LAZAROW WORLD HIKE-ABOUT
Chamonix, France: Preparing for the crossover. Alpage De Loriaz trail.
'WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HIKE-ABOUT?'
Hike-about is an adventure that commenced June 2010. After storing our household movables, ridding ourselves of a house but retaining our 'home' together, we set off with the purpose
of hiking in different parts of the world, not forgetting the home country, the USA. Our primary focus is hiking to mountain peaks but any challenging hike will do just fine. Extended stays
allow us to enjoy and experience living in various places amongst differing cultures. Hike-about has evolved into a way of life. It's also a process of discovery, both the world and ourselves.
We work and live 'on the road' but return to the city in which our grandchildren reside, every couple of months. This provides us the wonderful opportunity to be with them as well as a
child or two, even three and of course, friends.
By December 2016, the blog contained 800 hikes, each a set of pictures with stories and anecdotes from the trails. An index to the right allows the viewer to identify earlier experiences.
Finally, we are often asked about the journey's end.
Our reply, as accurate as we can state, is: "When we are either forced to cease through health issues or the enjoyment level no longer reaches our aspirations, we will hang up the boots."
Whereas we continue to update the blog after meaningful hikes/visuals, we only circulate notifications irregularly.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Going for a bus ride or two.
We did some planning for our maiden trip to Reunion, a French island in the Indian ocean off the eastern coast of Southern Africa. (My first mistake is I forgot the maiden and took an older (sweet) lady instead.) Whereas it may be close to Africa, so is France for that matter; in our opinion, the island is France, just on a different continent. Even the licence plates (number plates) are Euro-French licences. It seems to us that Reunion is far more French than Hawaii is American. That may not make sense to a reader, but we thought it an appropriate way of expressing the feelings we derived from our visit. Hike-about-33 began in Chamonix, France and concludes, the hiking elements, in Reunion, France—French bookends, perhaps. The main point is that we have enjoyed both countries immensely, the people and the land.
The town of Cilaos viewed from a little way up the mountain.
Keeping a colorful eye on the not so wild, wildlife.
About to be taken for a ride. (Of busses in pink, yellow and grey)
The forests are gorgeous with great formations in and surrounding them.
The view as we come over the pass.
The editor tells me she was doing research once she completed the 3,700 feet climb. Shot taken from balcony of the hut at the peak. Her camouflage failed miserably.
On a clear day you can see forever.
A couple of attractive scenes at the peak.
Love the color although a bird makes life difficult for itself.
The editor makes her way through a very attractive region.
Anyway, the planning went along fine but we used the wrong strategy. It meant we decided to cancel our car rental, something we always use, and enter the wilds for 5 days thus negating the need for a vehicle...a helicopter, yes but not a car. However, on closer examination of our routes and bookings a day or so before departure from South Africa, we made substantial changes. The information to which we had access did not provide the confidence required to undertake previous aspirations. The change we implemented came with its own issues and our first day and night proved to be nearly as tough as a difficult hike and certainly provided, if not entertainment, a certain amount of stress and discomfort. There are those growth experiences again.
We arrived at Reunion airport a little before 10pm, not an ideal time. Unfortunately, the taxi rank was empty. As an aside, some years ago we arrived in Geneva late at night with our destination being Ferney-Voltaire. When we asked the immigration officer about finding a taxi at 12am, he said France was ‘closed’. We thought it was just a language misunderstanding. Instead, we left the airport on the Swiss side, hailed a cab and traveled back into France. If not always ‘relaxing’, it sure is interesting, is world travel and adventure.
We spoke to the woman at information desk who said she would make an arrangement regarding transport. We then asked whether she would call our landlord and let him know we had arrived but would be late (She was sweet and helpful.) Long story short—the landlord collected us from the airport—that’s a first. The next morning, we were due to head south-west by bus, having cancelled the car rental which previous route was south-east. We asked the guy to call a taxi, but he advised against it saying we should take a city bus to the Central Gare (station), at which point we would need to ride a yellow bus to the St Louis Gare, followed by a final bus to Cilaos and thereafter, walk to the hotel. Notwithstanding the advice, I tried arranging for a taxi, but the dispatcher could not speak English. Of course, I speak fluent French but on principle decided if he would not speak my language, I would not speak his. Foolish pride is indeed...foolish. Back to the buses and some walking. We each had a full backpack, perhaps over-full is more accurate plus, as they say in airline parlance, hand luggage that could be stowed above. Unfortunately, it was attached to our hands at the time, weighing us down.
