visiting Bled, Slovenia

Bled is a super popular tourist town on a tiny, lovely lake.

I had arrived at the hostel in Ljubljana at 10pm. Next morning by 9am I had joined a group headed for Bled.

It’s an adventure tourism mecca: rafting, canyoning, cycling, rock climbing, mountain climbing. I watched scuba divers climb into the lake first thing in the morning.

We had 2 cars and one motor bike. Fellow travellers from the U.K., California, Belgium, France and Singapore. One reason why I like hostels so much better than hotels.

I paid for my ride in beer. Standard hostel currency.

We circumambulated the lake. Visited the “castle“. Then drove off to hike Vintgar Gorge.

An excellent day was punctuated by this sunset.

Don’t forget your camera.

At dinner we met two guys from Zurich. One hoped to climb Triglav 2864m. With guide that costs about 200€. It’s tough to get an alpine hut booking during high season so he came in October.

I asked for a traditional Bled meal. Mostly meat.

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visit Tenby, Wales

Tenby is my favourite tourist destination in Wales, so far.

It’s a perfect little tourist town. Cute. Lots to see and do. Stay 2-3 nights. Be sure to do some hiking on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path while you are there.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

my best day hike EVER

I much prefer multi-day hikes, but walking with a light day pack makes it easier to do more thrilling routes.

It turned September while I was above the Arctic Circle in Norway. Winter was coming.

Where to hike next?

Looking at my list of the best hikes in Europe I considered at least a dozen options.

But the hike that most intrigued was a ridge walk out of Interlaken, Switzerland. A climber, Brendan Leonard, claimed the Hardergrat, or Brienzergrat (“grat” = ridge) was the best hike in the world. I’d never even heard of it.

But his photos could not be denied. This looked amazing.

So I flew to Zurich, my first trip back since the World Gymnastics Gymnaestrada 1982. It did not look familiar. My memory is terrible.

Trains in Switzerland are super efficient, super expensive. It’s easy and costly to zip around. After a day in Zurich, I hopped the train to Interlaken East.

I’d hiked the Jungfrau region in 2009 specifically skipping Interlaken as a tourist trap.

Interlaken is a tourist trap filled with rich Arab, Asian and Indian suitcase tourists. But it was worth staying just to enjoy one of the best hostels in Europe – Backpackers Villa Sonnenhof. In fact, I can’t recall any hostel with more amenities.

On arrival at the hostel I asked the girl at the desk about Hardergrat. She cursed Brendan Leonard. Told me he’d single handedly popularized a very dangerous route. AND they’d hiked it in the wrong direction. All locals KNOW you should do it starting in Brienz, finishing Interlaken. She gave me some good advice.

A really long, tough day, I made it. Almost 10 hours with only very short breaks.

I posted my trip report over on my hiking site.

As I did in 2009 while I was here, I reread the Eiger Sanction by Travanian (1972). It holds up pretty well. Lot’s of violence and murder and politically incorrect sex. Clint Eastwood directed and played the starring role in the 1975 film.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

driving Norway

Today I pick up my rent-a-car from Hertz at the Oslo airport. And spend a week driving to some of the most famous hikes and attractions.

Here’s my plan so far … though it’s bound to change on the road.

Doh! 🙄 … It’s already changed. The good deal I got on a rent-a-car was from the other Oslo airport. The one where Ryanair flies. I had to take a 2 hour train to go get it. Late.

Shouldice Hernia Hospital and Resort

NO FAT DUDES!

Feeling great, I was just discharged after 4 nights in the Toronto (luxury) Shouldice hospital. I’ll taxi to the airport. Then catch a redeye flight to “rehab” at this campsite in Iceland.

My plan is to camp near the hot springs for up to 8 nights. Hike as much as my recovery allows. There’s a good chance I’ll end up doing the 4 day Laugavegur trek.

Like almost all their patients, I was very satisfied with Shouldice.

I’d had my left side inguinal hernia repaired 30 years ago at age-30. This time it was a right side inguinal fix.

I got the appointment at Shouldice about 6 weeks after application. In Alberta it would have been about 6 months. Inguinal hernia surgery is low priority. A relatively easy operation. In fact, it’s the “oldest” and the most commonly performed surgery worldwide.

The only debate is whether to get …

1. NON-MESH (Shouldice) repair
2. MESH (Lichtenstein) repair

Both work. Most surgeons use mesh as it’s less invasive. Faster. Quicker recovery.

Some say the Shouldice is better for simple, first-time repairs. Mesh better for bilateral and/or recurrent inguinal hernias.

Shouldice does 70,000 hernia surgeries a year. It’s all they do. Specialists. Only about 1% get mesh. At Shouldice they like the traditional Shouldice technique they popularized.

Only about 1 / 1000 operations at this hospital results in serious complications.

Patients are carefully screened. Required to be within 20% of their ideal body weight. Many with pre-existing complications are refused. That’s one BIG reason for their high success rate.

Shouldice is a factory. Five days a week patients begin the program. Each day is scripted. Everybody is in the same boat.

Daily “Exercise Class” is a bit comic. One day we marched to the soundtrack of Bridge Over The River Kwai.

Americans are here. One guy from California told me he booked at Shouldice because his research showed they were best in the world. He was getting a both sides done during the same trip after putting it off for 15 years.

One fellow from B.C. decided he did not want mesh. Coming here was his only option.

Patients are mostly old men. There are a few young guys. And a few women. (I’d not realized women got hernia surgery.)

Once I get my budget finalized I’ll post it. Alberta will repay me for more than half of the medical cost, I believe. (I was told PEI pays nothing. It varies Province to Province.)

Looks like my out-of-pocket will be about CAD $1500 plus travel.

Cost at other similar hernia hospitals: India CAD$1254, Ukraine CAD$1019, Morocco CAD$1000. Thailand about £1,050 for a day procedure. Most of those would be one day mesh prices, I assume.

Canada is single payer healthcare. HOW is this for profit hospital allowed?

It has a special licence from the Ontario Ministry of Health to continue operating.

I’d go back to Shouldice if I needed another hernia operation. But before you book, read a report of a surgeon who works close to the hospital. She feels the Shouldice program requires patients to stay too long. It’s a waste of money.

Patients are charged about $250 / night for shared room and excellent food.

Shouldice.com

when Amazon sucks …

I love Amazon. Their model is the future of retail.

And Amazon almost always works. It’s amazing.

But when I recently bought a hiking guidebook it wouldn’t download to my Kindle Paperwhite. Weird.

Quite quickly Amazon responded. Confirming that they suck. ☹️