Photo By The Kiwi Collection
A couple weekends ago I headed up to Lake Tahoe, California with a good friend and fellow photographer Jason. As it was early April we were expecting Spring snow conditions. In the few days preceding our arrival the forecast showed a large storm moving in. Besides our worry that the roads might close, we were very excited with the possibility of snow.
We set off Friday Morning from the Bay area. The drive to our surprise was easy and we stopped along the route to explore some freshly snow blanketed cabins. Around 3pm we made it to the Lake Tahoe Ritz Carlton which is where we were staying for the weekend. Upon arrival we were greeted with welcome drinks and snacks and shown to our rooms. Everything about the hotel was incredible from the decor to the atmosphere. We knew this would be a great weekend.
After settling into the hotel we headed down to the outside fire pit where the daily marshmallow event happens at the Ritz Carlton. This event was incredible, they had a professional “marshmologist” that taught us how to make the perfect s'more and taught us some fun facts about s'mores. As the snow started falling, I was in pure bliss sitting around the fire pit eating my perfectly cooked s'more. After a casual dinner down in the village we headed to back to the room.
The next morning we woke up to blue skies and a thick layer of fresh snow. For skiers this is a dream come true. We got our gear set up and headed for fresh track at Northstar Ski Resort. We didn't have to head far though since they have a ski out spot right outside the door of The Ritz Carlton. The skiing was phenomenal and a powder day in April was unreal. Even though it was a saturday, the slopes were almost empty. Around noon the snow started falling pretty hard and se enjoyed some back of the mountain runs in the increasing powder. We finished off our skiing with another set of smores and relaxed in the spacious and grand lobby of The Ritz.
That evening we ate at the signature restaurant in The Ritz Carlton called Manzanita. The dining experience was one to remember. From the beautiful design and open kitchen layout to the delicious high quality culinary experience, I highly recommend eating here.
Sunday was our last day in Tahoe and we spent this blue sky day checking out some popular photography spots such as Bonsai Rock and Emerald Bay. After a long day of shooting, we headed out of Tahoe very satisfied with our stay.
With a day to spare in Lima after a photo assignment near Cusco, my colleague and I were left wondering how we could make the most of our day. After a bit of searching on Google, we came across a desert oasis called Huacachina. After seeing photos of this beautiful destination (a little town and lake surrounded by giant sand dunes), we began to research how we could get to it. We were disappointed to see that it was around five hours away. We were about to write off the idea until we came across a company called Peru Hop. For really reasonable rates, they travel all around Peru in large and luxurious buses and work along side hotels, hostels and activities in each destination. They let you have a lot of control on your itinerary and have guides on the buses.
We opted for a single day your, which would take us to Huacachina and back with a stop in Paracas for a tour of Ballestas Islands. If you do not want to travel so much in a single day you can hop off the bus and stay a night in Huacachina or Paracas. Our day began early, with the bus picking us up from our hotel in Miraflores at 5:30am. Upon entry to the bus I was pleasantly surprised with the luxuries of the bus. The seats were large and the bus was clean and spacious. Our journey took 4 hours to arrive to Ballestas Islands. I easily slept the whole time.
We arrived at Paracas and we hoped off the bus. We boarded a jet boat (included in our tour), which took us to Ballestas Islands. Ballestas Islands is a series of small islands off the coast of Peru that are offen referred to as “the poor mans Galapagos” since it has incredible biodiversity but is MUCH cheaper to visit. Don’t let the name put you off! The speed boat tour takes two hours round trip. Each boat holds around 30 people and goes at quite a speed. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the Ballestas Islands. Upon arrival you see thousands and thousands of birds covering almost the entire island. Beyond the birds, you also can see Sea Lions, Penguins and many other types of wildlife. Try and get the seat on the boat closest to the side as it is easier to view the incredible sights from their. After circling around the island for about thirty minutes, we made the 40 minute journey back to Paracas. We then strolled around the beachfront town of Paracas for 30 minutes or so.
Around 1pm we departed Paracas and headed to Huacachina. It took about another hour and halve to arrive. This destination was the reason we came on the tour so we were excited to arrive. Huacachina is a truly incredible place and the only desert oasis in the whole of South America! It is very small and contains a couple blocks of stores and hostels next to a lake and is surrounded by massive sand dunes. The town only has 100 permanent residents. We were told it use to be restricted to only really wealthy people and was where the ex- president of Peru lived! We used are free time before the sand buggy and sand boarding tour to grab some food at Bananas Hostel. Food was cheap and the atmosphere was great. At 4pm we were assigned which sand buggy we would go in. We were put in the sand buggy with the driver that was known as the “crazy driver”. I can confirm his name stands for good reason because we spent 2 hours flying around the sand dunes faster than I have ever experienced in any tour. Along the way we made stops to sand board down the massive dunes. You can complete it the “safer” way lying down on your belly or if you want to be more daring, you can try standing up. I tried standing up and got to experience what the sand tasted like.
After 2 hours of absolute thrill, our driver brought us to a remote sand dune where we all watched the sunset into the dunes. It was beautiful. We returned back to Haucachina, ran up the dunes on last time to catch a night picture of the oasis then boarded onto the Peru Hop bus. It was a 6 hour drive back to Lima but I spent it sleeping and watching The Hangover on the TV on the bus so it was really enjoyable.
I would really recommend this tour for someone that is looking for a way to spend 1 to 2 days. If you have two or three days to spare I would definitely stay in Huacachina . It was a place like no other and I wish I had more time to explore it. That being said if you only have one day and you don’t mind bus travel, this is the way you should spend your time!
In the months leading up to my India trip the common reactions I got when I told people I was headed to India were “don’t die”, “don’t get some crazy parasite”, “oh wow”, “be careful” and more rarely “that’s awesome”. With all this pessimism trying to dampen my vibes I did some research on staying healthy in India. After scrolling through a variety of pages about “crazy parasites and diseases found in India” I found some startling statistics. Around 50-70 percent of travelers get the infamous “Delhi Belly” (Indian version travellers stomach). So statically either my buddy and I were doomed to get sick. Well, I’m happy to report we didn’t and we weren’t particularly careful either. We were smart picking mostly places with good Trip Advisor reviews but we didn’t hold back from eating meat like almost every travel advice preaches against. One of the best parts of travel is trying their local cuisine so I don’t believe it’s worth limiting yourself from whole areas of food because at the end of the day some other food could take you down. Anyways beyond some strong stomachs and a bit of luck, here is how we avoided getting sick in India.
1. Carry hand sanitizer- little pocket hand sanitizers were critical in India. With so many people touching things and not good safety standards hand sanitizer is a must.
2. Look up restaurants on TripAdvisor- I use this site religiously when I travel. Seeing what other travellers thought of places and going into a restaurant knowing it clean and repeatable is massive.
3. Don’t Eat Street Food- although this is an major part of experiencing food in a country, its just not worth it. A lot of the food sits out for a long time, hasn’t been properly stored or is just lower quality product. It may taste excellent but your stomach just isn’t prepared for it.
4. Bottled Water- This is more of common sense but you must drink all your water from bottles in India. This includes brushing your teeth with bottled water.
5. Boiling Water Completely- Be careful when you get coffee or tea that the water has actually been boiled and not just warmed up. To kill all the nasty things in the water it must of reached and stayed at boiling point a couple minutes.
6. Showers- when showering you have to be careful not to get the water in your mouth. This is challenging but swallowing a couple of drops of water could land you in bed sick or with a new parasite friend.
7. Be Careful On the Streets- I can confirm that there is actually fecal matter on the streets. Be careful where you walk as I slipped and nearly fell into a pile of it.
Use judgment. Don’t let being paranoid about getting ill hold you back on your trip as it’s the people that spend their trip stressing and worrying that end up getting sick. India is a unique and incredible country that has so much to offer. Follow these basic tips and implement some common sense and you will hopefully beat the odds as well. Have fun!