On the Camino de Santiago: Day 6 from Salceda to Lavacolla

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Day 6 saw our last full day of our walk along the Camino de Santiago as Day 7 would be a short day.  Day 6’s walk took about 5 hours (perhaps about 18 km) not including our lunch stop at Amenal.  I felt both excited at getting close to the finish line and also a little bit sad that the end was so close.  We left the hotel (and our luggage) in Salceda after a good breakfast and walked a few minutes to get back on the Camino.  Along the way, I had been collected the needed stamps on my “credenciales” (pilgrim’s passport); these are required to be able to get the “Compostela” certificate upon arrival at the offices in Santiago de Compostela.

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The pilgrim’s “passport” (credenciales) that you must stamp every day

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Proudly showing my stamped “credenciales” (or pilgrim’s passport)

Sights along the Camino

As usual, our way was a mix of fields of flowers, small forests, farms, and churches.  And the ever present signs pointing the way.  Here are a few of the images from this day in our trek.Camino de Santiago, nature, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Camino de Santiago, yellow flowers, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Beautiful field of yellow

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Camino de Santiago, flowers, hydrangea,hortensia, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Canon EOS Rebel

Hydrangeas were popular along the way

Camino de Santiago, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Just keep following the signs…

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Church

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

Cemetery

An amazing place to stay:  Pazo Xan Xordo

Once we got to Lavacolla, a stone’s throw from Santiago’s airport actually, we walked a little bit to get to our lodging for the night:  Pazo Xan Xordo.  We were wowed by this 17th century home and farm with its own chapel and beautiful gardens.  This place was a real dream!

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Pazo Xan Xordo and its front patio

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Chapel near the front entrance of Pazo Xan Xordo

Camino de Santiago, church, Lavacolla, Spain, España, Espagne, trekking, hiking, pilgrimage, travel, photo, outdoors, Olympus

The inside of the chapel

It also has a small restaurant but it was not open for dinner so our host dropped us off and picked us back up for dinner in town, where we celebrated being so close to finishing with a great dinner and a dessert I had not had, but seen often, yet:  ice cream cake!

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The final dinner on the trail (in Lavacolla)!

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The ice cream cake

A perfect ending to another great day along the Camino!

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Yours truly

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Read more about my Camino:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 7

Panther Creek: A Challenging and Rewarding Hike in North Georgia

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

I was looking for a hike that I could do within 4 hours that was not right on the outskirts of Atlanta.  A friend and I were looking for a more challenging hike than the usual so after selecting a few finalists, we settled on Panther Creek, about an hour and a half north of Atlanta.  We decided to hike 3.5 hrs in to the larger waterfalls and then back.  The entrance to the trail on Panther Creek is on Old Historic 441 in north Georgia, northwest of the town of Ellijay.

Soon after entering the trail, you go under the new 441. After that, you leave hearing highway noise and slowly, but surely, start hearing water running sounds…  The trail is more natural (read, not groomed) and that makes it quite a neat trail to hike.

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Towards the start of the Panther Creek trail – love the woods

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Lots of rock outcrops where one can imagine people ages ago taking shelter under them

You go down a narrow path and slowly go downhill. Eventually you are closer to creek level and closer to the creek itself.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Beautiful colors at the time of the year I visited

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

More beauty

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Olympus

Still waters

There are several low wooden bridges to cross and then one arrives to a first set of cascades with a space that is perfect for camping overnight.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

One of the bridges crossing the creek

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

Love these cascades

A couple of times the markers for the path were not visible and we proceeded trusting that the wild we saw in front of us was just an overgrown trail (and, mercifully, we were right!).

Continuing on from that spot, another 30-45 minutes or so depending on pace, one arrives at the upper waterfalls with a sort-of sandy beach to camp overnight or just recover from the hike in. Right before arriving at this waterfall, the terrain becomes a little more challenging and fun. One has to hug the big rocks holding on to the steel-cable handrails. These handrails are anchored on posts, some of which are sturdy and some of which have come loose and are floating, being kept alive by the two neighboring posts! One does need to proceed with care as falling from this rock outcrop would not be fun.

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

The steel cable handrail itself is precarious!

Panther Creek was both rewarding and challenging. The raw feel of the trails was a welcome change from some of the other trails I hike in north Atlanta (which are quite nice but well groomed). I highly recommend doing this trail – I sure hope to do it again!

