Београд (Belgrade)

I left the UK on the 17th for Serbia, a nice evening flight meant no early mornings. Setting off at half four I found my self a little underwhelmed as though I didn’t really grasp the excitement of my first (kinda) I’ll trip. Though what I did find is that I’m terrible with jackets having forgotten it quater of an hour into the journey and having to turn back.

The flight was rather cramped with no leg room (and I’m 5’6!) But once landing at half 11 it hit me I’m somewhere I’ve never been far away from my little island…this is going to be amazing. This displayed itself as being overly smiley and talkative.

That evening was quiet, I find flying sucks it out of me, and with Alice already in PJs the exploring would wait.

The next day we unsuccessfully navigated our way to a lebbonese resteraunt instead settling for “Big Pizzza” and a salad. After that a twenty minute walk through the cloudy pedestrian zone to the Belgrade Fortress. Where it decided to chuck it down with semi fine rain that soaked through my jeans and airy shoes. But us Brits *posh accent* carry on. Exploring the old fort, climbing up a small tower and looking out over what I can only assume was once a moat. Walking through the eerie cold war bunker, listening to an Amy Whinehouse cover band, and sitting on the walls of the fort looking out on to the rivers Sava and Danube.

After we got lost carried on back tracked and found our way we stopped at a great cafe and got cake and tea…it was so nice we returned later. After drying off a bit we walked passed then in the Tesla museum. It was great, my favourites: getting zapped and the lightning from the magnifying transmitter.

The next day was the train to Zagreb, where I’m currently writing from. Long trip of 8 hour in a hot car (nearly windows open why I have no idea), though you could escape to the car behind which had the individual compartments and lots of windows! Woo! But all suffering comes to an end and we finally made it.

So onwards to explore a land I have never touched before. And try to put aside the world cup from a few years back when they knocked us out….grr.

Preparations

Sorry it’s taken such a long time, what with exams and sorting everything for a two month extravaganza around Europe. My inner perfectionist has come out planning the train routes, the directions from the train station to the hostel, the hostels, the flights and the stuff I’m going to do there.

But more importantly it’s been one massive drain on all the savings I spent so hard to get (working 7 days a week occasionally last summer) both so worth the money, but yet there’s a little part of me that dies inside each time I forked out a load of cash for accommodation, bags, and ironically cash. One thing that is great about preparing for my trip, a part from everything, is that there is so much I can buy from Lush: bars of shampoo and conditioner, really nice soap and so much more, swear I spent about £40-odd in there.

Money was also a bit of a worry, with so many different currencies: Euros, Croatian Kuna, Swiss Franc, Danish Krone, Norwegian Krone, Swedish Krona, and Serbian Dinar. A lot to get. With the Caxton card I got most of the currencies, its great you can get multiple currencies on one card, they don’t charge you for withdrawals at ATMs, and great exchange rates…can’t go wrong. Now just need to make sure I don’t loose this card.

On the topic of gear though, I managed to land myself a good bag, unlike my last foray into Europe, where the first bag broke a week in and then the second by the end of the third week. Never been more inconvenienced. But this time due to the longer stint I’ve decided against taking enough for each day I’m taking the bear minimum. But the Osprey Farpoint 70 is great, got a detachable day bag, opens at the front so I can get to the bottom of the bag without  taking everything out. Thought the main bag is still crammed full so I’ve resorted to taking a picture of everything specifically packed away so that I can remember what goes where. That way I can avoid the last minute panic of trying to stuff different organisers in different arrangements, resulting in me carrying one on the train as I can’t tell where the bloody thing is meant to go. Stressful.

But everything is packed and ready to go everything booked and paid for (or at the very least all the money is there) now I play the waiting game until Saturday night when I get to fly out to Belgrade, Serbia.

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Pilot: bumpy starts.

With the broken right arm (my dominant hand) I haven’t been able to do much, and at times its really frustrating. Before the “incident” my plan had been to drive down to Monkey World and collect data on their four Chimp groups.

