Sunday, December 23, 2007

Turkey Selected for May 2008


Well, we finally selected the tour company for our visit to Turkey in May of 2008. Pacha Tours Grand Turkey Tour, and a separate 4-day sailing adventure on the Mediterranean coast, is the itinerary we chose. We expect to be gone from May 2nd to June 2nd. We won't be going to the Paris Open Tennis Tournament (maybe next year, when we visit France for a month). We'll probably also be letting those on Seniors Home exchange know that the house will be available for exchange arrangements.

We're also becoming serious about purchasing a Chalet recreational vehicle (pop-up sides and top, check it out at Chalet 1930, and a hybrid crossover-type car with the capacity to tow it. Toyota, Honda, Saturn, and Volvo all have them. We'd like to take some more 3-15 day trips around the western U.S. and Mexico, and we've passed through the time when our Volkswagon Vanagon was comfortable for us. An indoor toilet and shower has become something we'd like to have on the road. Kayaks, Bikes, surfboard, and golf clubs will be included.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Trip to Turkey


Here are the choices for our trip to Turkey:

The Choices:

· Pacha Tours, with a 24-day tour. ( or (, 24 days, Mercedes or Mitsubishi bus, 28 passengers in 44 passenger bus in 2004 website description, $2635.($68-$80/day average cost on comparison website page), weekly departures.

· Intrepid Travel
o Turkey Unplugged, (, 21 days, 1150 Australian dollars, plus 300 Euros local payment, maximum group size = 12, weekly April to October, 2008.

· Imaginative Traveller
o Best of East and West, (, 23 days, 1100 British pounds, plus local payment, maximum group size = 15.
o Eastern Images, (Ankara to Cappadocia), (, 15 days, 740 British pounds, plus local payment, maximum group size = 15.
o Jewels of Turkey, (Central and Western Turkey), (, 15 days, 699 British pounds, Maximum groups size = 15.
o Turkey Explored, (Western and Central Turkey), (, 16 days, 525 British pounds, maximum group size = 16.

· Tour Turkey, with three tours which connect –
o Ancient Kingdoms (, 11 days, 10 passengers, 1525 Euros
o Eastern Turkey (, 16 days, 10 passengers, 2195 Euros
o Grand Turkey (, 16 days, 10 passengers, 2260 Euros.

· Twarp, with two tours which connect –
o Jewels of Turkey (, 15 days, Unknown # of passengers, $1200 approx.
o Marvels of the Black Sea ( 15 days, Unknown # of passengers, $1200 approx.

· Boraozkok Tours
o History and Discovery Tours (Central and Western Turkey), (, six tours during April to June, 18 days in length, $2400.

· Exodus Tours
o Highlights of Turkey, (Central and Western Turkey), 15 days, $1500, maximum group size = 18.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Upcoming Travels


Here are our proposed travel plans:

25-Day Grand Tour of Turkey (May, 2008).
In the early part of 20th century, the finishing touch to any truly educated person was the “Grand Tour” when travelers would board steamer ships and go explore the “old” world in person. This tour is a variation on that theme.

Trabzon; Sumela Monastery. Erzurum; Cifte Minaret, Uckumbetler, Yakutiye. Kars; Armenian city of 1001 churches - Ani, Mt. Ararat. Dogubeyazit; Palace of Ishak Pasa, Van; Muradiye, Water Falls, Van Castle, Hosap Castle, Cavustepe, Akdamar Island. Diyarbakir; Grand Mosque, City Walls Hasankeyf, Midyat, Mardin, Darulzaferan. Adiyaman; Mt Nemrut, Kahta. Urfa; Ataturk Dam, Balikli Gol, Harran, Zeugma. Antakya; Mosaic Museum, Cave of Saint Peter, St Paul, Tarsus. Cappadocia; Goreme, Pasabagi, Dervent Valley, Undergroound city of Ozkonak, Konya; Sultanhani Caravanserai, Whirling Dervishes. Antalya; Perge, Aspendos, Pamukkale/Denizli; Aphrodisias, Pamukkale, Izmir; Sardis, Ephesus, House of Virgin Mary. Canakkale; Pergamum, Troy, Gallipoli. Istanbul; St Sophia, Bosporus Cruise, Kariye (St Chora), B. Mosque, Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace, G. Bazaar.

Arrive in Trabzon on Friday
Depart from Istanbul on Sunday

May 1. Thu. Depart to Turkey

May 2. Fri. Arrival in Trabzon
Upon our arrival in Trabzon, we will be met with a friendly 'merhaba' (hello) and escorted to our hotel. We will have the day free to begin exploring Trabzon or to relax at our leisure. We'll learn more about the cultural adventure ahead of us at an orientation meeting at 7pm. During dinner, we'll get acquainted with the other members of our group.

May 3. Sat. Trabzon/Erzurum
Trabzon, the city which Don Quichote dreamt constantly of being the king of, as reward of his efforts in his famous story, was founded in 7th.c. BC. We'll start the day with a visit to the 14th. c. Sumela monastery, and continue to the Zigana Pass where 10.000 Greek mercenaries cried out Thalassa, Thalassa (the sea,the sea) upon viewing the Black Sea on their way back home from Persia in 5th c.BC. Enjoying wild scenery of Kop mountain, we arrive in Erzurum

May 4. Sun. Erzurum/Ani/Kars
Following a visit of the city's Seljouki monuments such as the Yakutiye Madrasa the Great Mosque and Doubled Minaret, products of the Turco-Islamic renaissance - unforgattable for their architecture, we will drive across the vast plains along the Araxes river to Kars. This border town to Armenia is under snow almost all winter. We'll visit Ani, once the capital city of an Armenian kingdom, taken by Turks in 1070. The enormous walls, the Virgin Mary cathedral, the first mosque in Turkey and many more amaze the visitors. Back to town for a stroll along the streets where Orhan Pamuk's "Snow" was set.

May 5. Mon. Kars/Dogubeyazit/ Mt Ararat/Van
A southbound drive will take us through the countryside where nomads and their Kangal (Anatolian Shepherd Dog) can be seen. We'll visit Ishak Pasha Palace and its dungeons, library, mosque and harem rooms, on our way down to Van. The 17000 feet Mount Ararat, fabled to have housed the Ark of Noah will be viewed for most of the way. Locals weave animal figures on the Sumak Kilims as a depiction of the ark's passengers. Armenian rituals were performed facing this mighty biblical mountain. Muradiye waterfalls will be the last visit before arriving in Van.

May 6. Tue. Van
Today we have a full day tour around the lake Van, the largest lake of Turkey. Our first visit will be to Cavustepe, an Urartian citadel complex dated back to 8th c. The 16th c. Hosap Castle will make us feel like we are in a sci-fi movie. A lake-side lunch will be followed by a cruise to the Akthamar Island, for a visit of a unique Armenian church, adorned with a stone carved story of the people and their faith. We'll visit a local carpet and handicraft center, the Van Castle for a glance at the Urartian capital Tuspa, and the Urartian royal tomb where inscriptions are still visible.

May 7. Wed. Van/Diyarbakir
We'll drive up the Bitlis mountains for a stop in Bitlis to visit a Seljuki madrasa and have lunch. Continue to upper Mesopotamia (between the Euphrates & Tigres) and visit the 13th c. Malabadi - one of the largest bridges of the past. Enjoy a lovely sunset on the city walls of Diyarbakir - famed to be second only to the Chinese wall. Built out of well-cut basalt stone, they encircle the entire old town with almost no break. The Great Mosque , a Syrian Orthodox and an Armenian Church stand side by side within the walls.

May 8. Thu. Hasankeyf, Mardin/Diyarbakir
We'll drive along a land spotted with oli wells, and irrigated by the water of Tigris. Visit the remains of Hasankeyf's monumental Zeyl Abidin tomb, rock houses, & an Islamic university. Continue to Midyat, well known for its stone carvings and monastaries. Final city is Mardin, declared as the most beautiful town in the world by Arnold Toyenbee. The Dayr-ul Zafaran monastery - once the center of Assyrian orthodoxy, where monks still speak and pray in Aramaic. They will read to us in Jesus' native language. After visiting the Sun temple and parts of the monastery, time will be given to stroll the streets of old city on the high hill side looking over the vast Mesopotamian plains. Return to Diyarbakir

May 9. Fri. Diyarbakir/Mt. Nemrut/Adiyaman
An early start for a climb up the mount Nemrud, where Kommagenian king Antiochus' tomb was built, surrounded by the gigantic statues of local gods. Not only the tomb complex is a wonder, but the view from up there is grand. Explore the terraces & statues, and back to Kahta after observing some more ruins on route.

May 10. Sat. Adiyaman/Harran/Urfa
Drive to Urfa, along the banks of the largest man made lake in Turkey (of Ataturk Dam). Pistachio trees are native to this town (Edessa), which is the birthplace of Abraham. Feed the sacred fish, visit Abraham's grotto and make our way out of this once capital to the Crusaders; only to go to another breathtaking place.. Harran. This is where Abraham and his family were told to start their journey to Canaan. Ruins of the oldest Islamic university which was also astronomy center with its observation tower still standing, and the Harran houses built of mud-brick with conical dome are all unique features of this land. We may even want to consider believing that the never agreed-upon location of the Garden of Eden was here. Back to Urfa to wander in the bazaar.

