Category: Excursions


(Continued from here.)

Zainab had mentioned the possibility of a breakdown earlier and we had unknowingly Christened her ear prickling words by warning her against such hindersome prophecies. Hypo-gladtastic Sabera had been sedated with her requested dose of Stugeron, so any softly named disappointment was heavily subdued beneath the weight of the tablets on her tongue.

Your driver has managed, somehow/magically/as expectedly, to put the wrong fuel into the van. Luckily/miraculously/as a consolation, he hasn’t started the van, which would have made the problem much more difficult to deal with. We’ve called the van company and they say they’re coming out to deal with it. Remember, though, we ARE in the middle of nowhere. It could take some time.

We might have jeered, booed, hissed, thrown bits of rotten salad and rain-soggy clothes and straws at the front of the van. We might have- but I forget.

Imran did not make the unmeasured wait much easier by constantly propounding the worst case scenario and pointing at the hotel he teased we’d all have to stay in. Prepared for the worst and treated with laughter, we were relieved when the orange lights of the tow truck lit up the left side of the van.

We had two hours to wait. 16 muhajababes trekked with jellied legs from the petrol pump to the nearest shelter. Oh, but it is warm in here! Do let us join yew! The swishy restaurant turned our booted selves away: fully booked. We trudged off to the next only sanctuary on offer, ‘The Fox and Hen’. A public house. A pub.

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I left my bulky preconceptions at the door, expecting the pub to be full, as was the restaurant, leaving little space for extra thought to squash in, too. However, it was almost empty, it was odourless and the air was calm. Head Sister slipped into Queen Vic Data Recovery mode and ordered a ’round’ of hot chocolates and teas, which we sipped at, relishing the swirling warmth, and whiling away the next hour or so with sweetened educational chit-chat. There did occasion, during our stay, a few groups of curious lingering people who so justifiably observed us and our conversation.

A while and a round later, the golden call was received and we left. As we stepped outside into the cool night air, we saw, beneath the trees, bundles of people enjoying their drinks on the benches. One lad sat alone, shaking with droplets of laughter as Moslem nuns emerged, nattering away, from a pub.

We waited under the murky light of the petrol pump.

[21:30] A beer bellied man stood fuelling up his car and glancing over inquisitively at us. ALHAMDULILLAH! We screamed in unison, causing him to jump clean out of his senses, as we ran passed him towards our beloved van as it rolled up.

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We travelled for a while in the black abyss beneath the canopy of Welsh trees. The surreal silhouette of where I was and what was going on lapsed in and out of view and consciousness as I slipped in and out of sleep. An enchanting recitation played over the speakers as we sped through the night. The journey consisted of more of the earlier slapstick and banter, a recitation of Ayat ul-Kursi, and efforts to keep one another awake in order to keep the driver awake.

[00:00] We stopped off in Birmingham for a confused and drowsy order of food and ice cream. It was this chicken burger and those hot chocolates that had determined our course that night. Toobaa climbed out and, after checking for cars, employed a few star jumps. Sabera huddled up inside as her breath steamed from all the icy cold she was surrounded by. Afifa, patient as ever, was patient, despite the knowledge that she had to pack for a flight the next morning. Zainab relished the Cookies’n’Cream Haagen Daz with the end of a flexing plastic fork.

As promised, each girl was dropped off at her own home in the wee hours of the morning. [05:30] Toobaa was one of the last to be dropped home. She arrived home to Abu, who opened the door as she ran up the driveway. Only 1…2…3… 7.5 hours late. As soon as she had stepped out of the van, though, she had a strange feeling of displacement. She missed Team Fox and Hen. She missed the van. She missed the trek, which had turned out to be a whole lot bonding and travelling more than she had bargained for. As she crawled into her cool, dry bed and tried to ignore the rays of sunshine that were beginning to peer into her window to look at her truly broken in hiking boots, she realised she had fallen in love with the day.

She began to plan the next adventure as the land of nod lapped at her toes and submerged her into the tidiest of sleeps.

