Category Archives: travelogues

Kindness #indie30

Another prompt from BootsnAll’s 30 day indie writing project: kindness.

I have encountered so much kindness on my travels…

1 – After spending a day hiking the Petito Moreno Glacier, I busted my knee but good. Self diagnosis: Knee brace! So that evening, the owners of the b&b where we were staying no only gave me several ice packs but taught me the word for knee in Spanish. At the pharmacy, the lovely ladies kicked the male pharmacist out of the back room and they patiently helped fit me.

Yes, I was in the back of the pharmacy with no pants on as these women were checking to see which brace would fit me best. They also helped me walk around the pharmacy which was probably no bigger than a small New York City studio apartment to ensure that I purchased the right medicine…thankfully the spelling of ibuprofen in Spanish is very similar to that in English. The pink liquid with the cartoon on front was the dead giveaway that it was for kids…just what I needed.

2 – I did need the ibuprofen and knee brace for the horse back riding we would be doing later that day. I had never ridden a horse before, and certainly never attempted to ride a horse with a busted knee. I was very nervous and I asked one of the women at the b&b if I fell or hurt myself that she would join us in the ER. She agreed. Thankfully she didn’t need to and I survived. Just knowing that we would have back up in the ER for my Spanish made me feel a little better.

3 – In Croatia, we were heading to hike Plitvice Lakes National Park on the only rainy day of our trip.

We met a couple at breakfast in the kitchen of the b&b who had hiked the park the prior day and were heading out to their next destination. The boyfriend and I had not even thought about raincoats, and this couple easily handed over their plastic ponchos to us.

The unexpected kindness that one encounters on travels certainly adds to the experience and the memories. Sure, we still got soaked, and yes, I was still petrified of landing in an Argentinian emergency room but the unexpected kindness that one experiences is never forgotten, as it becomes part of the story from the adventure.


Fear #indie30

Another writing prompt from the BootsnAll 30 day indie project, this one, is fear.

I am all about adventure and trying new things. Even if the activity scares the crap out of me, at least after I do it the first time I can say I tried.

I have been able to tackle my adventurous side and my fears with ziplining and Tarzan swinging in Monteverde, Costa Rica; horseback riding in Patagonia, Argentina and nighttime kayaking in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

Ziplining in Costa Rica

Sure ziplining sounds fun – but in the rain? The guides told us it would be extra fun because the rain makes you go faster. Really? The guides went through the coordination required, these prison looking suits we would need to wear to keep us dry and the caution that was needed because of the rain. And that, was what made me decide to be hooked to a guide for this adventure. My coordination isn’t the best and the waivers we had to sign didn’t make me feel all that comfortable with my coordination on wires over the trees, in the rain.

Yep, me and a 12 year old boy (because he wasn’t heavy enough) were the only people in a group of 20 or so, who went tandem with a guide – one because of weight limits and the other, me, by choice.

A guide had to go first and last to keep the flow of the group going. They wanted me or the 12-year-old boy to go with the first guide. The 12-year-old told me to go first and I tried to get him to go first but was not successful. I’ve got to say, it was good I went first because I don’t know that I would have gone if I saw someone else go first.

I don’t remember much about the first leg, but the boyfriend does. He said the group heard my screams even when they couldn’t see me anymore. He said they had quite a laugh but did not tell me about it until after the third leg. Once I agreed to continue after the third leg, I was in it until the end. You had to do at least three zips, because an easy out exit was after number three if you decided that you didn’t want to continue on the longest zip line experience in Costa Rica.

The guide, Eduardo, had a good sense of humor and didn’t seem to mind that a twenty-something girl was attached to him, and screaming, over the Costa Rican canopy.

2- The Tarzan swing was an option post-zip line before a hike through the rainforest. Nearly everyone in our group did it, and I decided I could suck it up for a few minutes. And that dear readers is definitely one thing I will never do again. Prior to my Tarzan adventure, the guides told us the chances were slim to see animals in their habitat in the rain. After my blood-curdling screams, we were assured that the chances were nil that we would see any animals.

3 – I crossed the equator and went to another continent to ride my first horse. When we arrived to the estancia (ranch) – the main gaucho (cowboy) asked how much riding experience everyone had. I was the only one who had never been on a horse. Of course I was. He assigned me the horse they give to children. The boyfriend got the ranch horse that they bring in for these tourist rides if they need an extra horse. We had to head uphill at several points, so one of the backup gauchos rode alongside me (I think it’s because the first time, I may have pulled on the reins too hard). Riding on this working farm with the Andes as our setting took my breath away, along with some of my nerves – and I’m certain that the Xanax I took before we arrived at the ranch helped too.

