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.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

36.13: Croatia: Plitvika Lakes, a hike into the interior followed by a high view of the lakes...and some extras.

Note: For those who struggle with English, the blog can now be read in many different languages. (See the bottom of the page to select a language.)
We apologize should your language not be available. We were only able to translate something of the order of 60 languages as we are a little slow. 😏

A gentle opener.

The largest of the park's waterfalls is also off the 'beaten track'.

Plitvika Lakes is a major attraction, being a UNESCO recognized wonder. This recognition, on top of its great natural beauty makes it very popular and too busy for our liking. Therefore, on our second visit to the park, we headed on a hike through the forests instead of stopping at the lakes. The contrast was amazing. Thousands of people visiting the lakes and not a sole on the trails we walked. The reward for us was earned upon near-completion of the hike when we arrived at the park's largest waterfall. A couple were leaving and we had it to ourselves while we enjoyed breakfast. Thereafter, we followed another trail above lake level which allowed us to continue enjoying lake views well above and away from the masses. Sound like snobs? We don't think so but nothing beats tranquility and a sense of quiet allowing a person to absorb the wonders peacefully.

One of our favorites, two-level lakes.

A longer perspective.

One of many attributes of Hike-About is accommodation. We tend to select places to stay in the suburbs where we live with locals. Often, we share their house. Not that we bump into each other on the way to bathroom but rather, many section off their houses so that one lives in a self-contained unit. In that way, we meet the people, the neighbors including children and get a good feel for living like a local. Hotels certainly don’t suit our way of life unless we need something close to, say an airport, for a night. Besides, hotels don’t provide half the accommodation, features and services we need for which they charge at least twice the amount. Of course, the luxury hotels charge a multiple of that.

In keeping with the theme, in hotels generally, a person is likely if not definitely, going to meet fellow tourists. While this is fine at times, it certainly eliminates acquiring a flavor for the people of that land—something we seek actively. Another disadvantage of hotels is they tend to isolate one. The more expensive it is, it seems, in our opinion, the less likely a person will congregate with others. At the other extreme, at a hostel for instance, and I know many will turn up their noses in horror, you end up cooking in a communal kitchen, thus mixing with the people. The interesting situations that arise from meeting many nationals in natural environments continue to amuse, amaze and educate us. When we stay at huts in the mountains, not the luxury ones we are currently seeing in Slovakia, a person ends up sleeping, if you’ll pardon the expression, with fellow travelers. We suppose each person has differing tastes and of course that all makes sense. Nevertheless, we attain tremendous benefits by experiencing varying social occasions with our fellow inhabitants—many fine people, at that. You should know, while we enjoy social interactions immensely, we value our own company more (I hope Jen feels the same way). To put it another way, we are private people and so we seek privacy but try and enjoy a balance, obviously, not an equal balance.

Perhaps the best feeling that has arisen over the eight years is one of being ‘at home’ in foreign places. It seems wherever we’ve been, it does not take much time and we feel like we are residents. We can’t say why we have that feeling but nevertheless, it occurs whether we speak the language or not. I can’t help smiling when I think of a day some 5 years ago when we were walking from the supermarket in Cuzco (Peru) to our 5th floor apartment, without an elevator, carrying groceries and perhaps a bottle of soda or two. As we crossed a street, I remarked to Jen how comfortable I felt in the environment—‘like a local’, I added. To which she replied, ‘You should take a look from where I’m standing and see how obviously you stand out’. I suppose it’s all about perception.

We had the falls to ourselves which included viewing it while breakfasting.

There is an abundant of birdlife. However, because of the dense forests and nearly as dense photographers, we mostly
ended up listening to, rather than viewing them.

Wrap-up of lakes.

...and on and into the High Tatras of Slovakia with hotels deep into the mountains.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Don't want to forget this scene; it continues to have an uplifting effect.

Some color from Hungary

Fields of dreams and the last time we saw the

A high mountain scene in Croatia.

And a few of our recent residences...

Ground level suite in Strba, Slovakia on a small holding. It was established in the year 1280, that is, the town not the house.

Had we been on the top floor, we might have had this view of Budapest.

'Guess which couple didn't bring bathing suits (cozzies)?'
During our stay, a group of young English tourists occupied a few rooms, there was a French couple, a local couple as well as the landlady and her husband who spoke not a word of English...not that we spoke a word of Croatian. Lately, I've begun to question myself regarding language. I ask the question to locals frequently, "Do you speak English?" That's when I thought further about it. I can't remember walking about in South Africa or the USA and someone coming up to me and asking whether I spoke Chinese, German get the idea. Makes a person think.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

36.12 Slovakia: A brief introduction to the high Tatra Mountains (and rain) of Slovakia.

Popradske Pleso (lake), an hour-and-half up from the trailhead. On our return from the peak 1,650 feet above, the sun shone for nearly 10 minutes. (See below for a view from top).

