We flew Xiamen airlines from Vancouver directly to Xiamen. Xiamen is not a place typically visited by Western tourists, but it is considered a holiday destination for Chinese people. Xiamen is non-industrial, extremely clean, and a coveted city to live in by the Chinese people.
We spent 6 days here and had some amazing food. Japanese delicacy at the Nippon Hotel was my favourite meal. Visit GuLangYu, a pedestrian-only island that was inhabited by the rich during a recent civil war. Visit the large, Botanical garden in the city and follow the old railroad path to get there.
Xiamen is a place to relax and unwind. It is very modern and spacious feeling, despite being in one of the most populous countries on the planet. China has developed very quickly over the past 30 years and, in my opinion, has far surpassed India in development. For example, got into a car accident? No problem. If one of the overhead cameras captures your license plate, they will scan the database and contact you on your cell phone immediately to check if you’re okay. A police surveillance drone will be launched from the nearest tower to survey the accident scene and a loudspeaker on the drone will give two-way communication to the police. No need to wait for police and block traffic. Restaurants often don’t have physical menus and rely on QR codes to view and order on your mobile phone. Coffee shops only accept payment through a mobile application and don’t accept verbal orders or payment by cash. Parking is paid for by mobile and a computer checks license plates and automatically opens gates when parking is paid.
Shanghai, a city with the population of almost the entire Canada. However, it doesn’t feel crowded. The financial centre and main port city of China. A super-modern, dense metropolis; a foodie’s dream. We flew Xiamen airlines from Xiamen to Shanghai. There is a flight that leaves every hour. We stayed at Central Hotel; a 4-star hotel directly across the main pedestrian-only shopping street (Nanjing Road) and a short 10-minute walk to the Bund and the city skyline. Don’t go up the Pearl Shanghai tower, it’s not that high anymore. We visited the world’s highest observation deck inside the World Shanghai Financial Centre (SWFC) building. It gives an excellent view of the densely populated city and the tower. The skyscraper complex of the Jin Mao tower, SWFC, and Shanghai tower make up the commonly called ‘Kitchen utensils’ as one looks like a bottle opener, one a fork, and one a chopstick.
You can get Chinese food from every region of the China in Shanghai, but we had the famous Shanghai-style dumplings multiple times.
Hong Kong has been a part of China for the past 20 years or so. When Britain gave up Hong Kong back to China, there was a 50-year agreement where Hong Kong gets to keep some of its own government and policies during the transition phase. For me, this meant internet ‘worked’ again. Google and WhatsApp were back online.
We flew Xiamen airlines into Hong Kong International Airport. I suggest taking the high-speed MTR rail line into the city. We stayed on the Kowloon side as the tourist shopping scene is famous on this side. Walking the busy streets and people watching was very enjoyable
We took the metro to Lantau Island, Hong Kong to visit Ngong Ping’s Big Budda. Taking the glass-floor cable car up was pretty neat. You get a birds-eye view of Hong Kong international from the cable-car which was… awesome. We walked back to Tung Chung, a 7km downhill walk from the mountain along Tei Tong Tsai Country Trail. This was my favourite part of the trip to Hong Kong. It’s a paved path all the way down the mountain with almost zero traffic! It was absolutely peaceful and quiet, and you walk along several Monasteries along the path.
Take the tram to visit Victoria Peak on a clear day. Weather is important as fog will eliminate the view. We lucked out and check out the pictures! SoHo is a neat district on the Hong Kong side of the river with lots of hip restaurants. It offers more Western-style food, but I’d definitely recommend checking out this district. We took the famous escalators up the hill and then walked back down. Hong Kong is famous for its Dim Sum (small dish) food. We ate at several Michelin star restaurants! No trip to Hong Kong is complete without its food. I’d recommend Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong and Din Tai Fung in Kowloon. Enjoy the pictures!
Austria, Slovakia, & Hungary
From Orchestra to art to history to architecture, Austria is a place worth seeing. This was my second trip to Austria. Vienna is spectacular. Every corner that you turned is filled with lovely architecture. Viennese architecture is unique in its style and quite majestic. Vienna consistently ranks among the world’s best cities as it ticks off many of things people want in a city.
Some practical tips. Take the commuter rail from the airport to the city. It’s still only one stop and costs €4. The CAT train isn’t any faster and costs 3X as much. Credit cards work everywhere so there is minimal need for cash. Stay someplace near Stephansplatz or along the red metro line. This makes it easy to get to the heart of Vienna without needing a transfer. During my first trip I rented a car and drove to many countries in Western Europe. The second time around I used the over-ground rail service to take me to a few Eastern European countries. Both experiences were fun, and I do highly recommend a Euro-road trip if you have the opportunity. I did it on my own, with a manual transmission convertible with no access to mobile data.
Food wise, check out Huth da Moritz. There are 3 Huth restaurants in Vienna but I only had time for one. The service was good, and the food was delicious. Try to make it to the Saturn Tower near the Vienna International Centre. On the top of the tower there is a restaurant named Wolke21. At sunset, it gives some pretty nice views (see photo). Café Central and Demel are go-to bakeries and dessert shops in town. The food is a bit overpriced, but both these places are worth checking out. Avoid the SKY Café. Service is poor, and the view is non-existent. For some fine dining, I tried Fabios; it was decent but not spectacular.
Make your way out to Salzburg. The home of Mozart. Eat at St. Peter Stiftskeller. In my personal restaurant ranking, this deserves a 10/10. The food was spectacular. Opened in 803, it’s the oldest restaurant in the world. They have daily Mozart dinner concerts in traditional clothing. The restaurant is built into stone. You get the idea. Go there!
Little Prague. This is how I would describe Bratislava. Czech Republic and Slovakia were one nation as Czechoslovakia for many years. This was a union based on similar language. With shared language came similar culture and similar cuisine. Even today the Czechs are considered brothers by Slovaks. The Danube River (second longest river in Europe) passes through Bratislava as it does Vienna and Budapest. There are many cruises that run between Vienna and Budapest with a stop in Bratislava. This could potentially be a good method to check it out. I recommend one full day to see the sights in this city. I spent a night here, but I took an afternoon train from Vienna and took an afternoon train the following day to Budapest.
I highly recommend the BeFree Free Walking tour. It starts from the main square in the city and lasts approximately two hours. You’ll get a good overview of the history and get to see the important sights. I had dinner at the UFO Restaurant which is located on top of one of the bridges. Sunset from here is spectacular. Food is also very good, and I gave this place a 9/10 on my scale. Enjoy the pictures.
Budapest; one of my favourite cities in Europe so far. First, some history and then it’ll all make sense. Hungary has had a very troubled past with multiple occupations and wars. The original settlers came from what is present day Russia and settled in 7 colonies in the year 896. The Hungarians struggled here for freedom as the neighboring countries embraced Christianity while Hungary practiced Paganism. Hungarians became Christian during the 11th century under King Stephan. (St. Stephen's Basilica is named after this King – see photo) However, as the Ottoman empire grew stronger from Turkey, they eventually invaded Hungary in the 16th century. The Turkish brought along with them: coffee, spice (Paprika) and the idea of the thermal baths – all of which are famous in Budapest today. In the 17th century, a large influx of German-speaking settlers came to Budapest from Western Europe. A large Jewish community came to Hungary to seek refuge from prosecution in Russia in the 19th century. In 1867, the Austro-Hungarian empire was born. Unfortunately, during WWI, Hungary lost a lot of land in the aftermath of the war. It suffered economically between the wars and Hitler offered some aid in regaining power which the Hungarians accepted. Unfortunately, about 400,000 Jews were sent to the concentration camps due to this partnership with Hitler and many more were killed by the Arrow Cross fascists. Upon learning that Germany was to lose WWII, Hungary tried to change allegiance towards the Soviet Union. The city fell to communism. In 1989, Hungary gained democracy.
So why all this history? I haven’t recited so much history ever before, why now? Well these different powers, religions, and peoples that occupied the then two cities of Buda and Pest account for the gorgeous architecture, unique foods, and culture in Budapest today. As the Danube meanders through between Buda and Pest, it reminded me of the Salzach River that divides Salzburg, Austria or the Douro River that separates Porto, Portugal. The cheap Mediterranean food reminded me of the Middle East (but of course is due to the Turkish influence). The architecture looks like a bit of Vienna (many buildings were modelled after Vienna due to the German’s living there). The parliament looks like Westminster Abby (the architects were from the UK and were inspired by the British Parliament) Some parts look like Prague, Czech Republic (but this is of course because Slovak architects were involved in many building designs). All of that history, made for a unique blend of all the things I enjoy in Europe in one, modern place.
Of note when travelling here. Hungary is part of the European Union but similar to Czech Republic, is not part of the monetary union and therefore uses the currency of Hungarian Forint. Do not change money at the airport as you’ll be ripped off. Only change what you need as using your credit card is still cheaper wherever it’s accepted. Walking around Budapest is super fun. Make sure you bring excellent walking shoes. I avoided public transit (it’s pretty cheap at 450 HUF) due to the high risk of pickpockets. Best time to visit is September or March. That’s it from me, enjoy the pictures!
Outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral - Vienna
4am…BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!... (Jump!). It’s vacation time! Shower, dress, coffee… wait! More coffee…. Ah. Ready. 5am. Drive to Airport. Park. Security. 45 mins! ****. Present Nexus card… right to the front. Sweet. Get to the top of escalators…WestJet 245…gate… hmm where is the flight?
“Oh, sorry sir, we have rescheduled your 8am flight to 1pm due to mechanical issues with the plane.”
“But I have an American Airlines connection from Toronto at 1pm!”
“Did you book it all through WestJet?”
Rush to Air Canada. Explain predicament. Ask to get on 9am flight. There is space. Phew. Book online. ‘Sorry, we cannot accept your booking as the flight departure time is within 2 hours of booking.’ (I’m standing at the gate).
“Sir, unfortunately we can only ticket this if you leave security and go to ticketing at the check-in counters”
Run outside, get to Air Canada.
“Sir, you should see if WestJet can rebook you at ticketing first.”
Run to WestJet. 2-hour queue. Run back to Air Canada. Buy same day departure to Toronto for $530. Get to security (again). 1-hour queue. Nexus… Boom. Get on plane. Fly to Toronto.
Folks… we’re just getting started here.
This was the start to my dive trip to Curaçao. The journey there was marked by more mechanical troubles on American Airlines in addition to sitting inside a plane for more than 5 hours at the gate. We finally arrived in Curaçao more than 26 hours after scheduled arrival.
The island is known for its shore diving. Gear up at the beach and swim to the reefs. Having a rental car is a must; public transport is poor, and nothing is walkable. The Netherlands Antillean Guilder is the local currency, but business is done in both the local currency and USD. Every merchant takes credit card, however there is a steep 3.5% transaction surcharge. Sockets on the island are both North American two prong and European sockets. I’d bring a travel adapter if planning to travelling here.
I did 10 dives over 5 days and used Atlantis Diving as my PADI 5-star dive shop. They were well organized, had good rental equipment, and had knowledgeable and friendly staff. We stayed at an Airbnb overlooking the ocean. I hope you enjoy the pictures!
The colour contrast was spectacular
Cool shot of him grabbing his meal!
Having a bite to eat
I’ve been trying to find one for the past 3 dive trips!
We flew with United (despite all the hate) direct to Porto, Portugal. Surprisingly, we happened to be on the inaugural flight from North America to Porto and had a mini celebration at the departure gate and again on arrival. There was free food, port wine, and TV crews abound. This was a nice little treat to start off the holiday. The aircraft that they used, however, was an old Boeing 757-200, with an interior that wasn’t upgraded. Most flights from North America are overnight red-eye flights with a morning arrival so I suggest paying for a comfortable seat to help you sleep. There are many good restaurants in Europe that require a reservation to get a table. Travelling around is also much easier with access to data. This is to say… get a sim card and always travel with an unlocked phone! There is a Vodafone booth immediately after the baggage area. $10will get you 10GB of data and local calling within all of Europe that will last a month. I found the signal strength excellent in the city but spotty in rural areas while travelling by high-speed rail.
The itinerary included 3 nights in Porto and 3 nights in Lisbon. Another short, one-week trip. On arrival, I suggest buying a return ticket on the metro. You have to pay $5 for the return fare. Most of Porto is pretty walkable so we stayed right in the centre of town near the old town and the city centre. It’s a fun city to get lost in the small, winding, cobblestone streets. There were no particular noteworthy sites on the first day other than the São Bento train station. JK Rowling lived in Porto for a year while working at a bookstore. Inspiration for platform 9¾ was from this train station. We had dinner at Vinhas D’Alho, a well-reviewed waterfront restaurant in the old town. Dinner was pretty good, but you’ll need a reservation.
Day 2, Palácio de Bolsa – the seat of commerce in Porto and one of the few buildings not originally commissioned by royalty. As of late, the only stock exchange in Portugal has moved to Lisbon, so this beautiful, historic building can be rented out for events. The palace runs tours multiple times per day and it’s worth a visit. The Livraria Lello, located in the centre of town, is the bookstore that JK Rowling worked at for a year. It inspired her for the many shops of Hogsmeade and the Hogwarts Staircase. The store owner got annoyed with the many tourists stopping by but not buying anything so there is an entrance charge now. It’s too overpriced to consider buying anything however. It’s impossible to miss the Luís I bridge connecting the two sides of the river. The metro runs on the top level while cars travel on the lower level. Pedestrians can walk on both levels. It’s worth the hike to the top level to take in the cityscape of both sides of Porto. The view from the bridge is high enough so that you can skip the climb up the Torre dos Clérigos.
Food in Portugal is amazing. There are cafés every few steps with delicious, fresh pastries and specialty coffee. As you are probably aware, I love coffee, and this was always my favourite part of the trip. We ate dinner at Barão Fladgate.
I review all my favourite restaurants that I visit around the world. My rating system is experience-based rather than just the food. For me, food is either terrible, okay, good, or simply delicious. So, I include uniqueness, service, ambiance, value, and location in my scale. It’s totally Gestalt based on my experiences around the world thus far. Barão Fladgate easily gets a 10/10! For Portugal, it’s expensive. Expect to pay around $200 for a decent meal but it’s amazing. Reservations are mandatory, of course.
Day 3, travel to Lisbon. There are multiple methods to travel around Europe. I have done the road trip on a previous trip. If you haven’t done this, highly recommended. Do yourself a favour and learn how to drive standard. It’s a life-skill worth having. This trip, however, we opted for rail due to its ease of access and speed. The train stations in both Porto and Lisbon are located right in the city (walkable). You can arrive at the station immediately prior to departure, of course, without the need for a long commute. There are two options for trains - a local inner-city train and a luxurious and faster option. We opted for the faster option which does the 317km journey in 2.5 hours travelling at speeds of up to 230km/h. Within the option there is economy and first (Conforto) class. We took first class which gives you ample legroom, charging ports at every seat, and a selection of drink and food service on board. You’ll be well rested on arrival.
On arrival, we headed to a very highly-rated (Confeitara Nacional) pastry shop in the town square. The pastries and coffee here were fantastic. The entire shop has a historic architectural feel. We then made the uphill climb to Castelo de S. Jorge. This fortified ancient city was built to protect the King. It’s a cool spot to get good views of the city, the bridge, and Cristo Rei. Cristo Rei, was built to imitate Christ the Redeemer in Brazil. The people of Lisbon aren’t very religious so often refer to this monument as “ready-to-dive” for its pose. We topped off the evening with some Pizza at the Pizzaria Lisboa. The bread service here is to die for. The thin-crust pizza won our hearts over and we visited this joint twice during our 3-night stay! I gave this restaurant a 9/10 on my scale and a must visit for pizza lovers.
Day 4 – Pasteis de Belém and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The monastery is a pretty cool place to visit. The inner courtyard garden is very well kept and worth seeing. The lines to buy a ticket can be quite long, however, buy a combo ticket for the nearby ‘Museu de Marinha’ and skip the line! Due to the 1820 liberal revolution, all covnents and monasteries in Portugal were shut down in 1834. In order to survive, someone from the monastery offered sweet pastries in the shop now known as Pasteis de Belém. This shop is a must-visit when travelling to Lisbon, however, I personally preferred the pastries in town at the Confeitara Nacional.
Day 5. – Sintra. Sintra is about 40 minutes by over-ground train. It only costs $1.90by metro pass to get here. It features a large national park and views of the Atlantic Ocean. I recommend checking out Quinta da Regleira. It’s a magical place with a large well and a cave system. It also features many beautiful paths through mansion’s garden.
We ate at Tascantiga Restaurant. It’s located in the little town and features local Tapas-style Portuguese dishes. From here it’s a short walk to Vila Sassetti where the hike to the top begins. I definitely recommend hiking to the top as opposed to taking the bus. It’s a well-marked path with good scenic views. At the top you’ll come to the National Palace of Pena and the Castelo dos Mouros. The Palace housed the Royal family of the region while the Castelo was a fortress built by the Muslims to serve as a lookout post for the region. Any suspicious activity could warn the Royals, the nearby town and most importantly, Lisbon. The palace grounds are more impressive than the interior. I enjoyed the Castelo as it was like a mini Great Wall of China with superb views of the open Atlantic, the town and the Palace.
Day 6 – back to Porto by high-speed rail. Spent the day chillin’ in town. Of note, there are many university students dressed in clothes similar to the characters in Harry Potter. Perhaps it was this dress that inspired the Hogwarts dress code. It looks fantastic and almost made me want to attend university again.
The Bridge - Porto
Palace of Pena - Sintra
Taken from Castelo dos Mouros
Castelo dos Mouros - Sintra
Quinta da Regaleira - Sintra
“What’s the best place to dive in the world?” Answer: “Cozumel, Mexico”
This is the response I often got when I asked numerous people in different parts of the world. Cozumel? I thought… it’s so close, yet so good… time to check it out.
Normally, I like to explore the area and dive at the same time. I like to Airbnb and either cook at home or eat out for food. It was time to break the norm and try out my first all-inclusive experience.
We flew into Cancun, Mexico because there was a direct flight and was much cheaper than flying to Cozumel directly. There is a bus company called ADO that takes you non-stop to Playa Del Carmen. It’s about $13. Tickets are sold right after baggage claim in the terminal. Do not stop at any other companies as they try and rip you off.
Playa Del Carmen is the city directly opposite Cozumel. We got in late so spent a night here. I recommend staying near Calle Quinta Avenida, as this is a pedestrian only tourist street filled with food, entertainment, and shopping. If you’re planning to go to Cozumel afterwards, exchange your money here as you’ll get a better rate. Taking the ferry across to Cozumel is as easy as pie. People will suggest ‘express’ ferry service from a company called Ultramar (yellow banner) for $13 one-way. Another company named Mexico Waterjets (blue banner) offers the same service for $3 one-way. Both companies use similar vessels and the journey takes about 35 minutes. Return fare is 2X one-way fare so there no sense in buying return-fare. Bargaining on ferry-fare is not possible. I suggest using credit card whenever possible. If you have a no-fee card, the international credit card exchange rate will always be better than whatever you can get using a tourist exchange service. Furthermore, you’ll get whatever point/cash-back that your card offers. If paying cash, use the local currency. It’s about 40% cheaper than paying in USD for just about anything.
We took the ferry across the next day after a delicious breakfast in Playa. It was about 32C, so we went straight to the resort. We stayed at the Iberostar Cozumel 5-star resort.
My view on all-inclusive resorts after my first experience is as follows. It’s cool if you just want to sit around and eat. It can get boring after a while. Food is plentiful but mediocre. The resort itself is very luxurious. It was rated extremely highly on Trip Advisor and some of the comments included that the food is phenomenal. Not so. Period.
We dove with Dressel Divers. It’s a large dive operation with in-house gas filling and 3 boats. There are multiple teams on each boat and each instructor/dive master knows the dive sites very well. The diving was world-class. Amazing wildlife, warm water, and excellent visibility. I will definitely be coming here again for diving. If you are diving with this company, we booked ahead of time. You’ll save 20%.
