Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Saying goodbye to the USA to enter a new country...Mexico!

Hi van baelen guillot followers (or for some van waffle guillot followers,

You must all be very happy, we just posted something two days ago and here you have another post!

With this post we want to advise you on our last days in the USA, the next post will be all about Mexico - although we currently are in Mexico already! For all of you information, we are still alive and we have not been robbed yet.

So what have we done since San Francisco? From there we went to Yosemite National Park, a collection of granite mountains and hills which recently has been in the news due to the large fires. Fortunately the fire was mostly controlled once we arrived there and non of the visitor facilities had been damaged. We spend three days here to enjoy the spectacular scenery. Our first hike took us 1.000 meters higher than the valley, up to Glacier Point, from where you can see the park's main attractions: El Capitan (a steep and brutal climb taking climbers up to 4 days) and the Half Dome ( half a mountain peak). Our second climb brought us to Clouds Rest, a hike we take as we were not able to climb the Half Dome - for which permits are required during the high season, you can get it via a lottery!!. This second hike was very tough for us as it was 35 km with an elevation of 1.700 meters. After hiking 11 hours we were dead and happy to have our bed!

From Yosemite we went direction the Grand Canyon passing Sequoia National Park. This park is home to the worlds largest trees (in volume - not altitude). Walking around there was completely surreal as the trees are gigantic - we have tried to include some picture which truly show there size, but it was not easy to capture.

From the big trees we went to the big canyon, a trip of 1.000 km. On arrival we had the pleasure to meet our first travel colleague. Guillaume from Lille was travelling for a year as well and was currently 6 months into his trip. It was great to talk to a fellow traveler and to share experiences and ideas. On top, we had a hiking companion for the Grand Canyon, which thanks to him we stayed two days instead of only one! So what about this famous canyon? We had heard so may good things about this place - some even say it is would be the only place they would visit in the USA - so we had high expectations. In total we spend two days here and we must say that it took us some time to fully see the beauty and scale of this natural wonder. After a hike into the Canyon the second day we were able to have an inverted view, which was actually even moire spectacular than seeing the canyon from above.

And after the Grand Canyon our time in the USA was almost finished. Heading direction Mexico we pass by Phoenix where JC (Joan Carles)  - a family Guillot 'brother' - and Felicia welcomed us in his house. They showed us the the city and invited us for some drinks. In addition they took us to a gorgeous lake, where we enjoyed a nice swim, but where Alex unfortunately lost his phone. We really thank JC for the time we spend there!

From Phoenix we go to Nogales, nearby the Mexican border where we prepare for our crossing and the next part of our adventure!

We will write you soon with more adventures from the Mexican country!!

The views to Yosemite's valley from Glaciers Point

El Capitan is a notorious climb of 1 km, taking most climbers 4 days and nights -we needed binoculars in order to see the people climbing!!

Yosemite's second famous spot is the Half Dome which is a real challenge to climb

Vernon Falls by night

Climbing to Clouds Rest we pass the Nevada falls - in spring the falls are much impressive

After increasing 1.000 m a quick nap is required - note Half Dome in the back -

The valley of Yosemite connects most of the facilities and tracks and is very practical to be biked

Sequoia park has a beautiful meadow from where you can actually see how big the trees are as they are less surrounded by other trees

Sequoia meadow -enormous tree on the left

General Sherman - By volume, it is the largest known living tree on earth - not the highest, not the tallest, nor the oldest! 

Now you see how big the trees are?

The Grand Canyon from above - it requires some time to see it's magnitude

The Californian Condor passing by
With our new friend and fellow traveler Guillaume

Hiking down the canyon direction the river provides even more scenic views

Luckily Alex was there to save Mireia!

Taking a dip together with JC and Felicia!

