For this years vacation we planned something new, a long distance walking holiday. Since I hadn't done this before we looked for an easy route to start with and the Coleridge Way in South-West England fit the bill perfectly. Coleridge Way is dedicated to the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who was a founder of the Romantic Movement in English literature at the beginning of the 19th century and who lived in this area during that time.
We started in the quaint village Nether Stowey, where Coleridge Cottage, the house he lived in at the time and now a museum, is located. Of course we started off with visiting it and we learned a good bit about the poet and about the living conditions at that time. We stayed the night at The Old Cider House where we felt very welcome and had a splendid home cooked dinner and Furmity for breakfast, yummy!
The first day of walking led from Nether Stowey to Williton. On the way we crossed a beautiful hill and spotted a half wild horse family (two horses with a foal).
Williton itself is a bit off the main hiking route, but it was the closest place with accommodation. And the detour was well worth it. On the way we crossed a meadow with hundreds of sheep and in the hedges we spotted dozens of wild rabbits! Unfortunately, they stayed in the shadows and so we couldn't get a good picture.
After settling in at the White House, we headed out towards the railway station to look for a Geocache. A great decision! The station dates back to 1862 and still looks the same. A perfect place for a group of reenactors ;)
The second day was a short stretch to Roadwater where we arrived around 3pm, just in time to check into our room in The Valiant Soldier, a traditional English Inn. Since it was still early we headed onwards to Washford for another old railway station. This one was turned into a museum, which unfortunately was closed when we got there. But the walk there was wonderful with beautiful views of Bristol Channel and Wales.
Day three was another short distance to Wheddon Cross. Since we knew that we could walk more, we made a detour at Kingsbridge up into the Moor to look for a couple of Geocaches, most of which we found :). On top of the hill we spotted a small group of wild ponies in the distance! (Too far away for a picture, but still a beautiful sight)
Back on the trail Coleridge Way led us across Lype Hill, which was a huge meadow with hundreds of sheep. We were definitely blessed with animal encounters :)
Exhausted but happy we arrived at The Rest and Be Thankful, another 19th century inn where we had a great dinner and a good nights sleep.
From the Inn we saw the next days challenge: Dunkery Beacon, with 519 meters the highest point in Exmoor. And even though it was not on the official trail, we added it to our route because this was the real Exmoor and we didn't regret this decision. The views on the hill were stunning. And at the top we were greeted by a large group of wild ponies who weren't bothered by the tourists at all!
At the bottom of the hill we met the trail again and after crossing a small forest we spotted a deer, which quickly fled when it noticed us. The way continued to touristy Porlock and for us a bit further to Porlock Weir, a tiny hamlet and harbor. We couldn't resist to go for a short dip in the channel. Due to the cold water it was only a short experience ;).
At the beach there were leftovers of what looked like a bunker from the second World War, but it definitely had seen better days ;)
After another relaxing night at The Bottom Ship we started what turned out to be the most strenuous day to Brendon. On the one hand because the sun was shining brightly today, making it the hottest day so far and on the other hand because of two steep inclines which were in the open. In addition we added a scenic detour which added another couple of hundred of difference in altitude.
Completely exhausted we arrived at Millslade Country House where we received a very warm welcome with fresh lemonade, which was perfect for this day. After another delicious dinner, a relaxing night and a brilliant breakfast (pancakes with berries), we sadly departed. We wouldn't have minded staying a couple of days more.
And so we started our last day towards Lynmouth, which is another tourist hotspot. This we noticed soon, because the number of hikers and day guests increased dramatically. Whereas we had been walking for several hours without meeting someone, we crossed paths with others now every fifteen minutes. Nevertheless, it was a nice stretch through the wood and in the afternoon we finally arrived at the end of Coleridge Way, which was marked by a statue of Coleridge.
Since it wasn't too late, we did another extension and walked to Poets Corner which offered stunning views of the Valley of Rocks.
On the way back we even spotted a couple of wild goats on the cliff!
In summary, we were sad that it ended. We had a fantastic time and were very lucky with the good weather. On the other hand we were glad for a day of rest. All the walking did leave its marks with very tired limbs. But plans for the next walking holiday are already brewing in the back of our minds :).
