Thursday, 24 February 2011

Utility Running,Rodney Mullen,Success is Elusive

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Mullen


A utility bike is a bicycle designed for practical transportation,as opposed to bicycles which are primarily designed for recreation and competition,such as touring bikes,racing bikes and mountain bikes.The majority of these bikes are found in the developing world.They are the most common form of bicycle globally.

Over the last few weeks my interest has been sparked in what I term 'Utility Running.'The Human Body,in common with a utility bike,is built for practical transportation.So why don't we use it that way?One of the things I enjoyed on my recent trip to Gran Canaria was the daily morning run to the nearest shop to buy food.Sometimes this involved a round trip of up to 20 kms.I had no other form of transport.I had no bike and there were no buses,so if I wanted to eat I had the choice of either walking or running,and running was faster.As I have previously mentioned, this action felt almost primal.Since returning to the UK,I have decided to keep this up.I've been based, temporarily, about 5 miles away from my home in Skegness,but have had to make the journey there and back,for one reason or another,almost daily.This has been carried out by running.If I need to change clothes/pick up groceries etc,I take a backpack.The quality of the runs,in terms of effort and speed,may be somewhat lacking,but this is trumped by the feeling that the running is useful.It alleviates the need for a car,bike or a bus,and,of course,is free.


Whats all this to do with Rodney Mullen?I'd heard his name,having seen it on my sons Tony Hawks computer games,but that was the extent of my knowledge.Inexplicably I ended up this afternoon watching the above interview.Rodney's current views on skateboarding echo my current views on running.He was a childhood prodigy,world champion and influential innovator,but the pressures of expectation enslaved him and ruined his enjoyment of the sport.He has now found peace and enjoys skateboarding for the intrinsic pleasures he derives from it.Maybe this is a lesson for us all-to run because it gives us pleasure and is useful,and realize that,surely,these should be runnings prime objectives,rather than competition,kudos,fame and fortune.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

VAGABONDRUNNING GRAN CANARIA. PART TWO: Presa le las ninas.

Photo: Presa Le Las Ninas


Photo:Soria


Photo:Roque Nublo


Despite the unwelcome intrusion to my nights sleep by the frisky young lovers,I awoke at about 6 a.m next morning feeling refreshed and optimistic.It was still dark and I had no idea when the sun would start to rise.I packed away my sleeping equipment,had a breakfast of pasta,threw on my pack and went in search of a bus stop.As luck would have it I found one literally 100m from the beach.Within 30 minutes I was hot footing it to Las Palmas.The bus soon pulled into the bus station,and from previously consulting a road map of the city streets,I knew that the Government offices were a mere short walk away.The offices opened at 8.30 a.m and I was first in the queue to get served.I told the female advisor the campsites I wanted to stop at and how long I wanted to stay at each.She checked my passport for identification purposes and issued me with a permission letter for each site.It really was that easy.

Out of the 14 sites listed,I had narrowed down the choice to 4.As my predominant activity would be running I knew that access to a water source was vital.I would need to keep hydrated in the heat of the day and also need water for cooking.Transporting bottled water was logistically impossible and, although some people are wary of drinking tap water in foreign climbs,after drinking untreated water in Mexico the previous year and suffering no ill effects,I knew I would be fine.The sites which fitted the bill were Presa Le Las Ninas,Morro de Santiago,Llanos De La Pez and Tamadaba.I knew,through research on the web and youtube that Presa Le Las Ninas was one of the bigger sites and very popular with the locals,so choose that as my first port of call.Morro De Santiago was chosen as next,due to its proximity to Las Ninas,and Tamadaba was chosen as the choice for my third week.Although the website stated that the maximum duration of stay at each site was 7 days,and that's what I asked for,the advisor wrote out permission to camp for 8 days at each.My original plan was to stay for six weeks,but not wanting to push my luck,told the lady three sites would do-I would make another trip to the office in a few weeks time and sort out the rest of the trip.


