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Yosemite’s majestic mountains

Yosemite National Park

sunny 36 °C
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We can call ourselves really lucky: a couple of days earlier when it was obvious when we’d be getting to San Francisco and then to Yosemite I was lucky to get a reservation for a single night at Crane Flat Campground. Considering that campgrounds for Yosemite in summer time are usually sold out a couple of months in advance, we were very happy.
And then we were even more lucky when I found space for us for the following two nights at Upper Pines Campground (so even a campsite down in Yosemite Valley) just before leaving towards Yosemite – i.e. when we still had reception.
So it was a very relaxed drive and late arrival in Yosemite – having a reservation is not really what we’re used to. But admittedly this was extremely helpful, as also most of the national forest campgrounds before entering Yosemite were full. And while dispersed camping might be allowed in the national forest, we were not too sure if this was a good idea in bear country without having any proper food storage at hand.

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Crane Flat is a nice campground with large sites located in a big pine forest. We easily found our spot and marveled at how nice it is not having to think about where to stay for the night.
The next morning, we got up early by our standards and headed into Yosemite Valley. We stopped at a couple of viewpoints as we got closer.

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The trail to Bridaveil Falls was short and nice. But it also gave us a flavor of how many people are crowding the valley. And despite all kinds of warning signs with visual examples and statistics of 2015 injuries displaying how dangerous it is to scramble in the granite rocks leading up to the falls, we were able to observe a tourist slipping and hitting his nice camera lens on a rock…
So we left in search of a quieter place and were successful at Cathedral Beach where we enjoyed the nice views of El Capitan and the Cathedral Range and the river with a pleasant beach.

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Later we used the nice afternoon sun for taking in the major view points in the valley before retreating to our spot in the Upper Pines Campground next to newly named Half Dome Village to have BBQ with roasted marshmallows as desert.

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The next morning, we decided to allow Jordan and Chris to join us with their tent on our campsite. The couple had tried their luck at the only first come – first serve campsite. As they had camped up close to Glacier Point, they got up at 4:15am, to get into line at Camp 4 at 5:20am in order to learn eventually from the National Park Staff that the group before them was the last one to get a spot… Wow! And as all reserved campsites are laid out for 6 people, Jordan searched for sites with less people and that’s how we got together. As usual, our guests get to sign our guest book...

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Our target for the day was a hike up to Vernal Falls and we even got further up vs. our original plan. We hiked up to the top of the falls and then even further up to the John Muir Trail to head down in a loop.

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Given that it was quite a warm day and a ‚moderately strenuous‘ hike (as per the park flyer), we deserved a dip in the river before having dinner at our site. And yes, we slept very well after so much exercise.

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Our last day in Yosemite was dedicated to Sequoia trees. Due to the fact that Mariposa Grove is currently closed for improvement works, we headed to Tuolumne Grove. And yes, it was very impressive to see the trees grow. But it was also interesting to see a fallen tree just to take in the dimensions of the giant sequoias. After all, their diameter is just enormous.

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After a couple of stops with great vistas along Tioga Road, we had ‚scrambled pancakes‘ (aka Kaiserschmarrn) at a nice lake.

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A bit later we got to the Tuolumne Meadows before going up to Tioga Pass at nearly 10,000 feet. With crossing the pass, it was time to wave good-bye to Yosemite national park and to recognize how quickly a landscape can change from one moment to the other.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 10:09 Archived in USA Tagged mountains waterfall rock hike yosemite sequoia Comments (1)

Nothing. Except endless bush, beaches, mines and stations

Broome, Eighty-mile Beach, Port Hedland, Indee Station, Auski Roadhouse

sunny 34 °C
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Broome is very remote even by Western Australian standards. Just an example to illustrate this statement: when searching for used bikes on gumtree.au.com, I had a couple of results for Broome and Cable Beach. And then the system offered to check also the following offers in the surrounding suburbs – the first of which was 598km away, the next ones 1050km away…
So, we made sure to fill up our supplies and to make sure that our tank and the jerry cans are full of diesel. We had really enjoyed our time in Broome and surroundings and could have easily stayed even longer. But after nine days we felt the itching again to get out and explore.
Even though we had seen only a bit of the Kimberley, we’d be heading south now. On the other hand, the Kimberley region is enormous. After all, just this one of nine regions of Western Australia is larger in size than 70% of the world’s countries – and is inhabited by less than 40,000 people out of which a third lives in Broome.
The closest town south-west of Broome is Port Hedland. As we were not keen on a 600km drive, we planned to stop along the way after 375km at Eighty Mile Beach. We were driving all that distance through flat bush with literally nothing along the way. I’m not sure to ever having experienced such a long stretch of nothingness.
To be fair, the nothingness was interrupted twice: after 25 km, we turned onto the Great Northern Highway and there was a gas station. And after 330 km we stopped at Sandfire Roadhouse to refuel.

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It was a relief to eventually turn off the road and to head the last 10 km on a gravel road to the beach. The beach sure seemed endless, but presumably it is in fact 80 miles long. What impressed us right away, were the sizable turtle tracks leading from the sea into the dunes and back. So, we definitively wanted to have a look ourselves at night to see some turtles nesting.

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As it was rather low tide and light outside, there were no turtles around yet and we kept ourselves busy with collecting shells. And there were really beautiful ones around and even some skeletons of starfish. The sunset at super low tide a bit later was simply spectacular.

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Unfortunately, that meant as well that high tide would only be after midnight and consequently the prime time for turtles coming up to the beach to dig a nest and to lay their eggs would only be very late. Still, Sam and I were extremely lucky when we went out to the beach at around eleven to see the first turtle coming up the beach after just a couple of minutes of being there. We were very impressed. To make sure that we don’t interrupt the turtle, we held our distance, but were able to observe the process nicely. Good, that moon was out at least part of the time – after all torches or any other form of light would scare the turtles away.

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The next morning, we had fun watching the birds at our campsite and eventually headed on to Port Hedland.

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About halfway, the scenery started getting more interesting with some hills and rocks dotting the otherwise boring bush. In Port Hedland, we headed to a park right next to the harbor inlet. Quite frankly, I had never heard of Port Hedland until a couple of days earlier and the guidebooks were not really enthusiastic about the place due to its industrial flavor. Still, we found it fascinating, as there was so much to learn that we had not realized or known previously.
After all, Port Hedland is one of the world’s top ten cargo ports shipping Western Australian iron ore and other mining products mainly to China and Korea. It is also the destination of a private train track, owned by BHP Billion, the world’s largest mining company. It is holding the record for the longest and heaviest train in history transporting over 82,000 metric tons of iron ore in 682 wagons at a total length of 7,2 km. Nowadays, these trains have just about 260 cars and a total train weight of over 43,000 tons. Even though this seems tiny in comparison, it is still about twice the length of the BNSF or CN trains we had seen in the USA – even though those were impressive as well with two sea containers stacked on top of each other.
Also, the iron ore freight ships were fascinating. At first the two anchored ore ships did not really impress us too much. This is, until another empty ship was navigated by several pilot boats into the harbor and we only then realized that the other two ships would have looked just as big when empty and were just mainly submerged in their full state.

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Last but not least, also the huge mountains of salt at the entrance and exit into town were fascinating. We left towards the suburb of South Hedland such that Max could ride his bike in the largest skatepark of Western Australia.

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Eventually we had to leave such that we’d not need to drive at dawn to Indee Station. Even though we had not seen a single kangaroo so far, we did not want to hit the first one we’ll encounter. But once more, we did not see a single kangaroo. Instead we were greeted at the station by a very young fowl, several calves, chicken and geese.

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A quick run up the hill provided us with a nice view of the sunset. Great!

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The next morning, we met Emily, the young French interior designer, who is helping on the farm for a couple of months before travelling through Australia. She explained to us how to get to the ‘Red Rock’, located about 10km south of the station. We took the sandy track to get there.

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Soon found ourselves in front of a mini-Uluru / Ayers Rock. Contrary to the big famous one close to Alice Springs, this one may be climbed and we headed up to have a look at Aboriginal etchings. What a nice place in the middle of the rather flat landscape – and how much easier to access vs the enormous trip out to Alice Springs that we had originally wanted to do…

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The drive towards Karijini National Park was dominated by road trains fully loaded with iron ore or other mining products. Typically, a truck was pulling three to four trailers with between four and six axes. At Auski Roadhouse we saw an enormous road train. Doing the quick calculation, we realized that the truck and its trailer have a total of 124 wheels. Just imagining the time, effort and cost to change all of them is a pretty crazy thought. Luckily enough, in these latitudes no winter tires are required!

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:53 Archived in Australia Tagged trains beach red port rock road bush station nest mine turtle cattle nothing Comments (2)

Bye, bye bush - hello town

Geraldton, Sandy Bay, Pinnacles NP, Cervantes, Wedge Island

sunny 28 °C
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As we reached Geraldton, we ended up in afternoon rush-hour. This had not been an issue in our travels so far. Latest by then, we realized that we had left the bush and reached the more populated areas of Western Australia. After all, Geraldton with its 25.000 inhabitants is the largest town between the 4000 km that separate Perth and Darwin. Still, a couple of traffic lights later, we reached our campground close to the harbour and the lighthouse.

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It had been on purpose that we stopped in Geraldton and did not simply pass through. After all, it was only ten days until Christmas and we wanted to get our shopping done. Geraldton was a perfect place for doing so. We were successful in all respects. While Sam and Max did the grocery shopping at Coles, I had enough time at Target’s next door to choose potential presents. And as Max then headed directly to a TV, Sam and I were able to go through together and to choose what we wanted to actually buy. Perfect! Christmas shopping had never been so easy!
After our successful session of power shopping, it was time to get Max some exercise. We went to the foreshore and were astounded by the multitude of playgrounds for all ages. Once Max had explored the first playground, we walked five minutes for him to tackle an even bigger play structure. And in its back we even discovered an animated feature that allowed us to play against each other trying to touch as many light up points as possible - very cool and lots of fun also for adults. I had never seen such sound and light speed games before, but it was definitively a lot of fun. And the location at the foreshore with its calm beaches was excellent as well.

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Back at our campground, it was time to deal with some planning topics. After all, a month later we’d be leaving Western Australia and before leaving it helps to have the next leg of our adventure prepared: i.e. I booked a flight, a place to stay in Sydney and we discussed how to approach transport in NZ. And despite the fact, that Jetstar had given us a 300 AUD voucher for answering late on my complaint and for our troubles on the journey from the Cook Islands to Sydney, we preferred to book Virgin Australia for our flight back to Sydney.
After a good night’s sleep and a nice chat with Scotsman Alan, who’s been traveling around Australia in their bus already for more than two years, it was time to leave Geraldton to discover the last stretch of coast before getting to Perth.
There were lots of turn offs to the beach along the turquoise coast. Eventually Sam picked the one leading to Sandy Bay for our location for lunch. The beach was great and also the campground looked pleasant. The only downside to the campground was, that it seemed very full. It was time to realize that getting closer to Perth and getting closer to the Christmas holidays which were to begin in the next days, this will clash with our current style of traveling. After all, up to now it had never been an issue anywhere to get a campground last minute. Since we had come to Western Australia, we had not reserved a single camp site in advance. And we were not quite ready to change our approach to traveling radically: prearranging campsites for the remainder of our trip would have meant to give up the luxuries of staying longer where we like it and passing through if we did not feel like stopping.
Sandy Bay surprised us with its fine white sand. We had not stood on such fine sand since Cable Beach back in Broome. The beach was very sheltered from the wind and the water was extremely calm, reminding us of Bahia Conception in Mexico. A nice combination!

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Up at the look out over the peninsula, it was very windy again, but the view was certainly worth it. And Max enjoyed running up the dunes and jumping down. With Jim from Canberra, he had his perfect partner in crime and both were having lots of fun. After all, Jim and Debbie were just waiting for their grandson to arrive a couple of days later and Jim was keen to get some practice already in advance.

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Even though it was tempting to stay in Sandy Bay, we had still some more plans in the pocket for that afternoon. We wanted to see the Pinnacles in Naumburg NP in the afternoon. And it was a good decision to go there so late in the day, as the light was just perfect and made the yellow sand and rocks glow.

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For the night, we stayed at Cervantes close to the beautiful and deserted beach. But as soon as the sun had set, we got chilly and were ready to head to our camp for the night.

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On our drive south the next morning, we were pleased to see the vegetation changing once more. We were passing through endless fields of grass trees, sometimes with blindingly white dunes in the middle of the landscape.

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Eventually, we turned towards Wedge Island. Not knowing what exactly to expect, we were very pleased when the road suddenly ended on a great beach. There was hardly anyone around except a couple of fishermen. And the beach was glorious. Well, in fact there was a beach to both sides of the long stretch leading to Wedge Island. What a great spot and without a single other tourist around.

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It’s the discoveries like this which make traveling so exciting – very often we do not know what exactly to expect. It might be just an ‘interesting’ spot or a real gem. And as tastes are different, guidebooks might be helpful in pointing out nice places, but they will never replace the fun of just having a go and checking things out ourselves.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:37 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping island sand rock dune lighthouse playground Comments (1)

Closing out a great year 2016

Valley of the Giants, Walpole – Nornalup NP, William Bay NP, Albany

overcast 22 °C
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The Southern Forests are dotted with national parks. Their most well-known attraction is the tree top walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park through one of the rare red tingle forests. As we reached the carpark, it was apparent that this is the time when all Aussies seem to be traveling. It was like a zoo with people. Luckily we somehow found a parking spot and got our tickets.
The tree top walk itself was simply spectacular. Via a ramp we walked up to 40m from where bridges connected various platforms at that height. It was a completely different perspective of the forest, but also the structure itself was fascinating.

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The walk along the bottom of the tingle forest was very nice as well. And luckily, the masses dispersed a bit as we hiked on. Still, it was really crowded and we only realized when leaving how lucky we had been to arrive early in the morning. By the time we left, the line to buy tickets ended all the way out in the carpark while in the morning there was hardly anyone in front of us. It had been nice seeing the tree top walk, but we were not sad to leave the crowds.

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We headed to the coves of William Bay NP. Elephants Cove was really nice and we enjoyed seeing the big rocks in the turquoise waters. Green’s Pool on the other hand was extremely crowded and after having had a glimpse, we decided to rather head on.

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After all, we did not have a reservation for a campground yet and it was already 4pm in the afternoon. While Sam and Max went shopping in Denmark, I called one campground after the other to find out that most of them have been booked out already for weeks. Eventually I was lucky after all: Carol at the Albany Holiday Park promised to keep a site for me if we arrived by 5pm. Even though Albany was still a 50km drive away, we managed and were happy to have a site secured in this busy holiday period.
With New Year’s Eve approaching, we did some research and found out that the only firework displays in that region will be taking place in Albany and in Esperance. Rather than rushing those 500km east to Esperance, we decided to stay in Albany until New Year’s Day.
Albany is a nice town to explore with lots of historical buildings from the early settlement of Western Australia remaining. It is also known for its role in world war I having been the last port of call for the troops heading to Europe and ultimately Gallipoli. That might also be the reason that it is the location of the national Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Center, that had been built for the centennial celebration of the forces leaving in October 2014.
We opted to rather explore the nearby Princess Royal Fortress vs. the Anzac Center in Heritage Park. The reinforcements in the hills with its cannons protecting the harbor reminded us a bit of what we had seen at Fort Casey or Fore Ebey in Washington State. Except that in the Us we would probably not have come across a bandicoot.

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Then it was time to go into town. We had deserved a break in a local café. When strolling by the old town hall building a little later, we were invited in. Just then an art exhibition of local artists was opening and we were among the first people getting to have a look.

