Tag Archives: walking

#take12trips challenge: The Salkantay Trail, Peru: the Alternative Inca Trail

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First and foremost, choosing our big #take12trips challenge was easy; Peru has Macchu Picchu, varied scenery and some of the best food in the world. Choosing how to get to Macchu Picchu however was more difficult. For ages we thought the only way of reaching Macchu Picchu was through the Inca Trail or by train, but after speaking with the good folk at G Adventures we were all on board with the Salkantay Trek.

Unlike the Inca Trail, the Salkantay is a high-altitude trek that takes in varied scenery through the Salkantay mountain pass and down through the Amazon Rainforest. The trail gives trekkers the opportunity to do lots of side trips in between the main trek, which we took ample opportunity to do.

Salkantay sunshine 2 Continue reading

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#take12trips challenge: Peru’s Other Incan Sites

 

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Peru is undoubtedly famous for its Incan site, Macchu Picchu, and the Inca Trail that takes visitors there. However, there are a wealth of sites just outside of Macchu Peru in Cusco, that are well worth a visit with fewer crowds.  Continue reading

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The Best Sun Hat for Outdoor Adventures and Trips

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Finding a summer hat that simultaneously protects your face from the UV rays whilst looking good is like striking gold. Most high street options are flimsy and crumble against the elements. Of course, there is always those crisp white hats your grandparents wear, but sacrificing over £70 and the knowledge that you will resemble an antiquated BBC documentary host are factors few people are willing to accept.

So when Tarp Hats got in contact with me about testing one of their namesakes, one quick look and read made me confident I had hit the jackpot (in vogue sun protection, anyway).

But first: what is a Tarp Hat I hear you ask?

Way back when trucks were the primary use of goods transport in the Amazon, tarpaulins were used to cover and protect the trucks and goods. Over the years the tarpaulins became worn from the elements and were discarded in the remote villages in Brazil.

Tarp Hats are constructed by the local villagers in Brazil using the discard tarpaulins and giving them a new lease of life. Each hat is waterproofed to protect against increment weather and brass eyelets are used to prevent rusting.

These are pretty big claims for what looks like an incongruous hat, and so I decided I really wanted to put it through its paces, starting with a little jaunt over the Malverns.

The first trip was an initial test to see how it would cope with a general summer day’s hike the average joe would take. What started as a harmless walk through fields of wildflowers……

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……escalated quickly into a tiring 20+ mile hike through all the Malverns on a blustery day, to the summit of Great Malvern.

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Luckily the Tarp Hat pulled through, only blowing off twice against the fierce wind and the brim proved wide enough to protect my face from sunburn. On a side note ladies, it also gave me much less hat hair than any other hat I have tried in the past. Sure, it’s not the most important thing when outdoors, but every little helps, right?

So overall, the Tarp Hat could easily handle what the Malverns threw at it. However, the Malverns were going to look like a walk to the shops compared to the next test I put the Tarp Hat through: a long-distance hike through Scotland.

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Rain and sun, beaches, storms and their gales of wind, not to mention the surprisingly endless summer hours of blistering heat trudging up and down pine forests and hills, the Tarp Hat performed well throughout all the elements, and then some.

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Of course, I then decided to test the Tarp Hat through even harsher, more varied terrain: the Salkantay mountain pass to Macchu Picchu. Frosty mountains, rainforests, scorching days spent traversing desert hills and roads, the Tarp Hat proved to be in its element, whatever the elements.

Salkantay Pass Jump

Inca Slide

After all the adventures we have been on together these past few months, it’s fair to say the Tarp Hat has become another trusty edition to my essential kit list for the outdoors. In fact, it hasn’t just been popular with me alone – countless other hikers, guides and friends have tried it or expressed interest in the Tarp Hat, proving it makes friends wherever it goes.

