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MCI (P) 100/05/2014

SEP-OCT 2014

ISSUE 59

Mountains Issue

Greenland | Taiwan | Romania Uummannaq © Ella Grødem - Visit Greenland


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For a list of our distribution outlets, visit www.sportsandtravelonline.com. Sports and Travel is a publication of Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd (Singapore). All articles published are in good faith and based on bona fide information available to The Publisher at the time of press. The Publisher accepts no responsibility other than that stipulated by law. The Publisher also accepts no responsibilty for unsolicited manuscripts, transparencies or other materials. All rights are reserved and no part of this publication may be reproduced in part or full without the previous written permission of The Publisher. Neither can any part be stored or recorded, by any means. The opinions expressed in The Publication are those of the contributors and not necessarily endorsed by The Publisher. This publication and the name are owned solely by Lennox and Ooi Media Pte Ltd, 242A River Valley Road, Singapore 238299. Email: enquiry@sportsandtravelonline.com. Sports + Travel Singapore is published bimonthly and distributed throughout Singapore. Trademarks and copyrights for all other products, logos and depictions contained herein are the properties of their respective trademark and copyright owners. All colour separation and printing by Stamford Press Pte Ltd. Singapore MCI (P) 100/05/2014


Head for the Hills

02

This issue, we're returning to one of our all-time favourite themes - Mountains! From easy climbs to soaring summits, mountains have an undeniable allure for any adventure-traveller.

We start with our cover story on Greenland. While it's not your typical mountain destination, its summits are just the start, alongside dog sledding, skiing, kayaking, glaciers, icebergs, Inuit culture and Arctic wildlife all rolled into one massive adventure. Then there's the castles of Transylvania. After all, "mountains" aren't just about top ropes and ice axes. In this case, it's the amazing architecture – plus, of course, the irresistible draw of the Dracula legend. We also explore four of Ecuador's best climbs, all easily accessible from Quito, and in one case, conveniently via the world's second-highest cable car. Then it’s off to the Virungas in Rwanda, retracing a few of the famous footsteps where Dian Fossey did her pioneering work with Mountain Gorillas. We then explore one of the world's great hiking routes – America's epic Appalachian Trail. Crossing 14 states along its 3,500km length, it's as much about mountains as it is about simply making the journey. Because not all mountain adventures require hiking, we also look at river tracing, MTB and climbing across Taiwan’s mountainous spine. Over in Japan, with winter on its way, we check out the legendary skiing in Hakuba, along with the great green-season riding along the world-famous Shimanami Kaido bike route in Shikoku. Then in Korea, it's off to rugged Gangwon, home of the country's most famous mountain hikes, and the site of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics. More mountains can be found in our Snapshot – this time, it’s all about Australia’s top mountain spots. Meanwhile, closer to home it’s a Short Break to Mt. Bromo, East Java's most famous volcano. In the meantime, do check out our website for the latest blogs. Or feel free to drop us a line if you want to contribute to our next issue!

Until then, Happy Trails!

We’re hiring! We’re looking to expand our team, and have room for a young, motivated (non-travel based) writer to join us. If you’re Singaporean or PR, and interested to write for S+T, please send your CV and tell us why we should hire you, to enquiries@sportsandtravelonline.com. Applications close 31 October, 2014.. Fresh grads welcome.

Our Team Editor-in-Chief May Lynn Writers Konrad Clapp Samantha Pereira Creative Director Lynn Ooi Designer Marilyn Wong General Manager Aaron Stewart

Media Rep Lennox & Ooi Media Pte Ltd 242A River Valley Road Singapore 238299 Tel 6732 0325 www.sportsandtravelonline.com enquiry@sportsandtravelonline.com Sports and Travel Limited Rm. 1104 Crawford House 70 Queen’s Road Central Hong Kong Tel +852 2861 8746 Fax +852 2961 4800 enquiry@sportsandtravel.com.hk

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Contributors Gunther Deichmann, Teng Jing Xuan, Ken Berg, Prabhu Silvam, Sharon Magdalene

Special Thanks Prime Travel Rwandan High Commission Taiwan Tourism Bureau Tourism Australia Tourism Greenland and many, many others!

OUR WEBSITE: www.sportsandtravelonline.com OUR FACEBOOK PAGE: fb.com/SportsandTravelSingapore


GEAR GUIDE

Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle

Salomon XA Pro Mid GTX

DRINKS TO GO

RIGHT ON TRACK Combining Salomon’s Sensifit technology with everyday practicality, the Salomon XA Pro Mid GTX trail running shoe is a footwear made for any terrain. Light, stable and shock-proof, its Contagrip sole allows for improved traction on wet or muddy trails. Perfect for trail running, the shoe’s breathable upper mesh regulates airflow and reduces moisture build-up, while the mid-height cut ensures additional ankle support. Available at World of Sports at S$299.

Tilley Endurables LTM6IS

Built to last, the Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle is perfect for keeping coffee hot whether it's in the office or the great outdoors. The double wall vacuum insulation ensures that both hot and cold beverages are kept at optimum temperatures for up to 24 hours. Its rust-proof finish makes it durable and reliable for all seasons. Available in 16oz (473ml) and 25oz (750ml) sizes from S$48 at Volcan.

LIGHT AND AIRY The Mammut Creon Light Backpack is an ideal lightweight backpack for mountaineering. Weighing in at just 900g, the 32-litre version can still hold enough for a weekend tour. The outer material is made with a special reinforcing technique that makes it resistant to tearing and ripping. Its wide-meshed air space suspension system at the back contributes to its revolutionary ventilation flow, regulating air for more comfort on the trail. It also features an adjustable back sling which can accommodate up to 3 heights. The backpack comes with a heightadjustable lid and has a compatible hydration system. Available at Adventure 21 at S$289.

TOP HAT A hat for adventures, the Tilley Endurables LTM6IS hat features a lightweight attached tuck-away neck cape to shield from sun and insects, keeping at bay mosquitos, ticks, and other nuisances. You can take this hat camping, fishing and hiking, and enjoy the extra protection the cape offers from the elements (it’s designed to block out 98% of UVA/UVB rays), or roll up the shield with its Velcro closures. Its water repellant feature helps ensure dryness under its mesh vented crown. Available at Outdoor Life at S$198.

Mammut Creon Light


BEANED The Outdoor Research Transcendent Beanie is built with an ultralight fabric shell and insulated with a 650-fill down, ensuring maximum retention of heat from areas where the body loses it most rapidly. Incredibly lightweight and compressible, this beanie is the perfect companion for any cold weather expedition. Available at Outdoor Life S$76.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Ice Pack

07 PACK LIGHT

Outdoor Research Transcendent Beanie

Using their super lightweight and highly durable Cuben Fiber hybrid material, Hyperlite Mountain Gear makes some of the lightest packs in the world. The packs come in 3 different sizes: 2400 series (40L), 3400 series (55L) & 4400 series (70L). The 2400 Ice Pack is an ideal day pack for a weekend trip, as well as technical ice climbing, sport climbing or alpine day trips. Weighing in at 958g, this climbing pack has everything you’ll need – daisy chains, crampon keeper, ice axe holder, and compression straps – for carrying ropes, rack, crampons, helmets, and winter clothing. It also features a removable hip-belt with optional pockets and gear loops with slots for ice clippers. Available at Adventure Gear Post from S$408.


Ecuador’s position on the Ring of Fire has given it a geologically volatile landscape filled with extreme altitudes and surreally beautiful views. The part of the Andes that runs through Ecuador, also known as the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”, offers a unique combination of difficult climbs and relatively easy peaks, many a short drive away from the capital, Quito. October to February is generally the best time of year for mountaineering in Ecuador. Skies are clearer before the onset of the rainy season in March and April. Most major peaks can be reached by bus or 4WD, and plenty of haciendas and climbers’ refuges provide accommodation near or on volcanoes.

CLIMBING IN ECUADOR

TEXT BY Teng Jing Xuan

PICHINCHA Looming over Quito, Volcán Pichincha is the capital city’s nearest volcanic neighbour. Pichincha is home to the world’s second highest cable car (ending at 4,100m), which makes it ideal for a leisurely day trip. The most popular route leads up to Pichincha’s newest and highest peak, Guagua (4,794m). It’ll take you 4 hours of non-technical, moderate-intensity climbing to reach Guagua’s summit, from which you can take in an excellent view of Quito and Pichincha’s two other peaks. Plenty of travellers take their mountain bikes up the Quito Teleferico cable car, and then make the descent by bike. The ride down is steep and difficult, and leads into a cloud-forested area at Pichincha’s base.

CAYAMBE Located in the the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, just 70km north of Quito, Volcán Cayambe is a dormant volcano and the third highest peak in the country. It’s also one of the few remaining snowcapped peaks in the world located directly on the equator. The climbers’ refuge (located at 4,600m) is accessible by car from the nearest town, which is also called Cayambe. Alternatively, you can trek up to the refuge, although you’ll want to save your energy for the ice climbing ahead. Leave the refuge around midnight and you may reach Cayambe’s highest point, Cumbre

Maxima (5,790m), in time to see day break over the surrounding region. This is a technically challenging ascent, passing glaciers and open crevasses, and usually takes 5 to 7 hours to complete. The descent takes approximately 2 hours. It’s best to hire an experienced mountain guide and ice equipment for the climb. Beneath Cayambe, the sprawling Ecological Reserve covers over 4,000 square kilometres of cloud forests, highland prairies, waterfalls and pre-Incan ruins, and is home to over 1,500 species of rare South American animals, like the Andean condor, greybreasted toucan and Andean fox.

Quito’s charming Old Town is located near the Teleferico’s boarding platform, and it’s worth exploring after your descent from Pichincha. Be sure to visit the Iglesia de San Francisco, a 16th-century church and monastery, and the bustling, lively Plaza de la Independencia.


Volcán Cotopaxi looks exactly like a perfect, textbook volcano – it’s cone-shaped, symmetrical, and extremely steep. At 5,897m, Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. The climb up to the crater rim has a reputation for being challenging and exhausting, despite being technically straightforward. It’ll become obvious, at the crater, how active Cotopaxi is – the smell of sulfur is very strong. The trip up takes approximately 5 hours, and the descent another 2. At the moment, the only available route up the mountain is the “Rompe Corazones” (or Heart Breaker), which, as its name suggests, is long and punishing.

