Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Back Home

An easy journey back from Estonia saw us up pleasantly early this morning thanks to the two hour time difference.

The snow outside is melting soon after it lands, so we aren't about to rush off to Alpenstock to borrow some of Josie's skis!

It was a lovely trip in the best of company, despite the problems with the lack of snow. Well organised by Exodus and well led by Andy and Gareth. Thank you to all concerned.

The sleety weather outside should be an encouragement to sort out the photos from the past week, to the background hum of the washing machine. ..

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The Tartu Ski Marathon

We did it. I'll post the full results in due course, but I took about 3 hours 14 minutes for the 34 km and Sue was about five minutes behind me.

Superwoman, aka Canadian Karen, who most of our group know, finished 12th in the women's race, in a shade over two hours.

The pictures, apart from Phil's beauty contest with a Lumi model, were taken this morning. I didn't take a camera with me for the race as it was raining.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Trip to Tartu and a Race

Today a coach ride to Tartu found us at an Expo building - an impressive place that may have supplanted a former Soviet airstrip - and registering for a ski race that takes place today and tomorrow. 

We also went shopping around the enticing stalls at the Expo, and at least five of us were captivated by some pretty Salomon trail shoes, which we snapped up for about half their price in the UK.

The Tartu Ski Marathon is normally a 63 km cross country ski race that travels through the Estonian countryside in the shape of a walking stick, starting in the stadium a few metres away from our front door, outside which Sue is pictured.

Last year the race was cancelled due to a paucity of snow. This year there is even less snow, but in a bid to avoid bankruptcy the organisers have elected to change the route to five and a half laps of the artificially produced course here at Otepää. 

The race now takes place in six 'waves' of 500 to 600 people in each. There's also an option to do two and a half laps (16 km) rather than the full 34 km race. We are all entered for the 34 km races that start at 11 am (for fast skiers) or 2 pm (for slow skiers like me and Sue). The 'elite' start at 9 am and should all finish by 11, whereas people like me can hope for around 4 hours, depending on the conditions.

This afternoon three of our number, Sam, Shane and Andy, elected to add one of today's 16 km races to their itinerary. Sue and I may have joined them but we only have insurance cover for ski racing for one day - tomorrow!

The dynamic trio are pictured before the race, and I managed to snap the start, and Andy and Shane during the race. I have pictures of all three finishing, but those were taken with my proper camera so they will need to be downloaded at home before they appear here.

A fair number of us stayed out on the cold but sunny afternoon to cheer them on. Given the slow conditions they all did brilliantly. Andy took roughly 1.09, Shane 1.22 and Sam 1.36. Well done, all of you. We hope you haven't worn yourselves out for the longer distance tomorrow.

Lumi, the best restaurant in Otepää, beckons again tonight. We were there yesterday and will be again tomorrow, by which time we should have worked our way through the menu. Luckily, the food is great. Estonia in general is very much a European country with the high standards you'd expect from any honourable member of the EU. They don't disappoint, and many people have taken the trouble to learn English, which is most considerate.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Haanja

An hour's bus journey through villages with washboard houses with corrugated iron roofs saw us at Haanja ski resort, next to the highest point in Estonia and maybe all the Baltic states. There's a tower to celebrate this achievement - pictured at the bottom, the tower looms above the 318 metre summit of the hill. It was closed today but apparently enjoys views over nearby Russia and Latvia from its upper viewing platform. 

The skiing here was excellent, even for me in my one-armed state of incapacity.

The top picture shows our group about to set off after some warming up, leaving Sue and me briefly with cappuccinos in the café. We soon caught up and enjoyed a switchback trail down to a lake.

After a couple of laps of the lake, someone suggested a relay race for about ten of us who were present. Against better judgement I took part. Did I fall or did Ellie push me? Anyway, my bad shoulder took another jolt so I judiciously made way for Stephen in the second run. Sue is pictured, now well ahead of team 2, thanks partly to my replacement.

Then we had lunch in the café, visited the tower, and returned to Otepää after about 12 km of skiing according to my Garmin. 

Roy and I enjoyed a cuppa whilst Sue went back to the Otepää ski loop and Susan, who today just skied locally to test her calf injury, was out walking somewhere. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Otepää (2)

Today was spent in the village of Otepää. 

We are staying in the Tehvandi Hotel, known to the locals as the Pentagon, which forms part of Tehvandi Sports Centre. The hotel is horseshoe shaped, with a grass roof.

The centre (pictures to follow in due course) was built in 1978 as a complex for preparing the winter sports team of the former Soviet Union. It continues to serve that function for the Estonian team and is a venue for World Cup skiing events, some of which have taken place here in recent days.

