Rickochet Photo: Blog https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog en-us (C) Rickochet Photo (Rickochet Photo) Tue, 20 Dec 2016 06:59:00 GMT Tue, 20 Dec 2016 06:59:00 GMT Bryce Canyon and the Wave https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/12/bryce-canyon-and-the-wave PB170513Police Dummy When we drove into Kanab we noticed a police cruiser parked on the side of the road checking for speeders. Luckily, we had learned our lesson earlier on and the cruise control was permanently set to the speed limit. After another short night, we were up early to head to the visitor's centre to apply for permits to the wave. Upon leaving the hotel, we noticed the same police cruiser parked in the same spot. As it turned out, the police cruiser was occupied by a blow up doll dressed up as a policeman. I thought it was hilarious and took a few photos of the police dummy. 

The wave is a unique sandstone rock formation located near the border of Utah and Arizona. It is extremely hard to get a permit to hike to the wave as they only allow 20 people per day. They sell 10 permits online in advance and other 10 are sold as part of a lottery for the next day. There were 36 application put in for the 10 lottery permits. Each application could have up to 6 people on it. So, theoretically they could have drawn 2 numbers and that would have taken the 10 permits. Every application was given a number which corresponded with a bingo ball. We entered the lottery with no expectation to win and really it would have been better not to because we still had to drive 4.5 hrs back to Las Vegas to catch our flight. As it happened though, the first number that was drawn was ours! So that meant, we won the lottery! Well, we won the right to go hiking early the next morning :)

IMG_0968The Wave lottery at the visitor centre IMG_0968The Wave lottery at the visitor centre We had the rest of the day to do our original plan which was spend the day hiking around Bryce Canyon. We drove North for 1.5 hours until we reached Bryce Canyon National Park. We were starting to get worried as it started to snow and well, I don't think the challenger would fare well in slippery weather. The temperature outside was also starting to drop fairly quickly. We arrived at the Bryce Canyon visitor centre and it was freezing outside! Plus it was really windy which made it 10 times worse. I put on every bit of warm clothing I had and also had to buy a pair of gloves from the visitor centre. Bryce Canyon is one of those places that is hard to photograph as it is so much better in person. The colours are similar to other areas of Utah but it is the rock formations that make it unique. We walked along the rim of the canyon to take in the expanse but could not stay in one place too long because of the cold. It was extremely windy out which plunged the temperature to around -15 °C. We were hoping to do a couple of hikes in the canyon but were worried about the cold. We decided to try one of the shorter ones that looped down to the bottom of the canyon and then we would re-assess. It turned out that the wind was more intermittent once down in the canyon and once moving we started to warm up. I am glad that we stuck it out because the hikes we did in the canyon were fantastic. You can do Bryce Canyon in a day and it is well worth it.

PB170521Trying to stay warm on the rim of Bryce Canyon PB170520Trying to stay warm on the rim of Bryce Canyon PB170530View from the rim of Bryce Canyon PB170530View from the rim of Bryce Canyon PB170551Bryce Canyon PB170551Bryce Canyon IMG_0983Bryce Canyon

It was getting dark and even more cold so we called it a day and went in search of dinner. We ended up stopping at the park grocery store which had a hotel and restaurant attached to it. They were advertising buffet dinner so I was already in at that point :) It actually ended up being one of the best dinners I had on the entire trip. Perhaps because it was 5pm and everything was fresh but I was impressed and only $20 or so. We rested up for quite a while and took full advantage of the "all you can eat". As we drove back to Kanab we watched the temperature gauge in the car dip down to 9°F which is -12° C! I was not looking forward to a cold "Wave" the next day.

So we wanted to be at the trail head at sunrise which meant an early wake up, and an hour drive. We arrived at the parking lot at 6am but it was still too dark to start hiking. We had headlamps but since the hike relied on photo references, we needed to see what was in the distance. We were told the only reliable way to navigate the trail was by photographs of landmarks supplied by the rangers. Maps were not reliable and GPS and compasses were not accurate due to the iron content in the ground. So we waited until almost 7am before it was light enough to start. The only good thing about that was it warmed up to 0°C so it seemed relatively balmy compared to the previous day.

We were the first ones to hit the trail out of the 20 people allowed. It was an awesome view with the sun peaking over the horizon. The landscape was similar to what we saw in the Valley of Fire in Nevada but I guess the "Wave" is what makes this area unique. After a few moments of indecision trying to find our landmarks, we found ourselves at the Wave around 8:30 in the morning. The wave was cast in shade for a least another hour or two but nothing we could do about that. So is the Wave worth the effort to get the permit? In my opinion, yes with a caveat. If you have time to explore the area and you haven't seen that type of landscape before then I would definitely say yes. But you can see similar landscapes in Zion National Park and even the Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is a quick and cheap alternative. But considering how hard it is to get a permit and if you happen to get one, definitely do it cause you may never get the chance again. It would have been nice to spend a few more hours exploring past the Wave and around Coyote Buttes.

After having a bite to eat and taking numerous photos, we started the hike back to the car. We started passing other hikers making their way out to the Wave. We made good time on the way back and were on the road by about 11:30am. That gave us a little buffer to get back to Vegas which we actually needed as it took us about 5 hrs to get to the airport. We wanted to stop at a little Argentinean deli/restaurant where we ate at our first night so Marcelo could bring home some Argentinean food for his family but unfortunately traffic was bad and we were afraid we would be cutting it too close. We also still had to drop off the car and re-organise our luggage to get underweight.

So that was the end of our whirlwind hiking trip to Nevada, Arizona and Utah. It was well worth it and there is so many other places in the area to go back to. While BC has so many beautiful mountains and pristine lakes to marvel at, it was nothing like we saw in the Southwest USA. It's a landscape that is unlike anywhere we can see in BC (that I am aware of). That is what makes it one of my favourite places to hike and makes me always want to go back.

PB180573Sunrise at the Wave trailhead PB180588Sunrise at the Wave trailhead PB180618On the trail to the Wave PB180600On the trail to the Wave PB180629Surfing the Wave PB180666The Wave PB180638Sitting on the Wave PB180677Sitting on the Wave PB180695The hike back to the car

PB130034Marcelo's ride

What happens in Vegas.....

(Rickochet Photo) Arizona Kanab Las Vegas Utah bryce canyon hiking photography rick jensen rickochet photo the wave travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/12/bryce-canyon-and-the-wave Tue, 13 Dec 2016 01:37:59 GMT
Valley of Fire and Havasu Falls https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/12/havasu-falls PB130055Our ride in the Valley of Fire So the last time Marcelo and I came down to Las Vegas to do a hiking trip was in 2012 and said at the time that we had to come back. We had planned on hiking Havasu Falls in Arizona but due to time constraints and the weather, we decided to try and do it another time. So this was the "next time". We flew into Vegas for just the one night but since it was a long weekend, hotel prices were exorbitant. We ended up staying at the Long Horn Hotel and Casino off the strip and yes, it was as tacky as it sounds. The good part was I could play penny slots and $2 blackjack and not lose my shirt on the first night. The next morning, we hit up the IHOP for breakfast and Walmart for supplies before heading out on the road in our very practical Dodge Challenger rental car. Since we had the whole day to get to Peach Springs, Arizona we decided to check out the Valley of Fire State Park north of Las Vegas. I actually had low expectations about visiting the park but was pleasantly surprised and have to say that it is well worth checking out. You can do the whole park in a long day and even camp there if you wanted to. We saw most of the park and were leaving just as it was getting dark when we noticed the supermoon rising over the mountains. It was great timing as we pulled over and took a few opportune photos. It was then time for the long drive to Peach Springs and prepare for Havasu Falls the next day.

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PB130077Hiking in the Valley of Fire

PB130133Supermoon in the Valley of Fire PB140180Supermoon before sunrise in Peach Springs, Route 66 PB140180Peach Springs on Route 66

The next morning was an early morning as we had an hour drive to the Havasu Falls trailhead and had to be there by 8AM. We didn't get into Peach Springs till almost 1AM the night before and then realized that we had also lost an hour as Arizona was an hour ahead! So with very little sleep, we made our way to the trailhead. At the top of the trailhead, we met Sebastian who had our permits and after introductions were soon on our way, through the switchbacks to the bottom of the canyon. There is only 3 ways to get to the village of Supai - hike, horseback or helicopter. Suffice it to say, we opted for the hiking option. It took us about 3 hrs to get to the village along a dry river bed through the red walls of Hualapai Canyon. It was a relatively easy hike as it was mostly downhill and we arrived at the village just before noon. Our permits were for the hike and the lodge so we checked in before having lunch. We ate at one of the two cafes in the village. It was standard fare, burgers and fries - there wasn't exactly gourmet options in the village. The village is situated along the Havasu River and after lunch we hiked down the river towards Havasu Falls and the campground. The campground was about an hour down river and we made our way past Navajo Falls to Havasu Falls and the campground. The campground was massive and spanned all the way down to Mooney Falls were we stopped for the day. In order to descend to the base of the falls, you had to climb down the cliff face via a series of chains and ladders that led you 100m vertically down to the bottom. It was getting late in the day so we opted to return to the village for the night. There wasn't much to do in the village at night but surprisingly there was free wifi throughout the entire village so at least we were connected although some people would say that is a bad thing...

PB140216Hualapai Canyon PB140216Helicopter in Supai Village PB140216Lodge in Supai Village PB140216Havasu Creek PB140216Havasu Falls PB140216Havasu Falls PB140216Havasu Falls PB140216My high school posing in front of Havasu Falls PB140216Sebastian, Marcelo and me in front of Havasu Falls

Marcelo and I decided to stay another night to further explore down the river. Luckily there were cancellations at the lodge so we opted to stay given how hard it was to get here (physically and logistically) and who knows if we would ever get back. Looking back, I'm really glad that we did stay, as Havasu Falls is one of the most beautiful and unique hikes I have ever done. If you can get past the frustrations of getting permits and dealing with that process then it is well worth it. We headed back down the river and past Havasu Falls to Mooney Falls. We descended the slippery system of chains and ladders to the base of the falls. It was such a fantastic sight, from the beauty of the falls to the colour and warmness of the water. We took off our shoes and waded across the river to a semi submerged picnic table to enjoy the view and have an early lunch. The water was quite warm and I think if the outside temperature had been warm enough we would have gone swimming. I can only imagine the hordes of people here during the summer heat. It was a great afternoon and after lunch we bade farewell to Sebastian as he had a long hike back to the parking lot still ahead of him. Marcelo and I continued down river after lunch with the intention of reaching Beaver Falls, the last major waterfall before Havasu river intersected the Colorado River. After a couple more river crossings, we realised if we wanted to reach Beaver Falls, we wouldn't make it back to the village before dark. So we opted to hike another 30 minutes before turning around and heading back. There were several "Little Beaver Falls" that we came across that we were told looked the same just smaller than the real Beaver Falls. So we didn't feel too bad about not making it all the way. It was late in the afternoon and we were lucky to spot a male and female big horn sheep grazing near the trail. They seemed quite accustomed to people as the we walked right past them and they didn't even move. After another night of cafe food we retired to our room for the evening as we had the usual early start the next morning.

PB150327Navajo Falls PB150339Descending Mooney Falls PB150351Descending Mooney Falls PB150378Picnic at Mooney Falls PB150392Mooney Falls IMG_3473Crossing Havasu River PB150428Crossing Havasu River

PB150414Little Beaver Falls PB150464Big horn sheep PB150486Ascending Mooney Falls

The next morning, we ate at the cafe one last time before the long hike back to the car. It took us 3 hrs to get to the village but that was mostly downhill. Now we had the ascent up the cliff to the parking lot to look forward to. It took us approximately 4 hrs to get to the top which wasn't actually that bad. Once at the top, we took a short rest before getting in the car for another travel day. We travelled east to Flagstaff where we stopped for a nice pasta dinner. After dinner we pushed onward north through Page and into Utah where we finally arrived in Kanab.

PB160496Hiking back through the canyon to the parking lot PB160500Hiking back to the hilltop and parking lot PB160500Mule train heading back to Supai Village PB160505Hiking back to the parking lotThe parking lot is the top right of the photo! You can just see the helicopter blades. PB160505Made it to the top! PB16050575 km in 3 days!

75 km in 3 days!! On to Utah!


(Rickochet Photo) Arizona Havasu Falls Las Vegas Utah Valley of Fire Waterfall hiking out and about photography rick jensen rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/12/havasu-falls Sun, 11 Dec 2016 06:41:45 GMT
Dragonboating in Doha https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/5/dragonboating-in-doha
Dragonboat practice in Doha with the Angry Dragons - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Doha DragonboatingDoha Dragonboating Doha DragonboatingDoha Dragonboating Doha DragonboatingDoha Dragonboating



(Rickochet Photo) https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/5/dragonboating-in-doha Sun, 29 May 2016 22:48:12 GMT
Buenos Aires https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/3/buenos-aires DSCF4710DSCF4710 The last 10 days of my journey to Argentina ended in Buenos Aires. I spent my remaining time with Marcelo and his family as well as exploring on my own and revisiting places that I didn't get enough time seeing the first time round. I really enjoyed spending time with Marcelo's family as well as Kari's family where I spent Christmas. I got to meet Marcelo's brother and parents and Kari's sisters and parents too. It was really nice to see what it is like to be in an Argentine as they made me feel like part of the family. We had dinner together and visited relatives together, saw where Marcelo grew up, met old friends, it was really neat.
DSCF4708DSCF4708 DSCF4704 DSCF4878DSCF4878 DSCF4895DSCF4895 I also explored on my own now that I was a master of the BA subte! I went back to San Telmo for the sunday market where I easily spent a few hours. I met up with Marcelo and visited an old theatre that was converted into a book store and also saw the house that he grew up in. We went for lunch and ice cream with his family and I went back to Recoleta to take some more photos.
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DSCF4779DSCF4779 I also went to the Buenos Aires zoo which was nearly deserted as well as a return trip to the Teatre Colon which was just as good the second time round. On one of the days, we took the family on a boat ride to the Tigre Delta. Tigre is a trendy neighbourhood that has a huge market plus all of the houses are on the delta and only accessible by boat. It was really interesting to see the beautiful houses along the water.
DSCF4993DSCF4993 DSCF5029DSCF5029 DSCF5040DSCF5040 DSCF5066DSCF5066 DSCF5111DSCF5111 DSCF5113DSCF5113 My last experience was probably one of the best ones I had in Argentina. Marcelo's brother Steve has a house in a small beach town south of Buenos Aires and he invited everyone to come down for a few days. So Steve borrowed an extra truck, picked up Marcelos parents and drove the 3 hrs down to the town of Pinamar. It wasn't high season but the town was still busy and quite a few people on the beach. I can only imagine how busy it would be in actual high season. We spent an hour or so on the beach before getting groceries for dinner. The house was fantastic with a proper asado in the back. We fired up the bbq and had an awesome Argentine asado. Good food, good drink and good company, what more could you ask for?
The next morning, we loaded up the truck to head to a secluded part of the beach where the 4x4's go. I borrowed Steve's ATV and would follow them out to the beach. Unfortunately, I lost them driving through town and now I had to try and find where they were going on my own. I had no money on me but I did have my phone which meant if I could find wifi somewhere I could send text. The beach was supposed to have wifi zones in selected areas so I set out to find one to try and send Marcelo a message. I drove up and done the beach until finally I found a weak signal that connected if I stayed in a 4ft radius. Marcelo gave me directions to the beach and off I went. It was a fun and liberating to ride up the beach and along the dirts roads. I finally came to a hill that unfortunately was too steep for the ATV I was riding. It just wasn't powerful enough to make it up the hill in the deep sand.  So I hopped off and trudged up and over the hill to the beach. There was a restaurant on the beach and trucks to the left and right of the restaurant that all looked the same. I really didn't want to search up and down the beach on foot so I tried to use the wifi in the restaurant but I couldn't connect to it. So I walked a little bit in each direction of the restaurant trying to find Marcelo. I had no success, and at this point I probably should have turned on my international roaming and just paid the extra money but I decided instead to walk back to the ATV, hop on and ride all the back to where I found the wifi connection before. After a few tries, I was able to connect and send a message to tell Marcelo to come and get me. He came to pick me up and I finally made it to the beach with everyone else. The beach stretched for as far as the eye could see and 4x4s dotted it up and down. Everyone had their own little private spot to ride dirtbikes, atvs, jetskis, or do whatever they really wanted. It was great and is something that it difficult to find back home, at least with scenery this nice. It was a beautiful day until the wind started to kick up and the weather started to change. We could see the storm clouds on the horizon and they were getting darker and closer quite quickly. The wind really started to whip up and we could see everyone else starting to pack up. A storm was moving in and we needed to also start packing up. It was amazing how fast the storm moved, we were just finishing putting things away when the rains started. We hopped in the truck and just beat the heavy rain. We joined the mass exodus leaving the beach and headed back to the house. For dinner, we decided to go out to a popular local restaurant. There was quite a line up to get in and there was quite a few of us but we stuck it out and it was worth the wait. It was a simple restaurant but really good food and a good way to end the day and my trip. 
617617 DSCF5124DSCF5124 DSCF5138DSCF5138 DSCF5156DSCF5156 The next day was my last in Argentina and I was heading back on the bus with Seb and Patri while Marcelo stayed to spend more time at the beach with his family. We caught an early bus as I had a plane to catch and Patri had an appointment in the afternoon. It was a good thing as well as the bus was late and arrived in Buenos Aires a couple of hours behind schedule. Luckily I had a couple hours buffer but now I was going to be cutting it close. I didn't have any cash left to take a taxi so after some frantic scrambling and help from Seb and Patri, I found an airport bus that I was able to pay with visa. So after saying my goodbyes to Seb and Patri, I finally able to relax as I was on my way to the airport with a little time to spare.
So three weeks in Argentina and I think I managed to squeeze in quite a bit on my own as well as with the help of Marcelo and family. Argentina is so big though that it is impossible to see everything in one trip unless you have a couple of months. 
Hopefully I will be back one day...
(Rickochet Photo) argentina buenos aires photography recoletta rick jensen rickochet photo san telmo tango travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/3/buenos-aires Mon, 28 Mar 2016 15:58:38 GMT
Patagonia https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/3/patagonia DSCF4454DSCF4454Mate cups in Patagonia After returning from Iguazu falls, I met Marcelo in Buenos Aires before we departed for Patagonia. The plan was to meet up with his sister in law Patri and her boyfriend Sebastian who would be travelling with us. Marcelo found us a great BNB in Recoleta and we spent the next couple of days hanging out and meeting with Seb and Patri organizing the trip. We were going to do a 3 day hike to see Mount Fitz Roy near El Chalten and also see the Perito Moreno glacier near El Calafate in Patagonia. 
We had an extremely early flight to El Calafate, 6am and we were up at 4am to get ready. We all managed to get up and to the airport on time but when we got to the airport, the line was so long that we thought that there was no way we were going to make our flight. After some inquiries, we found out that there was a maintenance strike that was causing all the delays. Everyone else in line was in the same boat (or plane in this instance) and after a while we all managed to board our flight. Once in the air, it was an uneventful flight and we landed in El Calafate just a little behind schedule. As soon as we landed we headed straight to the booking agent for the bus and managed to get the last tickets for the bus to El Chalten. The idea was to go straight to El Chalten and start hiking on day 1 because the forecast was more favourable at the beginning of the trip. After another short delay, we loaded our packs in the bus (more like a van) and squished in for the 3 hour trip. One thing you notice right away after landing in El Calafate is the wind. It was extremely windy and apparently this is the rule, not the exception and a precursor for things to come. The landscape was a bit barren and scrub like but everytime we saw water it was a beautiful aquamarine blue. At about halfway through the bus ride, we stopped at a cafe/souvenir shop. It was a mandatory stop that all buses take but unlike most tourist traps, it was actually quite a nice little place. All the food was home made and the owner was quite a character and loved to talk to the people coming in. We ordered a couple of empanadas and browsed the souvenirs. We were soon back on the road for the last part of the bus trip. As we started to near the town on El Chalten, we could see the mountains in the distance and peaks at Mount Fitz Roy through the bus windows. It was a magnificent sight and I tried to get a few pics of the mountains through the bus window but there was no way any bus window photo could do it justice. Little did I know, the view through the bus window would be the best view we were going to get.
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We arrived at the small town of El Chalten tired from the early start and the travel but ready to start our 3 day hike through Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (Mount Fitz Roy). It wasn't quite as windy in El Chalten but it was still breezy. The wind can create havoc by changing the weather at any moment (foreshadowing). Just to prove the point, the clouds had drifted in and we no longer had a view of the mountains. Hopefully they would keep drifting...
We wandered through town looking for the trail head and eventually found it near the end of town. We climbed a steep hill to find the trail and then we were on our way. We followed the valley and wound our way up inching closer to a view of Mt Fitz Roy. Unfortunately, the view we were hoping never came but it was still a beautiful valley and we forged ahead. We made it to our first campsite of De Agostini by mid afternoon and set up camp. The wind had really picked up and most of the campsites had walls of logs built up to protect against the wind. Marcelo and I picked what we thought was a good spot and reinforced the log wall just in case. After the tent was set up, we decided to check out the lake and the glacier nearby. It was so windy that it made it difficult to even walk upright. We bullied our way through the wind to check out the lake and the ice formations that had broken off from the glacier and been blown down towards the shore. If you ever ending up hiking near Mt Fitzroy, be warned - it is WINDY! We ended up hiking around the lake and about halfway to the glacier before turning back. I was told that you could hike on the glacier but that was too ambitious for us on this trip. We returned to camp and made some friends with the local birds before making dinner and calling it a night.
DSCF4469DSCF4469 DSCF4472DSCF4472 DSCF4479DSCF4479 DSCF4506DSCF4506 DSCF4515DSCF4515 DSCF4517DSCF4517 DSCF4529DSCF4529 DSCF4541DSCF4541 DSCF4542DSCF4542 PC170130PC170130OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSCF4576DSCF4576 DSCF4551DSCF4551 DSCF4562DSCF4562 The next morning starting off well enough. The sun was out and we packed up camp and headed on our way to Campemento Poincenot. We passed a couple lakes with nice beaches and the trail was pretty tame. The trail was definitely easier today as we wound our way to Poincenot. The weather started out ok but as we neared camp it started  to get quite grey. We passed a chain of lakes and and stopped to enjoy the view and rest our feet. We arrived at Poincenot in the afternoon and tried to pick the best tent site. The campground was nestled in the woods but the wind still managed to pick it's way through the trees and was quite prevalent. All the tent sites had some sort of wind protection in the form of a wall built from sticks. Marcelo and I picked a site that looked like it had a pretty decent wind shield. After setting up camp, we decided to go for a "short" hike to try and find another glacier. It was a narrow trail along the river and we were to take a left at the bend in the river and the glacier was not far from there.  Well it took a lot longer than we thought to get to the bend in the river. Patri had had enough and her and Seb returned back to camp. Marcelo and I trudged on, fighting the wind. After finally reaching the bend in the river, we found ourselves in front of a boulder field of mountainous proportions. These boulders were huge! Well we had gotten this far, we might as well try and make it to the end. So after picking our around, under and over the giant boulders, we came to the edge of the lake with the glacier in view. It was so windy that it felt like it was raining as the wind sprayed us with the water off of the lake. I struggled taking photos as the wind would constantly spray the front of my lens. So after a few minutes and starting to freeze, we headed back towards camp. We had hiked quite a ways by now and had at least an hour to get back to camp. We had no water with us and we were quite hungry at this point too. We were also dog tired from hiking through the headwind. About halfway back, Marcelo started to feel ill and we had to slow right down. We were both starving and Marcelo managed to find half a pack of peanuts in his pocket. It was amazing how much of an energy boost just a couple of peanuts gave me. Marcelo was not so lucky as he was feeling worse than just hungry. We trudged our way back to camp as darkness was descending upon us. Marcelo headed straight for the tent to lie down and try and feel better. I was starving so I starting making dinner. Patri and Seb had found a friend at camp and they were making mate (traditional argentine tea). So while dinner was cooking (boiling), I tried some mate. It was a bit cold as we were waiting forever for the water to boil. We figured out that the stove was running out of fuel and that was why it was taking so long. So after a fuel refill, my dinner finished boiling and I was able to finally eat and get warm. Marcelo still wasn't feeling well but he needed to eat so I made him eat something to help warm him up.
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It was an early night as we had no fire and it was quite chilly with the wind. The next morning we awoke to a bit of a surprise. Upon opening the tent to greet the morning, we realized that we were sitting in a fairly large and deep puddle of water. It had rained quite heavily the night before with the wind pushing the rain through the camp site. We also had the misfortune of picking a tent site that was slightly concave. It looked flat but upon closer inspection, it had a slight dip in the middle exactly where I tent was. So all the rain pooled under our tent creating a mini lake that we were floating on. Luckily it didnt quite go high enough to get inside the tent but all our gear that was left outside was totally soaked. This included our packs and my pack had all my camera gear at the bottom of it. So my fstop bag's durability was going to be tested on this trip and I have to say it did pretty well. All my gear was moist from condensation but not wet. Even sitting in a puddle did not penetrate the bottom of the bag. So after drying off what we could as it was still quite damp in the morning, we packed up and heading off for our last day of hiking. It was a shorter day as we made our way back to El Chalten and civilization. The sun poked out not long after starting out and we followed the valley back to town stopping only for a few photo ops. After a few days of dehydrated food, it was now time for a lunch time feast. Steak, fries, wine and beer warmed us up and filled our bellies. So after another 3 hr bus ride with the same cafe stop, we made our way back to El Calafate and a date with the Perito Moreno Glacier glacier.
PC180188PC180188OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA PC180191PC180191OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSCF4611DSCF4611 DSCF4643DSCF4643 DSCF4647DSCF4647 DSCF4649DSCF4649 We decided to splurge a bit with the hotel as we thought we deserved a comfortable bed after three days without a shower. We had booked a ride to see the Moreno glacier early the next morning so it was going to be an early night. So after resting up, we wandered around town looking for somewhere to eat but most places were closed by now so we settled on the first decent looking place that was open. We caught the restaurant just before they were closing so I don't think they were all that pleased but hey - we were hungry and didn't care. 
It was another early morning to catch the taxi to take us out to the glacier. It was about an hours drive before we entered the national park. From there the taxi dropped us off at the entrance to the glacier and promised to pick us up later in the afternoon. We didn't have a ton of time to explore so after getting our bearings, we started off on one of the trails that headed down to the glacier. I don't think I have seen a glacier of this magnitude up close and it didn't disappoint. I have never been to Alaska but I think I could be disappointed if I ever go there to see the glaciers after visiting the Moreno glacier. It was only a couple hundred feet of water that separated us from the wall of ice that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was truly magnificent. Looking at it was both calming and serene until you heard the unmistakable rumble of a chuck of the wall crashing down into the water below. If you forgot the power that Mother Nature has, you were quickly reminded.  I tried to take some video of the ice melting and crashing into the water but I really couldn't do it justice. We made our way around the various trails, posing for photos in front of the mammoth ice wall before heading down to the water to take a boat ride for an up close visit with the glacier. It was an hour or so tour that got us up close and personal with the glacier. We watched as huge chunks tumbled into the icy water below with a thundering boom. It was quite a site to behold. The boat returned us to the dock where are taxi driver was waiting for us. She was asking what we were going to do next and we had nothing. Her suggestion was to drop us off at the ice museum and bar before heading back. With nothing else planned on our last night in Patagonia we said why not? So in the middle of the afternoon we arrived at the museum. We weren't really going to see the museum, we just wanted to see what the ice bar was all about. Inside, there was a lobby with a cafe and two ticket lineups. One for the museum and one for the ice bar. It was pretty apparent which venue was more popular. We purchased our tickets for the bar and waiting for the next opening. The bar was pretty small and could only accomodate about 15 people at a time. Oh, did I mention that your ticket included unlimited alcohol!! Now you only had about a 20 min time limit to stay in the bar and I think they said it was because of the cold but I think we know the real reason...The door opened and we were ushered into the dressing area where we donned space parkas and space gloves to keep us warm. There was a temperature guage on the wall to show us the temperature inside but I think it only said -5 C which really wasn't that cold. Space suits adorned, we were greeted by the unmistakeable thump thump thump of electronic dance music and multicoloured dance lights. Everything was made of ice, from the walls to the chairs to the glasses themselves. It was pretty cool and a little weird at the same time. Not the bar itself just the atmosphere of being in a dance club at 3 in the afternoon in the countryside of Patagonia. We lined up for our free drinks and we found out why they were't too worried about the unlimited alcohol. It took about 5 min to get one drink and you could only get one at a time. So in reality, unlimited was really only about 4 drinks. Nonetheless, it was pretty cool and we had a good time whooping it up in the ice bar at the three in the afternoon :) We emerged from the dim ice bar to bright sunshine streaming through the museum lobby windows. It felt like we had just woken up but it was late afternoon. We climbed back into our waiting taxi and heading back to town for our last sleep in Patagonia. We left early the next morning for our flight back to Buenos Aires and to meet up with Marcelo's family to see Buenos Aires like a local! The next 10 days was going to be relaxing in the capital with no real plans.
(Rickochet Photo) Argentina Mt Fitzroy Patagonia Puerto Moreno Glacier hiking photography rick jensen rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2016/3/patagonia Tue, 22 Mar 2016 19:52:09 GMT
Iguazu Falls https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2015/4/iguazu-falls DSCF4135Iguazu Falls Lower Circuit, Argentina
I am a big fan of waterfalls so Iguazu Falls was a must see for my trip to Argentina. Iguazu Falls actually straddles Argentina and Brazil and to see the falls properly, one should really try and see it from both sides. To help organize things I had a lot of help. Marcelo helped me a lot research with where and where not to go and his wife helped co-ordinate my plans with her sister in Buenos Aires. Her sister actually paid for my trip with a local travel agent so I could try and get better local rates. So many thanks to Marcelo, Kari and Patri for helping.
The domestic airport in Buenos Aires was only 10 minutes away from where I was staying but the taxi ride took almost an hour. I think this was the first and only time that I got taken for a ride (literally) in Argentina. Luckily, I had to check out of the apartment early so had nothing to really do but go to the airport early and so the sight seeing taxi ride didn't really matter. I arrived in Puerto Iguazu mid afternoon and checked in to the St George hotel. The hotel was great and I have no complaints. It was middle of the road in terms of price and it was clean and the staff friendly. I didn't expect much from the town itself but was pleasantly surprised. It certainly wasn't big but it did have some charm. It was now evening and I was getting hungry but I didn't want to eat at the hotel. The buffet actually looked pretty good but I wanted to try a local restaurant. I walked around till I found the main part of town where all the restaurants were but these were newer, expensive and touristy bar/restaurants that looked like a Cactus Club back home. So I kept walking and I eventually found an older part of town that looked like a old fashioned food market. On the outside of the market were simple restaurants that were very busy with what looked like mostly locals. So I found an empty table at an asado style restaurant and waited for someone to take my order. I'm not exactly sure what I was ordering but it looked good and tasted pretty good too! In fact, the food just kept coming and I had no idea if it was included with what I ordered or it was all extra. After the waiter came around the third time asking if I wanted some bbq sausage, I figured that I they were going to keep coming unless I said no. So after I was about to explode, I finally declined the next sampling and asked for the bill. It came to about $15 which wasn't bad for alot of food and a couple of beers. I'm glad that I found the market and didn't stick to the trendy flashy restaurants.
383love the beer holder! 387Asado and salad in Iguazu
My tour of the falls from the Argentine side started early the next morning. After breakfast, we were herded onto the bus and driven to the park entrance. We still had to buy our tickets but I didn't think anything of it as it only took a couple of minutes. Our tour guide turned out to basically be a chaperone. He showed us around and told us where to be and what time to be there. He was nice enough and answered any question but the "tour" was really just us walking around as a group and looking at the falls. Another thing that was disappointing was that all the tours ran at the same time and ended at the same time so it ended up being extremely crowded and difficult to take time for photos. But there was a way around this as I found out later. 
DSCF4110Battling the crowds at Iguazu Falls, Argentina
DSCF4199Lower Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Just before lunch we had the option of an extra excursion and I chose to take the jungle tour with a boat ride to the falls. It was expensive but I am so glad that I did it. It was soooo fun! It didn't hurt that it was 30 degrees out and a boat ride under a waterfall was ultra refreshing. It is unbelievable the power of Mother Nature and you can't appreciate it until you are feeling her power directly. It was like the boat was hit with a fire hose.  I was totally drenched after the boat but luckily the heat dried me out pretty quickly. Highly recommended!
PC130049Boat ride, Iguazu Falls, Argentina PC130049Boat ride, Iguazu Falls, Argentina PC130069Boat ride through Iguazu Falls, Argentina PC130069Boat ride through Iguazu Falls, Argentina After the boat ride, we walked along the Lower Circuit and up to the main entrance where met for lunch. The park has many animals but one of the most seen is the Coatis. It's is kind of a cross between an anteater and a raccoon. They are scavengers and are not afraid to approach people and steal their food. You have to be very careful as they will sneak up on you and steal your food. They will also bite and carry rabies so you don't want to get too close to them even though they are everywhere.
DSCF4149Lower Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4145Lower Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4184Lunch with Coatis DSCF4211Wildlife in Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4211Wildlife in Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4284Watch out for Coatis!
We were supposed to finish up at 3pm to head back to the hotel but the park didn't close until 6pm. So I asked the tour guide if it was possible to stay later and just take a local bus or taxi back to town. He agreed and I stayed behind while the tour went back into town. I was very happy that I stayed behind because it seemed that all the tour groups left at 3pm. I wandered around with the park almost empty. I retraced my steps along the upper and lower routes and took my time to take the photos that I couldn't before. It was such a great experience to relax and soak in the beauty of the falls without being rushed. I stayed until the park closed at 6 and then caught the last bus into town. After resting up at the hotel I decided to walk to the Tres Frontiers which is the western most point of town where the Iguazu river intersects Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. There was a small monument and a few street vendors plus the view of the river in front of Brazil and Paraguay. It wasn't particularly pretty but quite neat nonetheless. I was quite tired but couldn't catch a bus or taxi back into town so ended up walking back. I was now very tired and I didn't feel like looking for a restaurant so picked up some empanadas at a local bakery and went pack to the hotel. I had a early morning the next day and I was beat from a hot day of walking around. 
DSCF4255Lower Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4291Upper Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4291Upper Circuit, Iguazu Falls, Argentina DSCF4439Three Frontiers Next up was the Brazilian side of the falls. I had to get a Brazilian visa just for my one day to visit the falls. I had read that the Brazil side was worth seeing and totally different from the Argentine side. I just have to say that it is worth doing but with some caveats. My tour guide arrived at the hotel and didn't speak English. Not a very good start. After picking up everyone, crossing the border, we arrived at the park entrance only to have to wait for over an hour to get our tickets. I'm not sure about you but I would have thought that booking a tour would have allowed us to skip some lines but apparently not. We were again at the mercy all the other tours groups and the crush of the crowd pushing us along. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a later bus back to the hotel so I tried to make the best of the situation. Luckily, one of the tour members spoke english and helped translate with the tour guide for me. Despite all hassles the falls were still worth seeing. They are visually stunning, just don't expect to get a lot of time to take photos. My recommendation would be to take a local bus or taxi across the border later in the afternoon. The tour also made a stop at a buffet restaurant on the way back which I wasn't aware of before hand. I skipped the buffet and picked a local restaurant to try instead. After lunch, we crossed back across the border and into Argentina for my last night in Iguazu. It was a pretty quiet night as I was pretty tired and had to get up early for my flight back to Buenos Aires.
DSCF4368Iguazu Falls from Brazil
DSCF4358Iguazu Falls from Brazil
DSCF4424Iguazu Falls from Brazil DSCF4424Iguazu Falls from Brazil
So all in all, it was a very successful trip to Iguazu. The falls were fantastic and even the town of Iguazu itself was much better than I though it was going to be. If I had to choose which side to see, I would definitely choose the Argentine side but if time permitted, try and see both. The hotel was great and the town easy to navigate with lots of eating options if you take the time to wander around. Again, many thanks to Marcelo, Kari and Patri for helping me organize the trip!! :)


(Rickochet Photo) Argentina Buenos Aires Falls Fitz Iguazu Mate Moreno Mount Patagonia Porto Roy photography rick jensen rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2015/4/iguazu-falls Wed, 15 Apr 2015 00:33:18 GMT
Argentina https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2015/3/argentina DSCF4852Mates for sale in San Telmo market So my trip to argentina has been a few years in the making. My friend Marcelo had asked me previously if I wanted to go to Buenos Aires with him and his family but I had always declined for various reasons. However this time I finally agreed to go. I would be spending Christmas in Buenos Aires in sunshine and 30 degrees! I had reservations about missing Christmas and I do regret bit being away for the holidays a little bit but this could be a once in a lifetime trip.
For those that know me well, they know I take forever to make decisions and hum and haw over everything. So packing for this trip was a two month mental struggle. I am also a bit of a camera bag whore so this was a great excuse to try out some new camera bags! I wanted to keep it light and compact but still bring all the gear I thought I needed (which is always more than I think). I am a "just in case" type of person so packing light does not come easy for me. After many configurations I finally settled on a FStop Tilopa camera backpack as my main hiking bag and also a FStop Guru camera backpack as my main carry-on and everyday walking around bag. My Tilopa would go in an empty rolling duffle so essentially I had two luggages in one. I needed the large backpack because we were going to be doing some overnight hiking in Patagonia and needed to bring a hiking backpack that could also carry my camera gear. I also brought with me my Kata orbit 110 as a small walk around messenger style camera bag. Trust me, it took me a long time to get to this configuration and it still wasn’t ideal. I would have loved to have taken one backpack and one small messenger bag but it wasn’t meant to be or more like I couldn’t figure out what not to take. So with the hard part of my trip out of the way (and yes for me this was the hard part!), I could concentrate on the other preparations for my trip.
My camera gear of choice was my Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm, 55-200mm, 10-24mm, 27mm, 8mm fisheye plus various accessories. To carry my gear I used my Kata and Fstop bags plus when hiking I used my peak design capture camera clip. In the past with my Nikon gear this set up would take an entire separate camera bag but I was able to fit everything in my Guru with room for a change of clothes plus iPad and other miscellaneous items.
My first week is in Buenos Aires would be myself because I was leaving a week earlier than Marcelo. On advise from another friend, I booked two places to break up the week and experience two different areas of the city. I liked the idea although you basically lose half a day moving locations. So with a lot of advice, finishing most of my work, and saying my goodbyes, I was finally on my way. Vamanos!
DSCF3426Going in to see the beautiful Teatro Colon
Week One
Buenos Aires
My first memorable experience in Argentina was taking the taxi from the airport to the hostel.  I am pretty sure we have all heard soccer announcers and their crazy goal calls. Well that is exactly what I heard minutes into my taxi ride! Click on the photo to take a listen:
Every time you visit a new country where you don't speak the language there are times when you just cross your fingers and hope for the best. First taxi rides are one of those moments. It was an expensive taxi ride but that is because I paid a flat rate from the airport from an "official" taxi. It cost me $50 USD where as I didn't pay more than $10 USD the rest of the trip for a taxi in the city. Nonetheless, being to a new city and not wanting to get dropped off in a dangerous neighbourhood, I paid more upfront but who knows what headaches I avoided. I later found out there is a much cheaper bus I could have taken but it went to the bus terminal and not directly to my hotel.
I arrived at the El Secreto hostel with some daylight to spare and I wasn't particularly tired. So I dropped off my bags and took a walk around the neighbourhood which was called Almagro. There was a large shopping mall nearby so I went to check it out. It was called the Abasto shopping mall and it was extremely busy as Christmas shopping was in full swing. It was a little weird to see people getting their photos taken with Santa in their shorts but it was summer after all. After walking the mall I was hungry but didn't want to eat the fast food in the mall (which was expensive but popular). Goes to show you the power of branding. By now I was quite hungry and happened to pass an Asado (bbq). Argentina is famous for it's meat, in particular it's bbq so I had to try. The verdict was it was a lot of food but not the best Buenos Aires had to offer.  I spent the rest of my first night in Buenos Aires having a beer with Marcelo and Sasha (owners) back at the hostel. They really went out of their way to make their guests feel comfortable and I highly recommend staying there.
316First meal in Buenos Aires 303My room at El Secreto Hostel
My first full day in Argentina got off to a bit of a rocky start. I was going to take the Subte (subway) and head downtown. Normally this would be easy as there was a Subte station one block from my hostel. However, it was Sunday and they were doing maintenance on the B-Line which is the line I wanted. I wasn't confident enough to take the bus so I decided to walk and see some of the city on my way downtown. 40 minutes later and I didn't seem to be getting any nearer to downtown. In fact, the area was starting to look a little rough. Lots of auto garages, homeless people, why was I crossing railway tracks? It was the moment that I passed a shady looking character and he whistled to someone I couldn't see that I thought I decided I was going the wrong way and flagged down a cab. My suspicions were confirmed when the cab made a U-turn and headed downtown.
The first place on my agenda after being properly oriented downtown was the famous Teatro Colon. It is rated as one of the best theatres in the world and I really wanted to try out my new fisheye lens inside. The outside was nice but not spectacular. Once inside, I bought my ticket and waited for the English tour to begin. It was a large group but the tour guide was excellent and answered all questions. The lobby and foyers of the theatre were beautiful but the real star of the show was the main theatre. It was so beautiful that I knew I had to come back to see it again. I could imagine the performers on stage while I sat in my velvet seat. There wasn't a bad seat in the house and the sound must be amazing during an actual performance. I tried to soak it all up but our tour guide was nudging us along because the next group was coming through soon. If you come to Buenos Aires, the Teatro Colon is a must see and well worth the $18 tour. If you can plan it right, they offer free concerts once a month on the very same stage that biggest acts in the world perform on.
DSCF3451Outside the Teatro Colon
DSCF3384School kids waiting for a tour of Teatro Colon
DSCF3443Inside Teatro Colon DSCF3447Inside Tetro Colon
The rest of the day was a bit anti-climatic as I walked around down town Buenos Aires. Since I wasn't confident enough to try to take the bus back to the hostel, I ended up walking back which made for a long but successful day. 
DSCF3495Streets of Buenos Aires DSCF3508Streets of Buenos Aires DSCF3496Congreso
The next morning, my stay at El Secreto came to an end and I said my goodbyes to Sasha and Marcelo. I was now staying in the neighbourhood of Recoleta. I had rented an apartment instead of a hostel and it was fantastic. A spacious one bedroom in a trendy area that wasn't lacking for things to do. I met the landlord at the apartment and after a brief run through and getting the keys, I was settled in. I had three nights here before heading north to Iguazu falls.
My first stop of the day was the neighbourhood of San Telmo. I wasn't expecting much from this trendy neighbourhood but I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I went back a couple of times I liked it so much. It's a touristy neighbourhood but not tacky or over the top. It had a great feel from the boutique shops and cobblestone roads to the Sunday market that sprawls for many blocks. I started in Plaza Dorrego which is the main hub with many restaurants plus some tango dancers looking for some extra money. The neighbourhood had more of a trendy than tacky flavour to it. After exploring, I relaxed in a local restaurant and nursed a cold beer for an hour or so and people watched. San Telmo seemed like a real neighbourhood where locals actually hung out. I wandered through a less than busy food market and visited the slimmest house in Buenos Aires. It was time to move on from San Telmo and I gradually made my way downtown.
DSCF3546Wall art in San Telmo
DSCF3622Public market in San Telmo
DSCF3611Fresh veggies in San Telmo market
DSCF3647Skinniest house in Buenos Aires
DSCF3659Nice Graffriti in San Telmo
I walked through San Telmo all the way to Plaza de Mayo and walked around as twilight was setting in and the city lights were coming on. Marcelo had recommended that I try the Tortoni Cafe and it seemed like a good place to grab some dinner. The cafe was very cool. Food was simple but I could imagine how cool it would be to listen to a band here. To my surprise, when I came out of Cafe Tortini, it was pouring rain, and I mean pourrrrring. I was experiencing my first thunderstorm in Argentina. The streets were deserted and I made a mad dash for the closest Subte station. I managed to make it back to the apartment while only getting somewhat soaked :) I stayed up late that night while watching the lightning show and actually managed to capture a photo!
DSCF3724Plaza de Mayo
DSCF3729Plaza de Mayo looking towards the Oblelisk
DSCF3764Cafe Tortoni
DSCF3769Cafe Tortoni
DSCF3876Thunderstorm from my apartment
The next day was beautiful with no hint of what mother nature was up to the night before. My first stop of the day was the famous Recoleta cemetery. The cemetery itself is absolutely huge but it's biggest claim to fame is being the final resting place of Eva Peron (Evita). People still visit the cemetery to pay their respects to the most recognizable female Argentine. The mention of Evita sparks debate among Argentines. Not only is she one of the most recognizable figures in Argentina history but also one of the most polarizing. Argentines are not shy about giving their opinions and the mention of Evita would almost always garner some.
DSCF3936Recoleta Cemetery DSCF3934Evita's tomb in Recoleta Cemetery
The cemetery itself was a labyrinth of tombs that needed a road map to navigate. You could easily spend an afternoon getting yourself lost in the cemetery. It was fascinating that the cemetery was it's own little world whose walls were right next to one the trendier malls in Buenos Aires with theatres and bustling restaurants.
DSCF3964Recoleta Cemetery
Next up was taking the Subte across town to visit another famous neighbourhood: La Boca. La Boca is famous for being the home of the Boca Juniors football team and also the birthplace of the Tango. It was not recommended to go there at night so I made sure I had lots of daylight. La Boca is colourful with the houses and shops painted in vivid yellows and blues which also happens to be the colours of the La Boca Juniors. I was really looking forward to visit La Boca and perhaps that is why I was disappointed. It is very touristy and in my opinion and over hyped. You are inundated with offers for photo ops and everything is pretty high on the cheesy scale.  It was way too tacky for my taste but I am glad I went none the less. I would still recommend going but keep your expectations in check and I wouldn't spend too much time there.
I was now confident enough to take the bus (well as long as it clearly said where it was going on the front). There was no Subte here and it wasn't recommended to walk to far in this area. So from La Boca, I paid my 2 pesos (~20 cents) and crossed my fingers that I was heading back into town. The bus went through San Telmo on the way so I decided to get off and wander around again. I was getting hungry and I had read about a good restaurant in the area called Desnivel. It was pretty good for the money and I was definitely getting my fill of Argentine bbq! At this point, I was running a bit low on cash so I actually decided to walk all the way back to the apartment (about 8km). Although the Subte was nearby and cheap, money was going to prove to be a bit of an issue....
DSCF3971La Boca Juniors Football Stadium DSCF3982Pope Graffiti DSCF3989Colourful La Boca DSCF4001Tango Photo Op in La Boca
DSCF4007Taking the bus
So I will explain money situation. I had given US dollars to Marcelo before I left Vancouver and I had met up with his sister in law Barbi in Buenos Aires who gave me some blue market pesos (unofficial exchange rate). Well now I was running out of pesos and I couldn’t get hold of Barbi who I thought had the rest of my pesos (I was actually incorrect, Marcelo's other sister in law - Patri had the rest of my money). So I had a couple of options. I could try and change money at a bank, try the blue market cambios (money changers) downtown, or try to conserve as much as possible while trying to get hold of Barbi (who I thought had my pesos). I only had about 60 pesos (~$6) to last me the day. Doesn’t sound like much and it wasn't. So after 30 pesos for breakfast and 5 pesos for the Subte downtown, I was left with 25 pesos. No sign of Barbi so it was time for plan B. I was cautioned about using the cambios so I really didn’t know if that was a good idea. They didn’t exactly seem like the most trustworthy people and walking down Florida Avenue, they all seemed a bit dodgy as they tried to lure you by saying “Cambio!, Cambio!, Dollars!, Reals!” every time I walked by them. So plan B was to try my bank card and take out a little cash with the crappy exchange rate to tide me over. This didn’t go so well. I tried about six different banks and none of them took my debit card or visa, even the HSBC which almost always works. I was now starving and getting a little desperate. So I went into Burger King and tried to use my visa to order a hamburger and coke. Just to test it and see if it worked. After a couple of attempts and manually trying to swipe, it finally went through. That was a relief so if worst came to worse, I could use my visa. The problem with that is not a lot of places took visa and I would get the worst exchange rate ever. So I figured it was time for plan C - the cambios. After walking up and down Florida and Lavalle streets a few times, I picked a large and what I thought friendly looking cambio that looked no less trustworthy than the rest. When I asked the exchange rate I was pleasantly surprised how good it was (at least I thought so). I didn’t even try to haggle with him. To put into context, the bank rate is 8.5 to 1 and the unofficial rate I got was 12.3 to one. Quite the difference! So off I went, following the cambio to some side street and into the back of a t-shirt shop where I received my $1230 pesos for my one Benjamin Franklin. All in all, a relatively painless and friendly experience. Maybe I just happened to pick the right one as I couldn’t find any individual cambio reviews on trip advisor :)

So armed with my new found wealth, I didn’t really have a plan on what to do next. I ended up visiting the Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires and I’m glad I did because it was fantastic. Nothing much to look at from the outside but the inside was beautiful and a perfect place to try out my fish eye lens. Argentina is a very Catholic country (the current pope is from Argentina) so it was a little weird taking photos in the Cathedral with people taking confession out in the open. None the less, no one seemed to mind.

It was getting close to 5pm and I really hadn’t done anything today although just changing money was a feat in itself :) I decided to walk to back to the apartment and rest up before venturing out for one last evening before my trip to Iguazu falls. My new plan was to have a light dinner and then take a tango lesson. I wasn’t sure about the lesson as I don’t really like to dance but I figured I should live a little and try something local even though I was going to be outside of my comfort zone. La Viruta Tango was recommended to me and it was reasonably close by. For 60 pesos, you could take a lesson at any level and then practice afterwards. If you wanted dinner, it wasn’t much more. I’m the type of person that likes to try new things but if by myself I often chicken out and even try to be late so as to give myself an excuse not to do it. So I arrived 10 minutes late but as usual, things in Argentina never start on time so I was actually early. No excuses this time! So I took the plunge and had my first tango lesson (in Spanish no less!). What made it actually easier is that most of the beginner students were travelers as well so Spanish was not really required. It was funny because every time I told someone I didn’t speak Spanish - they responded that they didn’t either in English. I felt kind of silly because I probably should have known most of the beginners would be foreigners. The lesson went pretty good and I am the proud owner of the first 7 basic tango steps :) It is one of those things that I am glad I forced myself to do.

DSCF4029Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires DSCF4035Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires DSCF4047Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires
DSCF4057Catedral Metropolitana de Buenos Aires
So that concluded my first week in Buenos Aires! Next up, Iguazu Falls...
(Rickochet Photo) Aires Argentina Buenos Falls Fitz Iguazu Mate Moreno Mount Patagonia Porto Roy photography rick jensen rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2015/3/argentina Thu, 12 Mar 2015 00:48:14 GMT
Lynn Valley https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2014/10/lynn-valley Photos from a recent hike to Norvan Falls in Lynn Valley, North Vancouver

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(Rickochet Photo) bc british columbia hiking lynn valley north vancouver norvan falls out and about photography rick jensen rickochet photo https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2014/10/lynn-valley Sat, 04 Oct 2014 02:10:00 GMT
Dragon Lotus - Peachland https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2014/2/peachland---dragon-lotus _DSC3779Dragon Lotus Restaurant in Peachland

This is my first installment of what I hope to be more posts about the typical Chinese Canadian restaurant in small towns around BC. Let me introduce to you Sam Wong and the Dragon Lotus restaurant in Peachland, BC.

_DSC3709_DSC3709 _DSC3709_DSC3709 In 1974, at the age of 3, Sam Wong left Vietnam with his mom to escape the Vietnam war. They first escaped to Cambodia as refugees where they stayed for 5 years. In 1979 they made their way to Estevan, Saskatchewan, sponsored by a local church. He and his mom lived in Estevan until 1987 when they decided to move to Aldergrove BC.

At an early age, Sam began cooking to help out his mom while she was at work. He enjoyed the cooking and in 1989, got a job as a delivery boy at a local Chinese restaurant. He befriended the owner's son and gradually learned Chinese cooking while delivering. He started out learning the basics but eventually learned all types of Chinese dishes. The most important step though, was to be able to create his own sauces as they are what they say "the ancient Chinese secret".

Sam Wong - Dragon Lotus

Sam Wong - Dragon Lotus

Skip ahead a few years and Sam is married to Selena. They have a daughter, Sabrina. Sam had been helping Selena run a beauty salon but the business was proving difficult and they began looking at making a change. Sam has always wanted to run his own restaurant and it seemed like as good a time as any to try it out. The initial plan was to open in Vancouver or White Rock. They wanted the restaurant to be on the water. Unfortunately, Vancouver was saturated with Chinese restaurants and the rent was just too pricey. While there was more opportunity in White Rock, the prices were still too steep so Sam started to look elsewhere. He visited a cousin in Kelowna and started to look around the area. He also checked out Penticton but things didn't quite line up in either city. Peachland however, just seemed right. It was nestled right on the shores of Lake Okanagan between West Kelowna and Summerland. It was a small town with no Chinese restaurant and the price seemed manageable. After some negotiations, Sam bought the French bistro on the strip overlooking the lake and the Dragon Lotus was born.

_DSC3790Dragon Lotus Restaurant - Peachland

Things have not been easy for Sam and the Dragon Lotus in his first year of business but he loves what he is doing and has no regrets. He and Selena now have a one year old son, Syler along with Sabrina. In the summer it is hard to keep up. It's long hours at the restaurant with Selena helping out with prep as well as being a full time mom. Sam manages everything else including the cooking. There were some growing pains as with any new business but Sam values his customers and listens to their suggestions. He has on more than one occasion altered his menu because of customer feedback. When I sat down with Sam to interview him, I could see his passion for the restaurant and the community. His efforts are paying off as he is the #1 rated restaurant in Peachland on Trip Advisor.

_DSC4961Sam Wong _DSC4961Sam Wong

Sam Wong and Syler

After a couple of months, I returned to Peachland specifically to have dinner at the Dragon Lotus. After all, the story wouldn't be complete without tasting what the Dragon Lotus had to offer. I ordered the wor wonton soup to start with a healthy dose of wontons. Sam makes his own wontons and char siu which is why is why the pork is leaner than you would normally find. After that it was prawns, snowpeas and baby corn, followed by cantonese chow mein. The star of the show was one of Sam's most popular dishes - the ginger beef. I didn't have any room for desert but next time I will have to sample the gelato! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, Sam has a gelato bar, so it's not all traditional Chinese! I guess I will have to come back in the summer...

_DSC6142Dragon Lotus Restaurant Menu _DSC6142Dragon Lotus Restaurant Menu _DSC6142Dragon Lotus Restaurant Menu _DSC6142Dragon Lotus Restaurant Menu _DSC6142Dragon Lotus Restaurant Menu

So in the beginning, I was looking for some grand tale about how Sam and his family came to Peachland but it turned out to be a simple explanation - Money and location. Not shocking I know. It was simply too expensive in Vancouver and there was an opportunity in Peachland. The view of Lake Okanagan didn't hurt either. So the next time you happen to be driving by Peachland, pop in for dinner at the Dragon Lotus and enjoy the ginger beef. Sam would be happy to see you.

If you want to check out Sam and the Dragon Lotus, who can find him here:
trip advisor
urban spoon


(Rickochet Photo) Buffet Chinese Canadian Chinese food Dragon Lotus Peachland Sam Wong bc british columbia out and about photography rick jensen rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2014/2/peachland---dragon-lotus Wed, 19 Feb 2014 07:12:31 GMT
Happy Lucky Golden Dragon https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2014/2/lucky-happy-golden-dragon happyLuckyGoldenDragonhappyLuckyGoldenDragon

When I was growing up, one constant in my life was eating at the Chinese Canadian buffet. You know the one, it has a tacky name that somehow incorporates the words dragon and lucky. The one that I remember most is the Golden Dragon near Hastings and Willingdon. I doubt that it is still there but it wouldn't surprise me. It is almost a given that every small town has a typical Chinese Canadian restaurant with or without it's dinner buffet special. The Golden Dragon is in Burnaby which is not a small town, but it just happens to be the one that I remember. Personally, I love these restaurants. They don't pretend to be anything more than what they are. Cheap, sometimes tasty Chinese food for the masses. At least that is what they were when I was growing up. I was always curious about the history of these restaurants. How did the owners end up in these small towns? What were their reasons for picking that town in particular? What was it like running a Asian restaurant in small town BC? So my idea was to combine my photography with a human interest story. I decided to do a photo project about small town Chinese restaurants and their owners.

So now that I had the idea, I had to figure out how I was going to go about finding restaurants and their owners to photograph and interview. I had no time frame in mind and I hadn't put a ton of thought into it at first. So initially, I tried phoning the restaurants to gauge interest but that didn't work as no one seemed to understand what I was trying to do. So I determined that a road trip was in order. Again, not a lot of planning as I just picked a destination and mapped out the trip, planning on stopping at every small town that I could. In the end, I decided to go to Invermere, first stopping in Princeton to visit my parents. On my way up, I stopped in Hope where I met with one restaurant owner. We talked for about 10 minutes or so and he seemed to be interested and understood what I was trying to do. This was promising! Ultimately though, he declined and I moved on. Princeton has two local Chinese Canadian restaurants but only one was open so I tried my luck with the Leisure Inn on aptly named Bridge St. I know, I know, it's not the cheesy Chinese restaurant name but I am pretty sure that it was not always a Chinese restaurant :) It was about 9:30pm and I was the only customer in the restaurant so it was a good time to chat up the owner. I talked with the wife first and after explaining what I was trying to do, she seemed quite keen. But then came the hammer as she said I had to talk to her husband. After only a few minutes of talking with the husband, I knew I wasn't getting anywhere. I decided not to press my luck any further and call it a day. I wasn't going to change the husband's mind.

So this was to be my fate for most of the small towns that I stopped at on my road trip. They either didn't understand what I was trying to accomplish, or just were not interested in having a free photo shoot with free advertising. I thought the word "free" would be able to convince a few people but even that didn't seem to work. I guess my idea of what I wanted was not the same idea as what the restaurant owners needed. So after many rejections, and later some rethinking - I may have to approach the idea from a different angle. What that angle is, I haven't figured out yet but I definitely need to do some more homework. One thing I thought would help was if I had something tangible to show them so they could see what I was trying to do. In order to do that, I just needed one person to say yes. So from Princeton I traveled through Penticton to Kelowna, then on to Vernon and up through the Shushwap to Revelstoke. Then down through Golden to Invermere. I must have stopped in a dozen or so small towns and I did manage to get one yes. Of all places, it was in Peachland. Stay tuned for my first installment...


(Rickochet Photo) Buffet Chinese Canadian Chinese food bc british columbia happy lucky golden dragon out and about photography rick jensen rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2014/2/lucky-happy-golden-dragon Sat, 15 Feb 2014 06:18:33 GMT
Baby Gia https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/7/baby-gia Gia-3552-2

I was once again back at the Leonard-Monti house for family photos but this time there was one more member of the family. Baby Gia is the latest edition to the family and I had the pleasure and challenge of getting some family pics and specifically of baby Gia. This was the first time I had ever done photos of a new born so I did some research and then just tried to do my best. Gia was great but refused to go to sleep. She was awake for most of the morning that I was there which was unusual for her. Perhaps a model in the making? Actually the real performer in the family is Lucia and she was great with her little sister. I have attached a few photos from the shoot for the blog post but you can check out the entire gallery here: http://www.rickochetphoto.com/p844928654

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(Rickochet Photo) Gia New Westminster Pascal Monti Shannon Leonard baby photography british columbia new born photography out and about photography rick jensen rickochet https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/7/baby-gia Fri, 12 Jul 2013 03:36:14 GMT
Shannon and Pascal Family Photos https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/5/shannon-and-pascal-family-photos Just in time before baby #2, I had the pleasure of taking some fun family photos with Shannon and Pascal and their four year old daughter Lucia. Baby #2 is due any day now so congratulations to Shannon and Pascal. I have posted a sample of my afternoon spent with the Leonard-Monti family. To see all the photos, you can check out the gallery here: http://www.rickochetphoto.com/p1037093664

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(Rickochet Photo) family new westminster pascal monti photography portrait rick jensen rickochet photo shannon leonard https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/5/shannon-and-pascal-family-photos Thu, 30 May 2013 01:03:53 GMT
What to do on a Monday? https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/4/what-to-do-on-a-monday So I haven't taken my camera out in a while and I had a Monday off so I thought it was about time to knock the dust off the camera bag and and also try my hand at a few HDR photos. The weather was decent but it was the middle of the day so the light was quite harsh. A perfect time to experiment with some HDR shots. Can you tell which ones are HDR and which ones aren't? Are they too obvious, too overdone? Let me know what you think.


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(Rickochet Photo) bc british columbia out and about photography rick jensen rickochet https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/4/what-to-do-on-a-monday Fri, 19 Apr 2013 03:33:30 GMT
Vancouver Fog https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/1/vancouver-fog When the fog rolled into Vancouver last week it allowed for some interesting photos if you were able to get above it. These shots were all taken from the Cypress Mountain view point.

sunset over the fog in vancouver looking over metrotown

(Rickochet Photo) bc british columbia cypress mountain fog out and about photography rick jensen rickochet photo vancouver https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/1/vancouver-fog Sun, 27 Jan 2013 18:20:13 GMT
Snowy Owls Part III https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/1/snowy-owls-iii Snowy owls are back. I was surprised that they had returned to Boundary Bay but snowy owls are cool no matter what. So I braved the cold and tried to get some photos. There weren't that many and they were quite a distance out but I tried none the less. I didn't trudge out into the marsh and I didn't see anyone else out there. I guess all the negative publicity about the owls being bothered was working although it didn't seem to stop the duck hunters from being out there killing ducks. I guess people have their priorities.

(Rickochet Photo) bc boundary bay rickochet snowy owls https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/1/snowy-owls-iii Sat, 26 Jan 2013 22:45:20 GMT
Road Trip with the Versys https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/1/road-trip

So I finally had the opportunity to take my motorcycle on a long road trip. I was really looking forward to stretching the kawee out and letting her run for a while. What is the old adage, your eyes are bigger than your stomach, biting off more than you can chew? I think both of these are true when I planned the 5000 some odd kilometres that I put on my butt, back and knees. Motorcycle roadtrips are an adventure. They are fun and liberating but they are also tiresome, lonely and uncomfortable. My experience was a bit of both. There were times when it was a blast and there were times when I couldn't wait to find the next rest stop. I had a bit of everything on the trip: from -5° C to +35° C; from nothing but sunshine to fog, rain and a terrential downpour. My lodging varied from camping in the desert to staying at the Mirage in Las Vegas. If nothing else, it was definitely a learning experience that I can use for any future trips (if there are any!).

You can see all the photos here:


For a map of my trip click here:


 So what was the itinerary? Well it started from Vancouver to San Francisco...

Day 1-2 Vancouver to San Francisco

The bike was packed, fueled up and I was ready to go. A few hours later than planned but I was finally out the door and on my way to the border. For the first day, I was riding to Grants Pass in Oregon which is near the Oregon/California border. On Day 2, I was meeting up with Fanya in San Francisco for four days before heading out on my own. I learned my first roadtrip lesson very early on - do NOT attempt to drive through Seattle at 3pm on a Friday afternoon! I could not believe the never ending traffic. It probably took me about 3 hours to get through Seattle and Tacoma. Needless to say, I was not impressed. Rush hour in a car is bad enough but even worse on a bike. Because it took so long to get through Seattle, I had to abandon my plans to stop in Portland for a little tax free shopping as most of the stores would be closed. So on I trudged into the Oregon night. As I started to climb into the mountains, the temperature started dropping and I was forced to put on my winter gloves already. I had lost so much time going through Seattle that I thought I might have to stop early and find shelter sooner. Only my prepaid room kept me going. So finally at around 1:30 in the morning, I pulled into the Bestway Inn at Grants Pass and crawled into bed for an abbreviated night of sleep.

On Day 2, I woke up to a crisp morning, filled with sunshine. Due to the late night before, I was a little tardy getting out of the driveway. After a quick bite to eat, I was on my way around 10am. My goal today was to make it in San Fran by late afternoon. Ambitious but doable I thought. There wasn't going to be much sight seeing on the way down, strictly business and I-5 the whole time. It actually takes longer on a road trip with a motorcycle to get anywhere. Along with the need to stretch every now and then, I also needed fill up with fuel a lot more frequently. In fact, I was stopping every 2 hours or so to fill up, stretch, eat or simply find myself on the map. Every stop took at least 10 minutes or so and quickly added to the total time. I probably added a couple hours every day to the ride due to the frequent stopping. Nothing you can really do about it. You just have to factor it in when planning your ETA. So after a long day of riding through the hot northern Californian landscape, I finally ended up in Oakland around 7pm. My phone was now dead so I had no GPS, I blindly made my way over the Bay Bridge and into San Fran. What was a beautiful day, now morphed into a foggy soup as soon as I crossed the bridge. It was amazing how it went from sunny and 23° C to fog, drizzle and 8° C in a matter of a few kilometers. I had the directions written down but still managed to get lost in downtown San Fran. So I pulled over and pulled out the charger and plugged my phone in so I could phone Fanya to figure out how to get where I was going. It was now raining and cold and I was tired and hungry. Why was I doing this again? I finally made my way through San Fran and found Fanya's brothers house where I would be staying for the next 4 days. It was a long 2 days but I made it, and now I get to park the bike and someone else gets to drive :)  Fanya had rented a car and the plan was to do a little sight seeing and spend some time with her brother and his family.

Days 3-6 San Francisco

One of my life long goals is to eventually visit every major league baseball stadium and watch a game. The Giants were not in town but I did manage to get tickets to see the Oakland Athletics. Fanya's nephew Curtis likes baseball so we took him to see the game with us. Ironically, the A's were playing the Mariners which I have seen many times being so close to Seattle. The Mariners are bad and the A's are a playoff team so the A's were looking to sweep the Mariners in the series. Didn't matter to me, I was just happy that I was knocking another baseball stadium off the list. Another interesting experience in a different city is using their public transit system and the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system is no exception. Nothing exciting happened but it is just adds to the travel experience.

The next day, we went out of the city to Napa Valley to visit the vineyards and do some wine and grape juice tasting. I had never been to Napa and my impression of it was mixed. It was beautiful but it kind of reminded me of Las Vegas in a way. It was like the Las Vegas Strip of wineries. There was one big long road were all the big posh famous wineries lived, just like the strip and all the big hotels. Don't get me wrong, they were beautiful but it just seemed too commerical and touristy for my taste. That didn't stop me from getting my taste on and having a few samples however. While a couple of wineries catered to non-drinkers (grape juice), it would have been nice for all of them to have a cheaper option for the drivers which should be non-drinkers anyway.

The final full day was spent touring around town. We walked around Chinatown and then rode the famous and very busy cable car to Lombard street where we walked down the windy street and then down to Fisherman's Wharf. We spent the afternoon on Alcatraz and riding the cable car back downtown. Other than the first day, the weather turned out to be fantastic. We really only scratched the surface on what to do in San Fran so hopefully a return visit will be in order.

Day 7-9 Yosemite National Park

It was time to say goodbye to San Francisco and load up the bike again. I had camping reservations in Yosemite National Park for two nights and was looking forward to seeing this icon of a park. So after saying goodbye to Fanya and many thanks to Fanya's brother for putting us up and putting up with us, I was heading back over the Bay Bridge, through Oakland and towards the mountains of Yosemite. It was only supposed to be around a 3hr drive but again, turned out to be longer than anticipated. The second good lesson that I learned on my trip was that McDonalds is your friend. Not only can you eat there for around $3 but you can use their free wifi to surf the web, book a hotel and plan your route. Thank you, Mickey D's!

Once out of civilization, the road became very windy and climbed through the mountains. It was a beautiful day, and it was nice to finally have some curves to drive after the straight drive down the I-5. I arrived in Yosemite around 3pm and I have to say it is one big park. One could easily spend two weeks here and not see everything. Alas, I only had 3 days and the first day was waning quickly. If I was on the ball, I would have set up camp quickly and gone to do some evening exploring, but I was tired and just decided to find my campsite and set up. I was staying right in the valley in the upper campground and I am glad I got the last campsite. The valley is a great spot to see the major highlights of the park, and I would recommend staying there first to get your bearings and then branching out to see other parts of the park. There is a free shuttle system that goes around the main valley and stops at all the main points of interest. It works great and is a good way to see the park. I have to admit that my little setup paled in comparison to all the big rigs that surrounded me. So it was an uneventful evening with dehydrated beef stew and a can of beer that I picked up on the way.

The next morning, I was up early to try and catch the early morning sun. I spent most of the day riding the shuttle and walking around the park. I wanted to do some longer hikes but I just ran out of time and it's harder to do with just a motorcycle. The only bad thing about the park was the time of year. While it was very pretty, it was also very dry and most of the waterfalls were empty. I would love to come back in the spring when the water is at its fullest. Nonetheless, the scenery was still spectacular and the deer were very friendly. In the evening, I took my bike up to Glacier Point to watch the sun set over Half Dome. It was neat to witness the same scenery that Ansel Adams made famous so many years ago.

I considered staying an extra day because I really wanted to see another sunset but I decided to stick to my schedule and leave on the third day so I could squeeze in Death Valley before heading to Vegas. I compromised a little bit and spent the third day morning in the park but then had to pack up and head south towards Death Valley where I would be sleeping tonight.

Day 10-12 Death Valley

So after the cool mountains of Yosemite National Park, I headed south to spend a couple of days in Death Valley - the lowest place in North America. It was a long ride down through the California country side with not a lot to look at. By the time I found the turn off to Death Valley, it was after 6pm and I still had a couple of hours to go. I was really hoping to have camp set up before dark but it didn't look like that was going to happen. The desert was beautiful in the twilight and the temperature was perfect for riding for one of the rare times so far. It was after 8pm and quite dark by the time I arrived. I really didn't feel like camping so I checked out the resort first to see how much it would be for a room. They had one room left and it was $245/night. I guess it was going to be camping after all. So I set up the tent in the dark and crawled into bed to try and get some sleep.  While checking out the resort, I did find out that I could use the resort during the day for only $5 which was a great deal and was exactly what I was going to do the next day.

I woke up early the next morning decided to ride out to the sand dunes to catch the sunrise. The sun didn't really cooperate as it turned out to be a cloudy morning but I tried to take some pictures nonetheless. The dunes were cool but would probably make a better sunset photo. The temperature started to climb and it was time to check out the resort. The resort was fantastic. I did my laundry, charged my phone, went for a swim and had my first shower in 4 days. Not bad for $5 bucks! I spent the whole afternoon there and it was great to be clean and just relax. As the afternoon turned into evening, I suited up and headed back out to take some more photos. This time, I went to the Badwater Basin or salt flats are what they are more commonly called. The sun was fading fast and I just managed to catch the sunset over the basin. This was definitely the way to do it. Get up early and take pictures, rest and relax during the day, and then go out again in the evening to take more pictures.

Another early morning and I had a great plan today. I was going to catch the sunrise at Zabriskie Point, then play a round of golf at the lowest golf course in the world, go for a swim, relax by the pool and then pack up and head out for a date with Las Vegas. It was a cool morning, but it was great to avoid the heat, and the sunrise was spectacular from Zabriskie Point. I was back at the resort by 8am and it was time to hit the golf course. It was still off season rates so I managed to get the round with a cart and rentals for $50. Not bad and I had the course to myself. I didn't play very well but did set a record for the quickest round I had ever played. I was done in just under an hour and a half. After a bite to eat, a swim and a morning by the pool, I was ready to pack up and head out. It was only a couple of hours to Vegas so I took my time and eventually found my way to Las Vegas and checked in to the Mirage by about 8pm.

Day 13-16 Las Vegas and Salt Lake City

There isn't a lot to say about my stay in Las Vegas. I don't think I took any photos and it was pretty uneventful for sin city. I was just happy to have a nice room, comfy bed and a hot shower! By day 3, I had lost enough money to bade good riddance and be on my way. I was going to head up to Salt Lake City for a night before deciding on whether I wanted to head to Yellowstone Park or not. It was going to a very long traveling day so I tried to get on the road fairly early. It was a hot day and I was on the road by 9am and had around 700 kilometres to cover to get to Salt Lake City. I spent the whole day on the road with frequent stops for gas and free McDonalds wifi. I finally pulled into the Royal Garden Inn in downtown Salt Lake around 11pm at night, and I was quite tired but still needed to figure out the last leg of my trip. I checked the weather, and it looked like it was going to be clear and cold in Yellowstone. Ideally, I would have liked for it to be a little warmer, but I had come all this way and who knows when the next time I would be able to get back.

The next morning I walked around downtown Salt Lake and wandered down to the Temple area. I have to say that I would love to come back to Salt Lake because of what little I saw, I really liked. It was a beautiful city and easy to navigate but I had to get going though as I didn't want to arrive in Yellowstone too late.

Day 17-19 Yellowstone National Park

After much deliberation, I plowed on, heading north to Yellowstone National Park. It was going to be another long day of riding, and I was hoping to get there before dark. The theme of my trip was everything takes a little longer and this was no different. The weather was clear but the temperature was dropping and soon I was wearing all of my winter gear to stay warm. I entered Yellowstone through West Yellowstone, found my campsite and settled in for the night. When I woke up, it was -5º C and I was cold. It didn't matter that I had heated grips, fur lined gloves and lots of insulation, I was freezing despite the sun. At least the scenery was beautiful and I made my way to the visitor centre to catch Old Faithful. Old Faithful erupts fairly regularly and I only had to wait about 30 minutes according to the rangers predictions. Right on queue, Old Faithful displayed its wares and it definitely was a sight to see. Now it was starting to warm up and I had to start peeling off layers. The rest of the day was spent touring the various geysers and points of interest. Yellowstone was a lot smaller than Yosemite but no less spectacular. From the bison and elk to the geysers and thermal pools, Yellowstone had something for everybody. If you can brave the cold, I think Yellowstone would be spectacular in the winter. I had decided that I had had enough of the cold and I wanted a warm bed for the night.  So I booked into the Best Western just outside of the park in West Yellowstone.

My last morning was spent at the Grizzly and Wolf Discover Centre in West Yellowstone which is really well done. I had never seen a grizzly or wolf up close and this was a great opportunity even though it was through an enclosure. The staff there were also great and very knowledgeable. Alas though, it was time to hit the road and start making the trek back home.

Day 20-21 Home and Conclusion

So after nearly 3 weeks and over 5000 kilometres, it was time to bid adieu to Yellowstone and head home. I headed across Idaho and into Washington state. A little known treasure that I found was Leavenworth, Washington. A small, Bavarian town that could easily pass for somewhere in Germany. It also happened to be Oktoberfest, which was why I was wondering how come this little town was so busy. As I was passing through the mountains after Leavenworth, the weather turned dramatically for the worse and I experienced the first real rain of my trip. I guess it was making up for all the previous sunny days as it just poured and the fog rolled in to make it quite treacherous through the mountain pass. The rain continued on through Seattle and I was finally able to test out my waterproof gear. My duffel bag worked quite well, but I still ended up getting soaked. Nothing short of a rubber suit was going to keep me dry. Luckily, I was on my way home and didn't really need dry gear for the next day.

So was the trip a success? I would definitely say yes. I came home in one piece and I think I got some great photos. Would I do it again? Well, that depends. With the right equipment and schedule, I would probably try it again. I think my bike was just a bit too small for such a long trip and it really needed a sixth gear. It wasn't my back or butt that got sore but it was my knees because I didn't have quite enough seat height to stretch my legs out and I couldn't really lean on the tank either. I would also make shorter travel days as the hours on the bike take their toll.

On the positive side, Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks are icons and cliches and for good reason. They are absolutely stunning and I think everyone should try and see them at least once. They are easily accessible and there are things to do for the whole family. You could probably see everything in Yellowstone in a couple days but you could spend weeks in Yosemite and not see everything. Honorable mentions definitely go to Death Valley and San Francisco. So all in all it was a memorable trip that I am glad I did and hopefully one day will try again.


(Rickochet Photo) death valley kawasaki las vegas photography rickochet salt lake city san francisco travel versys yellowstone yosemite https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2013/1/road-trip Sun, 06 Jan 2013 09:38:49 GMT
Grand Canyon https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/11/Grand-Canyon

Marcelo and I took some time off work to do some hiking in Utah and Arizona. Our main goal was to go to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon with some minor stops in between. It was a great trip with some lessons on what to do and what not to do when embarking on a road/hiking trip. To see all of the photos of our trip you can go to rickjensen.smugmug.com All photos here were taken with the Nikon 300Ds/16-85mm and the Olympus TG-1.


Day 1
We started our journey in Las Vegas where we landed about 10pm local time. After holding back on the slot machines, we made our way to the Alamo desk to pick up our rental car. We had reserved a mid sized SUV for ten days for $322. Not too bad condsidering. After picking out and inspecting a Jeep Patriot, we noticed it didn’t have a privacy cover for the back. We asked to have one put one but were told it didn’t have one. So we requested a different SUV but it didn’t have one either. After further inquiry, we were informed that none of the SUVs came with a privacy cover because people kept stealing them so Alamo just had them all removed. This made no sense to us and it meant that we couldn’t use an SUV because we didn’t want to have our stuff in the back uncovered while we were out of the car. So after a short deliberation, we decided to take a Ford Taurus because it had the largest trunk we could find. I was driving since we didn’t want to pay an extra $150 or so for an additional driver and I quickly realized that I would never be buying a Ford Taurus in my future. It had lots of power but was just too big for my liking and hard to see out of. Thank goodness for the back up camera which I quickly got used to out of necessity. We navigated our way out of the airport and onto Tropicana Ave and finally on to the freeway heading out of Vegas. The next two hours were relatively uneventful as we made our way to Hurricane, Utah. We finally pulled into the Travelodge at about 2am. We both were tired and we still had to get up at 6am to drive to Springdale for our rappelling course. The Travelodge was adequate for our needs and would recommend it for those on a budget.

Day 2

We managed to drag our tired selves to Springdale for our intro course to rappelling. We were only five minutes late which wasn’t bad considering our previous late night. Our impressions of the Zion Adventure Company were mixed. We really liked our instructor; he was knowledgeable, friendly and verrrry patient. It was a small group so that helped as well. The company itself was not quite as good. The place was chaotic and while there was a lot of staff, they never stayed with you for more than a couple of minutes. Not to mention that they screwed up our bill and rented me faulty equipment but more on that later. We spent quite a lot of time in and out of the Zion Adventure Company over the next few days so we had a large sample size to complain about. If I were to go back to Zion, I would look into another company to rent gear from. It was still a good day as we learned lots and felt ready to tackle the canyons ourselves. Because Springdale is so close to Zion National Park, accommodation is quite pricey so we had booked a campsite on the other side of the park (Zion Ponderosa). Before we could head for the campground, we still had to eat and see if we could get a permit to hike the Narrows. At the park info centre, we were told there was a flash flood advisory for the next day. Because of this, there were permits available as a lot people were probably cancelling. But after that, the forecast was calling for nothing but sun so we decided to risk it. If there was a flash flood, it would really only be an issue for the bottom half of the canyon, and we would be at the top for the first day where there was room to get to higher ground. So we bought our permits and we were set for hiking the narrows “Top Down”. It was now dark and we still had to eat and drive to the campground which was at least a twenty minute drive away. It was going to another night of little sleep; I thought this was supposed to be a vacation!

Day 3

So day three was another early morning as we drove into Springdale from the other direction to catch a shuttle to take us to the top of the Narrows trailhead. It was a full shuttle as a large group was also starting the two day hike with us. The flash flood advisory turned out to be a false alarm as the weather turned out to be beautiful. The Narrows is a flat hike that follows the north fork of the Virgin river as it winds through the canyon. Most people hike the Narrows from the “Bottom Up”, meaning they start at the bottom and go as far as Big Springs (6km) before turning back and return to the bottom. Our hike from the top was going to be two days over 26kms total and we would end up at the Temple of Sinawava. The top of the hike started at the Chamberlain Ranch which is actually outside of the park. The first part of the hike went through rolling forests and scrub with no indication of the gorge ahead. Eventually the gorge revealed itself and the farther we hiked, the farther we waded into its depths. After a few hours, we were enveloped in gorge goodness with steep cliffs on either side of us. We had to spend a lot of time walking in the river and the uneven footing made for slow going. Add to that the weight of our packs and we were becoming quite tired despite the fact that there was no elevation gain. While we enjoyed scenery, after ten hours or so of hiking we were really wanting to find our campsite. We deliberately picked one of the last campsites so as to have a shorter second day, but as we neared the eleventh hour of our hike, I was beginning to second guess that decision! At long last, campsite number eleven came into view and we were done for the day. It was a beautiful oasis with a large campsite complete with private swimming hole and beach. A welcome sight after a long day. We had the campsite to ourselves which was even better. So after setting up camp and eating dinner out of a bag, we settled in for the night.

Day 4

After a long first day of hiking, we took the morning of the second day to relax, enjoy the sunshine and our beautiful surroundings. It was going to be a much shorter day so we could afford to relax a little and take our time. It was around eleven in the morning by the time we packed up and started the trek to the Temple of Sinawava. We could see why a flash flood would be bad in the bottom part of the canyon as there was little place to go between the towering sheer walls. We started to see more people the farther we headed down the canyon until finally you had to watch out for other people as well as your footing. There was a reason why there was so many people as the beauty of the canyon was just awesome. It took about six hours to hike the rest of the way to the bottom of the narrows which ended at the Temple of Sinawava. It was a tough two days but totally worth it. So beautiful.

Day 5

So after the narrows, we had a day to do some local hikes and just drive around the park. We tackled Angel’s Landing which was “just” a four hour hike round trip with an elevation gain of 450 meters. It wasn’t just the elevation that was hard it was the 35+ degree heat. We made it nonetheless; well Marcelo almost made it :) and it is definitely worth the hike. We had a great day of taking it relatively easy and enjoying the park. We had one more big hike ahead us the next day so it was nice a break.

Day 6
For our last day in Zion we were tackling the Subway slot canyon. The Subway is the probably the most famous slot canyon in Zion and maybe even the world so we were hoping to finally put our rappelling skills to good to use. We drove into Springdale first thing in the morning to catch the shuttle and arrived at the trailhead around 9am. The suggested time to complete the 9.5 mile trek was around seven hours, but if our past hikes were any indication, it was going to take us longer than that. Either we were really slow or the time estimates we read were really aggressive. For gear, we each had our rappelling equipment plus full wet suits and water shoes. I carried both my cameras with me where my Nikon was in a waterproof camera bag. We knew we were going to get wet so took all the necessary precautions. Marcelo also had his GPS which proved invaluable and kept us on the right path which wasn’t always easy to find.

There was one other hiker (Todd) that was also doing the Subway so we set out as a threesome. It was good to have another set of eyes to help find the trail. It started out as a beautiful day with some high clouds in the sky. It made for a beautiful sight contrasting with the stark landscape. It was a couple of hours before we finally found ourselves with the steep descent into the canyon. Luckily, a large group had passed us, showing the exact way to go. Otherwise, it would have taken us quite a bit longer to find the right entrance point as it was not well marked. At the bottom of the entrance, we had to traverse a large pool of water so it was time to put on the wet suits. It was also a lot cooler in the canyon so the wetsuits also provided some warmth. After talking with the other group, we found out that the repels we trained for were not really necessary and all could be done simply as downclimbs. Oh well, we were going to use our gear anyway since we paid for it. Our first obstacle was a 12′ rappel that probably took us about an hour for all of us to get through but we eventually made it. It was time to get wet as there were several pools that we had to wade/swim through. The water was cold but bearable and we soon came to our next obstacle. Another 12′ drop awaited us that again could have been downclimbed but we elected to rappel it. We were getting the hang of the equipment and the second one went a little smoother.

Our next obstacle proved to be the most challenging but not for the obvious reasons. Throughout the hike I had been using my Nikon and taking it in and out of my waterproof bag. The next rappel was only 8′ but it was a very narrow slot next to a small waterfall. The drop ended in a pool of water that extended to about 30′ long. That is where things got interesting. I made it down to the pool at the bottom without any perceived problems and proceeded to swim out to the end of the pool. We all made it fine and continued our journey. About fifteen minutes later, I reached for my camera bag to take out my camera when I noticed that it was sloshing a bit. “Oh no!” I thought, “I have water in my camera bag.” I opened it and looked inside and indeed it was full of water. What it wasn’t full of was my camera! Apparently, sometime during the last rappel, the seal unsealed and the bag had come open. I’m pretty sure during my swim, the camera was displaced by the water and floated out and to the bottom of the pool. My camera was the latest victim of the subway and I wasn’t at all pleased.

After this point, all photos posted were taken with the Olyumpus TG-1. While competent, it was no replacement for my Nikon. My Nikon had done well. I had tried to break it by dropping it on a sidewalk earlier in the year and it had survived, but apparently it doesn’t do so well under water. Trying to remain upbeat, we continued on our way since we were already well behind schedule. We had one more rappel to do and there was two options we could do, the easy way or the hard way. Marcelo really wanted to try the hard way but after deliberating for almost an hour, we finally decided to take the easier route as we just weren’t comfortable with the more difficult drop. The canyon continued through the colourful walls that made the Subway famous. We finally emerged from the canyon into the sunshine and a series of cascading waterfalls. The route now widened and we crisscrossed the river many times as we picked our way downstream. The time rolled on and the sky started to cloud over as we continued down and looked for the exit to get out of the canyon. It was taking a lot longer than we thought, and we started to worry that we were not going to make it back to town in time to return our gear. Luckily, we still had the GPS so we knew where the exit point should be. We finally came across the exit marker and started the trek up and out of the canyon. It was a good thing too as the clouds had rolled in and it was starting to rain. It was a steep climb, about the equivalent of a grouse grind and after hiking the Subway all day, it was pretty brutal. Plus we were in a hurry now to get back to return our gear before 8pm. What seemed like forever, we finally crested the top of the trail and caught sight of the parking area. We sprinted (probably looked like slow motion at this point) back to the car and drove as quickly as we could back to Springdale. We made it back with ten minutes to spare and the fuel tank on empty. After returning our gear and complaining about my faulty camera bag, we were ready for some food and moving on from Springdale. After filling our stomachs and the fuel tank, we said goodbye to Zion National Park and headed towards the Grand Canyon. I was really tired and it was getting quite late in the evening so we actually only made it to Kanab, Utah before finding a cheap motel and settling in for the night.

Day 7

Day 7 was a travel day as we made our way to the Grand Canyon. We travelled through Lake Powell which was beautiful and is definitely worth a visit in the future. After a brief stop to visit some toadstools (funny looking rock formations), we arrived in Page, Arizona around 2pm. We wanted to take a tour to see the Upper and Lower Antelope canyons but only really had time for one. So we had lunch and decided on the Lower Antelope canyon. It was longer and less busy so it seemed to have more value for the money. We drove out to the canyon and it was a good thing it had good signage as you would never know it was there otherwise (well except for all the cars and tour buses). The canyon itself was a welcome reprieve from the hot Arizona sun. We had two hours to explore the canyon with a local native guide along with about 15 other people. The canyon was amazing and hopefully I will get back to see the Upper Antelope Canyon. We didn’t exactly get to go at the optimal time for pictures so I can imagine how beautiful it would be at the right time of day.

Our journey continued on towards the Grand Canyon. We still had a ways to go to get to the Grand Canyon and by the time we got there, it was well after dark. We checked out a couple of hotels but they were really expensive so opted to stay just outside the park at the Red Feather Lodge in Tusayan. So after another long travel day (everything seemed to take longer on this trip!), we had found a place to stay and now needed to get some sleep so we could tackle the canyon in the morning.

Day 8

In order to save time we decided to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again in one day. We had read various things about whether this was a good idea or not. Some said it was too difficult while others said it was hard but very doable. We went with the doable. So another early morning as we caught the shuttle to the trailhead and we were descending into the cool morning air. I have to say that the Grand Canyon is touristy and cliche but it is still absolutely awesome. It is so massive that it doesn’t even really feel like a canyon. It’s more of a huge valley with a large deep canyon the extends from the floor of the valley. You can’t see the bottom until a couple of hours into the hike. It was a fairly easy trail down with lots of switch backs but as the time went on, the temperature went up. Soon we had no shade to speak of and the temperature climbed over 30 degrees Celcius. Most of the people we came across were only hiking a little ways down and then turning around and climbing back up. Not us though, we wanted to do the whole thing in one day. Stupid schedule! After four and a half hours, we hit the bottom and descended upon Bright Angel campround and dunked our heads in Angel Creek to cool off. Another ten minutes which felt like ten hours and we were at Phantom Ranch which was where we were going to relax and have some lunch before starting the long climb back to the South Rim. Phantom Ranch is a great spot to cool down and rest up for the long hike up. We knew it was going to take longer to get back to the South Rim but we wanted to wait so we weren’t hiking in the scorching heat. So we hung out and drank copious amounts of ice tea and water. We also didn’t want to hike in the dark so we couldn’t leave too late either. We started to get restless about 2:30 and despite the heat, we packed up and headed up the Bright Angel Trail. The first hour or so was brutal because of the heat but it cooled down the farther we climbed and soon we were in complete shade. It took us about 5.5 hours to climb back to the South Rim and by that time we were hiking in complete darkness. Despite the darkness, the trail was easy to follow and we were soon sitting down for dinner at the Arizona Room in the Bright Angel Lodge. A good way to end a long but rewarding day.

Day 9

We spent the morning walking along the trails at the South Rim with all the other tourists. It was a great day to spend the morning and the views were fantastic. The only downside was we were cutting into our travel time to get to Havasu Falls, our next and last hike. For the first time, the weather turned nasty and we ended up driving through a thunderstorm. It rained most of the way to Williams, Arizona where we stopped for gas. Williams turned out to be a neat little town that was part of the original Route 66. We ended up staying for an hour or so exploring the town before setting off. It was getting late in the afternoon and the weather forecast didn’t look good for the next day so we decided skip our hike to Havasu Falls and head straight to Las Vegas. We took the old Route 66 and we were glad that we had some time to check out a piece American history. It was an unexpected highlight of the trip. We continued on through Kingman and to sin city.

Day 10 and 11
We ended our trip with two days in Las Vegas. No photos for this part of the trip. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas :)

So after all is said and done, it was a great trip, covering two national parks and a lot of early mornings. Zion and the Grand Canyon are American cliches but there is a reason for that. These two icons are fabulous and should be on everyone’s bucket list and I can only hope to get back sometime soon.

(Rickochet Photo) Grand Canyon Las Vegas Lower Antelope Rappelling Subway Upper Antelope Zion Narrows Zion National Park photography rick jensen rickochet rickochet photo travel https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/11/Grand-Canyon Mon, 05 Nov 2012 11:16:34 GMT
Lorna and James https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/7/Lorna-and-James I had the privilege of photographing Lorna and James’s wedding day. It was an intimate affair and a beautiful day. Here is a few photos from their special day. All the best to the newlyweds!!


(Rickochet Photo) weddings https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/7/Lorna-and-James Wed, 25 Jul 2012 00:18:23 GMT
How to Photograph Everyone with Clay Blackmore https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/6/How-to-Photograph-Everyone-with-Clay-Blackmore I recently took the “How to Photograph Everyone” master class at Langara college with Clay Blackmore. It was a great learning experience and I have posted a couple of my favorite photos that I took during the day.

(Rickochet Photo) out and about portraits https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/6/How-to-Photograph-Everyone-with-Clay-Blackmore Fri, 22 Jun 2012 23:03:27 GMT
Snowy Owls part II https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/2/Snowy-Owls-part-II
So I decided to head out to see if the snowy owls were still hanging around in Boundary Bay. Before heading for the dyke and the owls, I decided to check out the eagle situation. The park across from Boundary Bay airport is home to many bald eagles during the winter months. There is so many that there really is no need to go to Brackendale.

After the eagles, I drove down to the dyke to see if the owls were still there. The weather wasn’t great but the owls and the papparazzi were out in still out in numbers. I didn’t have the energy to wander out into the march and most of the owls were hanging out near the trail so I just decided to set up in one place. I didn’t stay too long though as even though they are magnificent creatures, there is only so many photos I can take of sleeping owls. Hopefully I will be back before the owls start heading north again.

I wanted to try to get a little closer to the owls this time so I decided to break out the big guns and I rented a Nikon 400mm F2.8 and 1.4 teleconverter. Let me tell you that this is one beast of a lens. I had to rent a heavy duty tripod and gimbal head just to mount it. It was expensive but I figured it was still cheap compared to the $9000 price tag for the lens alone.
While the set up worked great and the image quality was excellent it had one drawback. It was awkward to lug around. Once set up, it was a dream to use but anytime I wanted to move locations it was a pain in the butt. I can deal with heavy but the fact that it was awkward really deters from moving locations. It was a good experience though and I am glad I rented it to experience what the pros use.

(Rickochet Photo) british columbia out and about travel boundary bay owls photography rick jensen rickochet rickochet photo ricochet ricochet photo snowy owls vancouver https://www.rickochetphoto.com/blog/2012/2/Snowy-Owls-part-II Sun, 12 Feb 2012 10:38:54 GMT