Top 3 running routes of Paris by a local!

 

Discovering Paris running is a fantastic way to enjoy some of the major landmarks and take the pace of the city. It is better though to have a few routes in mind before venturing out as the traffic can be hectic and its nice cobble stone streets that are great to discover on foot can be a runner’s ankle nightmare. These top running routes tend to avoid these hazards and will also take you to some of the nicest parks of Paris. Keep running!

Motorbiking the loop, Laos

The engine of our wooden canoe with long tail echoes in the large room while a cool wind makes me shiver. In total darkness, I vaguely distinguish rocks shaped as faces or animals briefly lit up by the beam of the headlamp of our captain. He is constantly scanning the limestone walls, as the slightest miscalculation on these shallow waters would be fatal to our boat. With great skills, our boatman manoeuvres up the winding subterranean Hinboun River which flows through the geological wonder of South-East Asia, the Kong Lor cave in Laos. Keep reading

Lake safari & jungle trekking in world’s oldest rainforest, Khao Sok, Thailand

Lime stone karst formations are gradually revealing themselves as the morning mist on the Cheow Lan Lake slowly rises. The sun bathes the rocks in warm colours and highlights the jungle growing on their steep flanks. I slowly crawl out of my bed to take a morning swim in the surprisingly warm lake. While climbing back up to the pontoon of my floating bungalow, I notice a familiar rising and falling of shrills that gives me goose bumps: a family of gibbons starts to sing, Keep reading

Horseback swimming Otres Beach, Cambodia

Sihanoukville is the hub to reach tropical Cambodian islands such as Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, famous for their warm waters and laid-back atmosphere. Sihanoukville itself lacks charm, but a few kilometres south of the centre, the beautiful beach of Otres makes up for it, and is easily accessible by tuk-tuk. Being quite touristy, horseback riding it is an off the beaten path way of exploring the countryside and the beach, leaving the crowds behind. Keep reading

Mountain biking, overlooking world’s 3rd largest bay!

I am loosening my helmet to wipe the sweat from my face while putting my sunglasses back in place. I take a few sips from my water bottle while enjoying the view on world’s third largest bay, after Hong Kong and San Francisco: the bay of Toulon along the French Riviera. From the top of the 584-metre high Mont Faron, the view on France’s forgotten city and massive military harbour is Keep reading

An urban outdoor adventure: biking from Paris to Versailles

“It’s a red!” I scream while I hit the breaks and see my Parisian girlfriend maneuvering her bicycle while crossing a three lane road in the city centre of Paris. I swear as cars start accelerating while I’m waiting for them to pass. Being born and raised in a small village in the heart of the Netherlands with safe bicycle lanes along every road, biking through the heart of Paris with a Parisian is a truly adrenaline-packed experience!

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Explore Santa Fé, Panama, a hiking paradise

The young ayudante holds his balance gracefully when the colectivo (the mini-van turned local bus), sets off to the next bus stop on the winding road. The engine makes more noise as the gradient of the road gets steeper and the view on the rolling hills surrounding us more beautiful. Behind the next curve lays the remote mountain village of Santa Fé, about five hours South-West of Panama City.

Keep traveling!

Live a psychological thriller through transmedia

Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country. Keep traveling!

A quest to spot the most beautiful bird: The Quetzal trail, Panama

One of Central America’s most picturesque hikes runs between the mountain town of Boquete and the lesser known Cerro Punta in Pamana. Both lay in different valleys putting them a good three-hour bus ride away from each other. They are also linked by the famous 9-kilometre Quetzal trail, squeezed  between two dead end roads, for a total of about 23 kilometres. Given the elevation gain, Keep traveling!

Discover Bastimentos: the secret gem of Bocas del Toro, Panama

Since the archipelago of Bocas del Toro was discovered in 1502 by Christopher Columbus, the island of Bastimentos has served as a base for vessels; hence its name that literally translates as “supplies”. Its fertile soil and tropical climate are ideal for a wide variety of plants to grow plentifully as we are about to discover, setting off for a jungle and beach hike with our specialized guides. Keep traveling!

Kayaking through the jungle on the Sarapiqui River, Costa Rica

The Sarapiqui River is powerful and brownish, as it has been raining non-stop for the past 24 hours. Seated in a kayak, resting on the river bank, I observe how David flips himself over with his kayak in the current. The short red embarkation is now floating downstream, upside down. Within a few seconds though, David appears from underneath the water, with a huge smile. “So this is how we do the underwater exit”, he says. “Your turn now!” Keep traveling!

