Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zambia

We’re come to the end of this April’s A-Z challenge and I felt like I’ve been all around the world (although I just got back from a trip to Atlanta which may count for my fatigue).   We’re at Z and interestingly, there are two countries that begin with that letter and they’d both let me see the famous Victorian Falls (that’s located between them).  Those two countries are Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia).  As Zambia seems to be less corrupt, it makes my bucket list of places I'd love to travel.   

In addition to the Victoria Falls, there are lots of wild animals to see and one can even arrive in this landlocked country by train from the Indian Ocean (through Tanzania) or from South Africa (through Mozambique and Zimbabwe).  Although I’d like to do both trips, I think the Tanzania train sounds the best (it’s approximately $60 for a first class sleeper from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposh, a distance of a little over 1800 kms.   The train would take you across the plains of the Serengeti and hopefully within sight of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Another train will have to take you the last 800 kms to Livingston, next to the Falls.  The price for this train is around $10 economy/coach and $20 for a sleeper for the ten hour journey. 

I hope you have enjoyed me sharing dreams with you.  I can't believe that I had all these posts up by 6 AM of the day scheduled.  Maybe some of these dreams will one day become a reality, but I look forward in the next few weeks of telling you about some books I’ve been reading, a post about my recovery from my quad tendon rupture, and other items.  Photos from Zambia taken from the web...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for...

We’re at the letter Y.  What place that begins with a Y could I add to my bucket list of places to visit?  I would like to visit Yemen, the one country with a Y according to the State Department’s list.  A decade ago, a friend of mine visited there with his family when he sailed around the world, but things are a lot less stable today. 

So I’ll push Yemen off the list and be content watching “Salmon Fishing in Yemen” on Netflix (it’s a good movie).

One place I wouldn’t mind visiting is Yellowknife, the largest city in Canada’s Northwest Territory (at only about 20,000 residents).  The city is on the north side of the Great Slave Lake and a wonderful place to enjoy the Northern Lights.  The Great Slave Lake is also the beginning of the MacKenzie River, which flows out through the Arctic Ocean.

But, another place I would like to go and this makes my bucket list is the Yukon River.  At one time, I thought I might paddle the entire length of the river that starts in British Columbia, Canada, not far from the Pacific, but then paddles northward into the Yukon Territory and then across Alaska before emptying out in the Bering Sea.  I doubt I'll ever be able to do that, but there's no reason why I can't paddle a portion of the river which has only four bridges along it's entire length.  The Yukon River is mostly fast flowing (often 5-8 miles per hour) and the long days of summer means that one can paddle lots of miles a day (but then, with 2300 miles, one has to make a lot of miles each day). 
Canoeing the Yukon

Tomorrow, we’ll end with the letter Z (and there’s a couple of choices in Africa).  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xian. No, make that Xining

We’re up to the letter X in this year’s A-Z challenge in which I’m writing about places I’d like to visit.  There’s no countries with an X but there are some cities and towns in Asia and in the Mayan region of Central America.   I’ve spent a week once in the village of Xocenpich in the center of the Yucatan.  I’d love to go back, but since I’ve already been there, I will set my sights on places I’ve missed in China. 

Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian 
Xian is a huge city (8 million, but there are a lot of large cities in China) and a place where you can see a huge army with clay feet.  Actually, the whole army is clay or terracotta (ain't that baked clay).   Also, why would I need to go to Pisa to see a leaning tower when I could go to Xian and see the Wild Goose Pagoda that leans (and has since an earthquake in the 17th Century)?.

outside Xining 
But, the place that makes my bucket list is Xining.  I could knock out a couple of my bucket list sites by traveling overland from India to Katmandu, Nepal, and the on to Lhasa, Tibet and then take the train down from the mountains, stopping in Golmud to get a view of the Gobi before heading on to the end of the rail line that runs to Tibet in Xining.  You’re still up on the Tibet plateau with plenty of National Parks, mountains and lakes to see.  And good lamb to have at dinner.  Western China is different than the east, so visiting both Xining and Xian would be a treat.     

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Wales

I have almost successfully completed April’s A-Z challenge as I add 26 locations to my bucket list of places that I’d like to visit.  As I’ve said earlier, I am going to be a little tight on time (and I haven’t written up X, Y and Z yet) this week, but I do plan to finish!

