Top 10 Travel Stories #8: Galapagos!

The unique landscape of the Galapagos Islands

The unique landscape of the Galapagos Islands

It was June of 2008 and I has just finished my tour of Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley of Peru and arrived in the Galapagos. Thanks to being a solo traveler I got the last, single bunk on a small boat that was touring around the islands for a week. On one of our shore expeditions I went out into the crystal clear waters to snorkel. I was still very close to shore when I encountered sting rays, sea turtles, and numerous fish.

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Peru: Photos from Recent Travelers

About ten days ago, we asked for people to submit their best photos of Peru on Instagram and a few people were kind enough to submit their photos to us. Without further ado, the featured artists. Please check them out on Instagram and thank you for your submissions:

@katrabik

@just_jessicaah

@jesscbruce

@francescamaria_s

@cintchola

@carolsutterpersonal

If these photos inspire you to visit Machu Picchu, here are some handy tips for planning your trip.

The Things Which We Cannot Leave Behind

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.- Steve Jobs

 

I’m moving out of my apartment this week, so I will have more up on the Peru items later this week. I apologize to those who submitted photos for me to feature; it’s coming, just give me a bit of time. I’ve given away a lot of things, put many more in storage. I have hundreds of books (maybe I will post a pic of my old library later), but decided on these to take with me. Not because they are my favorites. No, actually not one is an old friend I can fall back on. Each one is something new for me…some are old books–ones I never got around to reading although they sat in my library.

I can’t say that I have good, effective habits. I don’t know if I am an introvert or extrovert, it really depends. I don’t know if I resonate with people. I can read a financial report just fine, but never actually focused on how to “bean count,” and I love taking photographs, but I haven’t taken very many classes or instructions. One is a book with photographs and poetry from a couple who traveled the world for a year and a half after marrying. There is a guide book lost in the shuffle, and a series of beautiful photographs taken by Michio Hoshino in the far north.

I’ve been saying, “No,” to myself for a long time. Changes are coming.

 

"Change"

“Change”

Machu Picchu and Cusco in Just 4 Days

Machu Picchu without people- not just a dream

Machu Picchu without people- not just a dream

Summary:

-See sunrise at Machu Picchu and avoid the crowds

-Don’t worry if the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu is fully booked- take a car part way

-Book your Huayna Picchu climb for 10am

-If you have extra days, spend them in Cusco or around the Sacred Valley

-Follow us on Instagram this week @thegentlemanbackpacker and submit your best Peru photos using #gentlemanbackpacker_peru to enter our photography contest and be featured on our feed and on this website.

One of the things I learned from my 14-country Round-the-World trip in 2008 was to be efficient. This was true whether it came to packing or travel planning. I can now plan a nice 3-day weekend in Buenos Aires, for example. Sometimes, you just can’t spend as much time in a country as you would like. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go at all. The Sacred Valley of Peru, a popular destination that usually begins in Cusco and reaches its climax at Machu Picchu, now one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, can be done in a variety of ways.

The famous Inca Trail is extremely popular with backpackers and college students. On my way back from Machu Picchu, I shared a train booth with some young ladies from the University of Florida, who apologized (unnecessarily) for the fact they hadn’t showered in 5 days and, upon hearing I lived in Tokyo, knew about and longed for the use of a Japanese washlet, given their time spent “roughing it with a leaf and a shovel.” But there I was, determined to go to Machu Picchu on a trip where I was also going to the Galapagos to cruise around by boat, visit museums in Spain and attend the opera in Vienna, oh and cruise the Nile in Egypt as well; I couldn’t lug around the appropriate equipment for camping in the mountains. So, after some careful and annoying planning, I came up with an itinerary that ticked all the boxes I wanted to tick, but was doable in just 4 days. Read on to find out how.

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Our Water World in 30 Travel Photographs

An endangered green turtle rises to the surface for air, while a SCUBA diver descends upon entry into the water

“You’re going the wrong way” An endangered green turtle rises to the surface for air, while a SCUBA diver descends upon entry into the water

The calendar has turned to October, and if the crisp air in New York is any indication, autumn has kicked summer to the curb. I want to say thanks for a very busy September here at The Gentleman Backpacker, where you visited us more than ever before. It’s a nice feeling to see people viewing what we put out. I’d like to encourage you to please leave us comments and ask plenty of questions. I want to help make traveling as enjoyable for you as it is for me. I’ve been busy the past few weeks as some big changes are coming in my life (stay tuned), but I’ve also been swamped with selecting entries for some photography contests. “Water” was the topic of one of these contests, and as broad as that one word is, there are so many meanings. If we take the frozen kind, for example, the Inuit People of the Arctic are famously known to have 50 words for snow. So I took to thinking about water from different perspectives as I sorted through some 30,000 photographs to weed out perhaps 5,000 water photographs, before culling my list down to 30. For the contest, I finally submitted just a handful from that penultimate list of 30, but I thought I would share these with you in the form of a post. I was surprised at just how many different places these photos came from, and they made for a very interesting look at our world. I’ve included a few lines about each photo to describe to you the place and time, and what I felt as I captured the scene. If you had to enter a contest and submit only five photos, which ones would you pick? Please let me know in the comments section below! Please note I worked really hard and traveled to many places at great personal expense to capture these photos. If you want to use one, please contact me at gentlemanbackpacker@gmail.com and we can discuss the matter. Please don’t just download them for your own commercial use. They are copyrighted and all rights are reserved.

Pack Like a Pro: Pack for Two Months in Under 12 Minutes

Are you an efficient packer?

In this era of bag fees and restrictions on carry-on bag sizes, good packing techniques are worth their weight (under 23kgs) in gold. I traveled for 2 months with just a 40-litre backpack (pretty small), a carry-on compliant roller suitcase, and a small carry-on backpack (your one piece of small cabin luggage plus one personal item quota). In them, I managed to fit two weeks’ worth of clothes, camera equipment, rain gear, suits for nights out, hiking and dress shoes, cold weather clothes, etc. In this video below, I show you how. It’s also available on our YouTube channel at The Gentleman Backpacker. Please subscribe to us there if you want more video content and free tips!

So how do you pack when you are preparing for a trip? Please share any tips or comments you have with us below.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering the World Trade Center through Photographs

Clockwise from top left: View of East River from WTC, Twin Towers, View of Lower Manhattan from WTC, WTC Plaza, View of Statue of Liberty from WTC, View of Eastern Manhattan from WTC, View of Lower Manhattan and WTC from Liberty Island

Clockwise from top left: View of East River from WTC, Twin Towers, View of Lower Manhattan from WTC, WTC Plaza, View of Statue of Liberty from WTC, View of Eastern Manhattan from WTC, View of Lower Manhattan and WTC from Liberty Island

Today, we remember. Thousands of others have used millions of words to express their feelings better than I ever can. I distinctly remember where I was, what I was doing, and how I reacted when I learned of what happened that day, thirteen years ago.  Doubtless we each have our own memories and thoughts on this day, and I feel I am in no place to offer anything new or insightful. What I offer instead are some photographs I have. I took them in March of 1998 on my first trip to New York. It was a strange spring: during our ten days there we saw everything from snow to 80 degree (F) temperatures.

A lot of people talk about how the Twin Towers weren’t the most beautiful of New York’s buildings; while that may be true, when looking at these photos, especially the one of the closeup of the people by the Plaza below, I still think the towers had an under appreciated, industrial elegance to them. The other photos are of various views from the observation deck, and one taken from Liberty Island hidden in one of the collages. Of course, the photo quality isn’t great as they are photos of photos, although I tried to arrange them in a meaningful way. I may scan these some day to keep better care of them.

The three below were taken tonight from the Top of the Rock. (Note: The first time around the photos were mistakenly uploaded in lower resolution. I’ve fixed that now. )

In memoriam.

Moonrise over Manhattan: Supermoon 2014

Supermoon rises over Manhattan, as seen from Chelsea, NYC

Supermoon rises over Manhattan, as seen from Chelsea, NYC

 

The last of 2014’s supermoons occur tonight and tomorrow. I took this photo tonight from Chelsea’s famous High Line Park, without the use of a tripod.  The moon rises to the east and traffic whizzes by on the avenue below. I love the old, brick apartment buildings of Chelsea, the tree-lined side streets, and the tops of the towers of Madison just peeking over the tree-line.The Empire State Building is blue, green and yellow tonight for the US Open Finals weekend. Congratulations to Serena, and go Kei Nishikori tomorrow!

How to Take Unique Photographs of Common Subjects Part 1: Bethesda Fountain, New York

Plenty of subject to choose from, plenty of boring ways to shoot them

Plenty of subjects to choose from, plenty of boring ways to shoot them

Living in New York, I benefit from having many great urban muses to shoot. The flip side is, of course, that “It’s been done before” comes up a lot. We’re all entitled to our postcard-style, “I was there,” shots. However, whether you live in New York or not, I’m sure you’ve asked yourself how you can make your photographs different from the rest. It can be a conundrum, but a fun challenge at the same time. There are many different ways you can tackle this issue: framing, angles (get down low or get up high), etc., but today I want to talk a little about using light and synecdoche.

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Iguazu Falls: 22 photos that will make you want to go right now (and bonus travel tips)

 

What sets Iguazu apart from Niagara and Victoria: the spectacular setting

What sets Iguazu apart from Niagara and Victoria: the spectacular setting

Iguazu (or Iguacu in Portuguese) is often mentioned in the same breath as Niagara and Victoria when the world’s greatest waterfalls are discussed. I’ve been to all three, and Iguazu is the most beautiful. Niagara is too developed and the Batoka Gorge that the Zambezi River carves out at Victoria is so deep and narrow that when the water is flowing near peak rates there is so much mist that the only way to get a good view of the falls is via helicopter. Iguazu is comprised of some 275 or so (the number fluctuates by season) waterfalls set in a dramatic, lush jungle setting. You may have seen it in the Roger Moore Bond Film Moonraker or a certain, awful Indiana Jones film we will pretend was never made.

 

TRAVEL TIP #1: BRAZILIAN VISAS CAN BE OBTAINED QUICKLY IN IGUAZU

Iguazu is a great place to obtain a visa for Brazil, if needed. I’ve heard of turnaround times of as fast as the same day if you go early in the morning and leave your passport. I discuss Brazilian visas here in my post about Carnival. But typical turnaround times for visa approval are as follows: Tokyo Brazilian Consulate : 2~3 weeks, New York Brazilian Consulate: 1~2 weeks, Buenos Aires Brazilian Consulate: 2 days, Iguazu: 1 day. So if you have left home without one, are required to have a visa, and want to go to Brazil, don’t despair.

TRAVEL TIP #2: FLY FROM BUENOS AIRES DOMESTIC AIRPORT IN UNDER TWO HOURS (AND OFTEN UNDER TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS)

Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’ international airport is a big pain to get to, especially with traffic. Fortunately, there is a domestic airport right on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, code BUE (not EZE). Make sure you are looking up flights from there if you are going via Argentina and save yourself a lot of hassle, money and time. A quick glance of flights this month shows daily, nonstop options starting at $150 US. You can definitely tack this trip onto a 3-day weekend in Buenos Aires, or explore several short trip options from the capital city here and here.

Read my personal travel story from Iguazu here and see some of the interesting birds and wildlife here

Without further ado…