Turn Right At Machu Picchu Book Review

This month’s travel/ adventure book of the month is New York Times Bestseller, Mark Adams’s Turn Right At Machu Picchu.  In honor of the hundred year anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s discovery of Machu Picchu, Mark Adams decided to follow in the footsteps of the famous Yale explorer. Although Adams had been to Peru several times, his wife is Peruvian, he had never left the city of Lima. To make matters more interesting, at that time, he was a writer for Adventure magazine and was a former writer for Outside magazine, he was not what you would consider the typical demographic of either monthly. He missed out on being a Cub Scout as a child, a theme echoed throughout his life, as he had never slept outdoors and certainly had never been back country backpacking. Spurred on by the unexpected loss of similar aged colleague and the romantic notion of exploration, Adams embarked on a life changing expedition.

“…(I’d) never hunted or fished, didn’t own a mountain bike and couldn’t start a fire without matches if ordered to do so at gunpoint.”  Mark Adams

Adams wrote about adventure and had assigned writers to far flung destinations, but had little to no first hand experience. His inexperience and self deprecating style of storytelling makes it both endearing and entertaining, mix in an antisocial, stereotypical Australian “character” as his guide and you have a great story.

Adams parallels his trek with that of Bingham’s route of discovery. Each chapter alternates between his story and Bingham’s.  This makes for a readable mix of the two as Bingham’s story would play out as a bit dry and academic while the contrast of a modern day “inept” explorer makes a far more entertaining tale. This unique style of story telling provides fascinating insight into Bingham that could have easily been lost in a simply historical recount.

The revised version of Bingham’s tale had the makings of a great story: hero adventurer exposed as villainous fraud,” from Turn Right At Machu Picchu,  as even today, controversy swirls around the claim of discovery by Bingham and the handling of artifacts that he shipped to the Yale museum. The famous fictional explorer Indiana Jones was reported to be modeled after Hiram Bingham, and as Adams discovered more about Bingham, in the process, he learned more about himself.

Turn Left At Machu Picchu  is an engaging read for a subject you might not think about delving into,  balancing the historical aspects of the story with the rich enthusiasm of someone who has not been jaded by years of experience. It was like discovering an old past time for the first time. It filled my dreams with romantic notions of exploration and visions of the historic and remote lands of the Inca.

Enjoy and safe travel,

Greg

Did you know that GW Nunn Adventures is now booking adventures into South America including Machu Picchu, contact us today to experience the beauty that is the rugged land of Peru and Machu Picchu.

Interested in other Travel/ Adventure book reviews? Click here for more:

http://gwnunn.com/blog/category/travel-book-of-the-month/

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Travel Photo of the Week 12July12 Mount Everest

Mount Everest, Sagarmāthā or Chomolungma

This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to the top of the world, Sagarmāthā or as it is known by most westerners, Mount Everest. Called Sagarmāthā in Nepal and Chomolungma in Tibet, both words translate to Holy Mother and is considered a sacred place to both cultures. As both Nepal and Tibet were closed to foreigners, the mountain was first noticed by westerners in 1865, from the distant British India. While the mountain was named for Sir George Everest, a famous British surveyor, ironically Sir Everest protested the naming. Throughout his career as a surveyor, he insisted on naming peaks and other geographic features after their local name not an English name. Additionally, he pronounced his name with an I as in Iverest.

At an awe-inspiring 29,029 feet (8,848 meters) above sea level she is the highest peak in the world. Everest is the crowning jewel in the Himalayan mountain range, home to fourteen other peaks that reach above 26,000 feet (8,000 meters). In comparison, the highest peak outside of Asia is Aconcagua in the Andes of South America which tops out at 22,841 feet (7,200 meters) above sea level.

This mountain, considered sacred to Tibetans and Nepali was first summited in 1953 by New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay a Nepali Sherpa (an ethnic nomadic group of Nepali and Tibetan people that live at high altitudes). Then, as today, a blessing ceremony called a puja is performed before any climb up the sacred mountains. Performed by a Buddhist Lama, the Sherpas, climbers and even their gear is blessed. Offerings of rice and sweets as well as beer are made to the mountain gods, while prayer flags are hung. The Lamas pray for permission and safe passage while on the mountain. Several of the other peaks in the range are considered to sacred to climb and are therefore untouched by humans.

One could spend tens of thousands of dollars, weeks acclimatizing at altitude, and risk life and limb to participate in one of the most physically and mentally exhausting feats of endurance to see this view. The other option is to do what we did and hop on a flight provided by the aptly named Yeti Airlines for a bird’s eye view.  While the mountain flight will not bring quite the same bar room bragging rights it is quite a bit more comfortable and provides a spectacular view without the risk of frostbite.

Would you like to experience Nepal and see the grandeur that is Sagarmāthā contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures.

Safe travels,

Greg

Other Blogs about Nepal:

An elephant and her mahout in Chitwan, Nepal

An Asiatic one horned Rhino in Chitwan, Nepal

Meeting a Sadhu Hindu holy man in Kathmandu, Nepal

Spinning prayer wheels in Nepal

Shangri-La

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Do I Really Need Travel Insurance?

So you are about to head out on that trip of a lifetime with everything planned to the last detail. Pets are cared for, house sitter arranged, contingency plans are set at work for your absence, every last detail addressed – or is it? What about travel insurance? You have insurance for health, auto, home, renters and possibly even pets, so why not travel insurance? Is this the important detail you have overlooked?

Is travel insurance a good idea?

Wise men understand the importance of travel insurance

Travel insurance can be a wise investment for several situations. If you are planning a few hundred dollar trip to see relatives at the Jersey shore, not so much. But for a two week trekking trip across Nepal with a week to recover in Bali? Absolutely. Travel insurance is a wise investment when taking into account the complexity, cost or distance of the trip and the financial impact if it were interrupted or canceled. Hopefully you will never need it but consider what what would happen if your trip was canceled by either your actions, Mother Nature or the actions of others? What would happen if you have an accident and get injured in another country? Or you’ve booked your family of four for a week’s vacation to nearby Costa Rica with non-refundable air tickets, it’s too late to cancel the hotel and your youngest gets the chicken pox?  It’s not all that far or exotic, but can be very costly. The right travel insurance can cover the cost of your canceled or delayed trip as well as medical expenses and medical evacuation back home if necessary. Some offer cancel at anytime, for any reason coverage.

The peace of mind of having travel insurance can make this even more relaxing.

Insurance companies are in the business of making money and chances are that you will not need insurance. This is what the underwriters are counting on. However if you need it, it is reassuring to have and avoids the double whammy of missing your trip and still having to pay for all of it. Look carefully at the cost of your trip in comparison to the cost of the policy and what it covers.

Do my credit cards cover travel issues?

Yes, some credit cards do cover accidental death and dismemberment and protection from fraud/ disreputable businesses. It is best to understand what they cover and the limitations.

Does my health insurance cover me when I travel?

Carefully check your policy, chances are you are not covered out of the country or have a significant reduction in coverage, that may not include getting you back home.

Am I covered by the airline for lost luggage?

With all of the the bad press about domestic airlines creating fees for everything, do you really think they are going to be generous or even easy? Airlines cover depreciated value and exclude most expensive items like jewelry and electronics.

Be sure to check your credit card’s coverage as well as your health insurance and your home owners policy. Some of the things covered by travel insurance will be covered by them, but most likely there will be gaps  – if not big gaps  – in coverage, especially during international travel.

What is covered by travel insurance?

Well, only things in the policy including the fine print, so it is important to carefully read and understand the details before signing up for any policy. Here are some of the things that could be covered depending on your policy.

Your trip is canceled due to:

Weather, hurricanes and other weather disasters

Bankruptcy of travel provider, airlines or cruise line

Sickness, injury

Death of a family member or traveling companion

Destruction of your residence by fire, flood, burglary or natural disaster before your trip

Being transferred by your employer

Unannounced strike, inclement weather, or mechanical breakdown of travel provider

Military personnel called to active duty due to national disaster

Involuntary termination or getting laid off by your employer

Acts of terrorism

 

In addition you could receive compensation for:

Travel delays

Missed connections

Medical expense

Emergency medical evacuation

Baggage and personal effects lost or stolen

Baggage delay

As well as assistance for:

Referral to doctor or hospital pharmacy or dentist

Help replacing travel documents

Referral for legal and bail bond assistance

Some policies even have a cancel for any reason clause, these are more expensive, but it cover more situations that may cause you to have to cancel your trip.

No one likes to think about the what-ifs, but being prepared to handle those situations could be well worth the piece of mind afforded by having travel insurance. It is incredibly important that you read and fully understand the policy that you opt for, not all policies are created equal. This means all of the fine print, there are no gray areas it ether covers specific conditions or it does not.

How much does travel insurance cost?

Different policies vary in price based on what they cover, the length of the trip, the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler. The more they cover, the more they cost.  “Cancel for any reason” policies cost more than a basic policy and just like health insurance, the younger you are the cheaper the policy will be.

For example, a traveler between the ages of 36 to 50 on a two week trip to Vietnam that costs $2,490, would pay under $125 for basic coverage – a little less than 5% of trip cost to under $200 for a “cancel for any reason policy” – a little less than 8% of the total trip.

In the interest of full disclosure, G.W. Nunn Adventures offers travel insurance and we receive a very small percentage of the total sale. Even before we were licensed, we routinely purchased travel insurance and strongly suggested to our clients, our friends and family to purchase trip insurance.

Please contact us with any questions about travel insurance and the types of coverage that would best suit your trip.

Safe Travels with piece of mind,

Greg

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Travel Tips: How not to get on an elephant

The internet is full of blogs and DIY sites explaining how to do practically everything and anything – but this is more about how not to do something.

After an elephant top safari through the Chitwan Wildlife Preserve in Nepal, we were asked if we would like to help the mahout, the elephant’s rider and caretaker, bathe our elephant.  “Heck yeah,” I enthusiastically replied. How often to you get to give an elephant a bath?!  It sounded like the beginning of a great children’s book. I was covered in sweat and dust and thought it would be phenomenal to cool off and have another amazing experience with an elephant. I all but ran down to the river dragging a less than excited Claudia. We were the first to arrive at the river and the mahout motioned me down to the river’s edge. Claudia bravely volunteered to stay ashore and document the event. Maybe this is why women live longer.

A Nepalese mahout washing his elephant

The mahout began to scrub the elephant and not being sure of the proper elephant beauty regime I eagerly looked to him for clues on how to proceed, my enthusiasm clearly blinding me to his devilish grin. He motioned for me to throw my leg over the elephant’s back, now almost level with me as she wallowed in the river. I followed his example and with a command the elephant stood up with me and the mahout straddling its back. The brief thought of “oh this gives us a better vantage point to scrub the elephant’s back,” was not even complete before the 10,000 pound animal pitched me off with a quick, effortless shake that would be the envy of any rodeo bull. It turned out this was more of a “tourist wash,” than an actual “elephant wash“ and a great source of amusement for both the elephant and the mahout. I could see that baleful brown eye laughing at me.

Oh now you are just showing off!

Next go around – oh yeah, I got back up, game on! I was much better prepared for the movement and managed to stay on the equivalent of two more shakes or two more seconds than the last time, for a grand total of  :04 seconds. This went on for some time with the mahout staying mounted and me getting thrown into the river alternating with the elephant “hosing” us down with a trunkful of water. To show off his southeast Asian rodeo skills, the mahout stood up on the magnificent beast. Finally the mahout lost his footing as I was employing a “better” strategy of staying on for up to :06 seconds before being plunged into the river. With both of us in the river the mahout decided to teach me the “dignified” way of mounting an elephant. As a picture is worth a thousand words I will let the photos speak for themselves.

First you must have the appropriate approach technique. And yes your intrepid guide IS wearing a Cookie Monster tee shirt

Really?! Just like this? Note the laughing mahout in the white tee shirt

I'm not sure who should be more embarrassed here me or the elephant?

It is important to build a level of trust with your elephant, maybe I should have bought her dinner first.

I'm on, kind of. Now what? Oh yea get thrown into the river again!

Please note that while not particularly elegant in my mounting technique this is how real mahouts get on an elephant – except the whole facing backwards thing – that I never quite sorted out.  To this day, this sequence of photos sends Claudia (who is now my wife and business partner) into the same gales of laughter I could hear from the river bank thru the whole experience. She laughed, the mahout laughed, I laughed…and swallowed enough river water to contract amoebic dysentery (no that was not coconuts floating in the water, who knew elephant poo floated?). But that is another blog. The experience was worth the sickness but I strongly suggest if you get the opportunity to “wash” an elephant that you do so, but better luck at facing the right direction and remember to keep your mouth shut when you hit the water!

Do you want fun travel stories to share? Why not contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures to get started on your next great adventure/ bar story?

What it looks like when you are more dignified getting on to an elephant courtesy of our friends at Necessary Indulgences: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=381179275238719&set=a.356798734343440.79958.106270226062960&type=3&theater

Other Blogs from Nepal:

An elephant and her mahout

Asiatic one horned rhino in Chitwan, Nepal

Meeting a Sadhu or Hindu holy man

Hindu funeral pyre at Pashupatinath Temple Kathmandu, Nepal

Spinning prayer wheels in Nepal

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Travel Photo of the Week, 8June12 Nassau, Bahamas

Past year's Junkanoo costume

This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to the warm blue water lapping against the pink sandy beaches of the Bahamas. The biggest festival in the 3,000 plus islands of the Bahamas is Junkanoo, a festival started by the plantation slaves brought from the US by British loyalists after the American Revolution. The colorful costumes and rhythmic music was a way to stay connected to their African roots. The slaves were given three days off a year close to Christmas to celebrate with their families. Drums made from goat skins stretched over discarded containers and bells made from leftover metal created the beat for this lively festival. Bright costumes were fashioned from scavenged items including feathers, leaves and natural dyes.

The origin of the name Junkanoo is not certain, but one theory is that a tribal chief with the given name John Canoe demanded the right to celebrate with his people in the 1700’s. Another popular theory is that it originated from l’inconnu the French word for the unknown, a nod to the masks that are worn by those participants whose identity is obscured during the parade.

Junkanoo is now celebrated twice a year in the Bahamas on December 26th (Boxing Day) and New Year’s Day with the biggest festivities happening in Nassau, the capital. Festivities start at 2 am and continue well past daybreak. Junkanoo is now an elaborate festivity that participants work on extravagantly themed costumes and choreographed dance routines a full year in advance. A brass section has been added to the homemade drums and bells but the music still stays close to its origins. Individually made costumes consist of a head dress, shoulder piece and a skirt. Costumes are made from crepe paper meticulously glued to fabric, cardboard, and wood frames and are adorned with “found objects” like feathers, mirrors, and shells. The creative, vibrant costumes, rhythmic music, and dances are sure to move you.

Want to escape to the Caribbean to experience a colorful festival or scuba dive on a beautiful reef? Contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures today to get started.

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Travel Photo of the Week 14May12 Chitwan, Nepal

This is one of the two genus of elephants that exist, the Indian or sometimes called the Asian elephant -  the other being the African. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is the size of the ears. Elephants ears are loaded with blood vessels and by flapping their ears they create a breeze which cools the surface of the ear and the blood within. African elephants live in a more southernly hot climate than their Asian relatives and therefore have bigger ears with a much larger surface area to aid in the cooling. Adult Asian elephants have two protruding bumps similar to brow ridges. In the African genus both male and female adults have tusks while, usually only the males of Asian elephants have tusks. They’ve recently been removed from the invalid order pachydermata so referring to them as pachyderms is no longer scientifically correct. I won’t however correct Colonel Hathi from the The Jungle Book because “We’re a cracker-jack brigade on a elephantidae parade” just doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Elephants are a symbol of wisdom and are well known for their intelligence which is thought to be on par with dolphins and primates. It is often thought that in Asia,  elephants have been domesticated. This is a falsehood as all working elephants have been trained, not domesticated. Typically working elephants are female as the males can be more aggressive and unpredictable. Elephants were originally used in warfare but are now utilized as a more environmentally friendly way of safari wildlife viewing. Elephant-top safaris are safer for viewing tigers and negate the need for roads and gas powered vehicles in game preserves and parks. Elephants that are involved in logging allow the targeted selection of specific trees to avoid clear cutting, building logging roads and truck intrusion.

A mahout or elephant “driver” builds a special bond with their elephant. With a life span of 50 to 70 years this is often a life long relationship where the elephant becomes a member of the family. Teen aged boys are paired with elephant calfs as they learn and grow together under the tutelage of an older mahout and his elephant.

Would you like to meet an elephant and her mahout? Contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures to get started today.

Safe Travels,

Greg

Other blogs about Nepal;

Asiatic one horn rhino in Chitwan, Nepal

Meeting a Sadhu Hindu Holy man,  in Kathmandu, Nepal

GW Nunn Adventures owners Greg and Claudia and their faithful elephant in Chitwan Wildlife Park Nepal

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The Most Expensive And Possibly The Most Disgusting Coffee In The World

You drank what?

The author enjoying a fresh cup in the cloud forests of Costa Rica

Those of you who know me know I often rail about the injustices perpetuated upon coffee. From a mainstream retailer over-roasting to the atrocity that is instant coffee. I fully realize there are far more noble causes, but where would we be without our cup of coffee, java, joe, rocket fuel?  I travel with my own French press, grinder, and often to places associated with coffee, purchasing fresh beans in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Kona and Indonesia. I have written about coffee, I go out of my way to enjoy unique coffee experiences; it’s even on my social media profiles. In short I am a coffee junkie maybe even I dare say, a snob. So it may come as a surprise that I willingly drank coffee that could quite possibly be the biggest insult to the bean…. ever.

Kopi Luwak the most expensive cup of coffee.

Asian palm civet, photo courtesy of Michellina Jones

Kopi luwak  is Indonesian -  Kopi being the word for coffee and luwak , the common name for the Asian Palm Civet. It is the world’s most expensive coffee costing anywhere from $100 to $600 USD a pound. The reason for this high price is the exceptional smoothness of the coffee with a distinctive lack of bitterness, but the main reason is not so much the beans, or where they are grown, but what happens to them before they reach your cup. The coffee cherries are a favorite food of the luwak, a small weasel-like cat that lives throughout India, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The civets eat the coffee cherries and putting this as delicately as possible, they then….pass the beans. Some unfortunate soul collects the beans washes, sun dries, and then roasts them after that, some much more fortunate person sells the coffee for a very large sum.

 

How did we get to the point of drinking weasel poop coffee?

Kopi Luwak in it's rawest form, Photo courtesy of Michellina Jones

Originally discovered by the Indonesians working in the Colonial Dutch coffee plantations, the workers were bemused by the fuss over the coffee but were not permitted to partake in the consumption of the profitable crop. In a case of curiosity not killing the cat, the local workers collected the undigested coffee beans washed them thoroughly and roasted them so that they may consume the caffeinated goodness. And you thought that you were desperate for a cup of coffee this morning! In a strange twist of irony the “crappy” coffee turned out to be a much better and more profitable commodity even if it purposed a slight marketing challenge, not quite the romantic image of Juan Valdez picking coffee on a shady mountain side in Columbia.

Why would you want to drink Kopi Luwak?

A Balinese woman fresh roasts Kopi Luwak outside of Ubud Bali, Indonesia

The civets consume the beans at the perfect state of development. Their stomachs digest the bean’s coverings and start fermenting the beans.  The juices modify the proteins in the beans resulting in an altered flavor. The day and a half that the beans spend in the civets digestive tract causes both the fermentation and germination through malting (the starch breaks down into sugars), resulting in a less bitter unique flavor. Scientific studies have shown that the washing process removed all “significant” amounts of harmful organisms while the high levels of heat in the roasting process destroy anything that might be left over.

Where does Kopi Luwak beans come from?

You can almost smell this photo of fresh roasting Kopi Luwak Ubud Bali, Indonesia

The majority of Kopi Luwak is produced on farms where civets are either caged or contained within a defined boundary. Originally it was collected in the wild where the civets would defecate to mark their territories making the beans easier to locate. Vietnamese weasel poop coffee is still collected in the wild and results in the most expensive cup costing $3,000 USD a pound. Indonesia, primarily Sumatra but all the way down to Bali, is the main producer of Kopi Luwak  but it can be found throughout southeast Asia and the Philippines. In Vietnam it is called cà phê Chồnweasel coffee’ a Vietnamese company Trung Nguyen has developed a chemical process that replicates the digestive process producing a similar flavor without the messy clean up or hassle to the civets.

Is it worth it?

The flavor varies based off of the coffee beans and the roasting. There is a distinct lack of bitterness even in the darkest of roasts. It is a smooth, flavorful cup of coffee. The elevated cost will most likely not make it a candidate for your morning cup of joe. If however you are somewhere that it is locally produced and quite a bit cheaper, I highly recommend trying a cup. It will certainty add to your adventuresome travel stories and when someone complains about a “crappy” cup of coffee you can consider yourself an expert.

