Colorado – Day 2 – Maroon Bells

Today our main highlight was hiking in Maroon Bells. Maroon Bells is Colorado’s premier fall hiking location, featuring Maroon Lake surrounded by mountains and beautiful fall foliage. The area gets its name from two 14000 mountains named Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak. Maroon Bells is only about a 30 minute drive from Aspen.

We arrived around 7:50am, as the parking lot closes at 8:00am. We had to reserve our spot, which we did over six months ago. While we were there we completed two hikes; The Scenic Loop Trail (3 Miles, 120 feet Elevation), and The Crater Lake Trail (3.6 Miles, 500 feet Elevation). 

The Scenic Loop follows the North side of Maroon Lake, and loops around on the West side.

The Crater Lake Trail essentially follows the same route, around the lake, but then branches off on the West side of the lake and continues through the Valley until you reach Crater Lake.

It was about 11am when we finished the two hikes. We drove back to our hotel to grab a cup of coffee, and our bathing suits, before heading out again.

Next stop was The Grotto Trail, about a 20 minute drive the other direction from our lodging in Aspen. It was back the same we drove in from yesterday. The Grottos Trail features an ice cave, smooth cascading granite from the water running over it for thousands of years, and a beautiful cascading waterfall. The hike isn’t very hard and only takes about 20-30 minutes to complete. It was pouring rain for the majority of the hike, but was worth it.

Next stop was Glenwood Hot Springs Pool located in Glenwood Springs. The area was originally inhabited by Indigenous people before Americans colonized the area. Glenwood Springs, originally known as Defiance, was established in 1883 as a camp of tents, saloons and brothels. The town was founded by Isaac Cooper. The town was mostly populated with gambles, gunslingers, and prostitutes, and stayed as a small encampment until the larger mining town of Carbonate lost its position as a county seat, until some bribery occurred to shut down the post office in Carbonate, and moved the post office to Glenwood Springs. The city then thrived and became the main town where miners in the area lived.

The therapeutic springs waters, called Yampah, also known as Big Medicine by the aboriginals (Ute Native Americans) were used as a sacred place of healing since atleast the 1860’s. In 1890 the original red sandstone bathhouse and lodge was built for $100000. It was designed by Austrian architect Theodore von Rosenberg, who’s buildings I have definitely seen before in Vienna. The bathhouse features tubs, vapor baths, a ladies parlor, physicians office, gymnasium, smoking rooms, and reading rooms. The building houses 44 bathing rooms. The main pool is 405 feet long by 105 feet wide and contains 1.07 million gallons of water that is kept at 32° C. The hot “therapy” pool is 100 feet long by 105 feet wide and contains 91000 gallons of water kept at 40° C.

During World War II the resort Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs Bathhouse) was exclusively used as a US Naval Convalescent Hospital. It was the only time in history that the bathhouse was closed to the public. In 1970 an upgraded water filtration system was installed to filter the 3.5 million gallons per day of 52° C water. In 1986 a 107 room lodge was built on the North side of the pool.

After visiting the pool we walked around the town for a bit before driving back to our hotel.

Once we were back at the hotel we walked to White House Tavern, where I had a delicious chuck steak burger, and dad had a French beef dip sandwich. We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and chatting before it was time to go to bed.

Waterfalls & Rice Terraces! – Northern Bali, Indonesia

Today was a day of exploring waterfalls. We ended up hiring another driver from Bali Customized Tours, however I forget what his name was this time… I think it was Ali. We had breakfast at the Westin hotel again, and was picked up at 7:00am.

First stop was Leke Leke Falls. The last few kilometres of driving took nearly half an hour because of how bumpy and uneven the road was. The waterfall isn’t frequented as many others around Bali, so we were the only ones there. Standing at 32 metres high, the water sources are from springs in the mountains, so the water is quite clear. The entrance fee to the waterfall is about $4/pp and the hike takes about 30 minutes return.

After visiting Leke Leke falls we drove to Sekumpul Waterfall, about another hour away. You need to hire a local guide to bring you down to the waterfall, because its a protected area. Our guide introduced us to his family, and he had a pretty cute dog named Molly that ended up following us for a while. The hike to the 80 metre high waterfall takes about 45 minutes, and involves going down about 350 steps. At the beginning of the hike there’s some beautiful rice terraces.

After exploring Sekumpul Waterfall our guide showed us another waterfall, just 10 minutes away, which involved two water crossings. This is the fifth time I’ve had to do a water crossing in my hiking adventures, and I really enjoyed it.

Now it was time to climb those 350 stairs to head back to the car. It wasn’t too bad, but it’s certainly not fun in 32°C heat!

We then drove to a local warung to have some lunch. Unfortunately this was a very bad choice to eat this time round, because Julie and I both ended up getting quite sick for a few days, as you’ll find out in subsequent blogs.

After lunch we visited Aling Aling Waterfall, which was just a few minutes away. Aling Aling Waterfall stands over 35 metres tall. We had the opportunity to also go down a natural waterslide, or jump into the water, however we were really beginning to not feel well, so we asked to just go to our hotel. The drive to the hotel was about another hour, which made for an uncomfortable ride.