Currently it has a 6 km classic cross country ski trail on artificial snow, enhanced by a few centimetres of the real stuff that fell overnight. This morning we had a group tutorial from a chap called Marti, before skiing slowly around the easy 6 km trail. My GPS recorded about 10 km of skiing. The second picture shows some of our group milling about whilst waiting for Godot.

Returning to the hotel (a 100 metre walk) I slipped on some ice. Very careless - it hurt my already damaged shoulder. So this afternoon Sue and I skipped skiing - there are only so many times you can enjoy skiing the same 6 km of track - and went for a walk with Susan (who is crocked by virtue of a calf muscle strain) and Roy around the periphery of the ski trails. About 8.5 km for me, more for the others who after coffee and cake at a nice café headed off to explore a local fort.

The bottom two pictures were taken on this pleasant stroll, the bottom one being at the entrance to a large cemetery.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Otepää

Last night Sue and I enjoyed a lovely meal with Susan and Roy at the Kaerajaan restaurant in Tallinn's vast Town Hall square.

The tallest spire was nicely lit as we strolled past it on our return to the
Tallink Spa and Conference Hotel at which we were based for a couple of days.

This morning's three and a half hour bus transfer to Otepää took us past forests of silver birch and pine, across flat terrain with empty fields that no doubt will yield grain later in the year. We had a short break for elevenses at a café by a windmill. No sign of any livestock, just a few crows and birds of prey.

We skirted around Tartu to arrive at our nice hotel in Otepää - Tehvandi Hotel - in time for a buffet lunch.

This is a skiing trip. The bad news is that there seems to be no snow of any note in Estonia. The good news is that there appears to be a snow factory from which lorry loads are being unloaded at this venue. Sue is pictured on our short course in front of a freshly dumped pile. The lorry has just driven off. The bottom picture shows a few of us at 'the end of the snow'. It comes to an abrupt end above a pretty valley.

Despite the constraints, most of us skied around in circles for over two hours in bitterly cold conditions. Sue and I covered just over 16 km. 

We must be mad!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Tallinn (2)

We spent a morning with the 'gang' - 18 or so of us on what is left of a suburban ski trail, ie the artificial snow bit.

It was icy, but with my own ski shoes and some waxless Salomon skis I was able to enjoy about 11 km on the icy 2 km figure of eight track, as best I could under the circumstances, ie a skiing holiday with no snow.

This afternoon we enjoyed a guided tour of Tallinn. We'd have enjoyed it more if we had bothered to deploy the down jackets we'd brought for occasions such as slow moving guided tours in sub zero temperatures with a bitter wind from the north.

Hot chocolate and cake at around 3.30 pm were more than welcome!

We won't forget those down jackets when we go out later...

Monday, 20 February 2017

Tallinn (1)

The village square, on our way to a restaurant that I'm told was called 'The Golden Pig'. Sue and I enjoyed the chicken, others wrestled with their pig shanks (imagine lamb shank in giant dimensions); the beer was excellent - how could they fail, the brewery was next door - and the overall experience was most pleasurable. 

Goodnight...

On the Piste Again

It's a dull day in Tallinn and what snow there is is mainly artificial, although we did land in a snow shower.

There are 21 of us on this trip, including guides and hangers on. After assembling at a comfortable hotel we wrestled with ski hire and headed out to a 3.5 km ski circuit along the lines of the Mooney's Bay circuit we practice on in Ottawa. 

But there's more snow there, and I have my own skis. 

Today most people got sorted out but a couple of us finished up with waxing skis but no wax. That's not really much fun, so a 5 km ski was enough for me. Others, equipped with the sort of waxless skis I've ordered for tomorrow, managed better.

You may be able to spot Sue, Ken (Helen went shopping) and Susan and Roy in the top photo. We'll get to know the others as the week progresses.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Another Birthday Party (1)

En route to Gatwick - an impromptu birthday party. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A parkrun birthday and a tasty meal

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This entry is the last before our next trip, just to show that we are alive and well and enjoying some eccentric cooking.

Today’s parkrun at Wythenshawe in pleasantly warm conditions attracted 288 participants, one of whom, Brian G, was celebrating his 70th birthday. He’s pictured above in his green Go-faster top, after completing the 5 km course in a little over 25 minutes, about to extinguish the last of the candles on his cake. Parkrunners love cake, which was today also provided by Geoff F in celebration of his 50th outing.

Well done everyone, and thanks to Andy H, unusually lacking in family support, for conducting proceedings with his usual efficiency. Results are here.

On Thursday we were treated to a fine meal with some good friends, partly in celebration of Sue’s imminent landmark.

We started with ‘UTI accelerant’, aka bulls’ blood soup with a grassy garnish.

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The main course comprised bulls' testicles with Daryl’s fish muscle on a bed of winter weeds.

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For dessert, we were honoured with second helpings of bulls' haemorrhoids with vanilla sludge on a bed of buttered gluten free fruit flour.

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These were all absolutely delicious, especially after an opening dose of a colourless herbal medicine produced from juniper berries, then ongoing flagons of a straw coloured liquid that our host claimed to have been produced by the alcoholic fermentation of grape pulp.

Happy eating, and thanks to Jessica who spent last night here and after struggling through her elephant’s fingers (we’ll get some fish fingers for you next time, Jess) carried out her washing up duties to her usual standard.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Another Quiz

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Last Saturday night we enjoyed an evening with our regular ‘Spinners Quizzers’ aka ‘The San Marinos’ and some of their better halves. The seven course meal that was assembled from contributions from the eight quizzers was delicious, but it did require a bit of a break between the chicken tagine and the soufflé. I’d come prepared though – that time was taken up with the above picture quiz. You just need to identify the image.

Out of 24 points, Lyn, Louise and Bev scored 13, nearly 4 points ahead of John, Robert and Stuart. That was in about 20 minutes, with no references to the internet etc, as per pub quiz rules.

Can you do better? Answers by email to martin@topwalks.com. [Click on the image to get a bigger version – there’s a magnifier at the top right of the screen.

Have fun!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Monday 13 February 2017 – A Curry Walk and Some Escapes

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Monday morning. Timperley Bridge. A good day for a stroll down the towpath to Manchester. JJ had chosen well. Rick was there. Andy and Ursula turned up, dressed as if to conquer a Lakeland peak, or more. We milled around a bit, then set off to the north.

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After a while we reached Stretford, where Rob and Pam joined us. They were dressed more casually, as if to dive in to the nearest branch of the Slug & Lettuce.

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JJ’s excellent report on the walk is here. Apparently there was no curry on the curry walk, as some of the participants were allergic!

Sadly I had to return to Timperley to feed the family before heading off to our local break out room, Code to Exit.

The idea is that you get locked in a room and have to solve puzzles and obtain codes in order to escape. It was a birthday present for Sue.

We escaped from the Blueprint Room!

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Whilst Mike had to go to work, the rest of us were on half term or sabbatical or some such, so we had a coffee then got locked in the Forgery Room. We escaped from that as well, or I wouldn’t be here!

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I didn’t contribute much, but it was good fun.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Where was I then?

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Here’s a pleasing image to look at on a cold February morning, looking out onto one of my favourite places.

More pictures to follow below when someone identifies the location.

…well, it took Conrad less than an hour and a half, probably much less if he had seen the posting earlier.

The above picture was taken on 24 August 2005 from the tunnel windows of the Sentiero de Luca/Innerkofler via ferrata on (in) Monte Paterno. I was accompanied by Sue, Ken, Ian and Megan.

The following pictures were taken at Forcella Lavaredo and Rifugio Tre Cime-Locatelli on 16 July 2007.

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Happy Days…

NB – Tre Cime is also known as Drei Zinnen – it’s part an area that has a turbulent past.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Where were we on 6 November 2004?

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OK, clever clogs (Gayle and Conrad), the name of the mountain (seven letters) is what I’m looking for, but you can name the place where we were camping if you like.

Happy days, and a test of your IT savvy!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Where am I Today?

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I’ve swapped the snow of Ottawa for the sleet and bitter NE breeze closer to home. But where exactly am I today?

Here’s a detail from the milepost.

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Wednesday, 8 February 2017

First Flowers

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When we were in Canada the weather was great for our purposes, but it’s often a monochromatic view over there at this time of year.

Back in Timperley, Sue took this picture of a Primula in our garden to prove to Helen that February in the UK does at least enjoy a bit of colour. I’m sure there’s lots of it in Dunham’s Winter Garden.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Tuesday 7 February 2017 – Dunham New Park

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After a sleepless journey home, a bit of fresh air found me enjoying Dunham New Park’s greenery in balmy Altrincham.

At least the sleepless night enabled me to get up to 20% in Ken Follett’s ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ (quite a long book), having already finished ‘The Girl from the Tea Garden’ by Janet MacLeod Trotter and Patrick deWitt’s excellent book, ‘The Sisters Brothers’ during the ‘beach holiday’.