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.
Saturday, October 29, 2016
Sunrise at 7,000 feet was spectacular on the one morning and wonderful on the other.
At the commencement, the editor checks directions, the other partner checks the editor's big stick and wonders what's
Clouds filling the gorge, caught in shadow.
Early morning in the mountains.
Jen turns before entering the cloud.
Somewhat bleak and beautiful as we approach the saddle.
A mix of clouds and sunrise
No snakes but snaking paths.
Looking rather bleak; the weather wasn't that good either. Still a way to go.
The editor in the shadow of autumn as we near the base.
The so-called slippery slopes of Olympus ('Olimbos')
Nature putting on a show of contrasts.
Stunning, we think.
Exuberant clouds, excited spectators, at dawn.
Frozen jaws and faces at the peak, looking miserable but apparently very happy. Jenni signs the visitors' book making
sure to complain about the weather.
Big sky over Olympus... Zeus must be content.
Jenni and Jeffrey
The editor says enough with sunrises as I sneak in one more.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
28.18 Greece: Gerontovrachos Peak and the Parnossos National Park, delightful. 28.19 Prionia to the monastery, undulating climb in Olympus forests.
Did we mention how much we like Greece? What an interesting an attractive country. You might say we said the same of Andorra, Spain, New Zealand, South Africa, Iceland, USA ...Perhaps the point is that we are residents of a beautiful planet and often, because of the noise around us, don't realize and appreciate what we have. It might also be that we don't open our eyes, our senses, and take in our surroundings or maybe we make life too complicated to notice the little miracles that occur daily. Far be it for us to know the answers but perhaps peoples' approach to life is focused on targets that are less rewarding than they appear. Who knows? We should each have the choice to make decisions to seek to realize our aspirations. That's all for which we should ask.
(Some experiences along the road follow after the pictures...)
"Sitting on the 'rock' of the bay"...oops, where'd the water go?
A background for a special woman...another Grecian treasure...um, that is, the land.
Approaching the first of two peaks.
A partial view of Parnossos ski area without the obvious 'ingredient'.
Editor goes around the cliff wall (sensibly), heading to the peak.
Dull below, beautiful and lively above, the clouds.
"Let's do lunch before the peak, much easier...anyone?"
It was a particularly spectacular place to reach and therefore to enjoy.
Let's go home and she was off into the clouds.
Prionia to the monastery, over 3,000 feet on the day.
A view of the Olympus Mountains from way down as we begin a long and steep climb (Not the peak hike).
The editor found the undulating and steep track tough on the day.
Rock climbing off-trail; he forgot it's more difficult to come down.
Doing our bit for Greece; preventing boulder collapses.
We have to admit that the GPS is working wonders, both in directions and for our relationship. Is it perfect? Of course not and nor is the GPS. For instance, the system, at times, goes off at a tangent and produces utter nonsense and frequently. Just the other day, we arrived at a junction and ‘she’ (the other boss) instructed the driver to make a right turn. However, the driver, trying to use some initiative, read the sign which indicated that Litochoro was to the left. Meanwhile, the co-pilot who shall remain unnamed, was hesitant to follow the driver’s common sense, preferring to give the machine the benefit of the doubt. There goes the relationship again. I felt it was two women ganging up on me; then I realized I might be overreacting.
Two more things about the system and the woman who controls us. She can be pedantic at times. While following the road, she often tells us to make a left or right turn because there is a squiggle in the road although no junction and yet at other times, there’s too little information. So we’ve devised our own ideas and protections which have helped but are far from perfect. The other day, we headed from Amfiklia to the Island of Evia, the town of Gymno or Yimno. As an aside, the Greek spelling is often inconsistent which leads to further complications. That aside, we arrived in the town nearly three hours later but followed the instructions of the other ‘woman’. At the time, we had no idea that we had reached Gymno. We let ‘her’ lead us astray until we found ourselves on a dirt road in farmlands we think might be undiscovered territory. By the time I sent the editor out of the car to disperse a flock of recalcitrant sheep, we suspected we needed to do what our Afrikaans GPS says often, ‘herberekening’ (recalculate).
We returned to the only public place in the town that appeared to be open, a restaurant, and asked for assistance. Only one person could speak English but all joined in to offer their two-bits of advice. It was amusing although at the time I needed the bathroom, not a local debate. In a small town with only one hotel, nobody was able to provide an answer although I suspect some of the older men had suggestions which might not have been helpful. With the editor guarding the car parked in a narrow street and watching a tour bus almost knock it off the road, I’ll try give an account of what I thought was happening. The conversation amongst the patrons was lively as they discussed our dilemma. My head moved from one table to another as each person joined in to help find our destination. After a short while, I realized I looked silly focusing on one person and then another as each took ‘the floor’. Besides, I was already developing a stiff neck. Of course, I had no idea what was being said.
After everyone was exhausted from the discussion, the restaurant owner, Maria, who was a delight, asked for a telephone number. Unfortunately, for the first time in ages, we had forgotten to write it on a piece of paper. I told her I would be back. I walked to the car, fired up the laptop, retrieved the information and returned. Maria obviously did not take me seriously; she had left for the day. Her replacement could not speak a word of English while the customers had lost interest. Meantime, my bladder was showing an awful lot of interest.
Her replacement, another nice woman, dialed a number and gave the phone over to me. What now? A young girl, speaking good English, informed me that her mother would return. The non-English speaking-woman, offered me a chair but I took up an offer of the toilet instead. I forgot to mention the good part is that we were in the correct town but not near the apartment. And of course, the locals did not know of it. That was a cause for concern.
Maria returned shortly and called the number I had retrieved. Apparently, we were searching for Antonio’s apartments instead of Antanias—obviously, a big difference. She then asked or instructed someone in the restaurant to guide us to the property. We were so humbled again by her kindness and then rebuffed when we tried to offer some compensation. Anyway, the guide led us astray but eventually, we arrived to see Ms. Antonias awaiting our arrival eagerly. Thereafter, we were in for further surprises with this sweet woman who struggled to communicate with us. (See picture below).
The following day, we headed for a hike but could not obtain directions from whomever we asked, including on the internet. We entered a restaurant and again the discussion involved about half-a-dozen guys. Although they tried to help, the endeavor proved fruitless as they too could not speak our language, a problem in small towns. We took a chance and drove toward Evia’s Mount Olympus, a place we would have thought everyone knew. There are two mountains with the same name in Greece but of course and thankfully, in different places. Finally, we stopped at the side of the road and asked two elderly gentlemen for assistance. We were touched once again when the one fellow jumped in his truck and beckoned us to follow. Fortunately, it was a short distance so we did not feel too bad about burdening him but were touched again by kindness shown. As an aside, the hike was one of the toughest we've undertaken in years as we scrambled up the mountain, off trail. (More about that at another time.)
The best part of the day occurred when we returned to the women at the restaurant after the hike and gave them a little gift. We also ordered two vegetable salads. In their appreciation of our gift, they surprised us with a plate of thick pork sausages, fries and cheese. As touched as we were yet again, we don’t eat meat and are careful what we eat, generally. It was a tough situation. Of course, the most exciting time came when we wanted to pay. Fortunately, we were able to overcome Maria's intended generosity by almost knocking her down with our Euro notes as we rushed out but promised to return for tea at another time. Different languages, customs, ethnicity and culture can never stand in the way of kind and decent people—they were indeed special.
Another wonderful woman, Antonias (and sister behind), cracking a hard nut. The Greek people have treated us like 'family'.
Jenni and Jeffrey
Sun tucks itself into a blanket of clouds for the night.
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Some effort, a little perseverance, imagination and Hike-about leads a person through a life of daily adventure. We faced the ‘mountain of gods’ situate in the gorgeous Mount Olympus National Park this week. What would our fate be as we tempted Zeus and his whims? The result: We count it a tie as he sent howling winds across the mountains and freezing cold, near the top but thankfully, held back on the rain. While we smile at the myths, we have utmost respect for Mother Nature, she’s a tough but beautiful ‘old bird’.
(Continues after pictures below...)
A stop for a breather at relatively low altitude; still much elevation to acquire while jackets remain in backpacks.
After two-thirds of the climb in much forest, the air is too thin for plant life. Love the sweep of one
of the mountain tops.
The action was fierce as the clouds swirled, danced and delighted us.
The reality of the upper trail: Scree accompanied by high winds and cold and the peak nowhere in sight.
The contrast with the higher levels, approximately 3,500 feet.
Ari, a slightly nervous Maia, and Alex, three young Israelis we befriended, plus one old African-American seeking a shortcut
on the way down.