Beyond the flowers of Ruta de las Flores, El Salvador

“Where are they?” I think concerned while guarding the bags containing our camera gear. A few guys with machetes keep an eye on me from a distance, so I cannot leave the spot. The half of best regards from far has disappeared in a low, narrow and dark tunnel filled with water, dug into the rocks. Its entrance is barely visible as it is hidden behind a curtain of water. It has been almost 30 minutes and Keep traveling!

Hiking the cloud forest of the Mombacho volcano, Nicaragua

The whistle from the ayudante (the helper of the bus driver) signals that the overcrowded bus must stop. We get off quickly, and not even coming to a complete halt, the bus drives off. A few bright red tuk-tuks, which surround us instantly, indicate in which direction to go. “Up to the park entrance, very far, cheap price, want a ride?” We are at the foot of the Mombacho volcano in Nicaragua, and we don’t want a ride. Instead, we have decided to conquer the 1344 metres of this dormant volcano, from bottom to top with our own little legs! Keep traveling!

Peeping into Telica’s massive smokey crater, Nicaragua

The sun burns my exposed skin while I am making my way among fumeroles. A slight smell of sulphur fills the hot air as we walk on a dusty trail. The backpack, stuffed with a tent, a few litres of water and some more gear to spend the night in the wild, presses on my shoulder. We are on our way to the top of the active Telica volcano in Nicaragua, in a quest to observe its massive crater. Keep traveling!

Kayaking Las Isletas de Granada, Nicaragua

The delicate brown little bird with its bright yellow beak dances elegantly on its high grey legs on a large waterlily leaf. It is a challenge to capture it from my unstable 1-person kayak that rolls violently on the waves caused by a lancha (a small passenger motor boat) passing by. I am kayaking around Las Isletas de Granada, (the islets of Granada), in Nicaragua. According to the legend, there would be 365 islands scattered around the peninsula, one for each day of the year… Quite a lot to explore!

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Climbing up the Acatenango volcano, Guatemala

“Whose idea was this, again?” I barely hear the question over the loud flapping of the freezing cold 200km/h wind against the sleeping bag I am tucked into, fully dressed in the multiple layers of the warmest clothes I have. Indeed, after the life-threatening Daikiretto in the Japanese Alps, the Grand Traverse of the Daisetzusan in Hokkaido, the mosquito-infested 5-day Mirador trek, thrilling skiing itineraries in the French Alps, caving in the Cayo destrict of Belize and playing the Robinson’s on a lost and remote island, etc, I have to admit this was again one of my ideas… It didn’t sound that bad at first: a 7-kilometer hike up the Acatenango volcano to observe the active Fuego volcano at sunrise. Keep traveling!

Hike and Help: Reach the ultimate view on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

A light is switched on, waking me up. With earplugs in my ears, my jacket and bonnet on, I am slowly extracting myself from my sleeping bag. It is early! 3:15a.m. Around me, other sleepy trekkers start to pack their sleeping bags and mattresses that cover the floor of Don Pedro’s dining room in a remote village in Guatemala. Only a few hours ago, the 15 of us from all over the world were singing songs Keep traveling!

Jumping the underground waterfalls of Belize

“Step out slowly, step out slowly, step out slowly!” The voice of Pedro, one of our guides for the day gets louder to reach an almost screaming order that is quite unexpected from this strongly built and very jungle-confident Maya. While I was stepping cautiously on an anthill to observe the leaf carriers, I pointed out to him a small snake coiled on the hill, about half a meter from my foot. As I am backing off, apparently way too slowly for Pedro, he starts telling me with a slight panic in his voice that this baby snake is the deadliest of South and Central America: the fer-de-lance. After a very bumpy ride through the Belizean citrus fields in a former US school bus turned military-graded 4×4, this is how our caving waterfall adventure to the Footprint Cave starts.

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Where to go skiing in Europe: the Austrian or French Alps?

My face hits the white cold substance when I fall down as my body gets out of control going down a small hill in the mountains of Austria. I have the hardest time getting up without falling again, as my feet are in the most uncomfortable shoes to which the rental skis are attached. I am surrounded by people who speak a language I cannot understand and during the lunch break I eat food I have never seen before: I was three when I started to learn how to ski… Keep reading

An exhilarating hike in the Japanese Alps

“Okay, don’t panic! There is a stone about 20 cm below your left foot, and a cavity for your left hand behind that rock. Yes, slightly lower. That’s it! You can put your weight on it.”

I don’t see anything but the mountain ridge on the horizon above that rock I need to descend from and a lethal ravine below my feet, while hanging on my arms trying to divide my weight at best. My legs start shaking when I feel the stone underneath my right hand moving! My 12+kg backpack drags me down and bruises my hips and shoulders, limiting my degrees of freedom. I really wish I had a parachute or a zip line… For a few seconds, I don’t see how I can help myself down safely and I fear for my life. Keep traveling!