March Torres Del Paine W trek

I’ve always wanted to visit Patagonia for the W trek. This year I decided to spend a good 8 months traveling around, starting from Chile. Though my trip was cut short due to COVID-19(12 days after the start of my travel), my time in Patagonia was memorable.. too short of a travel.. I did not make it to Argentinian Patagonia, but I will be back one day.

I planned my W trek six months ahead of my travel date, as I know I will be going there in early March. The exact date of my trek was from March 12th to March 16th. After doing my research on the trek I’ve decided to do it from East to West, spending four nights camping. Campsites Chileno and Frances were operated by Fantastico Sur, while Grainde and Grey were by Vertice Patagonia.

Due to the virus, my flights were canceled multiple times and my trip to Shanghai was also canceled before going to Chile. In the end I did HKG-DXB-MAD, stayed in Madrid for 3 days before flying out to Santiago in Chile. From Santiago, I did another domestic flight to Punta Arena, stayed there for 2 nights and took Bus Sur to Puerto Natales. PN is the gateway to Torres Del Paine!

Early on March 12th at 7am, we boarded the bus from the bus terminal to Laguna Amarga; paid the fees and registered there and from there we boarded another bus to Las Torres. From Las Torres service center we did once more some packing and went on the trail around noon. The hike up was excruciating as the food I bought weren’t the smartest choice, including kgs of canned tuna and fresh fruits.. Once we arrived at Campo Chileno I knew immediately what I should be finishing. It was around 1ish and the check-in wasn’t available so we just left our big pack by the office and headed up to the Torres. The weather wasn’t great so pictures didn’t turn out that well, and I was expecting a more impressive landscape. The last km or two was pretty steep with lots of big small rocks. We spent around 45 mins at the lookout. When we returned it was getting dark. Campo Chileno offer hot showers 24 hours and hot water were offered for free. It was chilly at night. Luckily I had enough layers on and slept through the night. Wifi packages were available for purchase.

March 13th, we were back on the trail at ~10:30. A lot of walking on this trail from Chileno to Campo Frances, via Campo Cuernos. From Cuernos to Frances I thought it would be much closer but it was still another an hour ish ups and downs to go. I love the views on this day as I was walking by the water and open air for the entire way. Campo Frances were in the woods; compared to Chileno, Frances shower and cooking areas are much farther. That night we saw lots of stars, cooked our food (Chileno didn’t allow open fire) and we also had beer. I was sure not only us did the round trip from the cooking area to our campsites more than once.. It was a few mins walk uphill.

March 14th was a day from Frances to Grande. After half an hour walk or so we dropped our stuff off at the Italian Ranger station for our hike to the Britanico Lookout via the Frances Look out. It was another few hours up and downhills it started to rain here and there. Then we arrived back at the Ranger Station, picked up our stuff and went onto Paine Grande. This campsite by far was the nicest and most equipped among the 4 campsites we stayed, but shower facilities were basic. This campsite was also reachable by the catamaran so it’s common for day hikers. Here we had a bottle of good carmenere and slept through the night.

March 15th was a relatively easy hike(compared to the previous hikes) from Grande to Grey. At times it was soooo windy that I felt like being blown away. The wind could get very strong so when it happened I just sat down or stopped. The wind was especially strong at the Lago Grey lookout. On the way we also saw a half rainbow. From Campo Grey we went further to see the glaciers. It was a short walk from Grey and gave you a taste of how the southern glaciers look like. We slept early that night as our had to start our hike back to Grande early the following morning.

March 16th we were off the track again at 7am. By 10ish we arrived at Grande and had time to kill til our catamaran came at 11:35am. We were tired and slept through the bus ride from Pudeto back to Puerto Natales via Laguna Amarga. Of course we celebrated with a great dinner and had lots of food and drinks the following days.

