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Travel notes and tips

We normally use Lonely Planet Guides as we find them reliable. The ‘Place to stay’ section is extremely useful, especially in less touristy areas. However, don’t rely too much on the prices—in real life they always seem to be 20% more than those quoted in the even the latest edition.

We are not trying to write a guide book here or to repeat what they say, but rather to pass on snippets of practical information  based on our experience. You may not necessarily agree with us, but nevertheless we hope it will be helpful for those planning to visit these places.

You are welcome to contact us for more specific information or share your travel experiences.

Nepal Annapurna Base Camp trekking

22 March - 1 April 2008 (11 days)

There are tons of hiking/camping shops in Kathmandu so you don’t really need to bring everything from home. We hired sleeping bags and walking sticks and bought sleeping bag liners, waterproof trousers and water bottles. It’s better to get the gear in Kathmandu as there are not so many shops in Pokhara.

Walking sticks are a must especially for going downhill. Icy and slippery tracks are common in spring time above Himalaya lodge and up towards the Annapurna Base Camp where snow is possible.

Hiking boots are advisable at higher levels where the mules don’t go. It’s slippery when raining or when the snow melts. At lower levels hiking shoes are fine if you don’t like boots. The mule tracks are not rugged or rocky.

Lunch is eaten at teahouses and it’s best for everyone to order the same dish otherwise you may have to wait a long time for food to arrive, thereby wasting trekking time in the afternoon. The best dish for lunch is dal baht—this is what the porters and guides eat every meal. It’s basically rice with lentils, sauce and maybe some pickles. It is the only dish for which you can have second (or third) helpings. Chicken is the most common meat, if there is any, but don’t rely on finding it. Meat is not readily available at all.

For variety, we (three of us) shared different dishes in the evening. There’s plenty of time for dinner as there is nothing much to do in the evening. Momo (dumplings) make a good starter.

Basic toiletries, toilet rolls, slippers, etc can be bought at all villages up until Chhomrong.

Bottled water is available until Chhomrong. Plastic bottles are not allowed from this point onwards. Teahouses will sell boiled water to you for the hike. At the lower villages, teahouses may fill your bottles with boiled water so you don’ need to buy bottled water. Make sure your water bottles can handle boiling water.

Bring reading material to pass the time. A typical day ends in mid afternoon. Most teahouses/guest houses don’t have electricity at night so it’s difficult to read.

You’ll need one torch per person for going to Poon Hill before sunrise, and for bathroom trips.

Recharging batteries is possible in guest houses up until Chhomrong when there is electricity. You may or may not need to pay, depending on the guest house.

NEPA MAPS - Annapurna Base Camp is the only decent map but even this is not wholly accurate or up-to-date. Paths may change because of landslides, and detours are not mentioned. On our map, the village of Deurali after Ghorepani was missing entirely!

On the trek, greet locals on the trek with ‘Namaste’, meaning good day. You must give way to mules or they will mow you down. Children appreciate sweets.

If you are staying in Tadapani, don’t miss the sunrise as the mountains are closer than at Poon Hill...plus you don’t need to walk.

In spring it’s clear in the morning but gets disappointingly hazy as the day wears on. The ideal time is autumn when the skies are clear after the summer monsoon rains.

If time allows, it’s better to rest one whole day in Chhomrong to acclimatise before going further up towards MBC and ABC.

Sunrise at Tadapani

Dal baht lunch

Slippery trek from Deurali to Himalaya

Snowing from MBC to Deurali

Click to see trekking mapfile://localhost/Users/tersina/Sites/jontersina/nepal2008/abctrekkingmap.html

Click for Nepal photo albumfile://localhost/Users/tersina/Sites/jontersina/nepal2008/nepal/nepal.html

Galapagos cruise

5 - 12 October 2008 (8 days)

The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 big islands, 6 smaller islands and hundreds of rocks and islets. Some of them are quite far apart and no one operator will visit all sites. A typical 8-day cruise would be the best choice if you have time as it allows you to see most of the wildlife in the Galapagos.

Each boat has its own itinerary as agreed with/approved by the Authority to ensure there won’t be too many boats turning up at the same site at one time. Some smaller islands have restrictions on the number of visitors that can land, so boats with say 100 passengers may not be allowed to visit them at all. Note that bigger boats (20 passengers) can go faster so they are able to visit the more distant islands.

Some species are endemic to one island. If they are what you are after, you must choose an operator that visit these islands. For example, red-footed boobies are only found on Genovesa, while flightless cormorants can only be seen on Fernandina. Similarly, land iguanas can only be seen on North Seymour (there are some captive ones at the Charles Darwin Research Station though) and hood iguanas on Española Island. Marine iguanas, however, are everywhere.

Telephoto lenses are not essential. The guides know the territories of the animals and you will be able to get very close to them, including some small birds. Our 70-300mm lens was sometimes too long.

Snorkelling is excellent and you should try it if you have a chance. We were first-time snorkellers and we didn’t really enjoy it the first time. But the subsequent times were great. Apart from fish, we saw rays, turtles, sharks and seals. Make sure you have a wetsuit especially in Spring/Autumn time as the water is not that warm. Some operators provide wetsuits for free or hire.

Take precaution for seasickness if you are going to Genovesa and/or Fernandina Islands. The  boats will be sailing overnight in order to reach the destination the next morning and the sea can be rough.

Recharging batteries is possible on boats. Most of them use 110V and US type sockets, as in mainland Ecuador.

Click to see itineraryfile://localhost/Users/tersina/Sites/jontersina/ecuador2008/galapagosmap.html

Click for Galapagos photo albumfile://localhost/Users/tersina/Sites/jontersina/ecuador2008/ecuador/ecuador.html

You can be that close to wildlife

Red-footed booby, only on Genovesa