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May 7, 2012
Written by Rich Pagen
After crossing a large agricultural valley just west of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the defensive castle-like walls of the city of Taroudant came into view. This small, fortified market city was formerly an important outpost on the caravan route to and from the Sahara, and as we passed through one of the gates into the heart of the city, it felt as if we were traveling back through time.
We roamed on foot through the narrow alleyways, sharing the limited space with a constant flow of countless bicycles and small motorbikes. Intricate tile work adorned the walls of a small shop that produced oil and perfume from the seeds of the area’s emblematic Aragan tree. At the local souk, colorful slipper-like Moroccan shoes dominated the goods in some stalls, while others were fronted with huge piles of olives, each a slightly different shade of green or purple.
Sidewalk cafes lined the central square, where crowds of locals gathered around to watch a charismatic snake charmer, and to listen to a number of performing musicians. Donkeys pulled carts past school children on bicycles, while the city’s signature olive-green Mercedes Benz taxis constantly pulled up to and away from the curb.
Because few foreign travelers visit Taroudant, it has truly retained its feel as a traditional hub for commerce and people in southern Morocco.
May 3, 2012
We asked Zegrahm leaders (and bona fide bookworms) Kevin Clement, Shirley Campbell, and Lynne Greig to give us a few of the books they would recommend reading in advance of a few of our upcoming journeys; here are their picks.
CIRCUMNAVIGATION OF SUMATRA – Kevin Clement
The Malay Archipelago, Alfred Russell Wallace: A classic in the genres of biological investigation, travel adventure, and the history of science, simultaneously.
Krakatoa: the Day the Earth Exploded, Simon Winchester: The great British travel author provides a very complete story of the events surrounding, preceding, and following the famous eruption.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA, YAP & PALAU – Kevin Clement
Where the Spirits Dwell, Tobias Schneebaum: Fascinating exploration of perhaps the strangest surviving culture on earth, by a man who knew it intimately.
Throwim Way Leg, Tim Flannery: Intriguing and amusing, a modern classic by an author who is equal parts expert zoologist and engaging raconteur.
The Ghost Mountain Boys, James Campbell: The grueling, almost-forgotten WWII campaign to wrest New Guinea from the grip of Japanese forces makes a compelling story.
BEST OF THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST – Kevin Clement
The Cruise of the Corwin, John Muir: Perhaps the greatest conservationist and among the greatest writers America has produced, cruising in the Bering Sea and along the Siberian coast.
Tent Life in Siberia, George Kennan: Kennan’s mission to survey a route for a trans-Pacific transcontinental telegraph route becomes a grippingly strange tale of adventure.
INDIA & THE MALDIVES – Shirley Campbell
White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India, William Dalrymple: Romantic and tragic tale of a passionate love affair that crossed and transcended all the cultural, religious, and political boundaries of its time.
Maldives (Cultures of the World), Roseline Ngcheong-Lum: Easy and accessible information about various cultures
THE KIMBERLEY – Shirley Campbell
DreamKeepers: A Spirit-Journey into Aboriginal Australia, Harvey Arden: A great combination of travel and story-telling.
TRACING THE WEST COAST OF AFRICA – Lynne Greig
French Lessons in Africa, Peter Biddlecombe: Explains the whole area we visit and how the French have influenced it; it's funny and informative at the same time.
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, Ishmael Beah: Very poignant because we actually visit an amputee school and watch a soccer game on the trip.
Roots, Alex Haley: We visit the village of the main character in the book; you can get the video series also.
BAY OF BENGAL & THE ANDAMAN SEA – Lynne Greig & Shirley Campbell
Shantaram: A Novel, Gregory David Roberts: Everyone LOVES this book.
Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure, Sarah Macdonald: Very informative as far as seeing the country from a foreigner’s point of view, plus funny as can be.
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry: One of my favorites from an Indian author.
A Traveller's History of South East Asia, Nicholas White: Concise introduction to the histories of the modern states of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and East Timor, providing an essential guide for both tourists and the general reader
May 2, 2012
Stephen C. Quinn, of the American Museum of Natural History, will be joining our Ireland and the British Isles expedition this May. Being of Irish descent, Stephen is particularly excited about the journey and shared with us his must-have items on a trip that incorporates both incredible wildlife viewing and magnificent scenery.
There is a very good little field guide to the region’s birdlife, A Pocket Guide to Common Birds of Ireland by Eric Dempsey and Michael O’Clery, that is small and easy to carry and pack. A slightly larger and more comprehensive bird guide is Birds of Europe by Lars Jonsson which is especially good due to Jonsson’s superb illustrations. Also, if you are interested in botany—we will see lots of spring flowers—a nice little guide is Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe by Richard Fitter, Alastair Fitter, and Marjorie Blamey.
Regarding binoculars, I recommend a pair of 7x35 or 8x40 power for viewing wildlife or general scenery.
I am also an artist and Ireland and the surrounding British Isles, with their sweeping vistas, magnificent rugged coastlines, and colorful flora and fauna, hold great potential for the artistically inclined. When not in pursuit of birds, I will be sketching and urge all participants so inclined to join me. A handy, compact, and lightweight sketch kit might be composed of drawing, charcoal, and colored pencils; pencil sharpener; eraser; felt tip marking pens of various line thicknesses and color (make sure they contain permanent ink); and a few small (5x7 or 8x10) sketch pads of white or toned paper. If you are interested in painting, a small compact sketch box containing a simple palette of watercolors or acrylics which dry quickly and require only water as a thinner would be best. Small 5x7 or 6x8 pads of watercolor paper held in one’s hand, lap, or in a sketch box lid work well. All of these art supplies can be carried in a small shoulder bag.
This tour has the potential of being one of the best. Our itinerary includes areas known for their scenic beauty and wildlife, such as Dartmoor National Park, Great Saltee Island, the Skellig Rocks, Dingle Peninsula, Cliffs of Moher, and the Aran Islands. I can’t wait and look forward to meeting you and traveling together on Ireland & the British Isles aboard the Clipper Odyssey.
April 30, 2012
Written by Rich Pagen
From the quaint and colorful port city of Mindelo, we drove up a steep and winding cobblestone road to Mount Verde, the highest peak on the Cape Verde island of São Vicente. The Cape Verde Islands are the final landfall as one heads west from Senegal, and as we looked out across the deep blue ocean, we could imagine that once past the neighboring island of Santo Antão, only open ocean lay between us and the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, far to the west.
Once at the top of the mountain, we stood at nearly 2,400 feet, bracing ourselves against a strong cool wind. This is the same southwesterly wind that directs the cold Canary Current, and the same one that pushed early sailing ships, including those in Christopher Columbus’ first voyage of exploration, towards the New World. Clouds whipped past us and, as they periodically parted, we could look all the way down across the dry lowlands to the city of Mindelo, over to the Clipper Odyssey alongside the pier.
Many of us opted to walk partway down the mountain, admiring the spectacular volcanic rock formations on the way. Small terraces, created and cleared of rock by the local people, housed the remnants of corn and tomato plants, while the stone walls surrounding the terraces were popular perches for the endemic falcon curiously named, the neglected kestrel.
Next up - Spain's Canary Islands.
April 27, 2012
Written by Jack Grove
The weather has been exceptional since we have embarked on the Palau Aggressor II. Each day has been an adventure both above and below the surface of these amazingly diverse tropical seas. The corals appear to have recovered from recent El Nino events, and the protection afforded by the Palau Shark Sanctuary is evident in the increased numbers of sharks.
Our dive yesterday at the fabled Blue Corner was one of the best I have ever experienced. Crystal clear waters with numerous gray reef sharks passing by as we were entertained by curious, almost comical Napoleon wrasses, each weighing close to a hundred pounds. At Big Drop, we snorkeled above a vertical wall of colorful soft corals and shoals of butterflyfish and fairy basslet; we watched in amazement, the spawning of bird and checkerboard wrasses as they preformed a courtship dance and launched their gametes into the tropical seas. WOW!
All for now ... Landing at Pelelieu soon. FAIR WINDS.