During our W trek, we found that the Argentinian border were closing to tourists and people were panicking about their trips and so on.. I was going to Calafate after the hike but didn’t turn out that way, so I decided to stay in PN for a few days. Another decision was to be made regarded my travel plan was to either the back home due to the outbreak starting in Chile then or to stay in Chile. I picked the latter initially thinking I would stay out from the city and perhaps spent a month or two in Patagonia, but I decided this plan would not work for me as the local government was starting to shut down public transportation starting from April 1st. That announcement was a game-changer for me as I didn’t want to be stuck at a place for two months without going anywhere nearby, in a foreign country. I went back to Punta Arena, took my original flight to Santiago on the 20th and got another flight flying from Santiago back to HKG via DXB.

I was already the lucky one who could finish the trek. The day after I returned from TDP the park was closed down due to the virus and many people were stranded or had to leave right after they arrived in Chile. Chile is amazing and there were so many activities to do down in Patagonia as well as up north. I was going to stay in Chile for 1.5 month but didn’t work out, but after it all goes better. I will return to South America for sure.

Jambo! Tanzania Summer 2018

After much research on Africa, I picked Tanzania for its nature and regularly mentioned by travelers. Tanzania is an East African country that houses many different species plus there are many beaches to enjoy. Swahili is the commonly spoken language in EA. Hakuna Matata was often heard in TZ, not sure for tourist purposes or they really say this word on a regular basis.

I flew into Kilimanjaro via Dubai; most people flew into Kili for one of the three reasons- to climb Kilimanjaro, to go on a safari and or to volunteer. Upon landing, travelers find their respective contact person and hop on their rides toward Arusha. I booked an Airbnb 2 mins from the Bell Tower; it was during dawn when I walked on the street solo toward to Bell Tower as I wanted some food. Once I was on the side of the road I caught the attentions of the locals. It wasn’t too bad at first but as I approached the Tower I felt I was in instant danger. The locals were staring at me and starting to walk and talk toward me. My instinct was to run across the road to a seemingly nice chain hotel which then I stayed for a buffet dinner. It was a good dinner, but first day Arusha taught me not to wander on the street alone at night. Later I found out that the Bell tower was filled with thiefs and muggers. I felt it was just not safe in general wandering around the street (either as a male or female) alone. I did not pay beforehand for the safari tour; I found Meru Slopes Tour online and paid when I arrived. I paid 686 Euros for a 4d3n tour(can be paid by USD too); stayed a night at their hotel and went on the safari trip the following morning.

It turned out the first two days our group only consisted of 3 of us- me and two ladies from the Netherlands. We were on the road the majority of the time spotting animals. Our guide was knowledgeable and could easily spot animals nearby. The first night we stayed at a surprisingly nice hut then the second and last day we camped. It was cold on the mountain and only provided cold showers. It was quite a trip but our amazing cook cooked very well. We spotted all big 5(yay we did spot the black rhino). I was tired after the trip and needed a good beach vacation. Then I decided to fly to Zanzibar the following day.

The following evening I reached Stonetown and had good conversations with a man who shared his knowledge on the Massai and laws of Tanzania. When I arrived I was picked up by my hotel where I stayed a night before going to eastern Zanzibar, a beach called Jambiani. My journey to Jamibiani was interesting- instead of going on Taxi, I only paid a few dollars to take their local transportation there; I took a small van toward Fuoni then from there a pickup truck with long bench stuffed with 30+ people. Finally I was dropped off somewhere near my hotel then I found my way. It was very affordable to stay there and quiet- beautiful blue water, families who collect seaweed and high low tide all changing. I think I only paid 50 dollars a night at Blue Oyster Hotel and what I did was chilling, walking on the beach, eating and going on a short boat trip with the captain. I switched up to another hotel for my second night then took a taxi back to Stonetown. Taxi wasn’t expensive either, but I think taking local transportation was a fun way to see locals life. East Africa was ok. I didn’t feel comfortable here though so I probably won’t visit anytime any soon.

 

 

Cuzco-Lake Titicaca-Uyuni Winter 2017

It’s been eight months since my trip to Peru and Bolivia. Needless to say, the trip had been amazing and this time I got to travel with a friend. Before the trip, I did countless research on activities and the must-dos in Peru. We didn’t experience any strong altitude sickness but the high altitude did drag me down a bit when hiking and just casually walking. In Peru, we took a public bus to Pisaq as part of the Sacred Valley visit, then we made our way to Ollantaytambo for the night. Following the next day we took a public bus to get to Maras then hired a cab to take us to Moray and the salt flats, then took the Peru Rail train from Ollantaytambo to Aqua Calientes, wishing I had more time exploring Ollanta.

Our Machu Pichu day started early morning since we didn’t buy our bus or entrance ticket to MP. We queued up a bit before the opening of the ticket office and made our way to the bus stop. On the way from AC to MP we saw people with their backpacks hiking all the way up, which was impressive; I had to admit if time allows I would have hiked up too. Once we got off, we walked around the ruins, took plenty of pics and hiked again up on the MP for views. We didn’t pick Huayna picchu for two reasons: 1) It was more steep with more tourists but not as pretty views and 2) It was(?) sold out. The hike to the top was already kinda steep at the end, and the hike itself wasn’t that easy anyway. We waited up there for views and sometimes it was great but other times it was foggy. We spent another 1.5-2 hours at the summit. After MP we took the afternoon train back to Cuzco.

We took the overnight bus from Cuzco to Puno and arrived early in the morning. When we were looking for stuff to do at the bus arrival terminal in Puno we noticed the Bolivian consulate, which was exciting given that we still yet to get our Bolivian visa. The consular(at the little office at the terminal) communicated with us with broken English and with some gestures we understood that she would help us get our visa and she told us to meet her at the actual bolivian consulate in Puno. We paid, agreed and proceeded to the Puno harbor for the exciting day! After talking to some fisherman/agents at the harbor, I opted for a 2d1n trip to Lake Titicaca on the islands. On our boat I met some fellow young travelers from Pakistan and Canada and really enjoyed our time together. First we went to the floating islands, met some Uru people and did some commercial touristy stuff, then headed to Amantani for the one night stay with the local who didn’t speak anything but Spanish. We spent time there going up to the Pachatata and Pachamama for sunset, learned some of the facts sand habits on the island and danced at night. The night sky was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen: thousands of stars gathered on the bright sky and occasionally some shooting stars occurred. The night was quiet and sweet, and the morning greeted me with more maize pancake and tea.

We said our goodbyes and hopped on the boat for another island- Taquile Island. There the scenery was beautiful and we learned more of the people living there. Lunch included seafood plus a view. It was interesting to learn that the bride had to wear many many layers almost like an union and did nothing during the wedding besides sitting in a room while guests enjoy with drinks and dances. Back to the town of Puno for the night, then we took a bus from Puno to Copacabana and then to La Paz(8 hours?) We had a few hours at the very chaotic La Paz and glad to be on the overnight bus again from La Paz to Uyuni. It was roughly 12 hours. Todo Turismo was catered to tourists and I couldn’t recommend it more. The seat was comfortable enough for a night sleep. There in Uyuni we walked around and compared prices and itineraries. Usually mostly the trips consist the same stuff.

We did the full day trip from morning to evening. Then we checked into our first crappy hotel which turned out to have no hot water and the water was very little for shower, angry, and then went to another hotel which was so much better at similar prices. The following early morning we did another sunrise tour, walked around the city and then concluded our time in Uyuni. We decided not to take the same round trip back on buses so we bought our flight ticket from Uyuni back to Cuzco. I would totally spent the money to cut down on travel time.

After returning to Cuzco from Uyuni I went for another hike to Lake Humantay. The views were pretty and I did really like it. It started from Cuzco with morning pickup to Soraypampa and then hiked very steep up for water and mountain. The bus ride was pretty dangerous so my faith all went to the supposedly very skillful driver! The other activities I did was water rafting in Urubamba. It was fun rafting with a group of college students and be part of the group even though I was the only foreigner..

South America, I will be back. Argentina and Chile, I will be there soon.

One week in Roma & Sardegna

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If I have to describe Rome in 2 words that would be “chaotic” and “odd”. The last time I was in Rome was 10 years ago when my family and I went around with a tour guide in a tour bus. The experience was very different this time as I stayed with my friend who is currently residing in Rome. On the way from the airport to Piazza Navona there was this weird lady spitting on two passengers and swearing at them when I knew nothing about their conversations. This drama escalated and the driver had to be involved to calm down the situation. Another incident occured in my other bus ride when a drunk weird man walked around the bus being super touchy and gross with female passengers. Weirdness didn’t stop here. Rome’s bus system is never on time; time is super fluid and people that I met were too chill.
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Some thoughts about Morocco..

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I’d always wanted to visit Africa somedays. JC said she would be down to go to the desert with me the end of May 2017 so I was ultra excited and did lots of research about the desert trip itself. Marrakech is easy to fly to from Rome; originially I was gonna do Marrakech and make our way to Fez but due to time constraint, we could only do Marrakech with a 3D2N desert trip from there… Continue reading “Some thoughts about Morocco..”

Southern France 2.0: Nice, Menton, Avignon & Beyond

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Southern France impressed me once again. After Bordeau in 2015, I long urged to visit other parts of southern france. This time we managed to fit plenty of things within a few days. We flew from Faro, Portugal directly to Nice, took the public bus to our Airbnb which was amazing with scenic views along.

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Complete guide to see Orangutan in Borneo

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Alas, my orangutan trip to the Indonesian side of Borneo has come to an end. Planning this trip was by no means easy. From finding a trustworthy guide online to getting flight tickets, I spent a substantial amount of time to locate an affordable, good quality tour. Mentioned regularly on tripadvisor, Isy Iskandar was recommended on multiple platforms and the rate for a 3d2n boat tour was 4m rupiah pp for 2 people. Something came up and I had to immediately find another traveler to share the boat tour, and everything worked out the last minute!

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4 Days in Croatia

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Speaking of Croatia, I’ve always wanted to visit Plitvice Lakes. 4 days is a bit tight for PL but doing a trip to Krka Falls is equally amazing. After spending a day in Dubrovnik, climbing the walls and taking advantage of our city pass for rides, we headed for Split. The town of Split itself isn’t big so we decided to rent a car for the day to visit some towns surrounding Split. We opted for Thrifty(no young driver’s fee)– an automatic toyota costs about 65 euros for the day. The following morning we did towns hopping which turned out to be incredible.

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Mountainous White Towns: Malaga-Sevilla

 

DSC00995The most visited destinations of Southern Spain are indeed Granada, Sevilla and Malaga/Cordoba. My last visit to the south was to Granada where I visited my flatmate’s hometown and the majestic Alhambra, and had berenjenas con miel with some cañas to quench my thirst. This time we took a spontaneous road trip from Malaga to Sevilla; our one day consists of white towns hopping and endless driving(in a good way!), all under 350km. Continue reading “Mountainous White Towns: Malaga-Sevilla”

From Foggy Bottom to Shady Grove: Washington, D.C.

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My memory of DC was back in the 2000s. This spring break I decided to take a short trip to DC to visit some museums and neighborhoods. Not a museum fan myself, I found DC to be a versatile destination that suits different preferences. My best friend said DC was extremely boring… not to me. My flight from BOS to BWI was less than an hour but it was another hour MARC train from the Baltimore airport to Union Station in DC. This 5 days 4 nights trip officially started with some neighborhood exploring and museums visit. My best description of DC is a mixture of Boston and New York. Continue reading “From Foggy Bottom to Shady Grove: Washington, D.C.”