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Entries about treks

Trekking in the Himalayas

or how to tackle the 3 Passes and the Everest Base Camp


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A longer post this time, to relate about my recent trek in the Himalayas. Indeed, this was always my goal, to finish on a high note this amazing trip around the world, near the roof of the world: Mount Everest....

Obviously I could forget about actually climbing Mount Everest (even if that would have been quite cool!), as for that you would need a lot more money that I could have and more importantly some very good ice/rock climbing skills (and at least another two months). Just the permit to climb the Everest is around 18,000 Euros if I remember well, plus the cost of your equipment, wages of the Sherpas, food, etc... and you could find yourself having to pay easily around 50,000 Euros. Well anyway that wasn't an option for me and I was fine by just trekking to the base camp, located at 5,364 metres high, on the Khumbu glacier, a few hundred metres below the deadly icefall which killed 16 Sherpas this year, forcing them to cancel all the expeditions to the top for this season.

So before coming to Nepal and reading the news about this ice fall, I got a bit worried that trekking in this region would become difficult as a result and would force me to trek somewhere else. I mean it is not like Nepal is lacking of nice hiking trails to explore (the Annapurna circuit for example) but being able to see the Everest for real was kind of something I had been looking forward for a long time. Fortunately when I arrived in Kathmandu, in the beginning of May, everyone told me that there weren't any problems for trekking in the region and that only the climbing expeditions were cancelled. As a result the Everest Base Camp (EBC) would probably be completely empty but at least still accessible.

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The next thing to do was therefore to choose a trekking route to reach the EBC. Actually to be honest, anyone who is an average walker can do the EBC trek, no matter how young, old or unfit you are. The trails are well marked, wide and there are no difficult climbs as the path goes up following the valleys so the only difficulty lies with the altitude. Indeed from the starting point in Lukla (located 30 minutes away by plane, east of Kathmandu) at 2,800m to the Everest Base Camp at 5,364m there is quite a difference and if you rush too much, without taking a few days to acclimatise to the altitude, then you will suffer what people call AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) which is basically headaches, nausea, vomiting, etc... all the effects that the altitude can have on your body. And it doesn't even matter if you are fit and young, you could be more affected than someone older and less fit than you. In front of Altitude sickness, everyone is different and the only thing you can do is to take your time when going up.

But to come back to the choice of the route, instead of walking just the EBC trek, I decided to go for the "loop" which is also called the 3 passes trek. This one is definitely more challenging as it makes you cross 3 high passes at more than 5,300 metres high and also let you combine with 3 peaks (around 5,550 metres each) and of course the Everest Base Camp. And as a result, while the standard EBC trek would usually take around 12 to 14 days, this one is meant to take longer, from 18 to 21 days, depending on your speed. And now I can say it, YES, this was definitely the harder and most challenging trek I have ever done, by far. But the views were so fantastic that it was definitely worth the pain!

The next thing was to choose whether to go independently, with a guide or with a tour operator. And in Kathmandu it is hard to make an objective opinion as the people who know the best are also the ones trying to sell you a guide or a complete package which includes a detailed itinerary/schedule and guide + porters. They would tell you that you ABSOLUTELY need a guide and porters because it is a hard trek so you cannot possibly carry a big backpack and a guide is needed because the trails can be hard to find... Well they are wrong, the choice is entirely up to you and depends hugely on your budget, on how much you can afford to spend during this trek and if you have done some similar treks before.

My personal opinion is that if you are between 20 and 40 years old, fit and with already some trekking experience then you probably don't need a guide and even less a porter to carry your stuff. Actually the guide can be a nice bonus if you can afford it as he would be a local, you will be able to ask him all the questions you want and in case of a bad weather, he will help you find the correct path in the mountains. But a guide costs around 20-25$/day so that is quite a budget if you are not prepared for it. Besides if the weather is clear, then the trail are really easy to find so no problems about that (it is always recommended to take a good topographic map anyway and if you can, a GPS device).

If you are a bit less fit and/or have more money to spend, then you can hire some porters or sign up with a tour operator in Kathmandu but you will end up paying at least twice as much as the ones doing it independently and will have to share the trails constantly with another 10 to 20 people... So much for being alone within the nature...

So by reading the lines above you can now guess which option I chose... Indeed I decided to go on my own, with my big backpack (weighting 18kg without water at the beginning). Well not entirely on my own as I had met one Dutch guy in the hostel in Kathmandu, and we had decided to do at least a part of the trek together. It is not really recommended to trek alone in those mountains anyway as it is always possible to twist an ankle for example and to be stuck in a bad situation, without any help to call for.

The next thing one has to organise for this trek is to book some flight tickets to Lukla (or choose to go by bus to Jiri and then walk for 5 to 6 days). And for me this was a surprise... I knew I had to take the plane (I wasn't really keen on walking 6 days on bad trails and with a probably very bad weather because of the low altitude) but I didn't know how much it would cost... And in 2014, a one-way flight to Lukla costs around 165$! Make it return and you have already spent 330$ even before you started walking... whoops! But the alternative of walking takes quite some time so I emptied my wallet and bought my return ticket.

Turned out that actually because of the weather, it is really common for flights to be cancelled, even for a few days in a row so even though it sucks, you need to be prepared to that possibility... And it is exactly what happened to us, the day we were supposed to fly out to Lukla, all flights were cancelled, which left us waiting at the domestic airport for hours, until a last minute deal was offered to us in the afternoon: flying in a helicopter! (for about 35$ more obviously...)
And on the way back the same thing happened, very few flights each day because of the weather deteriorating as the day goes by, so we had to wait almost two days before being able to fly back to Kathmandu... (no helicopter option this time unfortunately).

Itinerary

  • Day 0 - Kathmandu to Lukla (2,840m)

Instead of catching an early flight and starting to walk straight away, we wasted a whole day waiting at the airport for a flight, only to take a helicopter in the afternoon. By the time we arrived in Lukla, it was too late to start walking so we decided to stay there for the night.

  • Day 1 - Lukla to Monju (2,835m)

Nice walk without a lot of elevation
(walking time: 4.5 hours)

  • Day 2 - Monju to Namche Bazaar (3,440m)

Short hike up to Namche but with a 600m elevation. I started to find myself out of breath quicker than usual due to the altitude.
(walking time: 2.25 hours)

  • Day 3 - Acclimatisation day around Namche Bazaar

As the altitude starts to be felt, we took the day to do a nice hike around, up to the Everest View Hotel (3,880m), to get the first views of the Everest of this trek! Then went back down to Namche via Khumjung and Kumde.
(walking time: 4 hours)

  • Day 4 - Namche Bazaar to Thame (3,820m)

Hike up to Thame.
(walking time: 3.25 hours)

  • Day 5 - Thame to Lungden (4,368m)

Not a difficult hike but we missed the last section of the trail and found ourselves having to climb the last 200 metres on a very steep section. The headaches started to appear...
(walking time: 3.75 hours)

  • Day 6 - Acclimatisation day around Lungden

Acclimatisation day a bit failed as we didn't go high enough that day. Usually for a good acclimatisation day, it is recommended to go quite high and come back down at the altitude where you were the night before so that the body can get used to the altitude changes. Headaches were still there...
(walking time: 4.5 hours)

  • Day 7 - Lungden to Gokyo (4,790m) via Renjo La pass (5,360m)

Probably the hardest day of the trek and also the longest... It took us 5 hours to go up to that pass (1,000m elevation) with the last section made of steps but still being really challenging. The headaches came back stronger and by the time we arrived in Gokyo, François was almost crawling on the floor due to his headaches and I wasn't a lot more better...
(walking time: 8 hours)

  • Day 8 - Rest day in Gokyo

A well deserved rest day after the previous one.

  • Day 9 - Gokyo to Dragnag (4,700m) via Gokyo Ri peak (5,360m)

Waking up at 4am, I started to climb (alone, François still suffering headaches) a peak nearby and after about 1h30min of efforts, I arrived just in time to see the sun rising behind the Everest. Magic... (see video below).
Later that day, after a nap, we resumed the walk by crossing the glacier and finally reached Dragnag, ready for our second pass the next day.
(walking time: 2 hours)

  • Day 10 - Dragnag to Dzongla (4,830m) via Cho La pass (5,420m)

Another very challenging day, especially the last 200 metres which was a climb among lose rocks and also with some falling from the top of the mountain. A few scary moments. On the way down, we crossed a glacier which was kind of cool.
(walking time: 7 hours)

