#GOBACKPACK Val Grande

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For those of you who have been wondering about the “GoBackpack”-flags in our recent pictures, here’s the explanation: We took part in Jack Wolfskin’s new campaign and scored a 200€ cashback each with our travel videos. Fantastic opportunity, so make use of it yourself if you need any new equipment.

Anyways, here are our TWO videos giving you some impressions of our wild trek:

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The Alps’ culinary highlights

Trust me: You won’t regret learning some basics about edible plants if you’re into the whole outdoor-thing. This skill just adds so many great flavours, vitamins and minerals to your bland camping food. We loved coming across yummy greens and always paused long enough to gather a few handfuls of them. In Val Grande, we found and used the following plants (I suppose they will grow in other parts of the Alps as well):

 

  • blackberries and wild strawberries (Brombeeren & Walderdbeeren)
  • aromatic, thick cushions of thyme and oregano (Thymian & Oregano)
  • water mint (Wasserminze)
  • shaggy soldier (Franzosenkraut)
  • bear’s garlic (Bärlauch) – yes, it’s actually too late for this delicacy. Lucky us that spring often lacks behind in the mountains!

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    wild oregano

  • St. John’s Wort (Johanniskraut)
  • yarrow (Schafsgarbe)
  • goldenrod (Goldrute)
  • lady’s mantle (Frauenmantel)
  • cow parsley (Wiesen-Kerbel)
  • caraway (Wiesen-Kümmel)
  • cow parsnip (Wiesen-Bärenklau)
  • wood sorrel (Sauerklee)
  • ribwort and wide plantain (Spitz- und Breitwegerich)
  • ground elder (Giersch)
  • loads of stinging nettle (Brennnessel)

 

 

Wow, I’m only realizing now that this is quite a long list. And indeed, we had fresh greens in our dinner pretty much every night and on very lucky days sweet berries in our morning porridge. Oh how my little, nerdy, botanical heart wished that my identification key wasn’t such a bulky, heavy bitch… There were so many more plants I simply didn’t know! Gimme a shout if you know a good app, I haven’t found one yet (however, I can recommend the website Wildfind).

 

 

Following Rübezahl

Jip, we do know that it’s like full-on summer in Berlin. So this snowy video might appear a little out of place at the first glance (although we made this trip to the Czech Republic in May!). We still hope you guys enjoy it, the Sudetes are truely a great destination for a weekend-getaway. Thanks to the demobilized wanderer who took the time to edit this long-time overdue clip. Get well soon xx

 

If you want to READ about our trip, here are the written blog entries:

 

Sneak-Peek of Val Grande’s Snappy Peaks

We’re back! After 8days in the Italian National Park Val Grande (and two more days at Lago di Mergozzo to soak our wretched feet and sore muscles), we’re back in Berlin. The crowded subways and busy masses were a big, smacking slap in our sun- and windburned faces, but we are used to that from other returns. Which is why today, I preferred to hide away in my flat on a Friday night, providing you with a first sneak-peek of our adventure. We’ll probably need a couple of weeks to sort out all our footage, but I promise there will be more visual input soon. So, here are our first flashbacks of this wild “big valley”:

The bloodstained history

Interesting! As a matter of fact, Val Grande was not always as remote as it is today: There used to be many alps and logging was also popular for some time. However, most workers would prefer to overwinter down in the valleys. So even back then, large parts of Val Grande were uninhabited for whole months at a time. During World War 2, the area became a bloody crime scene: In 1944,  German SS-units and fascist Italian troops scoured the whole area, searching for members of the Italian Resistenza (an anti-fascist movement), who were hiding in the mountains. During that mission, more than 500 people got murdered – not a few of them belonging to the local farmers who were accused of hiding the partisans. This cruel event contributed even more to the retreat of people out of Val Grande and left many villages in ruins. In 1992, the area was declared as a National Park (the name deriving from the remotest of the valleys). But even decades later, you come across many old stone huts – most of them in ruins. Especially Sebastian loved exploring them while I was often just as spooked as I was fascinated.

 

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A village in ruins….

