Posts Tagged With: Adventure

What if money didn’t matter?

The most dangerous risk of all – The risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.

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Preikestolen, Norway

After the long and difficult trek to the Kjerag Bolten, we have had two lay days to recover and regain strength for our next adventure: The Preikestolen!

During those two days we have been enjoying beautiful views at the Lysefjord and tried some more fishing. Since I’m never lucky fishing, Logan of course caught four(!) Mackerels during the first 30 minutes, when I wasn’t there yet. The next hour of fishing with me present is unsuccessful – I’m not surprised anymore. Instead we catch a jellyfish and I upset some kind of marten when reeling in the fishing line and accidentally smacking him with the bait. Oops. He’s hissing at us a few times and then tries to charge us up the rock but then disappears.

Four Mackerels should really be enough for the two of us anyway, so we get the fire going and prepare the fish to be cooked.

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Oh and we are not professionals in preparing fish, so we just cut it apart and take out the bones once it’s cooked. That works well enough for us.

On the second lay day we stop in Forsand to go shopping for some basic groceries before driving on to Preikestolen.
Our plan is to camp nearby so we can start the walk early in the morning. Unfortunately there seem to be so many tourists coming here, that wild camping is not allowed nearby, so we have to drive back to the main road and stay there.

Hiking to Preikestolen

Even though the weather forecast has been predicting sun, we wake up to a thick layer of grey clouds.

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That’s demotivating as obviously you need to have good weather for the best views from the Preikestolen or “Preacher’s stool”. We don’t want to waste any more time though and make our way back up to the car park: 100NOK. Wow! This is not even the main car park near the restaurant, since that one is full, they opened another car park another couple of km down the road. To still ask for 100NOK is a bit much. We turn around and park up a little further down the road and get the bicycles out – cheeky I know.
We ride down to the restaurant and main car park and lock up our bicycles here.

There is a sign describing the walk, the length, difficulty and what you shouldn’t wear: sandals or high heels. When proper shoes are recommended in Norway, you better follow that guideline as they mean it! (I still saw a couple with sandals and even a woman with pumps!! She must have broken her foot soon after that or I would be very surprised!)
The trek immediately starts off with a rocky path, turning into boulders and holding on to trees or rocks with hands is necessary in parts. We cross several streams, grasslands and steep walls on the way.

While the trek to Preikestolen is still a lot easier than the one to Kjerag Bolten, it’s not an afternoon stroll and takes about 2 hours up and a little less back down. (This is if you don’t stop too many times)
I’m surprised to see a lot of children on this track, partly climbing themselves and partly sitting in a backpack on daddy’s back. A lot of people also take their dogs and it amazes me how they manage the steep climbs and balancing on boulders.

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After about two hours of hiking the skies have turned into a crystal blue and we finally arrive at the Preikestolen – I haven’t seen so many tourists in one spot in a while! Wow! Logan and I look at each other with big eyes and have the same thought: would the Preikestolen break off under the weight of all these tourists?? There’s already a large crack through it, especially visible from above.

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We first try to take in the incredible views over the fjord and at the Preikestolen before actually making our way through the people chaos on the platform. We get a few shots and have lunch, sitting on the edge, overlooking the Lysefjord.

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Then we climb up even higher, so we can see the Preikestolen and the Lysefjord from above. It’s such an amazing view!

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Then it’s time to make our way back. 1.5 hours of walking downhill and jumping from rock to rock are ahead of us before finally reaching the car park. I brought shampoo and fresh clothes and clean myself in the bathrooms while Logan is getting the Globetrotter van to pick me up. He then also has a clean and we make our way north. At the Preikestolen bus stop we see a young couple holding their thumbs out. “Where do you guys need to go?” I ask. “To Tau. Our ferry leaves from there!” she says. Turns out there hasn’t been any buses coming in a while and they were already a bit late. We give them a lift to Tau and then make our way towards Hjelmeland, spending the night at a nice spot on the side of the road. There are stone tables and chairs here, so we enjoy beautiful views over the valley while having dinner and then playing a game of chess.

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Kjerag Bolten, Norway

After Logan’s 40k(!) run yesterday, we are off on the big Kjerag Bolten adventure (pronunciation: Sherag). The Bolten is a boulder trapped inbetween two rock walls; it is suspended over 1000m above the Lysefjord.
To get to the Bolten, you start the walk from a restaurant up the serpentine road from Lysebotn.
Whether you get there with your own car, book a bus from the camp site in Lysebotn or hope for a hitch hike from the cars on the ferry.
We got here via the long southern road along the fjord. For photos please see previous blog post.

The parking fee for the day is 100NOK which is over 10€ or $16. You can pay in the restaurant. There are toilets and showers provided but at the end of the walk I have to find out that the showers (which are an extra 10NOK) don’t even work. I’m very disappointed about that looking at the overpriced parking fee that is “supposed to help maintain the car park and facilities”.

The walk is rated “very difficult”. After a few meters we have to make our way up a steep and sometimes slippery mountain. There is a chain fixated to the ground so hikers can hold on for safety. I like treks like these with a bit of a challenge. Red T-markers sprayed on rocks lead the way but there is no actual track. The views are fantastic from the first mountain. The end of the fjord, the town of Lysebotn and the mountains are visible from here.

(Bottem left photo)

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After the first mountain the T-markers lead us into a valley (upper left photo) where we need to cross a creek via a wooden bridge. There is so much mud around, it doesn’t take long until I step in a puddle (to Logan’s delight) and have a wet foot. Oops.
Proper trekking shoes would do a better job in this kind of terrain.

To be honest, I was hoping that there was only one mountain to climb but standing on top, we could see there was a second mountain behind the green valley.
Again the chains are helping the steep and treacherous way up but I’m getting exhausted and slow down Logan (who really should be more exhausted than me after his long run yesterday). He get’s a bit impatient with me, trying to hurry me because he thinks we may not make the ferry in the evening. But hey, I’m not THAT slow!
So on top of the next mountain, I realise there is a valley with a river and ANOTHER even much bigger mountain! It’s still so far away that the people climbing up, look like an ant colony to me. I’m uncertain about my abilities, especially because I can’t keep up with Logan anymore. He’s always about 50-100m infront of me, impatiently tapping his foot from time to time until I get closer again.
So down again, crossing the river aaaand up again! The monster mountain! Step by step, with aching legs, I’m climbing meter by meter
until we finally reach the top. It’s gotta be the end! We must be at the Kjerag Bolten finally. And then I see ant-sized people again! Oh no!!! It’s not a mountain this time, just a long way to walk over a rocky surface with crevasses and even some meter thick snow in parts. Tourist-made rock piles are decorating the landscape and a sign post is pointing the way to Kjerag Bolten.

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From the sign post it’s only a stone’s throw to the Bolten but the way down is precarious! A thin line of hard-packed snow leads through a crevasse towards the platform and the Kjerag Bolten. Right and left are big bolders below and falling or sliding off the thin snow track, wouldn’t be pretty. Walking very slowly over the very slippery snow, we make the crossing and get a first sight of the Kjerag Bolten. I immediately get an adrenaline rush thinking about going on the rock, as anyone here does, for a spectacular photo.
Logan is first and coming back, he re-assures me, it’s not all that bad. There actually is a line up of about 5 people before its my turn. A young women gets dizzy and goes right down on her knees, leaning backwards onto another bolder. A young man reached for her hand to pull her back on the main platform. Right infront of me is a dad with his maybe 5 year old daughter who is slightly freaked out. I can’t blame her, I’m scared too! Looking down the 1000m chasm didn’t help much either.
Now it’s my turn. “don’t look down and keep smiling for the video camera” I keep telling myself. I can feel my legs shake from the strainiousness of climbing for three hours and now the adrenaline adds to it. Logan seems
to keep filming for aaaaages. Finally he is done and I try to communicate to him to also quickly take a photo. He makes hand signs: “with what?” Then it seems
come to him that I gave him my phone.
“Click”!

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..Ok back to safety!!!
Wow that was exciting. We unpack our lunch and enjoy the view while eating.
Logan again asks for the time and I can proudly say: we made it in 2 hours and 30minutes. 3 hours is what it is supposed to take! I’m NOT slow Logan. 😉
A few more photos and we are making our way back over all three mountains which takes approximately the same time or a bit less. My legs start to get weaker and I slip a few times, adding some more mud to my shoes and pants.

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Exhausted we arrive back at the car park and I check whether the showers are working but as already mentioned they aren’t! So we have to make do with the sink and warm water tab in the disabled toilet.

Back down in Lysebotn, we are lining up for the tourist ferry to Forsand. The ferry is 640NOK = about 88€/$105 one way for two people and car/mobile home.
The trip takes 2 hours and we get to see the steep rock cliffs of the fjord, a seal baking in the sun, the Kjerag Bolten from below (see in photo), several waterfalls and hear stories about the locals here at the fjord.

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Arriving in Forsand, we find a perfect little spot to camp right at the fjord. Tomorrow we’ll try our luck fishing again!

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The local experience in Scanno

While I’m having a shower (this time it’s warm!), Logan is trying to prepare the van. When I come back he tells me what just had happened: When he disposed the toilet contents into the drain, it splashed back onto his hands. Hahahaha!

At 11am we are being picked up by three Italians: Toni, Guido and his girlfriend, none of them speaking English. Since Logan was talking about a four-wheel drive adventure, we expected a 4WD but instead they arrive in a black Golf IV. They take us up to Scanno where we are supposed to leave our Globetrotter and then jump into the car with them. We have no idea where we are going; we can’t even ask them because they don’t understand us and I really don’t like this.

Toni drives into a little yard and there is the 4WD – an old Defender. We swap cars and with Toni and Guido in the front and Logan, Guido’s girlfriend and myself in the back. There are no seats, only two metal side benches and a spare tire in the middle.

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Once we got onto the 4WD track I start to enjoy the crazy ride, while Guido’s girlfriend seems to get greener in her face. With the cliff dropping hundreds of meters next to us, we drive up a rocky gravel road for about half an hour. While we get higher and higher up the mountain, the views get better and better. Still not knowing where exactly we are going, we arrive at a mountain hut in a place called Jovanna. It is Toni’s home. The hut is built with natural rock and cement and has a big wooden door. Inside he’s got a dining table with chairs on a cold stone floor and a big fireplace above which is a bull’s skull with boots hung up on the horns. There’s also a wheel barrow inside filled with wood. In the corner I discover a large jug filled up to the top with cork from whine bottles. The same moment Guido pours us a glass of red whine, supposedly the best red whine in all of Italy. We sit down in front of the fire trying to warm up. Meanwhile Toni and Guido’s girlfriend disappear upstairs and prepare our spaghetti.

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Guido, Logan and I go to pick up some fresh cheese from the neighbour. He’s digging in the sand with a tractor when we arrive and jumps out with a big smile to greet us. Back at Toni’s house, we cut up some fresh bread and put the cheese on top. How very delicious!

For lunch we are going upstairs into Toni’s kitchen and are being served with some great pasta and real Italian tomato sauce. It is amazing how basic everything is. There is no electricity in the house at all. No computer, no TV, no telephone, no kitchen appliances. The pasta was cooked on a wood fired stove. Toni calls himself “lupus solitare”, the solitary wolf and Guido calls him “The mountain man”. I’m amazed about what a happy go lucky person he is. He keeps talking on in Italian and doesn’t care if we don’t understand.

After lunch, we head over to Toni’s only two neighbours: The farmer we just got the cheese from, and his father just up the hill. The old man has about 12 sheep dogs, two of them being puppies, goats, a little (big! And curious!!!) fawn, ducks and lambs. Again everything is very basic and somewhat impressive to Westerners like us. The old man shows us deer skulls hanging up on a tree which were killed by wolves when they were trapped in deep snow. Apparently deer find it hard to travel quickly in deep snow, whereas wolves are very quick and agile in snow.

We walk back down the hill to the son, who is about Logan’s age I’d say and are given some home made radish liquor. The ranger also drops by and we are all having a “chat”, with us guessing words and using hands and feet for communication. We find out that Toni is 39 and Guido 40 years old. I suppose I’m feeling more comfortable by now and enjoy learning some Italian. He tells us that his house is actually a restaurant and guesthouse for hikers, who are mostly German, Austrian and Swiss. But since it’s only April, the season hasn’t started yet. I think Logan loves it that much, he’d like to live here for a while and he asks if they got employees for the season. He responds that his mother does the cooking and his brother is the builder and helps out as a waiter. It is a lovely place and we keep seeing animals around, still hoping for a wolf or a bear to turn up.

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Toni suggests we should go for a “real” four-wheel drive now! So we all hop back into the Defender and ride through the deepest mud a 4WD could possibly get through. I have no words for describing the next hour of driving but I don’t think it get’s any more “off-road” that this!!! Logan, who is experienced in 4WD-ing in sand, is astonished how we keep getting through mud, water, rocks, grass and dirt. Holding on with two hands, both feet and still filming this amazing ride, is hard work, but we manage to get some footage and will upload it onto YouTube as soon, as we get internet here in Italy!

With the Defender covered in mud to the top, we stop by a nice restaurant near Scanno. Again, we are out of season and no one is here. Since the locals know each other we all get a free beer and crackers while having an Italian gobbledygook chat. The owner shows us video footage of wolves he’s filmed right outside of the restaurant and Guido shows us a video on YouTube of bears roaming through the centre of Scanno.

Guido says: “We go back now to Toni’s house for more spaghetti.” I look at Logan, slightly surprised and think, well, even though I’ve enjoyed the day so far, I would like to go home soon. I don’t want to be rude, so we are going back with them for dinner. Back at Toni’s house, we come to realisation what it is like not to have electricity and lights. All we got is fire for light and warmth.

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We are being served spaghetti with olive oil and garlic and a few more wines. Time passes by and soon it’s 10pm. I really feel like going home and I also wonder how much Toni has been drinking. Surely, he’d be sober still?!
Logan says: “Maybe we are staying the night?!” I hope he is joking…!!!

Finally we are heading back. I think. But when getting to Scanno, we suddenly stop at a pub. I give Logan signs in all possible ways, without being rude, but he doesn’t get it and we are going inside, all of the boys having another drink. Logan wants to show them how much we appreciate their hospitality, by shouting them a Jagermeister shot. I thought it was nice of him but on the other hand I’m getting concerned about Toni’s driving skills.
Finally we are back in the car with Toni and Guido. First we drop off Guido somewhere near the lake and then drive back to Scanno. Toni then tells us, that he hasn’t got a driver’s license, nor is his car registered. When a police car appears in front of us, he throws up both his arms in the air, shouting: Polizia!!!

Great, I’m thinking. A few minutes later, we arrive back at the yard to swap cars. Back in the Golf IV, we are driving backwards.. against a big rock! Logan and I look at each other shocked. Toni instead says: Tranquilo, Tranquilo! (stay calm) He gives it another try, this time past the rock and with quite some momentum against the concrete wall! He just demolished his car! Toni keeps saying: Tranquilo, tranquilo! I’m hoping we make it back to our Campervan without any more incidents. Suddenly we stop: at the pub again. Logan doesn’t want to be rude but I’ve had enough. “Toni, Campervan! NOW!” He says: “Ora?” I assume it means “now” and say “yes!”. Then Guido walks up to the car and we say good bye to each other and thank you for the lovely day and hospitability. Finally Toni takes us back to the Campervan and I’m just relieved we are back safe and sound.

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Paragliding the Alps

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26/01/12

Australia Day!
This morning the valley is covered in thick fog but the top of the mountains are clear and blue. The forecast for tomorrow, Logan’s birthday, is cloudy with snow so someone might get his birthday present a day early. Well technically Logan will glide into his birthday since Australia is 8 hours ahead. Explanation following!

So we start off our day at St. Johann skiing/snowboarding and Logan has got no idea of my little birthday surprise. After 3 hours racing on blue, red and even black ski tracks, I tell Logan, we should go down to get the camera. At the car I tell him, I got bad news. We can’t go snowboarding anymore. And the second bad news: Tomorrow is bad weather. Logi looks at me all shocked and shakes his head: “No no no no! We are going back boarding now!!” “No we are not, because you will be paragliding in one hour!” “No!?!”  I smile and say “Yes” Logan: “No?!? Really??” “Yes!!” Now someone is happy and excited but first we need to make sure to fill our tummies with some food. At 2pm we are meeting Hervé from the Mountain High Adventure Centre at the Max Pub. There are country flags at the end of the ski track and we spot the Australian flag and behind it a house with a roof full of snow. An interesting image!
The conditions are perfect, the sun is out and there is no wind. Hervé gives Logan a big bag while he carries one himself and they make their way to the St. Johann gondola.
I’m waiting for them down the bottom and after about half an hour I see them gliding down the mountain. When they come closer I can hear Logan cheering while they are doing aero acrobatics and just a few minutes later two happy faces are landing in the deep puffy snow.

