My time in Palestine ended with a ride from the Golan Heights in occupied Syria at the headwaters to the Jordan river down to the Red Sea at Eilat--400 km away. I cycled from the mountains to the Dead Sea and continued south through the Negev desert.
After Eilat, I crossed the border into Aqaba. I hopped a bus to Wadi Rum and traded some time for free lodging & food at a Bedouin camp. After 2 weeks, I hopped back on the saddle and rode up to Petra. I spent 2 days wandering Petra's remains before continuing North. I felt that my legs were finally strong enough, so I decided to stick to the King's highway in the mountains for the rest of my ride to Amman.
Where to begin? Should I start in the Sequoias--my time wandering through the largest trees in the world? Or stumbling into what felt like an unofficial rainbow gathering in Mendocino? Or Yellowstone, where I spent a week amongst the bears and elk--getting snowed-on and walking though basins where the earth's crumbling crust gave way to pools of scalding-hot water?
I spent a week amongst the bears and elk -- getting snowed-on and walking though basins where the earth’s crumbling crust gave way to pools of scalding-hot water
Alas, I'll start with the present. At the time of writing, I find myself in Madison, Wisconsin. My preoccupation as of late is no longer my next backpacking trip through some US national park.
In less than a month, I'll be boarding a plane one-way to the Middle East, and I don't plan to come back to the US for over a year (closer to two).
Indeed, my current preoccupation is selling my car, getting back to NY, and finding some clever way to fit my folding bicycle into a checked bag that'll go under the bike-fee radar for the German airline on my flight to Israel.
My last major stop was Yellowstone, and my what an adventure that was! For the record, if you visit Yellowstone in September, all the backpacking permit fees are waved. And there's at least 3 campsites that are entirely accessible by bicycle. But, even if you just visit Yellowstone by car, it's quite an experience. There's fewer awe-inspiring vistas than other national parks, but looking across a low-lying basin with huge plumes of water vapor rising from patches of pools stretching out to the horizon offers a unique sort of inspiration in it's own wright.
After a week in Buenos Aires, my injuries sustained by 10 days of backpacking in Patagonia have mostly healed. I initially only intended the 123 km circut at Torres del Paine National Park in Southern Chile to take 7 days, but complications with rangers, a blizzard, and increasing pain in my ankles, feet, and--worst of all--my knees slowed my journey; fortunately I over-packed food.
my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
After 3 weeks in Santiago de Chile, with a brief weekend visit to Valpariso and Maintencillo to visit friends, I woke on Saturday--the first day of my 2 week vacation--at 05:30 to catch a plane to Punta Arenas. I had a rough sketch of plans from the time my plane arrived in this southern Chilean town until the time I was to arrive in Buenos Aires 2 weeks later, but my only ticket or reservation included this one-way plane ticket from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas--the furthest south I've ever been.
I arrived to the airport with a overly-stuffed backpack full of instant, no-heat, vegan, dehydrated trail food (couscous, instant potatoes, raisins, mixed nuts, tortillas, peanut butter, oil, and various soup & spice packets). My pack was bulging with two gigantic ever-running holes on the critical sides along the main zipper. My couchsurfing host amazingly had a half meter of webbing to give me just before graciously driving me to the airport, but I hadn't time to sew my pack before the flight. I hastily pulled out my ~50ft of paracord, and tightly bound the pack with the entire length. I waited in line with all the other backpackers headed for Patagonia, sacrificed a lighter to the airport security, and boarded my plane.
After my arrival to the Punta Arenas airport, I searched for a bus to get to Puerta Natales--the gateway town a short 3 hour bus ride from the Torres Del Paine National Park. The information desk told me the inter-city busses picked up at the airport, but required tickets purchased in advance. I awaited one of these busses a few hours later, standing in a line with backpackers more prepared than I. When a bus arrived and my neighbors presented their pre-printed tickets, I asked the bus driver in my broken spanish if I could pay for the ride now. There was no issue; I was told to get on the bus. Moreover, I somehow blended-in with the group, as the ticket man walking up & down the isle demanding ticket proof never approached me.
After a sleepy ride on the bus with more comfortable chairs than the plane, we arrived to Puerto Natales' main bus station. I previously searched for the cheapest hostel online, and walked there with my fingers crossed. They had a 13.000 CLP bed in a mixed dorm, and offered cheap luggage store during the trek for 1.000 CLP. I separated my items, leaving my electronics and some superfluous clothes & toiletries behind. I spent the rest of the night sewing long patches of webbing to pack's critical rips. I ate dinner and went to bed early.
The next morning, I had a fast breakfast, grabbed my webbing-patched pack, and was on the bus to Torres Del Paine by 07:30. The scenery was mostly the same--Patagonia is mostly large, empty fields with cows--with only the occasional mountains & glaciers, to which I intended to immerse myself in shortly.
we had to ford a river...I stubbornly didn't want to remove my boots, so I decided to jump...While I was able to jump to the sandbar without issue, I did so immediately after I had thrown my backpack directly into the water
We arrived, stood in line, paid for entry, and watched a bilingual video about the rules of the park. Their biggest concern was wild fires, as careless tourists from Czech Republic & Israel have tragically burned down nearly 500,000 hectares in 1985, 2005, and 2011. Personally, I didn't even have a stove. Everything I had could be rehydrated cold--though I would never do this again where the water source is glacier melt and the temperature is regularly less than 10 degrees!
We awoke to the sound of a marmot under our mini-van shelter atop Hatcher Pass. It was my last weekend in Alaska, and S wanted to take me outside the Anchorage bowl--where I've been living the past month. We ate breakfast as we gazed upon the snow-capped mountains in the distance, then grabbed our packs and climbed up to the ridgeline, stopping to appreciate the fine view of Mount Denali--the highest peak in North America.
I hosted S as a couchsurfer in my temporary "apartment" in Anchorage, but we initially met in an online form; we were both searching for a travel companion to split the cost on a ship from Anchorage, AK to Vancouver, BC.
3 months ago, S left her office job in Zürich, flew to Vancouver, and bought a mini-van named Bourbon. Living in Bourbon, she drove through BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Yukon, and west into Alaska. I hosted her a few times when she passed south through Anchorage down to Homer, then again West to Valdez. Our last weekend in Alaska, we took one last trip outside Anchorage before she sold Bourbon
After climbing down from the ridgeline above Hatcher's Pass, we drove through the valley down a long gravel road to the Reed Lakes trailhead. 4 miles and much climbing later, we arrived at the most pristine, glacier-fed lake I've ever seen. A local told us it's the best lake in Alaska, and that the glacier that fed this lake (just over the ridgleine) was called "bomber glacier", as a crashlanded (world war 2?) bomber plane could be found atop the glacier. If we had more time, gear, and food, it would make a glorious multi-day weekend hike to Bomber Glacier--perhaps for my next visit to Alaska.
I began my ascent into the Himalayan mountains via a bus from Delhi. My stop was the last stop, Manali. The mountains were beautiful, and I was completely taken by surprise when I found myself on a Bollywood set, paid 1500 rupees to be an extra in a film.
A French couple departed the bus with me, so we shared a rick shaw to Old Manali, where we stayed in a cheap ~300 rupee/night guest house. It was November--Manali's off-season, yet there was already a half-dozen other travelers from France, Germany, and Korea staying at the guest house.
I immediately recognized Himalayan Blackberry and I could smell ganja in the air--two plants that reminded me of California.
Soon after I arrived, I started walking North along the river, basking in the peaceful sunlight in the valley surrounded by snow-capped mountains. I immediately recognized Himalayan Blackberry and I could smell ganja in the air--two plants that reminded me of California.
I continued walking along the deserted mountain road above the river for a few hours, passed through a village where I saw smoking men relaxing in the morning and women washing clothes from a stream running down to the river. I turned, walked back to my guest house, ate lunch, and then continued in the opposite direction towards the hustling & bustling New Manali. It was an overcrowded tourist trap full of shops, restaurants, and overcharging rickshaws--a stark contrast to my peaceful morning walk. Though it was off-season, I met local that offered to guide me on a day-trek for much cheaper than the "adventure" companies charge. We had chai, agreed on a price, and a time/location to meet early the next morning.
On my walk back up to my guest house, a man behind a gated entrance with a radio earpeace stopped me. He said they're shooting a Bollywood movie, they need a foreigner to play as an extra, and they'd pay me 1,500 rupees, and feed me for my time (for reference, 1500 rupees would pay for my lodging at my guest house for the next 5 nights).
This weekend I climbed 660 granite steps to the temple at Shravanabelagola on my way to Belur. At the top, I was overwhelmed with about 300 children from Bangalore who all wanted to shake my hand, ask me my name, my country, and ask "sup boy?" in their thick Indian accents. Overwhelmed is an understatement. I have never met so many people in such a short period. As I descended the rock, every child I passed on my way down, remembering my name, said goodbye.
Belur itself was incredible. The temples had thousands of intricate carvings on nearly every wall, column, and ceiling stone. Weathered for the past 8,000 years, these carvings depicted stories of the gods from the hindu epics. Some of the work was so fine, you could just stick a thread into the intricacies of the carvings.
When stopping for dinner, I sat alone and ordered one of my favorite Chinese-Indian dishes: Gobi Manchurian. After ordering, I went to wash my hands, and a group of ~20 local women were staring at me. They asked, simply "hi. how are you?" But when I simply answered "Hello. How are you?" and returned to my table, I must have left something to be desired. They continued to stare at me while I ate my dinner for the next 20 minutes, and eventually came to sit at my table to take selfies with me.
They thoroughly complimented my 1-month-old baby dreds, and asked me to smile for their camera while I tried to finish my meal. Before they left, one of them asked me to come to their home. Again, overwhelming, but incredibly nice. In any case, I had a bus to catch, so I scarfed down the last of my food and climbed onto my tour bus. A few minutes later, a van full of women passed by my window seat, cheering, shouting, and waving "goodbye!". I smiled, waved, reclined, pulled down my bandanna over my eyes, and tried to sleep for the last leg of my journey back to Bangalore.
I have 2 days left in Santiago, Chile. This weekend, I'm taking a 54-hour bus to Lima, Peru.
On Friday I'll wake up at 05:30 to walk myself and all my possessions to the bus station. The bus goes north up the Chilean desert, through the Chile-Peru border just past Arica, across the Peruvian mountains that hug the Pacific Ocean, and down into Lima, Peru.
After I graduated college, I sold or gave away most of my possessions. As a young US American following the footsteps of many before me, I headed west to California.
ho·bo / ˈhō-(ˌ)bō / (n.) a migratory worker
With just a few duffel bags of cargo, my 21-st century move from Florida to California lasted only a few hours on an airplane. My destination: San Francisco -- where, in a few weeks, I'd begin a new job as a software engineer.
During my time living in California, I visited Yosemite National Park and went on my first-ever overnight trekking trip. This experience taught me much about self-sufficiency and packing light--something that I later refined to an art.
I was in San Francisco for just over a year, but I never spread my roots too deep. Before my second year, my feet were itching for something new, and I found myself on a plane again -- this time destined for New York. With Guthy's voice singing through my earphones, I flew from the Redwood forests to the New York islands.
After some time, I was off again, heading down the US east coast back to Florida, and I hopped a plane to the furthest city in America that had an international airport -- Santiago de Chile.