In all, a very cool and relaxing experience.
Puffer and his Kid
Spotted Eagle Ray Ready for Take-off
Friendly Reef Shark
Coming home from a busy workday
Lobster Guarding his Pad
Iceland was a fantastic experience!
You need to visit this country now! Iceland has a population of 300,000, but about 2 million tourists visit per year. Tourism started to become popular in 2004 but really snowballed from 2010 onwards. The natural sites are untouched. There are no railings, minimal warnings, real sheer cliffs and majestic waterfalls.
The downside to this is that unfortunately some tourists die due to carelessness and not realizing that the beauty comes with real danger. You have to use your common sense and be careful. The upside is that you've probably never experienced nature like this. It's raw and pure. Amazing.
The trip started out in the capital, Reykjavik. We took a discount airline to fly here from Canada. Keep in mind that baggage fees are steep on discount airlines; so, do your research properly before booking. Don't be fooled by the cheap flights, however, as Iceland’s Scandinavian roots show in prices for everything else. It cost us about $1200 to rent a compact car for a week. Petrol was around $2.20/L and food cost around $100-150/day for modest meals. Hotels mainly exist in Reykjavik, so we stayed in Airbnbs around the country. People are friendly and Iceland is extremely safe.
My trip was not organized by a formal tour; we rented a car and drove around the ring road using Google Maps and a guide book to highlight the sites. The capital is nice and definitely gives a unique vibe that I hadn’t experienced elsewhere. The building construction reminded me of Nunavut, Canada with lots of prefabricated homes placed around haphazardly. However, the newer buildings were works of art. The central area of the city is gorgeous with many little boutique shops in neo-gothic, perhaps Viking-style, architecture. The feel was a laid-back, but different than mainstream Europe like Greece for example.
The next day, we started the driving tour in a clockwise fashion. It’s popular to go counter-clockwise and hit the Golden Triangle sights first; but we thought we’d avoid traffic this way… and we did. The scenery is breath-taking. Every bend brings about different natural beauty. Often, you’re on the road alone with miles and miles of lava fields, or mossy grasslands, or barren-rock before you. It reminds you of how little you are in this world and of how beautiful nature is. We spent two nights in Akureyri, allowing us to explore the northern sights.
This included a bath in the Myvatn Nature Baths. But what about Blue Lagoon?! Don’t worry we went to that at the end as well. Myvatn is much cheaper than Blue Lagoon but also not as luxurious. The neat thing is that the outdoor baths feel more natural and give you a view of the lava fields and mountains all around you. We explored boiling mud pools, the Viti crater, Hverfjall crater and lots of waterfalls. My favourite was Góðafoss, which is like Niagara Falls except without the guard rails, the tourism, or the pollution. It’s just a natural, untouched, powerful, waterfall.
We then ventured east. Here we encountered fog so thick that you could barely see a few inches in front of you. We had rain fall so hard we had to pull over. And we had sunsets at 11pm that looked like fire. It was an absolutely stunning drive. We spent a night in Seydisfjordur before heading south towards the Vatnajökull glacier.
We spent two nights in Hofn and got to enjoy hikes around the majestic Skógafoss and check out the Jökulsárlón and Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoons. These sites are different) but similar in that they are both the result of glaciation. Pretty awesome eh! As the trip grew to a close, we saw the black sand beaches of Vik and then visited the sites of the Golden Triangle. Strokkur Geyser was the highlight here, but the proximity to the capital means that it’s very touristy.
We spent the final stretch of the trip visiting hot springs. My favourite was Reykjadalur (translation = steam valley). It’s a 45-minute drive from Reykjavik, and you get a chance to see mud pots that spew the boiling water, watch the river form, and then you can swim in it downstream!
A fantastic country worth visiting over and over.
Sólfarið. This means Sun Voyager in Icelandic. This is a dreamboat, an ode to the sun - Reykjavik, Iceland
This is the largest church in Iceland - Reykjavik, Iceland
Beauty on the Road
This was 11pm during a massive gravel road drive to North Iceland. Every few kilometres we'd stop just to take in some scenery. Voila! - Northwest Iceland
Pretty cool to see a garden with blooming flowers in such cold weather. It is the dead of summer but it still cools to single digits in the evenings. - Akureyri, North Iceland
Most Northern Botanical Garden - Akureyri
There are no ropes, no guardrails in Iceland...yet. Which is why you have to go see it NOW! It's untouched natural beauty. A few steps forward and well... you fall in. So be careful! - Góðafoss - North Iceland
Have a look at those cars in the distance for sense of scale. This was due to massive volcanic activity in 1724. Viti means Hell as it was believed that Hell was under volcanoes - Krafla, North Iceland
Mordor, the desolate lava field. The earth here was warm to touch. A little digging revealed oven like temperatures - Krafla Lava Fields, North Iceland
Magical mountains. Check out the colours! - Krafla, North Iceland
The Earth - just letting off some steam at sunset - Hverir, North Iceland
celand is apparently 63% wasteland - Vatnajökull National Park, Northeast Iceland
Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon - South Iceland
Vatnajökull Glacier appearing through the fog - South Iceland
Black Sand Beach
Vik - South Iceland
Time to Pray
Vik - South Iceland
You can walk right up to the falls at the bottom. Don't come too close as the weight of the water is enough to crush a car
You can hike along the river right to the glacier where the water originates
It erupts every 10 - 15 minutes at heights of up to 40m. Using the people as a scale this one seems to be around 35m - Golden Triangle, Southwest Iceland
I was inspired to travel to Norway after noting that Norwegians consistently score high in world rankings of standard of living and happiness. I wanted to see what was up. How is it that a country that’s so far north, where it’s so cold and dark for most of the year, has such happy people?
Then I saw pics of Trolltunga. And that sealed the deal.
This was a fantastic experience. I had read so much about Norwegian beauty, the fjords, the mountains, the ice… but in person… it was… perfect.
We landed in Bergen, located on the southwestern part of the country. It’s cheap as chips to fly around Europe so it wasn’t difficult to get a good connection here. From here you have a few options, you can either travel northwards, eastwards, or southwards. We chose east as that’s where Trolltunga was located.
Norway, similar to Iceland, is wickedly expensive. Renting a car for 6 days came to about $750 dollars, for a compact car, manual transmission. Lodging is expensive as is food. We landed late in Bergen, and went straight for the hostel.
Side note: Norway is extremely strict on speeding. Ticket prices are indexed to your salary. I’m not sure if this applies to tourists, but I suggest not finding out. Furthermore, Norway is the only developed country that would send you to prison over a speeding offence. Secondly, the tolerance for speeding is very low. 3km over the limit and you potentially have a ticket. It’s all done by speed cameras (no cops hiding in the bush like North America). Cars come equipped with limiters; use them!
