Gocta Lodge Adventures – Kuelap, Revash, Mummies and More

View of Gocta Falls from Gocta Lodge

Stepping out onto the balcony of our room here at Gocta Lodge, it’s hard to believe this view isn’t on the cover of every travel magazine on the planet. We came to Chachapoyas to explore Peru’s rising star Kuelap, which many are calling the Machu Picchu of the north. Yet, the view from our hotel room may eclipse that rising star.

We look out over a jungle-filled canyon framing the spectacular two-tier Gocta Waterfall, which has only recently been named one of the highest in the world. A flock of several dozen parrots swoops by above our heads. Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower below. The scene is our introduction to the incredibly rich Chachapoyas region, an area overwhelmed with natural, historical and cultural attractions. The isolated highland capital of Peru’s Amazonas state and its surrounding treasures are just starting to pop up on the tourist radar. But if the Peruvian government has its way, that’s all about to change Continue…

12 Lima Surprises

Spectacular art of the Museo LarcoMochica Headdress in the Museo Larco

Lima is one of those cities which travelers tend to rush through. More than once, we’ve heard tourists count their luck that they only had to spend a few hours here in transit, or were able to bypass the metropolis altogether. So we were quite shocked when we got here and sort of fell in love with this South American capital. Lima has a fun, quirky vibe,  and Limeños are humorous, welcoming and helpful.

Yes, this town definitely has a rough side, and visitors and locals alike hold their breath every time they step into a taxi out of fear of being abducted. But if you pick your neighborhoods, take official taxis, and use your head, you’ll quickly discover that Lima is a unique city with a great deal to offer. Here’s just a sample of what we think makes this city of 8.5 million pretty great Continue…

Fallen Angel in Cusco

Fallen Angel restaurant

We love daring adventures: tracking wildlife in the jungle, clinging to sheer rock walls, crossing 17,000 ft passes in the shadow of crumbling glaciers. You wouldn’t think that a boutique hotel could rise to our standards of “epic” experiences. But then again, you’ve probably never seen Cusco’s Fallen Angel.

Bold, ostentatious, humorous, psychedelic, flamboyant and fun, you might expect Fallen Angel in Berlin, Paris or Tokyo. But it comes as a TOTAL shock in the 16th century colonial courtyard of a historical casa in Cusco. The moment you step into the restaurant-bar-hotel, you realize you have entered a parallel universe of art and ideas, a cultural statement meant to challenge assumptions about Cusqueña and Peruvian culture: this country is about Continue…

Cirque du Soleil Corteo in Lima

Cirque du Soleil Corteo

OK, don’t get confused… this isn’t a continuation of our via ferrata in the Sacred Valley or another Amazon adventure sport. This time, Thomas and I are just kicking back in our VIP seats and watching Cirque du Soleil’s Corteo in Lima, a touring production presented in their cutting-edge traveling tent.

Corteo presents the Cirque’s unique blend of acrobatics, music, and variété through the death visions of a clown. Angels hover midair as a ballet tightrope artist dances en point onto the rope. Scantily clad ladies Continue…

The Ultimate Amazon Adventure (Part 2)

It’s not often that you can lie in bed and watch wildlife at the same time. Like the other Rainforest Expeditions Lodges, the rooms at the Posada Amazonas are open-walled. As I shift in bed and reposition my pillow to look out into the night jungle, I see the silhouette of a night monkey leaping from one branch to another. So cool. I check my phone to discover it’s 4:30 am, time to get up for breakfast before we head to the canopy tower.

We’re staying in a superior room, which means we have electricity when the generator is running. I fumble for the lights – YES – the generator is on. Even better, a green light on my Continue…

The Ultimate Amazon Adventure (Part 1)

Thomas slides the paddleboard off the muddy riverbank into the slow-flowing river.

“What about piranha?” I ask as Thomas climbs onto the board, “This isn’t going to be like one of those ’70s horror movies if we lose our balance, is it?”

“No, piranha almost never attack people, especially in rivers,” answers our guide Pepe smiling at what is clearly a common question, “Those horror stories you hear are usually rare cases where piranha have been trapped in small bodies of water. I’ve been swimming in these rivers for years, and nothing has ever happened to me.”

Confident that bad balance won’t prove fatal, I push my paddleboard off the bank and follow Thomas downriver. Pepe and Angel, our sports guide, follow. The scene is like something out of a movie: a winding jungle river, steep red-clay riverbanks, a towering canopy of rainforest trees. Two scarlet macaws fly overhead and a chorus of gurgling oropendolas Continue…

Birders Flock to Tambopata

I still remember the first time I ever saw pictures of the Tambopata region. It was the January 1994 issue of National Geographic in the cover story titled “Macaws: Winged Rainbows” featuring stunning photography by Frans Lanting. One beautiful image of a clay wall covered with red and green macaws seared the concept of a “clay lick” into my mind forever.

Scientists still debate the purpose of clay licks, but leading theories suggest that a lack of sodium in the diet of parrots and macaws in the western Amazon causes the birds to eat sodium-rich clay to supplement their diets. (It’s still hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of birds eating dirt.)

Because of the sodium level in local soils, most large clay licks are located in southeastern Peru. The most celebrated of them all – the one made famous by National Geographic – is the Colpa Colorado clay lick near the Tambopata Research Center. There are so many macaws Continue…

Ten Ways to Experience Catalonian Cuisine

Catalonian Cuisine

Wild mushroom salads, cured meats and sausages, roasted red peppers in olive oil, wines, cheeses, salted cod, crema Catalana… the cuisine of Catalonia is every bit as rich as the artistic and architectural heritage of the region. In fact, the current “best restaurant in the world” is in Catalonia.  Whether you are indulging in stewed prawns on the coast or pigs feet in the mountains, there’s something for everyone. Don’t know where to begin? No problem. Catalonians are a sophisticated bunch, but they are also exceptionally down-to-earth and ready to share their food with you. The best way to learn is to start eating and asking lots of questions. Here are ten tips to get you going Continue…

Rafting the Noguera Pallaresa

Rafting on Noguera Pallaresa

Although most people probably don’t immediately think of Spain when they contemplate adventure travel holidays, Catalonia offers some serious opportunities for the über-active traveler: sailing trips on the Costa Brava, scuba diving in the Mediterranean, canyoning, skiing and snowboarding in the Pyrenees, climbing and via ferrata routes, long-distance hiking, and… drum roll… white water rafting.

We sampled the rafting potential on an afternoon excursion on the Noguera Pallaresa River in the high Pyrenees and, as you can see in the pictures, it was totally awesome. Organized through Rubber River in Sort, the stretch we did ranged from grades 3 to 4, which means there’s a bit of potential to be thrown from the boat. The run was incredibly fun and there is a very cool surprise Continue…

Re-Learning a Valuable Lesson in the Costa Brava

Llafranc harbor, Costa Brava

I’ll admit that before I came to Catalonia, I had a rather bad impression of the Costa Brava. (We all have our prejudices, right?) Having lived in Germany for many years, I associated the area with mass tourism, package holidays and overdevelopment.

So you can imagine my shock as we sailed the beautiful, rocky coastline between Palamós and Llafranc past isolated coves, golden beaches, cliff-top villas, weatherworn castles, lush forest, and picturesque fishing villages. It was NOT the picture I had in my mind. And the water in those coves was like liquid glass. Pure fantasy.

Descending in Llafranc, I hiked a portion of the perfectly manicured coastal trail that runs the length of Catalonia connecting its coastal towns and villages. It was all just so Continue…