Go Backpacking http://gobackpacking.com Around the World Travel Blog Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Scarred & the Beautiful, Jammu & Kashmir http://gobackpacking.com/scarred-beautiful-jammu-kashmir/ http://gobackpacking.com/scarred-beautiful-jammu-kashmir/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=25846&preview_id=25846 The Scarred & the Beautiful, Jammu& Kashmir. from Harshit Vishwakarma “‘The Scarred & the Beautiful’ is a reflection of the state Jammu & Kashmir away from the conflict. Shot on iPhone 5s.”

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The Scarred & the Beautiful, Jammu& Kashmir. from Harshit Vishwakarma

“‘The Scarred & the Beautiful’ is a reflection of the state Jammu & Kashmir away from the conflict. Shot on iPhone 5s.”

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DrinkAdvisor: A Mobile App Showcasing the World’s Best Bars http://gobackpacking.com/drinkadvisor-app-best-bars/ http://gobackpacking.com/drinkadvisor-app-best-bars/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=25893&preview_id=25893 DrinkAdvisor is a free and comprehensive mobile app available for both iPhone and Android that delivers bar listings for over 200 cities worldwide.

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DrinkAdvisor app

As travelers, we’re familiar with feeling like the new guys or gals in town, but that doesn’t mean we need to settle for any old bar or dance club when it’s time for a night out.

Enter DrinkAdvisor, a comprehensive, and more importantly free, mobile app available for both iPhone and Android that delivers high quality bar and club listings for over 200 of the world’s largest cities.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, it’s quick and easy to get started. Users have the option of signing in with Facebook, Twitter or Google+, or if they prefer, registering with an email address. You also have the option to skip registration.

Inside, you’ll find a beautifully designed experience. Navigation is simple, clear and intuitive, making it easy to use and find what you’re looking for.

The home page features icons for the main sections, including:

  • Bar listings (the heart and soul of the app)
  • Drinks
  • Cocktails
  • Reviews
  • Friends
  • Events
  • Favorites

Filtering optionsSpeakeasy listing in NYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My home base of Medellín, Colombia hasn’t been added yet, so I set my sights (or should I say fingers) on New York City, where I’ll be headed in late August to visit my brother and friends.

Seeing as how the app is building content based on the largest cities first, it’s important that it features a robust search and filtering system.

DrinkAdvisor features 28 options for narrowing down the list of venues to exactly the kind you’re after.

I filtered NYC based on two of my favorite types, the speakeasy and the rooftop bar.

The results loaded quickly, set to a default order based on user ratings. I began clicking on the listings one by one to see more photos, the locations and read the concise and informative descriptions.

The business hours are also available for every day of the week, which means no searching the web or guesswork if you want to confirm a place you like is open when you want to go.

From each bar listing, it’s possible to take any number of actions including favoriting the place for offline viewing (key if you’re not around WiFi and don’t have local data coverage), checking in, listing a new event there, leaving a review and viewing user-submitted photos (or uploading your own).

Listing for The Blind Barber Listing for The Blind Barber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like the fact that the content and bar listings are curated, yet there’s room for crowdsourcing user reviews and photos. I always feel as though that approach brings more balance to what’s recommended.

There were more than enough listings for me to choose some favorites convenient to where I’ll be staying in NYC, and I’m sure my brother and friends haven’t heard of some of these places, despite living there.

According to DrinkAdvisor, new bars are being added daily.

The Drinks section lists popular liquors like whisky, vodka, rum, gin, tequila, as well as sake and beer. Each drink type includes fun facts about how to drink them, how they’re made, and an introduction to global brands.

If you’re sitting in a bar waiting for friends or a date to arrive, this section could be fun to read. You might even pick up a fact or two to use that night.

The Reviews section is also worth reading. It as a similar format to a blog, with stories published regularly on topics like “The world’s most expensive nightclubs” and “The world’s top ten best selling cocktails.”

If you’re feeling in the mood to mix your own drinks, there’s the Cocktails section with popular drink recipes.

We live in a social world, so it’s no surprise to see the app offers various ways to connect with your friends, either through Facebook or Twitter. There’s even an event-planning functionality that lets you use the app to organize get togethers.

Drinking and nightlife are a big part of most travelers’ agenda, whether you’re living it up for a few days of vacation, or on a multi-month journey around the world.

To stay up-to-date with the coolest places to enjoy a drink as you travel, or even in your home town, download the free DrinkAdvisor app in iTunes or Google Play.

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This post was brought to you by DrinkAdvisor.

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Afghanistan http://gobackpacking.com/afghanistan/ http://gobackpacking.com/afghanistan/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=25844&preview_id=25844 Afghanistan from Mikai Danger Karl “Afghanistan: a country misunderstood, depressed by conflict, fighting for stability. A country, thought of as inhospitable, is in fact home to some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. Yes, there has been war, their country has been torn, but they are a strong people, just like any […]

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Afghanistan from Mikai Danger Karl

“Afghanistan: a country misunderstood, depressed by conflict, fighting for stability. A country, thought of as inhospitable, is in fact home to some of the most hospitable people I have ever met. Yes, there has been war, their country has been torn, but they are a strong people, just like any other, searching for peace among this chaotic world.

I went to Afghanistan in April of 2014 looking to see the real nature of this country. This is what I found.”

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La Paz in Under 24 Hours http://gobackpacking.com/la-paz-bolivia/ http://gobackpacking.com/la-paz-bolivia/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:31:34 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=25194 I arrived in Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) with little time to spare. My 2012 journey across South America, from Uruguay through Argentina, Chile and now Bolivia was drawing to a close. The time crunch was due to a scheduled trip into the Peruvian Amazon. Before leaving the semi-tropical warmth of Santa Cruz de […]

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La Paz

The author’s first view of La Paz, Bolivia

I arrived in Nuestra Señora de La Paz (Our Lady of Peace) with little time to spare.

My 2012 journey across South America, from Uruguay through Argentina, Chile and now Bolivia was drawing to a close. The time crunch was due to a scheduled trip into the Peruvian Amazon.

Before leaving the semi-tropical warmth of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, I posted a message on Facebook asking friends what I should see and do during my less than 24 hours in the Bolivian capital.

More than one suggested I find a way into San Pedro Prison, an idea I was willing to entertain given I trusted the two friends suggesting it, but more on that later.

View from my plane upon arrival at El Alto airport in La Paz

View from my plane upon arrival at El Alto airport in La Paz

Flying Into La Paz

I flew into La Paz’s El Alto International Airport (4,061 m/13,325 ft), the highest international airport and the fifth highest commercial airport in the world, on Boliviana de Aviacíon, arriving mid-afternoon.

Due to the thinner air at such a high altitude, the runway is much longer than you’d find at a normal airport. It took a noticeably longer amount of time for us to land. The brief and inexpensive flight saved me one to two days worth of bus rides on what I read were bad roads.

The city of La Paz is actually located 8km away from the airport, down in a valley.

The good news is the altitude is slightly less when you’re in the city center than at the airport, but given I was coming from Santa Cruz, which was close to sea level, a few hundred meters wasn’t going to make a big difference to my body.

I knew I had a few hours worth of adrenaline and energy to work with before the elevation would wear me down.

I acquired a taxi, and we made our way down to the city center.

I had decided to stay at Wild Rover Hostel as it had the highest customer rating on Hostelworld. Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.

There are no stand-outs when it comes to hostels in La Paz, so despite it being a party hostel, I decided to grin and bear it for a night.

Photo at a scenic outlook, check

Photo at a scenic outlook, check

City Views

My belongings dropped off in a small dorm room at the Wild Rover, it was time to make the most of the few hours of daylight that were left.

