Thursday, August 05, 2021

2020-2021 America Pandemic Adventures Filipino Solo Trip

living my dream as Solo Backpacker during Covid-19 Pandemic, the #newnormal of tourism
November 26, 2020 to June 19, 2021 (205 days)

"Live a life to inspire, live a life with sense of accomplishment, live a life you will remember" - Mang Andoy

Coronavirus has changed the way we travel, this pandemic has brought significant challenges to global travel industry. My Covid-19 travel adventure begun from the moment it was gradually spreading from Asia. My first pandemic journey (January to February 2020) was in Chile, Uruguay, United States and Philippines. Surprisingly, the itinerary I created on this trip was my first around the World, 360 degrees tour (circumnavigated the Earth from Middle East to America back to Asia). Then, while most of the countries worldwide was on the beginning of 1st wave, my second pandemic journey (September to October 2020) was in Philippines, United States, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Ukraine. Like most of other employees worldwide, I lost my beloved job also due to huge effect to aviation industry (business re-structuring). Even so, I am forever grateful and proud of my four years in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Finally, while the surge of the 1st wave continuous, my third pandemic journey (November 2020 to June 2021) was this Latin America trip. Based on this, I traveled to 23 countries across 4 continents with more than 25 sets of Covid-19 Test (mostly nasal swab PCR) ALL NEGATIVE RESULT.

Despite the challenge of #newnormal, I accomplished my itinerary beyond my expectation. I just finished seven months of solo backpacking to these wonderful countries of American Continent (Nov. 2020 to Jun. 2021) with Covid19 vaccine Sinopharm (Aug. 2020 in Abu Dhabi, UAE) and J&J  Janssen (May 2021 in Boston, US). Another proud bucket list achievement; having a Philippine passport on a tight budget, all first time visits traveled from United States down to South America, language barrier, currency exchange, changing airport/land border entry/exit requirements, sudden flight cancellations and of course, the pandemic protocol on tourism and transportation.

Some of my top accomplishment on this journey are Completed the World's Seven New Wonders, all-DIY budget solo hikes (World's youngest volcano, Central America highest peaks and some Ecuador's top mountain), visited every country's signature landmarks, elusive Ecuador visa application using my mobile phone onlypandemic travel techniques and having all negative result for more than 25 sets of Covid-19 PCR Nasal Swab Test.

205 days, 15 countries, 20 Covid19 Tests.
Traveled from Abu Dhabi to Mexico then Central America, South America, United States and Manila. 
MEXICO, BELIZE, GUATEMALA, EL SALVADOR, HONDURAS, NICARAGUA, COSTA RICA, PANAMA, COLOMBIA, BOLIVIA, PARAGUAY, PERU, ECUADOR, GUYANA AND UNITED STATES #opentheeconomy #newnormal #pandemictraveling #goodvibes #lakbay100 #mexico #belize #guatemala #elsalvador #honduras #nicaragua #costarica #panama #colombia #bolivia #paraguay #peru #ecuador #guyana #unitedstates #philippines #northamerica #centralamerica #southamerica #america #pinoytraveler #backpacking #bucketlist 

2020-2021 America Pandemic Adventures Filipino Solo Trip


November 2020

December 2020

January 2021

February 2021

March 2021

April 2021

May 2021

June 2021
Jun 16 to 19 Flights from Ecuador to Philippines transit in United States
Jun 19 to 28 OFW 10-days Quarantine requirement (OWWA sponsored, 7th day PCR Test)
Jun 28 Mon 1100L Freedom, PCR test Negative (bus from quarantine hotel to PTEX then Grab car to Home)

2020-2021 America Pandemic Adventures Filipino Solo Trip (in Paricutin, Mexico)

2020-2021 America Pandemic Adventures Filipino Solo Trip (in Sta. Ana, El Salvador)


Trip Description: Solo Backpacker with Philippine passport only, all-DIY budget travel during Covid19 pandemic

Travel Date: November 2020 to June 2021 (205 days) at time zone UTC -0600H to -0400H
Budget Estimate: USD 19,000 (cash & credit card combined)
Visa: Philippine passport holders need to apply before travel in Paraguay, Ecuador and United States. Central America countries are US-visa based and South America countries are visa upon arrival.

Country of Origin: United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi)
County of first Destination: Mexico (Mexico City)
Country of last Destination: United States (New York, Los Angeles)
Destination route flow: From UAE to Mexico, Central America, South America, United States then Philippines

Airport Immigration Issues: Most of the airport and land borders are ok except in Nicaragua and United States. In my opinion, aside of long queueing, be prepared of the Immigration Officer "intensive interrogation" especially if traveling alone, traveling for so long, country of origin is not a usual destination and don't have any US resident friends/relatives.

Places Visited (15 Countries): Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Guyana and United States

Trip Challenges: 
(1) Having a Philippine passport on a tight budget
(2) All first time visits traveled from US down to South America (language barrier, currency exchange)
(3) Sudden changing airport/land border entry/exit requirements
(4) Expensive flight tickets, closed major tourist attraction, social distancing in public transportation
(5) Covid-19 test clinics, updated entry requirements and results
(6) Regular sudden flight cancellations from UAE due to Covid-19 Delta variant (transit airport)

Lessons learned:
(1) A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor. 
(2) A ship is always safe at the shore - but it is not what it is built for.
(3) Every situation in life is temporary. When life is good, make sure you enjoyed it and received it fully. 
(4) There's no place like home.

2020-2021 America Pandemic Adventures Filipino Solo Trip (in Vinicunca, Peru)


(01) Mexico Day 4 (City of Mexico's highest mountains): Self-guided solo major day hike (difficult circuit trail) to Pico del Aguila (3,846masl) and Cerro del Ajusco (3,951masl) with 675m elevation, 6km trail distance and DIY transportation (local bus + hitchhike).
(02) Mexico Day 8 (my 6th of Seven World's Natural Wonders and World's youngest volcano): Self-guided solo major day hike (difficult back trail) to Paricutin Volcano (2,774masl) with 817m elevation, 37km back trail distance for 13 hours (the newest longest distance record I have on a dayhike at 37km, got lost for more than 3 hours as I tried to push for circuit trail) and one of the hardest summit assault I ever did.
(03) Mexico Day 24 (my 6th of Seven New Wonders of the World, a dream come true during pandemic): The greatest Mayan, well-planned design step-pyramid architecture, Temple of Kukulcan (El Castillo, dedicated to Planet Venus), in Archaeological Site of Chichen Itza (means "the mouth at the well of Water Magicians")
(04) Central America Day 12 (Central America and Guatemala's highest mountain): Self-guided solo budget DIY day hike (difficult back trail) to Tajumulco Volcano (4,220masl) with 1,250m elevation gain, 17km back trail distance for 11 hours (wasted more than 2 hours searching for my lost jacket in the middle of unmarked trail mossy forest)
(05) Central America Day 14 (Central America and Guatemala's 3rd highest peak): Just 2 days after the Central America's highest peak hiking... Self-guided solo budget DIY day hike (difficult back trail) to Acatenango Volcano (3,976masl) with 1,576m elevation gain, 14km back trail distance for 9 hours. Acatenango hiking is considered as Guatemala's toughest and highest elevation gain on dayhike.
(06) Central America Day 18 (El Salvador's 4th highest volcano): Budget DIY day hike to Izalco Volcano (1,950masl) with 662m elevation gain, 7km back trail distance for 4.5 hours.
(07) Central America Day 19 (El Salvador's highest and most active volcano): Just day after hiking the 4th highest volcano... Budget DIY day hike to Santa Ana Volcano (2,381masl) with 467m elevation gain, 7km back trail distance for 3.5 hours.
(08) Central America Day 28 (Nicaragua's hidden gem): Budget DIY day-trip to El Jalacate stone sculptures by the "Hermit of Esteli" Don Alberto Gutierrez, the Michelangelo of Nicaragua 
(09) Central America Day 33 (Birthday adventure on Costa Rica's highest volcano): Irazu Volcano (3,432masl) is the easiest to visit as there is a direct transportation near the crater, almost no hiking needed but with the highest altitude gain of 2,200m from where the bus terminal located in the city 
(10) Central America Day 38 (Panama's Lost Waterfalls): Boquete's The Lost Waterfalls Hike with almost 300m altitude gain, 3 sets of waterfalls on steep, muddy and slippery trail
(11) South America Day 04 (one of the World's largest stand-alone monolithic rock): Morning trip to Colombia's signature landmark with 740 steps one-way to the top, La Piedra del Peñol (2,137masl)
(12) South America Day 05 (Colombia's open secret): afternoon walk to Barrio Pablo Escobar, Colombian drug lord and narcoterrorist who was the founder and sole leader of the Medellín Cartel
(13) South America Day 06 (Colombia's no.1 natural wonder): Zipaquira Salt Mine & Cathedral,  showcasing their architectural jewel of modernity through salt and marble sculptures
(14) South America Day 07 (Colombia's highest waterfall): Self-guided solo day hike with 590m height at 2,540masl, hiked for 5 hours on 15km return trail from the main road
(15) South America Day 16 (World's largest Salt Flat): Day Trip to Bolivia's signature landmark, Salar de Uyuni (3,663masl)
(16) South America Day 17 (World's 2nd tallest Christ the Redeemer): Morning Hike with around 2,000 steps return trail and 265m altitude gain to Cochabamba's signature landmark, Cristo de la Concordia (2,840masl)
(17) South America Day 19 (World's highest capital city at 3,689masl): Sunset views on La Paz Mi Teleferico as high as 4,120masl with 11 lines and 3 average stations per line at B2 (PhP14) fare
(18) South America Day 21 (World’s highest navigable lake at 3,843masl): Short Hike to Horca del Inca Mirador (4,034masl) overlooking the famous Lake Titicaca and day trip to Isla del Sol
(19) South America Day 23 (World's 2nd largest dam): Free Admission and Guided Tour inside the Itaipu Binacional Dam, one of the best modern engineering creation (same like Panama Canal) that supplies renewable energy to Brazil (10%) and Paraguay (90%)
(20) South America Day 23 (another backpacking achievement): Completed the three sides of the famous South America Three Borders, Sur America Tres Fronteras (Brazil 2018, Argentina 2019, Paraguay 2021)
(21) South America Day 27 (World's 2nd deepest canyon at 3,400m, almost twice the depth of Grand Canyon): Self-guided solo very challenging day hike in Colca Canyon with 22km loop trail completed on 11 hours with 1,300m elevation drop
(22) South America Day 31 (Sacred Valley DIY Trek): 21km Budget Self-guided Hike to Moray Archaeological Zone (3,476masl), Salinas de Maras (2,920masl) and Ollantaytambo Ruins (2,886masl)
(23) South America Day 33 (Cusco's emerging tourist spot): Successful summit at the Montaña Vinicunaca (5,036masl) aka Rainbow Mountain and Red Valley (5,045masl)
(24) South America Day 34 (Against all odds): Challenging Budget DIY transportation to Machu Picchu, Colectivo Taxi from Cusco to Sta. Maria to Sta. Teresa to Hidrolectrica with 6 hours travel for S45 (12 USD) and 11km hike from Hidrolectrica to Aguas Caliente. This trip was almost canceled due to sudden transportation strike, some landslides on the main road and derailed train blocking along the trail
(25) South America Day 35 (my 7th of Seven New Wonders of the World, the most rewarding to visit among the Seven Wonders): 16km hike from Aguas Calientes to Machu Picchu Archeological Site to Hidrolectrica for 6 hours with 600m elevation gain.
(26) South America Day 46 (Another Mga Kababayan Turn-up Moment, applied only using my mobile phone): The most expensive and the most hard-to-get E-Visa I had, Ecuador Tourist E-Visa with multiple entry and 3 months validity. 
(27) South America Day 51 (Ecuador's highest mountain): Self-guided Solo Budget DIY dayhike and hitchhike to Ecuador's Chimborazo Volcano Refuge glacier trail 5,200masl with 18km return trail distance and 900m elevation gain
(28) South America Day 53 (Ecuador's 10th highest mountain and one of South America's hardest dayhike with highest altitude gain, continuous drizzle, thick fog, steep and very muddy trail): Self-guided Solo Budget DIY dayhike to Tungurahua Volcano Refuge Camp (3,830masl) with 23km back trail distance hiked at 11 hours and a whooping 2,010 METER ELEVATION GAIN, my highest elevation gain new record on a dayhike.
(29) South America Day 55 (Bucket List Checked on Swing at the Edge of the World): Self-guided Solo Budget DIY dayhike to Ecuador's signature adventure, La Casa Del Arbol (2,660masl) with 11km back trail distance hiked at 5 hours with 840m elevation gain
(30) South America Day 57 (Ecuador's version of Vietnam's Hands of God): Budget DIY dayhike to Las Manos de Dios (2,620masl) with 15km loop trail distance hiked at 4.5 hours with 800m elevation gain
(31) South America Day 63 (Quilotoa Volcano Crater Lake Loop 3-Days Hike): Ecuador's best DIY multi-day hike in Andes Mountains. Self-guided Solo Budget DIY hike from Sighos (2,824masl) to Quilotoa Volcano Crater Lake (3,910masl) with 42km total hiked distance at 16 hours and 2,850m total altitude gain. 
(32) South America Day 66 (Quito Day Trip 3): Summit Success! Budget DIY Self-guided Solo Hike to Rucu Pichincha (4,696masl) with 30km difficult back trail distance (very steep summit assault) at 13 hours and 2,245m continuous altitude gain
(33) South America Day 75 (Quito Day Trip 6): Summit Success! Budget DIY Self-guided Solo Hike to Sincholagua Volcano (3,356masl) with 11.5 km difficult back trail distance (steep and slippery) at 5.5 hours and 1,148m total altitude gain
(34) South America Day 76 (Quito Day Trip 7): Very High Altitude Day Hike (ascend) and Biking (descend) to Cotopaxi Volcano Refuge (4,864masl), Ecuador's 2nd highest peak (5,897masl) with almost perfect conical shape and World's 3rd highest active volcano.
(35) South America Day 92 (World’s largest single drop waterfall by volume): Day Trip to Guyana's signature landmark, Kaieteur Falls
(36) 29 sets of Covid19 Tests (mostly PCR Nasal), traveled to 23 countries across 4 continents within 11 months, ALL NEGATIVE RESULT. I have 2 Covid19 Vaccines both WHO approved; Sinopharm (2-shots Aug. 2020) and J&J (one-shot May 2021). 

2020-2021 America Pandemic Adventures Filipino Solo Trip


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