Monthly Archives: December 2012

Diplomas I have Earned While Traveling

I travel because I  love to travel. I love planes and trains. I even love airports.

I am a travel blogger because I love to write. Hopefully you love to read what I write. That is the only reason I have a blog at all, because I really like the idea that someone, somewhere is reading what I write. I do not sell ads on my blog and never will. If you want commercials, go watch TV.

In the course of my travels, some of the adventures I have been on were so unusual, or so adventurous, that I actually earned a “diploma” for taking the trip. I was cleaning up my office for the first time since the invention of the internet and I ran across these four diplomas. I want to share them with my faithful readers, and of course tell you a short story about each one. So grab a beer and read on, please.

I earned this diploma the first time I crossed the Arctic circle. I had just been assigned to work in Prudhoe Bay, ALaska

I earned this diploma the first time I crossed the Arctic Circle. I had just been assigned to work in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska

Prudhoe Bay is 250 miles above the Arctic Circle. I spent 13 wildly prosperous months there. Yes, I was working for an oil company. I was young, I was greedy and I needed to make money to pay for my University education. It was a place of extremes. Not only an extreme salary, but depending on the season, either 24 hours of complete darkness or complete sunlight. I worked  84 hour weeks, 40 at my normally high wage, 40 at time and a half and 4 at double time. I lived in a construction camp where every thing was provided and I had no expenses. The money in my savings account piled up like the snow drifts in January. In the summer, after work, I fished the Sagavanirtok river and caught very large Arctic Char. In the winter I saw wild polar bears. In the spring I watched a three day migration of caribou. The tundra was alive with birds and flowers, or dead with ice and snow. And the Aurora Borealis, wow. When you are 250 miles inside the arctic, the northern lights do not appear on the horizon oh no. They are right above your head and they fill the sky. They make special patterns and the colors seem to chase each other across the your complete field of vision.

But the most amazing thing I saw there was TWO SUNS. One spring morning I was driving between sites when the sun rose about 10:30. I was pleased to see it, because there had been no sun for months that winter. Then, slightly to the west, rose a second sun. I was flabbergasted enough to come to a quick stop and stare. Just to be sure I was not completely losing my mind, I got on the radio and asked “ahh, does anyone else see two suns right now?” The answer I got was “Get off the radio Cheechako, that is a sundog” A cheechako is not nice term for a tenderfoot in the arctic, and a sundog is an atmospheric phenomenon that reflects the sunlight. But for a brief moment, I thought the world had changed forever.

In short it was a great choice I made to go there.

nazca

It took 30 years before I earned my next diploma, this one for a flight over the Nasca Lines in Peru.

The Nasca lines are, as far as I am concerned, proof that ancient civilizations were visited by extra-terrestrials. These lines cannot be seen from ground level. They are very large. The only way ancients could have made them is if they were guided from the air. The only reason to make them is to guide or welcome ETs upon arrival.

If you are skeptical about what I said, then explain to me why the ancients would carve what is obviously an astronaut, in a helmet, wearing a life support system, and waving hello. (This photo taken from alaudan.blogspot.com, which does a great job of explaining the Nasca lines

If you are skeptical about what I said, then explain to me why the ancients would carve what is obviously an astronaut, in a helmet, wearing a life support system, and waving hello. (This photo taken from discover-peru.org. The astronaut can be seen on the bottom  of my diploma, second from the right. Nasca has many depictions of  “earthly” animals, most of which are of a fantasy variety. There is even a whale, something just not found in the Andes.

At the time I was working in Peru. I went on a tour of places like Machu Pichu and  the fortress of Sacsayhuaman which is right outside of Cusco.

Sacsayhuaman is a very large complex put together with stones which are huge and weigh tons. On top of that they are cut from extremely hard rock, whch today we would have to use diamond saws to carve from the quarry. The ancients did not have diamond saws. Plus, they did not have the machinery to move them. On top of that they are articulated  to match the adjoining stones with extreme precision, and put together with no mortar? How? Ask ET, he did it!

Sacsayhuaman is a very large complex put together with stones which are huge and weigh tons. On top of that they are cut from extremely hard rock, which today we would have to use diamond saws to carve from the quarry. The ancients did not have diamond saws. Plus, they did not have the machinery to move them. On top of that they are articulated to match the adjoining stones with extreme precision, and put together with no mortar! How? Ask ET, he did it! (Photo courtesy of Andeantravelweb.net)

Another five yers passed before I earned this diploma for flying over Mount Everest

Another five yers passed before I earned this diploma for flying over Mount Everest.

This was an extremely magnificent experience. It is the first one I was able to blog about, and if you go back in my blog and choose Nepal, (or just clickhere) you can find many photos of this flight. I will forgo any further descriptions here. Go back and read the post. Suffice to say the flight is worth the trip to Kathmandu!

My last (so far) travel doploma was earned this year by making a tough trek thru the jungle in Rawanda to see the endangered mountain gorillas.

My last (so far) travel diploma was earned this year by making a tough trek through the jungle in Rwanda to see the endangered mountain gorillas.

Again, I covered this adventure in my blog. In fact, I made 7 posts and put up many photos. You can see them here. So, no need to say more here, navigate to the proper posts and get as good a vicarious experience as you can.

Thanks for reading and letting me brag. These diplomas mean more to me than My University degree. Tell a freind, and share on FB!

Around the World in a Daze

My faithful readers will already know I am married to a wonderful woman who has made my lifelong wanderlust sustainable. To my new readers, trust me, I married right.

This will be the next to last post on this blog for 2012. I intend to do a “year-in-review” post soon, and what a travelicious year it has been.

This is a short look at a long trip around the world. I had never done that before. Due to circumstances and needs, I had all the excuses I needed to circumnavigate the coconut.

My trip took me across each and every of these time zones!

My trip took me across each and every of these time zones! I crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, the Tropic of Cancer each twice, the equator twice, the international dateline and the prime meridian. Hey sister teacher, do I pass my geography test?

We live near Dubai, which just happens to be a fantastic place to travel from. Everywhere is close it seems. We flew Emirates Air, the first of six airlines I would use on to get around the globe.

This trip starts on a tiny rock in the south Indian Ocean called Mauritius.

First flight, Dubai to Mauritius. Emerites Air. 6 hours. No upgrade needed, Emerites treats you well in all the cabins!

First flight, Dubai to Mauritius. Emerites Air. 6 hours. No upgrade needed, Emerites treats you well in all the cabins!

Mauritius can be driven across in less than two hours. Volcanic in origin, it has a very picturesque mountain range which you can see from anywhere on Ile Maurice.

Mauritius can be driven across in less than two hours. Volcanic in origin, it has a very picturesque mountain range which you can see from anywhere on Ile Maurice.

Perhaps I am a spiritual descendant of the now extinct Dodo bird. Mauritius is where they were before the first white settlers caught them all because they could not fly. I hear they tasted like chicken.

Perhaps I am a spiritual descendant of the now extinct Dodo bird. Mauritius is where they were before the first white settlers caught them all because they could not fly. I hear they tasted like chicken.

The Island has an interesting history. First settled by the Dutch who named it after their Prince, it was taken over by the French. The French used it primarily as a port to launch attacks on  East India Company ships taking spices and silks to England from India. The East India Company, owned in large part by the royals, did not like that inconvenience one little bit and sent the worlds best naval power to put an end to the piracy. Consequently French and English are both spoken all over the island along with a native patois that combines the languages of India with African dialects. The main agricultural crop is sugar cane, which of course means there is production of rum, ummm, good rum.

rum

Turning sugar cane into rum, honest work!

My wife was with me for this part of the trip. It was a break from work for her and she wanted a no hassle week, so we stayed at a Club Med. On Mauritius? Yes, in fact they have two on the island. Mauritius is circled by luxury beach hotels. Tourism comes in second in the local economy.

Like all Club Meds, there is no shortage of recreational activities. Like most Club Meds, this one was on a fantastic stretch of beach.

Like all Club Meds, there is no shortage of recreational activities. Like most Club Meds, this one was on a fantastic stretch of beach.

All inclusive not only means ” have fun with our toys and eat until you burst”, it means drink your butt off if you desire.

The local beer. Here we are on a catamaran trip and Mary Ann took advantage of the "all-inclusive" thing.

The local beer. Here we are on a catamaran trip and Mary Ann took advantage of the “all-inclusive” thing.

Now 8 hours on a sailboat, and many “la bieres” can lead one to be a bit clumsy when you set foot on land. Mary Ann headed to the room to change, and tripped over her flip flops.

A few minutes later she was a patient in the Club Med clinic.

A few minutes later she was a patient in the Club Med clinic.

The clinic insisted we take an ambulance to the hospital, fearing a minor concussion. She got a cat scan which revealed no damage.

The clinic insisted we take an ambulance to the hospital, fearing a minor concussion. She got a cat scan which revealed no damage.

The hospital was not ony modern and efficient, it was on the beach! We (I stayed  overnight with her) have had less attractive hotel rooms.They kept trying to feed us. The room, the multiple MD visits, the cat scan altogether cost less than US$300. We had bought the Club Med trip insurance, and paid NOTHING out of pocket.

The hospital was not only modern and efficient, it was on the beach! We (I stayed overnight with her) have had less attractive hotel rooms.
They kept trying to feed us. The room, the multiple MD visits and the cat scan altogether cost less than US$300. We had bought the Club Med trip insurance, and paid NOTHING out of pocket. You can see here Mary Ann’s eye starting to puff up. The next day she looked like she had done 3 rounds with Mike Tyson.

Besides the catamaran trip, we took one overland excursion across the island. Pretty small towns, one big city, and a lot of sugar cane!

Perhaps the slowest way to see the island!

Perhaps the slowest way to see the island! He was not much of a guide, but I still tipped him well.

Mary Ann returned to work. I took off back across the equator for Thailand. I flew Air Mauritius to Kuala Lumpur, then Thai Air to Bangkok, then Air Asia to Chiang Mai.

I have been getting some extensive dental work done there, and this was going to be my last trip. I have covered life in Chiang Mai in previous posts, and they are worth navigating to. It is a very excellent city. I stayed three weeks and walked away from the land of smiles with a new smile. I promised my wife I would use it as much as possible.

From Thailand I flew  South China Air into some city in China I cannot pronounce or really even spell. The airplane we took from Bangkok to China had one of the windows in the cockpit held on with duct tape, I kid you not. I tried to get a photo, but it did not come out. Trust me, duct tape.

I had a 90 minute layover before I connected on a flight to LAX. This was both the least expensive flight from Thailand to Los Angeles, AND the flight to LA was on an A380, which I had never been on.

This a truly large aircraft. A double decker. Everything was quite modern. I cannot wait to fly on one where everything is in English. My Chinese is  rather bad. The flight was 16 hours!

This a truly large aircraft. A double decker. Everything was quite modern. I cannot wait to fly on one where all the instructions are in English. My Chinese is rather bad. The flight was 16 hours! Brand new plane, no duct tape.

I arrived in LA during rush hour (as if LA is not a 24/7 rush hour), rented a car and sat in traffic (managing not to fall asleep after that flight) to my sister’s house where I occupied her living room and had a fantastic turkey day spread. Thanks sister.

Then I went to spend a week in my personal Valhalla, Big Sur. This is simply my favorite place on the coconut, and has been for close to 40 years.

My buddy John lives 6 miles and 3500 feet above Highway 1 on the very worst road I have ever been on. The road keeps the tourists away so I do not mind!

My buddy John lives 6 miles and 3500 feet above Highway 1 on the very worst road I have ever been on. The road keeps the tourists away so I do not mind!

An Oak grove near his house.

An Oak grove near his house.

Cutting firewood. Split wood not atoms!

Cutting firewood. Split wood not atoms!

Even the firewood here is pretty. These " designs" in the wood should be sold as Chumash Indian art!

Even the firewood here is pretty. These ” designs” in the wood should be sold as Chumash Indian art!

Now for a couple of sunset photos from John’s house. Eat your heart out.

The sun reflecting off clouds foretelling a rainstorm.

The sun reflecting off clouds foretelling a rainstorm.

Just another sunset in Valhalla.

Just another sunset in Valhalla.

With a sad heart but a happy mind, I left Big Sur. I drove back to Los Angeles in a rainstorm. I got to LAX early, too early. I was flying Virgin Atlantic from LAX to LHR. A five hour layover in the most confused airport in the world, and then onto DXB and finally home’

For this 10 hour flight I upgraded to  "premium Economy" class, whch is VA's way of saying business class. It was worth it. Big comfy seat, excellent food and good service except thattheydo not have Tabasco Sauce for a Bloody Mary

For this 10 hour flight I upgraded to “Premium Economy” class, which is VA’s way of saying business class. It was worth it. Big comfy seat, excellent food and great service except that they do not have Tabasco Sauce for a Bloody Mary. Come on Sir Richard Branson! Geesh.

photo (10)

The last leg of the trip. 6 hours, 4 time zones. I was glad to be home in Sharjah. When I laid my head down, I realized I had missed Saturday altogether! I had a wicked case of jet lag. Next time I go around the world I want to do it longitudinally so I can stay in one time zone. Is that possible?

Well that about wraps up the coconut for the year! Look for my 2012 recap soon. Meanwhile, please make a comment and/or share this with your FB and real friends!

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