Travel Words of Wisdom – No. 15

20 08 2008

“What do you mean you can’t remember where you put the gold?”   (Iceland)

“We may run, walk, stumble, drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way.”

 

Gloria Gaither

 

 

Photo and post:  Simon Vaughan

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Writes and Wrongs

19 08 2008

All penned-in:          The military prison – Paramaribo, Suriname

My name is The Adventure Blogger and I have a problem: I am a pen thief.

 

Actually, I only liberate them from hotel rooms along with the odd envelope and perhaps a few sheets of stationery (and maybe a bar of soap, a map or two, a sewing kit, shoe cloth, and shower caps that I never use. And a face cloth once…but that was an accident). It’s not as though I hide the flat screen television in my garment bag, the TV remote in my backpack or wear the luxuriously plush bathrobe beneath my raincoat as I sneak Michelin man-like towards the lobby’s revolving door. But I do have a penchant for pinching pens and pencils.

 

What particularly worries me is that I don’t need these pens and have so many that I don’t even use them all. It’s not even as if I carefully preserve them in a documented collection.  Instead, I have a pot on my desk that overflows with all sorts from plain old biros to more stylish stylos. Clearly, my thievery is a sickness.

 

I suppose that by light-fingered experience I have become somewhat of a connoisseur and can spot an especially good hotel pen all the way from the trouser press. Sometimes, the least likely examples are the best and write better than even the finest pen in your local stationery supplier.  They’re not quite Mont Blanc, but they certainly put your average Bic to shame.

 

My current favourite is from a hotel in Perth, Australia. It is brown with a faux-metallic tip, a plastic push button on the top and a combination pocket-clip/release. It is singularly unspectacular and would be right at home chained to the counter-top of your local tax office, but it writes perfectly. Fortunately, I discovered its merits on the second day of a recent stay and three of them had somehow found their way into my bag by the end of the week.

 

My pot contains pens from all over the world and although I am often tempted to use the more exotic examples just to impress – like Cairo, Nairobi or Kuala Lumpur – I am always concerned that a vacationing house detective will spot his purloined wares, clamp a heavy hand on my shoulder when I least expect it and cart me off to the nearest penitentiary.

 

By way of rationalisation of my nefarious ways, I always remind myself that if they weren’t meant to be ‘borrowed’, they’d be chained to the desk as the TV often is to the credenza. In addition, housekeeping carts are always overflowing with boxes of pens for replenishment which only further proves my innocence…although this rationale ignores the fact that the same trolleys also contain stacks of towels, bedding and rolls of toilet paper which are generally not intended to be souvenirs.

 

Even that tacit assurance doesn’t prevent pangs of guilt however, or erase the feeling that staff are tsk-tsk’ing me as I return to my room. I try to assuage my guilt by telling myself that by spreading these items throughout the world like pollen from a blossoming flower, I am actually helping to publicise that property and thereby assist in their marketing efforts. It would be a good argument, except that I never actually allow anyone to borrow them and therefore my promotional activities are restricted to myself and my non-travelling pot.

 

So, next time you’re staying in a hotel and find the pen missing when you go to write on your postcard, check at reception to see if The Adventure Blogger was there just before you!

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





The Second Great Adventure Quiz

18 08 2008

Right-side up or upside down?        (Matusadona, Zimbabwe)

Identify the following:

 

1) Salisbury

 

a) A meat dish made of ground pork, carrots and corn

b) The pre-independence name of Tonga

c) The capital of Rhodesia

d) The first governor of New Zealand

e) An English county

 

 

2) Ushuaia

 

a) The third largest Island of Japan

b) The Incan word for a Tsunami

c) Argentina’s southern-most city & gateway to the Antarctic

d) The name of Mother Earth

e) The highest mountain on New Zealand’s North Island

 

 

3) Formosa

 

a) A type of laminate covering

b) The Spanish name for Guinea Bissau

c) One of the Canary Islands

d) The capital of Sierra Leone

e) The former name of Taiwan

 

 

4) Abyssinia

 

a) The fifth highest mountain in the Himalayas

b) The former name of Ethiopia

c) The Italian Duke who led the first successful summit of K2

d) The ancient name for Syria

e) The name of Ernst Stavro Blofeld’s cat in the Bond films

 

 

5) Seretse Khama

 

a) The first president of independent Botswana

b) An island atoll near the Maldives

c) A classic dish from Goa of coconut curry and swordfish

d) The Luo name for Lake Victoria

e) The banned sequel to the Kama Sutra

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan

 

 

Answers: 1c, 2c, 3e, 4b, 5a  – Photo is upside down





Travel Photography 101 15/18

15 08 2008

Confessions, musings and tips from a snap-happy wanderer.

Flight 101 arriving at gate 7. Luggage will follow tomorrow at gate 5. (Los Angeles, CA)

Always have your camera ready, even in airports.

 

With security tighter than ever, you should always use commonsense when taking photographs in airports and as is the case anywhere, be respectful of other people’s privacy if snapping candid photos of strangers. However, you don’t have to be an aircraft buff to get good photographs at an airport. You are trapped in a confined area for several hours with little to do but buy ridiculously expensive food, shop for things you don’t need or stare at the departures board. So, go for a wander and look for good photograph opportunities. You may be pleasantly surprised by what you find!

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





Travel Words of Wisdom – No. 10

14 08 2008


‘Excuse me, but do you have John Jay Osborn’s “The Paper Che’s”?’  (Havana, Cuba)

 

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Saint Augustine

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





White Water, Black Heart – Part II

13 08 2008

The Adventure Blogger: ‘Can I go home now?’           (Photo by Shearwater)

There are many times in life when you know you’ve made a mistake but it’s too late to rectify. Boarding a near-empty subway train late at night instead of taking a taxi and finding yourself surrounded by the poster boys for the Drunken Skinhead of the Year competition; choosing the all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant for your annual review with the company president on Liver Tuesday; and giving your next door neighbour your old mega-watt powerful stereo system when you knew that their CD collection included the complete works of Kenny G and Michael Bolton, spring to mind.

 

When I completed the treacherous slippery trek down into the Zambezi gorge and found myself in a dead-end surrounded by an unconquerable climb back up and 18 brutal rapids ahead, I remembered why I had never been interested in whitewater rafting: a completely rational fear of drowning.

 

I was at least eight before I had my first shower. Prior to that it was always a bath in which I would sit bolt upright and rinse my hair from a plastic cup. Showers were too much like being underwater. The fear lessened over time, but being trapped in a whirlpool at the bottom of a rapid was still something that didn’t exactly thrill me.

 

After clambering into our raft, our river-guide insisted on us jumping overboard. In theory this was to prove how buoyant our lifejackets were and to practice pulling each other back into the raft before the crocodiles visited the buffet table. However, I suspected the river-guide was a sadist who drew perverse pleasure from seeing his wide-eyed clients shake their heads like hyper-active metronomes before being pushed overboard.

 

The initiation complete, we began our voyage down the switchback river and within seconds were upon our first test. Squatting at the front of the raft, I held on with a vice-like death grip, sucked in a lung-exploding gulp of air and banged into the rapid. The bow plunged into the boiling trough and charged forward into thin air. We slapped back down onto the horizontal and I was completely exhilarated, even if utterly soaked. I’d beaten my first rapid and it had been awesome. I punched my fist in the air.

 

“Right”, the river-guide shouted, looking at me with bewilderment. “That was a grade 3. The easiest rapid you’ll see today”. My stomach sank. “The rest are much bigger and far more difficult”.

 

Within minutes we were plowing through grade 4s and 5s with colourful nicknames like “The Devil’s Toilet Bowl” and “Stairway to Heaven.” Our raft would disappear beneath the surging water before shooting out in a near-vertical climb. Each rapid was no less terrifying than the last as we approached, but with each victory, my confidence grew.

 

Until “Commercial Suicide”.

 

It was a river-wide conflagration of mist and water, waves smashing into each other with violent hatred. My life flashed before my eyes.

 

“We walk around this one.” The river-guide announced, to a massive sigh of relief.

 

We hoisted the raft ashore, dragged it around the heaving mass of water and launched it back in on the far side. The calm stretches of water were idyllically blissful. The steep sides of the gorge soared up in their sun-bleached yellows and ochres. Grass fires crackled across the scrub singeing our exposed arms and legs with their intense heat. The unrelenting sun burned from above and bounced off the water and the cliffs. We saw crocodiles lounging on the rocks and birds of prey circling overhead. All too soon our pleasure cruise was over and we faced “The Gnashing Jaws of Death”, “The Overland Truck Eater” and “The Mother”.

 

It was in “The Washing Machine” that I became a solo yachtsman. We charged forward then arced down 45 degrees against a sheer wall of green water which soon exploded over our heads. The raft shot through and was propelled skyward like a rocket, perfectly vertical. Hanging on for dear life, I glanced over my shoulder to discover that I was…alone. Everyone else was gone. It was the Marie Celeste of rafts. We swayed like a telegraph pole in the breeze for what seemed like hours. The raft seemed undecided as to whether to fall forward, or to topple backwards and cast me into the mix. With all my strength I slammed my weight forward and we slid over the hump and crashed down onto the river again. My colleagues quickly scrambled aboard and we continued down towards the final rapid, the legendary “Oblivion”.

 

Drifting quietly, we watched the other rafts venture into number 18 and almost all were chewed-up like a feather-pillow in the jaws of a boisterous pit bull. The kayakers ripped into the surf to pull person after person to safety. There was no turning back. We were sucked forward, the raft tipping violently to the left, then the right, plunging forward and then shooting out like a champagne cork. We high-fived each other, our sun-burned faces glowing with adrenaline and headed for the bank and the 300-foot climb out.

 

That evening we gathered to watch the video highlights of the day’s rafting. It was better than the one I’d seen the day before. Silently sitting beside me at the bar were a couple of people booked for the next day. Their faces were pale.

 

“I’m not a very strong swimmer.” one of them stammered at me, their eyes glued at the giant screen.

 

“Swimming isn’t going to help you in that.” I replied knowingly, and patted him on the back.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





Spot the Photographer

12 08 2008

Venice masks

The man in the ivory mask.                                              (Venice)

Spot the photographer.

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan