There are so many remarkable things about Ethiopia – its landscape, its culture, its history – that I hardly know where to begin in describing it.
The local people (pictured above) are herders in the Ethiopian Highland’s Simien Mountains. They are among the people you meet here that are remarkably friendly, studious and motivated. I met a very young lad in Axum, Mario, that was hanging around our hotel. I knew his family was a friend of our tour guide. I inquired as to whether he had been to school that day and what he had studied. “Geography, mam”, he answered politely. I gave him a quiz on the capitals of Europe and he knew them all except Dublin! I gave him a bottle of water as a ‘gold star’ and then he politely asked if I would like to see his family’s souvenir shop.
But in more remote communities, the children only see you as a source of cash. “Money, money, money!” they cry. Even the youngest ones. The parents do not protest possibly because of desperation. Rural areas are the last to get help in a country with 110 million people.
But often the giving and open nature of people is astonishing. When my watch didn’t make it through one of the airport security airports, our tour guide offered to give me his. Of course, I didn’t accept but the sheer generosity of the gesture was not lost on me.
The coffee ceremony is a perfect example of sharing and generosity. It isn’t just about having a cup of coffee, but the lighting of incense, making popcorn, the conversation and savouring the taste of the freshly ground and roasted coffee.
If you are taking the family to Las Vegas this winter, here are a few things you need to know.
Once a tiny spec on the Old Spanish Trail, it became a railway stop when irrigation started up at the beginning of the 20thcentury. Las Vegas (Spanish for ‘the meadows’) was initially all about moving goods between the East Coast and out to the West. In this role, the town prospered until nearly 1920 but fell on hard times even before the stock market crash of 1929. The Hoover Dam project, which began in 1931, started a veritable flood of mainly male workers to Vegas who took up the ensuing jobs. It wasn’t long before theatres and casinos appeared to provide the large-scale entertainment required for this audience. Incidentally, this is the same year that the state legislature of Nevada legalised gambling. It wasn’t long before Chicago Gangsters saw an opportunity to make a profit and moved into town.
But gone are the days when the mob, including the famous Bugsy Siegel, ruled the hotels and casinos of Las Vegas. The FBI and local law enforcement, among others, put an end to the rule of mobsters in the 1980s and, now, Las Vegas is more family oriented than you might have ever imagined.
Speaking of the mob, the National Museum of Organised Crime and Law Enforcement on 300 Stewart Avenue, is a great place to find out about the actual events of mob history through interactive exhibits and artefacts. Truly worth a visit. More mature children find it fascinating, too.
Before I go further, I should explain that for those who grew up in Orange County in days of yore, including myself, Vegas was as normal a place to go for a family break as Centre Parcs here in England. It was nearby, it was inexpensive, the weather was great and you could take advantage of the fantastic swimming pools all year round.
I stayed recently at the Excalibur Hotel and the children in our party absolutely loved it. The theme, as you might have guessed, is Knights of the Round Table with Maid Marion type damsels in attendance. The Tournament of Kings Dinner Show is great entertainment for the under 12s with jousting, invading armies, fireworks and much more to entertain them during the meal. While the medieval fantasy engages the kids indoors, the enormous pool outdoors offers enjoyment for hours. Yes, even in January, day time temperatures can reach 17C though, be warned, in the desert it can be quite chilly at night. *
There are some truly incredible attractions for families these days. The Shark Reef Aquarium allows children to walk through a glass tunnel and get up close with sharks, giant sting rays (Southern Rays), green sea turtles, piranhas and golden crocodiles. There are more than 2,000 unusual aquatic animals housed in the aquarium. There is even a petting tank with pre-historic looking horseshoe crabs and baby stingrays for the kids. Another fishy attraction is the Atlantis Aquarium at Caesar’s Palace at the Great Roman Hall. This 50,000-gallon aquarium is intriguing for the young as it is full to the brim with exotic and colourful species of tropical fish. Children can watch also watch daily dives from 1:15 pm to 5:15 pm.
