Packing Tips: My Must Have Items

The adventures of packing. The smallest detail which can make or break a trip. That small charger you forgot, or that extra pair of shoes you never needed. We’ve all been there. I know each time I go on a trip I play a small game of tetris with my backpack, hoping to make the most of my 55L Eagle Creek Truist backpack. After a few solid trips, I feel comfortable to share my 5. The items that come no matter where I go, hot or cold. Long or short. A trip is an adventure!

Stuff sacks.

In this day and age, most travellers will have some form of packing system. Some use packing cubes, but as I’m not travelling with a rectangle suitcase I find the stuff-sacks work better for backpacking. I purchased my Me°ru’ ones at the local outdoor outlet center for a bargain, with 5 different sizes (S-XL). I usually split them into the following categories; undergarments, t-shirts and light pants, jeans/sweaters, one bag for the trainers/hiking boots (this is always the same bag, in my case a red one, so I’m not fussed about dirt from the shoes getting on my clothes.), and dirty laundry. It works well for dirty laundry as the fabric of the stuffsacks is breathable so the clothes don’t stink a lot when put together for a few days. Unlike packing cubes, the stuff-sack pack completely flat to save space when I’m not using one of them!

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Two padlocks and a Swiss Army knife.

Although most will travel with some sort of padlock, I have found it easier to always have two. On a not-so-recent trip to Thailand, I found that my main padlock didn’t fit in the hostel lockers. My friend’s luggage lock, with a smaller shackle, fit perfectly. I now always have two, also allowing me to lock valuables away and keep my other belongings locked in my bag if necessary. When my whole bag doesn’t fit into the storage provided, I will typically leave everything (minus valuables) in my bag, as to save ‘unpacking’. The second lock is also perfect as my small packable day bag can also be locked as neccessary. Locks don’t take up a lot of room, and are definitely worth it. A Swiss Army knife is pretty standard I believe and with I use the keyring clip from my bag so as never to accidentally pack it in my carry on!

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USB retractable cable.

With technology enriching our lives (and travels!), we all have the trips where we bring wayyy tooo many cables. My first recommendation is to have everything charging with the same cable! I have never travelled with my laptop (tablets all the way!) so this eliminates the biggest hassle. My camera, phone, and battery backup all charge with mini-USB. With minimal space taken up, I usually bring the small cable with my carry-on so I can charge my phone while on long-haul flights. Most hostels (and hotels) will have USB charging points nowadays although I do still bring an international travel adapter. Battery backup is perfect for my camera, as I never want to run into having a flat camera battery!

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Rayon Sarong.

A towel, blanket, scarf, skirt, curtain, quick drying… need I say more? I got mine on my first trip to Asia and it hasn’t left my side since! They pack small and are light. With darker colours, they show less dirt too!

Add It To Your Packing List!

  1. Passport Photocopies; digital and paper versions!
  2. US Dollars; perfect for emergencies and every country exchanges them! Preferably only new notes, as countries are becoming sticklers for old, creased ones.
  3. Sewing kit. Making your clothes last that little longer! Mine is super basic.
  4. Flip-Flops. Compact and comfy, can be worn in the evenings instead of your walking shoes (even with socks when its cold 🙂 ). Although I’ve seen Crocs as a substitute, they take up more room and are fashion suicide (more so than socks and flip-flops!).
  5. Digital Watch with alarm clock. Mine is an old Swatch model that also can do two clocks, one usually set to my home timezone.

 

Happy Packing!

2-Wheeled Escapades: Bolivia’s Death Road and Cocaine.

We started the day high in the clouds.

We couldn’t see more than 50m around us, only taking in the windy road and sheer rock faces as inspiration for our imagination.The morning sun glistened against the rocks along the road, sunshine trying to push through the damp. At 4700m we could have been anywhere in the European Alps… but we were in La Cumbre, Bolivia about to ride down the Yungas Road. Bolivia’s Death Road.

Although throughly upgraded by the late 2000s, the Yungas Roads have quite the reputation. We were biking down the North Yungas Road, the original blood line to Northern Bolivia. Starting at La Cumbre Pass, we continued throughout the day to Yolosa, 3500m lower than our starting point. While most daily traffic uses the newer South Yungas Road, we weren’t alone. “It was incredible to see full-size trucks and coaches still use the road!”. The road wasn’t sealed for the last 60+ kilometres, adding to the excitement with our mountain bikes. Gravity Assisted had done a great job at providing sound mountain bikes, riding gear (including helmets) and various layers of outerware.

Most of the trip was on gravel…I wouldn’t say it was hard, but you definitely wanted to pay attention to where you were on the road. Some local traffic still use the road so we needed to ride on the left side (opposite to “most” traffic in Bolivia). It means that both drivers can see the outside of the road and know how close to the edge their vehicles are. We were told the last accident was over a year ago when it was the main road there was an accident every week!

We stopped every few hours to enjoy a quick break, for snacks and photos. The scenery alone was worth the trip, the view clearing as we lowered in altitude. Warming up as we journeyed down, we were soon losing the layers quickly! It became very pleasant to travel against the warm wind, an already dramatic change from the mist and wet of 4700m!

The valley that we drove through was beautiful though! Although the road was sketchy at times the scenery was something that you wanted to sit back and admire! You only needed a quick [look] over the side to remember where you were!

At the end of the day, we finished in the Senda Verde Animal Refuge. It was amazing to see all the animals rescued from various Black Markets across South America. If I ever make it make, I’ll be spending some time there!

After a great afternoon feed at Senda Verde, we drove back to La Paz. We made our way back long the same road, getting to experience driving along the narrow road! We were able to stop at the San Pedro waterfall, made famous by Top Gear a few years back. It was a quiet drive back, most of us falling asleep after a full day’s bike ride!


The best thing I have found about trips like these, although overly commercialised in some aspects, is being able to see and experience local culture. The most evident, was the widespread production of the coca plant. Although used in western medicine since the late 19th century, for thousands of years it has been a major source of income in rural areas. Long used in traditional medicine and as a source of vitamins in South American culture, it wasn’t until it was brought to Europe and cocaine developed, that the Coca Leaf’s history turned for the worse.

I’ll be very open, being someone who ‘doesn’t do drugs’, that my partner and I discussed ‘trying’ cocaine while in South America. It’s what you do, isn’t it?

No…No, it isn’t. Two Coca Museums later and with a wealth of knowledge, we both agreed very quickly that there wasn’t going to be any chance. We both had no idea the amount of nastiness that goes into Cocaine production. More importantly, it’s not even something one takes (or enjoys) to “do as the locals do”. Produced primarily for the North American and European markets, there is very little of the “coca plant” left in the final product. And yet, it has become illegal in countries were its production kept the farmers out of poverty. In spite that the natural product has remained legal in Peru and Bolivia and is relatively inexpensive in street markets, there are extensive checks at security points, (and even when we mailed a parcel back to Europe!), and you are not allowed to leave Peru/Bolivia with the coca leaf.

And as for the drug-filled South America? The only place in 5 months we were offered drugs was Cusco, Peru. Alongside Colombians, Bolivians are enthusiastically trying, and succeeding, in projecting a positive future. Who thought a bike ride would turn into a culture lesson?

Flashback: Culture Shock and Cambodia

We were pushed inside to a gorgeous air – conditioned room, given visa forms and asked for 40USD.

18.03.12     Cambodia

its not a far away country, but I’ve had my culture shock for the month. Leaving Khao San Road at 7am, we didn’t arrive in Siem Reap until 8pm. Our original first leg of the 30 minutes to the bus station [by public bus], Mor Chit, ended up clocking close to 2 hours due to an uncounted-for Buddhist holiday! It rerouted the original journey for a massive tour around Northern Bangkok 🙂 Had we known that was only the beginning…

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An empty Thai Bus.

The actual bus station & ticketing was pretty standard. The adventure definitely started at the Cambodian Border- its a life that I definitely wasn’t expecting to be pushed into our faces.

It was literally as though you could see green grass on the Thai side and dirt roads on the Cambodian. It was the first land border that I would cross in Asia and I didn’t think I would see such starch differences in the two countries. The entire area seemed to be an unorganised Market and somewhere in the middle was a bridge and a border. Even half an hour a tourist bus would show up and everyone took their chances. We had read about the famous visa scam in the LP guide to South East Asia, and knew (to some extent) what to expect.

From the bus station, six of us were crammed into a overly eager Tuk-Tuk and taken to a pristine white, in the middle of nowhere, building. We realised that something was wrong when we couldn’t see the other half of the border. We were pushed inside to a gorgeous air – conditioned room, given visa forms and asked for 40USD. No stamps or paperwork were to be given in return, just a receipt and a lighter wallet. Although the air conditioning was enough for us to stay put for a quick minute, we were sitting on an uncomfortable gut-feeling. There was no border security in sight. Two other travellers got wind of the possible scam and decided to organise lunch. We left the air conditioning and had a quick team meeting outside. Re-reading the LP guide then and there, we realised that the visa scam was organised to a T.

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A Tight Fit? Six Backpackers & Luggage.

We literally had no idea where we were, and how far from the actual border we were. The orginal Tuk Tuk driver lady decided she wasn’t available any more. Now we were going to be walking where ever we needed to get. Heading back onto the main road and turning right, 150m in front of us (in the middle of the crazy Market) was buildings that looked like they had seen better days. Well-used and full of people, it had the vibe of a border.

…people trying everything on- eventually it boils down to a few relaxed security checking passports through a small plastic window- America’s VOA it isn’t! The next mission led us through to the actual customs for those walking across. Looking out the window and you’ll probably see caged birds and buggies of product (where’s their visa?)

After a few minutes later, we saw signs for Immigration and people in battered security shirts. It was a slight improvement but atleast the gut-feeling were slightly eased. After going through Thai Immigration and being stamped out, the procedure was relatively straight forward. We picked up immigration forms for Cambodia, filled them out and went into a large room with some security guards. Our entry stamp cost 2USD (the bribe as some like to call it- but 2USD was better then 40USD!) but we were on our way.

Outside the Cambodian immigration, there were more buses waiting to take us to Siem Reap. After properly proving that he was indeed government officiated we jumped on and continued our journey. Free as well? Such ironies!

The last leg was Poipet to Siem Reap- for the fact the straight road was once in “shocking condition” I can’t imagine what it would of looked it! Although it is sealed, we shared the road with everything that moved- animals, carts, buses and family vans. Its still a slow journey- something most countries should be able to half! Once we rocked up to our digs for the night we took a look around the town- welcome to the NEON CITY!

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Flashback : Swiss Day in Chile

This place deservees its own chapter! So far we’ve kayaked, biked, hiked & hiked some more! Its amazing how much this [place] has to offer!

After digging out an old travel diary (not that I have any other kind) i found an entry that I had written on 01. Aug. 2013 – Swiss National Day. At the time I was in Chile, South America and I found it ironic that all the activites I was doing at the time were very similiar to what I would of been doing back home. The World is a magical place.

Happy Swiss Day! — Aug 1st 2013!

Well it’s been a while since an update but we totally under-estimated how much there was to do here! (Puerto Varas)

Our adventure into Chile was just like any border crossing- but in the most spectacular scenery! We went over the Uspallata pass- following the historic (and discunftional) railway line. It was pretty cool to see the old buildings and the places where old water stations used to be! I loved it, and I think I have more photos of the railway line than the mountains.

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It was gorgeous! The road was a tad narly on the Chilean side- but as usual organised! There was no guard rails or speed limit, but I’m pretty sure the Andes’ God was watching over, making sure everyone takes it hella easy on the 30something switchbacks. Our driver atleast stopped for photos! The border itself was hell straight forward, you could tell that the buses got pushed through super quick. Semis [semi-truck trailer] however, had days wait. The que was atleast a 100 trucks long!

Santiago reminded me of BKK. Atleast the smell anyways! There was street food everywhere outside the bus stations. Straight up- they made it sound like the bus stations were miles apart. Realistically, they all faced each other on the same street. It was just a matter of finding all the TURBUSs lined up 🙂 We only had a few hours to kill before we brought a night bus down to Puerto Varas ❤

This place deservees its own chapter! So far we’ve kayaked, biked, hiked & hiked some more! Its amazing how much this [place] has to offer! We[‘re] both locked in [to] the fact that we’ll have to come back in summer at some point. There’s just too many mountains to climb and lakes to see! Our first day here we did a full day kayak on a close lake to here- the arms were definitely sore afterwards! So what did we do the following day? A full 70 km  ride to Frutillar! A small town with big German flare! To be honest, the ride was more exciting than the town but “bloody” hard. We did manage to ride the whole though (on the way there) and walked up some hills on the way back. But it was not easy!

The last two days we’ve been getting some hiking in – today we went up beside the Volcan Osorno. Great views of the lake we kayaked on but unfortunately clouds covered the tops!

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Hopefully tomorrow we’re going to head for a bike ride with the hostel owner!


🙂 Still in Puerto Varas <- Aug 3rd ❤

Our first rainy day here but it feels amazing to still be here! Honestly, I don’t think either of us want to leave (still so many trails to explore!) – we’re both being really indecisive about where we are going next!

