Not to hijack the other thread, but it got me thinking about memorable trips I have taken.
Now, in starting to write this, I realize that I am ironically leaving out some very memorable locations, places that people travel literally across the world to see. Yosemite Valley, the Sierra Big Trees (Sequoias), th Big Sur coast. It's not that those places aren't memorable. I love them all and am hungry to get back to them someday when I'm not so tied down. It's been too long. But for many years those places were literally annual or even semi-annual (Spring and Fall) occurences, so there's no one memorable trip that springs to mind.
The two that do come to mind as memorable trips were both cruises. Not the party ships--Holland America, Carnival, or Princess. What they call "adventure" cruises. The ships were small (80 passengers or so) and they got you ashore to experience the area at least once a day.
I'll post separately about those two trips. How about you? What are your memorable trips?
Aboard the MV Sea Bird, from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan and then up the Inside Passage to Sitka.
The first thing I remember about that trip was the safety lecture that first afternoon. We were going to hit a storm between Prince Rupert and Ketchikan. It really sort puts a different color on the talk about where to find your life jacket and how to put it on when the crew are carrying up full planks of plywood to put over the windows in the lounge while the lecture is being given. They had an open bar that night, to relax the passengers. I heard that those who indulged spent a good portion of the night on their knees. I took a dramamine, had a ginger ale and slept like a baby.
We hiked in Misty Fjords. Our first introduction to what this trip was really going to be like. The first part of the hike involved crossing a rushing stream on a slippery log bridge (it had rained earlier that morning). The crew did put up a rope at about waist height so we had something to hold onto and spread a little sand over the log.
Many places where we hiked on that trip, the trails we followed were actually made by bears, not people. Most places, going ashore meant taking a zodiac as close to shore as possible and wading the rest of the way. We landed on Admiralty Island to watch brown bears fishing for salmon. And I fell into the stream, coming back. Well, we can't all be graceful and coordinated.
We watched humpback whales close-up from the zodiacs and had a zodiac race back to the ship. (Our pilot, the bosun, let the other zodiac win just because it was piloted by the captain.)
On the chef's night off, the whole town of Petersburg prepared dinner for us in the Sons of Norway Hall. That was after we had watched the southernmost tidewater glacier calving from close enough to feel the wave and then taken a flight seeing tour back over the same glacier.
We had a gloriously clear day in Glacier Bay. It was even possible to see the Fairweather Mountains (there's a reason they're called that). Watched a bald eagle capture an immature gull practically right off the surface of the bay.
Walked in a place where the tides actually create a waterfall in the ocean. Panned for gold in a river (although nobody found any).
Took helicopters up to Mendenhal Glacier and walked on the glacier. We nearly scared those poor guides to death. They were used to sedate tourists from the big cruise ships. We'd been hiking out where there were only bears and weren't, in their opinion, properly frightened of walking on a glacier. You wouldn't believe the color of turquoise blue in the depths of a fissure in a glacier.
Dress for the Captain's Dinner on the last night was a clean pair of jeans--if you still had any.
A few years later, I took another cruise on the sister ship, MV Sea Lion, from Seattle, up between Vancouver Island and the mainland and back to Vancouver. This cruise hit more "civilized" areas than the Alaskan cruise--Friday Harbor, Victoria, Alert Bay, Vancouver. But there was plenty of wilderness, too.
The first, and so far only, time I've passed through a lock. That first afternoon we went through the locks into Lake Lincoln and Lake Washington, accompanied by sea lions.
One of the naturalists had had to cancel at the last minute. The replacement that they found happened to be a man and wife. He was a linguist who had actually helped to develop the written form of the language for many of the Indian (First Nations, up there) tribes in that area so that they could teach the children in their native language. She was an anthropologist who had specialized in studying the making and lore of the totem poles. Needless to say, the evening lectures were rarely missed.
Two days stand out on that trip.
Alert Bay is a small Kwakiutl town on Vancouver Island. You can only get there by ferry or these smaller cruise ships. The cruise company has an arrangement with them, but it happened that our linguist guide knew many of them. They put on potlatch dances for us in their Big House and invited us to join in at the end. Then we explored the U'mista Cultural Center--the museum where they display the potlatch masks that were finally returned to them by the government. They had been confiscated when potlatches were illgal. The masks are set on the benches of an imitation Big House--no glass or anything. Incredible.
That afternoon, we sailed in Johnstone Straits, one of the best places to see orcas in the wild. The orcas passed right beside and in front of our ship going from their feeding grounds to a cove where they like to rub on the rocks. The photographers among us were going crazy because the orcas were crossing in front of the ship and there was the most amazing sunset behind us. They wanted just one pod to pass behind the ship, with that sunset. Several of us were late to dinner, watching that show.
The other most memorable day was Princess Louisa Inlet. If you haven't checked out my blog, the caption photo at the top was taken there. Princess Louisa Inlet could properly be called a fjord. The entrance is narrow and even a shallow-draft vessel can only get across the sandbar at low tide. One of the zodiacs was out in front, charting the course for the ship. Usually, only yachts get back in there. We were sort of an invasion. There's a glacier further up in the mountains and a fast river that flows down from it over a waterfall at the very end of the inlet, Chatterbox Falls. Some of the most beautiful temperate rainforest you can imagine is back there, too.
Really want to feel like a foreigner in far east and take the michi (road) less traveled, go to Sendai during Tanabata matsuri in August.
In Tokyo and Kyoto no one really bats an eye at foreign tourists anymore and here on Okinawa there are too many Americans.
Tanabata matsuri is one of the best festivals in Japan, yet the whole city is not on the international travel route, though the domestic traffic duing these 3 days is considerable.
I think we counted an entirelty of less than 5 foreigners in the city (and all the hotels were full!). Everybody couldn't be more welcoming, and when they figured out I spoke passable Japanese it seemed as if I had instant friends.
An older stopped me taking pictures of the extravagant decorations on the street (photographer's paradise) and asked in very broken english "Where are you from?" when I told her she thanked me for coming.
It's a beautiful city; they've left the river unchannelized and they have not concreted over all the hills etc.... like many Japanese cities. You can see the festival and all the sights in 3 days and the fetival and leave feeling accomplished, unlike Kyoto where you feel like you've only scratched the surface after 5 days.
My latest vacations are all starting to blur in my mind...I go to the same places and do the same things. Right now it's a drive to Charlotte, North Carolina, weekend-to-weekend, and I've got another one coming up in about a month. Mostly it's to get away from it all. And I buy a lot of books and do a lot of reading.
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Scraping my memory banks brings up two things.
(1) On one long-ago family visit to New York City we were going to go out to the Statue of Liberty, but even at about eight in the morning the lines were too long. We went up to the top of the Empire State Building instead...but I have a certain regret I never went out to the Statue of Liberty.
(2) On another long-ago family trip, we visited Washington DC. I think we hit nearly every tourist-y site and museum---except the line for the White House was (again) too long and the Jefferson Memorial was closed for repairs. Two more things I'd like to have seen.
But I'm not motivated enough to go now...
(On the New York City thing...neither Ellis Island nor the World Trade Center were open to the public when we visited...one was closed and the other was still being finished. I have no regrets about missing those...)
While I'm not very well travelled I have been to the sites near my home.
The Grand Canyon - I've been there a couple of times and still each time I go I am amazed. Pictures don't do it justice. If you ever want to feel small stand on the edge of this canyon. But it's not just the depth that makes it grand it's the walls and the colors of the rock like somone took a paintbrush and striped the rocks with different colors.
The parks and rec department has also done a good job of keeping commerical things out. There a few souveniour shops but it's still hard to find a hotel or good restruarnt that's not an hour away.
Sedona - The red cliffs are beautiful and there is a wide range of shops availble from crystal worshipping stores to normal old Targets, though there are more strange shops there than normal. A few religions have started there and it's supposed to be the epicenter of religious power. Oak Creek Canyon is nearby and has a lot of great places to swim and cliff jump. Slide rock is nearby but you have to go in the summer or else it is very cold. It's also crowded. The natural rock slide is fun though I don't think I'd like it as much as an adult.
Rocky Point Mexico - The beaches are great and there are never any crowds. There are a lot new condo hotels that have sprung up at great prices. Everyone is very friendly and we always go to the marcado where the shops are on the street and open. All the sellers will bargain with you if you say no to the first price. Outside of the touristy marcado the shops have fronts and doors and don't bargain. In many of these non touristy shops they still list their prices in Mexican and American money. There is a lady who sells homemade tortillas in the neighborhood section if you know where to go. It helps if you know a little Spanish though most of the people there speak a little English as well.
I've had a number of great trips. The two best have been Ghana and China.
I will say that I fully believe in traveling independently, no tours. I mean, a day tour once you get somewhere, or hiring a local guide are okay. But to really experience a place you need to do it on your own. That's where the adventure and the fun really are.
In Ghana, 2003, I traveled alone. The people here were absolutely wonderful. The tro tro ride up the mountain to the Aburi Botanical gardens was outrageous. A quarter (U.S.) got a seat in a minivan that was adapted for carrying passengers and it was always filled to the brim. How many people fit on a tro tro? One more. The thing careened and swayed under the heavy load as we went up the mountain. It was my first tro tro ride and it beat anything at Disneyland.
Next I went to the stilt village of Nzuluzu on the far west coast. The village actually sits on a lake and you have to canoe out to it. I stayed overnight. The is no electricity or plumbing. As the sun set I could here people singing and children playing. I ate fish from the lake and jollof rice. It was very peaceful.
Cape Coast was next. This provided an honest look at the history of slavery as the fortress/castle here was a transit point for slaves. Except for the fortress, the beaches reminded me of LA. The pineapple here is long and skinny and so incredibly sweet I still dream about it. Hanging out at the rooftop bar and grill of my hotel in the evenings and meeting fellow travelers and locals was a nice way to end the days. From here I also went to Kakum National Park where I got to climb over rope bridges in a small forest. Look out Indiana Jones.
I also went on a quest to find these shrines (I forget the name at the moment) where a village militia would traditionally store their arms. They were small structures covered with bright paint and sculptures and each had their stories to tell. They look sort of like the houses on miniature golf courses. One structure was three stories high and I got a full story telling from a tribal gentleman with no front teeth.
I realize that this is getting very long so I will summarize. I also; went to the biggest outdoor market in West Africa, went to a monkey sanctuary, Mole National Park for some safari walks where I got very close to some elephants, crocodiles and babboons; I drank palm wine, visited a bunch of craft villages and got to make adinkra cloth, see beads made from broken glass and pottery made from a standing position without a wheel; rode on a full tro tro pick up a guy and his flat tire, and a bus with a goat on top.
I'm sure there are some things I am missing. This was a three week trip. I was in China for six weeks. That's a novel in itself.