Want to try this unique experience in Bali? Contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures to get started today.

Special thanks to Michellina Jones  for the pictures of the civet and it’s poop be sure to check out her food and travel blog Comfort in the Kitchen

Safe travels,

Greg

Additional coffee blog: Traditional Arabic Coffee Service in the United Arab Emirates

What do you think, would you try weasel poop coffee? Have you tried it, tell us about your experience.

Info-graphic on the history of coffee

 

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Travel Photo of the Week 25April12 Angkor Wat Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Sanskrit for city of temples, is both the largest religious complex and one of the oldest continually used religious sites in the world. Built in the early 12th century, the entire complex is a microcosm of the Hindu universe and is considered to be the pinnacle of both Khmer construction and art work.

Angkor Wat and it's reflection Cambodia

The moat represents the mythical oceans that surround the earth. The moat provided security from both the rising swamp water and invading armies and a source of water during the dry season. The moat construction provided the main building material, laterite. This clay-like substance can be easily carved until it dries in the sun at which point it becomes brick. Unfortunately it is very porous and not suitable for the intricate carvings for which Angkor Wat is famous. Sandstone carved from the Kulen hills 25 miles to the north east covered the laterite base giving the artisans of Angkor the perfect material for their craft. The construction of Angkor Wat required five million of tons of sand stone. It is estimated that it took three to four hundred blocks a day weighing between up to 12 tons each to meet the ambitious schedule. The stone blocks were floated on rafts and pulled to the construction site with elephants through a series of canals and rivers.

 

Author next to Guardian Lions for scale

Masterful sandstone carvings decorate almost every square inch of the complex. The entrances are guarded by stone lions who’s precious metal tails were looted long ago. According to Hindu mythology Brahama, the creator, had lions as palace guards. Most of the other temples in Angkor are also guarded by stone lions. Behind the stone cats are seven headed Nagas, an underworld God and bringer of rain. The body of the snakes create the massive railings lining the walk ways.

Seven headed Naga Angkor Wat Cambodia

After walking across the naga lined walkways you enter the outer galleries. The walls are adorned with thousands of square meters of carved bas-reliefs. The bas-reliefs detail Hindu mythology, with the most famous scene being the creation myth, the churning the sea of milk to create the elixir of life.

Churning the sea of milk bas relief Angkor Wat Cambodia

Representing the sacred mountains, the home of the Asparas is the central galleries. Within this area Apsaras dance as celestial rewards, muses, and escorts to the souls lost in battle. While the Devatas serve as guardian spirits for both the temple and the sacred mountains. The four outer “mountain” peaks surround a larger central peak -  this is Mount Meru, the home of the Gods.

The Inner Gallery displaying the 1,796 Apsaras and Devatas at Angkor Wat Cambodia

 

Angkor Wat is unique in its westerly orientation, most Angkor temples face east, but the Hindu god Vishnu, for whom the temple is dedicated to, is associated with the west. The west is also the direction of death, so one of the theories is that it was meant to be a burial chamber for the builder King Suryavarman II.

Do you want to see Cambodia and Angkor Wat first hand? Why not let the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures custom craft an itinerary for you.

Other posts about Cambodia;

Gallery of One Thousand Buddhas Angkor Wat Cambodia

Old Khmer Man Smoking in the Inner Gallery of Angkor Wat Cambodia

Meeting a Monk in Cambodia

The Cutest Lotus Sales Person Ever

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Travel Photo of the Week 11April12 Nicaragua

This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to Nicaragua, to the volcanic island of Ometepe in Lago de Nicaragua to see ancient petroglyphs. Although petroglyphs can be found throughout the country of Nicaragua they are heavily concentrated on the island of Ometepe, the largest volcanic island in a fresh water lake found on the planet. The hourglass shaped island is made up of two volcanoes the active volcano Concepcion and the extinct Volcano Maderas. The island’s name comes from the Nahuatl word ometepe which means the two mountains. Originally Volcano Maderas was called Coatlan “the place where the sun lives.’  While Volcano Concepcion was know as Choncoteciguatepe “the brother of the moon” as well as Mestliltepe “the menstruating mountain.”  The names indicate the importance of these two volcanoes to the Nahuatls and could explain the high number of petroglyphs on the island. The most famous Nahuatls were the Aztec but their decedents can be found throughout Mexico and central America. Nahuatl is still spoken on the island of Ometepe.

The two volcanic peaks of Ometepe Island are depicted in this petroglyph

 

The petroglyphs, or carved images, in the soft volcanic stone are most commonly found on the north and north eastern slopes of Volcano Madras. The carvings, dedicated to the Nahuatl gods were made around 300 A.D. and were most likely tied to religious rituals and sacrifices. Common motifs include maps of the island, stylized turtles and anamorphic figures. The most common petroglyph are spirals believed to be associated with time, space, or possibly calendars.

The spiral motif is the most common petroglyph found on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Anamorphic rams head on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Would you like to see the petroglyphs of Ometepe Island? Contact the Travel Consultants at GW Nunn Adventures to get started on your Nicaraguan Adventure.

 

Other blog posts about Nicaragua;

Cocoa Pod the story of chocolate

The colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua

The face of Nicaragua

Other Blogs about Volcanos;

Volcano Arenal, Costa Rica

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Learning to scuba dive, what you need to know.

So you want to learn to scuba dive?  Here are some things you should know!

Costs: The agency you certify through charges a fee to issue certification cards, learning materials, at minimum a book, at additional expense a video or on-line eLearning option.  Air fills (yes it is a strange concept to have to pay for air, but as a diver it’s a reality), wear and tear on the rental equipment, liability insurance for dive instructors (try to explain to a lawyer that you are taking people underwater with lead weights strapped to them) boat charter fees, park entrance fees, and let’s not forget your instructor’s time (you know the person who is going to teach you to use life support equipment under water). Do you really want to pinch pennies there? You will see prices anywhere from free to several hundred dollars. Be advised that in the free or 49.97 you are going to get nickeled and dimed at every corner. Be sure to ask lots of questions about what is included and what is not.

What equipment will you need: Almost every beginning class will require you have at a minimum, your basic personal gear – a mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit and booties. You may also be required to purchase weights and a weight belt and a slate for taking notes and communicating underwater. The use of the “big” gear is usually included but it is important to find out what will be provided and what you are required to purchase. Most shops will offer a student discount to offset the price. Good quality personal gear will cost you between $200-250.00 and should last many years with proper care. I strongly suggest you consult with your instructor before purchasing any gear to ensure its appropriateness for the type of diving you will be doing.

How much time will it take: There are several options, in more traditional dive shops your class could be 2 nights a week for 3 weeks or 3 nights for 2 weeks  alternating between class room and pool time, followed by a weekend of diving. Some of the more progressive shops utilize eLearning. Classes are on line and have one class room session where you review with your instructor then progress to the pool to learn the water skills. Another option is a private class where it is just you and an instructor. Because the water work is performance based and not time based you can proceed at your pace not the pace of the slowest member of the class. If you do your academics ahead of time and you are comfortable in the water you can do all of your water work in 2 to 3 days. A private class will cost a little more but if you are in a time crunch or think you will need a little more one on one time with your instructor, this is the way to go.

What should you do ahead of time: Try to rest up before water work, being in the water can take a lot out of you. If you have homework please do it, if you are in a self study class or eLearning it is part of the agreement that you will complete the required materials. If you are in a classroom environment, prepare for class and read the book ahead of time.  If you don’t fully understand the dive tables or the physics, don’t worry, you will not be the only one!  As instructors, we don’t expect you to have a mastery of the theory of diving but if you have not cracked the book the class room time could be painful.

What to expect in the water: Breathing underwater for the first time is an amazing experience. You will not soon forget being immersed in the fascinating world of pool eco systems. Seriously, diving is a lot of fun, breathing underwater and experiencing a zero gravity environment without rocketing into space is a great experience. The best piece of advice is that diving is about two things -  breathing and relaxing. While initially challenging to the nervous beginner, relaxing and breath control really is the key to acclimating to the undersea environment and enjoying the fun of diving.

Looking to learn to dive in the central Florida area (Space Coast to Orlando)? Contact Greg an instructor with 20 years of experience teaching recreational scuba, if not contact your local dive shop and be sure to ask lots of questions. Already a diver and want to plan a dive vacation contact GW Nunn Adventures to book your adventure with Travel Consultants that are divers and are familiar with dive travel.

Safe travels and we’ll see ya on the bottom,

Greg

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