Category Archives: Travel

Tierra del Fuego National Park

After our jaunt to the glacier, it was time to start our first camping trip of the year. After all, we didn’t bring our tent all this way for nothing. We planned to do some hiking!Kay planned for us to camp for two nights in Tierra del Fuego, leaving us three days for day treks from our campsite.
But before we could get the tent set up above, we had to make it to the campsite circled in green on the left below. We took a bus from Ushuaia into the park.Would you believe, buses in Argentina are not as reliable as Swiss ones, and ours broke down getting from one stop to the other just after we’d gotten to the park! We had to hop out and hitch a ride with a second bus to get to our camping location.Once we arrived, it was actually really easy to hop off the bus and set our tent up already. I felt a little guilty that we didn’t have to “work” to get there, but we were easing our way back into trekking and hiking. After the day hike to the glacier, here we would go camping, but just do day hikes from the campsite. Baby steps! Kay got to use his filter for the first time this year, which we’d just replaced the actual filter in Zurich just before leaving. He slogged out to the middle of the freezing river to pump water. He was a bit worried that people washing their dishes in the river would contaminate it and get us sick. You weren’t supposed to wash in the river, but people were still cleaning their clothes and dishes in the river nearby us, so we were kind of annoyed at their carelessness.I actually don’t know how he did it, twice. I got into my ankles the second time and it was so painfully cold, I had to get out immediately. I really don’t know how he could stand to stay there and pump. That’s dedication to healthy water!
Around the park, we hiked several of the treks over the days. Above we saw the sign for the end of the Pan American highway, the longest route in the world stretching from Alaska down to Ushuaia. Maybe some day we will make it up to the other end!We had very little time in Switzerland to prepare for traveling beforehand, so unfortunately we brought almost no dry food with us, which ended up being pretty hard to find in camping stores in South America. Instead, we ended up struggling for gluten free solutions with polenta, dried tomatoes, wine, carrots, and in the mornings we had legitimate baby food powder mixed with dulce de leche.

We might have been that couple that brought wine and/or liquor on every hike… It was cold. I needed it. DON’T JUDGE ME. 🙂And really, it was pretty freezing. This is summertime in Ushuaia! I had on pants, socks, shirt, pullover, down jacket, rain/wind shell, buff, hat, and my fancy new gloves, which, just after arriving in Chile after this time in Tierra del Fuego, I lost one on a bus… and was gutted because they were really expensive, new, awesome waterproof, windproof gloves. Of all the things I’ve lost on this trip already (which is really weird for me to do) I am most upset about losing one glove!!

So just look at me enjoying that glove… and know that I was devastated to lose it shortly after this. :'(Kay was enjoying wearing his new puffy jacket, which we replaced shortly before leaving. Thankfully he hasn’t lost this yet… he has a better track record than me on this trip.For having decided sort of on a whim to come to Tierra del Fuego, it was really gratifying and worthwhile. We loved it!I would walk along these views and think, “Stahp. No, really. Stahp. Shut up. This is the most beautiful place EVER.”Most of the time, my view looked something like below, looking up at someone’s backside. That’s how we do it. Every time. I fall behind, I stay there. Kay waits for me intermittently and at the top, we catch up.We tried to check out the beavers that are supposed to be ruining the area a bit, but we didn’t see any while we were around. We only saw one much later on.The beavers are said to be pretty destructive to the habitat though. It did have a bit of a wasteland feel to it in these photos. It seemed like nothing we had ever seen before.On trek number 3 from the map above, which we did on the first day, we trekked to the edge of Argentina and Chile, which you weren’t supposed to cross because it’s a no-no to do a border crossing in the middle of the national park.Shhh, I “went to Chile” anyway. Don’t tell anybody. 😉On day two we did trek 4 on the map, which had the amazing view below. One of the best from our whole time in Patagonia.And in case anybody was wondering by this point, yes, we needed proper hiking boots on this trail. And my poles, my God, they saved me more than once. When we got to the base of the ascent to this spot, we had just crossed a swamp. Some fellow hikers asked me how I got out with my pants so clean. It was because I would “test the ground” with my poles first, not my legs!It was reeaally cold at the top though. Like, after 30 minutes of photos, I wanted to die. There was also a little fox running around at the top, looking for food to eat. People must have fed him in the past, because he seemed reaaally interested in our sausage. And every time we threw rocks to scare him away, he would just check out if the rocks were food or not.After the three days were up it was time to head back to Ushuaia for one night in town before heading on to Chile. I couldn’t believe it, but our visit to Torres del Paine was already coming up!

 

Ushuaia: Glacier Martial

After a short few days in Buenos Aires in January, it was already time for us to pack up and head on a plane to the very southern tip of the world: Ushuaia.

When we first got to town and to our very basic airbnb, I was a little worried if it had really made sense coming allll the way down south. At first glance, the town was pretty underwhelming, quite cold compared to Buenos Aires for “high summer”, and I was worried that there wouldn’t be much to do considering how little we had researched this place before hastily booking flights in our December madness. Thankfully, it was definitely worth it!When we woke up the next morning and went to breakfast with the other guests, we realized they were Swiss. Yep. We traveled all the way to the bottom of the world and the first people we met were Swiss German. Go figure.They gave us a couple tips though, and before we knew it, we’d grabbed our daypacks and some supplies and headed off to Glacier Martial.Boy, after all the stress, STRESS, of Kay’s graduation, moving back home, packing up our whole life, haphazardly planning a trip of a lifetime, and a whole lot of computer stress, it felt GOOD to get out there and hike. It heals the soul.The glacier also gave us the first taste of just how stunning Patagonia is. I was instantly gratified and Kay, who hadn’t really thought about going to Patagonia before my insistence, was impressed. He was also simply a very, very happy boy to be out in wilderness again.We found the hike to be very easy going and a great reintroduction to our long hiatus while Kay was in school. The hardest part was bearing the freezing glacial wind at the top for photos and a snack.While we did not have a hard time with this hike, it somehow tired us both out a lot. We were pretty out of practice, and the next day I was actually really sore and fatigued. But with real backpacking coming up, I needed to get ready for some serious hiking both physically and mentally!

First Stop, South America

It was my idea to head west first to start us off on our travel, aiming towards Japan by cherry blossom time. I really wanted to see the mountains of Patagonia, the rugged landscape. And because almost all flights to Buenos Aires or Santiago from Zurich went through Brazil, it made perfect sense to stop in Sao Paulo for a short time and visit Kay’s Brazilian family.

Even though we had just visited his family at Christmas in 2015, you never know when you can get back again, so we decided we had to visit. And the whole family was sooo happy we decided to!
From Sao Paulo, we picked up a car and stopped at a dear friend of the family’s house for lunch on the way to the small town where most of Kay’s family lives.Eloy gifted us a special Brazilian flag work of art for our wedding back in 2011, and I still had never met him. He was incredibly sweet! And Brazilians are fantastically emotional. He cried and hugged us tightly when we arrived, and then cried again when we left, but not before feeding us until we might explode with the most delicious food you could ever imagine.There is nothing quite like Brazilian hospitality. They are some of the most welcoming, generous, friendly people in the world, and they LOVE to feed you. Below was just a sampling of fruits laying around on Eloy’s counter.When we finally made it to PirajuĂ­, we were overjoyed to see all of Kay’s aunts and uncles. We stayed with his Tio TarcĂ­sio and Tia Vera. Below is Tio TarcĂ­sio explaining some of the things in his workshop to Kay. He is such a handy, creative soul! He recycles tons of things into new designs and is always dreaming up a use for something else.The best part about their house might be the pool, which in the heat of summer was a.m.a.zing.And who wouldn’t love spending their days in the pool being fed fresh bite-size pieces of churrasco meat off the grill and caipirinha drinks that seem to refill themselves?It’s seriously heaven!!We also arrived right in time for a couple birthdays and managed to go to a family party with children running around in swimwear, jumping in and out of pools.I am still a far way off with my Portuguese, but I noticed a big difference after another year of classes. I could understand a lot more and even start to make very primitive conversation, where I could ask about things like holidays, traveling, the weather, our plans. Basically everybody was asking when we will have children, so I had to be prepared for that question as always!

