There was a quiet excitement and sense of mystery as we travelled towards the secluded temple town of Koyasan, taking smaller and smaller trains through rural areas and up into the mountains. It began wending up a high mountain line, past tiny train platforms bulging with tree roots and overgrown with rich green creepers, some seemingly forgotten stations covered in leaves, being swallowed by the forest.Read more
Near the top of the mountain, we walked into a perfect view of Fushimi Inari’s torii gates. We turned a corner, and there it was waiting for us, with no tourists or anything. A long tunnel of vermillion was being illuminated by a perfectly angled sun, turning every gate a different shade of bright orange, deep and rich in front of us, and golden at the end.Read more
I want to start by talking about how absolutely amazing the African bottle recycling system is.
My bottle of Fanta was noticeably worn down and re-used many many times. The label was faded and the glass had been ground down in certain places, by a million tiny scratches, a result of grinding against other bottles being shipped around in boxes for many years.Read more
The more we drove long distances through Africa, the more we realised that the journey is not about the destination, but the road you take. As we approached Dar Es Salaam from the west, somewhere in the Tanzanian heartland between Mbeya and Mikumi, we found the most spectacular mountain pass.Read more
Surrounded by Montreal’s downtown city blocks is Mont-Royal, the mountain which gives the city it’s name. It’s called a mountain, but it’s more of a large hill or public park, and reaching the top isn’t really hard work. Nevertheless, from many of the main streets below it rises into view, and it’s humbling presence reminds you that Montreal is quite small, and that the natural world is right on the doorstep. Winter boots. Check.
The sun set on just our second night in Costa Rica. The air was cool and peaceful, but something dramatic was happening to the treeline. A fiery crimson sunset had set the sky ablaze, darkening the surrounding clouds and turning them to plumes of purple smoke. The highest peak on Costa Rica, Cerro Chirripo, cast it’s intimidating shadow upon the base camp town. Tomorrow, we would attack it head-on.
We were three; Cindy, myself, and Rachel, a solo-travelling Canadian from Montreal who we met at the bus stop the previous day. She spoke Spanish and helped us find the right bus. From San Isidro de el General, the local bus painstakingly crawled uphill to tiny, dusty San Gerardo de Rivas at the mountain’s base, barely a town, more a loose straggle of houses along a stretch of dirt road. Here we bought permits and reserved our base lodge accomodation.
We began at 5am. Our torchlight played tricks in the trees and shadows danced and stretched on the hard clay ground, whilst tropical birds performed their morning songs from unseen stages. The world was pitch black. The way was steep but I was so full of energy I barely noticed. Crestones base lodge was where we were headed, a 15km hike away, 1350m to 3400m in elevation. As the sun rose and the mountain ranges revealed themselves in dark shades of blue, we saw just how brutal the incline actually was. The first few kilometers ribboned upwards through hillside farmland, cow pastures and past barbed wire fences, eventually giving way to gigantic jungle trees, blotting out the mountain views and sunlight. Read more
I ticked an item off my bucket list in Chiang Mai. I rode an elephant. It felt strange to step on it’s great grey head as I boarded it, but once the docile pachyderm lumbered lazily along the path, I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. I admired it’s ancient face and envied it’s cheeky child-like attitude. Its rough skin was the shell of a coconut spotted with sparse wiry hair, it’s ears were huge, overcooked pancakes. The betel-chewing driver hit it on the head with a cruel spiked stick now and then; controlling it around the short jungle path seemed hard work, but the animal eventually and lazily complied. The curious trunk would occasionally unroll backwards, presenting us with two pink floating nostrils, noisily sucking in air as it demanded treats of sugar cane. Read more
Jeff and I sat at the long, wooden table, set with chopsticks, chilli sauces and pieces of raw meat and bamboo shoots. I smiled at the H’mong tribeswoman sitting next to me. To our right was the fruit and vegetable markets, trading piles of fresh produce beneath canopies of tin and tarpolean. To our left, and under the same roof as us, was the butcher, whole bullock legs and forests of chicken feet sticking comically in the air. But we were here for pho, Vietnam’s famous rice noodle soup, and this particular stall was the best in town.
We were in Sapa, our second day, a town high up in the mountains of Vietnam’s northwest. It felt like a seperate country to the Vietnam I had already seen. This was the off-season, for the reason that the views of the valleys and mountains were mostly obstructed by an eerie white mist, it’s cold ghostly fingers permeating even the rooms of our hostel. But to me, it contained a certain mystery. I knew that I was standing on a cliff, but what lay beyond?