And So The Journey Begins

Submitted by Danny Catt on Sat, 2007/01/06 - 4:50am.

And so the journey begins. At the moment I am in Ollantaytambo, Peru. The sky is dark and the town is quiet except for the occasional kaboom from the firecrackers (very large ones I might add) that are being lit in anticipation of a big celebration tomorrow. My Spanish is not very good so I don’t quite understand what the celebration is all about but the town was abuzz this afternoon so I think something big is up!

Locals Celebrating Near Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru
Locals Celebrating Near Ollantaytambo, Sacred Valley, Peru

But alas, before I continue describing my amazing experiences over the past few days in Peru, I should take a few steps back and give you an idea of what this project ‘Catt-Trax 2: Making Global Connections – Antarctica to the Amazon’ is all about. My name is Danny Catt and I am a faculty member in an amazing program, the Fish, Wildlife and Recreation (FWR) program at the BC Institute of Technology, in British Columbia, Canada. I say it is amazing for a number of reasons. I graduated from the FWR program almost 25 years ago, and it was that very program that kick-started me on career that has taken me around the world and back again. As a young lad, I had a dream of working in one of Canada’s national parks, and BCIT’s FWR program gave me the academic background and hands on training to do exactly that. After graduating from BCIT I worked for Parks Canada (Canada’s national park service) in Kootenay National Park, in the Canadian Rocky Mountains for parts of 13 years (mainly in the field of environmental education but with bits & pieces of park planning thrown in for good measure). After BCIT I continued my academic training at Simon Fraser University where I completed a BSc in biology and my MSc in wildlife ecology. I then gained some teaching experience in Indonesia (through a project called the Eastern Indonesia University Development Project sponsored by the Canadian Government) and it was while I was in Indonesia that I had an interview to start teaching at BCIT. I was very fortunate and got the job… and started teaching in the FWR program just over 10 years ago. If any of you reading this BLOG are keen on a career in the management of fish, wildlife and/or parks and recreational lands, and are wondering about what academic path to follow, I encourage you to check out our program at

Now… back to Catt-Trax 2. After you have taught for 5 years at BCIT you are eligible for a leave of absence, also known as a professional development leave or a sabbatical. After my first 5 years of teaching at BCIT I applied for a leave of absence and carried out a special project in Africa and Asia which was called ‘Catt-Trax: A Journey for Sustainability". From January to June of 2002, I journeyed from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt (with a side trip to the Indonesian islands of Bali and Sulawesi). The idea was to increase awareness of the concept of sustainable development as the World Summit on Sustainable Development was taking place in South Africa that year. I traveled and learned and shared my experiences with whomever was keen to follow along. The website for that journey is still up and running and if you want to read about my experiences on that African adventure, I encourage you to check it out. The web address is

I still remember though when I started the original Catt-Trax journey, standing at the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent looking south and wondering what it would be like to visit the southern-most continent on the planet, Antarctica. I put that thought in the back of my mind as I turned northward on my journey to Egypt.

But alas, that original thought (of visiting Antarctica) stuck in my mind for many years. And when it came time for me to be eligible to apply for another leave of absence I decided to put together a proposal that would include visits and experiences in regions of the world that I had not yet visited – including both South America and Antarctica. The theme of this journey is 'Making Global Connections'. My hope is to learn about the broad range of connections we in British Columbia (and across Canada) have with the world around us. These connections can be ecological (such as through the migration of billions of birds each spring and fall between Canada and South America... and yes, I said BILLIONS of birds), economic (through trade between Canada & South America, or through tourism), climatic (ocean currents, wind currents) and even how our decisions at home, in terms of our lifestyle choices, can influence and/or impact the world around us. Examples of these lifestyle choices include the food that we eat (soybean products?), the furniture we buy (from tropical woods?) or our transportation decisions (how much do we contribute to climate change?).

So in a nutshell, that is how the idea came to be and what the journey is all about. I love to learn and share my learning with anyone who cares to listen (or read). So this website, and this BLOG, are all about learning (and sharing of learning). I will be incorporating diary types of entries along with photos and also video clips and sound pieces as well. I will admit right up front that I am quite new to the BLOG world. When in Africa, I did send back weekly updates to BCIT for uploading to the original Catt-Trax website, but this will be the first time that I will be creating and contributing directly to an online journal (this BLOG). Please bear with me as I learn some of the technological tools, the tricks of the trade so to speak. I have the very good fortune this time around to be a part of a special initiative at BCIT called TEK (Technology Enabled Knowledge). There is no way that this website and BLOG would be up and running if it were not for the dedication of some very talented individuals at BCIT who are also helping me along in learning how to use this technology.

In addition to our own FWR students at BCIT I also welcome elementary and high school students from across the province of British Columbia who are following my journey, some of whom will be participating in live online lectures from different parts of South America. Many thanks go to the Ebus-Academy for kick-starting my use of some modern educational tools and software such as Elluminate-Live. I look forward to interacting with students across the province as I journey!

So for the next 4.5 months (if all goes as planned) I will be exploring and learning in a range of South American countries (Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia) as well as Antarctica. I hope you will enjoy the journey!

In addition to this BLOG there are a range of pages that you can browse thorough to learn about the regions and places I am visiting. Second year students in the FWR program have researched a number of South American countries and you can read about the natural resource management characteristics (and environmental issues) of selected countries in the Country Profiles pages. First year students in the FWR program researched some of the diverse ecosystems in British Columbia that you can read and learn about as well (you may be surprised at some of the differences, and similarities, among ecosystems in BC and in South America). And we even had high school students in the lower mainland of British Columbia contribute by researching other components of the website (students from Gleneagle Secondary School in Coquitlam, BC for example researched the Canada quiz). In addition to the country profiles, you will be able to view photo galleries, quiz yourself on wildlife and South American country trivia, and you can even take part in a variety of contests and compete for some amazing prizes!! Keep posted on this BLOG and web page to learn how you can win anything from a cash prize to an entrance award to BCIT or even a trip to Baja, Mexico or a top of the line fishing rod package!!

So that gives you some background to the project … and now, let’s begin. As I was saying a number of paragraphs back, "And so, the journey begins!"

January 2, 2007 – Lima, Peru

I left Vancouver early on the morning of the first of January, after a very short night of sleep (one hour I think), hopped an Air Canada flight to Toronto and then another to Lima, Peru. I arrived at about 1:30 in the morning on the 2nd of January, rather tired but excited to start a new adventure. It is always a bit stressful arriving in a new country, particularly one where the language is not your own, and arriving in the middle of the night makes it even more challenging. But all went well, I found a transfer to my hotel and lay my weary head to rest by about 3:30am. Lima is in the same time zone as eastern Canada (3 hours ahead of Vancouver) so getting to bed at 3:30 am is not quite as bad as it may sound!

I awoke to 20 degree temperatures and clear skies in Lima. I gave myself just one day in Peru’s capital city and my main objective was to visit the catacombs under the Franciscan Monastery in downtown Lima (based solely on a recommendation from my FWR colleague Marvin Rosenau, who teaches our fisheries courses at BCIT). I am always reminded about how young Canada is in terms of its western history when I visit other parts of the world. The Franciscan Monastery was established in the 16th century and despite over 500 years of time and who knows how many earthquakes, it has withstood the elements and is today one of the best preserved of Lima’s colonial churches (and a fabulous site to visit – thanks Marvin!).

San Francisco Monastery, Lima, Peru
San Francisco Monastery, Lima, Peru

We visited the underground catacombs where over 25,000 people (some say closer to 75,000) were buried. The skulls, femurs and other bones are still there to be seen… and certainly not for the faint of heart (the smell was a bit musty too… as you can imagine)! We were not permitted to photograph the bones or I would have shown you what the catacombs look like.

Church of San Francisco, Lima, Peru
Church of San Francisco, Lima, Peru


January 3 - Cusco, Peru

For years I have had friends tell me stories about Cusco, a high elevation city in the Andes Mountains of Peru. Although I had a bit of an idea of what to expect, I was not prepared for the beauty of its landscape and the fascinating history that makes Cusco what it is today. It has many claims to fame including being the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America, the archaeological capital of the Americas (North and South) as well as being (and in my mind perhaps the most intriguing) the most important city of the Incan Empire (1438 to 1532). The Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1533, and the Spanish influence is very much evident in the architecture throughout the city today.


The City of Cusco, Peru
The City of Cusco, Peru


To get a quick introduction to Cusco and its immediate surroundings I visited a number of key sites including Coricancha (the Inca’s sun temple), the hilltop Inca fortress of Sacsayhuaman (say that out loud five times), the gorgeous cathedral in downtown Cusco and the ceremonial pools of Tambo Machay.

Photographing Ancient Walls at Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru
Photographing Ancient Walls at Fortress of Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, Peru

If you visit Cusco, you must ensure that you go for a walk in the evening when the cathedrals and churches are lit up with flood lights. It is quite the sight to see.

Well I am a bit too tired to bring you up to date (to the 5th) but I will add the descriptions of my visit to the Sacred Valley and my incredible day of mountain biking in the Patacancha River valley (where we started at over 13,800 feet elevation and then rode downhill from there!). I am off to Machu Pichu tomorrow!

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Submitted by Iain Allen (not verified) on Wed, 2007/01/10 - 6:24am.

If anyone wants to see pictures from the catacombs, go to



Submitted by Robyn (not verified) on Sun, 2007/01/14 - 11:06pm.

Hi Danny,

I am so impressed by what you and the students have done with this website. It is very cool to be able to find out interesting details about the people and places you are visiting. I was just reading about conservation efforts in Brazil, and it really makes the world seem smaller. I look forward to learning more about your travels and the places you are visiting.

Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/01/24 - 11:47am.

Hi Robyn...

Sorry for my delayed reply and thanks so much for your kind words about the website. the students did a lot of research and the folks at BCIT have put so much effort into making this an effective and interactive website. I am glad you like it... we will adding more to it soon! Let me know how you are doing... and thanks for saying hello!

Cheerios, Danny

Submitted by Derek (not verified) on Wed, 2007/01/24 - 9:03am.
Hey Danny!  It's really good to hear all about your travels and the experiences you are having.  What a wonderful opportunity.  Looking forward to more stories & pictures!
Submitted by Danny Catt on Wed, 2007/01/24 - 11:42am.

Hi there Derek! I am so pleased you have clicked onto the site. So far so good on this grand adventure. I am trying to catch up with my blog posts (I think I need to make them shorter!!) and will add more photos too. We will soon have some photo galleries to peruse as well. I hope all is well and thanks again for saying hello!

Cheers, Danny

Submitted by Rick (not verified) on Thu, 2007/01/25 - 9:06am.

I have been following your trek so far and am amazed at what you've seen and done in such a short period of time.

Your taking interests in the environment and cultures of South America and Antarctica on your own dollar is truly admirable, especially when it seems so few people have the same thought process as yourself.

As far as I'm concerned your living your life to the fullest and have become a huge inspiration to a guy like myself whose dream is to do what you've done

Keep on trekking, I look forward to having you back at BCIT and hearing stories of your journey


Submitted by Danny Catt on Thu, 2007/01/25 - 11:05am.

Hi Rick,

Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to do what I am doing... and I thank my lucky stars every day. BCIT has been so supportive of my ideas and I can't thank the institute enough for letting me try something new and different. I have learned so much in these first few weeks... and I look forward to sharing my learning as I continue my journey... and for now, I will focus on catching up with my BLOG and documenting some of my experiences and learning.

Thanks again for taking the time to say hello, I really do appreciate it! If you have an questions about my posts or the regions I travel in please do feel free to ask them... I will do my best to answer in a timely manner.