We had backpacked our way into and out of the Grand Canyon, and hiked along the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park, so we were looking for a little something different along the Appalachian Trail. It turns out that the Appalachian Trail Club maintains a series of Huts along the AT. The huts we decided to go to were in the White Mountains of New Hampshire along the Southern Presidential Range. Of course, getting there was half the fun. We were scheduled to fly into Portland, Maine, but the pilot couldn’t get the plane on the ground and had to divert to Manchester from where we took a bus to Portland. Needless to say, we arrived about 3 hours later than expected. We were driving a rental over to Conway and spending the night in a Bed and Breakfast before heading up to ATC Lodge, however, we had no illusions that the doors of the B&B would be open after midnight, so we called ahead to the Bernerhof Inn and told them we’d be late. They left a key outside in a secure place for us and we let ourselves in to the house in the middle of the night. We met our hosts the next morning and were very grateful. There are nice people all over the world and these innkeepers are some of the nicest.
The next morning we went for a local hike to a state park near Conway, then headed up to the ATC Lodge to meet our group. Early the next morning we crossed the road and headed up the access trail to the AT. Look and the picture and tell me that access trail doesn’t look like a land slide
The Amazon River lodge where we stayed caters to an international clientele. In the open boat that we used to get around in, our group of travelers included a 20 year old British girl seeing the world on her own, a German couple, myself and two sisters, a young man from New Jersey, and three Italian young men. Guiding the boat with the handle of the outboard motor was our Brazilian guide, Jorge, and his young assistant. The common language was English so we had no trouble understanding at least the words. Jorge ferried us along tree lined passages, through grass meadows growing in the water until we reached the open water just below the tower room that the girls and I stayed in. Heading up stream he came to a small town: a mission, a store and some houses. Along the banks, cows and pigs stood ankle deep in the water. Jorge explained that occasionally, one would fall victim to the teeth of the river, but, they had to drink. The people who lived there dressed no differently than people you might see in any rural area. In fact when we got out of the boat and walked along the trails through the rain forest, it looked amazing like the Southern US, except the trees seemed taller.
We then took in a ceremonial dance at another village. The villagers pulled the front of the boat up out of the water and invited us through the thatch hut village to a lodge. Along the way, they pointed out a snake skin stretched out on a split log. The skin was easily 18 inches wide and 14 feet long. Apparently, the predator had been caught feasting on a domesticated pig. Inside the lodge the dim light revealed several young Brazilian men and women in what passed for tribal garb: loin cloth, bare breasts, and feathers in their ample hair. We tourists were seated around the periphery of the lodge while the ritual dance was performed. Then they invited some of us to join in. Of course, I did.
Piling back into the boat, Jorge asked if we wanted to go to the beach. Laughingly, we affirmed that we did. He turned the engine up and headed back downstream to a cove with a sandy bank that looked very much like the place where we had fished for piranhas. He said he could put us out on the beach or we could swim to shore. No one seemed enthused about going ashore. Then he said that we could swim from the boat, but not to get into the water if we had any cuts or scrapes that might bleed. About that time, his assistant dove overboard. I told the sisters that if it was ok for him, then I was going to go in as well. The Italian guys heard this and laughed saying “No guts, Mr. Brave American!” Since they had called my bluff, I had no choice, so stripping off my shirt and handing my glasses to the girls, I slipped over the side into the dark waters of the Amazon and swam away from the boat. It was a little disconcerting, but I looked back at the Italians and said: “Your turn.” They stayed in the boat, but the German guy and the kid from New Jersey jumped in as well. I’d had my fill of the foolishness pretty soon and pulled myself over the side of the boat with more than just a little relief. The others followed close behind and the Italians just muttered: “Crazy.”
The Mayan Calendar is said to be nearing the end of a “long count”, which is believed by some to signal an apocalyptic change. On one of our trips to the Riviera Maya, we visited Chichen Itza which contains the ruins of a city from over 1500 years ago. While the Europeans were suffering through the Dark Ages, along the Yucatan Penisula and across Mexico a civilization was flurishing that had incredible astronomical knowledge. For example, at Chichen Itza you can see a four sided pyramid that has 365 levels from top to bottom. Known as the Pyramid of Kukulcan, this remnent from the lost civilization is laid out such that two of its edges have carved serpents heads on the lowest level. On the Spring and Fall equinox, the shadows of the pyramid levels falling on one another along the edges form the shadowy body of the serpent coming down the pyramid and the ending at the sculptured head. If you go back to the long count on the Mayan Calendar, a recent explanation helped understand what the long count relates to: when the earth in its transit crosses the mid-pooint of a glactic or universal divide. Apparently it does this every 5,800 years. So, how did the Mayans know this? Or is this just coincidence explained by science?
