Category Archives: americas

Snowy egret at Alcatraz Island

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Snowy egret at Alcatraz Island © Ryan Rowe / ryanrowe.com

The snowy egret standing proud on Alcatraz Island in California, showing off its pristine white plumage. I am attracted by its sharp facial features and the way its head-feathers have a mohawk style. The bird, once considered endangered, has rebounded in population numbers since the establishment of the US Bird Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Best way to travel Montreal-Toronto

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Montreal’s “Gare Centrale”

I’m just about to set off from Montreal on a Via Rail train to Toronto. I have lots of fond memories of making this trip frequently during my studies as an MBA student at York University. In fact, I’ve made the trip in all modes of travel: train, plane, bus, and automobile. The only thing I haven’t done is walked or biked!

In keeping with the travel theme of my blog, here’s my opinion of each of these four modes of transportation.

Automobile: I love road trips. But for me, the conditions have to be right. I could probably travel nearly any distance by car if I’ve got the windows down and the wind in my face, radio blaring my top travel tunes, and ideally a travel partner with whom to stop at Tim Horton’s coffee shops along the way. My last road trip was in the USA: from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to Tampa, Florida via Charleston, South Carolina. A great time! But, I rarely travel this way. This is mainly because I haven’t owned a car since the late 90’s. I could rent but my drivers license recently expired and I can’t get another one until my work visa is renewed. So, the trouble factor is too high. And of course parking would be a burden in a city like Toronto. Renting a compact car for this trip – three nights and four days, plus fuel, and parking, would probably have taken me to about $200-250. There are options to ride-share. Check places like craigslist or simply ask your friends on facebook!

Bus: My global travels started by bus, and although its probably my least favourite mode of transport, it’ll always be a fall-back for me and I like to think it keeps me grounded to being a frugal traveler. Bus travel takes a long time: at least a nine hour trip to Toronto. Advantages include affordability and I sometimes like being able to travel overnight (you save on a hotel and can maximize your daytime hours in the city). Greyhound buses have a seat-side socket for your laptop and wi-fi on board, though on a recent trip from New York to Montreal I found it to be quite slow. For me, the major cons to traveling by bus are the frequent stops, the bumpy ride which makes it difficult to get any rest, and the usually crappy dining options along the way. But sometimes its still the best option in comparison. My most recent bus trip was from New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal to Montreal on a Greyhound bus. I paid $78 for a one-way ticket and the journey took eight hours door-to-door. The money saved lets my travel dollar go even further and that keeps me true to my roots as a budget backpacker. :)

Plane: Usually the fastest way to go of course. But don’t forget to add the travel time to and from the airport, check-in and security clearance, boarding time, and the extra costs of a taxi. Consider flying into Billy Bishop Toronto City airport which is much closer to downtown than Pearson International. Remember that flying by plane is the least environmentally friendly way to travel. Don’t be fooled by those airlines which allow you to purchase “credits” or “offsets” so that you can be carbon-neutral. Some carbon offset programs may not be having the impact we seek (more on that in another blog post). A return flight from Montreal to Toronto can be anywhere between $250 and $600, depending on when you book, who you’re flying with, and what time you’re flying. I last flew this route in January, as the first leg of a journey to Ethiopia.

Train: My favourite way to travel to Toronto is by train, mainly because I can sit comfortable with lots of leg room and work while on board using free wi-fi. Travel times ranges from five to eight hours, depending on the number of stops. There are fewer security hassles too. Getting to the train station in Montreal is easy and fast and likewise in Toronto. And fares are usually quite reasonable: I paid $116 for this trip, tax in. Another huge plus is that its much more environmentally friendly than taking the plane or traveling by car.

Via Rail still has Economy Escape fares available to Toronto for the upcoming Labour Day weekend, at $90 all in, return trip. What are you waiting for? :)

If you’ve done this trip before, please share your thoughts below! Thanks!

Atletico Nacional wins the Colombian champs (again)!

