When an elderly woman's stumble turns disastrous on a small-ship cruise in the Galapagos Islands, Sally Moir, a nurse on vacation, suddenly finds the traveler's life in her hands. Fortunately, all ends well, but Sally is left to wonder about the line between adventure and recklessness.
There's more to the Philippines than white sandy beaches, clear blue ocean, soothing waves, and swaying palms trees. When American expat BJ Stolbov settled in the Philippines, he traveled beyond and above the tourist-laden beaches to a world of lush tropical mountains and indigenous tribal culture and people. Discover his insider tips for exploring the mountains of northern Luzon.
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.
The "red alert" broadcast email warned anglers, "it's going to be brutal, dress warmly, don't wear runners." Vancouver's weather forecast called for 100% chance of heavy rainfall and high wind. That would translate to a 100 millimeters of drenching rain. The deluge accompanied by 90 kilometer winds would produce horizontal precipitation.
Vancouver Chinook Classic Derby, an annual catch and release salmon tournament shouted out the forecast proclaiming a finality, "The show must go on."
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.
The darkness of the night and the troublesome roads were worrisome, and at first it was a relief to get out of the car, but then the destination itself proved to be a scary proposition. Our ferry in the moonless night looked sinister. And when we thought about the fact that we had entered the terrain of ferocious crocodiles, the scene in front of me seemed straight out of the famous Anaconda movies. The lone lantern lighting the boat and the stillness of the water around us felt menacing. At first, most of us laughed to ward off our fear.
And then none of us spoke. Did we fear waking the reptiles? I do not quite know for I had become too numb to think coherently. Do not mistake me; I am not one of those who succumbs to fear very easily. But when it came to the prospect of being eaten by crocodiles, my mind became my own worst enemy. I kept repeating to myself that the creek was full of salt water crocodiles and I kept replaying the visuals of the Anaconda movie. In retrospect, and with objectivity, I can say that the boat ride was actually peaceful and serene.
What is land? Land can have many different meanings. Land can mean wealth, profit, prosperity, privilege, prestige, power, control, status, accomplishment, satisfaction, success, fame, respect, honor, dignity, safety, security, stability, continuity, contentment, freedom, happiness, hope, joy, beauty, love...
Land, for most people of the world, means wealth. Wealth, like beauty and love, is in the eye of the beholder.
Deep in the barren Sonora Desert of Southwestern U.S, three days away from the last person I saw, I was hiking alone, in search of quiet. The desert has always been the one place that spiritual seekers, saints, and sinners have gone in search of quiet.
Sonoran Desert, Prima, Arizona. Photo by Ken Bosma via Flickr CCLExcept that, in reality, the desert was not quiet. Its incessant winds whistled by my ears and rumbled up through my feet. Dead and dying grasses tumbled and rolled by. Snakes slithered, lizards clicked, and hares scurried across the sand. The winds sang beneath the wings of hovering vultures and under the claws of lingering thoughts.
There, hiking alone through the desert, reveling in my own silence, late in the afternoon on a tranquil summer’s day, I suddenly came upon a rattlesnake, which startled me with its rattle, louder than any rock concert I had ever been to. I stopped, the snake did not strike, we stared at each other, and then we both quietly went our separate ways.
Sound and silence can come in unanticipated places and at unpredictable times.
The first thing I heard were sounds. Were they cymbals? Was it thunder? What did they mean? Were they supposed to mean something? But I didn’t have time to ponder before the next sensory assault -- this time different textures caressing my bare feet -- gravel to burlap, wooden slats to smooth slate to soft rug. Were the others experiencing the same thing?
And here’s the rub. We were all blindfolded, one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us, as we moved about our mini-jungle. At first, I felt disoriented, out of control, with the added annoying question lurking in the back of my head: I am a travel writer, how am I supposed to take notes? But our Mayan guide propelled me back into the moment by explaining that when our sight -– our main sense in relating to the world around us –- is cut off, the others senses are expanded. And I had better start paying attention.
And so began our Sense Adventure Tour, part of a larger eco-oriented nature park and sustainable tourism program at the Hacienda Tres Rios Resort in Riviera Maya, Mexico.
Nothing can hurt you, we were reassured. Just trust in yourself and follow your senses. Do not talk, please – communicate only with yourself. And become one with the universe. How does one do that?
Then a baby laughed – or was it crying – followed by a clash of thunder and then the sounds stopped being a focus and just began to wash over me, as did the bucket of pebbles dumped on my head. I felt like I was being buried. Was that it? Were the baby’s cries rebirth? I had no idea.
