Take A Hike!
'Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking' Antonio Machado
'All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking' Friedrich Nietzsche
'Walking is a virtue, tourism is a deadly sin' Bruce Chatwin
We have hiked in many places around the world, and it's one of our favourite things to do when we travel. Our longest hike to date has been The Inca Trail in Peru, an extraordinary four day hike culminating at the ancient site of Machu Picchu. Walking is a great way to stay in shape, see some amazing landscapes, maybe learn a little about the local area and get some fresh air all at the same time.
The following are a combination of day hikes, multi-day hikes and also simply areas where we have enjoyed some great short walks.
A region of surreal and amazing landscapes. Generally, trails aren't marked, but you can make your own trails through valleys, between villages and amongst weird and wonderful rock formations. You never know what you are going to come across - spires, caves, towers, tunnels, pinnacles and huge mushrooms! One of our favourite stomping grounds in the world!
Kaulapapa Trail, Molokai, Hawaii, USA
Kaulapapa Leper Colony can only be accessed by boat, air, foot or mule. We chose to hike the three mile descent to the peninsular, where the colony is situated. The settlement was established in 1873, when about one thousand people were sent there from all over the Hawaiian Islands. Now, only a few patients remain. Unless invited by a patient, the only way to visit is to connect with a tour on arrival at the village.
The day we had booked to take the tour was drizzly, and consequently the rocky trail was slippery. With an elevation drop of 1,700 feet and 26 switchbacks on the trail, it took us about and hour and a half to complete (and two and a half hours back). We passed vibrantly coloured fungi, glimpsed the ocean through the foliage and spotted a deer which ran alongside us by the trail.
At the foot of the trail, we continued along a beach-side track in the misty rain and saw whales breaching in the ocean before we reached the meeting place for the tour. Visiting the colony and learning about its fascinating history, combined with the sheer beauty of the peninsular and trail, rates pretty high on our list of unique travel experiences.
There are some great hikes to do in this area of great natural beauty and stunning Nabatean archaeological sites - indeed, it's one of the wonders of the world.
We walked through the Siq, the famous rocky gorge for our first sight of the iconic Treasury. From there, it is a wonderland of red mountains, caves, cliffs, huge mausoleums and rock cut temples. It's easy to wander off the beaten track, away from the crowds, and find solitude, or to hike up to a lofty cliff and look down upon the amazing scenes.
The hike to the Monastery is steep, but worthwhile. Yet another incredible structure cut into the rock face. From nearby viewpoints, we looked out over the desert vista.
We both loved Petra and it was an opportunity to explore an area where humanity and nature come together in the most spectacular way possible.
Magnetic Island, Queensland, Australia
We spent a week camping on a hill overlooking the beach and everyday we hiked on different trails. We saw several koalas and an amazing array of birds including kookaburras, parrots, parakeets and cockatiels. We hiked along beaches and roads, over hills, through bushland and forests on trails lined with giant boulders. The most well known trail is probably The Fort's Walk which culminates in a 360 degree view of the coastline and the coral sea.
There are a variety of trails available, most of them short (up to two and a half hours long), but hugely rewarding. It's a 'get-back-to-nature' island with some great walks that provide some relaxing and highly enjoyable hiking experiences.
Hermits Rest, Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
Like a journey to the centre of the earth, a trail into the depths of The Grand Canyon. As you descend down the steep pinion lined trail, there are beautiful views of Hermit Creek Canyon. We stopped at Dripping Springs, where we re-filled our water bottles and continued to the mighty Colorado River. We ate and slept by the roaring rapids, taking in the wonder of the canyon before making our ascent the following morning.
Hampi, Karnataka, India
A very cool stomping ground. Hampi is a world UNESCO site where an abundance of fourteenth century ruins are scattered amongst huge and numerous boulders. We spent several days (in extreme heat!) exploring the ancient temples, baths and monuments. Hampi is situated by the Tungabhadra River amidst lush palms. It's a magical, laid back place and a joy to hike around. You are never too far away from one of the numerous cafes for a rejuvenating break and a mango smoothie!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii, USA
We pitched our tents at the lovely Namakanipaio campsite. At four thousand feet above sea level, the lush field was surrounded by eucalyptus trees and a cool place to spend a couple of nights. Having settled in, we set off tho explore the spectacular Volcanoes National Park.
