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Archive for the ‘Historical’ Category

I finally found a bit of space to start reading up on the Mt. Everest virtual challenge which I completed last month, and although I had decided to not post any further posts about the various challenges I’m following, this was so very interesting that I changed my mind and so here we go….I hope you enjoy reading more about Everest and what the climbers who actually go there experience. So often we read or hear about climbers and teams of people who climb Mt Everest but we seldom read about the finer details. So this has been really interesting.

I actually started the challenge in Ramsgate on the 10th February on the tail-end of the ‘beast from the east’ snow storm. So this is a bit behind the actual times ๐Ÿ˜‰ But since it’s not real anyway, it doesn’t really matter…anyway, I hope you enjoy reading these posts…

Where I actually was….pretty realistic really

Flying into Kathmandu is a walk in the park when compared to Lukla. Dubbed as the most dangerous airport in the world, Lukla’s runway is a mere 1,729ft (527m) long, with mountainous terrain to the north and a steeply angled drop to the south. It is built on a 12% uphill gradient to help planes slow down. There are no go-around procedures if the planes miss their approach, as such only highly experienced pilots with short-takeoff-and-landing missions under their belt, experience in Nepal and ten flights in Lukla with a certified instructor, are permitted to land at the airport. In a nutshell if climbing Everest doesn’t cause prickles on the back of your neck, then a high intensity landing in Lukla certainly should.

Where I wasn’t really ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ Stage 1

In 2008, Lukla airport was renamed Tenzing-Hillary Airport in honour of Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, the first climbers to reach the summit of Everest. Hillary was instrumental in the construction of the airfield in Lukla, building an unsurfaced airstrip on a mountain shelf in 1964. It took 37 years to finally asphalt the runway.

Home to 1200 people, the village sits at 9,383ft (2,860m) above sea level, nestled on a small plateau amongst the awe inspiring mountain peaks of the Himalayan Ranges. The nearly 40mi (64km) trek to Mount Everest, skirts steep mountainsides, through deep valleys and over alpine glaciers. The hike travels through small villages and teahouses, past prayer wheels and fluttering prayer flags to the memorial site honouring mountaineers and Sherpas who lost their lives climbing the mountain, continuing to Base Camp and then the final summit climb.
Leaving the viewing platform of the Lukla airport, I made my way through the centre of town on a narrow street that was sometimes cobbled and sometimes just compacted soil. Double-storey buildings lined the street filled with shops, teahouses and lodging services.

Shortly after leaving the village I passed through the National Luminary Pasan Lhamu Memorial Gate which was built to honour Pasan Lhamu, the first Sherpa woman to summit Everest in 1993. It is the gateway to the Khumbu Region that encompasses the Sagarmatha National Park and the Nepalese side of Mount Everest.

It was a gradual downhill hike, passing through a forest on narrow paths with the colossal mountainside ever present to my right. I continued on this downward hike, on a trail that wound itself up and down, passing through villages with teahouses until I reached Phakding, a small village that lies in the Dudh Kosi river valley. Here was the first of many suspension bridge crossings. The bridge, about 100ft (30m) above the river, stretched across what seemed to be an old landslide with large boulders and debris settling beside the river. As the bridge swayed and moved beneath my feet, I pondered about those whose fear of heights may find the crossing challenging. This isn’t the tallest suspension bridge on this trek, that is yet to come.

Finally reaching the small village of Benkar with its tin-roofed, brightly painted window frames, four-storey residences/storefronts, I settled into one of the teahouses for a meal. Known to aid with altitude adaptation I had garlic soup with Tibetan flat bread. Between the warmth of the soup and the crusty on the outside, fluffy on the inside bread, I filled my belly and finished with a Tibetan tea.
Rested and fed, I resumed my hike crossing another suspension bridge. Soon I reached the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park. A UNESCO listed site since 1976, the 1,148kmยฒ park is home to the Sherpa people, rare species like the snow leopard and several mountains including Mount Everest.

After obtaining the necessary permits to enter the park, I walked through the Jorsalle Entrance Gate, a concrete structure with Buddhist artwork on its interior walls to a set of steps that began a steep descent into a gorge, onto Jorsalle village, alongside the thundering Dhudh Kosi river and over two more suspension bridges.

However, what goes down, must come up and it wasn’t long before I engaged my hiking poles to start the steep ascent onto a woodland path until I reached a wide open low lying land beside the river filled with stones and boulders making trekking through it unstable and difficult.

But nothing prepared me for the next suspension bridge. Like all the others, Hillary Bridge was made of galvanized steel cables that’s connected to the grated deck by interlinked wire fence. An old version of the bridge was right beneath this one just hanging, blowing in the wind, no longer in use. At 410ft (125m) above the Dhudh Kosi river, this 459ft (140m) long bridge was exposed to the elements swaying laterally and vertically as the strong wind blew through the valley. It was a heart thumping, adrenaline spiking exercise that on this trek one could do without. I was grateful to reach solid ground.

If I ever entertained even the slightest idea of ACTUALLY doing this ‘walk’, reading about that bridge has pretty much scuppered any possibility ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ I don’t have a fear of heights and I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie, but I have my limits ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

So, no go for me thanks, virtual suits me just fine.

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My time in Salisbury is now over, but fear not I shall return – when I start travelling with my grandson, Salisbury, Old Sarum and Avebury are on my very extensive list of ‘places to go on Granny and Jamie’s Adventures’. But I couldn’t leave without sharing what is, next to the Cathedral, the best aspect of the city…..The River Avon, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, such a beautiful space.

Synonymous with Shakespeare and Stratford Upon Avon, the Avon rises east of the town of Chipping Sodbury in South Gloucestershire, just north of the village of Acton Turville.

The river itself runs from a spring in Naseby in Northamptonshire, through Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Worcestshire and finally to the River Severn in Gloucestershire, passing through Bath and Bristol, the last big city on its route and beneath the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The River Avon is an exceptionally meandery river with lots of small tributaries and channels breaking away, leaving hundreds of little islands in its wake enroute to the sea…I tried to follow it on Google maps but gave up ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

Running a somewhat circular path, the river drains east and then south through Wiltshire. Its first main settlement is the village of Luckington, two miles (3 km) inside the Wiltshire border, and then on to Sherston.

At Malmesbury it joins up with its first major tributary, the Tetbury Avon, which rises just north of Tetbury in Gloucestershire.
This tributary is known locally as the Ingleburn, which in Old English means ‘English river’. Here, the two rivers almost meet but their path is blocked by a rocky outcrop of the Cotswolds, almost creating an island for the ancient hilltop town of Malmesbury to sit on. Upstream of this confluence the river is sometimes referred to as the ‘River Avon (Sherston Branch)’ to distinguish it from the Tetbury Branch.
Information ref wikipedia with thanks.

In Salisbury the river twists and winds within sight of the cathedral as it rushes past ancient inns, Norman churches, alongside meadows green and watery alive with wildflowers, butterflies, bees and swans, it splits into a multitude of channels and smaller tributaries around the city, with 2 distinct channels in the city rushing furiously through the millrace at the Maltings then flows fast beneath a 15th century bridge; Crane Bridge

The Maltings
Crane Bridge

Pretty much wherever you are, you are within a short walk of the river.

The chalk soils around the River Avon filter and purify the water, making the river a special place for wildlife. The Avon and its tributaries make up one of the largest chalk river systems in England, and is a source of clean drinking water.

Although I’ve been to Salisbury a few times, its always been a short visit and mostly spent in the cathedral or at Old Sarum (which is a fantastic place btw – a must visit), but I’ve never had the time to just meander and explore. Its been fantastic. I shall of course return someday in the future….

Meanwhile, here’s a short video showing scenes of the River Avon in Salisbury

I did a lot of walking during my breaks, through Churchill Park, Queen Elizabeth Park, and along the many and varied riverside walks in the city…I went as far afield as the area called Broken Bridges and had a walk along the River Nadder, blissful tranquility, a space of enchantment

Crossing the bridge towards Broken Bridges
River Nadder, so clear you can see the bottom

And that’s it ….goodbye Salisbury, hope your cathedral is open next time I visit, I’d like to see the Magna Carta again ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

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Besides all the most amazing and ancient buildings and houses dotted around Salisbury, there are many beautiful younger places. I was hard put to not photograph just about everything. I’ve scanned through my photos and pulled up the more interesting structures. Some are remnants of an older building, especially in The Close, others are dotted around the city. I hope you enjoy these as much as the others.

