A long time ago in a land far, far away, Adriana and I caught up with family and friends. And then I fell into some sort of Internet coma. I showed some signs of consciousness with Frex (still working on it), and now here I am with another post.
We went to Oz back in May. I’d never been to Uluru before, even though I’d been to Alice Springs for a wedding (it’s not really that close to Uluru, but while you’re in the general area…), but at the time I was a university student with no money, and getting a day trip to the rock was well out of my price range. This time around I wasn’t going to miss it, so decided that a 3-day camping tour out of Alice Springs would be the ticket. We had a couple of days in Alice Springs to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in yonks, acclimate (that is, let all the Florida humidity I’d acquired over the years evaporate), and try and sync up with the timezone. We also accumulated enough red dust to last us till we returned to Florida.
We then went to see the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, a quaint little place that allowed us to get up really close with some reptiles. It was pretty cool, and Adriana does what she always seems to do when holding a snake: making out she’s going to eat it.
That’s a pretty quick summary of Alice Springs before we went on the camping tour, which turned out to be awesome and bloody cold at night. But, that’s for another blog post, standing up too fast can make one feel light-headed. The flickr set for all of this is here.
Adriana and I (way back in February now) spent a week in Costa Rica, dividing our time between the Arenal region (to see a volcano that turned out to be camera shy) and Quepos, a town on the southern area of the West coast.
Hiring a car turned out being incredibly expensive, mostly due to the mandatory government insurance that can nearly cost as much as the rental itself. We found car hire necessary however, although we did not get a 4WD but instead opted for the cheap Toyota Yaris. For the one place that required a 4WD for access, we got there via a tour bus.
As you’re driving around, you can come across some pretty cool places that deserve a quick stop. Zarcero, a small town on the way to Fortuna, had a park outside the front of the town church that had hedges sculpted in many shapes, from faces to dinosaurs.
After a four or so hour drive to the Arenal area, we were ‘welcomed’ with weather that we’d be experiencing our whole stay in the area: cloudy, cool, and wet. I had specifically chosen the bed and breakfast we stayed at because it was located at the base of the volcano with views of the peak, and I was hoping for some awesome views of it at night. Although I had read that the volcano was more dormant recently, I wasn’t expecting anything like this:
But I was hoping to at least hear it rumbling or see a faint red glow from the top of the volcano. Unfortunately, the volcano was covered by clouds the whole time we were there. For fun, I took this long exposure at night, pointed in the direction the volcano is supposed to be. As you can see, the only cool thing was the light from accommodation on the hill in front of us being reflected by the clouds.
La Fortuna waterfall is a popular sight in the area, but it rained quite heavily on our walk up and down. There are about 400 steps down to the waterfall, so if you’re not fit, be prepared. Because of my thing with vertigo, I was expecting some problems with heights, but had no problems with this walk.
Due to the volcanic activity in the area, there are many hot springs to visit. We spent an afternoon at Baldi hot springs, and quite enjoyed it. The place was huge and had many different baths to visit, with temperatures ranging from that of a heated pool to scorching hot (I really couldn’t understand how you could visit the ultra hot ones without cooking certain parts of your body).
We took the sky tram tour next to Arenal Volcano, but due to the rain, there wasn’t much wildlife about on the way up. The sky tram tour cost nearly as much as the zip lining, so if you’re so inclined, that’d be a better option (you have to take the tram to get to the top anyway), otherwise take the walking bridge tour. The way down was better, with the sun coming out and wildlife starting to reappear, plus a fantastic view back down the slope.
Driving around Lake Arenal was very picturesque, and a tour bus stopped off on the side of the rode tipped us off to some local wildlife, in this case a Howler monkey.
We stayed at the excellent Coyaba Tropical in Quepos, near Manuel Antonio national park. There is a bunch of wildlife to see at the park, so visit the flickr set link down the bottom to see all the animals. We spent a relaxing afternoon sleeping next to the beach, with white faced monkeys playing in the trees above us.
On advice from our hosts at Coyaba Tropical, we had a sunset dinner at Raphael’s Terrazas, which had fantastic food, service, and sights.
On the final day while driving back to the airport, we stopped off in the picturesque town of Palmares. An iguana was eating food off a bench, with food obviously prepared for him, so it seems this guy was held in much higher regard than many of the iguanas here in South Florida.
As always, more photos are available for viewing by visiting the flickr set here.
From Arequipa we went on a guided tour of the Chivay/Colca Canyon region for a couple of days. The canyon is approximately four kilometres deep, making it about twice as deep as that of the Grand Canyon, so I was pretty excited about seeing that and possibly a Condor.
The small tour bus took us around the extinct volcano Chachani towards the town of Chivay where we’d be staying the night. We went past a huge processing plant, which I could only guess was some sort of cement factory. The landscape at this point was a contrast of pale grey dust, green valley and man-made structures:
Along the way there were many wild llama, gunacao and vicunya and some great views of volcano Misti:
I never expected to see flamingoes in this part of Peru, but there they were at high altitudes of around five kilometres, feeding in isolated wetlands.
The presence of the wetlands in such an otherwise barren landscape surprised me:
We came across a farmer (a photo of who appeared in a previous post) who had decorated his herd of llamas to attract tourists. The ruse worked fantastically.
Descending into the Chivay area we were treated to some fantastic views of the town while doing some roadside shopping.
A natural hot spring was a great way to relax at the end of the day, and this one had a great view.
From the top of our hotel in Chivay I was able to get a photo of the sunset over the mountains that we’d descended earlier in the day.
The tour the next day took us through the Colca Valley on the way to Colca Canyon. The were many spectacular views of the small towns and the terraced farming that supported them.
The Colca Canyon was very, very deep, and much wider than that of the Grand Canyon. It was fairly difficult to see the bottom of it, so I had to walk around to all the viewing points to get a good sense of how deep it was. I don’t think this was the deepest part either, as the road went further around the canyon but our bus tour did not.
Our last stop in the canyon was to view the condors. That required a bit of luck, and the whole hour we were there the ones we did see were too far off to get a decent photo. While leaving the viewing area, a condor did glide past our bus and was viewable for a few seconds. I chose to admire just how massive it was rather than try and grab a photo.
The full set on flickr is available here.