Officially a Traveler

Officially a Traveler

​It’s been said that you can travel all around the world but you can’t truly call yourself a traveler until you’ve been to India. Well, at 1:30am this morning, as I stepped out into the heavy air of pre-monsoon Delhi, I finally felt I could take on that title.

This won’t be a typical trip to India, however. Charles, my travel companion, and I are heading up to Ladakh, the mountainous and remote northern most part of India, sandwiched between Tibet, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. But first we have to make it through the multiple layers of security guarding the domestic terminal to catch our connecting flight. Security dumps out my entire backpack looking for a miniature lighter just to discover that it’s sitting inside one of the outside pockets. I barely remember throwing it in there at the last minute, along with the camp stove.

Yet another check-point awaits us just before the stairs descending to our gate and the queue is packed with people jostling to get in first. Knowing we have lots of time, we stop at the food court to compare prices of KFC and Starbucks to back home. We spot an elevator hidden in the back and think, hey, let’s see where it goes (this is the kind of trouble Charles and I get into when we travel). Much to our surprise, it pops us out at our gate on the other side of security.

As our flight departs the sun breaks over the horizon and the sight of distant Himalayan giants is breathtaking. Charles has reserved me a window seat with unobstructed views. He’s the best.

In some ways, I feel that I can’t really say we’re in India. Ladakh, the focus of our trip, was an independent kingdom for nine centuries and only became part of India after the end of British rule. Its people are largely Buddhist unlike the Hindu majority elsewhere in India. The dominant language here isn’t Hindi but a descendent of Tibetan and now, with so many Tibetan refugees, Tibetan itself is common.

As the plane touches down I’m grateful to have escaped the heat of Delhi and it strikes me how un-India it is to be in a region that’s home to the second coldest inhabited place on the earth (with record temperatures of -56°C!). Exiting the airport, we haggle over a taxi and as our driver swerves through traffic we’re bombarded by the cacophony of honking horns as cows and stray dogs eat garbage in the street. Our nostrils fill with the acrid smell of burning trash and open sewage drains. Perhaps, yes, this is India after all.

40 Countries

40 Countries

Last year I set a goal of visiting 40 countries by my 40th birthday. Less than 12 months later I find myself in Brazil, celebrating reaching that goal (and early too). I’d thought my 40th country might be somewhere exotic but I couldn’t have chosen a more festive atmosphere than the home of Carnival, especially during the 2016 Rio Olympics. I’m also happy that I got to share the trip with my brother, who loves the Olympics.  Continue reading “40 Countries”

Backpacking from Exshaw to Cougar Creek

Backpacking from Exshaw to Cougar Creek

I was looking for a challenging, largely off-trail backpacking trip to do just before the arrival of summer. The mountains sandwiched between Canmore, an increasingly busy and overgrown former mining town, and Lake Minnewanka, the longest lake in the mountain parks of the Canadian Rockies, are surprisingly untraveled despite being so close to so many people. With three days to spare, I decided to hike a (nearly complete) loop from the industrial town of Exshaw to Canmore’s Cougar Creek. At 60-km long and choked with flood debris, this proved to give me just the right amount of challenge. Continue reading “Backpacking from Exshaw to Cougar Creek”

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

Cycling the Icefield Parkway

I first cycled the Icefield Parkway three years ago with a great group of friends. It was a really fun and memorable trip. We stayed together in hostels and shared delicious meals every night. There were lots of stories and laughter. That trip was at the end of summer and I’ve been thinking about returning to see this famous scenic road in spring ever since. I finally had the chance this year. Continue reading “Cycling the Icefield Parkway”

Backpacking in Utah’s Coyote Gulch

Backpacking in Utah’s Coyote Gulch

I passed through Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument four years ago after visiting some of the classic highlights of the US South West, like the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park. Escalante has far fewer visitors but it’s no less impressive. This rugged landscape, filled with endless twisting canyons, was one of the last areas in the United States to be mapped and explored. I’ve been excited to get a closer look ever since.
Continue reading “Backpacking in Utah’s Coyote Gulch”

Panamint City Ghost Town Backpacking Trip

Panamint City Ghost Town Backpacking Trip

I had the chance to visit Death Valley this spring. I loved exploring the desert, camping and backpacking throughout this vast park. The wildflowers were out-of-this world, adding a splash of colour to such a tranquil landscape. When I heard about the forgotten Panamint City ghost town I was really excited to make a backpacking trip to see it but I had no idea what sort of hike I was in for.
Continue reading “Panamint City Ghost Town Backpacking Trip”