Hungary Hike

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Cornfields in Pilisborosjenő.

In our brief time in Budapest, I’ve somehow found a nearby hike and gotten us on a bus to an area nearby where we can supposedly pick up the trail. We’re dropped off by the side of the road, where the whirlwind from passing cars buffets us every few seconds as we hike up to the trailhead. Then it’s through the woods, into the village of Pilisborosjenő, and up the hill to the summit Nagy-Kevély. It’s a gorgeous, hot day at the end of summer and we’re not letting it go to waste.

Want to do the hike yourself? Budapest Hikers have some details on their website about the Pilisborosjenő hike, including some instructions on how to get there by bus that are slightly different from ours. Our hike is delineated on the map below and started at Bus Stop Solymár, téglagyári bekötőút:

What did we find on our hike during this beautiful summer day? Well…

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Cars and trucks pass us at high speeds near the trail entrance.
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Snails wait out the heat of the day.
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A beetle struggles to stay upright. There were dozens of these beetles along the trail, all struggling to walk or on their backs with their feet in the air. I’m not sure if it’s just because it’s the season’s end or some kind of chemical/disease exposure.
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Strange squat sentinels sit along the trail. What are they for?
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An interesting seed hanging from a vine.
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Ants excitedly scuttle around a sticky puddle on the surface of a mushroom.
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Probably a wild Pink (Dianthus)
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Wild Chicory flowers; the plant can be used as coffee substitute, and is also where your endives and radicchio come from.
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Wild Barberis (barberries) growing from a bush.
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The Camel Rocks, a climb-able limestone/sandstone formation.
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An odd tuft growing on a wild rosebush. I’m guessing it’s some kind of parasite. Oh, I’m right; it’s a wasp larva home.
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A European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), now reddish-brown at the end of mating season.
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A shallow cave in the cliff.
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A view from near the top of the hill.
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A stamp near the top of the hike! BYO stamp pad, though.
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Stoytcho at the summit.
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Another wildflower, possibly a variety of Spotted Knapweed (Centauria maculosa).
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Hmm, I don’t think so.
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A European Green Lizard, still green for mating season.

Lahemaa National Park

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The view when we got off at the Loksa Tee bus stop.

We don’t have a car in Tallinn, but we managed to use the local bus system to get to Lahemaa National Park for a five-hour hike through boreal forest and bog. It was gorgeous (see below), filled with fantastic wildlife and tons of edible blueberries that yes, you’re allowed to collect. It seems like Estonians view the land through a practical lens, and the mantra of “don’t take more than you need and it’s fine” is the rule here. That being said, DON’T eat anything unless you can positively identify it.

If you’re looking to do the same hike, use Google Maps to find public transit directions to the stop “Loksa Tee” pictured below. The hike will start just east of the bus stop:

Now, motivation for you to go:

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Wood planks form a narrow trail through the wetter, boggier parts of the hike.
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A European Peacock butterfly (Aglais io) perches on purple heather (Calluna) – we last saw this in New Zealand, where it was invasive.
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The little mushroom that could #1.
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The little mushroom that could #2.
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A dense bed of lichens (light yellow) grow on the forest floor here in Lahemaa.
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What I suspect are cowberries, but I wasn’t sure so I didn’t eat any of them.
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An interesting leather-like foliose lichens grows among moss on the forest floor.
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Be yourself, tree. Be yourself.
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Putative chanterelles. We encountered a few women in the park collecting ‘gribui’, or mushrooms, mostly of the chanterelle variety.
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A resting point along the path. You can supposedly take this trail all the way to the sea, but that’s several days of hiking.
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A patch of mushrooms among the moss and decaying pine needles.
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An Alder Moth caterpllar (Acronicta alni) munches on summer’s bounty.
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Fresh wild blueberries hide among the foliage. They’re delicious.
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A salticid in a patch of grass.
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Pine trees grow at the edge of a bog pool. The water here takes on a dark brown hue due to tannins seeping out of the dead plant material beneath. The same thing happens in your tea.
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A lone tree grows on an island in the bog.
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Fruticose lichens growing on the forest floor.
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A polypore fruiting body grows from a fallen tree.
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The color of moss.
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The caterpillar of an Emperor Moth (Saturnia) hangs out between planks along the trail.
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Lengthening shadows in the forest.

And just for you, here’s a panoramic shot – click through to enlarge:

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Made possible by Google Photos.

Bugs of Russian Summer

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A long-horned beetle (maybe Agpanthia villosoviridescens) crawls around on flower buds near the shore of Lake Baikal.

It’s winter here in present-day Boston, and working my way through these Russian summer photos is a unique form of torture for someone who’s never fully adjusted to winter being a season. It looks so warm and sunny and bright in the photos, and it’s so gray and cold outside. Augh. While I was busy longing for the eternal summers in our photos, I thought I’d put together a post of all the various Russian bugs we saw. I did one for Stolby Nature Preserve already, so this will be everything else. Now you can long for summer right along with me, or if you don’t like bugs, be grateful that summer is still a ways away.

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A salticid waves hello from its perch on my finger, Ulan-Ude.
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A large black ant rests while foraging, Ulan-Ude.
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A grasshopper hides under the embellishments of an ornately-carved door at the Outdoor Ethnographic Museum, Ulan-Ude.
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A salticid perches atop a wooden beam at the Outdoor Ethnographic Museum in Ulan-Ude.
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A ladybug (perhaps Cocinella magnifica) on the shores of Lake Baikal.
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Two scarce large blues (Phengaris teleius) mate on a legume flower near Lake Baikal.
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Two long-horned beetles mate on a bed of flowers near Lake Baikal.
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A bee beetle (Trichius fasciatus) climbing on flower buds along the shores of Baikal.
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A brilliantly-colored crustacean shell, cast away by its owner on the shores of Lake Baikal.
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Half of a beetle shell, maybe from Cetonia magnifica, from along the shores of Baikal.
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A salticid found a park in Ulan-Ude.
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A Scallop Shell Moth (Rheumaptera undulata) rests on a window in St. Petersburg.
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A checkered blue butterfly (Scolitantides orion) rests on a granite step in Ulan-Ude.
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A horsefly perches on a wooden post at the Outdoor Ethnographic Museum, Ulan-Ude.
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A water snail slides over the reeds of a local pond in the countryside just beyond of Moscow.

Bugs of Japan

It’s summer here in Japan, and that means bugs! Really big, really cool bugs! So to celebrate, here are some of our best bug pictures:

Jumping spiders:

Shinjuku Garden in Tokyo:

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May actually be a lynx spider, not a jumping spider. Hard to tell from this angle.
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This one may also be a lynx spider.

Fushimi-Inari Shrine in Kyoto:

Possibly Phintella abnormalis?

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Probably Plexippus paykulli, now found all over the world.

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Unknown salticid.

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Beach in Uraga, near Tokyo:

This one’s an ant mimic (Myrmarachne), possibly Myrmarachne japonica.

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Everything else:

Caterpillars mimicking things!

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Caterpillar that mimics bird poop, probably a giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)
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Spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus), whose back end mimics a snake.
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A cute little moth.
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A skipper butterfly (Hesperiidae)
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A  land snail (Euhadra amaliae) crawls along a wall
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A small praying mantis.
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Carpenter ants (Camponotus japonicus) carry the remains of a worm.
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The husk of a cicada.

Taipei Natural Parks

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A translucent white mushroom grows from a mossy branch, surrounded by small black earth tongues (Geoglossaceae).

One unexpected part of Taiwan has been its natural beauty, for beyond Taipei lie vast parks that make up around ten percent of the island’s landmass. From thick jungles to sweeping shorelines, Taiwan’s natural beauty is both unexpected and unexpectedly easy to reach, thanks to the extensive public transit system. Though we did not stray far beyond Taipei, we managed to visit two different parks in our time there. Here’s our experience at each:

Yehliu Geopark

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People crowd the paved walkways in Yehliu Geopark.