Bergen was a nice city, Scandinavian feel, very friendly. In the city centre, you can try/buy some smoked salmon. If you’re not going to buy, please do your stomach a favour and try some! It’s absolutely delicious. You can hike up to Fløyen, a viewpoint overlooking the city. You can also take a cable car but it’s a pretty easy hike. The view is similar to Interlaken, Switzerland, definitely worth the hike. It’s far easier than the Grouse Grind in Vancouver, Canada for reference.
The next day we set off to Odda, a stone throw away from Tyssedal, the closest town to the Trolltunga trailhead. We stayed at an Airbnb overlooking the fjord. It was a great place to rest up before setting off for the hike the following day.
There is a company named Trolltunga Active that gives guided tours to Trolltunga. Camping is free and legal everywhere in Norway. Keyword: free. However, if you don’t have your own camping gear, I didn’t find it easy to rent gear anywhere in Norway. You can hike with the company mentioned above but they’ll charge you $700 per person to hike and camp for one night! As lovely as Trolltunga was, we didn’t think that price was worth it so opted for a self-guided day hike. Best decision ever.
I recommend starting early. Very early. We were on the trail by 5:45am. The first 4km has been redone to allow cars to park near the top. So, it’s a fairly groomed gravel road. The next section is over a plateau where you meander around some streams and are able to appreciate the mountains both behind and ahead of you. You’ll then arrive to a steep section that’s been built up with stone steps. These were actually laid down by Nepalese Sherpas. Then you’ll reach another plateau region with some smooth, glacial eroded stones. I think it’s important to have good hiking boots here to prevent slipping and getting hurt. Now you cross a few glacial lakes followed by a path around lake Ringedalsvatnet. You follow this path all the way to your prize. It’s a 28km hike. If you’re coming from abroad and you can bring your camping gear with you, I highly recommend it. This hike was one of the main draws to Norway for me, and boy was it worth it.
The next few days were spent sightseeing, eating delicious food, taking fjord cruises, and enjoying nature. The next big hike was on the Nigardsbreen glacier. This was a guided tour as it’s quite dangerous to navigate glacial ice if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Glaciers form when snow from a previous year doesn’t melt during the summer and is layered on by snow from the following year. Repeat this process for thousands of years and you have a nice thick sheet of snow. The deeper snow will get compacted from the weight above resulting in very dense, bubble free ice, giving it that magnificent bluish hue. Since glaciers form on mountains, gravity forces them to move downwards. This, in turn, leads to glacial erosion of the mountain carving out fjords and also allowing for uphill glacial hikes. As the glacier approaches the bottom of the mountain, it’s melting. Melting happens unevenly and the ice buckles under its own weight. This leads to crevasse formation similar to the famous Icefall on Mount Everest. Crevasse formation, combined with potential soft melting ice, combined with flowing glacial run-off water, makes for an absolutely spectacular but potentially dangerous situation.
With that educational piece behind me, the guided tour includes an ice-axe and crampons (the spikes on your feet). You rope into each other for safety in numbers (if someone falls into a crevasse, the others will prevent a massive fall and will be able to pull you out) A hiker once said
“if you fall into a crevasse while harnessed, you may get injured and may have to end your hike, but if you fall into a crevasse unharnessed, only a few people have lived to tell the tale.”
This was a great experience. If you live near a glacier, go hike one now. Who knows how many years we have left before they are gone.
We stayed in a picturesque town called Hafslo for a few days. Have a look at the picture. Really magical. Our trip to Norway was short but sweet. It was filled with adventure and absolute beauty. Every home is built into a hillside with a view of water. The setting is quiet. Life is slow and peaceful.
I now understand why people are happy there. It’s a country I highly recommend visiting and I hope I can visit again someday soon.
The reward, after a 28km one-day hike up a mountain over a glacial lake - Southwest Norway
Just a quick rest stop
Ringedalsvatnet Lake - on the hike to Trolltunga
A little bit of tranquility near the Nigardsbreen Glacier.
The formation of the Jostedøla river
This is the top of the first arm of a Z that leads to the glacial plateau
A tributary of Songefjord - the largest and deepest fjord in Norway
Sydney, Cairns (pronounced ‘CAANS’), and Melbourne. What’s it like down under?
To answer this question, a 3-week solo trip was born. Backpack…check. Dive computer and gear…check. VISA…
I was taking Air France from Canada to Australia via Europe. Canada and Australia, both commonwealth, both developed nations. Just going for vacation… pack, fly, enjoy? Right?
I arrived at Pearson, passed security, chilled in the lounge and moseyed to the gate right at boarding. “Sir, where’s your VISA?” asked the gate agent. “What VISA?” was my reply. “I’m a Canadian going for vacation. We don’t need a VISA!”
Turns out you do. So, the gate agent advised me to use the restaurant iPad at Pearson to apply for an e-VISA (because I wasn’t travelling with my computer and the site wasn’t working on my phone). He said if I can get a VISA before the plane is finished boarding, I may proceed. So, I did as he said, got the email and that’s how my trip began. A foreshadowing for the adventure to come…
I arrived in Sydney and was out of the airport within 10 minutes. Canadians get the VISA onto the chip within the passport, so a machine does immigration and there are no lines. Pretty awesome. I stayed at an awesome hostel named “Wake Up! Sydney Central”. It was probably one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. The staff were awesome, and I met a lot of cool people. They even gave me a free harbour cruise. I ate at some cool places, saw the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and walked around to my heart’s content. The second day I took a walking tour organized by the hostel that took us to all the top beaches. We saw the famous Bondi Beach, but the most interesting part was the seaside Waverley cemetery. In Sydney, even the dead have a spectacular view!
After a quick two nights in Sydney (my body doesn’t experience Jet lag for some reason), I was off to Cairns to experience the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef is actually quite a way off shore, so I decided to book a live-aboard dive expedition. I spent my first and last night in Cairns at Gilligan’s Hostel. It’s the same chain as the one in Sydney but was more lively and entertaining. 7 dives in 2 days. I stayed on-site at the Reef and also completed my Advanced Open Water diving course here. I met some cool people and did my first shark dive at night. Super cool.
Other than diving, there isn’t much else going on in Cairns. So, I flew to Melbourne.
This is one of the coolest cities I have ever been to. As a Canadian, it felt like home here. People were friendly, the city was clean, and there was lots of stuff going on. The coffee culture in Melbourne is… INSANE! I was having flat-whites left-right-and centre. I stayed at an Airbnb in the hipster Brunswick neighborhood. This place is loaded with neat little cafés and shops. My hosts were very kind but were also pretty hipster.
The Australian Open (tennis) was going on and I managed to watch an electric match between Andy Murray and Bernard Tomic. The experience was even better as an Australian was playing with an Australian crowd. I also had a meal at Lentil as Anything. It’s from a not-for-profit that provides food to everyone. If you can afford your meal, you pay whatever you can. The proceeds will go towards paying for food for those that can’t afford it. A cool concept right in the heart of town. And, as my photo depicts; absolutely delicious. There is also George’s bar, a must-go for any Seinfeld fan.
I also decided to rent a car and drive solo in a foreign city on the other side of the road in a manual transmission. I have a tendency to push myself and this was no exception. I explored the Great Ocean Road and visited all the neat little beaches along the way. If you’re in Melbourne, it’s definitely worth the drive. It’s similar to any other coastal drive, but there aren’t any huge barriers, and it’s clean and safe.
I spent quite a bit of time in Melbourne as I totally fell in love. The people were nice. McDonalds is called Macca’s. And the slang is so popular that McDonald’s advertises themselves at Macca’s. The weather was brilliant. The food and coffee scene were outstanding. If I was to move someplace other than Canada, it would be Melbourne.
Opera House & Harbour Bridge
Flat White, Iced Coffee and Pancakes
Live Aboard Diving
Mates from Darwin
Ocean Quest Liveaboard
Sunset on Great Barrier Reef
Time for Air
Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef
The Lonely Shark
Great Barrier Reef
King's Bridge, Melbourne
Lentil as Anything
Want to Smash some Macca's?
Rod Laver Arena
Andy Murray (British) vs. Bernard Tomic (Australian)
Left-hand drive, Manual transmission, Big-city...
Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road
St. Kilda, Melbourne
I was inspired to go to Peru for a few reasons. 1) I’d never been to South America before and that continent intrigued me. 2) There was word that Machu Picchu would be closed to public or would become difficult to visit in the coming years due to heavy tourism. 3) I had never been in high altitude before.
So, in the summer months, we set off. Lima is a very bustling city. This is Peru’s financial hub. There is nothing major to see here so I recommend only spending a day or two. However, the food scene in Lima is world famous, delicious, and second to none. The highlight of dining here was at Huaca Pucllana restaurant. The restaurant backs to a clay pyramid in the middle of the Miraflores district of Lima. The great haute cuisine and service is amidst an illuminated historic temple, giving it a theatrical vibe. You can also paraglide off the cliffs near the ocean which is pretty awesome!
The next day we headed to Cusco, to start our trek to Machu Picchu. Landing in Cusco means moving from sea level to 3,399m immediately. It is advised to rest, drink plenty, and eat less during acclimatization. So… obviously I didn’t do that, and had a massive delicious meal accompanied by 2 large fruit smoothies. I then proceeded to pass out as the blood left my oxygen deprived brain to my gut. Luckily, all restaurants in Cusco are familiar with this idiot tourist phenomenon and carry supplemental oxygen. I slept 14 hours that night.
The next morning, we booked our Salkantay trek and visited Saksaywaman. It’s a fortress from the Inca times that resides on a high plateau outside of Cusco. It offers amazing views of the city below. We then chilled around Cusco acclimatizing before the trek the following day.
The Salkantay (Savage Mountain) trek is among the best treks in the world. The Salkantay trek ventures higher in altitude than the Inca trail and offers more scenic views. It’s also less travelled and therefore, in my opinion, more peaceful. That isn’t to say the Inca trail isn’t great, but this is what we chose. You traverse through valleys within the Andes towards Machu Picchu and eventually reach the Salkantay pass. Here we had snow and blizzard like conditions making the peak of Salkantay mountain (6,271 m) visible only briefly. It is the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range and the 12th highest in Peru. Coming down from the pass involves walking through a glacial meltwater river. Having waterproof shoes is key. Unfortunately, we weren’t hikers at this point so we just did the trek in our Sketchers with wet feet. Lesson learned.
The ending of the trek includes access to South America’s highest zipline in Santa Teresa as well as bathing in the hot springs in Aguas Calientes. After 5 days of tenting, it was nice to sleep on a real bed. We woke up early the next day to catch the sunrise on Machu Picchu. We climbed the stairs to the top in darkness, which was pretty neat. The site itself is a lot nicer than the pictures do justice! I was blown away.
We took the train back to Ollantaytambo before catching a bus back to Cusco. The bus ran out of fuel and we spent the night on the bus. We were too tired to care. The next day we still managed a 7am tour of the sacred valley before taking an overnight bus to Juliaca! We were absolutely exhausted.
We did a tour of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world which is very near Juliaca. The Uru people live on floating islands on this lake and we had an opportunity to visit. After hanging out here for the morning, we bussed to Arequipa where we enjoyed a magnificent sunset in the central square before passing out.
The two-week trip was like a dream. So much happened in so little time. The food, hospitality, culture, and scenery of Peru is beautiful. If you’re thinking of a place to visit in South America, put Peru high on your list!
Machu Picchu, Peru
It was a mosaic of colours
The Cusco valley below
The views of the Andes a few hours into the Salkantay Trek
The trail had spectacular views around every bend
You feel like a character from 'the Lord of the Rings' when walking in this magnificent valley
Santa Teresa – Zipline
The highest zipline in South America
Can you see the sleeping man's face?
The Uru people live on 42 floating islands on Lake Titicaca - the highest navigable lake in the world
Main Square Sunset
That little spec in the sky.... that's me! - Lima, Peru
Fear was the inspiration to go to Roatan. Let me explain.
My biggest fears in life were 1) fear of open-water 2) fear of deep water and 3) fear of fish touching me. So, I decided to face them head-on by learning how to Scuba dive and getting my open water license! Since this trip, I have been diving around the world and this has turned into one of my favourite hobbies.
We chose Roatan based on its proximity to North America, its affordability, and excellent coral reef system that’s accessible to beginner divers. As far as affordability goes, this is the cheapest place I’ve been diving, hands-down. This isn’t to say equipment quality or dive instruction is poor; it’s the same as anywhere else. There is a common misconception that North Americans should get their license at home because of ‘better’ dive training; this is simply not the case. My dive instructor was British, she had completed over 2000 dives, and had been an instructor for 10 years. Our course was private for just my buddy and me.
We stayed in the West End of Roatan. It’s easy to get to, but other than diving there isn’t really a whole lot to do here. The open water course took up most of our time during the vacation. We had to do course work and pool training in the mornings, diving in the afternoons, and study in the evenings. It was absolutely amazing! I’ve never enjoyed Caribbean destinations all that much because I found sitting at the beach pretty boring. Since this trip, however, I have found a reason to visit these islands and actually look forward to visiting again and again.
If you’re scared of diving, just go for it. There is no better way to exhibit discipline and self-control than learning to dive. You are totally responsible for the safety of yourself and your buddies. Equipment failure is extremely rare and even so, there are multiple safety mechanisms in place in case something does fail. So, it’s up to you to follow the rules and enjoy the water responsibly. The underwater world is absolutely stunning and feels like you’re on a different planet! And no, it’s not the same experience if you just snorkel.
The reef is close enough to shore-dive
The wooden structure had a very homey feel
Shops on the main road
These gazebos are set up all along the beach
Grand Cayman Island
The primary purpose of this trip was to dive and chill. We rented an Airbnb right on 7-mile beach. It was the steps from the ocean and offered shore diving and snorkelling access. Our dive trips consisted of two guided dives per day for 5 days. The diving was usually complete by around 2pm so we had the rest of the day to relax. Restaurants in the area were decent and moderately priced. We rented a car to drive around the island, but I don’t recommend this as there wasn’t much to see.
If you need to pick up new diving equipment, there are some great shops on this island to research and update your gear. I recommend having a sim-card from the airport which makes it easy to find attractions and restaurants on the go. It costs about $20 per week.
The diving here was very good for beginner divers. The water is crystal clear, warm, and with minimal current. A particular highlight is Stingray City. Stingrays gather in a particular sandbar near the islands and this is a great opportunity to get up-close and personal. They come right up to your and even feed off your hand underwater. It’s a bit touristy, but loads of fun.
An awesome destination to chill and dive.
Posing with the fish
Check out the school of fish in the background
Turks & Caicos
My fourth diving trip. We rented a cottage-style home within walking distance to the world-famous, Grace Bay Beach. Numerous magazines have rated this beach as the best beach in the world due to its soft, fine sands, and warm, crystal clear water. It’s also relatively unpopulated, meaning you’ll get to enjoy the beach as opposed to the crowd.
We dove with Dive Provo, which was a 15-minute walk from our accommodation. We made breakfast at home before making the trek over to the dive shop in the morning. It was a very well-organized operation with busses leaving on-time to the boat launch area. Turks is famous for wall-diving but we often had to commute to the dive site with an hour-long boat ride. The diving was spectacular but there were often large ocean swells making the dive entry a bit tricky (and nausea inducing). Diving here wasn’t as guided as my other trips and we often relied on our buddies more than we were accustomed to. Having your own dive computer is a must here.
This was my first trip where we never ate out a single time! Food on Turks is mighty expensive and the restaurant options in Providenciales are minimal. So, we bought fresh food from the Gourmet Grocery store (it was really called this) and… cooked! It was delicious and lots of fun.
Some diving, some beach, great food, and lots of chillin’; all with friends. Perfect.
French Connection, French Cay
South Wall, French Cay
Ready to Dive
Grace Bay Beach
I had the opportunity to visit Iqaluit, Nunavut in Northern Canada!
As a Canadian, this was quite a special opportunity to visit a part of the country most other citizens will likely not visit. I boarded my plane on a Sunday morning with a balmy weather of +10C in Ottawa.
Travelling north of the tree line and into the Tundra had been a long time dream for me but as our plane approached Iqaluit, the frozen ocean, and Arctic Tundra landscape was simply breathtaking!
Upon landing, I wanted to immediately explore but the -57C with windchill temperature turned out to be a bit cold for my exposed skin around my eyes. I lasted only about 20 minutes during my first trek around town.
So I headed to the hotel room and got a glimpse of Sunset at 1400! Nunavut actually sits on a northern, ancient mountain range known as the Everett mountains. Because of this, the topography of the city is quite hilly and allows for some good hiking opportunities and scenic view points.
During the course of the week, the temperature gradually increased to approximately -20C near the end of the week. This allowed the chance for some longer hikes around town and up onto some hills.
A word of caution: walking around in frigid temperatures can be dangerous due to the risk of freezing. Also, it gets very dark in this region and the roads are not well marked. I advise telling someone where you are headed, travel with a friend if possible, return back immediately if you start to feel cold, and take a good torch with you to illuminate your way and warn others of your presence.
Caution aside, browse some of my pictures from around town!
It was magical to see the Northern Lights. I sat on a rock around 2200 and gazed at the dancing green and purples zoom by on the backdrop of millions of twinkling stars.
There is a hill just behind the hospital which tourists often climb to get an aerial view of the town. It has a cross at the top symbolizing God looking over the town to keep it in Peace. Normally a 40 minute hike using the dedicated path, I couldn't find it. I made a bee line and climb to the top. I was treated to some very nice views.
I took home some experiences that I will be sure to cherish dearly. It was remarkable how third world it seemed up here in our first world country. I spoke with a few locals at length as to what exactly brought them up here and why they like living in such conditions. It seemed like they had found happiness here and the cold and isolation was a part of life they enjoyed; they cared not for the hustle and bustle of the cities down South.
I walked on water, I saw the Northern Lights, I experienced Arctic cold, and saw the Tundra. A trip not to be forgotten and I hope you have the chance to see this one day.
Red marks the spot
Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada
Canadian North Airways
50% Cargo, 50% passengers (passengers are the back half)
A shot out of the window of the tundra from the airplane window
Apex, a bedroom community of Iqaluit can be seen as our plane descends over the frozen ocean
Cozy and small; Iqaluit Airport
Sunset in December at 2pm
Original Hudson's Bay est. 1670
Frozen Ocean. An opportunity to walk on water!
Iqaluit. The Arctic Ocean can be seen in the distance
West Coast Trail, BC
The West Coast Trail hike is among the world’s best hikes. It is moderate difficulty but very rewarding. It’s probably one of my most memorable hikes to date. It is located in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island in Canada. If you’re into trekking, camping, and enjoy the outdoors, this is a must do!
It was originally made as a rescue route due to the large number of shipwrecks along this coast back in the 1800s. Rescue missions were difficult along this rocky shoreline and any survivors that reached the coast had no easy way to call for help. The Canadian government laid down a telegraph line in the 1900s and also built rescue cabins. This path along the forest above the Pacific Ocean became the Dominion Lifesaving trail. In 1973, after needing the trail less and less for rescue missions, it joined Pacific Rim National Park and became the West Coast Trail.
The trail is awesome for a few reasons. It covers so many different landscapes all in one hike. From tall deciduous trees in a lush forest, to marshland, to soft sand beaches, to rocky shorelines with surge channels, to pebble beaches, to grassland, to rugged cliff faces… the list goes on and on. Secondly, there is a certain amount of grit that you need to cross the trail. Being in a coastal area, it rains… a lot… all the time. And finally, pure peace and quiet. Often times during the hike, you find yourself alone with your group; and with nature. Until you reach camp, you may not see anyone. There is just you, walking along, trying not to get hurt, and navigating a variety of obstacles.
Here’s my story.