Ironically, after spending a week in Puerto Varas, we made our way up to Pucón and spending another week in the mountains 🙂

We both know there is so much left to explore here. We’re both loving the mountains. Although we had both came here the intention of snowboarding – I think that idea has been properly scrapped! [We did end up going in Pucón!]. Too many Europeans we’ve met said its more a novality than a proper “snow experience”. Yesterday, … we ended up going for a killer bike ride with the hostel owner near the Volcan Osorno. We smashed it on the road for about 15km and then this crazy down-hill track through the buses! It was my first time doing (what I call) proper downhill track!


It was definitely a treat getting to spend time in some of Chile’s national parks around Volcan Osorno. It’s such a beautiful place, unspoilt place! We lucked out on the time of year we went, although at the beginning of winter, and had most of the hiking trails to ourselves! Because of the winter weather, we didn’t get to the Argentinian Patagonia however, and weren’t able to complete any of the big name treks! Just another excuse to head back 😀

Myanmar: Part 1

Unterseen. 16.12.2015

Well, two months later and I’m that much closer to Burma!

One of the Asian countries that has long been at the top of my bucket list is Myanmar, even if it just for the hot balloon ride over the Temples of Bagan. However, after looking more into the country and learning about its history (and appreciating Buddhism more) I am excited more than ever to head out in Febuary.

… Tickets are booked! So far I’ll be staying in Myanmar for 3 weeks- I have my balloon flight on the 7th! Bucket list is slowly getting completed! I have only booked accomadation for when I arrive in Yangon & then Bagan as I wanted to have those two places organised!

On the 21st I fly back to BKK and will head up to Chang Mai for a week. Maybe do some trekking and visit the Sukhothai Ruins! By the time I’m there, Sara and Phil will be living in Bangkok so hopefully I’ll get to catch up with them!!

I’m super excited to be heading to Thailand again especially to a part that I haven’t been before ❤

On the 22nd I go to Genf to arrange my passport visa 🙂 and I ‘ve booked my vaccinations for the 12th Jan. I guess Typhoid doens’t last more than a year!! My sister is still looking at meeting me at the end of Feb- but with my plans pretty locked in- I don’t think to omuch will come of it. [However] she is pretty adiment that she will be meeting me there- we will see!

Global Warming: I’m noticing it.

Although I live in a very outdoorsy part of Switzerland, it’s ironically not a subject that comes up often… global warming, climate change, melting glaciers. Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I really took notice.

Although I live in a very outdoorsy part of Switzerland, it’s ironically not a subject that comes up often… global warming, climate change, melting glaciers. Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I really took notice.

The Hike.

My boyfriend and I had attempted a klettersteig or via ferrata in the Hasli Valley near the town of Meringen. It turned out that we had returned to the location where I was lucky enough to Ice Climb a few years ago, on the Steingletscher. Until yesterday, I had long forgotten where we had gone on the day trip a few years ago. I remember driving for an hour or so, and walking for almost another hour before actually being on the glacier. I also had recollections of our Berfurher telling us that when he had first starting doing the trips, the glacier actually melted directly into the lake, Steinsee.

The changes in the glacier were first noticed on our walk up to the trail head for the Via Ferrata. There is now a massive water-fall pouring out from the bottom of the glacier. Something I certainly had no memory of. Although we had planned to reach the Tierberglihutte, the Föhn had stopped us half-way. Warm wind and rain were not ideal conditions to be climbing up rebar steel pegs on the via ferrata. We took the alpine hiking trail down to the parking lot and proceeded to walk the 2km to the Alpine Center. On the way back, my boyfriend had asked if the glaciers had changed much in the last five years. Knowing that I take lots of photos of everything and have a decent photographic memory, I should have been able to answer the questions better. But I knew for certain, there was no thundering waterfall.

When we got down to the Alpine Center, I took notice of an information board of the glacier. They had provided basic information about the melting glacier and how it is changing over the decades. I made a mental note to find photos of the ice climbing and compare them.

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Alte Sustenweg

After our coffee, we decided not to wait 3 hours for the next bus and head down the valley via the Alte Sustenweg. The valley had created a gorgeous mild micro-climate; the flora reminding us of the Canadian wilderness and the trail something out of a Nepali tea house trek. As the autumn colours danced around the valley walls, I tried to take as many photos as possible. With Switzerland’s Alps never taking a bad photograph, my boyfriend got quickly tired of the shutter noise on my phone. Mental note: Take Proper Camera. (I normally don’t on via ferratas as its impractical to always take out!)

Making our way down to Obermaad we were five minutes of the next bus coming through town. In a village where the bus is only every hour, it was meant to be! We ended up stumbling onto a difference bus route, meaning we didn’t have to wait until our original five thirty bus as originally planned. It meant we arrived home an hour early!