Our accommodation tonight was at Handara Golf Resort. Handara Golf Resort is a beautiful mid-century hotel that was the brainchild of Ibnu Sutowo, known as the “father” of Golf in Indonesia. The resort took two years to build, and was opened in 1976. The resort was completely renovated in 2015, however still maintains its mid-century charm. In 1979 the golf course at the resort was rated as one of the Top 50 greatest courses in the world.

For dinner we had some western style food, since we wanted something we were used to, and were not feeling very good. Julie had an open faced burger with beef bacon, and I had some Japanese Ramen. Since we were not feeling well we decided to watch Netflix in bed, and head to bed early.

Singapore

Today we woke up at around 10am, got ready, and set out for the day. We first checked out what The Jewel looked like during the day. It’s an absolute gorgeous piece of architecture.

After admiring the waterfall for a while, we went in search of breakfast. We settled on Starbucks, as it was one of the first food places that we found. I had a breakfast sandwich, and Julie had a granola bar, as that was the only gluten-free item that she could find there.

After breakfast we took the MRT (Singapore Metro) into the city center. We ended up getting a two-day tourist pass for about $26. The journey takes about an hour, and requires you to switch about ¼ of the way into the journey. The metro line to the airport was added afterwards, so it was a bit of an afterthought, but there are plans to have a direct line later on.

When we arrived in the city center it was pouring rain. Before we dive into our adventure lets take a look at Singapore’s history.

Singapore’s History

Singapore, officially known as the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign island country and city-state. Singapore’s territory consists of one main island, and 63 small satellite islands and islets, and one outlying islet. Singapore’s history dates back about 1000 years, having been a maritime hub of many empires. Singapore’s contemporary era began in 1819 when Singapore was established as a trading post of the British Empire. In 1867, the colonies in SE Asia were reorganized and Singapore came under the direct control of Britain as part of the Straits Settlements. Singapore was occupied by Japan during World War 2 from 1942 to 1945, before being returned to British control as a sperate crown colony following Japan’s surrender in 1945. Singapore gained self-governance in 1959 and in 1963 became part of the new federation of Malaysia. Singapore became an independent sovereign country in 1965. After years of struggling due to lack of natural resources the national rapidly developed to become one of the world’s most recognizable countries. It is ranked as the 11th best country to live in by the Human Development Index (HDI), which is defined by the United Nations.

Exploring Singapore

First stop was Raffles Hotel. The Raffles Hotel is a colonial-style luxury hotel that was built in 1887. It was established by Armenian hoteliers, the Sarkies Brothers, and was named after British statesman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles, who was the founder of modern Singapore. It is currently managed by the Accor group of hotels, and features 115 luxurious rooms.

After walking around the hotel in the rain we went and had a buffet lunch at Colony, which is located in the Ritz Carlton. For about $80 you have access to an immense selection of delicious foods from all over the world. While this is a fairly steep price back at home, this is somewhat normal pricing in Singapore. Singapore happens to be the most expensive place I’ve visited in SE Asia, and one of the more expensive places I’ve visited globally, only to be trumped by Switzerland, and eventually Norway when I visit there next year.

After stuffing our faces at the buffet we walked past the Singapore Flyer, which wasn’t operating, but was still neat to see. Singapore Flyer is a 165 metre (541 foot) tall Ferris wheel, and was the world’s tallest Ferris wheel until the 168 metre (550 foot) tall High Roller Ferris wheel opened in Las Vegas in 2014. The High Roller is now in second place, and the Singapore Flyer is now in third place stacked against the Ain Dubai Ferris wheel, which stands at 250 metres (820 feet) tall. The Ain Dubai Ferris wheel was constructed between 2015 and 2021, official opening in October 2021.

We then hopped on the MRT to see the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple. The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a Chinese Buddhist temple and museum complex that was completed in 2007. The beautiful temple is four-storey’s tall and contains a relic tooth of Buddha from a collapses stupa (temple). The tooth measures 7.5 cm, which far exceeds the size of a human tooth. The relic tooth is located on the fourth floor, however I was not allowed to take any photographs of it.

We were then going to see the Sri Mariamman Temple, however it was closed for renovations. We walked past it on our way back to the MRT. The Sri Mariamman Temple is Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. It’s an agamic temple, built in the Dravidian style. It was completed in 1827 by Naraina Pillai. Pillai was a government clerk from Penang who arrived in Singapore with Sir Stamford Raffles on his second visit to the island in May 1819. Pillai setup the island’s first construction company, and also took part in the textile trade business. He quickly became a leader of the Indian community. The original temple was a simple temple made of wood and attap (mangrove palm). The temple grounds were expanded in 1831 when private land was donated to the temple. This event is recognized on a stone tablet, which stand in the temple to this day. The temple underwent numerous modifications since then, with the majority of the current day temple being built between 1862 and 1863. While much of the original structure is no longer there, the oldest parts of the existing structure date back to 1843.

We walked through a traditional market on our way back to the MRT. It was really neat to see the local vendors selling their goods. The smell of warm durian was a bit overwhelming though.

