Sunday, September 10, 2006


I took a boat from the Greek Islands (see blog) Turkey, landed in the port city of Bodrum and then headed straight for Fethiye where you catch the 'Blue Cruises' which are large wood boats cruising the turquoise waters off the coast of Turkey visiting islands, underwater cities, parties in the blue lagoons, archeological sites, etc. It cost about $180 for a 5 day cruise that included all meals, accommodations, and transportation. There were about 24 of us on the boat and most of us slept on the deck under the stars. Sometimes the captain would pull anchor around 5am and sail to another island or lagoon while we were sound asleep from partying the night before. We awoke to the sunrise and a cool breeze, dropping anchor again around 9am, and then jump off the boat for a morning swim followed by a fresh water shower off the bow and a full Turkish breakfast in the stern. During the day there were plenty of activities: snorkeling, water skiing, parasailing, wind surfing, scuba, and exploring local islands. Then we would take off to another place and play cards and drink along the way. At night they served a huge dinner followed by lots of drinking and meeting up with other boats to hang out on the beach, eventually making our way back to the boat again.

After the cruise I ended up going to Istanbul with some of the 'blue cruise' group and spending a few days visiting the mosques, public markets, and eating incredible food. Turkey borders Iran, Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Georgia, Bulgaria, and Greece, and the city of Istanbul is split between Europe and Asia serving as a bridge between very different worlds making it the most interesting country I visited in my two month trip through 10 countries in Europe.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


From Rome (see blog) a buddy and I took a train straight to Brindisi, Italy and then caught an overnight ferry to Athens, Greece. We met up with a few friends that we're part of an organized trip through the islands over the next 5 days so we decided to tag along and hit Mykonos, Paros, Ios, Syros, and Kos. Quite honestly I couldn't tell on island from another but do remember huge parties on Ios, and Kos seemed to have the most ruins and geographical features. Other than that they all seemed to blend together with great beaches, weather, parties and people. After a week I was more than ready to move on to Turkey (see Blog).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Rome - Italy

I took the train from the south of France (see blog) to Rome and only spent a few days there but was able to visit most of the major sights including the Vatican. A few things surprised me about Rome/VC. One was how intertwined the ancient ruins are with the everyday life of a modern city. Everywhere you look, in residential neighborhoods, parks, commercial districts, and shopping areas, there are signs of the crumbled empire. The other thing that stood out for me was the opulence of the churches. The amount of gold, silver, marble, and other gaudy stuff is overwhelming. At first glance you think how beautiful but then I started to reflect on my trip in South America, especially the town of Potosi in Bolivia (see blog) where it is estimated that over 9 million indigenous workers and African slaves died in the mines. Of course that was under Spanish rule and this is Italy so I took a bunch of pretty pictures and moved on to Greece (see blog).

Friday, July 21, 2006

French Riviera & Monaco

I went from Barcelona, Spain (see blog) to the French Riviera. All of the cities in the area are gorgeous but Monte Carlo in the principality of Monaco is by far the best. The place reeks of opulence from yachts to Ferraris to one of the most famous casinos in the world. I only spent a day here and it was more than enough. Most of my time was spent in Nice and Marseille.

Next I was on to Rome, Italy (see blog).

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Barcelona - Spain

After running with the bulls in Pamplona (see blog) we headed to Barcelona, Spain which is a gorgeous city on the Mediterranean coast near the border of France. We spent 5 days here before heading through the south of France and Monaco (see blog).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Running with the Bulls - Pamplona, Spain

I had just come from Amsterdam (see blog) and was ready for the famous 'Running of the Bulls' in Pamplona, Spain. They call it the festival of San Fermin which was another amazing event that is hard to explain with words, pictures, or even video. Starting July 6th and continuing for 8 days, it's a non-stop party from 7am where we congregated in the streets waiting for the canon shot to signal the release of the bulls into the street for an 850 meter dash into the coliseum where the real action begins. The actual running of the bulls only last 15 minutes and is not much of a challenge. I stayed in front most of the time and got bored so I waited for the bulls to catch up and then ran along side of them for a bit. The bulls run straight to the arena with the exception of a few stray runners that they catch in the corners and can do some serious damage.

We entered the arena in a large group and the bulls were funneled out. I started to take pictures when a guy tapped me on the shoulder and pointed behind me to the set of fresh bulls that they were letting back into the arena. I guess I missed that part in the book and thought it was over. There were about 250 of us in the center and at least 5,000 spectators in the stands above. The bull starts charging all of us and grabbing victims one by one. Throwing them up into the air and then charging them a few more times once they hit the ground. Please see the first video below – in 50 seconds the bull gets at least 3 people before heading for me. With camera in hand and still running I jump the wall to safety. Crazy stuff! It was one of the most amazing things I've ever done and will probably be in my top 10 for life.

Next up Barcelona (see blog).

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Germany, Czech Rep, and Amsterdam

After my collarbone healed from the mountain biking accident in Argentina (see List of Bad Travel blog) I flew into Dublin on June 19th, met up with some friends, toured the Guinness Brewery, bar hopped in the famous Temple Bar district, and then flew to Germany for the World Cup games visiting Berlin, Hamburg, and even Nuremberg for the final USA match against Ghana.

While traveling in South America I met many backpackers who said Prague was the most beautiful city in the world and a must see if I was ever in the area so I took a train into the Czech Republic. I was not disappointed (see pics below) and also learned that Prague was home to some of the best beer and most beautiful women in the world. At this point in my trip I also noticed a similarity in each of the European cities. The 'red light' districts were hugely popular where most of the good bars, restaurants, and parties were. In Hamburg it was called Reeperbahn and they had some of the streets completely blocked off and checked ID, letting in only males 18 and over. Apparently prostitution is legal in many areas of Europe.

I cruised back into Germany and then headed to Amsterdam. This place is gorgeous during the day with canals, parks, shops, and restaurants. I walked into an Internet shop called Happy People Café and noticed there weren't any computers and the place was full of smoke. Of course I had to ask whether it was really an Internet café which was followed by laughter and a menu with various types of 'shrooms and weed'. I had to visit the red light district and sure enough it's just like you imagine with stretches of red lit windows full of strippers/prostitutes trying to get your 50 euros for 15 minutes of whatever? We ended up talking to a guy that owned and operated 65 'windows' and he said that it was like running a hotel and rented the windows for 110 euros for 8 hours. He also mentioned that the city was trying to change its image. Good luck!

After Amsterdam I headed to Pamplona, Spain for the 'running of the bulls' (see blog).


Czech Republic:


Friday, April 7, 2006

El Calafate - Argentina

After out hiking trip in Torres del Paine (see blog) we headed to El Calafate which is a little town in southern Argentina on the shore of Lago Argentino and serves as a tourist center for 'Parque Nacional los Glaciares'. We rented a car to visit the park, more specifically the Glacier Perito Moreno, one of the few advancing glaciers in the world thanks to 'global warming'. We walked down the touristy path to a point that said no trespassing but of course climbed the fence and continued down to the shore. The glacier is over 3 miles (5 km) wide and over 200 feet (60 m) high. The amazing part is how alive it seems to be (and is). It's constantly moving with huge pieces exploding and calving off into the river as the sun warms the advancing edge. It sounds like gun shots as huge block crash inside the ice canyons. When the sun hits, it begins to glow this amazing aqua blue. At one point we were standing on the shore and looked up to see this huge chunk the size of large building break off right in front of us. We were in such awe that we couldn't move at first but soon realized that the water was receding from the edge gearing up for a mini-tsunami so we all headed toward higher ground. Fortunately, my buddy Andrew was filming a documentary at the time and got most of it on film.

Soon after this trip we went mountain biking in Bariloche and I ended up breaking my collarbone (see Bad Travel Experiences blog) and had to fly home to heal before heading off to Europe for the Running of the Bull in Pamplona (see blog).

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Torres del Paine - Chile

At this point I was traveling with four Canadian guys that I met in Ushuaia, Argentina (see blog) and we decided the next stop was Torres del Paine, Chile. Nothing prepares you for the spectacular beauty of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. It's known for its challenging treks and 15 peaks over 2000 meters (6,500 ft). The park has four main glaciers that feed vividly colored turquoise lakes filled with wind sculpted icebergs and set in granite canyons. At the center of the park there's a set of pink granite towers. We packed tents, food, and cooking stuff, etc over 110km (70 miles) for 5 days through all kinds of weather including a few snow storms.

This was one of many places on the trip where I found myself standing somewhere so big that it surrounded me and I try to gather it all in through pics to show friends and family. Every direction you see views of dramatic peaks, ice fields, and lakes that change with every step.

The last night of the trip we camped in a refugio at the bottom of Glacier Grey, the largest glacier in the park, and hung out in the lodge with other campers. We got to know this young couple (Leo and Esther) from the Netherlands who had met a few years ago while traveling. This was their last trip before going home to get married. We went to bed around 2am. Around 4am we woke up to a loud crack followed by a girl screaming. A huge branch, that could've been a tree by itself, had fallen on top of the Leo and Esther's tent right next to ours. We lifted the branch and my buddy Andrew crawled inside to help. Somehow the branch had missed Esther but hit Leo in the head, knocking him unconscious. So Andrew gave him mouth to mouth, we pulled him carefully from the tent, transported him on a door to the nearby lodge, and called for assistance. The last we heard he was in a deep coma but stable. The reason for this story is not sensationalism but because it was near the end of my trip in South America and I walked away with a sense of closure. Nature is truly amazing and bigger than all of us. We're not in control of whether we live or die. I try to live each day like it's my last and if I wake up tomorrow morning it's a gift.

After TDP we headed off to El Calafate to see one of the only few advancing glaciers in the world (see blog).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ushuaia - Argentina

On March 24th I finally made it to Ushuaia, the southern most city in the world. It's 18,000 km from Alaska and only 1,000 km from Antarctica and the only place where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet. The town itself is surrounded by surreal scenery with snow capped mountains descending into the Beagle Channel. Originally I came here hoping to catch a last minute boat to Antarctica but missed it by 4 days. No worries, I made the most of it can caught a boat into the channel to check out sea lion and penguin colonies, went trekking up to the glaciers and found an ice cave, and then hiked in the world famous "Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego".

I met four Canadian guys at the hostel who were going the same way and getting ready to do a five day camping trek in Torres del Paine, Chile so I decided to tag along (see blog),

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Iguazu Falls

After Rio (see blog) I took a bus to Iguazu Falls which are the most magnificent and overwhelming in all of South America. They are four times wider than Niagara and fall into both Brazil and Argentina from an altitude of 70 meters (230 ft), forming some 275 waterfalls with a length of 2.7 km (1.68miles). They're easily accessible and no trek is required.

After Iguazu I headed to Buenos Aires, Argentina and then Ushuaia (see blog) so that I can hopefully catch a boat to Antarctica.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

I took a train from Bolivia (see blog) into Brazil and spent some time in Sao Paulo before heading to Rio de Janeiro to spend the next two weeks to see Carnivale, Rolling Stones and do some hang gliding over the city.

The good stuff: Rio is gorgeous! The buildings and streets are molded around tumbling cliffs and wooded mountains that serve as an incredible backdrop to the numerous white sandy beaches of Guanabara Bay. The people (over 10 million) are amazing and have a great sense of national pride. We were there for the Carnival festivities and the Rolling Stones concert on Copacabana beach which was one of the biggest concerts in history with over 2 million people (see pics). I spent two weeks here going to football games at the world famous Maracana Stadium, boat excursions through Guanabara Bay to secluded islands, hang gliding over the city, block parties in the streets until dawn, a cable car up to Sugar Loaf for the panoramic views, and a visit to Corcovado – Christ the Redeemer. Ipanema and Copacabana beaches are very touristy but still amazing. The hang gliding over Rio lasted 25 minutes or so and I highly recommend it.

The NOT so good stuff: I wish I would've had more time to visit the rest of Brazil but I spent most of my time in big cities that are expensive relative to the rest of the country. Crime is an issue in Rio, especially at night in touristy areas like beaches and large gatherings (true for any big city). During the Rolling Stones concert there were many stories of pick pockets (including myself) and people robbed at knife point. Don't let this discourage you – just use common sense when going out at night.

After Rio I headed to Iguazu to see the widest waterfall in the world (see blog).

Friday, February 10, 2006


After the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru (see blog) we headed through Lake Titicaca to Bolivia.

The good stuff: This is an amazing country with the most geo-diversity of all my travels so far. The prices are the cheapest and it is easy to get by on $15 to $20 a day including transportation and excursions.

The NOT so good stuff: Some of the roads are very dangerous and most are unpaved. On our journey from La Paz to Rurrenabaque the bus in front of us went over the side of the road and 20 people died (see List of Bad Travels blog for more). Of course this road is considered the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” (see pics below) and there were heavy rains the night before. We decided to fly back to La Paz.

Where to go: We started at Lake Titicaca where we stayed in Copacabana and then went to La Paz where we caught the a bus to Rurrenabaque and took a 3 day jungle tour through Pampas. This is an incredible trip –with pink dolphins, monkeys, alligators, piranhas, turtles, colorful birds, and amazing sunsets. Then we went to Salar de Uyuni which is the world’s largest and highest slat flat. We did a 4 day trip that included Laguna Colorado filled with flamingos and flaming red algae colored water with shores crusted with arctic white gypsum salt. Then we saw Laguna Verde which is a bright turquoise green due to the arsenic and other minerals. Then we cruised across huge expanses of desert with amazing views. From here we made our way to the “mines” of Potosi where we did a tour of the mines and blew some stuff up with dynamite from the local roadside stand (seriously). Then we made our way to Santa Cruz where we were too tired to do much anything and just caught a train to Brazil (see Rio blog).

Friday, January 20, 2006

Machu Picchu & Choquequirao - Peru

After Colombia we headed through Ecuador where spent a week checking out volcanoes and beaches. After that we headed to Peru spending a night in Lima before going on the holy grail of Machu Picchu (MP). MP & Choquequirao are the two most famous Inca ruins in South America, both of which are in southern Peru. Like many of the other treks in South America trying to capture it in words and pics is completely futile. There are only 500 trekkers a day allowed on the Inca Trail – this includes porters and guides. It’s 4 days of high altitude packing through the Sacred Valley. We had an awesome group of 14 people not including the guides and porters who did everything from cook meals to set up our tents. As usual I won’t get into all the particulars of the history, etc – plenty of stuff online. For me MP was a little overrated and extremely touristy but it’s one of those things you have to do while in South America.

The day after the Inca Trail a group of us proceeded to Choquequirao which is larger than MP but only 30% has been uncovered. This was the last refuge of the Incas fleeing from the Spaniards, secluded in a strategic geographical area between Andean mountains and the edge of the jungle makes it difficult to access and much more arduous than the Inca Trail. Although only limited excavation has yet been undertaken, ample evidence exists that Choquequirao was continuously inhabited and that construction continued after the arrival of the Spanish to Peru in 1532. Choquequirao appears to have been abandoned undiscovered by Spanish authorities. By 2008 they’re expecting to have it fully uncovered and working trails from MP.

After this we headed to Bolivia (see blog) to see some of the most amazing sights in South America.