The Time I Lost ALL My Pictures in Peru

2 Oct

I think that my worst nightmare while traveling (other than the obviously fear of dying or getting seriously hurt) is losing my pictures. If there were a phobia for it, I would have it.

I take SO many pictures. I document pretty much everything and anything I see because I want to hold on to the memories I make as long as I possibly can. Looking through my photos albums brings up so many great memories I’ve had in my travels; memories that I couldn’t form solely off of what I have written in my journals.

Anyway, I went to Huaraz in Peru about a month into my trip. I had well over 1000 pictures by this time.

I had pictures of my first days in Peru exploring the capital.

Peruvian pride in central Miraflores, Lima

I had hundreds of pictures from one of my favourite places in the world – Huacachina (want to know more about Huacachina?), Peru – where I made the most amazing friends.

Frolicking about in Huacachina

I had pictures from my digging days and, particularly, of the first artifact I ever found.

The first artifact I have ever found! A sewing needle!

I had pictures of the beautiful Lagunas Llanganucos in Huaraz.

Lagunas Llanganucos in Huaraz, Peru

I basically just had a shitload of awesome pictures that represented my trip so far (about 5 weeks into 7 weeks).

None of my pictures were backed up onto a computer since I decided not to bring one (I will ALWAYS bring a computer from now on. Stupid, STUPID mistake). My pictures were put onto USB drives, but this didn’t matter since they were in the camera case that I left in Huaraz.

Here’s what happened…. After a great long weekend in Huaraz, my friends and I packed up our bags, headed to the bus station, and hopped onto a 10-11 hour bus to Chimbote, Peru.

Now, I had my camera with me. It was sitting loosely (not in the case) in my shoulder bag with a fresh memory card in it. As I went to look through my pictures I realized that I needed to get my other memory cards that were full of all the pictures I had just taken over the weekend. They weren’t in my day bag. Feeling slightly panicked, I believed that they just HAD to be in my camera case in my big backpack. But, as my backpack was stashed away in the luggage compartment, I knew I had to suck it up and just wait until we got to Chimbote to check.

After a quick check in Chimbote, I couldn’t find my camera case.

Once we arrived back to where we were staying in Nepeña, I did a thorough check through my bags and my friends bags. Nothing.

I don’t think I’ve ever cried that much in my life. I was hysterical. It seems so ridiculous to me now, but I was just devastated.

Not only did I lose ALL my memory cards, but I also lost my camera CHARGER and my USB drives that had all my pictures backed up to them.

I had decided that they were gone forever and pretty much cried myself to sleep. I wasn’t even thinking of ways to try and find them.

Then, my friend Hanne, who I am SO grateful for, decided it was worth a shot to call the hostel and see if they could find it.

They did a quick once over of the room we were staying in and couldn’t find it. My life was over. No, really, I felt like my trip was ruined.

Then, by some miracle, they called back later and said the person cleaning the room found a camera case under the bed!

Now, here’s where I need to tell EVERYONE to go to Jo’s Place if they are ever in Huaraz.

Not only did they work hard to find my pictures, but they also sent the camera case on an overnight bus to Chimbote free of charge! I couldn’t believe it.

A few days later, I got my pictures back.

I have never felt such relief as I felt when I opened the package they sent me.

Complete and utter joy was felt when this package arrived

It’s things like these — acts of kindness like this — that gives me such hope for our world.



Packing for Southeast Asia

28 Sep

Last time I went backpacking I packed WAY too much. The six weeks I spent in Peru last summer (2010) was my first real travel experience and I didn’t  know what to expect. I brought things that I didn’t end up using, like my blow dryer and straightener. I even brought high heels, which I never wore once. It really depends on where you’re going and how long you’re going for. If I were going to Paris or London for a month I probably would bring high heels and some more high end clothing. If I were going for six months to a year then I definitely would bring heels and hair appliances.

Not to say that you shouldn’t bring those kinds of items. To each their own. I like to bring my makeup and a lot of people disagree with this decision, but I really don’t care. If I’m more than willing to carry the extra weight then why not?

Sometimes you need to make sacrifices though. I have a huge problem packing light, especially when it comes to clothes. After packing way too much clothes last time and having to throw out a lot of things that I liked, I had to force myself to make good choices when it came to packing for 7 weeks of backpacking around Southeast Asia.

So, here is everything and anything that I brought with me to Southeast Asia.

Note: I decided not to post this until after my trip because then I could tell you what I ended up using or not and what I ended up throwing out. This is my ORIGINAL LIST with descriptions. The words written in red are some comments after the trip was done. So, here’s the list:


  • Shorts (4)- Yes, it’s a lot but I get so much use out of all of them.
  • Jeans (1)- This is probably the biggest ‘controversial’ item of clothing in the backpacking world. Yes, it’s going to be hot in SE Asia, but I always get use out of my jeans. If I don’t? Well, they’re an old pair so I can throw them out if need be. If I ever come back to SE Asia these will not be coming with me. Didn’t wear them once!
  • Black leggings (1)- For those possibly not-so-warm nights. Threw out.

  • Tank tops (4)
  • T-shirts (3)- Only needed one.
  • Long sleeve shirt (1)- Surprisingly got use out of this.
  • Nice shirts (3)- These are shirts that I can dress up or wear casually.
  • Hoodie (1) (not pictured)- For those cold A/C bus nights and for a pillow. Tons of use.
  • Cardigans (2) (not pictured)- Didn’t get any use out of these.

  • Bathing suits (2)
  • Underwear (10)- The more underwear the better, I say.
  • Socks (3)- One white, two black
  • Bras (4)- It sucks being a girl. Strapless, black, pink, and sports bra.

Yeah, I know it may seem like a lot of clothes to bring, but I don’t mind carrying the extra weight and, plus, it all fits into these little netted bags easily which makes them much more compact. These bags were my saviour.


  • Running shoes- Didn’t use.
  • Flip flops for shower
  • Sturdy sandals (2)


  • The Green Sombrero (obviously)
  • Straw fedora
  • Sunglasses
  • Bandana


  • HP Mini Netbook (and case and charger)- Best thing I brought.
  • SD memory cards (3 x 2 GB)
  • Canon Powershot (and case and charger)- Lost it’s life in Vang Vieng, Laos. Bought new, crappy, waterproof Olympus in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Olympus Tough is CRAP, by the way. The waterproof-ness was handy, but the quality of the photos was terrible.
  • iPod touch (and charger and headphones)
  • Plug adapter for SE Asia
  • Old phone for alarm (and charger)
  • USB drive (2)
  • Headlamp- SO much use!


  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Razor
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen- If you need a lot like I did, bring a couple bottles because sunscreen is bloody expensive in Asia.
  • Make-up
  • Body spray (for the days I have to go without showering)
  • Brush and comb- Brush broke half way in. Had that brush for 7+ years. R.I.P.
  • Bobby pins/hair ties
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Band-Aids- Probably went through 100+ Band-Aids.
  • Tylenol


  • Journal and pens
  • Guidebook (not pictured)/phrasebook- Didn’t need the phrasebook. Knowing how to say hello, thank you and maybe a few hand gestures can easily get you through SE Asia.
  • Books (2)- So I can exchange at a book exchange- Man, do I love book exchanges.
  • Money belt- Never used this for some reason. Guess I’m a little too trusting.
  • Travel pillowcase
  • Travel towel
  • Padlock (Not pictured)
  • Gum- Can’t live without it!- Ran out 😦
  • Toilet paper- I’m sure this will be my saviour- It was.
  • Passport, insurance info and contact info- Thank God for getting travel insurance because I broke a foot bone and needed a cast!
  • Passport photos for various visas- Most places ask for 2 photos but you only need one.
  • MONEY, debit card and credit card


  • Day bag
  • Dry sack- Came in handy.
  • Shoulder bag

And everything fits into my backpack perfectly!- By the end of my trip, with souvenirs and such, my pack was overly full, especially with clothes being so cheap in SE Asia.

Once again, I wish I brought less clothes. One day I’ll learn.

And there you have it. Agree or disagree with anything?

The MIA-ness of The Green Sombrero

31 Aug

Sorry for being so MIA over the past 6 weeks.

I had originally planned to blog as I traveled, but that didn’t really work out.

I found it hard to blog because I was moving around so quickly, spending no more than 3 or 4 days in each place. Basically, I didn’t have much time to do anything other than to maximize my time in each place as best as I possibly could in the short time I had.

If I was traveling for, say, a year, I wouldn’t be doing tourist-y things every day and I would have the down time needed to really focus on blogging.

