Monday, April 13, 2020

Monday, April 13, 2020

favorite mountains/deserts/glaciers/waterfalls

Posted by Hippobean at 2:33 PM
In Hippo's travels:

1. Wahiba Sands, Oman -
Suddenly this huge orange sand bank appeared before us and we drove onto it. The world changed from mountains and houses and cars and palm trees to red sand and orange dunes, the mighty immense Wahiba Sands. The sand was super fine and the wind created ondulating patterns on it. The air was hot and dry and the wind was blowing. Above us was the immense blue sky and beneath and all around the never ending orange red sand. We've stopped at the bottom of a giant dune, ran up it and slouched back down again. What fun! our luxury desert camp, the 1000 Nights Camp, with spacious sheep woolen tents and open air bathrooms. We sat on top of a dune in the warm late afternoon and i took off my sandals to allow my feet to sink luxuriously into the red sand, one of the most sensual moments in life. The sun, round and clear and bright, slowly dipped spectacularly behind the dunes in front of us, until everything went silhouette. Possibly the best sunset I've ever witnessed. At 3AM I got up and stepped outside the tent with Small GreenEye Leo to experience desert at night. Pitchblack, absolute silence. Amazingly not cold. We sat in front of the tent and looked up at the clear stars. Aside from their brilliance, we could see nothing. Moments like this was an unique treasure. Perhaps this was the only time in my life where the silence was so absolute and the darkness so complete. Absolutely one of the best moments. Suddenly a shooting star sped across the sky. then it was followed by the roar of jets. an airplane flying overhead from muscat!

2. Iguazu Falls, Argentina -
A narrow gauge train to top of the Garganta del Diablo. we're _literally_ on the top of the biggest fall in Iguazu! It spewed so much spray up the air that from the plane it looked like a hole was punched in the middle of the jungle. Neither photography nor words could describe the gushing and roaring of this diablo, it's like the water was competing with itself to see who gets down the fall faster. No one, no one who had witnessed this thing and not be overwhelmed! It was still raining so hard and we got so wet that we didnt know if it's from the rain or from the falls. Somehow I thought we were lucky that it was a rainy day. It felt so much in harmony with the falls. If it were a sunny day I thought I wouldnt have like it so much. I never wanted to leave this place. It's the most awesome sight I've ever seen and experienced. It beats the Trummelbach in Lauterbrunnen.

Without being on top of the Garganta, you havent experienced the real Iguazu. this one is the Queen of them all. No wonder Eleanor Roosevelt said 'Poor Niagara'! From now on, every waterfall pales in comparison. A heart stealing experience.

3. Aoraki/Mtn Cook, South Island, New Zealand -
the morning drive from Omarama along lake pukaki with water so blue that it's like the blue sky fell into the lake. unobstructed views of Mtn Cook along the river. We've hiked up to the Tasman Glacier viewpoint and caught all 3 summits of Aoraki. A horizontal band of white clouds like a string of cotton floated between the tops of the mountains and the valleys below. In Mtn Cook village, we stood in front of the Hermitage hotel and the 3,724 metres Mtn Cook's south facing peak was in full view. The adjacent peaks had hanging glaciers in permanent stained orange/brown from the australian bushfire smoke on top and clear blue on the bottom. All in clear view. normally Mtn Cook National park was shrouded in fog and mist. We were very very lucky to experience it in a clear sunny morning. The Hippo loves mountains the best, so it was a very special treat.

4. Mtn Bromo , Java, Indonesia -
Up and bundled up for the summit cold, we took our jeeps again for the short ride up the caldera. on Mtn Pandangan admist the hordes of tourists, we waited 2 hrs in the cold and dark for the sun to rise. The sunrise itself wasnt spectacular but once the rays hit the cluster of the volcanoes inside the Tengger massif caldera, the smoking bromo, the smoking massive and tall Semeru, the lesser Batok and Widodaren, was a view to remember. Snowie took quite a few photos posing in front of the smoking craters. Arinto offered us hot coffee and fried bananas and tempes. We took the jeeps again to drive down to the center of the caldera and then a hike in the sea of sand, dodging horses that carried people and avoiding the horse droppings, then a gentle climb and then the 200 some steps up to Mtn Bromo smoking crater. Tons of people and we had to wait to get up the steps, reminiscing of the wait at the base of half dome in yosemite. Once up on the Mtn Bromo rim, quite a site to finally see a smoking caldera right beneath you. I remember reading online about sunrise over Mtn Bromo and the moonlike landscape of the sea of sands. The author didnt enjoy the sunrise but after seeing the sea of sands, he declared the early morning rise and all the trouble of getting there worthwhile. The sea of sands was nothing spectacular. Just dust everywhere. What was worth getting up so early was the sight of the shimmering volcanoes on the caldera floor in the morning sunrays, and being right on top of the smoking crater. Those were one in a lifetime sights.

5. Perito Moreno -
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares,
Trekking on the glacier with crampons. The glacier as well as any water that flows on it were blue. Calving was loud and numerous. Everytime we heard it, everyone stopped and looked around to see which piece of ice fell. I've stepped on glaciers before, like on the Athabasca on the Columbia Icefield in Alberta, Canada, but Perito was so much more massive and so high. At the end of the trek, the local guides offered us local whiskey, with P. Moreno ice. Hippo got terribly sun burned (not from the whiskey). From the vistapoint, this huge piece of ice was ginormous. And very clear blue. Wow, what an experience. Not easily forgettable.

6. Torres del Paine -
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine,
8 hours trek to the base of the towers, guanacos, rheas, foxes and condors abound. Then I just literally crashed, almost kissed the ground. The feeling of awe before these towers was a command by nature. And my feelings? A promise kept. No tears (too tired to cry) but exulting. Triumphant. Delayed but not forbidden. I came to do this and I've done it. The awe inspiring towers of Paine were right there in front of me, and my eyes were finally set upon them. Just a small cloud to cover the ever shy south tower, otherwise all 3 towers were in the plain view, all their glory and secret exposed. I sat down to eat my apple and took in their beauty. Then the wind deposited the snow flakes from the peaks upon my sun burned face and Hippo was in heaven. And the Paine gods in their heavens smiled ... Janko came to shake my hand and to congratulate me. He read about my fiasco story.

2 years before, I was imprisoned in Balmaceda in Bernard O'Higgins National Park, unable to get to the towers. The Paine gods had forbidden the Hippo to see the towers with her own eyes. Linda told me the sight of me sat down on the tallest rock right in front of the towers, eating my apple and contemplating the view, was the best sight she saw in the entire trip. I couldn't take my eyes off the towers. I think they knew how I felt. I've waited 2 years to return and the towers waited for me patiently. What a dramatic grand finale. To the 'end of the earth' again.
A promise kept.

7. Bernese Alps, Bernese Oberland,
Switzerland -
The Eiger, the Monch and the Jungfrau, all 3 of them werent easy to catch. Once in Mannlichen, they were clear but by the time you've reached the base of the Eiger, their tops had disappeared behind clouds. the 3 peeks were absolutely gorgeous. Ok, Ok, but Eiger looks gorgeous to me. The massive northWest face of Eiger with a base like a sheer wall all the way to the top. At its base, one felt like a minuscule insect. From our hotel terrace in Lauterbrunnen, we could see Junfrau and one late afternoon it shone like a gold mine when the sun hit its face. One of the nature's best mountain range.

8. Gheralta, Tigray, Ethiopia -
I was quite pissed when I've discovered we werent going to stay at the Agoro lodge in Tigray. but with all my fuzz about not going there, Gheralta proved to be a much better choice. I'd have missed the mountains had we gone to Agoro. the mountain range was totally exposed to be admired from the lodge. It colors and shape change during the course of the day. the afternoon intense heat made them shimmering, the dusk rays from the left made them bright on 1 side and silhouette on the other, and at night, you couldnt tell the mountains were there but could feel a void far beyond. In the morning, they were crystal clear in the clear fresh air. So beautiful, so majestic and so magical. SmallLeo and I've spent quite a time admiring the slow changes and the different beauties of this mountain range.

9. Amalia Glacier,
Beagle Channel, Chile -
It's 10PM and we're still docked at Ushuaia. Due to gusty winds Beaufort Force 9 pinning the ship onto the berth, we could not leave the dock and sail to Punta Arenas. So the captain decided instead we cruised slowly through the Beagle Channel and had the scenic views of its famous glaciers. the parade of glaciers started early in the morning and one by one displayed themselves but it's in the following morning when we entered the Magellan Strait, the southern Patagonia region, that we caught the biggest one, the Amalia. We stopped in front of the massive glacier for an entire hour where the handsome Captain Edward Perrin swung the vessel bow to port to give a view of the glacier for both sides of the ship. The massive ice was tremendous, even seen from away. As the vessel approached it closer, the towering ice shocked your eyes. Nothing but pure awe. And we had the luxury of admiring it from the comforts of our ship. When it turned around, we just ran to the other side to see the glacier again. Next to P Moreno, Amalia was the grandest.

10. Gullfoss, Iceland -
It was the end of April, but the island of ice was still frozen and cold. Comprised of several canyons, Gullfoss roaring waters ran amidst frozen ice. Spectacular sight, water gushing down everywhere on frozen walls. Amazing and awesome.

Runner Up:
Trümmelbach Falls, Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland -
A series of waterfalls inside a mountain in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Elevators take you up to the cave and you walk along the falls with the water gushing beside you. Awesome and very scary.


Mtn Everest, The Himalays-
Paro over the Himalyas on Druk Air, the Royal Bhutan Airlines, excellent service. As we flew by the Himalyas, the pilot announced the appearance of the famous peaks, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, all the familiar names. But they looked not close enough. KTM to Mtn flight, Bhudda Air from Kathmandu, a 20 mins flight to get close and personal to Everest in the comforts of a ... eh, small propeller plane. Glorious Everest, Lhotse and Makalu, all in close view. Once in altitude, we could go to the cockpit for a grander look at Everest.

I've enjoyed the flight very much. This was what I came to Nepal for. Well worth getting up at 4:30AM. When does one get to see Everest so close and in its entirety without the strenuous hike to Everest base camp? Bought a tshirt that says
'I didnt climb Everest but I touched it with my heart' for the rocket scientits.



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