Tag Archives: Hiking

The Crouching Lion, Hidden Hike

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

There aren’t any sign posts that point towards it.

You wouldn’t even know the name for it unless you looked it up. The unofficial start of the trail was hidden somewhere near a “Do Not Pass” road post on the eastern coast of Oahu. I’ve read about it and I’ve seen some amazing pictures from the top and I wanted to see it for myself. Crouching Lion is its name and it was my mission to find it.

We have just completed Event #6 (which I’ll talk about in moment) and now we have a full unplanned day to do whatever we wanted in Oahu. I mentioned to the others that there was a special hike I wanted to find that we all should consider doing. They were all down. It’s called Crouching Lion and it earned that name for the “crouching lion” shape the mountain resembles. I didn’t see it. There aren’t any road marks or sign posts for this hike, you just have to find it. But thanks to other bloggers who have found the trail and left a comprehensive guide for others to follow suit, most of the hard work was already done for us. We just had to find a place to park and luckily there was access to a small parking structure on the side of the road to where we needed to be.

Twelve years ago, I came to Oahu. We parked our minivan on the side of the road for a jungle trek and came back a couple hours later to find our van’s windows busted and several of our valuables stolen. I’ve been cautious ever since. This time, I had full coverage on our SUV and no valuables inside, just in case bandits were to try again. At the least, none of our valuables would be taken. We kept them in our day bag for the trek up Crouching Lion, which began just after the “Do Not Pass” sign, just as I have read about prior.

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The trail begins just after the “Do Not Pass” sign on the east side of the road.

After finding the sign and entering the trail, we immediately came to a few battered trees to our left which we had to climb over and under to continue.

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The ascent up itself was steep, but not difficult. It also wasn’t very long. Probably took about 30-40 minutes to get to the trail that lined the top of the mountain. Even so, we were already rewarded with a spectacular view of a large lake that barely reaches the east shore.

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Once on the mountain top trail, the path splits into a fork: left or right. We chose left as it was the easiest. I’ve read that the other trail leads to some dangerous ventures that I wasn’t ready to risk with a few friends who rarely hike at my side. But the left path still took us to another apex where we could see a part of residential Oahu meet the Pacific.

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

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Crouching Lion Hike Oahu

If you’re keen on doing a hike that only lasts a few hours round trip, but not looking for anything too strenuous, I highly recommend Crouching Lion. Relatively easy to find, requires a low level of physical assertion, and is super rewarding. And if you have any questions about how to find the trail exactly and where to park, just shoot me a message!

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Now let’s backtrack a bit into Event #6…

Now the reason I began talking about Crouching Lion instead of Event #6, which happened the night before Crouching Lion, is purely personal reasoning. Basically, I’m not a fan of leading a post about drinking and drunken antics unless it’s something like a wine tour in a new country, Oktoberfest, or something purely unavoidable that I MUST blog about like a completely unexpected Sunday Funday pool crawl in Nicaragua. I don’t personally like opening a post about a semi-sloppy drunken mess, case in point, like what Event #6 turned into…

Event #6 of 8 – Honolulu Peddle Bar

I typically have control over the turnouts of each of the events, but not this one. It comes with the territory though. Getting hammered on a giant cart powered by 12 bike peddlers comes with just rewards and drunken consequences if one isn’t careful. Regardless of the fact, we all had a great time!

This event was catered specifically for Veronica. After torturing her with physical outdoorsy events, I thought she’d appreciate something a little more up her alley. Thus, a peddle bike bar crawl though Honolulu was born!

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The idea was intriguing. About twelve ready-to-get-their-drink-on strangers get together and power peddle a large cart to three bars in Honolulu, guided by a man who steered as we all gladly slaved away. We weren’t allowed to have any actual drinks on the cart but were prompted to drink up at each of the bars we stopped at, which came very easy to all five of us.

By the end of the third bar, we were all feeling it. We had a pretty good group on our cart and wanted to keep the action going, so we decided (or actually one of the ladies in our group suggested) we all go to a bar about a kilometer away called Duck Butt. We graciously straggled our way there and suddenly entered Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Duck Butt was a Vietnamese karaoke bar! The staff, the atmosphere, the k-pop music videos on the tv screens, the waitresses who pretended to understand what we were trying to order; I felt like I was back in Ho Chi Minh again!

