When you hear about "legendary routes" which itinerary first springs to mind? For the new issue of Hiking on the Moon, we went everywhere in the world, in search of journeys that encourage a nomadic lifestyle. Here's a quick overview of our favourite roads!
> THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL <
Country visited: Chile Distance: 1,240 km Starting point: Puerto Montt End point: Villa O'Higgins
The Austral Route, also known as Route 7, opened in 1986 and was built at the instigation of Augusto Pinochet. In fact, until 1989, it was called "La Carretera General Augusto Pinochet." It's the continuation of the famous Pan-American highway and snakes between the Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. It was built to connect the remote province of Aisén which, until then, was underserved due to its geographical complexity and difficult climate. To connect the towns and villages in this remote part of Chile, the road had to pass through fjords, impenetrable forests, marshlands and cliffs. After some twenty years of work and more than 500,000 kilos of explosives, this mammoth project successfully opened up the region, facilitating the arrival of water and electricity but also education and health for the population of Aisén. This legendary route is also enjoyed by many cyclists and hiking enthusiasts who take to it in droves. Although, strictly speaking, it's a road, it's considered to be more of a path, as it's very narrow. This unique route has numerous stony and gritty sections which means that hikers won't be too disturbed by motorised traffic. But it's the splendid scenery bordering the Carretera Austral that most delights nature lovers. Parks and natural reserves, fjords with turquoise waters, glaciers clinging to mountain sides, lakes that you have to cross by ferry and even Alcerce - the Patagonian cypress tree - forests, will be your companions on this southern road trip. Another charming feature of this route, is the small villages that'll you pass through where you can stock up on supplies. And, if you're a particularly motivated, or keen hiker, you can even continue onwards, across the Andes, towards Argentina. In 2011, armed with her backpack and tent, Luci Miloche, a Quechua project engineer working on thermal protection, travelled along a section of the Carretera Austral. Discover her adventure and tips here.
> THE 9 GREAT WALKS <
Country: New Zealand Distance: between 30 and 80 km, depending on the hike chosen.
There are many hiking routes in the Oceania region but 9, in particular, stand out: the Great Walks. These unmissable treks let you explore, at your own pace, the million and one facets that make up the New Zealand countryside: its landscapes, flora and fauna. But immersion in the natural world means adapting to climatic conditions. It's possible to encounter snow, even in summer, which means that adequate advance preparation is called for.
The vast majority of the Great Walks are open throughout the year, but in winter no one should set out hiking without crampons, an icepick and a 3-piece kit comprising spade-probe and avalanche transceiver. For your safety, all footpaths are signposted and punctuated with numerous refuges and campsites along the way. Within the 9 Greats Walks, there is one for everyone's taste: for Lord of the Rings fans, for canoe-kayak enthusiasts, for those who're looking for panoramic view or who want to meet the kiwis, these small, famous, southern birds which are the symbol of New-Zealand.
> GR20 <
Country visited: France - Corsica Distance: nearly 200 km Starting point: Calenzana (North) End point: Conca (South)
Once you see the scenery on this small island, located to the south of France, you quickly understand why Corsica is called "the Isle of Beauty." And what better way of discovering the wonders of this country, than by travelling from North to South, over the highest mountains, on the famous GR20 footpath! The first trail was built in 1972, just after the creation of the Regional Natural Park of Corsica. The objective was to address the depopulation of the island's interior, to salvage the old drove routes and summer shelters formerly occupied by the Corsican shepherds. Subsequently, numerous refuges were built alongside the GR20 - refuges that are now extremely popular, especially between July and August. But be careful, the GR20 isn't suitable for just anyone. If you want enjoy the uninterrupted sea views, the extensive scrubland, ridge trails and mineral landscapes, you certainly have to work for it! There's a good reason why this route is often cited as one of the most difficult treks in Europe. It's a tough challenge for any good hiker. The journey is generally divided into 15 stages, which is the equivalent of 15 days' walking, with approximately 7 hours of hiking a day. At the end of each day, you can spend the night in a refuge, where you're given food and drink, or camp. If you're taking this option, it's essential to find out where you're allowed to pitch your tent. In terms of direction of travel, there are two possibilities. You can set off from the North, from Calenzana, which is the most demanding part of the trek. So you'll begin with some rather tough ascents and descents, but with the advantage that you'll still be in the best physical shape. Or, if you prefer to build up to the difficult sections, start with the Southern mountains that are gentler and less technical. Whichever option you choose, around 13,000 metres of elevation gain/loss await you, with paths composed mainly of rocky slabs and unstable rocks. This itinerary may well be legendary, but it's not at all relaxing. If you don't feel up to it, but still find yourself dreaming of Corsican sunsets, bear in mind that you can do just a section of the GR20, which will also be an unforgettable experience... And if you're lucky, in addition to the extraordinary landscape, you may encounter two animals, emblematic of the Corsican mountain range: the mouflon (wild sheep) and the bearded vulture. Julien Guillerault, a loyal reader of our magazine, completed the GR footpath in June 2013 with 2 friends. On page 51 of your magazine, he gives us the low down on this long journey.
In addition to our 3 favourite routes, here are some other itineraries, also guaranteed to fire your imagination: the Pacific Coast Trail in the USA, the Garden route in South Africa, the King's highway in Jordan, the Salt route in Niger. This mythical roads are listed on page 52: