September 5, 2007
As you have probably noticed from my lack of travel journal updates, I have been quite busy of late. I will try to quickly give broad updates about my travels since the last entry, but please feel free to speak with me about them in person or over email if you have any questions!
After visiting the Taj Mahal, I went north from Delhi to Mcloud Ganj, which is where the Dali Lama lives. Mcloud Ganj is an old British hill station and is quite beautiful when the clouds break and the sun hits the mountainside.
After Mcloud Ganj I made my way back to Delhi to catch a train to Allahabad, where I stayed with a guy I met after church one day named Vikas. It was great to get a tour of Allahabad from a local resident. From Allahabad I traveled 3 hours by bus to Varanasi.
Varanasi is an interesting place and its one of the most holiest places that a Hindu can visit. People bath, brush their teeth, swim and give offerings in the Ganges river, which is very heavily polluted. From Varanasi I traveled to Darjeeling, which is in the Indian state of West Bengal and borders the eastern side of Nepal. Since I didn't have time to visit Nepal I thought this was the 2nd best option.
Darjeeling was one of my favorite places in India for the following reasons: I tend to enjoy mountain landscapes more than the plains, it was cooler in Darjeeling, I like the Nepalese/Tibetan culture, the food is AMAZING, and I had some really amazing experiences around there. One of these experiences was when I met two american guys and traveled with them to a Nepalese Village. The whole experience was truly amazing and such a blessing.
After Darjeeling I visited a pastor and his family and I was blown away by their love and hospitality and I had a great time there.
After India I made my way to Darwin Australia and met up with a fellow photographer named Stephen Wright(from New Zealand). From Darwin we traveled south through National Parks and various towns and made it Ayers Rock, which you can see from the picture to the left. The ride down was long and for the most part the scenery did not change much, but we were able to break the monotony by stopping for pictures along the way.
From Ayers Rock I flew into Melbourne where I met up with my good friend Sam Tuttle. Sam is also an alum of Virginia Tech! After a week in Melbourne 4 friends flew in from the states and we had an amazing time visiting nearby places along the great ocean road and hanging out in the cultural city of Melbourne! Pictures from Melbourne will be up soon along with another update describing Melbourne.
June 24, 2007
I arrived to Chennai on the 9th and have been staying at a friends place. On my 3rd day in India I caught the flu and was sick in bed from Monday-Friday with body aches, headache, congestion and no energy, but I am thankful to report that my health is back to normal.
A few days ago my friends and I flew to Delhi and we met up with another friend to stay at her place. We hired an auto(taxi) and went to the Dilli Haat market and visited the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque. On our way to the Dilli Haat market our auto driver was driving fast and at an intersection he ran into a man's bike as he was pushing it. Now in the U.S. most people would stop to see if the guy was alright, but in India they drive away as fast as possible because if they stop they are likely to get beat up by the mob that usually forms around accidents. We finally convinced the driver to turn around and it turns out the old man was not hurt.
After seeing the Red Fort we searched the streets of Old Delhi for a famous restaurant named Karims. We finally found it after asking people to point us towards the "most famous kababs" . We ordered a mutton leg, chicken curry dish, vegetable puree and bread(sorry i forgot the real indian names for all those things). The meal was one of the best meals I have eaten in a really long time...so if you make it to Old Delhi you have to go to Karims.
As you can see from the picture I also visited the Taj Mahal. It was quite impressive to see it dominate the skyline and turn orange/red as the sun began to set. I wasn't too impressed with the pictures I got of it and wish I could have taken pictures at sunrise. For the sunset I tried to take the auto across the river to get a picture of the sunlit side but the traffic on the bridge was too congested, so I had to settle for a less than ideal angle, which you can see in the Agra photo gallery. In the picture you will also notice that the Yamuna river is heavily polluted with trash.
May 30, 2007
A lot has happened since my last update so let me try to catch up....
After arriving in Chiang Mai Emily, Darren, Laura and myself found a room at a guesthouse owned by "Mama Honey" as she called herself. Mama Honey was very nice and helped us in any way she could. We stayed about 4 nights in Chiang Mai. During one of the days, we rented scooters and drove outside of the city, up into the mountains to see a buddhist temple. We also drove into a small mountain village where you could pay to see opium and where we were offered stolen/fake diamonds by a few men as we browsed the local shops. Driving the scooters was a lot of fun and it was tough at first to throw out all rules of driving that I learned and have practiced since I was 16. For instance, if you are at a red light and it is not a major intersection then you don't really need to wait for the light to turn green...just go.
