Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

Volcanoes are both creative and destructive at the same time. Beautiful from afar. Great for a nice hike – challenging at times.

When I traveled to Chile in 2013, I heard there are active volcanoes in Chile – I got excited. Then when I heard that I can hike up one, I got even more excited!! The volcano I am talking about is the Osorno volcano. It is considered one of the most active volcanoes.

The first time I got a good view of the volcano was across from Lake Llanquihue in Puerto Varas. Continue reading

Galapagos Islands – In search of Charles Darwin’s footprints

During my visit to Bolivia in 2007, I spoke to other travelers who had visited other countries in South America – with a tour or on their own. My fascination with Latin America grew and grew – by the time I was returning to North America, I decided that Peru and Ecuador will highlight my spring of 2008.

My life at work was getting more and more stressful and challenging, what with tight deadlines and we were under staffed, as usual. The days of working long hours on the Atlantis resort in Dubai was behind me but other projects in Dubai and Morocco were stretching me thin. I was burning out – again.

With the little down time I had, I did what little research I could about Peru and Galapagos. In the end, I gave up on the logistics and signed up for 2 tours that would take care of everything for me. All I had to do, aside from forking over my savings, was book my international flights and some extra days of hotel stays. Continue reading

I have a dream…

When traveling, sometimes I keep quiet and observe – people watch. Sometimes I want to participate and interact. Sometimes I want to communicate; listen and be heard.

From traveling I have met a diverse bunch of human beings. Not all of them are fellow travelers. Some are locals who have never been on a long distance bus, train or airplane – never left the town they were born in. Their background varies. Their age varies. Some inspires me. Some humbles me. Some makes me look at life from a different angle. Some distracts me and makes me stop thinking.

Regardless of the length of time we actually spent together – be it a millisecond or hours or days – I am grateful our paths have crossed. Continue reading

My first time… Hiking and Camping

Would you believe if I told you my first time hiking and camping was on the Inca trail in Peru?!

Well that is the truth – I’m a city girl with curiosity and an unfounded adventurous heart. Growing up in Hong Kong on Hong Kong island, my family rarely crossed the harbour to Kowloon, let alone visiting the ‘country-side’ of the New Territories. Then when we immigrated to Winnipeg, Canada – we didn’t venture out of the city to explore the rest of the province. Let’s just say my family is not the nature/outdoorsy type.

Fast forward to 2008, after visiting Bolivia the year prior, the itch for nature grew. Actually before I left Bolivia I decided I need to return and explore more of South America. So I had my heart set on the Inca trail and the Galapagos islands. 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.

The mysterious Amazon…

Back in 2008, after my 4 day trek to Machu Picchu, I went to the Peruvian Amazon river basin to recuperate. From Puerto Maldonaldo, we took a boat ride up the Tambopata river to stay in a jungle lodge. During the day, we would go on exploration walks into the forest with a guide. At night, we would take a ride up the river to look for caimans or explore the forest. The rainforest holds a mystery that cannot be found anywhere else.

Take a journey together - Tambopata river, Amazon, Peru

Take a journey together

Continue reading

It’s cold outside…

To commemorate the coldest day I’ve experienced while living in Toronto (Jan 3 2013 @ 7:19am -23C, feeling like -39C with windchill) – let’s check out my recent journey to Antarctica!

Antarctica is the last continent for me to visit on this great planet of ours. I had decided to go big or stay home and chose the 18 day journey with Ocean Diamond, a ship that carries about 190 passengers, operated by Quark expedition. On this journey we visited the Falklands and South Georgia Islands. Continue reading