We ended catching four buses, the extra one because our landlord, who drives a Mercedes, did not tell us to get off the bus at an earlier stop rather than the end of the line. Through advice, conflicting and otherwise from a number of people, none whom could speak English while we do not speak French, it was a riot. Finally, after considering our options, somewhat limited, I approached a driver who was sitting in his bus beyond the station. We had a chat or sort of one and he told me to wait at the bus stop just ahead. He started the bus, drove in, picked us up, told me to stand next to him and drove on for less than a mile. Using his index and middle fingers, he indicated to where we should walk, pointing out yellow buses in the distance. He would not take money, but I did hand him a dried fruit bar received from Austral airlines, the previous evening. The kindness of strangers is humbling, so beautiful and of course, helpful.
Thereafter, things went well or mostly well. Remember, each member of our group, the two of us, had full backpacks and heavy computer cases stuffed with a lot more than gadgets. For this occasion, we elected not to bring formal baggage but much deodorant instead (‘Mom, we’re just kidding'...she gets so serious at times). The last leg of the bus journey involved a net gain of over 4,000 feet on a road that is reputed to have 400 sharp bends, most of them hairpin. Is that all? We've never experienced a journey such as that. I could not help but offer the driver both congratulations and appreciation for his driving skills. He drives the route, him and his colleagues, 4 times per day each. Besides being extremely car sick, one cannot fail to consider those drivers and their skills in awe. We estimate the accumulated elevation gain at about 5,000 feet—now that’s a hike. As another aside, I often ask the question internally: “How come we give tips to so many people for their services, especially waiters etc whereas a motor mechanic or, a bus driver on this route, ensures our safety and works an awful lot harder.” Jen, looks like we just lost a number of friends in the hospitality industry. Oops.
We understood that Cilaos is one of 3 cirques in the country and that the towns and villages within the cirques would be tiny. Cilaos was reasonably large and gave off an atmosphere we found superb. It’s completely surrounded by massive mountains tucked away at 4,000 feet above sea level, the town, that is. The higher mountains add more than double to the altitude. It had hotels, schools, shops and communities that are attractive, practical and remote. The large supermarket was well stocked but did lack bread, probably because shoppers know to arrive early to grab fresh items delivered from the bakeries in the big cities way below.
We stayed in an hotel for the first two nights that provided us with a feeling of serenity, fulfilment and a launch off into the wilderness to another cirque, that of Mafate. We are finding ourselves extremely comfortable in any environment these days, Europe being special, South Africa home, New Zealand the same and yet after two days on this French island where only one language is spoken, we again felt that we were close to the womb, notwithstanding bus transport and language issues. It’s difficult to convey the feeling in and around Cilaos. The easy answer though is ‘You had to be there.’ I suppose the large balcony, which seemed to extend our room, overlooking the two pools and spectacular mountains had a lot to do with creating the upbeat feelings.
We had 4 days in which to hike and fortunately, used them well. In the first three, we accumulated some 8,000 vertical feet of elevation gain and of course, a similar amount down. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to reach the volcano peak, Piton des Neiges, because of a conflict. Thus we only went to the pass which was a handy 3,700 feet elevation gain into a wonderland of mountains, flora and low clouds seeming to be attached to the peaks. Our planning was suspect but for future, we feel confident. Nevertheless, following a tough beginning, the rest of the stay was magnificent.
The island is as French as we think it’s possible to be. On the trails and in the towns, most visitors hale from France. In a week, we heard no English and a smidgen of German from two couples we came across on the trails. The French people, almost without exception, were friendly, helpful and made us or tried to make us feel at home. In the hotels and the hut in the wilds, the people were obliging and courteous. It was terrific and in fact, became difficult to pack up and depart. Fortunately, that’s becoming the story of my life. As for Jenni, better to send her an email and inquire.
Regarding our French, it's great. Technically, I consider myself fluent as mentioned earlier. It is said that should a person be able to speak three hundred words, the speaker is fluent. We said, ‘Bonjour‘ at least 150 times over a two-day period plus a number of ‘Merci’s’, so surely we meet the requirements of the definition. Jenni pleaded for mercy quite a few times too, on some of those steep climbs. The trails were busy. Perhaps on quiet trails, with fewer greetings, my French would not be that good.
The mountains in the interior are spectacular, complemented by outstanding flora, numerous trees and thick groundcover. Each day, we were greeted by a cloudless sky and within 2-3 hours of daybreak, clouds covered the mountain tops, sometimes dropping considerably lower. We managed 4 hikes, each giving us a different taste of the cirques. On an overnight stay, we entered Cirque Mafate by climbing from the quaint town of Cilaos. Unfortunately, it was undertaken in light rain, but were fortunate that from the top of the pass down to our hut, it was dry. The only way into this village, Marla, is by foot or helicopter. The latter option does not quite fit our modus operandi. Having climbed 2,800 feet and then down a further 1,400, we made our way to the gite, a hut, and spent a fascinating night in relatively comfortable accommodation. We did not take hot food, so we switched to breakfast items supplemented by odds and ends that were both filling and satisfying. A weak beginning the next morning had us believing our bodies lacked protein. When we’re not hiking, it seems we practise holistic medicine...whatever that means.