We arranged this trip with the help of Encounter Walking Holidays, who were very friendly and did a great job in supplying us with all needed information (including gpx-track for my new GPS-device) as well as organizing all accommodation on the way.
Labels: Europe, geocaching, hiking, pictures, traveling
Geocaching the Emmenuferweg: 102 Caches in two days
A Geocaching Powertrail brought us to the canton of Lucerne to follow the Emmenuferweg.
We started Saturday morning 09:03am from the bus stop Sörenberg Rothornbahn. From there we hiked upwards to the Emmensprung, a fascinating place where water bubbles up out of the earth to form the river Emme.
From there we followed the Emme downriver, picking up all the Geocaches we found on the way. After walking downhill for a bit we heard a large ruckus from the other side of the valley. After looking around for a while we spotted a group of cows being led downhill. As luck would have it we crossed the group on the road and were able to observe the spectacle up close. Especially fascinating were the bikers who got caught in the middle of it.
Once we reached Sörenberg we did a small detour, taking the aerial cableway up to Rossweid where we walked along the Sonnentauweg, solving a multi cache. After a short lunch break we headed downhill again, with 11 Caches to break the monotony ;).
At 6pm we reached our destination for the day: Flühli. Where we rested our legs for a bit before heading out for a well deserved dinner. Since it was still early afterwards we went for a short stroll to PaK, a Cache located next to a small pond. We enjoyed the quiet and the lightness of traveling without a backpack :). This brought the total of Caches for the day to 43.
On Sunday, we started 8:55am after a hearty breakfast, hoping to find 57 Caches to break the magical 100 for the weekend.
We weren't the only ones up that early. Suddenly our way was blocked by a meadow and a group of cows watched us very interested.
On the way we encountered three wooden bridges with Geocaches on them. And every time we spent quite a bit of time until we finally had the prize in hand.
The way followed the Emme, sometimes closer, sometimes a bit farther away, but it regularly surprised us with stunning spots of nature, showing the river in a wide meandering way and then again in a thunderous tumult. However, we were so busy with just keeping going and looking for the Caches that we didn't find the time to take too many pictures.
Shortly after 5pm I reached a first milestone: 1500 Caches found! :)
At 6:29pm we reached the last Cache of the trail, number 1, since we were doing the trail in reverse order.
A short sprint later we just caught the bus which brought us back to civilisation.
On the second day we found 53 Caches, bringing the total for the weekend up to 102!
I had a fantastic time and can highly recommend this trail to everyone who is fit enough. We estimate the distance covered (including walking around looking for the Caches) to be close to 50 kilometers!
A couple of additional pictures can be found in my web album.
Labels: geocaching, hiking, pictures, Switzerland
Lembeh Strait: Muck Diving at its best!
I first heard about diving in Lembeh Strait ten years ago. Since then I spoke to many enthusiastic divers. From their descriptions I expected to find sandy patches covered in trash and in the middle of the trash all sorts of strange creatures. So it was a bit of a surprise, when I started diving how unpolluted the dive sites actually were. Of course there was a bit of trash here and there but no way the amount I expected. It took a couple of days of diving until I managed to snap a picture which represented my expectations ;)
Knowing what was possible to see at Lembeh, I arrived with a short list of creatures I'd like to encounter. On the very first dive we met two of them: A Flamboyant Cuttlefish and a Hairy Frogfish!
A couple of days later we encountered another Hairy Frogfish that wasn't just sitting around, but walking across the sand shaking its lure in hopes of attracting prey.
Some creatures were so abundant that we encountered them on most dives. I especially enjoyed seeing the Banggai Cardinalfish over and over again. They have such a peculiar shape and had formed a habit of living in Anemones, where strangely enough the Anemonefish tolerate them. On the other hand, when I got too close to take a picture an Anemonefish bit me in the finger!
One fish that I always enjoyed looking at in Fish Identification Guides was the Juvenile Many-Spotted Sweetlips, with its big white dots and it's bright coloring it looked so different from the adults. So I was extremely happy to encounter them in all sizes, from tiny (less than 1 centimeter) up to almost adult (15 centimeters).
