Monday, 14 July 2014

Improvised Flysheet/rain-cover for Camping

Having just planned a route totally off the beaten track to northern Peru, I needed to get a tent for those unpredictable arrivals where having a tent provides the accommodation - in addition to saving money of course. Yes, I’d left a tent back in South Africa to save space and then also thinking/hoping (assuming!?!) that I wouldn’t need it. Trying to get a 2nd hand tent turned into a bit of a mission with a few empty promises of cheap and/or 2nd tents. When a 2nd hand one did turn up, the guy wanted a $100 for it - that was not a bad price for it plus it was good quality with
"sealed" ends by burning plus
tape around c.2-3cm.
enough space for 3 people and packs, the only problem was that I only had $120 (my available balance for travel) in total. Sadly I had to decline as there simply weren’t any alternatives we could work out. This is the afternoon before I was to head off up north from Huaraz in the Ancash Province.

The same evening the guy of the tent told me that a friend had a tent that he was willing to sell for c.$35 (100 soles) and would bring it around in the morning so I can have a look at it. This confirmed my decision to stay an extra night to sort some things out. I wasn’t overly excited as I knew this offer could also crash or disappear into thin air.

Sheet with lines attached
Today (the next day) I was doing some final checking maps etc when chatting to one of the girls at the hostel  (Akilpo Hostal-Backpackers) about the tent. She then mentions she has a really cheap tent she bought in Nicaragua months ago and was looking at getting rid of it - she’d paid $20 for it! I was all ears immediately and she got the tent to let me have a look. It was smaller for sure and not one of the top outdoor brands but absolutely nothing wrong with it. There wasn’t a flysheet/rain-cover but I thought that I could just remedy that with a cheap plastic sheet bought locally. Immediately agreeing that I’d take it, (my enthusiasm probably showed too!) and she said I could have it for $15 (I then paid 40 soles). My next mission was to get a plastic sheet at a hardware store, starting with the one where I’d been yesterday buying some rope that could be used to tie my backpack onto a local bus I might be travelling with.

The guy, at the hardware store - Demetrio, was really helpful and chose the plastic sheeting. It
Corner scrunched up and
secured with gaffer tape.
wasn’t the most expensive either he recommended and after agreeing on 2x2m, he cut it for me. I then chose some rope/line that was roughly the thickness of good shoelaces and asked for 4m. While he was measuring it out he asks whether I don’t want to take 7m as that would be 2 soles (2.76 soles = $1); sure, why not! At this stage I still hadn’t asked the price of the 2x2m plastic sheet yet.

Anyway, with much chatting about where I’m from and where I plan on going etc, I asked how much - wait for it! 6 soles! Exactly $2.16!! Asking about whether he had some rings to make eyelets, he suggested I just scrunch the corners and tie the lines to the corners when tying down the sheet. Great, I had gaffer/duct tape (something everybody should always have in their packs) so that would be easy to make “proper” ties. With a lot of good wishes and smiles, I said Adios to Demetrio who then gave me his card. Anybody needing something from a hardware store, be sure to look Demetrio up and say
Marcell from South Africa referred you!
Tie line tight & secure
around taped section.

Back at the hostel I sat down with the sheet, rope, gaffer/duct tape and leatherman. Scrunching a corner, then taped it with half-width short stretch of tape. I divided the rope into 4 lengths (about 1.2m each) and “sealed” the ends by burning them. Tying the one end over the taped piece of sheet, then took another piece of half-width tape and wrapped around the knot, securing the rope to that corner. I gave it a really hard tug testing the strength and it wasn’t going anywhere unless I’m being lashed by gale force winds of course. One obviously has to be sensible with choosing a campsite where there’s at least some form of protection - if available.

Half-width tape around the knot
to cover completely. DONE!
Finishing all 4 corners I was well chuffed with my homemade flysheet; my complete tent and flysheet had cost me all of $17!! I wouldn’t be able to do alpine camping but hey, that’s not on the cards for now anyway.

Tomorrow morning (15 July) I’m off on the road to the southern Ecuador via the road less travelled; it won’t be easy always but almost certainly will provide some amazing experiences, places and people!

Here's also a shot of Demetrio's card if you need contact details for a hardware store!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Triposo: the All-in-One Travel App

Identifying visitors/tourists on the street of a popular destination has always been pretty easy as they’ll be the one’s with one of a variety of travel guides and/or street maps in the hand; you might even spot some with a phrasebook trying to work out what how to say “Where do I find the bus for…?”

Two months ago I had the pleasure of coming across an app for smartphones that negates carrying guide books, maps and covers those most used phrases in the local language. The added bonus is that this can all be available offline - free of charge! Like the location and featured accommodation/activity? Make your reservation right there and then (this needs to be online of course)! 

TRIPOSO is that app and has pleasantly surprised me through the planning stages of my trip to South America as well during my travels in Peru at the moment. Oh, and did I mention the app is free to download? You can of course upgrade to Triposo Pro which promises ad-free experience in the app with future benefits - over the obvious in that you’re supporting the team constantly developing a better app.

Search for the country you're interested in and it will then list regions as well as main cities. In the event you’re sure you’re going to travel to any of these regions, you can download the relevant city guide, or that for the region. Planning on criss-crossing the country? Download the whole country’s info - after the initial part of the download, the app allows you to carry on searching/browsing the particular section while it downloads the balance in the background. 

Once you’re out on the street/road and need to check something about the place you’re going, just
Some of the sections on
the "Country" screen
open the app and all the information will be available offline. This is ideal when you’re trying to save cellular data or don’t have internet access for some time.

Sections that are visible once the app opens to a particular country
(for the purposes of the review I’m using “Peru”)
- Regions                           - Cities
- National parks                  - Islands
- Saved Places                    - Practicalities
- Background

"Region">"Cities" screen
Selecting a particular region, if you don’t want to only look at a particular city, the following sections are shown then;
- Cities                             - National parks
- Practicalities                   - Background

For each section you download, you have access to a basic phrasebook of the local language in categories of "basic", "transport" etc (for Peru I got the Spanish one) and a currency converter where you can choose your home currency. The city guide sections also include map where you can plan your “city walk” depending on distance you want to cover, and also calculating it from your present location. This “city walk” will then cover the most prominent sights in the city.

Once you’ve selected a city you get a choice of a variety of sections i.e.
"City" Screen
  • Sightseeing
  • Eat and drink
  • Nightlife
  • Hotels (incl. hotels, hostels & guesthouses)
  • Tours & shows
  • Shopping
  • Activities
  • Events
  • Metro 
  • Saved places (saved by you on Triposo)
  • Practicalities (health & safety)
  • Background  (culture & history)

Through any of these sections you can then make your tour or accommodation reservations, in addition to seeing on a map where the location is in relation to where you are (or plan to be). Reservations are done via, and I can vouch for it that I’ve had no problems with any of the bookings I’ve done in the past two months through the Triposo app. Destinations, sights, accommodation, restaurants etc can also be reviewed directly on here.
Another great feature is the “Saved Places” where you save the location of the place you’re at (if it isn’t in the app already of course), enter the name and write a comment or note about it. This will then be available with all your other downloaded info on the place you’re at or have just left.
Phrasebook, Currency Converter
and City Walk map

In addition to this, each sight, hotel, hostel, location in the app, can be saved and can then be accessed directly through “My saved places”. Just one of the examples of how you can get into any section from anywhere in the app via the search bar at the top of the window. You can even contribute about your local area and just add all your favourite shops, restaurants and bars - even the favourite guesthouse down the road.

As much as I love having the physical travel guides and reading them, when it gets to visiting several countries then all those books are going to add a lot of weight to your backpack. You can now have access to all this info straight off your smartphone. Triposo is also constantly sending through little updates which happen when you have wifi connection and open the app; these include tips and comments most relevant to the sections you’ve downloaded. 
App updates as such happen through the normal App Centre equivalent on iPhone and Android.

I can’t rave about this enough, go out there, download the app Now! 

Note: I've written this review totally independant of any websites and/or entities mentioned above and all opinions and comments in this post are my own.