9RunRun. How did this happen

Run K2J

For me, it started this spring/summer when I realized I would not be on-the-bike very much, and needed another method to noodle around and be active. Did some hiking and paddling stuff which was fun, until I started to look at my heart rate and realized I need to bump it up a notch. The easiest way to get the activity I needed was to go for a short jog. With my penguin style trot, off I went for a few KMs here and there, with pacing based on heartrate. With casual guidance & wisdom from Judy, we nudged up the mileage – culminating in registration for one of our favorite races: 9RunRun!

Logistics for the in-person event were great. Race kit pickup was outside over two days at the Bushtukah Stittsville, with proof-of-vaccination being required to receive your in-person bib. Our good friend, Pierre-Pierre, was there screening all the…

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RT Series: Fallowfield United Church

Its been warming up alot over the past few days, and much of the snowpack is quickly melting off with spring-like weather. Last night we had a cold snap, so the snow, ice and mud should be crunchy and firm. There are still some good sections with packed snow/ice from winter, so some wooded sections will be slick, so micro-spikes will be ideal for that. Off we go with a point-to-point drop off with Judy at Fallowfield United Church.

First stop for me was to head down to Richmond Road, and leave the vehicle on the small dirt parking area right beside the trail, and the old rail bridge – which is also part of the Trans Canada Trail. The morning was chilly and not much activity on the trail: saw a solitary woman with a large chariot stroller and two small kids. Was expecting to stay on the great stonedust trail, but immediatly got diverted into the Sentier Rideau Trail woods – and off I went into. Trail quickly became snow and ice and tossed on the Micro-spikes to crunch through the quiet woods in peace. Saw a solitary trail runner the whole morning!

Moving into the woods, we avoided all the major trails, and this was mostly single track all the way. It was great to connect to some other trails, and the system remained well marked everywhere. Birds were plentiful, and woodpeckers were active. Started getting into more familiar territory, and shortly came onto wide open expanse that had sprouted a few inuksuks over the weekend! Definatly getting some melting underway. Started back onto the trail that quickly turned into a boardwalk, and was wondering when I would meet up with Judy – and sure enough she called just then. She had just crossed Moodie, and was wondering where I was – we met in 2-3 minutes for the midway selfie… and off we went on the beautiful morning. For me it was starting to get more urban, crossing Moodie with the traffic lights, and back onto trail. Strolled though the increasingly familiar woods as I headed to the town of Richmond. Here there would be a short segment along the roadway.

Moodie Drive took me into Richmond: and a few folks along the way were tapping their sugar maple trees: looking for some home grown maple syrup. Fair bit of work, but nice extra hobby during C19. This part of the walk is also starting to get into farmland, and there is a herd of cows here since I can remember; dairy products I would assume. Was watching for the turnoff, and it was well marked up Khymer Lane, and back into the woods I went. Though Rooneys park, and past some trails with a memorial bench “Sit with Dylan”: nice view of the fields and large St Patricks Roman Catholic Church completed in 1866. Walking a bit further, got another call from Judy who had brought the car around and was back at Fallowfield United Church. It was only a few minutes later and greeting a few dog-walkers we connected once again. Great outing on a beautiful day.

Interesting side-note: The cornerstone for Fallowfield United Church was put into place by Sir John A. Macdonald in 1886, who was a stone mason by trade and he made a 1 day journey from Ottawa to participate in this event. There is a Silver Trowel in the national archives that he used to lay the stone. Always interesting to know “John was here”, though no sign of any graffiti to that effect!

Bouqette Panama to Uvita, Costa Rica

In this blog post, we’ll outline how we got from Boquette in Panama, navigate and cross the land boarder to Costa Rica, then finally make our way to to Uvita, Costa Rica! Spoiler alert: there is a tourist bus that runs along the main highway that costs $25 USD each to San Jose… there is no discount for a shorter trip. Of course, when we realized this was the case, we just enjoued the journey and made the travel day a bit of a fly by the seat of our pants adventure!

Our day started with the planned departure from our hostel in Boquete on the 6:35am commuter bus to David. The commuter collectivo runs regularly all morning and for $1.75USD each, we made our way down to David that took around an hour, all downhill from the highlands. Our fist photo is at the bus starting point where we’re on an nearly empty bus, but with numerous stops along the way to collect and discharge passengers – it was standing room only by the time we got to David. There is a tourist shuttle as well, but it’s a fair bit more expensive, and definitely not as interesting. At the bus station in David, there are around 40-50 regular busses in the hub here – we used our best Spanish, and found out how to get to the boarder town of Paso Canoas, on the bus labelled “Frontera”. The 55km trip was $2.10USD via local bus – picking up and dropping off folks along the way again.

