30 days!

Just 30 days until the walk commences! 30 days until we Dove Step away from Lakenheath Fen RSPB and set a bearing north!

As much as I am intimidated by the challenge I think we have all prepared extremely well for the distances involved and I couldn’t be happier with the assembled team. We are gradually refining the route for each day and getting precise distances as well as camp sites or accommodation. At 27.9miles Day 1 of Dove Step will be the furthest distance I have ever walked!

The remaining days we have tallied up all hover around the same marathon distance.

As mentioned we have all been busy training; Sir Rob covered 40 miles over two days this weekend walking the north Norfolk coast, a sure demonstration that he’ll be able to cope with the Dove Step mileage.

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Sir Rob – rightly pleased to be the correct side of 40 miles worth of training walk!

Meanwhile Tris was busy pounding the hills with his first of many planned marathons this year; the Grizedale 26. You can read all about his incredible feat of endurance over on Tris’s website.

Tris post marathon and with a badge of honour!
Tris post marathon and with his badge of honour!

Goodrick and myself have been doing some more modest training runs ahead of this weekends Anglesey Half Marathon, The Island Race. It will be great to sport our green RSPB vests and enjoy the best of Anglesey on foot!

In parallel with our urge to move northward for Dove Step, Turtle Doves wintering in sub Saharan Africa will be orientating north around the same time we do. I happened across this French website and the Turtle Dove Research currently ongoing by Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage (Oncfs):

During the 2013 breeding season, 3 adult Turtle Doves were captured in the south west of France (Poitou-Charentes region), within the Chizé forest, and fitted with these transmitters. These 3 birds are closely surveyed since then: satellite tags alternate 10 hours transmitting periods and 48 hours in “sleeping” mode during which batteries are charged thanks to the solar cells. (Copyright Oncfs, February 2014).

Of the birds satellite tagged, Bird 1 ‘Marcel’ produced the most informative data and was tracked all the way from the south of France to the wintering area south east of Mali in the Niger River Valley:

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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 6th – 16th September 2013 Copyright ONCFS
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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 15th September – 2nd October 2013 Copyright ONCFS
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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 29th September – 8th December 2013 Copyright ONCFS
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Marcel Turtle Dove migration route 7th December 2013 – 14th February 2014 Copyright ONCFS

It will be interesting to see if ‘Marcel’ offers insight into the return migration route for Turtle Doves this spring and the Dove Step team eagerly awaits updates from the excellent Oncfs project. It is notable that last years migration skirted west Africa, through Morocco and Western Sahara before heading inland to Mali. Interestingly, this west coast route would be the most feasible for us humans wishing to get to the same end point. Although this is more for reasons of political and social unrest in addition to the hostility of the desert.

routesmap1
Red dots shown possible two-way border crossings, though not all in the desert are accessible. Many other border crossings are used by locals, but are closed to non-Africans or tourists without good connections.
Purple lines show the two main trans-Sahara routes at the moment; the orange route is the classic Hoggar route that hasn’t been done since about 2010. Red lines show borders which cannot be crossed legitimately (some may be mined and you may be arrested or run into bandits/smugglers/rebels/terrorists). Unmarked border lines can, up to a point be crossed as long as you check into the nearest immigration point. Some pass through extremely remote or outlaw areas where you still may get arrested or robbed. As you can see, it’s principally northern Mali and Niger – not a place where any tourists go at the moment. No entry signs relate to regions, not entire countries, and only the main current no-go areas are identified.
Wherever possible use official border crossings, marked with the red dot or expect the consequences outlined above. Copyright Sahara Overland http://saharaoverland.wordpress.com/home/

As ever many, many thanks for reading and following our progress. A whole hearted thanks to our sponsors and supporters, be sure to check out the recently updated ‘Supporters‘ page and if you are able do consider a visit to the JustGiving page.  

30 days and counting!

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