I flagged down another taxi, and asked him to head for the scenic outlook point. My first priority was some macro shots of the city as a whole.

View of the soccer stadium

View of the soccer stadium

The lookout point offered exactly the kind of views I was after, and while the skies were overcast, there was still enough light left to get some decent photos.

It was interesting to see how the more modern apartment buildings had been erected around the soccer stadium. It was clearly one of the wealthier parts of the city.

Park opposite San Pedro Prison

Park opposite San Pedro Prison

San Pedro Prison

Returning to the same taxi, which I’d asked to wait for me, I directed the driver to San Pedro Prison.

He dropped me off in a small, unassuming park across the street, where I didn’t quite know what to do with myself.

To read about why I wanted to visit South America’s most notorious prison, and what happened when I tried that afternoon, check out my review of Marching Powder.

Dried llama fetuses

Dried llama fetuses

Witches’ Market

Drawn by the knowledge that you can find dried llama fetuses there, I headed to the Witches’ Market next.

It sounds ominous, but the market is nothing more than a collection of shops selling herbal remedies, and yes, llama fetuses to be used as offerings in religious ceremonies.

“Follow me, follow me” dust

On the comical side of the product spectrum, these shops also sell what’s marketed as a variety of different dusts with magical properties.

The cartoonish imagery and colors on the boxes reminded me of when I was a kid, and you’d see special “x-ray” glasses for sale in the back of Mad Magazine and other such children’s magazines.

But, given the amount of money the vitamin and supplement industry is making in the US these days, who am I to question Bolivians’ desire to improve sexual function.

Religious, commercial and residential buildings juxtaposed in downtown in La Paz

Religious, commercial and residential buildings juxtaposed in downtown in La Paz

Iglesia de San Francisco

From the Witches’ Market, I walked down to Iglesia de San Francisco, a Catholic church built between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Luck was on my side, as the church only opens at 4pm daily. I was able to take a quick peek in side (it’s quite dark), before stepping back out onto the busy plaza for additional photos.

Iglesia de San Francisco at sunset

Iglesia de San Francisco at sunset

The sky was changing colors as the sun began to set. I watched as rush hour unfolded around me.

Nightfall was near, and while I didn’t want to be wandering around without reason, I pushed onward to squeeze in a few more historical sites before calling it quits.

Bolivia's Presidential Palace

Bolivia’s Presidential Palace

Presidential Palace

The yellow and white Presidential Palace looked grand lit up at night. Across the street is a park, which offers the opportunity to get wide photos of the facade.

Church next to the Presidential Palace

Church next to the Presidential Palace

There’s also a church next to it, the photo of which I love given the color of the sky at that moment.

La Casona

La Casona

Dinner at La Casona

My last stop of the night, before heading back to the Wild Rover hostel, was La Casona (938 Mariscal Santa Cruz), a restaurant housed in a former monastery.

If I was only going to eat one dinner in La Paz, I wanted it to be at one of the best places known for serving traditional Bolivian cuisine.

I began by ordering a local craft beer called Saya.

The menu offered plenty of traditional dishes, including wild trout and chicharron, but once my eye caught the llama, I knew what I was ordering. I’d eaten alpaca several times in Peru, and wanted to see if there was a difference.

In this case, it was simply grilled, and served with a bordelaise cream sauce.

Llama, rice and fries

Llama, rice and fries

I wasn’t blown away by the presentation, along with white rice and fries, but the meat itself tasted fine.

Feeling good about my last night in Bolivia, I finished the dinner with an ice cream sundae.

The total bill, including a soup of the day I’d ordered as an appetizer, and a bottle of water was $18. See their listing on TripAdvisor for more current reviews.

La Paz bus terminal

La Paz bus terminal

Departing La Paz

The next morning I was up at sunrise. I showered and hailed a taxi to the unheated La Paz bus terminal, where I caught my two-day bus back to Lima.

It would be the longest bus ride of my life, leaving me tired, sick and with what would turn out to be an incredibly painful back injury upon arrival in the Peruvian capital.

