Asia, Australia and Oceania ·
139 Days ·
167 Moments ·
15 May 2019
Today I arrived early in KL with no issues! I was immediately taken back by how modern and western the city felt. For the first time I truly felt like a dirty backpacker. Everyone is dressed in fashionable clothes going about their day and then this bum lugging a filthy pack and worn clothes is suddenly in the mix.
After checking in I wandered the Bukit Bintang area. It’s the main hub area, and it wasn’t hard to understand people’s fashionable appearance. KL is nothing but malls. They are everywhere and they are grand. Every high end store like Tom Ford, Gucci, Prada, Rolex, and hard to pronounce European storefront names that say “only if you have money”, so go away!
The evening I went to Petronas Towers. Huge iconic twin towers. I set up a location, and used every camera skill I know to take a twilight shot. Manual settings, long exposure, camera histogram, and even propped my phone up to get a flashlight on me to expose more! Although little blurred, I’m very pleased with it!
14 May 2019
Today my day kicked off with brutal news. On a morning I excitedly looked at my phone to check the status of my car, which was due to sell after a routine inspection, I found out my transmission needs replaced. Such an unexpected turn of events. This occupied my headspace most of the day.
Besides that, I left Railay today and took a long tail to Krabi Town. I’ll be flying from their airport to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow which I’m quite excited about. Need a change.
During the day I wandered around, picked up a book, and spent most the day reading at the hostel. The hostel is really nice actually. The best yet. Comfy beds, full AC, the works! Krabi Town itself is meh, happy I didn’t spend time here like I originally thought. Railay was the way to go even if it’s more expensive.
I went to a local street was market for supper and had green curry as my last meal. Food was great in Thailand.
Tomorrow a 5am alarm clock is set to jumpstart a busy last week of travel!
13 May 2019
Today I enjoyed my last day at Railay which I really liked. Beautiful and not overrun yet. I feel lucky I got there before it booms out of control like the rest of Thailand!
I went back to most spots and took last minute photo’s. I must have looked like a mad man running around, camera slung around his shoulder spending 5-10 minutes merely to get a few photos. Chinese like one may say.
Once that was done I just chilled on the beach, swam when I needed to cool off, and thought about home. It’s so close now. It’s been a little tough on me lately. Just kind of want to go home at this point.
Tomorrow I have my last day in Thailand and then is Kuala Lumpur and Singapore left. I need to energize myself for these last two places!
12 May 2019
Had a nice chat with mom on account of Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s day Mom! 10 days from now I’ll be on Canadian soil, and another couple after that I’ll be home. What a gift that will be!
The day itself consisted of lazing around for the ferry that left at 3pm. Did a lot of reading, some at the beach, some in the comfort of AC.
I made it back to Railay around supper time, and immediately left for Railay West Beach. It’s likely one of my favourite beaches I’ve been to, and I took in a sunset. It was cloudy, but still impressive and some cool pink lighting occurred.
After sunset and a late dinner, I chilled at the hostel and finished my book. By that time I was ready for bed.
11 May 2019
The day started off with my daily FaceTime chat with Christian, this time accompanied with Matt. I can’t help but wish I was in Calgary with them. I’m so excited to get home and start out west.
I signed up for an island tour all around Phi Phi. We went to various bays and beaches, stopping for 30-40mins to snorkel and enjoy the views. It was pretty great. Like Thailand is, there are no more secrets here and every location was really busy but for good reason.
I had a very similar experience Christian had on her island tour back in the day. We took a long tail for the journey and the waves were far too big for the boat. It rocked the boat back and forth quite violently. I felt nervous, I can only imagine how the couple families felt!
An option existed to wait on the boat till night time to swim with bioluminescent plankton, which I chose. It was super cool. Snorkelling, waving your arms seeing it light up. A great way to end the day.
I took it easy at night and caught up on sleep!
10 May 2019
Today I hitched a ride on the early ferry to Ko Phi Phi. I was on the fence for Ko Phi Phi but I needed something different and although I know it’s super crowded and commercialized, I still hear decent things from travellers. So why not try it.
When I arrived, my expectations were met. McDonald’s was the first thing you saw, and I gravitated there for a Big Mac. No regrets!
I made it to my hostel and dumped all my belongings there. It’s as basic as a hostel gets, but will do the trick.
I rallied and went to the viewpoint over Ko phi phi which was really nice. This island must have been absolute paradise prior to the overdevelopment, yet somehow still holds its beauty despite a ridiculous amount of infrastructure and people.
Later, back at the hostel about 10 of us hung out with some drinks and half of us checked out the famous beach party scene. It really was wild but us old geezers were not quite on that level! Enjoyed a potent, infamous bucket and it was bed after!
9 May 2019
I woke up and was tested pretty early how serious I was about rain or shine. It looked as though it could pour any minute, and sure enough, it did!
I waited out the heavy downpour and took off for Tonsai beach. You can access this separated beach a couple ways, one of which is a jungle trek, and I once again underestimated the jungle trek. Man I find them sketchy, just not used to the sounds, and to make it more interested, monkeys were overhead watching curiously...
I walked rather quickly and made it to the other side after about 30 mins. Tonsai is a super hippy spot where climbers flock to, and for good reason. It’s sandwiched between huge walls and a sweet beach. It was really nice
On the way back I walked around the beach side, which again included some trekking because the tide was in
Chilled at Railay West Beach until the rain started and walked my soggy self back to the hostel.Hung out there with some people for remainder of the day, bumming around. Off to Phi Phi tomorrow
8 May 2019
Today was a nothing day. After a couple nights on the drinks I didn’t have much energy and on top of that, it rained heavily all day! So a good excuse for me to be lazy.
I chilled, watched Netflix and read my book. In the evening, the French Canadian couple from Koh Tao, Sam and Olivia, net yo with me at the hostel for a beer and we went for supper.
We trailed many different dishes and hung out for a couple hours. Was nice to catch up with them. They too really like Railay.
After I simply went back to the hostel and called it a night. I’ll do some exploring tomorrow, rain or shine.
7 May 2019
Today I finally got the chance to climb outdoors. It didn’t start off on the right foot. Woke up to no alarm only to find out I had 10 minutes to make it to the meeting place. I quickly brushed my teeth and grabbed only the essentials, making it fashionably late.
Because of the rain and time of season, there was only myself and another couple beginning with a guide, so we got to climb a fair bit. I completed 3 routes, I’d say they were quite easy, and on the 4th couldn’t get it. My hands at that point we’re toast. 3 fingers had the skin completely off and another was about to go. No tape could save the day.
I loved it though, as I expected. Hope out west I can get out and keep trying it.
I rested for a bit in the afternoon, sank some beers poolside, and off we went to a Muay Thai fight. That was a laugh. Amateur at best local Thai fighters throwing bombs at each other. The last fight had an epic knockout. A fun night for sure.
6 May 2019
After the ferry it was about a 3 hour mini bus ride to Ao Nang, from there a quick 10 minute long tail boat ride to Railay.
My immediate impression of Railay was stunning. White sand beaches surrounded by limestone castles, it provides such a nice landscape scheme.
I roamed around and started to get my bearings here. Rock climbing is popular here, and I found a beach where groups of climbers were taking their turn on the walls. That beach also has one the strangest beach shrines I’ve seen. Two separate caves have wooden dicks of all shapes and sizes there. It’s a strange local Thai tradition in this area for fisherman and it’s supposed to bring eternal fertility and good seasons? Who knows.
In the evening I met a couple guys and we had drinks and signed up for a pub crawl. I had no intent on going to any pubs because I booked a climbing session in the morning so instead took advantage of the open bar until it closed. Climbing tomorrow!
5 May 2019
It was time to say goodbye to Koh Tao. I really enjoyed my time here. Thailand hadn’t necessarily impressed me to be honest, but Koh Tao offered something new and exciting to get me jazzed up again.
I had to check out around 11 and my ferry didn’t leave until 9 at night. I spent the day hanging out at the beach, reading my book, and taking necessary breaks in the water.
I chose to take overnight transport to save a night accommodation and get the one last day in Koh Tao. The sleeper ferry was pretty interesting. I’d been on sleeper buses but a sleeper ferry was a first. I hadn’t given it much thought but I think quite a few people were seasick. The boat rocked back and forth significantly, but luckily I was all good and slept well all things considering. It was tight in space, that’s for sure.
Next stop, Railay!
4 May 2019
Early morning rise and dive! My first dive without an instructor. Sam and Olivia joined which was nice, made the first time feel more comfortable and my dive buddy ended up being a Canadian as well, from Vancouver. Good dude.
The dives went really well, and I didn’t have any issues. I was comfortable with the equipment checks/set up which was where most of my nerves came from. It’s intimidating being very new to something and to others, it’s second nature. But the community of people are really cool and helpful.
After, myself and the fella from Vancouver grabbed lunch and shared a big tower of beer. Beer always fits in nice after something exciting, so we hung out and finished that off. Picked up a small buzz and to the beach we went to cool off!
A nap followed late in the afternoon before heading to supper with Sam and Olivia. Tonight they are heading to Railay, my next stop on the itinerary as well. I’ll be leaving for Railay tomorrow night!
3 May 2019
Because I’ve spent the first few days more or less in the water and at Big Blue, I decided to rent a scooter and explore as much of the island as I could.
Koh Tao has really grown on me. Originally I thought it was a little overrun but immediately after getting off the Main Street from the pier, the island opens up to a paradise. It was a non stop day beach hopping. First I checked out the John Suwan viewpoint. It may have been the hottest I felt in my entire life but worth every bead of sweat. Was such an epic view!
From there I continued to scooter around, stopping off at beaches. I got to 4 different beaches. I’d stop in, jump in the water, dry off, and move on. The water is so nice here. Turquoise hues for days. The island life is alright, beats work I’d say!
I signed up for a couple morning dives tomorrow, meaning an early morning. I was pretty toast from the sun so I packed it in early. The Canadian couple, Sam and Olivia, decided to join as well which will be fun!
2 May 2019
Today was the final day of the course and now I’m officially open water certified. An exciting day for sure! Definitely the right decision to do it, opens up new travel options and best of all, Christian has hers so now we can plan to do it together!
We completed two dives today in the morning.Both were really nice. Again, endless amounts of fish and the feeling of weightlessness is so addicting. It’s quite amazing how comfortable you can start to feel even after only a few dives.
After we completed our dives, our group had some drinks to celebrate until we grew tired of sitting.We left for a beach and spent the afternoon cooling off in the water, chilling, and enjoyed a nice sunset with a beer in hand. We all got along really well towards the end of the course making the experience much better!
We had supper together and said our goodbyes. One couple is heading back to Australia tomorrow, the other is sticking around Koh Tao for a bit so likely see them a few more times.Great day!
1 May 2019
This morning we finished our class portion of the course and capped it off with a written test. Very easy, typical multiple choice that feels impossible to fail.
The afternoon was what we were all waiting for, and come to find out, for good reason. I was nervous with anticipation and excitement to jump in. The boat got to it’s site and everyone scrambled into gear and completed buddy checks to ensure everything was set up ok under the watchful eye of our instructor.
We jumped in and descended. No one in our group had problems equalizing which was nice, leaving more time to explore. We flew through the water. A weightless, zero gravity feeling that was incredible. Like nothing else and a while new world. I immediately fell in love with it.
We completed two dives at two different sights, viewing big schools of fish,massive groupers, endless vibrant Tropical fish, and colourful coral.
It was an epic introduction. Pumped for tomorrow’s dives already!
30 April 2019
Today was a long day, but necessary. First we geared up and learned about how the scuba kit works, followed by 5-6 hours straight in the pool running exercises of potential situations that could happen at sea.
We started off simply breathing continuously underwater. The worst thing you can do due to pressure reasons is hold your breath. Next we practised taking our regulators out and replace, filling mask of water and clear, taking our masks off and back on, no air situations, buddy helped ascents, emergency no air procedures, and buoyancy control. All under water
It was a lot, but super informative and with every minute below the pool surface you become more comfortable and you’re breathing becomes more natural. Scuba is extremely interesting, everything is meant to be calm and controlled. Just breathe, if you can’t breathe, get to your buddy and breathe there. No problem they say!
We capped it off with academics and videos. Tomorrow our first sea dive happens! So excited!
29 April 2019
I arrived in Koh Tao today after 6 or so hours of travel time. The size of the island took me off guard initially, I had thought it was a really small island. It quite big meaning lots to explore.
I got shuttled to Big Blue Diving and checked in to both my dorm and course. Filled out lots of paperwork and in the evening we had our first class. Orientation more or less with a few videos. We did cover some material but really generic stuff, all of which whether it’s generic or not is new to me!
There are 6 in the class, plus the instructor. Seems like a good group and I’m sure we’ll gel better as we learn to know one another.
Tomorrow morning we’re in the pool to work on the basics and become familiar with how the gear works. Afternoon is videos and academics. Supposed to be a long 8 hour day or so. Although not overly exciting to be on the pool, I’m anxious to breathe underwater!
28 April 2019
Another travel day. I flew from Chiang Mai to Surat Thani in order to catch a ferry to the Koh Tao. Because my flight didn’t get in till supper time, all ferries departed and I was forced to stay a night there.
Although not the most exciting day, I did get a private room with my own AC and bathroom. That itself was quite nice. I watched Netflix and then FaceTimed with Christian for a while!
Tomorrow my ferry leaves around 9am and my dive course orientation starts that evening. I’m excited!
27 April 2019
I left Pai at noon on a mini bus full of anxious travellers because of the 762 turns ahead of us, majority down hill. Like last time, I felt the effects but rode it out and there were no issues.
Checked into the hostel in Chiang Mai with only one plan in mind, the movies! Chiang Mai has an English theatre and was playing the new Avengers movie. Great movie, great popcorn, and best of all, 3 hours of AC! Felt a bit like home too, a plus.
FaceTimed with Christian in the evening which felt needed. Starting to miss home and almost feeling a little anxious to get back. Thailand hasn’t provided any wow factor yet.
I’ve decided though, after chatting with Christian, that I’m going to get open water certified in Koh Tao. I debated the diving thing, but I need something different to energize me! This will certainly provide it.
With the decision, I immediately felt motivated and stoked to start progressing to the islands tomorrow!
26 April 2019
First thing I did today was check my phone,and as mentioned, it worked! Couple small issues noted. Headphone jack doesn’t work nor does listening through your ear, but speaker does so calls are still available.
I took my scooter on a more pleasant drive to Tham Lot Cave. It was about 1.5 hrs through winding, hairpin turns on a well maintained road. Similar to Hai Van pass without the sketchy highway! Was able to just cruise at my own speed and pace with minimal traffic making a nice drive.
Tham Lot Cave was cool. You have to hire a “guide” to bring you through. The guide was a little old Thai lady with a oil lamp that spoke about 20 English words. They included “watch you head/step” and whatever animal the stalagmites or stalactites resembled. Pretty comical actually.
I rode back just in time to watch hockey, accompanied with beers and of course, Doogle. A few others joined and we all got along really well so out for late night food we went. Good last night in Pai!
25 April 2019
Well. Today there’s something to talk about. I couldn’t have completed this journi on the day of if I tried, and here’s why.
Today I wanted to go to one of Pai’s waterfalls. There are 3 in total, 2 are dried up. The one that isn’t is way off in the jungle somewhere, but I was going to find it.
