2017 – What to remember

Ocean, Terceira, Walking

Once again, a year has passed and it is semi-mandatory to look back into what on earth happened in the last 365 days. How odd we people are.

So, as I don’t want to rebel and do this in April, here we are. The moments to remember from the year 2017 in the lives of Veera and Waffle:

1.

We started the year off by visiting Cyprus in the midwinter. We often like to break the winter with a little bit of summer. Cyprus was a destination from which neither of us really expected much, but it turned out to be a fairly positive surprise! We indulged on the rugged coastal line and tried to find some turtles.

Lesson learned; travel with an open mind, where ever the ticket in your hand is taking you!

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2.

It was pretty quickly after Cyprus that we headed for Terceira island in the Azores. It had been my dream to visit these islands, and since Waffle is very keen on spoiling me (my inner strong and independent woman screams at him for this), he bought us tickets to go there for my birthday!

Oh my. I was gobsmacked! From the very beginning the island sprouting from the volcanic core of the earth was taking my breath away. From the starlit skies, to raging ocean to the green jungles I felt like I was in a paradise! The air is so fresh you taste it in the cheese they produce!

So far I think it is the most rewarding travel experience we have had. So far so, that we are traveling to the islands again, very soon!

Lesson learned; Fish of the day on an island in the middle of the storming Atlantic is not going to happen…

Terceira, Azores, Coast
I could have woken up to this every morning for the rest of my life.

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Terceira, Poolsof Biscoitos
Pools of Biscoitos.

3.

One of the best moments in the spring time was having my dear dear friend over from Finland! I wiped off the dust of my girlier side and we took a train to Paris. Spend there a day running around the city like mad men, enjoying the slowly awakening spring. Waffle came to rescue in the evening and took us to the seaside, to  jump on the rocky shore of Ambleteuse.

How grateful I am for having such a friend, whose eyes see your soul and with whom you can connect with no matter the time or space in between!

Lesson learned; A freshly made chocolate fondant in France is a perfectly justified breakfast!

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4.

Easter and Normandy. We can’t seem to get rid of that duo. Normandy was probably the first landscape I really fell in love with in France, I am always eager to return there. This Easter too, it was as pretty and serene as always. We brought friends along, hiked the coast and the meadows, enjoyed the tender spring sunshine and aired out our brains!

Lesson learned; Sea is well able to eat away the white cliffs, so be careful when camping on top of one. Also, if you are looking to surf, go further. 

 

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Normady, Hiking, Coast

5.

The half marathon project. The venture where Waffle soared and I tumbled down with my knee problems. Not much of a happy experience, giving up never really is. But I was happy to start trying, in any case, and I still am running, at least to get in better shape, maybe eventually aiming for some speeds at 10 km. Maybe.

Lesson learned; Patience. Patience in letting your body get a hang of jogging. I am not 20 anymore. Sadly. 

Jogger, Runner, Mist

6.

Oh, the biggest accident we have yet had in our lovely little relationship. Buying a cottage in Finland. I say accident, because that’s was it really was. We rolled the thought of it on the table for 3 days before sending our final offer and receiving the keys.

Such excitement I have not felt too many times in my life. I actually had acquired a piece of my childhood and one of the prettiest landscapes in Finland! I could return to my family more often now. My my, so very happy about this!

Oh, and the sauna in that cottage – marvelous!

Lesson learned; 4 trips to Ikea in a week is definitely enough!

Log cabin
The main hut.
Family!
Family!

Finland, lake, Autumn

7.

For a while now, we have been inspired to travel to the Eastern Europe. For 2017 the destination was Bulgaria and the Pirin mountains. It was not a disappointment. The country is pretty and the mountains with all the lakes scattered around make it a unique surrounding for hiking.

Spending the night high up there under the stars, in freezing cold at the lakeside was a memorable experience. A night slept outdoors is never quite like the other.

Lesson learned; Taking a smelly cheese up to a mountain with bear population, might make you nervous… 

Pirin, Mountains, Bulgaria
Ice crusted tent anyone?

8.

The home extension project is finally hovering above the finish line! What a thrilling feeling to see the work of your own actually get realized and exceed your hopes! Every little bit is there, just some moderation, improvements and finishing touches need to happen, as we gain experience in using this little house!

A more detailed post will follow, once I have time to put my thoughts into words and online.

Lesson learned; With a project like this, it is a winning lottery ticket to have an actual carpenter in the family. 

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9.

Israel. Double feelings. It was a pain in the back side to get this holiday starting. First to make our way out of the airport, then get a car, and lastly get going through the desert. But once the starting hiccups were over the country treated us with beauty and bizarre flotation experiences.

The part where we left the country was even bigger pain in the derriere, making us thinking whether we will ever be back. What would bring us back, is the magnificent camping facilities Israel has to offer, plus we would still like to see the northern Israel.

Lesson learned; Salt from the dead sea tastes bad. Also, try not to piss off an Israeli customer servant. 

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10.

The year ended for us with another Christmas road trip. Once more, we headed south, to the space between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean in France. And then we camped. Our small home proved to be just what we needed; a shelter from wind and rain and a functional living room, kitchen and bedroom combo.

We had gathered a bunch of special people around us and the atmosphere was, if not Christmassy, at least warm and welcoming around the slightly too big campfire. The weather was not on our side when it came to hiking the mountains, so beach life was what needed to entertain us.

Lesson learned; Putting a bunch a relatively crazy people around a campfire with little social supervision can result in inappropriate songs. 

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That was 2017. 2018 is here with us and it is looking promising. The travel year starts with Azores, we have a bit of Finland in the planning too (Waffle’s parents first visit!), and who knows which other places Waffle comes up with.  Hope you’ll hang along too!

Oh! aand the pictures, once again, here: Flickr!

 

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Israel and “The getting out of there!”

1st part of our Israel trip is here!

The second to last day of our mini holiday in Israel was upon us. We shoved a makeshift breakfast to our faces (no stores were open, thanks to sabbath) and headed once again to the desert.

Before taking on the cruel winter sun of the desert, we headed to the Dead Sea. Some googling had shown us the free to enter beaches at this famous salt puddle. We were all looking forward to the experience of floating, so it did not take long until we were carefully crawling over the merciless, rasping surface of the dry salt with our bare feet.

And then we floated. The buoyancy of the salty water was surprising. A human just sticks to the surface like a cork. We bounced and floated for some time, until we had to get going towards the hike of the day.

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Our hiking guide was recommending a long walk through the desert plains and canyons and climbing a small peak to reach a panoramic view over the Ramon crater, following partially the Israel National Trail.

So we headed to Mitzpe Ramon, bounced off the main road to a dusty sand track in the desert and arrived to the starting point. The hike started from the campsite of Be’erot and continued into the crater, following mainly the dry bed of the river Ardon.

It was an easy walk, following the sand roads they organize jeep safaris on. So it started all off as a bit of a boring thing, we are used to more rugged terrain, but the views surrounding us were submerging our minds nicely. Soon we entered a canyon and got to walk surrounded by beautiful stone walls and enjoy the gentle shadows.

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A horse shoe loop later the canyon widened out and we met the car tracks again. The crawled through the branching and opening river bed. At the same time the sand turned from yellow to red and we were constantly followed by flocks of quails and some other very pretty birds.

Finally we got to the promised climb. A short jump it was really, but offered a superb view over the desert under the magic of sunset. There we started to feel the chill rolling in too. The thin desert air doesn’t stay warm for long, once the radiation heat is gone. That was a sign to start making our way back to the car. So we went, looking back from time to time, to enjoy the changing colors in the sandy hills as the shadows grew longer.

Just as the darkness was making its way in, we reached the car and drove off. The last night we would sleep in a traditional tent type of a thing in a small town of Be’er Ora, which was only a short drive away from Eilat, handy for returning the car in the morning and getting to the airport. Little did we know, our hosts at the tent and calm sleep of the night would be just a distant memory come lunch the next day.

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The misery started with the returning of the car. We found nowhere to park, the car rental officer saw it fit to bark about such stupidity to Waffle. We were shooed off to find our bus, which was surrounded by anxious passengers who had been promised the bus transfer an hour ago. The buses, however, only leave after being packed full, never mind the timetable. Which, luckily for us, the bus was packed quickly and we got on our way.

The bus driver was doing a long detour via the Jordanian border, which we found a little odd, since the the route via the Egyptian side would have been 20 km shorter. As we stepped out of the bus, we got the answer for the odd choice of route.  We heard gun fire, and big explosions from that side. Which was unnerving, given the fact that we had no idea, whether it was a real situation or just an exercise.

