Chile – Day 12 – Torres Del Paine National Park

Today I woke up at 7:00am. Catherine was still sleeping so I made us some coffee as well as some cheese and eggs on toast for us. Once I had made breakfast I woke Catherine up and we had breakfast together. After breakfast I made us some salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches for our lunch later on. We quickly got ready and hopped into the truck for a 2 hour drive to Torres Del Paine National Park. During our drive the scenery just kept getting more beautiful.

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Torres Del Paine National Park encompasses mountains, glaciers, lakes and rivers in the southern Chilean Patagonia and is known for its three massive granite peaks, which are actually an eastern spur of the Andes mountains. The park receives about 250,000 visitors each year and is a very popular hiking destination in Chile. I would absolutely come back here to hike more than the one hike that I did here, and would easily spend a week or two here just hiking.

The entrance to Torres Del Paine is setup similar to a passport office but has multiple steps. “Step 1” has a booth where you fill out a double sided piece of paper with a lot of your personal information, including your address as well as your passport number. After you fill out the paper you take it to “step 2” which stamps the paper and takes your money; in this case 21000 Chilean Pesos ($42.30 CDN) for 3 days of entry. “Step 3” involves taking your stamped piece of paper over to a different desk where they will stamp it again with a different stamp and provide you with instructions and a very detailed map.

After checking into the park we slowly drove to Mirador Condor Trail (a hike I wanted to do), while taking multiple stops for photos. We arrived at the Mirador Condor Trailhead at about 10:30am. The hike takes about 1.5 to 2 hours return and has an elevation gain of roughly 200 metres over 4km (2km each way) and has a beautiful view from the top overlooking Pehoe Lake. When we started the hike the sky was fairly clear except around the three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range but the temperature was a cool 15 degrees Celsius. We were both wearing jackets when we started the hike, but I quickly took my jacket off because I was starting to get hot. Catherine kept hers on the entire time because she is usually always too cold.

Half way up to the viewpoint we noticed the wind started picking up, but we had no idea what we were in for until we actually got to the top. At the top we could barely stand up and we later learned in the day the top regularly sees 160 kph winds, which is very substantial. At the top I took the opportunity to make some hilarious faces with the wind morphing my mouth into all sorts of ungodly positions. The viewpoint is absolutley breathtaking. On one side you see the beautiful shimmering turquoise coloured Pehoe Lake and on the other side you see the remains of a 2011-2012 fire that an Israeli backpacker deliberately set by lighting up some paper rolls. The fire burned 176 square kilometers of the reserve, destroying 36 square kilometers of native forest, which you can see in my photographs. The Israeli government sent in reforestation experts to the park and has committed to donate trees to replant the affected areas.

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While on our way down from the top we ran into an older couple named Martin and Sophie who were visiting from the Netherlands. We talked for a bit and then realized that we were going to be on the same Lago Grey glacier tour tomorrow. After talking for a bit I was really starting to deteriorate because of my cold and being out in the cold wind so we head back towards the truck. The return only took about 30 minutes and we even saw some condor birds on the way down; they’re huge!

Once we arrived at the truck we were both quite hungry so we ate the salami, cheese and avocado sandwiches that I made for lunch. We continued on driving throughout the park stopping at multiple lookouts and doing short hikes. Another one of my favorite stops was the Salto Grande waterfall. It’s not a very large waterfall but the colours were absolutely stunning.

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We ended up leaving the park at around 5:30pm and arrived back at our loft around 7:30pm. On the way back we passed Puerto Natales airport where I saw a BAE-146 (Avro RJ-100) taking off. These old workhorses are a dying bread and most have come to South America to spend their last years before they get turned into scrap metal. Many work for the airline DAP which flies to Antarctica.

Catherine made us some pasta with chicken and some red sauce for dinner. I wasn’t feeling too good so we laid in bed and watched “The Impossibles” movie. I’m surprised that I had never seen the 2movie before but it was actually pretty good and is based on a true story on a family that was affected by the 2004 Thailand floods.