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We all squeezed into a small room with a couch that wrapped along the walls. We all made cozy, ordered drinks, and sang some songs. Well I didn’t. I was busy wondering what the heck was happening. Veronica became Vanessa who couldn’t read Chinese. Drinks were spilled all over the table, we thought we were eating chicken but it turned out to be goose or something, and lots of talk of the difference between queefs and fanny farts among the Americans and the Australians in our group. Before anyone forgot, I paid for the tab before the waitress told me that someone from our group ordered another round!

“Who the heck ordered more beer??” I thought. We certainly didn’t need anymore, but hey… we were at a place called Duck Butt!

We took a couple of ubers back to our house later that evening and on the way I mentally decided that if I were to ever do another League of Eight Extraordinary Events (which I definitely plan on doing), I won’t make any of the events based on getting drunk, unless it’s something iconic like an Oktoberfest for example. Bottom line, we all enjoyed ourselves and that’s what mattered the most.

On to Event# 7! My favorite event thus far!

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Expediciòn Acatenango: The Ring of Fire

When I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro three years ago, I felt like I could accomplish anything. To this day, it is still the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.

My friend Lionel, who I met in Monterrico during Christmas, had planned on climbing one of the many volcanoes in Guatemala called Volcan Acatenango. It’s one of the tallest volcanoes in the Ring of Fire standing tall at 13,045ft (3,976m) near its very active neighbor Volcan Fuego. Lionel invited me for the expedition in which I gladly accepted. I’ve never hiked anything like this before! Ben would also be coming along for the climb.

This is Fuego. The volcano (not pictured) to the right of it is higher and the one we would be climbing!
This is Fuego. The volcano (not pictured) to the right of it is higher and the one we would be climbing!

Acatenango can be hiked in one day. It takes the average person up to six hours to reach the summit. A few volunteers have gone to Acatenango over the weekend for a day trip and have come back saying “it was the most physically demanding thing they have every done in their life”. A lot of them have said that, but every one of them made it to the top. I was going to attempt it differently though. My group planned on hiking up with a bag full of supplies and equipment and camping out, and then hike some more to the very top. I was warned it was going to be very cold, very windy, and that we’d have to wake up early on the second day in order to reach the summit by sunrise. I wasn’t worried about any of those factors really; the only thing I feared was altitude sickness.

I already knew from past experiences that I am sensitive to high altitudes. It affects everyone differently and just like how I am extremely sensitive to motion, the altitude affects me in the same way, except much worse. Maybe there is a correlation between the two? Kilimanjaro almost killed me because it was so high. And every time I hike a mountain, I start to feel nauseous. Thankfully though, Acatenango is a lot smaller than my old frenemy Kili. I knew my limits and higher altitudes take me sometime to adjust to. Besides, I just recently spent the past several weeks living on a high mountain in Nepal, so that should help a bit!

The day before the hike, Ben and I went to the local mercado to shop for food and supplies. Everything we ate on the volcano would be on our own dime and we’d have to carry it all up! We stocked up on snickers, crackers, chips, fruit bars, bananas, and a few liters of water. Our main course were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we premade the night before. Interestingly enough, Ben has never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his life. It’s not common at all in Australia like it is in the USA. Hopefully he’ll like ’em! We found two torches (flashlights) for 20Q each that we would use during the night hikes. I packed a few long sleeve shirts, a few pairs of socks for extra cushioning, and some long pants that were light and easy to manuever in. Lionel told me prior that he had a couple of sleeping bags, a tent, and a jacket for me later. My gut told me that I packed perfectly for this trip! Not too much and just enough to be comfortable. I didn’t want to bring too much up because I would have to carry it all.

Ben and I were picked up in the morning in the central park of Antigua around 9:20am along with another person who would be joining the hike with us. His name is Robin (Germany) and he is friends with Lionel. There were a few other locals in the van that would join our group making us a solid team of about eleven or twelve. We drove about an hour or so to the base of Acatenango, where it was a bit chilly. Still I wore shorts and a light jacket because I knew it would get hot soon enough.

