Ushguli

Going to Ushguli in Georgia was quite an experience. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and is said to be the highest (approx. 2100m above sea level) permanently inhabited village in Europe.

You can walk to Ushguli from Mestia in about four days if you want to stay in guesthouses or three days if you have your own tent. We picked an easy option and shared a jeep with a few strangers for a few hours. I think people who did the walk were quite brave since parts of the walk are near the main road which is more like a dirt track which was sinking in dust due to heavy traffic. Really there was so much dust that even the inside of our jeep got all covered in it, I can only imagine how difficult it was for the hikers to deal with it.

We had a few hours in Ushguli and decided to head towards Shkhara glacier. It was a relatively easy walk since we were heading through the valley on a jeep road. They say it can take about 5 hours to do the walk and you cover about 16km roundtrip, so it’s relatively challenging distance even though it can seem like an easy stroll at the beginning. My dad has been a smoker for many years and maybe because of the altitude, maybe because of the heat, he was quite struggling to breathe.  We decided to take it easy and not to head all the way to the glacier so at some point we returned to Ushguli and explored the village a bit, which was probably the right thing to do.

Even though it was hot, dusty and really uncomfortable to get there, the place was absolutely stunning and I would recommend anyone to visit it. Just going to share some photos now, although they probably won’t do justice.

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The closest we got to Shkhara glacier

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The Last Resort

No this post is not about the Eagles song. It’s about the 10th highest bungee jump in the world. Can you guess where this place is?

OK, I will tell you, it’s in Nepal!

It is located near the Tibetan border, around three hour drive from Kathmandu. I hope I won’t spoil everything by saying that the drive there is probably much more dangerous than any of the things you can do in the Last Resort.

I decided to to a bungee jump in Nepal as soon as I heard about it. I am scared of heights – something I am working on, but ohhh dear, it’s a slow progress.

With some other volunteers we booked a weekend trip – one day for getting there and a bungee and a day for canyoning and the trip back. You can do other stuff there as well – canyon swing and white water rafting if I remember that correctly. Ohh and they’ve got really cool tents (with beds) where you can stay overnight.

So we left really early on Saturday morning (after a night out, probably not the best idea) and got to the Last Resort late morning. I said earlier that the roads were scary – below is an example for you with an oncoming vehicle…

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Once you get to the Last Resort, you have to walk over the bridge from which you will be jumping later… OMG even walking there frightened me to death, I didn’t even know how I would jump! My hands were shaking so much that I wasn’t even brave enough to take out my phone for a photo.

All the technical stuff was explained to us and I spent the rest of the morning being mega nervous, waiting for my turn to jump. That was probably the worst bit. The jump was easy and went really quick. So quick that I was even a bit disappointed. You get something silly like 1.5s of free fall. I have done skydiving in the past so bungee jump was nothing like it. But still, it was money well spent, I proved myself I could overcome my fear and do it.

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The photo above doesn’t even give you an idea how far below you fall. We got to see the scale the next day when doing some canyoning. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me as canyoning was supposed to be a “wet” experience but it really wasn’t. Nae water. But I had another chance to challenge my fear of heights and to be honest I found this activity to be much scarier than bungee jumping. But it was fun!

I didn’t take many photos that weekend, even though these were awesome couple of days away and I would recommend going there to anyone. Just going to finish with a photo of the cool tent I mentioned earlier in the post 🙂

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Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek in Himalayas

It’s been so long since I came back from Nepal that the whole journey now almost feels surreal, but a little scar on my wrist will always remind me that the trip really happened.

Trekking was not on my to do list before I left for Nepal. I didn’t have too much time and the monsoon season helped me to make up my mind. However, I was sitting in a cafe, listening to one of the volunteers talking about their trekking experience and I realised I can’t miss it while I’m in Nepal.

My boyfriend at a time, had a professor who was always going to Nepal for trekking holidays so he was able to recommend a guide. I wouldn’t worry about arranging the guide before coming to Nepal – there are always plenty who are eager to get out to the mountains and it’s cheaper to arrange something from Pokhara (if you’re doing a trek in Annapurna Himalaya range). The trek I did was called Ghorepani Poon Hill trek and it normally takes 5 days to complete. You can easily do it without a guide and it will save you a bit of money, but being alone and not having a chance to do a proper research,  I decided to go with a guide.

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I met my guide Palu in Pokhara a day before the hike for some tea. Palu was over 40 and didn’t look like a super fit guy from the first sight, but he seemed like a nice person so I thought let’s do this. It did later turn out that I was much fitter than him (something to consider if you’re impatient like me), but he had a big heart and kept repeating that he was the luckiest man in the world to be able to do the job he loves.

We started from the village called Nayapul early next day. The path was passing through beautiful forests and some tiny colourful villages. There were plenty of tea houses to stop at, rest and have some food. The whole trek that day lasted about 5 hours after which we stopped in one of the villages along the road.

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The second day was pretty much the same, but the path got steeper. It was a beautiful day and I didn’t find it too challenging. We settled in Ghorephani for the night, hoping to get to the Poon Hill in the morning. Unfortunately, the clouds were rolling low and when I woke up the next morning it was raining. There was no point in going to the Poon hill viewpoint. We continued towards Gandruk, even though the weather wasn’t great. Oh well, it was a gamble to go trekking in a rainy season.

