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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

The combination of soccer (my childhood sport of choice and the only sport besides cricket that my dad likes) + South Africa = Awesome. So in anticipation of the World Cup festivities, I plan on blogging for the next few weeks about this lovely country and its people.

About nine years ago, I studied abroad in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. I’ll talk more about Pietermaritzburg one day, but for now I want to start off with one of my all time favorite places to visit in South Africa, the Drakensberg Mountains. The Drakensberg Mountains are dramatic and majestic mountains that are about four hours away from Johannesburg. It has been recognized as a World Heritage site and reportedly is the place that inspired J.R. Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings.

Nowadays I’m sure you can find a pricey tour guide to lead you up there and another operator to put you on some fancy cable swing, but when I went out there with my fellow study abroad friends, we drove up to the mountains with a local student who led us on an amazing hike through the mountains. We ended up camping outside under a ledge high up in the mountains and waking up to the sounds of monkeys playing in the morning. The next morning we hiked down and stopped along the way to stare at the Bushmen carvings in the rocks.

To this day I have never forgotten what the sky looked like when the stars emerged and the Milky Way shone. (cheesy but true). I had never seen the Milky Way before traveling to South Africa and I actually thought it was a myth, but apparently the Southern Hemisphere is the one of the best places to view the Milky Way. Combine that with the lack of pollution or light pollution = spectacular star gazing.

So in planning your trip to South Africa, hit up the natural spots like Cape Town and Kruger, but be sure to also include a day of hiking at the Drakensberg Mountains.

For more info:

http://www.tribes.co.uk/regions/mountains/drakensberg_mountains

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billy goat trail

A few weeks ago I headed to Washington D.C. to visit a few good friends. When people visit D.C. they generally think that they should hit up the Mall, the museums, Georgetown, and possibly U street now because of its recent popularity due to President Obama. But, for an off the beaten track visit to the nation’s capitol head outdoors for a hike on the Billy Goat Trail to check out the local natural beauty and activity junkies.

Where?

Billy Goat trail is located in Potomac, Maryland near Great Falls.

How long?

Approximately 2 hours of scrambling over moderate to difficult rocks, 4.2 miles roundtrip, definitely wear your hiking shoes!

What’s there to look at?

Dramatic views of the Potomac river, kayakers tackling challenging rapids, blue herons that are natural to the area (yes we saw one), and cute dogs being walked by their owners.

What to snack on?

After burning off substantial calories, on your way back to the city stop at Bus Boys and Poets near U street, a progressive cafe for a good meal.

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Kauai Day 1

It’s finally time to blog about one of my favorite places in the world, Kauai! My husband and I went to Kauai and the Big Island for our honeymoon in September.  Originally, when our other plans fell through I turned up my nose at the idea of going to Hawaii for our honeymoon because it suggested we were a hum drum typical honeymooner couple.  I was soooo wrong!  Hawaii is everything that everyone talks about and more. Because each island is vastly different it’s possible to visit three different climates on one island in one day. Contrary to popular belief, Hawaii isn’t just for couples, and really offers a ton of activity for any adventurous traveler.

As we began to plan out our Hawaii vacation we realized that you really do need about a week on every island because there is so much to do on each one!

We  began our trip in Kauai. Kauai is where the idea for this blog was born. My husband and I were hiking one of the best trails in America on the North Shore of Kauai when we both said to each other that we wish travel planning and itinerary sharing was much easier, and so an idea was born.

Kauai is vividly beautiful, it’s where they filmed the incoming shots of Jurassic Park.  It is also a moody island as clouds roll in frequently on the North Shore and rain is an everyday occurrence.  The South Shore on the other hand (i.e. Poipu) is sunny and cheery pretty much everyday. Kauai is the western most island in Hawaii and the west side of Kauai is the western most point of the United States. The island is very small, about 50 miles all around, but renting a car will make your trip all the more easier and fun.

Below is day 1 from our Kauai itinerary.  I hope you enjoy reading and dreaming. Please comment if you any tips as well!

Where to stay

Because we were on a honeymoon and wanted a nicer place to stay for this leg of our journey we chose the Grand Hyatt in Poipu (south side of Kauai). The Grand Hyatt has great service, delicious brunch, and is near Poipu beach, which has some of the best snorkeling and body boarding on the Island.  But, when I go back next time, I may switch gears and stay on the North end of the Island at the Princeville, which is a bit more dramatic. In the alternative, there are a ton of b&bs on the island that probably offer a better rate than the chains. (ie. check out frugal traveler at http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/28/travel/frugal-traveler-a-cottage-of-one-s-own-in-kauai.html?pagewanted=1)

Regardless of where you stay on the island, it’s fairly small and you can get around easily to either side as long as you rent a car.

