Climbing Ben Lomond

The plastic poncho was flapping wildly in the wind, and the hood was vibrating with a high pitched whine against my eye. The sleet still made its way under the thin plastic and snaked its way down my arms. I reminded myself again that I was doing this on purpose and I was in fact, on holiday. This may not have been fun, but it was satisfying. Life doesn’t always have to be fun, but I am a firm believer in satisfaction, despite what Mick might say.

Ben Lomond at 974 metres or 3196 ft,  is one of the great Munros of Scotland. A short and easy drive from Glasgow ensures its popularity. There are two ascent routes, the “tourist” route and the more challenging climb via the Ptarmigan Trail. I like a challenge so decided to do the second trail. Halfway up, I decided that perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea! All the way up, I was expecting a welcoming crew with champagne on hand and a helicopter to whisk me back down! Due to budgetary cutbacks, my welcoming party were two young Poms who were happy to chat and take a photo for me.

I did it! 3 ½ hours!

Invincible and in the fog almost invisible!!

I passed no-one else on the trail, and no-one overtook me. The path is straightforward to follow in that you can see it at all times.  It is well worn, and although in some areas you scramble over the rocks, the track is never out of view. At no time did I feel like I needed to make a decision on where to go – that was easy – just go UP! I do strongly recommend that you used hiking poles as there are a lot of big step-ups and while manageable it would have been much more comfortable with poles. It is a steep ascent, with switchbacks to ease the climb but the contour lines are VERY close together.

Each time I thought I was at the top and ready to celebrate, the mist revealed another, taller peak behind it. “Will this never end?” The black-faced sheep seemed amused at my mutterings. “Baaa no lady – you have a ways to go yet.”

The signboard in the car park warns you to be well prepared for changes in weather and boy were they right about that. At first, it was sunny, and I took off all my top layers. In 10 minutes it was raining so out comes the over jacket which kept me dry but made me feel like I was in a furnace. I switched to the plastic, disposable rain poncho, which kept me dry and cooler. In the last 500m, I needed to swap this out for the over jacket again because it was in danger of turning into a sail and pushing me off the mountain!

The walk down – ha! A doddle in comparison. A gentle grade most of the way but the rain had made the stones slippery, and care was still needed. This route was like a highway, and I passed at least 70 people making their way to the top. I t’sked at those in shorts and t-shirts with no apparent outerwear. “Oh, dear!” I said to myself “you’re gonna freeze when you get to the top!”

I used this Map (link to download) although Google maps worked well and the signal was very strong at the top.

DON’T do this walk if you do not have a good level of fitness. I’m 58, and my fitness for my age is good but unless you are doing regular exercise and walking this will be a challenge too far!

(video to follow when I have better internet!)

27/8/19: Here is the video finally!

Sydney Airport – my old friend

Hello old friend we meet again. I’m sitting in the departures hall surrounded by people speaking languages I don’t understand. Happy travellers returning home or starting their next adventure?

Check in and security completed with a minimum of fuss, although note to self – the boots with the metal trims? Don’t wear them next time! Rooky error! I’ve streamlined my packing and look smuggly at those who are wrestling with their hand luggage to get out all the liquids while I pop my prepackaged plastic ziplock in the tray. Hazar! Travel Ninga status restored

I have 90 more minutes to waste and I’m wishing I hadn’t had that extra glass of cheap wine to help me sleep! My stomach is a little squeamish. Is that nerves or a hangover. Both, no doubt. I do hope it isn’t the slightly under heated lamb shank I had last night at the hotel.

How things have changed in the years since I took my first international flight. That flight, to Italy, was my first time ever on a plane. It was January 1982. After leaving Sydney we stopped in Melbourne then Perth then Singapore then Bahrain, and finally Rome. Mechanical repairs at Bahrain meant we sat on the tarmac for six hours, air con off, no food, no water. Thirty. six. hours. Thirty of those confined to a tiny seat. Thankfully I was small and could curl up cat-like. Thankfully, I was travelling with someone I could lounge against without concern. The invisible force field surrounding the chair could be extended – a little. The toilets became blocked. The plane remained in that state until we got off in Rome.

Back in those days international travel was a novelty. At least for my family and friends who hailed from more or less working class roots. My brother had been to London a couple of years before but unless you count Lord Howe Island, my parents had never left Australia. The ex’s dad worked for Qantas, so his family flew frequently on staff tickets. Cheap travel sure, but you didn’t count your chickens until the door was closed and cross checked because you could get off loaded if another paying passenger needed the seat.

