A Once-in-a-Lifetime Chance in Uganda

August 23, 2012

Prior to the trip, I emailed Jonathan Rossouw and mentioned that my target bird for Uganda was the Pennant-Tailed Nightjar. This is a pretty tough get. A well camouflaged night bird, it is nearly impossible to see during the day unless you step on one and, of course, it is tough to see in the dark at night. Rossouw replied: "Prayer is the only answer, but I will do my damned to put you in the right place so that if our prayers are answered, you will see the bird." We got to the right spot and were out a couple of hours after sunset, but no bird. The locals noted "that bird hasn't been here for three months." Two days later, during the late afternoon, we are in a completely different location and I see one in flight. This is not an easy object identification. The bird has long streamers flowing from each wing, sort of the P-38 of the bird world. It elicits a "what the hell is that?" response and then it hits you--that's the bird. Jonathan and I get off the vehicle and run after the bird. The ranger gets up on the roof of the vehicle and shouts "Get back here, there are lions to the left." I Look at Rossouw. He says "this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance--let's go see the bird." We were careful going around corners and were rewarded with magnificent views--full breeding plumage displayed in flight in full daylight.

Trip: Classic Uganda
First Name: John
Last Name: Kerns
City: San Francisco
State: CA

Walking in Iran

August 23, 2012

When walking down the street in Esfahan, Iran, a man walking in the opposite direction saw me and said "We love Americans!" ...and continued walking! Young women also came near us, and wanted their pictures taken with us, too. Quite amazing and unexpected!

Trip: Iran: Wonders of Persia
First Name: Lynne
Last Name: Rauscher-Davoust
City: Elmhurst
State: IL

More Upgrades on the Clipper Odyssey

August 22, 2012

The Clipper Odyssey recently received an upgrade with some brand-new patio furniture! Relax in style in between stops along the Dalmatian Coast on our upcoming Sicily with Montengro, Croatia, Albania & Greece expedition, or after an afternoon lecture on our Circumnavigations of the Black Sea.

Did You Know...the Origins of Bungee Jumping

August 21, 2012

Did you know that though the art of bungee jumping in the western world has been around for nearly 40 years, the origins of the sport date back much further? Take a cruise with us to Pentecost Island, Vanuatu in the South Pacific…

Home to naghol, or land diving, the men of Pentecost have been participating in this ritual for decades. Legend has it that a woman was trying to escape her abusive husband and ran up a tree to hide. He followed her and she jumped out of the tree—only after tying vines to her legs. He jumped after her and died on impact, while his wife survived the fall. There are differing reports, but some say the men of the island started diving so as not to be tricked by women again.

Over time the ritual has evolved—the main purpose now is to ensure a bountiful yam harvest. The ceremony takes place only in April and May, and once the men dive they, hopefully gently, grace the ground with their shoulders or head, blessing the soil.

Today, instead of jumping out of trees, they now jump off a manmade structure, around 98-feet tall. A trusted village elder measures the length of the vines, based solely on years of trial and error, and ties one to each foot. As the diver jumps, the crowd goes silent, likely holding their breath until he lands. The islanders then let out a collective sigh and rush to check on him before celebrating his courage.

 

View this original form of bungee jumping in person on our Faces of Melanesia expedition, March 23 – April 8, 2013.

Hospitality in Kamchatka

August 13, 2012

First let me be straight about the trip. This is as close as I could get. It was 2005 (time flies), and the trip was "Realm of the Russian Bear." All 100 of us swarmed ashore at Gabriel Bay, Kamchatka. We thought it was a deserted fishing village, but it wasn't quite as deserted as we imagined. There was a family living there...a couple and their teenage daughters. The first thing the wife did was want to make tea for all of us. They'd probably been using the same tea bag for the last year, but she was willing to share it. I'm not sure I could be as hospitable if 100 strangers suddenly showed up on my doorstep. We politely declined. We spent a while asking them about their life and snapping photos. When we left, Shirley asked if there was anything they needed. I'm not sure if they were entitled to a landing fee, but all she said was "Could you spare some salt?" We left them a big bag of salt and some educational materials for thier daughters. They left us (me, at least) with a renewed feeling of what hospitality is like and a refreshing realization that there are still some places in the world where salt is worth more than money.

Trip: Northern Ring of Fire: Kamchatka & the Kuril Islands
First Name: Terry
Last Name: Shumaker
City: Astoria
State: Oregon