Travel Tuesday :- Quirky Travel Tips from Turkey

My first visit to Turkey was in 2010, at that point I was part of a tour group. The tour focused on the Western side of Turkey. During that time, most of my meals was taken cared of by the tour company. I didn’t get to choose the restaurant or budget. There was menus in Turkish and English. The tour company looked after the logistics of hotels and transportation. I just followed the leader and took lots of photos.

This time in 2014, I spent 2 months (cumulatively) in Turkey. I traveled alone, met fellow travelers along the way, some we simply connected in the hostel others we toured the location together. One travel friend met up with me in 5 different cities within Turkey, it was quite the experience of separation and reunion over the span of 2 weeks.
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Travel Tuesday :- Discover Germany by Bus

My first time in Europe was back in 2002, I pre-purchased a EUrail pass and traveled to multiple countries in Western Europe. That was the thing to do with a backpack. Pick the number of travel days within a limited time span and a number of countries and you are set to explore the continent. Though expensive, it made traveling between countries and within each country scenic, fast and efficient. EUrail also has a historical significance as that was the method in which millions of travelers moved from one location to anther for decades in Europe.

In 2006, I visited 5 different countries (England, Ireland, France, Italy and Germany). The 4 of us flew with Ryanair within the European continent. I still remember the flight between Milan to Paris was only 1 euro plus applicable taxes which cost us less than $25 CAD in total. However, we failed to consider the additional costs required to commute between the city center and the smaller airports that Ryanair used. Though I think it was still much cheaper than traveling on the train and took us less time.

12 years later, in 2014, I’ve discovered bus travel in Europe as a new method to save money and see the landscape! After arriving in Hamburg, Germany my friend spoke of her 15€ bus ride between Hamburg and Berlin. When I moved into a hostel, my dorm mate took a 11-hours bus ride from Gothenburg, Sweden to Hamburg.

Hamburg ZOB - main bus station

Hamburg ZOB – main bus station

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Travel Tuesday :- Bus trip from Corfu to Olympia to Athens – Amazing Race Style

Earlier in June of 2014, I was ready to leave Northern Greece for the South. I had arrived in Greece on a bus from Istanbul and thought I would continue my odyssey by bus – to save money and see more of the landscape as I could afford the time.

I started searching online while I was in Meteora and Corfu about what’s there to explore between the North and Athens. There are countless points of interests depending on preferences.  Direct buses does save money but I have to consider what I really want to see.

So I paid more and spent a bit more time and decided that on my way to Athens from Corfu, I would make a short visit in Olympia. If you’re not aware, Olympia is where the very first Olympics where held back in 776 BC. So I figured it would be worth the trip!

Brace yourself for a taste of “The Amazing Race” style of traveling.

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Travel Thought Thursday :- Money Talk for Travel to Greece

If you’re on a budget when traveling in Greece, then here are some quirks I’ve noticed and might save you some money.

Meal Time Savings

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Pay attention to your bill at the end of a meal

Bread – Unlike North America, the bread basket is NOT free!

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Travel Tuesday :- Bus trip from Athens to Delphi

From my research for this day trip or over night journey I was getting mixed messages on forums, websites and face-to-face discussions so I thought I’d make it short and sweet here.

First there are 2 long distanc bus terminals in Athens, don’t go to the wrong one!

Head to the bus station at Liosion 260.

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Athens bus station at Liosion 260 to Delphi Greece

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Travel Thought Thursday :- Bus Travel in Greece

Typically I do not write “How to” posts for a destination… However, as I am traveling in Greece I’m noticing a lack of information for those who want to wander about on their own.

If you have taken long distance buses in South America, try not to reminisce too much. There is no comparison.
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Weekly Photo Challenge: On Top (Nepal)

Nepali rides on top of the local bus

Nepali rides on top of the local bus

When I travel I like to try to immerse myself and be part of the local customs. While visiting in Nepal, I noticed the locals not only ride inside the bus, they are on the roof with cargo and animals. It was Diwali and everyone was heading home, so all the buses were extra full.

Yes, it is not safe and definitely exceed the occupancy allowance. However it looked like fun. Continue reading

Mad dash to Cerro Fitzroy

Sometimes I get asked – How did I end up choosing XXX as my travel destination?

More frequent than not the answer is – a photo or photos. That’s all it takes – once the beautiful image is seared into my mind. The hankering grows and grows.

It’s how I ended up choosing Bolivia as my first “adventure” vacation destination. Facebook can be a complete time suck and sometimes it can lead to inspirations and dreams. My friend liked his friends photos from Bolivia and after I perused through them. The seed was planted in my head. Within a year, I made that dream become a reality and I fell in love with Bolivia.

Cerro Mount Fitzroy Laguna Capri Patagonia Argentina

Mount Fitzroy viewed from Laguna Capri

I am not exactly sure when or where I saw the first image of Cerro FitzRoy or Mount Fitzroy but it was stunning. So I tucked it into the back of my head, ready to pounce at the chance when I’m in Patagonia.

Then the chance came in early 2013, at the beginning of my 2013 Epic journey. I left Ushuaia for El Calafate and my friends wanted to go downhill mountain biking. It was the only day left in Patagonia before we had to travel to Puerto Natales to take the Navimag up the coastline of Chile. So I decided to day-trip it to El Chalten (Fitzroy) by myself.

South America has a great network of long distance buses with multiple bus companies to create a healthy, competitive market. The competition keeps the costs reasonable and affordable for locals and tourists. Between Chile, Argentina and Brazil – I noticed that the bus companies in Chile reduce the price of their tickets as the travel dates approaches, to help fill up the buses I guess. So if you’re flexible with your time and don’t mind a bit of a gamble, buy your ticket at the last minute. Plataforma 10 became my go to website to check bus schedules and pricing while in South America.

As I found out about Plataforma 10 after my stay in El Calafate, I inquired about the bus schedule at my hostel the evening prior. Of course they offered to sell me the bus ticket, but I declined as I was not 100% sure of my plans. Sure enough when I arrived at the El Calafate bus terminal, many others had the same idea and the ticket price at the terminal was a bit cheaper than my hostel.

Los Glaciares National Park El Chalten Argentina Patagonia

Los Glaciares National Park Ranger house provides maps and informations.

I paid 240 ARS (Argentinian Pesos) for a same day return ticket to El Chalten with the Cal Tur bus company. The 3 hour bus ride was comfortable and uneventful with beautiful views to enjoy. Most of us chose to catch some zzzzz before our adventure of the day.

When we arrived at 11am, we were greeted by the very helpful park ranger and were given a short intro message of the Los Glaciares National Park. Bonus – NO park fees! Maps were available. Also, campers were requested to register themselves with the Park authorities.

As the bus dropped us of at the South end of town, I had to walk through the whole town of El Chalten to get to the start of the trail to Mount Fitzroy. It just so happens the trail head to Laguna Capri and Mount Fitzroy is at the Northern tip of town.

Map El Chalten Argentina Patagonia

Map of El Chalten, Argentina

The town has a heart warming feel to it with a smattering of hostels and hotels amongst houses and small businesses. If you’ve forgotten anything necessary for hiking or camping, there are outfits that can gear you up properly. It’s quite an eclectic town and I bought myself a delicious smoothie along the way.

The hike up to Laguna Capri is clearly marked and requires approximately 2 hours in one direction with a 200m elevation change. Right at the start of the trail, I started chatting to 2 hikers and coincidentally one of them was also from Toronto! Talk about small world!

Jesse and Carol are also solo travelers who met up somewhere along the way on their respective travels. They’re headed for an overnight camping trip with a short stop at Laguna Capri, so we hiked up together.

It is always fun to meet like-minded people, while on an adventure. The weather was perfect, the scenery was breath-taking and the company was the icing on the cake! The best part is all 3 of us enjoy photography, so it wasn’t a hindrance to make a few stop along the way to capture a few photos.

View of El Chalten, Argentina

View of El Chalten, Argentina

View of El Chalten river valley from trails to Laguna Capri and Mt Fitzroy

View of El Chalten river valley from trails to Laguna Capri and Mt Fitzroy

sideways tree strong winds Patagonia

Trees grow sideways due to the strong winds in Patagonia.

Trails Los Glaciares National Park

Hiking trails are well-groomed and clearly marked in Los Glaciares National Park

Single Woman Laguna Capri Mt Fitzroy

Karen, the Single Woman, standing in Laguna Capri with Mt Fitzroy as backdrop.

When I arrived at Laguna Capri and in full view of Mt Fitzroy, my jaw dropped, ceremonially! The glacial water fed lake helped cooled my feet and it was so refreshing to splash my face with the water. As I sat at the water’s edge savoring the view and my lunch, I wished I had more time in El Chalten. Before I headed back into town, I promised myself to return in the future.

On the way back to El Calafate, the bus made a stop at Hotel La Leona. I did not know of the rhyme or the reason for the stop but I ventured inside to use their facilities. Then did I realize it was used as a hideout by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid waaaay back when! It was fascinating, I did not realize some people make a pilgrimage to La Leona for this unique bit of history lesson.

Hotel La Leona Butch Cassidy Sundance Kid History

Short visit at Hotel La Leona for a bit of history lesson.

Hotel La Leona Butch Cassidy Sundance Kid hideout

Short Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid’s story Hotel La Leona, Argentina

By 9pm, I was back at the hostel in El Calafate sharing my experience with my friends and they shared theirs. All in all, that was a lot of fun in just a mere 13 hours – alone but not really alone.

Choices in Life

Tonight I will embark on my first overnight bus since this past April. Back then I was half way through my 2013 Epic Journey. I had stepped onto my 7th continent, Antarctica, drank water from a crevasse Perito Moreno glacier, sailed up the coast of Chile and ‘showered’ at the grand Iguassu falls. My life = Bliss.

That night in early April gave me an experience I don’t wish upon any other. Luckily no one on board was physically harmed but I believe most of us returned home with a bit of emotional and/or mental scar.

A few minutes before midnight I jolted awake from my deep slumber, remembered that I’m on a double decker bus, traveling from Brasilia to Rio de Janeiro. I just have a few more days left in Brazil before heading to Asia. I have thoroughly enjoyed taking long distance buses in South America as it’s very affordable and the top of the line buses offer leather bound seats that resembles those found in a First Class compartment on an airplane. Some bus lines in Argentina even have an attendant to offer up personal TV, champagne and full 3 course meal. Continue reading