Sunday, January 23, 2011

A good day for fishing


Traditional activities on New Ireland one of the larger of Papua New Guinea's 600 or so surrounding islands, include shark calling, a unique and dangerous occupation that involves going out in a fragile outrigger canoe, rattling a bamboo and coconut shell implement in the sea, then lassoing the shark once it responds to the call.

Village by the sea; small boy blowing on a conch shell
When successful, the shark caller with captive shark in tow paddles up-river and announces his arrival in the village with dinner by blowing on a conch shell.

Mention catching fish with spider webs to a North American fisherman and he’ll probably scoff at the idea. But coastal people who live on a diet of seafood tell a different story. Spider webs are surprisingly strong and serve even better than fishing line for bringing in drummerfish.

Venturing into the forest at daybreak when dew is heavy on the ground, webs are gathered for fishing expeditions. A kite made of banana leaves secured with vines is assembled and long strands of web are attached to the kite tail. Once out at sea, the kite is let loose in the wind and the spider webs trailing from the kite tail skim across the water attracting fish to the surface. The fish immediately become trapped in the fine strands enabling the fishermen to draw them in.

Fisherwoman on the Sepik River bringing in her catch
River fishing on the other hand is a much more gentle pursuit.  Equipped with wicker fish traps, women set out in the early morning in dugouts and moor their primitive hollowed out boats close to the riverbank.  Children help with the fishing and at the end of the day fisherwomen and children return home with a juicy catch of prawns and piranha.  Although imported originally from South America, Papua New Guinea's piranha are not the ferocious variety.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 23rd January, 2011.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow Egret


The island's “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge named for Jay Norwood Darling a dedicated environmentalist, is a paradise for birders and walkers. Two hundred species of birds find haven in this sanctuary and an equal number of fish species spend their early lives maturing among the protective roots of the Refuge's mangrove forest. Tangled, dark and secret, this dense growth of Black and Red Mangroves is called “the nursery of the seas”.

White Ibis
One steamy afternoon we ambled along Wildlife Drive through the Refuge, branching off to explore the ‘Indigo Trail’ and the ‘Shell Mound Trail’. Feeding in the shallow waters along the edge of mangrove clusters, gloriously pink Roseate spoon bills tip-toed about on spindly legs. Pelicans and western sandpipers preened and.sunbathed on sand banks in the middle of a lake. No more than six feet from us a tri-colored heron, a yellow-crowned night-heron and a little blue heron sunned themselves on a branch.

A few steps away I became so engrossed with photographing an anhinga, I failed to notice that I was standing in the middle of a fire ant's nest. Within seconds the minute ants were swarming over my feet and up my trouser legs....with painful results.

Alligators and a lone male crocodile (until recently)  are also resident here. Andy Sares, our guide on a tram tour, told us that the crocodile had at one time been relocated to the Everglades. The curmudgeonly old reptile, asserting his preference for life at the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, had set out from the Everglades and completed the 80-mile trek back to his home on the island.

Like the crocodile, I found Sanibel Island's serenity and tropical ambience irrisistible. And like the crocodile, I too will be back.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted on Saturday, 22 January, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011

Houseboat on Amsterdam Canal


2400 families live on canal boats in Amsterdam today.  For an authentic Dutch experience visitors should try renting a houseboat for a night or two.

 The trend of living on houseboats began soon after the 2nd World War when accommodation was at a premium and the boats presented an interesting alternative. Altogether there are about 750 houseboats of unusual variety moored on Amsterdam's downtown canals. Built in the 17th century these watery roadways throughout the city are part of what makes Amsterdam unique.

Living on the water is not a deterrent to gardeners. A stroll along any canal will show that the bow and stern of the boats are utilized for container gardens and the ramp leading across to the boat will often have an arbour with creepers and a row of small trees in tubs or containers alongside the dock.

Birds sometimes visit. We came upon a gray heron on the flat roof of one of the boats. My husband James swore that it was stuffed and a mere ornament. I watched for longer and discovered it was indeed alive. After a minute or so the heron fluffed out his feathers, strutted back and forth on long spindly legs and finally took off.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Friday, 21st January, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ripe apples in the Fall

Throughout 2011, Sea Cider Farm Ciderhouse will be offering visitors signature cider classes at their working farm and cidery on the Saanich Peninsula, located 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, BC.

Open to both new and seasoned cider enthusiasts, Sea Cider will offer three classes giving students the opportunity to glean insider information and tips from seasoned experts. The classes offered will be a half-day Introduction to Cider course, a basic foray into the world of cider; a full day Introduction to Cider course, focusing on everything from sourcing the apples to an introduction to the fermentation process; and Orcharding and Sensory Analysis, a lesson about heritage cider apples, cider lore and organic orchards, complete with a guided in-depth tasting.

Apple blossom
Courses will be held on Fridays, subject to change due to private event bookings. Courses start at $200.00 CDN / $202.00 USD. Two weeks’ notice is required for booking classes.

