Articles by "Michelle, Author at Adventure Adikt - Page 11 of 11"
Oct 10, 2010 - Wanderlust    No Comments

That time I went to the Galapagos Islands

I don’t know if I ever mentioned that time I went to the Galapaos Islands.  I think going to the Galapagos Islands are one of those things that are on nearly everyone’s [ok maybe not everyone, but every traveler, animal lover, and science nerd I know] bucket list.  My own adventure to the islands involved a bit of serendipity and a lot of  meclizine.

In September 2010, I was working/volunteering for an ecological research/preservation company.  The original plans were for me to split time between the Mindo Cloud Forest, the Lalo Loor Dry Forest, and the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest.  I did all that and more. But the highlight of my conservation internship was when I was asked to spend 10 days on a research boat on the Galapagos Islands tagging turtles.

galapagos islands turtles

These guys are huge and can live up to 175 years in captivity or 100 years in the wild

galapagos iguanas

and checking on these guys

galapagos island marine iguanas

don’t forget about these fellas

galapagos island sea lions 1

and revel in the cuteness of these lovable lions

My home for the 10 days was spent between living on a boat [not ideal for someone who gets motion sickness as easy as I do while on a boat] and spending time at the Charles Darwin Research Center. There were not a whole lot of tourists on the islands. I don’t know if it was due to it being the low season [September] or the fact that back in 2010 there weren’t a whole of of tour groups coming to the island.

galapagos research station

Edit note:  Before he died in 2012, Lonesome George was the center’s most famous resident. He got his nickname because he was the last surviving member of his species. Scientists tried mating George with several different ladies who were genetically close to George but nothing happened. He died without having reproduced and with his death, his species became extinct. I feel a little bad for him, living his last years in comfort but without the friendship of someone of his own kind.  George was also known for being a little bit of a recluse.  Each time I saw him, he was hiding behind something or behind the trees, but always munching on grass.

The giant tortoises like George can weigh up to 800 pounds fully grown.

galapagos island baby turtles

Hard to believe that these little fellas will still be with us in 2180 and will be 800 pounds. I’d be lucky to survive to 2080.

One of the cool things about being a ‘researcher’ is getting to go where is usually off limits to tourists. And when you are in places not often frequented by human, you catch animals, or in this case turtles, having sex. I’ve never thought about tortoises having sex before, but I sure didn’t imagine them doing it ‘doggy-style’.

more turtle sex
Tortoise style

It must have been giant tortoise valentine’s day or something. I found another couple doing the same thing.

even turtles do it

All that tortoise sex results in lots of babies, and it was because of the babies that I was there. See that yellow writing on the shells? That’s my handiwork… tagging baby land tortoises for future scientific research.

baby land tortises

giant turtle
These guys have such personality. And they are only found on the Galapagos Islands. A lot of the creatures on the islands are like that. Being located over 600 miles from mainland Ecuador equals not a lot of genetic diversity. And that is a good thing especially from an evolutionary point-of-view.

Sep 12, 2010 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Lalo Loor Dry Forest

My volunteer experience at Lalo Loor dry forest is very different than my time at El Pahuma, the rain forest, or what it will be like in the Galapagos.  Lalo Loor Forest is located about 2 km from Tabagua. It’s a new, unique concept where large landowners allow the Ecuadorian government to use their land for conservation, but technically still own in.  Lalo Loor was one of the first of these public-private partnerships and probably one of the more successful ones.   Lalo Loor’s owner has branded the area as a ‘research’ area, and to be fair, the dry forest, is a pretty unique ecosystem but since I am the only volunteer and they don’t want to completely isolate me, I will split my time working at the reserve and then helping out a former Peace Corps volunteer with various  community   projects.  I will still stay at the reserve as that is really the only place in town for visitors. [No hotel or guest houses in Tabuga].  The volunteer house is a bamboo and palm frond creation that can house up to 25 at a time.  It doesn’t have electricity or running water.  No heat.  No air.  No indoor plumbing, not hot water.  When there are more volunteers, there is a cook too.  When there is only 1–no cook, but I do get to go to Perdenales to shop for my breakfast and weekend food.  I get to eat lunch and dinner in town.  In the forest, I monitor animal behavior, go for hikes, search out birds, snakes, and insects.  I am also helping to construct a staircase on one of the closed trails.  I call it La Escalera de Michelle.

It gets dark about 5:30 pm…maybe a little earlier at the house due to its location in the forest.  From about 6p-9p, I read by candlelight.  [i found a Spanish language copy of  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  It’s slow going, but I am making my way through it, and its improving my Spanish language skills.]  It also gets light about 5:30am.  I wake up a bit earlier than that due to the howler monkeys that start their screaming about 4.  Thank god for the siesta.

Little Bastard

 

The following is the text of a press release I created for La Ceiba foundation work in the dry forest of Ecuador.  I spent approximately one month in the wet forest, dry forest, and Galapagos Islands of Ecuador doing plant and animal research for La Ceiba.  In part to the research I collected, La Ceiba was able to convince the Ecuadorian government to add additional protected lands.

The Bosque Seco Lalo Loor [BSLL] protects over 250 hectares of transitional semi-deciduous lowland tropical forest.  The forest supports a large population of Mantled howler monkey.  The reserve is located in a dry area of Ecuador’s coast where it receives a little over 1000 mm of rain each year, nearly all of it falling between January and May.  For the rest of the year, the forest receives almost no rain at all.

The monkeys eat a diet of mostly leaves, but they will eat fruit if it is available…  Leaves are a good source of carbon, but they lack nitrogen; therefore the diet is not especially nutritious due to the high concentration of leaves.  As a result, the monkeys live a fairly sedentary lifestyle compared to other tropical monkeys.

La Ceiba Foundation is collecting data for demography, range, and feeding habits of the monkey population.  A group consists of 2 people.  Each group will have binoculars, watch, compass, trail map, and a data sheet.  Each group will work a separate area of the trail for four hours once in the morning and once at night.  Once a monkey is encountered the group will stop and a collect data for 30 minutes.

Other notable plants and animals in the forest include:

  • Jaguarundi
  • Howler Monkey
  • Ocelot
  • Tayra
  • White front capuchin monkey
  • chestnut mandibled toucan
  • choco toucan
  • Ecuadoran Trogan
  • Grey back hawk
  • Hook-billed kite
  • Palamandibled Aracari
  • Red Mask Parakeet
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Equis
  • Blue Morpho Butterfly
  • Helicopter Damselflies
  • and several species of orchids

Aug 1, 2010 - Wanderlust    No Comments

Wherein I attempt to be a travel writer: 2 days in Bogota

I’ll be the first to admit it:  Bogotá was not high on my list of ‘places to visit’, but Colombia’s capital city is a study in contrasts.  On one side there is the ultra-modern skyscrapers and modern architecture.  On the other side, there are wide, colonial, pedestrian-only plazas dripping with sun and shade trees.  Couples cuddle up on benches while kids chase birds on the pavement. If I didn’t know any better, I’d never associate what I’ve experienced in the last few days with the gritty, drug-infested crime haven.  Instead Bogotá is as safe as any other city of nearly 10 million people. It’s leaders are forward-thinking and global adventurers definitely have the city on their radar.

If you only have 2 days in Bogotá, know that it’s not enough, but there are some sights need to experience.

Bogotá has a rich colonial history, but is focusing on the future; it is a fascinating place to be right now. And it’s much bigger than you might think!  The city dwarfs most American and European cities.

Know before you go

  • FlightsAvianca Airlines provides some of the best direct flight options into Bogotá from the US and Europe.
  • Getting to Town: El Dorado Airport is about nine miles west of the city center. You can grab an official airport taxi (yellow and white) for the quickest ride into town– taking around 30 minutes and costing around 15,000 Colombian pesos (about $6 USD). The airport is also served by public transportation, but unless you know exactly where you are going, I’d save the public transport for the return
  • Language: The official language is Spanish.
  • Currency: 1 USD, = about 2500 COP
  • Credit Cards and Banks: Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Bogotá, but I’d recommend taking out cash from local ATM’s if you plan to so some shopping in the markets. For safety, be sure to use a secure ATM located inside a bank.  This applies to just about anywhere.
  • Climate: March is the hottest month in  Bogotá with an average temperature around 70°F and the coldest is December at 55°F. The climate is very warm and tropical, with a rainy season from May to November, and October wettest on average.

Day One in Bogotá

For your first day in Bogotá, I’d recommend sticking to one area in order to make the most of your time here and that area is La Candelaria–a neighborhood that has most of the museums and interesting architecture.  La Canderlaria is what would be considered ‘old town’ in most other cities. Stay in this neighborhood the entire day [some think it’s sketchy at night, but I stayed in this neighborhood and had no problems.  Of course, when I travel solo, I’m almost always in my room by 9p, and this was no expection]

The Gold Museum

Everyone knows that I am a history nerd and while I did my senior thesis on Mayan Art and Architecture, I studied a lot of Pre-Columbian art and architecture.   So for my fellow history nerds out there, this museum is history come to life.  It has been existence for 80+ years and is one of the better museums not focusing on art.  The museum is probably Colombia’s most visited museum and has more than 55,000 gold artifacts from Pre-Columbian days.  The guides do an excellent job of not only explaining the history and evolution, but where the artifacts were found and what they represent.   Rather than focusing exclusively on gold [which I imagine could get quite boring], it focused on metallurgy as a component of mankind’s evolution.  The detail to which the guides get in can be pretty intense, but even if you are here for the bling, there’s something for everyone.  Oh, and it’s heavily guarded; it’s easily the safest place in Colombia.

 

Eat Lunch at La Puerta Falsa

One you’ve worked up an appetite, grab some traditional Colombian fare at La Puerta Falsa. The restaurant was established has in 1816 and is one of the most famous, authentic places to eat in Bogotá. The name of the restaurant translates to ‘the false door’ and it’s so-named because the church across the street once had fake exterior doors built to throw off any potential attacks on the city. The place is tiny and so is the menu, but it’s full of history and traditional charm. There are only two items on the lunch menu: tamales or ajiaco soup. I definitely recommend the ajiaco.

If you know me, you know that I love soup! And Ajiaco is a very Colombia dish which is essentially chicken broth, potatoes, avocado, and corn.

The Botero Museum

After lunch, head over to the Botero Museum which features the art of Colombia native, Fernando Botero.  Even if you aren’t big on ‘fancy art’, you should still check out the Botero Museum.  Botero’s art consist of paintings and sculpture, but the uniting theme of of all his subject  is their size.  You see, Botero is known for his, ummmm, shall we say, curvy models.

A Botero sculpture….They seem happy and in love, don’t they?

 

I think we can all relate to this one at times

Take a free walking tour

After checking out the museums, it’s time to be outside [if the weather is cooperating].  Like many cities, Bogotá  has free walking tours.[They even have themed tours:  graffiti tours, coffee tours, historic tours, ect...] If you’re short on time or want an easy way to see the key attractions and important sites, a free walking tour is the answer. Sign up with a group, or create your own route and go alone. The main touristy spots are pretty safe during the day.

Going the independent route has some key advantages, mainly being able to stop where you want, when you want.  Should a food vendor entice you, no worries, stop for a little snack. La Candelaria is easily the best neighborhood for exploring, either on your own or with a group. The ‘hood blends Spanish colonial, art deco and Baroque architecture and there’s a vendor on nearly every corner.

Grilled corn on the cob is seriously the best thing ever

 

More snacks!

 

The colonial cobblestones in La Candelaria

Plaza de Bolivar

La Plaza de Bolivar is one of Bogotá’s most iconic sites.  It is surrounded by incredible architecture and is a favorite among nearly everyone.  Including the birds.  The 1000’s of birds that descend on the square looking for free handouts.  Feed them or not, but it’s nearly impossible to avoid the birds.

Even Simon Bolivar can’t escape the pigeons

Day Two

On your second day, be sure to climb to the top of the city and mix with the locals for insight into life in Colombia’s capital!

Monserrate

No matter where you are in the city, you can see the iconic Monserrate Mountain. A Colombian spiritual and cultural symbol, this must-see attraction is something you’ll want to spend the morning taking in. Ride the funicular or the cable car up the mountain for a panoramic view of Bogotá and beyond.

Cerro de Monserrate rises majestically from Bogotá’s downtown area and dominates the city’s landscape at a height of over 3,000 metres. Going to the top for a view over the sprawling urban jungle below is one of the best things to do in Bogotá. Especially if you can do it at sunset.

Depending on the time of day, you can either ride the funicular railway to the top or take the ‘teleférico’ (cable car), which is what I did. App

The cable car operates from Monday to Sunday  and costs up to 20,000 COP for a return journey – but it’s cheaper on Sundays. The funicular railway runs from Tuesday to Sunday and costs the same, and is open on holidays, unlike the cable car. Of course, you can also tackle the one-hour hike to the top if you’re feeling energetic, and due to the altitude, you need to be acclimated to the altitude and in better than average hiking shape because not being able to breathe due to exertion is no picnic.

Jul 11, 2010 - Wanderlust    No Comments

An Epic Packing List

A Packing List for the Unknown [*updated post]

I am going to South America.  Perhaps you knew that already. I leave in a couple of weeks, and have no set return date, and yet, I’m just starting to make my packing list. As of now my plans include: Hiking Macchu Picchu in Peru, renting an apartment in Buenos Aires, and trying to set foot in all 13 countries on the continent.  So given the fact that my time-frame is undefined, and my itinerary is open how does one begin to pack for an adventure such as this. Carefully, very carefully.  I know one thing:  I need a bag.  My previous backpack is a Kelty external frame doozy and while it gotten my safely around Mexico and Central America, I need something a little more up to date so I ordered a bag similar to the one below from REI [mine is UT orange]. 90% of what I take will fit in this bag. I’m also taking a smaller [think school sized] backpack to keep with me on the bus that will have my camera, passport, money, ect.

I’m not going to revisit every item in my backpack**, but there was the usual–Socks, underwear, long sleeved/ short sleeve shirt, pants (yes, those obnoxious zip off kind), skirt or two, jacket, fleece, and a professional-ish jacket for the occasions that required me to not look like a bum. Sandals, trail shoes, and hiking boots. A few toiletries, a Kindle, a Zune (does anybody even know what that is anymore?), travel guides, and a couple of book.  Oh and some random items that we’ll get into later.

**At the bottom of this post is my original packing last, posted July 4, 2010**

These item convinced me I was a packing genius.

Packing cubes

I will never, ever not even for a day, travel without packing cubes again.  I discovered these babies in 2006 prior to my Italian holiday and these changed how I pack my bag. Instead of rummaging through my bag  to find random necessary item, it is quick and easy to find it as long as the cubes are organized in a way that makes sense to you. If you don’t have them believe me you need them.

Keen Sandals

I bought my first pair prior to leaving and have since gone through 2 other pair and I have another pair waiting to be broken in as soon as the current  pair bite the dust [it won’t be long].  These sandals are durable, waterproof, have a closed rubberized toe so that when you  I inevitably stub my toe on roots or cobblestones, it  will only hurt my pride.

My first aid kit
I usually go overboard on packing my first aid kit and going to South America was certainly no exception.  However, the meds you can get in most countries are much much cheaper than in the US and they also have meds not available in the US that work amazingly well [See Magic Pills].  I also overstock on the supplies, but every single supply in there is something I’ve used at least once.

Sleeping Sheet

I originally was going to buy a silk sleeping bag liner, but those things border on $100. Instead, I bought a leopard print queen size slinky microfiber flat sheet and sewed it up at the edges.  Yes I used it for sleeping. I also used it for my Halloween costume.

 

These items seriously made me question my sanity

Travel wash bag

The awkward size took up too much room. I thought the hook at the top would be practical but most places did not have somewhere for me to hang it. I carried it around for 16 long months because I do use it when I go hiking.

Expensive travel clothes

I was so excited at this big trip I went out and bought a bunch of fancy travel clothes. Patagonia pullover? Check. Silk base layers? Check. REI parka? Check. Fancy hiking boots?  Again, check. If you are an adventure traveler you may need this, and to some degree I am and will probably always be one but if you realize that hiking is not an activity for you, spend the $500 on something you truly enjoy.  You’ll come to hate lugging around heavy hiking boots, leave them under some hostel bed, and then wonder why you buy nice things.

All that aside, I did wear [and return home with] every single nice adventure clothing item I took.  I still wear the same parka 7 years later.  It’s good quality stuff and will  last a long time.  If you prefer high heels to hiking boots, buy them at home. You’ll get a lot more wear out of them.

Rain poncho

I had a hiking jacket and another waterproof windbreaker. Why I thought I needed a 99 cent poncho was beyond me. I finally put it in the trash around month 9 after living in the desert for 3 months. I saw some kids playing with it and thought ‘well, at least someone is using it.’

Multi tool

I used the knife function frequently.  But the other tools never even saw the light of day. Next time I’ll just bring a knife.

Sewing Kit

Yes I had one, Yes, I even used it more than once, but every time I needed something sewn or patched and I was in a city, I just dropped it off  at a seamstress store and she fixed it for something like 50 cents.

Mini flashlight on keychain

I had a head lamp, which was recommended by many and I used it quite a bit, even if just to enter dorm rooms at night.  I mainly used it on the beaches.  Nice to have. Small. Compact. But definitely not necessary.

 

 

 

Mineral Water

Electronics

I’m not going crazy with the electronics.  I am taking a small point and shoot camera [FujiFilm Z70; it’s waterproof], my Canon digital Rebel, 2 lenses + flash, a unlocked cell phone I got off e-bay, my Zune, a couple of flash drives to save photos to, and chargers for each.  That’s it for electronics.  I hope I’m not overdoing it.

Backpacking Things

  • Thermarest compressible pillow
  • 0 degree sleeping bag
  • down vest [white]
  • waterproof parka [red]
  • Patagonia long sleeves fleece [black]
  • 1 pair of waterproof hiking pants
  • fleece gloves
  • ear wrap
  • light weight rain jacket
  • plastic poncho

Clothes + Shoes

  • Asolo Hiking Boots
  • Merrill Trail Walking Shoes
  • Asaics tennis shoes
  • Keen Sandals
  • Clark’s Sandals
  • Flip-flops
  • 5 pairs of wool socks
  • 5 pairs of regular socks
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 5 bras/5 sports bras
  • 2 bathing suits
  • 8 ‘nicer’ shirts
  • 5 t shirts
  • 3 long-sleeve t-shirts
  • 1 pair fleece pants
  • 1 pair thermal underwear pants
  • 5 pairs of pants [mostly khakis]
  • 2 pair of zip-off pants
  • 2 skirts
  • 3 pair of shorts

Toiletries

  • travel brush/mirror
  • small make up kit
  • nail kit + polish
  • toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
  • lotion
  • shampoo/conditioner
  • razor + refills
  • powder
  • deodorant
  • lip balm
  • soap
  • feminine hygiene products

Miscellaneous

  • washcloths x4
  • quick dry towel
  • extra shower flip flops
  • swiss army knife
  • guide book [South America on a Shoestring]
  • 3 paperback books [for trading en route]
  • copies of passport/visas
  • snacks
  •  bucket style hat [for sun protection]
  • notebooks x2
  • travel journal
  • pens
  • first aid kit
  • head lamp
  • water bottle x2
  • sewing kit
  • hand sanitizer

Whew!  That’s a long list.  Is it too much? Did I leave anything out?  Will I have to go shopping somewhere?  Stay tuned for updates…

Feb 24, 2010 - Life    No Comments

A certain milestone

Hi, my name is Michelle.  Welcome to my blog.

So I did a thing… well two things really if you count one of them as this blog.  Well, three if you count having a milestone birthday… which I did today.  The thing about milestone birthdays, at least for me, are indications that I should re-evaluate my life and see if I am on the path I want to be on.  And while I love my job, it is not a job I want to be doing for the next 35 years.  So here I am, re-evaluating my life’s plan.

Milestone birthdays–not just markers of time…

The Blog

Adventure Adikt*, is my blog 2.0.  I wasn’t really sure what to do with this re-incarnation of the blog. I started blogging way back in 2005 as a way to process my feelings about life and death, love and loss, endings and beginnings, and whatever else life was throwing at me.  Back then, I’d just graduated college, moved to a new city, started my first job in healthcare working with teeny tiny babies and really sick children. I processed all those changes by writing. And traveling.

But I wasn’t ready to release those thoughts into the blog-o-sphere. So I blogged for me.  It was essentially an on-line [but private] journal.

So here it is, a few years later. I’m still in healthcare. I have moved back to South Carolina. I want to buy a fixer-upper. Grad school is in my future although I still can’t decide between physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner, so until I do, I’m going to keep plugging along. And traveling. A lot. And writing to process my feelings.

In order to to avert my impending mid (?)-life crisis, I’ve decided to go public for the first time ever. I love my job. I love learning languages.  I love history, the history of places, and the history of things. I love science–what it is now and what it used to be.

In a nutshell, my ‘new’, reformatted blog is a [very] vaguely chronological timeline of life events, travel, and mishaps along with some life lessons and musings thrown in for fun.  Life is life. Adventure is still adventure, and wanderlust is still wanderlust; I’m trying to find new ways of having a bit of each in my every day.

The ‘other news’

While opening up the blog to the public is one attempt to stave off the potential mid life crisis, some may say I’m already in full blown crisis mode.  Earlier today, as I am prone to do when I’m bored, I was surfing the ‘net for airline deals.  And I came across a steal.  Without truly thinking things all the way through, I jumped on it.  I found a one-way flight from Charlotte to Caracas for $99.  I bought it.  Have I ever been to Venezuela?  No. Have I ever even wanted to go to Venezuela?  Not particularly.  But I studied their history while in college. I speak the language. And I really do want to see Angel Falls.  What else will I do?  Who knows?  Where will I stay?  Not sure. Will I be kidnapped by narco-terrorists?  I certainly hope not.  And the big one– When will I come back?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I’ll hate it and only be gone a week. Maybe I’ll love it and try to figure out a way to stay permanently.  Who knows? But follow along and see how this little adventure plays out.

bulls island - Copy

Edisto Island, SC

And #3?

I turned 24 today. It’s a big milestone. I’ve always thought of  mid 20’s as adults.  I am nowhere near ready to be an adult. And truthfully, I’m freaking out just a bit.

*Why Adventure Adikt?  I went through a lot of names [A Traveler Rests, Black Cats Travel was a couple of them] before I decided on this one.  Somehow, it just fit.  And I like the word adikt better than the word junkie. I seek out adventure–in all ways, traveling to foreign countries to explore history and culture, hiking in my back yard and across the country, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and life in general. My goal is to never stop learning and never stop adventuring… just never stop.