…And To All, A Good Night 3

31 12 2008

xmas3-mwCartoon and post by: Simon Vaughan

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…And To All, A Good Night 2

28 12 2008

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Cartoon and post by: Simon Vaughan





…And To All, A Good Night

25 12 2008

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Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, Festive Festivus, Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays too all from the Adventure Blogger.

See you in the New Year!!!

Cartoon and post by: Simon Vaughan





Adventures Around The Corner

23 12 2008

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On a lonely windswept island in James Bay, northern Ontario, there sits a small cemetery. The headstones are worn by relentless sub-Arctic wind and driving snow and bleached almost beyond legibility by the summer sun. The ground that never thaws below a few inches of mud each spring, has left the markers at precarious angles like the teeth of a gnarled fisherman.

 

The legends on the stones are a tale of toil, struggle and suffering: men and women in their 20s and 30s and infant children barely born. The view from the graveyard is desolate even now and even on a sunny summer’s day. James Bay, the southern extension of Hudson Bay, looks dark and menacing while the trees are already stunted as they continue their trek like lemmings towards the end of the treeline and the tundra beyond.

 

The permanent residents of the small square of grass arrived hundreds of years ago. They were dropped by a ship in late spring as soon as the ice had thawed enough to navigate the large waterways. They hurriedly erected sturdy shelters and gathered firewood and food for the murderous winter that would all too soon be upon them. While much of the rest of the northern hemisphere was still enjoying the colour and fading warmth of early autumn, the settlers were already experiencing their first snowfalls.

 

They would stand and watch their only contact with the outside world sail away towards the Arctic Ocean and Europe beyond and know that with it went any way of leaving. If they became ill or injured, if their homes burned down, if the snows destroyed their shelters or their supplies perished there was no one to call on for help and no way of contacting home, never mind returning there.

 

Today, Moosonee and Moose Factory sit at the very end of the railway line. They are beyond the roads and despite modern technology accessible only by an airstrip…and a train that still stops in the middle of the bush to pick-up and drop-off trappers who stand in clearings to flag down the once-daily locomotive. The train carries supplies, local residents heading to or from the south, and tourists destined for a taste of the far north. The streets are still unpaved and the infrastructure basic but there is the insatiable curiosity of the children who run and bike to the train station and the warmth and hospitality of the local people who prepare lunch in the church basement or shuttle visitors across the dark waters to Moose Factory. They share stories of life in the north, of the belugas which live in the depths, the bears and wolves in the forests and the dancing Northern Lights in the sky.

 

At the end of the day, the majority of tourists board the Polar Bear Express for the return trip to Cochrane. A handful stay in one of the several small motels and explore further afield to learn more about the settlement’s history, to buy Cree handicrafts or perhaps to venture out fishing with a local guide. Whether for a few hours or a day or more, every visitor is touched by the isolation and hardiness of the current and former residents.

 

Adventure travel doesn’t have to be expensive or on the other side of the world. It doesn’t have to occupy weeks of precious vacation time. It doesn’t have to be dangerous or adrenalin-pumping. Sometimes, the best adventures and the most eye-opening experiences can be around the corner.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





Lessons Learned the Hard Way – No. 12

22 12 2008

 

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                        “Okay guys, let’s fill her in.”   (Fish River Canyon, Namibia)

 

Never let your drinking problem interfere with your sightseeing.

 

Namibia’s Fish River Canyon is the second largest canyon in the world and reached only after a long drive through the southwest African country’s arid and sun-baked landscape. Apart from the odd quiver tree and occasional one-tumbleweed town, there’s not much to see…other than perhaps a solitary ostrich or antelope.

 

We had arrived in the late afternoon and gazed across the rugged fissure that wound before us as though the earth had just violently split apart in a mighty and meandering crack. Hundreds of metres below, we could see the canyon floor and watched as the lengthening shadows slowly swallowed the enormous crevasse.

 

We were the only ones on the isolated rim and sat in contemplative silence. There were no souvenir shops, no expensive lodges or restaurants perched on the edge, no paved roads and no barriers to compromise the sense of unspoiled wilderness. As the sun finally disappeared and took the canyon with it, there was also no electric light to interfere with a breathtaking vista of stars.

 

Even the most amateur of astronomers could easily identify planets and constellations. We stood in the darkness gazing awestruck at an incredible celestial display and watched intently for shooting stars and satellites. Being a city slicker, a great view of the heavens is rare and shooting stars are particularly coveted. That evening I stared skyward until my neck locked, desperate for a glimpse of a meteorite. As we headed back to the campsite over the bumpy and dusty dirt road, my vigilance didn’t wane for even an instant as I continued to survey the sky like a man demented. My eyes hurt from the effort and my throat grew parched from concentration. I reached down and grabbed my water bottle, carefully undoing the top without my eyes ever straying from their cosmic duty.  I hoisted the bottle to my mouth and took a generous swig of the warm liquid, the bottle obscuring my view for just an instant.

 

“Look,” someone shouted. “There’s one!!”

 

I dropped the bottle and followed the outstretched arm while my companions oohed and aahed but alas, the show was over and its star had already disappeared. While all around me excited exclamations of “magnificent”, “best ever”, “superb tail” and “fantastic” filled the air, I could only stare malevolently at my water bottle.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





Travel Photography 101 7.5/18

19 12 2008

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

 

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Never let yourself regret not taking a photograph.

 

When travelling between Nairobi and the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, the road winds precipitously down the escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. On one side there is the steep cliff side of the valley wall, whilst on the other a dramatic drop to the plains below. The view itself is spectacular as it sweeps away to the Mara and the Serengeti beyond. Towards the bottom of the steep road there is a small chapel tucked against the side of the cliff. With such a gripping view on the opposite side, it’s not surprising that it often goes unnoticed. The chapel had been constructed by Italian Prisoners of War during the Second World War while building the road that now carries hundreds of thousands of tourists each year on their way to the great game parks in the south.

 

I had passed the chapel while travelling back to Nairobi. The road is narrow with no opportunity to stop until you reach a lookout close to the top. With my camera tucked in the bag at my feet, I could do nothing but watch it disappear behind us. It was such an incongruous sight that I kicked myself for months afterwards that I hadn’t had my camera ready to snap a quick pic as we drove by. I assumed the opportunity was lost forever.

 

Fortunately, a few years later I found myself travelling the same road to again reach the Masai Mara. With my camera now ready and loaded beside me, as everyone else gazed at the great view to the left, I watched for the chapel on my right. The photo I snapped is not particularly good and means nothing to anyone else, but for me, it’s as good as any I took on that entire trip.

 

And more importantly, my list of ‘missed photos’ had become one shorter.

 

 

Photo and post by: Simon Vaughan





Things I Have Lost In The Air

18 12 2008

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“Can you believe we’re boarding a seven-day flight and they still want to charge extra for carry-on!”   (Kennedy Space Center, Florida)

 

Everyone knows that washing machines eat socks. If not exactly proven by science, it is certainly a fact to anyone with a drawer full of mismatched items of clothing. A lesser known fact is that seat-back pockets and overhead storage bins on airliners have an appetite every bit as healthy as that of washing machines.

 

While friends, relatives and fellow travellers have been divested of their reading glasses, travel documents, book marks and even a large Scotch-filled golf ball, I have so far been lucky and have only lost the feeling in my legs after sleeping in a particularly contorted position in the most economic of economy seats.

 

Before I board an aircraft I make sure that everything I need to keep me company is within easy reach. This includes my travel documents and a pen for the completion of arrival forms; material for reading; a bottle of water and snacks for longer flights; earplugs to block out small children; and headache medication in case the earplugs didn’t work properly!

 

I tend to buck the trend of most frequent travellers and opt for less carry-on and more check-in baggage. Although the risk of never seeing my checked-in items again is a real one and the wait for its arrival on the carousel often long and always stressful, I still prefer that to lugging spine-twisting bags around an overheated and congested departure lounge for two or three hours. There is of course also the fear of having inadvertently left something in my carry-on that could provide me with a quick one-way ticket to a certain U.S. government all-inclusive facility on the south-east tip of Cuba. You know, something like Granny’s knitting needles…or the bottle of aftershave that Uncle Jeremiah gave you that’s shaped like a hand-grenade.

 

And if that’s not enough, there’s also the battle for overhead locker space when that person boarding the plane ahead of you stuffs what looks suspiciously like a body in an ice hockey kitbag into the bin above your seat…thereby leaving you to endure 9 hours with your knees up your nose because your own bag now occupies every single square inch of space beneath the seat in front of you!

 

No, for me the lighter I travel in the cabin, the more comfortable I am…and the less chance of having my possessions go the way of my socks!

 

Post by: Simon Vaughan