After arriving in Slovakia from Hungary via Austria, it became clear to us that the high Tatra Mountains, together with the villages and towns below them, make for an extraordinary experience. What we do find confusing is the weather. When we left Hungary, we'd like to believe the country was suffering from a heat wave. Temperatures reached 96 degrees F. The following day, the high of the day nearly halved when we crossed into Austria.

We traveled to Slovakia, through Bratislava and headed north. We climbed high, this time in the car and then after cresting the mountains, dipped into the valleys far below. It looked like we'd be spending near on 3 weeks in the middle of nowhere. After nearly two-hours of slow travel, and stopping at a large supermarket to replenish stocks, we made our way through small villages and beautiful farmland and meadows. Then out of nowhere, we reached a freeway, a first-class road that led to Strba, our new home, and small cities and other towns. It was a surreal feeling after seeing so little development and then confronting 'civilization'. While it's not inhabited by many people, it has a surprising array of modern services and structures including hotels and ski resorts that are world class. In fact, we might say they outdo the Swiss with some of their hotels perched thousands of feet deep in and high on the mountains. More about that later.

Back to the weather. Temperatures dropped to freezing and below in the Tatra Mountains and towns situate in the valley since we're here. That's where our confusion arises. We thought summer covered the northern hemisphere at this time of the year. Apparently, we are wrong again. Furthermore, at time of writing, we have undertaken 3 great hikes and have spent part, half and three-quarters respectively, walking in the rain, with a little snow and hail thrown in for good measure. Each day, we have returned soaked, lacking a full complement of pictures because of weather issues, cold but on a high. Go figure. Perhaps, the answer for me relates to what my Dad would say in earlier days: "Jeffrey, don't be afraid of the rain—it makes everything beautiful—you should try it." (I miss him very much.)

Side note: I have not been able to change the front-cover picture as we normally do because the flowers and colors thereof are too good to remove.
We mentioned in the last blog of the Hungarian gentleman whom we spoke with in Budapest. We should have mentioned that his grandmother emigrated from Johannesburg. (Seems like there's always a lot of movement from the motherland, what a pity.)

Popradske Pleso (lake) and Dom (hotel), approximately 1,650 below, with rain falling (4 hours of it).

A scene out of Andorra, one of many in this region. A view from peak of Solisco, some 2,600 feet of elevation gain.

Partway up Solisco, Jenni looks toward Strbske Pleso (lake and resort). Raincoats take a breather.

Jenni's 'pansy' is prominent on the way to Dom Slieszky while the editor fades into 'unfocus' in rain suit.

A view into a town on the way up the Tatra.

Solisco true peak:"Now where did I leave my bag?"


Jenni and Jeffrey

36.11: Croatia:Paklenika National Park: A tough peak, a strenuous day reaching Crni Vrh.

A view from the top, some 3,800 feet above sea level. To stand so high is an amazing feeling. Bear in mind, it's all
elevation gain.

Taking the gap.

We arrived in the town of Seline, one of many small enclaves abutting the Paklenika National Park, a massive canyon surrounding by mountains comprising dolomite and limestone. It's an incredible region, effectively an extension of the Velebit National Park. As expected and to be welcomed, each country operates its parks differently even per region and not un-expectantly, no two countries function in a similar manner. This makes the set-up, set-out, rules and such like different for most parks we visit. The unique aspect of this park is it has a fortune of trails and sparsely used from our little experience. (On this day, we saw three other hikers who had followed a long way behind.) However, the trails are extremely long, the underfoot is particularly tough on the feet but the place is magnificent. The karst formation and the loose rocks and stones make life awkward for the feet and by extension, anyone or part connected thereto. It’s also a paradise for rock climbers. Having mentioned the length of hikes, it makes sense to spend nights in huts on the mountain in order to reach peaks. The first hike we did (this one), which was wonderful but extremely rough on the feet was 7 hours in length (return), gaining 3,400 feet. Not too bad. This is a below-average length in time although above average elevation gain. Thus day hikes are limited unless a person is an ironman. Not me, maybe Jenni.

There’s no shortage of daylight in Croatia. With the sun rising from 4:30am and setting at 9:30pm, the days are long on light, potentially long on trails and short on sleep. Perhaps that's why they think nothing of establishing a park with day hikes varying from 6 to 12 hours. Briefly, we followed the trail through the canyon, branched off after an hour, climbed for another hour or so steeply, made our way across a saddle or two, rounded the mountain, dropped a little and made the final very steep ascent to reach the peak. The views were incredible although the air was too dense to allow the camera to achieve its potential. On our return, we took a different route which provided exposure into the canyon. However, as Jenni remarked frequently, the rough stones and rocks played havoc on our feet and left their mark for at least a day thereafter.

