Sunday, July 24, 2016

Death-defying experience in Trolltunga Hike

When I saw this Trolltunga picture sometime back, I thought that this is definitely not my cup of tea because of its dangerous position to pose for a picture. While planning my Norway trip, I read a few articles about Trolltunga hike that explained how amateurs attempted this hike and struggled. Having completed a 40 kilometer hike in India (Kudremukh), I convinced myself out of pride that, this hike is for experts like me and included it in my itinerary.

        In Odda town, I met three more guys in Trolltunga hotel and made friends. One of them got a car that helped us reach the base of Trolltunga hike the next day. The hiking sticks at the base camp lured me to change my plan from ‘Classic’ to ‘22 kilometer Winter’ hike. Little did I know that I’m prepared only to pose for the pictures but not for the hike! Ten of us started with a steep one kilometer hike through dense vegetation and moved to a mushy terrain scattered with ice and melted water. With a couple of breaks, we moved towards mountains completely covered with thick ice. Under this thick ice, one can hear the noise of melted water flowing. Out of fear, I took steps slowly and was left behind by the group. Despite being cautious, one wrong step broke the ice under my foot and I slipped into the water under the ice. Fortunately, I got hold of a rock nearby and saved myself despite losing my goggles.

        Our guide approached me and suggested that I turn back as it is going to get more dangerous ahead and the group has to wait for me at every break. It kicked my ego like hell. I thought “Whom are you speaking to? I completed a 40 kilometer hike and this is a mere 22 km hike”. I gathered all my energy and started leading the group literally by running in the ice. When I ran towards an area where ice was clean, I was quickly warned by my guide. He shouted that I’m running on a frozen pond and stand a chance of drowning in the ice. Later, I took as many as 20 wrong steps and fell in the ice every time and got up. My guide noticed my struggle, appreciated my efforts and suggested me to follow him. Actually, he threatened me to follow him but I interpreted it as a suggestion to make myself comfortable.

        Suddenly it started raining cats and dogs and the temperature dropped further. I would say that ‘real feel’ is ‘freezing cold’. My idiotic casual shoes added more misery and I literally experienced walking on the ice with bare foot. On my way, I met a few hikers who were unable to tolerate the cold weather and cried that they may die there. I gave some energy bars and motivated them to return. The scariest part of the hike was to walk through a narrow path in the middle of a slanted ice mountain. We held our breath with the help of hiking sticks during this phase.

        You might think that we forget all the pain after seeing the most beautiful views from Trolltunga. No, not at all! After removing the jacket and gloves, I gathered all my courage to stand on Trolltunga and posed for pictures. When I came back to wear jacket, I am unable to even hold it as my hands were frozen. Other hikers rushed towards me and helped me wear gloves and jacket. Looking at my shoes and superman T-shirt, our guide shouted in surprise “How did you manage to come so far with these shoes? You must be a Superman!” At that moment, I wanted to give him a slap and all the bad words in this world for not warning me at the start of the hike. But, I could only show him my teeth acknowledging him for calling me a Superman! In no time, I started running back in the ice to generate some heat in my feet to survive in that cold weather. Then, I realized that the amateurs they are referring to in the articles mentioned in my first paragraph was about people like me! Damn!

1) You need a guide till the end of May as paths are not clear. From mid of June, you don't need a guide.
2) Take thermals and rain coat based on weather prediction. Wear hiking shoes and take enough food.
3) Reserve hotels/hostels early as there is limited accommodation in Odda.

You can find my travel experience through some adventurous pictures with description in the link below:

Monday, July 4, 2016

The city that inspired me to travel...

Have you ever been inspired by a place?
If you get an opportunity to travel to one place, what is the place that you would choose?
Before coming to Europe, my answer to this question was ‘Rome’. In 2005, I read a novel named ‘Angels and Demons’ by Dan Brown. His description of Rome and Vatican excited me so much that I frequently dreamt of roaming in the roads of Rome and churches of Vatican. Finally, the day has come to live my unfulfilled travel dream through my third trip to Rome. I have spent many days reading about the history, economy and culture of Italy and Rome.

    After landing in ‘Leonardo da Vinci’ airport, I took a metro to the Roma Termini (Central) and dumped my backpack in a hostel. In no time, my eyes, feet and heart started searching for an engineering marvel called ‘Colosseum’. When I lifted my head up to see the Colosseum, all I can remember is, a wave of energy that passed from my brain to my body. If the concept of reincarnation exists, I might be a Roman solider or someone who died in the arena fighting with a lion or a gargantuan foreign creature. Ah! How many human generations has it seen since B.C ? How many exotic wild animals visited this place? How many warriors and animals died in this arena fighting for their life? Sometimes, I feel that history is not just about kingdoms and wars, but about the feelings of human beings across various cultures. I missed a trip to dungeons and it calls for another trip to Rome J

    On the second day, I went to Vatican on foot amidst stunning statues and churches with exceptional architecture. A view of St. Peter’s Basilica thwarted my walk and I found myself to be in the middle of St Peter’s square. The great ‘Michelangelo’ was one of the painters of this masterpiece, St Peter’s Basilica from the 16th century! The top of St Peter’s Basilica’s takes you to one of the most stunning views in the world. For the first time in my life, I admired art after visiting Vatican Museums. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of frescoes especially ‘The Last Judgement’ and ‘The Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo.

    On the third day, I visited all the Museums in Rome and Vatican to ensure that I get the feel of the churches described in ‘Angels and Demons’ novel. Each church is decorated in a unique fashion and has a history of its own. I made sure that I read the history of each church in Wikipedia upon visiting it. Ensure that you satiate your taste buds with Italian food such as Pizza, pasta and lasagna. Of course, your trip will not be complete without a scoop of Italian gelato. My best moment of the trip was to watch a few Europeans dressed in saris and dhotis dancing to the tunes of Hindi songs at Spanish square. Rome is a visual feast to anyone and will really enjoy more if one reads the history before a visit.

Major tourist attractions in Rome are:

Trevi Fountain
St Peter's Basilica
St Peter's square
Vatican Museums
Sistine Chapel
Roman forum
Piazza Navona
Spanish steps

TIP: Free entry to all the attractions in Rome and Pompei on every first Sunday of the month. Buy a 3-day or 4-day ROMA pass to save money.