I was able to do a repeat of the CCR only trip diving Galapagos that I enjoyed in 2013. As always it was awesome! Jorge Mahauad, owner of Galapagos Rebreathers, and Andy Philips put on a great trip. We had tremendous hammerhead and whale shark action including a massive pregnant female on a 360 fly by during our safety stop! Checkout the video! Here I am with her, I have the yellow bailout tank.
Checkout the compilation video of the trip here. Photos can we looked through here.
I also got to see my first mola mola that came in for a quick pass. Unfortunately I didn’t have the camera for that dive as it was our first checkout dive!
Galapagos truly is *the* big fish action location on the planet and diving it with my brand new SF2 CCR was a real treat. The unit is so easy to use and travel with and seems to be completely reliable – this was my first trip on it.
If you haven’t guessed we love animals and the bigger and/or more exotic the better! So swimming with humpback whales and their newborns was high on the to-do list. There are two primary places to do this in the world, the silver banks north of The Dominican Republic and The Kingdom of Tonga in the south Pacific. Given we wanted to do this right and the visibility is so much better in Tonga we oppt’d for there. Thus started a 3 year wait as the boat to do this from, the Fiji based Nai’a is in high demand. Then there was a trick of getting there from Seattle. Given our Fiji Airlines adventures in the past we weren’t going that route. Anything else out of Seattle was a nightmare trip, however it turns out there’s a non-stop from Vancouver BC to Auckland, New Zealand which is a short flight away from Tonga. Perfect now we could see New Zealand too and visit our friend Pete Mesley who runs Lust4Rust.The whales go to Tonga to give birth and raise their young for the first few months. Surprisingly the mothers are many time very tolerant of us being in the water with them. The young ones are curious and playful. We had one youngster rocket up from mom and breech right in front of us while we were in the water! Something our guides had never seen. Also something a bit dangerous because he’s still about 12′ long!
In our opinion no visit to New Zealand would be complete without a visit to one of the Lord of the Rings movie sets. Yes geeky but a must. For us being on the north island that meant Hobbiton. Was a good time along the way we drove to several other locations on the island with an Aussie friend of ours who flew over to join us. Corrie is an excellent traveling companion who we met in the artic on this trip. Photos of our time in New Zealand are here.
Our grand adventure for 2014 started out simple enough, let’s go see Machu Picchu and photograph it for our monument collection. But then as trips in the Wright household usually go it didn’t end up that simple……
You see I didn’t want to go see it the same way everyone else does. It just wouldn’t be us. So we found Mountain Lodges of Peru and their horseback riding option. While a beautiful adventure it was anything but simple or easy. Read Red’s blog for the scoop.
Of course that wasn’t the end of it. Since we were spending that much to get there we needed to see more. So as usual we contacted my good friend Jim Harlan owner of Uncommon Adventures. Jim suggested and put together an awesome itinerary that would take us from ocean, to desert, to jungle, to cities & ruins in the mountains. Three and a half weeks of constant adventure. Travel with us with these images and videos.
We started in the Nazca desert along the coast south of Lima. Trying local foods such as cuy and lechon al cilindro. In the desert are the famous Nazca lines. We took a brief overflight to see them. This involves hours of waiting for the weather to clear or not clear. We got lucky and at the last moment the sky cleared and we were off. See our desert and ocean photos here.
Guinea pig – very tasty!
Red and Tapir
Next up was the jungle. I had no idea what to expect and oh man were we in for an adventure. It took two days from Cusco just to get to the lodge deep in the amazon. No power, some warm water and Red ended up with cockroaches in her hair waking her up. They call it eco-tourism I call it eco-terrorism. While we got to see some cool things, such as the tapir and the macaws you see below, I’m not sure I would repeat. Read more about it and see the pictures on this page.
After the long journey back from the jungle to Cusco we got to explore and enjoy this beautiful city and the surrounding countryside and Inca ruins which are everywhere. We visited Ollantaytambo an Inca vestige that was a military, religious and agricultural center. Next stop was the agricultural terraces at Moray, built by the Incas in natural sinkholes on a limestone plateau overlooking the Urubamba valley. We also got to meet some wonderful people. Some from far away and some like this adorable little girl and her puppies right at their homes – see the video below. And then there were the turkeys. 🙂
The last segment of our trip was the one that started the planning – a week on horseback over the Andes and to Machu Picchu. A difficult trek it was peaking out at over 4600m in altitude over 5 days of riding and a full day of hiking. We had the most gorgeous weather and amazing, beautiful scenery!
Seeing Machu Picchu, at first from 4 km away from another mountain top and then from inside at dawn was an impressive experience. It truly is an amazing place! We had the opportunity to stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Hotel right at the ruins. This is a seriously impressive hotel with access unlike any other. It’s not cheap but it’s worth it and the customer service is stellar.
Many people no longer remember the events of 1946 in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. At the time it was big news, so big in fact that a fashion designer who created a new bathing suit for women named that new creation the bikini because the name was in the news so much.
What was going on was Operation Crossroads – the United States was going to show off it’s nuclear power to the world. In this beautiful paradise they removed an entire people from their home, stripped the island and all the coral in the lagoon and brought in 97 ships. Then with press and dignitaries from around the world on observation ships outside the lagoon they dropped the Able bomb on the lagoon. A 21 kiloton nuclear weapon. Almost a month later they set off Baker another 21 kiloton nuke underwater.Over time 28 nuclear tests were done at Bikini. The island remains uninhabitable with it’s people scattered to other atolls. However the radiation levels drop to a point where we could go to the island and dive the wrecks of Operation Crossroads but still can’t eat anything that grows there. If you want to learn more I’d suggest starting here and reading “For the Good of Mankind” and “The Bomb”.
Those ships make Bikini Atoll one of the most amazing wreck diving locations in the world! Two battleships including the HIJMS Nagato (flagship of the Japanese fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor Dec 7th, 1941), the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier, subs, destroyers and more are easily accessible with gin clear visibility, no current and 86 F water. I’ve done this trip twice, once in 2005 when there was an operation on the island and now in 2014 with Pete Mesley and his Lust4Rust operation on a liveaboard dive boat. Checkout the images from this trip!!
Living in the Pacific Northwest has it’s advantages. One of those is when it’s a beautiful day it’s really spectacular! We got just such a day for the Joint Base Lewis McChord airshow in 2012.
We got to see some amazing air craft and spend the day in the sunlight. This also allowed us to test our new cameras I purchased for our Africa trip. Red was testing her new Nikon D3200 with Tamron 18-270mm zoon. I was breaking in my amazing Nikon D800. See the rest of the images here.
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