Posts Tagged ‘luggage’

From Bonaire to the Antarctic by Way of Aruba

February 5th, 2010 at 10:30 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

Today was day 1 of our five week journey to visit the Antarctic region. As we live on the small Caribbean island of Bonaire, a mere 12 degrees or so north of the equator, we’re actually already a lot closer to the Antarctic than perhaps any of the other people we will be meeting in Santiago for our group trip. But being closer does not mean it’s any easier to get to southern South America.

After researching our options, which including the possibility of flying four or five hours all the way up to the U.S. only to fly all the way back south, or the option of having a 15 hour connection in Guayaquil, Ecuador or Quito, Ecuador, we found that we could fly relatively painlessly from neighboring Aruba (only 80 miles west of Bonaire) to Santiago, Chile. From a travel time and hassle perspective, never mind price, this ended up being the best option.

The Traveling Richters at the Bonaire airport with 8 pieces of luggage and four carry-ons

The Traveling Richters at the Bonaire airport with 8 pieces of luggage and four carry-ons

What we didn’t count on was the challenge of getting all four of us and our luggage to Aruba from Bonaire. The problem is that the only planes that fly between islands are all relatively small and that means they too have luggage restrictions. After researching those options last month we finally settled on Tiara Air, which offers a roundtrip flight several times a week between Bonaire and Aruba, non-stop between the islands. We were able to arrange a deal where we purchased two additional seats (for a total of six) to ensure that we would not have to pay additional luggage fees, and a guarantee that all of our luggage would make it on the flight. The only downside was that we could only fly today, and could not change tomorrow’s flight from Aruba to Santiago, so we had to schedule an overnight in Aruba.

Our Tiara Air flight from Bonaire to Aruba - a Short 360-100 aircraft

Our Tiara Air flight from Bonaire to Aruba - a Short 360-100 aircraft

Tiara Air came through for us today, and we greatly appreciate it. The Short 360-100 aircraft they use for the flight is comfortable enough, although a bit tight for people with long legs, and the flight was quite smooth and short (45 minutes).

Aerial view of Kralendijk, Bonaire with a cruise ship in port

Aerial view of Kralendijk, Bonaire with a cruise ship in port

We arrive in Aruba at aircraft pad 13, where a bus takes us to the terminal

We arrive in Aruba at aircraft pad 13, where a bus takes us to the terminal

Once we arrived in Aruba, we grabbed our luggage, headed to our hotel in nearby Oranjestad, checked in and then went out in search for lunch. We found our meal right next door to our hotel at a place called “Cafe The Plaza”. The food quality and service was reasonable, but nothing really exciting.

After that we went out to find a pair of closed toed waterproof slip-ons for Bas, as he had outgrown his old set of Crocs. It took more than a half dozen beach-oriented stores to find a pair of Croc knock offs that fit him and were not in an offensive color (e.g. pink). He ended up with blue ones, as that was the only color available in his size.

As we wandered about in search of the shoes, we started noticing an over-abundance of jewelry stores. By my estimation, in the half hour of wandering we did to find the shoes and return to our hotel, we saw at least 15 jewelry stores. We were completely dumbfounded at how it might be possible for all of them to survive with such competition. I guess there’s a lot of loose money floating around here from somewhere.

Getting back to our room Linda discovered that both of the pairs of polarized Oakley sunglasses she had purchased in Chicago last summer were missing from her luggage, and while she believes this was a nefarious deed, we found nothing else missing. So, we ran out to a nearby sunglass shop and bought her some replacement glasses. She’ll need them when looking at ice, snow, and icebergs in about a week.

Linda buys two new sets of polarized sunglasses to replace the ones she can't find in the luggage

Linda buys two new sets of polarized sunglasses to replace the ones she can't find in the luggage

We capped off the evening with a couple of rousing games of Five Crowns, and dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant (which employed only South Americans and Filipinos) by the name of Sushi-ya. Nice meal!

Dinner at Sushi-ya - we had the 'Sashimi de-luxe'

Dinner at Sushi-ya - we had the 'Sashimi de-luxe'

All the selected photos from the day (which includes those above and a number more) have been uploaded to my Flickr page.

I will mention that I probably will not be writing as detailed daily commentaries as this one once we’re further south due to time and bandwidth restrictions, and that will also, in turn, limit the number of photos I can share. So please don’t expect huge daily missives from us, but if you get aone occasionally, enjoy!

The next post will probably be late on Sunday after we’ve arrived in Santiago and spent the day out and about.

 

Antarctic Preparation – Done!

January 29th, 2010 at 2:40 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

The various members of The Traveling Richters have spent the last week or so staging our luggage and carry-ons for our upcoming trip to the Antarctic, and I’m pleased to report that we are pretty much done. We’ve also watched a couple of movies/documentaries about Antarctic exploration to help get us in the mood.

Several situations have overlapped to make our packing complicated, including the fact that we will be spending almost two weeks in tropical climes (Aruba and Chile – temperatures from around 70°F / 21°C to 88°F / 31°C), and over three weeks in cold to temperate climes in the vicinity of the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia Island, and the Falkland Islands (temperatures from about 20°F / -4.5°C  to  50°F / 10°C). And also, as I have been bemoaning, the restrictions on carry-on and checked luggage.

Our art gallery floor serves as a staging area for our Antarctic luggage

Our art gallery floor serves as a staging area for our Antarctic luggage

However, with Linda’s excellent planning, and Bas’ willingness to carry much of my camera gear as his carry-on, we have tackled and conquered all of these factors.

My Antarctic-only bag, unpacked so I could inventory it

My Antarctic-only bag, unpacked so I could inventory it

Each of us has two pieces of luggage. One piece contains things we will only need for the cooler portion of our exploration – we’ve dubbed this the Antarctic bag, and it is limited to 33 pounds of weight. I’m the only one that has reached that limit. Everyone else seems to have come in below that.

The absolutely best travel tool ever - the Balanzza luggage scale - showing a perfect 33 pounds for my bag

The absolutely best travel tool ever - the Balanzza luggage scale - showing a perfect 33 pounds for my bag

The second bag is our multi-destination bag, and includes clothing and other items that apply in both sets of climates we’ll be frequenting.

My other piece of luggage, with things for both warm and cold climes

My other piece of luggage, with things for both warm and cold climes

We are each also allowed one carry-on. Mine consists of my computer, a GPS, and my Kindle DX and not much else. Bas has a bag with all my extras (camera gear mostly). Linda has my small VAIO P notebook computer, which she plans on using as her computer during the trip, and Krystyana has her own set of camera gear.

Not ever having been pretty much ready with our luggage more than a week prior to a trip, the current situation is a bit weird. We feel like we should be doing more, but there’s not much more to do for the trip. Instead, we are merely focusing on wrapping up various projects that cannot wait until our return in mid-March.

Jake models a balaclava he plans on wearing during his Antarctic exploration

Jake models a balaclava he plans on wearing during his Antarctic exploration to stay warm

With respect to the research we’ve been doing on the Antarctic, in additional to some interesting books on the subject, we have also watched three movies/documentaries, as well as reviewed various web site. Some of these items are listed below:

Movies/Documentaries:

  • The Last Place On Earth – Mini-series about the rivalry between Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen to reach the geographic south pole. For those that don’t know, Amundsen was the first human to reach the South Pole, on December 14, 1911, 35 days before Scott. Amundsen and his men survived, while Scott and four of his men died on the return. The series provides a fascinating insight (don’t know how true) of how Scott’s autocratic behavior and poor planning doomed his mission, while Amundsen’s slightly more democratic approach to his men, along with much better preparation allowed him to succeed. Ironically, Scott’s death made him a hero, and vilified Amundsen at the same time. The mini-series is based on a book of the same name by Roland Huntford.
  • Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure – 40 minute documentary narrated by Kevin Spacey on Ernest Shackleton‘s unsuccessful and harrowing expedition to attempt to cross the Antarctic continent on the Endurance in 1914-1916. Beautiful video footage, and a reasonable summary of Shackleton’s incredible adventure, but we found the presentation of the adventure less dramatic than what the diaries and stories of Shackleton and his men portray. Was a bit too pat for our liking.
  • March of the Penguins – Tells the story of a year in the life of emperor penguins (which we will not see on our trip). Great documentary both in terms of explaining the overwhelming natural challenges facing emperor penguins during their annual attempt to create and raise their offspring. There are some nice extras on the Blu-ray version of the movie we watched, including a section on how they used the National Geographic CritterCam to get an idea of how emperor penguins feed underwater.

Books:

  • Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing. First published in 1959, it’s the account of Shackleton’s voyage in the 1914-1916 time frame based on the diaries and oral reports of the members of Shackleton’s expedition, every single one of whom survived (which, considering the ordeals they faced, is what’s truly incredible).
  • The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition by Caroline Alexander. Great complement to Lansing’s books as it provides a large number of photographs taken during the expedition as well as many more personal excerpts from various crew member diaries. I would highly recommend reading both books on the subject.
  • The Crystal Desert: Summers in Antarctica by David G. Campbell. In depth explanation of the climate, flora, and fauna of Antarctica. I have not read it yet (it’s next on my list), but Linda gives it a thumbs up. If you want to learn about Antarctica’s natural history and ecosystem, this is the book to read.
  • An Adventurer’s Guide to Antarctica and the Subantarctic Islands by Marilyn J. Landis Flanigan. Covers the human history of the region in extensive detail, interleaved with a large number of photos by the author (an admitted Antarctica-addict), and includes information about the Falkland Islands as well. Only available on the Kindle, apparently.
  • Perishing Poles – Horrible Geography by Anita Ganeri & Mike Phillips. Part of the excellent Horrible Histories series for kids, published in the U.K. This was Bas’ favorite book about Antarctica because it has all the facts, plus all the gore.

Web Sites – these are only a few of the dozens we have visited (we didn’t keep records):

That’s it for now. Unless some other cool travel thing pops up, the next message will be from Aruba in a week.

 

Antartica Preparations Continue – Muck Boots and Custom Luggage

January 20th, 2010 at 3:04 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

The surprising and distressing news last week that we each needed to pack ourselves into two smaller bags of no more than 33 lbs. each instead of one 66 lb. bag for our flight from Santiago, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina to connect with our boat, the Lindblad National Geographic Explorer, caused us quite a bit of consternation. We personally have tons of large luggage, but not enough mid-sized bags without wheels or other weight-increasing features to manage under these newly disclosed requirement. If we lived in a place with ample shopping options it would not have been a big deal, but here on Bonaire our luggage selection is severely limited – after all it’s an island with only 15,000 people on it, and not much shopping diversity of any sort. That was evident after stops in several local stores, none of which had anything remotely close to the sort of luggage we needed.

As a last resort we went to visit our friend, Marlis Seelos Schmid, who runs Marlis Sail & Canvas to see what she might have for us. We found a dive gear bag that was the right size, but of the wrong material (it was a mesh to let water drop out). As it happened, Marlis had just been to the Antarctic within the last couple of years and gave us great advice on what we would need. The end result is that we are having her make four custom bags made in the same dimensions as a dive gear bag, but with colorful umbrella cloth so we can spot the bags a mile away. Should be taking delivery of them today. They will be shown in a future post about our packing and staging efforts.

Speaking of colorful, one of the items we have been told in no uncertain terms that one of the most important pieces of gear we need to bring on our trip to the Antarctic are high, waterproof, warm boots, and that there are none better than Hi Arctic Sports boots from Muck Boots.

Hi Arctic Sport Muck Boots

Hi Arctic Sport Muck Boots

However, we realized that everyone on board the boat would have the same boots, and while my size 13s might stand out a bit, even that might not be enough to find our boots after they get hosed down upon our many returns from landings in the Zodiacs.

Fortunately, living on a scuba diving island, we have an advantage when it comes to marking aquatic sports gear. One of the local dive shops, Bruce Bowker’s Carib Inn carries special paints that folks can use to mark their fins. And, as it turns out, those paints work pretty darn well on Muck Boots as well.

Linda and the kids decorate our Muck Boots for our Antarctic trip

Linda and the kids decorate our Muck Boots for our Antarctic trip

So, without further ado, below are our now truly unique and identifiable Muck Boots for our Antarctic expedition.

Linda's Muck Boots feature frogs, as Linda is a major frog fan

Linda's Muck Boots feature frogs, as Linda is a major frog fan

Jake's Muck Boots - Yin Yang

Jake's Muck Boots - Yin Yang

Krystyana's Muck Boots feature elegant design

Krystyana's Muck Boots feature elegant design

Bas' Muck Boots are a cacophony of symbols of a video gaming youth

Bas' Muck Boots are a cacophony of symbols of a video gaming youth

And here are the special paints we used in case any of you are similarly inspired.

The special paints we used to decorate our Muck Boots

The special paints we used to decorate our Muck Boots

 

The Problem With Luggage

October 5th, 2008 at 10:23 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

My excuse for having bigger and heavier luggage than the rest of my family is simply that I am bigger and heavier and thus my clothes take up more space and weigh more. I mass about 80% more than Krystyana or Linda, and am another foot or so taller than either of them. And Bas is far behind them, for now. I think I have a good excuse, but the rest of The Traveling Richters are skeptical.

But my own luggage aside, the single biggest challenge we all find in packing is that our trips tend to cross over a variety of climates and situations, meaning that for one part of a trip, shorts, flip flops, and t-shirts might suffice, while for another part of the same trip we might need heavy weight, all-weather jackets and hiking boots. And on top of that, we might also require elegant clothes for a formal dinner or event. And all that adds up to a lot of stuff and therefore a lot of luggage.

We have found only two viable solutions to this problem of lots of luggage. The first is to plan shorter, more distinctly targeted trips. But that’s just no fun. And besides, it can get quite a bit more expensive for all those extra plane tickets, and it wastes a lot of flying time having to revisit areas that are relatively near each other. The other solution – the one we have adopted – is to just find a way to cope with all the luggage.

But coping with lots of luggage, even if it’s mostly hand luggage, has a sort of domino effect. It affects a number of other variables in the chain of travel.

Probably the biggest impact we find with having lots of luggage applies to the size of vehicle we need to rent or hire for our journeys on terra firma. And the few times we have tried to economize and rent something like a four door full-size sedans, it has always caused problems.

And thus, today we find ourselves in yet another situation which might have been avoidable had we bit the bullet for an exorbitant rental fee for the size vehicle we wanted.

Several months ago, when we first started planning our Canadian Maritimes, we were looking for how we might be able to get from Halifax, Nova Scotia to the U.S.A., and discovered that we could actually rent a vehicle in Halifax and drive it all the way down Boston over four weeks. However, we also learned that for the rental fees involved, we could also afford to buy at least a couple of brand new Indian Tata Nano cars, except they don’t sell them in Nova Scotia as far as we know.

After working on a bunch of alternatives, we decided to rent a four door full sizes vehicle – something like a Ford Taurus – for the first two weeks our of journey, which would get us from Halifax to Bar Harbor, Maine, and there we would switch to a minivan to accommodate the shopping we’d inevitably end up doing along the way as well as having more space to carry family members during our end of the month reunions. Doing this saved us the price of one of those Tata Nano cars and we were pleased with our ingenuity.

We felt confident we could manage to pack ourselves such that all of our luggage and non-critical carry-ons could fit in the trunk of the full size car, but this morning, as we looked at what we packed as we checked in our luggage at the airport, we starting having doubts. Then we made the foolish mistake of letting the kids get new Dash roller bags at Brookstone’s in the Newark airport. Finally, as we waited for our flight to Halifax, we came to the realization that we would never manage to fit everything comfortably, or even uncomfortably, into the sedan we had waiting for us in Halifax.
We made a call to our travel agent to find out if we could upsize at this late date, but the prospects are looking dim – the next two vehicle sizes up are sold out, and the rental car company now will not rent us an SUV to be taken out of the country. Fortunately, we actually don’t need a rental car available until Wednesday morning, so that buys us a bit of time to find a solution. But at the present, we find ourselves set up for two weeks of driving in the Canadian Maritimes without a vehicle.

However, The Traveling Richters are up to just about any challenge, and surely we can overcome this one.

On a different note, during our nearly eight hour layover in Newark Liberty Airport, we rested, played some games (SET and Five Crowns – great family games), had a very nice steak lunch at Gallagher’s Steak House, and Bas enjoyed his first ever foot massage at the airport spa (and the rest of us had a variety of treatments too, of course).

It’s bed time here in Halifax, which is presently an hour earlier than the U.S. east coast, so that’s enough writing for today. More tomorrow on our travel travails.

Last minute update: The taxi from the Halifax airport to our hotel was a Lincoln Town Car, and we fit our luggage in that just right, so we’re having our travel agent hunt something that size down for us.