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Walking in Glen Affric: heading home & different patterns of thought (fifth post)

Heading home.  Up quite early this morning.  Eventually left the hostel about 9.00am.  I drove up to Inverness before looping round to head down the A9.  I've just stopped in Aviemore at the Mountain Cafe  for old time's sake.  I came here a year ago on the way back from a trip camping and walking in the Fainnichs.  I was here again last October with my son-in-law and a friend after we'd walked north through the Lairig Ghru  - the marvellous pass through the Cairngorms.  This is a great cafe.  Eating their "Fresh fruit glass with runny honey and natural yogurt" more to justify my place at a table than anything else.

Walking in Glen Affric: rumination, reflection & creativity (fourth post)

Last night I slept in a hostel rather than a tent.  In fact the predicted gales and lashing rain never materialised.  Some rain, some wind, but I woke in a comfortable bed feeling a little foolish, and very much recharged.  Last night, good pub food, a shower, and a mattress rather than a sleeping mat.  Yup and today's walk  was beautiful.  When I got back this evening, a girl working here at the hostel, said "Well someone's caught the sun.  You look as though you've been in the Caribbean."  And it was a lovely day.  I drove back out to the start of Glen Affric, then walked up Gleann nam Fiadh for about 4 km before heading north up beside the stream and then angling west to climb the south-east ridge of Tom a' Choinich (hill of the moss).  Extraordinary views back to yesterday's walk and the beauty of Mam Sodhail/Mam Soul, Carn Eige and Beinn Fhionnlaidh.

Looking west while climbing Tom a' Choinich 

Walking in Glen Affric: emotions, anxiety & risk (third post)

Today was huge.  I woke early, cold.  It had been such a clear, starlit night.  My socks, that I'd washed through in the stream and tried to dry a bit yesterday, had frozen solid.  So too my walking boots with hard frozen laces.  Rub and mould the socks till I can get them onto my feet, and back into the sleeping bag to warm them a bit.  Dawn & frozen socks

Walking in Glen Affric: lifestyle & aging (second post)

Well here I am, eight or so miles up Glen Affric, lying in a little one man tent in the rain.  I'm 59 today.  I woke at 2.30am wanting a pee and murmured a quiet "Happy birthday" to myself before choosing a moment between showers to stumble out to relieve myself.  I could see a few stars through the clouds.  Since then it's been raining pretty much every time I've woken.  So comfortable, toasty in a sleeping bag on a self-inflating mat in this beautifully designed Hilleberg Akto tent.  Amazing.  I came in on a mountain bike yesterday along the Forestry track south of the loch, bumping and occasionally having to get off to push the bike ... but such an improvement on walking and having to backpack in all supplies, tent, sleeping things - everything I need for three days.  It would have been heavy and slow to have carried it.  As it was, I arrived pretty quickly and pretty easily.


Walking in Glen Affric: adventure and connection (first post)

I'm at my friend Larry's flat in Glasgow.  We're doing one of our three-to-four monthly check-ins -  reviewing and planning how our lives are going.  I arrived here from Edinburgh yesterday evening and we spent time catching up and looking ahead.  This morning though, when I woke, I found it hard to think clearly about the time between now and early August when we next plan to meet like this.  The mountains of Glen Affric are beginning to grow closer and fill my immediate field of vision.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (eleventh post)

This is the eleventh and final post about the Moroccan trip - a reflection once I was back in Scotland. 

So it's before breakfast on Tuesday morning in Edinburgh.  We got back about 36 hours ago.  I'm now mostly into the swing of "normal, everyday life" again.  150 plus emails, piles of post, phone messages - the usual "welcome back" after being away.  I said at the end of the first post about this trip (just 12 days ago) " ... it feels a fun, slightly crazy thing to attempt - to try to combine/construct something that's a mix of adventure, holiday, time with good friends, and also a meditation retreat.  Like trying to play some strange mix of musical styles."  We achieved this well.  Good.  And now what's been brought back with us?

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (tenth post)

A brief tenth post - back in Marrakech and reflecting on the trip.

Back in the city - so woken by the Marrakech muezzin long before 5.00am.  Lying in the dark and then coming downstairs to read and write.  Yesterday we started in Hotel Irocha a bit north of Ourzazate.  Great shared group breakfast out on a veranda, then into the 4x4's to head up over the Atlas and down again to Marrakech.  With stops it was approximately a four hour trip.  Rain.  The first we'd seen since driving down to the desert, both an age and just a week ago.  Then back here to the little hotel at Dar Soukaina, haven in the busy-ness of the medina.  Welcoming fresh squeezed orange juice and green tea.  Some unpacking.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (ninth post)

Here's a ninth Moroccan post - coming out of the desert - dancing, cold beer, mindfulness & consciousness

James enjoying a non-desert coffee! 

Here in the civilisation of Hotel Irocha, I woke early and then got up with the first tentative muezzin call from the local village.  It's now a bit before 5.00am.  I've been settled typing for a little and the calls become more demanding.  As on the first morning in Marrakech nearly a week ago, the muezzin call starts a cock crowing.  It's still pitch black.  The desert sunrise yesterday morning wasn't till well after 6.00am.

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (eighth post)

Eighth Moroccan post - last night in the desert.

Some of our guides singing & drumming

Last breakfast here in the desert - this one at an encampment at Erg Cheggaga.  We arrived last night after one of our longest day's walks (they haven't been very long).  I've not been wearing a watch since the first afternoon in the desert, but I guess we were walking for maybe a bit over 3 hours in the morning and then for a bit less than 3 hours in the afternoon. 

We're now in from the desert proper.  Tired.  We put up tents, ate under the stars, then sang.  Our five guides sang Berber songs, drumming on empty plastic containers.  Full of energy.  Our Western songs seemed quite sad, doleful, beside their rhythm.  We tried singing various tunes, but then came up with something that fitted - "She'll be coming round the mountain" complete with clapping and whooping.  That seemed to hit the spot for the guides!  Great.  Sad.  Lovely.  And we sang on and danced.  Then slept under the stars.  

Holiday, friendship and “meditation retreat” (seventh post)

And here's a briefer seventh Moroccan post looking a little at the internal "meditative methods" being used by various of us in the desert.

Following the camels

So at the lunch siesta today I asked our group what they had been doing in their heads while they were walking.  One person talked about simply "being with the walking and the breath".  They're a dancer and spoke of "dancing with the wind".  They said something too about "headlessness".  That took me back to the Incredible String Band and their 1960's song about Douglas Traherne Harding who lectured on "headlessness".  I remember staying the night at Douglas's home nearly 40 years ago!

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