If you have more time than I did, check out these additional tips for things to do in La Paz.

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Berlin: “The People Run this City” http://gobackpacking.com/berlin-the-people-run-this-city/ http://gobackpacking.com/berlin-the-people-run-this-city/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=25841&preview_id=25841 Berlin: “The people run this city” from 365 docobites “A short documentary about Alice Phoebe Lou, an enchanting busker from the streets of Berlin. Alice arrived in Berlin with 500 euros in her pocket and knew how to play just, “a few chords.” She shares her story of how she went from playing underground in […]

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Berlin: “The people run this city” from 365 docobites

“A short documentary about Alice Phoebe Lou, an enchanting busker from the streets of Berlin. Alice arrived in Berlin with 500 euros in her pocket and knew how to play just, “a few chords.”

She shares her story of how she went from playing underground in the subways under her breath to being amplified to crowds of hundreds of random Strangers in Mauer Park.

She also shares the current struggle that is facing street performers in Berlin and how she wants to use her voice to do something about it.”

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The Road to Halabja Part XI – Smugglers & Turkey’s Lovely Embrace http://gobackpacking.com/road-to-halabja-smugglers-turkey/ http://gobackpacking.com/road-to-halabja-smugglers-turkey/#comments Thu, 10 Jul 2014 12:00:50 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=25827 This is Part 11 of an 11-part series on traveling in Iraq by Kevin Post. Read Part Ten here, or Part One to start from the beginning. he line of cars and trucks carrying petroleum attempting to cross Turkey’s border was unlike any border crossing I’ve ever seen. The taxi I took facilitated the border crossing because these drivers […]

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The author (center) with employees at a bus station in Silopi, Turkey

The author (center) with employees at a bus station in Silopi, Turkey

This is Part 11 of an 11-part series on traveling in Iraq by Kevin Post. Read Part Ten here, or Part One to start from the beginning.

The line of cars and trucks carrying petroleum attempting to cross Turkey’s border was unlike any border crossing I’ve ever seen.

The taxi I took facilitated the border crossing because these drivers make the trips frequently and are well-known by officials on both sides of the border.

It dawned on me that I was traveling for the sake of travel while everyone else was traveling due to unfortunate circumstances or for economic gain.

Before I put my backpack into the trunk my driver handed me several cartons of cigarettes to put into my near empty backpack. I didn’t see any reason not to but was later told that smuggling cigarettes across the Iraqi border was frowned upon.

I pulled out my notebook filled with scribbled transliterations of Sorani Kurdish to facilitate our conversation but was asked to toss it before arriving towards the Turkish border as if I should have known better.

We crossed the bridge separating Iraq from Turkey and I began tearing out sheet after sheet of my notebook and ceremoniously tossed all of it into the river below.

My time came to report to the Turkish military. Turkey is the most welcoming country I have ever visited but not at this border. I could now see why I was encouraged to toss my notes into the river.

All of my possessions including my photos were taken from me and analyzed without me being present. I was sent to wait in a concrete bunker because many questions remained to be asked before I could cross.

Four hours of waiting as the night brought an arid chill. I knew the interrogation was coming and probably deserved it.

The Turkish government was most concerned that I would have Kurdish propaganda or pro-Kurdish nationalist tendencies.

The soldier, whom spoke flawless English, seemed to notice that there was no fear on my end and that I was happy to be returning to Turkey. I firmly shook his hand and caught a taxi into Silopi.

I was the only person at the bus stop ready to purchase my ticket to Ankara. I made friends with the attendants and drivers just from talking about football.

They put me on a van without telling me where I was going which would have alarmed me anywhere else but not here. I was taken to a party in a run down part of Silopi to have tea, eat some bread, practice my Kurdish and sit in a living room illuminated by candles with the sounds of generators in the distance.

Not 20 minutes later I was hurried back into the van back to the bus station to catch my bus to Ankara. My understanding was that they wanted to introduce their friends to a foreigner.

It happened so fast but the people I briefly met in Silopi gave me a lovely farewell.

To me it was no farewell; it was Turkey’s lovely embrace.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Series: The Road to Halabja

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The Road to Halabja Part X – Kurdish Farewell http://gobackpacking.com/road-to-halabja-kurdish-farewell/ http://gobackpacking.com/road-to-halabja-kurdish-farewell/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:00:36 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=25822 This is Part Ten of an 11-part series on traveling in Iraq by Kevin Post. Read Part Nine here, or Part One to start from the beginning. ahmed’s intuition served us well and we finally found a dimly lit rest area far more primitive to other rest stops and gas stations I was accustomed to seeing while in […]

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Kurdish flag in Zakho

Kurdish flag in Zakho

This is Part Ten of an 11-part series on traveling in Iraq by Kevin Post. Read Part Nine here, or Part One to start from the beginning.

Mahmed’s intuition served us well and we finally found a dimly lit rest area far more primitive to other rest stops and gas stations I was accustomed to seeing while in Iraq and covered in photos of Kurdish nationalistic icons.

I couldn’t see anything on this dark night with the exceptions of aircraft above the mountains. Although I am not particularly religious I am happy that we stopped to pray; I enjoyed the silence and the lack of light pollution.

I broke the silence while in the car asking about the photos of these Kurdish heroes and political figureheads. The discussion turned into contradiction to what I knew of the Kurdish struggle for a homeland and I soon began to learn after further research how divided the Kurds were in many ways.

Throughout the Kurdish inhabited regions of Turkey, Syria and Iraq I was reminded of the idea that Kurds were united but many of those I had spoken with have proclaimed contrarily to this belief.

Politics, tribal loyalties, geopolitical boundaries, language and alphabets (yes, there are disagreements as to which alphabet they should use) are prohibitions for a dream of Kurdish nationalism.

The border town of Zakho is about a four-hour drive from Arbil but this trip took longer than expected due to continual military checkpoints and I was running out of things to say.

We were mostly silent the rest of the night from exhaustion, language barriers and cultural misunderstandings before checking into a hotel outside of Duhok.

Everything about my last few days in Iraq was on the contrary to what I had believed before I arrived.

Based on the images I saw on the news I thought Iraq was desolate which is far from the truth at least in the north. Springs, rivers, alpine like mountains, snow, flowers and an abundance of fruits were commonplace. In some places I felt as if I were in the Alps.

My last day was near-perfect in Iraq-KRG with a Friday sermon in a mosque, one of the most exquisite feasts I’ve ever had, a swim in a springs and a welcoming spirit from the locals that is hard to beat.

I can see this place hosting many a traveler in search for a beauty surrounded by misconception.

We have all seen some of the most dangerous cities on earth turn into phenomenal destinations (does Medellín ring a bell?) and Iraq definitely has something that every traveler will be able to look forward to.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Series: The Road to Halabja

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Hiking Colca Canyon: A Test of Endurance in Peru http://gobackpacking.com/colca-canyon-peru/ http://gobackpacking.com/colca-canyon-peru/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 16:02:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=25854 In Ryan Hiraki's first post for Go Backpacking, he goes hiking in Colca Canyon, Peru's 13,650-foot deep canyon outside of Arequipa.

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One of the best hikes I've ever made happened at Colca Canyon

One of the best hikes I’ve ever made happened at Colca Canyon

Editor’s Note: This is the first post by Ryan Hiraki, a new contributor at Go Backpacking and the Managing Editor of Medellín Living.

The day starts at 3 a.m., so early you begin to wonder if you’re really on vacation.

If you’re by yourself, like I was, you get in a van with a handful of strangers, a driver and a tour guide, then head three hours into the desert. We went northwest of Arequipa, I found out later, but at the time I could barely function.

This trip to Peru’s Colca Canyon better be worth it, I thought, then I fell back asleep.

I woke up again when we arrived at Chivay, the little town where you pay your entrance to the national park. It’s 40 soles for South Americans (about $14), 75 for other foreigners (about $27).

That didn’t include the 150 soles (about $27) I had already paid at my hostel for the trip, which covered the guide fee, most my meals, my lodging and my transportation.

The first meal was breakfast, something very basic, just bread and jam, tea and coffee, cheese and ham (or at least what I thought was ham). I was too tired to care.

I didn’t really wake up until we got to Cruz del Condor, the lookout point where those big and magnificent birds soar and swirl and dive, like the fighter jets in “Top Gun.”

It was hard to take a picture, but I got a few decent, if not great, ones.

A condor flies by as visitors try to take its picture. I did OK, I guess.

A condor flies by as visitors try to take its picture. I did OK, I guess.

Now we were ready to hike down into Colca Canyon, to do six hours of trekking, starting at Cabanaconde.

It starts off easy enough. You just follow a dirt path that descends into the canyon, measured at 13,650 feet deep. The Grand Canyon is 6,000 feet deep.

About a half hour into the hike, you notice an oasis in the basin of the canyon, a place the river passes with green trees, red roofs and blue pools, the place we would spend the night.

Only five and a half more hours to go.

On the way down you’re trying your best to watch your footing, to make sure you don’t slip on the loose dirt and rock, and a couple of times, I almost did. But I made it to the first bridge unscathed, where we took a short break.

I’m happy we did because the hike was about to get a little tougher.

We had to walk up a steep path, not too long a path, but the 50-degree incline made it seem that way, made it seem like it was taking forever. I was pretty short of breath when I made it to the top, a reminder that I’m in good shape, not great shape, not yet.

The path leveled out again as we headed to our next stop, lunch, something everyone could use by then after the paltry breakfast. We had alpaca saltado, a popular dish in this region of Peru, the alpaca meat replacing the beef normally used in the recipe.

I had already tried alpaca a handful of times on my trip to the country, which began on June 13, my first time trying it coming in Cusco at a restaurant called Uchu.

Alpacas are abundant...and delicious.

Alpacas are abundant…and delicious.

Oops, wrong photo…

This was the best alpaca I had in Peru. Thank you, Uchu.

This was the best alpaca I had in Perú. Thank you, Uchu.

There we go. As my friend Brent says, “It’s so dang good!”

Happy it was part of my lunch, I was ready for the next part of the trek, the last time we would have to walk uphill on this day.

The incline wasn’t as steep, maybe 40 degrees this time, but by then I was a little tired so it was just as hard, so I took my time until I arrived at a tienda at the top.

I stocked up on snacks and granola bars because Markos, our guide, told us we would hike up and out of the canyon the next day before we ate breakfast.

Three granola bars, a four-pack of Chips Ahoy, and a big bottle of water later, we were back on the path.

It was a dirt road that remained level until we got close to our destination: Sangalle El Oasis.

We could see the oasis from the end of the road, where another dirt path down into Colca Canyon began.

I realized, as I was watching my footing, that we had hiked all the down into the canyon, then halfway up, and we were about to hike back down, a day of endurance that I would always remember.

Seeing Sangalle El Oasis, in the middle of a canyon, was fascinating.

Seeing Sangalle El Oasis, in the middle of a canyon, was fascinating.

Getting there wasn’t the same as getting to Ahm Shere, the fictional oasis in “The Mummy Returns,” but we felt like we had accomplished something pretty special.

We had hiked up and down, braved the early morning cold and the midday heat, shifted from hungry to momentarily full to hungry yet again, and we all kept going.

We got to know each other a bit too. In my group there was a couple from the states, a girl from France, a guy from Germany and two Israelis.

And then there was Markos, our guide, only 19 but looked 15, with enough English to explain everything to the people who didn’t speak Spanish.

As we arrived at the common area of our cabana village, we noticed it was packed, everyone watching the end of the U.S.-Belgium game.

The U.S. team put up a valiant fight, but fell 2-1 in overtime. They proved, though, that they are a team to watch in the future as Coach Jürgen Klinsmann, the former German National Team coach, has his players transitioning to a more attacking style of football.

After the game, we relaxed until dinner, which started with soup, followed with a entrée of rice and some kind of stew, then ended with a Jell-O-like desert that I was not sure of and did not care to ask about, because by then I was dead tired.

It was only 8 p.m. but we had to wake up the next day well before dawn. It was time for bed.

Markos knocked on our doors at 4:30 a.m., just like he said he would, and we met in the common area 15 minutes later, ready for our faux breakfast. I had a granola bar and the Chips Ahoy I had bought the day before.

It was time, Markos announced, by saying, “Vamos!”

He lent me his light, the kind you strap to your forehead, because I did not have one and it was quite dark.

It was huge help. Today would be nothing but up, up and more up, and did I mention we’d be walking up? Without the light, I’m sure I would have slipped and fallen at least a few times, something clumsy people like me do.

I took several breaks along the way but kept on pushing. To entertain myself I thought of “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

Specifically I thought about the part where Ricky gives that long and silly grace before their delicious meal of KFC and Taco Bell, and how one of his boys — can’t remember if it was Walker or Texas Ranger — says, “You really made that grace your bitch, dad.”

I wanted to do the same with Colca Canyon so I kept trudging along, finally making it to the top three and a half hours later. We all took pics at the top, me doing the gangster pose, just to be silly.

The rest of the day would be easy. Highlights: breakfast — this time with eggs! — a stop at one of Colca Canyon’s best lookout points, and a brief visit to the pueblo of Maca, where I held a falcon.

The falcon is used to people. Look how indifferent he is.

The falcon is used to people. Look how indifferent he is.

I stayed awake along the entire ride back to Arequipa, which actually included two more stops, one at the highest point along the route, where stood at 16,000 feet and saw the volcanoes surrounding the area, one of them still active.

The other stop was at an alpaca and llama preserve.

Again, I stayed awake, while others fell back asleep. I wanted to be able to sleep on the overnight bus to Lima.

It was already dark when we got to downtown Arequipa, unlike my arrival there two days earlier, when I got to see dusk decorate the Basilica Cathedral.

As I headed back to my hostel, my legs were hurting, but not too bad, not like they were when I made it to the top of the canyon, and even then the burn didn’t last long.

The pain sort of fades away when the rising sun floods the canyon with such a pretty white light.

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Lost in Taiwan http://gobackpacking.com/lost-taiwan/ http://gobackpacking.com/lost-taiwan/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 12:00:35 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com/?p=25849 Lost In Taiwan from Salvatore “The proper and justifiable country to pay homage to the Cyberpunk genre would definitely be Japan. Though I really doubt I would be visiting Japan again anytime soon and exploiting this genre was on the ‘to do list’. Taiwan on the other hand has her fair share of neon lights, […]

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Lost In Taiwan from Salvatore

“The proper and justifiable country to pay homage to the Cyberpunk genre would definitely be Japan. Though I really doubt I would be visiting Japan again anytime soon and exploiting this genre was on the ‘to do list’.

Taiwan on the other hand has her fair share of neon lights, dark motifs and loud colours. Accompanied by a virtual theme prevalent in the cities’ urbanization, Taiwan to me felt like a pre-modernized Japan.

Walking in Keelung (Taipei) felt like stepping into a scene from Spirited Away (Miyazaki). This fact also goes in tandem with Taiwan’s less polished culture which might have resulted in it’s people being more endearing and affectionate.

Despite it’s extremely erratic weather, Taiwan was a pleasure. Great people, great conversations, great night-life and most importantly great food. I hope you enjoy my very own version of Bladerunner.”

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The Road to Halabja Part IX – Iraqi Hitchhikers & A Life of Prayers http://gobackpacking.com/road-to-halabja-hitchhikers-prayers/ http://gobackpacking.com/road-to-halabja-hitchhikers-prayers/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 12:00:00 +0000 http://gobackpacking.com?p=25816&preview_id=25816 This is Part Nine of an 11-part series on traveling in Iraq by Kevin Post. Read Part Eight here, or Part One to start from the beginning. alabja was solemn, beautiful and worthy of the trip. Although I recommend everyone visit while in Iraq to pay their respects I do not recommended staying there for more than […]

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Hiking outside of Zakho

Hiking outside of Zakho

This is Part Nine of an 11-part series on traveling in Iraq by Kevin Post. Read Part Eight here, or Part One to start from the beginning.

Halabja was solemn, beautiful and worthy of the trip.

Although I recommend everyone visit while in Iraq to pay their respects I do not recommended staying there for more than a day without exploring the surrounding areas because it can get depressing.

One of the worst of many tragedies in Kurdish history occurred in Halabja and every street corner I was reminded of the horrendous acts committed by Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party.

The town is still recovering from poisonous chemicals found in the soil and has been converted from Fertile Crescent to a destination for pilgrims paying respect to the slaughtered. I could imagine a similar feeling while visiting a WWII concentration camp or a gulag.

Halabja’s surroundings and the people I met were my favorite aspect of the visit. I like to think my visit contributed positively to that town but after several hours of mourning I was ready to leave.

We picked up hitchhikers on the trip back to Arbil and that was by far the highlight of my trip.

Mohammad could sense that I wanted to pick them up so he gave me a gesture that certainly suggested, “Do you mind if they ride with us?”

Either that or Mohammad just wanted to speak with someone in Kurdish. I excitedly agreed.

I laughed to myself because if I were to go back in time and tell my high school self that I would be picking up hitchhikers in Iraq I wouldn’t have believed it.

The hitchhikers we picked up were farmers and as they were thanking Mohammad he insisted, “Don’t thank me, thank Kevin!”

Immediately they looked at me, thanked me in unison and from what I understood I was invited to a wedding.

We listened to traditional Kurdish music and everyone sang along including me even though I didn’t know the words. It felt so liberating to leave such a solemn place and celebrate life on this Iraqi road trip.

I have a feeling that if I spoke Kurdish we would still keep in touch to this day.

Upon arrival in Arbil I excitedly told my hosts about my trip to Halabja and explained to Mohammad via interpreter how the trip made me feel and how it was such an honor to spend time with him. As I went to pay him for assisting me on my journey he refused which led to a ceremonious plea to take my money.

Now that I look back it could be that Kurds also partake in the tradition of taarof: a set of rules and social etiquette, which can be quite confusing to us living in the West.

After saying my goodbyes to the Turkish and Kurdish engineers I left with Mohammad for Zakho along the Turkish border. It was already nightfall and there was news that the Turkish military had intensified their offensive again Kurdish PKK rebels within Iraq.

We were advised to be cautious and not stop in areas that weren’t well populated or lit. While listening to what I assumed was the Kurdish version of National Public Radio and driving at high speeds on the surprising well-paved road, Mahmed felt the need to stop and pray. I was exhausted and wanted to return to Turkey to be with my more secular minded friends.

“We were advised not to stop,” I reminded Mahmed with my attempt to arrive quickly to Zakho for the night. A man of faith such as Mahmed couldn’t fathom not praying at this time and frantically looked for a place where we could stop to do so. The road had no lighting for as far as we could see.

After minutes of bickering amongst the other passengers in the car Mahmed decided to turn onto a dirt road without any visible signs or addresses posted. We drove many a km on a dirt road with a conflict going on several miles from us.

“Allah will guide us” were the final, confident words uttered before we sat in silence hoping to find that mosque.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Series: The Road to Halabja

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