The most likely favourite for kids will be the Adventuredome at Circus Circus. America’s largest indoor theme park has a mind-boggling variety of rides and a massive arcade to keep children happy for many hours. Also, in Circus Circus, are the Midway Acts – circus jugglers, contortionists, balancing acts and more – are all free and take place every half hour until midnight on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
I personally love roller coasters and the Big Apple Coaster at New York-New York Hotel and Casino is really a blast. After raising the adrenaline all around, it is great to race in the latest, sophisticated go-carts at the Las Vegas Mini Gran Prix. 1401 N. Rainbow Boulevard.
The Boneyard, aka the Neon Museum, is something that the whole family will enjoy. The art of Las Vegas, and much of its history, is expressed through Neon signs and there are over 2 acres of the old and discarded signs here to enjoy.
In old town Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico is a bakery tucked down a rather small side street in a building named Colonia Villa de Seris. The descendants of Doña Maria Ochoa de Moreno own and run this rather old bakery that their grandmother opened in 1954.
Many types of baked goods are produced here but most who come to make a purchase are only interested in one. Known as Coyotas, this pastry was originally created by local tribe, the Comcáac Seri. Many decades ago it was adapted by Doña Maria and is still being produced today.
Popular all over Mexico, Coyotas are sweet pastries made from two tortillas (flour, water, salt and oil) with a filling of brown sugar – a flavour known as piloncillo. Now a days, Doña Maria’s Coyotas are filled with dulce de leche and a sprinkling of granulated peanuts but there are a variety of other types of this delicate pastry including: apple, guava, chocolate, quince, strawberry, pineapple and fig.
Each Coyota is made by hand and baked at a high temperature in what appears to be a quite ancient oven. Watching the process is intriguing as two women churn out the ‘tortillas’ with immense speed. First a ball of dough is squished and moulded into a tortilla and then stuffed with filling. The Coyotas are then baked at a very high temperature to create the flaky pastry.
The bakery is still a family business with Mr. Renato Ramírez Grijalva in charge of the day to day running of the business; Renato is married to the granddaughter of Doña Maria, the founder. The owner is Ana Catalina Moreno Ochoa, the daughter of Doña María.
Doña Maria Bakery,
Sufragio No. 37, Colonia Villa de Seris, Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
The Wild West, with its shootouts and Indian raids, avalanches, disease and lynchings, has enough gruesome and chilling tales to fill volume upon volume of scary books and to create dozens of ‘B’ rated horror films.
Founded in 1880, Durango, Colorado served the newly built Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and, as in any small, burgeoning hamlet in the West, there were many rather roguish types who chose to make this mining town their home.
For this reason, there is a whole compendium of gory tales from Durango that makes it a fascinating place to visit, particularly for Halloween. From legendary gun battles between the Stockton Gang and Simmons Gang to spontaneous court hearings and unsanctioned lynchings, Durango would have been a lawless place. Add to this a devastating fire in 1889 plus the Spanish Flu epidemic in the early part of the twentieth century and you have the background for a significant amount of hauntings.
It is important to note that the land around Durango was exploited for its many resources. Mining companies sprung up to extract silver, gold, coal, iron, gypsum and marble from the surrounding land. Many became overnight millionaires, but most young men ended up toiling in the mines.
In the La Plata mountains, outside the town, mining was a dangerous business as one might well imagine. Not only were the mines themselves prone to cave-ins and dynamite blasts that went wrong but, the terrain was equally dangerous. Avalanches during the winter were frequent due to the configuration of the mountains. Mining camps were clustered at the bottom of a river valley and, the further up into the hills you climbed, the steeper the gradient became. It was particularly bad when the snow became impacted. It was then that avalanches were common, killing more people than all the shootouts and epidemics combined.
There are also places in and around the town that are known for paranormal activity and sightings. Harking back to Victorian times, the 19th century Stater Hotel, built directly on the original railroad line, is famous for this. From the adjacent alley, the ghostly figure of a man in a white shirt standing on the tracks has been seen. There is also an apparition of a railway engineer in period clothing seen near the hotel as well as a barmaid and young girl walking through the hotel lobby.
Another spooky place to visit is the cemetery of Animas City. Established in 1876, the town has now been absorbed into Durango. Interred here are the residents of the early settlement with the first burials reported to be in 1877. Many long-term La Plata County residents have ancestors laid to rest here plus there are also Civil War veterans, infamous local outlaws, and even young children.
The one-hour 15-minute tour begins at 6 pm ($15 pp). There is also a special two hour Halloween cemetery tour offered on the 27th and 31st October: www.ghostwalkdurango.com
Though there are other museums that have opened in Riga this year, it was the newly refurbished Rīgas Motormuzejs, about 20 minutes outside of town, that I made time to visit.
Housed in a new and modern three-story building, it has interactive exhibits, historical information and, of course, an enormous collection of vintage vehicles. The exhibits collude together to capture the mood and culture of the 20thcentury. More than that, it is a mini history of human kind’s technology under one roof. And, with Latvia being a former Soviet country, it is uniquely placed to give an up-close perspective on Soviet life and the conflict and confluence between eastern and western societies.
The beginning of the tour features videos and displays about the invention of the wheel, progressing on to the first prototype vehicle produced by Karl Benz in 1886. There are model T cars and an Overland sedan from the U.S.A. as well as Krastin cars, built in Latvia, from the beginning of the century.
The most critical piece of the collection on show is the 1930s mountain racing Auto Union V16. Apparently, it symbolises the “Silver Arrow” era in the history of global automotive industry. In fact, this important vehicle was the impetus for creating the museum.
The Kremlin Collection, vintage Soviet cars which were collected by enthusiasts in Riga before the fall of the USSR, is truly the highlight of the museum. These unique and, at the time, incredibly expensive vehicles were the preserve of Soviet officials only. The proletariat could be on waiting lists for years to acquire even a modest vehicle.
The 1966 Silver Shadow Rolls Royce, mangled in an accident when Leonid Brezhnev was driving, has been acquired and is on display with a reconstruction of the accident to boot.
There is a very popular interactive exhibit in the Kremlin section. Here a projector is used to transport the participant (waving required) into a Stalinesque parade travelling through the streets of Moscow in an open top sedan.
By the 1930’s, there were 90 makes of automobile on the streets of Riga. However, they were few vehicles and these were very expensive. The President of Latvia then decided to get into bed with the U.S. car manufacturers and this all changed. In 1936, a license to build Ford vehicles was acquired and the Vairogs factory born. The first Ford Vairogs vehicle was finished in 1937, a truck with a V8 engine and 85 horsepower.
When Latvia lost her independence in 1940, the factory was nationalised, and production stopped. Up to that point, however, they had produced 300 cars and 1000 trucks.
There are other utility vehicles in the part of the museum including two fully refurbished fire engines, a raft of bicycles, vans and buses.
Open every day of the year from 10:00 to 18:00.
Eizenšteina iela 6, Riga, LV – 1079
On approach by plane to the Kigali Airport in Rwanda, I see the familiar red soil, green trees and clear skies of Africa and my fatigue quickly disappears. There is a magic to this land that can be hard to describe but tugs at my heart strings every time I visit.
Our group is on a connecting flight and so it is on to Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport to begin our adventure.
This is my first trip to Zimbabwe. Due to the sanctions and hostilities directed at the former President, Robert Mugabe, I had wondered whether this was a place I would ever get to visit. But now that Mr. Mugabe has been ‘escorted’ out of his post and a new President has stepped in, things are rapidly changing. Mr. Mnangagwa, known as the crocodile, does not have the best reputation and there are still democratic elections to be held, but the feeling of optimism among the general populace is palpable…electric even, and it gives me a real sense of the hopefulness for the future of this country.
