Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category
8.30, wow we imagined it was going to get hot much earlier in the car, but better so! a quick dip in the lake and we choose the shortest (Km wise) route. After having to deal with 40 Km of German traffic on the coastal road (it is horrible how many German tourists there are there) and a bit of shopping in one of my favourites shops (Red point climbing store) in Arco we attack the first pass of the day. Our road is basically a straight line between Arco and Sagogn, which means just after the first small pass we arrive at the beginning of first “hors categorie” the G di Cadino and passo Croce Dominii (1893m starting from around 400m on a very tiny road), that takes us to Val Camunica. Passing by the valley I tell Sarah that the name says me something but I do not know what. Then we pass by a UNESCO sign that says “world centre of rock graving”, there we go, it was my Geo teacher that always talked about this place, so we go for a quick visit. The graving are a nice view but almost something for experts.
Over the colle dell’Aprica we get into valtellina and then enter Switzerland in Val Poschiavo where the custom officer checks our car looking for don’t know what.
Up to Passo Bernina (our second “Hors categorie” with 2328m) and then down into Engadin, over the Julier and we are back in Sagogn!!
Sounds short you say? more than 7 hours of secondary roads, around 5500m of altitude gain, two super slow trucks in the longest no overtake road, a picky custom officer and thousands of germans and dutch shitty drivers…
the last day in Slovenia A lot is left to do
For today we originally planned to do just a couple of things, but then we thought it might be good to not drive all the way back to CH on the Italian motorways, this would allow us to save 200km while adding “only” 5 passes to our already longish pass list .
So there we go, like Japanese tourists, we start around 8.30 with a daylight visit of the beautiful Piran, we then drive to the Skocjanske caves, a UNESCO listed classic Karst cave. After a run to catch up with the group (only guided tours allowed) we start walking into the large cave, we pass very beautiful passages in the dry cave, but the nicest part is the canyon where the river (60m below the walking path) is still active shaping the cave. The most impressing passage is a Khazad-dum like bridge (you know the bridge where Gandalf fights the Balrog in the lord of the rings – I even tell Sarah “you shall not passss” – very LOTR insider over the roaring canyon. After the cave we walk back to the car passing through a huge Doline.
Our next stop is another cave, the Postojnska jama, the most visited cave in Europe (over 32 millions people since 1818). As such it is organized almost like Disneyland, you go in for 2Km on a little train, then walk around and take the train back. Although iper-touristy, the cave is absolutely gorgeous and worth visiting, in fact even the little train ride in is quite amusing. Beside the cave itself, we came here for the Proteus. The what!? Proteus, an amphibian cave dweller, that is found only in classic karst (i.e. Slovenia, Croatia, …) caves. the Proteus is just plain fantastic, it is totally adapted to live in caves up to 100 years and can survives few years without food.
Our third target for the day is the Predjama Castle, a castle half build in a cave over a cliff in late middle age. The fortress was build by a Bandit to have a safe harbour after his “works”. It was then sub-sequentially renewed and expanded by new owners. A pretty amazing building. Only disappointment, we arrived to late to use our super duper tourist combined entrance ticket to the cave below the castle, which we then gave to some super happy Spanish backpackers.
wow, 6 o’clock and we did it all… not quite there is still a visit to Misja Pec for some climbing on the plan, we drive there and well, it was definitely worth!!!
I get in four routes and then nichgsfalls and we start driving toward Italy. At one in the morning we arrive at the Lago di Garda, where we would like to camp. First camp no night guard, second neither, third YES!!! “ups sorry I’m full like all other around here…” , crap! He then suggests us a parking by the lake where we might sleep in the car (the JUSTY), well doesn’t sound promising but then Sarah has an idea, what if our air bed fits in the car? we try and it does, so we rearrange the baggagesss so that they form a flet surface, push the materass on it, hang some clothes on the window and the perfect pocket size camper van is ready for a earnenightht sleep!!!
The northern Adriatic is well known not only for its pretty coastline but as well for the many wrecks. Today I (Sarah didn’t come due to the super cold water) went for the nicest one, the Baron Gautsch. After a painfully slow 2 hours diesel boat ride we enter the water to descend on the main line, the surface current is more like a river than a sea, but at 6m it’s all calm. the water is definetly too cold (13°) foar 5+5mm wetsuit but whatever I’m here so lets forget the cold. The visibility wasn’t great, but the wreck looks really nice. At a depth of 35-42m the 100m passenger boat lies flat on the sand and allows very easy dives on the upper deck. I do a 40min dive with 6min Deco using EAN28. I’d be nice to come with doubles, a Deco stage and reels to penetrate the lower decks.
