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D-Mad Travel Adventures!

The world through our lens and our fun(ny) experience!

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Photography

Pura Vida, Costa Rica!

By this time, you already know we aren’t planners. And like all our vacations, this one was also a last minute one. We booked our (overpriced) flights three days before we left for a 10-day vacation in a new country.  After all, vacations are all about gathering memories and stories, isn’t it?

Also, most of our photographic memories got stolen when our car was broken into last month and our camera, memory cards and our laptop got stolen (if one more person asks me why we didn’t back-up, I will lose it). So here I am telling you our story through my Instagram stories, which are pretty cool btw!

We landed in San Jose, rented a car and off we went on our road trip taking suggestions from Google and random blogs. Here is the route we traveled –

Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano:

When in Costa Rica, you’ve got to drink some coffee, right?

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We read about this hike to a turquoise waterfall, Rio Celeste and decided to drive there in dark, in rain, on roads full of switchbacks and gravel. On the hindsight probably a bad idea.

We stopped at an AirBnB that we booked on our way to there, but this place was so remote that by the time we reached there, we were starving and the hosts at AirBnB were getting ready to go to bed. But, the hostess there took pity on us and cooked up some pretty fancy meal. Also, did we mention they only spoke Spanish and we didn’t. That was interesting!

And for Rio Celeste, the hike was spectacular but due to heavy rains the previous night, the rain water mixed with the sulphur water washed out the turquoise color. Oh well!

Off we went to Monteverde next, to the beautiful cloud forests. Costa Rica is doing an excellent job at maintaining their ecosystems. We were thoroughly impressed by how they segregate their waste and keep the nationals parks, their cities and surroundings clean. Kudos to taking care of your biodiversity and ecosystem, Costa Rica!

After 3 days, our ears got used to listening to the chirping of thousands of birds wherever we went. Next we headed to the west coast to explore the beaches and beach forests!

Manuel Antonio has the best beaches and LOTS of monkeys!!!!

 

 

Our next leg was to spend a few days in Corcovado: one of the most bio-diverse places on this planet, home to hundreds of bird species, endangered species of monkeys, anteaters, Tapirs, crocs, Jaguars and more! But first, river crossings!

 

And Scuba diving!!!

I was reading a blog post and happen to come across Javier’s Facebook page. I decided to give him a call and see if he could take us out to explore Corcovado. He not only agreed but invited us to stay with him, which was the best blind decisions we have made! Javier is an animal whisperer and he was the best guide ever! But before he took us into Corcovado, he took us on a jungle walk at night for warm-ups. And the things we saw!!!

Corcovado is not easy to reach, we were staying with Javier in Drake Bay and from there you can hike along the beach to Corcovado NP but to reach the remote areas, you have to take a boat to the ranger station.

 

After spending a few nights in Corcovado, we decided to go spot some birds esp the Resplendant Quetzal, in San Gerrardo, by a recommendation from a friend that we ran into in Quepos!

After finding the Quetzal, our trip was complete. There was no other way to end this vacay, so we had to say good bye!

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Alaska: Beyond Your Dreams, Within Your Reach!

This is by far the most amazing place we have been to. I just cannot put it in words the beauty of this land, hence, I will not even try. I will just tell you the things you can do when visiting Alaska in Summer.

Anchorage:

Denali National Park – Reflection Pond at Wonder Lake. This is totally worth it if the sky is clear and you can see the mountain. Try to reserve the early morning shuttle if you are planning to go all the way to wonder lake. Camp at wonder lake and take the first shuttle back the next day. This way you can expect to see maximum wildlife on the way!

Seward: 

Harding Icefield Trail, Exit Glacier: If you love day hikes, Harding Ice Field is not to be missed. We almost didn’t do this hike as we were so exhausted after hiking and traveling for 11 days in Alaska but on the last day we decided to push ourselves to do this. That was the best decision and 8-miles of pure paradise. The expansive ice-fields on top is breathtaking! We kind of started very late on this trail (~3pm) but thanks to the long days of summer, there were fewer people and more bears on our way back (~9pm)!

Kenai Fjords National Park: Take the day trip ferry to see some of the brilliant glaciers, listen to/see the glacial calving and spot some dolphins, puffins, otters, humpbacks and orcas on the way!

