The last part of the trek, from Wiñay Wayna to Machu Picchu, is relatively easy. The trail continues on a broad level path, and after no more than 2 hours you'll come to a narrow flight of steps leading to Intipunku - the Gateway of the Sun. You'll pass through the rectangular doorway of the stone structure, and from here you'll see the ruins of Machu Picchu - The lost city of the Inca.
Machu Picchu. Photo by Allard Schmidt
APNP (Arthur's Pass National Park) offers loads of trekking options, some of the finest that NZ has to offer. Harper pass route, Three passes route and Cass-Lagoon track at the neighbouring Carigieburn Forest are only a few fine examples - but they are NOT for the novice trekker and should only be attempted if you have sufficient trekking and navigation skills. Don't leave out for these treks without a detailed topographic map as the markings in these treks are not of the standard that usually find in the more popular treks (many times, the best that you can hope for - is just a rock cairn of some sort). The most popular option is actually a day hike that takes you from the center of the village all the way up to Avalanche Peak. The complete journey up & down will take about 7 hours and it can be quite hefty if you haven't done much hiking so far (otherwise it's OK). There are two paths that go up: the Avalanche track and the Scotts track. The Scotts track is more moderate and has a more gradual incline but for the sake of your knees it is actually preferable to go up the steeper Avalanche track and go back down on the Scotts track. Things can certainly get 'sweaty' as you scramble your way up but once you go above the bushline, views are simply magnificant. If you haven't met Keas before (the local birds/parrots) - have this as a warning: do not leave your belongings alone as those birds are known to snatch and grab any personal item that is left by itself. They are suprisingly smart and agile!
One of NZ's most popular attractions, this national park is mostly known for its coastal track, although it contains other walking/trekking options as well, such as the inland track. Most people choose to stay around 1-2 days in the park, either by hiking it or canooing along the coastline. We opted for the 4 day track, going all the way north to Wainui. Some people choose to go back to the starting point after they finish hiking using a water-taxi. While it can be expensive, it is the fastest way to return. Hitching back from the northen edges of the park back to the park's entrance can be tricky as most hikers / visitors to the park usually concentrate along the more 'proximal' areas of the NP. In my opinion, you don't have to walk the entire track (like we did) in order to fully experience the scenery. If you're looking to socialize with other hikers and explore some nice glow-worms caves, the campsite and hut in Anchorage bay is your best bet, but if you're looking for a more relaxed, less crowded regions you should continue a little bit further north to Awaroa & Totaranui. Adjusting your expectaions is essential if you have a image of a secluded, desolate beaches when no footprint is visible. The park is packed with visitors in the high-season and even in the more remote parts of the track you are likely to see more than a few other fellow travellers. Despite that, Abel Tasman surley deserves at least 2 days of your time in my opinion. Pretty much everything you possibly need to know about Abel Tasman can be found here, in the DoC website: http://doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/national-parks/abel-tasman/
"…The trail passes by a spectacular view of the Royal National Park - shores surrounded by cliffs. From time to time you could see the golden sand between the mountains and the ocean. We walked along the beaches, leaving footprints in the sand and skipping over the unusual rocks. We built our tent and made ourselves a delicious and satisfying dinner, with a pestering seagull joining us, demanding more and more food. After playing with the seagulls, we landed inside our sleeping bags".
"… We walked along the old telegraph road of Cooloola. The path passes through the eucalyptus forest on a sandy road, and then you go inside a coastal rainforest. At night, the wind howled, and with the break of dawn it started to rain. We waited for it to stop for a bit, and continued the journey relatively late. We walked along a beach with surreal scenery of stormy sea, sandy cliffs, dead birds and lots of fog surrounding us. Eventually, the rain came back with extra power. Within seconds we caught a ride with a family of drifters that got us as far as Rainbow Beach, saving us an exhausting walk of 10 km in the rain".
"…The scenery and the formations of the volcanic rocks at the Warrumbungle National Park are very impressive. The Breadknife is wonderful, sticking out against the background view, a narrow lava formation 90 meters high. Along the trail we can see it from every angle: sideways, from above, up close and far away".
In the village we found some nice lady who spoke English named Tume. She organized us horses and a guide. It cost around 15,000 tögrög for a horse (each one has a riding horse, draft horses and the guide horse).
From there we rode toward the reindeer. In Tsagaannuur they divided the reindeer to northerners and southerners. It's better to ride toward the north, it's a little further and requires another day of riding, but the ride there is more comfortable because the south requires riding inside the forest, and the horses mess up there, and it's a nightmare. The north should be something like 5 days of riding back and forth. We did the south for three days - 6 hours riding on the first day, another six hours riding on the second day in which we arrived to the reindeer at noon, and the next day 12 hours of riding - not fun! take your time and dont be all day long on the horses.
With horses specifically, and in Mongolia in general have some spare days. Enjoy and don't hurry.
