Chile – Day 4 – Valparaiso & Vin Del Mar

Today we decided to sleep in a bit until 8am. We ended up having a buffet breakfast down in the lobby of the hotel since it was only $9 and included coffee. After breakfast we got ready and started walking along the waterfront to Vin Del Mar. The waterfront was very relaxing and was a mix of a modern reconstructed boardwalk and old decaying train depot buildings with abandoned trains along the side. We noticed a ton of homeless dogs and with a quick Google search we determined that there are an estimated 2.5 million stray dogs in Chile and the canine population is growing faster than the human population. A sobering statistics is that with 17 million Chilean’s; the canine population is slated to surpass the human population in as soon as 6-10 years. Something needs to be done about this.

Half way to Vina Del Mar we came to Portales, where there was a small beach with some food booths setup. We were not quite yet hungry so we decided that we would come back here later on. At this point in time it would have been nice to walk along the waterfront more but I had drank way too much water and needed to find a bathroom.

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We boarded the train to Vina Del Mar and found a Starbucks to go to the bathroom and we ordered some Frappuccino’s. Catherine had Java Chip Frappuccino and I had a half sweet Cookies & Cream Frappuccino. I was starting to run low on money so we stopped in at the bank and picked up some more money before continuing our walk along the waterfront. The beach in Vin Del Mar was very beautiful and packed full of people, including some people fishing from the boardwalk. After walking along the beach we explored the city of Vina del Mar. We saw a flower clock that had real moving hands, a magician that appeared to be floating, a castle, and an old Palace.

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After exploring Vina Del Mar we took the train back to Portales, where we both got delicious freshly made empanadas for only $4 each, which is about double the going rate they were in Santiago, but this is more of a touristy area. I had pulled beef, chorizo, mushrooms and cheese; while Catherine had chicken, mushrooms and cheese. After eating our food we took the train back to the hotel, where we relaxed for a few hours before venturing out back into the cerro’s of Valparaiso.

We head back out at 6:00pm to explore the cerro of Artilleria. This was definitely one of the more dodgy areas of town and has a rating of “orange” on the scale of neighbor safety. The scale includes the colours from Red, Orange, Yellow and Green; with red being the least safe to green being the safest. I’m glad we visited it though because it was quite the unique community with beautiful views of the port and entire city, as well as some unique art. While we were up in the community we met this family that was visiting from Montreal. The dad was originally from Valparaiso and moved away when he was only 12 years old. This was his first time visiting since he moved away. He told us that practically nothing has changed since he was a child, but they were trying to do a better job of preserving some buildings and the funiculars.

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Vermilion Lakes

Last weekend I went to Vermilion Lakes with my friend Hadrian to photograph Mount Rundle at sunrise. Hadrian met me at my house at 5:30am and we drove together in my car. We arrived at Vermilion Lakes shortly after 7:00am and setup our equipment. Our initial thoughts were that it was going to be a spectacular sunrise due to the clear sky with moderate higher clouds. We definitely were in for quite the treat this morning.

The key to getting great shots of Mount Rundle from Vermilion Lakes is to situate your gear really low to the water. Hadrian uses something called a Platty Pod, which is a massive aluminum plate that has a shoe mount that you can screw into your camera. This is as low as it gets essentially. I had to improvise with some rocks and ice chunks since I don’t own a Platty Pod. I also took some photographs on the tripod with it at it’s lowest settings, but the shots were not quite as dramatic as I was hoping for, hence moving to the rocks and ice chunks.

After watching the spectacular sunrise we drove to Lake Louise, where we didn’t get very far due to an unfortunate slip and fall, so we returned to Calgary.

Be sure to check back in just over a weeks time when C and I depart on our trip to Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This is a trip you won’t want to miss!

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Christmas & New Years 2018

As 2018 slides into 2019 I sit back and reflect on what a wonderful year I had. I changed my career path from Structural Design to Business Development. I met my wonderful girlfriend Catherine and was also able to travel to all these amazing places:

  • Thailand (Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Kanchanaburi, Koh Samui)
  • France (Paris, Mont Saint Michel, Toulouse, Lyon)
  • Spain (Barcelona)
  • Drive US Route 66 with my Father
  • Visit Yamnuska Wolfdog Sanctuary with my Mother
  • Kenya
  • Tanzania
  • Greece (Athens, Santorini)
  • Switzerland (Zurich, Jungfraujoch)
  • Ottawa with Catherine TWICE!
  • Jasper National Park

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On New Years Eve I prepared Catherine and I a delicious dinner of salmon, garlic mashed potatoes, and mixed vegetables, then we went skating at Canada Olympic Plaza before making a toast to 2019 with some champagne and fireworks.

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I’m extremely looking forward to 2019 as there are quite a few wonderful things planned.

  • Travel to Chile / Argentina / Paraguay / Brazil
  • Travel to Vietnam / Chile
  • See Darci Lynne Live in Portland
  • Moving to a New House
  • Numerous Alberta Hikes (Galatea Lake & Lillian Lake, Junction Creek to name a few)

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Jasper National Park

Two weekends ago my girlfriend and I took a little weekend trip to Jasper, Alberta. Jasper is situated in Jasper National Park, which is located in the Canadian Rockies. Jasper was established in 1813 as Jasper House and was a fur trading outpost for the Hudson’s Bay Company on the York Factory Express trade route. Jasper National Park was established in 1907. The town of Jasper saw the arrival of the railway in 1911 with the railway siding being added by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (now CN Rail).

On the drive up we stopped numerous times to take photos along Highway 93 North (Icefield Parkway). We also stopped at Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Columbia Icefields.

Our stay in Jasper was fulfilled by Sawridge Inn, which has a day spa, pool, hot tub, and sauna. They went above and beyond to accommodate us and we really appreciated the hospitality.

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Revisiting Peru

In 2014 I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Peru with my father. I have quite a few friends visiting Peru in 2019/2020 so I figured I’d write a blog post describing my travels from what I can remember. I’ll explain via Q&A format as that’s probably the most palatable format for most people.

Do I Need a VISA?

If you’re visiting from Canada or the USA then you do not require a VISA.

How Long Should I Go For?

I recommend 10-14 days for a first time visit. We went for 10 days and it felt like the right amount of time, although some people may find that rushed. My father and I are go-go-go people so 10 days felt perfect.

What Vaccinations Should I Get?

There are no mandatory vaccines required for entry into Peru, but its recommended that you get Hepatitis A & B, and Yellow Fever (depending on the area of travel). I only had Hepatitis A & B when I travelled. I also recommend you bring Dukoral because I was the unfortunate victim to “muddy butt” (self explanatory) on the last day of my travels because we ate at a local restaurant that had food that came in contact with contaminated water. Let’s just say I had a very unpleasant week after that…

How Do You Get To Peru From Calgary?

The easiest way to get to Lima, Peru from Calgary is one of two ways:

  • Calgary to Lima via Houston on United Airlines. Typical costs range around $1000-1200 for economy class.
  • Calgary to Lima via Dallas on American Airlines. This is the route choice that we chose. Typical costs range around $1000-1200 for economy class but business class tickets can be had for as little as $1200 in our case if you hunt around. South America is an anomaly for cheap business class tickets for some reason; sometimes business class tickets can be had for the same price, if not cheaper due to lack of demand. Remember the more open seats the cheaper the airfare is; once seats fill up the prices usually start to increase.

Once you get to Lima you’re more than likely going to want to head to Cuzco, which is operated by LATAM. LATAM is a Chilean holding company that operates the largest airline and subsidiaries in South America. LATAM operates in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Peru.

What Is The Weather Like?

In general Peru is pretty mild year round. I found Lima to be muggy in mid June despite it’s mild low to mid 20°C temperatures. Cusco and the Sacred Valley (including Machu Picchu) I found to be t-shirt weather during the day, and sweater weather at night. In fact some evenings in the Sacred Valley approached near 0°C at night!

What Should You Visit In Peru?

First time visitors will definitely want to head to the following locations (all followed with pictures)

  • Cusco
    • Cusco is a city in southeastern peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. The city has a population of just under 500,000 people and is located at an elevation of 11200 feet (3400 metres). I highly recommend bringing some altitude sickness pills if you suffer from altitude sickness. I don’t usually get hypoxia or altitude sickness so I did not require these pills. Cusco was the historic capitcal of the Incan Empire from the 13th to 16th century Spanish conquest. Cusco was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, and it definitely is deserving of this heritage title as there are manly beautiful architecturally significant sites around the city. I highly recommend exploring the local markets.