Front of the Medieval Hall

You can just see the spire of the Cathedral behind the building and the magical moon. I was lucky enough to work just around the corner from this building.

Back of the Medieval Hall
Not sure who this belongs to, but next door is the Archbishop’s house
Also from the same era,slightly modernised
In The Close
In The Close
In The Close
In The Close
In The Close facing the Cathedral – what a view…
Arundells – in The Close
The gate at De Vaux place
A house I saw in Harnham across the river
Side view of above house. I totally love this house
Alms Houses
Alms Houses
A relic of the ancient city gates 1378
Old School House
A side door of the old school house

A few random houses. The variety of architecture is wonderful, makes for an interesting mix

The Guildhall and War Memorial

And to end off today; the clouds finally blew away and I saw my first sunset since arriving last week Thursday and just in time for my departure tomorrow. Typical

And I couldn’t possibly end this post without a view of the Cathedral…the moon is almost full and it looks stunning

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Just had to share this with you quickly…I’ve started planning my September walks (thanks to lockdown 2020, they had to be postponed) and of course the first guide under the spotlight is St Cuthbert’s Way.

This was my initial planned walk with a couple of others, but now that I’m rereading the guide I’ve decided to include walking St Oswald’s Way as well, and while I’m there, I may as well walk the whole of the Northumberland Coast Path as well before heading into Newcastle.

I recently started reading Neil Oliver’s BBC A History of Scotland and to my delight, I recognise a lot of the place names he mentions in the book. The area is redolent with history. How will I tear myself away. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ I will however be visiting quite a few of those places enroute along the two routes.

An absolutely amazing book

Of course I’m still planning on walking The Thames Path for my birthday, and the South Downs Way if I’m kicking my heels and need another long walk before the year is out…

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that I will need a compass ๐Ÿงญ to find my way at some points ๐Ÿง๐Ÿ•ต๏ธโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿ”Ž๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšถ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ This is going to be reallyyyyyy interesting. I have no idea how a compass works really. I know the principles, but I usually rely on mapmywalk and Google to get me out of a pickle, so I guess a compass tutorial and some map reading is in my future ๐Ÿ”ฎ

Meanwhile I’m finding it really difficult to put the guide book down and focus on something else…its so interesting and I love the snippets of information that the writer has included in the book. Its giving me itchy feet….

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Its extraordinary to realise that Salisbury has had a twice weekly market since 1227!

I popped over yesterday to try find some avocado but unfortunately I didn’t find any nice ones. Instead I did find some local farmers free range eggs and promptly bought a half dozen. I avoid eggs as much as possible because I don’t know their provenance and I do know that the supermarkets ‘free range eggs’ are not truly ‘free range’. I had 2 for my supper and the first one I cracked had a double yolk ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

The market was in full swing when I got there, but not nearly as busy as I would have thought, but with Covid…its to be expected.

The colours on a grey day were a welcome sight, and although my time was limited, I did manage to whizz around and look at all the stalls.

I saw these delicious olives, and was tempted…maybe Tuesday

Yummy

Later during my break, I walked through enroute from here to nowhere in particular, and it looked bereft…hardly anyone about. I guess the weather doesn’t help.

Intrigued by the date, I did a bit of research, and this is what I found. The market has been held in Salisbury since 1219 with the founding of the city, and the cathedral. At the time Salisbury was the largest city in the region and offered an opportunity for farmers and traders to sell their produce and wares.

In 1361, market days were formalised and decreed to be held every Tuesday and Saturday, a tradition that continues until today. In medieval times, the market was much larger than it is today, and even spread down side streets. The streets in the area reflect the types of goods sold during medieval times; Fish Row, Silver Street, Butcher Row and the Poultry Cross.

