Aruba wasn’t necessarily on my bucket list. But we were going to Colombia for the Christmas holidays, and decided we wanted an easy, idyllic beach destination for the last days of our trip… and the flights and hotels happened to work out well. Aruba, a little overseas territory of the Netherlands nicknamed “one happy island”, turned out to be exactly what we needed and much more!Continue reading “Lots of cool things to do in Aruba”
The Tayrona National Park, in the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is worth a visit, especially if you find yourself in Cartagena looking for other things to do beyond the beautiful colonial city. But it’s not particularly easy to get to, nor to visit, and it gets packed, so planning ahead is highly recommended (and visiting off-season even more ;)). The main entrance to the park is El Zaino, about 1 hour east of Santa Marta, which in turn is about 4 hours north east of Cartagena. You can either take a public bus to Santa Marta, and then another public bus to the park, and might need to spend a night in Santa Marta in between, or spend $20 to get a shared shuttle straight from your hotel in Cartagena to the park.
Right outside of the walled city, the neighborhood of Getsemani is more authentic and edgier than the old town. If inside the walls it’s all about colonial architecture and colorful flowers, here it’s about street art, street life and Afro-Caribbean heritage. There are still plenty of tourists and charming hotels and restaurants, but it does feel much more real.
Cartagena de Indias is a UNESCO Heritage Site, and regularly tops the list of most beautiful colonial cities around the world. This reputation is well deserved. Cartagena can easily be visited on foot in a couple of days, but it’s also the kind of place where you won’t regret having extra time.
Last week, I had a chance to visit Tokyo on the back of a business trip… and it was an incredible experience! Despite it being such a large city, it is very easy to move around on foot and using the metro (once I figured out how to get a Suica or Pasmo card), and I was able to check out all these top spots in about two days. Here they are, in a very non-scientific order of preference:
[Comes from previous post] Around 9am, and after a minimal breakfast, the other climber, the remaining sherpa and I set out to Camp 2. I couldn’t fathom the idea of another long day, so I started at a decent pace, and soon found myself well ahead of them. I was on the Western Cwm, a massive ice valley, with possibly the most spectacular views in the world: Everest on the left, the Lhotse face in the middle, Nuptse very close to your right, and a whole range of beautiful mountains behind you, among other, Pumori and Cho Oyu.
[Comes from previous post] So after another uneventful rest day, and a short night dominated by nerves, we got up at 5am, gobbled some breakfast and grabbed all our gear. It was dark and extremely cold when we set foot on the icefall, and I struggled to get my stride. My hands were freezing, and one of the two sherpas that were accompanying us had to help me put my crampons on, and even clip and un-clip to the fixed rope a couple of times. When the sun finally hit us, I felt much better and picked up the pace. And I also allowed myself to enjoy the moment for the first time. Wow, after so many books and movies, I was on the mystical Khumbu Icefall, and what a sight it was.
Let’s get the #1 question out of the way: no, I did not summit Everest. I did, however, hike to Base Camp, spend a fair amount of time there, climb up to Camp 1 and Camp 2, and share the whole experience with true mountaineers and aficionados alike… in one of the deadliest seasons in Everest history. The experience, in fact, left me so raw, it’s taking me over a month to sit down and write this post.
After five days in Mahe, we took the ferry to La Digue. This island is fairly different from the main one, much smaller and with a limited number of cars, everyone moves around in bicycles. And although there are hotels, most people stay in so-called self-catering rentals, which you can easily find on Airbnb. These were the spots we visited over a little under three days:
The archipelago of Seychelles was up there on my list, together with French Polynesia and the Maldives, in terms of idyllic beaches to visit. After spending a bit over a week exploring it, I have to say Seychelles didn’t disappoint; if anything, it exceeding my high expectations. The landscapes are absolutely gorgeous, the people extremely nice, the whole country surprisingly well developed, and the cost is rather reasonable. Seychelles is not a backpackers’ destination (if fact, they really check that you have legit accommodation booked for all the days you are there before letting you go through immigration), but mixing up hotels with Airbnb, renting cars and bikes to move around, and buying some meals at supermarkets, you can get a fantastic experience without an expensive package.