Russian River Falls: A short hike to see the Alaskan wild salmon migration. We spent hours here watching salmon leap up to cross the waterfall and a few little bears who were there to hunt. If Katmai is not on your list, this is your cheaper and easier second option.

Bear Glacier: Stand up paddling in Bear Glacier cove was the highlight of our trip. Paddle through the calm water around some magnificent icebergs and  take in the view and feel insignificant! This tour is only offered by Liquid Adventures so make sure you reserve a spot.

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Juneau:

Glacier Bay National Park: The best way to see the glaciers up close is by taking the local ferry from Juneau to Gustavus and staying at the Glacier Bay lodge. This way you can take the national park ferry for a day trip to see some of the best and pristine glaciers in the northern hemisphere. An additional advantage to this is you can rent kayaks and paddle out in the bay and get up close and cozy to some of the largest mammals in the world!

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Mendenhall Glacier:  Want to see how it is to be in an ice cave? A day trip to Mendenhall glacier will let you experience just that! We took a guided tour to the glacier and once we hit the glacier, we put on our crampons and walked on the glacier a couple of miles to explore the caves and the river system which flows underneath the glacier. It is quite fascinating! The rain forest hiking detour you take on the way back is well worth it!

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Alaska is expensive, start saving up so you can take back a life’s worth of memories!

Ideal time to visit  – June – July

Number of Days – 10 full days at the least!

Photography Tip – Be ready with your telephoto as you never know when a bear or whale can prop up in front of your eyes! For more photos visit our FB page.

D of DMad!

Top 10: Sunrises of the World!

1. Tiger Hill, Darjeeling, India

The most spectacular I have seen so far. It is very hard to beat this one! The play of light starts 30 minutes before the actual sunrise where the Himalayan ranges turn different colors with every passing minute finally displaying the golden peaks of Kanchenjunga and Mt Everest!!! I was very young when I saw this but it has been etched in my memory and I cannot wait to go back to click some digital pictures!

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2. Cappadocia, Nevşehir, Turkey Hike up the Goreme Panorama point to get a 360degree view of the town and watch the hoodoos light up when the sunrises! The icing on the cake is also watching the mass ascension of hot air balloons – spectacular!812795_603494162999653_1385522546_o

3. Mesa Arch, Utah, USA

This sunrise is surreal. The sun lights up the bottom of the arch only and looks like the arch is being set on fire! It is a very short hike from the trail head. You can walk atop the arch but be very careful because if you misstep and fall, you will die.

4. Grand Teton, Wyoming, USA

The famous reflection picture you can click is at Schwabacher Landing. Go early to secure a VIP spot as you will see many photographers flocking there with their tripods!IMG_7574

5. Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India

I was very little when I went to see the sunrise with my parents here and my mom explained to me that the sun rises when they ring a bell, and my jaw dropped to the floor when a perfectly round ball of light quickly scurried up the ocean into the sky as soon as someone rang a loud bell! That was a magical moment and to this day they follow that tradition of ringing a bell at sunrise and sunset! This is the southern most tip of India where you can see both sunrise and sunset!

6. Bryce Canyon, Utah, USA

The sunrise point in the national park is the best spot to catch this.

7.Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, USA

The best sunrise you can see in the national park is from the parking lot of the clingman’s dome. The sun rises behind the mountains through the clouds.

8. Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

This is the place to enjoy a very quiet sunrise by the beach with ruins at your back!

9. Denali, Alaska, USA

Though Denali National Park is famous for its sunset views of the peak, I had to mention this for a reason. In summer the sun almost never sets, it gets dark around 1am and then the sun is back up by 3 am! It is very cool to just stay up all night to see the sunset to sunrise transition!

10. The one sunrise I know to be super spectacular is atop Haleakala, Hawaii, USA. I cannot wait to go there to experience this but this article could not be complete without a mention of this. I am basing this off of some incredible pictures my friends have clicked!

 

Glacier National Park – In 30 seconds!

HOW TO: enjoy winters in the Twin Cities?

Step 1:

First and foremost, WEAR WARM CLOTHES – Do yourself a favor and invest in good winter gear, even though they are expensive and dress in layers. You will not regret it. But if you are the kind who will not do that but sit indoors and crib about the weather, you are not yet ready to advance to Step 2.

Step 2:

In Step 3 I will tell you about the activities you can do outdoors. But before that let us chat a little bit about your driving skills. You do not need any great skills to drive in the winter, so make sure you drive sensibly and slowly. Traffic is going to be slow when it is snowing, that is because no one enjoys skidding off the freeway and waiting in a ditch (being cold). Don’t be freaked about driving in the winter, it is not as bad as people make it seem!

Step 3:

Get outdoors and fill your lungs with cold air. It is an incredible feeling! Here is a list of things you can do in the Twin Cities.

  1. Skiing/Snowboarding – Pick up a new skill. Skiing is a lot of fun once you get past the falling phase. Do not give up. Snowboarding is more fun. Give them a try! Afton Alps is my favorite area to ski.
  2. Ice Skating – There are many lakes on which they clear the snow to skate which makes skating an inexpensive winter activity. Centennial lakes has a beautiful skating area!
  3. Snow Kiting – Take some lessons here and see if you like it.
  4. Watch out for winter festivals which happen in the twin Cities. My favorite is the luminary loppet at the TrLoppet Ski Festival. There is a Winter Carnival in St Paul where you can see beautiful snow sculptures and drink beer and cider at the ice bar (how cool!).
  5. BIKE – Get winter tires and bike on the Midtown greenway. Yes they are plowed and are safe.
  6. Ice Climbing – Rent crampons from UoM Rec Center and try walking behind the frozen Minnehaha falls. It is magical! Image
  7. There are many many miles of snow shoeing and cross country trails in the city. Arboretum, Theodre Wirth park and Elm creek park have some really great ones.
  8. Enjoy a sunset walk on a lake – There is a lake in every nook and corner in this city. Just get out and you will see beautiful colors of reflection at sunset on the frozen lakes!
  9. There are tons of fun events like Polar PlungeCupid’s Undie Run and other winter marathons! Most of them are for a good cause so you will not mind getting a little cold for it. And you will be celebrated on FB too for these 😉
  10. Photography – Everything looks so beautiful on a snowy day. And colors pop out due to the brilliant contrasting landscapes. Wear mittens which has a flap/zipper to expose your fingers to click when necessary 🙂

Every snowfall is different as is every snow flake which falls from the sky. Jump around and listen to the music your feet makes on the snow. Make snow angels, go sledding, throw snowballs and take videos of hot water evaporating in sub-zero temperatures. They are all fun activities with loved ones which make you smile and create memories 🙂

If none of these made sense to you, you should reflect back on your thoughts to see what exactly you are cribbing about. Nothing stops life being led a normal way in the twin cities, not even the worst of winters. Start living your own today!

– D of DMad

Scotland – Where everything is in green-scale!

I have to start this post with the wordings of R.L.Stevenson to describe this poetic land of beauty – Scotland and the Isle of Skye –

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
      Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
      Over the sea to Skye.

I had always fantasized about this magical place and when we got the chance to travel the UK, I wanted Scotland to be in the itinerary even if it meant that we would have only 4 days to take in most of what this place had to offer.

Since we had very few days to explore we flew into Edinburgh and flew out of Inverness. We spent a day in Edinburgh and the youth hostel we stayed at was right behind the castle. While in Edinburgh, walk the city! I cannot describe in words how beautiful this city is. Hence, I will refrain from writing about this city and you will understand. Oh except if you are frantically searching for the statue of the terrier in Greyfriars cemetery, (spoiler alert) it is outside the cemetery not inside 😛

Raod trip begins –

This is the route we took during our road trip in Scotland. We drove during the day everywhere and stopped at small towns and scenic overlooks. We saw large fields of yellow (canola fields), castles, small towns and beautiful scenery. We took the longer scenic route to Mallaig and entered Skye via the Mallaig – Armsdale ferry. The scenic beauty which unfolds as you drive from Fort William to Mallaig is worth the decision you made to take the longer route; do this!

Quiraing, Isle of Skye

Things not to miss in Isle of Skye- Continue reading “Scotland – Where everything is in green-scale!”

Fall is in the air! – My top picks for fall color destinations in US.

Midwest –

1. Upper Peninsula, MI

The drive from Porcupine Mountain State Park to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore through the beautiful fall clad cities of Marquette and Munising. Check for fall color reports here – http://www.michigan.org/fall/

2. Northshore drive, MN

The stretch from Duluth up north to Lustsen mountain is gorgeous. The view from atop the Lutsen mountain is spectacular! MN fall color report – http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html

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Pic: Fall 2012 in Minneapolis, MN

3. Bayfield, Iron mountain, WI

You have so many options other than the above two favorites. Devils lake state park and Door county are equally beautiful if not more. Wisconsin by far has the best travel site which reports fall colors – http://www.travelwisconsin.com/fall-color-report

East Coast –

1. New England

Anywhere and everywhere in New England during fall it’s charming! My favorites – Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, Acadia National Park and Franconia State Park. To track peak colors use their forecast map – http://www.yankeefoliage.com/peak-foliage-forecast-map/

Southwest –

1. Colorado

Golden Aspens cover the entire state of Colorado and I am going this year to take in the beauty. My plan is to drive around Aspen and Gunnison area and to aid me in this hunt will be this site – http://denver.about.com/od/familyactivities/tp/Colorado-Fall-Foliage.htm

Photography Tip – To bring out the colors, try to shoot during those hours when the sun is not directly above your head.

Email us @ d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more info.

-D of D-Mad

Rocky Mountains of Colorado!

Colorado is one state in US which is extremely beautiful year round! We had the privilege of visiting this state in summer when the mountains were lush green with streams full and flowing as well as being buried knee deep in snow when we tumbled down the back bowls of Vail in our attempt to ski the ungroomed black diamonds. And both times it was beyond beautiful.

  1. If it is your first time going to Colorado, THIS is the route I would take.Drive west on interstate 70 on the winding roads and through the tunnels as you take in the beautiful scenery all the way till Glenwood springs. Why Glenwood springs? To hike to see the spectacular hanging lake! And take a dip in the largest hot water spring pool in the country!Image
  2. Stop at the Vail village and experience the charm of this quaint German town.
  3. Make your way to the gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park. Enter through Kawuneeche Visitor Center in case the Trail Ridge Road is open. (It is closed in winter).
  4. Drive through the trail ridge road taking in the scenery. There are a lot of vista points and hiking trails here. In winter, you will have to enter and exit through Estes Park area.
  5. Reach the Estes park area of the National park to watch the herd of Elks grazing during sunset. 3 lakes not to miss – Sprague lake, Bear lake and Emerald lake.
  6. Drive to Denver through Boulder. Denver downtown is pretty pretty with some good places to eat especially in the LoDo area.

Ideal time to visit  – Beautiful and unique year round.

Number of Days – 3 full days

Misc Tip – Buy a national Park Annual pass if you are planning on visiting more than 3 parks. It is valid for a year and can be used in all National parks in US and costs $80.

Email us @ d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more info :)  For pictures – D Mad Photography (Album : Landscape)

– D of D-Mad

Top 10 : Biking Trails within Twin Cities, MN

We took part in MS-150 last year loved it more because we could explore a new biking route for us to train. Here is the list of our Top 10 routes –

  1. Dakota Rail trail – This is one of my most favorite trails as it has less distractions in terms of stop signs and crowd  and most distractions in trms of beauty!
  2. Grand Rounds Scenic Byway – As the name suggests, it is very grand and scenic though very crowded around the lakes.
  3. East River Parkway – This winding route is along the mighty Mississippi River on the east bank where University of Minnesota is.
  4. West River Parkway – This is also along Mississippi River in Minneapolis with beautiful bluffs and has many historic and scenic pit-stops. Image
  5. Lake Minnetonka LRT Reginal Trail – Very beautiful unpaved trail where you can see turtles on the trail and deer running along.
  6. Cedar Lake LRT Regional Trail – This runs between Downtown and Hopkins and is very good training trail.
  7. Luce Line Trail – A very long and scenic unpaved trail!
  8. N Cedar Lake Trail – This runs parallel to the Cedar Lake regional trail and joins Kenilworth trail to meet Downtown Minneapolis.
  9. Midtown Greenway – Double thumbs up to this trail as the trail is maintained year round and you see bikers in both snow and shine! Also it connects most of the trails I have mentioned here.
  10. The Gateway State Trail – This trail originates in St Paul and takes you to the beautiful city of Stillwater!

Write to us @d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more details or if you want to join us to explore more routes.

_D of D-Mad

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