I did minimal research, read an article or two but not much. My fault, but a group of 4 where going to a waterfall too and they said to meet them at the trail head, which google maps has. I assumed they knew enough.
I drove to where google takes me and no sign of them. I figured they must have went on, so I did too. The pavement turned to dirt road, dirt road to trail, and trail to off road with stream crossings. It didn’t strike me as odd because I knew from the brief research I was going to have to cross a small stream or two. No big.
But I just kept going and the streams were getting bigger. Things were getting weird and I was pretty deep in the jungle alone.
After rocking my scooter through a stream that the water was coming over the foot rest area, I said enough is enough and I would continue on foot. So I parked the scooter and kept going.
I likely walked for 30 mins or so crossing another 10+ streams and saw no signs of a previous group. Of course, it’s severe dry season so the leaves on the ground next to the trail crack with every movement an insect, lizard, or potential SNAKE makes. I had a few moments where I picked my ankles up pretty quick! I was getting paranoid now...time to turn around.
I made it back to the scooter and turned around. Tried to check my whereabouts on the phone. No service. I left though and recognized the streams I crossed. Eventually I wanted to check to see if I had service and noticed I had no phone. Shit, it must have fell out of my pocket! I turned around and back at the closest stream to me it was laying fully submerged. I’d say anywhere from 3-5 minutes.
Somehow it was still on and useable, which is good because I needed to know how to get back to Pai. I got back, bought rice, and let my phone soak in it till the next day. Obviously because I’m writing this, it worked!!!
What a day. I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to figure out what my next moves were if the phone didn’t work. Which was highly likely given the time it spent in the water. I’m just happy it worked out. Would have been brutal to deal with that.
Oh and as for the other group, turns out they meant a different waterfall...and one crashed their scooter on the way.
24 April 2019
After waking up and grabbing a bite, myself and the Boston couple impatiently waited for Doogle to arrive at the start of his shift for game 7, taking care to check no social media!
It was a lot of fun watching the game but wished for a better outcome. Leafs lost once again to the Bruins. Here’s to next season right?
After I went to a landsplit location. An earthquake occurred and literally split the land which is scary to think about! It occurred on a farmers land, now making it unfit for use however the farmer now serves free juice and snacks and invites people to check it out for free. He is a really nice man eager to talk to all that visit. Luckily there is a donation bin to help him out!
From there I went to Pai Canyon for sunset. It was awesome. A network of ridge walking with no set path, just exploring until to find your sunset location, which was beautiful.
Sad twist, my tripod is now broken beyond repair. Not sure how that happened. Oh well, is what it is.
23 April 2019
A 3 hour bus happened today, from Chiang Mai to Pai. The road consists of 762 turns and it tested my motion sickness resistance. It all worked out, but there were some dodgy moments!
I got to my hostel, Happy Home, and settled in. The place is great, but I’m bias because the guy who runs it, Doogle, is a huge hockey fan and plays the games on a 45” tv the next day. Tomorrow the leafs play game 7, so we all agreed on a time and will be watching it tomorrow. A Boston couple is in company, so all evening we talked shop about the outcome. Here’s hoping.
I did manage to get to Lookout, but it’s quite smoky here. The end of dry season and fires are burning. Whomp whomp.
The hostel that night had drinking games and it turned into a really good night. I showed up and went to work, demonstrating I’ve played a game or two in my day!
We went out but a few of us wiser crowd left earlier in search of food. Bed at a decent time. In all, a good first look at Pai.
22 April 2019
Pictures part 1
Today was a travel day, but I salvaged it with some sight seeing. I set my alarm and left for the grand palace for open. Because a Buddha is present, the palace requires pants and a shirt to cover up, in the heat, I felt like I was melting!
The palace itself is really impressive. Very cool Thai architecture. I managed to beat most tourists but many flooded the gates at open and before long, the place was super packed. Rightfully so of course, it does warrant a visit and is really beautiful.
I made it back in time to check out and grab the bus to the airport. Everything during this travel day went smoothly and I could leave the parka in my bag!
I arrived in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, and sought after their staple dish, Khao soi. By far my favourite Thai food to date. Egg noodles with meat, topped with crispy fried noodles in a coconut cream curry soup. Amazing! I ordered two bowls...
Night market for the evening and off to Pai tomorrow!
Pictures part 2
21 April 2019
Today was a lesson learned and a wasted day. My second night out in Bangkok basically left me crippled, leaving me only to leave the hostel long enough to eat and drink water. In addition, Thailand isn’t exactly cheap. It may be to westerners, but in relation to Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, shit is expensive.
I did manage to get to a famous pad Thai place called Thipsamui pad Thai, one I read about on the internet and a personal recommendation from a friend, Costa. It was tasty for sure, but my state wasn’t one to be easily satisfied and the hour wait felt crushing.
It’s so hot here that hangovers are simply not worth it. At 40+ degrees you can’t recover and move on. What a day it was battling against the heat and hangover. The worst to be honest, will take the wind out of your sails!
I booked my flight out of here tomorrow, so plan is to hit up the grand palace early AM followed by a flight to Chiang Mai. See how she goes!
20 April 2019
Today started off a little groggy from the night before, but wasn’t bad. I made my way to the 7-eleven where I had my first toasty experience for breakfast. Various pre packaged sandwiches that the employee put on a George Forman grill essentially. They’re very common amongst the backpacker community, and a cheap budget way of eating zero nutrition. Perfect. Off we go!
I thought I would get some exercise and walk about 10k to a big weekend market Bangkok hosts. Mistake. I made it about 5k, stubborn as hell to do what I set out to do, and then succumbed to the heat. It was over 40 degrees. Stinking hot!
I jumped on the back of a scooter, wandered around while chatting with Christian until growing tired of the market, not Christian of course!
I later visited a bar that has amazing views of wat arun across the lake at sunset. It was really cool. Sat and chatted with a cat from Korea, shared a couple beer and went separate ways.
Another night out in Bangkok. Place is on wheels!
19 April 2019
My time in Nepal has come to an end. What an amazing place, one that I surely will revisit many times. Makes me excited to get back home to be honest and live in the mountains!
But before that happens, off to Thailand. I had a slow pace morning and nonchalantly made my way to the airport like I have so many times. Waited, got to the counter, and curveball was thrown. I found out why my ticket was so cheap to Thailand. No checked baggage was included meaning 17USD per kg, my checked bag is 13kg. Shit
So apparently I was allowed 10kg carry on. Let the skeety backpacker in me go to work. I threw out anything I didn’t feel I absolutely needed. Put my boots on, wore my down jacket with books, charging gear, and whatever else would fit in it with my camera bag around my chest. I was a sight to see. Now, my new checked bag consists of 1 bag of clothes, hygiene things and so on, all in Christians lulu lemon bag. I got it down to 2kg, incurring a cost of 34USD and some airport stares
After that ordeal, I did make it to Bangkok. What a change. Feels so modern and western. I almost became accustomed to pretty poor conditions. Nepal, India and Sri Lanka did not look anything like this, especially Nepal!
It’s a welcomed change though. I ate Burger King, my first burger since New Zealand? I haven’t ate meat for 2 months!
I met a few guys at the hostel and we had drinks. Left for the might market/bar street called Khao Son. It was a great time. That place is crazy.
18 April 2019
Over the last few days, there isn’t much to report on, so this one post will sum it up. Each day I was greeted to a nice free breakfast, I showered everyday, ate good food, and relaxed with Netflix and books. I’ve been reading Harry Potter actually, my inner geek surfacing, but I really like the books!
What may be most important during my relaxing time, is I finally had my first taste of playoff hockey, and did so every morning. For the leafs game I’ve been getting up at 4:45 am to watch a stream. 2-2 in the series, pretty exciting and I’m pumped playoff hockey is back in the picture for me. Reading up on it just isn’t enough. I’ll likely continue the trend of streaming wherever feasible.
The time has let me properly catch up with Christian and my parents. It was tough being where I was, extremely secluded at times so it means the world to see them and hear how things have been going!
A new chapter tomorrow. Really stoked to get back to Southeast Asia, cheap beer, and chop sticks!
15 April 2019
Finally, made it back to Kathmandu, and safely. After all that happened, I made a decision to take the earliest flight they could get me on to maximize my chances of getting out. This however meant I wouldn’t fly to Kathmandu because of runway repairs there.
Instead, I flew to Ramechap, another ridiculously small airport. From there, 5 of us(including Matt) teamed together and haggled a van back to Kathmandu. Not the best 4 hour drive, but not the worst, and the main thing was being on the ground progressing!
When I got back to Kathmandu I decided to get a private with my own bathroom. Treat yo self! I showered for a long time, only to find out my feet still smelled after... that will work itself out!
Felt so good to be back to civilization. I endlessly ate food I couldn’t otherwise, watched Netflix, and read my book. I made it!
14 April 2019
Today was tragic. A sad day and one unfortunately I’ll never forget.
It started with myself and the Dutch couple arriving at the airport for our flights. Planes were flying at an alarming rate. True mayhem Lukla style but it was exciting to see, and the optimistic feeling of leaving felt great.
We made it past bag check, got our boarding passes, and we’re waiting to board when I heard it. A rumble, a bang, and screams. I ran to the window and saw the smoke. A plane crashed.
Everyone ran out to the crash sight, including myself. It was chaotic with no control coming from the airport. It felt as if the entire town off Lukla left to be there.
I witnessed sights I wish I never had. 4 people died today as a result. Devastating. Everyone confused and in shock. On take off, the plane swerved out of control veering to the right onto the heli pad area, completely ran over a chopper.
Remaining flights were cancelled. Tomorrow my flight leaves at 6:30. I expect a sleepless night tonight
13 April 2019
Today I tried to leave Lukla and get back to civilization, a thought I’ve been fantasizing over for the last few days. Good food, a shower, clean clothes, etc. I’m a dirtbag. Period.
Long story short, the flight didn’t leave. There were a few that made it out today but not mine. It made for a long ass day waiting with no information being provided. To say the Lukla airport is unorganized would be disrespectful to the meaning of disorganized.
Luckily, I befriended a Dutch couple to hang out with. Unluckily we then befriended the weirdest person I may have met in my life. Serious head issues. Dark, creepy, hyper, and way to philosophical for his own good. A Russian immigrant to America, his simple job history is even alarming. Fired from Walmart, Dunkin’ donuts, and McDonald’s! A snap away from being on CNN I’d say.
Either way, he provided mild entertainment until I couldn’t handle him anymore and went to bed. Tomorrow we try again, feeling optimistic!
12 April 2019
And today I’m back where it all started! Lukla and the infamous airport. Was an easy 2.5 hour hike, especially as I whistled the whole way after a big Leafs game 1 win!
I crushed a big plate a momo’s, the nepalis version of dumplings. I’ve grown quite fond of them, slightly addicting to eat! I’ll be honest, the craving for meat is real, and I’ve internally debated a couple times, however I will stay strong and stick to the plan. I’ve yet to be sick so something is working, not eating meat is one of them.
It was an extremely slow day with no book and nothing to do. I got my flight switched to tomorrow so I was able to hope and dream my flight will actually leave on time, and besides that, I ate whatever I could get my hands on. I was bottomless.
I did however change my boredom to a productive attitude and began drafting thoughts for my resume. With all be down time I have left in my trip, my goal is to come home and simply put the resume together!
11 April 2019
Today I made my decision to descend and begin the way back to Lukla. Left Thame relatively early with a stop in Namche after a couple hours for some food.
I continued to push on all the way to Phakding. It was a long day but I made great headway, leaving only a 2-3 day tomorrow! Weather was great and I felt light on my feet, despite some blisters bothering me. It was a nice feeling descending past familiar sights, reminiscing about the adventure I had just completed. The one remaining unknown is how difficult it will be to get out of Lukla, I have a good bit of contingency so it should be ok.
I got settled in a lodge and put the feet up for the evening. Completed my book and went to bed early. Playoff hockey has started and it kills me not to be home with all the hype. Leafs play tomorrow morning for me, I’ll be anxious to see how they make out!
10 April 2019
Today I made my way to Thame. A little Sherpa village located beyond any typical trekking routes.
The hike there was more difficult than expected, not because it long or steep, but because I’m thinking my legs are towards the end of what they want to do!
After 3 hours I arrived. The little village was picturesque. Really, really nice. I’d say by far the most serene. Man well kept stone homes and lodges with stone fences segregating land for yaks. Big mountains pano’d around it. It was really quite something.
I really didn’t have anything to do there. Roamed around with my book and found a vantage point to read. Was nice enough that you could sit outside and enjoy the sun.
Although everything was perfect, I felt a little anxious. Likely a result of the quiet after all the hype and push up the mountains, combined with missing Christian and home. These days will come and go, it’s natural!
9 April 2019
Today was another day in Namche. A rest day to just keep the feet up and really not do much.
I purchased a book and made a decent dent in it and went to a few bars that play free movies about the Everest region. Sat through two movies drinking tea and eating popcorn.
I have a fair bit of time before my scheduled flight and my feet feel like they need to move. I’ll head up into a small Sherpa village called Thame that’s supposed to be quite nice and off the beaten path. Spend a night there and descent back to the Lukla airport the next few days after.
I’d rather get back to Kathmandu sooner than later in order to take care of some things before heading to Thailand and we all know how unreliable the Lukla airport can be!
8 April 2019
Today we all made it make to Namche. Where the excitement truly set in a couple weeks ago in pursuit of higher elevations and intense mountains. A really nice day compared to the snow day yesterday, a welcomed change.
After 5 hours, with a pep in our step, we made it. I said my final goodbyes to Timmy and Eva over a hot drink and snack in Namche before they carried on. What a couple to meet. Couldn’t be more grateful to have had their company and I really do hope I get to see them again. Slovenia seems like a nice place, outdoorsy, mountains, etc. We joked that next time I see them, I’ll have a crib board and maple syrup as a gift!
I had my first shower today in 15 days or so. What a feeling! Like a new man. Feeling fresh I continued to treat myself to a few beer, pizza, Pringle’s, snickers, you name it. There was no place for a budget!
It’s surreal being back here again. I was constantly greeted with waves of accomplishment and gratification. I let it all soak in!
7 April 2019
As planned, 4:45 alarm started yelling at me to get up and face the cold to summit Gokyo Ri.
I got dressed, put my headlamp on, and ventured out into the dark, immediately greeted by snow. It must have snowed the majority of the night. For a minute, I debated scurrying back to the warmth of my sleeping back but after a minute, decided I would complete what I set out to do.
It was a steep, relentless climb for 2 hours all the while trying to navigate in the snow with just a headlamp for light. A tough challenge but I’m super excited that I completed it. May not have been the epic view I wanted so badly, but a different sense of gratification came from it. I made it to the top, not letting the dark, cold, or snow stop me. It was a good experience.
I said my goodbyes to Timmy and Eva last night but I was back down just in time to catch them for breakfast! I quickly ate and immediately saddled up to go to Dole. The descent begins. And would it ever prove to be difficult.
Our plan was to make it to Dole, we were successful, however it took everything in me to push for the 5 hours in the cold, snowy conditions.
The climb in the morning junked my legs, and about a half hour into the trek I already felt fatigued. Knowing I physically didn’t have it, it quickly turned to a mental game. Just keep walking. One foot in front of the other. Christians little joke that I was her little Sherpa, whatever it took to make my legs move.
