Friday, 24 August 2012

"Making tents just like home spoils the fun"

An in-tents experience

Camping is not about yearning for emails and EastEnders and electric light; it is a game

Too many of us have become disconnected from life and caught up on the hedonistic treadmill.  And it's not making us happy.  Camping, proper camping, and even for short periods, puts you back on an even keel and rebalances perspectives and priorities.  

How many of us live in centrally heated houses with fresh running water and electricity freely available regardless of hour or season?  Light when you want it, warmth when you want it.  At the flick of a switch.  

How many of us can eat whatever we like, whenever we like, regardless of season?  

How often do we get into our climate controlled cars from our cocooned houses to go to work to buy things we don't really need?  Yet we only know what time of day or time of year it is from our watches or calendars, or know what we need to buy because someone else tells us so.

In other words, life has become too easy and too comfortable, and we work far too hard.  It's so easy to lose your way and not even realise.  

Can you remember the last time you felt the sheer joy of seeing the first spring buds appear?  The first rains?  The first walk in the snow?  The relief of finally snuggling into a toasty bed with a hot water bottle on your feet, whilst knowing that, in a few hours, you'll be able to see your breath in the frosty morning? The delight of the broad beans and peas finally coming into season (and the turnips and swedes going)? In other words, to feel life, to really, really feel it.  To live it, to become part of it, working in harmony with it, through the highs and the lows.

Camping may not always be easy, and at times you will cry through frustration, fear or fatigue.  But you will laugh too, and your heart will soar.  Time and time again.

This, for me, is what camping brings.  Make it too comfortable and you're recreating that plateaux of sensation once more.  Mediocre highs, mediocre lows.  Give me the soaring highs any day.  

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Walking Guide - Monte d'Ugni, Majella

Monte d'Ugni and the Feudo Ugni Nature Reserve, CH, Abruzzo

After a week of far too many late nights and early mornings, a chilled Saturday of an amble around the hills was in order.  You pick the route, says I, whilst I finish the chores.  Fatal.

Found one!   Says he.  Here, look.  Not far along the valley and only about 6km, nice circular route through the gorge, a gentle stretch of the legs.  

Yes, darling looks lovely says I, my mind not really on the job.  This is where I errored.    The warning signals of checking out the contours and noticing that we would be “ambling” to over 2000m just didn’t register.  From a starting point of 700m?  That’s 1,300m of climbing.  In 6km?  In 2 hours?  Not a chance.

Seven hours later, with almost 20km of hiking and scrambling, we had completed the most amazing walk with some incredible scenery, fueled only on a pizza slice.

Be warned, however, it is quite a hike - not only a long way up, but also a long way down almost entirely on scree.  Strong knees, food, water and a sense of humour a must.  It gets pretty chilly at the top and the weather can come in quite fast, so waterproofs and warm layers should also be packed.

There are a couple of gorgeous little refugi at the top, well worth overnighting in if you fancy doing the hike over a couple of days, or for just having more time to explore the stunning landscape all around you.

Finer Details

Distance:  19km
Time:  7-8 hours
Highest point:  2040m
Starting point:  Junction of walking routes G4/G5 Confini, Pennapiedimonte, CH (700m)
Difficulty:  A good level of fitness, stamina and strong knees/ankles required
Distance from Kokopelli:  25km 

Directions:  from Kokopelli, go down to the main Serramonacesca - Roccamontepiano road, turn right to Roccamontepiano.  In the middle of Rocca, take the right fork up to Pretoro.  Go through Pretoro and out the otherside, picking up the signs to Bocca di Valle.  Go through Bocca di Valle on the SS263 and head towards Pennapiedimonte, staying on the SS263 all the way.

From Pennapiedimonte keep on the SS263, and after about 5km look out for the hamlet of Confini signposted to your right.  Turn into Confini and make your way sharply up past a few houses.  This track takes you all the way to a picnic area with parking spaces dotted along the side.  Park up anywhere along here and pick up the sign to the U1 (G4 on a more up to date Majella map)

The U1/G4 is a well defined track all the way up until you get close to the top.  Unless you want to disappear well into the wild heart of the Majella (not advisable on a one day hike with limited provisions), just after the refugio Monte d’Ugni (signposted) start looking for a sign to your right indicating the path to the refugio Martellese.  Take the path all the way to and past the refugio.  As you go past, this is where your descent starts so start looking for the path (the G5) that takes you down through the gorge.  It can be a little tricky to spot but so long as you ensure you keep the drop into the gorge on your right you’ll stay on the correct side of the gorge and will pick up the path as it does become very obvious.

It is now downhill all the way!  But don’t relax as it can be pretty steep and technical in some places.  Eventually, however, you will reach the bottom at exactly the same place you started.  Give yourselves a pat on the back and go and find a nice, cold beer in nearby Pennapiedimonte.

The higher you get, the more spectacular the views.
This here looking down to Lago di Casoli

Just one of the many butterflies adding another dimension to this beautiful landscape

The beach woods and the rock formations

The sunlight and green hue through the trees

Incredible to see the Pennapiedimonte gorge from a completely
different perspective.  (Great climbing here btw.)

The walkway through the opposite gorge clearly in view

Views all the way to the sea

The higher into the clouds we went the more stunning the light

The top.  The gorge for our descent.  

And so it starts...

Smiley faces at the top, weary legs by the bottom

A long way down, maybe, but we wouldn't have missed this landscape
 for anything.  Well worth the weary legs at the end.

Even Mother Mary had a little place

...and back where we began.
In the nick of time too - wouldn't have fancied doing that descent in the dark!

Friday, 10 August 2012

The Beach & Nature Reserve of Punta Aderci, Vasto



Punta Aderci Nature Reserve

Sometimes, somehow, things just don’t go to plan.  But you end up having the best day ever.

It’s August, it’s hot.  Afternoons are for siesta or escaping the heat, both of which we’ve mastered to a fine degree.  This afternoon, however, we felt like exploring.  Take the snorkels, drive a little further south down the coast, find a rocky cove and just, well, snorkel and snooze.

But instead we ended up an hour later, late afternoon, at Punta Aderci, Vasto’s beach side nature reserve, stunningly beautiful, but no snorkeling.  Who cares?  Not us.  A glorious time we had.  We just swam and snoozed, walked and explored.  

With 285 hectares of protected dunes, beaches, cliff tops, flora and fauna, Punta Aderci is the perfect chill out zone.  No sun beds to hire, nor parasols; just bring or make your own from the abundance of beautifully and naturally crafted driftwood dotted along the shore.  

Wonderful driftwood for the creative

If you fancy being slightly more active than we did, try volley ball, or walk or cycle the gentle 6km  walkway that follows the shoreline and hill tops. 


Be warned though, it is a nature reserve with flowers not to be picked.  Torment indeed for a forager, with the cliff sides dripping with samphire, tantalisingly within reach!

As the sun was going down, we finally dragged ourselves off the beach, had a wander along the top, before taking a slow pootle home and finding a lovely little restaurant for fish to eat and sea views to die for.

The Punta Aderci trabocchi coastline at its most beautiful


Where:  Punta Aderci, Vasto (CH), Abruzzo
Distance from Kokopelli:  Approx 75km / 1 hour drivetime

From Kokopelli, follow the directions to Tomato Beach (see info folder): ie go through Roccamontepiano (forking left at the junction in the middle of the village), take the first right about 1km outside the village heading towards Fara Filiorum Petri.  At the T junction just before Fara, turn right, then almost immediately left, following the signs to Francavilla.

Stay on this road (SS263) following the signs to Francavilla all the way, until you pick up the A14 Autostrada signs.  Take the A14 in the direction of Bari.  After about 50km, take the exit Casalbordino-Vasto North and follow the signs to Punta Aderci.

Eating:  Ristorante Caldora, Vallevò

Directions:  from Punta Aderci, pick up the SS16 Adriatica road heading back towards Pescara.  After about 25km you’ll come across a row of a few restaurants.  Ristorante Caldora is signed from the road but down a little side street off to your right.  The restaurant terrace overlooks the sea and the trabocchi giving spectacular views along the coastline.  

The terrace of the Ristorante Caldora