more on: hiking in Hong Kong

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:

  1. describe every hike at great length and detail – probably not… too many details.
  2. just show a few pictures – mehh, not good enough either
  3. pick and choose just one or two, sort of a “best of series” – good idea, but how to choose.
  4. 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….)

    Et voila, here we are:

adding to the list …. show-off time

A plan is a plan is a plan.

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.



 

Another Volcano ?? – YES YES Mount Pinatubo…

the plan

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 hike

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

the challenge

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…)

the crater

beautiful, isn’t it? Click on the images to show larger versions.

the selfies

Click on the images to show larger versions.

the food

After burning that many calories (actually not really that many at all….), we deserved some good local food.

day 2

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.

Hiking and Sightseeing in Northern Yunnan, China

the plan for the 2017 adventure

After a prolonged to-and-fro, we decided to climb a rather tall-ish mountain in Yunnan. The plan was simple (at least on paper…): fly to Lijiang in Yunnan province, drive to Haba village, acclimatize for one day, walk up to the base camp (4100 meters above sea level), acclimatize for one day, summit Haba Snow Mountain (5400 meters above sea level), then back to the village, drive through the Tiger Leaping George back to Lijiang for sightseeing, hot pot and shopping.

what happened

“rain, rain go away, please come another day”…

we reached base camp, strong winds made it impossible to even have a realistic chance to summit, so we turned around a few days earlier. This summit appears to be within reach, ie no technical difficulties. We should try again in the not too distant future….

A two minutes video of our hike from Haba village up to the basecamp of Haba Snow Mountain (that is a literal translation of its Chinese name) on my YouTube channel:  HERE


The shortened trekking trip meant more time for sight-seeing and good food! Not the plan, but very enjoyable, indeed!! One of the many sites we visited, is an array of lime-stone terraces not far from Haba village. I wanted to visit this place 15 years ago when I came to Lijiang for the first time. Back then we couldn’t reach it, because our Volkswagen Passat couldn’t master the gravel road through the gorge. The place is called “White Water Terraces” (Bai Shui Tai in Chinese). This time it worked very well – have a look HERE.

the black and white gallery

Hiking in the Cordilleras

getting there

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 hike

(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 sights

 the dark side
the bright side

the people

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).

the dinner

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.

 

the return

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!

Walking Up Pico de Loro

I got a chance to join a one day trip from Manila to Pico de Loro (“Parrot’s Peak” in Spanish), a 600 meters hill about 60 km to the south west of the capital of the Philippines.

For the uninitiated: people in the Philippines like to get up early, I mean really early as in really really early. I guess that’s a mix between good old habits and the necessity to manage traffic. Anyway, we met at 04:00 in Makati and drove off to reach the entrance to the national park by app 0700. The hike was pleasant, not too demanding and offered plenty of beautiful sights over Manila bay. At a good pace the hill can be climbed within 90 minutes. The hiking trails closed soon after I went there, that explains the enormous number of people doing the hike that day. Officially, the National Parks will “heal” and “replant” the mountain, other sources say that the whole area will be redeveloped into a resort. Would be sad if this beauty would become inaccessible to hikers.

Enjoy the pictures in the gallery

 

The 26 Summits, ctd

A deal is a deal is a deal… one week after the beautiful hike up the “Hinteri Egg” we scaled Mont Raimeux, the tallest mountain of Switzerland’s youngest Canton, the Jura.

A well maintained trail snails up the Jura folds, a good two hours after we left Moutier, we reached the peak at 1302 meters above sea level enjoying nice views, a short coffee break and a descend through pouring rain.

The icing on the cake were hand made noodles with Chorizo Safron sauce (thank you Susan).

More opportunities to work on the list are hopefully to come soon 🙂

The gallery shows the journey starting very early in the morning with a tram ride to the railway station ending with the home made noodle dinner.

The 26 Summits

What happens when you sit together with friends, drink a glass (or more) of good red wine? Chance is that the conversation will sooner or later turn to one or more “to do” (aka bucket) lists. The “Seven Summits” are so passé and so yesterday; today’s adventurers focus on local challenges, environmentally friendly and doable by fair means.

An obvious target would be the ten highest peaks of Singapore, but since Bukit Tima remains closed well into 2017 and I don’t want to hike up the road to the main peak, Switzerland is the next best thing. Why not scale the highest peak of each of Switzerland’s 26 Cantons (Swiss for “province”) ?

So here we go, a new challenge in born: 15 out of the 26 summits are comparatively easy hikes, about 10 of them require mountaineering skills and one is a difficult rock climbing effort. Details are here.

I think I climbed eight of them, so approximately one third through!

Last Saturday we hiked up the tallest mountain of Kanton Basel-Landschaft. The trail starts in a village, winds-up through a small gorge, meets the terminus of a cable car and finally, after 660 meters of altitude difference, the “Hinteri Egg” @ 1169 meters above sea level is reached. A gentle downhill hike et voila: one more is off the list 🙂

Next one: either Jura, Solothurn or Aargau – stay tuned

 

 

 

Desert Trekking in China

June 2016, we trekked seventy kilometres through the Badain Jaran, which is part of the Gobi desert in China.

The executive summary:

phase one: Singapore –> Hong Kong –> Beijing –> Jinchang –> Alxa Youqin

phase two: walk, sand, camels, sand, fun, wind, sand, tents, sand, lake, sand, watermelons, sand, yoghurts and sand

phase three: the reverse of phase one


A 90 seconds, high level, executive, condensed, highlights-only, key summary video in HD of our trek is on

youtube_2

 

please subscribe to my channel after you watch the movie – thank you.


I particularly like this desert portrait of Tim (who else….). The original is in color. I decided to convert it with Silver Efex Pro 2 (free plug-in from Google) to black and white, which accentuates the clouds nicely and the dunes’ shapes form such a perfect leading line to the model. Furthermore, the little cloud seemingly guarding over Tim acts like a gigantic flash light helping him to light-up his selfie.

the_selfie


The B&W pictures in the gallery were processed with Nik Colour Efex Pro 2 and Adobe Lightroom. For the pixel peepers: you will notice lots and lots of spots, especially in the darker areas of the pictures. Even though spot removal in Lightroom works well, removing hundreds of them is a lot of work. Lesson learnt: next time get the sensor cleaned before going on a trip.