Journeys

Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Posted on Oct 4, 2013 | Comments Off on Want to Fly Like the Wright Brothers?

Orville, Wilbur and Me

You too can fly a Wright aircraft.

  • By Phil Scott
replicaA replica is now available for flying just a few miles from where the Wrights experimented. Above: Our writer enjoys a few moments of stable flight.
It’s offered by www.wrightexperience.com

The Wright brothers never trudged up these dunes barefoot.Bruce Weaver, Andy Torrington, and I are struggling to carry a glider up a sandy winding trail in Nags Head, North Carolina. A near-exact reproduction of a 1902 Wright aircraft, the glider rests on a four-wheel dolly with balloon tires. Andy is pulling and steering, Bruce is pushing, and I’m trying to keep tree branches from snagging the flexing wings while tip-toeing on hot sand spiked with underbrush. Barefoot is the best way to get up a hill of sand, but as the sun torches the tops of my feet, I start to appreciate the Wrights’ formality. When they conducted their flying experiments a fewmiles north, they wore shoes (not to mention wool suits and ties).

The glider weighs around 120 pounds, but it feels heavier, and it’s bulky—302 square feet of yellowing cotton wings built just like the original: the same ash and spruce frame and weather-beaten, cross-stitched fabric. Constructed in 2003 by The Wright Experience, a group run by renowned Wright scholar/replica builder Ken Hyde, it’s the closest the team could get to the original. Sure, they used multiple twisted wires because the original single-strand hard wire breaks too quickly, and they added a harness rigged to hold you in when you hit the sand. You’re going to hit a lot of sand.

Complete accuracy is impossible: Of the original, only a wingtip bow exists. The brothers famously never left plans, only the patent drawings. (It was the glider, not the powered 1903 Flyer, that first achieved the three-axis control that the brothers patented.) “There are some sketches and notes in their papers, in their notebooks,” Hyde says, adding: “Luckily, the brothers took a lot of good photos.”

Hyde and The Wright Experience built this glider for the Discovery of Flight Foundation, which used it to train pilots for a flight planned in a replica Flyer for December 17, 2003, the 100th anniversary of powered flight. (That attempt failed.) Once the glider had served its mission, the foundation, like the Wright brothers, stashed the craft in a hangar.

Last year Paul Glenshaw, the executive director of the foundation, and his son visited Kitty Hawk Kites Flight School, which offers instruction in a variety of hang-gliders. Glenshaw sat down with the school’s manager, and along with The Wright Experience, they worked out an agreement in which the school would use the replica to teach gliding on the dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Glenshaw says he wanted people to connect with the Wright brothers’ accomplishment, and Hyde says Kitty Hawk Kites was the right group to show what the glider can do: “They know the winds and they know the weather.”

For $349, Kitty Hawk Kites offers a four-hour flight lesson in the glider, with up to five students per lesson. The company has started with one lesson a week. So far, 35 pilots have flown the Wright glider. (“Pilots” may be a misnomer: No experience in airplanes or gliders is necessary.)

When I first arrived at Jockey’s Ridge, Bruce, the clean-cut recreation manager, and assistant recreation manager Andy took me to the school’s hangar. The glider was up on a rack. “It looks fragile but it takes a beating,” Bruce said. “It flexes, it creaks, but it bounces back into shape. It’s tougher than it looks.”

“How safe is it?” I asked.

“I think it’s very safe,” said Bruce.

Well, no one died in the Wrights’ glider, I thought.

Bruce, Andy, and I made the long haul up Jockey’s Ridge. Andy, a happy guy with long, thinning red hair, was wearing the Kitty Hawk Kites uniform: bare feet, shorts, and a T-shirt.

Up on the Jockey’s Ridge peak, the wheat-color biplane got curious looks from nearby students in starter hang gliders. Bruce and Andy lifted the glider off the dolly and set to work connecting control wires to control surfaces. I put on the helmet that the two give fliers.

Bruce explained the canard—the forward elevator. It’s operated by twisting a one-by-four bar of ash that is mounted horizontally between the two skids, at about the pilot’s chest level. Its ends are wrapped in wax string, the duct tape of the day, to keep the wood from splintering. The bar is linked to the elevator with window sash chains that are routed around wooden pulleys bolted inside the frame. Bruce said it was my job to control pitch: “When flying it, try to make small movements. The canard may flutter—the springs dampen it. Don’t over-control it.”

To lift off, he said, “hop until your foot doesn’t touch the ground, then get it across the bar. On landing, just belly in and keep your feet up. The glider is built so when it comes in to land, it doesn’t want to nose up and stall. It wants to belly-land instead of dive into the ground—which is handy.”

In the open space in the lower wing, I got on my knees. Andy hooked my harness to the glider, had me lie prone in the cradle, and told me to hook the top part of one foot over a rectangular chunk of wood near the trailing edge. We were pointed directly in what little wind there was.

At Bruce’s signal we lifted the glider off the dune. In a 10- to 15-mph wind gust, it does weigh less, but not much. I gripped each end of the swiveling bar and held the elevator level, grinding my naked elbows onto the sandy skids.

The next gust lifted the glider; Bruce asked if I was ready.

I took a deep breath and said yes.

Bruce and Andy started hauling ass down the slope, holding the tow-lines that were attached to the ends of the wing. The glider tried to lift off, and it looked like we had enough speed to let me pull my other leg up and hook my toes over the bar.

It’s flying…. I’m flying…on my stomach behind that famous football-shaped elevator…

Without much altitude or warning, it nosed down. I rolled the ash bar back, which didn’t help the airspeed at all. The glider sort of slammed into the dune.

“Are you okay?” Bruce asked. He was sprawled out on the sand just beyond the wingtip.

“Yeah. Are you okay?” I said.

He leapt to his feet and showered me with positive reinforcement, then told me I’d violated the over-control rule. He and Andy lifted the glider, and Bruce told me to hold the elevator up to get the wings to sail us to the dune top.

Waiting for another weak gust, we sat in the wing’s shadow and guzzled the bottled water we’d packed. Bruce recounted that they’d gotten in some 300-foot glides. “The beauty of it is, if it rains, you get 25 percent more distance because that fabric shrinks up and it’s not nearly as porous. There’s a point where it gets too much, but rain is your friend with that glider.”

We launched again.

I’m flying…. I’m flying…. The left wing dipped, and reflexively I shoved my hip left. The tip stabbed the sand and the glider spiraled. The Wrights called it “well-digging.”

The wind changed direction and picked up to a steady 20 mph, so we hauled the glider from the dune’s relatively shallow east side to the south face’s deeper, wider sand valley. Bruce pointed to a weathered yellow house on the next ridge and told me to point the elevator there. We three lifted the glider—really, we just stopped holding it down—and I got situated: I slid my hips onto the cradle, using my bare feet to push against that aft horizontal bar, elbows clenching my ribcage and holding up my upper body in a sort of yoga pose, both hands gripping the ends of the elevator control bar. I felt like Orville, in the glass-plate photos I’ve seen of him in the glider.

“Ready?”

“Ready.”

They ran forward and played out a few feet of line while the glider instantly gripped the wind. I held the glider level, and the ground dropped away. I’m flying…I’m flying…I’m really flying this #*%& glider…

I held the elevator steady, kept the wings level, and glanced down. We were still flying straight and they were running down the white dune backward, maybe 20 feet below. While the Wrights had no altimeter on board, that was likely their average altitude as well—though their pal George Spratt estimated that on one glide, they reached 60 feet. While the glider soared, I tried to spot the yellow house. Mostly I allowed the glider to do what it wanted to do. Don’t over-control.

It plunged, spraying sand and jarring my teeth a little.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine.”

