One October a few years ago I spent a couple of days in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears. Churchill is famously the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” because so many bears come in to den when the pack ice breaks up on Hudson Bay. In the fall, when Hudson Bay begins to freeze, ice forms first around the spit of land where Churchill sits, and the bears know it. That’s why they gang up here, why thousands of tourists like me come to gawk.
But now there’s a new game in town: snorkeling with belugas. Yep, you can don a dry suit and slip into water that was frozen solid last week and come nose to nose with beluga whales. John Flinn took the plunge and conveyed his experience in the San Francisco Chronicle this week. Continue reading »
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the thought of a trip down the Mekong was the stuff of nightmares. The place was a war zone, and the only way to see it was courtesy of Uncle Sam. But thankfully times change, and today the great river that runs from China through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is accessible to anyone who wants to put paddle to water, assuming you have the proper paperwork and know your way around.
Which is a good reason to find an outfitter who can handle the logistics. Some top adventure companies offer trips on the Mekong, but these are mostly cruises. For journeys by kayak, Bangkok-based river explorer Steve Van Beek brings something extra: 40 years of residence in Southeast Asia and almost as many years exploring the region’s rivers. Continue reading »
Summer vacation for my kids this year was a whopping 14 weeks; something about an early end to school in June and a late Labor Day. Whatever the reason it meant a ton of scrambling for summer activities for my kids. A group of parents decided to do a sort of ‘Family Camp’, where the week is split up so that one set of parents watches the group each day. The kids have fun and parents don’t have to pay for so many day camps and can at least get some work done. I have to say the kids made out like bandits; they went to a water park, swimming pools, museums, parks and one day a trip to Stinson Beach. Continue reading »
Now is the time. The crowds are gone, the days are clear and warm and the nights are cool to cold. Mosquitoes and just about every other flying insect have bedded down for the winter or perished in the chill. Campsites are available. And Yosemite’s vaunted Tuolumne Meadows is as beautiful in the fall as ever.
I spent the 4th of July holiday weekend there, my first visit in 25 years, which told me a couple of things: just how quickly time can pass and a quarter of a lifetime can slip beneath your feet; and how short-sighted I’d been to allow so many years to drift away without making the simple four-hour-plus drive up from San Francisco. I swam in Tenaya Lake, fished the pools and streams that fed into it, got some strikes in the Tuolumne River as it wound through the meadows, and later, at Cathedral Lake, saw a trout with a head as big as my fist emerge from the depths to strike my lure repeatedly before losing interest, too smart to be caught by an occasional fisherman like me. Continue reading »
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There may be no animal more impressive to see in the wild than the tiger. These regal creatures that once prowled the forests of Asia in the hundreds of thousands are now down to a few thousand, with human encroachment on their habitat putting more pressure on them.
Yet there are wildlife sanctuaries in India and Nepal where tourists can see them despite their dwindling numbers. Tourism brings money into local economies and can contribute to conservation efforts in and around the parks, and can provide a financial incentive to local residents for protecting the animals. But not everyone thinks tourists looking for tigers in wildlife preserves is a good idea. Continue reading »
Triporati’s Chile and Argentina expert Wayne Bernhardson reports that the future is uncertain for the national park comprising the Juan Fernández Archipelago, which includes Robinson Crusoe Island. The report on his blog for Moon Guides says that the government is considering building a road from the airstrip to the village of San Juan Bautista.
Is a road from an airstrip to town such a transgression? Well, maybe if it’s through landscape Wayne describes as “one of the most scenic and solitary [walks] I’ve ever done.” Right now to go from the village to the airstrip requires a four-hour walk or a one-hour sail, but isn’t that what you’d expect on an island where castaway Alexander Selkirk lived alone for four years to become the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s famous novel, Robinson Crusoe? Continue reading »
When traveling in much of the developing world, having money in small denominations is important. Even when traveling in the so-called “First World,” having small denominations is helpful for tips and such. But in Vietnam, as Triporati expert Richard Sterling reports, having small money is essential. Without it, getting the simplest things done becomes a chore.
Richard moved to Vietnam last year and sent this dispatch about life in his Saigon neighborhood.
The View From 608
Life as I see it from apartment 608 on Ngo Tat To (”No Tattoo”) Street, Saigon
By Richard Sterling
A DOLLAR AND A DIME
You’ve always got to have “small money” in your pocket. In Vietnam or any other “Third World” country, any poor country, you need small money. There are too many persons who simply can’t or won’t break a five. Or a six, as the case may be. Here in Vietnam, for example, we have the 50,000 Dong note. A laughably big number for a sum that amounts to a three dollar bill. Years ago I asked a beggar here, when he pressed me for alms, for change of a 50,000 Dong note. More the fool I. The poor old sod had maybe one one hundredth of that in his krinkly, wrinkled hands. Then there was the time in Mexico when I was pulled over by a traffic cop. I earnestly tried to convince him that the stop sign was hidden by the tree (so providently placed), and so I couldn’t see it. He politely responded, “It’s not much money, Señor.” The smallest I had was a tenner. I asked him if he had change. He might have had a pocket full of ones and fives, but the answer was, of course, a smiling “Sorry, Señor.” I ponied up the ten-spot. Lesson learned. Carry small money. Always, carry small money. Continue reading »
Mongolia couldn’t be farther from Mexico and the epicenter of Swine Flu hysteria sweeping the globe. I have always wanted to visit Mongolia, in Central Asia, the home of Genghis Kahn and the Mongolian Horsemen I studied in a college Anthro class. Inspiration of late came in the form of numerous travel articles boasting that Mongolia is the new Prague, or that unusual ‘it’ spot that is attracting young travelers looking for adventure. A burgeoning art scene in Ulan Bator/ Ulaanbaatar and the warmth and generosity of the people who live there despite such a harsh environment, peaked my interest even more. Continue reading »
Local Bay Area residents or visitors from out of town will love taking the family tide pooling at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve on a sunny day down the coast from San Francisco near Montara in San Mateo County. It is about a half hour drive from the city just a few miles north of Half Moon Bay. It can be crowded but the excitement in finding star fish, or sea stars as my five-year-old says they are now called, is immense.
Bring your water sandals and be prepared for some slippery rocks. Check the tides so you can be sure to have the best conditions for viewing. Harbor seals bask in the sun out on the rocks and kids and adults alike enjoy an up close and personal look at the sea life. You can see barnacles, sea stars, limpets, crabs, anemones, sponges and nudibranchs in the area sometimes called the Splash Zone. Continue reading »
As rain pours down, I know the dry creeks and reservoirs, thirsty plants and animals are all happy, as are the avid skiers in Northern California. The slopes may be less crowded this year, but for many, even if the economy is taking a beating, the call of the snow is just too powerful.
I have skied downhill many times and do love the thrill, but have come to appreciate cross country skiing greatly, particularly since having kids. When they were young I pulled both my boys in sleds, wrapping them in blankets, like little Russian Princes, with snacks and toys in the sled. They both took naps while I, in a complete sweat, trudged through the glorious snow; I absolutely loved that feeling.
Now they are a bit older and are interested in skiing on their own. Recently, I read an online missive in one of my mom’s groups. The message linked to an article by Gigi Stahl about skiing with your preschooler or kindergartener and I thought it was quite helpful and funny. Continue reading »