thing in the morning for a 600km journey to Dar es Salaam. If we get there before 5.30pm we can catch the boat over to Zanzi, however, these coaches are notorious for delays which would mean missing the boat and spending a night in Dar es Salaam then catching the boat in the morning. This would mean that we miss a complete day just travelling... Yup, I'd happily pay the £90 to sort it all out in an hour and anyway, these short flights are my favourite ever as it's just take off and landing and very little in between!

No not the Radisson SAS in Reykjavik, I mean the booking hotels in Zanzibar. This whole episode with trying to get hold of the itinerary has meant that we have now been scanning for some decent places and are really stuggling. All we are left with is the very cheap and the very expensive. Though Harune's taste was edging towards the Hilton, my cars head gasket issue was sliding me to the cheaper end of the scale. That said, I always prefer a place with a more rustic feel rather then the very made up and posh hotels with all the mod cons as with these, you could be anywhere in the world and they all seem the same.

After three days of scanning every hotel in detail, I finally bit the bullet and booked the hotel that we saw at the very beginning, The Tamarind Beach Hotel. Though it has very mixed reviews, It has a sensational location and so we shall see how it all pans out. And at £90 for three days per person, it's not bad value at all!

Interestingly, as soon as I booked the hotel, I found out that my cars head gasket was not blown but it was just the water pump... thank you car for saving me £200 on the hotel and £800 not replacing a new engine... touch wood!

I have made contact with the operator of our Kili trek as they also do Safaris. They have agreed to 'sort out' our safari for around £300. I'm not quite sure what 'sort out' means and so I need to get a proper itinerary off them before we hand over any money. I just hope they don't balls all that part up...

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Today started off looking super promising. I got a call from Tahseen. He finally emailed the itinery through to me.

The Good:
The itinery looks pretty good. The expedition company has now changed, to a very reputable one, the bus ride from Dar es Salaam to Moshi has become a plane journey, which means there is now an extra rest day before the climb to refresh and explore. The climb is the full six days including the acclimatisation day. So all in all, I'm very happy about the trek now.

The bad:
With the itinery set, me and Harune could move on to booking the rest of our adventure. First up, the safari. I contacted Teuende Safaris to see if they could better their quote, I'm yet to hear from them. Then I found a very very nice hotel in Zanzibar. It really was looking ideal. Not too flash and a real local feel about it. It was also the highest rated hotel on trip advisor, so I emailed them with our dates with everything crossed that they would have a spare room. Sadly they emailed back informing that they were completely booked. That's two of my favourites in Zanzibar full. This is.not good. I hope we find somewhere soon.

The Ugly:
I asked Tahseen to change our outward from Dubai from the 19th to the 22nd so that we could spend a couple of days exploring Dubs. Now I expected to pay some form of admin fee for the change but when he came back with a figure of £135 for the change, I thought it was damn right ridiculous! That's the price of a one way ticket! This may mean that we have to cancel this leg of the trip entirely. I am going to call Emirates direct today to see if they can do anything.

In other news:
I was called upon today by Transportation Strategy lot to have some cycling photos taken. I had to cycle out to the council offices in Erdington but it was a pleasant afternoon. To top it off Neil Nelson was cycling by and stopped for a chat. We rode back into town along the canal. Quality.

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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Back and crack!

Ok don't get excited, the titles not what it seems!
I had my second appointment at the chiropractor yesterday. It was quite an experience. After the initial report back on the analysis which told a story of tightness here and problem there, I was in for my first session of treatment.

It all started with me lying on the chiropractic torture bed face down. She (Lisa the chiropractor) proceeded to press hard in various places on my back... Kinda like a slow version of Pai Mei's 5 point exploding heart punch. I half expected to fall apart or something. That was just the start. Then came the "lie on your side, put your arm here and that leg there. Good. Now breath in... aaand back out again".... CRACK!!
As I calmly breath out, she gave an almighty yank at my hips which let off a loud crack... And it's supposed to be putting me right... Hummm
But when she said "now turn to the other side" it was worse then the first time because now I knew what I was in for!

Anyway, this carried on with the middle and upper back, my neck, my feet and even toes!
It was all part of trying to correct the balance between the left and right side so that my left leg becomes as long as my right leg, my shoulder blades are even and the tension in my back is released.

We also went through some stretches and stuff to help loosen up my iliotibial band.

On walking back to my car... what a strange sensation! My left leg was actually longer. I could feel the difference. My neck was also looser. A lot looser. I could almost see behind myself!

What an experience. I have my next session on Friday.

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Monday, 15 August 2011

Midnight Snowdon trek

We missed this hair brained plan of climbing Snowdon at night last week but we were a bit more determined this week.

The idea all stemmed from Sarah Elwell (yup you get a second mention!) insisting that "I'm not doing enough training". That coupled with the fact that I want to test all these dodgy lower body biomechanics meant that something needed to be done. The only crux being that we're slap bang in the middle of Ramadan so climbing during the day would be out of the question as its no food and no water for us good little muslim boys. Thus the idea of a night climb was born so that we can eat and re-energise before going up.

My plan: set off at 6pm, get there, pitch tent, head to mosque, open fast, pray, then head to Snowdon and climb, back down and into tent, sleep, wake about midday, drive home...

What actually happened:
Harune was still in Merry Hill shopping for base layers and the like at 6:30pm. I was mostly but not entirely packed. Mum made some paratas and omelettes Mmmmmm! He got here at around 7.45. We threw everything in the car and headed off... to find some food for opening our fast (the paratas were for sehri time). Junaids or Yassers? Pizza or wraps? In the end we got a masala fish in naan from Yassers and some chicken niblets. Then headed off. We opened our fast enroute with water and then stopped at a service station just before Telford to eat. I probably got through less then half of the food before I was exploding. We prayed in the carpark and were back on route again. Only to stop a short while later... of course, we needed a cup of tea!

We made it to Snowdon carpark at around 11.15. It was dark, almost scary dark! I prayed isha in a very gravelly carpark and geared up.

11.30 we set off

We headed up the PYG track... It's halal don't worry!

It was a great night for walking. No wind, warm and not crawling with people... Doesn't sound like Snowdon at all! There was however, a mist and cloud. Annoying because there was a full moon above us, hidden behind a blanket of fluffy stuff. Could have been amazing under a clear moonlit sky... Might have saved some battery power in my headtorch too!

As we climbed higher, I was feeling good. My back didn't hurt, ITB, knees heels all checked. All working fine. Harune was suffering with a little ankle pain though.

Then came the hill fog. Suddenly Visibility dropped to 5 metres or so. Fine when you are on one of the made paths but every now and again you are faced with a scramble over a rocky section that could take you in any direction. In the day, or good visibility, the Pyg track is an easy route. It was not so tonight. There were a few off track adventures but we manages to find the route again each time.

We saw one other couple on the way up who were decending but they had decended down the Miners Track before we got to them. We plodded on. All the usual landmarks were being ticked off which was a good thing. The Miners track piller, the scrambling sections, the posts with the coins hammered in, the rock wall with mesh on it. All good so far!

The wind picked up due to exposure as soon as we got to the pillar for the decent from the summit stretch but we pressed on. The long steep slog at the top was quite satistying and I was full of energy.

Finally we made our way up the very built up stair section to the trig point at the very top. At 1.30am, we topped out and looked out... erm... into the mist! No view, no moonlit night, too early to watch the sunrise... oh well, I guess it's back down again then!

I really wasn't looking forward to this part of the journey for a number of reasons:
Its always harder decending then it is ascending and as rocks were slippery, its a recipe for a fall; decending badly could lead you off the edge of a cliff whereas climbing only leads you to the bottom of one, the poor visibility didn't help us here; we notoriously lose tracks on the way down and end up decending some super steep mountain side off the beaten track; decending absolutely pounds the knees to hell and so I new I was in for a beating.

With all the marker points logged in my head, we headed back. First major marker... The decent pillar to they Pyg and Miner tracks, miss this and its a decent down Crib Goch... in the dark.. hairy scary!

But it was found with ease so next up, the two coin posts, a scramble down the rocks here and we were well away.

At the rock platform covered in mesh place... we came across another couple ascending. They were Three Peak Challengers on the way to the final summit. Harune was convinced that they would celebrate in style on the summit of Snowdon, given the seclusion and wot not. A mildly entertaining thought... trying not to get a visual!

Anyway we continued down, and met the marker pillar for the decent down to the Miners track. We were on a home straight. Here we met other groups on their way up to the summit, all Three Peakers, but we continued down.

One thing has to be said for the Miners Track... I hate it with a passion. As nice and scenic as the route is, it goes on, and on, and on forever. Just when you think you're making progress, you turn the corner to miles and miles of trail in front of you! Fortunately, we couldn't see that far so we just put one foot in front of the other and carried on.

I kept asking Harune for a time check. At some point we would need to stop and eat so that we could start our fast for the following day and time was pushing on. However, we were also making very good progress on the decent and so there was a possiblity that we would get back to the car in time to sit and eat in peace. We picked up the pace even more and decided to try our best for the latter.

