Tag Archives: hiking

Saint-Malo, France and Dolomites, Italy Articles

Hope you’re enjoying autumn/fall in the northern hemisphere, and spring/summer in the southern. Sorry I haven’t posted any new poems on here for a while, but I’ve been focusing on a two-years X Files comedy parody prose and poetry fantasy travel around Europe by Google Maps project I’m serialising over at the Writing and Poetry greenYgrey blog.

Plus the photos from my earlier travel are old disposable camera standard, and need to be scanned, so it’ll be quite a lot of work, and the quality won’t be great.

Saint-Malo, Brittany and Normandy, France Article

My Saint-Malo to Mont-Saint-Michel, Brittany and Normandy, France travel article remembering the D-Day landings in their seventieth anniversary year is now up on Go Nomad. It has a sacrifice theme inspired by this video’s contents:

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Italy Dolomites Article and Photos

I last posted on this blog about Tromso, Norway in 2007, and was recently reminded that I’d written an article for TravelThruHistory about my previous travelling trip to that, which was to the Dolomites, Italy in 2005. I reunited with a platonic friend met in Uganda’s Kibale Forest in 1998.

Here’s the article with most of the photos:

DEATH AND DOLCE IN THE DOLOMITES

Before I ascended into the Dolomites, if somebody mentioned Great War (World War One) stalemates I would only have thought of the Somme, Ypres and other mud and blood filled fields of northern Europe; if someone talked about Great War weather-induced injuries I would presume they were referring to trench-foot; and if they recounted the horrors of Great War winters my mind would visualise soldiers crawling through freezing rain or knee-deep in stagnant water.

Yet here I was, in a cramped machine-gun post 8,000 feet up on Lagazuoi in the Italian Dolomites, where ninety years previously the Austrians had defended their Alps front line against Italians who had joined the war on the side of the Entente Powers (led by Britain and Commonwealth countries, Russia and France) against the Central Powers (mainly Germany and Austria-Hungary). The gun was pointed across at what had then been Italian positions; they only seemed a stone-throw away, although there was a hundred foot drop in-between.

Lagazuoi could be enjoyed in the summer sun, but temperatures were still cool to say the least, and in winter it can drop to -30c (-22f); so in the trenches of the Dolomites it was blizzards and frostbite that were the main weather concerns for the Italian and Austrian troops fighting doggedly in the tunnels and peaks of the southern Alps.

The Dolomites were formed 200 million years ago out of the primeval ocean, and the highest peaks now reach 12,000 feet. They take their name from French mineralogist, Déodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801), who discovered and defined the unique composition of the stone which gives it a lighter colour than most mountains.

I had travelled up to the Dolomites from Reggio Emilia with a local friend I’d met in Africa seven years before. Reggio is the main town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy, and is a bastion of socialism in a country divided between politically polarised regions; streets are named after left-wing legends such as Lenin, Marx and Che Guevara, and there is a statue in the town celebrating the partisans who fought against Mussolini in World War Two.

We travelled north by train, via Bologna and Verona to Brunico. The Bologna train had been packed with people heading to the coast at Rimini; I’d apparently picked an inconvenient time to visit Italy, as the country largely shuts down in August for a national holiday.

Sun-kissed vineyards and farmland provided the vista until Verona, and then mountains began to dominate the horizon after that; many featured majestic medieval castles that offer clues to the region’s importance as a trading route, and the wealth and prestige it has brought. The temperature had been about 40c (110f) in Reggio, but as we started winding up into the Alpine landscape temperature figures halved and there was more cloud.

When we arrived in Brunico it looked and sounded as if we’d crossed into another country: red and white flags abound, the architecture is typical of the central Alps, and German is the primary language as it is in Austria. This is because the region, South Tyrol, was Austrian until the Italian push into the Dolomites during the Great War. As part of the 1915 treaty that brought neutral Italy into the war it was agreed that they should have some Austro-Hungarian regions after the conflict. Although parts of the treaty could not be kept, South Tyrol did become Italian in 1919.

From Brunico we took a comfortable bus along country roads that provided great views of lush green valleys and high mountain peaks to the village of Pedraces in the Badia valley for a couple of Euros. We stayed at the Pension Armalia, which was clean and friendly, although the staff didn’t speak English; luckily, my friend provided translation and did all the organising. Breakfast and dinner were included in the price, and provided enough for the day; they were not used to catering for vegetarians so it was mostly egg and cheese dishes for me, but they were always nice and filling.

