Penguins and Oceanites

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Penguins are seriously entertaining animals. You can sit and watch them for hours. They steal from each other, give each other gifts, fight and flirt. They make “highways” that lead high into the cliffs. They even have protocols for how they move up and down their roads. It you mistakenly get in a penguin’s way, they look up at you as if to say, “Excuse me, you are not following the rules.”

They are curious creatures which show little fear of visiting humans. Much of the joy of visiting Antarctica is just sitting and watching penguins go about their day. It’s the ultimate animal soap opera. But beyond the avian comedy and drama, there is a lot to learn about these animals and scientists literally have to go to some of the most remote locations on earth to Continue…

Exploring Antarctica

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“Good morning everybody…”

We awoke on day three to expedition leader Cheryl’s silky voice announcing over the loud speaker that we were about to enter the famous Lemaire Channel, a spectacularly narrow passage lined with towering peaks, walls of ice, and jagged glaciers. I pulled back the blackout curtains to discover the waters dotted with icebergs; minke whales surfaced just off our window. We and our fellow passengers took to the decks staring in all directions, oohing and awing at the epic awesomeness of it all. Penguins leapt through the water alongside the ship, others sat on chunks of ice drifting through the channel. This was the Antarctic dream.

Our first excursion took us to the surreal iceberg graveyard off Pleneau Island. Our zodiac driver Derek, who leads walking (!!!) tours to view polar bears in Churchill, Canada when he’s not exploring the poles, slowly Continue…

Setting Sail across the Drake Passage

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Setting sail for Antarctica was easily one of the most exciting moments of our lives. Boarding the Akademik Sergey Vavilov felt like we were boarding a ship to an alien world. There was a palpable sense of epicness, of venturing into the unknown, that is quite rare in the 21st century. I’m sure my fellow shipmates felt much the same. One by one, we walked up the ramp into the converted Russian research vessel to be greeted by our One Ocean Expeditions crew. From the first handshake, it was clear that the trip was going to be “awesome”.

Thomas and I slowly made our way up to the fifth deck taking in the details along the way. Signs and labels were all in Russian with English subtitles where necessary. Raised door portals and steep functional staircases distinguished the Vavilov from typical cruise ships. This baby was designed for real Continue…

Ushuaia: The City at the End of the World

Cumbres del Martial, Ushuaia

Half the articles out there about Ushuaia reference the “end of the world” or the “fin del mundo.” Yes, the title has become a cliche, but this is precisely Ushuaia’s claim to fame: it is the legendary city at the edge of the earth. In the old days, this is where they used to draw dragons and prophesy that sailors would sail into the abyss. In modern times, we’ve Continue…

Buenos Aires

Thomas in La Boca

After almost six months of incredible adventures in Peru, we’ve finally moved on to Argentina. Our first stop is the country’s glamorous capital Buenos Aires. We came to Buenos Aires with the specific goal of slowing down, staying in one place for a while, and catching up on work (yes, travel blogging is more than just traveling).

In real time (as opposed to blog time), we have been in Buenos Aires for over a month. To be honest, we have had some difficulty with the transition to Argentina. When we first got here Continue…

The Titilaka Experience

We’re soaring along ten feet above the surface of Lake Titicaca basking in the high-altitude sun. The Titilaka hotel boat feels like our own private yacht; there are no other passengers onboard. Our guide Armando is below preparing some snacks, so Thomas and I have the roof deck all to ourselves.

The views are out of this world. The waters glisten with a muted palette of blues; the islands dazzle with a patchwork of rusts and greens. Surreal stone ridges and huge vertical upthrusts of solid rock run along the southern shore. To the north, a wall of clouds breaks to reveal the snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real. It feels like the setting in a National Geographic dream. Ahead of us, our destination floats on the surface of Titicaca. It’s the man-made reed islands of Uros, one of the strangest UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet Continue…

Colca Zip-Lining: Meet the Monster

Thrill-seekers and adventure junkies, drop what you’re doing, it’s time to meet the Monster. Think you’ve been on a zip line before? Yeah, unless you’ve been to Colca Canyon recently, I don’t think so.

The brainchild of the completely insane and totally cool Peruvian American Natan, Colca Zip-Lining takes the art of cabled flight to awesome extremes. Natan is kind of like the Picasso of zip lines: he stands back, stares at the cliffs and then lays a stretch of line that makes people go, “Whaaat?!” Continue…

Canyon Adventures at Colca Lodge

The landscapes around Colca Canyon are savage and raw. Here, the Peruvian Altiplano plummets thousands of feet into the meandering Colca River. It’s a stunningly harsh region where villagers cling to the slopes in a cultivated tapestry of  geniusly terraced farms. In the distance, Mt. Sabancaya erupts sending a column of smoke high into the air. Just next to it looms Nevado Ampato, the volcano where the famous Ice Maiden was found.

The scenery is wild and striking. Huge, spectacular cracks along the road prove that those old B-grade movie earthquakes do exist. Volcanic waters burst from the earth and stream down the cliffs forcing your bus to slam on the brakes. The shifting earth is alive here. It’s beautiful, but not the kind of place that you expect to find luxury. Then again, Colca Lodge is not your typical hotel Continue…

The Volcano, the Maiden, the Cloister and the Crepes

Arequipa's most famous volcano, Misti El Misti volcano rises behind Arequipa

You do have to wonder why anyone would think it’s a good idea to build a city in the shadow of not one, but three massive volcanoes. Hello, doesn’t anyone remember Pompeii? Apparently, the Spanish colonists had forgotten to read that chapter in their history books when they founded Arequipa in 1540.

Peru’s second largest city is strangely monumental considering it has been a magnet for natural disasters for nearly five centuries. Despite the volcanic rocking and rolling that periodically tests the city’s foundations, an impressive amount of the colonial-era sillar architecture remains. In fact, it might actually be that traditional use of the whitish, porous volcanic rock that has allowed the city to survive the quakes. It’s certainly those sillar buildings that have earned Arequipa its nickname, the White City, as well as its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Continue…

The Tombs and Treasures of Chiclayo

Tony exploring Túcume

If it seems from our previous posts that all of northern Peru is one vast burial site, that’s because – well – it kind of is. There is literally buried treasure everywhere. Unfortunately, a lot of it is being dug up by grave robbers who sometimes hit the markets to hawk their booty.

So in 1987, when archaeologist Dr. Walter Alva suddenly discovered a surge in black market plunder, he realized that those grave robbers had found something special. His quick thinking and investigative instincts led him to what has been labelled the King Tut’s Continue…