We wanted a restful afternoon, but then Hilary suggested walking from our hostel out to Diamond Head. Someone on TripAdvisor had stated it was “only a twenty minute walk from Waikiki Beach”, so we set off at 2pm in the heat of the day. An hour later we were asking people the way, and we finally staggered, awash with sweat, into the crater (through a road tunnel) at 4.15pm.
“Now you’ve got the steep climb to the summit” said the cheery Park Warden, as we paid for our entrance tickets. “That’ll be the easy part!” Hilary replied, with some feeling. The trail to the summit was built in 1908 as part of the US Army’s defence system. It includes wrought-iron spiral staircases, narrow tunnels, and observation bunkers. Great fun. It was a long way up but the views down to the many surfers and across the whole of Honolulu were worth it.
Readers will be glad to know that we managed to get a bus back.
The Hosmer Grove campsite at the entrance to Haleakala State Park gave us a great base to see the sunset from the highest point of Maui. At just over 10,000 feet, we were well above the clouds, and the wind was strong and very cold.
Then the next morning we returned to do just a bit of the long, hot trek into the massive cavernous depths of the crater. Hilary was keen to reach one of the mini craters within the larger crater – but the path kept turning the other way, so she gave up.
If you plan to do this Note the regulations changed earlier this year. Whilst you don’t need a permit to drive up to see the sunset from Haleakala, you will need one to head up for the sunrise.
From our Prairie Creek campsite, the hike through primary Redwoods to Fern Canyon was recommended.
We were surrounded by a timeless scene, alone amongst trees that started their quest for light when the Chinese invented gunpowder. Also colossal fallen Redwoods providing a thriving habitat for new trees, bushes and insects.
Fern Canyon itself slightly disappointed. With fern-covered sides it was certainly pretty unique, but in an intimate rather than grand way.
Some of you may recognise it from Jurassic Park 2.
Staggering rock faces. A trail that winds up through them. Views across the desert valley to the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. We loved trekking in this State Park just north of Bend in Central Oregon.
Gosh how spoilt is America for amazing landscapes? The locals may flock here, but us Europeans – with only a few weeks in the States – would tend to give Oregon a miss.
This is heaven for rock-climbers. Famous climbs all over the place, include the Monkey Face (below right), which has one of the toughest free routes in the world rated at 5.14c. We spoke to one youngster physically and mentally preparing for his attempt in the Fall.
The coastal road south ends at Sierpe. From there it’s an exhilarating 90mins boat ride through the mangroves, out into the Pacific Ocean to the Osa Peninsula; one of the most isolated parts of Costa Rica.
We’re staying in frontier-town Bahía Drake (Drake’s Bay), named after the British sailor, Sir Francis Drake, who came ashore here in the 16th century and the location of one of his fabled hidden treasures. Dirt tracks, part-built wooden huts, kids on noisy motorbikes, a bar that overlooks the tree canopy; it’s that sort of place.
We walked over a suspension bridge, along the coast to enjoy a collection of deserted beaches and the wildlife. We found no treasure, except the beauty of being here.
At last we got to see a volcano in South America. Three previous mountains were covered in mist for days.
At 5,897m Cotopaxi is the world’s third highest active volcano. It has erupted 50 times since records began in 1738 and due to the amount of snow on the summit, each eruption causes Lahars (rivers of melted snow and silt) which run down the mountain at up to 40mph travelling for over 100km. These have caused many deaths in the past and levelled the nearby city of Latacunga twice.
Our guide Marcelo, drove us to the end of the road, and we set off together to climb up to the Jose Ribas Refuge. The sunny views quickly turned to mist and snow but we made it. At 4,864m this Refuge is higher than Mont Blanc and our panting lungs confirmed this. Because of recent mini-eruptions, it’s currently the highest you can go.
There was a hearty atmosphere with many nationalities crowded into the small cafe. Three steaming mugs of hot chocolate later and we were ready to climb back down. Hail hit us and at the bottom we could no longer see Cotopaxi. Just as well we started early to get that sunny view.
We did two nocturnal jungle walks led by our knowledgeable guide Diego.
Rubber boots were put on, torches grabbed and we headed into the blackness. The path was narrow and muddy, with a background cacophony of noise from crickets and cicadas. Everywhere were creepy crawlies; crickets, frogs, stick insects, cockroaches, bullet ants, termites and all sorts of spiders including tarantulas.
With all the torches turned off, we stood in total darkness: just like being in a cave.
On the third night your intrepid bloggers went out by themselves. That led to a telling off sometime later, but Roger saw this as a badge of honour.