Archive for the 'Four-Wheel' Category

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On the morning of September 10th, I awoke for an early morning dip in the Pacific before heading Eastbound the the Atlantic. Pulling out of my AirBnb Santa Monica garage I was soon eastbound on the 10 and then north on 15 to Las Vegas. Most of this TransContinental Adventure has been off interstates, but they will be used into Utah and again in Texas, Oklahoma and Florida.

The Highlight of the Eastbound Cross Country Would Be Utah ,Exploring 5 National Parks.

Fires raged in the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, sending thick smoke down to I-10. Some of the smoke from all the California and Oregon fires spread all the way to the East Coast ,dimming sunrises in New Jersey. This southern smoke band would follow me. I managed to always be a day ahead of it, until Colorado where I changed my itinerary because of it.

Quick Trip Through Vegas.

Normally I would spend a night in Las Vegas, but the wide open fun loving town is a bit clamped down for the moment due to COVID. In the video you can experience a very quick trip up the Strip. I did stop for some video poker at an empty slot hall in Mesquite, Nevada and walked out $ 30 richer. From there it was about 40 miles across extreme Northwest Arizona to St.George Utah where I would spend the night. Changed from Pacific to Mountain Time.

The Gateway To Arches National Park

The next morning I was up with the sun and off to Zion National Park. It was an introduction to the the incredible Utah geology. On the way I visited Hilldale, on the Arizona border. Hilldale is the town known for the highest number of polygamous families adhering to the original Book of Mormon. I saw groups of wives out shopping together dressed in 1800s style farm dresses and driving pickups.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park was the next stop. Now the temperature changed drastically according to elevation. St.George had been expecting a high of 100 degrees and this evening near Bryce the temperature slipped to 32 – I was glad to have a gas fireplace in my cabin for the night.

In the morning I continued through Bryce and then headed Northeast to Teasdale where I would explore Capitol Reef National Park with an old childhood friend I grew up with in Germany. We took a 6 mile hike up a canyon.You can see all the national parks in the video at the top of the page.

Arches National Park Is Otherworldly !

The final two nights were in Moab – home to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National park. In Canyonlands the X2 did amazingly well on rugged roads, in spite of the warning signs.

Finally I turned around where a spring had flooded a section of road turning it to muck. Without 4WD,I did not want to risk spending $1000 to be towed !

South Central Utah

 Crossing from Utah into Colorado, the smoke from California finally caught up, turning skies from bright Western blue to greyish white and encasing mountains in haze – diminishing prospects for photo and video acquisition.

Telluride – Old West Town, Now A Mini -Aspen.

Highway 50 climbed rapidly higher into the Rockies and by lunchtime I had reached Telluride, for the first time in 30 years. The big changes are to be expected. What was once a laid back Wild West type town with great skiing with a few bars up and down the main drag was now clogged with tourists even in off season September – looking for parking and lining up for $ 6 lattes. Tourism was higher than in the summer when people had been more cautious of COVID.

Rocky Mountain Stream.

The second night in Colorado was spent at the home of an old friend from the East. His wife is an Olympic ski champion.

La Junta Colorado

On Friday September 18th the X2 crossed the Continental Divide. For the next 1000 miles I would be tracking the Arkansas River from its’ glacial small steam origins to the wide river flowing into the Mississippi.

Spent the night in Syracuse,Kansas . The next morning , driving across table top flat land and crossing from Mountain Time to Central Time, I entered my 50th State – Oklahoma !

Near Where Eustace and Muriel live.

I stopped for lunch in the Panhandle town of Guymon and then went on to the Texas Panhandle.

The Big Texan, Home of the Free 72 Ounce Steak.

Stopping in Amarillo for the night, I stayed next door to the Big Texan. In one of my very few indoor meals of the trip, I dined on Rocky Mountain oysters and delicious Texas T-Bone that was about 20 ounces. The 72 oz steak is free if eaten in an hour. That’s 4 1/2 pounds, 2 kilos of meat. It comes with salad and baked potato which also must be consumed. If not finished in one hour the price is $ 72.

I-40 Eastbound the next morning. Back into Oklahoma. At Oklahoma city, the California smoke finally ended and the skies were clear once again, over the rolling Southern Plains.

Bill Clinton Library Little Rock Arkansas

Spent Sunday night in quiet Little Rock and toured the Capitol city the next morning. The Clinton Library , on the Arkansas River is an architectural masterpiece but closed by COVID.

Kibb’s BBQ – Best In The Southland ?

In Stuttgart I stopped for perhaps the best BBQ I’ve ever had with chopped ribs in a sauce that tasted like plums, coffee and super hot spice ! I bought a gallon jug to take home, which I carefully rationed over the next month.

Last Stop – Sarasota Florida !

From Arkansas into Mississippi I began a straight run back to Miami. Overnighting in Hattiesburg and then through Mobile Alabama to Panama City Florida for a swim in the Gulf of Mexico. Across the beautiful Panhandle . Though TotalAdventure has been located in Miami for over 18 years, I have never been to the Panhandle. Overnighted in Perry and then to Sarasota, a surprisingly young and thriving town on the Gulf of Mexico.

Back to Miami for a dive into the Atlantic Ocean. Watch the video above !

Sep 11th
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The TotalAdventure Team flew Qatar Airways from Miami to Saigon (HCM) Vietnam .On the way we had an 8 hour layover in Doha. On the way back we stopped over for two days. The above video is a compilation of the two visits.

Qatar is the wealthiest nation in the world, per capita. But tradition prevails in the desert lands outside of Doha.

It’s a 13 hour flight from Miami. 15 hours going back.

Right off the plane from Bangkok , we went riding the high sand dunes south of Doha. You can experience the adventure in the video above.

We went right dawn to the waterway that separates Qatar from Saudi Arabia, other than the narrow land bridge. The border between the two US Allies is currently closed. That’s a Saudi Army post about 3 km in the distance.

 

Back in the city , we went to Souk Al Waqif.

A delicious lunch of Sheep’s Head.

And Foul – a delicious Fava Bean stew.

Modest, yet colorful fashions.

Saffron and other exotic, expensive spices for sale.

The Architecture is Amazing.

Qatar Grand Mosque .

Al Zubara Fort.

It’s hot outside in July. That’s 117 F !

TotalAdventure would like to Thank Mr.Ahmed Nasser Al Rayes , Chairman of the Al Rayes Group for making our excursion in Qatar so flawless, exploring the majority of the country in a very short time. The Al Rayes Group owns 83 companies ,and is a leader in tourism investment.

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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.

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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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Tonight At 10:30 PM ,TotalAdventure departs Miami for La Paz Bolivia. After a relatively short short flight from MIA , which sits at just above Sea Level, our plane will land at the world’s highest commercial airport – El Alto at 13,323 Feet ,  4100 Meters – descending only about 60% from cruising altitude. For the next week TotalAdventure will explore the highest peaks of the Andes, Lake Titicaca and Salar de Uyuni  before moving south into Argentina for the Adventure Travel World Summit in Salta.

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ArcticTropic drove East along Iceland Route 1 for about 200 km today. While only about 125 miles, it was long day because of the incredible amount of nature to experience.

Glaciers flow directly into the Atlantic Ocean.

Black Lava Sand Beach At Vik.

River of Ice. Recent winters have gotten colder and the glaciers are expanding.

Icy Iceland Beach.

On The Moon ?

During the 2 hour sunset.

 

For adventures in Iceland, CLICK HERE

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Mongolia – with only 2.5 million people in 600,000 spare miles is the most sparsely populated country on Earth. The center of the Asian Continent is an empty spot on the globe !

 

For more adventures in Mongolia, CLICK HERE

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On short notice ArcticTropic contacted fellow ATTA member Tour Mongolia with a request for all the above adventures in Mongolia. Within 48 hours we had an agreed upon plan (all by email) – we were in good hands from the time we were picked up at the Ulanbataar Train Station until being dropped at the airport nearly a week later.

Special Thanks to Tseegii, our excellent guide who taught us all about where we were and who we met – throughout our journey.  She took care of all arrangements ,an of course,speaks perfect English and attempted to teach us some Mongolian.

Here is our diver Chimed – who drove our late model Japanese four wheel drive vehicle over hundreds of kilometers of dirt and sand roads that are not even on the maps. In years past he drove cars from Germany to Mongolia on a regular basis. He is also a skilled horseman and excellent chef.

Here I am pictured with Tour Mongolia owner Bagnaa, after he treated us to a delicious dinner at Mongol Restaurant on our final evening in Mongolia.

Tour Mongolia will soon offer trips directly through ArcticTropic.

Apr 10th
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ArcticTropic has just Acquired the GoPro Hero 3 Camera with 1080p 60 fps quality. it will greatly improve our video presentations from upcoming expeditions. Above video was taken in the Florida Everglades,west of Miami, for testing purposes – editing on FinalCut Pro.

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Explora Parques , led by Ramón Ossa Federico took ArcticTropic on an adventurous excursion to Parque Nacional El Leoncito. The first activity was dry land sailing on Barreal Blanco, a dry lake bed located at the foot of the  Andes.  The video above was taken as we drove at 100 mph ‘160 kph across the lake bed.

The lake bed is parched as it rains or snows only a couple of times a year.

No sound except for the wind.

The wind dies down, so the sailing is a bit slow.

The technique is not much different than water sailing.

Entrance to the giant park.

A valley oasis.

Complejo Astronómico El Leoncito (CASLEO), where we will vist at sunset.

A cooling waterfall. There may well be gold in the rocks.

Will almost no rain,these rocks take eons to form.

Springtime in the oasis.

Some rare clouds.

The park is near the Chilean border – the mountains offer huge mining potential as well.

As darkness fell around 8 PM we arrived at Complejo Astronómico El Leoncito (CASLEO). There are three times as many stars to view in the Southern Hemisphere than in the Northern Hemisphere. The high Andean deserts in Chile and Argentina offer the best viewing in the world  due to high altitude,clear air and a total lack of light pollution due to being one of the more remote areas of the world. Even with some volcanic dust in the air from Peyhuehe the viewing was incredible. Above is a photo taken with a radioteescope.

Comet Halley in 1986.

Planet Venus in the West.

The radio telescope is for the astronomers only. We were treated to views from a smaller but very powerful telescope outside. The roof above retracts.

We saw many galaxies billions of light years away. The highlight , however was seeing Jupiter and a few of its’moons.