Hiking around Mt Blanc with a newborn on your back

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It was never a question in our minds. As soon as our son was born, we were headed to the Alps. Perhaps it is the optimism of a new parent, but we didn’t consider whether we would have the energy, the practical knowhow, or even the willingness to carry a newborn baby to the top of mountain peaks. I remember looking up how much a baby would weigh at ten weeks, and being satisfied that it was only around 5 kilos, and that would be a breeze!

Our little River cub came along at a huge ten and a half pounds. It slightly threw the projected weight off, but C-section or not…we were headed to the Mount Blanc Massif. This time we chose the Italian side, hoping to learn a little more about how the Italians interact with the Alps. Our friends generously allowed us to stay in their apartment in La Thuille, a ski resort by winter, and perfectly situated for some hiking adventures at 1500m. Continue reading “Hiking around Mt Blanc with a newborn on your back”

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Ceahlău Mountains of Romania – Trekking to Cabana Dochia

Not may people would be able to say that their bathroom wall causes them to do things that are out of the ordinary. The culprit is an unsuspecting piece of artwork that hangs from the comfort of our London bathroom wall. It says, ‘The Mountains are calling and I must go” – so go we did. We sort of ignored the part that I was five months pregnant.

Our destination was Cabana Dochia, which is tucked away at the top of the Ceahlău Mountain range some 2000m plus in elevation. Now, although we had thrown everything possible at gaining information about the winter adventure we were to embark upon, the only confirmation that they were actually ‘open’ was from a Romanian farmer “da, open!”. I don’t even know if he understood the question. That was enough for us, as the Mountains were calling our name and we had to go.

To reach Dochia you can start at a whole host of points. However for us, we chose Cabana Izvorul Muntelui where we were greeted by a National Park worker. Really, he was more so intrigued by the presence of a car in his town and he stepped out of his house to greet us. With a flimsy map in our back pocket, a few broken English tips stored away and snacks for the journey, we set off. Continue reading “Ceahlău Mountains of Romania – Trekking to Cabana Dochia”

Soča River II

Soca river Slovenia

Sad as we were to be leaving our wooden hut in Ukanc and Lake Bohinj, the mighty Soča River was calling – and when it calls, you respond.

Before we reached the call of the Soča river, we stumbled upon an incredible find. Scattered all around the Soča region are open war museums. I like to call them ‘boy-museums’ as they don’t have any laborious placards of information, yet instead you are allowed to roam a space and experience what it would have been like for a soldier during the War. It is littered with secret underground tunnels, trenches, ditches, rusted metal pieces and it has even been rumoured that if you search for long enough you might just find a ‘shell casing’ from one of the guns used during warfare. It really brought home the reality of war and how close the combat was up in the hills. The trenches were all connected and at times Lauren, Susan and I would lose each other and have to call out to locate one another.

Now, you will never guess what they were mainly fighting over in this region? Yep, the mighty Soča river. The Soča valley was the stage of major military operations including the twelve battles of the Isonzo on the Italian front in World War I between May 1915 and November 1917, in which over 300,000 Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers lost their lives. At the top of this mountain pass you can see over into Italy as you are literally a stone’s throw away from the border. Everyone marvelled at the history that we had just experienced and collectively we decided to make a bee-line for what these countries were all fighting over. Continue reading “Soča River II”

Bled & Bohinj II

Bled and Bohinj Slovenia With so many places to explore in Europe you would think it is crazy that within the space of a calendar year we were treading over the same ground. However, if you believe that, you have obviously never stepped foot in Slovenia. Lauren’s mum Susan was yet to encounter this little natural gem and we were both keen to revisit.

It is all about the lakes in this region – Bohinjsko Jezero and Bled. It would be fair to say that Susan was chomping at the bit to see this part of the world for her own eyes as it has been on her radar since the very first Instagram we posted around a year ago.

Bled is well known for its small island in the middle; an inviting medieval turret perched on a leafy mound and only accessible via row boat. As time was running out and our stop for the night (Bohinj) was calling our name, Susan opted for a rich verbal description of the island and we set off to walk a section of the lake on foot. Bled was just a stop off on the way to the main course – Bohinj. This is a special special part of the world. If Bled and Bohinj are lake cousins, then Bohinj is the better looking one. We couldn’t wait to get there. Continue reading “Bled & Bohinj II”

Zakopané

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I love Google.

I bet you have never heard of Zakopane. Neither had I.

