Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘walking’

Amber (Amer) Fort, Amer Town, near Jaipur, india

Amber (Amer) Fort, Amer Town, near Jaipur, india

Last week I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon wandering around the incredible 400 year old Amber Fort (also called Amer Fort), on the hills outside Jaipur, in India’s desert state of Rajasthan. Talk about atmospheric! Set into the side of a mountain, overlooking a decorative lake with paterre garden island and surrounded by Great-Wall-of-China spines of defensive walls, the fort is a maze of rooms, twisting stairs, courtyards and vantage points over four storeys, and is built of red sandstone and huge slabs of marble.

Cool marble sitting galleries, used by women at Amber Fort, Jaipur (and yes, that's solid marble!)

Cool marble sitting galleries, used by women at Amber Fort, Jaipur (and yes, that’s solid marble!)

It wasn’t hard to imagine what it would have been like at the height of Raja Ram Singh I’s powers, as there was an outrageously over-the-top Bollywood film being recorded the day I was there, with huge men in cardboard armour and swirling, dancing, martial arts performers doing their thing, while the local audience ooh’ed and aah’ed. Pretty surreal and pretty memorable.

Central garden courtyard and audience pavillion, seen from the ramparts of Amber Fort

Central garden courtyard and audience pavillion, seen from the ramparts of Amber Fort

On the walk up into the fort, I also passed a somewhat underwhelming, though no doubt, trusty, local police car, ready to leap into action if needed – I guess it was parked at the top of the ramparts slope so it could get a run-up to catch the invading hoardes….

IMG_0193

Local squad car, ready for action, at Amber Fort, Jaipur

The surrounding heritage town of Amer, is also worth a wander – it’s small windy streets are jam packed with artisans producing everything from Hindu carvings and miniature painting to gleaming copper pans, and there is a surfeit of temples – apparently the Maharajah’s mother took a keen interest in building temples throughout the township. If you arrive early in the morning, before the heat of the day, you will also see the parade of hundreds (literally) of elephants, their faces painted in bright powders, as they carry the tourists up into the fort. Unmissable.

View across the lake from one of the corner ramparts at Amber Fort

View across the lake from one of the corner ramparts at Amber Fort

Read Full Post »

ImageWell, I found out today from my publishers that the release date for Melbourne for Dogs is now expected to be March 2014, instead of Christmas – bummer! So to console myself, I headed up to Bacchus Marsh to see my folks and went for a gorgeous spring stroll along the riverside track which runs from Peppertree Park (off Grant Street, beside the swimming pool – good off-street parking), upstream beside picturesque Werribee River for about 2km, narrowing right at the end until you can cross to the other side at the old ford and return on the opposite bank, through parks and picnic grounds. It’s a gentle and well maintain path and very popular with local dog walkers (on lead) and cyclists.  There are great views up the valley and escarpment which mark the entrance to the geological wonder that becomes Werribee Gorge. This is an easy and pretty walk for those with kids, with opportunities to splash in the water and plenty of shade under the River Red Gums.  It’s also suitable for bikes and scooters. Combined with a visit to Bacchus Marsh’s famous orchards or pick-you-own berry farms, this makes for an easy and interesting day out, just 45 minutes from Melbourne on the Western Highway.

ImageAs a kid, we lived on a farm outside of Bacchus Marsh, which bordered Werribee River, and I remember impressive floods every couple of years, but many years ago, the base of the river was graded and cleared to allow for better flow during flood times, so it’s rare that a flood breaks the banks these days, though it did just a couple of years ago, when the path had to be rebuilt. I love walking in the spring – the sun is warm but not hot on your back, the wildflowers are out – wattle is a riot of colour and scent just now, and the skies are a lovely blue.  Suddenly, you can breathe again after the grey and chill of winter.  Glorious.

Read Full Post »

20130704-230905.jpg

Finally! Melbourne for Dogs is finished and off with my fabulous editor at Woodslane who will work her magic. Did you know it takes up to 5 months for a guidebook to go through the editorial/design/cartography/printing process once it leaves the author’s hands and before it hits the shelves? It’s somewhat akin to having a baby, though at least you get to sleep through the nights. Anyway, to celebrate, I have hauled off to Italy for some summer sunshine and a week of walking around Lake Como. The weather is perfect for walking just now: in the 20’s and cloudless skies. I only have a short time in between other commitments, so I have headed off on the 34km, 2 day ‘Dorsale’ walk, which goes along the spine of the mountains edging Lake Como, from Como in the south of the lake through to the tiny town of Bellagio, which is poised in the centre tip of the upside down Y of the lake.

