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Hello and thanks

Hello everyone. It’s been a while. Just thought I’d pop into the blog and thank people for viewing the stuff we posted over our journey. We’ve had a few setbacks in terms of being able to travel again… but hopefully in the future we’ll begin again, and bring you all along with us (in spirit, we don’t have enough luggage allowance to fit you all in) on our adventures. So thank you all again and enjoy the posts. I get a kick out of reading them again myself; I’m transported back in to those amazing places we visited. Enjoy!! And thanks for your comments!
Best
Doug


2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,200 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


May 1st 2012 – Tikal, Guatemala

We were up at 4am for this trip! Two reasons, to try and escape the heat of the afternoon, and also you see more wildlife early in the day. we were in the park by 6am, but its so massive (550 sq km) the bus took another 20 to 30 minutes to get us to the main complex area. First thing was a cup of coffee! Then we headed out on our own (no guide as we wanted to go at our own pace) down one of the outer tracks. Its an amazing place early in the morning. We started to see wildlife almost immediately, and came on a group of coatis (a relative of the racoon)playing in the trees just to the side of the track. We saw a large male a bit later – you could smell him as much as see him as he was scenting everything. Did I say racoon or skunk? πŸ™‚

Coati

Coati – You could smell him a mile away!!

Every track leads to some temple or pyramid, apparently there are thousands over the whole area as it used to be a vast city, but at one point we found a massive one and climbed to the top via some wooden steps. The stone steps are so steep and crumbling that you are not supposed to go up them, (2 people have died by falling down them) (Mick Byrne you need to sort out the H&S immediatley!)… although we did do a couple of temple steps when we found some more remote sites that we had to ourselves. The view from this temple must be the best in the park. You look down over the endless jungle, and the tops of the pryamids in the Grand Plaza, about 1 km away, rise above the canopy. Its pretty cool.

Tikal Temples

The Tikal temples poking through the forest.

More walking! This time a group of spider monkeys passed over our heads and we could hear the Howler monkeys roaring in the distance – what a sound – I half expected the King (Kong) himself to come charging at us through the trees! On our way to the Grand Plaza the sound of the Howlers got louder and louder, then we became aware of lots of crashing sounds as they moved through the trees, before we spotted them. Apparently they shit on your head as a dominance display if they get above you, so I was relieved that they kept to one side of the track! We did get a really good sighting though.

After about 3 to 4 hours of treking down endless jungle tracks, via an enormous corbel-sided pyramid, we found the Grand Plaza. This is the central ceremonial point of the city where two stepped pyramids face each other, with lots of other weird and strangely shaped complexes all around. The late Mayans were so corrupted by thier priest kings that they actually willingly handed over thier children for sacrifice to the ‘gods’. So the vibe around here isn’t that good! You can get a great view of the area by climbing up some very shaky steps onto one of the main pyramids, but getting down again was puting your life at risk!

The Grand Plaza

The Grand Plaza – Tikal

It was an interesting day, and really good to see how well crafted the stone work was and get your head around how they achieved these massive buildings in the middle of a jungle! We also came across some tunnels that led under the main complexes, where Jane pointed out the biggest cockroaches I have ever seen sitting on the roof! Huge. And I mean HUGE!!! Easily as big as my fist!

Tikal Head

An exhibit from the Grand Plaza in the process of being restored.

After over 6 hours, with the heat really kicking in, we headed back to Flores for a cold shower and a nap!


April 17th 2012 – Walking up Pacaya

Yet another early start today! We are walking up one of the volcanoes – Pacaya – today!

Again a 6am start and a one and a half hour drive (we can see it from the village, but you have to take some roundabout roads to get to it!) brought us the foot of Mount Pacaya. As soon as we arrived we were surrounded by skinny dogs and kids selling walking sticks (2 for 10 Quetsales) “Lo Necessita senior, Lo Necessita senior” (it’s needed mister). I declined and after we paid into the national park we set off with our guide (who spoke no English) on a 3km, one and a half hour hike to the top (turned out not to be but…). We were followed by locals on horses shouting “taxi!” for those of us who couldn’t be arsed to walk. They left after the steepest section when they realised all of this particular party were going to walk it! They must get takers sometimes though to follow us as far as they did.

Volcano

A small poof... and no, not Graham Norton πŸ™‚

The hike was interesting… the soil was black as coal, but a young forest was growing out of it as well as the planted areas of crops and vegetable gardens. This is why the locals risk living on the slopes of a live volcano, the volcanic soil is rich in nutrients. There’s also lots of fresh water here, as a natural lake of very pure water sits in an ‘old’ caldera and this provides water for over 20 communities in the area. Like I said, our guide only spoke Spanish, but there was the odd information board on the way up so we learned a bit about the volcano!

volcano

Pacaya a little active today

We were the first party to leave that day, and a pack of dogs joined us. They are clever bunch and know that western tourists will share what’s in thier backpacks, so the walk up is definately worth thier while. We broke up a scrap at one point as one of the younger dogs was testing the ground for takeover of the pack. He soon found out that not only has the head honcho got plenty fight in him yet, he also has a very loyal pack.

Jane on Pacaya

Jane with the One Ring ready to throw it into Mount Doom πŸ™‚

It was a good moment geting to the edge of the top caldera and looking out over the most recent ash fall. Steam was floating across the surface and you could feel the heat coming out of splits in the caldera floor, its a landscape like no other.

Marshmallows

Jane roasting Marshmallows in one of Pacayas' lava tunnels

We spent a bit of time roasting marshmallows from one of these ‘natural ovens’ and got the opportunity to explore a bit, but, to our great disapointment we could not go any further as the summit was ‘active’ – they are very wary these days as a group of tourists were killed when the volcano had a small eruption a few years ago – our guide (translated by someone in the party) told us that you can’t see the lava when its active anyway due to all the steam. We were still peeved. Anyway, as we started to make our way back down we looked back to see the dogs settled for the day, waiting for the next group and thier sandwiches.

dogs of Pacaya

Dogs of Pacaya - They follow you up, but they don't follow you down πŸ™‚


April 5th 2012 – Red Rock and Bryce Canyon

Back on the road again! Leaving Greenriver we took the long road west, past endless variations of sandstone sculptures, to the town of Richfield where we stopped for brunch in a small cafe. As we ate I noticed a small sign on our booth saying ‘Kurt Russell sat here’. Looking around I saw that lots of famous people had stopped here for lunch…Steven King, Robert Wagner…etc. It was at this point that we took the road south (a golden eagle flew right in front of the car) as it was time to head back towards the coast, via an area called Red Rock (we had stayed here last time in a huge wooden cabin) and on to Bryce Canyon.

Redrock

Redrock

We have been to Bryce before but it was definately worth a second look. It’s a very strange landscape, formed by the erosion of a mix of multi-coloured sandstone and limestone, and apparently there is nowhere else on earth like this. Not hard to believe when you see it!

Bryce Canyon

Bryce Point - Bryce Canyon

First we visited Bryce Point and then We walked from the top terrace down a trail to an area called Fairyland Canyon. This area is amazing, pink, orange and white pinnacles rise up over 100 feet from the ground and you just stand there amazed at what nature can produce given enough time.

Fairyland

Fairyland - just outside the national park - could've saved $25 park fee!!

We left Bryce – planning on crossing west to the fast road south, but were scuppered as the road, being a mountain pass, was still closed. There is still snow on high ground here, (we were at 8 to 9,000 feet and both felt the pressure in our sinuses – it feels like you are going to have a nose bleed). Anyway, change of plan, we kept going south on the more rural road, and late in the day, pulled into the town of Kanab. On the way Jane said that there must be a reason for this diversion, that it was ‘meant to be’- and it did turn out to be a great place to stay. By this point we needed to settle for a couple of days and take some time off driving and map reading, so we booked two nights.

Jane went out for a stroll and took this pic of a Police car, doing a perfect job of slowing the traffic as it came into town. Note the ‘driver/cop – its a dummy:)

Cop car

Cop car in Kanab. It's a dummy at the wheel.


