Chitwan National Park, Nepal – October 2010

Greater One-Horned Rhinos

The first night we stayed in Chitwan, the Park was buffeted by a huge rainstorm, bringing down trees near the tent we stayed in and wiping out large portions of the road in the park.

Elephant ride in the morning fog

As such, over the next three days, our only method of travel was by elephant. While the mode of transport isn’t the most comfortable, it’s the only true all-terrain vehicle in the jungle there. We spent hours on the giant beasts, walking through tall elephant grass, following tiger tracks (we never found one), and spotting monkeys, deer and the one-horned rhinos that the park is famous for.

During one expedition, we came across a trio of rhinos crossing the river (the three pictured at the top of this page). We watched them as they fought through the current and up on to the shore. At that point, they noticed us – and one put its head down and charged! It is intimidating to have a four or five tonne animal racing towards you, and our elephant was certainly not immune to that. She turned to flee, but was brought back by a sharp whack from the mahout.

Eye contact

He turned her back to face the rhino head-on who quickly realized the size mismatch he was racing in to. Beaten, the rhino turned sharply left and ran off after his two companions as we finally started breathing again.

While we continued to see rhinos constantly in Chitwan, some at very close quarters, I’m happy to say that was the only one who bothered to charge us.

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Glacier National Park, USA – August 2010

Glacier National Park

Scrambling across the island

With a long weekend to work with, we jumped in the car and headed for Glacier National Park in Montana with plans to camp, hike and look for wildlife. We were not to be disappointed on the wildlife front. Very shortly after driving in to the Park, we came across our first “bear jam” as cars parked along the road with tourists straining to see a black bear and her cubs. A short while further, we came across another black bear family. Then a grizzly bear and her cub. Then more black bears. The rangers were out, trying in vain to keep people in their cars and with a little more success, from straying from the road.

Mama looks back to her cubs

All in all, we’d see 17 bears that day, with the most exciting encounter coming that evening. We were parked near a small waterfall and I scrambled up to the top of a rock ledge to get a better angle. As I got to the top, across the river from me a mother black bear and her cubs came out of the forest. The mother jumped in the river and started swimming across. Safe high up on my ledge, I motioned frantically to Megan to come see, as the mother huffed back at her two babies who still stood on the far shore looking doubtfully at the cold water. After mother’s call, both plunged in and swam across, stopping briefly to scramble across a small (and dry) island along the way. I do question the wisdom of the mother bear’s decision though – while all made it safely to shore, the fast moving current moved the cubs significantly downstream towards another waterfall.

Given the extreme amount of bear activity, we decided in the end that the hiking part of the trip would have to be curtailed. After all, we’d already seen bears as close as we needed to!

A little too close to the falls!

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Mount Everest – October 2010

Mount Everest

At 5,545 metres above sea level, Mt. Everest Base Camp was the highest point we have reached in any of our travels to date.  The altitude had been a challenge since we set foot in Tibet, where even at our lowest elevations (approximately 3,650M in Lhasa) we were higher than most of the peaks in the Rocky Mountains back home.   Despite taking Diamox to ward against altitude sickness, even going up a flight of stairs was enough to make us breathless.  Our Tibetan guide constantly reminded us to move “slowly, slowly” as we walked around the various cities, monasteries and temples.  When you forgot to heed her warning, the occasional headache served as a reminder of the dangers of over-exerting yourself at high altitude.

This day though we had gone even higher.  China paved a road to base camp ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics so that the Olympic Flame

Megan and the Inukshuk

could be brought here and it was that road that brought us to the small ring of tents that serve as the launch point for the summit of Everest, a mere 3,400 metres higher yet!

Upon reaching our destination, I took photos and Megan built an Inukshuk, but we were surprised to hear a group arrive cheering.  They had cycled all the way up the road!  They broke in to song and cracked a well-earned bottle of champagne while staring up at Everest above.

The victorious cyclists admire the mountain

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Bangkok, Thailand – October 2010

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

With only a single day to explore Bangkok, we set an ambitious schedule.  We’d start at the Grand Palace, then hit Wat Pho, the Marble Temple and finish at Wat Arun.  As we toured the palace and visited the gigantic Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, all seemed to be going to plan.  It was still monsoon season in Thailand though, and we got poured on as we left Wat Pho to the point where we needed to seek sanctuary in another of the temples.

Our tuk tuk en route to the Marble Temple

When the downpour relaxed, we set out again, but realizing we weren’t covering enough distance, we decided to hail a tuk tuk – a three-wheeled motorized rickshaw – and asked to be taken to the Marble Palace.  Bangkok is famous for less-than-honest cabbies though, and this one immediately started up with a scam that I had fortunately read about, trying to convince us that the temple was closed, and that he could take us somewhere else instead.  We insisted on our destination and as we got close he admitted he might have been mistaken and it might be open (shockingly, it was).  He decided to wait for us as we toured the temple but when we climbed back in, he told us he was going to take us to a shopping mall en route to Wat Arun.  We refused and argued for some time, even after he told me about the money he’d receive for taking us to the mall.  Finally, frustrated, he told us to get out of his tuk tuk and find another if we weren’t going to go where he wanted!

We found a cab shortly thereafter who took us directly to Wat Arun with no fuss – and so we tipped handsomely for his honesty!

Wat Arun – our final destination on a rainy day in Bangkok

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Paris, France – September 2009

Arc de Triomphe – during the first visit

While both of us had an opportunity to explore Paris alone en route to Southern Africa, we had a very quick opportunity to see it together on the way home. However, our flight was delayed leaving Johannesburg, meaning we had significantly less time when we landed than we had originally anticipated. Nonetheless, I wanted to try to rush to see Sacre Coeur , so we hopped a train away from Charles de Gaulle airport and headed in to the city.

Sacre Coeur – we made it!

What I hadn’t realized is that Sacre Coeur is no where near a train station, and it’s positioned at a high point in the city, so we ended up hiking uphill through the city with time our constant enemy. Megan, who hadn’t slept much on our overnight flight was not overly excited to be trudging through the city and even less excited about the idea of missing our plane. We finally arrived at the basilica but with little time to spare, I had to settle for a few quick shots outside the church.

Hurrying away, we hoped to grab a taxi back, but there was a street market that day and several blocks seemed to be closed to automobile traffic. It appeared to be a lovely little market, but we had no time to appreciate it and just hurried through. We finally reached a large busy street but how to hail a cab here? Nearby I saw a restauranteur opening up for the day. The perfect picture of a restauranteur in Paris, he wore and apron and a moustache and was sweeping the step in front of his store. I speak but poor French, and he spoke no English, but I somehow managed to explain to him our predicament. He ran in to the road, waving his arm, and seconds later we were in a cab heading back to the airport and to home.

Sacre Coeur Bell Tower – snapped as we made our hasty retreat

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MVTB#22 – The Final Chapter

Monday, June 4, 2012
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

It has been just over a week since we returned home from our trip around the world.  Already, it’s hard to believe all we saw and did since leaving home on March 16th (actually, March 15th, as we spent that night in Millet, Alberta, at the home of Megan’s sister, who also put us up the first night we returned home.  This may make us the only people to ever complete a circumnavigation of the world starting and ending in Millet). It was an incredible journey, and we have so many reasons to be thankful that we were able to make it.  We were gone just long enough that while we were never desperately homesick, we were both ecstatic to come home and see our families and friends again.  However, any thoughts that this trip would satisfy our travel bug were definitely in vain.  If anything, we now have several more countries that we hope to be able to return to in the future.  The bucket list never really seems to get any shorter.  Everywhere we went, we both wished we could spend more time – with the sole exception of the Inca Trail.  It was an incredible feeling to finish that trek, but having finished it, I wasn’t in any hurry to go back to the start and do it again!  I’m sure even there that time will make us remember the joy of the accomplishment more than the pains of getting there, and who knows, maybe one day we’ll be walking up to Dead Woman’s Pass once more.  Or even more foolishly, signing up to do another long hike at altitude…after all, I haven’t conquered Kilimanjaro yet.

In the time we’ve been home, I’ve realized that sorting through the photos may be an incredibly daunting task.  Megan alone took between 500-700 photos, and I added somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6000-7000.  It may be a while before they’re all sorted, but I’ve managed to plow my way through the South American photos and even pared them down to a manageable number to show off.  You can see them HERE but I’ll warn you now, the album may grow later as I already feel that in the name of brevity, I’ve given too short a shrift to the Inca Trail and Macchu Pichu.

Now, just one more task to take care of today.  Every good playlist has to have a song to wrap it all up at the end.  But how do you find a song to sum up a trip where we swam with dolphins, hiked to ancient ruins, stood in the footsteps of Achilles, Cleopatra and Augustus Caesar, hung out with great apes, swam on the Great Barrier Reef, and hunted leopards and lions with camera and binoculars?  It may seem odd, but my answer to that riddle is a children’s song, adapted for a TV commercial.  That said, it’s probably my favourite commercial of all-time.  Here’s the song and I hope you’ll agree it does the trick.

The World really is awesome.

Now…on to the next adventure!



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MVTB#21 – End of the Road

Saturday, May 26, 2012
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

After 72 days, six continents, 16 countries, 20 UNESCO World Heritage sites, and over 80,000 km, we landed back in Edmonton at 1 AM this morning!  Home at last!


When we set out, this song seemed like it would be just about perfect (not to mention my new go-to karaoke song).  The thing about travelling though is that you quickly learn that if you’re not Johnny Cash, you never get everywhere.  In every single country we visited, we left too soon, and felt we could have happily spent much more time there.

In a couple days, I hope to have a bit of a highlight reel done and then I’ll put up a post better summarizing the trip….and unveiling our grand finale song!

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MVTB#20 – The Voyage Home

Friday, May 25, 2012
London, England, United Kingdom

It’s just past midnight here in London, and in twelve hours time we’ll be on a plane bound for Canada.  One long, last travel day, with a visit planned in Toronto with a friend, and then we will be back on Albertan ground, 10 weeks to the day since we flew out.

As much as we’ve enjoyed our trip, we are both really looking forward to getting back home, seeing family and friends again and maybe even telling a story or two from our time on the road.  At some point I’m going to have to sort through the few photos I’ve taken on this journey.  I’ve been really bad at uploading even highlight photos, despite my best intentions, but back home, on a computer with a little more brain power than this little laptop, I hope to be able to post a few soon.

Our last couple of days in London have been more of the same – great.  I think I’m running out of superlatives to describe our experiences, but almost every day has brought something stupendous, awesome or incredible.  Yesterday we walked to the top of the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral, finally got our African souvenirs sorted out (never trust the shopkeeper who switches from offering to pay the shipping to COD in the negotiations), and met up with five of our group from our 2009 vacation.  It was amazing to catch up on what’s happened in the last three years and just a really fun evening, reminiscing on that adventure.  Today we spent much of the day at the awe-inspiring British Museum and still left many rooms unexplored there before deciding last minute to do one more musical before leaving London.  We saw Billy Elliot, one of my parents’ favourites.  Absolutely stellar show, with some fantasticly talented kids.


So now all that’s left to do is catch a couple of planes (here’s hoping there’s movies…we haven’t had individual televisions on any flight since Dubai – we’ve really been roughing it on this trip!) and try to stay up late so as not to fall victim to the vicious cycle of jet lag.   Oh yes, and to play a song!

There are no shortage of songs about homecomings, but for this trip, our song is “Since I’ve Been Around” by the Australian band the Waifs.   – “I take a deep breath and smile, and kick a stone along the ground, it’s been so long, since I’ve been around.”

You might think that’s the end of the playlist, but there’s two more songs yet to come!  No worries, I’ll find a way to work them in!

To all of our friends new and old that we met along the road in this trip, thanks for helping to make it so incredible and to everyone at home: we’re on our way!  See you soon!

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MVTB#19 – Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
London, England, United Kingdom

Faolan as a pup

I write this morning with a bit of a heavy heart.  My parent’s beloved dog Faolan won’t be there to greet us when we get home having lost a short battle with an aggressive cancer.  Since hearing the news, I’ve spent some time remembering his life, from the moment I picked him up at the airport several years ago, a tiny terrified bundle of so soft fur that fit comfortably in to my jacket, to races up the stairs, to his agility classes, which he loved other than the other dogs, which he did not.  He was a very intelligent, clever dog who picked up tricks easily, even ones (like rolling over) which he didn’t really like to perform.  He loved walking people to their cars at the end of a night visiting my parents, and was willing to be anyone’s best friend…as long as they had a handful of treats.  He suffered when each of us moved away from the house, knowing he’d lost one of his herd, and it was always a joyful reunion when any of us came back again.  We learned the news in a London pub where we got a brief wifi connection and it was all I could do to keep from watering the oak along the bar.  I’ll miss you Faolan.  Goodbye little buddy!

Now, in the title (stolen from a U2 song), I’ve promised happy and sad, and it IS a travel blog so I should tell more about where we’ve been and what we’ve done.  When we last left off, we were headed for the white cliffs of Pammukale, which were spectacular.  A hot spring there has bubbled up warm water for centuries, and the residue has hardened in to formations called travertines – basically naturally formed limestone swimming pools.  They have a white sheen to them that makes them look like snow or cotton and thus the name Pammukale which means cotton castle.  The waters have long been thought to have healing powers and so a Roman-era city was built adjacent to the cliffs some of which still stands.  It was said that Cleopatra herself even visited to swim in the pools.  Maybe it’s the vision of Cleopatra that inspires the hundreds of Russian girls striking hundreds of model poses against the white walls.  My favourite remains two girls who scrambled down a bit of the cliff so that they could take photos under a waterfall…caused by a very large woman sitting in a trench the water ran along, displacing buckets of water down the side.

Pammukale, Turkey

After Pammukale, we headed to Istanbul for a day and a bit there.  Our group tour ended with a walking tour of the ancient city and some of its impressive sites, although we had such a great group that we didn’t separate, but had a last dinner together, then some drinks…and even in the morning, I went exploring Topkapi Palace with one of the guys from the tour, while Megan stayed in for a late breakfast with a couple of the girls.

Next, we headed to England – the last country on the world tour before our return to Canada!  We were met at the airport by my Irish cousin Una, who put us up at her house for the first night.  It was so nice to sleep in a real house again, in a nice soft bed…it’s been a LONG time!  We went with Una to Blenheim Palace on Sunday morning – meaning I went to two palaces in two days on either side of Europe!  I knew before I came that Blenheim is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and that it often ends up in TV shows and movies as a backdrop when someone needs a stately home, but I didn’t know much more than that.  The history of the house and the family, that of the Dukes of Marlborough, is fascinating.  The original Duke, John Churchill was a favourite in the time of Queen Anne and was gifted the property to build his palace on after his victory over the forces of Louis XIV in the wars of Spanish Succession at a place called Blindheim in Germany (which was anglicized to Blenheim).  That a war about who would succeed to the throne of Spain, was fought between Englsh and French troops in Germany just shows how complicated European history can be. The 1st Duke’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson also played a major role in a struggle involving all of Europe.  Winston Spencer-Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace and spent much of his childhood there.  He even proposed to his wife in the gardens.  We were shown the room of his birth and the Stone Temple where he made his proposal.  His grandfather was the 7th Duke and one of his closest friends and cousin was the 9th Duke.  He loved the place and was even buried nearby.

Trafalgar Square in London

After Blenheim, we thanked Una once more for her hospitality and ventured in to the big city of London – Megan’s first sojourn in to one of the world’s great cities.  Since then it’s been a busy schedule:  The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Covent Gardens, English pubs, Tower of London (my favourite!), Nando’s (a restaurant that’s become a Mallon family tradition on visiting London), and then last night, Megan’s first London musical, Rock of Ages.  It’s an awesome show.  80’s power balads and a lot of humour.  I definitely would recommend it to anyone.  We returned to the hotel last night humming Journey, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi.

Today should be another great night as we are having a reunion with several of the friends we made during our trip through Southern Africa in 2009.  It will be great to catch up with some people we haven’t set eyes on in almost three years and we’re only sorry that more of the crew couldn’t make it out.

For today’s song, YouTube has let me down again.  On our mix, we have a Canadian songstress named Sarah Slean and her song Little London Night.  She’s got a beautiful voice and is one of Megan’s favourite singers, so if you’re really dedicated to following our list, here’s the iTunes link.  But in case you’re not THAT dedicated to following our exact musical path, here’s another song by a Canadian band about a trip to London.  Given our partying with friends tonight, this might end up being an appropriate ballad…

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MVTB#18 – Byzantium

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Selçuk, Izmir, Turkey

The seaport of Çanakkale

In the last few days, we have walked in the footsteps of such notables as Agamemnon, Priam, Hector, Helen, Alexander, Augustus, Trajan, Hadrian, St. John, St. Mary, Constantine the Great, Brad Pitt. With Turkey, history has been the central flavour of our trip (although food probably deserves an honourable mention).

ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli

We started in Istanbul where we met up with our tour group, but did not have a lot of time to explore that city yet…that’s coming again in a couple of days.  Along with one of our newfound friends, I went exploring in the evening, visiting the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque for some night photos.  The next morning we set out, headed to the Gallipoli Peninsula, where for nine months, the Turks battled the forces of the British, French, ANZAC & Newfoundland.  It was a moving experience – standing on the beaches, walking along the trenches, and visiting the gravesites of hundreds and hundreds of young men.

The next day was the site of another famous battle, as we visited the excavation site of the city of Priam & Hector – Troy.  We were warned ahead of time to adjust our expectations low, but I really enjoyed the visit.  It seemed easy to picture the streets where Paris led Helen, or look out over the fields to where Agamemnon, Achilles & Odysseus were encamped.  We finished that afternoon at the town of Ayvalik, where we took a boat out on the Aegean Sea for sunbathing and swimming (very cold water!)

Yesterday we started late and made our way to Sirince, a cute little village who’s name means “charming”  (it replaced the town’s earlier name of Cirkince, which means “Ugly-like”.)  There we tasted local wines, visited a small ancient church, and wandered the marketplace, buying some ice cream from a guy who provided us not only with the dessert but also with an entertaining display of showmanship.

Today has been the pinnacle so far though.  We started by visiting Ephesus, a town that had its roots in the Greek Era, was visited by Alexander the Great, and became a major centre for trade during the Roman Era.  The ruins are in much better shape than those at Troy and so there’s a lot of the city that still stands.  Despite being the most over-crowded spot we’ve come across possibly on our entire trip (there were three cruise ships that pulled up this morning apparently), it was a pretty amazing stop and the tourists just served to show what it might have looked like when it was a bustling Roman city.

The Library of Celsus, Ephesus

After that, we visited what is left of the Temple of Artemis – one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  In 356 BC, a tailor named Herostratus decided that he needed to be famous and since there were no reality TV shows at the time for him to join, he did the next best thing and burnt the temple to the ground.  Legend says that Artemis was preoccupied at the time so couldn’t help her temple…she was in Macedonia witnessing the birth of Alexander the Great.  Alexander would later visit the ruins and made an offer to the people of Ephesus to rebuild the temple, just as long as they put his name in prominence on the completed project.  The clever Ephesans declined politely, telling Alexander that it was unseemly for a god to build a temple to another god.

After lunch, our group split up for a few hours and Megan and I decided to explore the ruins of the Cathedral of St. John.  Jesus entrusted the care of his mother to St. John (the Disciple or the Evangelist, not the Baptist), who fled Jerusalem after his brother and fellow Disciple James was martyred by the King.  He moved with Mary to Ephesus, and after his death, Constantine, the Roman Emperor who converted the empire to Christianity and who moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople, built the first Cathedral to him on that spot.  Another emperor, Justinian, erected an even larger Cathedral in the same spot and if it had not fallen in to ruins, it would be the seventh largest cathedral in the world today.  Even in ruins, there’s a majestic beauty in the spot.

Tomorrow we head on to Pamukkale, where hot springs have formed some bizarre rock formations which gave the site its name – which means Cotton Castle.  After that, back to Istanbul to do that city justice with a day and a half of exploration.

In honour of Turkey, here’s today’s song.  Warning:  It’s another that you’ll never get out of your head…

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MVTB#17A – Special Edition

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Pingwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania

I thought I was done blogging for a few days.  Given the pace we’ve been moving since we arrived in Zanzibar, it didn’t seem likely that we had enough to write about…but then, this morning we SWAM WITH DOLPHINS.

A pod of dolphins swimming underneath us!

We’ve had some incredible aquatic experiences on this trip – swimming with Iguanas and Sea Turtles in Galapagos, having dolphins race our boat, feeding the humpback dolphins in Australia, visiting the Great Barrier Reef…but this one will be hard to top.

We set out early in the morning in a small plastic boat on fairly choppy seas.  I prepared myself for only seeing dolphins from a distance as the couple from our resort told us they did yesterday.  We were told that the dolphins had been spotted in the morning fairly far out, so they motored out over the waves that were sometimes as big as the boat.  And then we saw our first dolphin.  Not skimming the waves, but leaping 12 feet out of the water, and flipping over.  Then another followed, performing another aerial maneuver, and then a third.  While I’ve seen them do that in aquarium shows, I didn’t think I’d ever see it from wild dolphins.

And swimming right past us!

Moments later, we were told to put on our masks and fins and jump in to the water.  As soon as I got in, I saw the dolphins.  The pod was 40 or 50 strong, and while there were several at the ocean’s surface, the majority swam underneath.  There were dolphins of all sizes, including several babies.  They looked like they were barely moving, but it was impossible for us to keep up to them in the water, and so we had to jump in and out of the boat a few times to catch up.  Apparently, whether you can swim with the dolphins depends on their mood…if they’re hunting, or otherwise indifferent, they will just turn on the jets and you can’t get close.  But we had luck on our side, and the last time we jumped in the water, a large dolphin actually came up towards the surface right between Megan and me, and then swam a complete circle around us looking directly at us the whole way around.  It was absolutely incredible.

Things we have learned on this trip: No matter what is going on, dolphins and great apes always make the day amazing.

I’ve had to scramble to come up with video for this, since this wasn’t scheduled on our original playlist, but fortunately, one of my favourite songs from my university days fits the theme of today’s blog nicely…Here’s The Dolphin’s Cry, by Live.  And the YouTube video even has much nicer photos than I managed today!

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MVTB#17 – R&R

Monday, May 7, 2012
Pingwe, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Relaxing by the pool…

When we were planning this trip, my wife reminded me that when travelling I can occasionally try to pack something in to every minute of every day.  While this might work for a couple weeks, Megan had some doubts about our ability to sustain that pace over the whole 71 days, so she made sure that we included a little downtime now and then.  We circled Zanzibar on the map as one such spot to re-charge and I found a resort on the Indian Ocean for us to spend our first three days here.
Now, the island stopover couldn’t be completely without adventures, and so our transport across the island from Stonetown was interrupted to again journey in to the forest in search of primates – this time Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkeys and Syke’s Blue Monkeys – but finding them didn’t require the same effort as finding gorillas or orangutans…in fact the first we saw ran across the road in front of our vehicle.

…and on the beach!

Since then though, we’ve spent most of the last two days soaking up sun, reading our books and swimming in the pool, other than a quick trip to the spa for massages.  I have to say, my wife was right…sometimes slowing down isn’t so bad!  Of course, it can’t last.  Tomorrow we’ve planned a snorkelling expedition and the following day we’re considering a dhow cruise in search of dolphins!

Here’s our song for a week in paradise.  I had never seen the video when I put it on the list, but I have to say, I don’t think it could be much more fitting!

When next we write, we’ll have left Africa behind.  Next up?  Turkey!

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MVTB#16 – Safari Megs

Saturday, May 5, 2012
Nairobi, Kenya

African Buffalo – Masai Mara National Reserve

White Rhinoceros – Lake Nakuru National Park

Special guest correspondent here on today’s Music Video Travel Blog!  Adam thought that instead of providing his extensive listing of species we encountered during the past week on safari through Kenya, that I could make a special appearance on the blog and discuss my thoughts on the journey so far.  So, I sit in my fancy hotel room (Thanks again Oilfans Mike!) with my belly full of meat from lunch at Carnivore, trying to figure out how to summarize a week worth of safari into a couple paragraphs.  Considering that Adam probably took about a thousand photographs, it’s not an easy task but I’ll try my best.

Adam’s inherent love for Africa is obvious, if you’ve ever heard him talk about wildlife or camera gear, it all started here.  Originally, I thought that my love for it would stem primarily from his excitement but this place draws you in until you can’t help falling in love with it.

My first trip to Africa was a completely different experience for me.  It was my first big trip, I joined Adam and a group who’d been travelling through Africa for a least a week already, and for me it was more about the people we met and being away from home than about Africa itself.  This trip was designed specifically for us (and for completing my Big 5).  We did game drives every day (sometimes all day) and didn’t have to worry about “sour” tourists who don’t think that elephant or ostrich are cool anymore (seriously, they exist) and I began to recognize how fascinating Africa truly is.

Lion – Masai Mara National Reserve

African Leopard – Masai Mara National Reserve

The wildlife was obviously the key to this trip… and completing my Big 5 was the mission we gave our tour guide.  Our first stop was Amboseli National Park which is the perfect postcard location for Kenya.  The backdrop of Killimanjaro and a high concentration of elephants solidified it as a park that we had to see.  It was beautiful– the sky opened up both mornings to showcase Mount Killimanjaro and the wildlife (and baby elephants) were plentiful.  The animals seemed to pose in front of the mountain waiting for their picture to be taken.  The rains have been heavier than predicted for this time of year and the next stop, Lake Nakuru, was quite impacted by it.  Usually there are 1000s of flamingos on the lake, but because of the water level being so high, we only saw a couple of them from a distance.  But Lake Nakuru did deliver all the same, just as we realized that the water was much too deep for flamingos, a white rhino walked across the road directly in front of us… then it’s baby followed closely behind!  That would be #3 for my Big 5 already this trip.  In the Masai Mara, we continued with the lucky streak– seeing baby elephants, hippos, a porcupine, and many others.  But on the second day, after a hot air balloon ride, our guide said “Adam, just let me do my own thing for a couple minutes… you’ll be happy” and took off down the ridiculously muddy roads at high speeds.  As we approach, we see see a few vehicles looking in the opposite direction, as I pulled out the binoculars (thanks Don!), I saw one of the most striking creatures that I have ever seen… a leopard!  It was lying in a tree about 25m away in perfect view of the vehicle. It was one of those moments that you can’t stop staring.  Leopards are the perfect balance of grace and strength– I could have stayed and watched her all day long.  Fortunately, we didn’t as the next wildlife we saw was a family group of lions with three big  males, one nursing female, and two cubs.  So there it is– my Big 5 done in style!

Overall, this trip has been amazing.  I can’t believe that we’ve been travelling for 7 weeks already and we still have much more to go. Every day has been an adventure.  We have seen amazing things, met amazing people, and had the time of our lives along the way.  This trip has not only reinforced my appreciation for the world, but for the little things that we take for granted in our lives.  Yesterday, driving through the Masai Mara, our guide, George, said “Sometimes when I look around at this scenery, I think about how beautiful my country is”.  It’s easy to forget to stop and look for the beautiful things in life whether it be a beautiful sunset, the sound of rain on the roof or the people around you.

For those of you who have checked out Adam’s photography website, you would know he’s decided that taking a picture of every animal on the planet is his “mission from God”.  The Kenyan safaris yielded around 30 new species for the Ark.  At this rate, there will be only one precious wildlife shot that he’s missing… and we’ve decided to play you a song about it.

Momma & Baby – Masai Mara National Reserve


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MVTB#15 – I love Africa!

Monday, April 30, 2012
Nairobi, Kenya

My fascination with Africa started early.  One of my first memories as a child is feeding the giraffe at Al Oeming’s Wildlife Park when I was just 3 or 4 years old.  My granddad held me up on his shoulders and the giraffe’s took the food with his long, gravelly, purple tongue.  From that point on I was hooked on African wildlife (with a special spot of course for giraffes).  Through out elementary school I would read any book I found on Africa and I even remember writing stories when in grade 5 or 6 set in Kenya.  I’m not sure why Kenya was always the chosen country in the Dark Continent, but it was always where I thought I needed to go back then.

Baby Masai Giraffe – Masai Mara National Reserve

At some point, my dream of going to Africa was briefly forgotten.  In my early 20s, I would scheme up trips to go to San Diego and visit the zoo there again, but that was as ambitious as my travel planning would get until after my first international trip to England & Ireland in 2006.  I came home bit by the travel bug, and considering where the next destination would be.  Internally, I debated Italy, France and elsewhere in Europe until one day I watched The Ghost and the Darkness.  Immediately my childhood dream flooded back to me and I knew I wanted to finally see Africa (without the man-eating lions, of course).

I vividly remember my excitement on arrival to Kenya in August 2007.  I wanted to take a photo of every acacia tree as we drove along, taking shot after shot out the window as we drove along, most of which were doomed to not come out well.  Faring much better were the photos of the first large animal I encountered…Giraffes!

Coming to Kenya was a life-changer.  I had bought my first DSLR camera for that trip, and barely knew what most of the dials did but I was determined to master it on the go.  It was truly the start of my photography hobby. It also changed the way I travelled, as I’ve since preferred to go to the more adventurous travel spots.

Rothschild Giraffe – Lake Nakuru National Park

2007 was a big year all around for me though, and when I planned my Africa trip, I could not have guessed that I’d shortly after meet a girl who’d make me miss home the whole time I was overseas.  It was nerve-wracking to leave behind someone who had only just entered my life for 18 days while I went globe-trotting, but I left behind a mix tape and hoped for the best.  Listening to the playlist on my iPod brought me a little closer to home during the trip, and when I got home, Megan surprised me by meeting me at the airport.  The rest is history.

When I left Africa after those first two amazing weeks.  I vowed to come back some day.  I could not have guessed then that I’d return three more times to this continent in the next five years, but I had to show some of the place to Megan, so we traversed the Southwest of the continent in 2009.  Last year, I found a good deal and had to do a quick trip over to Tanzania jut a few months ahead of our wedding.  Each time my enthusiasm for this continent has grown (and the photos have gotten progressively better!)

We returned to Kenya, my third time in this country, last night.  And as we drove away from the airport toward our hotel, there they were on the side of the road to greet us.  Two large shapes in the dark…Giraffes!

Our song, as we start off today on our Kenyan leg of the journey, which will take us to Amboseli National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park and Masai Mara Game Reserve over the next six days, was also the first song on our first travel playlist in 2007.  Enjoy!

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MVTB#14 – Penetrating the Impenetrable Forest

Saturday, April 28, 2012
Kisoro, Uganda


We’ve been hiking for two hours, our hands are torn from thorns, our feet soaked in mud.  We’ve gone seemingly straight up the side of a mountain, scaling a cliff along the way and we’ve just pulled ourselves through a dense thicket.  We’re running on only 7 or 8 hours of sleep over the last two nights, wearing the same clothing we’ve had on since our last day in Dubai as Kenya Airways has lost our bags…and yet, at this moment, we feel great.  We’ve just walked in to a bit of a clearing in the jungle and there are six gorillas around us, among them three silverbacks including the dominant male.

This is only a small portion of his troop.  He reigns over 23 gorillas, including the two silverbacks we saw plus one other.  While it helps him protect the troop to have the extra muscle around, eventually they are likely to try to take over control.  For now though, all seems pretty peaceful.  Everyone is just foraging for food and the big males take little notice of us.

Surveying the visitors

A little later on and we’ve followed the dominant male up in to the woods. He’s eating bark, scraping it off the tree with his teeth while we sit not 10 feet away.  Having broken off a large section, he walks towards us, turns around and sits down maybe 7 feet away now, facing the same way as our group as if trying to see what we’re all looking at.

Later still and our hour with the great apes is up.  We go to leave, and I move to walk under the female we’ve been watching fishing for ants.  Too close.  She gets up and turns around and the guide cautions me to be still.  I slide down the steep slope in the loose mud and twigs and the gorilla decides she’s had enough.  She walks down right past me and strolls in to the woods.

So here’s the song for gorilla tracking…another with a wonderfully cheezy video!

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MVTB#13 – T.I.A.

Friday, April 27, 2012
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

As I write this, we sit again in an airport, this time in Dubai.  Unfortunately we were to have flown out an hour ago and we’re not leaving real soon.  We’ve been really luck so far, there haven’t been any long delays until now, but this is the worst possible time.  Because of the cancellation of our route through Bahrain, we were already going to arrive in Uganda a couple hours later than the tour company wanted us there, but it was arranged that they’d pick us up for the airport and we’d start the long trek to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest immediately upon arrival.  Now we’ll be arriving five hours later in Uganda.  We’ve scrambled to figure something out, but as it is the middle of the night in Africa (and in the Dubai Airport, coincidentally), we’re not going to be able to talk to anyone about this before tomorrow morning.  Here’s hoping for the best and that this doesn’t interrupt our attempt to find mountain gorillas!

It does give me the ability to get the next song up, which is a good thing.  Africa is maybe a little over-represented in the playlist…I was finishing up planning that part of the trip when I made the playlist.  This is one of my favourite songs on the list though…a lot of fun and not too hard on the eyes.  Enjoy!

Oh, and I’ve noticed a couple of people ask about photos (thanks by the way for all the comments, it’s great to hear from everyone!)  I won’t post any to the blog, as the terms of use give them wide-ranging power over my images…but in Singapore, we picked up a small thinkpad and that has made me final able to upload photos to my website…so here they are!!!  I’ve just grabbed a few of the best photos so the gallery is not very long right now and it’s very short on text for what I’d usually do…but hey, it’s 3:45 am here…

Hopefully, the next time I write, we’ve had good news…Good night!

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MVTB#12 – City of Gold

Thursday, April 26, 2012
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Expensive jewelry

Just like that, our stay in Dubai is almost over.  The Raffles Dubai is possibly the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in.  Inspired by Ancient Egypt, the exterior and lobby are full of pyramids, hieroglyphs and images of pharoahs, and they’ve treated us like gold here.  Fitting in a city known for that precious metal!  We went yesterday (after a rare sleep-in morning) to the Gold Souk, a market where they sell an incredible amount of jewelry.  Megan tried on a bracelet worth around $4,000 and a necklace that was worth $30,000 before settling on a pair of earrings that didn’t approach either of those prices.  Next it was the Spice Souk, where we walked out with a bag of cashews and some delicious candy that looks like small rocks but tastes like a heavenly mixture of chocolate and caramel.

Burj Khalifa Tower

After visiting the Fort and Dubai Museum, it was off to the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa (pronounced like “birch ha-leaf-a”) for some astounding views of the city.  We finished the night off by taking a cab on a bit of a city tour so that I could take photos of some of the more famous sights.  Today, we’re going to be doing a desert safari…which from what I can tell consists of 4x4ing over sand dunes, riding camels and having a BBQ in the desert.

Early tomorrow morning, we leave Dubai, headed to Kampala, Uganda via Nairobi.  That wasn’t our originally planned layover though and even though we’re not going to Bahrain, I still feel it necessary to put our song for that layover in…I apologize ahead of time if there’s a number of our readers who can’t get this song out of their heads the rest of today, but really, what other option was there for a city named Manama?

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MVTB#10/11 – From Jungle to Desert

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Hong Kong, China

We sit in the airport in Hong Kong, awaiting the flight that will take us to our next destination: Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Last night was spent in the airport in Singapore, where we finally got connected with the world in general, learning to my delight that the Canucks are out of the NHL playoffs and that the redneck hick vote in Alberta was actually believed to have a shot at winning the provincial election.  Blessedly, that didn’t happen.  We also learned the sad news that my sister-in-law Courtney’s mother lost her long battle with cancer in the past week.  We send our love and condolences to both Courtney and Matt.  You are in our thoughts.

Hanging in there

We loved Sumatra and are both of the opinion that we could watch orangutans for hours without getting tired of it.  Being in a place like Gunung Leuser, much like with the Galapagos Islands, really gives you a much greater sense of the value of the place, and the sincere hope that places like this can be cared for and preserved.  There is a great danger to the jungle in Indonesia, as the palm oil and paper industries whittle away at the edges of their rainforests on all the islands.  Considering that Indonesia has all the Sumatran orangutans and many of the Bornean orangutans on their soil (and the same concerns exist in the Malaysian parts of Borneo as well), one can only hope that the governments there do take the required steps to protect the wild areas there and that the people surrounding the rainforests can be convinced that there is a benefit to them as well in keeping orangutans, tigers, elephants, etc.  All those animals can have their conflicts with farmers and poaching whether for Chinese medicine (tiger’s testicles, gall bladders) or the exotic pet trade (baby orangutans) remains an issue.  Visiting places like this inspires one to want to help, especially when you hear people like our amazing Sumatran guide Darma (who also works at the Orangutan Conservation Center) talk about the challenges they face (including massive corruption in the government which re-directs a huge amount of the money sent internationally for orangutan conservation).   More than anything, he wants people to know of the challenges they face, and he wants people to come visit Sumatra, and so I’m happy to spread the word a little bit.

Before this post gets too deep, I should sum up the last few days of the trip…we did a couple more day hikes, did an elephant trek through a portion of jungle (and washed the elephants…I got soaked by an elephant with a sense of humour) and on our last day, we trekked about 45 minutes upstream from Bukit Lawang (our home base for most of our stay), lashed a few inner tubes together (well, our guides did anyhow) and rode the rapids back to town.  AWESOME.

Riding the rapids

Now we’re on towards a completely different place…UAE is the first place in the Middle East that either Megan or I have touched down and Megan’s a little nervous about her wardrobe as she does not want to offend.  She’s endeavouring to make sure her elbows and knees are covered at all times, although we’ve heard that no veils will be required.

As I have two songs for Dubai and only two days there, I better post them both here.  I had planned on only this first one when I started making the list, but stumbled upon the second when I was tracking down the first song of our play list…

Almost time to catch our flight!  We’re off!

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MVTB#8/9 Man of the Forest

Thursday, April 19, 2012
Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Hello from Bukit Lawang, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia!

En route to a break & enter

We were picked up at the airport in Medan by our guide two days ago and we hadn’t even reached our hotel room before we saw the first primates of our trip, long-tailed macaques.  Our room is perched atop the Jungle Inn here, a really nice building looking over the river towards Gunung Leuser National Park and in the first afternoon, as we prepared to go to dinner, we saw our first orangutans across the river, a mother & daughter named Sandra and Sandray, en route to attempt a break in to the ranger’s cabin nearby in search of any fruit left lying around.

The next morning we set out on our first day hike in Gunung Leuser, where we saw Sandra and Sandray again…as well as 11 other orangutans, 4 Lar Gibbons, several Thomas Leaf Monkeys, a couple turtles and a snake.  It was more of the same today, with 8 more orangutan sightings.

The hiking is difficult, up and down very steep hills, but we’re managing well, despite the heat in the 30s which combined with the humidity feels somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40-45 degrees!

Haik – King of the Jungle

I should keep this short as it’s almost dinner time, but as internet is hard to come by here in Bukit Lawang, and this is likely to be our only entry, here are both of the songs for Sumatra on the playlist.

1) Run through the Jungle
2) Have you Ever

The second is by Brandi Carlile, who’s song “The Story” was the one we had our first dance to at our wedding!

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MVTB#7 – Macropodidae

Sunday, April 15, 2012
Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Agile Wallaby

Australia is home to over 40 species of macropods, the family that includes wallabies and kangaroos.  ‘Roos have come to be associated as a huge symbol of Australia, with only the Statue of Liberty ranking higher on one poll about the most recognizable tourism icons.  As we built out our trip through Australia’s northeastern coast, focussing on the Great Barrier Reef, I didn’t realize that it isn’t exactly a hotspot for kangaroo spotting and in the first few days here, while we saw several kangaroo crossing signs, not a single animal had been spotted.  Would we miss out on seeing macropods this trip?

When we last wrote, we were planning to stay the night in Tin Can Bay.  What we didn’t realize at the time is that Tin Can Bay is a roosting spot for thousands of lorikeets, and so during our evening walk, the air was full of brilliant green & red birds.  It was a pretty awesome sight, but the next morning surpassed that as we met Mystique, the Indo-Pacific Humpbacked Dolphin.  His grandfather, Scarry, came in to Tin Can Bay injured in the 1950’s, and stayed for two months while he recovered.  The people of the town helped look after him and finally he swam back out to sea.  The townspeople thought they’d seen the last of him, but the next morning he came back again and that tradition has carried on almost every morning since.  Scarry introduced his daughter to the ritual and she in turn introduced Mystique who is now 21 and the head of his pod.  He brings his favourite female and his six-year old son in many days, but will keep any other dolphins away from the dock.  For our morning there, it was just Mystique, but it was incredible.  We stood almost knee deep in the water and he swam up directly in front of us.  The rules of conduct are very clear there…no touching the dolphin, although you are able to feed him (which we did).  He clearly knows the staff and you can tell his favourites, as he’ll come immediately up to them the second they step in the water.  It was a really neat experience and one of the few times when feeding the wild animal doesn’t seem like a big mistake.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

After that it was a 1000-km drive up the coast (Men at Work is an appropriate name for an Aussie band…there’s no shortage of roadwork along the highway) with a brief stop in Rockhampton to replace my underwater camera.  We pulled in to Cape Hillsborough National Park at 10:30 at night and as I got out of the camper van, I saw some movement to the side…it was an agile wallaby!  We parked and I went to brush my teeth, only to find another species of wallaby near the bathrooms.  A morning walk on the beach brought the macropod count to three species, as along with a couple dozen agile wallabies was an Eastern Grey Kangaroo.  We’d see a couple more kangaroos and several more wallabies before we left Cape Hillsborough, as well as our first snake of the trip…discovered in the middle of the path as we did a short day-hike.  That ended the hike a little earlier than we planned although we later learned it was a harmless tree snake.  The lady who IDed the serpent told us that as a rule of thumb, if an Aussie snake is thin, long and can climb trees, it’s okay, but if it’s thick and shorter, watch out.  Megan questioned the wisdom of trusting rules of thumb when it comes to potentially venomous snakes…

We ended that day sitting at the side of a pond watching for platypus, but sadly, not all of our stories can have a perfect ending and the platypus never showed.

Fish and Coral – Great Barrier Reef

The last three days have been a bit of a whirlwind, first out on the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsunday Islands, then racing up to Daintree to take a crocodile cruise where we saw several birds, the second tree snake of the trip and a 3.5M long croc!  And then today it was back to the Reef.  It was a wet, soggy day so a perfect one to spend in the water.  We were a little spoiled with our snorkelling in the Galapagos.  No turtles, sharks or rays in either of our trips in Australia, but there were tons of colourful fish and some pretty large ones.

Flying Fox

And just to give us one more thrill, tonight when we got off the boat, we saw hundreds of flying foxes heading out over the sea.  I’ve never seen a giant flight of bats, and the flying foxes are huge.  Very impressive.  One even landed to help me get a good photo of him!

Tomorrow we fly back to Sydney and then on to Indonesia (with an overnight stay in the Singapore Airport).  Australia’s been good to us…hopefully Sumatra is just as much fun.  The ultra-rare animal spottings there?  Rhinos, elephants and tigers!

Oh yeah, almost forgot the song!  There’s no snorkelling song, so I had to choose something else that’s sort of water sports-related.  We certainly caught some waves though as both times we were on the water there were 25-30 knot winds!

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MVTB#6 – Living the Gypsy Life

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Rainbow Beach, Queensland, Australia

It’s been a while since we last had a chance to write home, and there’s been so much that’s happened that it’ll be impossible to catch up on all the details.  That said, here’s the quick overview:  Galapagos was fantastic start to finish.  Saw lots more tortoises at the end, including some wild Santa Cruz Tortoises, which are pretty huge.  We left Sean and Stephinie behind on the Islands, where Sean proposed a couple days after we left as they SCUBA-ed with hammerhead sharks and manta rays.  Congratulations guys!

Sampling the local fare – Santiago, Chile

We had one last evening in Quito with Mom & Dad before leaving them as well.  Spent a little time in the cloud forest in Ecuador where we saw toucans and then headed on to Chile where we spent a day exploring Santiago, visiting a winery (Concha y Toro) and watching sunset from high above the city.

Then it was on to Australia (with a brief layover and breakfast in Auckland).  After an evening of laundry in Brisbane, we picked up our camper van and headed south to Springbrook National Park, then came back up north along the coast to Fraser Island where we’ve spent the last two days.  If I thought that driving on the wrong side of the road was tough, it was nothing compared to the “roads” on Fraser, the largest sand island in the world.  Along the beaches, you can race along, skimming the surf as you go, but inland, the tracks are bumpy and rutted…and a lot of fun!

Yesterday we spent much of the day relaxing at Lake McKenzie, a lake entirely formed from rainwater.  The water is crystal clear, and the weather was bright and sunny.  At Lake McKenzie, we also saw our first dingo!  The dingos on Fraser Island are considered to be more purebreed than those in much of the rest of Australia, as they haven’t had the same opportunity to crossbreed with dogs.  The one we saw was brazen, strolling around the parking lot and walking right past us as we stood near our truck.

Racing the tide – Fraser Island, Australia

Speaking of our truck, it’s a 4WD Toyota behemoth whose roof pops up at night in order to allow us sleeping room.  We’re becoming more and more adept at arranging and re-arranging our bags and the various things inside the camper to accommodate sleeping or eating or driving.  The gypsy life looks good on us so far…and the campground on Fraser even had a shower, so we aren’t terrible smelling gypsies for the moment!

Today’s song is the obvious one, and I apologize to all my Australian friends for using it, but it does represent our present location AND is possibly the most awesomely literal music video of all-time.

Tomorrow morning we hope to see Indo-Pacific dolphins at Tin Can Bay, and then we’re on the road towards the Whitsunday Islands.

Until next time!


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MVTB#5 – The Magical Islands

Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

If I had to sum up the first five days in the Galapagos in a sentence, I might have a hard time. Fortunately, I have a whole blog entry to do it in, plus a song, so hopefully that gives me the space I need to wax on and on about this awe-inspiring place. The days here have been incredibly full, right from the first, where we rode bike through the hills of San Cristobal Island, spent time at a beach, saw our first sea lions, marine iguanas, lava lizards, frigate birds, pelicans, etc. etc. all in the space of a single afternoon. Since that point, we’ve snorkeled with sea turtles, sea lions and sharks – the sharks were harmless Galapagos sharks (although Sean and my mom saw a couple hammerheads as well), the sea lions are a little intimidating as they really can fly in the water, and the sea turtles are my favourite. I’ve now swum along beside at least a dozen of them….gracefully moving through the water at their own pace, fairly unperturbed by our presence.

My swimming partner

I even saw my first Manta Ray in my last snorkel, a freaky experience as the water was a bit murky and he just appeared at close range behind a large sea turtle. Took him only a couple seconds to flap past me, but it was a huge thrill. On-land, the adventures have been almost as exciting, as today we saw wild tortoises and flamingos, and tomorrow we hike up the side of a volcanic crater here on Isabela Island, biggest of the Galapagos chain, and one that still has live volcanos.

Possibly the biggest excitement to date came during our crossing from San Cristobal to Floreana Island. We came across a pod of dolphins, who raced around our boat, jumping and playing, showing off some incredible water acrobatics from ridiculously close range!

Dolphin racing our boat

Our trip has not been without its casualties though. My sleeping bag stuff-sack got mysteriously lost along the Inca Trail. My Swiss Army knife was the next victim, falling to the authorities in the Cuzco Airport after I forgot it was in my pocket, and then my underwater camera turned out not to be as waterproof as it was billed. I still have the camera, but it appears to be on is last legs as it currently won’t turn on, never less take pictures. These are small losses really on what is already an unbelievable trip. While I hope that our other stops don’t devour my gear at the rate that South America has been, it has all been worth it so far.

With that, there’s nothing left to do but play our song for this segment of the journey, which coincidentally we heard while out for a drink tonight! Again, I can’t use the hyperlink as I’m on the iPad, but I’ll try to fix that later whenever I get the Internet again.

“Tropical the island breeze, all of nature wild and free, this is where I long to be, la Isla Bonita…”

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MVTB#4 – There and Back Again

Friday, March 23, 2012
Cusco, Peru

Machu Picchu

Yesterday, we finished the Inca Trail and reached Machu Picchu.  It was a tough hike, but we had a great group and fantastic weather, with it only raining once during our trek through the mountains.  I´m incredibly proud of my wife, who was slowed by a bad cold – which is amplified at altitude – but she just kept going.  One of the lyrics of my last song kept playing in its mind as we walked on and on: “Your horizon takes it shape, no turning back don´t turn that page.”

Mission accomplished

We were a little intimidated early on in the hike as we saw a couple of hikers coming back the opposite way on the back of a donkey, looking green, but all 16 hikers in our group were able to complete the journey.

This was the most difficult thing we chose to do on our vacation, and there were times, especially on day two, when the trail just goes up and up and up that we had to question whether we´d made a particularly good decision including it, but it was amazingly rewarding to finish yesterday, and I felt a huge boost of adrenaline after coming through the Sun Gate and down to Machu Picchu.  Hundreds of pictures later, tired, sore (so sore this morning!), we caught our ride away from the site feeling pretty good about ourselves.  Just an awesome start to our trip.

Today my parents join us in Cusco,  following their own trip to Machu Picchu.  As their route isn’t as long, here´s today´s song.

One more day to explore here, to say goodbye to our new friends from our tour, and then it´s on to Quito, Ecuador tomorrow, which means this is probably the last entry before the Galapagos Islands!

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MVTB#3 – The Big Hike

Saturday, March 17, 2012
Cusco, Peru

Second crack at this after accidentally deleting the first version.

St. Patrick’s Day marked the official start to our adventures, although to be honest, they didn’t start at breakneck pace, after four flights in three countries over a 28 hour span, Megan and I were happy just to be able to have a warm shower and laze around for a bit. When we finally got moving we headed to Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman” – no, seriously!), the ruins of an ancient Inca fortress perched on one of the mountains that surround Cusco. Dating back hundreds of years, the fortress was an engineering marvel, as they hauled 100-tonne blocks to the top of the mountain and then put them together so snugly that it was basically earthquake proof. Sadly it was not Spaniards-proof, and when the Conquistadors took over, they started hauling off rock from the fortress to build their own houses in Cusco.


The Spaniards that took over Peru were pretty rotten fellows right from the start when the Spanish leader Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa, leader of the Incas. He ransomed Atahualpa back to his people, who filled an entire room twice with silver and once with gold, only to have Pizarro execute him anyhow.

Tomorrow we start our journey to see the grand palace of Atahualpa’s relatives – taking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu! I’ve been looking forward to this part of our adventure for a long time, but partly with some trepidation. The trail is a four-day, 43 km hike with altitude reaching 4200 meters! We’ll have to travel over mountain passes and then down through the Cloud Forest to find the hidden ruins.

Given the trek we’re about to begin, I thought this song was the most appropriate (sorry, can’t imbed the link on my iPad, so you’ll have to copy and paste):

As I doubt that there’ll be much for Internet cafes along the trail, this is likely our last entry for a while! See you on the other side!

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MVTB #2 – Departure Day!

Friday March 16, 2012
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

After all the planning, scheduling and packing, today we finally leave home today to begin our journey!  That means that in a few short hours, we should realize the first of the things we’ve forgotten.

Today we leave home early, catching a 6:30 am flight from Edmonton to Toronto, and after a brief five-hour layover, we’re off for New York, where we spend another three hours in the airport, we take off to Lima.  Okay, maybe it’s not the most glamourous day of our ten-week sojourn, but we’re out on the road with all our destinations spread out in front of us.

I picked this next song mostly because it’s a good travelling song, but it fits our first day of vacation pretty well too.  YouTube has failed me here, because I was hoping to just have the Alkaline Trio cover as I thought it might be nice for people to think that not ALL the songs I’m picking came from cartoons or singing puppets, however, sadly that doesn’t seem to be an option so I have to send you to a site that gives away my secret.  Oh well, you know which one is on our playlist, but let’s be honest, the original is pretty freakin’ cool too.

Well, we’re off!  See you in 71 days Edmonton!  World, here we come!

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