Archive for the 'EcoAdventure' Category

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It’s not easy being an adventurous spirit but living confined to the city, so today, October 8th, 2021, I am starting my 3 days snorkeling-intensive trip in the Galapagos Islands with a tailored-made itinerary.

I have coordinated my hotel stays, meals, and snorkeling tours with Andean Travel Company. The rest of the adventure is up to me, so here we go!

Beautiful Tortuga Bay beach in Santa Cruz. Iguanas are everywhere!

Yesterday I arrived and took the afternoon at leisure to explore the Santa Cruz island’s amazing white coral beaches, otherworldly looking landscapes, and natural pools of turquoise waters inside lava caves. 

Today, after breakfast at my hostel, I was picked up by my guide and we walked a couple of blocks towards the island’s dock. We embarked on a speedboat to Seymour Island. There, we anchored in Seymour channel, a water body that separates two islands. 

The Humboldt cold sea current brings nutrient-rich waters from Pacific bottoms to the Galapagos surfaces, which increases ecosystem productivity.

I was provided all the necessary equipment and went to business. At the low basaltic cliffs below me, I spotted whitetip reef sharks cruising in the shallow waters. I did not expect that my first animal observation would be this quick, and thrilling!. 

Many colourful fish such as the king angelfish, boxfish, and parrotfish swam around, and I got lost in thought admiring them. A strange sound brought me back to reality. It was as if small missiles were being shot. It was the sound of blue-footed boobies and pelicans plunge-diving at enormous speeds to catch fish! It was an absolute spectacle. 

These daily snorkeling tours provide lunch, and I’m grateful for that, as snorkeling is a very energy-intensive activity. 

Lovely, aerodynamic sting-ray!

On my second swim of the day, I spotted one of my favorite marine animals, the black-botched ray. It looked so elegant with its perfectly aerodynamic flatform and majestic in its cyclic underwater flight. I hoped to see a scalloped hammerhead shark, but they are difficult to find, so let’s see what happens tomorrow. 

Today’s snorkeling spot 🙂 on Bartolomé island

Today, October 9th, 2021, I’m heading to one of Galapagos’ most iconic landmarks. Pinnacle Rock on Bartolomé Island. Located northeast of Santa Cruz island, 2 hours away in a boat, this is an immense spearheaded obelisk rising from the ocean. We disembarked on the appropriately named Golden Beach, and from there I started swimming into a shallow cove full of precious coral formations and reef fish. 

Penguins are a rare, heartwarming sight at the Galapagos

During my time in the cove, however, my mind was obsessed with swimming around the Pinnacle Rock itself. When we did, I found myself in the midst of spectacular lava formations, where whitetip reef sharks were resting. Sea lions were so playful and curious, that I actually got a bit scared with the minimal distance they kept from us. I consider myself so lucky because of these once-in-a-lifetime encounters. To finish off perfectly, we spotted the endangered Galapagos penguin. It was certainly an unexpected sight, an Antarctic bird in these warm waters, but I soon learned they are one of the best examples of the unique animal adaptation that happens in the Galapagos.   

No caption is needed.

Day 3! I cannot believe that today is the last of my snorkeling trip. We navigated northwest to 

Santa Fé Island. The area destined for snorkeling was well-protected from open sea currents, so my first thought was that this might be a smart choice for beginners. These calm, shallower waters, however, delivered generously. 

Fluorescent blue chin parrotfishes, yellowtail surgeonfishes, and pufferfishes swam around the turquoise waters, and sea lions made me close company again. I really felt as if these boys knew that I was on a mission, and decided to escort me to the right place. To the open waters where the scalloped hammerhead sharks finally decided to reveal themselves. What an amazing creature, a perfect example of the ambitious effects of evolution. Its distinctive, enormous head works as a sensor that has yet to be explained by science. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to this trip.

Thank you, Galapagos!

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On the morning of Friday,July 24th I left Deadwood South Dakota and within an hour had entered Wyoming on SD 34/ WY 24 . The first stop was Devil’s Tower.

Beartooth Highway

Rising straight out of flat farmland,Devil’s Tower is 867 feet and formed in a short time due to volcanic upthrust. It is very geologically different than the Black Hills over 100 miles away, or the Rockies , more than 200. You can experience it in the video above.

A Sheer Climb,With Nowhere To Rest. This Zoom Is About 400 Feet Up.

By mid afternoon I settled into Sheridan, at the foot of the Big Horn National Forest. As usual I dined alone on the hotel porch rather than in a lively restaurant .COVID life on the road. Everything closed by 8 anyway.

Ranch Riding

Big Horn National Park offers hundreds of square miles of hiking, climbing, glacier trekking and ATV trailing. Since it’s not a National Park, it’s not well known except locally. I was the only Florida plate, most were from Wyoming and Montana.

Wyoming Has The Lowest State Population 578,759 – Less Than Uptown Manhattan.
Snake River Canyon – Wyoming/Montana

Dropping down a few thousand feet from the Big Horn Range, TotalAdventure explored the Snake River Canyon , traversing the Wyoming Montana border. The canyon had been dry with a seasonal stream until a dam was built in the 1930s.

# 48 !

I then entered my 49th state, Montana ! Just one more to go – Oklahoma, but won’t be there until the return trip East in September.

Mountain Goats Above Snake River
Dinner In Red Lodge

Before Yellowstone, I overnighted in Billings and Red Lodge Montana. In Billings I enjoyed a big Montana steak, but when I arrived at my hotel in Red Lodge after a day in Snake River, about 7:30 to discover that due to COVID my hotel restaurant was closed and the few restaurants still open in town would be closing at 8. This New York/Miami traveler is not used to small town hours but had to adjust on this trip or face night time starvation. I was the last one served from the line at a Mexican cantina and scored a PBR from the bar/casino across the street. The bars closed at 9 !

Late July Beartooth Highway

From Red Lodge to Yellowstone the winding ,high altitude Beartooth Highway crisscrossed several times between Wyoming and Montana.

1st National Park – 1872

The Summer of 2020 was probably one of the best to explore Yellowstone. Though crowds were sizable , they were all American crowds, as most foreigners, not even Canadians, could visit in the COVID summer. The notorious traffic jams did not appear.

Do not pet the furry cow. He can ram and stomp you .
Geyser

Yellowstone sits atop a super volcano. When it does finally blow – anytime between the next 10 minutes to 10,000 years – the park will become a 50 mile wide lake of boiling red lava and will cause global cooling for years to come.

If You Stick Your Leg In Here, Only Bone Will Come Out.
One Ton Swimmer
Yellowstone Grand Canyon Falls

The falls look even more incredible in the video above. Be sure to watch it all.

After a day and a half in Yellowstone ( many people stay a week or more) it was time to head north into Montana. Passing Big Sky on a beautiful highway with a legal speed limit of 80 mph I arrived in Butte around sunset. I would stay there 2 nights, to explore the old mining city , to catch up on work ,do laundry and get the extremely dusty X2 washed.

Gold Copper and silver were mined here. Butte was known as the “Richest Hill On Earth.” Miners came from all over the world. Copper is still mined, but there’s not much left. The old city is quiet but not quite abandoned.

Lucky 13 ?
Big Money In 1900

From Butte , a few more hours to the Northwest and I arrived in Whitefish ,gateway to Glacier National Park. Whitefish was full of California ‘refugees”,many who had arrived in private jets ,escaping mask and lockdown restrictions in their home state.

Entrance To Glacier National Park

In Glacier , on the first day of August, I swam over a mile in 2 lakes and walked in the snow.

Summer Snowfields That Won’t Completely Melt Before First Snow In September.
The X2 Loves Mountains.
Cold & Clear
Above The Snow Line
Granite Peak

On the morning of August 2nd, I left Whitefish for a day of mostly dirt roads from Montana into Idaho. I missed my westward turn and would up at the Canadian border. When I originally thought of this cross country trip,years ago, I had always meant for it to include Canada. Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Banff would have been on the itinerary. But in March 2020, the Canadian government had shut the borders to all but commercial traffic, due ,of course to disease spread.

Canada – The Forbidden Land – Looking Into British Columbia

All I could do was look into this closed off , beautiful land – in this case the easternmost corner of British Columbia ,near Alberta. The next several hours was on windy isolated dirt roads – into the town of Yaak .

Yaak Montana – The Political Scene Of Summer 2020

I walked inside the bar, which of course was all bikers . Had a friendly beer and they were amazed I was all the way from Miami. No photos were permitted, probably for very good reasons.

Northern Border Country
Target Practice On The State Line

I spent the night in touristy Couer d’Alene, Idaho, another town where restaurants closed at 8 and I had to order pizza by 9 before that closed too. Changed clocks back for the last time. The next day – through Washington State, past Spokane – to Portland ,Oregon – almost completely cross country !

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The Simian Mountains In Northern Amhara State Were Formed By Extreme Volcanoes About 40 Million Years Ago. They Tower West Of The Rift Valley, Which Runs Almost The Whole Length Of Africa.