As the minutes ticked by, fatigue started to set in everywhere. The knees were battered, the Hams were feeling it, and my feet were aching. Tired and weary, we caught sight of the lights to the YHA by the carpark. They were the most comforting pin pricks of light in the vast expanse of darkness before us. As we motored on, the path eased us to the gate and the start/end of the route and into the carpark.

Gear in back of car, change of top to a nice dry warm one and back into the car for a munch on Mums homecooked Paratas and omlettes made some 12 hours ago. At that point, it's like food decended from heaven... albeit wrapped in tin foil. The fast was closed and a decision was to be made: drive home now or stay, pitch tent and sleep. The prospect of tucking in to our own warm beds was too comforting a thought and so pitching tent was abandoned.

Though I would have liked to drive back to give Harune a chance to rest, I was too far gone to be of any use. Hats off to the man, he pointed the nose of the steed home got us back safely in 2 hours or so.

Back home, all the gear lay splaid all over the front room as I crept into bed and snuggled up with a sleeping Mrs Moof...

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Friday, 12 August 2011

A weekend with a true test

Ramadan is in full swing now and so I have proper slowed down on training. I'm trying to manage my back and glute pain. Last week we were supposed to go to Snowdon but thats been rescheduled for this week come rain or shine... well, there won't be any shine because it'll be in the night!

This is my schedule:

Saturday 6pm: leave for Wales, get to Gwern Goff, pitch tent (if we decide to stay over), go to the mosque pray, open fast, pray, etc etc.... Then head off to Snowdon

Climb Snowdon over the night, summit, eat, eat, eat, start fast, watch sunrise if weather is good.

Then, back down, to the tent, sleeeeeep... then drive back. Sounds like a plan. will it work... we'll see.

I'll be a good gauge of my health as I have no idea how my body will cope with the stress of climbing. Its a shame because otherwise, I'm a stong walker so it's quite disheartening to have an injury like this... especially before the hardest mountain I have ever climbed to date.

I'm still trying to sell my jacket on but no takers at the moment.

It might have to go on eBay soon if it doesn't sell. Talking of ebay, I have my Giant roadie and the Specialized Hotrock I bought for Ishaaq on there at the moment. They are doing well. I'll also have to sell some other stuff, Electric Guitar, bike parts etc etc to free up some cash for the Safari, Zanzibar and Dubai. It's likely to cost around £1000 extra so I have to be prepared for this.

I STILL have no itinery form Tahseen. It's getting a bit ridiculous now as we still have places to book for the rest of the trip. They have confirmed that we are doing the Marangu (Cocacola) route which again is short changing us because we were sold the trek as going up the Machame route. That was what I wanted to do not climb and stay in crappy huts. I feel like I've kept my half of the bargain raising the funds but they have not. Hummmmpf.

I have sent off my passport details and a cheque for £1155 to MWF office but I still have nearly £1000 I have to process and send in. This includes all the change from the samosa sales and peoples Zakat (compulsory islamic charity) money.

Anyway, I'm going to get mentally prepared for the trek as this will help me summit and forget about shoulda woulda coulda.

Saturday, 6 August 2011


Some time ago, a voucher appeared on that's entitles me to 4 sessions at a Chiropractor. Bargain! I went for my first one yesterday. It was a very pleasant experience. Lisa the Chiropractor in Knowle was very good. The first session really was an analysts of my biomechanics, which are know are a little screwed up. It goes like this:

- mid back tension
- lower back pain
- iliotibial band pain on both sides
- deep glute/hamstring junction pain
- knee pain right knee
- occasional left knee pain
- plantar fisciitis (heel pain) on both sides.

Yup. Like I said... Biomechanics is royally screwed up. And to top it off, my left leg 'appears' or is 'virtually' shorter then the right one. What this means is that my leg is not actually shorter but because of the tension in my hip, it is pulled up by about 5mm making it have the effect of being shorter. Fortunately this can be rectified with exercise and stretching.

I have further sessions booked before I go.

In other news: I am still wondering g whether to keep my new jacket. I got hold of a medium but it's a little baggy. If I could get a small it would be perfect but it would be a miracle.

Tahseen is sorting out itinery tomorrow. After this we will have to book all safari, hotels, and other plans.

We've decided to try some mountain training during Ramadan and so we plan on going to climb Snowdon... AT NIGHT! We'll set off in the evening, open fast, climb, summit, eat, close fast and decent again. Sounds like a plan!!

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