Thursday, February 19, 2009

Follow my leader

The leaders
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Time to reflect, then, on the experience that is an HF holiday – a Classic Walking Holiday, as the organisation dubs it – in a foreign country. On the second evening, I was asked if I’d be doing this again, and I have to confess that at the time I wasn’t sure. However, by the end of the week I was amazed at what a successful recipe it is. I don’t know how much of that was because of the specific group that had assembled in Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, how much because of the leadership, how much because of the timetable and set arrangements, but I’d like to look further at these components.

The leadership is very important. Not only have they to ensure that they don’t lose anyone on a hike – whether by their wandering off or by someone falling off the path – but they also have to provide the atmosphere at the evening meetings and ensure that the hotel provides for meals to be taken together. This last was apparently a novel idea for the hotel we were in – they couldn’t understand how, having walked together all day, we could bear to sit together for dinner. But we did, and it is surely this that makes this kind of holiday such a good one for someone on their own: eating alone at the end of the day can be an isolating experience.

Our group was terrific. One of our new friends remarked early on how most HF groups seem to have a good number of Guardian readers in them, and whether or not that was the case we were certainly an interesting bunch, from different walks of life (pun, when spotted, left as felicitous), with plenty to say. The Scots came in for the customary lumping together, though it has to be said that our shared sense of humour made for pretty instant rapport and some of us felt that our accents stuck out like sore thumbs. And it also has to be said that anyone looking at the group would notice the general level of fitness and lack of surplus weight on this bunch of people (the oldest of whom was 79) tucking into the large and varied buffet.

The timetable felt breathless at first – we had to go for breakfast while it was still dark and the dawn chorus was giving it laldy – but we got used to it, managing to fit in visits to the pub down the road to have a sandwich made up before leaving on our bus at 9.15am to drive to our starting point. And we were occasionally breathless because of the need to meet up with the bus at the end of 8 miles or so; the ethos of the “A” walks seemed occasionally to concentrate on distance covered rather than on allowing for photography and reflection – a point worth considering when choosing which walk to go on. But one of the chief benefits was the removal of responsibility: we never had to make decisions about where to go, when to go, when to eat, how to find transport. In a way, it was like being a kid again, with all the hilarity of a fifteen-year-old on an outing – and that’s fun, when the rest of your life is decision-based.

We were incredibly lucky with the weather. I think we had three drops of rain on our last walk, and that was all. The sun was brilliant, especially at altitude, and the temperatures like a good Scottish summer. I loved it. And yes – I shall do it again.


  1. Okay, so I *am* jealous. It would appear you have been visiting Paradise these past few days!

    I have been looking through your photos and they are splendid! I smiled at the thought of you coming up in the rear, taking more photos! I would definitely have been so there with you!!!

    Thank you for this refreshing look! It is quite the contrast to our wintry weather!

  2. Anonymous9:54 AM

    'Eating alone at the end of the day can be an isolating experience' - surely if you don't sit with the group, you at least eat with John?

  3. Well, sometimes - but there were several people there on their own.