Day 2. Béziers to Capestang.

This is just how I imagined the Canal du Midi!

And the Canal du Midi had waited until a day that was pretty special to me personally, before revealing her true beauty. I couldn’t have been happier.

At one point all I could hear were the birds singing and the bees buzzing (with the silence being broken occasionally by the “slap” of a fish breaking the surface of the water).

Idyllic.

The sunshine is not so great for walking in though. Luckily, it was a bit overcast in the morning (before I reached Colombiers for lunch). And by the time that I had eaten my lunch and had started to walk again, the fierce midday heat had dissipated somewhat. Still, it was a welcome relief when I walked through (twice*) the Tunnel de Malpas.

tunnel-de-malpas-opt

*The tunnel actually ends with a flight of stairs which take you up and over the canal, with the towpath recommencing on the other bank. However, there is no handrail on these steps (which are also quite steep), so discretion won out, and I walked back through the tunnel (and it was just *so* cool in there). A simple path then takes you over the top of the tunnel (ignore the 3.2km diversion signs).

After that, it was a pretty straightforward walk to Poilhes, and then onto Le Viala where I am staying for a couple of nights (while I give my feet a chance to recover).

Home for the next 2 nights 🙂

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Day 1. Agde to Béziers.

My first day of walking proper. And who would have guessed that I’d need to leave the glorious sunshine of Scotland, and travel to the south of France to remember what clouds look like.

And rain. LOTS of rain!

round lock at agde-opt

The famous Round Lock at the start of the Canal du Midi towpath in Agde

The canal actually begins in Sète, but there is no proper towpath to follow, as the canal simply empties into the Étang de Thau between Sète and Agde.

It wasn’t actually raining when I set-off from Agde, but just before I reached Vias the heavens opened.

And as some of the towpath is just dry earth, when it gets even a little bit wet, it turns into an ice-rink for me. So I jumped on a bus for the last few miles!

frederique&laura_choquet_cs hosts in Beziers-opt

Frederique & Laura Choquet. My wonderful supporters in Béziers.

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Day -1. Beziers Aeroport to Agde.

It took me only 2 minutes in France to realise why I’ve been living like a monk/hermit for the last 6 months.

And to know that it was well worth the endurance.

It also only took me 2 minutes to realise that I had to leave Scotland, and travel to the south of France, just to remember what a proper cloud looked like! [If you look closely at the pic I took for Lou, you might spot a few grey/white things in the sky).

chez-lou*.JPG

As I don’t start walking in earnest until tomorrow morning, I reckoned that it might be a good idea to try something a wee bit shorter today (just to check that it was all possible).

The shape of things to come?

All of my walking today was beside busy roads. And the wind was also whistling in my ears. But during a break in the traffic which coincided with a break in the wind, all that I could hear were birds singing and the rustle of leaves in the breeze.

And once I start walking along the canal towpath tomorrow morning, that’s it for 3 weeks. Just me, the birds and the animals. And the occasional put-put-put of a passing canalboat.

And to top it all off in style, I finished my evening in a wonderful little pizza restaurant in Cap d’Agde run by a friend of my CouchSurfing host tonight (the amazing Said):

said-richard-me*

said-balloon*

 

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Scholl and Mary Jean. A real test.

scholl-shock-absorbing-insoles

Roadtest 1: Scholl Shock Absorbing Insoles.

When I first wore my Hi-Tec V-Lite Altitude Pro walking boots over a year ago, they fitted my feet like a glove. Straight out of the box.

However, now that I have clocked up one or two miles while wearing them, they are starting to feel a bit “roomy” (even with my extra-thick kilt socks).

And, having looked at the sole-wear prior to my recent walk around Arran, I wasn’t even sure that they would make it this far. But I reckon they now might just make it to the end of my upcoming walk along the Canal du Midi in France.

200 miles!

But “roomy” walking shoes means that your feet can move around while you are walking. Which means friction. Which ends up with the walker’s nightmare:

Blisters!

So, before I set off for France, I have been looking for some kind of additional insole. An insole which will make my walking boots feel snug again.

And as the market now has gel-cushioned insoles, my first thought was “not only can I buy an additional insole to tighten my walking boots again, but I can also buy a cushioned insole which should make my feet feel even more comfortable”.

My first choice of insole, which my local supermarket doesn’t stock, was the Scholl GelActiv Insole. But they did stock Scholl’s “Shock Absorbing Insoles” – which the packet says are made with “highly durable gel”. So they look promising enough.

The next 200 miles will tell!

So the insoles:

First, the cost. At just £6 for the pair, they were a lot cheaper than the GelActiv alternatives that I was aiming to buy.

And the size. It’s a case of “one-size fits all” I’m afraid. Well, assuming that your shoes are size 12 or less. Size 12 is the maximum size that these insoles cater for. You simply trim the insole to the size required – using the very simple, and easy to follow, trimming guides.

And as my boots are size 10, I got out my scissors.

Now trimmed to my size, the next 200 miles will tell me just how well-spent my £6 was.

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Roadtest 2: Mary Jean Highland Midge Lotion.

Well, if it’s good enough for the ravenous wee Scottish buggers, then it should be more than a match for anything that I encounter in rural France!

And as Mary Jean products are “natural”, I will be even happier (I just hope that there is no sunscreen property included – as my milky-white legs could do with a good tan!).

This should be a good test of the product. After a long winter, the French biting insects will be extra-hungry. And as the Canal du Midi passes through some extremely rural regions (part of the attraction), and as the water in the canal will be a magnet for every insect in southwest France, I shouldn’t have to wait long for my first encounter.

So Mary Jane “Highland Midge Lotion” – do your best!

highland-midge-lotion

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The First Step….

[photo credit: www.edinburghairport.com]

They say that every journey begins with a single step.

And my first step, to get to the starting point of my walk along the Canal du Midi in the south west of France, from where I am in Ayr, will be to head north & east!

To Edinburgh Airport!

And as my flight to the south of France leaves at silly o’clock on Wednesday morning, I will have to spend tomorrow night in the airport (with matchsticks keeping my eyes open I suspect).

The airport bible that is Sleeping In Airports suggests that I might have a long sleepless night ahead of me.

Weather-wise, having to head to Edinburgh first has turned out to be quite lucky, as I understand that it is a bit cloudier over there. I have just opened the curtains to yet another (!) cloudless sky here in Ayr.

And I really don’t like leaving Scotland when the sun is shining (unless it is shining brighter & warmer at my destination). So as the weather in the south of France has been worse than that in Ayr for the last few weeks, I’m off to do my Scottish Raindance!

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£1,000 raised!

Brilliant news!

The initial £1,000 donations target has just been reached.

My heartfelt thanks go to everyone who has helped me reach this milestone.

Your donations are used IMMEDIATELY by Ataxia UK in their quest to find a cure for this very rare neurological condition. That’s the beauty of collecting in this way (they don’t have to wait for me to complete my walks before they can access the donations).

Which is just as well. Because your £1,000 donations just spur me on to walk some more!

This year I will walk around the Isle of Arran here in Scotland (55 miles); walk along the Canal du Midi in France (200 miles); and then either continue walking in France (and possibly on to the Camino de Santiago in Spain/Portugal), or walk around the coast of Ireland (well over 1,000 miles).

So my next target is to raise £2,000!

Whenever you hit the big red DONATE button, 100% of your donation goes directly, and immediately, to Ataxia UK. And if you are a UK taxpayer, and tick the GiftAid box/option, the UK government will make an additional donation of 25%.

Which actually means that Ataxia UK receive 125% of your donation.

Thank you all for your very kind and generous support!

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A Walk Around Ireland

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At just 170 miles wide and 301 miles in length, it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that the coastline of Ireland is 1,970 miles long!