  • Day 11 - Dzongla to Gorak Shep (5,140m)

Gentle hike to Gorak Shep with a lunch break in Lobuche. We were joining back the official EBC trek trail and it was definitely getting busier.
(walking time: 4.5 hours)

  • Day 12 - Everest Base Camp (5,364m)

Day trip from Gorak Shep to the Everest Base Camp. Apart for a few tents, the camp was mostly empty like people had told us but it was nice to see the place where so many legendary climbing adventures had begun. The only thing is that from the base camp, seeing the Everest is not possible as the mountains around, Nuptse and Lotse, block the view.
(walking time: 3.5 hours)

  • Day 13 - Gorak Shep to Lobuche, via Kala Patthar peak (5,643m)

Another early wake up (still alone) and another sunrise view from the top of the Kala Patthar peak, with amazing view of Mount Everest.
Later that day, we made our way back to Lobuche, to prepare the crossing of the last pass of the trek.
(walking time to the top of the peak: 1.25 hour - walking time to Lobuche: 1.30 hour)

  • Day 14 - Lobuche to Chukkung (4,730m), via Kongma La pass (5,535m)

François still not feeling well, we decided to split, him starting going down and me going up to the pass. It was a scary start for me as I took an old path through the moraine/glacier, only to see that path stopping after 15min. I then tried to make my own path through the falling rocks and thought more than once that I was going to find myself in a crevasse or under some big rocks... Luckily after more than an hour I finally managed to get through that section and the steep climb started. I took me a total of 3 hours to get to the top of the pass, a good time considering the time lost in the moraine. The views at the top were fantastic. Going down took actually a bit longer even if it was more pleasant.
(walking time: 7 hours)

  • Day 15 - Chukkung to Deboche (3,820m), via Chukkung Ri peak (5,550m)

My last early bird start to climb the peak called Chukkung Ri. It's always quite fun to start hiking with only your flashlight to light the path but it can also lead you to take the wrong path (and wrong mountain) in the dark. Fortunately thanks to the map and the sun rising I could catch up with the right trail and it took me 3 hours to get to the top. And there was a nice reward because even though you cannot see the Everest (hidden), you get a splendid view on several valleys around you. Definitely worth the climb! Later that day I decided to cover as much ground as I could to go down until Deboche.
(walking time: 8 hours)

  • Day 16 - Deboche to Namche Bazaar (3,440m)

Not a big day but not that easy though as the path is going up and down with some steep sections.
(walking time: 3 hours)

  • Day 17 - Namche to Lukla (2,840m)

Finally, after having caught up with my friend, we made that last walking day through a path that we knew already, back to our starting point. Not that easy as we had a good pace and didn't want to arrive too late in Lukla, so that we could change the date of our return flight ticket.
(walking time: 5 hours)

  • Day 18 & 19 - Waiting for a flight back to Kathmandu...

About the money, one should count around 2000-2500 rupees (20-25$) per day on average throughout the trek, covering meals, accommodation, snacks and the occasional shower, battery charge and internet access.

Elevation Profile

And here is the elevation profile of the trek, with its highest point being the summit of Kala Patthar (5,643m).

About this peak, it is to note that even though all maps record Kala Patthar with an altitude of 5,545m - 5,550m, I met a guy who had a Garmin GPS and who told me that on its highest point, his device recorded 5,622 metres. That's quite a big difference but after a few researches online, I found out that other people had found the same discrepancy, leading me now to consider that Kala Patthar is actually the highest point I have ever climbed in my life (though not the hardest).

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Conclusion

Definitely one of the best treks I have ever did and without any doubts the most challenging. Unless you are blessed by the gods and belong to the 10% of the population which adapts well to the altitude, you WILL experience at least once the headaches and exhaustion that comes with trekking at high altitude. But given time, your body will adapt and will start to produce more red blood cells to carry more oxygen. And once this side of the things taken care of, this trek offers some of the best mountain views in the world. After all this is not the "roof of the world" for nothing...

Photos & Videos

Short video taken on top of Gokyo Ri. It's in French but I have added the English subtitles... ;)

The airline check-in desk in Kathmandu where we waited, waited, waited...

The airline check-in desk in Kathmandu where we waited, waited, waited...


