Luck had it that I could spend a number of weekends in Hong Kong between Nov 2017 and March 2018. Hong Kong is a hiker’s heaven all year round, but the relatively cool winter months make it a paradise. Once back home, I started thinking how I could possible blog (aka diary-ise) all these beautiful hikes.
Several ideas came to my mind:
describe every hike at great length and detail – probably not… too many details.
just show a few pictures – mehh, not good enough either
pick and choose just one or two, sort of a “best of series” – good idea, but how to choose.
then it hit me: export the GPS file of every hike I did from the Polar website; then upload all those GPS files into a single Google earth window and capture the piece of art with a screen grab. The dark blue “worms” crawling all over Hong Kong in the pic below represent all the hikes I did. Only after completing this drawing I realized that I hiked almost the entire Lord Wilson trail (with the exception of stage 10 and a bit of stage 9… so there we still have a target….)
My thoughts and some technical background information about the eight black and white photographs that survived the “best of 2017” selection process described in an earlier post.
Image 1, image 2 and image 3 were all taken in a similar location, in the north western part of Switzerland. Hand-held with the Nikon J1, all at base ISO of 100 and shutterspeed > 1/360. Subsequently converted to B&W with Silver Efex Pro, then cropped and sharpened in Adobe LR. The entire Nik collection is available for free from Google as of Feb 2018. However, Google sold the software, so the days of a free download might be over soon
I like the interlude between the different silouettes in this image, some man-made and others natural, In addition, if you zoom into the image you will notice the sunlight on one person’s face – that just adds to the magic of it. This was an easy choice!
Abstracted to two vertical lines which seem to be talking to each other. The little tree carefully taking side with the actor on the right. The slight slope on the left puts one actor into a slightly different position in this discussion. Also an easy choice for me for the final list.
First a straight journey towards the horizon, then a left turn and an unkown ending. It is up to your imagination where the path will lead to. The tree on the right as the silent observer of the path’ journey?
Nikon J1, handheld at base ISO 100. Livorno in Italy, remnants of a glorious (and sometimes not so glorious) past. Normally, I don’t like pictures with a blown-out sky, but in this case the pure white of the sky contrasts the moldy and murky quay and water very well. I also like how the eye is guided from the left side of the frame to follow the buildings and the water into the distance.
iPhone 6+. Walking to a coffee shop for a much needed morning dose of caffeine stimulans, I spotted these tiles. The line of my shadow matches the lines between the tiles well, and the wide gradation of greys adds to the attraction of this picture.
The white water terraces in Yunnan, China. I like the white foreground contrasting with the dark trees and the more neutral background. I was struggling for a while whether to include a color or a B&W in my final list, ultimately went for the B&W for the reasons mentioned above.
Another iPhone 6+ photo taken from a cable car gondola, so I guess it qualifies as an “aerial” photograph. It’s an intersection of two dirt roads. Converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro, then cropped and added the vignette to emphasise the “white structure”. Maybe I’m reading too much science fiction recently, but the structure clearly inspires space ship designs…
Marina Barrage in Singapore, taken with the DJI Phantom 3 Professional (the drone was inside allowed flying zone….); captured in Adobe DNG, to give me a little more wiggle room for post processing. Lawn, concrete, water. I like the juxtaposition of the different patterns, horizontal waves on the right, the horizontal/vertical in the middle and the apparent chaos of the lawn.
Walked up the highest mountains of two Swiss Kantons (“province”) Basel-Land and Jura in 2016. July 2017 brought an opportunity to scale the highest mountain of Kanton Solothurn.
The “Hasenmatt” (loosely translated as “rabbit’s meadow”) is 1445 meters above sea level at the south eastern ridges of the Jura mountain range.
The hike starts in Gaensbrunnen, a hamlet at 734 meters above sea level, and climbs gently and steadily on a well trotten path. About half of the ascent is through forest, great aircon and shade for a hot day! Early morning, hardly anybody is around, the peace and quietness is interrupted only by the sound of our steps, the chatters and the occasional sound of a cow bell.
Walking at a good, but not rushed pace, it took us 1 hour and 45
minutes to reach the top.
On a clear day one should see the Swiss Alps as well, the luck wasn’t ours, though.
Over lush Jura meadows we continued for another hour+ to reach Weissenstein. The closer we got to Weissenstein, the more hikers we encountered. The place is so popular, that if you plan to do a BBQ at one of the official sites, you need to be there very early and occupy a place. Reminds me of traveler’s reports about reserving a spot on the beach with your towel early morning!
The “greens” and “yellows” are simply amazing, so much beauty in nature!
No post is complete without a few eery black and white pictures, so here you go:
So, another “tick” on the 26 summits list. A few easy ones remain (Zuerich, Zug, Schaffhausen, Geneva, Sankt Gallen and Zug), afterwards we get into mountaineering territory to complete the list.
ohhh lucky me… whilst taking a lunch break during work, I casually asked a friend whether “doing Pinatubo” over the weekend is an option and yes – a decision was taken quickly. What is so special about Pinatubo? Simply put, the 1991 eruption was the Earth’ second largest volcanic eruption recorded in the 20th century – background reading is here.
Two hours drive to the North of Manila is Santa Juliana, the base camp for any Mount Pinatubo excursion. The normal “climbing” route is to sit on a 4×4, being shaken and not stirred, from the village to the actual starting point of the hike. Then walk 3km uphill to the crater, take a few pictures and waddle back down.
We stayed here, highly recommended, rooms are spacious and clean, nice garden to chill out in, and Alvin got everything organised for us!
The actual hike is a moderate uphill, 3 kilometres walk each way and about 200 meters of altitude difference, so not a very big deal. The dark, worm-like line in the pic below shows the route from the 4×4 parking lot up to the crater.
the starting point
This sign board indicates the expected hiking time for the last kilometre of the climb. Of course, I had to have a go at it just to proof something to myself….
I managed to speed walk the stretch in 12 mins 35 seconds, which age category do I belong to (yes yes I know, its a show-off…)
beautiful, isn’t it? Click on the images to show larger versions.
Click on the images to show larger versions.
After burning that many calories (actually not really that many at all….), we deserved some good local food.
After that strenuous walk, we definitely needed to take it easier on day two. Going off-road on an ATV is really easy; these things seem to go everywhere without any problems. Was it fun? Actually it was, but not something I would like to do regularly: these things are rather noisy, the engine got rather hot and likely it also isn’t very eco-friendly to plough through a riverbed…
Click on the images to show larger versions.
back at the hotel, taking care of a mountain of smelly cloth, relaxing a bit and enjoying a cold San Mig light with a freshly bbq-ed, succulent chicken. Life is beautiful, isn’t it ?
Great trip, definitely recommended and VERY doable as a one day excursion from Manila …… provided you are game to leave Manila around 0400 AM.
The northern part of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, promises some interesting hiking. Only one little challenge: it takes over six hours by car to get there from Manila, the capital of the Republic. Early March 2017, I joined a group for a hike up Mount Ulap (loosely translated into “mountain of the clouds”). Beyond Outdoor Adventures has proven reliable and professional last year, when I joined them for the Pico de Loro hike, so I was comfortable that they would do a good job this time around as well.
In practical terms, this meant leaving the hotel before 01:30 (this is AM ….for the citizens of Trumpistan) to reach the meeting point by 01:45. I went to bed around 20:00 the night before, so at least 5 hours of beauty sleep. This screenshot of my mobile phone lock screen suffices as proof…. (btw the background picture is a Herzog DeMeuron designed staircase in Colmar, pic by www.jrbc.net)
After four hours on the highway, breakfast stop at 06:00 in a fast food joint. “Gourmet Burger with Coffee” for PHP 55, which corresponds to CHF 1.10 at the time of writing, isn’t exactly my choice of breakfast, but the alternatives were significantly less appealing.
Another two hours later, we reached the park entrance, the massive Ampucao Barangay Hall. Registration, introduction and prayers – at 08:30 we were good to go 🙂
(the right moment to change to present tense…)
Our local guide, a mother of four at the age of 24, tells me that she needs to walk for one hour from her village in case she or her kids need to see a doctor. Her two youngest kids spend the peak guiding-season with their grandparents in a village that has yet to be connected to electricity. Mucho trabajo señor presidente D.
We walk over the Ulap ridge, a moderate uphill hike through a pine forest. Clean fresh air, a comfortable 20 degrees and blue sky. The trails are well maintained and the visitors and guides do a splendid job keeping the place hyper clean. No technical difficulties and no real cardio challenge, about 9 kms with a few hundred meters climb and a steep decent into Santa Fe hamlet is the program of the day.
Nine kilometres… one might assume that three hours should be sufficient inclusive of photo stops and a lunch break. But oh no oh no: our group, five tweens and myself take almost 9 hours to complete it. Endless (and I really mean it…) selfies, cardio-challenges and apparent technical difficulties for some group members stretch the whole affair into a full day event. Im totally worn out after the hike, my body is not used to snail-walking……
Courtesy of GoogleEarth and my new Polar M200:
the dark side
the bright side
well…. its the local guide and myself. Note the fashionable hat, costing me a full CHF 2.5 (last minute panic purchase at a local shop).
Hypothetically, purely conceptually and theoretically we could have left the hiking area at 17:00 and drive back to Manila to reach the capital by app 22:30, but a stop over in Baguio to sample delicious local chicken rice, was too much of a temptation.
well… getting there took us a good six hours, so why should getting back be any different? To cut a long story short: around 00:45 I was back at the hotel. Close to 24 hours for a 9 kilometre hike – a new record is set!
The sights are beautiful and aplenty, the whole town-centre is a gigantic pedestrian zone, knick-knack shopping, sight-seeing, people watching and snack-indulgence heaven. The crowds can be overwhelming, however just step 100 meters away from the main thoroughfare and you find quiet restaurants, friendly service and good food.
The pics in the gallery could lead to the impression that we did a pilgrimage from one restaurant to another and not much else 🙂 Admittedly, we did enjoy lavish dinners once J’s Polar Loop wristband indicated that we comfortably overshot 15000 steps every day.