Preparing for the big trip to the Great White North, I sought out a wealth of advice on how to get the perfect picture of white on white, polar bears up close, ptarmigan in motion… what camera to use.. what settings… Being an amateur photographer with not much money to spend on a new camera and limited time, I packed up my IPhone, my 6 year old Canon point and shoot and a loaner from work, a newer Sony point and shoot. Here I’d like to share my favorite wildlife shots, enjoy!
Who would have thought that somewhere near the middle of Canada in the balmy province of Manitoba there would be a gem of a city that some may reference, maybe due to its record low temps or also being known as the coldest major city in Canada I would find… Winterpeg!
If you ever find yourself making your way through the city here are just a couple of my favorites…
Canadian Museum of Human Rights: the first museum worldwide solely dedicated to the celebration of human rights, architecturally stunning, and probably the best view of the city from its Tower of Hope. Allow yourself lots of time to meander.
Aaron Cohen. The Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Winnipeg. 2014.
Fergies Fish’n Chips: talk a stroll down by The Forks on the river and snag up one of the city’s oldest and most well-known traditional portions of fish’n chips. You know you’re eating well when the long time locals find themselves here.
Thermëa: a Nordik spa experience that is truly like heaven on earth. I will quickly breakdown your first hour or so at the spa… change into an oversized robe and slippers, heat up from the cold in a hot suana, plunge in the polar pool to fluch toxins, hot steam in a eucalytpus scented steam room, lavendar scented salt scrub shower and rinse, heated meditation rooms with music and hot tea and… repeat 2 more times. Then relax in the hot or with a cup of tea by the outdoor fire. All for $50CAD or $37USD. Need ask more?
Manitoba Museum: take a deeper look at Manitoba history. Well worth the guided tour to learn more about survival in the north, the Hudson Bay Co. and much more.
With lots more to do, see and eat in Winterpeg make sure to enjoy these favorites!
I remember a time, lying on the floor of my father’s home office, curiously skimming the bright gold-colored spines of his neatly arranged National Geographic collection, “…Peru Mummies, Bombay, US National Parks, Arctic, Lichens…” and running my fingers across images of far away people, lands and species that I only dreamt existed. I knew, one day, there would be a day, I would see such things with my own eyes.
Many years and many moments of transition later, I sat in the front row of one of my favorite college courses, “Sustainable Tourism”. That day we spoke at length about a small town in the Arctic north, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. People from all over travel to this isolated corner of the world, in search of spotting one of the most powerful and beautiful creatures that still exist. Yep you guessed it, the polar bear. That day I felt all the images etched in my memory from thumbing through those pages race back into my direct, clear, view. I knew that day not only would I bear witness to this magnificent animal but I would be a part of something, something bigger.
Time went on… I continued travel and work in the southern hemisphere. Then as some would say. the stars aligned. My time with my work in Brazil felt as if it was nearing a close. Within days from returning home from the south I came across a new job opportunity and nearly 8 weeks and numerous interviews later, I landed a position with my dream company, Natural Habitat Adventures. As luck would have it, working operations on the “Polar Bear team”. Starting my new job smack dab in the middle of the 6-week polar bear season in Churchill and hopeful I would have the opportunity to travel that season, in just a couple of weeks I found myself boarding a plane to embark on an a long waited and thought about experience of a lifetime… all of the hard work, perseverance and determination paid off.
It is interesting finding yourself in a dreamlike, surreal, euphoric state living out what you thought may be the impossible, walking through the scenes of what were once only childhood dreams. Staring out the window of yet another airplane window brimming with the anticipation and excitement of what is to come, this time, the Great White North.
Stay tuned for more of the “Great White North”… Would love it if your shared your moments!
For many years I had dreamt of seeing the Amazon rainforest. When I was assigned to teach English in Manaus, the gateway city to the Amazon, with a Denver based non-profit, US-Brazil Connect, I could not wait to start planning my adventure to the Amazon.
I had already been in Manaus for a week and was having some trouble finding an operator that was reasonably priced and did not feel like it was a mass tourist operation. This is when I found Max at Maia Expeditions. If you are searching truly for the experience of a lifetime, I recommend Maia Expeditions and the Amazon Turtle Lodge. Here are 4 reasons why:
1. Max grew up in this area of the Amazon. He knows it very well. He personally took my friend and I and a nature and survival hike. On this hike we were shown how to build a shelter, how to make children’s toys out of hearts of palm, natural bug repellent, we drank filtered water out of a vine, smelled the tree that Chanel no.5 derives it’s perfume from, tasted fruits and so much more… Walking through the canopy with someone that has lived with the environment made for a much richer experience.
2. The operation’s focus on conservation and preservation. The owner is very concerned with these elements. Having grown up here he has a unique appreciation for the beauty of the area and has supported and created many projects focused on such things as afforestation, and preserving eco-systems necessary for wildlife. At the end of our hike we helped plant Copaiba trees on the property!
3. The experiences offered at the Lodge. I personal did the Jaraqui Exedition however, Maia offers a slew of different experiences. They offer everything from small canoe rides under the canopy in search of wildlife to searching for Caiman’s after the sun goes down. Other offerings include: birdwatching, visiting a local community, fishing for piranhas, spotting pink dolphins at sunset.. Not to mention the service, accommodations, food and staff are all top notch! Also, the best caipirinhas I have had in Brasil- just make sure to order two at a time because they take a little while to make.
4. You are guaranteed to have a great experience. It is very important to the owner to ensure that everyone that comes to the lodge has a phenomenal experience. This is his home, he is proud to call it home and is eager to teach others about the beauty of the region.
I would suggest calling prior to make arrangements for your travel and to let Max know exactly what it is you are wanting to experience. We talked a few times on the phone and when we finally met in person it felt as if we were long-time friends. There are those times that you come across people and experiences that are hard to summarize in a few words. However, that being said if you are in search of a genuine jungle experience I give Maia and the Amazon Turtle Lodge a 10 out of 10! If you do decide to go please tell Max I say hello!
Nearly eight weeks ago, I started on a journey of a lifetime. I began in Manaus (the gateway city to the Amazon), Amazonas, Brazil. I am now currently in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. My intention is to travel as long as possible through Central America and further on into Columbia, Ecuador, Perú and hopefully farther (as far as my money will take me- so, yes this is definitely for the budget reader).
My intent with Altruistic Adventurer is to provide you, the reader, with stories, tips, sights, how-to’s, experiences and much more of how it goes traveling through the these parts of the Americas. This area of the world is becoming more and more well-traveled and more well known and thus far it has been an incredible experience.
I hope that you choose to follow me along my journey. Hopefully, I can inspire and entice your curiosity and provide you with some insight into this part of the world. Also, if you have done this sort of thing and have any pointers or must-see’s I would love to hear from you! Buen Viajes!
Roadtripping with my sister through Portugal and Spain we stumbled upon our home away from home. Thirty minutes outside of O Porto, we found a small village called Paço de Sousa. Here we stayed at what has been my all time favorite guest house experience at Solar Egas Moniz owned by the Vinha family.
After being on the road for a little over five hours traveling from Rioja, Spain- not to mention a little hungover and very tired from eight day packed road trip so far- we arrived at Solar Egas Moniz. We were greeted by name and with kisses on the cheek by the owners daughter Iva, she welcomed us with tea and coffee and a homemade chocolate cake from cook, Elizabeth. The cake was superb!! And exactly what we needed after our travels.
After we winded down Iva was helpful in getting us settled into our room- which was beautifully decorated. The decor throughout the house is very Portuguese shabby chic with hand knit accents made by her mother.
We took a rest and a shower and headed down for some dinner. (Iva did not arrange dinner from Elizabeth because we had not received her email in our travels on the road…). The family does offer dinner at the house prepared by Elizabeth. Asking for a nice place to eat some affordable yet delicious Portuguese food her father was quick to help. Before we knew it he was on the phone to his favorite regular restaurant he frequents with his buddies. He ordered our meals so they were waiting for us when we arrived. He made sure to tell them to treat us like family.
When we arrived at the restaurant we were quickly greeted and everyone knew we were coming. We were sat by a table of five Portuguese men that quickly engaged us in conversation, offered us wine and pastries and more wine, and more food and whiskey and more wine! To call the Portuguese only hospitable would not begin to explain how quick to give and share these people were with us.
After dinner, we headed back to the guesthouse where the family had waited up for us to share in a traditional Portuguese drink called Ginjinha- not to mention her father had specially made this batch. Ginjinha is a strong sour cherry liquor, the perfect nightcap. We shared stories about our travels, talked about our families, and shared in what felt like a brief moment in time…
The next morning we were greeted by Elizabeth to a full breakfast spread of fresh cut fruits, yogurt, fresh juice, homemade pastries, cereal, coffee, tea, whatever our heart’s desired- also fresh flowers- my favorite. The father bid us farewell on his way to work and helped us with directions to our next stop. Iva’s mother came to see us off and packed us food to take on the road with us.
It always hard to convey the true beauty of a place and the people through words. Driving away from the guesthouse I knew I had found more of my family within the world. I would absolutely re-visit the people of Paço de Sousa in a heartbeat and would highly recommend staying with the Vinha family.
Here are some of my other favorite photographs from the stay…
In a spur of the moment decision to get away with a friend and a dire need for a mini vacation we stumbled upon a cheap flight from Denver to Seattle. Neither of us having been to the northwest coast and not sure what to expect we quickly realized that Vancouver was only a short drive north. We immediately booked our tickets and anxiously awaited for the week to pass.
I had never travelled to Canada and to be honest it was never high on my top 10 must see places bucket list. However, I cannot express how rejuvenating, beautiful, magical and surprising British Columbia was to me. This is a place where natural beauty still abounds. Vancouver is a city full of cultural diversity, culinary expertise, impeccable public transit, and funky districts all surrounded by bridges taking you out of the city into the mountains that encircle it all. If you have not yet been it is a must add to the travel bucket list. Here are just a few of the highlights….
Our first night wandering the city, having gotten settled late, we found this gem of a pub. Moose’s Down Under offering Aussie fare in the heart of Vancouver. I indulged myself on a traditional Aussie meat pie and a local Vancouver beer…
We found the perfect place to stay on airbnb in the heart of downtown Vancouver. Our gracious and accommodating host Justin from London made sure we had everything we needed. Situated on Granville Street we were within walking distance of everything we wanted to see and… the view from the balcony was incredible…
We got up early the next morning and headed up to Whistler/Blackcomb to ski for the day. The drive up the Sea to Sky highway will take your breath away. Although the clouds settled in low, as they tend to do most days during this time of year in B.C. the views were still stunning.
We arrived at Whistler seeming somewhat surreal that we were just driving along the coast in fog and rain and before us was the largest ski resort located in the Americas.
After a day full snowboarding the vast terrain we headed back down the coast on a mission to catch sight of some waterfalls that we had spotted on the drive that morning…
After returning back to Vancouver that evening….
… we gallivanted around town and ran into the Lamplighter Pub in the Gaslight District. Here we bellied up for the night and induldged in delicious local craft brews. The next morning we stumbled upon the La Luna Café and ordered up coffee, crossaints and a London Fog.
Afterwards, we headed to the Capilano Suspension Bridge just outside of the city. It being one of the largest tourist attractions in Vancouver we were a little hesitant to pay the 30$CAD to be surrounded by bustling crowds. It was money well spent. The park is designed around a suspension bridge that was built by pioneers in the late 1880’s that spans across a massive canyon that is home to diverse wildlife including the majestic bald eagle. They have also built a cliffwalk that overhangs the cliffs above the river as well as a treetop walkway that winds you through the tops of ancient cedar trees. Nearing closing time and the beginning of sunset we were the only two left on the bridge overlooking the vast canyon. Suddenly right below us was a massive bald eagle fishing for his dinner in the river….
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
Later that evening we decided to indulge in some of Vancouver’s finest sushi and sake. We found a place close by located on the riverfront called Miku. Here they prepare some of the most delicious aburi style sushi that I have ever come across. Five stars in my book.
Early the next morning we packed our bags and said farewell to B.C. but only for a moment. This place will forever hold special meaning…. If you have ever traveled on a whim, promised that you would say yes to the whole experience, opened your heart and mind and returned home a different person you can relate to the feeling. A sense of wanderlust had been fulfilled…