Tag Archive | hiking

A Day To Remember: Trekking in India’s Periyar National Park

When you are on the road for a year, every single day is different.  Some days however, become permanently imprinted into your memory forever.  One those days for me was when we went to Periyar National Park. This could have been our last adventure! I am not exaggerating, keep reading.

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It was a beautiful sunny day in South India, and we had signed up for an all day trekking tour at Periyar National Park. This is one of Kerala’s most popular national parks due to its beautiful nature and wildlife. People flock to this amazing park, lured by the possibility of spotting wild elephants, deer, boar, and perhaps even tigers!

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At 8:00 am sharp we met our guides and the rest of the trekkers. After some brief introductions, we were sitting on a bamboo raft ready to paddle across the gorgeous lake.

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Jason worked very hard to paddle us across this huge artificial lake that lies within the national park. Riding the bamboo raft was an incredible way to enjoy the beauty of the forest. It was both peaceful and fun.

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While on the bamboo raft we were very lucky to spot some wildlife. In the far distance we noticed a group of water buffalo.

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Due to the distance, it is extremely difficult to see but we also saw boar.

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Once we reached land, we trekked for several hours hoping to encounter some wildlife up close. Aside from a few deer, we didn’t really see too much. But, I did hold these super heavy antlers that were found in the wild.

Our tour was almost coming to an end. We had been out all day and now it was almost 4:30 pm, and everyone was feeling a bit disappointed since we never saw an elephant. When the group was pretty much convinced we were not going to spot an elephant, an incredible thing happened. Are you thinking, we saw a wild elephant? Yes, you are partially right. Let me explain.

We were hiking in a straight line, and I happened to be near the front. We were about to turn the corner, when our guide told us to immediately stop. Through the bushes we could see some gray and hear some rustling noises. Yes! It was definitely an elephant! Carefully following our guide’s instructions we all moved away from the elephant. Soon we were in an open field about 50 meters away from that grayish wild animal we had spotted seconds before. We had a clear sight of the elephant and other elephants too!! What? There wasn’t just one elephant, or two, or three, there were seven elephants!! Unbelievable!!

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Now, this is where things got really crazy. The elephants immediately noticed our presence and began kicking the earth with their legs and trumpeting! Then the 6 adult elephants encircled the small baby elephant. What were they doing? Trying to protect their baby or discussing politics? I don’t know! But, the next thing they did was stand in a line facing us with the baby elephant behind them. I think they were telling us to move away. I turned toward my guide, who was holding a rifle in his hand. He looked terrified. There was so much fear in his eyes! My heart skipped a beat. Seriously, it did. The guide was yelling at everyone to run as fast as they could away from the elephants or else they may attack!

I was starting to feel nervous; after all I was wearing orange. I would definitely be an easy target if those elephants started a stampede. So naturally, it would be wise for me to run for my life, but I didn’t. Why?

This was the part that made me the most petrified. Jason was so thrilled about the seeing the wild elephants, he kept taking their pictures despite the fact the guide had told us to run. Everyone had already left except him and of course me. I couldn’t just leave him behind. I kept yelling at him to run as my stress level continued to increase at the speed of light. Finally, he ran! In fact, he ran pretty fast! Yup, I was the last one to enter the safe zone! What can I say, I am just a slow runner!

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Oh, the adrenaline rush. I was terrified and excited simultaneously. Check out our video below, if you don’t believe me!

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These were our wonderful guides, who succeeded to keep everyone safe!

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So what happened with the elephants? They were probably laughing at us. No, seriously they realized we weren’t a threat and went about their merry day.

Any words of wisdom from me? Yes. Don’t wear orange when you go trekking in the wild.

Hiking 3776 m up Mount Fuji

The image of Mount Fuji comes to my mind when I think of Japan. It is Japan’s highest mountain towering at 3 667 m. For centuries this mountain has been a sacred site for pilgrims and a source of inspiration for many artists as well as poets. For me, it is a reminder of how perseverance and determination can help conquer what seems impossible.

When I decided to climb to the summit of Mount Fuji, I was a very inexperienced hiker. I had never before climbed to such a high altitude.

Mount Fuji has 10 stations along the route to the top. The majority of tourists or sightseers ride a bus to Station 5 and then climb to the peak. However, Jason and I were motivated to climb all of Mount Fuji starting from the foot of the mountain.

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We began our journey at the northern base of the mountain, near the Fujiyoshida Sengen Shrine. This holy shrine is dedicated to Princess Konohanasakuya, the Shinto deity identified with Mount Fuji. The path to the shrine is lined up with stone lanterns and tall cedar trees.

