Saturday, July 16, 2011

Hiking in the Dolomites!

When I was in Dorfen, Germany, my travel friend Regina and I were sitting at an outdoor cafe, and I started chatting to the table next to us. I said that we were traveling in the area but didn't have a particular destination. She said, "You HAVE to go to the Dolomites - it's in northern Italy." I'd heard about it a few times, and it seemed like a fine idea. About 30 seconds later, I said, yeah, I think we will go there. Sure enough, as I write this I'm sitting below spectacular mountains, looking at fresh snow in the distance (it rained HARD last night) and watching paragliding/hang-gliding gizmos jump from the mountain tops around 3,000 feet above our heads. I like the photos I've selected below, but I'm not sure they do it justice. Beautiful!

Here's a Google Maps satellite view of where we stayed on the hike described below:


If you drove a bee-line from Munich to the Dolomites, it's supposed to be around three or four  hours. We don't do bee-lines! In fact, we never got on a highway the entire way. We saw this castle in Austria. By local standards, this isn't so impressive, but it's beautiful, and hugs the outside of a cliff all the way around it.
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We're just entering the Dolomites area here. This is Regina. She's from Brazil, but lived in England and Wales for 25 years. We first met on a Dharma Yatra (meditation walk) in 2003, and have seen each other three times since in India. She happens to be just six weeks older than me. In Munich we met up with another India traveler friend who just happened to be there, and we'd all been in India together one trip.
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It's easy to take way too many photos here. This is taken from the road. The mountain passes have more hairpin turns than I've ever seen anywhere.
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This is the first of a series of photos I call "Flowers in the foreground and blurry things in the background."
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This region is absolutely FILLED with these beautiful chalets, called "refugios" with a full restaurant, bar and lodging. This one is right on the road, but many of them are a couple hours walk from the nearest road.
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Our perfectly lovely server at the restaurant above. Many young people speak four languages: Italian, German, English, and a local language that I haven't figured out the name of.
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The roads are narrow and there aren't that many turnouts. Surprisingly, there's not all that much traffic yet. Some kids are still in school. Someone told us to avoid the place in August, when it's packed. That's the road we drove up in the right side of the photo.
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God would like to have a word with you.
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Hey! I know this series!
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OK, enough of the series already. We camped about a kilometer from here, in the town of Corvara.
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There are trails just about anywhere you look. Easy trails in the valleys, climbing trails get tougher, some are marked as expert, and there is a huge amount of rock climbing here.
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Re (short for Regina) and I decided to go off the valley trail and climb up the steep valley shown here. What started out as a short and easy walk turned into about four hours or more of tough (and beautiful!) walking.
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This is part way up the way valley shown in the photo above. It was a bear. I'm pretty sure Re was swearing under her breath. Cuz it wasn't that "we" decided to come this way. I sort of twisted her arm. I do that.
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We'd come from way down the valley on the right side, where our campsite was.
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From the top of the steep bit, it went horizontally, more of less, along the base of the cliff. You can see that the trail passed a waterfall.
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Wildflowers grow like crazy.
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We're getting to the highest point of our walk. That's Re coming up the trail.
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I'm fascinated by the little huts you see scattered around in remote places. I guess they're shepherd's huts, but I don't know.
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This small waterfall is the downstream continuation of the big waterfall in the other photo.
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Just about the end of the walk. I was limping at this point, I was so tired. The next day we went for another short walk, but it turned into five hours of spectacularly scenic agony. Today we're taking the day off!
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(The End)