We’re now nearing the end of the year 2019 and so it is time to look back and reflect. I feel like it has been a year of balance – in work vs rest, action vs calmness, training vs relaxing, surprised vs routine. Above all I feel that 2019 will leave a mark in our mind: we have trained patience, endurance, motivation, visualization, understanding and goal-setting. We have also, over and over again, learned to trust the process and simply wait for the Universe to give us the answers. So far so good.
Our year started in Switzerland, where we celebrated the change from 2018 to 2019 with our lovely colleagues at Paarsenn Sport in a very grown-up way and went to bed early. We worked at Davos all the way until the start of April, filling our free time with skiing/snowboarding and lots of training (as we were preparing to run our first 100km ultra). We ran with colleagues in the dark in the evenings and alone in the dark in the mornings. We learned to ski on powder (well, not perfect yet!), hiked up some mountains and had countless dinner parties with some of our awesome colleagues. Some of my family also visited and so did three people we’d met on trail on the PCT (T-Bone aka Dr Mayer, Calculus and Hanne)!
Then it was time to dig our van out of the 2 metres of snow and start our vanlife properly! As a warm-up we met up with two PCT co-hikers for a day hike, then hiked on our own for a day and then visited Matterhorn for some snow-hiking. Riding over those steep up&downhill mountain passes then took us straight into Chamonix in France, where we met up with an old friend of ours for some skiing and snow-hiking. We also purchased all new climbing gear (as we had lost all of our gear in the US) and did a couple of days of rock climbing and made a new friend from the States.
But then it was time to move on – North through France. We drove mostly on smaller country roads to avoid the expensive highways and parked at climbing crags for the nights, climbed in the mornings. When we reached Calais we did a long 30km run and got ready for our afternoon ferry to UK.
Our purpose in UK was two-fold: hike for 40 days to practice for the Mountain Leader Assessment while also training for an 100km ultra run. This, however, worked out really well in combination with vanlife: we visited Scotland, Lake District, Peak District and Snowdonia, hiked in every weather and every terrain. A great colleague of ours from Switzerland borrowed to us a ton of his OS maps. We also nearly died in Cairngorms but mostly had a really great time. Mentally challenging was to just go out EVERY SINGLE DAY for 40 days in a row because we had so little time to get it done in time. Most afternoons and free days we spent rock climbing or running long distances.
A week before our 100km race we drove over to the south of England to stay a couple of days with our PCT friends Life Hack and Yellowjacket. At the same time we hatched a plan with an old acquaintance of ours (that we had met in France while bike-touring) who was going to crew us for the race. We did some yoga, more climbing and lots of relaxing until it was time to get into race mode. The run itself was quite uneventful besides me getting lost and then injured, having to quit, and Kristians running like a madman to finish in 13 hours. And then I learned to drive 1) our van 2) on the wrong side of the road as Kristians couldn’t walk for a couple of days. We then spent a couple of days parked in a lovely green forest and took one last hike with that same acquaintance, who happens to also have the Mountain Leader Award, to put a final touch on our night-nav skills.
And then it was time for the 5-day assessment, for which we were blessed with both great weather, great leaders and amazing coursemates. All went well despite my small hiccup when it came to transitioning from 1:25000 to 1:50000, but I quickly adjusted. The results: passed in flying colours!
Straight after getting the results we drove to Dover and got on the ferry, followed by a 2000km drive to Riga. We really enjoyed the freedom of carrying our bed in our car with us in order to have a proper rest whenever we needed it.
We spent some fee days in Riga with Kristians’ family, mostly still recovering. Then we headed onwards to Tartu to spend some time with my family, followed by going to Järva-Jaani to spend some time with the other half of my family. And then we spent half a day in Tallinn to see some friends and off we went for our 32 hour flight to Zambia, followed by a 17 hour busride, a night in a dodgy hotel and a 45 minute boatride to reach our destination by Lake Tanganyika in the Northern Province. This was Eventure Zambia.
We would spend the next 6 months here – being facilitators: helping volunteers reach their goals, advancing the skills of the local staff, developing our leadership skills in a completely different way and being a link between the Danish administration and the project itself.
We are now, as I am writing this, midway through December. Up until now we’ve been through it all: the heat and sweating, the lowest and highest moment with the academy pupils and the staff, the most irritating and most rewarding challenges with the volunteers and a couple of opportunities to lead some hikes in the bush. We also celebrated our birthdays here and are about to celebrate Christmas and New Year, too.
It’s been tough, no doubt, partly with the limited “cool” periods that we’ve had for training, sprinkled with overuse injuries. But we’ve also hiked into the bush without any maps, improvised our way through the thorns and down the hills, been touched on the ass by local kids while running through the village, kayaked for miles without back support, with a cramping leg and nearly flipping over three times, only to find all our belongings completely soaked after removing them from the “dry” compartment. And now we’re about to embark on a week-or-so long hike into the bush, only knowing the general direction, an overall target and having a machete to help us along. But about that we’ll post separately, if we make it back alive…