Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 2

Stawamus Chief

When I was planning my itinerary, one of the top things I wanted to do was to explore the beautiful nature on the outskirts of Vancouver. There were many many hiking trials in and around Vancouver while I was doing my research. In the end, one of the hiking trails that I chose to do, would take me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. Stawamus Chief is basically a 700m granite rock that jutted from the ground in the town of Squamish. There are several hiking trails that took me to the summit of Stawamus Chief. There are three summits that are accessible to visitors. However, I only visited the first two summits.

Up the gruelling trail. It was much steeper than I expected!

The hike was challenging. I severely underestimated the sheer degree of vertical climb I had to take in such a short distance. Immediately upon starting the hike up the trail, I was met with hundreds of stone steps, some so steep, that I had to be on all fours just to climb up on some of them. I went there early in the morning after renting a car in the city. About an hour later I reached the trail. I remembered the weather being cool and crisp. But within 30 minutes of hiking, I was sweating profusely and my legs were already aching badly. It took me more than 2 hours to reach the second summit.

Taking a break at the first summit.

At one point, I almost got lost, as the trail disappeared among the tangle of trees and dead-fall. I had to wait a round a little until a another fellow hiking came to point me in the right direction. Apparently I had missed a marker that pointed me to series of metal chains fixed along the base of a sheer cliff. The markers were sometimes had to spot, as it those are merely small colored pieces of metal nailed on the trees to indicate the path ahead. Miss them and you could potentially get lost.

I made a friend at the top!

The chains were there to aid hikers to pull themselves up along the cliff with a narrow footpath. And when I say narrow, it is extremely narrow, only wide enough for a single person to either go up, or go down, but never at the same time. Thus, there were moments of human traffic jams, as several hikers were trying to either go up or down the summit and had to wait their turn before they can grab the chains to hoist them up or down and walk along the narrow path. As I cleared the chains and made my way up, I reached the second summit of Stawamus Chief.

The view on top of Stawamus Chief is to die for!

Despite the difficulties and the challenges, I made it up to the second summit and I was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding lands below. The view was worth the trip up and I was grateful to embark on this hiking trail. I will never forget the view. I sat right at the edge of the granite rock at the summit, dangling my foot over the ledge. It was dangerous, because there is literally nothing below to save you from falling, but it was exhilarating to be able to do that. The weather was great day, beautiful sunshine, clear blue skies and the occasional squirrel, approaching me begging for food, as I sat there munching on the energy bar to replenish all those calories lost climbing up the steep trail at the beginning of the hike.

All in all, it took me 4 hours to go up and then down to the base of Stawamus Chief.

The next day, I was met with a hell of a muscle ache from both my legs. I knew then and there that I got bit more than I could chew when I embarked on that hike.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

From then on, my legs were aching throughout the trip. I was completely unprepared for the Stawamus Chief hike. I was deterred in seeing other beautiful sights of Vancouver and beyond. One of them that was at the top of the list was the Capilano Suspension Bridge. A simple bridge, about 140 meters long suspended 70 meters above the river. The bridge was kinda wobbly, but the view was beautiful. I was one of the first few to arrive at the attraction and for a short moment I had the whole place to myself. I boarded the first bus of the day in the morning and arrived in time to enjoy the bridge without too many people on it as well as the beautiful greenery and nature around the area. It remembered the place as being serene, quiet with fresh frosty air of the morning still hung in the air. The attraction also had a tree top walk as well as a cliff edge trail was was thrilling to walk on. A trail that hung on the edge of a sheer cliff with nothing but the river below you, it was a walk to remember.

Amazing bridge above the river and into the forests beyond!
One of the many tree top walks.
The cliff-edge walk. Quite exhilarating!

Sea to Sky Gondola

The Sea to Sky Gondola was another attraction that I truly enjoyed. Located about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver, I took a 10-minute ride on a cable car or gondola to the top of the summit lodge. From there, I was greeted with spectacular views, even more spectacular than from the summit of Stawamus Chief, overlooking the blue waters of Howe Sound. The summit also offered awesome views of various mountain peaks nearby. My favourite part of this summit is that there were a lot of benches places along strategic vantage points throughout the trails all around the summit, allowing you to take in the breathtaking view. I love this place specifically because it was not very crowded when I was there. I was even able to admire Stawamus Chief and its three peaks in all its glory. I could barely make out the hikers at the top of the peaks, especially the second one, which was there hiking previously till make leg muscles ache badly.

One of my favourites spots. It has an amazing view of the mountains as well as the lands below.
Sea to sky highway down below, the direct link to Vancouver beyond.
I spotted a bunch of kids and their teacher, showing the mountains beyond and the name of the mountain. I can no longer remember the name of that mountain.

Stanley Park

I cycled around Stanley park twice on rented bicycle. Twice because I was gobsmacked by how beautiful and big the park was. It borders the Vancouver downtown proper and mostly surrounded by water. It was easy getting to the park as it is just located north and west of Vancouver downtown. There were numerous rental bike shops nearby and I just went to the first one that I saw. I rented the bike for about 3 hours, which was more than sufficient time to circumnavigate the park at least once, stopping numerous times along the way, admiring the beautiful waters, passing underneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge as well as seeing other locals and tourists alike walking, running or cycling like me around the park. I was lucky because I went to Vancouver in late spring and the outside temperatures were perfect for outdoor activities like cycling. After cycling, I remembered returning the bike and then setting off on foot to explore the various forest trails that the park had to offer. It was peaceful walking on one of those trails, seeing the pristine forests well preserved even after marking the spot as a city park.

Resting underneath the Lion’s Gate bridge at Stanley Park.

Granville Island

I remember taking one of the shuttle ferry boats to Granville Island. The island is basically a small peninsula and shopping district. Yaletown had a stop for one of the shuttle ferry boats and I boarded one before stopping at Granville Island. It was an interested ride. Like taking the subway with its various stops, but instead, you take a ferry boat that takes you to places along the shores of False Creek, one of them happens to be Granville Island. I cannot remember the price of the ferry ride, but I remembered it was pretty decent, and most of all super convenient, especially when there is a ferry stop close to where I was staying in Yaletown.

The old industrial area in Granville Island.
Lots of food, farmer’s market, and more.
Just by the waters, the ferry I took to reach Granville.

Granville Island was an interesting place. It used to be an industrial manufacturing area. But now, the place has been transformed to be a premier destination for tourists looking for food and entertainment. The place is packed full of cafes, restaurants, breweries, and shops selling all kinds of Knick knacks, like a carnival market made permanent. The history of the place is not lost. You can still see evidence of the island as being a former industrial area. Warehouses with zinc roofs, cement factories and silos still stand and dotted all over the island. The Granville Island Public Market is to me, the most interesting part of the island. It is where local farmers and other food vendors sell their fresh produce such as vegetables, meat, seafood, cheese and many many other products. It was a feast for my senses. The food vendors especially, I was so spoiled for choice, I had difficulty choosing what I wanted to eat. And the coffee. So many coffee shops and cafes to try and experience. In the end, I could only truly experience just a tiny fraction of what the island had to offer me. But I was glad that I spent the entire day without any regrets.

Downtown

Downtown Vancouver has lots of other interesting locations that I visited, like the Coal Harbour, Port of Vancouver (which had a gigantic cruise ship docked while I was there), the famous Gastown with little cafes, rustic looking restaurants and pubs, as well as West End, Davie Village, Robson Square and others. I like the fact that the downtown core is small enough that you can practically explore the city just by walking. Sure there is a lot of walking to do, but with such amazing weather and loads of cafes that you can just stop by to rest and have a great cup of coffee, walking is the way to go in exploring Vancouver.

The public library.
The Olympic Cauldron.
Vancouver Harbour Flight Center.
The science center.
Gastown.

Vancouver Adventure 2017 Part 1

Nearly 2 years ago, I embarked on the furthest solo trip ever. To Vancouver and Seattle. A 12,800km journey from home. I can no longer remember what motivated me to go on a solo trip so far away from home. And looking back at my blog, I don’t recall blogging about it, much less posting pictures about my experiences solo trippin’ in Vancouver.

So now I need to make up for my lack of posts regarding my experience solo trippin’ in Vancouver and Seattle.

Food Poisoning!

Two years have passed and I have probably forgotten all the little things that happened while I was there. But one major thing happened prior to my trip that I will never forget. I remembered having food poisoning just a few days before my departure to Vancouver, Canada. It got so bad, that I almost cancelled my trip at the very last minute. Even at the gate, I was on the road to recovery and I was afraid that I might not be able to make it through my 12-hour long flight (via Guangzhou) with dignity (if you know what I mean). But for some odd reason, I persevered and told myself, screw this, I paid so much for this trip and I have been looking forward to this trip for so long. I was not about to let a mere food poisoning derail my plans for an epic holiday alone. I boarded the flight, drowned myself in probiotic pills, in the hopes of jump starting my intestinal microflora while in the air and hope to make a quick recovery upon landing.

Miraculously, I recovered. I was totally fine when I arrived in Vancouver. My body was hydrated, and my stomach felt really calm to the point where I could take in solids again. I ate the food on the plane and nothing bad happened to me. When I landed in Vancouver, it was as if nothing happened in the first place.

Yaletown

At Vancouver International Airport, after I wen through customs, I went looking for the train to the city. It was an easy trip from the airport to downtown, which I really appreciate. After that I remembered transferring to a subway train to Yaletown, where I would be living for the next few days in an Airbnb accommodation. I made a great choice. Yaletown is fantastic. Full of modern skyscrapers of concrete, glass and steel. I booked a room shared with the owner of the condominium in Yaletown and I remembered it was in the upper floors of the building. My window had sweeping views of the Vancouver and the neighbouring skyscrapers nearby. It was truly a sight to behold, day or night. I remembered a couple of times, where I just stayed in my room and just stared out of the window, enjoying the majestic view of the beautiful city.

My first selfie upon arrival in Vancouver. I made my way to Yaletown, reached my accommodation. After settling down and putting my luggage, I headed out and started exploring the place. My first impression of Vancouver: Beautiful.

I remembered having my first meal in Vancouver, and it was sushi that I bought at a nearby grocery store. I was hungry and I wasn’t particularly choosy in deciding anything special to eat. The sushi was probably the first real solid food, aside from the airplane food, that I had after the entire food poisoning episode. The sushi was pretty good. The meal wasn’t heavy and it was just the right amount, especially for someone who is just recovering from food poisoning hours ago. I was so thankful that I was able to hold down solid food and that my stomach didn’t give me any embarrassing problems along the way en route to Vancouver, Canada.

The view from my airbnb. Look at the mountains in the background.

It was a sunny afternoon upon arrival. A great day to walk about the city. I didn’t sleep much while in the plane. I was feeling jet-lagged but energized that the same time, knowing that I have arrived at my destination and I am completely ready to start exploring the city.

Yaletown. Beautiful weather upon arrival.

I remembered exploring Yaletown, trying to get my bearings right, reading the subway maps and where it could take me, and just enjoying the views of the harbour nearby. It truly is a beautiful part of the city. No doubt, the condominium and private apartments would have cost a ton to buy, much less rent.

I can see the stadium from where I stayed. The BC stadium I believe.
It was late spring when I travelled to Vancouver. Cherry blossoms were still in bloom.
The Vancouver Skyline.

A little setback regarding my New York trip

So previously my family booked a couple of a AirBnB accommodation in New York. It was the most economical option available, considering that hotel stays in New York is crazy expensive. And with six of use travelling as a family, it makes sense to book our accommodation on AirBnB, where we can book an entire house or apartment with enough bedrooms and bathrooms to fit all of us.

Apparently, one of our bookings was cancelled by the owner of the apartment. It seemed that he was caught renting out his place on AirBnB, which wasn’t exactly legal in New York, more of a gray area, when it comes to short rental regulations.

So now we are in the midst of finding a different accommodation and hopefully, no one else cancels on us, especially when it approaches our departure dates. It would be immensely inconvenient, not to mention, expensive to find alternatives, like hotels at the very last minute if the hosts of AirBnB that we have booked decided to cancel our reservations at the last minutes due to legal problems with renting those places out to us.

I hope this little set back would not affect use drastically in any way. I am keeping my fingers crossed, hopefully nothing unexpected happens when we are day, especially when it comes to accommodations.

Iceland Adventure Day 3

It was time to drive.

After collecting our white Ford Edge AWD car from Thrifty, a car rental company, we checked out from our hotel, loaded all our stuff, got ourselves comfortable and drove on Route 1, Iceland’s Ring Road. The car was just nice for a group of four and the boot could easily accommodate four large luggage. Everything in the car can be adjusted electronically using the touchscreen interface and the car even adopts a keyless system to start the engine. It has heated seats, which were godsend especially in Iceland. Overall, a pretty solid car for road trips. We drove in a counter-clockwise direction. heading east and south. In the beginning it was challenging navigating the streets of Reykjavik. The locals drive on the opposite side of the road, so everything you knew about driving back home had to be reversed, something that takes time getting used to. But thanks to Google maps and the timely prompts, we managed to navigate our way out safely. I was the driver of the day and I drove with a sense of both trepidation and excitement. We have officially started our road trip. We needed to cover about 200km today.

Introducing the Ford Edge.

Today’s route.
We headed east to the famous Golden Circle route covering locations such as Thingvellir National Park, Geyser, Gullfoss and Kerio. It was a pretty easy drive for the first couple of hours. But soon gale force winds started whipping up along certain parts of the route that we were driving. The windy weather were the remnants of last night’s storm and it continued around Reykjavik and south of Iceland the next morning. On certain sections of the road along Route 1, soft snow and ice crystals from the surrounding landscape got whipped up, carried by the strong wind, blanketing the entire area, making visibility very poor. Driving soon became difficult as snow and ice started accumulating on the road, becoming really thick in some areas. Patches of ice on the road made manoeuvring and controlling the car challenging. It was my first time driving on such road conditions and none of us knew what to expect or how to react to the difficult drive. At one point, visibility became so poor that we completely lost sight of a car just ahead of us. The entire view in front of us became totally white. We could barely see the road itself, everywhere else was just thick snow. That was when we got our car stuck for the first time.

Weather was unpredictable.
As we drove in whiteout conditions, the car ahead of us came back into view. It was still a good 50 meters ahead of us. The car slowed considerably and then all of a sudden for no apparent reason, jam on the brakes. Instinctually, I hit the brakes as well. But because the road was extremely slippery, our car continued to skid along the road. As the car skidded along, I suddenly realised we were fast approaching the car that stopped in the middle of the road, closing the gap at an alarming rate . I made a split second decision to prevent crashing onto to the car ahead and swerved to the right onto the road shoulder filled with thick, soft snow. When our car came to a complete stop, I then realise that our car had gotten stuck in snow. I tried moving forward, but the car simply wouldn’t budge. I tried reversing. It was the same outcome. We were officially stuck.
Getting out of the car itself was difficult, due to the storm and the strong wind. We stepped out and assessed the severity of the situation. The car that stopped in the middle of road, started moving again, and drove on, disappearing into the storm, not knowing that our car had gotten stuck just behind him. For a short moment we were all alone. We traced back our steps to find the actual road that we were driving on and realised why the car stopped all of a sudden. There was a huge patch of snow that recently settled on the road. As the storm continued, the strong wind carried tiny ice crystals and soft snow from the surrounding landscapes and deposited them on the road. Like sand dunes ever shifting in the desert during a sandstorm, we were witnessing ‘snow dunes’ forming during a snowstorm. The car probably braked and stopped to find out if he could drive through that section of the road buried in snow. Thinking that he could, he continued on his journey.
Our moment of complete isolation was short lived however. Eventually a few cars arrived and discovered that we had gotten our car stuck. A number of them got out of their cars to see if they could assist us. Soon, we could see more people from the other direction heading towards us to see what the commotion was all about and to check if the road condition was good to drive. Traffic was held up for a brief period from both directions. They were sharing information on the road conditions ahead from both directions. After 15 to 20 minutes of deliberation under the raging storm, a woman approached us and asked if any of us driven on such icy conditions before. We replied that we have not. She then asked if we had a shovel. We replied with an embarrassing no. Fortunately she had one in her car and went back to get it. Two other guys approached us as she returned with the shovel and took turns shovelling snow from underneath our car. After much shovelling in strategic areas around the wheels, one of them gave the orders for everyone to push the car, while I put the car on reverse. After much pushing and heaving, the car had enough traction on the ground and start moving back onto the main road. We were all relieved.
We thanked the men and the rest who ‘rescued’ us profusely and continued on our journey. Slowly but surely, we drove past the patch of road with thick snow without much difficulty and traffic resumed. By then, all of us had one thing in our minds; get a friggin’ shovel. We drove to the nearest petrol station and bought one immediately.
After the ordeal, as we continued on our way to Kerio. The storm had largely abated by then. Strong wind still persists every now and then. There is a famous saying in Iceland; “If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.” True enough, the weather can change drastically and without warning in Iceland. Kerio is a volcanic crater with a shallow lake at the bottom. But it was frozen during this period. It is a popular tourist spot because it is one of few calderas that is very recognisable visually and mostly intact, being a young caldera. On one side of the caldera, the slope is gentle enough to walk down and reach the lake.

Kerio.
Gullfoss is an impressive waterfall. It consists of three ‘steps’ that water flows down before plunging in a deep crevice. Because the crevice is obstructed from view, it seemed as if the water plunges down into the crevice and disappears from the face of the Earth.

Gullfoss

Gullfoss
Our final stop was Geyser, home to the famous Strokkur Geysir, known to erupt boiling water high into the air, up to 15 to 20 meters, every 10 minutes or so. It is one of the very few natural geysers to erupt frequently and reliably. In the surrounding land, there are other smaller geysers that heats up pools of water to boiling temperatures, emitting steam and gasses, that rises from the ground to create an out of this world, alien look to the surrounding landscape. The foul smelling gas and hot steam permeate the land, giving off a distinctive sulphurous odour, akin to the smell of rotten eggs. The odour can be so strong, that we tried to avoid the clouds of steam as it get carried away from the prevailing winds.

Strokkur Geysir erupting.

Erupting very violently!

Very smelly location
By the time we reached Geyser, it was approaching dusk, and when we arrived at our accommodation, Efsti-Dalur farm guesthouse, we were famished. The farm guesthouse is also a full fledge farm, with a cowshed just beside the restaurant dining area, where we can admire the cows chomping grass and the cows can admire us feasting on a 3-course meal through a glass window. And no, I did not eat their kind in a form of steak right in front of them, I chose horse steak instead as my main meal in addition to a starter soup and Skyr yogurt as dessert. The entire meal was terrific. Horse steak tasted just like beef, but has a rather fibrous texture. We also tried their homemade ice-cream, straight from the milk of the cows in the cowshed and they were equally terrific despite the cold.
Soon afterwards, we drove for about 30 seconds to a log house where our rooms await (The guesthouse has only 10 rooms in total). The log house is in another part of the property and we began unloading the car to call it a day.