We took the MRT to Marina Bay area. We exited the Marina Bay MRT station into the large mall adjacent to the Marina Bay Sands. There’s a small Venice style canal with gondolas inside the mall, surrounded by shops on both sides. It reminded me a bit of The Venetian in Las Vegas. We took two very long escalators up to the top floor, which connects to the Marina Bay Sands. Marina Bay Sands is a beautiful resort hotel fronting Marina Bay. The resort is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corporation and cost about $8 billion to build in 2010. The resort includes a 2561 room hotel, a 1.3 million square foot convention centre, a 800000 square foot shopping mall, a museum, a theatre, restaurants, two floating crystal pavilions, art-science exhibits, and the world’s largest casino, which includes 500 tables and 1600 slot machines. The hotel is comprised of three towers topped by a 340 metre long Sky Park and infinity swimming pool. A fourth tower is expected to be constructed by 2026.

After walking through the hotel we walked towards Gardens By The Bay. Inside Gardens By The Bay is Floral Fantasy, Supertree Grove, and two conservatories; the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. First stop was Floral Fantasy, which has four beautiful garden landscapes of floral artistry. It also has a 4D ride, however that was closed due to COVID.

Next door is Supertree Grove, which has 18 tree-like structures that tower over the Garden’s landscape with heights ranging from 25 to 50 metres (82-160 feet). The Supertree’s are vertical gardens that perform many functions including planting, shading, and mechanical functions for the gardens. They are covered in exotics ferns, vines, orchids, bromeliads, etc. They are even fitted with solar panels to harness solar energy to be used for lighting, collect rainwater, and serve as air intake and exhaust functions for the conservatories cooling systems. There is an elevated walkway called the OCBC Skyway, which links the two largest Supertree’s so that you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Gardens. Every evening at 745pm and 845pm the Supertree Grove comes alive with a coordinated light and music show, which is known as the Garden Rhapsody.

The Flower Dome is the largest greenhouse is the world at 3.0 acres, and replicates a cool-day Mediterranean climate. It features a changing display, flower field, and eight other gardens; including the Baobabs, Succulent Garden, Australian Garden, South African Garden, South American Garden, Olive Grove, California Garden, and the Mediterranean Garden. While we were they there was a special Hydrangeas display, with cute scenes with bunnies, sheep, a Dutch windmill, etc. The conservatory is designed by WilkinsonEyre and Grant Associates.

The Cloud Forest is slight smaller at 2.0 acres, although slightly higher, and replicates the cool moist conditions found in tropical mountain regions in SE Asia, Central America, and South America found between 1000-3000 metres (3300-9800 feet) above sea level. The Cloud Forest features a structure called the “Cloud Mountain”, which is completely clad in orchids, ferns, spike and clubmosses, bromeliads, and anthuriums. The conservatory is also designed by WilkinsonEyre and Grant Associates.

The sun was starting to set, and we were getting hungry, so we had some burgers at Shake Shack, which was located inside Gardens By The Bay. On our way out, we walked past the Garden Rhapsody at Supertree Grove to see the tree’s all lit up. It was pretty neat!

We then walked along Fullterton Road, which is located on the other side of Marina Bay. We saw the Fullerton Waterboat House, and Merlion.

The Fullerton Waterboat House is a historic water supply house that was formerly used to supply fresh water to incoming ships in Singapore. This beautiful three-storey Art Deco style building was built in 1919, and was used to supply fresh water to incoming vessels until 1990. In 2002 it was announced by the government that the building would be protected. In 2003 the building was renovated and opened up as a restaurant. While numerous restaurants have called the Fullerton Waterboat House home over the last 20 years, it still is used as a restaurant today. Basque Kitchen by Aitor, and European restaurant chain Picotin now call the building home as of 2021.

Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore. It is a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. It was first used in Singapore as a the logo for the tourism board as early as 1964, and is now widely used to represent both the city state and its people in sports teams, advertising, branding, tourism, and as national personification. The official Merlion Park was designated by the Singapore Tourism Board in 1964, and in 1972 officially opened the 8.6 metre tall Merlion Statue.

It was around 9pm, and we were fairly exhausted from only sleeping a few hours, so it was time to catch the MRT back to the hotel. It was about 1030pm by the time we settled in for bed.

Spring 2022 Update – Calgary Zoo, Kelowna, Vancouver

It’s been a busy few months since I returned from Portugal! I’ve been working a fair amount between my two jobs, which took me to Vancouver and Kelowna. I also did videography at a wedding at the Fairmont Palliser, a grad photoshoot, and visited the Calgary Zoo.

Vancouver

In early May I visited Vancouver for an LNG Conference that my company was attending. While the majority of the time was spent working, I did have a few hours to explore the city and look at architecture. I’ll dive a bit into the history of each building below.

885 West Georgia Street, also known as the HSBC Canada Building, is a 23-storey building that was designed by WZMH Architects, and constructed between 1984 and 1986. The lobby features a large magnetically induced pendulum that was designed by Alan Storey.

Next door is Hotel Georgia, a 12-storey historic hotel that was opened in 1927. It was designed by Robert T. Garrow and John Graham Senior. The hotel originally had 313 rooms, however they were reduced to 155 after a renovation in 2011.

750 Hornby Street is home to the Vancouver Art Gallery. The building, originally built as a provincial courthouse, has been occupied by the museum since 1983.

Commodore Ballroom was opened in December 1929 as the Commodore Cabaret. It remained open until 1996, when it was closed for a $3.5 million renovation and reopened in 1999. This is a beautiful example of Art Deco style, and was designed by George Conrad Reifel and H.H. Gillingham.

