Friday, 17 February 2017

Bhutan #1: Acclimatisation

Finally some photos of Bhutan! In September/October 2016 we joined a group tour to Bhutan to hike the Lunana Snowman Trek through the Bhutanese Himalayas. The trek was expertly organised and led by The Mountain Company. The kingdom of Bhutan, the land of the thunder dragon and the gross national happiness, is an amazing country, both in terms of culture and nature, and it was a privilege to be able to spend 5 weeks here, of which 4 weeks hiking through the remote parts in the north. We will certainly come back to explore more of this beautiful country and its friendly people.

The first 4 days in Bhutan were used to acclimatise to the altitude, as the main trek would bring us to camp at 4000 m within 2 days, which would otherwise be too fast. The first morning we walked up to the number 1 tourist attraction in Bhutan, the iconic Taktsang monastery or Tiger's Nest high above the Paro valley. It is 1.5-2 hours walk up to the monastery which is perched on a cliff at ca 3120 m. It was quite foggy when we walked up through the forest with moss and lichen covered trees, but every now and again it cleared up and we would get a glimpse of this beautiful monastery. As we had started early, we had the monastery for ourselves and our knowledgeable guide Tshering showed us around. Like most monasteries and temples in Bhutan, it is not allowed to take any photos inside. Walking down we met many tourists struggling their way up, it is pretty tough for those not used to hiking in the mountains.


Landing at Paro airport

First glimpse of Taktsang monastery high up the cliff


Yellow-billed blue magpie



Opening in the mist: Taktsang monastery

In the afternoon we drove across the Chele La pass to the Haa valley, where we would stay for 2 nights. This valley is at ca 2700 m, 400 m higher than Paro and therefore better for acclimatisation. We stayed in the comfortable Lechuna Heritage Lodge, a renovated farmhouse, and made a day walk around the valley through forest and farmland. The second day, we stopped on the top of the ca 3800 m Chele La pass on our way to the start of the Snowman trek back in the Paro valley, and walked along the ridge. Again foggy, unfortunately, so we didn't get to see the great views to the snowy peak of Mt Chomolhari, but we enjoyed photographing the many wildflowers that were still flowering.


Paro

Lechuna Heritage Lodge

Haa valley

Chele La pass with prayer flags. The poles with the long white flags are erected to honour deceased family members and guide them to their next life.


edelweiss



First camp in a muddy field at the end of the road

End of the road, start of the trek. Two small shops and a busstop

Drying chillies; chillies are an important ingredient in the Bhutanese cuisine

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Tromsø February 2017

This week the rain is back, but last week was really nice in Tromsø. Not a lot of snow, but sunny and a full moon. The weather forecast predicts some snow for tomorrow and sun in the weekend, let's hope they are right!

Deze week regent het weer, maar vorige week was het prachtig in Tromsø. Er ligt niet veel sneeuw, maar het was helder en zonnig met een volle maan. De weersverwachting meldt sneeuw voor morgen en zon voor het weekend. Hopelijk hebben ze gelijk!


Vengsøya


View back to Tromsø and Tromsdalstinden


Tromsø from Fjellheisen top station


Northern lights and Tromsdalstinden

Hiking in Fanes-Sennes, northern Italy

I am still not finished with sorting the photos from Bhutan (soon I hope!), but life goes on, of course and we have been doing other things in the meantime. The days are quickly getting longer again, and last week we had beautiful sunshine. However, there is very little snow at the moment and the rain in the last couple of days has washed away much of the snow along the coast and the skiløype which we walk to work is pure ice. They do expect some colder weather and snow over the next few days, so hopefully this will improve.

Ik heb nog steeds niet alle fotos van Bhutan gesorteerd (hopelijk snel!), maar we hebben natuurlijk ook andere dingen gedaan de laatste maanden. De dagen worden nu snel langer en vorige week was het prachtig weer. Er is echter erg weinig sneeuw en met de regen de afgelopen dagen is veel sneeuw langs de kust verdwenen en het pad naar de universiteit is puur ijs. De weersverwachting is beter voor de komende dagen, kouder en wat sneeuw, dus hopelijk wordt het beter.

Here first a few photos from a nice week in northern Italy, in the Fanes-Sennes natural park. Tony was at a meeting near Rome and in Florence in January and I flew down afterwards to meet him in northern Italy where we spent a week up in the mountains staying in 2 different comfortable mountain huts Rifugio Fanes and Rifugio Sennes. Both huts are in a beautiful area, 1.5-2 hours walk from the nearest road, with many hiking and skiing options, and both serve very good food. But, like Tromsø, there was hardly any snow! We had brought our snow shoes, but we only used them on the last day around Sennes after it had snowed over night; the rest of the time we went hiking. The first 2 days were the best with bright sunshine and we walked up a local peak with fantastic views over the region, Col de Bechei. Other days the visibility was more variable and we made round trips in the lower areas.

