The question of what camera and what lenses is probably the most over discussed topic on any forum. The best camera and best lens combination is the one you know how to use. Professional photographers use the latest and "best: equipment because they are the tools of their trade. The reality is, the best photographs come from the photographer, not the camera. When the 10 MP Nikon D200 was released, it had the capeability to out resolve virtually all film of the past generation. Fuji Velvia "only" resolves 160 line per mm, and the 10 MP D200 can reach that. Galen Rowell made absolutely stunning images with Nikon manual bodies and "lesser" consumer cameras such as the N90 and consumers lenses. All lenses, even professional ones, have some drawbacks and are never perfect. The Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 is a fantastic lens, BUT it is heavy and expensive. I love my D200, and occationally get equipment lust when I see the D800 and pro lenses, but the reality is, I have three of my favorite outdoor shots (all in 20x30) hanging in my office; and they were all taken with a 6 MP Nikon D70 and 18-70mm f3.5-4.5 "kit" lens. Good technique, proper understanding of light, DOF, composition, etc. will out perform any modern DSLR and professional lens from Nikon or Canon. VR is a nice tool, higher dyniamic range, more mega pixels, faster focus, higher resolving power, etc. are all nice tools as well. Bottom line is buying a "good" camera (any Nikon or Canon DSLR) and kit lens, knowing how to use it, and USING it will produce the best images. Given a choice of a full professional kit (D800, 14-28, 24-70, 70-200, 300 f2.
or $15000 worth of travel to USE what I have, I'd take the travel and the time to create great images. All that said, start with a quality camera (Nikon/Canon DSLR), even a used D70, D80, D200 for less than $500 and a quality "kit" lens (18-70, 18-55, 18-200, 55-200, etc.) and really learn how to use it. When you feel your talent exceeds your equipment, upgrade. Enjoy the shooting.