Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: hiking

Spring begins at Spectacle E’e Falls

The arrival of the Scottish spring means that it’s finally time to go out and walk that list of trails that I’ve accumulated over the months! Last year, I began my venture into the Scottish landscape by visiting Kinnoull Hill near Perth, falling in love with the lush rolling hills in the unspoiled countryside. Now, with the sun brilliantly shining for such an unusually long time (2+ week!) it was almost a crime not to catch it before it leaves again. The target this time isn’t a big mountain and not even a small hill, but a circular trail hidden in the outskirts of an unnoticed town not too far from Glasgow – Strathaven. The destination is clear – Spectacle E’e Falls, a set of waterfalls along the Avon Water. Funny name, but there’s a story behind it that I will tell you about later on.

On Saturday morning, two of my buddies headed to Strathaven with me in couldn’t-be-better weather. To get to Strathaven, we had to take the train to Hamilton, a nearby town, and take a bus to Strathaven. It almost felt like a field trip, with food in our backpacks and the excitement of adventure in our hearts. Looks at the clouds! They were so spectacular that day as we headed away from Strathaven into the surrounding countryside in search of the waterfalls.

The sky did become slightly dark for a bit during our walk but at no moment did we think it was going to rain. I led us forward using a guide from WalkHighlands, a godsend for hiking enthusiasts who don’t want to get lost in the middle of nowhere. Despite having all the instructions with me, we missed a crucial part of the walk – a stile, whose definition I had to look up – and consequently did the walk backwards. No big deal though, we still knew where we were going most of the time…just that we had to reverse the directions!

My friends had quite a heated debate on whether these are ducks or geese. I don’t actually remember the conclusion of the debate but I think…they are geese?!

Before reaching the Spectacle E’e Falls, I told my friends to withhold their expectations because I had no idea how impressive these falls were supposed to be, nevermind not knowing what they thought would be “impressive”. Along the way, as we were looking for the main waterfall, we passed by a few small cascades that we THOUGHT were the actual falls, being quite disappointed several times. But when we reached the real Spectacle E’e Falls, there was no question that this was the real thing – the viewing deck gives it away! The drop and volume were quite large and rather exceeded my expectations, especially after seeing those deceiving little cascades. And here you could literally stand right next to the falls on slippery rocks – if not careful you might even fall into the water!

As a part of my “Food & the Scotland Hikes” photo series, I had to snap this one – Spectacle E’e Falls with my snack of the day, a strawberry (out of many). This might be my favourite photo of the series so far because the contrast between the strawberry and the waterfall is so striking, and what can I say – waterfalls are beautiful and so are strawberries!

Finally a photo of me and my companions of the day! (I am the one on the right 😛 ) Time to test our selfie skills as we had to stand in a small area on the slippery rocks that I had mentioned earlier, very close to the waterfall. In the midst of finding the best picture angle, we had to make sure none of us slipped, which was easier said than done! I had intended to do this walk on my own but these guys joined me when they found out that I was planning to sneak out during the weekend…oops! I didn’t mind them coming along – if I REALLY wanted to go somewhere alone, no one could convince me to tag along, ha! Such a fun day out with them 😉

Another view of the Spectacle E’e Falls, and I suppose I should finally explain the name, which allegedly came from a local tale. It was said that a young lad fell in love with the daughter of the owner of a mill nearby, but the father did not approve of the relationship and ended it. As revenge, the lad put his eyeglasses on the mill so that when the sun rays struck them, they caught on fire and destroyed the mill. Interesting story, and as someone who appreciates waterfalls immensely, I loved that the falls had history behind it.

After snapping a million photos at the waterfall, we continued on the path going back to Strathaven. And we had to hurry because we were hungry! The narrow trails along the Avon Water were quite lovely though. What an enjoyable walk!

I was actually quite glad that this walk turned out to be more relaxing and not as strenuous as some of the hills that I’ve hiked (even though none of the ones I’ve conquered so far were really THAT strenuous). At least there wasn’t any ascent and we were able to just enjoy the day as it was, almost like an afternoon stroll.

Behind us, an old man and his dog were fishing along the river, and I took this chance to practise taking some photos with my new 70-300 mm lens for Mr.Nikon. Ah, yes, I hadn’t mentioned this. This gentleman became a generous model for my trials of the day, but I definitely still need to get the hang of this lens with more shooting opportunities.

Eventually we reached an area of vast grassland without any defined trail or path, which was expected according to the guide (that I had to read backwards). A flock of sheep were chilling in the open grass and as if alerted, immediately turned away from us and began retreating as we approached. We joked around by quoting John 10:10, saying that our friend YX was the thief that came to take the sheep away. After all, the sheep know the voice of their shepherd, no?

Another selfie was warranted to showcase how blessed we were to have the weather on our side XD We didn’t have the “selfie master” with us that day, but with the combined power of three people who usually never take selfies, we did pretty well…I think? 😉

Toward the end of the trail, as we were leaving the flock of sheep, we met these three chatty fellows who I assumed were locals around the area. One of them insisted taking a photo of our group of three along with his two buddies, and we were only glad to oblige. Of course I had to do the same, so I took a photo of their group of three along with my two buddies. Heh, it’s always the cherry on top of the cake to meet some locals on a walk. This certainly reminded me of Mr. Andy Sharp in Callander and Chris in Perth 😉

At the end of a long hike (and it was long because we spent about 40 minutes wandering in a wrong direction), all we wanted was LOTS OF FOOD! A restaurant was serving all-day breakfast and as soon as we saw the menu I thought…I’m down! And this was no ordinary breakfast – this was the EXTRA LARGE breakfast. Two eggs, two lorne sausages, two slices of bacon, beans, grilled mushrooms, slices of toast, hashbrown, pancake, tattie scone…what an indulgent Scottish breakfast for lunch!

So spring began with a blast at Spectacle E’e Falls and Strathaven, accompanied by my lovely companions, who were almost like my little brother and sister. We’re already anticipating the next outing together – where would that be?

Highlights of my first trip to Southeast Asia

Happy new year! The first post of 2016 will be a summary of the highlights of my trip to Southeast Asia during the Christmas holidays. Yes, after having had the inexplicable urge to visit Southeast Asia – especially Cambodia and Vietnam – I finally went to both countries! So it became the final trip of 2015 and the first of 2016, with new year’s eve spent on an overnight train somewhere in northern Vietnam. What an experience!

The 14-day trip started in Cambodia, where my friend and I went from Siem Reap (Angkor area) to Vietnam, where we travelled to the cities of Hoi An, Hue, and Hanoi, ventured into the mountainous villages of Sapa, and spent a night on a cruise in Halong Bay. Here are just a few highlights from the too many precious memories that could be elaborated in one post.

33-degree heat wave in Cambodia

When I was preparing for the trip, I failed to realize that while the weather could be too cold, it could also be TOO HOT. I certainly packed plenty of clothing for the expected wet and wintery weather in northern Vietnam, but neglected that in Cambodia, it was going to be 33 degrees Celsius. Ouch. Imagine walking through ancient temples through the scorching heat for a whole day – I was burnt to a crisp! Still, wandering in the Angkor temple complex and soaking in all that vitamin D that I had been deprived of in Glasgow was certainly the first highlight and a warm beginning of the long trip!

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The hills are alive…at Bracklinn Falls and Callander Crags!

Now that the days are getting shorter after daylight savings time has come into effect, day hikes seem to require a bit more strategic planning. First of all, I pretty much can’t stay on a hill past 4 in the afternoon unless I am prepared to wander in the dark. Second, it got cold really fast within the past two weeks. If I even manage to get myself out of bed early on a Saturday, then I’d better make sure that wherever I go, the day is not wasted because of poor planning on my part.

Keeping this in mind, I went on my first hike after returning to Scotland from Canada. The Callander Crags hasn’t been on my list of places to go, but it caught my attention after I found out how easy (relatively) it was to access with public transportation from Glasgow. I would of course combine the trip with a visit to Bracklinn Falls, which was a convenient detour (in fact I first went to the falls, then up the crags). And I love love LOVE waterfalls, so there was no excuse not to go.

One problem was that it was forecasted to rain in Callander on Saturday, at least in the morning anyway. I had to make sure that I arrived in Callander just after it stopped raining, but not too late so that I wouldn’t be able to finish the entire hike before it got dark. I seriously contemplated cancelling the plan because rain in general was the biggest turn-off any trip, but I went for it anyway, fully anticipating slipper slopes and muddy tracks. Stupidity or adventure? You decide.

From Callander to Bracklinn Falls

As I was taking the bus from Stirling to Callander, it was raining mildly (I was praying hard that it would stop raining when I started hiking). I had my rain gear ready, knowing that it wouldn’t be a dry hike, but hoped that by the time I began walking, I didn’t have to deal with an umbrella when going uphill. On the other hand, with the rain, I did anticipate the waterfalls more than I initially did, as I speculated that a rainy morning would add a lot of volume to a waterfall. I got to Callander just before noon, which meant that I had around 4 hours to cover both Bracklinn Falls and the crags if I wanted to be back before it got too dark. From Callander, I followed a marked path uphill to the starting point of the Bracklinn Falls circuit and began the search for the waterfall.

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Cottage time in Barry’s Bay and Algonquin Park

October is a magical time in Toronto because the fall season brings with it the art of transforming foliage, which covers the city and surrounding areas with vibrant colours. I’ve known this for almost the past two decades, but only began to truly appreciate the beauty of Canadian autumns last year. I thought it would be the perfect time to take a trip back to Toronto during mid-October this year, right in time for the Thanksgiving long weekend, and head north to Barry’s Bay in the Algonquin Park area with my family for a short cottage trip.

In the 19 years since I’ve immigrated to Canada, I had never been to Algonquin Provincial Park, which is a 3.5-hour drive from Toronto. It might have been past the summer cottaging season, but mid-October was definitely a popular time for Canadians to enjoy a final cottage break before winter kicks in, especially in the north where the autumn foliage colours were already in bloom. I won’t include too many words for this post – the photos speak for themselves.

Aside from canoeing on Carson Lake, exploring Algonquin Park, and relaxing at the cottage in Barry’s Bay, the trip included a hike in Madawaska Valley, a beautiful surprise and a rare time when all family members hiked together (mainly because I insisted). The colours of the autumn foliage were at their best in mid-October, which was exactly why I went back to Canada and headed up north with my family. The vivid orange and red leaves are lovely complements to my even more lovely parents and sister, aren’t they 😉

The hills are alive…on Arthur’s Seat!

Speaking of hills, a very easily reachable summit from Glasgow would be Arthur’s Seat, situated right in Edinburgh an hour away. To be precise, there is a group of hills in Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, and Arthur’s Seat is the most well-known peak among them. I had been looking for the perfect opportunity to go, mostly considering weather and my availability. The opportunity finally presented itself at the end of September, so I was only too happy to embark on the journey to conquer my next summit – Arthur’s Seat.

Holyrood Park is accessible from the centre of Edinburgh via a 20-minute walk from Waverley train station to the beginning of the hiking trails. From the base of the hills, there were many paths that led up to Arthur’s Seat, but instead of taking the common route up from the front, I made a small detour to the back of the park and decided to ascend a random trail that was not as crowded as the main path. Up ahead in the above picture is Arthur’s Seat – still quite a bit of walking to do!

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