Found out after the ride, that riding in the States, one normally sits on a saddle. There were no saddles. Just a blanket. Each rider only had the reins to hold onto, not that horn on a saddle. Because I had the horse they give to kids, there was a rope attached to the blanket that I could hold on to if I needed backup, rather than holding the reins too hard and essentially choking my horse.

Have you seen a pattern? Not only do I have fears about some of these activities I partake in, but it’s always that much harder, with an unexpected twist. I can’t zipline on a sunny day, it has to be pouring rain. I travel to the other side of the Equator to finally get on a horse, and I hardly have anything to hold on to for my sanity.

4 – When the boyfriend and I started dating we went to Puerto Rico a few months later. We visited the island of Culebra. To get there you could take a 3 hour ferry, or a 20 minute flight. The plane was so small and the radar nil, we were able to videotape our plane ride. Also, I sat right behind the pilot in this eight seater. For all but the takeoff and landing all we saw below was water. This didn’t scare me at all.

What scared me was the nighttime kayaking and swim in the lagoon with bioluminescent creatures. Let me go back and say that I was the one who found this and booked it. This was something I wanted to do. Until I had to get into the kayak, in the dark. At the time, I had never even been in a kayak, in daytime, much less, in pitch black. After we got going, I was good. Did hear other people fall into the water because their kayaking skills were not up to par. Thankfully the boyfriend had kayaked before. He had told me to just lift my oars since I did not have much coordination and was probably slowing us down. Instead I used my oars to protect myself from the branches of the mangrove trees he kept driving us into (guess he wasn’t all that good). When I heard from other kayakers that there were bats overhead, my mind immediately sent me to the ER for emergency rabies shots.

But the experience was amazing, especially when we got into the lagoon. The guide had us all get into a circular formation so he could tie up the kayaks so we could use it as a dock for when we jumped into the water. I freaked. Totally froze. The boyfriend went into the water and was telling me that I was the one who found this (true), I was the one who was totally excited for it (true) and I was the one who even bought an underwater camera to capture the bioluminescence (true). So I jumped in and after freaking out for a few seconds, calmed down and was totally able to enjoy the bioluminescent bay experience. (I can’t find any of our photos, so either we didn’t take any, or they didn’t come out).

For those readers of you who joined me on Spring Break in Cancun back in college, I had a similar reaction when we drove the jetskis out for a snorkeling trip and we had to jump in the water. The last jetski tied up had to be the first duo to jump in. Guess who was on that last jetski to be tied up…

As I attacked each of these fears, I realized I am afraid of getting hurt. I think signing waivers makes me nervous. But once I jump in, whether it’s off a cliff for a free fall or into a lagoon in the pitch black darkness, I attack those fears, one adventure at a time. If you miss out on experiences just because of fear, whatever the fear is (mine is getting hurt) how will you know you won’t just enjoy the experience if you don’t at least try?

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” – Mark Twain

Earth #indie30

BootsnAll’s writing prompt is about the earth!

I felt most in tune with the Earth while in Ushuaia, Argentina. It was so disconnected from the world, and it was so rough and raw and isolated.

There was so much history, about the Indians who settled there and the Yaghan who lived off the land, and made use of the areas we were hiking. We were exposed to the elements, even in the height of summer. We were, as they say, at the end of the world.

We left Ushuaia by boat and traveled around the Beagle Channel with nature at it’s wildest element surrounding us.

Wildlife was everywhere.

Every person we talked with had concern for the animals, and they would talk about global warming and the water temperatures and how the wildlife is suffering.

Before taking a small boat to get to Martillo Island to see the penguins (yes, penguins!), we were invited to take a guided tour of a a one-room museum and research area. There were displays of the bones of various whales, sharks, beavers and sea lions pieced back together in the museum.

I think what was most amazing that there were/are so many species in this area completely outnumbering humans. And those are just the bones they are able to salvage. Once you headed into the research area there were loads of bones waiting to be cleaned, sorted and labeled. We saw an entire whales skeletal system drying out on the grass behind the museum. The skeletal system was longer than the bus we had taken on the two plus hour drive from Ushuaia.


Goals #indie30

Here’s my response to prompt one of BootsnAll 30 day indie travel project: goals.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get to another continent this past year. Well in February, I accomplished my first of several New Year’s resolutions. Yes, it’s November and I’m still working on a few other resolutions from January. But this post is about travel goals, and that, I have accomplished.

The boyfriend and I boarded a flight from JFK to Buenos Aires, marking for both of us, our first visit to South America and our first below the equator.

I had high expectations and really, really wanted to fall in love with Argentina, and boy oh boy did I! Even the boyfriend, the ever skeptical traveler, really enjoyed it.