On the first day we bussed it into the bigger village of La Villa, where there is a good tourist office. It was there that I first saw the leaflet for the mountain-top Great War Museum: it looked intriguing and declared itself unique. Three days of hiking amongst impressive peaks and Sound of the Music style meadows later it was time to take a trip back in time to the Great War.

We took a bus into La Villa again at about 9am, and then another bus to the ski lift station at the Falzarego Pass. The second bus journey took us to the end of the mountain range that framed one flank of the valley, and when I realised where we were going I was overjoyed; I’d wondered what lay beyond the high natural wall that dominated that side of the panorama, and now I was about to find out. As we wound our way through mountains, forests and Lake Valparola to the 6000 feet Falzarego there were magnificent views down the valley all the way to Pedraces.

The ski-lift carried us up an additional 2000 feet in altitude, and combined with the wind chill from being on top of an exposed peak it made a noticeable difference to the temperature. I didn’t think there would be much natural life at that altitude, and was therefore surprised to see a flock of birds fly high above us before turning en-masse and heading back down towards the valley below. We made our way over to one of the many crosses that appear on prominent peaks across the mountains in the region, and could see a couple of small lakes further into the range; mountains dominated the horizon for as far as the eye could see.

Leaving the exposed peak and passing the 360 degree reception centre we started to view the open air museum as we descended on a steep and narrow path. The path seems to be the one used during the Great War, as the preserved living quarters and positions of the Austrian troops defending the Lagazuoi Peak are accessible from it as you walk.

The soldiers spent two winters guarding the rock in the freezing cold, and it was easy to imagine how relieved the soldiers must have been to escape a third. There were separate quarters for the officers and men, with neither looking comfortable; the only preferential benefits for the officers seemed to be a little more room and a desk. The machine-gun post was claustrophobic and cold, and if you add on the freezing temperatures of winter and being fired at by snipers and heavy artillery then it must have been quite close to what I’d imagine hell would be like if it did ever freeze over.

After leaving Lagazuoi we made our way down a track at the bottom of no-man’s-land; looking back up at the Austrian positions we could view them almost as the Italians must have done. All of a sudden the Austrian experience didn’t seem quite as bad, as I’d have preferred to be looking and firing down than up. However, the Italians did have the advantage of launching surprise attacks at the Austrians by tunnelling into the mountain.

The closest I came to relating to the sound of explosions that had disrupted the harmony of the Dolomites ninety years before was being awoken one night by the loudest thunderstorm I’ve ever heard. Before that I’d been thinking how easy it looked to just hike up one of the beautiful peaks. Like war, mountains can look easier to survive than in reality; and when you combine them together, they can provide one of the toughest tests of all.

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Tromsdalen Valley Photos and Videos

I walked up one side of the Tromsdalen Valley. I saw some grey berries on the floor and tried them, thinking they were the cloudberries I’d read about before leaving Britain. I sat down to eat a fruit and milk lunch on the mountain top, and the cloud lifted for a little while on the other side of the valley. I saw a large bird that looked like the sea eagles we’d seen on the edge of land before sailing into open sea for whale-watching.

Tromsdalen Valley Photos

I took a couple of photos, one of me using a self-timer, and another looking back down the valley. I also took a last video, having taken two before.

Selfie before Fashionable

Looking Back Towards Tromsoyo Island

Tromsdalen Valley Videos

I also filmed three videos in the Tromsdalen Valley. The first was about half way along the path, looking back to Tromsoyo Island, and ahead to Tromsdalstinden:

The second was at the end of the valley, under Tromsdalstinden:

The third was up in the clouds:

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The next day I left Tromso, but extended my Norway holiday a little by taking advantage of a half-day between flights to bus into Oslo…

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Nepal Trek Lukla to Kathmandu Flight

In Tengboche I went to a Buddhist prayer meeting, with the temple open to trekkers.

Flying Lukla to Kathmandu

Lukla was like returning to modern civilisation, with bars full of happy trekkers, pub games and rock music.

The flight from the ‘most dangerous airport in the world’ was smooth, and there were great views of the snow-capped Himalayas to the north as we flew through the valley seen earlier in the trek, and then over flat plains to Kathmandu.