When the alarm intruded my forty-wink slumber at 02:00AM, little did I know that two mugs of hot chocolate in a Welsh pub and a chicken burger in Birmingham would delay my return to the land of nod till 26 hours later. Today was the day of the Snowdon Challenge. I would feel muscles that I never even knew existed. Huzzah!

[04:10] Three vans pulled up outside the Islamic Relief office on Blackhorse Lane. Our fates for the day ahead had already been alphabetically determined the night before and, as we were thus divided, we climbed into the vans that epitomised the meaning the journey would have for us all.

We departed late. Nevertheless, our journey was well entertained with Imran, the sleep deprived comedian who happened to be driving, constantly bickering with the Head Sister, and declaring apparently unorthodox views about everything and being rebutted with relentless contradictions about anything. Eventually there was an uproar of defence for the Head Sister from the back of the van and he was shocked with the realisation that everybody was actually awake. The girls pretended to be offended, irritated and exasperated at his experimental conclusions but were, in truth, grateful for the energy that was keeping them alert in the early hours of the morning.

We arrived late. The rain was coming down in endlessly helpless sheets and the guides at beautiful Snowdonia filtered out the people with incorrect gear and they sadly resigned themselves to the confines of the van again. Chris Onions, our guide, mentioned, as he munched away at all of our lunches, that this was the worst possible weather to be climbing Snowdon and they wouldn’t be going up had it not been for us. Flashback: Tonbridge bike ride.

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Our group was set for the Llanberis Path, despite desperately coloured pleas to do the tougher Miners Track, which would use the Llanberis Path to get back down anyway. But, like all good children, we set off on our 10 mile return trudge. Uphill, uphill, uphill! With the rain showering away at us we were wading up over loose slate and quartz, through the water rushing down at our feet. The ‘waterproof’ labels on our gear screamed and ran away back down the mountain as we continued to squelch up Snowdon, being smacked still by the wind. We were soaked to the bone.

We occasionally caught sight of the Llanberis train, choo-chooing its way repeatedly up and down the mountain carrying old people, young children and maybe even some cheaters.

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We kept moving, using points on the horizon as the next goal, and reached halfway house. The treasured golden rule: You are only as fast as your slowest team member, was soon blown clean off the mountain with the sharp winds and it was at the steaming halfway house that the group split into two. The fast group and the slow group. Ahem.

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UFOL’s [Unexplained Fits of Laughter] held us back at several junctions but Asma had a genius supply of Starburst which kept us on track. An ad was filmed, showing the bursting effect that the fruity chew was having on Toobaa. Each time a pastille hit her tongue there was a whoosh. This was demonstrated through the classic I’m-all-fizzy-run-run-run jig and a triple-knot increase in pace with occasionally close-to-the-edge-risky jogging.

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The higher we moved the denser the mist became. The tops of our heads scraped the floss of the white candy clouds that were so heavy with rain that they sank lower and lower towards us. The gradient steepened and the ground loosened. We could see no further any further. The rain evolved into tiny sharp needles as it pierced our cheeks and kept us looking at the ground. We could see nothing. The views? The summit sights? They were waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. Any disappointment was absorbed by the sheer awe inspiring awe of being so high up, still being battered by soft water rain, and having zero visibility.

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On the way back down, gravity surprisingly continued to be as strong as it was on our way up. It pulled us down onto the front of our soft little toes and so we obeyed Chris and came down with our feet at 11 O’clock. For the digi-species who cannot tell the time this way, this meant our feet were at a slight anti-clockwise angle, approximately 10 degrees.

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The rain lightened up as we reduced height but we pretended not to notice because, everytime we did, it would find us again and remind us of its worst. When we did manage to escape its radar at momentary intervals, we pulled out our cameras to try and salvage some sights lower down. White specks of sheep, the layers of sky falling down the mountain, and the snail trail river at the bottom of the valley. The distant and haunting bleeps of specially delegated sheep didn’t do much to hurry us down from the beauty spots of Snowdon.

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As we neared the bottom, the ground was smooth, but steep as ever. Our poor toes protested against being squashed at the front so Afifa and I held hands and came down backwards. We watched ourselves go up in rewind and UFOL took hold of our lungs yet again. It was either the carefully placed zinc-oxide tape, the double layer of specially designed socks, the carrier bags, coming down backwards, the Peter Storm boots [squelching, mind you] or the diligent and skilful manner in which Toobaa used her feet that she broke the minimum blister record at a total of: NAUGHT. Heh. Triumph, indeed!

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[16:00] Dry clothes were declared the next best thing since the wheel. We got back to the van and changed from our slopping wet gear into our dry clothes and clambered back into the van, wide eyed and buzzing. Thinking that we would be home at a decent hour, we settled into the somewhat smoky warmth of the van, pondering our semi-blind adventure, as the drivers fuelled up all three vans.

Then there was an announcement. Zainab was hushed. She had predicted this.

To Be Continued…

The Snowdon Challenge was completed for Islamic Relief’s Action for Africa Appeal. Thank you to everyone who sponsored and supported me. Together, you and I, we raised just under £500, and the sponsors are still coming in. And that’s just me! There were at least 35 girls who raised money and did the challenge. We’ll find out soon what the grand total is!

For more information, go to http://www.irsnowdon.kk5.org/

The day was set to be a success. Everybody was punctual and the weather looked promising at Charing X. A quick 45 minutes later, the train pulled up in Tonbridge and the rain had just begun. This was probably thanks to Harry II’s wireless rain-dance in London at 10:27am. Deeja peeped out from beneath her rice paddy field hat and her adamant expression made it clear that even torrential rain would not hold us back this day, not when we’d come ‘this far‘.

Good thing too, because torrential rain is exactly what we got after hiring our bikes and being told by the funny bike dudes that we couldn’t have picked a worse day to do this ride.

Taj and I hadn’t ridden a bike for years. Exercise bikes do not count because they just don’t and they are stationary. But it is true; you never do forget how to ride a bike. The riding was fun and setting off in the downpour was unbelievably enjoyable. Ignoring Cautious Cat’s inner instinct telling her it was better to head back and wait, we carried on with the rain beating down on us and our dodgy assortment of raincoats. With no real fear of electrocution we bounded down paths, through woods, up hills and down them… OK, so we bounded down and sometimes hiked up- except for Expert Cat, though, who breezed through!

We stopped off to have lunch by the prophesized field of cows, which were stunningly beautiful, all white and looked obviously healthy, even to the un-farmer. One appeared to be rather interested in our paddy field girl who held out a banana for it. It soon transpired that it thought I was a luscious piece of walking grass- compliments to my giant green raincoat- and remained by the fence for quite some time. It was gruffly called back to the main grazing area by another cow, who sounded angry and turned on the ghastly waterworks.

Around this point, upon seeing a well groomed and clearly male dude cycle by and say ‘Hi! : ) ‘, as all of friendly Tonbridge does, with splashes of mud on his face [no really, how would that happen unless somebody was burning rubber in front of him and spraying up the mud directly into his face?] and Deeja thought that he was a she.

‘She’s more covered [in mud] than us!’

He heard. We are yet to calculate how this happened and hope he thought she was talking about one of us and not him. Deeja is yet to agree that it was, in fact a male. Dude was seen riding further up, cycling with his head down.

We carried on because Cold Cat was turning blue.  We saw pretty scenes masked through the trees, a giant water lily pond, running water- muddy brown- that sounded sublime and beams of sunlight shining down and glorifying a coca-cola can to magical status.

Once we arrived at Penshurst Castle, the sun broke out and we inadvertently raised the decibel level in the beautiful Quaintways teahouse, where we had tea, coffee and hot hot scones. We had come in as quietly as mice but by the end we were speaking at London volume. I officially adore teahouses. Particularly those that sell preserves without Scotch.

The way back was wonderful! With the raincoats tied around our waists, the sun on our backs and the wind in our hair and hijaabs, we freelanced downhill under the blue blue sky. We saw the paddy field girl again, stood gazing over her ongoing hard day of work.

Taj was calling out to us from behind that she was feeling incredibly sore. We couldn’t hear her but, much to her dismay, she discovered a couple were riding right behind her who heard her very well. We know this because we saw them laughing. Don’t worry, Taj, they struggled up the rest of that hill because of it.

