April 22, 2009
Ode To Santa Cruz
There's a town people visit, they can't stay away.
They drive "over the hill", down to Monterey Bay.
It's a place where there's always a bit of a breeze.
Even when the rest of the West must resort to A.C.
It's spunky and funky, with a laid-back sort of charm.
Where you can eat a burrito as thick as your arm.
The locals--Well! They march to a different drummer.
You won't find many here who'll be driving those Hummers.
Head down to the wharf and stare out at the water.
That crunching you hear--it's a hungry sea otter!
The Boardwalk rollercoaster is right on the beach.
Even the surfers on Steamer's value freedom of speech.
Old Route One beckons, with its views of the coastline.
And its reminders of the big earthquake in 1989.
It's a town without nukes, where you can grow giant cukes,
It's a place people call: SANTA CRUZ.
April 8, 2009
Sorry all, but I've been away for the past couple weeks, roadtripping around Ireland and celebrating a prolonged St. Patrick's Day by sampling the local Guinness and irish whiskey. Back soon!
January 16, 2009
An Argument for Packing Your Trash-Wherever You Go
Trash is everywhere, even in national parks in Kenya. We had a really hard time keeping our lunch away from these vervet monkeys.
You know how in parks squirrels and chipmunks and seagulls will show interest, but generally wait for you to leave before looking for crumbs?
Vervet monkeys don't wait.
September 11, 2008
Granite State Greenery: AMC Huts Showcase Green Tech
Just back from a hike through some of the AMC huts along the Appalachian Trail. We headed up the Bridal Path Trail up to Greenleaf hut and then on up a total of 3600 feet to Mount Lafayette (5,260ft) and across the Garfield Ridge Trail to Galehead hut, passing the summit of Mt. Garfield (4,500 ft) along the way.
Had a great time, some serious weather though, like fog, hurricane force winds (80+mph), torrential rain, thunder, lightning and a snow advisory.
The Garfield Ridge Trail was substantially more difficult than I remembered, especially around Mt. Garfield, where it turns from a trail to a rock climbing expedition. It made Agony Ridge below Greenleaf feel like a cakewalk.The weather thankfully cleared for a bit along the way and we had some fantastic views.
We made it to Galehead a bit after dark. The Galehead crew gave us a tour of all the green tech at the hut—composting toilets, kitchen compost, wind power, solar, on-demand hot water for the kitchen, etc.
You can find more pictures of our trip on FLICKR: Greenleaf to Galehead and I'm going to try to do a post with more details on how the huts of the White Mountains make little choices that make big differences to keep their impact on the environment low.
July 20, 2007
What Makes A World Wonder?
When I was a young girl, I wanted to see the wonders of the ancient world set forth by the great Greek historian Herodotus. Unfortunately, by the time I was born, only one of them still existed. In fact, five of the seven wonders of the ancient world were destroyed long before Christopher Columbus bumped into the New World, and the sixth - the Mausoleum of Maussollos at Halicarnassus - fell victim to an earthquake in 1494.
Last year, I finally made it to the only ancient world wonder still standing - the Great Pyramid of Giza. Completed more than 4,507 years ago, it's still unclear how many people it took to build that great pile of stones - numbers range from 30,000 to more than 100,000 - and if the workers were slaves, hired help or religious believers taking time off their own lands during the periodic Nile floodings. Mathematics show that almost 2.5 million blocks of stone were used, some weighing as much as 80 tons.
Nowadays these stones are worn, sometimes crumbling, with visitors' initials carved roughly into their crumbling facades. You're not allowed to climb the stones or sit on them, and everywhere you turn, someone wants to sell you a camel ride. Still, one can't help wanting to touch the structure, just to believe it's real.
And so I did.
When people asked where we went on our honeymoon around the world, I told them we went to visit "The Greats" - The Great Pyramids, The Great Wildebeest Migration of the Serengeti, diving with Great White Sharks, and the Great Wall of China. Most people don't know that the Great Wall of China is not one of the initial world wonders.
However, just this month, the Great Wall of China became one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. These new wonders are not part of the UNESCO World Heritage program, which I greatly respect, but some other endevour. In fact, UNESCO has distanced itself from the 7 wonders campaign, which has been run something like a world contest for travel fame. I'm conflicted here, because I'm an avid traveler and supporter of UNESCO and I'm wary that this 7 wonders deal is nothing but a marketing stunt.
The New World Wonders are:
- The Great Wall of China (Been there, would visit again)
- Petra, Jordan (If Indiana Jones can do it, so can I)
- Christ the Redeemer, Watching over Rio, Brazil (I object! See below.)
