The Backpackers Travel Magazine is the independent backpacking travel guide for backpacker hostels, jobs, tours, working holidays, volunteering, outdoors, gear, camping, hiking, yoga and adventure around the world. . A backpacker magazine for digital nomads, solo female travel and travel writers in New Zealand, Chile, Thailand, South America and Asia. The voice of independent travel.
Standing high above the rest of Hungary is Kékestető peak. Three thousand, three hundred and twenty six feet to be exact. While this may not seem incredibly tall in comparison to other infamous peaks around the globe, it holds its own magic when it comes to the north Hungarian countryside. At the top, there is a lookout tower, providing successful adventurers with a stunning panoramic view of the surrounding volcanic mountains.
Kékestető is a small part of Hungary’s larger Mátra mountain range. Nestled in northern Hungary between Gyöngyös and Eger, it has provided a natural retreat for locals for thousands of years. Having been built up by the young volcanic mountain range, it consists of a variety of shapes and sizes. In the southern most part, there are more rolling hills as the mountains build. The most well known valley as you enter is Nagy-völgy, also known as the Great Valley.
This vineyard-studded landscape will give you a warm welcome as you make your way to the central section of the Mátra mountains. As you ascend, you will follow the ridge to the plateau of Mátrabérc. In the east, you will experience the jagged peaks ranging from two thousand to three thousand feet. The most well known of these being Saskő, or Eagle Cliff. These eastern climbs will give you the fullest sense of the history, geography, and life of these young volcanic cliffs.
To the north, you will find Mátralába, affectionately known as Mátra’s feet. These foothills are much smaller, unique volcanic cones whose rich soil have been used for centuries for crops and other agricultural pursuits. Amidst the vineyards, rolling farmland, and unique volcanic features, this mountain range boasts one of the only place to ski in Hungary: the previously mentioned Kékestető peak. The lookout tower on top has a small bar and a few surrounding shops and eateries, so make sure to plan your day if these don’t pique your interest.
To hike Kékestető peak, you can start from a myriad of towns depending on the distance you would like to do. Each of these towns is followed by the mileage round trip. Kékestető summit from Mátraháza (3.2 miles), Mátrafüred or Mátrafüred-Sástó camping (6.8 miles), Parádóhuta (7.5 miles), Parádsasvár (8.7 miles), or Markaz (14.3 miles). The final suggested route, from Markaz, is truly the most challenging and stunning. You will start by wrapping around Markazi-tó Lake, through the village center, and past the Markaz Castle which crumbled during the Ottoman-Turkish raid of 1552. Continuing up the trail, you will summit Disznó-kő at 2411 feet. The next 1.8 miles will take your breathe away as you criss cross among jagged cliffs and steep ravines. Make sure to take a breather at Sas-kő to look back and take in the sights.
The view from both Sas-kő and the Kékestető summit overlooks the hundreds of acres of beech forests, small towns, lakes, and vineyards. If this view captivates you and entices you towards more adventure, check out the alternate route down the mountain. Head southeast towards the ‘small cliff’ Kis-kő, which is in fact not small at all. Make sure to have sturdy shoes with solid traction, as well as hiking poles to preserve your knees and add stability. The descend into the Vár-völgy valley from here is beautiful but slightly treacherous. It is not well marked, but following the slight trail you will make your way down to the stream centered in the valley, giving the most picturesque cap to your adventure.
As with any outdoor excursion, this stunning land has only been preserved and stayed secluded because people have stayed on the path and respected the surrounding nature. So, if the Mátra mountains have called to you, don’t ignore it. Follow the weaving trails up to the summits and enjoy the stellar complexity of this young volcanic range.
Lauren is a trekbible writer and story maker from Pine Valley, California. She and her husband work in the recreation department at a camp. In their free time, they enjoy mountain biking, building out their Sprinter van, and adventuring with their new puppy, Shadow.
The Camino de Santiago, otherwise known as the Way of St James, is a series of pilgrim routes leading to his shrine at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwest Spain. These walks, which traditionally ran from one’s home to Santiago, were once embarked on as a sign of penance. Today, they are a part of a popular network of walking holidays, and are walked by the faithful and skeptics alike.
The Best Route of the Camino de Santiago
As mentioned, there are numerous routes to Compostela. The most popular one is the Camino Frances, or the French Way. It starts at St. Jean Pied de Port in France, and passes through cities like Pamplona and Leon and all through the gorgeous countryside to your destination. Your way will clearly be marked by the yellow arrows and the traditional scallop shells, the symbol of the Camino.
The French Way is the busiest and most frequented route, probably because of the clearly marked routes, the convenient infrastructure which makes it easily navigable, and the sense of safety along the path. It is approximately 780 kilometers long, which translates to about a month’s walking distance, which is quite a long time, especially for most of us who only get two weeks off work at a time. You can of course choose to walk only a part, or even just the final leg, and reach Santiago in less than a week.
It is advisable to keep your backpack light – naturally. The French Way is kind to backpackers, because it runs through enough towns to make occasional restocking and shopping easily accessible.
Although these paths were originally made for walking, you also have the option of cycling some of them. This may not be what you are looking for, but be aware that someone might whizz by you on a bike on some of them.
Shelter is easy to find and is often quite affordable. Along the paths, there are a number of hostels or albergues, specifically designed for pilgrims. Some of the public hostels are reserved strictly for pilgrims, so you have to have a pilgrim passport. You should have one even if you don’t plan on spending a night here, as a way of identification.
The mountainous regions and vast countryside offer a marvelous view and a meditative background. Most people make the pilgrimage in spring because the weather allows for leisurely, long and less risky walks. The view is at its best at this time as well, with the sounds of birds in synchrony with the environment, to make the walk the meditative experience it is meant to be. At the beginning of spring, there is a considerable number of pilgrims on the routes and the hostels are al open.
How about the Weather?
The weather gets better as spring arrives and consequently, the number of pilgrims increases. This means that the routes are more populated and that you need to book your evening’s resting point in advance, or get an agency to do this for you. Even private albergues that allow stays without a reservation will only allow check-ins before 4pm.
It is important to consider the seasons in Spain when planning the pilgrimage: too much heat or rain could be inconvenient and hinder your walking. The rainy season could also make the routes too muddy. The end of spring and the beginning of summer are the most popular times for pilgrimages, as mentioned.
