Monday, April 27, 2015

Mountains of the Moon, Uganda

Central Circuit, Ruwenzori Range

executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 38 miles, 6 to 7 days

When to Go: December to March, the “dry” season. Go with guides and porters; they know the way and are not expensive.

When approaching high-altitude glaciers, you don't often hear locals say, “There are elephants here.” But everything about the Ruwenzori Range, Ptolemy's legendary Mountains of the Moon, is unexpected. Looming on the Uganda-Congo border, these peaks make up the highest range in Africa, rising to 16,765 feet at the Margherita summit of Mount Stanley. (Kilimanjaro and Kenya are taller, but they aren’t ranges.) You’ll hike three days through two 14,000-foot passes and mind-bending forests of giant groundsel and giant lobelias to get to the Bujuku Hut, base camp for those wanting to climb Mount Speke. Hike one more day to Elena Hut, base camp for those who want to climb the glaciers, and try for the summit of Mount Stanley for its unique views of the Congo Basin. Two more trail days take you over Scott Elliot Pass, the highest on the circuit at 14,344 feet, and back to the starting point for your eventual return to Kampala.

Insider Tip: Bring a pair of indestructible camp shoes impervious to moisture, such as Crocs. The circuit can be a muddy mess. Walking in the creek beds often makes for the best progress. It is essential to be able to change into something dry and reasonably comfortable for your feet at day's end.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii, United States

Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Valley

By Peter Potterfield, executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 22 miles, 3 to 5 days

When to Go: May to September for drier weather; April or October for more solitude

The finest coastal hike in the world, this rugged route through Kauai’s impressive Nā Pali Coast will challenge you physically with tropical heat and steep trails, and scare you with exposure on muddy slopes. But after a day of slogging 11 miles through the fluted cliffs above surf that crashes like howitzer fire on the coast below, you are rewarded with a view of the impossibly serene mile-long arc of golden Kalalau Beach along the shimmering Pacific. The Kalalau Valley itself holds fairy-tale waterfalls and lush tropical jungle, well worthy of exploration, but the highlight is camping right on the beach, with the Western Pacific before you, reflecting the setting sun.

Insider Tip: It’s hot, and you’ll be tempted, but don’t even think about cooling off with a swim at Hanakapi’ai Beach on the way in. All those small, makeshift memorials are erected in the memory of hikers who thought they might enjoy wading in and were immediately swept out to sea by the violent rips.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand

Ship Cove to Anakiwa

By Peter Potterfield, executive summary by darmansjah

Round-Trip: 44 miles, 3 to 5 days

When to Go: Located on the sunny north end of the South Island, near the famed wine growing region of Marlborough, the Queen Charlotte can be done virtually year round. Hike with Marlborough Sound Adventures, who have the logistics wired.

A unique journey through the sunny hills of the Marlborough Sounds, the Queen Charlotte follows the dragon’s back ridge that separates the blue waters of Queen Charlotte Sound from those of Kenepuru Sound. Water taxis take you from the town of Picton to the start, at Ship’s Cove, where Captain Cook hung out frequently between 1770 and 1779, and the finish at Anakiwa. You can camp the whole way, a style of hiking the Kiwis call “freedom walking,” or choose to turn the jaunt into a cush day-hiking experience not unlike trekking in Nepal—except your gear is carried by boat, not yak. Go luxe, and you can crank 15-mile days and stay every night in comfortable lodges at Furneaux, Punga Cove and Portage.

Insider Tip: The Queen Charlotte is one of the few tracks in New Zealand open to mountain bikers for part of the season. Go early or late in the season if you want to ride, or choose high summer if you want a more tranquil hike without bikers coming up behind you.