We finally made it. What a relief! When it was over, I was happy for that day. I needed a day like that to test the limits, see where my head was at, understand what level of grind was in me. Not every day in the mountains is supposed to be easy or picture perfect, you need to earn those days!
Timmy, Eva, and I hung out for the rest of the day and I even got a chance to chat with Christian! It felt like so long, was the pick me up I needed!
6 April 2019
Today was a rest day at Gokyo, and turned out to be a snowy one anyway so I didn’t do much. Wandered around the village looking for a bargain on charging. I found one cafe that would charge free for an hour with a purchase so I sat there, read a book with a coffee until that coffee was up.
Later I did eventually find a decent spot to charge my external. The afternoon was admittedly boring but really needed. I finished by book “into the Wild” and played crib with Eva. Lots of crib. Timmy is just so content reading it’s insane to me!
The weather shows rain and show for the next 10 days... ouch. I’ve made a decision however that tomorrow morning I’m getting up and summitting Gokyo Ri and then moving on from Gokyo. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the view that is supposed to be spectacular will appear! You don’t if you don’t try. Alarm is set for 4:45am. Here’s to hoping!
5 April 2019
Today was the day. The day I crossed Cho La pass. I’ve thought about this day a lot, mainly because it has had me uncomfortable and uneasy based on the nature of the pass.
We set off at 6:30 knowing today was likely going to be 8+ hours and the earlier you cross the pass the better your chances of risk free success. In addition to this, a snow front is coming so our window in narrow, we needed to move swiftly.
We approached the pass and began our climb to the top, about 5420m in elevation. The climb was steep, and at times a scramble was needed using hands and feet, however conditions could not have been better! No wind, blue skies, it was amazing. Scenery to keep you motivated, I felt like I could have ran up it, pack on and all!
We reached the first false summit, took pictures and added spikes to our boots to traverse across a sloped, snowy section of mountain. Intense! In the photos if you look close you’ll see tiny people balancing on the sloped wall of snow!
After we climbed a steep rock formation, we were at the top! We took our time and enjoyed the view. Now for the descent.
We scurried down the other side of the pass and it eventually levelled out, but generally speaking we descended constantly, and what seemed like forever. I actually put tunes on for extra motivation around hour 6. Pack was feeling heavy.
We made it to a village that informed us Goyko was another 2 hours further, so the push continued. By this time temperatures were dropping and clouds forming. We got off trail, and about 20 minutes later noticed causing us to backtrack
The hardest part of the day was when we had to make a glacier crossing.Ups and downs of snow, gravel and rock. Torturous on the legs and a tough trail to follow. At one point I actually fell over, no issues, camera was safe
Eventually we made it. What a relief!! After doing that, we all agreed we would never try that in bad conditions. I felt lucky to have Eva and Timmy, it was difficult!
4 April 2019
Today I joined Eva and Timmy(Temo) to travel from Gorak Shep to Dzongla to set up for the Cho La pass. Rule number 1 is never cross a pass alone, and after climbing Kala Patthar with these two, I’m comfortable crossing with them.
The trek lost altitude, passing my Lobuche where we previously slept, and broke right crossing a frozen pond away from the main path. The hike was about 4 hours, nothing very strenuous but after such a significant day yesterday, a bit of exhaustion is setting in.
We retraced our steps for the most part, but we did scale a slopped hill after the pond with Cholaste in our view. A very featured mountain. We made it to Dzongla, set up at the lodge and relaxed for tomorrow’s endeavour. The biggest yet.
Weather looks clear and likely the last permissible day to cross the pass. We need to leave early and travel swiftly to avoid the snow front coming in! We organized ourselves for a 6:30am departure and off to bed, Cho La pass heavily in mind.
3 April 2019
Today was a monster of a day, divided into 3 significant parts. The first, I hiked from Lobuche to Gorek Shep. The highest place I’ll sleep during my time here at 5140m. What a milestone, made it higher than 5000m!
I’d say it took about 2.5 hours. I moved quick knowing today was likely going to be a big day. The Khumbu Glacier was in my right, a massive, aggressive form of ice stretching all the way from Everest!
As I moved, giants like Pumo Ri and Nuptse appeared and felt to be within touching distance. The scenery, as always, is remarkable.
In Lobuche, myself, the US couple & Slovenia couple agreed to go for the Yeti lodge at Gorek Shep based on recommendations.
I got there first. Gorek Shep is the highest and coldest of all lodges. The outside temp is the inside. Toilets were frozen over and no running water because it’s all frozen too!
I got a room, lightened my pack, and off I went for Everest Base Camp!
I raced towards base camp, feeling light with about 25 pounds off my back. On the way I got close up looks at Nuptse. What a beautiful mountain that is.
And then finally, I made it to base camp. What an accomplishment. I was standing amongst tents where people stay as expeditions embark on their dreams. Surreal to be there and see it for my own eyes, including the Khumbu icefall where the climb starts, arguably one of the most dangerous aspects of the climb.
Basecamp was maybe an hour and a half away, and to everyone’s surprise(didn’t do their homework) you can’t see Everest from basecamp. So peasants were whining at the lodge because it wasn’t what they expected but I could care less, basecamp is at 5364m, the highest I have ever been, and a dream come true to witness with my own eyes!
My stomach hurried me back to the lodge for a big feed. Starving! Weather remained good, so I rested because I’m pushing myself up Kala Patthar for sunset!
For me, one of the most rewarding things I’ve done was climb Kala Patthar. Weather was good, and scrambling to the top of Kala Patthar is how you get your view of Everest. Originally, I planned for sunrise, but after talking with others, sunset provides better lighting
So after an already big day, I suited up for pursuit of sunset over Everest and Nupste. The Slovenian couple, Eva and Timmy, also decided to grind it out!
Kala Patthar is a a physical/mental grind, especially after already hiking for 5 hours. Plus all of this is over 5000m where air is thin. We pulled ourselves up and celebrated at the top. The highest point in my life, 5550m.
The views where the best I’ve seen, but maybe I was bias because of how hard I worked for it. Clouds covered the valleys as peaks soared through. Everest and Nupste looked to be smoking from their tips. A magical moment I’ll never forget!
I networked my way down using my headlamp and treated myself to a massive feed. What a day!
2 April 2019
Today I moved on, still feeling good. After speaking with many, no one is stopping in Dukla as I planned, and instead push all the way to Lobuche. Because I feel good, better than most, I too followed this plan. Saves me a day and gets me that much closer!
The day was strenuous but conditions cooperated all day. Again, I left super early and beat the clouds. There was one tough, 1 hour climb but my feet kept moving and to the top I went.
I arrived in Lobuche in great time. Found a spot to eat/stay and relaxed all afternoon. Lobuche sits at 4930m so I watched all the altitude signs closely, but still feeling great.
Luckily, a few people from Dingboche chose this teahouse to so we played cards and hung out. I was taught a different version of rummy and I taught them crib! A pair from the US and Slovenia. Unfortunately the US guy is super ill. Looks awful and I’m crushed for him. So close! They don’t know what they will do. Pushing on seems sketchy.
A great day and tomorrow I climb
1 April 2019
Today was an acclimatization day, so I I put in a big hike gaining elevation with a light pack. I made my way to Chukrung, a tiny little village with maybe 2 teahouses.
The hike followed the Imja Valley the entire way, slowly ascending to Chukrung at about 4750m. I warmed up with a black tea and continued on. This time, I crossed the small river and continued down the valley on the opposite side back in the direction I came from. No real trail, only me navigating my way down, it was a pretty cool feeling.
I crossed back over the river and decided to gain elevation by scrambling up a ridge to get a great shot of the backside of Amadablam and surrounding mountains. As if I needed more, the views were already ridiculous!
I made my way back to my stay and had a hearty lunch, at this point I was quite hungry. Spent time at the bakery in the afternoon charging items while sipping tea and coffee.
Watched a flick the teahouse put on, followed by supper and bed. Tomorrow I push higher!
31 March 2019
Today I move on to Dingboche at about 4430m. The walk today compared to others was easy. Only took about 2.5 hours with one good climb at the end. Of course, altitude will have you breathless but so far my body has been adapting very well, I credit that to the prioritization of acclimatization over rest for the legs.
The weather couldn’t have been better. Warm enough to have no jacket, but cool enough to keep a fleece on without sweating from the inside out! Trees at this elevation are no more, simply some rugged bushes.
The walk offered some spectacular views of high peaks with a fresh dump of snow. Magical really. I’m in constant awe of my surroundings.
I got settled at a Lodge, and received a tip of a bakery that will allow free charging of devices if you spend 500 RS. I spent the afternoon drinking coffee and charging what I could. The wifi and charging is proving to be harder to manage than expected.
In the evening I ate big and plan to put in an acclimatization day tomorrow!
30 March 2019
Last night it struck me that I’m in the village that has the side trail to Amadablam basecamp, a milestone I wanted to achieve. It had advantages of doing it today, so I decided why not. It will acclimatize me gaining 750m and my legs felt up to it
The only thing about today was a weather front was coming in, and shortly after ascending, clouds were visibly forming behind me. I kicked it into high gear and pushed up the 750m ascent in just over 2 hours! I feel amazing, like a magnetic pull is always pushing me to the top of these elevations
I took lots of pictures of the trail and tried to memorize landmarks because visibility could be lost and snow could cover the already faint trail. This added an element of excitement and weariness
I made it to basecamp. 4600m in the air, and was the only one there to enjoy it for an entire hour. It was bliss. 5 minutes after arriving, incredible cloud formations continuously covered and dissipated around surrounding peaks
Luckily I got a few shots of Amadablam up close when I first arrived, but it was socked in for the duration of my stay.
I didn’t want to push my luck waiting, so I descended quickly and made it back. What a feeling to complete that milestone, one that at times had me nervous being alone and watching clouds chase you. It’s experiences like this that increases your skills in the mountains.
I relaxed the rest of the day, reading, nap, and eating. In the evening we huddled around a fireplace that burns yak shit for warmth, chatted, and broke off for bed. Tomorrow I move on to Dingboche where I’ll stay for a couple nights acclimatizing, sleeping above 4000m!
29 March 2019
Left Namche today and had originally planned to go to Tengboche, however after speaking with many, it sounded as though I should push further for Pangboche, and that’s what I did
Beautiful conditions all day with great visibility. It felt as though with every step Amadablam become more apparent and proud
I happened to meet another solo hiker, he’s from the US and a professional photographer. We maintained the same pace and conversation was easy. He actually does many photo workshops in the Rockies so is very knowledgeable in the Banff and Jasper area
The hike was quite gentle with a slight downslope for the first two hours, never a good sign. Soon, it was a 1.5 hour switch back climb. 30 pounds hanging off my back climbing at the highest elevation I have been was a grind. My feet just kept moving and eventually the top was reached. For all my body has already been through, it feels great!
I don’t know buddy’s name... but he and I grabbed lunch after the climb at Tengboche
The second leg of the race was easy compared to the hill and it felt as though we could practically run. We made it to Pangboche and found a teahouse suitable for stay.
That evening, we got talking to the owner of the lodge. He told us he has summited Everest once, his oldest boy has summited Everest 6 times, 8 of the 14 worlds 8000m+ peaks, and Amadablam 7 times. His second youngest has reached the summit of Everest 3 times and is now at base camp to help a NZ expedition.
Then the oldest son came in to eat and the questions and stories flowed. To say I was in awe in an understatement. The thing is, I couldn’t help but feel a little down. These Sherpa people are nearly never recognized for their feats. A foreigner could never reach the summit without the help of the Sherpa and here is this family with 10 Everest summits under their belt. Back home they would be famous, sponsored, and on talk shows and cereal boxes.
The way it is I guess. Was still an incredible experience!
28 March 2019
Today was an acclimatization/rest day. I succeeded in acclimatizing, not so much on rest.
I was out the door by 5 and walked to the viewpoint I went to yesterday, this time for sunrise. I was there far too early, but it let me watch the full transition from night to day. The first valley to illuminate was home to Everest, Amadablam, and Nuptse. Surreal seeing those mountains. I waited another hour minimum to see the sun come over the highest point of mount Thamserku, finally providing light to me and Namche. As hard as it is to believe, the best service I had yet was here, so I got to catch up with both the folks and Christian.
I went back, scarfed down breakfast and warmed up. Did some last minute gear runs until lunch, and after, went for another hike. This one caught me off guard as I didn’t think it would be as significant, but I’m happy I went! I climbed to 3870m to a closer look of the three iconic mountains, and I think I saw where I have to walk tomorrow.
Tomorrow I move on
27 March 2019
Had a good sleep last night cocooned in my sleeping bag. Went to bed around 8 and up by 5. I ate breakfast and sipped coffee waiting for the sun to show. The start of the day was cold, but clear and beautiful.
Today was a tough day. 4 hours with stops, about 85% uphill totalling 1000m ascent. The legs are moving well under me and although the pack is heavy, I’m ok. Likely because I’m in awe and completely motivated but stunning scenery.
As I gained altitude, more snow appeared from the previous rain falls. As it melted, snowballs fell from overhanging tree’s, a couple making their way down my back!
As I ran out of water, and energy slowing, I made it to Namche Bazar. The biggest town along the trek situated in paradise. Pano views of giant peaks look down on you at all times.
I got settled in a Lodge, and after lunch, could hardly sit still. I climbed higher to a viewpoint and was blown away. The viewpoint is in honour of Tenzig Norguay, the first Sherpa to summit Everest
I’ll be heading back to this viewpoint tomorrow for sunrise, I’ll freeze, and it will be early, but I don’t care!
In the afternoon I went to a bar that plays a free movie every day at 3. Watched a nat geo documentary on the 50 year history of Everest, a good way to relax and kill an afternoon after a big day.
In the evening it was another early one. In bed by seven and sleeping by 9. Sunrise attempt tomorrow!
26 March 2019
Dan and I set the alarm for 4:45 to be down at the airport for 5 waiting in case the 6am flight would be first come first serve. We waited an hour but at the end of the day, the first flight in yesterday was the first to leave(ours). We were granted permission and took off!
We landed in Lukla, such a relief! The Lukla airport is a mountain perched airport with small runway sloped download off the mountain. This means landing is uphill to slow you down, and taking off is downhill to speed you up. It is after all, the most dangerous airport in the world.
I got my feet moving ASAP and was drenched for the next 2 hours. I seeked shelter and tea in Cheplung to warm up and dry off, and to my surprise, the rain stopped.
I took advantage of the clearing skies and raced to my final destination Monjo. The trek is so unique, passing by small villages and pushed around by herds of donkey and yak portering supplies.
I relaxed in the afternoon at the teahouse. I read online that if you barter with with owner you can stay for free if you agree to eat their food, and this is what I did. I was greeted to a pretty bad muscle cramp as well. Didn’t get enough electrolytes into me so I drank a litre of water full of salt. Seemed to help.
The teahouses are the same temp as outside, meaning cold when you’re not moving! I had almost all my layers on, with a blanket around me drinking hot tea to help. As I learn how to cope with it better, it will get easier.
It rained all evening which is a great sign for clear skies tomorrow. Here’s hoping, it’s a big climb tomorrow to Namche Bazaar.
25 March 2019
Couldn’t sleep last night, likely due to excitement and anticipation. Woke up at 3 am and watched The Dawn Wall to get me in the mountain mood until it was time to cab to the airport.