What to do

Day 1 – Poipu Beach

Wake up early and grab brunch at your hotel’s buffet or check out Kalaheo Cafe and Coffee Company for an awesome cheap brunch of pancakes/eggs. Kauai has some of the best coffee (in fact we brought several bags home) so enjoy it while you’re there! http://www.kalaheo.com/

Drive to Poipu Beach (less than 3 or 4 miles from the Grand Hyatt- your gps will recognize this beach if you enter in places/recreation). Rent your snorkeling gear from the local shop to the left of the parking lot if you don’t have your own ($6 daily rentals). Poipu offers some of the best snorkeling on Kauai. The water is shallow and calm, which allows you to swim out to the little reef and observe all the native fish in their habitat. On our first day snorkeling there, we saw a ton of fish, and a few sea turtles. We did this all for $6 a person, without a tour guide or a boat taking us to some remote location.

After you tire of the snorkeling, and chilling on the beach, walk down the road to Brennecke’s Beach, which is literally part of the same park as Poipu Beach.  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g29218-d155134-Reviews-Brennecke_s_Beach-Kauai_Hawaii.html

Brennecke’s is one of the top body surfing and body boarding places in the world. The waves break throughout the year consistently because of the sheltered cove that it is sits on.  On an interesting day, you’ll see local kids riding the waves like pros and tackling each wave with a lack of fear. My husband literally probably stayed in the water for 4 hours straight just riding the waves. What makes this beach ridiculously fun is the backlash wave from the rocks on the beach, which allows people to ride 2 waves simultaneously at the same time. Even if you’re a bit timid of the water, Brennecke’s is still fairly shallow, so novice swimmers could get in the water and ride a few waves on their boogie boards.

After a rollicking day in Poipu, if you’re in the mood for an upscale nice dinner, try a nice Italian dinner outdoors at Donderos.http://kauai.hyatt.com/hyatt/hotels/entertainment/restaurants/index.jsp#1823

Check out Frugal Traveler’s article for more tips..http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/01/27/travel/27Hawaii.html?ex=1359262800&en=afd4eefbbcb6a0a0&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

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Nepal

My good friend Tomer is from Israel. I’ve always admired the way he travels and his desire to travel to places off the beaten track. He recently returned from a trip to Nepal. I’m super jealous because even though I’m Indian, I haven’t really ventured outside of India to Nepal and the other surrounding countries. After reading his post on Nepal, I can’t wait to start planning my hiking trip to Nepal.
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Landlocked between the two Asian giants, the mountainous kingdom of Nepal is all but a story of success. 82% of the mostly rural residents of the country live on less than $1 per day and literacy rates hardly reach 45% among men and 28% among women. This was initially the result of thinly veiled lack of care on the part of the institutions of the monarchy and later, when genuine attempts to develop the country were made, due to a sudden rapid and sharp increase in population (currently approaching 25 million, after numbering only 8.5 million in the early 50s, the average age in the country is currently 20) which turned Nepal from a food exporter into a food importer. A laughably unstable political system, with prime ministers changing almost by the day, a violent Maoist underground, frustrated with the fruits of democracy but otherwise rather unclear as to what it wants, and daily strikes that hinder any attempt to conduct a normal routine help to understand why Nepal is one of the few countries where a communist party emerged victor from a free election process, only a few years after Nepal was probably the only place in the world where democracy outvoted itself 55% to 45% in a referendum on proposed democratic reforms that would take power away from the monarchy. Apart from its reckless beauty, on which a successful tourist industry is based, the country has really little to offer and, however, the beauty of the country is reckless.

Landing in the Kathmandu airport is an interesting experience even for those who have some experience in traveling through “third world countries” – an experience that, first and foremost, goes to show how ridiculous and misleading is the “third world” definition, which puts under one category rapidly developing countries such as Thailand and ever declining countries such as Nepal. The messy airport is a good introduction to Kathmandu, which is likely to be the messiest city you ever visited. Narrow, loud and hectic streets, full of walkers who wear an expression of anxiety and defeat, grabbing each others’ shoulders and with cars, mostly from the 50s, trying to make their way through the apathetic crowd. A western traveler may find it hard to walk more than one or two steps without being offered treks to everywhere in the world, all sorts of illegal substances and plenty of opportunities to give money to the many beggars. A guesthouse should be picked carefully as many are not terribly hygienic (others are though). Other challenges include frequent cuts of power supply and streets which become rather unpleasant at night. And yet, but for all its shortcomings, the city does have some charm, very limited though.