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Robin, Me, Lionel, and Ben before the start of the hike!

And so we began! One of the hardest parts of a good hike is the very beginning. Going up the first slope I was already winded! It just takes your body s few minutes to adjust to what you’re about to do. I felt fine a little after once we had a steady pace going. The first 40 minutes we hiked through farmlands and crops before we entered a very muddy forest.

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I didn’t have a proper pair of boots with me. I’ve been sticking with my tried and true NikeREAX sneakers I’ve been using since I left home in July. I’ve used these bad boys when I hiked 22 miles in Germany, hiked up to the largest ice caves in the world, and everywhere else beyond and between. I just used extra socks for cushioning and padding which worked wonders.

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After the first hour, we took a twenty-minute break to wait for the others in our group to catch up. Afterwards, we continued on up through the muddy forest. At this point, I already started to feel a headache, which is the first symptom for oncoming altitude sickness. Crap…it’s too early in the hike to get a headache! I decided to re-adopt my “Pole Pole” method I used on Kilimanjaro. Pole means “slow” in Swahili. I went super slow on Kilimanjaro which prevented me from having a headache until the fifth day of hiking. And so, I began a slower pace here on Acatenango as well, which meant Lionel, Ben, and Robin would be way ahead of me. I was in the middle. While the rest of the group were still behind me, even after I was going mighty steady. It also allowed me to realize my surroundings and take some nice photos of everyone and the scenery.

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On our next break, I pulled out some of the food I had brought. I gave Ben his first Pb&J ever while I munched on that and some jalapeño flavored Cheetos, which were extremely good. I chugged on some water and we were on our way.

Ben and his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Ben and his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I had the hiccups as soon as I began the hike and they stuck with me the whole way. Hiccups are an indicator that your body is trying to adjust to the altitude. I didn’t mind the hiccups. I’m just glad my body was trying to readjust itself back to how it was three years ago on Kili.

The scene turned from a muddy forest to a cloudy one. It was chilly whenever we stopped for a rest but we became warm as soon as we started moving again. The clouds covered any skyline we could have seen. The mist sponged the forest like a wet blanket. The footing on the ground was still a bit damp but the soil turned into pebbles of old volcanic ash. There were lots of groups of hikers around and about, most of them overdressed for the occasion and had too much in their backpacks.

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It’s been two and a half hours and we still had ways to go. We had two main guides with us: Biiron and Moses. Biiron is the one who organized this whole trip and Moses was his sidekick. Moses didn’t speak much but he was always going at a steady pace and always waited for everyone else to catch up before we continued. He’s a really short guy, literally about a third of my height. He never had any snacks whenever we stopped for a break so I made sure to share my food with him. Our group as a whole was great with sharing with one another, even with random hikers who looked like they could use a dose of energy. Even at the pace I was going, my headache grew. Thankfully, we reached a point where the path became more flat and less sloped.

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We were informed that instead of camping at the crater of the mountain, we would be camping much lower. There were just too many people there. We would find another place less crowded. At around 5pm, we all finally made it to our campsite. We were situated right in front of Fuego with a perfect closeup view of its constant eruptions. My head was pounding but an aspirin fixed that once I settled down. We setup our tent which was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be.

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It was a two person tent for four big guys. We didn’t think about it and began to help collect wood to build a fire. It wasn’t as chilly as I expected but maybe it was because we sat by the fire most of the night.

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As we sat there with my Nikon in hand, I patiently waited for Fuego to erupt so I could capture all its fiery glory on camera. The eruptions happened about every twenty minutes or so, but there was no warning of when it would happen. It was hard to capture a shot in the dark but I did manage to get something.

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The backdrops were perfect for some pretty amazing photos that night!

