New Zealand: Along the Ben Lomond Trail.


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.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Visit to the Kruger National Park: Day One, Elephant Day

After leaving Graskop, we headed for the Kruger National Park to see how the other half lives. Although this
is a good rest for us, we are going on a bushwalk in the park. It promises to be...we haven't a clue but are
looking forward to it. Take a break from hiking (we'll post Fanie Botha part two next) and spend a day at
the big zoo with us. It might be nice, certainly more relaxing.

Jenni captures a Nyala doe from close-up.

Please let me cuddle with you guys...and gals and gals.

Just a little higher on the left side...use your tusks.

'What'd you think about ordering buffalo wings tonight, get the calves to bed early and just cuddle a bit?'

'Can't I play with you fellas?' Cries the lonely hippo.

'Hey fatties, catch us if you can.' A flyby at the waterhole.

'I don't want to hear anymore bull from you does, do you hear me?'

Does it get more colorful than this?

'Jeffrey, will you stop showing off again! Put your tusks down and make nice with Jenni.'

The wind's caught my hair again...I don't know what to do with it.

Lil' Sister, come here and take a shower.

Out the way you big oaf...she's mine.

You may consider yourself 'hip' but with your looks, we don't think a dating service is going to help.

"I think I sat on something sharp." Jenni's favorite.

Need another one of this exquisite bird.

Hey Guys, get your snorkels on--the coral reef and fish are incredible.

Is that gas?


Jenni and Jeffrey

Saturday, March 28, 2015

22.01 Fanie Botha Trek, Mpumalanga, South Africa: Part 1

As we crest the first mountain on day 2, the sights get even better.

Returning to Africa is always an interesting experience. One ponders the reasons for leaving in the
first place and whether it was the correct decision. Perhaps something that was never part of the equation
is that our lifestyles are so different currently from the first thirty-six years lived in the country.
Our lives, when in South Africa these days, involve exploring and adventuring in parts of the country that
we experienced so little of previously. This is a big difference from city life in general and especially
the earlier periods filled with education, business and social engagements while raising children. Therefore,
comparisons are not practical because our activities are so different and varied.

Being out amongst the natural wonders, whether it’s in this or any other country, living in small towns,
facing challenges, both mental and physical while sweating most days and being rewarded with visual beauty
and varying and unique experiences each day, is truly a life like no other. As Jen likes to say and I fully
concur, nothing beats the struggle and hopefully, the success of reaching our physical goals each hike.
The subsequent period following the hike in which we relax and engage in other daily activities becomes
very meaningful.

A few weeks ago, in a rather odd turn of events, our son, Gavin, made the comment how grateful he is that
we did move to America. Without providing his reasons in this essay, which we thought were apt and incisive,
it was most interesting to hear. (Continued after pictures.)

Cathedral Falls, quite spectacular and tucked away from all but hikers.

Second day: We reach one of the peaks. Maritzbos Hut can seen below (Roughly, middle of photo.).

Editor continues climbing after setting a blazing trail. Town of Sabie behind.

Meantime, showered and unshaven, 'boy-hero' takes a break.

Jenni spots a snake while I was following the movement of blesbokke. (Special picture for brother, Mark.)

Looking at the next day's target while absorbing the beauty.

Only visiting. Our endpoint of the trek. However, we met the shuttle at the police station
and were transported to the trailhead near Sabie. We had the option of leaving the car with the police
or at our lodge. The latter, we considered the safer option.

Editor waves from a great spot. Following picture shows where she's headed.

Down we go.

Viewing the third day's target some 11 miles distant beyond and below the tower.

'Tannie Jenni' and the students as we spend day climbing and descending. (See below for the story.)

The third night at Mac Mac Hut, the sun had set.

Tough trail, many rewards.

At Graskop Hut, our endpoint, we meet Innocent. However, like many kids, he was on the phone.
We still had a further 2 miles to reach the police station. Innocent's father kindly gave us African directions
which were accurate but not easy to understand. One pointer was to walk 'between two houses'.

Perhaps one of our favorite signs. We suppose this does not apply to women.
Does it mean where no signs exist, one is permitted to relieve oneself? So many questions...

Story continues below...

When we were growing
up, South Africa was considered a mixed economy, a combination of an industrial power,
certainly by African standards and third world, as well. There were these two systems existing side-by-side.
Whatever the classification is today, it does not matter for our purposes. However, we think many of us make
the mistake, if it could be termed that, of believing that a western style economy is what should be sought.
Whereas we ourselves favor the concepts of efficiency, mass production and hence lower pricing and all
the benefits of a free market, that may not be the desire of the African citizen. Westerners like power
on demand, in fact everything on demand delivered efficiently at competitive pricing. To put it another way,
first-world countries are highly efficient consuming nations. This is perhaps built into the western mindset
after years of trying to perfect the system.
We believe the mentality and culture of the African differs from that ethos and as long as people expect
South Africa to follow a wholly western approach to life, disappointment will prevail. Clearly, this is
an opinion that is passed with some thought and observation but no research or depth. We’ll leave it there.

The editor outdid herself in a couple of ways, again. She chose the four-day Fanie Botha trek for our first
foray back into the country. The location is in Mpumalanga, formerly, the Eastern Transvaal. It is a rugged
hike, following at times a primitive trail as it traverses and climbs a few mountains. It’s between the towns
of Sabie, where we commenced and Graskop, where we ended and are currently staying (recovering). At one stage,
we stood at the peak of a mountain and were able to view both towns by turning 180 degrees. It was a
spectacular trek, one that provided a challenge and much satisfaction. The route covered attractive mountains,
glorious waterfalls tucked into places only visible by foot-traffic, birds, antelope and more colorful butterflies
than we’ve ever seen anywhere else. The Blyde River followed us wherever we walked or perhaps that should read
the other way around. The problem with streams and rivers is that they like to flow at ground level—can’t blame
them. This means that each time we cross a river, we walk down the mountain only to rise and climb up again on
the other side of the water. We did quite a bit of this over the last few days although not as much as on a leg
in the Swartberg last year.

We ended up hiking over four days but as we commenced at 12:30pm on Monday and completed it on Thursday at 11:30am,
it amounted to three full days. Over the period, we hiked thirty-four miles, gained a cumulative near on 7,000 feet
and finished with sore feet. All-in-all, it was an experience we are thrilled to have undergone and would do it
again but not this week.

On the first day, we arrived at Maritzbos Hut to find twenty-three people already settled in. It was a pre-college
group on a year’s course. They are guided to understand themselves, life and relationships—we wanted to sign up, too.
The average age, besides their councellors, was about nineteen. We spent the rest of the trip with them although
we hiked alone. Truth be told, it would not be fair to expect them to keep up with the 'tannie' (the respectful
term given to an elder), full-backpack notwithstanding. Talking about backpacks, we carried thirty-five pounds,
which for a couple of weaklings is heavy. Particularly down the tricky paths, it influences one’s balance and is
easy to topple when the weight shifts as one negotiates the slippery and sloping parts. We find that we don’t
eat particularly well on these treks as we seem to take more clothing than food. If we were guaranteed no rain,
we might change the mix.

On the second evening, two of the youngsters had not arrived at the hut as the light faded quickly. It was
a scary time as search parties went looking for them. Fortunately, at about 8pm, a local employee of the
forestry service brought them back. They had missed a junction turn and ended up at the beginning of the hike.
What a tough experience and one to which we can relate. We too had an interesting occurrence on the first day.
However, in our case it is not unusual.

Sleeping in the huts is proving to be difficult lately because of snoring. One young man, known to all as
they are fellow students, had the worst case of grunting/snoring/moaning we’ve ever heard. Half his colleagues
removed their mattresses and slept outside. We would have done the same but for the fact we only brought our
light summer inners. When we did go to the bathroom, a nice term for it, it was an opportunity to enjoy and
appreciate the night sky. While it could not compare with the views on Mauna Loa in Hawaii, perhaps the most
star-covered sky we have ever experienced, it was fabulous. We are not able to identify stars by name but
as one Supreme Court justice said in a different context, we recognize beauty when we see it. Huts are unisex
affairs throughout the world. However, the councellors separated the genders into two sections for sleeping
which was refreshing. As we did not wish to upset the arrangement, we complied with the local rule. However,
on the last night, in order to take a little more cover from the snorer, I joined the women—something I could
get used to.

One of the highlights occurred on the second day and perhaps the third as well. These two days were tough
in which the big distances and climbing took place. We were always well ahead of the group so upon arrival
at the huts, we had a few hours on our own. Stables Hut had a shower which proved that contrary to popular
belief, I can hit a high note. Upon entering the outside cold shower, very cold, I came close to breaking
glass plus one or two body parts. Nevertheless, the feeling after washing and re-washing over five minutes
was unbelievable. Of course, the editor is much braver than me or does not sing that well. On the third day,
the Mac Mac Hut was without showers but did have an outlet from the water tanks. We stripped and washed full
bodies under the faucets, a slight acrobatic movement but cleansing. We also washed clothes and hung them
to dry on those days. Sounds silly but it’s wonderful to be carrying relatively clean clothing. Even nicer
and perhaps sillier, it’s a better feeling to be tired, have a few aches, feel satisfied with the achievement
and watch the clothing dry naturally. Heck, there is no accounting for idiosyncrasies. During this wash period,
we had wonderful views into the valleys although anyone watching us may not express the same sentiment.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Zealand: A pictorial video of some highlights.