Home to the worlds most active volcano, Kilauea, we hiked through a landscape of calderas, lava tubes, steam vents, rainforest and craters. There are trails of varying difficulty between one and fourteen miles long.
On The Chain Of Craters Road we drove as far as we could, until lava covered the road and we had to park up and start walking. Across the lava we trudged until we could see the plume of steam rising where the lava flow hits the ocean. An amazing sight.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an awe-inspiring corner of the world, and an example of nature at its most powerful and beautiful.
The Inca Trail, Peru
One of the most iconic treks in the world, The Inca Trail winds its way through twenty six miles of valleys, mountain passes and ruins.
We went to Peru with our friends Anton, Grant and Simon and joined a few others on the organised trek leaving from Cusco. You can't hike the Inca Trail independently - you have to have a guide and a permit.
The first day was reasonably easy as we followed the Urumba River on a gradually inclining trail. We stood to one side as lamas gallivanted past us. The second day was a tough one. Altitude sickness, the highest point named Dead Woman's Pass at 13776 feet, along with extreme weather conditions from searing heat to freezing winds, made it a challenging day. Dead Woman's Pass was close to being renamed Two Dead Women Pass that day!
The amazing porters ran ahead like gazelles. On their backs they carried our personal gear in addition to tables, chairs, tents and food. We just carried day packs with water and whatever else we needed for the day. The porters would reach the campsite and set up the tents and prepare dinner. On the killer second day, there were five of us still on the trail when everybody else had made it back to camp. The porters kindly retraced their steps to bring tea out to us - those guys are heroes!
Day three, and on we plodded. The scenery was spectacular and we passed several ruins. At least the worst day was over. That evening, from the relative comfort of our tent, we looked out over a breathtaking view of the mountains.
After our early morning call at 4.00 am on the fourth day, we started walking the last part of the trail in darkness. Finally, we made it to the Sun Gate. As the mist cleared, the splendour of the ancient city of Machu Picchu appeared before us. Exhausted, but happy we somehow found the energy to explore the ruins.
The Inca Trail was awesome, challenging at times, but undoubtedly one of our most outstanding travel memories.
Mount Lassen National Park, California, USA
Lassen isn't one of the biggies in the National Park league, but it's a spectacular place with some great hiking.
Mount Lassen is a dormant volcano which last erupted in 1915. It's a half day return hike to the summit following a rocky trail through barren terrain. Scampering chipmunks kept us company on route. At the snowy 10.462 foot peak, there were clear views across the desolate landscape, an example of the power of a volcanic eruption.
Elsewhere in the park The Bumpass Hell Trail is a short, but surreal three mile round trip trail. Amazing displays of boiling mudpots, hissing blowholes and steam vents surround the well marked trail. There are numerous warnings not to go off track (a possibly dangerous prospect in these parts!)
The colours are unreal - aqua pools and vibrant soil of oranges and reds.
Mount Lassen National Park doesn't really get the attention it deserves - it's a great place to visit with extraordinary natural phenomenon to explore.
Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
We admit we cheated on this one as we hiked and biked it! To be honest, the pre-monsoon heat would have made it somewhat difficult to hike the whole circuit in a day, so we rode bikes between the sites and then walked around them.
Polonnaruwa is an ancient city, situated in a jungle region and the sites are connected by a quiet road. Some of the sites are quite spread out, so there was a fair amount of walking involved at each stop.
The ruins are 12th century remnants of palaces, monuments, temples and Buddhas. Monkeys had made their home amongst some of the ruins and leaped between pillars and trees. One advantage was that there weren't any crowds - a big bonus.
There was a miraculous moment when, having run out of water and both complaining of dehydration, a woman appeared from the depths of the jungle with two extremely cold bottles of water for sale!
A top day of biking/hiking exploits in Sri Lanka!
We love city hikes! San Francisco, New York City, Vancouver, Sydney, Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam and Istanbul are all great stomping grounds. Cities have fascinating markets, green spaces, sculptures, architecture and funky neighbourhoods. Forget the subway and hit the streets!