Category Archives: world war 1

The big re-shuffle

A small, not entirely good update I’m afraid.

Right now this trip is starting to look a little shaky, most of it caused by scheduling problems at work.

Is it fully over? No it isn’t, but it’s been cut by a whole month and will need to start a whole month earlier.

The fact it needs to start earlier is a challenge, but shouldn’t be a showstopper, it just means the nights at the start of the trip will be a lot colder (potentially below zero Celsius…but I have been in France with stunning spring temperatures as well in April), so i will need to make some choices there. Also several camping’s in France may not be opened yet at the start (That I could potentially cover with the more costly B&B’s option)

Changing it from 4 to 3 months however is a bigger issue, it basically means it will be difficult to do the route as i had originally planned. Could it not be done in 3 months? Sure it is not impossible in theory, but it means increasing daily distances substantially and it also means I will not really have time to stay in one area for any length of time to enjoy the sites in more detail…so the trip then would be a footrace to cover the distance and no longer be about the journey, but about the destination….Not what i wanted!

The only other option would be shortening the trip: i.e  starting halfway or skipping parts. I don’t know what I’ll do with it yet, basically it changes everything about the trip. Right now skipping the less interesting (or already seen) parts seems to be the best option, since it doesn’t change what the trip was originally all about so much, but it will make planning more complex, since at certain parts of the hike I will have to find some form of (public) transport to skip ahead.

All in all I need time to think and go back to the drawing-board, the original plan is simply no longer an option.

I guess it’s safe to say I’m bitterly dissapointed  and feel just  empty right now after preparing for well over a year, but if it means the difference between changing plans and not going at all, I know what avenue to investigate.

Stay tuned…walking 14-18 isn’t dead yet…just down for a sec.

grts
Hans

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Getting ready

Getting ready..such a vague title isnt it? Well you are right, it’s vague and I wasn’t even planning to do an update ..however there is actually news :).

It’s all about crossing T’s and dotting I’s.  The GEAR is all but done, the ROUTE is 80% there, and physically im in good shape, but stuff needs doing!

So in order to focus the preparations I decided to hire a personal trainer, nothing spectacular, but those who kinda know me, now probably go WTF!! I am however well aware that hiking for 4 months is a litle bit different from hiking for a weekend, so even though I’ve come a long way, common sense told me to be smart about it..hence the choice, so I wont fail because i hiked myself into an avoidable injury!

So far so good anyway and tomorrow I wil have my 1st session .. ..aaaaaand iI just got a message from Tim: “take your backpack filled with the waterbottles  you already train with, with you” ..I guess he’s taken his  job serious..and i guess I’ll know all about  it tomorrow :)..no pain no gain Truusjes!!!

And now for something completely different…First Aid!

I was thinking ..it’s time for an update, but there isn’t that much to tell right now…

Until this evening 🙂 a friend of mine and her husband went to Albania last week, and sadly “the man around the house” had an unfortunate encounter with a litle brick wall, earning him a serious scrape on his shin. (it was  a good one..realy it was 🙂 )

Normally scrapes are not considered bad injuries, as outdoors people we always think about cuts from knives, sprains, breaks and bruises from tumbles and other horror scenarios like that…

However, this scrape turned bad, got infected and now caused the need for tetanus shots and antbiotics and lots of TLC, even though I’m 100% sure the first aid he received was better than most of us would get  when we are “out there”.

It was a bit of a wake up call, since I did have my own slip and slide down the entrance of a bunker several weeks ago, which earned me a nice few scrapes (not nearly as bad as “the man around the house” got, but enough to draw blood and therefore cause a risk). I slapped some alcohol gel on it right away (inventing new swearwords instantly..quietly though because there was a lady present!!!) but that is all i did.

So what im getting at is…we look at all kinds of worst case scenarios, but it is the little things that may actually get you. I could easily scrape a shin out in nature and it could totally destroy my trip..so be careful out there people, use your head and when that little voice in your head says “no” listen to it! As a good friend of mine told me a while ago..”fear is a powerfull teacher” …that was after a face first tumble into the mud due to  “not paying attention”

So be safe out there my friends and use your brains.

grts

Hans

 

Camp routine

Last week I spent a whole week in north east France strolling through the WW1 battlefields, as usual it was fantastic and what we had planned to see didn’t come close to what we actually got to see :)…but that’s part of the game, as is managing to slip and trip and fall over, which I seem to do at least once on all my trips there, again with no consequence bar a scratch, a bruise and a dent in my dignity. (one day I will pay attention to that liltle voice in my head when it tells me that slope could be slippery)

But that is not what this entry is about, but its about camp routine

What I mean with camp routine is not just setting up your camp, that I could not practice since our base camp was  a B&B, from which we made our trips everyday for a week deep into the woods in France looking for those forgotten traces of the war. Camp routine is also comming back to your base, taking your shoes and socks off, rincing out clothes and swapping into the “dry gear”.

And that is what I experimented with and even though i had been told what and how to do it, I was thourougly surpised on how well it worked. The weather we had was fine, not extremely hot yet, but when you are clambering up and down steep slopes, through threnches and undergrowth plenty of sweating is done (and again the first two days I learned how much water you actually loose and how not drinking enough will come back at you).

So what was the routine:

  1. Get out of the clothes you wore during the day (duh!)
  2. Rince feet with cold water (ow goodie that feels goodie)
  3. thourougly rince (and soak!) socks, T-shirt and (once every few days) shirt
  4. wring swirl and slap as much water out of your washed clothes as you can and hang it all up
  5. loiter at the bar till dinner was served (or in  a outdoor situation, cook dinner)

So what was the result?
Well very good actually, both my T-shirt and shirt would be dry or as good as dry the next morning, during the whole week I did not use any soap whatsoever, just rincing and soaking for 10 to 15 minutes did the job and the T-shirt and shirt stayed perfectly fresh.

The socks needed more time, they would not be dry the next morning and I wouldnt wear slightly damp socks knowing I would have to do 15 to 20 kilometers that day, so 3 pairs is a must, two is cutting it to fine since my feet are my main asset for 4 months in 2015  (in summer with warm temperatures  the socks probably would dry, but the added weight of one extra pair is not worth the agony ;). also I noticed that just rincing and soaking on socks may not be enough (yes.. sorry ladies us guys do smell our clothes just to check :P). The socks were fresh-ish but not as fresh as the T-shirt. Where I can now safely say i could use the rince/soak routine for months on a t-shirt and it will work, I’m not sure on it sockwise, a litle soap is probably better in that case…which brings me to soap..

Soap: I’ve known this for quite a while now, but a different soap for showering, and one for your hands/washing, and one for your clothes and one for shaving and one for doing the dishes etc. is just BS!..trust me it trully is. A simple block of (unperfumed) soap worth 90 cents is all you need. It wil take care of all your cleaning needs!

Last but certainly not least: washing oneself, we (western humantiy) trully  seem to have gotten realy lazy on that part, I had the luxury of a shower in in my room for sure,  but ffs whats wrong with a cloth/your hands, some soap (yes that same cheap block) and some care, 5 minutes later you are all fresh, presentable and not offending anyone!

A couple of notes:

  • My clothes are hi-tech outdoor materials, cotton or wool would certainly take longer to dry
  • If you run into a week long downpoor it’s going to be a challenge no matter what

Did I learn anything?
Of course I did! Mainly what I thought would work, actually did (isn’t that nice 🙂 ? ) and I may be switching my routine to wearing one,  drying one, to: one wearing while hiking and one wearing in camp ( more of a jungle setup). Both systems are very close, but are different in principle.

And that’s it for this entry, this time not a lesson from failure, but from success, which is always great:)

Regards

Hans

PS: Yes I will blog pictures from my latest trip, but that is for a later blog!

 

Food for Thought

So far, since I decided to actually do this walk,  a lot of work has been done, fun work as I would call it

  • Trying gear, swapping gear, re-trying gear, testing gear ideas ..and failing.. rince repeat
  • Taking every opportunity to walk with my backpack(s)..even if this means an hour around the block at 10 PM at night
  • Making decissions on what to take with me and what not (that probably wont be done till the day I actually leave for the Belgian coast 😉
  • Looking at food stuff, deciding what meals can be created from stuff your average supermarket could have, that won’t spoil easily (I can’t take hiking food for 4 months with me, and since an average christmascard can take up to 3 months to arrive at my friends in Normandy I’m not going to trust poste restante)

But there is of course a lot of non-fun stuff that will have to be dealt with: Insurances (standard travel insurance doesn’t cover a 4 month trip abroad), what route to take in detail (though I have GPS tracks), making sure bills keep being paid, financing the trip, where to stay in the evenings…

It’s one thing planning a one or two week trip, things seem to get a litle more complex when you start thinking about “months” …

Even though I’ve now been preparing for this for quite a few months, I still have moments at night where I lie awake, wondering what the hell I’ve gotten myself into, and the next day? I feel like I’m 100 meters tall..floating on air, ready to conquer the world, ready to just say sod it!, grab my kit and just go.. It’s a true rollercoaster sometimes, and no doubt it will be till the end :), luckily lately it’s more ups than downs.

The funny thing is, I’m not doing this with somekind of to-do list or planning software, I do have an extensive gearlist which helps to focus my thoughts (Thanks Johan!), but that’s about it. The rest of it is all buzzing inside my head like some giant 3-D puzzle, chaotic at times, extremely focussed the next time.