I fumbled through the tiny domestic airport and somehow boarded the plane to Lukla on time. 45% of scheduled flights to Lukla don’t make it... I was about to become that statistic
We were delayed on the plane for an hour, gave up and waited at the gate for another 2 until the announcement came. Within seconds people began running to the plane to hit the window. Off we went!
After about 20 minutes we landed. But it seemed too short and the airport didn’t look familiar. That’s when we were informed we couldn’t make it due to weather and landed at an unfinished airport in Phupla for weather concerns.
We waited for hours, ultimately told were spending the night in this tiny village.
Luckily I befriended, Dan. Good dude. We bunked together, chatted, and played cards to pass the long day!
24 March 2019
The bag arrived! At about 8:30am I got an email saying it was waiting at the airport. Such a relief! I picked it up and carried on with a day full of items to check off.
I got my permit, map, a book, and any last minute items I could think of. Laid out all my stuff and played a game of Tetris until it all fit away nicely. Bag weighs just over 16kg, not too bad but had hoped to be a tad bit lighter. The rest of my stuff was packed away in another back and thrown into storage at the hostel.
Starting to get really excited now that the long list of things to do is complete. Tomorrow morning I take off at 6:15am on a little prop plane into Lukla, the most dangerous airport in the world and notorious for delays due to weather. Wishing for the best is all you can do!
23 March 2019
Christian and I parted way at the airport. Never easy doing that, but we have done it so many times it’s comforting knowing this is the last time!
The travel wasn’t too long. Maybe 12 hours or so. Problem, and big problem, is my bag did not arrive... That was one of biggest concerns I had because my flight to the mountains is on the 25th, 2 days!
I had a bad feeling during my bag check and transfer, just don’t feel right. But here we are, no bag, so I started to deal with it.
Submitted a claim at the airport and contacted ReboundTag, a gift Marilu gave me that tracks your bag as it gets scanned. Now I have to sit and wait and hope for the best. Stressful.
Either way, the show must go on. I toured around Thamel picking up all my gear that couldn’t travel with me like down jacket, gloves, thermals, hats, pants, heavy socks, and rental sleeping bag. I love the vibe here, everyone bustling gearing up for the mountains. Very cool feeling to be apart of it! Please bag so up!
22 March 2019
Our last day together for the trip.Hard to believe 3 months has passed. This trip consumed us in 2018 with excitement, research, planning, etc. For it to come to a close is hard to swallow!
I myself have had the best three months of my life and having Christian there obviously helps that more than anyone. We definitely grew as a couple and as people throughout. We shared both epic and forgettable memories, but that’s what travelling is about. Sad to see her leave and to be honest, although I’m not ready to go home, I do miss home. Notable items she’ll soon enjoy are the comfort of home, friends, and family. Western food. No honking. Spoiled dogs that don’t look like they’ll take your calf for lunch, and simply put, Canada!
That being said, my journey is moving forward to Nepal. What I consider the pinnacle of my trip. Setting foot for over 3 weeks in the himalaya’s to view Everest and other 8000m+ giants. All solo. I’m excited and nervous in anticipation. The time is near!
21 March 2019
Off to Weligama for the third time in three days to work on our surfing skills! Getting better for sure, but a long way from taking in any barrels. I’m able to consistently get up and ride smaller waves and their white water all the way in. I’m cool with that, surfing never did feel like my calling!
After a rest, we foolishly decided to walk to Coconut Tree Hill in the middle of he afternoon. To say it was hot would be like saying I have a tan, an understatement. Cool spot to check out though. Had great pano views of the coast line.
We again had pizza for supper, and likely will tomorrow too. As I mentioned, over the food. Tonight is our last night together. Wild how fast it goes. Sad to think about but we put in another great day and tomorrow we’ll do the same!
Oh, I lost the 3 month long crib battle. Score was 30-26 for Christian. We’ll have to start a Calgary tally when I get home!
20 March 2019
This morning we walked to Secret beach before any others thought of it. Turned out to be a decent walk through some back roads where locals live. We were first ones there and had some time to ourselves before others started crowding in. “Secret” may not be the best way to describe a beach found on google maps!
We treated ourselves to an expensive flat white coffee. It costed more than most of our meals in Sri Lanka, but worth every penny. Coffee here is dust.
We bused our way to Weligama again for an hour surf followed by a few refreshing beverages. Tired ourselves out and back to the place to relax in the AC!
Supper consisted of pizza, a nice change from curries and local food. Starting to get a little tired of the same taste. I could barely keep my eyes open back at our place and must have been sleeping by 10!
19 March 2019
Our first full day in Mirissa and we took advantage of it! After breakfast, we walked to Weligama beach, a 5k walk, seeking a surf board and some beginner waves.
We suffered through that walk in the heat to be greeted by crashing waves with white water fit for beginners! We rented a couple boards and Christian gave me a quick tutorial of what she learned in Bali during her surf camp. Off we went.
We surfed for an hour straight. Consistent waves made it easy to catch one, get back out, and repeat. Perfect conditions for learning too. I was able to get up quote consistently on white water but not much more than that. It was a lot of fun!
We hitched a ride back to Mirissa to hang out at the beach close to our stay. Jumped in the waves all afternoon before growing tired of the sun!
Afternoon beers and crib developed, followed by a date night down at the beach for sunset and supper. An amazing full day today!
18 March 2019
Today we started our day with a walk to Silent Beach before leaving Tangalle. About a 20 minute walk or so. Nice to get the feet moving and the day started, we haven’t moved for 3 days it feels!
We had the entire beach to ourselves. It was perfect, doesn’t get much better for a morning. Sometimes you can just catch yourself laughing thinking about where you currently are in the world.
After we were done our morning, we jumped on a bus and made our way to Marrissa. The buses here are insane. By far the most aggressive drivers I’ve seen to date across all countries. It’s really nothing short of reckless to be honest but we made it there!
We got settled at our spot and walked down to the beach to cool off. New place, new beach, new vibes.
Sad to know it’s our last location together, but we’ll make the most of it over the next three days!
17 March 2019
Once again, today was much like the others however a couple noticeable changes, one being it’s St.patty’s day!
We lazed around all day, eating breakfast and lunch from the same spot and periodically cooking off in the wavy water. Played a game of afternoon crib with a couple beers and took in Tangalle beach for the last time. Tomorrow we leave for a different beach town.
We decided on our scooter ride home to check out a different beach called Gotambokka. It was much more busy but really nice. A different look than Tangalle beach. Based on what we saw, I think we made the right choice to put the majority of our days at the Tangalle beach.
We freshened up and had supper and drinks to celebrate St.Patty’s.
16 March 2019
Today looked identical to yesterday. Started our day scootering to the same beach front, while picking up the same breakfast. When you found something good you know it!
We continued our “vacation” by lazing around on the beach and cooling off in the water. Today was a little more overcast making it easier to withstand the sun.
I picked up lunch, much like the day before, at the little shop we eat breakfast at. Roti’a and samosas. They are quite tasty there!
The visa concern gained traction and eventually sorted itself out! Such a relief. I owe it all to Mom & Dad. Thanks again guys!
We tried out another little restaurant, it was good but not quite like the night before. It didn’t help that I got lit up by bugs while sitting there. Where’s the bug spray when you need it!
At this point my ethnicity is changing by the day and likely by end of day tomorrow I’ll be Sri Lankan. Maybe I’ll start avoiding the white tax on things!
15 March 2019
Today we hired a scooter from the hotel to explore Tangalle and find a place to sit our asses down for the next few days!
Christian hopped on the back and the search began. We stopped at a little local bakery and picked up the delicious coconut filled pancakes we have been eating for breakfast. Before long we found ourselves beach front with chairs and started our day with a pot of coffee and pancakes. Quite a start if you ask me.
We didn’t move all day! Just relaxed taking in UV’s and as we joked, “frolicking” in the water. Waves are pretty decent size but manageable providing a really fun pass time while cooling off!
I took the day to catch up and read about Nepal/debate how to sort out my credit card being locked. I’m unable to call them, none of the contact numbers will go through. Luckily the folks are on it and it should be sorted relatively easily. I hope anyway...
We capped the day off with a great supper at a cheap local spot and an early night. Sun takes it out of ya!
14 March 2019
Jumped in the Jeep after a hearty breakfast and off we went. We entered the park and slowly travelled down bumpy dirt roads through, at times, dense shrubs and jungle like terrain.
We slowly started spotting elephants, admiring from afar with the occasional assistance of binoculars, but not for long. We had a struck of luck and came up to an entire family of elephants. We watched them closely for a long time. What an experience watching these animals free bathing, feeding, and unconstrained.
We continued all morning watching different herds of elephants while keeping a keen eye out for the elusive leopard. No luck today, our guide had only saw one once, so if we were to be that lucky to see one, I’d rather save it for the lottery.
We witnessed crocodiles stalking hearings which proved to be very entertaining. It’s amazing how well crocodiles blend in. We often missed many the guide pointed out!
After, we took a heated sauna(bus) to Tangalle to begin our “vacation”. Beaches!!
13 March 2019
We left Ella today and took a tuk tuk down to Udawalawe. Udawalawe National Park has Jeep safaris with elephants as the main attraction, and if lucky, the hidden leopard!
We arrived in Udawalawe late afternoon and checked into Splendid Lake Safari. Finally this place seemed to know what they were doing, making check in seamless. Sri Lanka is on the point of booming but many establishments still need to learn the hospitality and organization portion of the business yet. Just experience is all, it will come as the Country takes in more tourists!
We played crib outside while watching a local fish. He caught such a big fish he had to abandon his floating device(tube) and swim the fish to shore! Entertaining to watch.
For supper we ate an amazing home cooked meal. One of the top meals thus far on the trip. My belly ache after was proof of that. Ate soooo much!
We watched a movie in bed and passed out. 6am alarm to get up and out into the park to catch the animals before it’s too hot!
12 March 2019
We woke up early to eat breakfast at 6 and on the tracks by 7. We were rewarded with our decision to get up early and beat the crowds. Nearly no one there letting us enjoy it ourselves and get good photos!
We were finished that little project by 9am so we indulged in a quality coffee. Coffee in Lanka is primarily instant so it was a treat to have a coffee with taste.
Walked around a few shops to kill time before grabbing samosa’s and roti to bring back to the homestay for lunch. The samosas were killer. So good.
We had a lazy afternoon. I sat out in the sun for awhile researching Nepal until a little burn developed. Soon at the beaches it will be all sun, all the time!
We laid down to watch something and shortly after I fell asleep. The sun and early AM got to me I’d say. The rest of the day/evening was drinks with crib and supper back at Chill Restaurant.
Ella was a great success. Tomorrow we move on south and continue through Sri Lanka!
11 March 2019
Woke up with another big breakfast and hand made map. This time to seek out little Adam’s peak and 9 arch bridge.
It didn’t take long for the map to once again lead us away from our destination. What did we expect, it’s an unscaled, drawn attempt at a map using only memory!
We made it to little Adams peak, passing by many tea plantations along the way. At the top we gazed out into a similar view as yesterday’s but this time it provided a more dramatic landscape with Ella’s Rock standing in it. Amazing view! There were also puppies at the top as an added bonus.
After, we followed some signs to 9 arch bridge to scope it out knowing it would be busy and we’d come back. The train did happen to rumble by while there, gathering numerous people for photos. Tomorrow we’ll get up early to be here with minimal people.
We ate lunch and made it back by 1pm to relax and escape the heat. We started the show Dirty John on Netflix and next thing you know, we finished the series. Oops!
10 March 2019
We started the day with a full breakfast put on by the owner of the home. Fruit, chabata, and roasted coconut pancakes. It’s an awkward, kind of dingy place, but will do the trick.
Full of energy, we set off for Ella’s Rock using a hand made treasure map the owner drew. A local way he described, and the map was our ticket. It led us astray more than once, not quite turning at the correct “stone” or “big tree” but we did somehow make it. Quite comical looking back on getting lost and looking at a piece of paper with chicken scratch on it for directions!
Ella’s Rock is a popular destination/hike, and a more challenging one than expected. Relatively steep elevation gain combined with the heat is a tough combo!
Stunning views of Ella and the valley below made it all worth it. What a place to relax and hang out. After, we treated ourselves to a delicious post hike meal and beers at Chill. Great spot.
Had a few drinks in the evening over a couple games of crib before shutting it down.
9 March 2019
Today was a day we researched for awhile. Since India. We took the famous Kandy to Ella train, regarded by some as the most beautiful train ride in the world.
There are 3 classes. We wanted second class reserved seating but everything was sold out. We tried numerous ways but no luck. Our last resort was buying tickets the day of and hoping to grab a seat on an over crowded train. Chances were slim to none and standing 6 hours was a very real possibility.
Luckily our research lead us to Peradeniya train station, a suburb of Kandy and the spot before meaning we bettered our chances of a seat. We bought tickets and awaited the delayed train. With a stroke of luck, two seats opened immediately and we planted ourselves!
The train ride itself was beautiful, but perhaps overrated. Not sure it’s the most beautiful in the world but it was filled with deep valleys of lush plantations. 6 hours is 6 hours though and we were over it by the end!
Ella is our hike location, tomorrow we’ll begin!
8 March 2019
Up and out on a pre arranged tuk tuk at 9am. Because of my stomach primarily, the thought of a bus was just not worth the 5$ savings!
The route to Sigiriya was just about 2 hours, some of it being through elephant territory. I had my camera handy just in case we did see one, completely believing I wouldn’t, but sure enough a wild elephant was standing on the side of the road! We have deer in Canada, they have elephants. Same same. But different.
We arrived at our homestay, set the bags down, and relaxed for a little bit before setting off for Pidurangula rock. It provides the best view of Lion Rock. A stand alone column of rock with an ancient Palace/Fortress on top. It was amazing. So unique. My stomach unfortunately dictated that we had to leave. We took that opportunity to seek shelter from the heat and relax.
For sunset, we went back to enjoy an epic sunset. The clouds and light were doing amazing transitions and the colours were beautiful. Felt so good to be back moving again!
7 March 2019
We slept in as best as we could, fighting for every minute in a warm room. AC was pumping but it is hot hot hot here!
An elaborate free breakfast from the staff was provided. We’re the only ones at this little location so it’s kind of awkward being so catered to. Pineapple, watermelon, eggs, toast and beverages.
We caught a ride into town from one of the guys working at our homestay and rented bikes to check out the ruins. We started off ok, checking out a few but quickly ran out of things to look at. Once we figured out where we needed to be, we biked there only to find out we needed tickets. Back we went to where we started. Tickets were 25USD. Collectively we didn’t feel it was worth it. Overpriced, we got a taste of them anyhow!
We continued biking into town to align on a bus at the station, ate lunch there, and grabbed food at a store on the way back. Sticking to bread and safe food. Stomach is still backwards.
Tomorrow we leave for Sigiriya by tuk tuk. Bailed on the bus!
6 March 2019
Today we’re leaving India. I really liked India and the experience it provided, but it comes with a big asterisk. Towards the end I grew tired of the haggling, hawkers, horns, etc. There’s no place outside of your paid accommodation to escape it and for me I hit the limit. I definitely recommend it to others, but like everyone that travels to India, quickly highlight what they can expect!
Our travel to the airport went smoothly and we feasted on KFC. The Delhi belly continues. It’s getting annoying at this point!
