Tag Archives: outdoors

Dreams, turtles and mango

 

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I’ve been travelling all over the world, almost and every trip was somehow meant to fulfill a dream. To see the world was just a small part of it. The final destination is never the goal of my travels, it’s just a way to find next destination. And next, and next. Why? Just because I have this opportunity to see the world, I can breathe, I’m not hungry and I have somewhere to stay. Well, and I am curious.

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First 20 seconds of the first dive, that’s the time it took to meet this guy

me

Happy diver, that’s me!

One of those trips few years ago took me to Philippines and the island of Cebu. It was planned as diving trip, so we packed our gear, the expectations were high and we said good bye to Swedish winter. Half a day later it was time to say hello to Asian sunshine. And I discovered that my bag was lost in Amsterdam, where we changes planes. Now imagine the picture: when everyone was changing to shorts, t-shirts, sandals and sunglasses I was standing like a fool in my winter jacket, thick shirt made of wool, jeans and winter boots. Dressed like I was going on a polar expedition.

My tip number one is now: pack your toothbrush, sunglasses and a set of clothes suitable for your final destination. Tip number two: if you are travelling with someone: let that person take half your baggage and take half of his or hers. If you lose one bag, the second one usually will not be lost. The bag often arrives to your destination one or two days delayed. That way you will not be sorry.

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And there is a turtle again

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And one more

Now over to diving in Cebu. We travelled across the island to a village called Moalboal. Beautiful picturesque place with friendly people, good food and fantastic mangos. Of course we went out diving the first thing we did. How about my lost gear? I got to borrow a full set, so I wouldn’t sit on the boat feeling sorry for myself or swearing about lost bags.

We were told that if, and only if we were lucky, we could see a turtle during our two weeks here. And guess if we were lucky. We saw no less than four. On our first dive. Four! The rest was not so important. We saw flute fish, and mandarin fish, and butterfly fish, and barracudas, and lion fish, and moray eels. And the most memorable were turtles, beautiful, gracious and huge. It’s hard to top the sea turtles with anything else.

lion fish

Lion fish, beautiful and poisonous

fish

One, two, many

razor fish

Razor fish

nemo

We found Nemo!

We ate and drank good, fresh food. Mango shakes every morning, sea food and more sea food. We had to wait for hours when we ordered the food, but it was just the way it was and it didn’t stress us a bit. And we learned how to cut mango, to get out every last piece of it. Secrets of sunny countries. One evening we went out for drinks and we ordered rum and coke. We got a drink, that was quite light and pale, so we asked what that was. “You know, coke is expensive here.”, the bartender replied with a smile.

palm tree

Palm tree with coconuts

fights

Cruel cock fights

When you dive, you have to take a day off once in a while. It’s for safety reasons, so your body can actually get rid of all the nitrogen . So we did take a day off once or twice. One day we were taken to a local gathering. It turned out to be cockfights. Cruel, mean and terrible tradition and it’s said to be over 6000 years old, which makes it oldest betting competion in the world. The roosters hate each other and want to fight, but are also equiped with razors, which makes it very cruel. We were told, that the looser was killed and served for dinner. I still think it’s cruel and people should make other aware of why and what the alternatives can be.

A really scary thing happened when we were out in the jungle: a coconut fell down next to a little girl. I think it touched her, because she fell and started to cry. People were in panic not knowing what to do. Apparently that happens once in a while and it also happens that it can kill, if it hits you in the head. The coconuts are heavy after all and it is a high fall..

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Hungry fellow

Eel

Hungry fellow?

Evening time we were sitting by the sea, in our place and listened to the sea and stories about life around Moalboal, and the volcanic island across the bay, the monsun seasons. We told dive stories and listened to others and their experience, we dreamt of seeing whale sharks and more turtles. The time passed by pretty pleasent.

Daytime, of course there was more diving. We never saw whale shark, but more turtles. We dived at a airokane wreck and saw garden eels and several cleaning shrimps and a octopus. Of course we saw more lion fish, dragon fish and a very strange frog fish. It didn’t swim, but crawled around the corals. At one time we even saw a tiny sea horse.

