Adventure, Nature AND Colombia?

Most of what we know, or claim to know about, comes from the media that surrounds our lives; the billboards, commercials on our zombie flat-panels and the conversations our friends connect with about the new ‘it’ series, now free on Netflix. Let me shut out all stigmas you’ve accumulated and have, that’s all they WERE.

Colombia is beyond those years and has twice now, been surveyed as the worlds Happiest country. They have 28 bank holidays, spring weather year round and basically invented the sexiest dance ever, the latin salsa! Join me as I wander this place for 3 months..

I obtained a 3 month tourist visa and landed in the capital of Bogota, Colombia. It’s sits 2,640 m (8,660 ft) in the middle of the Andes Mountains, so bring a pullover and/or rain shell cause you might get a short drizzle.
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From the cobblestone, Spanish Colonial-esque center of La Candelaria, grab some fried plantain chips and take a $10,000 Peso ($1.00USD = 3,206 Pesos) taxi to the base of Monserrate. Ride the funicular for $18,000 Pesos to the top! Up there you can grasp the cities population of nearly 10 million. That’s more than the entire Bay Area of California where I’m from!

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After site seeing, I needed adventure; I needed rock! For you climbers out there, a MUST GO TOSuesca, Colombia – It’s a mecca for climbing! Located a $6,000 Peso, 1 hour bus ride north of Bogota, the bus drops you off where I stayed,  El Nómada Hostel. Chuck down your heavy 70L, grab the climbing gear and walk around the corner to the railroad that runs adjacent to the beautiful face of what has over 300 bolted routes! Want to skip the hostel to be more one with your tent? Pitch it here, at Campo Base Suesca. From either accommodation, a 15 minutes approach after breakfast and you’ll be ready to tie into your first warm-up climb.

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Back to Bogota, the cheapest flight to Medellin landed us in what we didn’t realize, the farthest of the two airports in the voted, most Innovative city in the world. Fog like the limestone floating spires of Avatar, concealed the trees & landing but blinking lights guided us into, and what felt like to me, my soon to be home. I couldn’t sleep on our hour long, 530am flight. I’d flown into many cities these two years of travel but the anticipation of what everyone had spoken so highly of, along with the ethereal energy that radiate around me, grew in intensity like the volume dial to your favorite song. My body was dancing. My hearts beat tempo, hasten. Our taxi ride down the the mountainous road, traded directions with the expensive road cyclists ascending in figuration. Green surrounded us. The lushness was abundant. Then the brown brick winked through the leaves. Buildings, reminded me of my first flight into Manhattan, filling my window vastly like the ocean does during departure. The peanut butter brown bricked waves grew in unison to El Sol’s rays, evaporating the fog, unveiling the beauty of what is known as the Valley of Medellin. Her face lit up my eyes. Mountains enveloped the city I would soon kiss with my feet & walk down it’s isles, with my heart.

I joined the free walking tour with Real City Tours. I’ve been traveling for almost 2 years now and with 9 countries and countless cities it was the most informative, passion guidance through bustling history I’ve experienced!

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After..

Visit – the restaurants in barrio El Poblado!
– I recommend the Vegetarian restaurant Verdeo, es muy rico!!

Walk – through the innovative Botanical Garden.

Explore – their advanced and super clean Metro!

Ride – the funicular above the Favelas to Parque Arvi.

Camera tourist things done? Hop on another bus to El Peñon in Guatapé.

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After sitting for awhile, why wouldn’t you want to conquer these 740 steps!? One after another, you’re steps closer to the ice cold michelada’s waiting at the top! Take the spiral steps with that brew of yours and enjoy the view.

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Drink coffee? Meeeee too!
13% of the worlds coffee is produced in what is known as the Coffee Triangle of Pereira, Manizales, and Armenia. Salento’s located just a short bus ride north east from Armenia. It’s a quaint small town we were recommended to visit and we weren’t let down!

