We have already spent some holidays in the Pyrenees but we keep coming back. We simply like the mountains and atmosphere: quiet and rugged spots, nice old villages and friendly people. Especially the Spanish part is our favorite. That is why we wanted to go back there and continue through Aragon; a very old part of Spain. It used to be a kingdom together with Catalonia and stretching out to parts in Italy. It was also the place where the old Christian and Muslim cultures met (and clashed). For this reason, there are many castles and fortresses in Aragon which together with the nice landscape makes it a nice hiking experience with lots of old history.
In February/March 2015, we made a trip to Patagonia together with our friends Danny and Désirée. The two of us had been there before and wanted to show our friends this beautiful country and visit some nice places again. Patagonia has just one drawback: it is far away. It took us two days of traveling from Utrecht to El Chaltén; the start of our journey. But it is worth the hassle!
In June/July 2014 we travelled through Japan, partly together with our nephew René, who lives in Tokyo. We started in Tokyo and from there travelled to Shikoku Island for a trek in the mountains and to visit the famous temples there. Then we returned slowly to Tokyo stopping at several places along the way such as Nara and Kyoto.
In August/September 2013 we travelled during a month in Ladakh, the northwestern part of India in the Himalaya, together with our friends Danny and Désirée. The basis of our trip was Leh, the capital city of Ladakh. We made treks through parts of Ladakh and visited Buddhist temples, always returning to Leh. This has advantages and disadvantages: you can leave part of your luggage behind in a guesthouse (reducing the weight of your backpack), but it is less adventurous. Ladakh is situated at an altitude of 3500 meter, so some customizing is necessary (actually, we did not have a lot of problems perhaps due to the Diamox we took).
Leh is a small and touristic town. It has very many shops and outdoor/adventure companies. It has a nice selection of restaurants, but getting a beer is a problem at times (not to mention a good glass of wine!). For religious reasons, they do not always serve beer. Sometimes it is available and then they may sell it as ‘tea’. We stayed at the Shanti Guesthouse, in the quiet outskirts of Leh, which is operated by friendly and helpful people. We could leave part of our luggage there in-between the treks
After an evening in Tromsø, we started our journey with a boat trip on the Hurtigruten to Honnigsvåg; the closest town to the Nordkapp. Knowing that the Nordkapp is a tourist trap, our main objective to go there was to experience the desolated feeling of this kind of northern town. Moreover,it was one of the places were we could take the bus to the Stabbursdalen National Park (NP). The overnight stay, the restaurants and buying the food for our trip, made us realize that Norway is an expensive country.
Our five day hiking trip across the Finnmarksvidda started with a marked path through the Stabbursdalen NP, which we followed during the first day. Slowly we hiked up the plateau and after crossing a local hill – Stuorra Binalvarn – we set up camp at a small lake close to the larger Corvošjávri lake. The next day our route continued without a trail and we aimed roughly southwest. At a certain point we decided to change our route a little and try going through to the small and inviting Ingungorsa canyon. Realizing that our progress in the canyon was very slow, we decided after three hours to climb up to the plateau and needed to use our GPS to find out were we were and how little we had proceeded. After a few more hours we encountered totally unexpected a dirt track (not on our maps). It proved to be one of the few tracks the Sami people use (and create with their four-wheel bikes) to inspect their reindeer herds. We ‘spoke’ with one of them that day. For two days we followed the track, mostly going through tundra landscape, sometimes having to cross rivers, wrestle through bogs, going over hills, and camping at tranquil places (the second day near the Njakkájávri, the third near a small caravan on enormous skis close to the Ceakkojohka). The dirt track ended at the end of the third day at the place were we encountered one of the very long reindeer fences that divide up the Finnmarks plateau. Continue Reading…
Our three month sabbatical started with bad weather in Europe. Total closure of Heathrow airport due to snow for more than a week, forced us to change plans. Instead of starting the three months with a five week trip through Laos and Cambodia, we directly flew to New Zealand. Auckland therefore was quite disappointing, especially given that the original plan promised a much more exotic start of our holidays. We decided to move on as quickly as possible and do something spectacular to distract our minds from the missed opportunity to visit Laos/Cambodia.
We booked huts on the Tongariro northern circuit (which is a so-called great walk making it mandatory to book huts or camp sites in advance). We wanted to combine this circuit with a trip around mount Ruapehu. The unstaffed huts in that second part of the trek do not have to be pre-booked (you just pay with hut tickets putting them in a ticket box), but after obtaining information from the park information center we decided to also bring our tent (“it may be crowded”). It turned out that the park information centre was totally uninformed, since there were almost no other hikers in that part of the park. Although carrying the full camping equipment made the going tougher, this first trekking turned out to be very spectacular. The New Zealand hut system was a real surprise, especially the huts that are not part of the great walks. The cleanliness and the availability of water (mostly by collection of rainwater coming from the hut roofs in watertanks) makes that for most hikes there is no need to carry a tent. On the last part of the trek we only encounter small trekking groups, mostly from New Zealand, which gives us the opportunity to experience the friendliness of the country in which we will travel the next view months. Luckily we get a lift from a young couple from the trail-end to the nearest town Okahune after seven really wonderful trekking days. Continue Reading…
From St-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the afternoon we hiked along the chemin de St. Jacques de Compostelle to the refuge Orisson. The next day followed for a while the chemin StJdC to Col de Bentarte, where we started to follow the GR11 into Spain. Our plan was to take the Haute Route Pyreneene (HRP) but a fog came up very rapidly (not uncommon in Basque country) and since the route was not well signed at all, we decided to go down to Fabrica de Orbaitzeta. There we wanted to pick up the GR11 again, but we got lost and wandered around for a while. We went down all the way and picked up the path along the river Irati Ibaia to the Embalse de Ibaria. Meanwhile, the blisters on M’s feet were starting to become really bad (the necessary precautionary sport tape was forgotten on this trip). After some discussion it was decided to take a taxi to Ochagavía, where an extra day was spend to heal the wounds and buy tape for the rest of the trip.
Having been to Chile two times before, the far north was still a partly unknown area and one that was subject of many dreamlike fantasies. Especially the high country (Altiplano) was something to discover. In September/October 2007, together with our friend Renger, we flew to Santiago de Chile and rented a car for five weeks from trekker-chile (www.trekkerchile.cl). We met the owners of trekker-chile during our stay two years earlier in their hostal near Talca. It was a nice and robust four-wheel drive, and hasn’t disappointed us during the whole trip. All in all, we drove around 5600 km in both Chile and Argentina, mostly on dirt-roads. A fantastic experience!
We started our three-months journey in Buenos Aires. After getting acquainted with Argentina, we flew to Ushuaia. It is a good idea to plan this flight in advance, because it was fully booked. Ushuaia calls itself the Capital of Antarctica but Puerto Williams on Isla Navarino claims the same. Is this the first token of the rivalry between Chile and Argentina (examples of which we will encounter frequently)? Ushuaia is getting popular, with lots of tourist. Nevertheless, going to the National Park Tierra del Fuego is a good experience with nice hiking. We encountered there the rare Magelhanean woodpecker.
After some days in Ushuaia we made the semi-legal boat trip to Puerto Navarino, a small navy basis on Isla Navarino. A small bus took us to Puerto Williams, where we started our hike to the Dientes Mountain Range after having eaten a home-made pie in the local restaurant. The trail into the mountains was very wet, and after a day ploughing through the mud, we tried for two hours to find a spot to camp. We put up our tent and fell asleep. In the middle of the night it started snowing. This meant that the following day, the trail was even more muddy! We decided to go back, since there was no way to cross the rivers and go across high passes with the snow. Back in Puerto Williams we met with other people sharing the same experience; they also went back earlier. After having spent a few days in Puerto Williams, enjoying the cooking of grandma in the local restaurant, we went back to Ushuaia. We had to wait there a few days for the next bus to El Chalten, and we spent the time by making short (hiking) trips in the neighborhood. Continue Reading…
After having hiked in the Pyrenees for the first time carrying full gear a few years ago with experienced friends, we did our first trekking with the two of us in 2003. Often when we go hiking in the Pyrenees, we take the highspeed train to Paris, and from there the nighttrain to the south of France. In this case our destination was Ax-les-Thermes where we did some shopping, before going one stop further to Merens-les-Vals, where we started our trip.
The first day is always difficult, having to get used to walking in this type of terrain, the heavy backpacks and the climbing to gain altitude. Our first camp site we aimed for was the refuge Rulhe. Upon arrival, we put up our tent and went into the refuge, where our evening meal consisted of a bottle of coke, and some potato chips. Too exhausted to do anything else than listen to a not so funny hut warden (although he thought differently) teaching a class of school kids about the mountains. Weather was really great and we continued into Andorra, picking up freshly painted trail signs from the cabana Sorda in Andorra. Continue Reading…