We arrived in Sri Lanka around 6:30pm and had a hired driver waiting for us. He took us to Polonnaruwa, about a 4 hour drive through the dark jungle. I missed it, but he spotted an elephant in the bushes! Crazy
When we got to our location, it was of no body was home... after a phone call to the place, a man appeared out of his tent and let us to a room. Shortly after, we shorted the power(A/C risk), so back out to the tent to wake buddy to fix it. What a long day. Need rest
5 March 2019
5:30 wake up call to get into gear and make our way to the Taj Mahal. Our hostel was located quite close to the east entrance, making the trip there very easy. We bought tickets and entered the grounds after a thorough security check.
The Taj at first glance is surreal. A moment you catch yourself thinking, am I really here? It’s such an iconic landmark worldwide it was amazing to be staring at it, within reach.
We patiently out waited crowds and people for photos. At sunrise is wasn’t overly busy, not as you would expect anyway. We took to the west side of the Taj, based on a couple recommendations and they couldn’t be more right. It was a great view of the sun rising over the Taj.
After we toured the grounds thoroughly , we took our last few glances and soaked every bit in before leaving.
My Delhi belly continues today so trying to eat western, easy food. We waited outside a McDonald’s until it opened and for supper ordered Domino’s pizza to the hostel! I’m over Indian food, not eating it until my stomach is better!
We filled our day with crib until we hitched the train back to Delhi. Managed to find out hotel and got to sleep. Tomorrow we leave India for Sri Lanka!
4 March 2019
Today was a day to forget. To summarize:
-Last night Delhi Belly kicked in for me. Continued throughout the day
-flight delayed from Jaisalmer to New Delhi ~4hrs so we were 6 hours waiting at the airport.
-rushed through New Delhi shuttle buses and subway(not easy) to hit 5:25 train to Agra only to find out we needed reserved tickets. Missed train.
-Not able to book at all. Every train sold out.
-Deciding we must see the Taj Mahal, got raked over the coals and spent 225CAD on a driver to take us to Agra
-Checked into Agra Hostel at 10:30pm or so
- 15 hrs of long, exhausting travel.
3 March 2019
Today we elected to take a rest/chill day. An overcast day out there and really just no drive to go out into the madness. The second you leave your hostel you’re greeted with blaring horns, smells, etc. Just wasn’t in us!
We found an English movie channel and willed good movies onto the screen. We were rewarded with a couple. Aside from that, we played crib, drank tea, and got some FaceTime in with our Mama’s.
Ironically, Jaisalmer(the desert) was cold with minimal sun. Who would have though eh. Tough luck in weather but ah well, still a cool city and the safari story is one to laugh about later! We packed our bags and ready to depart Jaisalmer for Agra tomorrow.
2 March 2019
Luckily I put in about 12 hours of sleep last night and when I woke up, felt much better. Must have been run down a bit. I’m quite relieved because today is the camel desert safari!
We didn’t move very quick in the morning, allowing time to laze around and eat breakfast at our own pace. When we did finish our morning actions, we took to the streets of Jaisalmer!
Jaisalmer is a spot that looks familiar on CIA movies. Jason Bourne was likely lurking in a safe house somewhere. Action scenes were developing in my mind as we wandered!
Like all of India, many animals are free roam, but in Jaisalmer, they are everywhere. The smell will remind you. Admittedly, I’ve been numb to the idea of passing within a foot of any 4 legged animal until a bull cow took a keen interest in me. At first all seemed ok, until the head bowed and it charged! Luckily my athletic skills have prepared me for such event and was able to avoid collision.
We finished our tour and prepped for the safari!
We jumped in a Jeep with 5 others and travelled until we arrived at the “empty village”. Ok spot, nothing special.
We made it to the drop off point where the camels were waiting for us. We were hoping for the weather to turn from overcast to sunny but quite the opposite happened. Just as we were boarding the camels, the wind picked up significantly.
So here we are, travelling through the desert on a camels back in blowing sand, limited visibility, and waiting for the rain to start. Oh and camel riding is not comfortable, in no way shape or form can a comfortable position be located. I tried them all.
After 1.5 hrs, we made it to our campsite. Cots with tarps and blankets. Would be great on a nice evening, but sketchy at best in this weather.
By this point conversations began about bailing due to weather. We enjoyed a subtle sunset followed by supper but ultimately choose to leave. That’s when the lightening and rain came. Best decision ever! We’ll take a dry bed, thanks!
1 March 2019
We had an afternoon flight so we were able to take our time in the morning with coffee and check out. With pain in my stomach, sleep was nearly non existent, providing a zombie like haze for the morning.
As the morning progressed, I became chilled and increasingly achy. Feeling pretty shit is the only description.
We went to Masala Chowk one last time prior to the airport. I elected not to eat but rather just soak up sun to warm up.
At the airport the troubles began. Spicejet requested to see the credit card used for purchase of the tickets. Problem is, Christian’s credit card was deactivated and a new one was given to her. So didn’t have it. After an hour of arguing, we settled on a way to sort it out. Annoying!
We arrived in Jaisalmer, checked into Swan Hostel and grabbed a light bite to eat. I didn’t have much more in me and once I got to the room, started to fall asleep around 8. Hopeful a good nights rest will sort everything out!
28 February 2019
We slept in a bit with no rush to get anywhere. Had coffee at the hostel and around noon left for Masala Chowk. We had been there once before. It’s a street food atmosphere that is far more hygienic than true street food. We sampled random food plates until full and left. We really like it there.
We took an Uber to Gatore Ki Chhatriyan based on a recommendation we received from another traveller. It’s an ancient burial ground for Royal Rajasthani’s. The architecture was spectacular with lots to explore. Somehow this place isn’t riddled with tourists yet. We shared the entire place with maybe 3 others.
We roamed around taking photos and enjoying what may have been the most quiet of places we found in Jaipur. It was a great way to spend our last day here.
Back at the hostel we signed up for a cooking class and made a traditional Indian dal dish. It turned out pretty good and again, we all sat on the floor eating together. Chai with Jass followed and after some chats, so did bed!
27 February 2019
We ate at the hostel and drove some coffee into us as we waited for the smog to burn off. Once it did, we were picked up by an Uber who played really catchy Bollywood beats. He was jamming and by request of Christian, I busted out an Indian move learned at the wedding. To say the driver enjoyed it is an understatement, he got quite a kick out of it.
We arrived at Amer Fort, a massive sand coloured structure perched high on a hill. You can’t help but place yourself in the old
days travelling on a dirt dusty road by camel and look up at this daunting fort. Day dreaming.
We explored inside. Networking through stairways and corridors. We managed to find a quiet spot away from tourists and set up the tripod. This gathered the securities attention and said it was a 5000 IDR charge to use “professional” camera. Likely a scam attempt that we didn’t fall for. He still let us get to photo free of charge!
We found a cool location across the fort from inside. We left to pursue!
We scaled crumbling steps until we reached an epic vantage point of the fort, and better yet, we had it alone
After some street samosa’s, we walked to a large step-well. Back in the day it was used to collect rain water and the locals would walk down to collect. Unfortunately we couldn’t walk down for anything less than a 500IDR bribe so we just chilled there for a minute. Little over rated to be honest
We haggled pretty hard to get a cheap tuk tuk to Nahargarh Fort. We won that battle for sure. This fort was far more touristic and commercial, but still cool to see and provide really good views of Jaipur. When leaving,we were left without our Uber bargaining chip and the tuk tuk’s knew it. We must have negotiated for 30 mins before settling on a price. It can be exhausting!
In the evening, we joined a food tour put on by the hostel that kicked us to the curb. We we’re the know ones to sign up ironically. Around we went eating random stuff. It was fun but we are zonked! Bed
26 February 2019
We decided on an early rise to put in a full day, sightseeing being our focus. It was slow in the morning, and a little chilled actually. We walked to a cafe, had coffee, and rev’d up for Jaipur.
Shops and bazaars slowly opened, and so did our wallets. Throughout the day we bought traditional Indian clothes to blend a bit, absorb the culture, and they look great in photos!
Our first location was the Wind Palace, Hawa Mahal. In the centre of the pink city, it’s tall and slender look from the front fooled us. When we arrived around back, it was much more spacious with marble flooring and detailed architecture. Very cool first stop.
After, we roamed the street and found Jantar Mantar. Another historic location that hosts the largest stone sun dial in the world. Built in the 1700’s, it can accurately tell time up to +\- 3 seconds.
Accompanying us on the streets of
Jaipur included camels, strays, goats, cows, monkeys, people, tuk tuks, cars, you name it. It’s mayhem!
After a delicious lunch, we continued to navigate the streets throughout the pink city adding things to our shopping bags. Totalled 4 shirts and 2 shawls. I’m done!
We checked out Albert Hall Museum as our last destination, stopping along the way so random people could get photos with the tall, white, blue eyed princess named Christian. I simply hold bags and admire with them! I’m so blessed.
We grabbed some photos at the museum and fetched hailed an Uber to take us to Wanderer Nest hostel. It’s where we landed after being declined by Zostel and Hoztel. Somethings happen for a reason, and this was one of them.
We love this hostel. We signed up for a free cooking class and made mataar paneer with rice and chabati for the hostel. We collectively ate while getting to know one another.
After, was chai with Jass. Jass cooks traditional chai over the fire and is shared with everyone. A guitar came out, I played, and we stayed at a tiny little bonfire. What a day!
25 February 2019
We leave south of India and head for the hectic, overwhelming North. Quite excited to experience it!
We stopped by a little local breakfast spot called Chai Buddy. We shared a couple local breakfast dishes and piled up the coffee cups at our table. Their coffee cup size is not fit for Canadians! When we left we grabbed home made pastries and treats for plane snacks.
We made our way through the airport and off we went, destination Jaipur! Flight was fine, no issues, and likewise for our taxi to Zostel Hostel. This is when the curveball was thrown.
Zostel one way or another overbooked their stay and didn’t have us in their system, even though we had confirmations and so did they? All their private were occupied at this point and only remaining beds left were in 8 person dorms. Shit
After many conversations, we were giving the night free of charge in a dorm and we’ll be finding a new place, with private for the next 3 nights. Frustrating and annoying, but the way it goes sometimes!
24 February 2019
Up and on the 9am train back to Kochi, but not before one last home cooked breakfast. The homestay experience with Vijeesh along with the rural south backwaters far exceeded my expectations. Amazing!
We arrived back in Kochi around noon, checked into the hotel, dropped our belongings, and set off for Fort Kochi.
We timed the ferry perfectly(lucky) and packed into a boat for 10 mins or so. Fort Cochin feels like a touristy spot with a European touch. Certainly more foreigners. We ate lunch at Vijeesh’s recommended restaurant Dal Roti. We shared curries, bread, and a wrapped called kati. Fantastic food!
We shopped a little bit to fit in a little more. We each grabbed pants. I’m looking more and more like a local every day. Would a moustache be the finishing touch?
We made our way back, cleaned up and left for a place called Punjab House. Super local spot and the owner took great care of us. He selected or entire meal, boasting his delicious menu. The food was incredible. Yum!
23 February 2019
5:45 alarm reminded us that we signed up for a sunrise kayak on the backwaters, accompanied by the Germans and led by Vijeesh
Quickly after getting in the water the hue of sunrise began. An orange glow in the distance until the sun presented itself. Likely the most peaceful sunrise of my life. The water was still, atmosphere quiet, just the subtle sounds of paddling!
In the beginning, Christian and I were struggling to stay straight. After a tip from Vijeesh, we successfully maneuvered our kayak through the tight channels quite well. The Germans, however, struggled. At one point steering into the side bushes and attacked by red ants!
The tour lasted 3 hours. A significant paddle that left us tired out! We ate a hefty breakfast and chilled for a little bit before grabbing bikes. Vijeesh recommended a local juice stand we decided to check out. Delicious, freshly made drinks done up with a little swagger. We enjoyed our drinks with many curious eyes on us. An expected trend!
A delicious lunch spread on a banana leaf was provided and after all the homestay folks played “jungle speed”. An easy to grasp game that tests memory and reflexes. Quite fun!
Later, Vijeesh took Christian and I through some random back yards and checked out spice and fruit plantations until it was time to all go to the temple festival.
In India, every temple has a dedicated day for celebration and it just so happened to be today for Vijeesh’s. A parade of drummers, dancers, and even elephants walked to the temple to provide their offering. How could we be so lucky to be here this very day to be apart of it? An incredible experience we’ll never forget. Everyone was welcoming of the obvious white people asking questions or even probing us to dance.
After we had enough of the intense sounds of drums, Indian music, and people, we all had supper together followed by bed. What a memorable day it was!
22 February 2019
Last night Christian and I met in the Kochi airport around midnight and had a pre arranged driver take us to our hotel. Sidre Prestine. All went smoothly and happy to be reunited!
In the morning, we needed to sort out money. Neither of us had a rupee to our name. We stepped into India together for the first time in pursuit of money and had no luck! Tried numerous ATM’s but nothing to show for it. A little frustrated and hungry, we went back to the hotel to eat knowing they had card. Regrouped and off we went again. Eventually we did find an ATM that worked, hallelujah!
We grabbed a tuk tuk(my first experience) and made it to
The train station. We successfully figured out the puzzle of buying a ticket and getting on the right platform in time for the train. A tin can sweat box more like. 4+ hours later we made it to Munro Island Homestay.
Luckily for us, a sunset backwater canoe tour was setting off 30 mins after we arrived. We quickly got our stuff together and jumped on a canoe with two other Germans for a 3 hour tour guided by, Vijeesh. The owner of the home we’re staying at.
He navigated the canoe using a long stick through lakes and narrow channels. Christian and I gave it a go and both avoided crashing into side banks!
The backwaters were beautiful and particularly at the time we were exploring them. Lush green palm trees split the sunlight as it set, passing by locals homes. So cool
We made it to a swim spot where the sea met the lakes. We all took turns jumping off the boat watching the sun set. It was amazing. We made our way back to the homestay canoeing in what little light was left until stars appeared. Indian music blaring over the village because a festival approaches
As a group we shared a tasty home cooked meal Vijeesh’s mother prepared complemented with a beer. What an introduction to India
21 February 2019
What an adventure. I fell in love with Vietnam, and in particular the people. They endured years and years of war. Chinese, French,Americans. As our bike guide Cuba told Ryan and I, “Vietnam has been at war for hundreds of years, and we never lose”. His words are the reason why Vietnam has not fallen, they will simply not allow it.
Yet amidst all their hardship they remain so friendly and welcoming. This morning tied everything together for me. I spent the morning with Vy and her parents. We drank coffee and she walked me to her favourite Banh Mi place for breakfast.
Because my flight was at 4, I didn’t have to leave until after noon and so I was invited to to have lunch. Beef stew her mother had cooked in the morning. We exchanged contact info and I expressed I would be happy to return the favour and be her guide in Canada. Who knows, maybe one day she’ll visit.
She gave me a small keychain, a strawberry to give to Christian when I see her. I’m so ready to see her. I can’t wait!
20 February 2019
Last full day in Vietnam! I slept in today and didn’t rush by any means in the morning.
When I got myself together, I walked to the war museum. I spent a good hour or so going through it. Some images and info was quite horrific. Of course it is very one sided but photos don’t lie. There was some brutal war crimes committed. When I get home, I will take the time to educate myself on the war.
Short of the museum, I simply had headphones in and cruised around all day. I went to that vendor Anthony Bourdain featured selling Banh Xeo, a rice pancake that is stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts.
