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Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

Iceland Trip

In August, Anjali and I went to Iceland.  This was a last minute decision to go to Iceland.  I was changing jobs and had a full week before my new gig started.  Iceland had been on our shortlist and the timing worked out great with tickets, hotel availability and the fantastic weather in Iceland at the time.

We started our journey in Reykjavik.  The trip from the airport to downtown is about an hour drive and right away, you can start to see the volcanic terrain of the island.

We spent a night in Reykjavik and did some local sightseeing, before heading out in our rental car along the northern coastline.

The main church of Hallgrímskirkja was right next to our B&B.

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The next morning, we began our drive to the volcanic Snaefellsnes peninsula.

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There were so many beautiful waterfalls along the drive.iceland003 - 1.jpg

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The drive ended at the ocean and the Londragar lava formations.  One can follow the lava flows from the mountain all the way into the ocean.  Fantastic!

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As we drove further into the northern part of Iceland, we ran across a seal “crossing” near Hvammstangi.  The seals were lounging in the sun and there were dozens of them. Look closely – there are three seals in the foreground and six in background.iceland1002 - 1.jpgiceland1003 - 1.jpg

On day 4 of our trip, we made it to the northern city of Husavik.  This is known as Iceland’s whale watching capital.  We took an all day boat tour on a a viking sailing vessel from North Sailing.  I’d highly recommend their tours as you will see from the below pictures.

On the way to the whale site, we ventured past Puffin Island – a natural habitat for the puffin birds.  There were tens of thousands of the birds.

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Finally, we got to the whale site and after about two hours of seeing humpback whales from a distance we finally got “lucky” and had one come up right along side the boat.  What a thrill!  We also saw a number of Minke whales – these whales are much smaller and faster.

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There was one whale that played along side our boat for at least 40 minutes.  According to the captain, this was quite an unusual treat.  Must have been the fantastic weather!

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Definitely the highlight of the trip and ingrained in my memories for life.

From Husavik, we drove a couple of hours inland and saw a pair of waterfalls called Dettifoss and Selfoss. Dettifoss (which is a short distance downstream from Selfoss) is know to be the most powerful waterfall in all of Europe.

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Next stop and a bit further inland is Lake Myvatn. The area surrounding Lake Myvatn has the highest concentration of volcanic and geothermal sights in Iceland.  In a single day, we were able to explore pseudocraters, rock formations, lava fields, see mud pools and steam vents and eventually relax in a volcanic steam bath.

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These are photos from the Hverond Mud pits and Steam vents – a little off the beaten path but so eerie and quite smelly. Definitely worth the drive!

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iceland1022 - 1.jpgAfter Hveraond, we went a short drive to Dimmuborgr Lava formations and explored the natural lava formations.

 

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In the distance, you can see the Hverfjall Cinder Cone.  We spent a couple of hours and hiked to the top of the cone.iceland1024 - 1.jpg

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At the end of the day, we went to the Jardbodin Nature Baths.  It’s the northern Iceland equivalent of the Blue Lagoon Spa.  The water is heated and regulated by the steam vents.  Kind of an odd experience – probably would not go back to do this.

From the Myvatn area, we headed back to Reykjavik to catch our flight back to LA!

What a fantastic, experience and highly recommended!  With less than a week between booking our tickets and beginning on our journey, we leveraged the expertise of a travel planner from Kim Kim.  I’d highly recommend it as our planner Chris McCarty pointed us to so many sights we would not have known about.

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Mexico Vacation

We just got back from our vacation to Mexico City and Huatulco.

We landed in Mexico City and spent the first few days seeing the sights.  We took a day trip to see the pyramids in Teotihuacan.  These are the Sun and Moon pyramids and we got to climb to the top of both of them.

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The ride back from the pyramids is about an hour and a half and we pass thru the mountain ranges and see the the most colorful houses.

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On Day 3, we went to a small town on the Pacific side of Mexico about a 1 hour flight from the city.  We rented a nice beach house right on the sand on Playa Bocana just outside of Huatulco.

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We had the most amazing sunrise every morning.

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Here is a picture from the pool deck.

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About a 10 minute walk up the beach, there was a reservoir with pink flamingos!

