Posts Tagged ‘beautiful’

Day 7 – May 31th, 2012

The day started a bit rough. I woke up with a slight headache from what I assume is a coca hangover\withdrawl. Weird. Besides that slightly rough start, it was a fairly low-key day. I guess the main highlight was the ride to the city that preceded my trek towards Machu Pichu. It’s just so scenic here!

A gentle lunch before the Lares Trek

Roughing it for lunch before we set off on the Lares Trek.

Days 8 through 10 – June 1st through June 3th, 2012

G Adventure offers two trek before Machu Pichu: the Lares Trek and the Inca Trail. The Lares Trek takes you through mountains and local villages, ends up in some Peruvian village and is a day shorter, while the more historical and famous Inca Trail goes through Incan ruins and ends up at Machu Pichu. Because the Inca trail only accommodates 250 tourists per day, it tends to sell out fairly quickly. Because of this, I did the Lares Trek, though I’m glad I did. Also, I heard the Inca Trail has loads of stairs. I hate hiking stairs.

Beautiful day on the Lares Trek

A beautiful day for a hike on the Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is an easy 3 day 2 night hike (I’m convinced you could do it in two moderate days or one super hardcore day) through some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve ever been surrounded by. Giant mountains, deep cliffs, distant snow-capped mountains, wildlife, it was all there. The trek is obviously fully supported by two guides, porters and cooks, so it’s not the most hardcore hike, but there is no way to deny that climbing to 4 600 meters on the second day is a good challenge. For me, it was more of an experience than a true hike. Being in nature, having that fresh air, seeing nature’s awesomeness, that’s what it was about for me. Unlike the Inca Trail, the Lares Trek can allow you lots of solitude, if that’s what you seek. We only crossed one other group during the whole thing. It was so serene. Though I would have enjoyed something a bit longer through the same type of terrain, I have no complaints with the experience. Surprisingly, the food was delicious for something prepared in the middle of mountains. The few treks I’ve done during my travels always have the best food. I think it was even some of the best food I had during the whole trip. Having your private cook while traveling has its benefits.

Feeling small surrounded by such awesome scenery

Feeling small surrounded by such awesome scenery.

The only downside was that the nights were frigid, even in a winter sleeping bag with three layers. Thankfully we only slept outside for two nights. On the second night, we woke up to our tents covered with frost. Just thinking about it makes me shiver!

Tents covered in frost

Warmer than sleeping outside, but not by much.

Day 11 – June 4th, 2012

This was the big day for this trip. Machu Pichu! The advantage of doing the Lares Trek is that you get to have a shower before going to Machu Pichu. You arrive feeling clean and reasonable well rested. People who did the Inca Trail arrived directly from hiking to the historical site, while we had a night in a hotel to wash and rest a bit, though the marching band that paraded in front of our hotel all night didn’t help me fall asleep. Still, it certainly is an advantage of the Lares Trek!

A first sunbeam hits Machu Pichu

A first sunbeam hits Machu Pichu.

Machu Pichu is a spectacular place. It’s practically located in the clouds and it is surrounded by jagged mountains. The skill it must have taken to build that place is mind-blowing. Though for me, the true highlight of the visit was the chance to hike the mountain behind Machu Pichu, Huayna Pichu. Though it’s mostly steps, the view from the peak is breathtaking. I really need to upload some pictures…

Machu Pichu from Huaynapichu

Machu Pichu from Huaynapichu and to the left, the road up to Machu Pichu.

Oh! I haven’t had any coca leaves since the second day on the hike and I haven’t had any 4am headaches! Hurray for not being a coca loaf addict!

We spent about 7 hours at Machu Pichu before making the journey back to Cusco. On the way back, we were treated by a stunning full moon on the horizon over the mountains. I love mountains so much, they make everything seem so much more dramatic.


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I should start this post by making something quite clear. I loved my time in Denver. My friend John, basically the whole reason I went to Denver in the first place, was a first-class host and made my time there unforgettable. Instead of gushing about how great a time I had and the things I did, I will list out some of my favourite things to do and see in Denver. They are not in any order (because they’d all be number 1).

Red Rocks

Red Rocks is a natural outdoor amphitheater unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Pictures don’t do it justice and I don’t have the ability to convey the sense of awe one gets standing between two massive rock formations, with thousands of other concert goers, watching the sun’s last rays set on Denver as a band plays in front of you. John got me a ticket to go see a show there with friends of his and told me it was one of the things I needed to do in Denver. He was right. I’ve seen a few concert venues in my day, but I’ve only seen one as majestic and beautiful as Red Rocks.

Mount Evans

We didn’t do any hiking while I was in Colorado. While I love hiking mountains, it was probably for the best since I only brought my boat shoes with me. We did however “climb” one of Colorado’s 55 “14ers: mountains with peaks over 14 000 feet (4 267 meters). Our only “climb” was Mount Evans, also known as the highest paved road in North America. We climbed using John’s friend’s SUV. I’ll be the first to admit that the ride up was terrifying (so was the ride down), but it was worth it. The view from the top was sweeping and the feeling of having conquered a 14 000 foot mountain without actually having walked for more than 10 minutes is a great (and very American) feeling.

State Capital Tour

This is the most touristy thing I did during my whole time in Denver. I took a tour of the state capital building and got to learn about the state’s history as well as the building’s quirks. Denver isn’t as old a city as New York or Chicago, so there isn’t much in terms of architectural history, however, that’s not to say it has no past. Since it was settled during the gold rush, Denver (and surrounding areas) has a very rugged history. I think my favourite part of the tour was the marker indicating exactly where you are a mile above sea level (there are actually three markers, within a few feet of each other due to advances in altitude measurements). Pretty neat stuff. Plus there was a quilt fair going on a that time. Quilts are always nice.

