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.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

58.19-24 Nepal: 'The Sound (and sight) of the Mountains': "These are a few of our favorite things": The City of Pokhara from various hiking positions plus 5 Steps to Nepal.

From the tough Sarankot Trail, a view of Lakeside in early hours.
 Close-up (telefoto) of the amusement park and ferris wheel, from a forest on a different route from above.

A new favorite: A city viewed below, through a mountain forest.

From the forest, the Shanti Stupa appears to rise above the gloom.
Early morning on a sunshine day on the way to Sarangkot. What a difference the weather makes.
The curve of the city. Includes views across the lake of the mountain ridge, showing both the Shanti Stupa and Shiva Temple, hikes that provided much satisfaction as well as local insights.
The curve of Jenni as she rounds the bend in the forest.
Living in the shadows of the giants. A view from top of Sarangkot, near on 3,000 feet climb.
Getting really high as we near Sarangkot observatory and cable station. Truly some memorable occasions, sufficient to make a return most desirable.
The views of the big mountains available for a rare change...Annapurna. In some scenes, especially when the mountains confront a person after being hidden for days, it feels surreal at a sudden appearance of a sky filled with snow-capped beauty.
The other side of the lake, undeveloped and oh so 'easy on the eye' as we descend from Sarangkot.
Part way down from Sarangkot, our second time in a week and loving it between deep breaths. (The ferris wheel, shown earlier above, on the water edge at the bend in the lake.)
A view of Sarangkot and observatory from above Methlang. It's still under construction but we were not prevented from climbing to the top of it over building materials and other obstacles.
The extended city from the forest, in a drizzle.
Could that be Bill Arras returning from Russia?
Teacher distributes chocolates to kids on way to school. We drank tea at the top in a restaurant owned by the parents of the girl on the right. We saw her eating breakfast and there she was on our way down.
In Dhampus (another town), catching the sunrise at 5am over Fishtail, an infrequent sight. (Being up at 5am or the view?)
 And then of course, there's the 'night life' on a trek. After a tough, sweaty day, grab a cold shower and hit the scene. (There's a lot to be thankful for about being old...and 'hitting the sack'...instead.)
Incredible room with a view in Dhampus. 
Like to believe: "The Jewish Helping Hand" above Methlang or does Jenni realize that a 'bird in the hand' is worth least?
  We set
off for a 4-5 day trek to explore and enjoy the greater Pokhara region. We have found that all the trekking is good, some places having the big names, thus major attractions. Steep climbs and beautiful sights are common to most. The idea was to wander in the wilderness which would provide time to wonder where we'd sleep the night. That's another advantage of the country: there is availability of food and shelter in the wilds, not forgetting the oft mentioned bananas. Once a person grasps the concept, including acceptance that comfortable accommodation is not to be expected, life becomes less stressful. Funnily enough, perhaps more meaningful, too. 

  Jenni had pointed out the towns of Landruk and Ghandruk to me from somewhere on the Mardi Himal trek. To reach these towns/villages appeared to be a good hike, something to undertake later in the month. However, I annoyed her once again; I kept forgetting the names, for a change. I decided, as I often do, to give them my own names. Once I did, I no longer annoyed her because of memory issues, but irritated her for immaturity reasons. Who said life is smooth hiking? Had we been sailors, the previous sentence could have been completed appropriately. 

  When I run into memory issues, I try word association. This does help somewhat. In Afrikaans, and perhaps Dutch, the word 'bangbroek' means "scaredy pants", a term as kids we used for a wimp. Thereafter, I was able to remember the town of Ghandruk by referencing it to bangbroek. Landruk then became more refined following the word 'langbroek', 'long pants' or tall guy. I added in 'natbroek', 'wet pants' or baby, once I began to have some fun. Why not 'papbroek', a 'real softy' or 'useless' guy? What it takes to remember a couple of words...hey, Jen, why do I get so many headaches? 

  I felt pretty good because having a convoluted mind, the Afrikaans language combined with some slang had allowed me to remember the names of a couple of towns as well as develop what I termed the 'Gateway to Trekking in Nepal'. It may well become, if not universal, at least the South African guide to visiting Nepal. More importantly, Jenni could not believe how proficient I had become as I spat out one 'druk' after another. 

  I decided to set out 'The Gateway of 5 Steps to Nepal' to encourage youngsters to visit. I also felt that with people being fixated on so many issues in life, particularly their phone gadgets, this formula would be much quicker than say other long guides such as 'Ten Steps to Happiness' or 'Twelve to Sobriety' or 'Twenty-four Steps to Heaven'. 

