Yesterday we arrived in New York City! We are celebrating that we’ve been together for three years. I had a little surprise for her at breakfast this morning. To celebrate our relationship, I found and bought some matching couples necklaces. She loved it
I can’t believe this is our first trip to New York City. We’ve only been here one day, and we’re already taken aback by all the sites. Our agenda is full of what to see, what to do, where to go, and what to eat. The first thing Jenny wants to do, though, is experience the culture. What better way to do that is to hike around like we’re in the wilderness. We like backpacking anyway, so we’re going to explore the city and treat it like we’re on safari. What better way to explore every little nook and cranny, right?
Jenny wants to check out a Broadway show and, honestly, a New York City experience wouldn’t be the same without doing that and eating at The Palm. I also want to see what it’s like to ride the subway. I don’t care how pedestrian that sounds, it’s something I’ve always wanted to try in this illustrious city. Jenny and I have plenty of maps on our smart phones, so I’m doubtful we’ll get lost. The people out this way seem helpful, but we’re still being just as careful as we would when approaching dangerous animals out in the jungle. We never know who are the hunters and whether or not if we are the prey.
Another item on our agenda is to visit where the World Trade Center stood. I know Jenny and I will both shed tears, take in the moments, trace our fingers along the names of the fallen, and take dozens of pictures. These are the types of moments and memories we want engrained in our history. We’ll also be visiting the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building because, as tourists, we have to be caught in every single trapping The City has to offer. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned. Besides, I love taking pictures of Jenny in front of this, that, or the other infamous structure or landmark. The walls of our Dallas apartment tell many pictorial tales of our journeys, and these photographs will be added to that collection.
Before we begin our journey, I’m struck by one thing, have you ever noticed how much gum is cemented on the sidewalks of New York City? It’s an odd thing to notice, I know, but I did nonetheless. This morning we’ll start our first trek through this glorious city. I can’t wait to see what it looks like lit up at night. I’ve seen pictures, I’ve seen it in movies, and I’ve seen it on television . . . I know those images do not do it justice compared to in person. I can’t wait to see the expression on Jenny’s face. I’ll have to remember to have my camera ready for that shot, too.
I first read about Maui in a traveler’s magazine, and when I discovered that it had been voted by readers of that particular publication as the best island for nineteen consecutive years, it made it to the top of my list as the next destination. This time round, Jenny and I decided not to book a hotel- we are seasoned backpackers. We wanted to take every day as it came by and spend the nights where sunset would find us.
We have learned that we could save airfare by booking early for the mid October trip. We rarely use travel agencies for our travels just to spice things up. So we settled to begin our adventure at the Kipahulu campground in Haleakala National Park. We did not need permits here as would be the case with other campgrounds, and it was next to the ocean, in addition to the nearby hiking trails, swimming pools, and picnic areas with the pit latrines in a wild greenery lined with stunning waterfalls, a nice change of scenery from our landlocked Metroplex apartment.
To set the tempo, we began with exploring the Kipahulu Valley, taking dives in almost all of the 20 pools along the Palikea Stream in order to cool off. I thought that this was a low season, but guys are straddling this place in hordes, even though I was told the place is closed to the public. By afternoon, we were at the scenic Waimoku Falls, enjoying every bit of the hike through indigenous forest and taking snaps here and there.
The next day, I woke up early to prepare some sandwiches in readiness for the long ride to the highest peak on the island. I now understand why they refer to it as the “House of the Sun”. We hit Hana Highway in our rented car, a most fascinating adventurous drive through a narrow winding one bumpy road that gave us a spectacular view of both the ocean and the lonely wild. I must warn you that car rentals would not be happy to know you took this route with their machine: It is a warning we received in advance.
I lost count of the number of bridges we had to cross, so narrow that the rare cars coming from opposite directions cannot cross at the same time. I am told these bridges have been used since 1910. From the guidebook we had, there should have been several waterfalls but I was bogged down by the signs of “No Trespassing” at the places we expected to have a peek and a snap.
On reaching Haleakala Visitor Center, about 9, 740 ft above sea level after driving most of the time at 5mph, we joined a group of other hikers towards the famous Haleakala Crater. The clouds were literally below us. We took the Sliding Sand Trails into the huge gap that seemed to swallow us with every step downwards. Jenny and I would have loved to stay inside for the night but, unfortunately, the three cabins were already fully booked for several days. We sat at the summit to watch the most amazing sunset I have ever seen.
On day three, we hit the coast to Molokoni Crater for scuba diving and snorkeling. This is not your usual underwater experience, as what we came to learn as the Back Wall dive gave us spectacular views of the turtles, different kinds of fish, and what I thought was a whale shark. There is plenty of marine life deep down there, and the manta rays in the evenings are just wonderful. On day four we headed to Ho’okipa Beach Park for a few hours of surfing against enormous swells.
I am happy we made some new friends. A special thanks to James and Melissa who let us crash at their place for a few nights in exchange for me helping James build a deck with the information we found on mahoganydecking.net. It was a nice project and the end result is amazing.
We also had an opportunity to give something back to the island community, as we finished our adventure by joining volunteers planting a trees, doing reef cleanups, and my favorite one, counting the humpback whales. Unfortunately I had a job to complete while we were there, so we did not have even half the experience that Maui has to offer. We will be back for a more elaborate adventure next year.
Recently, Jen and I travelled to San Francisco, California. It was a great trip that will remain etched in my mind. Here are some of the things we did in San Francisco.
Visited the Coit Tower
Every great city ought to have at least one iconic monument and spectacular sceneries. In this regard, San Francisco is one of the American cities that I am proud to have toured at least once in my lifetime. If I were to be told to do it, I would laud the architects of Coit Tower for having put up this elegant monument in the heart of the city. It resembles a fire-hose nozzle. We climbed to the top of this monument and we got panoramic views of the city.
Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge
Our trip to San Francisco gave us a good opportunity to visit Golden Gate Bridge, which is revered for being the world’s most beautiful bridge. The 1.7 mile long bridge is a beloved part of the city’s tourism; thanks to the fact that thousands of international and local visitors visit this bridge annually. Though we had an option to catch a bus, we decided to walk across the bridge with our backpacks. Since backpacking is part of us, it didn’t take us long to cross the bridge. We also got spectacular views of the Pacific ocean.
Trekking along the Bay Area Ridge Trail
As a hiking lovers, we love hitting the trail. I was fascinated by the awesome hiking trails in San Francisco, Bay Area Ridge Trail being one of them. The 550-mile trail is in a class of its own. 338 miles are now open to members of the public. The trail led us to the far end of the Golden Gate. Along the way, we paused to have a view of the stunning Andy Goldsworthy sculpture Spire, sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco National Cemetery’s rolling hills.
Scuba diving and surfing in San Francisco Bay area
San Francisco Bay Area is arguably the best place to visit in San Francisco for those who love surfing and scuba diving like me. The water here is crystal clear and it is hence suitable for lush beautiful scuba diving. There are strong waves at the far end of the bay, hence making it a perfect place for surfing on a water boat. The bay also offers a variety of marine attractions, ranging from whale watching to exploring underground water caves. Every morning, Jenny and I would take a stroll along the beach and we were fascinated by the high number of seals we saw along the way. Seals are only one example of San Francisco’s diverse local sea life.
Visit Union Square Park
This is an eclectic open space that is decorated with palm trees. It is a very funky stop over for locals and travelers alike. It is home to a variety of art installations such as the heart-shaped structures crafted by local artists. It is also a great shopping place thanks to the elegant shopping malls surrounding it from all sides.
The hardcore traveler that I am, I miss no opportunity of visiting any exciting place I hear or read about. I am so lucky that Jen shares my passion of going around the world and experiencing the most thrilling activities only makes things better! The Grand Canyon has always featured in my list of must-visit places; hence it goes without saying that we were more than excited when we finally set off for the trip!
The Grand Canyon Skywalk
Take it from an avid traveler who has been to places and witnessed many a wonders of the world – this part of our trip indeed was breathtaking to say the least. Located on the Hualapi Tribal Lands, the immensity and grandeur of this place was overwhelming. Neither I nor Jenny has a fear of heights, so the unique ‘see-through’ walkway overlooking the canyon was an incredible experience. An architectural and engineering marvel, this must not be missed no matter what it costs.
The West Rim
While we certainly like our adrenaline rushes, this place came as a welcome change. The landscape was serene, and it was only bettered by the fact that there not many people around. The Guano Point and the Eagle Point gave us some stunning canyon views, and thankfully, due to fewer crowds around, we could capture some beautiful shots.
We had a great hike through the Havasu Canyon- a mazelike canyon in the West Rim, filled with tall rock walls, cacti, and turquoise blue waterfalls. The 8-mile trek to the Supai Village is a must-stop; apart from the mesmerizing landscape, we treated ourselves to a mouthful in the village cafe.
You can also take a helicopter tour around the West Rim from Las Vegas that only takes three hours. It takes you over the Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Fortification Hill (an extinct volcano) before you finally descend 3,500 feet into the Canyon in Hualapai Indian Territory.
The North Rim
Due to heavy snowfall in this region, the North Rim remains open only from mid-May to mid-October. Though the Grand Canyon National Park encompasses more than 1.2 million acres, we could satisfy our love for hiking with only a few trails that follow the rims and some more that penetrate into the canyon. The elevation of more than 10,000 feet from the beginning till the end is a treat for hiking-lovers for the challenges it poses! The one-hour mule ride along the rim was a novelty in itself which we thoroughly enjoyed.
The South Rim
A five hours drive from the North Rim, this place is open for visitors throughout the year. The Grand Canyon Village is the hub of all activities, providing tourists with lodges, a train depot, gift shops and viewing areas. We joined the Ranger Program that gave us interesting talks about the area’s geology, the local flora and fauna, the native inhabitants and so on. Hiking is something that I and Jenny can never have enough of, and this place too, offered ample scope for the same, ranging from the flat Rim Trail to the steep Hermit’s Trail.
A Final Word
The Grand Canyon was the perfect destination for us. We could make the most of our trip as we chose the best time of the year to visit the Grand Canyon- April. We were kind of sad to leave this spectacular place as we headed back home to Dallas, but I had some work to do and Jen can look for our next adventure.