In Harare, I notice currency from the old regime being sold. I learn later there are denominations of a million and even billion Zimbabwean dollars on a single bill. I need to learn more about what previously happened with the economy. But, what I mainly notice, are the beautiful veg for sale on every street corner, and, of course, the friendly outgoing people.
But soon we leave Harare and are out exploring the countryside and nature.
And speaking of nature, it seems that at the end of the rainy season one can still expect changeable weather. Much like the mid-west of the U.S., land-locked Zimbabwe can experience tropical storms during its shoulder seasons which may mean lightning strikes. Quite exciting.
After an overnight stop in Bulawayo, where one of my cousins was born, we head for the Matopo Hills and the Matopo National Park. It is when entering vast tracts of the African veld, full of kopje (granite exposed hill tops), that one starts getting a feel for the Zimbabwe of old. Here, there are ancient rock paintings of the San peoples who would have been migrating possibly to the coast. In days gone by, there were no roads crossing this land, only foot paths.
There are also black and white rhino in the park. Being taken on safari with Norman and his side-kick, also named Norman blackrhinosafaris.com, to trek rhino on foot is a, frankly, gratifying experience as we are able to get so close to these rare and beautiful animals.
This area is also famous for a hilly granite outcrop known as World’s View. Rather bizarrely and controversially, this is where Cecil Rhodes was buried after his death at the age of 48. He had spent a great deal of his life in South Africa but wanted to be interred in the hills of Matabeleland.
But now another animal adventure awaits us deep in the middle of the country: the Hwange National Park. The park covers 14,651 km²and with 40,000 elephants, lion and giraffe and herd animals all roaming about, this is a truly exciting place for a game drive. If viewing is difficult due to overgrown vegetation, then theNyamandhlovu Pan with its elevated viewing platform solves this problem. We saw crocodiles, Zebra, Waterbuck, Wildebeest and more all converging in and around the water hole.
Being able to stay at the Elephant Eye Safari Lodge and have a glamping type experience is awesome. Here, the swimming pool has no chemicals as elephants come and drink nearly every night. Also, at night, a lit section on the grassy plain with its own tiny waterhole, is a feast for the eyes as we watch impala at play.
Another place we visit which is of great importance is Great Zimbabwe. The medieval hill complex feels more like a pre-historic site. Climbing up the ancient stairs surrounded by stone masonry is a bit reminiscent of Sri Lanka’s Sigiriya. The structure of the complex is built into the granite and the views from the top are well worth the effort getting up there.
A stay at the nearby Ancient City’s Lodge (which is built from stone in the style of Great Zimbabwe) will mean you have easy access to Great Zimbabwe, a short drive away.
But it is the Victoria Falls which go the farthest to capture the magic of this country. 5,633 ft. wide and 343 ft. tall and one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, this is the planet’s greatest mass of falling water. The first European to see the falls was missionary Dr. David Livingstone in the mid 19thcentury. He wrote that, “scenes so lovely that it must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
The Zimbabwean side is packed with viewpoints including one above the Devil’s Cataract and four facing Main Falls, where at peak season more than 27 million cubic feet of water fall per minute. Walk the trail along the Rain Forest Walk and you will surely be drenched before the end of it.
Flights on Rwandair from London Gatwick cost from GBP 390 in economy (low season) Premium Economy from GBP 900 and Business class from GBP 1300.
Wanda is taking me and several friends around a church. This isn’t just any place of worship. It is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor. As we enter the sanctuary, she makes a request. “I am going to challenge y’all to say something that doesn’t come naturally to most people. So, repeat after me, 1) I was wrong, 2) Will you forgive me, please? 3) Thank you, and 4) I love you.” She has us each repeat the phrases. One person’s eyes start to well up.
It must come as a mild shock to hear anyone speak openly about being loving and forgiving to others. Wanda is African American, and when you think of the context of where we are, the Deep South, and how African Americans were ill-treated at one time, the message of forgiveness she spreads is even more remarkable.
