Sunday, 14 June 2009

Ulster Way - Planning and Packing

Well preparation for setting off has stepped up a couple gears in the recent week, which was always going to happen, but probably more so as I hadn't really put a start date in concrete. Originally Sunday (today, or wait yesterday) was going to be the chosen date, however starting from the Giants Causeway when there was a weather warning from the Met office didn't sound like too much banter to me. A quick look showed that Wednesday was going to have a break from the rain, so the date was set. At least weather forecasts never change and it is still to be clear...

..... oh no, wait.

Nice day for the ducks

Well with contact with the RNLI being established it looks like Wednesday will be my starting point, for better or worse, its Northern Ireland so it’s probably gonna rain for a lot of my trip. A month in gore-tex? Maybe I should bring my Senz umbrella to avoid the sweat fest associated with walking in G-Tex?

Maps have been getting the ink read off them of late. A major frustration for anyone that decides to walk the Ulster Way, either small sections or complete, is the lack of coherence with OSNI mapping and the marking or lack thereof the Ulster Way. Some maps have it marked some don't, some show it in certain areas and then it vanishes as if someone decided to go home at lunch the day the maps were going to the printers. I cannot understand the difficulties here as it took me about half an hour to accurately mark the trail onto maps on Photoshop; however a look on outdoors magic gives the image of incompetence by those in charge of it all. Maybe this in part explains why we in Northern Ireland are the only people within the Great British and Irish Isles that cannot acquire digital mapping software?

Cutting up maps, sacrilege to many

Its currently last minute kit prep at the mo as well. I would presume, with no factual basis whatsoever, that the majority of people that undertake the Ulster Way do so in relative comfort, staying in Hotels or B&B's on their way. Unlike these fictitious people I have just made up, I will be carrying my house, bed and kitchen on my back, that is my tent, sleeping system, stove and pots. Thankfully, like a lot of people that enjoy the outdoors, keeping the weight in your rucksack becomes rather pivotal, as less weight = more distance + less effort. This in effect leads to what can only be described as a kind of gear fetish for many, and I would say I have an extreme fondness for well designed kit, that’s light but strong enough to the job. In general this means that the majority of my kit has been picked out for quite a bit of time, however there has still been quite a bit of a panic to pick up the little things that will make this journey comfortable.

Probably the largest buy is a set of trekking poles to keep the strain off my knees and help correct my posture, however a more interesting one is probably the Dr Bronners all in one soap which is gonna be trying to keep me from smelling like a vagrant. According to some the peppermint soap can double as toothpaste; however I personally wouldn't recommend trying it out any time soon! Maybe a 38+5 liter rucksack was a bit optimistic, however if nothing else it will stop me from stuffing to much "needless" kit in.

Jam packed

Using post restante I will hopefully be able to pick up a couple of parcels on the way round, which will negate the need to carry all the maps with me and mean that I have a guaranteed supply of food waiting for me at certain points. Not that I won't be passing through villages regularly, but more so I don't have to wait about for shops (or pubs) to open, and so I have food that I want to eat at the end of days walking.

The next two days are going to be pretty crazy, with me trying to get as many signatures and names on my sponsorship forms before heading off, packing food and maps off to far away (by foot anyways) post offices, and no doubt double triple and quadruple checking that everything I need is in my rucksack.

Well until next time.


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