The video follows after the photograph below:

Arriving at 'holiday camp' on the Kepler Track. The first hut from the lake approach is Luxmore, nestled
about a mile below the peak of the mountain from which it derives its name.

Click on screen icon at bottom right to view full screen.

(Special thanks to Brian Murray, composer, vocalist and lead guitarist and Neville Stanger on bass.)


Jenni and Jeffrey

Sunday, March 22, 2015

21.30 Franz Josef Glacier: Robert's Point Hike, 'slip sliding away': And a few closing shots.

Up close, the reality. It shows a dirtier side of the glacier.

In our most dangerous hike on this trip, we set out along a level, well-manicured path.
'Where's the challenge?" We asked ourselves. We thought this was rated tricky and a little dangerous.
Not that we seek danger but the hike was supposed to be challenging. Then we noticed a sign that pointed
out recent deaths on the trail. Thereafter, we began to climb and descend on slippery and rocky sections
throughout the rainforest. On the 7-mile hike that never seemed to end, we were put through our paces.
The cumulative gain may have been 2,200 feet but it was a tough experience. When we broke the tree line
eventually, we arrived at the viewing point. Before us, stood (or flowed) a magnificent glacier, Franz Josef.
We had seen it the previous day from a more convenient spot.

Action scene above the glacier. For a mere $350, you can have a bird's eye view.
Two eyes, $700, I suppose.

Jenni goes swinging. There is doubt she was a happy girl during the crossing.

Preparing for a very tricky and slippery slope. Editor did not consider it a good idea for me to take
a photo with one hand while pulling on rope with other. Editor turns cautious (sensible).

The glacier is a major tourist attraction. These days, besides the hike to Roberts Point,
the only way to get up close is by way of helicopter. We heard the choppers while we were ascending
and saw them from our eventual vantage point. They transport people over and onto the glacier.
Watching them fly about the glacier and land is an added benefit of being at the trail end.
On our first trip to New Zealand, we hiked on the glacier. It was a memorable experience but not one
for which we pine to repeat.

Notice the strong flow of water at mid-right of the picture. There are a number of people on the
glacier, too.

An example of a partial view of a waterfall with helicopter coming in close.

At last, we reach the viewpoint. Fortunately, the focus is the glacier not 'ole sunshine' in the front.

The trail is a swingers paradise. We crossed about five or six of these suspension bridges that
swing and sway, causing little heart flutters for the editor, sometimes very big ones. There is a limit
to the number of people allowed to cross a bridge simultaneously, anywhere from one to five. A couple
of them were relatively long, providing a different perspective a little above the forest canopy.

Interestingly, a week after we hiked the track, the Department of Conservation closed the trail. I hope
we did not damage it in any way although I had one fall in which I thought damage was done to me. Fortunately,
I was wrong again.

Can't scare the editor. Her husband, now that's different.

New Zealand is not the only land of scary signs. This one is from New Hampshire, designed by the
tourist board. Their new campaign slogan, "Where have all the tourists gone?"

A last look at Franz Josef as we contemplate the very tricky descent down a slippery path,
often a stream through and over rocks.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Later in the week, we will post a video of photographs from the New Zealand adventure. Meantime, enjoy
these last views from a beautiful and dynamic land.

Lake Manapouri, South Island.

Sunset over Lake Wakatipu.

Sun filtering over Lake Te Anau, Mount Luxmore Hut.

Earland Falls on the Routeburn track.

Sun and cloud rise over the Kepler Track

Thursday, March 19, 2015

21.29 Tongariro Alpine Crossing , North Island, New Zealand—always a 'wow' and more.

We don’t take slogans and hype too seriously—there’s an awful lot of it going around in the modern day.
So when a hike is rated the best in New Zealand and many say, in the world, we smile and wonder where
we’ve heard that before. We have undertaken this hike a few times before and the hype may in fact be
the truth regarding the Tongariro Alpine crossing. Even the name is exciting. The Atlantic Crossing,
the Sahara Crossing, the Tongariro Crossing—all have a stylish ring to them. Say it out loud and
sufficient number of times and an excitement builds within. Then again that could just be us.

Talking of crossings, to get to North Island, we made another crossing, the Cook Strait. The three
of us sailed on a ferry from Tipton, arriving in Wellington three hours later. For the first time
in nearly four weeks, we came across poles with green, yellow and red lights blinking periodically.
By the way, the third traveler was our rental car.

Man, the place is steaming. Eruption took place in August 2012, seven months after our last visit.
The smell of sulfur was strong all morning exacerbated by being downwind of Te Maari.

This is what happens when New Zealanders are careless in maintaining their swimming pools. Coming down from
the top and tempted to go in for a dip.

Editor approaching the first hut after a four-mile incline. She doesn't look too charmed
about hiking from the lower trailhead, adding 1,116 feet to achieve a gain of over 3,600 feet on the day.

For ‘The Crossing”
we decided on a different approach. Firstly, it’s very busy and we only had a Sunday
available—probably the busiest of days. People begin at the higher elevation trailhead and finish at the
lower endpoint. This allows for less climbing. Shuttles are pre-arranged to pick up worn hikers and take
them back to the initial car park—the commencement point. If you’re a local and have at least one buddy
and the fellow has a car, then you can avoid a shuttle by leaving a car at the endpoint. Simple. Now all
you have to do is take a 19.4Km walk or as some people have said to us over the years, “Take a hike, Jeffrey”.

Early(ish) morning with a view of Lake Rotoaira at fore and the massive Taupo behind. Heavy clouds
and a steaming volcano (right) add to the scene.

Early sighting of Red Crater and Volcano, Mount Ngauruhoe. Our final ascent is to the top. Note:
Most, if not all hikers are coming down on the scree. Guess who was going up?

Looking in and across the Red Crater. The remnants of raw, natural power.

As we negotiate a tricky section off trail, we get a glimpse of a well maintained pool
versus one without a 'Kreepy Krauly'.

Our idea was
to hike from the usual endpoint adding the additional 1,116 feet of elevation gain, enjoy
a quiet trail until a mile past the mid-point and then turn around at the peak. In the first two hours,
we only saw five other people. For the record, the hike to the first hut, rated as a three-hour walk,
we reached in 1.75 hours. Is the editor hot or on fire? Our original desire was to climb the volcano,
Mount Ngauruhoe as well. It turned out that to do that, it would have been better (essential) to have
commenced from the other side, being both shorter distance to the volcano and less of an incline to reach
the base. In the end, including the distance to the parked car, we walked a little under fifteen miles
on the day. This included at least three miles of running down the track on the way home. The elevation
gain was over 3,600 feet. The verdict: A stunning day. As a hiker, it might be fair to say that until you’ve
completed the Crossing, you haven’t lived. (The hype is quite catchy, it seems.)

Two years ago we met Barry Jahn, an Oregonian who has impressed us with his accomplishments. "Barry, this
is a hike we believe you would enjoy running. Please don't take us with you."

Blue Lake, not far below the craters, but most distinctive in a harsh region (see next).

Blue Lake. Such color against a dull background as we come over the crest and look down
into the water. (Illustrates the contrast (above) depending on positioning.)

A close-up of these amazing spectacles.

We are either ignorant or have confidence in the seismologists in New Zealand or both. Why else would
we all be traipsing across an active volcanic region while observing steam bellowing from the bowels of the earth
and not giving it a second thought. When we thought about it carefully, we acted in the negative. What we mean
by that is: 'As no one has said anything to the contrary, it must be okay. Lots of people are crossing close to
the volcano, so what's the problem?' Talk about all the sheep in the country—you can add another couple.
Had we known about the volcanic activity wouldn't have made any difference.

A view of Mount Tongariro from the car park. It was an intimidating sight plus we had
to climb well beyond it.

Jen approaches the pass after which the craters will come into view. Lake Rotoaira below.

Layers of mountains in the early haze of the day provide a contrast with the craters opposite.

We were worried about poor weather for two reasons: It is usually wet and windy for the crossing
and Cyclone Pam was due to hit New Zealand that afternoon. Following our two-day ‘swim’ over the
Routeburn Track, we were concerned. Fortunately, the weather was in our favor and our bathing suits
and three jackets, gloves and other cold weather kit remained in our packs.

This was the last hike of our trip to New Zealand. What might you ask did you think of being
in New Zealand? For a start, the duration was about two months too short. At least one of us
can’t wait to return. Our bodies departed from New Zealand but we did leave a little of ourselves
over there.

Love this photograph and that's a good reason for another to be included.

Apparently some plants love living in this unusual environment.

A farewell before it blows again. Te Maari letting off steam or just blowing smoke? Whatever the case,
it stunk up the joint.


Jenni and Jeffrey