At any rate, this year might be a good time to take that Vacation to Cancun or Puerto Morales and run down the road to Chichen Itza. If you do, plan for a full day and then you won’t see it all. In addition to the Pyramid of Kukulcan, there is also an ancient stadium at which the teams competed for honor in a deadly game resembling Lacrosse. Within walking distance is an observatory housing and Cenotes in which cerimonial sacrifices were made. I’ll come back and write about these on another day.
A backpacker’s life is probably not complete without a trip to the Grand Canyon. We decided against Bright Angel Trail which heads down from the south rim a the lodge and main tourist area, but, we didn’t really want to take off into the Canyon alone. The solution was REI. http://www.rei.com/ We had gotten most of our backpacking gear, technical clothes, backpacks, and cycling supplies from REI so as members we get their promotional mailers and emails. We were hooked on the 3 day backpacking in the Grand Canyon as soon as we saw it. REI proovided the tents, food, and two guides Tom and Todd who met us at the campground at the south rim. After dividing the gear to be carried and assigning us tents, they prepared the first of our amazing meals and told us to hit the sack because we were starting down early the next day.
And so we did, heading off into the Canyon at Grandview point down the Grandview trail. The first few miles were a continuous downhill with switch backs, amazing views and incessant chatter from the excitement. The first goal was Horseshoe Mesa that we were looking down on and as an added bonus, a cave in the side of the mesa. We reached the Mesa in a few hours and numerous cut backs. The trail further down into the the Grand Canyon passes the remnants of a house and storage area and bears off to the east. A less distinct trail heads off to the west then turns south down to the edge of the mesa. A narrow trail leads around to a shelf where double entrances to the cave are set back from the cliff face. Inside the cave is a log, presumably so that if you don’t come back to the entrance, they’ll at least know where you wound up. Leaving the cave, we headed back across Horsehoe Mesa and drop down 800 feet through the Redwall Limestone. Well, it feels like you are going to drop. The problem is your backpack rubs against the wall and urges toward the empty air that is only inches away from where your feet are trying to land. Don’t let anybody tell you going uphill is harder. Going down a trail like this is far more exhausting.
One of my goals was to see at least one great river on each continent. I had seen the Mississippi several times, so the next closest was the Amazon. The Amazon basin is vast, with two rivers joining at Manaus, Brazil to form the combined Amazon River that empties one third of the earth’s fresh water into the Atlantic Ocean. Manaus is roughly one thousand miles from the coast. We flew into Mansus and took a river boat upstream along the Rio Negro to the Ariau Towers. You can find their site at http://www.ariauamazontowers.com/. If you visit the site you will see that we weren’t really roughing it, nevertheless, it was an amazing adventure. We had a room in a tower located about 3/4 mile away from the main complex, where the food, medical and small store was located. To reach the room we walked our luggage along an elevated wooden board walk, that had two levels: one for the dry season and one for the wet. We were on the upper level so part of the time there was water below us. The room was spacious with a queen bed and a twin bed and private toilet and shower. There was another room below us but we never saw the occupants. A screened porch gave a rocking chair view forty some odd feet above the jungle floor.
We met our guide Jorge back at the main building along the dock where he directed us and about 8 others into an open boat with a outboard on the back. We headed out onto a river so wide you could barely make out the other side. Half an hour later, Jorge eased the boat into an open area among some tree tops and we picked up our poles, literally ten foot long tree tops that had a t of monofilament attached, a steel leader at the end of the mono-filament and a hook at the end of the leader. Jorge had a supply of bloody beef cubes about the size of the end of your little finger with which we baited the hooks. Jorge watched with amusement as we dropped the hooks into the water and nothing happened. ” You have to make some noise. Splash the water with the ends of your poles.” Then he said to pull up the poles. All the bait was gone. He said that there were so many of the fish and their teeth so shaarp that you had to be very sensitive to feel them bite and then set the hook. We re-baited and Jorge pulled in a Piranha. I pulled in the next one.
The fish were not very big, but the teeth looked as big as the teeth on a carpenter’s saw. Jorge and I caught a couple more and it was time to go. Jorge said we could swim in the river downstream if we liked, but, not to get into the water if you had an open wound or scrape because the blood would attract the fish. We ate the fish for dinner and defered the swim until the next day.
Posted in Travel
Tagged Amazon, Travel
The National Parks are an amazing treasure. A Rocky Mountain National Park not be missed is Glacier National Park located in northern Montana. We probably have as many pictures taken in Glacier as anywhere we’ve visited. Words are not enough.
Seer had always talked about going to Capri, but neither of us are shoppers. We checked the island off the coast of Italy out and decided it would be a fabulous place to spend a few days hiking. No backpacks or camping, instead we would find a hotel and explore the island on foot. At the east end of the Island is the Villa Jovis, ruins of an ancient Roman party palace. Rising more than 2000 feet in the center of the island is Mt. Solara. We figured we could stay in between and easily hike to both.We booked airline tickets using frequent flyer miles so the story of getting there is where we’ll start.
We had a layover in Philadephia before the alnight flight to Milan. I know Capri is off the coast from Naples. We had to fly from Milan to Naples on a AirOne, a regional airline. If you ever go to Milan, follow the herd getting off the airplane. We were supposed to pick up our boarding passes for AirOne in the airport. Getting off the plane the signs said Baggage Claim and connecting gates. We only had carryon items so we didn’t need baggage claim. Granted, the hallway to baggage claim was lit and the hallway to connecting gates was dark, but there were a couple of uniformed guards by the access, so as everyone else headed toward baggage claim, we walked over to the guards and explained that we needed to get our tickets at AirOne. He didn’t know what we were talking about, but after looking over the itenerary in my hand, he let us through a turnstile to a hallway and stairway that lead to a large waiting area adjacent the duty free shop. Spotting the information desk, we confidently asked for directions. The maid who was cleaning up told me the staff would arrive in half an hour, so we could take a seat. When, the next attendant arrived, She looked at us as if we had extra heads and informed us, she did not know of any AirOne, but we could ask the ticket agents at the kioks at the gates. Note that we had not gone through customs, had not shown our passports to any one and were wandering around an Italian airport with no clue as to where to get our tickets for the next flight.
Seer and I, along with two sisters, decided to combine cycling, travel and the fall foliage of Vermont. We didn’t want to ship the cycling bikes so we contacted POMG Bike Tours of Vermont at http://www.pomgbike.com/ and arranged everything except the airline tickets. We went in October and the foliage was amazing. The cycling bikes Rich and Jenny provided were in great shape and had toe clips, although you probably would want to take your own pedals and clip system as well as your own seat. Rich rode with us and Jenny drove the SAG truck as needed. Our accommodations were in Stowe, so that was our starting point, dinner and rest destination each day. I’m not sure what hills we climbed but Rich called them Ekk and Oh, My God. They weren’t really difficult and didn’t really require cross-training, aka walking the bike up the hill, but we were assured that the LAMB gaps trek would test your cycling mettle. Over dinner we discussed that more challenging route and an alternative where only two of the gaps per day were ridden. I think Rich called it the LAMB Chop.
More to come
I’m the Traveler at Goneguru.com. My wife is the Seer. Together and separately we have had the great good fortune to have hiked, biked, run, traveled and enjoyed such places and things as: backpacking in the Grand Canyon, the White Mountains, Cumberland Island; hiking along the Appalachian Trail, along the Highline in Glacier National Park, to the top of Mount LeConte in Tennessee, and along the coast from Villa Jovis to Marina Piccolo on the Isle of Capri. One or both of us have traveled to Rome, Venice, Florence, Gibraltar, Madrid the Coast of Spain, Costa Rica, the Riviera Maya, San Diego to Maine, and Alaska to St. Thomas. We’ve swam with Pirranha’s, snorkeled on Caribbean reefs, and ridden our bicycles from border to border. We’ve done tri-athlons, du-athalons, half-marathons and the Peachtree Road Race. All of this requires a great appreciation and love of food and travel and most of all meeting people. We intend to recreate our travels for our readers, to share our experiences from the past and future, and hopefully meet up with you along the way.