“Daddy, I don’t want to go to Jimingyi”. Why not, I asked my two year old over my shoulder, while dodging trucks on the backroads of Hebei Province. “Because it’s not good to go in there. It’s very dangerous”. I’m not sure how much my kid really knew about the old walled village that once was an important relay post for the Ming Dynasty postal system, but she seemed pretty convinced. Still, it couldn’t possibly be more dangerous than Hebei’s roads. I’d just done lengthy battle with literally hundreds of trucks, and I was about ready to pull in anywhere. With one last blast of a truck horn on my tail sealing the deal, I swung off the road for the final night in the back blocks of Hebei.
“When I first met you, you were expecting your kid”, he laughed, this guy I know who came hiking last weekend with me, my wife, our two year old and some friends. “I remember you telling me you hoped to continue hiking as much as you could, and I went home thinking, ‘nup, won’t happen'”.
“But here you are, hiking with your kid”!
Here I am. But the truth is, when we were expecting our child, I did have darker moments where I imagined all that really was over. That my hiking-most-weekends lifestyle was over; that I wouldn’t get to go wild camping again for a long time. Determined not to let this happen, I started hunting around for gear that could help me take a small child into the hills. Somewhere on youtube – and I can’t find it anymore – was a Dad who took his one year old into the mountains using the baby carrier I ended up buying. He really inspired me. It’s fair to say, he changed my entire attitude to impending and subsequent actual fatherhood. From the moment I saw that clip, I wanted to do the same: solo camping with my little kid (my own youtube clip is at the very end of this post).
There’s only so many Chinese New Years you want to spend in Beijing. Cold, fireworks so incessant it sounds like one of those week-long artillery barrages from some horrible war, and smog spikes from all that gunpowder smoke. Oh for somewhere a little warmer, clearer, and quieter. This year, having run out of entries on our China visas, we travelled “guo nei” and took the short hop down to Fujian Province’s Wuyi Mountains…
Two years ago I visited Longquanyu, north of Changping and west of Huanghuacheng. Recently I went back, to see whether the wall extended further westwards.
This was also the first time I took my daughter hiking without her mother. Because it was a test run, I brought my sister along. But the challenge arose from the fact little W is still breast-feeding. My sister’s great, but she couldn’t help with that. Instead, I had a bottle of frozen milk and my PocketRocket…
People moan about Badaling – the crowds, the commercialism – but few realise that just a short way away from the tourist site is a long stretch of isolated, and very interesting, tamped earth Great Wall. Finding it is easy enough, and even if there are 10,000 people at Badaling, you’ll have this place to yourself.
Sadness pervades the whole story of Skarð. A hundred years ago, 1913 to be precise, it was a hard-scrabble fishing village like so many on the Faroes. No roads linked it to larger settlements, just a dangerous walk over the rocky mountain ridge to Kunoy on the other side, or a path down the fjord to Haraldssund several miles south. The land scarcely supports the grass the sheep graze on, so fishing was the villagers’ main source of food and income. Just 23 souls lived here, and only seven were fishermen.
Two days before Christmas that year, the seven set out in their boats as usual. In those days of course, fishing boats were sailed or rowed. There was no radio, radar, GPS or EPIRB. Just a man, his wits, and his raw strength stacked against what Shackleton called “the ocean that is open to all and merciful to none, that threatens even when it seems to yield, and that is pitiless always to weakness”.
They never returned. Lost with all hands.