Archive for the 'South America' Category

May 4th
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Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at Islam Mosque Keizerstraat 

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 !

Paramaribo Airport
Lots of Red Tape !

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 main Synagogue is next to the main Mosque of Paramaribo.

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.

De Gadri

Indian chicken roti with West African style vegetables.

Spiciness accompanied by icy Parbo Beer.
Hindu Temple
Roman Catholic Minor Basilica

All Wooden Interior of Church.

Downtown Paramaribo
The Presidential Mansion. TotalAdventure’s Father in Law was United States Ambassador to Suriname just before independence from The Netherlands and held meetings here.
Architecture similar to New York State, South Africa and Holland itself. New York was traded for Dutch Guyana due to a peace treaty in the 17th century.
Still lived in.
Leaving Suriname for French Guiana.

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.

May 3rd
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Hotel de Ville Cayenne

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.

TotalAdventure has been to 96 countries. Guyane is Department of France, just as Hawaii is a State of the United States. It is as much a part of France as Paris. It is debatable as to whether I can count this as Country 97.

Watch the amazing video above. Cayenne and Devil’s Island !

ColonialCayenne

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.

Plage d’Cayenne

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.

Vietnamese and Chinese soups in the Central Market.
French Dinner With Tropical Ingredients At Ker Alberte
Hospital and Lighthouse Ile Royale

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.

Condame a Mort

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 End.
Worse Than Death – Reclusion

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.

Light was alternated to keep prisoners from going blind . Many went totally insane.
Five Years. No talking, no reading.

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.

Devil’s Island
Tropical Hell
Capuchin Monkey Ile Royale
Ile Diable

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.

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On Friday Night , March 18th, TotalAdventure arrived in my 94th country. Only 4 hours from Miami – and so refreshingly different ! After a late night arrival and early morning swim in the hotel pool, iW as ready to explore the city.

First stop , the Stabroek Market. View the video for the fascinating food items on sale inside. The top picture is of the Victorian Era City Hall, currently under renovation.
Three major religions of Guyana are Islam, Christian and Hinduism, reflecting the nation’s cross cultural heritage.
Pool at the Ramada Princess Georgetown.

We will be adding to this preliminary post later. Also had an amazing plane trip t Kaituer Falls yesterday !

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Medellín, the City of Eternal Spring. In The Tierra Temporada, the temperature rarely goes below 55 or above 85.

On the morning of January 22, 2022 , TotalAdventure left US territory for the first time in almost 2 years on a 3.5 hour flight from Miami to Medellín .

The US was in its’ last COVID panic phase, so it was great to get to a country where people were out enjoying life ! Saturday night was rocking !
Street Performers At Every Intersection.
High Above The Andean City.
Medellín Is Also Famous For Artist Francisco Botero
Botero.
Botero.
Medellín By Night.

After a great weekend – it’s time to head south to Cali and the Colombian Pacific.

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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.

As you can see in the video, we were escorted by 5 soldiers on out jungle trek. After a refreshing swim in the Pacific, a boat takes us back to the Eco-Lodge.
M-16 At The Ready.
Pacific Sunset At 3 Degrees North Latitude
Back On The Mainland, I got a taxi from Buenaventura to Cali, where I enjoyed an excellent mid day feast. Above, Yuca con Morcilla.
Ceviche.
Seafood Soup
Steak In A Cacao Sauce
From Cali, A 1.5 Hour Flight To Santa Marta on the Caribbean.
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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!

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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.