My map told me that the nearest village to Las Ninas was Ayacata,situated at the base of Roque Nublo(1803m / 5915 ft),the second highest point on the island.After enquires at the bus station I found that I could get a bus to the town of San Mateo,then catch a connection to Ayacata.The remaining,what looked between 10 and 15 km on the map would have to be on foot.I noticed that Las Ninas was situated at 932m/ 3057 ft,so as least the hike would be downhill.During the one hour wait at San Mateo I stocked up on supplies at the local Spar shop-more pasta,sardines,porridge and jam,adding considerable weight to my pack.I had considered waiting and buying food from a shop in Ayacata.As I got off the bus a couple of hours later,I discovered that Ayacata consisted of three restaurant/bars,and that was it.No shops.I had envisaged a pilgrimage up and down the hill to Ayacata every morning to stock up on supplies,but as I commenced the walk down the hill,knew I would have to study the map and find an alternative place to purchase food.

A large brown sign pointed the direction of the campsite,and gave the distant to travel as 10 km.I considered attempting to hitch,but noticed that the majority of cars which passed me were small cars,obviously hire cars,driven by predominantly aging ,graying couples-not a good combination for attempting to gain a ride.I decided to keep my thumb down,and slowly walked,visions of John Rambo strolling into town at the start of First Blood going through my head.

The first sight of Presa Le Las Ninas was stunning.A large reservoir surrounded by lush,green mountains.After pitching my tent and checking out the basic,but entirely adequate facilities,I cooked tea,and retired to bed at the first sign of darkness.

After two days of no running,the next morning I was eager to finally get some miles in my legs.The weather was glorious and later that morning the temperature would be well into the 20's.At around 9 a. m I set off with the intention of running around the lake,what I considered to be a nice gentle introduction to my trail running holiday.I set off in a counter clockwise direction,and after an initial start on the road,quickly found a path which took me half way round.At that point the path stopped.My map was not detailed with any off road paths and shortly I found myself on top of a mountain,peering down at what I presumed was the town of Soria,about 400m below me.From this height I could clearly see a dirt path which would have easily taken me to the village had I set off in the opposite direction.I was now faced with a decision-turn back and retrace my steps or descend the mountain,which would involve a little climbing and alot of scrambling.At that point I heard a noise,looked up into the sky and saw a helicopter approaching.The thought of my brothers words on the way to the train station several days earlier resonated in my head,that ,on trips such as these,if anything could go wrong it would.I imagined reports of an inexperienced Brit tourist falling to his death in the mountains of central Gran Canaria and the reaction of the folks back home-typical Dennis,we always told him to get prepared!

The helicopter slowed and hoovered above me.It looked like some sort of military craft and I later found out that I was on protected land,where access was forbidden.The side door of the helicopter was open and someone was sat in the entrance.I considered waving,but thought this may be taken as a distress signal and prompt a rescue.I ,therefore,decided to act nonchalantly.There I was on top of a mountain,clad only in shorts,my white torso betraying the fact I was obviously a tourist,carrying a coke bottle of water,basic map in my hand,whistling and smiling,totally ignoring the helicopter.Eventually it moved off.I started to climb down the hardest section of the descent,a drop of perhaps 20m of rock face,until some greenery started where I would be able to walk.With map stuffed in my shorts waist band and the coke bottle between my teeth ,I had got half way down the sheer descent when the helicopter reappeared and resumed its position above me.I tried to maintain my relaxed nonchalant disposition and look as if I knew what I was doing,despite the fact that my entire life's climbing experience was limited to a handful of days in the Peak District whilst at university 25 years previous.I reached the bottom of the face and obviously realizing I was not going to be another statistic,the helicopter again disappeared.30 minutes later I was jogging into the quaint village of Soria on the banks of the equally stunning Soria Reservoir,covered in scratches and blood.At least I was still alive!

Over the next few days I quickly developed a routine.The morning run would be along the dirt path into Soria,roughly 10 kms each way,the outward leg predominantly downhill,the return predominantly uphill.There I would buy my food for the day,typically two 500g bags of pasta,which I would run back to camp with,one in each hand.I liked the fact that this felt almost primal.I had to make the journey every morning.It was a necessity,or else I would be without food for the day.I would return by midday,have some pasta for dinner,brew up some coffee and have a quick snooze.At around 3 p.m I would get up again and set off to the rear of the campsite and run for up to 3 hours on beautiful pine needle covered dirt tracks.

The next few days were bliss,constantly clad in shorts,running free as I had dreamt I would be.The arrival of the weekend brought a flurry of activity with locals descending for a weekend of camping.The camp in the week was virtually deserted-a German couple mountain biking around the island,Micheal,a Dutch guy doing the same and a handful of local fisherman.The noise and exuberance of the predominantly young locals,made a welcome change.

As the weekend passed the weather began to turn.Although still hot in the day and mild at night,the cloud level began to drop and come Monday I experienced my first taste of rain.My 7 day stay was to end on the Tuesday,but due to the office girls mistake,I was not booked onto the next site until Wednesday.I decided that on the Tuesday I would therefore clear off the site all day on a long run-if the Rangers couldn't find me,they couldn't do anything.I decided to head towards the south coast to the town of Mogan,a round trip of approximately 30 kms.As I sat off that morning the rain was steady,but i noticed that the wind was picking up.Not expecting any rain on the trip I had taken my tent purchased for the Mexico trip for £15 from Home Bargains.I was not entirely sure that it was up to the job of eliminating the effects of adverse weather.

The road down to Mogan was like one of those alpine roads that you see in the movies.The actual town didn't look far away as I began the descent,but the road was constantly switching back and forth,meandering in a seemingly haphazard fashion.I presumed as I went down the hill the weather would improve.I was wrong.The lower I got,the more the cloud closed in,the harder the wind blew and the harder the rain started to fall.I began to get concerned that if the weather was getting worse on the way down,what would be happening at the campsite....and what was happening to my tent!After running for around 10 kms I made the decision to turn back.

Arriving back at camp I was initially relieved to see the tent still standing.A closer inspection left me deflated.I had pitched the tent on a slight slope descending towards the water.This slope was now a little stream,going straight under the tent.The trickle of water at the side of my pitch was obviously the main inlet for the water from higher in the mountains and had now turned into a raging torrent.I looked inside the tent.The groundsheet was soaked,but luckily,as I had placed my rucksack on top of my self inflating sleeping mat,my clothing was still relatively dry.I knew I had no choice,but to move the tent.The tent had a double covering and to move it I would have to take off the outer water proof cover,resulting in the non water proof inner shell letting in water and soaking my stuff.I was wet through,tired from running and cold,but knew I would have to wait until the rain eased.

Firstly I had to get warm.I stripped down to bare feet,and shorts,searching for dry gear in the tent when I heard a voice behind me.'Permiso,permiso.' It was the Park Ranger wanting to see my permission letter.He continued ,'Permiso,permiso.' I was shivering and my mood was rapidly deteriorating.If I heard his voice again I was torn between turning around and knocking him out,or sitting down on the soaked ground and crying.I felt a fool,unprepared and stupid.I showed him my letter,fully expecting him to pick up on the fact that I should be moving that day.He inspected it,handed it back and smiled.He pointed to the torrent at the side of the tent and muttered in broken English,'You better move tent.You get washed away!'

The rain eased temporarily,I moved the tent and hunkered down,abandoning thoughts of a second run that day.I thought of polar explorers and alpine mountaineers,who could be tent bound by bad weather for days on end and developed a new found respect for them.The next 12 hours resulted in gale force winds and driving rain.The tent just managed to keep standing and eventually,as the storm passed,I feel into a deep,tired sleep.

