New Zealand 2017: Tongariro Crossing and Mount Ngauruhoe.


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 the end of 2022, the blog contained over 1,470 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.
ur 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."

"A Life Experience As No Other: Dare to Seize the Day Together", published by Fulton Books, depicts our life on the road and mountains until the beginning of 2017. It has developed 'exponentially' since then.

Jenni and Jeffrey Lazarow

Whereas we continue to update the blog regularly, we no longer circulate email notifications often.

Monday, February 25, 2013

11.09 The Journey within a journey

We originally thought a car trip would provide an interesting and meaningful backdrop to our visit. In retrospect, Jenni made the point that in America, one should travel by road and in South Africa, particularly in the Eastern Cape, by plane. It’s a good idea. We commenced just east of Plettenberg Bay; our new destination being the Central Drakensberg district, close to Cathedral Peak, a distance of about 600 miles, or so.

This young woman at Storms River gives the old folks a boost before memorable journey

The route we took via Port Elizabeth, East London (stopover), Bisho, Butterworth, Mthatha and Kokstad (stopover), Umzimkulu, Pietermaritzburg, Howick (stopover) and then on to Winterton and finally, the destination in Champagne Valley, Acorn Cottages. To write it was an interesting, frustrating, dangerous, eye-opening, frightening, amusing, something not be missed or repeated would be an understatement. We still are not sure what we witnessed but do know it had an impact upon us. The level of poverty witnessed is tragic. We are not politicians, thank goodness and are clear in our dislike of that class in its entirety, universally. Having got that off our chests, we would ask the local politicians, if nothing else, where do you get such audacity to divert state funds from the people to your self-enrichment? Rant complete, thank you.

The street scene, feel the vibe

On our last visit, we wrote about the driving conditions one encounters, particularly on the open roads. When growing up, the thinking was the solid white line in the middle of the road is never to be crossed. Last year we modified our approach and realized the white line is really a suggestion that one should not cross it. We were rather naïve. After a few days on the road, we now have a better understanding:

There’s an advert in the USA, “Own the open road.” It’s a good start. The individual driver, most know this already, begins with the premise: ‘These roads were built for me’. It follows that any other motorist is in fact, trespassing. Now the white line begins to make more sense. I, the driver, own the road and can go anywhere I choose. Having people paint lines, both broken and solid, is a waste of paint and money. Perhaps it is an art form but then it lacks imagination. For instance, it’s nothing to witness a motorist overtaking (passing) across a solid white line while the car ahead is indicating to turn across the highway. Overtaking around blind bends is exhilarating once one gets the hang of it. We thought zip-lining gave one a thrill.

For the busy woman at the office, a hairdo on the sidewalk is most convenient

We listened to the radio and heard a woman saying that something ought to be done about the 15,000 deaths on the roads per annum. This is a staggering number when considering the relatively small size of the driving population. She’s almost as naive about the drivers as we are about politicians.
Taxi drivers are an interesting breed. In the cities, they settle disputes with guns. Mind you, that’s not too different from the old days in the USA—the locals are a little behind times. On the open road, they presume their vehicles, fully loaded, can enter a single lane highway from a standing start and reach 120 kmh (75mph) in less than three seconds.

This beauty shop invokes the power from above—women only, please. 'Shalom' next door in case of failure.

Farmers appear to spare the grass and scrub on their lands, preferring to use the area alongside the highways. Cattle, goats and sheep are constant threats and obstacles as they graze on the side of the road, deciding at random, to join their colleagues on the other side. The roads are fraught with danger but we suppose the municipalities are happy with the situation—the need for mower gangs is greatly diminished.

After you, fellow. Seriously, no bull. We believe the 'zebra crossing' is a little lower down but he has an identification issue.

School children, and there are thousands of them, neatly turned out in uniforms, use the edge of the highway as a path to and from school, a meeting place with friends and even a place for after-school activities.
Potholes are everywhere. Fortunately, warning signs are prominently displayed at regular intervals along the road. At least a driver is aware of the obstacles up ahead—a nice improvement. On approaching the small towns with massive populations, the roads take on a man-made obstacle. Calming humps slow one down to 10 miles an hour or less, which is very frustrating. This is after all, a highway. Whether calming and frustrating should be used within the same sentence is debatable.

Highway safety or children's playground, who knows

Road works in so many places is a good indication pointing to the improvements coming. Lucky for the next guy. When it comes to marketing and merchandising, South Africa has an edge. When stopped in the middle of ‘no where’ waiting for the traffic from the opposite direction to emerge through the construction area, street vendors ply their trade from car to car. Fruit, chips, corn-on-the-cob, bottled water, sodas, etc can be purchased, at reasonable prices. At time of writing, credit cards are not yet accepted.

The towns and villages are heavily populated. Each woman has a baby tied on her back with a number of older kids surrounding her. The biblical command to multiply works well here; however, the consequences are frightening. The beauty is that most people are smiling notwithstanding the poverty that abounds. It tears one’s heart to see such situations, knowing that many have not a fair chance in life. It’s rough and weighs one down. How fortunate we are.

Better than Starbucks, we think

We are used to organized chaos but not outright chaos. We passed through a number of towns where we found ourselves surrounded by cars, people, animals and probably other things we failed to notice. Cars were going in all directions without much regard to the basic rules of the road. Although we were amazed, appalled by the driving, sympathetic of the circumstances, we were never in fear of the people. Those driving their cars badly, yes; however, not of anyone else. Besides, with our editor upfront, what’s to fear besides getting lost?

Our stop in East London was interesting; Kokstad was very pleasant and Howick ended up as a treat. So much so, we did not want to leave. We spent the first night in East London at a B&B, without the breakfast. Soon after arriving, a group of young Israelis checked-in, too. We had a nice room and access to the pool and lounge area separated from the road with electrified fencing. The following morning we took a walk/run to the beach and noted that the suburbs were no different from so many we’ve seen throughout the country. Watching men combing the garbage for food and items to sell was heart breaking.

Not to worry, probably wearing safety belts that are transparent. Speed 80 kms. We held back and then passed to avoid complications

The villages are obviously poor but there are some attractive houses and rondavel type accommodation. The housing appears much improved upon than the squalor in the poor areas of the cities. The positioning of many of the villages, often on mountains and hills, provide outstanding views of gorgeous scenery.

By the time we arrived in Kokstad, the rain had commenced; we were tired from a tough day’s travel. The first two hotels we tried did not provide internet access, which we need for business purposes. We pushed on, finding a ‘bed and breakfast’ in what Jenni termed the oldest house she had ever seen. Our room did not have a door lock but we were assured, as most establishments do, that we were perfectly safe. We are, of course, dumb foreigners so we are easily convinced and comforted. During the evening, we sat in the lounge where the internet access was the best we have used in months, including most motels in the USA. The owner, Shaun, originally from Sandton (our former town), lay on the couch watching television while we worked. Jenni ended up making him tea. He’s a nice youngster but has terrible taste in entertainment.

Zulu traditional dress of a beautiful woman

We pushed onto Howick, which turned out to be most enjoyable. We found a place on a huge estate that offers corporate facilities for conferences. We stayed in a rondavel because we’re not corporate types; nevertheless, it proved to be an ideal setting, most comfortable, too. At places of accommodation, garages and trails when the locals decide to hike, conversing with South Africans is an enjoyable experience. The use of colloquial terms brings color to the conversation and refreshes our vocabulary.

A shepherd on the Drakensberg slopes wanted our camera. However, he meant photograph. The photos were dropped off at the hotel & when he comes in to charge his phone, he'll collect it. It's a system, at least.

One of the highlights of the trip, funnily enough is buying ice-cream for the kids. It makes little difference in the scheme of things but for a moment, creates this tiny bond—it’s nice but of course, so little. Another thing we always find uplifting is the greeting of fellow inhabitants of the planet. It is a simple thing but it makes a difference. It appears, the less sophisticated the people, the friendlier they are. There's a lesson somewhere in that.

