cycling

Escape to sandy beaches, crystal waters and Mouth watering cuisine

Parador La Huella, A restaurant located at the Beach, just outside the small town of José Ignacio, brings back memory of my visit to Uruguay. The restaurant is located on the outskirt of Punta del Este, also known as the St. Tropez of Uruguay. La Huella is known as one of Uruguay’s number one restaurants with it’s laid back atmosphere, it’s well known sushi dishes and wood-grilled platters and not to mention the location right on the beach front, perfect for a barefoot walk along the sand.

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A year ago just before ester I was visiting Rio Grande Do Sul in Brazil. It is not a town you would spend your ester weekend as most things would be closed and not much happening, so we planned a trip to Uruguay. As Rio Grande is located close to the border of Uruguay we decided to rent a car and drive down. Trying to book a car we realized it was not that easy as all the car rental companies don’t allow you to drive the car outside of Brazil. So we started to look at option of other places to visit in Brazil, but we did not give up on the idea of Uruguay and at the end we found a local company that would rent us a car with the papers needed to cross the border. Then It was the hotel booking. Again, we got a surprise as we would never imagine most hotels would be fully booked at this time of the year. Punta del Este is known for being busy during the summer months from December to March. All hotels in the center of the City was fully booked so we ended up booking a room in a B&B outside of the town. And it ended up being a perfect location for our stay.

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Hitting the road late afternoon on Thursday evening we planned to spend a night on the bordering town, Chui, to split up the journey. Arriving in Chui and checking at the few hotels on both side of the border we realized that it was not only us that had that Idea, so no room available anywhere. We decided to drive to the next town so drove down to La Coronilla. After a few stops and no room available we ended up asking some local people that pointed us in the direction of the beach as they said there would be a hotel there we could check, so we ended up at a rundown hotel that probably was our only option and decided to take it.

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The hotel was in need of some painting and an makeover in my eyes, but well it was a room and a bed to sleep inn. The room had a padlock on the outside of the door and one of these easy locks you just push to the side on the inside. We had to lift the door up a bit to be able to get the lock in place and after shaking some dust out of the woolen blankets it was time to get some sleep.

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We got up early, took a shower in a bathroom that also was in need of some touch up. Looking at the bathroom, It seamed like it probably had been installed with a bathtub before and when they decided to change they put a shower head up in the middle of the wall pointing out where the mid of the bathtub probably had been, so not in the direction you logical would have put it, so with the shower head fixed on the wall pointing out to the bathroom floor and no way to adjust it, it was an interesting project to get some water drops on the body. As we where leaving early we missed the breakfast, but considering the standard of the hotel, we where fine with having our breakfast a place along the way.

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We found a bakery in a town on the way where we stopped for some supply and had our breakfast in the car. It was the only shop we could find that was open this early in the morning. The streets where empty and quiet and only a few person out shopping for some bread.

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We made our check in at the B&B. The house was located just across the road from the beach so it could not have been a more perfect location. It was a small house, nice room and a outside area with a swimming pool and tables where they would serve us breakfast. The host was friendly but only Spanish speaking. With a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and English we all managed to communicate in some way and got some information about the area and the city.

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We took the car and went in to the city center to have a stroll around the town. We walked around in the streets and headed down to the seaside and the beaches that was crowded with people enjoying the sunny day. We tried out some local seafood on the seaside restaurants and had a walk around the more upscale area of the town.

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We found out that a great way to spend our days would be to bike around as we where staying outside of the city center but again not to far out. So with a bicycle it was easy to get to most places that was worth seeing during our stay. So when back at the B&B we managed to organize some bikes being delivered early next morning and we rented them for the rest of our stay and the company would come pick them up at the B&B. It could not be more easy than that.

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Our B&B was located in La Barra. An area with great restaurants and beaches. La Barra is connected to Punta del Este with a Curvy Bridge, so you will get some up and down hill and the most of the road around the area has small curves up and down with small side roads taking you down to the different beaches. A popular activity in the town is fishing and you see it all over. On the pier and down on the beaches. And what could be better than some fresh catch of the day on the grill.

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At the popular seaside playground of Punta del Este, there’s a unique beach vibe for all kind of traveler.

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From the fashionable Bikini beach, where you’ll find sun-kissed, bronzed bodies to more relaxed beaches and not to mention the Playa Brava Beach with Punta del Este’s famous landmark, the monster-sized hand emerging from the sand.

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La Mano en la Arena, sculpted in iron and cement by Chilean artist Mario Irarrazabal in 1982, won first prize in a monumental art contest that year and has been a Punta fixture ever since.

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Breakfast by the Pool served with ester bunny chocolates, biking around in the city, visit to some of the areas hip beaches, Watching the sunrise early morning walking in the untouched sand, dining at top notch restaurants and time relaxing on the beach was just what we where looking for.

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Punta del Este is well worth a visit. I did not know much about Punta del Este before visiting. I will for sure go back when i have the opportunity. Arriving from outside of Uruguay the best option is to fly in to Montevideo. From Montevideo you can rent a car or take a bus. You can also do like we did and drive from Rio Grande in Brazil and the roads are in good conditions and straight froward easy driving.

 

 

A Day Trip to Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin is home to Singapore’s last villages called kampongs and some say it’s how Singapore looked like back in the 1960’s. A 10 min bump boat ride from Changi Point Ferry Terminal and you are on the shore of a treasure house of wild plants and animals. According to folklore, hilly Ubin was formed when an elephant, a pig and a frog challenged one another to cross the waters to Johor, across the Straits of Johor. Whichever failed — and all three did — was turned to stone. The pig and elephant became Pulau Ubin, and the frog Pulau Sekudu (Frog Island), visible from Ubin’s southern coast.

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Now and then when I feel like getting away for the City life in Singapore this is one of the places I venture off too. I rent a bike and once on the bike I just trundle off to see where the road takes me. And what a nice feeling to be surrounded by mother nature. As soon as your off the boat the bike stores are there trying to convince you to rent a bike from them. The prices differs from S$2 to S$10 for a day and so do the quality of the bikes. As you arrive you enter a tiny village with a few stores and some restaurants and from there a few paved roads fan out to coastal campsites and the Chek Jawa Wetlands.

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I was on one of the paved roads when I spotted this Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) crossing the road. I was curious to see where it was heading and wanted to try to capture a good shot of it, so in a moment, my fare of snakes suddenly vanished. I followed the snake with my camera as it was elegantly finding its way up some plants alongside the road. At this time I had informed my friends about the snake. I probably yelled out loud, there is a snake, knowing myself right as I’m not particular found of snakes and if I can avoid seeing them I’m quite happy. Having my friends around made me feel a bit more safe being this close to it. The snake did not seem to be affected of us looking at it and it was just finding its way slowly up the trees. We where all excited and tried to get some shots of it, but being long and thin with a green color it was not easy as it was blending in with the nature.

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Another animal I have bumped in to many times on the Island is the wild boar. Another interesting animal and looking at it I would not like to get to close to it.

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Maps are placed in most of the junctions on the paved road telling you where you are and for you to get an overview of where you are heading. There is small paths of the main road that are interesting to follow if you feel like getting out of the main stream. You will pass houses on the way and most places is selling cold drinks and a few places you can hire a boat to see the Island from the sea.

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It’s mainly the older generation still living on the Island and it’s not many of them left. They seam to have a laid back attitude and enjoy the quiet way of living.

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The younger generation have moved to Singapore to find work and take the trip back to Ubin to visit family. As the 3 sisters I started to chat with on my last trips to the Island. They where down in the mangroves collecting Oysters.

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I saw them when I was passing by and was curious to what they where collecting so started to talk to one of them. She excused herself for not speaking much English, but I could understand some of what she was telling. Her sister was opening the oysters and collecting them in her bucket. She told me they used to live on the Island but they had all moved to Singapore. Her parents had lived on the Island until they passed away not long ago. So they still use to come over at least once a month to collect oysters and spend the day on the Island.

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It as fascinating to see how the women opened the oysters and handled them. I meet the sister I talked with again a bit later in the day, standing on the side of the road with her trolley, looking up in the trees. She saw me and tried to show me a durian tree but for me it was hard to spot it. So I asked where her sisters where and she told me they where down in the field collecting some vegetables. I smiled friendly to her and wished her a good day and continued my journey.

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Alongside the road you find the lotus ponds and I like to stop and look at the dragonfly whenever I can spot them.

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The chek Jawa Wetlands is another interesting place to visit. Chek Jawa is made up of 7 interdependent ecosystems – namely, its coastal forest, mangrove forest, its rocky shore, the sandy shore, sand bar, sea grass lagoon and the coral rubble. Within each of the ecosystems, there is an abundance of natural creatures, rare plants, local and migratory birds.

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At house number 1 you have the visitor center. There is a boardwalk out on the sea, another around the wetland and a tower if you are interested in walking up to look at the view. The tower becomes quite shaky if there is lots of people up at the same time, so I would recommend to get up when the crowd i less.

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Shaped like a boomerang, Pulau Ubin (Granite Island) is situated just off the north-eastern corner of mainland Singapore. A trip to Pulau ubin is a journey back in time, back to basic, back to the nature and perfect for a day trip.

How to Get There: Bumboats to Pulau Ubin leave from Changi Point Ferry Terminal when 12 passengers are ready to board, cost 2.50 Singapore dollars each, or charter the whole boat for 30 dollars. Bumboats to and from Pulau Ubin, and public transport on the island operate from sunrise to sunset

Getting Around: You can get around by foot, rent a bike or hire a taxi.

Dining: Some seafood restaurant are located at the main village as soon as you get off the boat.

Staying: There are basic campsites on the island (campers have to register at the park kiosk by the Ubin jetty), and you have the Celelstial Ubin Beach Resort close to the jetty.

The Green Corridor of Singapore

A few weeks ago after hiking Bukit timah I discovered the Green Corridor of Singapore. I was on my way down to the main road to catch a cab and saw some people climbing up a steep path to the top of a small bridge. Being curious I decided to follow the path to see what was up there. Arriving on the bridge I realized I was on Singapore’s old railway line. Some friends told me about it and I wanted to check it out but never got around to do it. Little did i know that every time I had walked below this bridge it had been there right above my head.

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On 1 July 2011, the historical Tanjong Pagar Railway Station was closed for good. It was replaced with the Woodlands Railway Station that’s close to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. With the closure of the old railway station, the entire stretch of land from Tanjong Pagar in South to Woodlands in North was re-developed. Malaysia took back its railway tracks and stretch of lush greenery was made in to what today is known as the Green Corridor.

This morning when I woke up I decided to go back and hike the Green Corridor. It was cloudy outside so a good weather to hike here in Singapore as it can be quite hot and humid during a sunny day. I packed my backpack with some water, some snack and sunblock. Looking out the window it looked like it might be a good chance it would rain, so in the last minute i grabbed an umbrella just in case. I can survive some rain, but I was more worried for my camera in case of heavy rain. I started the hiking off Lover delta Road as i live close to here and I found a path going down next to the bridge.

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A few people passed by, one on a bike and some running.

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I walked in the direction of Bukit Timah and my plan was to walk there and see how the weather was and if good my plan was to continue to the end and the woodlands. It was still cloudy but no rain yet. I walked along the path that had become more yellow as it had not been raining in Singapore for some weeks. I walked for a few km without meeting any people. Maybe due to that it was early Sunday morning or that it was a good chance for rain or just that not a lot of people know about this track.

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It started to drizzle a bit but I kept my umbrella in the backpack and kept walking for another km or so before the heavy rain started.

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I passed this village/kampong-like house along the track. In the days before the public housing was wide-spread, many people in Singapore stayed in houses like this and it is not common to see in Singapore today. At this point the rain had become more heavy so I took shelter under a bridge where they had done some artwork on the walls.

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I realized the rain would not stop so I continued my walk. Passing the next bridge a group of people was doing the same as I had done and had taken shelter under a bridge and some did not mind the rain at all. Or maybe they just did not have the time or patience to wait it out as it looked like it would last for some time.

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I was enjoying the nature and being able to walk continues km after km without having to pass any road. I could just hear the traffic passing above me when crossing under the bridges.

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I passed the Bukit Timah Railway Station that is still there today. It is blocked off by a fence so it is not possible to get in to the station. At this station there where several railway tracks to control the different trains coming in different directions to not come on collision course. These where manual operated so not like today where you have the electronic to control the circuits.

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So here I was back where I discovered the Green Corridor a few weeks ago. Just next to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

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Due to the heavy rain and I could hear the Thunder and Lightning coming I decided to end my journey at this point and not continue as planned.

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So the continue of the trail will have to be for my next adventure and hopefully with less rain than today. Even do I enjoyed my walk in the rain.

If you are looking for a day out walking, biking or running this is one of the places to look for.

For more information about the Green Corridor check out the following sites:

http://www.thegreencorridor.org/

http://www.sla.gov.sg/htm/BTRS/BTRS.htm