The next day,as I packed up my tent,the glorious weather was back.It had been a great first week or so of running.My aching legs had found new strength after three or four days,finally getting used to the the relentless incline/decline nature of the trails.I headed back up the 10km climb to Ayacata, once again feeling positive.I felt that I had earned myself a treat and resolved to spend around 20 euros on some decent food at the summit cafe.It would be more than the cost of the food which I had purchased for the entire week.

The Ego ,The Miles,The Search for Self.



Ego:an inflated feeling of pride in your superiority to others.

Anyone who runs will ,at some point ,have experienced the feeling.The sacrifice of early morning runs,evening runs,getting out in all weathers and conditions produce a feeling.When people question and deride your lifestyle,you smile to yourself,feeling smug,feeling,'I am better than you.I am a runner.'

I used to feel like that.Sometimes still do.When things start to go bad in life you start to train harder.Believe a new p.b will bring you some sort of personal redemption.The nature of the athlete demands competition.We start to run,we begin to think about how fast we can run the distance,if we can finish the distance.We become competitive.

But is this healthy?I,like many others,run with goals in mind,competitive goals.I pound the Skegness streets thinking of The London Marathon.Will I be able to duck under 2 hrs 45 mins?But sometimes this feels so constrictive.I love running,cherish the time on the roads and trails.I base my life,in a big way ,around doing what I love.But I refuse to follow any schedules,refuse to run any predetermined pace,decide the distance the night before,or usually the same day.Sometimes the upcoming race places pressures I dislike,takes away from the joy of the moment.

Sometimes I think of giving up racing altogether.Is it possible to rate your worth as a runner by your intrinsic enjoyment of the activity,rather than by competitive results?I think so.

For the first time in years I have the privilege of the wealth of free time.All I want to do is run long,long miles,just spend the days logging 150/200 miles per week.Not compete,just run.

Monday, 14 February 2011

How to fall in love with a Girls Polyester Cycling Top-Size 12.


I don't really know how it happened.It was a cold night and I was feeling the effects of staying in a house with central heating on for just several hours a day.I was at my mothers.I,d placed the carabanger in storage to save a few pennies,til after my jaunt to the Canaries.The first night I'd gone to bed warm,but woke up in the middle of the night cold.I mentioned this the next night,just before retiring to bed.My mother rummaged in a pile of clothes and threw me a black long sleeved top.She told me someone had left it in the changing rooms at the local theatre,where she helps out.It had been in the lost property box for ages,no one had claimed it,and it ended up at her house.She said it might be too small.It was a cheap looking black long sleeved top,with a zip at the collar.Examining the label I found it to be 100% polyester ,a size 12 with a brand name,Cyclelife.Ignoring the fact it was a girls top-I was only going to wear it in bed,I slipped it on.It was a little tight,but ok.


In the morning sun I hit the main road to Maspalomas.It was a few kms before I could pick up the rocky singletrack down to San Bartolome.This was the nearest town to the campsite,and this particular run I carried out every morning ,bringing back with me the food I needed for the day.It was around 9 a.m.The sun was rising in the sky,but a chill still existed.I jogged down the hill to Cruz Grande.I had on my black ,short shorts,waffle racers,and polyester top.Dressed entirely in black I felt like John Walker.I'd not taken many clothes with me and had gradually developed a liking for the top.It looked slightly too small,but in a cool way.It was warm enough to keep the morning chill at bay,but not uncomfortable when the heat increased.It was also light and long sleeved,ideal for taking off and tieing around my waste.Being at the campsites predominantly alone,not having to make a great effort appearance wise,I wore the top virtually exclusively.I started to fall in love with it.

Back in England,running in morning and evening gloom,I glance down.I,ve got a helly hanson thermal on,and my black top over it.With black tights and waffles on, I am again reminded of John Walker and think,' I love this top-am going to wear it all year,all the time.'