That about brings us up-to-date, explaining to anyone who reached this point that the real civilization, at least to one of us, might not be where we live but rather where peace and order prevails…on the mountains and in the wilderness.

More pleasure for us than the cute kids—ice cream, universal sweetness

It is our hope that we have not offended anyone with any comment made; they are really nothing more than some thoughts and perspective after seeing a little more of the hinterland.


Jenni and Jeffrey

A few odd shots from around the country:

One of the few dams/lakes we've seen of great color, Sterkfontein Dam

This guy knows how to show off. We were on the Blue Grotto hike (different from where we zipped) and heard strange sounds from above the forest. It was a guide, probably quite bored.

If you're going to strut, then this is the 'woman' to learn from

Only our second snake this trip. Jenni held me back before...I could run away

Cute kids take to the road

Saturday, February 23, 2013

11.11 A short-hike down to the base of Howick Falls, Village of Howick near Pietermaritzburg

Howick Falls, from above. The vertical drop is approximately 330 feet.

A person can get soaked without it raining

Impressive even though small by the 'big boy' standards

In the days before the freeway linking Durban and Johannesburg, there was a good chance the family might pass Howick Falls, take a quick look and then head for Durbs-by-the Sea. Nowadays, it’s a race to get to the coast only slowed down by the toll-gates that litter the N3 freeway (opinion only). Following a harrowing journey through the Eastern Cape, the roads of Natal are a treat.

In order to hike down to the base of the falls, one has to sign-in and pay a fee. “I have to warn you that although we have not had an attack since January 2007, unemployment is rampant in the area so be on the lookout,” the woman warned. We always find that comforting and reassuring before heading into the bush. The growth in a wet area such as below a falls is obviously lush and bush is an understatement. With our editor holding our hand for comfort, we headed down some 350 feet to view a quite spectacular sight.

Barelling down that cliff

On our return, we spoke to the woman again whom we forgot to ask a name. We noticed she had four dogs and a guinea fowl. It was an odd group looking like quite a tight-knit family. Three dogs looked in fine shape, the fourth had only half a face. Its left jaw and teeth on that side were exposed completely.
“The guinea fowl,” she said, “thinks it too is a dog. We have much confusion in our household. Old face over there,” she said, pointing to the dog, “took on a cobra.” By the way, the dog is a little snapper that is six-inches high and a foot in length. Long story short, the vet said the dog should be ‘put down’. She would hear nothing of it. The dog’s name, she told us, is Chazak, which she explained is the Hebrew word for courage. We knew that but listened instead of interrupting her. How could she do that to the dog, she said? Quite a story.

Sunrays clip the edge of the cliff before disappearing again

“What’s with the fowl?” we asked. She then related a story of our times, the collapse of the rule of law. She reported poachers operating in the valley, to the authorities. The thugs found out she was the informer, arrived one evening and clubbed to death every bird she kept in her yard. Apparently, there were many. However, the fowl escaped and she found it whimpering pathetically. She adopted the bird, converted it to a dog, hence, five dogs.

Looking into the pool from the top of the falls

Powerful sprays of vapor

Following her report of the killings to the police, SPCA, Forestry Board and others, nothing was done. Nobody wishes to take any action except the board, which offered to send a man to sit and observe the valley from above the falls. Her verdict: No-one cares and nothing will be done about it. Funnily enough, two days later, the innkeeper in Champagne Valley mentioned she is intimidated about reporting poachers operating in her area of the Drakensberg—she fears reprisals. Gives one a lot of hope, we’d think. ‘Cry the beloved country’...again.