The next flight started out as a repeat of the first, but this time, once I was airborne, the glider dipped left and I got busy sliding the cradle right, but over-corrected; now the right wing dipped, and I slid just a little to the left, all while concentrating on holding the elevator level. We were in no danger of well-digging—then, well, the remaining few seconds played out same as before, though the landing went smoother. We didn’t measure the distance, but I may have flown as far as 200 feet. The Wrights made it farther—between September and October 1902, they made between 700 and 1,000 glides, flying from 200 and 400 feet, though their longest flight was 622.5 feet.

On October 23, 1902, Orville Wright wrote to his sister Katharine: “Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second or about 30 miles per hour, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind a gliding machine was ever in, so that we now hold all the records! The largest machine we handled in any kind [of weather, made the longest dis]tance glide (American), the longest time in the air, the smallest angle of descent, and the highest wind!!!”

One hundred and ten years later, strapped to an identical aircraft on the same breezy dunes, I started feeling the excitement Orville had. “The sense of connection with the Wright brothers is the overriding sensation I get while flying the glider,” Andy said. “Knowing that the Wright brothers at one point felt exactly what I felt while flying the glider is pretty amazing.” I knew what he meant. After each landing I was torn between wanting to run to my backpack for a quick swig of water, and run back to prepare for the quickest takeoff possible. Each time I realized that my tongue was sticking to the top of my mouth, I thought: There will always be time for water later, when the wind dies down.

 

article originally appeared in:

http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/Orville-Wilburand-Me-162924306.html?c=y&story=fullstory

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Iceland bares its secrets

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Iceland bares its secrets

iceland horse

REYKJAVIK, Iceland – This week Iceland will launch a new tourism campaign to inspire travelers to seek out the country’s undiscovered treasures.

Share the Secret is a new campaign by Inspired by Iceland, the country’s tourism promotional effort. The campaign will draw on local knowledge to reveal some of the country’s hidden treasures by encouraging Icelanders to share their secrets and offer visitors the opportunity to discover unique experiences around the country.

The campaign will cover a wide variety of themes from Icelandic nature and culture, with secrets and insider tips from locals and Icelandic experts shared on food, design, music, shopping and adventure across all the Inspired by Iceland platforms. Icelanders will share personal favourites and travel tips with visitors online, via social media (#icelandsecret) and through experiential activity, offering a more intimate experience of their much beloved homeland to tourists. Using both physical and digital secrets the campaign will bring to life some of Iceland’s greatest wonders.

The campaign will encourage travellers to arrive with a spirit of adventure, to go further and do more, and will ask Icelanders and previous visitors to Iceland to share their best kept secrets of the country; be it their favourite record store, secret family recipe, or a spot by the lake with the very best view of the Northern Lights.

The website http://www.inspiredbyiceland.com will become a hub for secrets, with Icelanders and tourists sharing secret places and activities on an interactive map and blog. Fans and visitors on social media will be encouraged to contribute their own secrets and experiences via Facebook and Twitter, which will be shared across all platforms.

Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, Director for Tourism & Creative Industries at Promote Iceland, comments, “This year we want to encourage Icelanders and visitors alike to share with others just what makes the country so magical. We want to highlight the undiscovered side of Iceland and show that Iceland is a place of adventure and discovery and we are hoping that travellers will be inspired to come and seek out the secrets of others and leave with their own to share.”

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Kruger NP Goes Flat Screen

Posted on Oct 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Kruger NP Goes Flat Screen

kruger map sm

The Kruger National Park has installed flat screen television screens to enhance information dissemination to tourists in the park.

The screens have been installed and are already in use at the gate and camp receptions. Making use of text, images, audio and video, the screens will present visitors with content such as updates on the developments of the park, park rules and regulations, emergencies like road closures, park events and campaigns, scientific research and other projects, rare animal sightings and more.

“The expectations from the public are changing, they want the speed on access to information; they want prompt delivery of the answer, rather than guidance or instruction. We were looking at introducing the kind of communication and marketing tool which would afford us a chance to communicate in an interactive way with our tourists, when Anglo American responded positively,” indicated Mabasa.

The screens were donated by Anglo American and Phillip Fourie, Head of Safety and Sustainable Development, for Anglo American’s thermal coal business at Paul Kruger Gate, presented them to the park.

“Anglo American believes that the impact of mining should be positive and to the benefit of South Africa, its people and the environment. We look forward to a successful partnership with Kruger National Park,” he said.

“Like broadcast media, these TV screens will allow us to disseminate information on time; allowing tourists to respond by either making follow-ups with our front office staff or contacting the relevant park officials for more information,” concluded Mabasa.

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Bob Geldof Space Tourist – I don’t like Moondays?

Posted on Sep 16, 2013 | Comments Off on Bob Geldof Space Tourist – I don’t like Moondays?

Sir Bob Geldof as the first rock astronaut

Space Expedition Corporation has confirmed the news that singer, philanthropist and Nobel Price nominee Sir Bob Geldof has secured a seat in one of their upcoming space flights, officially becoming an astronaut. He follows in the space steps of  Guy Laliberté, Canadian co-founder and the current CEO of Cirque du Soleil who went into space in September 2009.

Geldof said, “Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honor but pretty mind-blowing. The first rock astronaut space rat! Elvis may have left the building but Bob Geldof will have left the Planet! Wild! Who would have thought it would be possible in my lifetime.”

SXC Founder Michiel Mol added, “We are so proud to have Mr. Geldof aboard. He is an icon of social responsibility and in projects like Live Aid, he proved that entertainment and meaningfulness can be a great combination. We share that vision by offering our astronauts a life changing experience, while at the same time, we are changing the concept of sustainable airline transportation all together; namely outside the earth’s atmosphere.”

Mr. Geldof will be undertaking his first step of training in the space flight simulator based in the Netherlands on September 26th 2013.

From 2014 on, Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) will perform daily commercial flights into space. SXC offers participants a life-changing experience in viewing our planet Earth from 100 kilometers high. Plus, having been at that altitude, they can rightly be called astronauts. XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California, USA, designed and built the Lynx spacecraft, which will perform the space flights. SXC is proud to be the launching customer of the Lynx, which comfortably takes off and lands like a normal airplane, from regular airports. The flexibility of the Lynx spacecraft enables operation from almost any commercial airport. The operation has sold over 250 tickets so far.

However, Geldorf hasn’t taken the opportunity provided by a rival space voyage company that is promising the dark side of the moon – then perhaps we have either a Pink Floyd cover or a new Boomtown Rats song that, in fact, he does like Moondays.

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What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

Posted on Sep 9, 2013 | Comments Off on What’s the Main Cause of Airline Deaths?

From Bloomberg, By Alan Levin – Sep 6, 2013 2:00 PM ET

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land.

An Asian airline’s wide-body slams into a sea wall. A 737 with 150 people aboard hits the runway so hard its nose gear buckles. A cargo plane barely misses houses before plowing into a hillside short of the runway.

These recent accidents, marking the deadliest period for airlines in the U.S. since 2009, have something in common: had the pilots aborted their landings at the first sign of trouble – – a move known as a go-around — they might have avoided tragedy.

“They’d all be walking, talking and alive if they went around,” Patrick Veillette, a pilot who teaches and writes about aviation safety, said in an interview.

The three U.S. air crashes since July 6, which killed five people, spotlight the difficulty in getting pilots to abort touchdowns if they haven’t made safe approaches to the runway. It’s “the largest, lowest hanging piece of safety fruit” to make flying less hazardous, according to research sponsored by the Alexandria, Virginia-based Flight Safety Foundation.

Crashes that occur during approach or touchdown are the world’s leading category of aviation mishaps and deaths, according to data compiled by Chicago-based manufacturer Boeing Co. (BA) The biggest risk factor for such accidents is failing to approach a runway at the proper speed, altitude and heading, known as an unstabilized approach.

If safety regulators can persuade pilots to conduct more go-arounds, lives may be saved and costs to airlines in damaged equipment and liability may be lowered.

Non-Compliant Pilots

Computerized flight-track records and a survey of 2,340 pilots sponsored by the safety foundation found that crews have a long way to go to comply with airline requirements to abort landings if their approaches were unstable. Almost all pilots, or 97 percent, continued to land in spite of the rules that they climb away from the runway and circle around to try again, according to the research.

“That’s a risk factor that we really need to work on,” Rudy Quevedo, director of global programs at the foundation, said in an interview.

The issue isn’t simple or new, Quevedo and Veillette said.

“There isn’t a commercial pilot who can say, ‘Shame on you. You should have gone around,’” Veillette said. “We’ve all been in situations where in retrospect, we should have gone around and didn’t.”

In some cases, rules may be overly rigid, akin to imposing a highway speed limit that is so low drivers routinely exceed it, Quevedo said. Violating the rules has become so ingrained that airlines don’t enforce them and pilots don’t recognize when they are taking unnecessary risks, he said.

Safety Critical

Setting up a proper approach to a landing is critical to safety, according to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the aviation industry, and the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization.

“It’s really all physics,” Quevedo said. “You want to be centered on the runway on the correct trajectory, the correct descent rate and the right speed.”

If that happens, a plane will almost always cross the start of the runway at a height of about 50 feet (15 meters), which is optimal for a safe landing, he said.

Airlines typically require that a plane be stabilized at 1,000 feet above the runway in poor visibility and at 500 feet in clear weather. Pilots must also have performed required checklists, extended landing gear and configured the plane for landing, according to the foundation.

“If not — GO AROUND!” an FAA advisory to pilots and airlines says.

Low, Slow

While the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t said what caused the three recent crashes, information it has released shows evidence of the aircraft being unstable at points within a mile (1.6 kilometers) or two from the runway or of pilots perceiving they were off course.

Pilots on an Asiana Airlines Inc. (020560) Boeing 777 that hit a seawall short of a San Francisco runway on July 6 said they had indications once they reached 500 feet altitude that they weren’t properly set up to land, according to NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. The crash killed three passengers and injured dozens as the plane broke apart and slid to a stop.

One pilot told investigators the Asiana plane was below its optimal glide path at 500 feet, Hersman said July 9. Shortly after, the plane veered off the runway centerline, Hersman said.

The pilots told investigators they failed to notice other warning signs, including that their speed had slowed so much that the wings were in danger of losing lift. When they recognized what was happening, they attempted a go-around, adding power too late to avoid the accident, Hersman said.

Crash Landing

Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) plane landed nose-first at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on July 22, breaking the landing gear and skidding across the runway.

The NTSB hasn’t said whether the Boeing 737-700 was on a stable approach. The captain took control of the plane from the first officer below 400 feet altitude, according to the NTSB. In previous NTSB cases, such shifts in control occurred after an emergency or because the captain thought the approach needed correcting.

Nine people suffered minor injuries, according to the NTSB.

The pilots of a United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) freighter that crashed in Birmingham, Alabama, on Aug. 14 received a cockpit warning that they were descending too rapidly 7 seconds before they hit trees, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said last month.

Whether the pilots also knew they were too low for their approach, which should have triggered a go-around, hasn’t been released. The Airbus SAS A300-600F hit a dark hillside before dawn and broke apart, killing both pilots.

Dulled Sense

The NTSB has investigated at least 21 cases since 1999 in which pilots could have prevented accidents or incidents if they had aborted landings that ran afoul of airline rules, according to the agency’s case files.

In an attempt to discover why such accidents continue to occur, the Flight Safety Foundation hired Martin Smith, a former pilot and psychologist who operates Presage Group Inc. in Mississauga, Canada. Smith oversaw the survey of pilots that found many weren’t following airline rules.

The pilots who didn’t go-around after an unstable approach tended to have a dulled sense of the risks and didn’t communicate as much with fellow crew members, Smith said the survey showed. They also believed they wouldn’t be reprimanded for attempting to land in those cases. A similar survey of airline managers is under way to determine why the rule is so widely overlooked, he said.

Unrealistic Criteria

At the same time, some pilots said the criteria for a stabilized approach weren’t realistic, Smith said in an interview.

Researchers are attempting to design new standards that require aborting landings only in dangerous situations, improving safety without unnecessarily boosting go-arounds, which can create their own dangers, Quevedo said.

“We should expect that if we have a policy, the people should follow the policy,” he said. “But that being said, we need to make sure that the policy is good before we make people follow it. I don’t think we’re there yet.”

 

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Flight by Flight Upgrade Auctions

Posted on Sep 9, 2013 | Comments Off on Flight by Flight Upgrade Auctions

How much would you pay for the lie-flat bed and quilted duvet?

The good news is that getting bumped up to Business Class just got more affordable. Last month, Iberia became the latest carrier to roll out an online auction scheme that allows customers to bid for seating upgrades.

“Everyone knows that if no one is sitting in seat 2a when the plane takes off from London to New York, it’s a loss for the airline. But everyone in economy wants that seat,” explains Ken Harris, the founder and CEO of Plusgrade, the software company that developed the system. “The idea was to help correct that, and do it intelligently.”

The setup works differently for each airline, depending on their specifications. Some carriers offer upgrades to First Class as well.

Who is allowed to participate in the bidding process also varies. Often, the selection process is determined by the route and the number of leftover premium seats. On occasion, a customer’s frequent flyer status might also come into play.

Auctioning off flight upgrades

Furthermore, bidding is blind; customers enter how much they’re willing to pay, and if that number exceeds other bids (and the airlines keep that information top secret), they win. The cost of an upgrade is extremely variable, depending on the airline, season and route.

Carriers are shy to reveal how much is necessary in securing a winning bid, though it’s fair to say the price is less than a full-fare, Business Class ticket.

The idea that you can simply smile at a ticket agent and get gifted a free upgrade is a romantic notion that simply doesn’t happen.
Ken Harris, Plusgrade

The concept has gained traction with the airline community. A dozen carriers have already introduced upgrade auctions to their websites with the help of Plusgrade and he expects to double that number before the year is out.

Still, one can’t help but wonder if the airlines risk eating into their premium revenues.

Jamie Baker, an airline analyst at JP Morgan, says it’s a possibility.

 

“If airlines make it too easy to pay for an upgrade, it might dilute what the traveler would initially be willing to pay for that ticket,” he notes. “As a result, airlines tend to control the capacity of award seats. There’s a certain amount of experimentation in the process that is required.”

Harris, however, seems confident the bidding system will not impact premium-seating sales.

“There’s no guarantee that simply because you’ve requested an upgrade, you’ll receive it,” he says.

“If you want to sit in Business Class and your budget allows you to do so, you should buy that seat. It’s the only guarantee you won’t be sitting in the back of the plane on your next trip across the ocean.”

This service is for the passenger that just wants to treat himself for a little extra, and can live with the uncertainty.
Stephanie Kunath, Austrian Airlines

Austrian Airlines has one of the more democratic approaches to the process. Everyone, regardless of frequent flyer status, can bid on an upgrade, assuming any are available on the flight in question.

The airline isn’t worried about hurting their profits, because they view the full-fare seats and auction upgrades as two different products, even though passengers who win an upgrade receive the exact same benefits as someone who paid up front, including access to premium lounges and extra baggage allowances.

 

“This product is for a completely different type of group,” explains Stephanie Kunath, Austrian’s director of revenue management and business development.

“It’s not for the business traveler who really wants to fly Business Class and needs a 100% guarantee that he can. It’s for the passenger that just wants to treat himself for a little extra, and can live with the uncertainty.”

While bidding for seats might not hurt an airline’s bottom line, the advent of these auctions will likely eat away at the number of free upgrades awarded passengers.

“It probably will erode the complimentary upgrade process to a certain degree, and airlines do run the risk of offending their elite traveler, who has become accustomed to complimentary upgrades,” says Baker.

Harris, however, argues that free bump-ups are the stuff of fantasy.

“Free upgrades are really only given by necessity in operational situations or given to frequent flyers,” he says. “The idea that you can simply smile at a ticket agent and get gifted a free upgrade is a romantic notion. It simply doesn’t happen.”