The Orpheum, opened in 1927, was originally a vaudeville house on Theatre Row. It was designed by Scottish architect Marcus Priteca. The theatre has capacity for 2672 people. Following the end of the vaudeville’s heyday in the early 1930’s, the Orpheum became a movie house under Famous Players ownership, however it occasionally hosted live events from time-to-time. In 1973 Famous Players decided it wanted to gut the inside and changed it into a multiplex, however after much protesting it was stopped, and the City of Vancouver purchased the theatre for $7.1 million. The Orpheum closed in November 1975, renovated, and re-opened in April 1977 as the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The Vogue Theatre is a beautiful Art Deco style building that was built in 1941 as a movie house. It was operated by Odeon Theatres until 1984, when the company was acquired into Cineplex Odeon. In 1998 the building was restored. In 2010 the building was converted into an event space. The theatre has a capacity of 1280 people.

The Vancouver Public Library Central Branch building, also known as Library Square, is located at 350 West Georgia Street. The building was built between 1993 and 1995 for a cost of $107 million. The building, designed by Moshe Safdie, Richard Archambault, and Barry Downs, is covered in granite, which was quarried in Horsefly, British Columbia.

The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, built in 1959, was the former home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, before it moved to The Orpheum. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is now home of the Vancouver Opera and Ballet BC. The main auditorium can seat 2765 people, and the attached Playhouse Theatre can hold 668 people.

BC Place, built between 1981 and 1983 is a multi-purpose stadium that can seat 54500 people. It is home of the BC Lions, which is Vancouver’s CFL football team. The stadium roof is air-supported, and is the largest of its kind in the world.

Science World is a science center housed in a geodesic dome that was built between 1984 and 1985 for Vancouver’s Expo 86′ World’s Fair. The building, designed by Bruno Freschi, served as the fair’s Expo Center. At the end of Expo 86′ the building was repurposed into a science center.

The Pacific Central Station was built in 1917 by the Canadian Northern Railway as the terminus of its line to Edmonton. It was originally named False Creek Station, and was designed by Pratt and Ross.

St. James Anglican Church is a unique church built between 1935 and 1937. The concrete church has a combination of styles ranging from Art Deco, Romanesque Revival, Byzantine Revival, to Gothic Revival.

43 Powell Street, a six-storey heritage building that was built between 1908 and 1909 by Parr and Fee Architects. The building is designed in a flatiron style, similar to the famous flatiron building in New York. The building was originally a hotel named Hotel Europe, however in 1983 it was converted into an affordable housing complex.

The Gas Town Steam Clock was built in 1977 by Raymond Saunders and Doug Smith. It resembles something out of the Victorian era, and is located in Vancouver’s original Gastown district. It receives steam from a series of pipes connected to a generating plant at Georgia and Beatty Streets. The steam system provides heat the the majority of the downtown core, similar to how New York City’s steam system operates. This clock is rumored to be only one of two steam clocks ever constructed, because of their inherent inaccuracies. The first steam clock was build by Englishman John Inshaw in 1859, apparently to lure in customers to his tavern.

128 West Cordova Street, was originally the site of the Woodward’s Building, which was constructed in 1903 for the Woodward’s Department Store, a premier shopping store back in its heyday. I remember my parents shopping at a Woodward’s store when I was a kid. Woodward’s ended up going bankrupt and was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1993. After Woodward’s went bankrupt the building sat vacant until 2012, when a redevelopment plan was initiated. Part of the redevelopment plan included the construction of a new high rise mixed-use building called W43. The building stands 122 metres (401 feet) tall and is another flatiron style building with an exterior steel skeleton, which evokes the steel construction method used in Vancouver in the early 20th century. The rest of the original block was retained. The original Woodward’s building had a “W” neon sign that resembled that of a mini Eiffel Tower. It was replicated with modern LED lights and re-installed on one of the buildings on the block in 2010.

Credit: Paul Warchol. Creative Commons Use. Photo Taken 2014.

The Dominion Building, located at 207 West Hastings, is Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise. Standing 53 metres (175 feet) tall, this 13-storey building was the tallest commercial building in the British Empire when it was completed in 1910. The building took just over 4 years to complete. The building was designed by J.S. Helyer and Son, and is built in Second Empire architecture style, which evolved from French Renaissance style.

Harbour Center is a 147 metre 28-storey tall skyscraper with a circular 360° lookout tower that overlooks the central business district. The brutalist style building was designed by WZMH Architects, and was opened in 1977. The building is somewhat unique as the glass elevators to the observation deck ride on the outside of the building. The building has been featured in a few movies such as The 6th Day, and Blade: Trinity, as well as a few TV Shows such as the X-Files and MacGyver.

The MacMillan Bloedel Building is 27-storey concrete tower with offset halves, tapered walls, and deep recessed windows. This brutalism style (modernist style) structure was designed by Arthur Erickson, Geoff Massey, and Francis Donaldson, and was built between 1968 and 1969.

1285 W Pender Street, also known as the Evergreen Building, is a beautiful multi-terraced building covered in greenery. The building was designed by Arthur Erickson, and built in 1980.

1333 W Georgia Street, also known as the Qube, is a very unique brutalism style (modernist style) building constructed in 1969. The building, designed by Rhone and Iredale Architects, looks like a floating cube, and is supported by a strong concrete core. The Qube was originally constructed as a commercial building, but was later converted to condominiums in 2006.

