Sunday, May 31, 2009

Laufen -> Nunningen

The weather forecast didn't really permit a longer trip in the mountains this weekend, so we went for a day hike in "our" mountains. The trip was "planned" mainly to fill a hole in our Jura hikes map. We now have a connection that runs from Moutier all the way to Basel. :-)

After starting in Laufen, we headed up out of town along the Planetenweg, around the Stürmenchopf, down through Grindel (after a short break outside of town) and then back up to the ridge. Along the ridge to Oberbergli where we had a very nice lunch break in the Berggasthaus :
Greg: I'll have the Hogge Wurst
Waitress: Sliced or whole?
Greg: [thinks for a bit] hmmm, I don't know what it is.
Waitress: [laughs] It's a smoked sausage
Greg: Then sliced!
After lunch it was down and through Erschwil, then up again to the ridge and along to Meltingenberg. From there down a bit to then ruins of the Gilgenberg castle before heading the rest of the way down to Nunningen.

It was a good day in the Jura, with the usual kinds of nice views:
We like our mountains. :-)


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Manarola -> La Spezia

Hidden paths in the Cinque Terre; maybe too hidden.

Start with another self-provided yogurt and muesli breakfast with nice views over town from our terrace. Wander through town a bit to find some bread and our coffee and tea. Manarola is actually pretty nice when it's empty. :-)

Grab our stuff and head up out of town, and I do mean up. On steps, through vineyards for the first 200m or so, then under the trees and up through a very nice forest for the last 500m to the ridge. Very sweaty, but this is a really, really nice walk. Nobody else to be seen, unsurprisingly the masses don't seem to like to walk uphill. Then along the ridge under the trees on the nice, flat, comfy, EMPTY path. Glimpses of Manarola and the sea through the trees.
Down a bit to rejoin another trail where we see the first people of the day : a few cyclists. Along the ridge some more, past a few other hikers, nice break in a more open area with views back down the coast. Along a bit more under then buzzing, buzzing bee trees and then we descend to the Telegrafo pass.

100m (distance) beforehand we hear it. Then we see it: restaurant/bar full of jovial hikers on there way from Riomaggiore to Porto Venere. Yacks! Run away!

Quick decision for the path down to Biassco, which is a steep, narrow cut along a streambed through the woods. Alone again... this is more like it! We top off our water in Biassa and then set back out for a bit around the hill. Well, kind of. It's really more like 200m of climb masked by a "bit of walk around the hill". Still, in the shade, through the woods, along... nice! At the top we take a marked, but not signed path that we think is on the map. After some very nice walking under treeds and a lunch break in a rocky, shadowy, light-flecked patch, its further on to the Mt. ??? and great views of La Spezia and further down the coast.

Finding the path down is pretty easy, but somewhere along the way we either lose it or it craps out. Continue along unil we hit a big road. At this point we think we know where we are on the map, but the indicated path is nowhere to be seen. Since two hours is much too long to wait for the next bus, we take a leap of faith and head down a private road that should have a path at the bottom. We weave down the road and, sur enough, there's a stairway next to the last house that leads us, eventually, down to La Spezia. Through town and then up an extra bonus set of 300+ stairs (ah... memories of San Francisco!) to the villa/B&B where we're staying.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Levanto -> Manarola

Hey look! There's a traffic jam on the toll path.

After a self-supplied breakfast on the terrace and a coffee in town, it's off on our way. Of course we start with a climb out of town. We go past the old castle (with mailbox and vespa!) and then along and up and along and up, playing tag with a French couple. Very nice views back to the previous days. Up a bit to the ridge and then along to the former light house (Punta Mescla). From here our first views of the famous villages of the Cinque Terre.

The madness starts on the path down to Monterossa. There are plenty of people coming up from town towards us. Nice images of people climbing the steep hill in flip flops, or bikinis, or loafers. Finally make it down to Monterossa, where Greg's tourist allergy started to itch. Quick! Out of town to the path! There we'll be safe!

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! The path out of town starts with a toll booth (the hordes have to pay to help repair the damage they cause) which marks the beginning of two very unpleasant hours of hiking in a crowd along what would otherwise be a very nice path. The path is narrow and the people aren't really hikers, so with heavy traffic in each direction the going is s...l...o...w... and irritating, with frequent traffic jams.
Good thing we've already spent five and a half days on similar paths otherwise we wouldn't know what we were missing. Eventually we make it down into Vernazza (holy crap! the density of tourists! aaaaaaaiiiiii!) and decide to give up; it's just too horrible. We wait for a while at the train station and enjoy a bit of lunch while waiting for the 25 minute late train. Then they cancel the train. Ah! Joy!

