Moai on Easter Island

Moai on Easter Island

Friday, December 19, 2014

Southbound C-17

I guess it is time to break the blog post silence with a short post about my flight down to Antarctica this year.

Christchuch, New Zealand is our jumping off point to fly to McMurdo.
After the earthquake, downtown Christchurch is being rebuilt and there are art installations everywhere.

I've wanted to fly on the C-17 since I started working in Antarctica.  My first flight down was on the Airbus 319 leased from the Australian Antarctic Division and used to transport people to McMurdo during the first month or so of the summer season.  Despite having a nice airline seat to sit in I was bummed that I didn't get to ride on the C-17.
The C-17 landing in McMurdo in April 2013.
The inside of the C-17
The Airbus 319.
The LC-130 Hercules
Inside of the C-17
The cockpit of the C-17

Looking down into the C-17 from the cockpit. 
On my next few trips between McMurdo and Christchurch I was on the LC-130 Hercules, which louder, less comfortable and takes 3 hours longer than the other two planes.  But this year I finally got to ride down on the C-17!

Weddell Seals just outside of McMurdo Station.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Northern Nicaragua, Part 3: Deep Sea Fishing and Kayaking


This is the final installment of my series on northern Nicaragua.   The trip was sponsored by Green Pathways and MatadorU.


My final day along the Pacific coast of northern Nicaragua was spent entirely on the water.   A morning of fishing called for an early wake up to head out in a relatively small boat owned by a local fisherman named Noel.  His house was on a concrete slab with the small dock as his front porch—all sheltered by the mangrove forest that we would kayak through later in the afternoon. 



Lunch!
 It was a slow day in the water and the frigate birds were catching more fish than us.  The owner of the boat said it is usually wasn’t that slow on the water since he catches enough fish to support his family.  Until the last half and hour on the water the most action we saw were two sea turtles mating on the surface of the water.  Just before heading back we hooked a mackerel and brought it back for lunch.  Less than two hours later is was grilled and sitting on my plate surrounded by rice, beans and fried plantains.  Delicious!






Later in the afternoon, we headed back to Noel’s house and hopped in a couple of kayaks to explore the mangrove forests.  Many of the passages only open up in low tide and reveal tunnels and hidden beaches behind the walls of mangrove trees.  As a kid this would be the ultimate place to have a tree fort within this secret mangrove kingdom.  After learning a bit about mangrove ecology, we raced back to the dock before the evening thunderstorms came in and concluded my last day in Nicaragua.



Kayaking through tunnels in the mangrove forest.

Mangrove trees live in saltwater and sacrifice a few of their leaves (the yellow ones shown above)
to rid the whole tree of the extra salt.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Northern Nicaragua, Part 2: Somoto Canyon and Paddleboarding

Here’s the second installment of my September trip to Northern Nicaragua thanks to Green Pathways.  

After a long day of exploring and photographing volcanoes I headed back to Leon for a quick night of rest.  Early the next morning we left Leon for the Somoto area of Nicaragua along the border of Honduras.  It was a five-hour drive through mostly farmland.  We didn’t pass the typical cornfields that would be seen on almost any five-hour drive in the US, but I passed bean fields, and coffee plants, and fields of plantains, sesame, sugar cane and yucca.  Yes, there was plenty of corn, but it didn’t dominate the landscape. 
Typical Nicaraguan Landscape
We finally got to the town of Somoto which is famous for its rosquillas.  The best way I can describe a rosquilla is a crunchy corn and cheese cookie.  There are photos below that show what they really are and describe the process a bit.

Pans of cooked rosquillas.  Some are sweet, but most are savory with a one to one mixture of corn and cheese.
The cooking process takes place in two ovens.  One to cook them and one to make them crunchy.
The whole process starts at 3am and goes until early afternoon.  People from all around the region come to Somoto every day to buy rosquillas.  
The end of Somoto Canyon from the lookout where I spent the night.
Next we headed into a Somoto Canyon.  Somoto canyon wasn’t “discovered” by anyone outside of Nicaragua until 2003 when two Czech geologists studied the canyon and suggested to the locals that it would be a good tourist attraction.  11 years later I was still the only white person in the canyon.   There were a few parts of the canyon that we hiked through, but it was mostly peacefully floating down the Coco River and through a few small, but exciting rapids. 

Deep in Somoto Canyon
A local boy diving into the Coco River as it exits the deepest section of Somoto Canyon.

The Lookout above Somoto Canyon where I spent the night after traveling through the canyon.
The next morning we had breakfast at a local farm.  This chicken was trying, and failing,  to milk the cow. 
The next day we drove to the port town of Corinto and met up with Scott and Gea of Livit Water who took us paddleboarding.  They moved to Nicaragua from southern California to escape the typical American lifestyle and after years of traveling they decided to settle here among some of the most genuine and welcoming people they’d ever met.   Scott and Gea were some of my favorite people that I met during the week in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua has some destination surf breaks that are just as fun on a paddle board.
Paddleboarding near Corinto.  We took a boat across most of the bay to islands that seemed a world away from the busy port.
Great afternoon on the beach on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua.
We stayed late enough for the sun to lower in the sky for some great photo opportunities in the water.  
We had a great afternoon on an island across the bay from Corinto and the headed back to town to watch the sun set. 

This is actually one of my favorite photos from Corinto.
Sunset in Corinto
Next week the last Nicaragua installment will come out with deep sea fishing and kayaking through mangrove forests.