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After visiting the holy shrine, we tried to use our map to find the entrance to the Yoshidaguchi Trail. However, we had great difficulties finding it. It was early afternoon and about 1.5 hours later once we finally discovered the right way!

After overcoming our initial frustrations, we spent the next few hours enjoying ourselves. The landscape was very green and scenic with plenty of vegetation. The hike itself was very pleasant and relaxing.

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We eventually came across this sign, warning us how we would be taking a risk by hiking this trail. We read it, took a photo, and kept moving along the trail.

Every time we passed a station, we would get excited since we were getting closer to our goal. We had been hiking for a few hours and were beginning to grow weary and cold. By the time we reached Station 5, it was extremely dark and cold. We decided to take a four hour rest break inside a small hut.

The Japanese treated us with great hospitality. I remember feeling so cold and hungry, when an elderly Japanese woman brought me a hot bowl of udon. That was one of the best udon meals I have ever had in my life. It was made with fresh mushrooms that were grown on Mount Fuji itself! (Now every time I have udon, I always recall this beautiful memory of Mount Fuji!) In addition to serving us a delicious hot meal, the Japanese gave us some cozy blankets for our nap.

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Despite our desire to sleep a bit longer, we woke up around midnight. It was terribly cold. But we were determined. We wanted to reach the summit before sunrise.

Besides overcoming the lack of sleep and intense cold, the other major challenge I encountered was breathing problems. Between Station 9 and the peak, it was becoming very difficult to breathe at such a high altitude. I slowed my pace and simply took it as easy as I could until I finally reached the summit.

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This is a view of the gorgeous sunrise from Mount Fuji.

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It took us about 10 hours altogether of climbing to reach the summit of Mount Fuji. It was definitely an accomplishment. Quite honestly, I never imagined that one day I would be sitting at the top of Japan’s tallest mountain with my best friend! We both felt incredibly awesome!

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The first snow of the year began falling while we were walking around the crater of this volcanic cone.

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Throughout our journey we experienced all kinds of weather (sunny, snowy, cloudy, rainy, windy, foggy) on Mount Fuji. That was pretty awesome!

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For me, descending the steep slopes of Mt. Fuji was definitely more challenging than climbing to the top. It was difficult to get a good footing on the ground since the steep paths consisted of tiny rocks that slid easily. Most Japanese hikers were simply running down these slopes, which of course was actually easier than taking steady short steps. However, I was too cautious and nervous to be running down Mount Fuji!

Despite all my challenges, my experience on Mount Fuji was very rewarding and fun. I learned with perseverance and determination I can accomplish a lot.

Taiwan’s Natural Wonder: The Taroko Gorge

The Taroko Gorge is a 19 km long canyon located in Taroko National Park, one of Taiwan’s eight national parks. Most visitors either ride a bike or scooter to visit the most attractive areas of the gorge. However, we decided to spend a day walking along the paved road and hiking trails to see all the highlights of this magnificent natural wonder.

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The main hiking trail we followed was called the Shakadang Trail. It was one of the most beautiful parts of the gorge. The scenic views of white rocks within the clear turquoise waters and the ubiquitous green trees were breathtakingly gorgeous.

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Along the way, we also saw this huge spider and tiny frog!

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We really enjoyed our day at Taroko Gorge. But, after walking all day, we were fairly exhausted by the end of our trip.

Climbing the Great Wall of China One Step at a Time

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The Great Wall of China is a collection of walls that served to protect the Chinese Empire and were used for border control purposes. In Beijing, the “Badaling” section of the Great Wall is one of the most gorgeous and well preserved parts. Thus, despite it being very touristy, we decided to climb this very scenic section of the Great Wall. Many tourists opted to ride the cable car to the most popular area of the “Badaling” section. However, we wanted to experience what it would be like to hike up the Great Wall.

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It takes a lot of strength and endurance to climb the Great Wall. I have to admit, it wasn’t easy for me. I had to take a lot of breaks along the way. There were a lot of steps and they were steep. However, hiking up the Great Wall was worth it because we were able to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beautiful scenery in peace.

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Once we arrived to where the cable car dropped tourists off, as we expected, it was teeming with crowds. The Great Wall is one of China’s most attractive tourist sites, with over millions of people from around the world visiting each year. The crowds however, did not deter us from enjoying this majestic structure. It was breathtakingly beautiful. After spending the day at the Great Wall, we mustered the strength to hike down it instead of riding a crowded cable car!

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