People. So many people. This park is easy to get to by bus from Taipei and gets incredibly packed, so show up early or on a day most people have work. There isn’t much hiking to do around here, but the guided walk out to the peninsula takes you past fantastical stone formations in the shape of candles, mushrooms, and human heads. The top of the hill has a lovely view of the park and the surrounding sea, but take care in the path you choose: some paths down lead to barricaded areas, and the less trod are incredibly slippery and overgrown.

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“The Octopus” stone formation, besides some “candle” stone formations. All of the formations are formed naturally by erosion, without the touch of human hands.
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A life ring at the park. This area is prone to rogue waves during monsoon season.
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People wandering among the rock formations.
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DON’T BE THIS GUY: human touch speeds the eroding process and does damage.
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Smalls succulent plants grow in a dirt-filled hole on one of the rock formations.
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Waves breaky on the rocky shoreline at the end of the peninsula.
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A poorly-kept, slippery path to nowhere.
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A dew-dropped ladybug.
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People stand on a bridge over rock formations in the park.

Mt. Qixing

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The slippery, stair-filled path up to the peak of Mt. Qixing.

Also accessible by bus from Taipei, this is where you go for a real hike. Mt. Qixing Park has dozens of trails that would take days to hike, and the tropical weather of Taiwan nurtures thick forests full of insects, lizards, and small rodents. Most hiking trails here are stone and involve an insane amount of stairs, so bring walking sticks and watch your step in the slippery rain. The Lengshuikeng Hot Spring Bath is open to the public and is a great place to soak after a hike, but has limited hours (see below) and is closed on the last Monday of each month. The foot bath in front of it is always open, though, so you can always soak your feet alongside a dozen other weary hikers.

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A mysterious round structure hides in the foliage.
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A tree lizard, possibly from the genus Japalura.
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A dew-jeweled caterpillar (probably of Lemyra) makes its away across the edge of a bench.
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A stream flows between an ocean of grasses and shrubs.
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A small, decorated land snail (I’m guessing Aegista mackensii) inches by.
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The Lengshuikeng Hot Spring working hours. Guess what day we were here! (It was the last Monday of the month. Sad times).
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We soak our feet with other hikers.
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A waterfall at the end of our hike.
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An ant-mimic jumping spider (Salticidae, probably a female of Myrmarachne sp.).

Trying (and failing) to hike Son Tra Mountain

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A Buddhist temple and Da Nang’s skyline seen through the midday haze from Son Tra Mountain.

After the amazing nature we experienced in Indonesia, we were ready to tackle Vietnam’s hiking trails. Unfortunately information online was sparse and having not yet fully internalized how poorly the hike from Tumpang to Bromo unfolded, I figured we could just go out to a place, pick up a dirt path, and follow it in and out. There was mention online of biking trails on Son Tra Mountain, which lies on a peninsula just north of Da Nang and wouldn’t be too far from civilization. So one morning we packed our bags and caught a taxi out there to try hiking around the mountain.

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Signs along the road on Son Tra Mountain. This shadeless path seems to be the only path for cars, bikes, and the unfortunate person who wants to walk.

 

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Cars and motorbikes speed past us as we hike up the road.

This hike was a failure, though not in its objectives. We were able to hike up the mountain and see some of Vietnam’s natural beauty. No, where this hike failed was in that it was utterly miserable for two reasons: lack of information made it impossible to find a walking trail and it was swelteringly hot. When we arrived at our destination, we asked the staff at the InterContinental Hotel about hiking trails and though they spoke English, they didn’t seem to understand the hiking part. They directed us to the vehicle road leading up the mountain. This shadeless pavement path was our trail for the hike and the noontime tropical sun beati down on us. The sunblock we applied simply dissolved in our sweat and we burned. It was not a fun hike.

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Stoytcho rests in the shade of a tree.
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The sun shines through the tree’s leaves. We never get full respite from the sun.

