Off Yonder – Adventure Travel Stories - Seeing the world for what it is

Feeling Chile
Magallanes, Los Lagos & Aysen, Chile

Chile is a land of many adventures from mountain biking to wine tours, from skiing to white water rafting, from hot springs to mountaineering. I joined a group of seasoned adventurers to explore the three southern most regions of Chile: Los Lagos, Aysen & Magallanes. Each of them host varying stages of tourism development, adrenaline rush, cultural interactions to cater to the interest of any traveler or explorer.

One of the most interesting lessons I learned about was where the name Patagonia came from. Magellen created the term for the indigenous inhabitants of the southern reaches of South America because they were larger in stature that his crew, indeed, than Europeans at the time. How does Patagonia, or rather Patagon as Magellan documented it, relate to large people? Well, like many such words the etymology is fuzzy, but one story refers to Magellan and his crew first seeing the footprints of these people (believed to have been the Tehuelches people). This may be a stretch, but Pata is phonetically close to “pede” from the Latin for foot (as in “pedestrian” or “pedal”) and “-gon” makes me think of giant or another word that refers to something large with a “-gon” ending, dragon. Anyway, Click through to the full story for more photos and the videos I produced from the adventure.

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Swiss Adventure: Bungee Jump (fall)
Mount Titlis, Engelberg, Switzerland

It wasn’t possible for all of the 600 delegates attending the Adventure Travel World Summit to participate in one of the many Pre-Summit Adventures like the one I shared in my last post. So, the first day of the summit is actually a “Day of Adventure” before filling the halls of the conference center for all the various sessions.

I was assigned to document the Bungee Jump. Or, as I indicate in the title, it was more of fall, or teeter. At the base of Mt. Titlis near the town of Engelberg south of Lucerne in Switzerland, we boarded a large rectangular cable car or gondola with a hole in the middle. I found out in a little video clip that I did (see below) that I was with a bunch of rookies. Nobody on this trip had ever been bungee jumping before. And, to complete the rookie-ness, I had never been either. The closest thing I’ve done like bungee jumping was the Canyon Swing just the day before as seen in the last video. Since we were “jumping” from a gondola, they asked us to just teeter forward and pivot over our feet to fall, not to jump and push the gondola away causing it to swing.

Check out the full story for the video!

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STS-133: Discovery’s Last Launch
Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States

It’s been a childhood dream to see a Space Shuttle launch and only with the threat of the program ending have I put a concerted effort towards actually getting there to see it. Last fall I spent a week on the Space Coast in Florida waiting for STS-133, the Shuttle Discovery to fly it’s last mission. Each day they delayed the launch until finally I couldn’t afford to spend more time in Florida and they scrubbed the launch for at least a few weeks.

After months of going over the leaky fuel tank and related components the launch was scheduled again for 24 Feb 2011 and I was there, again.

As I suspected, after having so much time to get ready for the launch, Discovery was ready to go and lifted off without a hitch, much less any major holds in the countdown sequence.

At the range of about 7 miles on the 5th floor of a condo complex where some friends have a unit I got to see, hear and feel the excitement of witnessing humans breaking away from the grasp of gravity into space. It is awe inspiring.

STS-133 carried a storage module to the International Space Station as well as a new and permeant crew member: Robonaut 2. Click below for more photos.

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Arctic Rafting
Kongakut River, Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, Alaska, United States

Walls of ice 8 feet tall surrounded us for a mile long section early on the river. This was, in part, what I came to the Arctic for. To experience the unique nuances of the circumpolar region: ice lined rivers, mountains carpeted in tundra, migrating caribou, foraging bears, wolves on the hunt, and yes, even to see if the mosquitoes were as bad as everyone predicted. The Arctic gets regular play in the news and although I knew I was already in favor of protecting this fragile landscape from any industrial intrusion, I wanted to see and experience it for myself.

The seven of us were on the Kongakut River in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – 8.9 million acres established 50 years ago. In 1980 Jimmy Carter and other enthusiasts expanded it to today’s 19-million acres. The controversy between whether or not to allow oil extraction operations here is no secret. The pro drilling argue getting off foreign oil dependencies and an economic gain for the local economy. The con argue a disruption of fragile eco systems and that the surveyed estimate of how much oil could be recovered was but a mere drop in the bucket of US thirst for oil.

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Final Touches: Kongakut River
Fairbanks, Alaska, United States

Car TetrisThe trip is on. I departed PDX at 9.30pm in the dark and chased the sun down by flying north and arrived in Anchorage around midnight where, though it was overcast, it was still dusk out.

Nathaniel Wilder with Sune and Lindsay Tamm picked me up and we stayed up until 2.30am catching up on all the corners of the world we had been to since seeing each other last, fully aware that we had the next 18 days to do this on the river and that we should get some much needed sleep.

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Weekend: Music & Planes
San Diego, California, United States

Alex Cook is out here on his West Coast CD release tour with a box of 300 “Tree of Life” CD’s. I made it to his show in Encinitas where the producer of the album, Jason Froese joined him to play bass. Andrew set up two video cameras to record the whole thing and I snapped a few stills, see below. The music is awesome and should be available to all via iTunes and the such soon. If you want to see Alex live yourself, check out his tour schedule at http://myspace.com/alexcookmusic. If your area isn’t on there, drop him a line and have him come out your way!

The next day, Dad and I headed to the Miramar Air Show. I’ve been to a few air shows, including this one years ago. But this was the best way to do an airshow: be on the Air Crew for a static display aircraft. Dad helped Pamala bring her T-34a Mentor over on Thursday and it’s one of the planes on display for folks to check out. As Air Crew, we got passes to the Air Crew Chalet, a little section of the flight line roped off where they provided us with meals, snacks, drinks and a place to sit and watch the air show in the sky. Dad and I got in early to get good parking in the special Static Display Crew Lot and really enjoyed the day. After the Blue Angles did their thing, we had to hand tow the T-34a past the public access area to the active ramp. Dad fired up the Mentor and flew it back to Gillespie while I drove the car over to pick him up. Select photos of the air show also below and on my Facebook Page and in my gallery.

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T-34a Mentor Flight
San Diego, California, United States

So, Dad flies with a group called San Diego Salute, which is a group of guys with T-34a Mentors who hire themselves out for air shows, flybys and scenic flights of the area. I’ve had the opportunity to fly with them twice now.

The first time I took some video, but mostly shot stills as the light was quite good. The second trip, the overcast sky made shooting stills less inspirational, but I had learned from my poor video footage to put a smarter piece together. So, the link below (or above – click the # above the image) is of stills from the first flight, and the video below is from the second flight.

If you want to know more about hiring this crew to do a flyby for you check them out at http://www.sandiegosalute.org/.

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Wedding Flight
Pepperdine University, Los Angeles, California, USA

Frankie called me shortly after I got back from the Antarctic in March of 2006. “I’m engaged and the wedding is next January, will you be on the continent??” I had such a good time in Antarctica, I was considering another season on the ice. But with this call, my plans were firmly set on […]

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The Mighty Muddy Dusky
Dusky Track, Fiordlands NP, Te Anau, New Zealand

Ah, the Dusky.

That, with a wistful look off into the infinite, seems to be a common reaction among those who have experienced the Dusky Track buried deep in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island.

The floatplane touched down with only a gentle whoosh on the glassy, silky smooth surface of Supper Cove. Steep, massive tree-covered slopes surrounding our little landing cove looked like they had been jettisoned from the seabed into the sky. The tide was out and the sandy estuary of the Seaforth River glowed golden touched with green where sea vegetation was starting to take hold. The gentle flow of the river braided across the sandy surface, finally ending its journey from the staggering peaks above.

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Pole Out
McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Returning to the vibrant land of color was a re-awaking process like I’ve never experienced before. It all started when I deplaned in Christchurch, New Zealand. I had stepped onto a massive C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft in the stillness of McMurdo Sound on the Antarctic coast and off it into a foreign world of warmth, darkness, sweet aromas and a light spattering of rain.

Knowing it would be warm when I arrived, I wore shorts under the heavy Antarctic clothing. Peeling off the layers as soon as I was on the tarmac waiting for the shuttle bus to the terminal felt glorious. The warm moist air enveloped me, light drops of rain tingled my skin and my sense of smell felt keener than ever. Even darkness took on a new fascination. The stars, having been hidden from me by 24 hours of sunlight a day at the pole, were partially obscured by scattered clouds and the light pollution of the city, but they were more beautiful than I could have imagined. It was approaching midnight but I was totally wired with all these sensory stimulations that had lain dormant since I flew south three months ago, all the way south.

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