Windsurfing Nine-Foot Waves: a Crash Course in Finding My Adventurous Side
May06

Windsurfing Nine-Foot Waves: a Crash Course in Finding My Adventurous Side

I’ve wanted to be a surfer ever since I got my first bodyboard, aged eight. I was immediately hooked: the strength of the ocean all around you, that delicious moment when the wave finally picks you up (or disappointment if you’re left behind), and that tiny twinge of fear when you’re certain the board is going to plummet into the belly of the wave, just before you pick up speed and soar towards the beach in a flurry of excitement and foam. About 20 years later, I found myself living on a beach in the southeast of Brazil, and decided it was time to make my surfing dreams come true. I tackled my new hobby with absolute conviction: I bought all the gear, hired a surf teacher, and tried out various beaches and types of boards. All to no avail. Surfing on my own turned out to be terrifying and lonely; plus, I found I simply did not fit into the local surfing culture. Blaring funk music at the surf shop and the teenage assistant’s incredulous look as I squeezed myself into a wetsuit should have warned me. Most of my fellow surfers were male, young, and completely baffled by the idea of a 20-something girl learning to surf. To top it off, I’ve never been cool, I don’t listen to reggae, and love deadlines. It seemed that, despite how much I wanted the surfing lifestyle, my personality, age, and gender condemned me to the sidelines. I gave up. And then an equally uptight, deadline-loving, writer friend invited me to start windsurfing with her. Our first lesson was disappointingly tame as we learnt basic manoeuvres and glided up and down the wind-sheltered bay. I missed the excitement of the surf and the waves, but at least there were no teenage boys staring at me. Then, one perfect, windy morning, our instructor told us it was time: we were ready to head out beyond the bay. I felt the first hint of adrenaline as he warned us of bigger waves and stronger winds. As we sailed beyond the low hills surrounding the bay, the wind and swell picked up. It became harder and harder to keep my balance on the board. My tame beginner’s sail turned into a bucking bronco. The gentle waves I became used to in the bay turned into massive breakers, unrelentingly bearing down on us from the open sea. Every wave looked like it was about to break over my head before my board crested the top and sailed down the other side. My stomach refused to get used to the movement, and lurched every time I climbed...

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3 Ways to get off the Beaten Path in Peru
Apr23

3 Ways to get off the Beaten Path in Peru

Peru is the tourism mecca, not only of South America, but the world.  It’s the type of place that you need to visit on more than one occasion.  There is just way to much to do and see in Peru to fit it all into one trip.  In fact, I personally lived in Peru for a couple years off and on and still didn’t manage to see all I wanted to.  Moreover, well Peru isn’t particularly over-touristed, you’ll serve yourself well to get off the beaten path and explore a bit of the country beyond the usual tourist haunts.  These are my three recommendations. Hike Choquequirao instead of Machu Picchu So you’ve been to Machu Picchu, cool.  Next time, head to a place called Choquequirao.  The trek is more intense and also really cool.  You’ll find yourself miles from the nearest tourists and in one of the ancient wonders of Peru all to yourself. Go to Puerto Maldonado, or Deeper into the Amazon Most tourists go to Iquitos on their trips to the Peruvian Amazon.  However, what many people don’t realize is that the Peruvian Amazon actually stretches all the way from the border of Ecuador and Colombia to Bolivia.  There is plenty of jungle worth exploring.  One of the best places to do that is Puerto Maldonado.  It’s quite expressible, and if you want, it’s a good place to start diving deeper into the jungle. Go Trekking in Huaraz The city of Huaraz is found in the north of Peru and it’s situated at the base of some stunning mountains.  From here, one could easily spend a week just indulging on adventure activities.  There’s rating, cycling, downhill biking, paragliding, and some amazing treks. Want more information on Peru? Be sure to head over to the Marca Peru website for more information regarding the things to do in Peru. ** Sponsored Post...

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Rainforest Realities
Mar16

Rainforest Realities

Shannon and I balanced on the edge of our seats like a couple of anxious race horses. After withstanding an overnight bus ride laden with food poisoning, the last thing we wanted was to wait for our driver to pick us up to continue our two-day trek into the Amazon; nor did we want to deal with the shirtless man with bloodshot eyes standing beside our table, staring at Shannon, leaning close enough to smell her hair. Shannon, Ron, and I waited in Lago Agrio, an Ecuadorian city that borders Colombia. It felt like a town of broken promises. Prostitutes lingered around corners and dogs whimpered in alleyways. No one smiled. The town served as a pick-up point for many Amazonian tours, and we reserved jungle huts at Nicky’s Lodge in the Cuyabeno Reserve. There would be no power or hot water, and the only noise would come from crickets and rain. Part of our itinerary even included visiting a family from the Kichwa tribe for an afternoon of culinary delights. Our guide, Andreas, eventually showed up to free us from this town. We clambered into the back of his gas-guzzler and hooked up our seatbelts. As someone who believes in stop signs and speed limits, Ecuadorian drivers terrified me. They enjoyed speeding around mountains on narrow streets. My eyes fixed on the town whipping past me, and my thumb found my phone’s power button, silently putting it to rest. Escaping technology for a week to live out my Pocahontas fantasy motivated me to settle whatever nasty E.coli waged war upon my gut. After a two-hour drive, we pulled up to a river bend surrounded by forestation. The air weighed down on us, and a quilt of clouds covered the sun. Motorized canoes huddled together on the muddy shore. The last thing I expected to see was a jungle-bound canoe carrying a plasma television set. My jaw dropped as Andreas listed the luxuries owned by certain jungle residents. As we canoed down the Cuyabeno River, satellite dishes clung to the passing huts. I wondered if teenagers marched past orchids with their eyes glued to their phones. Nonetheless, when my gaze dropped to the endless pipelines that ran alongside our route, it all made sense. Texaco began drilling in the rainforest in the 1960s. Lago Agrio, which translates into Sour Lake, was built for their employees. As a result of cost-cutting decisions, water became contaminated, and disease broke out among many indigenous communities. A successful class-action lawsuit was filed against the company; a decision that American courts later overturned. The major lawsuit did not stop oil extraction in the Amazon,...

