Surfing Turtles

If someone offers you to stay with him on Hawai’i, you go. No questions asked. In March, we were lucky enough to get that offer. Three days later, our flights to Kahului Airport were booked. 10 days on Maui, a dream came true! We got a shitty old car from Kimos at Kahului Airport and thus began our hawaiian adventure.

Boat Trip
Boat Trip

Because we couldn´t spend the first night at our friends´, we had booked a hostel in Paia. Even though it was super clean, the staff was friendly and the pancakes were free, we started to realize how lucky we were to have free accomodation for the rest of our stay. The private room at the hostel cost 120$ a night, so that might be an issue if you´re travelling on a budget. We got some rest and tried to get used to the temperatures, which was hard after our Canadian winter. Our first day started with a delicious breakfast at Cafe Mambo in the Heart of Paia, a nice small hippie-town. After checking into our friends´ O´hana, where we put our bags down (yes, we brought skis to Hawai’i), we headed straight back out to the beaches, parked the car and spread our blanket. Although we had heard about the hawaiian turtles, we didn´t expect to see one within ten minutes of our first visit to a beach. There it was, enjoying the warmth of the sun. The local kids that were playing in the waves weren´t too impressed, and we started to realize that we might see quite a few of those massive green things.

Green Sea Turtle
Green Sea Turtle

First things first, we had to take some of the most popular things off the bucket list – We went to check out the surfers from the famous Ho’okipa Beach Lookout, where even the 10 year olds are killing the waves, and then took our shitty old Ford for a drive to Hana, that “secret” little spot on the east side of the island. We did our research before and thus wanted to relax at Red Sand Beach, jump some cliffs at Waioka Pond and then treat ourselves to some Huli Huli Chicken at Hoki Beach Park on the way back. What a day that was! There is plenty to see on the way to and from Hana, so make sure you have at least a full day for that gorgeous drive!

Red sand beach
Red sand beach
Koki Beach Park
Koki Beach Park

Yes, Maui is a very popular tourist destination. Yes, there are a couple of places (e.g. The road to Hana) where you just can´t avoid them. But the good thing about the tourists is that they mostly stay in their resorts – so even on the busier west side of Maui, you can go to Black Rock Beach and still find a nice spot to lay down and enjoy the sun. Speaking of the west side of the island: Go surf or sup the Thousand Peaks or just watch the people who know how to surf. Don´t step on the reef in those shallow waters!

Also, enjoy a snorkelling trip. You can do that on your own (Snorkelbob´s can hook you up with rental gear) or just book a trip with these guys. Even though it isn´t the cheapest thing one could do, the trip was super entertaining, just being out on a boat for a day with a fun crew was super nice. If you´re looking for a more private adventure, go for the “Leilani Best Day on Maui” trip. Definitely money well spent!

Underwater Turtle
Underwater Turtle

Further south on the west side of the island (south of Makena Beach) you´ll find lavafields that are worth paying a visit. The snorkeling there can be quite good as well, just be aware of a closure of some areas there.

If you´re looking for breathtaking hikes on the island, you should pack your bags and go hike the Waihee Ridge Trail. Start early, the clouds usually roll in in the afternoon! Another great option is the Sliding Sands Trail in the Haleakala National Park. The landscape there is so different from everything else on the island, so make sure you go for a stroll there! It can get quite chilly and windy though, so pack a sweater!

On the culinary side of things, here´s a list of what you HAVE to try:

  1. Huli Huli Chicken: as described above!
  2. Thai Mee up: convenient location near the airport, get some before the flight. They might take it from you at airport security though, because it smells so delicious!
  3. Da Kitchen offers great value for a relatively cheap price. Also close to the airport. Nice homestyle food, award-winning Fried-Spam-Musubi (must try!)
  4. Geste Shrimp is what we had been waiting for the whole trip. Somehow, whenever we wanted to go, the place was closed for some holiday or it was already too late. But on the second-last day, we got to try it and although the expectations couldn´t have been higher at that point, the food did not disappoint!
  5. Nuka in Haiku offers very fancy Sushi. The place isn´t cheap, and if you´re on a tight budget, there are better options. But if you are willing to spend a little more you will get tasty, fresh, healthy food. Mouthwatering!
  6. Grandma´s Coffee offers a ridiculously big and tasty breakfast! Try the French Toast or the Upcountry Omelette, and then cancel your plans for lunch, you won´t need it.
  7. The Paia Fish Market is not really a fish market but rather a great casual restaurant for lunch or dinner! Get a great burger with a choice of local fish or a fish taco!

    Grandma´s Coffee House 2
    French Toast at Grandma´s Coffee

Enjoy the gallery!

 

The Canyons of Utah (and Arizona), Pt. 2

There´s a fine line between total fulfillment and frustration. We experienced this line in southern Utah.

From Hanksville, Utah, we headed south to “Bullfrog Marina“. Mainly because it sounded nice, and it was situated in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which sounded promising. We were super excited to see this

GlenCanyon

but sadly, we only got to see this…

Truck and Boat

Turns out that you can only get those pretty views in the top picture from a boat, and we had to leave the canoe behind in Canada. So we were stuck in the world´s ugliest place, surrounded by motorboat enthusiasts who loved their truck and boat more than their wife and kids. We had to find a different way to see some impressive Canyons. From Bullfrog, we headed west, and reached “BLM-Land” soon enough. After we had found an amazing spot to spend the night our “neighbor” who put up his camp 100 metres from us, decided that he´d like to have the place all to himself. Since we didn´t want to mess with an american redneck we decided to keep driving and find a different spot. The last sunrays were shining upon our car when we found a place in the middle of nowhere that we could call home for the next night. What a rollercoaster that day had been!

We cooked some delicious couscous and got lost staring into the galaxies when we noticed that it got quite cold. So we went to bed to start the next day early enough to catch the first sunbeams of the day! It was stunning how the light in the canyon had changed from sunset to sunrise. The mood was incredible, and although it was really cold it was worth getting up that early.

We had a brutal day of driving ahead of us. From the Glen Canyon, we wanted to head west through the Capitol Reef National Park, where we came from, and then further to the Zion National Park. Since driving with a cold and a fever wasn´t the best idea, we stopped in Escalante just past Boulder (Utah), where we found an amazing organic shop called “Escalante Mercantile”. Also, the visitor centre in Escalante was very informative and it was about time for us to catch up with the folks at home and the WiFi there was pretty good!

One thing led to another and soon enough we found ourselves in a guesthouse on a beautiful ranch in the quietest place in southern Utah, staying the night and getting over our cold.

The next day we organized our stuff and headed towards Zion National Park. We made it just in time for a quick hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail at the east entrance of the park, where we could watch the sun lighting up the red cliffs of the National Park. We headed back to our very nice campground that was just outside the park.

We went to bed early to gather our strength for the next day. Good thing we did, because it should be a very rough one.

Having a broken radiator hose in the traffic jam right before a tunnel sucks. On the bright side, we were lucky that this little “incident” didn´t happen 10 minutes later, because then we´d have been stuck in the tunnel. Anyway, shortly after we had reached the magical Zion NP we left it – in a towtruck that was driven by Hank, a man who called himself a “hick” and who is very proud of the fact that his 12 year old daughter can handle a “small pumpgun”.

Although I´m positive that Hank voted for Drumpf and is therefore partly responsible for the upcoming World War III, we got our radiator hose fixed and our car towed for 250$, which was not too bad considering that we were in no-man´s-land and would have paid any price to get out of this situation.

After we´d lost another day, it was time for us to visit the greatest of all canyons, El Grande, the Grand Canyon.

I will spare out further descriptions and just say this: Visit the North Rim in mid-october, avoid the crowds and take in breathtaking views, narrow trails that lead you through millions of years of earth history and an awesome campground in the pine forest!

 

The Canyons of Utah, Pt. 1

“Should we drive any further?”

Since it´s “only” five hours from Jackson, Wyoming, to Salt Lake City, Utah, and then another three to Capitol Reef, the decision was obvious: Hit the road! After a stop in Salt Lake City we drove to Capitol Reef National Park to see the stunning waterfold, narrow canyons and mars-like landscape.

As mentioned, it was a very spontaneous decision to head to Capitol Reef, which is probably the most underestimated of Utah´s “Mighty Five” National Parks and thus we had no idea what to do, where or how long to stay. The first night we spent just outside of the National Park on a small campground with a little fee (6$), because we´d heard that the campground in Fruita was full for the day.

We didn´t want to miss out on a stay at the campground amidst beautiful orchards, so the next day we started early to secure a spot within the boundaries of the National Park. The first attraction of the NP was Chimney Rock and the Goosenecks Overlook. Those two sights were very promising, and after a quick stop in the Visitor Center we were stoked to see the rest of the park. So we checked in to the campground and got a spot just a stonethrow away from a herd of deers with the biggest ears ever!

Again, our book came in very handy. We had read about the Grand Wash, and after the incredibly friendly volunteer at the campground approved that hike, we decided to head there in the evening. It was just a quick drive from the campground and a 30 minute walk (one-way), but that was enough to get away from the crowds completely. The massive, narrow canyon walls were impressive, and it was incredible to see fast the scenery changing as the sun slowly set.

But our new friend from the campground recommended not only that, but also a very narrow slot canyon “near” the National Park, which we explored the next day. Of course, the 30 minute drive he had promised us turned into a 90 minute journey, but it was worth it! We stayed overnight on BLM-land (free camping!) near the Goblin Valley State Park, just a couple of meters from the trailhead to the slot canyon.

Although the hike at the Grand Wash was great, it couldn´t beat the amazing Little Wild Horse Canyon! The whole area (San Rafael Swell) is known for its opportunities for canyoneering, but the Wild Horse Canyon is a fairly easy hike that everybody could do. A look at the weather forecast is necessary to check for flash floods, but on a fine day you can enjoy the canyon worry-free.

After the hike, we treated ourselves to a nice milkshake in the “town” of Hanksville. We expected Walter White to walk in any minute, because we had seen his RV at the gas station, but we couldn´t find him.

Since we were already close to Bullfrog Marina, we decided to head there next. Stay tuned for the next story!

 

The Grand Treaton

Snowcapped mountains, bugling elk, grazing moose, crystal clear lakes – you name it, The Grand Teton National Park has it. Located in the massive and sparsely populated state of Wyoming, this is without a doubt one of North America´s treasures and might be my personal favorite so far. Unlike Yellowstone National Park, the good stuff here is hidden on the highest peaks – thus the title of this blogpost. It seems like wherever you hike, you will be rewarded with solitude, spectacular views and lots of wildlife. Most people seem to settle for the Yellowstone Park, which is just north of the smaller Grand Teton NP – Mistake! Drive a little further south, get the boots ready and hike to the Amphitheater Lake to get a close look on the highest peak of the Park, or hike into the narrow Death Canyon!

Of course, the town of Jackson shouldn´t be neglected either. The local outfitter Stio has the best souvenirs, or, if required, equipment for the adventurous. The Snake River Brewery, which is named after the beautiful river that flows through the National Park provides you with different kinds of locally brewed beer and burgers. And if you want to get into Line Dancing, join a free lesson at Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

Although it is really disturbing to see people walking around town openly carrying a gun, this is the place to get a true “Wild West” experience. And if you´re still wondering who voted for America´s next president, you´ll find out here.

 

The Drive-Thru Park

The idea of having National Parks is awesome. But, after my visit to the oldest one of them, the Yellowstone National Park, I have mixed feelings about the whole system. Sure, the density of breathtaking sights, wild animals and healthy forests is just incredible. Animals are being protected here, and the Visitor Centres are very educational! On the other hand though, the amount of people that visit those parks and therefore the amount of cars is just ridiculous. All of the National Parks saw a drastic increase in visitor numbers in the past years, and so did the Yellowstone NP.

No wonder. It´s incredible what you can see here just sitting in your car driving around. To me, that is exactly the problem. After having experienced places that were hard to reach and therefore very lonely in British Columbia, this park was very “non-rewarding”. Why would you get out of your car, when there´s a road that goes through the most incredible, unique spots, like the Mammoth Hot Springs? For dayhikers, there are lots of options to get away from the crowds – but it´s really frustrating if you end up at a viewpoint that is also accessible by car. After two of those hikes, we were close to leaving the park early. On the way to the west entrance of the park though, we spotted a Grizzly and her cub! Even though we had to share that moment with quite a lot of people, it was majestic. The bear, knowing that it´s absolutely safe, grazed in the meadows just  a couple of hundred meters from the road.

Although that made up for a lot of our frustration (we were absolutely STOKED about having seen that even a week after), I couldn´t help but feel a little sad about the fact that everything in this park is so accessible. It makes sense for people who would otherwise not be able to see those natural wonders, but it just makes people so lazy, which I found very shocking.

Nonetheless, Yellowstone was an incredible experience!

See the pictures below – three of them were not taken in Yellowstone, but on the drive there through the massive state of Montana!

 

Nelson, Pt. 2

As implied in the last blogpost, the city of Nelson, B.C., has a lot to offer! That´s why I feel like a second post is necessary to describe how impressive it is! Thanks to our new friends we made on our hike to the Valhalla Provincial Park, we discovered another great place right outside the city: The Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Since it was pretty late in the season, the Cabin had two beds available. For 25$ a person, you get a spot in one of the most amazing alpine huts I´ve ever seen! It´s right at a lake, it´s huge, completely self-sustaining, and remote enough so that not a lot of people come up there! Reservations are necessary though, especially during peak season!

The hike up to the Cabin was really promising! We passed the Kokanee Lake, just another one of those postcard-motive lakes with crystal-clear, blue water! Although we were pretty spoiled from our hike to the Gwillim Lakes, this was incredible!

After a nice dinner we fell asleep looking forward to another day of awesomeness! And we woke up to snow! Although that messed up our plans a little bit, we headed out to do some exploring. What we found was mostly more snow, but also a nice hike along a creek. Even though you could spend a week up there, we had to get back to our car, and considering the increasing snowfall, that was a smart call. Back in Nelson, it was time for some coffee at John Ward Fine Coffee and a sandwich at a very special place: The Yellow Deli!

That ended our time in Canada, because we wanted to cross the border to the USA the next day!

 

Valhalla!

Sometimes, the best things happen to you if you just take a map and point at places that sound awesome. VALHALLA. How good does that sound? Of course, I had seen the Ski Movie. I had also heard about the famous Valhalla Powder Cats and the Heliskiing Operations.
So when I recognized the place on the map, it seemed like a good idea to check it out while it was still warm-ish… Because, where there´s good skiing, there´s usually good hiking.
Let me skip ahead: It did not disappoint! Our campsite-bible, mentioned in the previous blogpost, gave away another AMAZING campsite.
It was drizzling a bit when we arrived, but soon the clouds cleared and made room for the last sunshine of the day, which we didn´t have to share with anyone else since there wasn´t a single soul at the campsite.
We had a campfire and prayed for sun for the next day, because we had made plans to hike to the Gimli Ridge.
But the Gods up in Valhalla didn´t hear our prayers, and we woke up the next morning to the sound of rain on our car.
We decided to head out even though the weather was not too good, and soon we found ourselves on the sketchiest “gravel” road to the trailhead /Note to myself: Go for a Four-Wheel-Drive the next time you head to BC.
Somehow we made it to the trailhead and, surprise, we were the only ones in the parking lot. I still hadn´t lost hope that the sun might come out in the afternoon, because the forecast had predicted that, but that hope was gone when it started snowing heavily as soon as we reached the treeline.
So we decided to turn around. STOP! There was some sun. Let´s wait. We hiked back up, because the clouds were moving fast and the sun peeked out every now and then. After another hour, we reached Gimli Ridge, and, even though it didn´t look as on the pictures, we were happy that we made it to the top and actually saw this stunning ridge!
On the way down the road, we met some climbers who told us that the weather was supposed to get better the next day. So we decided to head back to our little paradise, where we were still completely alone.

The next morning looked promising, as the sky cleared around 9am, and we were excited to get closer to those amazing peaks!

As usual in BC, the road to the trailhead was not driveable with our family van, but we were really lucky that a nice canadian couple happened to pass us in their pickup just when we had decided not to go any further on the terrible road and reversed.

We also made some international friends on the hike (the only other hikers up there), but more about that in the second part about Nelson…

The hike to the Gwillim Lakes was just incredible and hard to describe. So enjoy the pictures!

 

BC Backroads

Ever since I´ve been to British Columbia in the winter, it was on my list to see this beautiful place in the summer.

Well, that didn´t work out. By the time we started our trip, the leaves on BC´s trees had already started changing their color.

Traveling BC in the fall means having to deal with cold temperatures, rain and snow. But it also means less crowds, incredible landscapes and colors.

The obvious place to start a trip through BC is, of course, Vancouver. The first stop was the beautiful Lindeman Lake. Do you know those crystal clear, greenish blue shimmering lakes on postcards from BC? This is one of the places, although just a small one. Conveniently located along the highway to Kamloops (which was our next stop), this easy hike near Chiliwack can be extended if you go further to Greendrop Lake, which we couldn´t because we were on a tight schedule.

Hiking to the lake in mid-september was a good decision (no crowds!), also we were lucky with the weather. A dive in the lake was mandatory, but ice cold. It´s an easy walk with one steep section, and it is incredibly rewarding!

A quick stop in Sun Peaks and a successful job interview later, the plans for the winter were sorted and we were looking for some nice, hot weather. And we did find it! The Okanagan Valley is the place where a majority of the Canadian apples, peaches, plums and wine comes from! And where there´s wine, there´s lots of sun and warmth! A very different landscape from the high mountains and dense woods of the rest of BC, this place is a MUST in fall.

Because we had to cancel a multi-day canoe trip on the Bowron Lakes due to the bad weather up north, we were still looking for a truly Canadian canoe experience.

So we stopped at True Outdoors in Kelowna, rented a canoe and just went for it. Our brand new book “Camp Free in BC” gave away the exact directions to amazing places along very sketchy, washed out backroads and we had everything we needed to get out there and explore.

We spent a few nights at Island Lake and Postill Lake just east of Kelowna. Eat, Have a Campfire, Sleep, Paddle, Repeat for four days. Life at its best!

We were sad when we had to return the canoe in Penticton, but more adventures were waiting for us. After having read this amazing blog, we decided to head for the Cathedral Provinicial Park. We didn´t know yet if we could make it to the core area of the park (it´s an 8 hour hike in and back), but thanks to our campsite-bible we knew that even the road to the park had to offer a lot of lonely, wild campsites, and we just couldn´t get enough of those incredible campfires.

For different reasons (time,weather and the lack of equipment for a night in the tent at -5°C), we didn´t make it to the core area of the park. We were devastated, but after driving back to Osoyoos and a night at Haynes Point/Sẁiẁs Provincial Park, we were just excited for the next adventures that awaited us!

Off to Nelson! Stay updated for the next story following shortly!

 

 

Living in VANcouver

I´ve always loved travelling in a Van. For me, at least at this point of my life it is the most amazing way of exploring a country. It is simple, yet so adventurous, and it gives you all the flexibility you need to make the most of your time and money (that is, if the car doesn´t break down) when travelling. It makes you NOT waste time on blog posts or checking Facebook. That´s why this post is a month late. At the beginning of September, I used my Van as a real home. Staying in one place for two weeks in a row and living in the Van without travelling in it was a new experience for me. I was really worried, because I was going to stay in the “big” city of Vancouver, and sleeping in a car in a city is usually not easy. But, as the name suggests, VANcouver has made it easy for me.

Working in landscaping for two weeks, I had to drive to different places everyday. But I never had to worry about forgetting a sweater, my rain coat or my lunch, because my home was always with me. After work, I usually headed to Jericho Beach, where I could take a (cold) shower, cook a nice meal, meet nice people and then park my car in one of the side streets there. Even though there were signs saying “No Overnight Parking”, no police or bylaw ever told me of, which was probably because the Van really doesn´t look like someone is sleeping in there.

I lived where usually only really wealthy people could afford houses – especially considering the housing crisis in Vancouver. And it seemed like I wasn´t the only one. Even though it´s really not always easy to live in our car, it was really rewarding! When I got up early enough, I got to see the most amazing sunrise over the Vancouver skyline. And when I wasn´t too tired, I could watch the sunset on Kitsilano beach, having a beer and some nice food, cooked on the gas stove.

See the pictures below to get an impression of how nice VANcouver can be. Hopefully, the next blogpost will follow soon. If not, be sure that I´m having an adventurous time!

 

Newfoundland Adventures

Thanks for having me, Newfoundland! Two weeks in Canada´s most easterly province are over. A lot of money was spent on drinks, travelling and more drinks. Worth it!

On this beautiful but remote island, where most of the tourists are from “the mainland” of Canada you can get the real deal. Oportunities are endless. The weather is constantly changing. And the people are just incredibly friendly.

Before heading out to Gros Morne Mountain, which is an eight hour drive from St. John´s, I spent two days in the city to tick off the major tourist attractions from my bucket list. I went up to Signal Hill, went out on George Street on Friday night and drove through the small harbour of Quidi Vidi. It wasn´t until the end of the trip that I actually saw that place in detail though.

Whereas Downtown St. John´s is really nice to go out and have drinks in bars on George Street like the Christian´s, have some legendardy Fish & Chips at The Duke of Duckworth or a Wrap with Pasta or Rice (sounds weird? Tastes delicious!) at Mustang Sally´s, the true treasure of Newfoundland is its unbelievable nature.

So if you ever make your way to Newfoundland, make sure to go to the amazing Gros Morne National Park!

Pack a lightweight tent and go loop the Green Gardens! Or make the effort to go climb the Tablelands and enjoy an amazing view to Norris Point!

Another amazing hike was the Gros Morne Mountain. Parks Canada informs you on their website that it´s not a good idea to climb it without the necessary equipment. And they are right. Don´t even think about doing this hike in your running shoes, without raingear or enough water supply.

Those hikes make you hungry, so you want to check out the cafés and restaurants in Rocky Harbour. For those who would like to get some real Canadian cuisine, go to Earle´s for a moose burger or to Java Jack´s for some nice seafood chowder.

Again, oportunities are endless, and time is always too short. That being said, I will return to the island to check out the amazing trails they have on a Mountainbike. Enjoy the pictures!

 

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