The country, the culture, the cuisine and the cost! What was there not to love? I could go on…the people, the landscapes, the experience, the wine and the food…

My travel goals continue to see, explore and experience my way through the world around me, whether it’s exploring in and around NYC, which is where I am based, or if it’s traveling thousands of miles to explore elsewhere. There’s a lot of world to see, and this world is far too big not to make a dent in it!


Mistakes #indie30

And so I continue the BootsnAll 30 day writing challenge…prompt four, mistakes.

Arriving on the Croatian island of Hvar on an early morning catamaran from Korcula, our minds weren’t thinking straight. Nor did we realize what a small and friendly island we were on.

The boyfriend and I arrived on the island of Hvar early and tired and a bit discombobulated. We couldn’t locate the printout that had the name of the b&b and the owner’s name and phone number where we were scheduled to stay for two nights.

We knew it was just stored in an email and we stopped at an internet cafe but couldn’t log onto the particular email account where the info was stored. Every other website in the world seemed to work except the one we needed.

Thinking we could wait it out to see if we could get back online, we decided to get our bearings with breakfast at a small cafe on the waterfront. The fresh air and the views helped us forget our ‘problems.’

(Since we were too tired and just enjoyed the views from the cafe, this photo below was taken on an afternoon hike our second day on the island. that U shape as you look down below from the stone walls that surrounds the water is the main square of town with restaurants, bars and shops lining that U shape. The water taxis are lined on the left, the catamarans from the larger islands dropped us off at the end of the left, the sailboats on the right were mostly privately owned. And you can follow the path in either direction for a beautiful walk along the water.)

Filled with exhaustion, deliriousness, excitement and the urge to explore and not wanting to carry our bags around all day, we stopped into a hotel – which was so far out of our budget, we laughed. We then found another hotel that was more within our budget, and in the center of town.

We stopped back at the internet cafe just to see if we could pull up the email with the information, with no luck. We checked the review of the hotel on TripAdvisor and the reviews were ‘good enough.’ Oops.

We walked back to the hotel, made a reservation for one night, dropped our bags and were hopeful that would be able to log on and  get in touch with the b&b for night number two. As it was only now about 8am, I told you these catamarans left early!,we couldn’t get into our room until lunchtime.

To make the most of our morning, we walked around the harbor, walked through a park, swang on swings in a playground and ate an early lunch at the Hvar morning market (which we went back to on day 2 just for the cheese stall lady). We also made a reservation with a sailing trip for later in the day.

We checked in to the hotel, changed into bathing suits and headed out for the sailing tour, were told to wait on the pier in the wrong place, our mistake probably, but in any case we missed the sailing trip and got our money back. We then headed out to the water taxi line, and found out that the taxis could take you to even smaller islands for hiking, sunbathing and food and drink. We chose not to get off on the popular island that everyone else did, and headed to a smaller, and less touristed island that our captain told us was his personal favorite.

It was a rocky island with lots of opportunities to hike and relax. There was one outdoor restaurant on the island, and everyone seemed to know each other. Instead of lounge chairs, there were big sandbags thrown on the rocks that replaced lounge chairs. From personal experience, I can say they are so much more sleep friendly than your regular lounge chair.

The next morning, we checked out of the hotel and we were picked up by b&b woman and her husband. Once there, I was sad to realize that we’d only have one night with this family. Not only were they lovely, our room and bathroom were immaculate with amazing views from above the island. Not so from the ‘hotel.’

On top of that, the wife told us we should have gone to the information center (which we did in order to get a map) and asked for her phone number (she worked there). Duh!

Smack self in head — small island, info center, locally owned b&b…<smack>.

While this wasn’t a horrible mistake, it was still a regret. When I do get back to the island of Hvar, I know where I will (and won’t) be staying.

Another ‘mistake’ where hindsight is 20/20. If you are choose to island hop throughout Croatia — travel from the north to the south, not reversed. And then double check those schedules to know what you’re signing up for! The catamarans heading north (which we were) depart once a day in the wee hours of the morning. If you travel north to south the catamarans leave late afternoon. Waking up early to catch the only boat of the day adds a fair amount of stress to vacationing! But in exchange for those early wake ups, seeing the sunrises from the Adriatic Sea during our three early morning rises were absolutely and utterly stunning.

Even though I saw these as ‘mistakes’ it’s really insignificant and important to put things in perspective. If we had checked in upon arrival, we may have not met the cheese lady. If we didn’t take the early morning catamarans, we wouldn’t have seen the sunrises. If we took the sailing tour, we wouldn’t have found the undiscovered island with the great lunch and the sandbag filled lounge chairs. And if we didn’t stay in the ‘hotel’ before the b&b, well, um, no, that was definitely a mistake!


