1 The Prologue

Welcome to The Sixwheeler Chronicles, a blog that I have set up to post pictures and text about the pilgrimage walk that I am about to undertake.

My name is Richard and I live in Bath in the south west of the United Kingdom; I have been tweeting as Sixwheeler for some years now and can be followed at my twitter account @sixwheeler and you’re very welcome to follow me there.

Some years ago, with retirement looming on the horizon, I thought that I would like to separate my working life from my retired life by going for a very long walk. I have been a mountaineer for many years and as well as walking throughout the United Kingdom I have also trekked in the Alps and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, so I am used to walking, enjoy it and find it very cathartic. My original thought was to follow the ancient pilgrim route from Le Puy en Velay in France to Santiago de Compostela in north west Spain. This is one of the ancient routes described by Aimery Picaud in his 12th century Pilgrim’s Guide and is a very long walk indeed. I started to research the walk and soon found that this route is getting very crowded and that there are other routes, again genuine ancient pilgrim routes, that could be followed.

I used to work for a French company so speak “survival French” quite well so one of the other French routes seemed sensible. The route starting from Arles in Provence seemed like a good idea and so decided that this would be the one.

Fast forward several years and I’m trekking in Morocco and put my foot down on a boulder, it moves and there is a horrible “crack” followed by some robust language and hopping about. This effectively finished my mountain trekking and after many, many months of discomfort I had a knee replacement in December 2011 and the end to the pain.

Life became hectic about them with various family commitments and nothing was done on the walking/trekking front but earlier this year I had to have a small problem sorted out by the surgeon and I proposed to return to Morocco in 2014. A week on the Isle of Skye in Scotland early this summer showed that I could still enjoy hard days walking on the mountains but not day after day so I cancelled my trip to Morocco and looked around for something else to do. My dear wife, the excellent Mrs Sixwheeler, said to me “What about that pilgrimage of yours then?” so the project was reborn.

Since then I’ve been planning – sort of. One of my heroes is H W Tilman the legendary Himalayan climber and explorer who was responsible, with Eric Shipton, for much of the original map surveys of the Himalayas and Karakorum between the world wars. They worked on the principle that if you couldn’t organise a six month expedition to an unexplored mountain area on the back of an envelope then it wasn’t worth doing! I like that but have not been able to go to quite that level.

Luckily I already own most of what I need so all I had to do was to take the first step. I was determined to use the train to get to and from the walk and soon found that this was causing me to procrastinate and in the end I saved myself both time and money and booked my flight from London Gatwick to Marseilles for Monday 16 September and will start my walk from Arles on the Tuesday.

Incidentally I have now realised that leaving Mrs Sixwheeler and the dog for three months is totally selfish so I will be doing the walk in bits, hopefully of around two weeks at a time and I think that this will work well. It also means that I will be able to go to the Bath Rugby home match against Leicester Tigers on the 14th and will be back for the match against London Irish on the 28th. It really is most important to plan carefully and get your priorities right!

That will do for now as an introduction, more to follow soon. A bit about planning or lack of it I think.


5 August 2013

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