Big Sur, Californias most scenic coast, reopens to hikers only

The picturesque highway from San Francisco to LA was battered by floods last winter, but an emergency walking route for residents is now a tempting trail for hikers too

The coastal drive along Highway 1 between San Francisco and Los Angeles is one of the worlds great, classic trips. Anyone planning on doing it anytime soon, however, is missing a vital piece of information: you cant. Around 35 miles of the highways best-loved stretch, Big Sur, have been closed since February, after winter rains caused the Pfeiffer Canyon bridge to the north to collaspe and swept large parts of the road into the ocean to the south.

Big Sur map

With the only road in or out cut off, residents have been stranded in the middle, and the only tourists getting in were the mega-rich who could afford a helicopter. But Big Sur has finally found a way to reopen to everyone if you dont mind a bit of adventure.

To help those marooned, an emergency hiking trail was dug into surrounding woodland so residents could at least buy groceries; unauthorised hikers were subject to fines. But since 1 July, its also been a way for tourists to get in. The trails purpose has expanded to include helping the economy, which is losing thousands of dollars every day.

Hiking
Sur thing Hiking trails at Pfeiffer Big Sur state park, California. Photograph: Alamy

It was a perfect summer day when I hit the trail, which entails a steep half-mile climb up a hillside. Signs at the trailhead warn of rattlesnakes. Still, this is how the kids get to school, so no excuses. And though I spent half an hour plodding up switchbacks, the towering redwoods and green Santa Lucia Mountains rewarded the effort.

I emerged on to a silent highway, right where the bridge is being rebuilt. Its usually a route for hundreds of thousands of people a week, but today youre more likely to meet a deer than a car. Locals recently spotted a mountain lion wandering the road.

Pfeiffer
Pfeiffer Canyon in high summer

Helping visitors get to the emergency trail is a dedicated shuttle bus, run by a local operator. Trying to book gives you a measure of Big Surs remoteness: phone reception is limited. You fill in an online form and can expect a reply within 72 hours. This may be California, but its not Silicon Valley.

Make the effort, though, and youll be rewarded. Nepenthe, a cliffside restaurant known for its bohemian scene and two-hour waits, went from serving 1,000 people a day to 30 when it was totally isolated. It sees 250 a day now the trail is open. It really is a unique and special time to see Big Sur in all its beautiful glory, said third-generation owner Kirk Gafill. If you want a once-in-a-lifetime experience, take advantage now.

Kirk is also president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, and estimates that about 450 tourists a day are using the trail. But not all businesses are benefiting: the historic Deetjens Big Sur Inn remains closed, unconvinced people will hike their luggage over.

Henry
Henry Miller Memorial Library

The Henry Miller Memorial Library, dedicated to the risque author who put the region on the map, is usually like a little United Nations, its director Magnus Toren told me. People from all over the world hang out on the lawn, drinking coffee, playing music, reading books. Now, with a smaller number of people to tempt through the doors, its future feels uncertain. The majority of people dont spend too much time worrying about the culture of the area and some dead author, Toren shrugged.

But there are more reasons to return to Big Sur, with two star attractions reopening. The popular campground at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park reopened on 1 July, following the opening of some of its smaller trails in May. The park, loved for its redwood groves and rushing rivers, was closed for a year after this winters rainfall and last summers massive Soberanes fire wreaked havoc . (Were hoping famine and pestilence arent next, quipped Rob OKeefe, from the tourist board of Monterey County.) The campground is already near capacity every night. Wildly photogenic Pfeiffer Beach, also cut off by landslides, will be accessible by August.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jul/27/big-sur-reopens-after-floods-hiking-trail

Jordan Trail: A trek through history via ancient villages and wild wadis

(CNN)Picture the Appalachian Trail in California, or the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

That’s the Jordan Trail, and only a slice of it.
The 650-kilometer trail takes about 40 days to complete, starting at the northern tip of Jordan in the city of Umm Qais and ending in Aqaba in the south, where hikers meet the country’s only coastline.
    Jordan is more than just desert, and the cross-section of the nation that the Jordan Trail cuts through is a tour de force in diversity.

    ‘Unique experience’

    Hikers move through four ecosystems, defined by lush and fertile valleys in the north, then on to rugged canyons along the Dead Sea, waterfalls and hot springs in the semi-arid central regions, and finally towards the famed Wadi Rum desert in the south.
    The trail takes old Roman and Ottoman roads through Petra, the Nabatean city that is as famed as it is mystical, and which dates back to about 300 BC. Today, it’s the postcard picture of Jordan.
    Officially opened in February 2017, the Jordan Trail is being billed as a new tourism initiative pegged on inclusivity. The route features 52 local villages, which hikers use as points of lodging, providing business opportunities for towns newly introduced to the tourism trade.
    Trekker Olivia Mason, 25, from Glasgow, Scotland — among the trail’s first hikers — says the route opens up new experiences.
    “We stayed with one family in Khirbet Al Souq and we were only their second guests,” she tells CNN.
    “They gave us their whole house to sleep in and moved in with relatives nearby. We talked with the family about their lives and the area, and in the morning we watched the children go to school in their uniforms. It is these encounters that make the trail a really unique way to experience Jordan.”

    New tourism

    Often classified as an adventure trail, the tour is more suitable for those in strong physical condition, but is still open to a large range of hikers.
    Mahmoud Bdoul, one of the guides along the Jordan Trail, has been taking tourists through Petra for 10 years, and says the trail offers a great escape from the trappings of modernity.
    “When you complete the trail and arrive in Aqaba, you realize the noise of cars has been absent from your life for a month,” Mahmoud said last year after doing the first technical walk-through for the hike.

    Mahmoud was born in a cave in Petra and his Bedouin upbringing introduced him to the peace of the desert at an early age.
    “I spent two years living in the cave where I was born until 1985 when Petra became a UNESCO heritage site,” he says. “The government made an agreement with my Bedouin clan and we moved out of the caves to a new village built on the north side of Petra.”
    Mahmoud’s village became one of the first beneficiaries of the tourism trade in Jordan.
    “The people in my village, as traditional Bedouins, used to depend on goat-herding and growing agricultural crops, such as parsley, wheat and olives,” he adds.
    As a student of sustainable tourism, Mahmoud believes the most vivid memories hikers will take away will be of the people they meet.
    “Visitors will be surprised with the hospitality of Jordanians,” says Mahmoud. “The trail really lets the trekkers enjoy dealing directly with locals in their Jordanian environment, seeing them in their villages and experiencing their daily lives.”
    As Mason completes one of the first publicly open walk-throughs of the trail, she’s living the experience first-hand.
    “There is so much history throughout the trail, of course including Petra, but also sites such as Ajloun Castle, Karak Castle and Iraq Al Amir,” she says.
    “But the culture, too, shines, whether through the homestays where local food is always eaten or people that always welcome you into their home.
    “Everyone always says that if you stopped for everyone who offered a cup of tea on the trail, you’d never finish.”

    Jordan Trail highlights

    Um Qais
    This northernmost point of the Jordan Trail sets hikers off into a panorama that isn’t often associated with the country, let alone the Middle East.
    Verdant forests filled with the sounds of birds and farm animals greet your early footsteps along the route.
    The northeast corner of the nation is where most of the country’s population is located and there are lots of villages along the way, as well as Bedouin herders who mush their goats and sheep with authority.
    This region is truly the most representative of the overall Jordanian population, yet the least known to foreigners.
    Wadi Mujib
    This wadi — the Arabic word for valley — cuts through a central section of the Three Wadis region and opens up on to the Dead Sea.
    The area is a designated reserve, and contains a number of migratory bird species that are popular among bird-spotters.
    During the spring and summer seasons, Wadi Mujib’s canyons fill with water, creating mild rapids you can float down.
    Wadi Hasa
    In south-central Jordan, hikers pass through Wadi Hasa, an area filled with limestone waterfalls and babbling brooks.
    The water from these rivers is used by local farmers, who can be seen growing a host of vegetables, including tomatoes and melons.
    Wadi Hasa also has historical value. The valley, known in Hebrew as Zered, is mentioned in the Torah and the Old Testament, especially the books of Deuteronomy and Numbers, as the place where the Israelites camped on their final approach to Moab.
    Petra and Wadi Rum
    The crown jewels of Jordan’s tourism industry, Petra and Wadi Rum are the highlight of Jordan’s southern desert heartland.
    Here, geology is a natural form of art that shows off its dazzling skills in swirls of sandstone painted in russet palettes on rocks.
    Homestays in Jordan have traditionally been most popular here, where visitors can camp out with Bedouins and ride camels across the mountainous desert of Wadi Rum, living out their own personal reenactment of “Lawrence of Arabia” (which was also filmed here).

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/17/travel/jordan-trail-trekking-highlights/index.html

    How to photograph Hanoi like the city’s Instagram stars

    (CNN)From food-fueled itineraries to quiet cultural corners, Hanoi is a photographer’s dream destination.

    With a penchant for side streets and quiet lakes, these Instagram stars explore the city’s rooftops, coffee shops and the French colonial Old Quarter.

    The night owl

      March 22, 2015. Hanoi, Vietnam. A couple poses for pre wedding photos at sunset on the side of Hoan Kiem lake. #couple #pose #photoshoot #hoankiem #lake #sunset #preweeding #wedding #groom #bride #kiss #intimacy #cinematic #fun #travel #documentary #hanoi #vietnam #ReportageSpotlight #everydayvietnam #everydayasia #everydayeverywhere

      A post shared by Linh Pham (@phamhaduylinh) on

      With more than 70,000 followers on Instagram and a career as a photojournalist and documentarian, Linh Pham is among Vietnam’s most talented photographers.
      After studying graphic design in college, Pham spent two years traveling the world as a freelance photographer.
      But he felt a lack of connection to these places and soon returned to find his roots in Hanoi.
      In 2015, he began photographing the city, capturing its energy, people and social issues — re-exploring his hometown through oft-overlooked details.
      “I want to tell the world about contemporary Vietnam through my photos,” says Pham.

      Test post here. The cool folks at @instagram just allow us to post landscape photos along with the same old square starting from today. Instagram created a new shooting habit for me as I'm shooting 1:1 with the phone exclusively these days. Let see what people come up with this new (to Instagram) tweak! March 22, 2015. Hanoi, Vietnam. Police officers watch over the crowd attending Earth Hour in front of Hanoi Opera House. #landscape #police #officer #policeman #crowd #flare #night #opera #theater #earthhour #travel #documentary #hanoi #vietnam #everydayvietnam #everydayasia #everydayeverywhere

      A post shared by Linh Pham (@phamhaduylinh) on

      “It’s not just the kind of postcard landscape you would expect from the guidebook. As a developing country, Vietnam has a lot more stories to offer.”
      As a local, Pham says he knows many “backstage” shots and alternative angles to show Hanoi from a fresh perspective.
      “I love photos with layers — the kind of photos that make you stop and look more closely to really figure out what’s going on in the scene,” he adds.
      He gravitates to the Long Bien Market at midnight to capture night-shift workers in action, walks around at 5 a.m. before sunrise to enjoy the silent streets and climbs to rooftop apartments to see the city from above.
      But even if you’re not quite so committed to roaming the streets from dusk to dawn, Pham suggests a few more accessible photography opportunities.

        #MyHanoi: Photojournalist Linh Pham

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      “In Vietnam, life happens on the streets — just walking around provides you with glimpses about how people are and have always been living,” he says.
      “It’s heaven for street photography because of the vibrant activities outside.”
      He suggests stopping to try the local sweet soup — a glass of crushed ice with tapioca balls and grass jelly — while watching the city come to life.
      “To some people it’s a noisy and congested city, but there are secret quiet corners right at the heart of Hanoi,” he says.
      “On the surface it looks old, chaotic or plain dirty, but with patience and empathy, one can surely find beauty and order in every frame.”

      The peace-seeker

      Lm sao thi bay thnh ph nhu nt c k Nhng ngy bt nhp ph khn Thng 2, c iu chi i ti

      A post shared by Lan Chi (@caracat) on

      A Hanoi native, 30-year-old Lan Chi Tran has a deep connection with her hometown — evident on her vibrant Instagram feed, where she has 9,000-plus followers.
      “Hanoi is a dreamy city,” says Tran. “Some people say that my images are simple and touching. It makes them miss Hanoi, or makes them really want to go to Hanoi.”
      The graphic designer doubles as a street photographer, chronicling her favorite teashops, streets and moments in Hanoi.
      Tran pursues photography as way to relax — even in busy Hanoi, she finds peace through her practice.

      Ch khu nh rn rng nng lung linh

      A post shared by Lan Chi (@caracat) on

      “I often go around by myself, and when I observe slowly and feel it with all of my senses, I see beauty everywhere,” she explains. “It’s a way of meditation for me — a way of mindfulness.”
      Tran says every corner of Hanoi is inspiring — from coffee shops to trees, people, architecture and old-world charm.
      For colorful and calming surrounds, she suggests Phan Dinh Phung Street, a tree-lined avenue dotted with French villas and Chinese mansions.
      She also recommends Ly Dao Thanh Street, in the old quarter behind Hotel Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi and, of course West Lake, the city’s largest freshwater lake.

        #MyHanoi: Street photographer Lan Chi Tran

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      “I always feel calm when being at these places,” she says. “The streets are always crowded but when you are there, it’s somehow very quiet and peaceful.”
      When showing friends around town, Tran skips the big-name restaurants and heads instead to her favorite local coffee shops and cafes.
      She likes to tuck into lunch at Crab Noodle along Nha Tho Alley or sip on soup at Sweet Soup on Hang Bo Street.
      “When I am taking pictures, I want something colorful,” she says. “I like to play with the colors — and I want happy photos.”

      The culture hound

      Ao Dai in the traffic. #vietnam #vietnamese #ig_vietnam #everydayeverywhere #everydayvietnam #everydaysoutheastasia #usa #ig_worldclub #wanderlust #aodai #hanoi #picoftheday #lensculture #lensculturestreets #streetphotography #streetphoto #viagem #viaje #travelgram #natgeotravel #asia #streetstyle #ig_respect #igturko #us #nightshot #igglobalclub #photooftheday #condenast #ig_spain

      A post shared by Javier Puig Saura (@javierpuigsaura) on

      Originally from Minorca, in Spain, 42-year-old Javier Puig Saura moved to Hanoi in 2014, when he was posted at the Spanish Embassy in Hanoi.
      A career diplomat, Javier says he was immediately blown away by the energy and color in Hanoi — so much so, that it inspired him to resume his long-neglected hobby of photography.
      “I was so surprised by everything I saw — the traffic, the buildings, the people, the food — that I wanted to share it with family and friends back in Spain,” Javier tells CNN Travel.
      “After a year in Hanoi, one of my best friends came to visit us and talked to me about Instagram, encouraging me to post my pictures there.”
      The more he shot, the more Javier wanted to see and discover — all the while posting on his dynamic Instagram feed.
      “Life, from birth to death, happens on the streets,” says Javier. “And there is also this fabulous mix of tradition and modernity, European influence and Asian character.”

      Chc mng nm mi Once again thousands of kumquat trees are being delivered all around Hanoi by fast and somewhat rash motorbikes. Kumquat is a symbol of luck, wealth and hapiness. Tt, the new lunar year, is getting close! Get ready for the year of the Rooster!!! #vietnam #vietnamese #hanoi #hanoianstotravel #everydayvietnam #everydaysoutheastasia #everydayeverywhere #ig_vietnam #ig_spain #picoftheday #photooftheday #travel #travelgram #travelphotography #wanderlust #tet #buddhism #natgeo #natgeotravel #asia #photojournalism #nikon #streetlife #viajar #streephotography #visitvietnam #bike #newyear #travelasia #lensculturestreets

      A post shared by Javier Puig Saura (@javierpuigsaura) on

      When Javier sets out to shoot, he typically avoids landscapes and food, gravitating instead towards people.
      But street photography is tough. He says it’s akin to going fishing or hunting — luck must be on your side.
      Instead of simply snapping away, Javier usually begins with a conversation.
      “Basically, taking pictures is an excuse to meet people so I use the camera as a pretext,” says Javier, who regularly sits down to share a beer with his subjects and even delivers printed photos later as a gift.
      “For me to trigger the camera is the last act on a long series of actions. I like to find a true little story, something unimportant but real as life.”
      A few of his best fishing expeditions have occurred in the Old Quarter, which Javier says is endlessly photogenic with its yellow facades, French colonial architecture, and bustling motor traffic.

        #MyHanoi: Javier Puig Saura

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      He often visits Hoan Kiem Lake, where he finds Hanoians of all ages exercising, performing Aikido — a Japanese martial art — or just taking a stroll, ice cream in hand.
      On the first and 15th day of each month, Javier visits major pagodas and temples — like the Tran Quoc pagoda or Phu Tay Ho temple — to take portraits of the calligraphers who work there during the busy holidays.
      “Their job is to write in old Vietnamese characters the wishes and prayers of the worshippers in papers that they will then burn in the fire of the pagoda,” explains Javier.
      “The smoke is supposed to convey the wishes to the heavenly gods. They wear long beards and are dressed in colorful robes — it’s a beautiful sight.”

      The coffee connoisseur

      I used to love all the ghost stories in this book! Classic! #lieutrai #ghoststories #cafe #reading books #coffeebreak #vietnamesecoffee #lieutraichidi #nhanam #iphonography

      A post shared by Bien Nguyen (@bienontheroad) on

      Although he grew up in a small village, just outside of Hanoi, Bien Thuy Nguyen didn’t feel any connection to the city until he moved there as an adult.
      The Instagrammer — who shoots under the moniker Bien on the Road — relocated to Hanoi eight years ago to attend university.
      “I am not a city boy, but Hanoi is always my city, and my favorite city,” says Nguyen.
      “I got my first camera in 2008. I was shooting in my free time with friends … I fell in love with Hanoi and all its charms. All the historical and cultural layers inspire me.”
      Now a full-time liaison officer at the UN International School in Hanoi, Nguyen says photography is a hobby — not a profession.
      He snaps photos while traveling or wandering around Hanoi, focusing on people and street scenes.

      T tm #playingcards #hanoi #vietnam #instatravel #travelgram #instadaily #wanderlust #instagram #ig_travel #ig_hanoi #ig_street #ig_myshot #ig_vietnam #travel360 #travellife #travelphotography #traveladdict #travelling #tourists #oldmen #hanoistreetlife #hanoipavements #littleplasticchairs #hiddencharm

      A post shared by Bien Nguyen (@bienontheroad) on

      “The people and their daily life in the city are like watching a film — lively and interesting,” he says.
      “I take photos of whatever happens on the streets, or at secret corners, quiet alleys, beautiful architecture such as temples, churches, castles… of course coffee shops too.”
      Nguyen captures cafes for his side project Hanoi Hideaway — a site and app dedicated to finding Hanoi’s rich coffee culture.
      “You can also find many interesting stories about the city and its history in coffee shops.”
      Nguyen recommends Loading T, located in a French villa featuring exposed brick walls and mosaic tiled floors, the coffee shop is known for serving one of Hanoi’s best “egg coffees.”
      The thick coffee drink is a local staple, made with egg yolk in lieu of milk, coffee powder, condensed milk and butter.

        #MyHanoi: Bien Thuy Nguyen

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      Then there’s Nhac Xua Cafe, a historic music spot, which began as an amplifier and speaker repair shop.
      “When he first opened (the repair shop), the owner would serve customers green tea and play old music — mostly Vietnamese pre-war songs — while they waited,” explains Nguyen.
      “People loved it and asked the owner to turn that shop into a coffee shop. Sitting on the tiny bamboo chairs by Westlake in the evening and listening to old music will bring you back to the old days of Vietnam.”

      The storyteller

      Hng nc tr huyn thoi #teashop #hanoi #hometown #vietnam #travel #dailylife #nov2016 #ricohgr

      A post shared by Hai Thanh (@haithanhptw) on

      A Hanoi-born documentary photographer, Hai Thanh keeps a “visual diary” of day-to-day life in Vietnam on his popular Instagram account.
      Formerly a photojournalist, working at local newspapers and magazines, Thanh has been photographing the city since 2004.
      “In the early years, I used street photography as a tool to develop my own voice,” says Thanh.
      “The city is an eternal inspiration of mine — it’s kind of like my big house. I have everything here: family, job, friends, foods and love.”

      #streetvendors #flowers #oldquarter #hanoi #hometown #vietnam #dailylife #travel #streetphotography #nov2016 #instagram #ricohgr

      A post shared by Hai Thanh (@haithanhptw) on

      The self-taught photographer turns a lens on the city’s social issues, including living conditions and the evolution of the city.
      “I try to capture the emotions inside the pictures,” he says. “When I’m on the street and taking photos, it keeps me motivated.”
      “I never expect the perfect picture — I just enjoy photography and finding one moment at a time.”
      For Thanh, the most interesting aspect of photographing Hanoi is its people — around Hoan Kiem Lake, in the Old Quarter or around the markets to see everyday life in the city.

        #MyHanoi: Maika Elan and Hai Thanh

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      “I love taking photographs of crowds — it’s a lot of fun,” Thanh says. “For travelers, I would send them to the narrow alleys, where residents live and share a public space together. It is so Hanoi!”
      Of course, a trip to Hanoi isn’t complete without sampling the city’s diverse street eats — think ph b (beef noodle soup), bn ch (grilled pork with rice noodle), and bnh m pate (goose pate sandwiches).
      “You must taste the local food in every corner of the Old Quarter,” he says. “You don’t know anything about Hanoi if you never try the street foods.”

      The activist

      #cafe #tit #17months #kycon #saigon #family #travel #stair #apartment #oldhouse #maikaelan

      A post shared by Maika Elan (@maikaelan) on

      Married to Hai Thanh, Maika Elan is a documentary photographer who tells intimate stories through her lens.
      She picked up a family camera in 2006 and started experimenting while studying sociology in university.
      At the time, Elan focused on the villages and farmers in the countryside. But as she advanced, she took interest in city life and issues closer to home.
      “For me Hanoi is always full of positive energy and almost everything is on the street so you really can see the real life here,” she tells CNN Travel.
      “I love to take picture in the small alleys. They look very small and dark from outside, but when you walk in, its very long and often open up to stairways or kitchen, with lots of sunshine. It always takes me by surprise.”

      A ceramic seller stand in front of her shop. #portrait #hanoi #vietnam #market #maikaelan #photography #viiphoto #viimentorprogram #ceramic #woman #vietnamese

      A post shared by Maika Elan (@maikaelan) on

      Sporting a shock of blue hair, the Hanoi-born photographer says the city’s positive energy never ceases to inspire her.
      “With photography you will see the small details,” she says. “I live more in the moment with photography. You see more, talk to more with people. It changes you day by day.”
      But her real passion lies in documenting the everyday struggles facing Vietnamese people.
      In 2012, she won a World Press Photo award for an image depicting an LGBT couple in bed.
      The photo was part of Elan’s “The Pink Choice” documentary project, where she spent two years traveling across Vietnam to explore the lives of same-sex couples.
      By the end of the journey, she had taken hundreds of intimate photos in the homes of more than 70 gay couples.
      “People showed me their love and how they survived, how they stand together,” she says.
      Love the music from CNN’s #MyHanoi videos? Here’s a full list of featured tracks:

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/travel/myhanoi-instagram-insider-guide/index.html