We are going back to the car and make our way back to the Mountain High Chalet to look at the footage and rest before going down for dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

27/01/12

Since Logan has already received his birthday present yesterday and our ski passes have run out, we start the day slowly with some work on our footage before we head out to Kirchberg and Kitzbühel around noon.
We have a browse through the towns and meet my great cousin at a pub in Kitzbühel. We actually have never met before and two years ago I didn’t even know she would exist, so it was really nice to meet her!

Kitzbühel is an interesting town. The high society is here and as we found out, Arnold Schwarzenegger was here only two days ago. We see women with expensive fur coats, Botox in their skin, fake lips and other body parts; most of them being over 50 and trying to look like 20. Then there is the rich youth scene and the gold-necklace men scene. Not worth going into detail but it is quite funny to watch.
After 4 hours of après skiing, we went back to our chalet, having missed out on our nice three-course meal and Logan clearly still in drinking mood. You only turn 33 once, don’t ya?! After another hour I went to bed and didn’t find Logan next to me until 4am.  God knows whom he was talking to or what he was talking about, we will never find out. Meister Jäger made sure he lost all his memories.

New year, new start!

 

28/01/12

Unfortunately it’s time to check out of our much loved Mountain High chalet and we would like to officially thank our hosts Hervé and Stephanie, the barmaid and the chef for looking after us so well and answering any questions we had. Also thanks to Hervé as the pilot of “Mountain High airlines” for giving Logan a once in a lifetime experience of paragliding over the Alpes.

Logan and I would have liked to extend our stay in Kirchdorf or anywhere else around the area but since holidays are about to start, every guesthouse seems to be booked out.
We are happy and grateful for this awesome week of powder fun and make our way back home to Magdeburg just to find out that the rest of Germany is also covered in snow. Yeeeeewww!!!

 

www.mountain-high.at

 

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Austria – St. Johann and Fieberbrunn

 

Over night we had about 30cm of new snow in the valley. The mountains must be drowning in fresh powdery snow, so we scoff our breakfast down, get changed and get Logan some goggles. This time we chose to go to St. Johann at 1700m. At 9am we sit in the gondola all excited about riding down in the deep snow. A Swiss mountain dog is lying at the top of the mountain in heavy snowfall but he seems to enjoy the cold very much and is wagging his tail while we give him some attention.
Riding down the red track, I soon realise the burning pain in my thigh muscles from yesterday still. I felt like I wanted to stop but somehow kept going for another 3 hours! While I went back to the car to get changed, Logan kept on boarding for another 1.5 hours. I took the gondola back up to try and film him but the snow fall was so heavy, it probably wasn’t very good for the camera nor would all that snow have helped the quality of the shoot.

At 1:30pm we went back to Kirchberg to relax for a little bit before going out for some yummy Kasspätzle.

 

 

We wake up to blue skies and for the first time we can see the actual mountains around us. At breakfast we are told that “Fieberbrunn” would be a great spot to go skiing today and since Logan wanted to go there anyway to break the 2000m mark, we drive to the Fieberbrunn Ski area. Three gondolas and uncountable ski lifts are waiting for us and with the third day of no line-ups it can only be an awesome day ahead.

I still have sore thigh muscles but today I ignore any pain to just enjoy the perfect conditions. After the first two runs we even decide to take our Canon film camera with us, as the GoPro seems to literally freeze from time to time. Logan went through some deep powder snow and had a few funny tumbles, some of which I got on tape as proof. Hah! 😉 During one action Logan lost the GoPro in 3m deep snow but found the end of the tripod sticking out after an intense searching mission. Lucky! Not only the camera would have been lost but our footage also.

After 5.5 hours of powder fun we found ourselves in a wooden Apré Ski bar next to the ski run for a couple of beers before heading home to the Mountain High Chalet.

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Austria – Kirchdorf, Tirol

The alarm rings but we ignore it. It’s just not a good start for a holiday, so we add another two hours of sleep before finally getting up. Our bags are full of winter clothes and the skiing gear is already waiting for us in the car.

Logan forgot his ski pants in Robert’s car when they climbed the Brocken over a week ago, so we have to go to his place to pick them up. Then we have about 6.5 hours drive ahead.
Behind Munich, the picturesque scene on the horizon is beautiful. When the big wall of mountains appears, the sun is just about to set behind them. It looks like you couldn’t get through the mountainous landscape, just when you find out that the highway is bending and leading right into the majestic Alps.
Upon arrival in Kirchberg we have to learn that our Chalet is in Kirchdorf. Panic sets in: Hopefully Kirchdorf is not too far away?! Lucky, 20 minutes later we are in Kirchdorf at the Mountain High Chalet right near a creek. The snow is over a meter high but unfortunately it is raining.
Slightly exhausted we sit down to have a three-course meal, which is part of our booking each night (apart from Tuesday) for this week. Vegetable soup, Wiener Schnitzel with fries and cake: my goodness that was delicious and filling.

The chalet owner tells us he is French and his wife a Kiwi. Then he tells us, the ski hut down the road is owned by an Australian woman. The Alpenrider in Kirchberg is also owned by an Australian. Seems there are a few around from Down Under. Logan smirks.

Beep beep, beep beep. Great, again the alarm waking us up! This time we actually have to get up because breakfast is only between 8-9:30am. While I almost want to complain, thoughts of white powdery snow are shooting through my head. We are going skiing today!
The look out of the window makes me want to jump right back into bed: it is still raining and the snow is wet!!

I convince myself that it’s all going to be ok and jump under the shower: next dilemma! I forgot my hairdryer at home.

After breakfast we are asking our host whether he thinks it’s worth trying to ski up the top of the mountains. He checks the weather forecast for us and recommends the Steinplatte (stone plateau), a mountain at around 1800m.

Logan and I walk across the street to get him fitted with a snowboard, boots and helmet. Not an easy task when you have shoe size 49 (14)! Bloody hell Logan, your index toe is a weird one! There is still a very big blister on top of that same toe from his Malerweg trekking adventure; only because it’s too long for every shoe and bends up in a funny way.

With a board as big as a raft and boots one size too small (it was the biggest size they had) we are now off to the Steinplatte, only a few km down the road.
From down the bottom we can visibly see the snowline. The trees suddenly go white from a certain altitude; that’s a great sign! The gondola takes us up past the snow line, and up… and up… and then even further up!!! You can only see about a quarter of the length of the gondola from the bottom, so we were quite surprised at how high we were taken. At the top of the Steinplatte there was so much snow, we couldn’t believe our eyes; and then we realised our eyes couldn’t make much sense of all the white anyway. Snow on the ground, white sky and falling snow resulted in one white image. It was incredibly hard to see how steep a hill was or whether there were any bumps on the track. My goggles helped to take the glare away but I still couldn’t quite see. Poor Logan didn’t have proper ski-goggles, only his sunnies that were a bit too dark and would fog up.

And off we went, howling down like the wind, as if we never did anything else. Ok, Logan fell over a few times and I did once, but let’s call it “tricks”. Yeah, we did some tricks!
Four hours went past like one and we only stopped because my muscles started to burn. What great fun, good we got a few more days to go!

Back at the “Mountain High” Chalet we checked out our footage and Logan even fell asleep for a few minutes. At 6pm we went down for our three-course meal: Soup, Goulash with Spätzle and Banana Split. Mmmmmmhhh! I’m about to explode and Logan isn’t moving either, right Logan? … Logan?? Oh, he’s asleep again!

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Malerweg Day 4

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Malerweg
Day 4

By Logan Foote

What a night!!! I knew I was in an exposed location but didn’t really have much of a choice yesterday. Every other spot that was sheltered was waterlogged or too steep.

The temperature dropped well below 0 and the wind was so strong. Perched up on the edge on a U-shaped plateau, the sound of the wind howling through the trees was intense. I could hear the massive wind gusts approaching from one end of the cliff top, heading in my direction like a freight train on steroids and then continuing on past me. . At times I had to hold my little tent together as I feared it would buckle under the stress.

