Thursday, April 23, 2020

Thursday, April 23, 2020

favorite walks and hikes

Posted by Hippobean at 10:36 PM
In Hippo's travels:

1. Taktsang Monastery (Tiger's Nest), Bhutan -
At the hotel, we looked up to admire the Monastery perched on the side of the hill, high up in front of us. It seemed so tiny and oh so far up. It reminded me of Meteora. Then we began our hours long hike up 900m to the Dzong, the Tiger's Nest. The first part of the hike was very steep but not long. At the halfway point, we stopped to rest at the teahouse and I had lentil soup that was so very salty, excellent to replenish the electrolyte. The view of the Dzong at this point was still really not close enough. The next section was really steep but shorter it seemed, and took me about 45 minutes. The view became better and better as we climbed higher and higher. Then came the 478 stairs down. At this point the view of the Dzong was right in front of us, stunning. At the bottom of the stairs, more stairs led to the Dzong's entrance. Up we went. The terrace of the Dzong offered a sweeping breathtaking view of the Paro valley. I couldnt believe we've actually climbed all this way up. The Dzong consisted of 3 separate halls and the cave where Guru Rinpoche flew to on the back of a tiger. Nothing too impressive inside. I've climbed with a hiking stick in the shape of a phallus and everyone loved it. It was a tremendous hike, worth every streneous step because the reward at the end of the hike was well worth the effort and suffering. Gorgeous gorgeous hike!

2. Eiger Trail , Switzerland -
From Mannlichen to the base of the Eiger. Gorgeous hike with views of the Eiger, the Mönch and the Jungfrau, now in full view, now hidden behing clouds. Wide open space, views that reached no end. Once we reached the base of the Eiger, its wall so sheer and tall we could not see its peak. The best trail and views in the Jungfrau area. Gorgeous gorgeous hike. Jungfrau, Hippo's no 7 in her favorite Mountains.

3. Walks in Petra , Jordan -
22 years ago, I rode on horseback through the ciq. On the second trip to Petra, I walked El Ciq a total of 4 times during the day. Narrow path flanked by vertical ochre walls. At night with 1000 lanterns leading to the Treasury. Awesome, magical night walk. Fantastic contrast to the walks during sun light.
After the climb of 900+ steps to the Monastery, i turned to the right and what I saw took my breath away. The Monastery façade was enormous and very very tall. The view of the surrounding Nabatean hills up there was a grand feast for the eyes. All ochre hills and rocks all around. This was my favorite part of Petra. The valley floor was impressive enough but the Monastery façade was really something else. I sat there with a cup of mint tea and just gazed on the Monastery façade.
Moe took us for a trek that gradually went up to the High Place of Sacrifice, a different way to get into Petra. We scrambled among boulders and ended up on top of the Treasury where we could see the el ciq from the top. Like a serpentine river of sand. Another angle of el ciq. Awesome. It was a fantastic hike and a new view of the rose city. We descended back to the valley floor by the normal route, the stairs that went up to the high place of sacrifice. I didnt much feel like walking the 1K Ciq again, so Jodi and I took the chariot. It flew down the Ciq in thunderbolt speed, and we felt every rock bump and jolt in our bodies. I've never felt so sore from any rides in my life. So we've decided on a Turkish bath. Clean and invigorated afterwards. Wow, what hikes those were. Loved them. Petra, no 4 in Hippo's favorite Ancient City.

4. Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Exulting, triumphant hike to the base of the towers. From Hosterias de las Torres, amidst dense forests, the trail led to the base of the moraine. All switch backs and up and up and up with reprise. Totally spent, the towers were finally there in front of me. Couldnt take my eyes off them. Just sat there and admired them without blinking.
Many short and easy hikes to the Cuernos with expansive sweeping views of Patagonia, guanacos pausing to look at us, condors soaring above us, foxes running away from us, mountains, glaciers, rivers and lakes. Hikes to the Grey glacier, bouncing on and off icebergs, climbing up hills to observe more natural beauty of Patagonia. Patagonia, one of Hippo's most favorite places on earth. Torres del Paine, no 6 in Hippo's favorite Mountains.