Rather than spend another 40 minutes in the crowds, we decide to go ahead and walk it. Onwards through the madness (luckily on simpler, wider paths). Nice lunch (part 2) a bit above the path looking down on Corniglia (it's amazing how many people walk by 1 meter below us and have clue that we're sitting there). Eventually we reach Corniglia (horrible!) and continue as quickly as possible to Manarola. The last bit is just 40 minutes on a simple path. Manarola is also predictably full and horrible. Find our place, shower and try to wash off the people.

Highlights of the day: hiking in bikini, backpack on the front to let the back tan; stroller being carried on a totally unsuitable path; two strollers being slowly pushed on unsuitable paths; people completely out of breath and exhausted 10 minutes into a two hour hike; people completely out of breath and exhausted 5 minutes into a two hour hike; people standing in the middle of a single track taking pictures and holding up traffic in both directions.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Moneglia -> Levanto

Three days by foot, less than two hours by bike.

After a shockingly complete breakfast, though town and then the usual: up, up, up in the shade. We relatively quickly get the impression that things here have changed since our guidebook was written (we have the 2001 edition). This is confirmed when the shed we're supposed to be looking for as a landmark turns out to have been replaced by a house and the path is clearly gone. Ah well... flexibility. We head down the driveway and take the road up into Lemeglio. After some confusion with signs we head up a bit to the ridge. Again, nice views in both directions. Down the other side, where we start to see other people on their way up. The solitary times are over!

Along the way we eat a few more overhanging cherries and continue on, eventually ending up in Deiva Marina. Through town, past a couple of nice looking hotels and a campground, then the day's real climb. Quite steep 300m up, mostly in shade (luckily!), but still with sufficient humidity that Greg sweated out the next winter's sins (the previous winter's sins were long gone by that point). At the ridge, the haze prevented us from enjoying the promised views along the coast... ah well. Around the North side of the Mt Serra with nice views across the valley towards the route of the Giro d'Italia. Short break enjoying the views then on through the chestnuts and oaks to the route downwards.

To Framura Costa and then an unpleasant half hour on asphalt before reaching Montaretto with all its communist wall paintings. Lunch in the shade and then the path down to Bonnassola. Along the way down we get our first distant views of the cyclists (and helicopters). Through town, quiet, then up (of course) up to the other side. Shortish climb on stps to the next ridge then down with more frequent views of cyclists and helicopters and town. Lots of German hikers.

In town we enjoy a nice gelato and enjoy the frenzy. We watch the cycling for a while (it's a time trial so it lasts a long time) and see a few racers go by. Here's Greg's impression of watching a time trial: wait, wait, wait, wait... motorcycle... cyclist! (whoosh!)... car (so you can see who the biker was)... repeat.
After this gets boring we head off to our room where we call it a day.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Sestri Levante -> Moneglia

If humans could photosynthesize, we wouldn't need to eat for a week.

Start with an atypically good breakfast buffet and then set out across town and up the hill to the Punta Manara. It's a nice climb up past the very modern hotel "Vis a Vis", between walls, past olive trees and flowers. Good viewes back to Sestri and th rest of the coast to Portofino. After visiting the viewpoint, back down to sea level and Riva: the town with the long sandy beaches and very loud shipyard to render them unpleasant.

Through Riva, past the shipyard, and then up again through yet another burnt patch without clear paths, but quickly out of that and onto a dirt road. From hear on it's clear that the "burnt bit" is quite extensive: as far as the eye can see. Up, Up, up on the dirt road with the shade, in the hot sun. Ah... memories of Henry Coe! :-)
This went on for a long time. We have a break in the shade under a bush (huddle, huddle), then continue up to the ridge. From there great views to both sides (the advantage of the trees all being gone). More burn all around; this must have been a hell of a fire [it happened in 2004].

Along the ridge to some picnic tables, then off to the right along a contour to the next ridge. From there along another contour to a surviving patch of trees (wow!), where we stop and have a lunch break in the blessed shade next to a little stream. From this point on there are more flowers, but still no trees. We follow more or less the contour to the path to Pt Moneglia. Take that down almost to the end and enjoy a rest in the shade with views down the cliff ("Big Cliff Climbing") to the water and along the coast towards Cinque Terre. Finally along a very nice shaded(!) path into town and to our hotel.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Chiavari -> Sestri Levante

A good day to not be wearing shorts.

Start with a train to Lavagna to skip a section that is supposedly uninteresting. In Lavagna up out of town on a nice narrow path through olive trees and low-scrub (yay, no shorts!). Up and up with progressively better views. Lots of flowers and things that go jab in the legs. At the top of the hill is St Giulia, which has an absurdly ornate church. "The people are poor, but God is rich."

