Bring your hammock
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I finally found the spot and courage to camp on my own in the jungle. The latter was not easy after I had met a cobra on my first hike. I went to the Bach Ma National Park.
I was disappointed by the main path which turned out to be a paved road.
The only advantage: I could enjoy unobscured view for the entire hike.
And when the paved road ended 19 kilometers later and 1400 meters higher, I found a hidden treasure along the trail leading to the peak: war tunnels, unaltered and to this day not marketed. It was really cool/creepy to explore them as they were left by the soldiers, while dozens of freaked out bats were flying right next to my face in panic.
Definitely a highlight of the trip. And not far there was a cool pagoda almost at the peak.
Next came the five lakes trail, along which I started to look for a camp spot since I wanted plenty of time to experiment with the setup.
The spot on that shelf would have been perfect if it wasn’t for the widow-maker leaning from the left bank. The search would have been much faster if I wasn’t avoiding blocking the trail. This was probably unnecessary since some parts of it were covered in thick spider webs and I hadn’t seen any other tourists earlier that day.
Eventually I found a spot to hang my hammock.
The view from my spot looking upstream…
and looking downstream:
I’m happy to say that my new experimental method for keeping distance between mosquito net and the hammock worked great: not a single mosquito bite.
I hadn’t brought with me any insulation for the hammock, so I got uncomfortably cold as expected, but still managed to get a few hours of sleep. Actually, I’m quite surprised how easy it was too fall asleep despite this new environment and all the jungle noises.
On my way back I continued along the five lakes trail and took a little detour to visit the 300 m high Rhododendron Waterfall.
And BTW here’s a picture of my ride from Hue to Dong Hoi, titled How to squeeze 22 people into (what would in other countries be) a 10-person minibus:
Posted from Android
Few weeks ago I went with my friends to the Balkans. First we visited Belgrade – nothing interesting except for lot of homeless people and dogs, trash and zoophilic statues:
Then, after a long and only partially successful struggle to find a hiking map, we went hiking, first from Niksic to Ostrog, then in the Lovcen NP, until we arrived at Kotor. Again, nothing terribly exciting, except for a couple cool camping spots. The first one was next to some mysterious abandoned construction:
that contained nothing but rocks
The other cool spot was next to some abandoned dwellings, few hours hike from the nearest village:
And there we didn’t need to worry about the firewood
Anyway, after a week spent together we decided to split and the excitement level rose significantly. I got molested, worried about tides soaking me and my gear wet, was refused a threesome that I didn’t ask for and camped in a hell of a thunderstorm. All that within few hours. Here is the story:
I hitchhiked to Jaz near Budva, very touristy place, famous for its beaches. Kept walking until I got away from the tourists. Soon I arrived at a nude beach – sweet! Nothing like swimming in the warm Adriatic Sea and lying an a beach, free of the textile oppression. On top of that, next to me there was an abandoned bar that I could sleep in:
Everything seemed great except that the beach turned out to be frequented by desperate creeps, hoping to find a young male or female to have a quickie with. I soon learned not to smile or show any friendliness towards others. Instead, I set up my camp
and a new problem appeared. The tide started rising and I wasn’t sure how high it would get. When I tried to ask a local couple about it, the girl firmly said ‘No!’ Guess she thought I was one of the many creeps on the beach.
Luckily, in the evening the water started getting lower and I could enjoy great view without any fears. What could be better than lying in a hammock, by the Adriatic Sea, at night, in an abandoned bar, with no people in sight? Maybe doing all that in a heavy thunderstorm, watching lightnings strike the sea, listening to heavy waves crashing just couple meters away from you? Yep, it was as cool as it sounds :-)
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I’m finally done with the primitive, heavy and inconvenient single rope system. My new hang consists of:
The dogbones and whoopie slings were spliced from 2.5 mm dyneema rope. The soft shackle and ridge line are made of 1.5 mm dyneema. The entire splicing took one afternoon. Considering that it was my first time, I’m quite happy. Actually, when I spliced the first dogbone and figured out some tricks, it all went pretty smoothly.
