My Pogo Week: 3 Continents, 146/146, Bulk hatch of 10-K eggs, and full candy stock for Gen 2

Note: I enjoy playing Pokemon Go when I’m out. Over the past several months, the game has taken me to serene parks, public squares, historical buildings and points of interest all around the US. Last month, I was able to play on a blitz of an international trip, and I wrote this post on Reddit. I’m reposting below and will add screenshots/photos as well.


 

Okay, it was more like ten days, but I can finally say I’ve completed my entire available Pokedex with what ended up being just a couple days left before Niantic added the new babies. I’m a level 32 Instinct player and live in the US, but had the good fortune of a brief work event in Hong Kong. I took the opportunity to ask for a few days off on the long journey, and added layovers in Europe, as well as a brief visit (my first) to Australia.


First, the travel hack:
When searching for flight deals, you can sort by duration, and then reverse-sort to get longest duration first. In this manner, I found flights on Austrian Airlines with 5 and 16 hour layovers, instead of the usual 2 hours which wouldn’t have allowed me to leave the airport.

 

Mr. Mime: Upon landing in Vienna for my brief first layover, I fired up my phone, and IMG_8964thanks to my T-Mobile free international data package, I was immediately connected. While waiting in line to clear customs (yeah I know you’re not supposed to have your phone on there), a little GPS drift brought me to a nearby gym and Mr. Mime appeared! He was my first catch of the day, and I was faced with the immediate decision of simply staying in the airport, or doing the whole customs and immigration thing only to return to the airport in 3 hours. I reminded myself of why I had booked the longer layover, and made the most of it and took the 18-minute train into the center of Vienna. When I stepped outside, I was welcomed with a brisk, 30mph wind, and sloppy, cold rain. Again in this moment, I persevered – grabbed the only thing I had which would possibly keep my phone dry (a Frisbee which I carried over my phone like a lid), and began to walk the streets. Thankfully the pokestop tracker had been enabled, and I was able to patrol the streets waiting for Mimes to pop up among the 9 I could see. I traipsed around the center of Vienna, took brief breaks to warm up and grab a donut, and made my way back, soaking wet, to the airport. In 3 hours on the streets I caught 4 Mimes. I also gathered 3 10k eggs on my way to 9, so I was feeling good about my chances.

IMG_9277My second Vienna layover (on my return journey) was much more productive. I had arranged for 16 hours on the ground, overnight. So, naturally I made no plans for a hotel since that would just keep me off the streets. I’ll sleep when I’m dead! I have Mimes to catch! So, I spent an entire night, once again with a very cold wind and occasional drizzle, wandering the streets of Vienna with my phone and battery pack. I found Mimes…everywhere. Two spawned right beside me without having been on the nearby/sightings menu. All told, 12 more caught for a total of 16. Sadly, none of them above tier 2 appraisal.

Overnight in Vienna: I broke up the long night in Vienna with an orchestral/choral concert at St. Stephen’s church in the center of the city. I might have dozed off for about 2 minutes, and that would be my only sleep for the night. I thought it would be warm inside, too, but this was a medieval cathedral with frigid stone floors and no heating whatsoever. Outside the church, I saw a man loading up Pogo and beginning to explain the phenomenon to a woman he was with. I interrupted and told them that I was on my return home from a 3-continent journey to fill my pokedex. “Wow, so you’re like a GOD! What’s your instagram?” he responded. I pointed him to @travelogician as I basked in the moment, also confirming that at least he had caught a Mime while he was in Europe. Late in the night, and I mean…like 2:30 am, I went into a nightclub to break up the monotony. I observed that the people on the streets at 2:30 are the drunks and the opportunists, pushing themselves to the edge of the night in hopes of hooking up or finding some other kind of relief. I learned in the club that I went to (Der Fledermaus) that I much prefer the ultra-late-night crowd to the regular late crowd. Those who stay out and party until 4, 5 am are the lovers, not the opportunists. They are those who value interaction with others over a cheap score. There’s no urgency – just a desire to have a good night out. As I left the club at 4am, I walked out to a newly refreshed Vienna streetscape. The drunks had found their way off the streets; the loud teenagers had given up and gone home. Instead, the people in the streets now were the hard workers (early risers for newspaper deliveries and early restaurant openings), the overachievers (joggers determined to get in their miles of running before work) and the travelers heading in early for the first trains of the day. This is an observation I never would have made without pogo.

IMG_8973Farfetch’d: With a work event consuming all normal hours in Hong Kong, I decided to maximize the utility of my jet-lagged early rises and go out hunting for Farfetch’d in the pre-dawn hours. I am proud to say that in just 3 days in Kowloon (the city mirroring Hong Kong island, but all part of the same metropolis) I got to know it very well on foot. By the time I met with my coworkers for breakfast each day I would have already logged 6-10 thousand steps as tracked by my phone. I won’t go into the detail of every single Farfetch’d catch, but will share a couple of notes. I found Farfetch’d to be an extremely rare spawn, given the sheer size of the city and nearby islands. The population is, in some neighborhoods, the most dense in the entire world. There are Pokestops about every 30 meters throughout, which make for easy stocking upon resources. However, despite that rich density of stops, the little duck would spawn with about the same frequency as a dratini, I’d say. Referencing a local website tracker, I could see maybe 3 or 4 at any time – usually an hour away by car or worse by train. There was no particular pattern as to where they would appear – not closer to water or any other recognizable biome. So I worked hard on 3 consecutive pre-dawn mornings to sometimes run around the peninsula to collect them. All told I captured 10, in about the same number of hours of running them down. As a nice bonus, the massive Kowloon Park nearby my hotel was an Omanyte nest, so I was easily able to collect more than 150 candies as I went along. On 2 occasions, I ran to a location to capture a Farfetch’d only to watch it disappear off the map or to ghost me during the catch. On at least 4 occasions, I saw a “nearby” Farfetch’d and ran around the maze of streets and alleys to not even find it. This would have been great to have the new tracker active, but it hadn’t been rolled out yet in Hong Kong while I was there. [EDIT – found 2 serendipitously along the way, and one on my final layover during which the new in-game tracker was actually enabled.]


IMG_9011IMG_9012Hatching nine 10-K eggs:
Over the previous two weeks I had diligently gathered a full slate of 10-K eggs. I was nervous about pulling the trigger and buying all the needed incubators, expecting disappointment and lamenting cashing in on 1200 coins. But I went for it one morning in Hong Kong. I had the good fortune of being on a team-building activity which was a walking scavenger hunt of the city. Since I already knew my way around quite well, I was confident we could walk almost everywhere. I simply kept Pogo on and running while we spent the morning all around town. When we got up to 9.6 km walked, I shut down the app so I could savor the hatching experience later on my own time, uninterrupted. My plan was to crack a lucky egg and then finish off the last bit, but I absent-mindedly started walking toward Kowloon bay without tracking my distance covered. Once the train started, there was no interrupting the hatch-fest. And….the results for me were disappointing, of course. 1 Dratini, 3 Scythers, 1 Onix, 2 Pinsirs, 1 Hitmonlee, and 1 Jynx.

IMG_9165Kangaskhan: Well, having just 3 full days and nights in Australia, I was a little worried
I might spend too much of that precious little time staring at my phone instead of seeing a new country and continent for the first time. I didn’t need to worry. My first Kangaskhan sighting was in the airport on arrival. The sightings tracker was working, and led me right to it. I had my first 8 hours in Sydney on a layover before continuing to Darwin, in the tropical north of the country. Sydney was nothing short of amazing! The people are stunning, and the streets buzzed with positivity and laughter. I met up with a coworker who happened to be there at the same time, and together we went to Bondi beach, the Opera House and walked through other streets and parks. During this time I probably caught about 6 Kangas without even needing to focus very much on the game. Instead, I just took in the city sights and only had to walk out of my way a couple of times to catch one nearby. I figured Sydney was going to have the highest concentration of this regional stud, but I was also content with what I was able to easily gather up. When I landed in Darwin to suffocating heat and a much smaller city, I was less optimistic. But I was wrong to worry! These Kangas were more common than Eevees! In just one really fun day in downtown Darwin (in which I got in a tank and dove underwater with crocodiles) I had easily caught another 20. I didn’t regret one bit taking the entire next day to visit a nearby beautiful national park, mostly completely out of range of data. I had a great couple of days in the NT, and left with 36 Kangas in my collection.

Gen 2 Candy Stock: During this blitz, I also achieved my final top-up of candy stock for the Gen 2 evolutions coming out. My final catch in the regional dex was a Chansey, in mid-November at the Atlanta airport. Pretty much since then, I’ve been walking Chansey as a buddy. I finally hit 50 Chansey candies after walking 220 km (caught one other along they way)! The Scyther hatches in my 10K eggstravaganza put me well ahead at 121 candies there. In addition to that, I hit 800 Eevee candies, 90 Onix, 290 Slowpoke, 450 Poliwag, 290 Oddish, 350 Zubat, 360 Horsea, and 72 Porygon candies thanks to a lucky egg hatch and buddying up during the Halloween event. So, I can say that I feel completely ready for Gen 2 as they are released!

And then the very same day I came home, the new baby mons were added. I didn’t even get one full day walking around home to be the only person with a complete dex. Not. One. Day.

I love this game. #pokemongo

Bungy Jumping in Japan

As a college graduation present to myself, I accompanied my friend and roommate Jared on a trip to Japan. Our trip was atypical in many ways because we stayed with American Christian missionaries that were living in Tokyo. Our hosts were wonderful and treated us like family. We had a lot of fun laughing and playing with their two twin sons, age 7. After having spent about 5 days roaming around Tokyo – getting lost in the 7-story video arcades of Akihabara, strolling through the packed alleyways of Harajuku and reflecting on the grounds of the emperor’s palace – we packed up for a road-trip north into Yamagata and Tohoku.

We drove hours to get to our destination – and must have paid a small fortune in tolls just to get there. With a nearly ubiquitous rail system, vehicular traffic on the country’s major arteries is discouraged with punitive tolls. This made our road trip particularly unique. In Yamagata, we met up with a particularly brash and adventurous missionary, who convinced us to go bungee jumping off a bridge high in the Japanese Alps. In mid-May, the snow melt had nearly finished, so the mountain streams were rushing and lush with greenery.

We arrived at the site of our adventure: a suspended pedestrian bridge spanning a beautiful alpine stream. A platform jutted out, elevated about 150 feet above the eddying water below. A cool breeze scented with fresh snow melt and pine welcomed us to the site where we would soon bungee jump.

Although I had bungee-jumped once before (a tame and lame 60-foot plunge while clinging to a pad in Gatlinburg, TN), this one was pretty intimidating. We sat and nervously watched as a few people went ahead of our group. One by one, they would walk to the midpoint of the footbridge, be coached past their rational fears, leap, plunge, bounce a bit and then be lowered down to the river where a raft would retrieve them. Soon it would be our turn, but not before we signed the paperwork.

What follows is one of the funniest things that I’ve ever experienced in a lifetime of travel. Here is the Engrish “release” we all signed before jumping off a bridge. Pro tip: it’s funniest if you force yourself to read it out loud, without reading ahead visually. Go ahead, give it a try! This one sheet of paper has provided more than a decade of laughs at parties, and is a great travel story ice-breaker.

BungyContract

Okay now let’s just acknowledge that this blog post is really a way to get that form out into the world. And the jump? Awesome. Smooth. Crisp. I went down in a swan-dive, head-first, gently recoiling and swaying in the fresh alpine air. Definitely find the courage to jump…somewhere. And if you want a good laugh, jump in Japan.

5 Reasons Why a 4-Day Easter Island Tour Isn’t Long Enough

1) There are Moai everywhere, and you should see multiple sunrises and sunsets.
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The island is known, of course, for the mysterious Moai statues built, somehow moved, and then arranged in rows in various locations around the island. What you might not expect, though, is that there are hundreds more and that most of the Moai are laying down on the ground, having been toppled at one point or another over the centuries. The ones that have been restored upright and in their original displays are absolutely worth extended viewing sessions, especially at sunrise and sunset. Consider this: you’ve made it to one of the greatest and remotest travel destinations on the planet. Don’t be satisfied with a drive-by photo op in mediocre mid-day light. Take the time to orient yourself with the island’s various Ahus and then plan special outings to sit and absorb in the mystique of the pre-dawn light or the gloaming. Even the statues that are supine can catch amazing morning and evening light. The staid and flat gray lithic figures by day illuminate with pinks and oranges, showing their chiseled features and aged wrinkles as the shadows grow long.


