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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Key West & Fort Jefferson

Seven Mile Bridge to Key West

Some of the old stately homes

Fort Jefferson via Seaplane

Making our way over many bridges towards Key West

 As you drive down  I-95 towards Miami do yourself a favor and continue on US Highway #1 to the Florida Keys (160 miles/260kms and a 2 to 3 hr drive) and visit this coral archipelago of 1700 islands but which only 43 are accessible by bridges or causeways and take in some great sights. But besides that, its like going back in time and remember these islands were only connected by rail to the mainland not that long ago (1910s) which then was mostly destroyed by a hurricane in 1935.....that's when the government decided to replace the tracks with a highway a few years after this natural disaster. So do as i did and stop along the way during your drive along one of the 32 Keys that Hwy#1 includes, then have a fish taco, Ybor Gold (local beer) maybe talk to the locals and take in the atmosphere/history and you might hear how they became (for a time) an independent nation called Conch Republic and separated from the United States in 1982. Now of course everybody wants to end up in Key West, so book a room ahead and i would suggest (KeyTip) looking for a Guest House/B&B as hotels can be expensive. ($300-$400 per night) Also once here i took a room away from Duval Street as its the area everyone goes to, so lots of noise all night! But during the day its the place to be (Old Town) of Duval, Mallory Square, Truman Annex and Fort Zachary Taylor and take in the architecture of the late 1880s with its pastel colors, gingerbread trim, covered porches and side-hinged shutters also lots of history to see from the winter White House of President Harry S Truman, residences of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Calvin Klein, Jimmy Buffett etc, to facts for example that Pan American Airlines was founded here to fly visitors to Havana before the blockade was imposed. Now you know the K-Man would find something else to explore that was different..... that would be Fort Jefferson that is located 70 miles west of Key West (either by seaplane or boat) which i learned is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, how big you ask? 16 million bricks!! and was built for the defense of the Gulf Coast back in the 1840s but now with Tortugas (another Key) it is designated a National Park since 1992. Once back, watch the sun go down as your walking up Duval Street taking in all the sights and sounds enjoying your visit to the southern most point in Continental USA and one of the most interesting place you will ever visit.

Always have your camera........never know what you find when walking 

Lots of odd things to see in Key West lol
Always famous for its amazing sunsets

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hiking the Dolomites

On the road between Austria and Italy 
Not for your average prepared
As i get ready to visit my friends from Alta Badia (Northern Italy) i do a little research on the history of the area and i am getting exited to explore the Dolomites. I find out it has a many complex routes through the mountains called Via Ferrata ( Italian for Iron Road) as it was passages built during World War 1 with a series of ropes, ladders and wooden structures to help move the Italian Army through this mountain range. Going forward to modern times we have steel cables, iron ladders and metal rungs (stemples) which are anchored into the rock so we can enjoy our high altitude trekking. Also look for the route in the Eastern part of the Dolomites that includes the Lagazuoi Tunnel built during the great war that has been brought up to speck for safety as you wont be disappointed.  Now once your start your journey you can go for days and stay in Rifugis 
(mountain huts) which in a lot of ways will remind you of a Hostel, just bring your own sleeping bag for obvious reasons and your bedding plus meals will be provided for an affordable cost. (KeyTip...don't forget to bring your own snacks and personal hygiene items) Now to finish up, we are again dealing with nature so i use the line.....common sense isn't so common lol   Rule 1) Don't hike alone for safety reasons
2) Stay hydrated as your at 6,000ft, so you exhale & sweat 2x as much as if you were at sea level     3) Bring additional clothing as the weather can change in a hurry   4) Cell coverage is good in Italy so bring a phone and add the emergency #s for the area   5) Finally be aware of falling rocks and loose footing as your are in the mountains. Enjoy
Lagazuoi Tunnel

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bushwalking Fraser Island

One option to get to Fraser Island 

Sand is everywhere and makes the walking very difficult 

One of the coolest places I've be able to visit is Fraser Island off the east coast of Australia (named after Eliza Fraser who was a shipwrecked survivor after hitting the reefs north of the island, then making her way to at the time...Great Sandy Island)  It is one of those miracles of nature how it has become the World's largest sand island (1840kms/710miles) with its ancient rainforests, mighty sand
dunes, pristine freshwater lakes (over 100) endless white sands including Seventy Mile Beach, also an abundance of birds, free roaming wildlife such as Wallabies, Possums, Flying Foxes and of course the last place on our planet with pure Dingoes. Finally an offshore with Humpback Whales in the protected waters of Hervey
Bay, so how is this all possible?...well the
sand was carried here by strong offshore current and because of the volcanic rock it got trapped, plus of the naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi in this sand it provides the necessary nutrients for plant life and to start the cycle of life.  So what better way to see nature than going for a hike, ( Bushwalking in Australia Mate) now for the adventurous types there  is a 90kms Fraser Island Great Walk but because of time issues Ive opted on the Kingsfisher Bay ( ferry drop off point) to Lake McKenzie which is a 23km return trek. Like any journey there are some planning and rules to follow specially because mobile phone coverage here is limited so help could be hours lets be smart about it. A) Sturdy/Comfortable boots or shoes are a must as there are some sections that include soft sand which makes the walking slow and tiring. B) The weather can change in a hurry so bring rain gear and warm clothes. C) Carry your own drinking water and First Aid Kit.  D)  Have a compass and know how to use it (lol)   Now because Fraser Island is a Natural Treasure here are some additional guidelines to follow;  A) Its an offense to remove anything living or dead from the area. B) Stay on marked trails as shortcuts create erosion issues plus you might get lost. C) Do not use detergents, toothpaste or soaps in the waterways ( creeks & lakes) and also limit the amount of sunscreen on you before going in for a swim. D) Wash your dishes or yourself at least 50 meters away from the waterways. E) Use only a fuel stove. F) Use only toilets in camping areas. G) Hard to believe i would have to mention this one...bring all your rubbish out with you and dispose of it properly. H) Finally be Dingo safe....don't be stupid and try to feed them, they are wild animals. Also don't leave anything around in your tents, store all food in storage lockers located in the campgrounds, walk in groups and again dispose of your food scraps/garbage properly. There it is folks, for all to enjoy a place that will leave you a mindful of amazing memories.

Rubber traction mats are everywhere for the those you dare to drive on Fraser Island 

Heading back to Australia