Dispatches from David Stanley

Female shoppers in Tripoli's old Medina.

Libya and Algeria have a lot in common. Both North African countries encompass vast tracks of Saharan desert and their capitals and major cities are on or near the Mediterranean. Both possess some of the ancient world’s finest archaeological sites and both experienced long periods of European colonization.

In a way, the difficulties modern travelers experience in obtaining visas for these countries are a legacy of their troubled modern histories. While one can land in Morocco, Tunisia, and Eqypt without a prearranged visa, Libya and Algeria have strict entry requirements.

Things have recently become easier in Libya with group tourist visas available upon arrival for members of prearranged package tours. Trouble is, airline officials are often unfamiliar with the change and passengers without proper documentation are routinely denied boarding for Tripoli at European airports. Only those in possession of an advance clearance form in Arabic bearing their name and passport number are allowed through. Continue reading »

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Pitcairn Islands Postage StampWhen Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers were looking for a hideout from the Royal Navy, they decided that Pitcairn was the most isolated island in the South Pacific. Thus on 15 January 1790, HMS Bounty deposited eight Englishmen and 18 Polynesian companions on the island and the ship was promptly burned to avoid detection. Eighteen years were to pass before another vessel called at Pitcairn. By then only one member of Captain Bligh’s original crew, John Adams, was still alive, and he was eventually pardoned by the British Admiralty.

Arguably, Pitcairn is still the most isolated corner of the South Pacific. The nearest inhabited island is Mangareva in French Polynesia, 490 km northwest. Easter Island is 1,900 km east. There’s been talk of building an airstrip on Pitcairn for years, but it’s still just talk. What’s new is that between now and March, 2009, Pacific Expeditions Ltd will operate five cruises from Mangareva to Pitcairn aboard the RV Bounty Bay. It’s the only sure way of getting there as cruise ships sometimes promise Pitcairn but are unable to land passengers due to weather conditions. My Pitcairn Islands Travel Guide has lots more information on Pitcairn, Henderson, Oeno, and Ducie, the four components of Britain’s only remaining South Pacific colony.

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Nanaimo barsThe sinfully-rich Nanaimo bar takes its name from the city of Nanaimo on the east coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. This calorie-laden dessert was first mentioned in local cookbooks in the 1950s. Today the three-layer bars are kept next to the cookies and muffins in most British Columbia cafes.

To prepare the base layer, combine half a cup of unsalted butter or margarine, a quarter cup of granulated sugar, and five tablespoons of cocoa powder in a double boiler over the heat. Add a beaten egg, mix well, and pour into a mixing bowl. Stir in half a cup of chopped almonds or walnuts, one cup of grated coconut, and two cups of graham wafer crumbs. Press the soft mixture firmly into an ungreased eight-inch square pan and put the pan in the refrigerator to chill. Continue reading »

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The Canadian travel website GoNanaimo.com has come up with a concept that addresses rising fuel prices and climate change. The Nanaimo 50-Kilometer Holiday includes seven self-guided tours within a 50-kilometer radius of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. As gasoline prices go up, vacationing locally becomes more attractive and Vancouver Island has a lot to offer. The 50-Kilometer Holiday includes two walking tours within Nanaimo and five driving/bicycling tours to nearby mid-island destinations. Each tour is carefully crafted with a printable version and map.

Continue reading »

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Aranui 3The 118 islands and atolls of French Polynesia are sprinkled across an expanse of South Pacific Ocean half the size of the United States. Most visitors use Air Tahiti to get around the territory’s five archipelagoes but it’s also possible to travel by boat. The wharves of Motu Uta in the capital city Papeete bustle with supply ships loading for Bora Bora, Rangiroa, Tubuai, and a host of other outer islands. Deck space is available on most vessels and fares are low thanks to French government subsidies. Service from Tahiti to the Leeward Islands of Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, and Bora Bora is three times a week on several different ships. I usually fly to Bora Bora the same day I arrive in French Polynesia and island hop my way back to Papeete by cargo boat.

Of course, there are also frequent tourist cruises from Tahiti to Bora Bora on luxury vessels such as the Paul Gauguin. In my opinion however, the most unforgettable cruise of them all is the 14-day voyage from Tahiti to the six inhabited islands of the Marquesas Islands aboard the passenger-carrying freighter Aranui. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Cruises, South Pacific