It is not only the fit and the durability of the Tarp Hat that makes me like it so much, but also the company itself. The hats are produced by the local villagers using materials that would have otherwise been littered in the Amazon, thus giving jobs to a remote region and creating treasures from trash. In addition to this, 50p of every hat purchased goes towards installing freshwater wells to remote villages in the Brazilian Amazonian rainforest. The video below shows one of the typical villages in the Amazon that is helped by Tarp Hats.

It is rare that I find myself so enthusiastic about products, but Tarp Hat’s ability to combine a simple, good idea with eco-friendliness and sustainable, social practices can only make me like it further.

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#take12trips challenge The Speyside Way, Scotland: Fochabers to Craigellachie

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On the third section of The Speyside Way, we awoke early like little kids at Christmas, eager to start on the trail. It wasn’t so much the joy of hiking that gave us this skip in our step, as the promise of whisky in Craigellachie. Out of all the whisky distilleries in Scotland, more than half are situated in Speyside, and in particular, where we were staying.

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#take12trips challenge 5: Roaming in Rome

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Sometimes on work trips it can be difficult to find the time to do some sightseeing – after a day of work and meetings, most are certainly too tired to trudge zigzigs across a city, and many sites shut after office hours. Luckily though, I managed to squeeze in a few hours between the end of work and dinner to have a wander around Rome.  Continue reading

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BMS Releases Winter Skills Help Videos

 

 

The helpful people at BMC sent their latest project into my inbox today: a nine-part series of winter skills videos to help everyone make the most of the outdoors in the winter months, in association with the Association of Mountain Instructors, Lowe Alpine and DMM.

Here is what they had to say:

The hills in their snowy winter garb are beautiful and exciting, but they also pose hazards you don’t have to contend with in more clement conditions.

So how do you deal with sub-zero temperatures, slopes of hard névé, cornices, avalanche hazards or whiteouts? There is no substitute for having skills and knowledge imparted face-to-face by an experienced instructor.

But we all need a refresher from time to time, so to help you reinforce your skills we have teamed up with the Association of Mountain Instructors (AMI)Lowe Alpine and DMM to produce this new series of instructional winter videos.

Filmed in harsh winter conditions at Glenmore Lodge, they feature AMI instructors taking you through a raft of winter basics, from matching up boots and crampons to being aware of avalanche hazard on the hills.

Watch, learn, and above all, have fun!

Given the accidents up in the Lake District in previous months, now it is more important than ever to learn more about winter skills, to potentially save your life and others. The BMC do an amazing amount of work

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Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: from Chomorong to Syaulibazaar to Nayapul and Pokhara

Wearily I rose, with my joints offering stiff resistance to my concerted efforts. With last night being the penultimate day of trekking, Narendra, the porters and our group all celebrated late into the night with dancing, drinks and cake. What had seemed like a good idea at the time I was severely paying for that morning.

Settling bleary-eyed at the long dining table, our breakfasts arrived just on time. Another thing most people forget to tell you about in Nepal, is that the higher up into the mountains you go, the more adventurous the breakfast choices become. Today’s menu consisted of boiled potatoes in a BBQ sauce, toast that tasted more like sweet pastry, eggs and porridge.

We all began the slow trek back towards Nayapul,  looking wistfully at the scenery that we would soon be leaving that day. The rainfall that had fallen for the past several nights caused an abundance of small waterfalls to drip onto our walkway, and on the heaps of silvery sheen rocks that littered the path and created a natural sort of sparkling fountain. The mountains were as green as we’d seen them, only now a rainbow arched across a smaller hill below.

Annapurna Nepal Rainbow

Suddenly, a large shape up ahead brought us to a standstill. Sprawled on the middle of our narrow path sat a cow, sunning herself on a bare patch of earth. One of our group attempted to shoo her away, but all he received in return was a flick of her ears and the back of her head.

Annapurna Nepal cow

“ She looks pretty comfortable there, “ I said, “it doesn’t look like she’s planning on leaving anytime soon.”

The cow continued to gaze off into the distance, unperturbed by the clicks of our cameras or the pleas and entreats to move aside. Accepting defeat, we tiptoed around her, careful not to give reason to provoke her. She remained impassive, and it wasn’t until we all had bypassed her and continued on the trail that we heard a loud “mooooo!” behind us in farewell.