Stay – at a natural reserve, Kasa Guadua. Nicholas and Carlos have made this a lifelong project. The EcoLodge they’ve created is just a small piece of heaven.. my girlfriend and I couldn’t leave!

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I always thought coffee grew on a vine but a farm tour took us through the entire process. El Ocaso has been traditionally farming just like when they opened 100+ years ago.

Did ya know? Coffee beans are actually the seed in fruit! They grow on a tree, ripened, picked, are dried then roasted to what we know them as today.

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Need more Adventure? I did. So I took off back to Bogota. I had met friends rock climbing and they invited me for a mountaineering trip to El Cocuy National Park. It wasn’t easy to get to. I took a 3 hour bus from Bogota to Tunja, then my friends drove about 6 hours through the night to arrive for breakfast in Güicán. Another bumpy drive up dirt road, we entered the park.

After a few introductions to their Ranger friends, they joined us for some sport climbing just a few hundred yards past the entrance gate!

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After parking, you hike an hour to the only home stay settled in a valley about 2,743 meters (9,000 ft) above sea level. You eat an early dinner, wake up at 11pm and start towards summit around 12am. After gaining a few hours and thousand feet in the dark, you hit snow. Crap-ons, climbing harnesses, helmets, tethered climbing rope and aggressive looking piolets strapped to your wrists are necessary. I was little intimidated. The altitude didn’t help either. After every few steps, I kept needing to stop to catch my breath.

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It doesn’t look like much but it was definitely the hardest thing I have personally physically done! I’ll share it, I cried. I was sobbing, panting and grasping for breath. But when we made the final steps, I turned around after hugging everyone, looked at what I just pushed my body to do, and cried..

WE DID IT! Summited Pan de Azúcar, my highest peak at 16,798 ft above sea level!

Colombia has some uber diverse climate. From sun dried, humid valleys to snowly, freezing peaks like Pan de Azúcar. If you traveled farther South East, you would have been in Amazon territory. Or if you’re a sand and sun person, I’ve learned that I’m not, hit either the Pacific or Carribean Coast.. Colombia has both! I ate my first Arepas, drank freshly squeezed juices every morning and ate “menu del dia’s” (menu of the day – soup, rice, meat, salad and juice) for just under $3.00 USD. I learned to Salsa in Cali (where it was first stepped!), joined in street parties during La Feria which is Carnival for Colombia and even learned basic Spanish! How? Cause tourist aren’t all over Colombia (yet) and I HAD to.

Colombians were the warmest people I have met during my travels. It ends the second I fly back to San Francisco at just over 24 months and I sincerely admit, Colombia was my favorite. I did not once have a rude interaction with a Colombian. I was welcoming, taught and loved by many. I came here thinking I would have to watch my back from the T.V. and rumors I summited my opinions to but I’m leaving with not a single negative thought or word to share with future travelers.

Looking for a place that you’ll give you heart to on the first day and leave a piece of it there when you leave, if you leave? Book a ticket to this beauty. It’s not a popular destination, yet. And some travelers like me, like it like that.

Make money, spend a different currency.

Niño Lorenzo

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Month 3: China

My last post, Month 2: Japan, was over 10 months ago. Yeah, I’m a little behind on the sharing the journey but if you’ve followed along intermittently on my Instagram, you’ve gotten the gist of it.. sorta 😉

A plane & really expensive visa from Tokyo, set my feet in Beijing, China! Bluntly, It was disgusting. I came from clean, efficient, polite Japan & China was almost like India, which I hadn’t yet visited but the contrast was loud.. as was their tone when they spoke.

The smog blocked the sun the entire time in Beijing. Parents purposefully made their toddlers defecate off street curbs onto the street. Men would hawk loogies on the pavement as we walked by, their expressions mugging, “I’M CHINESE!” Hearing Mandarin spoken about was like listening to an argument between who would get to keep the child in a divorce, when they were only asking each other, “Could you please pass me a napkin?” Yeah, it wasn’t pleasant.

On the upside, the food was good 🙂 Peking duck, dumplings & an array of street sweets filled my belly. And oh, in that month, did my dumpling belly grow..
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Meeting a girl who spoke Mandarin at our hostel, we set off to attempt finding the part of The Great Wall that wasn’t filled with tourist. I don’t like tours. I feel you can experience the world without being shepherded around like sheep. Try CouchSurfing, It’s perfect for this!

After 2.5 hours, 3 local buses & a hike, we approached this little village in the hills. We were 4 out of the 11 people on the entire wall! Half the Wall had been renovated & the rest was still ruined. “You can hear about it a thousand times, but you only have to see it once!” I was blown away by the architecture and size.. slaves made it?! My first, of the 7, “new” Wonder of the World!

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After a week, I boarded my first ever train. Boy that was an adventure. English isn’t spoken in China. So it definitely wasn’t on the train or in my cabin. I booked the 12 hour train instead of the quick+expensive bullet cause well, I had time.

For the entire train/sardine can experience, read my Instagram post HERE

My dads sister lives in Shanghai with her husband. He’s a drummer in a band from the Philippines and in his spare time, he likes to cycle so I got the bicycle tour.. for the freeee.

Alan G. from elementary school at Eden Gardens was teaching English there so we met up a lot of the nights for Shanghais crazy night life. Good times brother 😉 I tried soup dumplings which are originally from Shanghai, YUMS! Then I heard from word of travel mouth that the Avatar Mountains from the movie were located in South China! A week later, I boarded a 24 HOUR train WEST to Zhangjiajie….fml.

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#WheresNeenNow?! The inspiration for the setting of the movie Avatar, Zhangjiajie National Park. I was on this train for f*cking ever. During a stop, I got out to smoke a cigarette & met 3 American guys & 2 girls from America! What a relief that was. I hadn’t spoken to anyone in over 12 hours 🙂

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One last train! I’m practically an expert now.. to Yangshuo. As a photographer by hobby, I had seen photos of this:

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everywhere online. The mountains were also on the back of their 20Yuan bill. So.. I HAD TO GO!

Yangshuo:

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I learned from a farmer on the road played with this centipede, that when out, they are signs of oncoming rain.. and it rained!

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Being in the deep south of China, spoken Mandarin changed over to Cantonese. I was a hop skip away from Vietnam so the obvious (not ever in my plan) choice was to get my ass on a bus and cross the border. Pho, my favorite food!!! I will eat and share you soon..

People often ask, “So, what’s your favorite country?” No traveller has A favorite since we love where we visit for different reasons. I did though, love China for it’s landscape and scenery. The parks were breath taking. Almost Yosemite Valley breathtaking.. China is an enormous country and I barely scratched it surface. I didn’t get to see Pandas cause they were another 12 hour train west 😥 but.. that’s what “next time” is for.

So China, although I did bad talk you in the beginning of this, it’s obvious to say, I enjoyed you quite a bit. The people I met & lessons I learned. May they continue. Thank you for the experience & super oily food 😉

Make Money. Spend a different currency.

#NinoRTW

 

 

How do they make it? Pancit Canton, Philippines.

You cook right? There’s a ton of ways to make your eggs in the morning. Or if you don’t eat eggs, how do you make your tofu? I’m sure you like your eggs a certain way.. everyone has their preferences of over-easy, scrambled, with our without ketchup.. right? So I’ve decided to document & share with you a dish from each country I visit of the way it’s made, by them! There’s technique or little secrets that aren’t mentioned in shared cookbooks. Let’s find out how grandma does it!

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This entree is common for Filipinos. I’d say you could see it in every restaurant or brought as a potluck item during family parties. Pancit Canton, made by my Mommy Sonia was made quickly, tastefully & with love (of course) at her home in Ayala Westgrove.

Total kitchen time: 30 minutes

Ingredients?

  • Palm oil
  • Pancit Bihon Noodles
  • Chicken stock
  • Chinese Sausage
  • Cabbage (“Repulyo” in tagalog,) String beans, snow peas, red onions, garlic, carrots
  • Pepper & Soy sauce “Toyo”

How’s it done?

Heat Wok with Palm oil and cook chinese sausage then push to side.

Add Garlic + Onions

Add all veggies EXCEPT cilantro & snowpeas

Add Chicken stock, Toyo and stir till cooked.

Remove all veggies then add noodles, Cover and stir occasionally till ready.

Add cilantro & snowpeas last then served mixed together.

 

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Now, what was the special ingredient in this dish?

 

8th Wonder of the World

*Click pictures for full resolution*

Banaue Rice Terraces, Philippines

I’ve always heard of the wonders of the world..  never did I think I’d witness one myself. You know when you hear of things people see or do you say in the back of your head, Oh, that’d be nice one day. My dad originally wanted some father son time by going & hiking around the untouched island of Batanes in the northern Philippines but later looking at flights & packages, we quickly realized that’d be too expensive. Somehow searching, I came across Banaue. A 10 hour, 4 stop and red eye bus ride later, we arrived at 7am in Batad. With three buses full of tourists and backpackers crowding the arrival desk, my dad & I kicked back until their dust settled. We then learned of a 3 day 2 night trek from the main city through the terraces with a sleep over in Cambulo, then hike again till we reach the main attraction, Banaue where we’d sleep again, then hike out till we return to where we were currently standing. It was much harder than they simply explained..

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He nodded at me with approval saying “Whatever you want to do.” After breakfast, we set off.

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What was suppose to be a 4-5 hour 10km hike, took my father over 7.5, but he made it! He didn’t mention that he practically didn’t sleep on the bus ride over from Manila & after about 2 hours, he was starting to show wear. My dad, now 65, still has the heart to do things & I love him for it but I felt bad for pushing him through what we were doing. It was countless steps & walking on foot wide ledges that were more than 10 feet above the older terrace below. Caught in heavy down pours, clouds later covered the sky so there was no moon to guide us when it got dark. And it did get dark! Dad luckily had a flashlight in his pack & after 30 minutes of darkness, we see our guide Dayton’s fellow guides looking for us just ahead. An exhausted senior citizen & my ready for two servings of dinner self, made it to Cambulo, night one.

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The water is routed to each terrace than overflows to fill the next one, directly below.

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Cleaning off overgrowth, burning the rest.

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After filling our tummy tanks with needed fuel, dad hit the sack. Playing cards with other backpackers, we laughed as we heard him snoring from upstairs 🙂 They soon became new friends & we shared in shots of local rum called Tanduay. We played the filipino card game of Pusoy Dos (poker hands with whoever can rid of all their cards first) & dried out the home stay supply of hard liquor LOL. That following morning my dad said he couldn’t take another days trek so he took a Jeepney back to the main city, where I would later meet him. The other backpackers and I joined guides and we hiked the next 3km from Cambulo to Batad. Now with Dayton, Jessica, Dave, Katrin and Cody, day two.

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But not before we all tried the local chewing tobacco (without the tobacco), Bitter Nut. It makes your mouth red and wakes you up a bit. I didn’t like it. DSC_6863

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Bitter Nut spit spots

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Meet T’wex. Besides already having short, useless arms.. he has a lisp 🙂

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Batad.

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We ALL the way down the terraces to the bottom where there was a waterfall for us to enjoy. You can bet I did!

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After cooling off we hiked all the way back the terraces to the city of Batad, said our goodbyes, had lunch with a view, then rode a on the roof of a LandCruiser over bumpy (and I mean bumpy) roads back into town.

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Wouldn’t you visit this place? It was a bus ride away from Manila, history dating back thousands of years and views that were worth any sweat I dripped.

**If you’re thinking about it, I suggest doing the 2 day tour, not the 3 like us. Day 1 Main city Banaue to Batad via Jeep. Hike into Batad & waterfall. Sleep in Batad night one. Day 2, Leave Batad via Jeep.

Dayton Laya

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Add him: https://www.facebook.com/dayton.laya?fref=ts

Email here: beautifulbanaue@gmail.com

He was our guide and was more patient, kind, knowledgeably helpful & also speaks French! So contact him directly once in the Philippines & he’ll handle the rest for you.. Just show up!

It’ll be a much better experience than getting hustled off the bus with the tourist traps 🙂

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Till next time,

Make money. Spend another currency.

Niño.

I made it: Balanga City, Bataan, Philippines

CLICK TO ENLARGE PICTURES 🙂

I wouldn’t have had anyone but them to hug me off. Leaving SFO

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After 14.5 hours, I landed in Manila at 4am. It was hot to say the least. My dad, who’s been here for 6 months, extended his stay another month to re-introduce me to family. We got straight into a cab & took a 3 hour bus ride to my grandmas. He said this way I’d learn the public transportation & plus, the cab/bus combo was only $6US each! Despite me being twice the size, my first “tricycle” ride felt exactly the same. The smell & sounds of the homeland pulled from my memory bank as if I had deposited yesterday.

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Magdalena Gregorio Lorenzo. 93 years old, mother of 6 & lives alone by choice. She walks unassisted, goes to morning market, “Palengke” when needed & cooks/cleans daily. Her memory sharp as tacks with a mouth wise and unfiltered, she’s made a name for herself here as the funny elder, not really seaming elder. She’s even adopted a new puppy named Raffy.

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We reacquainted & spent some time freshening up my native tongue. I’ve re-met family friends I haven’t seen in 15 years, joined her in buying at the morning market, hiked 7km up Mt. Samat with my dad to take pictures, then visited a relocated and restored spanish colonial village an hour and a half away called Los Casas.

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Talk soon, Niño.

What’s in the packs..

After research I found that a backpack was more my suit. I picked the Osprey Farpoint 55 Liter.

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It’s worn like a backpack but the straps hide away for you to check it in, BUT it’s also small enough to carry on.. which will save me $ down the line as a lot of airlines charge for checked luggage. It has a 2nd day pack attached to it that I use for my electronics & second carry on.

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Two backpacks you ask? Well the smaller one detaches from the back then attaches to the front of the shoulder straps  & fits like a regular daypack for everyday excursions when needed.

Inside I’m using some eBay Cube Organizers I swooped up for $10 shipped for organized packing.

BEST THINGS EVER!

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EVERY single blog told me to pack light, but knowing myself, I need variety in my clothing :/

Pants/shirts:

  • 1 green cargo pant
  • 1 grey REI Adventure pant
  • 1 beige cargo pant
  • 5 t shirts
  • 2 vnecks
  • 1 s collar
  • 1 long collar
  • 2 long sleeve/under armor

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Boxers/socks/belts:

  • 5 uniqlo quick dry boxers
  • 4 socks – I like sleeping in them 🙂
  • 1 belt
  • 1 beenie

Shorts/Tanks:

  • 1 casual beige short
  • 1 grey cargo short
  • 1 running/sport
  • 1 swimming

Shoes: 

  • 1 Brooks trail running
  • 1 Teva sandal
  • 1 Toms
  • 1 Sperry

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& Toiletries.

Surprisingly, all this in the 55L only weighed 20lbs!! My smaller electronic bag pack however, came in at 24lbs.

The front/daypack:

  • 13in macbook pro
  • External Hard Drive
  • External Battery Charger
  • Nikon D700 DSLR + antitheft strap
  • 3 x lens’ 18-105mm / 35mm / 10-20mm
  • Barnes&Noble reading Nook (not shown)
  • Canon Cybershot 14mp
  • GoPro + Accessories
  • Benro backpack tripod
  • All cords chargers accessories.

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I know, It’s a lot :/ I’m learning.