Monday, 31 August 2020

Diving in Singapore waters! Phase 2 edition

With the phase 2 of the circuit breaker, it's possible to do leisure dives in Singapore waters again. Here are some or the photos I took while diving! Photos using the Olympus TG 6 as well as the I-torch BS-30 video light or I-torch Symbiosis SS03 light. In a way it is nice to have less people on board the vessels when going diving, but I miss the camaraderie where we get to share what we've seen right after the dive. I guess this is the new normal.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Upgraded to the Olympus TG-6

With the CoVid-19 situation having thrown a wrench into pretty much everyone's plans, at least I still managed to put in a bit of diving over the weekend in Singapore's local waters. My first time doing a night dive here too. I very seldom get the opportunity to use even bring along a camera so having 4 dives (2 as a guide and 2 leisure) was quite the experience!
Just a couple of shots from the dives. Which only showcased about a third of what I saw. The rest of the shots didn't come out as nice. It's the first time I've used something other than a Gopro, so hopefully future photos will look better!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Quito, Latacunga and the Quilotoa Loop - Ecuador

1) Quito to Latacunga
After a second stint in the amazing Revolution Hostel in Quito, it was time to leave Quito and continue South. We'd chosen to leave on a Sunday as like Colombia, there would be a main drag of road closed (Cicliopaseo) which we hoped would make riding out of Quito easier. We'd decided to ride on the Pan American highway to Machachi and then make a detour on Via Cotopaxi and cycle through Parque Nacional Cotopaxi instead of continuing directly to Latacunga. Just as Quito was not easy to cycle into, cycling out was likewise a challenge for me. It took 3 hours just to get out of the city and I was lagging behind Sabine and Martin almost from the get go. I guess getting sick on the bus ride from Puerto Lopez to Quito had taken it's toll on me! (Then again I'm not the strongest cyclist around either) It was almost a relief when I finally reached Machachi. Being a Sunday, we'd also forgotten that almost the whole country shuts down and while I was looking out for either of the Swiss couples bikes parked outside an eatery, I never did see one until finally at 2pm, I decided to stop by a gas station which had a restaurant and grab something to eat myself! Fortunately there was Wifi and  I was able to receive a message telling me they had detoured into Machachi and had lunch in another restaurant. We arranged to meet in the main square and after a short discussion, I decided to join them on the turnoff into Cotopaxi. It was only 10km to a small town after all and I figured it couldn't be that bad! Well it was! Once you were on the outskirts of town, it was a rock path. In fact, I'd reckon it was even worse than Trampolin de la Muerte in Colombia. The rocks were all bigger than my fist and there were also holes the size of car rims dotted all over. No wonder I was getting lots of thumbs up from drivers. Needless to say even from the first 200m, I was already lagging behind and within 20mins, I could no longer even see a smudge in the distance of where my fellow travellers were. With my street tires sliding all over the place I decided after 2 hours and probably pushing the bicycle for 3-4km of the 5km I had covered to hail one of the white trucks plying the road for a ride. 15mins later I'd whizzed past the Swiss couple who were stopped by the side adjusting their tire pressures and shouted to them that I'd meet them at the next town. Even in a 4x4 truck, it still took the better part of another 30mins before the driver dropped me off saying it was as far as he'd go as he was headed back to Machachi and that it was just a short distance more to the next town. Of course he made sure to extract, what I thought was way too exorbitant considering he was already carrying passengers, 5usd from me before leaving me on my own.

Anyway I saw a small restaurant while coasting into town and figured I'd grab a hot drink since it would be a while before the others would arrive. Thankfully, the owner not only agreed to cook dinner, he also offered to let us camp in the field behind. Thus, I got a cup of hot chocolate, left my bright orange safety vest on the doorway and waited for Sabine and Martin to reach. It took almost an hour before I saw them coast past the restaurant and it kind of vindicated my decision to get a camioneta to carry me up even though it was only a few kilometres more. I already was almost an hour behind them and I doubt I would have been moving at the same pace which meant it would have been probably after 8pm for me to have reached the same point on my own power. Anyway as most cycling days, after we had dinner, I had trout, it was time to turn in and rest up for the next day where we would enter the park.

Cycling the following day was definitely much easier than the last leg the day before where we continued past Machachi. Even though it still remained a dirt road, there was not as many uphill climbs and we made fairly good time enjoying the amazing views as we had a clear day. I'd unfortunately forgotten to stock up on food however and had to eat at the restaurant/lodge which was situated inside the park, near the north entrance. That did burn a hole in my pocket though. After getting used to 2-3usd Almuerzos, it was a bit of a shock when the waiter told me it would be 13usd for the same thing here. I ended up just having a spaghetti which still set me back 8usd. Definitely going to make sure I have a 2-3 days of dry food permanently in my panniers so I don't have to pay cut throat prices in future! Awesome view all throughout and leaving Cotopaxi, we got to descend on a paved road! After the main bit we did veer off and cycle through some towns instead of sticking on the Pan-American to limit the number of vehicles that were passing us. More sand but definitely beats going uphill for hours on end!

2) Latacunga, the Quilotoa Loop and my new bicycle! #specializedawol

Entering Latacunga, we stopped for a quick lunch before going to an accommodation as Martin and Sabine were still deciding on whether to stay in Latacunga or carry on immediately. As I really wanted to hike along the Quilotoa Loop, I knew that we would have to part ways here and maybe i'd catch up again since i was on a shorter time scale and figured I would have to take the bus or hitch if I wanted to keep to it. I also took the afternoon to take a look at the bike shops as I was considering climbing Cotopaxi volcano and maybe take a bike ride down it since we'd only seen the volcano from a distance earlier! While walking around, I figured i'd also ask how much it would cost to get a good bicycle to replace the one I currently was using and guess what, One of them said they could get a base AWOL as it was already in the country!! As i was already planning to leave for Quilotoa, I asked him to bring it in so I could try it out when I got back!

Quilotoa was a fairly nice walk. With hostels that also provided breakfast and dinner at all of the towns along the route, there was no need to bring much. Just a change of clothes to sleep in and toiletries. It did get pretty cold at night and in the mornings so I'd definitely recommend bringing some layers which you can strip of as you're walking as when the sun comes up, it gets warm too! Quite surprisingly, despite all the cycling i'd done with dogs chasing after me, This was the first time I'd been bitten by a dog as well. Fortunately i had on pretty thick khaki pants which i'd not rolled up so I didn't feel the need to get rabies shots as although there was some bleeding, it was more from the pressure of the bite as the dogs teeth had not penetrated my pants! I would definitely recommend having a stick while walking to beat off those aggressive dogs should they decide to get too close!

After doing the hike, it was back to Latacunga where I immediately visited the bike shop only to be told they hadn't actually had the bike shipped. I guess they weren't sure how serious I was especially since I wasn't even staying in Latacunga and thus I had to wait 2 days more for them to bring the bike in. They did volunteer to pay for my accommodation though I declined, saying they should just give me a better price. Gotta say, it was worth the wait though. The Specialized AWOL is in another world compared to my old Trek. With a 15% discount plus trading in the Trek mtb, I still ended up paying more than US retail value though. :'( Anyway, It was back to Quito to get front panniers for the bicycle so that I could have a more balanced bike!