It is then that I notice a mural. It depicts the Nobel Peace Prize winning pastor as an angel ascending into heaven. Though the thought may be inspiring, the tragic end to his life is in such contrast to his teachings of non-violence, I find it disconcerting, if not confusing.
Yet for many like Wanda who continue his work, the mantra of spiritual action coupled with forgiveness has carried on long after the proponent is gone. Dr. King’s use of religion as a force for social change, completely unprecedented at the time, changed the lives of many Americans irreparably and has impacted many internationally.
For the people who find his mission and the all-consuming work he did for equal rights significant, there is a US Civil Rights Trail that has recently launched. In Alabama, there is the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. A pilgrimage, if you will, which follows the path of those who marched for voter’s rights from Brown Chapel in Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the State Capitol in Montgomery 54 miles away.
The US Civil Rights Trail marks out the places where Dr. King lived, worked, influenced parishioners, started marches and promoted, as well as taking part in, non-violent demonstrations. In Memphis, Tennessee where his life ultimately ended at the hands of an assassin, while supporting a strike by local workers, the Lorraine Hotel is now a permanent fixture of the trail.
My interest? The civil rights movement was in its heyday when I was a youngster and, when children in Alabama got involved with marches to gain voting rights in 1963, my school friends and I held ‘sit ins’ at our primary school in California in solidarity.
Born in Atlanta, Georgia, the famous pacifist, and preacher was christened Michael King Jr. but his father, also a preacher, travelled to Germany and was inspired by the work of the Protestant reformer, Martin Luther. He then decided to change his son’s first name to Martin Luther.
At the age of 25, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became the pastor of the Dexter Ave. Baptist church in the town of Montgomery, Alabama. It would be his only posting as a minister. This church, with its well-to-do members, was quite literally in the shadow of the State Capitol Building. King was telling his parishioners that he, “had a dream”, while Governor George Wallace, who ultimately ran for President on a segregation platform, was merely yards away. The coincidence is startling.
Is there ever the possibility of arriving in your destination after a ten-hour flight refreshed? That is, without paying the price for business or first class? Possibly not but here are a few tricks that can certainly help.
1) Always carry a flight pillow.
And, if you won’t feel like a numpty, even a regular size pillow. Also, a large bottle of water (purchase after security) and shoes that lace up or fasten with velcro – you might feel like your Gran but when your feet swell, you will thank me.
2) If you have a bit of cash, premium class can sometimes be affordable.
Norwegian.com’s premium is virtually like upgrading to Business Class…and usually costs about an extra £200. Blissfully wide seats recline back and, with the extending foot rest, make an enormous difference. Delta Economy + has 4 inches of extra leg room and dedicated overhead bin space for a small price.
3) Crazy early morning flight?
Book an airport hotel with a transfer included. Hotel price comparison sights will help you find something reasonably priced. You will board your flight having had a decent night’s rest.
4) Fly direct and cut out the additional stress of transfers and connections.
Ever had the stress of running through an airport with personal belongings flying hither and yon as you go? Then you know what I mean. There are some destinations where a connection usually cannot be avoided, such as flying from London to Yangon, but the number of direct flights on offer is increasing all the time.
5) If you are a twosome travelling together and the plane has a three-seat configuration – plus you can choose seats – then book an aisle and a window.
Unless the flight is fully booked, it is likely no one will take the middle seat. You can still sleep in each other’s arms if you want but you will love the extra space.
6) Bring ear plugs, an eye mask and flight compression socks
If you are in economy, you will likely be positioned over the roaring engines so ear plugs help if you want to sleep. Even when lights are lowered, other passengers’ entertainment screens might be near enough to disrupt, so eye masks are a necessity these days. Flight compression socks help circulation and have been proven to combat Deep Vein Thrombosis. Plus, anything that addresses your well-being can only be a good thing.
7) Pack a smallish ruck sack with essentials to put beneath the seat in front of you.
You will want your lip balm, water, tissues and snacks handy during the flight. Plus, if these items are close by, you then don’t risk having locker contents falling onto grumpy passengers below when rummaging through a larger bag.
8) Bring a tablet along
If you have a tablet (lap tops may soon be required to be packed in your hold luggage) with your favourite film or two downloaded, then you are prepared if the entertainment system goes down. Of course, if lap tops are to be in hold luggage this may apply to i-Pads as well. If so, bring magazines and anything to keep your mind occupied and help you feel at ‘home’.
9) Limit alcohol intake
I don’t mean to be a party-pooper but alcohol is significantly more potent at higher elevations. The dehydrating quality of alcoholic beverages alone is not conducive to your health and relaxation on a flight.
With thanks to Discover Los Angeles for providing the image of LAX.
2016 has been a tumultuous year and a great many destinations are becoming more difficult to travel to for a whole variety of reasons. But, never fear, there are still wonderful places to experience. Here is my list of just a few places to go in 2017 at a time of the year you might not have considered previously.
Enjoy sunny weather in the Caribbean when it is most grim back home with the bonus of avoiding the stormy summer season. Celebrity Cruise offers guests the opportunity to join chef, Antiguan Nicole Arthurton, in discovering how to make West Indian recipes step-by step. Nicole will use the bountiful garden harvest that is indicative of this island for her special recipes. Departing 7 January, 2017, the ‘At home with Chef Nicole’ experience in Antigua costs $235 (£178) per person; part of a seven-night cruise departing from San Juan, Puerto Rico. www.celebritycruises.co.uk
Get those ski books and poles packed as this is an ideal time of year for skiing (though do avoid half-term crush). Val d’esere in the French Alps is a spectacular choice for those looking for a bit of luxury when hitting the slopes. And we all know the French are famous for their après ski. Oh la la! www.crystalski.co.uk
Holi, the Festival of Colours in India, takes place the week after the full moon every March. Participants wear white clothing and colourful powders are thrown up in the air and onto everyone and everything. In 2017, Holi take’s place on March 13, with Holika Dahan (the bonfire night for scaring away evil spirits) on March 12. Hayes & Jarvis (www.hayesandjarvis.co.uk) is offering a nine-night private Golden Triangle with Rajasthan tour to India that departs 9 March, 2017.
Tulips are in bloom this month so take advantage of this spectacle by booking a river cruise along the ubiquitous canals and waterways of Amsterdam. I recently sailed on the elegant AmaCerto ship and can say this cruise line puts passengers requests and desires at the forefront of what they do. Seven-night Tulip Time itinerary travels through the Netherlands and Belgium. www.amawaterways.co.uk/europe-river-cruises-2017
Late Spring is a beautiful time of year to visit any of the National Parks in the U.S. but a trip to Utah can be beyond expectations. The Mighty Five (parks) boast insanely dramatic desert landscapes with rock formations formed over millions of years. Visitors can also escape to the mountains resorts of northern Utah for hiking and boating. Delta.com has direct flights to Salt Lake City from London Heathrow from £685. www.visitutah.com/uk
The famous Wildebeest Migration of Tanzania and Kenya is well under way by June as great herds head north following the seasonal change and rain. When visiting this part of East Africa there is the option of combining it with a beach holiday. White sand beaches and warm water make places like Diani a tropical paradise. Intrepid Holidays feature an itinerary which has a game drive on the Serengeti and at the Nsorongoro Crater with a visit to Mto WaMbu, Managu and Irente-Lushoto as well. The ‘Road to Zanzibar’ group trip with Intrepid begins on 30th April and offers basic accommodation or camping. www.intrepidtravel.com
Experiencing the mid-night sun in the arctic is, without a doubt, one of the great joys of travel. Norway’s coastline is riven with deep, mystical fjords and, at the very top of the Arctic circle, Sami still herd reindeer as they have done for millennia. Go even further north to Svalbard and you are in the territory of polar bears. For those wanting to travel to Iceland, Greenland and other northernly populated areas; cruise-line, Hurtigruten, famous for delivering post to outlying seashore villages in Norway, would be an ideal choice. www.hurtigruten.co.uk