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All day long, we would see the pelicans fishing in the ocean.

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On one of the last days in Huatulco, we went for a river rafting excursion.

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It looks pretty scary but wasn’t too bad.

Check out this amazing photo of an eagle we saw on the river.

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We are now back from vacation and getting ready for school after a long summer!

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After Bordeaux, we  drove a few more hours thru the South of France to a town called Toulouse.  My room mate from Harvey Mudd College lives there now with his wife and three kids.

The kids made some new friends and we had a great time.

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Here are me and Laurent – visiting for the first time in 15 years!

 

khare-blog-0018Laurent has been busy for the last few years, building his own house from the ground up.

Here is a picture of the outside.  It is completely off the grid.. all solar powered and assembled from 40 foot shipping containers that he welded together.  Pretty amazing!

 

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From Bilbao, we drove a few hours to Bordeaux.  Along the way, we stopped for lunch at one of the beach towns in the northern part of Spain.

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Bordeaux is the quintessential French town in the south of France.  This is the view from our hotel room.

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We went at the perfect time of the year.  The grapes were abundant and the weather cool.

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We went for a couple of wine tastings, the most memorable was in the Grand Cru area of St. Emilion.

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The winery was Le Chatelet.  The owner was very hospitable and shared a number of fantastic wines.  We ended up buying a magnum of Chateau Le Chatelet vintage 2009 and will save it for a very special occasion!

Their wines are aged in an oak cask and then stored in an underground cave until ready to be sold.

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Here is a parting shot of picturesque St. Emilion.khare-blog-0015

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After a few days in Barcelona, we rented a car and drove about 6 hours  to the northern part of Spain to Bilbao.  Bilbao is famous for the Guggenheim Museum. Here is the entrance to the museum.  Right away, you can tell it is going to be a very different experience.

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Here are the boys on the bridge to the museum.

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Here is the outside of the museum… couldn’t really take pictures inside as they were prohibited.


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This is the giant spider protecting the museum!

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During the week we went, there was a festival in Bilbao.  There was quite the part atmosphere every night.

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Here is Annika enjoying one of the funky stores!

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We just got back from two weeks in Spain and France.  Our adventure started in Barcelona amongst all the fantastic architecture and museums.  From there, we went to Bilboa in the northern part of Spain.  We visited the Guggenheim museum in Bilboa.  Next stop was Bordeaux.  Only two days there but had a chance opportunity for  private tasting and tour of Le Chatelet winery.  Next stop was Toulouse where my roommate from Harvey Mudd College lives with his family.  Then back to Barcelona and the long journey home.  A total of about 1200 miles of driving and a lot of Tolls!

Here are some pictures from Barcelona.  I’ll post the other sights separately.

This is the family on the tour bus the first day in Barcelona.   This is a great way to see the all the major sights in the city.

Barcelona Tour Bus

Barcelona Tour Bus

Barcelona has the most amazing blend of both new and old architecture throughout the city.

Here is a picture of the “bullet” building or the Torre Agbar designed by french architect Jean Nouvel.  The outside lights up in different colors at night.

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One of the most impressive is the Sagrada Familia church designed by Antoni Gaudi with construction going on since 1882.

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The interior is much more impressive than the exterior.

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Gaudi has influenced much of Barcelona architecture.  Here is a local park called Parc Guell.  The views are amazing.

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The crowds were even more so!

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Of course, no trip to Barcelona is complete without the Tapas.  We found our favorite vegetarian friendly Tapas Restaurant called La Ciutat Comtal near Plaza Catalunya.  This was a very short walk from our apartment in the Gracia district.  We tried several different ones but kept going back to La Ciutat.

Try the bravas, cabreados, padron peppers and their sangrias (both the white and red)!

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Fried Egg over Fries – Cabreados

 

Padron Peppers

 

 

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We just got back from our summer vacation in Santa Teresa Beach on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica.  Once again we rented a beautiful beach house.  The trip to the house was a little more involved.  Two flights from Los Angeles to San Jose.  A two hour car ride to the Ferry terminal.  A two hour ferry ride  and then a 2 hour car drive!

Here’s the gang on the ferry ride to Santa Teresa.

The first of many beautiful sunsets.

Here’s a picture of the iguana in our back yard, affectionately know as Mr. Fluffy Pants. (don’t ask me why!)

Here is a picture of a parrot in our back yard.

On our second day, we all took surfing lessons.   Getting up on the board was not too difficult for the kids.

 

For me though… not so easy.  Its harder than it looks!

After a hard day of surfing or swimming in 80 degree water.. we would usually go out to eat at one of the many wonderful restaurants in Santa Teresa.

On one of the days, we took a short hike to one of the many waterfalls in the Mal Pais area.

This one took about an hour of pretty strenuous climbing and navigating rocks but was definitely worth the hike.

This is a picture of the swing at our house.  Many an hour was passed staring at the ocean!

Here is Annika enjoying the water and the sunset behind our house.

On one of the days, we went for a hike into the local rainforest.

We saw many capuchin monkeys, parrots, woodpeckers and many other creatures.

The beach on our last day in Santa Teresa.

A very relaxing vacation.  We are already planning our next trip to  (stay tuned).

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We went to India over the Christmas break to visit Anjali’s parents in Pune and my extended family in Nagpur.

Anjali’s parents had their 50th anniversary.  Here is Anjali with her parents in the middle and her brother on the right.  In the front and back row are her cousins.

Here are the kids with their Great Grandmother!

Here are the five of us.

Here are the kids at Anjali’s uncle’s vacation house outside of Pune.

One of the days we went to Sinhagad, a fort from the 1600’s with quite a colorful history.  Here are the kids at the entrance to the fort.

Here is the view from inside the protected walls of the fort.

On most days, we did our shopping trips and visits in a scooter rickshaw.

We did a side trip to Nagpur which is about a two hour flight from Pune.

We visited my uncles and cousins there.

My cousin Shirish (on the left in the photo above) took us to a wildlife sanctuary outside of Pune.

Here are some pictures from the Pench Tiger Sanctuary.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any tigers but lots of other big game including sambars, horned deer, antelopes and all kinds of monkeys!

On Christmas Day, we went out for Chinese food at Mainland China in Pune.  Probably the best Chinese food in India! Christmas Day in India is like any other day there.

On our last day in Pune, Anjali was lucky enough to catch her 30th year high school reunion at St. Joseph’s.  Here she is with her friends.

What a trip!

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Koala Country

On our last full day in Australia, we drove down to Phillip Island and visited the Koala Reserve and the Penguin Parade.

Here is one of about 20 we saw that day.  Most of the time they are sleeping to conserve energy.  All they eat are eucalyptus leaves.  We were lucky enough to see one moving around.

We also saw the penguin parade, but no pictures were allowed.  This attraction is well worth the drive to see the penguins swim to shore.

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Outback Adventure

The day after the Reef adventure, we went on a safari trip deep into the Australian Outback.

Our first stop was a lake and nature preserve.

Here is a picture of some emus standing by the side of the trail.

We stopped for lunch at an old mining town – mostly abandoned now.

The kids got to scavenge at an old marble quarry.

In the same area called Chillagoe, there was also an abandoned old ore and gold mine.

The highlight was the tour of an underground cavern filled with stalagmites (these grow from the floor – and might grow up) and stalactites (these drop from the roof – and have to hold on tight).

On the ride home, we stopped off at the world’s smallest train station in Petford.

We also stopped off at a coffee plantation and the kids got to play with a cockatoo.

The next stop was Port Douglas and the Sugar Cane factories.

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Great Barrier Reef Adventure

We took a two hour boat ride from the port in Cairns and arrived at the Great Barrier Reef.  This has been labeled as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.  It is composed of 2900 reefs across 1600 miles on the north eastern coast of Australia.

We all started with a snorkel dive.  The reef is about 10-15 feet below and the visibility is excellent. We were at a reef called Norman Reef, one of the outermost reefs which is surrounded by deep water.

Here is a picture of Annika below.  After a short 10 minute snorkeling lesson, she was off on her own.

Here is one of a maori wrasse fish I was able to capture that swam up along side us.

After the snorkeling, me, Nikhil and Vikram went for a couple of scuba dives.

The boys took to the water like fish!  They scuba dived to 12-15m deep which took them to the bottom of the reef.  We saw turtles, giant clams, clownfish, an eel, sea cucumber and lots of other fish.

We picked a perfect sunny day for our dive.

We returned after a full day of snorkeling and diving.  The next day would take us on an adventure into the outback.

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Yorkey’s Knob Down Under

I arrived in Melbourne and after a day, we flew up to Cairns which is on the northern coast of Australia and is the entry to the Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately, United Airlines lost my bag.  It remained in San Francisco!  I finally received it four days into my trip.  I had to buy some new clothes but fortunately, the stores are very similar to the states – Target, Costco, etc.!  Their allowance for lost baggage is a measly $50 US which doesn’t go too far in Melbourne.

Anyway, after spending a couple of hours buying  some basic necessities, we went to Cardenia to check out the kangaroos and were not disappointed.  Our plans for Philipps Island had to be postponed due to all the coats being in my bag.

The next day, we caught a Virgin Blue flight to Cairns and checked into our apartment on the beach. The weather in Yorkey’s Knob was at least 40 degrees warmer 80-90+ the whole time.  Here is the view from our place – about 200M from the beach.

The water was warm – in the low 70’s.

During the summer months, the jelly fish are a problem and they have a first aid kit at the ready.    Who knew!

The next day, we took a boat to the Reef.  I’ll continue on the next post.

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Adventure in Melbourne

We just got back from our trip down under.  Anjali and the kids went out a week early and stayed at Madhura’s house.

Here are some pictures from Melbourne.  This first one is a park within walking distance from Madhura’s house.

This is a picture from Mount Dandenong.

Here is a picture with Keya.

Here is one of a parakeet eating spicy potato chips from Nikhil’s hand!

Here is one in Cardenia with some kangaroos behind the gang.

The kids in front of the James Cook historic cottage.

Here is one at the Melbourne Aquarium.

I’ll continue on another post.

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We just got back from a weekend of camping and hiking in Yosemite.  Nikhil, Vikram and 12 of their boy scout troop joined in the fun.  I had arranged the camp sites and pre-ordered the half dome hiking tickets last February.  This is a strenuous 21 mile hike (from Upper Pines Campground via John Muir Trail) with 4800 feet of elevation gain and took us over 12 hours.

We started our hike at 5:30 AM and started up the John Muir Trail.  Here we are at our first break about an hour into the hike.

Vikram and Shree at Nevada Falls

We were fortunate to see this rare sighting of a bear cub at about the 10 mile mark.  Vikram snapped this shot and we moved along quickly just in case the mother bear was near.

Here is a great shot of the approach to Half Dome.    If you look closely, you will see the trail of people.  The lower half is a rock scramble up the mountain, the upper half is the famous cable hike.

Half Dome Cables

Here we are at the hump right before the cable section.

Finally, we reach the top.   I had all the boys harnessed into the cable with an Alpine Bod harness,  runner and carabiner.

The hike back down the mountain was a bit quicker and had some glorious views of Nevada and Vernal Falls (below).  We had all carried up over 4L of water per person and yet nearly all of us were running out at the end! Once again, it amazes me how many unprepared people we saw along the way with a bottle or two of water in 90 degree heat!

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China Boom

I got back from my trip to Hong Kong and China.  The most striking thing is the booming economy there.  You wouldn’t know there is a recession here in the states.

Here is a picture from one of the hotels in mainland China.   The smog lingers constantly and the construction continues into the night.

Here is one of an 8 story shopping mall.   One of the malls we visited was all electronics fakes.  Their slogan there is “you make it, we fake it”.

Here is one of the beautiful harbor area looking from Kowloon to HK island.  I visited my friend Todd and also Alka mavshi and Naya kaka who both live in the midlevels area on Hong Kong island.

Here is a picture from their apartment.

Mavshi cooked me a wonderful home-cooked meal which was very nice after being on the road for so long.

On the Friday night I spent there, Todd and his wife Anne took me to the American Club.  It was a wonderful oasis for expats and served some of the best food I had there for two weeks!

A good trip… and I got really good at using chop sticks!

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On one of the days, we went to a zip line “park” run by Canopy Safari.  It was about an hour’s drive into the jungle from Manuel Antonio.  It started out with about a 20 minute walk up the hill.   From there, it was about 20 zip lines down and a couple of rappel lines.  Here are some pictures.

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After each zip line, they hurried us through to the next one.   It was loads of fun as you can see from the expressions….. but I must say, it was all a bit too “sanitized” for my liking.  Guess you have to do it once but, I would go back for another river ride instead!

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On one of the days in Costa Rica, we went white water river rafting on the Savegre River.  Our tour was conducted by the Amigos Del Rio group.  We chose the full day adventure down the Class 3 rapids of the Savegre River.  The adventure started with a bus ride to a way point about an hour outside of Manuael Antonio.  From there, we climbed into a 4 wheel drive hum-vee type vehicle for another hour drive deep into the rainforest.

Here are some pictures from the adventure.

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We started off slowly and then hit some major rapids.  It definitely looks scarier than it felt at the time.

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They referred to this section of the river as La Boca del Diablo or the Devil’s Mouth.

There was also another section of the river we got to “surf a hole” – a technique where you are paddling upstream against the flow of the river and keeping up – too cool to describe.

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We were fortunate to have a great tour operator and boatman (Ramirez) leading our raft.  Only a few of us fell out of the boat and were quickly rescued!  This was an amazing and thoroughly enjoyable day on the river.

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We just got back from a week of vacation in Costa Rica.    This time we rented a beach house in Manuel Antonio Beach.  Manuel Antonio is a small beach town about a 3+ hour drive from the capital city of San Jose in Costa Rica.  We rented a car at the local Budget and drove the 130km to our slice of paradise.

Here are some pictures of the kids on the beach behind the house.

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Each day we built a (bigger and bigger) sand castle in the hopes of battling the high tides.  Each morning we would come out to see the waves had wiped clean our hard-work!

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One of the features of the beach house was the daily monkey crossing.  We got to see a troop of monkeys crossing thru the back yard.  The monkeys would stop by pretty much every afternoon for plantains and flowers.

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In between the beach and the monkey sightings, we enjoyed the wonderful backyard and pool.
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During the week, we also did a day of white water rafting and one day of a canopy tour.  I’ll post those pics separately.

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On the second day of our Zion trip, Doug, Denis and I took a hike along the lower Subway route. This is about a 10 mile hike that took us a little over 7 hours round trip with a lot of climbing in and out of the canyon.

Here we are at the start of the hike. You have to read to the end to see why it is called the Subway!

The entire hike is along an ancient riverbed with steep canyons along each side. We saw some dinosaur tracks part way thru the hike.

Here are Doug and I getting our feet wet.

Here is a picture of one of the sandstone overhangs.

Finally, here is the Subway. This water carved formation extends for about a 1/4 mile and dead ends in a deep pool of water that requires rapelling gear to continue.

This is the end of the trail for us!

Here is Doug climbing through the canyon.

And one last look at the awesome Subway!

After that, it is another 5 mile hike back to the top of the canyon.

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On our last two days in Ecuador, we headed south of Quito on the Pan American highway to the village of Banos. It is known for its Tungurahua volcano which is an active 5000m high volcano site. It last erupted in Nov. 2006 and was said to have released steam on the days that we were there.

Fortunately, all we saw was a peaceful mountain and amazing views.

Here is a picture of the “spa” we stayed at in Banos at the base of the mountain. It is in a picturesque location underneath a waterfall.

The spa itself is a cheesy motel about the quality of a Motel 6 or worse but is was the best in town.

As you can see, the kids can have fun anywhere.

In the morning, we took a ride on the “terabithia” which is essentially a tram that goes across a gorge and ends in a waterfall. Banos is known for these “cascadas” that sit at the edge of the rainforest.

The one that we rode was 500m long and 100m above the ground. Check out the video of the ride. They stopped the tram about 2/3 of the ride and just before the waterfall.

After the ride, we headed back to Quito. On the way, we stopped off for some ice cream in the town of Salcedo which is known for its ice-cream. There must have been 100 ice cream vendors in the town.

After about a 4 hour ride back to Quito, we had a quick dinner at our favorite restaurant called the Magic Bean and were entertained by our little angel!

It was an amazing experience overall and one we will remember forever. Special thanks to Anjali for researching and arranging the whole trip!

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