'5' dogs of an unusual family, the bird was shy at photo. time. ('Chazak' is facing away from camera—he's a little sensitive about his jaw)


Jenni and Jeffrey

River flow is strong and wide

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

11.14 Monk's Cowl: Hike to The Sphinx, Blind Man’s Corner and sneak onto the upper base before peak of Mount Sterkhorn

Cathkin Peak lifts it distinctive top through the clouds for a moment

Jenni contemplates our next move into the clouds

More than three thousand feet above the valley, views are breathtaking, clouds lift allowing us
to see from whence we began

Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. We think it could be one of the most beautiful places visited in our
travels. A place of large mountains with unique formations and geology, covered with the greenest grasses,
looking like a mowing gang passes through weekly. To stand in the great open spaces, particularly at height,
surrounded by mountains with clouds moving constantly, covering and then exposing the peaks, is like
watching a theatrical production. We once saw something similar in the Alps of Grindelwald. The songs of the
birds, the trickle of the water down myriads of streams, the calmness after storms abate, occasionally, allows
a person to become one with nature. At the same time, the mountains dare the hiker to walk along the narrow
trails, along the edges of high cliffs and above deep ravines, sweating while climbing some of the steepest
inclines we’ve experienced. The Drakensberg is gorgeous, dangerous, mysterious and always beautiful.

The break occurs on the way down; we turn to see Cathkin and Company appear

Deep in least he has the occasional one

We don’t know whether we are pleased we kept our promise to our dear editor. When we reached the
end of the hike at Blindman's’s Corner, before us stood a path to the summit of Mount Sterkhorn, (9,800 feet).
We knew this earlier but because of slippery conditions and a host of other reasons, we agreed
the 11 kilometers (return) hike of 2100 feet, (bilingual in metric and customary systems), would suffice.
By the way, distance is meaningless in this part of the world as the going is usually tricky and slow.
Once again we had the trail to ourselves for six hours. We suppose that's fortunate as one tends to get
claustrophobic once the area becomes 'congested'. At commencement, there was so much low cloud
that no mountains were in view. We are used to this type of weather; in most cases, a break does occur
sometime along the route especially if our editor becomes indignant.

Jenni reaches first destination, stands on the Sphinx

The white spot is "hero" returning after reaching the area before the mist. Bossy wife
gave the 'eye', hence, the return

“Let’s push on a little,” we pleaded with our generous editor. Up we went on probably the steepest
slope we have ever attempted, which unfortunately was slippery, after excessive rainfall. At times,
we grabbed tufts of grass for support. After we completed the first ascent, our editor allowed us one
more climb, which took us to the base before the last section that also looked vertical. At that stage,
we had to honor our agreement and turned after gaining approximately another 1,400 feet, 3,500 feet for
the day. A guidebook termed the climb 'brutal and treacherous'. For South Africa that is wild—most things
tend to be understated. Who knows? That may be an understatement in itself.

Jenni still looking fresh...that's about to change

The unmistakable signature of the Drakensberg

Once again, we comment that the slopes, lacking switchbacks, make this country’s hikes tough.
The trail until the mountain was rugged but well constructed. When we began, the long grass on the side
of the path was so wet that within a short time, we were soaked. However, the coolness of the day was
more than sufficient compensation. We’ll repeat ourselves and state it is truly a beautiful place.
In fact, we notice it is an official World Heritage Site.

Jenni commences the unofficial part of the hike, the slopes of Mount Sterkhorn. Who cuts the grass?

We particularly enjoy conversing with the locals who are usually smiling and friendly—always
quick to laugh. When coming across a less ‘happy person’, we find by taking the lead in a friendly
manner, the person soon changes his/her attitude. While positions in the civil service are held by
black people, one wonders what happened to the former employees and how they cope currently. It is
not an easy situation and our less informed opinion is that the country is due difficult times.
Of course, we hope we are wrong, which is something quite common with us.

On the way down, looking for a gap

Smokin' Cathkin


Jenni and Jeffrey

A few more:

Moving lower, the going proves to be tricky and slow


Sterkhorn, the clearest shot all day, the track goes straight up, picture understates steepness

I can hear Mom: "You'll catch a death of a cold playing in the rain, Jeffrey."

