Moo

October 25, 2013

The Wild Wonders of Brazil – Part two

Jaiburu, the largest stork in the world, nesting in the Pantanal

The Pantanal. I know you’ve never heard of it, but this is the coolest place you’ll ever go. I’ve ruffled a few feathers here in the office with my suggestion it just might be more awesome than the Serengeti….

For starters, the Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical¬†wetland covering as much as 75,000 sq miles, 80% of which is submerged during the flooding season. All of this water nurtures an astonishing collection of flora and fauna. Without the dense jungle of the Amazon, your ability to actually witness this population is guaranteed. Imagine 1000 different kinds of birds, 300 types of mammal, 480 reptile species…. right in your back yard.

On the drive from the city of Cuiaba to the lodge we didn’t have to go far before stopping to gasp at ¬†hundreds of caiman and storks and egrets, just enjoying life right there on either side of the road. When I arrived at the lodge a Hyacinth Macaw swept in as if to greet me.. A wild one. Hundreds of birds – cardinals, parrots, finches, chacalacas, ¬†currasow, herons, jacana – flit through the property. Five paces outside my cozy room was a marshy pond overflowing with caiman and capybara. One of those capybara kept moseying on over to the pool area for a nap on the warm pavement. And all around was an open vista of fields, with towering termite mounds, palms, and many trees in brilliant bloom. Somewhere out there were deer and tapir and bats and jaguar and puma and armadillo and giant anteaters, and I got to see many of these species over the next couple of days. This is magic-land!



October 19, 2013

The Wild Wonders of Brazil, Part One

Blue Skies and Rainbows!

Brazil is such a huge country, it’s no wonder I really didn’t know what to expect before I went the end of the summer. OK, I kind of knew that Iguassu Falls was designated one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Now I know why!

Starting with the facts, consider that Iguassu is wider than famed Victoria Falls in Africa, and higher and twice as wide as Niagara Falls. (Eleanor Roosevelt saw it and declared “Poor Niagara!”) It has the second greatest annual flow of water of any waterfall in the world. And because of its shape, like a horseshoe, it offers better vistas and views than any other waterfall (Vic Falls can only be seen in its entirety from the air!). The National Park tops that off with a terrific infrastructure – plenty of food and bathrooms, good walkways and balconies, and on the Argentina side much of it handicapped accessible.

Yes, there are two sides and it is totally worth seeing the falls from both vantage points. In Argentina I began with the trail to Devil’s Throat where a half mile walk takes you past vast amounts of water flowing at an ever increasing rate towards the falls. Think: a raised walkway across a giant lake. And then up ahead, the sound becomes greater, the current runs faster, the spray of water more dense…until you are getting soaked from the explosion of mist created by the crashing falls. Wow! This required several minutes of speechlessness during which I became pretty much soaked and didn’t care a bit.

On the Argentina side there is also a walk along the Lower Circuit where you feel a part of the pounding of the falls, and on the Upper Trail with its dramatic views of the long veils of water from over 200 falls. Both of these walks are easy, though there are a lot of steps on the Lower Trail.

On the Brazil side – the next day – I found I was really ready for more. From this vantage point you get a better panoramic view (since most of the falls are on the Argentina side), but still there are viewing platforms where you can get up close to feel the massive power of the water – and get wet too! Again, the paths are well maintained and easy to navigate.

Breathtaking, magnificent, other-worldly, magical, spiritual, musical… it’s hard to find the words to describe the power Iguassu Falls will have over you. Don’t miss it!



May 23, 2012

Top Five Spots for Teens and Older

The 'kids' bonding in Tanzania

Want to know what’s hot for you and your teenagers and graduates? Here are some great ideas for you to consider while trying to keep everyone happy.

1) Panama. Now, we don’t CALL this a teen trip, but really older kids are perfect for this adventure. With excitement like zip lines and white water rafting it has adrenaline pumping action. And with the engineering marvel of the canal, and the cultural attraction of the Embera tribe there is plenty of sophistication for your kids, and you too! Our guides will engage your family, and you’ll go home with memories you never dreamt of.

2) Costa Rica. This stands by as our most popular family adventure, and the benefit of having older, more tolerant kids is your ability to head to the remote region of Corcovado National Park. It’s far away, out there, and oh so worth it to get to. Surfing, hiking, snorkeling

3) Tanzania. A safari is a sedentary adventure by nature but our Active Safari takes every opportunity for you to stretch your legs and challenge your pre-conceptions. Bike at Gibbs Farm, enjoy walks and village visits at our exclusive private nature refuge, and hike partway up Mount Meru to overnight in a hut before hiking back down the next day. Interspersed with world class wildlife viewing, this adventure will stay with you forever. (And if this isn’t enough you could always think about a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro…….)

4) Peru. You don’t need to fight the crowds on the famed Inca Trail hike into Machu Picchu in order to appreciate all of the wonders Peru has to offer. In fact, we beseech you to NOT join that rat race. Come try some undiscovered trails, and enjoy world class hiking and gorgeous landscapes on trails where you may not see any other people, short of local farmers and their llamas. A Peru Trek can be the way to reassess your life while your older children begin to define their own lives. Prefer the comforts of a hotel? It’s easy to avoid the camping and still enjoy daily explorations. Let the energetic, able bodied kids do the hiking, and you can simply sit and contemplate the beautiful landscape. Want top of the line? Try our Smithsonian Peru Adventure, including Lake Titicaca.

5) Galapagos! Whether you opt for a stint on a luxury catamaran or a unique opportunity to sleep in the islands themselves, the snorkeling, biking, and kayaking in the Galapagos is fabulous. Never just a beach vacation, this is a sophisticated exploration to challenge your mind. Did you know there is wildlife here you just won’t find anywhere else in the world? Come visit these volcanic islands for the chance to think differently.

6) You know me, it’s hard to stop myself. Last summer I went with my kids (18, 22, 25) to Thailand and we had the best time ever. Culture, cities, villages, hiking, zip lines, rafting, elephants, Buddhism, food, massage, wow. A fabulously exotic place that is so warm and welcoming, you might never want to leave.



July 7, 2011

How to Build an Adventure

Fly 6 hours to London – amazing how close it is, right?

Spend all day in London. Maybe you meet up with a friend like I did, maybe you head into Windsor Castle or maybe you hang at Heathrow. I do recommend paying 17.95 GBP for three hours in the Executive Lounge. Very civilized, and free wireless too.

Then fly 3 hours to Helsinki, Finland. Suddenly you are surrounded by blonde haired, blue eyed travel companions.

Connect smoothly to your flight to Bangkok; just another 7 or 8 hours.

Stumble into Suvarnabhami airport, one of the most bustling and perhaps chaotic airports I can remember. Go through customs and immigration, collect your bag (it made it!), find yourself surrounded by people wanting to get you a cab, a massage, a tour. But all you want is to figure out how to get back to check in for the next flight!

Up to the third floor to the check in desk. But they won’t take the ticket you bought online because you don’t have the same credit card with you. Go to a different counter to refund the original ticket, and buy a new one at the same price. Back to check in, through immigration again, through security again, to the gate for the 45 minute flight to Siem Reap.

I’ve learned the Airport Thais are indeed as gracious and soft spoken as I’d read. The Airport Cambodians are gruff and abrupt and have scowls on their faces. Tomorrow I am sure I will learn more as i venture out into the streets with my guide.

Right now? I hear the call of my choice of TWO channels of karaoke on the hotel television!

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June 27, 2011

Listen to Me!

Always good to check in at a travel clinic before you travel

I’ve worked in travel for over 16 years, and I’ve been to Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. So you might think I have this travel thing down, right? Heh.

I leave for Cambodia and Thailand in 10 days. I’m asking people for packing tips. Worrying about exchanging money. Wondering how long my shorts need to be. Thinking about vaccines. So I called my trusty travel clinic. I like using the travel clinic. Usually covered by my health insurance, they have everything you need right on the spot and the specialists know everything. Of course it’s a bit of a downer too – it is, after all, their job to protect you from every conceivable deadly disease and most of them you just don’t really want to even know about. I often wonder what they would recommend for travel to my neighborhood. But I digress….

Long story short… No available appointments until after I return. Beth (who is headed to China) uses a different clinic that doesn’t have anything until August. If you’re interested in learning from my mistakes (I encourage this) you will not put off making that appointment until it is too late. Please call WAY in advance, and make an appointment for about a month before you travel.

As for me, I’ll take plenty of bug spray along with me and muddle through.



June 23, 2011

Graduations: Love them and Weep.

A gift from kindergarten

When my #2 child Mira was in kindergarten, she painted this little clay pot which held just one spindly piece of cactus. It has been my treasure for, oh, the last 16 years (this pot is only about an inch across, and the cactus is bursting out of it). And so now, as my #3, and last, child Leo graduates from high school and I contemplate a long over due repotting – I find an analogy!

Yes, our kids are like plants you love, water and nourish. And yes, they will grow even if you don’t buy them the next size up. But eventually you see they get pretty stifled if not given their freedom to blossom at their own pace.

This is what I thought about after witnessing Leo’s high school graduation. We just dont have a choice.

In our family, travel has been our gift to each other. Opportunities to see a bigger world, to learn new languages and new cultures. Through these opportunities I’ve seen Milo, Mira, and Leo gain coinfidence, be open and curious about people different from themselves, and be welcoming to all ages from all walks of life. As a client said recently, a family adventure is not just a vacation, it’s an experience. We have been so lucky to have those experiences.

And now, perhaps as my pay back for instilling the love of foreign lands, I’ll send this boy off to Madrid for his freshman year of college. I have no doubt is he far more ready than the average 18 year old to drop into a country where he doesn’t speak a word of the language. Thank you ThomsonFamily Adventures, and all of the guides, mentors, and travel companions who have given him, and all of my kids, a great education over the last 8 years.

After I drop him at the airport in August I think I’ll go home and re-pot that cactus.



March 18, 2011

What happens at a Farewell Dinner?

Luckily on our Baja Family Adventure we had Emily along. Energetic and creative, she was happy to take on the art supplies and give life to the special awards we had been discussing throughout the week. You know, who excelled at what. It did seem that each of us had a special skill or contribution to the trip. Emily really knew how to put it into writing.

So at our farewell dinner, amongst the excellent appetizers and dinner, the fresh squeezed limonada and local cervesas (and yes, I did enjoy a jalapeno margarita) Emily made a great presentation of our awards. Hers was for horseback riding – galloping on the beach was her favorite moment of the trip – but maybe we should have given her something special for creativity, eh?

Our family adventure would not have been complete without each person who was a part of our awesome group. Thank you Emily, and thanks to everyone for a great time! (See below for the full list)

Best Surfer : Tripp

Best Soccer – Owen

Most humorous – David

“Look mom I can Gallop” – Emily

Best photographer – Heather

Best Protector of All – Peggy

Best Hiker (and finder of cactus!) – Mauricio

Pied Piper – Sergio

Best videographer – Moo

Best Travel Companion – Mira



March 18, 2011

Back at the Ranch…

So after the kayaking and soccer, then a sleepy drive back to Todos Santos we slipped back in to our lovely casitas and enjoyed the pool and sunset on our last night



March 18, 2011

Killer Kayaking @ Beautiful Balandra Bay

Thursday: (Sorry I am out of date – just too much to do here to spend time on the computer!)

Balandra Bay is a thing of beauty. Clear blue water, and shallow enough to walk forever (thankfully our guides told us how to shuffle our feet so we would not be stung by sting rays; others were not so lucky) Kayaking here is easy on the smooth water, and the kayaks are steady. Though if you fell out you’d just stand up and climb back in. I think the boys did that a couple of times. We took off for a nice paddle around the bay and down into narrow lanes of mangroves – such awesome and peaceful beauty with egrets and herons gracing the shoreline. Our lunch spot was on top of a steep dune (can you guess how many times the kids ran and rolled up and down it??) overlooking the bay. We could see the tide going out – and in fact ended up having to pull rather than paddle the kayaks for the last 20 feet to ‘shore’. In no time the bay became the perfect field for an impromptu game of soccer….. then the ride back to Todos Santos became the perfect opportunity for a bit of a snooze!



March 16, 2011

Cliff Walk + Awesome Views = Full Heart

Yesterday I think I forgot, that if you are going to walk along the top of a cliff to enjoy amazing views, you first have to climb to get there. I am relatively NOT in great shape, as has been proven in the last few days. My legs are feeling, well, more alive, and it has been worth every muscle I had to wake up. The dogs came along too which was a blast, and we all remembered to drink lots of water. In Baja they say “the sun is our enemy….”