For those who wish to embark on a true adventure, winter is the time to visit. During winter, the routes are devoid of nearly all humanity. The snow makes for quite a challenge, and getting lost is an option – so don’t do it if you are not a very experienced outdoorsman.
This however, means that a pilgrim seeking solace or seeking a challenge will certainly find one. The walk in winter takes more preparation, because not all albergues are open, so one has to find out which are and schedule their walk so as to avoid unexpectedly long distances in the cold. A pilgrimage in winter, if well planned, can be a perfect reflection experience.
The Camino de Santiago Residents
The people along these routes are mainly either pilgrims or volunteers who have found a way of giving back to the Camino through work, mainly in the albergues.
It is therefore prudent to be polite and follow house rules, such as the deadlines for admission time, which are normally around ten to eleven, and wake up time, which varies from 6 to 7 in the morning. Admission is restricted to a night unless there is a medical issue at hand, which is normally something mild, like sore feet.
Walking the Camino, any Camino, can be an amazing experience – all you need to do is settle on a route, get a backpack, prepare your body, and head out on the road!
The Umdoni Wildlife Project is based in the beautiful South Coast area of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. The project is run in partnership with Wildlife Rangers, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving wildlife in Africa. We are working to save some of the wildlife reserves and last remaining natural coastal forest in the South Coast area.
Wildlife conservation projects like these are vital for protecting the local wildlife. At the Umdoni Wildlife Project we focus on saving the little guy. The wildlife that does not get the media attention and usually gets ignored by international charities but are essential to having a healthy biodiversity in Africa.
Many wildlife parks and reserves in Africa are underfunded and under-resourced, without projects like this and the support of volunteers, these wildlife areas won’t exist in the future. By volunteering you are having a direct impact and saving our wildlife… Appply Now
The range of the wildlife we monitor include zebra, blue wildebeest, eland, giraffes, Nyala, leopard, bushbuck, blesbok, oribi, reedbuck, blue and grey duiker, Natal Red duiker, black-backed jackal, samango monkeys, vervet monkeys, rock hyrax, tree hyrax, caracal, slender mongoose, white tailed mongoose, Egyptian mongoose, banded mongoose and porcupine.
All reptile and ampiphian life.The abundant birdlife (over 300 confirmed species) includes a number of spectacular raptors like the Crowned (Africa’s most powerful) and Martial eagle(Africa largest) which nest in the reserves. We also monitor vulture populations in the Oribi Gorge area. There is also an interesting variety of indigenous flora that we monitor for the reserves.
Umdoni Wildlife Project offers a truly authentic learning experience for people who want to make a difference in wildlife preservation and experience the habitat and culture firsthand. Volunteers will help us monitor between 4 to 7 parks, each ranging in size. As part of this holistic African experience, volunteers will:
a) Daily lessons on wildlife conservation and preservation in Africa.
b) Learn about Africa’s wildlife and how to identify them.
C) Learn the basics of wildlife tracking and other bush skills.
c) Daily walks on hiking and bush trails. Repairing if needed.
d) Monitor the movement of wildlife in the reserve.
e) The setting up of camera traps on varies game paths on the reserves.
f) Assist with the processing of camera trap footage.
g) Identify and monitor targeted species with in the parks.
h) Monitor the numbers, health condition and movement of these animals.
i) Collect and analyze data with the goal of maintaining the balance and general health of the park ecosystem.
j) Contribute towards anti-poaching to protect endangered species.
k) Help with conservation work on the park which includes things like erosion control, road maintenance, bush clearing, alien plant removal, fence repair and removal, game capture (when requested by the park manager)
Volunteers will also have the opportunity to spend time out of the parks and engage in other adventure activities. These type of activities include:
1) White water rafting
2) Shark-cage diving
3) Surfing lessons
4) Game drives
7) Cultural tour and see bushman paintings
*Please note that activities available to volunteers may depend on the time of the year.
Field Conditions for volunteers
Blue Bay Lodge is the main base for the project and feels like staying in a large tree house. This beautiful property is situated in the lovely forested coastal suburb in Freeland Park. Just a 10 minute walk away from some of the best beaches on the South Coast. There is usually plenty of wildlife visiting the gardens, from Vervet monkeys, Purple crested louries and Banded mongoose. There is enough space for 6 volunteers at a time. There is also a swimming pool. The accommodation is very comfortable and safe, just minutes away from hospitals and shops. Its a great place to come and chill out after a long day out in the bush but still close enough to get to all the activities the South Coast has to offer.
We offer meals 3 times a day. The meals are typically South African and there is a fair amount of braais to look forward two. If you have a particular diet we are happy to accommodate you. We can easily cook vegetarian food, however we can not accommodate vegans at this time due to the added cost of providing such meals.
Umdoni Wildlife Project accepts volunteers of 18+ years of age. Volunteers under 18 years old are only considered when accompanied by a parent/guardian. There isn’t a maximum age limit, though a reasonable fitness level is necessary. Families are welcome!
1 Week : US$1250 2 Weeks : US$1750
Volunteer contributions cover meals, accommodation, most activities and project donation. Flights, travel/medical insurance, internet/phone services are NOT included. The only additional spending money required will be for personal purchases, social excursions away from Umdoni, and pre/post project travel.
The project is run all year round. Please note we can only accept 6 volunteers at a time. The sooner you apply, the better your chances of securing your placement!
Thailand will always be one my favorite travel destinations, and I’m certainly not alone in thinking this. In fact, every year literally millions of people from all over the world choose Thailand as a place to spend their vacations.
And it’s hard to blame them. The country has everything that any traveler could ever want. There are, of course, the world-class beaches and inviting turquoise waters. But there are also lush jungles, exotic varieties of plants and animals, bustling cities, and mountainous landscapes.
Besides the scenery Thailand also has some of the happiest, most friendly people you could ever hope to meet, among the most delicious food on the planet, and an extremely low cost of living.
While all of these factors justify the country’s enduring popularity with travelers, the fact that Thailand is so blessed has arguably had a negative impact on some areas.
On the one hand, it’s great that so many tourists flock to Thailand, and it has certainly helped to lift much of the country out of economic difficulties. However, the travel and tourism industry tends to focus the majority of its marketing efforts on a few specific areas, meaning they have inevitably become a little overrun by tourists, especially in high season.
