Posts Tagged With: hiking

Bergen to Jostedalsbreen National Park

After 2 days we are leaving Bergen but not without seeing the stave church (a wooden church built by the Vikings). There are 28 stave churches in the country but this one is going to be our first one. Unfortunately it is not original anymore but has been rebuilt.

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Driving along road 16, we pass the Tvinnefoss, a majestic and very impressive waterfall. It has been raining a lot last night so there is a vast amount of water coming down. At the tourist shop I then find a postcard of the waterfall in winter: completely frozen!!! Absolutely amazing.
We also buy some more lures to be able to go fishing in lakes as well. Before Gudvangen we spend the night at a lake but again Logan doesn’t catch any fish. This lake may actually be too far away from the fjords and only have smaller fish…?

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The next day we are driving through the world’s longest road tunnel. 24.5km of boring blackness? No, when you make it to quarter, half and three quarters of the tunnel, you will see a spectacularly lit up part of the tunnel, reminding me of an ice cave.

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After the tunnel we take a right turn to get to Borgund where one of Norway’s oldest and best preserved stave churches is located. On the way we drive past a former excavation site where Viking combs, jewelry, keys and other objects have been found when building a new road from Bergen to Oslo in 2009.

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Borgund Stave Church:

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Eventually we turn around, taking the historic route, and cross one of the many arms of the Sognefjord with the ferry, to get to Jostedalsbreen National Park, the place with the largest glacier on the European mainland.
One of the many glacier tongues is the Nigardsbreen glacier. The last part of the road is actually a toll road, we pay 30NOK and get there just in time before sunset. Unfortunately the sun is only still reaching the mountain peaks, not the glacier anymore but we still get to see the fascinating shades of blue in the ice. A raging current is coming out underneath the glacier, forming a lake.
The glacier was measured to move up to 1.5m downward per day, therefore it is not the safest place to be in. We take some footage and enjoy a few minutes of looking into the icy blue colours of the giant before we have to leave.

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Trolltunga, Norway

Another popular hike is the one to the Trolltunga or troll’s tongue north east of Odda.
As this hike is supposed to take 8-10 hours return and we have already done 3 walks together (one of them to Kjeragbolten took 5-6 hours and I was totally shattered after that one!) I decided to let Logan go to Trolltunga by himself. This way I wouldn’t hold him up and he could go his speed.
I meanwhile washed all the clothes again we had in the washing machine in town yesterday and didn’t get clean (oh what fun). So while I’m busy boiling up water, soaking clothes, washing, scrubbing, soaking, hanging out clothes and start all over again, Logan is racing up and down the mountains between Folgefonna and Hardangervidda National Park.

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About 4 hours later I hear a voice behind me: “Ah washing clothes, are you?!” LOGAN?!?!? I was surprised but I wasn’t. I thought he might take about 6 hours, with 4 he surprised even me a bit! So here you see why I can’t keep up with him!!!
He said the Germans who left before him, came his way half an hour after he reached the Trolltunga! So they were WAY behind.
There’s a free toilet and warm shower provided at the car park which we make use of before leaving and driving on to Eidfjord.
Actually going to Eidfjord wasn’t exactly the plan. We are planning on catching the ferry from a place called Brimnes, before Eidfjord but we didn’t have any cash on us and had no idea whether the ferry accepts credit cards. Just in case we keep on driving to get cash out in the next town which happens to be an absolutely beautiful little haven called Eidfjord! A large cruise ship, the AIDA, has docked here and after getting out some cash, we decide to stay the night here – right at the Hardangerfjord, in a no mobile home zone! Well seriously, the sign is so tiny that we see it much later when we had already hung out all the clothes in the sun to dry. We didn’t move anymore and fortunately no-one seemed to bother.

Guess what’s for dinner? Rissoles (in German: Klöpse – very important to know!) with vegetables and mushroom sauce.