Why so long? Ireland’s continual battle with the relentless pounding of the powerful Atlantic Ocean has resulted in a deeply indented coastline, especially in the south-west.

Although the route that I will be following is much closer to 1,000 miles.

Still, it is a wee bit longer than my 500 mile walk in Spain last year.

So, starting from Dublin, I’ll walk around the coastline of Ireland, in a clockwise direction, before returning to Dublin – a wee bit later.

The Burren, Connemara, Dingle, Donegal, Ring of Kerry, Tipperary and The Wild Atlantic Way. And not forgetting the cities: Belfast, Cork, Derry and, of course, Dublin.

This is going to be some walk!

Supporters:
hitec120 Hi-Tec Europe
Hi-Tec have been my footwear supplier right from the beginning. And, again in Ireland, it will be Hi-Tec walking boots, and their RollinGait technology, that help keep me plodding along.
Website | Facebook | Twitter
ann-bennett Ann Bennett
One of the original supporters of my planned Canada walk, Ann is now sponsoring me on one of the days of my walk around Ireland. Thank you Ann!
Facebook
afl-building-supplies AFL Building Supplies
Offering 1000’s of quality building and construction products at low trade prices, AFL Building Supplies is the one stop shop for the trade or the DIY’er.  If you can’t find it online then call them on 0151 353 1898, and they will do their best to find the product that you need.
Website | Facebook | Twitter
tweedmans-vintage Tweedmans Vintage
Tweedmans Vintage is an online UK vintage clothing shop offering top quality classic modern, second-hand designer, ex-hire formal attire, new retro and true vintage men’s clothing and accessories. Buy top quality menswear at affordable prices!
Website | Facebook | Twitter

And YOU can be part of my walk….

[top photograph courtesy of Tourism Ireland]

And YOU can help keep me walking!

In my race against time, and having just completed a 500 mile walk in Spain, I am already planning my next walking/fundraising adventure.

Obviously, it has to be something even bigger! So:

A wee wander around France it is. From Nice on the Mediterranean, to somewhere (possibly Dunkirk) on the north coast [but because of a knee injury sustained on my previous “walk” (along the Canal du Midi) which is currently preventing me from doing much “walking”, I will also use public transport where possible].

Over the Summer of 2017.

And you can be part of it!

As well as physically helping myself on these walks (my GP did say to walk as far as possible – I doubt he meant *this* far though), I am also raising money for Ataxia UK, the registered ataxia charity here in the UK.

Therefore, wherever possible, I am trying to minimise expenses. All money saved is added to the funds that I have already raised for Ataxia UK.

So to help fund my walk through France, I am seeking a limited number of overall walk supporters, and up to 100 supporters of the specific days when I’ll be walking.

And the good news for supporters?

This is now a very visible event.

It has to be – as my main aim for these walks (over-and-above raising funds for Ataxia UK), is to raise public awareness of the ataxia condition.

As a result of this, I am always looking for positive publicity.

Which, in turn, generates extremely positive, and widespread PR, for those helping to fund the continuation of my walks too.

And I’m now extremely happy to report that the national media (here in Scotland), as well as media outlets in France & Italy, are now reporting on my walks:

https://kiltedwalker.com/2017/01/10/kilted-walker-in-the-media/

There are 3 different ways (including an absolutely cost-free option) that you can help fund the continuation of my walk through France and, by doing so, become an integral part of this event:

Option 1. Major Supporters.

As with the previous walk in Spain, I envisage only a handful of major supporters.

Major walk supporters’ logos are displayed on the page detailing a particular walk, and these logos are linked directly to the official websites of the supporter.

In addition to this permanent feature, major supporters are “tagged” in various social media posts, and their products/services/support are highlighted as being vital to my walks. For an example, please see how Hi-Tec (a supporter of my Spanish walk – they are my walking boot suppliers) are mentioned/promoted in this recent article that I posted on Facebook (with a photograph of their product/boots of course):

https://www.facebook.com/kiltedwalker/posts/896465993820365:0

The cost of becoming a major supporter of my Summer 2017 walk is just £250.