The Vagabond and The Poacher - Redemption and The Flow.


http://dontdatethatdude.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/the-vagabond-and-the-poacher/

Life.Love.Loss.Redemption.

I too was sat in a restaurant.I'd tried and failed.I looked at her smile,the smile which people fell in love with.And I looked into her eyes.I saw sadness.But perception is in the eyes of the perceiver.She looked sad,I felt sad.I was sad.

The beach,the road,the paths,the trails,the miles.The solace I needed to ease the pain.


I awoke,cold,stiff.As I got out of the tent,the rain began to fall gently.High in the mountains,surrounded by cloud,visibility down to nothing.I removed my socks,laced up my shoes,started to run.The rain began to fall heavier.On the trail the mountains came to life.I noticed creeks flowing with water I had previously missed.Waterfalls had appeared.The water made its way down from the high ground to nourish below.The Flow.

Next morning I stood on the high plateau of the campsite. I looked around the cloudless sky,savouring the surrounding peaks.I gazed at the sea miles below and thought of the waters journey the previous day.The chill above,the heat below.The sun causing the sea to rise to the clouds.The Flow.

Days later I awoke again.The dreams had seemed real and pure.I thought of her words,her smile,our future times together.My heart was alive with yearning and passion.She looked beautiful,I felt beautiful.I was beautiful.I listened as the rain started to fall.The Flow.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

VAGABONDRUNNING GRAN CANARIA. PART ONE:Arrival


The seed for this particular vagabond adventure was sown in March last year.I had just returned from running The Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon in Mexico,and,as is usually the case after a holiday,had developed a touch of wanderlust and a wetted thirst for further adventure.The timing was significant,as I had just taken the decision to cut down my working week to four days throughout the summer,traditionally the time when extra hours could be worked and extra money earnt.Due to this decision I realized that any future adventures would have to be done ' on the cheap.'I was searching for a winter running adventure with two simple prerequisites:
(i) It had to be somewhere hot.
(ii)It had to be somewhere cheap.

There are plenty of places where it is possible to live cheaply in a hot climate,places such as Indonesia,Asia,Africa and Central and Southern America.However the cost of flying to such places normally involve significant expense.There are also plenty of places where one is able to fly cheaply,predominantly in Europe,but where the climate in the winter months is not too dissimilar to the U.K.I eventually found a location which fit the criteria on both counts-the Canary Islands.I found it was possible to obtain a return flight to one of the numerous islands in the winter months for less than £100,and that the climate was consistently hot throughout the year.

The next issue was trying to identify a way of staying on one of the islands without spending much money.I instantly thought of camping.If the climate was hot throughout the year,camping in the winter months shouldn't be an issue.Upon investigation,however,I discovered that campsites in the Canaries were generally few and far between.Additionally those that existed usually closed during the winter months.A little more research,however,unveiled an intriguing article from the archives of The Guardian newspapers travel section.The brief article mentioned the existence of 'free state run campsites.'These were all situated within the mountainous interior of the island,the majority of which is a protected environment,and were an attempt to encourage the locals to appreciate the natural beauty bestowed upon the area.With permission granted by the Government offices in the capital city,Las Palmas,these were available to be used by all.A quick search on the Government website revealed the existence of 14 free campsites,some small,some large.Some provided basic amenities,such as toilets ,a water supply and BBQ areas,some provided nothing.They all,however,shared two things in common:
(i) They were all hidden in remote areas.
(ii)They were all in the mountains, which I knew made for exquisite trail running locations.