 

The park management restored some of those huts and created quite comfortable bivouacs. They are very basic but open to anyone and free of charge. And trust me, they will make you feel like a king*queen in his*her castle after a rough day’s hike! Some shelters even have solar panels but don’t expect a shower or feather beds there 😉 We slept in those Bivacchios whenever we could – sometimes sharing them with other hikers, sometimes having a hut all to ourselves. Only once, we needed our tent. But more on that later.

 

The wilderness ranking

A 9 out of 10 considering the fact that it’s in the middle of Europe and so close to other touristic hotspots such as the Lago Maggiore. Big! Wild! Rough! We would have never expected that it is even possible in the Alps to hike for a few days without meeting ANYONE! It is possible in Val Grande though, especially if you stick to the little paths. There are only a few tracks which are properly marked and maintained by the park management (and even those are only footpaths too narrow for two people walking next to each other) and once you leave them, you can be pretty much sure to be all by yourself. Skinny-dipping ahoi!

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Not an unsual sight: A more than brittle bridge over a gorge. We took a different way around it…

And even if you stay on those marked tracks, you will probably encounter only 1-4 other hikers per day (of course, that can be different at other times of the year. There are only two small villages (Colorro and Cicogna) close to the park’s borders where people live all year around and which you can reach by car. Very few other huts inside the park were actually occupied or looked like someone would slowly rebuilt them. So from those two villages onwards, you have to walk. Walking off-track, however, is often impossible due to the thick vegetation or insurmountable cliffs. Some paths seem to be long forgotten goat tracks which can’t be found on any map and suddenly end in the middle of no-where. On two days, we could only proceed with the help of chains and ropes, so you need to be sure-footed and an experienced hiker to conquer those challenges (climbing experience also helps). Personally, we navigated with map, compass and GPS and found the combination of all three very helpful.

 

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Nonetheless, we would say that the National Park offers paths of many difficulty levels and we met a fair number of people who seemed less fit than us and still enjoyed their hikes. If needed, you are able to reach civilization in 2-3 days. Just make sure to inform yourself properly and be aware of the possible dangers. Val Grande has already claimed lives.

 

The animalistic companions

Thick bushes always mean that you will have neighbours and lurkers in the shadows. In fact, we met wild animals every day… But don’t worry, except for some vipers none of them are truly dangerous. And although some people even call the park “the valley of snakes”, we only saw a tiny (dead) one on a street. Just make sure to lumber through the wild like an overweight elephant (stomp-stomp-stomp) and you probably won’t come across any of those shy reptiles. Who we encountered regularly, were lots of birds and spiders, even more lizards and mice, a couple of fireflies, ticks and slugs, swarms of mozzies, a few chamoises and one dormouse. So not too wild. Are you terrified of wolves and bears? Good news then: You won’t meet any in Val Grande. Only the mice are a real pain in the a%# since they eat everything you haven’t secured properly over night (put all your food and garbage in closed bags and hang them up where they can’t be reached by hungry animals).

And last but not least: The social factor

Val Grande is remote and lonely, so make sure to take a good travel buddy with you – not only for safety reasons. Right at the beginning of our trip, we were all by ourselves for three long days and nights in a row. So, if you are more the companionable-scouts-kind-of-type and dislike silence, bring some jolly fellows with you. Because here is a list of the great entertainments of trekking-life: You can play carts, try to see your future in the flames of a bonfire or determinately belabour your walking stick with a knife until it has become a fine piece of art. Oh, and I guess there are a trillion good spots for playing hide-and-seek… But that’s it. Oddly enough, we NEVER got bored. Walking, preparing food, collecting firewood and edible plants, eating, sleeping, packing, unpacking and repacking, walking again, … – our lives consisted of very basic duties and we loved it.

Read the full stories here:

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3     Part 4    V-Log

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“It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves – in finding themselves.” Andre Gide

 

ULTIMO PARADISO

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This particular picture is not a recent one. Far from it – it was taken before we set out for our 3week hitchhike-trekking-adventure through the Pyrenees in 2015. Since then, we’ve been to many other destinations but not much felt as exciting as this unique trip. Which is why we’re doing it again: Today, we are setting off for a 10-day trek through the biggest connected wilderness area the Alps still have to offer: The national park Val Grande is comprised of 146 km² and the only signs of humans are abandoned villages and faded tracks. It’s an insider tip amongst Italian hikers who call it ULTIMO PARADISO. My darling – tie your boots and shoulder your backpack! I’m in the mood to find out if this natural gem can truly live up to its reputation… Ahhooooouuuuuuuu!!

