In France, a Steampunk Park of Jules Verne’s Dreams

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When you think of the French region of Brittany, many images may spring to mind: windswept beaches, medieval towns, plates of soft pink langoustines. A giant walking mechanical elephant, however, is probably not one of them. But this is exactly what visitors encounter at the Île de Nantes, a 337-hectare island in the centre of [...]

When you think of the French region of Brittany, many images may spring to mind: windswept beaches, medieval towns, plates of soft pink langoustines. A giant walking mechanical elephant, however, is probably not one of them. But this is exactly what visitors encounter at the Île de Nantes, a 337-hectare island in the centre of the city of Nantes, on Brittany’s western edge.

While Nantes is a pleasant city, with white and grey stone buildings flanking the mouth of the Loire River, it doesn’t have the spectacular architecture, major historical significance or three-star restaurants of some of its French counterparts. So the city decided to create its own unique attraction: Les Machines de L’Île.

Les Machines, Nantes, France
A colourful sign greets visitors to Les Machines. (Hana Schank)

In 2007, Nantes opened the combined art installation and amusement park on the site of a former shipyard. Les Machines offers both carnival-style rides for which anyone can purchase a ticket, and smaller machines demonstrated by visitors selected from the crowd. The result is a kind of steampunk amusement park, and a breathtaking juxtaposition of old, new – and weird.

Les Machines de L'Ile, Ile de Nantes, Nantes, France
Why not ride on an oversized spider? (Hana Schank)

Les Machines is inspired by Jules Verne, who was born and raised in Nantes, and the installations feel like 19th-century science fiction come to life. Verne’s 1870 novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, for example, inspired the three-story, 25m-tall Carrousel des Mondes Marin (Marine Worlds Carousel). Visitors can choose to ride on three levels of mechanical sea creatures: squid and crab on the lowest level, suspended fish on the second and boats and jellyfish at the top.

Since the carousel elements are moveable, adults and kids alike scramble into seats and buckle themselves into the mouths of giant fish or aboard boats, pushing pedals and pulling levers to make the machines rock and spew steam.

Ile de Nantes, Nantes, France
Carousel riders can pull levers to make the boats rock and steam shoot out. (Hana Schank)

The island’s biggest showstopper, however, is a 48-tonne mechanical elephant. The creature, which carries 50 riders, stomps the entire length of the park – from the entrance, across the shipyard and past an old warehouse to the carousel, before looping back to discharge passengers and wait for new ones. The wild ride takes a half hour.

Ile de Nantes, France, Nantes
The park’s famous, mechanical elephant delights visitors with its presence – and its spray. (Hanna Schank)

Inspired by Verne’s 1880 novel The Steam House, in which British colonists travel through India in a house wheeled by a steam-powered elephant, the ride gives passengers the chance to view Nantes’ warehouses, ships and 18th-century mansions from a unique vantage point 12m in the air – the equivalent of being on the third storey of a moving house. It also sprays water at unsuspecting observers.

Smaller machines are housed inside the soaring Galerie Des Machines (machine gallery), including a flying heron and a menagerie of prehistoric-looking metal bugs, spiders and other imaginary pedal-powered slithering insects, all fitted with seats for riders.

Ile de Nantes, Les Machines, France
An enormous inchworm ride is just one of the park’s slithery attractions. (Hana Schank)

The absurdist feel of the Machines de L’Île doesn’t stop at the entrance gates, but seems to spill out into Nantes itself. Just down the street from the Machines, a comically oversized yellow tape measure that replaces millimetres with centimetres lies flung across a courtyard, as though it had fallen out of the pocket of the world’s largest architect.

And across the river from the Île, le Château des ducs de Bretagne, the hulking 12th-century castle in the city centre, features a labyrinth-like sculpture made out of sticks sitting in the middle of its moat. Like much of the art in Nantes, it is offered up without explanation, as though it spontaneously appeared overnight.

Ile de Nantes, Nantes, France
A strange sculpture in the moat of le Château des ducs de Bretagne. (Hana Schank)

Source: BBC News

The Call of the Canadian Wild: the Klondike Gold Rush

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It was a hot afternoon in July when my shuttle bus stuttered to a halt on the dusty banks of the Yukon River. I squinted, bleary-eyed, at the Frontier-style houses of Canada’s Dawson City opposite. Thanks to our slow progress along the scantily paved Top of the World Highway, my 10-hour, 620km journey from Fairbanks, [...]

It was a hot afternoon in July when my shuttle bus stuttered to a halt on the dusty banks of the Yukon River. I squinted, bleary-eyed, at the Frontier-style houses of Canada’s Dawson City opposite.

Thanks to our slow progress along the scantily paved Top of the World Highway, my 10-hour, 620km journey from Fairbanks, Alaska had been long and uncomfortable. But as I was on a quest to discover the landscapes immortalised in the books of US writer, Jack London, a man who braved Canada’s sub-zero temperatures and wilderness before roads like the highway even existed. It seemed inappropriate to complain.

Yukon, Canada, Klondike
The view from the Yukon’s Top of the World highway is especially spectacular in autumn. (J A Kraulis/Getty)

In October 1897, London had arrived in Dawson City on a hastily constructed boat in far more arduous circumstances than I, including a dangerous, 800km voyage downriver from the Yukon’s headwaters in British Columbia. An aspiring but still-unknown 21-year-old writer from the San Francisco Bay area, London was one of tens of thousands of “stampeders” lured north by the Klondike Gold Rush. He went on to spend a frigid winter working a claim on Henderson Creek, 120km south of Dawson, where he found very little gold, but did contract a bad case of scurvy. He also discovered a different kind of fortune: he later would turn his experiences as an adventurous devil-may-care prospector into a body of Klondike-inspired fiction – and into $1 million in book profits, making him the first US author to earn such an amount.

The Klondike Gold Rush ignited in 1896, when three US prospectors found significant gold deposits in a small tributary in Canada’s Yukon Territory. When the news filtered to Seattle and San Francisco the following summer, the effect on a US still reeling from severe economic recession was unprecedented. Thousands risked their lives to make the sometimes year-long journey to the subarctic gold fields. Of an estimated 100,000 people who set out for the Klondike over the following four years, less than half made it without turning around or dying en route; only around 4% struck gold.

