Hilary Paipeti, March 7, 2016 - Creator of the Corfu Trail
Hilary Paipeti is the creator of the Corfu Trail. By chance we ran into her when we were on this very trail. We immediately knew it was Hilary and her dogs when she appeared from an alley in Giannades. More surprisingly, she immediately identified the two of us as a pair of foreigners on her trail :-) We had a drink in a local bar. Back home, we contacted Hilary to share some thoughts.
What do you like about hiking on Corfu?
The diversity of the landscape is quite astonishing, and the Trail takes full advantage. The Trail takes in wild beaches, juniper-forested dunes, dense oak woodland, a karst plateau where nomad cattle roam, deep gorges, wetlands, mountain summits, bucolic plains, old monasteries, ruined olive presses, picturesque villages and ancient fortresses. I still have many places left to explore. In the last six months, I have even found a couple of undiscovered footpaths within half a kilometre of my home - in a place where I walk the dogs three times a day!
Suppose someone is interested but indecisive in doing the Corfu Trail: what argument will you give to convince him/her?
No-one is obliged to walk it all. I've recommended schedules for people who only want to walk easy sections, for others who want a two or three centre walking holiday involving bits of the Trail together with other walks in that area, and even for someone who wanted to cycle it. If someone is unconvinced about the Trail due to Corfu's reputation as a busy, raucous and heavily developed tourist destination, it's important to note that the Trail only passes through two resorts, and one of those very briefly.
Can you share your favourite (yet undiscovered) hiking places with us?
NO!!! I'm joking of course - I share favourite places with my walking group every week. The truly 'undiscovered' places are those the Trail doesn't pass through, some places where no-one would imagine would offer nice walks. I number among those the Kombitsi Pine Forest - literally on the outskirts of Town, with suburbs sweeping to its edge. Yet once you step out of the houses and into the forest, you find a vast area with winding tracks through umbrella pines, chestnuts and oak trees.
How’s the Corfu Trail doing?
Interest in the Trail naturally started in the UK, where it was first promoted, then it caught on throughout Europe. We have subsequently hosted walkers from as far away as Hawaii, Alaska and Tasmania, and increasingly from Russia and former Eastern bloc states. More recently, I've had book orders from Dubai and Brazil. It'll be Martians next!
Where on the island are chances best to run into you and your dogs?
You are most likely to spot me and my three-dog family in the area between Vatos and Giannades. If anyone wants a sure meeting, email me and I might be able to join you at 19th Hole Bar in Vatos, a convenient on-Trail watering place for a coffee or a cold beer.
What tips can you give us to make the most of the Corfu Trail?
Use the local village facilities! When you fancy a coffee or a beer, or supplies of food, stop in a kafenion (coffee bar). The kafenion often functions also as the village store, so you can stock up on a few picnic items - bread, cheese, ham and olives, for example. You will really feel part of Corfu life, with the added advantage that you are supporting the economy of your immediate surroundings.
What are your plans for the future?
My Grand Vision was for the Trail to be the main artery route along the island, linking hiking networks in each region of the island, but this is not going to happen soon. I just hope to be able to maintain the Trail as long as possible, making adjustments where on-the-ground changes have occurred, and then pass it on to a new generation, so that Corfu will continue to be a great venue for walking holidays.
Is there anything you would like to share with us?
If you wish to explore the off-Trail countryside of Corfu, you can obtain my ebook 'The Complete Book of Corfu Walks' from the site www.corfuwalks.com. It contains nearly 100 walks all over the island. Enjoy Corfu, leave only footprints, take only pictures and cast only shadows!
Lis Nielsen, March 7, 2012 - European Ramblers' Association
We skyped with Lis and talked about the exciting projects of the European Ramblers and about her love for the Scandinavian mountains.
The ERA - European Ramblers' Association – represents 2.7 million walkers in 30 countries. One thing: hiking in Europe is alive and kicking!
Lis, you are president of the ERA: what does the ERA have in mind for the coming years?
At the moment we are working very hard on the Leading Quality Trails. That's one of the big issues at the moment. We will publish it on the international travel fair – ITB - in Berlin in the middle of March.
If you take a quality trail, it will be good all the way. It has no boring parts. This quality standard is very hard to obtain.
The concept of quality trails has been tried in Germany over the past ten years. We are building on top of that.
Where can we find such a Leading Quality Trail?
The first trail to be qualified will be the Lechweg. The Lechweg runs from the source of the river Lech in Austria to the Lech waterfall in Germany near Füssen. We don't know yet which will be the next one.
Are all countries going to implement this quality standard?
We hope so. It is really a new thing! I've been to a meeting in the Balkan area, where they want to develop new paths. They are excited to see that this is a European standard, one they can use in their own countries. That's helpful to them. We have met the same enthusiasm in other countries too, also in my own country Denmark. They ask for an international standard, and now we can say: yes, we have it, made by the best experts of all our member organisations throughout Europe.
What more news do you have?
The other thing we are very occupied with this year, is our celebration of 40 years European Long Distance Paths. That's why our cooperation with Traildino [documenting the E-paths] is very useful.
The first E-path was started a few years after we had founded our organisation. In Constance and on the Swiss border you will find placques saying "Here the first E-path was opened". We are planning to have some events in the beginning of July.
It was a quite different world at that time, a different Europe. The idea was how we as walkers could show friendship across the borders.
The E-paths are still very important, because nowadays we are – in many ways – turning back to nature, a more simple life, a little bit more slowly. And that means walking.
The younger generation has a different life as individuals with friends. They are not organised like our generation. But they just as much like to be out in nature, have a more simple life, to get a break from the hectic life on the electronic media.
What's your favourite hiking destination?
I've been in many places, but mostly and first of all I love to go into the mountains up in the north of Norway and Sweden, absolutely. There is free access, you are out in nature, no mobile phones, leave your watch in your pocket, only you and your backpack. And I love it!
One of the advantages of being the president of the ERA is that I travel to many places in Europe. Last time I was in Bohemian Switzerland, in the Czech Republic: the Köglers nature trail, near Germany. The advantage in December is one will have a better view of the landscape (rocks), because the trees bear no leaves.
What place would you like to go back to?
One of the places I really would like to come back to, is El Hierro and La Palma, two of the smallest of the Canarian Islands. These are fantastic places for walking.
And your hiking secret for us?
The Carpathian mountains in Romania. Romania is a great walking country. You can get a lot of help from the local people, they are so friendly, so open, amazing. And there are not so many tourists yet. Great for nature and mountains. It is really worth going.
David and Pennie Briese, March 19, 2011 - One Long Walk
We skyped with David and Pennie Briese, cheering ourselves with an evening beer on the Australian side of the line and a morning tea on the Dutch side. David and Pennie did a lot of hiking all over the world, and they keep track of their whereabouts on www.gang-gang.net/nomad.
What do you like about hiking?
Seven years ago I wasn't much of a hiker. But when we left work we went for one long walk and we never stopped. I think it is an escape from civilization as we experience it now.
What about hiking in Europe?
It's very different in Europe. We were there last year (Tour du Mont Blanc). What I really like in Europe is staying in mountain refuges where you find a chat with people at the end of the day. We decided to go early, in June, so we had a peaceful trip.
What do you enjoy most when on trail?
I love just taking in new landscapes, and particularly mountains because in Australia we don't really have mountains, not like the Alps, not like the Andes. One thing we really like, is just to walk on your own with your thoughts. You find these beautiful parts of the world with no other people around and your thoughts wander... I also like looking at the detail of things, wild flowers … I'm not a fast walker!
Which hike do you remember best?
(Laughing) I have to say the last one, because I broke my ankle! I think it is very difficult to say I remember one better than others. It's aspects of different ones I really enjoy. We walked in Patagonia and the Andes; such beautiful landscapes there that are always coming back to my mind. I don't like to think of walks as favorites. Different walks come back at different times. Suddenly you'll have a memory that comes back. And that's what I enjoy.
What's the best Australian hiking secret you don't want to tell foreigners?
The South Coast of New South Wales really was what started us off on walking. When we walked down that coastline, I realized it was something I need to do. It's got beautiful beaches, it's got beautiful forest, it's not all sand, it's rugged headlands, rocks and that. Such a diverse length of coastline.
There are a number of shorter walks on it, several three or four day walks that can be done in different areas. The Lighthouse to Lighthouse walk, the Nadgee-Howe Wilderness Walk. With the Lighthouse to Lighthouse you can actually stay in the lighthouse at the end of the walk and watch whales. The Royal National Park Coast Trek is very accessible to anyone because it is right on the South of Sydney, yet it's completely out of the city. You only have to catch a ferry across a small stretch of water and start that walk, and you can forget the city of five million across the bay.
What's your advice on gear when hiking in Australia?
Keep it light. Because if you are going to do the main tracks in Australia, there are no places where you can stay and buy your meals as a rule. You carry it all on your back.
For what do you think Traildino will come in handy?
Well, what I like about it, is that it's a "one stop shop": just to get an idea of what is available in any one place. (Of course we liked to hear this!)
Where do you plan your next hike?
We'll be in Turkey in May and sample some of the walking there, sections of the Lycian Way, the Way of Saint Paul and we want to do some walking in the Taurus Mountains and the Kackar Mountains. So that's the big plan and I have to be fit for that.
Fred Triep, April 15, 2010 - First on internet.
Fred Triep describes his hikes in different parts of the world on his own website http://www.hikingwebsite.eu. He was one of the first to share his hiking adventures with others on the internet, and continues to do so today. We Skyped with Fred, hoping for some good advice.
Why do you like to hike?
For me hiking means enjoying and gathering impressions of nature, landscapes and people. Meeting those other people is great fun. I walked in Yemen, where people invite you to a meal just about every 300 meters. And you can't refuse!
What do you enjoy most?
Diversity is what I like best. Long straight tracks lined with trees on both sides through the Black Forest are lost on me. I prefer to hike up into the mountains, each valley bringing a new surprise.
Where did you see many wild animals? (My daughter likes to know)
I once joined a walking safari in Umfolozi National Park in South Africa. Suddenly the guide shouted “behind a tree”. There it was: a rhino. We had to run and hide behind the trees. Just imagine: you spend the night camping and these animals walk right past. If you need to pee during the night, better take care not to bump into one.
You have done an awful lot of hiking. Can you give us your Top Trail?
The Top Trail for comfort is: Cinque Terre, a coastal walk in Italy, north of Pisa. The trail connects five villages, in each of which you can either catch a train or enjoy a drink on a terrace. You will enjoy great views of the villages and the Mediterranean all the time. A great hike I think. And it gets a lot of hits on my website.
The Top Trail for adventure is: the hike from Skogar to Landmannalaugar, on Iceland. It's a five-day hike and you have to carry all your food. You will pass through a variety of landscapes: snow, gravel, volcanic activity. And if you go now, you can enjoy a live volcanic eruption too: the Eyjafjallajökull, much in the news recently.
What's your advice on luggage?
Carrying light-weight food can make a big difference. I hiked in Iceland for two-and-a-half weeks on end, carrying all my food. I had hard keks and muesli for breakfast, hard keks for lunch, and a hot meal at night. It added up to 10 kilo's of food, not bad.
For whom do you think Traildino will come in handy?
For people who want an overview of hikes and trails, I think it's very handy. At the same time, it is a very ambitious project. When I put my Lauvegur hike on my website ten years ago, I was the first to do so. Now there is so much more to be found on the internet.
Where do you plan to hike next?
In May I will hike part of the Lycian Way, in Turkey
Don't your knees ever get worn?
My knees aren't a problem, but my feet are! However, my doctor told me to just keep walking, it won't do any harm.
Will you promise us to update your website again? You are behind a bit.
Yes, after next summer I can stop working, and I will have all my time to myself. I will be able to spend more time on my website. But then again, I might do more hiking instead. So, I am not sure if I'll ever manage to update it completely.