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HIKING TEIDE NATIONAL PARK (THE MOON)

LA OROTAVA

I catch the bus to Teide National Park in La Orotava, a tranquil village located in the northern part of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. We slowly snake our way up to our destination, hairpin curve by narrow hairpin curve, swallowed by coniferous forests and then belched out into the clouds. We emerge from the fog at the crater encircling the volcano Teide, Spain’s highest point. Having been distracted by the dramatic scenery, I’m surprised that our ascent took two hours.

TEIDE NATIONAL PARK

I have the option of disembarking at the base of Teide and riding a funicular to the top, or continuing on to the Parador de Canadas del Teide (the Teide National Park Visitor Center). I choose the Visitor Center, the origination point of several hiking trails varying in length and difficulty.

I explain to the helpful woman at the Information Desk that walking distances is not a problem, but I’m not up for tackling inclines today (I hiked most of yesterday and my backside aches something fierce). We decide upon trail four, Siete Canadas, a sixteen-kilometer (twelve-mile?) trek through the Circo de Las Canadas, the flats along the base of Teide.

I strike off with some sensible sandals, a baseball hat, sunblock, a bottle of water and my iPhone.

<Crunch>, <crunch>, <crunch>, <crunch>

I’m alone on the moon.

At least I might as well be, my surroundings are so other-worldly. Jagged black rocks poke my feet, low-lying brush abuzz with bees graze my calves, craggy juts of hill await me in the distance, and an endless aqua sky more vivid than they make it back home surrounds me. The eerie landscape of Teide National Park, I had read, was where parts of Planet of the Apes and Star Wars were filmed.

Teide National Park Caldera

<Crunch> <crunch> <crunch> <crunch>

I am the last person alive.

At least it feels that way. An hour has passed in this bizarre universe and I’ve encountered no other living creature except the pollen seekers. This little hike is more than a hike: it’s an exercise in mind control. If I let myself, I could freak-out over my vulnerability navigating this vast, strange terrain alone. I oscillate between fear and an adrenalin-induced euphoria as the path before me continues into infinity.

<Freak> <crunch> <crunch> <crunch>

<Relax> <crunch> <crunch> <crunch>

Hike through Teide National Park

After awhile the rhythmic crunching of the stones beneath my feet and the endless horizon before me lull me into a trance-like state. I pull out my iPhone. I should probably remain alert so that I can hear whatever would-be attackers (Marvin the Martian, Dothrakis, an angry swarm of hornets) are about to descend upon me with malicious intent, but then again, if any of those events do happen, perhaps oblivious would be the best way to go.

I choose an appropriate song by The Police.

Play:

 

Left foot <crunch>: We could

Right foot <crunch>: walk to-

Left foot <crunch>: -ge

Right foot <crunch>: -ther,

Left foot <crunch>: Walking

Right foot <crunch>: on the

Left foot <crunch> : Moon

I crunch in time to my iTunes as the sun beats down on me, my mind calming, drifting pleasantly into a stream of consciousness, one string of loosely connected thoughts and memories morphing into another.

Two hours pass and I arrive safely (but a little sandy) back at the Teide National Park Visitor Center feeling both relieved and exultant.

That was fun!

Sandy feet at Teide National Park

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A LIMA CHURCH WALK

JW MARRIOTT LIMA

I want to visit the center city this morning, complete a Lima Church walk I mapped-out in my Lonely Planet guide last night – I just don’t want to pay for a Mercedes to go there. On the other hand, I’m not really up for being kidnapped and raped today, either. The JW Marriott valets call Pablo for me.

Pablo Luis Rios Venegas

Taxi a su servicio – Seguridad y Garantia

Telf. Dom.: 582-3025

Cel.: 99718-4083

Pablo speaks no English. I speak very limited Spanish. We attempt conversation on our way to Central and I think we kind of get each other. I ask for a return ride back to the hotel and he asks me (I think) at what time.

Commit? He wants me to commit? Did we list commitment issues among my various psychological maladies a few posts ago? If not, we need to add commitmentphobia to the running tally.

“Noon,” I tell Pablo. But I’ve crossed my fingers behind my back.

A LIMA CHURCH WALK

Iglesia de Santo Domingo

Starting at the Plaza de Armas, walk northwest on Conde de Superunda to Camaná. The Iglesia de Santo Domingo lies on the corner. Don’t let the pretty pastel décor fool you: this Lima church houses (and displays) the skulls of San Martín and Santa Rosa.

