Pisa ohne Pizza

Three days in Tuscany – everything goes, except pizza and insalata caprese! Why that? Those two dishes are omnipresent where we live, so really really no point coming all the way to Italy and then eat that standard fare…

PISA and Luca

The towns are pleasantly small, have plenty of sights and yes, we did that “I hold the leaning tower selfie”.

After visitor’s rush hour, Pisa calms down quite a bit, the streets are not that crowded anymore, one can hear people speaking local dialect and order a tramezzino and a glass of wine and just chill for a moment under the shades of the shopping arcades. And a proper café for one Euro is a constant seduction.

Livorno

..barely 20 mins by train from Pisa, is a different world: the sea, some canals, a lot of strict and straight 60ies and 70ies architecture, the HQ of Italy’s communist party and the even tramezzini have a special local name. And the café @ EUR 1.- remains the constant.

Firenze

Oh dear, but then Florence… Waves of profusely sweaty people make their ways from the train station via the Duomo, the Uffizi to the Ponte Vecchio and back. No reservation for the Dome’s cupola, then you can stare at it from outside! We decide for a work-out and climb the campanile; no surprise the narrow staircase isn’t that crowed and the views from the top are super worth the effort!! I’ll do that again any moment. We continue with the flow, pay respect to the God of selfies, lots of sweat, some snacks (and a café… just in case I haven’t mentioned that before) and a pay visit to the barbiere for a clean, professional shave. I don’t think I heard a single word Italian during the few hours we spent in Florence…

Food Porn

No post is complete without it:



 

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.

The 7 Summits

new aspirations

Climbing Sigunyam Mountain (5025 meters above sea level) didn’t quite work out, climbing Haba Snow Mountain (5396 meters above sea level) didn’t quite work either.

Hence, I thought it is time to adjust goals and go for more ambitious targets: the SEVEN SUMMITS. (Note: this is an entirely separate initiative from the 26 summit plans described in an earlier post.)

Such an endeavor needs a lot of preparation and training; and which place is better suited than Singapore?

I’m not a man of many words, but a man of action. Barely back from high altitude training in Yunnan, I shamelessly made use of my elevated EPO-count and scaled the highest mountain in town. I’m very proud to report that we scaled Bukit Tima “on sight” and without the aid of bottled oxygen, Sherpas and/or Yaks.

Surely that is a good start to the journey!

 

 

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

[juicebox gallery_id=”32″]

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!

Another Chance to Try a New Restaurant

Cure Restaurant, Singapore

Cure Restaurant

Visually very appealing, freshly prepared and artisan-style decorated three course lunch menu for app SGD 54 (incl GST and service charge) per person. Friendly and attentive service; restaurant is located in a shop house @ 21 Keong Saik Road Singapore 089128.
We highly recommend the place with two small caveats: they should add a little carbo to the main course to make an average eater full (for big eaters you probably need to order an extra main course) and the creation of the “three milks” desert was tasty but visually non-appealing.

Megrow Pte Ltd turned one

and now… for a little advertisement:

I keep business and pleasure separate on the web and social media, but the 1st birthday of my consulting company Megrow Pte Ltd deserves a mention here !

Have a look at the company website by clicking on the company logo:

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achtung – unterbrecherwerbung!

Ich trenne Beruf und Privatleben einigermassen strikt wenn’s um soziale Medien und Web-Präsenz geht. Eine Ausnahme: meine Beratungsfirma Megrow AG ist ein Jahr alt geworden 🙂

Ein Klick aufs Logo und schon bist Du dort:

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