- Machu Picchu, Peru (Can't wait to visit, especially since Esther came back)
- Chichén Itzá, Mexico (Certainly on my short list)
- The Roman Colosseum, Italy (Was too young to appreciate, must revisit)
- The Taj Mahal, India (Again, the short list)
Who surprisingly did not win?
Well, quite a few places. To name a few:
- Statues of Easter Island (More Brazilian voters than vacant Rapa Nui)
- Stonehenge, United Kingdom (Been there, certainly would go again)
- Pyramids of Giza, Egypt (You're an old wonder, so you don't get to play)
- Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France (I cannot stay away from this place)
Ok, so why did I object to Christ the Redeemer being a wonder of the world? Well, honestly, I don't. I object to it being one of the seven greatest architectural achievements existing on Earth at this time. One thing I associate with a world wonder, whether its an ancient one, or a new one, is that it has to be a truly collective effort. It must require the sweat, blood and even lives of many people in order to gain its status. I like to think it's the kind of project that crosses country, class, race, and economic status - although many such structures are religious in nature. And it should take time.
Is it wrong that I consider the scale of the Rio project not grand enough? After all, its final construction cost of $250,000 was covered by tiny donations from the faithful, which certainly is a collective effort.
So please tell me, what am I missing about the icon of Rio? How did this statue merit such a status? What sets it apart from all the other candidates, such Mont-Saint-Michel - a monstrous monastic stronghold more than 1000 years in the making, built on quicksand, with the largest tidal changes (up to 50 feet) in the world?
You tell me.
Just a follow-up note.
I was trying to think of what I was missing in my definition of world wonder, and it came to me: Mystery.
Even much, much later, you should be able to stand looking at a world wonder and WONDER:
How on Earth did they do that?
March 12, 2007
My husband Shane and I visited Cairo and Giza in Egypt on our trip around the world last fall. You might remember that I posted a couple photos from our trip back in September, including a visit to The Saladin Citadel and The Great Pyramids.
Shane is now reliving his experiences on his blog, and talking about the lasting impressions of the trip. His candor often makes me chuckle, as I am reminded of his worldliness from before I met him (he had never left the time zone).
Within the Citadel, I happened across the filthiest restroom I'd ever seen. It was also probably the oldest. Scary, too, was the fact that locals were filling up their water bottles. From the looks of it, it would have been safer to fill up a water bottle from a puddle in an overcrowded cow pasture.
The last impression was the absolute chaos at the airport on the way out. I wrote about that before, so I won't go in to much detail now. Suffice it to say, if there had been a panic from real or a false threat, people would have died.
Read More At Shane's Blog: Egypt: In Retrospect
Reading his post on Egypt has reminded me of my own experiences in Cairo. As Americans, we were very much not welcomed, as we learned when we first arrived. We had, perhaps stupidly, not arranged for transport from the airport to Giza in advance, wanting to do things on our own. The chaos that greeted us made us very uncomfortable and we kept being followed around (get used to it). We eventually brokered a not-terribly-overpriced taxi ride to our hotel by vetting it with a third party, a woman at one of the hotel desks, who vouched for the individual offering us a ride.
Arriving at our hotel with a view of the pyramids (about a 15 minute walk if you don't believe the directions of the camel riders) we had our car bomb sweeped. Like seriously sweeped. We stopped at those moveable bomb blocking cyliders and talked to guys with guns vaguely pointed in our direction. They had dogs, they checked the trunk, they had mirrors and checked under the car. They questioned the driver, and us. Then they let us through and we went to the entryway. We didn't want to leave our bags outside, so Shane checked us in while I watched our bags (1 suitcase plus two carry-ons). The hotel staff kept saying I could go, but I just laughed and stayed. You might think we were being overly cautious. Perhaps, but we never insulted anyone and we tended to make friends instead. Also, we made it through a trip around the world and didn't lose a single thing to slippery fingers, even in some of the most common places for thievery.
When white guests and women went into the hotel, the staff didn't make them go through the metal detectors, but when anyone else did, they made them. I admit, all the bomb stuff made it both interesting and a bit nerve-racking to eat at the cafe in the lobby since the State Department told us to avoid hotel lobbies and such places. We did, for the most part, but if we had totally hid in our rooms, it would have defeated the purpose of the visit, right? Besides, the food there was awesome and we got to see an Egyptian wedding that was held there and do a lot of people watching without having a single person hit us up for something. The day we arrived in Giza, bird flu broke out there. Great! Poultry, one of the staple safe foods when properly cooked is now rather off the menu. Still, the food we had in Egypt was actually really good. Lamb became our primary meat course.
Having a working GPS was a must for us in Cairo. Whenever we got in a taxi, we were able to see whether or not we were headed in generally, the right direction. It was especially useful for the return trips, which were often hailed ourselves. We could see that the driver was following a similar route back to our hotel. We had our concierge write us little notes like "Please take us to the ABC Hotel in Giza" so we didn't have to worry about the language barrier, or even speak English in front of anyone, just work out fees on a calculator and smile and chuckle.
The Khan el-Khalili shopkeepers didn't know what to make of us. We didn't respond to English, so they'd switch to French, Spanish, German... Perhaps I should have covered my hair but I had read that only certain women did so and I did not want to misrepresent myself. Despite attaching myself to Shane in the crowds, I got the worst groping of my life there and while I can safely say the guy regretted it (I elbowed him hard in the gut), it was a bit upsetting. We left the market and went into Old Cairo where people still have careers making brass lamps and baskets. The roads are very narrow and filled with all sorts of vehicles. Here the locals are shopping, and no one bothers us, although we are almost run over on several occasions. I'll never forget the giant rotary where we finally hail a cab home - it's a swirling vortex of buses belching black smoke, honking taxi cabs, people on bikes holding the corners of cars and overloaded donkey carts.
The Citadel was fantastic, a beautiful historical monument with a view the city for miles around it. Pyramids vaguely visible through the heavy haze. We happened to be there for the afternoon prayer call which we got on video. As the sun set, a guard showed us some of the closed-off areas like the prison. We had to stay hydrated and so Shane visited the restroom. As a girl in visiting the third world, you quickly learn to pee standing up. Luckily, backpacking teaches you that, too. Still, after a very brief visit to the airport bathroom early on in the trip (frightening, I think I saw lepers) I decided I would avoid public restrooms in Egypt whenever possible. Going in meant being disconnected from Shane, which was dangerous, and was disgusting in almost all cases anyway.
As Shane described, the Cairo airport scene on our way out was beyond description. A mob scene in which we we initially thought something must be very wrong, and people were trying to leave the country en masse. Of the hundreds of people there, we were the only whites and stood out. Tour groups did not go through this but had a special other entrance. The chaos was balanced with very friendly guards. When we finally got into a line of sorts, we were surrounded by women with large groups of children and even more luggage (like contents of my first apartment). All of which stared at us openly, but wouldn't smile. The women eyed us suspiciously. At one point, a woman's cart had been pushed over by some men pushing to the front to argue with the counter staff (this happened a lot). She was older and had a baby in her arms, so I picked up her cart and righted it for her, fixing her luggage. After that, she nodded regally to me and others nearby murmured, and I felt I'd gotten a reprieve of sorts.
We were screened repeatedly for weapons. All the metal detectors everywhere were going off constantly, but no one was stopped. They just shoved through, sometimes three at a time. Same for the luggage. Finally, at the gate, we were screened again by two guards. Shane and I were wearing the EXACT same gear - our REI hiking boots, light-weight cargo pants and shirts. Yet Shane went through fine and I kept beeping. It must have been underwire. I tried emptying pockets, offered to take off my shoes. They wouldn't wand me, even though I would have been ok with it. I felt bad for making trouble for them. Finally, the guard just decided to ask me if I was carrying weapons and take my word for it.
"Are you carrying any weapons?" the guard looks amused.
"No," I smile.
"Are you carrying any bombs?" the guard laughs.
"No," I chuckle, feeling rather ridiculous.
"Ok, go on through."
And so we were off to Kenya.
September 30, 2006
Great Wall - Badaling, China
September 28, 2006
Tiananmen Square - Beijing, China
September 24, 2006
Great White Shark Diving - Gansbaai, South Africa
September 23, 2006
Storms River Mouth - Tsitsikamma NP, South Africa
September 20, 2006
Garden Route - Hermanus, South Africa
September 19, 2006
Jackass Penguin Colony - Boulders Beach, South Africa
Check out our Jackass Penguin Colony In South Africa podcast - an video program that highlights these animals!
Garden Route - South Africa
September 18, 2006
Stellenbosch Wine Route - South Africa
September 16, 2006
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - The Great Wildebeest Migration
More Travel & Adventure Entries
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - Spots & Stripes
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - On Safari
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - Big Cats
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - Primates
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - Elephants
Kenya Wildlife Highlights - Birds
Roadtripping In Kenya
Masai Dancing - Kenya
Great Pyramids - Giza, Egypt
The Saladin Citadel - Cairo, Egypt
White Mountains, New Hampshire
Eating Eels: Am I a Foodie Freak?