May 11. Sun. Urfa/Zeugma/Antioch
We'll drive to Antakya via Zeugma, that was built on the banks of Euphrates as a military post, where Roman generals lived with their families in super villas. The afternoon will be spent in Antakya,a true tresaure of history, religions and food. The word "Christian" was first used in this town where St. Peter gathered early Christians in a cave church for mass.The city is also honored being where Cleopatra and Marc Anthony got married. The second largest mosaic museum will be another highlight of the day.

May 12. Mon. Antioch/Tarsus/Adana
We'll drive along the turquoise waters of Meditarrenean, through the fertile Cukurova plains, barred by Taurus mountains range. Frederic Barborossa was drowned somewhere here. The birthplace of St.Paul - Tarsus is only another addition to this land of plenty (at least in terms of historical celebrities). Cleopatra and Marc Antony first met here, Alexander The Great marched his armies through this land; so did the Crusaders. Day ends in Adana,one of the largest cities of Turkey , and an American air force base, with over 2000 staff.

May 13. Tue. Adana/Tarsus/Cappadocia
In the morning, we'll cross Taurus Mountains and visit Eskigumus Monastery. Here we can explore the Christian remains of the region. After lunch, time to read and watch the passing country-side as we embark on a 5 hour journey to the lunar-like landscape of Cappadocia.

May 14. Wed. Cappadocia
Begin our discovery of Cappadocia with Goreme’s “Caves of God” a Unesco world heritage site. Monasteries and churches hewn into volcanic tufa rock reached their peak between 7th and 13th centuries. Natural formations from the landscape of Avcilar and Red valley of Dervent will offer us a large palette of colors through the hours of the day. We will see the ongoing erosion on the fairy chimneys of Pasabagi, and natural fortress of Uchisar after our lunch in an authentic

May 15. Thu. Cappadocia
We'll descend several stories beneath the ground to the underground city of Kaymakli where early Christians fleeing persecution lived for month at a time undetected. Learn how the colorful rugs that echo the earth tones of the region are made during a demonstration by local weavers.

Drive to the southern regions of Cappadocia to discover picturesque villages like Sinasos, Sahin Efendi and Soganli.

May 16. Fri. To Cappadocia/Konya/Antalya area
Today’s long driving will be interrupted first by a visit to a seven hundred years old Caravanserail, then a visit to biblical city of Konya, and finally we will visit the museum and mausoleum of the founder of the mystic cult of Whirling Dervishes… Love and tolerance to his multi-cultural environment - his followers are great place of veneration. In the afternoon, cross the Taurus mountains and get impressed by its flora of variation from fur trees to cedar trees. We'll then arrive at the end of day to the Mediterranean city of Antalya.

May 17. Sat. Perge/Aspendos/Antalya
We'll begin our discovery of Greek and Roman arcaeology by the exclusive site of Perge, where St. Paul gave his first sermonts. Aspendos has the best-preserved Roman theater of Turkey today. It is a venue for classical music performances. In the afternoon, we'll enjoy a visit to a jewellery center which makes one of fames of Antalya, and then stroll through the Ottoman houses of Antalya’s old city enclosed by roman walls and Hadrian Gate.

May 18. Sun. Aphrodisias/Pamukkale
Mid Tour Break Options

Visit the most inspiring ancient site of Asia Minor, Aphrodisias is dedicated to the goddess of love and beauty Aphrodite. During the roman era, its famous school of sculpture was supplied from abundant marble quarries at the near vicinity. After lunch reach, we'll drive to Pamukkale to enjoy warm thermal spring pool in our spa hotel.

May 19. Mon. Pamukkale/Sardis/Izmir
We'll explore Pamukkale formations, petrified waterfalls, calcium stalactites, and shallow travertine pools. Neither hot nor cold waters of revelation were the source of healing by the dwellers of Hierapolis. Drive through Philadelphia - the city of Brotherly Love. Visit Sardis, excavated by various universities including Harward U. Sardis was once the Lydian capital of King Croesus, and was later adorned by a splendid twin-arked ruman period synagogue.

May 20. Tue. Ephesus
Today, we will visit Ephesus. Of all the great cities of ancient world, Ephesus is the best preserved. It has the first church consecrated to Mary. Following our lunch at the historic village of Sirince, we'll visit the tomb of St. John.

May 21. Wed. Pergamum/Troy/Canakkale
We'll drive along the mythic coastline of the ""wine-dark"" Aegean Sea to ancient Pergamum, home to the famous physician, Galen. Stroll through the remains of the Asclepion, one of the foremost medical centers of ancient times (the library which once held 240,000 scrolls), the Acropolis and the Trojaneum. Next, we'll visit the site of one of the most famous wars of ancient times, the legendary city of Troy, immortalized in Homer's Iliad and 'Discovered' in 1871 by Heinrich Schliemann. Continue on to Canakkale.

May 22. Thu. Canakkale/Gallipolis/Istanbul
We'll ferry across the Dardanelle for a somber stop at the very real memorial at Gallipolis, commemorating one of the most famous battles in modern history. The beauty of the green hills, sandy beaches, and blue waters provides an honored resting place for the soldiers who bravely fought and died in this historic battle. After lunch, we return to Istanbul, rising from the shores of the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara

May 23. Fri. Istanbul
We'll discover the classical highlights of Istanbul: the Roman Hippodrome, and the Blue Mosque famed for its Iznik tiled interior and six minarets. We will also visit the jeweled interior of the Topkapi Palace, home to the Spoon maker’s Diamond. In the afternoon, we are free to explore the labyrinth tunnels of the Grand Bazaar that houses more than 4,000 shops. The names recall the days when each trade had its own quarter: the goldsmiths' street, the carpet sellers' street, and the street of the skullcap makers. Still the commercial center of the old city, the bazaar is the original shopping mall with something to suit every taste and budget.

May 24. Sat. Istanbul
We'll begin our discovery of Istanbul's natural beauty and rich historic heritage with a morning cruise on the Bosporus. Glide past the minarets and palaces, stone fortresses and wooden Ottoman mansions of the only city in the world that bridges Europe and Asia. In the afternoon, we'll discover Saint Sophia and the church of Saint Savior in Chora. The Basilica or St. Sophia, now called the Ayasofya Museum is unquestionably one of the finest buildings of all time. Built by Constantine the Great, and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century, we'll take time to stop and savor its majesty and serenity as we admire the fine Byzantine mosaics and Islamic calligraphy. Finalize our day wandering through the Spice market.

May 25. Sun. Departure
This morning, we bid this magical land ‘”gule gule” (goodbye) as we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Paris.

May 26. Mon. Gregory - Paris Open Tennis Tournament. Pat - TBD.
May 27. Tues "
May 28. Wed "
May 29. Thurs "
May 30. Fri "
May 31. Sat "
Jun 1. Sun "
Jun 2. Mon Flight home to SF.

Minnesota (Aug-Sep 2008)

Now that I've found my connections to Norway, I'm interested in following the trail from Norway to Michigan to Minnesota to North Dakota to Washington State. Traveling from California, and taking the reverse of that trip design, we'll spend the month of May in the Northwest and Midwest visiting relatives, and sites of my family travels.

South America (Mid-January to Mid-February, 2008)
· Argentina and Chile
Day 1 Arrival in Buenos Aires
Arrival in Buenos Aires. Nearly 40% of the country's 33 million citizens live in Gran Buenos Aires (Greater Buenos Aires), which at first makes the city almost as imposing as New York or London. However, after a brief orientation you will find that the compact city centre is accessible and easily explored on foot, by bus, taxi and underground. Overnight in Buenos Aires. Dinner if required.