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  • Machu Picchu
    • Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley. This is the main attraction in Peru. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and later abandoned. It’s renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views.
    • To get to Machu Picchu we took the “Sacred Valley” PeruRail train from Urubamba to the base of Machu Picchu, where we boarded a tour coach to take us to the top of Machu Picchu.
    • When at the base of Machu Picchu I highly recommend exploring the base city as its filled with amazing markets, affordable accommodation and great food.

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  • Urubamba
    • Urubamba is the largest town in the Sacred Valley region of southeastern Peru. It is a busy transportation hub and sits on the Urubamba River, surrounded by rugged mountains. There is a popular market selling fresh fruit and vegetables and also pots, pans, and other essential items. The market does not really cater to tourists, but we chose to explore it anyways. We aware of people wanting money for taking photographs. I managed to get a picture of a badass Llama wearing sunshades!

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  • Sacsayhuaman (pronounced Sexy Woman… I’m not kidding)
    • Sacsayhuaman is a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the historic capital of the Inca Empire.

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  • Maras
    • Maras is a town near the city of Cusco in the Sacred Valley of southeastern Peru. It’s known for the Maras Salt Mines, thousands of individual salt pools on a hillside, dating back to Incan times. West of the town is Moray, an Inca archaeological site on a high plateau featuring a series of concentric terraces.

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Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

This past weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to go for a nice Sunday drive with my friend Brenda. Brenda and I met just over a year ago on a Grizzly Bear Tour done by Classic Canadian Tours. I had the wonderful opportunity to go on this tour with my mom and happened to meet Brenda on the tour. I highly recommend Classic Canadian Tours for once in a lifetime handcrafted Canadian experiences. You can check out their tours on their website here. You can see my blog post about that trip here.

Since then we also went on another Classic Canadian Tours trip to see Polar bears in Churchill (also with my mom). You can see my blog post about that trip here:

Fast forward to last weekend when we decided to go for a drive in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We drove over 300 kilometers looking for wildlife, but unfortunately had no luck finding any wildlife. We did manage to get some fantastic landscape photos though. I was testing out a new camera, a Canon EOS R, to potentially replace my aging Canon 1DX, but the camera has some shortfalls so I will be hanging onto my Canon 1DX for the perceivable future.

After our road trip we stopped for a beer at Hard Knox Brewery in Black Diamond. I had a delicious IPA and Brenda had a Honey Brown Ale.

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Check back next weekend when I head on a weekend getaway to Jasper with my girlfriend.

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Jungfraujoch

On the last day of my Africa / Europe trip I visited the beautiful mountain saddle called Jungfraujoch situated in the Bernese Alps. Jungfraujoch connects the two peaks of Jungfrau and Monch and is situated at an elevation of 11371 feet (3466 metres) above sea level.

I started my day off by being picked up by Gray Line Tours at Zurich Central Train Station at 8:30am. The tour coach drove to the beautiful city of Interlaken via a quick stop in Lucerne to pick up people, which is also a very notable place to visit in Switzerland. In Interlaken we stopped for a quick coffee and bathroom break before continuing onto Lauterbrunnen, where we boarded a cog-wheel train to take us to Kleine Scheidegg. The train ride up from Lauterbrunnen was amazing as you could see the nearly 300 metre tall Staubbach Waterfall that towers over the entire town. This town seems like it is something out of a fairytale.

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Once we reached Kleine Scheidegg we switched cog-trains to go to Jungfraujoch. Once we arrived in Jungfraujoch  we toured the “Top of Europe” building which includes several panoramic restaurants, tunnels, the Sphinx (one of the highest astronomical observatories in the world), and a viewing platform. The tour lasted approximately 2.5 hours at the top and was one of the most magnificent things I’ve ever seen. I have to admit when I first arrive in Jungfraujoch I was feeling some mild hypoxia effects having come from Zurich only a few hours before and gaining nearly 11000 feet of elevation gain.

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We returned on a cog-train at about 3:30pm to Kleine Scheidegg and then took a different cog-train to Grindelwald, another beautiful town situated in the Bernese Alps with a beautiful crystal-clear river running through the middle of it. In Grindelwald we boarded our tour coach to take us back to Zurich, via Lucerne to drop off some people.

This day, albeit an expensive one ($350 CDN), was completely worth it and a very magnificent experience. I highly recommend going to see Jungfraujoch.

Stay tuned for my next adventure which will be quite soon!

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