  With this in mind, they follow below: 

  1. A papbroek, or real softy, should not contemplate a trip to Nepal. 

  2 . A natbroek, wet pants or baby, should wait a few years until he has matured somewhat. Don't give up but grow up. 

  3. A bangbroek, a scared guy, should look himself in the mirror and ask whether he wants to grow up or remain a wimp. See 2 above. 

 4. A langbroek, a tall guy, may have the physical attributes but needs to develop a mental toughness too. However, he's on track. 

  5. An 'oudbroek', 'ouman' or experienced guy, ex-army, has the strength and experience and is a good candidate. However, it's important to ensure you have not softened too much in 'civvie' (civilian) life. Such a person should also not have too much 'min dae' spirit. (In the army it meant close to the end. Regretfully, at 70, it still means close(r) to the end). I then added a final step which I have to include in the 5th section to avoid contradicting the title. However, I will move onto a new paragraph for 'clarity'. 

  Not step 6. All one needs is what I term 'Geesbroek'. 'Gees' means spirit, determination or 'vasbyt', allowing a person to accomplish anything. It's all about attitude. 


Jenni and Jeffrey

Apologies for any incorrect use of Afrikaans but I am rusty, inter alia.

Got to run. Have to pay the grass mowing gang before they 'dump fresh cuttings' in the yard.

Monday, May 22, 2023

58.18 Nepal: Second approach, but different route to Shanti Stupa and onto Shiva Temple: Living in another dimension, even if just temporarily.

One of the issues we humans face is not appreciating what we have. Realistically speaking, days are often filled with challenges and at times, really tough situations. Sometimes the mind is just uncomfortable. But what is clear is that we feel both grateful for our ability to undertake adventures and thankful that we grab the opportunities and do it. 

Struck us that we were observing a cruise ship docked in a harbor. The Shiva Temple from across the way.
The haunting look/feel of the scene makes a strong impression, we believe.
Earlier that morning, hit the trail at 6:15am, the two icons (our targets) are in view, the Shanti Stupa and the Shiva Temple. 6 days later we ate breakfast under the red roof to the side, a fruit platter and toast. Are we getting health conscious or what?
Even earlier we step up through the neighborhoods.
Early morning view of part of the City of Pokhara.
This section even provides handrails.
We reach the stupa enroute.
We find a different route for the final section which placed us in an awkward situation as we crossed rugged hills over farmland. We felt a little embarrassed but fortunately, found this unusual rear entrance/exit which was deserted.
Sneak approach from the rear. Well, it was original, we suppose.
Most times, we've crossed the lake to reach the trailhead. On this occasion, we took the long way around and came up from the side, avoiding the water but not the views of it.
A full frontal.
Not a frontal, full or otherwise.
Early stage of returning home; the 'World Peace Pagoda' (stupa) below.
Another view of the city, clear air and a sunny sky from below the Pagoda.
Six days later, capture of a better perspective of a small part of the stepped climb. (What's the clue it's a different day? Clothes.)
We have mentioned before about living in neighborhoods in different parts of the world. We always maintain that should we ever want to obtain a feel of the local people, the culture, we should live amongst them. Staying in hotels is not the way to try to immerse oneself in foreign places. In fact, it isolates people, other than meeting a few employees and fellow visiting foreigners, briefly. Occasionally, we get something correct. Our neighbors on one side we see when hanging washing on the line. We’re a floor up from ground level. They live across the way and spend time on their flat roof where they involve themselves in various activities, including feeding, playing and teaching the children. Unfortunately, they also house a fowl family. Across from them, it appears the unit does not have a shower and we occasionally view a mother supervising a teenager washing, using a bucket. When traveling on the roads, we often see people washing their feet. Below us, live Mina and Buddhi, the owners. We enjoy time spent with them, too. Buddhi is quite an entrepreneur as well as a trail guide. 

  Perhaps the real point of the above paragraph, an observation Jenni made the other day, was of the adaption to living on the road, in the wilderness or in the villages. Whether it be washing of clothing in ways so different from usual, cleansing of our bodies in challenging ways, preparation of food or even dealing with tricky ablution issues, it's the adaption that's critical. Although one may prefer the comfort of western style luxury, we certainly do, it is the willingness and ability to adopt and adapt, even for short periods that is vital. Otherwise, there can be no success in the overall endeavor. Discomfort might not be ideal but it's beneficial for a person in providing a far more positive appreciation of life, building or maintaining inner-strength, understanding the luxuries to which one has become accustomed, thereby culminating in a far less casual attitude to the basics of living. Rather, it stresses and teaches one the true meaning of being grateful for what we have.

  After a week in the city, beginning a month ago, as we walk down the road toward the lake, we greet and are greeted by shopkeepers and at times, strike up conversations. This includes their friends and visitors who sit on the sidewalk keeping each other company. We mentioned Krishna, the Australian-educated young man, who has made an impression upon us. The woman who runs the dairy is always wonderful to see (including her baby girl) when we shop in her store or just in passing. The woman who runs the vegetable store is most helpful and makes us feel pretty good as we try to lift the cabbages while bending low, select tomatoes from large baskets which are usually covered in dust, seek the funny looking potatoes, always bananas that are neither ripe nor too green. Although there’s very little fruit at vegetable stores (at least 10 veg. stores along our short road), it seems that bananas are sold by everyone as we mentioned recently. I am still reeling after a verbal whipping from Jenni as I selected a few overripe yellows.

 Krishna (paragraph above) outside his store.
  One issue slightly upsetting is that while one would like to support many stores, it’s impossible. How many cabbages can one carry, eat and frankly, what’s so great about cabbage? People are not used to receiving tips. But it’s a good way of trying to show appreciation although the exchange of money has some disadvantages in relationships, too. One is less generous with taxi-drivers, especially the younger generation. The older folks are far more humble, drive carefully and are respectful. Not so much with the youngsters. In fact, having a foreign face, we are solicited all the time for a ride. It’s a little painful as most times we have to refuse but when we need a ride, it’s always a negotiation. Invariably, we make it quick and the price can be 40% less than the opening salvo. After a tough hike, a second walk to-and-from the combination of the Stupa and Shiva, utilizing a different route by not crossing the lake, we decided to try a bus. Jenni suggested she needed to gain the vibe again. Good idea. Took her mind off those rotten bananas. Phew! 

  When it comes to bus operation, the Nepalese approach is much like that in Cusco, Peru. (In fact, the countries have many similarities.) The driver's assistant, a casually attired youngster, solicits customers by alighting from the bus at various intervals trying to attract would-be passengers. We presume it’s at bus stops but thus far, we are unable to identify some of the 'random' stops. The conductor sniffs out prospective riders, hits the metal frame once and then the driver slows. Two hits of the metal upright resumes the journey. It was wonderful being on the bus. We had our own brand of horn which made a change from taxis and scooters. Although we had to make a connection, which took us all of 7 seconds, once the conductor showed us off the first bus, another conductor approached and put us on his transporter. That morning, whatever we paid the taxi, it cost us only a sixth for the return journey, without negotiation and a much lesser level of danger. 

Jen captures a bus scene from the rear seat.
  I had handed the conductor a tip when we paid the fare, but he returned it. I don’t know whether he was insulted by the quantum, or he is that honorable. We think the latter. The conductors carry around a wad of notes, the day’s accumulated takings, but issue no tickets or have no records. It seems a nightmare to administer/supervise collections and money management. Maybe people are far more honest than Westerners. We didn’t know how to stop the bus at our destination, so I turned to a youngster next to me and asked him to oblige. He shouted a command, the bus slowed and then stopped forty feet past our junction; we alighted. Loved the short experience. 

  Last week, we were on a shortish self-guided trek. A little before we arriving in Dhampus, I was ahead of Jen as I reached a restaurant, ostensibly a patio in the bush with some cooking facilities and tables, along the steps (everything is sloped steeply). A youngster was waiting for us (to solicit business) and we had an amusing conversation. We stepped into his family 'restaurant' and ordered coffee and wait for it, a Sprite. Sitting at a table was another customer, a less than middle-aged man. Upon leaving, the youngster suggested we stay at the ‘360 Degree View Hotel’. Off we went, continuing up the steps through the forest. Did we mention they were steep? We arrived in the village of Dhampus and attempted to find the recommended hotel. It is the structure at the highpoint of the town. The place was deserted. Eventually, a woman working in the small field below the building, where they grow vegetables for their restaurant, noticed us on a balcony and came to attend to her patrons. We checked in and as mentioned were suitably impressed with what has been the best accommodation outside formal stays in the cities. 

  After a hot shower, including a provision of a single towel (never had the latter provided before), I stepped out of the room to take in the amazing views. A man approached. I recognized him immediately. He was the other patron at the 'restaurant' where we had stopped earlier. He's also the owner of this hotel—'360 View'. His wife had checked us in to the establishment. Who knew? 

  The next day, after trekking 4 hours through forests and over mountains, we arrived at a lodge in Tolka. We decided to spend the night. The woman proprietor stopped us and enticed us to stay. Sometimes you have to accede because… Her husband showed us some of the intricacies we would need to master to survive the night, I mean, to enjoy our stay. Later we went outside and met the proprietor from the next door lodge. We had an informative chat for at least a half-hour. It turned out he was the brother of our current landlady. We got the impression that our landlord was not too fond of his brother-in-law. 

The steepest (and dangerous) descent we have faced, the accommodation in Tolka.
  I was puzzled when I noticed an advert on his signboard for a lodge in Pittam Deurali. We had spent a night there while undertaking the Mardi Himal Trek. Why would a person advertise another hotel on his board, especially as Deurali is quite a few hours distant? Turns out that the brother-in-law owns the newly developed lodge in Deurali, too. We had really enjoyed our stay at that establishment ten days earlier. After departing the next day, we stopped in for breakfast and met his daughter. Her husband, the manager, had made a very positive impression on us the previous week. After breakfast, the woman offered us two free nights—offers like that really humble a person. The human interaction can sometimes be embarrassing but it's always moving and at times, emotional. We loved the linking of families, businesses and coincidences—in-laws notwithstanding. 

  We have written about the drivers. The driving is phenomenally poor. Vehicles travel on both sides of the road, cut in front of each other, don’t stop for pedestrians unless the latter plays ‘chicken’ with them. One learns the technique and it does work. However, the purpose of raising the issue of driving again is to mention something that reveals a special quality of the drivers. From our observations and experiences, ‘road rage’ does not exist. Drivers do not shout, threaten, gesticulate or fight with errant other drivers. There is a respect and understanding. They accept that drivers will be selfish, do dumb and dangerous things but the method they adopt is to deal with the imminent situation and get on with driving. Quite amazing, wonderful, too. 


Jenni and Jeffrey 

 A fullish view of Lake Fewa and part of the city.
A typical Nepalese scene.
When we crested the peak to arrive in Dhampus, we met two young Israeli women. Gal, the 'girl' in white, reminded us so much of Taryn Bernstein, daughter of Linda and Colin. Linda was most supportive in helping to settle us in San Diego, some thirty-two years ago. We will always be grateful to her. (The tower in the distance is a little beyond our lodge.)

Loved the scene as Jen rests before returning from the shiva. In the background is an adventure park. People visit the temple for inspiration and protection and then head out for adventure...yeah!

Roadside service is pretty good on the outskirts of Pokhara. Admittedly, there's a lot of bull about, too. I approached the animal earlier and he came across as unpretentious. I asked about the public display of intimate actions. 'Frankly,' he replied, 'is there a difference between my behavior and that of the entertainment industry, just to name one?' 
"You'll get no argument from me I conceded." I walked away with my tail between my legs.

And had the air been clearer, across the way we might have viewed...
or this...

Thursday, May 18, 2023

58.17 Clarification of the blog that follows: Second hike to Sarangkot Peak, a different route but in clear weather, includes only a few photographs.

 In the previous blog, we mentioned how strenuous and spectacular the hike was (still is) to the peak of Sarangkot. It truly is one of the best we have done, which also includes views of the lake, the city of Pokhara, the Stupa and Shiva Temples across the water, high in the mountains. When the clouds are kind, views of the Annapurna Range (and others) plus a favorite, Fishtail (Machapuchare), may make an appearance. What an entrance indeed. It's surreal, haunting and in a sense, it silences one. From the moment one sees this prominent range, covered in snow, it is as if one ceases breathing and wonders whether the sight is genuine. 

 A very steep trail passes through forests and villages along the way. Thus, a person may be in the jungle effectively, but can stop at various places and purchase food, drinks, trinkets or book into an hotel. That's Nepal and it makes it different and special. 

 In the blog that follows, we mentioned in it that the photographs attest to the hazy weather of that day. Our latest hike to the peak was for the sake of repeating the hike itself, although we climbed via another trail, and not necessarily for the views. However, the views were so wonderful how could we reject them. A full blog will follow in the future but here are a few photographs to whet the appetite. 

Part of the Annapurna range.
The Shanti and Shiva Temples, visited at least twice each, shown in one view. (Provides a nice perspective.)
A view of the City of Pokhara and Fewa  (Phewa) Lake.
Closing with two dodos, dwarfed and humbled, by the magnificent Annapurna Range, after a nearly 3,000 feet elevation gain.

Jenni and Jeffrey