Poultry Cross
Butcher Row
Silver Street
Fish Row
Salt Lane
This intrigued me ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„ Chipper Lane..

I wonder, did they have the equivalent of today’s chippy…?

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many a market in towns around the country over the years, but even so, the amazement of the history never wanes.

Salisbury was a settlement in Domesday Book, in the hundred of Alderbury, mentioned in the chapters for Wiltshire and Somerset.

It had a recorded population of 102 households in 1086, putting it in the largest 20% of settlements recorded in Domesday, and is listed under 2 owners in Domesday Book.

For more information about Salisbury and The Domesday Book, visit their site

And if that’s not enough history for you….Salisbury Cathedral is home to a copy of the Magna Carta too ๐Ÿ˜‰

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This challenge is 289.7 kms, takes considerably longer to complete if you’re walking short distances each day weather depending, and can sometimes be a bit wearying as you plod along every day building up the miles/kms. But it’s all worthwhile when the next postcard pops up. How awesome it must have been to glide over the NZ landscape for 15 hours. The views must be stunning from that height.

The days have been mostly grey, overcast and lots of rain, but I managed to get out nearly every day between 10th and 17th, explored a few public footpaths (big mistake – they’re mud baths in the current weather), and created some interesting configurations ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„

I try to vary my route each day and create more shapes

Meanwhile, on my virtual journey I covered 47kms, and am just on 18 kms over halfway through my challenge/virtual journey. I plan to finish by 3rd February. ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿคž๐Ÿคž๐Ÿคž

Here we go Stage 5, which I reached on 17th January, done and dusted…

Having left the alps and peaks behind, the town of Omarama marked the halfway point of my journey. Although a small rural town, mainly a service centre for locals and nearby residents, Omarama had a few surprises up its sleeve.

Disney’s 2020 movie release of Mulan was entirely shot in New Zealand with scenes filmed at the Clay Cliffs just outside of Omarama.

Stage 5

In 2009, NZ pilot Terry Delore set a new world record in his 87ft (26.5m) wingspan glider. Taking off from Omarama, Terry travelled 1,491mi (2,400km) up and down NZ for 15 hours reaching speeds of up to 93mph (160kph) before landing back in town. Omarama has strong gliding conditions making it a popular destination for gliding pilots. Omarama hosted the 1995 and 2007 World Gliding Championships of which Kiwis took first place in the 1995 open category and third place in 2007.

For the weary soul like myself a Hot Tub soak the night before to rejuvenate my muscles and unwind was just what I needed. The Hot Tub was located outside in a private setting within a tussock and rock landscape. The tub was filled with fresh mountain water without any chemicals added. The business reuses the water for irrigation. A submersible firebox allowed me to adjust the water’s temperature. As I settled in, I watched the Milky Way appear and spill across the night sky with its millions of stars.

Eastward bound, I left Omarama refreshed and ready to tackle the next half of the journey. The trip was relatively easy and short when compared to previous days. The first half of the trail was off-road running parallel to the State Highway on the right. Crossing at Chain Hills to the left of the highway I began my descent alongside Lake Benmore, the largest artificial lake in NZ.
Lake Benmore was created in the 1960s as part of the Benmore Dam construction. The lake is split into two arms. The largest is fed by three rivers, Tekapo, Pukaki and Twizel plus the Ohau canal with Waitaki River flowing right through the lake, whereas the smaller arm is fed by Ahuriri River.

It is this smaller arm that I travelled along to Pumpkin Point, a grassy beach area, for a break and a splash in the lake, then onto Sailors Cutting where the off-road trail terminates and I join the highway for the rest of today’s trip. Not the most relaxing part of the journey as I braved the high-speed highway with an upward climb to Otematata Saddle. The views of Lake Aviemore and the valley beyond was a lovely compensation until I continued on the busy highway downhill all the way into Otematata.

Not the most relaxing part of the journey.…reminds me of when I walked the Portuguese Camino…there were quite a few occasions I had to brave a high-speed highway ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช

I did a quick Google search tonight and discovered that the Alps to Ocean route is actually a dedicated cycling route ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™€๏ธ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™€๏ธ so no walking then ๐Ÿคจ๐Ÿคจ damn. I’ll have to do more research. I’d really love to walk the route, it looks awesome

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Now that I’m at my next booking my time has been limited. But I try to get out every day and explore the area.

