Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Canada | Rattray Marsh Trail

It was December when I arrived in Ontario. An unfamiliar coldness, one that shot straight to the bones, overwhelmed me as I got out of the plane. I took it as Canada's comical way of welcoming me, a first time visitor from the tropics. 
Rattray Marshland
Related Post : 4 hour layover in Taipei

I knew it was going to be challenging to be outdoors during this season, but the abundance of hiking trails around the city made it irresistible to squeeze in some quick hikes. 

Rattray Marsh, in the city of Mississauga (pronounced as Missy-sah-guh),  is one of the many trails that can still be accessed during winter. Located inside an enormous conservation area (94 hectares huge!) managed by Credit Valley Conservation Foundation, it is home to hundreds of plant and bird species, as well as mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. 

We left the car at Jack Darling Memorial Park. From here, we walked towards Waterfront Trail, a concrete pathway with a nice view of Lake Ontario and continued until we got to the trailhead of Rattray Marsh. 
Lake Ontario from Waterfront Trail. That's Downtown Toronto on the horizon. :) 
At the entrance of Rattray Marsh
The route is quite close to a community that you can see some of the houses beyond the trail. Yet, going farther in, you still get that gratifying feeling of being close to nature.

During this season, the trees are nearly bald, its dead leaves carpeted the forest floor.  Brown, white and grey were the dominant colors in the environment. While  all these make the scenery appear gloomy,  I found beauty in nature's slumber. 

Despite not being maintained during the winter, the boardwalk trail is easy to follow. As long as people stay on the trail, I can't imagine anyone getting lost (Trail map here).

My two brothers may not be as addicted to nature as I am but they enjoyed going around  Rattray Marsh, especially since it was an easy, walk in the park. Me? When it comes to nature, I'm easily amused. 

We reached a section of the river and I spent some time staring at it. It was my first time to see a frozen river. :) 

It didn't take us more than an hour to go around. It was a weekday but we encountered other visitors who were popping in for a quick stroll. Some were even in business clothes, a rare site for me as the Philippine trails are often in remote communities, making it difficult for someone to take a quick break from work just to hit the trail. 

As it started getting too cold for us, we skipped the secondary trail which is 1.8 KM long. We could have gone around and exited in another section of the trail but since we had to go back for the car, we decided to just walk back the same way we came in. 

After our short hike, we enjoyed a late lunch at Watan Kabob, a popular Afghan restaurant in Mississauga offering affordable (10 CAD above) and  sizeable rice meals. It's my fave! 

Resources : 
For more information on the places we visited, check out the following sites,
Jack Darling Memorial Park  (close to Port Credit, a nice part of town with restaurants and cafes)
Rattray Marsh Trail

WINTER TRAVEL TIPS FOR FILIPINOS 
What I wore? 
I didn't give much fuss of what I wore, just went with the basics. 
- tuk (or beanie)
- scarf
- jacket I'm not a fan of bulky winter jackets so I opted to get a ski jacket from a Columbia outlet store in Toronto (60.45 CAD).  It's material is very light and durable. 
- innerwear. Inside my jacket, I wore Uniqlo Heattech Ultra Warm  which I bought in the Philippines. At the time, temperature went down to -32 to 34 feels and this innerwear proved effective.
- winter socks from Uniqlo (500 Pesos for 2 pairs). I just bought two pairs and bought a couple more when I arrived in Canada. (Tip: Shop at outlet stores to get good prices on winter clothes. Toronto Premium Outlet, Vaughan Mills were some of the nice outlet stores we visited.)
- waterproof hiking shoes from Columbia

TRAVEL INFORMATION
Canada Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos
I applied for a Canada tourist visa online and the entire process took 3 weeks. This includes the time I successfully submitted my application online 'til I got my passport back from the courier. Note that timeline may vary depending on your situation.  For tips, please check out, Poor Traveler |Canada Visa Requirements & Application Process for Filipinos. This blog was very helpful guide when I applied for my tourist visa. 

Link to the Visit Canada government website is here. This is also where I got information on the visa requirements. 

How to get to Canada from Manila?
The popular entry points from Manila are the cities of Toronto and Vancouver. 
From Manila to Toronto Pearson airport, I booked a flight through the Traveloka mobile app. Airline is EVA Air (love them!) with a connecting flight in Taipei. 

Return flight back to Manila was via Calgary with a connecting flight at Vancouver airport. This, I booked through a ticketing partner of  Philippine Airlines (TravelPros in SM Mega Mall). Airfare would range around 40,000 Pesos and above for a roundtrip ticket from Manila, depending on point of entry and when flight was booked.  Tip : Check skyscanner for airfare rates. 

Philippine Airlines now has direct flights to Toronto and Vancouver departing from Manila. 



Thursday, April 5, 2018

Walking Around El Nido Town (Plus travel info!)

After finishing a strong cup of iced Americano and a juicy BLT from The Cavern, I felt a strong surge of energy that I had to walk it off. The town proper is about 2KM from where I was and easy to reach via the Taytay-El Nido road. 
Add caption

First meal in El Nido was as The Cavern. They serve burgers, sandwiches and coffee.




The  road leading to El Nido  town is a narrow, two-lane street.  There's plenty of tricycles, vehicle smoke and though it's not ideal for walking, you can see limestone rock formations, a common sight in this little town. 

Despite the inconveniences, I focused on the scenery. It's not everyday I see mountains and huge rock formations just along my walking route. I took advantage and enjoyed the serenity that only nature can provide. 

Corong-Corong bay is not along the road but there are restaurants and resorts I passed by that have access to the beach. In the afternoon, the water is filled with so many parked boats. Making up for the cluttered landscape is the view of surrounding islets and islands. 
Corong-Corong bay
Close to where I stayed (Overcomer Lodge), just a little off the main road is Altrove Pops (location map here), a small street lined with street art, cafes, stores and a food park.  
Altrove Pop District
I eventually reached the town center. It's small and you can just walk around and into narrow streets to  discover restaurants, fruit shake stands and souvenir shops. I craved for a light snack and found Midtown Bakery along Rizal street. El Nido's most popular bakery serves typical Filipino pastries sold in local bakeshops around the country. Their pan de coco is filling and packed with coconut which I love. While it's a bit more pricey than your usual bakery next door, it's a much cheaper snack option than eating inside a restaurant. (Tip : Midtown Bakery is beside Casa Cecilia located, along the main road leading to the dock.)
a typical street in El Nido town proper
More travel tips! Here are some helpful blogs on where to eat in El Nido :
Just Globe Trotting | Where to eat in El Nido
Simply Philippines | A Foodie's Guide to the Best Restaurants in El Nido

Though there's  a BPI ATM in town, it's still advisable to bring cash with you. I also observed cafes with wifi are everywhere though I'm not sure how fast it is. I traveled in November 2017, off the summer season but there's still plenty of visitors, mostly foreigners.

I was nearing the end of my walk when I chanced on Peak Corner, a fitness gym located at the corner of Calle Hama and Osmena streets. With its glass walls, I could see good- looking, chiseled men working out, another attraction in town. LOL! You can just grab a shake and stand in the corner and do some "man bathing". It's an idea, though a very creepy one. :P 

Tricycle drivers are also available in town to take you on your tour. For an entertaining  and reliable driver, you can contact Nelson Fernandez through his mobile number +63 907 327 1050.  His rates for island tours A,B,C,D ranges from 1,200-1,400 PHP/head. You can also hire him to take you on an inland tricycle tour and visit Nacpan beach or see Kuyawyaw waterfalls. His tip, if you want to see a good sunset, visit Las Cavanas or Maremegmeg beach (he can take you there for 300 PHP). *Rates may change and I may not be able to update this blog. Please always confirm before booking.

This is my first trip to El Nido and while I found it very touristy, I enjoyed my stay and will be coming back. I love that there's plenty of dining options, there's good coffee such as the one served in The Cavern and that I can just book an island hopping tour even if I'm going solo and it won't be more expensive that traveling with a group since most operators charge per head. 

Travel Resources when planning for your trip to El Nido : 
Lakas ng Trip | Helpful El Nido posts 
Travel in Boots | El Nido, Palawan : Full Travel Guide(with Practical Itinerary)
Lakwatsero | El Nido Travel Guide 2018 : How to Get There, Where to Stay, Sample Itinerary and Other Tips

This trip is part of my week long birthday trip. Here are my other blog posts on this:
Leg 1 : El Nido Experience with Northern Hope Tours | Walking Around El Nido Town (You're here!:))

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