Took some photo’s of bar street for memory and was back at the guesthouse hanging out with Vy. We’ve become friends during my stay and her and her parents seem to have taken a liking to me. Likely because I could sit and chat all day about our cultures
FaceTimed Christian in the evening.Missing her lots. I’m ready to meet her tomorrow, no matter where, it just so happens to be India!
19 February 2019
Today I joined a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels. One of the bloodiest, most war torn area’s during the war.
The Vietnamese built a tunnel network to bring themselves close to the Americans while shielding themselves from the bombing. They didn’t have weapons to take on the Americans, but with in your face guerrilla warfare, knowledge of their land, and shear will and determination, they prevailed and would not forfeit this battlefield
The tunnels spanned for hundreds of kms. Small and tight as seen in the photo of me squeezing into the dark ground. They had a three level system complete with traps and water/ air systems. What an experience to be here, however somber and sad
At night, Vy, myself, and an Austrian all went out as Vy toured us around her city. Free of charge. We just hung out, told stories, and enjoyed walking around
Later I wandered to bar street. It’s a wild street where clubs and bars music competes against each other for attention. It was cool but would be with others!
18 February 2019
Today I caught an early shuttle from Hoi An to Da Nang to catch my flight to Ho Chi Minh. Last night during check in I noticed my name on the itinerary was all backwards, I bought the ticket on a Vietnamese website. 30 dollars and the minor issue went away for a name change!
I arrived in HCMC and bused to District 1, a popular hub with tourists and backpackers alike. I’m staying at a guesthouse called Vy Khanh. It’s nestled in a network of alley ways, just far enough from the noise of bar street. I have a nice private to unwind and get away from the backpacker hype for a bit. The family here is very nice.
I took the afternoon to clean up, enjoy the privacy and sprawl out all my stuff with worry. After enjoying AC until it cooled down, I walked for hours trying to get the lay of the land.
In HCMC there is far more order than Hanoi. Street lights and crosswalks mean something and it has a look of a more modern city.
Today I checked off some touristic items like the Cathedral, Post Office, Rex Hotel, city hall and the market(both day and night). I tried to get to an Anthony Bourdain featured restaurant but it was closed. I’ll go back.
Back at the guesthouse I chatted with Vy(owner) for a long time and called it quits to get a good nights rest finally. Cu Chi Tunnel tour tomorrow!
17 February 2019
Ryan left today at 4:45am to catch his flight to Tokyo. Was great having him here. We travelled really well together and had quite time
I took some time to catch up with Mom in the morning followed by a trip to Ba-Ri to sort out all the shipping back to Canada for our suits.
I took in the sights of the town one last time and ate in the market. Grabbed a couple cheap shirts and called it quits on the shopping!
On the way back to the hostel I met a group going to the beach so I joined. We took a long scenic route, unknowingly of course, but we did manage to find it! Water was warm but chilled enough to be refreshing. A great way to spend the afternoon.
For supper the hostel had a spring roll cooking class. We learned about the ingredients and proper way to assemble then ate them quicker than they were made.
Gathered my pack, had some drinks with the hostel and FaceTimed Christian before bed. Miss her lots, can’t wait to meet up in India. So soon! Ho Chi Minh tomorrow!
16 February 2019
Today is Ryan’s last day. Went so fast. We crawled around the hostel and got food into us trying to avoid a hangover.
While killing some time before heading back to Ba-Ri for our final fit up, an elderly Vietnamese women selling fruit offered a photo I had really wanted to capture. I bought some fruit and she was very willing to take some photos. A nice moment.
The suits looked incredible! Some minor changes needed but so well fitted. I bought another because why not. A grey one this time around. With measurements already in, it was as simple as choosing the colour and design.
We joined a hostel bike tour with a hilarious amount of other people. We cruised the countryside, learned about their largest temple, and were shown how they make rice paper. I wasn’t in the right headspace, it was hot and highlighting a hangover.
Back to Ba-Ri for final/final fit up. All done. Ready to be shipped by morning. Trang was the best. She was so friendly and amazing to deal with!
15 February 2019
Our first proper day in Hoi An so what did we do? Shop for suits!
The town is built off the tailoring market. Hundreds and hundreds of shops all pretty much offering the same service. Leather too but we weren’t interested in leather.
We negotiated prices and did some homework before settling on Ba-Ri. Starting from the quality and colour of fabric, which we chose top quality, they custom make your own suit. They took every measurement imaginable. I chose a 2 piece navy blue with a white undershirt, double vent back, 2 button front, with a blue and red patterned inner stitching.
The experience was really fun and the ladies who took care of us were to no surprise, lovely. I’m debating on getting another now...
We cruised the city itself while eating their famous Banh Mi. We had 4 of them today! 2 from a local street spot called Queen Banh Mi and 2 where Anthony Bourdain ate and featured in one of his episodes!
At night we had drinks with the hostel. The hostel is quite a party actually. Met some great people and we were all shuttled to a random club in a strange location. Ryan and I grew tired of that relatively quickly so we jumped on the back of a couple scooters and the guys brought us back.
We were quite hungry by this point so walked to a corner that was selling ...banh mi. Yup #5 for the day. Other travellers huddled around as well until early in the morning. Crashed hard when we got back!
14 February 2019
Today we biked from Hue to Hoi An on scooters following a guide named Cuba. It was a ridiculously dangerous and reckless adventure that because I can now live to tell about it, loved it!
The trip was about 7 hours with a few stops. Phase 1 was getting out of Hue which wasn’t bad however we then merged onto their main highway. We dodged transport trucks, scooters, buses, vehicles, you name it. One of the worst spots was a highway toll for large vehicles only, meaning it backs up trucks so they clump together, both lanes for a few km.
So here we are, splitting between transport trucks and buses with hundreds of other scooters doing the same! At one point Ryan got squeezed out of a gap between two busses pretty bad...
We survived that phase and took
A break at Elephant Springs to cool off, have a beer, and take in some sun. Then on the phase 2. Phase 2 was the main highway for a bit until we got to some cool passes, specifically the Hai Van pass. Top gear did an episode on this pass because of its reckless nature but incredible beauty. Hairpin turns, single lane while trucks barrel by. The pass was beautiful and really fun to drive the weaving roads.
After we successfully got over the pass, Cuba led us into Da Nang for lunch. The third biggest city in Vietnam. Now we really amongst traffic, all the while trying not to loose Cuba who recognizes we can drive so he pushes hard. I’d say we were the upper 20% in speed. Not many passed us, but we sure dodged and passed everyone! Lunch was at a super local spot.
The last phase was much more relaxed and with our newly acquired scooter skills was easy. We were flying down roads with ease at this point. We stopped by Mable Mountain to check out where they used to Mine marble. Cool but creepy spot. They made it into more an attraction now that has morbid creatures all throughout. Either way the tunnelling they did in there was impressive.
We did make it or Hoi An with zero incident and big smiles on our faces. Never would we have signed up for that knowing, but super stoked we did and no issues came of it. What a hell of a ride!
13 February 2019
We arrived at Hue today by bus and checked into Happy Homestay, run by a guy named Viet. What a gem is was. Very nice person, welcoming.
Hue is a very different little town compared to what we were used to. Feels more catered to tourists, modern and westernized. Hue was basically decimated in the war, being quite close to the DMZ zone it was bombed heavily.
Hue also has a Japanese inspired Imperial Citadel. We roamed around there, the city, and market for the afternoon. For the most part, felt like we got enough from the town. I had read reviews that not much time is needed here and I’m happy we had it as simply a stop over.
Reason why we chose Hue for a night was because tomorrow we are biking, ourselves with a guide, to Hoi An via the Hoi Van Pass. A pass featured on Top Gear and regarded as one of the most beautiful drives of the world! It’s about a 150km drive with some side excursions along the way. Good thing we’ve been practising our scootering.
12 February 2019
Back to our busy selves today! We got moving, sat down for breakfast, and swapped stories of the previous night with others in the hostel.
We rented a couple scooters and did a big loop through Phong Nha Ke-Bang national park. I’m running out of descriptive adjectives to use, however it was yet again, stunningly beautiful! Easy, quiet ride too which was nice. Narrow roads with some blind turns but for the most part no problem. Today actually highlighted how intense our last scooter experience was!
The scooters were junk though. At one point Ryan’s scooter was dead but after 10 minutes roadside the ol’ girl fired up. Mine rattled and felt like there may be one bolt holding it together. Luckily the one bolt held strong and the thing didn’t come apart!
We relaxed after at the hostel and I finally got a chance to properly catch up with Christian. Internet has been iffy for us. Later on we had a few drinks but nothing crazy. Tomorrow is an early morning to bus to Hue!
11 February 2019
Did near nothing today. Dodgy weather so we felt like it was the right time to just relax and take what may be our first day to ourselves. It was likely needed, we have been pretty full on since being here and to be honest, gut wasn’t at its best. I broke a rule I had and ordered meat from this hostel. I knew better, my fault!
We did however turn it up at night. Ryan and I played pool for a couple hours while collecting empty beer bottles. From there we drank at the hostel and met a good group including an old Canadian couple who were polluted. Although stumbling , they had dance moves that put others to shame. Entertaining to watch!
We made our way to a bar when the hostel shut down and the night continued on until sometime the next day. Loads of fun, really. Tomorrow we’ll get back to activities. Thinking that we’ll rent a scooter and tour the park!
10 February 2019
Today we completed the Mada one day tour. Jungle trekking, caves, and swimming. An absolutely crazy experience!
We all were picked up and given the run down of jungle trekking. Most notably the mention of leeches and poison ivy which explains why we needed long sleeves and pants. We were giving hilariously camo’d boots and off we piled into a vintage war truck that you could tell was put through the ages!
We were dropped off at the trail head and away we went through dense jungle, sketching out about leeches a bit, until we made it to our first cave. A big dry cave where during the Vietnam war those working on the Ho Chi Minh trail would seek shelter during the day bombing. Our guide estimated 7000 bombs a day were dropped on the Ho Chi Minh trail. Devastating.
The cave was massive. We were given helmets with headlights and explored from one end to the other, elephant entrance to turtle entrance. Each named after rock formations. I actually guessed turtle entrance
After a snack, we set out to the swimming hole. About 2 hours through really thick jungle, wading through streams and testing reflexes when stepping on the mud the wrong way. Then a sudden stop. Spider in the middle of the trail. Way to big and colourful for comfort! We checked it out and went around(couldn’t quick enough).
That’s when the leeches presented themselves, passing through unmarked trail. You could see them on your clothes, stocked pretty good. This was a running theme for the remainder of the day. Eventually you get desensitized of them and it’s just something you look for and deal with. One made its way in Ryan’s boot and was latched on until we made it without him knowing!
The swimming place was gorgeous with clear blue water. We all jumped from rocks and cooled off from he humidity. A jungle feed followed after. A great spread where we could make our own rice wraps. Delicious!
After more mud, leeches, and jungle trekking, we made it to our second cave, this one a wet one. We geared up and swam about 350m into the cave, loosing complete sight of the entrance and all light except for our headlamps. Bats were flying around. It was intense!
We then turned it up a notch. We all turned off our lights and experienced complete darkness. Your eyes were constant searching for light but literally none was present. Add floating in water at the same time, and it was the closest thing to feeling zero gravity as you could get. We actually floated with the current the entire way back no lights on. It was a life experience I’ll remember forever!
We all made it back, had supper, and enjoyed a few drinks to finish a memorable day!
9 February 2019
We arrived at Easy Tiger Hostel by sleeper bus at something like 4am. They let us check in right away free of charge, we passed out until 8 or so.
Because we were quite tired, we decided we would have a chill day. We rented bikes and roamed the countryside, far behind the normal reach of tourist. About 15k from the town. The people were curiously meeting eyes with us but with the most joy. I love the people here, can’t say it enough.
My bike didn’t have breaks, maybe 20% left in the pads, found that out on the first hill! Added a twist of excitement for the day.
We stopped at the sight of a painted sign “pub with cold beer”, where a group of kids ran the place. We sat there, enjoyed watching the kids fight over video games, and took a break from the sun with cold beer in hand.
Later we went to Moi Moi. A family farm that serves food. We each had homemade dumplings and pork slow roasted by the fire inside a bamboo shoot. While they prepared, I had a nap in a hammock while roosters, chickens, and dogs roamed the farm. No English. A tremendous authentic experience.
We biked our asses all the way back and stumbled on a local soccer match. Maybe mid teens? It gathered a real crowd of locals. Some players didn’t even have cleats! Pretty epic landscape to play soccer at.
Had drinks and did some people watching of the hostel. Tomorrow we’re going on a day tour so we kept it between the lines, but others did not! What a party.
8 February 2019
This morning we took full advantage of our late check out at Boutique Garden, knowing hostels are coming!
We left our bags there and went out for a bike ride in the opposite direction we took the scooters. We quickly got off main roads and away from people and enjoyed the surreal scenery to ourselves! The biking was far better than scootering. So quiet and peaceful. Dickson and I for the most part didn’t even talk. It was bliss.
After pedalling through mazes of rice paddies and canals, we grabbed a beer and waited for the river boat tour.
The river boat tour is incredibly crowded, but expected. It really didn’t matter though because the views were beautiful. Our timing was perfect. Witnessed beams of light streak down trough the valleys lighting up potions while others remained in the shadows. I’ve always wanted to see this!
We passed under three caves along the way. The Vietnamese row with their feet, no hands. Add no light on top of that, and that says skills!
7 February 2019
Today was Ryan’s first go at scooters, and did he ever get a trial by fire opportunity!
The main streets were pretty full on. Not Hanoi, but far busier than I expected! The horn may be annoying walking, but it’s your lifeline driving. You’re on the horn with every pass by a pedestrian, car, or bike to let them know you’re there. More importantly is to hear the horn behind you giving you that info, especially if it’s an echoing sound, that means bus!
We veered off the main streets until we were the only ones around, with the exception of some locals and roosters. This is where we wanted to be. Lost in what I pictured Vietnam to be. Humble homes, rice paddies, craggy mountains, and dirt roads!
So I noticed throughout the day my starter was acting funny. Then, maybe 50km away from where we started at a gateway we stopped for photos, my scooter wouldn’t start. I tried and tried with no success. Battery fried? I even pushed it down a hill and tried a bump start but it obviously wouldn’t work. I was just getting desperate for ideas at that point. However, with a little luck, she randomly started!
We continued on finding cool locations along the way. As we stopped to enjoy them, we had the soothing sound of a scooter beside us. I didn’t turn it off for the rest of the day, not until we returned!
Ryan dropped the scooter once pulling off the Main Street in a awkwardly slow manner but we did make it back alive, with a little gas to spare, and relieved smiles. We likely totalled over 100km.
We were pretty exhausted from our adventure and spent the rest of the day chilling out. Today was yet another highlight day!
6 February 2019
Today arrived in Tam Coc. We were unsure if we would get to leave Hanoi because of the holiday, but after waiting outside a closed bus station for an hour playing crib to pass the time a bus pulled up and we hopped in!
The bus was a few hours, and packed full of people. All seats plus a few sitting on a pile of backpacks! We’re talking ass to ankle style of cramped. Oh well, just happy we made it.
We’re staying at Boutique Garden. A really nice place. Flashpacking here for sure but necessary after a rowdy hostel. We’re excited for our beds!