Expect to cross multiple huge crevasses as you make your way up toward the glaciated peak. Less experienced climbers can opt to hike over some volcanic scree to the lower limits of the glacier at 5,000m. The refuge at 4,800m is a good place to rest and acclimatise to the altitude before you start your climb.

Ecuador

COTOPAXI

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You can reach Cotopaxi by taking a bus from Quito towards Latacunga. Alternatively, arrive by car or 4WD, and you can drive up to 4,600m. On your way to Cotopaxi, stop by the Laguna Quilotoa, a 3 km-wide caldera lake with beautiful, emerald-green waters.

CHIMBORAZO Volcán Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest mountain, at 6,310m. Chimborazo has 5 summits and 2 climbers’ refuges, at 4,800m and 5,000m. Try to start your climb at night, because daytime temperatures cause rocks to expand and fall along the climbing route. Like Cotopaxi, Chimborazo is not technically challenging, but climbers will need plenty of stamina and time to acclimatise. The most popular route to the top, El Castillo, takes approximately 8 hours to ascend, and will take you up Chimborazo’s north side. The hardest route, Arista del Sol, is best attempted only by expert climbers – most of the route involves rock climbing, and takes at least 2 days to complete. For a more sedentary (but no less exciting) experience, a scenic train ride from Riobamba takes you down Chimborazo on a stretch of railroad nicknamed “Nariz del Diablo” (the Devil’s Nose). An amazing feat of engineering, the Nariz del Diablo involves a series of switchbacks carved precisely into a near-vertical rock face, allowing the train to descend safely.

Other highlights along the Avenue of the Volcanoes include Volcán Tungurahua (responsible for the soothing thermal baths of nearby town, Baños), and Volcán Imbabura, from which you can see the famous and massive Otavalo Saturday market. Most peaks are generally safe for visitors, but be sure to check for news about unusual volcanic activity before your trip.

GETTING THERE The average flight time to Ecuador (Quito) from Singapore is around 28 hours, with stopovers in the USA (2 stops) or Europe (1 stop) depending on the airline.


While it manages to pack in a high population density for its size, Taiwan’s mountainous spine – which stretches from the north all the way to the south and lined with more than 200 mountains over 3,000m high – remains unpopulated and relatively undeveloped. Climbing and hiking remain the best and most popular ways to see these mountains, but they are by no means the only ways to enjoy them. You can try river tracing through mountain

streams, cycle up and down undulating singletracks, go birdwatching in the forests, or take a leisurely train ride up narrow gauge railways. No matter what activity you choose to partake, there’s always something extra to reward your efforts – you may spot a rare bird, stumble upon a friendly aboriginal village, or even find a private wild hot spring all to yourself in the mountains.

HSINCHU MIAOLI

TAIPEI YILAN

TAICHUNG CHANGHUA NANTOU

HUALIEN

CHIAYI TAINAN KAOHSIUNG

TAITUNG Nenggao West Line © John Hardwich / InMotion Asia

PINGTUNG

PHOTOS COURTESY Taiwan Tourism Bureau

TAIWAN'S MOUNTAIN ACTIVITIES

RIVER TRACING Also known as 'canyoning' or 'canyoneering' in other parts of the world, Taiwan's river tracing involves following mountain streams upriver while wading, climbing, swimming or sliding over obstacles along the way. There are many areas in Taiwan where you can book a river tracing tour, provided that you're a competent swimmer and aren't afraid of heights. The Golden Grotto, Hualien Situated close to the village of Pratan (Sanzhan) in Hualien county, the Golden Grotto is a beautiful natural rocky cave with a crystal-clear pool fed by a series of waterfalls. Early birds will be rewarded with the 'golden' effect – between 10.30am and 12.30pm – when the sun passes directly overhead. The grotto is relatively easy to access with 3-4 hours of river tracing from Pratan – it’s a scenic river surrounded by colourful rocks in hues of blue, red, green and yellow. You'll need to wade through the river (waist-deep in some portions), climb tiers of rock pools and descend waterfalls by rope. A swim across the main grotto gives you access to some caves.

Not far from Hualien city and Taroko Gorge National Park, you can pick up some free river gear (and hire a guide) from the Visitor Center in Pratan. Allow about 7 hours for a return trip, although there are accommodation options in the village. Wulai, Taipei Located a few kilometres north of Wulai, the Jiajiuliao River is probably the best-known river tracing destination close to Taipei. The draw here is that it's an easy spot to practise the sport; it features rock pools, waterfalls (both natural and manmade) and natural water slides which can be done without much protection. There are a couple of routes for river tracing at the base between Gaoyaoshan and Xiangtianshuan, which take between 1 and 3 hours of river activity. You have the option of following the river up and taking a hiking trail back, or vice versa. Jiajiuliao is easily accessible from Wulai (a stronghold of the Atayal aboriginal tribe), which is a haven of hiking trails, waterfalls and hot springs. River tracing shoes are essential, and you can get them from any fishing shop. Guided tours are usually available from Taipei.

Wulai


It’s no secret that the Taiwanese love cycling. And with plenty of motorable roads and singletracks that weave through the mountains, it’s not difficult to find one to suit your level wherever you are in Taiwan.

some rugged trails that take you through the strongholds of the Paiwan and Rukai tribes with their traditional stone-slab houses and wood carvings.

Route 20, Yushan Traversing Taiwan’s mountainous spine near Yushan, the Southern Cross Highway (or Route 20) connects Tainan to Taitung. Cyclists get to explore Yushan’s southern slopes with its big climbs, and huge descents. MTB riders can experience plenty of different terrains (from singletrack to tarmac) with lots of backcountry riding while road bikers can stick to the main highway. Views of Yushan

Paiwan woman

The trail passes soaring old-growth cypress forests at Kuaigu (Cypress Valley), gushing waterfalls and soaring suspension bridges. Highlights include an overnight at a Bunun aboriginal village (in Meishan) and hot springs at the end of the ride to soak your muscles. Southern Jungyang Mountain Range, Pingtung An area steeped in aboriginal history, the Southern Jungyang Mountain Range features

Zhuilu Old Trail

Cycling on a mixture of tarmac and off-road terrain, the steep roadside drop-offs are framed by waterfalls at almost every turn. The off-road trails take you into the cool mountainous forest of Mt. Dawu, which is frequently shrouded in mist, before a long descent to the western plains. Two highlights here include the dizzyingly high Duona suspension bridge (the longest in the area) and Maolin’s Butterfly Valley which is the winter home for the Mexican Monarch and the very rare Taiwanese Purple Crow. The best time to see millions of these migratory butterflies (along with other butterfly species like the Dwarf Crow and

Chocolate Tiger) is from November to March. West Line, Nantou Accessible from Puli, the Nenggao West Line (a former Japanese army garrison trail) is one of the best high altitude singletracks in the world. Once a mountain trail used by the Atayal tribe (who still live in the area), this high alpine route starts at 2,000m and climbs steadily to a 3,080m viewpoint with a 360º panorama of the area.

Taiwan

CYCLING

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Along the way, you’ll pass waterfalls, suspension bridges and breathtaking mixedsurface trails that hug precariously to mountainsides. You’ll also find remnants of the area’s history, including old Japanese police huts, charcoal kiln remains, and if you’re lucky, a tribesman returning from a hunt. © John Hardwich / InMotion Asia


ABORIGINAL TRAILS The central mountains are the best place to experience Taiwan’s aboriginal culture. There are currently 14 official tribes, including the Amis, Atayal, Bunun, Paiwan and Rukai, with hundreds of indigenous villages scattered throughout the mountains. Taroko Gorge, Hualien A stronghold of the Truku (Taroko) tribe – considered a sub-group of the Atayal – Taroko Gorge’s amazing canyon scenery is a popular place for day-trippers. Located high in the mountains above are the villages

of Dali and Datong which are home to about 12 families. Accessible via a steep hike from Xiulin village down in the gorge, you’ll pass a pulley system that brings food and supplies to Dali village – which seems to pop up out of nowhere as it has no road access – along the way. Once up there, you can overnight in Datong (in traditional bamboo huts), and the extra time you have here means you can explore other trails in the area, like the easy Shakadang Trail (a beautiful trail that features a stunning blue river and interesting rock formations) and the vertigo-inducing Zhuilu Old Trail, a dramatic 10km uphill hike with a section that’s a metre wide with nothing but a sheer drop of hundreds of metres on one side.

and Tefuye villages are the only 2 that house a kuba, a stilted wooden hut with a thatched roof where men traditionally held meetings on village happenings. From Dabang, you can hike the nearby Bird Worship Trail (birds feature greatly in Tsou culture), or take the easy Tefuye Trail – once a hunting track – across the Dabang Suspension Bridge to the next village, Tefuye. From here, you can tackle another ancient Tsou hunting trail through beautiful camphor and cypress forests. The shady trail is wellmaintained and lined with wooden tracks (it was used to transport timber during the Japanese occupation), offering spectacular views of the entire mountain range, including Yushan (Taiwan’s tallest peak).

Alishan, Chiayi Numbering barely 5,000, the Tsou tribe inhabit one of 8 villages in the mountains near Alishan. Both Dabang

Swinhoe’s Pheasant

BIRDWATCHING Taiwan may not be well-established as a wildlife destination, but the country has one of the highest concentrations of endemic birds in Asia, including the colourful Mikado and Swinhoe's Pheasants. While migratory species are found along the coast and on offshore islands, popular birding trails are situated in the mountains where endemic birds reside.

Yangmingshan, Taipei Although Yangmingshan is more famously associated with its thermal hot springs, it’s also a popular birding site. About 150 species of birds have been recorded in the area, and while it’s fairly busy with hikers, you can easily find 2 notable endemic birds: the

Taiwan Blue Magpie and the Formosan Whistling Thrush. You can spot birds yearround – in spring, you’ll also find eagles and buzzards soaring overhead. There are numerous walking trails through the park’s lowland forests, and the best area to spot birds is at Datun Nature Park (which is also a great place for butterfly migration in summer). Anmashan, Taichung Ranging from 2,000m to 2,600m in altitude, Anmashan (Dasyueshan) is regarded as one of Taiwan's best birdwatching sites. The temperate zone and broadleaf forest has good infrastructure and a range of habitats that hide many species of endemics, including the Taiwan Barwing and Taiwan Fulvetta, as well as ground dwellers like the Swinhoe's Pheasant, Taiwan Partridge and the elusive Mikado Pheasant. There are plenty of hiking options, including

the Siaosyueshan National Trail (the longest at 10km) which climbs from 700m to 2,000m where you can see the change in vegetation and bird species; the Forest Trail (boasting large Hinoki cypress and red cedar trees) with its gradual slope; and the 3km Skid Road Trail which consists of stair-like railroad ties. Not far away is the famous Blue Gate Trail (in Nantou), which is a forest road just off Highway 14. At 2,000m, it is often used to spot pheasants, while the high elevation bamboo groves house a number of smaller birds like the Taiwan Rosefinch and the Alishan Bush Warbler.


timers – leads to the largest landing area in Taiwan, making it suitable for training. Come winter (the best season to fly) when it gets its ideal thermal conditions, it does get busy on weekends with tandem operators. The launch site is at 415m, and the ride takes you along the mountain ridgeline.

PARAGLIDING Taiwan's mountains are in close proximity to its relatively flat coastline, creating an ideal platform for paragliding. There are plenty of places where you can partake in the sport, with a number of places where you can learn or go tandem gliding – the sheer number of operators means prices are competitive (averaging NT$1,500 per flight). Saijia, Pingtung A popular site in southern Taiwan, Saijia's cliff launch – which can be daunting to first

Puli, Nantou Landlocked Puli is surrounded by mountains, making the takeoff and landing daunting yet exciting. Being in the heart of the Central Mountain Range, you’ll get to soar amidst peaks that reach almost 4,000m, dotted with lakes along the way.

Luye, Taitung While there are several launch sites in Taitung (home to the Highland Paragliding Training Center), Luye Gaotai is by far the most popular for visitors, where tandem paragliders operate from at least 2 easy sloping launch sites which are situated near the area’s famous tea plantations at 150m above the plains. From the air, you’ll get to see the fertile Beinan valley and the rolling mountains before landing on the beautiful east coast. The best season is from April to September. Paragliding Luye

Only licensed operators are allowed in this area, who offer both lessons and tandem gliding sessions. The launch site at Tiger Head (650m) has a gentle grassy knoll for take-off, with large spectator areas. You can glide here year-round, with the best season between October and March.

Pingxi Railway

MOUNTAIN RAILWAYS Hidden amidst green valleys and sleepy towns are Taiwan’s scenic railways. Built during the Japanese colonial period (18951945), these railway lines used to transport tonnes of timber and coal, and masses of workers, every day. Today, the big mines and factories are gone, and quirky, charming attractions – perfect for day trips – have taken their place. Jingtong Old Street

Pingxi Line, Taipei Known for its annual Lantern Festival, Pingxi is located along the scenic 12.9km-long Pingxi Line. At only an hour from Taipei, the Pingxi line is accessible from Sandiaoling Station and ends at Jingtong, passing Shifen and Pingxi along the way.

At Jingtong and Pingxi, you'll find unique retro architecture along the old streets, while Shifen is known for its scenic 40m-wide waterfall. The entire area is dotted with remnants of its coal mining past, and the valley features well over 20 waterfalls. While plenty of hiking trails branch off from the railroad tracks, a particularly scenic trail is the 3-hour long Sandiaoling Waterfall Walk that leads you to the 30m-high, 2-tiered Sandiaoling Fall. Jiji Line, Changhua Jiji Line is the longest of the scenic railways at 29.5kms, beginning at Ershui Station in Changhua County, and ending in Checheng,

near Sun Moon Lake. Between Longquan and Jiji stations, you’ll pass the picturesque Green Tunnel – a tree-lined road where the hundred-year-old camphor trees have intertwined their branches to form a beautiful canopy. At Jiji station near the Green Tunnel is Wuchang Temple which has been left untouched ever since it was damaged during the 1999 earthquake. The beautiful tiled roof and ornate decorations on its eaves are still largely intact, but the temple’s columns have completely collapsed. From Shuili, you can take a bus to Sun Moon Lake for an alternative form of transport: cycling.


RELAXING WAYS THROUGH THE MOUNTAINS Not all mountain activities have to involve hiking or cycling. Tea Taiwan’s interior is also home to plenty of rolling tea plantations (high mountain tea is particularly sought after) where you can drop by for a tea tasting session. Just 30 minutes from Taipei is Pinglin, which is a beautiful mountain retreat famous for its fragrant tea. In the central mountains of Nantou county, Lugu’s misty forests are famous for producing the Dongding Wulong tea (the most sought after tea around Taiwan). Further south is Alishan (famous for its mountain railway), which produces the Alishan oolong tea, one of Taiwan’s top 10 varieties.

Self-drive If you’re driving, there are plenty of crossisland highways that weave through the mountains, including Route 14 which is the highest motorable road in Taiwan that reaches an altitude of 3,275m at Wuling. Another scenic road of note is the Central CrossIsland Highway, part of which goes through the famous Taroko Gorge, that takes motorists through countless tunnels and precarious curves. Leaf and flower peeping Depending on the season, Taiwan’s mountainous forests burst

Rolling tea plantation

into a kaleidoscope of colours. In spring (from February till May), dark pink cherry blossoms decorate the forested hills of Yangmingshan, Wulai and Alishan, while white tung flowers can be found in the mountains of Miaoli county. From December to January, the maple tree forests in the Central Mountain Range turn into a sea of red leaves, and popular spots include the hills of Aowanda (Nantou), Alishan and Tatung (Yilan).

Mountain road through Hehuanshan


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ON TOP OF DOWN UNDER: AUSTRALIA’S MOUNTAINS

© Tourism Australia / Time Out Australia

© Tourism Australia

MT. GILLEN, NT Situated within the Alice Springs Desert Park, Mt. Gillen is a popular spot for hiking. Access to the mountain trail starts from Flynn’s Grave (father of the Royal Flying Doctor Service) at the base of the mountain which is about 7km from the town of Alice Springs. The dusty trail provides no tree cover, with the eroded track leading to the rock face about 20m below the summit where a bit of scrambling is needed. From the summit, you’ll have a 360º view of the surrounding Heavitree Range and the valley below. While it is a popular hike, there are plans to ban hiking in the area due to soil erosion.

BRIGGS BLUFF, VIC Part of a series of rugged sandstone mountain ranges that rise abruptly from the surrounding Western Plains, the rocky plateau of Briggs Bluff is located within the Grampians National Park. The bluff is accessible via a 5km scramble from the base of the cliff at Beehive Falls (itself a scenic spot especially after the rains), where trail markers lead you through massive boulders, windswept terraces and forests of rich flora to the summit. From the 420m-high plateau, the reward for this 4-5 hour return hike is an unobstructed view of the entire park.

BLUFF KNOLL, WA Listed as one of Australia’s top 25 best hikes, Bluff Knoll (1,099m) is the highest peak along the Stirling Range which features stark cliff faces, sheltered gullies, and is one of a few places in Western Australia to experience some snow. The climb to the knoll is a 6km, 4-hour round trip hike, which can be achieved by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness. The surrounding park is an important wildflower and plant reserve, housing a rich diversity of colourful blooms. Accessible from the historic town of Kendenup, the Stirling Range is also known for its spectacular cloud formations.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

© Tourism Western Australia

WESTERN AUSTRALIA SOUTH AUSTRALIA

ST. MARY PEAK, SA Situated in the ochre-red desert landscape of the Flinders Ranges, the 1,171m-high St. Mary Peak offers sublime views of the surrounding saw-toothed ridges and the plains below, including the dry salt lake of Lake Torrens. Beginning from Wilpena Pound, this is a strenuous 18km return hike via a well-signposted path. The mountain is sacred to the local Adnyamathanha people, therefore hikers are advised to stop at the Tanderra Saddle – just 1.5km shy of the summit – which also offers panoramic views. April to October is the best window to hike in this area, and hikers should start the trek no later than 9am.

© Tourism Australia


While Australia’s mountains aren’t towering by world standards, a hike to their peaks provides sublime views of surrounding landscapes, which range from verdant rainforests to red deserts and fertile plains.

LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK, QLD

© Tourism Australia

Characterised by rugged mountain scenery at 800m above sea level, Lamington National Park offers plenty of walking trails. The iconic Border Track is a 23km route that links the Green Mountain (or O’Reilly’s) section to the Binna Burra section of the park, and can be completed in 6-7 hours. This walk takes you through Antarctic beech forests and subtropical rainforests that are studded with numerous waterfalls, caves and fern gullies, and ascends to the crest of the Border Range, providing views of Mt. Warning and the Tweed Valley. The trail is well-marked and can be attempted by relatively inexperienced bushwalkers.

17 MT. GOWER, NSW One of 2 prominent peaks on the World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island, a trek up to the summit of Mt. Gower (857m) involves a strenuous 14km, 8-hour hike. A licensed guide will be able to get you up to the cloud forested plateau which is accessible via a skinny cliff-side trail – with an unforgiving drop towards the Tasman Sea to one side, fixed ropes provide some added safety. From the top, you’ll be able to appreciate the views of neighbouring Mt. Lidgbird (777m) and much of this small island (and its marine park), including the islet of Balls Pyramid. The island’s rainforest also hides plenty of endemic plants and birds.

© Tourism Australia

© Tourism Australia

MT. AINSLIE, ACT

QUEENSLAND

NEW SOUTH WALES

Overlooking Canberra, Mt. Ainslie (846m) is located on the northern edge of the city, making it entirely doable as a half-day hike. Lying inside the namesake Mt. Ainslie Nature Reserve (itself part of the Canberra Nature Park), its slopes comprise rugged bushland that’s home to many rare species, like the Hooded Robin and Striped Legless Lizard. There’s an easy, paved trail coming up from the Australian War Memorial, and the main lookout has excellent views of nearby Red Hill, with the Mt. Ainslie Walking Trail up to the summit and its famous lookout taking 1.5 hours return; there’s also a shorter Remembrance Trail (30 mins).

VICTORIA ©Cradle Mountain Huts

TASMANIA

CRADLE MOUNTAIN, TAS Rising 1,545m from the northern end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park in Tasmania, the namesake Cradle Mountain is close to the starting point of the 65km, 6-day Overland Track (one of Australia’s top hiking routes). Access to this mountain is via an 8-hour return track from Dove Lake (where you can opt for an exhilarating canyoning experience), with an ascent of 600m via Lake Lilla and Marions Lookout. The approach to the misty, jagged summit requires scrambling on some dolerite scree, but the reward – a 360º view across this World Heritage wilderness – is well worth the effort.


The biggest draw of Hakuba Valley in Japan’s Nagano prefecture is the sheer volume of powder dry snow that falls here in a single season – as much as 14 metres. In the winter, over 960 hectares of mountainous terrain become skiable, offering visitors an impressive selection of skiing and snowboarding options. The valley’s green season attractions – mountain trails, scenic walks, watersports, and climbing – are less famous, but definitely worth exploring.

TEXT BY Teng Jing Xuan IMAGES FROM JNTO

WINTER SPORTS There are 9 to 15 ski resorts in Hakuba, depending on how the borders of the area are drawn, and over a hundred hotels catering to winter sports travellers. You won’t be able to ski directly from one resort to another, but all resorts and slopes are accessible via Hakuba village. Expert skiers will be thrilled by the steep alpine slopes (with vertical drops as long as 2,000m). The peaks at Hakuba reach heights of 3,000m above sea level, and the view at Tsugaike, the highest resort, is breathtaking. It’s impossible to think of Hakuba without the Happo-One resort also coming to mind. Happo-One was where multiple events of the 1998 Winter Olympics were hosted, and its longest run is over 8 kilometres long. Many of the Olympic facilities remain open, along with recent updates, and Happo-One

is home to Hakuba’s most popular slope, the Rissen Slalom run. Floodlights are installed on many slopes, so you’ll get a chance to enjoy night skiing. And, although plenty are perfectly groomed, runs are frequently left half ungroomed, which means that more adventurous skiers can try out deep, freshly fallen powder. Mogul runs are extremely popular in Japan, and Hakuba has its fair share. Hakuba 47, a resort on the south side of the valley, has some of the best, challenging mogul fields in the area, and is alway covered in fresh, dry snow, thanks to the north-facing orientation of its slopes. Beginners will also find plenty of space to hone their skills. Iwatake, with its two half pipes, terrain park and gentle slopes, is an easy introductory site for skiers and snowboarders alike. Aokiko, another

NAGANO’S HAKUBA VALLEY beginner-friendly resort in the valley, features a long, gentle run that stretches past a forest and ends near Aokiko lake.

For après-ski options, Hakuba village offers plenty of charming izakaya (casual bars serving Japanese snacks), as well as onsen to ease muscle aches after hours on the slopes. The numerous resorts and hotels also run some excellent restaurants, where you can get anything from French fine dining to do-it-yourself pizza and soba.


During Hakuba’s green season, in summer and autumn, the valley’s numerous mountain biking and hiking trails reappear from under the snow. Ski lifts are still in operation, but slowed down, to allow visitors to take in the summer view. Take a bike up the mountains on one of the many gondolas, and enjoy an exhilarating downhill ride over jumps, gullies and steep terrain.

in white all year round, and it’s amazing to see the contrast between the great expanse of snow and the alpine greenery surrounding it in the summer. Mountaineers can keep going past the end of the Nature Trail and up the Climbing Trail, towards the summits of Mt. Yukigura and Mt. Norikura.

Japan

GREEN SEASON

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Water sports are another popular summer activity in Hakuba – the valley’s numerous lakes and rivers are ideal for canoeing, canyoning, rafting and wakeboarding. Many reliable water sports tour operators and outdoor centres have set up shop in Hakuba, so it’ll be easy to get equipment rentals and join day tours or beginners’ courses.

GETTING THERE

Trekkers should try the Hakuba Daisekkei Nature Trail at least once. The Daisekkei is a massive snow field that remains blanketed

Hakuba is an hour away from Nagano Station and Matsumoto Station by bus, and both stations are less than 2 hours’ shinkansen ride from Tokyo Station. Alternatively, a direct bus from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo will take you to Hakuba in 4 hours.


Greenland is one of the great enigmas of adventure travel. It’s easy to place on a map, but even well-informed travellers struggle to say much about it. It looks bigger than Australia (a common misconception), but it’s not. Until 2012, 1% of the entire population lived in a single massive apartment block in the capital, Nuuk. It’s not very green, but then it’s also not all snow and ice either – there’s even hot springs. It’s independent but also part of the Kingdom of Denmark, which technically makes seemingly small Denmark (inclusive of Greenland), one of the largest countries on earth. It’s just 25km from Canada at its nearest point, but for many people, it might as well be on another planet in terms of travel perception.

HISTORY

NATURAL PHENOMENA

Originally settled by the early Inuit 4,500 years ago, Greenland was first discovered by Europeans when Eric the Red arrived in 982AD. Naming the island “Greenland” in history’s first great real estate scam, to encourage would-be Viking settlers, his followers flourished and descendents of that community survived for at least 500 more years, before mysteriously disappearing.

In Greenland, nature is definitely its drawcard. The Arctic Circle passes through Kangerlussuaq on the West coast and Tasiilaq on the East coast. Areas north of this latitude experience the Midnight Sun in summer. Greensland’s most northern town Qaanaaq (aka “Thule”) has Midnight Sun from April-August. Even in the far south, summer stretchs to nearly 24 hours.

Due to Greenland’s harsh climate, much of what they left behind, including ruins, runic stones and the western hemisphere’s first Christian church (itself a reproduction of the original), are just a few reminders of Greenland’s Viking past that live on today alongside its thriving Inuit culture.

Come winter, the Polar Night brings with it constant darkness, but this provides the perfect backdrop for the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) which can be regularly seen throughout Greenland from September to April, thanks to the lack of light pollution; in South Greenland, they can be seen from as early as the end of August.

© André Schoenherr

Visitors come to Greenland for a mix of natural phenomena (the midnight sun, northern lights and the Ice Cap), classic arctic experiences like dog sledding, and unique destinations like the Icefjord or remote Inuit settlements.

PHOTOS FROM Visit Greenland

EXPLORING GREENLAND © Leift Taurer

© Mads Pihls

© Dan Bach Kristensen


THE GREENLAND ICE CAP

The Ice Cap dominates the landscape, being visible – and accessible – from almost every town or settlement in the country.

with experienced expedition guides and a government permit.

© Humbert Entress

Given its extreme nature, the unchartered Ice Cap itself is difficult to access, however hardy adventurers in excellent physical condition can explore this piece of the Arctic

Most other visitors can experience the Ice Cap by flying overhead in helicopters or small airplanes, hiking or camping at the glacier’s edge, and dog sledding. Calving events can be observed along the glacier’s edges, especially from the Russell Glacier (Kangerlussuaq), and the Eqip Sermia and Sermeq Kujalleq glaciers (Ilulissat).

Greenland

The Greenland Ice Cap is literally what makes up the country. This gargantuan sheet of ice covers 1.7million sq.km., and is up to 3km thick in places, containing 10% of the world’s fresh water. Dating back millions of years, it's the accumulation of thousands of years of snowfall that never melted, and subsequently compacted into successive layers of ice. And despite now melting at an unprecedented rate due to global warming, it still covers 80% of Greenland.

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© Mads Pihl

© Karsten Bidstrup

Kangerlussuaq Greenland’s only inland settlement, the town of Kangerlussuaq (meaning “Big Fjord”) is the main gateway for trips to the Ice Cap. Sitting at the head of the 170km-long Kangerlussuaq fjord, this ex-WWII air base is unique as the only place in Greenland with direct access – via a 25km-long dirt road – to the Ice Cap. The bumpy track passes several viewpoints along the way. Numerous operators in Kangerlussuaq run dog sled trips, ski touring and snowmobile safaris near the Ice Cap, with the Russell Glacier being a popular land-based location to watch the ice calve. During the summer, the Midnight Sun allows for extended excursions to the glacier, as well as to another of the town’s attractions – its 10,000-strong band of musk ox. Despite its population of under 600, Kangerlussuaq is also easily accessible thanks to its position as the inland hub for Air Greenland.

Ilulissat Icefjord The Ilulissat Icefjord in Disko Bay is a major outlet where the Greenland Ice Cap meets the Atlantic, and is home to huge numbers of icebergs. Stretching 40km long, the fjord is clogged with ice calving off the massive Sermeq Kujalleq glacier every summer. One of the world’s most active glaciers, it sheds 10% of all Greenland’s icebergs per year into the fjord. The largest chunks measure 1km deep and can get stuck in the fjord for years until eventually floating off into the Atlantic.

The fjord is accessible from the town of Ilulissat (meaning “Icebergs”), which sits at the mouth of this iceberg corridor. Boat excursions are the best ways to get up close to the glaciers, although hiking, dog sledding and helicopter tours are also easily available. Located 246km north of Kangerlussuaq, Ilulissat is Greenland’s third largest town with a population of roughly 5,000 inhabitants and over 4,000 sled dogs, making it an ideal jumping-off point for dog sled trips as well.


MOUNTAIN CLIMBING Predominantly an ice cap with a rugged mountain chain, Greenland offers unlimited opportunities for hiking and mountaineering. Plenty of guided treks take you to the fjords and mountains, offering everything from rock climbing to easy hikes (on mountains ranging from 300m-3,000m high), to tough expedition treks. From June to August, Greenland provides optimum conditions for climbing one or several of the thousands of mountains. There are 6 core climbing destinations in Greenland, and permits are required to access the Ice Cap, the Greenland National Park and most parts of East Greenland. The mountains of East Greenland are taller, the landscape more dramatic, and all accessible via the town of Tasiilaq.

Stauning Alps (Permit Required) Located within the North Greenland National Park, the Stauning Alps is characterised by its collection of alpine peaks of up to nearly 3,000m tall. Ski touring and alpine mountaineering are the only ways to explore this area, involving many first ascents in this unclimbed region.

Schweizer Land You can climb the numerous peaks and rock walls of Schweizer Land, which is a popular climbing area that lies mostly within a permitfree zone and easily accessible from the airport at Kulusuk and the town of Tasiilaq. Cape Farewell / Tasermiut Fjord A popular climbing area since the 1970s, the fjords of South Greenland can be reached within a day from mainland Europe, with the nearest town at Nanortalik where you can hire boats into the fjords. The good granite and solid rock in the area still provide an inexhaustible number of unclimbed walls and peaks, with the most famous peaks being Ketil and Ulamertorssuaq (The Great Cylinder).

Watkins Range (Permit Required) One of the most visited mountainous areas, the Watkins Range contains the highest mountains in Greenland. Accessible by skiequipped airplane from Iceland, it’s located in East Greenland near the foreboding Blossevill coast, culminating in Gunnbjørn Fjeld (the tallest mountain in Greenland at 3,700m).

Evighedsfjorden (The Fjord of Eternity) Close to the town of Maniitsoq, this fjord is a classic climbing area that has been popular since the 1960s, and is often used for extreme skiing and heliskiing.

© Mads Pihl

Uummannaq Bay and Upernavik This beautiful fjord system between the Nuussuaq Peninsula and the town of Upernavik is home to some of the best climbing areas that are being ‘rediscovered’ by some of the world’s top rock climbers. The terrain has quite a bit of loose rock, as well as firm granite. Recently, a number of new routes have been added to the Heart Mountain in Uummannaq, one of the most photographed mountains in Greenland.

OTHER ACTIVITIES places in Greenland, ranging from halfday sojourns to multi-day trips. Participants should be physically fit, as they’re expected to assist in packing gear, clearing snow, etc.

© Mads Pihl

A popular tour is the 3-day trip that overnights at hunting lodges en route between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut (Greenland’s second-largest town).

Dog Sledding Dog sledding is both an integral part of life as well as a cultural icon for Greenlanders. When moving around anywhere away from the coast above the Arctic Circle, given the vast distances, dog sledding is often the best option. Curiously, Greenlandic sled dogs are not allowed below the Arctic Circle, while other dog breeds are not allowed above it. Dog sledding tours are available from most

Located just north of the Arctic Circle, Sisimiut is also the main gateway into Greenland’s vast backcountry. It has a long dog sledding season (October-April), while its ice-free harbour makes it popular for sea kayaking. Other activities there include ice fishing (in season), angling, Inuit-style hunting trips, hiking and coastal boat tours. Whale Watching The rich fishing waters in Greenland attracts plenty of whales; its seas are home to 15

types of whales, most of which visit the island seasonally each summer from May to October. The west coast attracts humpbacks around Nuuk and Sisimiut, while the relatively dimunitive beluga and the massive Fin whale both frequent Disko Bay. Blue whales are also occasionally spotted. © Julie Skotte


COSTS AND BOOKINGS

It’s not a budget destination, as many necessities like petrol and most foods are imported, but with relatively few tourists, anyone visiting Greenland has the place virtually to themselves, whether visiting the Ice Cap near Kangerlussuaq, kayaking among the ice floes in Disko Bay or camping under the aurora borealis. © Mads Pihl

© Erwin Reinthaler

Greenland

While parts of Southern Greenland like Nuuk could be done F.I.T., not surprisingly, most activities like dog sledding, ski touring or camping are organised via established local operators.

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GETTING THERE Air Greenland and Air Iceland operate both seasonal- and year-round flights into Nuuk, Disko Bay and other destinations directly from cities including Copenhagen, Reykjavik, and Ottawa (Canada). Air Greenland also operates an extensive network of internal flights, which together with numerous passenger ferry services comprise the bulk of the island’s domestic transport; there is no road or public transport connections between towns in Greenland. For more on travel to Greenland, visit www.greenland.com.


Dogo Onsen

Aerial View

The Shimanami Kaido – the expressway that spans Japan's Seto Inland Sea – stretches from Imabari (in Ehime on Shikoku island) to Onomichi (in Hiroshima on the mainland), crossing 6 islands along the way.

Kosanji Temple View from Mt. Shirataki

A dedicated cycle lane runs parallel to the highway and bicycle rentals are offered from both ends of the expressway, which is about 70kms long and can be completed in one day; for a more relaxed pace, 2 days is recommended. The highway has been voted as one of the world's most incredible bike routes by CNN.

CYCLING SHIMANAMI KAIDO

THE ROUTE Also known as the Nishiseto Expressway, the Shimanami Kaido is one of 3 road connections between Shikoku island and mainland Honshu, but the Shimanami is the only one traversable on a bicycle. The six islands in the Seto Inland Sea – Hakatajima, Ikuchijima, Innoshima, Mukaishima, Omishima and Oshima – are linked via the bikeway's series of 7 interisland bridges, including the Tatara Bridge (the world's longest cable-stayed bridge) and the Kurushima-kaikyo Bridge (the world's

longest series of suspension bridges). The well-maintained bicycle route along the Shimanami diverges from the expressway at several points, allowing cyclists to break their journey on any of the 6 islands. The ramps leading to the bridges are built with cyclists in mind, so the inclines are gentle. Cyclists will need to pay tolls (totalling ¥500) when using the bridges, except for the connection between Mukaishima island and Onomichi (on the mainland) when a short ferry ride is a better option.

To rent bicycles along the route, 2 systems are available from both ends of the expressway: a regular one (rental fee ¥500/day) with 14 terminals throughout the course, and a newer one – operated by bicycle manufacturer Giant (rental fee ¥4,000¥7,000/day with high-quality bicycles) – with only 2 terminals. Cyclists can rent bicycles at one end and return them at the other with both systems; with the regular rental system, cyclists can pick up and drop off their bikes at any point along the way.


You can start the journey from Imabari – the city lies on the path of the famous Pilgrim's Journey, a series of 88 Buddhist temples on Shikoku. Here, you'll find 5 of the temples, including Enmeiji (with its unique temple bell), Taisanji (with an impressive stone wall), and Senyuji, which is famous for its healing water. Apart from temples, the town is also home to the impressive 17th century Imabari Castle which lies on a flat coastal land, featuring 3 moats irrigated by sea water. The islands along the Shimanami Kaido are individual destinations in their own right and worth a stopover – they are all fairly mountainous, and house various historic attractions. Omishima offers some great hiking opportunities, including trails to Irihi Falls and the rugged peaks of the island. In the middle of the island is Oyamazumi Shrine, which houses about 80% of Japan's collection of ancient armour and weapons.

Cyclists can spend the night at the quaint Furusato Ikoi no Ie – once an elementary school, this wooden seaside building boasts unobstructed views of the Kurushima-kaikyo Bridge.

If you're interested in the history of the Muromachi shogun (navy pirates of the 15th century), you can head to Suigun Castle, the location of one of their bases.

On Ikuchijima, the rather eccentric Kosanji Temple is a varied collection of replicas of Japan's famous temple buildings, including Nikko's Yomeimon shrine gate and the Phoenix Hall from Kyoto's Byodoin; another highlight is a long cave that depicts the tortures of Buddhist hell.

The terminus at Onomichi (Hiroshima) is famous for its profusion of old temples, including Senkoji which is sprawled out on the slope of Mt. Senkoji; the park here is one of Japan's 100 best sites for cherry blossom viewing with its panoramas over the sea.

Further north on the island is Kojo-ji temple’s 3-tiered pagoda with magnificent views over the area. Neighbouring Innoshima is famous for the viewpoint at Mt. Shirataki – the path up to the peak is lined with 700 statues of stone Buddhas (some of them are etched with crucifixes on their backs). Innoshima is also home to some of the temples of the Pilgrim's Journey, all linked via a hiking course.

Japan

THE JOURNEY

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From the base of the mountain, the 2km Historical Temple Walk links you to 25 of Onomichi's better-known temples, including Jodoji, which is famous for its pagoda.

Thanks to its mild climate, the area is famous for its rolling citrus groves, some of which offer fruit picking.

Matsuyama Castle

Cyclists on the Shimanami Kaido

CYCLING SHIMANAMI (26 October) Once a year, the Cycle Shimanami event welcomes over 8,000 cyclists to participate in one of Japan's largest international cycling events along this scenic route. There are a variety of cycle courses available during this event, ranging from 62km to 111km – the Complete Shimanami course is 65kms long, from Imabari to Onomichi. The Cycling Shimanami event is scheduled for October 26 this year. Public registration is already closed, but those interested can book a spot in the event on one of two Follow Me Japan (www.followmejapan.com.sg) packages until the end of September.

Their 6D4N itinerary (S$1,880) includes Matsuyama (in Ehime) which is home to Matsuyama Castle, one of Japan's 12 'original castles' situated on a hilltop with spectacular views of the sea. Another attraction is Dogo Onsen, one of Japan's oldest hot spring resorts that houses the Dogo Onsen Honkan, a Meiji-era wooden public bathhouse dating from 1894 which is said to be the inspiration for Miyazaki Hayao's animated film 'Spirited Away'. The more luxurious 6D5N ($4,580) itinerary includes Cape Ashizuri (with its dramatic coastal cliffs), Yusuhara (famous for its architecture) and Kochi, a charming town famous for katsuo (skipjack tuna).


Situated in South Korea’s north eastern edge along the East Sea is one of the nation’s most scenic, yet lesser-known destinations: Gangwon. Unlike the cosmopolitan city of Seoul, Gangwon is known for its abundant forests, calm lakes, wild rivers, lush valleys and breathtaking mountains – in fact, more than 80% of Gangwon’s terrain is mountainous.