For me, and I imagine for many travelers, overcrowding is capable of ruining trips and taking away drastically from the authenticity of a destination.
So, when I was recently planning a 2 month trip backpacking around Thailand, I decided to make avoiding the crowds a priority. My other main priority was that I wanted do something a bit different. I’ve traveled a lot over the years, and I fancied a change from the same old travel formula. On top of this, I enjoy helping people and like to think of myself as an empathic person.
So I figured that the best way to satisfy all of these preferences would be to spend 6 weeks – the majority of my trip – working as a volunteer in Thailand.
Thailand might be famous as a tourist destination, but the continuing and endemic poverty throughout the country should not be overlooked. This makes it a very rewarding place for volunteers to work.
Here are some of the ways that volunteering helped me to experience the real Thailand, and why it was probably my best trip to date.
It got me off the tourist trail
Besides the fact that I got to help a great cause of my choice, volunteering also conveniently got me out of the tourist hotspots and into the real Thailand. My project was based in the Trat province of the country, which is a hugely overlooked region in the northeast of the country.
It was so relaxing being away from the crowds, exploring the beautiful region at my own pace and without feeling like just another faceless tourist.
I got to make a tangible difference
There are endless projects to pick from, with some organizations doing more good than others, and catering to different budgets. This is why it’s important to do your research and choose a good organization if you’re considering a stint as a volunteer.
Due to my love of computers and the fact I enjoy working with kids, I chose to teach computer and IT skills to schoolchildren. It was a brilliant experience, and most importantly I could see the positive impact of my work right in front of me.
Seeing the effects of your hard work is what makes it worth it, and for me it was the best part of the trip.
I made friends with amazing people
By working as a volunteer in a community, you quickly become a recognizable face around town. People know that you are there to help, and so you’re more readily welcomed into the community than you would be as a normal tourist.
This acceptance makes it far easier to chat to locals, and I ended up making all sorts of friends with the local Thais. As a computer teacher, I also developed a great relationships with the kids in my classes, and it was excellent to have an insight into their ways of life. I even managed to pick up some of the language.
If you want to experience another side of Thailand, volunteer
Volunteering in Thailand was probably the best traveling experience of my life, and certainly the most unique.
I can’t think of a better way to see beyond the tourist-oriented face of a country and experience what life there is really like, all while helping a good cause, so I would recommend it to anybody.
About the Author
Nicoleta is the resident content blogger for uVolunteer. Nicoleta is an avid linguist, speaks fluent English, Chinese, French, Spanish and native Romanian. She spent a decade working in China in the education sector and working with major international development institutions and currently lives in Vancouver, Canada. She is passionate about volunteering, sustainable travel and has a soft spot for ethnic food.
Connect with her on Instagram – Twitter
After a year and a half of one bag travel, I caught the backpack bug—big time. So much so that I started my own website, packhacker.com, where my team and I review backpacks and other gear with a focus on one bag urban travel.
Since starting Pack Hacker, I’ve reviewed a handful of backpacks with a bunch more in the works. I’ve learned a thing or two about backpacks, and although I’ve gotten my hands on the majority of one bag travel packs out there I have yet to find the “perfect pack.” In fact, I’m not sure it even exists…
With that said, here are a few of the biggest backpack takeaways I’ve found along the way.
If there’s one thing that has made an impression on me while testing all these backpacks, it’s the zippers. Zippers are the one area that will absolutely make or break a pack—a broken zipper is the worst thing that can happen to a bag when you’re out traveling. Just one broken zip can make your bag totally useless—and good luck getting that thing fixed when you’ve got a language barrier to deal with!
I love YKK zippers—they’re trusted and reliable—and I get particularly excited when I see a fat #10 YKK RC on a bag. Especially when it comes to clamshell packs, the bigger zipper the better—you do not want a broken zipper on that main clamshell compartment.
The Waterproofing Misnomer
Another big takeaway I’ve gotten from looking at product descriptions all over the web and testing out bags myself is this confusion around the whole “weatherproof” and “waterproof” verbiage. Just because a bag has waterproof materials does not mean it’s waterproof!
I’ve noticed a lot of manufacturers will tout their waterproof materials and use confusing language that leads people to believe their packs are waterproof. Outside of legitimate dry-bags made for boating, the vast majority of packs are not waterproof (AKA – submersible). If just one component is not completely waterproof, guess what? The bag isn’t waterproof.
Weatherproof or water-resistant is a much better term. Most bags that are “made of waterproof materials” will get you through a stroll in the rain with no problems. Throw a rain cover on and you’ll be able to get through just about anything. And if you’re snorkeling, don’t bring your backpack!
Organization is a Double-Edged Sword
I’ve lived the “digital nomad” lifestyle for a while now and found that internal organization can be a tricky subject. While I do like having pockets and compartments to organize all my cables and dongles, too much organization can really cut into pack capacity. Once you start throwing zippers and pockets into every nook and cranny, it can make the bag really inefficient.
Personally, I like a nice big clamshell pocket to hold the majority of my stuff and then a smaller pocket that offers some extra organization. Throw some packing cubes in the clamshell and you end up with the best of both worlds.
And along with organization, the actual shape of the pack is super important as well. While not the most aesthetically pleasing, a rectangular pack is generally going to offer more space than a rounded one.
What Does Liter Size Really Mean?
I’d love to get a bunch of backpack gurus in a room to hash out this liter debate. The fact of the matter is that liter size can vary from brand to brand due to the shape of the pack, internal padding, and configuration of internal pockets. I’ve tested out 30L packs that seemed roomier than 35L (or even 40L!) packs from other brands, and vice versa.
Unless you can get your hands on the pack itself, it’s hard to say how accurate the given capacity size is. This is one of the reasons why I started Pack Hacker! These little nuances can be super confusing when you’re just getting into this stuff, so we try to explain these things in simple terms with our reviews.
There’s No “Perfect Pack”
A lot of people ask me point-blank, “what’s the best backpack I can buy?” and I have to resist the urge to roll my eyes. But to be fair, when I first got into travel I was on a quest to find the perfect pack, too.
