Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zambia

We’re come to the end of this April’s A-Z challenge and I felt like I’ve been all around the world (although I just got back from a trip to Atlanta which may count for my fatigue).   We’re at Z and interestingly, there are two countries that begin with that letter and they’d both let me see the famous Victorian Falls (that’s located between them).  Those two countries are Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia) and Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia).  As Zambia seems to be less corrupt, it makes my bucket list of places I'd love to travel.   

In addition to the Victoria Falls, there are lots of wild animals to see and one can even arrive in this landlocked country by train from the Indian Ocean (through Tanzania) or from South Africa (through Mozambique and Zimbabwe).  Although I’d like to do both trips, I think the Tanzania train sounds the best (it’s approximately $60 for a first class sleeper from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposh, a distance of a little over 1800 kms.   The train would take you across the plains of the Serengeti and hopefully within sight of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Another train will have to take you the last 800 kms to Livingston, next to the Falls.  The price for this train is around $10 economy/coach and $20 for a sleeper for the ten hour journey. 

I hope you have enjoyed me sharing dreams with you.  I can't believe that I had all these posts up by 6 AM of the day scheduled.  Maybe some of these dreams will one day become a reality, but I look forward in the next few weeks of telling you about some books I’ve been reading, a post about my recovery from my quad tendon rupture, and other items.  Photos from Zambia taken from the web...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for...

We’re at the letter Y.  What place that begins with a Y could I add to my bucket list of places to visit?  I would like to visit Yemen, the one country with a Y according to the State Department’s list.  A decade ago, a friend of mine visited there with his family when he sailed around the world, but things are a lot less stable today. 

So I’ll push Yemen off the list and be content watching “Salmon Fishing in Yemen” on Netflix (it’s a good movie).

One place I wouldn’t mind visiting is Yellowknife, the largest city in Canada’s Northwest Territory (at only about 20,000 residents).  The city is on the north side of the Great Slave Lake and a wonderful place to enjoy the Northern Lights.  The Great Slave Lake is also the beginning of the MacKenzie River, which flows out through the Arctic Ocean.

But, another place I would like to go and this makes my bucket list is the Yukon River.  At one time, I thought I might paddle the entire length of the river that starts in British Columbia, Canada, not far from the Pacific, but then paddles northward into the Yukon Territory and then across Alaska before emptying out in the Bering Sea.  I doubt I'll ever be able to do that, but there's no reason why I can't paddle a portion of the river which has only four bridges along it's entire length.  The Yukon River is mostly fast flowing (often 5-8 miles per hour) and the long days of summer means that one can paddle lots of miles a day (but then, with 2300 miles, one has to make a lot of miles each day). 
Canoeing the Yukon

Tomorrow, we’ll end with the letter Z (and there’s a couple of choices in Africa).  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

X is for Xian. No, make that Xining

We’re up to the letter X in this year’s A-Z challenge in which I’m writing about places I’d like to visit.  There’s no countries with an X but there are some cities and towns in Asia and in the Mayan region of Central America.   I’ve spent a week once in the village of Xocenpich in the center of the Yucatan.  I’d love to go back, but since I’ve already been there, I will set my sights on places I’ve missed in China. 

Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian 
Xian is a huge city (8 million, but there are a lot of large cities in China) and a place where you can see a huge army with clay feet.  Actually, the whole army is clay or terracotta (ain't that baked clay).   Also, why would I need to go to Pisa to see a leaning tower when I could go to Xian and see the Wild Goose Pagoda that leans (and has since an earthquake in the 17th Century)?.

outside Xining 
But, the place that makes my bucket list is Xining.  I could knock out a couple of my bucket list sites by traveling overland from India to Katmandu, Nepal, and the on to Lhasa, Tibet and then take the train down from the mountains, stopping in Golmud to get a view of the Gobi before heading on to the end of the rail line that runs to Tibet in Xining.  You’re still up on the Tibet plateau with plenty of National Parks, mountains and lakes to see.  And good lamb to have at dinner.  Western China is different than the east, so visiting both Xining and Xian would be a treat.     

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

W is for Wales

I have almost successfully completed April’s A-Z challenge as I add 26 locations to my bucket list of places that I’d like to visit.  As I’ve said earlier, I am going to be a little tight on time (and I haven’t written up X, Y and Z yet) this week, but I do plan to finish!

According to the United States of America State Department, there are no countries that begin with a “W.”  Another internet site ( suggests there are three (Western Sahara, Wallis and Futuna and Western Samoa) and a fourth is an alternative name for Belarus (White Russia).  I’ve never heard that White Russia that wasn’t either a drink or a party during the struggle for Russia following the fall of the Czar.  As for Western Sahara, it seems to be a territory claimed by two other African countries (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco).  I never heard of Wallis and Futuna and Western Samoa is a part of Samoa and doesn’t seem to be any more of a country than West Virginia. I could choose a city (Warsaw would be one and I’d like to go there), but there is a country that begins with W, only it is a part of another much larger country—the United Kingdom.  The country that I will add to my bucket list is Wales.  It has a neat flag!

From everything I’ve seen Wales is beautiful.  Of course, John Ford in his movie “How Green Was My Valley” placed that beauty in the past tense, but it appears that much beauty remains even though I am sure there are still places recovering from the worst of coal mining practices.  But the coal created a number of railroads, a number of which still exist and run excursion steam trains through the countryside.  So I can come into Wales a modern British Rail line (perhaps taking a stop along the way in Cornwall) and then see the countryside by trains pulled by coal burning steam locomotives.  It would be a country to also explore by foot, among the hills and along the shoreline.  There are ancient castles to explore (five along in Cardiff) and festivals to enjoy.  Cardiff is one of the greenish cities, I’m told, with more green space per capita than anywhere else in Great Britain.   I’d feast on lamb and drown my thirst in many of Cardiff’s pubs (before heading out into the countryside). 

Until I visit, maybe I should watch “How Green was my Valley” again and read some Dylan Thomas poems (and hopefully I will visit before I go gently into that good night).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

V is for Vatican City

We’re on the home stretch in this April’s A-Z challenge and I am exploring places I’d like to travel.  The letter V provides four countries as possibilities.  There’s Vietnam, and I’d love to go back, but I’ve been there.  A wonderful country, especially if you can get out into the countryside.  Then there is Venezuela, one of our neighbors to the south, a country that is often at odds with America.  Hopefully, like with Cuba, the tension will ease but that doesn’t bring it to the top of my list.  Then there is Vanuatu.  And island with volcanoes sounds right up my ally.  I loved how reading Getting Stone with the Savages.  J. Marten Troost knows how to travel the islands of the Pacific (find a girlfriend working for NGOs).  Of course, he was able to parlay his experiences into a couple of very funny books. 

For me, my V destination will be the Vatican City, a sovereign country within a city. It’s not very large and no, there are no railways.  There’s only around 500 people who live here, mostly clergy within the Roman Catholic Church.  This is one country where I’d probably have to stay in another country to visit, but that would be okay.  And it won’t take a long to see it all, but to have a chance to see St. Peter’s Cathedral, the Sistine Chapels, the museums, and just to be at the site where so much history has taken place over the past two millenniums.