We didn’t reach Gandruk that day (just weren’t rushing anywhere and the weather wasn’t great) and decided to stay in a place with the total of three houses. There were only two people in the village, a couple who got married when the guy was 13 and a lady who was then 20. We were chatting about life in the mountains and emigration, since the man spent a few years working abroad (very common story for loads of Nepalese families). The also showed and explained to me how they make their local alcohol Raksi, which I even got to try.

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When trekking you get used to getting up early and sometimes it really pays off. Happened to me on the 4th day of the trek when I got to see bits of the snowy peaks hanging between the clouds. I could only see small patches but got really excited since it was the first day I could actually see something. Other days were just all about walking through the beautiful forests and villages. That’s when I slipped, fell and got injured my wrist badly enough for it to scar. No regrets, life felt pretty amazing that morning.

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We got to Gandruk and spent a bit of time exploring this beautiful village. There were some really steep sections down and up that day and got caught in a strong rain, but I was quite happy to be out in the mountains and got to eat probably the nicest dhal bhat in Nepal, so the challenges didn’t matter too much. We stopped in a random village along the way for the night. There were loads of tiny clouds hanging around the mountains and I was excited to be going to bed after seeing that view.

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I woke up early again (4.30am or so) the next morning and realised that the clouds lifted! They were moving away and finally the first time in five days I could see one of the peaks! It was magical. I was extremely happy and struggled to walk away from that view. Later in the morning the clouds took away the beauty again.

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So five days later, the trek was over and I said bye to Palu. I think I got lucky, because during the rainy season it’s really hard to see anything, so I expected nothing at all, but got rewarded with some stunning views. It was amazing to be out walking for five days, walk past these beautiful villages, eat really tasty dhal bhat and try out my poor Nepalese with the locals. It was good to go with a guide, because he arranged all the accommodation and permits etc. and I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. It wasn’t a popular time of the year to go trekking so the mountains were quiet and I absolutely loved the time I could spend with my thoughts or listening to Palu’s stories. The only major downside were the leeches – they were bad, hanging on the grass, jumping on you as soon as you stopped and sucking the blood like there was no tomorrow. Not going into details on that, but having a guide who is slower than you plus the leeches who can’t wait to get on you, is a bad combo.

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I just want to finish with something positive – if you get a chance to go trekking in Himalayas, then go! No matter what time of the year it is, you will find beauty, freedom and loads of smiles along the way and it will be an experience of a lifetime 🙂

Hiking in Mallorca

When I told some of my friends I was going to do some hiking in Mallorca almost every single one of them looked at me strangely, some of them asked if it is possible to go hiking there in the first place, some of them thought that was the new way to call “drinking” and even after my explanation that Mallorca was perfect for hiking nobody seemed to believe me.

While two thirds of the plane probably didn’t make it further than El Arenal (Party area in Mallorca), we tried to be a bit more adventurous. We spent the first night in Palma, took some photos of their amazing cathedral and had the best paella ever (no photos as it was too good)!

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The first destination on the list was Banyalbufar. It is a small picturesque village on the west coast less than an hour drive from Palma. It’s popular among hikers and wine lovers – Banyalbufar is famous for its Malvasia wine.

After some stressful parking experience (the streets in the village are really narrow!), we started our hike to Port des Canonge. It was a nice, though not really challenging hike. The path was going through the forest and you could enjoy the views of the sea. We ended up in a stony beach and had a nice lunch in the sun.

 

We left Banyalbufar in the late afternoon and headed towards Port de Soller. The town was really pretty and we got a hotel just at the beach. Having breakfast outside in front of the beach every morning, enjoying the sun, was probably one of my favourite things to do.

Port de Soller also has a tram which is over a 100 years old! I saw it a few times, but didn’t get a chance to take a photo. It looked really cool though 🙂

The second day we decided to drive to Port de Sa Calobra – the town famous for its beach. The drive there was an absolute pleasure. The road was zigzagging through the mountains and the views were terrific.

The place was nice, but the beach was a bit of the disappointment, as I imagined it to be much bigger.

However, we were not really beach type of people anyway, thus we decided to do a Torrent de Pareis hike which started at the same place. Well, if you imagine it is some ordinary hike then you are completely wrong. It is said to be one of the most impressive gorge walks in Mediterranean. I kind of knew what to expect, however I got more than I could ever want from a hike and the canyon was a real pleasant surprise. The hike was mostly jumping and climbing from one rock to the other and it was extremely fulfilling. We only did a part of the hike and only the “easy” bit, but it was still a great fun. If you want a full experience of Torrent de Pareis – start from Escorca and finish at Sa Calobra.

 

The third and the last hike that we did was around Valldemossa. We started in this little town and walked a nice circle on some mountain peaks. The views were absolutely amazing and the later it got, the less people we saw on the way. It was so nice and peaceful and it was great to enjoy the silence.

It was hard to leave Mallorca. The weather was really nice all the time and we still felt like we did not manage to do a lot of things we planned. The dinners we had all the evening were absolutely amazing as well – fresh seafood, nice tapas and some quality local wine, so it was hard to come back to chips, haggis and irn bru. Will go back! 😉