Traveling is one of my deepest life passions – in particular backpacking and the roughing it out with fellow explorers from around the world and getting closer to the way of life of locals from diverse countries.

I hope you enjoy, and please feel free to email me ojsingh@gmail.com with any suggestions or comments!

Peru – again! I can’t get enough of this place

I visited Peru (again), to catch up with my brother visiting Peru for the first time – and to call in at some of the places I didn’t have the chance to see on my first visit to Peru. Once again, Peru didn’t fail to impress… what a remarkably beautiful and diverse country!


– Rainbow Mountain and surreal beauty – only very recently was this opened up as a ‘day trip’ option from Cuzco however now it is one of the most popular short trips available from Cuzco. Now you can see poster pictures of Rainbow mountain on almost every single tourist agency in the City. Not surprising given how surreal it appears. Although a day trip – it is a long day, after being picked up at 2:30am from Cuzco, breakfast at 7am, then 3 hours hiking at altitude – the main viewpoint is at 5000m. The views were simply stunning – dozens of layers of different colored rock and sediment layered in a mountain that has been pushed 90 degrees onto its side. The sideways snowstorm we faced as we started the final ascent turned out to be a blessing in disguise – most people at the top turned and left, we when we arrived at the top – the weather mostly cleared and we almost had the view entirely to ourselves.

– El Misti and a lesson learned – a massive 5800m volcano overlooking Arequipa. We attempted it without a guide or 4×4 transport – a decision we regretted badly. On the first day we started from 2900m and didn’t reach the trailhead at 3400m until around 1:30pm: in effect we lost half a day energy and time which proved to be costly. The size of this mountain is deceptive when you begin the ascent – rocks that appear to be only 30 mins hiking away, are actually several hours away. Camping on the side of the volcan provided spectacular views of Arequipa at night, and at sunrise. The second day made it just over 5200m before realizing we were running short of time to be able to complete the full ascent. It was a brutal walk back down the mountain and all of the way to the nearest paved road – another 7km away – this is where the 4×4 pickup would have been a godsend!

– Mollendo beach off the gringo trail – following the recommendation of a taxi driver in Arequipa, we decided to get off the tourist trail and head to a local beach a couple of hours from Arequipa. We befriended an extremely accommodating and welcoming family at a restaurant who were delighted to have some Australians in their town and for their son to practice some English with. They insisted on driving us to a beach where locals go, and it was picturesque spot. It was a reminder how friendly the locals are especially away from ‘gringo zones’.

– Colca Canyon a deep picturesque canyon – the Colca Canyon is remarkably deep, and can provide a strong challenge for those seeking a multi day hike. We were lucky enough to spot a couple of massive condors, who effortlessly glided from one side of the valley to the other, and over the peak with impressive speed. The scenery to and from Colca Canyon is memorable, dry deserts, massive snow capped peaks above 6000m, and deep winding valleys, for me it was just as impressive as the valley itself.

– Jungle near Puerto Maldonado – just like the amazon in the north, the amazon in the south of Peru feels like a world away from the Andes, the desert and the beaches that make up other parts of Peru (although it is a little more accessible than the north). We took a day trip to Lake Sandoval, and saw amongst many other creatures: macaws, caimans, monkeys, many types of birds. However the highlight for me was seeing the single family of beavers that inhabit this lake. There were 8 beavers in all, they would all dive underwater at the same time, then after perhaps half a minute, would start appearing back at the surface, some with fish that they were happily chewing on and the others seemingly chatting with each other, The jungle was hard to leave (as it is in the north) but were were on a tight time frame – we wanted to get back to Cuzco for the xmas party!

– Fireworks and Xmas in Cusco – it is hard being away from family and friends on xmas, but at least I was with my brother. At Cuzco, on xmas, the locals go a little crazy letting off fireworks. It is a lot of fun and reminds me of Diwali in India – and equally as hazardous! We had stocked up on a quite a few fireworks, including these exceptionally large ones that really impressed the locals – nicknamed ‘mortars’. It was an adrenaline inducing and heart pounding night – protective gear such as gloves, beanies,and even glasses if you have them are a good idea!

– Reflective NYE in Pisac – I was a in a reflective mood at NYE and preferred to be in the chilled, alternative community at Pisac rather than party central of Cuzco. Pisac was lovely, very serene, friendly locals, and a small but significant celebration. This is another one of the those small seductive cities that some travelers get ‘caught’ in as it is so charming and seems to have a magical energy about it – especially after the hordes of tourist buses exit the town mid afternoon.

– Downtime in Huaraz – in Central Peruvian Andes sits Huaraz – a trekking mecca in South America. It has some famous treks including the Santa Cruz trek and the Huayhuash Treks. Unfortunately I was there in January which is the off season and I came down with a nasty case of food poisoning. I spent the first week literally lying in bed and lost quite a bit of weight – one of the fastest ways to lose weight! (along with hiking Patagonia, backpacking in India, or tackling an Ironman). After recovering and slowly getting my strength back, I did several day trips, including to Chavez, an ancient city with a deep history and sites that have survived the test of time), Pastoruri, getting up front and personal with some rapidly disappearing glaciers, and some giant Raymondi plants, and to several local Cities in the valley.

– Teaching Yoga at Huanchaco – initially I was only going to stay at Huanchaco for 1 or 2 nights on my way to Lima, but I ended up staying over a week. As with most travel, it is the people you are with that make the experience enjoyable and memorable – I stayed at a relaxed and great hostel with a fantastic bunch of people from around the world (Frogs Chillhouse). Before I knew it, I learned that the resident Yoga teacher was traveling elsewhere, and I found myself teaching early morning Yoga classes on the beach. I contemplated registering as a volunteer at the hostel and staying even longer. But after a few days of sun, surf and late night music parties on the beach – I knew it was time to keep on the move… too much of anything isn’t good for you!

I’ve now been on the road for a long time – longer than I initially planned, and now feel “I have had my fill” – and I’m ready and actually really excited to get back into work. I’m looking forward to returning to a weekly and daily routine and being a productive member of society again! So many things I’ve learned and gain from this trip however – perhaps for another blog post..



Walking towards Machu Picchu.. the second time I’ve been there.


Cuzco – a beautiful historic City.


Some of the colorful locals looking for struggling tourists who might need to rent a donkey to climb Rainbow Mountain.


Rainbow Mountain. Not hard to see why this is quickly becoming very popular day trip from Cuzco. Here we were lucky, the rough weather which turned most other travelers away, cleared up just when we reached the top. The evidence of the snow storm is on the right hand side of the pic – it was falling almost horizontally at one stage.


Sampling some of the many types of potatoes and quinoa that is grown locally here (near Puno).


Colca Canyon – checking out the impressive and very deep valley before spotting some soaring Condors.


El Misti – a tough challenge already – but made much much harder by trying to go solo and starting from the nearest town (rather than then trailhead which is another 7km in and another 600m higher).


Teaching Yoga in Huanchaco. There is practically an unlimited demand for Yoga teachers at hostels these days.


The beautiful charming small town of Pisac in the sacred valley.


Chilling in the Peruvian highlands near Hauraz,


The Giant Raymondi plants near Hauraz.


After a challenging game of ultimate frisbee in Hauraz with some of the locals. Although only around 2700m in elevation – I certainly could feel the altitude when running around.


The picturesque town of Hauraz – check out that massive mountains overlooking the City!


Peru is an extremely diverse country – after leaving the Andes within a few hours I was heading through the desert.


Pretty sunset over Huanchaco.


Majestic glaciers at Pastoruri. Sadly these glaciers are rapidly disappearing. Where I am standing in this picture was under the glacier only a year prior.

Colombia – Con mucho gusto, a beautiful country in transition

After hearing rave reviews from countless backpackers, I had high expectations of Colombia. After well over a month, I can say I haven’t been disappointed. The outgoing people, diverse landscapes, rich biodiversity, underrated history, amenable weather and great coffee just to get started – it has plenty to offer a wide range of travelers. Yes, Colombia is in a state of transition and you can feel it, many gorgeous places which were strictly off limits only a few years ago are now opening up – but you still need to keep your wits about you.

General observations

Con mucho gusto – in Colombia, after receiving a thank you, the response isn’t the Australian ‘no worries’, or the North American ‘you are welcome’, or the standard South America ‘de nada (meaning it’s nothing) – instead it is ‘con mucho gusto’ which literally translates to ‘with much pleasure’. I think this is a perfect metaphor that encapsulates the standard demeanor of the Colombians…… However, there are always exceptions to the rule. Colombia did feel like a place that if you don’t stand up for your self you can get steam rolled, for example bargaining, or lining up for transport tickets, or protecting your personal space..

Plasticity and lost identities – In all of the big cities I saw copious of people who had gone under the knife, often in ways there were not subtle in the least. I was initially shocked, but later more saddened to see so many ladies with ridiculous looking ‘saggy’ butts, and chopped off noses (rhinoplasty can be cheap and very crude here). These ladies were usually also sporting massive platform shoes, tight jeans and hair dyed blonde. It also came out in conversations with some locals how the general perceptions of cosmetic surgery here are differ to most cities I’ve been to in the west. For example, a girl in her mid 20s casually remarked a group of us how she needed to get lipo to get rid of a bit of belly fat she didn’t like , three things about this jumped out to me… firstly she was probably being a bit harsh on herself; secondly the idea of ‘working it off’ didn’t really come into the equation; and thirdly she just spoke about in such as casual way as though it was like buying another shirt.

Becoming safer, but still a little way to go – I’m happy to say I didn’t experience a single time when I felt unsafe or exposed. However, it is clear that danger isn’t far away (or was around not long ago). Many of the Cities I went to had an abundance of police officers, the climb up the ‘tres cruces’ peak in Cali we passed no less than 30 police, stationed in pairs every few hundred meters apart. Almost every other backpacker I met in Colombia was only 1 degree away from some sort of violent crime, either having experienced it directly themselves, or knowing someone who had.. for example a tour guide getting stabbed for his phone in Cali in broad daylight, or an carjacking on the overnight bus between Popayan and San Augustin. Having said all of this, some of the most beautiful places I visited have only just opened up to tourists (for example Minca in the north, or San Augustin in the South), and if you keep your wits about you a follow some basic common sense practices chances are you will be aye-ok.

Highlights of trip

Bogota and initial shell shock coming out of jungle – After spending a few minutes in Brazil (literally a few minutes – there is a tri-city area with semi open borders of Peru, Brazil and Colombia) I jumped on a plane into Bogota. I was in a state of shell shock after leaving the remote lush green clean aired jungle and landing in a sprawling metropolis of over 7million people which has a semi-permanent layer of thick smog. Bogota felt like it was on different planet to the jungle, the people were much more European in appearance, there was infrastructure (such as wifi! And regular hot showers). It was all a bit too much and I had to move to some more remote towns quickly.

Salento and the coffee growing region – Salento is a gorgeous town in the middle of coffee growing region. It features somewhat puzzling 60 meter high palm trees across sprawling mountain ranges filled with coffee farms. It was easy to see why this area is a top site for Colombians to visit.

Medellin, a good place to setup base and exploreForget about the recent turbulent history associated with Pablo Escobar, this is a place where a lot of travelers had found themselves ‘voluntarily stuck’ for a few days (or even weeks). It is a good sized city wedged in a deep valley, undergoing rapid modernization, and has a range of activities in the City and within a short trip. I stayed in a district Poblano which felt like it was cut out of a hip North American City, loaded with cafes, nice restaurants and artisan shops. One of my favourite trips away from Medellin was to Guatepe, a climbing 650 steps up a massive egg shaped rock (La Piedra Del Penol) sitting in the middle of a large lake filled with islands – this site is justifiably a National Monument and seemed incredible in the literal sense of the word. A quick Google of the pics of this rock and you’ll get a sense of what I mean.

The North Coast, Caribbean, and a different vibe – a mish-mash of different Cities and experiences: Santa Marta was an underrated, charming old City with vibrant restaurants and nightlight, beaches and history; Taganda, a grimy small town popular for scuba diving certifications and locals aggressively pushing illicit substances; Minca, a charming city in former guerrilla held territory in the low lying mountains overlooking the coast; and Cartagena – a Colombian icon, gorgeous old walled port city, overloaded with history and exquisite views, and nearby to some heavily touristed beaches and islands.

Bucaramanga and San Gill, off and then back on the ‘gringo trail’ – Bucaramanga – a very non touristy but pleasant large, and mostly middle class town. It is great to get away from other tourists every now and then and really feel the distance of where you are. A short bus ride away is the self proclaimed adventure sports center of Colombia – San Gil. Where I tried my hand a paragliding (it was only 70,000 pesos or around $25USD!) and wished I had locked away a few more days to explore the area, I may need to return again one day!

South and the edge of magnificent Andes, an area rapidly transforming – Cali, like Medellin was home to a large infamous cartel, and like Medellin is coming out of the shadows and rapidly modernizing and becoming much safer (but it has a way to go). It is known as the ‘salsa capital’ of the world, and a stroll downtown on a weeknight, I could see why – packed with discotheques! A highlight was a day trip to San Cipriano, where you can roll around on old train tracks where the locals have created ‘motor-carts’ using motorbikes and old carts, and you can go tubing down some pretty remote and pretty rivers. My bus ride to Popayan was delayed for a couple of hours by a massive street party of locals celebrating the recent win of the regional football team, I’ve never seen anything like it, effectively the City transport was shut down for around an hour. Popayan itself reminded me of Sucre (in Bolivia), very colonial looking grid based town with white washed buildings interspersed with massive churches and cathedrals. After a very bumpy and rough shuttle bus ride I came to San Augustin – the self proclaimed Archeological home of Colombia, which has UNESCO World Heritage listed sites filled with pre-hispanic old carved stones that mostly remain a mystery to archeologists. Estimates mostly have the stones at around 1500 to 2000 years old, but very little is known about who built them and why. Another good South American mystery!

Colombia has been great and I can definitely recommend it to anyone thinking of visiting. However for me it is time to keep moving and to further indulge into exploring the Andes further south… I suppose I can always return if I really want to.



Bogota, Bolivia Square


Salento – a beautiful little town in the coffee growing region.


Massive palm trees (up to 60 meters high!) in the valley next to Salento


La Piedra Del Penol – a massive rock randomly sitting in a massive lake full of Islands, a surreal site. This is next to the small town of Guatepe.


Playa Blanca near Cartagena. Colombia has its own taste of the Caribbean but this area is very heavily touristed.


Cartagena in the evening. A photogenic City loaded with a rich and long history. It is great to stroll around in the evenings when the cool breezes come in.


Cartagena – beers with other travelers. Three germans, one Italian and one Australian.


San Gil – another pretty small Colombia town. A ton of adventure sports activities here, I went paragliding for only $25 USD. Great place.


San Gil – after trying our hand at some Tejo – a game local to Colombia. The idea is to throw metal puck like objects at a small ring around 30 meters away, on the ring are gunpowder filled cardboard triangles which explode when you hit them. A whole lot of fun and very social game which reminded me of casual lawn bowls in Australia.


San Cipriano – tubing with Ned Stark and some other travelers.


San Cipriano – locals crossing their bridge


San Cipriano – a unique thing here was the motor-carts used by the locals on the old railway tracks. It was a lot of fun, but probably not the safest mode of transport that has existed.


San Augustin – a UNESCO world heritage listed site with ancient carvings from up to 2000 years. Much is unknown about the people who carved these rocks and why.


San Augustin – a gorgeous small Colombian town in the northern parts of the Andes.



Getting some more practice in teaching yoga. Here we are learning the ‘Alternal nostril breath’ – a very simple but powerful practice.

North Peru – Diversity galore! Beaches, remote mountains, and deep lush jungle!

I think It is more a hardy type of backpacker that roams northern Peru, as it is a little more out of the way to get to and more time is needed to traverse it. Because of this it is also easier to bond faster to your travel buddies – during this month I’ve made many close friends and it feels like the goodbyes are getting harder as this trip goes on.

The natural scenery here is simply stunning, and surprisingly diverse. I had no idea how good the beaches here were, the Andes lived up to – and exceeded – the very high expectations I have of them, and the Amazonas… a world unto its own and I have only scratched the surface of the lungs of the world. I definitely shed a tear on leaving Peru, it is one of my favorite countries and I will return for some more adventures in the future.

Highlights (very compressed summary!):

– Beaches – Coming from Australia I’m usually a bit of a beach snob but the beaches I visited in Peru were top notch.

  • Montanita is a surf beach with a good mix of locals and gringos. The sand, sunsets, waves, water were all very pleasant. There were groups of surfers, body boarders, and kite surfing inhibiting different parts of the beach. It had a very peaceful vibe, we were there in a low season so it was very quiet. After some hunting around to find a good hostel (and being very picky about it), we found a 3 storey hostel that was about 80% complete, it wasn’t open but had all the facilities we needed and we had the whole building to ourselves for a bargain based price, great considering we were right on the beach.

  • Huanchaco is a beach more suited to proper surfers – nice long rolling breaks, however rather than sand it has small pebbles. The location is beautiful, with a good historic decent sized city (Trujillo) nearby. I didn’t spend long here as I was itching to get back into the Andes mountains. Regrettably, I decided against going down to Hauraz for some long treks, I was turned off by the weather reports of rain everyday, but only later realized it was a typical harmless evening shower rather than non-stop rain. Needless to say Hauraz is now on my ‘to do’ list for a future visit to Peru.

– Andes – I’ve now experienced the Andes from the top of South America down to Patagonia – it has never failed to impress. Even now I had high expectation and was worried of seeing ‘more of the same’, fortunately, the Andres here have a different flavor and are just as spectacular as anywhere else. I skimmed my way through from Trujillo towards to Amazon jungle. The best decision I made was to only travel on buses during the day so as to see the awesome sights, staying usually 2-3 nights at a few charming cities dotted along the way.

  • Cajamarca – a historic city, which was northern HQ of sorts for the Inkas when the Spanish arrived, it features some pretty horrific history of backstabbing and betrayal when the Conquistadors arrived. A highlight for me was seeing an ancient aqueduct (Cumbe Mayo) that is apparently over 3000 years old, and runs for over 10kms – seriously impressive stuff!

  • Bus ride Cajamarca to Chachapoyasthis was one of the most adrenaline pumping bus rides I’ve ever done, right up there with some hairy rides in the Indian Himalayas. This was a 14 hr bus ride starting at 5am. I’m afraid my skills with words won’t do this justice, but just to say the scenery was stunning, massive deep valleys, the deepest I’ve ever seen, often in the bus when looking across at the window opposite me – it felt as though I was in a plane! Other times when I was in the cliff edge side, looking down my heart would skip a couple of beats when I couldn’t see the road – only a very long vertical drop! It was a memorable experience – definitely recommend it for anyone in this neck of the woods (but not for anyone with a heart condition).

  • Chachapoyas – another historic city, with a lot of charm and in a valley with tonnes of activities on offer. The main attraction is Kuelap, billed as a ‘machu picchu of the north’. The Peruvian government is investing in upgrading the infrastructure around this area in anticipation of much more tourism in the future. The site itself didn’t disappoint, it is basically a massive fortress like structure on the top of a ridge with spectacular views in all directions. It was build by the local Chachapoyan people before the Inkas conquered them, then the Inkas added a few buildings on top. It had a number of functions, much more than just a military outpost, but like much of the history in South America, some of the details are a bit washy as there was limited writing before the Spanish arrived, and the Spanish themselves went out of their way to eradicate some of the previous culture. Apart from Kuelap, the other main site I saw was the Gocta Waterfalls, after a heavy night of rain the 2 tiered falls that drop over 770m were mighty impressive! A real bonus I didn’t know existed here. Apparently it is in the top 3 waterfalls in the world as measured by vertical drop. After Chachapoyas the goal was to get to the Amazon asap, so we made a quick pit stop in Tarapoto, then made it to Yurimaguas where we prepared for the jungle.