We realized an hour in that we weren’t going to make it to the top of the mountain and picked a smaller, nearer peak as our destination. It still took us another hour and a half to reach this peak and at the top we collapsed in the shade of a tree, panting and gulping down water. From here we could make out Da Nang’s skyscrapers in the midday haze and see the sparkling blue water along the shoreline below. “We should’ve gone swimming today,” we agreed as we hiked back down the mountain, passed by whizzing cars and passing vehicle debris.

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The shoreline of the peninsula, with its alluring aqua waters. Should’ve gone swimming.
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Incense sticks beside a pile of motorbike debris, probably indicating an accident where someone died. 

For those of you who found your way here because you’re looking for a hike in Da Nang, don’t do this one because it’s hot and just not worth it unless you have a motorbike or bicycle. For those of you reading along on our travels, this is a good moment to enjoy the fact you’re at your computer and not thousands of miles away hiking, sweating, and burning in the tropical sun. For us, this experience is a reminder to know there’s a trail before going. While traveling we’re trying lots of new things, and they won’t always work out. Best to keep the spirits up—and remember more sunblock.

Oh! And there was some cool wildlife:

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A Paris peacock butterfly (Papilio paris) collects nectar from a flower.
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A groundskimmer (Diplacodes trivialis) rests on a leaf in the sun.

 

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A soldier ant (unknown species) defends a line of foragers (from us).
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A planthopper of the family Flatidae rests on my hand and nervously eyes the camera.

Da Lat Bugs

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A jumping spider (perhaps of Plexippinae) crawls along a plant stem.

I’ve got more bugs for you! These ones come from all over Da Lat, whose temperate climate is surprisingly kind to insect and arachnid populations. There are butterflies, mosquito hawks, and of course your favorite, jumping spiders. I’ve tried to ID them where possible:

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A Catopsilia pomona perhces on a blade of grass.
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A jumping spider, perhaps a Hyllus spp. in Plexippinae according to abdomen patterning.
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A jumping spider, perhaps a Hyllus spp. in Plexippinae according to abdomen patterning.
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A haunting shadow of a crane fly, seen through opaque glass.
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A spider from the daddy long legs group (Pholcidae) crawls along a post edge.
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An unidentified salticid takes a ride with us on our swan boat.
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Some kind of weevil or borer. I’m a lot less patient with IDing beetles and beetle-related insects.
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Another unidentified jumping spider (UJS).
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An amazing jumping spider of the family Myrmarachne. They have evolved to look like and mimic ants!
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An amazing jumping spider of the family Myrmarachne. This one has lunch in its jaws.
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An unidentified inchworm.
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An unidentified fuzzy beetle.
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Two ants explore a nectar for flower.

Te Puna Quarry Park

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Old quarry equipment and a bench hidden among the greenery in Te Puna Quarry Park

People extol the virtues of New Zealand’s natural beauty, but landscaped local parks also flourish in the country’s perfect mild climate. And while there are enough local parks in New Zealand to fill a lifetime and we visited more than a dozen in our two weeks, Te Puna Quarry Park was by far the most beautiful and quirky. Situated just outside of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty, it’s the perfect stop between visiting the region’s wineries/cideries, buying fresh fruit from roadside stands, and noshing on some of the best meat pies in the country (more on that one in a later post).

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“The Dreaming Stone”, a sculpture on display in the park. A full list of the park’s sculptures (many by local sculptors) is available here.

Te Puna was our favorite local park because it had something for everyone: a dizzying array of botanical life from cacti to orchids, beautiful granite sculptures hidden in the greenery, a butterfly hatchery for the scientifically inclined, and old rusted quarry equipment kids (or kids at heart) can play on. It’s the perfect combination of see, smell, touch, and do. And everywhere you can see signs of how much the park is loved and cared for, from the painstakingly-weeded walkways to the densely-packed park regions full of bromeliads, irises, and palms.