As I get back we leave for Porec and its UNESCO listed Byzantine cathedral with amazing mosaics on the aside, and then further to Piran where we go out for some good fish and spend the night in an hotel.
Today easy day, after amusing ourself looking at our tent neighbour try to reconstruct his alcholised memories from the night before we go for a stroll in Rovinj pretty old town. After a couple of hours we move to the premanura peninsula , set up our camp and then go visit Pula whit its Roman coliseum. As we enter the main place we find a wifi and discover that Contador had won the Tour… pity for Schleck
Did you know that there are Griffon Vultures in Europe? I didn’t, but apparently the island of Cres is one of the only places where they are found. After visiting the small village of Cres we decide to check out if this Griffon really exist and head out toward the northern tip of the island where they are supposed to live. To positive surprise, on the way there we see two majestic birds circling over us and we start taking pictures like back in other trips when animal watching was one of our main activity. We visit the griffon’s rescue centre in Beli where we learn more about this huge (up to 3m wingspan) birds and have the chance to see 18 of them that are currently in rehabilitation after having been injured or poisoned by eating animals carcasses (in the sense that man want to kill the animal but then the griffon unfortunately eats the rests becoming poisoned as well). Cres has a Griffon population of about 70 couples, which is good, but there is less and less food since there are not many Sheppard any more.
In the afternoon we took a ferry to Istria and went to a beach waiting for the weather to get a bit cooler and then go climbing to Vela Draga. Unfortunately, we miscalculated a bit the distances and got only a couple of router at this amazing place made of calcium carbonate pinnacles. I got only two routes, but I worked hard, toooo hard for both of them
Today we head towards Slovenia. Just before crossing the border near Tarvisio we go to the Lago di Fusine where we have a walk in the woods I’ve a quick dip.
Just after the border we see a signal poining to a place called Planica, and I tell Sarah, I know that name, isn’t it a huge ski jump place? so we head there and it is indeed the ski flying trampoline (239m is the record).
After that we move to Kranjska Gora where we walk around a bit and then decide to go over the vsic pass to Trenta.
The road to the pass is amazing, right in the middle of the Julian Alps and the walls are just there. At a certain point, we can admire the 1000m tall nord wall (the 3rd biggest in europe) of the Prisank and we decide that the tomorrow we’ll do a ferrata in it that goes through the hole in the wall.
15 km of widing road after we are at the camp site in Trenta in the gourgeous valley where the Soca (Isonso) river is born.
Weel, today is mountain day, we are in the Dolomites and even if we are only passing by the call of the summits is to big to resist so we decide to do a via ferrata.
Aftre some gear shopping, we head to the start and with some struggles (well Italian trail marking wasn’t really helping us) wasn’t we get to the foot of the “via ferrata della brigata Trientina” – a classic on the dolomites. It goes up a nice 400m shoulder towards the Pisciadu hut.
Being on a classic on a Sunday in July means of course TRAFFIC, on the route and below on the road with plenty of wannabe Valentino Rossi polluting the fine air
After having to walk really slow because of a guy that “didn’t notice” the 10 persons (and growing) behind him we passed over the hanging bridge ant there we were, the hut was just 300m further. We kind of run to it because we can hear thunders getting nearer. A small bite and down running through a narrow gully where (definitely not mountain) people are still smiling and walking UP… I decide to take the skiing shortcut over some nevee and Sarah runs all the way down to the bottom of the gully. Then a last 15min run and we just make it to the car when hail starts pouring like crazy… well, running paid off
After the Hail is over we move over the Passo Gardena toward Alta badia (wow, it looks great too), Passo campolongo, Cortina (where we stop for a beer and the end of the Tour de France stage), Lago di Cadore and finally, since it is getting 20.30 (and the world cup final game is imminent) we stop in a small hotel in Lorenzago di Cadore.
The game is well boring but the company (we lower the age average by 40 years) very amusing
What a day! so sunny without a cloud! our plan was to head toward Mustair and visit the UNESCO world heritage Abbey. Really beautiful and still inhabited with (yes) real nones, this site has been listed because it is in (re)construction since the 7th century!