Sunday, February 17, 2013

11.12 & 11.13 Blue Pools followed by Mushroom Rock in Central Drakensberg, Natal

Surreal as clouds allowed us a glimpse of the 'back-wall'

A typical scene in the Drakensberg, heavy downpours are kind to the very green grasses

Like a beautiful woman who knows it, the Drakensberg Mountains stand sultry under partial cloud cover, some mist and surrounded by greenery, the latter almost artificial in bright color. Attractive, to say the least, but also irritatingly erratic. The heavens have difficulty with the impetuous creation, too. Daily thunderstorms of enormous power frighten the residents of the valleys as the battle plays out between mountain and Maker. We stand around in awe and trepidation, waiting for the sparring to cease for a while, allowing us to climb up these beauties. As with most areas, the formations, geology and flora tend to have their own unique flavor—the Drakensberg is no exception.

Approaching the mushroom after climbing nearly 1,700 feet

A view of Cathedral Peak Hotel from above, might be nostalgic for ex-patriates

We are in Champagne Valley, a wonderful area—rolling fields surrounded by mountains and farms. A few miles further on are many kraals and villages, homes to the local Zulu folks. On the way to our hikes, we passed alongside villages and once again, the schoolchildren filled the road, making our journey slow and not without danger. One has to be so careful as the kids, ranging from three-to-eighteen, make their way to and from school. Cattle, not on the way to school, also provide a challenge. The roads appear to be a great venue for social activities, we notice. Fortunately, many schools are active in the area—we can tell from observing the varying uniforms worn by the the kids.

A little climbing under massive rocks and soft mist

The trails in South Africa, thus far, are quiet. Today, we met people from Switzerland, always Germany and one or two other nations. We were looking forward to seeing fellow South Africans but apparently, they are either on holiday, building the trails or watching cricket. A person comes to Africa and ends up meeting many Europeans. Go figure!

Our hikes commenced from the exceptionally positioned Cathedral Peak Hotel. Jenni mentioned that we stayed here about 27 years ago, accompanied by Gavin and Natalie—Robert had not arrived on earth yet. We remember one part of the trip clearly. We took part in a soccer game between the black staff and the white residents. A case of beer was the wager. The locals beat us, a good result.

Jenni looks up and thinks it not a good idea—the climbs are steep and without switchbacks. However, the grass is always greener on this side.

Today, we arrived in our little car and found ourselves sandwiched between many of the fanciest automobiles on the road. Nothing in life remains as before. This time we walked and the Africans drove the great cars, we walked some more and the Africans rode past on horseback. On our return from the peak, a wedding had begun—the mayor was taking a wife. We stood in dirty, sweaty clothes while the locals were decked out in the finest. Some of the women, weighing no less than 200 pounds, showed incredible skill balancing on stiletto heels—more a tribute to Italian shoemakers than poise or good taste.

One of the views from Mushroom Rock

Mountains of the 'Berg on a rather dull day

What a turn-around. Our good wishes to decent people everywhere...always. We could not help wonder as we observed the elderly black man on horseback leading the local holidaymakers on the trail. He was clearly an ‘old-school person’. For the early part of his life, living under an oppressive regime, he would lead the ‘white bosses’ on horse rides. Many years older, his job remains the same but he now leads the ‘black bosses’. We wonder how he views the changes.

Cathkin Peak from a distance, two days later we got close to it, see below

We perched to the right, much higher up than this picture (at that time, clouds covered it), 300 meters from Mount Sterkhorn's peak.

The hike to Mushroom Rock was incredible. It is short in distance but steep as all he… The elevation gain is 1650 feet over 2 kilometers, making it a rate of gain of about 1360 feet per mile. Usually, 600 feet per mile can give one a workout. Should a person do this hike once a week, we guarantee you will never put on weight, no matter what you eat. The views of many mountains in the ‘Berg are quite staggering especially with the mist covering. Nevertheless, we look forward to sunshine and if it can be arranged, cool hiking conditions. Is that an unreasonable request?

The other hike through the valley with some inclines gave us wonderful views, too. The only problem is the long grass in places. We think the maintenance team wishes to give the serpents better odds against Eve’s children. We have no desire to get into an old and ongoing battle, though.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Another typical 'Berg scene

A selection of odds and ends from the Berg:

As close as possible, not having a telephoto lens

Showing an awful lot of 'attitude'

Perhaps, a duiker

Africa's version: 'Look Ma, no hands'