1919 Beach Avenue, also known as Eugenia Place, is a 19-storey condominium building that overlooks the shoreline of English Bay. The building, designed by Caleb Chan, was constructed in 1991 and features a 37 foot Pin Oak tree on its rooftop in a specially designed circular cauldron. The oak tree on the top of the building is a metaphorical representation of the tall forests of Cedar and Douglas Fir that once stood there. The building is unique in that there is only one suite per floor, with the exception of the top two suites each occupying two floors.

The Bloedel Conservatory is a beautiful domed conservatory and aviary that was opened in 1969. It features of 100 birds, and 500 plant species. It was built as part of a group of centennial projects to celebrate Canada’s 100th anniversary. The triodetic dome frame was manufactured entirely in Ottawa and ship across the country. The structural framework only took 10 days to erect, however the entire dome and plaza took 18 months to complete. The dome was facing a large budget shortfall in 2009, and was slatted for closure after the 2010 Olympics, but after numerous fundraisers and setting up an association, the building was saved, and is still open to the public for a nominal fee.

Vancouver City Hall is a beautiful Art Deco style building that was constructed between 1935 and 1936. It was designed by Fred Townley and Matheson. The building has a twelve-storey tower with a clock on the top.

355 Burrard Street, also known as the Marine Building, is in my opinion one of the most beautiful Art Deco skyscrapers I have seen. It was completed in 1930, and was the tallest skyscraper in the city at that time. The building, designed by McCarter & Nairne, stands 98 metres (321 feet) tall and is comprised of 22 floors.

I also saw some unique street art while I was walking around.

Kelowna

In early January I started working part-time for another company based in Kelowna. In mid-May I spent a few days in Kelowna visiting with my friend Krystylyn, and meeting my colleagues. During my trip Krystylyn and I went on a few hikes.

The first hike we completed was called Fintry Falls. The hike starts off at the historic Fintry Octagonal Dairy Barn, which was constructed in 1924. The unique barn was owned by James Cameron Dun-Waters who developed the farm on the Fintry Estate between 1909 and 1939. The barn was built to house his prized herd of Ayshire cows.

About 100 metres from the barn is the site of a former powerhouse, which James built in 1912 to harness the power from Shorts Creek to provide power for his estate house, barn, and sawmill. I’ll dive into detail about that a bit later.

The hike continues up a few hundred stairs to a beautiful view of Fintry Falls, where Krystylyn and I stopped to admire the views, before venturing further up the trail.

After climbing more stairs we came across some narrow concrete ledges, which we crossed before finding the remains of a wooden suspension bridge that had fallen apart. James had built a dam across a narrow gorge in the Shorts Creek, to where it channeled water into a reservoir. The reservoir then transported water in a large wood-stave, wire-wrapped pipe across this suspension bridge, and over those narrow concrete ledges we had crossed, and then down the hill to the powerhouse. The water pressure available at the powerhouse was apparently around 150psi.

The second hike we completed was called Turkey Vulture Loop, which is located int he Rose Valley Regional Park. The hike progresses through a sparse forest, up some hills, before emerging on a beautiful view of Kelowna.

Calgary Zoo

In late May I visited the Calgary Zoo. There was a few new animals including a Tapir, a baby Gorilla, and a baby Porcupine. I did manage to get a great picture of the Tapir, however wasn’t able to see the baby Gorilla, and didn’t get a great photo of the Porcupine. I was successful in finally getting a bunch of nice photos of the Red Panda’s though, which I’ve been trying to get for years!

Be sure to check back soon, as hiking season has begun, and I’m off to Bali, Indonesia in July!

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 2 – Plitvice Lake & Ljubljana, Slovenia

Today I drove from Zagreb, Croatia to Plitvice Lakes, about a two hour drive away. On the way I attempted to stop at The Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, however the road was closed off for the season to prevent continued degradation of the site by looters during the off-season. The Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija is a World War 2 monument designed by Vojin Bakić, and built by Veliki Petrovac on the highest peak of the Petrova Gora mountain range. The monument celebrates the uprising and resistance movement of the people of Kordun and Banija against Nazi-fascism, as well as commemorates the victims of the Nazi-fascism. The monument took ten years to build and was finished in 1981. At the time the monument was finished it was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. After 1991, antifascist monuments and memorial complexes were neglected. This continues to this day as local people continue stealing the stainless-steel plates off the monument. I snagged a few photos from Google Maps (credit given to the photographers) so you can see what it looks like.

Photo Credit: Bara Fai – 2021
Photo Credit: Arwen Swan – 2021
Photo Credit: Uldis Strauss – 2019

Next stop was Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. The park was founded in 1949 and is very well known for its beautiful lakes, pathways, and waterfalls. Entrance cost to the park is about $16 CDN, however expect to pay double when its not off season.

After visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park I drove about 3.5 hours towards Ljubljana, Slovenia. The border crossing took about an hour because they were checking everyone’s COVID vaccine passports. Before I dive into the rest of my day in Slovenia let’s talk about Slovenia’s history, which has a lot of overlap with Croatia.