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Biiron informed us that we will be waking up at 4:30am to begin a hike up to the summit, in order to see the sunrise. Close to 9pm, the four of us squeezed into the small tent and tried to go to sleep. It was uncomfortable but at least it was warm. I could barely move or readjust. Every so often we heard a loud boom. We sprang up and looked out the screen to see Fuego erupting. To see a volcano explode and spit lava everywhere is truly a sight to behold! The next morning, we woke up and I bundled up in layers. It wasn’t as cold as everyone has been telling me it will be, but it was still chilly enough for me to wear the big jacket Lionel lent me. I barely ate a banana and a fruit bar. I didn’t have an appetite whatsoever. I stuck a bottle of water and my pocket and off we went. I wasn’t in any mood to hike at all though. I could have stayed asleep a few more hours. My heart was pounding and a headache approached not even fifteen minutes in. I had to slow my pace. Pole Pole. Ben, Lionel, and Robin led the pack. I was somewhere in the middle and the others were behind as we trudged up the path of loose gravel.

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My feet sunk into it with each step, it was like climbing a never-ending sand dune made of black ash. Two steps forward and slide one step back. This was the hard part of the volcano. I grew nauseous, like I wanted to vomit. Altitude sickness was looming! But at least the sun began to show, and that distracted me for a moment.

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The group that was behind me were nowhere in sight. The group that was in front of me were long gone. I was on my own now, which I was okay with. I found my own pace which was slow but steady. I reached for my water bottle out of my jacket pocket and found that it was gone. It must have fallen out as I was sliding all over the place. I could manage without though. The summit wasn’t too much farther!

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Eventually I saw groups of hikers in front of me near the top. I’m almost there! I passed up climbers who were on the struggle bus and continued on the demented slope to the peak. I saw the other guys and gave them a salute signaling I was fine. Actually, I felt like I was going to vomit any minute. Step by step, I made it to the summit and it was a sight to see. The best viewpoint in all of Guatemala!

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My urge to vomit began to cease. I just had a pounding headache. Still I took off my jacket and enjoyed the summit scape. It wasn’t nearly as cold or windy as I thought it was going to be. I was quite warm up there! We stayed up there for a little more than an hour. We had views of the Pacific Ocean, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City, and the best views of Fuego itself.

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Fuego erupting.
Fuego erupting.

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Man, I’m no good with high altitudes. My muscles were in great shape; no aches or pains, but it was just difficult for my system to adjust in such a short amount of time. I was glad I didn’t have to go up any further though. It’s all downhill from here and going down the steep ash was a ride in itself. We practically slid the whole way down back to camp!

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We packed up our gear and supplies and continued down the volcano. Once we approached the muddy jungle, it was a slip slide ride all the way down while dodging trees and large rocks scattered across. We slid so much that my toes began to dig into the front of my shoe. As we ran down the volcano with our large backpacks in tow, I felt like we were in boot camp training. My desire to get to the base of the volcano was strong and the lower I descended in altitude, the more strength ensued within. But by the time we reached the bottom, after about two hours, my toes were scrunched and my legs and feet were covered in ash. All worth it!

My group and our guide Moses.
My group and our guide Moses.

When we got back home, I had so much ash and rocks in my shoes and clothes that I left a trail all the way through Olga’s house to my room. Sorry Olga!

One of the best hikes I’ve ever done!

Wild Blue Yonder

I severely underestimated Austria. The landscapes here are first class and are some of the most awe-inspiring panoramas I’ve ever witnessed. Kevin and Alex live near mountains upon mountains and calm lakes neighboring more calm lakes. This is the countryside of Austria and it was blowing my mind. Save for driving through the winding hilltop roads though! My stomach isn’t privy to those.

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Kevin, Alex, and I are on the same page when it comes to traveling around the world. We all love the great outdoors and we all love our GoPro’s. Kevin is the GoPro meister and carries it with him everywhere he goes.

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Just like the Germans, the Austrians love their bread. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it doesn’t matter. We ate lots of it. It was easy to make a sandwich and it was accessible at all hours. And also like the Germans, the Austrians really love their beer. Of course their selection isn’t as wide as Germany but Kevin and his buddies can drink like no other. By this point, after months of intense beer training and three days of Oktoberfest, I was fine with never having to drink for a long time. I checked myself out in Munich. Kevin had other plans though. We all went out bar hopping nearby and ended up at a place where they play a game that is definitely not allowed in any American bar I’m familiar with. It’s called Nageln. You basically have a tree stump, a hammer, and some long nails. The goal is to take turns spiking down a nail into the stump using the hammer. The kicker is actually using the opposite side of the hammer (the claw) to accomplish this task. The last person to spike their nail completely into the stump has to buy a round for everyone playing. Fortunately, I was able to edge out one person at my first game. The hammer though…that wouldn’t fly with drunk Americans in our bars!