After all the packs I’ve looked at I am fairly confident there is no “perfect pack,” and there certainly isn’t a “one size fits all” pack. It all comes down to what you want to do with it and what your personal preferences are. If you’re a photographer, you’re going to want a lot of different features than what a digital nomad or an ultralight traveler is looking for. And even once you nail down what kind of travel you’re into, there are a ton of personal features that are entirely up to you.
This “perfect pack” question was actually the spark that got us to write our guide on How to Choose the Best Travel Backpack. If you’re going to do any long term one bag travel, it’s super important to find a bag that will be durable and functional—but you also need to find a bag that you actually like.
Aesthetics do matter, and you’re not going to be psyched about traveling the world with a pack that you can’t stand the look of. We really like clean minimalist packs over at Pack Hacker, but to each their own!
Backpacks Are Awesome
I guess it goes without saying, but I really do think one bag travel is the way to go. No checked bags, no roller luggage, no nonsense. There’s something so freeing about having all your belongings in one pack that you can throw on your back at a moment’s notice.
I didn’t really think about bags too much until I decided to live out of one. I’ve always been into design features from my work, but backpacks weren’t really on my radar. Then one day I decided to quit my job, get rid of almost all my belongings, and pack what was left of my NYC apartment into one bag (the GORUCK GR2, if you’re curious). I wasn’t sure if I could manage to live out of one bag, but I took the plunge and hit the airport.
About the Author
Tom Wahlin took his digital design and creative direction career on the road in May of 2015. He sold nearly all of his belongings, packing up his New York City life into a 40L backpack. As of October 2017, he’s been living a fully nomadic lifestyle traveling to a new country every couple of weeks.
The process of deciding what to pack became more laborious than the travel plans themselves. Tom became obsessed with figuring out what to pack for long-term travel and how to make it all fit in one piece of carry-on luggage. He shared his learnings in the Medium article, “Everything You Need to Travel The World in One Backpack” and found that he wasn’t alone. The article was a hit, and the idea for Pack Hacker was born.
Now, Tom leverages his design background from tech companies like Apple, The Infatuation, and space150 to find minimalist gear that will maximize your travel experience.
These sonnets were composed on a three-week hiking and camping trip with my best friend along the Kungsleden in Swedish Lapland: a notoriously wet, but remarkably beautiful and desolate place.The Kungsleden is a 440km (270mi) hiking trail that starts from Abisko Station, a tourist town in the Arctic Circle with a dog sled lane at the airport and a hotel made of ice in the winter. The path, if hiked all the way through, takes you all the way down to Hemavan, a sleepy town in the center of the country, where all the buildings are painted the same barn-red color and whose biggest tourist attraction is a ski lift.There are everyman’s laws along the trail, which allow you to camp anywhere that is considered reasonably suitable.
We took full advantage of this and managed to pitch our tents every night of the entire hike. Otherwise, if you’re feeling like a proper bed, there are huts on most days where you can stay along the trail. Every morning I would fill my cup of porridge with fresh blueberries or, if we were lucky, a few cloud berries as well. It’s possible to buy some small odds and ends for eating in the occasional huts, and there are even a couple of small towns that will sell you supplies if you need it. Since we undertook this trip at the end of August and finished in the middle of September, we were just a bit too early to see the northern lights. Plus, the sun was still dangling at the horizon around 2:00 or 3:00 A.M. most mornings.
The sonnets themselves more or less represent the trajectory of the trip–as each poem covers a “leg”, as it were. There are 12 sonnets for our 19 days on the trail. They not only deal with the things that you will see and encounter along the way– reindeer migrations, lake crossings in a rowboat, and frost in the morning on your sleeping bags–but they also cover some of the classical feelings that one experiences in nature. The joy of solitude, as well as the helplessness of it. The simultaneous disdain and desire of rejoining civilization. All of the paradoxes that one encounters in a long hike. They start at the beginning, at Abisko Station, and end in Hemavan, just like the hike did. But, as is tradition with all crown sonnets, the last line of the last sonnet must echo the first line of the first sonnet. And thus, I invite you to let the circular nature of these poems reflect those paradoxes, namely, how as soon as one hike is over, we are ready for the next one to begin.
Crowns for the Kungsleden
Thinking back now to when it first began
a bell siren in my mind is ringing
effusively, that with some acumen
may be perceived, however clinically,
as what some may refer to as a case
of first day enthusiasm—A thing
which we culpably like to self-efface
on a day-to-day basis. What’s coming
ahead can seem almost impossible
to compare with that which you left behind.
Anything which shines with unthinkable
brilliance such as this must be refined
and guarded as gold, we say to ourselves;
for how long will we listen to the bells?
For how long will we listen to the bells
of Abisko station blowing across
all the storm-staked tents and the open fjells,
a sonic compass for those feeling lost
or what may as well be a primal shout
in placid silence to WAKE THE HELL UP
if you haven’t already. How about
some small insurrection to develop
this feeling like the whole world’s headed
in the same direction? How many times
must we say ‘hey’ with no predilected
goodbyes? There are certain times that I find
them insufferable and others when
they roll off of me like a gust of wind.
They roll off of me like a gust of wind,
all these decidedly American
micro-interactions, void of any
hidden meaning, meaning nothing less than
simple pleasantries, a ripple upon
my tent that comes and goes in an instant.
The short rain shower that is always gone
just before you really begin to quit
thinking in amelioratives, drinking
your ritual morning cup of coffee–
that primal feeling of heavy sinking
in fully that this is only day three
and you have got to stop yourself and say
it’s too early to be feeling this way.
It’s too early to be feeling this way
I think as I am cooking a warm bowl
of oatmeal in my vestibule. The lake
shimmers with morning sunlight and a whole
cup of fresh blueberries and powdered milk
is stirred in. The first bite is promptly when
the feeling starts to return, and the guilt
you felt melts away like frost rimes frozen
to your sleeping bag. The blood now coarses
through your canals and you think suddenly
it feels great to have to feel these forces
shake you awake, and moreso feel strangely
alright with doing it today again–
although you used to loathe repetition.
Although you used to loathe repetition
you find that out here it’s quite becoming.