The true peaks of Olympus as viewed at dawn from refuge A, some 2,800 trail-feet below. The early rays turn the grey to bronze
The dense forests far below (telephoto), viewed from the latter third of the hike.
"Vasbyt" (steadfast) as she clung on without a murmur...I think she lost her voice. (Contrast with the earlier part
of the hike as shown above.)
The earlier sunrise was inspiring and overwhelming. (Picture at 7,000 feet.)
Meantime, 'back at the ranch', the struggle continues.
The following morning's sunrise, never ever the same, provided a different perspective.
We’d planned to climb Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest, some six months earlier, when making plans for the trip. Although the logistics through Greece were logical, we were concerned we’d left the hike too late to capture reasonable weather. When we arrived in the country during the middle of September, it was warm-to-hot. By mid-October, the weather was cooling quickly, a little snow at high altitude and heavy rain in the area surrounding the mountains. As they say, “You pays your money and you takes your chance” and so we did. We delayed the hike by a day because of a deluge and then put our heads down and headed up. The first stage was 3,300 feet to reach Refuge A Spilios Agapitos, good accommodation for the mountains. The second part included a steeper 2,800 feet, making a 6,100 elevation gain. The refuge did not have any hot water, something not unusual. With night temperatures below zero, we have to admit that we do not have the guts to stand under a shower in such circumstances. The toilets were okay but without commodes. It provided an extra challenge but still superior to jungle facilities—certainly, made us sharpen our aim and accuracy. It’s all a matter of perspective. As a person gets used to a certain discomfort, a former hardship becomes, in fact, a luxury. The army was a great teacher in that respect.
Maria, the operator of the refuge, a complete professional if we’ve ever seen one, reserved the two-bed (bunks) alcove off the main bunkhouse. Although tiny, it did allow for a modicum of privacy. It’s the first time we’ve enjoyed such benefit in a very public area. In addition, as a first, we had pillows. Does life get any better? A surprise for us was that over the nights we spent up in the mountains, at least 70% of the visitors were Israelis. Being a holiday period in Israel, many take to foreign lands for a change of scenery and pace. It’s not often that a large majority of people outside of Israel, including Williamsburg and on a mountain, will be Jews. We met most and got friendly with a few which added to the experience. Arik, Maia, Jenni and myself had an interesting time of discussions and physical exertion together although they were less than half the editor’s age. We also met fascinating people from England and Cypress, as well as many others who we did not get to know but did enjoy their company, albeit briefly.
Before the hike, we made our way to the town of Litochoro, a wonderful place. The buildings seem to have been refurbished and if anything like our apartment, are modern and comfortable. The roads are narrow and wind and wend around the structures, making driving interesting but fun. At times, one feels one could almost end up in someone’s bedroom, that is, car and all. The contrast with living in big cities and modern neighborhoods is obvious. Frankly, years ago we could not believe we would relate to small town living—today, our view is opposite. Another Maria and her husband were most hospitable, making us feel comfortable before the hike and for a day after. While away, they, like many other establishments, kept our valuables. We do not like to leave our belongings unattended in the car. This service is one that relieves us of much strain. We have enjoyed the privilege in all countries traveled.
We’ve mentioned the weather a few times. Unfortunately, the less bright member of our duo did not pack the correct clothes for a high altitude sojourn. So I was worried about rain and cold. Fortunately, we had no rain. At the higher altitudes above 7,500 feet, the wind gusted strongly and was bitter. The temperature dropped to below freezing which did not augur well for an enjoyable saunter to the top. Although the sights were blocked by fog, at and near the peak, we were blessed with remarkable views at lower elevations. This was fine with us and hopefully, the cameras were able to capture some of our experiences adequately. In fact, we saw some extraordinary sights including sunrises, cloud formations and autumn coloring, to name just a few.
There are an awful amount of myths in Greece as most of us are aware. Mount Olympus, ‘the mountain of the gods’, lends itself to superstitions, we’re sure. Clearly, it’s a dangerous place, especially in harsh conditions. However, it is a beautiful region, too—we loved it and would repeat the hikes including some of the other mountain tracks. We’ve said this before: The Europeans have a network across the mountains over which people hike, climb and live—it’s a different world, quite fascinating. Each day we crossed paths with the mules and their driver. The supplies are brought up to the refuge by pack-animals and the refuse and other discards are removed the same way, in the opposite direction. We got to know one of the dogs, a fluffy brute with two different colored eyes. The tough mule driver even gave us a nod on the third occasion we crossed paths. We call this breaking down barriers while undertaking back-breaking endeavors.