Chile – Day 6 – Travel Day & San Pedro De Atacama

Today we woke up at 5:15am because we had the airport shuttle departing for SCL Airport at 6:00am. Security was a total breeze which makes you wonder if they’re even looking at the screens or peoples tickets and passports. I recall when I travelled to Peru in 2014 with my father that there basically was no security for internal flights; this basically gives the same perception. We then purchased some Starbucks; I had a drip coffee and C had a Chai Tea Latte. Our 8:15am flight boarded quickly and we arrived at Calama Airport (CJC) at 10:50am.

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The day fell apart from here and it started with the Budget rental car agency. The rental car took almost three hours to figure out and we were given about ten different excuses as to where the car was, but it was obvious they were not prepared. I left a nasty 1 star review on Google Reviews during the whole process. While waiting for the car we talked with a bunch of people dropped off cars at other rental agencies and they said the entire park was closed due to flooding and heavy rain; which was not great news for us… more on that later! After finally leaving the airport at close to 2:00pm, three hours later we went to Lider (Walmart) and purchased water and a few groceries and started our adventure.

We drove one hour to San Pedro de Atacama and saw the Valley of the Moon from the top of road. The weather looked okay at this point in time and we had yet to see the flooding until when we drove into the town. That’s when things really changed… the roads were red mud and completely flooded. We drove to our hotel; Hotel La Casa de Don Tomas. The hotel was absolutely beautiful and we were greeted with Champagne. After checking in we decided to walk into town and get some dinner at Las Delicias de Carmen. We both ordered vegetable lasagna with a side of potatoes and quinoa. We were told the portion was large and could probably share it, but we didn’t heed to her advice… we should have though! While we were waiting for our meals to come out there was a torrential downpour and the power in the entire city shut off. Our server casually came over with a candle as if this were a regular occurrence. We ordered a thousand layer cake to go for C as it was her birthday. We wanted to have it while watching a movie back at the hotel, but sadly with no power there was no internet.

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We watched a previously downloaded episode of Marvelous Miss Maisel, the second last one before we’re all caught up. If you have not seen this series I highly recommend it! I came up with a plan B for tomorrow for us to explore Reserva Nacional Alto Loa. It was still raining, my cold was getting worse, and it was time to go to bed.

2018-08-19 – Still Travelling to Kenya

Today my journey to Nairobi, Kenya continues. I deliberately slept in until 11:30am so that I could start to get acclimatized to Nairobi’s time zone. I took the Hilton airport shuttle to Toronto Pearson International Airport, had a burrito from Freshii, which was actually pretty good, and then checked in for my flight as I was unable to do so online. After checking in for my flight I went through security and sat down at this place called Beer Hive and ordered a Muskoka Brewery Mad Tom IPA. I took some pictures of planes while I was waiting for my Jet Airways India flight to Amsterdam.

I try to be as positive as possible about my travel experiences but Jet Airways India is a pretty lousy airline. The Boeing 777 was 10 abreast instead of the typical 9, the interior was very worn and dated including the seat cushions, and the onboard service was deplorable. They’ve in the news lately because they’re concerned they will not have enough money to continue operating past the end of August as their main financial backer; Etihad has decided not to continue funding the failing airline. Perhaps if they spent more money on providing a quality experience then perhaps people would fly them.

Anyways onto the positives; upon arrival in Amsterdam, which is an absolutely wonderful airport, I went and checked in to a cute pod hotel called YOTEL. I had four hours of sleep before boarding the next and final leg of my flights to Nairobi, Kenya. The pod had an extremely comfortable mattress and a nice thick duvet on top. It felt nice with the air conditioning blasted but having a thick duvet on. When I woke up I was able to shower in my own mini personal shower in the pod.

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The flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi was on a KLM Boeing 747-400M, which is actually the last Boeing I needed to fly on to complete my list of Boeing jetliners except for the Boeing 720. This marks a milestone for my last Boeing Jet, and my last continent except Antarctica. The KLM flight was about 1 hour late departing due to a failed emergency battery, but the pilot was exceptionally communicative the entire time. The onboard experience was perfect; the staff were super friendly and attentive, the food was amazing, and the seat was very comfortable. I got chatting with the crew on the flight and was invited to explore the upper deck, galley;s, and crew rest area. The flight was very smooth as well; probably even smoother than flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It was a true joy flying on the Queen of the Skies!