We took some bikes and raced about 10k through back streets to Hang Mua Cave lookout for sunset. The lookout is about 500 steps up. NZ did the trick, it was a breeze. The amount of people here though was nuts.
The top was awesome. Tall, green covered mountains with a river carved in between. The sun set to the right giving it a warm glow. It was worth the wait at the top.
After getting back, we enjoyed some drinks, supper, and crib until bed!
5 February 2019
Had a chance to speak about my early Vietnam experiences with my parents. Was good to catch up and they seem quite interested with the mayhem here.
We went down to a centrally located lake to chill while still kind of waking up. Caught up with Christian while there, a nice add to my day!
Today is the first day of the New Year and a large portion of people were all dressed up in traditional clothing to take advantage of a “slower” Hanoi and get photos done. Provided a lot of colour to the streets
We went to train street so Dickson could check it out. Spent time there hanging out until the sun said enough was enough.
Back at the hostel I had a little afternoon snooze followed by a couple games of crib. We went 1-1 but I skunked him once, muahaha!
We grabbed a late supper, some free beer at the hostel, and then to a busy food/drink district to sit on tiny chairs and people watch. As you have a few drinks, the bathroom is needed. The hostess of this little street vendor pointed up the stairs of this almost which turned out to be in their home. Opened the door and all these Vietnamese people were cooking the food. It was confusing yet quite comical.
Tomorrow we leave Hanoi for Tam Coc!
4 February 2019
As usual, I was first up. I immediately shook off what little hangover I had by getting in the water, with coffee in hand. Taking it the surreal scenery. Quite a nice start. Everyone did eventually get up and we had breakfast together.
After breakfast followed a couple hours on the water with kayaks. It wasn’t guided so you could roam as far as you could get. Dickson and I paddled around enjoying be quiet scenery.
We boated back passing by more tiny fishing villages. Up to three generations of people live in one of those little floating homes, and some haven’t even been past the port in their lives.
After a painful bus back to the hostel, we relaxed, ate supper, and went out to enjoy Tet eve. The Lunar New Year(year of the pig). We got mesmerized by one street performer. A violinist with an accompanying band playing popular covers of songs. We watched that for at least an hour. So good!
That was all she wrote. Bed relatively early, yesterday took its toll.
3 February 2019
After a relativity long commute, we arrived at the Halong Bay port to get on the Hideaway tour!
The tour started off by shotgunning a beer. I haven’t done that in ages. We quickly realized what we were in for! We toured through the bay drinking beer and playing games to get to know everyone. We had 10 people on the boat and all were really great!
The bay has over 1600 islands, all of which are limestone pillars out of the water. Absolutely stunning. As an added bonus, because of the upcoming lunar new year, Tet, the bay was so quiet and we were the only boat. Amazing.
We all jumped off the boat and went swimming. We even swam to an island which looked a lot closer when the decision was made. Hard work getting there, even harder getting back to the boat!
We boated to our private island and linked up with the group that did the longer tour and stayed last night. Dickson and I were challenged by some Germans to a 2 on 2 beach volleyball match. Must has played for over an hour. Our forearms by the end of it were bright red.
Supper was a big feed and not long after that the drinking picked up. Beer pong, flip cup, good music, it was a time our group really clicked well.
What an epic day!
2 February 2019
I took in more of the sights and sounds of the city today. Dickson wasn’t scheduled to come in until later on in the evening.
I really love this city. I toured around all day aimlessly but made a point to go back to train street to witness the train passing through the markets.
While I was sitting there a couple people from the hostel showed up and joined me for a couple beers as we waited. Lukas and Leah. Really nice people and we spent the rest of the day together.
I assumed the train would putter by, but I couldn’t be more wrong. All the lovely Vietnamese women working the market quickly and urgently change their seating arrangements and hush everyone to one side when they heard the whistle. At first it felt over he top, until it came by. The train rushed by only a foot or two away from your body. It was so cool, definitely not something you’ll ever see in Canada!
For supper I ate bun cha which was delicious. Best thing I ate thus far. Likely go back there.
Dickson finally arrived around 9 or so. We got our bags settled and walked around town grabbing beer along the way. It was really fun to watch Dickson experience it as I had for the first time. Happy to have him here. Tomorrow is Ha Long bay!
1 February 2019
Feeling jet lagged so I got up around 5:30 and out of bed by 6ish. I wasn’t the only one. The Old Quarter started bustling as vendors laid out there displays for the day. Meat, veggies, fruits, you name it. Chicken heads were flying off, it was a scene.
I joined a free walking tour with the hostel. It was cool. Was able to meet a few people which was nice. Walking here itself is really entertaining. You step into traffic and let the traffic move around you. There is no such thing as stopping for anything. It’s crazy!
Myself and another guy from the tour went and got lunch after. We ate bunh mi. A traditional meat sandwich. It was good!
We walked to a market situated on the train line. At this point nothing surprises me! Tomorrow I’m going to go back and try to be there for when the train passes through.
For supper I got myself a bowl of beef pho, or should I say pho bo. Everything is so cheap.
Back at the hostel the drinks began. Free beer from 7-8 drawing in lots of people. Dangerous start. Met lots of people playing drinking games and what not. One couple was from Hampton! Such a small world sometimes. The night turned into a hostel pub crawl and late night food.
One issue that came about was the fact Dickson didn’t show up. His plane was diverted to Tokyo and now won’t be in till late tomorrow. I feel for him. That’s a tough go. I made the adjustments to our hostel and now all he has to do is hurry up and get here!
31 January 2019
4:45am and we dragged ourselves to the airport. First stop,Melbourne.
In Melbourne we parted ways. Christian’s off to Bali and I’m heading to Vietnam. Its tough to split up because we travel so well together but we’re both meeting friends so it will be all good!
It was long 8hr flight to Ho Chi Minh stuck in the middle seat. Once in Ho Chi Minh, the fun started.
Wait in line for visa. Wait in line to clear customs. Wait for checked bag. This is when I realized I’m tight on time and the domestic terminal is at a different wing!
I got to domestic and again, line to check my bags. I had to start making moves. I walked to the very front, past everyone and showed them the boarding pass which worked. I had to do the same at the massive security line
It was a full 3 hour scramble but I made it just in time to board! Quite a way to kick off my first solo foreign airport!
Finally made it to Hanoi. Hoped on a local bus, and an hour later I was within walking distance of the hostel! SLEEP
30 January 2019
We hesitantly left Kakanui this morning. Our location and AirBnB was a perfect way to recharge after a busy month. We took in sun, relaxed, ate well, and enjoyed our time together before we part ways for a few weeks.
We drove to Christchurch, the final location of NZ. Got myself a haircut at New City barbers, preparing for a potentially long go before my next...Christian seems to approve. Christchurch is a strange city. There is nothing to say about it. Spread out and a mix of homes and businesses. Never felt there there was a core? Maybe we missed it.
Dropped the rental off and checked into Jucy hostel. It’s a stones throw away from the airport. At this point I was getting hangry so we feasted at an Indian restaurant followed by ice cream! Treat ourselves, why not.
Our flight is at 6am so we didn’t do much that evening but lay in bed and watch a strange yet very entertaining local movie called “Boy”. The accents are comical but the plot is dark. Odd.
Tomorrow a new journey begins
29 January 2019
One hell of a hot start to the day. No wind so the sun was just pounding the deck as we had our morning coffees.
We played a game of crib and I thought we may need to postpone for an outfit change, Christian was melting away.
We again made our way to beach. Twice today actually. The first time we went around 11. Spent a few hours down there for peak UV’s to try to work on our hiking tans! Got a few photos. We attempted a “cute” photo but instead Christian jumped up and smashed my chin. Bite my tongue. Were so cute...
The second time was around 3. This time with drinks! We flipped a few pages in our books until the breeze got chilly.
Back at the spot we cooked up a fried fish sandwich and BBQ’d
veggies with none other than green lip mussels as an appetizer! It was the best of the last three feeds.
We got cozy and put on a movie. Another great relaxing day. Be tough to leave this spot tomorrow but at the same time excited to get the travels going again!
28 January 2019
After a slow morning, we walked down to the beach that was about 5 mins away. The weather turned for the better which was a nice add, originally calling for rain but instead the sun was shining!
The beach was relatively deserted. The waves were a good size and drew in a handful of surfers with a few families. A simple 5-10 minute walk further down the beach however was all it took to feel like we were alone and had it to ourselves.
We lazed around for a few hours. Even started a book. I sat still quite nicely...somewhat anyway. When we got hot enough we jumped in the water and let the waves push us around. Refreshing but cold enough that you couldn’t stay in too long.
Tonight for supper we made panang curry with tofu, veggies, and mussels(went to town to get more) with freshly baked bread on the side. It was delicious! For the second night in a row, we outdid ourselves.
We watched a couple movies in the evening. First one I stayed up for, second one not so much. Food coma maybe?
27 January 2019
The morning we stopped by the DOC to let them know we won’t be heading to Mueller Hut because of weather. Luckily the DOC too found it to be severe weather so they’ll actually refund us. Win!
We left Mt.Cook en route to our beachside cottage. Along the way we stopped at a local market in Oamaru. Market was quite small but it fed us lunch and got us out of the car.
While in town, we picked up veggies, green lipped mussels, Ling fillets and to no surprise, wine! We had planned to treat ourselves to a “vacation” vibe while at the cottage.
It was a rainy day here so in the afternoon we sunk into “his and her” chairs to watch a movie and rugby sevens. It was glorious.
We BBQ’d veggies, fried fish, and dunked mussels in butter until we were uncomfortably stuffed. No food was left to spare, or wine...
What a perfect rest day!
26 January 2019
A slow day today. It’s officially time to relax on our last few days in NZ to regroup!
We did get out for a little walk in the morning that overlooks the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier. The stairs were a reminder of our big day to Mueller Hut yesterday.
With good wifi here the parents and I were able to catch up for awhile. Again, they’re not selling the Canadian winters.
In the afternoon we walked up to the tiny village to cure our stir crazy like symptoms. Wandered around the DOC and random shops that steal money from tourists in exchange for trinkets to kill the time.
The weather has been building all day. Tomorrow is going to be messy. A severe weather watch is currently in effect.
Tomorrow we were supposed to hike to Mueller Hut and spend the night but it’s just not worth it in brutal weather. A dry Christian is a happy Christian! Instead we sorted out a place to stay and we’ll leave Mt.Cook a day early.
Looking forward to getting to our own space at the AirBnB tomorrow!
25 January 2019
Bad weather is coming, so we decided we would take advantage of the mild weather and hike to Mueller Hut. This marks our last hike of NZ, and a big one at that!
The hike reminded me of out west. Picking the best line that suits you to get up the alpine terrain. I love this style of hiking. Keeps you thinking and focused
The views on the way up and particularly the top were outstanding. A birds eye view of surrounding peaks with a great look of Mt.Cook herself!
Glaciers moved and cracked on the sides of the mountains echoing through the valleys. We even stepped on some snow to test out winter for a few minutes, not for us. We’re chasing summer!
The hike itself was a battle. Straight up for a few hours(1000+m) but we were eventually awarded shelter at the hut. We warmed up and ate our last packages of dehydrated food
We tossed our legs down the hill and our bodies followed until the bottom arrived. Our NZ hiking is complete!
Ate supper and split a bottle to celebrate before bed!
24 January 2019
Today we took off for Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park on another cracker of a day!
Our first was Lake Takepo. There is a church there that’s popular on a turquoise lake. Unfortunately it was packed of people. People and crowds. Gross
Good news is Lake Pukaki is just as incredibly turquoise with Mount Cook in the background. The colour of the lake is supernatural. One hell of a spot to have lunch!
We cruised our way to the park on a winding highway until we found a good location for a road picture. Christian and I got a similar photo in Patagonia last year. The trend continues!
We landed at Mount Cook Lodge, gathered up a day pack, and made our way to Hooker Valley. The hike was 10km. I did it in sandals to salvage my feet. Looked foolish I’m sure to those dressed as if they were climbing Everest while on a perfectly maintained walking trail!
The hike was great though. Amazing views of NZ’s tallest mountain(Mt.Cook) the entire way.
Tonight we’re staying up to go stargazing!
23 January 2019
Today was as promised, REST! Not too much to comment on. We slowly made our way to and from the kitchen from our room and the occasional walk around town to break things up.
We did find some time to stretch in the park before rain interrupted us. The rain today is a blessing in disguise, means I can sit relatively still and not become stir crazy.
We made ourselves a solid supper and went back to the room to surf the 4 channels on our 13” tv. Feels right at home for me!
The day will let the blisters heal a bit. Tomorrow we’re off to Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park!
22 January 2019
5:30 alarm woke us to see a sunrise over Lake Wanaka, and specifically “that Wanaka tree”. A famous stand alone tree that has somehow grown out of the water providing a picturesque look. I like how the photos turned out, my first long exposure success!
We drove back to the hostel and laid down for a “minute”. That minute turned into a 3 hour sleep top up!
We did finally get moving but the body is definitely not as keen today and the heel blisters are no better. The hike was another steep, long grind to the top. One foot in front of the other for a few hours. Our motivation was obviously the views, but also our agreement tomorrow is a nothing day!
The hike looked over Lake Hawea the entire time. Very similar to Roy’s Peak. I can’t get over the beauty of NZ. It’s unbelievable.
After taking in the scenery and some photo’s, we pounded our legs on the decline until we made it back to the car. We did it! Two massive days back to back.
Food, wine, and bed. Pain to follow tomorrow...!
21 January 2019
Left Queenstown and bused to the rental car spot. Took advantage of the good wifi there and FaceTimed the folks! It was really nice to see them. They mentioned home is getting a big snow storm. I miss them, but not the weather!
We made it to Wanaka and got checked into the Base hostel. Wanaka is a smaller, more chill version of Queenstown. Nestled on the lake, shadowed by mountains! It’s quite a sight!
It was a sunny day so we took off to Roy’s Peak Track. A 1400m elevation gain up the mountain while passing sheep that continuously baa’d. It was a symphony of baa’s. Quite comical.
Today the hike felt difficult. I had a tight back that was bothering me and the unfortunate introduction of blisters on my heels. Ah well, we made it to the top and it surpassed my expectations!
Lake Wanaka still looked massive standing on top of the mountain. The 360 views and colours were epic.
We descended and made our way back to the hostel for food. We feasted and packed it in shortly after.
20 January 2019
Our time in Queenstown has come to an end. The last couple days the weather has been iffy but I’m completely ok with it, we needed the downtime to rest!
We still continued to enjoy the town with Toby and Maria before they flew back to Taranaki. It was really nice to catch up and between the 4 of us, we always seemed to be on the same page. It sounds as though they have a pretty sweet thing going here. I’m quite happy for them and looking forward to seeing how their journey all unfolds!
Queenstown was a great little “vacation” from our travel. The town is like a bee hive and is always on the go. It could be people seeking activities, street performances, or restaurants and pubs, something is always happening. Our budget reflects that!
I feel like we’ve spent the right amount of time here and ready to get to Wanaka tomorrow morning! Looking forward to some upcoming hikes, specifically Roy’s Peak!
18 January 2019
Woke up a little dry today but all things considering, not feeling too bad.
Today was another “cracker” of a day so we hired double kayaks to paddle on Lake Wakatipu. We paddled around and took a break at an isolated beach to cool off. It was the right antidote to any lingering hangover!