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Wooden totems hidden among the ferns

A visit to the park can take as little as 45 minutes and stretch into the hours (we were there for two). It’s also free to visit and cared for entirely by volunteers, so if you’ve got some coins to spare, consider dropping by one of the donation boxes. There are some by the restrooms in the parking lot, where you can also pick up a free map. If you’re staying or living nearby long term and end up loving the place, also consider volunteering to help keep the park beautiful. As usual, here are our most gorgeous photos of Te Puna below:

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Chamomile flowers bloom in the park’s herb garden.
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A touch of surreal: A worm sculpture in an old tree.
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A blooming dahlia flower. This variant of dahlia is apparently fairly rare.
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An Aztec-style jaguar sculture blends in with quarry stone and bromeliads.
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Little friend: a leafhopper hides behind a leaf. This is probably one of the introduced leafhoppers, Scolypopa australis.
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A sculpture rests among bushes
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Bees gather at flower to collect nectar.
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A blooming white lily
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A cluster of tiny white orchids, probably a variant or relative of Epidendrum secundum, which we saw growing in the wild on our Salkantay hike in Peru.
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A young milkweed pod. The park propagates large swathes of milkweed to feed monarch caterpillars, and will even collect unwanted caterpillars from nearby gardens.
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Young royalty: a small monarch caterpillar on a milkweed pod.
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Husks and cocoons of monarch butterflies in the park’s butterfly hatchery.
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Adults at play: the park features old quarry equipment that you can play on, although there are warning signs to take care and be safe.
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The rusted insides of the beast, complete with gears
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Springs and plugs in the old quarry equipment, long since rusted beyond use
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Rust up close, where the uniform reddish-brown becomes individual speckles of yellow, orange, red, and black.

Salkantay Trek Day 3: From High to Low

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We hike into the lowlands after the Salkantay Pass

This is day 3 of our Salkantay Trek, continued from Day 0, Day 1, and Day 2.

TO ALL PARENTS AND OTHER PARTIES CONCERNED FOR OUR WELL-BEING: We are fine. This occurred about 6 months ago.

I thought yesterday’s fall on the trail had only left me with a few scrapes on my hands and knees, but I woke up sometime during the night with my neck aching and had difficulty swallowing water. Neither Stoytcho nor I could tell how badly I had been hit in the neck and how much worse it might get. Stoytcho helped me find a somewhat comfortable sleeping position by leaning me against one of the backpacks so I could sleep semi-upright. But we were both worried. If the swelling continued and made it difficult to breathe, we would be in serious trouble.

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Morning over the Salkantay Peak

I woke up in the morning still breathing fine but with my neck still stiff and swollen, and we started to make plans on the chance I might be seriously injured. Stoytcho repacked the backpacks so he was carrying nearly everything; by the end I only had a few pieces of fabric, snacks, and our jackets in mine. Ashley and Kyle, who had some wilderness first aid training, also helped Stoytcho fashion a cushioned neck brace out of our inflatable camping pillows, a jacket, and a belt. And to pile on the problems, whatever was upsetting my stomach since day 1 hadn’t gone away. But on the upside, at least the rain seemed to have stopped overnight.

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Sporting the new neck brace AND a strawberry I found

The new goal became to get to civilization and find a doctor to get me a checkup. While there was a road ahead, we weren’t sure where it lead and whether there would be anyone we could hitch a ride with, so we consulted with the map and decided we would try to get to Santa Teresa. We weren’t sure if there was a doctor there, but it was at least connected by road to Cusco, where there definitely was a doctor. I could walk, thankfully, so we started off down the trail at a comfortably slow pace.

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The river goes from crisp-clear alpine to blue-green tropical here

After the Salkantay Pass, the trail seemed to go mostly downhill, heading further into lowlands full of life and greenery. The temperature climbed as we descended, and we found ourselves quickly removing our heavy jackets and rain gear to stay cool. Grasshoppers and dragonflies became frequent, flitting out of our way as we trudged down the trail. There were even my perennially favorite animals, jumping spiders. Signs of their webs clung to bushes along the path, and we spotted a few hiding among the foliage. No matter the situation, I think these little creatures will always bring me cheer.

