Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

By: Julio Moreno (Entrance to Mt. Halla: FREE; To the Lava Tubes in Manjang Cave: $2 [2000 KWN])

From the top of Mt. Halla. This is the famous Crater Lake that forms every year from melting snow.

Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:

1) To Mt. Halla

Take a flight or from wherever to Jeju, Korea (important flight note below). From here, it is cheaper and more convenient to stay in Jeju City (which is on the north end of the island, near the airport). Take a cab from right outside the airport to wherever you’re staying (but the hotel recommended below is in a prime location). Most cabs offer free translation if you don’t speak Korean, or know enough English to get you to a hotel. The recommended hotel is walking distance to the bus stop of the bus that goes to Mt. Halla and is a $7 cab ride from the airport (google map below). If not, make sure to have a map, or take a cab to the intersection of Roads 1132 and 1131 (but anywhere along road 1131 near City hall will do). Look for the bus stop that says to “Seongpanak” as this is the name of the trail that reaches the top of Mt. Halla. While there are 5 total trails in Mt. Halla (Yeongsil, Eorimok, Donnaeko, Gwaneumsa, and Seongpanak), only the last two reach the summit which is the point of climbing Mt. Halla (a lesson I learned the hard way). When you’re done take the same bus back to Jeju City.

Note: YOU MUST START THIS HIKE EARLY!!! It is a 4.5 hr hike up and you must reach the 3/4 point before 1PM. Also you must leave the top by 2:30PM and these rules are STRICTLY ENFORCED.

Skeezy Tip#1: Make sure to stop by the information desk in the airport as they have TONS of information on Jeju, way too much to cover here. There will surely be stuff you might be interested in. Jeju, though “small” has enough to keep you occupied for a month.

Skeezy Tip #2: Get a map in the airport information booth. Actually get 2 or 3 maps…as you will need them and for the experienced traveler, you know maps rip easily!

Skeezy Tip #3: While you can get around in buses, time is often more precious than money, and if the difference isn’t much, why waste time. Cab fares can add up. An alternative is to rent a motor scooter (Vespa-like). Be warned MOST places require you to have an INTERNATIONAL LICENCE, but some will let you slide (wink wink): [more options if you ask the info booth in the airport]

Mr Lee’s Bike Shop: (Ask for Lee Sang Jin) [Scooters as low as $23 (25,000 KWN) a day]

Cell: 011-699-8562 Office: 064-758-5296, jejubike@gmail.com, http://www.jejubike.co.kr (while the site might not be in English, Mr. Lee speaks English pretty well.)

RESERVATIONS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

On the climb from the Yeongsil Trail. Although it doesn't reach the summit, it does have better views on the climb itself.

2) To the Lava Tubes in Manjang Cave:

Once you are settled in a hotel in Jeju city, you have to go along road 1132. Using a map or better yet, a phone with GPS would help if you are driving there by scooter or car. However if you want to take the public bus route, head to jeju city bus depot (near the recommended hotel below). Buses run constantly, but given most of these activities are nature based, the earlier the better. Here is a google maps showing A: The depot and B: The Lava Tubes.

Map of JEJU Island (Si means CITY in Korean)

Story: Jeju Island is a Volcanic Island which was formed primarily from the formation of the Halla Volcano in the center of the island. Mt. Halla last erupted over a millennium ago, in 1007 and is considered permanently dormant. The volcano was fed by fast moving lava tubes, underground networks of flowing magma. What is left of this incredibly well preserved phenomena are now Mt. Halla and the Geomunoreum Lava Tube Network (if you see the map above). Mount Halla has lots of flora and fauna, some indigenous to Jeju, and uniquely found only here. The summit is called the “Baekrokdam” which literally means “White Deer Lake”, a nod to the lake that forms on the top every year due to rainfall that attracts many wild white deer. The deer were visible on all of the hikes we did and was assured that sightings are rather common. Minks and Vipers are also found while hiking Mt. Halla, but they pose little threat to hikers.

The side of the Mt. Halla Crater, South Wall

Cool Eerie looking scene looking down the trail of the Yeongsil Course. Fog often covers the top of Hallasan.

Mid way Through the Manjang Lava Tube

Given the limited amount of land that there is in South Korea, Jeju is surprisingly very raw in its nature and a perfect getaway from the rustle bustle of every day Seoul. It is the perfect destination for nature lovers anywhere and is truly worth the trip out to Korea.

Beautiful but strange flower on Mt. Halla

Bees buzzing around this strange plant.

Logistics:

Airplane: Use eStarJet.com, Busan Air, Jeju Air or other cheap korean domestic alternatives.  While Korean Air and Asiana are the best known Korean Airlines, they are rarely the cheapest.

Lodging:

1) The Gold Motel (골드 모텔), $27 [30,000 KWN high season] Tel: (064)-723-8887, Cell: 010-4626-8881

It is recommended you make a reservation but given the lady who runs this cheap joint doesn’t speak a word of English, that might be hard. If you have a Korean friend, great! if not, just show up and if there are no vacancies, the area has TONS of cheap motels. This is also conveniently close to Mr. Lees Bike Shop.

Address: Seogwang-ro sageo-ri Bukjjokbanghyang 30M; In Korean: 서광로 사거리 북쪽방향 30M

2) Use either Hostelbookers or Hostelworld hostel search engines

3) Couchsurfing.org

Other things to do in the area:

1) Beaches (However this will be the main topic of Jeju part 2)

Sinyang Beach

2) Maze Museum: $2.50 [2500 KWN]

Jeju must have like 100 museums, most of which I am not that interested in. However the Maze museum (Miro Land in korean) is a maze made out of bushes just like the 4th Harry Potter movie. Its actually super fun, and walking distance from the Manjang Cave lava tube. Just walk north from the parking lot (on the only road) and you will see it.

Read Full Post »

By: Julio Moreno (Entrance to the ruins: $5 (51 MXN) [Sian Kaan Reserve Entrance: FREE!!!], Bus from Merida to Tulum $12 (146 MXN) one way, $24 (292 MXN) round trip.)

Tulum archaeological site overlooking the ocean.

Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:

1) Combining your visit with a stop at Chichen Itza (recommended):

Take a flight from where ever you are to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico [Visas are not required for Mexico from most countries] (airplane info below). Then take a cab outside the airport (see logistics and skeezy tips below) to your hotel or hostel (see suggestion on hostel below). Then use the google map below to guide yourself to the bus depot. Its walking distance from the suggested hostel. Take a bus to Chichen Itza (leaves hourly). They drop you off literally in front of the site. Go in, take your pics, absorb the culture. Buy a bus ticket to Tulum from a bus retailer inside the official gift shop (its directly across and to the right from where you paid for the entrance). Go to the exact point you were dropped off (a little courtyard) to wait for the bus (dont panic if its late… its ALWAYS late). Once you arrive in Tulum, go outside and take a taxi (expensive, no going around it) to whatever hotel/hostel you made reservations (recommended to make reservations ahead of time, see suggestion below). Once you settle in, you could put your luggage down and go rent a bicycle, motorcycle, car or take a taxi to the ruins and to the biosphere reserve (see map below).

Skeezy Tip #1: If you arrived in the morning to Merida you could skip the whole hostel in Merida and go straight from the airport to the bus depot. This will save you time, and one night lodging in Merida. Tulum is much prettier since its on the beach. Make sure however that you leave early to Chichen Itza as it is 3 hrs away, it takes about 2.5 hours to explore and 3 additional hours to Tulum.

Skeezy Tip #2: As mentioned in the Chichen Itza article, there are 2 bus depots next to each other in Merida. One is 1st class (named “CAME”), the other is 2nd class (No name, just called “central de segunda clase”). The service is almost identical, except that you aren’t guaranteed a seat in 2nd class. Arrive early enough and that isn’t a problem. 1st class costs 40% more and departs more seldom (big downside). From Merida there will always be seats in 2nd class (since most originate there), but from Chichen Itza, its a toss up. (Map Below)

Skeezy Tip #3: Taxis are extremely expensive in Tulum, approx $7-9 (80-100 MXN) from the city to the archeological site and an insane amount to Punta Allen inside of Sian Kaan $36 (400 MXN). Do yourself a favor and use them as seldom as possible.