********************************************

I landed at Gran Canaria International Airport mid January.The previous few months had caused myself the normal problems associated with the decrease in daylight hours-an increase in my dark moods and in my underlying anxieties.The weather had also been consistently bad,with weeks of snow before Christmas.I was looking forward to getting somewhere warm and running, clad only in shorts and my battered waffle racers,enjoying the wind in my hair and the sun on my back.My financial circumstances had altered somewhat.Over the Christmas vacation I had negotiated the sale of my share of the family business to my brother and ,subsequently ,now had spare cash.The trip didn't need to be carried out on a shoestring budget.The change in my attitudes to the concept of working,however,had also influenced my views to prosperity.If I wanted a life free from excessive work,and I did,I had to be comfortable with a lifestyle free from excessive materialism,ownership and expense,and I was.The trip would still be carried out ' on the cheap.'

As is my usual style,the research and my preparation for the trip was minimal and,to be honest,rather haphazard.I knew I could cope with a basic knowledge of the native tongue,and as the entire island only measured 50 odd kms in diameter,it wouldn't be as if I would ever totally be out on a limb.I had marked the campsites approximate locations on my basic tourist map,done a little reading on the web.I was ready!

I had decided to take my old Raleigh racing bike with me.I'd got the idea that it would come in handy to transport me to the campsites and I visualized jumping on it every few days to scoot down to the nearest towns to buy provisions.It was equipped with two relatively new tires and I'd had the bottom bracket replaced a few days previous.The only fault which now persisted was a worn spring on the derailleur.Whenever I changed gear this resulted in the chain developing excessive slack and I had to flick the mechanism back with my foot to stop the chain coming off.This didn't concern me.Years previous,on a year long stay in Australia,I'd bought an old VW Combi van.The spring on the accelerator pedal had perished,meaning everytime you pressed the pedal down ,it stayed down.To decrease the revs the driver had to put his foot under the pedal,and with a deft movement,give it a flick back up.The repair would have cost peanuts,but I drove the van ,in that condition ,for a full year!

I had bought the bike from a workmate several months earlier for £20.It had idled in his garage for years.Out of the 12 gears it was equipped with,I could get ten,and I'd bulked at suggestions to buy racks and panniers.I wouldn't be using it often and they seemed like an unnecessary expense.I'd purchased a clear plastic bag for £10 from The Cycle Touring Club to transport the bike on the plane journey and that would do.Most people recommended a cushioned bike bag for this purpose,but this necessitated dismantling the bike.If I covered the entire bike in plastic all I had to do was take off the pedals,lower and twist the handlebars and lower the seat.Additionally it was obvious to any baggage handlers that it was a bike,so maybe they would go easy on it.This idea bore fruit.The bike was the first item on the baggage carousel upon arrival in Gran Canaria and it looked in perfect shape.I'd developed a good feeling about this trip.I adjusted the handlebars and the seat and headed out of the arrivals lounge and into the sunshine.

I had made no set plans for my first night on the island.The flight landed at midday,but the government office in Las Palmas closed at 2p.m.There was no way that I would have the time to get a camping permit on my first day,so had resolved to head in the direction of Las Palmas,find a beach somewhere and sleep under the stars.The island is surrounded with a good road network,dual carriage ways and motorways circle it,but I wasn't sure if bikes were allowed on them.I certainly couldn't see any,and so got out my map and plotted a route that would take me initially inland on quieter roads,before turning towards Las Palmas.I removed my tent from my backpack and attached it to the bikes cross frame with a couple of bungee straps,and then ,with pack on my back and sleeping bag in my hand/on the handlebars,commenced my adventure.

After, approximately 10 minutes,I knew I had once again bowed down to The Great God of Naivety.The first hill wasn't even all that steep,but in my lowest gear I was struggling big time.My backpack was too heavy,my shoulders were aching,I was sweating profusely,and was wobbling all over the road.In the face of adversity I did as I always do...carried on.The summit of the second hill threw up another problem,a puncture.I had specifically purchased two new tubes filled with some sort of green goo,which,supposedly,were puncture proof.They were not.I changed the tube,remaining upbeat.It was only 15-20 kms to Las Palmas and some had to be downhill.