Slovenia’s History

Slovenia is a relatively young country; being formed on June 25 1991. The history of Slovenia is very similar to that of Croatia; having been its neighboring country. Historically, Slovenia was part of many different states dating back to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Carolingian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Habsburg Monarchy, the Republic of Venice, the Illyrian Provinces of the First French Empire of Napoleon I, the Austrian Empire, and finally the Austrian-Hungarian Empire until it broke up in October 1918.

As mentioned back in my brief history of Croatia; in December 1918 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed. In 1929 this kingdom was renamed to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

During the beginning of World War 2 Yugoslavia had a neutral stance, but in March 1941 a coup was held by pro-British officers, and as a result the Germans invaded Yugoslavia on April 6 1941. The Germans set up shop in Croatia with the fascist Ustase in charge, but the Croatians were able to liberate them by 1945.

During the 1960’s nationalism re-emerged and more people were demanding autonomy. In 1971 Tito, the Communist leader put a stop to it, but he ended up dying in 1980. Communism collapsed in most of Eastern Europe in 1989, during the same time frame that many non-Communist organizations were being setup. In April 1990 elections were held and in December 1990 a referendum was held, with the majority of people in favor. On June 25 1991 the Slovene parliament declared Slovenia independent. This irritated the Yugoslavian army, so they tried to invade Slovenia a few days later on June 27 1991. They were held back by the Slovenian Territorial Defense forces and the police, and on July 7 1991 the Yugoslavians agreed to a ceasefire brokered by the European Union.

In December 1991 a new constitution was written, and on January 15 1992 Slovenian independence was recognized by the European Union. As was the case for many of the eastern European countries, Slovenia faced a long painful transition from Communism to Capitalism during the 1990’s. In 2004 Slovenia became a member of the European Union.

Exploring Ljubljana, Slovenia

When I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovakia my first stop was exploring Ljubljana Castle, a castle complex standing on Castle Hill, which overlooks the entire city. It was originally a medieval fortress constructed in the 11th century, rebuilt again in the 12th and 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The castle is depicted on the city’s coat of arms, along with a dragon on the top. The castle just finished a major restoration project that lasted from 2000 to 2019. There was also a puppet museum inside the castle, which was pretty neat.

After visiting the castle I drove to my hotel; BIT Center Hotel, to check-in, and do a few hours of work, which included a few meetings. After working I drove back to the castle to haver dinner at the renowned Strelec Restaurant. A reservation is a requirement here, however being off-season I just booked it in the morning and they were able to accommodate me. This is a michelin star quality restaurant, however it is not a michelin star restaurant. I was served a 5 course dinner, however it was more like 8 courses… I wish I had taken better notes as to what I ate, however I had a few favorites. My first favorite was the ravioli with truffles, cheese, and home made sour cream. My second favorite was venison with beet-root. Third runner up was beef tartar. The meal was finished off with chocolate ganache, ice cream, a sweet puree of some sort, hazelnuts, and gold foil. The meal cost me a total of $115 CDN, however it was absolutely worth it. It was one of the most enjoyable dinners that I’ve ever had.

Be sure to check back tomorrow while I explore more of Ljubljana, before driving back to Zagreb, Croatia to catch a flight to Belgrade, Serbia late in the evening.

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Kain Hut Hike

A few weeks ago I hiked to Kain Hut in British Columbia’s Bugaboos, and I can’t even describe with words of how beautiful of a hike this was. This was one of the most stunning hikes that I’ve had the chance to complete in my life. The drive from Calgary is about 6-6.5 hours, regardless of what Google Maps says; so I recommend staying overnight in Radium. You can take the time to even soak in the hot springs when you arrive in Radium. The drive from Calgary to Radium is about 3-3.25 hours. The drive from Radium to the trailhead is still honestly 3ish hours despite the distance not being too far, because you have about 50km down a fairly poor gravel road, with the last 10km barely being able to keep a crawling speed. I was the only sedan here, as the other vehicles were SUV’s or trucks. When you’re about 2km from the trailhead you start to see the magnificent view of the glacier that you’ll be hiking towards.

Once you park your vehicle make sure to use the provided wood, barbed wire, and rocks to surround your vehicle, as there are porcupines in the area that will chew your brake lines and electrical wires, leaving your vehicle useless.

The first kilometre of the hike is fairly flat and easy, however you’re quickly presented with a series of switchbacks, a ladder, and some chains on your way up to the hut. The return trip to Kain Hut, including Applebee Campground, is 9km and 991 metres of gain. This one will leave you sore for a few days afterwards.

At the hut I had some leftover home made pizza for lunch and watch this little guy eating his lunch.

After lunch I continued up to Applebee Campground, which is essentially a scramble up loose rocks. You’ll pass a waterfall, and the campground, before arriving at a very cold lake.

After enjoying some time at the top it was time to head back to Calgary. I didn’t arrive back in town until nearly 10pm at night.

Be sure to stay tuned for my next adventure. I’ll be hiking to Eiffel Lake on Sunday, and then I’m off to Alaska for a week.

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Lake of the Hanging Glacier Hike

A few weeks ago I drove out to Lake of the Hanging Glacier in Kootenay National Park. The drive took about 5 hours, and included 2 hours of driving down a gravel road, which was clearly intended for high clearance vehicles, not a Toyota Prius. Despite that I made the trip, albeit much slower as I had to carefully pick my path. Something to note is that there are two bridge crossings along the hike, and the bridges are removed sometime in October through sometime in July, so make sure to pay attention to the Summit Trail Maker Society facebook page and website, otherwise you’ll show up and be dissapointed.

The hike is 15.9 kilometres long, and has 947 metres of elevation gain. You start off from the parking lot and bush whack through the trees for a few hundred metres, before emerging into some tall grasses, and then back into the trees. There are berries all along the way so be sure to bring your bear spray, as this is prime grizzly bear country. The first bridge is a few kilometres in, with the second about half way through the hike. You also encounter a waterfall about half way through the hike.

The majority of the hike is through a thick forested area, and the blowing wind creates a really eerie feeling when you can hear the trees creaking in the wind. Continue up the switchbacks until you emerge on an alpine meadow with willows and flowers. You’ll eventually come to another waterfall, this time quite a wide one.

After passing the waterfall you’ll see tons of glaciers, and their associated waterfalls draining into the lake below. This was one of the most unique hikes that I’ve ever completed and has been on my list for years.

After taking in the absolute beauty of the lake and surrounding glaciers it was time to head back to the car. The hike took me about 4.5 hours to complete. It was a long day for me with being away from home for 14.5 hours in total.

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Crypt Lake Hike

A few weeks ago I hiked one of Canada’s top 10 hikes, if not one of the best in the world. Crypt Lake, located in Waterton Lakes National Park, is a difficult 20.4 km hike with an elevation gain of 936 metres. To access the hiking trail you’ll need to take the Shoreline Ferry across Waterton Lake, about a 15 minute journey, which costs $30 per person.

After exiting the ferry the hike starts off right away with a bunch of switchbacks in a forested area. Grizzly bears frequent this area so this is a very critical hike to have bear spray on.

About 1/4 way through the hike you’ll finally emerge from the trees for a bit, where you’ll spot a waterfall off to your right. It’s quite pretty so be sure to snap a photo.

Continuing along the trail you’ll encounter numerous more switchbacks, with the treeline thinning out around 1/2 way along the hike. You’ll then see the second waterfall off into the distance.

About 3/4 of the way through the hike you come across a narrow ledge, about 300 metres long, which you must carefully traverse. After traversing the ledge you’ll find a small ladder, which you ascend, and then have a ~100 metre long tunnel which you must crawl through. Be careful to not smack your head like I did.

After emerging from the tunnel you’ll have a fairly technical 300 metres section with a bunch of chains. Just take your time as any mistake could result in a plunge to your death many hundreds of metres below. It’s not hard physically, but it is a bit nerve wracking.

After the chained section its a mostly flat hike to the lake. At Crypt Lake I changed into my bathing suit and carefully stepped into the freezing cold water. The water here was much colder than that of Carnarvon Lake the previous week.

After enjoying my time at the lake it was time to head back to catch the ferry back. There are two times the return ferry sails at. Make sure you get back in time, because it’s a tremendously long hike back (6+ hours) if you miss it. The times vary from season to season so be sure to check on their website. The hike took me just over 5 hours to complete.

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Iceland 2021 – Glymur Falls and Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River

Today started off with Dominos Pizza for breakfast, a strong start for the fuel I needed to hike to Glymur Falls, Iceland’s second highest waterfall, which cascades 198 metres to valley below.

After scarfing down my pizza, which I have to note tastes significantly better than Dominos Pizza back in Canada, I grabbed a coffee from the lobby area in my hotel and proceeded to drive about 75 minutes to Glymur Falls. The trail starts off walking relatively flat for about 1.5km through some shale and shrubs until you get to a cave. You descend some stairs through the cave before shortly arriving at the first of two rivers crossings. This is where I ran into Kim and Sander, a travelling couple from Chicago. We ended up taking pictures of each other crossing the river, and stayed with each other for the remainder of the hike. The river crossing has a log and a hand line to assist you in getting across.

After crossing the river the trail starts to get very steep, with some areas where you have to scramble. luckily there are ropes to assist you if required. You can start to see the sheer magnificence of the waterfall cascading to the valley below. There was also quite a few birds perched on ledges and flying down into the valley.

You continue climbing until you get to the top of the waterfall where you cross the Botnsa River for a second time. This time the river was much wider, but was quite shallow. I had to stop and take my shoes off, and put on my water shoes to cross the freezing cold river.

After crossing the river you continue to loop back towards the car, with a fairly steep descent in some areas. I said bye to Kim and Sander and wished them well on the rest of their trip.

I was starting to get hungry so it was time to source some lunch. I drove back to Reykjavik and stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant called Viethouse for some nice hot beef pho.

After lunch I drove about an hour south to Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River, a famous hot spring river where you can soak in the hot water and take in the beautiful views. There’s a parking lot and a restaurant at the base of the hike, where you have to pay a nominal parking fee of about $2 CDN/hour. The 4km hike to the thermal river takes about 1 hour, as you have to ascend 347 metres. Along the hike to the geothermally active portion of the river you are presented with a beautiful view of a fairly significant waterfall.

Upon arriving at the geothermally active portion of the river you’ll notice that there are some wall partitions for you to have a bit of privacy to change into your bathing suit before you jump into the hot water. I’m unsure of the exact temperature but I’d probably place it closer to 40-42°C, as I found it hotter than the Blue Lagoon. I soaked in the river for about 40 minutes before getting changed and headed back to my car to drive back to my hotel.

