Friday, March 28, 2014

A Land of Positive Vibes

Easter Island has left a deep impression on me. I don't want to leave, but sadly today was my last full day here; tomorrow I fly back to Santiago. I had tried to change my flight, but everything was booked solid. That's how much I love this place. It holds a special kind of energy and serenty that calms the soul. Sitting on a hillside, listening to the song of the crickets and the wind blowing through the dense grass, admiring the beautiful view of the coastline and the distant sound of the vast ocean crashing at its shores, I have discovered inner peace here, in a place where I could see myself a retired man, baked brown from the sun and happy within my surroundings.

I wish I could stay, but things happen for a reason. Maybe the inability to change my flight signifies my time on Easter Island is meant to end. Despite this, I already know that one day I will return. For now, goodbye, Easter Island.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Into the Water

I love scuba diving, and today I did just that. Since I haven't dove in almost two years, I had to do a refresher course, a requirement by PADI if you go over a year without diving. So that means bring evaluated by the instructor, which includes having to remove my regulator underwater, and also remove my mask, put it back on, and blow it clear of water. It's a totally bitch ass chore, but I passed with flying colours.

The dive itself was pretty easy, we jumped right in the ocean from a jetty on shore, then swam around for 35 minutes each dive. It was quite an array of hard coral, and the coolest thing we saw were the long, stick like Trumpet Fish. Having dove in Papua New Guinea really sets the bar high for new dive spots, but anytime I dive, I'm always happy to be doing it.

Afterwards I lazed around at a local lagoon and soaked up some sun from the beautiful weather we had today, then did another short ride to the site where the Moai were carved back in the day, but sadly I was unable to enter due to a problem with my national park ticket that should hopefully be rectified tomorrow. And tonight I'm headed out to a traditional dance with a couple girls from Canada, which I'm excited about since I have no idea what a traditional Rapa Nui dance is supposed to look like.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Ride Through Isla de Pascua

Easter Island is amazing! Coming here seriously revived my love for tropical island life and how much I miss it. My heart is still in the mountains, but there's a great draw to the way of life on an island. Things are very laid back, you can wander around all day in nothing but your shorts, and the beautiful jungle provides the best fruit and vegetables a person can buy. 

I managed to find a pretty decent place to stay; a "dorm" room with two beds, shared with a pretty cool French guy named Anthony. The owner is pretty cool, and he has two really nice dogs that have giant hearts. Yesterday Anthony and I headed out and watched the sunset at a popular spot in town, downing a few beers in the process. This town dies down pretty early during the week, so by 11pm bed is the best option.

Today I booked a couple dives for tomorrow, which is supposed to be the calmest day available for me. Today was overcast and a little windy, so hopefully the visibility is ok for my dives. After that I sorted out a scooter with my guest house owner, and ripped out to Anakena beach for a swim and to check out some Moia, the big statues that populate the island. The whole island is basically a giant open air museum, with ruins scattered throughout, all available to walk around provided you pay the hefty park fee of $60. The Moia themselves are very impressive, it's mind boggling how they were carved and then moved to the coast, due to the sheer size of them. Some must weigh almost five tons, by my guess. 

The roads around the island should go down in the books of great motorcycle rides. Save for one small gravel stretch, it's a nicely paved, windy route through the middle of the island, then snaking along the coast, nearly free of any traffic. The road passes amazing coastal scenery, and of course past ancient ruin sites nearly every mile. Truly a great ride.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Back To Some 'nesia

First shot of Easter Island:

This place is awesome. More to follow tomorrow.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

R&R: Santiago

Needless to say this has been a bit of a hard trip. The combinations of sickness I've had have made things a little difficult, but I'm still persevering. But I still needed a little R&R time to reset the body. So that's what I've been doing in Santiago for the past couple days. The sister hostel of the hostel I'm staying in happens to have a pool, so yesterday I chilled out there and soaked up the sun and attempt to even out the farmers tan I developed in the Salar and Atacama. 

Today was my first attempt at doing anything, and I failed miserably. Not by my own fault, but due to the fact that the free walking tour I was going to take was cancelled due to a protest that was crisscrossing the tour route, and had reports of stones being thrown. After they informed us of this, I walked back to the hostel, actually running against the flow of thousands of protesters marching up the street. It seemed pretty chilled out to me though, there wasn't really a lot of organized demonstrating going on. I ended up walking through the fish market and down the promenade that runs along the main shopping centre, so it wasn't a total loss. Tomorrow I'll attempt the tour again, hopefully protest free.

And I'm only two days away from Easter Island, my pinnacle destination for this trip. Needless to say I'm getting excited. I loved the Melanesian and Polynesian islands I've visited so far, so if this one is anything like the others, I should love it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Friendly Gesture

Today things seemed to have turned around. I decided it was worth the journey to try and have my exam done to get my bowels sorted and back to normal. I tried to phone my travel insurance company just to cover my ass in case I need to make a claim. After five minutes of repeating myself and yelling HELLO into the phone I gave up. Now even more frustrated, I jump on the bus. 

The hospital was madness. The orderly, quiet environment of hospitals back home was lost on this place. There were about a few hundred people waiting in chairs and lineups throughout the lobby. I qeued up and was eventually helped by a woman who I could tell was having a bitch of a time trying to figure out what to do with me due to the fact I can't speak Espanol and she can't speak Anglaices.

Eventually she returns with a guy that speaks English, who translates that they can't do the exam here, I need to go to a private clinic. It turns out the guy who is translating is Chilean but lives in Toronto, and ends up helping me find antibiotics at a local pharmacy. Screw trying to find a private clinic, after the phone call to the insurance company this morning I'm definitely not into attempting that feat. For the kind gesture, I bought him a beer and bs'd for a while. A helping hand from a generous stranger was exactly what I needed, some great positive energy to finally fix this sickness once and for all.

After that I went out for a great lunch, then some iced cream, then jumped on a walking tour of the city. It was run by two eccentric guides, and included a ton, such as a free ride up one of the trolley lifts, a free ride on the old trams, a free shot of Pisco Sour, and a playful escort of two friendly street dogs, who obviously have developed a love for tourists, I'm sure greatly influenced by the many treats and attention they're given throughout.

I'm thinking I might be done with Valparaiso. I had intended to spend a little more time here, but things seem pretty quiet (especially at the hostel), and the weather isn't quite warm enough to warrant making a trip in neighboring Vina Del Mar. I'll decide in the morning whether I want to make a bee line back to Santiago or not. For now, I'm enjoying a beer:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Shit was just moving along today. And I don't mean my shit, which seems to be ok now that I mention it. I'm talking about my whole day. Things were just lining up nicely, the bus I took into Calama lined me up for the check in time of the earlier flight, so I paid $23 and landed in Santiago 3 hours early, jumped right on the airport bus as it was about to leave, then right on to another bus leaving for Valparaiso, arriving about five hours earlier than I expected! At first glance this city looks pretty cool, very artsy and unique. I think I'll do the walking tour tomorrow, which by the looks of things should keep my camera very busy.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Medico, Por Favor

I still have the shits. Finally fed up with it, I went to the doctor today. It was a bit of a chore to navigate the language barrier and find a doctor that spoke English, but I managed to do so. He couldn't prescribe me an antibiotic because apparently if you have diarrhea, and a fever as well, it's not the common virus, but rather a bacteria that they need to be certain of the type before prescribing. So I needed a test, he said. Unfortunately this small town only has a limited care center so I have to wait until I go to Valparaiso until I can have the test done. Being that it will take me all day to get there tomorrow, I'll have to wait until Wednesday. They did give me an IV with some solution to rehydrate me, however, and I feel better already.

On the plus side, I haven't allowed this sickness to slow me down much. Yesterday I took a tour to the Valley de Muerte (Death Valley) to do some sand boarding, which was awesome! It's much more difficult than snowboarding; the sand causes more friction which makes it difficult to gain speed and thus harder to turn. And every time you make a run down you must make the 150m trek back up the dune under the blazing sun. Myself, and English guy from my hostel, and a Norweigan girl were the best three on the hill, save for the instructor.