While Gangwon doesn’t appear on most international tourists’ radar, it is popular with South Koreans looking for a refreshing mountain getaway to escape their cities thanks to its location, which is a mere three hours east of the capital. Gangwon’s low-key status might be changing soon, especially with skiers and winter sports enthusiasts as it gains international attention as the site of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

SEASONAL TRANSFORMATION During spring and summer, adventurous tourists visiting Gangwon can go whitewater

SOUTH KOREA’S GANGWON PROVINCE

rafting or kayaking on its many streams and rivers, test their cycling skills on its rolling hills or hike among its many national parks. Autumn is considered the best time to go hiking at Gangwon’s national parks, when Gangwon’s green forests and mountain flora transform to reveal a kaleidoscope of vibrant fiery hues, making it a great time for taking sublime mountaintop photos. During winter, Gangwon’s mountains lose their vibrant hues but not their beauty, as heavy snowfall turns the province into a skier’s paradise. One such resort is the Alpensia Ski Resort

PHOTOS BY Korea Tourism Organization

in Pyeongchang (in Odaesan National Park), which will be the main venue for the 2018 Games with its five slopes for skiing and one for snowboarding. The resort has 6 slopes for skiers and snowboarders, with runs as long as 1.6km long.

2018 WINTER OLYMPICS After missing the cut on its two previous bids, South Korea finally won the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, Gangwon. Most of the Olympic skiing events will be held at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang while skating and hockey events will be held in the coastal city of Gangneung.


Odaesan National Park is home to South Korea’s largest national forest area, spread across Pyeongchang, Hongcheon and Gangneung. It’s where Korea’s most popular ski resort, Yongpyong, is located. “Odaesan” – or “mountain of five plains” – describes the five plains located between its five peaks – Birobong (1,563m), Dongdaesan (1,434m), Horyeongbong (1,561m), Noinbong (1,338m), Sangwangbong (1,491m), and Durobong (1,422m).

HIKING BY NATIONAL PARK Seoraksan National Park is perhaps Gangwon’s most famous national park, spanning across Sokcho, Goseong, Inje and Yangyang. “Seorak” in Korean means “snowcovered peaks”, which describes the mountains’ jagged white appearance caused by slow snow melt. The park has numerous hiking trails ranging from brisk and easy one-hour hikes to gruelling three-day treks requiring a professional guide. One hiking trail that’s considered to be the most popular is the Yangpok course, which is a 6km, 4-hour trek

not only for its stunning scenery, but its ancient temples including Guryongsa, Sangwonsa and Seokgyeongsa, some established in the Silla Kingdom (57BC- 935AD).

South Korea

through the beautiful Cheonbuldong Valley, with views of cloud-piercing white peaks, and spectacular waterfalls. Seoraksan National Park is also a UNESCO-listed “biosphere reserve”, and is home to many endangered plant and animal species, including the the Korean musk deer, which is known for its diminutive size and tusks.

hiking trails range from lowdifficulty hikes lasting no more than two hours to the notoriously difficult Mountain Ridge Trail, which is a 23.8km, 10-hour trek that passes peaks like Godeunjae (477m), Birobong, Hyangnobong (1,043m) and Namdaebong (1,187m); it also has an easy portion on the gently sloping hills between Guryong Hiking Support Center and the Seryeom Waterfall.

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The park’s hiking trails are meant for day hikes ranging from short and sweet twohour treks to severely rugged mountain trails that take eight hours to bypass. Of particular note is the challenging, yet rewarding Sogeumgang course, which is a 13.3km, 8hour trek that takes you through craggy gorges, bizarre rock formations and gorgeous waterfalls. While Odaesan National Park is known for its rocky terrain, it also has 1.7 hectares of wetlands that are home to many endangered animal species such as the majestic golden eagle and the playful Eurasian otter. Chiaksan National Park is the smallest national park in Gangwon, at 181.57sq.km. “Chiaksan” means “Pheasant Peak Mountain”, due to a Korean folk tale involving a man who saves a pheasant from being eaten by a snake and has his life saved in return by the pheasant. Chiaksan is known

GETTING THERE Most flights from Singapore arrive via Incheon, which is about 3 hours west of Gangwon. There are direct buses from Incheon to several cities in Gangwon including Gangneung, Taebaek and Chuncheon. There are also subway services to parts of Gangwon from Seoul. For more information, visit english.visitkorea.or.kr.

Chiaksan’s main ridges are steep and jagged, in direct contrast to Odaesan’s gentle mountains, and is home to endangered animals like the Siberian flying squirrel and Hodgson’s bat, which is known for its dense, yellow fur.


McAfee Knob, VN

White Mountains, NH

Roan Mountain, MA

At about 3,500km long, the epic Appalachian Trail (or AT) is one of the USA's most famous long distance hiking trails. Crossing 14 states in the eastern USA, it stretches all the way from Mt. Katahdin (Maine) to Springer Mountain (Georgia), passing countless national parks and forests. The trail traverses the Appalachian Mountain ridgeline, ranging from alpine zones along the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, to sub-alpine regions of the Shenandoah National Park in Massachusetts.

MADE FOR HIKING Conceived in 1921 and built by volunteer hiking clubs, the AT is now managed by the National Park Service and the non-profit Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and actively maintained by 31 trail clubs with thousands of volunteers. The AT is a popular trail that is typically hiked from south (Georgia) to north (Maine). Thruhikers usually begin their treks in the busy spring period and finish by September. The entire length of it is marked by painted white blazes (the 'official' trail preferred by purists); there are also blue blazes (using shortcuts) and yellow blazes used by hitchhikers. The AT has over 250 shelters and campsites along the trail, ranging from New Hampshire's huts (operated by the Appalachian Mountain

THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Club) to the Fontana Dam Shelter (North Carolina), providing full-service lodging.

This portion gets very crowded in spring with thru-hikers.

While a majority of the trail is in the wilderness, hikers will also pass many roads and towns along the way, including Hot Springs (North Carolina), Hanover (New Hampshire) and Monson (Maine). These are ideal stops for restocking supplies; some towns also offer hiker-oriented accommodations.

A spectacularly scenic 120km portion in northern Georgia traverses forests of rhododendron, grassy peaks and oak hollows.

THE ROUTE: SOUTH TO NORTH Most hikers start from the south, and follow the warm weather on the way north. The trail can also be done in sections. Georgia Traversing the Chattahoochee National Forest, the 121km of trail rambles over many steep ups and downs, including Springer Mountain (1,000m) – the southern terminus of the AT – and Blood Mountain (1,360m).

North Carolina - Tennessee The trail through North Carolina passes the southern portion of the Smoky Mountains, including breathtaking portions of the Nantahala River that has some of the best-graded trails at high elevations. Running just over 100km through Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it traverses high ridge lines, including the highest point of the AT – Clingman's Dome (2,025m). Rhododendron gardens and panoramic views of grassy 'bald' mountains are notable here.


Generally, the well-graded (with some steep climbs) southern portion of the state provides solitude. Southwest Virginia is popular for its rhododendrons and azaleas in summer. In central Virginia, the AT parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway and features unusual rock formations, high summits and mature timber. The busiest portion in Virginia is the 170km trail through Shenandoah National Park, which is ideal for beginner hikers thanks to its well-maintained trails, lower elevations and abundant wildlife.

is moderate, with the trail crossing bogs and wetlands (with a bird sanctuary) and the picturesque Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The elevations along New York’s portion vary from relatively flat to short, steep rocky pitches, and while quite remote, it does get crowded at the Harriman-Bear Mountain State Park (the first section of the AT created in 1923). Connecticut - Massachusetts The short portion through Connecticut meanders across the Housatonic River Valley

and the Taconic Range, running along river banks in many sections. This mostly flat terrain provides lovely pastoral views. The Berkshire Plateau in Massachusetts provides a gently undulating hike through pleasant wooded hills and valleys, offering views of Mt. Greylock and Mt. Everett, and passes several small New England towns.

USA

Virginia Much of the AT traverses Virginia, and the terrain varies from easy hiking to difficult scrambling, as hikers cross back and forth from isolated wilderness to busy parks.

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Smoky Mountains, TN

The northern Virginia portion follows a notorious undulating portion near Snickers Gap before it hits Harpers Ferry in West Virginia, the midway point of the AT. Maryland - Pennsylvania With low elevations, Maryland's 66km of the AT runs through parts of Greenbrier State Park, and is ideal for an easy 3-4 day trip. Following the mountains east of the Alleghenies, the 300km+ trail in Pennsylvania is notorious for its long section consisting of foot-stabbing stones. However, the southern portion has easy, gentle grades. New Jersey - New York The rugged portion along the Kittatinny Range is very remote, and is abundant with wildlife (including black bears). The elevation

Mt. Katahdin, ME

GETTING THERE At 3,500kms long, the AT is accessible from many points along the eastern USA. The best way to get to the trailheads is by driving (there are hundreds of carparks along the AT), with Harpers Ferry (WV) and Pawling (NY) offering direct rail services to the trails. Some areas along the AT are also serviced by buses, with the New England portion having the most connections. For more on the Appalachian Trail, visit www.appalachiantrail.org or www.nps.gov.

Vermont - New Hampshire The Vermont portion follows the southern Green Mountains' high, rugged crest along the famous 'Long Trail'. Parts of the AT approaches the treeline, requiring strenuous ascents through forests of birch and pine. Avoid hiking here during the spring ‘mud season’.

The highlight of New Hampshire's portion is the beautiful White Mountains, specifically the Presidential Range. Topped by Mt. Washington (1,920m), the Presidentials are among the highest ranges on the entire AT, making it some of the toughest climbs along the trail. The 140km portion through the White Mountain National Forest feels like a hike through the tundra, with majestic views of lakes and valleys below. Due to its elevation, hikers can expect severe weather conditions, and regular snowfall on Mt. Washington. Maine Maine's 452km of trail leads to the AT’s northern terminus at Mt. Katahdin in Baxter

State Park. Moose and loons are a common sight, thanks to the abundance of lakes, streams and bogs. This portion is considered the most difficult to tackle, even for experienced hikers. The western section's 1,200m-high mountains are arguably the toughest portion of the entire AT, including a mile-long boulder scramble at Mahoosuc Notch. The central section is the least strenuous, and follows the historic route across the Kennebec River using free canoe ferry services. The eastern section (or 'Hundred Miles') comprises disconnected mountains with challenging climbs, and tricky stream crossings.