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A dragonfly along our path
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A jumping spider hides in the shade of a leaf.

The flora also became more tropical, basking in the day’s sun and casting new shapes and shadows in the greenery around us. The sides of the trail were a wall of greens, mosses and lichens layered with fast-growing annuals, clusters of woody bushes, and topped with trees that twisted their branches outward above all to capture the sun. The trees became worlds unto themselves, hosting hanging lichens, parasitic mistletoe, and bromeliads. Atop this sea of green we found bursts of color, with flowers of fantastic shapes and sizes blooming from plant and branch. Some seemed familiar, while others were alien to us, but all seemed intent on soaking up every last drop of the sun to flourish and thrive.

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Bromeliads and lichens hang from a tree along the trail.
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Butter…balls? An unusual flower along the trail that I couldn’t identify. UPDATE: It’s Calceolaria tormentosa, a species of Peruvian slipperwort, and yes, you can buy it commercially for your garden.

The rainy season also brought a second gift: fruit. Several plants we passed had branches full of fruit, much of which I could not identify. But some were unmistakably familiar. In one bramble, we found a massive unripe blackberry, flush red and firm. On another bush, clusters of unripe purplish berries that bore the same crown as blueberries—like Colombia, I would gess that Peru is a hotbed of blueberry diversity, and this could be one of several edible species. These fruits were not yet ready to eat, but there was one fruit we encountered that we did sample on the trail: strawberries. In some parts the whole trail was lined with strawberry plants, with hundreds of little ripe red berries hiding beneath the leaves. We picked a few and ate them, first a little to verify what they were, and then a few more. I still had difficulty swallowing, but the strawberries were delicious nonetheless.

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An unripe blackberry along the trail; fingers for size reference
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A strawbery growing along the trail

Our leisurely pace enabled us to observe the fantastically tiny worlds that unfurled over every surface, nurtured by the recent rains. Mosses sprouted the pods they use to propagate themselves. Unlike other plants, they do not make seeds but spores in these pods, which are then dispersed as raindrops splash upon the plant. Less than a centimeter away, lichens were performing a similar act of reproduction, sprouting stalks to disperse their spores. These creatures are neither plant nor even a single organism; they’re instead a cooperative symbiosis of two or three different species – a fungus, a yeast, and a green algae. Together they can survive harsh conditions such as barren rock faces devoid of water for years, and a single lichen spore must carry all three to survive.

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A miniature world: mosses, hornworts, and mushrooms grow together on a patch of dirt
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A lichen grows alongside a plant in a bed of moss.

On a larger scale, people had also shaped the Salkantay trail here. There were signs of horses and footprints everywhere, suggesting this road was used frequently. We passed a blue trail marker proclaiming ruins stood in the adjacent field, but all that remained were foundation stones. The rest had probably been taken long ago by people to make homes and walls. We also encountered a homemade livestock gate that illustrated how brilliantly clever and adaptable the people out here are; lacking springs and hinges, it relied on two rubber sandals hammered on in places of hinges to snap shut automatically after opening. How’s that for a low cost solution?

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Not much to see here; only the foundation rocks remain of this ruin
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Local ingenuity: this rubber sandal hammered to a gate takes the place of an automatically-closing hinge.

It took us nearly five hours to reach Collpampa, the first major ‘town’ on our route. Vehicle roads reappeared here and we could see tire ruts in the mud. As we entered the town, we spooked a family of pigs who ran hurriedly away from us. All of the dozen or so town buildings seemed closed, including what looked like the town’s one-room medical clinic. And no one was around, save for two elderly locals strolling through in the opposite direction. We greeted them and tried to ask them whether there was a doctor nearby in Spanish, but they simply smiled and didn’t answer. It’s likely that they only spoke Quecha.

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We spook some pigs in Collpampa.