After this refreshing visit, we thought that driving the famous Stelvio pass was a good idea! could have been, but a bike race (the feminine giro) stopped us for 2 hours on the top. A sunburn after it was less amusing!
so, we finally made it… at 4 o clock we decide to leave Chur without the Eastern Europe Lonely planet. we had ordered it from amazon but it took longer than usual to deliver, so we tried to get one in Chur wihout luck.
we leave fo Engadin and further to val Mustair. After yesterdays Furka and Oberalp we go over Lenzerheide, Albula and Fuorn (Ofenpass). Actually, GRAUBUNDEN IS REALLY COOL!!!
We after passing through the beautifull $swiss national park we arrived in Santa Maria, the biggest village in Val Müstair and looked for an hotel room… thinking south american prices well the hotels were all soo beautiful and expensive that we decided that our tent was going to be perfect!!!
and since we saved on the room we went out for dinner… To try how they do cook Capun here we took the car and drove to Lü and discovered that they are very good here as well. BTW ever heard of Lü???
It is finally so far, we do leave for our next trip TOMORROW!!!
So stay tuned and we’ll try to put some nice pics of Slovenija and Croatia online
Tell me a word with q not followed by u!?
What about Qatar? It can save you in a scrabble game (ask Sally;)
Well, on our way back we decided to have a 20h stop over in Doha, Qatar’s capital and (almost) only city. We arrived from Kuala Lumpur at 6.00 in the morning after having spent the whole day before walking around KL. Pretty tired we decided to take a cab and go downtown. Doha is a 400.000 city and it’s business district stretches along the coast of a small gulf for about 9 km. Since it was so early we decided to stop half way and then walk on the “corniche” to the “center”. Walking along the sea at 6.30 in the morning breeze was pretty enjoyable and it was interesting to see a mix of expats and typically dressed peoples making their mornings sport…
Around 8 we were getting cold (this was the first temperature shock 31->18) and went into a huge shopping mall with ice skating rink… Imagine the temperature
After some coffee and window shopping had a look around the ultra modern buildings that they are building everywhere, in fact, the feeling you get walking around the business district is that you are doing something wrong, the roads have 6 lanes, everybody moves by car and the whole thing is in construction.
A short nap on the corniche and we take a cab to the camel market. Getting there gets us through the city outskirts wich are very different to the center, here you feel that you actually are in the middle of a desert. Everything is pale yellow/gray and covered in sanddust. The market itself was cool, nothing to do with a lively asian market (probably because we’re more likely to buy a fake Billabong tshirt than a camel), foremost since the traders where not interested at all in selling us anything and happily tried to give us some information using handsigns just in case you are interested, a work/meat camel goes for 1000 to 3000 USD, racing camels for much more!
As the evening approached we tried to visit the islamic art museum wich was closed and then moved on to the impossible quest of finding the number 1 attraction of Doha, the old Bazaar. I say impossible because the map we had had a kind of bizarre variable scale. As we had almost given up we tried one last little road, and there we were, a beautifully restored city in the city with spices shops, falcons shops, restaurants, lots of locals and, yes, tourists!
After a huge iraki dinner we went back to the airport with the feeling that Doha is definetly interesting enough for a stop over, but not a 20h one
Last day in Malaysia, pity the trip is already almost over ahead of us just two nights in the plane , 20 hours in Qatar and then snow.
But back to KL, the biggest city in Malaysia, the place of the Petronas towers and shopping malls… a hard day indeed, with a lot of walking, we got there around noon and started walking to china town where we wanted to buy some last original T-shirts and stuffs . A super veggie lunch and we’re ready for more walking, back to the bags dealer where we forgot our lonely planet… typical! Then off to little India where we buy some curry powder to take home.
Getting really tired, we decide to take the metro to go to the Petronas towers and we get there as it starts to get dark and they light the towers. Actually kitsch but pretty amazing!
A “quick” trip to the golden triangle, KL’s lively business and mall district, a Thai dinner, a last walk back to the bus station and we’re off to the airport. Mean of transport: a taxi with a driver which has no clue where the airport is… cool!
since we hadn’t done much “cultural” (as in humanistic discipline) during the whole month, we though that Melaka would be a good place to stop on the way to KL. Indeed it was, Melaka is a small city on the Melaka straight. This strategic position made of the city a major hub for Asia trading companies during many years. Obviously, the city was very important to European countries which successively ruled the city leaving their architectural and cultural marks. The result is a very interesting mix of Portuguese, Dutch and British colonial architecture and cuisine topped with modern day’s Chino-Malay way of living.