Guimarães - Penha Mountain:
Duration: 1/2 day.
Orientation: I did the whole itinerary described in "Guimarães - the historical centre" and the Penha Mountain, coming from and returning to Porto - in one day. The visit in Penha mountain is a must. It is a magnificent site with stunning views of the city of Guimarães - but, especially, thanks to the rocky mountain itself with its twisting paths, hidden caves and the special spiritual, magical atmosphere on its summit. The trip up to the mountain top with the cable car - is a rare experience in its own. I did the "journey" to the Penha mountain during the afternoon. In this part of the day the views of Guimarães from the top of the mountain are unclear, hazy and non-exciting. The city is located west to the Penha mountain - and it is seen best with the morning sun coming from the east. On the other hand, with the afternoon sun, the dramatic mountain sights (rocks, caves, trees, boulder paths and fields) are far clearer and more photogenic in the second half of the day. You must climb to Penha mountain ONLY in a clear day. Take a picnic or buy lunch at the many cafe's and restaurants on the top. Your cable-car ticket entitles you a visit to an historical, religious site and to an exceptional rock garden. A pilgrimage site and an outstanding nature reserve in one ticket... The Penha Mountain, thanks to its natural characteristics, is one of the major points of tourist attraction of Guimarães. You can enjoy a unique natural landscape. It has various features which may be stressed: a campsite, a miniature golf course, a tourist mini train an Equestrian Center, walking areas and picnic. In addition to these facilities, there are also other points of interest, such as: monuments, caves, viewpoints, monumental formations of rocks.
Access: the route, on foot, from Guimarães Castle to Penha mountain cable car station is detailed in the "Guimarães - the historical centre" blog. It is an 15-20 easy walk from Guimarães city historical centre to the Teleferico de Guimaraes, Rua Aristides Sousa Mendes.
Visitors and tourists wishing to travel to the Penha Mountain may do so via the cable car, and enjoying the magnificent landscape that separates the valley and the mountain of Guimarães. The cable car covers a distance of 1700 m and climbs 400 m in altitude. The trip offers panoramic views of Guimaraes.
Lower Cable Car Station
Rua Aristides Sousa Mendes, Issue 37 - Costa
tel. (+351) 253 515 085
Fax: (+351) 253 515 240
The ride up (or down) takes about 10-12 minutes and the panoramic views from the cable cabin are breathtaking. BTW, there is a path for the climb of over 1600 m (see below). Even if you're afraid of heights, you'll feel safe on this cable-car without loosing a sense of adventure.
Walking from Guimarães city centre: Largo da Républica do Brasil is in the east side of the city centre. From there you walk about 10 minutes - following the signposts of Jardim do lugar das Hortas. Head southeast on Largo da Républica do Brasil toward R. Dr. Ricardo Marques,130 m. Turn left onto R. Dr. Ricardo Marques, 74 m. Turn right onto R. do Rei Pegu,
150 m. Slight left to arrive to the cable-car building.
Open: Months of November, December, January, February and March: 10.00 - 17.30. Months of April, May and October: 10.00 - 18.30. Months of June, July and September: 10.00 - 19.00 Monday to Friday and Saturdays, 10.00 - 20.00 Sundays and holidays. August: 10.00 - 20.00. Closed for maintenance the last Monday of each month. Last shipment: 15 minutes before closing.
Prices: Adult - 4.5 euros (up and return - summer 2014). Just note that during less rush the cable car only operates every 30 minutes. This Teleferico is cheap, quick and efficient. Yםו can even take the bikes inside the cable cabins.
Climbing up on foot: “Rota da Penha” is a circular route of 8.5 Km that takes you to the “Monte da Penha” (Penha Mountain). This route starts and ends at the “Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos” (Church of our Lady of Consolation). The church is the northern end of Avenida Dom João IV (the avenue that extends from the railway station northward).
Introduction: Monte da Penha or Monte de Santa Catarina is the highest point of the urban area and Guimarães from its top, which is located a statue of Pope Pius IX, it is possible to achieve magnificent views, which can extend up to the ocean. From the top of the mountain at 617 m you can enjoy panoramic views of Guimaraes and the surrounding region.
One of the most important places in Penha Mountain is the Shrine of Penha. This sanctuary is a very important pilgrimage center.Several sights can be found here as well. The Penha Sanctuary which was built in the early 1930's dominates the area. Nowadays it is a popular pilgrimage site. Another religious building is the Chapel of Saint Christopher whose construction dates back to 1880. Numerous grottos are located all around the mountain. One of the nicest is the Grotto of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel which can be found in a rock formation just underneath the Chapel of Saint Christopher. Near the entrance to the Grotto of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel the small Grotto of St. Elias the patron saint of sleep can be seen. Other interesting sights include the Pope Pius IX Statue and the Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes.