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I think Lukla is just beyond and inside the third ridge on the right as you view. The trek path led all the way across the mountains on the right side of the photo, and then it was up to Namche Bazaar.

The plane flies out of the ridge, and then back down the valley, before turning right to Kathmandu.

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Kathmandu Swayambhunath Monkey Temple

Back in Kathmandu, everybody said the Swayambhunath Monkey Temple must be visited, so I did. It was really nice, and had lots of cool and funny holy monkeys around the place.

It is the most important pilgramage site for the Newars, who are the indigenous people of the Kathamandu valley.

Nepal 130 Nepal 131 monkeytempleUpstairsMarc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Nepal Everest View Trek Gokyo to Lukla

The next day was another relaxing one, and I just walked to the other side of the third lake, where there is a kind of beach. The first photo is looking back at the Gokyo lodges across the lake.

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Gokyo to Pangboche

The next day I started the return journey; returning on the route of the outward trek until Phortse Tanga. Then it was a left turn to Pangboche, where I overnighted at a lodge run by a Sherpa who had climbed Everest several times. There were photos of him on the peak  in the dining room.

The first photo below is of sunrise on the mountains in the morning. Looking up what mountain it is I today, nearly five years later, realised it’s the Everest range from the other side to Gokyo.

Can you spot the horse in the second photo?

The third photo is looking back at Pangboche, with Ama Dablam to its side, and the Everest range behind it.

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Tengboche to Lukla

The first photo below also looks back at Ama Dablam and the Everest range, but from Tengboche, where I overnighted.

The final photo is from Lukla, which is either the trek beginning or end, or both, if you fly Lukla-Kathmandu-Lukla.

Nepal 123Nepal 124Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Mount Everest Views from Gokyo Ri

I had stomach problems in the morning, but was determined to climb Gokyo Ri (5,357 metres, 17,575 ft) to complete the Jiri to Gokyo 100-mile trek, and see Mount Everest. My description of climbing Gokyo Ri is mixed below with photos, and there’s a video from the summit at the end.

Climbing Gokyo Ri

The sunrise looked stunning as it lit up Cho-Oyu on another beautiful clear morning, so I went out to take a photo.

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I left at about 7am.  Stepping-stones crossed the stream running down from the north.  I made it most of the way across, before putting a foot in the water.  It could have been worse: a trekker I later met had fallen back into the water!

The lake looked amazing at the start of the climb, with the sun dipping a copy of Phari Lapche into it, mixing the water between blues and greens, and framing it with the real mountains and an illuminated Gokyo Ri.

reflections

It was a steep climb from the start, and I missed the downhills I’d begun to resent earlier on the trek.  However, any difficulties were outweighed by the stunning scenery being unveiled.

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Looking back down the mountain, from one side of Gokyo Ri to the other, the scenery was one continuous arc of astonishment: the planet’s highest peaks shone under the sun framing turquoise lakes and a moonscape glacier. 

And then I could make Everest out!  It was an amazing feeling to see the highest point on Earth, and fulfil the main objective of the trip.

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I reached the peak after about three hours, completing the mission part of the trek.  It was certainly all worth it, with an amazing 360 degree panorama viewable from amongst the prayer flags and cairns.  There was also a small Buddha statue there.

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The fourth Gokyo lake was visible to the north: it was jade rather than turquoise.  Small brown birds flew around freely, and looked quite tame when they landed.  

Walking down was nice, although a little sad to know it was all over, and the rest of the day was spent relaxing and savouring. 

Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Nepal Everest View Trek: Machhermo

My Stockholm article from the Norway – Sweden trip that ended the twenty-five years of travel featured in this blog, and started off this blog, has now been published on travelthruhistory.com. The main article in this month’s issue of the website is about Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu to Gokyo

My Nepal journey started in Kathmandu. I took a bus to Jiri and trekked for about a week to the Everest national park. I had now reached Machhermo, a day away from the target destination of Gokyo.

A night trip to the outside toilet revealed a clear sky full of stars. Moreover, the mountains were silhouetted, and I tried to take a photo of them.

Machhermo Photo and Video

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The sunrise lighting up the mountain peaks in the morning, above frosty fields of yaks, inspired a video:

Machhermo to Gokyo Photos

I also took some photos, posted below, starting with Machhermo Peak from the village in the morning.