The centre of the town, which has been declared UNESCO world heritage site last year, boasts a gorgeous red brick complex, build between a hill and the riverside, which served as governor housing, church and city-hall.
Being the Sunday at the end of the Hari Raya Haj (?), one of the biggest Muslim festivity, the city was dressed up for a big festival with open air performances all around the old centre. After a dodgy performance by a NZ movement researcher we moved across the river, on jalan carpenter, the road where the Chinese have settled their Chinatown.
Jalan Carpenter is a bustling little road with a night market and touristy shops. As we got there the night market was being set up forcing all the people into close proximity and obligation to watch the stands, a mix of tourist gifts, food stalls and magic cleansing products sellers. And then THE highlight of the day, a real, original, straight-to-your-heart open air Chinese karaoke where elder peoples brought their favourite midi bases and sang on a huge stage!
Definitely a nice place Melaka
Borneo, the land of the wild, the forest and the oil palm.
One month in borneo has reserved us a lot of beautiful surprises but has given us a lot to think about as well.
Our last two days on Borneo, what shall we do? Of course run to a national park for the last bits of nature full immersion.
Bako national park is a costal park only half an hour from Kuching but definetly remote enough, in fact
Well, we can’t really say that our trip was a cultural trip, unles you consider seeing plenty of wildlife is a cultural activity. Since we decided to cut the batan rejang side trip to go to bako national park we had lowered the quota of cultural activity to nearly 0. So we decided to go for the emergency/touristy solution: the Sarawak cultural village. This is a sort of living museum (like Ballenberg in Switzerland) depicting all the indigenous etnies traditional houses, uses and costumes. Going there we were a bit skepitcal about the whole thing, but once there we were very pleased to see that the place was very tourisy but actually very interesting. we got plenty of informations about the history of Sarawak and about how people lived in the past and live nowadays in longhouses.
Further more Sarah got to see Otters for the first time!!!
So, all in all touristy but interesting
I don’t know if some of you had the chance to see a film called “Shark water” http://www.sharkwater.com but if not we encourage you to watch it! We did it a few days ago…
Shark are an endangered species because chinese people (for some kind of crazy believes) eat their fins!!! so millions of sharks are killed every day just for their fins and then thrown dead back in the ocean. This is intolerable!
We unfortunately saw a few chinese shops selling sharks fins in Kuching! I can tell you: this feels not right! At all!
(In a slightly American way of doing things: “while you read this post (2’30”) 500 Sharks have been killed“ http://www.savingsharks.com)
We thought that for our first day in kuching we will just spend it walking around. Since we arrived pretty late with the bus the night before, it was a late morning start! Never mind, the town isn’t so big so we will have time! The atmosphere there was unusual, different from Miri or KK! That might be because it is old… there were even a few 200 years old Chinese temples!!!! it was really pleasant (specially the chocolate waffle followed by Lebanon food).
This whole trip has been kind of not super organized, I guess that it’s because we tackled it as a long trip (as the last two we dud in the americas) but 30 days is not that much and you have to plan a bit more… Nothing drammatic of course, just that you might end up doing a lot of unforseen bus travelling instead of short (and almost at same price) flights.
On the other hand, cheap flights are very restrictive regarding last minutes changements, like our Mulu-Miri flight which we would have loved to anticipate of half day so that we would make it in one day to Belaga the following day. It didn’t happen, a change would have cost more than the actual flight, so we flew to Miri as planned, spent some time at the airport and then took a bus to Bintulu. By the time we arrived, Sarah was very sick for she ate something wrong in Mulu. The day After Sarah was feeling better and we had a very though task ahead of us: plan the last 10 days of our trip. The original plan was to go to Belaga, a small comunity 150km upstream the Batang Rejang (a very large river) and then boat down to Kapit, Sibu and finally Kuching. From there fly to Singapore, then Melakka and finally Kuala Lumpur. But as I said only 10 days left and we don’t like to rush too much so we decided (after a very very mathematically complex analysis involving some 5th degree differential equations) to skip the Batang Rejang part and to leave by bus to Kuching and stay there 4 days and then fly to Singapore.
Moral of the story, sometimes if you don’t plan you end up doing 15 h of bus over 2 days instead of a 45 minutes fly
The night shift!
That was definitely one of the 10 RM we spent! Apart from the 3 Germans guys that kept speaking very loud ( the key point when you try to see the wildlife at night is to SHUT UP!)
