Monday, November 23, 2009

The Ultimate Packing List


The Long Awaited, Much Tested, Totally Amazing, Ultimate Backpacker Packing List!

This was started with my friend Liz while in Peru / Bolivia in 2004. We had thought we'd packed really light and fast and easy. That was until we got there and our porters on the Inca Trail were struggling under the weight of our bags. Before we were rushing to a bus with a huge backpack each, and carrying a big duffel bag between us. Before we couldn't put everything onto the 12 seater plane heading into the Amazon and had to leave a LOT of stuff at the hotel.

So it began in South America, and the next year when I went to Southeast Asia I said "I'm going to follow this to the T, and see how it all works out."


It's been slightly modified for different trips, but really just barely. (When we started it we didn't have iPods:).

So here it is, in it's most recent incantation. Obviously you might need to modify it for your particular needs, but don't be fooled into thinking you need a ton more than this. It's much easier and more fun to travel when you aren't trying to carry your house with you on your back. And besides there is no need, the point of the trip is to get away from home.

You might also notice that there is no Cell-Phone, Blackberry, iPhone on here. You don't need it. I have never taken one with me. At first because it would have cost a fortune, but after one trip I realized how wonderful it was to get away from those things. To be free. It's a little scary, and totally awesome.

There is also no Laptop. Most backpacking countries, and developing or developed nations have Internet Cafe's. (That's where I type these updates afterall). And having to worry about a laptop, which is very expensive, and worth more than a month's (or even a year's) income to people in some nations, isn't worth the stress.

The point of this is to give you a good starting point to add or subtract what you need. But stay light and you'll be free to go where you want when you want. I obviously haven't been everywhere, or even close to it, but it's worked for me for where I have been.



By Craig Ouellette and Liz Cornejo (July 2004)

* Indicates the item can be split/shared by partners rather than each carrying their own.

-1 adjustable Internal or External Frame backpack with multiple pockets (approx 3000-4000 cu. Inch)

-1 Wide brimmed hat with String

-2 pair zip offs cargo pants/shorts – dark color – polyester

-3 t-shirts

-1 “nice” shirt (something collared guys)

- 1 "nice" dress, skirt, shirt combo (girls)

-Hiking boots OR dark trail shoes

-Flip flops OR aqua sox OR sandals (only 1 type)

-3 pair underwear

-2 bras (1 nice, 1 sport) (this includes you Jared!)

-3 pair hiking sox (quick dry)

-1 set of sleep clothes

-1 fleece with hood (note, not in hot weather locals)

-1 compressible/portable rain shell

-1 swimsuit

-1 sarong (for use as towel etc)

-Portable toiletries

- hair stuff (clips/braids)

- 1/2 size toothbrush

- travel toothpaste

- travel deodorant

- travel floss

- razor/electric razor

- *nail clippers

- *small shampoo/conditioner

- *small liquid soap

-1 lip balm

-Hand sanitizer (small)

-*bug spray (small)

-*sunscreen (medium and small for daybag)

-fabreeze spray (small)


-Swiss army knife

-waterproof Headlamp

-*language phrase book (unless fluent)

-*Travel Book (Lonely Planet etc)

-travel pillow

-Journal and Pens

-1 paperback book

-Ipod/MP3player (favorites/sing-along/dance selection)

-Money Belt


- ATM card

- Student ID (if applicable)

- Travelers Cheques

- Immunization Records

-2 balance bars per day (okay, snacks of some sort!)

-eye cover


-Long Pad Lock/Pad locks for bags (TSA acceptable)

-4 bungee cords

-Mini Sleeping Bag OR sheet (depends on climate)

-*Game OR cards

-*Frisbee OR small ball to play with

-Small DAY BAG (collapsible is preferred)

-*Power Converter

-Small Digital Camera (Waterproof preferred)

- Extra battery

- Charger

- Memory cards

- Cables

-*Sewing Kit

-*Water Purifying tablets

-*First Aid Kit

- Ibuprofin/asprin

- Anti Diarrhea

- Cold Medicine

- Condoms

-zip lock bags (3 Gallon, 5 quart)

-*mini alarm clock

-2 extra batteries

-watch (with alarm if possible)

-toilet paper wad

-*scotch tape

-*mini scissors


COLD TEMP (add these to list)

-gloves (mid size)

-extra layer (flannel shirt OR sweater)

-fleece pants OR slick sweat pants (wind resistant is better)

-1 warm hat

-1 pair warm socks

-1 scarf

FRIDGED TEMP (add these in addition to Cold Temp items)

-Long Underwear (top and bottom)

-Thick Coat

-Tick Gloves

-Heavier Sleeping bag


Remove from basic list.

-Fleece with hood

-portable sleeping bag

Bring Instead:

-flannel OR light outer layer

-Silk sheet liner OR sheet

3 Rules of Group Travel

Hey Team,

So in my day I've gone solo and I've gone with groups. I enjoy both types of trips, as they both offer different advantages and challenges.

During a group trip to Florida for Spring Break, Senior Year of College I learned a few things. The trip was 5 of us in my tiny Toyota, Corolla. None of us had a lot of money, so we stayed with a recently graduated friend who worked at Disneyworld.

Due to all sorts of reasons the trip was a lot of stress. A lot of disagreements, arguments, even fights (not physical, but verbal) happened due to no one being willing to do what they wanted to do and more or less forcing or guilting other people into doing what they wanted to do.

It's easy for me to point the main blame at one certain guy, but really it was everyone, and me just as much as anyone else who caused the problems.

In the end we made it back to Iowa, and somehow stayed friends, which is kind of amazing when I think of how bad the trip went.

In the end, I came up with two RULES of group travel. The Third was officially added on the recent trip to Australia when we were discussing the RULES of group travel.

Now you might say "Craig, Really, RULES? Should Travel be free and fun and not have RULES associated with it." And I would tell you "Yes, it should. But these RULES will free up any group trip to be what (most) people want it to be. And thus a more memorable happy experience".

There will always be those who disreguard these rules, so I always like to put them on the table before a trip. Sure, I do it in a playful joking way, but by putting them out there, we can always go back to them when disagreements about what we "should" or "want to" do come up.

It's up to you, you can use them or not, but I offer this advice: Ignore them at your own peril.


"Wait, what? We're on a group trip. We should stick together. We should do everything together so we can have the memories."
And I say, with 100% certaintainty, "No, you shouldn't do everything together, and you'll have the memories".

And here's why. When you are with a group it is almost inevitable that different people will want to do different things. Sure, you might like to do a number of the same things together, but it's rare to find someone who wants to do everything someone else does.

Which gets you into the sticky situation of arguing for your point. Sure, it's cool to say why you want to do something, and it's great to try things you might not have thought about, but the issue comes when people will MAKE you do what they want to do. They may be straight forward, or they might be passive agressive, but either way leads to tension and resentment.

Better, when two people want to do different things, and there isn't enough time or desire to do both, to go your separate ways. Yep, split up. You goto the museum all day, and your friend (or wife, or husband) will head to the park and go on the boat tour. You go shop while they watch the circus. Whatever it is. Just set up a time to meet later, dinner, or maybe the hotel that night, and you can both share your adventures, tell your stories, and be grateful you got to do what you wanted to do on your 3 days in Barcelona.

Just because your friends, family, lovers or strangers, doesn't mean you have any idea what the other person wants to do or where they want to go or even how they like to travel. Be sure to tell people what kind of trip you like to have (adventure, culture, partay!), so you can see where you are similar or different. Do this before a trip, to make sure to not end up with a group you can't stand. And do it regularly during the trip. It's okay to take a day off, it's okay to go 110% all the time, but make sure you make it clear to the other people what you're feeling. And don't expect them to join in or want to do the same thing. Respect what they want as well.

And if it all comes down to it, remember rule #1.

For the love of God ,you're travelling. Sure there will be challenges, and setbacks, and your luggage will get lost or you'll hurt your neck or get sick, or you'll have an argument. But really, think of how lucky and blessed you are to be out taking this trip, seeing the world and having these experiences. And if for some reason the people you are with are making you miserable (or you are them), remember you can always split up for a good portion of the trip. Just because you had a plan, doesn't mean you have to stick to it if everything's going to hell.

So that's what I got. RULES.
RULES can get in the way, but here are a few that I think really help out with group trips.

Get out there, grab your friends, and enjoy!

6 Levels of Travel Destinations

I've come up with this rating system (based on English speakers admittedly, but you can apply it to your own language). What purpose does it serve? It can make you figure out what you feel comfortable with, and maybe make you feel good when you take your traveling to the next level.


0. BEGINNER - Traveling in your own country
1. EASY - Traveling in a country with the same language (for USA, such as England, Australia etc) where they have a good tourist services.
2. MODERATE - Traveling in a country with a different language, but good tourist services (see Thailand, or perhaps France). Where perhaps the main tourist track speaks English.
3. ADVANCED - Traveling in a country with a very different language, and not good tourist services (See Russia, Kenya, or Peru if you didn't know Spanish)
4. EXPERT - A country with different language, little to no tourist services, where you have to get local transport, perhaps bribe officials and such. (See Uganda, Bolivia, etc)
5. INSANE = Going to a war zone like Iraq or Somalia. Enough said.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Welcome to Craigotravels

Whew, it's taken awhile, but I finally got all my travel emails into a blog format for easy reading. Feel free to search by trip on the right hand side, or just enjoy at random. As most of you know, blogs go in reverse order, so if you want to read about any of these trips in order, head to the bottom of each section and work your way up.

And head to for more travel tips and fun!

Thanks for stopping by

Friday, March 6, 2009


Get your minds out of the gutter, I'm talking about the beautiful island of Tasmania!

After Team Nails: Australia disbanded at the Holiday Inn Melbourne, I was on my own to head south to Tasmania. It was a 1 hour flight and I land in Launceston (Lawn-sess-ten). Or something like that. It's really hard to say. It's a little town of about 100,000 that feels like it's in Colorado someplace (though the mountains are much smaller).

The best thing about it is that 10 minute walk from downtown there is the GORGE. This totally awesome river gorge where you can hike, swim, rock climb, cross suspension bridges, ride a chair lift and just have a blast in nature. I spent 5 hours + there on my first day, just enjoying the trails and tracks, the views and more. I couldn't exactly swim since it was rainy and about 55 degrees, but it was still really great.

I also rode a bike around the valley a bit and saw some sites.

And naturally had to hit up the University night at the Saloon. Filled with live music and, you guessed it, KARAOKE! I sang a little "Bust a Move" and "Sweet Caroline" for the mates down there. Was fun.

Of course, when I got back to the hostel at 2am some douche was in my bed in the dorm, and since you don't really know who it is that isn't supposed to be in there, (in fact there were 3 guys who snuck in and out and didn't pay that night), it would have been impossible and stupid to wake them up. So, having anticipated this I went to the other room I had a key for, but before I opened the door I heard this couple just going at it (no, not in a fun way, having an argument), so I ended up sleeping in a room with no door that had just been painted where no one else was. I took a sheet off a couch in the hallway (yuck) and it was like 40 degrees that night. Wooo summer! (they actually say it's unusually cold for march).

When I told the cool girl at reception what happened when they opened in the morning, she gave me a free night and a free bike rental and made sure I had a bed for my last night. (in the dorm, nothing as exciting as you might think :).

So my last day was a long bike ride down the valley, past Tamer Island wetlands, with its 2km boardwalk, and out to a town called Grindelwald. A scenic swiss town with food and fun (I was told). So I rode 14 km's on the main road, mostly flat. Then got to the turn off... and one big ass bastard of a hill. 3kms up up and UP! I walked it, it took an hour (ugh). There were plenty of animals to see, Kangaroo, Wombat, somthing else -- of course they were all road kill, but at least I saw them in the wild!

When I finally got to the town, sweating, hot, hungry and exhausted I had to look twice because it was so F'ing small!!! it was this tiny little place, like a hotel, a pond and a little kitchy square with a couple shops and bakery's. I laughed out loud at how f'ing stupid it was. The fact that I worked my butt off to get there is so funny in how rediculous the whole thing is. And on top of that... the restraunt was closed!!!

Fortunately the bakery was open and they had good old Meat Pies. So I got 2 of those, and told the ladies there of my adventure. They say no one comes up that hill on a bike (yeah, cause it's insane!). Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to 18kms back to town. My ass already hurt and legs to. Then one of the ladies, Pat said "Well I'm going back that way, I can take you." YAHOOOOO!!!! So I rode my bike down the hill (had to do that). Took about 4 minutes, maybe less. That was GREAT! Then loaded up the bike in the car and drove back to town. Her names Pat, I took a picture. No email, no nothing. Just a super nice person from the super nice country of Australia.

Sleep 5 hours, after a nice seafood meal at sunset.

Today I got up and flew and flew. To Melbourne, to Aukland (hello New Zealand, that place is gonna rule to visit! I think I saw the marshes outside of Mordor on the flight in!), and there were delays on every flight. So it took 30 hours door to door from hotel to home to get back to the US of A. Ironically I sat in the same row that I rode over to Australia in, and met a cool guy who works at McMurdo base in Antarctica on the way. (next trip... possibly!)

And that's that...


Good old rainy (yep!) home.

The trip was grand, it was fun, full of highlights, laughs, great times with friends. Olga asked if I liked Solo or Group travel better, and they are both very different animals, and both awesome. As for this trip, i couldn't have imagined it any other way. It was awesome to share the adventure with good friends and have memories to share with them. ("when you go rafting, be sure to bring a towel!"). And in fact I'm greatful that I'm able to go with friends to such places. I hope everyone can take some time and get away, go alone if you want, grab some friends if you want. Australia is a wonderful country, safe, friendly as can be mates. We barely scratched the surface of things to do and places to go and see in the land down under, fair dinkum. I mean, we were withing 20 miles of the coast the entire time, and Australia is 3/4's the size of the continental US! There's a lot of land to explore, and a lot of fabulous people to meet. It's really fantastic just how nice and giving everyone is there. Sure they drive on the other side of the road, but you can't fault them for that. They have some funny slang, but that's part of the charm. It would be wonderful if everywhere you could call everyone mate. "G'day mate!" "No worries!" (just like Africa...hmmmm). They are laid back, not pushy, don't seem to get offended at much. Maybe we can all take some lessons from our mate's down under and chill out, lay back and treat each other kindly. They do and things seem to be going well there, fair dinkum. (I have no idea how to spell that:)

So grab your happy hat, saddle up your right handed automobile, and hit the land of Kangaroos and Coral Reefs, friendly people and fancy cities. Australia's got something for everyone, and if you get lost, they'll gladly give you directions and maybe even a ride. Fair Dinkum to that I'd say.

This is Craig Ouellette,

last surviving member of the Nostromo (otherwise known as Team Nails: Australia)

Signing off.

Monday, March 2, 2009


This one is going to be super fast, cause as things are going here in Australia, it's a whirlwind (including the wild wind blowing outside today which will be kicking up those fires again, and people here are very concerned. They don't want a repeat of Black Saturday from last month).

The Great Ocean Road is AWESOME!!!!!!!

We sang the song "Holiday Road" from VACATION, but sang it with "Great Ocean Rooo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-oad!" It was the theme song.

It was great (ha ha) to get out of Melbourne and hit the road. We sang songs, walked in the ocean, saw cliffs and sites and apostles. Had great food, tons of laughs and a really really good time. Visually it's similar to the PCH in California, but that's only the first part. Then the cliffs tower up and things change up a lot. I kept thinking of the song Cliff's Of Dover from Guitar hero.

This was a wild, 2 day road trip. We piled into a toyota Corolla (quite literally the only car available for rent in Melbourne thanks to the wild and crazy QUILT FESTIVAL!!!!) It was a little small, but we made it work and headed out (drivnig on the left of course). We sang songs a lot, everything from Nine Inch Nails ("Down in it, now I'm down in it") to Hadaway ("What is love? Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more"). We had to sing cause there wasn't a lot of radio action out there.

Some of the highlights include walking down 366 steps to the beach, the cliffs towering above as the waves crash on rocks. And we walk up to an anchor from a shipwreck from 1890. There was another from 1871. This is called the shipwreck coast, with over 55 shipwrecks in 150 years. Some huge, some small, all dramatic. The coastline is beautiful, but feeling the wind blow in and the waves roar against the rocks hides an awesome power for which we are helpless against.

At night we drove out of the hamlet of Apollo bay (think a very very small santa barbara) and looked up at the stars. We danced in the road to our own songs (again, no music, at this point my ipod speakers had died), we tried to take pictures of the stars, but as is it doesn't capture how AWESOME they are. It was millions and millions, the milky way was bright, the southern cross up above. And they were bright bright bright. I've seen more in my life (I think), but it's been a long time since i've seen them so bright! Wow! We couldn't help it. "We didn't start the fire!"

We saw the world famous Twelve APostles rocks and climbed down on the beach near them. The waves were AWESOME, and we took some really cool pics as the sun got lower.

We ate some really good food in Apollo bay. Pricey, but everyone's meal was a tasty treat and actually filling! (a plus for me:)

The place was great, but the energy and chemistry we all had made it all the more wonderful. The amount of times we laughed and joked with each other, sometimes picking on each other in the fun way friends can. It was a wonderful, hilarious, song filled good time, that ended with a VERY long drive back in the dark reminicing about Jr. High and High School days with Tom. (Six flags, Car spin outs, old girlfriends and crushes and more). It was the kind of road trip I haven't had in a long time, and am glad it's still out there. Olga said it felt like we were in high school driving in the dark, talknig about silly stuff. And it did. And the great thing is it can, you don't have to stop having fun times with friends just because you have rent or a morgage or a job or "responsibilities". Those things are not exclusive of fun, excitement, wonder, and dancing in the streets.

Speaking of dancing, all the pedestrian crossing signs here look like Michael Jackson's legs from the Thriller days. Black pants, black shoes and white socks. We always get excited knowing that MJ was here, crusing the country, enjoying things. :)

Gotta go, flight to catch. The rest of the crew is gone. They headed out today after a bit of fiasco with airports being closed in the middle of the night and such, but now it's just me. The great TEAM NAILS AUSTRALIA trip is coming to an end. I'm the last one, heading to Tasmania in 2 hours.

The wind is blowing.

It's time to Ramble On...


Friday, February 27, 2009


So here I am in one of the most modern countries I've ever visited, and it's harder than hell to find an internet cafe that's open 24 hours, let alone the time to actually type emails.


We're in Melbourne, capital of Victoria. Land of fires raging and burning all around. There actually isn't any smoke here (though yesterday it was almost 100, and today its 70...sweet). However the fires prevented me from heading up to the foothills today (that and the debacle of finding a rental car when there is a motorcycle grand prix going on). So the fires are very real. Most folks here have brought it up when I've talked to them, so any donations or prayers you have to send this way will be greatly appreciated. (And yes, I have been inspired for my next feature film after this years shoot).

We finally got out of the water, and into the cities. And honestly, I prefer the water. The cities here (Sydney and Melbourne) are both beautiful, modern, filled with great buildings, gardens, parks, people walking all about, harbours and rivers, cafe's and opera houses. Art museums (VERY cool here in Melbourne. The building was awesome, with a waterfall over glass across teh front. You will likely see some of that in the sequel to "Lady CarLove" which we are filming...sort of). Cities great, people nice, but I'm ready for some adventure again. We're heading out on teh great Ocean road for 2 days, so I'll let you know how that is going later.

On Tuesday, after a day of Bondi Beach in Sydney, (amazing waves, beautiful scenery, and some fantastic views of some beach bunnies indeed!). We got ready, and headed off to the HORDERN PAVILLION on the Fox Studios Sydney lot for a little bit of NINE INCH NAILS! It was a great show, with the band only a 4 piece now. Hot as hell, but the people here are so damn nice, even the mosh pits are friendly!. The power went out for about 40 minutes right as Trent started pushing buttons for BURN to start. He said "Let's see what this does?" and out goes the power! So we all sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" and other songs. It was fun.

The next day we fly to Melbourne, get into a hotel a bit outside the city proper but on a very regular tram line (man I wish LA had trams like this). And then off to NINE INCH NAILS! We had to stop at Hungry Jacks, which is a fast food place that looks just like burger king, but has a different name. they sell almost the same things, but this time it has an AUSSIE BURGER. With ham and egg on it!

The show tonight had no power problems, and during the Good Soldier, Trent was playing his tamborine (yes, a tamborine in industrial music!), and I thought "He's going to throw it right to me".

He finished his playing, tossed it in the air and I watched it sail up, and over, and down... and right into my hands!. And NO ONE FOUGHT ME FOR IT! Everyone said "nice job!" "Sweet mate!". Even there they are friendly. In the USA that would have been a fight and a half for that thing.

The next few days were touring around Melbourne and seeing museums and sights. And on Thursday night we hit an AFL game (as in AUSSIE FOOTABALL LEAGUE). It was really fun, big big BIG field, about the size of 3 of our Football fields. And 18 people on each side. We were sitting near some super fans of COLLINGWOOD and some players from another team. So we learned the rules (which are pretty simple) and enjoyed the game. Afterwards everyone cruised back to the hotel but me and I went out and found some KARAOKE!!!! I did a little "Baby Got BacK" and then, because I'd made some new Australian friends at the bar, I had to do "Down Under" by Men at Work. It was silly, but they love it. After all it's almost the national anthem. Some of the folks were from a country band called BOSTOCK, I haven't gotten a chance to check em out, but will when I return. (yes, I said country band:)

Friday ended up with us all doing different things, Tom working on his show he'll be doing tonight, and the others shopping. And as evening came I decided "Screw it, I'm going to the NIN show tonight as well!" They were playing in a festival with Alice IN Chains and other bands. Unfortunatly due to naps and train delays I missed them. But fortunately I ended up with a couple blokes from Melbourne Sky Diving who had free tickets waiting for them... and not all their friends were going. :) They offered me a ticket, as long as I could pretend to be "Sally Baker". I said "It happens all the time. My name's Sal Baker and they call me Sally." A little bit later were heading into the festival for FREEEEEEEEE! NIN had just started, they were on song 3 or 4, and I headed in! During THE FRAIL, this mighty wind picked up and was blowing like crazy. It was really fun. This tour (which may be the last for a long time...or forever, yikes!) they're playins some unusual songs. They've rocked THE FRAGILE all three shows. It stirs up some emotions from back when mom was sick, as that entire CD is about him dealing with the cancer and death of his grandma (who raised him like his mom), so that's been a very powerful and unsual experience to have in a crowd like that. But a good one.

And here I am, getting ready for Tom's bad ass show tonight, and off on teh great ocean road tomorrow...

It's been a fast trip, but a mostly good one. In just a few days everyone goes home and I head of to Tasmania to do some rock climbing and stuff.

A few notes on australia:

1. It's a big country.

2. Everyone is super nice.

3. They actually have more rules and restrictions than the USA. (which I never really thought I would encounter).

4. It's pretty and needs more time to visit.

Anyway, off...

OH, I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to email you guys back who have responded to my reports. I really appreciate hearing from you, but It's been a bit hectic with the coordination with 4 other travelers and we haven't really had easy internet access in all of our places. I'll try to get back to you soon though!

Rock on


Monday, February 23, 2009


and plenty to drink, and swim, and raft and boat and have a blast.

So for the driest continent, Australia has been all about water so far. We swim, we scuba, and now we RAFT!

A full day of whitewater on the Tully! Class 4 rapids and fun.

It was 1 1/2 hours from Cairns (for those of you still wondering how the heck you pronounce this city, it's essentially "Can" or "Cans".)

We took a bus south to a land where they get 30 METERS of rain a year.

But it didn't rain on us. It was hot, sticky and perfect for getting soaked on a river coming down from mountains.

This was the first time Tom had ever rafted,and he got a good one. Our guide was Chris, a dirty mouthed, wild and fun Aussie (who seemed like a bit of a romantic as well, though he probably wouldn't admit it). He also guides in the US on the American River (Brad Riley, you reading this? It turns out that Chris the Aussie knows good old Brad Riley (of Former Feet First DJ company fame (where I work for those of you who don't know)).

Small world indeed.

But enough philosiphizing, let's hit the RIVER!

Chris had a blast with the 3 of us and a girl from Germany. (unorignal, but we all called her "germany"). He flipped us a couple of times on purpose. Which was a bit wild.

But he never did it when there was any real danger (though it sure felt like it when it happened). We paddled, hit some crazy rapids with names like "double D cup", "2 inch" and such. There are stories behind them all, and I'll let you guess what they are for now.

Olga got tossed from the raft when we were "surfing" a rapid, going around and around in the splashing foam. I did the river rescue thing and pulled her up into the boat... and we all took a breath... and she got sucked BACK into the churning waters...and went under the boat. When she popped up on the other side, I grabbed the shoulders of her life jacket, and Tom got one and we yanked her back in the boat again. She says I'll be the Godparent of her kids someday for saving her life. (you're welcome Olga, but don't start having kids to soon).

We had a tasty lunch.

But it was the afternoon that things got really interesting.

Because we flipped completely over in a rapid (first time I've ever been on a raft that flipped like that. It's always been someting intentional, but this one was legitamate!) Boat went over, i went way under and poppled up and we all were able to swim to shore. it was a hell of a lot of fun! :)

There were waterfalls, and other swims, riding class 2 rapids outside the raft. And at the end we went over a waterfall with us all at one end of the boat. it was about 6 feet tall, and Chris FLIPPED the boat end over end. We all went deep and had a good swim.

fun fun...

And the next day we rented a car. Drove on the wrong (right?) side of the road. Which is a very strange experience for anyone who's never done it. And then we went to a cool waterfall. (starts with a "J", but I'm blanking on the name). Where there was a really wide natural rock slide! So we slid down this 25 foot long slide of fun into a nice cool pool surrounded by jungle. Awesome.

and in the afternoon (after finally drying off, been 6 days of swimsuits in a row!), we are off to SYDNEY!

Where it's cooler temperatures. Less humidity. And...


Our first day here we met up with Catherine and her husband Troy. SOme of you might say "Craig, who the heck is Catherine?". Well, she is someone I met on the INCA TRAIL IN 2004!!!! Yep, we kept in email touch for 4 1/2 years and here we are meeting up to go out on their boat into the waterways south of Sydney! CraZy!

At this point Essylt and David have joined us, so there are 5 people in Team Nails Australia!

Catherine and Troy are so cool, they take us to the very nice boat (okay it's her parents boat, but they get to use it!), and we head out into the channels. ride some waves, jump off the top deck into the water, eat some great food, drink some strange drinks, eat some VEGEMITE! (yep, an Australia delicacy made of Yeast extract or something like that). It's bitter and salty. We shoot some video for my next Trespassing On the Lot film, and swim, and dance and sing to DOWN UNDER by Men At Work.

And yes... we were in our swimsuits again.

Water, water everywhere... every day so far!

Gotta go, running out of time on the internet.

Rock on


PS: I'm Sorry for the non BCC's on the last email. I hope it doesn't cause you guys any problems with Spammers.

Thursday, February 19, 2009



it's true...

We swam with the fishes.

LOTS of fishes.

THOUSANDS of fishes.

And Sharks, and Octopus, and Jellyfish by the THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS and then there were the stars... and the dancing stars...

3 days, 2 nights on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Holy Shit.


So, We headed out on a boat called the Reef Experience which brought us out to a bigger, badder ass boat called the REEF ENCOUNTER. This was our live aboard vessel. during this time Tom and Olga got their full Open Water Scuba certification (better than in a pool), and I got to dive 10 TIMES!!!

If you've never gone SCUBA diving before, you owe it to yourself to experience it. It feels like flying, floating, dreaming all at once. It's like you are in some Alien landscape (the mostly beautiful one, and sometimes scary one, not the terrifying hell driven Alien landscape of the movies.:). Anyway...I suggest everyone do it if you can. Tom and Olga kept saying how this was one of the coolest things ever and how they couldn't believe I hadn't told them how cool it was before. (I think I had, but until you do it you just don't know how awesome it is!)

But I'll do my best to tell you about some of the highlights.

The ship was 2 stories, had cabins, a hot tub, a sundeck and a dining room with couches and tables and a bar (not that there was any drinking, everyone is so tired after a day of diving you goto bed by 10pm! wooo! partay!)

But that's not what it's about. it's about the diving (and snorkeling since there are 6 dive slots in a day and you can only dive 4 times in a day for safety reasons). Diving.

I buddied up with a great guy from Germany, Mathias. So most of the times we were together underwater. We had a similar diving style and communicated well with the hand signals and such you have to use underwater. Sometime I also Dove with Marcus, one of the Dive Master Trainies on the ship. He was super cool (also from Germany!)

On one dive we saw an Octopus sticking its head out of a hole. on another a 5 foot shark sitting on the bottom. On another turtles! 5 turles! swimming, sitting on the reef. There are so many fish in so many colors. The reef itself is brilliant, sparkling, dancing in the sun. It's spectacular. We played with clown fish (think "nemo") in their little waving sea anemonie beds. That are kinda sticky. We pickeup sea sponges, that spray sticky white stuff all over. It was pretty awesome. Generally you don't touch most things, but some things you can. there were giant clams, one that was at least 5 feet across.

And then there were the night dives...

Yep. Leaping into the pitch black ocean with only a flashlight to see (and those of your buddies). It makes something that is already surreal turn totally wild. You can see very little. the lights from the boat hover above like ET's UFO landing. Otherdivers are shafts of light slicing the darkness. And when you get away from the other lights, away from the boat, you can black out your light...

... and the dancing stars appear.

They drift around your hands, around your flippers. it's like flying through some strange galaxy, where stars can move and spin and spiral as you go through them. It's like nothing I've ever seen before. If I made F/X like this ina movie, you would think it was fake. But it's not. It's totally real. The death blasts of millions of tiny plankton, bursting with Bioluminescence. WOW.

And on the way back to the boat, in the dark. SHARKS. Lots of them.

Circling beneath the platform. 5-7 feet long.


And for some reason, we weren't scared (until the one swam a few feet below my feet from behind me).

Gray Whalers and White Tip Reef Sharks.

Scary... perhaps.

And no, they don't eat people. :)

And if that were as cool as it got... that would be all you need.

But it gets even BETTER!

6:30am morning dive.

"there's Jelly's in the water"

"Should we wear a wetsuit?"

"No, they're harmless, you can play with them"

So into a floating mass of jellies AS FAR AS YOU COULD SEE.

It was like entering the coolest alien world ever. Floating between these 6-12 inch jelly fish. You could tap the front of them and they would turn. they were going in every direction. And the sunlight glistened through them. I swam below them, looking up at this massive fleet of Jellyfish, the sun going through their clear bodies. Tiny fish swimming around inside them. It was absolutely, amazing.

Now we're back in Cairns. Ready for some dinner and probably white water rafting tomorrow.

But my mind is still underwater... in one of the most amazing places on earth.

Don't miss it, I'm so glad I didn't.

rock on


PS: Tom and Olga got their SCUBA certification here... 3 days. 8 dives on the REEF. Screw the pool! :)

Monday, February 16, 2009


Hey Team!

That's right. We have arrived safe and sound in the land of Oz. (or is it Aus?). It's going to be a great trip.

We are heading out on a 3 day / 2 night dive boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef today, so this is going to be brief. (yes, I'll Tell NEMO hi for everyone!).

Other than 17 hours of flying, we had a little encounter with the Sniffer Dogs at the Brisbaine airport. They were serious about quarantine for food and nuts and carrots and wait, Craig, don't you bring lots of food everytime you go places? Yes I do! But fortunately they left me the balance bars, so I'm going to be okay. (don't worry, Tom and Olga won't get the brunt of Hungry Craig if I can help it.) The dogs also thought that we had some narcotics on us as well, which is sorta silly for all of you who know me since I've never even smoked pot once. Still, a little intimidating to be asked by customs in Australia and make you wonder if someone stuck something in your bag and you're going to end up in an Aussie prison digging ditches for your vacation.

Anyway, gotta hit the reef, just wanted to let you all know I'm safe, sound and I'll keep you updated...

OH, the thing we keep coming back to is how similar Australia is to the USA. It's really uncanny. (don't be offended my Aussie friends :), Obama! Obama!)

Rock on!