When: Depart Denver on a plane at 9am Friday April 17th, Arrive 1am to the Beach in Cabo (direct flights kick ass!), 3 nights in CABO
What: Andy’s 30th BDAY (I once heard it is best to celebrate a 30th out of the country…I couldn’t agree more!)
A quick weekend trip to the less explored East Cape of the Baja was a perfect adventure for my birthday weekend. While Cabo San Lucas is know for tourism, and cruise-ships, it is beautiful but usually crowded (we have visited Cabo before!). The other city, San Jose Del Cabo is known for Art and traditional plazas. We were about 25 mins outside of town staying on the road that turns into the East Cape. A place that is usually reserved for Surfers and Divers heading into Cabo Pulmo National Park and the remote lands. Our trip was focused on seeking deserted beaches and delicious seafood!!
Food was devoured (in order of consumption): As always food in Mexico is the best!
- Lunch: Buzzards Bar and Grill; Fish Tacos
- Dinner: Meson del Angel; Tuna Steak + Crazy traditional stuffed pepper + blueberry mojoitos + Ice-Cream “sushi” roll + Marachi singing Happy B-Day (we ate here before!)
- Breakfast: Mango Margaritas + Mexican Pastries + Sunrise
- Lunch: Flora Farms; Seafood Pesto Pizza + Pork-link sandwich (all food grown on the farm locally)
- Dinner: Tequila’s restaurant; Fresh Fish + Shrimp + Octopus appetizer + more Marachi singers
- Breakfast: Pastries + Sunrise
- Lunch: on the beach in the middle of nowhere: Chips+black beans+cured meats+margaritas+plums+avocado+cerveza
- Dinner: La Palapa in Cabo Pulmo; Aguachili Scallops (huge plate of scallops with lime+chili), Two Lobster Tails, Seafood Tacos, and another order of Scallops for dessert (because they were that good!). This seaside open air restaurant is right in the middle of Cabo Pulmo and delivered the best seafood of the trip!
- Breakfast: remaining tequila+fruit+pastry+ Final Sunrise
- Lunch: Jumbo plate of ceviche, Red Snapper fried whole+Jumbo Shrimp
Sunrise was epic every day as it rose over PUNTA GORDA!!:
Exploring the East Cape of Cabo:
Cabo Pulmo Marine Park, Los Frailes Snorkeling, Dirt Roads, and Deserted Beaches. That pretty much sums up our amazing experience.
We took the coast road which was no problem in our little rental car. The road was full of beautiful overlooks and interesting sights along the way. While worried a little about this road it actually was in top-notch conditions and was easy to travel on for what it is.
It was a Sunday and the beach was 100% deserted. A couple sailboats were moored offshore, and fisherman were 1 mile+ away. It was very enjoyable!! There was amazing covered shade PALAPAS on the beach for use making it really practical.
Looking back on the Beach from where we went snorkeling:
We spent all day at the beach enjoying the sun, snorkeling, and quite time. Lunch was snacks we brought along. For Dinner we decided to drive a little further up the coast to the city of CABO PULMO (maybe 15 buildings big) where we ate at the La Palapa and had amazing scallops, lobster, and shrimp!
We arrived home in the dark after the drive home, enjoying a few stops for the sunset:
San Jose Del Cabo:
We spent a lot of time eating at the many unique restaurants in the area. Flora Farms stuck out as being such an unique spot with incredible food.
We had one run-in with the law which ended with no problems. Apparently bumping down the pot-hole strewn road as fast as you can is not generally looked highly upon. After some exchanges in our poor spanish discussing why we were here, that we were from Colorado, that they acknowledged there are a lot of Mexicans in Colorado, that we had a rental car, and that we were going to a local farm for lunch (less then 1/4 mile away at that point), was enough to let us away with a caution to drive slower.
YUM Fried Snapper:
TIPS for Cabo San Lucas or San Jose Del Cabo or East Cape:
- MEGA Supermarket: As you come from the airport and hit HWY 1 the MEGA store is awesome. Bottles of top notch tequila for ~$13USD, pasteries, food, dried meats, beach stuff, fruit, booze mixers, etc. Load up here once and be happy!
We found a beautiful casita to rent from Kim on VRBO. Amazing views. Such a great deal in a very private neighborhood with 24/7 security:
One of the most beautiful places to watch sunrises as we enjoyed them from the house and also on the beach. The guard looked at us funny each morning as we strolled past him down to the beach before sunrise, enjoying the calm only a deserted beach can deliver.
Sea Shell Hunting:
Until Next Time MEXICO!!!
When: Jan 28th, 2015 thru Feb 2nd, 2015
Who: Andy+Caitlin (we celebrated Caitlin’s B-day on this trip!!)
- Fly from Seattle to Denver
- Rent Car and Drive the Amazing Pacific Highway
- 3 Days of Skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb
- Hiking to several waterfalls in the area:
- Afternoon, Evening and quick morning in Vancouver
The skiing was nothing exciting as Whistler area/Pacific Northwest had been under quite the unusual snow-drought. The best snow was usually around 3pm every afternoon as at that time it had warmed-up just enough to soften, unfortunately the resort closes shortly after that. Skiing outside of groomed runs was not possible due to the hard-pack snow-ice (something I have not really experienced before!), but luckily we were greeted with beautiful skies that allowed us to soak in the landscape views of this amazing place.
Shannon Falls at Squamish, BC was a perfect pit-stop along the Sea to Sky Highway:
Whistler was a lot of fun and we ate a lot of great food such as Sushi, Australian Meat pies (with kangroo!), brown-sugar glazed smoked salmon bits from the grocery store, and numerous other delicacies. At the time the Canadian Dollar was about 20% less than USD and allowed us to continue to indulge in nice restaurants since everything about 20% off!!
It was the Whistler PRIDE festival while we were there and really the best part of that was meeting an very eclectic group of people every night at the hot-tub. Otherwise it was not really crowded.
Morning Hike on the Trainwreck Trail in Whistler:
After realizing we couldn’t really ski before 11am due to the hard-icy conditions we started looking for other activities. We were looking online for other outdoor activities and found a unique looking trail that seemed to be low enough in the valley to be relatively snow free. Granted these trails are supposed to be buried under snow this time of year we instead encountered mostly dry paths that you would expect in early fall or late spring.
Hiking into the Trainwreck area on dirt (eerily missing any snow):
After a short hike we made it to the Train Wreck which is literally just a bunch of trains that had derailed a long time ago, fell down the hill, and now are overgrown with trees, lichen, and graffiti.
A waterfall was also along the hike making a quick pitstop on the way back. We had started early in the day and on the way back ran into a number of groups also making this hike. Luckily for us we had the place to ourselves.
After skiing one day we noticed the sunset was looking pretty and headed-out to a better vantage point to soak in the colors:
Brandywine Falls Hike in the Winter:
We had looked at the internet to see if this was possible due to the low snow, people had pictures of years past with 15-20 ft snowdrifts covering the entrance to the park. Instead we found pavement and dirt trails. Short hike to a really cool formed waterfall which is tough to photograph.
The drive back down the Sea to Sky highway reminds you of the quickly changing weather. This sign was in front of a beautiful mountain range on the way into Whistler and now you have no idea.
An Afternoon Stroll at Stanley Park, eating Sushi for Dinner, drinks in Gastown and eating breakfast in Chinatown:
In less than 24 hours we had a taste of Vancouver. Our first stop was the majestic Stanley Park with it’s beautiful seaboard trail and incredible trail through the thick forest.
The Seaboard Walking Trail is peaceful and Beautiful:
It is hard to walk by this tree’s like this and not hug give it a giant hug:
Moss Covered Trees:
We had meet-up with a friend of Caitlin’s who was living in the city and she took us to one of her favorite neighborhood sushi places. It was amazing. We followed that up by a walk to the Gas Lamp district where we cozied up for some well crafted cocktails at the Pour House. The morning was brief but allowed us a few mins to grab delicious buns from China Town and enough time to quickly walk through the area seeing several cool shops and a traditional chinese garden. Great way to end the trip!!
When: October 1st-2nd, 2014
Who: Andy and Caitlin
Highbridge Hills is home to one of the great disc golf destinations in the United States. Situated on over 500 acres this isolated complex houses 6 full courses and several additional alternate courses that use various teepads of the main courses (something like 120+ holes!). The area of Disc Golf is huge and the location is in one of the most beautiful spots in Wisconsin.
Caitlin and I were lucky to play two of the main courses there, Blueberry Hill and Granite Ridge, and get just a taste of this mecca of disc golf. We were in the area due to a wedding some of our best friends and since we were going to make the trek to Wisconsin anyways, we knew we had to visit. We spent one afternoon playing one course and one morning playing another course while camping out overnight at the complex.
Here are a few pictures from an awesome adventure. I have also included some more details to help any other people that may be planning a trek here as the details on this place are surprisingly lacking (considering it is a destination place).
We were greeted with an amazing full-rainbow on Hole #11 of Blueberry Hill on our first night (click image for full-size, basket is in bottom RH corner):
Blueberry Hills Disc Course:
We arrived to the complex after 4 hours of driving mostly country roads. We left Minneapolis after picking up Caitlin’s sister’s car in downpouring rain and we drove almost the whole time in that same rain. Miraculously it was only lightly raining when we pulled up to the seemingly abandoned course.
It was the middle of the week and it was raining so the lack of people around was not surprising. After reading every map on the wall in their unique clubhouse and realizing that the camping was in a different place, and still being unsure of what to do since we were told people would be there, we just decided that light was fading quickly and we were going to get at least a few holes completed.
We started on Blueberry Hill and after a few holes the rain lightened-up and eventually came to a halt. The views were limited but everything we did see was incredibly beautiful.
Hole # 8 played through some really cool forest into an open field and then back into the forest. Lots of variety!
After losing a disc in some really thick grass, soaking ourselves while looking for it and generally wasting a lot of precious time, we were greeted with an amazing full-rainbow on Hole #11:
The sunset continued:
We finished the round in the dark after getting confused on the course and playing a few holes of one of the other courses there. Afterwards we headed to the campground area for the night.
Granite Ridge Disc Golf Course:
We awoke Thursday morning to clouds but no rain. After a early breakfast we were on the course at 9am. Granite Ridge was my favorite of the two courses as it had quite the variety of terrain (everything from tight trees, to open fields, to doglegs, water hazards, and swamps).
Hole #7 Granite Ridge is a tricky bastard. It calls for water on the lefthand side and you can’t see this large pond hidden behind a small amount of brush. Aim right. Her disc is visible and looked like it landed right on the edge of the green; however it was <5 ft from hitting the lake.
Myself teeing off and smacking a tree on Hole #6. To provide a little context on the height of some of these amazing trees on the course:
We had pretty bad weather and luckily it cleared up enough for beautiful views of the surrounding Chequamegon National Forest. Hole #11 on Granite Ridge:
After about 3 hours of somewhat slow playing (at least 4 times looking for discs but found all of them!) we ended our round, ran into Mike and Jonathan at the clubhouse and headed on the rest of our adventure to the Lake Superior area.
We just had a taste of the courses on the property and while unlikley we will be in the area anytime soon I hope that I can come back and experience the rest of the course.
Read more on camping at Highbridge Hills, other logistics and a few more photos:Read More»
Who: Caitlin and Andy
Where: Cuidad de Mexico
When: Thursday Evening thru Sunday Morning 1/16/2014 thru 1/19/2014
What: After an amazing adventure in the Mexican State of Chiapas we decided to lay-over in Mexico City since we had to fly through there on the way home. We were very glad that we decided to spend a few days exploring the art, museums, tacos, mezcal, and local culture in this vibrant city.
Regardless of our travel experience we are always a little cautious (and potentially nervous) when traveling to a large city as they tend to have reputations that smaller cities don’t just due to the physical size and news coverage. Horror stories tend to run-rampant and every person we talked to back home generally seems concerned that we surely will be abducted by cartels with our heads ending up on a spike near the border…
So stepping off the plane and preparing for our first taxi ride into the city was a bit scary, mostly due to the zealous stories of bad-traverlers. Luckily for us we found ourselves ten minutes off the plane with taxi tickets and sitting comfortably in a new Chevy Suburban hauling us to our hotel; another crisis diverted!
Mexico City blew away all of our expectations. This is a vibrant city that is like any other big-city but with it’s own Mexican flair. Full of art, history, food, neighborhoods, and activity on every corner and street in the city.
- Hotel Room Mate Valentine – great location, next to a bunch of loud gay bars in the Zona Rosa neighborhood
- Chapultepec Castle – Old Presidential palace now National History Museum
- Zoo – Free entry!
- Diego Riveria Murals
- Museo del Templo Mayor (Aztec Temple that Spanish built their cathedral over)
- Coyoacan Market
- Anthropology Museum
- Mezcal and Tacos in Condesa Neighborhood
This trip report will be a little different, above are the main attractions that we visited and below will just be a highlight of the interesting things we saw in this really cool city.
Our hotel, Room Mate Valentine, was located in the heart of Zona Rosa which we quickly found out is the center of Mexican gay culture. This was very obvious pulling into our hotel on a thursday night with the LGBT clubs blasting their music and great people watching everywhere. Regardless the area is perfectly located and Zona Rosa is relatively nice with plenty of art and pedestrian areas.
The Art of Mexico City:
Our first full day which happened to be a Friday started with a walk to Parque Chapultepec stopping first at the old presidential palace, Museo de Nacional, which has now been coveted into a museum of Mexican history. This large building was covered in murals depicting different struggles since the arrival of Spanish conquistadors. The commanding location of the building provided a great vantage point to see this section of the city.
The Chapultepec Castle overlooking the city:
As we headed back into the park as the street vendors began assembling, we made our way to the zoo. The zoo was fantastic with a large variety of animals including several panda bears. The best part is that the zoo was free making it more worthwhile. As the day grew late we attempted to enter the Anthropology museum which for reasons unknown was closed for the day. Instead we caught a taxi to near the Zocolo to view paintings by Diego Riveria. Another free museum (the Education Building) this place blew us away with floor to ceiling paintings depicting daily life, communist ideals, and class struggle. Two large courtyards three stories in height represented hundreds of murals that Diego painted over several years.
We wandered over to the central cathedral in mexico which is just as beautiful as anything caitlin or I have seen in Europe or other places. There happened to be an Mexico City Architecture museum that we wondered into for free which showcased the history of building in the city, always an interesting thing to learn about.
As the sunset started to happen we managed to stumble upon one of the tallest towers in the area Torre Latino and headed to the top to observe this geographically massive city. After drinking some Mezcal and enjoying one of the rooftop bars we headed back to the crazy streets of the city.
A dinner at a chinese spot (maybe not the best of decisions, but we had ate sooo many tacos at this point in the trip). Delicious churros at El Moro. Walked from the Zocolo to Zona Rosa which was a decent but doable walk. We ended our night relatively early since we walked some 12+ miles that day.
The Aztec and Meso-American History:
Another morning start we took the subway/metro which was right near our hotel to the Zocolo. Much to our delight we found the subway to be incredibly easy to navigate and considering a one way ride to anywhere is the equivalent of ~35 cents.
We started this beautiful morning at the ruins of Temple Mayor. Located within a stones throw of the cathedral this massive complex was only recently discovered in the late 70s as it was previously believed to have been demolished by the Spaniards. This was one of the more interesting ruin sites we visited as it was the central location of the Aztec empire. The temple has been mostly evacuated with layers of construction removed to expose earlier and smaller temples. the largest temple would have been very impressive standing at the height of the nearby catholic cathedral. After wandering through the ruins you enter a museum dedicates to the artifacts collected onsite and the history of the area.
Once done with Temple Mayor the weather was near perfect and as a result we headed down to Coyocan square where we saw another beautiful church, san juan bautista and spent some time shopping in a pleasant marketplace.
Being tight on time we finally headed over to the Anthropology museum where we were blown away by the amazing displays, history, and culture of meso-american people. We had only 4 hrs in the museum which was barely enough time to quickly move through the extensive displays. The layout of the building was such that you spend quite a bit of time I open air or outside exhibits.
The Aztec Calendar/Sun Stone is an impressive 24 Ton chunk of rock. Commonly believed to be the calendar tracking tool it has not been confirmed as such; amazingly it was buried and lost until 1790 when repairs on the Cathedral revealed it once more:
We finished our night in the nice neighborhood of Condesa where we had our only real nice sitdown dinner of the trip, a delicious Argentinian steakhouse called Patagonia. We followed that up by drinking Mezcal served with fried crickets and apple slices. Mezcal is a new found passion thanks to this trip.
An early morning walk and we headed to the airport and were given hard evidence of the crazy traffic of the city as the ride to our hotel on a thursday night at 7pm took 1 hr and 15 mins…the ride from the hotel to the airport on a sleepy sunday took 14 mins.
Behind the Scenes Instagram Gallery:
NOTE: This is part #1 of a two part Mexico Adventure. Read about the Mexico City adventure here (coming soon).
When: January 11th thru 16th, 2014
- The Magical City: San Cristobal de Las Casas
- Another Magical City: Chiapas de la Corzo
- Horse-back ride to the city of San Juan Chamula
- Mayan ruins of Chinkultic
- Camping at the Lagos of Montebello
- 1 hr in Guatemula
- 300 ft waterfall – Cascada El Chiflon
- 3 nights in a crazy hostel for $7.50 USD/night
- 5 hrs of Caving featuring rock climbing, rappelling, and cliff jumping at Correrado
- Rock Climbing limestone cliffs at Paredes de Copoya
- Endless Supply of Street Food and Happiness
oom!…..we flinch as another loud explosion surprises us with its proximity. The hard part is telling if it the originator is a firecracker or an old backfiring VW Bug. Considering the frequency of both in the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas it doesn’t really matter.
Pictured below is the incredible city of San Cristobal De Las Casas right at sunset, situated at over 7,000ft:
It is the end of our first full day and we have situated ourselves at the top of the most prominent hill in the city predominately occupied by the elegant Guadalupe Church. This vantage point is excellent for the sunset but also highlights the cities many sounds, the most common being the unpredictable firework commonly thrown from rooftops, tossed in alleyways or lit off in the main square. Our attention is quickly directed back into soaking in the sunset just as the Sunday night catholic choir starts singing in the background.
The Colorful European Inspired street of”Real de Guadalupe” downtown San Cristobal de Las Casas:
Our first day set the pace for a furious six day trip into the wilds of the Mexican state of Chiapas. A trip interacting with the people living and surviving off of the jungle land, where we witnessed the junction of incredible wildlands with modern survival. A trip into the past and the similarities to the present.
San Cristobal De Las Casas:
Of all of the Mexican cities I have now spent time in (9 major cities), this is one of the most unique and by far the prettiest. Beautiful colonial style architecture with a mountainous jungle back-drop. The City is filled with numerous cafe-lined plazas, cobble-stoned streets full of food vendors, markets, and plenty of charm. Several times we found ourselves drinking cafe or cerveza and enjoying the sights and the common performance of jazz bands on any one of the major plazas. The Market in San Cristobal de Las Casas featuring the freshest food you can find such as recently plucked chickens awaiting the many charcoal grills:
Every meal in this city was amazing. Tacos were the specialty and it is hard to pass up “Al Pastor”, pork seared by flame and served with pineapple. Below at Tacos Del Meson the chef slaves over the heat of the grill while serving up our dinner (pineapple slice is in mid-air):
We took a horesback ride to the city of San Juan Chamula which is unique as the city is autonomous in many forms from the Mexican government. Most of this is due to the indigenous culture that lives there which is an interesting blend of Catholicism and Indigenous beliefs, as such the town doesn’t allow photography as it is believed photos rob their souls. The main church was enchanting as the dark space contains numerous saint figurines, the floors are covered with pine boughs and is filled with incense and candles. The horseback ride to the city was pretty through the countryside full of hard-working families. Lesly on her horse as we approach the city of San Juan Chamula:
Lagos De Montebello and Mayan Ruins of Chinkultic:
A long day’s drive and we finally got out to stretch our legs at the mayan ruins of Chinkultic. On the road in we made the biggest mistake of the trip by not picking up the 11 year old kid running alongside the car, corn bits and chocolate smeared on his face, trying to sell us his “guiding” services. Instead at the visitor center our selection of guides was a single toothless, middle-aged man who was a few days overdue for a shower; we respectfully declined his services and explored on our own. The ruins of Chinkultic are set high in an amazing valley surrounded by water and an elegant design. Ball courts and art with the original pigments are features in this off the path complex.
A Park Ranger sitting on the edge of the ruins that has a commanding view of the surrounding landscape:
At the end of the day we found ourselves at the lake we planned on camping at, the unexpected part was that the area you normally camp at was under water with the surrounding ground saturated. Caitlin and I scavenged for pine boughs to attempt to create a dry layer to set-our tent on (which worked quite well). We enjoyed a nice evening cooking on a campfire in solidarity on the lake.
The second day of exploring revealed these amazing Lakes:
Everyone in Mexico is Trying to Sell you Something (even building road bumps to slow you down long enough to run alongside your car), these girls were trying to sell us Catholic religion at the parking lot of one of the Lagos:
Food is always an important task while traveling and luckily for us there was an abundance of it everywhere. On the border of Guatemala we stuffed ourselves on chorizo and beans stuffed inside a corn patty while situated in a roadside shack just outside of the rain. As pointed out to us by the proud host was that the corn was directly from her small farm situated on the hill behind us. This older lady also explained to us the “reverse rainy season” where in the mountains (ie San Christobal de Las Casas) it was dry and the lowlands (border of Guatemala and our current location) was rainy. We sat enjoying a hot lunch out of the rain while this hard-working woman of Chiapas says a few words in passing to the ladies cooking our lunch:
Cascada El Chiflon:
After a cold morning exploring the Lagos we drove for a few hours to explore this waterfall park we read about. The single most amazing natural sight that we visited was the Bridal Veil Falls at Cascada El Chiflon. The hike in along the nicely paved path in the best organized park we had visited went something like this: parking lot, beer stand, waterfall, picnic areas, beer stand, water fall, water fall, zip-line, big-ass waterfall. Those beer stands were excellent on the way back!
Myself pictured below on the closest observation deck below Velo de Novia Falls (ie Bridal Veil falls) which felt like you were front-row in a car-wash with the speakers blaring:
We hiked to the top of the waterfall as well, which we found yet another waterfall!
Caving Trip to Correrado:
The path was coated in slippery mud as we pushed through the darkness. Every 10-15 mins we would encounter a obstacle that required us to rock-climb over, crawl under, or carefully traverse along with the limestone rocks coated in this thick mud making this not for the faint of heart. Of course we are deep in a ancient cave system where a river once flowed strong following a rare underground circular cave system. We were the only Americans in a group of ~12 with the others being from France, Germany, New Zealand, and Mexico with most being about our same age. Following a guide that Rambo knew from living in the city, we continued to climb-up this ancient underground waterway.
The course of events changed quickly once we rappelled into a massive underground cavern. At this point we joined up with the river and began a journey down the new underground waterway carved out by a more recent millennia of rushing water. Our first obstacle was tackled by the lone Frenchman in the group as he jumped off of a 15 ft waterfall into the dark pool below. I quickly followed to ward off the nervousness and upon splashing into the water realized this had just turned into a very fun adventure. The following several hours consisted of numerous cliff jumps (some in the range of ~40ft), rappel’s down slippery waterfalls, swimming under obstacles, shivering in the cold water, and more cliff jumps. At the large jumps we would cheer each other on and finally got the Mexican mother on the trip to take one of the larger plunges! One last rappel brought us down the final waterfall and into the mouth of the cave where we started. Exhausted, cold, and very happy with this surprise trip.
The company we used was Petra Vertical http://petravertical.com/ – very excellent guiding, just happened that RAMBO made friends with the owner while out rock climbing.
Trip Advisor Reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g150802-d3786061-Reviews-PETRA_Vertical_Adventures-San_Cristobal_de_las_Casas_Southern_Mexico.html
Climbing the Cliffs of Paredes de Copoya:
Our last day in Chiapas was spent climbing the wonderful sandstone cliffs outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez. We did some laps on routes, drank Indio, ate chips+beans+salsa, and enjoyed one last day outside.
Hiking into Paredes de Copoya we were presented with some beautiful forest:
Rambo showing us how it is done on the cliffs:
Chaipas is a beautiful place that warrants a potential spot on your list of adventures. Geographically it is spread-out, however the natural wonders of the land are quite amazing. Add in that the rock-climbing is just being established here (plenty of adventurous options) and that San Christobal de Las Casas is worth the visit by itself, and you have a deep cultural and adventure based destination.
Following-up to the mega-post on a trip to the Guancaste Peninsula, we were lucky to witness 6 distinct and beautiful sunsets. As we were located along the Pacific Coast, each night was a treat to watch the sunset. In Nosara, the sunset created a gathering of nearly the entire village with all types of people gathering each night to enjoy the last rays of light as the cool air whipped over the sand. It was a treat to see every one of these sunsets.
This is a follow-up to my detailed trip report here (which has a lot more then just pretty sunsets!): http://andylibrande.com/news/2013/07/costa-rica-tamarindo-nosara-barra-honda/
Night 1: On an Airplane somewhere between Mexico and Costa Rica:
Night 2: 1st Night in Tamarindo, Costa Rica:
Night 3: Wedding over Playa Langosta, Tamarindo
Night 4: Nosara, Costa Rica, land of long sunsets with ever-changing colors
Night 5: Nosara: Night of the Pink, Purples, and Deep Blue
Night 6: Yoga on the Beach
Please check-out the full Trip Report here: http://andylibrande.com/news/2013/07/costa-rica-tamarindo-nosara-barra-honda/
When: April 4th thru April 10th, 2013
Where: The city of Tamarindo, the city of Nosara and the Barra Honda National Park. Guanacaste peninsula, Costa Rica (Map Link)
What: A bunch of friends meeting up to celebrate Jake and Annie’s wedding while exploring a new country
he distinct smell of burning wood cuts through the jungle heat as we rumble towards another village perched deep in the countryside. This lone jungle road has us weaving through the hilly, thick-forested landscape of the Guanacaste Peninsula in Costa Rica as we head south from the city of Tamarindo to Nosara.
The previous 50 miles of road were devoid of vehicles but a highway for cow herds, iguanas, basking vultures, soccer matches, howler monkeys, and motorcycles with whole families on them. After several hours of travel, a couple points of confusion, in-accurate maps, and the occasional glance of the ocean, We turned the corner to face a pristine black sand beach just outside the city of Nosara:
This was our 3rd full day in Costa Rica with the prior few being spent in the somewhat touristy town of Tamarindo celebrating our good friends marriage. After the wedding a group of us headed south on a bit of an adventure to the vibrant, yet sleepy community of Nosara via a back-road route deep in the countryside. With 3 nights in Tamarindo and 3 nights in Nosara we just got a little taste of the good life (also know as the opt-spoken “Pura Vida”).
1st Stop – Tamarindo: Wedding, Surfing, Coconut Drinking
The first full-day of vacation and we quickly found ourselves some shade, a couple surf-boards, and cold-coconut water served in it’s shell. Gabe enjoying the easier and consistent waves of Tamarindo:
The first real evening ended with a perfect sunset, fresh seared ahi-tuna tacos, and meeting some new friends at the wedding recital party. Next day repeated with nearly the same routine: eat some pastries, make a fruit shake with tequila, go to the beach, surf, leave my debit card in the atm at the bank, burn our feet on the hot sand, enjoy life. Strolling through the town of Tamarindo:
Tamarindo is a town of transition as it becomes a world-wide destination for tourism. Less then an hour from the airport and with it’s beautiful beaches, it is easy to see why this place has become a favorite. First found by surfers in The Endless Summer, Gabe had the pleasure of meeting one of his life-long idols, Robert August, who runs a restaurant and surf-school there.
Jake and Annie’s Wedding at the Cala Luna Hotel:
A simple ceremony on the isolated beach on our second full-day finished up just as the sunset began to show it’s true colors. I set-up my gear and snapped a few shots of everyone as the sunset lit-up the ocean. Under this perfect sunset I took a lot of photos: Annie+Ashlee+Laura, Tom+Nancy, Annie+Ashlee+Laura (2nd shot), Liz+Matt+Bret, Below is a group shot (L to R: Justin/Liz/Matt/Jake/Annie/Gabe/Dani/Bret/Andy):
Gabe and Danni:
Jake and Annie:
2nd Stop – Nosara: Land of many Sunsets
It’s sunday evening and we stroll to the main beach for our first taste of Nosara, after spending the day driving there via back-roads. It appears the entire community has gathered to enjoy the cooling afternoon air highlighted by an incredible sunset. Golden hues dominated the beach as we worked our way to the rocky point to watch the sunset fall behind waves crashing. Just Another Sunset, This Time Pink, over Playa Guiones at Nosara:
Every evening the sunset lasted for-hours changing from brilliant orange, to pinks to deep blues; this is a shot overlooking the beach of Nosara:
Nosara is beautiful as all of the development is set back off of the beach. The town is stretched over a handful of roads with villas, local hotels, and restaurants tucked into the jungle. The waves were bigger and much more fierce, which everyone struggled with except for Gabe and Matt. We spent a whole day baking under the sun surfing as the high-tide rushed in. Liz Winding Down with a bit of Beach-Yoga:
While Tamarindo was a nice place to visit, Nosara is a place you come to and forget to leave.
Side-trip – The Caves of Barra Honda:
At the entrance to the park we picked up our guide, an weathered gentleman whose name translates to Saturn (Saturno). Our first objective was to hike to the cave. It was just three of us this day (Bret/Matt/Andy) and through our guide’s partial english and our partial spanish we had a very enjoyable and informative hike. Along the way Saturno pointed out trees with spikes on them, plants that smell like anise, howler monkeys, bee hives, hollow ground above other caves, and numerous other items in this unique forest.
After crawling down a 50ft overhanging-ladder (somehow Matt did this with a cast over his thumb), the massive main chamber of the cave surrounds you. The main cave called “Terciopelo” (name of the fer-de-lance snake) with the small entrance and the barely visible 40ft ladder (Cave Map photo):
Looking Deep into the Abyss of the Cave:
Luckily there was one other group of two that we did the tour with as one of them was fluent in spanish and we were able to learn specifics about the history of the caves. These limestone caves were split into a few sections that we crawled through each offering different formations ranging from large fins on the walls to typical stalagmites/stalactites.
The end of the trip we were brought to an overlook of the valley which provided us views all the way to the other-side of the peninsula to the Nicoya Gulf.
On the way home we stopped at a restaurant along the road that overlooked a valley below. Easily the most beautiful location we ate at it also had some of the best casado’s (traditional Costa Rican dish) of the trip.
“Pura Vida”, yes it is a well-overused term but after spending our evenings watching sunsets melt into the ocean, spending the days playing in the surf or exploring the various wonders of the landscape, eating delicious food, and meeting great people, you begin to understand why that phrase is so deeply rooted into this country. Overall a really easy place to travel to and to explore and a special place one should not miss!
Click below to see the Interactive Trip Map along with photos in the map:Read More»
Dates: Dec 28th, 2012 – Jan 5th, 2013 (4 days more then originally planned)
Who: Caitlin and Andy
Trip Overview: (CHECK OUT the interactive Google Map)
- 6 Days in and around Tokyo visiting Tsujiki Fish Market, gardens, temples, etc
- 3 Days traveling around Mt Fuji visiting Lake Yamanakako and the Hakone Region
- New Years Eve at Meiji Shrine
- Lots of delicious food, crazy sights, and incredible encounters in a very interesting and beautiful city
This will not be a normal blog posting where everything follows a sequence of events as we had a non-linear agenda and enjoyed some places multiple times.
TSUKIJI FISH MARKET
Forklifts whizzing by with hundreds of little carts weaving between semis, bikes, and tourists. Everything moving past us at the fastest and most efficient pace possible. Unusual smells, many unknown sea-creatures, and plenty of excitement. Visiting the Tsukiji Fish market is quite the experience. Octopus at one of the many interesting and sometimes weird stalls in the Inner-Market:
I am convinced that if this market was in any other country that was not full of people as courteous as they are in Japan, it would literally kill a handful of tourists a day. Especially considering our first visit was just days before the Japanese New Year which is Japan’s largest holiday resulting in an influx of Japanese tourists and flooding the already cramped market. One of the Many Fish Market cart drivers weaving between cars, people, large trucks, and other carts all while sucking on a cigarette and balancing a huge load on the back:
Being the world’s largest Fish and Produce market with daily sales of ~$20 million, you can imagine how many people are required to keep this large market running. Around the Outer Market is a collection of sushi restaurants which serve some of the freshest fish you can get from all over the globe. Tiny, each one seats around 15 people with lines forming very early at every door. The wait is worth it and the bowls of rice covered with huge pieces of sashimi were incredible. The Inner-Market is where all the magic happens and is only open after 9am to Tourists (the early morning Tuna-auction was closed to the public when we were in Tokyo). Walking through the massive halls of thousands of little shops was the coolest market experience I have had yet. Below is a photo at one of the many stalls with a worker delicately preparing a Tuna steak:
Hundreds of individual stands squeezed together and stretched over a quarter mile specialize in nearly every form of seafood available inside the Inner-Market in Tsukiji:
The Outer Market restaurants were so good we ate there three times for breakfast. Get here early and enjoy the experience. Waiting in line to eat some of the best sushi I have ever had, the old lady on the left directed the line of people (as many as 30-40) while the young man took everyone’s order before they entered the tiny restaurant (picture menu on the right wall):
Temples: Meiji Shrine, Yasukuni Shrine, and Asakusa
The temples in Tokyo are interesting as they all have a lot of history, but the actual physical structures are generally very new. Considering Tokyo was founded in the 1600’s and subsequently burned down every couple of years, in retrospect it is not that surprising; this required a mind-shift from my time in China when paintings/structures/art can be in their form from 1,000-3,000 years ago.
One of the downsides to being in Tokyo during the New Year was that virtually any public place (park/museum) that required a ticket or entrance fee was closed for a number of days before and after the 1st. Luckily we could work around that fairly easy and there was still plenty to do.
Asakusa is a major destination with lots of shops and a great temple to visit. Luckily this was the only day it rained and moving through the massive crowds of umbrellas was an interesting challenge:
While at the Meiji Shrine some sort of Shinto Ceremony was going on. We watched for a while as they did their blessings and prepared for the new year:
New Years in Japan is their largest holiday. Therefore we thought it would make sense to visit the largest shrine in Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine, on New Year’s eve. After an enjoyable afternoon stroll through the park we returned just before midnight to a massive crowd of Japanese and a handful of foreign tourists. A countdown happened with some drumming, but little fanfare. This photo is from right at midnight and at this point a quarter mile and thousands of people stood between us and the inner-temple; we quickly called it a night after that:
Imperial Gardens and Other Parks in Tokyo
Being the middle of winter most of the foliage was hibernating. Regardless, every park we visited was pristine and the meticulous landscaping was still an incredible sight to see.
The Imperial Garden was finally visited on the last day of our trip (day #9) as it was closed the entire time prior to that. Amazing park to walk through and I can’t imagine seeing this place with the Cherry blossoms in full bloom:
Our last day in Roppongi (day #5) we were greeted with clear skies which allowed for us to spend some time 60 floors up in the Mori Tower. Amazing to see this massive city from this height. Caitlin peering through the glass from the Mori Tower in Roppongi with Mt Fuji sticking up in the upper-left hand corner and Shinjuku city center in the Upper-right:
Mt. Fuji and Lake Yamanakako
Awaking to a beautiful day with Mt. Fuji towering over the surrounding countryside was well worth the effort of the unplanned travel. The previous 36 hours were full of uncertainty as we tried to figure out what to do in Tokyo for an additional 4 unplanned days once we realized that we could not fly standby to Bangkok . We were both pleased with our decision to visit the Mt. Fuji region and get some fresh countryside air. Mt Fuji our first morning in the area near our hotel:
We ended up walking around Lake Yamanakako which was one of the highlights of the trip. It took longer then expected as the side of lake we walked along ended up being 5 miles long and took 3 hrs to get to the next small town section. After a late lunch we stumbled upon a small shrine that was in the area. By this time we had visited a number of shrines and knew that you needed to follow a specific set of steps to cleanse ourselves. Under the helpful guidance of one of the local priests we preformed our new years ceremony which was a treat to do it in such a local spot. Afterwards I had to take a photo of the fountain that you cleanse yourself in as this one was the most unique. Dragon fountain at Yamanakako Suwa Shrine:
The hotel was a little dated but had quite a bit of character. It was a “traditional” hotel (ryoken) and had it’s own Onsen (essential a public hot-tub). Pretty cool experience and I wish we had more time to explore other Onsens. The winter is generally off-season so sleeping at night was more like camping than a hotel. However, it had paper walls which we had fun with:
Hakone Region of Mt. Fuji and Owakudani
A series of perfectly timed transportation connections was a fresh change compared to any travel I have ever done anywhere else. A local bus to a highway bus over a mountain pass to another highway bus to arrive at Lake Ashinako in the Hakone Region was the first leg of the journey. A 2.5 mile gondola ride over thermal valleys, followed by a cable-car, then back to a train that descends 2,000 ft along switchbacks, finally getting to the bullet train (aka “romance car”) back to Tokyo, where we had to take one last subway to our hotel for the night was the last leg. A miraculous day of travel that went somehow flawlessly (have to love Japan!) and along the way was full of some worthwhile sites. Crossing over one of the mountain passes in the morning had the best views of Mt. Fuji and gave us interesting views:
Along the way we saw pirate ships, feral cats preying on ducks, ate magical black eggs that extend your life by 18 years, saw thermal features and hot-springs, were 2,000 ft high above the ground, stashed our luggage in a snowy forest, had great views of Mt. Fuji, found a indoor tropical garden, and saw the ocean. A portion of the geyser field called Owakudani with plenty of Japanese tourists:
For a trip of this size we were able to make it come together with just a little bit of planning. Thanks to Japan’s efficient systems and ability to actually make tourist destinations easy to navigate we had a great time. This is an easy country to travel in and one that everyone should travel to as there are few barriers to having an amazing time. Every meal was high-quality food, 7-11’s are actually really nice, you can buy beer in vending machines on the street, and everyone we met was incredibly helpful and great to be around. Can’t wait to continue to explore this great country! Myself and Caitlin in front of Mt Fuji:
Please Expand to see the Trip Map and a Detailed Itinerary:Read More»
Dates: October 5th thru 8th, 2012 (Friday thru Monday)
Who: Caitlin and I
Roadtrip (Link to Map of Route):
- Stop 1: Penitente Canyon, San Luis Valley, Colorado = Climbing and Camping
- Stop 2: CHACO CANYON, New Mexico = exploring ancient cultures, hiking, camping, mind-exploding
- Stop 3: San Juan Mountains, Durango, Colorado = camping, Aspen leaf watching, ass-freezing
Friday October 5th, Denver saw it’s first snowstorm of the 2012-2013 year as we woke-up to a solid 2 inches of fresh on our lawns and cars. While refreshing to see some of the white-stuff it was a clear sign of a quickly changing season and forced Caitlin and I to head-up to the mountains to experience the last of the Fall season.
Based on some really quick planning and weather watching we ended-up heading south towards the border (and into New Mexico) with several different stops with some unique experiences:
Stop #1: Penitente Canyon in the San Luis Valley, Colorado
Friday afternoon we rolled into a nearly deserted campground at Penitente allowing us to be able to camp in one of the best spots. The drive in was pretty weird with Denver being ~35 degrees when we left, thick fog on HWY 285, and then clear-blue beautiful skies (plus~20 degrees warmer) once we hit Bailey; classic Colorado. Four hours later we find ourselves preparing to do some sport climbing in one of the most beautiful canyon’s in Colorado:
The weather was perfect (~70 degrees cooling down quickly), but we were able to get a couple routes in before the sun completely left the sky.
The next morning we had an incredible hike through the canyon along a trail I have never hiked. Starting off very cold, it warmed up nicely and the aspen’s back-dropped against the canyon was incredible.
We also stumbled upon an old wagon-rut in the rock from when the early Mexican settlers would use an ox and a small wagon to haul wood out of the area to their homesteads and the size of the erosion was impressive (click for pic here).
On-wards to the next stop we happened to cross over Wolf Creek Pass which had perfect Aspen colors and is a pass that everyone must see at least once during the fall leaf-viewing season:
Stop #2: Chaco Culture National Historic Park, New Mexico
The ever-present shaking of the car, mixed with the dust and grit from driving down 21 miles of wash-boarded road was not helping lift our solemn spirits. At the turn-off to the canyon was an apparent “CAMPGROUND FULL” sign and we found ourselves in the middle of no-man’s-land, bumping down a dirt-road, trying to figure out what to do. After driving 4 hours already that day we decided that we were just going to push-on and confirm if the campground was actually full. Pulling-up to the campground host at 4:45pm on a Saturday (yes our timing wasn’t the best), our suspicions were confirmed that yes, those signs were correct, however, there was a group campsite that was open and as long as no-one reserved it in the next 15 mins we could share it with the other late-comers. The Chacoan gods presented some luck to us and we had a place to camp!!!
After claiming our tent-pad we rushed over to Pueblo Bonito to experience the sunset that was about to happen. Most people had already left the area leaving Caitlin and I to run-around and experience a powerful place under a powerful sunset. Caitlin summoning the gods over the massive 5 story building with 700+ rooms and 35 kivas, built over 1,000 years ago:
The Great Kiva at Pueblo Bonito:
Caitlin and I:
Timing was again on our side and that night we went to a incredible outdoor presentation provided by park ranger G.B. Cornucopia on the Chaco culture’s obsession with the sun, tracking time, and many of the numerous questions around the park. The complexity of this culture was beginning to be revealed to us and our jaw’s were on the floor the entire time.
6:45am and the sunrise was just starting to push color into the clear skies and the entire campground was starting to rumble to life. We rushed-up to the nearest butte to experience the morning much like the Chacoan’s would have done everyday in their lives. Caitlin got really excited! Fajada Butte (a major ceremonial spot) under the morning glow:
Our major adventure of the day was hiking to the overlook’s of Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl. Viewing the sites from above provides a much needed perspective on the layout and the differences between the different sites and was by far the best views of the sites. Caitlin over Pueblo Bonito:
While on top we also visited the Pueblo Alto and New Alto sites:
Nothing is more hip then wearing Chaco’s while hiking in Chaco Canyon.
It was nearing 2pm and we rushed back over to Pueblo Bonito to have a walking tour lead by Park Ranger G.B. Cornucopia, who after 2 hours taught us more about the site and the different opinions on what it all meant then we could have ever hoped!!! Exploring the famous dark hallways of Pueblo Bonito:
We showed-up to this park with minimal knowledge of this culture and left being inspired to understand more about this unique place.
Stop #3: Lime Creek Road, Durango Colorado
It was now 5 PM on Sunday as we pulled ourselves away from Chaco canyon. With barely more then an hour of sunlight left we headed north as fast as we could to Durango. Having minimal notes on where to car-camp, we bumped up a rocky-forest service road in the pitch-black until we came to an incredible site that had 360-degree’s of star viewing right next to a pond. We quickly built a campfire, cooked dinner, and enjoyed our last night of the trip.
It got extremely cold overnight, enough to start freezing water in certain spots, but the morning sun was a nice relief as we awoke to incredible views:
Driving home over Molas Pass to Silverton, over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray (with a quick stop at Mouse’s chocolates), back through Gunnison and over Monarch and Kenosha passes, we landed back in Denver satisfied with our last-minute, but incredible trip!
When: May 18th – May 21st, 2012 (4th trip to Southern Utah in 2012…)
Who: Myself and the my Old Man
- Friday May 18th: Denver to Moab, Camped at Ken’s Lake, Watched amazing sunset at Canyonlands
- Sat: Sand Flats Recreation Area on a Polaris RZR, Drive to Lake Powell, Kayak in 6 Miles to campsite
- Sun: Explore canyon on kayak, watch the Annular Eclipse, drink whiskey, smoke cigars
- Mon: Kayak back to Hall’s Crossing, take the Ferry, drive back to Denver
The Annular Eclipse over Lake Powell on Sunday May 20th, 2012:
lanning a last minute adventure with my Dad worked out quite well. As usual we had a idea but not a bunch of details and worked on combining a day with my Cousin in Moab with watching the Annular Eclipse in Lake Powell. Moab was the first stop after a windy drive thru Utah. Working our way up to Canyonland’s National Park we ended up at the Island in the Sky and timed a perfect 1 mile hike out on the Grand View Point Overlook right as the sun lit-up all of the dust in the air:
The Old Man enjoying the view from the Grand View Point trail:
Saturday morning we headed out with my crazy Cousin Al on his Polaris RZR in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. We did all of Fin’s and Things and Hell’s Revenge. The RZR is an awesome machine and while I am not too big on 4×4/off-roading, this thing was a beast. Cruising down Hell’s Gate:
Once we had our fill of off-roading my Dad and I took off on the road to Hall’s Crossing Lake Powell. We got our kayaks together and put-in right at 6pm with less then 2 hours of sunlight left. With some info from a local fisherman we headed down to Lake Canyon hoping that we would be able to find a spot to camp that night:
Crossing the large waters of Lake Powell in a kayak is a little unnerving especially since I have 1st hand experience on how quickly the waves can build and considering the water was still very chilly (~65 degrees). Luckily the boat traffic was minimal and instead we found ourselves racing against the sunset:
Nature provided a perfect camping spot with kayak parking, a sandy tent site, and 360 degree views of the area:
Sunday was spent exploring the large Lake Canyon:
Eventually we hit the inlet and hiked-up the river (and eventually ran into some cows who were pooping everywhere):
Annular Eclipse: The Main Event
We set-up just above our campsite for some great viewage of the Eclipse which happened over a much longer period of time then I was expecting. We came prepared with our solar glasses, whiskey, and cigars:
And the Eclipse was awesome:
Monday we packed up and paddled out enjoying the smooth water and making good time. It is always great when such a loose plan turns into a spectacular trip and it was awesome spending some time with my Dad.
More Utah trips in 2012 to come!