 

2) You need to learn to eat here
IMG_8056The island has been stripped bare of most of what you would expect in terms of fertility for a volcanic Pacific island. Runoff of waste and silt have destroyed the nearest reefs. Yet the fish here are the freshest you can imagine. Don’t make the mistake of ordering other meats. They simply aren’t worth it. If you do, you’ve wasted a meal. The best way to eat on the island is to go for a dinner show at Te Ra’ai and to enjoy a feast prepared in an Umu. The hosts of this authentic and heartfelt evening will have been preparing a feast all afternoon. Baked slowly by hot volcanic rocks and steamed in banana leaves in an underground pit for hours, you will indulge on seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables lovingly shared between the hosts and guests. Many Easter Island itineraries only spend two nights on the island…that’s just two dinners! Give yourself more time just for the sake of good eats.

 


 

3) Hike the Secluded North Shore

Easter Island Day Hike

Give yourself the luxury of taking a hike on the remotest part of the remotest populated island. Before you start, arrange for a taxi to pick you up late in the afternoon at Anakena Beach. Pack plenty of water, bug spray and snacks, and wear sturdy hiking boots. Walk north out of town along the western and northern coasts of the island. You’ll spend some time searching for the path, and some time guessing the wrong one – but it won’t matter as long as you keep the ocean on your left. The closer you walk to the cliffs on along the coast, the more likely you will find one of the islands myriad lava-tube caves. You will scramble across volcanic rocks and bushy scrub the entire time, but you’ll be rewarded with personal encounters with wild horses and hours of solitude (and you may even enjoy a respite from the packs of feral dogs roaming the island as well). You will also be able to hike along the leeward side of Terevaka, the island’s tallest of three volcanoes, and just about the only part of the island with enough mass to interrupt the trade winds and create its own weather. After about 9 miles of moderately strenuous hiking, you will arrive at Anakena beach, a veritable tropical paradise on the northern shore. Feast on some freshly cooked empanadas and marvel at the height of a grove of palm trees – then wade out into the wide open Pacific and soothe your aching legs as you float. You have rejoined the crowds, and your taxi is waiting to take you back for a restful evening before that amazing dinner you’ve planned.


 

4) The Night Sky Will Mesmerize You

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On a typical 4-day, 3-night tour of Easter Island, you simply won’t have the time you need to capture photos at sunrise/sunset and also in the dead of night. That is, unless you don’t plan on sleeping much. But since you’re guaranteed to have at least a few hours of jet-lag from your preceding location – we’re guessing you’ll need some decent sleep. And that’s a shame on a short trip – because a short walk from your lodging will get you away from the nuisance light pollution and absolutely captivated by a Southern Hemisphere star tapestry that hasn’t been affected by ambient light for 2,000 miles. Give yourself enough nights – and spend enough time outside at night to catch a cloudless sky. You can’t help but be humbled at the scale of the Universe, which is on full display here. It helps that you can do this near one of the Ahus and add a truly haunting and mystical aire to the whole experience. Pro tip: assumed to be the last creature standing after a nuclear apocalypse, cockroaches truly prove their mettle on Easter Island. Despite, or perhaps because of the desecration of the island’s natural resources, roaches seem to rule the terrain.  This may really creep you out, but it’s worth the challenge. Just find a nice big rock to sit on.


 

5) Orongo and Rano Kau Crater and the Rest of the Island’s Story

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Rap Nui‘s southernmost point offers a view of one of the strangest geological formations you will ever encounter. Here you can safely walk to and stand on a knife edge between two-hundred meter cliffs crashing down to the ocean on one side, and an extinct caldera filled with a swampy crater marsh and the one of only two natural reservoirs of fresh water for the island’s 6,000+ residents. Among the rocks on the ledge you will find carvings and small huts and dwellings used during the famed Birdman rituals, which (contrary to recent depictions) did not involve Michael Keaton levitating in his underwear.

Given the amount of effort that it takes to get yourself to Easter Island – don’t sell it short by taking just a three day tour. No matter the length of your stay, you’re going to visit artisan markets, the island museum, Anakena beach and the best of the Moai. But, without enough time, you might miss most or all of the above. Plan a 5- or 6-day trip, and this can be truly once in a lifetime.


 

Have you been to Easter Island/Rapa Nui? Is it on your travel list? Share your own experiences and ideas on how to maximize your trip.

Love and Light at Chief’s Luau

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During a brief visit to Oahu, we arranged for ourselves one big, full day to enjoy a good representative sample of what the island has to offer. This day culminated in the highlight of our stay on the island: a luau feast at Chief’s Luau. Held at Sea Life Aquarium after the park shuts down, Chief’s Luau offers a full spectacle of dance, costume, music, rhythm, fire, food and a surprising amount of comedy.

Chiefs Luau at Sea Life Park

Arriving on time is key – as the waning hour of daylight is maximized by the Luau crew to put on several activity stations. There is, of course, a photo op to get your pic with the Chief, but beyond that there is a hula lesson, palm frond crown weaving, archery, a demonstration of the underground cooking, and a blessing offered in native Hawaiian. At the outset of the meal, this sets a tone of authenticity and togetherness that carries through the rest of the night.

After being ushered to the buffet for a luau feast, hundreds of patrons take their seats and look toward the stage. The show begins, and guests are treated to expertly choreographed dance and costume displays highlighting the riches of the Pacific islands – from the beautiful floral leis of Tahiti to the famed Haka of New Zealand’s Maori tribesmen. Each dance is carried out genuinely and with a high degree of skill – while the musical accompaniment truly stands out for its quality.

But what makes the night so memorable is the persona of the Chief himself. For being the host of a family-friendly show, the Chief exudes a raw sensuality that permeates his narration and interactions through the night. Interspersed with feel-good moments like birthday and anniversary acknowledgements and several comedic interactions with the audience, the night of entertainment is truly centered around love. That’s just what the Chief would hope each guest takes away – a true appreciation of ALOOOOHA and a rekindled appreciation of their families.

Hello world, literally!

It probably started when I was very young. My grandparents would return home from some time away and a couple of weeks later, there would be another big black photo album sitting on their coffee table. He’d always print out an itinerary and clip it into the front of the binder. On the side of the album, in black and white labeling, there’s be a pithy title for their latest trip.

It may have been their trip to Indonesia and Komodo Island that captured my imagination the most. I was practically obsessed with dinosaurs in my youth and had never imagined that such beasts could be seen if you just had enough resources, time and determination to find them. The centerpiece of their “library” room was a beautiful globe, just next to the pipe collection that had taken his father’s life.

But it wasn’t just the photos; it was the nature videos, the hikes, the bricks at the zoo with all their grandchildren’s names on them, and the curious bottles of liquor with absurd plastic-molded characters. It was the growing collection of picture atlases, National Geographic magazines, framed photos from far-off lands, AAA Trip-Tiks and promises of adventures to come. With their children largely consumed by the toils of raising kids of their own, my grandparents busied themselves with plans on how to open up the world for us.

At age 10, my first big trip finally arrived. My grandparents took me and my cousin on a 3 week tour of the American Southwest. We flew to Denver, rented a car and drove through Aspen, Vail, Ouray and Telluride, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the Petrified Forest, the Meteor Crater, Santa Fe, and Carlsbad Caverns. We conquered Pike’s Peak and Mount Humphrey. We spent a single day in Ciudad Juárez in Mexico.

I think that one-day trip into México set a wonderful precedent. It wasn’t acceptable for us to be so close to a life-changing experience and another country AND NOT visit it. We went a bit out of our way, but in doing so, at age ten, I’d been on a single vacation in which I hit 5 states, 1 foreign country, and probably a dozen national parks. A few months later, a quick weekend trip to New York City seemed rather dull in comparison.