After my second winter at McMurdo Station I had 4 months off to travel before heading to my next contract at Palmer Station.
This year I began my travels in New Zealand where I was left off by the Air National Guard. From there I traveled through South and Central America visiting many countries along the way.
In New Zealand I relaxed in Christchurch for a week and enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables. Afterward, I traveled to Stewart Island where I hiked the Rakiura Track, a beautiful three day hike on a remote island at the very south of New Zealand. I was able to stay at camping huts along the way so I only had to bring a sleeping bag and food which made it very convenient. On the hike I met a lot of interesting people from all over who were also traveling around New Zealand.
From New Zealand, I traveled to Santiago, Chile with one of my friends from McMurdo Station. We rented a car to go to the beach at Valparaiso and to see the milky way in the Andes.
Next I traveled by bus from Santiago to Mendoza, Argentina. It was a great experience traveling across the Andes and seeing the climate change. From Mendoza I flew to Buenos Aires where I met a friend from San Francisco, enjoyed the city life, and took some Spanish classes where I met a lot of other travelers. After Buenos Aires, I traveled to Uruguay by ferry to see Montevideo, and then flew to Ecuador to see the Galapagos Islands with my parents.
The Galapagos were very beautiful. My parents and I were there during calving season, and we saw a lot of baby sea lions. We also saw lots of blue footed boobies, sea turtles, crabs, and lizards. On my way out of the Galapagos I said goodbye to my parents and relaxed in Quito for a few days.
From Quito I flew Columbia to see Bogotá and Cartagena. These cities in Columbia have beautiful historic districts and were very interesting to explore.
From Cartagena, Columbia, I took a sailboat to Panama City via the San Blas Islands. This was a 4 day voyage and was one of the highlights of the trip. There were 9 passengers on board and it was very beautiful being on the sea, snorkeling, exploring the little islands, and eating fresh seafood.
Once I made it to Central America, I saw Panama, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. I would have liked to see Nicaragua but the political situation there made me decide to skip it and spend more time in Guatemala.
The highlights of Central America for me were seeing Panama City and Antigua Guatemala. I had few friends join me in Guatemala, where we saw the striking ruins at Tekal, and then visited beautiful lake Atitlan.
Overall the trip was a huge success. I really enjoyed my time and I left revitalized and excited to head back to work!