Saturday, October 1, 2011

The clouds over Torres del Paine N.P.


We’re talking late 2010, we had rounded the southern most tip of the American continent and were on our way up north to take a much deserved break from traveling and spend two weeks with friends.

But, before that all we still had to visit the Chilean National Park of Torres del Paine. And what an awe-inspiring place it was. Absolutely one of the highlights of the trip! And one extra special thing, the CLOUDS! Have a look at this video (around the 22-second mark) and see those cloud formations! Stunning and gorgeous :)

(if you read this post through the mailing list or Facebook, you’ll have to go to our blog and view the video there)

Chile - Torres del Paine from Q on Vimeo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dance performance

My niece Olivia was in a dance performance, here are some photos.

The full gallery is here.
(gosh, it’s nice to be taking photos again with an SLR…)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Music by the River

Worst Couchsurfing experience. That is one of our most popular conversation topics with friends and family. Just to clarify we don’t “surf” nearly as much as it appears - maybe occasionally at most, i.e. about 5% for those of you engineers. But it’s true that I like to talk about surfing because they often make more memorable experiences than boutique hotels. This is one of the stories I told many times. I think it is time to share it on the blog with everyone.

It was along the Trans-America highway called Carretera Austral in Chile. Gorgeous scenery and weather that we couldn’t get enough of. We pulled into the city of Coyhaique in an early evening and found the house according to the address given by our Couchsurfing host, Javier.

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To call it a house is an over-statement - it was actually still under construction with fences and pit holes everywhere. We were confused - maybe we were at wrong place? So we circled about the town, asked around, circled about some more and asked around some more. Fifteen minutes later we found ourselves back at the same spot. Luckily Javier answered our prayers and showed up a few minutes later: he indeed lived at the location, but in a little cabin by the riverside further into the property, the front of which would be developed into some hotel. 

After tip-toeing around the construction site, we found the cabin hidden among trees. Really it was just a small bachelor pad. Besides the kitchen and bathroom, Javier’s drum set took up about 1/3 of the living space and his sleeping mattress another 1/3. It felt a little tight for all three of us, but “we will manage somehow”, I tried to comfort myself in my head.

To our annoyance, the cabin was also a bit dirty and messy, so five minutes later, I rolled my sleeves and started cleaning out the dishes in the sink. Since it was still early, Q and I decided to wander around the town before dinner. Javier told us he was off to meet up with two other Couchsurfing travellers. He mumbled something about they would set up a tent for camping, but I subconsciously ignored the trouble sign.

We came back at around 9 at night to a cabin full of travellers and backpacks and a smiling Javier. By the way, we met a total of four Javiers in South America: one in Paraguay, one in Chile, one in Uruguay and one in Colombia, and all of them have this perpetually-cheerful look – a bit like the Sri Lankans.

Anyways, I digress, back to the cabin, the five of us chatted away. We found out the other two travellers were German university girls who had been trekking in Patagonia for several months. We were thoroughly impressed with their perseverance, and secretly wish we were younger and could do something similar.

Anyway, I digress again. Then it was getting late and way too dark to set up any tent so I felt it was necessary to address “the elephant in the room”. “What is the sleeping arrangement for tonight, guys?” I asked.

A complete silence of uneasiness momentarily froze everyone. Then the smiley Javier started scratching his head as if the thought hasn’t occurred to him.

“Well, my bed is a stack of three mattresses. So we can pull the bottom two out,” Javier finally broke the silence.

“But where? There is no space.” I continued my practical questioning.

“We will move the drums to the storage hut next door.”

So at eleven at night, the five of us carried the drums away like pack of diligent ants. Actually not all fit in the hut, so some were left blocking the entrance to the cabin. Fire hazard I know, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances and we were all getting sleepy, so I saved my safety speech.

It was a miracle that the three mattresses fit in the floor space. In fact they filled the entire space with no gap in between. So there we were, like a row of piglets, lined up nicely across the cabin.

2010-11-24 23h38m44s DMC-TS2 P1040940 Five of us lining up like piglets.

After everyone settled and lay down, Javier turned off the ceiling light. Suddenly all my senses were so heightened. I felt I was holding my breath and I received the same vibe coming from the whole room of tired travellers. With the darkness blanketing us, it finally dawned on us that we were going to spend ONE WHOLE NIGHT IN A ROOM FULL OF STRANGERS. Just like that we all held our breaths, too afraid to fall asleep.

Then something truly magical happened.

Javier turned on his record player, and next thing we knew, mellow and soothing jazz music flew out of it. Our ears were the first to start breathing again. I got up to capture this moment. My eyes just melted when they made out the sight outside the window – a river dancing under the moonlight! And next my nose found the faint scent of the wooden cabin. Just like that, everything became rustic and everyone was peaceful. I will never forget that feeling of excitement and relief that night. Then I passed out before the first song was over.

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The second day morning before leaving Javier’s house, we ensured the German girls in private that it was not a typical Couchsurfing experience, and they should not be deterred from trying it again.

Whether they did again or not, we don’t know. But we do know we tried Couchsurfing again and again since then, and treasure it every single time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Soap Box Derby

Last Saturday was the First Annual Nevada City Adult Soapbox Derby. The weather was great, the turnout was great, the race was exciting, and the soap boxes were spectacular! Here’s a short impression of the vehicles participating (or view the whole gallery here):

It was great fun! View the whole gallery here.

A Lousy-to-Sweet Moment in Peru

One of my friends Tanya suggested that I should post a photo of me in my motorcycle riding outfit since she cannot imagine me looking like an astronaut. While looking for such a photo, I recalled a moment we had in Peru.

Spring season was in full swing while we were in Peru, which meant more days than not, it rained on-and-off and constantly all day, and this particular day was no exception. Needless to say we were in a foul mood, with our motorcycle gears getting heavier and heavier soaked in rain water. For a good portion of the day I sat in butt-freezing clothes since my gore-tex motorcycle pants fails in heavy rain.

Sometime in the mid-afternoon streaks of lightening started hitting on the road ahead. All fed up with the lousy weather, Q stopped Casa in the middle of nowhere without warning. He gestured me to get off the motorcycle, and proceeded to throw himself down by the roadside.

I could tell he was really pissed off because he wouldn’t even look at me. And I was just glad that it’s not because of us this time! Knowing better I left him alone for a short while and scouted around as one does when stranded in the middle of nowhere. Now come to think about it, I must have looked quite funny since I didn't remove any of my motorcycle gears because I was too wet to. I quickly spotted a shepherd sitting across the road not far from us. I walked up to him and noticed his sitting trick – unlike Q who was on a patch of wet grass, the shepherd sat comfortably on a dry shrub above the puddles.

I decided to try it out – it worked like a charm!! Walking back to a slightly-deflated Q, I showed him the new trick, and we both had a ball trying it out!

me in my full motorcycle gears including helmet, jacket with rain cover, gloves, pants and boots.
About half an hour of resting (if above qualifies) in the drizzle later, the dark clouds finally cleared somewhat, so we decided to continue. The weather remained just as wet and lousy for the rest of the day, but we somehow felt lighter.
So what do you think now, Tanya? Is our travelling still the ideal vacation you had in mind? :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

You would think it’s almost summer

While Shu’s kicking back in Toronto with Family and Friends, I’m hanging low with my Pamily in Northern California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. I’ve done my fair share of relaxing, but there are also a few things that need to be done with the bike, among which: new tires!

New tires beg to be driven, of course, and I was happy to take them out for a spin. I made a  big loop via I-80 to Truckee, from there to SR-89 along  the west side of Lake Tahoe, then west on SR-88, back north on SR-49. See the map:

View Larger Map

So first I-80, a freeway that heads into the hills. Good for getting rid of the silicone on the new tires. Then I switched to the old road, which is more quiet, more scenic, more windy and with quite a bit of history to it. It’s the Old U.S. Route 40, or Donner Pass Road.

And a gorgeous view of Donner Lake.

You would think summer has started, I mean, we’re halfway into June, but snow tells you otherwise.

Right turn at Truckee, on California State Route 89 towards the west side of Lake Tahoe. You could tell summer holidays had started, because it was busy on the roads and all the parking lots. No pictures there because of that, and I’ve already been there a few times. But just south of Lake Tahoe I took a small road to shortcut my road, and instantly I was alone again.

After SR-89 a right onto SR-88, it climbs until 2600m/8500 feet and got really cold as well! But stunning sceneries again.

Some back roads from SR-88 to SR-49, north again and back to Auburn. Can’t think of a better way to wear in my new tires!

Check out all the pics in the gallery.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Vacation Glam

It has been a while since I looked remotely nice. The following photo was taken after an overnight party with mosquitos in Venezuela about two months ago.

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As mentioned in previous posting, we are taking a vacation after travelling for a year, with Q in California and me in Toronto. I was very excited to dress up and wear some make-up again – this time for a friend’s wedding. (Congrats, Sergio & Desirée!)


Me with friends at the wedding

Thanks to Tita Tess, Criana and a California thrift store for keeping my glam look at a grand total of $3.50! Sweet!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good Morning, United States of America! You Smell Good!!

Some of you have noticed from the photos that Q was getting darker and skinner from the hard work of motorcycling for 60,000 km. Well, worry not, because we have made it to the United States of America, home to meals that not only smell good but taste even better.

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Above: Hello, bacon! Only if I can sing to you. Oh, how much I have missed you.

It seems that we have to learn to count calories again!

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Above: Last stretch to pamily through gorgeous yet freezing northern California.

Special thanks to our friend Kiyo for hosting us in Los Angeles and the Andrews pamily for hosting us in northern California! Yes, after a year’s travelling, we are on vacation! Hooray!

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From Dos Chinos on Dos Wheels to Dos Niños in a Van!

Monday, May 30, 2011

48 Chowhound Hours in Mexico

Chowhound: Someone who strategizes carefully, passionately, and adventurously in deciding what and where to eat. For example, Q and I are chowhounds.

The truth was we did not know what to expect of Mexican food before entering the country. We were too annoyed by the rampant corruption and security issues plaguing the Central America, we were just happy to get a step closer to North America. And we were in for a surprise treat. Mexico was AMAZING with such different and fun flavours. Here is a documentary of the food we sampled in the first 48 hours of arriving in the country.

First day lunch at roadside booth – Slow-cooked beef stew with meat falling apart under fork.

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First day dinner in San Cristobal de Las Casas – Q taking in a street hamburger for $3 with layers of ham, lean meat and bacon along with veggies.

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Second day lunch in Municipal Market: pots of goodies waiting to be picked and enjoyed.

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For the rest of the second day, we feasted on more of rich and exotic Mexican treats…

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Above: the BEST roasted peanuts ever. Directly from the farmers.

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Above: bean bread

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Above: all sorted beans

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Above: Fat-bottomed ants! My my!

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Above: corn bread.

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Above:  Refreshing and tasty tacos.

Okay I know we totally pigged out, but I truly believe that Mexico could make anyone into a chowhound. Trust me, you simply cannot resist.

Thank you, Mexico. It’s been a great pleasure.