By the time we had to leave Cilaos, I was most reluctant to do so. It’s a place with a certain atmosphere that’s hard to explain but easy to adopt. The good news is that although we faced a tough drive back to the hotel based near the airport, we had ‘mastered’ the transport system of the island by that stage. In fact, on two of the hikes, we caught a bus which dropped us at the trailhead. It’s a nice experience. In order to alight from the bus, some don’t have buzzers, one double claps and the driver will halt at the following stop. What’s really satisfying is observing the friendliness of the locals toward each other. A person would jump onto the bus and at times, shake the bus driver’s hand. One woman kissed the driver. On another occasion, a kid of 2 years old did not want to move back to a seat with his mom. The driver picked him up, placed him on his lap and let him hold the wheel. Good thing we weren’t in a rush. In each case but one, the buses ran efficiently.
We rushed down the mountain to ensure we would not miss the bus on that occasion. Unfortunately, the bus never arrived. With ten of us waiting, a couple decided to hitch on the very quiet road. They caught a ride and then there were 8. Within a minute, a motorist stopped and invited us all into his vehicle. Our gratuity was larger than the bus fare but well worth it. As a third aside, the busses must be heavily subsidized. The ride of 90 minutes including climbing over 4,000 feet costs only 2 euros—50 euros would be more market related. Returning to the ‘mountain bus’, the driver negotiates hair-pin bends that at times require stopping the vehicle, reversing to reposition it and continuing. At most positions before a bend, the driver toots the horn to warn oncoming motorists of danger. The few tunnels are so narrow and primitive by modern standards, that the driver must maneuver the bus skillfully to avoid scraping the sides and of course, side-view mirrors. We’re talking mere centimeters or less.
We still have much to share but in the interests of sympathy toward our reader, dear Mom, to whom we returned from Reunion for a few days, we will bid you farewell.
Jenni and Jeffrey
The hike, the scenes and the day in general proved to be memorable.
A scene in town, Cilaos, the day after our return from Marla. Once again the mountains are shielded by clouds.
A man's got to eat; the mountains can wait.
Monday, November 13, 2017
33.16 Kleinmond 2: Western Cape: Perdeberg, (early October) the highest summit in the region 33.17 Karoo National Park: Contrasting 2 Capes.
Letting it hang out...or should that be a giant hang-over. Really hoping that I have a sticky butt.
We love the concept of context. It creates a perspective that is far more intelligent than that we see today when people, who have an evolving set of (de)values themselves, decide that certain behavior of past eras is not acceptable because it does not comport with their world view. Certainly, there are universal codes of behavior that should not be era based—they are unacceptable no matter what generation. For, who can say that future generations will not look at these same 'moralists' and declare them to be disgusting. Surely, behavior ought to be judged by the mores of the time. Nevertheless, striving for superior behavior based upon a 'real value system' is to be welcomed in any era . Good idea to stop there.
It started with context. On Hike-about, the term 'as exciting as watching paint dry' is quite important. It also taught us that rather than being boring, it does provide a certain satisfaction. When on the road, we don't always or in fact, not often do we have modern appliances such as washing machines and dryers. In Europe, many places do provide washers but not dryers. So after hanging the clothes to dry, chasing the sun around a porch, patio or backyard, there is a certain satisfaction of watching the clothes dry. After sweat and other dirt has affected the clothes, it's a great feeling to rest after the climb knowing the garments are clean (relatively clean), and drying while we are working on something else. Multi-tasking. Small things, good feelings, basic living.
Chugging toward the peak, an hour to go.
Looking a little uptight but feeling great. A similar scene from an earlier hike but in a different place.
Peering over the edge...a long way down, even the shortcut.
Palmiet river and estuary entering the Atlantic Ocean; twice a day, it flows the other way.
Half-mile to the peak and confronted by this scene. You want some upliftment, 'Go down to Africa'.
Reaching the peak and thinking it's not exactly an ideal lunch spot.
Color my world.
The mountain at rear is the previous day's peak, 3 Sisters. With a good pair of eyes, one can make out
the white beacon at the summit. We approached from the front which is about rock scrambling
and took the path down, making it an unusual loop.
On the plateau, we were either 'half-way up or half-way down' or maybe, neither up nor down.
