Extraordinary Nazca – Much More Than Lines

Extraordinary Nazca Lines: Nazca Hummingbird

The Nazca Lines have been associated with everything from aliens to Atlantis; they are certainly one of the world’s most mysterious creations. All that fame, intrigue and media attention means that the name Nazca has now become synonymous with the lines. But many people don’t realize that Nazca refers to a town, a region, and even an ancient culture. That culture left behind much more than lines.

Bucketlisters and speedy travelers shooting through Peru often spend half a day in Nazca, do a quick flight over the Nazca Lines, and hightail it on to Arequipa, Cuzco or Lima. GIGANTIC MISTAKE. Nazca is a fascinating region which deserves far more attention. Thomas and I spent six days here, and this is just a bit of what we discovered Continue…

Kayaking in Antarctica

Kayaking in Antarctica around Cuverville Island

Gliding through the waters off Petermann Island, I cautiously dipped the paddle into the subzero Antarctic ocean to steer the kayak around a small flow of brash ice. Startled by my change of direction, four Adélie penguins leapt from the water and porpoised alongside me. Up ahead, the One Ocean Expeditions kayaking guide Michelle rounded the tip of the island backed by a couple of sculpted icebergs.

The second guide Mark paddled off to my right. A humpback suddenly surfaced in the distance behind him, a monstrous tail lifted into the air and then slipped below the surface. I reflexively glanced down into the water suddenly remembering that YouTube video of the whale that almost swallowed a scuba diver. Nothing below. We Continue…

Ausangate Lodge Trek

Our Ausangate lodge trek started with a picture, a mind-blowing image circulated on Facebook of a surreal rainbow mountain, which I assumed had been photoshopped beyond belief. (Could something really be that beautiful?) When I saw the image, I initially thought it was the Zhangye Danxia mountains in China, but something about the shape of the hill looked slightly different. Dragging the picture into Google image search revealed that I was looking at formations near Ausangate mountain just a few hours from Cuzco, Peru. Yay!

The Ausangate circuit is featured on many lists of the world’s best high-altitude treks. One of the holiest mountains in Incan mythology, Ausangate features windswept valleys, snow-covered peaks, glaciers, panoramic views… everything a serious trekker could want. But much to our surprise, we discovered that that rainbow mountain was not on the well-known camping circuit. Further digging revealed that the Camino del Apu Ausangate, an alternative lodge-based trek run by Andean Lodges, combines the stunning mountain scenery and high-altitude passes of Ausangate with the little known technicolor landscapes around Vinicunca Continue…

The Faces of Ausangate

Andean Lodges: Roberto, our horseman, shows off one of his many trekking hats

As you can see from the Ausangate lodge trek post and video, our trek along the Camino del Apu Ausangate was full of natural and cultural highs. For many people, the spectacular landscapes and isolated Andean villages are reason enough to do the trek. But we also wanted to stop and reflect a bit on the unique relationship between Andean Lodges and the communities of Chillca and Osefina which greatly benefit from these treks. Continue…

Plan your Visit to Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper

Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper in Milan

The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the second most famous painting in the world after that other da Vinci masterpiece, the Mona Lisa. The superstar 15th-century mural is probably the most duplicated painting on the planet. It shows up on posters, placemats, calendars, coffee cups, mouse pads and any other flat surface humanity can print a picture on. It’s everywhere, and it has become one of Milan’s most famous attractions. For that reason, Last Supper tickets are in high demand. Unfortunately, many visitors never get to see this artwork.

When da Vinci was asked to paint The Last Supper on a wall in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, he chose to paint on dry wall rather than on wet plaster as is traditionally done in frescoes. This meant that the famous painting started to deteriorate almost immediately after he finished it.

As if that weren’t problem enough, the painting has a history of abuse which would be laughable if it weren’t so sad. French troops actually Continue…

Day-Tripping in Huaraz

TnT at Lake 69

Huaraz is the trekking capital of the central Peruvian Andes; it’s the perfect base for day trips and multi-day treks into the surrounding Cordillera Blanca, including Peru’s highest mountain, Huascarán (6,768 m / 22,205 ft). Best time to hike is May to September when skies are crystal-blue and days are dry and warm. However, hiking can still be good during the fringe-season, just before May and into November.

We came to Huaraz in November to independently hike the world-famous Santa Cruz trek. Yes, we knew we were pushing our luck with the weather this late in the season, but we were already in Peru, so we thought we would give it a try. To make this story a little shorter, we failed… or rather, high-altitude drizzle with zero visibility made us return to Huaraz on day one of our trek.

Yes, travel does not always go as planned. Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. So was Huaraz a total bust? Not at all. We turned that failure into a major victory by Continue…

Autumn Foliage Season in Kyoto

Autumn foliage in Kyoto's Eikando Temple

I’ll admit that our trip to Japan was a bit last minute, but that doesn’t mean our timing was totally random. For years, we’ve been wanting to experience one of the country’s most stunning natural spectacles, the Technicolor fall foliage season. Fall foliage? Don’t you mean cherry blossoms?

No, while most Westerners associate the country with the world famous spring cherry blossoms, many Asian tourists are equally drawn to Japan’s gorgeous fall colors, which for religious and cultural reasons have become something quite unlike anything else on the planet. Continue…

Krampus at the Christmas Market in Munich

Ah, it’s December in Bavaria and the Christmas markets are in full swing. The Alps are shrouded in cool mist and half-timbered houses are decked out in twinkly lights and boughs of mistletoe. Locals are huddled ’round their fires drinking hot glühwein as holiday tunes float through the air.

Suddenly, the sound of synchronized cracking whips break the silence. Groups of Krampus and Perchten, Christmas devils and fur-clad Alpine monsters armed with bundles of twigs, rush into the crowded streets. The fiendish Christmas beasts dance through the crowds chasing rotten children and whipping them with stinging bundles of twigs. Adults laugh and stuff themselves with gingerbread as children run screaming in all directions. Yeah, Christmas in Germany has a bit of an edge. Continue…

Crazy Tokyo Experiences

Cat bonnet anyone?

Evolving post – more to come!

We came to Japan for the specific goal of diving into the country’s legendary craziness. We had visions of pouty Lolitas posing in front of multi-story video screens, robots performing the Nutcracker, warehouse-scale electronic sushi emporiums, and Gozilla peeking over a skyscraper down upon the city’s legendary street culture. Did we find it? Absolutely, it’s everything we ever dreamt of and more.

In coming days, we will be building the ultimate list of quirky, crazy, weird, wild and wonderful activities, a sort of must-do menu of kitschy Tokyo delights. Hai, dozo! Continue…