A swimsuit bleached from the sweat and friction
and varied viscous liquids running
down your legs, a wicking shirt that peels off
like bark after every day, and socks
that smell like what your grandpa used to cough
up at night with the light off and door locked
in the bathroom sink are your uniform,
and you wear them just as religiously
as a habit. Nothing is quite as warm
as the first steps of the day, fresh laundry
or the feeling of stumbling upon
perfect campsites after a day so long.
Perfect campsites after a day so long
as this make you want to shed your old skin
and start a fire with an ommegang
while reciting what little modicum
of poetry you can remember. Jack
Kerouac only had his confusion
to share, and I, alone with my rucksack
haven’t got much more: foregone conclusions
that were reached in the rain or a moment
of lucidity in a sleeping bag
between twenty minutes of penitent
sleep before waking up shivering bad,
myriad Snickers wrappers, stale ramen
in a ziploc bag. The rest is remnants.
In a ziploc bag, the rest is remnants
if it doesn’t fit. You’re free to leave it
in a wooden box like a Christmas dress
and pray for the lightness to elicit
new outlooks on the present, or you can
carry two kilos of cold Kraft Singles
and have yourself a cheese feast by Germans
with whom you frequently intermingle
that are always happy to share their fair
rations of knäckebröd, mushroom butter,
cheese in a tube, muesli and do I dare
try the caviar paste? Place the other
apprehensions aside with everything
you know that you shouldn’t be carrying.
You know that you shouldn’t be carrying
half of what you’ve got, filled with fallacies
like who knows when books on sheep dairying,
mycology, and Sami words could be
absolutely indispensable. Name
your backpack Esmeralda ’cause it feels
wholly foreign on your shoulders and came
from Spain at some point, and now time’s appeals
at understanding the aches, the conscience
and the reason why anyone would come
here, there, or anywhere where the prescience
precludes the puerile act of having fun
say diversion is necessary for
climbing a mountain with no metaphor.
Climbing a mountain with no metaphor
is insane, a tireless exercise
in the poetry of the mundane. Floor
boards ache with age in cabins patronized
to escape arctic winds at the summit,
the brigading rain clouds come to award
imaginary prizes for pliant
participation. Everyone is bored
after an hour, but hours remain
of ceaseless rain. The water talks without
stopping, as Neruda would say. It pains
me to say that I suppose we’re about
to stay for the night, always asking why
it’s either we keep moving or stay dry.
It’s either we keep moving or stay dry.
And though it be early yet, we all hear
the beckon of the masonry stove, cries
of torrid rain on tin roofs. It appears
we are going nowhere and we have to
tell ourselves it’s okay for now; unload
all of our wet socks and bad attitudes,
our heads fogged like forgotten mountain roads.
We will soon find out if our collective
exhaustion is enough to put us in
our sleeping bags, the weather invective
outside. But inside we dwell on as if
we are protected, like morning will grant
the freedom both to and from the extant.
The freedom both to and from the extant
is both a strength and flaw that drives one
from a warm floor out into a piquant
mist, to slip wrinkled feet that were once sponged
in the stagnant water of a row boat
puddle back into socks soaked with frozen
mud and myred shoes that wait by floating
trash in a plastic bag. There are a dozen
different ways to say this is not how
I thought any of this would be. But still
as you wait to drift across the lake, bow
abreast of mountains that do as they will;
bending and receding, passing slowly by,
you never stop to gaze or question why.
You never stop to gaze or question why
after enough days have passed. What was once
extraordinary now feels more like
the same. And the routine and happenstance
that were appraised as precious have purloined
the disappearing thought of everything
being surreal. It’s strange to have joined
yourself now in thinking about thinking
thoughts of a day that would never arrive,
yet here it is, Hemavan, and you’re in-
credulous. There’s nothing left to reprise.
And you find it so strange here at the end,
how you only recall happiness when
thinking back now to when it first began.
Taylor Bell is a poet and author from Fort Worth, Texas and currently living in Melbourne, Australia. He only has three cards in his wallet: a backcountry hut pass, a State Library membership, and a replacement bank card. The rest all keep falling out. His writing has appeared in Sixfold Magazine, The Sagebrush Review, The Shorthorn, At Home Abroad, and other journals. He is the co-author of the self-published chapbook ‘Picnic Table Sleeping’ and a forthcoming chapbook ‘The Lost List of Good Intentions’
Toyota Tacomas Climbing Morrison Jeep Trail in Wyoming w/ Optima Batteries | 4K Video by Red Olive - YouTube
Red Olive – Toyota Tacomas Climbing Morrison Jeep Trail in Wyoming w/ Optima Batteries
In the late fall of 2016, Sean, Matt, Adam, Tyler, and I left Cody, Wyoming early in the morning. We were on our way to the Morrison Jeep Trail, a narrow, winding path that stretches from Wyoming river valleys to the mountains of Montana. We made our way along the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River, rolling out in two modified overland trucks. Sean, Matt, and Adam were in Sean’s lifted Toyota Tacoma with a winch, armor, lockers, and 35-inch tires. Tyler and I in his lifted Tacoma with 37-inch tires, a snorkel and rear locker.
Hours later, we were deep in the wilderness. To the west were the massive forests of Yellowstone National Park and the Shoshone National Forest, where Yellowstone relocates their problem grizzly bears. The trail is only open for a few months. Even during the summer, snow and mud are regular obstacles on the Morrison Jeep Trail. The first September snow storm was rolling in just a day behind us, and we were most likely the last travelers of the year. We were cutting it close — but where’s the fun in playing it safe?
I’d packed light, carrying only my Sony a7sII, a DJI Phantom drone, and some time-lapse equipment. When you’re faced with possible snow storms, grizzly encounters, or stuck trucks, run-and-gun is the way to shoot.
We climbed out of the river valley — past sagebrush and juniper — into the higher alpine environment. Halfway up the switchbacks, Tyler’s truck lost its air line, rendering his rear locker unusable. This meant he’d have to give it more throttle and less caution to make it up the steep, scrambling climbs. The trucks clawed their way up the rocky, muddy trail. I jumped out periodically to document the journey. We slowly made the 2000-foot climb, sometimes three-wheeling and other times using Maxtrax to free the trucks when they became stuck.