Costa Rica is one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet and is perfect for nature lovers. It is also tipped as one of the bargains for 2017. Start at the beach and then ascend to the Monteverde Cloud Forest and pass through six different eco-zones on the way. For bird watchers, there isn’t a better destination. www.costaricaexperts.com
Late in September, if far enough north, the trees’ colours could already be starting to change. This startling phenomena is predominent where there are vast expanses of deciduous forests such as North America’s eastern seaboard. The islands and coastline of Canada is a truly inspiring place to be when the forest’s explode with colour. Not only is it a visual feast but visitors can also literally feast on tantalizing seafood such as in Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy and through out the region. www.keepexploring.ca
Though incredibly warm in the summer, the Florida Keys are just starting to cool off slightly in early autumn. For those who enjoy sports such as deep sea fishing, kayaking or diving, this is one of the best places in the world to come and experience these unique islets. Sunset is celebrated every evening of the year at the farthest southerly point in the U.S., Mallory Square, Key West www.fla-keys.com
Myanmar is in the middle of the dry season during November with warm temperatures and warm, welcoming people. Now that Aung Sang Suu Kyi’s democratic party is in power, this country has opened up to tourism in a big way. The valley of 10,000 temples, Bagan, is one place you won’t want to miss. The incredible golden stupa and complex, Schwedagon Paya, in Yangon is an important highlight as is Kandawgyi Park. Stay at Belmond’s Governor’s Residences for a taste of old colonial Britain. www.belmond.com/governorsresidence
Iceland has only just started promoting itself during the winter months and it is a magical time to see this ‘young’ island, geologically speaking. The scenery is beyond spectacular: the Atlantic Rift, the Geysers, waterfalls and the thermal pools are just a few of the spectacular sights. Get out of Rekyavik late at night to see the Northern Lights. Unforgettable. www.visiticeland.com
The vastness and bleak beauty of Utah’s southern deserts cannot be understated. Between Green River and Moab County (Arches and Canyonland National Park) and Wayne County (Capitol Reef) lies largely uninhabited land filled with amazing landscapes. It is known as San Rafael Country.
Emery County aka San Rafael Country is possibly best known for Goblin Valley State Park.
Located between Green River and Capitol Reef National Park is the turn off for Goblin Valley – Hwy 24. This surreal landscape has been created mainly by water erosion and also weathering. It is sandstone (softer parts of the rock eroded more quickly than harder layers) which create the bizarre shapes that dominate this valley.
The park was brought to the public’s attention when popular comedian Tim Allen starred in the film Galaxy Quest and the rock formations in the Valley became part of the story line. Camping is allowed nearby and there are showers and bathrooms and also electricity in the yurts.
The amount of records carved into rock in this area by the ancient aboriginal peoples is mind boggling. My favourites were the petroglyphs at Rochester Creek called the Rochester Rock Art Panel. A short 1/2 mile hike from the roadside (Country Road 805) and you see how ancient peoples learned about family life. One image even depicts a mother giving birth!
If you are looking for a natural activity, how about scorpion hunting at night? Using ultra-violet black-light torches to spot the creatures’ exoskeleton’s which glow in the dark, is something kids in particular find fun and frantic. Perfect when camping.
Castle Valley Outdoors
Ever fancied going on an old fashioned shooting trip? You and your party will be shooting in style at the expansive Castle Valley Outdoors property. There are organised jaunts every autumn to shoot pheasant, chukar and quail. You also can stay at the property’s lodge or one of its private cabins.
Fancy a spot of golf? The views are magnificent from Millsite Reservoir Golf Course. There is an enormous spillway/waterfall here and the owners provide golf buggies for everyone at only $36 for 18 holes.
Getting off the beaten track can be a wonderful way to experience a new destination. For a place as scenic as Utah, your efforts will not disappoint.