One of the great coastal sights we absorbed.
Karoo National Park
On trail in the desert, we overlook the rest camp, a delightful one at that.
Since lions have been added to the park, one has to take an armed guide along, limiting one's movements.
Once the zebra smelled our scent, they darted.
A Kudu not looking to take any bull...preferably a cow.
At the end of the hike, one faces a far more dangerous species than predators of the park: the motorist.
Red hartebeest at sunset.
Our favorite, a 'shadow gemsbok'.
'Big bird' makes an appearance in South Africa.
Appropriately, the 'early bird' catches a hike, a little before 6am.'
Jenni and Jeffrey
Thursday, November 9, 2017
33.13 Robertson, Western Cape: Pat Busch Private Reserve - Hermit Trail: 33.14 Middelrug Trail: 33.15 Jeep Trail
On advice from our granddaughter, Ellie, any good hike should begin with a snack.
Also, take in the best of nature...it's there for the taking.
Over the years, we have encountered many chance meetings, coincidences, unusual occurrences and other fascinating experiences with fellow inhabitants of the planet. In fact, we find some of the situations remarkable and not only do the memories remain entrenched in our brains, but the events usually create a level of excitement or even an exhilaration that makes one wonder and realize there are many actions occurring under the surface for which no explanation may be offered. Then again, it also seems multiple events do not occur, thus making the few that do happen seem perfectly natural or at least, not surprising. Over the years and in our recent book, “A Life Experience As No Other…, we have highlighted a few of these. Perhaps the best was meeting a young Scotsman in Hogsback, Eastern Cape, suggesting an exciting destination to visit in Lesotho and then bumping into him at the highest pub in Africa, some 8 days later. (continues at end)
Even golf ball manufacture has gone green although still white.
Not always easy to find the editor.
Close to a top and looking a little weary.
Taking a few pointers from the editor.
Enjoying the beauty at all turns.
Editor accelerating into a steep and sharp bend.
Returning via rather than through the dam
Perhaps a little haughty.
Sometimes, a visit to the beauty parlor just doesn't cut it, even when sitting on top of the world.
'One (yellow) flew past the cuckoo's nest'. Have found the grasses and reeds most attractive on this trip.
The closed Jeep Trail
Clouding creates an attractive sight.
Vineyards and olive groves from above, soon after the start.
Just the other day, we checked into the Pat Busch Nature Reserve (private) outside Robertson. As we approached the gate, we noticed a truck on our tail. We entered the gate code previously emailed to us after completing booking procedures, and continued to the chalet. Within a minute, the driver of the truck who we now know as Jaco, the onsite manager, showed us into the chalet and ensured that we were properly settled. We bumped into him every now and again over our 4-day stay. On the morning of our departure, we were traveling toward the gate and noticed his truck. We stopped close by and went in search of the young man to offer farewells. We thanked him for the hospitality but before resuming our travels, we discussed a few things which included hiking in the reserve and the one outing we had in Montagu, a town nearby. Upon mentioning the mountain reserve of the same name, Jaco responded, “When were you there?”
“Wednesday,” Jenni replied. We noticed a puzzled expression on his face.
“Did you see anyone else in the reserve?” He inquired further.
When we had hiked on the Wednesday, we came across a group of about 8 hikers coming down a sharply steep trail. It was quite a climb for us in ascending. We stopped to offer a hand to the women in the group. The lead-hiker, who clearly was a guide, made a joke which we misunderstood at first, but on repeating it, we realized what he meant. We parted soon afterwards and completed our hike some 5 hours later.
“We did indeed see a few people on a steep down section. We came across an elderly group…” and we proceeded to tell him a little about it.
“I was the guide taking the group on a ‘shortish’ hike on the less steep side. You see, although I’m the manager of the Pat Busch Reserve, on my day off work, I try to hike as guide. So it was me you bumped into.”
We were amazed. One of us is very good in recognizing faces but I missed that one. We were both wearing hats at the time, we did not know each other’s faces well enough although I don’t normally have such an issue. Almost contradictory to my assertion above, it seems that Jaco was so out of place being on a mountain trail an hour from his workplace that it did not resonate with us that he could be the same person from Pat Busch.
Add to the fact that had we not stopped, or not discussed hiking, the coincidence would never have unraveled. Although the coincidence would have occurred, none of us would ever be aware of it. That, in of itself, is no less interesting. A further point is we were both at the park with very few others there, yet we could have been on different trails. Had we been 5 minutes earlier or that they were a few minutes later, the meeting would not have occurred.
Jenni and Jeffrey
A relieved editor after a tough week, approaches the trailhead, before a looming storm that never materialized.