Bumming around in Lesotho, the “Kingdom in the Sky”

Again, we are pretty fuckin’ late at publishing this video. However, you have to know that while travelling Lesotho we weren’t even intending to make a video about this. Consequently, we didn’t film a lot, produced super bumpy scenes and ended up with an altogether limited pool of material to chose from. For example, it never once crossed our minds to shoot our awesome 4×4 baby with its rooftent all folded up or any other camp scenes… And out of respect for the local people, we didn’t film during the Solar Mission either. But despite the pretty much worst preconditions for editing, the video still turned out quite decend. At least our humble selves think so.

Curious to get feedback from you guys! Enjoy 🙂

Liked it? Glad you did. Have you seen our last video about our trip to Cape Town? No? Then check it out HERE.

Day 3 – Cruisin’

titelfotoOh boy, the Czech beer from last night did make us wake up a little lazier than usual… Which is why we decided to spend our morning skating instead of cumbersomely ploughing our way through more knee-high snow drifts. After all, our boards would have been pissed-off if we hadn’t made use of them at all.

No sooner said than done. We quickly settled for a middle-steep, well-paved road next to a little river for our training. MY training, that is. I’m still a little wobbly down-hill while Sebastian masters even sharp turns with ease. So, almost running over little children and barking pets, we cruised down this road in slalom over and over again and hey, I only fell once! But don’t worry, the crash merely left a scratch on my knee and a little shock. In fact, I doubt it could have left more serious injuries at all since I was patted up like a Michelin Männchen. Better be safe than sorry!

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Day 2 – Two lobster-red Hikers

titelfotoYeah, go us! We woke up fresh and not sore on day 2 of our little trip – despite the exhausting hike yesterday. The sunlight was streaming through the windows and it promised to be a clear day. Perfect hiking conditions, I’d say! So, after sneaking some sandwiches off the breakfast buffet of our hotel, we tied our boots and set off.

The first few kilometres were horrid. Just asphalt und super steep. But as soon as we had gained some height, the path became more natural and the sunny conditions made up for the sweaty effort. Other hikers we met greeted us with a jolly “AHOJ!”. The first time I heard it, I was quipping like “Oh cute, mountain sailors. Where the heck is the Czech sea, I have never heard of it…”. Turns out, it just means “Hello” in Czech. So, while bellowing jolly “Ahojs” in all directions, we eventually reached the same hut (Labská Bouda) we had stumbled past in the blizzard on the day before. There, we enjoyed our well-earned lunch in the sun.

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Day 1 – Just a casual Blizzard Stroll

DSC02057The story of this spontaneous trip is quickly told: Sebastian came back from Lesotho. It had been over three months since our last trip together and we were both hungry for fresh air and clear views. But because we only had a long weekend, we needed a destination that wouldn’t require a day’s travel. Alright then, google maps, please help us out! After a quick research, we settled on the Sudetes Mountains. The equally close German Harz just wasn’t high enough. We would have loved to camp outside, but since the weather forecast had warned of temperatures below zero at night, we quickly decided against that pleasure. I love sleeping in the outdoors, but my ten toes prefer to stay alive, too.

We set off in Berlin at 5am and pretty much tackled the first slope after checking in to our hotel in Spindleruv Mlyn. Since a light drizzle fell outside, we decided to take our hats and gloves – just in case. Little did we know that we would walk through a full-on blizzard only a couple of hours later. And no, Dad, we are no irresponsible fools: Of course, we had checked the weather forecast and expected some leftover snow from winter on top of the mountains. But not this MUCH!

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Like we’re born to run: Cape Town

Hey folks,

Yes, it’s been a little while since our amazing adventures in Lesotho and South Africa but it’s never too late to share some great memories, don’t you agree? This video is about our time in Cape Town over New Year’s 2016/17 which was coined by sporty outdoor action on some days and extreme binge eating on others. Oh, and gusts of wind. Jeez, it was stormy back then…

Anyways, enjoy watching and feel free to comment, we would really appreciate some feedback since it’s our very first video ever 🙂