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In the morning we couldn’t help ourselves but drive a little further in the “wrong” direction to have a look at this popular waterfall, the Voringfoss. On the way we discover a nature centre where we think we could possibly pick up some more info on the Hardangervidda, a mountain plateau which is now a protected national park. The whole plateau is above the tree line and due to it’s year-round alpine climate, arctic animals such as the polar fox or reindeer can be found here; further south than anywhere else in Europe.
Since it is very rare to see reindeer, bears, wolves or foxes, we choose to buy tickets to the centre which include a fabulous movie shown on a wide screen (actually 5 screens). Geography, flora and fauna are shown from the perspective of a helicopter flight and while watching, we sometimes get dizzy when the helicopter turns or flies through small gorges etc. The video alone is worth the entrance fee of 120 NOK (about 16€/$20). After the video we have a look at the very informative exhibition as well.

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This is what we see when we exit the exhibition, do you see this too???

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YES! It’s a goat on top of a roof! In Norway there are many houses with natural grasses growing on top of roofs. This one is being utilized as a goat’s pasture at the same time!

Then we drive on to Vøringfoss from where we have an impressive view over the country side and a 182m deep gorge in which the waterfall drops into.

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There’s also a tourist shop nearby offering all these Norwegian things again, for example these postcards:

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More on the Hardangerfjord and Bergen in the next post!

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Buerbreen Glacier, Norway

We heard and read about Odda, the gateway to two national parks, Folgefonna and Hardangervidda, and to various hikes like Buerbreen Glacier or Trolltunga.
The national parks are home to the largest wild reindeer population in Europe, to a few brown bears, polar foxes, red foxes wolverines and wolves.

To get to Odda, we are driving along road 13, having to catch the ferry again to cross the fjord between Hjelmeland and Nesvik. This one is only about 12€ / $14 as it’s really just a 10min crossing.
We keep going all the way to Odda along the popular tourist road 13 with its beautiful lakes, mountains and waterfalls.

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A tourist shop has cleverly opened up next to the spectacular views of this waterfall and of course we have to have a look. Warm woolen socks, troll figures, Viking accessories, stickers, cups, books etc all showing either the Norwegian flag, trolls, elks or ..of course.. vikings. We’d love to buy a few things but $30 for a pair of socks or $25 for a little troll figure? Not really.. Maybe we find a cheaper tourist shop in Bergen or Oslo.

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Arriving in Odda, we park up at the fjord, next to a camper service area and even toilets. They are located in the bus waiting area, as well as electricity sockets – all for free.

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As its Sunday, no shops are open, so we just go for a walk through town before getting ready for bed.

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In the morning we collect some reading material from the tourist information and ask for a Telenor shop to see if I could finally get my sim card activated, but again no luck. Odda has no shopping centre, just 3 supermarkets.

Then we head off to the Buerbreen Glacier just a few km south west of Odda. The walk is supposed to take between 2.5 to 3 hours return.

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Again this is quite a challenging hike where we need to climb up bolders and rock faces by holding on to ropes or chains. Almost the entire hike leads along the rapid river coming from the glacier above. The higher we ascend, the better views we get.

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At the end of the hike the way is cut off by the river and unless you have climbing gear with you to hook yourself onto a wire cable, it’s impossible to cross the rapids and get to the glacier. We have also read many warnings about going into the glacier as it is very dangerous and should only be done with an experiencend guide and proper equipment.
We take a couple of photos at the end of the hike before descending quickly as the river brings down icy cyclone-like winds. On the way down we find a lovely spot near the river to have lunch, before returning to the car park. An absolute chaos of cars and campervans awaits us at the bottom. There are so many vehicles up here and the street is only wide enough for one car, that now no-one is moving anymore. Some want to leave, some want to get in and nothing’s happening. It takes about 20minutes until we finally get out and drive back to Odda. Here we get some mince for Spaghetti Bolognese tonight, do our washing and charge the video camera.
Unfortunately the washing machine st the tourist information didn’t wash out the mud of our clothes, nor the smoky smell of the camp fire the other night. Looks like I’ll have to hand-wash everything again tomorrow!

Here is a mix of photos of the rock piles along the river, the lovely long-haired cows/bulls and also of Logan’s undies hanging out of the van to dry and his freshly shaved face! He hasn’t shaved in over a year I think, he always only trims his facial hair, so I keep giggling every time I see him now.
He he he he

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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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Hiking on the Seiser Alm/Alpe di Siusi, Dolomites


“Francy, get out the van and look at this! You won’t believe it!” I hear Logan saying in the morning. I open the door and see a snow line in the trees only about 100m above us. Oh, so I guess there will be fresh snow on the Seiser Alm then?! Looks like our walk will rather be a short one today anyway after Logan ran up there yesterday and I’m still fighting off my light headache.