It’s actually fairly difficult to get to this trail. Especially if you’re not from BC. There are 80 people allowed to start the trail each day during the summer season. 40 from the south, 40 from the north. Trail permits are booked months in advance, so when we decided to go, everything was fully booked. I called the lady at the trail office and asked nicely if my group could be unofficially placed on the standby list for the day I wanted to come… 2 months in advance. There are 5 unreserved spots per day and we ‘managed’ to get them! The south side has more difficult terrain so it’s up to you whether you want to tackle difficult terrain with a heavy pack or do you want to end with a challenge while tired and with a potentially lighter pack (if your pack is wet, it’ll be heavier). We opted to start with the difficult side and end easy. A solid decision.
I had 9 days on hand and the average person takes 7 days to complete the trail. Day 1, we landed at Vancouver airport and made our way to Victoria by bus, ferry, bus, and walking. We made it by 4pm and had our hotel for the night ready. Ideally, you’d like to get to the trail and camp there ready to start bright and early… wrong. The south trailhead is 2.5 hours by bus from Victoria and there is only one bus that goes there per day. It leaves at 6am. You could rent a car, but car insurance doesn’t cover you on unpaved roads so you’d have to get extra insurance which can be very costly. Plus, if you park your car on the south side and hike the trail, you have to get back to your car… a 6-hour bus ride back.
So, we spent the night, went shopping for some gear (you can’t travel with camping fuel on a plane), and were ready next morning. We reached the Gordon River starting point by 8:30am! Booyah! Time for some hiking… wrong again. You need a mandatory orientation and trail permits which starts at 10am… which means more waiting around. The orientation is an hour, where you’re told about any bear sightings and trail rules. A few people need to be rescued every year so danger is real, you need to be careful. Noon, you need to wait your turn to take the river ferry to the actual trailhead. 2pm, it starts. One and half days have been wasted and we’ve just begun.
Day 1. The start seemed fairly straightforward. Our packs were 14-17kg per person. You have to carry your own food, clothing, cooking gear, tent… the whole deal. It’s easier to walk along the ocean by the beach but you have to watch the tides. The tides reach all the way to the 200ft vertical cliff wall during high tide so you don’t want to be locked in. We stayed in the forest but you inevitably have to climb up and down from ocean to forest multiple times during the hike. This is accomplished with Parks Canada maintained ladders; 79 of them. A single ladder number may actually be a series of ladders in sequence scaling one incline. That’s still just one ladder according to the numbers. We reached camp 1 (by the beach where the tide won’t push you up) at 4pm. We thought it’s too early, not dark till 7, let’s push on. Our return bus was booked 5 nights later (remember, the average is 7 nights) so we had to push on. That night, we couldn’t’ make it to camp 2, so we camped on the cliff near an ocean lookout around 6pm. It was just us, the roaring ocean, and the sheer cliff. Absolutely magic.
Day 2, we got going around 9am. Woke up around 7 but had an excellent breakfast before setting off. We never stopped for lunch. We’d packed around 25 bars of snacks per person so we figured that’d keep us going during the day. Plus, we would save time. At noon, it started raining; miserably raining. It didn’t stop, it just kept raining. We had excellent gear so we weren’t wet but we were tired. We knew we had to hit at least 15km this day as the day before we’d only managed 8km due to the terrain. 6pm, only 4 km to go. I remember singing to myself that we’d make it. I was exhausted. Camp was decent but we had to pitch the tent in a downpour, cook our dinner in the rain and eat in the tent. We passed out that day, the infamous West Coast Trail misery is real.
Day 3, 10am. We set off. The sun was out and we made good progress. We travelled through some swampy areas and encountered a few cable car crossings. Rivers that are too deep to wade through have manual cable cars that you can load yourself and your gear and pull yourself across. It’s quite enjoyable. There is a burger place halfway through the trail run by a family. You have to stop here and grab one. They are $20/burger but man is that ever worth it. That was our only lunch break during the entire hike. Day 3 lunch, one that we’ll never forget. We reached camp around 5pm, early according to our usual end times and we set up. There is lots of driftwood that comes from the ocean so we set up our first fire. That was a fine evening.
Day 4, 10am. We head off. The surge channels that the trail is famous for were now before us. Impassable headlands and lots of surge channels. We had to go up into the woodlands and back to the ocean multiple times. We walked along pebble beaches and in the trees. The terrain was fairly flat. You reach a wide river called the Nitinat Narrows. You have to pay to cross this by boat and there is a family that runs this service. Time your approach as you don’t want to show up after the service for the day is over. Cash only. The rain begins again. From 2pm till dark it rains and rains. There are areas where the mud is knee deep. Make sure you have gaitors. This night we reach an area where a river meets the ocean. There is lots of driftwood. We set up our tarpaulin to build a small shelter for us to sit, cook, and eat. The picture with our tent is this campsite. Despite the rain, we’re now seasoned and we’re having a good time. 80% of the trail is complete.
Day 5, you guessed it… 10am. We’re headed for the finish, a full 23km away. The terrain is flat but we have to make it as our bus back to Victoria comes the following day at 2pm. The only spot to camp before the end is 12km away and knowing our usual start time we wouldn’t be able to make it. There is only one bus per day and it’s a 6-hour ride back to Victoria. 7:30pm, we have finished the West Coast Trail. Some say the best part of the trail is finishing it; I tend to agree! We camped by the beach at the finish there, alone. We had the biggest campfire you’ve ever seen; it was a good trip. 4.5 days, West Coast Trail complete.
After a solid rest, we board the bus back to Victoria. Barely make the ferry to Vancouver as this is where we planned to spend the night. We had a morning in Vancouver then had to head home. 9 day trip but only 5 on the trail.
A solid ‘vacation’!
Having a Think
Tenting in Downpour
River meets Pacific
Oh, sooo many ladders!
I think not
Cable Car Crossing
A weekend in October with nothing to do... A passion for hiking and camping... why not?
Decided to visit Adirondacks Mountain range in the northeastern United States. The Adirondacks High Peaks are a set of 46 peaks. Each peak is around 1,000 m of elevation but each trail is of varying difficulty. We wanted a bit of a challenge so decided to tackle Mt. Colden, the 11th highest peak with an elevation of 1,437m.
The trail starts of easy going through some relatively flat terrain until it opens up on to Avalanche Lake. Here you have to cross a boulder pass which is quite enjoyable as you have to use all four limbs to climb over the big rocks.
You arrive at Lake Colden and use the steep southwest route to the summit. It's pretty steep. At times it feels like you're scaling a cliff. No special equipment is required other than grit and all four limbs to make sure you don't slip off some of the faces. At the summit, you can continue past several false summits before taking a gentler slope downhill towards Lake Arnold.
I'd rate this trail as moderate difficulty. It took about 8 hours to do the full circuit from parking lot back to parking lot including a one hour stop on the summit.
It's absolutely stunning in the fall season. I do recommend good hiking boots with ankle support before heading off on this one.
Keene, New York
Got here right before sunrise to capture the morning mist over the still water
The hike up to Mt. Colden was full of beautiful northeastern fall foliage