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A little bit away, there was a mountain called Hallstatt, famous for having neat hiking trails near the peaks rather than the base, so most people opt for the cable car. Kevin, Alex, and I drove to that mountain and planned on hiking at the top. It was a really crappy day: brisk, wet, and gray. However, all that would change almost instantly when we rode the cable car up above the dreary clouds.

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Just like that, the weather transformed almost like magic. The sky was a clean blue, the sun shone bright, and the landscape was covered in a thick blanket of pure white puff. We couldn’t see anything below us, just clouds. Clouds everywhere.

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Up at the top, there were many different paths laid out to trek. We chose a path that led us to another mountain top where we could get a better view of the cloud layer. How can the views get much better? They’re already amazing!

It was quite warm up there. There were no clouds to block the sun, since most of the clouds were now below us. The tops of the mountains didn’t look like ordinary mountain tops. Instead, it resembled a valley of sorts, easily accessible by foot. The trail led us further on to a cliff where we could rest and gaze at the sea of clouds that extended beyond plain eyesight.

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We stayed up there for a few hours before we went back to the cheerless reality taking place back on solid earth. We lost view of the mountain peaks and instead were shielded by the dullest of blankets. This day would be one of the only days where it was gloomy and rainy outside. The remainder of my time here in Austria brought upon perfect weather. A great day came about when Kevin took me back into the confines of Germany to a famous river that streamed through a range of highlands. The best way to get through the river was by riverboat, so thats what we used. It was a canal boat similar to the one I used in Amsterdam. And just like everything else in Austria, the scenery was top notch.

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There were a few places of interest here at this river: a cool trail, some restaurants, and a few churches. But really I think just sitting and wandering outside was the best.

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Austria, so far everything has been so freaking sweet! Both Kevin and Alex have been great to show me around their country. The fun didn’t stop there though. The three of us would join up again later to go river diving. Prepare to be amazed!

World of the Ice Giants

Here is what I know about Austria: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Vienna sausages. Also, there’s some bizarre tradition they have where people dress like monsters and beat up other people. This is all I know. The most important fact about Austria though, is that my friend Kevin lives there. I met him right before the jungle party in Koh Tao, Thailand last summer. We’ve kept in touch often and both decided that I will come down to stay with him for several days so he could show me his country. Out of all the European countries I’ve been to so far, my prior knowledge of Austria was the most lacking, so my expectations were bare. I took a Meinfernbus, two hours south of Germany to a city in Austria called Salzburg. There Kevin and his buddy Alex were waiting for me.

Just like before, Kevin spoke like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It was pretty amusing to me and he went along with it. “Put the cookie down!” “Get to the chopper!” Since Thailand, Kevin has been doing a lot of working and a lot of music festival partying based on all the photos he’s been showing me on Whatsapp the past few months. His friend Alex just came back about a month ago from a solo backpacking trip around Southeast Asia. He was actually on the islands too when I met Kevin last year, but he was sick in the hospital the whole time I was around. Kevin and Alex decided we should all have a home cooked meal and so we stopped at a super market, grabbed some grub, and went back to Kevin’s house where they prepared the feast.

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Kevin had tons of cool things planned for my visit and I was pretty pumped and game for anything! There is a mountain called Hochkogel Mountain, which is part of the Alps, and inside at the top is the largest ice cave discovered on Earth! The cave is called Eisreisenwelt and it spans 42km deep! That’s humoungous! The drive to the mountain was about an hour or so. I don’t exactly remember because I was passed out most of the drive. But once we made it, we had two options to get to the cave: we could take the cable car up, followed by a short hike or we could hike all the way to the top. Kevin and I opted for the long haul and were the only ones to do so for this day. On our way past the starting point, a lady told us we were wearing the wrong shoes for the hike, as it’s a little difficult. Kevin and I both had on sneakers which were perfect for us, but the woman recommended hiking boots. We said we’re fine and continued on anyways. The fact that everyone else took the cable car up made the hike up the mountain more enjoyable. Kevin and I were the only ones around and the sights around constantly left me in complete awe.