The only time the blindfold was removed was within a tent with constellations of stars twinkling overhead -- the universe we’re supposed to feel a part of. Blindfold back in place, the avalanche of sensory overload continued – smells, textures, taste, sounds. All the senses were challenged, often in conjunction with one another, sometimes competing, sometimes complimentary – should I pay attention to the Native American chants or focus on the pebbles pored over my body or the cinnamon under my nose or just give in to the swaying of my body being encouraged by the guides.
by Atreyee Gupta
The first time my father took me to the island of Oahu, it was not to see the popular beaches. Instead we went straight to the interior of the Hawaiian isle where dense wilderness overtakes the landscape, creating a virescence that leaps out at the eye in full three-dimensional glory. It was a capital sight for me, an immediate opening up of my senses to the wonder of nature’s artwork. Ever since, immersing myself in Oahu’s jungle trails has been a necessity, an addiction I cannot deny.
For my father, whose own parents had taken him as a child to the depths of the Wai’anae Mountains, Oahu’s wild heart was the key that unlocked his soul, bringing him back to himself. Our hikes exploring Waimea Valley or the Hau’ula trails were times, he explained, for us to look into our hearts and see the best of ourselves reflected in the natural world. “Know yourself,” was a phrase he often quoted to me on our jaunts.
Silently crossing burbling streams or making our way deeper into the Ko’olau Range, we kept our senses alert for the sounds of bark and nuts crunching beneath our feet, the quick flash of a red-crested cardinal as it dove into the branches, the whiff of delicate perfume from rose apple blossoms. Our speechless rambles were only broken with peremptory whispers as my father identified the cheerful yellow amakihi swaying on a limb, the fiery red stamens of a flowering myrtle as it quivered in the breeze, or the discovered tributary of a tiny silver runnel. My time with him was spent not on discussions about my future or his past, but on total absorption of Oahu’s natural paradise. Everything else, he claimed, was secondary.
by Elyn Aviva
I needed a break. Big time. I’d been doing too much for too long. Traveling. Writing. Doing. Coming up with projects, ideas. More doing. And doing some more. I loved it all, and I loved my husband, Gary, but I needed a break. Alone. And somewhere preferably in Spain, where we live.
I started scanning last-minute Internet offers. My idea was a comfortable little cabin in the woods; someone bringing me wholesome food; and occasionally taking short, shady strolls through verdant vegetation.
Suddenly a vision floated before my eyes. My Camino de Santiago pilgrim friend Judy Colaneri and her husband, Juan Carlos, own Fuentes de Lucia, a “boutique” hotel/retreat center in the mountains of northwestern Spain. They had been asking me to visit for years. I checked the website. It wasn’t an isolated cabin in the woods, but it looked like a charming place, located in a beautiful Asturian Natural Park.
A “dynamic yoga retreat” was scheduled for the week I wanted to be there. I wasn’t sure I was interested in “dynamic” or “yoga”—it’s been too many years since I sat on the floor or managed to mold into an asana—but the retreat part sounded good.
I emailed Judy and received an immediate reply. In fact, she wrote, she had already put my name on the door of Room #7. That’s auspicious, I thought. After all, according to the Bible, the Creatrix rested on the seventh day. And that’s just what I wanted to do.
words + photos by Jean Kepler Ross
They say one picture is worth a thousand words. I believe being there is worth a thousand pictures.
For several years, I edited a travel guide about New Mexico and saw many photos of the gorgeous white sand dunes in southern New Mexico known as White Sands. Each photo illustrated the beauty of the dunes - sensuous mounds of sand, blooming yuccas, delicate lavender wild flowers, kids jumping off the dunes into space...it all intrigued me. I traveled in that area a few times but never had a chance to actually visit White Sands until a few weeks ago.
I was visiting a good friend who lives just out of La Luz, near Alamogordo. We watched sunsets from the west-facing portal of her house and, through a notch between mountains, looked out at White Sands in the distance...it beckoned me. I remembered all the photos I had seen and I knew it was the right time to go.
We visited White Sands National Monument late one morning. The monument is part of the worldʼs largest gypsum dune field - 275 square miles in all; about 40% lies within the monument and the rest is home to White Sands Missile Range. Some of the dunes are active and move to the northeast about thirty feet each year, while others move very little. Gypsum is clear and translucent, but scratches on the grains cause light to reflect in a way that makes them appear white.
words + photos by Laurie Gilberg Vander Velde
“Maybe I will go to the car and get my tripod,” I said to my husband. We were at the edge of a mostly frozen pond, standing on snowpack, bundled up against the 19 degree cold in the pre-dawn dark. A glimmer of light was starting to show in the sky. We had staked out a spot in the line of tripod-wielding photographers with their mega-humongous lenses We were all waiting for the awakening snow geese and sandhill cranes to perform their morning “fly out.” We were at Bosque del Apache, a National Wildlife Refuge near San Antonio, New Mexico about an hour south of Albuquerque. It’s a place known to many serious bird watchers who throng to the area in the winter to watch thousands and thousands -- and thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes come and go.
We are not avid birders, nor am I a zealous photographer. How could I be? I love taking pictures and dabble in PhotoShop, but I tote a point-and-shoot camera. It’s top of the line and somewhat flexible, but it’s still a point-and-shoot, and the SLR crowd look at me with some disdain. Much as I would love to use a digital SLR and be able to change lenses, my body just can’t schlepp that much weight. And my husband, despite my batting my eyelids at him, has turned me down flat. It was hard not to be intimidated by the very serious looking phalanx of expensive equipment lined up on tripods waiting for “the moment.”
Our home is now in Santa Fe, so we made the easy two plus hour drive to the Bosque (means “forest” in Spanish) the night before, aiming to get there in late afternoon in hopes of seeing the “fly in.” This is the time during the golden hour before the sun sets and the moments after sunset when tens of thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes fly in. A foot of snow had closed the refuge a couple of days before, but the plows had sort of cleared the roads. The observation decks were still snow covered. The big problem was that there were limited areas of open, unfrozen water in the ponds, and the birds want to land on open water where they are safer from predators. The helpful folks at the visitors’ center can tell you where the birds landed the night before, but the birds don’t file a flight plan, so we can only guess where they might land tonight.
by Jules Older
I'm a travel writer, which means I'm a hit-and-run artist — New Zealand’s North Island today, the southern Sierra tomorrow. I'm the man who rarely returns.
Except to Newfoundland. I've been five times to Canada's easternmost, poorest and most interesting province. That chunk of rock in the North Atlantic, closer to Ireland than to Vancouver, 1,600 miles east of New York, captured my heart an hour into my first visit.
On the latest visit, I experienced three lifetime thrills in three consecutive days. Where else on earth can you do that?
THRILL ONE: ICEBERGS
It began in the tiny town of Springdale, where we hooked up with ace pilot Rick Adams, owner-operator of Springdale Aviation Ltd.
I flew over and around massive icebergs making their way south from Greenland. Never before had I seen a berg, and now they were scant yards below the Cessna 185's wing.
But if iceberging from a low-flying plane is a thrill, berging from a sea kayak is a life event. Because sea kayaking has a very steep learning curve -- you can be moderately proficient in an hour or so -- and because icebergs have a tendency to get stuck just offshore in the province's protected harbors, the experience is open to the many rather than the fit few.
It's a stunning experience. I drove over a hill and down into an outport, Newfoundland for coastal village. My heart thumped a little louder as I spotted the gleaming white of half a dozen icebergs towering above the dark water like dollops of cream on a chocolate cake. I couldn't wait to haul the kayak off the roof of the van.
by Judith Fein
As the holiday of hearts approaches, you’re probably thinking long-stemmed roses served on a breakfast tray in a 5-star hotel. Then, hmmm….snuggling, doing the love thang, champagne, chocolate, doing the love thang again, bundling up for a hand-holding stroll, dinner, a show and home again. The odds are slim that your amorous thoughts turn to things that creep and crawl and fly. But what if Cupid inspired you to do just that—think of animals for Valentine’s Day? One equatorial word immediately leaps to the lips: Galapagos.
The great Galapagean secret is that it’s no longer an either-or proposition. The entire crew of a ship can pamper you and your honey while you float toward the remote islands that young Charles Darwin visited in 1835. It’s no wonder it took him five years to collect his thoughts and formulate his theory of Evolution and survival of the fittest. Poor Charley had to recover from his years on board the Beagle, where he suffered continually from the agony of sea-sickness. Although your cruise may not result in a great scientific breakthrough, your ship will be stabilized, you will not be tossing your petit fours, and you will be in the mood for unusual forms of aquatic and terrestrial love.
My husband, who is a thoroughbred romantic, booked us in a deluxe room on the l00-passenger Explorer II. I had visions of walking single-file down a dark, narrow, creaking corridor and ducking into a stateroom with a metal floor and a Murphy bed. Ah, how little I trusted my Valentine. The corridors were broader than some state roads, and the doors all shone with mahogany finishes. Our room was carpeted, had real drapery, a huge bed, a video console, chocolates on our pillows, and—was I dreaming?—the room steward made up the room at least three times a day. Before bed, he twisted our yellow beach towels into the shapes of different Galapagos animals. I think my fave was the turtle with mints for eyes.
I’ll concede that it’s not love-inducing to get up at 6:45 a.m. every morning, but you have to take a ponga (a motorized skiff) to shore to greet the fauna before they go food-hunting. The upside is that there are several breaks during the day when you can slip off into your stateroom for a quickie, and everyone is too busy talking about the animals they’ve just seen to notice.