I suppose, now that I’m back from what has come to be known around here as “The Big Trip”, I ought to post a blog to mark that fact. Truth be told, I ought to have done that about a fortnight ago. I’ll be honest: for some of that time, my thoughts and reflections on my travels were just too incomplete to write about, and for all of that time, it was possibly just too emotionally painful to put my thoughts into words.
“Painful?” you ask. Yes, several times on my six week journey, I felt physical pain at leaving places and people I love, and the echoes of that pain still linger with me, weeks later, as I think about it. I’m not one of those hopeless romantics, and I don’t think I’m becoming one. I just had the opportunity to immerse myself deeply in some things and places that I have been very close to in an emotional sense for many years. Geographically, most of them are over 800 miles from home, sad to say.
“The Big Trip” hung over the whole of my track season this year. I came into the season injured, as those of you who read this stuff might recall, and I’d committed to being in Cortina d’Ampezzo and Chamonix many months before departing. That meant no British Masters Championships for me this year, and no trip to the World Masters Championships in Brazil. But, “t’was a far, far better thing” that I did.
The vital statistics were 3,250 miles travelled, 3,400 digital photos shot, plus several rolls of film that I’ve not even thought about getting developed yet. The best 100 photos from the Dolomites stage of The Trip are online here, and if you also look at the latest 5 photos on my gallery at 500px, you’ll get a glimpse of the best stuff I shot while in Chamonix. There was quite a lot else before, in between and after, but at present I’ve not really thought about posting it for a wider audience. Quite a lot appeared on Twitter as I went along, as a substitute for a more traditional travelogue.
I ought to have acknowledged the important role Twitter played as a link and a lifeline when I wrote this blog from Chamonix about the loneliness of the long distance traveller [link]. I’m followed on Twitter by a great bunch of people. They say Facebook (which I shun) typically contains stuff from people you met for five minutes and never want to meet again, while Twitter links you to people you’ve mostly never met, but would love to spend five minutes with. I go along with that!
Very little on The Big Trip was new ground to me. Anticipation, weather, people, and the delight of returning to known ground all helped make it exciting enough. I’m not one of those who believes that “distance lends enchantment”. Anything but, for me. Pretty much what I set out in this blog just before leaving was what happened. Occasionally, I agonised about playing safe like that, especially in my post from Chamonix. However, I even constructed the only missing pieces of the jig-saw (at that point) not long after, by booking a stop-over for several days in Annecy, which has nearly always featured in my journey to or from the big mountains.
With really very little over-sentimentality, I can honestly say that my heart sang as I descended the Falzarego Pass road into Cortina, and later, when I got my first glimpse of the Chamonix Aiguilles on the road in from Switzerland. By the same token, my departures from Fontenazzo, Cortina, Andermatt, Chamonix and Annecy were like a punch in the guts. I always seem to regret the things I didn’t have time to do, more than I rejoice over what I did do and see. I’ve come to terms with that over the years, perhaps because it gives me things to look forward to doing on my next visit.
Whenever that might be, of course. There is a cycle to these trips, I’ve decided. Months and weeks of planning and anticipation at the start. Mid way through, particularly on lonely days, I start wondering whether I’ve “got this sort of thing out of my system”. But by the time I’m home, more often than not, the seeds of the next episode have begun to sprout.
And so it was this time, too.
(Footnote: Once again, The Strawbs provided me with the title for this blog)