Hiking The Lycian Way, Turkey

Turkey is an oft overlooked destination when it comes to hiking holidays. But the varied landscape and long-distance routes on offer in this amazing and historic country make it the perfect place to strap on those walking boots and get out there into the great outdoors. Perhaps one of if not the best hike in Turkey is that which takes you along the Lycian Way, an over 500km way-marked trail along the country’s Mediterranean coast between Oludeniz and Antalya. The mild temperatures mean that this route can be walked year-round, even during the winter. The summer can get too hot though and the route is most pleasant in Spring or Autumn. The Sunday Times called this walk one of the ten most beautiful long-distance hikes in the world.

Walking the whole of the Lycian Way is quite an undertaking. The route is graded medium to hard, and it usually takes around a month to walk. Of course it is entirely possible to walk a smaller section of the walk to take in some of the highlights if you do not have enough time to walk the entire thing. Even walking a small section will give you some insight into the Lycians – the ancient culture which once controlled this region. The route was the brainchild of an Englishwoman, Kate Clow, a passionate walker and conservationist. She said that she wanted the route, which she conceived and helped to create in the 1990s, to give people a little insight into what this coastline would have been like a thousand years ago.

It is possible to walk this route independently or to go as part of a tour, or with the help of a company who will transport your baggage for you from one hotel, guesthouse or village house to the next. If you are of a more independent bent then it is very easy to find wild camping spots near sites where you will be able to replenish your water supply.

There are many highlights on the route. You may choose the mountainous alternative route and go inland to climb Mount Olympos, where staggering views are to be had. Still, the coast yields plenty of highlights including the ruins and beach at Patara, the harbour, sunken ruins and castle at Ucagiz, and a swim in the Goynuk canyon. Further round the coast you will find the ancient ruins of Olympos and Phaselis and the wild, beautiful Gelidonya Peninsula with a lighthouse and a graveyard of ancient ships. Be sure to take a slight detour to see the Chimera, an eternal flame that has inspired myth and legend. The coastal stretch between Kas and Uchaz is particularly pleasing and scenic and the walk through cedar forests between Mira and Finike has particularly fine views.

Really there are too many highlights to be able to name them all. Beauty without crowds, glorious views of the Mediterranean, captivating historical and cultural sites, and friendly, laid-back locals all make this route a pleasant way to spend a hiking holiday.

Adventure Travel Fun – Hiking in Switzerland

One agent from every retail office across Canada recently accompanied Trek Holidays’ President Allan Ronneseth on the Explore Worldwide trip “Hiking in the Bernese Oberland”. It turned out to be a great trip with a brilliant mix of activities for all fitness levels, beautiful scenery, good shopping and plenty of optional excursions and time to relax.

We joined the group in the quaint village of Kandersteg. Nestled below the lower peaks of the Bernese Oberland, this is pretty much a one-street-town lined with chalets, hotels and restaurants and little traffic. We used Kandersteg as a base to hike to Oeschinensee, a pretty alpine lake at an altitude of 1580 metres, about a 500 metres climb from the village. This was a warm up day to give us a taste of what the degree of hiking was.

As it turned out no one had any real issues with this and some of us decided to extend the hike with a circuit on top of the cliffs overlooking the lake, while some relaxed in the sun enjoying a well-deserved beer. Day three of the trip saw us hike from Kandersteg to Kiental, another quaint village (as a matter of fact all villages in the Bernese Oberland seem to be extremely quaint!) in the next valley. The hike took us through forests and alpine meadows which, in summer, are covered in carpets of flowers. Towards mid-afternoon we topped out on a ridge separating the Kandersteg and Kiental valleys and enjoyed some wonderful vistas. We followed a trail down to the cable car station and descended about 1000 metres into Kiental. Cable cars, funicular railways and rack-and-pinion railways abound in the area, allowing you to hike at altitude and enjoy some real mountain scenery without putting too much effort in. At the same time, if you do not want to take the trains or cable cars, you can follow one of the many hiking trails up the mountain and make your day as strenuous as you want.

We stayed in Kiental for one night at a local hotel, quite typical for the type of hotels Explore uses in Switzerland. Some rooms had private facilities, while others shared, but always the rooms and bathroom were clean and comfortable and the service very friendly.

