LAZAROW WORLD HIKE-ABOUT
California: Death Valley, hiking along the ridge above Golden Canyon.
'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 enable 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 2019, the blog contained over 1,100 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 regularly, we no longer circulate email notifications each time, VIP's excepted and special occasions.
Thursday, September 29, 2016
28.05 Crete: Villages of Hora Sfakion and Loutro, little gems linking on foot, tucked away on the Mediterranean.
On an undulating trail along the cliffs, the dual waters are eye-catching.
"She'll be coming down the mountain when..." the early stages of the walk between two coastal villages.
Signage, all over the world, fulfills a vital role—it also is humorous at times. In reading a book on Crete hiking, we noticed a hint that amused us. “When you lose the trail”, it began, “Think what a donkey would do in that position and follow your instincts.” Many trails are goat paths and not always clear. I mentioned to the editor, “What do you think of that? We are supposed to imagine what goes on in a donkey’s head.”
“Fortunately,” she replied, “You have a distinct advantage in that department.” Nice. Rather than be sidetracked and rise to the bait, the only thing I could think of regarding a donkey's thoughts are those of food, relieving itself and avoiding work.
Meantime, the same editor, Miss Smarty Pants, said to me as we were coming down Imbros Gorge, “These rocks are hard.” In my short time on earth, I have yet to come across a form of rock that was anything but hard. At the Samaria Gorge, there are signs at various intervals warning about falling rocks. At certain sections, the hiker is encouraged to move quickly by because of possible rockslides. I don’t think, in case of avalanches, signs or not, that a person has a chance of survival. The rocks are also hard by the way. I checked.
Approaching the village of Loutro from above.
Standing above the nudist beach, steeling myself for the challenge. (What challenge is that?)
Passing nudist beaches always makes us uncomfortable. On each occasion, especially when it's unexpected, the first reaction is something like, "Did I just see what I saw or am I dreaming?" Be that as it may, we feel it raises one of the major issues of life. We are puzzled and cannot determine the proper perspective. So we asked ourselves the following question after seeing a number of naked bathers on the beach: "Were they genuine nudists notwithstanding they wore hats and caps?"
First, second and third positions at the annual Billy Awards.
On our rest day, we could not resist another walk to Loutro. With full sunshine, the colors were irresistible. However, we
needed a subject to complete the scene otherwise it would only have been water.
We made it to the town of Hora Sfakion, quaint and beautifully positioned on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Our bedroom overlooks the water and some mountains as well as other islands across the way. The views of this relatively calm body of water, covered in shades of so many blues, makes each moment of vision unique. More than that though, we sit, eat and work on the modest patio from about 5:30 to 8pm—not all functions at the same time, of course. The atmosphere, which is enhanced by the views but not totally dependent upon them, is outstanding—we've never felt more relaxed. In addition, we sleep with the door open which adds to the freshness as the sea breeze flitters into the room. One other thing. We multi-task. So while we sit on the patio, we also observe our clothing hanging next to us being both sun and wind dried. The natural life is delightful provided we have a little electricity and running water on the side.
Some of the positions were outstanding; never a dull moment except for the sky.
Perched on the cliffs, the views of the sea and activity therein were stunning.
Jenni has developed a fetish, if that is the correct word, for wishing to be on the balcony at 6:45pm each evening to watch the ferry dock and take note of the cars and people disembarking. It’s quite a sight as the sun hits the starboard, maybe portside, creating a golden aura followed by the ant-like colony of hoards racing for the buses. After ten minutes, the ferry departs, the buses chug up the hill and calm returns to the village and we continue to observe the soft-lit sunsets over the wide expanse of many-shaded blue waters. It’s not a bad life, especially as we are invariably tired after invigorating days as we feel the muscles relax and memories of the day’s experience remain at the fore. The sad thing for the store and restaurant operators is that the hundreds of returning gorge hikers have no time to stop in the village. They walk past the main thoroughfare and head for the waiting buses. We feel worse for the hikers who spend 5-6 hours on buses and the ferry, and less time walking downhill through the gorge. Each person chooses his/her own poison it seems.
Jenni was a little nervous as her posture shows, on cliff edges with the sea directly below.
A peninsula of sorts comprising sharp and treacherous rock formations on the second visit, in bright sunshine.
Loutro in the distance, a place for lunch followed by a Mediterranean swim and the turn-around.
Distances on an island are generally not great, although Crete is relatively large. The road systems are not comparable with those of modern countries—one travels around mountains, not over or through them. Therefore, time is the variable that slows one down. Whilst the distance, from where we were in Amalos, to where we are now, is only twenty odd miles on foot, it is a three-hour journey by car. Had we not rented a vehicle, it would have been an interesting journey, which we could have shortened further, in time, by utilizing the ferry. The luggage would have been the issue though.
