Hiking Mt. Erica, Australia

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. And no, I am not sorry, I am simply a bit lazy 😉 During this break, I ran another marathon (in 3:43), improved my 5k timing to 18:43 and more importantly, started to explore another interests. I did a couple of trips that included biking and/or camping and/or hiking.

I planned this trip for the new year’s eve! The idea was NOT to stay in the city for any sort of fancy fireworks and just to give myself a getaway. Yes, it was a solo trip! Thanks to the public transport of the state, it was free from 6 PM to 6 AM which allowed me to think beyond the near-to-the-city options. My original plan was:

Arrive at the nearest train station (Moe, it’s not pronounced as Joe, it’s rather Mo-ee) from where I’ll ride to the base-camp (approx. 38k). Thereafter I will hike to the summit of Mt. Erica (which is basically a part of Baw Baw plateau). My plan was to do it overnight! (I was crazy as it turned out).

I arrived at the Moe station around 8.30 PM and the first part of ride was pretty neat with occasional uphills. The overall elevation gain (including the downs and then ups) was around 800 meters for the planned bike ride. Only when I was riding the tougher sections in the dark, I realized that these hills are gonna suck the bejesus out of me. I should point it out here that I was riding with all the camping equipment and my supplies. The thighs were getting tighter and the night, darker and silent. I heard my breaths, and the occasional sounds from the nearby forest. It was around 11:30 when I reached the town of Erica (at 30k mark) and decided to camp there.

The next morning, I packed my stuff and I was ready to roll the next 7 or so kilometers that would take me to the base camp. My original plan had been shattered but it was for good. The ride was not much difficult except for the last part when it turns on an all-gravel road which is not at all ideal for my bike. I walked this segment to finally arrive at the campground where I parked my bike and got ready for the hike, FINALLY!

Link to the bike rides:



I put everything in the backpack, wore full sleeves and I was ready to roll. The hike was a fair 12k with an elevation gain of about a kilometer. However, the important bit was to be aware about the wildlife, be mindful of the many logs that were fallen on the track and to just keep going. The first part of hike was from campsite to a carpark. This was through the lovely rain-forest where occasionally I’d see some wildlife. It was hot during the day and with the load on my back, it was not getting easier either. Nevertheless, the first part was over with some breaks in between. I stopped at the carpark to get some food (I was carrying with me canned beans which served my lunch and later, dinner). I was on my feet again to cover the final ground which now was a little bit more steep, yet human sighting was plenty (thanks to carpark). It took me around 3.5 hours for the entire hike.

First part of hike:


Second bit:


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I was fortunate to find some very-old members of the Melbourne Uni Mountaineering Club on the trail (who graduated in 1960s or so). They were kind enough to offer me a ride back to the campsite as were headed in the same way. I was a bit afraid that if I hike back down, I might be late to set-up the tents (perhaps I was right as it was 4:30-ish already). In no time, I was back where I started the hike. My locked-up bike was still there. The campground was still empty when I put my tents. I spent the night there under the trees and the sky. It rained slowly for a couple of hours after midnight before I finally took off on my bike with bag empty on supplies, but full of adventure and it’s memory 🙂


First 26.2 Miler Countdown: 29 (Riding around the French Island)

The conversation usually starts like:

Me: Hey! I am going to French Island tomorrow. The plan is to ride around the island for as long as we can. You know how bad cyclist I am!
Friend 1: Aww that’s so cool. But where is this place?
Friend 2: Never heard of it man.
Friend 3: Why are you going to an island to ride? You can just do that here, no?

For the first two questions, the answer is somewhere north to Philip Island (which is famous for it’s Penguins Parade aka tourist attraction). Unlike Philip Island, French Island is actually an island with no road connections. Perhaps that’s the reason why it is not so popular/known to people living in Melbourne. With it’s population of about 100, it offers a lot of land with nothing built on it. It is a classic countryside with not-so-well developed roads, more than half of the island being a national park (where no-one visits), huge and numerous farms and rare sights of humanity every once a while.
For the last question, I’d say it’s a cool idea. You get to see an entire island within a day, without any travel van or tour bus! You can stop wherever you want, you don’t need gasoline on the way and in the end, you’d be proud of yourself for doing something that not many would prefer to do.