Denver Cruisers

Imagine this. Cyclists from all around town (and I assume near-by cities) meet at 3 pre-designated bars at around 7pm. At 8:30pm (I our case. I guess it must change from week to week), everyone gets on their bikes and follows a leader. The leader has a stereo system set up on a wagon behind his bike blasting fun music. The leader takes the group for a ride around town until he reaches a park near the capitol building. All three bar leaders converge on this one location and a great time ensues. The scope of this thing is unreal. There must have been over a thousand people on bikes, and not only normal bikes! Some had oldtimey bikes (the really tal ones with the big front where and the tiny rear wheel), others had unicycles, etc. As if it wasn’t insane enough, every week (this is a weekly event!) is a different theme! When I was there, the theme was Circus, so we found some clown noses and some rainbow wigs! How much fun is that? Once the groups reach the park, a circle of death forms (people ride in a circle while other are trapped in the middle). Some food trucks are there and people bring some beers. We ate food, drank and had a great time. The energy there was so great. It was also nice that the cyclists respect the rules of the road while riding in such a massive group (mostly, there are always jerks). It was a great experience that mixed friends, food, drinks and biking in a safe and fun way.

University of Colorado Boulder 

Since I was in Colorado (and I was falling in love with it at an astounding rate), I decided to visit the local university. My goal was to see the campus and meet some faculty, in order to see if it was a right fit for me. The main University of Colorado campus is in Boulder, a small college town 45 minutes north by bus of Denver. I didn’t get to look around Boulder much since it was raining, but I got the feeling that it is a nice liberal and active place with all the amenities. It’s also (I’m guessing) no more than 2 or 3 kilometers away from the Rocky mountains. Not only is it beautiful, but it has great access to world class outdoor activities. The campus is stunning too. All the buildings are built in the same “Tex-Mex” style (I’m not sure that’s an official architectural term). By that, I mean the walls are rugged rocks and the roofs are red tiles. A really beautiful place. The faculty I was lucky enough to meet was also great. I met someone who is an expert in my field and she was kind and welcoming. If I could get a scholarship to study there, I would be a happy camper.

Obviously there are other things I loved about the Colorado leg of my trip, but those are the main points. Hopefully I will get to return to Colorado soon for more great times with my friends (new and old) in a terrific city.

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Friday July 11, 2008

I got up at the same time as my roommates, refreshed and ready for adventure. After breakfast, the Scotsman and I went into town for some provisions for the hike: bread, cheese and bananas.

The hike was long and the day was hot, but the sense of accomplishment once we got to the top was worth all of it.

The view from the top

The view from the top

My hiking partner, Tom, was heading to his girlfriend’s house to finish a long backpacking trip through Europe. He could have gone around the lake in Annecy and it would have taken a couple hours to reach his girlfriend, but wanted to go the long way around, a two day voyage that led him up the Semnoz. I left him on top of the Semnoz to catch my 30 minute long bus back to town. It had taken us the better part of 5 hours to reach the top. Tom was hoping to find shelter within an hour and set up camp for the night. Parting with Tom was strange, we had spent so much time together and I felt we had accomplished so much and now, I would never see him again. I hope he made it to his girlfriend’s safely.

Tom and me on top of the Semnoz

Tom and me on top of the Semnoz

That night, I met up with a friend from Bishop’s to hang out for the night. Maxime (my friend) lives by a typical beautiful small village overlooking the Alpes in a stunning house. Everything is so beautiful here.

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Thursday July 10, 2008

I got to Charles de Gaule Airport without any problems, but actually getting there wasn’t my biggest fear; it was getting into the country. At the customs booth, I was ready. I had my “just visiting” story down and I had the “I’m just a tourist” look down. As it happens, I didn’t need it. The customs officer just stamped my passport and let me right in. No interview, no questions, nothing . Thank God.

I grabbed my things and started heading off towards Terminal 2 where I had a train to catch. After wasting about an hour looking for the terminal, I got my act together and found it just in time. When I say just in time, I mean it in the most litteral way. When I found it, the train lady was blowing her “all aboard” whistle. I asked her if this was the right train, and she literally pushed me in. I’m not sure if I’m conveying how frightening this was, but making a train with a 40lbs pack on the literal last second is exhilarating, but not something I’ll ever aim to repeat.

Also, it turns out I had a ticket for a TGV ride, some I was expecting to be much cooler and futuristic.

After a transfer in Lyon and 5 hours of travel, I finally reached Annecy. I don’t have the proper vocabulary to describe how spectacular Annecy is. I would image this is where words like beauty, romance and magnifique got their start. But for all it’s beauty, it’s a huge pain to navigate (like any European city).

I decided to take a supper break at a nice little Italian restaurant where I sat next to a man finishing his meal. He saw the Canadian flag on my backpack and we had a great chat over my supper (his desert).

The view that greeted me in Annecy

The view that greeted me in Annecy

Now that I regained some energy, I decided to try to find my hostel. I had a vague idea of it’s location, but nothing concrete; I was following bus stop signs to find it. I’ll admit. I had no idea where I was going. On my way up a steep hill (I was pretty sure it was the right direction), a generous couple who had seen me around town decided to give me a lift. Awesome!

I got to the hostel, settled in and decided to take a nice evening stroll by the lake. This place is as beautiful at night as it is in the day.

When I packed it in for the night, I finally got to meet my roommates: an older Frenchman, a Thai and a Scott. The Scott said he was going to hike up the Semnoz in the morning. Maybe I’ll go with him. I might as well check out the view since I’m here.

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