Tag Archives: mountain

Snowdon and the Ranger Trail – Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Snowdon is the tallest mountain in Wales and of all the British Isles south of Scotland. At 1085m above sea level, it’s not really that tall, but with the sharp ridges leading to it having claimed many deaths over the years, its height is nothing to be scoffed at. However, while there are dangerous routes up it, there is also a tourist route directly from Llanberis, which is why it is a popular climb. So, today I will be climbing it with 35+ people from my Meetup.com group, plus, no doubt many others thinking of doing the same.

When I woke this morning it was raining, Murphy’s Law considering the UK has had pristine weather for the past two months.

snowdon-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

After breakfast, we all congregated outside in the cold preparing mentally for the climb ahead. And once we were ready, we began up the road I had come down the day before. This allowed me to get a morning shot of Moel Eilio, the main peak from yesterday’s hike.

dscf8983-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

With a group this size, hiking becomes more of a social event, but I knew that would be the case before I signed up. With the wind buffeting us already, we continued to a gate on the side of the road and headed out across the slightly soggy grassy fields heading towards where the Snowdon train line meets its first stop. Ahead of us, Snowdon was ominously obscured by clouds.

dscf8986-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Once across the tracks, we climbed up the Llanberis Trail, the tourist route mentioned earlier. This trail is wide and is mainly laid with large flat stones or shale rock. And, it is what I call ‘Disneyland’ when looking up (or down) the trail lines of people can be seen climbing as if they were waiting in line for a ride. Here, looking back along the trail after a brief rain, with the Czech girl who would become my hiking partner for the day.

dscf8987-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The climb was not difficult, with a steady climb from the beginning which can be progressed with a plodding walk. We fought the elements the entire time, with the wind gusting into our faces. We plugged away in our little groups along the trail, passing people both climbing and returning, including three walkers ‘driving’ RC 4x4s along the trail. We stopped briefly at Halfway House, a cafe at the midpoint of the walk, but it quickly grew cold, so we pushed on.

dscf8992-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The next stage of the climb was more difficult, it began to rain briefly but thankfully not for long. The wind, however, seemed to pick up, tearing at our clothing, but we plodded on. People came and went from my small group, but my Czech walking partner and I kept pace. The climb grew steeper and colder as we went, but we pushed on at speed, the cold and howling wind winning over our slowly tiring legs. We pushed up past Clogwyn Station, the last train station before Summit Station, and looked out along a flat area with the small lake of Llyn Du r Arddu just hidden from our view.

dscf8994-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The wind picked up again as did the steepness, and at one point, the Czech girl, another girl and I formed a human chain so as not to be torn from the mountain. We pushed on and finally gained the top of the steep section, and under a thin train bridge. On the other side, there was some respite from the wind and good views along a valley called Cwm Glas Bach before the cold pushed us to continue. 1800m to go.

dscf8998-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The grade became the steepest it had been, clouds began flowing over us giving everything a foggy look. We pushed on, with great gusts of wind flowing over us and we were forced to stop each time we felt the large blast coming. The steepness gave up a little, and the trail flattened out, but the wind seemed to grow stronger. We trudged on as we reached 1000m above sea level and the trail continued between a set of ragged rocks and the train tracks. The wind was at torturous levels, and deep in the cloud, with no idea how much further the trail went, it felt like we were walking forever. We struggled on for the last few hundred metres and finally arrived at the summit. The last couple of metres of a climb to the very top, we virtually crawled these last couple of steps, I hung onto my Czech companion to ensure she did not fly away.

dscf9001-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Near the top is the Summit Station with a cafe and gift store. When we entered, we found nearly a hundred people crammed inside the large area with an enormous window looking out to one side of the summit. We found a place to stand and ate the lunch the hostel had provided us. But as it was freezing even in the crowded room, we did not stay long and decided to head down again.

dscf9002-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

There are several ways down the mountain, and my walking partner and I decided to split from the group and follow the Ranger’s Trail. This cut beneath a range called the Clogwyn Coch and above the Lyyn Fyynnon-y-gwas reservoir. The trail led us down a rocky trail with the wind dragging us sideways, zig-zagging down towards this reservoir. There were fewer people on the path, so it felt more like being in the wilderness, and as we got to the bottom of the valley, the wind subsided, and we stopped for a rest.

dscf9003-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

For the next 2km, we walked along a flat trail in this beautiful setting, with few people, until we came to the trail I had walked along at the end of my hike yesterday. Then for the final 4km back to the hostel, we saw no-one. This allowed us to have a long chat about things while enjoying the remainder of the walk, and to top it off, the sun finally emerged from the clouds.

dscf9008-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Overall, while it felt like a ‘Disneyland’ of a walk, it was still a hard slog all the way to the top, battling against the wind and occasional icy rain. Descending was easier and with good company, friendly conversation and amazing scenery, we arrived back at the hostel ready for showers and a relax.