Day 2 Buenos Aires - Iguazu Falls
This morning we transfer to the airport for our two hour flight to Iguazu Falls.* After transferring to our hotel we have time to relax and have lunch. This afternoon we have a guided tour of the falls on the Argentine side (upper balconies). Here we are at the confluence of the River Iguazu and the deep flowing Parana. This place is known as the "Hito de las Tres Fronteras" because at this point Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay converge. The national park here is home to more than 21,000 plant species and 400 bird species. The waterfalls disgorge 1700 cubic m (1,853 cubic yards) of water per second from a height of 70 m (230 feet) in 275 different falls, most of which are in Argentina. On the frontier with Brazil there is a gully--La Garganta del Diablo (The Devil's Throat) which is 150 m (490 feet) wide and 700 m (2,290 feet) long. * PLEASE NOTE: If fewer than 6 travellers choose this Iguazu extension, you will be escorted by a local guide only for this portion of your tour; your dinner in Buenos Aires on arrival on Day 1 (if required) will be prepaid and arranged by a local guide. You will meet your Tour Leader upon your return to Buenos Aires from Iguazu. Please pack an overnight bag for the trip to Igauzu; large baggage will be securely stored in Buenos Aires. Overnight at Iguazu Falls. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 3 Iguazu Falls - Buenos Aires
You have a half-day free to revisit the paths along the upper and lower parts of the falls (optional 15 pesos per person, local bus 3 pesos) and the path that goes along the river from the observation point of the Bosetti falls to the quay. The plunging falls throw a fine drizzle up to 30 m (98 feet) into the air, weaving countless rainbows in the sun. Be sure to take rain-proof clothing. The United Nations has declared Iguazu Falls a protected area of worldwide importance. You can also take an optional boat ride to the base of the falls (100 pesos / 35 USD per person), or the local bus to Iguazu Town where you can explore and observe where Argentine, Brazil, and Uruguay come together. You will need to be back in the hotel this afternoon to be ready for your transfer to the airport; please verify the check-out time from your hotel reception desk. Later this afternoon we fly to Buenos Aires and transfer to our hotel. Nearly 40% of the country's 33 million citizens live in Gran Buenos Aires (Greater Buenos Aires), which at first makes the city almost as imposing as New York or London. However, after a brief orientation you will find that the compact city centre is accessible and easily explored on foot, by bus, taxi and underground. Overnight in Buenos Aires. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 4 Buenos Aires: City Tour
Today we see the sights of this cosmopolitan city. In the early part of the 20th century, Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world. The grand public buildings of Buenos Aires reflect this opulent era. The city is known as the "Paris of South America" because of its wide boulevards and European-style architecture. Buenos Aires was founded for the second time in 1580 by Juan de Garay, just north of Mendoza's encampment. In accordance with Spanish law, he laid out the large Plaza del Fuerte (Fortress Plaza). It acquired its present name of Plaza de Mayo after the month of revolution in 1810. Our tour focuses on the major public buildings. Catedral Metropolitana, built on the sight of the original colonial church was not completed until 1827. Not only is it considered a major religious landmark, but also a historic site of great importance. Here lies the tomb of Jose de San Martin, the man who (along with Simon Bolivar) liberated South America from Spanish rule in the early 1800's. The Plaza de Mayo is also home to Museo del Cabildo, the Presidential Palace (Casa Rosada), and the National Congress (Palacio del Congreso). We also visit the Recoleta Cemetery where Buenos Aires' richest citizens are buried in magnificent marble tombs elaborately decorated with statues. The most internationally-famous person buried here is "Evita" Peron. Later this afternoon you may choose to visit in the artists' quarter of San Telmo. Ask your Tour Leader about the possibility of seeing an optional Tango Show this evening. Overnight in Buenos Aires. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 5 Buenos Aires: City Tour
Today we have a half-day WALKING tour. Our first stop is the Centro Naval, one of the city's most exquisite buildings and a masterpiece of cast stone architecture. The building was opened in 1914 and was designed by Swiss architect Jacques Dunant. It's not generally open to the public, but sometimes they let you into the circular lobby. The Kavanagh Building, at the time of its construction in 1936, was the tallest building in South America, standing at about 120m (400 ft.) with over 30 stories. Designed as a residential structure, it took more than 16 years to sell the apartments in this Art Deco building. Now it is only the third-tallest building in the city. Palacio Paz is perhaps the most beautiful of the Beaux Arts mansions in Buenos Aires; the Circulo Militar looks plucked from the Loire Valley. It was the home of the Paz family and took almost 12 years to build; the patriarch who commissioned it died waiting. The General Jose de San Martin Monument celebrates General Jose de San Martin, who battled against Spain in the wars of independence and is known as the founder of the Argentine nation. The Palacio San Martin is another of the grand mansions that line Plaza San Martin, this was the home of the powerful Anchorenas family whose prestige dated to colonial times in Argentina. The Islas Malvinas-Falkland Islands Memorial honors the more than 700 Argentines who died in the war over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands chain in the brief war with Great Britain in early 1982. The Torre Monumental (British Clock Tower) is a 1916 gift from the British community in Buenos Aires, along with all other things British, was renamed in response to the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands War and is called the Argentine Big Ben by some. Decorated with British royal imperial symbols, the base was partly destroyed by an angry mob during an Islas Malvinas-Falkland Islands memorial service. Inside the tower you'll find a small Buenos Aires City Tourism Information Office as well as an elevator you can ride to the top for an excellent view of the city. The tower was placed here to celebrate the completion of the nearby Retiro station, built with British technology. Retiro Station was opened in 1915 and was built with British technological assistance. Four British architects designed it, and the steel structure was made in Liverpool, England, and shipped to Argentina to be assembled. Our tour ends in the Galerias Pacifico in time for your lunch break. This is the most famous shopping mall in Buenos Aires, opened in 1891. The building was designed to recall the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, with its long halls, glass cupola, and several tiers of shops. Overnight in Buenos Aires. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 6 Buenos Aires - Trelew - Puerto Madryn
This morning we say goodbye to Buenos Aires and fly to the Welsh town of Trelew in the Chubut Province of Patagonia. This morning will be spent touring this historic town. Founded in 1886 as a railway junction, Trelew takes its name from Lewis Jones who promoted expansion of the railway system--'tre' means town in Welsh, and 'Lew' is short for Lewis. Immigrant workers flooded in from Europe as the railway network expanded. Both Welsh and Italian language and traditions are still very strong here. We also visit Punta Loma, he first nature reserve in Chubut. It was created in 1967 with the purpose of protecting the only permanent South American sea lion colony. A colony of cormorants, South American terns, other sea and land birds, reptiles and mammals live in this protected area. The colony is made up of 600 South American sea lions. While in Pto Madryn we will visit the Museum of Oceanography and Natural History. NOTE: Our activities in the Trelew and Puerto Madryn area may vary depending on flight schedules and seasonality (especially re. penguins). Our Trelew town sightseeing will be unaffected. Overnight in Puerto Madryn. Hotel Tolosa or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 7 Puerto Madryn: Peninsula Valdes
About 120 km (75 miles) north of Puerto Madryn is Peninsula Valdes, one of the finest wildlife reserves in South America and a UNESCO site. Sea lions, elephant seals, guanacos, Magellanic penguins and many other rare seabirds are present in large numbers on the beaches and headlands. We will visit the Estancia San Lorenzo, located at the northern end of the Peninsula Valdes since early in the 20th century. The main house, with its verandas, its cladding of corrugated zinc, and its sheep shearing shed, is set amidst the landscape of the steppe, in one of the most impressive places on the Patagonian coast. The owners of San Lorenzo continue to carefully guard this land full of life and history. During different times of the year a variety of fauna choose Peninsula Valdes to mate. The estancia is privileged because of its characteristics and location. It is the most exclusive place to observe the southern right whale (June-mid December); colonies of sea lions (Dec-Jan breeding season); elephant seals (all year, breeding season late Sep/early Oct); and Magellanic penguins (Aug-Apr). We can walk the dunes to visit a penguin colony. Overnight in Puerto Madryn. Hotel Tolosa or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 8 Puerto Madryn - Ushuaia
This morning we fly to Ushuaia on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Ushuaia is considered the world's southernmost city. In 1520, Magellan passed through the strait that now bears his name, in search of a sea route to the spice islands of Asia. The Yahgan Indians built the fires that inspired Europeans to give this region its name--"The Land of Fire". At first, very little attention was paid to this rocky and glacial shoreline, and its indigenous Indian population. It was not until the demise of Spain's colonial domination of the region in the late 1800's, that other Europeans began settling here. Ushuaia lies on the north shore of the Beagle Channel, at the very heart of the archipelago, and just east of the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego. Since 1950, the town has played host to an important naval base, supporting Argentine claims in Antarctica. Ushuaia has one of the world's most dramatic settings: surrounding jagged glacial peaks rise from sea level to nearly 1500 m (4,500 ft). In 1870, the South American Missionary Society, a British-based organisation, made Ushuaia its first permanent outpost in the Fuego region. Today we will begin exploring the area in earnest. This afternoon, we will enjoy a tour of the town, beginning with a visit to the town's museum. Filled with interesting artifacts, the museum catalogues the history of this rugged territory. In Ushuaia we are so far south that it is broad daylight until well after 10 pm. Overnight in Ushuaia. Hotel del Bosque or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 9 Ushuaia: Tierra del Fuego
Lake Fagnano, the third largest lake in South America will be the focus of this morning's exploration. The drive to the lake is one of unparalleled beauty. Over millions of years, mighty glaciers have carved deep valleys that are now interspersed with deep fjords and extensive pine forests. The surrounding snow-capped mountains contrast sharply with the crystal clear waters of the lake and forests. Overnight in Ushuaia. Hote del Bosque or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 10 Beagle Channel Cruise