And when I’m working on that puzzle, there is always that little voice in the back of my head telling me its allright, it will all come together. It makes me think of an article I read not to long ago on the bbc.com website, about Jamie McDonald, who actually ran across Canada (so what am I worried about??)  and about an interview he gave:

Q: “I was asked how I’d prepare for the more than 5,000 miles that lay ahead of me”
A: “I answered truthfully and said that I wouldn’t – no amount of training or planning could have prepared me for this journey”

I guess that is the next hill I need to climb..letting go of trying to prepare for every little detail that I can think of and enjoy the journey, because in the end that is what it is all about … who knows maybe I’m further up that hill than I realise I am.

grts

Hans

PS: Since a few days there is also a Facebook page up about the 14-18 walk, but you will find various other WW1 related articles there , as well. You can find it at : https://www.facebook.com/WW1Walk

 

 

 

 

A trip down memory lane aka Just some pics of various other WW1 excursions

Even though this blog is about my hike along the western front in 2015 and the preparation for it, I have spent already quite a few days walking around the Westen Front. Of course like any “tourist” I shot 100’s and 100’s of pics. I’ve been on wellknown sites but also several less wellknown and quite a few that are rarely seen by anyone and where time seems frozen.

It was visiting those out of the way places that kindled my interest in bushcraft (at first because i was venturing into places where help is not 1 phonecall away and I realised  I wasn’t equiped for it) and what tought me that camping without a ton of stuff to pack and unpack is infinitely more comfortable than going “luxury” camping.  In the end it provided a perfect combination of two hobbies for me..So just for you, some impressions.

A side note on the ammunition you see on 2 of the pictures, for those who happen to wander into the frontline (and most of you will have without knowing, if you have travelled to France or the south east of Belgium), it is still abundant everywhere, if you go off the beaten path you trip over the damn stuff, but just passing a freshly plowed field in flanders or north France, can be enough to see it lying around

…Please! if you ever come across it do not touch, after 100 years it is still as dangerous as it was back than and even something small (like the fuse in the 1st of the 2 pictures  containing amo) will take of your hand (and probably more) off. This stuff can still explode and it will, it actually still injures people to this day and still destroys (farmers) equipment…btw lets not mention what happens to you if you happen to pick a corroded through gas of phosphourous shell 😉

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US begraafpl romagne

 

Last but not least: Don’t ask me where some of these locations are, I wont tell you, unless I know you well, and if you happen to be truly interested in the more remote, non-tourist locations, you can probably hazard a guess of the general area anyway 😉

Packlists

When going on an extended hike, it all boils down to packlists, here is mine for now, still designed around 1 small week solo without support (with water for 1 to 2 days depending on conditions, and food for a week), it still needs some work since it totals at 21,5 kilograms and a bit which is quite a lot!

The food is just a random selection of what one could have around, the redlines are areas where i’ve just made guestimates for weights (so im probably a little below 21,5 kilo’s, but it will do for now.

Areas where there can be improvements are Tool/ict,packing and shelter (I have some ideas for that). Also I can loose some weight in the cooking category by swapping out all nalgene’s by platypus’s

Yes most of it is in ductch, but where it’s not obvious…google is your friend 😉

Kooking
1 firesteel
2 aansteker
1 schuursponsje
1 trangia brandstoffles vol
1 waterfilter inc boek+hoes
1 titanium 500ml pot
1 Ultralight Titanium DX Stand (EBY-257
1 microfgripper
1 trangia brander
1 folding cup
1 folding fork
1 folding spoon
1 platypus
1 Nalgene standaard
1 nalgene folding bottle 1L
1 zelfbouw snijplankje
1 opvouwbord
1 grote zakdoek KL
1 trangia koekenpan + greep van de set hierboven
Shelter
1 hammock
1 treehuggers
1 hoes van tarp
1 Tarp groen
1 slaapzak
1 slaapmat
1 Zak + patch van matje
8 tentharing alu
1 plastic voor op de grond
1 kussen
1 zitmatje
Clothing
1 Reflectiv hesje
1 sea2summit poncho
1 haglof tshirt
1 haglof tshirt
1 overhemd lange mouwen
2 onderboek odlo
1 onderboek odlo
1 outdoorbroek
1 outdoorbroek
1 wandelsokken
2 wandelsokken
1 Wandelschoenen
1 paar slippers
1 zonnebril
1 tropenhoed
1 buff col
1 microfleece
regenjas
Tools/ICT
1 rugged phone
4 aa batterijen
1 trekking poles per paar
1 hoofdlamp
1 Fenix e1
1 roll ducktape
1 ipad mini
1 goal zero leeg
1 Nomad 7
1 usb kabel
1 stekker USB uitgangs spanning
1 Mora compagnion
1 Victorinox
2 10m paracord
1 GPS + hoes
landkaarten
1 iphone
1 DC4
1 Rugzak
1 8L sea2summit drybag
1 35L sea2summit drybag
1 20l sea2summit drybag
1 casio PRW-5000T-7ER
1 kompas
1 schepje
Hygiene/ehbo
1 Tandenborstel
1 microfiber handdoek
1 Scheermes
1 rol wc papier
1 blok zeep
1 potje vaseline
1 EHBO Klein
1 Kneebrace
1 rescue blanket
1 talkpoeder
camfor spray
1 antimug
Various
1 bankpas
1 randomreader
1 creditcard
1 plastic fluitje
1 Velden van weleer
1 zorgverzekeringspas
1 reisverzekeringspas/info
Food
1 Pak zilvervlies rijst
1 blik ravioli
1 pak gedroogde tortelini
3 water per liter
10 Hero n between
8 hardkeks
1 unox hamburgers