2) Going STRAIGHT to Tulum:

Same instructions as above, but instead of getting a ticket to Chichen Itza from Merida, get one directly to Tulum. Keep in mind that the 2nd class bus depot only goes to Tulum at 5Am and at 9PM. The ride takes 6 hrs in second class, and about 4 in first class.

Story:

Mayan Ruins of Tulum: During the height of its power (13th-16th centuries), Tulum was a very important city for the Mayans. It served as a trading post and fortress due to its location adjacent to the Caribbean sea. It started to collapse decades after the arrival of the Spaniards in Mexico due to spreading disease across the continent. Tulum however has a very interesting recent history as well (which you wont find on wikipedia!). During the Mexican Revolution (1910) the indigenous people of the area saw the conflict as the perfect opportunity to attempt to secede from the Mexican Republic. They formed an alliance of Native Mexicans (Mayan, and other native descendants), and made Tulum their capital. As with the Mayans, these descendants were defeated by the now Mexican Army.

Main structure of Tulum. Just like Chichen Itza, this is also called "El Castillo" (The Castle).

Library of Tulum. There used to be guided tours until people started tagging inside.

Sian Ka’an Biosphere: Sian Ka’an is a wildlife reserve, one of the largest in all of Mexico. It is home to many large species such as Jaguars, crocodiles, white sea-turtles, dolphins, and racoon-relatives. Since it was set aside as a reserve in the 1980s, human development has been very limited by the Mexican government. This has allowed this hidden treasure to be very raw with virgin beaches stretching for about 30 miles from Tulum to Punta Allen (a small town and farthest reachable point inside Sian Ka’an from Tulum, see map). The other charm of this site is that its largely unknown by the general public, probably due to lack of advertisement. You could stop for 30 minutes on the single road and not see another human around the whole time. From Tulum, the reserve is on a single road along an extremely thin peninsula, with a fresh water lagoon to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the East. The welcome center is about 10 km into the reserve and offers some (expensive $70 a person) tours. In Punta Allen, the tours are far more affordable ($25 a person) (tour info below).

Skeezy Tip: Under no circumstances try to swim in the fresh water side of the reserve. This is a crocodile infested area. On the beach side however, there are no dangerous animals.

Dolphins playing around the boat.

Lagoon to the west of the peninsula road

Bird's Eye View from a watch tower in the welcome center. You can see nothing but palm trees and beach.

Logistics:

Airplane ride: Use cheap websites like Kayak.com, cheapoair.com, or directly from Aeromexico,com, volaris.com, or vivaaerobus.com. The Merida Airport is about 15 minutes from the bus depot/hostel.

Skeezy Tip: The airport offers taxis for $13 (155 MXN). This is an outrageous rate. If you walk straight forward from the airport then take your first right on the major street until you hit an intersection, you can hail a cab for 1/3 the price. Taxis in the city are metered and costs about $4 (50 MXN) to get to the hostel zocalo (zocalo is a town square, which is usually analogous to “downtown”). They are also abundant and you shouldn’t have a problem finding one (even at 4 in the morning).

Lodging in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico:

1) Hostel Zocalo , $12 a person (140 MXN):

http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Hostel-Zocalo/Merida/10630

Best spot for 2 reasons; a) Its walking distance to the bus depot, and b) Its the cheapest find in Merida.

2) Hostelworld.com (Search Merida city, Yucatan, Mexico)

Lodging in Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico:

1) Cenote Encantado, $16 a person for a tent (180 MXN)

http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/Cenote-Encantado-1320/Tulum/42352

Since this is a very touristy area, all hotels are in the $50+ range. There aren’t many hostels but this one stands out. It is not only cheap, but the location is impeccable. It is on the beach (just cross the street, isolated and almost to yourself), and it is 500 meters from the entrance to Sian Ka’an. In addition there is a network of small lakes or lagoons connected by underground rivers, geologically unique to this area of the world called “cenotes” (sinkholes). This hostel has one such lagoon connected to it. You could either swim, or the owner will let you borrow his kayaks or inflatable rafts free of charge to explore this beautiful lagoon where you will likely be the only people there. The actual hostel is a set of tents, with beds inside of them. The bathrooms are also waterless holes, and the showers might or might not have hot water (the peninsula is always hot though, but their heater was broken when I arrived). Despite this, it is actually quite comfortable and the owner (a conservationist hippie) is super nice.

Cenote (sinkhole) behind "Cenote Encantado" from inside an inflatable raft. Crystal clear warm fresh water.

2) Cabanas Costa Del Sol: 200 MXN for campsite, 400 MXN for a dormroom, 800 MXN for a bungalow. Prices explode during high season.

www.Cabanascostadelsol.com

This place is one of the only isolated hotels allowed within the reserve that doesnt have many tourists. It is just outside of Punta Allen, and has many services such as tours on boats, bicycle rentals and so on. It also has a really good restaurant.

Skeezy tip: Since you are far from society, it is highly recommended you rent a motorcycle or car if you stay here to see some of the more isolated spots.

3) http://www.hostelworld.com or pricetravel.com It is suggested you read the reviews before booking as the cheapest place in Tulum “Lobo Inn” has a terrible reputation of being flea infested and having leaky roofs.

Transportation:

This is one of those places where you will need it. Bicycles are 100 MXN ($9) and motorcycles (scooters) are 400 MXN ($36) in high season. Cars are in the 500-650 MXN ($45-60) range. If you only visit the archaeological site, the bike is good enough, however you will need a car, or a motorcycle (only if you have experience, as the road is made of dirt, and it is uneven) to reach Punta Allen in the Sian Ka’an Reserve. Keep in mind, you dont have to REACH that town to enjoy the reserve so you could just bike 10 km into the reserve and enjoy.

1) Punta Piedra Hotel and Bike Shop: (011)-984-1574-248 // (011)-984-1153-710 (location on the map below)

-Scooters (motorcycles): $36 (400 MXN) in high season PER 24 HOURS

-Bicycles: $9 (100 MXN) high season. MUST BE RETURNED BY 6PM (lame)

-Other services: Life jackets (40 MXN, $4), snorkel gear (call for price). PER 24 HRS

-Hotel and tour services are also offered.

Skeezy Tip #1: Especially during high season, scooters and bikes sell out. RESERVE yours before arriving (have to give a deposit) as you are soooo screwed without one of these in Tulum (taxis are mad expensive).

Skeezy Tip #2: If you rent a scooter, you will be asked to leave your passport as collateral, no exceptions. This might make a few people uneasy, but I have done this here, and in Cambodia, and have never had a problem getting my passport back. Just make sure the place is in an established location. Just in case, find out where your nearest embassy is.

Skeezy Tip #3: Scooters have insurance, but only in a 20 km radius, anything else, you go at your own risk. If something breaks in the scooter when you’re far inside of Sian Kaan, you will have to pay for the scooter. Thus, take a car if you don’t have experience as it is a rough road. I had a hard time for a good 10 km of the trip, and have been riding motorcycles for 4 years.

Skeezy Tip #4: I recommend a scooter (or car) over the bike because of 2 reasons.

Skeezy Tip #5: Despite this being a very touristy place, most places do NOT accept credit cards (same goes for most places in Mexico). You will need cash. If you need an ATM, you will most likely have to head into the city. There is a bank very near the bus depot where you were dropped off.

a)  If you return a bike at 6PM (a must, you cant keep it overnight), you will need a taxi back to your hotel and back to Punta Piedra to re-rent it in the morning (and you really need 2 days in Tulum to do both). With a scooter, you don’t have to worry about this. Furthermore, unlike in other countries, there are only few places that rent bicycles and Punta Piedra is THE ONLY PLACE as far as I know that rents scooters.

b) If you decide to go to Punta Allen, you will never make it there and back in a bike, as it is uneven dirt road for 50 km (30 miles) and once sundown hits, its pitch black. 2) Car: To get a car, ask your taxi, right after you arrive at Tulum to take you somewhere that rents cars. They will all be in the city, so go straight from the bus depot as you save on taxi rides.