Panther Creek, trail, hiking, Georgia, cascade, waterfall, nature, outdoors, photo, Samsung Galaxy

A nice break after 3.5 miles!

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Read about these other great hikes in Georgia:

Sope Creek

Sweetwater Creek

Island Ford

Tallulah Gorge

… and more to come!

On the Camino de Santiago: Day 5 from Boente to Salceda

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Day 5 would have us walk about 19 km (12 miles) in around a 4.5 hour period, leaving Boente to head to our next overnight stop in Salceda.  The group left together every morning and, generally, stayed in proximity of each other but a few of us would generally spend part of the morning walking on our own or in silence.  Oh, we enjoyed each other a great bit but the Camino is an invitation to pray and ponder, much as it is also very social (I mean, here are all these people walking in one direction, with one goal in mind) – or, at least, as social as one decides to make it.

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My shadow also came along; but I ignored it when I was deep in thought

As usual, the variety in the terrain and passing through small towns and rural areas were a rewarding aspect of the walk.  But even though we may be in the middle of nowhere at any given moment, we were not far from a potential place for a “rest stop” or getting a bite to eat.

Camino, Santiago, Spain, España, The Way, hikking, trekker, travel, photo, sunny day, trail, Boente, Salceda Camino, Santiago, Spain, España, The Way, hikking, trekker, travel, photo, sunny day, trail, Boente, Salceda

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Even ruins are charming

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Some places to eat are literally right by the Camino

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One of the many water fountains along the way

Camino, Santiago, Spain, España, The Way, hikking, trekker, travel, photo, sunny day, trail, Boente, Salceda Camino, Santiago, Spain, España, The Way, hikking, trekker, travel, photo, sunny day, trail, Boente, Salceda

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Another eatery right along the Camino

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Pilgrims include bicyclists (whose minimum distance to claim the Camino is longer)

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Even ruins are charming

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A house, a granary and hydrangeas

In Salceda, we stayed at one of the nicest places we were to stay at the Albergue Turístico Salceda, a little bit of the trail but no more than a 5-10 minute walk away.

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At the end of the day’s hike, it is acceptable to celebrate!

It was a nice day and, after showering, we lounged outdoors resting and relaxing – with a nice bottle of Albariño wine.  I’d call Day 5 another successful day on the Camino!

Camino, Santiago, Spain, España, The Way, hikking, trekker, travel, photo, sunny day, trail, Boente, Salceda, Samsung Galaxy

One happy trekker!

 

Read more about my Camino:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Kilimanjaro Hike: Day 1 – Getting Going

Backpacks ready to go up Mt. Kilimanjaro

Writing about our hike of Mt. Kilimanjaro is no easy task.  What to share?  Clearly the “facts” of the route, camps, durations, weather, gear, the day-to-day routine, etc. are all important elements of the story.  But the more I thought about how to write about this experience, the more I realized I wanted to share how it felt first and foremost, covering some of the elements listed earlier as they fit into the overall story, instead of making those the focus.  As I mentioned in another post, preparing for Kili is more than training and gear.  As you will see over the series of writeups, the emotional element also applies to actually doing the climb.  Let’s get going with Day 1!

The route and the climb

Well, before getting into the hike itself, a quick word about the route and the climb.  We went up the Machame Route, known for its vistas and for not being as crowded as other routes.  Also, Machame is a route with a higher likelihood of success than the so-called “Coca-Cola” Route (the Marangu Route) since it offers better altitude adjustment (climb high, sleep low; 6 days of ascent; etc.).

The climb itself is to Uhuru Peak.  Mt. Kilimanjaro actually refers to the entire mountain, the tallest free-standing mountain in the world.  Uhuru Peak is the highest point on the mountain and, therefore, in Africa!  Uhuru Peak is the goal and the entry point to the summit area on this route is called Stella Point.

Getting going on Day 1:  the Machame Gate and the wait

It starts on day 1 when, full of anticipation, the trekkers finish prepping the daypack they will carry on their backs and the other piece of luggage that will be taken from camp to camp by the porters accompanying our group.

Backpacks ready to go up Mt. Kilimanjaro

Daypacks waiting for their trekkers!

We got up at the crack of dawn to head from our hotel (the awesome Honey Badger Lodge) to the hotel from which the mountain trek would leave, the Springlands Hotel, home base of Zara Tours who Trekking for Kids had hired to do our trek.

