World Journey Part 1
Canada. U.S. Mexico. Peru.Four months have passed since I began my World journey. It is Christmas, and I am spending it in Ecuador, In the Mountains.
I have booked myself in here, in a quiet little village for 2-3 weeks to try and get some writing done.
I have been trying to keep up with the events, but I have been lacking inspiration ever since I started this trip.
I guess the more you travel the more you need something new and extraordinary to dazzled your mind before you feel any need of sharing or interesting enough to write about.
With that said, I had to figure out how to keep this as what it was supposed to be, a story about what I see and where I go, the people, the countries, and not so much a personal diary with too many unimportant details and deep thoughts. But who am I kidding!? If I was to write like that, there wouldn’t be any understanding as to whom I am and to why I am doing this... so here goes!
I didn’t begin my trip to Alaska, as intended. I ended up sitting at the airport and not feeling the least ready for it, something that I usually always am. I left 1.5 weeks later for Vancouver – CA instead as I at this time was unable to get a flight to Alaska without the asking price being three times as much.
The destination did not matter that much anymore, just the fact that I was ready to go now and that I’d made the right choice. So I flew into Vancouver and got myself situated in a hostel outside the city. In the day I would go to the centre to look around and chat with others to get info.
At this time I was still missing my old travel mentality.
I had spent too much time back home in this bubble and the longer it took for me to get out of it, the less I thought about travelling or my trip.
After three days of roaming around the rainy big city, I was ready for my first real destination, Tofino –Vancouver Island.
I hadn’t read anything about this place - as this was to be a journey over several continents I had decided not to bring any guide books with me - only heard from other travellers that this was the place to come to if you wanted to experience wildlife and nature.
It will take you most of the day to get to Tofino, starting from Vancouver, as you have a ferry ride in between, and it is the Islands most remote town.
Oh yes, this is more like it, I thought when I first laid eyes on the place.
A small village overlooking the sea with mountains rising up in the back as if it was taken out of a local postcard.
Along the coast, you’ll notice several 2 seated water aeroplanes that run scenic routes over the area. On the far end of town, you have “The Whalers Inn” a hostel with a perfect panorama view for breakfast.
These are some of the things that are going to catch your eye if you visit.
You will have the opportunities so see some of Canada’s most spectacular wildlife.
I was lucky enough to be able to spot grey whales, big sea lions and the rare sea odder, all in one good day. The tranquillity and scenery of Tofino will no doubt pull you in, even If it’s only for a few days.
3 days later I crossed the US border, and headed down south to Portland OR, to meet an old travel mate.
8 years had passed since Aaron and I had bumped into each other at a Hostel in Firenze – Italy and we had managed to keep contact over the years.
Aaron picked me up in Portland a couple of days after I arrived, giving me just enough time to form an opinion of the city.
Of the 5 cities, I visited, coming down from the NorthWest, Portland is in my top two. The easy access to everything and the cool neighbourhoods not to mention forest park, which is one of the biggest parks in the U.S. If not THE biggest. So if you need a day or two to get lost just head for that one.
No.1 Is Eugene, Aaron’s home town further down south, a small, by U.S standards, really easy going university town with nature’s surroundings and a local river.
Aaron showed me where he grew up, adding little stories to some of the places from his childhood. He taught me a bit about gun control In America.
He was a perfect host, driving me around to some of his favourite spots, and I stayed at his house for more than a week and it felt like home.
Next, I headed for San Francisco, and Aaron decided to join me down there for the weekend. We took the Amtrak, which is a 15-hour train ride, usually at night for long distances.
We arrived in San Francisco the next morning and instantly crashed at our (tiny cramped hostel) for a couple of hours before Jess (Jessie) showed up, an old friend of Aarons, very energetic, smiling, giggling young lady living in Oakland on the mainland of San Francisco.
The rest of the city is situated on a peninsula, surrounded by water. One of the reasons they call it the “foggy” city is that there is mostly always a fog over it, and you all know the phrase: The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer In San Francisco. In my case, I was lucky because it was mostly clear sunny skies the three days I was there. Jess drove us all around San Francisco that night and showed us a good time and both me and Aaron got fairly pissed up, the rest is a blur to me. The next morning we went for a walk to shake off the dodgy feeling in the head from the night before. We walked down to the end of the bay area to see the Sea Lions at pier 39.
Alcatraz the notorious prison, famous for holding Al Capone for several years and of course for the well-documented prison escape which was never really resolved. Bring a jacket as it gets really windy and cold out on the Island. The tour itself is pretty cool as you get a set of headphones and then left to wander around on your own while the history of the prison is being explained to you, and if you’ve ever thought about how the old Trolleys keep running then check out The Cable Car Museum on Mason Street, that might enlighten you.
Enough of the touristy crap of the “Foggy” city. It was great catching up with Aaron after so many years and see how we both had changed and grown-up.
The next day Aaron headed back up to Eugene and I continued my journey towards the dry Midwest of Flagstaff – Arizona to see one of the natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon. I had bought the ticket the day before for the prize of 120 $ a somewhat expensive trip, I thought. Just as I was to pull out my ticket I realized it was gone and as Amtrak tickets are nonrefundable my train ride to Flagstaff ended up costing me 240 $, which you can imagine was really shit.
It took 18 hours to get there, with a stopover in LA, and lucky enough to have the company of a loud drunk lady by my side, who could not stop telling me that she was going to her sons birthday and tried to convince me that she could easily sleep on top of a big man like me when it came to sharing the seats.
I arrived in Flagstaff at five am the next day. There are only 2 Hostels here and they are both own by the same people. It is a quiet town, except for when the Amtrak rides through every hour and has to honk the horn continuously when passing a town.
Most people come here for seeing the Grand Canyon, and so did I. I took a minivan to the southside of the Canyon, also called the South rim. Depending on which part of the area you are in, it is also possible to see the Northside or even hike from one rim to another.
It is 3-hour drive from town and you can either arrange for being picked up later if you only want to go for the day or hike down to the bottom and stay down there at the Phantom Ranch for the night and then head back up. For the thrill-seekers, there is also the chance to do some River rafting as the Colorado River runs right through it. For me, a day trip and a 2-hour hike up and down was enough. Had I known at the time that you were able to stay overnight at the bottom I would have planned it differently and made it a three-day trip instead of one.
The Grand Canyon is big! With a length of 446 km, 29 km wide, and 1.6 km deep its overwhelming size, amazing landscapes, and rock formations are a mind-blower, when you are suddenly standing there overlooking it in real life.
Tourists are there plenty of, so don’t expect to have anything to yourself while you are here. If you are willing, with some effort you can head out to the end of the south rim and hike down the trail, as I did.
Then you will hardly meet any people, and you’ll have it all to yourself.
Another thing to do in Flagstaff is to hike (or in our case, climb) Mount Humphrey. It is 3.9 km above sea level and takes you roughly 4 hours to overcome, depending on the shape you are in. When I first arrive in Flagstaff I’d met Michael, another Danish guy who had worked out on the Grand Canyon for three months helping to restore trails and to do his part to preserve it. We had then decided to hike the Mountain together as soon as the skies were clear enough to enjoy it fully.
It did not go as expected as somehow we ended up on the wrong trail. Halfway up we realized that we were making our way up on a ski-slope and not an actual trail.
None of us wanted to turn around after the struggle we had already had getting here. So we agreed to climb across slighting old lava rocks from the long-extinct volcano, towards the solid part of the Mountain, even though posted signs were saying otherwise.
Mount Humphrey has several fake peaks. Where the real one is hiding behind and is not visible until you get about 3 km up. When you think you are close to the summit, just brace yourself as there are others on the other side of it. The altitude is making us gasp for air the higher we get up and I remember thinking that I would never have made it this way if I was still smoking and if there hadn’t been a ten years younger guy that I had to show otherwise. Bless you, Michael. Hahaha… Because of our little detour, it took us 5 hours to reach the summit of Arizona’s highest point and we enjoyed the breathtaking view for ten minutes. Finally at the top of Mount Humphreys.
There were ice and snow on the peak and the cold wind was making it difficult to stay longer than that. It was 4 hours until sunset so we started our trip down, and this time on the right trail, barely making it down before dark. Both exhausted and worn out after almost 8 hours of trekking, we were thrilled to have done it in an off the beaten pass manner, but as we made it out of the woods and into the clearing, we discovered another problem. None of us recognized the area as where we had been dropped off, earlier this morning by the taxi. Knowing that there was only one way up, we found the main road, not being the least happy about the thought of walking the fifteen kilometres down to town in our current state. fortunately, by flashing light we were able to get one of the cars attentions, a pickup truck with a camper attached.
Mike was on a long holiday with his dogs and was camping up near the mountain. He offered us a ride in the back of the truck, which sounded like heaven to both of us. He drove us all the way down to our hotel and wished us good luck with our further travels.
A couple of days later my journey took me back out west, and down the coast. Michael had to stay in Flagstaff for another ten days because he couldn’t change his ticket to an earlier flight back to Denmark.
My next stop was San Diego, the gateway to Mexico and a 15-hour train ride from the desert country of Arizona.
The same day I arrived I met up with Steve, another old travel mate that I, funny enough, met 5 years ago in the same area In Italy (Cinque Terra) where I had met Aaron, three years earlier. Steve was cool enough to show me around and tell me about his city, and hang out whenever he had a spare moment.
As I said before it is always great to have a personal guide, and like in Aaron’s case, he was the perfect host. San Diego is a nice beach city with good weather all year around. The city is spread out, dividing it into numerous areas along the coast, making them seem like little individual communities. I stayed in Ocean Beach, the place that is considered the “Hippie” part of the coast and here I met Johan and Daniel, a Swede and an Ecuadorian. They were also headed for Mexico, but just for the weekend, so we hooked up and 2 days later we left for the border.
To be continued...