Camping in Antarctica

If there is one thing that’s guaranteed in Antarctica, it’s that there are no guarantees. We knew this when we booked our trip to the ice continent: all activities are very weather dependent. Mother Nature rules down here with a very raw sense of humor, and she sometimes likes to put humans in their place. Zodiac outings, landings, penguin viewing, hiking, every Antarctic activity listed in the brochures comes with an asterisk next to it clearly adding “subject to weather conditions.”

Everybody on board knew this, and we knew the most weather dependent activity of them all was camping in Antarctica. There were two designated days where the overnight camping excursion was possible. When we were told camping was not possible on the first night due to wind and rain, we all held our breath and prayed for Mother Nature to cut us some slack. Those prayers were answered the second night when it was announced that the camping excursion WAS ON! Cheers Continue…

The Red Spider Lilies of Kinchakuda

japan-spider-lilies-2

No, we didn’t come to Japan during the cherry blossom season. 🙁 But it turns out that Japan has a whole lot of surprises up is floral kimono sleeves. We just randomly stumbled upon this little known (outside Japan) event, the blooming of the red spider lilies of Kinchakuda (巾着田).

Located a mere hour outside Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, Kinchakuda Park lies on a forested bend along the shores of the Koma River. For about 8-10 days each year, a spectacular red carpet of lilies forms beneath the trees creating a fairy tale scene unlike anything we have ever encountered before Continue…

Rajasthan Camel Safari

Everybody does it here – it has become somewhat of a touristic cliche. It can range from a luxury tented eco-experience to an off-the-beaten-track adventure. You might find yourself in a sea of tourists waiting to pose for a portrait on a dune, or perhaps like us, you’ll end up sitting out a sandstorm in a herder’s desert wigwam. It is the Rajasthani camel safari, and it is whatever you make it.

Eager to make ours an adventure, we did our homework first. There are endless options in Rajasthan, but we wanted to get Continue…

Ten Cool Treks for Adventurous Souls

Tony and Thomas in the Gokyo Valley, Nepal

Looking to do some trekking in 2019? Scouring the web for some recommendations? Over the years, we have had the amazing opportunity to do some of the best treks on the planet. It’s about time that we put together a list of recommendations to compete with the hundreds of others out there on the Net. (Ours is naturally better. Ha, ha.)

What makes this list different? Well, first of all, we have personally done every trek we list here. Beyond that, each of these treks Continue…

Spring Hiking in Gozo

The Azure Window, Gozo’s famous natural bridge shown below, collapsed on March 8, 2017. Read on for more info.

Tony and Thomas near the Gozo Azure Window (collapsed in March 2017).

While many might scream hysterically at the concept of visiting any Mediterranean island before temperatures make swimming comfortable, we beg to disagree. Spring brings waves of colorful flowers to many of the arid islands, and cooler temperatures are perfect for long coastal hikes. Gozo, Malta’s smaller neighbor, is a perfect example. Continue…

Luxury Yurt Camping in Lanzarote

As we drive north from Arrecife to the small coastal village of Arrieta, we immediately notice how different Lanzarote looks from the other Canary Islands we have visited. Most obvious is the lack of high-rise buildings and huge tourist complexes. The black scorched land along the coast is dotted with small white-washed villages and traditional windmills. We marvel at the bizarre landscape of terraced cones, squat craters, and soil that shimmers with onyx hues of the volcanic spectrum. It seems like a spectacular location for our glamping experience at Lanzarote Retreats. Continue…

Kasbah du Toubkal – Luxury Trekking in the High Atlas

Warning: Two hikers were attacked and killed  outside Imlil in December of 2018. Danish authorities have stated that the attacks were “politically motivated and thus a terrorist act.” Exercise caution in the area.

As we sit sipping sweet mint tea gazing out the sculpted slopes of the Imlil Valley, the call to prayer echoes up from the Berber villages below. I adjust the cushy pillows around me and lean out to take in the mountain panorama that surrounds the Kasbah du Toubkal. Behind our hill-top refuge rises the barren, rocky peak of Mt. Toubkal, which at 4,167 m (13,670 ft) ranks as the highest mountain in North Africa. Opposite us, a wondrous waterfall pours into an oasis of walnut, apple, and – most importantly – cherry trees. It’s literally raining cherries in the valley below.

When trekkers talk dream destinations, the conversations often turn to distant lands such as Nepal, northern India, Tibet or Peru. Scanning our archives will prove that these reputations are well deserved. But trekkers-in-the-know keep a few dazzling finds to themselves, off-the-beaten-track treasures where the hiking enthusiast can walk the trails without the crowds. One of the best kept secrets Continue…

Shades of Merzouga

Merzouga is one of Morocco’s top desert destinations. The sweeping dune sea, which has been featured in films such as The Prince of Persia and The Mummy, is where everyone comes to live out their desert dreams. Of course, we showed up in the middle of a series of raging sandstorms with blistering 105+ temperatures, so our desert dream felt a bit more like a very sandy, very hot hallucination.

Yes, we spent a great deal of our time in our hotel room watching the dunes push their way through the gap under our door. When the winds dropped a bit, we moved to the hotel restaurant and sipped mint tea with clouds of sand swirling around us as the hotel owner sat staring out an open door wondering aloud why his hotel was so empty. (Gee, I wonder why!) On two occasions, the wind stopped and we ran out the door into the Continue…

Discovering Tafraoute and the Ameln Valley

At the heart of the Anti-Atlas lies Tafraoute, a town situated on a beautiful boulder-strewn plain which is perfect for hiking and long walks. Just a few kilometers down the road, the Ameln Valley beckons with towering granite mountains and crumbling villages. Locals are noticeably more conservative here. Women dress in long black veils trimmed with tribal embroidery, their colorfully flamboyant shoes embroidered to indicate marriage status. On several occasions, as we were driving around, older women actually stopped walking along the road and turned their backs to us as we drove by. Wow! Continue…

Entering the Anti-Atlas

From Mirleft, we wound our way up into the exotic Anti-Atlas Mountains, a southern extension of the better known Atlas range. The desert mountainscapes here are harsh and extraordinary with huge geological uplifts and vertical layers of earth that leave visitors gasping at every turn. Overloaded trucks, goat herds, and psycho Moroccan drivers barreling down the middle of the road also leave them gasping. (Thomas dodged and weaved like a pro!)

When I first visited this remote region in 1989, the slopes were dotted with beautiful peach-colored mud villages full of traditional families living the way they had lived for generations. The adobe architecture was carefully maintained and houses were decorated with white outlines and gorgeous tribal designs. We discovered that in the last 27 years a lot has changed. Many of the picturesque villages have Continue…