Out in Cartagena, Colombia last night and I walked into a restaurant to have dinner and discovered the final match of the Colombian football championships was on. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Independiente Santa Fe (Bogotá) was playing Atlético Nacional (Medellín), in an almost identical repeat of the national championship game I watched eight years ago when I was working as an MBA student intern in Medellin. It was a nice little trip down memory lane, and even more so, when Nacional won last night’s game 2-0, same as it did eight years ago. In total, it has won 12 times, and is the second-most successful team nationally, according to Wikipedia. Soy feliz! Soy verde!

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Cheering on Nacional in Parque Lleras in Medellin. The team lost this game on 19th June, 2005 against Tolima (2-4) but went on to win the national championships one week later.

La Guajira, Colombia

I am traveling in the Department of La Guajira, a wild stretch of north-eastern Colombia which lies near the Venezuelan border. The coastline is known for its windswept beaches, fantastic sunsets, hammock life and remote location. Apparently it is difficult to get to.

The journey by road should be about twelve hours door to door. It will start with a three-hour bus ride from Cartagena to Santa Marta. From there, four more hours on a different bus to Riohacha – the last major transit point before our destination of Cabo de La Vela. Cabo is a bay around which are scattered indigenous Wayuu villages, in which local people have set up “rancherias”: homesteads with thatched-roof huts serving fresh seafood, beer and offering a simple hammock in which to spend the night. Cabo is about two hours from Riohacha although we are not sure if there is bus service to get there. Transport might involve hitching a ride or sharing a taxi with others.

All electronics except for the camera have been left behind. Will post some pictures when I am back! For now, here is one I grabbed off the net.

Cabo de la Vela
(Image credit: Posadas Turisticas de Colombia
http://www.posadasturisticasdecolombia.com/destino.php?des_nombre=cabo-de-la-vela)

Cartagena, Colombia

This morning I arrived to Cartagena, Colombia to celebrate the arrival of 2013. Cartagena is a hot and humid city on the Caribbean coast of this country, which is located in north-western South America. I lived in Cartagena for several months in 2003 as an international exchange student from Concordia University. Although I was here just six to eight weeks ago I found a very good reason to come back and celebrate the New Year.

Review: A Piacere, Restaurant in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

A Piacere, a restaurant in Puerto Iguazu, Argentina

“Delicious food, prompt and friendly service”

Rated: Excellent overall, Excellent service, Excellent food, Very good value, Very good atmosphere

My mother and I had lunch here and we would definitely go back. The meal began with the “cubierto”‘, a bowl of bread and a side of yoghurt-based garlic dip which was delicious. As an appetizer we had the calamari tempura. We ordered the tuna-filled tomato and the suburi fish with mozzarella, tomato and grilled peppers. The food was light, fresh, well cooked and satisfying. My mother, who has a special diet, asked for something that was not on the menu and they accommodated her. At the end of the meal they gave us each a free shot of Limoncello, a nice touch. The restaurant is clean, airy and centrally located.

Located: Avenida Cordoba 125 | Avenida Cordoba 125, Puerto Iguazu 3370, Argentina. Tel: +54 03757 424190. Website: http://www.restaurantapiacere.com/.

Read all reviews of this restaurant on Trip Advisor.

Drunk on life

Ever since a crazy, frightening plane ride into Bogota a few weeks ago, I’ve been contemplating the prospect of death at an early age. The thought that keeps coming to my head is wow, if I died tomorrow, I would feel like I have no regrets, few wasted moments, so many beautiful adventures, much love and happiness, and have learned so much about people and the planet we live on, what scares me, what drives me. But for now, there is so much I have left to experience and for as long as I am alive, I am going to drink life as if its a glass of fine wine and the bottle never goes empty. DRUNK on life! Have a great day friends!

The thoughts I had when a scary plane ride got me thinking about my own death.

Ever since that crazy plane ride into Bogota a few weeks ago, I’ve been contemplating the prospect of death at an early age. The thought that keeps coming to my head is wow, if I died tomorrow, I would feel like I have no regrets, few wasted moments, so many beautiful adventures, much love and happiness, and have learned so much about people and the planet we live on, what scares me, what drives me. But most of all, that there is so much I have left to experience and I am going to drink life as if its a glass of fine wine and the bottle never goes empty. DRUNK on life! Have a great day friends!