Category Archives: Travel

Sunset Skygazing

This is one of the biggest things I missed while living in Ecuador.

an arizona sunset

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Filed under Arizona, Nature, Outdoors, Travel, United States

Conquering Camelback Mountain in Arizona

View from the top of Camelback Mountain

My twin sister decided to introduce me to Camelback, which is a famous mountain – or hill, depending on the mountains you’ve grown up with wherever you live – in Arizona because it resembles a camel lying down in the desert surroundings. It has also gained a reputation for being a rather difficult hike/trek with many people getting hurt and air-lifted off the mountain. As we drove to the trail, my sister told me a story of how ambulances were taking someone away the very first time she was going to hike it. YiKES!

Camelback is so popular that the parking lot fills up rather quickly, leaving many people to park farther down in the neighborhood streets. When we arrived the parking lot was packed and a line of cars were waiting for people to leave for their chance to get a spot. My sister and I opted for the other parking areas. We started driving and saw groups of people running and walking to the trailhead from the parking area, which also turned out to be filled. We had no choice but to park in the rocky landscape with other cars and make the walk to the trailhead. I jokingly told my sister that this could be our warm-up.

I learned from my sister that the hike can take up to 3-hours, so we took a deep breath and braved the porta-potties before starting the hike. According to my sister, there are two sides to climb to the top of Camelback. One is an easy hike with a flat path that only gets a bit dangerous – picture a high-wire, you walk on the edge of the mountain – before you reach the top. The other, which we took, is steep the entire way up and includes lots of boulder hopping.

Hiking Camelback Mountain!

After you climb up the stairs, you get a break on a flat path that winds along a fence that keeps you from falling off the edge before getting to the first of two real steep ascents. Both of these climbs have a steel handle-bar to assist you up the rock’s surface. It is amazing to see how people get up these areas of the hike. Some opt for no handle-bar and literally crawl up while others cling to the fence or bar, and others who are descending are walking backwards holding onto the bar. After each ascent, most hikers take a break to catch their breath and watch the other hikers before getting to the boulder areas.

This was probably my favorite part. You could either go up the boulder crevice or climb the surface of the red rocks next to it. The surface was so flat and had this texture that you could literally stand up straight and walk up it. It looked like you were walking side-ways up this rock, it was brilliant. I was so nervous though that for the first bit of it I clung with my face smashed up to the surface because I didn’t want to fall. With the assurance of my twin sister, I finally stood up half-way up and walked up, feeling the burning in my calves the entire way.

Helicopter hovering while searching for an injured hiker

We venture onward and saw a helicopter making multiple rounds of the mountain, at points hovering. The pilot used its speaker to call out to hikers to assist them in their rescue attempt. “If you are by the injured hiker, please wave your arms.” All the hikers began pointing in the direction of the hiker that they passed during their descent. My sister and I pointed upward after noticing the people helping. We eventually saw the injured girl being nursed by her hiking partners. It appeared as if it was her ankle, which was no surprise because climbing the boulders – and at times jumping from one to the next – could easily lead to your foot slipping.

Christmas tree on top of Camelback Mountain

My sister told me we were near the top and our speed grew faster during the last portion. Our legs were burning and our breaths were quick, but we reached the apex where a crowd of hikers were resting and eating while enjoying the view. The Christmas tree was still up there along with a few decorated bushes. One group decided to take their Christmas picture for next year. We only had a few minutes of rest before we started our descent. On the way down we saw a girl who had just sprained her ankle a minute prior. She was in tears and being comforted by her friends. We continued on and made sure our feet were firmly planted before pressing on to the next boulder and the next…and the next. It was much faster on the way down and when we reached the wooden stairs, smiles replaced the open mouths that gasped for air the entire way up and down.

Hikers resting and eating snacks on top of Camelback Mountain

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Filed under Activities, Arizona, Facts, Nature, Outdoors, Tips, Travel, United States

Arizona: Tallest Christmas Tree in the Nation

Tonight my parents and I walked around the outlets in Anthem. We normally don’t frequent the shopping center but they had something special to offer: the tallest Christmas tree in the nation. I find it odd that a city in Arizona would be able to get the tallest tree, but hey, at least we have the ability to admire and appreciate the tree since we are not stuck in feet of snow or have to bear freezing temperatures and wind chill to enjoy it. Let me tell you, this tree was massive.  I was unable to fit the tree in its entirety into any picture (I can’t wait to get my panoramic camera under the tree – yes, I know that I’m getting one, I had to pick it out). It towers over the tops of the shops and can be seen from miles down the highway that the outlets are located beside. Underneath its limbs are giant presents and toys for kids and families to stand in front of for picture-taking opportunities.

It is good to see it in the daylight, not only for the picture-taking, but because you get the chance to see the huge ornaments that decorate the tree. At night when it is lit up, all you can see are the twinkling Christmas lights, which are still a beautiful sight to behold and definitely get you in the holiday spirit.

According to the details:

  • The 110-foot tall tree came from Northern California.
  • A huge crane was used to hoist the tree into place.
  • In total, 120 strings of lights and 3,000 ornaments decorate the massive tree.

nation's tallest christmas tree

standing under the tree with the presents

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

reflection in the giant ornament

nation's tallest christmas tree lit up

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, Arizona, Facts, Nature, Outdoors, Sites, Tips, Travel, United States

What I Will Miss About Living in Ecuador

– Not driving a car, being able to walk everywhere (Save $$$$ on Gas)

– A $2 three-course meal with dessert

– The variety of fruit and fruit juices (Quiero una jugo de mora AND the best pineapple I’ve ever eaten)

– High-priced fast-food and American candy (good incentive to not eat it)

– Empanadas (compare that to hot pockets, which are not as good)

– The breakfast at El Colibri

– Coup attempts that got us out of work

– Living in a country with vastly different geographical landscapes (the coast, highlands, amazon and galapagos)

– The passion in the culture and people

– Being able to survive without a cellphone

– Television isn’t the center of the living room (the only time it was turned on was during the coup attempt)

– Everything being so close (grocery stores, gym, cafes)

– Free Salsa lessons on Wednesday night in The Mariscal District

– Not living to work, but working to live

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Facts, Food, Galapagos Islands, Global, History, International, Latin America // South America, Nature, Outdoors, Sites, Tips, Travel, Worldwide

What I Won’t Miss About Living in Ecuador

– The diversity of people (predominantly one ethnicity unlike the melting pot in the States)

– Being stared at for being “tall” and “blonde”

– Having to watch my step, worry about breaking my ankle walking on the sidewalk

– Whistles, Car Horns/Alarms, Random Firework Shows every single night

– The no sense of time philosophy shared by every Ecuadorian

– Stores opening and closing whenever they feel like it

– Having to pay for “agua sin gas” (water) at every meal

– Holding my backpack like it was a baby on the bus in fear of it being slashed (aka having to be overprotective of belongings)

– Public breast-feeding

– Public urination

– Being asked for change when I presented a $5 bill or larger

– Nescafe or any of their coffee

– Fake ketchup

– The supermarket being crowded at any time of day

– Lack of personal space

– Coup Attempts

– Squeezing onto the buses and being packed lack a sardine

– The fact that insulation did not exist in the houses, meaning it felt like the Arctic in my bedroom

– The machismo personality (gawking and throwing pick-up lines at every ‘pretty’ girl)

– No seat-belts, No speed limits, No rules of the road

– Having to dart out of the ways of cars, not having the right of way as a pedestrian

– Having to throw away the toilet paper in a trash can rather than in the toilet

– Not having hot water in the faucets or showers (electric showers)

– Indoor smoking is still allowed in business/bars

– Having to haggle for anything (food, taxi fare, any item you wanted to purchase)

– Being begged for money at every corner, street light or on the bus

– Being sold/or asked to buy candy or food at every corner, street light or on the bus

– The lack of seasons

– Having to see stray dogs and homeless everywhere

– Lack of any spicy food

– Rice

– Not being able to eat salad for fear of contracting a parasite

– Slow walkers – they definitely take their time getting to and from places

– The scary stories of rape, robberies, slashed purses, drugs, etc

– Wondering whether or not the laundry people actually washed my clothes or not

– Being told not to walk around at night after 7 pm by myself

– No sense of common courtesy (knowing what the point of a line means, waiting your turn)

– The mission it is to pickup a package

– Overpriced imports (candy from the United States)

– Lack of laundry machines in the house, having to take it to the cleaners who may or may not even wash them

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Facts, Food, Global, History, International, Latin America // South America, Sites, Tips, Tour, Travel, Worldwide

Underwater Pictures – Galapagos Islands

Since I’ve returned to the States I have been able to develop the film from my underwater camera that I took to the Galapagos Islands. Here is what I discovered captured on my roll:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Global, International, Latin America // South America, Nature, Outdoors, Sites, Tour, Travel, Worldwide

Video: Galapagos Islands – Darwin’s Land

To finish up the Galapagos Islands Series, I have made a video of the voyage.

I hope you have enjoyed the adventure just as much as I did.

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Filed under Activities, Ecuador, Facts, Galapagos Islands, Global, History, International, Latin America // South America, Nature, Outdoors, Sites, Tips, Tour, Travel, Worldwide