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Friday, 21 March 2014

Roasting in the UAE and Oman

 I am now coming to the end of an interesting two months in Dibba, UAE. This place is not a patch on Scotland but has been awesome fun none-the-less. The UAE is only 42 years old as a country and its mad to think how quick it must have changed. I wish I had more photos of Dubai because it is a weird city! The buildings are elaborate and always immaculate but not inventive, they are copies from other cities in the world. There is more money in the UAE than I can imagine and we don't even blink anymore when we see a Ferrari, a Bentley, a Rolls Royce and a Lamborgini drive past all in 5 minutes. It all seems very fake and modern and yet all the ancient Muslim culture is still everywhere. As girls here at the centre, we wear strappy tops a lot, especially when it gets hot and its hard to tell whether we are offensive or accepted. The children we instruct at North Star are mostly international, and mostly speak English, though it can be interesting to have an entirely French, or entirely Emirati school come in. Most children here have influential parents who travel a lot and so they mostly have nannies and if I ever complained that the children we get in Scotland are spoiled, then I have been naive!

Anyway, the weather here is already hot enough that we have hours and hours at lunch time sat in the air conditioning while it is too hot for activities outside. The season is coming to a close and I am SO excited to be coming back to Scotland. There are all sorts of adventures planned!

 A scorpion out at night in the Wadi. They do actually glow under UV light and this photo hasn't been changed in way from when it was taken.

 Ewan playing in the waves on the beach.

 An ancient Omani Fort. This Fort still stands exactly as it did when it was first built except for layer upon layer of plaster that is sprayed over the stones to keep it intact. It was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century to help control shipping trade through the Arabian Gulf.

 A whole row of genies in an Omani Fort.

 Pete playing in the waves

 Watching humpback dolphins, while cruising through the Arabian gulf in a Dhow boat. Aaah, its a hard life.

Beautiful Oman view at the top of a walk we do with the children. The mountain range here is called the Musandam and we bring groups here every now and again. It is a treat to be working on one of these trips!

Now we about to have a BBQ at camp with some other people from various outdoor centres in the UAE and I have sunburnt my tummy while making the most of the sun for my last week here... Looking forward to coming home all tanned for spring in Scotland :-)

Monday, 3 February 2014

Work and Play in the United Arab Emirates

Here I am in the roasting sunshine, with a sunburnt nose and terrible heat rash on my hands and the kids here think its cold!!!! I am in UAE for two months of instructing and it is making quite a change from Scotland. It's actually "trying" to rain as I write this but mostly those fluffy white things in the sky are few and far between. It's going to get hotter too...

Its a great experience being here, I get to instruct snorkelling, jumping off boats, climbing, building rafst and all sorts of fun stuff. My work uniform is flip flops, boardies and a rash vest and we get a 3 hour lunch break. Its funny though, how much I miss Scotland.... But much fun is to be had out here before going home. I went scuba diving for the first time today which was surreal and we spent last night watching a belly dancer. I wish I could dance like that heehee!! I hopefully have some climbing planned with Rua Fiola Matt who is in Oman and these two months are going to go in a blur. The people are great fun, full of silly banter. It's a good life sitting here on the beach writing about instructing all my favourite things in the sun. Happy days :-)

This is North Star Camp, where I work. The monstrous grey building behind is apparently going to be a hotel one day, though it has stood the same for about 7 years... But the beach behind it is lovely :-)

 Looking back at Dibba, Oman from a Dhow boat trip. Dibba, Oman is the other half of the city I live in, but just over the border into Oman. I live in Dibba, UAE. The mountains behind are in an area called Musandam, Oman. These Dhow trips involve half a day of sailing along on a lovely boat with disney music playing and then tons of fun jumping off into the warm sea in a beautiful bay. Aaaah life :-)

 A praying mantis ready to strike. These scare the children silly!

 Spot all the fish

Snorkelling fun at Dibba Rock. Pete and I borrowed an underwater camera and went for an explore. Pete took the pictures of the fish so all credit goes to him for those photos.

 Ewan playing on the Dhow trip.

 This is where I bring the children to kayak and raft build. It is also where I sit and use the internet. Aaah life :-) The rock in the background is Dibba rock and has superb snorkelling and diving. It is also a turtle sanctuary. We see tons of turtles just off the beach and they can be huge!

My first ever scuba dive! Oli, the instructor was brilliant. The water was a little murky because the currents are all funny apparently, but it was awesome! Loads of crazy beasties down there and it really is a surreal experience breathing underwater so deep below the surface! Oli did take some photos when we were down there but I don't have those yet, maybe the next blog can show them.

Friday, 3 January 2014

New Home, Christmas and Shinty on the Beach!

Here comes another year! Saying goodbye to 2013 is somewhat of a relief at the moment. It seems to have started with my Dad being unwell and ended with myself being unwell but the adventures I have had in the meantime have more than made up for the worries! Last year's Hogmanay was hard to beat but I feel like I ended 2013 with equal style.

The last few months have been a blur of moving house, diabetes worries, several Christmas's and New Year on Mull! The moving house part was all very quick as it took six weeks from starting to look at house to actually moving into one. We were very lucky to find the perfect place and we are now proud owners of a bookshelf full to the brim of climbing guidebooks. Very happy bunnies! Our first Christmas was early december down in Suffolk with my Grandparents, second Christmas was on the day itself with Ali's family, third Christmas was on the 27th with my Mum and 4th Christmas was all rolled into New Years festivities with my Dad and Brother on Mull. Somewhere in the mix, my doctor called to tell me my blood sugar was almost certainly pointing towards diabetes, which is unfortunate but I feel a little more justified in my tiredness now! New Year was superb, involving vast amounts of food, scottish dancing, whisky in a wild bothy, and shinty on the beach with homemade sticks.

Thankyou to everyone who contributed to to my Christmas and New Year moments, thank you Ali for being patient as I yawn my way through life at the moment, hello to our new lodgers and hello to 2014!

Ali on a gruelling, wet, slimy slab in  Glen Nevis.

Ali playing on the Sands of Morar, on a dodgy rope swing with two anchors that threw us around like rag dolls...

 Exploring Steall Falls, Scotland's 3rd highest waterfall, with Kate, Dieter, Kees and Ali

 Kate crossing the Nevis precariously.

 Looking out of the Nun's Cave near Carsaig, Mull

 These guys made most of our day smell like goats cheese. Wild Mullian Goats near Carsaig.

 Weapons at the ready, lining up in preparation for the annual Ardalanish Shinty match. This is quite a unique event. Imagine 60 players, two balls, a gradually receding pitch, ever changing goals, cheeky referees, very few rules, homemade shinty sticks and an age range easily covering 6 and 60. Not to mention countless dogs throwing themselves into the mix, at least 40 onlookers cheering for anyone and everyone and plenty of hot soup to help throw off the hangovers.

One of the many scrums during the shinty match.

For more awesome photos see Ali's page

or if you are friends with her, Alice has some wonderfully funny photos of the New Year shenanigans!

Have a good 2014 full of adventures and fun!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Autumn Stomps in Scotland

We have a new home town! Ali and I have officially moved to Fort William and though we are just lodging with friends at the moment, we have put in an offer on a house in Corpach and are just waiting to hear the verdict. That feels very exciting and grown-up! Job-wise, slightly less exciting. Ali is solidly plugging away with mailing brochures to hundreds of keen young explorers ready for Ru'a Fiola next year and I am picking up the odd weekend doing Segway tours... House and job hunting is very time consuming in front of a laptop screen but everything outside is changing colour and while it does still feel mild, I am persuading myself that there is a wintery smell around the place. Snow is imminent I tell you! I hope so anyway. But as I said, the colours are changing and the hills are glowing (when the sun shines through). Around the house hunting we do keep stealing some adventure hours, so here are a few photos of our stomps around and about our new home.

The Aonach Eagach Ridge in Glen Coe with Ali and Jago

 Very autumnal colours at the Meeting of Three Waters in Glen Coe

 Looking east through the iconic Glen Coe

Dramatic weather after a big stomp in the hills

Buchaille Etive Mor - possibly the most photographed mountain in Scotland and a very good looking one!
I have just discovered stitching photos and if you look at this for a while, it's a bit squiffy in the corners! But this is Glen Nevis, one of the most beautiful valleys in the world and Steall Falls (I'm hoping this will freeze and host some climbing action this winter!) I think everyone should go and visit. It was raining heavily when I went up there and it was still wonderful.

Hopefully my next post will be full of photos of our new house, when we get our offer accepted...

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Northern Scottish Mountains and Rock Climbing in the Verdon Gorge

Two very contrasting adventures here. Summer is officially over and Ali and I have a few weeks off before his next job officially starts and before we move to Fort William so, to make the most of being homeless we have had a yomping/camping adventure up north and a sunny bolt-clipping trip to France.

Before I start with my photos, I will just add that Ali's blog is also updated and hosts some much better photography! It can be found at

 From the second summit along the ridge of An Teallach, the weather was incredibly changeable and that rain storm behind Ali was very much heading our way!

 Looking back along the ridge we have just yomped along.

 Midgie hell.... Our camp spot was idyllic, by the stream, under a rainbow, by the mountains, no-one to be seen etc etc. And then the midges arrived. Great!

 From the summit of Ruadh Stac Mor (one of the Fisherfield Six) right after we have been thoroughly drenched by rain. The forecast actually was for a big storm to blow in that evening so we are just preparing to hurry off the hill before 50mph gusts start blowing in!

Ali, doing his thing.

Our adventure now got very much warmer. Excellent. The Verdon Gorge in France seems to have gone somewhat out of fashion in the sport-climbing scene but it could not have been a better place for us to have ended up. A search for cheap flights turned up Marseille and a search for climbing near Marseille turned up Verdon. Our style of climbing in the UK is usually long adventurous routes that take a full day to complete and Verdon had exactly that to offer, but with a few added bolts. We are not particularly grade focused either which was ideal here. A quote we found on the UK Climbing website about one climb, La Demande (6a), was "6a climbers would probs die" and while 6a should not usually be our upper limit, we found the climbing pretty damn hard!

 The standard Verdon View. Not bad. And this was the worst weather we had all week. Not bad either!

 Griffon Vultures. All week we could turn away from a climb to look out over the gorge and see anywhere up to eight of these birds swooping past us. They are huge and fly very menacingly close to you, but with these and the thousands of Swallows in swarms dipping in and out of corners and crevices in the rocks, the atmosphere was wild and wonderful.

 With the routes we did being up to 12 pitches and hard, I don't really have many climbing pictures but this was on our rest day where we mooched round the very easy via ferrata of the gorge. It did involve some very ancient metal-work, two exciting river crossings and an awkward diagonal abseil, but perfect for an easier day out.

 This was our view down the gorge throughout the via ferrata.

 The second of two tyrolean river crossings on the via ferrata route. This rope apparently is not always up, so after two big (non-reversible) abseils, we were quite relieved to see it! Though we did have a bit of a swim in the river later too and actually swimming across would not have been too much of an issue.

 An early morning cloud inversion, on our way to do our last routes of the trip. The little black car was our rental for the week, a Chevrolet Spark. Tiny and exceptionally gutless up the hills...

Just another classic South France view.

If only this photo had an empty pizza box, it would entirely sum up our evenings this week. I have discovered a new found enjoyment for beer (but only Leffe). The village of La Palud was such a perfect spot. It still feels small and french despite the tourist traffic that the gorge gets. It has one bakery, one tiny climbing shop, two small bars/restaurants and a little pizza shack. Everyone knows everyone and they all support each others businesses. The campsite was clean and friendly, had hot showers, always topped-up loo roll,  and we almost had to physically pin down our campsite owner just to give him some money. I would recommend the Verdon Gorge to any climber. It is hard but there is plenty for climbers of all abilities (with a good head for heights!). Brilliant.

Now for the more grown-up adventure of mortgages, jobs and moving house...

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Last Minute Summer Adventures

Our season at Ru'a Fiola is nearly at an end already! It hasn't been the easiest of seasons but as usual it has flown by in a flash and we are starting to plan the next chapter. At the moment, France and northern Scotland seem to be on the cards and then... winter is coming! (NERD ALERT). Ali is house hunting and I am job hunting. The plan is, and this is a new development, to spend some time in schools this winter getting some classroom experience with the potential idea of doing my teacher training next year. Very exciting times! I never thought I'd say this, but I need a new educational challenge and the idea of staying in one place all year round is maybe sort of rather appealing... But in the mean time we will be in Fort William so anyone with any Scottish plans this winter should drop by.

Anyway, here are a few photos from the last couple of months. I have mostly been a little unwell and wimpy so life is not as strenuous as usual but we have still have some lovely course breaks and even a week off for gaining ML days.

4 days of yomping covering some beautiful ground in the Cairngorms.

Matt and Miles coming to join me for my second day in the Cairngorms.

Very fancy new headpieces for my yomping companions ("Han-Made Hats" - place your orders!)
Home for the nights - Fords of Avon refuge

Goldeneye, one of Ru'a Fiola's boats, out in ominous weather

A fine figure of a man

On the beach of Belnahua

Fin with Fladda's lighthouse in the background

Tean on Belnahua "Ghost Island"

Busy waters round north point of Ru'a Fiola

We now have only two courses left on the island so the next blog will hopefully be after a mountainous trip up north and a sunny bolt-clipping trip way down south. Bring it all on!