But it is not Kathmandu that should bring you to Nepal. Rather, rumors of unsuppressed beauty in the country side should appeal to the traveler much more than the country’s nothing-to-write-home-about big cities. While there is a wealth of travel attractions in Nepal, trekking is by far the most appealing of all.

Some of the more popular treks, including the renowned Anapurna Trek, leave from the cute town of Pokhara, approximately 8 hours by bus from Kathmandu. Those who wish to have a slightly more authentic experience may opt for the treks north of Kathmandu, on the Tibetan-Nepalese border. In particular, the trek to the Frozen Lakes and the LangTang Trek (which can be attempted separately in 7-8 days each or combined in 10-11 days) offer the opportunity to walk through small, picterous villages, with the Tibetan Plateau on your left and the Nepalese Himalaya on your right. Other, slightly less popular but by no means less attractive opportunities are in the rural villages in the west side of the country.

Trekking in Nepal is ridiculously cheap (approximately $20-$30 per day) and while it will be wrong to expect the treks to be your Sunday walk in the park, they are comparatively physically manageable. While porters are easy and cheap to hire, they may not be necessary at all as sleeping facilities, (good!) food and showers are available in the villages throughout the treks. Treks can be arranged through the many agencies in Tamel Street in Kathmandu or through the agencies in Pokhara. One agency that comes highly recommended is called “Swissa” and locals will be happy to direct you there upon request.

The best times to go are September through November and March through May, when the weather is almost perfect. Traveling to Nepal between Mid-June and the end of August, during the Monsoon season, is not a great idea.

So if you’re up for skies of colors you have never seen before, charming and welcoming people who live life the way it should be, mighty mountains and powerful rivers, Nepal is a must on your traveling list.

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View of the Hudson

DSC03129DSC03128Catskills, New York

On a beautiful November Saturday we left early on a 9:50 MetroNorth Train to Cold Spring New York for a day of hiking in the Catskills. We knew that it may be the last chance to hike this fall without freezing and having to dress in multiple layers. Getting out of the city is always a luxury, but leaving on a train sitting next to a window that offers an opportunity to stare at the fall foliage and Hudson River as you ride up to the Catskills is a joy!

I’ve done several hikes in the Catskills now, but Mount Taurus was potentially one of the best hikes I’ve done in the Catskills region, and possibly DSC03170DSC03158DSC03169in America.

After taking the train from Grand Central to Cold Spring, which takes about 1 hr and 20 minutes, walk down to the town of Cold Spring and Main Street. From there hang a left on Fair Street and walk down the road until you hit the parking lot for Little Stony Point. From there we started hiking and took the 2.5 hour loop that is dazzling. Of course it took our group a little more than 2.5 hours because it was so beautiful everywhere we had to stop and take pictures, eat snacks, and commiserate about how out of shape we all were!

I recommend the white trail to the yellow trail. Once you’re on the yellow trail look for signs for the red trail and stay on it for a bit because you’ll pass ruins, old farmhouses, and little waterfalls. After you’re done with viewing the ruins, stay to the left and head back to the parking lot on the blue trail.

Highlights of the trail : Stunning Hudson valley vistas of the Hudson River, Mount Taurus, Breakneck Ridge and other mountains in the range. Challenging uphill hike but gradually levels off. It is certainly less technical than the Breakneck Ridge Hike which requires hikers to use all hands and feet to scramble over the rocks. I enjoyed this hike slightly more than Breakneck Ridge because of the views of the Hudson Valley. Plus it’s a bit longer.

For more info on how to get to Cold Spring and about the hike in general check out these links:

http://as0.mta.info/mnr/schedules/sched_form.cfm

http://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGN205-002

See more photos of our trip here

http://picasaweb.google.com/followtheleaderblog/BlogHiking?feat=directlink

Also you can purchase the trail below at a great Kayaking adventure outfitter store on Main Street in Cold Spring, right before you make the turn onto Fair Street.

East Hudson Trail Map

East Hudson Trail Map

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