Archive for June, 2011

BACK FROM PERU ADVENTURE

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

For the last 10 days I’ve been on an amazing adventure in Peru with my best friend, Mike.  We traveled the entire country – from the jungles of the north, oceans of the west, mountains of the east, and deserts of the south.  I have hundreds of videos and thousands of pictures.  I’ll post some of them here, others can be found on our Flickr page.  And I might be able to edit and post some video on YouTube.

We arrived in Lima very early in the morning and had almost a full 24 hours in the city before our trek into the jungle.  It is a beautiful city situated on the Pacific Ocean – modern in many ways but with a firm hold on its culture and traditions.  We walked along the paths (including the cliffs along the city) and through the parks of the city, explored the markets, and made a trip to Central Lima to check out the Catacombs of the Monastery of San Francisco.

We were picked up the following morning at 4am for our flight to Cuzco where we would connect to a smaller plane to Puerto Moldanaro.  Cuzco is about 12,000 feet above sea level and the cloud ceiling was very low….so we couldn’t land.  We flew on to Ariquepa, got off the plane, and waited until the weather cleared.  Finally back on the plan, we made our way to Cuzco on Peruvian Airlines.  Security was waiting for us as we got off the plane.  They immediately took us to our connecting flight on Star Peru (they were holding the plane for the 2 Americans) while the ground crew found our bags and made the transfer.  Once in Puerto Moldanaro, we took a little time to explore the town market and get some lunch.

After lunch, we were be picked up by our guide and start the journey to the Tambopata River.  Once there, we transferred to a boat and were taken up the river about 2 hours to the Inotawa Village in the Rain Forest where we spent the next few days.

No electricity and no hot water – just candles, tight mosquito nets on the beds, and village-grown foods.  The Rain Forest gets very dark at night, very early.  One night, our guide (Tuto) took us on a night walk to see just what comes out in the dark.  You could hear that bamboo rats, monkeys, birds, and other creators…and we saw some of the most interesting insects we’ve ever seen!  Close to the dining area, there were lots of pocket monkeys and lizards (big ones).

One morning, we were up very early (around 4:30am) to float up the river to the clay licks.  This is one of several places where the parrots, macaws, parakeets, and other birds gather to eat some of the mineral rich clay to keep their digestion working properly. Later in the day, we hiked to the Tres Chambotes Lakes to check out the river otters and cool off in the lake.  We were there long enough to catch a spectacular sunset over the Amazon Jungle.

After leaving the jungle, we made our way back to the small airport in Puerto Moldanaro to catch our flight to Cuzco.  From Cuzco, we drove to Ollantaytambo – an awesome village that I’d love to visit again.  We jumped on the train in Ollantaytambo for the last leg of this trip to Agua Calientes – the small town at the base of Machu Picchu.  Another early morning (4:45am), our guide met us outside our hotel to take us up the zigzag road to Machu Picchu.  It is the 100 Year Anniversary of its discovery and the perfect time of year to be there.  When you’ve completed your exploration, you can have your passport stamped with the official Machu Picchu stamp.

We wanted to be on the mountain early enough to see the sunrise over the Andes and to get registered to hike another significant mountain on the Incan Trail, Waynapicchu.  The Peruvian government only allows a small number of hikers on this mountain each day for lots of reasons, one of the most important being the narrow and steep path that takes you to the top.  It towers 400 meters higher than Machu Picchu offering views of the sacred valley and the ruins that are nothing short of spectacular!

Our Peruvian Adventure continued with a “journey” to the desert of the south to see the Nazca Lines, mysterious carvings in the rocks that have yet to be explained (though there are several theories).  We were booked on a small plane that flew over the lines giving you a good view of each of the 12 carvings.  Here are some pictures that we took and I have some great video as well.

After a day in the desert, we caught a bus back to Lima – about 7 hours.  There are no commercial flights to Southern Peru so car and bus are the only travel options.  With one last day remaining in Lima, we wanted to do something really extraordinary to wrap up this adventure – paragliding off the cliffs of Lima sounded like a great idea.

As I write this, I’m sitting at the Newark International Airport in New Jersey waiting for my connecting flight to Washington, DC.  I’ll be home in Lynchburg before 6pm.  What a phenomenal adventure and an opportunity to spend some time with my best friend…but I gotta tell you, I can’t wait to get home and see my beautiful wife Cindy!

SOUTH AMERICA ADVENTURE

Monday, June 13th, 2011

Today is the day that I start my journey to South America.  I’m meeting one of my best friends – Mike Thompson – in Toronto, Canada. Together, we are flying to Lima, Peru where the adventure begins.  We have a lot planned over the next few days including a hike to Machu Picchu, several days of camping in the Amazon jungle, and a fly over of the Nazca Lines.  We will also spend two days in Lima exploring the history and beauty of that city.

It’s going to be an amazing adventure.  I will take lots of video and pictures to share.  I’m not sure when  I’ll be able to post any of them.  I know our “lodge” in the Amazon has no electricity (only candles) so it’s extremely doubtful that they will have an internet connection.  We’ll be staying in Aguas Caliente overnight before heading to Machu Picchu and while our hotel there boasts of having “24 hour hot water and wet toilets,” I didn’t see “high speed internet” on the list of amenities!  This is definitely going to be an interesting trip.

Last year’s adventure was the big hike through Southeast Asia – Vietnam, Cambodia (with a visit to the Angkor Wat Temple Complex), and Thailand.  I think Peru will be spectacular!

(The Monkeys of Angkor Wat – Cambodia)

REHEARSALS & NEW STUFF

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

What a busy week – and very productive too!  Joanie Spina – our movement coach and artist director – flew in from Vegas to work with us for a week on a few new illusions.  We have four new illusions that we are working on – hopefully, they’ll be going into the production this fall. It takes a lot of work before we feel they are ready to be put on the stage.  There is a process, at least for us.  First, it’s always best if I actually know WHAT I’m going to say before we start into the rehearsals.  I try to be as prepared for that as I can before she arrives.  But, with the way my schedule has been this year, I didn’t have the script completely committed to memory before she got here.  I spent a couple of hours each morning – 6am – 8am – working on the script so that I would have time to concentrate on my movements.  The goal, obviously, is to make sure that when the words are spoken during the show, they feel spontaneous and fresh…and, most importantly, something that I would say (comfortable).

Not only is Joanie a brilliant director, she really knows how to capture the emotion of an illusion through the music.  Putting this all together is definitely a collaboration on many levels.

The two illusions we concentrated on the most this week were both created by Jim Steinmeyer. And, as is typically the case, they are perfect for our show.  Jim really knows what works for us (he’s seen the show several times) and Joanie really knows how to capture our personalities to bring the illusions to life.

The one pictured here is going to be a fun “piece of magic” in the show.  And it stays true to the “theatrical” nature of our production. It’s not just a great piece of magic – it’s a fun and exciting piece of theatre too!

I hope you’ll come check out a show!  The tour schedule will be announced very soon for 2011/2012.

HOME – AND READY TO WORK!

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

After a crazy trip around the world, I’m finally back in Virginia.  I’ve had several days to relax and enjoy the warmer temperatures (it was a bit chilly in Norway).  The trip home was not nearly as eventful, easy flights.  We did have several long layovers however.  By the time we were done with the entire trip, we had been in 5 countries in 10 days on 8 flights (not including 7 canceled flights) in 7 airports with more than 60 hours of delays/layovers and 31 hours in the air.  Did I mention it is good to be home?

As a celebration, Cindy and I made pancakes for breakfast…not just any pancakes, but fancy ones!  And they were awesome!

We are preparing for our director to arrive.  She’ll be with us all this week working on several new illusions for  the show.  I’m very excited about two of them – brilliant creations from the mind of Jim Steinmeyer!  I’ll keep you posted but we are going to be working hard this week!