Another sunset to round-off a glorious day.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Following the saga of Mr. Stavris and the Lazarows as mentioned previously, the news is good. After two days of tepid water, heat was restored, we offered grateful appreciation and the relationship seemed cemented. In fact, not only did he say we were more beautiful because of the cold water treatment but that we were nice, too. (His English is obviously not that good.) We hope that does not mean concrete blocks will be affixed to our ankles.
Things must be good in the relationship as he stood next to a sweating/smelly tenant.
Monday, September 26, 2016
Approaching the tiny harbor at dusk.
On the way to Anapolis, rising some 2,000 feet through a gorge and out of a ravine, with a 'backdrop'.
Since arriving in Greece, we are on high alert. It’s not because of bullets flying in shopping malls (deep regret about the USA), but something equally dangerous. So we walk on tiptoes, always vigilant, always on the watch. What is it you might ask? “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. We remember history, not much but some. Thus far, no presents have been offered but it could occur. We remember what happened to the Trojans when the Greeks bestowed a gift upon them. In the meantime, our calves are sore and stiff because of our modified gait.
Heading towards the White Mountains of Crete.
Our new hotel, well it’s not new at all, is in the middle of the small town of Hora Sfakion. Access is via a restricted road. The road passes alongside restaurants and shops and in fact, looks as if it goes in-between the tables and chairs of the outside patio of the hotel. In Europe generally, and its small towns in particular, driving and parking a car therein is quite an experience—it can be frustrating and elucidating, at the same time. The last hurdle toward our hotel requires one to accelerate smartly in order to have the momentum to reach the top of the ramp but not too much, so one does not knock over the front desk and back wall.
Jenni on trail to Loutro from Hora Sfakion.
Phew! Up and over. One of about 24 climbs in the Illingas Gorge. More excitement than in the Samaria Gorge.
The operators, and they sure look like operators from the old school, Costas, Nick and Zorba (names have been changed to protect us from any future visit from their friends), only take cash. They also don’t give receipts. We understand it’s because they are eco-friendly and are saving paper and hence, trees. Notwithstanding the ‘boys’, who of course, wear ‘wife beaters’ which don’t cover their chest hairs, the scenery is gorgeous. The contrast of the White Mountains and harsh desert like conditions on one side and the blue waters on the other make for breathtaking vistas. Add in a sunset and one can’t ask for more beauty in a relatively small area.
Jen on the way down but never out.
As we 'go round the bend', the village of Loutro appears.
Last ferry of the day sails into the sunset.
Back to the ‘boys’, especially Mr. Stavris. He’s a nice old gentleman although he could be younger than us. We do not try or succeed in making fun of anyone especially the Greek community who we enjoy very much. In fact, some of our best friends are Greeks. Huh! That should read Jews not Greeks—I got it mixed up. Anyway, back to Mo, Larry and Curly. Mr. Stavris spends much time on the patio observing the world rotate on its axis. Currently, we wish we were in hot water. Alas, there’s a problem with either the electricity, the solar system or something we cannot quite fathom. It’s a bit Greek to us. In a moment of clarity, he did say that the cold water is making me look beautiful. Of course, our editor was peeved by the comment as well as the lack of heat.
…to be continued.
From the cliffs above, a nervous editor asks, "Why didn't we go Kayaking today?"
Facing away from the nudist beach we just passed. We saw no point in hanging around, especially as we wore the wrong attire.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Proving the rule: 'A black sheep in every family or group'. The land is harsh, stony and dry.
"You listen to me, son. You go tell your boss I'll make hot water when it suits me. In fact, you play me wrong and I'll
make matzos ball soup from your body parts."
'Yes, Mr. Stravris, sir.' (This is a job for an editor. As usual, subjects unaware of a lurking photographer.)
Friday, September 23, 2016
Editor scrambles as she negotiates the fourth segment of the climb.
Every now and again, sometimes even frequently, we come across a hike that turns into a superb experience. The climb and hike to the peak, and of course return, from Gingilos was one such adventure. Briefly, the starting point is opposite the Samaria Gorge. Although most people visit Amalos to undertake the gorge hike, we believe this climb is far superior and by a wide margin. It has a number of segments. The first part is a hike up a steep section of a mountain, followed by a walk along the edge, always on rugged, stony paths. Stage-three rises sharply to a saddle, the fourth section is tricky rock scrambling and technical climbing while the last stage is a relatively easy walk along shale to the peak.
The slope on the third segment...I thought the editor was joking when she pointed to the top and
mentioned it was merely the saddle. The peak was way above.
The saddle above...and then to the left, the rock scramble to the top. (The picture above shows the gradient accurately.)
Early stage of the climb, Samaria Gorge below.
The climbs are testing, the paths can be brutal on the feet, the exertion is rewarding and the views are outstanding, making for an incredible experience. No matter how good views may be from towns, side of roads or part-way up mountains, nothing beats getting deep into the territory and witnessing the intimacy of the inside walls and peaks of rugged mountains, particularly as they blend and react with the clouds and other natural features. It is one of those days that remains implanted in the mind for a long time or so we think that’ll be the result.
On the way down, we enjoyed a nice experience when we met a tour group ascending. After an exchange of a few pleasantries, we ascertained them to be Icelanders. Having visited the island a couple of years before, we were able to discuss a little of life in their home. It felt good to be able to converse having actually experienced some of their glorious hikes and life in that fascinating country.
Jen reaches the top and takes in what remains visible. Quite spectacular!
There's gold inside the arch, some 2,000 feet below the peak.
From the peak, one can view the Mediterranean on opposite sides of the island.
Along the edges, typical of the style of trail.
Views from the peak, after 3,100 feet cumulative gain, are delightful.
The rock scrambling and technical parts on the fourth stage were exhilarating...we think.
Climbing, leaving behind great views
The editor turns to return home.
A view into valley below.
An island off an island.
The joy of the peak, no frills but just a thrill.
At time of writing, we are preparing to leave for another part of Crete, this time back to sea level. I have now eaten for dinner, six-nights in a row, omelets. Our limited diet and my peculiarities make culinary aspects a little challenging, although it’s not an issue. Bread-and-butter is still a treat. The proprietors of the hotel are two brothers and their mother. They have such a wonderful disposition that it has been a pleasure to be at the hotel notwithstanding the weak internet, nearly as poor water flow and the abundance of eggs. Jen says I need more protein and who am I to argue with the expert eater of feta cheese, tuna and olives and the occasional omelet. One more thing. Over the weekend, family members arrived and even for us, it was delightful to see the kids and adults enjoying each other. It was like “My big fat Greek wedding” without a chupah (canopy).
Each day, the tour buses transport hikers from the main town, Chania, to Samaria Gorge. However, within four kilometers of the destination, our hotel, the bus drivers stop to allow the hikers to breakfast. This is a great source of revenue for the proprietors, probably tour operators and drivers, too. The hikers drop down into the gorge, spend money in the coastal town and take a ferry and another bus to their next destination. It’s quite an experience but far too rushed. We enjoyed our extended stay in the village and return to our starting point which included the tough ascension.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Homeward bound, slowly.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
28.01 and 28.02 Samaria Gorge, Crete. A long, deep and winding trail...and then the return...oh, no!
After a tough day, all is calm and tranquil in Agai Romelli, as the sun disappears below the horizon.
Greece is the word or is it ‘Grease’ is the place? Forgive me but I always wanted to say or write that as we struggle in Crete, hoping to see Olivia Newton-John. John Travolta, not I. With that out the way, let’s get going.
It always worries us when there is more action on the journey than the slopes…and there’s plenty in the mountains. So what’s with the journey? United Airlines flew us into Athens and then Aegean took us to the island of Crete, city of Chania, and all went well. The skies were friendly, as advertised by the airline, although the journey from San Diego—4am wake-up and arrival a cool thirty hours later. Beats walking and we suppose swimming, too. It’s a problem when one is unable to sleep on a plane but that’s a minor irritation in the scheme of things. The first problem was air temperatures. Although it was over 90 degrees in Newark airport, the artificially cooled air remained in the low-sixties—where’s an energy crises when you need one? We felt the chill getting into our bones. This was compounded by the airline thinking it had to match the airport temperature. With jackets in the hold, our luggage was nice and warm but we weren’t. It was only a matter of time before we would catch a chill, followed by the sniffles. (continues at the end...)
At the entrance to the gorge, 11.5 miles to reach the town, 4,100 feet below.
Much lower down, the editor strides through the narrows.
We reach the town after 4.5 hours and think we made a wrong turn. Where's the Greek signage?
Since the financial crisis, maintenance has fallen off a bit. 'House on the Hill'.
A view into the gorge from another hike, another day.
'Look left, look right and if it's safe'. Very weary on the long road up to the top.
You know you've lost it when even the 'kids' are pulling tongues at you.
"Stepped into a church, I pass along the way, California dreamin'". We reach sea level but not yet the town. The commencement point is in the background. The return journey is looking tougher each moment.
The remnants of an ancient town, many littered throughout the gorge.
Another ancient...um oldish scene but lovely (if I may say).
The gorge at its narrowest.
'When we get behind closed doors'...a church cave with a formal entrance and door.
The most excitement before reaching Samaria Gorge, our first hike, was during the period from the car rental depot to our hotel. All went well until it was time to drive off. Oh dear, we had a flat tire and the editor was not to blame—she hadn’t even been near the Skoda. The assistant told us to go to the garage and pump the tire. Customer service (care?). Imagine that occurring in the United States. I tried to explain that these things don’t just happen perchance—it usually means a puncture of the tire. He was not amenable to helping or changing the wheel. I explained that we had a long journey before us through the mountains and on deserted roads. He agreed with the assessment but was unmoved.
We filled the tire with air and headed into a desolate part of the island after passing through small towns via narrow and winding roads. It gave us a taste of the scenery and life on the island. Unfortunately, darkness descended toward the latter part of the trip which was further affected by goats lying in the roads while taking in the warmth for their bellies. Only after some friendly persuasion did they even consider moving. Fortunately, we arrived at the hotel safely, in good time, too and were welcomed in a friendly manner. The town comprises three or four hotels and not much else. The tire looked good at that stage but we don’t think we looked that fine, especially after dragging our luggage up the stairs. Sleep came easily and the following morning we were ready or so we thought, to take on the Samaria Gorge, 23 miles up-and-down with 4,100 feet elevation change, each way. A tough start, we thought. The editor shows no sympathy to her aging partner who by that time was ‘with cold’, lacking sleep and jet-lagged, to mention a few ailments. Meantime, Jenni seemed to be getting a cold, too but otherwise was in fine ‘shape’. Of course, women are far stronger, whine less and generally sturdier than men, so she reminds me every now and again.
The first thing I did as I prepared to load the car was check the tire. Flat again. Big surprise! I could not help thinking of the ‘genius’ at the car rental depot. We took the spare-tire out of the trunk, a few tools and prepared for the change. Should you want to understand the concept of a ‘mitzvah’ (a deed of kindness), here comes one: As I began fitting the jack under the chassis, two bikers dressed in leathers and helmets walked out of the hotel lobby, saw us in action and approached the car. They looked at the situation, sized up the age and lack of intelligence of the editor’s husband and decided we needed help. They took over, allowing no argument, and changed the tire. It was not surprising that they were Israelis. I know we show some bias but in all our travels, an Israeli, when in the vicinity, is quick to come to a distressed person’s aid. So although we would have managed—Jenni is pretty useful in car repairs—it was a magnificent gesture and one in which we were humbled, yet again. One should not watch the news as a gauge of human behavior but rather look around and see people behaving like angels.
Onto the slopes. The trail takes a person from Omalos to the coastal town of Agai Romelli some 11.5 miles distant. One walks down 4,100 feet over rocks and stones. It is a very popular walk but the thing is most people only hike down. As an example, on our return, 780 people walked from top-to-bottom while on the uphill return, there were only ourselves and one ranger. It was tough, compounded by the hot weather and our less than healthy bodies. As an aside, the typical route is down to the town, pick up a ferry and return to the trailhead or somewhere else, by bus. The only access to the quaint town is on a ferry or foot. No cars can enter the town unless brought across on water. There are a few vehicles in the town for residents. Why anyone would need a car in this small region beats us.
We were the first to leave the town at 7:15 that morning. Therefore, we passed every single person along the route. It was funny, at times, as we passed walkers going down into the gorge. Many asked if we knew what to expect at the commencement of the last two or three miles before the top (steep). Of course, we knew what awaited us having walked down a couple of days before. Two women on separate occasions remarked that we appeared to be going the wrong way. We also met a young Canadian couple who have friends in common, back in Toronto. Unfortunately, the level of courtesy and friendliness on the trail of most of walkers was poor. By the way, the gorge was filled with nationals of many countries, not only Greeks. We often wonder how people, after being greeted or allowed to pass as we stand aside for them, can actually look right through us without the slightest acknowledgment. It proves to be disappointing.
Whether it was health issues or something else, (the editor blames lack of nutrition), although she did well on the hike, I found it to be the most trying hike ever. We remember struggling up 6,000 feet in the Andes one year but not feeling as bad then as this latest hike. In normal circumstances, we would rate the gorge as tough but comfortable. Carrying heavy backpacks made quite a difference. Although not full, a bag of twenty pounds or more on the back over that distance and terrain is taxing. It could have been worse though. Flowing water was available at various intervals, thus we did not have to carry too much of it. One trusts that the authorities ensure reasonable purity. It often reminds us what an amazing ‘marketing’ concept it is for people to pay to have water delivered to their homes, in bottles by truck, when it is available, literally, on tap.
The locals we’ve met thus far have been friendly, speak understandable English and are helpful. The more we travel, the more we wonder why the world needs so many languages. Over the years, we have come across so many nationals that it staggers the mind; we’re still trying to master our own language.
After resting for a while upon returning from the gorge, we met a young man in the hotel. We recognized him from the trail. He had just arrived back by bus after taking the ferry from the town below the gorge. He was Lithuanian and asked us whether we had ever visited his country. “Not since our grandparents left,” we mentioned light-heartedly. It can be a small world provided one does not have to walk it.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Loving kindness from two Israelis. (See text above.) I think I like being a supervisor.