Tag Archives: climbing

Active in the Algarve

For some reason I’d written off the Algarve as being horribly overdeveloped tourist trap like the worst of the Spanish Costas. On absolutely no evidence whatsoever, just general snobbery about package destinations (says the man whose favourite place is Ibiza). Turns out I was quite wrong.

After a typically early flight from Gatwick we arrived in Faro, we were able to take advantage of the stupidity of all the other passengers – there was an enormous queue for the manual passport control, with electronic passport readers next door with no queue whatsoever, allowing us to skip right past them, straight to the front of the taxi queue and onto the station just in time to catch the train to Lagos.

Lagos itself isn’t the most beautiful town in the world (although it has its charms), but where it scores is with the coastline. Starting from the harbour there is a string of little coves dominated by huge golden sandstone cliffs, running all along the coast towards Sagres (formerly seen as the end of the world, before explorers headed out beyond them into the Atlantic in the 15th century).

Sandstone cliffs & stacks at Praia Dona Ana, Lagos

Sandstone cliffs & stacks at Praia Dona Ana, Lagos

The cliffs were fun enough to walk across on the first afternoon. Much more fun was tackling them on bikes. Only a week after my first proper ride in years, I found myself bombing along the coast on dirt tracks trying not to plummet over the edge. I’m now quite taken with this cycling lark, might even have to buy a bike before I go away. Although I probably need to learn to be a little more careful before tackling the ride down the world’s deadliest road in Bolivia next year; a couple of times I was a bit overambitious and came off the bike. It’s all worth it for the war-wounds though.
Always make sure youre going fast enough when cycling up a 45 degree embankment

Always make sure you're going fast enough when cycling up a 45 degree embankment

The other main activity of the weekend was less of a success. Despite my indoor course back in June, my first attempt at outdoor climbing was a bit rubbish. I just didn’t have the confidence to really commit to some of the tougher footholds (despite being on a rope). I have no idea why I’m happy to head downhill at high speed on a bike over rocks, ignoring the risk of being flipped over the handlebars, but worry so much more about falling while climbing, even though the rope means that’s much safer. Think I need to get some more practice in before next year (although despite being a rubbish climber, I still think the photos look quite impressive)

Me. Half-way up a cliff.

Me. Half-way up a cliff.


My arms ache today. In places I barely knew had muscles.

I suppose if I’d actually stopped to think it through in advance, I’d probably have realised that hanging off a wall just holding on with your fingertips and toes would be kind of exhausting.

My first indoor climbing lesson started pretty slowly – learning how to put a harness on, and how to tie knots properly. As usual, I got really impatient and just wanted to be out there on the wall.

Later on while I was at the top of the wall about to abseil back down, I looked at the knot I’d tied earlier and it began to sink in that the knot was the only thing stopping me from plummeting to the floor. Miracolously it held, but it shook me up enough to realise this isn’t like school – not paying attention properly in Maths is hardly likely to put you in a life or death situation. I shall be focusing more next time!

The two hour class flew by in the end, and after the initial nerves, the feeling of climbing up a vertical wall was really exhilarating, like being Spiderman. Although with it being the hottest day of the year so far, my hands remained sweaty enough for me not to get overconfident, as I constantly felt in danger of slipping. Can’t wait for next week now (and at least, knowing the English summer, it will be cooler next time).

Leaving the comfort zone

Reading this post really resonated with me.

Before I went to Laos at Christmas I was worried it might be a lonely trip – I’d never been away for three weeks on my own before, and I’ve always been really shy when it comes to introducing myself to new people. When i got there I quickly realised I needed to just get over my fears and go out and talk to people – and guess what? It really wasn’t anywhere near as hard as I thought it would be…and by the end of the trip I ended up spending New Year’s Eve with a bigger group of people than I’d ever spent it with back home.

New Year\'s Eve on Don Det, Laos

I’ve really noticed the effect on my confidence since I got back – both socially and at work.

An obvious part of the desire to travel is to see and experience new things, and my experience at Christmas has shown me I want to make sure lots of those new things are ones that lie outside my comfort zone.

To that end, I’ve just signed up for a beginners’ climbing course – I have a slight fear of heights, so figured forcing myself up cliffs will be a great way of confronting my fears!