Tomorrow, it’s back to London on the train.

Advertisements

Moel Eilio – Snowdonia National Park, Wales

This morning I packed up the little room I’d been staying in at Bangor University and headed for the bus stop for the  45 minutes ride to Llanberis (pronounced Clanberis). But I was late for the direct bus, so ended up finding an alternative route via Caernarfon. I arrived in Llanberis to find a classic adventure town with many adventure stores, pubs and cafes. I stopped off for lunch and read up on the today’s hike – Moel Eilio.

moeleilio-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

After a coffee, I headed out and up a road near the hostel I’d be staying at later that evening. I followed a road up to the left and after a short climb stopped to take a photo of Snowdon, covered in clouds on the centre right of the below photo.

dscf8946-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The road ended at a series of ruined stone houses. I climbed a ladder-stile and heading up into grassy fields with small groups of sheep. I walked along a vehicle track, called Bwlch y Groes, as it rose towards some disused quarries. From here there are great views down on Lyn Padarn (the lake beside Llanberis), the adventure town hidden by the small mound of Ty n y Mynydd. You have to love these Welsh names.

dscf8947-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Near here there was once an old Iron Age settlement and a hill fort, but little remained of either. The other end of Lyn Padarn.

dscf8951-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I then peered at the peak of Moel Eilio up ahead, still a decent climb away and plodded on.

dscf8954-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

From a distance, Moel Eilio does not look very steep, but as I grew closer, the main peak pushed up ahead. I stopped at the base for a brief rest and saw the only other walker I had seen so far. I began the steep climb, pausing here and there for a quick breather before continuing. About halfway up the steep climb, it started to rain. This pushed me to get to the top as quickly as I could, which was now covered in low clouds. When I got to the top, the rain was coming harder, and I found a stone shelter similar to that which I had seen at the top of the Drum the day before, although the walls of this one were taller. As the rain seemed to be blown across the top of Moel Eilio, when I ducked into the roofless shelter, I was fairly well protected from it.

dscf8959-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I sat for a while to wait out the rain and to rest. But when it didn’t seem ready to stop anytime soon, I decided to push on and hope at lower altitudes it would clear up. In the mist, I followed the trail to the edge of the peak and down the other side. It did not take long to come out of the cloud and to see the path crossing more hills ahead, one unnamed and two others, Foel Gron and Foel Goch, in the distance.

dscf8967-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

As I climbed down, off to my right, I could see the Menai Straight splitting the island of Anglesea from the Welsh mainland, its mouth opening into the Irish Sea.

dscf8971-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Then from the top of the unnamed hill, I got a better look along the valley to Llanberis and Llyn Padarn, with the smaller Llyn Dwythwch at the base of the hills. I continued on up Foel Gron, a fair climb but nothing too strenuous.

dscf8973-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

At the top, I could see down the other side of the range to Llyn Cwellyn reservoir and the small mountains on the other side.

dscf8978-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The final climb up Foel Goch gave great retrospective views across at Moel Eilio, now no longer covered in cloud.

dscf8979-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The trail then cut steeply down a trail to the fairly pronounced Ranger Trail. I made my way deftly down the steep hill to eventually arrive at the Ranger Trail where I passed a French man who was heading to Llanberis.

dscf8980-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I followed the trail for four kilometres along the side of the valley. But after ten minutes or so, it began to rain. So, on went, the pack cover and I marched on to finally arrive soaked and ready for a shower.

dscf8981-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Other than the two spots of rain during the walk, the Moel Eilio could be described as a hidden gem. It is not as high as many of the mountain walks around it, but still had plenty of excellent views, began and finished at Llanberis, and was mostly empty, with tourists opting for the larger Snowdon nearby.

After a shower, I drank a refreshing cider. Then once more of my group arrived, we headed down into Llanberis for dinner and a few more drinks.

Tomorrow, we hit up the big one. Snowdon.

Aber Falls and Drum – Snowdonia National Park, Wales

This week I am in Snowdonia National Park, Northern Wales. But, instead of doing a grand circuit, as I usually do, I have three separate day-walks at the northern end of the national park.

snowdonia-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Today, I merged two smaller walks into one longer one to give me a full day of walking.