Unfortunately I can no longer drive with a cast that stops centimetres from my arm pit. So my mum had to assist in the recording if the observations. With my dad drawing the tables for the recordings with my strict instructions.

The journey down was a series of never ending traffic jams and roadwork pile-up, but we finally made it there. Even if I was getting heat stroke from not being able to shade my arm, or any of me really. As well as the fans being as useful as someone coughing on you: detrimental and slightly warm. But we made it on Friday evening.

Saturday and Sunday morning we sett off nice and early to make it to monkey world, nice sunny day. I even caught the sun. Whilst we were there we collected quite a bit of data, and I got good experience. The pilot study went well I think though I need better card for identification as mine got all mixed up and took an age to sort through most of the time.

What I did realise though is that my ethogram is a mess so I’ve just finished editing it to make more sense to me and a third party. And of course typing the data up from a note book into a clearer table.

I’m still in the early stages however so its likely I’m gonna have to head down Dorset way again and try and observe some more chimps doing their thing. Maybe the next time I won’t be incapacitated

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: we can only hope.

Broken

So on the 27th of March (Monday night) a couple of friends and I were having some nice and calm drinks. Me sipping the rest of the whisky from a previous night, Jack knocking back the beers and Amy and Georgie drinking cheap rose. Good night.

Started as usual few drinks good music, arguments over what is good music, and ridiculous stories. This took the natural progression of trying to do pull-ups and practising crimps on the wooden beam on the ceiling of the living room, learning to Salsa dance (which was surprisingly easy to grasp the basics), and Waltz (which was so damn hard to get). So the only way to progress from there is to try out some moves Jack learned in this weeks jiu jitsu class.

I, of course, volunteered ans Jack showed us the arm lock you put someone in if they grab your lapels. So half crouched and inebriated i decided that I could defiantly get out of this hold if I twist quickly. Surely Jack would be able to maintain his grip if I did that. Well with no warning I twisted and wound up with a broken arm.

Spiral fracture: 6+ weeks in a cast. Exams coming up in mid May and the end of April.

Yeah not a good move.

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Filling time…

Recently there seems to have been a lull in the work day calendars of the groups I work with. This has come at the most inconvenient time as, so far this week, I have had three days off. As such I’m struggling for things to do.

On Monday in my free afternoon I went indoor rock climbing, followed by an evening walk in the lovely sunshine. The rock climbing was so nice and peaceful, usually at the university gym’s wall it is boiling and at the start of each year packed out. Only to lose people through the year weeding them out until it leaves only those who have truly been taken in by it. I am solidly in that category. Though as Jack and I went outside of the club arranged times we got the entire room to our self. No waiting to jump on a rope just “I wanna try that one” and go. Perfect.

Tuesday was a completely free day. A nice lie in followed by breakfast and the doing nothing and wasting time feeling kicked in hard. Sitting in your front room and looking out at the sunshine has an uncanny ability of making you feel bad for doing nothing. So a last minute call to Anglesey Riding Centre was called for. And success as Rachel and I managed to arrange a half an hour hack at 2pm. It was lovely, though I didn’t get to ride the lovely Stilton, Derry was fun too. Though we were slightly worried when five minutes from the centre the skies opened and hail lashed against my car, only to have stopped and the clouds vanish five minutes later. Good. Didn’t want to waste a trip. On the way we also passed a red squirrel centre, which has piqued my interest as I would love to see a live squirrel, instead of the dead ones in the freezers of the university buildings.

The ride was nice and relaxing, on a country dirt track winding around fields full of horses playing, cute little rabbits, and new born lambs. Even managed to get some sunshine, cold sunshine, but still. The horses were fantastic, though Derry the greedy little thing kept yanking his head down to the side of the road so he could grab nibbles of grass. That meant I was yanked forward by the reins and had to try to yank his head out of the grass while kicking him and steering with whatever was my outside leg. Damn difficult to move that boy when he wants food, a pull on the reins would usually only got him to lift his head before going back down for the last blade of grass he missed. And the nudges to the sides may have well been non-existent. He’s a pain especially when the following horse Relma, decided that Derry had caught onto something there and also went to eat the grass. The trouble comes from Rachel having zoned out looking at the view of the mountains across the Menai. As a result she almost fell right over Relma’s neck, and could’ve landed flat on her face. Which would’ve been terrible and hilarious at the same time.

