Swimming 10km in the river Dart (UK)

The Dart 10k is an open water swim in the Dart river in South Devon (United Kingdom). It is usually hosted in the beginning of September and gathers more than a thousand of swimmers of all ages and abilities, who aim to reach the village of Dittisham starting from the town of Totnes.

 

As I walk towards the start line of my 10k swim in the river Dart on an early morning of September, I think about the dozen of messages of encouragement I woke up to that morning: from colleagues, triathletes, family and friends… If many people run a marathon, not so many have swam one, elevating those who would even consider signing up to the status of super humans. I look around but the only thing I see is a bench of weirdos in highly unsexy rubber one pieces, ready to dip in a muddy cold water on a Sunday afternoon while the smart ones of this world have not even finish their first cup of coffee (or tea).

1600 swimmers took part in the 2017 Dart 10k. Here: the start in Totnes

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A week-end of hiking on the South Downs Way (UK)

I have always liked long distance trails. I like the idea of going from A to B by the simple power of your legs. The idea of hiking part of the South Downs Way came as I was looking for ideas of activities with mum, who was visited me for a few days. But I didn’t want to spend hours in transportation. I wanted an epic week-end adventure just a stone thrown from London, mixing sea and countryside. I had heard about the Seven Sisters hike so I decided we should tackle the last part of this national trail. We went up steep climbs, avoided cows, had fun on bales of hay, embraced Sussex views and ended up with our toes in the English channel – all under beautiful summer skies.

The north panorama from Firle Beacon, highest point of the hike

The South Downs Way

The South Downs way is a 100 miles trail crossing the protected area of the South Downs National Park. Officially you should start from Eastbourne all the way up to Winchester cathedral but honestly, who cares?

I was surprised  by the diversity of the landscapes of this section of the South Downs way we explored: rural, a 200m high plateau out of nowhere offering views from all around but also a forest, walking along rivers and ending up at the sea. I enjoyed being able to point at where we started and to follow the path from the distance. It is amazing how far you can go if you just keep walking.

There are as many ways to hike the South Downs Way as they are people: you can go wild camping and carry all your food for the trip, you can cycle, you can stay in comfy B&B, and you can break it down in small or big chunks. Carrying a simple map (a must) allows you to know where you are and to identify towns in the distance which is always fun ; the path is clearly marked, so you don’t need great navigation skills.

A marathon of hiking in two days

Difficulty: medium – no technicality but our second day was a long one. See alternatives if you want something a bit less demanding

Distance: 43km / 27 miles

Start and end: Lewes to Eastbourne, both accessible by train from London (hourly).

 

Day 1: Lewes – Southease, 12km

Day 1: Lewes to Southease

We left from London just before 16.00 and arrived in Lewes by 17.00. We quickly forgot about the packed commuter train and crossed the town. The road we walked went from two lanes to one, became more narrow, turned into a small path and finally, it opened into a big field and we met with the trail. Windmills, cows, sheep and field – London seemed so far.

After almost 3 hours of hiking, we arrived at the  YHA in Southease where we spent the night. It is a comfortable, modern and client hostel ; a twin room costs 70 GBP, breakfast 6.20GPB, and you also can buy dinner or a packed lunch. Self catering kitchen is also available. (If you are on a budget, these is also a campsite in Eastbourne).

Day 2: Southease – Eastbourne, 31km

Day 2: Southease to Eastbourne

On day two we left the hostel by 9am and continued our hike to the highest point of the weekend. We then descended to the cute and buzzing village of Alfriston, before turning south until we reached the coast. While on Friday we met many local going for an evening walk or jog, on Saturday the crowds got bigger and bigger as we were getting closer to the coast. The Seven Sister walk is a really day hike and though we were far from having the path from ourselves it didn’t really bother us. And then, Eastbourne was in sight!

Eastbourne was much more charming that I expected: the victorian sea town is protected in a nice bay, the pier is airy, with lots of space to sit and enjoy the scenery and there are plenty of places to eat out.

The next day we caught the direct train back to London (hourly, 18 GBP, 1h30), it was fun to look through the window to catch a glimpse of the area we walked, it looked so different.