April 3rd 2012 – Moab

Today we took the long road to Moab – gateway to the true canyonlands – and a really great town. It was buzzing while we were there, as a Jeep ‘convention’ was gathering. Jeeps everywhere, of every size, people buying and selling, draws to win them, and coming up at the weekend (we will be long gone) off road driving competitions. Some of those jeeps were bordering on the ridiculus, propped up on giant wheels with huge suspension…We actually saw one of them clinging to a cliff side when we were driving out to find the petoglyphs. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing…this huge 4×4 making its way up the side of a rockface… amazing!

Jeep

All the huge ones were gone next morning so here's the consolation shot.

Luckily we arrived early enough in the day, as motel rooms were going fast, and some off them were hiking up the prices anticipating the high demand, but we found a good place for a good price, and then headed just out of town to find the dinosuar footprints and petroglyphs.

Dunes

Petrofied sand dunes carved by the Colorado river

The road is squeezed between the Colorado river and a vertical wall of red rock, that was once a sand dune (over 200 million years ago), but every now and again there is a pull-in to allow you to get out and see the ancient Anazasi rock paintings. Some are very faint, but others are really clear…see pics

Petroglyph

Ancient Petroglyph of a Bear

Ancient Petroglyph of a weird "thing"

Ancient Petroglyph of a weird "thing"

Now, the dinosuar footprints were a bit of a disappointment. Jane tells me I’m being unreasonable, as they can be seen – yeah with binoculars! Anyway here is the pic so you can judge for yourself:)

Dinoprints

Er...dinosaur footprints...somewhere...


March 31st 2012 – Las Vegas and Hoover Dam

After leaving the mayhem that is Los Angeles I was looking forward to a pleasant drive to the Canyon Lands i.e. John Wayne country. As we left LA late in the day, and it took us over 2 hours to clear the urban sprawl, we pulled into a small town called victoville for the night. We set off early the next day and I basically had my foot down the whole way… to Las Vegas.

We’ve been to Las Vegas before so for reasons of pure nostalgia we pulled into the same sleazy motel at the top end of the strip. This place looks like it was either in CSI Las Vegas or it was on a news story where some drug dealer held two people hostage, shot them both then then got shot by police. So that gives you a general idea of what it looked like… but at the same time it was pretty cool.

Bellagio Musical Fountain

Bellagio Musical Fountain

We hung around LV for one night, walking the strip and doing the usual tourist stuff, you know, lights, slot machines and looking around the casinos, watching the Belagio musical waterfountain. Not my cup of tea but hey
it’s on the way to Hoover Dam… our next destination.

Next morning after our motel’s complimentary breakfast of Doughnuts and Coffee (when in Rome) we nicked off early and headed for Hoover Dam. The Dam is located about 30 miles south-east of Las Vegas and is a pretty iconic piece of engineering. It straddles the Colorado river – as well as the state line between Nevada and Arizona – and when it was built 96 people died during it’s contruction – (a bit careless) πŸ™‚

The Hoover Damn

The Hoover Dam

The Lake Side of Hoover Damn

The Lake Side of Hoover Dam

A new bridge was also opened near the Dam called the Mike O’Callaghan-Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge which was opened in 2010 and is itself pretty impressive. We re-named it ‘the bridge of lost hats’ because either side of the bridge is littered with caps blown off peoples heads because it is so windy on there. So much so you feel like if you didn’t hang on to the rail you’d be blown off to land in Lake Meade. Incredible. Anyway enough babbling here’s a pic.

The New Bridge

The New Bridge

Interesting fact here is that Pat Tillman was a pro footballer who left the league to join the Army after September 11. He did a few tours until he was killed in action by the enemy…or so it was reported. It later came out that he was killed by “friendly fire” i.e. by allied forces, but the US Army tried to cover it up… nice.

The next leg of the journey was via the town of Kingsman, where we grabbed a late but ‘real’ breakfast, and then took the route to the Grand Canyon. It was a long drive, but after grabbing a coffee in a the great little town of Williams we turned into the National Park.