Tag Archive: road trip
I’m ploughing through past issues of National Geographic Magazine, partly for research, partly for inspiration, and partly because my e-reader just doesn’t go with the setting I’m currently in (but these beloved, tattered yellow borders do).
Every once-in-a-while comes a story that just makes me ask myself is this all that I’m really doing (I don’t mean slouched in a hammock and reading – but writing about the things that I write)? You know the kind: risky, adventurous, arduous, but so enriching that just reading about it is never enough. It tickles, it stings, it nags you like a mosquito bite. And now I’m sitting with 11 opened tabs looking for more.
This piece was written by a two-time Pulitzer winning journalist, an environmental biologist by education, Paul Salopek. The feature is not about environmentalism at all, although there are section where he discusses and maps the changes in precipitation and vegetation in the Sahel (the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south) over the past few decades.
My favourite bits:
LOST IN THE SAHEL (April 2008): Along Africa’s harsh frontier between desert and forest, crossing some lines can be fatal
The road was not really a road. Its two ruts led into Darfur, to the war in western Sudan, from the unmarked border of Chad. So much of the Sahel was like this—unmapped, invisible, yet a boundary nonetheless. We were crossing boundaries with every passing hour, mostly without seeing them.
The Sahel itself is a line.
A mini-revolution of guided tours..!
They say that you should play tourist in your hometown at least once. London is, admittedly, not my hometown, but I believe it should be (or, I believe, I belong there). I’ve lived in London, and I’ve visited countless times before and after but I have never taken a guided tour. On my most recent visit, a friend (a born- and bred- Londoner) suggested a special tour, a first for him as well:
It was brilliant driving around at what felt like warp speed around town (it’s really only because the car is low and very compact). Both the rain drops on the windshield and the low car were distorting the view. The Beatles were playing, the guide was brim full of exciting and quirky facts, pointing out the timeless beauty of the Royal capital, and leading us into narrow passages that, realistically, only minis or bikes can fit through.
I know that the Boris bikes are amazing. I, too, love them – they are green and clean, and so this was a treat.
Well, now I’ve fallen deeply in love with London anew!
I jumped off the map of South America!
I couldn’t resist a visit to the “world’s most isolated inhabited island” – Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island / Isla de Pascua.
At about a mid-way point in the Pacific, between Chile and French Polynesia, or 1/3 of the way to the International Dateline (3800km, a 6-hour flight from Santiago), the island is a living legend.
Don’t worry, I meant that both literally and figuratively.
I don’t remember when I first saw the moai.. maybe a travel agency poster, maybe a National Geographic feature. But ever since, I just couldn’t shake the vision out of my mind. I’ve read about it, and it’s always the same bits of information told and re-told, but nothing definite. And then there were phrases thrown around like “the world’s unsolved mystery” and “a total enigma”.
I couldn’t contain my curiosity when I just found myself so (relatively) near.
There are passages and roads and realms unknown, unseen
there are roads sometimes dark and narrow, and many voyages between.
Looking through the windows of stories going by, of places with nothing to hide..
yet when the passage is complete, something stays within us
And, if not, it will come to be..
(inspired by ‘The Door Within’) View full article »
Not a fan of mainstream, I really loathe hearing commercial pop abroad, especially in some far off places. I guess it cannot be avoided – we all wear something Nike, have Facebook accounts and iPods.
But it is the uniqueness of distant places which makes us want to explore, not ‘globalization’. Trekking 5 days down the length of the Amazon river, then a few hours by bus into the jungle and hear Rihanna, or whoever else is dominating the US charts and downloads, is really dispiriting.
midnight sun! full moon en route East to the mouth of the Amazon
But discovering new sounds can really give a great twist to a journey. I gather and sample suggestions, hunt down the tunes that I heard somewhere, some that have given a soundtrack to a passing but important moment, or an experience, some that have inspired me. I don’t let it pass usually, and sometimes I do it a bit fanatically, especially if I think that it’s a thread that could lead me to discovering a new genre, a new sub-culture, or something different or unique. View full article »
Very interesting concept here. Does it minimize one’s carbon footprint? I’m not sure.. if a trip has many stop-overs, then short distances are better off traversed by ground transportation.