Although the Alte Sustenweg was one of the most beautiful paths I’ve walked in Switzerland, it truly resonated with me how much the Steingletscher had changed in the five years between my accidental visits.


The Evidence.

In trying to find some data about the glacier, I can across the Swiss Academy of Sciences‘s website where they provide photographic evidence of the changing environment of the glaciers. My eyes quickly settled on a chart that displays the shows the changes in length… aka how fast its melting.

In just the last twenty years, the Steingletscher has receded over 800 meters. Given that the glacier was only 4.2 km in 1972, it shows that it has melted over a 1/4 of its length! A document showing the recorded data can be read here. No wonder I hadn’t seen the thundering waterfall 5 years ago! Ironically, I didn’t take any photos of the waterfall but I found photos of the Steinlimigletscher, Steingletscher’s baby sister. After looking into the records for it, I discovered sadly that the 2.8km glacier (1973 measurements) has receded over 1.4 kilometers! Over half of that has been in the last 5 years. The document showing the measurements can be found here.

I have an original hiking map of the Bernese Oberland from the 1980s and it shows both glaciers extending down, much closer, to the Susten highway. The newer mobile topography map shows how much the artist has rendered the melting glaciers. The lake is named and both glaciers are predominately smaller.


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Older Hiking Map. Circa 1980something
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Current Edition. Used nowadays by hikers

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Steinwasser, looking towards the glaciers. September 2005

Ironically, the best photo I have to do a direct comparison isn't actually of the Steingletscher. This is looking across the Hasli Valley at the Obertali Glacier.
Ironically, the best photo I have to do a direct comparison isn’t actually of the Steingletscher. This is looking across the Hasli Valley at the Obertali Glacier.

Although I’m not an expert on all things environmental, to not notice the change in the Swiss Alps a person must have their eyes closed. Even at the end of a quiet Swiss Valley, the change is inevitable. If we don’t take drastic steps nows, there won’t be the same experiences left for our future generations.

Also worth a quick look:

  1. RAOline EDU: Steingletscher Photo Comparisons
  2. “Mountain Guides face climate change head on”- SwissInfo

What Makes a Good Bucket List?

A Bucket List can sometimes be a reflextion on a person. They are a fun way to shape goals and future plans.

Inspired by an article at 1.30am, I started thinking about my true bucket list- the things that I will do before I die.

When I was younger (before I had an adult passport), I used to think of the places that I would love to see. Sights and monuments filled with history. Buildings with character. Famous city squares. That list has certainly changed. One that I compiled a few weeks ago, when I purchased Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Adventures, showed me that I was more interested in the “adventure” activities, or ones that weren’t only about the destination but also the journey in getting there. A list of week-long treks, lakes to explore and cultures to see confirmed my fears. I need to make a lot more time!

Relating back to an earlier post about chosing Travel and not an academic career just yet, I feel like there is still the world to see. A popular traveler’s quote, “There is always more to see.” sums it up. You could do a city-break trip and feel like you’ve seen the country. Where is the line for scraping the surface? Cities tend to be multi-cultural, melting pots of the cosmopolitan life. But does rural living define culture? Tourism has always be a fast competitor to aid international development, but what is everyone looking for?

Everyone is looking for adventure, of varying degrees, and so am I. My current bucket list certainly shows my lifestyle at the moment. Active.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the sights. As long as I could remember I have also had two of the oldest resolutions in the book;

  1. Step foot on every continent. (5/7!)
  2. See the Seven (New) Wonders of the World. (2/7!)

I’ll die happily if I complete those two goals. Of course, my bucket list just completes the gaps in between!

So what is the current bucket list?? Looking over it, it’s a slight scattered-brained approach… but I think it’s always fun to share these sort of things!

travel.

The Newest Bucket List:

  • Munda Biddi trail, WA
  • Lycian Way, Turkey (5 weeks)
    • St. Paul Trail (500km)
  • Torres Del Paine, Chile
  • Canada: Iceland Parkway: Cycle Jasper -> Banff. Robson Bight Kayaking.
  • Myanmar (2 weeks) (Bagan hot air balloon)
  • Naimibia Sossusvlei Namib Desert
  • LL: Central America (2 months)
  • LL: Italy (via ferrata) (4 weeks)
  • LL: India (Ice trek, February)
  • Bulgaria, snowshoe/ mountains -> onward Turkey?
  • Jordan (2 weeks)
  • Norway & Iceland (3 weeks?)
  • Croatia
  • Tasmania (Franklin River)
  • Uganda (Gorilla Trek)

◊ When I was originally writing my list out on paper, I had added LL: Life List. It will happen!