BootsnAll Indie Travel Project #indie30 Music

I have been following along BootsnAll’s 30 days of Indie Travel Project. I’m hopping in a little late but I am going to start with day three – music! Here goes:

There were several men dressed alike who were making beautiful music in Split, Croatia. The crowd enjoying their music grew and grew and one of the guys pulled me from out of the crowd and started to serenade me!

The music echoed off the walls that surrounded part of the town. We bought their CD and when we listen to it, it brings us back to a warm and sunny September day in the ancient Roman city of Split.


Remote Ushuaia

Thanks to the remoteness of Ushuaia, here’s a short history lesson courtesy of LonelyPlanet.com:

Between 1884 and 1947 Argentina imitated Britain’s example with Australia and made the city a penal colony, incarcerating many of its most notorious criminals and political prisoners here and on remote Isla de los Estados (Staten Island). In 1906 the military prison was moved to Ushuaia, and in 1911 it was combined with the Carcel de Reincidentes, which had incarcerated civilian recidivists since 1896. Since 1950 the town has been an important naval base.

The prison was no longer in use but it was very cold (no heat) and depressing. This, or any prison for that matter, is not where I’d want to spend any time incarcerated. You’ll see a tour on the first floor. They only offered the tours in Spanish so we decided not to join. In each of the cells were signs and information in both English and Spanish so we self-guided ourselves through the prison.

As Ushuaia is a remote place, the city, or maybe it was a campaign by the tourist board, recognized that it’s a feat in and of itself to get there. We found out that the post office and some banks provide various stamps for your passport, to say you arrived at ‘the end of the world!’

I didn’t want to spend our time in Ushuaia hunting down these stamps so I reminded myself to be happy with just one version of the stamp. As luck would have it, we stopped in a bank and the woman went nuts — stamping every version of the stamp in our passports!

The next time I visit Ushuaia, I will be boarding a cruise to Antarctica!


Usted conoce a Bill Gates?

Upon landing in Ushuaia, we took a cab right to our bed and breakfast. Our cab driver’s only English was ‘Bill Gates.’ As soon as we got in the cab, he asked us where we were from.

As soon as he learned that we were Americans, he asked us if we knew Bill Gates.

Sidenote: I was not sure if he was asking us if we knew Bill Gates personally or if we knew of Bill Gates. I’m going to chalk it up to my own translation issues because yes to the latter, no to the former.

Our cab driver proceeded to tell us, very excitedly, that Bill Gates has a research ship docked in the harbor. He did not hesitate to show us the ship – as he pointed in one direction and we were going around a roundabout in another direction!


thisclose to Antarctica

Being in Ushuaia we were thisclose to Antarctica — relatively speaking.

Being in Ushuaia is still a good five days out by sea from the elusive continent.  Those five days are in good weather, which even in their summer is not guaranteed.

You could purchase a last-minute cruise most anywhere around town. They leave tomorrow, or the next day, cruises were offered at discounted rates … again, it’s all relative. Those ‘discounts’ were still going to cost thousands of dollars. 

Let it be known, travel to Antarctica is not cheap – the cost for one person to cruise to Antarctica, even at this last-minute  discount, would have cost more than we spent for our 11-day trip to Argentina. For two people! And I am including the cost of two roundtrip international airfares (NYC-EZE) and our domestic airfare within Argentina — three one way flights.

We spent some time chatting up the guys who booked our Beagle Channel boat tour. One of the guys was reading a guide about the terrain and animals found on the continent.

We learned that the tour world is a small one. Everyone who works at one of the businesses along the waterfront touting trips to the penguin rookery or sailing around the Beagle Channel (we did both) has a friend or a friend of a friend who can alert the others to extra spaces, or possible work, found on the Antarctic-bound ships.

These guys needed to be at the ready – with gear and money (if for pleasure and not for work) – because their chance could be the very next day!


Breathtaking Travel Moment

One of my most memorable landings was flying from El Calafate (which was an amazing place in and of itself) and landing in Ushuaia, Argentina.

I have always known that I wanted to travel to the ends of the earth and had already scoped out a few places to keep on my radar – Kiribati Islands anyone?

Then it just so happened that quite a few seasons ago on The Amazing Race, teams traveled to Ushuaia. I immediately fell in love and knew I would have to get to the southernmost city one day.

Somewhere in the air, I just couldn’t believe we were finally heading there! The flight was just about an hour from El Calafate and I couldn’t wait to land! I felt like a little kid, I was so giddy with excitement. Because Ushuaia is basically surrounded by mountains and water the scenery that you can see on the descent into town is amazing!

When we landed, I couldn’t wait to get off the plane. I was just absolutely and completely in jaw-dropping awe that we had arrived at the ‘end of the world.’