Our tour leader knew the area well and in the next days amended the itinerary such that we saw the best of the area. The first major change saw us take trains and a cable car from Kiental to First, a station at 2168 metres above sea level. The views into the valley as one ascends are fantastic, but on this day clouds obscured them on the last portion of the ride. The weather did not stop us from hiking to a mountain hut at the top of Faulhorn, another 500 metres higher. Enveloped in fog and with temperatures near zero, we enjoyed the warm surroundings and hot food here.

The afternoon was optional and some of us hiked down in to the valley to shop, while some of us continued their hike along the mountain range that separates the Grindelwald and Brienz Valleys. In good weather the views over the lakes around Interlaken would have been stunning, but even in the fog the atmosphere was exhilarating, with rocky outcrops and steep drops looming in the ever changing clouds.

Another day we took a rack-and-pinion railway to the ridge above Lauterbrunnen and hiked the beautiful high route to Muerren. Hiking on the west side of the valley we enjoyed spectacular views of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, some of the highest mountains in central-Switzerland. Our picnic lunch, which Explore provided and like on other days had a great variety and amount of food, was had on a spur opposite these beautiful peaks and overlooking the deep valley below.

One optional excursion no one should miss is the train ride to Jungfraujoch, at 3573 metres Europe’s highest station. Perched on the snowy ridge between Monch and Jungfrau, the station offers spectacular views all the way into France and Germany to the north and over the Aletsch glacier stretching away to the south. One can partake in some winter activities that makes any self-respecting Canadian giggle, but one good walk would take you onto the glacier or a nearby viewpoint.

Some of us couldn’t get enough of hiking and decided to throw in one last great hike, along the foot of the famous Eiger North Face. Considered unclimbable for many years, Eiger and its adjoining peaks loom high above you and this hike really lets you appreciate the sheer scale of these mountains.

The Bernese Oberland truly is an area with lots to do and see for people of all physical abilities. Take the Hiking the Bernese Oberland trip if you want a mix of scheduled and optional hikes, or Explore’s Alpine Trails if you want to visit this and other great alpine regions (like Mont Blanc and Matterhorn) on a strenuous trek.

Nude Hiking in a National Park – Know Before You Go!

Nude Hiking in a National Park – Coronado National Forest

National Parks may have secluded areas where nude hiking is totally possible – even frequently occurring. Of course, one must be cautious not to offend visitors that do not appreciate nudity or who might even dial 9-1-1 to report your activity. But if you chose areas where nude hiking typically occurs, the hikers you encounter will probably be as nude as you.

If you are among the many that like to get-back-to-nature by finding a remote (spelled private) area where you can take your clothes off and meander au naturel through the outdoors, there are many hidden places around America where you can make this happen.

Unlike Europe, our American Puritan instincts make outdoor nudity more difficult in the United States, but one of my favorite spots for nude hiking is located at Tanque Verde Falls. It’s been a popular naturist area for many years.

Tanque Verde is just east of the city of Tucson, Arizona in the Coronado National Forest. After leaving the pavement, a dusty road takes you into the park and to an area where naturists take it all off. Although I don’t recommend it, some visitors do hike nude from the parking area to the popular spots.

A note of caution: Tanque Verde Falls is situated in a narrow canyon. At the north end of the canyon, the rocky terrain flattens out and becomes a giant funnel that feeds sudden rainfall into the canyon. After a heavy rain (which may seldom occur at Tanque Verde itself), the water levels can rise rapidly, and few people have the strength to swim in the currents. There are reports of several hikers who have been swept to their deaths in an unexpected surge. So have a quick exit route planned out before you become sleepy in the day’s sunshine.

As you hike into the canyon, the first naturist area will be found where the falls is located. In a dry season, the cliffs are about 30 feet tall. These become the location of waterfalls when water rises as mountain snows melt or heavy rain falls upstream. Otherwise, typically there is a sandy beach or large flat rocks to sunbathe on. This area is the easiest to access and is frequented by straight singles and couples.

Gays and lesbians generally hike about half a mile further up the canyon following well-beaten paths to an area above Tanque Verde Falls itself. Descending the main path is not difficult, but it’s a steep climb down, and presents a more demanding climb out of the canyon after hikers are tired from exposure to the hot sun.

Once you have reached the riverbed, off with the clothes – keeping your hiking boots on. (I recommend you take an old pair of canvas walking shoes since you may have to wade through some pools of water a foot deep.)

This area is like a Garden of Eden in the middle of the desert. Just be sure to pack water and perhaps some beer or wine. And don’t forget a sandwich or snacks. There are no services nearby.

Enjoy yourself. But beware of nature’s dangers. I’ve been watched by a rattling rattlesnake, and I once almost stepped on a hissing gila monster. You will observe white frogs, beautiful song birds and birds of prey, and of course many saguaro cactus among other desert plants and flowers.

Have a naked hike!

Hiking The Amicalola River Trail

From the canoe ramp near the gravel parking lot on Georgia 53, follow the loop trail towards the river. This is where Class IV whitewater rapids can be found. Famously known as the “Edge of the World”, this was formed by the Brevard Fault Line. Climbing into the Dawson Wildlife Management Area, the mountains and the brook provide a serene picture of wildlife and its habitat. Yet, whether some may consider the Amicalola River as a creek, it doesn’t really matter if a nature hike and adventure are what you’re looking for. Although owned by the City of Atlanta, the management of the areas resources are split among three state departments. The current agreement set is that the Georgia Forestry Commission manages the forest resources while wildlife protection and maintenance is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

However, people are prohibited from visiting a certain portion of the area of approximately four acres, wherein a 10 mega-watt nuclear facility is situated and operated by Lockheed. These prohibited areas have high radiation levels and are strictly monitored by scientists for radioactive readings. So do not stray and be observant with the trail signs and route directions. Start at the parking lot road and take the path furthest from the road towards the boat ramp. From this point, canoers and kayakers begin their wild ride with the class IV white water rapids which can take half a mile towards the river end.

For hikers and trekkers, take the south side to a gravel parking area to begin the Amicalola River Trail. An alternate route to the wooden stairs near the parking lot takes you to the bridge called Georgia 53. Turn left at the end of the bridge and you’ll find a 30-foot rock wall. Pass the old covered bridge gateway, further half a mile the trail leads you to the rapids. Check for blue rectangular blazes or an arrow above a brown sign on your way to the climb. A few feet further, take a 90 degree turn where a double blaze can be seen. Be attentive not to miss this since there is a fairly visible trail nearby which is usually taken by trekkers by mistake.

Continue to follow the blazes towards a “T” and then turn right towards another climb to the highest ridge of this trail. Several species of flora can be seen along the way as you traverse and you may come across some small streams. About 1.7 miles, the trail climbs to a flat ridge which leads you to its highpoint area where picnic tables and a dedication post for Jason Funk, a boy scout who died in 1991, is located. Proceed to the path turning left at the Forest Service Road and look for another double-blazed sign. Then follow the footpath which leads to a wooden bridge which ends your trail at Highway 53.

Naukluft Hiking Trail Namibia – 8 Days Through Wondrous Desolation

Imagine a place so remote that you do not see another human being for days. Imagine a trail through desolate valleys, over mountains and across large flat plains of sand, rocks and tufts of dry grass. The Naukluft Hiking Trail in Namibia takes you through such a place.

It all starts at an old house perched on top of a small hill in what is known as the Namib-Naukluft Park in South Western Namibia. Hikers Haven is the base camp of this incredible trail. Here one can enjoy one last beer, grilled steak and warm shower. There after follow 8 days of carrying a heavy backpack through some of the most beautiful and desolate areas Namibia has to offer.

Normally one needs to get up at about 5 in the morning to be able to hit the trail by 7. Day one is no exception, and covers a distance of 14km. There is a lovely lookout point at “Panorama” as one starts rising up into the mountains a few kilometers into the hike. Spend some time here and enjoy the view of the plain below.

From here the trail steadily rises higher up into the Naukluft Mountains. A good spot for lunch is “Fontein Kloof”. There are some large trees for shade and the spring usually flows.

As with most of the overnight shelters on this trail, the shelter at “Putte” for tonight is merely a square stone structure with a wall about 1.2m high, over which a tin roof is supported by some steal pipes. The floor is gravel. Approximately 150m from the shelter is a borehole with a big flywheel that needs to be turned for water.

Day two is 15km in length and takes one into the famous Ubusis Kloof or ravine. The descent into the ravine is accomplished with the aid of a number of chains, some of which are up to 30m in length and act as aids down the cliff faces. As one descends further down, a geological time capsule is exposed in the layers of rock to ones sides. The scenery is quite breathtaking.

Ubusis hut is the only “normal” accommodation on this trail. This hut used to be a small vacation home many years ago when the area still consisted of farms. Water is supplied by means of a wind pump and borehole.

Day three takes one back out of Ubusis Kloof the way one went down the day before. At the top, once one reaches Bergpos, the trail turns due north across Kudu Plains. This day is only 12km long and is considered the easiest of all the days.

At the end of the Kudu Plains lies the Adlerhorst overnight shelter, which can be reached by the early afternoon. This leaves plenty of time to admire the scenery and relax a bit. Water is again supplied via a borehole with a handle on top of the pipe.

When we got there, the opening of the borehole pipe was covered in hundreds of bees desperately waiting for someone to turn the handle and pump some water out for them. Nobody got stung even once. It seems as if they realized that the humans coming to this place were their only hope of getting some water.

The fourth day tends to be a bit tricky, and is quite long at 17km. The tricky part comes when one has to descend a waterfall in a dried out river bed with the help of a long chain. The angle of the rocks makes this a difficult descent.

Further on there is another steep descent down the side of a mountain of loose slate. In the past this has been the cause of injuries to hikers slipping on the slate.

The Tsams-Ost overnight shelter contains a large water tank on a perch that is supplied with water from a borehole and wind pump. It is possible to have a cold shower standing underneath the tank.

The next day, day five, starts off with a stiff climb up the mountain behind the Tsams-Ost overnight shelter, and covers another 17km.

Some hours later one reaches Melkbos Plain. This plain involves many kilometers of marching along sandy tracks and through dried out river beds. It is here that one is most likely to see herds of antelope such as Eland or Kudu grazing on the sparse grass and vegetation.

The Die Valle overnight shelter is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and the sun tends to set rather early behind these mountains. Water is left here in a small water tanker which may not contain much water especially at the end of the hiking season, so washing is very limited on this day.

Day six tends to be the longest and most difficult of the whole trail. Even though it is only 16km long, one spends most of the day going up.

Immediately after leaving the Die Valle overnight shelter, there is a 200m vertical climb to the top of a waterfall. There after one follows a gorge and stream that feeds this waterfall for most of the day, climbing ever upwards.

It is along this gorge that one comes across some interesting geological formations called Tufa. Tufa is a sedimentary rock containing a lot of carbonates that are deposited by means of water. It often forms at waterfalls or streams. Here in this gorge, the Tufa looks like a gigantic solidified waterfall. Higher up one comes across a huge fig tree whose roots run all along a small cliff face.

Once on top of the gorge, there is a small flat plateau to cross before starting the long descent along an old jeep track to the Tufa overnight shelter. Be careful at the bottom of the track as the shelter is almost hidden amongst some bushes to the left. Water is again supplied in the form of a borehole next to a dried out stream bed about 150m from the shelter.

Day seven covers 14km and takes one to the highest, and usually the coldest point of the hike at Kapokvlakte.

From the Tufa overnight shelter, the trail crosses some very large boulders as it heads in the direction of the mountains again. At the base of the mountains that eventually lead up to Kapokvlakte, there are some chains to help one up some of the more difficult cliff faces.

Once at the top, the trail follows a steadily rising dried out stream bed until it reaches the top at World’s View. The name is very appropriate, as one can see for many kilometers into the distance. It’s a good place to stop for awhile and admire the view across the plains below, and to the mountains on the other side. From here the terrain is fairly flat and the going easy.

The Kapokvlakte overnight shelter is usually reached by early afternoon. The shelter is hidden behind a clump of bushes which are virtually the only larger vegetation in the area. The rest of the plateau is covered in short grass and the occasional small bush. Kapokvlakte can get very cold at night, and the use of a down feather sleeping bag is a must here.

The last day has finally arrived. By now everyone is dreaming of fat steaks and beer, but there is still a 16km slog ahead. A few kilometers across the top of the plateau, and the trail makes its long descent along a winding gorge down to Hikers Haven.

As the day gets warmer one can hear more and more insects and other small creatures in this lonely gorge. Be careful of picking up rocks. Very often there are scorpions hiding underneath them.

As one gets lower down the trail, there are small pools with large trees on the sides which make for good resting spots. A few hundred meters from Hikers Haven, there is a camp site. Here one may come across the first other humans again after having spent so many days in the wilderness. By now you may also spot the roof of the old house at Hikers Haven. Just a few hundred meters more and one is back. What a time it had been!

Now one can finally get a hot shower again! For those that brought vacuum packed meat and managed to keep it cool in their cars over this period, there will be a feast tonight!