After we finished there we headed to Valley de Luna (Moon Valley), where we climbed up to a ridge and watched the sun set over the amazing scenery around us. This part of my trip has been so full of amazing scenery, I'm really excited to see what the next two weeks bring. Tomorrow is a combination of buses and flights that should see me in Valparaiso around 8pm.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


My three day tour started a little rough, to say the least. The night before I had went out for dinner with some people from the hostel to a small outlet in the local shopping mall. It was a typical street stall type meal, didn't look too sketchy, the only part bring the meat was sitting out, but due to that being commonplace in the third world, and that there were no flies around at all, I thought nothing of it. Turns out I should have. At about midnight I awoke to the exact situation in the picture below (plus some puking):

In total I think I got about three hours of sleep that night, and was at the airport waiting in line, hoping I didn't have to take a liquidy dump on the plane. My fears were elated when I managed to get in the bathroom before boarding, but quickly turned into real concern that I was not holding liquid in but rather shitting it out at an alarming rate, and becoming more dehydrated. The effects of this and the lack of sleep made me look like something from the Walking Dead. I boarded the plane, where fortunately I was able to take my bottle of water, which I was managing to hold down for the time being. It was an uneventful flight, I slept, was served a water by my rude, transvestite flight attendant, and slept some more.

Upon landing my fears of possibly missing my tour began to fade, especially when I met an American couple on the same tour who gave me a Peptol Bismol tablet. We arrived at the tour office shortly after and got all the details and supplies sorted, and rounded up into our SUV's. There were three Toyota Landcruisers with 5-7 people in each. In my Landcruiser was the American couple (Jeremy and Amanda) and an Australian/English couple (Francis and James), and all were very cool, and we had a great time together.

Despite being drained of all minerals and energy, I had a great first day. First we hit the train graveyard to see old relics of locomotives from Bolovias abandoned railroad system, dating back to the late 1800's. The scenery of the Salar de Uyuni (salt flats) was nothing short of incredible. It's a giant white expanse surrounded by mountains, like a supernatural coliseum. It's an entire ecosystem and economy of its own; the locals use it to harvest salt and sell it, and even build their houses out of it, like modern igloos. 

That night we bedded down in a small hotel, where we were fed a big meal (I could only manage to down the soup), and I turned in it bed early, feeling a little feverish from my body trying to annihilate the demon bacteria from my bowels. It apparently hadn't succeeded at that point (and still completely hasn't); I had another midnight wake up call from my bowels. I packed the blankets on my bed and attempted to sweat out the fever, which made me feel much better by morning.

We were up early at 6am to get the day started. We steadily climbed higher and higher throughout the day, ending up at 5000 meter above sea level at the highest point. We saw high altitude lagoons teeming with flamingos, crazy barren mountain terrain, and an amazing geyser field, the high elevation point of the day. After that we ended up at another hostel, this one complete with a hot spring pool, which was a great end to the day after sitting in the vehicle, bouncing around on rough gravel roads all day.

That night was nothing short of horrible. Our hostel, being at 4300m, put us at a daily climb of 700m, 200 above the maximum recommended daily increase. It hit me hard. Compounded on top of my lingering food poisoning, I developed altitude sickness. I awoke two hours into my sleep with a pounding headache and heart, and heavy nausea, which later turned into two rounds of puking my guys out into a foul compost toilet. The second time I wised up and found a bush outside. Again, another sleepless night. 

In the morning I managed to eat a little at breakfast, thanks again to Amanda giving me another two Peptol tablets. We made one stop at another high altitude lagoon before we were dropped at the border to catch the bus for a short ride over the Chilean border to San Pedro de Atacama. I've been here for a few hours and the environment already seems much more organized and less dangerous in terms of food poisoning. I'm going to chill here for a few days, relax my body and do some day tours. While the sickness that seemed to haunt my tour did suck, doing the Salt Flats was definitely the right choice. I met some amazing people, saw some amazing scenery, and made efficient use of my time by ending it in Chile.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


First thing I should mention is that La Paz feels a lot like Kathmandu. The people are similar, the dirty smells and honking horns assault your senses, ramshackle buildings cling to the surrounding hillsides, and haphazardly strewn together power lines hang across every street and alley. 

Yesterday I spent the day acclimatizing to the high altitude. Walking anywhere was a chore; climbing the stairs of my hostel would leave me winded. I explored a bit of the market area and found a place to sit down and have a coca tea, a natural remedy for altitude sickness. Coca is also the natural ingredient for cocaine, but in its plant form it's completely legal. And it did help with the altitude, much to my pleasure.

I couldn't spend much time walking around as the activity was starting to give me a headache, so I came back to the hostel, chilled for a bit, went out and had a three course meal for less than $3, and spent the rest of the night drinking beer and teaching an American guy and a Scottish girl how to play crib.

I had a fitful sleep last night, the headache symptoms of the altitude always seem to appear in the middle of the night for me. After some breakfast in the morning and a hot shower I headed out with some other people for a coffee and to do a walking tour that took us around the major sights in La Paz. The weather turned out to be beautiful for it, and I seemed to do a lot better walking around than I did yesterday.

Tonight will be an early night for me, I have to wake up at 4:30 to catch my flight to Uyuni where I'll start my Salt Flats Tour.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Another Continent Off the List

Annnnd I'm in South America. The flights were long but actually went by rather quickly. I slept almost the whole way to Newark, hopped off and immediately on to another flight where I watched a couple movies, had a quick nap and arrived in Lima, where I had a questionable plate of spaghetti and my first Pisco Sour, a local drink made of tequila, rum, lime, and egg white. At least those are the ingredients I recognized him pour in, there could have been others. 

I landed in La Paz at 3am, and immediately noticed the effects of the altitude. The airport is above 4000m, and it starts to hit you before you're out of the plane. I was noticeably lightheaded, and my heart was beating fast from just walking into the terminal. Fortunately downtown La Paz, where my hostel is, is around 3400m, so all I'm feeling right now is a slight headache.

I arrived at my hostel around 4am, the street deserted. The entrance was a giant, locked wooden door. The taxi driver buzzed the intercom for me, and an unknown voice told me to open the door. I pushed the heavy door and stepped inside, closing it behind me. I was in a giant stone room with a faint light coming from a room high above. It felt like being in an old spooky cathedral, something out of a horror movie. I dug out my flashlight to look around just as the hostel worker opened a door above and beckoned me up a set of stone stairs. I checked in and went to sleep in a room right off the main road, completely ignoring the loud vehicles passing by below.

And here I am, just finishing a rudimentary breakfast, ready to explore La Paz.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Hours Away

The start to this year has been rough, to say the least. I've had my grandma pass away recently, which was tough, and this morning we received some more bad news, that my aunt passed on from cancer. Those losses, coupled with some other things and a very hectic and sleep lacking month of February have made 2014 a difficult year for me so far, as well as my family.

And now I have this opportunity right in front of me to go explore some more of the world, see and experience some more amazing things, meet some more amazing people, and knock off another contient. On the road is where my head always seems to be the clearest, where things seem very true to me. If there's one thing that can turn around a bad road for me, it's travelling.

South America: I will see you in 24 hours.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Today I was getting some things together for my trip, and I came across the sunscreen that has an odd nostalgia for me. There are certain smells and noises that can bring back memories, flash backs to the past. The smell of Nivea sunscreen always brings me back specifically to my second day in Kathmandu, sitting on the roof of my guest house eating banana pancakes and drinking chai tea, staring out at the Nepalese Himalaya, still cloud covered by the lingering monsoon, then later on wandering the noisy, dusty alleys in my white American Eagle shirt that I loved but sadly, but memoringly, was destroyed back glow in the dark paint at the Full Moon party in Thailand.

It's times like these that I can reflect on some memories of my travels: sitting in the sand, snapping photos of a dancing tribe at some obscure village in the middle of a sparsely populated island in New Guinea. Trying my hardest to put one foot in front of the other while hiking up Kala Pattar in Nepal. Sitting in a sweaty bus, trapped by cargo on the way to a rarely used border crossing into Vietnam. Listening to my IPod on a beautiful beach in Hawaii. Spending one of my twelve days in Goa watching a cow trample through the middle of a yoga class on the beach. Trying my first rock climbing lesson on the limestone karsts around Ton Sai, Thailand.

My life has been awesome so far.