My vision of this island was not as barren as it really was. There was one, only one, general store cum post office on the island. No other restaurant/convenience store/grocery store/hotel/motel/you name it. If you are going there, you can count on your fingertips the number of houses you’ll see. I don’t think I’d be wrong if I’ll tell you that there are more cows than humans on this island!


Our original plan was to get to the farthest “view” point called as the Albions. It just seemed like a good turn-back point for the whole-island plan. Though I have never rode this far, I thought that if we’ll just go slow, I could make it without passing out on the way back. But as the mighty Forrest Gump once said “SHIT HAPPENS”. It happened with us too.


One of our friends got a flat tire a couple of times during the way. It was not always his fault, thanks to the bumpy ride (I hope it’s okay to be a little sarcastic 😉 ). We mended it less than a couple of times before finally calling it off. Alas! We couldn’t get to the point where we wanted to but it was hell of a ride amidst those muddy roads and the beautiful landscapes offered by this tiny piece of land.

That’s where we stopped and headed back.

With a bike punctured completely, we resorted to a hike back to the ferry terminal. Due to limited number of ferries, the change of plans was inevitable. We reached half an hour earlier before the last ferry departs. In the meantime, we enjoyed the clear night sky and let me give you the privilege to enjoy the scenery of this place 😉

On the way back taking the last ferry, it was a bad idea that we didn’t check the train schedule as the last ferry that arrives stony point at 6.45, the next train is 8.30!! Had we taken the previous ferry (which arrives SP at 6.15), the next train would had been at 7. Much better! Anyway, we hung out with the kiosk guy until 8 (when they were closing). He made us some nice hot chips which was a treat in the shivering cold.

More information: http://interislandferries.com.au/

First 26.2 Miler Countdown: 42 (Philip island penguin parade)

And there comes Sunday. I and some friends had planned to go to this place nearby called Philip Island to see the infamous Penguin Parade. After a soothing day in the waters, these tiny creatures return home and more than a couple thousands of eyes gather to witness their return. I loved how the penguins get on the shore lazily and run all across the beach in blink of an eye to a sturdier ground. That made me remember that I was not so lucky today to be able to take some time out for a run.

Infinite oceans.
Not my photography! But it’s incredible.

While watching the penguins, I was thinking to get back my home and continue that yet fresh late night running adventure but the thoughts weren’t converted into action. Nevertheless, this little tour made all of us walk a lot (okay, not A LOT, around 10k), so I was glad that the day was overall pretty active.

La Paz Sand Dunes of Laoag

(Read it on MultiEMOtions Android App)

WARNING: This post is full of dirt, dust and dry air. Keep yourself hydrated while reading.

While heading towards Pagudpud from La Union, I had to have a transit at either Vigan or Laoag. Because the bus was already running late than what I had anticipated and it would be evening already regardless of the city I choose, therefore I opted for Laoag because it was nearer to Pagudpud. After reaching Laoag. the most budget option I could find to stay was the Taxicano Hotel which is a decent place to stay and geographically very convenient to go around Laoag city. However personally, I don’t think that there are a lot of places in Laoag city to hang around, but there is a place worth your time just outside the city. It is called as La Paz Sand Dunes.

As the name says, it is a place full of sand but as this is a place near the shoreline, you can also expect to see a good view of water, sun and clouds. From the Laoag city, I opted to take a tricycle to reach La Paz Sand Dunes. You can either ask the tricycle driver for a round trip price and he can wait there till you go around. However, I just asked him for a one sided trip which cost me 150 PHP. It is around 6 km drive from the city to the dunes.

This is the place where our tricycle driver dropped us off. There is a small camp here from where you can rent ATVs or the jeeps which can take you around the dunes. There is no to almost no information at the tourist information center.
Check the prices. If you have got a budget big enough, go for it. I opted to walk by myself. It was tiring, but it was obviously more fun. Though I wish to have a ATV ride, still. It would have been a little different too.
View of the dunes as you will walk more into it. Luckily the day was cloudy (rather not too sunny) otherwise the experience could have been really heart WARMING 😀 This place is quite big and you really need some time to walk around. And as the sand makes it a little hard, ensure that you have some snacks and water with you.

I started walking to my left from the spot where I had started. Though at some point, dunes did not seem to end however, you can see the water while standing at a height. Could it be a mirage? Not really. Your eyes are not deceiving you. As the sand ends, there is an ocean of water to look for.

Not a pretty beach to have fun for sure. But the sunset at this point would surely be worth watching, I missed it for sure. But the cloudy sky made it really beautiful at that point of time in the day.
These are the clouds I am talking about. This picture was taken before I reached the shore and you can see the water at the horizon. My eyes are absolutely fine 😀 While seeing this now,  I wonder how terrible photographer I am.

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After spending some time at the shore, going back was equally a job as challenging as was to reach here. However, I was not any less excited.

I leave my trails here for sometime until someone else (or an ATV or 4*4 or even a pile of sand) walks over it. Can you see the end of sand in this picture? I guess no!

After reaching back to the camp, I found that there was no tricycle driver available at that time since most people usually prefer to take a round trip. For this reason, I opened my HERE maps and started walking towards the city because I had earlier spotted that at a distance of around 1KM from the dunes, I can still get a lot of tricycles. Luckily even before that, I spotted a tricycle driver who was coming towards the dunes and was fortunately available. When I asked him about the price, he just asked for 40 PHP to get me back into the city. May be that was an advantage of getting a one sided trip from Laoag to dunes.

Last picture taken from La Paz sand dunes as I leave back to Laoag city. And the road still doesn’t end.

Surfing adventure in La Union

I have always loved water sports. If I remember it well, I was around 12 when I first went to a water park and that is where I had my first experience with water (in a way different than usual). Rides, waves, fountains and it was all great fun. But I consider water parks to be an indoor and closed place. Sporting out in the open water is much more than that. I got the first opportunity when I was an exchange student in Taiwan. Since this is an island, there are a lot of places which offer water sports. I had gone to the place called Kenting and had my first adventure with water sports. There is a thing about water sports. It takes courage to do them. I have fear of water and I can not swim so I always make sure that either I have a life jacket or I do not go in depths more than my throat. Once these conditions are settled, the time spent in water is worth remembering. I overcome my fear and challenge myself to do the things I have not yet done in my life.

La Union is a province in Luzon, Philippines. It is mainly known for surfing because the waves in San Juan (a city in La Union) are very ideal for surfers, at least for beginners. There are a lot of beach resorts and surf lesson providers on the main beach of San Juan.

Morning view of the beach. The surf lessons usually start from 7. So I made sure that I am before that to capture some silent shots. I was expecting to see the sunrise but I should have carried a compass to realize that I was in a wrong direction LOL
You can see these huts and that is where you can find a lot of instructors sitting around. For every resort, there are particular instructors. They all should be equally capable as they have grown up between these waves.
Ah! This girl loves surfing too. Well, who would not? Everyone in San Juan loves to surf. Once you go there, you will fall in love as well.

I reached the beach around 10 in the morning. One of my friend from La Union had already told me about two instructors, Royd and Ray, who can be found in Sebay. I started looking for Royd after reaching and he was there in some time. It costed us 200 PHP per hour for the board (It is 500 PHP for half day and 800 PHP for whole day) and another 200 PHP per hour for the instructor. In all, I took lesson for two hours so all the surfing for me was covered in 800 PHP. At the beginning, Royd taught me few basic positions about how to get on and lay down on the board.

This is the normal position where the board is balanced in water by our body itself. You can see Royd in the picture. Can you?