We have discovered so many off-the-beaten-track local treats a la Google. I often wonder at the ingenuity of the travellers in previous generations. No internet bookings, every flight locked in at an office, letters sent home across the seas, no idea what your friends and family were up to, and equally little idea of what remains hidden around the next corner of your global meandering. I suppose the benefit must have been that travelling was much more social. We rely so much on the internet these days, that you literally wouldn’t have to meet a single local or pop into any tourist office whatsoever. (Actually I wouldn’t mind avoiding the tourist centres. I always feel like such an outcast exiting with my head bowed low, eyes to the ground, studying my gigantic map, hoping the locals won’t notice my lack of direction and bulging pockets trying to conceal my camera). The shame!

Where was I? Oh yes, google. I love it, as it can land you smack bang amongst the locals if you allow it to do so. Zakopane was one of these times. Continue reading “Zakopané”

Chamonix

Lunch stop on the slopes

It was a French white Christmas, well, in 2011 that was. Yeah, we’re definitely playing catch-ups on the blog. Catch-ups or not, Chamonix is worth writing about.

We left an elephant-grey London behind and started our pursuit of ‘powder’. Now, both Lauren and I were wishing for ‘fresh powder’, but really, we had no idea what this actually was! It was just the thing to say when going skiing. Little did we know that our hopes of a ‘powder pursuit’ would very much come true.

On arrival, we jumped on a transfer bus and after gawking at the mountains for an hour or so, we arrived at our home for the next week; Chamonix (to save anyone the embarrassment now, it is a silent ‘x’, so now you can at least say it correctly in your head). We quickly dumped our bags in the most amazing chalet (I will come back to that later) and went exploring in the town as the sun began to set. What a privilege it was to stay right in the midst of the action in a ski-town. It was buzzing with the click-clack sound of hundreds of ski-boots as people were coming down from the last runs of the day. There were more headbands that you could poke a stick at, fresh baguettes under most peoples arms and the excitement was definitely building for Lauren and I to hit the slopes the next day.

Day One at Brévent/Flégère was Continue reading “Chamonix”

Innsbruck

Riverside mansions

So inspired by the mountains and in pursuit of more we set out for a town called Innsbruck. We knew that this place was surrounded from every corner with mountains however once we arrived we were quite in awe with the size and magnitude of these colossal towers that held guard over the city. They certainly cast an early shadow over the town and its people as we found out later that day.

The car ride there was quite magical as we both couldn’t stop imagining all the mountains at winter time strewn with snow. We imagined the locals skiing down through the trees and at one point even becoming locals here. So beautiful you would want to stay. It was with these sights and our imagination full that we vowed to return to Austria during the winter. However it was summer this time.

Upon arriving at Innsbruck the first thing we noticed was that down each alley way you could always catch a glimpse of the mountains that surrounded the city. It gave you both a feeling of security and feeling lost in some recluse town. Our first port of call was ‘the golden roof’ which is quite famous and equally impressive. It is a roof that is made entirely of gold. It had some massive historical story behind it but um, can’t remember. Something about a family fighting against another and then a victory to someone.. Continue reading “Innsbruck”

Hohe Tauern National Park

moooooo!!

Our arrival at Hohe Tauern National Park signalled the ‘pinnacle’ of our European travels so far (for us!). We absolutely milked every second from this beautiful place on planet Earth, and hit the pillow with an almighty thud at night! It would definitely not top the list of most travellers headed up through Austria, but it caught our eye on the map and we duly afforded it some research. What ensued was an enthusiastic professed passion from Joel to extend the itinerary in this region. As Joel is not the most vocal of travel planners (if you could call him a travel planner) I knew it must be important and booked 4 days in the area staying in a little chalet in the village of Kaprun.

Kaprun was beautiful, a small winter ski village with a towering mountain which had enough snow on the glacier to ski year round! What was truly the icing on the cake, was the free access to the Zell am See/Kaprun spa complex, which was unlike anything we had ever seen before. We actually spent most of the first visit with our mouths agape, wrapped in our lavish robes, soaking in the salt infused outdoor heated pool staring up at the mountains. After long days hiking in the alps, this was a sacred haven, and probably the first time in our lives that we have ever felt rich and expensive! Continue reading “Hohe Tauern National Park”

Lake Bohinj

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I am now having to cast my mind back to this beautiful place in Slovenia, as time is tricky and gets away from you. We are now in Austria and have been keeping so busy that there has scarcely been time to update the blog. However I don’t object to reminiscing over Lake Bohinj, as it was truly a special place in the world, and one that we immediately identified with – as we love the great outdoors, and Bohinj had plenty to offer in that regard.