5. Upper Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina -
The fall views on the Brazilian side were all panoramic. On the Argentine side, there were 2 circuits, lower and upper. the upper circuit offered views from the top of the falls which included being on top of the Garganta del Diablo. Being on top of the falls looking down was an experience like no other as you got to feel the energy and the power of the falls from the top. And we did it in a rainy day which added more dramatic excitement to the experience. Loved loved this walk. Iguazu falls from the Argentine side is no 2 in Hippo's favorites Mountain/Desert/ Glacier/Waterfall.

6. Azure Trail Corneglia to Vernazza, Cinque Terre, Italia -
Coastal walk starting from Corneglia town square, up the hill, gentle ups and downs along the ligurian sea. Looking back to Corneglia, the town perched on the hill on the coast looked tranquil and beautiful. Made a stop for lemon slush with great views of Corneglia and Manarola in the distance. Snowie requested a photo with Corneglia perched on the hill on the azure sea. Request granted. The last part was steep steps down to Vernazza. Fantastic full views of the town below. Snowie again insisted on more photos on the trail with the look of Vernazza below. Vain stuffy. Among all the hikes in Cinque Terre, this Azure trail was the most scenic and enjoyable.

7. To San Gimignano, Toscana, Italia -
Started our hike to San Gimignano along the Via Francigena, the ancient pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome. The trail looped around the hill, wide gravel paths past gorgeous Sangiovese vineyards and rural houses with the view of the Gimignano medieval towers always present. The weather was fine and at every turn up and down the path, we got the view of the towers at every angle. Found a spot among vines to have our picnic lunch. Very pleasant hike. snowie took several photos with the towers on the background as we hiked along. very excited stuffy. A bit of up and down, nothing strenuous until the last part where we had to hike up the hill into town. San Gimignano is Hippos' no 2 in favorite old towns. So the reward at the end of this steep incline into town was indeed a total pleasure.

8. Pienza to Montepulciano Toscana, Italia -
Headed downhill from pienza on the strade bianche, the white gravel road towards the village of Monticchiello. The hike was gorgeous passing chianti vineyards and the famous cypress tree avenues on the valley of d’Orcia. This was the most scenic hike on this trip. We had views of San Quirico, Monticchiello and Montepulciano on the hills along our hike. A picnic lunch at a vineyard among the vines and with a direct magnificent view of the hilltop town of Montepulciano, our final destination. Frederica surely knew how to do picnic lunches. Good local focaccia and sliced bread, a variety of cheeses, tomatoes, different kinds of prosciutto cotto, salamy, carrots and even cookies for dessert. After a satisfying lunch and glorious views, we headed uphill to the hilltop town. After passing an avenue of cypresses, the Renaissance temple of San Biagio came into view. From there, it's all uphill to Montepulciano. at 605m high, perched in a limestone ridge, montepulciano was encircled by renaissance walls and fortifications. once we've crossed the Porta delle Farine into the town, nothing here was flat. Only the Piazza Grande which was the heart of town. From the square, every street was a downhill . Inside la Mura della Fortezza, the wine shop had glass floors that showed the archaeological artifacts below the ground and there were some dry wells below and standing on the glass floor looking straight down the well was quite eerie. many churches in the town, and the Via di Voltaia Nel Corso, the main drag, had great shops and cafes and many more churches. Again, not enough time to do the whole main drag any justice, and had to walk uphill back to the piazza Grande. We took a local bus back to pienza. Gorgeous hike in very fine weather. Loved it.

9. To Fitzroy Massif, Parque de los Glaciares, South Patagonia Ice Fields, Argentina -
Early morning hike to Fitzroy from the town of El Chaltén. Rural pastures, romantic estancias and historic farms, distant mountains with ever looming vertiginous Fitzroy peeks. Manificent vistas, panoramic views of the vast, isolated and empty Argentine Patagonia. The Fitzroy face was huge and tall, imposing but somehow not menacing. Loved it. Next day, the very long and exhausting trek to Cerro Torre. By the time we arrived close to the peaks, they were covered in clouds. Wow, such wonderful hikes in this desolated environment, free of urban polution, noise and movement. Loved it, loved it.