The next step is when you will stand on the board. Usually the surfers paddle by themselves to get some speed. But in my case, Royd used to give my board a push before the wave strikes and I had around 2-3 seconds to stand up on the board. This is one of the difficult tasks as new surfers usually fall before they even begin to stand. However, after (not) a lot of trials, I managed to just stand on the board. But the thing was not yet over!

Trying to get hold on the board without falling. A guy can be seen at my back who is about to stand. Royd told me some useful points about the body posture which really helped me to avoid the instant fall.

But even after managing to stand on the board, the chaos of the wave behind me always got me falling again. I remember Royd telling me that don’t let the water get you off the board so easily, fight to stand. And it really inspired me at that time and that is when I learned to balance myself while standing on the board.

Hell yeah! The boy is in full flow. I do not have the video but I was moving my body as per the direction the wave was trying to move me. And this is the moment it felt absolutely wonderful and my trip to La Union really paid off.
And every fall tells you to get up again. But time’s up LOL. My surfing hour was over with this last ride. I can not wait to have the board under my feet again.

By the time I had taken shower, I was extremely hungry and therefore walked to the nearby restaurant called Surf Shack and ate like anything. This is a good place to eat, I will recommend it well. Apart from La Union, there are other places to surf in Philippines. But if you are in Luzon, do not forget to either go to San Juan or Baler as they offer you an experience worth remembering.

Morning continues in Rizal Park

After spending around two hours in Intramuros, I was still not completely tired and hungry partly because it was quite cool and breezy as the sun was still hiding behind the white clouds. I checked on my phone to see the nearest attractions to the place I was standing at and it turned out that we were quite close to Rizal Park about which I had already looked over the internet.This park is named after Jose P. Rizal who was one of the revolutionaries in the history of Philippines. You can often see Rizal Street in many cities of Philippines as well as you can see his portrait on the 1 peso coin.

Rizal park is a wonderful place to be in the morning (and probably it should be a good evening spot as well). It has a beautiful scenic view inside and a lot of people either exercising or playing could be seen in the park.

The view from the entrance. It has quite a long pathway and on the right, there was an open air theater followed by a Chinese garden and ultimately followed by the Memorial of Jose. P. Rizal
The Filipino flag stands tall amidst the fountains. Aerobic tracks hit the morning to encourage the people wandering around the park and for those who are getting fitter. It makes quite a beautiful view. I stayed myself down for a while to just stare at it.

Moving on! Since this park is dedicated to the memory of Rizal, there is a memorial situated at the end (from the direction in which I entered), it has a nominal entrance fee of 20 PHP (which becomes 10 PHP for students). Rizal was executed in the open by Filipino soldiers and this order was issued by Spanish government which ruled Philippines at that time. There were Spanish soldiers present at the moment of execution in case if Filipino soldiers would had opted to step back.

The scene of the execution and the pain could be clearly seen. There were soldiers, priests, dog and a commander to the best of my knowledge in the crowd you see at the back of Rizal. This scene was the reason for my visit to Rizal Park.
A closer look at the executioners. There was no way that he could escape. Rest In Peace, Courageous Rizal J.P.
It has been over a century. The location is the same and it can easily make you see what exactly happened.

But his sacrifice did pay off and today at the present, Philippines is independent and honestly, it is a wonderful country. I absolutely loved the people and I will admit here that they do look a little bit like us, Indians. The first two places I had been to in The Philippines were not just historical, they had been maintained to look beautiful and that is what I loved most about them. I am not a very history-loving type of guy but the flavor of nature and beauty added to it made me to like it in a very special way.

Day Three: Yehliu Geopark

(Read it on MultiEMOtions Android App)

This is the last day of our trip. After the morning hike, as we reached hostel, luckily other people were planning to go to Yehliu too and we caught up along with them. We left the hostel around 10.30 AM and grabbed some breakfast and took the bus to go to Keelung. Here is the detailed journey:

After we were finished with Yehliu, we thought that we could spare some time to go to Tamsui (Danshu), but the bus took around 1.5 hours to get there and it was already quite dark. So, rightaway we took MRT from Tamsui to Taipei and got back to Hsinchu.