20130704-223817.jpg
It’s a great solo walk: with a reasonable map and guide notes from the local alpine club, and the extensive (if somewhat confusing at times) array of signs, you basically keep the lake on your left and head north. The walk starts with a welcome leg up the first 900m of ascent, courtesy of a vertiginous funicular railway from Como up to the tiny alpine town of Brunate. From there there’s another 700 metres of ascent for the day, but it’s not all in one go, and the huge views give you plenty off excuse to stop and gape when you need to catch your breath. The walk takes you past mountain refuggios, tiny roadside chapels, grand old Italian villas, through beech forests and eventually up above the treeline into glorious mountain pastures, absolutely heaving with wildflowers, bumblebees, grasshoppers and butterflies. I expected Julie Andrews to appear, twirling around and singing ‘the Hills are alive…..’!

Cows puttering past the refuggio on their way to dinner!

Cows puttering past the refuggio on their way to dinner!

I passed only 8 other walkers the whole day which is remarkable when the lakeside towns are just heaving with people at this time of year. However, when I descended into the 1100m Pian del Tivano valley at the end of the first day to stay at the Alpetto del Torno mountain Refugio (for the best gnocchi I have eaten eaten in my whole life, thanks to Ugo the super chef/host), the valley was also heaving – not with people, but with dairy cows with bells around their neck, making music as they ambled around the pastures. Perhaps I’m not in a sound of music ad after all, but one for luxury milk chocolate! It is very close to the border with Switlzerland after all! More tomorrow in Day 2.

20130704-225814.jpg

Read Full Post »

ImageI just love, love, LOVE walking in Australia on cool, crisp autumn days.  What’s not to like – you don’t get hot, you don’t have to carry gallons of water and you don’t have to worry about stepping on the slithery ones. Today Deb, co-author Indie-the-Dog and I headed for the Dandenongs – only 40 minutes from Melbourne’s city centre but a million miles away in terms of peace and beauty.  We did the 14km return trail walk from the beautiful hill town of Emerald to Cockatoo and back, taking in the spectacular autumn leaf beauty of Nobilis Gardens and Emerald Lake Park and the towering eucalyptus and colourful funghii of Wrights Forest. For a shorter walk you could always take the bus back from Cockatoo (though not with a dog), but we were glad of the return walk, as the weather only got better as we went along, and the late afternoon rays through the Japanese maples were breathtaking.  A fantastic bush walk with a dog, as there is an off-leash park at either end, though dogs must be on lead for the rest of it. If you do the walk without a dog on weekends and school holidays, you can take a load off and catch the Puffing Billy steam train back from Cockatoo at 3pm.

Image

Read Full Post »

ImageBack to Planet Oz to find my new book waiting on my doorstep. Yay! A year in the making and it feels like an elephant pregnancy, but finally Best Walks of Geelong, the Bellarine and the Brisbane Ranges is here. I think it looks great – but I would do! It should be in bookstores, newsagents and Tourist Info Centres in the region before the end of the month – let me know what you think!  You can also buy it direct through Woodslane’s online bookstore or other online booksellers.  It retails for $29.99 and includes 40 great walks. Alternatively, if you are in a cafe or other outlet and would like to stock it, let me know and I will put you in touch with the publishers. Now, finally, onto Melbourne for Dogs….

Read Full Post »

Volcanic cones of Mt Etna, Sicily, in winter

Volcanic cones of Mt Etna, Sicily, in winter

I’m on the last leg of my trip before heading home, and my son and I are staying in the ancient town of Ortygia, Siracusa, at the southernmost tip of Italy.  Today we headed north for a close up look at the largest volcano in Europe: Mt Etna. At over 3300m tall, Mt Etna hasn’t once stopped erupting in its 200,000 plus years of existence, and what looks like a symmetrical cone from the coast (very much like Mt Fuji) is in fact a grumbling, steaming, spewing volcano with hundreds of different cones all over the place.  The most recent major eruption was in 2001, and the cafe we had lunch at, which is about 2000m, was partially covered by the lava flow from that eruption, which stopped at its walls – literally:

A CLOSE shave for the Mt Etna mountain refugio cafe

A CLOSE shave for the Mt Etna mountain refugio cafe

We did a short walk around the rim of one of the smaller cones, in a group collectively called the Silvestri Craters which are 2000m above sea level, and despite it being mid winter, noticed the air was ‘simmering’ down one slope, adn the ground was in fact very warm to the touch – nice to keep your toes warm on a cold winter day!

Getting up to Mt Etna is easy if you have a car – it’s only a short drive from Catania – which has been covered in lava flows numerous times through antiquity – though the resulting fertile soils bring people back, and Etna is now famous for its wine, pistachios, honey and lemons grown around its base. You drive through the most extraordinary rugged lava fields: an incredible moonscape which stretches as far as the eye can see once you are above the tree lines, and the steam which bellows from one of the top cones bulges across the skyline.

View across Mt Etna lava fields (my son's photo!)

View across Mt Etna lava fields (my son’s photo!)

As far as walking goes, you can either walk up the cones from the refugio at 2000m, or catch the cable car (when it is operating) and then 4WD truck.  Above 2900m you are required to be accompanied by licensed guides, as despite extensive monitoring, the volcano is still unpredictable and very active with new fumaroles and lava vent explosions happening with no notice.  In addition to the higher level walks, as you come to expect anywhere in Italia, with its extensive networks of hiking paths, there are a large number of signed ‘nature trails’ throughout the national park, which also take in the native chestnut groves and wild birch forests at lower levels. Covering an area of over 300 square kilometres, there are a number of quite distinct geological and floral zones on the volcano, and each cone has its own characteristic activity – be it flows, steams, smoke, ash or occasional lava explosions.  You could happily spend many months exploring and walking here – one day certainly wasn’t enough.

Lava formation, Mt Etna, Sicily

Lava formation, Mt Etna, Sicily

Read Full Post »

Merrivale Standing Stone (menhir), Dartmoor (c) JP Mundy 2012

Merrivale Standing Stone (menhir), Dartmoor (c) JP Mundy 2012

My wanderings around the UK this (northern) winter, have brought me down to very wet, but always beautiful south Devon countryside, to visit friends.  The only solution for socialising in the current inclement (think floods, driving rain, more floods) is to meet up at some of the country’s gorgeous pubs, so we had every excuse we needed to find our way to the Dartmoor Inn at Merrivale, high up on sodden and windswept Dartmoor. Just behind the Inn is the old Merrivale granite quarry which once provided the stones for London Bridge.  Just a short walk from the Inn across the saturated moor, are some remarkable groups of standing stones (think Stone Henge but smaller and wilder) and double stone rows thought to have been placed there over 4000 years ago, though noone is really sure what prupose they served: celestial alignments to help with planting, burial sites or other sorts of ritual seem to get the most votes.

4000 years old and counting: Merrivale Stone Rows on Dartmoor (c) JP Mundy

4000 years old and counting: Merrivale Stone Rows on Dartmoor (c) JP Mundy

Dartmoor itself apparently has more than 70 stone ‘rows’, standing circles and towering standing stones on various sites. Merrivale is the largest and most diverse site on the whole moor with a number of parallel double and single stone rows, a stone circle, menhir (standing stone) and burial chamber.

As fascinating as all the stones were, probably the most interesting part of the walk was coming across a Dartmoor ‘quaver’, surely the nominee for the weirdest bog-effect in the world: somehow the dense peat matted together in places to hold bubbles of water under its surface, and walking on it was somewhat like walking on a bubbly water bed.  Utterly bizarre.

Read Full Post »

Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, above the forests of Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland

Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, above the forests of Inverie, Knoydart, Scotland

Well, the night before this glorious day, the water pipes froze in the ground here, it was THAT cold.  But in the end, despite it being the second week of December and the rest of the UK wallowing in the wettest year on record, I walked in t-shirt sleeves under blue skies and above expansive views across the sea to Skye.  In fact, it was so picture-perfect, that I can’t help but include lots of photos in this blog, to give you a sense of why this place is so special.

Though the sunlight hours are very short up here in the Western Highlands (around 5 hours in all), I decided to have a crack at a hill walk up Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean (it rhymes with ‘heineken’ apparently: ‘sgurr korry na konniken‘). It is the big hulking hill that rises above the tiny town of Inverie (reached by boat from Mallaig), but is often overlooked for it’s more glamorous neighbouring munros, which were topped with snow. However, it has some hidden surprises – and it also gets the sun for most of the day, which is incentive enough in winter!  A beautiful start steeply up through the mossy forests above Inverie, over the deer fence by way of a vertiginous stile, then a pathless clog up and up, and up some more through heather, mud and icy bog, with Inverie becoming progressively smaller below.

Looking across to Eigg and Rhum from above Inverie (c) JP Mundy 2012

Looking across to Eigg and Rhum from above Inverie.

The sky was brilliant blue and the iced up heather spectacular, as you can see:

Jet stream above the slopes of Coire na Choinneachean, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012

Jet stream above the slopes of Coire na Choinneachean, Knoydart

Icicles on winter heather, Knoydart, Scotland (c) JP Mundy 2012

Icicles on winter heather, Knoydart, Scotland

After a lot of puffing up the boggy hillside, you lose sight of Inverie below and make your way around the rim of the impressive hidden gully/gorge of Allt Slochd a’Mogha (seriously, don’t ask me how to pronounce that one!).

Allt Slochd a'Mogha Gorge, Knoydart, Scotland (c) JP Mundy 2012

Allt Slochd a’Mogha Gorge, Knoydart, Scotland

Looking down the Allt Slochd a'Mogha gorge to Long Beach, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012

Looking down the Allt Slochd a’Mogha gorge to Long Beach, Knoydart (c) JP Mundy 2012

At the head of the gorge, you reach a totally unexpected high level pasture-land/bog, which gives you 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains and lochs, including the magnificent Laddher Bhein, Bhein na Caillich and across to the Cuillins on Skye.

Benn na Caillich, from the plateau on Sgurr Coire na Coinnichean (c) JP Mundy 2012

Benn na Caillich, from the plateau on Sgurr Coire na Coinnichean

The final pull up the two summits of Coire na Choinnichean was not for me this day, sadly, as with the sun going down by 3pm and the rocks and ridges hanging onto their ice, I had to turn around and save it for another day.  SO tough with it close enough to grasp….

The tantalising but icy summit of Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, with the snow-covered summit of Laddher Bhein peeking above the horizon (c) JP Mundy 2012

The tantalising but icy summit of Sgurr Coire na Choinnichean, with the snow-covered summit of my favourite munro, Laddher Bhein, peeking above the horizon

Totally wild. Utterly spectacular. Very, very hard to leave.

Read Full Post »

Image

Afternoon view from Knoydart across Sandaig and Morar to the distant Cuillan Ridgeline on the Isle of Skye.

Who’d have thought you’d come to Scotland in winter to walk in your t-shirt and get sunburnt?  True!  It was 1C yesterday but it was blue, blue, blue and not a breath of air.  Mind you, sunrise wasn’t until 9am and I skated along the icy path from Inverie up over the hill towards Airor then bashed across the moors and hillochs further west past Glaschoille Loch for a view across to the impressive Cuillin skyline on the Isle of Skye in the distance.  It’s really quite hard to get a sense of scale of the mountains in Scotland – they are so large, but when you are out in the wild, there is nothing to compare them to to give you a sense of scale.  What looks like a half hour walk turns out to be 2 hours, and the going is harder as, for the most part, there are no paths: you pick your way amongst the bogs and burns and tussock grass.

Image

View east across to Inverie from above Glaschoille. Sgurr Corrie Choinichean is the big mountain above the white washed buildings of Inverie. The snow-capped munro, Laddher Bhein (“lar-ven”) is to its left.

Image

Concentric frozen puddles.

I did discover there are distinct advantages to it being so cold that all the water has iced over: when yomping across a bog (there are lots of peat bogs around here), as long as you are relatively fleet of foot, the crunchy ice layer gives you just enough support to race across instead of sinking in the mire to your knees, as is my usual habit!

Read Full Post »

OK, so it’s about time I let you into a little secret. As much as I love walking in Australia, in all its shapes and forms, there is a special place in my walking heart for the west coast and highlands of Scotland.  I lived in London for almost 10 years, and being from country-Oz, pined for a bit of remoteness from time to time.  That took me on the amazing Caledonian sleeper train to Fort William, and beyond, to the very special Knoydart Peninsula, north of Mallaig and opposite the Isle of Skye.  It is only accessible via a very long walk in, or by boat, and the first time, almost 20 years ago, we walked in with all our kit and spent an amazing few weeks here climbing some VERY big mountains, including the magnificent Laddher Bhein (pronounced ‘lar-ven’).  Since then, I’ve made it back every few years, and even managed to get hitched on a hilltop here at one stage!

This week, I am back for some winter walking, and loving it just as much as ever.  Yesterday, while walking up to Loch Dubhain, the gales were howling, the sleet rattling on my jacket and the noise of the water crashing down the burns off the hillside was deafening. Even the deer were looking a bit startled to see a wild walker.  But there was a glimpse of sun and I was rewarded with this beautiful rainbow. Fantastic.

Image

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: