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Into the Jungles of Peru

Vast Amazonian jungle is not always the first thing that comes to mind when people imagine Peru. However, the Peruvian Amazon covers 60% of the country and a remarkable 96% of its fresh water eventually drains into the Amazon basin.

During our last excursion to Peru we explored the land of the Incas, ventured up the highest inhabited place on earth, and ate our way through Lima, South America’s culinary capital, so we figured it was time to return to Peru and head into the jungle.

This time I had a Peruvian friend, Marissé, who was willing to accompany me on a jungle adventure. She has family in Lamas, a enchanting town in the hills near Tarapoto. So we decided to head there and make a few stops along the way.

The sweltering jungle rainforest metropolis of Tarapoto lies at the edge of the Andean foothills and the boundless jungle. The muggy streets are packed with mototaxis, three wheeled motorcycles, and stalls piled high with fresh fruit.  The locals almost sing when they speak Spanish and are exceedingly friendly.

Tarapoto is popular vacation destination for Peruvians, usually the gringos head to Iquitos.  During the 80’s Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) terrorized the Amazon jungle and the central highlands. Years of coca cultivation and trafficking followed in these regions. Thus for many years large areas in Peru were off limits to travelers, but now it  is mostly safe and the burgeoning Peruvian middle class is taking advantage of the their country’s natural wealth.

The jungle is worlds away from the chaos of dusty Lima and the breathless colonial, Andean cities. It is a land of plenty. Seemingly every plant can be eaten or used in some way.  There will always be dinner. What they lack in modern amenities they more than make up for in spirit. No trip to Peru is complete with out a journey into the jungles of Peru.

Albanian Adventure

I never expected to end up in Albania, but once I did, and tasted the delicious burek and coffee, met wonderful people and experienced the untapped beauty, I had a difficult time leaving.

Albania was under the tight grip of communism for nearly 50 years. Enver Hoxha ruled the country with an iron fist as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces from 1944 until his death in 1985.  During his rule Albania declared itself the first atheist state and destroyed many religious artifacts.  Communist rule collapsed in 1991 and the country has been rapidly opened itself up to the world since.

Now it is a land of opportunity,  just starting to crank it into high gear.  You can sense an eagerness to embrace western culture.  Unfortunately corruption runs rampant and the average salary is hovering around $300 a month.  This does make the country cheap for travelers who can take advantage of the wealth of natural beauty and history.  The best part is that you can do it without running into any other tourists.  Lets go on a journey back to the days when coffee and tobacco ruled and family was the only law. Visit now before its too late.

A Gathering for the Ages

Symbiosis Gathering

Photos by Nick Neumann.  Intro by Rourke Healey


Symbiosis Gathering is a transformational music and art festival held in California.  With headliners from Emancipator to Tipper it was truly one of the most impressive psychedelic dance parties imaginable. Over four days, 15,000 people from all walks of life came together to get weird.

Symbiosis could not be described better than a collection of people doing the absolute most. The effort and passion that was put into Symbiosis shined through best in the stages and art installations.

It was not the art, structures or music alone that make Symbiois Gathering, but also the people. The ones who wander into camp to roll J’s, paint faces or offer drinks. The people that introduce themselves to whoever they sit next to. The hilarious porto-potty conversations. The people that compliment you. The ones that invite rather than exclude. The ones that glow and express themselves to the fullest. It was hard to find a soul that wasn’t dancing, content or caring for others. And it was your one job, as a participant, to return the favor to everyone around you.

What ever Symbiosis participants did, they seemed to do it with the most effort. From costume dress up to unique dancing. Indulgence, though wildly abundant, was second to experience and contribution. With DIY and interactive art, participants felt as much a contributor as event promoters.

This phenomenon seems part of a growing trend of west coast events that uniformly lack authority, encourage individualism and offer nothing but good vibes. Spawned from the ideals of Burning Man, Symbiosis participants are allegoric to confrontation and refuse to judge. With some of the same art and many of the same faces, Symbiosis felt much like it’s sister festival, Lightning In a Bottle. The two events appeared coordinated in their defiance against mainstream festival values such as consumption and documentation.

The wave of these ‘be yourself’ festivals is a beautiful thing. But what makes this truly special is that there is nowhere else in the world like this. Nowhere can you escape for four days to a lake with thumping music, insanely expressive and welcoming people and be free from expectations like this. Not even the east coast of the U.S. can match this. Its almost like California is making a statement: We are California and we are going to party exactly how we want to.

Thank you Symbiosis Gathering. See you next time for the Eclipse.

Quito: The Colonial Heart of the Andes (Pictures)

The colonial heart of Quito Ecuador may be the most impressive concentration of historical buildings in the entire Western Hemisphere. Nestled between the snowcapped Andes, hundreds of years of history are packed into the narrow cobblestoned streets, the chaotic plazas and the aging churches of this Latin gem. The old town contains enough sights to occupy a few weeks of your time, but the real joy of Quito is to simply wander and let the city guide you. Stop for a canelazo, a warm cinnamon and citrus alcoholic drink, somewhere along a cobble stoned back alley, or sit in the numerous plazas and just watch 500 years of Ecuadorian life pass you by. Markedly more developed than most South American capital cities, Quito provides to perfect mix of history, Latin grit and international sophistication. Besides being a fascinating city unto itself, Quito provides a perfect base for exploring the pint sized Ecuador.

10582904_10152710407396469_4292822206649074376_oBorn and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.

Buenos Aires: City of Faded Elegance (Pictures)

Everyone will tell you how European Buenos Aires feels, they even go as far as to call it the Paris of South America. This is true to a certain extent, but that’s not telling the full story. Buenos Aires effortlessly blends European sophistication with Latino edginess. The city is both romantic and gritty, chaotic and cosmopolitan all at the same time. There is an energy here on the streets that Europe could only dream of. Fresh immigrants from Nigeria, Paraguay and Korea are adding new faces to the once traditional Italian and Spanish neighborhoods. Restaurants and nightclubs are popping up in neighborhoods that were once considered too dangerous, and while the peso remains low to the dollar, there isn’t a better time to go. Come for the incredible steaks, the wine, and energetic nightlife, but stay for the diverse neighborhoods, the crumbling architecture, and most of all, the people. Beautiful, confident and creative, the Argentines will be the highlight of your trip to this world class city.

10582904_10152710407396469_4292822206649074376_oBorn and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.