Finally on top, the view was breathtaking. The setting sun illuminated the gorgeous river valley below us as we geared up for the cold night ahead. We were still exposed, but we knew that a forest lay ahead — a shelter from the howling winds. As we pressed deep into the dark pine forest, we found a suitable campsite, safe from the wind but prime grizzly territory. We parked in a meadow, set up the rooftop tents, and fired up the grill.
As the ground crackled and froze underneath our feet, we talked around the campfire and got ready for bed. It had been an epic day —we were thankful to have seen a wilderness that few had ever seen.
I had been to the Grand Canyon before. It was a family vacation and that meant little time exploring this vast crevice. As my wife and our kids looked across the reds, yellows, tans, and browns of the Grand Canyon, I told myself I wanted to come back and do more than look. I wanted to hike.
Ten years later, that chance came when I connected with a high school friend named Cathy. She is a special person with a quiet personality and a love for the canyon like none other. Those who know her recognize her not only as a school teacher but also as a canyon teacher. Friends blurt out questions about the canyon – how deep is it, how far across is it, how much food do I need for a particular hike, and she always answers with a smile, sometimes answering the same question for the second or third time to the same person. She became my “go to” person. Could I make it? Was it realistic? Would you take me along on your next hike? She was always positive and upbeat and after nine months of planning, my dream on the rim ten years before was no longer a dream.
After politely being turned down by my wife, the hike was offered to our daughter Cherry, and she offered it to her friend Katie. Both are marathoners and have spent countless hours running and staying in shape. Cathy also put out the call to any possible hikers to which four accepted. One was Danny, now 74, who knows the Grand Canyon like most know their backyard. Kathy, in her 50’s, who is a close friend to Cathy, also walks a lot and had been on hikes before. Then there was the married couple, Jim and Cindy, both in their mid fifties, who also had gone on previous hikes with Cathy. Cathy said Cindy had muscular degeneration which had caused her eyesight to deteriorate but not enough to make hiking impossible.
I had all the information I needed to give me confidence that I not only could keep up with this crew, but I may also avoid dragging along last. I found no time for training due to farm work, and as the final day for the hike arrived, while I did break in my hiking shoes around the farm, I had not even put on the backpack other than on the day I bought it.
During the ride to the rim on the shuttle bus, the backpack distracted me. It was bungle some. It was awkward. It was heavy. What could I have left home that would have made it lighter? What about less food, water, the tent, T-shirts? My answer was no to all of them and I would simply have to brace myself for it and do my best to keep up with my hike mates for the next four days.
After the traditional picture, we started down the trail into the Canyon. The weight of the pack seemed to disappear, overcome by the absolute breathtaking cliffs and valleys we witnessed. The views seemed to pull on my eyes making me wonder if it was all real. Perspective and distance were a challenge as one could now see depths of thousands of feet when a normal cliff may only be fifty or one hundred back home. Our trail loomed out in the distance, zigzagging back and forth across the canyon wall until it would meander out of sight.
The further we descended from the rim, the quieter it became, and the reality sank in that we were some of the select few descending into the Canyon compared to the thousands and thousands who look across it from behind the safety of a railing on a paved trail on the rim. Their photos of it are all basically the same, changed only by the faces in the foreground or the angle of the sun. On the contrary, each step down gave us a new view and a new angle where one could take a new picture that would leave the viewer in awe.
As each descending hour went by, we saw the pack mules climbing dutifully toward us. One group of mules with their packs carried trash from Phantom Ranch and mail postmarked from the same. The other string of mules carried tourists who had paid a hefty sum to ride to the bottom of the Canyon and out again. We stepped to the side of the trail and waited for them to pass and I felt a strange sympathy for the people. Sure, they didn’t feel the weight of the backpack as we did on our shoulders or the sweat now dampening our shirts, but they were missing out on every step and sight and the quiet that we were taking in.
It took several hours of descending before I became aware of the intermittent yet constant low voice of Jim. “Cactus on the left, large step down, stay close to the wall on your right,” – all subtle directions to his wife Cindy following closely behind him. As she watched his steps with what vision that she had, she put it together with the verbal guidance. Using her hiking sticks as a spider would use his antennae, she was hiking. The more I took notice of this, the more I marveled. I had been so focused on my own unpreparedness, I had not been aware of this little team within a team making their way on a forty mile hike.
Later I would learn she had been legally blind since her twenties. She had only peripheral vision. When I asked her what she could see when she looked at me, she said that I didn’t have a head and that she would not know me if she saw me on the street but would recognize my voice or silhouette. She had become involved in hiking after she had climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with a group of other hikers who had lost their eyesight. I knew Kilimanjaro was a mountain, somewhere, and once again I was amazed. I was amazed not only with her but also with Jim. He knew exactly how much to help her without smothering her with instruction.
By the afternoon of the first day, the Canyon seemed to slowly swallow us. The walls that we had begun the day looking into, now looked like giant skyscrapers around us. But we were far from the bottom. We would not see the river that day, and as the sun set, we slowly arrived at the first campsite.
We could all feel the effects of the first day of the hike, including the veteran, Danny. This was nothing new for Danny who had done his first hike when he was 48. Now retired from an engineering career, he was nearing 2,000 miles hiking in the Grand Canyon. He had hiked nearly every trail and many of them several times. His stories and experience were valuable for us, and I needed every suggestion he gave. He had planned every meal for himself every day and carried only enough water to match the distance of that day’s hike. While the rest of us brought along water purification of some sort, Danny would drink directly from the creeks and streams available. He decided to forgo a tent on this hike and slept under the stars. Danny was indeed a team player and was always concerned for the welfare and needs of others.
When the first hints of daylight started to silhouette the canyon walls around us, we were nearly ready to leave. This would be a huge day of hiking and we needed to take advantage of every minute of the short October days. The trail was once again hilly with views of the canyon walls and once in awhile we got a glimpse of the Colorado River, still a 1,000 feet or more deeper than the trail. It looked like a small creek but we knew that was only because of our distance from it.
The morning before we were all fresh and clean, but today was different. We could all physically feel the effects of the first day. There were no showers, but no one complained. The mood was positive and anxious.