“Seeing a friend off” was a social occasion. Your friendship group would drive you to the Airport and as payment, you would shout them a few drinks at the Airport Bar before racing to the gate. I don’t remember if there was any security screening but I do remember that your friends could come right up to the departure gate where there were many teary goodbyes.

In 1982 the decor vibe was timber paneling and 70’s orange. Since then, it’s undergone many, many renovations. Every time I come here there are hoardings covering up more promised improvements. It’s bright and airy with charging points and interesting seating nooks. Tom Hanks’ character could live here quite happily.

It’s beginning to brighten up outside as Sydney starts it’s day. Jets have started to leave as the curfew is lifted. Come on Iain, it’s time to move to the gate.

Iain! It’s a bit early!

Travelling Light!

This post is the first in an occasional series of Travel Tip Tuesday Posts. It will be a quick and easy read and include links to (hopefully) useful sites.


I have been on the road enough times that I have some travel hacks sorted out. I know it’s easier to take the ipad and not worry about a computer because you don’t have to put it in a separate tray when you go through the security check. I know you need a different adapter for the UK compared to the US. I take my own extension lead and power board that way I only need one adapter but can plug in all my Aussie devices at once. I know it makes sense to use packing cubes to make organising your suitcase easier. I even have those roll up vacuum bags that you can squeeze the air out of. I know about putting things inside your shoes. I know about making sure you are well dressed when you go to the airport to increase your chance of an upgrade. I know about having my carry-on bathroom stuff in a see-through bag. I know about wearing your heavy clothes on the plane.

This stuff I know!

It’s not the mechanics of packing I have a problem with. What I am not good at is taking the right amount of the right stuff. I always, always always overpack and end up bringing things home clean and pristine, albeit a little wrinkled. I end up wearing the same few things and lamenting my poor choices of what I thought I would wear. I pick up a particular jumper and think to myself “when did I think I was EVER going to wear that. Why didn’t I bring XYZ jumper instead!”

I have learned I don’t need something different to wear everyday but I still take too much. Viz a viz

  • The nice outfit in case I get an invitation to a fancy dinner (hasn’t happened yet!).

  • The fancy shoes to match the nice dress for the yet to materialize dinner invitation.

  • The extra pair of pj’s in case you can’t wash…I have always been able to find some way to wash my clothes, it’s not like I am going to the moon!

  • The 6 changes of shorts/pants/skirts – 4 would probably be plenty

  • The 10 T-shirt’s/shirts/tops – 6 would definitely be enough

  • The jacket and the wet weather jacket – I could get a wet weather jacket that looked ok to wear anytime

  • The hiking boots and runners – I don’t think I can cut down on these. I can’t run in hiking boots and my runners are not sturdy enough to hike in.

It’s not just  the ‘wasted” outfits that are a problem. As a solo traveller I have to be able to manage all that stuff on my own and still be able to fit it and me into a toilet cubicle!

(Just an aside I think that is one of the main hassles of travelling alone – going to the bathroom and having no-one to watch your stuff!)

To date my method is to pile everything up on the spare bed and then only take half – it’s still too much!

I need to be able to hoike that suitcase into the back of the car, onto the train, up the stairs by myself.

For my next trip (to Scotland – I’m excited) I have set a challenge to take just one 15kg checked bag and no carry on other than a backpack. (I will have an overnight layover, so need a change of clothes)  That will give me 8 kg of wiggle room if I end up buying anything.

I have a few months to get organised and I have decided to base my travel wardrobe on the “capsule” theory of a few outfits you can mix and match. 14 items –  30 outfits. That sort of thing. You’ve seen them no doubt.

That’s what I am going to do! You will be my accountability partners!  I will limit myself to 15 items (not including underwear etc) and 4 pairs of shoes. Two of which will be runners and the hiking boots.

Let’s see how I go! I will post again when I am packed.

Here are a few links I will be using to help me out.

https://www.momondo.com.au/discover/article/packing-tips-solo-travel

https://www.skyscanner.net/news/15-best-ever-packing-tips

https://pin.it/b7arfwfydz6gft

https://pin.it/lgomjp46vuzxby

BTW it’s going to have to be a big backpack!