Our nice Russian helicopter (with a real Russian pilot!)

Our nice Russian helicopter (with a real Russian pilot!)


The streets of Lukla

The streets of Lukla


Let the trek begin!

Let the trek begin!


Swing bridges can sometimes become really crowded

Swing bridges can sometimes become really crowded


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Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar


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One of the several Stupas I came across during the trek

One of the several Stupas I came across during the trek


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Stunning

Stunning


Yak yak yak! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Yak yak yak! :)


On the way to the first pass, Renjo la

On the way to the first pass, Renjo la


The lakes are getting colder as we go higher...

The lakes are getting colder as we go higher...


The view from the top of Renjo La

The view from the top of Renjo La


François and myself, happy to have made it so far!

François and myself, happy to have made it so far!


Mount Everest, finally...

Mount Everest, finally...


Buddhist prayer flags on top of Gokyo Ri

Buddhist prayer flags on top of Gokyo Ri


We can see the Everest behind me, in the background on my right

We can see the Everest behind me, in the background on my right


Glacier crossing after Cho La pass

Glacier crossing after Cho La pass


A yak

A yak


More yaks! (old style photo filter)

More yaks! (old style photo filter)


On the way to the Everest Base Camp

On the way to the Everest Base Camp


The famous Khumbu glacier

The famous Khumbu glacier


Better be careful where we step in the moraine/glacier

Better be careful where we step in the moraine/glacier


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Sometimes the balance of things is very fragile...

Sometimes the balance of things is very fragile...


Everest Base Camp

Everest Base Camp


Behind us, the famous Khumbu Icefall where 16 Sherpas lost their life less than two months ago... Unfortunately from the Nepali side, this is the only way to reach the Everest...

Behind us, the famous Khumbu Icefall where 16 Sherpas lost their life less than two months ago... Unfortunately from the Nepali side, this is the only way to reach the Everest...


Sunrise seen from the top of Kala Patthar

Sunrise seen from the top of Kala Patthar


A bit more artistic this time, with Mount Everest

A bit more artistic this time, with Mount Everest


View from the top of Kongma La pass

View from the top of Kongma La pass


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Mount Ama Dablam, also quite nice during sunrise

Mount Ama Dablam, also quite nice during sunrise


On top of Chukkung Ri

On top of Chukkung Ri


A golden eagle

A golden eagle


Finally we could catch our plane back to Kathmandu...

Finally we could catch our plane back to Kathmandu...


Lukla airport

Lukla airport

Posted by manolo84 06:54 Archived in Nepal Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises mountains english treks Comments (0)

Hong Kong, Pearl of the Orient

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Next on my list was therefore Hong Kong, after having had an unsuccessful attempt to visit it before my trip to Korea, because of the Chinese New Year's celebrations. Indeed at that time (around February 1st), the Chinese New Year occurring at the same time meant that all cheap accommodations were already fully booked and the prices were rocketing high. But two weeks later, it seemed that everything was back to normal and I had no problems finding a hostel to stay in.

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The first thing which strikes any visitor coming to Hong Kong for the first time is the multitude of skyscrapers. It seems that every company wants to have a higher and bigger building than their neighbours, and more shining as well with lightning effects. Inhabitants face also a space issue, because there are too many people for the space the Hong Kong island has to offer, then people usually live in tiny flats in 15 or more storeys buildings. Unless you make a lot of money I think it must be very hard to find a decent sized accommodation not too far from the centre. And my hostel was no exception to the rule: in what probably used to be a normal flat on the 14th floor of a building in the Tsim Sha Tsui busy district, there was now a hostel with dorms rooms, with at least 12 beds in a 12 square metre room... you see the picture... But I was not coming to HK for its quality of life but more to catch a glimpse and understand why people nicknamed long time ago this lively city Pearl of the Orient.

Actually from the beginning of the 90s, people also started to refer for Hong Kong as the "Golden Egg" because anybody could come, start up a business and make a good fortune, a bit like the American Dream.

And I actually quite enjoyed my days there, it was not as hot as it could be with temperatures averaging the 15 degrees, and humidity was not an issue either (I have been told that during other months the humidity levels can reach 100%!). As usual, staying in a hostel meant that I could meet a lot of people who were like me willing to explore the city and its surroundings (an hour away from the centre, there are actually very nice hikes to do and beaches to relax on), and even managed to fit a day trip to Macau, one of the two "Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China" with Hong Kong. Macau was actually quite interesting with its mixed Portuguese/Chinese heritage and its new massive Casinos which makes it Las Vegas' little brother.

