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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

55:25 Andorra: Pic d'Envalira and Estanay, a day of pure joy...until we got out of bed...alternatively, "We Should Have..."

'Morning has broken, light the first morning'...what a way to enter the day, like the first morning, a virgin day. The mountain in front gave us the 'heebie-jeebies'. Turns out we went beyond and above it. Shows you!

Something occurred on the day, a Friday. Most days on the trails are surprisingly uplifting and, of course, tiring. I sometimes ask myself the question which I'm sure many think of as well. 'How can we do this with such regularity and not be bored, tired of it or not feel dull?' The quick answer is that there is no answer. The more intelligent answer is a long one, more appropriate to take the form of discussion. Rest assured, we get bored easily and yet, in our lives, we've never been more stimulated, excited or enjoyed a rate of learning, gathering of experiences, testing of ourselves and many other facets of life. 
  Please understand nothing mentioned has anything to do with our behavior, characters or values. They are a completely different set of criteria which of course, will find us lacking and falling short. Nevertheless, a brief comment triggered earlier when we said to each other something of the order: "We could not imagine our lives over the past 12.5 years had it not contained involvement in 'Hike-about'.” Perhaps that's why one should never have a taste of something should one not be, able or allowed, to follow it through. It would be the cruelest of blows to acquire taste for something positive and be prevented from pursuing it. As a crude example, think of a dream during which you’re about to achieve the greatest accomplishment possible and have it interrupted. Upon waking, you learn that the action was in fact, real, everything about the moments were true but you will not be permitted to complete the mission. 

  Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Life changes on a dime. However, we are both grateful, deeply appreciative and feel most fortunate having faced the last period together and in circumstances we could never envisage...ever. Should life change forcing us to follow a less exciting direction, we think (hope) our past blessings of more than a dozen years will allow us to feel at least we did it and therefore, can feel satisfied and hopefully, fulfilled. BH'.  

Perhaps what we are suggesting, demanding of ourselves, might be: 'Follow our dreams and aspirations and fail rather than arrive at the finishing post of life and utter that tiresome phrase: "WE SHOULD HAVE".

For a change, I sidetracked myself. I intended to write that today's hike and experience was probably one of the most enjoyable outings ever. The hike had mountains, lakes, rocks, steep inclines and hence declines, heavy clouds and fog or mist, wonderful sights including that of the town from differing angles and more importantly, it all combined to make us feel superb. Jenni is her own person so I can't express her feelings, but this was one of those days when I hit the spot...reached a figurative high, the best kind. 

Jen begins the 3rd stage of the climb. To the left and beyond the butte lies the town of Pas de la Casa, close to the French border.
A prism or two as we reach the first lake, surprisingly quickly. The other side of the lake is actually France.
Nestled in the valley below is the town of Pas de La Casa.
We begin the steeper climb amongst something common in the country, stones and rocks. Jenni, bottom right.
Not only can we not get the horse to drink, we can't even get it to the water.
Quite a climb...Quite a woman.

Town through the telephoto.
Jen on the way down (literally that is), the second decline.
To some, it might appear rough and bleak. One climbs to reach a summit, drops down into the bowl below followed by a big move upwards. It's a good idea to undertake a u-turn when in the bowl, maybe earlier, 'more relaxing'.
Jen reaches the penultimate top, heading for another peak as the mist joins us.
A view at the top, another environment while the mist begins to lift. Some may say, "The other side of the mountain". We ate brunch in the hope that it would give nature an opportunity to clear the decks. It did.
On our return, the mist/fog lifts and we are fortunate to have uninterrupted views.
While the horses graze on the lake banks.
We approach the town, ski-slopes visible.
Weather action at the peak...only the beginning.

Brunch spot, top-right, viewed on our way down.
As we crest the final pass on the way down, phew! We're on the right track.

Jenni and Jeffrey 

"I already told the dummy that passed by earlier: 'There are no flies on me'. Don't you guys listen?"

Monday, August 29, 2022

55.24 Andorra: Pic de la Torradella, a unique experience, not going to forget it.

Pic de la Torradella, the target, viewed from the slopes of El Tartar. Funnily enough, the day before we both stated as we walked in the town that we would love to stand on that peak.
Two weeks before, we could not find a trail to the peak. We continued on an alternate hike.

I think a conspiracy exists which has manifested itself in the metric versus imperial systems in the Andorran mountains. How do we know this? They say one should listen to one’s body. In our case, it makes twice as much sense as there are not just one but two of us, hence two bodies. This means the second body can verify that of the first. Let’s move forward. When we convert meters to feet in Europe, and it only seems to occur during elevation gain, something gets lost in the mix, well, the conversion. Our bodies, particularly mine, understand and know very well the exact elevation gain once we have trudged up a mountain. Here’s the problem: On most of the hikes in Andorra, many have been between 2,200 and 2,800 feet per the official ‘incorrect’ records, usually over short distances. Yet my internal measuring system is recording at least 20-25% more elevation gain. 

This creates a dilemma. Should I state in the blog that today's hike was 3,500 feet, the record may differ by say 5-6 hundred feet. This would make us look dishonest and yet, that’s what my body is telling me. So, what’s the use of listening to your body? As you might glean from this rather intelligent observation, living on the slopes of Europe, and Andorra in particular, presents one with conflicts. And the world thinks it has conflicts. I would also like to state for the record that many conspiracies are created by disgruntled citizens. However, this is one of the few genuine gripes. Take my word for it. (Continues below...)

A perspective for later pictures. Jenni walks on the Tibetan Bridge.
The struggle continues as Jenni goes cross-country. El Tartar way below. We thought the first part was the steepest. It got steeper as we moved upwards.
When we spotted those structures from way below, it puzzled us. Then we realized they are built to slow/halt avalanches.
Various degrees of steepness...always in a beautiful environment.
This is not a fancy maneuver—Jen slips but recovers quickly.
We spot the Tibetan Bridge below. On previous occasions, we were high above it but this was even higher.
The top of the ski station across the way with the golf course showing. (See earlier blog about the course and its positioning).
A previous hike undertaken a few weeks back, Estanys de la Vall del Riu, across the way. The barriers hide part of the lake.

Much lower down, we look into El Tartar, our hometown in Andorra.
Jenni makes an appearance—look carefully below.
Continues to climb. The bridge comes into view.
Okay, okay. You made it, big deal.
Across the way, two pictures to capture most of the mountain stream. Frankly, when one gets past the struggle, the sights are magnificent, the atmosphere incredible and the rewards amazing. Nearly makes up for the 'pain'.
Approaches at a good angle for ascending...'smart cookie'.
Heck, does she deserve a little, a lot.
He has to jump into the frame.
Gorgeous countryside, towns and one more of the bridge.
  Talking of conflicts, we discovered one some years back. We won’t mention too much detail for fear of placing people we have met in compromising situations. We were saying to a couple we met today, the only ones that joined us on this rather tough hike to the mountain peak. In fact, it was one of our top experiences. What added to the difficulty is that after a steep climb for the first hour, we made our way to the peak through the bush for the next ninety minutes. No trail exists. Over the past month, we have eyed Pic de la Torradella from many positions knowing there was nothing more we wanted to do than to try to reach that particular peak. When we hiked two weeks before on this trail to another destination, we were unable to discover a formal route to the top. Today, we left the trail where we noticed a gap in the trees and headed upwards—a truly remarkable hike and day. In fact, we rate it memorable. Jenni seems to be getting stronger and more adept on these tricky and tough mountains. Sometimes, I stand in awe as I watch her struggle but succeed. Other times, I sit and watch her struggle in awe. 

  Anyway, I was mentioning something about conflict. When one visits a foreign country, the eyes and of course the mind, are not necessarily aware of local issues. It is difficult enough to communicate on the basics. Some years ago, we met two delightful, young Spaniards, Serge and Lluís, in Romania. We spent some time together and enjoyed a wonderful experience. Who could forget Lluís cooking a Spanish omelet for dinner? As he lifted the pan from the stove, almost like a matador raising his cloak, the handle snapped and the eggs switched to scrambled, and came to rest on the floor. Fortunately, the floor had been cleaned the previous week, so the eggs were only discolored slightly. 

 Back to the story. Lluís spoke passionately about independence for Catalonia from Spain. It was fascinating but I did not take it too seriously. On this trip, whenever we stop to converse, (not just greetings), with people who appear Spanish to us or are locals, we ask casually about this issue. Many of the people are of Catalonian origin. Thus far, we have been quite astounded at the hostility of the Catalonians toward Madrid. It’s not that we talk to many people, but the situation arises and it makes for fascinating occasions. Today, the youngish couple we met were locals who are geologists. On Friday, two women shared their story. One of them is fighting a fine of six hundred Euros incurred at a protest. 

  What really was humorous though, occurred when we reached the parking lot on our return. The couple arrived a few minutes later while we were having brunch, after 1pm (weather issues), and we resumed the conversation. A local bystander heard the woman sounding off about Spain and he joined in—adding his two bits about his feelings toward Madrid. The acrimony seems real. We were in South Africa recently, probably our 25th visit since emigrating, and continued to witness a corrupt regime in action (No airline, no railways, no power, no accountability, no security—not good). Sadly, the United States is not a country we recognize any longer. Now we’ll have to remove Spain from the list. Andorra is incredible but we have been told their protectors, France and Spain, are acting in an unfriendly manner. 

  We met a young cashier in the supermarket the other day and began conversing. He bolstered our already positive feelings about the locals—turns out he’s from Argentina, another struggling country. We’ve also met another interesting woman who is in fact making a t-shirt for Jenni. We see her when we go for a snack on our off day—her second job is that of a waitress. The locals are great. Oh! She’s from Chile. Thank goodness the world is covered in mountains. Seems a person is safer and happier in the opinion. 

 It is indeed a mountainous region. A view from our peak.
The previous week, we climbed to that area across the way en route to the peak. It was a walk of at least an hour to reach that point.
The early part of the cross-country hike.

Jenni and Jeffrey

Thursday, August 25, 2022

55.23 Andorra: Pic Blanc via Grandvalira car park (Grau Roig).

We finally get it. Until now, we had never understood the 'Big Bang' theory. Our day got started with a bang and only got better thereafter. For the younger generations, this is where the concept: 'I'll scratch your back if you'll scratch mine" arises. And people think we're smarter than cattle. Also, I finally understand what they mean by 'Animal Husbandry'...slow learner but getting there. 

The tender moments/periods between most mothers and offspring, something admirable which also gives 'heart' to the world.

From the peak, we look down toward the main road that passes through the towns. To the right is France. On the left, is a major ski area. The real kicker is the bright green indicates the fairways of a golf course (For Colyn Levine).
From the top of the ski station (a different hike), we view a golf course. Why is that not surprising? After all, this is Andorra. To play a round of golf, one takes the gondola rather than a caddy to Europe's highest links.
After ascending for an hour over ski-slopes and mountains, we spot the target, Pic Blanc, on the left.
Moving up the steep slopes. Now we understand why skiers choose to 'ride downhill'. Not as dumb
We first head for the station on the left, steep climb to next station on right (looks ordinary) and then up and along the ridge.
Jen heads for the top.
A nice surprise awaits us in the form of a view from the peak.
An approach to the peak.
Commencement down from the peak.

Let's go home...first hurdle of 4 to reach, below.
Everything in Andorra is either high up or...very high up.
Making her way on the peak to find a place for brunch. She was not a happy girl sitting on the edge. 

 Jenni and Jeffrey