Other Services:

1) Boat Tour from Punta Allen (to see dolphins, sea turtles, crocodiles, and more):

email: info@puntaallenalianza.com (no website yet as its new)

As soon as you enter Punta Allen, you will see signs telling you to go to a tourist center. Follow them. This is actually a boat tour company (but thankfully worth it). They charge 1410 MXN ($125) for a 3 hr tour, or 1200 MXN ($100) for a 2 hr tour. However, this is per boat, and they will wait until they have enough people if you want to split the cost. When they get a maximum of 6 (30 min wait), it is 235 MXN ($20) a person for the 3 hour tour, and 200 MXN ($18) for the 2 hour one. The long one is well worth it because you get to see crocodiles in addition to the rest. The tour includes seeing dolphins, sea turtles, crocodiles, diving eagles, lagoons, large nesting birds and snorkeling along the coral reef (sadly, its bleached). They also take you to a natural pool (very shallow beach) to swim for a bit. This is worth it but keep in mind, you will need to come early to Punta Allen (arrive before noon) if you plan to leave the reserve before sun down.

Giant White Sea Turtles

2) As soon as you enter Punta Allen, ask around and you will find more boat tour places, if the one suggested above is not to your liking. There are more boat tours in the lodging place cabanas costa del sol suggested above.

Bus Depot from Merida to Chichen Itza/ Tulum:

This is a bit tricky. There are two bus depots and are across the (small side) street from each other. There is the Second class Depot  (No name, just called “central de segunda clase”) and CAME which is a 1st class service. Note that 2nd class buses take 3 hrs to Chichen Itza, while first class take 2 hrs. You are guaranteed a seat in 1st class, but not in 2nd class. The rates listed above are for 2nd class. 1st class costs on average, 40% more. They are both on the intersections of 70th street and 69th street (see map).

Skeezy Tip: Arrive early, and try to be one of the first ones on the bus to claim your seat. A seat number does not guarantee you a seat, as they sell more in the 2nd class buses to make more money. In 1st class this isn’t a problem.

Map of Merida, Yucatan, Mexico:

IMPORTANT: I know on the location for Zocalo Hostel, on the actual google map, it shows it as if its on 65th street. ITS NOT. Its on 63rd street in front of “Plaza Grande” (Zocalo) as I have shown on the map below

(A=Zocalo Hostel, B= 2nd class bus depot, C = CAME 1st class Bus Depot)


Map of Tulum:
Click on the link below. The bus Depot is where is says “ADO” in the CENTER of the city. Punta Piedra is along the coast (marked). The Archaeological Zone is where it says “Tulum A.Z.”. Finally, the Cenote Encantado is along the coast down south almost near the “Arco de Sian Ka’an” which is the entrance to Sian Ka’an.

Map of Sian Ka’an: In this case, a satellite map was more appropriate:

Read Full Post »

By: Julio Moreno (Sedona “Red Rock Pass” $5 ).
Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:
Driving is the only real choice unless you get expensive tours from flagstaff. Map it out using the map below. You head north on the 17 freeway if from Phoenix, and South if from Flagstaff. If you life far, fly into either Phoenix, or Flagstaff.
MAP:
Story:
Sedona: Is a city next to many smaller parks known for their Red Rock formations. If you like hiking, this one has plenty of options (dozens), from really easy to really hard. Just head to Sedona, no planning needed and as soon as you enter, you will see a “visitors center” or something similar, depending on your entry point (north, south). You need to stop anyways to get a “Red Rock Pass” as you can’t park anywhere and hike without one. The people are so friendly to give you tons of maps, and options of hikes to do for free. They will also work with you if you want to camp, stay for more days, or anything. If you like other things such as mountain biking or ATVing, check out the “Other options” link below:
.
Skeezy Tip #1: Some hikes which are sold as “super good” cost an extra $10 for parking. You could always check where it is, and say you made a wrong turn to get out. Then park anywhere along the highway where its not prohibited as its already covered by your “Red Rock Pass”.
.
Skeezy Tip #2: Sedona is famous for its abundance of big red rock formations. With that said, sunlight will be a problem, since you generally hike in the canyon of these formations. Try to go as early as possible to get your money’s worth, because even in the summer, it will “get dark” early.