We also walked around the night markets in Chiang Mai and I rode an elephant outside of the city. We left Chiang Mai and took a 4 hour van ride to the border of Laos. The next morning we crossed the border and boarded a river boat. The first day was a 6 hour journey down the Mekong river to the small town of Pakbeng. The following day was an 8 hour boat ride to Luang Prabang.
On the riverboat journey you meet a lot of people on the boat. We met two brothers our age from northern Ireland named Paul and Mark. We hung out with them a lot and went to nearby waterfalls to swim for the day with them. When we arrived back in town, Paul, Mark and I asked the locals if there was anywhere we could play football(soccer). They told us about a place down the road, so we rented bicycles and rode out to it. We ended up playing in a game with the local Laos people which was a lot of fun, but very exhausting in the scorching heat! While in Luang Prabang I also woke up a few mornings at 5:15 to watch/take pictures of the monks as they walked in a procession down the road collecting offerings from the people.
From Luang Prabang I split off from the group to travel on my own because I needed to get back to Bangkok to apply for an India Visa. I took a van down to Vang Vieng and on the van met a girl from Chile named Eloisa. We rented scooters the first day we were there and drove up the road looking for some caves. We turned down a dirt road looking for one of the caves and saw a group of children. We asked them about the cave so they motioned for us to follow them. After crossing a stream and walking up a very short trail we were at the entrance of a cave. The kids pulled out a few lighters from their pockets and lit dried bamboo on fire to use as torches. The pic you see to the left is of me and one of the kids inside the cave. The group of kids then took us on a private tour of the cave....this experience was definitely one of the highlights of my trip in Laos.
Vang Vieng is a popular stopover for backpackers and it is getting built up more and more each year. Almost all of the restaurants had televisions playing movies or episodes of Friends. If you are a fan of the show Friends then you will fall in love with this town because its possible to find at least 4 different episodes playing at the same time.
May 18, 2007
I was awakened this morning by the cling-clang of the train cars as they moved with brief jerks along the tracks. As I wiped the sleep from my eyes and peered out of the window, I saw a lush green landscape of rolling hills intermixed with small houses and the occasional moped rider. "This is the real Thailand", I thought to myself.
We had left the bustling, crowded city of Bangkok the previous night and as the train slowly drifted down the metallic river into the darkness, it carried us further from the city and closer to Chang Mai. Now as the morning light revealed a crowded landscape of trees and vivid green foliage I couldn't help but smile. I felt refreshed to breathe the country air and feel the gentle wind on my face.
April 14, 2007
Yes folks, I just jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and it was AMAZING!
The whole experience was unbelievable and was over before I knew it. To be perfectly honest with you, I was not very nervous. The ride up I was busy taking pictures and when the door was opened I had a hint of nervousness...much less than I had expected. When we launched from the plane I couldn't stop smiling because I was looking at the most beautiful scenery imaginable.(Mt. Cook, NZ's highest peak and the tasman sea in the other direction) while falling at 124 mph.
When the chute opened after 45 seconds of free fall the wind stopped and it was totally silent, an impressive juxtaposition of sound and movement, which adds to the experience and gives time to enjoy the view. Unfortunately my camera was too large to bring on the flight down, so I only have pictures from in the airplane.
If you haven't been skydiving before than you should definitely go!
*Pics under 'Skydiving at Fox Glacier' gallery
April 13, 2007
A few weeks ago, while I was staying at the Laughing Kiwi hostel in Motueka and talking with the manager, I asked her if there were crampon rentals at Franz Josef Glacier. She told me she was unsure and disappeared into her office. A few minutes later she approached and handed me a pair of instep crampons that were left at the hostel. I thanked her and unsure if they would be suitable, I put them in my car until I would need them.
I arrived at Franz Josef in a downpour of rain and checked into a hostel to wait for better weather. The next day was beautiful but I did not get out to the glacier until 3:00 because I was taking care of photo business and emails. When I arrived at the glacier it was cloudy and I knew I would need to come back for some better photos. The trip that day was not a total waste though because I tried out my crampons and decided that they would work to climb the ice.
The next morning I returned to a beautiful blue sky and perfect conditions to get out on the glacier. One of the signs you pass as you get to the glacier says to only approach if you are guided or have experience ice climbing. I did not have any glacier experience, but I figured that I would be surrounded by guided trips if anything were to happen to me. With this in mind, I did what you should always do in unfamiliar situations.... pretend that you just spent the night at a holiday inn express and you are a master of knowledge and experience in the subject of your unfamiliarity. As I passed guides we would exchange a friendly "gday mate"..."Hows it going" and they would comment in passing that I was wearing "insteps" (This is how I learned the formal name of my type of crampon..everyone else had on a different style). I would confidently nod that I was indeed and would think to myself how I was very "old school" wearing these outdated crampons which had character and a gave me a sense that I most certainly was an experienced glacier climber. On the glacier I also did some networking by passing out business cards and taking a group photo of one the the guided trips.
Overall it was a great day and there was something supremely satisfying about taking a little risk and setting off on my self guided glacier trip (I only recommend this to experienced ice climbers), exploring new territory, standing on ice 12 times more dense than ordinary ice cubes made in a freezer and saving 120 dollars. The moral of the story goes like this: the next time you don't know what to do or how to act in a situation just remember....you stayed at a holiday inn express last night.
*Pics under 'Franz Josef' gallery
April 4, 2007
I arrived at Nelson Lakes National Park yesterday and decided to do a 2-3 day walk. For the night I slept in Lakehead hut and today I decided to cut the trip short because it was rainy and cloudy. After arriving back to my car and talking with a fly fisherman about the Owen river, I decided to try fishing it. When I got to the river and set up my tent, I walked through a field and arrived at a nice looking hole. On my second cast I hooked this nice brown trout. After I filleted the trout and cooked him in butter and spices, I enjoyed the meal sitting beside my campfire and watching the stars. You can see more pictures in the "Nelson Lakes & Karamea" gallery.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Dream. Explore. Discover.
- Mark Twain
March 22-24, 2007
For these three days I was on a kayaking trip in Abel Tasman National Park. The trip was one of the sweetest things I have done so far in NZ.
On our second day kayaking we went into Shag Harbor. In the very end of the harbor there were about 10 baby pup seals swimming around. As you can see in the picture we decided to get out of the kayaks and swim with the seals. They came so close that we were able to pet them as they swam by. It was such a cool experience!
When we left the harbor and began traveling up the coast again, four bottle nose dolphins swam next to us for about 20 minutes.
Check out the pictures under the Abel Tasman Gallery!
Friday, March 16th, 2007
First I would like to wish my brother Caleb a happy 22nd birthday. Wow we are all getting old....
This picture was taken on the ferry from the north to south island. I arrived into the small town of Picton on Monday. From there I drove to Kenepuru sounds. I left the next morning and on the way out was able to get some cool shots of a rainbow over the sound(see galleries section).
I arrived to the town of Nelson on Wednesday and I have been staying at a hostel since then. I spent the other day catching up on emails and designing a business card with this website address on it. The printing finished today so I can begin giving people my card, instead of writing out the address all the time.
Tomorrow I will be driving north past Takaka and to Golden Bay. On the way I will be stopping to see the New Zealand's largest springs...if I remember my reading correctly, it spits out 14,000L(3,698 gallons) of water per second.
February 28 to March 2, 2007
During these 3 days I backpacked one of New Zealand's designated "Great Walks", the Northern Circuit in Tongariro National Park. This walk takes you past the volcano named Mt. Ngauruhoe, which you might recognize as Mt. Doom in the Lord of the Rings films.
The first day hike took about 4 hours at a speedy pace. It was cloudy and misting, so when I arrived at the Waihohonu Hut I paid an extra 5 bucks to sleep inside so I wouldn't have to set up my tent in the rain.
Day two: I learned that you cannot trust the weather forecast for Tongariro National Park. The forecast read: "Fine with a few showers possible". I guess that was accurate if fine is considered very cloudy and a few showers means rain all day. I was thankful that it wasn't a pouring rain, just a constant mist. I arrived at Ketetahi Hut at 4:00 and changed into some dry clothes. While I was sitting around chatting with some other trampers(hikers) some trail workers brought in 3 dinner plates of meat and mashed potatoes because 3 workers left before dinner. The dinner was delicious and gourmet compared to my planned dinner of Ramen Noodles.
Day 3: I was planning on leaving from the Ketetahi Hut and go straight to the parking lot an hour away because I figured it wasn't worth a 4-5 hour hike if it was going to be cloudy all day. Before I made a final decision, the clouds in the valley began to clear and I could see some blue ski so I packed up my stuff and started hiking the Tongariro Crossing section of the trail. When I arrived at Emerald Lake the sun broke through the clouds for one minute allowing me to get a few good pictures. From there I continued up the volcano. As I made it to the highest point on the hike, the weather went from misty, breezy and cool to rainy, windy(20-25 knt winds) and cold. After walking through those conditions for an hour while descending the mountain, the weather finally calmed. When I made it to the parking lot, I hitchhiked back to the visitor information center where my car was parked.