Is Mount Toubkal and are the Atlas mountains safe to travel after the recent Scandinavian murders? After having trekked these mountains only weeks after the event as a solo traveling female, I’d argue yes.
I’m only into my second day in Morocco before I heard about the murders of two Scandinavian girls.
“Have you heard about the two girls who were murdered a couple weeks ago? Everyone is talking about it. This is rare though, and these girls were traveling alone without a guide.” says a friend I met up with while in Marrakech.
I don’t bait for more details and leave it at that.
I sign up for a winter trek with a local company and learn there is one other girl who will be joining me. Two girls? Is that enough for safety in numbers?
It’s only one day before my pickup from Marrakech and when I tell a friend abroad that I’ll be going on my first winter and altitude trek in North Africa’s tallest mountains.
“Did you hear about the beheadings?” says friend.
Ugh, I really hate hearing about this news. I view this one isolated event the same way I see the mass shootings we hear about all over the news in the not so scary USA. I say “not so scary” with a bit of sarcasm.
I search the keywords to pull up the article about the two girls and see an image. Immediately I close out and remind myself not to feed into the fear mongering news. I’m NOT going to instill fear in me.
It’s game time, and the other girl and I am picked up Marrakech and on our way to Imlil, the base village before many Atlas mountain treks. There were a couple of opportunities for us to talk to each other about what happened, but she and I were both on code that both of us wanted to remain ignorant of what happened and enjoy our trek.
We are almost up the hill via car to our riad but are stopped for our first police checkpoint. Two police officials approach the vehicle and ask for our guide’s documents and our passports. They ask him a few questions, and we make it to our final destination.
That afternoon our mountain guide takes us on an acclimatization hike, we enjoy a nice lunch on the hill, and then make our way back down the mountain to rest up for our 2-day ascent in the morning. It’s quiet here.
We leave around 9 am to ascend for about 6 hours up Mount Toubkal. There aren’t many people on the trail. My trekking buddy and I continue to avoid talking about it, but then we reach a shack about halfway up, and our guide stops about 100 feet downhill of it.
He points uphill and says, “This is where it happened.” and then proceeds to tell his story. “Nothing like this has ever happened here, and it was not by our people. I saw the girls with my own eyes after it happened and was sick for a week. Everyone cried.”
My guide continues to go into the story in grave detail that I’ll spare you. We walk next to the shack, and my guide points at the dirt near my feet at where it happened. It feels grim and eerie, but no signs of a crime. My guide and trekking buddy begin walking ahead of me, and I sneak in the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” in a crossword motion over my face and chest. I’m not religious, but it’s something that we used to do when I was young, and it brought comfort to me at that moment.
There were three other checkpoints on the trail. Our guide had to provide his information, and the police officials were documenting our passports. At least they care, I’m thinking. Hearing my guide’s personal story and the several checkpoints reassured me. We’re still the only two females I’ve seen on the trail.
We’re at base camp now and finally, see other women (though only less than a handful). The rest of the trip feels quite normal. We get to the summit and never felt unsafe with our two nights at the refuge.
On the way back down the hill, I noticed more groups of women and more trekkers making their way up the trail. This is a good sign.
If you’re a solo traveling female or girl traveling with an all-girl group – I’d recommend hiring a guide to go. In fact, I think that’s the only way you’re allowed up the hill now after the incident. Hopefully, this eases some of your concern. If you have any questions, leave me a comment in the box below.
I’m a huge wine lover and my love for sake doesn’t fall short either. I’ve tried sake ice cream, bought sake Kit Kats, and sampled a half-dozen sakes from the local Family Mart and 7 Elevens in Osaka – like literally lined them all up side by side and compared characteristics. I have even gone to sake bars tasting each of their selections until they’ve run out of things for me to try. I began thinking to myself how can I up my game a bit?
Cancun is a lively beach city on the Caribbean side of Mexico filled with white sandy beaches. The city is also known for its many tourist spots such as the El Meco Archaeological site, the Temple of Scorpion, El Castillo, and La Isla Shopping Village. Cancun is not as widely well-known as other international cities (unless you’re American and grew up watching MTV Spring Break – did I just date myself?) But there are a few logistics that you need to know before you go to this breathtaking city.
