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Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category

On one of the few remaining days after the Amazon, we went to the equator, also known as the middle of the world.

Here are the kids on the equator line.

We visited a museum that had a water demonstration supposedly showing the coriolis effects. On the equator line, the water drained from the sink straight out. On either side of the equator line, the water drained out with a whirlpool effect. It was even clockwise on one side and counter clockwise on the other. Pretty cool demonstration, but I find it hard to believe how just a few feet on either side of the equator can make a difference.

Here we all are posing for the Tustin News. We had our picture taken for the “Where in the World” section of the paper.

Another interesting feature of the equator is that one can balance an egg on a nail head. Supposedly, the gravitational forces at the equator are neutral allowing one to balance the egg. Once again, I’m not sure I buy the logic, but sure enough, it did work and it sure impressed the kids! We should now try it at home to disprove this theory. Any physicists in the house with a hypothesis as to why this works?

Vikram got to shoot a blow gun. See the arrow in the cactus.

After the equatorial museum, we headed off to the Otovalo market. On the way, we stopped off for lunch at a restaurant at Lake San Pablo with a wonderful view of the Imbabura volcano in the background at 8000 feet.

Otavalo is about two hours north of Quito on the Pan American highway (also known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes) . Otavalo is one of the oldest and most famous markets in the world. The Indians make and sell their handicrafts at the market.

This is a real hagglers paradise. Be warned though, as I bought two large size T-shirts that both shrunk to a youth size!

We have two more days left in Ecuador and tomorrow, I’ll post some more pictures from our trip to Banos and a different rainforest.

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Each day, we went on a canoe ride and did some hiking. Here is a video of one of the canoe rides. Listen to the sounds of the jungle and see the amazing variety of plant and animal life.

On one of the days, we climbed up to the top of a 135 foot (40 meter) kapok tree and viewing platform. It sits just above the rainforest canopy and provides the opportunity to view the birds and monkeys from a different vantage point.

Here are the boys looking thru the telescope at the birds.

Here is a picture Nikhil took of a toucan thru the telescope.

The next day, we went to the top of a 90 foot (30 meter) suspension bridge. Here is a video of the walk across the bridge.


At the top, we saw more toucans just sitting on the bridge. Six in all.

Here is a picture from back down at the bottom, looking up at the suspension bridge. It looks scarier than it is.

Ont the way back to the lodge, we saw a fungus called a champagne cup.

Here is a school of squirrel monkeys. They traveled in packs. If you look closely, you can see 3 of them. We saw several of them up close and personal.

And here is me and my better half taking a break.

On the ride back to the lodge, we were surprised by a fast approaching thunder and lightning storm.

We made it safely back to the lodge and enjoyed another wonderful meal.

The Amazon is a truly awesome experience and Sacha Lodge was a great place to see all that it has to offer.

I still have a couple more posts of the equator trip and a trip we took to a volcano in Banos. Stay tuned!

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All of our hikes and tours were led by 2 guides. One was a native Indian guide (on the left below – named Segundo) and the other was a high school professor by training that acted as translator and story teller (named Oscar).

The kids really took a liking to Segundo. Even though he spoke no English, he showed them special jungle trees, birds and bugs and cleared the path for them on all our hikes with his super machette.

Here is Vikram with a millipede on his hand.

Here is Nikhil with some of the butterflies that seemed to be attracted to him.

And here is Annika by the nut trees.

Here is Annika in front of one of the millions of odd looking trees. It is said that 10 acres of Amazon jungle have more species of wildlife than the entire United States. This picture is in the middle of the day, but because the jungle is so dense it seems almost dark and requires the use of a flash.

One of the kids’ favorite trees was Sangre de Drago or dragon’s blood tree. When pierced by a knife, the tree oozes a red sap that is medicinal in it properties and is said to treat everything from cuts and bites to cancer. It is one of the magical herbs in the jungle. Our guide also showed us the trees used to make everything from pitocin (from the cecropia tree), jungle viagra, the rubber plant (used to make chewing gum), jungle peanuts, and all kinds of magic mushrooms.

Here is Vikram looking inside a bat hole.

The bats are hiding inside the tree trunk (this picture again uses a flash). One of the evenings, we did a night-time canoe ride and saw (and felt) whole flocks of bats flying around.

One of the hundreds of unique spiders.

Here is a picture of a termite nest. There were thousands of these huge nests along the trails.

Here is a picture of a couple of vultures hanging out at the top of a tree.

We saw so many birds that the guides pointed out including euphonias, macaws, toucans, herons, crested owls, tanagers, woodpeckers, hawks and hummingbirds.

We also saw many different types of monkeys including the tiny pygmy marmoset, night monkey, squirrel monkeys, capuchins and howler monkeys. The monkeys were particularly fun to watch as they traveled in packs and were extremely loud and disruptive.

One of the afternoons, the boys went fishing in the lake for live piranha. They were extremely aggressive and devoured the bait as soon as it went in the water. Our Indian guide with lots of skill caught one and showed off the piranha’s razor sharp teeth. There were dozens of these red bellied and white bellied piranhas swimming in the lake.

The boys then went swimming in the same lake! It is said that although the piranha are vicious, they only attack if there are open wounds and they can smell blood. In the same lake at night, we saw a caiman. Again, the guide said they only come out at night. In fact, the last evening we were there, there was a group of kids still swimming at the dock and the guide ushered them to come out of the water.

I will add one more post with some additional videos and pictures from the suspension bridge and the tree house in the kapok tree. These were some of the best features of the lodge.

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The middle part of our trip was spent in the Amazon jungle of Ecuador.

We started off with an early morning plane ride from Quito airport to a small town called Coca about a 1/2 hour east of Quito.

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From there it is a short “chiva” bus ride to our safe house where the staff pack our bags into sealed waterproof containers for the boat ride thru the jungle.

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At the safe house we have a quick lunch and then board a small power boat for the 70km ride down the Napo River.

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Here are Nikhil and Vikram fast asleep during the two and a half hour ride.

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Along the way, we see the pristine old growth rain forests being carved up by big bad American oil concerns like Chevron and Texaco.

The river is dotted by the tell tale signs of tanker boats, oil rigs and the flames of burning oil.

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The only way to get the oil out is by river boat. There are no roads in and out of the jungle. It is tragic to see the rain forest disappearing for the sake of big oil profits.

Once we get to the dropoff point on the Napo River, it is a 1/2 hour hike on a boardwalk and mud trail followed by a 20 minute canoe ride.

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And finally, we arrive at Sacha Lodge to begin our adventure. The lodge has running water, 24 hour electricity and even made special accomodations for vegetarian meals.
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The huts are comfortable and spacious and as posh as one can imagine in a jungle this remote.

After a short night hike and a briefing dinner, we got into the daily routine of a 5:30AM wakeup call, a 3-4 hour morning hike, an afternoon swim in the lake and a night time canoe ride or another hike. On my next post, I’ll highlight some of the rare birds, butterflies, monkeys, trees, bugs and other wildlife we were able to see.

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We are back from our Ecuador trip over Spring Break. It was awesome.

I’ll start posting pictures but we did soooo much in the 10 days so it may take several posts.

We arrived at our hotel room on Thursday night. I had packed some bananas that we purchased from Trader Joe’s (in California) that were originally shipped from Ecuador. When we got to our hotel at night, the restaurant was closed, so we all ate our Ecuadorian bananas! The Chiquita bananas were happy to be back home in Ecuador (if only for a brief moment).

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The next day, we took a tram ride called the Teleferico that starts at 2950m (9700ft) and elevates to 4100m (13,500). There are a couple of hundred more feet of climbing at the top! Quito, the capital of Ecuador is the second highest capital city in the world (the highest being La Paz). It takes a few days to get used to the altitude which causes shortness of breath, a headache and a bit of nausea. At the top, there was a medical clinic as it was common for people to get altitude sickness. We were all spared, aside from the headaches and overall sluggishness.

Here is a view as we climb the mountain in our tram – a ride that takes just 8 minutes.

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The view from the top is incredible. The city is quite large with a population of about 2 million and is in a valley surrounded by volcano formed mountains all around it.

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We spent the week before Paris in Geneva. I had to work during the week (Monday thru Thursday) so Anjali explored (probably more so than in my numerous trips in the past).

Anyway, here are a few of the local sights.

The United Nations is on the outskirts of town. There were many dignitaries and events related to the UN.

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Here is Lake Geneva with the the local Starbucks (the one with the green awning on the far right). It looks just like any other, except that a latte there will cost you over $6! Our Hotel Angleterre is right on the lake and close to all the restaurants and shopping.

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Here is Anjali at the “longest bench in the world” in the Old Town at the top of Geneva. The bench at the Promenade de la Treille measures 126 meters long!

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Well that is it! This was the last episode of our mini-vacation. Hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Many thanks to Mom and Dad for watching the kids while we were gone. It sounds like they had their own adventures.

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Paris In 3 Days

I’ve been meaning to post a few more pictures from our last day in Paris.

We took it pretty easy and just visited the Louvre and walked around the Eiffel Tower.

Here are a few picture from the Louvre.

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We did see the Mona Lisa but boy was it unimpressive! They make you stand 20 feet away from the painting. It is covered in 2 layers of plexiglass and is at most 2 ft by 2 ft. Not sure what the big deal is.

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Anyway – see for yourself!

After a nice lunch at the Dome Cafe near the Eiffel Tower, we headed back to Geneva which was a 4 1/2 hour drive. I must also mention that without our TomTom GPS system we would have been hopelessly lost in Paris. Maybe not such a bad thing.

We hope to get back again in a few years, though there are too many other sights to see on our list of 50!

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The Paris bus and train strike that started last week almost derailed (pun intended) our plans to visit Paris over the weekend. We ended up cancelling our train tickets and instead drove the 525km trip from Geneva to Paris. The drive itself was fairly easy with the TomTom GPS system and the outstanding toll roads in France.

We were able to do all of the touristy things including a visit to the Eiffel Tower, Orsay Museum, Notre Dame, Champs Elysses and The Louvre.

Here are a few pictures with more to come later.

This is a picture of the toll road on the way into Paris on Friday afternoon. No traffic until the last 20 km and consistent speeds between 130kph and 160kph.

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On Saturday, we started off at Notre Dame Cathedral.

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We then went to the Orsay Museum. Featured were paintings from Degas, Cezanne, van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, Manet, Degas and numerous other famous works of art.

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We spent the the rest of the afternoon on the Champs Elysees. As we were standing at the Arc de Triumph pictured below, we saw a green Jag getting sideswiped by another car!

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We did some window shopping and some real shopping. More on that in another post!

Late in the afternoon we visited Cafe Laduree on the Champs. This is the best 20 Euro cup of coffee and desert for two that money can buy. All kidding aside, the cafe is outstanding and I would highly recommend taking a tea break at Laduree after a full day of sightseeing and shopping. Make sure to sit upstairs and look out over the Champs as you enjoy your outstanding cafe au lait and savor the fabulous desserts!

Finally, we went to the Eiffel Tower on Saturday evening and watched the sun set as the lights illuminated the tower. The tower is even more impressive in person than any pictures can do justice to.

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C’était un jour romantique.

Anjali is on her way home today…… I return in a few more days after finishing up some more meetings here in Geneva.

I’ll post some more pictures tomorrow. Au revoir!

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Muir Woods Hike

On one of the last days in the Bay Area, we went to Muir Woods redwood park.

It was a 2 hour drive from Mom and Dad’s house.

We went for a long hike and saw the redwoods. The tallest trees in the park are 260 feet with a 14 foot diameter and are over 1000 years old. The park has the tallest species of Coast Redwoods in the world.

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On the way home we stopped off at the Oak residence in Orinda (from Redwoods to Oaks!). Here are the 3 boys climbing in their backyard.

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Great America Amusement Park

On one of the days in the Bay Area, we went to Paramount’s Great America Park in San Jose.

Here are Mom and Anjali on the Demon ride.

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Here are Vikram and Nikhil on the Centrifuge ride:

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Here are all of us on the Delirium ride —a powerful spinning pendulum that will send you whirling.

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Here are Anjali and Annika on the Log Ride:

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Annika went on all of the thrill rides that were allowed for 48″ and under kids.

Mom (Rajani) went on all of the rides! Not bad for a grandma!

We had a great time at the park.

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Winchester Mystery House

We just got back from a week up in San Francisco at Mom and Dad’s house in Morgan Hill. On one of the days, we went to the Winchester Mystery House.

The rich, crazy widow haunted by spirits was told to keep building her house to ward away the evil spirits. She did this for 38 years and during that time built a 160 room mansion over 6 floors high. Here are some pictures from the tour.

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The tour takes about 3 hours and covers about 2 miles of walking…. all inside the house!

Nikhil, Annika and Vikram Khare at the Winchester House

The whole Khare Family at the Winchester House

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Zion Trip

We just got back from a 4 day trip to Zion National Park in Utah.

We stayed at the Desert Pearl Hotel which I would highly recommend for traveling families.

The first day, we did a moderate 3 mile hike called Emerald Pools. There are three pools – Lower, Middle and Upper. There is also a wonderful little waterfall. The hike to the upper one is a bit challenging.

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On the second day, we hiked a trail called Canyon Overlook.

This was by far the best hike that we were able to do in the park. There are some tricky paths with some strenuous climbing but the views are truly amazing.

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The last day we were there, we took it a bit easy and had the kids participate in a ranger program.

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While the kids were in class, Anjali and I went for a hike up the Watchman Trail.

This was about a 2 hour hike round trip to the top of a nearby peak that provided views of the entire Zion valley. This is a picture from the trail. On the left is the West Temple and on the right is the Altar of Sacrifice. Note the blood red stains down the side of the mountain.

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Finally, here was our favorite breakfast spot in the park – the pancakes were the best. It is the Spotted Dog Cafe!

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