ARCHIVES: EXOTIC ADVENTURES
DISCOVERING STRATEGIC SPANISH FORTRESSES IN THE NEW WORLD
by Troy Herrick
In the 17th century, gold, silver and other treasures flowed into Spain like water from its overseas empire. Other European powers like Britain and Holland took careful notice of this wealth and commissioned privateers to “occasionally interrupt” the stream of treasure-laden galleons. The stakes were high and Spain had to protect its interests from the real “Pirates of the Caribbean” like Sir Francis Drake, Sir John Hawkins and Laurenz de Graaf. Dutch pirate Piet Heyn was particularly successful in capturing 90 tons of gold and silver, which was worth far more than a king’s ransom.
A TIP-TOP SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS COACH HOLIDAY
by Marc Latham
When shrouded in mist, the Scottish Highlands evoke an image of living history, aging in slow motion, travelling forward with its past preserved by its traditionally wet cold weather, like ancient history preserved in a peat bog. The historic setting for a comfortable Urquhart Coaches domestic holiday inspired contrasting memories of my youthful world travelling, including previous trips to Scotland.
TOP 6 BEAUTIFUL LAKES OF ARMENIA AND GEORGIA
The Caucasian Mountains
by Anush Bichakchyan
The Caucasian mountains amaze with their greatness. The beauty of nature has inspired many poets and artists, but the mountains are not only about snow-capped peaks, but also dense forests, crystal clear lakes and rivers. Today we would like to represent you the top 6 beautiful lakes of Armenia and Georgia, which are considered popular attractions in this region.
THE PEARLS OF LAKE ATITLÁN
by Troy Herrick
Lake Atitlan, nestled within the fog-shrouded mountains of the Guatemalan highlands, is graced with twelve towns scattered around its periphery like the pearls of a necklace. Over 90% of the inhabitants in the area are indigenous people but you will not find any Mayan ruins here because these towns were all established during the Post-Classical Period.
LONAR: A PLEISTOCENE FLASHBACK
by Durgesh Nadkarni
I was standing at the edge of the bowl-shaped hill hypnotized by the beauty of the aquamarine lake that lay glittering in the basin below - low-lying hill, dense forest and a tranquil lake. I stood there in awe when suddenly my mind took me eons back. 52,000 years ago a visitor from outer space weighing approximately 2 million tons travelled at a speed of 90,000 km/hr to meet the Earth. The visitor was a meteorite and what resulted from their encounter was an impact so severe that it formed a crater on the Earth 1.8 km in diameter.
A WALK AROUND INIS MÓR
by Jessica Cook
The chilly Atlantic pushed our ferry off the coast of Ireland towards the rocky Aran Islands in the distance, each wave colored a blue deeper than midnight. When we disembarked, the mist creeping down the rocky bluffs of the island and the sea spray caught in my hair. I had been in Ireland for over a week now, and for my first visit I had adjusted surprisingly well to the constant misting.
CRUISING THE HISTORIC MEDITERRANEAN
by Matthew Adams
The Mediterranean has a variety of intriguing historic destinations in Spain, Italy and Greece. One way you can visit some of those fascinating historical sites is via a cruise. Cruise ships usually stop at ports in Italy, Spain, France and Greece from which you visit some of the world's greatest museums and historical architecture. This is a Crown Princess cruise I did to see some of the finest historic destinations.
ARUBA: A Happy Island
by Susmita Sengupta
“Bon bini.” This lyrical, unusual word greeted me and my family at Queen Beatrix International Airport at Oranjestad, Aruba where we had arrived for a short vacation. Bon bini means welcome in the Papiamento language, one of four languages that are commonly spoken in this Caribbean island. The official language is Dutch while English and Spanish are also widely spoken.
WILD PARROTS, 17 BEACHES, AND RUM! WELCOME TO SITGES - Spain
by Barb Harmon
In the still of the early morning we strolled along the palm tree dotted seafront. To our right the Mediterranean Sea is calm...smooth as glass. To our left, the shop and restaurant owners hose off the sidewalks in front of their establishments preparing for a busy day.
PETRA by HORSE, MULE and DONKEY - Jordan
by Elizabeth von Pier
It is early morning and the sun is casting shadows on the monumental canyon walls leading into the “rose city” of Petra in the Kingdom of Jordan. Petra is more than 2,000 years old and has some magnificent and amazingly well-preserved buildings that were hand-carved by the Nabataean people, an Arab tribe who ruled this area for hundreds of years starting as early as the sixth century B.C.
CANFIELD CASINO: New York, USA
by Theresa St. John
The Saratoga Springs Historical Museum and Casino is located in downtown Canfield, in the center of picturesque Congress Park. Catering only to the very rich and very famous, the Casino drew the most elite from all over the world. Men who might gamble what could be hundreds of thousands of dollars a night.
PLACES THAT DEFINE THE GLORIOUS HISTORY OF THE COUNTRY: Norway
by William Taylor
Norway is a beautiful country which offers a wide range of experiences; there is almost certainly something to interest you regardless of what you enjoy. There are a huge number of museums and a huge range of cultural and historic activities to indulge in.
I’M DREAMING OF A RED YAO CHRISTMAS: China
by Brian K. Smith
Shortly after arriving back at the family hotel we sat down (parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and brother) to an amazing traditional 12 plate feast. The steaming bowls had an assortment of duck, fish, pork, beef, sautéed vegetables and rice. The dishes were rich in flavour and prepared to perfection.
AFTER THE DARKNESS, LIGHT: GENEVA'S TRIBUTE TO AN AMERICAN FOUNDING FATHER: Switzerland
by Tom Koppel
But this is Geneva, Switzerland, a uniquely international city. It is the birthplace and home of the Red Cross. The League of Nations had its headquarters here after the First World War, and countless UN agencies are still based in Geneva today.
LE GRAU DU ROI: France
by Glen Cowley
It was one of those storms of which legends were made; a wrathful sea god reshaping the Mediterranean coastline of France. The fury of 1570 carved out a new six kilometre long canal, between the salt water marshes and the sea; giving France a new access route to the Mediterranean. 1640 saw the town that grew upon its shores named Grau du Roi.
SEARCHING FOR THE SUNRISE: Mt. Fuji, Japan
by Susan Elizabeth Thomas
After two years of teaching in Mito, Japan, I was ready to do something daring. So I set out to conquer the tallest mountain in Japan with a few friends and coworkers. Armed with a backpack of food, water and canned oxygen, I had one goal – reach the top by sunrise. I had no idea what we were in for.
“INDIANA JONES” AND THE LOST KINGDOM OF THE SUBMERGED CROCODILE: Belize
by Troy Herrick
Get ready for your own “Indiana Jones-type” of adventure with a visit to the Mayan city of Lamanai whose name translates as “Submerged Crocodile”. Not only is a visit to this archeological site worthwhile but the journey there is as much of an adventure as the destination itself.
THE BEAUTY OF THE ANASAZI IN MESA VERDE: Colorado, USA
by Luke Maguire Armstrong
Mesa Verde is a place where natural beauty mixes with history in a uniquely dramatic way. One finds the earthy splendor of the American Southwest and a window to one of North American’s most unique groups of indigenous people—the Anasazi. Why do we live in houses when we could be living on the sides of cliffs?
THINGS I LEARNED FROM MY JUNGLE SAFARI: Jim Corbett National Park, India
by Shweta Bhardwaj
Initially established in 1936 to protect the Bengal Tiger, Corbett forest and jungle are home to many different other species of fauna. A heaven for bird enthusiasts. It is also one of the best bird watching area in India. In 1956 this national park was renamed after Colonel Jim Corbett, who is considered the ‘missionary of wildlife conservation in India’.
LONG NECK OF INLE THE LAKE: Burma
by Brian K. Smith
Having seen photos of this beautiful country for many years, it was impossible to resist any longer - I had to go to Burma. Many of my photographer friends spoke of this troubled country as a goldmine of spectacular images just waiting to be captured. I have to admit that I was nervous, as just getting a tourist visa was incredibly involved.
FUSHIMI INARI: A NIGHT WITH THE FOX SPIRITS: Japan
by Susan Elizabeth Thomas
I rode a shaky, silent train from Kyoto, Japan to the mountain-side shrine, Fushimi Inari. I was arriving late, too late to meet my friend who had already trekked down the mountain. She had called me from the train stop. “Be careful,” she warned. “ At this hour Fushimi Inari is completely empty and the shrine is full of fox demons.”
A DIAMOND IN THE CROWN OF THE ISLAND OF MAN: Douglas, UK
by Glen Cowley
The vast sprawling smile of Douglas Harbour is for many their first view of the Isle of Man by sea. Since 1830 the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company has been plying the waters of the Irish Sea bringing tourists and more from the shores of the United Kingdom and Ireland; the oldest continuously operating passenger service in the world.
THE SECRET ROMAN RUINS OF TUNISIA: Tunisia
by Hollie Mantle
Why visit Tunisia? For the fresh sea breeze, the even fresher fish, and the balmy blues of the Mediterranean? Prettily packaged as a sun, sea and sand destination, most tourism touts fail to point out the enigmatic pull for the historically or culturally-inclined traveller is the Roman past that lurks beyond the shore.
FELIZ NAVIDAD FROM ISLA COZUMEL: Cozumel, Mexico
by Jett & Kathryn Britnell
Celebrating Christmas in the tropics promised to be a grand family adventure this year. During the traditional season of gift giving, Cozumel was the present we gave to ourselves! “That was one of the best dives I’ve ever done!”, Kathryn proclaimed after surfacing at Cozumel’s Tormentos Reef.
EXPERIENCE FALL IN VERMONT AND NEW HAMPSHIRE
USA - by Bram Reusen
The fall season is an exceptional time of year in New England, a short season that draws in thousands of so-called leaf-peepers. Visitors can enjoy the magnificence of soaring mountains or the quietness of a countryside dotted with picturesque farmsteads, barns, covered bridges and sugarhouses.
CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT IN KOKE’E NATIONAL PARK
Hawaii, USA - by Joan Boxall
Bird-watching is the most popular recreation in America, and the Audubon Bird Count summons us every December to the Christmas Bird Count on the ‘Garden Isle’ of Kauai in the Hawaiian Archipelago. With David Kuhn, creator of the website, ‘Sounds Hawaiian’, we add native forest birds to our count.
TWELVE HOURS IN MOROCCO
North Africa - by Ana Ruiz
During one of my annual trips to Spain, I decided to expand and enhance my adventures by visiting the exotic land of Morocco. I reserved a few nights here as I was also planning to visit Gibraltar that was a short bus ride away on the other side of the Spanish town of La Linea de Concepción.
SEARCHING FOR CROCODILES ON THE NILE RIVER
Egypt - by W. Ruth Kozak
Along with a small group of other travelers I board a cruise ship at Aswan, Egypt to sail down the Nile on an adventure that will take me to visit various archaeological sites. For me this journey is like a dream come true. Here I am on the deck of a cruise ship, sailing down the mighty Nile River.
INTO THE HEART OF FRENCH POLYNESIA
South Pacific - by Tom Koppel
“This place has the feeling of power,” says archaeologist Mark Eddowes at a rectangular terrace enclosed by stone walls. We are on a wooded hillside overlooking the bay where Captain James Cook arrived at the island of Moorea in 1774. Eddowes has been excavating and restoring ancient sites like these, called marae, for many years.
WHERE PICTURES SPEAK MORE THAN A THOUSAND WORDS
Key West, Florida USA - by Roy A. Barnes
A setting sun has this ability to captivate the eyes of its admirers. I must say that the two I saw in Key West really gripped me so unexpectedly, for I never imagined sunsets being that impacting. This place does seem to be the “land of the eternal summer,” for others who live in the Northern Hemisphere were retreating to the warmth of their domiciles while I was alone with my thoughts in the open waters.
THE HINTERLAND BEGINS AND ENDS IN ABERYSTWYTH
Wales - by Marc Latham
Aberystwyth is a Welsh language word meaning mouth of the Ystwyth. The town is unofficially considered the capital of Ceredigion county, and often called Aber by locals, as it’s the biggest Aber in the region. Its population of 15,000, supplemented by thousands of students in term time, is the largest for 70 miles north, east and south; Ireland is much farther west, beyond the Cardigan Bay horizon and over the Irish Sea.
BREATH OF THE DRAGON
France - by Glen Cowley
From Saint-Jean-du-Gard the Train Touriste a Vapeur des Cevennes wends it way through southern France's Cevenne Mountains, the 13 winding kilometres to Anduze; burrowing its way through tunnels, leaping the River Gardon and hugging mountainsides. Nature's vistas and mankind's legacies explode into view with every turn and twist.
EXPLORING THE FLORIDA KEYS VIA KAYAK
United States of America - by Roy A. Barnes
The Florida Keys are made up of some 1,700 islands. From Miami to Key West, this archipelago stretches over 150 miles alone. It’s here where I found some unique saltwater kayaking opportunities stretching from Cow Key to Key Largo.
FIVE TOP SPOTS NEAR ANGKOR WAT
Cambodia - by Jonathon Engels
Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world, with skillful carvings adorning every block in the place. However, my most memorable moments spent in Siem Reap did not happen in Angkor Wat but in the sights that surround it.
ADVENTURE IN NEPAL
Kathmandu, Nepal - by Rusif Huseynov
At first sight, it looks as one of provinces of India. Same clothing, Indian faces, smell of curry... Yet each of them contains something unique, and one soon realizes it is a different country. Welcome to Nepal! Having landed on Nepalese soil, we understood we were in a very different world.
HADRIAN’S WALL – A WALK THROUGH HISTORY
England - by Melissa Gardiner
It was a bright spring morning as my walking partner and I took our first footsteps along the path of Hadrian's Wall. It’s an 84-mile trail across the north of England. It also passes through some of England’s most notable archaeological sites, dotted across rolling hills and at times, wild, rugged countryside.
SLOW BOAT TO CHINA
Freighter Travel Across the North Pacific - by Barry Truter
Within six hours of boarding the massive freighter that would carry me and four other passengers – along with 5,500 containers – from Vancouver to Hong Kong, I knew I’d made the right choice of travel plans. Standing on the dimly lit navigation deck, I had a brief, blissful moment when the licensed pilot, just coming aboard, mistook me for the captain.
THE CAUCASIAN BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Sochi, Russia - by Mara Baudais
Thunder, then lightning flashed above the forest. Light rain fell, then more. My group, all passengers from my ship that had docked at Sochi, had quickly scampered ahead at the first crack of thunder. Somehow, suddenly it had happened…I was on my own, on increasingly slippery granite, limestone steps, roots and uneven chunks of clay.
CLIMBING THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR
Gibraltar, Spain - by Matthew Adams
I arrived in Gibraltar aboard the Crown Princess Grand-class cruise ship. It was returning from Corsica back to Britain. Gibraltar, a U.K. overseas territory on the south coast of Spain, was the final stop on the way back. On a sunny morning in May, I disembarked from the ship along the Western Arm in northern Gibraltar. The Rock rises some 426 meters above the sea. It's almost a small mountain!
REMEMBERED MOMENTS AT JIM CORBETT NATIONAL PARK
India - by Jessica Frei
Everyone deserves a break from the monotonous lifestyle and I am no exception to it. With having said that, there is an exception in my definition of 'a break'. I want my break to be full of adventures; no sitting back at home, no chit chat with long lost friends, all I want is thrill. And this hunger for thrill took me to Jim Corbett National Park.
CRUISING THE MIGHTY BRAHMAPUTRA
India - by Tom Koppel
The monastery, founded in the 17th century, is among some 25 on Majuli Island, a long stretch of land in the broad Brahmaputra River in India's remote northeastern state of Assam. Our visit is one of the memorable shore excursions that my wife Annie and I enjoy during a 10-day small-ship cruise along a mighty stream that discharges more water than the Mississippi.
GHOSTS OF THE AMERICAN WEST
Montana, USA - by Laurie Gough
Rather than the tame goings-on of the last couple of centuries, it’s the little-known facts about Lewis and Clark and their expedition through unmapped Missouri River wilderness which guide Mike Nottingham loves to discuss. Here in Virgelle, Montana, river stories of the past are just some of the surprises that await you.
RAILWAY TO THE MOON
New England, USA - by Glen Cowley
Since 1869 this powerful little steam engine and its kin have been pushing tourists three miles up to the wind-blown summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire and easing them back again. At its crown demon winds howl unfettered, peeling tears from eyes better than cut onions. On a clear day you can see four states with a view limited only by the curvature of the earth.
ALONG THE MOTHER GANGES
India - - by Tom Koppel
During our deluxe small-ship cruise, passengers gain a wealth of insights into the religious, historical and cultural world of the subcontinent's largely rural and small-town heartland. Many of the encounters could never be had on a land-based group tour. It is the ideal way to experience the rich tapestry of life along the central artery of northern India.
MANA MADE MEMORIES
Hawaii, USA - by Leslie Jones
Awe-inspiring waterfalls, pristine valleys, cliff-top views of the crashing Pacific surf far below all bring the sights and sounds of the entire Hamakua Coast to life. This vast region between Hilo and Honokaa and further up to Waipio Valley, tells intriguing tales of Hawaiian sugar plantations, Hawaiian kings, and paniolos of nearby Parker Ranch. Mana, a term granted to those special places that possess a spiritual quality, is indeed alive and well.
NAPOLEON NEVER SLEPT HERE
Sailing The Mediterranean - by Tom Koppel
My wife and I are on a Mediterranean cruise along the coasts of Italy and France celebrating our 20th anniversary. We have been anticipating visits to some wonderful ports and are not disappointed. What we had not foreseen, though, is the many ways that Napoleon, or perhaps just his spirit, would keep making his presence felt, as if popping up unexpectedly in little cameo appearances.
SOARING OVER PARADISE
Hawaii - by Larry Zaletel
I have watched gliders in movies before, but not up close. That was the first time that I had seen them. I happened to walk over to the flight line that Saturday after learning about the gliders from one of my Army buddies. I watched as they went about their work with a cool determination. There was more that one glider being readied. I remember that it was a partly cloudy day, the sun occasionally peaking out of the clouds.
A WORLD WITH A FASCINATING PAST
Moldova, Romania by Iolanda Scripca
Moldova's beautiful landscape takes you back to a time when life was simpler. Village houses are still built the traditional way, and the residents still wear traditional, handmade clothes decorated with colorful patterns and from cloth that originated from local fields. The villagers are particularly helpful and friendly.
AN EXOTIC OVERLAND TREK FROM TANGIER TO KENYA
Africa by Ian Packham
I was on the Kenyan coast at Malindi, having followed the African coast west from Tangier, Morocco’s seedy port of entrance for so many Europeans. I was attempting to complete the first solo and unsupported overland circumnavigation of the continent by public transport, an expedition I had christened Encircle Africa.
THE CAVE OF THE CRYSTAL MAIDEN
Belize - by Lee Beavington
"Shoes off! Socks on!" Oscar orders. This no socks, no service policy keeps our skin oils off the sacramental stone. He hands us our cameras. Someone complains that the humidity has fogged up his lens. I look up. My headlamp reveals an angry spirit, a mystic shapeshifter that dances before my roving eyes. Perhaps this is a guardian. I blink, and the ephemeral spirit crumbles into mist. Am I guest here, or trespasser?
SEVEN DAYS IN HISTORIC SICILY
Italy - by Jane Parlane
Sicily is synonymous with sun, history, lemons and the mafia. Instead you’ll get a warm welcome from most Sicilians who are more interested in showing off their treasures than depriving you of yours. There are plenty of reasons to visit Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island, including gorgeous towns, fascinating archaeology from ancient Greek, Roman and Norman times and delicious seafood, wine and cassata.
CAPE COMORIN, THE TIP OF INDIA
Kanyakumari, India - by R. Niranjan Das
There are very few places on this beautiful earth where one can witness both sunrise and sunset over the horizon. One amongst them is Cape Comorin which is the tip of Indian mainland. Cape Comorin which is better known as Kanyakumari is the place where the three humungous water bodies namely, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal meet up.
FAIRYTALE ENCHANTMENTS IN MT. PILATUS AND ENTLEBUCH
Luzern, Switzerland - By Roy A. Barnes
The city of Luzern is just a 45 minute train ride from Zurich, one that I found more than worth the effort when experiencing much enchantment and stunning views of the waters and mountainous regions surrounding it.
REMEMBER THE MAINE
U.S.A. - by Glen Cowley
The long sliver of Atlantic coastline from the New Hampshire border to Portland, Maine encompasses a diversity of images; the refined and manicured, the tacky funlands, the rocky outcrops and historic villages.
SKYSCRAPERS, SOUQS & SANDSCAPES
Qatar - by Irene Butler
Since tales of Aladdin swept my imagination away on a magic carpet in grade school, my desire to journey through the Arabian Peninsula has not waned. Sixty years later I am to realize this dream.
THE GHAN TRAIN
Australia - by Keith Kellett
The Ghan, at just under 3000 kilometres, is the longest north-south train line in the world. It’s by no means the quickest way to get between the two cities, but it’s probably the most comfortable, and certainly the most spectacular.
EXPLORING CATALINA ISLAND
California, U.S.A.- by Gregg LaLiberte
If you have ever wanted to visit an island off the coast of California, and Hawaii is just too far (and perhaps not in the budget), Santa Catalina Island is an ideal second choice. It is a wonderful place to visit – for a weekend or longer, offering a wide variety of activities.
Italy - by Paola Fornari
I wonder what it would be like to live here in Abruzzo all the time, far from the pressures of city life, far from tourist traps, close to nature, and to inner peace. Like Celestine. Back in the thirteenth century, he lived higher up these rugged slopes, in a cave, until he was called to the Papacy.
A MOUNTAIN ADVENTURE - HOT ROCKS
British Columbia & Alberta, Canada
There are not enough "a's" in "aaaaaaaaah" to impart the soothing sensation of slow immersion into a mountain hung hot springs pool. The Kootenay Rockies of British Columbia 800 kilometre Hot Springs Circle Tour affords travellers a week-long, hot-springs-per-day experience.
THE LAND OF CLIFFS AND BEACHES
Varkala has always been there in my travel list for a long time and the two day break was apt for me to head to the small fishing hamlet. This is the best beach I have been to and for the sheer beauty of the place I will go back again for a longer vacation.
CANADIAN VOYAGE MAKES HISTORY
None of us expected our voyage to make history, not when we boarded the Clipper Adventurer in Kugluktuk (Coppermine), near the west end of the Northwest Passage. True, our cruise was billed as an expeditionary adventure. Nobody even dreamed of achieving a first of any kind. We forgot that climate change has made a difference.
MEMORIES OF THE ORIENT EXPRESS
Ever since I read Agatha Christie's intriguing crime novel 'Murder on the Orient Express', I wanted to travel on that train. To indulge in the gilded luxury of the train itself, let the mysterious landscapes of the Balkans glide past my window and alight at the final destination
Istanbul, the city which straddles two continents.
TRANSYLVANIA – A MELDING OF HISTORY AND LORE
Romania was for us a wonderful commingling of past and present, history and myth all wrapped into one pleasurable experience. Our small dint in the sights to see and our brief immersion in the culture left us wanting more – and a resolve that for us there will be a next time in beautiful Romania.
TRAVEL IN THE TIME OF COUP
We were the only guests at Residence LaPasoa, as we would be elsewhere. There’s nothing quite like the threat of cyclones and a coup d’etat to keep the tourists away. It was all quite wonderful for us, but not for those gentle people who lived from tourism. After the coup, the journalists poked their noses into the pub, Ku De Ta, just for the name.
SAMPLING HISTORIC PROVENCE
For many years, we dreamed of escaping to sun-drenched Provence and recently fulfill this fantasy. And our stay at Chateau de Boussargues proves the perfect ‘base camp’ for launching journeys back in time in southern France. “The Romans first grew grapes here…and not long afterward, Christians built that little stone chapel in the woods,” owner Olivier tells us.
It is May, and the weather remains blissfully warm and dry. Welcome to the Canal du Midi, which crosses Languedoc in the sunny South of France. My wife Annie and I are among only four guests travelling on a lovely hotel barge, the Caroline, as it wends its way slowly westward for six days along one of the world's most remarkable canals.
THE MARY VALLEY RATTLER
All over the world, railways are coming out of use. But, in many cases, although they’re uneconomical, some people are reluctant to let them go, and form Preservation Societies, to maintain the trains and run the line. The main purpose is to show people how things used to be. I’ve seen many a child watching them in fascination, for, on an old-fashioned steam locomotive, you can actually see the working parts, and work out how they run.
MAKE A WISH AND MAY IT COME TRUE
Lake Bled, Slovenia
“What is a Pletna,” I asked? “It is a boat similar to a gondola,” he said. “It is about 21 feet long and 6 feet wide and has paddles that are used to propel it. It is used to carry passengers to the Church on Bled Island that is situated in the middle of the lake. ”Lake Bled is in Slovenia, a small Alpine country of a little over 2 million inhabitants located directly south of Austria.
SAILING THE SEPIK RIVER
Papua New Guinea
It was as if we were floating among the stars. They sparkled above me in the sky, and gleamed alongside me in the deep black water. It was 4am, and we were travelling by dug-out canoe down the mighty Sepik River of Papua New Guinea. I had to pinch myself to be sure that it was real.
HOW TO BECOME A DIVE INSTRUCTOR
At 23, Tina Doran is doing what many young travel addicts have contemplated at one time or another – pursing a career in diving. After college she moved to Spain to complete her Divemaster certification in cold waters of Marbella. We discussed the practicalities of becoming a dive instructor to find out how a dream job can become a reality.
A SHORT TUSCAN ADVENTURE:Italy
The scent of citrus was in the air. It was mid October and while the Tuscan sun was low in the western sky it still felt warm on my face. I was sure that if I closed my eyes I would be a witness to the sounds and the sights of medieval farmers returning from the rolling hills to the safety of this walled city. Since the 13th century the walls of San Gimignano have served as the safe haven from marauding hordes.
THROUGH THE TOWNS OF THE HIMALAYAS
When most people think of images of India, few bring pictures of green mountain meadows and snow-capped peaks to mind. Delhi’s narrow Pahar Ganj, with its rickshaws, dirt, street-sellers and conmen is probably much closer to many people’s visual concept of India.
FIELD OF BOMBS
The tiny Lao Aviation plane dropped hastily from the sky. Crossing my fingers I cursed my sense of adventure. What on Earth had persuaded me to risk flying to Phonsavan? The reason was, of course, the famous ‘Plain of Jars’. These ancient stone vessels lay scattered across the far-flung Lao province, and according to the travel books, have become something of a tourist magnet. I was looking forward to some hardcore sightseeing.
THE BLUE EYED MUMMIES OF AMASYA
I saw the picture first and I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the image of a baby boy mummy staring at me with wide open blue eyes. It was part of a brochure about the archaeology museum in the fabulous mountain town of Amasya, located about 100 miles south inland from the Turkish Black Sea coast.
A STEP BACK IN TIME
Whenever we asked someone where to go in Cuba, they would invariably exclaim “You MUST go to Viñales!” When we asked why, the replies were seldom convincing. Words like “beautiful, rural, quaint and restful” were used. While these were admirable attributes, they didn’t really convey the unique charm of this little town near the western tip of Cuba.
ISLAND OF LEGENDS
Our first trekking destination was the Ourika Valley. We were forced to leave the van and had to teeter across foot-wide Berber bridges fashioned out of sticks, suspended over the rushing white water and squeeze behind houses on uneven slippery pathways meant only for goats.
RAMBLING AROUND Marrakech, Morocco
My Moroccan trekking adventure had begun from the beautiful city of Marrakech that nestles like a rose-quartz gemstone near the foothills of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains. When we arrived at the starting point, we were forced to leave the van walk to the meeting point as the roads were impassable. We had to teeter across foot-wide Berber bridges fashioned out of sticks, suspended over the rushing white water and squeeze behind houses on uneven slippery pathways meant only for goats.
GATEWAY TO THE HIMALAYAS
It is hard to believe that Nepal only opened its borders to mass tourism in the 1950s. Now it is famous for its trekking and climbing, as it utilises the fact that most of the world’s highest mountains are within its territory.
A DAY-TRIP TO TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY
The Amalfi Coast, Italy
Few scenes on earth are as spectacular as the Amalfi Coast which stretches from Sorrento to Salerno. Combine sparkling blue-green water, rugged cliffs, a hair-raising bus ride, a leisurely boat ride and stunning little towns like Positano, Amalfi and Ravello and you have one breathtaking sight after another.
BURN AWAY THE WINTER BLUES
Torches are being held high. Banners and tall effigies depicting both Father Winter and the dragon of Spring are flowing into the night’s festivities as if alive. The sun has now settled into an intense cobalt blue creating a backdrop for the stark black trees lining the hills. I am in awe.
THE SIREN OF BARRA DE NAVIDAD
I have recently taken a mistress, a bewitching, beguiling siren. My siren is a small part of the Pacific Ocean that roars eastward onto a long, curving arc of golden beach whose southern end is occupied by the quaint, west coast Mexican town of Barra de Navidad.
HIKING MOUNT GOLICA
Slovenia, located south of Austria, is an alpine country with plenty of mountains and places to hike. Hiking trails in the valleys and in the mountains attract visitors from all over the world.
DOG MUSHING IN THE YUKON
Five dogs lurch forward with shocking fierceness, without one second of hesitation, throwing my city-soft body into shock. Frantically I grab for the crossbar with my mittened hands, raise one foot off the brake — a small spiked platform of snowmobile track — to a small, icy runner. The other foot tests the brake. A 61 year old woman…what was I doing?
Turning the corner, I found myself on the main path that led straight up to the front of the temple. It was massive, like a layered pyramid of dark grey stone rising out of the dirt. I picked up my pace to get to there quickly until I realized that I didn't need to rush the moment. I just stopped and stared in wonder.
THE STAR-CROSSED SHANGRI-LA
Guatemala’s Ixil Triangle
After a tortuous bus ride through the Guatemalan highlands, I’ve finally arrived at the village of Nebaj. A cobblestone street is lined with white, adobe buildings, streaks of rain visible against their red, tiled roofs. The damp air smells of pine needles. Panoramic, mist-shrouded peaks barely visible in the distance resemble the coast mountains of western Canada.
SEARCHING FOR THE LAKE NORMAN MONSTER
North Carolina, USA
Loch Ness, Scotland. Lake Van, Turkey. Lake Hodges, California. Seljord Lake, Norway all have had reported sightings of monsters. North Carolina has its own alleged monster of the waterway called The Lake Norman Monster, or “Normie” to his close friends.
SAILING THE MAINE COAST
Penobscot Bay Maine, USA
Imagine sailing the Maine coast on a schooner launched in 1871. The Stephen Taber, a historic landmark, has been sailing continuously for 138 years. Originally a cargo boat, it now takes up to 22 passengers on sailing adventures through Penobscot Bay.
As our jeep drove on through the Ladakh district of India in the Western Himalayas, under the watchful eye of this bright afternoon sun, mud houses seemed to emerge from the desert. Then we see ahead the magnificent Tikse monastery which swells to its dazzling proportions, leaving us in awe.
RUINS AND REAL LIFE
"Do you want to drive or do you want to walk?" Saed asks, stopping the car. We have arrived at the bottom of a small mountain on the outskirts of Jericho, in Israel’s West Bank. Believed to be the oldest city in the world, Jericho is also the lowest, at 244 meters below sea level.
ARGENTINA’S ASCENT INTO THE CLOUDS
The eighteenth century Cabildo, built to house the town council, with its two story rows of arches, is characteristic of the hispanic architecture around the Plaza. At more than one thousand kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires, Salta is the best preserved colonial city in Argentina.
INTO THE SAHARA
A Moroccan Adventure
I tip the jug back with both hands and take a good long swig. A day and a half earlier I walked into the Sahara, just me, a fellow traveler and Ahmed, our guide. Now the three of us have come to this spot, a windswept patch of sand in the shade of an acacia tree, after walking miles without map, compass or GPS.
HORSEBACK IN TIBET
The romantic notion of galloping across the Tibetan grasslands on horseback has me lost in a reverie. According to the locals, Serchul County has the five “mosts” in the Ganzi prefecture. It is the highest (4000 metres above sea level), the farthest, the biggest, the coldest, and the poorest. It's subtle charm then is its rawness, its simplicity and its vastness.
SEEKING OUT SEA CAVES
Isle of Skye, Scotland
The Spar Cave on Scotland's Isle of Skye is a truly wondrous place. In the 19th century it was a fashionable destination for well-to-do Victorian trippers, drawn north to the rugged Strathaird peninsula by Sir Walter Scott's poem The Lord of the Isles in which he wrote of a mermaid bathing in a pool concealed deep within the enchanted cell.
NO ORDINARY CHRISTMAS
Bolivia, South America
Magically, as our bus enters the lakeshore city of Puno, the sounds of flutes, drums and bells float across the air. Craning our necks out of the window, we see elaborately costumed dancers twirling to the rhythm of the music. “Puno is the festival capital of Peru!” says our bus driver.
DEATH AND DOLCE IN THE DOLOMITES
Here I was, in a cramped machine-gun post 8,000 feet up on Lagazuoi in the Italian Dolomites, where ninety years previously the Austrians had defended their Alps front line against Italians who had joined the war on the side of the Entente Powers.
THE HUNTERS AND THE HUNTED
A Kenya Photo Safari Adventure
Everyone who has a chance to see nearly two million animals on the move has been touched by the magic of this place. What is it that gets under their skin? The urgency of the movement of the wildebeest? The wide open plains? The African light?
HIKING THE SAMARIA GORGE - A SENSORY EXPERIENCE
From the moment I reached the threshold of the trail leading through the Samaria Gorge, on Crete, I became acutely aware of the limitations of conveying my experience in text or on film. The sheer magnitude of this landscape is impossible to capture in a photo or even in words. And yet my camera lens was resilient when it came to struggling to capture the pristine vistas or vivid colours of the floral and fauna.
Kenya, East Africa
There are so many beautiful places to visit in Kenya, from sea level to mountain tops which can reach up to 10,000 feet or more; and of course there is always Mount Kenya at 17,058 feet, Africa's highest peak with its famous Club and golf course set on the lower shoulder. The Africans you will meet go out of their way to be helpful and friendly. Don't wait too long before travelling to this wordly paradise.
THE ASTOUNDING TEMPLES AND TREES OF ANGKOR
The full moon hangs low. Voluminous clouds shroud us in darkness as we ride toward Cambodia’s ancient Angkor temples, and the world’s largest religious monument. The open sides of the tuk-tuk (essentially a motorcycle pulling a covered cart, in which my girlfriend Jen and I sit) allow us to breathe in the cool, tropical air, a far cry from the stifling midday heat.
CHILLIN’ IN CHILE
Exploring the Atacama Desert on a Horse With No Name
I arrived in the Atacama Desert four days ago, and it rained. I’m not joking. It rained. San Pedro de Atacama is one of the driest places on earth. The average humidity is 35%, the skies are clear for 330 days a year, and there is very little rain, which generally falls over about three days in February.
HIKING ON THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
As I stand high above the ocean I envision my fate if I were to stumble on a rock, slip on the narrow muddy path or get blown over the edge of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. I take a deep breath and my first steps towards crossing One Man's Pass.
THE VIEW FROM SNOWDON
The view from the summit of Mount Snowdon, when the cold wet mist evaporates from the barren slopes, is a vista of yellow-brown hills and intensely green meadows. This rugged region of North Wales served as a training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary’s mountaineering team before their ascent of Mount Everest in 1953.
HIKING HALLASAN IN THE SNOW
Mount Halla, South Korea
At the foot of Mount Halla, my girlfriend Jen and I stop and gape at the meter of snow clogging the trailhead. Our guidebook clearly specified
no special equipment required. From a distance, the only visible snow lies atop Hallasan’s trapezoidal summit, like a white fin on a surfacing whale.
THE HEAVENLY GATES
Jumping off the Victoria Express train in 5:00am fog at Loa Cai, a Vietnamese border town next to China, is not the most inviting start to the day, but I am here - determined to find the Heavenly Gates near the mountain-top town of Sapa.
WONDERLAND OF ROCKS AND TREES
Joshua Tree National Park, California
I’ve never been much interested in rocks. I’ve always seen them as lumps of matter, squatting sullenly in the earth. So when I started on a journey through the Joshua Tree National Park, near Palm Springs, California, I never expect to be so excited and amazed by the rocks found there.
MEMORIAL TO AN INTREPID TRAVELER
Sir Edmund Hillary 1919-2008
Knighted in 1953 after conquering Mount Everest’s summit, to the locals Sir Edmund was like a god. They bedecked him with garlands of flowers and almost worship him. Mitch says Sir Edmund’s calmness and poise impressed him. “It was an unexpected treasure meeting him,” Mitch says.