Ushuaia, Argentina – Fin del Monde

Ushuaia is as far south as south gets. The land of fire, tierra del fuego, is an large island at the tip of South America. The bottom of Patagonia, it’s a place where Antarctic winds blow daily and the weather changes in minutes. Ushuaia is a far as you can go before you reach Antarctica.


Leaving Hawaii, the easiest way to get to South America, is back through Auckland. Landing very late on Dec. 31st, we actually got to celebrate the Worlds first New Years, in New Zealand.


wp-1453639333229.jpgAfter what was basically a long layover, we hopped on a flight to Buenos Aires, and then on to Ushuaia. Ushuaia is a strange place. An outpost, a link to the world beyond, for one of the most isolated regions in the world. Ushuaia is normally just a transit point for people boarding ships to Antarctica, but for us it was a destination.


Ushuaia is cool, similar to coastal Alaska. A place where steep mountains crash into the seas, massive glacier sculpted valleys inspire awe, and unique wildlife roam the bays. It’s also has a very interesting history. Settled by the British as a penal colony, it was a major port of call for everyone from Magellan to Darwin. It has since served the world as a whaling port, then a major fishing port and now as the jumping off point for Antarctica.

Prison cells now serve as exhibits on everything from Darwin’s expedition here to whale anatomy.

On one of our days in Ushuaia we hopped on a boat for a harbor cruise. Probably the best activity of our trip, out boat took us to see a colony of Imperial Cormorants, a group of once nearly extinct southern sea lions and a famous lighthouse that serves as a beautiful photo opportunity.



A male sea lion stands tall watching over his “honey babies”


The real attraction for the cruise is however to see a few of Antarctica’s most famous residents, 2 types of penguins. Magellanic and Gentoo penguins summer off Ushuaia.


We were only able to see this group of the smaller Magellanic penguins as the Gentoo proved to be more elusive.


Another great day for us was when we hiked Tierra del Fuego National Park.


Only 10 miles from Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego is a beautiful and well maintained park.


Our hike along its incredibly windy coastline provided many beautiful photos. Being here, we’ve felt as small as anywhere we’ve been on our trip.


They love their “southern-ness.” After a long hike in the park, we enjoyed a pint of the world’s southern most beer. Brewed with Patagonian hops and barley.


Another day, we headed just outside of the city to hike to one of the many glaciers that overlook Ushuaia. The only chairlift for this “ski resort” was broken, so an hour hike it was up to see the snow. Living in an endless summer for the last year, seeing snow was a welcomed site for Dan who loves his winters.


As you know, we love our food and Ushuaia didn’t disappoint. Still a major fishing port, it one of the only places in the world where you can get fresh King Crab. After a few mediocre overpriced meals, we found Garibaldi’s Restaurant and we never looked back. We ate here 3 of our 5 nights in Ushuaia. Standout dishes were a mixed seafood stew, black risotto with shrimp and king crab and king crab ceviche.


This entire pile is king crab. Only in Ushuaia could you get this because ceviche requires uncooked crab.


Top 5 things to do in Ushuaia

  1. Go to Antarctica, we didn’t cause it costs $10 – $15k a person for a 10 day cruise
  2. Take a harbor ride to see the penguinos
  3. Hike to coastline in Tierra del Fuego National Park
  4. Visit Garibaldi’s and go nuts ordering king crab
  5. Hike to the glacier for spectacular views of Ushuaia

Big Island, Hawaii – Mele Kalikimaka

A very big thank you to Chris, Dan’s dad, for surprising us with an offer to join him, Beth and Alex in Hawaii for Christmas. Initially we had booked to go from New Zealand to Argentina but after Chris offered tickets to Hawaii, we changed plans deciding to fly from Auckland to the Big Island.


Flying to Hawaii from New Zealand time wise is the strangest flight in the world crossing just one time zone, the date line, flying to Hawaii means going back in time 23 hours.