10. Dubrovnik City Wall Walk, Dubrovnik, Croatia -
The well preserved limestone defensive wall enclosed the entire old town. The Minčeta Tower high up and forts looking towards the Adriatic. along the wall, views of the entire limestone paved stradum, side alleys, churches and red roof houses on 1 side and the sea on the other, with refreshing sea breeze that cooled you down while you walked. No other city wall had this much to offer. The Hippo did this walk twice. Dubrovnik, no 6 in Hippo's favorite Old Towns.

Runner Up:

Summit Mtn Ijen, Java, Indonesia -
It was still raining when we got up at 1AM and it continued to rain on and off during our 2 hour jeep ride to Ijen. After a cup of instant coffee at the base of the volcano, we put on our plastic rain coats that came with a hood, and our headlamps, and started our hike in the dark.

Dunno whose grand idea it was to hike to the Ijen summit in the rain. We'd all wanted to see the blue fire and the turquoise lake on the crater, so with this kind of weather, what were we thinking? The path started out with a gentle slope that gradually turned steep. About 3/4 ways up, the rain turned into a fierce storm and the wind picked up and punished us like the idiots we were. I've never seen so many people hiking and in such a miserable weather. I guess we werent the only idiots that day. We soon lost both of our guides. The steep slope gave way to switchbacks and then the path flattened. Around the final bend, I finally saw the sign 2799m, the Ijen summit. A big open structure with just a roof was packed with hikers. couldnt find any members of my group in this multitude. The wind was gusting and rain lashing hard. I was soaked and my boots totally ruined. sloshing in my miserably wet boots, with my muddy jeans clinging to my legs, I turned the other way, to the viewpoint. Attendants were wearing oxygen masks. probably due to the gusty wind and rain, the smell of sulphur wasnt as bad as I've anticipated. I didnt even wear my mask. foggy to the max, absolutely no view of the crater and the turquoise lake and of course no blue fire. i turned around and headed back down.

What seemed to be an eternity slowly negotiating down the slippery wet path, I finally made it back to the parking lot. peering into every jeep, finally kieran opened the door for me. shed the wet things on my body and noticed Kieran's legs were steaming. He said mine were too. Then the breakfast boxes arrived and we ate like hungry bears. Bearing another long boring and uncomfortable 2 hrs, tired and absolutely sopping, we got back to the hotel. It took me almost 2 hrs to reach the summit and a little over an hour to get back down. All for nothing.

But was it really for nothing. The Hippo has scaled Mtn Ijen in a storm. Although missed the turquoise lake and the blue fire, standing on the summit of Ijen in howling rain and wind was an experience not easily adquired. Thus a Runner Up on the list. Maybe someday she'd finally see Ijen crater and with a bit of luck, the blue fire.


Camel Ride in the Sahara, Merzouga Desert, Morocco -
We got on camels and caravan'd into the dunes to get to our Berber camp. Never liked camels and like less riding them. The forward and backwards swaying was nauseating and my inner thighs hurt. T had a faddish about riding on animals so he walked the whole way instead. The Sahara sand banks were orange color, not quite as high as the dunes in Oman and not as vast. I couldnt wait to feel the sand on my feet. I'd wanted to jump from my camel and roll in the sand. We started late and missed the glorious sunset. Someone reminded me of taking a picture of our shadows on the sand and I snapped quite a few. an hour and 15 minutes later we arrived at our Berber camp.

I know this isnt exactly a hike but I did get off my camel and walked a bit on the sand behind the caravan. And since being in the Sahara was an once in a lifetime experience, this made it to Hippo's bonus. Camping in the Sahara was also on Hippo's Extra Special list.



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