Every once in a while, I run across something that reminds me that my life is not exactly normal. That the choices I have made are not obvious to other people. I have come to realize that my choices in... Read More Here
Año Nuevo: A Wildlife Preserve
Less than 60 miles from the seven million people living in the Bay area (and 26.66 miles from my house according to MapQuest) lay a relatively untouched nature preserve on a rocky point overlooking the Pacific Ocean. When Spanish... Read More Here
72 Hours In New Orleans
New Orleans is a magical place. When I last visited in March of 2005, prior to hurricane season, the locals were just recovering from Mardi Gras. Many people had told us their opinions of the city - that it was... Read More Here
Who Let The Dogs Out: San Francisco Celebrates Chinese New Year
The Chinese calendar has been in use for centuries and is much older than our own Gregorian-derived system. According to the Chinese calendar, the year is 4703, with a cycling twelve zodiak animals. This year, the Eleventh in the... Read More Here
Perlgurl's Passion For Periodicals: Travel
Occasionally I get asked how I do my travel planning, what resources I use, and what magazines I like to read. I thought I'd do a little write-up for you on what travel magazines are my personal favorites, and why.... Read More Here
Autumn In The High Sierra
Living in Santa Cruz, Shane and I are always lamenting the lack of seasonal change on the California Coast. In order to get our autumn color fix in, we spent the weekend in the High Sierra, around Mono Lake and... Read More Here
The Zoo Report Card
I love going to the zoo, especially to practice my wildlife photography in times where I can't leave home and travel into the wild for one reason or another. I've been to zoos and aquariums all over the world -... Read More Here
The Ins & Outs of the In-N-Out Menu
It's a good thing that the nearest In-N-Out Burger is about a 45 minute drive from where I live, because otherwise, I'd be a big fat cow. I don't particularly care for fast food and I don't really find myself... Read More Here
Down Under: Cheap & Flexible
Now I'm not usually one to talk about commercial travel. I prefer to talk about destinations and what to do once you get there. But I ran across this deal and I'll admit, it's terribly tempting. QANTAS is offering an... Read More Here
The History & Romance of Exploration
I've been reading History and Romance of Exploration, Told With Pictures by Seymour Gates Pond. Old, yellowed, and a bit smelly, this library book, published in 1966, gives short accounts of a variety of world travellers throughout the ages. Each... Read More Here
72 Hours In San Diego
Shane and I wanted to get away for the weekend without spending too much money. Since we have a yearly membership with the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park, we decided one of the most affordable three-day weekends we... Read More Here
The Earth's Last Wildernesses
I recently read The Atlas of Wild Places: In Search of the Earth's Last Wildernesses by Roger Few and noted the places worthy of adding to my list of places to visit before I die. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, most... Read More Here
We're Sorry, but It's a Small World After All
Speaking of how small the world has gotten with fast flights, up-to-the-second news feeds and various forms of media available... I found this little tidbit on CNN rather amusing. While I can applaud the fact that monster media company Disney... Read More Here
New Zealand - Land of the Kiwis
About the size of the state of Colorado, New Zealand wasn't much of a tourist destination until Peter Jackson really put the country on the map by filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy - insisting on using local resources.... Read More Here
Skip The Guidebooks?
I'm always frustrated by the apparent lack in high quality, up-to-date and photograph-rich guidebooks. This past few weeks I've been greatly annoyed when I go into a bookstore and they don't have a single travel guidebook for any African, Arab... Read More Here
Obi-Wan Goes Trekkin'
Not only is Ewan McGregor a tremendously handsome man, he's passionate about trekking! (A man after my own heart!) The 6-part TV series will be shown on BRAVO and hopefully will also come out on DVD so we can rent... Read More Here
Here's another article I originally read on Adventure. I have to keep telling myself that the fact that we're considering flying into Kampala, Uganda (which is where the Entebbe hijacking took place) is not terribly distressing. It's not like there... Read More Here
Staying Alive in a Dangerous Place
I originally read this article in National Geographic Adventure (one of my favorite magazines of all time) months ago, but now I'm very focused on safe travel and not making yourself a target in areas where tourists - especially American... Read More Here
The Best Restaurants of the World
Someone at Shane's company who sent us a Microsoft Excel file with the supposed top 50 restaurants of the world. Here are the first ten: The Fat Duck (Bray, United Kingdom) El Bulli (Roses, Spain) French Laundry (Yountville, Calif., United... Read More Here
Happy New Year!
San Francisco View - New Years Eve... Read More Here