Written by Andrew Evans, bits and pieces from the September 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler
Ten weeks, 14 countries, and 10,000 miles – a bus trip from Washington DC to Earth’s frozen continent. Travel writer Andrew Evans decided he was going to Antarctica, but wanted to get there without spending a boatload of money. So he came to us with a proposal: He’d take the bus—a guaranteed adventure—and post entries to our Intelligent Travel blog en route.
I craved the haphazard polar voyages of men before the era of airplanes and travel brochures. Those early travelers seemed so sincere as they set off for the bottom of the world with their optimism, simple dogsleds, and year’s supply of stationery.
I traced an imaginary path on a map from Washington, D.C. down to the seventh continent. Where there’s a road there’s a way, I figured, and much of the distance to Antarctica was paved with roads. All I had to do was head south some 10,000 miles until the road ended in Tierra del Fuego.
From there it was less than a knuckle’s width of mapped sea to Antarctica. The catch was to figure out an affordable way to travel. My research revealed there were public buses in every country I’d pass through to the frozen continent. If I made no reservations and had no daily itinerary, bus travel would approximate the journeys of early explorers. For the spots of water I’d cross—the Strait of Magellan and the Drake Passage—it looked like I’d have to forsake bus for boat.
San Francisco’s iconic fog
Wind Surfing, Crissy Fields Beach
Pacific Coast Highway 1, Big Sur
The caravan city harbors great books, mysterious letters—and a world of intrigue.
In the ancient caravan city of Timbuktu, many nights before I encountered the bibliophile or the marabout, I was summoned to a rooftop to meet the salt merchant.
I had heard that he had information about a Frenchman who was being held by terrorists somewhere deep in the folds of Mali’s northern desert. The merchant’s trucks regularly crossed this desolate landscape, bringing supplies to the mines near the Algerian border and hauling the heavy slabs of salt back to Timbuktu. So it seemed possible that he knew something about the kidnappings that had all but dried up the tourist business in the legendary city.
I arrived at a house in an Arab neighborhood after the final call to prayer. A barefoot boy led the way through the dark courtyard and up a stone staircase to the roof terrace, where the salt merchant was seated on a cushion, his head wrapped in a linen turban that covered all but his eyes.
The giant produced a sheaf of parchment, and in a rich baritone slightly muffled by the turban over his mouth, he explained that it was a fragment of a Koran, which centuries ago arrived in the city via caravan from Medina. “Books,” he said raising a massive index finger for emphasis, “were once more desired than gold or slaves in Timbuktu.”
He works for the guides, but there are no tourists. The problems in the desert are making all of them suffer.
During my time in Timbuktu, several locals denied that the city was unsafe and beseeched me to “tell the Europeans and Americans to come.”
But for much of the past decade the U.S. State Department and the foreign services of other Western governments have advised their citizens to avoid Timbuktu as well as the rest of northern Mali. The threats originate from a disparate collection of terrorist cells, rebel groups, and smuggling gangs that have exploited Mali’s vast northern desert, a lawless wilderness larger than France and dominated by endless sand and rock, merciless heat and wind.
Most infamous among the groups is the one led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Reputed to have lost an eye fighting the Russians in Afghanistan, he is known throughout the desert by his nom de guerre, Belaouer, Algerian-French slang for the One-Eye. Since 2003, his men have kidnapped 47 Westerners.
Belaouer’s men had assassinated an army colonel in front of his young family in that neighborhood a few months earlier. “Everyone in Timbuktu heard the shots,” he said quietly. He mimicked the sound, bang, bang, bang. ”The One-Eye has eyes everywhere.” And then, almost as an afterthought, he added, “I’m sure he knows you are here.”
Read the rest at the yellow square
Here’s something a bit out there that I picked up on inhabitat design:
There was an international competition for the reinvention, reinterpretation and revitalization of the Silk Road, the legendary trade route connecting Asia, Europe and Northern Africa that was for thousands of years the main thoroughfare for merchants, traders, and nomads.
A project by an architectural firm proposing a 15,000 km long CITY which will stretch from Venice to Xian, Shanghai to Tokyo, promoting trade via a new railways system functioning on gravitational platforms.
In addition to the air purifying skin, an innovative system of piezoelectric panels will be integrated into the tracks of the rail system, capturing energy created by the movement of the trains and converting it into electricity.
To read more and see the actual alienistic designs, go here.