Nestled in the verdant Virunga Mountains on the transnational edges of Rwanda, DRC and Uganda is the Volcanoes National Park. Spanning 125 sq.km., the park is the backdrop to 5 of the 8 active volcanoes that dot Rwanda’s northwestern mountains. Being Africa’s first national park, it was also the site where world-famous primatologist Dian Fossey spent 18 years documenting and studying gorillas in the wild. Blessed with blanketing rainforests and plentiful bamboo, the park is a jungle sanctuary for rare Mountain Gorillas who have become wildlife icons synonymous with the area. TEXT BY Prabhu Silvam

WILDLIFE AT VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK This rich mountain ecosystem embraces everything from evergreen bamboo forests, to open grasslands, swamps and heaths, supporting a vast assortment of wildlife. Two major species, namely the Golden Monkey and Mountain Gorilla, form the bulk of the primate inhabitants in the park, with gorillas being the main draw for visitors because of their reclusive nature and dwindling numbers in the wild. A trek through the verdant moorlands will unveil other hidden wildlife gems that include Black-fronted duikers, spotted hyenas and

VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, RWANDA

the occasional bush backs. The park is also home to 78 bird species including at least 29 endemics. Herds of wild elephants and grazing buffalo in the lush lower grasslands serve as a prelude for trekkers hoping to catch a glimpse of the territorial Mountain Gorillas that reside higher up Virunga’s peaks.

VISITING THE PARK Volcanoes National Park can be accessed from the small village of Musanze (previously known as Ruhengeri), which is a 2-hour drive from Kigali, making it convenient for visitors with a tight itinerary to do gorilla trekking as a 2-day overnight trip.

Visitors are advised to book gorilla trekking permits via the Rwanda Development Board Tourism and Conservation Office email at least a year in advance in order to secure trekking places. On the day of the scheduled trek, visitors must arrive at the headquarters of the Rwandan Office For Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) in Kingi by 7am for a briefing. The ORTPN is only accessible by car – most visitors hire a local car and driver for the day, with Kigali Airport providing rental services from S$26/day.


GETTING THERE Qatar Airways and Ethiopian Airlines offer various connecting flights from Singapore to Rwanda’s capital Kigali, via Doha or Addis Ababa, with a flight time to Kigali of 17-22 hours. For more on Rwanda, visit www.rwandatourism.com (or contact the Rwanda High Commission, Singapore).

GORILLA TREKKING & GROUPS The two annual dry seasons (DecemberMarch, June-September) are the best times to visit the park. With temperatures averaging up to 29ºC during the dry season, trekkers can expect to observe the gorillas – spread across a total of 8 habituated family groups – seeking food and water. Sabyinyo Group One of the most accessible and affable gorilla groups is the Sabyinyo Group. Usually found congregating on the gentle slopes between the summits of Sabyinyo (3,645m) and Gahinga (3,474m), the group is 13 members strong, inclusive of 2 silverbacks – one of which is the biggest silverback in the entire park. The hike up to Mt. Sabyinyo is relatively easy with low slopes and moderate terrain. Amahoro ‘Peace’ Group Noted for their gentle mannerisms, this group is famous among trekkers for being the most calm and welcoming of the lot. With an 18-member strong family inclusive of 2 silverbacks, the group is generally found on the slopes of Mt.

Bisoke (3,711m). With a steep trek path and difficult terrain, this group is more suited to seasoned trekkers. Kwitonda Group For those looking for a little challenge, trekking to the Kwitonda Group will be a rewarding experience. The group Kwitonda (meaning “Humble One”) is named after the dominant silverback of the group which is known to be docile. With 16 members, the group inhabits the lower grasslands of Mt. Muhabura (4,127m) and is highly reclusive by nature. Steep pathways and narrow slopes make this a highly challenging group to track. Susa Group In addition to being the original group studied by Dian Fossey, the Susa group is also the biggest group in the park. With 33 members including 2 silverbacks, the Susa are known to migrate between altitude levels. This behaviour makes them one of the hardest and most unpredictable groups to track. Trekkers should be prepared for steep slopes and challenging hikes.


GEAR GUY: Ken Berg Ken grew up on the doorstep of the Canadian wilderness, backpacking, paddling and rock climbing in this rugged land. Armed with a degree in recreational studies, he has been working at Canada's premier outdoor retailer for over 10 years, putting gear to the test whether it's cycling in -35ºC winters, running marathons or travelling to the far reaches of the planet.

MOUNTAIN Adventures in the mountains can bring extreme weather that changes quickly, require physical and mental stamina and present many physical dangers. With proper planning and the right gear, you can be prepared for an amazing adventure no matter the elements.

Petzl Ultra Rush

LIGHT UP WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU:

The Petzl Ultra Rush head lamp’s 700 lumens throws a very wide beam up to 170m away and lasts up to 4 hours at its highest output. The battery pack is on a belt, and the lamp is fully waterproof with the knob large enough to manipulate with gloves on. Though not quite as bright, Petzl Nao allows more adjustability (you can hook it up to a computer to customise settings) with its sensor that will adjust to how close objects are. It has 575 lumens and a range of up to 135m, using rechargeable lithium ion (or AAA) batteries.

PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD Approach shoes are a fantastic option for parts of the climb when things get a little more technical but aren’t so difficult that a climbing shoe or mountaineering boot are required.

Gregory Denali 75

La Sportiva’s Hyper Mid Gore-Tex has a snug fit similar to a climbing shoe, and it comes with a Goretex upper for breathable waterproofness. The outsoles have a sticky rubber that is designed to make climbs much easier and provide great grip and protection while descending. Scarpa’s Crux Approach is lighter and more breathable. They provide enough support and cushioning and are comfortable with the extra strain during descents. The outsole rubber is not only quite grippy but it’s non-marking for when you’re back indoors.

sleeping bag (-10ºC) comes with many highend features, including a 850+ fill power down to provide a fantastic warmth to weight ratio, allowing you to compress the bag to very small sizes. It’s slim at the shoulders and keeps the heat in with its “3D” collar, with an outer fabric windstopper to keep out chilly winds and provide good water resistance.

DREAMING OF A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP The Therm-a-rest Neo Air XTherm sleeping pad takes up very little room but still provides plenty of cushioning and insulation – using a reflective barrier and a matrix of cells to trap warm air – for a variety of seasons. It comes with a stuff sac that can be used as a pump. The nylon La Sportiva surface is grippy to prevent you Hyper Mid Gore-Tex from sliding off, and though the material is durable, it comes with a repair kit. The Western Mountaineering Apache Gore Wind Stopper

Western Mountaineering Apache Gore

PACKING UP The Gregory Denali 75 backpack has a fantastic suspension system that allows you to haul heavy loads comfortably and can still be stripped down so that you can use it for shorter excursions. The hip belt, frame stays, foamsheet, ice axe loops and lid all come off (removing about 1kg of weight). The new “FusionFlex Pro” suspension system automatically adjusts to your shoulder angles and has a precurved hipbelt with soft but durable foam. It also has a sled attachment for adventures that require a large amount of gear.

DOWNHILL MTB: TOP 5 TIPS FEET & PEDAL: It’s important that the contact between your feet and pedals are sturdy. Flat pedals help keep your feet in the right position during brakes and jumps. MTB-specific shoes look similar to skate shoes, but the former has sticky soles which are essential to keeping your feet glued to the pedals.

With the proliferation of good quality mountain bikes being retailed in Singapore, you might be tempted to try a bit of downhill mountain biking, whether it’s at Kent Ridge or out of town. If you’re a newbie, here are some tips from Aaron Gwin (two-time World Cup overall champion) to get you on your muddy way:

NATURAL ROLL: It’s natural to slam the brakes when in trouble, but the best thing to do is to keep a neutral pressure on your handlebars. The bike will coast to where it wants to go, and ride down naturally. ELBOWS & HANDLEBAR: For stability, you’ll have to keep your arms constantly bent with your

elbows high so that you’ll have maximum strength and leverage. It’ll be easier to maintain that position with wider handlebars.

SEAT POSITION: As you’re going downhill, you don’t want to fly over the handles as you descend. Mount a dropper seatpost on a trail bike – when riding uphill, you can keep your seat at an ideal pedalling position, and when you’re cruising downhill, you can easily drop the height of your seat directly from your handlebar with the push of a button.


Mt. Bromo TEXT BY Samantha Pereira PHOTOS BY Tamara Sanderson

Sitting in an untamed, rugged slice of Indonesia, Mt. Bromo, which lies in the heart of East Java, may not size up next to the list of towering peaks and volcanoes that dot the rest of the region, but instead its lure comes from the dramatic, otherworldly views that mirror the rugged red landscape of Mars – this can be observed particularly during dawn and dusk when the warm lighting casts a deep fiery glow over the steaming crater-laden terrain. Mt. Bromo also plays the central character in the culture of the Tengger people during annual festivals like the Yadnya Kasada, which happens in November when throngs of villagers throw offerings into the steaming crater to express gratitude for a good harvest.

RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF DAYS: 2-3 DAYS

PRINCIPLE ACTIVITY: HIKING, CYCLING

MUST SEE:

> MADAKARIPURA WATERFALL: Not far from

by a conical tip that barrels plumes of white smoke, the 2,392m-high active volcano overshadows Cemoro Lawang – a mountain village that is a major access point for Bromo via a 3km hike.

Bromo (50km), and often the pitstop before exploring the rest of East Java, the Madakaripura Waterfall cascades about 200m into a moss-draped valley abyss.

> MT. BROMO: Located within the Bromo Tengger Semuru National Park, and distinguished

Mt. Bromo is also accessible from the village of Ngadisari; though not a direct entry point to Bromo, the trek leads to the entrance of the national park and across a cluster of peaks. For travellers starting their hikes from either village, there’s also the option of horseback riding to base of the volcano. The trek to Mt. Bromo involves walking across a broad plain of sea sand, passing a Hindu temple at the foot of the peak, followed by a winding set of clearly-marked stairs up to the steaming crater (10km wide). Depending on the trekker’s fitness level, it takes roughly 1 to 2 hours to reach the top.