Sea Cider is a10-acre certified organic farm boasting panoramic orchards and ocean views. They grow over 50 varieties of certified organic heritage apples selected for their superior cider qualities. All ciders are crafted on site. Sea Cider also makes cider vinegar and carries a variety of local farm products for sale in their traditional ciderhouse. For more information visit

From Tourism Victoria

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 13th January, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011



January 11, 2010. (Grenada, W.I.)—Aquanauts Grenada and Lumbadive Carriacou have teamed up to provide dive travellers with a two island experience in a seven day vacation. “In Carriacou, you are surrounded by greenery and native wildlife for an adventurer's vacation above and below the surface. No mass tourism, no industries, no pollution, but sublime diving,” said Richard, owner of Lumbadive Carriacou.

A daily ferry service is convenient for divers, as they do not have to interrupt their dive package for travelling between the two islands. Grenada boasts a great variety of wreck diving and a lush interior. “This seven night Grenadine Dive Experience gives divers the best of both islands with a total of four nights in Grenada and three in Carriacou,” said Peter, owner of Aquanauts Grenada.

 Accommodation partner in Grenada is True Blue Bay Resort, while in Carriacou travellers have the choice between Grand View Inn and Villa Longevue. A typical itinerary starts with three nights and five boat dives in Grenada, on the fourth morning it is time to pack up and enjoy the two hours ferry ride up the west coast of Grenada and past the area of Isle de Rhonde to Carriacou. A transfer will bring the diver to the chosen lodging. The next three days are spent diving “the island of the reefs” – the translation for Carriacou - with Lumbadive. On the last day the afternoon ferry brings guests back to Grenada for one more night at True Blue Bay Resort before the next morning’s departure. Conveniently the resort is only 10 minutes from the airport. A seven night package including 10 boat dives and all transfers starts at US $1350 for the summer period 2011. Customized packages are also available.

From Grenada Board of Tourism

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Tuesday 11th January, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Vancouver sights


The Fairmont Pacific Rim’s romance package is designed for affairs of the heart. Treat your sweetheart to a night of pure luxury with a romantic welcome amenity, bottle of wine and evening bath amenities – the perfect complement for your deep soaker jetted tub. In the morning sleep in late, courtesy of an extended check-out. The package starts at $309 per night (plus applicable taxes, based on double occupancy); click here to book your stay.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 9th January, 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii; The Jade Canoe
Vancouver International Airport


A Sense of Place: First Nations Art Collection & Architecture in Vancouver International Airport
Domestic Terminal, Level 1

Discover a different world within the Vancouver International Airport. Located just below domestic arrivals, you can experience a collection of supernatural creatures from the Pacific Northwest coast.

• Supernatural World represents Land, Sea and Sky, According to the Pacific Northwest Aboriginal peoples, the realms of the land are inhabited by creatures of nature, but they are also home to spirit powers that can move between realms, transforming themselves at will.

• The artworks including sculptures offer us a glimpse of these supernatural worlds. The Killer Whale, chief of all ocean people, is preyed upon by the legendary Thunderbird. Sharing the land are the Bear and the Human, each reflecting the other's image in a pair of enormous masks. Soaring overhead are the Raven and the Eagle.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii; The Jade Canoe
International Terminal

Detail; The Jade Canoe sculpture
 Make your way through to the International terminal – follow the signs or ask a Green Coat volunteer for directions. A short walk will take you past international airline check-in until you arrive at the most valuable piece in YVR’s art collection, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe by Bill Reid, International Terminal, Level 3
• Installed in 1996, this is the most famous piece in YVR’s art collection; it is a bronze casting with a jade green patina.

• Sculpted by world-renowned Haida artist, Bill Reid, this fascinating collection of characters is where millions of visitors stop to take their photographs each year.

• ‘Haida Gwaii’ means ‘Islands of the People,’ while The Jade Canoe represents all living beings of the world.

• The storyboard here provides information about the piece. It can also be seen on the back of the Canadian $20 bill.

Look behind The Jade Canoe to the wall of ocean waves in the distance.

The Great Wave Wall by Lutz Haufschild
International Terminal Departures Level 3
• Made up of thousands of glass pieces representing the ocean, the 40-metre by 10-metre wall forms a dramatic and appropriate backdrop for The Spirit of the Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe.

Walk down one level to international arrivals to check out the welcome figures that greet arriving

Clayoquot Welcome Figures, by Joe David
International Terminal, Arrivals Level 2
• Carved in the Clayoquot tradition, figures like these were temporarily positioned on the beach in front of villages, with arms raised, to welcome guests to special events.

• These figures stand 3.3 metres tall and provide a dramatic West Coast welcome to travellers.

From Vancouver Tourism...

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 8th January, 2011.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wooden carving from workshop in San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca in Mexico


Villages surrounding Oaxaca are occupied mostly by indigenous Zapotec people noted for their folk art.

Ram carved from copal wood
San Martin Tilcajete and Arrazola are the centers for the carving and painting of small wooden animals. Twenty years ago a struggling farmer, Manuel Jiminez, started carving these fanciful animals from the wood of the copal tree and the little creatures have now become so popular with visitors to Oaxaca that family workshops in the village find it a fulltime job keeping up with the demand. 

Right now I have two wooden cats from San Martin Tilcajete on my TV; one red, one blue covered with painted flowers and I consider them among my most successful foreign purchases.

Another small village, Santa Maria Atzompa, is famous for its green glaze pottery.  The entire village comprising family workshops, is a hive of activity.   Their traditional pots come in a variety of shapes, from mermaids and angels to turkeys and iguanas.  They are used as containers for salsa and for Oaxaca's famous chocolate.

San Bartolo Coyotepec is the home of burnished black pottery made in the studio of Dona Rosa, a famous peasant potter. In her lifetime she was visited by the rich and famous including Jimmy Carter and Rockefeller.  While touring the pottery I saw an incised gleaming black bowl that was absolutely beautiful.  The process of burnishing is achieved by rubbing the pot with a stone to give it a lusturous finish.  It was selling for 380 pesos (about $38), a pittance for a superb article. 

Pueblo of Bulmaro Perez Mendoza
 Bulmaro Perez Mendoza, a master weaver heads a  community of rug weavers in the village of Teotitlan del Valle. Traditionally, Mendoza and his family use only natural dyes, mohair and pure wool for their beautiful rugs and wall hangings. No chemical dyes or acrylic blends here.

The raw wool is purchased in local markets, washed in the river to remove impurities, then carded and spun by family members including Mendoza's wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother. 

Each year a grand family outing sees all 25 family members of the Mendoza clan take to the mountains where they harvest the plants used for making their natural dyes. Using "cochineal" for the colour red, alfalfa for green, marigolds for orange, and for gold they harvest pomegranate shells from plants growing alongside the path leading to their pueblo. Nut shells produce a rich brown and the huisache plant, black. 

 Handwoven rugs made on family built looms using wool purchased from local farmers and dyed with their own plant dyes, are absolutely stunning.  I left having acquired not one, but two treasured heirloom rugs.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Tuesday, 4th January, 2011

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Coober Pedy opal


I sensed that this was going to be a travel experience with a difference when the passenger in the front seat of our tiny plane leaned forward and pulled the life belt whistle from behind the pilot’s neck as he fumbled to find it during the delivery of his mandatory safety instructions prior to take-off.  

Our 18-seat aircraft was wide enough for one seat on each side of a narrow aisle with a ceiling high enough to accommodate a 5 foot tall adult. Boarding with my small cardboard cup of water and two cookies courtesy of the airline - sufficient to keep us hydrated and food satisfied for the 3 hour trip to Australia's Outback - I had to imitate a hunched hobble with my head tucked onto my chest to reach my sheepskin covered seat towards the back of the plane.

We were headed 846 kilometres north of Adelaide to Coober Pedy, a town much like you would expect to find in the old American Wild West or at the forefront of a Gold Rush. Coober Pedy’s treasure is not gold but an equally beautiful precious gem; the opal. Arriving at Coober Pedy we put down on a landscape that was much like that of the moon.

In a land immense, ancient, hotter than one can imagine and dry beyond belief, where sometimes the soil does not experience the relief of even a single raindrop for years, a certain breed of person has settled and thrived. They are the opal miners and their habitat must surely be the place most mysterious, most utterly fascinating in all of Australia.

150 million years ago the area where Coober Pedy now stands was a turbulent ocean. With climatic change the ocean disappeared and the silica left behind seeped into cracks and crevices in the rock beneath the dry sea bed. It settled wherever there was a cavity and over time formed what we now call opal.

Small dusty Coober Pedy is a thriving bustling center. As we drove into town with the hotel tour guide who also served as the airport agent – checking in the luggage and such – we passed small utes (trucks) scurrying about the town like ants on a mission. Each sported an over-size sign reading EXPLOSIVES. An expensive and vital part of the industry, they sell the means to speed up a once tedious operation where progress was slow and tunnels were excavated with pick and shovel.

In a small shop on the main street in Coober Pedy I struck up a conversation with a miner who had arrived in Coober Pedy from Greece at the age of 16. Yannis Pappadoupolis owns a shop selling opals to tourists but swears that money is not important to him. His love he says is the opal. On sale for A$67,000 in his shop was the biggest opal I’d ever seen. Laying it on a piece of red velvet, the 120 carat gem glittered like something born of the moon. It was absolutely stunning. Opalescent with fire shooting from its heart in every colour of the rainbow, it nestled in a circle of diamonds. “And what is the value of the smaller red opal you call “Desert Fire” I asked. “Priceless,” he said. “I’ll never sell it.”

At night we discovered that the bars are crowded with men who may spend the better part of their lives searching the underworld for glittering streaks of opalized silica in their diggings. Most are small-time operators who have a claim, work in the morning or maybe the afternoon, make the occasional find and lament that the rich pickings in opal mining are a thing of the past. “What can they expect,” was the cynical comment of one Coober Pedy matron with whom I spoke. “They only work a few hours a day!”

Opal fields are spread over an area of approximately 40 kilometres around the town and it is here that most of the world’s supply of opals are to be found. For those with a strong work ethic there is still money to be made.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Saturday, 1st January, 2011