Backpacking Grand Canyon Rim to Rim

Writing by on Monday, 12 of October , 2015 at 8:47 pm

On Thu Oct 8, 2015 my wife and I set out on the grandest hike from the South Rim to North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was a 3 day hike with 2 stops at Bright Angel and Cottonwood campgrounds. It was an amazing experience and a remarkable hike with spectacular views throughout. We had our camping permits and reservations at Yavapai Lodge on Wed Oct 7 and Sat Oct 10. So couple of friends, my wife and I flew from San Jose to Flagstaff on Wed Oct 7 and rented a car and reached the Grand Canyon National Park around 14:00. We checked into Yavapai Lodge stretched out a bit and went straight to the visitors center and spent some time at Mather Point for our first view of the Grand Canyon in all its glory. After an hour we took a shuttle and went to Hopi Point to see the Sunset. We stopped by Bright Angel Lodge for a beer and our last real meal before our hike. Headed back to the lodge and went to bed. It was chilly night and we were anxious.

Thu Oct 8, 2015. GOAL: Reach the bottom (7 miles) by 14:00, set camp and Phantom Ranch for beer.
Backpacks packed. Check out of Yavapai Lodge. Extra stuff in the car. Quick breakfast at Yavapai Lodge Canyon Cafe and we were on the shuttle to South Kaibab Trailhead. Took some photos with friends and bid them farewell until Saturday night! At 09:45 the descent had started and marked the start of a fabulous journey through the Canyon. Instantly we were welcomed with spectacular views of the Canyon. First stop Ooh Aah Point for photos. We continued and waited for a mule train to pass when I asked the Rangers if they had stocked enough supply of Beer – Affirmative. Awesome! Next stop Cedar Ridge. Stretched out a little and we were off. We went passed Skeleton Point and stopped for lunch (PBJ sandwich) when we saw two mule trains. Tip Off Point was next and what seemed to be 1.4 miles felt a lot longer and we were starting to get weary. Finally we saw the Colorado River and gave us glimmer of reaching our goal. We crossed the bridge and made it to Bright Angel Campground around 14:00. It was hot – 90F. Picked a campsite by the creek, set camp and went to Phantom Ranch which felt like a long walk in the sun. Phantom Ranch closes at 16:00 and reopens at 20:00. The mules stock the supplies there. We were lucky there was one Steak Dinner and one Veg Dinner slot available. Reserved! After beer and lemonade, we went back to camp and freshened up at the creek and went back for Dinner and then the Ranger program at 19:30 and called it a night!

Fri Oct 9, 2015. GOAL: Reach Cottonwood by 14:00 and set camp.
Granola Blueberries for breakfast. Broke Camp at 08:00 and we were on our way at 08:15.
A beautiful easy 3 hour hike on the North Kaibab Trail through the valley along the creek with picturesque views takes you towards Ribbon Falls. The sun shines bright and it gets hotter and we’re at the Fork – Ribbon Falls or Cottonwood Campground. After some arguing with the wife (who typically always wins), she made us walk towards Ribbon Falls with our backpacks. We crossed the bridge and somehow found it although the trail seemed sequestered. There she went up the falls while I stayed at the bottom grouchy as I washed my face with the cold water from the falls. Around 13:00 we left for Cottonwood as the trail started getting steeper and the sun getting hotter. After what seemed terribly long with temps hitting the upper 90s, we arrived at 14:20. We picked a campsite (the few shady sites were taken) and made lunch (Backpackers Pantry) Pad-Thai! Then cooled off near the river. I had to just jump in. Washed my t-shirt and left it to dry. We hung out at the picnic tables to cool off and get some shade from the sun. Made dinner (Chana Masala) and desert (Raspberry Crumble) at 17:30 set our alarms and went to bed by 19:00. We had an early start the next morning.

Sat Oct 10, 2015. GOAL: Start at Dawn. Reach Trailhead by 12:30 and look for Trans Canyon Shuttle.
We were awake by 04:00 even before the alarms went off. Mentally preparing ourselves for the 7 mile climb up the North Kaibab Trail we stumbled out by 04:45. Made breakfast and broke camp at 05:45, used the toilets freshened up and we were on our way at 06:15. We had to get up before 14:00 when the Trans Canyon Shuttle left North Rim for South Rim and my wife knew she wouldn’t win with any pit stops at Roaring Springs today. We hurried past Pumphouse Ranger Station which arrived at 06:50 sooner than anticipated and then came to the Roaring Springs fork. We were making good progress but trail wasn’t all that steep yet. We skipped Roaring Springs (we had water) and continued on the trail as the sun was rising past the walls of the Canyon. The trail was getting steep and fatigue began to settle in. We were going to take a break at Supai Tunnel but it seemed like an eternity. Nowhere in site, we passed the bridge and carried on each step getting us closer. We rested for a bit and continued and finally saw a tunnel. Voila! We were at Supai Tunnel at 09:30 and took off our heavy packs and just sat resting, eating and drinking water. At 10:05 we were going for the final push 1.7 miles to the finish. The match was in the fifth set! We were making our way through the unforgiving steps of North Kaibab where the backpack seems to get heavier with every step and the mind starts playing games. Then we were greeted by Coconino Overlook a magnificient view of the South Rim and the beautiful canyon where we rested for photos. At 10:50 we left for the trail head and finally after weathering through, our legs weary, our feet blistery, we reached the trail-head at 11:25. We had done it! The Grandest Hike! We spent some time there recuperating and then with no sign of any Park Shuttles we walked to the Campground and then got a beer and took a shuttle to Grand Canyon Lodge at the North Rim. We ate at the deli and took the Trans Canyon Shuttle back to South Rim and checked in at Yavapai Lodge at 19:00. After a well deserved good shower we met our friends at the Grand Canyon Cafe at Yavapai Lodge for Dinner to share stories of our grand experience.

Final Comments
Pack that backpack carefully. Take only what you will need. Ask for the weather report at Phantom Ranch & Cottonwood at your lodge. We took 2 jackets and thermals that we didn’t need. We didn’t need the water filter and carried more food/snacks than necessary. In the end, to witness the magnificent natural wonder up close and personal and a tremendous sense of accomplishment this makes it one of the grandest hikes of all time!

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Category: Travel

The Hong Kong Layover

Writing by on Monday, 23 of April , 2012 at 12:37 pm

I would definitely recommend it for those who want to set foot in China and get a feel of the city’s hustle and bustle and enjoy some great local food.

I had a 15 hour halt in Hong Kong and didn’t really plan anything, and thought I’d take a tour, but then I decided against it since I just wanted to do get a feel of the city like the locals. First Impression – New York City, but with Chinese people! Not everyone speaks English – so don’t believe what you read elsewhere. You might have to talk to the friendly Europeans there. Very few locals spoke English. It’s pretty safe, so no worries.

So, once you get to Hong Kong, just do your immigration. They are smart they don’t usually charge for Visas. They know you will spend in Hong Kong. I got a 14 day Free Visa. Just amazing!
You can take a guided tour or just explore the islands yourself.

Get the MTR Tourist Day Pass $55 HKD (You will need to get a connection from Airport to Tsing Yi for about $60 HKD return trip)
It’s pretty easy to navigate and here’s something that I did and would recommend (in this order to save time):

  • You definitely want to go to TST (Tsim Sha Tsui) on the MTR and take the Avenue of the Stars Exit for a spectacular view
  • Take the $2.50 HKD Ferry (Yes – Real Cheap) to Hong Kong Central
  • Explore Central Area
  • Take a cab to Victoria Peak Station, then take the tram up to Victoria Peak
  • Come back down, and take Bus 15C back to Central MTR
  • Go to Wan Chai Computer Center if you’re into gadgets etc. – just outside Wan Chai MTR
  • Or perhaps shopping at Times Square at Causeway Bay MTR
  • Add other stops if time permits

Eat at any of the several restaurants on the way and then head back over the airport in time to catch your flight. All in all, a Great city, Fantastic super-clean MTR and local transporation, friendly people, great food and yes – a concrete jungle! You will be amazed if you’re into skyscrapers.

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Category: Travel

The Schengen Visa Experience

Writing by on Thursday, 17 of March , 2011 at 6:41 pm

The Schengen Visa allows travel to the following 25 countries that are part of the Schengen Agreement (As of now: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland)

I recently needed to apply for the Schengen Visa in person since I was traveling to France, the Netherlands and Switzerland (in that order) with most of my travel time in Switzerland. It’s a simple process if you know what you’re doing but it can be a hassle. Hey, that’s what you get for not being a citizen of the “first world”.

But seriously, The Swiss Embassy has made it very easy to apply and provided all the necessary info on their Schengen Visa Information page. Moreover, unlike the French and some other Consulates No Appointments Necessary at least at the Swiss Embassy in SF as long as you show up between 9am and Noon.

The Best Part at the Swiss Embassy was that there were no lines. In fact, there was nobody at the Embassy except for me and the Lady behind the Visa Desk.

Here’s a list of things that were needed (when I was applying):

  • Passport, Green Card/Visa, Photos, Visa Application and Processing Fees — (Pretty Standard)
  • Bank Statements With Sufficient Funds — (You’re taking a vacation – You better have the cash)
  • Your Flight Itinerary — (Yes Really! even before you go for your appointment)
  • Travel Arrangements: Hotel Reservations for Every Night and tickets within Europe — (Yes, Sir)
  • Travel Insurance — (Holy, crap)
  • Verification of Employment (Letter or pay stubs, etc.) — (Hmmm)

And Here’s a breakdown on the damage:

  • Visa Application Fee that keeps going up ($77)
  • FedEx charge to have them mail back my passport ($15)
  • Travel Insurance for 11 days ($13)
  • Passport Size Photos from Costco ($10)
  • Parking in San Francisco ($8)
  • Plus photo-copying/printing charges

The Hassle:

  • Getting Travel Insurance. I bought it from InsuBuy.Com (found them after a google search)
  • Getting the Employment Verification Letter. Depending on your company it may be easy.
  • Driving to and from San Francisco and finding parking there.
  • Photocopying all your documents.

When I submitted the application, they told me that the Passport/Visa would arrive by FedEx a week later (and it arrived exactly on the day they said)

The only disappointment was that it was NOT valid for 3 months that is assumed. Rather, it was valid for just 2 weeks (which was 3 days more than the duration of my travel) and was valid for only one entry.

It served my purpose, but had they given me a year’s validity with multiple entries, I would have definitely made another trip and wouldn’t that have helped their businesses and tourism industry?

That’s all folks! It’s not too hard getting the Schengen Visa so don’t fret!

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Category: Travel

Does Emirates provide Hotel for Dubai layover and what’s the process

Writing by on Thursday, 24 of June , 2010 at 12:19 am

Emirates is the only airline that I flew that provided me a hotel (Millenium Airport Hotel) in Dubai for a night even though I flew Economy. I had booked my travel through and called them to ask for this voucher. Initially they were hesitant but later agreed to provide a voucher. For Business/First class flyers, Emirates provides Visa and Food Vouchers as well as a better Hotel. Since I carried an Indian Passport, I had to get a Visa. This involved paying at the bank, getting my retina scan and showing all the receipts at Immigration.

The process was not too bad. Only thing was the uncertainty. So here’s how it all happens.

  • Call Emirates and make sure they have you in their system to receive a Hotel Voucher. Call again and verify.
  • While flying you only have the eTicket.
  • Upon arrival in Dubai…
    • You might have to ask around to find the right Emirates Desk that provides the Voucher. I remember it being somewhere on the lower level.
    • You might need to get a (Transit) Visa (Pay at the bank, Complete Retina Scan etc.) – US Passport holders don’t need a visa
    • Proceed to Passport Control and clear immigration
    • Hopefully you will have your bags are checked through to your destination, otherwise claim your bags
    • You are now free to visit Dubai
    • Economy passengers can find the Millenium Airport Hotel bus outside the Arrivals Terminal (Might take some time to get there)

I did have friends in Dubai so I was able to meet them and also bought a tour from folks at the hotel.

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Category: Travel

Shivdev Kalambi's Blog

Shivdev Kalambi is a Software Development Manager, previously a Principal Software Engineer at ArcSight/HP. With over 16 years' experience in software development, he's worked on several technologies and played different roles and contributed to all phases of projects. Non-tech activies include Ping-pong, Rock Climbing and Yoga at PG, Golf, Skiing, Swimming & a beer enthusiast.