> BROMO TENGGER SEMERU NATIONAL PARK: The largest volcanic reserve in Java, it’s home to a cluster of volcanoes including Mt. Bromo and Mt. Semuru (3,676m) – the latter is the highest mountain in Java and requires a pass to climb. The eponymous national park (800sq.km.) is also stacked with expansive plains, rolling valleys and scenic lakes. A favourite locale among volcano enthusiasts, visitors to the national park often trek across the sea of sand or hop a jeep to explore the other statuesque peaks like Mt. Penanjakan (2,770m) – a good viewpoint for Bromo and the surrounding summits. It’s relatively steeper than its counterparts Mt. Batok (2,440m) – the only non-active peak in the area – and Mt. Widodaren (2,650m), with its sacred underground cave, along with several other mountains with ascents of over 2,600m. The park is home to fauna like the native rusa deer and elusive marbled cats, while hawks and eagles can sometimes be seen soaring above the plateaus and valleys.

Hidden within a deep forested valley, it is close to the village of Sapih at the foothills of the Tengger mountain range – a region that is said to be the stronghold of the 13th century Majapahit empire. Misting over a series of gaping dark caves, the majestic waterfall is shrouded in folklore that involved the commander of the Majapahit empire who regarded the area to be holy. To honour his spiritual legacy, locals pay homage by performing rituals on the first day of the Javanese calendar. MUST DO:

> TREKKING: Besides going up the towering peaks, trekkers can explore the different routes that speckle the area, including the Tumpang route (4 to 6 hours) from Malang to the high altitude Ranu Pani Lake, as well as the Ngadisari route, which takes you through several villages to explore the local culture before hitting Mt. Bromo.

> HORSEBACK RIDING: Tours start from the surrounding villages like Ngadas, Podoyoko, Cemoroh Lawang, etc., with horses taking visitors up the low-lying peaks and foothills of the volcanoes within the national park.

> BIKING: With elevations up to 640m, there are plenty of opportunities for intermediate riders on the 30kms of offbeat routes that cover the Madakaripura Waterfall area. ACCOMMODATION For travellers looking to get in touch with the Tengger culture, most of the villages surrounding the Bromo Tengger Semuru National Park – like Cemoro Lawang and Ngadisari – offer homestays with local families. GETTING THERE Surabaya is the gateway city to Mt. Bromo, with direct flights from Singapore via Garuda, Jetstar and SilkAir. Plenty of local tour operators in Surabaya offer jeep and motorbike excursions to Mt. Bromo.


Saschiz Tower

Corvin Castle

When it comes to Transylvania, one might conjure up images of medieval castles and scenes out of a Dracula movie. And while vampires don't exist, the backdrop of ancient castles and mountain villages serve as a reminder to the folklore. Situated in the central part of Romania, the Carpathian mountain range rises to the east and south of Transylvania, lending an imposing backdrop to a region that is home to a smattering of medieval treasures including fortified churches and castles.

TRANSYLVANIAN CASTLES & CHURCHES

TEXT BY Sharon Magdalene

FORTIFIED CHURCHES From the beginning of the 13th century to the 16th century, Transylvanian villagers, tired of having their settlements destroyed by Ottoman raiders, built hundreds of fortified churches throughout the countryside to protect their towns and villages. These churches were designed to defend, and therefore have military features like massive walls, battlements and embrasures. In Transylvania alone, there are 7 villages that are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each containing a fortified church. Here are four that should not be missed: Biertan Fortified Church Located in Biertan, this fortified church was the last to be built in Transylvania. Surrounded by quaint streets and vineyards, and looking Gothic with Renaissance touches, the church has three exterior rows of strongholds, making it impossible to conquer during medieval times. Inside, there is a “matrimonial prison” for couples who wished to divorce – they would be locked up for two weeks, and would have to share a single bed, a plate and a spoon; the couple could leave early if they reconciled. Amazingly, only one couple in 300 years failed to do so.

Prejmer Fortified Church The Prejmer fortified church was always the first place invaders encountered in order to break through to the village. While the village was destroyed over 50 times between 12001600 AD, due to the church’s strong strategic position and fortification, it was never destroyed and only rarely captured. The interior of the fortified church has over 270 rooms and shelters for at least 1,600 villagers in the event of invasion or calamity. The church is now a museum, and you’ll get to see the rooms, climb the many stairs, explore the secret underground passageway and walk down the corridors to its battlements. Prejmer Church

Saschiz Fortified Church The Saschiz fortified church is surrounded by a powerful defensive wall, complete with

5 towers, each with its namesake purpose (like the School Tower, the Munitions Tower and the Guard Tower); it also has a cemetery with ancient gravestones dating back five centuries. As the fortress is 2kms from the village centre – and connected via a subterranean tunnel – the villagers built another defensive church right in the village centre. The village church’s iconic clock tower – the symbol of Saschiz – is widely considered the country’s most beautiful historical monument. Although affected by the 1714 fire that destroyed most of Saschiz, the clock tower is still impressive to this day. Calnic Citadel The Calnic Citadel first began as a residence for a count (not Dracula), and while it had a strong, sturdy structure, its position was at a disadvantage. Unlike other fortifications which were on hilltops, the Calnic Citadel was established in a depression much lower than the surrounding hills. The frequent attacks on the citadel led to further fortifications, with added defensive structures and massive walls surrounding the fort. The building is now a museum of Saxon culture, and listed as one of the country’s historic monuments.


Castles are another of Transylvania's draws. There are 134 castles dotted around the region, dating back to as early as the 12th century, each with a strong majestic presence that magnifies the rich history of this region. Bran Castle In the literary world, Transylvania would often be associated with vampires, namely Count Dracula. And it is not wrong to think that way; after all, Bram Stoker (the author of Dracula) based his novel on locations in Transylvania. Bran Castle – widely known as "Dracula's Castle" – was never actually visited by Bram (he never even visited Transylvania), but it is the only castle in the entire region that fits the description of Count Dracula's castle. Perched high on a rock, and surrounded by rugged mountains, Bran Castle overlooks the picturesque village of Bran which is surrounded by flowering meadows. Currently a museum, the castle was once used to defend against the

Ottoman Empire thanks to its strategic military position. A visit to Bran transports you back to medieval times, and if you’re wondering how much would it cost to own this castle, it went on sale in May 2014 for a hefty S$95.63million. Corvin Castle Another castle that illustrates the rich medieval heritage of Transylvania is Corvin Castle – one of the most impressive fairytalelike castles in the world. Built by a royal family to serve as a fortress, it was only transformed into a fairytale castle much later. This strategic fortress comes with an interesting story: Vlad the Impaler was once held in this castle's prison, and when he was found guilty, he went insane – probably due to the fact that guilty prisoners were sent to the “pit of bears”. Oddly, the pit was situated right beneath the window of the princesses’ living room, leaving many to wonder what

Peles Castle

sort of princesses lived there. Peles Castle Completed in 1883 in the German new-Renaissance style, Peles Castle was the first European castle that was lit entirely by electricity – it even had its own electrical plant. The castle feels more of a palace than a castle; it has over 170 rooms with dedicated themes (each decorated with exquisite fabrics and hand-painted murals) and filled with the finest of European art, exquisite furniture, crystal chandeliers, magnificent stained glass windows and Cordoba leather-covered walls. With its fountains, marble pathways and a large collection of ceremonial arms and armour, it’s easy to forget that this castle was built as a defensive fort.

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Bran Castle

Biertan Church

Romania

CASTLES

SIGHISOARA MEDIEVAL FESTIVAL Happening around the last weekend of July, the Sighisoara Medieval Festival celebrates Transylvania’s medieval spirit. During this time, you’ll see knights in shining armour joust each other, with sword fights and archery sessions held at various squares – all with fair maidens in medieval outfits cheering on. Away from all the clashes, you can immerse yourself in medieval dances, parades, recitals, heraldry workshops, and concerts by minstrels.

GETTING THERE Romania is well-connected to the rest of Europe; its international airport at Bucharest has connections to all major cities in Europe and most of the Middle East, while its railway service has daily connections to cities like Vienna and Istanbul. Romania is a member of the Schengen Agreement, and thus citizens of most countries do not require a visa for visiting the country.


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ADVENTURE 21

6 Eu Tong Sen Street #03-55 The Central Singapore 059817 Tel: (65) 6535 0232 Fax: (65) 6535 0678 Website: www.adventure21.com.sg E-mail: adventure21@singnet.com.sg

EVENTS: RACE CALENDAR OCTOBER 2014 Bloomberg Square Mile Relay 1 mile | 2 Oct | Marina Bay | Registration: $1,095-$1,295 per team A 10-person corporate team relay challenge for charity. www.squaremilerelay.com

The North Face 100 Singapore 100km, 50m, 25km & 13km | 10-11 Oct | Registration: $70-$320 This is a challenging minimum-support, self-sustaining race. www.thenorthface100.com.sg

Run For Your Lives Singapore 5km | 25 Oct, 12pm | West Coast Park | Registration: $72.90 A zombie-themed fun run in either Survivor or Zombie roles. www.runforyourlives.asia

Newton Challenge 18km, 32km | 26 Oct, 5am | Big Splash | Registration: $53-$68 The route runs around East Coast Park. www.newtonchallenge.com

NOVEMBER 2014 Run By The Bay 10km & 15km | 2 Nov, 6.30am | Marina Bay | Registration: $40-$50 A race with 5km fun run, 10km and 15km routes. www.cscrun.com

Great Eastern Women’s Run 2014 5km, 10km, 21.1km | 9 Nov, 5.30am | Marina Bay | Registration: $41-$73 Featuring Asia’s largest women-only running event. www.greateasternwomensrun.com


Sports+Travel Singapore | Issue 59  

Mountains Issue | Singapore's free adventure travel magazine. Sep/Oct 2014. www.sportsandtravelonline.com

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