The smaller ones were very difficult to photograph because they always moved around in a shaking pattern, probably trying to mimic a poisonous flatworm. After a dozen tries I managed to get one picture with the juvenile in focus :)
Night dives were a special highlight, there was even more going on than during the day. And on one night dive I encountered one of the strangest creatures I met so far, a pair of Dragon Sea Moths
The dive guides had excellent eyes and spotted the interesting creatures often from afar. Some of the creatures I had seen previously during this trip were present in Lembeh as well, but in much bigger variations, such as this Emperor Shrimp:
Or these two Harlequin Shrimps
Even though most crabs only came out during the night time, I spotted this strange looking Sea Urchin Carry Crab during an afternoon dive.
During my time at Blue Bay Divers two Bluering Octopi were seen, unfortunately for me I was always in the wrong spot. So I told my dive guide that I'd like to see a Bluering Octopus here. Two times we headed to dive sites where Bluerings normally were seen. The second time we got lucky :)
To round off a perfect Octopus day, we spotted a Poison Ocellate Octopus
and a Starry Night Octopus, which walked along the ocean floor in a very laid-back manner ;)
Another instance where we noticed that some critters just were bigger at Lembeh than elsewhere was when we did a dive at Police Pier, where we spotted very big Mandarinfish darting around the reef.
Or on another day when we spotted this Tryon's Risbecia
One day we were very lucky to spot a Wonderpus Octopus at the end of the dive. Since it was relaxed we ended up spending ten minutes with him :)
This meant that only one Octopus from my list was still missing. The Mimic Octopus. And so we went to a specific dive site to take a look. One of the groups spotted it early in the dive and tried to alert us. While I heard nothing I noticed our dive guide heading very directly back to where we started the dive and so we also got a good luck. Unfortunately, the Mimic Octopus was in a hurry and so we managed to snap only a few pictures.
Another creature we had many encounters with was the Mantis Shrimp. Two of those encounters stood out. One day our dive guide spotted a Peacock Mantis which had a large number of eggs under its belly
and during the last dive we encountered the beautiful Golden Mantis :)
To round up the Octopus Sextet we again had many encounters with Coconut Octopi. From one of those my favorite picture emerged
All in all my one-week stay at Lembeh was a phenomenal success and I can highly recommend it to divers who enjoy muck dives (even if it means staring at sand for ten minutes, without seeing anything) and want to see special creatures. If I get back to Indonesia, then I'll definitely try to dive in Lembeh Strait again :).
Labels: diving, pictures, traveling, vacation
Diving with Coconut Octopus and other cool creatures
Leaving Raja Ampat I took the plane to Manado in North Sulawesi and from there a car and boat to the beautiful small island Sahaung, just South of Bangka Island. Sahaung is home to Blue Bay Divers and offers a real small island feeling with nice beach side bungalows and a relaxed atmosphere.
The first dive already showed the potential of the area. We saw a small Harlequin Shrimp, several Giant Frogfish, a Pygmy Seahorse and much more.
The dive sites were very varied. Sandy areas for pure muck diving, walls with current for drift diving and nice corral fields. On one memorable wall dive we spotted two Painted Frogfish on a wall, one of them chased after my camera!
Whenever possible I joined the night dive, because there was even more going on than during the day. On one dive I encountered two Bobtail Squids and one showed off it's whole color palette. (You can also see the krill in the picture, which was plentiful and sometimes a bit annoying ;) ).
On another night we encountered multiple smaller Coconut Octopi. One of them found shelter in a small snail shell.
Another used two halves of a clam, which he carried with him when we got to close, to finally retreat in their middle.
On the last day we visited Batu Sahaung, a stony reef just around the corner, which is covered in Soft Coral in all colors! I have never seen so many differently colored Soft Coral in such a small space before. It was simply beautiful!
With so much diving one day merged into the next and then it was suddenly time to continue to the next spot. I had a great experience and am looking forward to return one day!
Labels: diving, pictures, traveling, vacation