One of the last dives we went to an underwater island with pretty strong streams, where there is a memory plate after a diver who died there. I’m not surprised, since it was a difficult dive. Difficult and very rewarding. We saw murray eels, large lion fish and barracudas. The fish here were larger and maybe not as many as in other places, but definetly more interesting. It was a good last place to dive at.

river climb

River climb was a wet adventure

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Up waterfalls and other cool places

At the end of our stay we went for river-climbing. It was fun, we got wet and it was a great challenge. The rocks in the river were slippery, the waterfalls high and quite a few, and when you fell down into the water you have to start the last moment one more time. But I made it! Were it was too dangerous too climb up the waterfalls we climb at the “dry” path on the side. Or drier, but still quite wet and slippery. It happened once or twice or more times that the person climbing fell down into the water below and had to start over again. And it happened that we fell down on purpose, having fun. The water was warm and pleasant, so it was pretty nice.

At the end of the river climb adventure we had a very nice lunch with the local people, and yes, we were hungry Wouldn’t you after a climb like that?

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Well, the parts of Philippines that we visited are not on UNESCO’s world heritage list. Still it was a great trip. And yes,  I got my bag on the second day. Would I like to go back? Sure!

//Monika

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I would erase it, if I could

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This was one of the best trips of my life. This was one of the worst trips of my life. This was a goal, as vague as the thick  morning mist on the way to the top and as clear as the air above the clouds. This was a goal that was never reached. And the question is do I want to erase it? No way, but I want to erase a meeting with the travel agent who recomended one day less, then we wished to have on the way to the top of Kilimanjaro.

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What a beauty!

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On the way, still believing we are going to make it

The travel agent told us we would make it, no problem. We started out and we walked, for hours and hours. Day after day. We passed jungle, bushes with “beard”, smaller plants and we arrived in hostile environment and yet, so beautiful. It was hard, but it worked. Step after step. One breath of air at a time. More and more beautiful. More and more will to make it. Until the last day. The last day we were supposed to walk two day-trips in one day. Something like eight hours up, up, up to 4600 meters. The view up there was great and we just fell down sleeping.

The guide woke us up after maybe an hour: “You have to eat!”Sure, we ate a lot, but still like in a dream. And fell asleep again. Sleep! The whole body was screaming. Sleep!

After a few more hours at midnight the guide woke us up again. “Time to go”. One is our trio decided to stay, we went. Step after step, eyelids fell down, we were trying to keep awake. Step after step. Were the first snow started to cover the ground my friend turned back. I continued for one more hour, maybe two. Step after step, trying not to sleep while walking. Step after step. Finally I gave up. I felt if I ever make it to the top, I’ll have to go back too and I’ll never make it in one piece.

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The last stop

Yes, if I’d to delete anything it would be that meeting. I would prefer to meet some other agent who would plan this trip differently. One more day.

Kilimanjaro is a UNESCO’s world heritage site since 1987. Link to the site: Kilimanjaro.

And Kilimanjaro still gets five globes.

 

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

Daily Prompt: Erasure.

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Wooden pieces of art, hiking in the Tatra mountains and snow in May

The year was 2008 and I was ready for new adventure. I didn’t have so much time and nobody to go with, so I chose one of my favourite places, Zakopane, where I feel almost like at home. Zakopane is a wonderful little town in southern Poland and it has it all. Skiing in winters, hiking in summers. It has culture, very special architecture and very special people. In a good way. And it has very many tourists, but that’s OK.

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Little bird hiding from the rain

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The forest is green, where the mountains start

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One example of local architecture, maybe not so typical

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More typical house

I’ve been to Zakopane many times, first time as a 4-yrar old learning how to ski, later many times skiing and hiking, celebrating Christmas, watching ski-jumping competitions and just exist. And you can find some of the world heritage sites near Zakopane, the wooden churches of southern Poland. The architecture in this region is very special. The roofs are very steep, since the winters are very snowy. That can be seen on churches as well. They are not huge and magnificent, but small, warm, wooden and very much like local folklore. And that makes them magnificent.