We considered it a marvelous hike and experience. And then we did the next one which nearly knocked our socks off, perhaps a top 3 experience. More about it in the future. This park is not for 'sissies'. In fact, the Eastern Europeans are a tough bunch, very tough, just by observation. Hence, I've been on my 'best behavior which is a bit stifling ... but safer'.

Jen reaches the peak.

She promptly sits herself down after a session of 'pole dancing' as climbing is prohibited.

He goes climbing in an overpowering environment and soon ends up...

Overpowered by the elements. Note we had another 3.5 hours 'journey' back down. Talk about having fun.

Plenty of views into the canyon.

The magnitude of the surrounding mountains was staggering with ours causing a shadow.

A view on the way down.

Extremely steep section. Unfortunately, we have a camera that contrary to the popular saying, "Does lie".

Telephoto picks up the sailboats. We could not see them with our naked eyes so we dressed them.

After 2 and a bit hours, with an hour to go, we thought this was the final ascent so we took a shot. We wish. No such luck.


Jenni and Jeffrey

For fellow enthusiasts, from our next hike, some 700 feet lower than the peak across the way, we viewed what we had reached. In fact, the lower peak where we currently stood, was a rock scramble and hike, far more difficult than the higher peak in view.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

36.10 Hungary: Dobogoko, good oh! The Visegrad Hills, north of Budapest plus some 'culture'. What's that?

"I hope this is the correct route, it seems a little odd."

Jenni sent me down to the car, parked in the street, outside our building in Budapest. The landlord had advertised free parking in the building. It was a drawcard as we don’t normally have a car when we visit major cities (infrequently), for obvious reasons. This time we have a car as we are returning from Austria and Croatia, spending a week in Hungary and then off to Slovakia. When we met our young landlord, he told me after I made the inquiry, that he’s from Azerbaijan. Turns out the free parking in the building is on the main road outside the building provided one of the good citizens of Budapest gives up his hard-earned parking space for us. In the alternative, along the side road across the way, there’s also parking available but one has to pay by the hour to the taxing authority of the city. Early each morning, our hero has to sprint from the bedroom half-dressed, ensure he has coins and buy a ticket from the robotic parking vendor. So, it’s free and in the building if you come from places other than Johannesburg or California, I suppose.

I went to move the car because I found a better (safer) opportunity had opened up away from the curb. Jen asked me to collect a box of cereal from our mobile pantry, which I did. On my return, I noticed as is common throughout the world these days, the number of people walking on the sidewalks (pavements) and crossing roads (pavements), while using their handheld devices, also known as mobile phones. I’m beginning to feel left out as it’s not something I do or like to do other than when I’m lost—I suppose then I need to do it quite often. Anyway, I really felt embarrassed, being the only person in Budapest not using a mobile device. It struck me—not the device—I had the answer. I picked up the box of cereal and read the back of the carton with great concentration as I digested the nutritional value, not the cereal. I felt good, being part of the scene. I think I've arrived.

Early the next morning, we had to get change for street parking, quite an ordeal, both the change and parking. When we eventually found a bank and worked out the system of queuing, the teller told me the bank does not provide change. Oh! Instead, he mentioned, we should try the coffee shop. Nice. I have not worked up the courage yet but one of these days I would love to walk into a bank in Hungary and order a cup of coffee.

Meeting and talking with people from all over the world is mostly, an uplifting experience, even when languages prove to be an obstacle. Nevertheless, it works. Today, on the way back from somewhere, somewhere in Budapest, an elderly man stopped to help us with directions, unasked. (We had been studying a map). Fortunately, we knew where we were and our destination—maybe, a first. His kindness was appreciated greatly. We had a 15 minutes discussion of Soviet dominated Eastern Europe post the War versus post-Soviet Union collapse. It was, of course, interesting but mostly, although we will never see the gentleman again, another opportunity of humans sharing experiences and frankly,...being human.

"Oops, where to from here if not up?"

Began high, dropped to ground level then climbed to this position before going down into the valley and up again. One of the most tiring hikes out of a number of very tiring ones. What pleasure! A view of the Danube as it makes a turn.

Now we are off to the valley, down a treacherous slope and up to the other side in an over 3,000 feet elevation gain day.

Let's go higher. Outside Budapest, one of the highest parts of the region, one can't go too high in the country.

Focusing on a desirable residence on the Danube.

Meantime, back at the ranch we have a long way to get back to the car (Jen crosses "Danube minor").

In 90 degrees weather, it was good to feel some coolness at the "Ram Szakadek".

A horseshoe on the Danube.

Something a little different.

A view of the sky from our apartment.

Liberty Statue of Budapest at the Citadel.

The statue at night from behind.

Buda Castle.

Part of one of the bridges crossing the Danube that caught the eye.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

36.09 Croatia: Paklenika National Park, Hike 4+: Difficult, Dangerous and D(st)renuous.

The second part of the ascent, from the Caves toward the summit.

By the time we reached, what appeared the halfway stage, one of us thought it, arguably, the best hike we've done. On what basis does one of you keep making those bold (foolish) pronouncements? We're pleased you asked. Well, it's like this. Firstly, you should know the surface could be a lot softer. Currently, it's mostly karst which is a formation comprising dolomite and limestone. It's particularly horrible should one place the foot in molds slightly smaller than the sole and have the stone squeeze the foot into a different shape like we'd imagine a torturer would. You should try it sometime—the relief afterwards is soothing. Second point is the hikes begin some 30-40 minutes from the parking lot. Of course, one walks through the canyon to get to the so called-trailhead—no shuttle available, no roads either. Thirdly, the hikes are long and mostly steep or if not steep, very steep. Other than that, they are a walk in the park. This hike is the only day hike, and still one of very few out of all, rated 4.5 out of 5 for difficulty. By the way, with regard to their ratings and allotted times, they certainly 'don't fool around'.

We thought we'd take you on this stroll with us, trying to provide an indication of the feel, highlights and general idea. We began early, the park was almost empty. Two days earlier, from a higher vantage point across the canyon, we noticed segments of the initial part of the trail cut into the mountain. It's always a good sight. (Picture below). The trail takes one to the caves and one of the highlight icons of the park. We spent some time at the Cango Caves in South Africa and Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico not long ago so we decided to skip these. From there it's, at times, a tricky climb and rock scramble to reach and crest the summit. There are some steel cables in various places to aid a person and the rocky, rough surfaces allow boots to grip beautifully which is a boon. By the way, the trail is well-marked with the red targets/markers which are essential. Without them, we don't know what would happen but it would be interesting... The sights from the position at the top and just below it were magnificent. It's an amazing feeling to reach difficult and strenuous positions in of themselves and further, to admire the sights thereafter. It makes the experience more meaningful.

We moved down and around, stopped for our usual brunch and continued to make our way toward ground-level. We thought we would reach sea level, some 2,800 feet below the summit, and then cross over to the car park through the forest once we negotiated our way down. After a long slog, we did move towards the car park, general direction only but then made a surprising upward move and climbed hundreds of feet more. We had thought the climbing was over for the day. When we reached our third top, we were surprised to realize we had not gone down the whole way, earlier. In fact, with the latest ascent, we appeared to be about 1,200 to 1,500 feet above the canyon floor. The invigorating part was the canyon floor lay almost vertically below. We were a little tired, sore and slightly frustrated and faced quite an ordeal down. Although tired, one has to be most vigilant because the consequences of carelessness is unforgiving. (Elevation gain for the day was in excess of 3,000 feet.)

Fortunately, we love climbs like the one we faced, up or down, so the experience was wonderful and the frustration dissipated within moments. Back on ground-level, the world looked a whole lost less interesting but far safer.

Someone's feeling good about her ascent thus far.

Taken from a previous hike, across the canyon and much higher. The current, initial part of the trail we found irresistible.

"Who're you calling lazy, Buster?"

The editor negotiates her way down.

He sits some 1,200 feet above the canyon floor and wonders...We had already made our way down a substantial amount. I suppose we were taking a smoke break—everyone seems to smoke in Eastern/Central Europe.

A view from the top.

An icon of the park, Anica Kuk, at rear and two little icons in the front.

One more big one and then ... a few more big ones.

Another top view in the other direction.

He sure looks like he's lost his way. He does know the next move is not rightwards.

Big mountains. The previous hike took us to the peak at some 3,400 feet, across the canyon.

A particularly meaningful position and beautiful sight.

Jen approaches the crest with the aid of the steel cables, one which had pulled out of the rock face.

Looks like a naughty face as she smiles at the top....thank Heaven. We found the mountains to be large and overpowering.

With relief, we felt good knowing there might be one less hazard. They do say, "Keep on the Trail".
Extract from the signboard and park maps.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Next stop: The somewhat 'Blue Danube'.

Not the same shot, but along the same lines with parliament on the right, at night (Budapest).