Paths map in the entrance to the Penha Park:
The main paths are:
Red route: Zona do Sanctuario (Sanctuary area).
Yellow route: Gruta da Sra. do Carmo.
Light green route: Zona do Pio IX (statue of Pope Pius IX area).
If you´re wondering where the mountain and the sanctuary on top - got their name, it´s these: boulders and dramatic rocks on top of Mone da Penha ( Rock Mountain). Most of the spectacular rocky landscape is on the south-east side of the sanctuary. It is this natural park filled with boulders everywhere. AMAZING !!! Penedos da Penha - Boulders of Penha (there are: the Mushroom Boulder, Bell Boulder, Duck Boulder, Boat Boulder etc'):
Cedar trees and rocks:
Pine trees and rocks:
This is the famous bar between these gargantuan rocks:
View to Mt. Santa Catarina. Catherine was a very sweet and humble shepherd who lived in the mountain of rock. In those tumultuous times there were Barbarian invasions and Ataúlfo, chief of the Goths, approached the Monte da Penha. From the distance, at night, he could see thousands of lights that heralded the arrival of the terrible army of Ataúlfo. Catherine took the wax from offerings of shepherds and broke it into many pieces, turning it into thousands of small candles, and put them on the horns of the sheep. Ataúlfo was astonished by such a quantity of what he thought were strong army soldiers. He became frightened and so withdrew, humiliated and resentful. Thanks to her noble deed, the pastor was considered holy, and the Serra da Penha considered the mountain of Santa Catarina. On this top of the hill or mountain there is a chapel, a spout or fountain of Santa Catarina and the "bed of Santa Catarina", which, locals say is the place where she rests for ever.
Gruta Nossa Senhora de Lurdes. Image in a cave with the same name, located outdoors and near the monument to Pope Pius IX:
Statue of Pope Pio IX (Pius the 9th) ( Pio Nono) from 6 Sep 1898. This is the highest point of Penha mountain and the urban area and Guimarães From the statue of Pope Pius IX, it is possible to achieve magnificent views, which can extend up to the ocean:
Grotto of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. The story goes that, in 1702, a hermit belonging to the Order of St. Anthony, William Marino, originally from France, settled here after traveling around Galicia and northern Portugal. He was delighted with the many natural caves, conducive to meditation. In the XVIII century, a small community of Carmelites, presided over by St. Elias, succeeded him:
St. Elias, Patron of sleep - in a niche at the entrance of the Grotto of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
Chapel of Saint Christopher:
Santúario da Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) or simply called Santúario do Penha. The sanctuary is not a huge church. It´s quite simple and has a modern architecture but the view around it is spectacular and so peaceful. The Shrine of Our Lady of Carmo da Penha, is often called the Shrine of Our Lady of Penha. The works began in 1930, according to the project architect Marques da Silva. The Shrine of the Penha is a work built almost entirely of granite, in order to integrate this in the environment that surrounds it. The design and lines, modern for the time, do not follow the traditional ways, always being straight lines and incorporated into "Art Deco" style of the 1930s. It suffered a fire on February 13, 1939 which destroyed the image of the Lady of the Conception and the hoist that formed the main altar, thus delaying its construction. The conclusion was made without the presence of the architect Marques da Silva who died in 1945. the work had being followed until the inauguration (1949) by Maria José Marques da Silva and Moreira da Silva. Every year, in the second Sunday of September - is celebrated a pilgrimage to the Shrine. It is a very important pilgrimage center that attracts a large number of pilgrims, especially during the time of summer. Of special attention are the tiles adorning the walls, the work of Policarpio de Oliveira Bernardes, and the pulpit of the chapel:
Opposite the Sanctuary - a boulder with tribute to Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral (Portuguese navigators):
Opposite the Sanctuary - the east entrance:
Exiting the cable car building (with your back to the Teleferico) - turn left (west) in the park (Parque das Hortas). Then, turn right onto Rua do Rei Pegu,190 m. On your right a children park. Turn left onto R. Dr. Ricardo Marques, 74 m, Turn left onto Largo de São Gualter, 44 m. Turn right to stay on Largo de São Gualter and Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos/ Sao Gualter will be on the right:
Head northwest on Largo de São Gualter toward Av. Dom João IV
32 m. Turn left onto Av. Dom João IV. Continue straight along Avenida Dom Joao IV until you see the railway station on your right.
Actual Fourth day:
We woke up very early (around 5:00am) and started our way back to Hsipaw. We didn't make any stops, and kept a good pace, climbing the hills with no problems at all. By 3:30pm we were back in the lovely Hsipaw, tired but happy. We made it in 4 days :)
Harding ice field trail is a difficult and breathtaking trail that leads you up the ice fields and over Exit glacier. On the trek we encountered black bears, but the crown joule was the observation post overlooking the ice field. Never in my life have I seen a more powerful, dramatic view of nature. Dedicate an entire day to this trek, and you won’t regret it.