After horse riding we went on another walk, across the slate beach by the harbour and round through the forest until we reached another beach we’d never seen before. One with a bit of sand! A walk along it with some great views of what we guesstimated to be Beaumaris (a town on Anglesey), Puffin Island, and Llandudno (a town on the Welsh mainland).

20170321_160850During the nice stroll the rain started up again, with hail to boot too. Scampering up a hill and over a fence into a muddy field you realise how great trees are, the protection from the worst of the wind and rain is invaluable, especially wen your stupidly wearing a jean jacket. Thankfully I had a hood. The trek through the fields was pretty funny and though at the beginning I tried to save my docs from the horror of the mud i eventually gave up and just trudged through. Getting home at that point was a relief. Nice central heating with dry socks waiting for me.

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That evening was the BUMS (Bangor University Mountaineering Society) trip to the rock climbing wall at Indy, on Anglesey. Good trip out with a newbie climber. Mainly taught her the ropes (quiet literally when how to tie and 8 knot). It was great with having to do the routes, followed by helping Rachel through them which involved “Move your right foot up to the hold around shin height.” only to have to say “No that’s your left, the other one”. But all in all I think she’ll pick it up fine. And free entry to an party just outside of Bangor, who could say no!?

 

I’m sorry for the poor photos, all I had was my phone which isn’t that great at panoramas.

Fencing and fine rain…

As much as I do enjoy the idea of sword fighting someone without actually getting hurt, my day instead was another trip out to Snowdonia. Today a group of 7 Bangor University students (including me) got out of bed at 8:15am to set off to a bog. Literally a bog. Cors Bodgynydd to be precise. And I didn’t have wellies.

The weather was again a monotone of grey which seems to have altered even the yellow paint of the now closed Yellow pub. Anyway nothing can be done about that so when the free minibus organised by the Snowdonia Society arrived we all jumped on with great enthusiasm. The minibus was shockingly comfy, then again at that time in the morning the damp pavement was starting to become appealing. Though with all my past experiences of begin crammed onto a packed out minibus, with climbing gear stuffed in on top and around you, I really did appreciate the space.

We set off. In the direction of my house I  might add. The trip was nice with lulls of consciousness. Arriving at Cors Bodgynydd at 9:45am we received a rainbow and introduction to the area. I learned that:

  1. It not gold at the end of the rainbow; its mud. Lots of mud.
  2. The bog is leased by the wildlife trust, and under their management the coniferous forest has been cut back.

This is only a small patch, within a much larger non-native conifer plantation which previously separated two sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs). This is to increase connectivity between the two areas, making it more open and an increased area for important wetland habitat. Though this management is ongoing, with the conifers continuously seeding, though this is manged using grazing (the most sustainable way, and the reason for our fencing.

The rain started then, or at least thats when I noticed it. It was this awful fine rain which which soaks you through (if you dont have waterproofs) in ten seconds flat, all the while pretending to be only a light little splashing that you could easily make it to the shops to without getting drowned. Damn you deceiving rain.

Before we set off a group leader made my dreams come true by saying she had spear wellies in her car. Though my hopes we shot down when she said the only ones left were size 11. I’m size 6 at the most. Yay. Oh well, can’t get too comfortable or I might enjoy myself. I accepted the wellies as it was better than anything else I had and from past experiences in mountain walking; you can have the best boots in the world and your waterproofs can be tucked around your toes, but in a bog your feet will get soaked.