But one week was enough (at least for this world trip) as Hong Kong is far from being cheap and after a week I realised it was time to move on to South East Asia if I wanted to make my bank account happier... Overall I had a great time there, met nice people and I would definitely recommend to spend at least a few days in Hong Kong if you are in the area!

  • Hong Kong

Hong Kong "by night" is quite impressive and photogenic!

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  • Dragon's Back hike

One of the nice hikes available only at a short distance from Hong Kong island.
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  • Lantau Island

Lantau Island is the largest island in Hong Kong, where is located the 85-foot (26 m)-high bronze Tian Tan Buddha (or "Giant Buddha") statue, once the world's largest seated outdoor bronze Buddha statue. Walkers can ascend from Tung Chung to the monastery in two hours. Visitors can also take a 25 minute ride on a Ngong Ping 360 from Tung Chung to the Ngong Ping Plateau via a 5.7 km cable car journey with a cultural themed village and easy access to the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.

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  • Macau

The streets, old fort and casinos of Macau.

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Posted by manolo84 19:30 Archived in Hong Kong Tagged cities english treks Comments (0)

Tramping in the Huxley Valley

Last post about New-Zealand....

sunny 20 °C
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Here we are, my last post about New-Zealand, which covers the last big trek I did with my friends. I think I pretty much went through all the major activities and events which occurred during these amazing 7 weeks spent in Kiwiland, and I could have stayed easily longer, if it wasn't for my bank account which was definitely crying by the time I left... New Zealand is amazing but definitely expensive when you are on a budget! :)

So that last week, I actually caught up with Thomi and his girlfriend Deborah, who I used to work with in London, but who had moved back to their home country a few years ago, in Dunedin. My other mate Seumas who was also back in NZ for some holidays joined us a day later after flying from London and Auckland, and soon enough we had our backpacks in Thomi's 4WD and were heading to the Huxley Valley to spend a few days tramping in that remote area. Having a local with you (and a car) is actually the best way to go off the beaten track, as we would see no tourists during the 3 days we spent hiking... Definitely like it should be!

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After leaving Dunedin early in the morning, we finally reached Monument Hut, our starting point by mid-afternoon, saving some time by driving with the 4WD as much as we could through some rough paths. From there, it took us at least 3 more hours walking along the valley to reach Huxley Forks Hut where we spent our first night. We were lucky to be the only ones in that hut as it could only accommodate 6 people max, so with another party we would have definitely packed.

In the early morning, during our breakfast time, we actually saw a helicopter flying low in the valley and coming right for our hut. The whole scene was a bit surreal and it felt like in a movie with the FBI agents going down and starting to run away from the helicopter. Fortunately the reality didn't really match my imagination and instead of FBI agents, it was simply some people who had been contracted by the Department of Conservation to clear the paths ahead of us. Still it was still an impressive scene for 8am!

That second day, we took off early morning, leaving our big bags in the hut as we were planning to come back later to spend a second night, and started to head off towards another hut, Brodrick Hut. It was a very steady climb, and unfortunately for us some landslides and floods had washed away the path, meaning that the quickest way was to follow the bed of the river, jumping from rocks to other rocks. Not that difficult but very unpleasant after a few hours as you need to remain concentrated to avoid twisting an ankle or just falling down. After having lunch at the hut and admiring the view of the surrounding mountains, we went back the same way, and spent our second night in Huxley Forks Hut. The weather was perfect and we would have loved spending the rest of the afternoon chilling out near the river or near the hut, if it weren't for all the sandflies which were definitely considering us like their dinner. I love New-Zealand but come on guys, do something about these bloody sandflies! They are definitely worse than mosquitoes in my opinion.

Finally the third day we started going back to where we had left the car, following the river and even crossing it quite a few times. Fun and refreshing experience! A few hours and a fish and chips later, we would find ourselves back in Dunedin, enjoying a well-deserved sleep. It was definitely the perfect way to end up my Kiwi experience, thanks a lot Thomi and Deborah for hosting and showing us around!