The path narrowed along the ledge, until everyone was required to walk in single file. Up ahead we could hear a jumble of bleating sounds, and soon a herd of goats confronted us on the path, eager to cross without waiting. Well, all but one.

As we clutched at the rock face and trees to steady ourselves as the goats moved past, one small brown goat in the middle of the queue abruptly stopped, and turned towards us. With bleats of excitement he plunged his head into one of our member’s trouser pockets, eagerly anticipating whatever food he believed lay hidden. Laughter mixed with the angry sounds of the goats still in front of us, and our group member fumbled with his handkerchief as the goat tried to make a meal out of it. Victorious, he waved it  in front of the goat’s face, and, seeing an opportunity in their momentary delay, we all  quickly crossed it before the goat decided to investigate everyone’s pockets. Heads down, with a dejected look, the goats continued their walk across.

“Seriously, what is with these Nepalese animals?!” one from our group cried out between fits of laughter, “you’d think they’d have known how to share these paths by now!”

Nearing the stopping point of our trek, we came across a small, makeshift barn, and there stood quite possibly the most adorable animal we had seen on the trek. A baby kid, barely a few weeks old it seemed, stood feebly on its slim limbs, bleating pitifully at us. With caramel and white fur with a soft, downy texture, the kid nuzzled its head into each of our hands or chests each time someone went to pet it. Every time we made a move to depart, it would look up with large, tear-filled brown eyes, and let out such a small, pathetic cry that it melted even the sternest of hearts.

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“I think I know why the Nepalese animals are so accustomed to getting their own way now, “ I thought to myself, stroking the kid’s head lightly.

After a long interval we were finally forced to leave, and the kid’s morose bleats were mixed with the outraged chirps of chicks that had received no attention from us. Finally making our way to the Jeeps that would take us back to Pokhara, we threw our bags on the roof, and after everything was strapped down, began making our way along the bumpy road.

About a mile down the road, we approached a rocky bump in the road at a moderate speed, and amid the tired sighs and calls of “bye Annapurna” a sickening crunch could be heard. The car slowed to a stop, but not before another clunking and rattling sound was heard. Getting out and ducking our heads under the car, a part was dragging on the floor. Gazing uneasily at each other, we asked the driver what options there were to remedy the situation.

“Wait for my friend to arrive, he’ll drop you off at the bus site. Meanwhile, let’s move this car off the road so others can get by,” our driver replied.

A feat that was easier said than done, considering the road was in an inclined position, with a sheer drop on one side. Time flew by as we struggled to push the jeep up the hill towards a small space in the

Looking nervously behind us at the distance below, we continued to strain against the Jeep as it crawled up the dirt path. Our trepidation grew as a queue of cars and a bus began to line up on both sides of the Jeep. “This couldn’t get any worse,” I thought to myself. Just then, a small boy jumped from the steps of the bus and designated himself as traffic warden. Shouting words of encouragement while telling the bus driver where to turn as well as sternly telling the cars opposite us to wait, our fears of the small boy being crushed by the Jeep gave us all renewed strength. We hurriedly pushed the dilapidated car into the small space while the boy zigzagged between us, and heaved big sighs of relief that he had narrowly avoided being crushed by the car.

Looking around and satisfied that his job was done, the little boy clambered back up the side of the bus and began ordering the driver to continue. We all stood and watched the boy in astonishment waving his arms and hollering orders as the bus peeled down the road and to the rest of the villages. Shaking our heads and giggling in disbelief at the boy’s audacity, we were rescued from our stranded state by the arrival of our driver’s friend.

Dragging our bags onto the new vehicle and realising that it was much smaller than the previous one, we all squeezed in together and anxiously hoped this car would prove more resilient than the last. Looking around us, I thought to myself that there were possibly worse places to be stranded, and as a the vehicle grumbled to life we all wished, that despite the afternoon’s troubles, we had a little more time to spend in Annapurna.

