South America

I walked down a sandy path wearing shorts and a t-shirt as I watched penguins lay in the sand seeking reprieve from the sun under the shade of scrub bushes. Travelling was dispelling the assumption penguins live only in cold climates. Lathered with gobs of sun screen, I walked along the dusty paths of Punta Tombo Reserve one hundred and ten kilometers south of Trelew, Argentina.

If wildlife viewing is your thing, this five hundred acre park was one of the best wildlife managed areas I visited in my South American travels. Punta Tombo is home to the largest penguin colony outside of Antarctica. Between September and April thousands of Magellanic penguins nest in their burrows and guard their young.

One of the reasons I found Punta Tombo so enjoyable was the orientation and presence of staff throughout the reserve. Visitors are greeted upon first arrival, walk through a smartly designed museum and are given an orientation. A staff member informs guest not to touch the penguins, throw garbage, smoke, eat food or make loud noises.

 

These are Magellanic penguins and have a deep red hue to their eyes.

 

A wide trail with roped boundaries kept all the visitors to one path through the reserve. Staff were stationed all along the reserve and their presence kept visitors following the rules, which made the experience enjoyable for all.

 

These cute little guys are called cuis. Scurrying quickly about, they can be easily scared dashing under trees and shrubs.

 

Holding its head high, the Elegant Tinamou boldly prances about pecking at the ground for seeds and insects.

 

After a high energy day of searching for food, penguins make the walk to their homes.

 

This one stopped for a scratch along the way.

 

A hillside where penguins build their burrows.

 

With a flash of white across their hind ends, these mara’s, or Patagonian Hares, take giant leaps through the sage grasses. I didn’t even know these guys existed before travelling through Argentina. These are now one my new favorite animals.

If you find yourself along the east coast of Argentina and you enjoy viewing wildlife, make sure you check out Punta Tombo Reserve. The park management has done an award worthy job of creating a clean, safe and positive environment for enjoying nature.

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If you go:

Entrance fee to Punta Tombo: $70 ARS pp.

There is no camping  in Trelew and we stayed at the only hostel in town: Hostal El Agora, Edwin Roberts 33, (02965), $130 ARS pp.

Car tours, call Sophie, 154583309, the hostel will also call for you. You set up the day(s), place and time and she brings you the car. It should cost somewhere between $450-600 ARS for the day.

 

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I got off the bus in a small town in the state of Espírito Santo, Brazil, where I would change over to another bus on my way to Itaúnas for a famous forró festival. It was late at night, the skies were dark and the small dingy streets illuminated by artificial lights. I was 6 hours from Vitoria and had just spent those hours stuck next to a man with his never-ending packet of ruffles. Safe to say I was exhausted and agitated. I stood in line, waiting patiently to collect my bag from under the bus in order to transfer it to the next bus that would bring me to my destination, and according to some chit chat on the bus, the last bus would leave at 10.30pm (or in other words approximately 15 minutes).

My portuguese skills having only spent the one week in Brazil were poor, and that was being generous, so in line I waited as the man asked people the same repeated question before letting them take their bag. As the bus emptied and as I approached the bag compartment I realised that every passenger was handing the driver a little white slip in order to collect their bags. I checked my wallet, my passport and every pocket in between, but mine wasn’t to be found.

That ticket, that stupid insignificant piece of flail  white paper that I was handed 6 hours ago when I originally dropped off my bag was nowhere. It was gone; probably still sitting on my seat on the bus, among the ‘rubbish’ I left on board. I waited until I was last in the line until my bag was the only one left. I thought it would be that easy.

I tried to speak in broken portuguese the best I could – “Desculpe” (Sorry) “Eu não tenho” (I don’t have) .

He just looked at me, vacantly, and his actions didn’t need words. The shrug of his shoulders and the raise of the eyebrows said it all. “Too bad.”

“Por favor, aquele é meu mochilão!!” (Please, that is my backpack!)

I showed him my back which had a matching smaller version of the backpack. No expression except that of his eyes rolling in the opposite direction. He playing a game, teasing me as if he had had the worst day in the world and wanted to pass on the displeasure.

Desperately, I stared at my bag, and noticed that I still had an airline ticket attached to it. I grabbed out my wallet and showed him my identification, to compare with the airline tag. But it was so use: No ticket, no bag.

He was playing some sort of serious game here, either that or he was just blatantly being an a#$hole. At this point I was the only one left, and this was the only bag. He knew it was my bag, the matching backpacks told him so.  He knew it was my bag, because my name was clearly written upon it. He gave me a look, and I could see the twinkle in his eye, basically telling me, he’s going to screw with me tonight. He wasn’t not going to stop with this stupid game.