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Rappelling Waterfalls in Ecuador
Dec16

Rappelling Waterfalls in Ecuador

I’m in the back of a small car, driving down a bumpy road and headed for thick jungle. I look at the girl sitting next to me — a solo traveler from Greece I met  last night — and we exchange a nervous glance. I sensed a kindred spirit in her the moment we met, sitting across from each other on a beat-up sofa in a small town in Ecuador. We were both traveling alone, couch-surfing at the same house amid backpackers from England, Argentina, and Chile. When she asked if I’d like to join her rappelling the next day, I said yes without hesitation. I’m not exactly sure what I’ve agreed to. We drive a bit further and pull up next to a wooden cabin. “Take off your clothes and put these on,” our guide instructs as he hands us our wet suits. “We’ll be walking from here.” Newly clad in our fetching suits and helmets, we begin the trek up the mountainside. I watch as our guide climbs agilely over the stones and brush ahead of us, his thick curly hair bouncing comically as we struggle to keep pace. In the distance, I can hear the sound of waterfalls rushing and colliding with boulders. The afternoon is heavy with humidity and the promise of rain. My friend and I anxiously pass the time practising our broken Spanish and drilling the young man we’re entrusting with our lives. We ask about the safety ropes, our harnesses, and the height of the waterfalls we’ll be rappelling. He answers with exuberant confidence, but I’m skeptical. “It’s not dangerous, it’s fun!” he insists. The rushing noise grows louder and we emerge from the foliage, suddenly at the top of a steep cliff. I take note of the slick, jagged rocks below, and warily eye our flimsy equipment. Our guide gives us a few basic instructions and teaches us some hand gestures for communication. He reads our terrified expressions and reassures us again. He’ll be waiting at the top and watching us carefully for any sign of distress. We stand on top of a large rock and do a few practise rounds. Bouncing off its dry surface seems easy enough, but I’m not so sure about what comes next. Edging my way carefully down to our starting point, I try to dissuade the fear I feel burgeoning in the pit of my stomach. The water stings slightly as it strikes my face, blurring my vision. I take a deep breath and focus on the mossy wall of rock in front of me, tightening my grip on the slippery cord. I exhale slowly and...

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Flip-Flopping Around Machu Picchu
Nov25

Flip-Flopping Around Machu Picchu

Accountants tend to have a reputation for being desperately dull and boring. Not so Sandro Bardelli. A true vagabond at heart, Sandro has backpacked his way around six continents, and visited places such as Borneo, Indonesia, Argentina, Vietnam, and Mozambique. “Machu Picchu is one of the most magical places I have seen — the place where I had the fortune of seeing what man can achieve against all odds,” Sandro says. Built by The Incas around 1450, but abandoned about 100 years later for mysterious reasons, Machu Picchu was left almost untouched until 1911, when the American historian Hiram Bingham stumbled across it by accident. The UNESCO heritage site contains approximately 200 buildings, including the primary structures Intihuatana (The Hitching Post of The Sun), the Temple of the Sun, and the Rooms of the Three Windows, situated in the Sacred District of Machu Picchu. The Incas quarried and moved massive blocks weighing more than one hundred tons, without the aid of wheels or iron instruments. These huge stones fit together exactly like a perfect jigsaw puzzle, without even the slightest gap between them. The area is currently at risk of structural damage due to flocks of tourists — hence, visiting numbers are restricted to 2,500 per day. Sandro and his friend, Alessandro, took the Vistadome train to Aguascalientes — the little village at the foot of Machu Picchu — before taking a bumpy bus ride up to the site. Sandro described the citadel at dawn as being “like a shimmering gem, inserted perfectly between the mountains.” At this time of day, the Incas dedication to their sun god, Inti, reveals its full splendour. Observing that most tourists were well-prepared for walking, kitted out with hiking boots and trekking equipment — some having followed the strenuous Inca Trail to get there — Sandro began to realise he was a little incongruous in his flip-flops. The citadel of Machu Picchu is flanked by two apus, or sacred, peaks. Huayna Picchu (Quechua for “young peak”) guards the northern end, and Machu Picchu Mountain (Quechua for “old peak”) the southern. Having been told the best views are to be had from Machu Picchu Mountain, which, at 1,640ft, is almost twice as high as her sister mountain, the friends began the ascent. The path consists of around 4,000 steps — “although I didn’t count them all,” Sandro says — and is formed from zigzagging, uneven stones over 500 years old. The trail ascends almost straight up for nearly two miles. The air is extremely thin due to the high altitude, and, during the two-hour upward climb, Sandro says it was incredibly hard to breathe....

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