That being said, I’ll be back home in less than a week and I’m ready to blog like crazy. I’ve got a ton of blog posts in line regarding my trip to Southeast Asia along with my continuation of South America posts.

Looking forward to sharing my adventures and many, many mishaps.

Yes, that IS a cast. Broke a foot bone on Koh Phangan in Thailand.

A Colourful Festival in Peru

15 Jul

I decided to go to Huaraz in Peru on a whim. A friend on the archaelogical dig I was working on wanted to go one weekend for a festival she had heard of. She didn’t really know anything about it, but it was enough justification for a small group of us to take Monday off so we could spend a few days there.

Even if we hadn’t stumbled upon a festival when we were there, I would’ve loved it anyway because I found there was so much to do other than trekking, which is what ultimately draws tourists to Huaraz.

Anyway, once we got there we couldn’t find any signs about a festival. It seemed as if there was no festival.

Then, one fateful morning, as we got out of our taxi in front of California Café, we hear a huge ruckus coming from around the corner.

We decide to check it out and, sure enough, there was a parade processing down the main street.

It was wonderful. Such a great way to experience the culture of the Peruvian Ancash region. And we finally did find a sign.

Another thing we heard about Huaraz was that it was very cold due to altitude and after experiencing so much cloudiness in Lima, we expected the same in Huaraz. But the day was absolutely perfect. Sunny and clear and warm. We could even see the beautiful Cordillera Blanca in the background.

The costumes were bright and colourful and each group of people represented a different part of the Ancash region in Peru; Huaraz being the capital.

There were tons of opportunities for funny photos like this one:

It wasn’t anything like a parade procession back home where everything is so perfectly planned out. Everyone seemed so happy and carefree. It was so unifying.

The parade didn’t last more than an hour or two, but little events went on in the Plaza de Armas throughout the day.

Some of the parade-goers would do synchronized dances.

Others would show off their skills as a puppeteer.

So much variety and so many things to see.

If you want to see this festival when visiting Huaraz, make sure to go in August. For us, it occurred on August 22nd.

Huaraz in August also brought us amazing weather.

Huaraz was one of my favourite cities in Peru.

It was the perfect day soaking up culture and witnessing a city surrounded by happiness. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

Top 5 Things To Do In Huaraz, Peru (Other Than Trekking)

4 Jul

The beautiful Cordillera Blanca is what pulls people toward the city of Huaraz, Peru.

Trekking, climbing, basically anything to do with seeing this gigantic mountain range is what appeals to a lot of adventurous travellers.

The Cordillera Blanca

Huaraz was a last minute trip planned for a weekend during the period I spent working on an archaeological dig so I didn’t get a chance to book any treks. I also was only able to go for 3 nights and it seemed as if there were no treks offered that were for less than 4 full days. Then there were the factors of acclimatizing and not being in great shape. So I was content with just exploring the city for a few days.

I ended up LOVING Huaraz.

I found that there were so many things to do other than trekking.

Here are what I believe are the top 5 things to do in Huaraz (other than trekking):

1) Market Hopping

You can find markets everywhere in South America. In Peru, Cuzco definitely takes the cake with its markets. Any backpacker who has been to Peru can recognize other backpackers based off of items specific to the markets (i.e. winter hats with llamas on it, comfy drawstring pyjama pants in various colours, loose shoulder bags with llamas on it,…). Cuzco has it all. But so does Huaraz. Not only does Huaraz have the exact same Peruvian souvenirs and such as Cuzco does, but it is WAY cheaper and it is WAY easier to haggle prices. I got all of my souvenirs in Huaraz for half the price I would have paid in Cuzco.

Modelling my market purchases while I take a nap

2) Eating

Huaraz is home to many really great restaurants. I didn’t have a singe meal there that didn’t fully satisfy me in every way. My recommendations? I’ll narrow it down to two, both of which you can find in pretty much any guide book. Cafe Andino. It had such a cool feel to it. Classic rock decor covered the walls. It had a comforting feel to it, almost as if I were back home. It also serves as an adventure travel company, which can be convenient. Cafe Andino is located on an upper level, which means that they had a balcony overlooking the Cordillera Blanca which was amazing! The quesadillas with guacamole was unreal. Surprisingly, I didn’t love the breakfast or desserts. Stick to the lunch and dinner items. All-in-all though, I enjoyed this place. I think I ate there 2 or 3 times in 3 days.

View of Huaraz from Cafe Andino

California Cafe. This place was awesome. It was such a chill backpacker hang out. The food was great. They had a book exchange. They even put together activities like frisbee games which was cool. Plus: All day breakfast!

Coca tea from California Cafe. The cure for altitude sickness.

There were so many other great restaurants in Huaraz, many of which had real authentic Peruvian dishes, if only I could remember the names…

3) Hot Springs

Hot springs are essential to Huaraz with all the trekking and hiking going on. I went to two. One of them I didn’t like at all while I did like the second one. The Thermal Baths of Chancos, was more for locals. Part of the problem could’ve been that we went on a weekend and so there were tons of pushy families fighting to use the baths. It was crowded and kind of gross to be honest. We ended up leaving before we even got a chance to test out the baths. The worst part was that it was impossible to find a taxi or collectivo and we spent a good hour trying to find a way back into town.

Walking up to Monterrey hot springs. As you can see, the altitude was absolutely killer!

The Monterrey hot springs was much better. It was not nearly as crowded. There was a great view of the mountains. You had the option to pay for the public hot springs that were filled with iron which made the bath appear brown or you could pay for a room where you had a private tub. We chose the former. The bath wasn’t very hot at all, but it was a relaxing and unique experience. If we had trekked for a week or so we probably would have chosen the latter option. How to get there: taxi or collectivo. We took a taxi there which was expensive. The collectivo back was 3 soles which is about a dollar US.

Iron baths at Monterrey

4) Carhuaz, Caraz, and Yungay

There are many tours that run to places outside Huaraz. The two most popular run to Chavín de Huantar and Huascarán National Park. Due to limited time, we could only do one and chose the latter. I usually don’t do tours, but since Huascarán National Park wasn’t super close to Huaraz I thought that booking a tour would be my best option. My friends and I found a random place on the main street in Huaraz and booked a tour that would take us through Carhuaz, Caraz, Yungay as well as Huascarán National Park. I was a little skeptical because it was only around 30 soles which is super cheap for a full day of touring, but it turned out to be completely legit (aside from the fact that the tour was only in Spanish which was probably why it was so cheap!). Carhuaz, Caraz and Yungay were really unique little places. Carhuaz was small, but it some great little shops including an ice cream place that was good, cheap, and served beer flavoured ice cream (!!!).

Nom nom nom

Yungay — made famous by the landslide that wiped out the town in the 70s — is home to Mount Huascarán! We stopped at Campo Santo Yungay where we could see a lot of the damage the landslide did to the town. I loved Yungay the most of the three cities.

The remnants of a bus that was hit by the landslide

On our way back to Huaraz we stopped in Caraz where we got to try manjar blanco (almost exactly like dulce de leche, nom nom nom) which is like caramel, milky, buttery goodness which I HAD to buy. These pitstops on the way to Huascarán are really what made the day so great. I got to see a lot more of Huaraz and the surrounding area than I thought I would and I was sure glad I got the chance to.

5) Huascarán National Park

I don’t even know what to say about Huascarán National Park other than that you HAVE TO GO! This UNESCO World Heritage Site was just breathtaking, particularly the Lagunas Llanganuco. The water was so incredibly blue and the snow-capped Mount Huascarán in the background was amazing. Seeing the lakes was one of those moments in life where I was truly speechless. It’s hard to describe the beauty of the lakes. The weather was perfect that day too which made it even better.

Nuff said

Honourable Mention: Region of Ancash festival. This was awesome. Definitely one of my favourite things to experience in Huaraz. The reason why it’s not included in the top 5 is because it just so happened that the festival was occurring during the weekend I was there. If I went the next weekend or the previous weekend then I wouldn’t have seen it, so it isn’t something that you can experience any day of the year. I’ll probably write about this fully in another post.

Huaraz was one of my favourite cities in Peru. It was fun, adventure-filled, relaxing, and just a place where I could feel comfortable. I wish I could have stayed longer.

Do you agree with my list? Any better suggestions?

Six Ways To Make Your Parents Happy While Traveling

24 Jun

If your parents are anything like mine, then I’m sure you deal with the many questions and concerns that come along with traveling.

I’m sure a part of it is because I’m only 21 years old. Although my parents will always have their doubts and concerns since I’m young, I’m grateful that they are understanding enough to allow me to live my life the way I want to.

And for me, that is seeing as much of the world as I possibly can. Meaning, I pretty much work to travel. All my money goes towards traveling. While my friends are buying $100 Coach wristlets (and there is nothing wrong with doing so), I’m thinking that that same $100 will get me 5 days of food and accommodation in Cambodia.

When it comes to backpacking, I know that my parents really are truly happy for me, but they’re always going to worry about me.

A lot of people associate hostels and the like with the horror stories they’ve heard so I try to keep my parents calm and at ease about me traveling through a foreign land. I owe it to them.

So, here are a few things that I do to keep my parents happy while I’m traveling.

1) Make an itinerary.

Every backpacker knows that it is very hard to stick to an itinerary. For me, honestly, it changes based off the relationships I make. If I meet a group of awesome people who are leaving for Luang Prabang a day later than I planned, I’m going to wait the extra day, no question. The people I meet are what really makes or breaks a place for me. Making itinerary for my parents seems like a good way for them to know where I am each day and if I change my plans I tell them. This is beneficial for every party involved. It’s always a good idea to have at least one person know where you are at all times. When I arrive in a new city or switch hostels, I always tell my parents, which definitely makes them (as well as myself) feel more at ease.

2) Create a budget.

Obviously you aren’t going to know about each and every dollar that you’ll be spending, but if you do research beforehand you should have a basic idea of what you’ll be spending each day (food, accommodations, alcohol, activities, etc). I send my parents my budget so they know that I’m financially capable of even going on a trip. It will also make them happy to know that I likely won’t be calling in the middle of the night asking them to wire me money.

3) Photocopy EVERYTHING.

I photocopy all important documents (passport, plane itineraries, contact information, etc) and I make sure that I scan and send them to my own email and my parent’s email. I have a few copies of my medical insurance, emergencies numbers (like the Canadian embassy in each country I’m visiting). I show them the address of the first hostel I’m staying at. This makes them feel a little more comfortable about the whole idea of traveling, especially if I’m backpacking solo. If my mom wants me to give her information that I think is unnecessary, I give it to her without a fuss.

4) Prove their assumptions wrong.

Last year, I went to Peru for six weeks. This was around the time that there was a man (Vandersloot, I think) who had murdered a young American woman who was studying in Peru. Of course, my parents were freaking out about me going. They also started to have all these assumptions about South America and Peru. I did everything I could to prove those assumptions wrong. Now, I’m backpacking throughout Southeast Asia, and these assumptions are starting to arise again. My mom talked to a Vietnamese woman at work who said that I cannot go to Cambodia because it’s way too dangerous. So, I did everything I could to show my mom that there are going to be some aspects of danger anywhere that I go (and that Canada probably has just as much danger as Southeast Asia does) and that just because I’m going to these countries, it doesn’t mean I’ll be traveling through the more dangerous cities and towns. I’ll also be traveling with another person and I will have a network of other travellers I’ll meet that are in the same boat as I am.

5) Contact them.

Call them once or twice a week (or as often or not as you’d like). Or if calling is too expensive, email them. Use the social network to your advantage. Tell your family and friends about your blog (if you have one), twitter, facebook, skype, etc, and update as often as you can! Figure out the time difference before you leave so you know the best times to call them. I’m bringing a netbook with me on this trip so I will use skype as often as I can. If I know that I will be unplugged for a few days, I make sure that I let them know. I know you’re going to be having the time of your life traveling, but try to think about the people who love you at home.

And lastly,

6) Leave some details out.

They don’t need to know EVERYTHING that I’m up to. Like drinking until the sun rises or how I was lost (by myself) for 4 hours or… I’ll leave it at that since my parents actually read my blog. Sometimes it’s better to leave a few things to the imagination to avoid more worrying.

A bar in Trujillo, Peru. You can't see it in this picture, but there is someone's PUKE all over the stairs!

And there you have it. Six ways to make your parents happy (or happier) about you traveling.

Do you have any other tips?

Algonquin Provincial Park – Ontario, Canada

21 Jun

Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most beautiful provincial parks in Canada.

I’ve been there 3 times. Once for a weekend of hiking and twice for canoe trips.

Algonquin was stunning; however, not only was Algonquin swarming with mosquitoes and black flies, but canoeing and portaging through its lakes and forests were some of the hardest physical challenges I’ve had to face in my life.

But, I somehow kept coming back for more.

Although it was swarming with mosquitoes and black flies, it was nature at its finest.

And although it was very physically demanding, the challenge was something that made me feel so accomplished after it was over.

I love Algonquin. It’s one of the reasons I love Canada so much.

Here are a few of the many beautiful pictures (plus a few random shots) taken during my trip to Algonquin a few weeks ago.

I hate waking up early. Sunrises like this one make it worth my while though.

Even the place where we rented the canoes was beautiful.

The starting point. Second time using my backpack. It served me well on this trip.

These two canoes look like they’re in love.

Most canoe-goers will pass under this bridge. Make sure you tap it with your paddle because it’s a ritual at Algonquin!

As we were portaging, we came across these beautiful rapids. Notice the creeper in the background. Yes, Steven, I’m talking about you.

And then Chris climbed a tree and couldn’t get back down.

Around every corner – in this case, above – there were opportunities for photos like this one.

And random shots like this one. Good times with good friends. This was taken on our campsite on Sunbeam Lake.

There’s something that’s just so calming about canoeing, especially through beautiful parks like Algonquin.

There’s also something that’s just so awesome about pictures with reflections.

One with nature with my green sombrero. Life is good.

Algonquin – one of the many beautiful spots to see in Canada.

If you can deal with a few (or a lot) of bug bites and if you can adapt to changes in weather (like rain and wind) with a positive attitude then Algonquin is a place you should consider visiting if ever in Ontario and if ever looking for a little bit of physical activity.

It’s big and beautiful (and a little intimidating). It’s a great place to challenge your strength and endurance. It’s a great place to relax and chill out with friends by a bonfire and at the end of each day.

I already want to go back.

5 Things I Learned From Canoeing in Algonquin

17 Jun

Yep, I lost my canoe.

But before I get to that, here are five of the most important things I learned while on this canoe trip.

1) Don’t drink and drive canoe.

We considered this idea for about 30 seconds before realizing that it was the stupidest idea imaginable. Not only is it a bad idea because you might hurt yourself and you might (I’m thinking there’s a 90% chance) tip your canoe, but it will also dehydrate you at a time that you need to be VERY hydrated.  By all means though, go crazy when your on your campsite. Just avoid jumping through campfires and climbing trees. Before drinking, make sure you have everything all set for overnight. i.e., hang up your food bag! Getting mauled in your sleep by a bear because you were drunk and stupid is not a good way to go. And please, don’t drink and swim. That’s how people drown!

2) Expect to eat like a horse and remember, food and bears do not mix well.

Jiffy Pop fail

Bring more than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re on a canoe trip (rather than a camping trip). Your energy will drain so quickly, trust me. I felt like I was going to pass out at times. So stock up on the carbs and sugar because you’ll need them. Also, like I said before, hang your food up at night! That is, unless you’d like to outrun a bear. Keep in mind, bears can run, climb trees AND swim. So you’re pretty much screwed if you find yourself head to head with a bear. Don’t put yourself in that situation.

3) You cannot wear enough sunscreen or bugspray.

It was overcast for 80% of my trip. Cloudy and slightly rainy. UV rays are just as strong on overcast days as they are on sunny days. I didn’t put on any sunscreen and the only part of my body that was exposed was my legs and I got SO severely burned. I’ve never had a burn this bad. This trip was 3 weeks ago and one of my legs is still so red. It looks like I got burned in a fire or something. Be careful and don’t forget to apply sunscreen. The other thing you shouldn’t forget to apply is bug spray. I wore a bugnet most of the time and I still got tons of mosquito and blackfly bites. They’re vicious little bloodsuckers. Lucky for the people of the United States where deet can be sold legally! It’s banned it Canada!

4) It is really easy to tip a canoe.

I found it difficult to keep our canoe balanced. We almost tipped a few times. There are a few precautions you can take though. I cannot stress how much you NEED to balance the weight in your canoe. On the first day, my friend’s pack was at the tail end of the boat because he was using it as a backrest, while mine was in the middle of the canoe. I couldn’t believe how much harder it was to paddle with the weight so unevenly distributed. I had no idea this would make such a difference. For a while it got really windy with the waves getting bigger and we almost tipped because the weight in our canoe was pushing us sideways. Afterwards, we recovered by putting both our packs in the middle which made such a difference. Also, be very careful when getting in and out of your canoe because this is where you would most likely tip.

and lastly…

5) Don’t lose your canoe.

My canoe partner and I got out of our canoe at a portaging stop and as we were taking a break to relax and drink some water our canoe drifted off into the lake. Luckily, we both had a sense of humour and, luckily, we were with another two people who had a canoe and could paddle out a retrieve ours. But, what if it was just the two of us? We would have to swim out a get it, without tipping it because our bags weren’t tied into the canoe! They would’ve sunk to the bottom of the lake if we tipped it. Learn from our mistake. Don’t lose your canoe.

Click here to see the video!

And those are the five most important things I learned from canoeing in Algonquin Provincial Park (in Ontario, Canada).

Stay tuned for more pictures from Algonquin, a place that reaffirms the love I have for my home and native land.

Packing Tips For Camping or Canoeing

14 Jun

Okay, I know that what you would need to bring on a camping trip may seem obvious, there are A LOT of things that are easily overlooked.

I’ve been camping many times in my life and I’ve been on canoeing and hiking trips a few times as well. I’ve always had someone with me who knew what gear to bring and what was important for survival.

But it really depends on where you’re camping. If I’m at a campground that pretty much consists of lot beside lot of campsites then there really isn’t a lot to think about in terms of survival. There’s usually public bathrooms with showers, water pumps with clean, running water, and an in-site store with all your camping needs.

If I’m camping or canoeing in an area where I’m pretty much fending for myself, then there’s a lot more to consider, especially when you’re canoeing to your campsite (an island) leaving you with little access to anything except what nature has to offer.

I’ve been on a canoe trip in high school to Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. But, I had teachers who knew what equipment to bring and basically what was necessary for survival. I also met two amazing people that I ended up becoming great friends with.

That was three years ago. Now, three years later, those two friends, one other person, and myself decided to start our own tradition – a yearly canoe trip.

This May we did our ‘trial’ run with only four people. Each year afterwards we’ll add more and more people and hopefully start a tradition that lasts a long time.

It was a success, that’s for sure. That success was definitely based off of being prepared with proper equipment.

Luckily, my friends Steven and Chris had done our school’s yearly canoe trip every year that that attended high school, so they had a good idea of what we needed.

Anyway, here is an idea of what you should pack if ever participating in a trip similar to the one I made.

The Basics

Backpack: Obviously. The thing that sucks about going on a trip like this is that although you will be likely going for a week or less, you need more space for packing than you would need for months of backpacking. Three reasons: sleeping bag, food, and extra equipment.

Clothes: Especially warm clothing for the night! It gets really cold. Don’t forget a bathing suit too because you’ll be bathing in the lake most likely. Also, don’t forget a waterproof jacket.

Shoes/Sandals: If you’re going canoeing, you will have to portage no matter what. Sandals won’t cut it. So bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet or dirty because they will get wet and they will get dirty. Sandals are good for around the campsite.

Tent: Self-explanatory I would think. My only advice would be to bring a tent that is as light as possible. Ours was a BIG ASS TENT making it really heavy and awkward when it was packed in its bag, which was terribly difficult to carry when portaging during the first day before setting up camp and when heading home on the last day.

Food: Carbs. Carbs. Carbs. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar. And lots of it. Canoeing and portaging will drain your energy so incredibly quickly.

– Lighter, matches, pots, utensils, flashlight, bug spray, sunscreen, sleeping bag, life jacket, carabiners, water bottle, toiletries, towel…

CANOE and PADDLES: If you forget these, then I’m not sure you’re cut out for canoeing.

The Not-So-Obvious

Water-purifer: If worst came to worst, you could boil water if you had a pot, but if you don’t want to drink hot water then you should bring something to purify the lake water. If you have some extra cash, then a water pump works great. We were on a budget so we just bought some iodine tablets. Although the water didn’t taste very good, we didn’t get sick once so I would say that they worked great.

Tarp: In case it rains. We put all our bags under the tarps every night. It actually did rain on one of the nights and all of our stuff was dry in the morning.

Stove: Only if you want to cook food, which you will.

Back-up stove: In case you need to boil water in emergencies or in case your primary stove doesn’t work. The type of ‘back-up’ stove you should get is good because it doesn’t involve propane/gasoline. Instead, it uses warming gel. Ours was a compact, folding stove . You light the warming gel and it heats — albeit slowly — your food! Pretty cool invention.

Fire starters: You light these and use them to help start a fire. Makes it a lot easier.

Rope: Multi-purpose. You can use it to tie things, use it as a clothesline, and, most importantly, to hang up your food at night! Bears WILL come if you leave food around. Don’t be stupid and forget to hang your food. Use carabiners to create a pulley type of system to hang the food.

Dry bag: Also for hanging your food. If it rains at night and you don’t hang your food in a dry bag you’ll wake up to wet, soggy food, which will suck big time. A dry bag will also come in handy if you have electronics. When I was canoeing I usually kept my camera around my neck because I was confident that our canoe wouldn’t tip, but when we were canoeing on windy days I kept it in my 10 L dry bag.

Saw: We brought a mini saw with us. Got wood? How else are you going to chop fire wood?

Map and compass: This is 100% necessary for a canoe trip. Unless you’ve completed the same route several times, you will need a map to navigate the lakes. A compass is essential even if you know the route well.

Walkies: If you’re traveling with a pair or more canoes bring walkie talkies. We got so much use out of these (especially when we were portaging) because everyone goes at their own pace so it’s easy to get separated. Also, you can pick up signals from other people in the area who have walkies, which would come in handy if you were lost or in some kind of trouble. A whistle would be good for this purpose as well.

Yoke pads: For portaging. The wood of the canoe takes a huge toll on your shoulders and yoke pads relief that pressure.

Bug net: Other than the obvious fact that bug nets are extremely fashionable, as much as you think you won’t need one because you have bug spray, BRING a bug net. Even if you won’t get bitten much while wearing bug spray, mosquitoes and black flies will swarm around your face, guaranteed, which is super annoying. Every time we had to get out of our canoe to portage, they would swarm around us. Every time we had to get back into our canoe after portaging, they would swarm us. It is not a good feeling. My bug net was a lifesaver.

And that’s how I made it through my first self-organized canoe trip through the amazing Algonquin Provincial Park. It was difficult, but highly rewarding, and being prepared made it that much less stressful.

On another note, don’t forget the booze! Nothing better than sitting back with good friends, drink in hand, while viewing a sunset after a long, hard day of canoeing.

The Time I Was A Celebrity In Peru

8 Jun

There’s one thing I know for sure, which is that foreigners are, in some way, more attractive, more interesting… just more, in general.

My girl friends tell me how hot they think guys with Australian or British accents are. My guy friends tell me that French chicks are SO sexy. Personality isn’t nearly a key factor in these cases as it normally is.

And foreigners think the same things about us Westerners.

Thai women love Western men. Italian men love American blonde women.

South Americans, in general, find Caucasians fascinating. Especially if you’re blonde or if you have pale skin (I definitely fall into the latter category).

A man proposed to me as I was walking through downtown Lima. Like, actually got down on one knee in front of a huge group of people and proposed!

Another man who ran the internet cafe in the tiny town I was living in took a special interest in me.

None of this, however, compared to the welcome I received when I visited Huaca de la Luna in Trujillo, Peru.

Oh, you know, just signing some autographs. No big deal.

It wasn’t just me though. It was everyone I was with. I wondered why we were receiving such an overwhelming welcome at this particular place. I still don’t fully understand it, but  I assume it’s because Trujillo is a place less traveled than most areas in Peru, so it isn’t common to see ‘white’ people.


It was an unusually nice Saturday morning in Trujillo, Peru.

Me and some fellow volunteer archaeologists took taxis to Huaca de la Luna (located approximately 4 km outside of Trujillo). We got out of our taxis and were literally swarmed by dozens of school children.

I was a little confused.

And then they started pushing notebooks and paper towards us signalling for us to give them our “autographs”!

A few of the people in our group spoke Spanish and it turned out that the children actually thought we might be celebrities and, even if we weren’t, they just wanted to know more about us and where we came from.

Hannelore and I didn't mind posing for the paparazzi...

Everyone was snapping pictures of us and asking to take pictures with us. I mean, I know it’s South America and I should expect these things to happen because they really do happen everywhere in Peru, but never happen to this extent.

It was… weird, but at the same time it was such a unique cultural experience.

When I think about Canada, if I’m walking around Toronto for the day, I’m bound to see a wide spectrum of ethnicities, which is completely normal unlike Peru.

So, that’s how I was almost famous for a day.

Lesson learned from this: If you’re blonde and Caucasian and you’re looking to find a husband quickly, South America is the place to go.