My last days in Almaty were spent high above the city’s smog and traffic, in the mountains that loom over it’s streets.
On Saturday, I met a friendly Brit at the breakfast in the hostel and we took a bus to Medeo together to see the ice skating ring. Caught in between seasons, Medeo and the surrounding ski resorts were a bit weird to visit: the ice ring had no ice yet, and the lifts up the high glaciers were out of service due to maintenance.
While I hadn’t planed on ice skating, I had really looked forward to going up to the high peeks to see the views. In fact, I’m very inexperienced when it comes to mountains. Only once I’d been up above the tree line, that was at 2.200m in the Polish Tatras and I loved it. Going up to Shymbulak was my secret plan to rise above 3.000m, something I’d been wanting to do for a long time. Continue reading I swear I would have scaled that bloody glacier! (a weekend in Shymbulak)→
Kazakhstan you mighty beast. How swiftly have you won over my heart!
Right after arriving in Almaty, I contacted my hostel staff and asked them to help me book a tour to the Kolsai Lakes. I had been looking in to going there independently for a long time, but in the end it seemed too much of a hassle. I suppose it involves taking a marschrutka for the first part and then hitch the rest of the (very unpaved and pretty deserted) way. Since I don’t hitch hike alone and Western travellers are so incredibly thin on the ground in Kazakhstan, I decided not to waste time looking for crazy souls who would like to join my quest and instead paid a shit-load of money for a two day tour. The itinerary looked good though: it took in all the sights I wanted to see and included a home stay in one of the mountain villages. My signing up was a solid decision indeed.
My dad’s alarm clock sounds like a military trumpet, and it’s rather remarkable how someone can maintain a good mood after being scared out of bed by such horror. However we had a full Scottish breakfast, an early start and plenty of good things waiting, as we drove West to Isle of Skye.
The trail starts at beautiful Loch Morlich: an impressive lake, surrounded by snow caped mountains and pine forests. The track makes a great starter route because it is easy to follow throughout, not too hard on the legs and yet rewardingly beautiful.
Oh that glorious walk between Monesterio and Fuente de Cantos… No words or pictures would do it justice. It was without a doubt the most beautiful stretch of walking I encountered on my mini-camino (that is, the part between Sevilla and Cáceres) and it lifted my heart beyond expectation.
The weather was overcast and clouded, however fast winds made for an ever changing scenery and shadows travelled over the endless planes in a matter of minutes. The fields were glowing with colour, mainly the bright yellow of tiny flowers and the deep green of moist grass.
The road soon let me into a sea of infinity. This is the Spain I love so much: a landscape that seems endless, with nothing surrounding you but waving hills and heavy skies. A landscape in which one could easily drown.
Aah, the Caminos de Santiago: those addictive, live changing, beautiful pilgrim roads through Spain (and Europe) towards the said grave of James the Elder in Santiago de Compostela…. How have I come to love them. How have they come to comfort me always at the right time.
In 2011, I walked the Camino Francès – probably the classic first timer route – in one go from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the ocean in Finestere. Now, in 2017, I didn’t have the time to walk another 1000km, so I set out on a shorter mission: the first 280km of the Via de la Plata, from Sevilla to Cáceres.
I expected the walk to be duller than the Camino Francès. More barren, more lonely, more flat. I hadn’t come for the scenery this time, nor for the great encounters (as I really didn’t know how many other walkers to expect on this much less frequented road). I came because my guts told me I needed to. And yet once again the Camino would very much surprise me. The scenery turned out to be stunning, the people no less than inspiring and the road deeply encouraging.
As you could read in my previous post, I started my Camino2017 with a one night stay in the Andalusian village of El Chorro. The main goal was to walk the Caminito del Rey, but I’m glad I decided to stay a little longer as the region is gorgeous (no pun intended) and there are several nice hikes to be done, apart from the Caminito.
I ended up staying at The Olive Branch, a basic but homely accommodation 30 minutes walk uphill from the train station. It’s a calm and nice stroll to get there, and I loved being based out of town (El Chorro itself is tiny – there’s only one bar, one hotel/restaurant and one little shop for food supplies – but can feel really over-run by tourist day trippers at lunch hours). Once you’re on the b&b grounds, it feels like you’ve ended up in the middle of nowhere – and I mean that in a good way.
My take on the world and the things I love. Prominently among them: travel, art and the ordinary. I share my discovery of our beautiful world, my self and the arts I'm trying to develop (photography, sketching and writing) in a way that is both honest and poetic. Please join my journey.