Sunday, November 6, 2011

Spirit House on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea, a wild and mysterious land off the north coast of Australia, is known in the civilized world as the last frontier. Its largest river, the Sepik, is often compared with its even larger cousin the Amazon. Like a giant anaconda, its sensuous meanderings wander for 700 miles alongside lagoons, through swamps, grasslands, rainforests and between mountains to the Bismarck Sea on Papua New Guinea's northern coast.

An elder of the Iatmul tribe living beside the Sepik river
Home territory to crocodiles and vast flocks of birds, the Sepik region is a primitive paradise where many of the people live in stilt villages on the riverbank, much as they have for thousands of years.

Six intrepid females relax after Sepik exploration
Disembarking from a bush plane in the village of Timbunke, we six female adventure travellers were ready for a journey that would take us to places few westerners have ever seen. We were to explore the central section of the Sepik river watercourse.

Our companions hamming it up on the "Sepik Spirit"
The “Sepik Spirit”, a flat-bottom riverboat, was to be our night-time stop-over. Each morning we boarded a tag-along jet boat to explore villages, meet the people and stock up on Sepik art; masks, hand drums, shell jewellery, carved spirit figures and feather-trimmed headdresses.

Stephanie Michaels, America's famous Adventure Girl, hard at work on the Sepik
Speeding away from the mother boat each morning; engine full throttle, hair flying in the wind and a frothy spray jetting skywards on each side of the boat was a deliciously cool way to travel. Approaching villages, or at sight of a Papuan paddling a dugout, the jet boat slowed to a crawl. This was to be a trip of a lifetime and we six, strangers to start, were to form a close and friendly bond that continues still.

Watching him, watching us
I will continue to post blogs about this amazing destination, so if you're interested in hearing about the world's last frontier please return again and again.

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Sunday, 6th November, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

John W. Moore, cowboy Mayor of Williams and lady friend, Debi Lander

He's a one man promotional machine for his town on America's historic Route 66. One of its top star tourist attractions is the Grand Canyon Railway.

This rangy “sheriff” with Beau Brummel elegance  – a good guy attired in white cowboy hat, long flowing black coat, red damask waistcoat and expensive looking cowboy boots, established himself as a lady's man when he gallantly kissed my hand upon introduction.

A retired police chief, John W. Moore now fills the official role of mayor of Williams, and on the other hand in his  unofficial role – all in pursuit of tourist dollars – he is a member of the Cataract gang who terrorise riders on a train ride from Williams to the Grand Canyon. He and his "gang" re-enact a hold-up much to the delight of a pseudo-shocked passengers. But that's not his only talent. He's the master-mind behind a nightly gunfight on William's Main Street.

It was like pulling teeth to get him to admit to his  role in getting Williams back on its feet when Route 66 was closed. But eventually he laid claim to stopping the closing down of William's lucrative rail connection to the Grand Canyon.

Don't miss this great little town with its larger than life Mayor. If you see a tall rangy figure striding along Main Street in his everyday attire; gun on hip, long flowing coat billowing out behind him and oozing an irrespressible charm, that's him.

On my visit he took our group on a tour of Main Street; to the local Road Kill cafe, then on to the Grand Canyon pioneer hotel, to a shop selling cowboy paraphanalia, and to a Wild West town set-up off Main Street.  We finished up at the Twisters Route 66 cafe for a Coke float feeling as if we'd stepped back in time.
Photographs copyright Anne Gordon
Posted by Anne Gordon on Friday, 4th November 2011

Arizona's Grand Canyon

A warning when visiting Arizona's canyons
Be it the Grand Canyon or any other of Arizona's rocky attractions, visitors should be aware that there are precautions that must be observed.

We were told by our guide that the highest risk factors for hikers in the Grand Canyon is being male! going solo, and being unprepared for changes in the weather – heat in particular. It's much more intense in the Canyon. Temperatures in summer soar to over 100 degrees at times. A vertical plunge onto jagged rocks into a labyrinth created by time, wind and water, standing on the edge of a precipice where sedimentary rock crumbles unexpectedly, venturing too close to massive flakes that lean precariously from mother rock, and for the unprepared, negotiating a descent into an abyss that plunges thousands of feet is a perilous undertaking indeed.

Arizona's Coal Mine Canyon
At the Coal Mine Canyon, a spectacular place on the edge of the Painted Desert, we were warned more than once by our guide before exiting our tour vehicle, to stand well back from the canyon edge. Rocks, we were told, had a habit of crumbling. Looking from a point further along the path running alongside the canyon, I noticed numerous mossy overhangs, no more than four inches in depth with nothing beneath but air.

Over the abyss, crows performed aerial acrobatics as I pondered the results for an eager photographer (me) in search of a great picture. Death is but a whisper away for those foolish enough not to heed warnings.

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Friday, 4th November

Arizona's Rainbow Bridge, a natural wonder of the world

This massive sandstone arch in the Lake Powell area was in 1910, proclaimed one of the natural wonders of the world. Turning a corner after negotiating a watery passageway through cliffs that tower hundreds of feet overhead and walking for close to an hour along a lonely trail, I saw the Rainbow Bridge in all its fiery splendour at the approach of sunset.

Sacred to the Navajo people, it is said to be disrespectful to walk beneath the arch. But another opinion prevails according to our guide. The Paiute people who have been resident here for thousands of years before the Navajo, believe that to walk beneath its towering presence is to bring nothing but good.

The Navajo name for the Rainbow Bridge is “nonnezoshi” - rainbow turned to stone. Stretching 275 feet across a small meandering river, this stone monument was created by time, wind, rain and erosion from an ancient sea.

Photograph copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Friday, 4th November, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Peak of Christmas on Grouse Mountain November 26 to December 24
There is no better place to enjoy a white Christmas in Vancouver than on snow-covered Grouse Mountain, 3,700 feet above the twinkling lights of Vancouver. During the holiday season, Grouse Mountain comes alive with a multitude of festivities. Visitors can enjoy sleigh rides through the forest, pay a visit to Santa and his live reindeer, listen to carols in the chalet or skate on the outdoor ice rink (skate rentals available). After playing in the snow, warm up in Altitudes Bistro with a cup of hot chocolate and a hearty meal, or watch a Christmas film at Theatre in the Sky.

Photograph copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Thursday, 3rd November, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Vancouver German Christmas Market November 24 to December 24
The 700-year-old tradition of the German Christmas Market returns to downtown Vancouver for its second year. The Vancouver Christmas Market, located on the plaza in front of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, is an authentic "Christkindlmarkt" featuring traditional German crafts, cuisine and entertainment. A special children’s area known as the "Kinderweihnacht" gives youngsters the chance to make their own Christmas gifts, visit with Santa Claus and ride the children’s Christmas carousel. German bratwurst, Swiss raclette, brataepfel (stuffed baked apples) and schupfnudeln (German noodles), are just some of the many delicious eats that will be available at the market. Colourful décor, seasonal gifts, family entertainment, authentic cuisine and an enchanting village atmosphere make this an unforgettable event. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for youth. Children (6 and under) receive complimentary entry.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

Posted by Anne Gordon on Wednesday, 2nd November, 2011