Friday, 15 January 2016

Malawi - The Magnificent Nail Hunt

I was in Malawi last week, part of a survey team working on the road north out of Lilongwe.  One of my roles was to find various survey control that had been established alongside the road.  Aside from the trig beacons, which were scattered every 40km on average, there were concreted points every km (flush with the ground) and interim secondary control points established with nails.

My first challenge was to find the point at this market.
Concrete marker market
Apparently I was quite amusing to watch as I'd hop out of the car glued to the GPS and walk slowly in ever decreasing circles, staring at the ground, until I stopped. However I still couldn't find it. Being the only white female in the area, with my natty yellow fluorescent jacket and floppy hat, blending in wasn't likely. A few chaps looked at me as I scuffed at the ground with my feet then pointed to the soil about a metre away. Ta dah - my goal!
Concrete marker
It wasn't possible to obtain a GPS fix inside the car so I adopted an arm-out-the-window surveying approach which worked well. I was a little nervous I'd drop it in the bush at times, or a local kid would do a sprint-by GPS grab, but I held onto it.
This is what makes me happy - a camera in one hand and a GPS in the other. Heaven.
Peg hunting
The most satisfying find of the day came when I wandered off to find a nail in the bush.
My handheld  GPS wasn't accurate enough to narrow me to down to the nearest centimetre so I just wandered around looking aimless.  My presence attracted a few boys who hopped over and started chatting with our Malawian surveyor.  They seemed to know what he was talking about.  I suspect the presence of the survey team a few months earlier had been watched by them.  However I wasn't expecting the boy to find it.
Golly - he's good.  I have not been so pleased to see a nail for a long time!
The peg
The boy was with his two brothers, the oldest of who organised his younger siblings for the family photo shoot.
Peg hunting
We headed further north and climbed up to a trig with magnificent views.
Malawi trig 94NWT
Malawi trig 94NWT
Not being content with one trig, a day or so later we bagged this one on the way back into Lilongwe.
Malawi trig 142NWT
It is a close call but I really do think my legs are whiter than the trig pillar.
Malawi trig 85NWT

Saturday, 2 January 2016

It's Been a Long Time - Happy New Year!

I hadn't realised how remiss I'd been in supplying my global readership (or is that reader?) with geo stories until someone pointed out in December that I hadn't blogged since August.  How terrible is that?  I have no defence: (a) I am travelling less with work (um, not at all to be honest) so my source of geo finds is more localised and (b) my spare time is spent walking the South West Coast Path rather than trig hunting.

However, to usher in the New Year I'm back and thought I'd share my geo Christmas.  I am frequently informed that I'm awkward to buy for but at least I like maps.  So there is a definite theme to those who kindly purchase me gifts.  I'm also intending to travel more in 2016 so asked for some accessories to help.  Such as the buff in the picture below.  I've been eyeing these up for years but never got around to it.  But this one is too adorable to ignore.
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And I received some handy travel bags - "Walk on Earth", "I'm a Wanderer".
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I've enjoyed Mark Ovenden's previous books so am looking forward to getting my teeth into this one. I suspect this will ignite my desire to visit each one of these underground systems now. I've done a few (London, Rio, Glasgow, New York, Beijing, Frankfurt to name a few) but there are oodles more to experience.
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And this book too was on my wish list. How geography and politics are entwined. Looks good.
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For an impatient person I bizarrely enjoy sitting down and tackling a jigsaw. And this one looks just up my street. Or, rather, up my A to Z.
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And one gift bought a real lump to my throat, from Norma Hall when I met her for lunch before Christmas. Ken, her late husband, had always promised me a tripod - he'd "picked up two for a fiver" he proudly declared - but he died before the grand handover. I was touched she had remembered.
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Anyway my 2016 is kicking off to a good start with a trip to Malawi next week. So my little blue bags are filling up with bits and bobs (mainly deet and anti-histamine) and I have the sun in my sights. All I need is a map in my hand and I'll be made.
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