hiking

alive and hiking Pagasarri

mountains

Despite the brooding tone of my last post and my subsequent silence implying that I died from the cold from which I was suffering more than a month ago, I am still alive and well. Indeed, I’m thriving, as much as I believe is possible for me to do during these brief months in Bilbao. The reason for my absence, for anyone who hasn’t heard from my parents or grandparents, is not that I’ve been so terribly busy with schoolwork – though sometimes I have been – nor that I have been having all kinds of grand adventures – though I’ve enjoyed several day trips – and most certainly not because I have a Spanish boyfriend – though it has been suggested numerous times as the best way for improving my language skills. No, I stopped blogging simply because we had no internet in my apartment for more than a month. Our contract with one internet provider ended and with it the wifi in our house. Borja, the seemingly most responsible housemate of the six of us, dutifully contracted a new and cheaper provider, who informed us that it would take some days for the technician to come install a modem/router/whatever was necessary, but it wouldn’t be too long – certainly no more than 20 days at the very very maximum. Oh what lies! The 20 days flew by and so did the next 20, and I spent my precious daylight hours hiking back and forth from the library to do translation homework and my weekend evenings bundled up against the chill and huddled in the corner of an outdoor courtyard, using the school wifi to skype my parents in the bright beam of the nighttime floodlights of my deserted university. I became an expert at typing up a few sentences about my day with my thumbs and keeping my family and best friend more-or-less updated on my life via instant messages on my phone with its precious few megabites of data. And between all that and the rest of life, I had no time to be spending sitting at school typing up blog posts.

As I’m wont to do, I’m making the whole situation sound much more dramatic than it actually was. After I got used to it, I quite enjoyed my increased homework productivity and the fact that I spent entire weekends reading or exploring. Millennial that I am, the computer has an undeniable draw for me, so it was freeing to escape its addictive grasp for a while. Nevertheless, I was thrilled when, after several strangely unsuccessful visits and a number of phone calls, the Movistar man finally descended from his cyber-throne and deigned to provide us with internet on Wednesday evening. “O frabjous day! Callooh Callay!” (I do so adore that strange Carroll poem, just as much as I’m disturbed by his prose.)

I suppose I’ll have to do a bit of back-posting to summarize a few of the notable little trips I’ve taken, but for now let’s just stick with today.

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Three friends and I hiked up a small mountain outside of town at the recommendation of one of our professors. We essentially followed some instructions we found on the internet on the way up and then took our own way down, while still making use of the dozens of helpful sign posts along the way.

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The hike up Pagasarri from the center of town took us about 2 hours and 45 minutes, including lots of breaks and a few long-cuts. They aren’t kidding when they say “shortcuts lead to long delays.”

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At the top of the hill was what’s termed a “refuge” in Spanish but essentially amounts to miniature restaurant, and we couldn’t have been happier to hand over our euros for some large omelette-on-bread pintxos (the Basque name for tapas, essentially), which we enjoyed in the glorious sunshine on the hillside.

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When we parted ways after returning to Bilbao, I made a bee-line for a pastery and candy shop I’d spied a few weeks ago, which boasted filled versions (mine had dulce de leche, a caramel-like substance) of my favorite pastry here: the palmera. Though the one I tried was only fair, I intend to dedicate a whole post to my study of the buttery wonder of palmeras in general.

palmera dulce de leche

Now I’m off to spend the evening playing card games with more friends (all Americans, mind you – that’s a longer story) for the evening. We’re even meeting in a bar. Talk about a contrast from my last post. Ha!

Norway: glacier hiking, kayaking & camping

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On the fourth day we hiked for seven hours (crampons, ice picks, the works!) and tried ice climbing on a glacier. Day five we met our guide and two Lebanese groupmates for our overnight kayaking trip down the Sognefjord, packed our provided gear into our kayaks, and set out. We glamped (glamorous camping with so. much. good. food.) a night and then kayaked further down the fjord on day six before paddling all 18 kilometers back to where we started. Day seven was an 8-hour, scenic train ride back to Oslo for our flights home the next morning.

We took a boat across a small lake to near the base of the glacier, schlepping our gear with us.

We took a boat across a small lake to near the base of the glacier, schlepping our gear with us.

After about an hour of hiking up to and onto the glacier, our guide poked some bits of metal into the top of a cliff, threw some rope down, and stood on belay while we climbed up and rappelled down. Isaac went first.

After about an hour of hiking up to and onto the glacier, our guide poked some bits of metal into the top of a cliff, threw some rope down, and stood on belay while we climbed up and rappelled down. Isaac went first.

Everyone but me made it to the top, including Mom, hip problems and all. I wasn't too thrilled to climb up something while having to rely on crampons and ice picks instead of hands and toes to pull me up. No fun.

Everyone but me made it to the top, including Mom, hip problems and all. I wasn’t too thrilled to climb up something while having to rely on crampons and ice picks instead of hands and toes to pull me up. No fun.

There were a few ice tunnels to be climbed through.

There were a few ice tunnels to be climbed through.

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Roped together and all our helmets at jaunty angles. We made quite a picture.

Roped together and all our helmets at jaunty angles. We made quite a picture.

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Recovery ice cream.

Recovery ice cream.

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Our campsite view.

Our campsite view.

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Isaac and Ben found wild blueberries.

Isaac and Ben found wild blueberries.

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There was much rock skipping.

There was much rock skipping.

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Waiting for the train.

Waiting for the train.

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Norway: mountains, row boating & hiking

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Three weeks ago our family was all together, an occurrence that is inevitably and tragically becoming more and more rare these days. Even better than that, we were in Norway! We converged at the Oslo airport from four directions: Mom and Dad from their 25th wedding anniversary-moon in the Dolomites of northern Italy, Isaac from elsewhere in Scandinavia after a 15-day jaunt through Europe via train, Ben from lifeguarding all summer in Texas, and I from interning in Neu-Isenburg.

I must say I anticipated the trip with a bit of trepidation, as traveling as a family always has had its stresses. But I shouldn’t have worried. We laughed and joked and grinned and goofed our way through the mountains, fjords, hiking trails, and quaint villages. It couldn’t have been a better week.

The first day we drove up through some stunning mountainous scenery to a cabin, where we spent the night before continuing the next day to another cabin on the side of a fjord, which we row boated across to hike up to a waterfall on the third day.

YAY NORWAY

The oh-my-gosh-we’re-all-in-the-same-place excited car selfie attempt.

Poor Ben was the only one with jetlag, so we saw a lot of this.

Poor Ben was the only one with jetlag, so we saw a lot of this.

Isaac trying to get wifi, look cool, and admire the scenery all at once.

Isaac trying to get wifi, look cool, and admire the scenery all at once.

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Isaac and Ben sprung their way down to the rushing river like mountain goats. Their tiny figures are in the picture somewhere.

Isaac and Ben sprung their way down to the rushing river like mountain goats. They’re in the pictures somewhere.

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To the waterfall!

To the waterfall!

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Our goal from about halfway there.

Our goal from about halfway there.

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Before, when we were dry.

Before, when we were dry.

We tried to get closer by scrambling up the mossy rocks of the steep hill in the driving mist.

We tried to get closer by scrambling up the mossy rocks of the steep hill in the driving mist.

The boys were much more successful.

The boys were much more successful.

After: soaking wet.

After: soaking wet.

We browsed in thickets of wild raspberries.

We browsed in thickets of wild raspberries on the way back down the trail.

And we found some currants.

And currants.

The boys and Mom took a motor boat out while Dad and took the rowboat again.

The boys and Mom took a motor boat out while Dad and took the rowboat again. Dad snagged my camera for this photo, hence the, uh, artsy angle.

Dad got in the snow-melt water of the fjord.

Dad got in the snow-melt water of the fjord.

Photos from the other days will come in a following post or two.