We saw snakes (yes with an s and one of them felt on our guide head…), a moon rat which was pretty cool (all white with fur), walking sticks, frog, cockroaches (beuh) and lots a insects!
The next morning we went for a canopy walk at 7 am, supposedly the best time to see some mammals! The canopy are actually bridges at 20-30 ms high between trees. . And that was really nice. We weren’t that lucky regarding the animal side…that all right, once again this is part of the game. In the late morning, we went for a self guided walk to another cave! On the way we saw quite a lot of crazy insects! Mantis, dragon flies and lots of colourful macro things..
The Pinnacles, the one sight I remember most (maybe the paradise bird dance – but that was in Papua New Guinea) from Planet Earth when David Attenbourgh is narrating about Borneo! What he does not tell is that they got there by helicopter and that getting there on foot involves quite a lot sweating and a 3 days trip (well it could be done in 2). The First day we left Mulu HQ by boat and stopped to visit Wind Cave and Clearwater cave 170km
If you have ever seen the best documentaries series ever made (BBC’s Planet Earth, which we super highly recomend) you will feel confortable with this and the next posts since we are starting the main course of our trip. Niah Caves and the Gunung Mulu national park.
But first things first, today we took a small van to the UNESCO world heritage site of the Niah Caves. As the name says the main attraction here are the limestone caves, what the name does not say its the grandeur of theese…
After walking for about an hour from the park entrance we arrived to the Traders Cave (which is actually a cavern – meening that it is very wide open on one side. A bit like the difference between a tunnel and a bus shelter), where we coud see the rests of an early bird’s nest and guano collectors settlement used as a trading post with the costal traders, hence the name.
Few minutes further we got to west mouth of the great cave. 60m high and 250m wide, it definetly deserves the name!!! And it is only the entrance… Moving into the cave we got the feeling of being in a huge place, althoug dark, you could feel how big these chambers where, foremost when the powerfull torch would’t make it to the opposite wall or ceiling. Even more spectacular are the bamboo and ironwood (belian) poles used by the local birds’ nest collectors. I have no idea how they hang them on the ceilings to later climb on them to collect the saliva-made swiftlets’ nests highly regarded in Chinese cuisine (birds’ nest soup is a very exxclusive plate as caviar is in Europe). Fortunately, the park constantly monitors the harvesting to keep the swiftlets population healty and avoid yet another ecological catastrophy caused by Chinese beliefs (see turtle eggs poaching and most remarkably shark finning).
After walking for about an hour in the dark we emerged on the other side of the cave where we walked through the forest to the Painted cave, a very quiet and relaxing place where old cave paintings and death-ships (boat shaped coffins) illustrate the burial beliefs of early Niah settlers.
On the way back after going through the great cave we decided to have a look at the longhouse nearby and of course to take the other branch of the plankwalk… Well lets say it would have been easier to listen to the kiosk ladies saying “tida bagus, tida bagus (not good, not good)” but then what explorers would we be ? So we took it and had to crawl under, jump over, climb around fallen trees that where blocking the way… Well it was hot but fun!
Ok, let’s do a bit of geo trivia:
- which countries share Borneo? (easy)
- which one is the richest one? (easy)
- what is it’s capital name? (medium)
- what is it’s ruler complete name and how much did he invest in a Country club? (hard)
Here the answers:
- (ordered by percentage) Indonesia (Kalimatan), Malaysia (Sabah & Sarawak), Brunei Darussalam
- Brunei, thanks to it’s oil fields
- Bandar Seri Begawan, also known as BSB
- the complete name take 2 lines and I can’t recall it… The empire hotel and country club costed 1 Billion US$
Well, you guessed it, we are in Brunei right now. Pretty interesting place, fairly different from sabah, it looks richer and along the road you can actually see rain forest and not oil palm! Which is nice, very nice!
We are here just for two days, tomorrow we’ll leave for Miri in Sarawak and then to Gunung Mulu!
BSB is a small city (90000 inhabitants, Brunei has 400000) with coupple of interesting Mosques and a museum filled with presents to the Sultan by other heads of state… Funny what they give each other… I wouldn’t want to keep those things in my house, ehm palace (did I mention the sultan’s palace is 200000 sqm and has 1788 rooms?)…
For the rest, we had a very chill day walking around and in the evening had an interesting conversation about brunei/immigration/chinese/oil/switzerland/… With a local journalist.