Tag Archives: Nature

Rolling with the Blackfoot

There is a place in the Blackfoot lands of Alberta called Writing-on-Stone, where the stories of their ancestors are carved into the sandstone walls along the banks of the Milk River. For a tribe whose lands stretched across the great plains of North America, Writing-on-Stone is as sacred as Mecca or Jerusalem, a place where the spirit world and that of mankind touch.

There are countless petroglyphs and pictographs, each telling a different story from a way of life now long gone. It shows the Blackfoot camped out on the river banks, where they would spend the winter while following the buffalo. It tells of the world’s creation, of hunts, of battles, and of the arrival of Europeans. It is said that once the carvings disappear from erosion, their story is done being told.

IMG_0077

“The Blackfoot lived in harmony with the land,” explained Desiree Yellowhorn, a Blackfoot guide at the park. Next to a carving of a woman harvesting meat, she points out where the first Royal Mounted Police carved their names into the sacred wall. “Our ancestors took what they needed from nature, nothing more. They used every piece of the buffalo, from their bones to the coat.”

In the summers, the Blackfoot would gradually guide the bison to large, flat plateaus surrounded by steep cliffs. These places, called “buffalo jumps,” were a secret to the Blackfoot’s survival. After craftily planting branches to creating a funnel towards the cliffs edge, young hunters would spook the rear of the herd, causing a stampede towards the abyss. Once the buffalo ran off the cliff, the women of the tribe would deliver the death knell with a club before harvesting every piece of the buffalo.

IMG_0651

One good hunt would get each tribe through the winter. The pelts were used for warmth, the bones for tools, and the meat was dried and mixed with Saskatoon berries to make an energy-rich meal called Pemmican.

The story of what happened next is the same story of practically every First Nations culture in North America. The white man came, bringing along diseases to which they had no immunity, weapons they could not match, and a worldview that clashed directly with that of the Blackfoot.

Eventually, settlers had hunted the buffalo to near extinction – taking their hides and leaving their flesh to rot, shooting them for sport from the side of trains, or simply slaughtering them to render impossible the traditional way of life on the plains.

IMG_0542

Today, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its contribution to world culture. It is, of course, no longer used. Most Blackfoot live on nearby reservations and no longer live off the land as they once did. The area behind the buffalo jump was long ago parceled into ranches.

During our visit, we were lucky enough to meet with Treffery Deerfoot, a spiritual leader of the Blackfoot community. He traveled to Head-Smashed-In with three generations of his family to give us a demonstration of traditional Blackfoot dances. Everyone, from Treffery to his grandchildren, were decked out in beautiful regalia, singing in their language, dancing the same song as their ancestors did long ago.

IMG_0678

Such a display is no longer an everyday thing. Travelers who come expecting to find Blackfoot walking the streets in buffalo hides are looking for the past. One of the last carvings at Writing-on-Stone was made by Chief Bird Rattler – a picture of the Model T that carried him to the park.

Today, the Blackfoot are a modern people dealing with the challenges of maintaining traditions in the twenty first century. Chief among them is the survival of the language. Almost all Blackfoot speakers are in Canada, but many youngsters are not interested in learning the language.

IMG_0632

Treffery Deerfoot has hope in his grandchildren, to whom he is passing on tradition in the form of songs and dances. And, as long as they are still etched on the wall, the story of the Blackfoot lives on in the Writing on the Stone.

New Year’s 2015 – Camping in Ensenada, Baja California

Alex and I are blessed to live so close to Mexico. With the border only twenty minutes from our door, adventures abroad are possible every weekend. But for too many years we’ve taken Mexico’s proximity for granted.  In 2015 we intend to spend more time exploring our neighbor to the south – Baja California, Mexico.

As we’ve mentioned in our videos about Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico suffers from an image problem. For a long time it was treated as a playground for Americans in search of cheap booze and all the thrills they couldn’t get in the States. Then in 2006 came the drug wars, ravaging much of Mexico as cartels battled each other and the central government for control of the lucrative cocaine trade with America.

Things have since calmed down, but tourism has yet to pick up. Baja California is empty, begging for you to throw your things in the car and road trip down the coast. So we decided to start 2015 off by doing just that – getting together all our friends to spend the holiday camping at La Bufadora, near Ensenada.

IMG_0830

It was the perfect way to begin the year living with intention. We were surrounded by our closest friends from San Diego, all of us somehow able to get time away from work to enjoy time together. We were in nature, camping just meters from the Pacific Ocean. Our cell phones don’t work in Mexico and there was no WiFi, so it was a welcome sabbatical from the “Evernet” on which our job as travel vloggers depends. And for once, we traveled somewhere and didn’t make a video. We just enjoyed the moment.

Friends: Baja California, Mexico

We did, however, take these photos. The ones we’ve selected here capture what is the essence of Baja California – raw, naked, unadorned beauty. Coastline stretching for miles with few houses and no large developments. The ocean lapping against the rocks, a few fishermen’s pangas rocking in the shelter of a natural harbor. No one there but us and our friends.

IMG_1075

As the name suggests, “Lower California” was the southern half of a California united under Spain and Mexico. But history has cleaved them apart and today the difference between the two is marked. While activists fight to preserve the last undeveloped stretches of America’s Californian coast, Baja California looks how my home state must have looked 100 years ago.

Some of the first Americans to explore Baja California were surfers in the 1960s. As the sport went mainstream and beaches like Malibu got too crowded to surf, a few brave souls threw their boards atop their vans and pointed them south. It was coastlines like these that excited their imagination at the possibilities that lay before them.

IMG_0821

That’s how Mexico feels to us now.  So on New Year’s Eve we left our camp to explore a nearby cove – exploration on a much smaller level.  We walked up over the headlands and stood atop a windswept ridge line overlooking Puerto Escondido, Hidden Port in Spanish.  A winding dirt trail led us to a deserted beach, not a trace of humans save for a few fishing boats offshore.  Most visitors came to this place to see La Bufadora, a natural blowhole on the other side of point.  But for us, this deserted beach was the destination we didn’t know we had been looking for.

Despite living next to the US/Mexican border, this trip marked the farthest I’d ever traveled down Baja California. As we left we realized there is so much more to discover – not just geographically, but culturally. The “Baja Med” revolution we’ve explore in Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe is making exploring Baja California all the more appetizing.

And on the morning of New Year’s Day, that’s precisely what we promised ourselves we’d do in 2015.

IMG_0935

Queenstown: Parachutes, Propellers and Panoramic Views!

Queenstown, New Zealand is the birthplace of bungee jumping and jet-boating and an gorgeous destination for adrenaline-seekers.  We soaked up the scenery the best way possible: by rocketing down a river at 85/km per hour, jumping 134m off Nevis Bungee, and sky-diving at 15,000 feet over the Southern Alps.

Thank you so much to everyone who made our stay possible: My Destination QueenstownVilla Del LagoShotover JetAJ Hackett Bungy: Nevis BungyNZONE SkydiveAmisfield WineryGlacier Southern Lake HelicoptersMt NIC High Country ExperienceSouthern DiscoveriesSkyline GondolaMore FM QueenstownTracy Roxburgh from Otago Daily Times.

Queenstown: Behind the Scenes (Episode 22)

We travel to Queenstown, New Zealand, the birthplace of adrenaline sports, to conquer the last of our fears: by rocketing down a river at 85/km per hour, jumping 134m off Nevis Bungee, and sky-diving at 15,000 feet over the Southern Alps.  Epic.

 

Melbourne: Surfing, Street Art & Swimming with Dolphins

This week we’re in Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia.  From exploring street art to sipping quality coffee and going on a surf trip to Bells Beach, here’s our advice on why you should make Melbourne a stop on your next trip to Oz!

Thank you so much to everyone who made our stay possible – goodonya!
My Destination MelbourneJucy RentalsThe Red Shirt Ambassadors of MelbourneEureka Sky Deck 88University CaféMaria Paoli of Melbourne Coffee ToursBrunettiSensory LabKrimpersThe Vue Grand HotelMoonraker Dolphin SwimSearoad FerriesGreat Ocean Road Surf ToursMornington Star EstatesHot Springs Mornington PeninsulaMoonlit SanctuarySurf World Torquay.

Melbourne: Behind the Scenes (Episode 21)

This week we’re in Melbourne, the cultural capital of Australia.  We do a road trip down the Great Ocean Road, surf the legendary Bells Beach, and then swing into the city to dive into cafe culture, street art, and its excellent ethnic food.

Thank you so much to everyone who made our stay possible – goodonya!
My Destination MelbourneJucy RentalsThe Red Shirt Ambassadors of MelbourneEureka Sky Deck 88University CaféMaria Paoli of Melbourne Coffee ToursBrunettiSensory LabKrimpersThe Vue Grand HotelMoonraker Dolphin SwimSearoad FerriesGreat Ocean Road Surf ToursMornington Star EstatesHot Springs Mornington PeninsulaMoonlit SanctuarySurf World Torquay.

 

Getting Up Close to the Great Barrier Reef

Diving the Great Barrier Reef tops the Vagabrothers’ bucket list. But when once they get below the surface they find something they hadn’t expected.  Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 2 Jan, 2014.

The waves came on strong and suddenly.  Within moments of clearing the farthest island in the Whitsundays, Queensland, our catamaran began to pitch in the open ocean as swells smacked our bow from the south east.  The horizon was grey with rainclouds and a strong wind blew across the deck, but I looked at my brother and smiled.  Today we would cross off the single biggest item on our bucket list – scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef.

We’d come to Australia explicitly to visit the reef and our minds raced with anticipation: home to 1,625 species of fish and 1,400 coral reef species, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest marine park in the world and one of its seven natural wonders, the largest living organism on earth and the only one seen from space.

We were not alone in our ambitions.  Our boat was a double-decked catamaran packed with over a hundred passengers to Reefworld, a semi-permanent pontoon anchored just off the edge of the most accessible section of an ecosystem larger than Texas.

Read the full story on MSN Travel UK.

Kazakhstan: Life in the Land of the Free

BBBTV Week 11: Kazakhstan

Our travels take us to Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia.  We make the case for why the world’s 9th largest country should be on your bucket list: from sampling gnarly local cuisine to hanging out with nomads or trekking glaciers in the backcountry.  Come with us to the frontier for adventure travel.

Big thanks to: My Destination KazakhstanKazakhstan HotelVelo-TourAlmaty City TourSunkar Falcon FarmShymbulak Ski ResortRestaurant of Kazakh cuisine Gakku, and The State Museum of National Musical Instruments.

Ecuador: Behind the Scenes (Episode 5)

BBBTV Week 5: Ecuador
Bucket List Items: Uncover the colorful world of Quito culture, become cowboys and step into a bullfighting ring!

Mad props to Stevie B for the weekly rap y muchismas gracias to these guys for making our Ecuadorian excursion amazing: My Destination Ecuador, Unique Destination Ecuador, Surtrek, Tren Ecuador, Hacienda Zuleta, Yan and the team at Project Condor Huasi, Hacienda el Porvenir, Hacienda Hato Verde, Hacienda Chorlaví, Hotel Finlandia, Hotel Patio Andaluz, Quito Turismo, Restaurante El Ventanal, Restaurante Hotel Plaza Grande, Restaurante Cinco Sentidos, and Quito Tour Bus

In Search of the Perfect Wave

In search of a secret wave, Alex and Marko drive a 4×4 into the Osa Peninsula, one of the most bio-diverse and least-developed regions in Central America. Appeared on MSN Travel UK on 30 August, 2013.

I roll our truck out of the thicket of mangrove trees and wait at the water’s edge. The paved road ends here. I switch into four-wheel-drive while our guide Rama scans the far side of the river – not a soul in sight, just a rusty barge floating beside a narrow dirt track disappearing into the jungle. I look at my brother Alex and smile, pleased to have reached what feels like terra incognita. 

“¿Hay alguien ahí?” shouts Rama, a local surfer guiding us to a secret break on the undeveloped Osa Peninsula. Osa is home to the last great tract of virgin rainforest in Central America and described by National Geographic as the ‘most biologically intense place on earth.’

A moustached man appears from behind a tree and waves. He lashes a small fishing boat to the side of the pontoon and pushes the makeshift ferry across the mocha-brown river to our waiting wheels.

Alex turns to me, mouth agape.

“This is nothing – it gets way more gnarly where we’re going,” says Rama, smiling as he checks the boards on the roof. “Makes this look like L.A., dude.”

Read the full story on MSN Travel UK.