 

Hiking alternatives on the South Downs Way

I would not change much if I would do it again. It is always fun to start your adventure right after work on a Friday and to arrive walking at the first accommodation and it was fun to challenge ourselves to walk a longer distance on the second day.

  • If you have one more day: You can walk back from Eastbourne to Alfriston via the cycling way or spend the day on the seaside sailing, kayaking etc
  • If you want shorter distances: Take the train to Southease, walk the 10km until Alfriston and tackle the last part of the trail on the second day.
  • If you have 2 full days of hiking, consider balancing the distances by breaking it down as follow: Lewes – Alfriston (22km), Alfriston – Eastbourne (20km)

NB: There are no train connection to Alfriston, only buses.

The Seven Sisters walk

Make it happen

Traveling light

We travelled light, with a 25L backpack each, carrying just food and water for the day, a change of clothes and enough toiletries to make ourselves presentable. We didn’t go dirt cheap but we didn’t go all in, the goal was to find a balance that will allow us to enjoy the week-end comfortably without breaking the bank.

On the first day we carried some light food to cook at the YHA. On day two, we had a big breakfast at the YHA,  bought a sandwich at the deli in Alfriston and ended the trip with a celebration dinner at an indian restaurant in Eastbourne (Indian restaurant Tuk-Tuk on Terminus road – absolutely delicious).

Useful links

  • The National trail website is a mine of information to plan your trip. The website include places to stay and tips on where to buy food or get water but also a route calculator function that is really handy!
  • Thanks to Rambling Man for the inspiration of his blog, he took over the all trail over several week-end.
  • Southern railway website for timetables and booking tickets online if you want (or just buy at the station).

Check more week-end adventures in England.

A week-end of hiking in Peak District National Park (UK)

It started with a misunderstanding. I had been talking for a few months about going for a week-end to explore the Lake District area, in the UK. Imagine my surprise when unwrapping the paper of my birthday present I discovered a guide of the best hikes in Peak District instead. But it didn’t really matter, I didn’t return the guidebook and instead we book a week-end to celebrate spring and the return of the outdoors season on this maybe less hyped destination. And guess what? Peak District didn’t disappoint me.

For this week-end we choose two hikes that we believe will offer the most dramatic landscapes, they also happen to be among the most popular. But outside of the week-end, you will have the hills for yourself!

Hill walking on Kinder Low plateau (Peak District, UK)

 

Day 1: Kinder Low hike

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One week itinerary on the Cote d’Azur (French Riviera)

The French riviera is probably known mostly around the world for its glamour, beauty and amazing coast line. For me, a girl from the north of France, used to grey skies and dark seas, The Cote d’Azur (Azur coast) name could not be more suitable for this place. It doesn’t matter if you are strolling by the expensive yachts in Monaco or just found the perfect local picnic spot on the rocks, wherever you go, the deep tones of the sea and the blue skies are an amazing background for your explorations.
 In this 7 days itinerary, I am sharing my favorite places in this area. Are you ready for a week of blue sea, luxury, picturesque villages and the fresh air of the sea?

A week where you will always keep nuances of blue in sight!

One week to explore French Riviera

Day 1: A day in pretty Nice

Day 2: Charming Provence village – Saint Paul de Vence

Day 3: A spectacular walk by the Antibes’s Cape

Day 4: An active day exploring the Esterel Massif

Day 5: A day in Cannes

Day 6: Iles de Lerins – Sainte Marguerite

Day 7: Frejus or Monaco

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A beginner’s guide to cycling your first sportive (long distance)

It’s decided: this year, you will cycle with your first “sportive” – the official term used to define a non competitive (not a race) long distance cycling event, a cycling challenge over the 100km or mile mark.
Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, you probably have no idea what you are in for. This article will introduce with with humour to the wonderful world of cycling, full of MAMILs – Middle Age Men In Lycra– fanatic amateur cyclists, or, as the Oxford dictionary defines the word since its entry in 2014 “A middle-aged man who is a very keen road cyclist, typically one who rides an expensive bike and wears the type of clothing associated with professional cyclists“.
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When I set myself to complete, Vatternrundan, the largest sportive in the world (30.000 participants biking a 300km loop around a lake, somewhere in the middle of nowhere in Sweden), my knowledge of biking was limited to the occasional tourist exploration and the standing bike of the spinning class. In this article, I am bursting myths and whispering inadmissible secrets – this is all I wished I had known when I signed up for my first long distance race plus a few funny anecdotes about my journey from newbie to collecting enough knowledge to write this how to guide.

