Uganda’s Mountain Gorillas

This events of this post took place in late November 2017 Visiting Wild Mountain Gorillas in Uganda’s Mgahinga National Park Our group was about 7 people and our excitement was palpable. As usual, I could barely contain myself. The guide and scouts came into the reception hall, thee or four AK-47’s in tow. We were…

Ethiopia’s Rift Valley

The events of this story took place in November of 2017 “Do you have any medicine?” A voice whispered in my ear. “What?” I looked back to see the lone other white person on the bus leaning over my seat. “Like pain medicine? My tooth is killing me.” The young man said. He was clutching…

The Andes

I was a couple of years along in university. The shine of new adulthood was fading. I went through a hard breakup. My band kicked me out. I was struggling at school. I felt alone, sad, and tired. I found solace in the mountains. The insignificance I felt among them was liberating. They had stood for millennia….

Single Mothers Foundation

While traveling around Uganda I received a message from our friend Mira Seewald. “Are you going to Fort Portal?” “I think so.” “Well, if you do can you do me a favor and give a donation to Jonathan at the Single Mothers Foundation for me?” I was intrigued. We would visit Fort Portal. We met…

A Quick Update

Oh my poor neglected blog! How has it been so long? Well, life has been busy, and it still is. After so many months of silence it seems a small summary, at the least, is due. I’ll start one year ago in March of 2017. We felt the crisp air of Patagonia for the first…

El Chalten

The Fitzroy Massif, outside of El Chalten in Argentina, offers what is probably my favorite mountain skyline on earth. The world’s high places have always captivated me and the desire to see them has led to many strange corners of our planet. Southern Patagonia is home to such wild and iconic peaks. The golden granite…

Torres del Paine

The 120 kilometer (75 mile) trail around Torres del Paine in southern Patagonia is one of the world’s best treks. It attracts all types. For those seeking comfort there are lodges, guides, restaurants, and even horses. That’s not really our style though and, as usual, we skipped having a guide and carried all of the…

Puerto Natales

Once again we were back in Chile. This time near the famous Torres del Paine National Park. It was the final stop for my parents. We drank great wine, ate succulent seafood, and enjoyed friendly Chilean hospitality. We rented a car and drove through the park. Valerie and I were preparing to trek the 9-day…

El Calafate – Perito Moreno

Most glaciers in the world are getting smaller. The Perito Moreno Glacier is a rare exception and continues to grow each year. It is an inspiring site and the scale of it is difficult to comprehend. A comfortable bus brought us from town to the glacier. A bottle of rum kept us warm and happy….

El Chalten

I have been dreaming about Patagonia since I was a boy. It has always held a mythical power in my imagination. It is a place of scoured earth, wind, and stone. My parents never thought they would go there. Even for me it took nearly thirty years of whispers before I put foot to ground….

Buenos Aires

Steak, wine, cinema, tango, history, and sausage. Buenos Aires is a sprawling metropolis of over 10 million people, we only saw a fraction but is was mesmerizing.

Mendoza

Mendoza is all about one thing:  Wine. We toured through many vineyards and wineries. We drank a lot of wine. We paired it with delicious food.

Valparaiso

Valparaiso is Santiago’s bohemian cousin on the coast. It is a beautiful, crumbling bastion of contrasts. Rickety funiculars rise up steep hills and ancient busses ply down clogged arterials. The architecture is beautiful, but the true star of the city is street art.

Santiago

Santiago is an eminently livable city. It’s full of great food, the public tansportation is fast and efficient, and the people love to have a good time. It was a short stopover for us, but we reveled in the view from our high-rise apartment. My mother, father, Val, and I did our best to immitate…

San Pedro de Atacama

Our romp around South America with my parents continued as we crossed the border into Chile. We had been spoiled by Peru. It may have jaded my father a bit, his response when we told him we were going to the driest place on earth was a curt, “I hope it is only for one…

Arequipa

We came to Arequipa, Peru’s white city, to eat.  We wanted find out what Peruvian food was all about. We ate ceviche, grilled lamb, soups of all kind, and roasted chicken accompanied. We particularly loved a restaurant called Tupac – a seafood focuses Peruvian-Thai fusion restaurants. The epicurean delights didn’t stop with the food. We…

Lake Titicaca

Homestays are always an interesting experience. It can be awkward, it can be transcendent, and it sometimes dizzily sways between the two. My parents, Dan and Terri, had recently joined us in Peru. We spent a comfortable week in and around Cusco, Peru’s frenetic and beautiful tourist city. We had eaten international food, shopped, had…

The Sacred Valley

After Machu Picchu we began making our way back to Cusco. Along the way we visited Ollantaytambo, a weaving center, and stopped at miradors (viewpoints) in our private taxi – oh what luxury!

Machu Picchu

It’s not easy to find a traveler, or anyone really, that hasn’t dreamed of visiting Machu Picchu. I had the pleasure of sharing my visit with my parents and Valerie. My father was not blessed with a strong ability to pronounce unfamiliar words, (in fact listening to his attempts is one of the greatest sources of…

Parque Nacional Podocarpus

Our final stop in Ecuador brought us to Loja. A modern city surrounded by beautiful nature and a massive national park. Try as we might we never fell in love with Loja. Food was our biggest problem, fast food seems to have taken hold here so strongly that finding a healthy and home cooked meal…

Cuenca

Cuenca is an exceedingly comfortable city in southern Ecuador. After spending a few weeks with the predominantly indigenous populations of the central part of the country we immediately notices a difference when we arrived. People were taller, had lighter skin, and dressed in western clothing. We met up with our friend Elliot and Stephanie who…

Guamote Market

As the weather in Ecuador continued to spoil our trekking and climbing plans we shifted course and focused on humans. There is a small town about an hour away from Riobamba, it is called Guamote. It is not a puebla that is commonly found on the itinerary of travelers. That is exactly why we wanted…

Baños and Quilatoa

From the jungles of Cuyabeno we were ready for the cool weather of the mountains. We took an overnight bus to Banos. It’s a relaxed town with a ton of adventure sports on offer and a smattering of good restaurants. The setting is beautiful and we happily lazed a few days away before we started…

Riobamba

We had come to see mountains and trek through hillsides. Clouds, rain, and stomach problems kept our wanderings contained to the urban aspect of the Riobamba. We saw few other visitors and instead spent our time with the locals, it turned out to be a fascinating and nuanced few days.

The Amazon

The Amazon touches 11 countries and is the defining feature of South America. By its very nature jungle is difficult to access. Rivers are the highways of the amazon and usually the only means of reliable transportation. We knew that we would visit the Amazon at some point on our trip through South America. The…

Quito

After a wonderful time in the Galapagos we headed for Quito. As the oldest city in the Americas Quito is full of colonial charm. It sits some 10,000ft above sea level, quite a change from our lazy beach days. We arrived at the airport without any semblance of a plan. It was raining and the…

Galapagos: Above Water

The Galapagos Islands are an almost mythical travel destination. When the naturalist Charles Darwin visited the flora and fauna prompted him to develop the theory of evolution. The landscape varies from barren wastelands to lush highlands, and all manner of steps in between. To say that islands are “otherworldly” is an understatement. Valerie and I…

On the Road Again

Our lives are a repeating cycle of feverish work and long-term travel. Since returning to the USA in 2013 it has taken us three years of double shifts, penny-pinching, and austerity to be ready to travel again – but that time has finally come. I’m writing this from a guesthouse in Quito, Ecuador. Last week…

Pusser’s Rum

In a fast-paced, ever-changing world it is refreshing to find something that hasn’t changed in a long time. Pusser’s Rum is a company based on tradition. They blend and distribute from five stills in Guyana and Trinidad. It has been made the same way for hundreds of years. Andrew Spurgin LTD and Snake Oil Cocktail…

French Party

Andrew Spurgin and Janice Dodge pull off another oppulent time-travel dinner. This one took place in Rancho Santa Fe with a French theme and incredible decor and cuisine.

Moulin Rouge Party

It is always a pleasure to work with Andrew Spurgin LTD. This dinner party was Moulin Rouge themed and red, black, and lace were in full bloom. Thanks as always to the team and guests for a fun and visually spectacular evening.

Arriana, Jordan & the Twins

Just a few weeks ago I photographed Arriana and Jordan before their twin daughters, Mia and Julia arrived. The twins are now a month old and were definitely ready for their first photoshoot. Here are a few selects from the session. My cuteness quota is used up for the year 🙂

David & Felix

Few things are more beautiful than witnessing two people commit their lives to one another, especially when Bali is the setting. David, Felix and thirty friends and family made the journey, coming from three continents, to this small island at the center of the Indonesian archipelago. Bali oozes with its own unique charm. The smiles,…

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet. Having spent most of my adult life planning, saving for, and visiting many of the world’s best scuba diving locations, I have truly seen and experienced the plethora of beauty the ocean has to offer. With that I have also witnessed frightfully rapid climate change in every…

Elizabeth & Alfredo

Fifteen years is a long time to wait, but it’s worth it for your soulmate. Alfredo and Elizabeth knew this. They are truly destined for each other and their wedding expressed that perfectly. From the whimsical comic book details to the beautiful Catholic ceremony at the Immaculata Church the character of these two bright souls…

Barrel Smoker Dinner III

On a sleepy Thursday morning I received a text from chef extraordinaire Andrew Spurgin, “can you shoot an event tonight?” I’ve learned that when Andrew invites me to an event it behooves me to make it happen, no matter how short the notice. The third instalment of the Barrel Smoker Dinner Series was no exception….

Katie Kline

Katie Kline is an up an coming actress. We had lots of fun doing different poses (sad poses are hard!) and she was a pleasure to work with.

Ladainian Tomlinson Charity Event

Oggis Pizza in Vista hosted a charity dinner for the Ladainian Tomlinson’s Touching Lives foundation. All proceeds went directly to helping youth in Southern California and Texas. Here’s a few pictures from the event.

Jaynes Gastropub

If you can’t afford a trip to the UK to try contemporary English foodie pub fare – Jaynes Gastropub is the next closest thing. Jon and Jayne, owners and proprietors. have put thought into every detail of their restaurant. Everything from the decor to the food oozes class and charm. If you haven’t been here…

Alfredo and Elizabeth Engagement

Engagement sessions are a fun, easy way to get to know your photographer. Not only do you get some great photos but it gives the photographer a chance to figure out your angles, sense of humor, dynamic as a couple, and begin building your friendship (which helps tremendously when it comes to the big day)….

Scripps Gala

I recently had the pleasure of shooting the Scripps Gala for the opening of the new Prebys Cardiovascular Institute. This was an incredible event with amazing food for over 900 guests. I worked closely with Andrew Spurgin, who designed the menu and managed a few dozen chefs and many more servers to make it all…

CB Boxing

Special thanks to trainer Paul Valerde, Boxing 2000, and Charles Bosecker for the gig. Visit the CB Boxing Managements facebook page for current info.

Motor Transport Museum

About a month ago I stumbled upon the Motor Transport Museum while in Campo, CA. It was love at first sight. A former mill tower rises to nearly 100′ and makes the museum a landmark. The mill is surrounded by wonderfully aged vehicles dating back to the 1800’s. Inside there are a dozen restoration projects underway….

1964 Christmas Party

It was a pleasure working with all of you, see you next time! Enjoy! *these are posted to a password protected page, please do not share these images without permission, thanks!

Willie Williford

About a year ago I purchased a Honda Insight. It is almost 15 years old but remains one of the most fuel efficient and low emission cars available today. Honda only sold about 17,000 1st generation Insights and an active community has formed around them. I posted some questions in an online forum shortly after…

Mylaina Tighe

Besides being beautiful Mylaina Tighe is a successful claims specialist with The Doctors Company. “I need a headshot that doesn’t make me look like I’m twelve,” were her instructions, I wish now that I had seen her old headshots. Her dog Nico is her trusty companion and so of course the photo shoot was not…

Summerfest Gala – Food

I recently photographed the La Jolla Music Society Summerfest Gala for event stylist Andrew Spurgin. Design is something that I love in all things so I was like a kid in a candy store at this event. Andrew helped transform a beautiful home in Rancho Santa Fe into an opulent Chinese restaurant. The menu, which Andrew…

Leah Zeger

Leah Zeger is a violinist virtuoso. She has been playing at a professional level since her early teens. If I could photograph the people she is gigging with, well, I’d be driving a much nicer car. In these photos Leah is confidently striding the ballroom of the Four Seasons hotel in Hollywood, embellishing her electric violin…

Shane Rutherford

Shane Rutherford is a modern artist living in Cardiff, California. He uses bright colors and bold designs to make everything from canvas paintings to decorative beer openers. Shane contacted me to shoot some of his custom made belt buckles and other products. Though it wasn’t part of the assignment,  just had to shoot him creating…

Justin Mans

I recently had the pleasure of meeting and shooting Justin Mans for Interiors California Magazine. He was a great subject and very interesting to speak with. He travels the world finding incredible antiques and hardwoods. He brings the menagerie of things he finds back to the David Allen Collection showroom in Solana Beach, California. Interior…

Claus Sodenkamp

While I was shooting Leah Zeger at the Four Seasons in Hollywood I also shot a few of the staff at the Hotel. Claus Sodenkamp is a very charming fellow, the ladies seemed to be going back for more more tacos haha.

Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

I have eaten squash soup with hill tribes in Laos, plantation workers in Sri Lanka, and camel men in India. It is a common dish amongst farmers and reminds me of places far away from cities where food supplies are grown or traded and purchased. My version mixes this simple rural treat with the fiery…

Quinoa Salad

Here is a delicious Quinoa Salad recipe I learned from my mother. 2 cups quinoa 1/3 cup vegetable oil 1 red onion, finely diced 1 bunch of cilantro chopped ¼ cup lime juice ¼ cup golden raisons ¼ cup toast almonds 1 jalepeno deseeded and finely chopped 1 tbsp ground cumin 2 tsp salt 4…

Landscapes of Scotland

In the land of smokey whisky, pete bogs, and plaid kilts there is much to be discovered. Scotland was the last country of our four year trip around the world and a fitting place to finish. If you’re like Valerie and I you’ll enjoy these photos most with a glass of finely crafted single-malt, highland…

Landscapes of Portugal

Photos from a brief trip to Lisbon and Porto, Portugal. The lovely Valerie Orosco, Dan Dusek, and Terri Dusek were in attendance. Each day we walked around, took some photos, ate, walked more, ate, discussed what to do next, and then gave up and ate again.

Landscapes of Israel

I didn’t take many pictures in Israel. My attention was focused on trying to grasp what life is like there and how it came to be that way. I have never experienced information overload like I did each day I was there. At night I would collapse into bed mentally exhausted, asleep before my head hit the…

Jordan – the Red Desert

My first impressions of the middle east were formed in Jordan. In April of 2013 Val and I landed in Amman, Jordan’s largest city. We weren’t sure what to expect.  Tremendous hospitality, rich history, and dramatic landscapes are wheat we found there. The kindness of the people is what immediately comes to mind when I…

Amritsar

The state of Punjab in Northwest of India is the vibrant homeland of the Sikh religion. In the city of Amritsar stand’s the Golden Temple, the beating heart of the Sikh people. It is not only their most sacred site but also one of the world’s great centers of religious tolerance – a rare and…

Delhi

Love it or hate it Delhi has everything. It contains some of India´s most impressive architecture and offers a dazzling array of food, art, religious, and cultural variety. Knowing we would need a place to decompress each day we put a lot of effort into finding a good room. We spent hours but were richly…

Agra

North Central India is plagued by heavy fog in winter. Apparently, Indra, the Hindu god of weather, forgot about our travel plans and sent an extra heavy curtain just as we wanted to go to Agra. Our train was canceled giving us a chance to sample long distance bus travel in India. True to form…

Orcha

Valerie and I travel for extended periods. Time is a valuable and we choose to spend ours traveling. Most people either have time or money but not both, sadly we are no exception.  We go to amazing places but always on a restricted budget, which can be quite challenging. The most unfortunate aspect of this…

Khajuraho

India is overflowing with legendary sights. The erotic temples of Khajuraho are no exception. They appear like a mirage out of the scrub brush, dust, and stunted trees of the arid plane. The audacity and lewdness of what the carving depict the temples is offset by the incredible quality of their craftsmanship and starkly contrasted…

Varanasi

The Ganges is India´s most sacred river and most important pilgrimage. To Hindus dying here guarantees transcendence from the cycle or reincarnation and a direct path to heaven, all sins washed away. Cremation on its banks, even simply spreading ashes in its waters, is auspicious and believed to bring salvation to the departed. Varanasi, perhaps…

Destination India

India had been whispering to us for years. Traces of its influence were everywhere, flavoring everything we had seen in Asia. Travelers told stories of incredible sights, cheap living, and unlimited adventure. Others spoke of a darker side filled with food poisoning, sanity-testing beggars, filth, and frustration. For a long time we didn’t feel ready…

Leaving Nepal

With two weeks left on our Nepali visa we considered our options. We had to return Kathmandu to get our Indian visas but what would we due while we waited for them? We said goodbye to wonderful Pokhara and returned to the chaotic street of Thamel, Kathmandu’s tourist district. We found a cheap hotel with…

Annapurna Base Camp

Annapurna is the deadliest of the world’s big mountains. One climber dies for every two that make it to the summit. Avalanches scour the entire standard route. Ed Viesturs, America’s premier high altitude climber and six time Everest summiter, spent 18 hours in the death zone climbing across a nearly flat ridge to avoid this…

Annapurna Circuit – Part 2

  A road has overtaken the second half of the Annapurna circuit.* A small section, near the trail’s end, remains blissfully free of traffic.  Tate, Jo, Val and I jeeped, walked, and bussed as fast as we could to get there. After two weeks of brown Himalayan desert the sudden green was striking. Flowers adorned…

Annapurna Circuit – Part 1

After 31 wonderful days in the Everest region we found ourselves back in Thamel, the tourist district of Kathmandu. It is not a relaxing place. Motorbikes weave through pedestrians with horns blaring. An endless stream of touts offer drugs, guides, bus tickets, girls – you name it. Litter is strewn everywhere and stray dogs rule…

The Three Passes

Having recuperated from the week long trek from Jiri to Namche Bazaar we bid steak dinners and apple pie farewell and continued our ascent into the Everest region. We listened to the peaceful chants of Buddhist monks at the Tengboche monastery. We enjoyed our own private guest house, for lack of other guests, in Orsho…

Into the Khumbu

Most people fly from Kathmandu to Lukla to get into the Khumbu (region around Mt. Everest). Flights aren’t exactly cheap and the Lukla airstrip’s safety record is pretty spotty. We decided to take a bus to the town of Jiri (a 9 hour journey as death defying as the flight) and walk from there, making…

Destination Nepal

I’ve dreamed of going to Nepal since I was a little boy. By the time I started climbing mountains my teens but I had already read dozens of books about epic ascents in the Himalaya. Their pages had told of incredible suffering, tragedy, triumph and heroism. The Himalayas offer some of the harshest and most…

September 2012

September was a great month for us this year. It kicked off in Thailand with the arrival of Valerie’s mother Sasa. For those of you who don’t know Sasa (has your head buried in sand?) she’s hilarious and having her with us shed new laughter-packed perspective on some of our favorite Southeast Asian hotspots. Here’s…

Yala National Park

Waking Val up before 9am can be a dangerous endeavor. Waking her up at 4:15am is downright suicidal. I was willing to take the risk to see Yala National Park. Without much fuss we found ourselves upright on the dark street at 4:45am. A jeep collected us. At the park gate our driver ushered us…

Ella – Sri Lanka

The central hills of Sri Lanka are home to many small villages. The land is beautiful. Pine trees mingle with eucalypts and other more exotic arboreal species. Smiles are as abundant as the verdant tea bushes that blanket vast tracts of hillside. The town of Ella is particularly charming. Days there are spent walking, eating…

Trains in Sri Lanka

After a lackluster experience in Kandy we were in search of greener pastures. The train ride through the central highlands of Sri Lanka is as much a highlight as the destination. With this in mind we headed to the station, bought tickets, and boarded a train. Our last train ride, in Myanmar, was one of…

Kandy, Sri Lanka

Extrapolating from our love of sugar laden snacks that we would love the city of Kandy may have been unwise. We were covered in sweat by the time we stepped onto the busy sidewalk. The smell of exhaust hung thick in the air and horns blared. Our backpacks made us double-wide and hurried pedestrians pushed…

Destination Sri Lanka

We would have been happy to stay in Komodo and dive the days away but our visa was fast expiring. With Valerie’s mother coming in late August we had three blank weeks and no plan. To solve this riddle we asked four questions: Where haven’t we been or should we return somewhere? Are the flights…

Diving Sipadan

Before we arrived in Semporna, the jumping off point for diving Sipadan island, we’d taken an overnight bus to Tawau, arranged a 60-day visa to Indonesia, and bussed it back to Semporna. We had bloodshot eyes and nowhere to stay. In other words it was business as usual J. We quickly found a great new…

Destination Borneo

The very name conjures up images of dense jungles, head hunting tribesman, and venomous species at every turn. Once this would have been the case, but sadly one of the world’s most important rainforests is all but gone. Borneo is one of the world’s largest islands. It is home to three different countries: Indonesia, Malaysia,…

Coron, Philippines

After coming from the tourist centric El Nido it was refreshing to arrive in an actual settlement. Coron is a popular travel destination in its own right, perhaps more popular than El Nido, but the local people still go about their lives with little regard for their snap-happy visitors. Coron’s biggest draw card is shipwreck…

El Nido, Philippines

El Nido is a small village near the Northern tip of Palawan Island. By Filipino standards it is remote, but its firm established on the backpacker tourist trail has brought abundant accommodation, restaurants, and prosperity to this once sleepy town. El Nido is pleasant enough by itself but the real allure is its proximity to…

Destination Palawan, Philippines

Palawan is considered to be the last frontier of the Philippines. It was long separated from the rest of the country by a 24 hour boat journey. Today it is much more accessible. A cheap flight wisked us to Puerto Princessa, Palawan’s largest city, in an hour. Puerto Princessa, known locally as “Puerto, is one…

Moalboal, Philippines

The most interesting part of our trip to Moalboal was the ride there. From Oslob we were going to catch two different busses when I realized that many of the visitors had arrived from Moalboal and would soon be returning. I approached a few vans and asked if we could catch a ride. They were…

Oslob, Philippines

Should we go to Oslob? The question had been plaguing us for weeks. Well, actually just me because when I asked Val if we should go to Oslob she replied, “is that in the Philippines?” It’s a place to see whalesharks. We’d had a lackluster whaleshark experience in Donsol and a thrilling one in Panglao….

Apo Island, Philippines

Continuing on with our “best of the Philippines” diving tour we boarded a boat to Dumaguete, Negros. It’s a small city whose populations is buoyed by a large university. Pizza places abound in college towns the world over and we were happy to spend a day indulging in baked cheese and air conditioning. We saw…

Alona Beach Diving

Our first trip out of Panglao was to the world famous Balicasag Island. A 45 minute cruise brought us to this marine sanctuary, just in time to share it with two dozen small fishing boats. Dan’s words rang in my ears “there’s one big difference between conservationist and the local fisherman they want to stop….

Bohol, Philippines

Bohol lies in the dead center of the Philippines. It has a plethora of attraction such as the chocolate hills, the world smallest primate the tarsier, 16th century churches and abandoned beaches. They were all entiing but we came with a singular purpose – the tiny island of Panglao, off Bohol’s Southern coast. For the…

Malapascua – A Sad Goodbye

For an island that has so much to offer there’s one thing that Malapascua doesn’t have and that’s an ATM machine. In the interest of our budget and seeing the rest of the Philippines it was good that we had to leave but it made it no less easy to do so. Without access to…

Malapascua

Getting here was an adventure. We left Donsol about two minutes too late and the ferry tickets we needed went to the person directly in front of us in line. The next ferry was twelve hours later, and no, we couldn’t buy tickets in advance. Welcome to the Philippines. This turned into something of a…

Donsol, Philippines

We weren’t to keen on the idea of spending more than a day in Manila but competing with the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos escaping to anywhere within 12 hour of the city for Holy Week was even less appealing. So we waited. Our days in Manila were spent in no less than twelve shopping…

Entering the Philippines

It seemed miraculous to hear the wheels touch down on Philippine soil. Our Malaysian airport foray had proven disastrous but, at long last, we were here. Budget airlines utilize the Clark International, leaving a two hour bus journey to Manila. We changed our Malaysian Ringgits ($) and headed to the ticket counter. Of course, we…

Frantic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I’ve heard that bad luck comes in threes.  I don’t know that’s true but it does seem to come in series. I started the week by missing my international flight to Bali. I couldn’t board the plane because my passport was 2,000 miles away living it up in our former rental. Once out of Australia…

Walking the Abel Tasman, NZ

In the year that we live in Australia the rich cuisine and its exotic, allergy-inducing pollens were not kind to our bodies. Or perhaps it was the 60+ hour work weeks we imposed on ourselves for 11 months. Either way when we showed up to New Zealand with plum bodies in far from optimal condition….

Destination New Zealand

It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve seen “the mountains”. The mountains in SE Asia were covered in jungle, with spiders the size of my face. We climbed a mountain in Tasmania which, though somewhat satisfying, it didn’t really scratch the itch. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest gave me a thirst for the hills,…

Finishing Up, Tasmania

With just a few days left in our Tasmania our focus finally shifted from the natural to the human. A night tour of Port Arthur, Tasmania most notorious labor prison, gave us a taste of history and spirituality. We were led along by the light of candle lanterns as our guide told us a stories…

Cape Huay, Tasmania

Wineglass Bay had spoiled us.  We found ourselves thinking we’d had hit the apex and that it wouldn’t get any better. We were wrong. Cape Huay is a vast coastline of sea cliffs that tower up to 1000ft above the sea. This is the home of the Totem Pole, a needle-thin spire that is completely surrounded by…

Wineglass Bay, Tasmania

There’s a hole in the ozone layer above the deep Southern Hemisphere. Dan and Ally paid heed and fastidiously applied sunscreen throughout our Tasmanian holiday. Val and I were not so disciplined, and unfortunately this bit us square on the ass at Wineglass Bay. We’ve been to some pretty spectacular beached in our travels, enough…

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

The Bay of Fires is a Tasmanian rite of passage. The beach, or rather beaches, stretch along the Northeastern coast and derive their name from orange lichens that cover granite boulders. Upon arrival we were surprised to find that many of our neighboring campers had stayed put for nearly a month, but after a few…

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Cradle Mountain When we arrived in Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest “city”, we thought we head straight to a trailhead and climb a mountain. A few hours of Tassie’s notoriously winding roads later we realized that was a bit too ambitious. The mood was somber as we pulled into a campsite for the night, none of…

Destination Tasmania

Our plan to go to Tasmania was hashed spontaneously over a Thai food dinner and two rounds of drinks.  We were with our friend Dan Benyon when his girlfriend Ally Kalls came to meet us, or rather collect him. She was exhausted after a long shift but her eyes still lit up when she realized…

One Day as a Divemaster in Komodo

We rise early. It’s 6:30am but the roosters have been crowing all night. I shake Val; she squirms in protest but finally wakes up. “Wh–what?” she mumbles. “Time to go,” I whisper and stumble across creaky wood planks to the bathroom grasping for my toothbrush. Val steals five more minutes of sleep. Labuan Bajo is…

Another day in Komodo

It’s January 2011 and Val and I have been in Komodo, Indonesia for six months. Today we guided four Ukrainians and a Czech through the aptly named Manta Point dive site. I vividly remember our first dives at this site. I would marvel at Nun, our most experienced divemaster, spotting mantas from seemingly impossible distances and…

Divemaster: Part 5

Today we snorkeled 800m (1/2 mile) as fast as we could. My lungs raced to keep up my legs, which would have certainly caught fire had they not been in water. Val dominated the race, but my bruised ego took a backseat to the fact that I’d finished the last requirement of the PADI Divemaster course….

Divemaster: Part 4

The last week has been a dream come true for us. We have been guiding a group of nine Korean divers through the blue playground. They are a happy and excitable bunch. Our euphoria should be coming from the superb diving and invigoration of leading our own dives, but in reality its the inexhaustible supply of…

Divemaster: Part 3

What a difference a few weeks make. We’ve accomplished so much and acclimated to the rhythm of life in a dive shop. Exams are finished, 15 of 20 skills are mastered, our 400m swim and 100m diver tow were fast enough, 15 min treading water was a breeze, we’ve mapped a dive site, and made our…

Komodo: The First Dive

Today Val and I made our first real dive in Komodo. We’ve actually been in the water for the last few days, but only in a few meters of water to assist brand new divers complete their courses. We hadn’t been to any real dive sites… until today. Wolfgang, our instructor, tells us to back…

Divemaster: Part 2

Our first weeks have gone by in a blur. We’ve completed exams, spent hours mercilessly repeating skills, and above all else dived – A LOT. Wolfgang is pushing us along. He let us take our exams without the slightest bit of a teaching. “If you need my instruction then I am happy to give it,…

Divemaster: Part 1

Val and I are becoming PADI Divemasters.  For those of you that don’t scuba dive a divemaster is basically a professional dive guide. They are responsible for safely leading divers through the beautiful, yet ever deadly, underwater world. PADI (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) is the largest SCUBA certification agency in the world. They have finely tuned…

Arriving in Labuan Bajo

Arriving at the airport in Labuan Bajo was encouraging. Despite the poetic soliloquies we’d heard about the diving here, not a single person had a kind word for Labuan Bajo, so our expectations were pretty low. The airport, if a bit small, was clean and modern and as a bonus it was a nice temperature…

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

With the DM decision finally made, we headed to our hub in Kuala Lumpur to arrange plane tickets, visas, and shop around for gear that we would need to embark on our new, much anticipated, endeavor. We began this trip in mid-September 2009 with lots of diving on the agenda and DM training as a…

Penang, Malaysia

Here we are again, painlessly over the border and back in Malaysia. The free 3 month visa on arrival certainly contributes to the ease of entrance. Ushered into the country in the back of a minivan, our driver delivered us safely into the heart of Georgetown on Penang Island. Having no clue as to where…

Contrast – Bangkok

Flying into Bangkok was a shock to the system. Sure only 28 days had elapsed, but what a difference those 28 days had made to my outlook. I couldn’t help but be struck by the modernity, efficiency, and general cleanliness of everything. Cleanliness? Bangkok? Really, it is true. During the taxi ride that would eventually…

Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is one of the more interesting major cities we have been too. The electricity only works about half the time. The buses are made mostly of wood, and many of the temples predate the birth of Christ. We arrived in time for the annual water festival to celebrate the new year. A…

Back in Bangkok….

This bus ride was an interesting one. Taking one vehicle from our hotel in Siem Reap, Cambodia we arrive at the border and cross on foot. After getting our visas stamped we walk into the no-man’s land between Cambodia and Thailand. The bus attendant says we have to wait for 30 minutes before we are…

Bookworm…

As a student for the last 4 1/2 years, working a full-time job, and often a part-time job as well to pay for my education and the “lifestyle” I had grown accustomed to (code for: I can’t -and have no desire- to learn to cook and therefore go out to eat, A LOT!), I often…

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is the crowing jewel of Cambodia. Angkor Wat is actually a single temple amongst many but its astounding beauty has given the entire area its name. It is the largest religious structure on earth and was built around 1,000 years ago. Over the centuries the temples have been ruled by Hindus and Buddhists…

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Yet another smooth, successful border crossing puts us into Phnom Penh (PP), the capital and largest city in Cambodia. It’s busy and sweltering hot which aids in our decision to employ a tuk-tuk to take us around and look for a cheap hotel. Along with a new friend Jose, a Spaniard currently living in Dominican…

Saigon, Vietnam

We were expecting Saigon to be a lot like Hanoi, which is to say so busy that your personal countdown to explosion starts the minute you arrive.  We were pleasantly surprised.  The pace is crazy and the amount of commerce is intense, but unlike Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) was built for modern-sized human…

Nha Trang, Vietnam

Nha Trang is one of the most developed beach towns in Vietnam, the kind of place we generally steer clear of.  It happens that it’s also a good way to break up a very long bus journey from Central Vietnam to Saigon and the Mekong Delta, so we disregarded our inner masochists and booked a…

Hoi An

Getting here was quite and adventure.  All of the regular “open tour” buses that pick you up from your hotel were full.  The direct bus to Hoi An had already left by the time we got to the Hue bus station.  So we opted to head for Danang, the fourth largest city in Vietnam and…

Hue, Vietnam

Hue, Vietnam was the royal capital for the Nguyen Lords, a fuedal dynasty that controlled all of Southern Vietnam between 1744 and 1802.  They were able to hold the capital until 1945, when the last emporor adbdicated and the Communist party was established and based in Hanoi. The Viet Cong took the city, which lies…

Ninh Binh, Vietnam

After stopping briefly back in Hanoi to pick up our visas for Myanmar we got in a bus to Ninh Binh, Vietnam.  I’d seen this place before, from out the window of a bus, and thought that it looked beautiful.  The guidebook described it as “Ha Long Bay or rice paddies” – good enough for…

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Leaving the frantic pace of Hanoi, we hop a bus to Vietnam’s third most populous city Hải Phòng (which doesn’t feel very busy by comparison). Arriving late in the evening we find cheap accommodations. “This place smells about right” Scotty declared upon detecting the familiar mildew smell that greeted us at the entrance, indeed! In…

Hanoi, Vietnam

Just the name conjures up images and connotations.  The nicest bus we’ve ever taken brought us into the heart of the beast.  Traffic was insane, crossing the street seemed like more like a suicide tactic than a means of moving around.  Sights and smells attacked us from all directions.  You knew it was coming, and…

Vientiane, Laos (Heading to the Nam…)

Leaving Laos is a little bittersweet. The people here have been beyond kind and regrettably we aren’t going to be able to check out any of the Southern parts of the country, at least not this time around. We are feeling the crunch of time. With a flight to Myanmar a mere 2 months away…

Vang Vieng, Laos

“Do you want some motion sickness pills?” asked a concerned co-passenger.  “It’s not motion sickness.”  -Scotty 5 hours in to an 8 hour mini-bus journey… Vang Vieng is a funny place.  It’s naturally beautiful.  Precipitous limestone mountains rise up like a stegosaurus’ back on the other side of a beautiful river.  There’s plenty of hiking,…

Luang Prabang, Laos

Aside from the constant smoke, a staple here in Laos, Luang Prabang is an inviting town. We would have liked to stay longer, but not being able to breathe freely really put a damper on our visit. Located on a peninsula where the Nam Khan river meets the mighty Mekong River, this quaint town is…

Mong Ngoi, Laos

Travel in Laos is usually a difficult affair, so the boat ride from Nong Khiaw was a much appreciated pleasure.  The hour long ride saw us pass limestone cliffs, submerged to the head water buffalo, tribal villages, small rapids, and lush hillsides.  Though tightly packed we watched the passing scenes in relative comfort, getting more…

Nong Khiaw, Laos

Getting here was a little slice of magic, and another dose of torture.  But after many hours in mini-busses on bad roads, a lesson on how to play pitong (Laos’ version of Bocce Ball), and a few thousand less kip (currency of Laos), we slowly untangled our way out into the sun. Nong Khiaw is a quiet town on the…

Luang Namtha, Laos

–Day One– Fully rejuvinated we book a 3 day trek and hit the road.  There is another couple booked with us, we are told, but they have canceled so we’re on our own!  Our guide “Woot” gives us a preliminary run down as we cruise to our starting point in a Saengthaew (improvised pickup truck…

Arriving in Laos

Val’s feet splash down on the wet sand and it’s official, we’ve reached Laos.  As we walk up the hill to immigration the a brilliant sun sets over the mighty Mekong river.  Getting our visa is the first taste Laos bureaucracy, a legendary monster of lethargy feared by travelers round the globe.  Fortunately the hype…

Chaing Mai, Thailand

North, north and further north. Hopping another bus we find ourselves finally in Chaing Mai, touted as the culture capital of Northern Thailand. This place has it all: hand-crafts, jewelery, tons of religious sites, classes on yoga, language, cooking, and meditation (among others), shopping, traffic, art, night markets and, of course, bowling. The city is…

Krabi, Thailand Part 1

I’m pretty sure Scotty shed a tear when we left the beautiful beach in Southern Thailand. What he didn’t know was how many more, tears of happiness he would be shedding when he beheld the wonders of the Krabi area. Arriving by bus, the place wasn’t much to look at at first. From the back…

Ayuttaya and Sukhothai, Thailand

It is time to leave the city and head north. The problem is we do not know where we want to go. We arrive at the bus station armed with nothing more than a direction to head in. After consulting the guide book, Scotty and I narrow down our northern destinations to 3: ranging from…

Krabi Part 1

Scotty woke me up real early this morning, and for anyone who has spent any significant time around me, you know. This is a dangerous proposition. I can be oh so much more than just…. “Krabi”

Bangkok

Well, you might say this place has a reputation.  And we’d probably tell you that from what we could see peeking around corners, its reputation is well deserved. We took a 12 hour night bus from Krabi to get here and our sleep schedules never really recovered.  Each night we’d set an ambitious agenda for…

Krabi, Thailand Part 2

What do you do when you’ve enjoyed 2 of the 3 things a region is famous for? Go for the third right?  So we set out to complete the trifector with Daniel and Nina, our comrades from Finland. Large limestone cliffs and pillars, or “karst”, are common throughout mainland SE Asia, but in Krabi they are…

Life on the Beach

  After a surprisingly fun night in Satun drinking Thai Whiskey with a local family, we hopped a boat (a large modern speedboat!) headed for the nearby islands of Ko Turatao National Marine park. The ride took us past dramatic limestone and granite bluffs rising defiantly from the ocean.  The park comprises over 50 densely…

Arriving in Thailand

Indonesia and Malaysia share a common language, which happens to be one of the easiest in the world to learn.  After 4 months of real world practice we had gotten pretty good and were beginning to feel like we’d pierced the clueless tourist veil.  Then came Thailand… From the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia we took an…

Cameron Highlands

We ended up staying in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for 3 weeks.  Celebrating Val’s 30th Birthday, Christmas, and New Years.  We had a fantastic time, but needed to reintroduce some adventure into our lives – enter the Cameron Highlands. The 3.5 hour bus ride went by in a blink and when we stepped of the bus…

Kuala Lumpur

Considering that we have been gone for 3 months, taken 8 flights, and traveled about 13,680 miles (22,016 km), our travels in SE Asia have been limited to Indonesia and a few days in Malaysia.  So when we once again showed up in Kuala Lumpur we were excited to begin a new chapter and truly…

Bali

…and then suddenly we found ourselves in Bali, the most touristy area in Indonesia, and we would quickly find out why. Bali is a beautiful and lush island, a Hindu stronghold in a predominately Muslim country. Bali is known for it’s great cuisine and emphasis on the arts and culture. We head to Ubud first,…

Mt. Bromo

As we began readying ourselves to leave Yogyakarta it became clear that getting to Bali was going to be a headache.  We could take a train, which would undoubtedly be the most comfortable and scenic.  The problem was the length, requisite overnight stops meant hotel rooms and the hypothetical bill was adding up quickly.  The…

Central Java

Yogyakarta (pronounced Joe – g – jah – kar – tah) is the cultural capital of the island of Java, Indonesia’s most important and populous island.  A little over 500 thousand of the island’s 120 million people live here and they are fiercely proud of their unique customs, art, and language. Jogja, as the locals…

Megaliths and Trekking the Lore Lindu

This particular destination was not originally on our SE Asia radar of things to do, but a landslide covering a large section of road created a major detour for us. Arriving in Tentena, we learned that an already 20-hour long bus ride to Tana Toroja was about to be made a lot longer by the…

Underwater Togean Islands

Here’s the evidence of our underwater escapades in the Togean Islands, courtesy of our divemaster.  Those of you that know Chori-zo will be happy to see his foray into his native habitat.

Togean Islands

The Togean Islands are a collection of limestone plots huddled in a large peninsula formed by North and Central Sulawesi.  They are a well known, but difficult to reach, place to forget time and become one with sand and sun. We started our Togean Odyssey in Manado, near the Northeastern tip of Sulawesi.  First we…

Bunaken, Indonesia

***I had to make this photos very small to get them uploaded, which is unfortunate because they have lost a lot of quality in the process and I had to remove many of ones containing expertly hidden fish.  Take a moment to look closely at them as there may be hidden treasures you don’t notice…

Bunaken Photos

Pulau Bunaken is a small island off the Northeast coast of the Sulawesi, Indonesia.  We’re here for only one reason – to dive!  The sea here is rich with life and has especially incredible corals.  So far we’ve done nine dives but will be doing a few more before we head to the Lembeh Strait. …

Many Monkeys and 1 Monchichi!!

Welcome to the jungle baby!! Arriving in Bukit Lawang (Boo-keet Lu-wang) after a very long travel day, we were snagged up by a local guide who promptly guided us off the bus, to a a hotel room, and into a jungle trek package. We signed on to leave bright and early the next morning for…

Orangutans in Bukit Lawang

Orangutans are critically endangered. Their biggest threat is the ever growing palm oil industry. Palm oil is used in countless products, in fact is very hard to avoid even when conscientiously trying to. To grow palm oil large tracts of land are cleared, by logging or often by burning, and replaced with palm trees. These trees…

Banda Aceh

Banda Aceh definitely deserves its own post.  Banda Aceh was the epicenter of of the earthquake that caused the 2004 Boxing Day Sunami – killing over 300,000 people.  Aceh took about 80,000 casualties, roughly 5 of every 6 people. Driving through the area now you’d hardly know anything happened here.  Besides the odd concrete skeleton,…

Pulau Weh Photos

Well we’re back in Kuala Lumpur and finally have reliable internet.  Here are the photos from Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia – enjoy!

North Sumatra

We’re still in Pulau Weh for one more day.  Next we’re off to search for Orangutans in Gunung Leusur National Park and then back “home” to Kuala Lumpur. Two days ago we did the best dive of our lives at Batee Takong.  To start we dropped to 45m (160 feet) to witness larger sea fans…

Safe, Sound, and Happy

Hey Everyone, The internet has been a bit dodgy.  We were completely unaffected by the Earthquakes near Padang, and equally unaffected by the earthquake and subsequent Tsunami in American Somoa – which were over 600 and many thousands of miles away respectively. We completed our PADI Rescue Diver Certification last week – which means we…

It’s official….

Well, we did it! We are officially Advanced Open Water Divers. The class was not super challenging but we got a lot of good information out of it and (of course) a chance to do some awesome diving. The fish life here is so diverse that we see new types of fish everytime we are…

Pulau Weh

Finally we made it to Pulau Weh… It took a bit of work but we’ve been able to relax for the last four days.  We are in Pulau Weh, which is a small remote island off the Northwestern tip of Indonesia, just off Indonesia’s largest island of Sumatra.  To get here you must go through…

Batu Caves

We started our day today with lamb, chicken, and pork in a variety of delicious sauces at an Indian restaurant next door to our guesthouse.  We also had an orange soda (a symbol that we’re really on vacation), tea, and a bottle of water.  It cost us 15 ringgit – about 4 US dollars. Full…

Val Goes Bald

I’m in Asia…..finally!! Yeah. I have made some attempts to post sooner but the Internet apparently hates me in Malaysia. I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with many of my family members, take some photos, and make some new memories of home before taking the amazingly long series of plane rides to get here….

Landing in a Jet Plane

Guess what? We’re in Malaysia! After 27 hours we finally have a room booked in the “Little India” district of Kuala Lumpur. Everything went pretty smooth, with the hardest part being the LAX grind and getting onto our first flight. The Hong Kong airport is a marvel in itself, it’s by far the most modern and nicest…

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

Today is the day. In a few hours we’ll get on a plane to fly 15.5 hours and 7,254 miles to Hong Kong, then another 4 hours and 1,559 miles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We’ve had an awesome week in California with Val’s family and friends. We’ve gorged ourselves on In & Out Burgers, California…