Aber Falls – 3 miles / 4.8 km

The first walk of the day, to the Aber Falls, is probably one of the easier walks in Snowdonia. It is also a popular tourist walk, so I was expecting plenty of families.

aberfallsanddrum-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I headed out from the cafe in the brilliant midday sun, along a short path to a road and on the small village roads for about a kilometre to the Aber Falls carpark. As I had expected, the carpark was full, and from what I could tell, there was another carpark nearby which was the same. As my goal is to get away from people and get into the wilderness, I quick marched along the wide shingle and dirt trail, passing picnic benches and groups of families hanging out in the sun.

With temperatures in the high 30s back in London, I was glad it was cooler up here, although it was still set to be a scorcher of a day in the mid-20s. I marched quickly along the trail passing through small clumps of trees on a path that rose gently yet remained flat enough for wheelchairs.

dscf8912-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

After another kilometre and a half, I finally climbed a rise and saw the thin ribbon waterfall. It has been hot and dry for many weeks here in the UK, so the waterfall was less than it should be.

dscf8911-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I walked on for several minutes until I came to the base of the falls. Groups of people sat along the stream leading away from the falls, enjoying the weather and cool water. When I got to the base, I climbed to the far side for a closer look. Unfortunately, because the sun was right above the cliffs, it was impossible to get a good photo of the entire waterfall.

dscf8915-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Then after a few minutes rest in the shade, I quick marched my way back along the trail, stopping to chat briefly to an older gentleman in a mobility scooter before arriving back at the car park.

Drum and Llyn Anafon – 6.75 miles / 10.7km

From the Aber Falls car park, I walked along a sometimes steep thin road for 2 km until I came to another carpark, this one empty. An empty car park is a good sign, there will be few people on the trail. I rested for lunch on a large rock in the sun as there was no shelter. Above me was the colourful peak of Foel Dduartl, my return trail obvious across its front.

dscf8919-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I climbed a rocky trail for several hundred metres towards a set of power lines and a rock fence. I cut right at the North Wales Path and followed the power lines steadily uphill. The peaks of Foel Dduartl and Foel Ganol to my right were emblazoned with autumn colours even though it felt most decidedly summer.

dscf8921-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

The path continued steadily uphill for more than a kilometre under the power lines. If it were not for those power lines, it would feel decidedly wilderness. Close enough for me.

dscf8923-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Off to my left, as I climbed, the Irish Sea in all its blueness.

dscf8925-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

After 2km, I turned right onto a wide and easy trail that again continued the long climb this time fairly directly to Drum (pronounced Drim) in the distance. Here I passed the only other walker I would see on this trail. I headed further on the trail as it grew steeper but nothing too strenuous, the sun beating down on me as I walked. To my right, the Llyn Anafon reservoir.

dscf8926-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

While an open sky is excellent for views, the sun is not your friend on a summer hike. The direct sunlight can be draining, and today was no exception. As I neared the summit of Drum, the trail grew steeper, and I had to push myself step after step to climb higher. Eventually, I made it to the top and stared back at the valley below, the Irish Sea beyond.

dscf8927-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

I crossed a ladder stile and took in the view from the other side of Drum down to the sea.

dscf8932-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

At the top is a round cairn shelter, although it didn’t look like a pleasant place to sit in the heat. So I found a soft grassy patch on the far side and lay down for a ten-minute nap.

dscf8929-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

When I got up again, I was besieged by a horde of flies which seemed to buzz around behind me. I flapped them away as best I could, but they kept returning. So, I donned my pack and hat, crossed the ladder stile and headed off.

The initial part of my return hike did not actually follow a trail down the hill, but simply struck off down towards Llyn Anafon reservoir, aiming for the broad service track. Thankfully from the dry weather, the ground was not soggy. I edged my way down the side of the hill for several hundred metres, zigzagging back and forth to avoid sheep until I eventually arrived at the lake.

dscf8937-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

My descent from there was fairly steady, following the outlet of the reservoir – Afon Anafon – beneath the peaks I had climbed on the way up. The colours still stood out as I went, almost fading from deep green to the autumn colours as I headed towards the base of Foel Dduartl.

dscf8942-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

And then it was onto the blue of the Irish Sea again as I rounded the base of the peak and returned to the empty carpark. I stopped for a brief rest before marching the 3km back to the bus stop at Abergwyngregyn. Then it was back to Bangor, where I made my way to the local Wetherspoons for a well-deserved cider.

img_5052-2018-07-28-17-39.jpg

Overall, the Aber Falls and Drum were a good pair of walks to add together on a sun-drenched day. Tomorrow, I head by bus to Llanberis and do a smaller local circuit before my group arrives to climb Snowdon.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing, Central Plateau, New Zealand

Mount Tongariro is one of several volcanos in the middle of New Zealand’s North Island. It’s the northernmost of the three volcanic cones just to the south of Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake.