Through town, along the hill, down a bit and then along the road to Sorlana where we have a break and energy bar at the Church. Through some cultivated lands (fruit, flowers, gardens, olives), grabbing a few overhanging cherries along the way. Across an old stone bridge into the magic forest where we take a small, dark path through the chestnut trees. Absolutely magical. Up to a ridge, through more forest, then out to a logging road and a nice lunch spot with a view of the days before.

Further on along the road and the ridge. After a bit we make the decision to take the more challenging, off-road route. Starting along a narrow path through the macchia, then entering a fire zone where things get difficult to follow. Tramp, push, duck, scramble, tramp, duck, scramble, push. Double yay for long pants!
At some point we end up on a pig path (of course). This we take down through the woods until even the pig path is gone, but by then we can see the roofs of the houses below. Diretissima to the houses and rejoin the road. Follow this along to the St Bernardo road and continue into St. Bernardo itself. Break at the church and then continue down the hill to Sestri Levante.

Sestri is somewhat bustling due to the impending Giro d'Italia visit: we're there Tuesday night, the stage on Thursday starts in Sestri, so the hordes will descend on Wednesday.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Rapallo -> Chiavari

Diversity is the name of the game.

After a breakfast not worth discussing we start the day with a climb out of town. This is almost an Andrea special, but it's missing the train bit. Up 600m fairly directly in the morning sun. Not too hot, but still a lot of steps; much sweat was shed. The next few hours are through forest, more or less flat, with 5-10 minute periods in the sun to allow us to maximally appreciate the shade.

Good views back onto Rapallo and the bay. Stop at a crazy pilgrim church (Santuario di Montallegro) with busts on the outside walls that look like Stalin and Lenin (but can't be).

At one point in the woods we encounter a family of pigs. Awkward moment while Mom makes angry grunting noises and calls one kid across the path, but then they run off and we continue on after breathing a sigh of relief.

Lots of nice paths through the woods and under the trees and beside walls. Lots and lots of variation and not terribly much altitude change until the 600m down to the outskirts of Chiavari and the bus into town.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hiking the Ligurian Coast: Camogli -> Rapallo

Scrambling along rocks to tourist madness in 60 minutes or less

After a coffee on the promenade and a self-organized yogurt breakfast in our room, we head up and out of town along a surprisingly well marked path. Up, up, to San Rocco. There we make an executive decision to take the more difficult ("expert hikers only") scenic route around the peninsula. After a nice bit through the woods with great views we get to the sign that things will start getting more difficult; and they did. Down, down, down, with some exposed bits and scrambling along rocks with chains to hold on to, until we get down to about 20m above the sea.
Then up, up, up again, at first in the sun then later through the woods to the saddle. From there it was another batch of down, down, down towards San Fruttuoso. Along the way we take a quick energy-bar break off the path and "admire" the groups walking by.

Once we hit the frantic tourist madness of San Fruttuoso we top off the water bottles and then head out as quickly as possible. Up, up to the next saddle: Base 0. From there along through the woods and some sun (always changing) to the gardens and houses of Casa del Prato. (Why isn't there a place to stop and have a beer on a terrace overlooking the sea here???) From there on through a chestnut forest, down past an old mill, through olives, finally into Santa Margherita.

Stop for a quick beverage, then on through town and the beach tourist madness via a complicated (but very well described) route to Rapallo: up stairs, down stairs, up stairs, down stairs, along the beach, up stairs, down stairs, there! After checking into the hotel and having a brief rest, it's off to explore a bit and have a nice dinner before calling it a day.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

16-24 May: hiking the Ligurian coast

A week-long hiking trip down the coast of Liguria.

  1. travel to Camogli
  2. Camogli -> Rapallo
  3. Rapallo -> Chiavari
  4. Chiavari -> Sestri Levante
  5. Sestri Levante -> Moneglia
  6. Moneglia -> Levanto
  7. Levanto -> Manarola
  8. Manarola -> La Spezia
  9. travel back to Basel
Andrea organized most of this from the book "Cinque Terre und ligurische Küste" by Christoph Hennig. This book was a great resource and guide for the trip.

Overall track:

Friday, May 01, 2009

Wolfschlucht-> Erschwil

The main planning for this trip was to start by going through the Wolfschlucht, a really nice gorge near Welschenrohr. Of course it was also an Andrea special : tram, train, train, train, bus, 500 vertical meters. :-)
After the gorge onwards to Tannmatt (where the restaurant was closed) further on to Güggel (where the restaurant was closed), further along with a diversion to the Stierenberg (where the restaurant was NOT closed... lunch!). Then on to Hohe Winde where one would have had a wonderful view if the day wasn't hazy, along one of the stretches of the Jurahohenweg and then down to Erschwil and the bus back.

A very, very nice day in the Jura.