The second photo looks back down the valley, with Thamserku and saddle-peak Kangtega in the middle distance.

The steep sided mountain in the third and fifth photos is Cholatse. Its southern neighbour is Taboche. A hiker passes a yak herd in the fifth.

All five of those mountains are between 6000 and 7000 metres. Everest is about 8800 metres.

The fourth photo is of the Dudh Koshi river, running through the valley.

It was a few hours of enjoyable walking to Gokyo, and the next blog will feature photos of Gokyo’s lakes as the destination is reached.

Nepal 093 Nepal 096Nepal 097Nepal 098Nepal 099Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Machhermo Nepal Medical Centre Information

The Norway third episode of the Channel4 Scandimania television series started off in Bergen and then travelled to Voss and Bergen by train like Marc Latham on his Norway-Sweden journey that ended his twenty-five years of travel and started this blog. It’s available from the link above, but just in the U.K. I think.

Dhole to Machhermo

After two nights and a day in bed, I managed breakfast before setting off on the last full day of trekking from Jiri to Gokyo. I went straight to the toilet afterwards, but the sickness had mostly passed, and I didn’t need the toilet again.

My previous travels had told me it was just mild food poisoning, with a lunch stop between Namche and Dhole the likeliest source. The first night had been feverish, while the next day and night were just tiredness and recovery.

Machhermo Altitude Centre

After an initial incline the day’s trek was quite steady, with great views over the valley below and up to the mountains above them.

Arriving in Machhermo (4400 metres) around noon I went to an informational presentation put on by the medical centre about avoiding altitude sickness at 3pm.

It was an entertaining talk, and they tested a full room of trekkers for oxygen saturation. Everyone was okay. A new medical student had been helicoptered out that afternoon with altitude sickness!

Everest View Trek Photos

The first photo below was from the previous day’s trek, between Namche and Dhole. The colours reminded me of the U.K., and the autumn underway there.

The mountain at the end of the valley in the lower photos is Cho-Oyu, which is the sixth highest mountain in the world. It marks the border between Nepal and Tibet/China. I didn’t know that at the time, or that Gokyo was before it.

I think it is Machhermo visible below the hikers in the last photo.

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Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Ama Dablam and Khumjung Photos on Nepal Trek

Leaving Namche Bazaar (3400 metres) at dawn it was quite a steep short hike up the mountain above and then down to green-roofed Khumjung. From there Ama Dablam was visible. It is widely regarded as the most beautiful of the Everest park mountains, and I agree.

Ama Dablam reminds me of the sphinx. The first three photos below are of the mountain and Khumjung.

Namche Bazaar to Dhole

From Khumjung it was another tough climb over the Mong-La pass, before a downhill to match, and then a steady up and down walk to Dhole (4040 metres). Some of it was through forestry.

After finding a lodge I started feeling ill after ordering food! I was bed-ridden with stomach and sickness problems for the next day.

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Jiri to Gokyo Everest View Himalayas Trek

Paiya proved to be the end of the quiet trek, as there was a group of climbers camping there, and on the seventh day from Paiya to Phakding trekkers that had flown into Lukla joined the path to the Sagarmatha (Everest) park at Chheplung.

Paiya to Phakding Himalayas Photos

The first two photos are from Chheplung. Didn’t see any red pandas I’m afraid. The fourth is from Phakding.

After mostly cloud and rain for a week, the sky was mostly clear on the eighth morning: the morning of arrival in the Sagarmatha park, and views of the really high peaks.

The monsoon had passed, and it would be mostly clear skies for the rest of the trek, providing perfect conditions for viewing the Everest park and taking photos.

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Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).

Nepal Everest View Trek Dudh Koshi Photos

On the sixth day of a Nepal Himalayas Everest trek from Jiri to Gokyo, leaving Nunthala it was downhill to a bridge above where the Deku Khola and Dudh Koshi rivers met.

Nepal Everest View Trek Photos

The first photo looks back at the Deku Khola valley, and the second was the view ahead, up the Dudh Koshi valley. Then it was uphill to Paiya.

Along the way, I happened upon a battle between a tarantula hawk (pompilid) and a tarantula; and later on a lighter note, a colourful bird in forestry.

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Marc Latham’s central site is the Greenygrey (http://www.greenygrey.co.uk), and he has books available on Smashwords and Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/author/marclatham).