A Travellerspoint blog

USA

USA – Las Vegas & Grand Canyon

Viva Sin City

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Las Vegas is known the world over.
1. The best place for the mob to launder its money,
2. girls any way you like and
3. the location for many a forgetful hangover!!

We weren’t sure what to expect from it, its not like we haven’t been to casino’s before! On a backpacker budget we were either going to replenish some funds or send a few down the drain. Either way, it would surely be an experience.

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We drove into town just as the sun was setting. We could see the strip from the mountain pass as we came over it into the valley. The famous lights of Las Vegas were beginning to illuminate and we got a tingle of excitement hit us as we drove in to park up at The MGM hotel.

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We didn’t even set foot outside of the hotel on the first night, deciding to make the most of the free buffet dinner (being tempted with a buffet as a backpacker – always leads to overindulgence) included with our room and test out the gaming floor. We mostly played roulette and made a 50% profit on our money for the night! Good start.

We had a nice lay in, enjoying no set plans after a lot of long days on the road. We headed out onto the strip and after a few photos and taking in the atmosphere someone said to us that we could get some free stuff if we just went to see their new hotel. After being promised cheap Cirque De Soleil tickets and a free lunch I said to Tanya, may as well for some free stuff. It turned out to be a timeshare sales-pitch, which was fine as we sat there drinking our free drinks and light snacks. Although after nearly 2 hours there the dude trying to sell us the timeshare was really angry with us when we continually said no (even though after 5 minutes he said ‘i know you’re not going to buy’). He just stood up and left and he got another bloke to come over an finish off our meeting. It was quite funny and we didn´t care, we just saved our self a packet on a show and lunch.

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New York New York with a rollercoaster in the hotel!!!

We went and enjoyed the lunch which was at a Brazilian BBQ place which was really nice. They continually brought out fresh cooked meat and you took what you wanted. Suitably full, and still laughing at the experience of the timeshare sales pitch we walked down the strip past some of the most well known hotels/casino’s in the world. The Bellagio, Paris, Ceasers Palace, The Mirage all seemed like we knew them already!

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As we walked back to New York New York where we were seeing the show, everything we had just seen in daylight was now starting to light up into a whole new world.

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The show we were seeing was called Zumanity – The sensual side of Circque de Soleil! Not sure what it was going to be like, it turned out to be really fun! A massive tank of water, hoops, ropes, acrobatic ribbons and gymnastics mixed with lots of boobs and near naked bodies were really cool routines. But in between all of these breathtaking high acrobatics there were a few ‘characters’ that came on stage and got lots of people from the crowd involved for little breaks in the show. These were just as enjoyable and extremely funny. It seemed like we had a really good crowd in that night as almost all of the people that they picked out were really lighthearted and played along with the skits. There were some really funny moments and we left the show really impressed with the whole thing.

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The only photo I snuck during the show

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We made an early start in the morning for a trip out to the Grand Canyon. We were originally going to spend a couple of nights out there and was hoping to do some trekking in the Canyon, however that was looking a bit difficult for in the winter, so we decided to only do 1 night out there and spend another back in Vegas as we wanted more of Sin City!

After about 6 hours driving, we finally pulled into the Grand Canyon National Park and started along the scenic road along the southern rim (which is usually closed to regular vehicles, low season has its advantages). We were immediately blown away at the first viewpoint! The scale of the canyon is truly incredible and cannot be appreciated without seeing it with your own eyes! And there was even snow along the rim.

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As we went further down the road the views just continued to change and we realised that the first views we saw were only just a small fraction of this entire natural phenomenon!

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Some of the viewpoints were on parts of the rim which jutted out into the canyon and really took our breath away with the size of this place

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We watched as the sun went down and lit up the upper rocks in the canyon. It was a great few hours spent just taking that view in. We would have really like to have done a few days hiking into the canyon, but that will have to wait until next time!

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On the way back to Las Vegas we stopped in at the Hoover Dam which is another amazing engineering feat that turned Las Vegas from a desert backwater into a viable city. After driving over the dam, I went for a walk back over it while Tanya took in the view above the dam and watched the playful chipmunks.

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A little less water than normal

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Back in Las Vegas, we stayed at the Excalibur Hotel this time and after getting checked in went down to the LVH at the other end of the strip where we heard that the Superbowl would be shown for free (a lot of places were charging to watch the game). I don’t follow American Football that much, but I do usually try and watch the Superbowl, so having the chance to watch the biggest sporting show with a big crowd would be an experience. The game was good as it went right down to the wire and we didn’t mind who won. There were probably about 1000 people in the show room watching it and the atmosphere was great. The $1 hot dogs were also pretty good!!

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After the football we headed over to the stratosphere hotel. At the opposite end of the strip to where we had been staying, we got some great views from the top. We also had a ride on the Big Shot – The highest amusement ride in the world. We were shot up into the air without seeing anything except the lights of Vegas. We were buzzing afterwards!

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Another of the insane rides hanging off the side of the Stratosphere

We walked back down the strip stopping at the Bellagio to watch their famous fountain show. I didn’t know water could be made to dance like that. It was pretty cool!

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The next day we drove back to LA and checked in to our hostel in Venice Beach late in the evening. We have travelled throughout South America and seen a fair few homeless people, but driving through the suburbs of LA, we were shocked at how many homeless there were on the streets! Its crazy that this is a first world city!

We had a late flight out of LA, so only had the day to look around. Unfortunately the weather was terrible so we decided to do a bunch of admin in the morning to see if the rain passed. We got out for a quick stroll down Venice Beach, but it probably needed to be a nice day to look better than we saw. We headed out to the airport early to wait for our flight to begin the next part of our adventures - New Zealand.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Daniel – Vegas is like Disney Land for adults! I thought that we might run out of things to do there as its just casinos. Couldn’t have been more off the mark. We didn’t spend much in the casino’s either just enough to have some fun. I think we will actually come back here, maybe with a bit more disposable cash next time though. Nothing more i can say about the Grand Canyon – amazingly massive!

Tanya – Cirque-de-soleil – amazing! Food – amazing! Bellagio fountains – amazing! The strip – amazing! Winning money – amazing! Loosing money – still fun! Grand Canyon – A.M.A.Z.I.N.G! Well for a tacky city, it gets my vote.
We really had a great time. The grand canyon is less accessible over the winter, our ambitions of trekking rim to rim were thwarted by the winter closure of the north rim. Too bad we had a superbowl game to return to Vegas for. This has been so different to the rest of our travels and as we like a bit of a flutter on the tables, even loosing was still fun!

Posted by dbgomes 03:02 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (0)

USA – Pacific Coast & Death Valley

Heading on the Highway, Looking for Adventure

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Although we had recently ventured to the snow slopes in a hire car, this was our first road trip of the holiday and it was exciting to embark on a new adventure with little idea as to where we were going other than highway 1 and then towards the bright lights of Las Vegas.

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Dan was happy to be in a car again and hitting the road. We headed for Monterey on our first day which is few hours south of San Francisco. It took us much longer than this however as we had to stop constantly for pictures of the dramatic and ever changing coastline. It really was stunning even though there was some typical northern California fog around.

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Due to our late arrival we didn’t get to see much of Monterey as initially planned. The next day we headed south again and first stopped at nearby Carmel which is a nice little village right on a beautiful beach. The weather was a lot kinder today too.

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Hitting the highway again we saw signs warning of road holdups ahead but they also said Big Sur was open for business as usual so we happily stuck to highway 1 and continued to enjoy the beautiful coat road. We made it to Big Sur with no hold ups, we didn’t stop but it looks like the hippy town its described as – very small and tucked away within beautiful national park.

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Not far from Big Sur we found the road closure which was due to an earlier rock slide (most likely caused by the new bridge work going on there). The nearest detour was 1.5 hours back the way we came and then on a parallel road. The prediction was another 1.5 hour wait so we just drove back a short way to a pretty little cliff-side restaurant for lunch.

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We went back towards the road closure and joined the queue of traffic waiting for the road to open again and eventually we were on the move again. After continuing for another few hours we stopped at the elephant seal colony at Point Piedras Blancas. I could have watched them for hours (had it not been so cold and windy), the seals were very entertaining and quite noisy too. The sound reminded me of someone trying to start a lawnmower with all their belching and farting!

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The big fella getting his grove on


Due to the delay I was going to miss out on some wine tasting that I´d been looking forward to but we’d decided to detour to Death Valley on the way to Vegas so had to keep going and arrived in Santa Barbara early evening.

We chose to go to Death Valley because of its proximity to Vegas, but the name certainly was intriguing. What is this place called Death Valley, with Badwater springs, Devils Golf Course and ghost towns? Well Death Valley used to hold the record for the hottest place on earth till a few years ago hitting 57 degrees Celsius. The combination of clear skies from the rain shadow, being surrounded by high mountain ranges and lack of any vegetation means the temperature only goes one way.

It wasn’t the smallest detour so we made an early start and got to the national park around 2pm. We stopped for a few quick photos on the way up as we passed through some desolate, lonely looking countryside and mountain ranges as we dropped below sea level.

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Once in the national park, the first port of call was Mosaic canyon. It was very impressive as we wandered into a canyon which slowly enclosed around us with amazingly smooth walls. It was like walking through a time shot of geological formation and really gets you thinking of the high school geography classes again wondering how these formations are made.

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The sun was rapidly setting, but we managed to drive past some sand dunes before stopping for pictures at Zabrisky point and then sunset at Dante´s view.

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Sunset at Dante’s view overlooking the salt flats

We spent the night in Beatty which is a typical small American town. We ate our diner in a Saloon (which somewhat resembled my Dad´s big shed, but nonetheless, the ribs and burgers were great). In the morning we had breakfast at a diner for heavy pancakes and bacon and eggs. We had only just scratched the surface in Death Valley so we went back out there for more sightseeing. We stopped at Rhyolite Ghost town.

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Then back in the national park we stopped at Devils golf course (so named as only the devil could play golf there), Badwater salt lake at 85m below sea level and Natural Bridge canyon

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Devils Gold Course

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Badwater Basin

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The road then took us on artists drive towards ‘Artists Palette’ and then another stop at beautiful Zabrisky point before a drive through twenty mule team canyon. The colours and contours of these areas were amazing!

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It is a really stunning national park, despite the name! Driving through the canyons is pretty special too. If we had a 4WD we could have explored further but even the gravel roads are well maintained and marked on the map.

So we survived Death Valley and now viva Las Vegas which might be a different story...!!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Tanya – 2 nights was possible for highway 1, but not long enough to explore the towns in addition to the views so another couple of nights would have been great. The motels have been amazing, and sometimes cheaper than hostel dorm rooms! Death Valley was beautiful, I couldn’t believe what diverse scenery the desert had to offer in just 1 national park.

Daniel – Pacific Highway 1 is as stunning as everyone says. The coastline is so rugged and rough and every turn around a cliff edge bend in the road was always another breathtaking moment. It was good to be able to go at our own pace in the car and that meant that we could include the detour through Death Valley which was so different but no less amazing. Death Valley for me was like walking through a geology class with the effect of wind and water on all the layers of rock so clear to see.

Posted by dbgomes 01:11 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (0)

USA – San Francisco

Making sure to wear flowers in our hair

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Landing and making our way into San Francisco was strange. It felt like we knew the place already. I’m sure it was a combination of computer games, movies and TV shows that made everything look like a familiar city. This would continue over the coming days as we worked our way around the famous landmarks.

On our first morning in San Francisco we went and hired a bike from around the corner of our downtown hostel and headed west towards the Golden Gate Park. On the way out through the neighbourhoods we didn’t encounter too many of San Francisco’s famous big hills. We did however go past the houses from the old TV show, Full House.

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The Full House houses

We went up the de Young art museum in the park which gave really good views out over the city on a fantastic clear day (given San Francisco is famous for its fog, we were really lucky). We continued on through the park to the coast line at lands end. The park was really nice and seemed like a great area to be able to hang out on a fine sunny day

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At the coast we headed uphill past the seal islands, got our first glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and through Presidio with more great open space, gardens and short walks. There were some really nice houses too and clearly well off areas of the city around this part of the cycle.

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We arrived up to the bridge soon enough and it was quite an impressive sight! The red bridge against the blue sky background made for some great photo’s. The views off of the bridge back to the city and Alcatraz were also great with the really clear day.

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We finished up our ride in Sausalito and got the ferry back to the city piers just as the sun was setting behind the bridge, which was an awesome finish to a great day out in San Francisco.

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The following day we had organised to catch up with Karen and Ramsey who we did the Inca trek with back in Peru. They had given us some tips of things to do in San Francisco and booked us for lunch at Greens down at Fort Mason. We rode on the famous San Francisco cable cars and hung out the side as we went up and down the really steep hills. They pretty much exist only for tourists these days, but were cool none the less and it got us there faster too. Lunch was really nice, they had picked a really good spot and with clear views out over the bay area. It was great to catch up with Karen and Ramsey again, reminisce about the Inca trek and tell them about our travels. They gave us some good advice for the upcoming drive down the pacific coast and we promised to repay the favours whenever they make it down to Perth!

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After a quick stop in at Kara’s cupcakes, we burnt off the calories by walking back up the hills to twists of Lombard Street and then down through Chinatown to get back to our hostel to do some planning for the upcoming days

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On our final morning we had booked onto the Alcatraz tour, the quick ferry ride out there over the really calm waters on another fine day made me say to Tanya, ‘I could have swam back to shore after escaping the prison.’ On the island we started with a 15 minute video of the history of the island from its military prison beginnings through to the penitentiary prison that its most famous for. The audioguide around the prison itself was fascinating and probably one of the best audio tours that I have had. They had ex prison guards and prisoners taking you around the prison on the audio tour

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Don’t drop the shower soap

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It was really interesting to hear the accounts of the 1946 ‘Battle of Alcatraz’ escape attempt and the 1962 escape made famous by Clint Eastwood in the movies. The escape cells were reconstructed and the audioguide told the details well. On the way out I picked up a book written by a lady who lived on the island as a child that looks into the 1962 escape and she was even on site to sign it for me.

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Grenade marks from the retaking of the prison in 1946

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Escape cells

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The escape route up the service pipes

We got back into the city and picked up our hire car to start our journey south.

Final thoughts
Daniel – I could live in San Francisco. I see why it is a popular city, maybe we had a rose tinted view with having such good weather given how bad it can be. The city had a really cool vibe, great open spaces, nice suburbs and houses and natural scenery outside of the city. A great stop on the journey.

Tanya – San Francisco had to be my favourite city so far. My judgement may be clouded by the amazing weather we had, we were very lucky to have 2 beautiful sunny days. Biking around was great, we were able to cover alot of ground and really enjoy the neighbourhoods (although not the up-hills) and it was a great way to cross the bridge. It was fantastic to see our old mates all the way from Machu Picchu, share stories and eat great food.

Posted by dbgomes 21:36 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (1)

USA – Breckenridge

No time like Snow time!

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Travelling in a country’s winter season has its downfalls such as missed out beach time and needing to pack space taking clothes in your bags. On the plus side though, it means we can do one of our most favourite things... SNOWBOARD!! We had decided to do some snowboarding a long time ago when we were first planning the trip. We found out that some of our friends from Perth were also going to be snowboarding in the USA around the same time. A quick facebook message and we were locked in for Breckenridge with Ryan, Alex and Jeffro.

We landed into Denver and got out to the car rental. Surprisingly when we were looking into transport to Breckenridge, hiring a car was cheaper than paying for 2 person bus transfer to the resort. This 2011/12 season hasn’t got off to a great start in the USA with minimal snow in a lot of resorts. Breckenridge had ok snow cover but nothing flash, luckily for us, the first real big dump of the season was forecast for our first night here. The hire car people were recommending that we upgrade our little hatchback to a 4WD for the forecasted bad weather. The upgrade price wasn’t much so we took their advice and hopped into our flash Jeep.

Given we have been on the road for 6 months now, we haven’t been lugging our snowboard gear with us this whole time. Luckily Jeffro was bringing a few bits with him like our goggles, but we stopped off on the drive at an outlet shopping centre and picked up some discounted snow jackets and trousers. We got into Breckenridge just as it was starting to snow and met up with Jeffro at our condo. It was really good to see Jeff again, and we couldn’t believe that the last time we saw him was down in Bolivia, right at the start of our travels! We went out for some dinner to meet up with Ryan, Alex and some more friends of theirs, Alicia and Rich. It was good to have a group of us, as snowboarding trips are always a good laugh with a bunch of us.

The snow really came down during the night and we hit the first lifts of the day with the snow still really coming down. We had a great morning with us 4 boys making the most of the fresh powder with plenty of tree runs, while the girls cruised the powdery pistes. Ahh its good to be back on the snow!!! We caught up with the girls for lunch and cruised around together making the most of the great fresh powder right up until the lifts closed. A full day of hard riding took its toll and we were wiped out from our unconditioned bodies. We celebrated with our traditional bottle of champagne that is a signature of our snowboarding trips in the past

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Jeff loving the fresh stuff

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The rest of the week was filled with blue sky days except for a little freshen up of snow on one of the days. Another couple Brett and Megan got in mid way through the week to join and it was great with a good group of us all being similar skill levels.

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Tan taking in the views

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Trips to the jacuzzi were a little cold

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Us boys went off for a few backcountry trips and were punished with difficult walks at high altitude, but were rewarded with some untracked powder stashes. Breckenridge also has a lot of tree lined piste’s which are great for ducking into for some fun runs through the trees.

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The view from our hike into the backcountry

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A little run through the trees

Australia Day also coincided with our time in Breckenridge which was great as we threw a Triple J Hottest 100 party (A big music countdown back in Australia). We got onto the internet webcast of the music countdown and got the BBQ fired up ready to enjoy the countdown. One thing was missing though, an Australian flag. Luckily we had spotted one down on a bridge in town. Operation Flag soon commenced and we came up with a plan to acquire the flag. Being honest thieves, we even wrote up a sign to leave saying we would return the flag the following day :-)

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The BBQ was great and in true Australian style we cooked up the burgers in thongs (of the flip flop variety), boardshorts and singlet. Not to be outdone the girls had a turn cooking in interesting outfits! Much fun was had with plenty of laughs and good times until the early hours of the morning. It was great to spend Australia Day in the snow!

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Chopping onions is so much better with goggles on

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We made the most of our final day on the snow being some of the first people up and last people down. It had been a great place to board for the 5 days. We caught up with everyone for a few last drinks before packing up the bags. We had intended to sleep for a few hours, wake up at 2am to leave Breckenridge, drive for 2 hrs back to Denver, check in and get our 6am flight. The snow started to come down again in the early evening and by 11pm there was a fair amount covering the ground. We decided it was probably best if we headed off then to avoid any problems. The Jeep paid for itself at this point, as the roads were covered in a good foot of snow and we passed many trucks on the side of the freeway with their chain tyres just spinning and going nowhere. Whilst it was a slow drive, the Jeep got us over the pass and back down to Denver in one piece. We slept in the car for a few hours (figuring the car was more comfy than the airport) before handing it back in and getting our flight to San Francisco via an 8 hour stop in Chicago.

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Great snowboarding crew

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Clearing the Jeep for departure

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The interesting roads back to Denver

Final thoughts
Daniel – Breckenridge was a great place to snowboard with lots of cool terrain. We were incredibly lucky to time our arrival with the first decent dump of the season. As always, boarding with a bunch of friends made the days even much better. Looking forward to spending more snow days with everyone in the future!

Tanya – If we were going to holiday in the states in the winter, then we had to go snowboarding. The fact that it coincided with friends being there and Australia day were just a few extra bonuses! We were fortunate to get 10 inches of snow the night we arrived, it was a bit of a shame that we were leaving the next time it snowed, but an exciting drive to the airport past many stuck trucks. Pleased to report that we continue our adventures with no broken bones!!

Posted by dbgomes 17:11 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (1)

USA – Washington DC

White Houses and Capitol Buildings


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We landed into D.C. early in the morning so after checking into the hostel, we went straight back out to check out the sights. First stop was the Capitol Building, scene of the congress not long after the creation of the then 13 States of the USA.

The Capitol Building was a short walk from the hostel and after starting out as the place of the democratic Republic, being burned down by the Empire, and rebuilt even grander is a very patriotic sight for Americans. In summer you need to book ahead to have tours inside the Capitol, but being off season, we just rocked up and got straight onto a tour.

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The tour of the Capitol included a short video on the American congress followed by an interesting stroll through the main parts of the building. After the tour we crossed through the underground passageway to the Congress Library for a quick look around before getting back on the streets and walking down from Capitol Hill to the National Mall

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The National Mall is recognisable from plenty of movies and news broadcasts as the open space that runs down from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial with the Obelisk and square lake between the two. It’s quite a bit bigger than we expected and was quite a walk from the Capitol Building. From afar the Obelisk doesn’t look that big, but once we finally got to its base, it was rather impressive.

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Tanya didn’t have the energy to make it all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, so we hung a right from the Obelisk to Mr Obama’s residence. You see the White House on so many movies and news broadcasts that for some reason it didn´t seem as big or imposing as we were expecting. The early start and spending all day on our feet was getting to us, so we called it a day to

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The following day we were going to dedicate to getting into a few of the many museums that are in DC. On both sides of the National Mall, there are lots to choose from. We decided to start in the National Air and Space Museum, then more on to the Spy museum and see what else we could fit in. The problem though, was once we got to the Space and Air Museum, we ended up staying all day!

It was so interesting, and even spending the whole day there, i felt like i could have gone back for another visit! There was everything from the Wright Brothers exhibit, through early commercial aviation right up to spy planes, war planes and modern flight on the Air side of the museum.

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On the space side of the museum there was a lot of really interesting things to see with moon rocks that you could touch, command modules from the Apollo and other space mission (which were really cool to see how cramped the space was in them and the primitive control systems that they had) and a bunch of prototype copies of other space equipment that currently resides on the moon and out in space.

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Apollo 11 Command Module

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Hubble Test Space telescope

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There is an IMAX cinema inside where we went to watch a cool 3D movie about the hubble space telescope and what it has seen as well as a planetarium with another movie on space and infinity. Both of the movies were great and even better seeing them on the globe screens and IMAX.

Leaving the museum at closing time we headed back to the hostel to get ready to meet up with Gopala (from the Antarctica trip who we also bumped into on the W trek) who lives in DC. We went out to a nice Thai place near to his place and caught up on the travels since we last saw each other. After the great meal, he took us for a night time drive of the sights of DC. As we pulled up to the Lincoln Memorial it was starting to snow just in time for a few photos.

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We were up early again the next morning and there was an icy covering of snow on the paths. The guy was supposed to be giving us a lift to the airport which seemed like it was going to be a big help. We were waiting around at 6am as agreed, and after 30 minutes without a sign of him, we decided to hotfoot it down to Union Station to grab a taxi from there. We managed to get one quickly but we didn’t really appreciate the added stress.

Final thoughts:
Daniel – Loved the Space and Air museum! You could definitely spend a good amount of time visiting all the museums around the place in DC! Seeing all of the landmarks that you see in so many TV shows and movies was really good!

Tanya – It was great to see the capital city, although I hadn’t quite realised how big it was. Everything was in walkable distance, however with just 2 days to see as much as we could those distances added up quickly once we got going and my feet were ready to fall off! It was great of Gopala to take us on a night tour of the city from the comfort and warmth of his car!

Posted by dbgomes 22:40 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (1)

USA – Chicago

Loving the Winter Blues

snow -3 °C
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Flushable toilet paper, drinkable tap water and a familiar language... We must be in the United States of America. We hadn’t quite remembered that we were here for winter though and we were welcomed by snow and bracing winds in Chicago. However we didn´t let the weather get in the way of having plenty of fun.

It was a little sad to be leaving Latin America, but as soon as we landed in Chicago we started to get excited about travelling around the USA with a few western comforts. After getting to our hostel late in the evening we braved the cold and could only find a subway open for something to eat. Nothing like starting off with an iconic American fast food outlet!

In the morning we headed into the park and walked along Lake Michigan up to the metallic ‘bean’ sculpture near Michigan street. The park was nice and the laying snow around the place made it really look wintery. The best thing about travelling in the winter is that you don’t often have many other people at the tourist attractions with you. This was the case for us at the ‘Bean’ which has hundreds of people around it in the summer photos that you see. We only had to contend with a security guard and the odd other tourist in our photos. The reflective sculpture made for some pretty cool photos too.

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After walking around in the cold for a while the snow started to come down a bit harder, so we found a coffee shop to warm up in before doing a little shopping to replace a few clothes in the backpacks (Tanya being the principle culprit).

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The big thing we had planned to do in Chicago was go to an NBA basketball game. Thanks to Michael Jordan in the 90´s the Bulls are probably the most iconic basketball team around the world. In the Jordan & Pippen era they won the title 6 times (two lots of 3-peats!!), raised the profile of basketball around the world and made me pick up a basketball and start playing.

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The past legend

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The current star

I was really excited to be able to go to the game and managed to convert Tanya into a basketball fan too. We looked round the stadium while the teams were warming up before taking our seats for the game. We had some really good seats in the lower level nice and close to the action. There were lots of fun things going on getting the crowd involved before the game and during all the breaks in the game. It was a really fun atmosphere with 21,000 fans in the stadium.

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Cheerleaders warming up the crowd

The game was against the Phoenix Suns who were not going so well in the league, however the Bulls were missing their best player, Derek Rose through injury. The bulls played really well led by Tanya’s new favourite player, Carlos Boozer (because of his cool name) and won by 21 points in the end. With the dominant performance the home crowd were in good spirits and made it a great fun night that even Tanya really enjoyed.

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Final score 118 to 97

The following day we did a free tour round the downtown architecture that was put on by the hostel. We went past the first ever metal framed skyscraper (at 16 storeys) in the world at the Manhattan Building, as well as some of the buildings that were constructed after the big fire of 1871

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Afterwards we met up with David, a fellow traveller we met in Chile who lives in Chicago. He had given us plenty of help with things to do, recommendations for eating out and blues bars to go to. We caught up on what had happened since we were in Chile and decided to meet up again at night at Davids favourite blues bar. In the meantime we followed one of Davids tips and went to the signature room in the Hancock Tower for a cocktail and views over the city.

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After some dinner we met up at the Kingston Mills Blues club for some beers and good blues music. The place was really cool, and the bands were great. We ended up staying until past midnight taking in the music even though we had an early morning flight the next day.

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FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – Chicago was a cool city, I really liked it. The Bulls game was a highlight and something that I have wanted to do since first picking up a basketball! Winter was a bit of a shock to the system after all the warm weather in South America.

Tanya – Sightseeing is a bit more challenging in the cold, but we managed to take in the highlights over the couple of days we had. The blues really is brilliant in Chicago, Carl Weathersby put on a great show and was very entertaining – who else can pull off a song about his girlfriends angry cat??!! And, yes I just might be a basketball fan... the Bulls game was very entertaining, I had a great time.

Posted by dbgomes 22:41 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (0)

USA – New York

Avoiding hurricanes for weddings

sunny 28 °C
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We were taking a 4 day break from South America to get up to New York for our friends wedding, however Mother Nature wanted to play a little hard ball. We had a lot of flying to do to get from Easter Island up to New York and in the end this saved us from Hurricane Irene. We flew from Easter Island at midday, had to sleep overnight in Santiago Airport before a morning flight to Lima, then on to San Salvador before getting the final flight to New York arriving at 2.30am. To say that I was wrecked was a little understating it!

We had treated ourselves to the Intercontinental Barclay, and the bed was a welcome sight! We had a decent lay in before getting up and meeting our friends Tony & Mel around the corner for some pre-wedding drinks. It had been 2 ½ years since we last saw them, so it was good to catch up on the events that have happened since they left UK. I have known Tony since I was 13 and had the important task of being best man the following day. We had a good evening of drinking and eating after splitting into boys and girls groups.

The following morning was a typical wedding morning with lots going on before heading up to Central Park for the ceremony. Mel and Tony had done an amazing job of organising their wedding from Australia and it all came together perfectly on the day. The spot for the ceremony overlooking the lake was really nice and considering a tropical storm had been through a couple of days before the weather was perfect.

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The vows were exchanged, and after a few photos we all went on a pedal bike tour of central park to get to the transport for the reception. It was a really good idea by Mel and Tony, as everyone got a bit of history and saw the sights of central park while the bridal party were getting the photo’s done!

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The reception was held at the River Café which is famous for its Brooklyn Bridge desert. We did get to experience this famous desert but that was after some amazing food all round. We were certainly spoilt for the day. We had a good few laughs and really enjoyed the afternoon before having a few hours free in the afternoon to have a nap before meeting again.

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Tanya and I spent our time with Jess and Don who we hadn’t met before the wedding, but got on really well with. We managed to sneak into the free cocktail lounge at their hotel to enjoy a few snack and beverages before heading back to meet up with everyone at the terrace at the Roosevelt hotel where Tony and Mel had organised a table for cocktails. It was a really good finish to the day and we had fun chatting with everyone and getting well into the spirit of the evening. We kicked on for a bit with Don and Jess at the end of the night to finish of a great day!

The following day, we met with most people for breakfast and then went and got a few errands done like posting off some souvenirs before meeting up with Don and Jess again to do a bit of shopping. We went down to Macey’s and got a few bits and pieces before having a really nice cheap Chinese meal with them. After that we met up Mel and a few others for some drinks and dinner then called it a night.

We had to wake at 3.30am to get the subway out to JFK airport for another long schedule of flights to get to La Paz in Bolivia.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Daniel – The wedding was great, we were really happy to be there and share the day with such good friends. Also had a good time meeting and getting to know the other people at the wedding and will be looking forward to catching up with them back in Perth when we finally get there.

Tanya – OMG I cant believe what a great show Mel and Tony put on for the wedding – it was amazing!! We had a great time in NYC although we didn’t do the touristy thing – it was a nice early holiday from the holiday 

Posted by dbgomes 07:31 Archived in USA Tagged usa round_the_world Comments (1)

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