Boulder, Colorado in the US is somewhere we often used to holiday as a family, however, having not visited since 1996, I'm not sure what to expect. This time around I'm staying outside the city centre with my uncle and aunt in their rented flat in a place called Kalmia. Boulder is a great place to go if you want to relax or exercise - there are a few party spots on Pearl Street and Walnut Street, but I decide to concentrate on getting fit and healthy again after spending all those hours lounging by the pool in Greece. During the first week my family and I try hiking the different trails in the area. We started off with Chautauqua Park, the first natural reserve in the city, which was established in 1898. Prior to setting off we read a highly amusing sign full of advice on what to do if we encountered a bear or a mountain lion, two potentially dangerous (and hungry) animals that are quite common in the area. On meeting either, it said to make yourself look as large as possible, to speak firmly and back away slowly. It also recommended fighting back if attacked.
The hike is not too challenging - perfect for the first day. We drove to the park and from there set off uphill. The scenery comprises the typical green views I had quickly become used to in New Zealand, and, it almost goes without saying, views of the glorious Rocky Mountains, off in the distance. After an hour's walk and slightly out of breath, we headed back to the car to drive up Flagstaff Mountain, which is famous in America thanks to the number of cyclists who attempt to peddle to the top. The ride is clearly a real test of stamina: driving past, we see a number of cyclists, their faces are etched with an expression of excruciating pain when they are only one quarter of the way up. We stop halfway down the mountain to take a picture of Boulder Valley laid out at our feet. Some 10,000 years ago, prehistoric Indians lived here and hunted huge Columbian mammoths with long curved tusks, giant bison and pronghorn, which look similar to antelope. The next day all five of us decide to hike the Red Rock track, which snakes between the pine trees. When we finally reach the red rocks at the end of our hike I decide to try mountain climbing, to get myself to the top for a photo opportunity. I only manage to get halfway up however, before my sense of self preservation kicks in. Keen to keep going, we start the walk towards Anemone Hill, another popular trail. The hike is more challenging by far but my Thai trip must have prepared me well, as I still have a lot of gas in the tank at the end despite the fact that the steep, slippery paths prove quite a mission. Our just reward is a beautiful view of Boulder Creek below as well as snow-capped mountains far away. "Why has it taken me so long to come back to Boulder?" I find myself asking. It's truly a stunning part of the world, where the locals are down to earth, and say hello to you on the streets. My uncle Badr describes Boulder as heaven, and I completely agree. Next week: determined to get fit Omar goes biking in the Foothills