The next day would see me flying back to Auckland with Seumas and spending a few days at his parent's, enjoying the Auckland sunshine, before flying out to the final destination of my trip: Asia. Thanks a lot New Zealand, I really had an awesome time! And as would say my dear friend Arnold, "I'll be back" ! ;)

Thomi driving us to new adventures!

Thomi driving us to new adventures!


More waterfalls, can't get enough!

More waterfalls, can't get enough!


Amazing scenery...

Amazing scenery...


Seumas showing off on the swing bridge <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Seumas showing off on the swing bridge ;)


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That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

That's what happens when you spend too much time in London, Seumas is so happy to be back in NZ that he's now making love to the trees... ;)


Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p

Thomi wondering why he bothered taking his riffle :p


The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?

The view from the hut, where we came from. Not bad hey!?


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Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!

Couldn't do a trek without taking at least one shot from the stars!


Stream crossing

Stream crossing


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The view from Brodrick hut

The view from Brodrick hut


Our amazing group

Our amazing group


Our hiking path that day...

Our hiking path that day...


And we're back to Huxley Forks hut

And we're back to Huxley Forks hut


Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...

Deborah enjoying some sunshine (and sandflies) near the river...


A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire

A trekking trip wouldn't be complete without a bonfire


On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...

On our way back the last day. I found myself trying to take a "shortcut"...


New-Zealand rocks!

New-Zealand rocks!


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We decided to cross the rivers to save time

We decided to cross the rivers to save time


What a beard! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

What a beard! ;)


Another swing bridge

Another swing bridge


Freedom! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Freedom! :)


A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

A young couple crossing the river, hand in hand, how lovely! ;)


Weird shaped cloud

Weird shaped cloud


The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!

The team enjoying a well-deserved beer!


Back to Dunedin

Back to Dunedin

Posted by manolo84 09:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains rivers nature english treks Comments (3)

Randonnées en Nouvelle-Zélande

Tramping in New-Zealand


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Je voulais à l'origine écrire des articles séparés pour chaque grande randonnée que j'ai faite en Nouvelle-Zélande mais avec le retard pris sur le blog je pense qu'il est plus avisé de condenser un petit peu... :)

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  • Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Après donc ce superbe parcours sur la rivière Whanganui, je suis resté quelque jours autour du Nouvel An dans un village appelé National Park. Village très tranquille entouré des chaines volcaniques Tongariro, Ruapehu et Ngauruhoe. Je parlais des "9 Grandes Randonnées" de Nouvelle-Zélande dans un article précédent, et bien ici il est possible de faire une randonnée d'une journée (environ 6 heures de marche), appelée Tongariro Alpine Crossing (la traversée alpine du Tongariro). Le chemin nous fait passer à travers la chaine volcanique du Mont Tongariro avec une option pour aller au sommet du Mont Ngauruhoe (celui-là même qui a servi de modèle pour le Mont Doom du Seigneur des Anneaux). Les paysages sont splendides, les couleurs magnifiques (on peut clairement voir les anciennes coulées de lave), bref on a vraiment l'impression d’être dans un autre monde...
Le seul point négatif fut la présence de milliers de randonneurs sur le même chemin qui donne vraiment des airs d'autoroute à ce trek. On ne se refait pas, j'aime la randonnée quand je suis le seul ou presque sur les chemins. Pour cette raison je donnerais à ce trek un 9/10 quant à sa beauté, mais la présence de touristes du dimanche le fait descendre a un misérable 2/10. Vraiment trop de monde à mon goût...

Le chemin suivi cette journée

Le chemin suivi cette journée


Mont Ngauruhoe / Mont Doom

Mont Ngauruhoe / Mont Doom


Admirez ce paysage lunaire où rien ne pousse

Admirez ce paysage lunaire où rien ne pousse


Quelles couleurs!

Quelles couleurs!


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Une ancienne cheminée / coulée de lave

Une ancienne cheminée / coulée de lave


Beaucoup de monde sur le chemin... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_sad.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':(' title='' />

Beaucoup de monde sur le chemin... :(


Lac volcanique

Lac volcanique


En gros "faites pas les cons et allez pas vous faire explosez la figure!"

En gros "faites pas les cons et allez pas vous faire explosez la figure!"


L'activité volcanique est encore intense...

L'activité volcanique est encore intense...

  • Gertrude Saddle's hike

Dans les Fjordlands, cette région au sud-ouest de la Nouvelle-Zelande, se trouve le Milford Sound, magnifique fjord qui attire chaque année de nombreux touristes qui viennent admirer les cascades qui se jette dans le fjord, ou bien encore les chaines de montagne environnantes. Du coup, un des treks les plus populaires en Nouvelle-Zelande est le Milford Track, randonnées de quelques jours finissant sur le Milford Sound, mais malheureusement les permis de trek sont limités et pour celui-ci il faut même réserver plusieurs mois à l'avance! Il me fallu donc trouver un plan B pour admirer ces somptueux paysages sans avoir besoin de réserver quoique ce soit.

Alors que mes amis avaient décidé de passer la journée en kayak dans le fjord lui-même, je me fis déposer à l’entrée du fjord, dans une vallée adjacente, et entrepris de faire une randonnée assez difficile appelée The Gertrude Saddle's Hike (La randonnée de la selle de Gertrude, ça fait moins classe en français je l'avoue) dont le nom vient du fait qu'une fois en haut, on se retrouve dans un col faisant vraiment penser à une selle de cheval car entre deux vallées, avec une vue magnifique sur le Milford Sound. Par contre cette randonnée intense (3 heures de montée raide qui parfois est à la limite de l'escalade) ne peut se faire que lorsque les conditions météorologiques sont réunies: s'il pleut ou neige, les rochers deviennent glissants et dangereux et jusqu’à la toute fin de l'hiver, les avalanches sont très nombreuses... Mais bon au moins j'étais sûr de ne pas me retrouver avec des millions d'autres randonneurs!
Et je ne fus pas déçu, cette rando fut sûrement une des plus belles que j'ai jamais faite! (une des plus dures aussi)

Bon bah c'est parti pour le sommet!

Bon bah c'est parti pour le sommet!


Hum.. au moins ils annoncent la couleur d'entrée de jeu!

Hum.. au moins ils annoncent la couleur d'entrée de jeu!


Même pas peur! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Même pas peur! :)


Superbes cascades tout au long du parcours

Superbes cascades tout au long du parcours


La vue du sommet sur ce que je viens de monter

La vue du sommet sur ce que je viens de monter


La vue de l'autre coté, avec le Milford Sound (la tâche bleue) au fond

La vue de l'autre coté, avec le Milford Sound (la tâche bleue) au fond

  • Mueller's Hut Hike

Enfin, la dernière grosse randonnée que je fis en solo fut celle du refuge Mueller, près de la plus haute montagne de Nouvelle-Zélande, Mont Cook (3,724m). Cette fois je voulus tenter de passer la nuit en altitude pour pouvoir profiter des coucher et lever de soleil. La montée fut assez difficile, un peu comme la précédente même si cette fois le chemin était bien tracé mais de même, les vues au sommet furent splendides. Je pus même avoir la chance d'assister à des avalanches en continu car la montagne en face du refuge perd ses glaces tous les jours et cela crée de mini-avalanches qui font un bruit du tonnerre de dieu! Le coucher de soleil fut splendide avec des jolies couleurs rougeâtres mais malheureusement, il ne me fus pas possible de prendre des photos des étoiles ou du lever de soleil car les nuages s’invitèrent dans le ciel...

Le départ du trek, avec vue sur Mont Cook

Le départ du trek, avec vue sur Mont Cook


Le refuge est en vue, avec des passages assez techniques à travers des névés

Le refuge est en vue, avec des passages assez techniques à travers des névés


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Le soleil disparait...

Le soleil disparait...


Mais fait apparaitre également de superbes couleurs sur Mont Cook...

Mais fait apparaitre également de superbes couleurs sur Mont Cook...