Today, weather permitting, we include a cruise on the Beagle Channel, named after the ship on which Darwin sailed through here in 1832. The island of Tierra del Fuego is divided between Argentina and Chile and the Beagle Channel forms part of the border between the two countries. In addition to spectacular scenery, we should see many species of marine mammals and birds. This afternoon will be spent in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Just a short drive from town, this pristine nature reserve is home to hundreds of species of birds, in addition to bountiful varieties of plant life. At Lapatoia Bay we reach the southern end of the Pan-American Highway, which starts in Alaska and runs all the way down through Canada, the USA, Central and South America. Please note: As Tierra del Fuego is so close to the Antarctic Circle and surrounded by water, the weather here is extremely changeable hour by hour. In order to maximise our sight-seeing, we may have to alter the sequence of the activities while here. Your Tour Leader will do his/her best to ensure that you see all the items listed on these days but in the event of extreme weather, other activities may have to be substituted. Overnight in Ushuaia. Hotel del Bosque or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 11 Ushuaia - Calafate
Today we fly from Ushuaia to Calafate, a resort town on Lake Argentino situated at the entrance to the Glacier National Park. Overnight in Calafate. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 12 Calafate: Perito Moreno Glacier
We leave the shores of Lake Argentino, travel across the lowlands and begin ascending to the sub-Antarctic forest which marks the gateway to Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Its centre-piece is the Perito Moreno Glacier which, because of unusually favourable local conditions, is one of the world's few advancing glaciers. Huge icebergs on the glacier's 60 m (180 foot) high face calve and collapse into the Canal de los Tempanos as it advances about 100 m (300 feet) a year. The roar of the gigantic ice wall as it crashes into the surrounding channel is an unforgettable experience. NOTE: Though weather may seem fine in Calafate, the weather near the glacier can be completely different. Generally the nose of Perito Moreno is characterized by cold wind and highly changeable conditions. You should be prepared with layered clothing and a warm hat. This afternoon we return to Calafate. Overnight in Calafate hotel. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 13 Calafate: Uppsala Glacier
This morning, we depart early from our Calafate hotel to drive the short distance to the boat dock at Puerto Bandera at the western end of Lago Argentino. Here, we board our boat for a picturesque trip across the pristine, exquisite turquoise waters to the Upsala Glacier. The boat lingers in front of the vast wall of ice that is the front of this massive glacier. There are several outside decks that offer excellent views. Cold weather clothing is suitable today. We return to Calafate late in the afternoon. Overnight in Calafate. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 14 Calafate - Buenos Aires
Today we fly to Buenos Aires. NOTE: Your Tour Leader will not accompany you to Buenos Aires (he / she is continuing to Chile on a different tour). Your arrival in Buenos Aires and your departure transfer to the airport for your flight to Santiago will be managed by a local agent. Please discuss dinner arrangements for Buenos Aires with your Tour Leader before departing Calafate. You will meet your Chile Tour Leader on arrival in Santiago. Overnight in Buenos Aires. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 15 Buenos Aires
Today is free in Buenos Aires. Overnight in Buenos Aires. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 16 Buenos Aires, Argentina - Santiago de Chile
Today we fly from Buenos Aires to Santiago. Overnight in Santiago. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 17 Santiago - Maipo River Valley*
With an early pick up from our hotel we travel to Isla Negra and the Pablo Neruda Museum. Nobel Poet Pablo Neruda lived in this house south of Vaparaiso, which now houses a museum containing his works, his collections, and a vivid look at the lifestyle of Chile's beloved man of letters. We continue to towards the "Las Vertientes" area, a popular resort with a nice country landscape of the Chilean Central Valley. Our accommodation for our stay in wine country will be at the charming Vina Tarapaca Ex Zavala, one of the most traditional and experienced wineries in Chile located on the foothills of the renowned Maipo Valley.* The estate came into being in 1874, and was then named "Vina de Rojas" after its founder, Don Francisco de Rojas y Salamanca, a well-known businessman of that period. With fine vines imported from France, Don Francisco established the vineyard on the foothills of the Andes, planting grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot for red wine, and Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon for white wine. With the soaring Andes as the backdrop, a far-reaching revolution is taking place in Chile's wine industry. And a handful of statuesque reds lead the way. A dozen years ago, when Chile cast off the shackles of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship and embraced a stable, democratic government, the country had already earned a reputation for fruity and ripe, if sometimes oxidized, red wines at friendly prices. With a supporting cast of $5 and $10 Merlots and Cabs gaining notoriety and winning medals, Chilean wine soared in popularity in international markets, becoming the third-largest source of U.S. wine imports in 1998. Our day will have an element of spontaneity today in order to take into account our overall timing, Tour Leader preferences, and group interest. *NOTE: From March 08 onward, we will not overnight in Maipo but rather return to Santiago same day and overnight there. Overnight in the Maipo River Valley. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 18 Maipo River Valley - Santiago - Punta Arenas
We will explore the nearby village of Pomaire, a former settlement of indigenous people comprised of a few charming streets of single-story adobe dwellings. Pomaire is famous for its brown greda, or earthenware pottery, which you'll likely come across in one form or another throughout Chile. Later this afternoon we will drive directly to Santiago Airport and take our flight south to Punta Arenas in Patagonia. Punta Arenas is located at the foot of the Andes on the western side of the Straits of Magellan facing the island of Tierra del Fuego. This is a port that attracts commerce and shipping from all over the South Atlantic. Founded in 1848, the city was originally a military garrison and a penal settlement. Port facilities soon became established as a stop over for shipping en route to California during the Gold Rush. The population increased and the town developed as a result of the wool boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. During the last quarter of the 19th century, 300 purebred sheep were imported from the Falkland Islands. Such was the success of subsequent breeding that by the turn of the century there were almost two million sheep in the territory. Immigrants from all over western Europe were attracted to the area, bringing with them major developments to fishing and farming. Overnight in Punta Arenas. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 19 Punta Arenas - Torres del Paine
This morning we travel by road into Torres del Paine National Park. The Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) are spectacular granite pillars which soar almost vertically more than 2000m (6,000 feet) above the Patagonian landscape. The park in which the high peaks sit may be considered the finest national park in all of South America. With turquoise lakes, roaring waterfalls, rivers and creeks, dense forests and sprawling glaciers this is an unequalled destination. Overnight in Torres del Paine National Park. Hotel Torres or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 20 Torres del Paine National Park
We spend the entire day in Torres del Paine National Park. Some say Paine was an early settler. Others say the name comes from an ancient Indian word meaning blue--hearkening to the intense blue of the area's lakes. Whatever the name comes from or means, this is a spectacular park, comparable to Yellowstone or Yosemite in the US. Founded in 1959, Torres del Paine takes in 180,000 ha (450,000 acres). In 1978 UNESCO gave the park World Heritage status, recognizing it as a biosphere especially worthy of international recognition. The park is part of the Paine Massif, which lies inside the continent from, or east of, the high central Andean spine. The massif are medium high mountains emerging suddenly from the plains of the Patagonian steppes. The mountains are granite, capped by crumbly sedimentary rock that used to lie on the valley floor. Before the park was acquired by the Chilean government, it belonged to ranchers who overgrazed and also burned down forests to increase pasture area. The park is still recovering from this devastation, and will be for a while, but it's a chance to see what nature will do, if given a chance. Natural recovery can also be seen, though the glaciers of the park are in quick retreat--up to 17 m (56 ft) a year for the last 90 years, creating a fascinating study of plant succession and soil build-up from bare rock to forest. The flora of the park ranges from grassland to southern beech forests. Many parts of the park were too remote for the cattle ranchers, and exist today in a pristine state. The animal stars of the park are the Guanacos and the Rheas. Rheas are an ostrich-like bird. Guanacos are wild South American cameloids, related to the domesticated llama and alpaca. Native peoples hunted both across the plains, using every part for food and sheltering hide and feathers. When the Europeans came, the Guanaco were slaughtered to make way for cattle, and almost became extinct. We will travel through the park in our coach stopping at various points of interest and scenic viewpoints. We will also have an opportunity to walk one of the many easy-going trails that afford expansive views of the mountains and glaciers for which Patagonia is famous. Overnight in Torres del Paine National Park. Hotel Torres or similar. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 21 Torres del Paine National Park - Punta Arenas
We have some free time this morning for relaxation or a leisurely hike to Paine Cascades for a view of Los Torres. Later this morning we depart Torres del Paine and travel back to Punta Arenas. Overnight in Punta Arenas. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 22 Punta Arenas - Balmaceda - Puerto Chacabuco
Early this morning we fly to Balmaceda and transfer to Puerto Chacabuco and the Hotel Loberias del Sur. To get there we travel part of the Austral Road which goes through Llanquihue and Palena provinces on the side of the continent, up to Aysen region passing by the beautiful city of Coyhaique. On the ride to the hotel you will have an opportunity to appreciate a small sample of the astonishing landscape at this latitude. NOTE: Our time at Puerto Chacabuco is designed and managed by a local operator who has provided us with this itinerary description for these days. There will likely be other guests not travelling with Adventures Abroad joining our excursions over the next 2 days. Go to the operator's excellent website for more information on the catamaran, the hotel, and the region in general: Overnight in Puerto Chacabuco. Hotel Loberias del Sur. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 23 Laguna San Rafael
At 8:00 am we will take part in an unforgettable trip on board a large catamaran that will take us through islands, channels, and fiords through wonderful scenery until we reach the Laguna San Rafael at about 2:00 p.m. The main attraction is the peacefulness of this lagoon with a surface of 170 square kilometers -- floes and snowdrifts, ice chunks falling constantly and thunderously. Then, on a zodiac, you will get in closer contact with San Rafael snowdrifts and a number of floes moving around. Upon the end of the excursion you can taste a whisky on the rocks made with cubes more than 20,000 years old! We will stay here for 2 - 3 hours and then return to Puerto Chacabuco for about 9:00 p.m. For more information on this excursion you can click on Overnight in Puerto Chacabuco. Hotel Loberias del Sur. All meals.