The next few kms were downhill-steep downhill.As I wobbled at speed down the hill,passing a local police car,I was exhilarated.I pedalled like fury,trying to boost momentum for the up coming climb.I changed down gears at the bottom,stood up on my pedals ready for the push,and that's when it happened.The chain jammed,the pedals stopped and the derailleur shattered.I came to an abrupt halt,just as the police car sailed past.I disembarked,surveyed the reckage,and sat down.I was half an hour into the trip and already things were going pearshaped.I walked up the hill.I would have to get to Las Palmas,find a bike shop,and get it fixed.At the summit of the hill I entered a small residential area.At the side of the houses were a row of dustbins.I walked past them,stopped,and then returned.In those few seconds I had made a decision.My trusted iron steed would not be up to the task in hand.I rested it against the bins and walked on,refusing to look back.I hoped that some enterprising Spanish youngster would stumble upon it,recognize the quality of the Reynolds 531 tubing and take it on as a pet project.Realistically I knew it would be consigned to the scrap heat.

Despite my shaky start,I was still upbeat.I knew the island was small and that the approximate vicinities of the campsites could be reached by public transport.I glanced down at myself.I'd taken a pair of shorts with me,my favourite 10 year old 'Animals',forgetting that ,by the end of the previous summer,they had developed rather big holes on the front and back.They were now covered in oil.My hands and finger nails were covered in oil,my legs were covered in oil,and my face,complete with my newly grown month old beard were,no doubt,also covered in oil.As I walked into the nearby shop the assistants face said it all.She examined my 20 euro notes for an age,as I bought a consoling Coke.I looked a mess.I'd been in Gran Canaria for an hour.

After consulting my map once again,I decided to locate the nearest beach and call it a day.I headed towards a development named La Garita.On the way down to the coast I was fortunate to pass a large retail park,with major supermarket attached.I bought batteries for my radio,water,a lighter and a bottle with 'alcohol' written on it in the decorating section.I'd bought a Trangia camping stove in the U.K,never used one before,but knew it ran on methylated spirits.I presumed any substance that was alcohol based would work as a fuel source.I walked towards the beach as the sun was setting,and once there,made my way to the cliffs at the back,protecting me from view of the road and apartments above.The alcohol worked and I cooked and ate some pasta,laid out my sleeping mat,jumped in my sleeping bag and stared at the stars as I listened to the sound of the waves.I thought of one of my heroes,Chongo Tucker.Chongo lived rough for several years evading the Park Rangers in Yosemite National Park,while climbing full time.I remembered a comment of his when he said he refused to think of himself as homeless-wherever he choose to sleep on any particular night was his home.I was living it like Chongo.I thought of the package holiday makers who shared my flight over.They'd be at their hotels by now,having a meal or,perhaps,a few drinks.They'd be doing the usual holiday maker thing,at a considerable cost.I was truly living it,it was free,and so easy.As I drifted to sleep the last thought that entered my head was it would be really scary if I awoke in the night and someone was there.

I fell asleep shortly after the onset of darkness,at about 7 p.m.As I awoke ,I heard voices.I looked at my watch-10 p.m.I rose my head and in an alcove,perhaps 30 m away saw the end of a lighted cigarette.Someone was there.I lowered my head again,curiously not scared or freaked out.I knew it wasn't the police and it was doubtful that I would be unlucky enough to get mugged and murdered on my first night.I closed my eyes and tried to make out the voices.There were two,one male,one female and they both sounded young.I saw the man,in the darkness stand up and unfold a blanket.More talking continued,then silence.Soon enough I heard the unmistakable sounds of a couple making love.They obviously hadn't seen me,perhaps mistaking me for a lump of drift wood or something similar.By this time I was bursting for a pee,but knew any movement I made would scare the living daylights out of the young lovers.I eventually fell back to sleep and when I woke again the coast was clear.I had a pee,got back in the sack and thought , 'Now that is a classic first day to a Vagabond adventure!'