The funds raised in this way will be used to pay for flights and insurance. As previously stated, all funds that are unused at the end of the walk will be added to the sum donated to Ataxia UK.

I use PayPal to securely process all financial transactions. They do take a small commission for processing the payment, but I have found that this is the most cost-effective way to collect funds for the trip.

If you would like to support any of my awareness-raising/fundraising walks, by becoming a major supporter, please click the PayPal “Buy Now” button below:


Buy Now Button

Option 2. Day Supporters.

“Day Supporters” are supporters of each of the individual days of the walk. Every social media post that I make on (or of) that day includes a link to that day’s supporter’s website and/or social media pages. This will be in addition to a daily post in which I will specifically thank that day’s supporter, for making the day possible.

The money that I raise from “Day Supporters” will be used to feed & water myself each day.

So I expect that there will be lots of French foodie pics this Summer 🙂

The cost of becoming a “Day Supporter” is just £25.

Again, any funds not used by myself on these walks, will be added to the sum donated to Ataxia UK.

If you would like to support my walks, by becoming a “Day Supporter”, please click the PayPal “Buy Now” button below. You are then able to support as many days as you wish:


Buy Now Button

Option 3 (completely free). Online shopping.

There is a cost-free way to support me too (and you could even save yourself a few quid at the same time!). Simply do your online shopping, at some of the biggest names in online shopping, via the links in the “KW Fundraising Shop” at:

https://kiltedwalker.com/the-kw-shop/

You just shop (and save) as normal, via the retailers’ own websites. The retailer gives me a few pennies for sending you their way.

You save. I walk some more. Everybody wins!

Thank you for your very kind and generous support!

The Wooden Monkey, Halifax, Canada.

With one of the finest restaurants in Halifax, and a recent addition in Dartmouth, The Wooden Monkey is the place to eat locally grown organic produce.

Not only am I really looking forward to the delicious food that they serve, I am extremely happy to dine with people who provide material support for the local farmers who share their commitments to human health and the environment.

Excellent food – from the heart! I am so looking forward to enjoying a taste of “The Green Tsunami”!

I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to Canada, as I walk 3,900 miles across the nation. Especially in a year when Canada is celebrating 150 years since Confederation. #Canada150

I would like to thank all at The Wooden Monkey for your very kind support!

As would everyone at Ataxia UK I am sure 🙂


The Wooden Monkey Website: www.thewoodenmonkey.ca

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheWoodenMonkey/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheWoodenMonkey

Castlekirk, B&B and Art Gallery, Lochranza, Isle of Arran.

When Vicki Hudson, the owner of Castlekirk (and a resident artist), heard of my upcoming walk around Arran, not only did she offer me a bed for the night, she also offered a warming meal after the long slog up the west coast of Arran from Blackwaterfoot! This will be the longest day’s walk during the 4-day trek around Arran, so just knowing what awaits in beautiful Lochranza will definitely make the walk seem a lot shorter!

I will now not be alone though. A couple from Kent (Karen Servadei and Graham Fryatt) will now be joining me, and when Vicki heard of this change of plans, she was only too happy to extend her very kind and generous offer to them too.

Vicki – you are a star! There are no words to express just how fortunate we are to know you. And we all can’t wait to meet you, and to see Lochranza for the first time. I visited Arran many times when growing up (it was our Summer holiday destination when I was a nipper), but I never made it up to Lochranza. So I’m rather excited.

For Karen and Graham though, it will be their first time in the west of Scotland. So I am really looking forward to showing them the majesty of Arran .

Karen and Graham are a very interesting couple. In 2014, they climbed Kilimanjaro, with Graham’s son Iain (another Iain who spells his name correctly 😉 ). The story becomes really inspiring once you learn that Iain made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro – in his wheelchair/trike!

Read up on IainsKiliChallenge – and be prepared to be seriously impressed!


Castlekirk website: www.castlekirk.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Castlekirk