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.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

43.06 Bulgaria: Yagodina: 'Orlovo Oko', The Eagle Eye, an eye for color but a lot more including a personal story.

We wanted to be in Eastern Europe for autumn, particularly, Slovakia and Bulgaria. I think it was one of our better decisions. To walk around the land surrounded in color as we have experienced has a profound effect on a person. Viewing the foliage from above provides a particularly advantageous...can we repeat 'advantage?'

The hike proved to be steep (which we welcome) but a little on the short side. We added a bit of mileage to it as we parked some distance from the trailhead. The trail, like many we have undertaken since Piren Park, was deserted. The attraction is for people to hire the services of a jeep tour company to transport them on a really rough road up to the Eagle's perch. Apparently, the rough road is part of the thrill. Being cowards, we prefer to hike up-and-down.

A hotel we passed along the way up.

Jen takes to the 'Eagle Eye' platform.

Closer examination at the 'coalface'.

Returning from below.

A little boy's fascination for a vending machine. A coffee break after returning from the peak was delightful-so unexpected in the town. One doesn't need to speak the local language, for a change. Instead, you have to read and understand Cyrillic. Who said life is complicated?

Spotlight seems to be on one section, the colorful corner. We arrived at the trailhead via the road below.

"Hi Guys. Don't think I didn't spot you."

Penultimate show of color from on high.

Town at left located on top of a mountain.


Jenni and Jeffrey

These incidents occurred just before we departed for Poland. Perhaps we bring them up now because we obviously miss the grandkids.

Relationships develop through incidents, experiences, interchanges, warmth and a host of other reasons. A fascinating aspect of life is that of the parent and child followed by grandparent and grandchild. Both commence with the younger member being totally dependent on the older for survival, growth, and development. At some stage (in most cases) the younger member surpasses the older and eventually sees the latter in his/ her final resting place. They call that life. It's an incredible system, miraculous in fact, although could do with the some refinements in the closing years.

Having survived the introduction, we wish to relate two recent occurrences of many that provide insights to the clarity, honesty and freshness of the young. How refreshing is life when viewed through the eyes of a person who has yet to bump against the barriers and obstacles that abound and unfortunately, the harshness and at times, cruelty, of some of our fellow inhabitants.

Over the years, we have taught Ellie and played many card games with her, our granddaughter, who is also our first grandchild. In turn, Ellie has helped shape us into grandparents for which we are grateful. While we would love to relate a myriad of stories of our relationship, most are amusing and heart-warming, we'll relate but one, the latest which makes the point of the earlier theme of, honesty and tact or lack of the latter and plenty of the former.

It was her turn to teach us a game of cards. We sat on the carpet, she with her cracked ankle in a 'boot' and told us to spread our legs so the cards could be placed conveniently before us. She does the splits as a matter of routine; for Jeffrey, it's torture. Fortunately, when she noticed my extreme discomfort, she mentioned we should make ourselves comfortable. Basically, sit how you like. Phew!

The ten-year old then addressed Gaga and Papa, both directly and earnestly.

"Who," she asked, "is the slower learner?"

Her tone of voice was not unlike a teacher—no prejudice, no levity, but rather, seeking an honest answer so she could adapt and get on with her task of teaching Jeffrey the basics and then giving the quicker study, Jenni, a few pointers.

Five days earlier,
it had been 7-year old Benny's turn. If I have one claim to fame in life, it's that I taught our daughter, Natalie, to say 'yellow' rather than 'lellow'. I then had the honor to have the same experience with Ellie followed by Benny. In fact, the lessons of all three took place, mostly, while bathing them. Funny how something so innocuous can be so memorable, so meaningful.

Often, when the four of us are together, it's become traditional to use the word 'lellow' rather than 'yellow'. We were playing a game last Sunday, we call it 'general knowledge', where Benny had to think of a fruit beginning with the letter 'L'. We had to award him at least some points for his answer which was incorrect but valid and original.

He wrote, "Lellow Watermelon".

Oh, the world and life through the eyes of a child is indeed beautiful.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

43.04 & 43.05 Sofia, Bulgaria: Vitosha, Cherni Vrah. Two hikes on a city mountain 7,000 feet high and it really is 'A Dog's Life'.

We couldn't remember whether we were supposed to distinguish the wood for the trees; maybe it was separating the wood or trees from the forest. Anyway, we thought it attractive.

It took a while to find a starting point for a hike which resulted in a 3,000 feet elevation gain, mostly in forests, gorgeous ones at that. We had arrived in Sofia (again) the day before to return a car and collect another. It sounds strange but the complication occurred because of a number of changes that we made to our plans when we decided to forego Ukraine.

Rather than become embroiled in the Trump-Biden-Ukraine controversies, we decided adding the Lazarow name to the scandal would further exacerbate the impeachment debacle. Heck, we're simple people—we just want to trudge up mountains, walk down again and then spend the evening wondering why we do such things. So, we found ourselves in the sprawling city of Sofia, at the mercy of aggressive Bulgarian drivers who, like our fellow South African motorists, do not understand the concept of the solid white line painted in the middle of the road. They also cannot understand why anyone would wish to obey the strictly enforced speed limit in the towns. Rather, they prefer to intimidate one into breaking the regulations to avoid holding them up. Enough of the roads, including those that are extremely narrow and even narrower because motorists park along them. We understand the concept of the small car including the idea of the battery powered car but have yet to find a 'thin' car which would still struggle negotiating some of the roads.

The 'kids' leading Jenni astray.

Caught between a rock and

We began the hike uncertain of the trail although we knew it was directly up toward one of the cable stations. (By the way, over the years, we have yet to find a low or easy mountain.) We made a few corrections and discovered some trail-markers, felt good about the find and headed toward the great peak of Cherni Vrah in Vitosha, south of Sofia. The forest is attractive and airy, steep and unforgiving, but a great hike. The mountain, reaching an altitude of over 7,000 feet is considered one of the highest in Europe in the sense it's effectively in the city—outskirts to be accurate. As an aside, two days later, we were in the great Rila National Park and could see the observatory from our position. We had stood next to the observatory upon reaching the Black Peak.

Getting back to the original story, when we commenced the hike, two dogs approached. We had seen them earlier when we passed in the car and decided to park rather than hazard driving over some terrible roads. The dogs were neither hostile nor friendly, rather tagging along because they probably had little else to do. We believe it was a holiday. We entered the forest after making some adjustments (getting lost a few times) and they followed. They ran ahead as dogs do but always came back to us or waited for us to catch up. It was typical pet behavior where the dog appears to be leading but always returns to ensure it is not without human company. They did tend to sniff out the trail but never failed to return to us. After an hour, we realized we had assumed responsibility for two dogs. We felt we were with children. Fortunately, we could return them after the hike or so we expected.

Will they ever respect other people's property?

A telephoto view of Sofia from Cherni Vrah, perhaps from a little lower than the peak.

Another of the city as Jen returns.

She's become a tour guide. The observatory close by is the same one we spotted from Rila National Park two days later. Always fascinating when these things tie up, when it comes together and makes sense.

From the ridge above 7 Rila Lakes, we notice the observatory on Vitosha mountain.

Some rock climbing at the peak.

We did not know their names, their owners, addresses or were able to communicate. We presumed they understood Bulgarian but probably had very little schooling in English. Sometimes, Jen and I have moments of brilliant deduction. After nearly 2 hours in the forest, we reached the road that allows motorists to drive to the hotel and cable station. We made a marker for our return, walked on the road for a little less than a mile and re-entered the forest to follow the overhead cables up to our destination.

While walking along the road, the dogs committed a cardinal error—they chased after cars, particularly the wheels. We shouted and made it very clear in English that this was shocking behavior. To their credit, they only tried it once more. Thereafter, they ignored the cars. We found this satisfying. We then decided to share our water with them. After all, it had been a couple of hours by then up a steep incline.

Unfortunately, the one dog seemed intimidated by me even though, besides the chasing wheels issue, I had been friendly. We suspected he had been mistreated by a male. The other dog had no qualms about the water or me, tending to get under my feet on the stiff inclines. After three hours, we had reached our target but thought of going higher. We decided if it became too long and tiring for the 'children', we could always try for a ride down. However, it would be unlikely that anyone would offer to take the dogs as well. The situation had developed into one in which the two fellas had latched onto us, walked the whole hike outwards and we now felt responsible for them. They were also tiring quickly. These two strangers had influenced the outcome of our hike.

Rather than put them to additional climbing stress and then return, we decided to turn at our original destination although we wished to continue. We stopped for brunch and then felt guilty we had no food for them, but water. We fed the one flakes while the other dog kept his distance, always close to Jenni when not sprinting ahead. As an aside, we have no doubt that motorists who passed us while we walked on the road for a short while would have sworn we were walking our dogs. They probably swore at us for not leashing the animals while walking on that road. Shows you how perceptions can vary from reality if we are correct in our assumptions.

Within less than a mile from our commencement, we heard another dog approaching. Oh, no!—three's a crowd. A man and his young daughter were out for a walk. The dog, a rather large breed charged at us. We tried to calm it and together with its master did succeed. In the meantime, our two 'heroes' turned tail and scurried away like a couple of cowards. The one dog returned soon thereafter but not the other. After over 5 hours together, we had lost a dog. We wondered what the owners felt not having seen their dogs for such a long period. Did they even know the dogs were away...hiking. Did they care? They certainly did not bother to pack them a lunch.

The dog remaining with us looked dejected. We felt a little, maybe more than that, sad ourselves. We whistled, called out but to no avail. We reached our car, bid the dog farewell and wondered about the fate of the other, an animal we had spent 5 hours with, did not know its name, family or where it was. Is there a happy conclusion to this tale? We hope so of course but we can't say. We did not write the script.

The following day, we headed for our second and last hike during this short stay in the capital, passing the area where we had 'picked up' the children the day before. Alas! Neither of them were there. That's it—no more allowing dogs to join us on the trails.

"No more dogs on future hikes? That's an order. Uh! Oh!"


Jenni and Jeffrey

Some local flavor and character.

The elderly are, in many cases, delightful especially those still with a twinkle in the eye. The earlier generations take us back to times that were tough in many ways but also, preferable to so much we see and endure in these modern times of incredible technology and unsavory behavior. Of course, that's an opinion but it's the one that counts for us.

On our way down south as we headed toward the Rhodope Mountains, first stopping in Saparevo Banya, we encountered scenes in little towns that were reminiscent of earlier centuries. Here are a few:

We walked into the restaurant to order some tea; silence prevailed as they looked us up and down. We get a lot of that; apparently (clearly) we do not look like locals. One group of women sat at a long table. The picture is after the meeting broke-up.

Some serious thinking at the preliminary chess tryouts.

A great shot of Jenni after failing to negotiate the opportunity of taking a trike around the parking lot.

And this gives a good example of 'relative'. Amongst our grandchildren, we are old. In this environment, we appear young. Thus we can be as old or young as we want...actually that's another concept in and of itself. Taken in Devin, from our 2nd floor apartment entrance. 'Hats' off to those who opened the way for the younger generations.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

43.03 Bulgaria: Rila National Park: Color our world or Water colors.

Jen makes her way under the chairlift.

To state that the natural scenes in Bulgaria are outstanding is superfluous. We don't think our thoughts and words are able to capture the essence of the beauty which in and of itself is obvious. Most parts of the world are beautiful so one should not interpret the earlier comment pertaining to this country only. Nevertheless, the autumn colors, the mountains and alpine lakes and the manner of reaching these positions on foot are awesome. We discovered this last year and our return to this region is as a consequence of the earlier visit and an endorsement of our earlier opinion and view, the latter in both meanings of the word.

Besides the outstanding visits to Pirin National Park, a place covered in mountains including a couple of hikes we rate our best, Rila Lakes provides access to alpine lakes, specifically, the 7 Rila Lakes. We visited the park on two separate days and approached the hikes differently. In fact, for a person to capture a view of all seven lakes from one position, a hiker has to climb quite high to reach the ridge. We did this on Friday. On Sunday, we focused on one lake, Kidney, and approached it from the other side where there is a goat path. Should one look at general pictures of this lake, they are always taken from the popular side, along the trail. Instead, we climbed to a peak on the opposite side of the trail, where we were alone and attained incredible views. We estimate there were a few hundred people in the park and yet not a soul in nearly two hours was anywhere near us. The period included breakfast and a rest in the surprisingly warm sunlight. We also observed an 8th lake from this peak.

We do find that by exploring both the regular trails and going off-trail, at times, we obtain added stimulation, face additional challenges and observe incredible sights. The climb up the mountain, while creating an adrenaline rush, made the day. It's hard to get much better than that. On each day, we accumulated close to 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

We have published a few pictures from both hikes, a summary rather than a full blog. The idea is to absorb the beauty, coloring and unique area while relaxing with a beer (Diet Coke) on a Sunday.

On her way down from the peak, Jenni tries to rid herself of the adrenaline pumping through her body. (Lower-left)

Two days earlier, we reach the ridge and observe all seven lakes from one position.

On our way down, an opening in the forest reveals a miracle...another one.

Kidney Lake from our recently discovered peak. The picture below reveals the peak climbed. Note another lake behind it and to the side.

Kidney Lake, the earlier hike, from the regular side although higher than the typical viewing point.

Reflections off glass.

Giving the 'eye' to a lake of that name (Eye).

Enjoying the high point of the 'lake district'.

Love this one.

We'll show the hikes and complete selection of pictures at a later stage.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Thursday, October 17, 2019

43.02 Bulgaria: Pirin National Park. 6 hikes, 2 pictures each, tired bodies but invigorated souls and 'egg on the face'.

Muratova Lake, a different view from usual.

Muratova, summer and autumn, mixed seasons.

Rybko Lake, extraordinary because of weather issues. A grey day turned out to be ideal.

Above Rybko Lake on the way to a third lake with an unpronounceable name.

Strolling on Kutelo Peak and ridge. 3rd highest point in Bulgaria, 20 feet less than number 2, 60 feet less than number 1.

A little intimacy on the cliffs, after a long way down from Kutelo Peak.

Bezbog Hut (first hike).

Below Bezbog Peak.

The view from Vihren and Kutelo Peaks; mountains, ridges and towns below.

Jen stands on Vihren Peak.

Here comes Jenni, bottom of Bezbog peak.

Bezbog Hut (second hike), a favorite spot.


Jenni and Jeffrey

Walking back from Bezbog hut under the non-working ski-lift on the day.

We have often wondered about the concept of putting the cart before the horse but never on the side. In the scene above, which we witnessed on the way down the other day, we also wondered whether the horse was drawing the truck or the other way around. Could the truck be considered a horse of another Life can be awfully confusing. When we passed the odd couple, we noticed the horse was covered in flies. We then realized 'there were no flies on the horse' would not make much sense which at the time reminded us about not having the cake and eating it. This really has been a puzzle. We've always elected not to have the cake but preferring the right to eat it. Ownership makes no sense. Is this kosher? We mean the concept, not the cake. Life on the mountains is becoming extremely complicated. Why did we ever leave the simple and calm cities? Makes you wonder, rather than wander.

Each day or rather most days, when we are through having fun on the mountains, including the occasional stress and strain, we return to the apartment and carry on with different facets of life. Recently, for an eleven-day period, we hired accommodation in the town of Razlog, just outside Bansko, in what appeared to be a time-share complex. Not that the legal structure impacts us in any way. The units are lovely relative to local standards with few occupants during the week. On weekends, we had two during our visit, the place fills and notwithstanding the chilly conditions, many take to the swimming pool, while we seek hot showers. We do enjoy a swim but not during early winter in the mountains. Mid-winter, yes.

We enjoyed the stay very much and can't say we wanted to leave (actually, can say we did not want to leave). To the contrary, we were below the glorious Mount Vihren and its sisters and brothers. What a family! If we had the financial resources and were a little crazier, we might adopt them. Talking of crazy—what an interesting concept. We've thought about it quite a lot over the years especially when Jenni wanted to do what seemed like ridiculous things while I preferred to sit around, read a book and sip a glass of 'cheap red wine'. The latter is also a piece of music written and sung by the inimitable Brian Murray, a good friend. Where was I? I must be going crazy. Aha!

We discovered that 'crazy' is relative.(Relatives are also crazy although not all). A person who does one thing stranger than yourself, most of us consider that person crazy. We think if people weren't crazy, life would be extremely boring. Mind you, the wine industry would benefit. With this in mind, we think one should strive to be crazy without being crazy-stupid. There we go again—it's our 'relative'. Let's move on to the real purpose of this communication.

Actually, it's a story of communication and bridging the gap between people of different languages and cultures. At the apartments, they offer a breakfast. It's probably one of the most diverse and splendid menus we've seen. Unfortunately, it's wasted on us but who says one cannot admire it. They also offer a weekend buffet which is very well attended. During the week the dining area is empty. We visit it when our hiking schedule allows—on days we don't need an early start or while waiting for better weather. On bad weather days, they have to 'boot' us out by noon.

The other day
we asked for hard-boiled eggs. The order baffled the young waitress in charge. She was charming with a delightful smile but had little understanding of English. Now that we speak eleven languages, we thought we'd sail through the language barrier. Alas, we forgot about Bulgarian. Da! We tried to explain, draw shapes in the air but to no avail. We called for a pen and paper and Jen drew the shapes. Easy enough but meaningless. Well, that left egg on my face but unfortunately, none on the paper. She took out her phone but we still made no progress. I thought we might use the translator to interpret but she had other ideas. Then she called an English speaker on the phone who asked whether we wanted the eggs cooked. Progress at last. However, by 'cooked' what did she mean? Fried, poached, scrambled?

Our waitress returned from the kitchen, again with a phone, and I spoke with another local who asked where I wanted to take the food. I'm pleased we were not talking about 'coal' or else I might have been tempted to offer a smart (stupid) answer. Fortunately, whatever answer I offered, and be assured it probably wasn't that smart, it seemed to work. Our waitress returned to the kitchen while we filled our cups with another hot beverage and waited. What would she return with? Hopefully, not 'pigs ears' which seemed to be a dominant delicacy on the menu.

As we began our third cup of tea and coffee, she returned with two small dishes, two 'yaitza' in each. If they were soft, when we broke the shells, we'd surely enjoy another surprise.

The weather
had since cleared and we set off for Pirin Park, this time with eggs where they should be; we had doubled our vocabulary and we hoped we'd made a new friend. Yaitze anyone?

'The last'.