I avoided taking the lead simply because I was often stopping to absorb everything and also because I didn’t know the trail. Sometimes after taking a break we would switch leaders. When the other Kathy led, she was unstoppable and persistent. She was a hiking machine. She carried a front pouch with two water bottles at her reach. She disliked the walking sticks and seemed perfectly balanced with the pack on her back. She would hold onto her shoulder straps to keep her hands from swelling at her sides. When we took a break, I asked her if she walked at home. Of course she did – eighteen miles a week. She had wanted to go on Cathy’s last hike but couldn’t because she had donated a kidney to her stepdaughter. She nonchalantly told her story of the process and that she didn’t need two of them anyway. She was a ball of fire, and I could tell she would do anything for anyone in need.
By late afternoon we had reached our second camp and we knew we were more secluded. We had seen only a handful of other hikers all day, and the trail was much smaller with no mules. The path into the campsite was nearly vertical, and I could picture myself somersaulting into it. It was a canyon within the Canyon with a running stream that led to the river. We dropped our packs and picked our spots for our tents. After fumbling through my first night camping, I was catching on. I was able to put the tent up, purify water, and become somewhat organized for the next day. We all emptied our packs and stored our food in separate “varmint proof” bags. This all had to be hung from the small trees in the camp. It wasn’t long though, and the tree climbing mice were checking out Cherry and Katie’s packs. The mice were no match for the two girls and after moving their packs by flashlight to new trees, they managed to fool the mice for the night.
We were all stirring before sunrise and after a quick cup of coffee and a bite to eat, we grabbed a water bottle, and set out down the stream to see the Colorado River. It was as if we were in a movie set with high walls on either side as we continued our way down the channel. There was no trail, only the vertical rock on each side to direct us to the river. While we climbed over rocks and zigzagged back and forth across the little stream, we could hear the roar become stronger, and when the walls around us fell away to the high granite walls above the Colorado, the air became cooler. What looked from above to be a small, lazy river was a cold and mighty powerful force racing by us. Though we couldn’t hear each other, we all had smiles as we shared the atmosphere. What a great feeling it was with no packs as we sat on rocks and took it all in. We had reached the bottom.
Our visit to the river was brief since we had another sizable day of hiking to get to our next camp. Cathy had promised that I would love that day’s hike. She did not disappoint. Climbing the rocky slope out of the other side of our camp, the views backward became more spectacular. The trail was tough at first and then flattened out and became easier. Mile after mile went by until we spotted our next campsite – a mere slit in the valley still miles away. As we approached it, the slit became wider until walking up on it, it became another canyon in the Canyon much like the one the night before. Once again we had clear creek water running next to our camp and we couldn’t resist the chance to at least cool our feet.
We knew this break was short and we were off once again without our packs to explore this creek down to where it entered the Colorado. As we started down the mile and a half trek, we witnessed the unbelievable power of water. The walls towered hundreds of feet above us and at the base were polished by the force of water rushing past. Massive rocks the size of a house lie in the middle of the channel after falling from the sheer cliff above forcing the small creek to go around. Some places a huge boulder might lie in the creek channel damming up smaller rocks and stones. This in turn would create a waterfall adding to the drama. We made our way towards the river crossing the little creek time after time trying to pick the easiest route.
As we neared the Colorado, once again we heard the roar. This time it was louder. The closer we came up to it, we could see why. The rapids were more violent and the boulders bigger. Some were as large as Volkswagens brought down the small creek by spring floods or rains. From above, the banks of the Colorado looked like soft dirt piled up on each side, but from our close vantage point it was plain to see they were granite. They were not smooth polished granite but jagged black and green granite which matched the strength and power of the river below it. I took it all in knowing I might never be back again.
When we returned to our camp I couldn’t help but notice how Cherry and Katie had adjusted. Sure they were the youngest and not known to be the complaining type, but weren’t they supposed to be dissatisfied with something? How about no phone service or no set meal times or the fact that we were now going on the fourth day with no showers? Isn’t that what young people normally do? Maybe it was the “grand” surroundings that were with us twenty-four hours a day or maybe it was just the fact that the others were always positive and always encouraging. At times you could hear the two of them laughing as if they were enjoying their best times ever. As a dad there are always the “someday I would like to” moments with their kids. I realized I was living a “someday I would like to” dream with a daughter.
When we crawled out of our sleeping bags the next morning, we were all used to our routine. Boil water for coffee, pull on your same dirty pants, start stuffing the sleeping bag, tent, pad, food, clothes and water back into the backpack. It wasn’t long before we were packed up and back on the trail. Today would be different as nearly every step would be an incline. Looking to the southeast I could see our goal nearly a mile vertical. It would be at least an eight mile hike by the time we reached the top.
The trail at first was a slow incline but it eventually became steeper and harder. At times small rock slides had completely covered it, and we climbed over them picking up the path on the other side. Some areas had switchbacks and some parts of the trail just forced you to stop and stare at the steep walls of the canyon and at the sheer beauty we were leaving behind. When we reached the last three miles, the trail widened and with each step I knew the hike would soon be over. After a few more switchbacks and a slow incline, it was. The trail meandered through the pines onto a gravel parking lot and we were back. We were tired, hot and in need of showers, but there were smiles all the way around.
As the sun was setting and the rest of the hikers enjoyed their traditional “after the hike” beer, I walked back over to the rim of this giant canyon for one more look. I realized I had witnessed something very special, and the Grand Canyon was only a part of it.
I was born and raised on a farm/ranch in Western South Dakota. I currently farm and ranch with my wife. We have 3 grown daughters and 6 grandchildren. Cherry, who joined me on the hike, is an attorney. I enjoy any outdoor activities but feel that anytime you have a backpack on and the quiet is deafening, it is a special time.
From seasoned travelers to first timers, the question of what to bring on a backpacking trip is always relevant. In the case that you just recently pick up backpacking, this issue has become extremely important. You must plan how to carry all the necessary stuff yet still remain generally mobile. Well if you feel overwhelmed with the planning, I have a few tips you can use. Below are instructions about the essentials items which a backpacking trip needs to have. Follow them and you can save yourself a headache.
Through trial and error, you may finally come to the conclusion that you need to keep your backpack as light as possible. You don’t want to drag yourself forward with a huge and heavy backpack. That will seriously ruin your trip experience. The rule of thumb here is to select items that are versatile and durable. That will simplify your checklist before and after a trip. With an efficient arrangement, you can avoid overloading the backpack. If that is done then you can enjoy every aspect of a backpacking trip. So let’s see what you need to do here.