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The USA in pictures

Hi all,

Our time in the states is approaching and we are preparing to head into Mexico. The real adventure can start now! We just made a quick compilation of our trip so far, enjoy it!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

It's all about the parks and the coastline

Hi there! Thanks for having a look at the next episode of the VanBaelenGuillot saga. As always it has been a time - or at least we have the impression that so many things have happened since we have informed you the last time! We can only reassure you that you are at the right place to find out what we have done so far! Are you ready? Do you have some time? As always, we have selected a high number of pictures to visualize our story.

As you will remember, the last time we informed you we had arrived in New Mexico via the route 66. As this route required a lot of preparation on a daily basis, we decided to abandon it and go northwards into the state of Utah. This state is mainly known for its dramatic landscapes.
First we stop in the Chaco natural reserve, a place which took about 40 km of serious dirt road to get to. At this site, you can find remainders of old native american structures, which were not only large in size, but were also consisting out of several floors. Quite impressive for a structure made 1000 years ago (ignoring the creation of the pyramids for example).
Our second stop in Utah was in Moab, a village where you can easily spend two weeks with your family. You can hike, cycle, 4x4, raft and on top you can eat good at a reasonable price. Moab is mainly known for it's national park, Arches. As the name implies, the park consist of 2000 of naturally formed Arches, some crossing over 100 metres. It was a great place to hike, although it was very very hot out there (very very hot). Also in Moab, we tackled our first offroad trail in the USA. This trail brought us to the grimaldi bridges, also two naturally formed arches, via a scenic 3 hour drive. The trail was quite doable and no real challenge for the land cruiser ;). At the end of the trail, we found Dead Horse Point, a canyon similar to the grand canyon which appears in the ending scene of Thelma and Louise (and maybe also in some scene of Mission Impossible). Nearby this canyon, we camped in complete solitude, enjoying the good things in life.

After Moab we headed direction two other great national parks: Bryce Canyon and Zion. As the drive was quite long, we stopped in the middle at another park, Kodachrome. At this park we had our first attempt of robbery! When having a chat and a drink with our camp neighbors, we suddenly heard some noise coming from our site. Running over there, we couldn't immediately see what happened. Everything appeared to be there...except our dirty dishes! Now who would steal our dirty dishes? There could have stolen so much more! Shining our flash lights around we could notice the reflection in the thief's eyes, it was a coyote and he apparently liked what we had for dinner! (I can understand it) After searching for one hour the next morning, Alex found the bag with all the dirty dishes about 50 meters away from the car, luckily everything was there and we got away with a good story and all of our belongings.

Continuing with Bryce and Zion: The first we visited with some horrible weather - have a look at the pictures, the sky looks great. We were warned not to go hiking due to the increased chances for getting hit by lightning - obviously we ignored this advise (as we already paid the 20 dollars to enter the park!). The canyon is very spectacular and its shape cannot really be described. We decided to hike around for the day, although all beautiful spots could also be visited by car (which at the end rules the USA).
After Bryce we head to Zion, for us this was the most beautiful so far. It is a dramatic canyon in red sandstone, which you enter via a tunnel. Once you arrive here, you feel like you are in a closed environment. As can be expected, the hikes are spectacular here. We did the narrows (where you walk upward into the canyon, with the river running below you), the hidden canyon (where you go up to search for a hidden canyon) and angels landing (a truly spectacular climb which is not made for people afraid of heights).

After the natural beaty of Utah, we go direction of the sunshine state: California. Quick pitstop in Las Vegas to celebrate Alex's 28 birthday. Mireia organised balloons, cake and a gift (20 Dollars to gamble) and a big surprise: a skype call with the family! Thanksss! About Las Vegas itself: this is not a place for us. We walked around for some hours to realize that we don't like gambling - at the end we only gambled for 1$ on a machine of which we did not understand the game (kind of a losers, eh? )

Leaving Las Vegas behind, we go to Los Angeles, where we decide to take some days of holiday on a campsite in Malibu. After charging our batteries we visit LA. Mireia was ready and enthusiastic to see the city of 'Beverly Hills' and other series which she loves. Alex on the other hand could not really give the city a chance. Following the advise of Alex's dad, we visit the Getty, a modern museum which is free. After we drive around the city and see the Hollywood sign. We decide to leave LA for what it is and continue our road to San Francisco. To go to San Francisco you follow one of the most beautiful highways in the USA, the pacific highway 1, which zigzags next to the pacific ocean. Going there, we pass relaxed villages like Santa Barbara, Sant Luis Obispo and Santa Cruz.

We took about 4 days to drive the 400 km between LA and San Francisco and truly enjoyed the drive and the places it took us at. The only surprising aspect for us was the realization that California was not sunny at all - or at least the coast isn't. Apparently, the Californian coast is dominated by big clouds of fog during the summer, which limit the amount of sunshine.

Anyhow, we arrived in San Francisco with high expectations and in all honest, we were not disappointed at all. The city is beautiful due to its geography and there are plenty of things to see by just walking around. On top, people were super friendly. We visited SF by car, by public transport, by bike and on foot. We have had a lot of luck in San Francisco! (free entrance to Alcatraz, free beers, Mireia lost here phone and she found it back, free bread and others). On top, this city is the only place in the USA where they know how to make good bread and coffee. In total, it is a bit like home.

So, you eyes must be tired now and you feel like taking a nap after this long text? Don't close the eyes yet, because the best thing still needs to come: the pictures!

Enjoy and talk to you later!
Alex and Mireia

One of Chaco's big house ruins used for ceremonies

Dead Horse Valley - can you see Thelma and Louise driving of this cliff?

One of the more beautiful arch in Arches - Delicate Arch

And after the most beautiful, the longest. This arch spans 100 meters!

Utah is amazing. Every 10 km the landscapes change entirely. After  the sandstone we suddenly see Aspen forests for a long time.

Found you! No coyote steals from VanBaelenGuillot!

Bryce canyon - the view that is hard to describe in words

Bryce Canyon - Part II

After walking on the rims of the canyon, we went down

A natural tunnel

Dear slippers, you have served me good, may you rest in peace in slipper heaven.
Alex's slippers passed away after ten years.

Night photography in Zion #1

Night photography in Zion #2

And number 3 - for your info, this picture is taken at our campsite and the lights are from a bus passing by

Zion during the day - what you see is the arrival of 'Angels landing' a place so beautiful that angels would land there

Hiking to the Angels landing - vertigo is not appreciated here

Hard hike + Warm weather = Sweaty people

Happy birthday!

Blowing out the candles on Alex' longest birthday ever (24 + 9 hours!)

Representing Las Vegas megalomania

Balloon party!

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!

Los Angeles Getty museum

Hollywood at night! But  no famous people at all!!

Hippy beach wedding in Santa Barbara - Interesting...

Sant Luis Obispo's local beauty

Sant Luis Obispo's chewing gum street - yammieyammie

Starting the Pacific Highway 1 - look at the summer fog

One big tree

Driving above the fog finally gave some sunshine!

We found mussels!

Santa Cruz' boardwalk - a attraction park next to the beach

It was a shame that it was closed as the park looked fun

Below the Santa Cruz pier hundreds of seals were taking a nap

A prime example of Art Deco in San Francisco

Clam chowder - Please note that San Francisco is the only place where they know how to make real bread and real coffee!

Typical San Francisco view

Cycling is hard here!

The cable train - which actually really drives around the city via a cable which is build under the road and which pulls the trains forward!

Look how cute the sour dough bread turtles are (plus we got them for free instead of paying 5 $ for each)

The golden gate bridge - for many the most beautiful bridge in the world

On our way to Alcatraz. 'The rock' used to be the first high security prison in the USA and was closed somewhere in the 60s.

Inside Alcatraz

Mireia is still studying hard like before (empollona)

Driving down a beautiful street (sorry we don't remember the name)

Golden gate bridge

I got the power!

More on this the next time: entering Yosemite Park which has been the victim of some serious fires the last weeks