Tag Archives: wanderlust

How a Video Game Inspired Me To Visit a Certain Country

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Many of you already know that I have a pretty deep fondness for Nepal. But what most of you don’t know is how and why I chose to visit there in the first place.

Well, the answer is kinda amusing.

You ever heard of this video game?

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It’s called Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, a universally praised title developed by Naughty Dog that originally released for the PlayStation 3 system in 2009.

If you aren’t familiar, it’s about a world explorer (like me!) named Nathan Drake who gets caught up in an Indiana Jones-style adventure across the world, trying to obtain a lost treasure before a group of international baddies get their grubby hands on it. Of course, this game is right up my alley, so I had to play it. It also doesn’t hurt that it is one of the best-reviewed video games in history. Play it if you haven’t!

Anyway.

One of the game’s chapters led me (Nathan Drake) into a fictionalized, battle-bruised version of Kathmandu, Nepal. I’ve heard of Kathmandu before, but I knew absolutely nothing about it. But I have to hand it to the game designers, they made Kathmandu feel engrossing (even with all the rubble) and after playing through the chapter, it sparked an interest in actually going there.

I googled Kathmandu and did an image search and was happy to find that the developers of the game were faithful in recreating Nepal as accurate as possible: the colorful prayer flags strung across the old, almost crumbled brick buildings, the temples, the lighting, the snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. Everything was just like I’ve seen from the images.

This is what part of Kathmandu looks like today…

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…before Naughty Dog created a fictionalized battle-beaten version.

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That yellow taxi even looks like the ones I caught while I was there!

Suddenly, Nepal skyrocketed to the top of my list of countries I must explore.

I made the decision then and there. I had to go.

About a year or so later, I booked a flight to Nepal and worked with an organization in Kathmandu to volunteer at a school in Pokhara. And from there, the rest is history. It sounds a bit farcical and cliche to say this, but it changed my life forever. For the better.

It’s crazy to think that if I’ve never played that game, then I probably would never have gone to Nepal. At least not so suddenly. It was never really on my radar until the moment I blew up bad guys with a grenade launcher in the middle of Kathmandu.

Thank you, Naughty Dog.

P.S – There are two amazing sequels that have also been critically praised. I have yet to play the fourth but will do so whenever I find the time.

Has anything unorthodox ever inspired you to visit a specific place? Please let me know! 🙂

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Get To Know Table Mountain’s Vastly Underrated Neighbor, Lion’s Head Mountain

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Being a self-proclaimed “Capetonian” pro, I often tell people I meet that the hike up Lion’s Head is much more enjoyable than the routes up Table Mountain. And for many reasons.

Table Mountain is one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and deservingly so.  This 1,085m mountain with a relatively flat summit earned its name from the spillage of clouds that cover the top like a tablecloth. It truly is a world wonder.

But.

Directly neighboring Table Mountain is another smaller, more precious mountain called Lion’s Head which stands at about 669m, much shorter than it’s counterpart. Lion’s Head has a unique spiral shape leading up to the apex of the mountain which resembles the shape of a lion laying down. It took me awhile to see it.

Lion’s Head lives in the shadow of the ever prominent Table Mountain, but I actually prefer it over its more popular neighbor.

Unlike most routes leading up Table Mountain, the singular path spiraling up to Lion’s Head is completely out in the open. You literally circle up with the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town, and Table Mountain always in view. To see the clouds blanketing Table in such a close encounter is simply stunning.

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To get to the base, or the start of the hike, simply take a taxi or a cheaper Uber there. That’s it. It’s impossible to get lost as there is only one route that leads up. No entry fees either. It’s completely free as of this post.

The hike itself is straightforward, but it’s the last twenty minutes or so that I would consider the fun part. You literally have to start using your hands to climb up steady boulders and crevices, along with ladders and chain-links to pull yourself up. You may hear people say that it was difficult, but these are the same tourists who would probably consider botanical gardens and art museums a crazy good time. The joy of climbing overwhelmed any difficulty I may have had. It takes about an hour to reach the top, depending on your pace. Though I guarantee you’ll be stopping a bunch to take photos, which is a must!

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Myself along with a few other backpackers made the climb around 4pm, to give us enough time to relax at the top and enjoy a few beers for the sunset. No, there aren’t any beerstands there. Instead, I filled up a dry bag with ice and cans of South Africa’s best brews and carried it up. Easy as pie. Many people also brought snacks and food to the top. Just make sure you take everything you brought up, back down with you as there are no bins for rubbish,

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While you are up there, every side of the top offers alluring panoramas and magazine-worthy shots. Feel free to explore everywhere!

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You MUST stay for the sunset! 

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But, don’t stay too long, especially without flashlights to guide your way back down. There is an alternate route to bypass all the climbing bits, that leads you back to the spiraling path downward, back to the start of the hike.

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The walk up to Lion’s Head didn’t take nearly as long as it did for Table Mountain, the route is more open, and is much easier on the legs when walking back down as opposed to the many rocky steps on Table. Although Table does have the cable car option.

Also with Table Mountain, sometimes you just never know when there’s an incoming cloud cover to totally block your view from everything. Like this…

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Get To Know Table Mountain's Vastly Underrated Neighbor, Lion's Head Mountain

IMG_9182

Being a self-proclaimed “Capetonian” pro, I often tell people I meet that the hike up Lion’s Head is much more enjoyable than the routes up Table Mountain. And for many reasons.

Table Mountain is one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and deservingly so.  This 1,085m mountain with a relatively flat summit earned its name from the spillage of clouds that cover the top like a tablecloth. It truly is a world wonder.

But.

Directly neighboring Table Mountain is another smaller, more precious mountain called Lion’s Head which stands at about 669m, much shorter than it’s counterpart. Lion’s Head has a unique spiral shape leading up to the apex of the mountain which resembles the shape of a lion laying down. It took me awhile to see it.

Lion’s Head lives in the shadow of the ever prominent Table Mountain, but I actually prefer it over its more popular neighbor.

Unlike most routes leading up Table Mountain, the singular path spiraling up to Lion’s Head is completely out in the open. You literally circle up with the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town, and Table Mountain always in view. To see the clouds blanketing Table in such a close encounter is simply stunning.

IMG_9194.jpg

To get to the base, or the start of the hike, simply take a taxi or a cheaper Uber there. That’s it. It’s impossible to get lost as there is only one route that leads up. No entry fees either. It’s completely free as of this post.

The hike itself is straightforward, but it’s the last twenty minutes or so that I would consider the fun part. You literally have to start using your hands to climb up steady boulders and crevices, along with ladders and chain-links to pull yourself up. You may hear people say that it was difficult, but these are the same tourists who would probably consider botanical gardens and art museums a crazy good time. The joy of climbing overwhelmed any difficulty I may have had. It takes about an hour to reach the top, depending on your pace. Though I guarantee you’ll be stopping a bunch to take photos, which is a must!

IMG_0610.jpg

IMG_0646.jpg

Myself along with a few other backpackers made the climb around 4pm, to give us enough time to relax at the top and enjoy a few beers for the sunset. No, there aren’t any beerstands there. Instead, I filled up a dry bag with ice and cans of South Africa’s best brews and carried it up. Easy as pie. Many people also brought snacks and food to the top. Just make sure you take everything you brought up, back down with you as there are no bins for rubbish,

IMG_9115.jpg

IMG_9113.jpg

While you are up there, every side of the top offers alluring panoramas and magazine-worthy shots. Feel free to explore everywhere!

IMG_9200.jpg

IMG_9120.jpg

 

IMG_9174.jpg

You MUST stay for the sunset! 

IMG_9201.jpg

IMG_0628.jpg

IMG_9197.jpg

But, don’t stay too long, especially without flashlights to guide your way back down. There is an alternate route to bypass all the climbing bits, that leads you back to the spiraling path downward, back to the start of the hike.

IMG_0654.jpg

The walk up to Lion’s Head didn’t take nearly as long as it did for Table Mountain, the route is more open, and is much easier on the legs when walking back down as opposed to the many rocky steps on Table. Although Table does have the cable car option.

Also with Table Mountain, sometimes you just never know when there’s an incoming cloud cover to totally block your view from everything. Like this…

IMG_8701


For more posts like these and everything related to ADVENTURE TRAVEL, please subscribe by clicking the Follow button on this page and also follow along on Instagram and Facebook! I’d love to hear from you.  🙂

 

 

9 Really Dumb Things I Used To Do During My Travels That I Don’t Do Anymore

I’ve been traveling on a large-scale around the world for the last decade or so. With that, I’ve made plenty of dimwitted mistakes and committed piles of ignorant acts back in my earlier days of exploration. Looking back now—things that make me cringe!

Don’t do what I did.


1. Touch The Boobs

I was persuaded to go to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Bangkok with a couple other backpackers. I didn’t want to because I thought it would be boring, but they kept on insisting. So to make it entertaining for myself, I thought it would be hilarious to fondle many of the wax celebrities and peek underneath their clothes, much to the horror of all the other museum patrons. I was so annoying.

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2.   Climbing Sacred Religious Monuments

I had (and still do have) an urge to climb things that aren’t meant to be climbed on. So when we went to a religious Buddhist park in Laos, I couldn’t resist the itch to climb on all the statues. Even worse, there were monks around praying while I acted like a damn monkey climbing all over the park. The photos I got were amazing, but looking back on it…I was such a dick.

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3.  Run From The Law

Speaking of Laos, it was there where I also ran from the cops to escape a ticket. While riding a motorbike for the first time in my life, I accidentally drove past a red traffic light. An officer on the side of the road (who was on foot) whistled for me to pull over, and so I complied. He asked me a bunch of questions in broken English, in which I pretended I couldn’t understand him. He then asked me to wait a moment. When he went into his office several meters away to get some information, I took off at the speed of light to avoid the ticket. I could have gotten in some SERIOUS trouble if I were caught.

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4.  Hike a Mountain With A Flu

Kilimanjaro was (and is still) the most formidable hike I’ve ever endured in my life! I began the trek with a godawful flu. The hike cost around $1,200, so flu or no flu, I hiked it to get my nonrefundable money’s worth. I was challenging death during summit day. I fainted, passed out, nearly froze to death, and had to be given oxygen from an emergency tank…but I made it! However, it’s a risk I won’t tempt ever again.

5. Jump Into a Tidal Pool of Ferocious Water

Another dumb thing that nearly killed me. I led a group of clueless volunteers to a destination I dubbed as “The Rock”; a gigantic towering boulder about a mile down the Pacific side of Costa Rica’s western coastline. As we trekked, we came across a giant pool of water, with angry waves pummeling against an enormous rock wall. Stupid, dumb me thought that if we swam against the wall, then the waves can’t possibly slam us into said wall. The others told me not to but I didn’t listen. Confident, I jumped in any way and immediately was sucked out into the water and picked up by an oncoming wave, repeatedly slamming my back against the wall! Stupid, dumb me also had a tendency to overpack, so thank goodness that my backpack I was wearing absorbed most of the impact. Also, thank goodness there was a professional rock climber among the volunteers who were able to miraculously grab me and save my life.

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6.  Prebook Random Flights Because It Sounds Like A Good Idea

While at home in Michigan, I had an upcoming three-month long trip all over Africa. I thought that I would break up my Africa trip by booking a flight to Paris for a few days and then return to where I left off. When it came the time in Tanzania to fly to Paris, I couldn’t be bothered with another long plane journey to an expensive city for four days by myself, only to return right back in Tanzania again. So I simply skipped the flight and my hotel in France. That was $1000 I’ll never get back, right down the drain of stupidity.

7. Video Record the Women in the Red Light District

Stupid, naive me thought the Red Light District in Amsterdam was famous because of its cool red lights everywhere, not because of the prostitution and sex-oriented businesses that infamously ran rampant there. So as I strolled through, I had my phone on record, documenting everything I saw, including all of the scantily clad women in the glass windows offering a peep show. So you can understand why I was startled when one of the women suddenly popped out of the window and ordered her security to retrieve my phone. He couldn’t catch me and I still have my video. Won’t try that again though, now that I know what the red lights really mean…

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8. Flash My Stuff Around An African Shanty Town

I already knew better than to do this. I was volunteering at a school in a township in South Africa for a while. I left the school early one day and walked back to my homestay. I felt comfortable enough in the township to listen to my iPod on the way. Minutes later, two lanky, scraggly men approached me and tried to take my iPod from me. I was prepared to fight (they had no visible weapons) and I felt I could take them on. And so, they backed off once they saw that I stood my ground. I got off lucky, but I never flashed any fancy object in any poor township ever again after that.

9. Put My Valuables Underneath a Bus In a Developing Country

This is another instance where I felt “invincible” in a foreign country. While traveling all over Vietnam by bus, I normally kept my carry on bag with my valuables on my person. Well, one day I decided “screw it” and placed my carry-on bag in the undertow of the bus. Later, I discovered my iPhone was missing. I thought I just misplaced it, until I discovered photos on my iPad that were newly synced from my missing phone. Selfies of that dirty bus driver, who obviously swiped my phone from my bag. There was no way of getting it back, as I was long gone in another country. No one to blame but myself…

I tried to find a tenth dumb thing to end this list on a nice, even number, but I couldn’t think of anything substantial. I’m sure I’m guilty of plenty more dumb travel related things…just as you probably are too!

What stupid things have you done on your travels? I wanna know!

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Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 3

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Continued from previous post Walking Across Spain (El Camino de Santiago): Week 2

 

31 May

Day 15: Honturas to Frómista (32 km)

I left early again, not on purpose, but because Ethan decided to sleep in. The first half of the 30 km+ day was great. I felt as powerful as ever! Soon, I began to feel my blister coming in. Also, I didn’t eat anything for breakfast so I was struggling on the last 5 km to Fromista. Ethan arrived at the municipal about two hours later, and Jon about an hour after that. I took a majority of the day to rest in bed. I did not like the way I felt on the last part of the walk. We’re halfway there, body; just hold up a little longer, then you can relax back in Nepal for two months!”

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I had to wear a buff over my face for part of the day because it was getting mighty buggy!

1 June

Day 16: Frómista to Carron (18 km)

Today I woke up and ate an apple and a donut for breakfast, which seemed to help this time. The back of my left leg was still a bit sore, but I was able to power through the 18 km day. The sun was relentless and I had sweat dripping down my back and out of my armpits. I’m gonna have to figure out how to deal with the heat tomorrow as it’s a 37 km day in the sun! I made a dinner from scratch: rice with caramelized onions and green peppers along with a cheesy chicken on top. I thought I did quite well. Gotta rest for tomorrows haul. It may be the hardest day yet!”

 

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2 June

Day 17: Carron to Sahagun (37 km)

Today was long and hot! 37 km! I stuck my stick so that it was sticking up out of my bag and hung my rain jacket from it. It was like a canopy that protected me from the direct sunlight. I was also able to read an entire novel as the path was straightforward and without many hazards. My group of three also got split up. I made it to Saharan while Jon stayed in Terradillos (it was too hot for him) while Ethan stayed in a town (don’t remember the name) about 18 km back! He stayed behind for unknown reasons. No worries, we shall regroup once we get to Leon in a couple days. This may be good for Ethan to get a couple days on his own, actually.”

The novel I read was called A Girl On a Train, the only book in English I could find in the albergue’s. I read a couple chapters the day before and read the rest on this day, under my mobile canopy.

 

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3 June

Day 18: Sahagun to Mansilla (35 km)

Today hurt like no other day. I was moving at a brisk pace when suddenly my left leg (which has been sore for the last few days) said “no more’’. I took a pause in Regioso to eat and rest up so I could finish the 35 km day. Only about 6 km to go! I had a renewed, God given, strength and regained a pep in my step as I quickly made it to the municipal in Mansilla. There, I reunited with two pilgrims I met yesterday, Jake and Dan, who arrived shortly after. I made us all a pasta dinner and then hit the hay. My body needs rest. Tomorrow I will have an easy 18km day and will meet up again with Ethan and Jon. After speaking to Dan, it’s my left Achilles that’s paining me. He taught me how to stretch it out. Hopefully, it will help.”

Today was the first day that I spent the night apart from everyone in my group. Weird at first, but a good change of pace for a moment. I’m sure the others could have used the separation as well.

4 June

Day 19: Mansilla to Léon (18 km)

Jake and I had an easy 18 km walk to the big city of Leon. There, I reunited with Ethan and Jon, and we went tapas crawling. Many pubs served tapas when you ordered a drink. Our albergue reminded me of a military war hospital. And it just so happened that the loudest snorers on Earth were in our room. The city of Leon itself was much better than Burgos, but it was still no Pamplona. At 9pm, our group went to the albergue’s monastery for a special pilgrims blessing. Most of the sermon was in Spanish, but the list of it was a blessing for us pilgrims for our continued perseverance and guidance for the rest of our walk.”

I’m not a very religious person by no means, but I felt that going to at least one blessing along this camino would be neat to experience.

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5 June

Day 20: Léon to Hospital (24 km)

Jake and I walked 24 km to San Martin, our intended destination for the day, but instead went further to Hospital; an outstanding medical town that was much better than the previous cities. However, the walk today was the ugliest in the whole camino so far—industrial pretty much the whole way. Once I got to Hospital, I messaged Ethan and Jon letting them know that I went an extra town further. They persisted and joined me later on. I made a dinner for the five of us (Ethan, Jon, Jake, and other Dan), a special pasta with veggies, a creamy carbonara sauce and lots of grilled chicken breast. I think I may have outdone myself this time. The total day was about 30 km.”

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6 June

Day 21: Hospital to Astorga (20 km)

I hate to admit this, but I’m ready to be done! They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, but I’m just about over walking and never plan on walking again. I shall invest in a Segway after this. Today’s walk was a short 14 km into a rather larger city: Astorga. Found a comfortable hostel near the cathedral and just planned on doing nothing all day. Just relax, Youtube, and nap. No matter how much the others wanted to ‘do something’’, Today was my day to do absolutely nothing. I had no desire to see the city. My only desire was to get to Santiago, get outta Spain and continue the rest of my trip to far more interesting endeavors (Nepal, Germany, Africa, etc). Had done kebob for dinner. Met twins from England.”

 

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6 June

Astorga Thoughts

So. Everyone that told me they’ve done the camino before, told me it was one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. Mainly because of the people they’ve met along the way that has made their camino extra special. It’s day 21 and I gave up hope on meeting those special people. TBH, most of the pilgrims I’ve come across are rather odd or just too old with nothing in common with me. Besides a handful of gems, my small group, I haven’t really bonded well with the people here as I usually do on my other backpacking trips. It could just be bad luck or bad timing on my part. Or maybe because most of these pilgrims are first time travelers and I just can’t be bothered with their noobness. I’ve met amazing people during all my travels, but no one here really wowed me, save for those gems I mentioned. Also, waay too many old people who have no shame when it comes to walking around in their tighty-whities, farting, snorting, snoring, etc. I’ll reserve my final opinion until I actually reach Santiago. So far, it’s been mediocre.

Just being honest. Keeping an open mind.


One more camino post!