With the soothing sounds of occasional explosions and machine gun series we packed ourselves to the terminal building with all the rest of the passengers. We were ordered in queues. That is where the staff apparently drained all their power of organizing.

We were lucky to be there early enough, since despite the queues, there was no guarantee you got picked for the security scrutiny in the order of flight schedules. The picking was completely random, and if you dared to ask anything, you got somebody shouting at you. Some people evidently missed their flights.

We stood there in the queue for over 2 hours before being picked, interrogated and walked through the security checks, shoving and shouting. For some reason Waffle’s colleague got picked for extra check and we lost him from our sight for almost an hour. We had to board the plane without knowing where he was.

Turned out, the airport staff was not handling the communication towards the crew of the plane too well either. The crew had no clue how many passengers they still needed to wait for. Every now and then a person or two were released and found the plane, eventually the colleague appeared too and we could relax. We were all going home!

It was a bit of a sour taste that the last days experiences left behind. Which is a pity, since the country is beautiful, food there is nice, and we would certainly like to explore the country by camping and heading more to the wild. But it might take some time before we venture that way again.

Ovda airport, Israel

Israel Breaks the Silence

…of this blog, I mean, nothing political behind the headline. Sorry.

Waffle had promised to take a colleague of his to mountains. The original plan was aiming us to the Welsh mountains in Snowdonia, but as the execution of this noble plan grew later and the weather in Wales got more and more wintery, we changed the direction.

And went to Israel.

Ryanair has opened a route from Charleroi to Eilat ( Ovda), and the tickets are very affordable, so Waffle thought why not, and off we went. We were expecting to land in to a summery environment, but it was surprisingly chilly. Sea breeze was not so very gentle and temperature was not so far above 10 degrees.

It took over 2 hours to get out of the airport to Eilat by a shuttle bus. Another hour to get the car and by then the hopes for us having a first walk for that day had disappeared along with the setting sun. We sincerely hoped that the rest of the holiday would go more smoothly as we drove in the darkness towards the town of Arad, where our Airbnb was waiting.

The road trip was a bit lost on us. We couldn’t see much, so the morning and sunrise brought us a nice surprise, as we saw the desert spreading out all around us. A pretty sight to wake up to! On the planning for the day was a walk in the desert, bit of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem.

We had once again one of the Rother walking guides (a German edition) with us, and in it we found a lovely, short walk through a small canyon of Wadi Perazim, selected as one of the top walks in that book. The instructions for the approach were of course in German, but also not especially precise. After a couple of missed turns we found the starting spot, in the middle of desert of white sand. And cyclists.

The canyon bottom our trail was on, was also the venue of a Desert Challenge cycling competition. Thankfully we were still able to enter the canyon and cheer up the cyclist swooshing past.

The canyon itself was a surprisingly beautiful. The sandstone there is soft, powdery and white, making it unbelievable that such high walls can stay standing. The stone walls created a breathtaking contrast with the blue sky. I was also happily appreciating the sheltering shadows in the canyon, since the sun in the sky seemed fairly merciless.

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The day continued towards Jerusalem with a quick pit stop at the Dead Sea. The road 90 goes right by the side of the sea. We stopped a couple of times to get some photos, and in search for a beach to take a dive in. The most famous beaches are in the northern end of the sea, and it is ridiculously expensive to even enter the area. So no swimming that day, Jerusalem was calling.

We had a mixed set of feelings about visiting the city, since we were visiting there just a day or two after Mr Trump had said what he had about the position of that city, causing some instability in the area. We entered through the West Bank, seeing the contrast between the Israeli and the Palestinian side is thought provoking.

Thanks to the riots, many parts of the old city were shielded off from tourists, and our visit was cut short. We only marched through some of the bazaars, sniffing the scents from the spices, teas and falafels. But as the sun set, we had to make our way out and back to Arad.

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The first days in Israel were interesting. I was a little bitter about loosing the first day completely, but the beauty of the second day had turned the mood nicely. It was new to me to spend time in a place that is so controversial and so holy for so many.

Our Israel trip continues still for two days in the next post. So hold on tight! In the meanwhile, pictures are here: Flickr.