Yukon territory, Canada
Even once stampeders made it to the Yukon Territory, challenges – including often inclement weather – continued. (Robert Postma/Design Pics/Getty)

Dawson City, which sprang up on the banks of the Yukon in 1896 close to the original find, quickly became the gold rush’s hub. Today, its dirt streets and crusty clapboard buildings – all protected by Canada’s national park service – retain their distinct Klondike-era character. But as our bus crept along Front Street past bevies of tourists strolling along permafrost-warped boardwalks, I reflected how different London’s experience must have been. Contemporary Dawson City is a civilised grid of tourist-friendly restaurants and film set-worthy streets, with a permanent population of around 1,300. By contrast, in 1898 it was a bawdy boomtown of 30,000 hardy itinerants who tumbled out of rambunctious bars and crowded the river in makeshift rafts.

Dawson City, Canada, Klondike
This 1898 photograph shows Dawson City in its heyday. High Street was made of dirt, but still bustling with new arrivals. (Henry Guttmann/Getty)

The roughshod living would not have intimidated London. Born into a working class family in San Francisco in 1876, his callow years were short on home comforts. As a teenager, he rode the rails, became an oyster pirate and was jailed briefly for vagrancy. He also acquired an unquenchable appetite for books. Passionate, determined and impatient, London was naturally drawn to the Klondike Gold Rush. In the summer of 1897, weeks after hearing news of the gold strike, he was on a ship to Dyea in Alaska with three partners, using money raised by mortgaging his sister’s house.

My bus dropped me outside the Triple J Hotel, which like all buildings in Dawson looks like a throwback to the 1890s – televisions and wi-fi aside. Too tired to watch the midnight sun, I fell asleep early to prepare for the next day’s visit to the Jack London Interpretive Center. Dawson City’s premiere Jack London attraction, it is a small museum whose prime exhibit – a small wooden cabin, roof covered in grass and moss – sits outside in a small garden surrounded by a white fence. On first impressions, it looks painfully austere. But the story of how the cabin got here is a tale worthy of London’s own fiction.

Dawson City, Yukon Territory
Dawson City today still retains its frontier atmosphere and sense of isolation. (J A Kraulis/Getty)

In the late 1960s, Dick North, the centre’s former curator, heard of an old log emblazoned with the handwritten words “Jack London, Miner, Author, Jan 27 1898.” According to two backcountry settlers, it had been cut out of a cabin wall by a dog-musher named Jack MacKenzie in the early 1940s.

Excited by the find, North got hand-writing experts to authenticate that the scrawl on the so-called signature slab was London’s before setting out to find the long forgotten cabin from which MacKenzie had plucked it. North wandered with a dog mushing team for nearly 200km until he located the humble abode where London had spent the inclement winter of 1897-8 searching for gold. So remote was the location that when a team of observers arrived to aid North in April 1969, they became stuck in slushy snow and had to be rescued.

Once removed, the cabin was split in two. Half of the wood (along with the reinserted signature slab) was used to build a cabin in Jack London Square in Oakland, California, near where the author grew up. The other half was reassembled next to the Interpretive Centre in Dawson City.

Jack London, Dawson City, Yukon
A little boy peers into the Dawson City half of Jack London’s cabin. (Brendan Sainsbury)

London left the Klondike Gold Rush in July 1898 virtually penniless, having earned less than $10 from panned gold. But he had unwittingly stumbled upon another gold mine: stories. During the rush, his cabin had been located at an unofficial meeting point of various mining routes; other stampeders regularly dropped by to share their tales and adventures. Mixed with London’s own experiences and imagination, these anecdotes laid the foundations for his subsequent writing career, spearheaded by the best-selling 1903 novel The Call of the Wild.

The Klondike Gold Rush finished by 1900. Despite its brevity – and its disappointment for thousands who staked everything on its get-rich-quick promises – it is a key part of US folklore and fiction thanks, in large part, to the tales of Jack London. Later, on a bus heading south to Whitehorse, I looked out at the brawny wilderness of scraggy spruce trees and bear-infested forest where the young, resolute London had once toiled in temperatures as low as -50C. I felt new admiration for the writer – and for his swaggering desire to turn adversity into art.

Source: BBC Travel

An Extreme Way to see Wales’ Coast, Coasteering

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From the beach of Aberbach, which is Welsh for little river mouth, I slipped into the cold waters of Pembrokeshire county and swam for the first cliff face. I studied the rock wall between strokes, searching for handholds, and examined the glassy water spread out beneath it, trying to gauge depth. Was I really going [...]

From the beach of Aberbach, which is Welsh for little river mouth, I slipped into the cold waters of Pembrokeshire county and swam for the first cliff face. I studied the rock wall between strokes, searching for handholds, and examined the glassy water spread out beneath it, trying to gauge depth. Was I really going to ascend that crag and then throw myself off it?

In coasteering, the answer is usually yes, as the sport combines swimming through open ocean, climbing treacherous precipices and then plunging into uncertain seas… just to begin the mad process over again.

Coasteering started when rock climbers grew tired of carrying and belaying ropes, deciding instead, in the interest of safety, to ascend over water. Wales’s 870 miles of coastline – especially the stretch that juts out from Pembrokeshire – is a daredevil’s jungle gym. Thus, on a tour with Preseli Venture, I expected an afternoon of fear and adrenaline, euphoria and belly flops. But in addition to that, during the two hours I spent navigating jagged rock faces that soared to ferns, perched like coiffures atop the cliffs, and dark caves where swells pushed through like surging rivers, I also received an education in the region’s easily overlooked marine biology underfoot.

“You see that area up there,” said Jon Kelly, my guide, as he pointed to a perilous section of rock where it looked as if someone had spray-painted the cliff yellow. The climb appeared manageable, but the jump looked risky. I wasn’t, however, about to cower at our first mission, so I nodded, placed my hands on the rock’s teeth and felt the barnacles dig into my palms.

Coasteering, Wales, Adventure
(Noah Lederman)

Kelly stopped me. “We’re not climbing yet, I just wanted to point out the xanthoria lichen,” he said, referring to the band of yellow. “[Xanthoria parietina] hates the water. That’s why they grow above the high tide line.” The organism just beneath it that looked like road sealer, he added, was black tar lichen. Often an overlooked aspect of our environment, lichens are essential pioneer organisms that allow for the succession of grasses, bushes and trees.

After the lichen briefing, we scrambled onto the rock and walked slowly toward an arch that hung above the end of the headland, taking our time to inspect the tidal pools along the way. Kelly pointed out a few of the hundreds of varieties of seaweed found in Britain. One kind called channel wrack, which evolved conduits beneath its fronds to allow for the quick run-off of water, had the same preference for dryness as the xanthoria. Bladder wrack, meanwhile, lived among the black tar and floated up with the tide like small green balloons attached to thick strings. Beneath our feet were beds of happily drowned kelp.

A rock wall standing between the sea and the archway stood like a barbican against the small, but approaching swell. While the bulwark was probably an extension of the headland at low tide, with the rising tide it became an island. We lowered ourselves into the channel and swam the gap between the archway and the temporary island. A wave swept in from both sides and also breached the wall. The water dunked him and his life vest. His long hair floated up.

When he resurfaced, he didn’t skip a beat: “Let’s jump off this rock,” he said.

Coasteering, Wales, Adventure
(Doug McKinlay/LPI/Getty)

He bounded up the wall and leapt without hesitation, as if he were atop a volcano that he knew was ready to blow. I went much slower, searching for handgrips, allowing the swell to tug at me and using the flume to boost me onto the outcrop. I climbed with caution to the little peak and examined my impact zone before jumping. I was acclimatising myself to the sport.

We swam through protected bays and past rocky shorelines where Atlantic grey seals pup between July and December. (During those months, Preseli doesn’t go onto the beaches that the seals use to give birth.) We journeyed around headlands covered with more lichen – pioneer organisms that had selected such extreme surface that succession seemed impossible. On one climb, Kelly discovered a patch of swollen rock samphire, a coastal flora that people often cook with, or even pickle. We stopped to nibble it raw. “It sells for quite a bit of money,” Kelly said.

I had only ever come across this uncommon plant, which tasted like carrot, in King Lear. Shakespeare wrote, “Half-way down Hangs one that gathers samphire; dreadful trade!” According to Shakespeare’s character, the samphire harvester was taking an extreme risk. (Though maybe the gatherer was simply a trailblazer of coasteering).

The headland grew more sheer and extreme, but we climbed with the relative protection of the sea. I jumped from seven meters, shaping myself like a pencil; Kelly back-flipped from even higher with a celebratory yelp. We took breaks to marvel at the fragile ecosystem, Kelly moving fluidly between his roles as stuntman and coastal biology professor.

“This is a dog whelk,” he said, removing a predatory sea snail from the rock and flipping it over to show me the chitinous spike on its underside. “It uses this to drill into barnacles. Once it gets through, it secretes an enzyme into the barnacle and then waits for the acid to turn the poor guy into mush. Takes the dog whelk about three days to suck it all up. Quite gruesome really.” Kelly placed the sea snail back onto the rock beside its buffet; half of the barnacle shells sat like emptied cauldrons.

Coasteering is a developing sport around the world,  including Wales. At present, the United Kingdom has a National Coasteering Charter that works toward creating safe practices, training guides and promoting the sport, but there is no national governing body yet. Therefore, guides like Kelly tend to be over-qualified – he has site-specific training, along with certifications or qualifications in beach lifeguarding, rock climbing, sea kayaking and first aid – in order for companies like Preseli Venture to avoid accusations of negligence.

But as the sport becomes more popular, things will undoubtedly change. Where there were once only a few recognized outfitters in Pembrokeshire half a decade ago, now there are more than a dozen. When a governing body is formed, standardized qualifications for guides and crowded cliffs will be sure to follow.

“I’d hate this to become a sport where you’re waiting on line like for an amusement park ride,” Kelly said, scanning our empty rock playground.

More humans traversing the rocks will also inevitably yield a less vibrant ecosystem. Creatures would die. But today, we shared the cliffs only with the life beneath our feet.

I followed Kelly into a cave. The darkness of the cavern and sunlight beaming through worked like a pair of alchemists, making the familiar lichens above our head gold, silver and bronze. Inches of swell squeezed in behind us and the non-wave magnified into a watery bomb. It slammed us around like ants floating in a shaken drink.

After the invited walloping, we swam out. I studied green- and pink-fingered snakelocks anemone in one wet niche and a rusty-looking beadlet anemone in another. Swell raced over the beadlet, delivering a grey sand crab into its soft tentacles. The sand crab squirmed as the anemone administered its poison. Another wave interrupted and ripped away its lunch, either saving the crustacean or returning a corpse to the sea.

Coasteering, Wales, Adventure
Coasteering, Wales, Adventure

Kelly was up ahead gazing into a tidal pool. Inside, quarter-sized limpet shells, conical and radially ribbed, were tightly suctioned to the rocks. Algae grew atop these shells like long strands of neon green hair, making the limpets look like little punk rockers, head banging with the tide. The wig-like position of the algae was their greatest advantage.

“Limpets are like the cows of the tidal pools,” Kelly explained. “At high tide, when water covers them, the limpets graze the area – though they can’t climb atop other limpets – and then have to return to the exact place on the rock or else they’ll get eaten.”

A limpet’s shell forms to the rock. As the surface of the rock changes, the area beneath the limpet becomes a precise “footprint”. It’s the only place where a limpet can consistently recreate that tight seal, preventing a bird from prying it off.

Kelly pointed to limpet-shaped footprints absent of its creator. “We call these home scars,” he said. These limpets were gone forever.

Kelly hurled himself from the pristine precipice. It was an incredible day atop the Welsh cliffs and in the Welsh sea. But the future of this ecosystem unsettled me. The sport would grow, as would the home scars. I plunged into the deep blue and reluctantly stroked my way back to Aberbach.

Source: BBC Travel

In Bolivia, Awe-Inspiring Scenes at Every Turn

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In the Bolivian Andes, ice-blue glaciers crown amphitheatres of peaks, llamas graze quietly in the afternoon sun and the evening light fades into frigid mountain nights. But where similarly striking landscapes in neighbouring Peru or southern Chile suffer from overcrowded trails and campsites, even Bolivia’s most well-known routes remain relatively untraveled. Trekking in Bolivia can [...]

In the Bolivian Andes, ice-blue glaciers crown amphitheatres of peaks, llamas graze quietly in the afternoon sun and the evening light fades into frigid mountain nights. But where similarly striking landscapes in neighbouring Peru or southern Chile suffer from overcrowded trails and campsites, even Bolivia’s most well-known routes remain relatively untraveled.

Trekking in Bolivia can be a high, dry, isolated experience, with eight summits clocking in at 6,000m above sea level. But walking in Bolivia is also an experience in diversity: one day you can be in snow-covered mountains and the next you might descend through moss-strewn cloud forests to jungle lowlands. In the dry season between May and September, Bolivia’s trekking routes offer some of the world’s most inspiring mountain experiences.

Getting started
Bolivia has been called the Tibet of South America for its high-altitude terrain. Acclimatisation is key to any Bolivian trek – and one of the most pleasant ways to accomplish it is by strolling along the shores of Lake Titicaca. Set at 3,800m, the lake’s jewel-blue waters are cradled in rolling grassland, with views to the snowy peaks of the Cordillera Real from its shores. Copacabana, Bolivia’s largest lakeside town, is a perfect starting point for a gentle, 40km walk along both the lake’s shore and – after a one- or two-hour boat crossing – around Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), a grassy island replete with Incan ruins and traditional villages. Treat this as a gentle immersion in Bolivia. The real mountain highs are still to come.

A view of Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
A view of Lake Titicaca. (Aizar Raldes/AFP/Getty)

To the mountains
The Cordillera Real mountain range dominates the skyline of La Paz, Bolivia’s capital. The Condoriri Massif – so named because its form resembles a condor spreading its wings – is just one part of the Cordillera Real, comprising 13 ice-slung peaks that reach 5,648m in altitude. A classic walk here is the 79km Condoriri to Huayna Potosi trek – a difficult journey over both rocky passes and alpine meadows and through the territories of both shocking pink flamingos and soaring condors. Though the distance covered is not great, this trek involves steep climbs, long descents and dicey navigation if the weather turns bad. But the rewards include frozen glaciers, towering snowy peaks – Huayna Potosi dominates at 6,088m – and wide valleys tended by campesinos (country dwellers) in traditional dress. Contract a guide and pack animals unless you are very experienced in mountain walking and navigation.

Challenge and isolation
For a truly remote trekking challenge, the 75km Illampu Circuit offers a complete journey around the 6,368m Nevado Illampu, crossing three spectacular passes more than 4,000m high and one more than 5,000m high. This mountain territory is home to the Aymara people – an indigenous community that grazes llamas in the high pastures and may be reticent to talk to outsiders (many of them do not speak Spanish, only Aymara). Trekkers should dress respectfully, including no shorts, especially for women, and local people should not be photographed without permission. Organise guides and pack animals in the village of Sorata, where the trek begins.

An Aymara family, Bolivia
An Aymara family. (Aizar Raldes/AFP/Getty)

Spectacular granite spires
The Cordillera Quimsa Cruz (Three Cross Range) has long attracted climbers to its incredibly sheer granite spires. The range’s eastern flank drops steeply to the Amazon rainforest, giving trekkers access to high altitude polylepis woodlands and a huge variety of birds and plants along the way. Beginning 80km southeast of La Paz in the village of Choquetanga, the approximately 60km Quimsa Cruz route leads from the snowy, glaciated southern part of the range to the towering granite spires of the north. Though the mountains on this route have seen significant mining activity (and walkers today can visit some of the abandoned mines) this is still one of the least walked of Bolivia’s trekking routes; you may not see another soul during your hike.

Land of the medicine men
Northeast of La Paz and with its highest peaks forming the border with Peru, the isolated Cordillera Apolobamba range is home to the Quechua-speaking Kallawaya people: medicine men who were healers to the Inca emperors and descend from the pre-Inca Tiwanaku civilisation.

A good portion of this hike is on dirt roads, built to access the area’s numerous mines. But there is almost no tourism infrastructure. Find a Kallawaya guide in the village of Pelechuco; the route is difficult to find otherwise. The 50km trek crosses three passes of more than 4,700m, the highest of which is Sunchulli Pass at 5,100m. Then the route stays well over 4,000m until its end in the steaming hot springs near the village of Charazani.

Hikers take a break in the isolated Cordillera Apolobamba range, Bolivia
Hikers take a break in the isolated Cordillera Apolobamba range. (Greg Von Doersten/Getty)

Bolivia’s highest peak
Set in the Cordillera Occidental, which forms Bolivia’s eastern border with Chile, the volcano Sajama is the country’s highest peak at 6,542m high. Together with neighbouring volcanoes Parinacota (6,340m) and Tomerape (6,300m), Sajama forms the centrepiece of the gorgeous Sajama National Park. This is a high-altitude landscape of snow-frosted volcanic cones, indigo skies, sparse vegetation and roaming herds of vicuñas (camelids of the llama and alpaca family) and ñandus (Latin America’s version of an ostrich). There are also azure lakes dotted with pink flamingos, fuming geysers and hot springs to soak in after a long day’s walk. A 45km route through the park starts in the village of Oxani, and guides can organisehomestays with locals who live at the foot of the volcano.

Source: BBC Travel

How We Quit our Jobs to Travel: The Married Couple

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When people ask us, “What’s the most frightening thing you’ve done while travelling the world?”, they often expect a story from Iran, Kazakhstan or Rwanda. Yet while we have encountered plenty of challenges during our travels, many of which have been fodder for stories on our blog, our most difficult moment came before all that. [...]

When people ask us, “What’s the most frightening thing you’ve done while travelling the world?”, they often expect a story from Iran, Kazakhstan or Rwanda. Yet while we have encountered plenty of challenges during our travels, many of which have been fodder for stories on our blog, our most difficult moment came before all that. It was when in 2006, as mid-career professionals, my wife and I handed in our resignation letters, setting aside the security of one life for the uncertain opportunities of another – together.

Both of us are American, but we were working in Prague at that time. Audrey, my wife, managed tax and legal issues for US media organisation Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. I was a management consultant for the mobile phone provider Vodafone. After five years in Prague, and a combined 20 years of professional experience, we both had begun to feel as though our careers no longer challenged us. We needed a professional and creative re-boot.

Travelling together wasn’t new to us, having followed our simple 25-person wedding in Pienza, Italy with a five-month backpacking trip across Europe. But it was a trip to Thailand over Christmas 2004 that truly illuminated how we could make long-term travel a reality. Even though we could have budgeted for a pricier hotel, it was a 400 baht per night bungalow that brought us joy and satisfaction.

How I quit my job to travel
The view from the simple bungalow on Thailand’s Koh Pha Ngan island that inspired it all. (Daniel Noll)

Back home, intrigued by the idea of acquiring life experiences over objects, we found other ways to adjust our spending habits. We cut back on items for our apartment, clothes and eating and drinking out. Our goal: to save up for a 12- to 18-month sabbatical that would let us both travel the world and develop skills that could transition us each into alternate professions – and into the next stage of our lives together.

The major mitigating factor? We are two people. When you act alone, you can just pick up and go. As a couple you must constantly communicate to make sure you’re still aligned in your goals and needs. It’s something we call “checking in”, a process we’d used somewhat informally in our daily lives, but now approached more deliberately given the major life decisions ahead of us. The decisive check-in happened one night as we sat together at the edge of our bed in Prague, probing possible reasons for making the leap – or not.

“Are we really ready to do this?” I asked.

“Well… maybe we can put it off just a little while longer?” Audrey responded, echoing my own ambivalence.

“But one year becomes five, five becomes 10. The next thing you know you are looking back and wondering ‘What if?’” I said. We looked at one another, knowing what we were about to do.

How I quit my job to travel
Audrey and Daniel take a leap of faith – here on a tandem bungee jump in New Zealand, on Valentine’s Day. (AJ Hackett/Bungy New Zealand)

Granted, our decision seemed a little unhinged, especially to those close to us. Luckily, we had prior experience with the challenging conversations and puzzled looks, having set off five years earlier from San Francisco to Prague in the mid-winter – with no jobs lined up. It was a decision that perplexed our friends and family, but also satisfied the nagging curiosity that we both had.

And so in December 2006, two years after our fateful Thailand trip, we handed in our resignation letters, sold everything except what we could cram into our backpacks and departed with two one-way tickets to Bangkok.

Over the next eight years, we travelled the Silk Road overland from the Republic of Georgia to China, climbed to the top of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, took a 60-hour train from Iran to Istanbul, witnessed the sun rise over the salt flats in Bolivia, followed penguins in Antarctica, trekked in the Himalayas, tracked tigers in Bangladesh and were continually humbled by the prevailing kindness shown to us by people we met.

How I quit my job to travel, Bolivia
The sun rises over the Salar de Uyuni, the salt flats of southern Bolivia. (Audrey Scott)

That one-year sabbatical? It became a new lifestyle – and it did lead to different professions.

Our website, Uncornered Market, began as a creative outlet for stories of adventure coupled with tales of places and people that aren’t usually represented in mainstream media. We began its development alongside Buddhist monks in internet cafes in Luang Prabang, Laos, and put the finishing touches on it somewhere in Battambang, Cambodia. The blog’s success has since led to various brand ambassador gigs, professional speaking engagements, freelance writing and photography assignments and digital consulting projects – all of which help fund our continued journeys.

How I quit my job to travel, Tanzania
With a tool of the trade in hand, Dan enjoys the sunrise from the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro. (Audrey Scott)

Even so, the big question isn’t how we’ve made our finances and careers work. It’s how we’ve made our relationship work.

As American writer Alexandra Penney once said, “The ultimate test of a relationship is to disagree, but to hold hands.” We’d add, “…while traveling the world and running a business together.”

In some ways, we complement each other well while on the road. One of us often needs a little push from the other to get past fears and grow. In early 2007, for instance, Audrey was reluctant to visit Turkmenistan. She knew from her previous job that it could be a dangerous country where journalists were incarcerated; some even died in jail. I wanted to take the risk and see for ourselves. So we decided to leave the decision up to fate, resting on whether our visa applications were successful.

They were. On our ensuing cross-Caspian Sea ferry from Baku, Azerbaijan to Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, Audrey, despite her initial concerns, was the one who started chatting with other passengers, using the Russian she had honed from both her previous job and two months of travel in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The next thing we knew, we had arrived, and were being plied with glasses of vodka and watermelon by Turkmen vacationers on the beach.

How I quit my job to travel
Audrey was befriended by a group of Turkmen women at the Paraw Bibi pilgrimage site. (Daniel Noll)

Another difficult challenge was our own expectations. Ditching what we called the “perfection narrative” of our relationship – the idea that marriages are supposed to be easy and ideal, when in fact they are full of bumps and hard work as you inch toward shared goals – was especially freeing. And travel helps. Wake up after a week without showering in Nepal’s Himalayas and you have a new appreciation for who the person next to you really is. Later that morning, when that unwashed partner makes it over a 5,400m mountain pass and motivates you to do the same, you might just find your heart brimming over with pride.

How I quit my job
Crossing Thorong La Pass (5,416m) on Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. (Audrey Scott)

Still, sometimes we must withdraw to our inner selves to maintain a level of independence and reflection. Allowing and respecting this need is especially important when one or both partners happens to be an introvert, as I am. This is where the ability to create mental space, even in shared (and small) physical space, can be a relationship-saver. We might sit next to each other on a 17-hour bus ride without speaking for hours at a clip. We aren’t angry at one another; instead, we are creating the circumstances we need to reflect and regenerate for the next adventure.

And yes: there are occasions where we fight, sometimes to blow-out proportions. One of those times was in Buenos Aires, the night before Valentine’s Day 2010 – and while I don’t recall what we fought about, the argument ended with us each boarding separate buses, headed in opposite directions, in the middle of the night. The next morning we reconciled, reflected and even wrote a piece on how to travel the world together without killing each other.

Today, we’re often asked for our secrets to travel, relationships and life satisfaction. Our biggest tip? The greatest impressions on life’s highlight reel need not always be attached to a several thousand dollar “trip of a lifetime,” but can instead be found, say, in the eight euro bottle of wine that you share under a tree behind an old train station on the France-Switzerland border.

How I quit my job to travel
Together in Kandovan, a rock-cut village in northwestern Iran.

As a couple, meanwhile, our travels have provided us the opportunity to create a library of shared stories and life experiences. Our respect and appreciation of our differences has helped us grow together, not apart. But it’s important to remember that travelling and working together forces issues to the surface; work through them immediately, rather than letting them stew and simmer.

Oh, and if you board separate buses, make sure they eventually wind up in the same place.

Source: BBC Travel

Camping on the Canadian Tundra, Ivvavik National Park

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We had been fishing for hours when Manny finally landed the big one. Not that I minded. He had warned me that the fishing might be slow; most of the schools of arctic char had already migrated further north, into the Arctic Ocean. But nestled into a cleft on the riverside rock at the intersection [...]

We had been fishing for hours when Manny finally landed the big one. Not that I minded. He had warned me that the fishing might be slow; most of the schools of arctic char had already migrated further north, into the Arctic Ocean. But nestled into a cleft on the riverside rock at the intersection of Canada’s roaring Sheep Creek and ferocious Firth River, on the very northernmost tip of the Yukon Territory, I became lost in a sort of northern reverie, taking in the purple and green of the surrounding mountains as the aquamarine Firth frothed at my feet. At one point I actually fell asleep, awakening with a start as I fumbled for handholds in the ancient granite so I wouldn’t tumble – feet over fishing rod – into the violent, extremely frigid temperatures below.

I was in Ivvavik, one of Canada’s most stunning – and least visited – national parks. Located more than 200km above the Arctic Circle, on one of the northernmost stretches of the Canadian mainland, Ivvavik is a difficult place to access, visited by only some 75 people per year. But those who come here are richly rewarded. Ivvavik means “the nursery” in the local Inuvialuit language, for the big herds of porcupine caribou that calve here every May and June, at the end of their long migration from Alaska. It’s a place that basks in the light of the midnight sun all summer: a far-flung park that’s so remote, many of its beautiful peaks remain unnamed, bisected by fresh lakes and rivers.

Flying over the famed Mackenzie Delta, Ivvavik, Canada
Flying over the famed Mackenzie Delta. (Tim Johnson)

Ivvavik also is one of Canada’s newest national parks, and the first in the world to be created out of a land claim agreement. The area is the traditional homeland of the Inuvialuit, a Western Arctic Inuit people. After their ancestral home became subject to mining and drilling exploration in the late 1970’s, the Inuvialuit sought to protect it by filing an official land claim, offering the land to the federal government in exchange for the highest degree of protection – being made a national park. Since the matter was settled in 1984, this massive, 10,000sq km park, has been preserved but, until recently, largely unvisited.

I was part of a group of a dozen or so visitors who had bought into a new package trip by Parks Canada, which includes meals, tent accommodations and most importantly, charter flights from the Northwest Territories town of Inuvik. We boarded a hardy Twin Otter airplane, flying west over the uncounted ponds and lakes of the famed Mackenzie Delta. Nearing its ultimate destination in the shimmering waters of the Beaufort Sea (part of the Arctic Ocean), the mighty Mackenzie River splits into literally thousands of tiny waterways that range across 13,5000sqkm. Having traversed the Delta, we dipped over the sculpted peaks of the British Range, flying to the extremely remote Sheep Creek Warden Station, which comprised the only structures in Ivvavik. After first completing a fast fly-over to confirm that no grizzly bears or wolves were on the runway, we bumped down on the plane’s big, hearty tundra tires, making a slightly harrowing – if entirely routine – bush landing on the 250m landing strip.

A hardy Twin Otter airplane, Ivvavik, Canada
A hardy Twin Otter airplane. (Tim Johnson)

Manny, along with a small group of Parks Canada staff, was there to welcome us and usher us down a narrow path to a series of orange tents pitched on a little patch of tundra, right next to the creek; our home for the next four days. The Sheep Creek Warden Station is an oasis in the wilderness – a small handful of structures created as part of a gold mining camp that now provide shelter and support, creating a rustic sort of “glamping” experience. We ate our meals in a cook shack, and read and relaxed in dining tents on a large deck (showers are even in the works for next year). But camping in such a remote place is not without risks. Grizzlies are common polar bears aren’t out of the question, and the day before our departure, staff screened a safety video that included the instructions: if we “encounter an aggressive bear, his intention is to eat you … if this happens, fight for your life”. Giving an introductory briefing up on the big deck at Sheep Creek, staff showed us how to use a “bear banger”, a sort of flare gun that fires off a charge, creating a loud noise that, in most cases, sends the beast running in the opposite direction.

Hiking down to Sheep Creek camp, Ivvavik, Canada
Hiking down to Sheep Creek camp. (Tim Johnson)

Fortunately, our days in Ivvavik were entirely bear-free, and while there, I learned that many of the surrounding mountains hadn’t even been named. One of the biggest had actually gotten its moniker – Go Big or Go Home – from four Parks Canada staffers, one of whom was on my trip. “We climbed it, then we sat down and came up with a name for it,” said Nelson Perry, the park’s ecosystem scientist. “Once you’re on it, you reach this point where you either have to push for the peak – or give up and turn around. And that’s where the name comes from – you either go big, or you might as well go home.” I didn’t push for the peak – not even close – instead I spent some of my days simply relaxing, reading on the deck and looking out on a line of nearby peaks, which, covered in a layer of green grass and small bushes, appeared soft, even silky, and seemed to change colour as the never-setting sun made its way across the sky. Fellow guest Patrice Carmichael – a well-known Canadian painter – dubbed the same view the “Velveteen Valley”.

Ivvavik, Canada
Many of Ivvavik’s beautiful peaks remain unnamed. (Tim Johnson)

One day, Manny and I hiked along the edge of the Firth, treading along the edges of cliffs that plunged precipitously into the vibrant green river. As we sat down for a rest around the halfway point, perching on smooth rocks and looking out at a big bend in the Firth, Manny told me about how his mother was one of the key leaders in establishing the land claim agreement that created the park. Manny – whose real name is Dean Arey (Manny is just a nickname) – now serves on a number of related committees, as well working part-time as a cultural liaison inside Ivvavik. “I’m proud of what we’ve done here. There’s no mining or oil; it’s all about protecting the land,” he said, a small smile playing on his lips.

Manny grew up in Aklavik, a tiny, extremely remote village – and at 150km to the east, the closest community to Ivvavik – that still serves as his home. At one point in the 1950s, the Canadian government moved to shut down Aklavik, which is prone to floods, and move all of its residents to the newly built Inuvik; they refused, creating the town’s motto, “Never say die”.

As a full-blooded Inuvialuit man and an unofficial elder, Manny uses his treaty rights to harvest the land year-round. Even in such a harsh environment – a place where temperatures can reach 50C (yes) below zero in the winter – the land provides some 75% of his sustenance. He hunts and traps muskrat, caribou and bear for their meat and pelts, driving an ATV or hiking up into the hills to find them. He even harpoons beluga whales, navigating a boat out into the labyrinth of the Mackenzie Delta, then sharing the meat and blubber with others in the community. “We don’t waste anything, and want people to respect the land and its animals,” he said. “It’s the way I was brought up, and I’m passing that along to my sons.”

But Manny’s outdoorsy skills certainly didn’t rub off on me. After narrowly avoiding my unpleasant swim in the ice-cold Firth, I returned to my spot in that cleft in the rock. A hundred casts later, my line remained completely unbitten, and nary a fish would accompany me back to the camp. But I was okay with that. After all, I had gathered a million memories of this northern wonderland. And the privilege of treading many fresh paths – under peaks so unvisited, many didn’t even have a name – was reward enough.

Source: BBC News

Rare Photos of Untouched Australia

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The landscape below us was afire with glittering light. “Pretty, isn’t it?” asked my companion, Richard Green, an eccentric Englishman who has flown all over Australia using his personal helicopter as most people would a campervan. Pretty? I’d lived in Australia for 30 years and never been so floored by a scene. Velvet mountains, rolling [...]

The landscape below us was afire with glittering light.

“Pretty, isn’t it?” asked my companion, Richard Green, an eccentric Englishman who has flown all over Australia using his personal helicopter as most people would a campervan.

Pretty? I’d lived in Australia for 30 years and never been so floored by a scene. Velvet mountains, rolling and fluid as poetry. Valleys and peaks, glinting with jewelled forests. The rhythm of a black, lazy river between them, sluicing back and forth between banks with gentle, metronomic precision. And all of it was just a 20-minute flight from Sydney.

Green tilted the helicopter and a rolling sea of forestry loomed large through the windowpane. “This is called Back Bimlow Walls,” he offered, gesturing at a particularly photogenic outcrop that ended abruptly in a sheer cliff. “Not many people come here.”

Federation Peak, Tasmania, Australia
Federation Peak, Tasmania. “For this shot, I found a saddle between the mountains where I put the helicopter down in the snow, then I climbed up to the top.” (Richard Green)

Green, I learned quickly, is a man of understatements. Back Bimlow Walls – part of the world heritage-listed Blue Mountains region – is not just less travelled. It’s strictly off limits to the general public, located in the kind of wild, mercurial terrain that has, in the past, nearly swallowed more than one brave visitor. No roads venture here; no footpaths, either. For decades, it’s remained an untouched sanctuary of ancient indigenous artworks, prolific wildlife and several endangered plant species; accessible only by chartering a helicopter. Or having one at your house.

Over the last 20 years, Green and his wife, Carol, have flown to some of the wildest, most remote reaches of Australia’s last frontiers, stopping wherever they like in their customised chopper – essentially a flying campervan, complete with a tent and a fridge. This particularly unique mode of transport – the pair often “park” atop mountains or inside craters – has resulted both in some remarkable experiences (“once we stopped to have lunch in a valley filled with wildflowers, and it was as though we had entered a far off secret garden,” Green recalled.) and also in an extensive library of photographs, the likes of which includes places that possibly no other human has ever set eyes on.

Painted Hills, near Coober Pedy, South Australia
Painted Hills, South Australia. “You can’t imagine how someone would have put these rocks there, but they are evenly spaced, as though they were placed just so.” (Richard Green)

“The middle of Australia is still very wild,” Green said, casually manoeuvring his helicopter through the golden light. It’s another understatement. The Australian continent is roughly the same size as the United States, yet it’s the third least densely populated nation on Earth, with most of the 22 million-strong population living on its coastlines. Australia’s interior isn’t just wild – it’s almost entirely devoid of modern human life.

“Ninety percent of Australians will never even go there in their lives,” Green asserted, shaking his head. “We’re very lucky to have seen the things we have.”

Of course, there’s more to Green’s story than luck. A happy fortune in the flourishing computer industry meant retirement at the sprightly age of 49, and “the rest you can blame on Crocodile Dundee,” he half-joked. “My kids were almost grown up, my ex-wife and I were separating, and I saw what [Paul] Hogan was doing and thought ‘God, that’s for me’.”

Pillar, Northern Territory, Australia
Pillar, Northern Territory. “Pillar is another of the lost cities; We so named it because of the pillar that stands up like a huge matchstick. An amazing shape.” (Richard Green)

Back at Green’s headquarters – a spacious, light-filled house in Sydney that has a private hangar and helipad next door to the bedroom – the halls are decorated with artefacts from their travels. Panoramas of his favourite locations grace vibrant canvases more than 1.5m tall. “Actually, [my lifestyle change] was really about my love of nature and photography,” he said as we stopped at a particularly spectacular shot of deep red mountains called the Ragged Range. “And I loved helicopters. They just combined; I fell totally into it by accident.” A solo trip to Tasmania in 1989 inspired a week-long journey with Carol the following year; by the time they married 10 years later, the helicopter had been upgraded and converted, Carol had also earned her pilot’s licence and the pair had sufficient amazing adventures to publish a book.

The Ragged Range, Western Australia
The Ragged Range, Western Australia. “It didn’t seem quite so mesmerising when we were looking for a place to land the helicopter for the night.” (Richard Green)

Looking back at the Ragged Range photo, I was awestruck. The mountains bulged and swelled outwards from Earth in a fashion I’d never seen before. Tiny palm trees dotted its surface, like microscopic pins on a cushion. (“Oh no,” Green said. “Those trees are each over 10m high.”) Lazy mountain waves lapped at the distant horizon, misty with pink afternoon air.

“You can’t actually get up close to them in any conventional means,” Green said. “We tried last year, in a 4WD, but the nearest I could get on a rough track was about 8km away.”

Cascading Falls of Liverpool River, West Arnhem Land, Australia
Cascading Falls of Liverpool River, West Arnhem Land. “There are many places [in Arnhem Land] that are fabulous. Australia is just so wild.” (Richard Green)

And there were more photos – plenty more. Lost cities in the rugged, untamed terrain of Australia’s north-eastern Gulf Country. Stunning gorges and nameless valleys in Arnhem Land, a vast tract of untouched soil in the tropical Northern Territory.

Flooded Canyon, West Arnhem Land, Australia
Flooded Canyon, West Arnhem Land. “This place is so wild and beautiful. There are no tracks, no nothing here… this particular area of Arnhem Land is very special.” (Richard Green)

Green told stories of being swarmed by stingless native bees; of camping in a seemingly dry creek bed that flooded the tent and helicopter overnight; and of a place he deems “paradise on Earth”.

“It’s a funny name, but we called this spot ‘Tentpole’, after I lost a tentpole there and didn’t find it again for 13 years,” Green said. The picture we’re looking at – and he has taken several of the place in both wet and dry seasons, to remarkable contrasting effect – shows a river swollen to full capacity, all foamy, muted greys, surging through clusters of beehive-striped pillars that lean on each other like old, dignified men.

Tentpole in the wet season, Northern Territory, Australia
“There are lost city formations like Tentpole all over the area, including one near the tiny settlement of Cape Crawford in Australia’s north.” (Richard Green)

“Wait till you see it in dry season,” he said. “There are waterlillies, gorgeous flowers on the trees, water that I love swimming in. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the most beautiful place in the world.”

And nobody goes there, he added. The nearest sealed road is 160km away.

There is something rather comforting about this; the idea that even in today’s Google-Mapped, smart-phone-apped world, there are wild, unseen places. That away from city chaos is a gentle otherworld, where nature continues to exist, quietly and peacefully. “That is why I take photos,” Green said simply. “When they are blown up to 4m in length, people turn to me and say, ‘I feel like I’m there.’ It’s wonderful.”

Source: BBC Travel

Nevada’s Secret Underwater World, Lake Mead

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Beneath the surface of Lake Mead, located 35 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, a world unfolds in shades of teal. Palm-sized bluegill fish nibble the meat from cracked mussels, natural stone spires rise from the depths and shipwrecks slump along the silt bottom. But the lake also hides an array of historic landmarks that [...]

Beneath the surface of Lake Mead, located 35 miles southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada, a world unfolds in shades of teal. Palm-sized bluegill fish nibble the meat from cracked mussels, natural stone spires rise from the depths and shipwrecks slump along the silt bottom. But the lake also hides an array of historic landmarks that only scuba divers can visit: the remains of the massive Depression-era construction project that built the Hoover Dam, including cement tunnels and railroad tracks now decaying in the dark.

In 1931, construction began on what then was called the Boulder Dam. The project sought to tame the erratic Colorado River, prevent flooding in California’s Imperial Valley and generate electricity for the expanding west. Its other purpose was to add jobs: launched by the Bureau of Reclamation during the heart of the Great Depression, the Hoover Dam’s construction employed around 21,000 people and fundamentally changed the surrounding area, building an infrastructure that would lend itself to even more productivity. Train tracks were laid and power lines erected. Boulder City sprung up to house the workers. When the dam was completed five years later, it stood 726ft tall, had claimed at least 96 lives and created Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.

Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, Nevada, scuba diving
An aerial view of Lake Mead. (Derek E Rothchild/Getty)

Today, on summer weekends, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area wakes up early. Marinas buzz with families readying for a day on the water and kids toss bread to massive carp that guard the docks. Meanwhile, the lake fills with speedboats, jet skis, kayaks and even the Desert Princess, a three-level paddleboat that cruises to the dam packed with camera-toting tourists intent on staying dry.

But look closely at the boats out on the water and occasionally you’ll spot a bright red flag with a single diagonal white stripe – the universal sign for scuba divers.

“Lake Mead is considered one of the top freshwater dives in the whole world,” said Bill Duckro, a local scuba instructor. “There’s 700 miles of shoreline. You could dive out there at a different dive site almost every day the rest of your life and not hit them all. And the depths. Even though the lake has dropped more than 130ft, it’s still more than 500ft deep in some places.” After careers as both a police officer and casino wedding chapel minister, Duckro got certified as a scuba diver at age 51 and immediately fell in love with the sport. Today, he owns the Scuba Views dive shop in north Las Vegas, where he leads charters and teaches recreational diver and more advanced certification courses. In a wet suit, he looks like a cross between a nautical Santa Claus and Dog the Bounty Hunter, with the kind of calm, authoritative demeanour that new scuba divers want when their brain kicks into panic mode the first time out.

Diving Lake Mead, Nevada, Hoover Dam
A diver heads into the depths. (Steve Fanell)

With Duckro as guide, my fiancé and I headed to Middle Boulder Island for the first of two open water dives in our scuba certification course. We docked just past the Las Vegas Boat Harbor along the rocky shore beneath the concrete shell of a massive tank that juts off the island. A souvenir from the dam’s construction, the tank once cleaned the water that was used to create the Hoover Dam’s concrete.

“We used to hit that tank 80ft underwater,” Duckro said. Today, it’s on dry land.

At its peak in 1998, Lake Mead measured some 1,215ft above sea level, its cool blue-green waters providing a massive break from the surrounding desert scrub. But a persistent drought and decreasing runoff over the last 10-plus years have dropped the water level by more than 100ft. It is now at a historic low, leaving a glaring, white “bathtub ring” of mineral deposit around the shoreline and driving dozens of headlines announcing impending doom for the US Southwest, Nevada and the Las Vegas Valley, all of which depends on the reservoir for fresh water.

Still, as we sank below the surface, there was plenty to see. The tiered ground beneath the tank was busy with fish accustomed to the sight of scuba divers. Duckro grabbed a couple of the invasive Quagga mussels that have infiltrated the lake and held their cracked shells out on an open palm. The fish darted in for timid tastes as we watched, wide-eyed. On the silt floor some 30ft down, train tracks stretched into the murky distance.

Scuba diving, Lake Mead, scuba diver, Nevada, Hoover Dam
Diving the lake. (Steve Fanell)

Though the dropping water level of the lake is gravely concerning, it does have a faint silver lining for scuba divers: some sites that were once too deep for recreational divers are now within the certification’s limits.

One such site is the Hoover Dam train hopper, where trains would dump loads of rock to be crushed and divided into the aggregate piles. A concrete tunnel runs under the hopper – 8ft high, 10ft wide, 125ft long and totally black inside – a thrilling experience for advanced divers. Recreational divers can explore from outside the tunnel.

Duckro’s other favourite sites include Wishing Well Cove, where wind-sculpted cliff walls narrow dramatically underwater, and the Crack, where natural rock spires rise from the bottom in a beautiful formation. “It’s like you’re going through a maze,” he said of the latter.
The depths of Lake Mead hide dramatic wrecks, too, like the PBY-5a Catalina plane that crashed into the lake in 1949 while attempting a water landing. The pilot and mechanic went down with the aircraft, which now rests a short boat ride east of Boulder Harbor. Even after 60 years in the water “everything is pretty well preserved”, said Steve Fanell, an experienced diver who works in marine salvage and has been exploring Lake Mead for 16 years.

Wreck Alley, a series of boat wrecks just off Sentinel Island, is well-known among the local scuba community. “The biggest wreck there is called the Southern Cross,” Fanell said. “It’s about a 37ft to 38ft wooden sailboat. It’s like the mother ship of all the wrecks.”
But regardless of sailboat size or fame among divers, Lake Mead’s underwater world is still something of a mystery to the people stuck on the surface. It’s a secret kept among a select group of people who dip below the waves.

Source: BBC Travel