Posts tagged ‘nature’

Trekking to the 2468 meter peak of Gjallica, Kukes

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I wake up slightly earlier than the alarm clock that I put on 5:40, but there is already some light outside here in Kukes, Albania. A quick shower followed by a walk to the petrol station from yesterday to tell the people there that I am walking to the mountain top. It is always good to tell someone if you are doing something like this, not that it probably will help in case of an accident. I have even told them earlier which hotel I am staying in, well, explaining its location as I do not know the name of it. The old man looks worried and double checks that I have everything: water, warm clothes, good shoes and so on. Then I start walking.

Albania Kukes Gjallica Fierza lake

It is about 1-1½ hours walk to get to the start of the mountain, and there is no distinct road or path so I walk partly on car road, partly on fields and finally inside a small village. On the way the sunrise is giving me a beautiful welcome to the mountain. There are people around but they look at me a bit strange and no-one of them speaks English. I ask them where the trail up the mountain starts and they point towards the mountain instead. Online I read something the previous night about a trail starting from behind a closed copper mine, but there is nothing like that around so I just start walking up the mountain on one of the shepherd trails from behind a private house.

Albania Kukes Gjallica fields

Albania Kukes Gjallica sunrise
The sun looking up from a lower mountain

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain clouds
The 2468 meter peak which I will try to mount, covered in clouds

Albania Kukes Gjallica spring water

Shortly after my start I find a non marked trail which I blindly follow, but after 1 hours walk the path still looks the same. At least the sun is on the other side of the mountain, giving me shadow instead of the intense heat that I had expected. Still it is very hot just walking upwards so I change clothes. “One hour done, maybe two more before the top, and then 3 more down plus one back to Kukes” I think, calculating how many sun hours I still have left of the day. About 13, so as long as there are no problems on the way and if the path is correct, I should have more than enough time. One hour later I see what looks like the top near me, but at the same time I know it’s to early and from the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and villages I estimate that I am still on low altitude.

Albania Kukes Gjallica low view
View on the shepherd’s path from behind the house

Albania Kukes Gjallica trail

About 1 hour later I reach a small green flat space with a water spring and some very simple huts. I find an old super lady, maybe in her 80s but extracting an energy like a young girl, and ask her how long time she estimates it is to the peak of the mountain. She tells me that it is 2 more hours, pointing out the path for me and asking me why I want to go there (I think at least, we do not speak the same language). Ok time to calculate sun hours again, two more hours means 5 hours in total up, 5 hours down and one hour to Kukes. This gives me little marginal for errors but is still good news, despite the fact that I am pretty tired in the legs and have to walk 2 more hours upwards before I can even start to walk back.

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain spring

Albania Kukes Gjallica plateau

I start walking in the direction where the lady pointed, but after a while I make a turn in the opposite direction as supposed because the path seems to go very long in the wrong direction. I walk along a small trail that after a while just disappears into thin air, well, into semi thick forest. I start walking through the forest, knowing it is not smart to walk without a trail to follow back but as I have a gorge on the left side I know I can find my way back again. I walk upwards through the forest for about an hour or more until the forest gets less dense and a beautiful field opens up in front of me.

Albania Kukes Gjallica forest

Albania Kukes Gjallica high plain

On the field there is a big group of sheep walking around, with some of them drinking from a water spring. Now I can see what could be the top, but I know through experience that the peak is usually not as near as it looks, just hidden behind another hill. Suddenly I see two guys sitting down near the water spring. We meet middle way and greet each others. They tell me to refill my bottle which I do, although it is almost still full because the weather at this height is now more cold, making me drink less. We talk for a while, in different languages as usual, and the younger of them who is 15 years old joins my walk for a few minutes before turning to another group of sheep, just after inviting me for dinner or something like that after my peak ascent.

Albania Kukes Gjallica tableland

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherds

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherd boy

I continue to walk and after 2-3 more times of thinking that I have almost reached the peak, and about one more hour, I am standing on the actual peak of Gjallica, about 2200 meters higher than where I started walking (the valley below is on 250 meters elevation). Here, the wind is strong and new clouds are constantly created and pumping in from below. I change clothes and walk around for a while to explore the top, finding the last snow patch of the season, about 10 meters long. Keep in mind that this is on the 31st of July and that the heat below the mountain peak is intense. I linger around for about 10-15 minutes and then start to walk down again, now along a trail which I found a bit below where I was walking up.

Albania Kukes Gjallica near peak

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain peak

Albania Kukes Gjallica peaks

Albania Kukes Gjallica July snow

Albania Kukes Gjallica peak view

Albania Kukes Gjallica path down

When I return to the shepherds, which to one more shepherd now have joined, we sit down in this idyllic surrounding and talk, enjoying some snacks I have brought with me on my trek. The sun is now very strong and the weather is perfect. After about 30 minutes I feel that I should get going, not knowing which path I will take down. The shepherds recommends the non existing path through the forest from where I came, but I want to walk on an actual path this time and they tell me where there is supposed to be one, probably the same as the old lady recommended for me.

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherd friends

Albania Kukes Gjallica shepherd musician

I start walking and even though the path disappears several times I find my way down again to the field with the lady’s house. This time she seems not to be at home, but on the other side of the field I see some cows and people. We start talking and the younger girl who speaks good English tells me that she and her family from the village below have just walked up here with their cows, a donkey and some food to live here for a month during the summer. Around once a week they (or was it only the grandfather?) walks down for more provision. We talk some more and then its really time for me to get going after hearing that the time is now 5:30 PM.

Albania Kukes Gjallica caterpillar

Albania Kukes Gjallica dead forest

Albania Kukes Gjallica houses

Albania Kukes Gjallica house

Albania Kukes Gjallica mountain

Albania Kukes Gjallica village family

I hurry on my walk down and this time the path feels much longer than when I walked up. I am tempted to take some shortcuts I see but because I do not know where they end up I do not risk it this time. The sun is burning my skin and I do everything to try to hide from it, also putting on my final sun protection cream. Finally I get down some 2 hours later, still in strong sunlight and realizing that the time they told me must have been wrong.

Albania Kukes Gjallica city view

I start walking to Kukes but a minibus picks me up and drives me to the city for free. When I arrive I jump out at the gas station a bit outside the town to tell the people about my success and for them not to worry anymore. Then I walk into town to find the first possible place to sit down for a coffee and some food. Looking at my clock I realize I actually had more time to walk down if I wanted, but I feel happy being back in town without it being so late. After I finish the food I buy a beer and goes back to the room, turning on the TV and forgetting all about the beer in my tiredness, but still managing to repack half of my bag for tomorrows hitchhiking before crashing into bed.

Climbing Lakatnik again (Alpine Meadow)

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Below are some pictures from yesterdays climbing, this time again in Lakatnik but climbing site Alpine Meadow.

Alpine Meadow river

Alpine Meadow walley

Alpine Meadow - cavers training

Alpine Meadow hut

Alpine Meadow in autumn colors

Alpine Meadow - autumn

Alpine Meadow hanging hut seen from below

Alpine Meadow river and trees

Alpine Meadow with village in the mist

Vitosha peak

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Yesterday I spend the day with some friends walking up to the peak of Vitosha mountain, just outside of Sofia. The weather was perfect and during the day we experienced everything from walking in t-shirt to light freezing with several layers of clothes. Although the weather was great there was not so many people up in the mountain, and because there are several trails up to the peak of Vitosha we mostly met people at the top. There, at 2290 meters elevation, we got warm lunch (lentil soup and kofta with lutenitsa) from a hut while enjoying the beautiful view of Bulgaria’s mountains around us.

Vitosha mountain

Vitosha

Mountains in clouds

The white mountains

Vitosha peak

Naked guy

Snowy peaks

Mountain in the clouds

Cloud mountain

Mountain forest

Foggy mountain

Mount vitosha

Lonely tree

Mountain trees

Mountain village

Climbing Lakatnik

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

I can not believe how bad I have been in updating the blog recently. Well, I am still in Bulgaria, thinking of staying here for a while even though the winter probably will arrive within some month(s). Right now the weather is amazing and yesterday I was relaxing on our roof terrass in only a t-shirt, with weather that could trick anybody that it was still summer.

One of the best things with Sofia is how near it is to the mountains. It’s a very nice feeling to be able to see the mountains from the city, and knowing that it takes less then an hour with a car to reach amazing nature with possibilities for trekking, climbing, caving and much more.

Last Sunday I went with some local climber friends to Lakatnik. I had been trekking in the area before but this was my first climbing there. As usual, the autumn scenery was really beautiful and the unplanned detour we managed to take on the way there was just added pleasure.

Climbing Lakatnik
Climbing with a view

Lakatnik Climbers
One of many caves near the climbing area

In good company
In good company up to the mountain

Sofia Mountain view
Sofia Vitosha mountain view (from my living room)

Weekend in Sweden

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Last week I made a quick break from Berlin to spend some time with my family and friends in Sweden. Here below are some pictures I took in the Swedish nature.

Swedish leaves

Beautiful flower

Blueberries

Broken mushroom

Climbing spider

Golden berries

Mushroom picture

Nice flower

Swedish spider

Redberries

Rosehip

Wet flower

Swedish apples

Swedish flower

Spider web

Swedish forest

Swedish mushroom

Swedish mushrooms

Swedish pine

Swedish sea

Swedish nature

Swedish boat

Water hole

Sunflower picture

Swedish sunset

And finally some macro flower pictures. Click twice on a photo to zoom in on it.

Flower macro

Flower macro with water drops

Flower macro closeup

A walk in the park part II – Open Air Berlin

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

During the summer in Berlin it’s very common with Sunday parties and yesterday I went to a friends Open Air party which they organize for the second year in a row. The party takes place in a park near the area Wedding and just next to the river, which makes it a beautiful surrounding with both the feeling of the nature and at the same time people passing by just taking a walk in the park.

Usually these events start in the early afternoon and continues to a short time after the sunlight have disappeared. It’s very uncommon that the police in Berlin shuts down these illegal Open Air parties and if they arrive to the place they usually just ask polite to turn down the volume a bit, or sets an end time when the music should be stopped.

For me these Sunday parties are way better then going to a club and the atmosphere reminds more of a festival then a pub or a club. Sundays are perfect for a chill out party and to get beautiful nature, great music & friends at the same time – it can’t be better!

For you who know your minimal techno, here are the lineup for yesterdays party:

Rndm [DIAL]
Simon Beeston [Highgrade]
Chris Schwarzwälder [Bar25]
Fabian Drews [mama-j]
Convex Shape [Iwillchange.Ipromise]
Holger Hecler [juciemarket]

Minimal Techno Berlin

Wild Wedding

Open Air girls

Open Air equipment

Open Air Berlin

Open Air tent

Open Air party

Party sunset

Open Air packing

Camping in Ras Muhammad

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Sometimes things just come to you when you wish for them. One recent example is that I really wanted to visit Ras Muhammad one more time before leaving Egypt in about a week from now. What happened to me was, one morning a girl I met the day before called me and asked me to join her and her free diver friends to camp one night at the Ras Muhammad. They were leaving town within 15 minutes so it was a quick decision followed by rush packing. Just a moment later we were leaving Dahab in a rented car full of free diving and scuba diving equipment, heading out for Ras Muhammad.

The group was very mixed, with 8 people from Russia, Brazil, Argentina, France and me from Sweden. We also had a big dog with us (“Hurry”) who was currently traveling the world, on his way to Bali. Dogs (and camping) are not allowed in Ras Muhammad, but we managed to talk the guards to let us pass with him.

When we arrived everybody went into the water directly, followed by a Argentinian barbecue and some vodka. The weather was warm and there were no problem sleeping under the stars, except for some biting flies and mosquito which i still have 50+ dots from.

The next day we went up early and went free diving in Shark Reef. Everybody were excited for what we would see, and like the day before we again find a shark (or he found us). This time, the about 1½ meter shark swim up to one of us to check him out. Also, we found a lot of turtles and other beautiful animals during the 2½ hour swimming in strong current.

After Shark Reef, we went back to the first reef to do some combined free- and scuba diving and then head back home to Dahab.

Note: If you are trying this for yourself, have long sleeves and a sleeping bag with you. Be very careful with the current, and don’t get into the water if you are not familiar with how it is moving at that specific reef. Drink a lot of water and stay in the shade, as one of us got dehydrated and had to go to the hospital.

Shark bay Sharm

Ras Muhammad guitar in the morning

Ras Muhammad camping

Shark bay Sharm Egypt

Ras Muhammad stingray

Ras Muhammad shark reef

Freediving Ras Muhammad

Ras Muhammad big fish

Ras Muhammad Yolanda reef

Ras Muhammad big school of fish

Ras Muhammad fishes

Ras Muhammad free diving

Ras Muhammad napoleon fish

Ras Muhammad toilets

 

Ras Muhammad turtle

Ras Muhammad swimming turtle

Ras Muhammad freediving

Scuba diving in Ras Muhammad & SS Thisselgorm

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Yesterday I did one of the best scuba diving ever in my Life. The day started with getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning to get a 2 hour minibus to Sharm El-Sheikh. From there, we took a boat 3 hours to SS Thisselgorm, in the outskirt of Ras Muhammad. Thisselgorm is a 126 meter long freight ship which sank in 1941 after getting bombed by German bomber planes, and discovered about 10 years later by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. The ship now lies on 30 meters depth with great visibility and still beautifully preserved.