River along the West Fork Trail

USEFUL SITES:
ATVing and Mountain Biking:
Red Rock Pass Info

Read Full Post »

By: Julio Moreno (Entrance: $15)
 

Center of the Meteor Crater, taken from the Observation Deck

 

Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:
Drive from where ever you are to an exit on the 40 freeway between Winslow and Flagstaff, Arizona. There are dozens of signs, and the exit is “Meteor Crater Road” so you cant miss it. If you are coming from far away, fly into Flagstaff and rent a car at the airport. Then follow this map.
Map:
Story:
Meteor Crater: This is, as the site claims, the best preserved meteor crater on the planet. A meteor hit this spot 50,000 years ago, before humans even existed in Arizona. The site itself is privately owned and has been very well taken care of for tourists. They have however, gone a bit overboard with the “Meteor Crater Experience” full with movie, museum and an enormous gift store to commemorate your visit to the crater. While its quite breath taking, it only takes 1 hour tops to take it all in and take pictures, so plan to do other things in Arizona.

Probably the only time you will have this choice to make.

USEFUL SITES:

Read Full Post »

By: Julio Moreno (Entrance to the Park: $25;  Camping: $20/night)
The crack goes to the Colorado River

View from "Angel" Hike.

Simple “how to” [get there] quick walk though:

Drive from where ever you are to the intersection of the 89 and 67 highways in Northern Arizona (Point A on the map below). Fix the google map below accordingly. Switch to the 67 South, and drive for 43 miles. You will cross the Kaibab Forest before you reach the canyon. There is only one road so you can’t get lost.
.
Skeezy Tip: Any other form of transportation is out of the question. If you live really far away, you can fly into St. George, Utah (the closest large city) and rent a car to drive to the canyon. This is by far the most economical way to do it.
.
Map:
Story:
The Grand Canyon: Was formed over millions of years and is carved out by the Colorado River. Is quite the sight to see with amazing landscape, and hikes for all levels. Most people do the simple hikes towards the top which are 1/2 a mile to a mile. However, if you go to the information office in the north rim, the rangers can give you maps, and hike options. Unless you are planning for a multi-day hike, there is no need to make plans. If you want to camp, you might want to make reservations as its popular.
.
Skeezy Tip #1: If you go off season (after Oct, during the winter) and don’t mind the cold, there is no one charging at the entrance of the Canyon [went Dec 2005], avoiding the $25 as it is officially CLOSED. You could probably camp for free too as no one is there (minus a ranger who told me it was ok to come in). You might also see lots of cool snow as you enter the Kaibab Forest. You might see 1-2 cars as opposed to hundreds in the Summer but bring chains just to be on the safe side. While closed, there were 2 other cars there (with the canyon essentially to myself) which, although I was unprepared for the snow, was better than having crowds of yelling kids when I returned 2 years later.
.
Skeezy Tip #2: If you love the outdoors, you could get admission to all National parks for $80 [2010 figures]. If youre not sure, a ranger told me to save all my reciepts and once I accumulate close to $80 (most parks are $20-$25), just pay the difference for the year pass! Ask as you are buying the first one if this is still possible when you go.
.
Lodging:
1) Camping, $20,
2) Village of Many Nations: $70 and up depending on season.
Sleep in either a Tipi or a Navajo Hogan and get a Native American experience. While this is actually a tad too commercialized,and a bit guided towards children, the place IS run by Native Americans. They old different events such as teaching you how to throw tomahawks, teaching you about their ancient sacred medicine circle, and have a performance at night. When I went, it was a flute performance by the former Chief of the Paiute Tribe. They also sometimes have other Native American guests. Everything except the tomahawk throwing is included. This is also about 3 miles from the entrance of Zion National Park, but a good 2 hours from the Grand Canyon.

Traditional Navajo Hogan. It is actually a lot roomier than it seems.

You need to bring your own sleeping bag.

Former Chief of the Paiute Tribe, and one of only 8 people who can still speak the language.

Map to Village of Nations:

USEFUL SITES:
Hikes:

Read Full Post »