Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Two weeks in...

Ah yes, two weeks in. And so far it has been just lovely. So many things to report, with so little time to write (i have 19 minutes so here goes).

To say the past fortnight has been long is an understatement. The woods play tricks with time. Rich, my faithful comrade, and i have been submerged in arboreal amazement the entire time. Currently sat in the Budget Inn in Franklin (what a smashing establishment - much better then that Anderson Shelter of a motel in Hiawassee!), i look back with terrific fondness. I have experienced many firsts - the first time having visa trouble getting into the US (praise the lord for sorting that one out!); first time seeing a many fall into a bonfire (oh, that poor poor jacket); the first time hearing a boy scout emit a "blood curdling" scream in the middle of the wilderness in the dead of night (the little mite claimed he was sleep walking and got lost, but i suspect he was probably attempting a sneaky late night poop); the first time on an internal flight, which hauntingly resembled a plastic plane i once threw down the stairs and subsequently broke; the first time an airline decided not to put our luggage on the plane because they wouldn't fit on our Playmobile 747 - what a hoot that was; and the first time i ever ate so much that i repeatedly burped bits of sick into my mouth for about an hour.

After a playful few days entering the US, we headed from the wooden sensation that is the 'Hiker Hostel' in Dhalonega (no idea if that is right) up some stairs by some waterfall (it might have been the highest one East of the mississippi, why not) and along some annonymous woodland paths to the top of Springer Mountain, where rather conveniently, Rich and I enjoyed a Sam Adams (what a day, what a view, what a beer) and stayed in our first shelter at Stover Creek [note - this shelter has mice]. It was from this point that our meal times have become somewhat of an event. We were politely mocked [read envied] for our choice of food on this first night - Chicken Franks! with Crying Tiger Hot Sauce (excellent name). From this point on, we've really pushed the boundaries of what can be achieved in the great outdoors with crap food and a broken stove. Mash and Pasta?  Why not. Super Cheesey Ramen Noodles? Yes sir bob. Slim Jim Suprise? Magnifique. Yes, people judge us (especially since our delicious cup of elm tea) but we seem to have pulled  off a delicate blend of cooking and science, much like that bald headed chappy from North London whose name escapes me. That reminds me, i must go buy some more pans.

The people have been extremely lovely and welcoming. We seem to have formed a kind of team (Team One!) of select hikers and prowlers, with the sole mission of walking up some hills and through some lovely woods. Yes sir bob (note to self, dont use this phrase again for a while). Of course, there have been some losses as is the nature of the trail. Rip, RIP. Andy, may you go get your motorcycle instead of walking. I could go on....  We've also met some "characters" (thats right, they exist outside of british pub chat - "oh here comes john, you'll like him, hes a right character..."). Noteable ones include the chap who is riding a scooter along the whole trail, somehow putting the trauma that i'm putting my body through into perspective, and a guy who is essentially homeless, so decided the woods would be better than being in a city. Lovely stuff. Trail names have been hard to come accross - we've been collectively known as England or the Brits for a while now, but that didnt seem to suit as it suggested we are merely a concept. And i don't know about Rich, but i'm not a concept, i'm a real boy. No, we are now Crying Tiger (what a bloody great sauce, what a distressing trail name) and Steve Irwin (just ask rich to see his town clothes, and you shall understand why).

Yes, its time to hike again, my 19 minutes are nearly up. I should say, however, that the weather has been tremendous except the first night (Bugger me its cold!), i keep forgetting to brush my teeth, and i have had to say goodbye to many bits of beloved but broken kit. The most traumatising of all, however, is my boots. Oh Death! Oh Sorrow! Good bye old friends, we've shared  an emotional 10 years together. But your journey continues into the next life, in the bin of the Budget Inn, Franklin, North Carolina. Its how we all want to go, i'm sure.

And now, i head back into those intrepid but lovely woods. Adios.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Holiday! A Holiday!

