Filip H.A. Claeys

Trekking in Mountainous and Subarctic Regions


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Corsica 2019: Videos

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Packrafting Punta d’Omigna

Punta d’Omigna is a scenic cape on the west coast of the island of Corsica. It has nicely restored remains of a Genoese tower, and is located between the Pero and Chiuni beaches, in the vicinity of Cargèse.

Packrafts are not really made for the open sea, but that doesn’t mean it is not possible to use them on a trip close to the coast. During a recent family trip to Corsica I therefore put in at the Pero beach. My plan is to paddle around Punta d’Omigna, and take out at the Chiuni beach. The return trip to the put-in location will be on foot.

There is a 5 m/s sea breeze, which is not a problem in terms of head wind, but it does cause quite a bit of swell. I’m fairly sensitive to sea sickness, nausea hence starts to set in after a while. I round the cape with care, do not experience problems, and then turn towards the Chiuni beach supported by a nice tail wind.

The return hike is easy and scenic, and after 12 km and 4 hours, I arrive back at the put-in location, in time for a swim with the rest of the family.

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Scandinavia 2019

Another memorable Scandinavia experience at the end of June and beginning of July:

  • In Denmark I do some short walks on Tornby beach and pay a visit to the massive dunes surrounding (and almost engulfing) the Rubjerg Knude lighthouse. I spend the night on an official remote forest bivouac spot, which is a new experience for me in this country.
  • On the border between Norway and Sweden, I do an adventurous and physically strenuous 8-day trek including packrafting through the adjacent protected areas of Långfjället, Rogen and Femundsmarka. Nights are spent wild camping, and as usual I have to negotiate endless boulders, tree roots, marshes, … while walking.
  • I subsequently head further into Sweden and do a fairly comprehensive 1-day exploration of Sonfjället NP on foot. This park consists of a mountainous area surrounded by extensive forests, and hosts Europe’s densest population of brown bear.
  • Finally, I end up in Skuleskogen NP at the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Skuleskogen is part of the so-called Höga Kusten, where since the last ice age the land has risen 300 m from the sea. I do a 2-day trek during which I walk most of the park’s trails.

Full-blown reports including pictures will follow in due time, here is however a sneak preview:

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Italy 2018: Dolomites

In the middle of the hot and dry European summer of 2018 we make a family trip to Val Gardena in the Italian Dolomites. Days are spent hiking, and late afternoon we take a dive in the beautiful swimming pool of the village of Ortisei. Temperatures are generally pleasant and definitely a welcome escape from the sweltering heat of the lowlands.

Northeast Italy’s Dolomites are one of the highlights of the Alps: jagged peaks, scenic alpine meadows, forested valleys and picturesque villages. Of course, this is recognized by many, and this area is therefore by far not the quietest of places. In high season hiking trails tend to be busy, a far cry from what I’m used to up north. Nevertheless, landscapes are absolutely stunning and the area is a must-visit for any mountain enthusiast.

Report > Italy 2018: Dolomites

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Packrafting Lim Fjord

Western Istria has a geographical feature that is known as “Limski kanal” or “Limski zaljev” in Croatian. Tourists however prefer to refer to it as “Lim Fjord”, although in fact it is not a fjord at all, it just looks like one. More precisely, Lim Fjord is a 10 km long narrow bay that was carved by a river into the limestone landscape, rather than by a glacier.

During our family holiday in Istria I make a 34.7 km solo packrafting & hiking daytrip covering the Lim Fjord area. I start at our holiday residence in the small village of Flengi around 8:00am and hike through vineyards and small woods to a bay just north of Vrsar, where I start paddling. More than anything else, it is important to make an early start to be ahead of the sea breeze, which usually starts blowing later in the morning. Being early allows me to avoid rough conditions while paddling along the Adriatic coast, passing some of the islands of the Vrsar archipelago, until I reach the mouth of Lim Fjord. Around the time I reach the fjord the sea breeze starts to pick up, which is good since I am now veering east and can hence enjoy a nice tailwind. I make good progress and make a stop halfway the fjord around noon.

As I paddle further inland after lunch winds increase even more so I continue to make good progress. I paddle until the very end of the fjord and then go back a bit to take a break at the beach next to the restaurant. It’s a pretty hot day, I hence take a short swim but am quite surprised about how cold and murky the water is, compared to the Adriatic. Apparently the fjord has rather special conditions, which explains its economic significance as shellfish growing grounds.

Unfortunately there is no obvious hiking trail from my current location back to the village of Flengi. I therefore decide to paddle back part of the fjord. This is where conditions really get rough. Not only is the sea breeze blowing in full force now, in addition thunder clouds have moved in. The fierce headwind and waves are a real struggle but in the end I do reach a point where a trail steeply climbs up from the fjord onto the surrounding plateau. Although I am low on drinking water I decide to hike parts of the Kontija woods before returning, first to a lookout above some steep cliffs, then to a lookout above the so-called “pirates cave” and finally to a lookout tower on the Mukaba hill. Afterwards, I hike back to our holiday residence where I arrive around 6:00pm, well in time to take a dive into the pool to wrap up a physically strenuous day.

Worth mentioning is that water in these parts has a high salt content. Much of my stuff, including the lens of my GoPro is therefore covered with salt by the end of the day. Good rinsing afterwards is in order…

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Snorkeling in Istria

During a family holiday in Istria (Croatia) we head out by speed boat to a number of islets off the coast nearby the town of Rovinj, for some easy snorkeling.

We first anchor at the islet that is named Sveti Ivan na Pučini. It has a lighthouse from 1853 and lies furthest out into the Adriatic of all islands in the Rovinj archipelago.

Second stop is the Banjol islet that has a number of submerged caves, which require scuba diving equipment to visit. There is however also one cave that is only partly under water and is therefore easily accessible by all.

Last stop is the Figarola islet that has a sandy beach, a rather uncommon sight in these parts. We take the opportunity to not only snorkel, but also make a couple of dives into the water from the bow of the boat.

In general we encounter plenty of schools of smaller fish (mostly subspecies of bream), hermit crayfish, mollusk, sea cucumber and sea urchin. Quite nice, but of course no comparison to earlier experiences in the Red Sea and Great Barrier Reef, in 2001 and 2009 respectively. That was however long before the action cam era, so I unfortunately have no video footage hereof.


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Scandinavia 2016: Turku Archipelago

When taking a westbound night ferry from Turku (Finland) to Stockholm (Sweden) one has the chance – under good conditions – to enjoy the scenery of the Turku Archipelago. By some definitions this archipelago is the largest in the world by the number of islands.

While taking the Turku-Stockholm ferry in July 2016 we were lucky to experience marvelous conditions: little wind, excellent visibility and a mesmerizing display of color during sunset.

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