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Back at the campsite, we had a great BBQ and worked on our blog in an attempt to catch up. Considering how far we’re behind, this effort continued also on New Year’s Eve. Anyhow, after a couple of days in a row of exploring, it helped to have a rather quiet day again.
In the late afternoon, we headed off to a rather special skate park called snake run, winding its way down a hill. There was quite a crowd of people at the skate park. The adults sitting together having relaxed chats while their kids hit the track.
Seeing some probably five-year olds hit the snake run on their tricycles at top speed, it was obvious that they did not do that for the first time. Otherwise their parents might not have watched them with such an ease of mind amidst the excitement and fun of all the other onlookers. But an older guy taking on the track sitting on a skateboard had the full attention of the crowd and caused a big roar of laughter when he eventually fell off.
Amidst that fun, Max hit the track with his bike. And a couple of minutes later Sam joined him on a bike he borrowed from one of the people watching who lived next door. Its hard to tell who of the two had more fun.

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Eventually, Sam had exhausted enough energy and sat down for having a chat again, while Max continued with his seemingly endless energy. Unfortunately, his concentration is not endless and eventually Max jumped and fell hard. Luckily, he had been wearing his helmet and other than a bloody lip, a bruise on the forehead and a scratched elbow.
While we would have preferred for Max not ending up in a fall like that, the incident got us invited at the New Year’s Eve party of the people living next to the skate park. The party also celebrated their good bye before heading off on a yearlong travel through New Zealand and Australia. We found enough topics to talk about.
Eventually, we joined them in hiking up the hill behind their house to watch the fireworks from Mount Clarence. Conveniently enough, most Australian cities offer two fireworks: the family fireworks at 9pm and the midnight firework. It was a great firework and we all enjoyed the displays. with its smiling faces and the outline of Australia lighting up in the harbor below us.

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An hour later, we were home again and Max was sound asleep in the roof top tent. With private fireworks being absolutely forbidden and not even available for sale and the official firework displays taking place a couple of kilometers away in the harbor, this marks probably the quietest year change we’ve experienced so far (and potentially ever will?!?). Also at the campground no one seemed to be celebrating, so Sam and I were on our own dancing the traditional Viennese Waltz at midnight and toasting with sparkling wine. And thanks to Irmi and Lotte’s well timed call at one minute after midnight, we even got to exchange new year’s greetings with family – just as usual. And yes, we could not refrain from sending out some messages to friends and family to tell them that for us the new year has already started seven hours earlier than if we would have been back home.
Despite the fact that 2016 was seven hours shorter than a normal year, it definitively was filled with many more impressions and learnings than probably every single other year in our lives so far. And the outlook is very positive for 2017: almost certainly, it will be an equally exciting year as well!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:13 Archived in Australia Tagged fort rock forest quiet firework anzac newyear cove skate treetop Comments (1)

Crossing Eastern Siberia on the Trans-Siberian Railroad

From Irkutsk to Krasnoyarsk

sunny 27 °C
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After three nights at the shores of Lake Baikal, we took a minibus to Irkutsk. The name of the town sounded very familiar to us – after all both Sam and I had played the strategy board game ‘Risk’ since our childhood which features an area called ‘Irkutsk’. For many other people, it is probably better known as one of the centers of Siberian exile. By the end of the 19th century, almost every third inhabitant of Irkutsk was in exile and not allowed to ever leave Siberia again.

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We were not forced to stay in Irkutsk – rather the opposite: we intentionally wanted to spend some time in town to experience Eastern Siberian city life and to see some of its cultural heritage. After briefly stopping at our hostel to check in and to leave our belongings, we headed into town. The tram got us right to the Quarter 130, a lively pedestrian zone attracting tourists and locals alike. It was a tough choice of restaurants and we eventually settled on the terrace of a nice brewery for lunch.

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It was great weather and we could see the crowds passing by. Some of them were headed to the music festival at the southern end of the quarter. Others headed north towards the book festival. We enjoyed the music festival and listened for quite a while. The book festival turned out to be rather disappointing – after all we are very slow in reading Cyrillic letters and simply don’t understand enough Russian to make much sense of the books on display.

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We passed the statue of Lenin and crossed Karl Marx Street to reach the main park. From there it was just a five minutes’ walk to the main attractions. We passed the Polish Church, the Church of the Savior (which seems to be the oldest stone building in Eastern Siberia) and visited the Cathedral of the Epiphany across the road. As in all Orthodox churches, women were provided with scarves to cover their hair before entering the church. We were lucky to get there during a service. The choir was singing beautifully.

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Just below the church were the banks of the Angara river. This morning we had already passed it’s starting point at the outlet of Lake Baikal. It was a nice area for having a walk and we joined the locals before deciding that we had seen enough for today. We headed back to our hostel, made dinner in the nice kitchen and had a great night’s sleep.

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The next morning, we spent a bit of time at a nearby park before shouldering our backpacks and heading to the train station. We had booked train number 1 the ‘Rossiya’. We wanted to spend at least one of our segments on the Trans-Siberian-Railway enjoying the classic experience on this Vladivostok – Moscow service which runs every other day and takes 6 days and 4 hours for the 9289 km.
The train seemed to be a bit newer than the last one we had been on. To Max’ big delight, here was even a TV in every compartment. This time, we were not alone, but shared the compartment with Maksim, a 32-year-old engineer from Khabarovsk. Fortunately, he spoke English, so we were able to easily communicate with him.
But he was not our only acquaintance on the train: in the compartment, next to us we met Kat and Ed - a Welsh couple who spent the last couple of months biking from the Southern tip of India all the way to Kathmandu in Nepal. As always it proved to be a lot of fun to compare experiences. They had been blogging as well (their blog is doctorswithoutmotors.blogspot.uk.co in case you’re interested to learn more about their travels). Contrary to us, they were using couchsurfing throughout their travels. The way they explained the great hospitality they experienced along the way, they inspired us to try that one day as well as a means to getting even more contact to locals. But we were able to inspire them a bit as well, as they had not thought that traveling with a kid can be both easy and rewarding.
Back in our compartment, it did not take long for Sam and Maksim, to take out their respective bottles of vodka. Sam’s Baikal vodka did not stand a chance against Maksim’ Sand Crab vodka from Kamchatka.

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At the first longer stop in the station of Zima, we used the opportunity to get out and to stock up our beer supplies. We only realized after our purchase that Maksim’s beer recommendation was rice beer from China. On our own, we would probably never have tried it. We soon realized that despite our prejudices, it tasted very well. After an extensive dinner, lots of dried fish (which are eaten together with beer in Russia like we would eat chips) significant amounts of beer and vodka, we had a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we had a quick breakfast on the train and then had to pack our stuff. At 8:07 we reached Krasnoyarsk, today’s destination. We waved good-bye to Maksim who was staying on the train until Novosibirsk and to Kat and Ed who will only get off far-away Moscow. Thanks to the clock at the railway station we realized that in Moscow it was still 4:07 in the morning and that consequently we had already crossed our first time zone on the train.

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Contrary to the majority of tourists along the trans-sib route, we had chosen to break our journey in Krasnoyarsk. The town itself is just a regular Siberian town, but its location certainly is special. It is located on the banks of the mighty Yenissei River. Its tributaries include the Angara River (the outlet of Lake Baikal) and reach all the way into Northern Mongolia. Together with them, it is forming Russia’s longest river system.
But that’s not what we came for: we stopped in Krasnoyarsk, as it offers not just the flat tundra that most of Siberia is known for. We wanted to spend a day in the Stolby Nature Reserve which offers great hikes in the hills and granite rocks.
It was only a short walk from the train station to our hostel. We had a bit of trouble finding it until we realized that its entrance was in the back of one of those ubiquitous apartment blocks. And once we got there, we came to realize that the lady in the hotel spoke only Russian and not a single bit of English. Even with pointing on the map and using some Russian words she was unable to tell us which buses or trams would get us where we wanted to go.

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So we headed out on our own and tried our luck by just taking one of the trams passing by our hostel. We were not lucky, as it turned the wrong direction already after the first stop. We got out and reluctantly decided to do our city tour by foot. From the massive statue of Lenin that seems to adorn every single Russian town, Gorkii Park was just across the street. Presumably, this is the favorite weekend outing for all locals with kids. But on a Monday afternoon, not too much was going on.

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We crossed the park to get to the banks of the Yenissei. It turned out to be a great decision, as we got to witness the step dance practice of a young ambitious ballet dancer. On the planks of the wooden deck, his steps were amplified like if he was playing a big instrument.

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Just before it started raining, we made our way into a local Russian version of Starbucks called ‘Traveller’s Coffee’. The cakes were just perfect, the drinks as well and the atmosphere was very nice – a perfect end for the day.

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And then there was one of those unexpected random acts of kindness: at the supermarket I had a full shopping cart and was about to pay a sizeable amount. Out of the blue, the lady next to me asked the cashier to swipe her customer card, which resulted in a 10% of my bill. What a nice surprise! Those are the instances when I wish to fluently speak a language instead of only being able to repeat Спасибо (Spasibo / Thank You) over and over.
The next day we were picked up at 9 am by our guide Anatoliy and headed to the nearby Stolby nature reserve. Already on our drive, he provided us with lots of information about the town, the river and the surroundings. Especially the stories around the closed town of Zheleznogorsk (which was formerly known as Krasnoyarsk-26) were fascinating. We had been aware that many towns in the former Soviet Union had been closed to foreigners. We only realized that such closed towns continue to exist even now.
Anatoliy showed us a hidden path up towards Takmak Rock – without his help we would definitively not have found it. It was a pleasant hike through a light larch and birch forest. Max was alternating between extremes: either he raced ahead or he dragged behind such that eventually Sam and Anatoliy resorted to carrying him part of the way. Once we had reached the top, we stopped for a break to eat our sandwiches and to enjoy the view.

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Following the break, we headed to another viewpoint before heading steep down and then up again. As we walked along, we not only got to see many more rock formations and many spring flowers, but also some insights into Russian leisure activities. We hiked along some ski slopes, saw the start of a steep mountain bike track and passed a couple of cabanas that can be rented for private festivities. And when Max started watching some men working, we learned a very true Russian saying that there are three things you can watch endlessly: running water, fire and other people working. How true!

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On our way down, we took the chairlift and then had a surprisingly good and cheap lunch at the buffet of the ski restaurant. A great finish for a perfect outing! Next time around, we’d definitively come back and do a tour with Anatoliy again – maybe during the Siberian winter at temperatures of below -30 °C. I’m sure it would be very different, but as much fun.

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After our busy day, we took it easy and did not do too much. Still, the atmosphere in our hostel was not too tempting and we rather went outside to have dinner vs. spending time in the communal kitchen with the guys there. The hostel seemed to be exclusively used by Russian working class men. In their uniform training outfits they just did not appeal to us as potential conversation partners. Who knows – potentially we would have had a great time with them. We’ll never know as we preferred the comfy atmosphere of a nice café in town.

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The next morning, I packed our stuff while Sam and Max went shopping. They had an ‘interesting’ experience when a 60-year old lady approached them and asked them if Sam would be willing to come up to her flat to help her fix an electrical appliance. Sam was not willing to and used our upcoming train as an excuse. That turned out to be a big mistake, as the lady (which spoke excellent German, as she used to be a German teacher) then imposed herself to get the shopping done more quickly such that Sam would not miss the train. I had a good laugh when hearing his account how he wanted to buy certain products. She then dismissed them as ‘too expensive’ and suggested alternatives at a lower price (and lower quality). Eventually Sam got quite frustrated – after all he wanted to shop for a hostess gift which was supposed to be high quality.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 12:29 Archived in Russia Tagged lenin beer park church train river rock hike vodka Comments (1)

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