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The plane parked on the tarmac upon our late arrival so we had to take a bus to the terminal. Once inside the terminal it was a quick walk to immigration/customs where I only had to wait about 15 minutes to get my passport stamped. It saves a ton of time if you have you e-visa beforehand. I just needed to get my fingerprints and photograph taken. After clearing immigration/customs I was met by my GoWay Travel representative named Justar. She’s a delightful young lady who moved to Nairobi two years ago after graduating with her bachelor of arts. She will be my tour guide in 2-days time.

Tomorrow is a day of relaxation and exploring the Central Business District of Nairobi. Make sure to check back tomorrow for my next blog post!

2018-05-25 – US Route 66 Day 9

Today we drove 295 miles from Flagstaff, Arizona to Las Vegas, Nevada. We ended up staying at The Hamptons by Hilton. Today was the final day of our trip. We will fly home tomorrow. We saw the following sights today:

  • Museum Club, Flagstaff
  • El Pueblo Motel, Flagstaff
  • 66 Motel, Flagstaff
  • Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff
  • Du Beau Motel, Flagstaff
  • Pine Breeze Inn, Flagstaff
  • Harley Davidson, Bellemont
  • Park in Pines Café, Parks
  • Twisters Soda Fountain, Parks
  • Grand Motel, Parks
  • Rod’s Steak House, Williams
  • Pete’s Gas Station Museum, Williams
  • Red Garter Bed & Bakery, Williams
  • Grand Canyon Railroad & Hotel, Williams
  • Grand Canyon Hotel, Willliams
  • National Bank, Williams
  • 9 Arizona Motor Motel, Williams
  • Desoto Salon, Ash Fork
  • Delagillos Snow Cap, Seligman
  • Route 66 Gift Shop, Seligman
  • Copper Cart, Seligman
  • Historic Sundries, Seligman
  • Black Cat Bar, Seligman
  • Supai Motel, Seligman
  • Truxton Ghost Town
  • Hackberry Store
  • Anatres Art Gallery
  • Route 66 Motel, Kingman
  • Beale Hotel, Kingman
  • Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, Kingman
  • Powerhouse Vistor’s Centre, Kingman

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2018-05-20 – US Route 66 Day 4

Today we drove 229 miles from St. Robert, Missouri to Miami, Oklahoma. We ended up staying at The Hamptons by Hilton. We saw the following sights today:

  • Hooker Cut, Devils Elbow. Hooker Cut is the first dual carriageway on Route 66.
  • Elbow Inn and BBQ, Devils Elbow
  • Sheldons Market, Devils Elbow
  • Frog Rock, Waynesville
  • Uranus Fudge Factory, St. Robert
  • Gascozark Café Remains, Gascozark
  • Munger Moss Motel, Lebanon
  • Starlite Lanes, Lebanon
  • Town of Marshfield
  • Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, Springfield
  • Rest Haven Court, Springfield
  • Steak n Shake, Springfield
  • Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque, Springfield
  • Sky Eleven Springfield. This high rise was built in 1911. It was an office building that started falling apart in the early 2000’s. They restored it recently and turned it into some very swanky apartment buildings. Monthly rent is only around $600/mth.
  • Rock Fountain Court Motel, Springfield
  • Gay Parita Station, Everton
  • Spencers Gas Station, Miller
  • Boots Court Motel, Carthage
  • 66 Drive In Theatre, Carthage
  • Superman Museum, Carterville
  • 1920’s Service Station, Webb City
  • 1950’s Service Station, Webb City
  • Plaza Motel, Joplin
  • Cars on Route 66, Galena
  • Town of Galena
  • Baxter Springs Rainbow Bridge, Baxter Springs
  • Town of Baxter Springs
  • Dairy King, Commerce
  • Allens Conoco, Commerce
  • Kuku, Miami. We ate here. We both had a cheeseburger with a raspberry milkshake that was so thick you couldn’t drink it through a straw.
  • Coleman Theatre, Miami
  • Vintage Gas Station, Miami

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2018-03-14 – Toulouse

Today I woke up at 8:00am. Toulouse has an amazing bike rental company called Toulouse Velo, which stands for Toulouse Bike. I rented a bike from right outside my hotel and rode towards the town Center where I grabbed some McDonald’s for breakfast before taking the tram up to The Aeroscopia Museum near the airport. The museum featured predominantly Airbus products, but had a few other products such as the Caravelle and not one, but two Concorde’s! The price was fairly reasonable at €12.50.
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The Caravelle, designed and built by Sud Aviation right here in Toulouse between 1955 and 1972, is such a unique aircraft because it had triangular windows, a unique T-tail arrangement, and was one of the first jet turbine powered aircraft to be built that was highly successful. The last aircraft was retired in 2005, a whole 50 years after it first flew. The only comparable jet turbine powered airliner that shares this same success would be the McDonnell Douglas DC9 or the Boeing 737 series, the later having just had its 10,000th unit produced and was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. I also got to go inside the Concorde’s, an old Airbus A300, and a Super Guppy!
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After exploring Aeroscopia I went to the restaurant next door called La Ferme du Pinot, where I had a local Toulousian dish called Cassolette. Cassolette is beans, pork and duck confit; think meat and beans casserole. I really liked the aviation inspired chairs that were at the restaurant as well. Once I move into a nicer apartment or house I’d like to purchase one.
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After lunch I took the tram back into the city exploring lots of old architecture dating back to around the 1100’s and onwards including the old City Hall, Saint Sernin, and Church of the Jacobins.
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I went back to my hotel to relax for a bit before going out for dinner at the same place I had the donair last night because it was so good. After dinner I went to a local brewery/beer shop called La Matabiere, where I picked up four different beers; three IPA’s and one Amber. I head back to my hotel room and did some photo editing and drank the beers before heading out to do some night photography of the churches and old City Hall. I ended up going to bed around 10:00pm.
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2018-03-10 – Paris Bound & Paris Day 1

Today I started out having breakfast with my father at the airport before catching an Air Canada flight to Vancouver, where I caught an Icelandair Flight to Reykjavik. The Icelandair flight was the best flight that I had ever been on because I saw a KP5 index Aurora Borealis! One of the flight crew members that wasn’t flying noticed me setting up my tripod and wedging it in between my business class seat and the aircraft wall and asked if they could take it into the cockpit to take some photographs of the Aurora from up front. I obliged and let them mess around with it for a bit. He came out after a while and talked with me for a bit and showed me the photos. The photos turned out fantastic! The flight was greeted in Reykjavik with a massive snow storm, which ended up delaying flights significantly, but more on that in a bit.

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The next flight, Reykjavik to Paris, was about an hour late arriving in from Paris, and then delayed a further 2 hours because the airport was temporarily shut down to the massive blizzard that rolled in. There was a group of women on the flight that became extremely hysterical and confrontational with the flight attendant, so I stepped in and helped to calm the situation by explaining in more detail how things work like checklists, de-icing, flight delays, etc. The flight crew was extremely thankful and gave me complimentary alcoholic beverages and food for the remainder of the flight and asked for my email address so that they could try to see if I could be upgraded on the return flight. To be honest I’m surprised the group of women didn’t get kicked off the plane; as I’m sure they would have if it was in America and Canada.

I landed three hours late at Paris Orly airport and took the OrlyBus and Metro to get to my hotel. I checked in, dropped off my stuff and went out exploring for a bit. I saw Notre Dame, Les Paris Royals, ate a delicious crepe from Breizh Cafe (highly recommended by google and trip advisor), the Louvre (outside only), some old Arcades (enclosed corridors with shops), and The Grand Rex, an Art Deco cinema built in 1932. The cinema has a capacity of 2800 seats, making it the largest in Europe in terms of seating capacity, and it also boasts the largest screen size in Paris, measuring at 300 metres squared.

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It was 8:00pm and I was completely exhausted so I went back to my hotel, emailed the flight crew from the first Icelandair flight a few Aurora pictures before heading to bed.

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