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Owen

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Quebrada Las Gachas: Guadalupe’s Hidden Red River

By Owen / December 16, 2017

“Welcome to Paradise!”

A guy shouted to me as I finally made it to the river that is Las Gachas. He was half-submerged in one of the ‘jacuzzi’, surrounded by friends.

I walked cautiously on the slippery river bed and noticed: on a Saturday afternoon, there were fewer than 30 people here.

This was how ‘undiscovered’ and ‘untouched’ Las Gachas was.

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Ciudad Perdida: Finding Colombia’s Lost City

By Owen / December 7, 2017

In my grand trip around South America, I planned to take a photo at an iconic location in every country. Think Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, Machu Picchu in Peru, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil etc.

But when it came to Colombia, I couldn’t think of a single iconic location. Colombia is more known for its heart-warming people and, tragically, drug-fuelled past, but these are not tangible monuments or places I could take a photo in.

That is, until I heard of Ciudad Perdida – the Lost City.

I saw photos of the low ring terraces atop a bright green hill and I knew instantly that would be my icon for Colombia.

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Cocora Valley Hike: Trees Taller Than Tall

By Owen / November 22, 2017

“I can’t fit the whole thing in!”

“You’ll figure it out. Go back further!”

That’s just one of the common exclamations I heard at the Cocora Valley, home to the 60m tall wax palm trees
.
Those guys were trying to take a photo of the national trees of Colombia and couldn’t fit them into their camera screen. Thank God for the widescreen on my Gopro.

Hundreds of giant, slender wax palm trees fill the Valle de Cocora and it’s truly a sight to behold.

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Cotopaxi Day Trip: Hiking and Cycling An Active Volcano

By Owen / November 14, 2017

I sat at the tour office for a long time, contemplating with the staff if I should do the summit climb of the Cotopaxi volcano.

It wasn’t the physical challenge that deterred me.

Nor the altitude – Cotopaxi is the 2nd highest summit in Ecuador at 5897m.

See, Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcano and it erupted 2 years ago, after being dormant since 1942.

Even though the summit received the green light and reopened last month (after being closed for 2 years), there were still reports of sulphur emission.

I can be defeated by the toughness but not by a gas. I decided to do the day trip to the glacier line instead.

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Getting Lost With Witches & Locals at the Quilotoa Loop

By Owen / November 11, 2017

The dog barked at me.

I ignored it and continued walking.

The owner of the wooden shack came out and asked, “You understand Spanish?”

He then proceeded to tell me that I was on the wrong path. He advised me to turn back and take a small path on the right down the hill.

I walked back for almost 7 min and met at least 4 other trekkers going where I headed. This was a common occurrence on the 3-days Quilotoa Loop trek: missing the actual path and getting rescued by friendly locals.

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Gocta Falls & Kuelap Ruins: Why You Should Visit Chachapoyas

By Owen / October 26, 2017

My tour guide Jeffery turned to me and said, “I’m gonna first explain in Spanish to the group, and then in English to you.”

“Because you’re the only non-Spanish speaker.”

I was on my way to the Kuelap ruins but that statement pretty much sums up my journey in Northern Peru – a part that is still off the typical tourist circuit.

Most visitors to Peru stay primarily in the south: around Cusco for Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, to Puno for Lake Titicaca, and to Arequipa for the Colca Canyon. They might include the Nazca Lines on their way to Lima.

It is a pity because the North of Peru has so many ‘hidden gems’ like the waterfalls and Lama castle in Tarapoto and the Kuelap ruins and Gocta Falls near Chachapoyas.

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Tarapoto: Of Waterfalls and Medieval Castles

By Owen / October 24, 2017

“Hi, can you take a photo?”

The Peruvian girl in her teens asked in Spanish.

“Sure,” I replied.

I stretched out my hands, ready to receive her camera but she stood next to me.

“Oh,” I realized then that she wanted to take a photo with me.

Her friends took turn to stand beside me, posing for photos.

I felt like a Korean superstar at that moment with my legion of giggling teenage fangirls surrounding me. I looked around – I was the only Asian there. Scratch that, I could be the only non-Peruvian there at the Ahuashiyacu Waterfall.

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Nevado Mateo: My First Alpine Mountaineering Experience

By Owen / October 5, 2017

I held on firmly onto the ice axe on one hand and stretched the other to pick up the metal hook my guide dropped.

Firmly wasn’t firm enough when you’re tired.

The ice axe slipped.

So did I.

It was one of those dramatic movie moments when I slid down the ice wall, panicking and fumbling. For a few meters, all I could think was: Fuck, fuck, fuck!

In an instant, I managed to lock the ice axe right into the ice wall and stopped the fall. It’s what they call self-arrest, I believe.

Phew. That was the most intense thing I’ve experienced.

This was my first mountaineering experience and it was up the 5150m Nevado Mateo in the Andean mountain ranges of Peru.

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Santa Cruz Trek: A Natural Beautiful Exhaustion

By Owen / October 3, 2017

I slipped on the rock and fell.

My trekking pole snapped in half.

I lifted my bottle to drink, only a few drops came out.

I looked around – I’m all alone.

Is it possible to feel depressed in such natural beauty?

The Santa Cruz trek is described as one of the most beautiful in the world, but here I am, feeling… meh.

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Chavin de Huantar: Peru’s Forgotten Civilisation

By Owen / September 29, 2017

I like to travel not just to see and experience new things.

But to understand and relive the experiences of ancient cultures.

From the mysterious Nasca Lines to the enigmatic Tiwanaku ruins, I find myself getting more and more amazed with how seemingly impossible things could be achieved.

This curiosity with the unknown brought me to the ruins of Chavin de Huantar.

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