Before I spin our tales about Lake Bohinj, I would like to remind any readers out there, that our words and photos offer the ‘best of’ package. You don’t see photos of my face when I am about to kill the room key as it won’t open (plenty of those moments), or our frustration with the supermarkets shutting at 6, and just missing out on dinner supplies. Nor do you see the constant packing up of the suitcases, the legs that are so tired they refuse to walk anymore, the missing of skype dates due to bad internet connection, toll roads that pick at your pocket-book, hours planning transitions, and the fight to keep the butter and milk cold as we go fridge to fridge. There are also no photos of moments where we miss home or when we don’t feel well. That being said, God has been overly generous in His provision for us, we have been in awe of His covering over our lives. We cannot thank friends and family who keep us in their prayers enough! I merely state the above, to encapsulate that whilst we are having a fantastic time, the day-to-day life is just as rewarding and full of fun and surprises, and we look forward to getting back into that mode in due course. But for the moment, we love having you on this journey with us!

So, Lake Bohinj…. Is the largest lake in Slovenia situated in the gorgeous Triglav National Park. Whilst there is a bit of tourist activity, it is largely dominated by the local farming life, and that is what we enjoyed the most. I think we learnt by osmosis how to make hay by the end of our time there! Joel and I as most of you would know, love a good old hike and the sight of the Alps and all the walking trails had us buzzing the moment we arrived. We are ashamed to say that the Europeans hands down made us look like novices up in the hills. Each hiker is armed with two poles, sturdy boots, specialist pants and packs, and all the other goodies that make you look like Bear Grylls. In a tiny mountain village, a local who could barely string two English words together, pointed and clearly mocked our shoes. Yes she did have boots on that looked like they could kick the living daylights out of steele. Yes we were embarrassed. Yes I did make feeble attempts at defending our footwear. And yes I did ruminate over it the rest of the hike.

Where was I? So after watching the sun go down in a blaze of glory our first night, we mapped out our route for the inaugural full day of hiking. Mount Prsivec at 1,781m. It was a lofty goal for our first day of hiking since it included 10km of uphill (and I mean straight up-a-hill) terrain. However, it was all or nothing so we went for it. To cut a long 12 hour story short, it was a blaze of glory. We made it to the summit after encountering breathtakingly beautiful Slovenian countryside unlike anything we had seen before. This consisted of wooden huts in mountain pastures I didn’t know people would even think to farm and/or colonise, unfurling wildflowers, cowbells that rang like a symphony in the afternoon breeze, green alpine lakes, hospitable Slovens, and awe-inspiring mountain peaks. We really had to pinch ourselves to think that two little Aussies were standing at the top of a mountain in Slovenia that our own legs had carried us to, looking out over a vast expanse of Alps. Our exhaustion turned to infectious joy and I’m pretty sure we did a dance and other stupid things at the summit. I remember calling myself ‘Heidi’ amongst other things. I can additionally confirm that Joel did Yodel. All I can say is that it was lucky the sun doesn’t set until 9:30pm, because it had taken us 9 hours straight to reach the top. We walked back 3 hours and had another 2 left to walk, when I was struck down with a migraine. Anyone who is familiar with the type of migraines I get, knows this is a disaster! I was literally blind so was holding onto Joel stumbling down the rocks. By some miracle (thank you Jesus!) we came across an alpine road and lo-and-behold a German couple (literally the only other couple we had seen out hiking that day) drove past. Joel flagged them down and used his hands to explain we needed help, and they drove us back to the village. Close call…. Thank you random Germans!

Therefore the next day I was not in an adventurous mode… complete with a migraine hangover. Yet somehow we ended up hiking 16km around the lake to a waterfall. Even in my dull state I could still appreciate the natural beauty of this part of the world. The steps to the waterfall were not my friend, each one was a hammer to the head. The waterfall was called ‘Slap Savica’. Joel remarked that I had been ‘slapped by Savica’ and this has become a running joke of me being slapped by all sorts of things when my body grows weary!

Just to solidify the strong message to the thighs and butt, our final day in Bohinj was spent climbing yet another mountain, this time with the help of a cable car (phew!). It took us up to Vogal ski station and we climbed up the snow-less ski runs, past the abandoned chair lifts and empty lodges, to one of the peaks where we had an expansive view of the Julian Alps. There is just something special about standing on the top of a mountain isn’t there?! We had a great view of Mount Triglav, which is the highest Peak in Slovenia (2864m), and Joel spent a good deal of time dreaming about climbing it. I spent the time thinking about who else I could send with him so I could avoid 5 days of thigh-burning…. Meanwhile we almost got blown off the mountain – I have never seen clouds move so fast in my life as I have whilst standing in one! So back down the cable car we went, where we spent the rest of the afternoon lazing by the lake and convincing ourselves that the water was quite a pleasant temperature and completely swimmable. The locals would have given us a scolding.

We waved a see-you-later to Bohinj (a goodbye would be too hard for this place), and took off on the car train to the Soca Valley the next morning – which shall be the next installment!

Lots of love, keep the emails and comments coming, we love hearing from you!!

J&L xx