Iceland Adventure Day 1

Thirty minutes into our flight, the captain of the aircraft spoke through the intercom.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ352, bound for Copenhagen, Denmark was being diverted back to Changi Airport. The left engine of the Boeing 777-200ER began powering down due to a technical fault. We were now flying on only one engine. As we approached the airport, the pilots began circling the aircraft in the air just off the coast of Singapore and began dumping excess fuel. Because of the long, direct flight to Copenhagen (13 hours, 10,000 km in total), the aircraft was carrying too much fuel to safely land the aircraft. Hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel were needed to be dumped before landing. As we look out of the window of the plane, we could see a thick stream of fuel rapidly evaporating into bands of contrails from the tip of the wings. The fuel dumping process took almost 45 minutes before the plane could safely land. We returned to Changi Airport safely and were glad to hear that while we were heading back, the ground crew at Changi Airport were making preparations readying a spare plane for us to board and continue our journey. We were very fortunate. We originally departed at 11.55pm. Our entire journey was delayed by 3 hours. The ground crews were kind enough to set up refreshment stations, handling out sandwiches, water, juice, coffee and tea for the passengers waiting in the gate holding area. Not a single passenger made a fuss. There were no flared tempers, no sighs of frustration. Everyone was just glad to board our replacement aircraft. 13 hours later in addition to the 3-hour delay, we arrived safely in Copenhagen, Denmark at 9am the next morning.

First of many selfies taken during the trip.
When this minor incident happened, we were relieved that the flight delay did not affect our travel itinerary one bit. We made a decision early on to stay in Copenhagen for the night upon arrival, before continuing our journey to Reykjavik the next day. These delays were anticipated during our planning process and we were lucky that we had enough buffer time so that subsequent connecting flights were not affected.

Sixteen hours later, we arrived.

The excitement that we all felt was electric. We got off the plane and briskly walked into the long arrival corridors of Copenhagen Airport towards the luggage belt. The long flight made me groggy. I have difficulty sleeping when I’m flying. The long flight and huge time difference exacerbated my jet lag. Once we collected our luggage we made our way out and began looking for the train ticket counters to purchase our train tickets and make our way to Copenhagen Central Station. It was a short, 20-minute ride to Copenhagen Central Station from the airport. Our hostel, called Urban House was just beside Central Station, which was highly convenient given the fact that we had 4 hulking luggage with us (not including our individual backpacks, and camera bags) We booked a 4-bed private room with a private bathroom to stay for the night. A little luxury wouldn’t hurt after a long flight.

On our way to Urban House, just up ahead.
We were extremely impressed with Urban House Hostel. It is close to the Central Station which is a bonus and has nice chic decor, homely decorated lounges, with comfortable sofas, bean bags to chill, various bookshelves, a pool table, and warm interior lighting to give the space a homely ambience. The communal kitchen, which we did not get a chance to use, is really spacious with fully furnished dining tables for guests to have their meals together and houses top-notch kitchen appliances for them to cook their meals. The bar area has a cosy stage where live bands can perform during the night. The staff were extremely friendly and the private room that they gave us has 2 bunk beds with a surprisingly large bathroom for a hostel.
Weeks before our adventure we decided to go on a free walking tour of Copenhagen organized by Sandeman. We reserved our slots online for the walking tour scheduled at 2pm on the day of our arrival. Since we arrive early in the morning, we had plenty of time to leave our luggage in the hostel and explore the city on our own. We had lunch comprising of sandwiches from Copenhagen’s biggest bakery chain Lagkagehuset before making our way to central Copenhagen, passing by City Hall and to the shopping lanes of Vestegade. The meeting place for the walking tour was just upon the steps of City Hall itself.

City Hall
By noon, we traced our steps back to City Hall and met with out tour guide from Sandeman who was waiting for other tourists who also signed up for the walking tour. The walk lasted almost 3 hours. As we walked the tour guide covered the length and breadth of Denmarks’s history and pointed out important landmarks dotted across Copenhagen’s city center. It was a good walk as it allowed us to orientate and familiarize ourselves layout of the city, recognizing key landmarks so that we won’t get lost when we explore the city on our own. I admit that I didn’t really pay much attention to the tour guide. I was pretty much jet lagged and groggy from the long flight. I did enjoy the walk, taking in the sights, observing people, appreciating old architectural buildings and generally admiring the wonderful city.

Nyhavn
When the tour was over, it was nearing nightfall. The temperature started to plummet, and we headed back to our hostel. We made a short stop to an authentic Italian restaurant on our way back, where we had a hearty meal of pizzas. We decided to hit the sack early, for tomorrow, comes the real adventure.
To view the rest of the pictures, click here.

