Category Archives: Adventure Seekers

Which Alaskan cruise is right for you?

Which Alaskan cruise company is right for you?

There are so many Alaskan cruise options, it might be hard to choose the right fit for your trip to Alaska.  While most vacationers visit Alaska aboard a cruise ship, there are unlimited options to consider how to make the most of your vacation.

Mid sized cruise ship

Alaska mid sized cruise ship

There are ships that cater to families and lines that don’t allow children under certain ages.  Sizes also range from a dozen people to several thousand onboard.  Some itineraries include stops in Hubbard or Glacier Bay.  While this may drive the cost up due to permits and entry fees, it also allows nature lovers to experience the Alaska they’ve dreamed of.  There are cruises that spend more time in port and of course, endless itineraries with endless ports.

Some ships are really set up to entertain, while others are focusing on wildlife viewing and unique experiences.  There are always themed cruises as well as multi cultural and multi generational tendencies to consider.  Sometimes it may seem mind boggling figuring out how you will get the best value for your vacation dollar.

Start by listing the experiences you hope to enjoy like Glacier BayRead more

Americas Cup Sailing in Auckland Harbor New Zealand

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Land Based Extreme Adventure New Zealand

Picture of Wendy on the Sky Jump. New Zealand's Sky Tower

Screaming as I fell from the highest building in New Zealand.

Extreme sports, New Zealand’s draw for many, will take place on land today. The Sky Tower offers both sky walks and sky jumping. I actually got up the nerve to sign up to sky jump from FLOOR 56 of the tower. When we arrived, we walked by a giant bulls eye on the sidewalk; now I know what it’s there for – my landing but at the time I didn’t really get what I was in for. Another tip off should have been at lunch when the four “jumpers” in our group of many, were told that NO alcohol could be consumed prior to the jump.

Blissful ignorance got me through lunch and down to the basement level where we were each weighed at least twice after removing absolutely every accessory that would come off and take flight on its own. The eyeglasses were attached then taped to a lanyard which was then clipped to a special jumpsuit hook. Absolutely no personal belongings were on our bodies and a metal scanner was used to insure we didn’t forget to remove even a single coin.

We were then covered in harnesses and strapped so tight that I thought I would burst. If my stomach wasn’t nervous enough yet, this did the trick. I saw a shirt for sale that said “I almost jumped” with a picture of a giant chicken on it. I made a mental note to purchase the shirt when I came back down in the elevator after chickening out.

The next thing I knew, we were in the glass bottomed elevator and the guide pressed Floor 56, then he waved goodbye and was gone. As we zipped up the building, we watched the ground below getting further and further away and pretty soon, it felt like we were looking down from space. The door finally opened into a hallway with a sign point to the dreaded Sky Jump area.

Doug, a representative from Air New Zealand, and the only guy in our group of four, agreed to jump first. He went into a glass room where yet again his weight was checked twice, each of his shoes were tugged on by two employees to be sure they couldn’t come off, and his eye glass straps were checked. The harnesses were checked and tightened once again and a Go Pro was snapped onto his wrist. I was still OK with this – since it was him.

The next step was for Doug to step out onto this platform to prepare to jump off the side. When I ever saw the wind whipping his jump suit arms and hair around, reality set in. I just wanted to get this over with and get that CHICKEN Tshirt before moving on. After all, the Sky Tower also has a huge casino, pubs, shops and plenty of other things to do.   All of the sudden, Doug was gone. He had stepped off the side.

They called me into the room. While I let them do all the same checks, I thought about that wind some more and I told my guide that I needed to jump right away or forget it. (That T shirt was waiting for me). She said there was no need for backing out and we finally walked out onto the plank. I was told to hold the two poles and face out. The poles were placed so far apart I couldn’t reach both, so they told me to just hold a rope. At the count of three, I was told to just walk off the edge. “You mean you won’t push me? I thought somehow you would make that last move, not me!” She told me it was time to jump and I did, screaming all the way to that bul’ls eye. It was the craziest and most exciting moment of my entire life. I was so glad it was over, yet so sad it ended so quickly.

Even though I successfully made the jump, I walked inside and got that T shirt, the one with the chicken on the back. What a way to start my Kiwi Adventure!

Antarctica Travel Seasons and Options

Antarctica has a short travel window, lasting from December through February each year.  A number of cruise ships schedule expeditions during that period, as well as a few land based providers (who still travel by ship).  While all the ships offer wildlife viewing and possible encounters, there are huge differences in the ship size, feel, and atmosphere.

Two adventure companies stand out with me as the most comprehensive and educational when it comes to Antarctica and one is having a huge weekend sale.  I will be open all weekend to accommodate clients who wish to take advantage of this great offer.  I will also add a little incentive to guests who book with me during this sale period.  Call today, this offer will only last for three days.

Sale Dates November 6-8, 2014

Call for other specials  603-434-8100

Hurtigruten Antarctica on sale now. Call today 603-434-8100

Hurtigruten Antarctica on sale now. Call today 603-434-8100

 

 

 

Winter Fun in Alaska

Winter Fun
Step out of the Box: Don’t just think Summer in Alaska
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The climate across Alaska surprises most visitors. During the winter, while the far north sees

Wendy in Seward

Wendy in Seward

temperatures as low as 50 below zero (not a typo), Anchorage tends to see temps and precipitation similar to Maine. The weather in Ketchikan and south of Anchorage including the Inside Passage rarely goes much below freezing and is similar to that of sistering cities of Victoria, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. With rain forests and mountains bordering the sea, the clouds somehow add to the beauty of the seaside towns like Juneau, Sitka and Ketchikan, even on a cold and rainy winter day. This is perfect weather for the outdoor enthusiast.  We tried dog sledding, skiing and snow shoeing at Alyeska Resort in February.

With 12 hours of daylight by late February and March, the locals and tourists in Anchorage enjoy the Rhondy Festival with a full carnival, including rides and food vendors, as well as performances, tournaments and family activities. I was shocked to see both cotton candy and sausage trailers next to the ferris wheel in the middle of winter but it works. By the way, those sausages, you can choose between pork or reindeer sausages.

The ice sculptures are more magnificent than any First Night Celebration in the world and, like the sand castle contests of the Atlantic Ocean states, the variety and uniqueness made me want to stroll the streets of downtown Anchorage again and again.

The locals just love a good time. The Rhondy is wrapped up with a Trapper’s Banquet where the man with the longest beard is honored. Other guests often wear a beard that night too, just because they can.

On the final day of Rhondy, which happened to coincide with the Iditarod Ceremonial Start, about 3000 participants enter the Running of the Reindeer competition. This event is similar to the Running of the Bulls in Spain but much safer. Tourists, military, high school kids and men and women all have their own start.  They run about five blocks through downtown Anchorage trying to stay ahead of the approaching antlered reindeer running behind them. This event lasts less than an hour, yet several hundred people come out to cheer on the runners who wear anything from fur speedos to super hero costumes. It reminded me a lot of the Bay to Breakers Race in San Francisco each May.

I barely mentioned the main event, The Iditarod Race and a week full of events leading up to the race.  Read about it in my blog.

Turnagain Arm Alaska in Winter

Turn Again Arm Alaska

Turn Again Arm Alaska

Less than two hours outside of Anchorage, one of America’s most scenic roads, Turnagain Arm, is a must see area during winter or summer.  On this crisp February day, the temperatures were hovering at about 20 farenheit, the wind was calm and the blue sky was the perfect backdrop.  It makes me look forward to reaching Alyeska’s winter playground.

The mountains, grew taller and closer as we left the city, soon towering over the road in all their glory.  Pristine white snow seemed to cling to the peaks, ready for an avalanche at the least change in conditions.  With mountains on both sides, above lakes and meadows, the scenery was endless and flawless.

The gullies below showing the route the previous snow slide had taken, proved the need for a knowledgeable guide for those who wanted to back country ski, snowboard or snow shoe on the east side or snow machine on the right.  The snow machine like to play dare with the mountain by racing straight up as fast as they can go; as soon as the stop, they make a 180 and ride down before the snow follows.

On the other side of the road, the skiers and snowboarders are enjoying the deep snow experience too.  Many have their dogs along, sometimes pulling them up the hills and sometimes just playing together along the trails or off the trails.  Each skier will carry a shovel and wear a GPS locator, as the risks are high in this adventurous sport. With twelve hours of daylight, even in February, they can get in a full day of skiing one day and a full day of ice climbing another day.

Visiting Alaska in Winter Time

Alyeska Resort Alaska

Alyeska Resort Alaska

Most people consider visiting Alaska during the summer.  Coming from New England, I decided to visit in the winter time.  The weather in Anchorage and the Seward area is pretty similar to my home state of New Hampshire during the winter months and the scenery can’t be found anywhere else on earth.

My favorite part of traveling is getting to know the locals and seeing their scenic land and  how they live.  While July guests to Alaska have the benefit of warmer weather and more cruise and train travel options, the bustling city looks nothing like the home the locals love during the other ten months of the year.

We arrived in Anchorage for the last week in February to participate in the festivities leading up to the Iditarod dog sled races.  While in town, we took the beautiful Turnagain Arm scenic road to Seward then on to Alyeska Resort and Ski Area for a few days on the slopes.

While in Alyeska, we went dog sledding at night.  The snow is so white and pure that it looks like there are diamonds sparkling through it.  Even late at night, a field of snow has sparkles that light the way.  The dogs, naturally nocturnal animals,  train best at the lower temperatures during the night and while their energy is highest.  It was about 10 degrees farenheit during our mush, which was chilly, although we came dressed properly and were able to enjoy the clear skies, the sound of the snow under the skis and the beautiful snow cover.  I’m sure this authentic experience could only be found in the winter months.

Where and why to buy a machete in the Amazon

Every Amazon man needs a machete for every day life.  Most of the women and several of the older children also have their own too.  Whenever a hunter leaves for the jungle, he will carry but one thing, his trusty machete.  It will help blaze trails and  cut the heads of snakes.  It will be used to cut through bark for sap that might be used for medicinal purposes or for thirst.  The machete is in the hands of nearly every local who leaves the village.

machete store on the amazon river

machete store on the amazon river

While walking, there is a likely chance that medicinal and cooking herbs will be spotted and collected.  A poisonous critter may need to be moved from the path and a large animal, such as a jaguar, is also a very real threat.

While fishing, the machete is used for cutting fishing nets from debris or branches as well as for opening coconuts for a cool drink.  It might be used to help manage that spear caught in a fish or to take a splinter out of a finger.

In the village, the machete is a constant companion, used for preparing meals, collecting palm leaves that are used as the dinner table on the floor, or for cleaning the cooking fire area.

A machete can be purchased in one of the major towns along the Amazon River.  These larger towns are generally found every two to three days away from each other by small boat .  It is likely that someone from the village will need to go into town about once per week for supplies of some sort, including machetes and newspapers.  The picture below was taken in Nauta, where the Ucayali and Maranon Rivers meet.  This was our last stop on our Amazon River cruise.  As tempting as it was to have a machete for my wall, I wasn’t sure TSA would have a sense of humor when I returned to the states with it.

Call to learn more about river cruising. 603-434-8100

Camel ride at beach in Mexico

group camel riding

group riding camels

For a unique excursion in Mexico, consider taking a camel ride.  You’d expect to have an opportunity to ride a camel when visiting Egypt or Morocco, but now, visitors to Mexico have the same opportunity.  While your ride will take you over sand, it won’t be through a desert, it will take  you along the beaches.

Imagine sitting atop a giant dromedary watching the  horizon across an ocean, hearing the surf and feeling the camel below you.   Camel rides can be arranged in San Cristobel, Los Cabos  and also in Playa del Carmen, Cancun, Mexico.  This unique adventure is a great way to see more of Mexico and learn more about these unique animals.

There are a few things you should know about camels.  They drink about 40 gallons of water at one time, then if they are tired, they will sit or lie down, in which case you will just have to wait for them to be ready to move again.  Don’t bother arguing with them or they will spit at you.

If camel riding isn’t for you, consider seeing the area on horseback, from a hot air balloon, with a 4×4 jeep or hiking.  The possibilities are endless in paradise.  You can spend your time on the beach, take a bike riding tour to an ancient mayan ruin or take a canapy tour.

Your best value will be seen by booking well in advance, to save time and avoid the disappointment of a sold out tour.

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