On the far side of town we stopped for lunch under some picnic tables shaped like mushrooms. I ate some nuts, hoping they wouldn’t pass right through me, and drank as much water as I could. I felt that if I could at least kick this food poisoning or whatever, that would be one less problem on the list. After snacking, I sat staring at the rest of the food for a while the others continued to eat. Idly, I picked up one of the granola bars that had made up the bulk of our on-the-go meals and started reading the ingredients, just to practice my Spanish. I got through wheat (triga), azucar (sugar), and chocolate (chocolate). There were a few words I didn’t recognize, and then…sorbitol. “Wait, sorbitol?” I thought to myself. “There’s sorbitol in these?” I flipped the granola bar back over and re-read the front. Weight loss bars. These were weight-loss bars, and everything has been passing right through me because I’ve been eating sorbitol, which has a tendency to cause loose bowel movements people. So there you have it; don’t use weight loss bars as trail food, folks.

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Sorbitol is terrible, so here’s a picture of a bee instead.

After Collpampa, we hiked the vehicle road down to Rio Totora where we crossed the river by bridge. Ashley had here in her hiking notes that we had two options: to cross now by bridge, and continue hiking on the other side of the valley, or to cross later by gondola, which she wasn’t keen on. We walked the bridge over the river, which gushed beneath us in a wild torrent, fed by yesterday’s rains. I was glad that the bridge was sturdier than those we had seen yesterday; falling into this river would have been bad news.

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Swollen by recent rains, the river’s current is now fast and rough and not great for falling into if you want to survive.

The trail on the other side of the valley was considerably narrower than what we had trekked through before. It clung precariously to the steep slope, narrowing in some places to only a foot across. In some places both sides of the trail were walls of verdant green, trees in plants. In other, the downhill slope below us was nothing but a steep, barren dirt wall, plunging down into the river below. In places where streams fed the river, we traversed bridges made of nothing but thin branches placed atop a wider branch.

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Yep, that’s the bridge we crossed. That’s mostly loose sticks piled on top of bigger branches.

In other places, we weren’t lucky enough to have a bridge – a couple of parts of the trail had washed out and we had to find a way around. In most cases, we were able to follow a path already carved by others before us, climbing just above the washout and hopping to the other side. In one case, though, the washout spanned more than ten feet of trail. We had to backtrack a bit and pick our way higher through the underbrush, then walk forward and scramble down to the trail on the other side. Thankfully, all of us had adept balance and (at least Stoytcho and I) had faced things like this before.

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A large washout on the trail: one of the risks of hiking during rainy season.

In the late afternoon, the trail widened onto a small plain beside the gorge, and we again found signs that people lived nearby. We passed granadilla fields, with hundreds of unripe green fruit hanging from their vines. It was nearly 6 pm and it had begun to drizzle, so we were thrilled when minutes later we stumbled onto a farmhouse with a welcome sign. “Welcome to Winaypocco” it proclaimed, a place that was not on any of our maps. “Camping enjoy. Candy. Snickers. Twix.” Well, they know what we want after all the hiking. We went in and talked to the folks there, who let us pitch our tents for a grand total of 12 soles under an unfinished barn on their property. It was dusty, but at least we had a roof over our head to keep the increasingly heavy rain off.

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Unripe granadillas hanging in the field
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Welcome to where we’ll be staying tonight.

Though I felt much better, I didn’t do much besides cook dinner that night. Stoytcho and Kyle went over to buy snacks and returned with some candy bars but brought sad news that granadillas were not available; they weren’t in season yet. Stoytcho had also found out that there was a doctor in Santa Teresa, and that we should be able to get a taxi or bus there from La Playa. The wife at the house came by minutes later with a few she had found that were in the garden. “Gratis,” she insisted smiling, and refusing to take money for them. After dinner and a dessert of fresh granadilla, I found a semi-comfortable position laying on a backpack and fell asleep. With any luck, we should be able to make it to civilization tomorrow.

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The river rages on below us, fed by rain. Hopefully there won’t be much more rain and we won’t encounter too many more washouts.