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Nepal trekking donkey

 

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

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Discover and Explore Outdoor Activities In Crete

If you are into outdoor adventure and want to discover the true colors of Greece, the island of Crete is the ideal destination for you. If you are interested in getting close to real nature and heart of Greece, there are multiple activities on offer. Crete hides many secrets like vast canyons and crystal clear waters, rocky mountains and undiscovered coves. Follow these guidelines and you will not be disappointed. Are you already excited?

If you come to the island during the summer, it’s also the chance to completely relax and calm your spirit. A good choice is to stay at the Minos Palace, home to absolute rejuvenation in its spa. The Ananea Wellness guarantees a real renewal and revival of body, mind and soul.

Hiking & Trekking

Hiking in Crete is hugely popular thanks to an immense network of paths and trails. It’s a breathtaking chance to get to know this beautiful island on foot. There are many paths on the island – some are well-known and quite easy while some require detailed maps making your trekking experience a bit more adventurous. Just be warned, if you want to go trekking during summer, it can get really hot. You will certainly need a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. In winter conditions are quite different and in some areas mountaineering experience might be necessary.

Walking Zakros Gorge

One of Crete’s most famous walking trails is Zakros Gorge. Start your walk from Zakros village, from there the trail will lead you through a narrow canyon of rich vegetation and wild herbs. After about two hours, the path emerges close to Zakros Palace, just 200m from the beach.

Rock climbing

Offering unrivalled views of the jewel coloured waters of the Aegean, rock climbing on Crete’s beach cliffs is an experience second to none. The island has naturally protected routes suitable for all abilities.

Water Sports

What is the most popular activity on an island but water sports? Parasailing, parachuting, windsurfing, Jet skiing… the list goes on. Whatever your heart desires in terms of high seas activities, you will most likely find it in Crete. Head for the coast, dive in and discover a talent you might never even have known you had! Kitesurfing is a growing sport and is one of the most popular for newcomers to the island, while fishing or pedalos are a more sedate option.

Snorkelling

Last but certainly not least, this fabulous island is made for snorkelling through crystalline waters. The excellent visibility, comfortable temperatures and abundant wildlife mean you could stay in the water all day.

All in all, Crete Island has so many possibilities. All you have to do is take advantage of them. Summer is waiting just around the corner!

 

 

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Day 3 of Trekking in the Annapurna Conservation Area: Ghorepani, Poon Hill and Macchupuchare and Tadapani

 

Thunder crashed violently outside, causing the window to shake and jolt me out of my sleep. Checking the clock, 4:30am, I peered outside into the grey gloom as raindrops pelted the window like bullets and the trees swayed precariously in the wind. My hopes sank as I stared at the torrential storm outside, silently wishing it would die down soon. Determined not to let it get me down, I struggled in the dark to yank on my hiking clothes and boots and made my way downstairs, where a few others had also congregated.

“Unfortunately the weather is too bad for us to leave on time; we will need to wait awhile and hope it clears up. For now, I don’t know whether we will be able to make it to Poon Hill now, but the best thing to do for now is catch up on some sleep, and as soon as I think it’s safe to go outside I’ll let everyone know,” Narendra said.

My hopes sank a little lower as I resignedly trudged back to bed, praying to myself that the weather would clear up in a couple of hours as I snuggled under the sheets.

 

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Two hours later I stood outside, my prayers and wishes answered as I gazed up at the cloudy skyline of the Himalaya range. Although they were still partially shrouded in cloud, it was possible to discern the outline of the different mountains and their peaks. Although images of the Himalyan range of littered everywhere, from stores to street vendors and tourist agencies in Kathmandu, none of it prepares you for the actual enormity and expanse of the mountains. It wasn’t enough to simply look at them from a particular point; they stretched so far into the distance, that one had to walk  along in order just to catch a glimpse as the range continued to stretch further in the distance. My eyes scanned each and every ridge, in efforts to memorise it in my head, when a yelp on the ground below dragged my attention away.

“Oomphf!” down below, a young man that had spent the night camped in a tent slipped in a puddle, half of his side covered in mud. An entire school group had spent the night camped through the storm; by morning, their neon orange triangular tents had been blown into misshapen, feeble positions that forced the students to drag themselves out by their elbows. Watching as a thin line of them stomped and trudged through the mud to the toilets, it was amusing to watch as them as they stopped suddenly, their angry mutterings over their misfortunes the night before momentarily subsided as they stopped to appreciate the panoramic views laid out before them. Following their gaze upwards, I resumed my long fixation at the mountains until Narendra’s voice called us to begin our trek up the mountains.

 

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Any morose I might have felt at not reaching Poon Hill vanished as we reached the hilltop; with the weather rapidly clearing, every crag and overhang on the mountains were  clearly visible. Earlier Narendra had broken the news to us that our late start due to the weather meant a detour up Poon Hill was impossible; but he promised to take us up another hill just along our path that had equally good views of the Himalaya range. True to his word, we scrambled to the top and exchanged excited words with one another, as well as other groups and out porters. Tangles of prayer flags billowed as the wind blew fiercely, and yellow, white and purple wildflowers dotted the hillside below. Undulating mounds of green were crowded against one another on one side of the hill, whilst on the opposite side snow-capped peaks pierced through the stubborn remains of clouds from last night’s storm.

For what felt like hours we sat and stared at the mountains, appreciating how varied the landscape was in such a small pocket of the world.

 

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Eventually, after much goading and promises of more stunning scenery below, Narendra managed to convince our group to head down the hill and once again through the dense layer of trees. Just before I entered the forest, I turned around quickly for one last glance at the Himalayas before they slipped from view.

Once again, Nerendra’s hype had lived up to his promise. Small waterfalls tumbled off the nearby cliffs, eventually diverting into small droplets that fell off the petals of purple wildflowers that were rooted into the side of the cliff. Rapids and small stacks of stones, offerings to the various spirits that dwelled there, skirted along our neighbouring path, and shafts of sunlight dazzled brilliantly against the fresh, invigorating backdrop of foliage as we climbed down the never-ending stairs. Every few metres we stopped, taking photos or simply admiring and appreciating the sunshine that had been absent from the morning and night before. Soon the path began to rise again as we left the forest and another flight of steep stone staircases led up the mountain.

 

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“Narendra!” someone from our group gasped in between breaths, “I thought you said earlier that the rest of the trail today would be flat!”

 

“But this is flat, it’s Nepali flat! A little bit up, a little bit down!” Narendra exclaimed, while making snaking movements with his hands. With laughter all round, we continued to huff and puff up the mountain, wondering and discussing what other alternative Nepalese definitions existed.

Entering a clearing at the top of the staircase we all shuffled into the centre and suddenly, the Himalayas reappeared into view. Nearby was our accommodation, which although very basic, provided us with the best views of Macchupuchare, or Fishtail Mountain.  It is believed this mountain to be particularly sacred to the god Shiva, and as a result it is forbidden for mountaineers to summit or climb it.

With the sun out full blaze, everyone quickly assembled onto the front yard, the porters playing a Nepalese board game, Narendra flitting about and chatting to everyone and the rest drinking beer, playing cards and taking photos., occasionally stopping to admire the towering backdrop of the Himalayas. As the day drew to a close and we moved inside, Narendra organised a group huddle and explained, “Tomorrow morning, you will get the best sunrise views of the mountains, so make sure you’re up early, say 4:30am, if you want to take photos. I’ll be up to knock on doors if you like!”

Excited at the prospect of sunrise views, we all made note to rise early, and then resumed our babble around the table over steaming portions of dinner as the sun slipped from view.

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I spent 12 days on Earthbound Expeditions’ Nepal Mountain and Tiger Tour, with our guide Narendra Timalsina, whom I would highly recommend. For more information about the tour, please click here.

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