... And the first one of the year! (well, unless you count those three glorious days in sunny Leicester in January). Yes, i am 23 and have reached that point in my working life (3 years and counting, baby) where i have become disillusioned with earning money and have decided to stop for a while. As many others have done before me and, presumably will continue to do so until Butlins ups it game, i am off abroad. Britain is currently broken (think cat in bin, horsemeat and Sir Jimmy) so i simply have to leave, but i've been feeling for a while now that the usual hotspots for travellers just won't cut it. South East Asia? Bit obvious. Australia? Not whilst Paul Robinsons still on the loose. New Zealand? Well, whilst non-stop Crowded House is appealing, i just couldn't deal with all the Lord of the rings chitchat.

No, for me, it has to be America. Nice, understated and reserved. US of A. I confess, i have been a couple of times over the past two years. Both road trips (the second of which we had a sweeet Chrysler convertible). I learnt many things on my two respective trips. The four most important, however, really changed my view on the old colony (was it a colony? what even is a colony?). The first is how glorious the people are. So bloody welcoming, so darn generous and most importantly, always willing to buy you a beer. The second, how stunning american beer is. British people tend to think they have the best ales and beers in the world, with a vague nod of appreciation in the direction of Belgium. but only very vague you understand. the states beer glass is, rather surprisingly, positively half full. the like the american people, they are ballsy, full of life, relentlessly thrilling and always surprising - a welcome change to britains overwhleming amountof middle of the road ales. the third? never sleep in a car. we attempted this on numerous occassions - always after drinking (a nightcap is required because no matter how big the nissan versa, cars are not comfortable places for a kip). Among other things, we awoke in the middle of fun runs, got picked up by the scariest woman in all of virginia (my dream, my nightmare...) and found a distressing amount of blood on our car bonnet when attempting the car-kip on the blue ridge parkway. and finally the fourth...

America is really perculiarly full of trees. Like really full. no one really talks about it, but theyre there. just as the prairies, the deserts, the stunning beaches and the Baldwins, they are overwhelming. So ridiculously vast, so immense, so terrifying (BEARS! DELIVERANCE! SNAKES!) and stunning. Not in the 'oh-my-days-that-pashmina-looks-stunning-on-you' kind of way, in the literal poop-your-pants, slap-your-face, spit-out-your-tea kind of way. They are ridiculous. Horizon to horizon of a thick blanket of trees, draped over mountains. These are very very occassionally dotted with charming little towns (regardless of Pigeon Forge - spiritual and actual home of Dollywood!) filled with beer, american people and beds that aren't the front seat of a Nissan Versa. The woods of which i write so adoringly (move over Wordsworth, Ali finally learnt how to spell) cover the Appalachian Mountains.

i've never really been much of a real man. indeed, i did once eat a raw egg like an apple (shell and all. damn right.), but other then that i'm a bit of a nancy. manual labour, fighting and action films aren't really my bag. somewhere along the way i ended up being the semi-lovable scamp. a bit of comic relief (pop psychology anybody?). despite my best efforts, i'm much more shaggy from scooby doo than shackleton. So. time to change this. i'm going to walk the appalachian trail. 2200ish miles of woodland, bears, and crazed mountainfolk who have spent too much of their time copulating with their parents and drinking homemade corn liquor to have comparable etiquette to that of a charming bar tender from Bristol. not a boast as such, but i do very occassionally get compared to a young hugh grant.

OK, i only have three months, so will probably end up doing half the trail. come on, i'm not paula radcliffe as much as i'd like to be. atlantaish to washington dcish - 1 hour 40 minutes by internal flight, 3 months on foot. i'm going to do both. but not alone. oh no, sister. i'd get bored of my own company (i've heard all my witty annecdotes so many times before, they've become rather a bore- was that a poem?). i'm going with rich, my trusted medieval king of a friend whom i first met whilst he was dressed as Heidi in a magic bar (ah, illusions). We set off in couple of weeks, and i'm hoping for a kind of adventure hybrid of that playful woodland romp, the Disney Robin Hood film (Oodelally!!!) and Kerouacs On the Road. Yessss, yasss, yesss.

For my first ever post, this has gone on far too long. But i aim to keep updating this every week or so when we hit "civilisation" (something about having a purdy mouth springs to mind...). Its just easier then sending postcards or making phone calls etc etc etc...

To the woods! And more importantly - to Virginia, where my true love / assassinator awaits for me.