 

Table of contents:

1. How to choose your sportive
2. Cycling gear:
– Bike and Equipement
– What to wear when cycling
3. Training for your first sportive:
– Setting up a training planning
– Other tips
4. Getting ready for race day:
– Last week before the race
– Don’t show up uninformed
– Race day: getting to the finish line
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How to complain about the quality of your gear

Broken backpack straps, headlamp that stops working, leaking tent, broken zipper, holes in shoes? It usually happens at the worst time, and that’s why you should always be ready. On the moment, the only thing you can do is to try to save the day with a trick. I did my Salkantay trek with duct tape around my hiking shoes (duck tape will fix almost everything). It was not pretty but it got me to Machu Picchu!

Once the emergency passed, if the product has clearly not performed as good as you expected, there is only one thing to do: complain and file a warranty claim. Here is a maybe very french topic: 8 steps guide on how to complain about the bad quality of your outdoor gear (and negotiate an exchange or refund).

Bad luck with your gear? Say something!

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Dirt roads and grandiose landscapes: a road trip around Salta (Argentina)

 I always said that you can go almost anywhere by bus in South America. That’s true. But sometimes that the journey which matters and not so much the destination. This post is not about how to get to Cafayate (from Salta you can hop on a bus which drives on the RN68). This article is about taking the dirt roads, going into exploration mode and letting the real fun starts.
Amazing landscapes, dirty roads and at end wine… what else? For the ones who want to take the time to enjoy the landscapes changing km after km,  here is a 2 to 3 days road trip. Rent a car and get lost in the spectacular colours, canyons and rocks of the National Park Los Cardones and of the Sierra de Carahuasi. Adventure starts where good roads end.

 

road trip Salta Cafayate

On this kind of road trip, the co-pilote should not only know how to read a map, but also how to use a camera!

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I tried ski touring and this is why you should too

The wind blowing in our face is getting stronger and stronger the snow starts to fall again, our progression in the powder snow is getting slower.  Off the beaten slopes, I am ecstatic: I am getting my own mini feel for a polar expedition. We are ski touring on the swedish fjall, these old middle mountains with huge plateaux covered in snow, miles away from any living soul (or at least from what we can tell). It is our first time of ski touring but the guy at the ski shop promised it… we will be just fine. How hard can it be?

Off we go – a 360 degrees white of snow landscape

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Gifts that travellers and outdoors lovers actually want

I can’t believe it is already this time of the year. The darkness and the cold -though never an excuse not to enjoy the outdoors-, the frost and… the panic to find the perfect gifts before Christmas… (Yes – how fortunate we are to face such a problem that can keep us busy for the all month!).

I truly believe in the power of giving and the pleasure of finding the perfect gift. However too often Christmas, birthdays or over gifting occasions are a synonym of an accumulation of just more “stuff”, most of it ending up in a drawer and never seeing the light of day again or on Ebay.  It doesn’t have to be… Know some globe trotters, nature lovers, adrenaline junkies? This article is about finding a gift that will make their eyes sparkle!

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How to never be cold again

Miserable. It is the word that sums up the best how you can feel when you are soaked to the bones, shivering, depressed, upset, disappointed and ready to call your mum to tell her to get you home when you are supposed to have fun and enjoy the outdoors. Was it after biking under the rain for 3 hours? Or when the winds of Patagonia were blowing so much that you thought the tent will fly away? Was it after spending the all day with wet feet after following a path that disappeared under the flood?  Everybody who has spent a bit of time outside has one of these war stories.
Never let the weather bring you down again with these simple rules on how to stay warm outside whatever the seasons throw at you.

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