The Lost World at Christmas – by Helen May

This year, I will be spending Christmas in the same way as many: with family exchanging presents, politely declining another mince pie/slice of homemade Christmas cake/cheese balls. This is very different for me: over the years, my Christmas tradition has become making the most of the extra holidays to disappear to a warm country and walk/cycle/climb to a location where the local inhabitants (maybe only a few birds) know very little about Christmas.

For example, a couple of years ago, I spent Christmas climbing Mount Roraima in Venezuela. This was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel “The Lost World” which was, I believe, the inspiration for the movie “Up!” It is a steep-sided, flat-topped mountain of nearly 3000m high.

The walk/climb started on a humid morning a couple of days before Christmas through beautiful green lower slopes. There was a fair amount of gentle up and down made a little more difficult for some by food poisoning. Thankfully, I had not suffered: since having diabetes, vomiting (which has always been horrible) is worse coping with plummeting blood sugar levels. So the only discomfort I had to deal with was a little jet lag and humidity.

Unfortunately, our first day finished a little earlier than we hoped. The humidity had increased to a huge downpour and the river became too dangerous to cross until the next day.

Christmas Eve. The rain had stopped by the time we woke, the sky was blue and the paths which were rivers of mud the night before were hard again. The walking started by fording the fast flowing permanent river so we were all wet within 15 minutes of starting, But it was hot so we dried off pretty quickly. In fact it was so hot we had the next minor problem: after two hours of walking, I had finished my two litres of drinking water. Thankfully, the mountain streams were clean so we didn’t have to walk far. And a couple of hours later across a beautiful but sun-exposed landscape, we arrived at our next camp site.

This time, we’d seen no rain along our walk… until 4pm when the heavens opened and it started to pour. It poured through the night and we woke on Christmas Day to more rain. It was pouring. Even the best Gortex jacket was no match for this much water. But we were not to be put off. It was still hot and we had a summit in sight. Only 1000m to go but today it was more of a rock scramble than a gentle stroll. Added to that there was a waterfall to walk through. Surprisingly, we were able to notice the difference between just rain and waterfall but we had to be very careful where we put our feet to ensure we did not knock off any rocks as we went.

To be honest, it was not the most enjoyable Christmas day. But it felt like an incredible achievement to make it to our campsite perched on rock ledge sipping tea and eating Christmas cake (you couldn’t completely forget about the celebration). On Boxing Day, the rain had stopped, and we were faced with an amazing view.

I wonder what excitement Christmas will bring this year. And how the rich food that I have missed in recent years will affect my blood sugars. I’m sure there will be some ups and downs but I intend to have a good one.

Until 2011 – Merry Christmas to everyone, whatever you may be doing!

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