Day 24 Aiken del Sur Private Park
At 9:00 am a bus will take us from the Hotel Loberias del Sur to the recently inaugurated Aiken del Sur Private Park. The Aiken del Sur Park offers natural beauty on the shores of Lago Riesco. The lake has a surface of 14 sq km, quiet and blue crystal clear waters. There is also a waterfall 22 meters high, native woodlands with perennial species, annual plants, moss and liverworts, widespread prairies where aged myrtles and tepa trees mix together; taro and mallin plants, and swamp lands. We stop at the Visitors' Center with interactive exhibitions giving information on local flora, fauna and anthropology. There are also paths with catwalks, bridges, observatory points, and resting places that will give information on the bio-geographical history of each place by means of educational stations. There you will enjoy the wonderful sceneries of the lake, river and hills that make up the Andes mountain range in the Patagonia. You will also have the opportunity to hear the singing of local birds such as the Chucao and Hueta. Here we have a traditional "Patagonian Lamb Barbeque" (vegetarian options available). After lunch, visitors may rest or walk across the other two easy footpaths in the park. Overnight in Puerto Chacabuco. Hotel Loberias del Sur. All meals.

Day 25 Puerto Chacabuco - Balmaceda - Puerto Varas
This morning we travel back to Balmaceda Airport from where we fly to Puerto Varas, the main gateway to the southern Lake District (we may have to fly to Puerto Montt and drive the short distance to Pto Varas). Puerto Varas is one of southern Chile's most important cities with a spectacular setting at the north end of the Golfo de Reloncavi. Time permitting we will visit the colourful local market. Overnight in Puerto Varas. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 26 Puerto Varas Area
The area around Puerto Varas is a region of spectacular lakes and mountains. We drive along the shore of Lake Llonquihue to the Petrohue waterfall (Salto del Petohue), an amazing series of oddly twisting water chutes. These chutes were formed by a crystallized black volcanic rock that is particularly resistant to erosion. The water at Rio Petrohue is bright green due to the presence of algae. On a clear day this drive is spectacular with the snow-capped peak of the Osorno Volcano looming above us. From the town of Petrohue we take a boat ride on the azure-blue waters of Lago Todos los Santos to the town of Puella, a small village that serves as a stopping point on the route to Argentina. We will spend a short time here; the Cascada de Los Novios (a waterfall) is a short walk from the village. We return to Puerto Varas. Overnight in Puerto Varas. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 27 Puerto Varas - San Pedro de Atacama
Today we catch our flight to Calama (via Santiago). On arrival we transfer to our hotel in San Pedro de Atacama, elevation 2300 m (7,600 ft). This is the high Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth. No significant precipitation has been reported here since the Spanish colonial period. At dusk we drive to the Valley of the Moon to see the sunset in this bizarre lunar landscape formed by erosion of the salt mountains. Light reflecting off the salt crystals is an eerie sight. We return to San Pedro after sunset. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 28 Atacama Area
This morning we visit San Pedro's Archaealogical Museum, considered on of the best in South America. Its is famous for its wonderful collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, particularly the mummies, marvelously preserved in the dry desert air, that pre-date those in Egypt. In the afternoon we'll drive from San Pedro to the town of Toconao. The church and houses in this picturesque village are built of bricks of white volcanic stone. From Tocanao we continue to the Salar de Atacama, the world's largest salt lake. Rich in minerals, including borax and lithium, it is home to flamingos and many other bird species. At Lago Chaxa, part of the Reserva Nacional de los Flamingos, one often can get quite close to flamingos in their natural habitat. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 29 Atacama Area
We leave the hotel ay 04:00 to see the spectacular geysers of El Tatio, elevation 4400 m (14,500 ft), arriving before sunrise. Super-heated water gurgles in the frozen ground and then emerges violently as steam in over 100 geysers, boiling pools, and fumaroles. The display is finished by 10:00. We then proceed to the hotspring called Termas de Puritama where we can enjoy a relaxing soak in the warm pools before returning to San Pedro. In the afternoon we visit Tulor, a 2,800 year old site where evidence of the earliest habitation in the region was found. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. Breakfast and dinner.

Day 30 Atacama - Santiago - Depart
Today we drive to Calama for our flight to Santiago. We stop in at our hotel for a brief break and then board our bus for an introduction to Chile's capital city. From its inauspicious beginnings, Santiago has become one of South America's most important cities; Santiago is Chile's largest and South America's fifth largest city. Founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia, it was attacked and overrun by Mapuche Indians just six months later. Spanish troops fortified the summit of Cerro Santa Lucia, and made immediate plans to rebuild the settlement. For almost 2 years, Santiago remained all but a settlement under siege. By the end of the 16th century, the settlement was made up of just 200 houses, with a population of no more than 2000. We will proceed along the main avenue passing by The Cousino Palace and many historical buildings. We stop at a Precolombian Art Museum, which has one of the most complete collections of ceramicas, ancient textiles and relics of the local culture. After we will continue along the main avenue called "Alameda," to cross the Mapocho River and head straight toward San Cristobal Hill on the north side of the city with a fine all around view of the capital stretched out below, the Andes in background. Later we transfer to the airport for our evening flight homeward. NOTE: This day is based on flights that depart from Santiago in the evening. Passengers with earlier departures may choose to forfeit today's Santiago sightseeing or spend an additional night in Santiago at an added cost. Breakfast. BUEN VIAJE!

Mexico (April 2009)
· Hiking and Cultural Adventuring in Mexico's Remote Sierra Madre Imagine hiking in a canyon so magnificent that the Grand Canyon is but a little brother! We'll visit the homeland of the native Tarahumara Indians, reportedly the world's greatest long distance runners and keepers of ancient ways, and take the most spectacular train ride in the Western Hemisphere as it climbs almost 8000 rugged feet in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Great Britain and Ireland (May, 2009)

· Belfast, Ireland (May, 2009)

· Walking through the heart of England's Lake District With lodging along the way at some of Lakeland's most delightful country hotels and inns. Each day, we'll take robust walks (5-10miles each day, with ascents of 600 to 1400 feet) across vales and hills, and sightsee by minibus to gain an appreciation of Lake District history and culture. Luggage is delivered to the next inn before we arrive.

· Whitewater rafting on the Futaleufu River in Patagonia The Futaleufu River in Northern Patagonia, is by far one of the world‘s greatest whitewater destinations. The Futa contains sections of continuous class IV and V whitewater and will satisfy even the most experienced rafter‘s expectations. The rapids are laid out perfectly for a full week of whitewater excitement. After a great warm-up section to hone our paddling skills and review rescue techniques, we'll head straight into world class rapids with names like Inferno Canyon, Terminator, and Casa de Piedra (House of Rock). This place is truly a whitewater rafter‘s paradise, and the river is totally unique. Its clear turquoise waters pass through a glacially sculpted granite river valley that rivals Yosemite.

· Sea Kayaking in the Torres Del Paine National Park, and the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park in Patagonia We will paddle in the "Toro Lake" (the biggest in Magallanes region), continue down the Serrano River all the way to Puerto Toro, where a major embarkation will pick us up, and after 4 hours and a delicious lamb barbeque we will be back in Puerto Natales.
· Kayaking the Galapagos Islands Designed especially for the paddling enthusiast, this exciting Galapagos adventure allows us to kayak through the turquoise blue waters of the Enchanted Islands, along lava channels, blue lagoons, quiet coves, and white sand beaches to discover the riches of this incredible archipelago. The ultimate in active adventure travel, this Galapagos kayaking tour offers fantastic snorkeling, hiking, and horse-back riding opportunities as well. We'll be challenged to the sporting experience of a lifetime in the legendary Enchanted Isles.

· Adventures in the Peruvian Andes
· Machu Picchu and Beyond We'll be taking the least populated path to Peru's most popular sight. This less traveled route to one of civilization's most stunning achievements, the hidden city of Machu Picchu, is filled with Inca ruins. It traces the Incas' cultural traditions and engineering feats through the Sacred Valley where these ancient peoples worked and worshipped. This Alternative Inca Trail Tour also offers an opportunity to meet and mingle with the indigenous populations who today make their home in the Inca heartland. An undiscovered alternative to the much traveled classic Inca trail, this is one of Peru's most awe-inspiring treks, and one of the most informative.

· Fantastic Peruvian River Adventure Hidden deep in the Andes of Southern Peru lies one of the deepest canyons in the world - The Colca Canyon.An expedition through Colca Canyon is truly a trip of a lifetime. Very few people have seen the depths of this gem in Southern Peru. The only access to this canyon is by river on either rafts or kayaks. About 65km long and 3100m deep, the canyon is filled with fascinating geologic features. Numerous impressive waterfalls join the river, which is guarded by live volcanoes and watched over by Andean Condors with wingspans up to 3m (9 feet!). Few people have had the opportunity to experience this world-class expedition. The Colca has seen limited rafting descents since its first one in 1981. The combination of demanding whitewater and inaccessibility has reserved this trip for the true adventurer. We'll be traveling to explore one of the world‘s hidden gems.

