Archive for the 'Islands' Category

Oct 24th
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Breakers At Isabela On The Costa Norte.

In late September,TotalAdventure decided to explore a part of the “Miami Neighborhood ” which is basically the entire Caribbean Basin. Just two hours away from Miami is the US Territorial Island of Puerto Rico. At 107 mies long and 40 miles wide, it’s perfect for a long weekend getaway. As a US Territory , it operates fairly independent of Washington.

Just off the plane , I went right to the beach at Playa Piñones. The first and last nights were spent in San Juan..Here is the Villa Herencia, charming and from the colonial era.

Surf’s Up !

Breakers near El Morro. However there is no beach there, only sharp jagged rock.

Old San Juan Is Totally Walled In
El Yunque National Forest

Just 30 miles from San Juan is El Yunque, a mountainous rainforest going up to about 4000 feet elevation. While not that high, temperatures there are much cooler than 90 degree San Juan, often remaining in the 70s during the day.

Fajardo South Of Roosevelt Roads

TotalAdventure circumnavigated half the Island in one day, arriving in Ponce by nightfall. The Eastern coast has great panoramas ,but very few hotels..

Ponce Fire Station,1893

The Colonial city of Ponce is well preserved, despite recent bombardment by Hurricanes and Earthquakes.

Ponce Cathedral

In the deadly earthquakes of 2020, an urn weighing several tons fell from the right tower. Luckily no one was under it.

Another Threat Due To Quakes Near & Distant

A great bodysurfer,TotalAdventure stopped in at Playa Rincon ,known all over the USA as a top surf spot. The waves were small right breaks onto a rocky shoreline. Waves get up to 20 feet with winter cold fronts. The cold fronts do not bring cold weather however, it stays in the 80s in January.

Playa Isabela Sunrise

Saturday night was in Isabela, on the Northwest Coast. A rustic surfer hotel,The Oceanfront was very basic, no internet, for $ 100 per night. However ,it had incredible views as seen above. I spent the entire morning bodysurfing and seeing waves crash on the cliffs as well as following sea turtles. Watch the above video carefully.

Flores,San Juan
La Perla From Distance

The final night was back in San Juan. I took a motor view of the seaside Barrio of La Perla, where cameras are strictly forbidden. The final activity was snorkeling just off El Morro, before dashing to SJU for the flight back to MIA.

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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 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!

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

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.

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 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. 

Lovely, aerodynamic sting-ray!

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’s snorkelling 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 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.

No caption is needed.

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!

Jan 21st
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On August 3rd I drove 400 miles from Couer d’Alene Idaho to Portland, Oregon, transversing eastern Washington State ,then along the Columbia river as the desert emerges into green forest. Portland is home to my Son, his Fiancée and soon, my Grandson.

Crater Lake National Park

I stayed in beautiful downtown Portland in an AirBnb very close to my son’s. The Rose City was on war footing as nightly street battles erupted between extreme left and extreme right factions along with police and federal agents.

The Apple Store destroyed, with the senseless destruction uploaded via Apple devices. However Fox News dogwhistles on “Antifa ” were largely to spread panic and give undercover law enforcement free rein . TotalAdventure does best to stay neutral in these extremist political times. We are about bringing the world together, not ripping it apart.

Burned and Bashed – The Federal Courthouse.

Hawthorne Bridge Over the Williamette River.
Portland – The Rose City

In a three week break from the road ( TotalAdventure and family business) we managed to take beautiful trips within the state.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake was created in one day 7000 years ago when the mountain blew its’ top. Thousands of years of precipitation, mainly melted snow, have filled the crater with water almost 2000 feet deep. There is one swimming area, reachable by a path that descends 800 feet from the rim.. . See the video where we jump off a 35 foot cliff.

Pirate Ship Island

Portland is two hours from the Pacific Ocean. The X2 had finally made it coast to coast !

Tillamook

In Portland it was 96 degrees, in Tillamook the air was 74 and the ocean ,an icy low 50s. If TotalAdventure is unable to swim, that means the water is only swimmable in a wetsuit.

X2 By The Pacific.

In Montana the X2 had reached 10000 miles, at the tender age of 3 months on the road. In Portland BMW performed the first free maintenance and took care of a few very minor repairs, as well changing oil.

On August 19th, it was time to explore California !

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On July 2 at 7 AM we left our host’s house in Bodrum to board a catamaran ferry to the Greek island of Kos, only 20 km across the channel. We looked back at  beautiful vibrant  Turkey, hoping  to return in the near future – to explore from Istanbul to the eastern provinces.

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We arrived in port 20 minutes later. We spent nearly 40 minutes to get passports stamped, as we were re-entering the EU and Shengen. Afterwards a 50 km taxi ride to Kefalos .

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In Kefalos , we found a beachside Taverna where we ate excellent grilled squid, stored our stuff and went snorkeling.

The water was as clear as an aquarium.

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There were ruins right by the sea !

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Soon it was time to leave for the airport. We took a turboprop to Athens, flying over hundreds of Aegean Islands. In Athens – once again passport control , as we were leaving Schengen. 4 hours later – another 1.5 hours in customs entering the UK.

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Just before midnight we arrived at our hotel, after a long Tube ride. We were right by the Tower of London and Tower Bridge.

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Our final day before returning Stateside was a whirlwind tour of some of the major sights.

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Iconic, but we opted for Indian instead.

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GMT + 1. The Trans European Adventure comes to an end.       7pp15pp9pp   6pp

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2014 was an incredible travel year for ArcticTropic. We explored Myanmar ( Burma), European Russia,Siberia,Mongolia,China,Japan,British Colombia,Canada,Singapore,Philippines and Panama. Here’s 184 clips in 11 minutes. This version is natural sound,a musical version will be uploaded soon.

Jun 13th
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Deep in the Heart of Siberia, Lake Baikal is one of the most pristine regions in the world. The 636 km long lake holds 20% of the world’s fresh water that is not permanently frozen. ArcticTropic only got to explore a small portion ,as it was early in the season and the full boat network is not yet operational.

From Irkutsk we took a two hour hydrofoil ride down the Angara River into Lake Baikal to the tiny village of Bolshie Koty.

Bolshie Koty has no roads, except an Ice road for a few months in the winter. There are only two or three operational motor vehicles in the village.

On this early June day, heavy snow had fallen on the mountains across the lake ,which had iced out only two weeks before. Swimming would only be possible after a hot banya.

Naturalists from around the world are working to create a hiking trail going around the whole lake.

Bolshie Koty began as a gold rush town int he 1850s. There was not much gold and today it is a place to escape the cares of the world.

Unless you bring your own food , you will likely be eating Omul soup. Omul is a great tasting fish,related to salmon.

ArcticTropic searches far and wide for untouched spots on the globe and Lake Baikal is certainly one of them. The cold climate and remote Siberian location ensures there will never be casinos and fancy marinas here.

 

For adventures in Russia, CLICK HERE

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ArcticTropic recently came across a cache of slides from 1988 and scanned them. South Thailand is now Asia’s jetset playground , but 25 years ago was still a sleepy paradise. However fishing boats still bring in fresh ingredients for delicious seafood curry.

Ko Phi Phi Lae, the uninhabited Phi Phi islet,great for diving.

Beach on Ko Phi Phi Don – the bungalows were 50 Baht ( US $ 2 ) per night. Electricity was available from a generator for a couple hours each night, just enough to recharge my video camera batteries. When I returned in 1995, the same beach had been paved over with a multistory modern hotel – which was in turn swept away by the 2004 Tsunami. Apparently everything has been rebuilt since then.

A winding road though the limestone mountains near Krabi. Southern Burma is just now opening up to the outside world and will offer scenes similar to these.

Fisherman with the morning’s catch.

Lord Buddha gazes into the jungle.

 

FOR ADVENTURES IN THAI LAND, CLICK HERE

Mar 6th
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Venezuela will be in the news a lot over the foreseeable future, as the geopolitical power player decides its’ new direction. Caracas is only 2 hours from Miami. There used to be 15 very cheap flights every day, but with political tensions, the flights became few and expensive. ArcticTropic last visited there in late 2003,several years before the site launched. Above is the aerial approach to the Littoral – the incredible Caribbean coastline.

Even the common people have an ocean view.

We stayed at the Circulo Militar – a military hotel on an officer’s base. Upon entry I saw Comrade Hugo himself !

A 45 minute flight from CCS to Margarita Island brings one to the cheapest island in the Caribbean. One resort is $ 50 a day – including a nice room, beach,tennis,windsurfing,unlimited food ( lots of meat and fish ) and unlimited Venezuelan Rum and Beer.

A lonely lighthouse on the empty island.

Margarita Island has a total desert climate, so it has the most sunshine in the Caribbean – 350 days a year.

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An ideal sailing trip to visit all the Atlantic Islands would take about 12 to 18 months, leaving Iceland in the late spring ,witha first stop in the Azores. By the beginning of the Antarctic summer, the boat would be in the far South Atlantic , visting Tristan da Cunha,South Georgia and the Malvinas ( known as the Falklands by the British), before turning back north to visit the Brazilian islands, on to Bermuda, St. Pierre and back to Iceland.

Mar 7th
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A word from a sponsor …………

All Points East has been offering exciting small group and family adventure holidays to South East Asia for over 10 years.  Whilst we recognise there are ‘must see places,’ we also realise that the modern day traveller has a desire to uncover each country’s best kept secrets – off the beaten track.

With exciting itineraries to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Yunnan, Malaysia, Borneo and Sri Lanka, All Points East has a proven philosophy – to provide small group tours that ensure genuine interaction with local people.

Winners of the 2010 Tourism Authority of Thailand Green Award, we have a commitment to local communities and to ensuring that our tours have respect for the people and places we visit.

As much as possible we stay in smaller, locally run hotels and guest houses, eat in local restaurants and use local style transport.  Guides and agencies used are considered friends rather than business contacts.  In keeping with our commitment to the communities we visit, our group sizes are usually a maximum of 10, very occasionally 12.

If this style of travel is for you and you want to get to know the real South East Asia, we would love to show it to you.