From CNN

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Are these the world’s best walks?

Posted on Sep 6, 2013 | Comments Off on Are these the world’s best walks?

trail towards Everest Nepal sm

The trail to Mt Everest, Nepal

 

Wanderlust Magazine says these are the best wanders the Earth has to offer. What do you think?

Article by Sarah Baxter, 4th September 2013

http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/planatrip/inspire-me/lists/the-worlds-best-walking-routes?page=all

 

Latin America & Caribbean

 

1. Inca Trail

Where? KM82-Machu Picchu, southern Peru

Length: 45km

Days: 4

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; some high passes; camping only

Independent? No – a guide is mandatory

The walk: This iconic tramp through the Andes is not all about arriving – though reaching the stone gate of Intipunku to see a misty sunrise over mountain-perched Machu Picchu is a fine finale. The journey there is testing but manageable, weaving via old Inca pathways, orchid-filled cloud-forest and some lung-busting passes, including 4,200m ‘Dead Woman’s Pass’. There are also fascinating ruins en route, such as the clifftop guard-post at Sayacmarca and the sweeping terraces of Huinay Huayna.

Numbers on the trail are limited to 500 a day, including guides and porters, but camp stops (and their insalubrious loos) still get busy.

Like that? Try this… Choquequirao – a tough eight-day hike from Cachora to these lesser-known ruins, then on to Machu Picchu via a different path, is the offbeat Inca option.

 

2. El Circuito

Where? Torres del Paine, Chile

Length: 130km

Days: 7-10

Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; wilderness conditions; refugios or camping; pricey supplies available

Independent? Possible

The walk: It can be icy cold. It can be dripping wet. Winds can blast at over 100km an hour. But a circuit of Torres del Paine – taking in the Patagonian park’s gorgeous granite spires, creaking glaciers, mirror lakes and, possibly, pumas – is worth a bit of weather. The hiking isn’t too tough, and never exceeds 1,200m. The challenge is being out in this wilderness for so long – if you’re trekking independently, that’s a lot of stuff to carry, though supported options ease the burden, leaving you freer to look out for llama-like guanaco, calving ice and those classic Cuernos del Paine views. Or try the W (60km; 5-7 days), a shorter, only marginally less impressive version.

Like that? Try this… Mt Fitz Roy, Los Glaciares, Argentina – hop over the border for a four-day, 40km loop amid more dramatic Patagonian landscapes.

 

3. Inca Trail to Ingapirca

Where? Achupallas-Ingapirca, Ecuador

Length: 40km

Days: 3

Difficulty: ** Moderate; up to 4,800m; wild camping

Independent? Possible

The walk: Peru doesn’t have a monopoly on Inca trails – this trek follows part of the Latin civilisation’s Royal Road, which once linked Cusco and Quito; it ends at Ecuador’s own version of Machu Picchu: the castle-complex of Ingapirca. The trail leads over the Andean páramo, with high-altitude views across glaciated mountains and shimmering lagoons. There are a few Inca ruins en route, but little else – just you, your muleteer (a recommended extra) and the history-soaked highlands.

Like that? Try this… Around Cotopaxi – spend five days walking in the shadow of this perfectly conical 5,897m volcano.

 

4. Patí Valley

Where? Capão-Guiné, Chapada Diamantina, Brazil

Length: 15km

Days: 1

Difficulty: * Easy, with some steep sections; no facilities en route

Independent? Possible

The walk: A contender for world’s best day walk? The route from Vale do Capão – a hip hangout for alternativos – to the village of Guiné packs in the best of the lush Chapada Diamantina. Here, Jurassic-style tabletop mountains loom like those in a Conan Doyle novel. The vegetation is rampant, the waterfalls plentiful, the high-plateau views sweeping and other people scarce. There are some tests – Bumbreaker Hill is a bit of a slog – but there are also cold beers waiting at the end.

Like that? Try this… Roraima, Venezuela – for more Lost World landscapes, a five-day trip up Venezuela’s iconic tepui is the ultimate challenge.

 

5. Waitukubuli National Trail

Where? Scotts Head-Cabrits NP, Dominica

Length: 184km

Days: 9-14

Difficulty: ** Moderate; some easy sections; guesthouses/homestays

Independent? Possible

The walk: The native Carib-Kalinago called Dominica ‘Waitukubuli’ (‘tall is her body’) after the island’s mountainous spine. Apt, then, that this coast-to-coast hike – the Caribbean’s first long-distance trail – bears that name, as it snakes across Dominica’s profusely green and volcanically craggy land. Split into 14 accessible sections, ranging from 7km to 15km, you can thru-walk or pick stages: maybe the hike up Morne Crabier (section 1), jaunts around high peaks and sulphurous pools (4), or the beach traverse to Fort Shirley (14). Expect sea breezes, mango trees and encounters with local Carib communities.

Like that? Try this… Pico Duarte, Dominican Republic – mount a three-day expedition up the highest peak in the Caribbean (3,087m).

 

6. Nebaj-Todos Santos

Where? Cuchamatanes Mountains, north-west Guatemala

Length: 55km

Days: 4

Difficulty: ** Moderate; some tough climbs; remote; homestays en route

Independent? Not recommended

The walk: Guatemala has many volcanoes to climb and lakes to amble around, but this hike across the remote Cuchamatanes is the top offbeat choice. Only four days long, it crosses three Mayan-language zones and reaches nearly 4,000m. You’ll traverse flower-covered plains, pine forest and barren plateaus, while viewpoints might afford glimpses of peaks erupting in the distance. Staying in homestays offers insight into local culture, too.

 

7. Silver Trail

Where? Carachic-Batopilas, Copper Canyon, Mexico

Length: 160km

Days: 9

Difficulty: **** Moderate-to-tough; some scree sections; hot; camping

Independent? Not recommended

The walk: In the 18th century, the Spanish forged a trail to access their silver mines, located deep in the Batopilas Canyon. Today that remote path is used only by local Tarahumara Indians (famed for their long-distance running prowess), a few plucky trekkers and their load-bearing burros. This is frontier territory, hiking via scree slopes, forested passes, cool pools and caves; there’s also the possibility of meeting Tarahumara farmers en route.

Like that? Try this… Pueblos Mancomunados, Oaxaca – explore the 100km of dramatic trails that weave between a clutch of Zapotec villages.

 

Africa

 

8. Tsitsikamma Trail

Where? Eastern Cape, South Africa

Length: 60km

Days: 6

Difficulty: *** Moderate; some tough bits; huts with flush loos and showers

Independent? Yes, though huts must be pre-booked

The walk: South Africa’s first official hiking trail is a treat. The route, through gorges, fynbos and the Tsitsikamma mountains, is testing, but each night ends in an equipped hut, while a porterage service can lighten your load. Highlights include ocean views from Nature’s Valley, gazing into Bloukrans River Gorge and wildlife from bulbuls and goshawks to even leopards.

Like that? Try this… Otter Trail – tracing the East Cape coast, only 12 people are allowed  on each section of this tough 42km hike each day.

 

9. Kilimanjaro

Where? Northern Tanzania

Length: from 45km

Days: 6-9

Difficulty: **** Tough, due to high altitude; camping; huts on one route

Independent? No – a guide is compulsory

The walk: Stand on the roof of Africa! As the continent’s highest peak (5,895m), and the world’s highest trekking summit, it’s a magnet for challenge-seekers. There are six  routes: Machame (49km) is tough but dramatic; quieter Rongai (65km) allows for more acclimatisation and has a high success rate. Whichever you pick, altitude is the biggest concern, and sweat, tears, carbs and camaraderie are guaranteed.

Like that? Try this… Mount Kenya, Kenya – Africa’s second-highest (5,199m) is an easier, less-crowded and more wildlife-filled climb.