Mount Tongariro is also the location of one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This is a 19.4 kilometre hike that climbs over the Tongariro massif, past the summit of both Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

tongariro-crossing-map-aug-2012-2016-04-4-15-52.gif
Map is © Copyright Tongariro Alpine Crossing Please visit that site for more information.

A group of us decided to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing towards the end of the season. We made arrangements and drove down from Auckland on Friday night with the intentions of climbing early Saturday morning. The four-hour drive turned into five and a half as we left during Auckland’s rush hour. We arrived late in the evening and bedded down for the night with alarms set.

A Bad Start
When we awoke on Saturday Morning it was raining and didn’t look pleasant. We went for breakfast and waited to find out if the we could still do the walk. The answer came back a resounding no. The rain and strong winds meant the mountain was closed. All we could do was hang out for the day and hope for better weather on Sunday.

What Tongariro should look like, apparently…
slider4-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

Ominous News
We were up and had breakfast early on Sunday but the weather still didn’t look great. The mountain was still not visible from our lodgings and when our driver arrived he had bad news. He believed the mountain was again closed and wouldn’t take us, leaving us a little downhearted. We asked the owner of the lodge and he was unconvinced. He rang another driver who confirmed the mountain was in fact open and would take us up.

We were driven to the trailhead in the rain with trepidation, but with the number of other vehicles heading up, it seemed others would also be braving it.

Trailhead – Mangetapopo Carpark – 1100m
We began at the Mangetapopo carpark in a slight drizzle. There were no views of the massif or much else due to the low cloud. The trail was a mix of mud, stones, wooden platforms and people. There were hundreds of others doing the track with us. If this many were doing it on a bleak day, who could guess how busy it would be on a clear one.

dscf8322-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

The walk was easy and for the first seven or so kilometres we barely noticed the 250m climb towards Soda Springs. I walked in a quick dry sports singlet, my hiking zip-off shorts and boots. The drizzle was constant but not heavy and I was fairly warm. Others wore long pants and full Gore-tex jackets.

Soda Springs – 1350m
At Soda Springs there is a warning sign: STOP! Are you really prepared? It suggested it was going to get difficult and to turn back if you weren’t prepared. As I waited for my group, I watched several people get to the sign, stare at it for a while and then turn back. With the drizzle picking up I put on a rain poncho over my singlet and began the climb.

dscf8327-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

It became more rugged, with a rough dirt trail and steps weaving up the side of the mountain towards South Crater. The drizzle continued and the climb became more a little more difficult, but not by much. After a while of steady climbing we began seeing people returning along with trail with warnings of how bad it was higher up.

With the constant drizzle and the warnings I was tempted to turn back. Why do a climb when you can’t see anything the entire time? You climb for the views and the experience, but the only experience would be a wet cloudy one. I put on a jumper under my rain poncho and we continued on.

South Crater – 1650m
We climbed onto the area described as South Crater and out of the wind. With visibility around 20m we walked on the flat for a while, happy for the rest from climbing.

dscf8329-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

Red Crater – 1886m
After the mud flats of South Crater we began up the ridge and discovered the wind that had been putting everyone off. It was blowing an absolute gale and you could see the drizzle sweeping over the ridge into the cloudy nothingness. I was not surprised people had turned back but since we’d come this far it seemed silly to head back. We pushed on, dodging between rocky outcrops so as not to be blown off.

We reached the top but couldn’t see anything so just kept walking, beginning the plunge down the other side, some members of our group going arse-over-tit on the slippery silt.

Emerald Lakes – 1730m
The small Emerald Lakes would have been amazing to view from higher up but they only appeared out of the gloom when we were 10m above them. It was still good to see something other than dirt, rock and rain. By now we were completely soaked, we continued on down.

dscf8332-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

Not far below the Emerald Lakes we came to the Blue Lake covered in the same clouds.

dscf8334-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

Ketetahi – 1456m
After several switchbacks we finally emerged from the clouds to see the Ketetahi Hut. The drizzle let up but the wind did not. We stopped briefly for a snack before pressing on.

For the next part of the trek we were in open ground along a winding trail. Since a great many people had turned back, we only saw two other groups on the way down. Then having spent much of the day hidden in clouds we finally got some views. Lake Rotoaira appeared and we even got the occasional glimpse of Lake Taupo beyond.

dscf8343-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

Ketetahi Car Park 800m
With 4km to the car park the trail dove into rainforest and grew warmer. We crossed a river on a wooden walkway and eventually arrived at the trail’s end after what seemed a lot longer than 45 minutes the sign had suggested.

dscf8346-2016-04-4-15-52.jpg

Overall, due to the weather, out Tongariro Alpine Crossing was disappointing mainly of the lack of views. In the rain and cold, the hike didn’t feel overly difficult. It took us only 5.5 hours of the suggested 8 hours and of the 2.5 litres of water I took with me, I came out with more than 2.

Perhaps it would have been more difficult in direct sunlight, but I’ll have to come back another time to see. Maybe the next time I’m in New Zealand.

The Trail Wanderer

Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City by Scooter – Part 3

I’m currently riding the length of Vietnam on a Scooter.

Incase you missed them:
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City by Scooter – Part 1
Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City by Scooter – Part 2

wpid-img_2370-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Day 12 – Hoi An to Kham Duc – 110Km
Today started out cloudy, but once I got into the highlands it began to pour. Before long I was drenched, even though my supposedly waterproof clothing, drowning my phone in one of my pockets. Then at one point I came around a corner too close to the road’s edge and came off my bike. My clothes took the brunt of the scrapes and I got off fairly lightly thanks to my sedate pace in the rain.

On arrival at the hotel I changed into dry clothes and surveyed the damage. While my phone was wet on the outside, water had only found its way into the SIM slot. This stopped my phone from connecting to the network via the SIM and removes my only navigation tool.

Day 13 – Tham Duc to Hoi An – 110km
As country Vietnam has less than optimal signposting and without the ability to navigate on my phone, I made the decision to head back to Hoi An. This was in hope of getting to an Apple store in Da Nang to get my phone either replaced or fixed. For my ride today the weather was clear with no threat of rain, and the journey back was actually enjoyable with some interesting views.

wpid-dscf7073-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Returning to Hoi An was fairly easy, although there was the occasional junction without adequate signage that was confusing. In Da Nang I located the Apple Service Centre but as it’s Chinese New Years getting parts would take weeks. I had no choice but to continue my journey without it.

Day 14 – Hoi An to Quang Ngai – 127km
Instead of heading back into the highlands, I rode south along the AH1, the main Asian Highway which stretches for over 20,000 km and crosses 16 countries from Japan to Turkey. As in previous days on the AH1 there were too many road works and even more trucks to spray up the dust. It took me 3 hours to get to the outskirts of Quang Ngai, but finding the hotel without my phone was troublesome. After settling into my room I headed out to find an ATM and to buy a cheap phone. After my purchase I stopped by the tomb of national hero Truong Cong Dinh, famous for leading an army against the french invasion force.

wpid-dscf7074-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Huang Ngai is also the site the Song My massacre. During the American War, the area was incorrectly identified as a Viet Cong stronghold. More than 400 innocents were slaughtered by American Soldiers, mainly women and children.

Day 15 – Quang Ngai to Quy Nhon – 204km
Today’s long ride was fairly uneventful. The AH1 continued to be the same with many road works, trucks and dust. Today the road cut through many flat, deep green rice paddies on the plains.

wpid-DSCF7081-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Quy Nhon is an industrial city littered with large car dealerships and malls. It was nice to find a decent supermarket to stock up on some needed items.

Day 16 – Quy Nhon to Nha Trang – 218km
This morning I woke to find my back tyre flat, so after finding coffee, I located a mechanic to replace my entire rear tyre. With that fixed, I headed off, but when I stopped to take a photo 5 km along the highway, the bike wouldn’t start again. The starter motor cable had sheered off so I jury rigged it and headed back to the mechanic who fixed it for free.

wpid-DSCF7079-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Today the AH1 followed the mountainous coastline and in the sunshine there were many beautiful views.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the hostel, I discovered that the screen of my new macbook had cracked. With the ongoing issues with my scooter and damage to other pieces of my equipment, this adventure is starting to be an expensive one. While I have enjoyed many parts of it, I’m starting to look forward to it being over.

Day 17 – Rest Day in Nha Trang

Nah Trang is a resort city on the sea. With direct flights from Moscow, it’s very popular with Russian holiday makers especially during the Russian winter. While it’s warmer here it’s not hot enough for me to consider it beach weather, but the many tourists used to cooler climates seemed to enjoy it immensely.

wpid-DSCF7116-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Like most larger Vietnamese cities, the streets of Nha Trang are crazy with motorbikes flowing everywhere. I rode around the city in search of some of its sights and found the Nha Trang Cathedral, a neo-Gothic structure built by the French in 1933.

wpid-dscf7095-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

Then on the north side of the city I found the Po Nagar Towers. The temple complex was built over 1,200 years ago by the Cham people, the civilisation that preceded Vietnam. The towers were part of a temple dedicated to the goddess of the country, which encompassing much of what is now Vietnam, Cambodia and southern Laos.

wpid-dscf7108-2015-02-8-18-42.jpg

For the final part of my journey – Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City by Scooter Part 4 – I head back into the Central Highlands then along southern beaches to Vietnam’s largest city.

Vietnam Central South1

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Bali, Indonesia – Adventures

When you have three weeks in Bali you can’t just languish around the pool or at the beach the entire time. Actually, I guess you probably could, but I can’t. There’s just too many other things to see around the island…

Mt Batur

In Bali’s highlands there are several volcanos. Mt Batur is the most active, having erupted 20 times in the last 200 years.

wpid-dscf4918-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

It’s a fairly small volcano that lies in the caldera of a once more mighty volcano, one that stood over twice Mt Batur’s current height. And on the south-eastern side of the caldera is Danau Batur, the largest crater lake in Bali.

wpid-dscf4916-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Coffee Tour

Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world and Bali’s highlands has its share of plantations. During the tour we discovered the many tastes of Bali’s coffees and teas, all of which were delicious, although some were overly sweet.

wpid-dscf4914-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Indonesia has a most unusual coffee called Kopi Luwak. It’s the most expensive coffee in the world because the beans are fed to the Asian Palm Civet, collected from its droppings, cleaned and roasted. Enzymes in the animal’s gut react with the beans to give them a rich and smooth flavour.

wpid-dscf4911-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

There are growing concerns about the ‘farming’ of Kopi Luwak as the animals are held in battery cages and forced to eat the beans. The two animals at the plantation weren’t so cramped in their larger cages although seemed quite disinterested in our being there.

Highland Cycle Tour

A gentle way to see the highlands of Bali is via a bicycle tour. A large group of us ventured out one morning on a tour which started in the highlands and worked its way down quiet roads. This provided plentiful views of rural Bali including many rice paddies.

wpid-dscf4943-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

We were introduced to many of the local traditions as we rode through several villages and past many small temples, including this temple to the Destroyer, surrounded by palm trees.

wpid-dscf4939-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Midget Fun Boxing

Beyond all Bali’s standard evening entertainments of fine dining, drinking, beach-side bands and dancing there’s Midget Fun Boxing. While this might seem like a strange and violent form of entertainment, it’s actually quite fun. Reminiscent of the classic days of WWF wrestling, it’s more of a comedy fare with the midgets wearing gloves that cover more than half of their arms. Midway through a bout the competitors stop to dance to whatever music comes on, head banging to AC/DC or bopping to other types of music. But should one opponent take his attention from the other he gets belted. With a low centre of gravity the midgets are easily knocked over and then it’s a free for all. Here, after knocking his opponent over, this boxer jumped on top and pretended to hump him.

wpid-img_1879-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Between bouts female midgets dance around on stage with some of the younger members of the audience. Cheeky boxers would stuff a boxing glove down their oversized shorts and chase the dancing-girls. Overall it was a fun night with much hilarity. No midgets were hurt in the process, although that can’t be said for this audience member during post event photos.

wpid-img_1923-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Manta Ray Safari

On a hot and humid island in the tropics there’s usually plenty to do out on the water. I took the opportunity to go out by boat and snorkel with Manta Rays. Four metres from wingtip to wingtip these placid creatures fly through water without a care. Unperturbed by us being there they would come up close to have a good look before swimming on.

wpid-p1000289-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Bali also has some very diverse coral reefs, with 500 species of coral recorded around the one island. This is more than the entire Caribbean Sea. We snorkelled around the reefs in the warm waters for much of the day.

wpid-p1000309-2014-10-22-14-26.jpg

Next, we hired some scooters and checked out some temples, but that for another day…

The Lone Trail Wanderer