Sunday, August 16, 2015

Le Puy en Velay

What amazing places we always find just by looking around the world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A special time at a temple

A group of Henro Pilgrims in Shikoku at a temple.

Each of the 88 Temples is special and unique.  Some are tranquil and others busier.   Some are prosperous and some more humble.   There are several rituals to follow at each temple as part of the journey of exploration of the Shikoku pilgrimage.

The temple grounds are always imaculate and beautiful.    Many have ponds with koi fish and all have various statues of deities and Buddhas and others representing stages of life.
Each temple has a story and a primary deity but there is always Buddha present.   There is also a hall for Kobo Daishi who was the originator of Shingon or esoteric Buddhism in Japan.

The interior of temples vary from simple to extremely ornate.   Most are not open to go inside unless you are staying at the temple itself.

Given the length of the pilgrimage there is sometimes a temptation to rush to the next temple or to where your will be staying.   It is much nicer just to sit when you find a special place and just be.
It can be a little bit busy if a bus load of pilgrims arrives but every person does their own pilgrimage as they feel appropriate.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Ultralight Hiking with Comfort

Basic Choices... be DRY, be FED, be WARM and be fresh!

Always eat well.  

- there is no excuse for anything but a great menu given all the choices.  Whether you dry your own food or buy ready made dried food or eat fresh you need to spend time to make sure you eat well.   Look for foods that have high caloric density but are also delicious such as olive oil.  For recipes the best book I have found is Chef Glen's book so get that if you are open to preparing your own lightweight meals.  His recipe for Chili Con Carne is amazing.
insert pic..

Cooking gear

There are plenty of lightweight options for stoves and dozens of places to review options.  My choices:
1.  Caldera Cone with .9L pot if travelling alone or just one other person.   Uses alcohol stove or wood and is super efficient.
2.  MSR Pocket Rocket if you want to carry the little canisters.  The advantage is the instant heat but you do have to have sources for the canisters as you travel.
3.  Bushbuddy for wood burning.   A great way to just use what is available.  If you are on a trail that has plenty of wood available and do not mind the bit of a mess then the Bushbuddy is awesome.
Make sure to bring some little firestarters and never forget your lighter and sparker.

Always be DRY.

There are still those who think a plastic bag is enough to keep dry and then wonder why they had a miserable time when it rained.   Plenty of options for great rain jackets and pants are available.   You should be able to hike for hours without getting very wet!
Options include technical jackets with Goretex or specialty gear.  My choices:
1.  ZPacks rain jacket.  This Cuben fibre jacket is super light but made of the latest Cuben fibre.  I have walked for hours in it and kept dry.   Get pit zips to help keep moisture under control.   I have the matching gloves but they need something under them to keep hands warm.  It has an integral hood although I add a rain hat as well if out for long.  Zpacks make some of the absolute best gear and service from Joe and his team there is top notch.
2.  Montbell Rain Pants.  Easy to get on over shoes and very light and waterproof.
3.  ZPacks Pointy Hat.   Joe makes these at Zpacks.  I brought one on my last Japan trip as it is shaped like a pilgrim hat.   What a great piece of kit it is.  It can pour rain and you stay dry as a bone. It also unzips to be a seat when needed or for packing.   You can see some custom writing done by a Buddhist Monk on mine.
4.  Shoes.  For most hiking and camping trail runners are best as they are light and provide enough support and comfort for most people.    Saucony are my favs now but I want Alteras as well.  Make sure to have a wide enough foot box.   If you want Gortex look at the Salomon trail GTX 3d PROs.

Always be warm.

If you plan even a little for each trip you need never ever be cold.   First check what the temperatures will be otherwise you really are playing things by chance.   The layering concept is well known so no need to harp on that - just DO IT!  My choices:
Summer:  Montbell light sleeping bag Down Hugger 900.  It isSuper light and packs up small.  I may add a silk liner just to keep it clean.
Spring and autumn:  Head cosy from Blackrock Gear is the most amazing piece of headgear available.  Top quality construction of the finest materials and so perfectly warm.   If there is one piece I will not leave behind it is my Blackrock gear.
Icebreaker base and mid layers.   Expensive but superb quality.   You can get the same approach from other suppliers but merino wool is good.  I bring two baselayers, one midlayer and one warmer layer.   You do not need two mid layers or two outer warm layers.   They are just extra stuff to carry.
My midlayers are also Icebreaker.   My warm layer is a Montbell 900 fill power X light jacket that is ultralight and toasty warm and also packs right down to almost nothing.
When there is a cold wind you do need a wind jacket and I recommend the Montbell Tachyon Jacket for convenience and quality.  Remember that you use the outer layers less frequently so it is a good place to save weight and bulk if you can.
If it gets really windy or nasty then I put on my Zpacks rain jacket that is longer and works as wind protection too.

Always be fresh.

Being exhausted is no fun, is dangerous and causes many problems.   Learn to pace yourself and as the triathlon guys would say "run your own race".   A good rule we use in canoeing is to be on the river by nine and off by four.   My worst experiences have been caused by being dehydrated and exhausted and then making silly decisions to go just a bit farther.   Now I avoid and am aware of when exhaustion, dehydration or sun stroke is setting in.    The same holds true for avoiding blisters.   If your feet get hot then STOP and air them, change socks, put on blister pads or nuskin.

Gear - My favorite knives.

My favorite knives for hiking and camping.

Victorinox classic with scissors, tweezers.
Gerber LST folding knife
Other knives

There are many knives around and in the past sheath knives were popular.  For lightweight hiking it is a simple matter of knowing what you will want to do with the knife.   If you will not be doing serious cooking or such then you will find a Victorinox small knife is more than adequate as it is good for cuting Avocados, oranges, cheese, and little bits.   It also gives you a tweezers which is useful for getting out small splinters.  The little scissors are fine for dealing with nails and such.
If you need to do a bit of cooking or like a more substantial knife I find the Gerber LST is more than adequate as it locks well and has a hole for tying it into a pocket or pack pouch.    Both of these are around C$20 each but shop around.  MEC is a good source in general for these.

Top row.. lovely knife from Thiers,  classic officer, Grohman,  small Swiss army, Grohman,  Leather man.    Bottom row.. custom from my brother - Neil knives, Grohman that I love, another Grohman,  Swiss Officer.  My favorites are the tiny, the black Gerber and the Grohman.    All a matter of choice.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The adventure of life is amazing in every stage.

We all change and evolve in our passions and adventures.   From cycling to triathlon, to camping and canoeing and long hikes every step is a joy.   Exploring new things, meeting new people, pushing some limits, sharing and just getting on with today is always great.

 It gets windy up in the Dublin mountains!
Loving people make things happen with a smile.