  • Yurimaguas to Iquitos by Cargo Boat – One of my most memorable experiences to date, 3 days on a Cargo Boat floating blissfully down the Amazon downstream towards Iquitos. For only 80 solles (about $25) we were given 3 days food, and a spot to string up our hammocks on the 3rd floor. The 3 days went by quickly with plenty to do, reading, sleeping, teaching yoga classes at sunset on the top deck!, playing chess, meeting other travelers (we had a good crew which included representatives from Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland and a token Aussie), having a few drinks with the friendly locals, and watching the various deliveries ranging from larger towns (where a pitstop was required) to small delivers where a speed boat would just pull up on the side of our boat which didn’t even slow down. I’d definitely do this again – and am thinking of a longer cargo boat trip through Brazil for a potential future trip.

  • Iquitos and the Jungle proper – I ended up spending about 2.5 weeks in and around Iquitos. Staying for 6 nights with a local community deep in the jungle, which was living almost entirely self sufficiently, then heading north of a small village (Padre Coche) to hang out for a few nights in the wild. It was great to soak up the clean air, experience the powerful thunderstorms, see diverse and beautiful creatures all around us (especially the colourful butterflies) and cook our own food by the campfire. I made some great friends on this leg of the journey and it was very hard to say goodbye! After Iquitos I took a quick boat to Leticia then flew into Colombia – so sad to leave, especially to part ways with some great amigos, but sure I’ll return sooner or later for another dose of fresh beautiful air and keep the local mosquito population well fed.

Now onto Colombia – every single traveler I’ve spoke to who has been here raves about it – I’m trying to temper my expectations, but lets see what is in store!


International crew returning from hike to the massive Gocta Waterfalls (in the background). In this pic we have reps from Spain, France, Canada, Ireland, Australia and Germany.


Trying a creative pic in from of Gocta Waterfalls – it sort of worked..


Beautiful farm land near Cajamarca. This is the site of Cumbe Mayo – an ancient aqueduct over 10km long and 3000 years old.


The heart pounding ride from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas – insanely awesome views.


Another pic on the bus ride Cajamarca to Chachapoyas.


Cliff edge posing – Kuelap.


Returning from walk to Gocta waterfalls.

Montanita - a pretty beach.

Montanita sunset.

Our own unfinished hostel to ourselves. 3 stories and right next to the beach - with our own wifi!

Our own unfinished hostel to ourselves. 3 stories and right next to the beach – with our own wifi!

Walking around Kuelap.

Walking around Kuelap.

Local pumping out cane drink - it was delicious and the perfect kick to finish the days hike.

Local pumping out cane drink – it was delicious and the perfect kick to finish the days hike.

You have to feel for some of the labourers in the port - carrying massive sacks of rice and other goods for hours on end. Hard work.

You have to feel for some of the labourers in the port – carrying massive sacks of rice and other goods for hours on end. Hard work.

Chilling on a Cargo boat floating down the Amazon!

Chilling on a Cargo boat floating down the Amazon!


Sunset yoga on top deck of cargo boat floating down the amazon! A memorable experience.


One of the many cargo boat stops along the amazon, here we are just about the land, you can see some villagers on land lined up to sprint on board and sell their snacks.


Chilling in my hammock, the first night was comfy, but after that I started wishing I had purchased a bigger hammock. Have yet to master the art of setting up a truly comfy hammock.


Boat chess with a local (this guy was pretty good).


Impressive ‘ayauasca’ artwork from a local in Iquitos.


Mud football under rainbow, with the amazonas in the back ground.


On a mission – to go and teach Yoga in the jungle! It was a success.


Some great friends I met in and around Iquitos. Miss them all.


What looks to be an abadoned ship next to Iquitos, the Amazonas in the background.


In the markets in Iquitos, there was anything and everything you could possibly imagine. Here they were selling croc along with the usual other meats.


A failed attempt at an ‘action shot’. My Chilean amigo (Sebastian) wasn’t on the ball!


Mucho amigos on the cargo boat.


Got to stay in a community in the jungle – here one of the locals was playing one of her trades – beautiful music.