Santo Domingo Church Lima Pulpit

Iglesia de San Agustín

Walk southwest on Camaná two blocks to the Iglesia de San Agustín at Ucayali. This Lima church — flanked on both sides by red concrete — is fairly foreboding from the outside…

San Agustin Church Lima exterior

But the interior is soothing…

San Agustin Church Lima

Iglesia de Merced

Exit the Iglesia de San Agustín and head one block further on Camaná, turn left onto Miró Quesada and arrive another block later at the Iglesia de Merced. You will be rewarded with at least two dozen ornate and magnificent baroque and renaissance-style altars. And the crazy thing is, there are no other tourists in this place to wander into your frame and spoil your photo!

Iglesia de la Merced Lima

Monasterio de San Francisco

After exiting the Iglesia de Merced, keep going down Miró Quesada for three blocks, then take a left onto Azángaro and go another three blocks to the popular (too popular?) Monasterio de San Francisco, the final stop on this Lima church walk.

San Francisco Church Lima

Photos of the monastery are permitted, but photos of the famous catacombs are not, which is fine with me: the catacombs are not sufficiently gruesome to be very photogenic while the churchy area has more personality. Anyway, it’s very pretty and the graphic, geometrical red and white designs please my visual sensibilities quite a lot.

San Francisco Church Lima Ceiling

So you’ve completed my Lima church walk. Now what? You in the mood for some torture?

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BEST URBAN WALKING TRAILS

Wandering aimlessly and getting lost in a foreign city is how I get to know it; setting my iPod to shuffle songs, following an urban walking trail and getting lost in thought is how I get to know myself. My criteria for a killer urban walking trail:

• Breathtaking scenery
• Not too long, not too short (one-to-three hours in duration)
• A defined path
• No backtracking. Preferably, the hike is circular
• Easy accessibility from downtown

Everything is within walking distance if you have the time“. – Steven Wright

BEST URBAN WALKING TRAILS

Sydney’s Bondi Beach to Coogee Walk: Catch a bus to either Bondi Beach or Coogee Beach. Along the journey pass outdoor cafes and pubs, the Bondi Icebergs Club (open to visitors and clearly one of the coolest places to be in the city), Waverley Cemetary, dream beachhouses, and Aboriginal carvings.

Duration: 90 minutes. Level of difficulty easy: People density: high.
Bondi to Coogee Walk Map

Urban Walking Trail Bondi Beach to Coogee Sydney

Hong Kong’s Dragon’s Back: Easily reached by the MTR and bus from the heart of the city. Stunning views of Clear Water Bay and islands on one side, the expanse of the Stanley Peninsula on the other. End in charming Shek O fishing village and catch a bus back to HK.

Duration: 75 minutes. Level of difficulty: moderate. People density: moderate. • Dragon’s Back Map

Hong Kong’s Victoria Peak Trail: Ride The Peak Tram from the Garden Road Lower Terminus (walking distance from the MTR Admiralty Station) to the top of The Peak. Take either Lugard Road on the right, or Harlech Road on the left. Both offer panoramic vistas of Victoria Harbor. Back at Peak Tower, go to the information “caboose” for advice on additional walks, including the 31-mile Hong Kong Trail. Findlay Road is an effortless and enjoyable return route to the city center.

Duration: 60 minutes. Level of difficulty: easy. People density: moderate.

Sydney’s Manly to Spit Bridge Bushwalk: Grab a map — trust me here — and take the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. The walk is divided into distinct sections: Do ‘em all. Tall grass, a stunning overlook of Sydney, beaches, Aboriginal engravings, an art gallery and museum, and wooden plank walkways await.

Duration: 2.5 hours. Level of difficulty: easy to moderate, depending on the stretch. People density: High at times (and eerily isolated at others).
Manly to Spit Bridge Walk Map

Urban Walking Trail Manly to Spit Bridge Sydney

Vancouver’s Stanley Park (Seawall) Walk. Within walking distance of downtown. Rewards around every bend: totem poles, a soaring bridge, flocks o’ fowl, statues, a waterpark, beaches, concession stands.

Duration: 90 minutes. Level of difficulty: easy. People density: high.
Stanley Park Map

p.s. Walk duration times are based on a gait of four miles per hour.

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