The Highest Mountain Is 15000 Feet ( 4550 m) . Snow is known to fall in the wet season. TotalAdventure experienced below freezing temperatures in the early mornings.

A Gelada Monkey Family Forages For Dinner. Snacks from tourists are strictly forbidden.

A Guard With An AK-47 Is Mandatory , To Guard Against Hyenas In Simian Mountains National Park. Hyena jaws are so strong they can snap a femur like a small chicken bone.

GeladaMonkeys sleep on the cliffs at night, in order to be inaccessible to hyenas.

A Father is unfazed by his human cousins. They are 5 times as strong !

Sunset From 11,000 Feet ( 3384 m) at the Simian Mountain Lodge.

A Fireplace Keeps The Dining Room Warm. Outside it was 26 F ( -4 C)

Our drive out of the mountain range. Drivers must be careful, with 3000 ft. cliffs on every curve.

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Tomorrow Evening , June 10,2019, TotalAdventure Boards Turkish Airlines From Miami To Istanbul – After 3 days in Istanbul, we fly to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. We will then tour Turkmenistan – the fabulous desert capital city and the Dharvaza Gas Crater. We move into Uzbekistan and follow the Silk Road – from Khiva to Samarkand and Bukhara. We’ll most likely stop in Almaty, Kazakhstan and finally up into the Tien Shan mountain range in Kyrgyzstan. TotalAdventure should be posting most days, except from areas with no electricity or telecommunications.

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TotalAdventure explored Bolivia from October 8th to 14th – in the high Altiplano , Lake Titicaca , Lipiz Sur and Salar de Uyuni .We landed at El Alto – the world’s highest commercial airport at 14,000 feet. Getting off the plane, after a six hour flight from sea-level Miami – literally takes your breath away.

La Paz – sits at 12,000 feet – this photo is taken from 14,000 feet. As the city is vertical, instead of an underground Metro train, there are gondolas rising to all sections of the city – complete with different colored lines and transfer stations. Bolivia is really like two different countries . The cold dry ,sometimes snowy highlands with Andean cultire and languages – Aymara and Quechua. In many areas it is winter year around. In the hot humid lowlands it is summer year around – the Northern area being part of Amazonia. TotalAdventure was transported by two different guides, arranged by Pierre Lipiko  .  One arranged price included driver/guide, car, hotel and most meals.

Please read the articles below to follow a TotalAdventure in Bolivia !

 

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After TotalAdventure left La Paz , driven by our driver/guide Juan , we drove past mountains  towering up to 21000 feet, perpetually covered in snow. This area of Bolivia lies at 17 South Latitude – equal to Trancoso Brazil, with beautiful  tropical beaches , or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Elevation makes the transition from Tropic to Arctic.

After about two hours we arrived at Lake Titicaca. At 12,500 feet ( 3800 m) it is the world’s highest navigable lake.

Only six hours from Miami, TotalAdventure is in a very different world.

Fishermen can live on giant reed rafts for weeks – living on fish and fresh lake water.

The water never goes above 52 degrees. Only one kind of fish, a trout , lives there. On every restaurant menu.

Modern Day Incas.

Sunset Over Peru.

Monday, October 9th, began with a visit to the Cathedral in Copacabana, the main town on Lake Titicaca.

 

We drove to the north of La Paz and El Alto towards the extremely high Andes.

 

Past a Shaman Burial Ground.

TotalAdventure spent the night at 4800 meters , 15,600 feet.

The accommodations were Spartan. There was no heat or fire as no trees grow in such high altitudes. The temperature dropped to 15 F , -10 C outside, not much warmer inside.

Coca Leaf Tea keeps us warm and healthy.

 

In the morning we drove up to Chacaltaya – until recently the world’s highest ski resort at 17,200 feet. Also at 17 degrees south, the closest ski resort to the Equator. However, the glacier disappeared by 2005, so the resort had to rely completely on snow and is more or less closed.

TotalAdventure was at the highest altitude we have ever been outside an airplane.

Skiers can climb up to about 18,000 feet to ski down.

 

In the afternoon we descended below La Paz ,driving six hours south into the desert.

In the distance is Salar de Uyuni.

Arriving in Uyuni Town. Here TotalAdventure switched guides and vehicles in preparation for Lipiz Sur !

 

 

 

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At 6 AM on Wednesday, October 11 we left Uyuni Town and headed south 3 hours to the southwestern corner of Bolivia – not far from where the country meets with Chile and Argentina. There, we left the highway and would not see a paved road until the return to Uyuni two and a half days later.

The only settlements were some mining and farming villages.

Llamas, a distant relation to camels, are a source of wool and meat, are semi – domesticated , grazing for scarce vegetation and sometimes return to pens, herded by dogs and farmers.

Spring snowmelt brings some drinking water.

The land is rugged and never dips below 12,000 feet. By this time , TotalAdventure is quite comfortable with the altitude. We stopped at a hot springs at mid day. Please view the video above to see it. Swimming was balmy at 105 degrees ( 41C) while there air was around 40 ( 5 C).

 

Climbing higher, we reached Laguna Verde. The green color comes from a high concentration of arsenic. Swimming in or drinking from the lake can be fatal. There are no fish ,birds or four footed animals anywhere near the lake.

Close to 16,000 feet we reached the remains of winter snows, that actually can fall in the summer as well. The strong dry wind and strong subtropical sun  three miles above sea level evaporate it into strange shapes.

The ground underneath is always frozen.

From underneath the frozen ground comes boiling sulphur clouds. All of the Bolivian Altiplano borders the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Llama and quinoa for lunch. Tough and lean, but tasty and very healthy !

A steam vent.

Rock formations that look manmade but aren’t.

We spent the night at Hotel Tayka. See more in the video. Amazingly at 15,500 feet, ten hours over very rugged dirt tracks from the nearest paved road , that such a hotel can exist. Comfortable beds, reasonable heat and solar generated hot water  (quick shower) .Oxygen is kept behind the front desk for those in need.

The next morning we explored several lakes that were home to huge flocks of flamingos. Most people think of flamingos as a bird of the tropics – but here they thrive in  very cold temperatures.

A coyote enjoys some llama meat.

San Pedro de Quemes  from another Tayka Hotel.

The town store closes early, but has the essentials.

On The last night in Bolivia, TotalAdventure looked forward to Salar de Uyuni the next day.

Nov 27th
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On the final day in Bolivia, Friday, October 13, we crossed the world’s largest salt flat – the Salar de Uyuni – 11,000 square kilometers  at an elevation of 12,000 feet, with no variation of  more than a few inches in elevation – extraordinary flatness! It was once an inland sea hundreds of thousands of years ago.

There is no speed limit and nothing to run into. While it looks hot, the temperature was only in the 60s due to high elevation, thought the sun can burn severely !  The nights are frigid, with temperatures far below freezing.

The mountains in this photo are about 35 miles distant.

After driving at top speed for about an hour we arrive at Isla Incahuasi. The small amount  of moisture received in December and January permits the cactus to grow.

Spring flowers on the cactus.

 

A Star Wars Experience.

Camping on the bottom of the sea.

Back on the move ,we stopped for an obligatory touristic shot.

Light As A Feather !

By mid afternoon the crossing is complete . Here, every January the Paris -Dakar Rallye moved from Africa because of terrorism, passes though here.

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October 11th , we left at 6 AM from Uyunyi Town to drive about 3 hours to the Lipiz Sur region, in the extreme Southwest of Bolivia, in the 15,000 foot range along the Chilean border. We left the paved road, which we would not see again for 2 days. Above is Laguna Verde, a beautiful lake at 15,000 feet. Laguna Verde is actually arsenic, and is deadly to all life forms.

Though it is early spring , the temperature does not go above freezing ,even in the day and at night falls to about 10 degrees F or about -14 C. Snow that fell in July and August is sculpted by the high dry winds. However ,TotalAdventure did swim in a 40 C hot spring. That is all on video. Unfortunately due to very slow hotel internet speeds, video will be added later. Even to upload still photos can take several minutes.

 

Thousands of years of freezing dry winds created this natural sculpture.

Before heading into the mountains , TotalAdventure took video of llamas.They are not wild, but do graze independently. THeir owners use them for wool and meat. Llama meat is tasty but tough – lean and high protein. Goes well with quinoa.

As evening approaches, the temperature drops rapidly. For astronauts heading to Mars, Lipiz Sur would be a perfect training venue. The night was spent at a comfortable lodge at 15,500 feet with hot water,  hot meals and even a bar. Video to follow.

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This is a very quick post as TotalAdventure has been on the road for two days, spending last night in a mountain refuge with not much sleep. On the road at 6AM tomorrow,

A 21,000 foot mountain. Name to be updated later. We went as high as 17,200.

Mate de coca is legal everywhere in the Andean Republics and is used to treat altitude sickness.

 

La Paz from 14,000 feet.

Lake Titicaca Duck.

Shaman Graveyard,

Hauri.

Solar Uyuni Sunset,