A trekking adventure in West Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, a place where some people still hunt their food with bows and arrows, challenges preconceptions and produces unexpected insights for intrepid traveler Barbara Brown Allen.
When writer Chris Pady decides to slip away for a few hours on a friend's bicycle while vacationing with his wife and kids in Kaoshiung, Taiwan, he discovers the Ai He (Love RIiver) path. What begins as a hot and steamy fling in the form of daily cycling escapes, ends with knowing Kaoshiung a little better. And the best part: No guilt.
by Dan Dworkin
To travel solo for days in a kayak is to be not on or in but of the water. It loves you, rocks you like your mother did, speaks to you with many voices, supports your meandering, bathes you, feeds you, tells you when to travel and when to stay still on the island of the moment. On every trip there is a time of storm, of being wind-bound when the judicious kayaker stays put, writes, rests, wanders, constructs stone sculptures and listens for the still, small voice.
by Elyn Aviva
It took nearly 11 years and three attempts for my husband, Gary, and me to complete the 12-mile-long St Michael’s Way across the southern tip of Cornwall. That’s a rather long time for a short walk—probably a record of some sort. And even though we ended up hiking more than 12 miles, we never did manage to walk the middle five.
But we persevered, although we were misled every step of the way.
by Renee King
The chatter of tourists surrounded me and invaded my ears. I tried to block it out, but, truth be told, even my own travel companions were taking up space in my head. I closed my eyes, took slow deliberate breaths, and cleared my mind. When I opened my eyes, a vast white valley spread itself out before me – inviting me to take in its pristine beauty. Towering majestic mountains on either side bookended the sea of ice before me. Awestruck and breathless, I tried to comprehend that I was seeing was nature – raw, unforgiving, awesome for all my senses. As I heard questions from either side of me, I was able to deflect that unwanted noise. I breathed deeply and found something just for me on the Mer de Glace in Chamonix, France.
It was a gorgeous day for a hike--sunny, blue skies, comfortable temperature-perfect hiking weather. F suggested we hike up to the summit of the 12,000’ peak, taking our time, enjoying the profusion of wildflowers that had suddenly emerged after the night’s rain. She was used to hiking at lower altitudes, so we stopped whenever she needed to catch her breath or eat a snack. We climbed in companionable silence, finding the meandering path up to the top with no trouble.
Almost as soon as we started eating, it began to rain. We put on our rain gear, packed up our food, and started hiking down the mountain. The temperature dropped. Balls of hail mixed with the rain. Rivulets of water poured down what we thought was the trail.
Suddenly she screamed at me. “I’m not doing this anymore. Why do you always have to hike? Why can’t we ride bikes? This is dangerous!”
I learned long ago the correct way to hike the trail to Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch in the Rockies of northern New Mexico. I knew I needed water, a jacket for rain, sunscreen (although in 1971, when I was six, we called it tanning lotion or sun block - and we only used it at the pool), and sensible, rugged shoes. Footwear absolutely needed to be ankle height, if not higher, with strong laces and a traction-optimized tread. Twisting an ankle always loomed as a real threat, and a good, solid lace-up boot would help prevent that. Snakebite, by a prairie rattler or the dreaded diamondback rattler, could not only wreck a vacation, it could take a life. As a child I had no choice in the matter. When we hiked Chimney Rock, I wore my Red Wing hiking boots, which were perfectly serviceable.
My love of cowboy boots came from my very first pair of Acme harness boots. I got them as a young boy in Nebraska, and they helped me feel independent, strong, protected, and stylish. I lost track of those boots, and really didn’t have another pair until late into high school, at which time I was too cool to wear them -- city kids just didn’t wear boots. We left ‘wearin’ shit kickers’ to the country boys. I chuckle when I return to Nebraska now, because with enough distance, I can see that my hometown has and probably had plenty of room for cowboy boots.
by Lynn Smith
I was diving on a reef off of Harbor Island, in the Bahamas. It was a lovely morning, the bright sunshine spearing down through more than thirty feet of water to light up the colorful and fishy reef below. I had a cheap plastic underwater camera and was floating upright just off the sandy bottom, positioned to record the dive master hand-feeding a few of the “tame” Nassau groupers. A small cluster of divers eagerly watched the dive master as she pulled some goody from the front pocket of her buoyancy compensator (BC) and hovered over the reef.
Pretty soon, four large groupers swam out of their holes in the reef and slowly approached the dive master. I took a quick “establishing” shot, careful to capture the dive master, the fish and the group of tourists. I tried to crank the roll of film manually to the next frame, but the gloves I had on to protect my hands from sharp coral made operating the film advance wheel impossible.
by Melanie Webb
“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each guest has been sent as a guide from beyond.” - Rumi
Eiji and I ascended higher into the silence of a still autumn afternoon on the Colorado Plateau. The Wave, iconic redrock remnant of petrified sand dunes, disappeared below us. Twice already we’d cliffed-out, reached dead-ends where our path fell away into the abyss below and forced us to backtrack and work another angle.
“Are you sure you can get back down?” I spoke slowly to my Japanese guest and gestured to the steep slope we had just hiked.
I remained still until I had his buy-in on the route I’d chosen. This had to be a team effort or we wouldn’t succeed. We were several hours into the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, a 280,000 acre geologic treasure on the Utah/Arizona border. There was no room for error and there would be no alternate escape route should Eiji suddenly trigger a forgotten fear of heights.
Eiji took a deliberate look behind him and nodded his head. “Yes. We go on,” he said in his quiet broken English, breathing hard.
Eiji had worked hard to be with me on the rock, and he wouldn’t give up that easily. He made the trip to Colorado last year, only to be rained out by summer monsoons and flashfloods. Back home in Japan, he diligently entered his name in the online government lottery every week for 10 months, each time paying a non-refundable fee to take his chance at being one of the lucky 20 people per day issued a permit to visit this fragile spectacle of rock. His prized permit in hand at last, Eiji traveled nearly 24 hours to spend two days with me photographing hidden rock formations few travelers have seen: Melody Arch, The Alcove, and Top Rock Arch.
It wasn’t only Eiji I was worried about – it was myself. Though I’d guided The Vermilion Cliffs many times, I’d never been to the specific arches Eiji was determined to reach. Land use restrictions applied even to us local guides, and I wasn’t allowed in The Wave without a client. My pre-game ritual of scouting the route to feel connected to the land, know current conditions, and anticipate the challenges of my clients was prohibited. There wasn’t even a topo map of the area, for goodness sake! I felt uncharacteristically dubious about my success.
Climbing up the wide circular stone staircase to our hotel room in the Chateau des Ducs de Joyeuse on the first night, I knew this would be a very different trip. I could just as easily be entering a medieval castle as a lodging facility -- and then I found out I was, though I suspect our modernized room was a lot less drafty than those of the lords and ladies who preceded us.
The experience, near Les Oliviers south of Toulouse, certainly set the tone for our Southern France Walking Through History tour—conducted, ironically, by a company called New England Hiking. As we hiked through, around, up and over one medieval village after another, traversing castles and countryside and learning about the Middle Ages of the 11th-14th centuries, we were immersed in history.
by Landon Hartstein
The thrill of catching a wave and rippin’ along down the line is addictive. Sometimes my addiction makes me do stupid things and risk more than I should.
I was living in New Zealand, on a 200 acre farm two kilometres down the Whanakai walkway from Sandy Bay--a beautiful, horseshoe shaped, sandy bay with an estuary leading to the sea. When the swell and winds aligned, the shifty sand bank produced an incredible wave.
It had been storming for a few days and the surf was definitely “up”. Even though it was raining, it didn’t calm the winds. The water was choppy and the waves could easily be considered “over-head”. I paddled out alongside the protection of the cliff, using the rocks as a rip.
Once I was outside, I knew I was in trouble. A huge wave rose up right in front of me and I realized I didn’t get far enough out of the danger zone. I ducked my board under the wave. As I pushed through, I could feel the power of the wave pull me backwards and got a deeper sense of just how dangerous my situation was.
Humbled, I decided I shouldn’t mess around out there and would try to get back to shore immediately but I was already outside and I’d have to attempt at least one wave to get back in. Well, that’s what I came out for, I thought. One wave.
by Martin Nolan
Growing up on a council estate in England, there wasn’t much opportunity to strap two pieces of wood to my feet and slide down a hill. There were plenty of hills but not too many skis. In fact, there was only one person on the estate who had gone skiing. He was the guy who had fancy tea bags and premium range biscuits. In England council estates are areas where low income families reside (like trailer parks but with bricks, mortar and no tornados). They are for working class families, who work all year to save enough money to go on a package Holiday to Spain. We didn’t indulge in expensive tea and we certainly didn’t indulge in skiing. If it was Victorian times, we would have been the good natured chimney sweeps and everyone knows chimney sweeps don’t ski.
In the intermitting years, I had become wealthier and skiing had become more affordable. Although only ever so slightly. So it wasn’t until my early twenties that I was able to go skiing. It was an attempt to expand my horizons beyond my football loving, gambling, sun seeking past that lead me to book a trip to St Anton with Crystal Ski. I pretty much chose the resort because the people there seemed to like a drink. So in hindsight, it may not have been that big a departure from my usual ways. A leopard can’t change his spots and all that. So I packed my bag and went to the capital of Après Ski.
Travelling by myself did not come naturally. I’m basically a socially inept, mumbling wreck of a human being. Mumbling became a way to avoid my ill timed comments from being heard. My jaw was starting to ache from constantly having to dislodge my foot from it. Since my filter wasn’t capable of stopping the words passing through my teeth, I could at least say it in a way that they wouldn’t properly hear it. People being offended were replaced by nods of politeness. No one ever wants to admit they weren’t listening properly.
So booking a shared chalet may not have been the greatest of ideas. Strangers, small talk, me. A potential melting pot of problems. “Have a few drinks... you’re really charming when you loosen up”. That was my well thought through plan. Use social lubricant to slide your way into the group.
First things first. No water slide at any man-made water park will ever be the same again for me –- not after cascading down natural waterfalls in the Dominican Republic.
The waterfall escapade –- billed as 27 Waterfalls, though that’s really a misnomer, as it’s more like ten waterfalls flowing into twenty-seven pools of water –- is only one of a multitude of outdoor activities offered by the Dominican Republic eco-adventure tour operator, Iguana Mama.
For many, a Dominican Republic (DR) vacation is a stay at an all-inclusive beach resort in Punta Cana, the most visited (read: touristy) destination in the DR whose admittedly beautiful beaches are lined with a succession of All-Inclusives.
My husband and I didn’t go there. Instead, we opted for Puerta Plata, on the north coast, which also boasts lovely beaches but offers a wealth of nature-based adventures not available in Punta Cana. There, you can explore the countryside, meet the locals, visit off-the-beaten path communities and connect with nature. And, for us, the best way to discover the north coast was with Iguana Mama.
by Nancy King
On a cool sunny dawn, after getting up at 4 a.m., my friend and I began our hike into the Grand Canyon after agreeing that we would each walk at our own pace and meet at the rest stops. She took off and I followed behind, starting down the 14-mile hike on the Kaibab Trail, munching a protein bar and drinking the electrolyte-water in the bladder of my backpack for breakfast. As the golden rays of the sun highlighted huge stone canyon structures, I felt blessed by the beauty surrounding me.
Before we began the hike I was concerned about hiking back up the steep Bright Angel Trail, but it never occurred to me that going down could be a problem. I was totally unprepared for the widely spaced wooden steps and heavily eroded trail in front of me. Down two feet to a log step, then up two feet to the next log step. Down, up, down up, all the time moving down a steep incline. Still, I was contentedly making my way when suddenly I lost 75% of my energy and could barely control where and how I stepped. I began falling backwards as I tried to take a step. My body refused to move normally. I had no idea what was happening to me.
What I did know was that I couldn’t afford to panic and waste my waning energy.