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The path up the mountain was indeed slippery. There were unsteady pebbles of rocks laid across the trail and one false step meant an undesirable fate. The trail zig-zagged up the base of the slope, piled with stones, pebbles, and rocks of all sorts of shapes and sizes. At one point I decided to take a short-cut and instead of following the trail, decided to climb straight up which would shave plenty of time. With me deciding to take a shortcut usually turns out to be a really great idea or a really bad one. This was a bad one. Kevin is game for anything also so I convinced him how much easier and more fun it would be to climb straight up instead of following the linear path. Upon beginning, I knew in my head that maybe this wasn’t a good idea, as the rocks I grabbed onto were loose and the bushes and grasses were wet and slippery. If I fell, it meant I would fall and slide down the mountain along with a bunch of stones. I made it up a few meters while Kevin waited to see if I could set a path for him. As he was busy fumbling with his GoPro, I accidentally dislodged a stone the size of my head and it came rolling down past me…straight towards Kevin!

“Kevin! Kevin! Watch out!!” I shouted in a panic.

He looked up and just as he did, he quickly dodged his head as the stone tumbled and flew past his shoulder. We both had an “Oh my God!” look on our faces. I almost just killed Kevin! With that, I proceeded up back to the nearest trail and he wisely decided not to climb up and proceeded along the trail and met me where I stood. My bad Kevin!

After that brief rush of adrenaline, we took it easy; no more daring stunts. We progressed up the mountain and every turn we made led us to another spectacular view of Austria…and it was beautiful.

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We stopped a lot to rest and take pictures. Kevin with his GoPro and me with my Nikon. A couple of hours in, we finally made it to the point where the cable car would drop off patrons, but we still had a 20 minute hike ahead. We could see the entrance of the cave from where we were.

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I wish I could explore the cave freely. No…not here, this was a guided tour. I dread those words: guided tour. There was a group of about thirty of us waiting at the top for the next phase of the tour to begin. While everyone began to dress up in their winter coats, hats and gloves, Kevin and I were standing there in shorts and t-shirts. Just how cold is this ice cave? The tour guide announced it was zero degrees celsius inside. We had to make do! We’ll be okay…right? I don’t operate well in cold weather.

Upon entering the cave we were blasted with frigid winds! It felt like someone placed a jet turbine in front of Antarctica and set it on full throttle. It was cold! Fortunately the winds only lasted for a few seconds and the inside of the cave was calm…and icy!

“No photography allowed,” said the tour guide.

But why? This isn’t a church or museum. It’s completely natural here. I couldn’t think of a single good reason why we weren’t allowed to take pictures…so I took some anyway! Discreetly of course. We didn’t climb all the way up here for nothing!

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The cave is 42km long but we only went into the beginnings of the cave. It started with a steep climb up an iced out wall via a staircase. The stairs led us to a giant chunk of ice in the shape of a wooly mammoth. It wasn’t carved that way, it was completely natural and it really did look like a mammoth!

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The cave is comprised of several chambers, some with filled with more ice than others. Each chamber of the cave had a chunk of ice that resembled some kind of giant monster. Use your imagination. Over years, the giant chunks change and deform as water from the outside slowly drips onto the ice. In ordinary caves, you’ll find stalagmites and stalactites and here you would find the same except made completely out of ice and frozen mineral sediments.

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The cave itself was cold but bearable. If you ever go here in shorts, you’ll live. The tour lasted for about an hour before we exited back to the chilly winds at the entrance.

For being the largest ice cave on the planet, I decided it’s worthy of being added onto my ATLAS.

ATLAS UPDATED!

No, you’re not allowed to take photos for whatever unknown reasons, but if you have the chance to visit, go ahead and take some! Just turn the flash off and do it when the guide isn’t paying attention. You’re not hurting anyone. Also, if you’re in the mood for a dose of some of the most amazing scenery ever, hike up the mountain! It’s an exercise but the photos will show for it.

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Kevin and I decided to also hike back down the mountain and stopped at certain points we missed along the way. The late evening was approaching and the sun beamed its last rays of daylight through the gaps of clouds and mountain peaks. I’d say the hike was the cake and the ice cave were just the sprinkles added to an already delicious dessert.

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But wait!

Kevin had more to show me. There is an entirely different world above the clouds. And we’re going there next!

Hike-22

Besides Brocken, I haven’t done much hiking since I arrived in Europe nearly two months ago, so I was feeling a bit deprived. But when Eric suggested we go on an early bird, 22 mile hike across Hermansweg, I was both ecstatic and wondering “Why in the heck did I just agree to hike 22 miles?!” But really, there’s nothing more refreshingly energizing than a lengthy hike through the wilderness of a foreign country, so I was game!

We woke up 6:30am and packed a small bag of sandwiches and water, that was pretty much it. It was going to be a fairly easy hike that was a steady mixture of ascents and descents through forests, villages, farmlands, and more forests. After all the beer I’ve been drinking lately (in preparation for Oktoberfest), I needed the exercise!

Eric’s dad drove us to the start of the hike, underneath the base of a famous statue. Unfortunately it was too foggy out to see the statue. There was fog everywhere.

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Hermansweg is about 154km long but we were only doing a leg of it. The trail is famous in this region of Germany for annual marathons and is a popular route for joggers and trekkers alike. The whole trail is marked with a bold “H” posted on trees, poles, signs, etc. Eric has walked and ran this trail before in the past and he’s crazy enough to want to do it again!

The start of our trail took us through a damp forest through scattered trees whose leaves were in the primary stages of autumn coloring.

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There was a set trail laid out for us, but surrounding that was a mossy blanket that covered the forest floor with sprouts of mushrooms growing in random places.

I’d say after about two hours of walking, we found a spot to eat some of our sandwiches. It was short-lived though knowing we still had so far to go. We pressed onwards shortly after.

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The trail eventually changed scenery and brought us out of the forest and into a quiet village. I didn’t know what the scenery would look like, we just knew to follow the ‘H’. At some points it was hard to find exactly where an ‘H’ was placed though.

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Throughout the hike, we passed by many joggers and even bikers! I would never bike this trail as steep as the ascents were. There were actually a whole lot of bikers attempting the feat.

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Once we passed the village, we were about halfway to the finish point. Only 11 more miles to go! We led up crossing over a highway and into a farmland and then more forests. The fog began to lift and the sun began to show itself.

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While hiking through the last major stretch of forest, we lost track of where we were and somehow missed an ‘H’. Once we realized our flub, we had to backtrack about a kilometer back and rejoin the path. After a couple more miles we finally made it through a park and to a castle, which was the finish point for our trek. We plopped down on the grass immediately. It took about seven hours. My feet were cramped like no other! Eric’s dad arrived and picked us up. I passed out and took a nap as soon as we got back home.

Later that same evening, Sophia invited Eric and I to her dad’s birthday celebration. There I met Sophia’s wonderful family who served up some very tasty foods I’ve never had before. I also met a couple, some of Sophia’s parents friends, who asked me all sorts of questions about America and what I’ve been up to. I always think it’s neat when people I’ve just met are so interested in what I’m doing and ask me all sorts of questions. I never really mind.

For my last day in Bielefeld, Eric took us all out for American style burgers at a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere called Joe’s.

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After that, he took me to the train station where a private driver was coming to pick me up. Ever heard of Blablacar? It’s a service where you catch a ride with a driver who is on the route of the direction you need to go. In short, it’s a safer way of hitch hiking and is much cheaper than taking a train or bus.

Eric and his family have been great hosts and I enjoyed my time in Bielefeld a lot! Thanks Eric! You are the man.

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I was on my way to Kassel, a city south of Bielefeld to visit another friend I met in South Africa. 🙂