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Posts Tagged ‘Vacation’

This week, I took the boys with their Boy Scout troop up to Yosemite for 5 days. On one of the days, we hiked up to Half Dome. This was a difficult 18 mile round trip from our campsite at Upper Pines. It took us about twelve and a half hours to complete the hike.

We started promptly at 5:30 in the morning while it was still dark.

About an hour into the hike, the kids had a dry cereal breakfast.

Here they are on another break.

At about the 6 hour mark, we near the staircase and cables part of Half Dome.

Here is a picture up the staircase. It is some basic rock scrambling. At the top of this 1/2 mile section is the cable portion. Only four of the boys remained for this last section.

Here we are right before the cables. You can see the cable ascent to the top of Half Dome in the picture below. The cable portion is 400 feet and is rated as a Class 3 climb.

I did not get a picture of it, but to keep the kids safe, we had them all wear a harness and clip themselves to the cables. In case they slipped, the harness would keep them safe.

There were some people that should not have been up there. We saw people in flip flops, people with one or two bottles of water and other accidents just waiting to happen. One of the boys said, “if you don’t know what you are doing, you will die”. We saw so many people that fit this category! In fact, the Park Service reports that there were three fatal falls last year alone.

Finally, we made it to the top! The peak is at 8842 feet of elevation and rises about 4700 feet off the valley floor.

The descent down the cables was a bit easier but still quite challenging.

After the cables, we started back down the mountain. Even though it was all down hill, it was still strenuous with difficult terrain to navigate.

One last shot of the numerous waterfalls on the way back.

Vikram said he “found his guts” on this trip. I would also add that it totally impressed me that these 11-14 year olds were able to accomplish such a feat at such a young age. I am proud of them all.

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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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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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