La nuit d'apres (au village) etant clair, je sortis le tripod pour capturer ce paysage étoilé

La nuit d'apres (au village) etant clair, je sortis le tripod pour capturer ce paysage étoilé


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Posted by manolo84 01:52 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains volcanoes french treks Comments (0)

Torres del Paine


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

Happy new year and all the best for 2014!! It's been now a bit more than 7 months that I have started my travelling quest and I have to say that I have never seen the time flying so quickly... There is so much to discover in this world and I have only started to realise that probably a whole life is not enough, so my advice for this year to all of you who are reading me, is to get out and do things you've never done before or go where you've never been, should it be 10km from your house or in an exotic location! There is little chance that you will regret it and who knows, it might convinces you to keep on trying new things or start travelling? ;)
Anyway I wish to all my friends (old and new) as well as to my family, all the happiness possible for this new year! Some people already told me that my blog (especially the pictures taken) really gave them new ideas for future travels so thank you, it really makes me happy when I hear that! Keep on reading, there is more to come! :)

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When it comes to Patagonia and its national parks, Torres del Paine in Chile receives a lot of praise. Praise which is really well deserved as the landscape can definitely blow your mind off. Besides, add extreme weather conditions and you will understand why hikers from all over the globe come to challenge themselves here.

There are two main ways to walk Torres del Paine (unless you only want to do a day-hike and therefore only seeing a small part of the scenery), the famous W trail or the full circuit. The W trek, as its name suggests, has a shape of a W and can be walked in 4 to 5 days, in opposite to the full loop "the circuit" which will take an average of 8 to 9 days to be completed.

With my new friends Matt and Gerry we decided to opt then for the W trail, not that the idea of doing the full circuit wasn't attractive but we all didn't have enough time to do so. I just had a bit less than 3 weeks left to spend in South America and I still had to go down to Ushuaia and then go back up to Santiago. We then packed up our food for 5 days, rented the camping equipment, and set up early morning for the bus which would take us to the start of the trail.

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And this trek really didn't deceive our expectations, on the first day we set up for a gentle walk, a bit windy sometimes but totally bearable and arrived in mid-afternoon to our first campsite, next to the glacier Grey. This allowed for a bit of time wandering around and taking a few shots of the second glacier I was seeing in my life, after the Perito Moreno. I also realised pleasantly that compared to the long trek I had done in Peru, the sun here sets very late, which allows for late cooking and especially allows you to start walking later in the morning as you have more daylight.

The following days would see us walking a bit more, through rain or really windy conditions (a few times the wind was so strong that we were blown away into the bush or pushed to the side of a mountain!), but always allowing us to see amazing mountains, rock formations, forest, glaciers, sunrises, etc... The nights were also actually quite cold, definitely colder than we expected, with a +3 degrees being recorded the last night and forcing us to sleep in our thin sleeping bags with all the clothes we could possibly wear....

But at the end of the fifth day, we had to recognise that we had been lucky with the weather and that the whole trek had been really smooth (maybe at the exception of a dodgy knee for Matt and the oat meal and tent pegs we had forgotten along the way...). There were also definitely more trekkers than in Peru and the last day was a bit of a motorway because of all the day-trekkers who took the opportunity of the nice weather to climb up to see the "towers". Therefore if you are thinking of trekking Torres del Paine and enjoy being alone in the nature or with very few other trekkers, I would definitely recommend doing the full circuit which receives less attention from the hordes of tourists.

Anyway to sum up, great adventure with great people! Patagonia rocks!

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Glacier Grey in sight!

Glacier Grey in sight!


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Backpacks really loaded!

Backpacks really loaded!


Chilean and Patagonian flags

Chilean and Patagonian flags


We can start seeing one of the famous towers...

We can start seeing one of the famous towers...


The water from the streams is so clear that you can even drink it "from the source" ! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

The water from the streams is so clear that you can even drink it "from the source" ! :)


One of our "friends" met during the trek

One of our "friends" met during the trek


Weird shaped mountain, which has a volcanic origin I have been told

Weird shaped mountain, which has a volcanic origin I have been told


A rainbow suddenly showing up with the wind gusts blowing the water off the lake's surface... Really impressive

A rainbow suddenly showing up with the wind gusts blowing the water off the lake's surface... Really impressive


More wind gusts, the same ones which will blow us off into the bush a few minutes later

More wind gusts, the same ones which will blow us off into the bush a few minutes later


Waking up at 5am and climbing up to see the sun rising on the famous towers, just incredible

Waking up at 5am and climbing up to see the sun rising on the famous towers, just incredible


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Our fine team

Our fine team


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The End!

The End!

Posted by manolo84 02:10 Archived in Chile Tagged mountains nature glaciers english treks Comments (0)

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