Ah, I’m a real mosquitophobe and so I was looking forward to having a total protection from those pesky insects. And since I like to switch between sleeping on the ground and in a hammock (and soon also in SE Asian hostels), I wanted my net to be usable in all those conditions, i.e., to have an opening in the bottom wide enough to fit an entire bed or at least a sleeping pad.
Luckily, no suitable product could be found so I got an opportunity for another DIY project. To my surprise, I couldn’t even find suitable fabric, so eventually I decided to buy a Dutch military surplus cot mosquito net just to scavenge the mesh.
Sewing the mosquito net was much more time consuming, for several reasons:
Finally, after two days of work I arrived at my final design:
The bag that came with the original net now holds the entire set, except for the straps which are stored separately in case they get dirty from resin and such.
How it would perform in the field remained to be seen as I was about to start my trip to Balkans in just few days (spoiler alert; it worked great).
In total, my entire system cost 232 PLN or 74 USD, plus three days worth of work.
In total: 1.35kg.
Quite a lot. I guess that’s what I pay for mosquito net versatility and the tarp more comfortable (bigger) than the required minimum (which in my case would be 2m x 3m).
I’m standing by the road. The weather is nice, the place is quite scenic, so I’m in a good mood. After about an hour of waiting, an old car pulls over. A young kid asks me: ‘Where are you going?’
He smiles and says: ‘Hop in’.
It turned out he was going to Narvik, about 700 km or 10 hours drive down the road. Sweet! And on top of that, I had heard some nice things about Narvik when I was in Kiruna, Sweden last winter.
The kid said he would always pick up hitchhikers, mostly because he enjoyed listening to their stories. Our ride would be the longest lift he gave to anyone and he seemed quite happy about it. Unfortunately, he also seemed a bit disappointed to learn that I had had a few longer rides before.
It was a magnificent ride. That day I saw my first fjords, entered the Arctic and observed the landscape completely change. The views were absolutely mindblowing. Sadly, after few hours the driver seemed to grow a bit annoyed by my presence in his car. I was not surprised by that, knowing his young age. At some point I mentioned being interested in magic. After I showed him a few tricks when he wasn’t driving, he got happy again. I guess he considered me cool again.
An interesting thing happened when we were waiting for a ferry. He insisted that I pay for myself. Of course, I was grateful for the ride and would pay for myself even if he didn’t mention it. But I found the way he told me to pay quite amusing. He did it not only in a very assertive way, but his tone might be considered a bit hostile in most societies. And the funny part is, the price was very low – 35 NOK, i.e. what you normally pay in Norway for a loaf of bread or a kilo of apples. My impression is that Norwegians in general are extremely assertive and never feel intimidated to settle up, even when it comes to silly small amounts.
I asked the driver to drop me off just before Narvik, so that I could set up my camp. I guess we didn’t understand each other, since he left me in a middle of a town. I tried to hitchhike from there, but I knew I didn’t have much chance. And after hour or two of futile waiting, I made up my mind: I would spend the next day in Narvik, use the time to relax and explore and get back on the road the day after. To my surprise (and relief) it took only 3 or 4 km walk to get to the far end of the town, where I set up my camp:
I also learned how trusting Norwegians can be. When I asked two ladies who apparently owned a garage near my campsite, they not only had no problem with me camping there (and seemed surprised that I had taken the trouble to ask), but even suggested a spot that might be more convenient. Neither of them seemed to be bothered by my presence at all.
The third day of my trip was quite uninteresting. First I went to a sporting goods store I had noticed the day before and got some fuel for my stove. From now on I would be able to cook a hot meal, yay!
I went to a gas station to ask for a ride, but all the people were either going the other direction or unwilling to give me a ride. I was surprised how frank people were with me: ‘No, I don’t want to’. To some it might seem rude, but I really appreciated it.
So despite the rainy weather, I went to a highway ramp, wrote ‘Nordkapp’ on my sign and turned down two offers before I realized that I wouldn’t find anyone going any significant distance. So I went with the third driver that pulled over. It was an elder priest who was going back home from a funeral. He complained a bit about Norwegians not being religious but other than that was a nice fella. After about 20 minutes he dropped me off just before Trondheim.
After a couple hours of putting a backpack raincover on, off and on again, I got picked up and driven almost 200 km to Steinkjer. Then literally the first car approaching me pulled over and picked me up. The driver was a young kid who had never picked up a hitchhiker before. He really wanted to take a picture of me to show to his friends who, by the time he dropped me off, already claimed him insane for picking me up, even though we were going together only for a few minutes. I ended up in Aspaugen. Some locals looked really surprised to see a hitchhiker. But they didn’t get a chance to get a close look because very soon I got picked up again. This time by an older gentleman going to inspect his forest in Kram.
When I got there it was already 7:00pm or so, so I doubted I would get another ride that day. Still, it was early enough to give it a shot. And when I was just about to go seek a camping spot, an elder lady picked me up. She explicitly said she wanted some company to keep her awake for the remaining hour of driving. So I did my best to be an interesting conversation partner. She was going to Grong but was kind enough to drop me off a kilometer or two farther down the road, in a nice rest area where I could camp.
Having set up my camp and cooked some hot meal (an instant soup with couscous), I called it a day and went to sleep. It was all perfect… except for the guy who arrived at 1:00am and spent like 20 minutes inflating his air bed with a very loud, annoying pump.
What follows is a diary of my recent trip to Norway. Each post will correspond to a single day. Even though I’m writing this down after my return, I will set the publication date for each of the posts to the day it describes.
I took a WizzAir flight from Warsaw to Rygge near Oslo. I hate waiting in a queue for boarding so I was one of the last passangers on the plane. We were all asked to take any seat we can see as quickly as possible. Everyone pretented not to notice a particular place next to two little girls. Unfortunately, a flight attendant asked me to sit there and I couldn’t really refuse. So I had to help them a bit when preparing for takeoff and landing but more importantly, I had to listen to the lound, high-pitch screams of the younger one for the entire flight. It seemed they were travelling with a guy sitting in front of me who didn’t really care. Well, he was partially excused since there where another two girls sitting in his row, so there was no way he could put all four of them around himself. I cursed myself for leaving my earplugs in my big backpack instead of the cabin luggage.
There were two surprises awaiting me after we landed. Firstly, the three guys sitting in the row behind me started chatting with the girls. It turned out they were all related, only they didn’t want to listen to the screams themselves, so they pretended not to know my charming little neighbours and let me have the honour of sitting next to them. Secondly, when I reached for my cabin luggage, I realized I had put the earplugs there just before checking in my big backpack and forgot about it. Damn it.
Well, at least I was in Norway now. And it was time to decide where to go. The west coast looked really appealing on my roadmap but after I asked at the tourist information and at a gas station, it seemed that getting there and then travelling along it might be quite complicated for a hitchhiker. So I decided to take the main Norwegian highway (the E6) and go somewhere in the North, for I love the arctic.
A short, nice walk to the nearest roundabout and in no time a car pulled over. I got picked up by two Polish guys working in Oslo. As I was about to find out, there are lots and lots of Polish people working in Norway. The driver used to hitchhike himself so he was so kind as to drop me off at the far end of the city.
I didn’t wait long at that spot either. After a good hour, maybe an hour and a half, I got picked up again. The driver wasn’t going far, but he used to hitchhike himself and assured me that I had much better chances at the proposed spot. He told me to stick to the gas stations and not to hitchhike on the highway ramps, or else I will have to deal with the police. I found and still find it hard to believe, but perhaps the cops around Oslo are more uptight. My driver also said that nowadays, when he wants to go somewhere far, he calls local DHL branch and asks if they have any trucks going that direction and if he may go as a passanger. That’s another thing I find hard to believe.
Anyway, he took me to Jessheim, just north of Oslo, showed me a nice small forest just by the highway where I could camp and also a gas station where I should start the next day.
The camp set-up I chose for this night was this: a hammock, a simple mosquito net (i.e. a window curtain) hanging loosely from the hammock ridge line and a tarp supported by the ridge line, stretched with some pieces of thin rope to form a canopy. I put my sleeping pad in the hammock and a sleeping bag on top of it. There were quite a few mosquitos in the woods so I was curious to see for the first time how the window curtain would work. Alas, I forgot to take a picture of the camp.
Only after I got everything set up, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. All I had was some bread and chocolate but I was quite happy with my supper. And then it was time to get some good night rest.