Iceland Adventure Day 0

Planning for this Grand Adventure began more than 6 months ago.

Back then, we were throwing around ideas on our next big holiday. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Greenland) often came up during our almost weekly discussions over dinner meet ups. At that point of time, we weren’t very keen due to the costs involved, but after exploring other viable options and seeing them as neither attractive nor interesting, it started to become clear that we might eventually end up there for our next adventure. One of the main reasons why we chose that region of the world was the chance to see the Northern Lights. We all agreed that seeing the Northern Lights has always been in our bucket list. Sweden, Norway, and Finland were prime candidates to see such a magical event. We also decided to do a road trip in one of those countries, renting a car and just driving from town to town, soaking in the beautiful sights and natural wonders that these nordic countries had to offer. But to drive during winter can be a little bit of a challenge in those countries. Short daylight hours in the northernmost part of those countries weren’t ideal for a road trip. Plummeting freezing temperatures were another issue. And simply chasing Northern Lights alone at the expense of everything else would not make our trip enjoyable in the long run. Furthermore, these countries are huge. It is simply too vast of a distance to cover thoroughly by car, especially when travelling a circuitous route to end up where you began.

1508994_10208403171091846_4631681813536952135_n

Signalling all those concerns, Iceland quickly fell into our sight. And so, in the subsequent weeks, we began researching more about Iceland and what it had to offer. The more we researched, the more we were satisfied that Iceland might meet our holiday “objectives”. And those objectives were to see the Northern Lights, go on a road trip during winter, and experience the Nordic climate during our stay without much logistical challenges. The primary goal however, was to experience something out of this world. To come back with memories worth sharing, and cherishing it for years to come.

12841147_10208403271654360_691103737613401962_o

12496502_10208403265614209_6831288018843932238_o

Going on a road trip means renting a car, planning our route and staying at guesthouses, hotels, or farmstays at different parts of country. We decided to make our lives a little simpler. We approached Nordic Visitor, a very reputable tour agency to help us plan our adventure based on what we want to do and where we want to go. We chose a simple 10-day self-drive tour package with some customisations on our own. In the package, they would provide the rented car, help us book all the accommodations, issue a printed itinerary, a comprehensive travel map, an emergency phone, a 24-hour hotline and even include personal pickup and drop-off at the airport and our first accommodation. Everything would be arranged for us in the most professional way. What really drew us to Nordic Visitor was the ability to truly customise the itinerary to fit us. We planned to travel around Iceland for 13 days and do a couple of outdoor activities. Nordic visitor was generous enough to modify the original itinerary to suit us and they did it all without fuss, adding a couple of days stay here and there during our stay, helping us book our glacier and ice-cave tours with the outdoor tour companies well in advance. Everything was sorted through email and they were professional and prompt in their responses to any queries we had prior to committing to the tour.

980838_10208403219293051_5118682419213229514_o

And soon we realise it was just a month before our grand adventure would begin. Four weeks became three. Three became two. Packing lists were created, insurances bought, flights finalised, camera gear checked and ready to shoot. Passports ready. All of a sudden, in a blink of an eye, in the midst of all the preparation and the anticipation, it was time for us to go.

Picture of the Week: Korankei Valley, Japan

Picture of the week:

This picture was taken during my travels to Japan in the month of November 2015. I was there to capture the autumn season. It was towards the end of November, and the autumn leaves were in full swing, with trees shedding their leaves, bursting with colours of oranges, yellows and reds. It was a beautiful sight.

This was taken in Korankei Valley, on the outskirts of Nagoya. A 45 minutes train ride to a bus station followed by a 2 hour journey by bus to Korankei Valley. It was a long journey to get there, but the trip was worth it. The valley was absolutely stunning, a riot of colours and the sun shined at an angle, giving the trees and leaves in the valley a vivid glow, further bringing out their colours.

For more pictures of my travels, please visit jasdp.smugmug.com

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA