Swedish Lapland

There's a very popular hiking trail in the far north of Sweden called the Kungsleden. The whole thing takes a month to hike. I certainly wasn't going to do all of that but the northernmost section has the best scenery and access to Kebnekaise, Sweden's highest mountain. So I headed there.

It's easy to get to the area - you can get to the iron ore mining town of Kiruna by plane or train from Stockholm and travel on from there to Abisko or Nikkualokta. It's about seven days' walk between Abisko and Nikkualokta. There are impressively well set up huts along the way where you can stay. I started out planning to hike from Nikkualokta to Abisko but soon realised that the route was very crowded (even in June the huts were almost full), and it really just runs through valleys. So I picked a different route via Tarfala and Hukejaure huts. It's incredible how few people choose to hike away from the main route. In the former hut there was just a handful of other people staying and in the latter I was the first person to stay since the hut opened two weeks earlier! While walking between Tarfala and Salka huts I met another hiker who said I was the first person he had seen hiking in six days. During the day I spent on the Kungsleden I was passing people every six minutes probably. So the contrast is huge.

Anyway the scenery is fabulous, the views from the base of a mountain called Stuor Ruska were particularly impressive. Unfortunately for quite a lot of the time I couldn't see the scenery much, or at all. I started ascents of three mountains and each time the cloud came in to obscure the views. And there was some really extreme weather on a couple of occasions - howling winds with heavy hail, sleet and snow. Plus going off the main trail meant a lot of snow to traverse. So it was quite arduous really. If you want something simpler just take the helicopter to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation, stay there for a few nights, go for some short walks around there, climb Kebnekaise if you get a clear day (seems to be about one day in seven to be honest), and enjoy the really good restaurant. It would make a lot of sense.

Posted on Thursday, July 11, 2019 at 09:16 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | CommentsPost a Comment

How to see West Greenland

  1. Fly to Kangerlussuaq to see the edge of the ice cap. But don't take a bus tour. I went there with Albatros Artic Circle and it was chaos. We left about 45 minutes late, they forgot a key that they needed to get through a gate so we had to wait again for someone to bring it out, someone slipped on the ice and hurt his head but on the way back there was no communication between the passenger compartment of the vehicle and the driver so when he later needed to stop there was no way to alert them (even though they had given us a radio for this purpose they hadn't turned theirs on). So take a tent and spend two to three days hiking up there. You should see musk oxen.
  2. You can do the Arctic Circle Trail to Sisimiut if you want. But it's a bit of a slog and the scenery isn't that special. If you don't do it you can fly to Sisimiut.
  3. From Sisimiut climb Nasaasaaq for fantastic views. 
  4. Take the ferry to Aasiaat (it only goes once a week, so get your timings right) and change to Qeqertarsuaq on Disko Island.
  5. Go hiking again on Disko Island. Make sure you see the waterfalls in Brededal. Look out for humpback and fin whales when you are by the coast.
  6. Take another ferry to Ilulissat to see the Ice Fjord. You only need a day but it's very impressive.
  7. Fly home from Ilulissat.
  8. Don't go on an organised tour. It will be more expensive and you will see less.
Posted on Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at 11:00 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | CommentsPost a Comment

Palm Oil

While palm oil is in the news, take a look at this picture which I took in Cameroon: Looks like pretty impressive rain forest, yes? Well actually on the left it is, it's the Korup National Park. But on the right there's the start of a huge palm oil plantation. You can see it in this image from Google Earth which shows the bridge the photo was taken from: There were forest elephants, monkeys and all sorts of birds in the rain forest. In the palm oil plantation I think you'd struggle to find any animals at all, except perhaps for insects. Very sad, but I don't know what the solution is. At least the national park is protected.
Posted on Tuesday, November 13, 2018 at 13:37 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | CommentsPost a Comment

Climbing Kirkjufell

Kirkjufell is a very iconic mountain on the Snæfellsnes peninsula of Iceland. You've probably seen photos of it with a waterfall in front - it is very striking. There are also dozens of people taking photos of it at any given time, and even a car park simply for this view. Here are my photos, including one of the classic view: Iceland 2018

I got interested in the idea of climbing it. It's only 463m high, but really narrow with lots of rock steps. But there are ropes in place to help you over these. I was advised before I went not to climb it, however, as it is known to be dangerous, and there was a fatality last year.

When I got there I found an information panel which said that the summit was accessible to experienced mountain walkers. I looked at the route through binoculars and thought that it really didn't look that bad. So I decided to go for it, and if it got too exposed, to turn around. 

After a bit of scrambling I was soon at the top, on a wonderful airy ridge enjoying amazing views. It was really great fun and I felt that it would be a great shame if people were discouraged too much from doing the climb. I hadn't felt in any danger at any time and felt that the information panel had it about right. I got back down without any problems and carried on my journey around Snæfellsnes.

A couple of weeks later I learnt that another had person died in a fall on the mountain. And a few weeks later a French woman fell and had to be taken to hospital. I'm aghast.

Posted on Monday, November 5, 2018 at 11:53 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | CommentsPost a Comment

Mato Grosso

Mato Grosso is a large state in Brazil, bordering Bolivia to the west. It was really easy to organise our trip - we just flew into Cuiaba, the state capital, hired a car and drove around, staying in hotels that we had booked online. Language is a bit difficult as most people only speak Portuguese, but we found that Spanish was useful at times.

We spent time at (a) the Chapada dos Guimaraes, an area of cerrado with much grassland, and impressive sandstone cliffs, (b) Jardim da Amazonia, an area of Amazon rain forest (although surrounded by large farms) and (c) the Pantanal, seasonally flooded wetlands with lots of wildlife. 

The highlight was definitely seeing jaguars in the Pantanal. If that was all you wanted to do you could easily do it in a week. You simply have to drive to the settlement of Porto Jefre from where they organise regular boat trips to look for them. You should see giant otters as well, and of course there are lots of birds.

 

Posted on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 at 13:50 by Registered CommenterRobert Ulph | CommentsPost a Comment
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