Archive for the 'EcoAdventure' Category
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On June 16th TotalAdventure flew from Los Angeles to Fairbanks Alaska, to join with our Northern Producer,Martin Z. for a 500 mile drive up the Dalton Highway to Deadhorse – at Prudhoe Bay. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE.
In the 500 Miles between Fairbanks and Deadhorse there is only one stop with lodging, food and fuel – at Coldfoot Camp. There are otherwise only scattered scientific and work camps ( road and pipeline workers ). There are no rest stops ,billboards, McDonald’s, gas stations , nothing but beautiful unspoiled Arctic nature.
The informal road started after the War (2) but became a formal paved and gravel road with the building of the Alyeska Oil Pipeline in the 1970s. From the top in Deadhorse, at Prudhoe Bay, one can drive 12000 miles to the other end of the planet in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, where TotalAdventure was only 6 months before , in Southern Summer, before boarding the ship to Antarctica.
About 140 miles north of Fairbanks. The summertime forest is verdant and full of mosquitos. The sign makes for good target practice.
TotalAdventure crosses the Arctic Circle on land for the first time. In the air, we have flown over the North Pole countless times. On this day, June 19, the sun will dip below the horizon for 2 minutes. On June 21 it will not set at all. Note there all tall trees at this latitude. In Antarctica trees do not exist in a true polar climate. SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE.
The pipeline runs nearly 1000 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The oil supplies mainly the US West Coast, Alaska and sometimes Japan.
Lunchtime. We bought all our own food , as there are no rest stop food courts along the way. Sandwiches for lunch and fresh local smoked salmon for dinner.
Our car – A 4 wheel drive Ford Escape rented from North Alaska Tours. It comes equipped with a CB radio as cell service is only available in Coldfoot and Deadhorse, not on the road itself. Behind the car is the Deadhorse gas station – at $7.19 a gallon it’s 30 cents cheaper than Coldfoot. Though the fuel comes directly from under the ground, it has to travel thousands of miles to be refined and trucked back again
Dinner in Coldfoot. Salmon, cheese, sausage and spirits. Drinking in private is legal in “damp ” zones of Alaska. Some areas are completely dry.,including the secure zone at Prudhoe Bay.
Tracks of a young bear in what appears to be very soft sand – evidently not quicksand.
Entering the Brooks Range – separate from the Rockies to the South – about 5500 feet and still a fair amount of snow in June.
Scientific station at Toolik.
Musk Ox. A smaller member of the Buffalo family . Some of the best meat I have ever tasted – but did not have it this time. One would have to know a licensed hunter in season.
A river having just thawed out on the first day of summer. SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE.
A lodge at Coldfoot Camp.
Crossing a river near the Brooks Range.
Dalton Highway Panorama.
Leaving Coldfoot Camp Northbound.
Leaving the Brooks Range for the North Slope.
The sun rises on May 15th and doesn’t set till July 29th. We were there at the exact solstice at 0658 AKDT on 21-6 . ( 1058 EDT)
Prudhoe Bay is a town of 3000 people with no permanent residents. Workers are there 2 weeks and one week off. 7 days a week,12 hours a day. 0600 to 1800 and 1800 to 0600. Most live in Texas or Oklahoma and are flown back there between shifts, although a a few live in Anchorage and Fairbanks. Average salary is $ 150,000 a year, with many making much more. Right now 300,000 barrels a day are pumped. In the 1970s there were over 2 million barrels pumped a day. The machinery of the wells in encased in concrete to prevent freezing in 60 below temperatures in the winter.
At last , the Arctic Ocean. On the first day of summer, the ice has melted along the edges ,but is still a solid sheet further out. We swam in the 32 degree water ( 0C ) The air was 37 ( 2.5) TotalAdventure has now swam in all 4 Oceans ! Saltwater freezes at 28 F, -2.8 C. SEE THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR THE SWIMMING !
2700 miles across is the Norway/Karelia Russia border. Chukotka Krai , Russia is 650 miles West and Yukon Territory ,Canada is about 120 miles East. The North Pole is 20 degrees or 1200 Nautical Miles.
Swimming Amongst the Arctic Ocean Ice Floes in Zero Centigrade.
$ 219 a night room at Deadhorse. Comfortable beds, very hot shower down the hall and laundry ! The very hot shower was great after the swim.
Returning South On The Dalton. Though the land looks green and marshy during the eight week melt season, it is actually a desert. There is only 5 inches of precipitation annually, most of that in the form of snow, though we had a cold rain for a few hours. When the snow melts ,it has no where to go because of permafrost below and the weak sun can’t evaporate it.
Spanish motorcycle crew at Coldfoot – they have come all the way from Tierra del Fuego.
Icy River !
Back In Fairbanks At Last . 1020 miles round trip and now, in 80 degree weather we viewed Mt. Denali ( McKinley) from over 130 miles away. The 20,000 foot mountain is eternally snow covered.TotalAdventure flew to McKinley Base Cap twice in 2016.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE FOR THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE !
TotalAdventure arrived in Colombo in the early morning hours of March 2,2023. It had been nearly three years since the first attempt to travel to Sri Lanka had been made, The Pandemic made travel in 2020 impossible, until late in the year when a two week quarantine was imposed – a traveller would have to spend two weeks in a government approved hotel and then be tested. Upon release, travel within the country was still restricted and many temples and other public places remained closed. In mid 2021 the quarantine was dropped and TotalAdventure booked the flights and obtained the visa. Three days before departure the quarantine was reimposed and so TotalAdventure cancelled. In early 2022 TA once again booked – only to be stopped on a false positive of a required covid test. Now – with the world once again open ( more or less) I flew from Miami to Qatar and then on to Colombo.
The Business Class upgrade was very welcome for the 5 hour DOH-CMB leg, after 15 hours in coach from Miami.
Colombo is a mix of Colonial buildings of the British Raj, modern high rises and temples dating back centuries.
The food is amazing. Go to local places like the Curry House. Stay away from tourist locations that have bland imitations and western dishes.
My lunch was very spicy, varied and delicious -everything fresh. Sri Lanka is not as vegetarian as India. The food is eaten by hand . This dish was about $ 3.
Traditional with modern – the bizarre building in the background is reminiscent of Pyongyang.
After a day and a half in Colombo, it was time to head in-country. The 4 hour train ride from Colombo to Kandy cost 350 rupees – about $ 1. On top of a country station lives a monkey family – obviously influenced by 1980s. punk fashion.
Kandy is home to the Temple of the Tooth – Lord Buddha’s Tooth !
Like The Ark of the Covenant in Ethiopia, one cannot view the actual Tooth, but just have faith that they are very close to it. It sits in a gold box in a vault behind the altar.
TotalAdventure stayed at the Queen Hotel – a charming relic of the Empire. Inside, little has changed – slowly moving fans, British food like mutton chops, cool gin and tonics at the bar.
Hotel Message – keep balcony doors closed, lest mischievous monkeys come in and steal your belongings – they love cameras and jewelry.
After a long and colorful train ride – standing room only for 7 hours,TotalAdventure arrived in Ella The train goes as high as 8000 feet, 2500m – where we viewed the high, cool misty tea plantations that stretch for hundreds of kilometers. . You can see the journey in the VIDEO at the beginning of this article. The town of Ella , at about 1900m, is warmer than the mountaintops but much cooler than sea level. 75/25 in day and 61/16 at night. The countryside is exotically amazing, while the town caters to tourists and their money.
From Ella TotalAdventure hired a car for the ride to Udawalawe National Park – home to several large elephant herds. Elephants are well protected in Sri Lanka – there is very little poaching. However elephant rides are still permitted in some tourist areas – Do not engage in this cruel practice ! The magnificent creatures suffer greatly – as strong as they are ,their backs are not built for carrying heavy loads. Since they naturally refuse this activity – they are beaten into submission to force them.
At the watering hole. A great place for a swim on a hot day – which is every day of the year in Southern Sri Lanka.
Highly intelligent sentient beings. The Hindu Elephant God Ganesh is the God of Wisdom.
Besides the National Parks – elephants live in the wild in many forests throughout Sri Lanka.
From Udawalawe the driver took me to the tranquil Indian Ocean village of Talalla. Monday,March 6th was a Full Moon – and in Sri Lanka every Full Moon Day is a Holiday ! The surfing here is fairly good ,though onshore winds make for some afternoon chop. The hotel was quite nice as you will see in the VIDEO.
