Tag Archives: top100done

Altai-2016: The Big Water Trail.

Hi all!

Altai ranks up there as one of the most fascinating and magical places on earth.

It’s not only beautiful – there’s something about the place. It might be some sort of special energy in the rocks there or something else unbeknown to us. Here the colors are brighter, the water tastes better, the grass is greener, and the mountains contrast more with their surroundings. This year I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Altai with a group of like-minded adventurers. We hiked, choppered, and rafted (down the Katun River).

In all we walked about 70 kilometers to Lake Akkem and then around it, flew around mount Belukha in a helicopter, flew up to the headwaters of the Katun and rafted down to the lower reaches of the river – almost 400km (four HUNDRED kilometers!!) in all, and descending over a kilometer along the vertical axis. This was my ‘summer holiday’.

Reaв on: And this is what it all looked like…

Cliff-top Monasteries.

Oh no! I need to turn my Top-100 List of Must-See Places in the World into the Top-101 List! Not exactly a round number is it, but what can I do? Needs must…

So what’s so special that needs adding? It’s the Meteora in Greece – a ‘formation of immense monolithic pillars and hills like huge rounded boulders that dominate the local area’. Sheer cliffs stretching 600 meters up, all in different shades of grey, with monasteries atop some of the peaks of the rocks.

Read on: Oh my Greek! …

Safari!

Just two weeks in Tanzania over the New Year break, but soooo many impressions! And you, dear blog readers, are only half-way through those impressions…

After coming back down Kilimanjaro to the plains below, before we had time to utter ‘acclimatization’, we were whisked off… on an African safari!

Initially, the colonial meaning of the term ‘safari’ meant ‘to go and shoot wild animals in Africa’, not necessarily to later eat them or even use their hides for whatever; just like at a shooting gallery – only with live targets. Time has passed and mores have changed for the better, and now the term means ‘to look at wild animals in Africa (from a car or jeep)’… and take photos of them in all their wild poses.

tanzania-safari-1

Read on: Hakuna matata!…

Ho, ho, ho: Kilimanjaro!

At Christmastime (“ho, ho, ho”), what better to do than… climb a volcano in Africa? That’s what I asked myself in November of last year… 

…Wind forward six weeks, and there I was, at the summit of Kilimanjaro!

“The first stage of altitude sickness is euphoria: the individual becomes animated, excited, amiable, chatty… almost ecstatic. The second stage is lethargy: the person becomes despondent, sad, bored, subdued and sluggish, with no wish to converse and no appetite.”

Those are the notes I wrote based on the talk our guide in Tanzania, O.R., gave us not long after our arrival in the country. But I think she left the next stage out (she didn’t want to frighten us, after all); so let me add it: The third stage is fatal: a swift worsening of one’s physical and mental state and… hmmm, like O.R., I’d prefer not to go into it. Let me just mention what you’d need if approaching this third stage: oxygen mask, injected medicine, and a call to an SOS medical helicopter service – all ASAP.

kilimanjaro-up-1

Read on: Oh my Google Maps! What an adventure we had…

The Valley of Nine Villages.

Next stop on the route of my hidden China vacation – the Valley of Nine Villages, aka, the Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟) nature reserve and national park: Yet ANOTHER absurdly astounding Chinese natural beauty!

Cascades of lakes and waterfalls, crystal clear – albeit fluorescent turquoise! – water in lakes, and a freakish forest of horizontally growing trees under that same crazy colored water, and all that set in the most picturesque of mountainous landscapes. And in the fall there’s a bonus: the blends of reds and yellows and oranges of autumn leaves. Oh my gigabytes.

#No filter – no, really!#No filter – no, really!

Read on: Jiuzhaigou walkthrough…

You can’t go wrong in Huanglong.

Half an hour away on a plane from the not-so small (14-million-peopled!) Sichuan capital, Chengdu, in Southwest China, there’s yet another masterpiece of Chinese natural beauty: Huanglong. Basically it’s a cascade of brightly colored lakes and waterfalls made up of highly mineralized (calcareous) water. But that’s enough words. Better just check out the pics…

huanglong-china-1

Read on: Bewildering beauty…

Sunset in Zhangye.

Attention!

The below pics haven’t been doctored with Photoshop. Well, the colors were brightened just a little, but that’s not full-on Photoshopping really – more like putting Polaroid sunglasses on. Incidentally, such sunglasses are advised to be worn when looking at these here views in the flesh. Everything’s a little brighter, fuller, sharper and more contrasting. Like so:

china-zhangye-danxia-park-1

Read on: From dusk till dawn in Danxia…

On the Avatar set – in China.

Believe me – in China there’s plenty to look at. I gave myself  a present for my for 50th B-Day and spent a few days there recently. Get ready to say ‘wow!’ when you see some of the upcoming must-see spots!

As I’ve said before on these here cyberpages, the funny thing is – most of that ‘plenty‘ is practically unknown to non-Chinese folks. The conspicuous historical monuments that were lucky enough to have survived the Cultural Revolution are known about, like those in Beijing and around, like the Great Wall of China, Lhasa and plenty more. But there’s a lot more besides, most of it unheard of outside the country. Just ask around – you’ll be met with blank stares. Maybe a few folks know about, say, Mount Kailash but that will be about it!

Oops. Yes, I’m certain I’m repeating myself somewhat here. I’ve already bemoaned this state of affairs not long ago. Accordingly, without more of ado, let me get on with another bit of Unknown China!…

Today’s bit of Unknown China shouldn’t be referred to as a mere bit. For it could well be one of the Top-20 most beautiful places in the world. It’s Wulingyuan – a ‘scenic are that comprises several national parks, one of which is the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park‘.

From somewhere out of sight waaaaay down below rise up huge rock columns. Jagged, naked sheer sides, with green vegetation on top. Utterly mind-blowing and jaw-dropping, moreover – in any weather: can’t say that for many similar natural installations, especially those in Kamchatka.

In overcast murkiness these stone columns get wrapped in a white fog. The actual scale and distances involved get totally lost, with the brain just giving up attempting to gauge them. They can’t be viewed with the rational mind; only with emotions. Then all of a sudden the sun will come out and the scene is transformed: all the detail and colors come to the fore, but still the brain isn’t able to cognize! Check out these contrasts in some of the pics below…

The heights of these columns are just silly: hundreds of meters tall they are. This one in the next pic is a whopping 1080 meters tall – more than a kilometer! Incidentally, it’s called Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, but more about that later. And the stone arch in the pics – that’s also daft-high: around 1000 meters up. You can walk across it too, if you’re brave enough.

Gulp!Gulp!

Read on: Gulp!…

Chillin’ in Shillin.

China is a fascinating country, and I’d say also a mostly untapped country in terms of tourism for the average non-Chinese: it’s full of world-class tourist attractions, but most outside the country have never heard of them, let alone visited them. Oh, of course, it’s also a huge country, so it can be visited time and time again, and there’ll always be something still left for you to see and marvel at. Nice.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before on these here cyber-pages that the Chinese tend to ‘stew in their own juices’. By that I mean their domestic tourism industry doesn’t orientate itself to foreigners much at all. Of course there are the obvious tourist traps here which are widely promoted abroad – like the Great Wall of China and the larger cities – but, ironically, those places don’t really need any promo – the whole world knows full well about them already; it’s the not-so obvious spots that could do with promoting. However, in the meantime, there’s a good upshot to this lopsided tourism situation: for a foreigner, the less obvious spots are all the more exciting to discover – as you’re normally the first person among your friends and colleagues, or maybe the whole city you live in (whole country?:), to have ever visited them. Well, with the exception of Austrian bikers.

I say that tourism isn’t geared towards foreigners. That doesn’t mean to say it isn’t well developed in other ways. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all of the smaller, lesser-known-to-foreigners places in the country are classified into five categories and described in minute detail, here. The top category (four As, or five As, I didn’t quite work out) is full of must-see places, and I was pleasantly surprised once more to find out that there are more than 50 spots in the top category (AAAAA). That’s a lot of must-sees. Means only one thing: must get back here again and again.

On my recent trip to the Yunnan province I made a start in crossing off some of the places on the AAAAA list as visited. Well, got to start some time, and some where.

One of these was Shilin, aka, the Stone Forest, near Kunming (Shilin means literally ‘stone forest’). And thank you I Heart China. The place was simply awesome…

china-shilin-stone-forest-1

china-shilin-stone-forest-2

Read on: Ancient aqueous rocks pushed to the earth’s surface…