Diving the Great Blue Hole of Belize is not to be missed if you ever find yourself in Caye Caulker. It’s mysterious, eerie, and a unique experience that you’ll never forget.
I recently got a job as a divemaster on a liveaboard in Hawaii and one of my guests told me I absolutely had to dive in Cozumel when I told her about my upcoming trip to Playa del Carmen. Because she and I bonded overseeing dozens of dolphins together along the Kona coast and that she has over 2,000 logged dives – I felt her word could be trusted.
I first found out about Reiki almost five years ago when I lived in downtown L.A. and had a strong desire to want to try it. The idea about removing energy blockages intrigued me and at that time I probably needed it more than I do today.
I have felt so much joy in my life since I quit my desk job and sold everything I owned to travel the world.
Occasionally I’d see a Reiki service pop up but the cards never played out to where I could see what the hype is about.
There are lots of cool holistic style healing activities to do on the tiny island of Caye Caulker that include aura cleansing massages, yoga, and other various types of massages from outdoors next to the beach to an air-conditioned quieter setting in a building.
What to Expect?
I didn’t do any research or reading up on what to expect before I booked a last minute appointment, but I did remember vaguely that for some people they felt a lot of heat coming from their Reiki practitioner.
I didn’t feel any of this so it made me wonder if I had a good Reiki guy. At first, I was expecting a woman so it did throw me off a bit. He also told me to focus on one color or things that were bothering me.
You start off by laying face down on a massage bed. You have about 10 minutes to reflect and then your Reiki practitioner comes in. It started with a bell (one that I never heard before but long echoed in an enchanting way). You can hear it close and near your ears moving.
He then begins the treatment and places his hands on your shoulders, body, and feet. You turn over, slides a smooth rock under each hand, covers your eyes, forehead, and other parts with tiny stones, and he repeats the sessions. I got whiffs of peppermint throughout. Mellow music continues in the background.
My mind is focused on green. All I could visualize was a blank slate of green and then it changed to blue. I had a few random thoughts about the guy last night who tried to hit on me with his girlfriend right there then I kept thinking about my blog and what I recently wrote. Love. Should I make this Reiki treatment about my energy blockages with love?
It wasn’t until at least 15 minutes that I felt my first tingling sensation. I feel like I was slapped with it because it came suddenly. That’s when I was thinking, “Oh! Okay, this is what it’s about.”
It ends with the smell of sage and then a misty spray over your face and body.
After the treatment, my body definitely felt tingly but I wasn’t feeling refreshed or amazing like I thought I would. It made me wonder if I got good treatment. I’m relaxed though and noticed my appetite had returned. I’m thirsty. I’m fatigued and really tired.
I guess that’s not too bad considering I could have had a case of diarrhea instead, eh?
Diving the cenotes should be on your list of things to do in Playa del Carmen if you’re a diver. It’s a very unique experience to see the cave formations that have been around for thousands of years and Playa del Carmen (Riviera Maya) has some of the best in the world.
It’s been almost 6 years exactly since my last visit to Playa del Carmen. I was a much different traveler then; a tourist traveler instead of a backpacker. I stayed at the Hotel Riu Palace Riviera Maya, an all-inclusive beach resort. The beaches were pristine and what I proclaimed as the best swimming beach I had ever been to. The food was meh. The clientele was mostly European. It was a quiet and relaxed former fisherman town with a sophisticated touch.
I’m sitting in the passenger side of a Robson R22 and my fingers go “click, click, click” against the key. I then hear two blades spinning above like the windmills at sunset in the Mojave desert.
I’m feeling very Amelia Earhart at this moment. Like a boss. I completed my safety checks from the interior, pushed a few buttons, got us up in the air, and now I have full control over the steering.
Taking a helicopter flight lesson is the most exhilarating activity I’ve tried. Forget skydiving, jumping off of bridges, leaping from the world’s largest swing into large canyons, or swimming with humpback whales. This is it. This is my defining moment.
It did take me a little bit of research and thought about whether or not I wanted to get my fixed wing or rotor wing private pilot’s license (PPL). What helped my decision are the types of activities I could do with a rotor wing. But even before that, I got the idea about taking flight lessons when I thought it would be cool to be a skydiving instructor. Then I was thinking, ” Why be a skydiving instructor when I can be a pilot instead?” That later manifested into, ” Why be a fixed wing pilot when I can be a rotor wing pilot?”
Helicopters can go forward, backward, and from side to side. It doesn’t require a long landing or lengthy runway to get up. With a PPL you can take your friends’ heli-skiing (collaborating with RedBull adrenaline adventures is another dream of mine), go island hopping, or land yourself on a yacht.
I have this pipe dream of being a Divemaster, wino, and pilot. Imagining myself in Santa Barbara’s wine country (Solvang or Los Olivos) and parking my chopper there overnight with guests enjoying our favorite wines and then hopping over to the Channel Islands for some camping and scuba diving. Pipe dreams can become realities though. All you need to do is have a vision, take that first step, and see where it goes.
Do you have a pipe dream? If so, please tell me about them in the comments below.
NYE for me seems to have an ongoing theme, and that’s of me puking. I was thinking about what I did last year and where I was, and that was me hovered over a dirty nasty public toilet.
I kicked off the New Year in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. I spent the evening with strangers and a man who identified himself as, “The Clint Eastwood of Yogya.” He snuck in a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label that can’t be found anywhere but the airports because of Java’s strict liquor laws and offered to share some with me. I was also with another group who I met from Instagram, and they shared arak (Indonesian moonshine). So I was mixing apple flavored rice wine and whiskey. I know better to be mixing, but I’m a glutton for punishment and never seem to learn my lesson.
I barely made it to the new year. I began throwing up in the restroom of the bar I was at and recorded a video of me pissed off as I transitioned into the new year with mascaraed smeared eyes and puke breath. Grrrreeat, Celia. You’re so typical American now.
Not my finest moment.
This is the third year I spent it vomiting, but this time in Te Anau, New Zealand. It’s like I’m marking my territory. “It’s not a new year without spraying all over the place like a dog, right?” …says no one ever.
But I’m proud it wasn’t my fault this time. I got a 24-hour bug the day before NYE, so my stomach was too sensitive to drink much.
I ended up meeting with a friend I met while sailing across the South Pacific. We met at a boatyard on a tiny atoll in French Polynesia over a conversation about the shitty wifi and trying to identify who bought out all the chicken leaving us stuck with canned foods and pasta. Then we found each other again in Tahiti where we were both stuck for what felt like an eternity due to boat delays. Then again in the tiny town of Te Anau. She was staying at a motel across the street from where I was staying. Life is funny.
We gave each other a big hug, had a glass of champers (I wasn’t going out like that with no champagne into the New Year), and then walked a few minutes before midnight to the lake where fireworks were scheduled to go off.
For a small town, I was a bit impressed by the amount of buzz. The usually quiet streets were lively with music and crowds.
Wait, what? I didn’t countdown! Nobody counted down! I feel cheated. Why wasn’t there a countdown!?
All whining *cough*wining* aside, it was a pretty perfect display with unobstructed views despite the rainy weather. I loved that I could show up a few minutes before, not have to elbow my way through the crowds, and even more – I remembered it all!☺
Buenos Aires is a gastronomic haven just waiting to be explored. From the traditional Asado to the traditional empanadas, the city is filled with delicacies that are sure to satisfy your cravings. Here are some of Buenos Aires’ dining treasures that offer tasty dishes at friendly prices.
Bar El Federal
Opened in 1854, this historic café is located in the San Telmo district, just a couple of blocks away from the market. They have an extensive menu, so you’re sure to find one that fits your taste. It’s a great place to soak in your Buenos Aires experience as it is a spot where locals meet up after going to the market.
They serve great empanadas and picadas in hefty servings so you can order for sharing. If you’re lucky enough to catch a pan casero freshly baked, then make sure to order one of these loaves. They are perfect with butter and dulce de leche which is a local sweet spread.
The food is delicious and reasonably priced. You can get a great meal from 100 to 150 Argentine Pesos (around $6-10).
There is absolutely no way you can go to Buenos Aires without tasting the delectable empanadas. These are deep-fried or baked pocket pastries stuffed with delicious fillings, which can be anything from meat to vegetables.
The best place to enjoy this treat is at La Cocina in Recoleta. This area is actually a favorite tourist spot, thanks to the Recoleta Museum a few blocks away. La Cocina offers 8 different types of baked empanadas, with Pikachu being the house special. No, it’s not that pocket monster in the animated series. It’s a cheese enthusiast’s dream empanada. Pikachu is made from three different types of cheese with a dash of hot sauce.
So, for a quick but filling snack, head over to La Cocina and enjoy the tasty empanadas.
Located in the La Boca district, this restaurant is a local institution where friends and family gather for a hearty meal. The menu features favorites that have been served since it opened in 1954. Their signature dishes include berenjas en escabeche which is a pickled eggplant dish served with a yummy oily marinade. You should also try out their Spanish omelet packed with a hearty serving of chorizo.
The food is fantastic, the décor is relaxing, and the prices are unbelievably affordable. An order of Asado de Tira or short ribs is only 54 Argentine Pesos, which is roughly around $4. The Spanish omelet will cost you about $2.
While walking around the city, you will often see a group of people gathered in parks drinking one of the most popular drinks in Argentina, the Mate. It is made from yerba mate, which are green finely chopped leaves that create a slightly earthy and bitter taste to the tea water. It is a local tradition that you certainly shouldn’t miss.
To make the experience more enjoyable and to make sure that you do it right, head over to Nonna Bianca located in San Telmo. It’s a quaint little ice cream shop that serves Mate. As an added bonus, if you’re not a big fan of hot drinks, you can try out Nonna Bianca’s Mate flavored ice cream instead.
It’s almost too cliché to visit Nimbin, Australia’s weed capital, and get high. But then that would be like saying you’re going to Italy and not going to try the Italian food. So on my first day, I decided [when in Rome] I was going to find me some edibles.
I’m not even big on the hippie cannabis culture (libations are more my thing). You won’t find me in dreads dressed in hemp apparel smelling like Nag Champa with a bongo drum in one hand and a rolled cigarette in the other discussing, “What is life?”
But I’ve been in a funk since I’ve been to Oz, with a couple small stints of feeling emo that I convinced myself the natural escape might be what I need to give me inspiration to create again.
The buying process was pretty easy and accessible. There was a suspicious looking garden off the main road that I saw people casually walking in and out of. I walked back there and already paranoid dealers in ski masks mumble out, “Weed? Looking for weed?”
I ask one of the guys if he had edibles and he said no, but to check out the café down the road. I didn’t partake in any of the pot. I had a different mission in mind and kindly declined. I walked over to the café and I have no idea what to look for. It all seemed a bit weird even doing this at all, so I gave up quickly and decided I’d spend the rest of my day enjoying a nice Italian dinner and some wine listening to a small duet band playing the flute and guitar.
The next morning, I end up scoring some edible cookies sold in packs of 3. It took a couple of hours for it to settle in and it was a pretty mild body high. I bought myself a hippie headband and spent the afternoon at a pub enjoying a $5 Corona special and the green rolling hills in my view listening to Californian reggae bands, Slightly Stoopid and Stick Figure, through my headphones. This is great! I’m feeling inspired. I want to write again.
I walk back to my accommodation and begin stargazing asking myself the question, “What is Life?” Well, not exactly, but you get my picture. 😉
I really wanted to spend the evening watching one of my favorite Wes Anderson films, “Darjeeling Limited”, but I couldn’t find a place to stream for free so I settled on “Slum Dog Millionaire” and retired the evening.
While I’m even surprised about my openness discussing this topic, my reason is I wanted to share the perspective from a person where pot is usually not their thing. It’s still illegal and punishable by law, but as long as you’re not making an ass out of yourself whipping out a 5’ bong in the open, then the police have a higher tolerance for it.
Also, much of what you find online is a bit outdated. You’re not going to go to Nimbin and walk into cafes or hemp bars lighting a spliff and hot-boxing the joint like Snoop Dog. Those days are long over, but enjoy it discreetly and then fancy yourself an afternoon of coffee and people watching. Otherwise, check out the Mardi Grass Festival. Peace and love, dudes!