When we got back to shore, we treated ourselves to ice cream and a beer in the park. We took in rays and enjoyed the down time.
Once we were all sufficiently hungry, we gathered up taco supplies and whipped up a mean taco feed! Next, drinks.
We drank at the hostel and did our own mini pub crawl starting at an Irish pub , Pog Mahones, that had live music. Maria showed off her Celtic dancing skills to an Irish jig which took everyone by surprise!
Next we went to Ballarat which was an unreal time. One guy and his guitar lit up the place. So fun. We capped off the night at Rhino’s Ski Lodge before stumbling to Mrs Fergs got stuffed pies. Crushed those and called it a successful 2nd night out!
17 January 2019
Our last day of Routeburn, meaning our last day living off dehydrated food and sleeping in huts!
The day was all decline, but a nice grade. It was the easiest of all the recent days. We ended up seeing a group of blue ducks cruising down the white water of a river. A rare and nearly extinct native duck to NZ.
Before we knew it we completed the track, and dry at that! It’s hard to comprehend how lucky we were to be off the grid in The Fiordland National park and only get one day of rain!
We bused back to Queenstown and checked into Absoloot hostel. Cleaned up and treated ourselves to Fergburger, the most popular food joint in Queenstown. The line is massive but it was worth the wait. We took the food and ate it in the park with a couple drinks. I have a funny suspicion it won’t be the last time we eat there.
After we celebrated the accomplishment with a great night at the Rhino Ski Lodge. What started with one, ended up being 6 jugs or so.... Place was on wheels and had a sick DJ!
16 January 2019
Yet again we got great weather for day 2. Blue sky with minimal wind. Perfect for the pass and Harris Saddle!
We left Lake Mackenzie and climbed elevation into the alpine. We got a chance to watch a couple kea relatively close. The only alpine parrot in the world. They are deceptively smart. They are believed to have the intelligence of a 3 or 4 year old!
The hike followed a mountain ridge while facing another set of mountains offering great views the entire way.
We made our way to Harris Saddle taking little breaks along the way. When there, there was a side trail called Conical Hill Summit. It was a steep scramble up to a 360 pano viewing area. Maria set the pace and basically ran up it. What a leg burner!
After our time at Harris Saddle the descent began. We reached Routeburn Falls hut late afternoon, our last hut of the track.
We ate supper and played cards all evening. Tomorrow the forecast looks decent to cap it off. Isolated showers but we should be ok to get out dry!
15 January 2019
Today we started the Routeburn
track, our second great walk of NZ. This one is an alpine track totalling 33km with side trips. It consists of exposed terrain and mountain backdrops everywhere. My element!
We bused to The Divide where the trail starts. The day was primarily uphill, starting forest covered and ended at about 900m elevation.
Along the way we completed a side track called Key Summit. It was a short yet sizeable elevation gain to get a feel for what the views are going to be like along the way. We had lunch here and enjoyed the incredible views.
The track continued on uphill.
We stopped for a break/snack at a big 175m waterfall before pushing on.
We climbed elevation until reaching our Lake Mackenzie hut. Lake Mackenzie is an alpine oasis! Amazing location. I quickly tossed the swimming shorts on and dove right in! It was take your breathe away cold.
We played cards all evening until bed. Tomorrow we go over the pass.
14 January 2019
Last night was a great sleep in a proper hostel bed. You don’t hear that too often! Ironically both Christian and I woke up at the same time to walk to the washroom and caught our first glimpse of the Milky Way. I’ve never looked at stars that bright. We’ll have to find time on a clear night to star gaze!
An earned rest day today. We all ,very slowly, got up and ate some breakfast while continuing to catch up.
It was a beautiful day so we walked to Milford Sound to get more photos of the iconic Mitre Peak. It’s an impressive sight to take in so we took our time admiring.
We booked a boat tour of the sound out to the Tasman Sea. It was really relaxing to get out on a boat and take in some sights. Such a capturing landscape. Sharp, tall granite rising on both sides of you from ocean level.
We finished the night off with a big supper. Tomorrow we start the Routeburn Track. Another big one. 3 days, 2 nights through the Alpine, pretty stoked!
13 January 2019
Day 4. Our last day! A long 18km day to Sandfly point on primarily flat(they say) terrain. The twist today was that it dumped water on us the entire way.
Milford sound rains on average 200 days a year accumulating 7-8 meters of rain! It is a rainforest after all. So we were lucky this was only our rain day.
We prepped for the rain and booked it to the end. We completed 18km in 4 hours which is ridiculous time. There wasn’t a part of us that wasn’t soaked through.
As we walked through the valley the water poured off the cliffs on either side creating thousands of waterfalls pouring into the sound. Many poured over the track making us walked through it with no way over. It was amazing to see however tough to appreciate while drenched.
We finished the 60km track and made our way to Milford Lodge where Toby and Maria met us. They surprised us with fresh food to make taco’s with drinks to celebrate! They had just finished Holyford track. We spun a yarn bait our experiences until bed!
12 January 2019
Day 3 was a big one. Total of 17km with the climb up and over Mackinnon’s pass with the backpack.
So we took off. Up we went for about 2 hours straight with our packs. Felt strong as we chased down and passed other hikers! We’re very competitive.
We got to the top and as we did, the blue started to show. We were excited to see the folks we made friends with over the last couple nights get to see it, and selfishly pretty stoked I got to witness it for the second time. The pass is typically a cloud covered, windy, raining spot so we are quite lucky.
Then the descent. We dropped 1000m on tough, steep terrain. It lulls the body, especially with the weight of the pack. It was a long grind but we did it.
At the bottom we ventured on a side trail to Sutherland Falls. A 580m waterfall. A 45 min detour but worth it!
The evening consisted of food and discussions with our normal table of backpackers. 2 Kiwi’s, 2 Americans, and 2 Belgium’s. We all clicked well. Bed came early once again!
11 January 2019
Day 2. Last night it poured! Luckily for us, just some mist and low hanging fog like you’d expect in a rainforest.
Sleep was rough. Snoring and loud bunks! Oh well, it was expected and didn’t slow us down.
Today was a 22km day through rainforest and glacier carved valley’s to Mintaro Hut. Mainly flat with inclines along the way. We were absolutely tearing through the km’s and actually were first to complete the leg of the hike.
Because the fog was continuously lifting over the course of the day, we made the decision that if it breaks we would drop our packs at the hut and go past the normal hike distance to make the Mackinnon Pass. The views are supposed to be insane.
Sure enough, blue sky started to appear so we hiked all the way up to the pass and were rewarded with stunning views. Every step made worth it and forgotten.
We were the only crazy ones to do this. Rugged Canadians! We picked a new group of hikers and once again, hung out until bedtime. What an amazing day.
10 January 2019
Today marks day 1 of Milford Track. Regarded as “The Finest Walk in the World” and 1 of 7 NZ great walks.
We ate our last hearty breakfast at the hostel prior to departure. From this point on food becomes anything you can eat easily or add boiling water to!
We bused from Te Anau to Te Anau downs where we were then picked up by a water taxi. We boated on Te Anau lake into the Fiordland National Park to Glade Wharf and left with nothing but our backpacks. It begins.
Day 1 was short, 5km or so to Clinton Hut. It was a nice walk, beautiful outside and level the entire way which was a nice way to get accustomed to the backpack(heavy). The Fiorland is primarily rainforest with Alpine features. It’s quite different from anything I’ve seen.
At Clinton Hut we got settled and met fellow “independent walkers” or should I say “freedom walkers”. These 38 others will be our bunk mates for the next 3 nights. We hung out swapping stories and most called it quits early.
9 January 2019
We made our way to Queenstown in the South Island today! On the flight in we got our first look at the mountains and turquoise water. My happy place!
When we touched down we quickly did our bag swap in the airport. Our big packs are coming with and our day packs will stay at the hostel we are staying at 9 days from now. Christian was laughing at my zip off pants. Did somebody call Dad!?
Queenstown is such a cool spot. Has the classic mountain town design but has the water for docks and boats as well. You can feel a buzz all around the town. Full of sports shops for biking, snowboarding, bungee jumping, skydiving, you name it. I love this place already!
We caught a bus to Te Anau and are staying at the Lakefront Backpacker Lodge. The drive was nice. Followed the water until reaching farmland with thousands and thousands of sheep! All of course with mountain backdrops.
Big feed tonight and bed early in preparation for our Milford Sound Challenge!
8 January 2019
Left Tongariro today to head back to Auckland. We’re catching a flight down to Queenstown tomorrow! Super stoked for that. The mountains are calling!
About a 4 hour drive today so we found a way to break it up and put in a 8km hike called the Te Waihou Walkway. It started off walking alongside the stream and through farmland. It was like the Shire from LOTR. The walk consisted of sounds from the water, birds, and insects all in unison. We joked that it even sounded like one of those songs you hear when getting a massage.
At the end it had these blue springs with tropical greenery surrounding it. It was awesome. It just seems like in NZ there is a different landscape around every hairpin turn!
We made it back to Auckland or should I say the ghetto(Mangere) to spend the night and pick up last minute hiking supplies. The AirBnB was a funny box outside a house. It did just fine for dinner and a night of organizing the big hikes we have coming up!
7 January 2019
Woke up this morning to complete overcast skies. We again, got lucky with the bluebird day for the big hike yesterday.
Legs feel good which is a positive sign. Still lots more hiking to do. Generally speaking I feel great. We have been eating healthy with massive amounts of exercise!
We hung out and ate breakfast with the folks we drank with last night before splitting ways. Even though today was our “off” day we checked out a couple waterfalls. One was where the scene consisted of Gollum obsessing over the ring, called Tawhai Falls. Pretty spot with minimal tourist traffic.
Later on we relaxed at the hostel. Couple games of crib and laid in bed!
Once we got stir crazy we set out for Taranaki Falls. Another Lord of the Rings reference point but couldn’t tell you what for. It was taller than Tawhai but not as full. The last leg of the hike the rain started. Heavy enough to adequately soak us before getting to the car!
6 January 2019
5am alarm clock and 6am pick up for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing! The hike is home of Mount Tongariro which is Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings!
The beginning of the hike we stared at Mount Doom for about 8.5 km through volcanic rock. All of which was uphill as we battled wind and scree making it a relatively tough climb but nothing too intense. Made it to the crossing at Red Crater where it felt like we were on another planet.
After the crossing we come over the edge and viewed the Emerald Lakes. Turquoise coloured alpine pools. They are mesmerizing to stare at!
We descended after the crossing, getting great views of Taupo lake and even a crater where a launched boulder hit from the last eruption in 2012. The hike totalled 19.6km.
When we got back we stretched and had some cele drinks where we met a couple from Calgary(our future home) and a mixed bag of backpackers playing Irish Snap. A fun drinking game that led into bed.
5 January 2019
Left New Plymouth today for Tongariro! It’s home to a couple volcano’s, one of which is Mount Doom from the lord of the rings.
It was a long day of driving and it certainly didn’t help that I drank last night. We’re both feeling pretty shit. Miss’s at the grocery store told us about a carnival going on at a beach along the way so we stopped there to check it out and get some sun. Broke up the drive a bit.
Later on I electrocuted myself jumping a cattle fence in order to get a photo. Do it for the gram they say!
We arrived in Tongariro, checked into our hostel, and prepped for a big hike tomorrow after supper. 6am the shuttle picks us up for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing!
4 January 2019
It was a beautiful morning with good visibility for our hike today. Drove to the trail head to hike up to the Pouakai Tarns.
The hike start to finish was uphill. Estimated 2.5 hr but Christian and I completed it in 1.5 hr. Killed it.
Unfortunately it was completely cloud covered when we got there. We seeked refuge from the wind, cold, and mist in the Pouakai Tarns Hut. The hut sits up on the volcano and serves over night trekkers. We waited there for about 2 hours before finally deciding today just wasn’t our day and we should head back.
That’s when the clouds suddenly moved! We raced uphill to a stunning view of the volcano! I was pretty stoked, especially after deciding to call it quits. Funny how things can just work out!
As quick as it was exposed, it was covered again so we descended. Stretched beachside and chilled until Tony and Joris picked us up with their van. Drinks happened while catching up. Lots of drinks happened. Fun night!
3 January 2019
Another early morning. 5am kind of early. The room was a sauna again. Christian was so hot she bailed to sleep in the common room!
We drove something like 8 hours to New Plymouth in the Taranaki region. We were able to stretch our legs a bit and explore a black beach that had some cool rock formations. One was called Elephant Rock and the other Three Sisters.
Our AirBnB is amazing. Definitely a nice change from the hostel. After getting settled, we cooked supper and cracked open the wine. We strolled down to the beach to stretch/yoga and polished off the remaining wine. Yes I said it, yoga. Christian is my yogi.
We caught our first glimpse of Mount Taranaki today too. A perfectly symmetrical volcano. Tomorrow we are hiking up for an epic view. Hopeful for good weather, the volcano is typically covered up by clouds!
2 January 2019
We got up and going early today for a couple reasons. One, because we had about a 2.5 hr drive ahead of us to Cape Reinga which is the most northern point in NZ, and two, because it was sooooo hot trying to sleep. No air conditioning in the rooms. Nothing some free, bitter coffee can’t fix.
I haven’t mentioned this yet, but the driving here is ridiculously curvy. So much so that there were two points along the trip Christian thought she may be sick!
We made it and decided to go away from all the tourist and hike the Tapotupotu track. Honestly, it wasn’t a significant hike by any means and we ended up at a beautiful beach completed secluded! It was almost too good to be true. Half waited for something to go terribly wrong like in “The Shallows” or “The Beach” movies. It was just too perfect!
We took lots of photos and climbed back to the car. Back in Paihia we crushed a mean fish and chips from Vinny’s until it was dramatically interrupted by aggressive seagulls!
Crib, drinks, bed!
1 January 2019
Big first day on the roads. Being on the left side of the road definitely took some getting used to. Only ended up on the wrong side once so I consider that a win!
We landed in Matapouri Bay to check out a beach and the Mermaid Pools. The pools are about a 30 min walk from the edge of the beach through a forested area. We scaled rocks, watched the waves crash and got some pictures before the incoming tide rushed us out.
After we took off to Paihia and checked into
Haka Lodge Hostel. The hostel had amazing windows overlooking the water. Great location. We were so jet lagged at this point it didn’t take long before we called it quits on the day.
31 December 2018
Finally touched down in Auckland! Jumped in a shuttle to the rental car spot only to find out my passport was missing. Oh shit. Shuttled back to the airport and long story short, it was found at the customs x-ray counter. What a stressful way to start things off. Oh well, it all worked out.
We had drinks and spent New Year’s Eve, like the east coast Canadians we are, at an Irish pub. Counted down the new year with a massive crowd downtown, all waiting for the fireworks at Sky Tower. Shortly after it was lights out for us!
30 December 2018
Loooooong travel day. 14 hour flight to Beijing, 8 hour layover, and a 12 hour flight down to Auckland. NZ is a hell of a ways from home! Beijing’s airport was eco friendly today with barely any heat on so we huddled up in our sleeping bags for a snooze... bum/backpacker style!
26 December 2018
All of the essentials laid out for an exhausting photo! Last minute items to pick up but for the most part ready to go. All of this will serve months of travel. Hard to believe we are making this happen. Couldn’t be happier to have Christian by my side. What an adventure it will be! So excited!!
New Zealand, Vietnam, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore