Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The longest train tunnel in the world

Switzerland: Exclusive Journey of Discovery

The Gotthard Base Tunnel, the longest train tunnel in the world, enters into service on 11 December 2016. Prior to this, the record-breaking construction will be more accessible than ever, but only for a limited period: from 2 August 2016, passengers may descend into the once-in-a-century construction on exclusive tunnel rides - disembarkation in the depths of the mountain included. The special "Gottardino" train only runs until 27 November 2016 and the number of tickets is limited.

The test operation of the Gotthard Base Tunnel is in full swing. The handover of the longest train tunnel in the world by constructor Alp Transit Gotthard AG to its future operators, Swiss Federal Railways SBB, will take place in two months' time, on 1 June 2016, after 17 years of construction.

Catching a train deeper into the mountain than ever before

Before regular operations of the Gotthard Base Tunnel commence on 11 December 2016, SBB is giving customers the opportunity to admire the interior of the once-in-a-century construction. From 2 August to 27 November 2016, the special "Gottardino" train will carry visitors to a record depth in the rock of the Swiss Alps. A special stop will be made at the multifunction station in Sedrun. Here, 800 metres below the surface, a tour will vividly demonstrate the dimensions of the gigantic tunnel system.

Once trains are travelling through the Gotthard Base Tunnel at high speed, a stop in the middle of the tunnel will no longer be possible. Thanks to the new north-south connection, regions and neighbouring countries on both sides of the Gotthard Tunnel will move closer together. From the end of 2016, passengers will cross the Alps in the new tunnel in only 20 minutes and reach their destination faster than ever.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cruising the Amazon River

Howlers, screamers and the perfect pisco sour

Guest blogger Louise Southerden [] travels to the Peruvian Amazon with Lindblad Expeditions.

“Anybody been to the Galapagos?” asks expedition leader Carlos Romero at the first night’s briefing aboard the Delfin II, a 14-cabin luxury river vessel and our floating hotel for the next eight days. A few hands go up. “Forget it. Forget about [blue-footed] boobies in the middle of the walking tracks. This is the Amazon. Here, you have to work to see the animals.”

Delphin II, Lindblad. (Picture by Richard Maack

Rainforest walk (picture by Louise Southerden).
He’s right, but it’s our Peruvian naturalists who do the hard yards. They make it look easy. Every dawn and dusk, we board purpose-built skiffs to explore narrow creeks off the main rivers, puttering quietly so as not to disturb birds with names as colourful as their feathers – horned screamers, speckled chacalacas, white-headed marsh tyrants – and monkeys (platoons of squirrel monkeys, solitary howlers). Some days we go ashore to hike in the rainforest and visit villages that have no road access; we also get to kayak and swim with pink river dolphins in piranha-free lakes.

Howler Monkey (picture by Louise Southerden).
And after every outing, the Delfin II welcomes us back with hot showers, fine dining and on-board activities such as talks and cooking demonstrations, including one on how to make the perfect pisco sour, Peru’s national drink. (The secret? Shake it while dancing to some Afro-Peruvian tunes.) The best part is knowing that when we wake up the next morning, we get to put on gumboots and insect repellent and head out again to explore another corner of the world’s last great green wilderness.

How to do it: Lindblad Expeditions runs 10-day 'Upper Amazon Aboard the Delfin II' trips all year round, for a maximum of 28 guests at a time, departing from Lima. See