Each day, we learn something new. Female logic is always an interesting experience, particularly for a dumb male. In our ‘room’, its size allowed for two bunks, a turning space plus backpack accommodation. Each occupant was entitled to three blankets. I was fortunate that Jen made the beds while I’d like to believe I was involved in something useful. I considered talking with Maria very productive. When we got into bed, I noticed only two blankets covered me. “I thought we were allotted three blankets each,” I mentioned.
“We were,” she replied curtly.
“I notice you have three blankets covering you while I only have two,” the obvious observation.
“Your third blanket acts as our groundsheet,” she informed me, without batting an eye. Heck, I was only asking.
Part 2 to follow...
Jenni and Jeffrey
It may be a dog's life but she still remembers to pose as a lady.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
28.14 Platamon and its castle, a town not far from Mount Olympus, a daunting challenge looming. 28.15 A hike from the Olympus trailhead to the Dionysius Monastery. 28.16 Meteora: Walking up-and-down to and fro.
For travelers, this time of the year is ideal in Greece. The accommodation is easily available, extremely well-priced and quiet. Unfortunately, the weather is changing and it appears to our inexperienced local knowledge, it could get cold and wet quickly. This is not too bad in of itself. However, when up in the mountains, the situation is exacerbated, particularly as we are climbing three major mountains in the days ahead. There are always compensations, however. The autumn days are the best for us because of at least two reasons, the changing colors and coolness. We, together with all others, inhabit a world of true wonder, a glorious planet.
There are times, often in fact, in which we see hardship for the retail outfits including food, hospitality and others. It really is tough for people to stand at their store fronts and almost plead for passersby to give them their custom. As sad as it is, we believe Greece is the forerunner for some difficult times ahead for the rest of the nations. 'Often wrong but we call it as we see it'.
A sad aspect we have come across recently and which was explained to us by someone in the know is the issue of abandoned domestic animals. Regarding dogs, we've noticed a few over the period on mountain trails. Every time we saw an animal, we knew it was only a matter of moments before the owner would appear, trudging up the trail—it always happens that way. However, it never did. It seems there are a number of dogs living on the mountains that have to fend for themselves. We understand some of the dogs, should they take a liking to a person, will happily lead them up to a peak. On the Mount Olympus trail, we actually saw this in action. A little later we came across two puppies sheltering on a tree stump and huddled together. The only food we could offer were some energy bars to these poor things.
"Uh! Uh! You're not climbing up today!" The Castle of Platamon, in the same town. "There has to be a door, gate, drawbridge...Trojan Horse?"
'Are you being served?' "And where would Madam like to take her tea?" (I could think of a few places.)
Another town perched on the hills overlooking the Aegean.
For cat lovers and Jonna, Jenni couldn't resist. A single mother and a few fathers in the mix, perhaps.
Who doesn't admire a nice curve, even on a dull day? We spent 3 days, not sufficient, in the town of Paralía Skotínis.
Truth be told, other than the two major cities, we've left the small towns under protest. Doesn't help.
A full frontal, so to speak.
The hike to the Dionysius Monastery.
The weather has turned bleak and a scared...apprehensive hiker looks toward Mount Olympus and wonders about the next day's attempt to reach several of the peaks. At the trailhead, a restaurant, so European.
The weather is changing and the colors are beckoning at Olympus National Park.
The 'work' of the Nazis some 70-odd years before.
A long and wonderful track, nature provides a feast for the eyes and raindrops on our bodies.
Stunning mosaic skill inside the monastery.
Seeking Brother Jeffrey; she could probably do better.
'A bridge too far'... from the car.
Passing through Meteora, with rain hampering the visit.
A scene from Meteora, a town of monasteries and wonderful natural formations.
So we think they were not too smart in the 'olden' days.
Eyeing the chasm and setting up for the daily dose of 'silly buggers', Ellie and Benny. Not the same without them.
"You think it's funny? We're heading up there now, sweet lady."
The nunnery of Roussanou and the monastery of St Nicholas.
"Okay, you take the high road, I'm taking the lower one."
I'm queen of the castle, wearing skirt as a show of modesty and respect.
Jenni and Jeffrey
A scene from 'the mountain of the gods', sunrise at 7,000 feet, a further 2,800 feet to the top.