The ride to the Machame Gate, entry point to the Machame Route, could not start quickly enough.  As with many things, one gets ready and then one waits.  After we finished leaving some of our non-trek stuff in storage at the Springlands, our bus arrived and the process of loading up our trek bags began.  Soon enough we were on our way to the Machame Gate.  It seemed to take forever but it couldn’t have been more than 1 hour or hour-and-a-half.  We were just so ready to get this climb going!

Once we arrived at the Machame Route, we proceeded to, you guessed it, sit and wait for about an hour.  The reason, though, was quite simple:  the permits had to be purchased by the lead guides.  This process takes time as we were not the only ones there (fancy that!).  This would be a reality throughout the trek:  others are there with you.  Not that we expected to be alone, mind you.  Just that one never stops to consider that until one gets to this first gate.  While it could have been chaotic, it really was not.  We proceeded to eat our boxed lunches while we waited and took a few pictures to commemorate the start of our climb!

At the Machame Gate at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro

ilivetotravel doing the obligatory photo at the Machame Gate, looking ready and clean!

Another thing you can do while you wait is read the few signs posted with instructions and warnings for those starting to climb Kili!

Sign on Machame Gate at Kilimanjaro

We cheered when we saw our guide come over with paperwork – it meant we were ready to go.  The funny thing is that we saw other guides come out around the same moment with their papers.  You would think the first-come, first-serve approach would have led to guides coming out gradually and sequentially.  Nope.  It seems all permits were issued almost at the same time for all the groups waiting!  That meant, everyone got going at the same time creating a little bottleneck at the entrance gate.  We got to pass quickly through without waiting long so we were FINALLY on our way!!

The hike on Day 1

Day 1 was mainly going through a forest habitat starting at 6,000 ft (1,830 m) and ending at the Machame Camp at 10,200 ft (3,100 m).

Day 1 of the Machame Route of Kilimanjaro

Typical of the Day 1 Machame Route. Notice the porters on the trail.

It may have been the built-up anticipation but, for the most part, I didn’t feel the altitude wear on me as the day went on.   We were fortunate it did not rain that day so the gaiters were not really needed (those green things I am wearing on my legs in the earlier photo to help prevent mud or pebbles from getting into our boots).  This part of the trail is about the nicest one with some work done to create a good trail for part of the way.

We got to camp about 4:30 PM, five hours after we had started.  We were thrilled at having completed our first day of 6 to get to the summit!  While we knew we still had a lot of challenges ahead, it felt SO good to have one day under our belt!  At this point we did our first book signing to show we were there – a requirement if we wanted to be issued an official completion certificate at the end of the hike.

Register at camp in Kilimanjaro

The Machame Camp sits in an area with plenty of vegetation.  This means we had more smaller animal life than we would have higher up; read, mice.  Key here is to keep the tent zipped up when not coming and going!   The Machame Camp has a toilet building that is pretty new.  I heard it had both Western toilets and Turkish toilets, if those are the proper names for the fixture types.  We also had a pair of portable toilets-tents and I preferred those… (less smelly).

In any case, getting to camp means setting up the sleeping tents and the mess hall tent.  Normally the porters who carry these items and set them up get there ahead of the trekkers and the guides but on Day 1 we got there at the same time.  So this day we got to watch them at work.

Camp being set up in Kilimanjaro

Setting up camp

Once the tents were set up and before dinner was ready, I, like some of the other trekkers, got organized by washing up, taking out the items needed for the night (headlamp, etc.), and preparing the daypack for the next day.  Oh, and the getting drinking water and treating it (Steripen worked wonderfully!) – a staple of the every day life on the mountain!

Trekker at camp in Kilimanjaro

Yours truly getting ready for my first night camping ever!

We got to enjoy a beautiful sunset before heading to the mess hall tent for dinner and an early bedtime so we could be well-rested for Day 2.  Dinner included a hot soup, potatoes, fried fish, vegetables, and small bananas along with tea and hot chocolate.  On to my first night camping ever and Day 2!

Tents at Machame Camp during sunset in Kilimanjaro

Our tents with a beautiful backdrop courtesy of the African sunset

On to Day 2

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Other posts about the Kilimanjaro trek:

–  Preparing for the hike is more than training and gear

–  The Machame Route:  our way up

–  Day 3 of the hike

–  Day 4 of the hike

–  Day 5 of the hike

–  Day 6 of the hike (summit night)

–  7 things you will not see me without as I climb Kili

–  Interview with fellow Kili climber and Ultimate Global Explorer

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