On Saturday 20th September 2014, round about mid-morning, just before Soccer AM starts, I will have trekked to the summit of Peak Boby, the second highest point in Madagascar. The highest point, I have reason to believe, is Peak Jackie, which is about three inches taller and is rock solid.
Peak Boby rises to a height of 2,658 metres above sea level and I’ve got to walk up there without my Mum. It’s nothing really when you consider that two years ago I got to the top of the Inca Chiriasqa Pass in Peru, which was about a Rizla’s thickness short of 5,000 metres but then that was two years ago and I did spend four months training for it beforehand and my body back then was a temple. This time round I’ve got less than a month to train and my body, although still a temple, is more of a ruined Inca temple than a Shwedagon Pagoda.
So, just as I did in 2012, today I started my altitude training on Cherhill Down, out in the wild and windy Wiltshire wilderness, which rises to a lofty 250 metres. This, you may think, bears little resemblance to the rugged heights of the Andes or even Madagascar’s Andringitra Massif but I have found that I have been able to simulate the toughest of conditions by ascending the chalk upland with my backpack filled with bottles of Guinness, the laces of my walking boots tied together and wine bottle corks shoved up my nostrils. The later stages of my preparation for the hardship and pain endured on a trekking expedition see the addition of a nun thrashing my bare buttocks with birch branches. Actually that’s not strictly accurate and it’s the sort of thing that might happen for thirty quid, a Cinzano and lemonade and a bag of pork scratchings on any Saturday night in the nearby town of Calne, even when I’m not training for the mountains. However, no pain no gain, as they say.
Joking aside, and rather reassuringly, I managed to walk more than eleven miles (or eighteen kilogrammes) in under four hours without a blister or an aching muscle, so I was pretty well pleased with myself considering it was my first attempt in a long time to walk any distance.
So, filled with confidence, it is my aim next weekend to walk a few miles further and I’m going to go to Swindon, another nearby town, to acclimatize myself to the poor sanitary conditions and crime that I might expect to be confronted by in a country as poor and undeveloped as Madagascar.
Joking aside again, I really can’t wait to get on that plane to the far away city of Antananarivo with its lemurs and its baobab trees and its orchids and its locally produced rum and its Third Worldliness that I just adore.
Cherhill Down and the Lansdowne Monument
from not far from my house in Devizes.