Archive for the 'Jungle' Category
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.
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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TotalAdventure had hoped to come from Georgetown Guyana via land and ferry across the Corentyne River. However the ferry , only recently running again after COVID shutdown had broken down and would not be repaired for weeks. The only way to go was to fly.
Be Sure To Watch The Video Above – To Experience Suriname !
To enter Suriname, I needed my passport, E-Visa, Yellow Fever book, Covid Vaccination, Antigen test ( taken that day) Port Declaration of Health, Proof of Health Insurance and a landing card, with name and phone number of hotel. Never has TotalAdventure had to show so many documents, not even Russia or Turkmenistan.
Finally I received the stamp and it was off to Paramaribo.
Across from my hotel on Keizerstraat. The city is mostly made up of colonial era buildings 100 to 200 years old, but have never been maintained. Built to Dutch specifications, the Equatorial heat and humidity are corrosive to the wooden structures.
The Dutch bought in colonists and settlers from their worldwide territories Indonesian, southern African, Caribbean islanders and West African slaves all added to the mix. 13 different languages and dialects are spoken in Paramaribo, many more in the jungles.
There is a true diversity of food everywhere. Dutch/French/Caribbean combo here.
Indian chicken roti with West African style vegetables.
All Wooden Interior of Church.
An early morning ride from Paramaribo got me to the border town of Albina by 9AM. Jungle and small villages all the way. Suriname is the most forested country in the world. Many less documents were required for exit.
The ferry from Suriname to France takes about 20 minutes and costs 3.40 Euro. There is no direct flight from Cayenne to the US – one can go to Paris and fly from there , or island hop through French islands to Miami. Consequently I will return to Suriname after Cayenne.
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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.
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.
Breakers near El Morro. However there is no beach there, only sharp jagged rock.
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.
TotalAdventure circumnavigated half the Island in one day, arriving in Ponce by nightfall. The Eastern coast has great panoramas ,but very few hotels..
The Colonial city of Ponce is well preserved, despite recent bombardment by Hurricanes and Earthquakes.
In the deadly earthquakes of 2020, an urn weighing several tons fell from the right tower. Luckily no one was under it.
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.
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.
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.
TotalAdventure Presents “Long Lost Laos” A Video Narrative Of Last Summer’s Voyage.
Vietnam Voyage Is A 23 minute excursion from Saigon to DaNang by air, from DaNang to Hue by train and then from Hue to Hanoi by air. TotalAdventure explores the main sites of the 4 historic cities with culinary adventures ,such as cobra snake in Hanoi.
Angkor is truly a Wonder of the World, even if it was not listed as one of the originals.TotalAdventure spent three days exploring, though several weeks would be needed to visit all the areas that are still being explored.
Europe was in the Dark Ages when this huge city was being built.
These rivers were navigable.
Time takes over.
Lost In Time.
Angkor Wat – Main City.
Intricate Details On All Structures.
June is a great time to visit, as the winter tourist hordes have vanished, but real monsoon has not yet begun.
A five hour journey from Rio de Janiero, via Brasilia, landed TotalAdventure in Belém – capital of the vast Pará State – about 80 km from the Mouth of The Amazon. The 450 year old Cidade Velho is closest to the River and there is a surprisingly large modern city with skyscrapers not far inland.
TotalAdventure boarded a ferry for the one hour ride to the river town of Barcarena, which would be a 10 hour car ride by circuitous muddy roads through the jungle. These elevated cabins are not connected to the power grid, but many have generators to run their satellite TV’s.
In the Old City.
Ver O Peso Market. Belém has a refreshingly remote feel, with few tourists – yet is only about 6 hours via connecting flights from Miami. For all TotalAdventure’s Brazil Adventures – CLICK HERE.
BEL-MAO-MIA In the morning TotalAdventure packed ( still carrying ski jacket from Chile ) and boarded TAM for the 2 hour flight to Manaus – Amazonian Capital – and hopping off point for many jungle and river adventure trips.
Coming into Manaus.
Time To Return Stateside –
The 4 1/2 hour journey offers beautiful aerials of the Northern Amazon, Venezuela’s Gran Sabana, the Guajira Peninsula, Cuba and finally into Miami.