Kayaker Attempting Amazon River Speed Record

The Amazon RiverThis past Saturday, Texas native West Hansen set off on what is sure to be an epic adventure in South America. The avid paddler from Austin launched his attempt to set a new speed record for kayaking the length of the Amazon River, a waterway that runs more than 4400 miles (7081 kilometers) in length. The entire expedition is expected to last several months.

Hansen began his journey on Mount Mismi, a snow-capped peak located in a remote section of the Peruvian Andes. The 18,363-foot (5597-meter) mountain has been identified as the most distant source of the Amazon with the Rio Apurimac, one of the prime tributaries for the river, beginning on its slopes. As it rushes down the mountain, the water picks up speed and power, creating dangerous Class V and VI+ rapids. West will need to successfully navigate those treacherous waters in the early days of the expedition.

Reading the early updates on Hansen’s Amazon Express website, it seems that low water flow at the headwaters have made it tough going over the first few days. At times there hasn’t been enough water to even paddle, forcing him to portage around certain sections. Carrying gear and a kayak through lush rainforests isn’t easy either, which only serves to cause further delays.

The relative calm won’t last long, however, and the volume of water will most definitely pick up. Before he reaches the slower, more tranquil waters of the Amazon itself, West will have to run the dreaded Acobamba Abyss, a 40-mile (64-kilometer) stretch of river that is amongst the most difficult whitewater on the planet. The section flows through a towering slot canyon that once paddlers enter, there is no escape or turning back. He’ll have to successfully navigate Class V+ rapids on a river of no return, relying on his skills as a paddler to successfully make it out the other side.

That will simply be the start of what promises to be quite an adventure for Hansen and his support crew. He doesn’t offer up a definitive estimate of how long it will take to complete the journey, which will pass through both Peru and Brazil on its way to the Atlantic Ocean. Regular updates should provide plenty of insights into his progress, however, and it should be fun see what he discovers along the way.

Hotels Offering Adventure Packages For Summer Travelers

zebra Want to spend your summer looking for zebras, swimming with whale sharks and scuba diving ancient shipwrecks? Take advantage of these adventure hotel packages to make the season’s travels a little more exciting.

Picosa Ranch Resort
San Antonio, Texas

The Picosa Ranch Resort, located 30 minutes from downtown San Antonio, is an authentic Texas ranch that was once home to former Texas governor John Connally. Adventure activities include:

  • Taking a photo safari in a Polaris Ranger to see zebra, addax, common waterbuck, black buck, elk, oryx, barasingha, eland, Texas dall rams, roadrunners, Texas longhorn cattle and hundreds more local animals
  • Hiking through the Texas wilderness
  • Skeet shooting
  • Horseback riding
  • Shooting
  • Archery
  • Rodeos
  • Hay rides and climbs

Rates start at $7,500 per night, for a group of up to 18 people. All food, beverages and activities are included. Click here to book. the little nell The Little Nell
Aspen, Colorado

For those looking to do something a little different this summer, The Little Nell features an Adventure Concierge team to put together personally designed packages, as well as offer pre-set itineraries. Some of these include:

  • Geocaching- This adventure combines hiking with treasure hunting, and participants will use a GPS system to find and hide items called “geocaches.” Treasures are yours to keep once found.
  • Cowboy Camp 101- With this package, you’ll learn the art of backcountry living, like how to start a fire and catch your own dinner.
  • Fly Fishing Adventures- Anyone can take part in this activity, whether you’re a novice or an expert. To make the trip more interesting, helicopter excursions, women’s clinics and float trips in handcrafted wooden boats can be added into the journey.

Rates start at $565 per night, based on double occupancy. Adventure activities range from free and up. Click here to book.

hotel Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport
Los Angeles, California

The Four Points by Sheraton Los Angeles International Airport is offering a “Surfboard and Brew” package, for guests who enjoy a mixture of thrills and relaxation. The offer includes:

  • Accommodations in a newly renovated guesthouse
  • Surf lessons for two people at El Porto Beach
  • Two pints of beer nightly at the onsite Brewster’s Bar & Grill

Package rates start at $199 per night, based on double occupancy. Click here to book using promo code “SURFBREW.”

curtain bluff Curtain Bluff
Antigua, Caribbean

Until July 28, Curtain Bluff is featuring their “Active Package” for thrill-seeking guests. The offer includes:

  • Four nights of accommodation
  • 2-hour guided rainforest hike
  • Antigua Rainforest canopy tour, with 10 zip lines and round-trip transfers
  • Antigua Clay Pigeon Shooting School with round-trip transfers
  • South Coast Horizons kayaking trip through mangroves with round-trip transfers
  • Swimming with stingrays excursion with round-trip transfers
  • All motorized and non-motorized water sports
  • Two 60-minute massages
  • All meals
  • Bar drinks
  • Use of gym, tennis courts and squash courts
  • Round-trip airport transfers

Package rates start at $4,045 for a deluxe room, based on double occupancy. Click here to book.

diving Rosewood Tucker’s Point
Hamilton Parish, Bermuda

To help introduce guests to a truly unique adventure, Rosewood Tucker’s Point is featuring the opportunity to explore The Warwick shipwreck. Through July 24, the hotel is inviting guests to dive alongside researchers as they investigate the wreck, which is believed to date back to the Armada of 1588. It is part of the “Warwick Adventure” package, which includes luxury accommodations, and a Tuesday or Thursday dive for two people.

Package rates begin at $875 for the first night for two people. Additional nights begin at $730. Click here to book.

Hotel Solmar
solmar Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

For those looking for adventure on a budget, Hotel Solmar is offering a great deal. Guests will be able to book three adrenaline-pumping activities for $189 per person. Excursion options include snorkeling, riding wave runners, underwater helmet diving, scuba, zip lining, ATV riding, whale watching, La Paz day trips, Todos Santos tours, horseback riding and sunset cruises.

Rates start at $161 per night. Click here to book.

whale shark JW and CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resorts
Cancun, Mexico

Have you ever wanted to swim with the world’s largest fish? This summer, JW Marriott Cancun and CasaMagna Cancun are offering guests the chance to swim with whale sharks in the wild, as they migrate through the coastal waters of Cancun. The enormous fish can reach up to 50 feet long, as you can see in the side photo by Jeronimo Prieto. The area is home to one of the largest barrier reefs in the world, so it’s truly a memorable adventure.

Excursions are $165 per person including lunch. Room rates begin at $149 in July, and $119 in August and September. Click here to book for JW Marriott, and click here to book CasaMagna Marriott.

pink dolphin Tambo Blanquillo Lodge
Manu, Peru

A stay at the Tambo Blanquillo Lodge will allow you to explore the many facets of the Amazon Jungle. The property operates four and five-day packages, which include night hikes through the forest, piranha fishing, boating through lagoons and lakes, spotting pink dolphins, caimens, anacondas and other unique species and kayaking.

Prices start at $700 for a 4-day/3-night excursion. Click here to book.

south africa Ellerman House
Cape Town, South Africa

The Ellerman House in Cape Town is located on the cliffs of Bantry Bay, and is a great home base for a wildlife safari. Through July, the hotel is offering an “Ellerman House/Grootbos Private Nature Reserve 2012″ package, in conjunction with Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. With the deal, guests will receive:

  • Trips to Robben Island and Table Mountain
  • A full-day tour of the penguin colony at Stony Point
  • Shark cage diving at Grootbos
  • A social responsibility tree-planting excursion

Package rates begin at $350 per night. Click here to book.

awasi peaks Awasi Lodge
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

For adventure travelers with a lot of stamina, Awasi Lodge is featuring a five day “Awasi Adventure” package, which concludes with climbing the summit of a 19,589-foot peak. The itinerary includes high trekking, downhill biking and steep hikes, as each day gets progressively more difficult to prepare you for the hardest challenge. Some activities include biking to Moon Valley, hiking Devil’s Gorge and trekking the Sairecabur Volcano.

Package rates start at $3,515 per person for five nights. Click here to book.

How To Face Your Fears Through Travel

skydiving For many people, traveling is about trying new things and making inner discoveries. It’s a great primer for getting your mind ready for an adventure. While you’re having these unique experiences, why not take the opportunity to conquer a fear, as well? Here are some ideas on how travel can help you face your anxieties head-on.

Flying

Being afraid to fly is very common, and the best way to overcome your fear is to face it. While simply going to an overseas destination is a step in the right direction, why not go all out and try skydiving? Some of the best places for skydiving are the Fox Glacier in New Zealand, Mount Everest in Nepal, Cairns in Australia and Seville in Spain. If you’d like to start out smaller, zip lining can also provide an aerial adventure. You’ll be able to attach yourself to a harness, which is connected to a wire, and fly over tall trees and beautiful landscapes.The Ocean

This is a big one for me. During a trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, I sat on the boat shaking as my guide fitted me for scuba gear. I watched jealously as my friends jumped into the ocean without a care in the world. However, my fears slowly drifted away as the instructor showed us step-by-step how to safely navigate the water. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. Some other great diving areas to explore on your travels are East Java, Madagascar, Raja Ampat and the Galapagos Islands.

spider Spiders

For those who are afraid of spiders and other creepy crawlers, a trip to the jungle or rainforest will be just what you need. In places like the Amazon Jungle in South America, where you can see the world’s largest species, the Goliath Tarantula, you’ll find enormous spiders and unique insects you can’t find anywhere else in the world. And after you face these bugs, the average house spider will seem as harmless as a kitten.

The Unknown

For many people, not having a set schedule or itinerary can be terrifying. I actually used to be the kind of person who constantly planned out every detail of a trip and would get anxiety if something went off course. Help free your mind on your travels and try not making a plan. Simply pack a bag, buy a plane ticket and show up at your destination. Not only is it liberating to travel with a blank itinerary of endless opportunities, it’s a lot harder for things to go wrong when you had no plan to begin with.

ghana Commitment

Are you the type of person that shakes at the thought of committing to something for longer than the afternoon? Get over your fear and sign up for a volunteer project abroad. There’s usually a two-week minimum commitment, but to get the most out of the project I’d recommend going for a month or longer. Volunteer at an orphanage, teach English, coach sports, provide medical help or work with animals and help another community. You’ll not only get over your fear of commitment, you’ll also grow as a person.

The Dark

It’s unfortunate that so many people are afraid of the dark, as there are so many great things that happen when the sun’s not around. One great experience to have is camping. You’ll be able to roast marshmallows over an open fire, sing songs, go on night hikes and feel how small the Earth really is through stargazing. One tip: it’s probably best to skip the scary campfire stories the first time around. Some great camping destinations include The Outback in Australia, the Inca Trail in Peru and Torres del Paine in Chile. Another fun adventure to have in the dark is black water rafting, or cave tubing. While it doesn’t need to be nighttime, you’ll be rafting through dark caves where anything is possible. It’s a lot of fun, and a very different experience from white water rafting in the sunlight.

cuy Eating New Foods

While being afraid to try new foods isn’t too serious, tasting unique and “scary” dishes can open you up to new things and lead you to say “yes” to more opportunities. For some people, eating a food they’ve never had can be terrifying. The best remedy for this is immersing yourself in a unique food culture, ordering something unknown and asking what it is only after you’ve tasted it. In my opinion, the best place to do this is Asia, where they have some of the most unimaginable foods ever created. Some unique dishes to try include tarantulas, durian, smelly tofu and white ant eggs.

Death

Death can be a hard thing for anyone to face; however, it’s also a part of life. Many dark tourism sites offer a look into the more morbid part of history, and usually leave you with an important takeaway point. Some of these sites include Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, Napoleonland in France, and the slave castles of Cape Coast, Ghana. There are also less intense ways to explore death through travel. For example, there are some beautiful cemeteries you can visit like Recoleta in Buenos Aires, St. Louis #1 in New Orleans and Woodlawn Cemetery in New York.

bungy jumpHeights

There are many ways to overcome your fear of heights when traveling: high-altitude hikes, zip lining, hang gliding, parasailing and, my personal favorite, bungee jumping. The first time I bungee jumped was in Cairns, Australia, and I was scared out of my mind. After the jump was complete, however, I found myself laughing hysterically and asking to do it again. Some of my favorite destinations for the activity include Interlaken, Switzerland, Queenstown, New Zealand, and Puerta Vallarta, Mexico.

Ghosts

To really face your fears of the walking dead, the best thing you can do is visit a haunted site. There are tons of haunted houses, haunted castles, haunted hotels and creepy abandoned cities to explore. For your next trip, why not find out for yourself just how these sites got their reputation?

[photos via Alexander Savin, cheetah100, Jessie on a Journey, Jessie on a Journey, LIN HSIN YAO]

Bolivian president vetoes Amazon road

Bolivia votes down plan to build Amazon road. Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a law on Tuesday that forbids the construction of a new road through the Amazon Rainforest. The road was seen as a threat to the ecosystem of one of Bolivia’s more popular national parks and a tribe of indigenous people that live there.

The new road was to be funded by Brazil and would have been approximately 177 km (109 miles) in length. But the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia, and a number of environmental groups spoke, out against the plans, and as a result, Bolivia’s Legislative Assembly created a law halting construction on the project. The road would have passed through the Isiboro Sécure National Park and Indigenous Territory, but Morales’ signature ensures that will never happen.

This story is similar to the plans to build a road across the Serengeti in Tanzania, which drew heavy criticism from conservationists and scientists alike. The government in that country said the route was necessary to promote economic development, but it was also seen as a major threat to the wildlife as well. Eventually the plans were abandoned in order to leave the Serengeti’s ecosystem intact, but unlike Bolivia, it took months for the Tanzanian government to change their plans.

The road through the Amazon would have likely brought an economic boost to Bolivia as well, and that country could sure use one. But the government there recognized the value of their natural resources and didn’t want to do anything to put those resources, or their people in danger. As a result, they made the hard, but correct, choice to resist the easy money in favor of protecting their environment for the future.

Underground river discovered beneath the Amazon

The massive river has been discovered beneath the AmazonA massive underground river has been discovered beneath the Amazon Rainforest that is actually larger than the famous waterway that meanders through the jungle above. Researchers say that the new river –dubbed Rio Hamza after the leader of the team that found it– is located 2.5 miles beneath the surface and is many times wider than the Amazon River itself.

Both the Amazon and Hamza can trace their origins back to the Andes Mountains, flowing west-to-east from there. Each is also more than 3700 miles length and both eventually empty into the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of Brazil. But while the Amazon can reach an impressive 60 miles across at its widest point, the Hamza ranges from 125 to nearly 250 miles in width, making it far more massive than its cousin on the surface. The Amazon bests it in speed however, moving at a rate of up to five meters per second, while the Hamza creeps along at less than one millimeter per hour.

The discovery was made by a group of Brazilian scientists who studied 241 deep wells that were drilled, and later abandoned, by an oil company. The team recorded changes in temperature at various depths of those wells to help locate and measure the massive river. Their findings were first revealed at a meeting of the Brazilian Geophysical Society last week.

The team now hopes to continue their studies of the Hamza and hope to have a better understanding of its size and scope in the next few years.