Words cannot begin to describe how chaotic, energetic and diverse the epic city of New York is. You have to experience it to understand; you must visit at least once in your lifetime to embrace all that makes this city so awesome. The dense streets of this concrete jungle encapsulate more cultures, art, entertainment, business, money, and food than anywhere else. The thought of how to fit everything there is to do here into our measly four day stay was beyond overwhelming. From the bright lights of Broadway, visiting iconic buildings, cruising the rivers, shopping, drinking, eating, there is so much to learn and explore in this great city. Where do you start? In the centre of it all, Manhattan!
With a fascinating history, provocative architecture, dazzling beaches, tropical landscapes, a colourful culture and impassioned people, Cuba is one of those exotic countries that has all the vital ingredients for exciting travel. Throw in some Spanish colonial charm and some cool 1950’s cars and you have one very alluring destination. There is so much to see on this Caribbean island you would need months to really engross yourself in it. We only had three weeks to explore after Havana and made the most of it by visiting a combination of towns, beaches and rural areas to understand the essence of the real Cuba.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to jump back in time? Look no further than Cuba, the mysterious and controversial country where in 1959 the clock literally stopped. While the world progressed into a sophisticated hi-tech future, Cuba came to a halt. Technology, architecture, business, and infrastructure ceased to develop, the people almost virtually shut out from the rest of the world. As one of the last remaining Socialist States in the world, Cuba is a curious country with stringent living conditions and oppressive regulations under the rigorous totalitarian rule of their omnipotent leaders Fidel and Raul Castro. No where else in the world will you find predominantly original 1950’s cars on the road, antiquated stores to shop in, and an an eclectic array of pre-1960’s architecture slowly decaying as the world moves forward and Cuba stands still. Havana is the pulsating political and cultural capital of this extraordinary country, and a haven for absorbing and learning about this unusual communist world.
Finally we made it to the Caribbean. To the glistening turquoise water, sparkling sand and swaying palm trees on the north coast of Colombia. There is an abundance of stunning beaches to throw your sarong down and relax in the sun, or the Sierra Nevada mountain range where you can stretch your legs and breath in the fresh mountain air. After a very long, frightening bus ride from Medellin – we have decided Colombian bus drivers are the worst in South America – we were ready to hit the mountains and bask in the sun by the sea in the famous Tayrona National Park, the beachside towns of Palomino and Cabo de la Vela and the picturesque mountain village of Minca. We had landed in paradise.
Precariously placed on the edge of a steep gorge, and beneath the ominous monster that is Tungurahua Volcano, lays the bustling Andean mountain village, and adventure Capital of Ecuador, named Baños de Agua Santa. With over 60 waterfalls in close proximity, the mountain town has become a hot spot for tourists – people seem to be attracted to water like flies to people on a hot summers day. Modern day Baños has developed into a lively town of coffee shops, bars and adventure companies ready to push you down a waterfall or over a gorge on a rope. The gushing torrents of mountain water set the perfect scene for watery adventures from canyoning to white water rafting, whilst helping to fill the surrounding mountainsides with steep lush green vegetation. And, at just 60km from the threshold between the Amazon jungle and the Andean mountains, Baños is also the gateway to trips into the Amazon and a viewpoint to see where these two unique environments converge.
Deep within the South American continent lays one of the worlds most fascinating and enigmatic environments, the Amazon Jungle. Bizarre creatures roam the dense impenetrable forest with alien-like limbs and fluoro skin full of poison, alongside uncontacted tribes of primitive Indians. The Amazon is like an ecological war zone with every animal, plant, insect and organism defending itself against one another, battling for air, sun, water and a precarious place in this untamed wilderness. We survived twelve days travelling slowly along the Amazon River, now that we had hit dry land we were eager to launch ourselves into the depths of the unknown to learn how this fascinating ecosystem thrives.
If we told you we were going to take a boat up the mighty AMAZON River you would most likely begin concocting images in your head of a boat passing through narrow river passages, dense jungle teeming with monkey’s, birds and snakes jumping in the boat, and the murky mysterious water where giant anaconda’s and man eating Piranha’s lurk. The reality is the Amazon River is MASSIVE, and quite the contrary to your ‘wild’ imagination. We spent twelve tranquil days travelling some 6000km on two boats along the worlds second longest river from the Atlantic Ocean to near it’s headwaters in the Tri-border region of Brazil, Peru and Colombia, and even our imaginations were taken aback by the harsh reality of this now heavily populated and over-worked region.
The largest city on the planet that did not exist before the 20th century is, surprisingly, the celebrated capital of Brazil, Brasilia; a modern day urban design experiment of astronomical proportions. Designed around the scale of a car – making a walk to the corner shop an hour round trip, or just crossing the road a six lane jog – this futuristic city is a symbol of Brazil’s power and wealth. Constructed on virgin land, over an incomprehensible period of only forty-one months, this young city took over as Capital from Rio de Janeiro at it’s inauguration in 1960, since then it has grown into a wealthy centre of government and commence. With the most outlandish architecture seen in South America – think 1950’s space-age modernism – the pilgrimage to the Capital became a must on our Brazilian hit list.
The day had finally arrived. After six very patient days in the city of Ushuaia, our anticipation growing everyday, we were ready to board our boat to Antarctica, The M/V Ushuaia; an old American research vessel built in the 1970’s and converted into an expedition ship for cruising the icy waters of both the North and South Poles. The weather was terrible but this didn’t deter our excitement as we boarded the ship with backpacks full of wine, cookies and thermals, ready for the next ten days of venturing to the bottom of the world, where penguins and whales swim freely, seals lie lazily, the landscape is pure white, and icebergs are your only neighbours. This is the final frontier, the unknown. This is Antarctica!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to reach the end of the world? Well, look no further than Tierra del Fuego the southernmost province of South America and home to the “southernmost” city in the world Ushuaia, Argentina. Everything here claims “southernmost this” and “end of the world that”, it’s all very gimmicky, a nice way to get tourists excited buying up big in the souvenir stores – all that “end of the world” paraphernalia, but, at the end of the day it’s not even the southernmost point, or the southern most city. Across the Beagle Channel in Chile lies a smaller town, Puerto Williams, which is actually the southernmost settlement, and then there is Cape Horn, the southernmost point, and have we just forgotten Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands, people live there too? Whatever the classification of the city’s location, we had reached as far south as we could travel on our amble about the world…or had we?