According to the United States of America State Department, there are no countries that begin with a “W.”  Another internet site ( suggests there are three (Western Sahara, Wallis and Futuna and Western Samoa) and a fourth is an alternative name for Belarus (White Russia).  I’ve never heard that White Russia that wasn’t either a drink or a party during the struggle for Russia following the fall of the Czar.  As for Western Sahara, it seems to be a territory claimed by two other African countries (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco).  I never heard of Wallis and Futuna and Western Samoa is a part of Samoa and doesn’t seem to be any more of a country than West Virginia. I could choose a city (Warsaw would be one and I’d like to go there), but there is a country that begins with W, only it is a part of another much larger country—the United Kingdom.  The country that I will add to my bucket list is Wales.  It has a neat flag!

From everything I’ve seen Wales is beautiful.  Of course, John Ford in his movie “How Green Was My Valley” placed that beauty in the past tense, but it appears that much beauty remains even though I am sure there are still places recovering from the worst of coal mining practices.  But the coal created a number of railroads, a number of which still exist and run excursion steam trains through the countryside.  So I can come into Wales a modern British Rail line (perhaps taking a stop along the way in Cornwall) and then see the countryside by trains pulled by coal burning steam locomotives.  It would be a country to also explore by foot, among the hills and along the shoreline.  There are ancient castles to explore (five along in Cardiff) and festivals to enjoy.  Cardiff is one of the greenish cities, I’m told, with more green space per capita than anywhere else in Great Britain.   I’d feast on lamb and drown my thirst in many of Cardiff’s pubs (before heading out into the countryside). 

Until I visit, maybe I should watch “How Green was my Valley” again and read some Dylan Thomas poems (and hopefully I will visit before I go gently into that good night).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Vatican City

We’re on the home stretch in this April’s A-Z challenge and I am exploring places I’d like to travel.  The letter V provides four countries as possibilities.  There’s Vietnam, and I’d love to go back, but I’ve been there.  A wonderful country, especially if you can get out into the countryside.  Then there is Venezuela, one of our neighbors to the south, a country that is often at odds with America.  Hopefully, like with Cuba, the tension will ease but that doesn’t bring it to the top of my list.  Then there is Vanuatu.  And island with volcanoes sounds right up my ally.  I loved how reading Getting Stone with the Savages.  J. Marten Troost knows how to travel the islands of the Pacific (find a girlfriend working for NGOs).  Of course, he was able to parlay his experiences into a couple of very funny books. 

For me, my V destination will be the Vatican City, a sovereign country within a city. It’s not very large and no, there are no railways.  There’s only around 500 people who live here, mostly clergy within the Roman Catholic Church.  This is one country where I’d probably have to stay in another country to visit, but that would be okay.  And it won’t take a long to see it all, but to have a chance to see St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Sistine Chapels, the museums, and just to be at the site where so much history has taken place over the past two millenniums.

Monday, April 25, 2016

U is for Uruguary

We’re up to the letter “U” in this April’s A-Z challenge as I explore places on my bucket list.  There are a number of places that I could go.  In Africa, there’s Uganda.  During the 70s, this was a dangerous country, especially if you got on the wrong side of the military ruler, king and whatever other title he bestowed upon himself (See the movie, "The Last King of Scotland").  Thankfully,  Idi Amin has been gone for decades and spent his last years of his life in secluded exile in Saudi Arabia.  Today, Uganda could be an interesting place to travel but there are other U's.  In the Middle East there is the United Arab Emirates but alternative realities in the desert don’t impress me.  I've been to Las Vegas.   I could go to the Ukraine and it has some interest, but not enough to make my list.  There’s also Uzbekistan, an exotic sounding place that experienced some of the worst environmental disasters during the Soviet Union days.  The arid land is even more arid as the Soviets pushed them to grow more and more cotton, sucking up all the water and leaving the Aral Sea (once the fourth largest inland body of water in the world) to be a large muddy hole.  And while I wouldn’t mind taking the train through Uzbekistan, it’s not making my list.  Other countries on the “U” list include the United Kingdom and the United States, but I’ve been there..  That leaves me one last country to explore: Uruguay. 
I love the name, Uruguay.  It’s one of the smallest countries in South America, wedged between Argentina and Brazil.  It’s also a country known for its stability, the lack of corruption, a large middle class and some nice beaches.  My time in Uruguay would be spent resting on beaches and exploring Montevideo, the capital. 

I am going to be traveling and at a conference this week, so my post may be a little shorter and my visiting somewhat limited.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

T is for (let's build the suspense... you gotta read)

The numbers are flying off the alphabet faster than Vanna White in stilettos can click them off the board.  We’re up to the letter “T” in this April’s A-Z challenge as I think of new places to add to my bucket list.  There’s no way that I could visit all these places if I had two lifetimes to go, but I hope to make some of them.  There’s a lot of places that one could go that begins with T: Taiwan (been in the airport and would like to go stay a while), Tajikistan, Tanzania (that’s up on my list but since I can only have on T), Thailand (been there, forget to get a t-shirt), Tibet (I’ve already discussed this), Timor (I had a Chinese man in Singapore once tell me that East Timor had the most beautiful beaches in all the world, so yes, I'd like to go there someday), Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands and Tuvalu (where’s that?). 

But let’s not limit ourselves to countries.  There’s a lot of cities to which I could travel: Tegucigalpa, Honduras (been there, got the t-shirt), Tijuana, Mexico (been there, didn’t leave anything behind for which I felt lucky and see no ready to go back), Thunder Bay, Canada (seen it from a ridge when hiking Isle Royale, but it was a long cold swim away), Tallinn, Estonia (been there, enjoyed the old city).

 So where will the letter T bring me?  Lots of good options, but there is one that I haven’t mentioned:  Timbuktu.
When someone asks me where I’m going and I don’t want to tell them, they get one of two answers.  It depends on how much of a smart ass I am that day.  I either say, I’m going crazy (and then I invite them to come along) or I say I’m going to Timbuktu.   I don’t think you can get much more of an exotic sounding name than Timbuktu.  You also can find a variety for spellings for it:  Tomboutou, Timbuktu, or Buctoo.  Nor could you probably find a more dangerous spot to take a holiday, although not as bad as it was in 2012 when Islamic Extremists took over the city and set out to impose their form of shari law. From my mini-research, it seems no one is really sure what they left as they felt the “shrines” in Timbuktu (which were all Islamic) were idolatry and  many were destroyed.  

Timbuktu is in the West African country of Mali along the geographic boundary between the Sahara sand and the African savannahs. The name means “mother with a large navel.”  I’m not sure if that is complimentary. Historically, it was an important trading route.  Because of the people coming and going to the city, once Islam conquered this part of North Africa, a major university developed in Timbuktu.  The city also had one of the world's major libraries and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Certainly, visiting Timbuktu would give you the feeling that you’re at the edge of the world (or maybe you’ve stepped out of the world).  If it was safer, it would be a place to set my sights on, but perhaps I should just set my sights on watching the movie “Timbuktu.”  I’d not heard of this movie until doing a bit of research but Rotten Tomatoes gives this a 99% good rating (only one tomato thrown out of 107 viewers who rated the film) it must be good.  I've never seen such a high rating by Rotten Tomatoes.  The movie is about those living around the city and their opposition to the radical Islamic forces invading their land. 


Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Santiago (but which one?)

We’re up to the letter S in April's A-Z Challenge.  San Francisco would be the perfect city to add to my bucket list of places I’d like to visit, except that I have spent a lot of time in the City by the Bay and it's one of my favorite cities.  San Francisco would also be perfect because today is the release date of Chrys Fey’s first novel, Seismic Crimes.  The book is set in San Francisco and at the bottom of the post, you can learn more about it.  Read more about it at the end of this post.

So if not San Francisco, where else?  Paddling the Suwanee River is on my list, but I have paddled part of it so it’s disqualified.  I’ve been to San Diego, Seattle, San Juan, San Antonio.  In fact, I’ve been to so many Sans that I can never get it out of my shoes. 

