Archive | April, 2012

Photo Essay: Hiking To Mirador Las Torres (Chile)

There have been a few times in life when I looked around myself, admired how far I had gotten and then told myself:

Holy sh*t, you actually made it!
(yes, I occasionally talk to myself – specially when I’ve accomplished something good or am about to do something that my other me knows I will regret in a few seconds).

Those times when I’ve felt so proud of myself that I shook my hands in glory and accomplishment have been usually limited to academic stuff: you know, the day I picked up a diploma in my masters’ graduation or the day I arrived a my 14th floor hotel room in Hong Kong and admired the beginning of my career. Or the day my school maths teacher, who peeked into each of our calculators and pencil cases during an exam didn’t notice my super super secret crib. But occasionally, I feel proud after completing a more physical challenge.

This, was one of them.

Overview of the 9km Trail to Mirador las Torres

We started off the day leaving our hotel at 7am to drive to the start of the trail at Hotel Las Torres. The hike is a 9km walk to the Mirador, most of the being (considerable) uphill. At the initial stage, the walk wasn’t steep; but for a good part of it, you walk exposed to the wind (which is usually quite strong around that corner). After walking about 300m uphill, you’ll stay at that level for a while, and will already start appreciating a broad view over the valley.

Torres del Paine, Chile

Looking back

Looking into the Valley, Torres del Paine, Chile

Looking forward

After reaching the campamento Chileno, you hike for another few hours – first drawing the curves of river Ascensio (a rather comfortable after-lunch walk), and later entering the woods. At this point, the trail starts to become steeper until reaching an open space from where the crazy moraine climb begins.

The Final Stage: Rocky Moraine

This final climb reaches 890m height in only 0.8km distance. However, you need to account for 45min/1 hour to reach the top. This is when you put your hiking shoes into a test – the path is a rocky ramp!

All the way up the moraine, you won’t see more than the peaks of the towers. It’s only once you reach the top that you discover the majestic landscape in front of you.

Torres del Paine, Chile

View From the Mirador: All three towers: Torre Sur, Torre Central and Torre Norte; the Torres glacier and a lake formed of glacial water.

Practical Information

Route: From Hotel Las Torres to Mirador Las Torres (Chile) – circular
Elevation gain uphill: 1.157m
Elevation gain downhill: 1.157m
Length: 19 km
Duration: 8 – 9 hrs trekking (12 hrs including breaks)
Difficulty: Challenging
Wikiloc: Mirador Las Torres, Chile

Photo Essay: My Favorite Part Of Town

It’s easy to fall for the city of London. It’s exciting, vibrant and cosmopolitan. City life can be difficult some times , but after a while, you learn to get along and enjoy the advantages of living in a big city – you’ll have infinite opportunities to meet new people and there will always be a place you haven’t discovered yet.

Even though it was quite a shock for me at first, I think I’m slowly learning to handle this City life – As long as I get my regular dose of green, I can carry on.

Hampstead Heath, London

Parks help me detox from the impurities and annoyances of London.

A few weeks ago – when spring seemed to be knocking at our door – I went on a quest of unexplored parks. I had heard from a beautiful area in North London, which was resting on a hill from which one could admire the city’s highlights from a comfortable deck chair surrounded by the greenest grass, numerous ponds and gorgeous villas.

That’s Hampstead Heath.

Hampstead Heath, London

But it was only on my second visit this weekend that I realized the additional charm of the area. The park – which has around 320 hectares of hills, meadows, woodland and ponds – is part of my happy life equation, together with the beautiful architecture and the peacefulness of it’s streets. As I walked passed some of London’s most remarkable pubs, I noticed that those inside (and those casually walking by outside), knew each other. For a short time, my mind drifted back to my life in the Canary Islands – where people and places were familiar to me.

Hampstead Heath, London

I like the feeling of familiarity and village life I get when I walk around Hampstead. This is something I’ve been missing recently. I might as well have to move into one of these houses next!

Hampstead Heath, London

What about you? Would you rather be in the heart of a capital’s life or move somewhere green and peaceful?

Diary of A Sailor (Canary Islands, Spain)

Remember that time, I was dreaming of setting sails into the sunset on Lake Léman in Switzerland?

This year, following my purpose of self-discovery, I’ve been throwing myself into all kind of new activities like skiing, cooking classes and now sailing. Unlike skiing and cooking, I knew from the beginning that I would really enjoy sailing. After all, it combines the sea, nature and socializing – three things I love.

So what does a usual day look like in a one week full time sailing course?

Sailing in the Canary Islands

8:00am You wake up, squeeze under the shower and have breakfast in the cockpit – usually checking weather and deciding wether or not to put on/take off one of your thousand layers.

10:00am The teacher arrives. Since waking up, you’ve already put on and taken off several layers 2 or 3 times. You feel warm now, simply from the exercise of getting dressed and undressed in your tiny cabin. You’ve decided to go as it is – shorts, t-short and a jumper. After all, you’ve spotted some suspiciously grey clouds to the east.

10:30am You leave the marina behind, excited about taking out your sails… when you realize there’s actually no wind. You wait for another 15min, hoping for a miracle, but soon you give up and turn on the motor. One of your mates returns from inside with some biscuits and apples – it’s time for a second breakfast.

1:00pm Wait, are you feeling a gentle breeze coming from your right? You check the instruments – 10 knots… 10.5 knots… 11 knots… was this apparent or true wind? huh? where’s that theory book again… anyway, you decide to give it a try and raise both sails.

1:35pm Yes! You’re sailing!

Sailing in the Canary Islands

2:30pm You’re in the middle of the passage between two islands. There’s enough wind to blow the yacht away. You’re getting hungry – and impatient. You free harness from the boat and tumble towards the companionway. You crawl downstairs, grab a bag full of sandwiches and drag it upstairs – this turns you into the yacht’s star.

3:30pm Water is rough – One of your colleagues is already sticking his head over board. You’re at the steering wheel and feel the urge to pee. Great timing, really.

3:40pm You really can’t hold yourself any longer and decide to go downstairs (again). You crash against the table, sofas and doors but somehow make it into the bathroom. You feel relived – everything turned out pretty well after all. However, right before exiting the bathroom, you loose balance and accidentally turn on the shower right above you.

4:15pm You look around and soak in the view – You can see 3 islands (Tenerife, La Gomera and La Palma) from where you are. By this chance, you eat an apple.

5:20pm What’s that! A dolphin! And there’s another one! And another one! You run (ehem, crawl) to the bow to watch them shoot in front of the yacht. The water is so clear – you can even see their white bellies!

6:00pm The wind has ceased a bit. Now this, you tell yourself, is really leisure sailing. You look around you – you can’t find any other yacht from the Sailing School – does this mean you got the wrong direction? Just in case, you revise the route and your waypoints 3 to 4 times.

6:30pm You’re starting to see a wall that could possibly match your harbor. We’re almost there!

7:10pm While nearing the marina, you start pulling out fenders, warps and all sort of straps. You pull down the sails and get ready to enter.

7:45pm You help the skipper to tie the boat properly (which, believe me, is more complicated than you might think). Lucky enough – you’re the first school yacht to arrive (we did have the racing boat after all), you made it right before sunset!

Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

8:00pm It’s Beer O’Clock – you enjoy a Dorada (the local beer) with the rest of the crew exchanging stories at sea (well, in my case, I listened to other people’s stories at sea – this was my second time after all).

Sunset in Las Galletas, Tenerife

9:00pm You get off the boat but still feel the side effects – why is everything still moving around you? You walk to one of the fish restaurants around the harbor and order the freshest catch of the day accompanied by a glass of local white wine.

Shrimps, Las Piratas Bistro Bar in Las Galletas, Tenerife

10:30pm You’re exhausted, and still take your theory book to bed – time to learn the rules of the road.

11:00pm The gentle moves swing and relaxing sound of water splashing against your yacht makes you sleepy. You give in and promise yourself to wake up earlier tomorrow.

Stop Planning My Free Time

I haven’t shared a list of New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of this year because, to tell you the truth, I don’t see the point on setting such long term goals – Who knows what I’ll be up to by November anyway? However, I do like the idea of challenging myself to do new and fun stuff that might even help me find myself again, taking one step at a time.

And with this idea, my Monthly Dare was born!

Skiing in Les Houches, France

This month’s dare: Enjoy a hobby.

Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? Well, it’s more complex than you think – trust me.

I find motivation in other people’s motivation. Whenever someone talks passionately about their work/hobby/home town, I feel curiosity and excitement. I want to know what makes people feel so enthusiastic about it.

I got into hiking after having seen hundred of pictures of the beautiful and unspoiled landscape I was missing out. I started climbing after watching a beautiful photo shoot from a friend that has a passion for it. I took a cooking course after someone at work boasted about how he cooks all his meals himself. I went skiing for the first time this March, after having spent many hours listening to ski talk in London. I’m training to run 6K in 30 minutes or less because everyone in this city seems to enjoy running to work and/or back and I want to become one of them.

Holding on to all of it is certainly tiring!

Sailing boats in Switzerland

Today, I reached my peak point – I packed my running gear to go to the gym during lunch time and aim to beat my current pace, agreed on going for a two hour climb after my 8 hour office work and scheduled a following 2 hour study period for my day skipper theory course.

I am trying to do so many things at the same time, that I don’t even have a minute left to think about whether I am actually enjoying it or not. At some point, these hobbies got stuck in such tight schedules that they don’t feel like hobbies any more… but rather like obligations.

So this month, I’m going to slow down, stop planning my free time and do stuff only when I really want to do it. If I feel like climbing on a sunday, I will go climbing with or without partner. If I want to go for a run, I’ll pack my stuff and go for it – whether this is 20 or 40 minutes, slower or faster than the time before. If I’m keen to practice my chart work, I’ll do so. And if, for a change, what I really want to do is stay under the covers devouring one book after another – then who am I to stop myself from doing so?

My 7 Super Shots

A few days ago, my fellow blogger Becoming Sevillana tagged me to participate in Hostel Bookers 7 Super Shot meme. It’s not an easy task to narrow just 7 over my favorite photos (specially when a good part of them were lost when my hard drive decided to quit last summer). Thankfully, I have my blog. And many digital cards. Oh, and an external memory that I now use more often than ever before!

A Photo That Takes My Breath Away

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland

Hiking around Aletsch Region, Switzerland

Last year, as soon as my relocation had been confirmed, I started to freak out. Two years in Switzerland had gone by so quickly, and I had still so much to experience and had so many places I wanted to go. For this, during the last 5 months in the country, I planned myself to do something different almost every weekend. On a hot summer day, we chose to go hiking in the Bernese Alps and came across this perfect view over the Aletsch Glacier. Each time I remember my time in Switzerland, this image is one of the first ones to pop up.

A Photo That Makes Me Laugh Or Smile

Isla Magdalena, Chile

Isla Magdalena, Chile

I’ll admit it – Isla Magdalena was one of my favorite stops during our Patagonia tour this winter. I couldn’t stop smiling, and even managed to use up my camera’s battery in just one hour! But then – if you were surrounded by 120,000 cuties, wouldn’t you too?

A Photo That Makes Me Deam

Phuket, Thailand

Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

This picture had been my laptop’s desktop picture for a very long time. There’s something about the colors of the sky, which I find very unusual for a sunset; the way the sky is perfectly mirrored in the flat water and how the many rocks harmoniously break the reflection.

I couldn’t leave back to the hotel yet – I felt I had to wait for what came next. A very short time after, I was looking at the most intense sunset I had ever seen.

A Photo That Makes Me Think

Buenos Aires, Argentina

La Boca, Buenos Aires (argentina)

I took this picture with my Lomo (which reminds me, I should really use it more often!). I was walking with a friend around La Boca on a Saturday afternoon, unaware of what was about to hit us. Each time I look at this photo, I remember the clash between trashy tourists paying for getting a picture with a fake Maradona and, just a few streets on, a group of local teenagers playing football. I remember stopping at this point and thinking so this is the real La Boca.

A Photo That Makes My Mouth Water

London, England

South Coast scallops with garlic butter and breadcrumbs with a glass of Albariño, at FishWorks, London

This one was a difficult choice – I really battled between spanish tapas, a delicious desert and this. But to be frank, seafood feeds my soul. Having been raised in a fishermen town in the Canary Islands, when asked to choose, I will always choose seafood over meat restaurants (except when the location is particularly known for its meat). In fact, the simpler the dish itself – the better. And that’s exactly what I loved about FishWorks in London. No strong sauces or overcompensation of side dishes – just plain good fish and seafood.

A Photo That Tells A Story

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam with the girls

3 Girls. The night before handing in our final thesis in Germany. A crazy thought.

After finishing our exam, we packed our things and left on a 6 hour (which turned out to be rather 8-9 hour) drive to Amsterdam. We arrived on a friday at 3am to our hotel, and had to wait until the next morning to see the city. Full of excitement, we woke up early, walked along the canals into the center and chose this beautiful little bar to properly start one of the most surreal weekends of the year.

A Photo That I’m Most Proud Of (A National Geographic Shot)

Torres del Paine, Chile

Guanaco in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

I took this picture in Torres del Paine, Chile – so far, my favorite destination to disconnect from the World. No phone reception, very limited internet access and a national park full of surprises. Guanacos were one of them. When I saw this proud animal standing on the top, staring towards the mountains and the clouds filled with rain in the background – I knew I had to be very careful to take the picture without distracting it. It may not be a National Geographic shot, but for sure it is, so far, the photo I am most proud of.

I hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed selecting them. I’m now supposed to nominate 5 other bloggers to participate – not an easy task given that so many of you have already taken part of this!

Correr Es Mi Camino
Just Travelous
The Travel Hack
The Great Affair
Le Fabuleux Destine De