Poppa Peterson, just completed his dream home over looking Kona harbor. We we’re so happy to be able to christen it with him and the rest of the family. Hawaii was a great breath of fresh air for us. Traveling, packing, moving. Changing languages, currencies, time zones. Waking up in a strange land every day, it’s amazing and we wouldn’t trade it for anything, but it’s also tiring. Hawaii was a great dose of the familiar.

View of Christmas Eve sunset from the porch of the new house.

This year for Christmas, we decided that instead of gifts, we would exchange experiences. So our time in Hawaii, was mostly punctuated by the adventures we had.


Beth, took the whole family on a helicopter tour of the volcanic side of the island. Kristin and I hadn’t ever been in a helicopter, so that we really cool. It was amazing to fly over miles of black volcanic lands seeing the changing landscape over time.



Chris bought us a whale watching expedition. Capt. Dave McSweeney is one of the worlds leading researchers of humpback whale vocalizations. It was awesome to get to learn about their research while searching for whales and dolphins. We saw humpbacks, bottlenose dolphins and Hawaiian spinner dolphins.


Kristin and Dan got everyone in the water for a nighttime scuba/snorkel adventure with Kona’s very famous manta rays. The manta night dive consistently ranks as one of the top scuba adventures in the world. This year landing at #7, you might remember #1 from earlier in the trip.

This dive takes place off the coast of Kona, near the airport in a “plankton corral”, where the ocean current forces the plankton up against a lava rock wall. The lights attract the plankton, and the mantas swoop in to collect an easy meal.


North Island, New Zealand – Hot Springs and Hipsters

We put together a video of our whole NZ adventure. It’s pretty much chronological, if you haven’t seen it, it sums up the whole crazy roadie. Drive a few hours, get blown away by something awesome, sleep in van, repeat!

Top 5 New Zealand Adventures

  1. Take the drive to Milford Sound
  2. Visit a glowworm cave
  3. Visit Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of the world
  4. Spend the day cruising Marlborough wine country
  5. Visit White Island, and hang with an active volcano

North Island Exploits

Exiting the Interislander in Wellington, we drive Rocket onto North Island soil. Thnka to a great tip we got way back in Myanmar,  its WAY cheaper to rent a campa in the South Island and drive it to Auckland. Even paying the ferry fee ~US$175, we saved a thousand bucks renting Rocket in Christchurch and dropping it in Auckland.

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14 days in a van has it’s downside. Showering in communal showers at holiday parks just doesn’t get one clean. 3 – 5 hours a day driving cramps your body up. The cure? Natural hot springs. Waikite was awesome. Beautiful pools, and for US$40 you get a home for Rocket and entrance for both days to the pools. What a refreshing way to wake up.

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Fueled up, we push on toward Waitomo and its famous glowworm caves. What’s a glowworm? It’s a creature that drops a spider web like net that glows in the dark. Bugs from the outside the cave fly towards the light inside and dinner is served.

wp-1453049205781.jpgThis cave is a tourist trap, but very worth going to. It’s jaw dropping to experience the caves.


Back in the light of day, we head to Whakatane, and white island. Whakatane is famous in the native Maori culture for a story of a woman single handedly saving a boat full of women and children during a storm. This statue stands in her honor at the mouth of the harbor.

wp-1451710244893.jpgWhite Island is just off the coast, and is an active marine volcano.


For science nerds, its like going to Disney land. We got to, stand on the edge of the crater rim, see a lake that is -2 pH and taste pure sulpher. Plus, on the ride out, we saw dolphins!

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Last day before heading to Auckland, we head to Hot Beach. Hot Beach is just that, a beautiful coastline beach where hot water seeps out via the sand. The process is simple, show up just before low tide, elbow out some space, dig a hole and relax in your own private jacuzzi. Only when we dig our pit and we scald ourselves. Turns out you got to be careful where you dig, some of the water is up to 140 degrees!

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Packing up, it hits us our last day with Rocket has come. One more night in the woods and we’ll have to return him.

wp-1453049254698.jpgWe make our last night count, camping in the bush and hiking to see a grove of massive Kauri trees before starting our drive to Auckland.


New Zealand has really well maintained hiking trails. Still, it doesn’t make the over 660 steps much easier.


Saying goodbye to Rocket, we check into our Airbnb for 3 days in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. It was really nice to get out of the van, sleep in a real bed, and shower in a non-communal bathroom. In Auckland we stayed near Ponsonby road, a really cool street filled with hipster shops and restaurants.


We spent a decent amount of time just chilling, catching up on work while in Auckland. Our highlight activity was our day trip to Waiheke, also known as Wine Island.

wp-1453049171538.jpgOnly a 30 min ferry from downtown, Waiheke is a sweet day trip. A bus circuits the island and drops off at over 15 wineries. Good wines and a great day trip, like going to Sonoma valley, just easier to get to and tour.


We bought a case of wine to take with us, because next stop is Hawaii for X-mas. Thanks for taking our case of wine home Chris!




South Island, New Zealand – Red Rocket… Vroom

Taking off from Australia we touch down in Christchurch on the South Island of New Zealand. New Zealand is about the size of California, and roughly the opposite configuration (‘cause we’re south of the equator). The more crowded, warmer, subtropical North Island dominated by the biggest city Auckland, and the rainy, rough, rugged landscaped South Island.

View of the 12,217 ft Mt. Cook called Aeoraki by the native Maori people.

Landing late in Christchurch, we caught a nights rest before meeting the third member of our NZ adventure, Red Rocket. Rocket, is a minivan, a right-hand drive 2002 Toyota Estima with 320,000km to be precise. He is what the Kiwi’s call a campa, a sleeper van for traveling the countryside.


Inside, the back seats of Red Rocket are taken out, and replaced with a platform and a double bed. Under the platform was a 50/50 split, with a mini fridge on one side and a open space for a camping stove and kitchen utensils on the other. Accessing from the back was a storage locker, perfect for our packs and all our clothes. We spent a day in Christchurch loading up on supplies and winter clothes, which we haven’t needed so far, and the next morning we were off for what was 20 days and nights in Red Rocket.


First up we drive to Lake Tekapo, a ethereal blue lake where we spent our first night. Still getting the hang of the van, we ended up sleeping with one of the doors partially open. Temperatures dropped to almost freezing and we spent the night huddled together trying to keep warm.


Leaving the lake, we visited the worlds southern most observatory for our first of many breath taking NZ views.


The next day we drove to the base of Aeoraki or Mt. Cook, Oceania’s tallest mountain.


Rambling on, we drove to the coast to see the Moeraki boulders. Massive geode like rocks found on a beach, very strange and a nice detour after hours in the car.


Just down the coast from the boulders, was a lighthouse that provided a home to the world’s rarest penguin. The yellow-eyed penguin only exists in a few places around the South Island. Our first time seeing wild penguins, pretty sweet!


After 3 nights roughing it out of the van, we needed to resupply and shower, so we headed to Dunedin to stock up and do some work. Dunedin nicknamed the Edinborough of the south, was settled by Scottish castoffs and is now a hip college town. Just outside of town, we stumbled upon this amazing looking beach. Too bad the water is like 50 degrees.


For the record we split our 20 nights in Rocket between “campsites” which are cheap like $10 a night with little to no amenities, and “holiday parks” running about $40 a night and feature kitchens, showers and power plugs. Two of the parks even had onsite natural hot springs!


After refueling in Dunedin, we headed off for Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound. New Zealand is known for its natural landscapes, so when its said Fiordland is the undisputed standout destination, that says a lot.


Driving through the park to Milford Sound, takes you through the park and a breathtaking landscape with literally thousands of waterfalls.


We spent 2 nights camping in the park, awesome to get to wake up in the wilderness. Not something we’ve gotten a ton of on this trip.

It was a little windy on the sound!

The cruise on the Milford Sound is epic. It’s one of the top things to do in New Zealand, and it’s totally deserved. Towering waterfalls plunge from misty peaks into the sound. Lush forests cling to solid rock faces, while seals and penguins hunt in the deep.