But I don’t recall ever being in a Santiago and there are at least three that I would like to visit.  I’ve already written about traveling to Cuba and taking the train from Havana to Santiago.  That’s one.  I would also love to go to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.  The ideal trip would be me walking into the city with a host of pilgrims, having trekked across the Pyrenees, ending up at the Cathedral of St. James.  Walking the Caminio  is one of two of hikes I hope to complete as my years wind down. That’s two.  But the other Santiago is the one I’d love to visit.  It’s in Chili (before moving to Savannah, I was exploring the possibility of moving there for a few years, but that’s a story that didn’t work out).  This Santiago is the perfect “S” destination because not only does it begin with the proper letter, it’s also in a supper active earthquake zone, making it the perfect “second” city to pair with Chrys’ novel.   
What’s there to do in Santiago?  I'm sure there's good Rock 'n' Roll, but it might just be of the seismic variety as the city is close to the Pacific's Ring of Fire. The mountains are close by with climbing and skiing opportunities.  Plus, this would be a great city to knock off three of my bucket list, involving an overland trip to Patagonia and then a flight to the Falklands.   In the city, there is the main plaza, the national cathedral, the tallest building in South America.  While there, I'd have to take the train out into the country.  Sadly, like many national railways, train service has been drastically but but I'd have to at least take the train so I can say I've ridden out of a station designed by Gustave Eiffel (who went on to build the Eiffel Tower in some European city.   And then there's food.  I’d have to wangle my way into a dinner invitation from Gloria at Canela Kitchen. (It's not exactly in Santiago, but in the nearby city of Concepcion.)  If you have not checked out her blog, you should for she has had my mouth watering on many occasions and I've even tried my hand at preparing some of her dishes.
The train station Eiffel designed

 And now, check this out:

Today is the release of Chrys Fey's first novel!

An Internal Affairs Investigator was murdered and his brother, Donovan Goldwyn, was framed. Now Donovan is desperate to prove his innocence. And the one person who can do that is the woman who saved him from a deadly hurricane—Beth Kennedy. From the moment their fates intertwined, passion consumed him. He wants her in his arms. More, he wants her by his side in his darkest moments.

Beth Kennedy may not know everything about Donovan, but she can’t deny what she feels for him. It’s her love for him that pushes her to do whatever she has to do to help him get justice, including putting herself in a criminal’s crosshairs.

When a tip reveals the killer's location, they travel to California, but then an earthquake of catastrophic proportions separates them. As aftershocks roll the land, Beth and Donovan have to endure dangerous conditions while trying to find their way back to one another. Will they reunite and find the killer, or will they lose everything?



Thursday, April 21, 2016

R is for Rhode Island

We’re quickly moving through the alphabet in this April’s A-Z challenge.  We’re up to the letter R.  Where in the world would I want to travel that beings with an “R” that I haven’t already been.  Russia would make the list except that I’ve been there (taking the longest train journey of my life).   At one time Rhodesia might have made the list but I’d have to perfect time travel and I don’t know if I’d cared to visit back then or even now with the mess it’s in.  Rangoon might have made the list, but I’ve already talked about it with Myanmar and besides, it’s now normally called as Yangon.    

Photos lifted from Rhode Island's travel page:
I think for my “R” destination should be an island, only it isn’t really one.  I think my “R” destination should be a small area without too many people. That it is, the smallest state and the eighth smallest in population.  However, the size makes the state the second in population density.  But most importantly, it's the only state within the continental United States that I’ve not visited.  So my choice for the letter R, if you haven’t guessed, is Rhode Island.  The question is, how have I missed it?  We’ll, look at a map, it’s not that large and you pretty much have to go there to have been there.   If you're traveling north and south on the freeways, it's easy to miss it!  I could take the train to Providence (maybe even making it a stopping point on a trip to Boston, which would allow me to scratch off two of my bucket list places).

Photos lifted from Rhode Island's travel page:

 Rhode Island was started by Roger Williams, who was a Baptist that didn’t get along with the pesky Congregationalist in Massachusetts.  He moved south and started a new colony.  There's a lot of history to see as the state's been around for a while even playing a role in the Revolutionary War. As I indicated, it isn't an island, but there are a lot of islands there.  Lots of exploring via water!  There’s also a lot of coastline with a large bay and from what a guy who winters down here tells me, the sailing is great.  The seafood is also outstanding.  Providence sounds like a nice godly place to visit.  The city at one time had a major league baseball team, but they went defunct in 1885 after winning the "world" title in 1884.  The nearby burgh of Pawtucket has the Triple A team for the Boston Red Soxs.  Players who get called up don't have to travel far as Boston is just next door.  Over all Rhode Island sounds like a good place to visit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Q is for Quebec

I’m in the middle of the A-Z challenge, listing bucket lists of places that I’ve not been, but would I’d like to visit in my life.  I doubt I will be able to make every one of these trips, but one can hope.

There are a few places that I could set my sights on that begin with a Q: I could head south to Quito or way southwest to Queensland in Australia, or stick a little closer to home and check out one of the Canadian Providences I’ve yet to see (I’ve been in five). For P, I was at the bottom of South America and for a Q, I’m heading to the top of North America.  I suppose this is “minding my P’s and Q’s. 

 Quebec is the largest providence in Canada and a little unique with its mostly French speaking population.  And while Quebec City and Montreal both seem to be cities worth exploring, I’d really set my compass bearing further to the north. The vast providence that mostly sits upon the granite slab known as the Canadian Shield.  I expect the topography to be similar to some of the wildlands I’ve travelled in Ontario although it appears Quebec is a little hillier.  Having already paddled to the James Bay on the Ontario side (on the Missnaibii River), my ideal trip to Quebec could be topped off with a paddle on the Broadback or Nottaway River to the east side of the James Bay.  In southern Quebec, there is the massive St. Lawrence River, which would be another place to explore, perhaps in a train running along the bank or in a boat/ship.  

For an interesting read about paddling the Broadback, click here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

P is for Patagonia

I’m in the middle of the A-Z challenge, listing bucket lists of places that I’ve not been, but would I’d like to visit in my life.  I doubt I will be able to make every one of these trips, but one can hope.

There are a number of places I’d like to visit that beings with a P.  I have already been to Pennsylvania, having spent several years living there while in school.  But I’ve yet to go to Peru, which I would love.  Nor have I been to Prague, which is a city on my short lists of cities to visit and to pay homage to Jan Hus. And then there is Poland.  But highest on my list is Patagonia, that vast wide-open land in Argentina, at the bottom of South America.  The high desert, the beauty of the big-sky, the mountains and lakes and rocky moist coastline creates an incredible place.  

The second Paul Threoux book I read was Old Patagonia Express.  It was a trip that he did, mostly by rail, catching the train in Boston and (as much as possible) riding rails all the way to bottom of the America’s.  That old steam train to Esquel appears to still run but doesn’t connect to the main line that does still run some 800 kms from Viedma to Bariloche (Atlantic Ocean to the Andes).  In addition to taking the train, I’d want to make a trip to Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) at the end of continent.  All photos "lifted" from the internet.  

Back in 2007, I reviewed an Argentinian movie, “Intimate Stories” that had nothing to do with the bedroom or a sleazy motels (the name was a bad translation from the Spanish).  The movie was filmed along the empty highways and in the small towns of Patagonia, places that seem to call my name.  I’d love to go experience it.

Monday, April 18, 2016

O is for Olympic National Park

 I’m in the middle of the A-Z challenge, listing bucket lists of places that I’ve not been, but would I’d like to visit in my life.  I doubt I will be able to make every one of these trips, but can always dream.

We’re at the letter O.  I could continue on my world tour and head to Oslo, but I don’t get too excited about cities.  Instead, I’ll stick to the states and head to another national park that I’ve yet to see.  Olympic National Park is located between the coast of Washington State and the metropolis of Seattle.  I’ve been to Seattle, but haven’t explored any outside of the city. 

Olympus National Park would be an incredible place to backpack as there are a number of unique eco-zones within the park as one travels from the coastline to 7000 plus mountain peaks with receding glaciers.  The coast side of the mountains are wet and lush, while the backside is a bit drier.  In the higher alpine areas are lakes and meadows.  A backcountry trip in the park could provide me with a number of different experiences.  Another good thing about the park is that nearly 95 percent of the land is maintained as a wilderness area. If you want to really explore the park, you have to get off the road and hike.   And then there are hot springs, the perfect place to end a hike.   Photos "lifted" from