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Another typical house with steep roof, preventing it from breaking because of the heavy snow wintertime

And one of these churches is in Zakopane. It lies next to central parts of town, near a top called Gubalowka and many people pass tit every day. Next to the church there is an old cemetery, where you can find graves of famous Polish people, like artists, doctors and other well known people from this region. As a small kid I was both fascinated and scared by this place. I liked to walk here and look at the very old dates and dreamt terrible nightmares during the nights. And come back few days later. It’s not so scary now, but the church is as beautiful, if not more.

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A very small church on Gubalowka hill

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A wooden church near main street in Zakopane

This time Zakopane welcomed me with beautiful sunny spring weather. I stayed here many times, so I knew where I could find a room in the town and I did this time as well. I always stay in town and make day-trips hiking. This way I don’t need any sleeping bags and other heavy stuff, only some snacks for the day, hiking shoes and rain gear. Perfect!

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On the way to Giewont

Giewont

On the top of Giewont. I did it! Again!

The first day was time for Giewont. It’s a mountain pretty close to the town, that looks like a sleeping person. Locals have built a steel cross on top of it in the beginning of 20:th century. It’s not a good place to be in a thunder storm. From top of Giewont there is a wonderful view of Zakopane ansd the surrounding mountains. Giewont is 1952 high and, besides the last part, is an easy mountain. And everyone climbs it: guys with small children and women in high heels. Not because it’s so easy, it’s not, but because it’s so close to the town. It’s still dangerous to be in the mountains and accidents do happen.

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Running away from the rain

At the end of the trail, when you almost reach the top of Giewont, there are iron chains that you can hold on to, making the way up a little easier. The weather was nice when I got there, but suddenly dark clouds showed up, so it was time to leave the mountain behind and seek cover in town. I don’t remember if I got very wet this time. And it doesn’t really matter. It was a nice whole-day hike.Not too tiring, just good day walking. And water to drink? Well, you can fill your bottle from the creeks, the water is crystal clear.

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Way to the lake Morskie Oko

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Morskie Oko Lake, picture taken during another trip in June few years before

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Morskie Oko lake from above, picture taken few years before

The second day of the adventure I decided to go yo Morskie Oko, The Eye of the Sea. It’s a beautiful lake situated in the Highest part of the Tatra mountains, the High Tatras. There is a nice mouintain cottage there, where you can eat a good meal, have some tea. And they have just the perfect apple cake. To get to the lake, you take a bus from Zakopane and go almost to the border with Slovakia, near the Lysa Polana. From the last bus stop it’s about 10 km easy walking to the lake. It’s easy, quite many tourists, but it’s totally worth it. The scenery is beautiful. The mountains are majestic. There is another wooden church in the woods in this area. I’ve been here a few times before and even if it’s a bit hard to reach, it’s really worth it. The place is called Jaszczurowka, the place of lizards.

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A crow, that stole my sandwich, while I was photographing it. Nasty bird,

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A sheep, they are many in the area

I skipped Jaszczurowka this time. In stead I went to Morskie Oko. In the crystal clear water it’s easy to sea trouts. It takes abot an hour to rond the lake. At the far end the trail continueas to Polish highest peak, Rysy. I thought about going there, but I got to the next lake, a bit above Morskie Oko, called Czarny Staw, the Black Pond. The view from there is magnificent. This time a year there was still a lot snow in the area, so I decided to head back.

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Rest of a forest, trees broken by an avalanche

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On the way to the Valley of the Five Lakes

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Cottage in the Valley of the Five Lakes

The day was still far from over. I now went to the Valley of five lakes. There was lots of broken trees on the way, a sign of avalanche. It’s quite common wintertime. I  got there and thought that maybe I should go back to Zakopane over the mountains, passing Zawrat, one of the more difficult passages, at least for a normal tourist. I headed for the passage but the weather changed. The thick fog came from nowhere and a guy I met on the way told me that he was heading for Zawrat, but turned back, since the visibility there was terrible and there was lots of snow. Well, I turned back as well. We went back to the bus at Lysa Polana. It’s been a long day, good day. As a lst perfect thing, soon after we took off, the bus driver hit the breakes. Why, A bear mother was crossing the road with her cubs. There are a lot of brown bears in the Tatras.

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Still lots of snow in the Valley

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Mountains are beautiful in the spring

I decided to take it easy the next day. After all, I did two long days already, so the third day was going to be short. I went to the Koscieliska Valley. It’s a very beautiful valley in the Western Tatras. I took a bus from the town to the start point of the trail and started trekking up towards the end of the valley. On the wayI went up to a cave in the Valley, and a nearby lake with a beautiful view, where water is like a mirror with images of the mountains. In the end of the valley there is a tourist cottage as well with great bigos, a beer or why not the apple cake.

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The Koscieliska Valley

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The Canyon Cracow

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The small cave in the Valley

Not far from the Koscieliska Valley, I thought, there is another valley, Chocholowska, why not go there and go back that way instead. And so I startedto ascend up the passage to the other valley. The passage was through the woods and much longer than on the map. Much longer. And when I came down in the Chocholowska Valley it was starting to get dark. But I went by a wooden chapel (not church), that former Pope, John Paul II used to visit, and continued out of the valley. The valley is also much longer than I remembered. At the end I bought some local cheese, oscypek, and took the bus back to town. And was I tired.

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Forest between the two Valleys with a creek

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Finally in the Chocholowska Valley, it’s getting late

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Cute cow in the Valley

Forget nice and easy, this last day of my visit to the mountains was going to be long, hard and even longer. I decided to go on a trail that I never tried before, but it looked long, even on the map.It went over the passage Krzyzne to the Valley of the Five Lakes, a long and esausting trekk, but very very beautiful. I started out from the town, no bus this time, and was up ion the trail pretty soon. I passed the cottage Murowaniec pretty early and continued on. The trail was quite empty. I didn’t meet a single person, which is quite unusual in the Tatras. The day was sunny and quite warm, winters snow could be seen at the shady places, but was melting fast.

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Beautiful montains on the way

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Going over the passage in Krzyzne

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Mountains and the Valley of the Five Lakes far down

After a few hours I reached a passafe that I was heading for. The view of the Valley of Five Lakes was magnificent. I went down to the Valley. There is a cottage there as well, but I didn’t have time to stop here. It was almost evening. I continued to the bus at Lysa Polana ans was in town quite late, very tired, very happy, loving it.

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Beautiful mountains

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Horses on Gubalowka

The next day I went to Cracow and got sick. Fever and no energy. Maybe it was because of the hard four days in the montains? Well…

The woden churches of southern Polans became world heritage in 2003. The link to the site: Wooden churches of southern Little Poland.

My grade to this world heritage is four out of five. Maybe it should be three, but they are so beautifully situated and very special in their simplicity.
GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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What a mountain, what a beauty, Kilimanjaro

It has been a dream for me for a long time to reach the top of Kilimanjaro. This time the dream was about to be true. The world’s highest freestanding mountain with its 5895 meters was in front of me. The dormant valcano was within my reach. On our first African trip in 2007 we started with visit to Serengetti and Ngorogoro, as I described in an earlier post. The next to visit was the great mount Kilimanjaro. I described that as well in an earlier post, but this time I’ll try to go even deeper (higher?) and of course have much more pictures.

Machame gate

Machame gate, where we filled out some papers and got ready

We chose the Machame route, even called the whiskey route. It is a little bit harder than the easiest one, but still quite easy. We chose to walk it in six days. It showed to be a little of a planning miss, but we still didn’t know it yet. There wewre a lot of people at the gate, some tourists, some guides, some porters. Going to Kilimanjaro you must have a guide and at lest two porters, whether you like it or not.

Porters

Porters waiting in line

Out guide, Moses was a student and he loved Kilimanjaro and Tanzanian nature. I understand that. We saw our porters with our bags for just a few seconds and then they ran away. I mean ran. With about 20 kilos on their backs and another 20 kilos on their heads they ran to prepare meals and campsite for us. That’s luxury.

Ourguide

Our guide,Moses with Swedish reindeer-hat

Rain forest

Fern

A huge fern growing up. Looked like an ancient plant.