Tomorrow I’m heading on a three day hike on Landmannalaugar Trail so it was time to pack my bags and drop them off at some rental lockers At the hotel I packed my bags and dropped them off at some rental lockers at Reykjavik Bus Terminal. It was also time to drop off my rental car, so I dropped that off as well. I was getting fairly hungry so I decided to try out a local hot dog stand called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This is apparently the best place to go for some late night hot dogs if you’ve had too much too drink.

After having a hot dog I figured it was time to try one of the local scooters, since I was so far away from my hotel. I rode back to my hotel and get ready for bed as I have to wake up very early tomorrow morning for a 630am bus to Landmannalaugar. Be sure to check back soon to continue on with my Iceland adventures.

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Iceland 2021 – Blue Lagoon, Waterfalls, Glaciers, and Plane Wrecks

This post is a very special milestone for me as this is my 250th blog post since I started writing in 2016. Today started off fairly early with me waking up around 7am, as I had to get ready for my 9am soak at the Blue Lagoon. On the way to the Blue Lagoon I drove to a local bakery called Bakarameistarinn, where I ordered a coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I was a bit early arriving at the Blue Lagoon, so I sat in my car writing some of my blog, and going through my photos.

The Blue Lagoon is a geothermal spa located in a lava field near Grindavik, where I was yesterday. The Blue Lagoon is a series of man-made pools that are filled by water from a nearby geothermal power plant. After the water is used by the geothermal power plant to spin the turbines to generate electricity, it is then passed through a heat exchanger to provide heat for municipal hot water, and then fed into the lagoon. The water’s unique milk blue shade is due to its high silica content. The water forms soft white mud on the bottom of the lagoon, which feels nice on the feet. The water is also very high in salts and algae. The temperature of the water stays between 37-39°C.

The power plant feeding the lagoon was opened in 1976, and the runoff started to make pools. In 1981 a psoriasis patient bathed in the water and noted that the water alleviated his symptoms, and over time the lagoon became a popular place for people to bathe. In 1987 a proper bathing facility was built, and in 1992 the Blue Lagoon company was established. Numerous studies have been conducted in the 1990’s confirmed that the lagoon had a beneficial effect on psoriasis, and a clinic was opened in 1994.

After bathing in the lagoon for a few hours it was time for me continue on with my day. Next stop was two waterfalls next to each other; Seljalandsfoss and Gljúfrafoss. Seljalandsfoss drops from over 60 metres above and is part of the Seljalands River, whos origin is from the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. If you feel like getting really wet you can walk behind the falls into a small cave. Gljúfrafoss is a smaller waterfall north of Seljalandsfoss. You can walk right up to the base of the waterfall by following a short trail down a narrow canyon. Make sure to take a picture looking up for a neat perspective.

After visiting the waterfalls I started driving towards the town of Vik, however was distracted by a glacier that I could see off to my left hand side. I decided to stop at Solheimajokull Glacier, and I’m extremely glad that I did. Solheimajokull Glacier is a 11km long outlet glacier that originates from the southwestern part of Mýrdalsjökull glacier. The glacier has undergone tremendous changes over the last century with measurements of its glacier snout having retreated 977 metres between 1930 and 1969, advancing by 495 metres between 1969 and 1955, and receding by 1312 metres by 2019. In 2011 a lagoon started to form in front of the glacier and has been growing steadily as the glacier continues to melt and retreat. The current depth of the lagoon is about 60 metres.

After visiting the glacier I drove another hour or so to Vik, where I stopped at The Soup Company for lunch. I had the Red Hot Lava bowl, which was a black bread bowl filled with a spicy prime rib soup. After lunch I drove to Vik Church to snap a photo of the beautiful oceanside and the church. This is one of my favourite views that I recall from my 2014 trip to Iceland with my father.

Close by is Reynisfjara Beach, a black sand beach with basalt rock formations. Last time I was here in 2014 with my father it was pouring rain so I didn’t have a chance to take great quality photos. This time it was windy as anything, but at least the sun was shining.

Next up was the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck. You used to be able to drive right up to the crash site, however the road was closed many after numerous people got stuck in the soft black sand. The hike there is about 7.4km return, and took me only about 1.25 hours. In November 1973, a Douglas Dakota C-117 airplane was making a return trip to Keflavik airport after delivering cargo to a radar station near Hornafjörður in East Iceland. While flying back, the plane gradually started to lose power and altitude, and were forced to crash land on Solheimasandur. Some speculate that the plane ran out of fuel when the pilot accidentally switched to the wrong fuel tank, while others speculate that the plane crashed because of ice buildup on the wings during a storm. Keeping with the stormy conditions these pilots had to endure I nearly crashed my drone when the windy conditions worsened and started to sweep my drone away from me. I had to run after it a few hundred metres before it pseudo crash landed in the black sand.

It was getting fairly late so it was time for me to start the 2 hour long drive back to Reykjavik. I stopped at Tommi’s Burger Joint for dinner, which was recommended to me by someone the previous day, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

After dinner I went back to the hotel and was ready for bed, as it was nearly 10pm at this point in time. Be sure to check back shortly for the next installment in my Iceland series where I visit Glymur Falls, and soak in Reykjadalur Hot Springs Thermal River.

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