I then started to hear the sound of either raindrops or ice being pelted against my tent. I tried to sleep but not much was to be had. At one stage I dosed off only to be awoken by the tent collapsing onto my head. I couldn’t understand this because the wind was not gusting at the particular time. Other thoughts of a branch, an animal or person ran through my mind in that split second as I awoke. I realised no one else in their right mind would be up here at this time and in this weather. I pushed back against the tent before grabbing my torch to inspect what was going on.

Upon opening the zipper I quickly released that it was not raining during the night but snowing. The snow had built up around my tent and due to the weight made it partially collapse.

I arose from my tent around sunrise to be confronted by a completely different landscape. The supposed mild winter had taken a turn and now a new set of challenges lay in front of me. The main one being: Could I still follow the track? It would be easy to take a wrong turn and be wondering around these rocky mountain cliffs and forests with almost no food left. After studying the map I weighed up my options. I could see another track that lead down to the river and a little village but was not sure exactly where it started in relation to my position.

After packing up my tent and dealing with the unpleasant business of a sudden bowl problem in the snow I was ready to go. The track was very hard to follow. At times I was guessing which direction to walk and with very steep cliffs all around me that were now covered in snow, now was not the time to be complaisant. I came across what looked like a small person’s footprint that seemed to be following the track. I knew that it had to be some kind of animal but no idea what. At times when I didn’t know which direction to walk, I followed these little footprints. I think if they were not there it would’ve been much harder to keep on the track and make it down safely to lower altitude.

I was very relieved when I managed to find the other track that lead to the river. So with that, I then decided that the wise thing to do would be to not continue along the Malerweg. The next two stages were through similar terrain with steep rocky cliffs, gorges and the unknown. My luck on the food front was not any better. The map only showed the odd little village along the way and a very low chance of a shop. I contemplated cutting across the river and linking up with another section of the trail but decided against it once I couldn’t find a bridge. I rang Francy when I had reception and filled her in. She offered to drive the 3 hr trip down to pick me up, which gave me time to walk the last 12km to the village “Bad Schandau”. I dragged myself into town searching for two things high on my list. Lip balm, as my lips were in bad shape and food. I was in luck. Once my lips were given relief I found a café and even though I hadn’t really eaten much over the past four days and was not really hungry I ordered a hot chocolate, salad roll and a donut. Awesome. I’m not sure what the locals thought of me or where I had come from but I didn’t care.

Francy eventually arrived, greeting me with a big smile and suggestion that I take a shower ASAP.

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28/11/11 Manila, City of Chaos and Insanity

Pinatubo, the volcano 3 hours out of Manila, is currently closed, so we have to fill our buffer day here else-wise. I check the internet for the best things to do in the capital of the Philippines and decide, I’d like to see the markets! I’m hoping to find a bit of real Philippino culture  and art.

We are getting into a taxi and once we tell the driver where we would like to go, he suddenly stops again, opens our doors and gestures us to leave. Logan and I are confused. The second time we ask the taxi driver first. He is okay with driving us to the markets but insists on dropping us off a few hundred meters before. Should I be worried?
Manila traffic is – as always – chaotic. Jeepneys, tricycles, cars, buses and motorbikes clog up the streets. Beeping horns and engines everywhere. Somehow we arrive safely at the Divisoria district and walk right into an even bigger chaos of cheap textiles, clothes, plastic toys, wigs, thongs, fruit, umbrellas and Philippino people. I don’t see any tourists, only locals and lady boys. There are so many stands basically selling cheap rubbish, I completely loose the overview. In addition to the visually overwhelming mess and the heat, we have to deal with a strong stench of feces. We quickly have enough and try to find the way out of the mayhem. We get past the river and canals that are full with rubbish and smell like untreated toilet waste flows into them. Manila is a dirty place in many ways, it is very sickening. The locals still stare at us, no one aware of how we may feel about this place and its people.

Exhausted we sit down in the church in the centre of Divisoria and listen to the prayers. It probably is the only clean looking and rich place in all of Manila. People in the Philippines are very religious and even though it is Monday, there are quite a few people in here with us and they all drop money into the collection baskets.

After going through traffic again in Manila rush hour (which seems to be 24/7) we are back in Malate trying to organise our flight from London to Berlin since our flight carrier has (without reason) cancelled the one we booked. After 4 used telephone cards and an hour in a phone cell, we seem to have successfully booked our new flight.

Tomorrow we are finally leaving this place of insanity, I’m looking forward to a change.

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