We started walking throgh the rainforest. It was green, thicks and very moist. At obe time it also rained. The plants were a little bit bigger then we are used to. The dark was a little bit darker and the rain a little bit wetter. The feelings were on thr edge and the expectations on top. One of the first words we learned was Pole, pole, meaning Slow, slow. We were not supposed to run. We were supposed to walk slowly, to get used to the height and the thinner air.

Trees

Trees with “beards”.

The higher up we got, the thinner the air, the thinner the soil, the thinner the trees. First we got out of the rain forest and came to area with smaller trees with white moss hanging from them. Later we got to tall bushes. At the first camp were only large bushes. We arrived at the campsite in the afternoon and before meal we were welcomed with nuts, pop-corn, hot chocolate and tea.

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Nuts and pop-corn

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Berries found at the first campsite

The meals at the campsites were large, simple and quite good. There were lots of rice or pasta and most often chicken. Lots of carbs, so we could walk and walk and walk.

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Porter running up that little hill

The second day we kept walking. There was not much talk or anything else, just slow walking. There are a lot of tourists on the mountain. We saw many of them at the campsites, some on the way, further up in front of us. They were probably behind as well, but we didn’t look back. Walking and not talking makes you forget the world, so I was not aware od other people. That’s good.

Crow

A white collared crow

Flower

Dried flower

Mist

The mist

The next day was foggy and misty. We felt tired and didn’t sleep so well. I think it was the height. My heart was beating really fast and when I slept, I slept very light and woke up easy. Not a nice feeling. Good that we had some time to get used to the height. When we woke up in the morning the tent was covered with frost. It was cold during the night. We were getting closer.

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Frost on our tent

In the morning the clouds went away and finally we saw it, the great Kilimanjaro. It was so close and so far away at the same time. And we still had few more days to go. It felt better in the morning with the sunshine. I had a headake, almost as a hangover. I guess it was the height as well.

Kilimanjaro

And there it was, first view of Kilimanjaro and the snows

This day we walked higher then the days before. We got up to about 4200 meters to the Lava Tower and down again. The Lava Tower looked pretty cool. t was a tower in the middle of otherwise flat terrain. Except the mountain of course. The environment felt hostile. It could be because of thr moist and fog that got back. I think that could be the clouds that we were walking inside. The toilets at this place were also really ugly. They were stinking a long way and a lot of people chose to go and do whatever outside the toilets, which made this place even worse.

Lava tower

The Lava Tower

After seeing the Lava Tower we walked down to the Barranco camp. It was a beautiful place with the view of the mountain and it’s snow on one side and the town of Moshi far down on the other.When we got there it was cloudy, but later the clouds blew away and the night with milions of stars was beautiful. I slept a little bit better now, but my heart was still beating faster then usuallt to compensate the lower level of oxygen.

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View of Kilimanjaro from Baraco campsite

In the morning we started out just after breakfast and had the touthest day so far. We went to the Barranco Passm where we almost had to climb, looking down in a steep hole below us. The guides told us not to fall. Thanks!

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Going up

We walked and walked. This day was very long. Some groups decided to stay after a little more then half way. We only had our luncg there and kept on going. It was raining and it was cold, but we didn’t care. It just put one foot in front of the other. I was feeling tred, but quite good, but my friends were feeling the height sickness and they couldn’t rat so much. Not so good if you have to walk and walk.

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The stones that we walken on were made of lava

The lava ground that we were walking on was not very stable, so we had to watch our steps and walk slowly higher and higher. In the late afternoon we reached the base camp. The tent were up already and we literally fell asleep on the spot. No energy left at all. We were woken after an hour or two to have dinner. It was a huge bowl of pasta that we just ate and fell asleep again. Energy need was enormous.

The guide woke us up at midnight. Now it was time to go. It was time to reach the top, to do what we came for. I wasn’t feeling too well. I felt like I had too little clothes, the warm clothes were too thick and too warm and most of all I was tired and wanted to sleep. And we started in the night. Every step was harder then the previous. We reached the snow and beyond. Every step I had to rest. Every step I closed my eyes and almost fell asleep. The decision to go back was not easy. It was the hardest decision on this trip. I told the guide that I may come up, but then I would not get down. Not alive. He tried to convince me, he told me:  I will carry you! But I went back down. Just to have another chance. Was it the right decision? I think so, but I regret it every day. Well, well, next time!

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Finally at the base camp, the morning sun

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View of the world down there

The same day we came all the way down. Down to the jungle, thw way that took almost six days up, took half a day down. Down in the rain forest we saw monkeys with white fluffy tails, we were back. Maybe we didn’t reach the top, but we managed to get there and back alive and the Kilimanjaro was as ours as it could be. This time. And next time I going all the way to the top.

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Back in the jungle

Kilimanjro National Park became a world heritage site in 1987. Link to the site: Kilimanjaro National Park.

My grade to Kilimanjaro Natiomal Park is still five out of five, what else.

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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Skočjan Caves in Slovenia – home of dragons and bats

Slovenia, Postojnska cave

The summer of 2011 was the time when we visited several sites in Slovenia and Poland. Among them was the Skočjan Cave in Slovenia. It wasn’t really a part of plan, but plans are great to have, so they can be changed, so we changed ours. The same day we visited another cave in the vicinity, so we decided to see this one as well.

Slovenia, Morning in Bled

A beautiful morning in Bled. Early sunrise. Welcome to heaven.

We started that vacation in Bled, a beautiful little town that looked like a postcard with it’s lake, the Alps, cute houses, a castle and a church on the island on the lake. We spent several days in Bled wandering around, feeding swans, taking a boat ride on the lake, walking up and down many stairs to the castle (about 500) and eating good food. This vacation started out really well.

Slovenia, Castle and lake in Bled

The castle in Bled. Just by the lake, on top of a hill.

Slovenia, woman in Bled

A woman enjoying the view of the lake in Bled.

After a few days we visited Ljubjana and the coast. Even there we climbed many more stairs in order to see castles and churches. Somehow building beautiful sites included many stairs. The more, the better place. Or maybe it’s just a coincidence. By the end of our stay in Slovenia it was time for the caves. Isay caves, because we saw two and not only one. By that day the weather had changed and instead of beautiful sunshine the weather became foggy and rainy. What a perfect day to visit caves!

Slovenia, Portoroz

The town of Portoroz by the sea.

The first cave we visited was Postojnska Jama. And what a cave! You had to ride a train from the entrance to what felt like the middle of the earth. Or at least the cave. We drove by cool formations with stalactites hanging from the ceiling and stalagmites growing on the groung. More and more magnificent. The the train stopped and we continued to explore the cave walking. And there were very nice rooms and bridges, lakes and cool structures created by nature alone. It’s like another world, totally separated from ours. At the end of our tour we even saw dragons, small creatures that live in the cave’s waters and look like small dragons.

Slovenia, Postojnska jama, cave

The Postojnska Cave, or a little part of it.

Slovenia, Postojnska cave

Small stalactites in the Postojnska cave.

After the first cave we decided to visit the Skocjan cave as well. I wonder if the both caves are considered to belong to the same world heritage site or not. It feels almost like that. And was this a great cave as well! The stalactites and stalagmites, the huge chambers, the lakes and bridges, all of it made the cave a great experience. It felt like magic, just like the first one. Like anothe world. The mountains in this region must be like a Swiss cheese, filled with holes, I guess that they are quite soft, so that water can carve out some marvelous structures.

Slovenia, Skocjan cave

Very interesting formations in the Skocjan cave.

Tha cave had lots of bats living and flying inside it as well and probably some other creatures as well. Maybe a fire-spitting dragon as well hidden deep down?

Slovenia, Skocjan cave

In the end of the cave we saw a light.

Outside the cave Slovenia was really pretty too, like a postcard almost everywhere. Go there if you haven’t been there yet. We travelled a little more in Slovenia, going, on a foggy day to mauntains, in Krajnska Gora and rode a car-train, being able to pass through tunnels in the mountains, made for trains, in stead of going around the mountains.

Slovenia, Krajnska gora

Mountains on a foggy day.

Slovenia Alps

Like a postcard.

This site became a world heritage site in 1986. Link to this site: Skocjan Caves.

My grade for this site: four globes out of five:

GlobeGlobeGlobeGlobe

//Monika

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