 

10. Toubkal Circuit

Where? Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Length: 72km

Days: 4-6

Difficulty: ** Moderate; some tough sections; camping; gîtes in villages

Independent? Possible, though guide highly recommended

The walk: The summit of North Africa’s highest peak is a relatively simple hike up from the Neltner Refuge. But much better to spend several days circuiting 4,167m Jebel Toubkal than to rush it. The surrounding High Atlas terrain is a mix of verdant valleys, Berber villages and stark mountainsides; some days include testing passes, but frequent stops to sip mint tea in the shade relieves the strain.

Like that? Try this… M’goun Massif – a five-day expedition around Morocco’s lesser-hiked but still lofty mountain is an offbeat alternative.

 

11. Simien Mountains Traverse

Where? Ethiopia

Length: various
Days: 6-9

Difficulty: *** Moderate-to-tough; camping

Independent? No – trails are not clearly marked

The walk: Trekking in Ethiopia’s World Heritage-listed highlands might yield sightings of gelada baboons, walia ibex, possibly even a rare Simien fox – but few other trekkers. This is offbeat African hiking, across rugged volcanic escarpments seemingly untouched by time. Routes vary, but often include a summit attempt on Ras Dashen (4,620m), the country’s highest peak, and stops at village mud-huts to drink coffee like a local.

Like that? Try this… Mountains of the Moon, Uganda – try a challenging hut-to-hut hike in the oft-overlooked Rwenzoris.

 

Europe

 

12. Sentiero degli Dei

Where? Bomerano-Positano, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Length: 8km

Days: 1

Difficulty: * Mostly easy; short

Independent? Yes

The walk: The Path of the Gods traces one of the Amalfi Coast’s most handsome  sections. Following old mule trails, it skirts vineyards and rolls over valleysides cloaked in holm oak and heather, offering views down the cliffs to the Med beyond. The ‘alto’ route has most drama; a lower route can be shortened at tiny Nocelle (perched 440m-up) by catching the bus to pretty Positano below.

Like that? Try this… Sentiero Azzurro, Cinque Terre – the Blue Trail between Liguria’s five coastal villages is a compact Italian classic.

 

13. Tour du Mont Blanc

Where? France/Switzerland/Italy

Length: 170km

Days: 9-12

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; plentiful refuges; villages accessible from several points

Independent? Yes; many guided trips available

The walk: No need to haul yourself up 4,810m Mont Blanc – arguably, the best way to experience Western Europe’s highest peak is to walk in its shadow on this classic trail that nips into three nations and brims with Alpine charm and history. It’s also high on  creature comforts, dotted with refuges (providing hot, homecooked meals) so you don’t have to carry camping kit. There are stiff climbs, some steep ladders and snow is always possible, but plentiful accommodation choices mean you can tackle it at your own pace.

Like that? Try this… Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route – a tough two-week, 180km  adventure that showcases the best of the high Alps.

 

14. Camino de Santiago

Where? St Jean Pied de Port-Santiago de Compostella, France/Spain

Length: about 800km

Days: 30

Difficulty: *** Long but moderate if paced; albergues; villages

Independent? Yes

The walk: The Camino isn’t a walk, it’s a state of mind. Some see it as a spiritual undertaking, others as a physical test; for some it’s all about the camaraderie at the albergues (pilgrim hostels). Whether you’re there for the highlights of northern Spain – León’s cathedral, delicious grilled octopus – or some higher goal, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Like that? Try this… Portuguese Road – there are many ways to Santiago; try the 230km camino from Porto.

 

15. Laugavegur

Where? Landmannalaugar-Thórsmörk, Iceland

Length: 55km

Days: 4

Difficulty: ** Moderate, though very weather dependent; six huts en route, with dorms, tent pitches, toilets, showers but no food

Independent? Possible, but guide recommended

The walk: Iceland’s most iconic walk is a rainbow-coloured romp through some of the country’s best bits. Peaks come in reds, yellows, greens and purples; blinding-white glaciers creak, hot springs burble, lakes and rivers glitter. The trekking season is short (mid-June to early September), so the trail can get busy, but the wonderful weirdness of Iceland’s geothermal geography is more than compensation.

Like that? Try this… Borgarfjörður Eystri – this inlet in eastern Iceland is riddled with walking trails and elvish legends.

 

16. Lycian Way

Where? Fethiye-Antalya, Turkey

Length: 509km

Days: 25

Difficulty: **** Moderate-tough; some easy sections; camping, village houses and pensions en route

Independent? Yes; many guided trips available

The walk: The Lycian Way, Turkey’s first long-distance trail, flanks the hilly coast of the Tekke Peninsula. It’s rich in history – dotted with Byzantine monasteries, Greek temples and Roman ruins; it’s riddled with coves, caves and brilliant beaches; and it’s infused with the scent of wild strawberries, juniper and pine. Camping is possible, but best is to stay in guesthouses, to meet the locals who call this handsome coastline home.

Like that? Try this… St Paul Trail – Follow in the saint’s footsteps for 500km, from Perge, near Antalya, to Yalvac, close to Lake Egirdir.

 

17. Faulhornweg

Where? Schynige Platte-First, Switzerland

Length: 16km

Days: 1

Difficulty: ** Moderate but short; huts en route; train/cablecar at ends.

Independent? Yes

The walk: This well-marked route is potted Swiss perfection. Accessed by 19th-century cog railway from Wilderswil, it offers views over blue-turquoise lakes Thun and Brienz to one side, the amassed peaks of the Bernese Oberland on the other. Green, curving valleys, dramatic ridge walking, a 2,680m-high mountain lodge (a good refreshment  stop) and mirror lakes are added extras. A scenic cablecar from First to Grindelwald even saves the walk back down to the valley floor.

Like that? Try this… Matterhorn Circuit – for a longer Swiss stroll, try the tough but magnificent 145km route around the iconic mountain.

 

18. West Highland Way

Where? Milngavie-Fort William, Scotland

Length: 154km

Days: 6-7

Difficulty: ** Moderate, though it’s weather dependent; camping, bothies, hostels and
B&Bs en route

Independent? Yes; many guided trips available

The walk: From just outside Glasgow to the UK’s highest peak, the West Highland Way is the perfect Scottish primer. Utilising many old pathways – from drovers’ roads to  disused railway lines – it crosses pastoral lowlands, skirts Loch Lomond and negotiates bleakly beautiful Rannoch Moor before delving into great glens and finishing beneath 1,344m Ben Nevis – a summit of which provides the ultimate finale.

Like that? Try this… East Highland Way – extend your Scottish soiree by picking up this 132km trail, which links Fort William to Aviemore.

 

North America

 

19. West Coast Trail

Where? Pachena Bay-Gordon River, Vancouver Island, Canada

Length: 75km

Days: 5-7

Difficulty: **** Tough; tidal/river crossings; wild camping; no shelters or facilities

Independent? Yes – but permits/booking essential

The walk: Don’t underestimate the WCT: it might be in lovely, well-developed Canada, but it’s a wild prospect. Along its glorious Pacific-battered route, there are no settlements, ferry ports, shelters or shops – you must be entirely self-sufficient. There are also rivers to ford, gullies to cross, ladders to climb, bears to avoid and inclement weather to contend with. But the rewards are many: this is North America at its most pristine, where the trail runs via old-growth forest, untouched beaches, caves, coves, cliffs and incredible sunsets. Watch out for whales, sea lions and wolves, too.

Like that? Try this… Juan de Fuca Marine Trail, Vancouver Island – this 47km WCT alternative is still spectacular, but easier, more accessible and permit-free.

 

20. Appalachian Trail

Where? Springer Mountain, GA-Mt Katahdin, ME, USA

Length: 3,500km
Days: 180

Difficulty: ***** Varied – challenging thru-hike, but some easy sections; long; camping; basic shelters en route;intermittent access to hotels

Independent? Yes

The walk: First, some stats: the Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states; its total elevation gain equals 16 Mt Everests; around 2,000 people try to thru-hike the whole lot each year – one in four succeeds. Luckily, it’s easy to simply sample this back-country behemoth – appalachiantrail.org offers suggestions, from easy two-milers to multi-day trips. In general, Maryland and West Virginia offer the gentlest hikes; New Hampshire and Maine the toughest.

Like that? Try this… Florida Trail – trace sections of this 2,250km path, which spans the state from Gulf Islands National Seashore to Big Cypress NP.

 

21. John Muir Trail

Where? Yosemite Valley-Mt Whitney, California, USA

Length: 340km

Days: 20-30

Difficulty: **** Moderate-tough; camping; self-sufficiency required; long

Independent? Possible, but advance booking and permits are required

The walk: It’s fitting that the man who spearheaded the national parks movement should have such a world-class wilderness-traversing trail named after him. Muir loved Yosemite, where this backcountry adventure starts; the route then wends further into the Sierra Nevada, where highlights include meadows strewn with wildflowers, remote Evolution Lake and the pretty pools at Rae. En route there are a few re-supply stops (including the hot springs at Red’s Meadows Resort), but mostly it’s just you, the mountains and the bears.

Like that? Try this… Pacific Crest Trail, USA – the John Muir forms just part of this massive 4,240km journey from the Mexican to the Canadian border.

 

22. Virgin Narrows

Where? Chamberlain’s Ranch-Temple of Sinawava, Zion NP, Utah, USA

Length: 26km

Days: 1-2

Difficulty: *** Moderate but short; camping; all waste must be packed out

Independent? Possible, but guide recommended and permits required

The walk: Breathe in for this squeeze down one of southwest USA’s most dramatic slot canyons. This is Indiana Jones-style stuff: sheer, twisting sandstone walls tufted by hanging gardens soar up from the boulder-strewn riverbed – which forms your wet-n-wild walking trail through Zion’s canyons. Good water-shoes and neoprene socks are essential; you may need to swim short sections. But keep an eye on the weather before you start as flash floods are lethal here. Go with a guide for the safest trip.

Like that? Try this… Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness (Utah-Arizona) our cover star this issue. Set off from Wire Pass trailhead to check out the weird and wonderful rock formations such as The Wave.

 

23. Berg Lake Trail

Where? Mount Robson, British Columbia, Canada

Length: 23km

Days: 1-2

Difficulty: ** Moderate but short; campsites with bear lockers and pit toilets

Independent? Yes

The walk: This out-and-back hike towards the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak (3,954m Mt Robson) is a stunner: gaining nearly 800m in 23km, it traverses the Valley of a Thousand Falls – via reflective pools, suspension bridges and squeaking marmots – to Berg Lake, where ice-chunks from massive Berg Glacier calve into the aquamarine water. Doable as a long day-hike, there are campgrounds en route for those who want to linger; for even better hiking, use the camp at the lake as a base for forays into the surrounding wilds.

Like that? Try this… Mount Assiniboine, British Columbia/ Alberta – spend six days hiking around ‘Canada’s Matterhorn’.

 

Middle East

 

24. Dana-Petra

Where? Southern Jordan
Length: 45km

Days: 3-5 days

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; camping; wild

Independent? No – a guide is compulsory

The walk: The ‘Inca Trail of the Middle East’ wends from the wildlife-filled forests of Dana Nature Reserve to the rock-hewn ‘lost’ city of Petra, with some truly intoxicating desert in between. It’s not waymarked – this is a directional route along a range of old mule tracks, rather than a set path, hence the need for a guide. But it’s full of atmosphere and drama: rolling hills, scorching wadis, rich sandstone mountains, Bedouin-style camping and access to Petra via its little-known back door.

Like that? Try this… Wadi Rum – follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia with spectral overnight hikes in the Jordanian desert.

 

25. Mount Sinai

Where? Egypt

Length: various

Days: 1-4

Difficulty: ** Moderate; camps; guesthouses

Independent? No – many trails are not clearly marked

The walk: Many a traveller hauls themselves up 2,285m Mount Sinai for sunrise, a two- to three-hour hike in the dark from St Catherine’s Monastery. However, the entire peninsula is scored with old pilgrim paths and mule tracks that could occupy several days. You can summit Mount Saint Catherine (2,641m), Sinai’s highest peak; hike into El Shegg Gorge to bathe in nearby pools; or climb to the ruined Ottoman castle on Mount Abbas Pasha. Throughout, the desert terrain is wild, and rich in biblical and Bedouin intrigue.

Like that? Try this… White Desert – camp and hike out amid the weird chalk formations of Egypt’s Western Desert, on the fringes of the Sahara.

 

Australasia

 

26. Milford Track

Where? Lake Te Anau-Milford Sound, South Island, NZ

Length: 53.5km

Days: 4

Difficulty: ** Moderate; huts with bunks, cookers and flush loos

Independent? Yes, but reservations required

The walk: Awesome and oh-so popular – the toughest thing about this four-day Fiordland tramp (aside from scaling 1,154m Mackinnon Pass) is booking a place on it. Only 40 independent walkers a day are permitted to hit the trail, which passes mossy rainforest, tumbling falls and high peaks en route to marvellous Milford Sound. Book ahead, pack all your supplies and prepare to be rained on and blown away.

Like that? Try this… Kepler Track – this easy, accessible and less-crowded 60km loop takes a different route from Te Anau.

 

27. Overland Track

Where? Ronny Creek-Lake St Clair, Tasmania, Australia


Length: 65km

Days: 6

Difficulty: ** Moderate; basic huts, tent platforms

Independent? Yes; guided options are available (including a ‘posh’ version using private huts)

The walk: Starting from Cradle Mountain and passing wizened rainforest, glacier-gouged valleys, towering eucalypts and golden moorland, this classic sums up the Tassie wilderness. As well as the standard 65km, there are side-trips to waterfalls and lookouts. At Lake Sinclair, finish with a ferry ride, or extend your trip by walking an extra 17.5km around its shore.

Like that? Try this… Maria Island – saunter in style on a luxurious four-day guided hike across Tassie’s pristine east-coast isle.

 

28. Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Where? Tongariro NP, North Island, NZ

Length: 19km

Days: 1

Difficulty: * Easy-medium; steep sections; short; no facilities

Independent? Yes

The walk: Often touted as the world’s best day walk, this yomp across eerie Tongariro is a magical mix of sulphurous pools, red craters, totara trees, Maori legend and – since the Lord of the Rings movies – Mount Doom. There are some significant ups, but it’s a straightforward undertaking (unless the weather comes in). To add extra interest – and lose the crowds – spend three days completing the 34km hut-to-hut Northern Circuit: the Crossing, supersized.

Like that? Try this… Lake Waikaremoana Track – this 46km Great Walk explores North Island’s lesser-visited Te Urewera NP, rich in Maori history.

 

29. Larapinta Trail

Where? Alice Springs-Mt Sonder, NT, Australia

Length: 223km

Days: 11-16

Difficulty: **** Tough; some stages easier; camping; self-sufficiency required

Independent? Yes; guided options available (including a ‘posh’ version using  semipermanent camps)

The walk: Australia has many trails but this is perhaps the most quintessentially ‘Oz’: starting from the Red Centre capital of Alice, it goes bush along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges, incorporating red rocks and desert, deep gorges, cooling creeks, termite mounds and star-filled skies; the climax is Alamy a climb of 1,380m Mt Sonder for a panoramic overview. It’s broken into 12 sections, and each trailhead is vehicle-accessible making short forays easy to arrange. Only the fit and well-prepared should attempt the lot alone.

Like that? Try this… Bibbulmun Track, WA – nearly 1,000km of brilliant bushwalking, from Kalamunda to Albany.

 

30. Kokoda Track

Where? Owers Corner-Kokoda, Papua New Guinea

Length: 96km

Days: 6-10

Difficulty: **** Tough; humid; jungle camps, homestays, villages en route

Independent? No – guide and permit required

The walk: In 1942, this jungle trail was the site of fierce fighting between Japanese and Australian troops; today it’s filled with hikers battling humidity, bugs and torrential rain. This isn’t a comfortable undertaking, involving steep, slippery ascents, raging rivers and sticky conditions, but pay-offs include fascinating Second World War history, tribal encounters and Technicolor birds of paradise.

Like that? Try this… Black Cat Track, Morobe Province – launched in 2003 as the ‘new’ Kokoda, this five-day trail from Wau is said to be even tougher!

 

Asia

 

31. Great Himalaya Trail

Where? Near Kanchenjunga Base Camp-Hilsa, Tibetan border, Nepal

Length: 1,700km

Days: 150

Difficulty: ***** Challenging, long!; camping

Independent? No – hire a guide

The walk: First thing first: don’t panic! This mammoth hike across the Nepalese Himalaya is formed of ten connecting sections (two/three weeks each), so the less gung-ho can still have a go at a bit of it. Also, there’s a ‘cultural’ version (1,500km), which uses gentler, lower altitude trails, and where small guesthouses offer a warm namaste each night.

Like that? Try this… Mustang – with access restricted to only a handful of groups each season, treks here are special indeed.

32. Great Wall of China

Where? North of Beijing, China

Length: 5,000km in total; various short sections possible

Days: 1-12 (a section)

Difficulty: ** Easy-moderate; steep, uneven sections; homestays

Independent? Yes; many guided options available

The walk: It’s tough to walk the entire Great Wall – not just because it’s a really long way but, in places, its route is ill-defined. However, stringing together a series of day-hikes in the Beijing region – around the less touristy areas of Jiankou, Mutianyu, Gubeikou and Jinshanling – is a good alternative, combining watchtowers, vertiginous steps and mountain views.

Like that? Try this… Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan – From Lijiang, spend three-four days hiking this dramatic canyon.

 

33. Chomolhari Trek

Where? Paro-Dodena, Bhutan

Length: 133km

Days: 10-13

Difficulty: **** Fairly tough; high altitudes; camping, no facilities

Independent? No – guide mandatory

The walk: This exclusive yet manageable Himalayan adventure is a Bhutanese classic. Join yak herders – but few hikers – walking in the shadow of 7,326m Chomolhari (Jomolhari). The trail leads past colourful dzongs (monasteries) and thick forest, over lofty passes (topping out at 4,900m Nyile La) and maybe even past the footprints of rare snow leopards.

Like that? Try this… Merak Sakten – spend five/six days looping around the culturally distinct villages of eastern Bhutan.

 

34. Mount Kailash Circuit

Where? Tibet

Length: 52km

Days: 3-5

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough;remote; monasteries and camping

Independent? No – permits/guides required

The walk: A circumambulation of Kailash won’t just test your legs, it will sort your karma: Buddhists, Böns, Hindus and Jains all believe that a lifetime’s sins can be expunged by completing a circuit (kora) of the unmistakable 6,714m mountain. Kailash is in a remote spot – just getting there (via sacred Lake Manasarovar) is an adventure. On trek, you’ll crest a 5,600m pass, visit monasteries and meet the Tibetan pilgrims who are walking for their souls.

Like that? Try this… Everest’s Kangshung Face – a tough trek to view the mightiest Himalaya peak’s little-visited Tibetan side.

 

35. Lantau Trail

Where? Hong Kong

Length: 70km

Days: 3-12

Difficulty: * Mostly easy; some tougher sections; good facilities

Independent? Yes

The walk: Only a short train or ferry hop from the hubbub of Hong Kong Island, this  circular trail on nearby Lantau is a breath of bucolic air. Starting/finishing at Mui Wo, the route feels far from the metropolis, taking in temples, beaches, fishing villages and gardens. Divided into 12 sections, it’s easy to pick and chose a suitable section.

Like that? Try this… MacLehose Trail – this 100km trek traverses Hong Kong’s New Territories for more alternative city views.

 

36. Singalila Ridge

Where? Manebhanjan-Rimbik, Sikkim, India

Length: 85km

Days: 6-7

Difficulty: ** Moderate; teahouses
Independent? Possible, but guide recommended

The walk: From Sandakphu, the 3,636m zenith of this route near the tea terraces of Darjeeling, you can look out over the world’s highest peaks: Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Everest. As you trek between teahouses, you’ll stop en route to admire Hindu temples, prayer wheels and red pandas. Each night, curries, Sikkimese beers and warm welcomes await.

Like that? Try this… Markha Valley, Ladakh – tale a seven-day hike in ‘little Tibet’, for views of the Karakoram and Himalaya.

 

37. Annapurna Circuit

Where? Besisahar-Naya Pul, Nepal

Length: 300km

Days: 17-24

Difficulty: *** Moderate-tough; teahouses

Independent? Possible, but local guides/sherpas recommended

The walk: Although it weaves amid remote, spectacular mountains, this is no wilderness adventure. Dubbed the ‘teahouse trek’, you’ll interact and stay with the varied ethnic groups that live here. As well as high passes (peaking at 5,416m Thorong La), lonely stupas, lush paddies and barren moonscapes, there are yak herders, reviving hot springs and guesthouses serving curry and cake. Options abound too: cut the trek in half by flying into/out of midway Jomsom. Or take alternative side trails to avoid walking by the new road.

Like that? Try this… Everest Base Camp – Nepal’s other classic, a 14-day out-and-back from Lukla.

 

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“Hello – we’re just taking off” US to relax restrictions.

Posted on Sep 6, 2013 | Comments Off on “Hello – we’re just taking off” US to relax restrictions.

Airlines and Technology

Smart phones, computers- the 10 best global airlines to take them along

Sep 05, 2013

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will relax some rules in regards for passengers to use communication devices. It may include using a phone even during take off and landing.

This is good news for tech-savvy flyers everywhere. But the question is, just how “plugged-in” are the airlines themselves?

A major online booking portal has compiled a list of what it believes to be the best technology adopters within the airline world. Here is our top 10.

#1: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines takes in-flight technology to new heights by embracing fun gadgets that make the flying experience more enjoyable. Not only does it offer Wi-Fi on select routes and power outlets for all cabins, but it also has a laptop battery lending service for first and business class customers. Similarly, if you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford to travel in style, Japan Airlines provides its first and business passengers with noise cancelling headphones and portable air massagers. And who wants to squint at a tiny video screen? First class passengers also enjoy their in-flight entertainment on 19″-23″ screens, while Select Business customers get to use a liquid-crystal touch-panel controller.

Honorable Mentions: Like Japan Airlines, both ANA (All Nippon Airways) and Singapore Airlines offer in-seat power supply and noise cancelling headphones (to first and business passengers). Likewise, ANA has a portable PC battery rental service, not to mention portable media players (on select aircrafts). And Singapore Airlines provides Wi-Fi on select flights, as well as the capability to connect devices directly to personal touch screens.

#2: Virgin Atlantic
Not to be confused with Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic has long been a forward thinker when it comes to technology. Two decades ago, before integrated systems in the back of seats were prevalent, it offered portable video devices to each first class customer. You just picked the video you wanted from whatever cassettes they had on board and the flight attendant would bring you your choice. Likewise, you have long been able to play video games with other passengers.

But now, the social media savvy airline will be using its already very active Facebook and Twitter accounts to announce live entertainment acts on its domestic Little Red service. (By live, we mean actual musicians and performers doing their thing in-person on your flight).

Virgin Atlantic also offers a plethora of mobile apps to choose from, including a mobile boarding pass. And it boasts gate-to-gate in-flight entertainment through its Vera entertainment system (which allows you to bookmark content for later in your flight, rate content and see other travelers’ ratings, as well as access the Sky news channel live).

#3: Air Canada
If you can afford a first class ticket, imagine an airline that offers seats with a built-in massage function and lumbar adjustment, in addition to the fold-out bed capability that has become standard for long haul flights — ever since British Airways first introduced them in 1996. This is just one of the many perks that Air Canada provides its Executive customers. Even the mattress can be adjusted from soft to firm. And to further help you sleep, Air Canada has created an ambient mood lighting effect to sync with each time zone you enter as a way to minimize jet lag. With technology-driven capabilities like these, it is no wonder Air Canada was named Best Airline in North America by the Skytrax 2013 World Airline Awards.

#4: American Airlines
As Air Canada demonstrates, it is not just international airlines that have a corner on technology. And American Airlines is no exception. It has managed to integrate technology into its entire user experience – -from travel planning, to security check, to gate navigation, on board access and baggage claim. Its mobile app not only lets you use your device as an electronic boarding pass, but it will also give you boarding and baggage claim alerts. Need to power up? No problem. Just use one of AA’s gate work tables, complete with charging stations, or plug into the AC power outlet that is a feature on most of its planes. This way you are all juiced up and ready for AA’s in-flight Wi-Fi.

However, a quick poll of Travelzoo employees revealed that it was American’s new upgrade/stand-by feature on its mobile app, as well as the preloaded Samsung Galaxy tablets that were particularly appreciated.

“I like having a reasonable idea of where I stand [with upgrades and stand-by]!” says Alissa Bavli, Senior Sales Director, Entertainment.

For her part, Morgan Ashley Parker, Hotel Content Producer and Merchandising Manager at Travelzoo, loves that American gives its business and first class customers Bose headsets and a Samsung Galaxy tablet with tons of movies loaded onto it. “On the redeye between SFO and JFK, I have to force myself to turn it off so I can get some sleep!”

#5: EVA Airways
Imagine an in-flight entertainment system that integrates with your own devices. If you are flying first class or business, EVA Airways has USB ports that allow you to display your PDF documents, photos and other media directly onto your very own personal touch screen. Their in-flight entertainment system will also let you send and receive emails and cell phone text messages (all classes on select aircrafts). And to make sure your devices stay charged, just use their in-seat power supply.

#6: Qantas
Speaking of in-flight entertainment, Qantas takes it one step further by supplying iPads in every seat so that B767 customers can enjoy 200 hours of streaming on-demand programming. Oh and there are PC power outlets for all classes as well.

It is their Q Bag Tag product, however, that really sets them apart technologically. Designed to make it easier for their customers to check baggage, the little device removes the need for temporary bag tags each time you fly. All you need to do is drop off your bags and go.

#7: Virgin America
Virgin America is pretty tech-savvy too. You can order food, movies and other items directly from your own personal touch screen in the seat in front of you. They also offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

Still, it is their live in-flight TV offering that scores big with Travelzoo. “My favorite flying experience was on a Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Chicago this June. The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Bruins in a triple overtime Stanley Cup Final game that had the whole plane cheering. I think we frightened the non-locals with our excitement, but it was such a treat to get to experience the win live. On any other airline, we would have missed out on all the fun!” shares Anna Heinemann, Senior Associate Producer, Entertainment.

#8: Delta Airlines
Like American Airlines, Delta also offers in-flight Wi-Fi and USB power outlets, as well as charging stations at its top airports. But it is Delta’s iPhone app that no doubt helped propel the airline to be named “Top Tech-Friendly U.S. Airline” by PCWorld magazine early last year. Among the many things it can do is track and pay for checked baggage!

#9: Emirates
One of the few international airlines to allow passengers to use their cell phones, Emirates may or may not be helping to pave the way for policy changes on domestic U.S. flights. Regardless, this capability combined with its Ice OnDemand entertainment system and Wi-Fi offering helps position it as a tech savvy airline.

#10: Etihad Airways
This summer Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, debuted Wi-Fly in-flight connectivity on its Abu Dhabi and New York flights. It also offers travelers “Etihad Mapped-Out,” an online mapping tool developed in cooperation with LinkedIn, that gives professionals the ability to search their connections by geographical location and see them displayed on a map. The idea is to make it easier for their passengers to message new contacts, arrange meetings and be more productive while travelling.

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Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia

Posted on Sep 5, 2013 | Comments Off on Accor’s Pullman to manage more Qantas lounges across Australia

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Accor has managed Qantas’ First/Business Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne airports for more than five years. It will now take over the operations of the majority of Qantas domestic lounges in Sydney and Melbourne plus Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth, with a roll-out from November this year. They will be will be run under Accor’s upscale Pullman brand.

Earlier this year, Qantas relaunched its newly refurbished lounge in Singapore, also managed by Accor.

Simon McGrath, Accor’s COO Australia and New Zealand, said the deal brings together the two biggest names in tourism and hospitality in Australia to provide the best possible service to Qantas Frequent Flyers.

Accor’s involvement in the Qantas lounges extends to providing staff training, lounge management and food and beverage services.

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Follow-up: Tourist’s death prompts Venice to ban cruise ships from entrance to Grand Canal

Posted on Sep 2, 2013 | Comments Off on Follow-up: Tourist’s death prompts Venice to ban cruise ships from entrance to Grand Canal

Image via telegraph.co.uk

The eyesore of cruise ships on Venice’s famous skyline could soon become ancient history, as the behemoths are set to be banned from the city’s waterways.

The new proposals by Italy’s Environment Minister follow a crackdown on water traffic, after the death of a German tourist two weeks ago.

Joachim Vogel, 50, a professor of criminal law, was crushed against a dock by a reversing vaporetto water bus as he took a tour with his family by gondola near the Rialto Bridge.

The tragic accident has prompted authorities to bring in a series of new safety regulations including ‘a floating congestion zone’ on the Grand Canal to ease the chaotic rush hour waterway traffic. Breathalyser tests for gondoliers are also imminent.

Venice’s proud residents have long been up in arms about the presence of large cruise ships passing through the lagoon, with a flotilla of protesters taking to the waters in June.

Lobbyists argue that the huge ships, sometimes ten storeys high, erode the canals and the city’s fragile foundations, contribute to the worsening flooding that occurs every winter and damage the delicate eco-systems of the lagoon.

The cruise companies pay huge port fees for the privilege, but their passengers frequently eat and sleep on board and contribute little direct revenue to restaurants and hotels.

The Italian Environment Minister Andrea Orlando said he would put the proposals in front of cross party parliamentary committee in October.

He told the Italian daily Il Gazettino: ‘There will always be a margin of risk and even that margin is too high a risk.

‘The problem is not just the presence of large ships in St Marks basin but in general the presence of ships in the lagoon.’

He expected a ‘concrete response that could be translated into immediate action’, as the problem is getting worse all the time, he said.

‘The number of cruise ships passing in front of St Marks’s Cathedral has grown by seven per cent this year alone.’

The proposals would essentially put in action emergency legislation drafted after the Concordia tragedy, that would prevent ships of more than 500 tonnes coming within two nautical miles of landscapes of value such as the Venice lagoon or fragile environments such as the marine sanctuary between Sardinia and north-east Italy.

Venice’s mayor wants to see cruise tourists dock at Porto Marghera, a town blighted by industrial pollution. Other suggestions have included a floating off-shore port.

Alternative solutions would see the number of cruise ships allowed to enter the lagoon severely limited, or the dredging of a new approach to the same cruise passenger terminals but avoiding the narrow canals around St Marks Square.

On Saturday another huge cruise ship was photographed passing within yards of St Marks, in ‘a bow’ to the city inevitably raising the spectre of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, which sank after hitting rocks off the coast of Tuscany during just such a bow to the island of Giglio last year.

Tensions were raised in July after the Carnival Sunshine, which is owned by the same parent company as the notorious Costa Concordia, allegedly passed within yards of the city’s bank while performing ‘a sail by salute’ to a major company shareholder.

Film footage appeared to show the 110 thousand ton liner squeezing a vaporetto water taxi and other boats between the ship and the bank. Carnival denied any wrongdoing.

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