Ptarmigan Cirque Hike

Today I just finished a lovely hike with my friend Sara called Ptarmigan Cirque in my beautiful home province of Alberta. Ptarmigan Cirque is a 4.3 kilometer loop in Kananaskis Park that starts just along Highway 40, before traversing up 355 metres of elevation gain through the thick forest before opening up to a beautiful meadow / rocky area between some mountains. This hike is about 8000 feet above sea level, so make sure to pace yourself or you’ll find yourself out of breath.

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Check back tomorrow when I continue on my Vietnam adventure in the beautiful city of Hoi An.

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Iguazu Falls

We spent our second last day of our South American trip exploring Iguazu Falls. In my personal opinion the Argentinian side is much better than the Brazilian side. About 80% of Iguazu Falls is on the Argentinian side and I feel the views are much better.

We woke up early so we could get a good head start on the day, but the weather had a different idea for us. There was torrential downpour that delayed our departure until approximately 10:00am. There was so much rain coming down that the pool overflowed and the restaurant where we eat our breakfast was starting to flood.

Eventually at 10:00am we set off and took a local bus for 130 Argentinian Pesos per person ($4.25 CDN) to Iguazu Falls. The bus ride took about 30 minutes. Expect to pay the same amount on your return trip.

The entrance cost to the Argentinian side is 700 Argentinian Pesos ($23 CDN). There are 3 routes on the Argentinian side (Lower Loop, Upper Loop, and The Devil’s Throat), as well as a boat trip to San Martin Island, but the boat trip was not operating today as the water levels were too low. We completed the routes in the following order: Upper Loop, The Devil’s Throat, and then finally the Lower Loop). Looking back at it I think we completed it in the right order because it was still raining when we arrived and I found the Upper Loop had the least exciting views of the three.

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After completing the Upper Loop we were hungry so we decided to grab some food from the fast food restaurant near the middle of the park. We both ordered some cheeseburgers. The cheeseburgers caught the interest of the local Capuchin monkeys and coati’s. Coati’s are similar to raccoons and are equally as annoying despite being cute.

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The sun was starting to come out and the rain had dried up by the time we started to walk to the Devil’s Throat. The experience and views are out of this world. You can hear the roar of the falls and the amount of mist coming from the falls is incredible. We became completely drenched in water from the mist, as well as my camera!

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After completing the Devil’s Throat we walked the Lower Loop, which in my opinion provided the most impressive views of Iguazu Falls. On this loop you really get to experience how large and impressive these falls are.

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The Brazilian side just has the one route and takes about an hour to complete. You can almost walk right into the Devil’s Throat on the Brazilian side so you’ll be sure to get soaked. The Brazilian side keeps you mostly further away but you can get some pretty decent panoramic shots. The entrance cost on the Brazilian side is 63 reals ($21.50 CDN).

After exploring Iguazu Falls we went back to our hotel to pack for our return flight home the next day. I tried to check in to the flight and had difficulty as it said the flight couldn’t be found. I had to phone Avianca and Air Canada and spent numerous hours on the phone and was up quite late trying to figure it out. Avianca is in financial hardship and had to return about 30 percent of its fleet the previous week and because of this they cancelled our Iguazu Falls to Sao Paulo flight and didn’t notify me. Air Canada (Avianca’s partner) told me to just show up at the airport tomorrow and see what they can do for us.

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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.

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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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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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Thailand – Day 7 & 8 – Koh Samui

My flight was at 8:10am so I had to wake up quite early (5:30am). I had breakfast at the hotel buffet, which was a delicious omelette, lots of bacon, roasted tomatoes, some nice cheese, and some coffee (real coffee, none of that instant stuff I’ve been having at most hotels).

I proceeded to walk to my gate, which was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel. Security is very quick and well organized at the airport. On my way to the gate I decided to use the washroom and then something funny happened… you know how we take it for granted that there is toilet paper in every stall in the bathrooms in North America… yeah my luck ran out for the first time here… I was looking around and couldn’t find any and I thought to myself what the heck am I going to do. I then left my stall and was about to leave when I noticed a single roll with a sign above it near the sink. The sign says it’s to limit consumption of toilet paper… I wouldn’t agree because I took 4 times as much as I needed because I didn’t want to have to go back for seconds.

The flight to Koh Samui was on time and was very smooth. I took a time lapse video of the takeoff and landing of the flight. During the flight I was even served a real meal, even though the flight was only 45 minutes long; similar and just as impressive as my experience with Qantas in 2016 when I was in Australia.

After landing in Koh Samui I rented a Nissan Micra from National Car Rental for about $200 for the three days. I did this over renting a motorcycle for a variety of reasons; it was supposed to rain, and I didn’t want to die. The fatality rate on the roads in Thailand, and the rest of Southeast Asia is phenomenally high!

I drove around the entire island and stopped numerous times to see a bunch of temples, two mummified monks, a hike to a waterfall, and to eat some delicious Pad Thai.

One important thing that I have to mention that completely makes me sick to my stomach is the animal trekking that occurs all over Thailand, as well as the rest of Southeast Asia from what I’ve read. Today I saw a baby elephant chained up next to its mother doing a circuit at a trekking place called Na Mueang Safari Park. The elephants were miserable. Please don’t support any of these trekking places if you end up visiting Thailand. Even Bangkok Airways announced prior to landing I Koh Samui that they don’t support it and recommend to not partake in the activities.

i then drove to the resort I was going to be staying at for the next two nights; Bandara Resort & Spa, an Asian themed boutique resort. The check in procedure was amazing; I was greeted with a cool refreshing towel soaked in essential oils, and presented a delicious drink.

In the evening I had some Tom Yum soup, and was still hungry so I walked across the street to a pizza shop, which was delicious!

I ended the evening watching a fire show at CoCo Tams, which is known for its night life on the beach, which was an incredible experience especially with the great music!

The next day was a day of relaxation by the pool and on the beach. I even went for a traditional Thai oil aromatherapy massaged for 450 baht ($18)

In the evening I walked to the night market near CoCo Tams to check out what was for sale. You could purchase almost anything you could think of; $0.25 socks, $1 underwear, $50 knockoff Bose speakers, knickknacks, etc.

I then relaxed at CoCo Tams listening to the music before calling it a night at around midnight.

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Hawaii – Oahu & Big Island

I’m till trying to catch up on all of my blog posts. I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Hawaii. This was my second time visiting Hawaii, last time being my friend Marc’s wedding in 2016. This time I set out to explore Oahu and the Big Island.

Originally it was a solo trip for the first half, but on my flight was a beautiful woman named Myriam. Turns out she worked for the same airline (Air Canada) I was flying on and was also flying Solo because her friend had cancelled going on the trip with her. We got chatting and turns out we wanted to do similar things. She didn’t have a rental car or a ride from the airport so I offered to drive her to her hotel. We exchanged numbers and ended up meeting up the next day and ended up spending the majority of the rest of the trip together.

We travelled around Oahu for 5 days exploring the entire island, going snorkeling many times, drinking great drinks, eating great food, and visiting the very memorable Pearl Harbor site.

When it was time for me to go to the Big Island I asked Myriam what she was going to do and she said she’d come along with me to the Big Island. We travelled together on Hawaiian Airlines over to Hilo, picked up the rental car, got some groceries and proceeded to the rental house that I had booked. The house was absolutely beautiful, despite a slightly nosey host that lived above. Myriam stayed with me for a few days before we picked up my friend Krystylyn, who was going to stay for a week.

We explored around the Big Island together before it was time for Myriam to go. I dropped her off at the airport, and then spent the remaining 5 days with my friend Krystylyn. We did a ton of snorkeling, ate some wonderful food, and saw some amazing sights.

Below are some pictures from this memorable trip.

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