Friday, 19 February 2016

Help: Could my trip to Sicily be in danger of cancellation?

So does anyone want to spend £1000 and come on a trip to Sicily with me – April 10th to 17th?

It appears that Nigel No Mates (that’s me) has been the sole person to book a tour for these dates and the trip is at risk of being cancelled unless three more people book. I’ve got two weeks before I find out if it will get the axe.

And I was so looking forward to this trip – it was going to be volcano number 2 (Mt Etna) and volcano number 3 (Stromboli), as well as the bonus volcanoes of Vulcano and Lipari. Not to mention hiking in the Italian Spring time, luscious Italian pasta and pizza, and of course the very drinkable Italian red wine.

For this particular trip I had had a massive argument with myself – do I do the trip independently (I mean, it is only Sicily) or let some other sucker organise the convoluted trains and ferries required to get to each volcano, as well as all the different accommodation I would need. The issue I ummed and ahhed over was: was I cheating by doing a tour? Did the quest to climb 40 volcanoes by 40 seem less of a worthy challenge if I just tagged along on a tour?

I sought out the wisdom of friends and family and social media. In the end, I figured I’d rather be enjoying a glass of red in the sun rather than trying to interpret Italian ferry departure times or trying to squeeze into tiny public toilet cubicles with all my bags because there was no locked tour bus keeping an eye on them. Perhaps that’s just me being lazy. But at least if I was doing the frantic independent option the trip would be a sure thing.

Fortunately I haven’t booked my flights – the tour operator doesn’t recommend that until the trip is actually guaranteed. And, by all accounts, I can move the trip to tour dates later in the year so I don’t miss out. While that is great, the fact is I want to go now. So if anyone has any cash left over from Christmas and New Years and could be tempted by some volcano-walking exercise and other Italian delights, as well as getting to hang out with me, then let me know.

Just to add this isn’t a press or sponsored trip. I am travelling out of my own pocket.   

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Volcano fitness regime – death by spin class

After completely embarrassing myself on a climb up a small mountain (more hill really) in Spain a couple of weeks ago – wearing inappropriate foot attire (damn those plimsolls) and proving to be woefully unfit – I’ve taken it on myself to increase my sprightliness and lung capacity. I’ve started a spin class – after all I do have 39 volcanoes still to climb (and my Saturday morning Zumba class got pulled).

If you don’t know what a spin class is, I’ll give you a crash course here.

You sit on a stationary bike (after looking like a right twat trying to adjust the seat and then just giving up before you kick the hell out of it) and try not to fall off it while you attempt to get your feet into the peddle straps (seriously, who invented those?). Rejoicing at having got this far, you then peddle on a low level to warm up (copying everyone else) while waiting for the army-major-like gym instructor to arrive. By this point you’ve clocked the tiny speedometer thingy on the handle bars but can only understand the numbers that correspond to level and calories (RPM? No idea what that is). You twiddle with what appears to be the gear stick – wow, there are quite a lot of levels, you realise.

Finally the instructor arrives, a great hulking slab of beef cake and sweat-glazed skin. You instantly feel intimidated. He proceeds to set up the music then suddenly turns the lights off; you’re plunged into darkness. But no, he flicks a switch and you find yourself at a disco; lights flash green and red and blue, the music blares from the speakers. He yells something about 180 RMPs (what?) and level, did he say 10?

After about 30 seconds, you are thankful for the darkness as your legs begin to feel like hot pokers and your chest heaves. Sweat begins to collect on your brow. It’s then that you realise you left your towel in your bag. Bugger. You turn the gear down, hoping the instructor doesn’t notice.

Another 30 seconds later and you’re wishing you were wearing gel pads (or a giant blow-up lilo) as the bike seat becomes noticeably uncomfortable in a distinctly intimate way. And to think you already thought your backside was well-padded!

For the next hour you slave away in the disco lights, experiencing waves of increasing pain, with lungs on fire and sweat dripping on the speedometer thingy. The room gets hot and moist, despite the supposed air conditioning. It becomes hard to breathe yet you can still smell the sickly BO of the man peddling furiously in front of you.

At one point the instructor walks around to check everyone’s progress. He stares at your speedometer thingy (showing numbers drastically below what he said you should be on) and breaks into a hysterical cackle, slapping his knee and bending over double from the exertion of laughing so hard. You gasp out that it’s your first time. He just continues to laugh and moves onto the next person, who is clearly doing better than you (b****).

With dehydration imminent, you chug back some water, only to be embarrassingly informed it wasn’t water break time and now everyone has to repeat the super-intense, leg-breaking track again. They all glare at you, shaking their heads, the disco lights reflecting in the rivers of sweat running down their faces. You think you might actually die or, if you don’t, you fear you’re not going to be able to sit for a week as the pain radiating from your backside notches up to level ‘excruciating’.

By the time the class is over, you feel like a well wrung out washing-up sponge, your legs are jelly, your face a tomato, and there is a wild look in your eyes. You stumble from the room, self-consciously aware that you walk like there’s a hornet’s nest up your bum. It takes three days for that feeling to dissipate.

So people, that’s spin class – all that torture just in the name of getting fit. Surely next week’s class can’t be that bad, can it?

What hilarious or painful regimes have you put yourself through in order to get fit? Do share – if only to make me feel better!