Select a suitable backpack
The bigger the better, right? No, you need one that fit will your statue and your needs. When you consider a backpack, pick it up and put that on your shoulder. Move around a bit to see if it sticks close to your body or not. If you feel that the backpack already sways too much when unloaded, it will be a nightmare when it’s fully loaded. Of course, the duration of the trip is also important here. If the backpack is too small, it can’t be conveniently stored with necessary supplies. Consider all of these factors when you think about what backpack to use.
Backpack types all have their pros and cons. For example, backpack with frames offers an effective distribution of weight which makes it easier to carry. This means you can have a better stability and balance using such backpack. The frames also act as physical limits, you can only pack in that much, so no more room to squeeze in anything. It is very good for newcomers that have a hard time limiting what to bring. The opposite of this type would be the frameless backpack. The advantage and disadvantage of this type are in reverse to the frame one.
Additional features of the backpack can come in handy too. Mesh back panels will permit more ventilation in hot weather. Some padding on the strap can considerably reduce your fatigue. And if your about to head out in the raining season, a backpack with rainproof cover will be a good choice.
Organize your items efficiently
Keep shoving stuff in one after the other is unwise. You can’t put all of the backpack space to use in that manner. Lay everything out on the floor first. Now you need to decide what you truly need and their turn to go into the backpack. Focus on weight distribution as well. For the most part, light items such as clothes and sleeping bag will be at the bottom. Things that are heavy and you need to use frequently should be on the top portion or external pockets. These include food, water, raincoat and cooking utensils.
Prepare a toiletry bag
Personal hygiene and skin protection are vital in outdoor conditions. That is why it’s worth the effort to assemble a toiletry bag. Depend on the temperature and humidity of your trip, this bag may have anything from moisture cream to sunscreen. Pack them in a clear plastic bag to quickly judge what you need and where is it at moments notice. To prevent possible cracking and ease of handle, put this bag on the top of your backpack or outside pouch.
Determine the number of food supplies
Plan ahead how many meals you will have on the trip and pack your food accordingly. Remember to prioritize lightweight and long to expired foods. Energy bars, beef jerky and dehydrated products will do. Do not bring stuff that is complex to cook or hard to preserve. If your food needs to be processed first then matches or a lighter is good enough. You can start a fire to cook your food and keep yourself warm at the same time. About associated utensils, select those that are easy to use and clean.
A carry-on bag for your electronic
Nowadays, you can look up pretty much everything on your smartphone. You can even access the GPS service on it too. So obviously, you will need a way to pack your smartphone and electronic. That is why a carry-on bag would be needed. It should be waterproof so rain and humidity don’t damage its content.
Additional tools and hiking gear
The above should cover most of what you need but in certain situations, extra tools and gears will be helpful. Compass, good police flashlight, rope, knife or even a map of the area, these should be of use to you in the trip. Bringing extra batteries for the flashlight is also recommended. Get a waterproof bag to protect your delicate items is a good idea as well. If the trip passes through a forest or insect-infested section, a bug repellent can conveniently deal with the problem.
For emergencies, having a first aid kit can be the difference of life between death. If you don’t have one around, you should create one. A basic first aid kit should include bandages, gauze, disinfectant and painkiller. If you happen to be in a special condition, pack along your prescript medicine as well.
Backpacking is a fun and exciting activity. It really helps to refresh your mind and body, away from your daily habit. But you still need to learn how properly prepare for the trip. As long as you ensure your preparation is up to specs, you are guaranteed to have a satisfied backpacking experience. With a proper backpack and an organized inventory, now you can truly enjoy whatever benefit a backpacking trip may offer. And you have just that simply by putting into practice what you learn from this article.
I was having a weekend in a icy Warsaw, when my dorm mate started talking about travelling from Malta. I didn’t know much about Malta, so I asked around, other than the myth of it being a British expat paradise, not many people had been. However it met all of my criteria, cheap flights(Ryanair), hostel rich, heavy public transport and it was sunnier than home in Edinburgh. So off I went to discover this mysterious island. I was not disappointed, I found a unique blend of Arabic meets Italian culture which I have never came across in my life.
When to go to Malta?
Due to the cheap flights, I was persuaded to go in January, however on arriving, I was told by hostel staff, that this was the quiet month. The main season for activities and travel is obviously the peak months between May to August, however the weather is more than inviting in the early months, with its mid teen degree temperatures.
Where to stay in Malta?
I found this was the hardest decision of my trip, you really only have three options when it comes to hostels. However if you are not restricted to hostels, I would recommend looking at accommodation in the main city Valletta.
View From Hostel in Malta
Sliema, considered the most modern area with public transport good access, dotted around the rocky bay beaches with hotels, bars and restaurants. St Julians and Paceville, considered the nightlife capital of Malta populated with bars and clubs along with modern shops and food outlets however not very close to beaches. This was my choice, where I stayed at the new Marco Polo Hostel. Gozo Island, believe it or not Malta’s smaller sister Island has a hostel (Santa Martha).
What to do in Malta?
• Visit Valletta, Malta’s beautiful yet small capital. Now Valletta reminded me of Rome, the yellow sandstone buildings which has been influenced heavily by Catholicism. Simply walking around the streets and restaurants itself will immerse yourself in all things Maltese.
• Take a day trip to Gozo, I personally visited its largest town, Victoria and its magnificent citadel, however it is better to go in the earlier hours of the day as it does get busy believe it or not.
• Get the bus or drive to Mdina. This may have been the highlight of Malta for myself. Mdina is a walled medevil fortress which is simply breathtaking.
• Unfortunately due to the weather I was unable to get the ferry to Comino island, which hosts the famous Blue Lagoon, however many have since recommended this.
• Finally a tour of the Ħaġar Qim temples and Blue Grotto, which can be done in the same day, yet again the weather limited my visit but I was able to go.
As a student in International Politics, Gareth has researched many cultures and cities while traveling extensively in his spare time on budget and cheap breaks, reaching to around 50 odd countries with a particular interest in street photography and locals. Gareth’s photography and travels have allowed him to develop a greater understanding of countries with culture, his consistent and frequent backpacking trips have allowed him to explore amazing parts of the world in short real time constraints while learning the tips and tricks to city breaks and sightseeing musts.