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Archive for the ‘travel writing’ Category

Papua New Guinea 375-001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I recently conducted an interview with Anne Gordon, a well known Canadian travel writer. Anne had just recently returned from Papua New Guinea and in particular, a trip up the Sepik River where she visited local tribes and learned something of the Malagan culture).

See the Papua New Guinea documentary interview with Anne Gordon here

As a travel writer Anne speaks about the benefits of belonging to NATJA and other travel organizations, the benefits such as sponsored trips and the professional development opportunities that are open for travel writing.

As Anne said, “New Guinea is undoubtedly the most exotic and fascinating place she has ever been, there are over 900 tribes scattered throughout the island and an an ecosystem that spreads both above and beneath the surface”. Many of New Guinea’s tribes maintain customs and cultures that hold a special fascination for us in the west. Head hunting and cannibalism still exist in isolated pockets and have been practised quite commonly within the last 100 years.

Anne Gordon’s interview centres around the Sepik River and the carver’s of the Malagan culture, in particular the master carvers of New Ireland, she shows many incredible pictures of the tribes in that area and the tribal culture of New Guinea.

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Las Ruinas, Cartago –  It was once the old  Costa Rican capital – read more  in the book Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica

This cracked old bell hangs in a ruined cathedral in the earthquake shaken city of Cartago. It appears in the telling of my story – Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica. The book  is selling on the lulu website at $26.99

As the story goes …

The last Simone saw she was thrashing a flinching Nicaraguan who’d come to pray for the health of his fellow workers.

“Good on you old lady,” Simone shouted approvingly. “I bet he friends with that red hair monkey.”

Simone found Talbot at Las Ruinas, skulking beneath its bell.

Symbolically both the ruined cathedral and the bell are representative of something other than their actual physical presence.  Cartago was the old Costa Rican capital before San Jose captured the title in a battle in a nearby mountain pass.

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Edgehill Press has just released their new book, “Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica – the author, yours truly.

If you intend to visit Costa Rica this is essential reading, a humorous account of the practices of two drug dealers and a lizard who start a company that offers Vespa tours to surfers in the town of Tamarindo.

See the book here…. Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica

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Behave Yourself! – Rockwatching Blogging Protocal

 

scan0001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.

We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us  (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).

So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on

1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.

8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).

9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.

Happy and prosperous 2011 – Mick

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Mad man yodels out a turkey call

I can’t be sure of the story behind this fellow, but I was sitting waiting for Maggie in a square off one of the main streets in Chester and in the distance I heard this sound like a wild turkey; everyone around me was looking, wondering what it was … and again the sound; it was this sort of crazy cackling – warbling noise. It just kept getting closer.

Finally this fellow sprinted past, looping back he returned to leap up and down, flapping his elbows like he was trying to fly and yodeling out a wild turkey noise.

I couldn’t be sure whether he was serious or not. We locked gazes and I wondered if I was in for a pecking???  I only had time to snap this hurried picture and then he seemed distracted by something in the distance. Unexpectedly the turkeyman dashed off in a crazy zig zag sprint dodging between startled pedestrians, half crouched over, flapping and leaping, but in vain, everyone knows turkeys aren’t so graceful –  in fact they barely fly. The last I heard of the warbler was his deranged turkey call fading in the distance.

Oh turkey man, from whence did you come and where did you go?

Does anyone know the deal?

Does he do this for money?

Is he a drama student?

Somebody who likes attention?

Just plain off his rocker?

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Scotch, whiskey, whisky or whatever you want to call it

Anne Gordon kindly offers this post as a special guest blogger, she is a national travel writer, having written for every major newspaper in Canada and many others across the world; she is also a member of TMAC. The following post is one on a subject that I find especially appealing – scotch!

“For centuries in the hills and highlands of Scotland, pure spring water, malted barley and yeast, together with the distinctive smoke of peat, have given the Scots an alcoholic experience finer than any other. Called ‘Uisge Beathe’ ( the ‘water of life’) in earlier days, Scotland’s most favoured drink is now more widely known as whisky.

Introduced to the country folk by Christian monks centuries ago, the art of distilling started out in hidden bothies (roughly made shelters) in the hills. It was a precarious operation. The distillers spent a great deal of their time dismantling the tubes and cans of their trade and fleeing whenever word reached them that the Customs men were close on their heels.

Today those small beginnings have flourished, providing Scotland and the Scots with an industry that has greatly enhanced the country’s economy. Worldwide whisky exports now exceed 1 billion bottles a year, an income of more that $4.7 billion.”

See more of Anne’s posts on her visits to various distilleries here

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All we had left!

When you’re real tired and you need a shower, some food and a good sleep you really look forward to your hotel.

Maggie and I had traveled some distance out of London by tube to a suburb called Kenton. Not a bad place I suppose and the Premier Inn that we were to stay in was 76 pounds a night which was also not a bad price. We were relieved to discover that the Inn was a rather quaint looking building about 2 minutes walk from the station. Lugging our backpacks up to the receptionist’s counter I offered my VISA ony to be told “Your card has been declined.”

“Try it again.” I instructed slightly panicked.

“Declined”

“Phone the number on the back” I suggested to Maggie.

“It’s not working.”

We counted out our cash, every last pence – about 114 pounds. This would cover us for just a third of the time remaining in the UK

Well that’s a situation that just wasn’t what either of us wanted to deal with. Options were a park bench for at least 2 of the next 3 nights or sleeping on the station platform. I wonder if that guy with the Ferrari would mind if we crashed in his front hallway?

To cut a long story short we phoned one of Maggie’s relatives in Chester and they helped us by phoning in their VISA number to the hotel. The lesson here is to make sure you remember to phone VISA and let them know when you are going out of the country. My question is why could we not reach them by the phone numbers on the back of the card and also why does it take several days to reactivate your VISA and why when my brother in law phoned them from Canada could they not have been a little more helpful? WHY? WHY? WHY?

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Maggie and the Ferrari

In case you are wondering where I’ve been for the last week it has been in the UK visiting Maggie’s relatives.

I took this picture in downtown London somewhere around Lester Square. Second hand a Ferrari is worth somewhere between $150,000 (Canadian) and $250,000. Over the last decade sales have risen from 4000 to 6500/year. I’d be scared to drive one – especially in London. Check out what they’re selling in Canada right now – used Ferraris. I think this particular Ferrari is of the 458 Italia Variety – top speed 325 km/hr.

It becomes increasingly apparent that there are two kinds of people in London – those that are incredibly rich and those that are struggling to survive. I suspect people stratify themselves in concentric rings outward from the city core, those with the largest disposable incomes live at the center of the city and then as you move outward a compromise between what you are willing to spend on lifestyle and what you are wanting to save or spend on others occurs. Some people, who are too young to have already made their fortune are obviously living on the earnings of someone else – how else could they live here?

As London was once the center of the British Empire I suspect that there is still a lot of residual cash that will likely last a couple more generations – each generation being less capable than the last. It is hunger that drives a person to be successful, not a lifestyle of ease, nightclubs, restaurants and cocktail parties.

Anyway, London was a fascinating place – more to follow (including the “cash crunch” as my next post. Who would ever have imagined that my VISA would not work over there?)

Bet the guy who owns this car (A Ferrari) never has a problem with his VISA.

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Canadian Grain, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Here is an interesting little discovery in a market in Marrakesh some time in the early 1980s. Many of these sacks were labeled something to the effect, “Gift from Canada – Canadian grain for Ethiopia”. I cant remember the exact wording but it was something like that.

Any thoughts as to the confusion between Morocco and Ethiopia? Admittedly they are both in North Africa, but one was on the eastern edge of the continent in the midst of a terrible famine and the other is on the western edge with no such kind of problem. Do you suppose there is a deficiency in the geographical education of the pilots or ships captains who got the product here? Maybe in the interests of conservation the Ethiopians decided to send product from their own country to Morocco in those same sacks in which they’d received their aid supplies.

I had this picture taken as discretely as possible so as not to create a stir. As you can see nobody seems too bothered. If I could have got closer without a problem I would have.

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Cuban Farm – Beyond the Playa

This picture appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of “Atmosphere” – Air Transat’s inflight magazine. My article was “Beyond the Playa” though initially I had called it “Mario and the Crocodile”. Mario was not one of the fellows in this picture, he was our host and a very decent and generous Cuban at that! My visit with Mario was on the same trip that I visited the Cuevas de Bellamar with Jesus (pronounced hay-zeus).

Before dinner we went on a tour of Mario’s farm – he had an alligator on a chain that he goaded for our entertainment. It lived in a scum covered cement pool behind the shed where he kept his Lada. I wondered if I could keep a pet like that, but come to think of it, we have some kind of exotic pet law back in Guelph.

Here is a little bit of how the article had initially appeared (though in “Beyond the Playa”, the editor had coaxed it into something more about the dinner than the crocodile) …

““My he looks like a nasty fellow” I commented to my host. The creature eyed me coldly. “How long have you had him?” “9 years” “ And I suppose you are going to take his belly skin? Use it for handbags? Gangster shoes?” “Si, my pet, I feed”.  Still no reaction from the beast, it seemed indifferent to its fate. I doubt that it understood me, but then again, neither did my host.

Life never fails to amaze, I wondered at the bond that must have developed over those 9 years. Master gazing fondly over his ill-tempered charge; a rusty chain fastened around its armoured neck. Reaching over in provocation the farmer yanked it’s tether and the beast went absolutely beserk, snapping and thrashing it let loose a fetid hiss from its gaping mouth. Whereas a dog bites at 300 pounds per inch this killer pulverizes bone at a crushing 5000 pounds pressure.

I wondered what it was that had bought me here. My resort offered a perfectly suitable meal – rice and beans – typical Cuban fare, and chicken or some kind of fish. “What kind of fish?” I would ask. “Cuban fish” they would invariably reply.

Well here I was in the banana grove of a farm near Varedero; overlooked by the various creatures who lived there, my host’s Cocker Spaniel, Hootie, the hootia and of course the angry beast. “Nombre?” I asked my beaming host. “Crocodillo” he told me. The “Tinyosa” – great flapping black vultures watched from a tree nearby. I am sure they hoped that I might get to close.”

As for the piggies in the picture, sweet and snuffling as they were, I believe we derived a significant amount of guilt. I hadn’t realized that one of their brethren would serve as dinner until a part of him/her appeared with our meal. I believe we would have paid for his freedom if we’d realized the consequence of our visit, but then again, a wild pig soon grows ferule and even uglier, so freedom for these creatures might be good in theory, but in practicality Mario’s family would go hungry and so would we – “Circle of Life”.

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