At Thisselgorm we did two dives, one on the outside along the ship and one on the inside. On the inside it is possible to dive 3 levels, with two of the levels levels loaded with motorbikes, trucks and other wartime cargo. The last level is the small kitchen and connected rooms, which have air pockets in them creating an incredible unreal and beautiful mirror effect in the roofs. Don’t try to breath the air though as it is used and somewhat poisonous.

When scuba diving inside the ship you really need to have good buoyancy because most of the rooms are cramped, with you scuba diving on top of vehicles with only half meter to the roof.

After Thisselgorm we headed away with the boat, about two hours in the direction of Sharm El-Sheikh, where we found the two connected dive sites Shark Reef &  Yolanda Reef inside the national park of Ras Muhammad. When entering the water, the things I saw the first 10 minutes was better then any National Geographic documentary. Here, the marine life is abundant and everywhere are 100+ schools  of fish bigger then you have ever seen before. The visibility is superb and feels limitless.

Also in Yolanda Reef is a sunken ship, a freighter that sank in 1986 after the captain allegedly drinking to much and getting to near the reef. The result is a sight which you thought you would never see under water, a small hill of about 30 toilets standing on the bottom of the sea.

After the scuba diving and the one hour boat trip back to the port, we took a break in Sharm El-Sheikh to let the nitrogen levels in our blood get lower before returning to Dahab. This is needed due to the height difference on the road there which in other case can lead to decompression sickness.

All in all, an incredible scuba diving day that resulted in new friends and a wish to go back to Ras Muhammad to explore it further.

Ras Mohamed Sharm El-Sheikh

Ras Muhammad

Ras Mohammed national park

Ras Mohammed diving

Mount Sinai, Egypt

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

About a week ago I was up on top of Mount Sinai to look at the sunrise over Egypt’s mountains. This is a common thing to do here in Sinai, and although you will not be alone on the top it’s still recommended to go. The sunrise is nice, but even more beautiful is the dark night sky with all the stars visible and a clear view of the Milky Way Galaxy.

To go up to Mount Sinai, take a 2 hour transport from Dahab to Saint Catherine’s Monastery (total price 6-8 euro for two ways) and then walk up the mountain for 1-3 hours depending on how used you are to trekking. If you are lazy it is even possible to ride a camel up half the way. The monastery is around 1500 meter over sea level and the mountain top from where people use to view the sunrise is on 2300 meter. Bring some warm clothes and a lot of water, but there are also cafés on the way up where you even have possibilities to rent a warm blanket from the Bedouins that live in the area.

Remember, if you are scuba diving you need to wait at least 12 hours from your last dive before going up to the mountain, to protect yourself against decompression sickness!

Mount Sinai, Egypt

Mount Sinai mountain

Mount Sinai sunrise

Mount Sinai (Egypt)

Picture of Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai tour

Saint Catherine's monastery camel

Divemaster in Dahab, Egypt

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

After about 2 months here in Dahab I today got my Divemaster scuba diving license. This is a really fun and rewarding education, and even though it is mostly for people who wants to work with scuba diving I recommend it to all scuba divers who wants to take their knowledge to higher level.

First of all, after having the PADI Advanced license you have to take the courses Emergency First Response (EFR) and Rescue Diver, which teaches you how to save people in emergencies both on land and in/under water. The Rescue Diver also makes you more confident under water and teaches you how to deal with different under water problems.

When you are ready with the Rescue Diver, the Divemaster course takes about 1½ month to accomplish. I highly recommend to combine the course with an internship, which will give you much more experience as well as a lot of fun.

Within the course, one of the things you need to do is to learn the contents of “The Encyclopedia of Recreational Diving“. This is a really interesting book that covers way more about diving then you will ever need to know, but for the interested is the best dive book you will ever read. The book have 5 chapters, which covers different parts of scuba diving:

  • The Underwater Adventure
  • The Ocean Planet
  • Dive Equipment
  • Diving in the Material world (physics)
  • The Physiology of Diving

With the Divemaster license in your hand you are ready to work professionally with scuba diving if you so choose. Here in Dahab for example, that comes along with getting a work visa, which costs around 600 euro for a year. Also, for a while the government were not giving out more work visas to Divemasters, but that might have changed now. If you get the work visa, you will probably end up working as a freelancer because of the economical situation in Egypt right now.

For me, I will take a break from scuba diving now and find some other adventure. Maybe back to wave surfing and mountaineering, depending on what I decide during the upcoming weeks from now.

Divemaster in Dahab, Egypt