Our Year of Americas Travel
When you travel the world 300 days a year as we do, it can be revealing to look back and take stock of all you have seen and done. As we look back to 2017, we’re a bit surprised with what we discover from our review.
This past year has been a whirlwind for us. Usually, we’ll spend 60 to 90 days or more in a country before moving on. But 2017 was different. It was a quick roving year for us.
2017 was our year of Americas travel. In all, we set foot in 15 countries: Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Columbia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, The Falkland Islands, The Bahamas, and Uruguay.
We started out in January with a cruise through the Panama Canal touching ports of call in the Caribbean and along the Pacific Coast of Central America and Mexico. In May, The North American Travel Journalists Association annual conference lured us to North Carolina — an area we never thought we would visit — and we wrote a story about our kayaking adventure in Alamance County.
Back home in August, we took a two-day tour of the Historic Tours of America businesses at Savannah: The American Prohibition Museum, The Ghost and Gravestones Tour, and the Old Town Trolley tour. Our story on Prohibition will appear in Links and Libations magazine in early 2018.
From September through mid-November 2017, we took a cruise from Vancouver, B.C. to 62° north latitude to Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. From there we sailed south along the Pacific coast to 57° south latitude at the southern-most tip of South America.
After one-day stops at Port Stanley in The Falklands and Montevideo Uruguay, we left the ship in Buenos Aires, Argentina and spent a week in the city shooting photos of street art, taking in a Tango show, and sampling Lomo.
We then we took a high-speed catamaran ferry to back to Uruguay and roamed that country for 10 days before returning to the States. You can see our multi-part series on Uruguay starting with Part I.
We snapped thousands of photos and videos and have more stories to write than we had time to write them. You'll see some of our stories on this site in 2018. Here are some highlights from our 2017 journeys.
In January 2017, we set sail on the M.S. Rotterdam to Half Moon Cay, an island owned and run by the Holland America cruise line. What’s cool about that? Well, it’s iconic. The clear, azure waters, bleach-white sand beaches, and the environs make for perfect picture postcard photos, as seen below.
Cartagena was a pleasant surprise for us on our Panama Canal cruise in January 2017. It’s iconic and presents a more upscale look than many areas in Latin America.
The Panama Canal
Before doing so, I never could understand why anyone would want to see the Panama Canal. I said I’d never do it. But now that I’ve done so, I recommend it to all. Why?
It’s a wonder of the world. The sheer determination, effort, leadership, and ability of so many to endure failures and obstacles for so long to build this industrial era marvel is truly an inspiration for all. And the machinery of the Canal consists of early 20th Century mechanics. Since the Canal was built before the invention of the Internet, no cyber systems control critical Canal functions making it safe from hackers.
North Carolina, Alamance County
In May 2017, we were in North Carolina for The North American Travel Journalists Association annual conference. It’s typical for press associations to sponsor press trips for members. You can see our kayaking story, Haw River Infuses History, Restores Souls in Travel World International Magazine.
It’s rare for us to spend much time at our home in Coastal Georgia. But we had free time in the summer of 2017 and took a press tour of Historic Tours of America businesses at Savannah: The American Prohibition Museum, The Ghost and Gravestones Tour, and the Old Town Trolley tour.
Our story on Prohibition will appear in Links and Libations magazine, an affiliate of the Distillery Channel, in 2018. And our separate stories about The Ghost and Gravestones and Old Town Trolley tours will appear here and elsewhere in 2018 postings.
Historic Tours of America are, in our professional experience, a best in class business for what it does worldwide. You’ll find out why when you read our forthcoming story of their Savanah operation.
The Great Salt Lake, Utah
We flew over the Great Salt Lake on the way to Vancouver. Karla snapped these exquisite photos of the lake beds with her iPhone.
Vancouver, British Columbia
We spent five days in Vancouver in September before boarding the Holland America M.S. Zaandam for our 45-day cruise from North to South America. It was our first trip to this city in 15 years.
Vancouver is iconic. We took a city trolley tour. It was disappointing — Historic Tours of America is a tough act to follow. But spent much time shooting photos of the fabulous street art locales.
Alaska is just plain cool. But how can one visit without much expense and hassle? That was the million-dollar question until a few decades ago.
Enter public-private partnerships between the tourism industry and governments. Years of development and big bucks went into dredging out harbors at the prominent coastal port cities.
Now, multiple cruise line ships can visit simultaneously during the tourist season (June – September) unleashing tens of thousands of passengers into the State. Six ships were in port while we were in Juneau.
Tourism means many jobs. Students on a summer break, teachers, and others looking for seasonal employment or an adventure of a lifetime rush to Alaska every May to chase the tourism industry jobs.
Everything we did and saw in Alaska was a thrill. But our favorite? A Helo ride over Juneau, the Taku Glacier and, an airboat ride around the glacier.
Imagine the scenery during the Fall in the Yukon. Or better yet, take a look at the photos below. We took the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad from the United States, into the Canadian Yukon and back and saw some gorgeous Fall foliage. The pictures say it all.
Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
This U.S. National Park is in a class of its own. There’s nothing else like it anywhere. We spent a day on board the ship shooting photos of the Marjorie Glacier.
Ketchikan is colorful. Like Juneau, Skagway and other Alaskan port towns, tourism is the most popular industry.
The weather was socked in during our visit. But we had a great time on an adventure kart excursion over old logging roads in the backcountry about 15 miles outside the city.
Tuxtla Chico & Tapachula, Mexico
What would a visit to Mexico be without a video of Marimba players? We went on a tour of Tuxtla Chico and Tapachula. But for us, these players were the best part of our visit.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
A quick port of call for the day limited our time ashore. What to do? We hired a taxi driver and spent four hours shooting photos of street art. We’re building a collection of Street Art from our worldwide travels and we’ll share it with you in 2018.
There’s one destination in Lima everyone can agree is a must-see site in Lima: The Magical Circuit of Water and Light show. You can see our full-length video of this show here.
Puerto Montt, Chile
Whitewater rafting in the Petrohue River at the foot of an active volcano is a popular tourist activity not far from Puerto Montt, Chile. The waters are clear, azure and rafting against the backdrop of the volcano is nothing less than spectacular. That's what we did here.
The Brujo Glacier, Chile
A distant cousin to the Marjorie Glacier in Alaska, El Brujo (the devil), in the Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile, near the pointy end of South America, is a joy to behold. El Brujo displays a distinct light blue tinge making the glacier a unique site to a visit.
Ushuaia, Argentina, also known as the End of the World (Fin Del Mundo), is an impressive presence on the coastline of Patagonia. Neatly nestled between mountains at the shoreline it has been a home to many a wanderer over the years seeking sanctuary from the inhospitable waters of Cape Horn.
We weren’t sure what we should do with our time here. So we stopped at the local tourist office and asked for a map of the street art locations. They told us there were none. So, we took to walking the city. And we found lots of street art. We even found an art school for kids!
For most of us today, Cape Horn is just a collection of rocks with a centerpiece at the pointy end of South America. But for generations of travelers prior to the creation of the Panama Canal, it was a treacherous rite of passage by sea causing an untold number of shipwrecks and death for many.
A sculpture displaying the silhouette of an Albatross presents this 1992 inscription by Sarah Vial:
I am the albatross that waits for you at the end of the world.
I am the forgotten souls of dead mariners, who passed Cape Horn from all the oceans of the Earth, but they did not die in the furious waves. Today they sail on my wings, toward eternity in the last crack of Antarctic winds.
The Falkland Islands
Few among us would have cause to visit The Falkland Islands. Only wildlife researchers, relatives visiting family, Argentinians wishing to invade, or Representatives of the United Kingdom might find a reason to stop here.
Prior to the creation of the Panama Canal, it was a welcome oasis for mariners traversing the dangerous waters around Cape Horn. Thanks to cruise ships though, this place has become a popular destination for tourists. Check out cruise mapper and see how many cruise ships are there right now.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is a city with character. And like many major cities with a long history, it’s colorful, colonial, upscale, downscale, and everything else between. Expect prices on par with the U.S. and Europe.
Punta Del Este, Uruguay
For this post, we share with you the beauty of the Emerald of South America, Punta del Este. It’s where all the jet-setters from Argentina and Brazil run off to for a weekend at the beach.
We spent several days adding to our extensive street art collection by driving the streets of Montevideo. We ran into Pedro and Jose creating this magnificent work of Einstein. Montevideo is chock full of street art. Happily, for us, our collection grows. Look for a series of stories on Street Art of the World in 2018.