He started to pull the latched door shut to seal off the compartment containing my single backpack. In an act of desperation, I reached out and grabbed my bag before quickly running away. He chased me, yelling words that I didn’t understand. I kept running, trying desperately to lose him so that I could make my way to the next town. As I ran with the weight of my backpack upon on back, my foot gave way and my ankle collapsed hard and fast into a pothole. There I was, captured, as if he had purposely laid out a booby-trap.

There was no escaping. As I attempted to stand up and pull up both my own weight and the weight of my turtle shell, he had managed to catch up to me. I wiped my leg of the blood and rocks and ignored the pain over his loud overbearing taunts in Portuguese. He was singling me out with evident words of attack. I could only imagine what it would have looked like to onlookers- an overweight 60+ year old Brazilian man yelling at a young foreign girl.  I called out desperately to an on-looking local, “Descuple, onde fica onibus para Itaúnas?” (Where is the bus for Itaúnas?) He called out the directions and with them I stumbled away, slowly, but away. The bus driver followed me, at a distance but at the same pace, and I did my best to block out all sounds of taunt and criticism.

The yelling stopped after a couple of minutes, but within only a minute more I started hearing the calls of someone behind me again.

‘Oi, Oi!!’

Screw this, I thought, what on earth is this guys problem? I walked faster. I continued to hear footsteps, harder and faster, nearing closer and closer, ‘Oi, oi! Onibus não esta la, onibus esta aqui!” (You’ve gone past the busstop!) I turned around to see the man who gave me directions chasing after me, because in my frustration and anger, I had walked straight past the stop. I turned around, and started to head back towards him, desperately thanking him for looking out for me.

I found an empty spot on the ground, put my backpack down and sat upon it, waiting. He sat down as well, maybe 2 meters away from where I was sitting. I knew he was only sitting there to look out for me, even though he didn’t utter another word. I am forever grateful to this man- because without him, the next 5 minutes would have been much harder to handle.

The man was back, his face sterner than ever. He walked up and came right up into my face, the saliva from his words spraying across my face. I had no idea what he was saying, but I didn’t like the energy, I didn’t like the attitude, I didn’t like him. Every phrase, every word, every single swear word that I know in Portuguese all blurted out like word vomit, straight back at him. Then he grabbed the strap of my bag and I desperately ripped it back from his grasp, “DON’T F*ING TOUCH ME,” in straight English. I didn’t care if he didn’t understand the words, he would know what I meant. The scream that came from me attracted a lot of attention. Suddenly there were people running up to me, speaking in Portuguese to the man as I stood there, feeling completely violated.

I stood there, shaking, frustrated, fuming as the tears streamed down my infuriated face, watching the conversations unfold, understanding only the hand gestures that were being made. Then the man pulls out his phone and starts dialing, and I hear the word ‘policia’. I didn’t say a word, I just stood back and tried to calm myself down. A loving hand was put on my shoulder and with that I was handed a bottle of water. The kindest around me at this point well and truly outweighed the one outsider. I couldn’t be thankful enough.

The police turned up, as if they were on standby in the area. I didn’t want to talk to them and I didn’t want to look at the man. At that point and time I would have loved to have just curled up into a ball with my headphones in my ears and blast some really loud music. I didn’t though. The man gestures towards me, pointing, agitatedly speaking to the police. I had no idea what would happen next. They asked for my passport, and I reluctantly showed them. The policeman wrote down my details just as the bus pulled up. I looked back and forth, from him to the bus, and with just one discreet wink from the policeman I knew I would be boarding that bus. They took the angry busdriver away with very little force to calm him down, and there I was, free and without a conviction, and only an hour or so any from my next destination.

SAMSUNG CSCRio de Janeiro. The city that has more love than Paris, more nightlight than Tokyo, more culture than Barcelona and more music than a New York City street. Rio is the city that only those willing to risk all will travel to, unless with a corporate credit card, business briefcase and a high luxury suite. Generally you’ll spend less here in a week than you will in a night in Paris and yet it’s the city that is so overlooked. But… price has nothing to do with it. Brazil has been in the spotlight over the last few years; of course there is the world cup next year and the summer olympics in 2016, but thats not all that hits the media. There’s the never ending bureaucracy between the police and government officials which influence heavily publicised riots that demonstrate to onlookers a constant fear of ‘danger’, so naturally its a place where only the bravest of travellers will attempt to step foot, at least at this time. So why would anyone come here? Sure theres beaches, the brazilian booties, and the World Wonder ‘Cristo Redeemer’, but what really is the purpose in coming to a city for no other reason but to see a giant statue and take a picture imitating his stance?

So then, why did I come to Rio?

To be honest, I wanted to travel through South America, and the cheapest flight I could find was into Rio de Janeiro. Even coming from the travel industry I knew nothing about Rio, I knew nothing about the customs, the culture, the food. I didn’t even know what Lapa was until I heard it mentioned a few times whilst here and then googled it, let alone Copacabana, Ipanema and the structure of the city physically. I was then surprised to see that the city itself, it actually a huge beach, surrounded by beautiful green mountains and a few (thousand) high rise flats in-between. Throw in a couple of lakes and basically you’ve got Rio- a natural paradise. At a glance I started to understand the hype. Well, theres the beach, and the weather is generally nice, and I’m a beach lover so it was a nice change from other cities. But, it was more than just a horizon of translucent blue/green water that got me. It was more than the view from the top of a mountain, it was more than the reflections of light on one of the many lakes after the sun set. Personally, I am not one to be attracted physically. In fact, Im the kind of person that after a typical ‘laugh at me, smile at me, twinkle in my eye’ kind of philosophical conversation, I’ll then start to think about the attractiveness, and Rio, well… Lets just say it has a whole lot more than a twinkle and some good banter.

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Rio is like the jewel I accidentally stuck to my wallet with mismanaged superglue, but instead of tediously trying to rip it off like a bandaid, I decided to embrace it and make it a part of the patchwork. Call it edgy, call it hipster, but hey; Rio managed to become a part of me. Heres a quick confession: I’ve been in Rio for 6 months now, and I have never seem ‘Cristo Redeemer’ up close. I didn’t come to Rio to tick of a list, and I didn’t decide to stay here to have bragging rights. In fact, I stayed because I actually couldn’t rid myself of the addiction that is Rio de Janeiro. I tried to leave Rio, many times, but always wound up feeling more homesick than I ever have. Apart from chocolate and a nice glass (or three) -hmm actually or seven glasses of red, Rio is the only drug I need. It’s a vicious circle, like all drugs because the longer I stay, the more I never, ever, ever want to leave.

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So theres the whole danger aspect that you read about, and I have read about a lot. Before arriving my mother was horrified that I was going to Brazil, and South America in general. Mosquitos that kill you, riots with tear gas and rubber bullets, rapes, kidnappings. Basically she did what she could to find every single story that would mean my demise. But thats the thing about the media, you only hear the bad things. One rape (horrible as it may be), by one insane person is detrimental to an entire society. But with that in mind I was of course wary and cautious upon arrival. Maybe I am just the lucky one, because never have I ever felt any danger whilst walking the streets of Rio de Janeiro, daytime, nighttime, through the city centre or through a favela. I have felt much more danger walking around Barcelona in the middle of the day. Sure there are stories, and sure, bad things happen, just like anywhere else in the world, but living in Australia meant that I was confronted with many natural and unnatural disasters; bush fires, cyclones, droughts, and then the occasional street shooting or body that wound up cut into 70 pieces in a garbage bin. In the United States it seems that every month there is one crazy guy with a machine gun or a machete that ends up attacking a school filled with innocent children. And not to mention the child abuse and abuse against women that happens behind closed doors in many other of the worlds nations. But when something as trivial as losing my wallet in Rio, and once I finally accepted the fact that it was gone and that everything can be replaced, I got a phone call saying that it had been handed in. I am the lucky one, of course, and of course this won’t happen to everyone, but to get a wallet back with every single cent left inside- all I am saying is don’t be to abrupt to judge everything you hear or read about.

My experience in Rio has been nothing short of incredible, fantastic, mind blowing, life changing, amazing. I have never experienced a culture where most locals can’t take trips for too long because they miss their home city, and to meet other foreigners who get stuck, just as I did, it really says something about the city. But maybe it also says something about the type of travellers who dare to step foot here. For me though, through good and bad, thick and thin, all that ’til death do us part kind of junk, it seems that I have found home, in a seemingly hopeless place.

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Moving within the Andean countries of South America requires a certain adaptability.  The rigors of travel are formed by both geography and culture, and distances are deceptively longer than they appear on a map.  A person can pull out a map and measure the space between two towns and think, “Well, how far can that be?” and then take 24 hours to arrive at the destination.

A lonely mountain road in Peru

Transport in the high Andes tends to be slow.  Along the Pacific coastal areas, depending on location, obstacles from blowing sand to mangrove swamps provide daunting challenges.  Naturally, the Amazon basin region presents its own set of problems; getting around there is mostly done by boat, at least when one is away from the major population centers.

This of course, leads the savvy traveler to ask, “Well, where am I going to stay?” There are many, many methods for determining the right sort of lodging, depending again on geography.  And of course budget. A lot of variables come to mind that may affect your decision.  If you’re in a district that exudes tropical heat, do you want to splurge on air-conditioning?

Jungle lodge

Indeed, is air-con even available? Often the luxury cannot be procured at any cost.  On the other hand, in cities from Cartagena on the Caribbean. to Guayaquil on the Pacific and Iquitos in the Amazon,  the visitor can pony up big dollar amounts to be cocooned away from the local climate.  Which works fine until the visitor has to walk out the establishment’s door.

Sometimes it’s easier to go with the flow

In the modern era many people choose to save both time and, in the end, money, by flying between destinations. This works very well for those with limited vacation days, who wish to see a country’s highlight without having to endure every pot-hole and sidewalk street vendor along the way.

Regardless of the path you choose, the most important thing to remember is to have fun!

Having a nice view from your room is always pleasant

 

Hitchhiking in North America has now become a forgotten art, mostly due to our fears and insecurities.  It is no longer fashionable to trust strangers.  Over time, though, I have developed hitching into a high, if personal, method of travel.  Many songs have been written about thumbing the highway, but the sensations and benefits of a successful experience are not easily transferred to the written word.

Discriminating travelers will find the best rides in South America. During a truly memorable trip, I traveled from the town of Pasto in Colombian highlands to the Pacific coast and the mangrove-covered flatlands of Tumaco.  I wanted to journey into the Chocó wilderness along the Colombia-Ecuador border.  These murky tropical forests, most of them only a few feet above sea level, encompass the continent’s largest unexplored swamp.

1) Enterprising baby crib maker, Pasto

But the road from Pasto to the coast is the star of the journey.  It drops nearly ten thousand vertical feet from the Andes to the coastal plains, and I had no prior knowledge of its rigors.

I covered most of the trip in the back of an open pick-up truck after two men offered me a lift.  The road began in relatively good condition and I sat alone in back near the tailgate as the driver and his buddy raced along the edge of a highland ridge.  Now the road forked.  In one direction, the blacktop proceeded along more or less the same terrain, and in the other, it climbed a hillock.  We took off without hesitation on the second route.  The truck gained the top of a small rise.  Before us, partially visible through a swirl of low clouds and fog, a deep chasm yawned like a giant set of mandibles.  Narrow and dark, the bottom was invisible.  Razor-sharp cliffs thrust themselves through the clouds, while tufts of cloud forest pocketed dark ravines.  I looked upon a landscape that told of past cataclysms and seismic destruction.  Pinnacles of rock hung in space, obscured by thick, gray cascades of water.  Bromeliads and ferns clung to precarious holds like weird sentient beings.

How could any highway descend into such an abyss?  The truck driver wheeled to the right and we careened forward on a track, barely a car-width across, surfaced with crumbling gravel.  As the wheels spun in the dirt, I heard the ping of little rocks scraping the undercarriage, an ominous sound.  I peered over the edge of the truck’s bed. The road plunged. Far below I glimpsed a distant pathway, clinging to the side of a vertical massif that fell at least five thousand feet.

Insanity!  Who would construct a road into this rent in the Earth?  The truck began its descent.  A series of S-turns brought us to the rim of the great canyon.  The cliff had been dynamited, or perhaps hand-chiseled, to afford a space for the roadway that descended the rock wall on a steep gradient.  I wondered if the road was a modern work, or if perhaps the original trail dated to pre-Hispanic times.

My musings were brought to an unexpected conclusion.  A bulge in the canyon wall appeared and the road, such as it was, vanished around a blind corner. Dead rock overhung the cleared space, barely leaving sufficient room for a car to pass.  We had no chance of spotting oncoming traffic, nowhere to get out of the way.  The drop on the left side faded into the void.  It was so far down I couldn’t even see what lay on the bottom.  The air was thick with humidity and the fecund smells of a mad jungle world.

The truck stopped just before the bulge. A small shrine had been dug from the mountain.  Placed within, a statue of the Virgin stood mute.  Offerings had been draped about her person — a few pieces of cloth, drink-and-drive bottles of aguardiente, and coins.  The driver and his companion exited the vehicle and prostrated themselves before Mary’s calm face.  This had to be a bad sign.  Religious icons and statuary were common enough along the byways of Latin America and other parts of the world.  But I had never seen a car stop and the occupants engage in a specific, pleading ritual.  Clearly, the men in the truck, macho-looking Latinos not given to public expressions of fear or cowardice, were themselves overwhelmed by the magnitude of the canyon’s power and had decided to take no chances with a capricious fate.  That they were ready to openly humble themselves spoke more eloquently of the perils of this road than any words.

The men got back in the truck and we inched around the blind corner.  I chanced a peek from the side of the cab but couldn’t see the road.  The rear of the pick-up dangled in space, although the wheels still had purchase.  It was a dizzying sensation.  I slumped inside the cab and leaned over, as if compensating for the excessive heel of a sailboat.  But in a minute we turned the corner, picked up speed and headed into the recesses of the canyon.  I exhaled, hardly daring to take another gulp of air.  It looked as if both the heathen and Catholic gods were satisfied with the Colombians’ prayer offerings.  We hadn’t fallen to a horrible death from the lip of the precipice to be devoured by the ancient hungry mountain deities.

A short hour later the road found level ground. We raced to the coast.  Along the river that flowed on the valley floor, a tangle of low vines held the banks of the stream firmly against the current.  My senses were heightened to a shuddering sensitivity.  Adrenaline probably caused the feelings, but I gloried in the knowledge that we had cheated death, my silent partners and I. Transcended into a place that few hitchhikers reach, I felt at one with the canyon, with the jungle, and with the Colombians who had facilitated this astounding ride.

So never mind the insecurities and fear.  Sometimes trusting strangers is the best option of all.

2) Dockside, Tumaco

3) Departing Tumaco by dugout for the Chocó swamps

by Terrance Richardson

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to destinations all over the world. Book your next holiday on a ship and see some of the amazing places you’ve always wanted to visit.

Caribbean Cruises

With a name like Royal Caribbean, you know this is a cruise line that knows this area of the world well. With ships that visit destinations like the Bahamas, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Jamaica, Mexico, and more, you’re sure to have the holiday of a lifetime. Bathe in the azure waters, sun yourself on the white sand beaches, eat more seafood than you can possibly imagine, and take part in exciting shore excursions and water sports. It’s all part of the Royal Caribbean experience.

Mediterranean

Imagine combining a fantastic beach holiday with city breaks and historical sights. You can with a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise. Visiting destinations like Venice, Barcelona, Rome, Naples, Santorini, Sicily, Split, and Athens, you’re sure to get the best of both worlds.

South America

Indulge yourself and see the sights of South America. This vast continent offers everything from humid jungles to frozen glaciers, as well as beautiful beaches, ancient ruins, and chic cities. Begin your journey in Santos, Brazil, where you can relax on the beaches of this port city. If you’ve enough time, you can explore Sao Paulo, located about 50 kilometres away. Next, stop off in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where the beautiful elite love to party, then head to the thriving, exciting city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. End your cruise of South America in Montevideo, the quaint capital of Uruguay and the perfect place to unwind after the excitement of Buenos Aires.

Emirates and Oman

Dip your toe in the Middle East with this exciting cruise of the Emirates and Oman. You’ll begin your cruise in Dubai, where everything is new and bigger is better. Try everything from skiing indoors to riding a camel in the desert before setting sail for Fujairah, located on the beautiful Gulf of Oman. Next, your cruise will take you to Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city, before winding down in Abu Dhabi.

Australia

If you’ve ever dreamed of a holiday to the Land Down Under, dream no more with this exciting cruise from Royal Caribbean. Choose from 11 to 16 nights onboard the Rhapsody of the Seas while you explore gorgeous Sydney, thriving Melbourne, and nature-filled Tasmania.

Canary Islands

You’ve probably considered a holiday to the Canary Islands, but have you considered taking a cruise there? Royal Caribbean offers a 10-11 night cruise onboard the Independence of the Seas for an ideal beach holiday.

 

 About the AuthorTerrance Richardson is a keen writer, explorer and musician. He is particularly interested in music in different cultures but is also a big food lover.

I trust lucky cat to help me make good decisions

Planning. Oh, planning. The bane of many a traveller out there, planning is the thorn in the side of the beauty of exploring new places for so many. Whether or not you’re a person who’s planning is simply booking a flight or bus to their next destination, or a person who likes to have their accommodation lined up well in advance as well as flights  booked several months ahead, it’s a necessary evil that needs to be dealt with.

When it comes to planning, I definitely fall into the latter category. I’m a planning nut who’ll try and figure things out as far in advance as possible, jumping on flights and scoping out things like festivals and potentially awesome CouchSurfing hosts or hotel deals faster than the airlines can charge me those pesky booking fees.

OK, so maybe I’m not quite that fast.

Seoul Subway
Should you just follow the path you've already set for yourself?

I’m heading around the world next year, departing on March 27th, 2013 to be precise. Planning is like crack to me, and I approached the whole idea of scheduling my trip with absolute glee. I decided exactly where I wanted to go, when I’d be there, how long for, and I’d be travelling with my partner. All sorted.

Or so I thought.

My partner and I had initially planned to travel together but this is no longer possible. He’ll just be graduating university or doing an internship and be thrown into South Korea’s viciously competitive job market. Taking time off to travel simply isn’t an option here. So, that’s the first thing that went kaput. I’m travelling solo.

I trust lucky cat to help me make good decisions

The act of planning for a round the world trip, of course, involves a heck of a lot of research. I wanted to go to Africa first and do a safari in Zambia. From there, I’d head through Malawi, down to Mozambique, and fly out of South Africa.

However, when I dug a little deeper, I found that the end of March is a bit of a dodgy time for safaris in Zambia – you’re not really guaranteed to see any animals. Malawi is easy enough to travel in, but crossing the border into Mozambique seems hellish – and not to mention, Mozambique is absurdly expensive. Then, South Africa. The only place in South Africa I have any desire to visit is Cape Town, but all the cheap flight deals I could find – and the best connection from Mozambique overland – operate out of Johannesburg.

Saklikent Gorge in Fethiye
Hopefully I'll climb up and reach the light.

I’ve scratched all that now. I’ll still go to Africa, but I have absolutely no idea where. West Africa? Ghana, Togo, Benin and Burkina Faso? Perhaps. Maybe Ethiopia. Somewhere undiscovered and completely different, like Eritrea? Or maybe I will do that safari in Zambia – but that’s an experience I want to share with my partner.

As I mentioned before, I do have my first flight booked. However, it’s for the USA, not Africa. I’ll be starting in Boston. I asked for advice on where to go in the eastern USA, and received lots of tips and advice on where to go. People commented, “why aren’t you going to California?” Not enough time, I replied.

Then I found an amazing deal to San Francisco. I booked it. So yes, I’m going to California.

Grits are disgusting.
Also, I'll be trying grits despite my initial disgusted first reaction.

From there, I’m off to Colombia – a country I’d planned on visiting almost last on my trip – and after that, Canada. Canada wasn’t even on my list to begin with, and I disappointed a few of my Canuck friends by telling them I wouldn’t be going. Then, it was announced that TBEX 2013 will be taking place in Toronto and, on a whim, I booked a flight from Bogota to Toronto.

Burger B Seoul
This pulled pork deliciousness happened the first time I met bloggers in Seoul. I'm hoping more deliciousness will continue at TBEX.

All this confusion and organised chaos only covers the first two or three months of my trip. I thought I had things down, knew what I was doing, but then I understood something. I understood why people travelling always tell you not to plan too far ahead. Why they tell you that it’s best ifyour plans have some kind of fluiditiy to them.

Things pop up that you don’t expect and you’ll find amazing flight deals or information on things like fantastic festivals, over-the-top visa requirements, inclement weather or seductive foodporn that will change your plans entirely.

Grand Park Seoul
Leave your feet dangling off the edge

So, what am I doing after Toronto? I’m thinking of visiting Montreal. In terms of a country I’ll be going to? I have absolutely no idea. Nothing is planned. Nothing is set in stone. Everything is wide open.

Maybe I’ll decide on something a couple of months down the line. Maybe I’ll decide when I’m in Canada. Who knows?

I’ve yet to hit the road, but I’m already understanding that the best plan to have is to keep your options and your mind open – and to have your finger on the mouse when you find that irresistible deal to somewhere you hadn’t considered before.

 

About the author: Tom Stockwell always had his nose stuck in an atlas as a child, and pretended that the stairs in his home were a magic carpet whisking him away to some faraway country that he’d seen on the map. Now, he’s travelling the world and has taught in Korea, explored snow covered beaches in Poland, partied at Sydney Mardi Gras and almost thrown up from trying durian in Kuala Lumpur. You can keep up with Tom’s adventures through his blog, Waegook Tom, via Facebook, and by following @waegook_tom on Twitter, too.

Can you really travel the world for FREE? Seems unbelievable.  Here is how my review of Michael Wigge’s book, How to Travel the World for Free begins:

Michael Wigge’s book cover (How to Travel the World for Free) says, “I did it and you can do it, too!” Having spent a year traveling in SE Asia with a budget of $100 per day for myself and my husband, George, I wondered how he traveled from Germany to Antarctica for free. At the end of his five month journey, he says, “I can’t believe I have really made it to Antarctica without a single cent from my own pocket.” It is a tremendous adventure that includes making friends, bartering, and enjoying the kindness of strangers.

Early on he has an encounter of the kind many travelers can remember—having to pay to pee and finding himself without change. Personally, I’ve found the toilet guards to be unsmiling when you really need to go and cannot pay. Wigge discovers in his journey who is ready to help out with a train ticket, coins for the bathroom, or fruit for lunch.  He befriends a man who teaches him dumpster-diving etiquette and learns to not take anything for granted.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

One of the most exciting journeys you can make anywhere in South America is to go from the mountains to the rain forest, either headed east to the Amazon from the Andes, or, in Colombia and Ecuador, toward the west and the Pacific lowlands.

The route in Peru from Cusco to the Manu Reserve area of Amazonia is no exception.

1) The starting point at the Plaza de Armas in Cusco

Head north out of town from the main square through the less well-heeled outskirts of town and eventually you climb from the river valley on a precipitous, one-lane gravel track, with bottomless drop-offs to the left.

2) The road begins to climb

The route passes through the highlands, winding its way among small villages and farms.  At one point it intersects an unusual geological formation, which local legend holds to be a huge boulder, the size of an office building, that fell from the sky and crashed, breaking apart on impact. I stopped and hiked up to these rocks on one occasion, and they certainly looked like the the remnants of  a strange natural event, but it was hard to tell.

Regardless, the road eventually arrives in Paucartambo, home to a famous religious festival and a seventeenth century Spanish bridge.

3) The Juan Carlos Bridge in Paucartambo

Evidently the Spanish were keen on the region from their earliest times of settlement. One can imagine them continuing from town and arriving at Tres Cruces, the high-point of the route where, without warning, the bottom falls out of the Earth and the vast Amazon basin unfolds to the horizon like waves on an undulating sea of green.

4) The cloud forest begins

5) Here the track is still above the forest a good vertical distance, but very close horizontally

As you ride the road downhill, the air warms and becomes more fecund, the humidity rises sharply and at last you’ve left the austere high Andes behind, dropping into a world gone riotous.

 6) Further down

 

By Kit Herring

After 10 years of road trips across the USA and sailing to islands of the Caribbean, Davarian Hall visited the country of Peru in 1982 as a travel writer and photographer. His work was subsequently published in publications such as National Geographic Traveler Magazine and, with the advent of the World Wide Web, within scores of web sites.

In Peru Davarian pursued a career as an eco-tourism consultant working with conservation organizations and indigenous Indians to help build and promote Amazon rainforest lodges.

Davarian is currently a partner in the Amazon Refuge Wildlife Conservation Center, a remote research center located off of the Peruvian Amazon River. Here Indian communities, including the San Juan de Yanayacu Indians protect a one million-acre Amazon rainforest reserve. The reserve area is one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. Monkeys, Jaguars, untold numbers of reptiles, birds, and insects, live amidst jungle flora and fauna just as they have for countless generations. Parts of the reserve consist of flood plains, rivers, streams, lakes and upland primary forest each supporting rich localized ecosystems.

Continuing his involvement with eco-tourism Davarian is a logistics consultant for wildlife expeditions and spiritual retreats.

With his passion for conservation Davarian, when not in Peru, lives outside of Lexington, Kentucky, with his wife, Drae, on a 30-acre homestead along with 3 dogs and 8 cats.

What first sparked your interest in the Peruvian Amazon?

It happened in 1954 in a Clearwater, Florida, movie theater. As a kid I sat glued to the screen–watching Creature From the Black Lagoon. Now, almost 60-years later, that spark has grown to a bonfire of curiosity and commitment for me to continually explore the Andes Mountains and Amazon Rainforest.

My first opportunity started one fortuitous evening on a Jamaican beach when I met a Spiritual Brother fresh from his travels in Peru. With a couple phone numbers, an Instamatic camera, an old backpack, and 5-words of Spanish I jumped a flight to find my own Black Lagoon.

The next 20-years felt as if I were a character in a Hemingway-meets-Hunter S. Thompson novel.

With the hospitality and friendship of Peruvians I went further to remote Andean communities and deeper up Amazon River tributaries. Each step of the way knowing a special new adventure, aloft the one before, was waiting along the next trail, around the next river bend.

With years of helping companies build and promote Amazon tourist lodges there was always the desire to have a place of my own in the Amazon.

Exploring a tribuatary: Photo by Gordon Wiltsie

But not a place dependent upon numbers of tourists being herded over rainforest trails leaving behind a carbon footprint the size of Big Foot.

Rather an isolated jungle home open to research people and serious nature lovers. A Home away from Home.

Aided by like-minded business partners I was sent on a quest to find a jungle location that is literally unexplored and unexploited. There, to build such a jungle-home in concert with nature. A place that would become the Amazon Refuge Wildlife Conservation Center surrounded by protected national reserves and on land owned by local Indians.

How did you first become involved with the community at San Juan de Yanayacu?

 In 2008 with my partners I encountered Juan Carlos Palomino, an English-speaking Peruvian working as a naturalist guide at a tourist lodge near Iquitos, Peru. The connection was immediate. Here is a man with an incredible knowledge of rainforest plants and animals. A man who grew up in a remote Indian community, went on to study biology, and, because of his assistance with research teams, he was awarded an Honorary Degree from Cornell University.

Juan Carlos is a member of the San Juan de Yanayacu Indian community, 200 Indians living on the remote Yanayacu de Yacapana River. The Indians have land title to portion of a 1-million acre primary rainforest National Reserve. An area that has never been completely explored.

Just past the community Juan Carlos had a thatched roof river front camp. No human population beyond.

With an invitation from Juan Carlos our community visits brought us awareness that the Indians were part of their own “conservation initiative.” They had long ago given up using blowguns to hunt monkeys and birds. Without an international organization telling them the definition of “Conservation,” they truly feel themselves as being part of the ecosystem, a rainforest commune inhabited by creatures great and small.

The community’s livelihood is fishing and, as with many remote Indian communities, without a medical post, schoolteacher, or clean drinking water.

With the cooperation and support of the San Juan de Yanayacu Indians, a piece of land was granted the to Amazon Refuge for the construction of our research and conservation center. The Indians further agreed that no future construction would be allowed upriver from the Amazon Refuge except for small research posts that would be under the control of Amazon Refuge.

Construction started in 2009 to turn Juan Carlos’ camp into a complex to provide safe, comfortable accommodations under the guidance of expert naturalist guides for visiting scientists, birders, and photographers.

And to offer a rewarding learning environment to student and volunteer groups, and nature lovers who wish to experience the true splendor of the Amazon rainforest.

 http://amazonrefuge.com/

What are the basic needs of the community?

Immediate needs of the community include clean drinking water, good medical care, and installing composting toilets.

For education a school for the young children is needed along with supplies and volunteers to visit as teachers.

For drinking water we are currently providing special water filters through a program with Waves For Water, a non-profit organization:

 www.wavesforwater.org/clean-water-couriers/

For a longer term water supply a two-tiered water tower is in planning that filtrates and chlorinates a large volume of water.

Fund raising is underway so that a medical clinic can be built and used by volunteer medical professionals through our alliance with Project Amazonas, a nonprofit medical organization:

 What is your organization specifically hoping to accomplish?

The Mission of the Amazon Refuge includes providing employment and education for the local people so they may live productive, healthy, and sustainable lives, in harmony with nature.

And to strengthen the rainforest ecosystem of the Yanayacu area by facilitating sound conservation principles and supporting protection of the community reserve.

What challenges do you face working in a remote jungle?

We are in constant flux with Mother Nature in the Amazon: The rainforest is an ever-changing dynamic system that is both a blessing and a challenge. From yearly river flooding, summer rainwater flowing down from the Andes Mountains, that in the extreme can wash away Indian homes, to dry seasons when water supplies are ammonia-laced from decaying vegetation.

Flooded village

On the flip side flooding brings the much-needed nutrients that then sustain the rain forest vegetation.  The dry season allows animal migration between islands of permanent terra firma.

In the last two years these extremes have been magnify with record-breaking floods followed by rivers becoming small streams.

To adapt to these extremes the San Juan de Yanayacu Indians need homes that are elevated off the rainforest floor higher than anticipated flood levels. And for drinking water a purification system that can eliminate large amounts of ammonia.

How can a person now help the community?

Money and advocacy of course!

Make a donation through our non-profit partner, Project Amazonas, and get a tax deduction:

 www.projectamazonas.org/donation-to-area-of-greatest-need

In order to support the cause we need support in perpetuity. Visit Us!  Bring your family and friends to see for yourselves the Amazon rainforest and meet the San Juan de Yanayacu Indians.

Gather a small group from your fraternal, social, or professional societies. Bring your students for an educational experience of a lifetime.

Come to Teach and Learn: Help with our Organic Garden Sustainable Food Project, teaching English, aiding with health services, or give assistance to Indian guides for a Wildlife Census.

What do you see for the future in Yanayacu?

My vision is to bring together an international community of 50, 100 or more people, who like myself share a desire to bring stability, hope, and resources to the San Juan de Yanayacu Indians. And to protect a rainforest habitat that is home to more species of mammal than any other place on Earth.

With their assistance we can pass the word to friends and co-workers, network with research organizations, universities, and medical volunteer organizations, and disseminate information through their Facebook and community web pages. And perhaps use whatever professional skills they have for such things as fundraising, grant writing, and web site development.

With such an international community of supporters the funds would become available to:

Improve the San Juan de Yanayacu homes.

Build a medical clinic complete with emergency supplies.

Arrange visits by doctors/nurses, and dentists.

Build a school building and hire a teacher.

Construct a reliable drinking water system.

Install composting toilets in Indian homes.

Build guard posts within the community reserve to prevent poaching.

In return donors receive not only a tax deduction, but also have use of the Amazon Refuge as a “Home away from Home” while time permits, so they can Teach and Learn.

With Vision, imagination, and perseverance our Spirit becomes the guide that gives our children and grandchildren the opportunity to find their own Black Lagoon.