Apparently, my bouts of cycling on the exercise bike has kept me fitter than I knew because at the end of 12 miles, I still didn’t feel tired. Having said that, at one point, I did manage to gracefully lower myself into a bush of nettles as I was staring at it too hard. This concluded in three bruises and me being entangled in the bars of the bike. ‘Toobaa, I nearly crashed into you from behind!‘ ‘Oh, really? Look at those nettles…’ There isn’t much you can do on your way down. Just watch. *flump* Oh, this feels quite soft. Then the stinging of the nettles seeps in. Commando Cat found some anti-nettle-dock (I’m too tired to google their proper name) leaves with holes in but they sufficed, alhamdulillah.

We also managed to conquer our fear of dogs. Pitbulls, poodlike things and baby-eating dogs approached us menacingly on several occasions as we sprawled on the grass drying off. Then. Much to the amusement of a passer-by, Proper Cat part-demonstrated, to us three Brownies, the correct way to use a hole in the floor. We are yet to report on whether these means are efficient or not, but we suspect and hope that they are.

We went on to impress the bike shop dudes with our completed mission. The day ended with four muddy girls browsing through the Monsoon sale. We trudged home in our browned trousers and sprayed backs (except mine, muwahah! The giant tree raincoat prevails!) feeling rather satisfied that we had finally done it. Peace at last : )

Thank you. So much. I would do this again! And again! I couldn’t have imagined a better group. And Ummi loves the ‘chutney’  from the ‘English Teahouse’!

The most amazing picture is yet to be added and may possibly may never be. But know that it exists. (Paddy Field Girl- now added).

[1- Lime does cure the throbbing of a headache but the inner ache remains and can be nauseating. Bits of lime will also be stuck to your forehead. 2- Calamine lotion does zilch for nettle stings. 3- In the absence of anti-nettle-dock leaves, Garnier Fructis Body Cocoon + Tibet Snow + Oil of Olay works great on nettle stings. 4- The one thing on the list that you decided not to bring is the one thing that you will need.]

This time last year, tarmac was peeling off the ground with girlies’ flip-flops.

Exhibit A: Yesterday’s weather.

And so I declare, yet again,

I am going on a bike ride.

A route through the country. Records show that Deeja and I have been trying to achieve this for the past couple of months now but to no avail. On the run up to every day we’ve planned, the weather soothsayers have said that our chosen day will be filled with tycoons, storms and floods. Each time the day has finally rolled round, and we have cancelled our plans, it turns out to be the bightest, warmest sunniest day of the week, ever!

Exhibit B: Today’s weather.

This time, we’ve decided to stubbornly go, even though they’ve predicted heavy rains, showers and downpours with the risk of flood and specifically warned against outdoor activities. Eh, we’ll take raincoats and know what to do if we get struck by lightning, God forbid. And we won’t ride if it really does rain (ptschhhh). I’d like to think it won’t rain this time. But it already is. God is taking pictures of the expression on my face as I pump an hour of cardio on the training bike, gazing forlornly out of the window and watching the torrent of downpour . I count between His Flash and the the reprimanding grumble of thunder:

One one thousand

Two one thousand

And that’s all I have time for before it crrraaaacks! Not very far away at all.

The Blob-Meister picked up his second and last fish-finger and, biting off a hearty three quarters in one go, bellowed ‘Stay indoors!’ Ok. Watch it with the breadcrumbs though, eh?

Meanwhile, Harry II, during his rehearsals for the Oliver Twist production, between the lines of chim chimini chim chimini chim chim chiroo, laughed and twirled his umbrella, ‘Going on a bike ride are you? Pah! Hah! Haha! I’m going to a GARDEN party!’ What.

Affi met the idea with silence and then proceeded with borrowed and yet untried methods on how to deal with my chronic daily headaches.

Deeja reckons the cosmos has a vendetta against us having social lives. I like to think we’re destined for greater things and the cosmos is trying to keep us safe. So, have your moozemac and if worse comes to worst, we can just go ice-skating. Or something. InshaAllah khair!