April 13th
2010
written by Alonna
Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand

Ben and I have searched the globe for good mountain biking, but have failed to find anything worthwhile outside of the US… until now. Yesterday we rented full-suspension bikes and rode one section of the Queen Charlotte Track near Picton, New Zealand. The scenery was gorgeous and the riding was awesome. We will definitely be mountain biking more during our next 3 weeks here. (more…)

April 8th
2010
written by Alonna

We only spent about half of our time in South Africa on safari. The rest of the time was spent with our couchsurfing hosts in Johannesburg, driving, and relaxing in the Blyde River Canyon area near Kruger. Here’s a few things about our time in South Africa that I didn’t want to leave out…
 

Blyde River Canyon

Just west of Kruger park is Blyde River Canyon, a beautiful mountain range with cute towns and amazing viewpoints. After driving through the area, we booked last-minute reservations for two nights at a guesthouse out in the country. It was probably the most comfortable and beautiful room we’ve ever stayed in, with an enormous bed, jacuzzi, gorgeous view, and friendly host. Originally we were hoping to stay in town and spend our time hiking and sightseeing, but we took this opportunity to relax for a couple days instead. It was absolutely lovely.

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April 6th
2010
written by Alonna

When we added South Africa to our RTW itinerary, I imagined going on a safari in an open jeep on rough dirt roads, with lions and tigers roaming around the car and the guide holding a riffle, just in case. But it turns out that in South Africa, going on Safari is like spending the weekend at Yellowstone, just with different animals and scenery.

Self-drive Safari

Self-drive Safari

How it works

Animal viewing from the car

Animal viewing from the car

We visited Kruger National Park, a huge game reserve east of Johannesburg. You could call this a “self-drive safari” because visitors simply drive their own cars around all day looking for animals. The animals are anywhere and everywhere, and most of the time we spotted them crossing the road, or near a river or water hole. You’re not allowed to get out of your car except in a few designated areas, but with all the animals around you wouldn’t want to anyway.

So Ben and I rented a car and stayed 3 nights inside of the park in a private bungalow with a small kitchen and grill. Each day we would head out, armed with cameras and binoculars, in search of wild animals…
 

Animals!

During four days of driving around Kruger, we saw almost every animal imaginable. (more…)

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March 29th
2010
written by Alonna

The ancient sights in Egypt are amazing, and for being 3,000+ years old many of the temples are very well preserved.There are enormous temples all over southern Egypt along the Nile River, built over thousands of years for ceremonies and burials. Almost every square inch is covered in hieroglyphs, and some walls and ceilings still have the original paint used to decorate the carvings.  We absolutely loved wandering through these sights and marveling at the scale and beauty of this ancient world. Here’s some of our photos showing various temples throughout the southern Nile River Valley (Aswan, Abu Simbel, and Luxor). (more…)

March 24th
2010
written by Alonna
Felucca sail boat

Felucca sail boat

A Night on the Nile River, Why not?

Upon arrival to Egypt, our Cairo hotel owner helped us book the rest of our trip. He encouraged us to include a relaxing 2-night felucca ride on the Nile River. Initially we resisted; it just didn’t seem like something we’d enjoy. We only had 8 days in Egypt, and we wanted to pack in as many ancient sights as possible. We compromised on just one night, but he insisted that we’d love it and call him begging for a second night.
 

What is a Felucca?

A “felucca” is just a type of sail boat. There’s basically two ways to enjoy the Nile river – felucca or gigantic cruise ship. Typically the felucca boat has room for about 8 budget (aka hippie-types) passengers. There’s a large platform in the middle with cushions, and you cozy up with your neighbors and enjoy the ride together. However, we were booked on a private boat; just the two of us plus the captain (Ali) and his crew mate. (more…)

March 18th
2010
written by Alonna

It’s hard to believe that Ben and I are in Egypt and saw the famous pyramids yesterday. I never imagined that I’d make it here… and now that I have, it reminds me once again how amazing this year-off adventure is: Ben and I are truly having the experience of a lifetime.

Abu Sir pyramids near Cairo, Egypt and the Giza Pyramids very faint in the distance

Abu Sir pyramids near Cairo, Egypt and the Giza Pyramids very faint in the distance

We arrived to Cairo in the evening and booked a private tour for the next morning to the pyramids of Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur. At 6am I woke up to this beautiful hazy sunrise over Cairo:

Sunrise in Cairo

The pyramids were huge, impressive, and a bit underwhelming all at the same time. It rarely happens this way, but they were exactly what I expected; enormous pyramids made out of limestone sitting out in the desert and surrounded by tourists. Besides the Sphinx (located down below from the Giza pyramids to guard them), there were really no sculptures or statues or any ornamentation at all. Most of the tombs were robbed hundreds or thousands of years go, and anything remaining was moved to the Egyptian museum in Cairo.

Besides the famous pyramids at Giza, (more…)

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March 17th
2010
written by Alonna


Istanbul exceeded our expectations; it’s a beautiful city with a lot to see, is surprisingly easy to get around, and it gave us a glimpse into Muslim culture. Ben and I stayed for 5 nights in the Old Town area of Istanbul, within short walking distance to all of the famous sights like the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. The food was great – we mostly stuck to kebab and baklava, delicious! – and we enjoyed browsing the local shopping markets – even if we weren’t shopping for a Turkish carpet. All in all, I absolutely loved Istanbul, and after touring a lot of European cities last fall, I’d put it near the top of the list. Here’s some of the things we explored… (more…)

March 9th
2010
written by Alonna

Our last weeks in South America were spent in the northern part of Patagonia, called the lake district. This area is mountainous, dotted with cone-shaped volcanoes, and as the name suggests, contains many lakes. Our first stop was Pucon in Chile, where we were shook by the 8.8 earthquake our first night. Unfortunately this meant that during our 3 days there, we didn’t get a chance to hike up the active volcano, peer into the crater, and slide back down on a sled. We’ll have to come back.

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March 3rd
2010
written by Alonna

Ben and I detoured to the extreme south of Chile for two reasons: to catch a flight north, and to see the penguins.  Isla Magdalena, an island off the coast of Punta Arenas, is the breeding grounds for over 200,000 penguins.  We took a boat ride to the island and had an hour to walk around on a roped off path.  In every direction there were hundreds of penguins and holes in the ground where they nest.  The penguins were fun to watch and photograph; most of them just stood around, while a few waddled towards the ocean for breakfast, a few couples cleaned each others coats, and one pair got into a fight.  Sometimes when we were nearby, they would look at us curiously, even if it involved stretching their neck all the way around to avoid turning to face us.


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February 28th
2010
written by Alonna

After the glacier hike in El Calafate, Ben and I crossed over to Chile to visit the famous park Torres del Paine. This place is a backpackers mecca; everyone goes there to hike the “W”, “O” or if you’re really cool, the “Q” circuit. These are multi-day backpacking & camping treks. Ben and I decided to take a shorter route  – that we like to call the “J” – which included 2 days of hiking with an overnight in a nice warm Refugio (lodge) with a bed and sheets and bathrooms and showers. For anyone interested, here’s our route:

Our route - the "J" circuit

Our route - the "J" circuit

Note: Map taken and edited from http://www.torres-del-paine.org/map-tdp.html

For everyone else, here’s our photos… (more…)

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