· Discovering Argentina & Brazil A 15-day exploration of Argentina and Brazil. From learning to tango in vibrant Buenos Aires, to enjoying the splendour of the mighty Iguassu Falls, and experiencing the friendliness of Rio de Janeiro's Cariocas, this compact trip will pack in some of the best highlights these two fascinating South American countries have to offer.

Europe (June, 2009)
· Hiking Spain's Majorca Coast to Coast We will discover the inner island life of Majorca via the deserted and ancient pilgrim paths of this fascinating island. In the Sierra de Tramuntana, and along the coast of Majorca, we hike through leafy olive groves to affluent villages and towns that feature manor houses and grand palaces. Vistas of the sea, outlying islands and the diverse natural landscape provide plenty of excuses to pause for reflection. We'll hike away from the busy resorts, and across the mountains, encountering many places of interest and historical significance. We'll explore the former monasteries, ancient mills, delightful villages and places of pilgrimage throughout the journey.

· Easy biking in the peaceful valley of the Loire Enjoy easy biking along the Loire valley floor, visiting castles, vineyards, woodlands, and historic wonders. The area's rich history and grand sightseeing make it a perfect choice for all types of travelers. Gentle terrain makes it enjoyable for the most casual bicyclists. In this area of France, we'll find majestic chateaux, picturesque river views, charming towns, and world-class cuisine.

· The du Mont Blanc Trek, using small inns and guesthouses The Mont Blanc circuit is a fully accommodated trek, with all nights spent in a variety of lodgings from small hotels to basic inns or pensions. Many of the places do not have a star rating, but offer a warm and friendly welcome; rooms are twin, double or triple and will have shared bathrooms. The itinerary is essentially the same as on the camping version: we still complete the famous circuit, and your baggage is transported for you by our support vehicle. In some places we use a hotel for just one night, before moving on the next day; occasionally we settle in for a few nights and use local transport to take us to the next point of the circuit.

Africa (Sept 2009 - Nov 2009)
· Casablanca to Marakesh From the snowcapped Atlas Mountains to the endless sands of the Sahara; from the medieval old town of Fes to the spice markets of Marrakesh - the rich history and traditions of this ancient land await.

· Desert Surf Safari in Morroco Not only is Morocco home to some of the world's best and most consistent breaks (including one of the world's 'top 10' breaks), it's also one of the most interesting, vibrant and exotic countries on the planet. On this ultimate Morocco surf vacation, we'll enjoy deserted breaks, expert instruction, stylish beach house accommodation, gourmet food (cooked by our private chef), a Sahara overnight excursion, and visits to vibrant souks (markets) and other cultural spots.

·Mountain Biking in Namibia On this holiday, we will hike on the luxuriant Waterberg Plateau, search for the "big five" in the Etosha National Park, see many Bushman engravings at Twyfelfontein, experience the German colonial atmosphere in Swakopmund, and spend some time in the wild and beautiful Namib Desert - where one of the highest sand dunes in the world are found at Sossusvlei. This 15-day mountain bike tour is a unique opportunity to personally experience the incomparable scenic highlights of Namibia. We will always have our bicycles, and are therefore very flexible with the route and as well where the distances to be covered. In order to make the nature experience complete, we will also be going on a number of walks.

· Victoria Falls to Johannesburg Overland This packed 10 day trip starts in Zambia, near world-famous Victoria Falls and provides a glimpse into the best of Botswana with plenty of options for game drives before heading down through the wild Limpopo province of South Africa. Trip Highlights: Livingstone, Botswana, Waterberg National Park, Johannesburg.

Middle East (Jan 2010 - February 2010)
· Discovering the Ancient Middle East Few places offer the diverse cultural past of Jordan and Syria. A past that reflects all the great early civilisations - the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks and the Crusaders that made their mark across these ancient lands. Our journey combines visits to the main historical sites that shaped and inspired Jordan and Syria's rich and varied cultural history with a modern day perspective of the Middle East. In Jordan, we absorb the country's many highlights including Petra, a hidden city carved out of rock and journey by camel through the spectacular Wadi Rum with the local Bedouin. Snorkelling in the Red Sea, floating in the Dead Sea, exploring Crusader castles, the bustling city of Amman and the ancient city of Jerash, 'the Pompeii of the East' round off our time in Jordan before the journey continues to Syria. In Damascus, we wander the labyrinth of alleyways and visit the impressive Ommayad Mosque before heading to the 'Bronze Age' city of Ugarit with its incredible archaeological finds. The ancient city of Aleppo with its souqs, castles and museums and the oasis city of Palmyra are the historical highlights of our time in Syria.

Canada (Sept-Oct, 2010)
· Backpacking on Canada's West Coast A remote coastal hike with unspoiled beaches, few hikers, an interesting history, and a fabulous assortment of mammal, bird and marine wildlife. A spirit of adventure is mandatory as its location means that we will be on our own for the most part. We will take a float plane and/or water taxi to our access point, a stretch of sandy beach. Along the way, we will visit the remote lighthouse at Estevan Point. The lighthouse is storied to have been fired upon by a Japanese submarine during WWII. There are plenty of sandy beaches, marine wildlife sightings, waterfalls, creeks, and rainforest to satisfy everyone. Our hike concludes at an unique oasis known as Cougar Annie's Garden.

· White water rafting on Quebec's Magpie River Few rivers in the world are more spectacular and remote than the Magpie. From the Labrador Plateau in Quebec, the Magpie River flows untouched and beautiful over hundreds of miles. Five hundred miles north of metropolitan New York lies a vast wilderness the size of Alaska. The Magpie River flows through this wilderness, past lake dotted virgin forests of pine and multicolored moss, hurling down steep granite gorges and off spectacular falls before emptying into the St. Lawrence River. The only access to this seldom seen corner of North American wilderness is by float plane. Using self-bailing paddleboats, run Class 4 rapids, we'll explore remote glacial-gouged lakes and gorges, watch for moose, bear and osprey, and bask in the canyon's extraordinary solitude.

Carribean (Sept 2012)
· Adventures in Cuba From the streets of Havana to relaxed Trinidad and Camaguey, no country lives its music and dance like Cuba! We'll feel the rhythms of the ever-present Cuban beat on this music-lover's tour, learn to dance Cuban style, visit Santiago de Cuba, the home of 'son' music, and take in the world-famous show at the one and only Tropicana.

· Volunteering in Cuba A 5-day hands-on volunteer experience in Havana's community gardens followed by a relaxing week-long tour offering white sand beaches and spectacular scenery through the "garden province" of Cuba. Trip Highlights: Havana, Las Terrazas, Vinales, Playa Maria La Gorda.

· Multisport Adventure in the Caribbean We'll kayak, mountain bike, hike, dive, snorkel and explore the smallest of the three US. Virgin Islands - St. John. The Virgin Islands National Park comprises more than 60% of St. John and much of the surrounding waters. For the outdoor enthusiast, there is plenty to do here. Hiking trails criss-cross the rugged terrain, beautiful sandy beaches dot the water's edge, while colorful reefs teeming with life lie just offshore. The week consists of 7 nights lodging at Maho Bay Camps, tent-cottages nestled in the heart of the Virgin Islands National Park. During the days we'll kayak, mountain bike, hike, dive, snorkel and explore St. John.

Asia (Nov 2012 - March 2013)
· Shanghai to Beijing From the wilds of the Tibetan Plateau to the bright lights of the big cities, see the magnificent diversity of the Middle Kingdom. Visit Buddhist grottoes, watch kung fu classes, mix with the monks and dodge hairy yaks as we get wild in China! Highlights: Experience modern China in Shanghai, Practice kung fu moves in Shaolin, See the Buddhas of Longmen Grottoes, Stand among the ancient Terracotta Warriors, Sample Tibetan life, Wander the Great Wall.

· Beijing to Kathmandu We'll satisfy our sense of adventure and spiritual curiosity on this true overland odyssey. From the great archaeological sites of China, we'll travel across the vast Tibetan Plateau, through remote villages and into the mountain kingdom of Nepal. We'll complete the journey with a panoramic view of Mt Everest for an extraordinary real life experience. The intense spirituality of the Tibetan people is ever-present in their remote monasteries, high mountain passes, traditional homes and colourful marketplaces. We'll join the pilgrim‘s circumambulations, sample yak batter tea, eat plenty of dumplings and immerse ourselves in the atmospheric monastic rituals. Highlights: Walk along the Great Wall, Salute the Terracotta Warriors, Join the pilgrims at Labrang Monastery, Meet monks and nomads in Tibet, Admire the majestic Potala Palace, Visit ancient monasteries, Stand in the shadow of Everest.

· St Petersburg to Beijing We'll discover colourful cultures and vibrant landscapes as we travel the old fashioned way from Moscow to Beijing. From the awesome cathedrals of European Russia to quaint Siberian villages, from the sparsely populated steppes of Mongolia to the heaving streets of Beijing, this is a journey of epic proportions. Some of the accommodation is basic, but we will be touched by friendliness of the locals we stay with along the way. Highlights: We'll visit Soviet icons in Moscow, experience one of the world‘s great rail journeys, stroll along the shores of Lake Baikal, enjoy Siberian hospitality at a local homestay, and stay at a Mongolian ger camp. We'll also explore Beijing.

· India Eco Travels Several national parks, sanctuaries, and preserves beckon.
· Eco Volunteer Opportunities Dozens of sites around the world to volunteer on projects with specific species survival and monitoring.

Another World Wide Web Project


Sometimes you can find adventure in your own backyard.

Hot Tub Website Project


Saturday, September 8, 2007

Video Slideshows of Photographs


Click on these videos on YouTube of the photos we took on our recent trip to Scandinavia:
First part of Norway Trip
Second part of Norway Trip

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Home Again


I figured that we've had seen the sun so far for 25 hours today, and just as we were gliding over the famous Golden Gate Bridge, it shone so brightly and beautifully. Plane flights are not such things to write home about, especially those that go on forever. Oslo to Frankfurt was a two-hour up and down over the cloud-filled Skaggerak Sea. Claiming our seats, we discovered that we had the window and the center of a three-seater row (Pat loves the aisle), so it didn't look like it would be a fun flight. Thankfully, the guy on the aisle (who could have benefited from some deodorant), wanted his own row, and moved shortly after takeoff. The Frankfurt airport was a hurried affair trying to get through the system of four separate passport checks while public address announcements of our flight leaving were being broadcast. Our seats on the 10 hour flight to San Francisco were on a big 777 aircraft, on a two-seat row right where I like them - left side, just in front of the wing. We filled the time watching four and a half full movies, of the quality you'd never go and see at the movies - but good enough to keep you from going crazy not having anything else to do. No dogs under the seat, no kids crying, just a long uneventful flight.

Missing the 8pm airport express home, we hung around the airport for 90 minutes people-watching and waiting for the 9:30pm bus. It came, we rode, and our friend Barbara picked us up from the stop it made, and drove us home. It's midnight, and Pat's opened the windows, turned the hot tub back on, and poured us a glass of wine. It was a great trip, but we're glad to be back in our bed. Neither of us has anything we need to do tomorrow, and we'll just enjoy the day at the house. One thing on my mind will be to start to re-organize one of the earlier posts on this blog which details our travel plans for the future. We did decide to go to South America this winter. We've got at least three possible one-month long adventures imagined down there but we haven't decided which one to do yet.

But now it's time for bed.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Last Full Day in Norway


A couple of places on today’s itinerary (Historical Museum and the Doga Norwegian Centre for Architecture and Design) weren’t open. So we substituted a ferry boat tour around the Oslo Fjord.

But first, the Parliament (Stortinget). After a re-telling of Norway political history 101 by the tour guide, he led us into the central chambers of the Norwegian Parliament (Storting). Every four years, Norway’s voters elect (in19 geographical districts - counties) 169 members to the Storting. Using proportional representation of votes cast for parties within the districts, the party representation within districts is determined. The parties chose 169 members who assemble and constitute themselves about a week after the election. One quarter (42) of the members are elected to the Lagting. The remaining three-quarters (127) become members of the Odeling. Around 100-150 laws originate each year in the Odeling, are debated, passed, and sent to the Lagting. If approved by the Lagting, they are sent to the King for his Royal Assent and the Prime Minister for his signature. Of course, it’s much more complex if the law is the budget, or if the Odeling or the Lagting disagree on the content of the proposed law. But you get the point. Kind of like our system, but without the direct election of the legislative or executive branches.

I found three things of interest. First, the members can’t abstain from voting. It’s a yea or nay vote (green or red buttons at their chair). Second, they can’t comment from their chairs. The have to get recognized by the parliamentarian, wait their turn, and walk down to the main podium. Even if it’s a single question or comment. The physical exercise alone would make that a good idea, and it might even reduce the inane parliamentary bantering we have in the U.S. Finally, if the Lagting disapproves a law twice, the requirement for passage in the Odeling goes from a majority to two-thirds of the votes. In the U.S, we routinely send idiotic bills from the House of Representatives to the Senate – because we know the Senate will not pass them. It gives House members the ability to go back to their districts and blame the Senate. Lousy bills return each year, and the Senate kills them very predictably. This kind of rule would restrict that considerably. Of course, there’s also the fact that this system really turns the choice of political players over to the political parties. We don’t really have parties anymore, just players.

We then walked up into a neighborhood we’d read about Grunerlokka) which houses many of the new immigrants of Oslo. Near a central park, we had lunch at a bistro. Deciding to go back to the city center on a trolley, we talked with a young exchange student at the trolley stop who’d just returned from a stay in Santa Cruz.

Out in front of the city hall, we bought tickets to the 2-hour boat tour beginning in 90 minutes, and passed the time people-watching from a bench in the large plaza. The boat tour was pleasant, but not so full of the city sites. Mostly, the surrounding islands and peninsulas full of summer cabins and all kinds of pleasure boats. Afterward, we walked back to our hotel, pausing for dinner at a Dolly Dimple (a chain we’d seen since Lillehammer that intrigued us). On the final stretch home, we checked out our train connection to the airport tomorrow morning.

Another trip would include: 1) more of Sweden and especially Gotland; 2) far north of Norway; and 3) probably Iceland.

Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Last Day

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Vigeland Sculpture Garden


We had a couple of hours with nothing planned this morning, as the first place we were scheduled to see didn't open until noon. We decided to spend it near our hotel at some of the stores. It turns out that almost nothing was open on Sunday morning in central Oslo. I suspect that it had something to do with the fact that today is the final day of the biggest football (soccer) match in the world, being held here in Oslo (Norway Cup). We've been seeing lots of organized groups of teenagers in the streets in the past few days, all looking like they are having the fun of a lifetime.

So we changed our itinerary, and took the trolley to the Vigeland Sculpture Park, originally scheduled for tomorrow. Gustav Vigeland's 200 sculptures line the main avenue of the beautiful park named in his honor. Gardens and fountains also abound, but it is his lifesize, life-like characters that gather photographers. I especially liked the four granite columns combining dragons and humans, but was awed by the 16 pieces surrounding the largest column (the Monolith). It's a linear museum walk you won't forget.

We left the park, and traveled across town by trolley to our 12 o'clock destination - The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. Disaapointment met us when we arrived and found that they were closed until October, presenting only a small gallery of art, and an apologetic receptionist. Next, a walkup the hill to another large park where the University of Oslo Natural History Museum is located.

Now I can spend days in most natural history museums. But lately, I've been hampered by a desire to focus almost exclusively on the search for additional specimens of a rare old fish that I own (Dipnoi - 350 million years old, and a cousin of the creature which carried fish to mammals). Like a crazed hunter, I wandered quickly through really interesting rooms full of great displays of all kinds of rocks and fossils and creatures. Finally, I got to announce to Pat (who knows when I get this fanatic) that the specimen housed here was yet another poor second to my great prize. The search for a clearer and more interesting-looking fossil continues withmany more museums to search out. I do hope that I can learn to like looking at other things in these wonderful collections again.

The walk across the park to the Edward Munch Museum led us to an well-designed stream with waterfalls and plants. Larger than ours, but not any prettier.

I had heard about the burglary which took place recently when a young man stole Edward Munch's most famous painting (The Scream) in broad daylight from the Museum. It has been recovered, but is still being repaired. The Museum is displaying an earlier drawing of the scene. It appears that its directors have decided to go overboard to send the message that they won't let it happen again. There are plenty of airports with less security than is now in place here. Interestingly, Pat found that her swiss army knife went through just fine. They must not care if you go in and destroy the paintings, just don't take any of them.

Before today, I probably could not have named the artist who painted "The Scream", but I certainly knew of it. I could not have identified any of his other works. The Munch (pronounced Monk) Museum holds 1,100 paintings, 4,500 drawings,and 18,000 prints depicting the works of a tormented life of a damaged, lonely artist supported by others who hoped he'd someday make good. Amazingly, he did, becoming quite wealthy in his latr years from the sale of paintings illustrating himself, his nude models, and five conditions: fear, anger, jealousy, attraction, and grief. After seeing the displayed collection, I think I could identify a painting of his, but I couldn't describe more than a few. There's just too many of the same themes, and his expressionistic style (excuse me) screams out for a little more restraint. I felt like I was in a photographer's studio where he was displaying every photo he ever took. But I guess that's the thing with painters, every one attempt matters.

We came back to the hotel, rested, and went to dinner down by the docks. What could have been a really great dinner was marred by a really poor plate of scampi for Pat. I had a great arctic trout, stuffed with spinach and scallops, asparagus, cheese and potato side dish, house salad, and a nice white wine from France.

Tomorrow, we round out the Oslo stay with a tour of the Parliament in the morning, the Historical Museum in the early afternoon, and perhaps the Doga Norwegian Center for Architecture and Design.

Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Vigeland Sculpture Park

Saturday, August 4, 2007



More Norwegian history - Viking ships and Samis. We found our way to the city's ferry docks, after scouting out the route we need to take with our bags on Tuesday to get to the airport. We've made it a habit of knowing beforehand, due to one-too-many frantic rushes on a day when you can't be late.

The ferry to the Bygdoy Peninsula carries 75 passengers in seats, and it was jammed packed today. We stood for the short ride, and once again got away with caling me a senior. As my beard gets longer and whiter on these trips, It sure does save money. That, and the student ID's from Sonoma State Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. There are five excellent attractions on Bygdoy, a park amidst a rich, older home area. Not unlike what we have in the U.S., it has become a favorite place for many to spend the day.

We chose to go to the Viking Ship Museum and the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History. I am so glad that we went to the Viking Ship Museum at this time in our trip. At the previous places where we learned about Viking shipbuilding, or about life in the era which is referred to as the Viking period, the information was exciting but not nearly as complete as it is here. The earlier materials provided us glimpses, and it stimulated our thinking well. Each new fact filled in more of the story. This museum adds another large piece, and does it with overwhelming visual clarity. It also places the other information in the larger context by an excellent use of its wall panels. The main stars of the collection are the display of three large burial ships, and hundreds of very impressive sledges,carts, cooking pots, ceremonial staffs, and other gear which accompanied the dead.

In one boat, an important older woman and her maid servant were accompanied to Valhalla with a carriage, dead horses with saddles and bridles, and even furniture. In the fourth wing of the museum, more of the materials which were in the burials is displayed. In a level above the ships, panels tell the story of the discovery and salvaging of these unique and important ships.

Seeing these huge ships, and marveling at the detail with which they carved figures and images on the bow and stern prows, one can only imagine the terror felt by those upon whose shores they landed. I was also impressed with the precision with which they crafted these sailing vessels, of oak and iron, powerful yet light enough to carry when needed. There are nine reconstructed Viking ships in the world, and we have now seen eight of them. I think I have a pretty good beginning with which to continue to pursue my research into lives of some of my ancestors from 800AD to 1066AD. The last ship is in a county museum quite a ways out of our travel path, and it will remain the elusive one.

The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History provided an enormous treasure of displayed buildings, clothing, music, customs (modeled by local enactors) from the last 300 years. The photo to the left shows me in front of a house reputed to be from my ancestral home town (Vang).

We were also treated to the dance and music of Norway's past by a couple of young people who were there to tell us about the marriage ceremonies of an earlier day. It just so happened that the resident Stave church was being used for a marriage at the time we were there.

But the Center's unique new contribution to us was the amount of information in displayed about Norway in the last 50 years. Hardly anyone thinks of recent history as worthy of including in a museum, but it's essential info in order to grasp the complete story of what we see around us as we travel through the country. We spent extra time in the areas of the open air museum where the social, political, cultural,and economic dynamics in the country from 1950 til now was described in detail. We thought of Ola, Gerd Marie, Helga, and Anna Ragnhild, and how each might have been impacted.

The Museum also had a special exhibit on the Sami population in Northern Norway. We have seen other sections of other museums devote space to the Samis, but this one far exceeded any that we had seen. The clothing was more varied, the art went beyond ivory carvings, and the video they showed was one of the best descriptions of any culture I have ever seen. A very welcome addition to it was the time it devoted to the social awakening in the country as a result of an oil drilling proposal on Sami land decades ago. The arrests of supporters, sit-ins at Parliament, and hunger stikes were all employed to bring a new consciousness to the political arena. The video contained powerful interviews with present-day Samis who continue to fight to retain their languages, their culture, and their individuality. The similarity between their committment to the struggle, and that of other indigenous peoples we have visited, was remarkable and inspiring.

Tomorrow, we travel across town to the International Culture Center and Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Munch Museum. We're interested in the first because we hope to learn more about present day Norway, and of immigration and cultural changes in the society. All around us as we travel in the capitol, we see the faces and hear the voices of a different mix of people than in the rural areas of the country. We'd like to know more about what the country says about that. The Museum of Natural History is my always favorite place to learn about a country: its geology, archealogy, zoology, and all old living things. Finally, Edward Munch is a prolific and unique expressionist painter whose works have appeared in many other museums we've visited on this trip. We thought it would be nice to see his home collection.

Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Bygdoy

Friday, August 3, 2007

Oslo by Bus


Today, we watched Norway go by the bus window for 10 hours. While the scenery was reminiscent, and felt somewhat like the feeling we get when we are leaving a city and have it pretty much figured out, it also reaffirmed how really great this country is. We didn't take any pictures (nothing like smudged windows, and jerky camera movement, to spoil the beauty). But I am including an earlier shot, taken from the top of a hill, which I took with Ola standing nearby. I think I'll remember this scene for a long time.

For the next three days, we'll see Oslo. This evening, we started it off at a great Indian restaurant (Jaipur region). Nothing like good chicken curry, with raisins, bell peppers, and cashews.

Thursday, August 2, 2007



(From Pat's Journal)

We decided to take the 8hr fjord trip after all on the bet that we'd really kick ourselves to learn "these" fjord were really spectacular, and we'd passed them by. AND WE ARE SO GLAD WE DID. We met our charming young guide, Alexander, while waiting for the ticket office to open - joking with him that we'd seen New Zealand fjords, and had pretty high standards to be impressed! We started off on a bus with about 15 others: 2 Dutch, 2 German, 2 Norwegian, 1 Slovenian, and those rowdy 5 Spanish folks that were on our Bergen - Alesund trip(!). The bus took us about 45 minutes to a short (10 minute) ferry hop across a fjord, then another bus leg to a big fjord ferry along the "urinefjord" or Hjorundfjord as the Norwegians spell it, for about 90 minutes of splendor.

There are hamlets (30-50-100) all along the way, and isolated farms at every feasible (and nearly unfeasible) spots. They are all now linked by ferry, and have tv, phone, and internet. Many have roads in between them - but not all. Many had electricity starting in the 20's with hydro power from the many rivers and waterfalls. In the winter, these roads are not maintained - so they rely on ferries. Many families fish (not season now, so we didn't see this) or work somehow in the oil industry with two weeks on, two weeks off schedules. Our guide says with access the bigger villages are actually growing in size since the 60's. One has to think about how hard life must have been 100+ years ago when people were really isolated 5+months of the year (when the days were 4-6 hours long!).

There were many, many ragged high peaks of the Sunnmore Alpson either side of the fjord, but no porpoises. We huddled up top ship to take it all in - it wasn't cold, so much as windy. We came to shore at Hellesylt, and stopped at the Union Hotel - a victorian hotel all swiss gingerbread to see where Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany and English nobility/mountaineers held up between roughing it on yachts and mountaineering.

The rooms had names of famous guests on the doors, including Grieg, Ibsen, the Queen (of Norway), and the Kaiser. A short way on, we stopped at a museum center for a quick but lovely lunch plate of lox, prawn, lamb salami, prociuto, a soft cheese, potato salad, topped off with apple cake with a huge dollop of whipped cream and coffee. The museum housed an incredible collection of 13 hand-carved wood panel reliefs depicting the story of Peer Gynt from the Ibsen play. Our guide quickly narrated the story in English and Norwegian. He was in a hurry to meet our next ferry, and the tale is long and tedious, and the panels a bit disjointed - so I don't think any of us really got the gist of the tale (which brings me back to my brother Ken's stage managing Peer Gynt at Solvang which I also managed to shiver and sleep through).

Back on the road to Leknes where we board a smaller 62 Degrees Nord boat to do the famous Geirangerfjord (on the UNESCO World Heritage list). This is a much narrower and shorter fjord (about 16kms long), so the trip is just 40 minutes. Although the sky is quite threatening now, we brave the top level for the shorter trip. This fjord has several magnificent waterfalls - the first we've seen that are actually named, e.g. Seven Sisters, the Suitor, etc. Unbelievably, there are farms perched precariously on the steep sides of the fjord near them. The last was abandoned for farming in 1962, but are all still privately owned and kept in the farming families for summer homes. Some are so steep that the tracks up to them end with ladders, and they are said to have roped the young children from danger of falling off. There are many frequent landslides and avalanches, and you can see their wakes in the denuded trees on the hillsides. Some of the farms rowed their milk to a village acroos the fjord daily!

After the cruise, we ended in Geiranger - a smaller version of Flam. There, Alexander walked us to a Fjord1 bus, and bid us farewell. Another part of the tour group was going back on a longer route through Andalsnes - a mountain resort and Molde - an offshore island town before ferrying back to Alesund. We, however, took a 3-hour bus (and bus ferry hop) back, starting with an 11-switchback climb on Eagle's Road for a stop at a great viewpoint that looked up and down Geirangerfjord.

We then proceeded over the top and down a lush narrow valley with bigger farms. We pretty much followed the fjords all the way back. It is clear (as pointed out by Alexander) that it is national policy to encourage people to spread out and stay in smaller towns and villages instead of flocking to Oslo and the bigger urban areas. They intentionally maintain roads well, have built bridges and tunnels and have ferries to the smallest hamlets. Everywhere, the houses are sharp and and neat. It is obvious that in 50+ years, Norway has gone from being one of the poorest to the wealthiest country in Europe. Tomorrow, we get up to catch the 9AM Oslo bus for a 10+ hour trip. We did a shop today for road trip snacks.

It was raining when we got back, but soon cleared up. Alexander told us that it rained here 200+ days a year as well, but I still doubt it gets the awful Bergen on-again,off-again drizzle-rain-drizzle routine. Anyway, we were happy to have the weather we've had since leaving Bergen.

Here is a link to all of the photos we took today: Geiranger