After a week of daily walking, I reached the 4th stage on 10th January…

The roads here are very long and it takes me a good 10 minutes to reach an intersection, which means I can’t go too far afield as it will take too long to get back. But I’ve made a point of trying out different routes, in as much as my options are minimal, but I’ve discovered some lovely country lanes.

Meanwhile, on my virtual journey…

Here I am at Lake Ohau, the third and smallest parallel glacial lake in the Mackenzie Basin that serves as a water storage for the Hydro scheme. It is connected to Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo (the other two parallel lakes) via an artificial canal. Lake Ohau is stunningly located between The Barrier mountain range to the west, Ben Ohau range to the east and Naumann range to the north which lies between Hopkins and Dobson rivers that feed into the lake.

Stage 4

This turquoise blue lake is a perfect environment for both powered and non-powered activities. Although at the height of summer the temperature reaches a mere 60ยฐF (15ยฐC) any swimming enthusiast wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity for a crisp splash in the lake. Luckily for me the weather was in my favour and I went for a brisk swim before starting my onward journey. However, I did hear that any sailor or windsurfer on the lake must be mindful of the northerly winds as the water gets choppy very quickly.

It might be debatable what’s considered a national dish in NZ, perhaps fish and chips or perhaps a gourmet meat pie. No matter, my choice was the traditional piping hot meat pie encased in a crispy pastry. This humble meat pie has been part of NZ’s cuisine since 1863 when the early British settlers brought it to NZ’s shores. It’s the perfect size to be eaten with one hand whilst chugging their popular Lemon & Paeroa soft drink with the other. The soft drink’s history goes way back to 1907 when it was originally manufactured in the town of Paeroa by combining lemon juice and carbonated mineral water.

After my finger-licking good pie and L&P hydration, I set off for what was to be the hardest part of the journey. The first 3.5mi (6km) was an easy section as I traversed the lower slopes of the Ohau range across several creeks before I found myself on a narrow track and a sustained climb of about 2.5mi (4km) to the highest point of the trail at 2,952ft (900m). Not that I particularly trusted that I was at the highest point for a while since all along there were several “false summits” where the trail appeared to reach the highest point to then discover that there was more upwards winding to go. During the winter months part of this upward climb proves to be even more hazardous as it becomes part of an avalanche path.

Reaching the top was quite the accomplishment but given its exposure and strong winds I spent little time admiring the view and started my descent. If I thought the climb was a challenge the steep descent with its tight steep bends was even more ghastly for the next half-mile or so.

The rest was a rolling descent crossing several streams. Clean drinking water could be collected at these streams enabling me to top up my bottles. The track joined with Quailburn Road and for the remainder of my journey I travelled beside Quail Burn River first to the west of me and once I crossed it to the east of me, almost like a constant companion, until we parted way with the river flowing into Ahuriri River and me rolling into Omarama for the night.

Like the Mt. Fuji virtual challenge which I finished in December, I’m really enjoying learning more about New Zealand and its history. The powers that be could/should consider teaching history and geography in this way, the subjects would be so much more interesting.

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Except for a very early morning walk, I didn’t do any serious walking on New Year’s day, or the 2nd January, and rather spent those days with my lovely family and some Granny time with my beloved grandson. But I got going again on the 3rd January and once again managed to get in a really decent amount of kms. Its brilliant walking early in the morning along the coast, I hardly ever see anyone about, and as a bonus, if the weather is fine, I get to watch the sunrise. ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

Sunrise – 3rd January 2021 Isle of Thanet

So here we go…stage 3 of the Alps to Ocean route…

I enjoyed some exploring in Twizel. It’s the largest town in the region which unsurprisingly triples in population during the summer period.

Alps to Ocean – Twizel ๐Ÿ˜ƒ what a name

The town is relatively young having been founded in 1968 to house construction workers on the hydro scheme. Clever town planning placed all the services and schools in the centre with housing surrounding the central hub. Pedestrian paths straight into the centre made it more direct for residents to walk instead of driving the looped roads to get to the same destination. When the scheme wound up 15 years later the local residents successfully fought to save their town.

To the south of town is Lake Ruataniwha, an artificial lake formed in the late 1970s as part of the Hydro scheme. The lake is fed by Ohau River to the west and the overflow discharged from Lake Ohau further west. At 3mi (4.5km) long the lake is open to water enthusiasts with activities such as sailing, water skiing and rowing. I chose to stand-up paddle board but those mountainous views and blue lake were spellbinding. I should’ve just sat on a boat and soaked up the landscape.

Since I was already dressed for water activities I ducked across the State Highway to a waterhole I wanted to swim in. As blue as Lake Pukaki was, this ‘no name’ waterhole was emerald green greatly emphasised by the reflection of the willow trees on the waterhole’s edge. There was a time when the swimming hole was part of the Ohau River before the nearby dam and artificial lake disrupted the river’s flow and greatly reduced its size in the east separating the swimming hole from what is left of the river. If you have a satellite view of the waterhole it looks like a big emerald green bath.

Back in the late 1800s when Ohau River had its natural flow, crossing it was done by wire rope and a cage. In 1890 they built, what is now referred to as, the Old Iron Bridge. It served travellers for the next 80 years until the Hydro scheme came into the area, built Lake Ruataniwha, realigned the State Highway and bypassed the iron bridge. The bridge is now listed on NZ Historic Places Trust. A small monument can be found near the lake in memory of a mother and child who drowned in 1879 whilst fording, illustrating the difficulties and dangers of crossing the Ohau River at the time.

There’s another swimming hole called, Loch Cameron, northwest of Twizel, worthy of a visit but if I hoped to get to my next destination sometime today, I had to get cracking with my journey.

Making my way out of Twizel via the southern edge of Lake Ruataniwha, I followed the trail along the west side of Ohau River to Ohau weir. The weir is a low head dam that was constructed with a siphon to maintain a minimum flow into the Ohau River but conversely may overflow restricting access to travellers. Not needing to concern myself with flooding, I enjoyed my travel along the shore of Lake Ohau reaching the village for some lakeside dining and background view of Ben Ohau range.

Just for fun, and because I’m totally interested in finding out more, I did a Google maps search of Twizel and Lake Pukaki, then looked for images. OMG…its is breathtakingly beautiful!!! That water and the landscape… wowww. I’d probably end up wanting to stay ๐Ÿคญ๐Ÿคญ๐Ÿคญ

After this my wings were clipped, so to speak, and I started a new booking on the 4th January so my real time walking has been limited to 2 hours a day, weather permitting, which of course impacts my distances. Too sad.

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Since I was still at home, and had a few days yet before starting work, I was lucky enough to be able to put in some really good distances to get started on this challenge.

My lodging on Lake Pukaki was under the star-studded sky of the southern hemisphere. Here the Southern Cross, Milky Way and the inverted view of the Orion constellation are just part of the night sky spectacle. Lake Pukaki sits in the Mackenzie region, one of very few regions around the world classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Due to its limited light pollution, the night sky with millions of stars are visible as far as the eyes can see.

Stage 2

Lake Pukaki is the largest of three parallel alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin with Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau being the other two. It’s milky blue colour is a result of finely ground rock particles from glaciers. The lake is part of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme providing hydroelectricity, irrigation and municipal water supply. The lake originally had an outflow at the southern end but it has since been dammed. To increase storage capacity the lake has been raised twice eventually submerging Te Kohai Island which appeared on NZ’s five pound note pre-decimal currency era. Looking at some of the old images of Lake Pukaki there was a time in the mid-19th century when ferries were used to cross the river outlet south of the lake with a hotel on the bank. A bridge was added in the late 1800s. Both the bridge and hotel have now perished with the raising of the lake.

Firing up for today’s longer journey, I indulged in a sizeable breakfast, a quick swim in the lake to get the blood circulating and I was ready to tackle the next stage. I continued the trail on the eastern side of the lake on a nice quiet country road. Travelling along the shoreline of the lake I was greeted with incredible northward views of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook and kept imagining them as the mythical Aoraki and his three brothers. Directly across the length of the lake was the Ben Ohau range known for its ski touring route across the top of it.

Carrying on the trail I crossed the Pukaki Dam towards the Salmon Shop at Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre. It all went rather well until I reached the southern section of the lake and found myself exposed to the gusty winds from the north-west. It was quite the balancing act aiming to move forwards without taking a tumble down the cliffs and drop-offs near the trail.

With a stop at the Salmon Shop for some locally farmed freshwater salmon, I took this opportunity to gather my rattled nerves, have a rest and absorb the last of this vista. I left the lake behind and moved on south across the Pukaki Flats, a substantial expanse of tussock grasslands and a very flat route. These dry grassy plains are distinctive to the South Island and are largely used for grazing livestock. Without any shading available, plenty of water was necessary and a good head covering.

Having made it into the region’s largest town with time to spare, I’m off to see the highlights before I turn in for the night. I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter.

Wow, amazing. I really love the amount of information the Conqueror organisers provide along with the postcards. Plenty of hints and tips amongst the history, which is just enough to be really interesting – its certainly piqued my interest. Note to self ‘take swim costume’ ๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ

Damn, I want to go now ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚ anyone know a millionaire with a few thousand pounds lying around that they don’t need….๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜ I really REALLY want to see those stars ๐ŸŒŒ๐ŸŒŒ๐ŸŒŒ

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Or Stage pre-2 ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿคฃ

Oooopps, it seems I missed a stage on my Mt. Fuji virtual walk, and frankly it’s a pretty awesome stage, so even though I missed the email (found whilst tidying up my mailbox last night), I thought I’d share it anyway. So here it is; the correct Stage 2…

Mt. Fuji – Aokigahara Forest

Aokigahara nicknamed Sea of Trees and at times infamously referred to as Suicide Forest, is a dense, moss-covered forest that sits within the Hakone Izu National Park. Registered as a National Natural Treasure the forest was born out of an eruption from Mount Fuji about 1,200 years ago, when new trees started sprouting from cooled lava. Because the forest is formed on top of dried magma, trees are unable to grow their roots deep into the ground. Although the thickness of the soil is only 10cm, the forest is filled with evergreen conifers, Mongolian oak, Fuji cherry and maple trees.

Hiking trails have been paved in the forest for visitors but anyone veering off the designated path can easily get lost and be difficult to rescue. Plastic tapes can often be seen rolled out to mark the path and assist visitors to find the way out. Then there are times when people have no intention of coming out and getting lost is a means to ending it all.

When I entered one of the trails on Aokigahara it was with the intent to find Fugaku Wind Cave and Narusawa Ice Cave. The trail was wide, well-marked and well-maintained with sunlight streaming through the canopies of the trees. I needn’t worry that I might get lost.

Fugaku Wind Cave was a 659ft (201m) long lateral cave accessed via a staircase. Due to its natural ventilation and year-round average temperature of 37ยฐF (3ยฐC) the cave was used as a refrigerator during the 17th to early 20th century to store the eggs of silkworms.

Narusawa Ice Cave was a looped 492ft (150m) lava tube that maintained the same temperature as Fugaku and was also used as a natural fridge during the pre-electric refrigerator era. A small section of the cave was only 3ft (91cm) high where I needed to walk sideways in order to see remnants of trees from a thousand years ago. Ice pillars begin forming over the winter period here reaching their maximum size by April. They can grow up to 10ft (3m) high and as thick as 20in (50cm) wide.

Leaving the forest, trail and caves behind, I proceeded to trek through urban areas to Lake Kawaguchi.

Doesn’t that description just make you want to go there right now? Imagine all the cool photos you could capture!! I’d spend a whole day there if I could, besides being described as the Suicide Forest, it looks so invitingly peaceful and calm.

I’m sure if we stayed still long enough, and looked hard enough, we’d see faeries.

And as for those caves…..oh my gosh, bring it on!!!

If you missed the start of this (my) challenge, click here to read Stage 1 of the Mt. Fuji Conqueror challenge

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