No roadie in New Zealand is complete without mentioning the sheep. Holy sheep, there are millions of them and you see them all the time. Luckily that means tons of awesome wool products. They even sell possum/wool blend goods that are made with fur from the invasive possum.


Cruising out of Fiordland National Park, we head for Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world. Queenstown is where they invented bungee jumping, since then they’ve grown to offer just about every adrenaline rush in the world.

Voted best burger in the world, the owner refuses to open a second location. So if you wanna try one, you gotta come to Queenstown.

We booked a hang-gliding trip but because of winds we couldn’t go on either of the days we were there. So instead Dan rented went mountain biking instead.


After a couple days in Queenstown, we packed up Rocket and cruised up the coast towards the Glacier district. Unfortunately this is as close as we could get to the Franz Joesph glacier cause the river was raging, but still cool to see.


Franz Joesph is also home to an endangered Rowi Kiwi breeding center. Kiwi’s are awesome, baby kiwi’s are ridiculously cute. The breeding center helps hatch over 100 chicks a year, raising them to about 1 year old before releasing them.wp-1451716044680.jpg

Heading north we took New Zealand’s great ocean road towards Abel Tasman. A beautiful drive, but it was one of our longest days on the road at about 6 hours. We broke up the drive by taking a detour to see Hokitika Gorge. It was a bit cloudy, but we’ve heard the water sparkles turquoise blue here like no where else in the country.


Our long drive the day before was so that we could get to Motueka for an early morning boat ride into Abel Tasman National Park.


The park is on the top of the South Island and is home to the most popular of New Zealand’s great walks, multi-day hikes through breath taking wilderness. We didn’t have time to do a multiday tramp (yes, that’s the kiwi word for hike) but Dan talked Kristin into an 11.5 mile tramp. Really cool because you hire a boat to drive you into the park drop you off on a beach, and you walk back out.


The most famous spot in Abel Tasman is Cleopatra’s Pool. Even though it was overcast, Dan couldn’t resist a dip. Behind the rocks is a sweet natural water slide. The water was freezing, but all worth it.


Cruising east from Nelson, we headed into the heart of New Zealand wine country, Marlborough. Like a laid-back version of Sonoma, staying in town, you’re only a short drive (or ride) from 20 – 30 great wineries. Plus, there’s a couple breweries snuck in there. Moa makes beers and ciders you can sometimes find around Denver.


It was really a great day riding around learning about wine and tasting Marlborough wines. Kristin just had to get a pick with the mini ponies!


Known for Sauvignon Blanc, Cloudy Bay put Marlborough on the map. We stopped by to try their wines, and crush local oysters at their raw bar. Kristin took some time to kick back in their adult swings.


Next day, we put Rocket on the Interislander and cross the Cook Strait to the North Island.

Melbourne and Sydney – Australia’s Two Great Cities


Melbourne – One of our favorites so far…

Arriving in Australia, Melbourne was a city we immediately fell in love with. The second city of Australia, Melbourne has it all. Great food, a sweet downtown, an awesome sports scene and a hip-chic apologize for nothing attitude. After Seattle, perhaps nowhere else has a stronger coffee culture than Melbourne. Awesome authentic Asian food is available on every corner, while the meaning of farm to table is reinvented throughout the many cafes that pride themselves on great ingredients.

We landed in Melbourne the day after the attacks in Paris. The French flag flies at half-mast in downtown.

On a walking tour of the city, we found this sweet bar built in the river that separates the city; it was beer-thirty so we had to have a drink.


We stayed a bit outside of the city in Northcote, just on the outskirts of the very trendy Fitzroy neighborhood. With a thriving and creative food truck scene, our Airbnb host recommended we checkout Welcome to Thornbury, a permanent bar that hosts 4 – 7 food trucks a night. A great spot for a dinner that included a kangaroo burger and Korean fried chicken.


On a recommendation from a local, we stopped by Boilermakers, a beer and whisky joint. The bar features over 600 whiskeys from around the world; they even stocked Colorado’s own Stranahans.


Our last night in town, we visited the famous Grand Victoria Market, which on Wednesdays host hundred of pop up restaurants and food vendors along side the normal artisans and craft shops. Kristin bought Dan a belated b-day present, a beautiful Kangaroo leather messenger bag.


We only spent 4 days in Melbourne, but we were sold. One of the few places we’ve been on our trip that would potentially pull us away from Denver if an opportunity comes along. Its unfortunate that the Chinese have run up in property values so much living in the city is unaffordable.

Sydney – Get in, get out


Okay, so honestly we sacrificed our Sydney trip for timing. We only spent a day and a half in Sydney. Basically we crushed a visit to the opera house, took a boat cruise to Manly beach, bought a didgeridoo and got out of town.


We know we’ll be back, so we’ll catch the rest of the city next time.




Malaysian Borneo – Welcome to the Jungle

Borneo is the 3rd largest island on earth. The island is shared by 3 countries Malaysia, the tiny nation of Brunei, and Indonesia. The island’s interior is one of the wildest places left on the planet. Sadly though Borneo forests are being destroyed faster than any other on the planet. Millions, literally millions of acres of primal jungle is intentionally burned every year to make space for illegal palm oil plantations. It’s sickening to fly over hundreds of miles of land to only see perfect rows of palm trees. Still, there is hope, our trip to Borneo proved there is still lots of nature to experience.

Beyond the clouds a lost world exists, but for how much longer? It really made us question the true cost of cheap palm oil.

First up, a diver’s pilgrimage to Mabul and Sipadan Islands. Once you’re on Borneo, it takes 2 days to get Mabul, and another hour to get to Sipadan, but it is worth it. Mabul island is an hour by boat from the closest port on Borneo, Semporna. Semporna is a divey town and is only there because of its close proximity to Sipadan. The one redeeming factor about the town is the cheap live seafood restaurants. We even got the chance to eat Stonefish which is super poisonous when its alive but you are able to eat it after its cooked and it is delicious.


Mabul is paradise, ringed by picture perfect beaches and surrounded by warm tropical coral seas, you literally cannot ask for more. If you are a diver and have a chance, do not miss diving a couple days here. Overall Mabul diving was not as good as Komodo in Indonesia, but it was still great. But staying on the island was much more comfortable than living on a dive boat in Komodo. The diving on our day in Sipadan however, was exceptional.



Sipadan Island is unlike any other in Malaysia. Protected for over 25 years as a nature preserve, this tiny volcanic island sits in thousands of feet of water and attracts rare and weird creatures from all over the ocean.

sipidan island

In between dives, you get to spend an hour relaxing on the beach, paradise!
In between dives, you get to spend an hour relaxing on the beach, paradise!

The government only allows 120 divers a day access to Sipadan and the protection has really payed off, giant walls of perfect corals, massive schools of jacks and batfish hang in the shallows and killers lurk below.

sipadan jacks

On one dive alone we saw probably 20 different grey and white tip sharks, a bunch of barracuda and an endangered scalloped hammerhead!

sipidan shark

Don’t just take our word for it, CNN Travel voted Sipadan’s Barracuda Point the  best dive site in the world last year.


Leaving Mabul, we headed back to the mainland and trekked north to spend a couple nights in a jungle bungalow.

In a small travel SNAFU, we hitchhiked the rest of the way to Sepliok in the back of a palm oil plantation truck. These guys were loving it!

Borneo’s jungles feature thousands of exotic creatures, but by far the most famous are the only great apes outside of Africa. Orang Utans (yes it is two words, malay for wild man of the forest) number about 40,000 on Borneo, and this is the only place other than Sumatra in the world they live.


We visited the Orang Utan sanctuary to learn more about these special creatures. Orangs spend their first 8 – 9 years with their mothers, and orphaned orangs younger than this will die if left on their own. The sanctuary takes in Orangs from across Borneo, found by loggers and villagers. They raise them in the semi-wild park, train them in Orang life skills and try to release them. With a 75% success rate, they’ve been able to save and rehabilitate over 800 Orangs!


Visiting on Dan’s mom’s birthday, we decided to adopt an Orang in her honor, here is a video of our new buddy, Gelison!

On recommendation from a fellow traveler, one night we booked a night trek through the rainforest. We started at a visitors center on the edge of the park but beyond the gates was wild jungle.


For two hours we trekked through paths looking for giant red flying squirrels (which we saw, but not flying), spectacular sleeping birds, huge jungle bugs and other rare nocturnal creatures. We were so lucky, we were even able to spot an elusive Slow Loris.

Trekking through the forest during the day before our night trek adventure

Slow Loris’s are really exceptional monkeys, they have huge eyes, and yes they move very slowly. Why? They are protected from predators because they cover their bodies in poisonous sap that makes them inedible, what a sweet adaptation!

A jungle view from our rainforest chateau
A jungle view from our rainforest chateau

By far the biggest excitement of our entire trip happened outside of the bathroom at the visitor center. As we gathered for our trek “WHAP!” a giant black snake fell from the roof and landed right next to one of the other trekkers. Our ranger immediately started yelling “GET AWAY!!!” as he ran backwards. After the snake slithered off into the nearest jungle without incident, the guide explained that we had just encountered a rare Sumatran spitting black cobra. This thing is one of the most deadly snakes in the world, and it can spit venom up to 30 feet. It’s also a snake for which there is no anti-venom so if you are bit you are on your own to fight off death. Wha-wha-we-wha!

A Sumatran spitting cobra behind glass in the Singapore zoo

Top 5 Things to Do in Malaysia

  1. Experience paradise, stay on Mabul and dive Sipidan
  2. Take a trek through the Borneo jungle at night
  3. Eat your way through the back streets of Penang and find the Boatman
  4. Meet Gelison and the other Orang Utans in Sepilok
  5. Go see the Blue Mansion in Penang and learn about the colonial past

Penang, Malaysia – Street food and street art

The island of Penang is just off the west coast of Malaysia, once a thriving trading port of the British Empire, it has reinvented itself as a technology hub and foodie paradise. As with Singapore and Hong Kong, the British influence runs deep, and you can find everything from high tea, to dim sum and spicy chicken tandoori. Georgetown, the largest city on Penang was declared a UNESCO world heritage site for its uniquely preserved shophouses and streets.


What is really special about the city though it how it has embraced art. Throughout the city, there are sweet rod iron installations and professional street art murals. A day in Penang, is one spent hunting down displays and snacking on wonderful food from all over Asia. The Boatman above is over 30 feet tall.

The iron work, tells stories of the past, or about history of a particular district or street.


On “love lane” mistresses were commonly kept, it’s now a backpacker’s haven.


The famous designer Jimmy Choo got his start in Penang.


The painted murals, often incorporate actual objects. In this display you can sit on the swing, while everything else you see is painted on the wall.


This is a real motorbike, with a wall painting behind it.


Some, are just sweet graffiti, like Bruce Lee kicking the sh*t out of this cat.


Nights in Penang are times to venture out to hawker markets. A hawker is a group of carts all specializing in one dish or another. Common items are char kway toew (stir-fried noodles), laksa (spicy coconut fish soup) and fresh stingray wing barbequed over charcoal. It’s like a food truck rally but way better and way cheaper. Most items are between $1 – $2.50


Another fun thing we did in Penang was visit the Blue Mansion (Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion) which was built by the “Rockefeller of Asia” and restored about 20 years ago. This is interesting to see because it is built in traditional Chinese Feng Shui and during the tour you get to learn about how to Feng Shui your own home!

Penang is a place that doesn’t deserve a ton of time, but is a great and unique place to visit as part of a trip to Southeast Asia. We spent two and a half days here and that was about perfect, just enough time to see everything, get fat and then get out of town. Next up a flight to untamed island of Borneo.