We set off. Across the bog each carrying our bags and a wooden log. Hopping over a stream and then another we squelched our way to what would be considered base camp. We dumped the bags and got a demonstration of how to hit in a fence post, and how to “staple” the barbed wire in. Today’s work was improving the 20 year old fence by placing more fence posts in and securing the barbed wire to it. I’ve built fences from scratch before and so was expecting the usual post driver, though I was childishly overjoyed to see Mjölnir, Thor’s mighty hammer! Which was, as I’m sure you can imagine, just a big hammer.

We set off in groups: one hitting the post on the head, with the other using a second post to keep the first from falling (whilst angling themselves in odd shapes to avoid a stray hammer to the head). This was tough getting used to as the hammer is difficult to pick up  and hold above that of the 5ft tall post. Not to mention the aim. But once the post had been hit in a good 2ft we then used pegs to hook over the barbed wire and attach it to the post. Leaving enough room for the wire to move is important as it allows the cows who graze on the land to rest their heads on the wire without causing the posts to be yanked out of the ground with it.

The rain continued through the day though with moments of sunshine here and there. At lunch the group leaders set up a collapsing tarp to hide under. We all perch on tree stumps and mounds of cut up conifer twigs whilst we ate lunch and discussed the best weather forecaster. XC weather is fantastic for predicting wind speeds apparently, whilst the BBC are very over cautious with theirs. We then got back to the fencing taking more posts in a pile at the other end of the fence. A fun trek which would take five minutes if it wasn’t forgetting stuck in bog every 30 second resulting in a 15 minute trip all for one post.

All in all we hammered in 50 posts. A good days labour, which got us halfway along the fence before running out of fence posts at around 2:15pm and deciding to call it a day. I’m hoping to join them if they plan to do another fencing work day, there’s nothing like completing something which will hopefully give the fence life for another 20 years.

 

 

The first ever.

This is the post excerpt.

I’m very knew to the blogging thing. But I’ve recently been turned on to the idea of noting down my experiences of both travelling and conservation works which I am becoming more and more involved in. And who knows maybe also adding in any interesting trips and photos from climbing trips.

So for the first post I thought I should mention a conservation work day I took part in Monday 13th. This wasn’t the first time I’ve volunteered for a outdoor work. Previous work days, however, have been much more comfortable. Back down south and in the summer, where the work days consisted of being outdoors in the sun with a nice, bright green, polo teacher and thin leggings. Up in Snowdonia there was no chance of a nice sunny day, this is the middle of March.

But the cold and rain wasn’t enough to put me off a nice morning walk to the Yellow Pub in the centre of town and get a lift into Snowdonia to Capel Curig. A nice small town with a great cafe I consider a God send when just finishing a long walk in the rain. The purpose: to plant trees. More specifically locally grown trees on a rather barren section in between two branches of ancient woodland.

The trouble is that this area of land is still used for grazing, so any newly sprouting tree would be eaten in five seconds flat. To overcome this the trees we planted were slightly older than usual, this is to make them tall enough to not become easy prey. The landscape was also used as a way of protecting the trees without the use of fences to block off important grazing areas.

Using the land means that if there is any very steep hill where, from experience, you could easily slip almost all the way down you should plant a tree. I don’t think I’ll ever get the mud out of my trousers, coat or gloves. But that’s a sidetrack. The tree should be planted at a right angle to ensure it isn’t munched.

Using the land also included getting up close a personal to Gorse (the plant not the bird). A nasty little shrub which has bright yellow flowers and spiky little leaves which can get you despite the thick walking trousers, the leggings, the thick coat, the thermals and the fleece. But still its the best place to plant the trees, with the very tops angled to be right over the top of the patch of Gorse.

Overall it was a really rewarding day where 100 trees were planted, though a small number for a days work by conventional planting standards, it is a decent amount for the method we were using. In preliminary evaluations of this method i was told that the success rate is around 60-70%. But not only the rewarding feeling of adding another tree I also learned a lot about what soils the plants prefer and how to identify the different samplings.

Snowdonia Mountain Range
An example of the beautiful surroundings I found my self in on a dreary Monday. Though I usually hate Mondays, this one was brilliant.