Hier eerst een paar fotos van een mooie week in noord Italië, in het Fanes-Sennes natuurgebied. Tony had een conferentie in Rome en Florence in januari en daarna zijn we samen een week naar noord Italië geweest waar we in twee verschillende mooie berghutten, Rifugio Fanes en Rifugio Sennes, hebben overnacht. Beide hutten liggen in een prachtig gebied, 1,5-2 uur lopen van de dichtsbijzijnde weg, met veel wandel- en skimogelijkheden, en serveren heerlijk eten. Helaas lag er ook hier weinig sneeuw. We hadden onze sneeuwschoenen meegenomen, maar hebben ze maar een dag gebruikt rond Sennes, nadat het de 's nachts gesneeuwd had. De eerste 2 dagen waren het mooiste en zonnigste en we hebben een prachtige wandeling gemaakt naar een van de lokale bergtoppen met schitterend uitzicht, Col de Bechei. De andere dagen was het weer meer variabel en deels mistig en hebben we rondwandelingen gemaakt in de wat lagergelegen gebieden.

Enjoying the first sunshine


Rifugio Fanes


View from Col de Bechei

On the way from Fanes to Lé Parom


Rifugio Pederú, the end of the road and start of the walks to both Fanes and Sennes


Fodara Vedla

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year!

The year 2016 ended here with a snow storm and the mountain fireworks in Tromsø were cancelled. For me it was a good year with interesting and challenging projects at work and with a fantastic trip to Bhutan, but I found the unexpected results for Brexit and Trump worrying. It will certainly be interesting to see how European and world politics develop in 2017.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and adventurous 2017!


Monday, 28 November 2016

Delhi

We spent a day in Delhi before and after our trip to Bhutan. India has never appealed to me, too many people, too much pollution and too much poverty, but as travelling via Delhi was the most direct and cheapest way to get to Bhutan, we thought we might as well use the opportunity to get an impression of Delhi.

We had quite a temperature shock when we arrived in Delhi, 33˚C and humid. Fortunately we had chosen a hotel in the more quiet embassy region in Delhi, and here it was very green with large villas and gardens and lots of birds around. The first afternoon we visited the Lodhi gardens close to the hotel. A good choice: the park was full of birds, green parakeets, black kites, noisy mynas, swifts, a hornbill, and there were lots of Indian palm squirrels. There are also a number of interesting ruins and tombs. Walking back to the hotel at dusk, hundreds of, probably, flying foxes came flying over.


Indian palm squirrel

green parakeets



Bada Gumbad gateway and mosque from the Lodi dynasty, probably built around 1494



The next day we had planned to take the metro to some of the sites, but someone we met on the street advised us against this and found us a tuk tuk driver. He turned out to be really good and helpful and drove us from site to site. So we ended up visiting the Red Fort, a step well (Ugrasen ki Baoli), Humayan's Tomb and an Indian craft shop.

The Red Fort, from 1648, is a large complex surrounded by walls of red sandstone and comprising palaces, pavilions, gardens, courts and a mosque. It was the residence of the Mughal emperor for 200 years.

the red sandstone outer walls

Naubat Khana, the drum house

Diwan-i-Aam, the public audience hall

overview with Diwan-i-Khas (private audience hall), Khas Mahal (emperor's apartment) and Rang Mahal (palace for the imperial harem)

Diwan-i-Khas, the private audience hall


Egrasen-ki-Baoli is a beautiful 14th or 15th century step well in the middle of a suburban area. It is off the main tourist trail, so it is fairly quiet. Unfortunately, there is now rubbish instead of water in the bottom of the well.


Humayan's tomb was built in 1570, a few years before the Taj Mahal, and is said to have been used as a blue print for the Taj Mahal. Before you arrive at Humayan's tomb, you pass Isa Khan's tomb and mosque, built 20 years earlier in 1547.

Isa Khan's tomb


mihrab, indicating the direction for praying

Isa Khan's mosque

Humayan's tomb


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Start of autumn - Dividalen, Gjømmerdalsbreen

We are getting into autumn now. Particularly the alpine vegetation higher up in the mountains is starting to get their reddish autumn colours. We spent the weekend in Dividalen last week, we camped in the forest and made day walks up in the mountains. It is a good blueberry year, so we also spent a fair bit of time picking and eating blueberries; we brought several liters of blueberries home, which are now cleaned and stored in the freezer to enjoy during the winter.


Open mountain landscape east of Dividalen, the trail towards Dærtahytte

Sami village in the distance

Looking back to Dividalen

Yesterday we walked up to Gjømmerdalsbreen, one of the more accessible glaciers close to Tromsø. It is a beautiful walk, walking underneath the massive cliffs of Blåtinden, and with views to the Lyngen Alps and Jiehkkevarri from the top. Even though the walk is part of the ti-på-topp in Balsfjord this year, it still gets very few visitors: we were numbers 31 and 32 in the top book since June. It was a bit too late to also make it to the top of Gjømmertinden, so we will have to get back to this beautiful and very quiet area.

Walking up towards the cliffs of Blåtinden

Lyngen Alps in the background

Gjømmerdalsbreen

And the northern lights are back! Well, they have always been here, but it does now finally get dark enough again to see them.

Northern lights over Hamna