As wave conditions were not optimal, and not much to see while snorkeling, TotalAdventure moved on to Batticaloa on the East Coast the next day. Finally, a town with no Westerners ! Above, Nandi the Bull.
Whereas the South and West are more Buddhist , the East and North is more Hindu. There is also a large Muslim community.
Commerce and Holiness Come Together.
Batticaloa is home to the Laughing Fish, or Singing Fish who reside in Batticaloa Lagoon, seen in the VIDEO. In reality, they probably croak, which can be heard in some tropical bottom feeders.
A delicious place even for carnivores like myself. Food is flavorful and filling ,unlike Western oriented vegan food – more bland and unvaried. The hotel was very comfortable, with a beautiful pool. There were giant ballrooms, hundreds, of rooms and a huge restaurant. I was one of 5 people there.
On the way to Trincomalee there were several beautiful mosques. TotalAdventure did visit one in Batticaloa that you can see in the VIDEO. Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist, 13 % Hindu, 10% Islamic and 7% Catholic.
TotalAdventure went further up the coast to Trincomalee – where Lord Rama sits high on the cliffs looking out into the Indian Ocean at Thirukoneswaram Kovil .
Ravanna prays from atop the cliffs.
All Powerful Kali – Goddess of War.
TotalAdventure Becomes Holi.
A clifftop treat of healthy refreshing juice. About 75 cents.
Many world times – none of them right. Sri Lanka i in a half hour time zone.
In A Seaside Temple.
The final destination before returning to Colombo was Sirigiya Rock Fortress. According to TripAdvisor :
There’s a reason UNESCO ranks Sigiriya as the 8th Wonder of the World.. Sigiriya is a stunning ruins of a castle build atop a tall rock mountain. An engineering marvel, water was piped from the pools at the base of the rock mountain, all the way up to the castle.
200 Meters or 625 feet doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s half an Empire State Building at a 60 degree angle.
Ancient City high above the jungled plains.
It’s lunchtime above the pond on the fortress top.
Some similarities with Mexico and Central America.
An ancient swimming pool ?
200 Meters Below. The climb up was great practice for climbing the stairs of the Himalayas in Nepal , right after Sri Lanka. What I thought would take hours only took about 45 minutes.
The dry (relatively ) jungles spread out below.
TotalAdventure had hoped for one last train ride – to Colombo. Alas , the train engineer for the Trincomalee to Colombo run was sick that Sunday, so once again I had to hire a car – $ 80 as opposed to $ 2.
A Final Night In Colombo – And It Was Off To Nepal In The Morning ! Mini – Shanghai Tower.
Only a very small percentage of the world’s population has been to the Icy Continent at the bottom of Planet Earth. Until the 1980s almost no one but scientists and military explorers had gone to Antarctica, which wasn’t even discovered till 1800. This 2022-23 season may see almost 100,000 visitors, most by ship, some by plane. At any rate , probably less than 1 million people have ever been to Antarctica, about one in 8000.
The land is extremely dangerous. Only the most experienced well equipped explorers can move about on their own – as part of well funded expeditions. The rest go on ice breaker exploration cruise ships or on sailboats. One can be crushed by falling ice, sink into snow like quicksand, never to be seen again or simply swallowed by an avalanche, perhaps seen again in 10,000 years.
Most of the treacherous land is simply photographed. We observed many mountains that had never been climbed, because it would be almost impossible. Here we don’t talk about feet or meters of snow – we talk about kilometers or miles of depth. Up to 5km deep in the interior.
Under hundreds of meters of powdery snow is a mountain. It has now been proven that these mountains are actually a continuation of the Andes, and on to the Rockies. Only the Peninsula has mountain chains, most of the rest of the continent is a flat dry cold desert,,where the snow only falls as a dusting, but since it never melts, lasts forever.
In December the sun only sets for 90 minutes and the sky does not get dark, here at 65 South. At the South Pole, 90 South , it is light for six months.
Apple Watch Astronomy.
Most mountains are jagged like the Andes.
TotalAdventure – On The Seventh Continent !
A former British scientific base , Port Lockroy, is preserved and open in summer for visitors ,who can also shop at what is probably the only souvenir stand on the entire continent. For £ 2 one can send an Antarctica stamped postcard anywhere in the world – via London. 4 women run the show – chosen from 4000 applicants.
The men ( certainly no women in those days) lived a rugged life, in the interest of Science, serving the Crown. Assignments were often 2 years – cut off from the world other than radio for 9 months of winter.
A Young Queen and her Prince give encouragement to the lads in far flung outposts.
The bar was well stocked, but one year the supply ship got stuck in early season ice, and rationing was enforced.
Depending on wind and snow weight, some mountain slopes are bare.
TotalAdventure is not amused how uneducated some compatriots are. I am constantly asked if there are polar bears and igloos in Antarctica. Do these people not remember 3rd Grade geography ? I am also asked why we take a ship instead of a plane and what the hotels are like ? Why I can’t receive a text or a phone call ? No one has yet asked what car rentals cost ,but I’m sure that’s coming.
TotalAdventure – Reporting From Antarctica !
Animal and plant life in Antarctica is almost entirely along the coastlines and ice shelves. Inland there are no food sources. The frigid, yet nutritious, ice filled seas provide fish, who in turn feed seals ,penguins and other birds. Unfortunately, but naturally necessary, penguins also feed seals. Because of the extreme cold of the nearly 9 month winter, stretching from April to November, the penguin colonies of the Peninsula are not as large as those further North, in South Georgia and Argentina.
Penguins are quite social – not only with each other – but also with their human visitors. Here they are setting up nests with small rocks.
Walking, running and sledding are ways to get through the snow.
Primarily we observed Gentoo Penguins, with occasional Chinstraps. They are less than one meter tall. Larger Emprorers live in South Georgia.
Leopard seals are a constant and deadly threat.
The red snow is from regurgitated and defecated fish. Overall the smell is fishy . Exploring passengers must sanitize their boots upon return to the ship to prevent cross continental contamination. No longer are non native animals, such as dogs and horses, permitted on the Antarctic continent.
Getting ready to dive in for dinner.
TotalAdventure with Gentoo Penguins at Port Lockroy.
Gentoo On A Mission. They Are Busy Birds.
With MV Hondius Just Offshore.
Be sure to watch the video above to see the penguins in action !
This article is the first of a two part story – where TotalAdventure explores the southernmost reaches of the inhabited world. TotalAdventure was invited by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and SERNATUR ( Chile Ministry of Tourism) to joining two expeditions – one in Torres del Paine National Park – more detail in the next article and another engaging in other activities on Estancias and in the vast preserves of nature. SERNATUR paid for air travel and other essentials. The trips I joined were run by Chile Nativo. Besides exploring the incredible nature of the region – we met with 25 companies chosen to work with us to sell their packages on TotalAdventure. 32 other buyers , along with press , were invited to promote the pristine unspoiled remote areas of Chilean Patagonia , the Strait of Magellan – the Gateway To The Antarctic.
TotalAdventure has been commuting to the Southern Cone this year. First, 8 hours to Santiago. Then another 4 hours down to Puerto Natales.
To El Fin Del Mundo – The End Of The World.
From Summer To Winter.
Where The Guanacos Roam.
Stripped Clean By Pumas.
Rheas, A Smaller Version Of The South African Ostrich.
Argentina Border. In order to drive to other parts of Chile, one must drive over 1600 km through Argentina. Chile is almost all islands or impassable glaciers and forest from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. Relations between the two competing Latin giants are cordial ,but not always friendly.
We spent the day at Estancia Cerro Guido, very near the Argentine border crossing at Río Don Guillermo. The Estancia has huge herds of sheep, and allows visitors to experience daily life on the Patagonian steppes.
The sheep are very wooly by winter’s end.
It’s time for a haircut. While the ewe is mildly annoyed, there is no pain. It can be dangerous for the wool to get too thick and heavy. In freezing rain and heavy snow, the animals can’t move and can die of cold. This past winter ( May to October) was the coldest and snowiest in many years – the Estancia had to rescue some herds .
The wool is shipped all over the world to be made into high quality sweaters, dresses, socks and hats.
Lunch at Estancia Cerro Guido. Parilla del Cordero. ( Lamb ) A guest might enjoy this daily.
View From On High – Towards Torres Del Paine.
The next day, outside of Puerto Natales we rode horses up Cerro Dorotea. The outfit was not totally my choice. The horses were well tempered and responsive to more experienced riders, such as myself.
Led by Guachos – Born In The Saddle !
A warm fire at the mountaintop. It was sleeting at the top.
Patagonia Before The European Settlers.
On the final day, before sales meetings began, we boarded a cruiser for an expedition through Fjord Ultima Esperanza to Glaciar Balmaceda, about 50 km from Puerto Natales.
The saltwater fjord extends a long way from the Pacific.
Seals live in caves along the cliffs.
Mother And Pup.
The days are spent fishing and getting some late winter sunshine.
A low flying bird . The caracara ? Ornithologists please let us know..
I’ll Have A Grant’s . On 3000 Year Old Glacier Rocks Please.
The Explorer At Work.
Glacial Waters spilling into the fjord.
Purest Water Anywhere !
Down From Glaciar Balmaceda.
Bandera de Patagonia.
Magellanic Penguins Live On The Cliffs – Safe From Seals.
Outdoors Adventures Concluded – At the Hotel Rio Serrano we were greeted with an incredible Parillada de Cordero. The next two days were spent meeting with 25 local adventure providers – all of whom we hope sell adventures on TotalAdventure Chile Nativo already is !.
Beautiful warm pool, with nearby saunas, whirlpools and gym to warm up after a day on the glaciers !
All too soon, the adventures came to a close and it was time to head to the airport. Observed outside at a roadside cafe – two sheepdogs entertaining themselves.
From Punta Arenas it’s a 4 1/2 hour flight to Santiago, where I had a 7 hour layover, so went into the city to have dinner with a friend. After a connecting flight through Bogotá on Avianca, I was back in Miami the next afternoon. Punta Arenas is the second most southerly commercial airport in the world – with actual flights to Antarctica – about 800 mies south.
I first came to the Far South of Patagonia in February, 1991. I drove to Puerto Natales from Rio Gallegos, Argentina. I was one of 5 cars to cross the border that day. This photo is on Glaciar Moreno in El Calfate, Argentina. 31 years later, I am happy to report that the nature has not been changed much – due to strict and well planned conservation and sustainable tourism. Of course there are many more hotels, restaurants and tour companies catering to adventurous travelers from all over the world. Also technology is far more advanced. That’s a Sony Hi-8 video camera – considered quite advanced for the time with 480 lines . I had a custom made battery belt that powered it all day. To edit, I had to rent a $ 200 per hour studio in New York. Now I shoot on a GoPro 10 with up to 5300 lines and edit on my MacBook Pro. It was great to be back – stay tuned for TotalAdventure’s return to Tierra del Fuego and onwards to Antarctica next month – December 2022 !
In Late July TotalAdventure was invited to take part in AdventureNEXT Patagonia by the Adventure Travel Trade Association and SERNATUR – the marketing section of the Chile Ministry of Tourism. 32 Adventure Travel marketers were invited from all over the world to experience far-off, far South Chilean Patagonia.
12 of us were chosen to participate on the rugged World Famous – “W Trek” an extensive 4 day hike through Torres del Paine National Park. The trip was with Chile Nativo.
The adventure began the night of Labor Day . 8 hours on the LATAM flight bought us from a humid 90 ( 32C) degree night in Miami to a bright late winter morning in Santiago. There, it was 38 (3C) degrees.
4 hours more on Sky Air bought us to Puerto Natales. Latitude 52 South . As we go off the plane it was snowing, with fresh snow on the ground and 0 C 32F. After a night relaxing and dining at Hotel Lago Grey , we we boarded a ferry to take us about 15 km to Grey Glacier at the other end of the lake.
Grey Glacier is a tongue of the Patagonian Ice Sheet – the world’s third largest after nearby Antarctica and Greenland.
The lake it melts and calves into is a constant 2 C – a person will die in just a few minutes if they fall in – losing consciousness after 2 minutes.
After we left the ferry ( see video) our Group dropped off our things at camp. The tents were already set up. It was super-cold – note the frost signifying subfreezing temperatures at mid day.
Above us and about 20 km distant, are the Torres del Paine. 9800 feet 3015m high, formed by magma ejecting upwards from under the Earth. Many think these mountains and rock formations are the end of the Andes. They are not ! This is the Paine Mountain Range, formed just 1 million years ago, not 64 million like the Andes.
A glacial tongue/
We ate our excellent lunch, packed by Hotel Lago Grey on top of a rock escarpment overlooking the glacier.
After lunch it was time to kayak. Everyone got suited up and went off exploring the icebergs. Big Foot Patagonia runs the excursions with all equipment. Credit:
We endured a very chilly night in the tents. Even with down sleeping bags it was cold. We had a hearty breakfast in the morning inside the camp shelter. The sun does not rise until almost 9 AM in September , so it was still like night.
Thursday, September 9th, began with a 5 hour trek across Glaciar Grey. Followed afterwards by a 12 km hike to the next camp.
Under the guidance of Big Foot Patagonia. Credit:
It is a long rocky uphill hike just to get to the glacier. Credit :
Across the crevasse . Credit :
After getting off the ice, it was time to hike to the next camp. The group did not arrive till evening and then it was off to sleep.
The third day was truly magnificent. The skies were mostly clear, with warmer temperatures.
At The Foot Of Cuernos del Paine. Credit :
Onwards & Upwards ! Credit :
Los Torres From Lago Pehoe.
Los Torres From The Lookout Point, after an 18 km hike.
Imagine Skiing Through The Chute – could be done with a hang glider for the cliff down below. The tallest of the Cuernos del Paine was only recently climbed for the first time ever. The rock is soft and chalky – making it very dangerous to hammer in pitons.
Te final day led to a luxurious hotel – welcome after camping out.
Sunset In Puerto Natales. There For A Night Before Exploring The Fjords.
On the morning of Monday March 21, The Equinox , TotalAdventure chartered a single engine Cessna from Ogle Airport in Georgetown. A couple of other passengers joined to help with costs. I took the seat next to the pilot.
Our one hour flight first went out over the murky waters of the Atlantic Ocean, then across the Demerara River , down the western bank. After that , houses and roads vanished, it was just thick green Amazonian jungle all the way,
From the airstrip it was less than a half mile walk to the viewing points. TotalAdventure has traveled much of the world; Kaituer Falls is certainly one of the more forceful creations of nature witnessed. From 1500 feet it falls to 750 feet. According to the guides only two people have ever gone over the falls , with no trace to be found.
As it rains almost every day of the year, the river flow never slows down.
We returned to the Park Lodge for a box lunch of curry chicken and then it was time to return to Georgetown.
Almost every weekend are flight tours. On other days a charter may be necessary, which may be more expensive, but a better chance of having the Falls to yourself.
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- French Guiana
TotalAdventure crossed the Maroni River from Suriname to French Guyana on the morning of March 25. Before dawn, my driver, supplied by the French Embassy, picked me up in Paramaribo and we drove east to Albina , where I went through exit formalities , then boarded the ferry to St.Laurent du Maroni, notorious as the maritime entry point for convicts banished to Devil’s Island and the mainland prison camps.
Watch the amazing video above. Cayenne and Devil’s Island !
After flagging down a driver for the 2.5 hour 100 Euro ride to Cayenne I relaxed with a cafe au lait and watched the jungle scenery fly by. The city is mainly old wooden buildings and is very low and swampy. There is a huge shopping mall with a Carrefour superstore. I stayed at the wonderful Hotel Ker Albert. We don’t normally post links to hotels, except where they are very helpful in achieving our mission.
The beach above is one of the only beaches in the Guyanas that is swimmable. but one would not fly there just to go to it. The water has almost no salt, as there is river runoff from every river between the Orinoco and the Amazon. It is very muddy and black underneath. Constant trade winds make for good kiteboarding.
The main reason I came to Guyane de France was to explore Devil’s Island. France banished its’ criminals – murderers and rapists, but also chronic petty criminals to a living hell from which few ever returned to mainland France. For good measure, I rewatched Papillon just before the journey.
The Iles du Salut – Royale, St. Josepsh and Diable – 10 miles from the mainland via shark infested rip current waters were for the incorrigibles, a prison away from the prison camps. Here is a cell for someone condemned to the guillotine. The bar was to secure a prisoner to his bed at night.
The solitary cells were the end of the line. Total seclusion in darkness and silence for up to five years. For attempted escape, the punishment was 2 years first offense , five years for the second – to be served in addition to the original sentence.
Three slats of wood for a bed. No lying or sitting for 15 hours of the day – only standing or pacing. Food was a soup or gruel with a minimum amount of calories to sustain life – reduced by half for violations. No talking, no reading material. Many went mad.
From the islands we returned via catamaran, with jolly French vacationers to Korou – site of the European Space Program. Then back to Cayenne for the evening. TotalAdventure then rose at 4:30 AM, took the van to St. Laurent for a mandatory covid test for both Suriname and the USA. Having missed the ferry, I crossed the Moroni by motorized pirogue to Albina where my Suriname driver was waiting. Back to Paramaribo for a delicious lunch and a 1 AM flight back to Miami.
Columbia’s shoreline in the Pacific Ocean runs hundreds of miles from Panama to Ecuador, yet is only accessible by two roads. The coastline consists of sheer cliffs overgrown with dense jungle. It’s hardly a place for vacationers – the third rainiest place on Earth with over 300 inches per year.
An overnight in the desolate and rainy port of Buenaventura, in the District of Choco, in order to catch a ferry to a coastal ecolodge the next morning.
Narco Armies ,smuggling cocaine to American drug consumers, operate heavily in the region. Therefore it is heavily militarized. Here, a soldier standing guard at a fishing village checks his phone,
Low tide from my room. Tides are about 8 to 12 feet in the zone.
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 snorkelling-intensive trip in the Galapagos Islands with a tailored-made itinerary.
I visit the islands as much as I can, but each new occasion makes me feel like I’m a privileged alien who is on a mission to discover an entirely new world, not ruled under the normal laws of biology.
This time, I have coordinated my hotel stays, meals, and snorkelling tours with Andean Travel Company. The rest of the adventure is up to me, so here we go!
Yesterday I arrived and took the afternoon at leisure to explore Santa Cruz island’s amazing white coral beaches where flocks of iguanas defiantly stare at you and block the way. The world’s only marine iguana is endemic to these islands.
I’m staying in a hostel in the middle of the bustling, colourful town of Puerto Ayora, one of the three urban centres of the archipelago. I would very much prefer this whole place to be inhabited, but people have been driven to these islands by the promise of economic success for decades now.
I was picked up by my guide and we walked a couple of blocks towards the dock. We embarked on a speedboat to Seymour Island.
I was provided all the necessary equipment and went directly to business (after listening to the guide’s directions). My very first sight was a group of whitetip reef sharks cruising between the low basaltic cliffs below me. I did not expect that my first animal observation would be this quick and thrilling!.
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!
These daily snorkelling tours provide lunch, and I’m grateful for that, as it is a very energy-intensive activity.
In my second swim of the day, I spotted one of my favourite marine animals, the black-botched ray. It looked so elegant with its perfectly aerodynamic platform and majestic in its cyclic underwater flight. I also hoped to see a scalloped hammerhead shark, but they are difficult to find, so let’s see what happens tomorrow.
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.
During my time inside the cove, however, my mind was obsessed with swimming around the massive Pinnacle Rock itself. We got there in due time, along with the rest of the group and the guide. (No matter how good of a swimmer you are, when snorkelling always stay close to your group!)
At the underwater intersection where the sea bottom becomes a cliff, I found spectacular lava formations, where reef and Tiger sharks were accommodated inside natural galleries. Swimming ahead, I found medium-sized sea lions who adventured so close to my face that I actually got a bit scared. I tried to make as much eye contact as possible with them, and it’s a tender sensation that I will never forget.
To finish off this day perfectly, we spotted the endangered Galapagos penguin standing on some rocks above the water. An Antarctic bird in these warm waters is certainly an unexpected sight, but they are one of the best examples of the unique animal adaptations happening on these islands.
Day 3! I cannot believe that today is the last of my snorkelling trip. We navigated northwest to Santa Fé Island. The area destined for snorkelling 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! May we be able to do enough to preserve your treasures!