Posts Tagged With: Hiking

Day 279: El Chalten – Argentina – Mar 23rd

We wake up, grab breakfast, and were quick to pack as we have a long day ahead of us. Planning to do a hiking trip into the famous Cerro FitzRoy to view some spectacular mountains and glaciers. We packed our stuff, bought some groceries for the day and headed to the park ranger’s office to get a briefing.

Unfortunately for us, the day was a bit cloudy in the mountains, because on a sunny day you see the whole mountain range from the town! And we were wondering where it was! Oh well, we’re here, we’re going to give it a shot and possibly the crazy Patagonian weather may work in our favour and the winds can gust away the cloud cover.

The mountain facade has a lot of similarities with the Torres del Paine, but to us the hiking trail is much more enjoyable. The spaces were wider, the trails were obviously marked but also very well maintained. Bridges were crafted with beautiful, fallen trees. The winds were whipping hard in some spots, but 50m later the winds are gone and it is whisper quiet. The water from the streams and lakes (yes, lakes!) are drinkable as it is melted glacier water, but the mineral content in the water is rather high and it isn’t as refreshing when you’ve got a splash of iron in your taste buds. Nothing can compare to that awesome creek back in Torres del Paine, which was for me, one of the highlights of the trip. If I could do it again, I may just carry a few more litres of that good stuff despite the weight.

Hiking up to the first camp, we were making good time and the biggest surprise of all though, was that Alan wasn’t even hungry!! Strange, first time he’s hiked without feeling hungry ever 30mins. At the camp, there was a 1hr hike up to a mirador with an amazing view of the glacier with the FitzRoy towers hanging above. We were 5min into our hike before seeing a couple coming back down so we kindly asked about the conditions. “Oh, the trail is really difficult and steep, and with the winds as it is now it is actually dangerous. And when you get to the top, there’s nothing to see because of the clouds.” OKAY, now those are some words of encouragement…. encouraging us to ditch the plan of the mirador and move on to the next campsite/mirador.

We were making good pace, and doing our usual of silent concentration mixed in with some strained arguments about life, future travels, sociological issues around the world and much pointless attempts by Alan explaining why golf is such a great game. The trails weren’t too steep up nor down, but as we approached the camp site we had a change of plans and decided that we should ditch the idea of camping for the evening, head back into town and so tomorrow we can wake up and make good time in the car. Oh, and did we mention there’s an artesanal brewery located in the town, that also serves food?!?!?! That was probably the single highest motivation to go back! Jiajia dropped her pack on the return route, and after an hour more we were at the final campsite/mirador. Overlooking a lake of glacial melt, we can understand that on a sunny day that it would be an amazing sight! Unfortunately for us, the clouds were smothering the whole area into a palette of grey, and the generally amazing colours of the glacier combined with the breathtaking views of the mountains were nowhere to be seen.

Returning down, we had no regrets doing the hike, as we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery (with a little imagination, thinking what it would be like if the weather was nice!), and also thoroughly enjoyed each others company… ha ha. It was already 6pm when we left, and we made it into town just when the sun completely set at 8pm, leaving us with no light to work with…. NOT a good idea to hike mountain trails in pitch darkness, especially when there are pumas!

We checked-in to a hostel (unfortunately, the awesome hostels were still full. They were nice enough to let us know, they were full until next week, good to squash our hopes of staying there!), bumped into a few of our friends from the Antarctica cruise who just rolled in this afternoon. We were too hungry, and too thirsty to chat so we rushed out to the warmth of the artesanal brewery.

The place, La Cerveceria, had an awesome mountain lodge vibe, and we applaud the owner as they paid a LOT of attention to each and every detail of the décor, from the woven light fixtures, the bamboo window covers, wooden benches+tables to the antique rucksack hovering above the entrance way. Two beers were on tap, and the bock beer was delicious (the lager fell a bit short), and the food was awesome! Especially delicious was the hearty locro, a supposedly Argentinean specialty. We weren’t sure what it was, but after our orders were taken we were treated with two small ‘cups’ of warm and tasty soup, accompanied by some breadsticks and a delicious dip! The soups were served in small clay cups! With that in our stomachs, we were even more amazed when the mains came. The locro is actually a very hearty stew, with chunks of TENDER TO DIE FOR meats, and a massive bread to go with. Beer would definitely work to wash it all down as well. The pizzas were fantastic, and even more impressive when you realize how far away from civilization you are…. Great dining experience!

So today, we hiked 32kms in about 9hrs and capped it off with a couple of cold ones and awesome food. Perrrfect!

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Day 264: Ushuaia – Argentina – Mar 8th

After spending a day on the bus traveling to Ushuaia, we got some much needed rest and even cooked ourselves a meal at the hostel! It’s nice to eat something ‘at home’ instead of eating out, and you get to save a few bucks too!

Everything is set for our upcoming cruise, so we had a spare day to visit the Tierra del Fuego national park. It was either this, or go gambling at the casino…. easy choice! The national park is rather large, and had numerous hiking trails in addition to camp sites for use. We chose to do the ‘coastal’ hike, where we were hiking along the shore line of some salt water channel, and along with the vegetation it definitely reminded us a bit of home.

One of the coolest part though, was at the start of the hike, there’s this tiny little house situated above a small wooden dock extending into the water, and the sign says: “Correo”, or Post Office in Spanish! Inside is a small hut barely large enough for 2 people, but this is one of the most charming little post offices we’ve seen! It sells amazingly beautiful special edition stamps about the region, and some really pretty postcards. The best part, is that the post office is run by the most charming postal worker you can imagine, complete with a mustache that twirls upwards! He’s got a hundred different stamps that he fills your postcards with once you’re done writing them, and he’s even got postcards/stamps that are designed for him!!! He’s a living postal relic! It was all great fun, and we’ve never spent so much money on postage but it was well worth’d.

Oh, the hike within the Tierra del Fuego national park was great. Tranquil waters with a backdrop of mountains, that’s always hard to beat. Again, pictures don’t do this place justice and neither are our words, but we’ll try.

Dinner was some delicious home made pasta along with a bottle of wine. We also did our shopping to prep us for our big trip, just in case we get hungry aboard the m/v Plancius…. on our way to ANTARCTICA!!! Yeah!!!

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Day 258-262: W Trail – Torres del Paine National Park

It’s been a long time since we’ve done any outdoorsy activities as we’ve been lazy bums after leaving Nepal. We’ve also been carrying all our hiking gear, which takes up about 50% of the space in our packs, so it was time to whip them out and we were really excited!

Torres del Paine is an extremely popular trek, as noted by the massive transport system that shuttles people to and from the park. From leaving the hostel to all necessary goods/park rules, everything was very smooth and simple to follow, and with the trails marked as they were it was almost impossible to get lost! We’re pretty confident even in North America, outdoor gear stores do NOT stay open until 10pm, and buses to hiking trails do not run 5+ busloads daily.

We both had our hiking gear, and packed our food+stove and were on our way. Inside the park, there are free campsites with bare minimal facilities, and there are refugios which felt more like a fancy travel log cabin with camping sites around it. Problem was, they charged a LOT !!!! So we were already self-sufficient, and being able to save quite a few bucks. One jerk move though, is that the campsites in the middle of the W were now all closed, but you can ‘sneak’ yourself in if you arrive too late to the campsite and it was unsafe for the park rangers to send you off on your way…. we felt like they were being jerks, and a lot of people just ignored them and camped there anyways!!

Day 1: Hike up to the base camp for Torres del Paine. Pitch our tents, cook dinner and were in bed by 8pm.
Day 2: Wake up at 5:45am and start heading up to the view point to catch the 7am sun rise. A steep 45min hike in the dark moonlight later, we arrived at the towers synonymous with the national park. Honestly…. the towers were nice but we felt it a bit overrated. We hiked until 7:30pm and camped at the ‘closed’ camp site. That’s a 28km day!!
Day 3: Sleeping in until 8am, we took a leisurely pace making ourselves some tea for breakfast. No rush, we thought. We hiked up the middle of the W for 270′ view of the mountains. We pushed on and got to a paying campsite, and took a much much needed shower!!! Not sure, but we feel it was overrated again! The best part about the hike though, are the crystal clear streams that wind its way around the trail. Water is totally drinkable, and tastes DELICIOUS! We drank stream water the whole time we were in the W!
Day 4: Hiking up to the western side of the W, we FINALLY got a taste of the infamous Patagonia weather. The skies were clear when we started out, then out of nowhere the winds started to pickup, and as we kept on it started raining SIDEWAYS! The winds were so strong, the rain feels like hail when it slams into your face. Soaked from head to toe, gale force winds, and before we knew it it was gone just as quickly as it came! Crazy!!
Day 5: Hike back out in massive plains of golden wheat with the mountains behind our backs, we actually felt this last part of the hike was the prettiest. Either way, no matter how you walk the W, there’s definitely something for everyone! Along the trail, we met some great people, a HK couple who were also traveling the world for a year, a Swedish psychologist, and a German kid who’s taking a gap year before going to University.

We ended up the hike by dining together with our new found friends, drinking delicious Chilean wine and eating grilled meats. The night was wonderful and we had some great conversation. Fun!! It was good to get back to society, but we wouldn’t have minded if we can continue to trek….just no more of that Patagonia winds please…

There’s a lot of pics, enjoy!

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Day 210: Antigua – Guatemala – Jan 13th

Sunday is our day off from classes, and we didn’t have much planned.

We tried a popular local restaurant, Pollo Campero, and despite the extreme popularity of this place, we felt like it was a subpar Swiss Chalet. The chicken wasn’t too good, and other than chicken there wasn’t anything else on the menu. The fried chicken was alright, but the grilled chicken was so so. Probably the first time, we really thought about Swiss Chalet.

For the afternoon, we signed up for a hike up Pacaya, one of several active volcanoes in the area. It was one of those “easy to do” type of trips for tourists, minimal activity required and easily arranged at a cheap price. Transportation to/from and guide costs $8USD a person! After an hour drive, we were at the foothills of the volcano. Once off the shuttle, we were hounded by young kids selling us walking sticks, and older kids asking if we’d like to ride horses. We kindly refused both, but later regretted our decision…. The sticks were only $1USD, and it seems like a lot of help for the locals as they don’t have much income….

As you start the hike up, the kids with horses follow closely behind you, and the second you stop to take a break they ride next to you and ask if you’d like to rent the horse. The bestest part though, is that the prices start to increase the higher you walk!!! Ha ha, reverse economics and definitely a jerk move, but most people realize that their athletic ability couldn’t really handle the hike up after a bit. Shortly during our climb, we were a bit disappointed with the weather as the clouds came in and smothered the whole volcano, including us!

At the top, you get to walk around the crusted lava that has cooled off from the 2010 eruption on Pacaya! The first time reaching a volcano, it was an interesting experience as the rock formations and everything made it felt very alien from anything you’d usually see. And at certain spots, cracks in the lava crust give off some pretty intense heat because some meters below the surface, molten lava is still flowing!?!? This was when our guide dropped his backpack and whipped out….. a bag of marshmallows!! Haha, we were roasting marshmallows with lava. Awesome!

The views were breathtaking, as the sun started to set amidst the clouds behind us, we were actually ABOVE the clouds (which we walked through), which was pretty surreal. Definitely a half-day well spent!

And even better, we found this Thai restaurant that served some decent curry/pad thai! Another great day in Antigua!

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Day 139: Pokhara (Nepal) – November 3rd

Waking up to the sounds of neighbouring French expedition team’s commotion, we were all awake by 3am and the walls were SO thin this time, it felt like they were walking and talking directly behind my back. Trying to squeeze in a few more hours of rest by 5am, we were up and ready to hike up to Poon Hill.

Following the trail of headlamps, we headed up the steps and into the trail of uneven steps lit by the glistening white glow of the full moon. People were lined up one by one, step after step and the air was surprisingly warm. It felt like some sort of strange adventure we’re all embarking on, or to be honest, I kind of imagined this to be how things would go down during times of war. The hike up took 45mins, and along the way we heard some rustling in the bushes, and shortly after that we literally smelled what was going on….hehe, gross. Poop. Continue reading

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Day 138: Ghorepani (Annapurna Circuit) – November 2nd

Sleeping in for the first time so far on this trek, nobody woke up until 7:15am, our designated breakfast hour. The guest house we stayed at was ran by the eldest son of the family, a hardworking Nepali whose going to Nagoya in a few weeks to work in a restaurant there, and he was a good cook inded. Very hard working and nice kid with a charming smile, something you’d wish you had in your porter. Eating on the patio as the sun slowly drenched the surrounding villages, it was very cozy, sipping some tea and watching villagers come by. Playing with the neighbour’s baby daughter, we snapped a few pictures with her and an elderly lady, all of whom seem very shy at first but seem to love to take pictures (without being followed by “Picture XX rupees!”). What a lovely village!!

Today was going to be a long hike up, and we didn’t know how long until we finished it. We climbed about 1600m over the course of the day, but its amazing how the scenery, landscapes,fauna and even the people seem to be significantly different than before the pass, on the east side of the Annapurna massif. And because of the altitude, the produce is more abundant, but so were the insects! Think we were followed by a group of 3 mosquitoes for about 2hrs before they finally stopped tailgating our heads. The hike was long but it was much secluded and winds through the mountainside, giving a great sense of nature unlike before hiking in the 3000m+ area where you’d see specks of trekkers 5km ahead of you on the trail.

It’s also nice that whenever you reach a small ledge and take a peak, the towering Daulighiri mountain still stands tall above the gathering clouds.

We were making slow ground today, but finally reaching Ghorepani, the whole city seems to be sprout out of nowhere as you hike up. It was hidden from view below, and it was even harder to imagine that tomorrow we’ll take another hr trek up to the famous Poon Hill. The city of Ghorepani (which I’ve aptly named, At the Foot of the Poon) is at the foot of the Poon Hill lookout where you can, if you’re lucky enough, see a breathtaking panorama of the Himalayas. Even in the town itself, we manage to get a hotel room with a pretty awesome view already!

Tonight, we eat drink and be merry, as it’s our last day on the Annapurna Circuit. Tomorrow, we’ll be heading back into Pokhara, the second most popular city in Nepal!!

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Day 137: Ghara (Annapurna Circuit) – November 1st

Sleeping in a 4-person room last night was sort of like those camp days back in school. This time, fueled by some local Marpha apple brandy (Marpha is a big apple orchard) which didn’t taste very good, sleeping was easy at 830pm. Problem was, our sleeping bag was too a bit too hot and I woke up at 10 sweating buckets. What a massive difference already compared to a few days ago before the pass!

Being in the region of Mustang, this place is predominately Tibetan and as such, a Buddhist temple overlooks the whole town. Taking a short hike up to the temple, it was nice and cool while the streets were already awake with activity. Overlooking the town, a slight breeze blows over the rooftops with neatly stacked rows of firewood. Harvested corn lay under the sun to dry, while a middle-aged woman stands there combing her hair. There was something surreal and quaint about this town, a setting for fairy tales and perfect pictures. Continue reading

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Day 136: Marpha (Annapurna Circuit) – October 31st

Down in lower altitude, the nights are significantly warmer, especially when the walls aren’t seeping wind through. Staring out the window, the moon hangs brightly above the peaks of Nilgiri. It was barely 6am, but we were all getting ready to head up to the Muktinath Temple, the city’s namesake and a significant pilgrimage site for Hindus. The main temple was forbidden for non-Hindus, but it was rather small in stature and housed a deity that resembled that of Tibetan Buddhism. It is interesting how in Nepal, both Hinduism and Buddhism coexist harmoniously. Within the massive Muktinath complex, there was another temple with an ‘eternal flame’ which burns from the waters, making it a sacred site once again. That being said, when you kneel down to see the flickering flame housed behind a box a strong odour of natural gas comes up. Mystery solved!

Breakfast menu was the same so I ordered some muesli with milk. While we were chatting in the hotel dining hall, out of nowhere some cows started to mingle outside of our hotel and before we knew it, the hotel owner comes in hauling a small bucket of milk. WHOAH, fresh milk!! Awesome…. Continue reading

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