The Seiser Alm, or in Italian: Alpe di Siusi, is Europe’s highest alpine pasture at 1680 – 2350m above sea level. It is very big at about 57km² and surrounded by mountains like the Schlern and the Langkofelgruppe (long-peak-group).

The Schlern:


We drive up the serpentine mountain road to Compatsch, the only village where cars are still allowed on the Alm and discover that much of the snow is already melting due to the warm sun. Looking at the tourist map, we realize there are literally hundreds of different routes to choose from, some of them particularly designed for hiking, some for cycling and some for running. We choose a 1-2hour round trip and start our easy walk:

The Langkofelgruppe with Logan looking at the Plattkofel (flat-peak) 2969m:

 

 

Within 10 minutes we lost the orange track we wanted to follow and find ourselves getting further and further away from the van. What started off as a slow walk turns into a hike, then a power hike, up and down hills and soon steep up towards the Langkofelgruppe. After 5(!!!) hours of hiking I’m suddenly being screamed at. I have no idea what it is or where it’s coming from and start screaming myself. Then I see it! A groundhog! I’m so excited, I can hardly get a word out to explain Logan what I see. A very confident ground hog is standing up right in front of me, trying to scare me off. We slowly get closer and sit down on a rock. After a few seconds we see another one, and another one, and another one… The whole groundhog family is coming out from it’s den to check us out too. I really love watching animals, especially in the wild. We stay for a while, watching them play, feed and ring the shrill alarm whistle another time, when a large bird flies past.

Finally we arrive at the Plattkofel hut. My feet are wet from the melting snow and I’m exhausted from the long hike. We are looking forward to a drink and some warm food in the hut when soon it dawns on us: The hut is closed. We already expected it as we haven’t seen any hikers for a long time and there were no tracks in the snow either.

Plattkofel (flat peak)                                                                            See the ground hog?

 

So instead of sitting down for a nice warm lunch, we get out our emergency cookies and some water and sit down in the grass. A black bird joins us, being quite pushy about getting his share of our lunch.

Plattkofel hut                                                                Black bird and Plattkofel in the background

 

The tracks up the Plattkofel weren’t open yet due to the snow and quite frankly we didn’t feel like hiking/climbing any higher. We had a long way back to our van and didn’t want to arrive back in Compatsch after dark.
Fortunately going down works out to be quite fast, especially slipping and sliding down the melting snow.

Soon we arrive in a valley and realize that we need to walk back up again. There are no buses going, so we have no choice but to keep going!

 

Here you can see the Plattkofel (the snowy flat peak on the right), the mountain we walked down all the way into the valley and then back up to where I took this photo. Only about 20min to Compatsch (and our van) from here!

The sun is standing low when we see the first houses of Compatsch. It has been 7.5 hours since we left for the walk.
Absolutely exhausted but happy about this amazing hike, we fall into the door of our camper van and have a decent portion of Spaghetti to fill up our hungry bellies.

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Dolomites, Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm)


After a nutritious breakfast…

… we leave beautiful Villanders to drive further into the Dolomites, hoping to start a 5 day trek.

Here’s a photo of where about the Dolomites are (the lower white end in Northern Italy).

And our Camping spot with beautiful views over the Dolomites…

On our discovery route, we drive through Kastelruth (or Castelrotto) and get to enjoy fantastic views at the Alpe di Siusi (or Seiser Alm). Kastelruth is a lovely Tyrollean village with mural art on the buildings. During winter this is a snow resort town and during summer the gateway to an adventure land full of activities like mountain climbing, hiking, running or cycling.

  

Driving up to the Seiser Alm, an amazing plateau, we have to discover that there is no way we can possibly spend the night here. Cars are only allowed to a certain point and there is only one car park which is monitored by rangers regularly. We return to the village “Seis” at the bottom of the Seiser Alm and try to gather some information on possible hiking trails for the next days. Here we find out that the refuge huts are still closed and that there is still snow in the higher parts of the hiking trails. Our planned 5-Day walking track will not happen but we are still quite happy to go for a day-trek tomorrow.

For today we decide to just go for a walk from our campsite in Seis to a lake we found on the map.
It is a rather cool but sunny day (with clouds) and I’m struggling with a light headache caused by the cold winds, so I end up wearing a beanie.
We first walk through dense forest and just when I’m reminded of my childhood stories of witches and dwarfs, I discover a large rock in the middle of the woods with a sign telling a myth about a pastor who was once killed here by witches. Soon after, we come to an open alpine pasture with dozens of cows and bulls roaming freely. The cow bells are ringing everywhere and one cow curiously walks right up to me, smelling me and my hand. I think I have never been so close and vulnerable to a cow before but even though we were both slightly afraid of each other, I felt very close to this lovely creature. The soft nose touched my hand and the big eyes looked at me with curiosity. I think I really fell in love with cows and I’m glad that these ones here have such a wonderful live. They all were very active, running around, jumping and moo-ing loudly.

Not far and we arrive at a lake surrounded by forest. We walk around it once and then return to Seis via a different route.

  

     

  

This different route leads us past a restaurant and we can’t resist but follow our noses…

    

So after having filled our stomachs with Schnitzel and fries, Logan got stylish for his run.
Here, a photo of the 2012 sport’s outfit:

Logan actually ended up running all the way up to the Seiser Alm and back, he’s just that crazy guy from Down Under who can’t get enough!

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Climbing Vesuvius and Busking in Naples

Mount Vesuvius is a stratovolcano about 9km east of Naples and a short distance to the shore. It is the only volcano on the European mainland that has erupted within the last hundred years. Climbing a volcano that has destroyed and buried the Roman cities Pompeii and Herculaneum AD79 is very special but the fact that Vesuvius is also rated one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world, makes it a little more exciting.

 
Vesuvius has erupted many times since AD79, the last time being in 1944. On occasion, eruptions from Vesuvius have been so large that the whole of Southern Europe has been blanketed by ash; in 472 and 1631 Vesuvian ash fell on Constantinople (Istanul), over 1,200km away. Today there are more than 3,000,000 people living nearby, which makes it the most densely populated volcanic region in the world. The volcano is being monitored by the Osservatorio Vesuvio in Naples and the government’s evacuation plan assumes between two weeks and 20 days’ notice of an eruption. The evacuation of 600,000 people by trains, ferries, cars and buses is planned to take about seven days.

So after paying 5 Euros for parking and an additional 8 Euros per person entrance to the Volcano, we are allowed to start our walk and even receive a walking stick – borrowed of course.
While we are walking up the volcano as one of the first 30 visitors, we look down on the many bus loads full of people arriving. Hundreds of people are lining up at the ticket office during the day, large groups following us.

Franzi on top of the Vesuvius Crater Logan at the crater

 

The views from the volcano down to Naples and the bay are spectacular. Also the view into the crater is fascinating. Even though Vesuvius is not currently erupting, we see steam rising up from the inside. A group of students from America is lined up at the rim and shouting into the crater. The sound travels around the inner wall and comes back to us in a circular movement seconds later. This is so cool, we have to try it ourselves. It even works when you call out into the crater on your own, but as loud as you can! You are allowed to walk around the top for about ¾ of the rim but then have to walk the same way back. There is even a small coffee shop and tourist shops up the top.

 

Click on the following picture and you’ll be able to move it around with the cursor to get a 360 degree view!

Adventurous as we are, we climb up some volcanic rock and look even deeper into the crater. People at the bottom stop, stare and point. But they always stare, so not sure what their reason is this time.

It is then time for us to move on to Naples.
I was told Naples is the real Italy. Not as touristy as Rome, it is supposed to be a nice Italian city.


In REALITY Naples is a hectic and crazy city with an accumulation of Italian freakazoids without driving skills. Somehow we are trying to find a car park in the congested and loud city but soon realise we need to get out of here. A man on a scooter tries to sell us an iPhone while driving. Even though we shake our heads he keeps harassing us, driving in front of us, turning backwards, then next to us, then again in front of us. We almost hit him accidently; what’s the matter with these Italians? Window washers catapult themselves at our campervan at traffic lights and mopeds outright cut in front of us. Beeping horns everywhere and constantly! Getting out of this chaos is difficult and very stressful, so stressful I ask Logan to please stop on the side of the road and figure out where we can go to escape this craziness. Eventually we make it to the marina at the outskirts of Naples. Still loud and hectic, we decide this is as far as we can go and still be able to ride into Naples via bicycle tomorrow. Since it’s a busy Saturday night, I convince Logan to go busking for the first time in his life. Along the esplanade we see many people busking, selling roses, mimicking and so on. Logan sets himself up across a restaurant and I can feel the eyes on us. It must be strange for people to see a white person with blonde dreadlocks busking on the street.

The African ‘fellas’ all come and say “hello”, “rastafari” or “Bob Marley”. They love him. It’s so funny to watch. During the first 5 minutes, Logan gets about 5 Euros, then it slows down for the next 55 minutes. In the end we walk back to our Campervan with 8 Euros and a laugh about the new experience.

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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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Monti Sibillini National Park

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The weather has cleared up a little and we hit the road down to Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini. Monte Sibilla is one of over 20 peaks above 2000m and the park is home to over 50 species of mammals, including wolves, porcupines, wild cats and martens. On the way to Montemonaco, our starting point, we decide to go for the 18km Sibillini Traverse, which is said to have breath-taking views. During our 2-hour drive, we get to see spectacular views of the mountain peaks, some of them still covered in snow.
Finally in Montemonaco, we don’t exactly know how to find the “Refugi di Sibilla” , the actual starting point of the walk, as described in the “Hiking in Italy” Lonely Planet.

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We follow the road and a few signs saying “Monti Sibillini National Park” but there are many walks in this National Park. The road leads up a fairly steep Mountain and turns into a gravel road soon after. We zick zack up the mountain and I keep telling myself: “This can’t be it! This is insane!” The cliff next to us drops down a few hundred meters and the Globetrotter is working hard to climb meter by meter. It took about 15-20min but felt like an hour and we finally reach a hut. This is the rifugio! A sign hanging above the closed door reads its name. I take a few deep breaths and sigh in relief that we finally made it. Hungry, we are having a quick lunch and then get our gear on.

With hardly a trek visible, we follow little paths and a few poles stuck in the ground as way finders. We partly ignore the actual path and walk up the steep cliff, making slow progress, as my breath can’t be fast enough to get the oxygen into my brain. Every so often we have to stop but it’s not like we haven’t got an amazing view over Le Marche and even the Adriatic sea in the distance.

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Logan is first on top of the ridge and from his reaction I gather it must be a good view from up there. When I arrive seconds later, the view just blows me  a-w-a-y! I expected a valley with green hills on the other side. Instead we see a steep cliff and massive mountains around it. It felt a bit like standing on the ridge of a volcano and looking into the inside.

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We then walk along the ridge for over an hour, through snow and over rocks and grass; the 360-degree views impressing us all the way. In front of us lies Monte Sibilla, a stunning peak and the one the national park is named after. I’m feeling a little exhausted and we haven’t got much time anymore as the weather changes on the horizon. I know Logan would like to climb it quickly, so I tell him to leave everything with me and run up to the top with his go pro camera. He thinks it’s a great idea and is off a coupe of minutes later. Meanwhile I enjoy the stunning views in every direction and take some panorama photos with my iPhone 4S. There is a steep bit that needs to be climbed via a rope and I lose sight of Logan there. Soon after I see him at the top, both his arms stretched into the air. Then I even hear him! He does a sort of “howl” and I’m surprised how far the sound travels. I’m whistling back. About 15min later he is back at where I waited and we wander back together, cutting down the mountain diagonally to save some time. It is very steep and rocks are lying around everywhere. Walking sidewards makes you tired a bit so I turn on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and jokingly dance down the mountain. Yupp, Logan caught that on camera

and yupp, it will be on YouTube soon!

After probably about an hour, we are back at the van and Logan shouts out: “SHIT FRANNY!!!!” I think, someone must have broken into our van and run after him. “The car lights are still on!” Logan jumps inside and turns them off. I’m thinking this must be a joke!!! The imagination of having to push and roll the van down the zick-zack gravel mountain road turns my stomach upside down. The thought that I might even have to sit inside because only Logan is strong enough to push it makes me especially nervous. Logan jumps in to try and start the engine. While I’m still in panic, I suddenly hear the engine turn on
like nothing ever happened. “WHAT?” I say surprised. How is that possible? We are very lucky and I’m so relieved.
Time to go “home” to Colmurano…

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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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