At Paso Canoas, there is a small outpost on the Panama side, and we paused for a local Panama coffee and pastry at an outdoor bakery before we started to walk across the land border. Exiting Panama was relatively simple: line up, get bags checked with a brief inspection, and then stamped out… off you go in the Costa Rica direction into Paso Canoas. And keep walking. Hmmm, where is the border checkpoint? We’re in the middle of town. Keep walking and waving our passports to the locals, they keep pointing forward. So after about a half kilometer into town (passing many side streets), we get to the Costa Rica immigration office. Lining up, we pay the entrance fee, and get our stamps for our official arrival. Awesome, and off we go walking some more to find the next bus station. After another kilometer we are leaving town… and we double back – past immigration office and locals keep point us towards Panama: and we find the bus station! Hopping onto the local bus there, we pay the $0.80USD for the 20km journey to the next large town of Neily and the next bus station. Feeling very local now with zero tourists on this ride!

This station had a lot of buses arriving and departing, and with a bit of Spanish we determined our bus may be arriving in 45 minutes… and we pay the $3USD each for a ticket each for the 120km ride and await the arrival of our next transport. The bus station is very local, with very few tourists – and alot of character! We stocked up on plantain chips and some sliced melon tarts for the journey from a local food stall. Hopping onto our bus, we’re once again the only tourists, and this drew attention. A few folks were curious what we were doing, and did practice a bit of English on us. Tracking the journey on GPSr, I could tell when we were finally getting close. We also got some help from some university aged locals. They asked where we were staying, and encouraged us not to get off in central Uvita, as our hostel was up the road a bit, near a bank and supermarket. Trusting them fully, we stayed on a bit longer, and after 2-3 more stops, we were told to hop off here at the side of the hwy, and walk up the next road 100m to our place. The directions were awesome, as we were at the hostel in a flash with these helpful directions.

Arriving at Hostel Toucan in Uvita, we managed to make arrangements to stay in the Tree House suite at the front of the hostel itself. It was an awesome setup: private balcony and a great overlook on the whole hillside. The interior itself was also very unique- with living tree trunks running through the main room and closet. There was power (lights), and the banos was shared in the main building, and the common kitchen that also had a shared fridge where we could store our cold beverages. He lodge itself was very open, relaxing and chill!

Chatting with the hostel host, we got some great advice on how to cool off in the afternoon – walk up the road for a km, turn left, and keep going uphill into the jungle to a lodge that has an entrance for a path to a waterfall on Rio Uvita! Sounds fun, and off we strolled. The country side was very rural, and we had a great time at the nearly empty site. The large waterfall pool was fantastic – and in theory we could slide down on the smooth stones in a natural waterslide. We passed on that, and after a swim, may have cracked open a cool beverage, and we explored the rest of the pools.

Heading back to the hostel, we came across some of the rural sights, including a herd of curious cows greeting us from their fields as we headed back to the hostel. We took it easy, and had dinner locally, which turned out to be a fairly popular restaurant itself! A great first day in Uvita, Costa Rica.

Panama City Tour

We started the morning at the epic Mamallena Hostel: looks like we wake up and make breakfast before alot of the younger group! Pancake mix and a press is available, so it’s a simple breakfast with coffee to start. The Hostel cats are in charge while things are quiet. To get to the historic part of town, we took a short walk to Central America’s only subway here in Panama City. Borrowing a rechargable rail pass from the hostel, we charged up the right amounts with some local help on the platform, and off we went to the historic Ciaco Viejo portion of the city.

The waterfront layout is super interesting, and only in the past few decades this has turned into a reconstructed tourist spot. There is a walking tour map avail and you can follow along, getting directions through the district. Signposts indicated this is a 17th century church, then to the grand Cathedral Metropolitana in the Central Plaza, flanked by grand buildings with festive figures. San Francisco church was rebuilt in the 1800’s. Some of the more historic sites had some niches that contained partial decor under the plaster from 1680’s. Alot just need some reconstruction work to start!

Our next stop was to get to the causeway that juts out into the Pacific ocean. We started to walk, but quickly realized some parts of Panama City are not really ment for tourists on foot. Backtracking to the tourist district, we hailed a cab, and took a ride to our next destination increasinly happy with the decision to get a ride as we tour though some tough portions of the city!

Onto the Amador causeway, we found Bicicletas Moses, who rented us a pair of bikes for tour of the journey. It’s quite a long journey (2 kms) as this juts out into the Pacific ocean to shelter the ocean the entrance to the Panama Canal for ocean freighters. We say 6-8 freighters anchored waiting their turn, as they entered the canal one at a time to get though the first of the locks on the Pacific side. Looking the other direction, yachts were harbored in the blue waters, with the Panama city skyline in the background. There is also the colorful Biodiversio Museum along the causeway: and also seems to be a great spot to launch fireworks, as this was Jan-2nd.

Our third and final stop was to get to the hilltop that overlooks the city, as well as the Panama Canal. Getting another taxi to the suburb at the base of Ancon Hill, we started to explore the neighborhood until we found a trailhead. Starting in the wrong direction, we backtracked, and took the steep winding roadway though the jungle to the summit. Along the way, we saw spider monkeys in the treetops, as well as a few toucans darting past. Some of the smaller lizard creatures cooperated for a photo, and near the top, huge termite mounds were everywhere, as well as a super large 8-10 kilo Capybara rodents were present nibbling on the greeneries. The top of the hill remains a partial military zone, with state broadcast antennas, though there are still tourist lookouts to see the Panama City and the Panama Canal. Overall, a great destination!

Koh Chang & Mr T’s Reggie Bar

Koh Chang is an epic island in the Trat district, a short 5 hour bus ride from Bangkok, and will also include a short ferry ride from the mainland to the Koh Chang Ferry terminal. From there, it’s the traditional Tuk-Tuk scramble and bartering needed to get to you final destination unless you have made other arrangements with your lodging.

Billed as an island where Thai’s actually live it’s a wonderful spot with lots to explore, and can be a launching point for a number of outings ranging from snorkeling, elephant encounters, along with just exploring jungles and waterfalls in some of the island National Parks. We stayed at the Bang Bao resort on the far end of the island – near the Bang Bao Pier where a lot of the snorkeling trips launch from. Never sure what to do on New Years Eve, we strolled along the waterfront beaches in the afternoon and found a small tidy place that looked interesting: Mr. T’s Reggie Bar and we’re delighted we returned that night for the festivities!

Arriving in in the early evening, before the sunset, we snagged a small table for two on the edge of the seating that spilled over onto the sand beach. Close enough to the open restaurant to see the activity and permanent stage in the bar. There were a mix of mostly foreigners and some Thai’s at the event, which is always great. The Belgian couple beside us had some small kids with them, and they entertained themselves in the hammock that separated our seating areas – though did not last very long before heading to bed – wise parents.

The dinner was ‘Buffet Feast Style” at a fixed price, and Mr T himself walked around to ensure everyone was having a good time and was well fed, and he’s a one-man entertainment himself! Thai dishes kept appearing on the Buffet table throughout the evening, and was a great event. Paired with a frost cold Chang, it was a wonderful evening. Almost everyone at one point got a selfie with Mr T, so we needed to oblige as well with Judy – and our host.

As the evening progressed, some of the local Thai’s present approached the stage, and started singing a mix of tunes, in mix of English and Thai – everything had that happy Reggie vibe to it as well! Mr T himself also managed to add a few songs accompany with guitar or drums/bongo.

As the evening progressed, the fire dancer guys arrived : Mr T had dibs on their performance, and we got the first show on the beach! In the small and intimate setting, we could feel the flames and the heat as various feats were performed. Something you defiantly want to practice before lighting up the flaming balls on the chains! At the end of the performance, a hat was passed for tips, and the group moved onto the next restaurant – though they did return in a few hours for round two!

Overall, a great evening, and memorable way to finish our New Years eve for 2016! I think Judy is really enjoying her first week in Asia in Thailand!

San Ignacio & Cahal Pech

It’s Dec-31, 2018 and the last day of the year. We’ve settled into San Ignacio and getting into our groove at the Guesthouse Hyatt. This is the second largest city in Belize (10,000), twinned with Santa Elena (8000), across the Mopan River, so a good place to settle down for a few more days. Up in the morning before Chris and Sam, we headed down to the market area to score some fresh baked Cinnamon rolls and apple fritters to complement the coffee we’re enjoying on the small balcony in our guesthouse.

After seeing the significant Mayan ruins at Xunantunich yesterday, we headed out to the local town site Mayan ruins at Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve. Discovered by accident in the 1940’s during a construction project putting a water tower on the hillside, this is a gem of a find for folks staying in town. It’s a simple 30 minute walk (keep heading up the hill), about 1.5km from the main square and you get to this interesting site. Headquartes is find modest building, and it’s a modest $10BZ ($5USD) entrance fee for tourists. The small museum has a lot of history and some of the samples of artifacts: pottery, tools, arrowheads, and numerous carvings that have been unearthed at this site. The site was established as early as 1200BC, and abandon in the 9th century as a classic Mayan site. Only excavated in 1988, and (partially) finished in 2000 there is still lots buried in this area.

Moving into the site itself, there are a series pf Plazas and pyramids: some of then restored on one side, and still buried into the hillside on the back. The whole site is open to the public, and we’re able to explore and scramble up the restored staircases and temples at our leisure. Sam and I did a tour of the monuments, checking out the Royal plaza and thrones – as well as some of the ‘secret royal passages’ linking some of the sites structures together. At the time of our visit, there were probably 10-12 tourist seeing the whole area – very much under visited with the larger sights around – but a fascinating local attraction that should not be missed.

Walking back through town to our guesthouse, got to see all sides of San Ignacio as well. Lots of building are brightly colored, and some are left to nature. Modest and quiet in size, we got a kick out of the no-parking signs on the streets: we have not see the volume of traffic in this country that warrants this kind of traffic control!

Back at home-base, Judy and I decided to see other local sights: there’s a local swimming hole at the conjunction of the Mopan and Macal rivers, so we took a walk out in that direction right though the center of town on Burns Avenue. The road quickly lost the pavement and went into a dirt road in the forest – and a short time later we came to the riversides. Sure, a place to dip into the cool waters (of course, was around 28C), and there’s definitely evidence of a small ‘party spot’ here for the locals! In order to get across the river to Santa Elena from here, there is also a small pedestrian/motorcycle suspension bridge, that we saw reasonably well utilized in our brief stay. There’s no qualm with the locals this is a 2-way grade bridge, and the motorcycles slowed as they passed during our crossings!

After that, we settled down for a dinner out at a local restaurant in the main square, enjoyed the live band entertainment: complete with a surprising Reggie rendition of “Hotel California” and other Belize style tunes. Touring around the sights as the night air was filled with music and old school firecrackers – we then headed back to the safety of our guesthouse on the hillside. As expected, festivities peaked at midnight with fireworks, and firecrackers rattled around in in the streets: great way to see out 2018.

Sukhothai Cycle Outing

Enjoying our stay in Sukhothai, we rented a pair of trusty bikes and decided to explore some of the additional parks and sites around the main Sukhothai Historic Park. It’s 30C and a large area, so the bikes are a great addition. Our hotel location at Old City Guest House was ideally situated, and had cats to keep us company too!

Our trip starts by heading past the main gates: can’t resist taking a photo of the ‘tourist shuttle’ that runs from the main town where the bus arrives, and the ‘New City’ that is at the gates of this UNESCO Heritage site where we are staying. Moving along, we quickly get diverted to our first Buddhist temple along the route: outside the managed park area, you can just roll up on your bikes to admire. We’re the only ones here. As we continued along to the North Park, we quickly got diverted when we saw a marked bike path (shared) lane that headed back to the Old City, parallel to the main roadway, so we had to check it out! Riding along these quite local roadways, we were in the country side and quickly stumbled onto more historic sites: starting with Wat Chang Lom. The countryside was quite and peaceful: lot of local activity, hotels, and farming in the area. I’ll never get weary of riding past large paddies of green rice fields!

Along the way, we rode beside the Mae Remphan river, that twisted it’s way towards the Old City. We didn’t get far until we noticed a large shiny temple spire towards the roadway, and we had to roll in and visit Wat Ban Khwang along the way for a photo op. As we were taking photos of the seemingly empty site, we got a call from a local monk sweeping up the place. He was eager to practice his English, an we got a private tour of the Wat as he flung open the doors, and insisted on giving us a proper Thai Buddhist blessing with a water ceremony. Very grateful, we exchanged greetings and a photo op with him: designating him ‘The Chatty Monk’ for the rest of the trip. The site was fascinating and had lots of history as well, including cemetery of past monks. Bidding farewell, we continued along the shared roadside for another while along the river, enjoying views along the way.

Turning around, we decided to return to our original objective: the Northern Sector Historic Park! As it was approaching noon, we checked into the main government tourist building and sought shade for break and a cold drink. Fantastic site with impeccable bonsai gardening, and and lots of info on this section of the UNESCO Heritage site. Inside the park, we quickly found some of the famous Thuriang Kilns that have been excavated: these were the sites that made pottery in the 1400’s. These are in various stages of being uncovered: and there are litteraly hillsides of sites to be found. Moving onto the main temple site of Wat Phrapai Luang, we took additional time in the shade to explore this huge complex: taking a lap around the Northern Sector, we then headed out to the more remote Western Sector. This area is massive, and probably a 8-10km ride: with temples dotted along the forest and hilltops with minimal tourists. At most sites, we were the only ones there – a true hidden gem, and not at all a secret!

Hot and weary, we make it back to the ‘New City’ and returned our bikes for some AC to relax, and then find a good dinner site along the market road. There was a 3 day festival starting to celebrate the start of 2020 here in Sukhothai, and were were encouraged to head back to the Central Historic site for entertainment and the light show. Passing through one of our favorite spots: Wat Traphang Thong in the setting sun, there are lots of Thai locals enjoying feeding the carp, and the cooler night air. Heading into the park, the light show and entertainment was definitely festive. A great place to get some Thai street food and enjoy a free English/Thai show at this historic site. Truly a memorable evening and a great sendoff to our next destination in the morning.