I was also happy to meet some cousins again that I wasn’t sure if I had met in 2010, but who I hadn’t seen in a very long time. Kay has so many cousins! Way more than I do, and all of them are such lovely people.We even had time to visit Kay’s twin cousin in Bauru on the way back to Sao Paulo when our journey was ending.Overall, we were sure that visiting was the right thing to do. Lots of Kay’s aunts and uncles are getting older, much older than his mother was when she passed away and you never know when you will get to see them again, so it was nice to have a good visit.The only thing I might change about our visit here was accidentally leaving my sunglasses in the pool the night before we left when it got dark and there was a crazy bug attack. One week into our 9 month journey and I was already sunglasses shopping in Buenos Aires. 😛

Round the World Pack List

The big question… what do you bring with you on a journey lasting nine months, over four continents, through a myriad of temperatures and activities? Well, I hate to be super Swiss, but we are not as minimalist as I would like… and we brought a lot of stuff that many people leave home for a world trip. Why? Mainly, the answer is camping and diving.

We knew we wanted to trek and camp extensively in Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand, and aside from a few upgrades we decided to make, we owned all our gear. Many RTW pack lists or travel lists compiled by digital nomads say that you only need trainers, or trail runners at best, but if you try hiking in Patagonia without real boots, you’re an idiot. That’s as smart as driving a car in the Domnican Republic without a seat belt and hoping if you crash that your injuries won’t be too bad. If you plan on serious hiking, bring boots.

For diving, this was more of a question, shall we or shall we not buy gear? We plan on diving a lot this year, in the Philippines, Maldives, Indonesia, Thailand, Mauritius, Seychelles, etc… Sure, we could rent our gear each time relatively hassle-free, but that adds up in cost, plus you deal with relearning how the gear operates, rental gear is often broken or poor quality, and considering my bout with pneumonia last year, I thought it would be more prudent for me to use my own regulator if we would be spending a lot of time under water, so we decided to buy BCDs, regulators and octopuses, diving gauges, a wetsuit for me, and dive knives.

So, onto the list!

Clothing:

Katie Clothes:

  • Zip off hiking pants (double as shorts)
  • Puma black workout pants (double as “casual smart” pants)
  • thermal tights (layer under pants or dresses in cold weather, layer under both pants at once for maximum warmth)
  • Travel skirt with pockets
  • 1 Icebreaker dress
  • running shorts
  • Heart rate monitor
  • 2 athletic tanks with built-in bras
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 3/4 sleeve quick-dry travel shirt
  • Thin nightgown (doubles as a shirt on laundry days)
  • Icebreaker cardigan
  • rash guard (doubles as a long sleeve shirt in cold weather)
  • 7 undies
  • 3 hiking socks
  • 3 running socks
  • dry towel (1 big, one small)
  • sarong wrap
  • 1 bra
  • 1 sports bra
  • 2X bikini (Actually brought three because I got some Nallas, which are super thin and dry fast. Couldn’t help it…)
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Running shoes
  • Teva sandals
  • Cheap target flats that are easy to fold up
  • Gortex rain jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof pants
  • Big red travel scarf (my must for sleeping on planes!)
  • Buff
  • Waterproof gloves (I was devastated to lose one of these brand new, expensive gloves, less than a week into our Patagonian time…)
  • Hat (ended up bringing my running cap)
  • Sun visor

(What could I have cut out? If both my athletic tanks were supportive to run in, or if I had one athletic bra instead of a normal one as well, I could have cut out an extra bra. Technically the nightgown was not mandatory, but if you are sleeping in hostels, sometimes purposeful nightwear is helpful, especially if your only T-shirt is all sweaty. Could have cut out the third swimsuit, even if it is so small and light, or the second swimsuit as well. And I could have skipped my pair of flat shoes, which I stuck in at the end and have only worn once in Brazil so far.

Also, once we landed in NZ, I was a bad girl at the Icebreaker store and bought a second Icebreaker cardigan and another Icebreaker dress because they are styles I love, and a thin Icebreaker T-shirt to hike in because mine is mostly cotton and dries way too slow, but the tank tops chaff my shoulders raw in the pack after several hours hiking.)

Kay Clothes:

  • 2 Hiking pants zip-off
  • Chino pants
  • Icebreaker thermal tights
  • running shorts
  • HRM
  • 1 running t-shirt
  • 1 thin travel cotton t-shirt
  • 1 icebreaker t-shirt light
  • 1 icebreaker t-shirt heavy
  • 1 long sleeve travel shirt
  • 1 thermal turtleneck
  • rash guard
  • 6-10 undies
  • 4 hiking socks
  • 2 normal socks
  • Swim trunks compact and normal size (one he uses for hiking trips and under wetsuits, the other is more manly or something)
  • board shorts (double as normal shorts)
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Barefoot running shoes
  • Havaianas
  • Tevas
  • Casual dress shoes
  • Gortex rain jacket
  • Down jacket
  • Windstopper jacket (doubles as a pullover for him)
  • Gortex pants
  • Arafat Scarf
  • Buff
  • Waterproof gloves (windstopper + gortex)
  • Fingerless gloves
  • Jungle hat
  • 1 baseball cap
  • Ear muff band
  • Warm hat thick

(Oh man, Kay was hard to make pack light. Really struggled. He wanted to take like all the T-shirts on Earth, and he refused to leave his Havaianas at home and take just the Tevas for our river crossings, plus his barefoot shoes cannot double as city shoes so well, so he needed to take some normal shoes, which of course are a million times bigger and heavier than my pair of fold up flats. And his gloves were two separate pairs, one for wind/warmth and one for water, plus his fingerless gloves too… Oi.)

Toiletries:

  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • insect repellent
  • Contacts
  • Laundry washing bags
  • Laundry soap
  • Hair ties, headband
  • Comb
  • Floss
  • Toothpaste
  • Toothbrush
  • Aloe
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Eye cream
  • Face cream
  • Lotion
  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Deodorant
  • Makeup (small pot of foundation, brow pen, mascara, eye liner, lip stain, lipstick)
  • Extra earplugs

Carry on:

  • Canon 5DIII plus two lenses, extra battery, filters, memory cards, and chargeriPad + charger
  • Card reader
  • iPad x2
  • Phone + charger x2
  • Kindle x2
  • Passports
  • Tissues
  • Earplugs, lip balm, hand lotion
  • Wallet
  • Money belt x2
  • International plug adapters x2
  • Sunglasses, prescription and non-prescription
  • Glasses case and 1 set extra glasses
  • Bose headphones x2
  • Biotin tablets
  • Snacks
  • Gum, Ricola
  • Sleeping masks
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Microsoft Surface

  • Olympus Camera

  • Thermaband physical therapy band

Camping Gear:

  • Sleeping bag x2
  • Silk sack x2
  • Mammut blowup Pillow
  • Mat x2 (We upgraded our old ones to these new, thicker Exped ones. Best decision ever.)
  • Schnozzel bag to blow up the new mattresses, doubles as a waterproof bag for my sleeping bag
  • Plastic utensils
  • Folding snap-up plates, bowls, and cups
  • Headlamps
  • 1 neck lamp for Kay
  • Swiss Army knife x2
  • Water bottle x2
  • Camelbaks x2
  • Hiking Sticks (We also upgraded and bought new, extremely light and collapsible ones)
  • Rain cover for my pack, doubles as an airport transport bag
  • Dry bags a plenty
  • Tent
  • Outdoor GPS
  • MSR Cooker + repair set
  • Fuel bottle
  • Fire Starter
  • Magnesium Block
  • Water Filter
  • Aquamira
  • Water transport bag
  • Cooking pans
  • Jetboil (we bought this in NZ after a lot of debate, it made some of the hikes a lot easier)
  • Lighter x2
  • Dextrose sugar tablets
  • Some dry bag food we had at home
  • Some running gels lying around at home, which we would have had to throw out for the movers otherwise.

Medical kit: Also for camping

  • First aid kit
  • Mirror
  • Whistle
  • Chem Lights
  • Tourniquet
  • Sam Splint
  • Paracord
  • Zip lock bags
  • Duct tape
  • Rubberbands
  • Locks
  • Sewing kit
  • Coal Tabletts
  • Immodium
  • Malarone (anti malarial tablets, as we are going to some heavy malaria zones)
  • Ibuprofen/aspirin
  • Thermometer
  • Alkaline Soap
  • Fenistil (itch relief for bug bites)
  • Compeed (blister patches)

Baggage:

  • Mystery Ranch trekking backpacks x2 (My checked bag and Kay’s carryon and personal item)
  • Ortlieb watertight bag (Kay’s checked bag)
  • Exped watertight backpack (My carryon)
  • Camera bag (My personal item)
  • Pack-able day pack from Osprey
  • Pacsafes x2
  • 1 extra big light duffle bag as a temporary stash bag between hikes

Diving:

  • Mask x2
  • Snorkel x2
  • Gloves x2
  • Padi licenses x2
  • Dive computer x2
  • Dive computer connectors
  • BCDs x2
  • Sharkskin wetsuit
  • Dive case for Olympus

So, that’s it. If you aren’t going to be doing serious trekking like we planned, and you don’t dive, or will be diving minimally and happy to rent here or there, that would already cut a ton of things off your list. Even for the medical kit alone, we only brought half the stuff in there because we knew we would be in places with no phone signal, no road access, and very few thru hikers who would be able to help us in case something happened. And since writing this, we have used most of the hiking gear including the often undervalued medical kit, with both of us having cut open blisters, used compeed, taken my temperature, used pills, ointments, etc. Thankfully we did not need the tourniquet yet. 😉

If you are planning an “easy” city-style RTW trip mostly staying in hostels or hotels and not camping God knows where next to some freezing weather, this list is probably not for you. 🙂

Star Alliance Round the World Ticket

Having dreamed of and discussed a round the world trip for years, Kay and I started casually talking about doing it for real when he started his summer internship in Germany last summer. As the summer went on, we both felt more and more like the timing was right. When Kay was done with school, I would quit my job and we would take some time off together and travel before starting something new. We both needed the time to relax, unwind, and reconnect with each other.

But where to go? We talked about this all summer and into the school year as well. Kay thought about just going to Australia for 3-4 months and renting a camper and driving around the outback, but I… I wanted to see everything! (And wives always get their way in the end, don’t they?) Also, we didn’t find ot how long we should travel until Kay graduated almost, so we waited really late and bought tickets on December 22 for 9 months of travel.

Having achieved the much-sought-after gold status with Star Alliance, I was very preferential to flying Star Alliance flights. Plus, I knew that Star Alliance offers the Round the World ticket, so while I looked at other round the world ticket offers like One World and 3rd party mixed-alliance-itineraries like AirTreks, I quickly just decided to go with the one that would give me instant lounge access, extra baggage, and the possibility of upgrades. It cost a bit more, but our first flight to Sao Paulo from Zurich was actually upgraded to business somehow, so already well worth the difference in price!The Round the World ticket does have some limitations, like you have to travel in one direction around the globe; ie no backtracking across the Pacific ocean more than once, although you can zigzag up and down a bit. You also have a limit of 15 stopovers, 16 segments (flights) and 39,000 total miles, which is easy to hit if you put in as many continents as I did!

After discussing which countries to visit and when, we made a little plan and it ended up making sense to start in South America and head west. I really wanted to visit Patagonia and Kay wanted to visit New Zealand, and we wanted to do both during their southern hemisphere summers, and the main point was that I wanted to be up in Japan by cherry blossom viewing in April, so those three countries decided most of it. So for now, our itinerary includes:

  • Brazil
  • Argentina
  • Chile
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • South Korea
  • Japan
  • South East Asia (Philippines, Singapore, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar)
  • Maldives
  • India
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Ethiopia (this one was unplanned!)
  • South Africa

Mostly, I was trying to max out the number of stops on the ticket to save the most money per flight, also by flying direct always. You can buy round the world tickets for less money, but the cost per flight usually goes up quite a bit and you can lose value by having connecting flights that eat away at your segment limit. Our tickets cost around $6500 a person, for about $500 a piece for each one way ticket. Considering that a one way ticket from Zurich to Buenos Aires alone was over $1100, and round trip tickets would have been even more, it made sense for us to buy it. And to put it in perspective, you can buy a round the world ticket for $5200 that only takes you to 4 stopovers, for about $1050 for each ticket.

Are there cheaper ways to travel around the world? Sure. You can try places like AirTreks that search for flights on both Star Alliance and other alliances like One World, Sky Team, etc, or you can go by the seat of your pants and go where ever you find cheap tickets whenever you find them, but Kay and I are just too Swiss and we wanted to have a loose plan for the trip and the security of knowing we paid for our flights.

So, when January rolled around, we were off! More later with our packing list. 🙂