It was almost like a dance: seven rambunctious Andean Condors hopping around chunks of mule and calf. On other days the carrion might be alpaca, sheep, or rabbit. Males generally have the first go but Awu is a female that is able to stand up for herself and makes sure she gets the piece she wants to have. When two condors wanted the same piece they each tore on a side of it as if it were a game of tug-of-war. Continue reading
Hexagonal tiles of salt stretch to the horizon hemmed in by bluish mountains. The crunching of salt crystals beneath my feet sounds like stepping on fresh snow. I’m encompassed by total silence in an otherworldly spectacle that is largely devoid of life. Continue reading
“Ready? Off we go!” José, a guide, unchains the two-seater carriage with David, another guide, in the back and me in the front. David starts pedaling and all I have to do is to be in awe. The latter is not hard to do when you are transported along a 655-foot cable that at its highest point reaches 200 feet above a riverbed. We are cycling among 100 to130 foot tall tropical trees in the Mashpi Reserve, which lies at a 3-hour drive from Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Continue reading
Tiger footprints. We stop in our tracks. Excitement rises. Our guide kneels and studies them, and concludes they are old ones. Disillusion comes with a hidden sense of relief. There is a gun-carrying guard with us, but still.
We set off once more along trails through a forest so hot and dry that the dehydrated leaves barely hang on to the trees. The sound of walking through the fallen leaves reminds me of Europe’s autumns, which is entirely at odds with the scorching temperatures. Continue reading
“If you turn around you will see the entire row of pyramids,” Alice said. I pulled lightly on the reins and Esthela immediately reacted, at which I quietly breathed a sigh of relief because truth be said, I was not so sure that she would listen to me. Continue reading
“Look at that! Am I seeing what I am seeing? A white baby whale?!”
It was swimming right along its dark-grayish mother in the Golfo Nuevo, a protected bay along the Atlantic Ocean of the Argentinean coast.
“Oh yes, it’s been around for a while. It’s an albino whale. Quite exceptional of course,” my neighbor informed me.
I was stunned and fell in love with the place even more than I already had. Continue reading
I feel as if I am looking at a scene in the cartoon of Jack and the Beanstalk. Amidst the flooded forest of Anavilhanas, I am looking up at a meters wide trunk of a tree that divides into three immensely thick branches that reach high into the sky, as if they are on their way to heaven.
We can’t climb to heaven, but we can go around the trunk scrambling over the buttresses protruding from the water. It is a balancing act, and a combination of stretching my legs as far as I can to reach the next buttress and squatting to carefully descend to a lower part; I feel like a child again, playing in the woods. Continue reading
The 275 waterfalls that make up Iguazu Falls lie on the Argentinean-Brazilian border and I already saw them in Brazil. Yet, I wanted to see this UNESCO World Heritage Site from the Argentinean side as well, even though I wasn’t sure this side would anything to the experience.
These falls have at least one feature that Argentina can brag about: They were the stage for the movie The Mission (1986), starring, among other actors, Robert de Niro. The movie shows the spectacle of this natural phenomenon but even more so gives insight into the Jesuit, close-to-utopia missions in the region, where Guaraní people were invited to live with the Jesuits in reducciónes to be protected against being hunted down by the Brazilian (Portuguese) Bandeirantes (slave and gold hunters). Continue reading
A rough road leads up into the mountains. Apart from a couple of houses the countryside is devoid of habitation. A low, wooden barrier marks the limits of a private property. Behind it, I see rows of small aviaries, a cluster of trees and a house. The place appears deserted. Continue reading
I was facedown in the water, mesmerized by schools of surgeonfish weaving their way among the rocks, yet the word registered loud and clear. I looked up and saw Coen waving frantically, pointing to something underneath his body. I swam towards him, careful not to make any sudden movements that might scare the fish away. Continue reading
It was Sunday, late afternoon. The weekend vacationers from Manaus had returned home and peace reigned once more over the small tourist town of Novo Airão. I was the only one to go swimming with dolphins – what a stroke of luck. Continue reading
Herons skim the water, their white bodies reflecting in the inky-black water smooth as glass. Green kingfishers nosedive from branches and resurface with a thrashing fish. Roseate spoonbills scratch around in shallow waters, and jacanas do what Jesus Birds do: they walk on the water. Continue reading
Living-root bridges? Bridges made of natural materials that last hundreds of years? Yes, they exist, and only in one place on earth: India’s northeastern state of Meghalaya, and more specifically around the village of Cherrapunjee – which also happens to be the wettest place on earth. Continue reading
There wasn’t just one stone – there were two. Which one did the tiger jump on when crossing this gorge? Tourism was booming in the Tiger Leaping Gorge, which made me wonder why there wasn’t a panel pointing out which stone was linked to the legend of the leaping tiger. Continue reading
Purple-Crowned Fairies, Green-Crowned Wood Nymphs and Violet-Tailed Sylphs were fluttering all around me. Had I just landed in an elf forest? It most certainly felt like it. Surrounded by a towering wilderness of forested mountains with gray clouds closing in or receding just as suddenly, the area felt mystical enough to be one. Continue reading