Category Archives: Travel

How Wolves Change Rivers

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from Sustainable Man

Why Do Leaves Change Color In Autumn?

As a bit of a leaf peeper myself (New England October 1990) I really enjoyed this article on the science of it:

September 15, 2014  by Justine Alford

 Every year, fall tickles our visual senses by presenting us with a dazzling array of colors to gaze upon. Fiery reds, golden yellows and deep ambers twinkle from the trees and litter the pavement, ready to be scuffed by our boots. But why do leaves undergo this dramatic color transition that delights leaf peepers annually? Let’s find out.

Throughout the growing season, leaves appear green because of a pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is found in little disc-like structures called chloroplasts which are dotted throughout plant cells. Chlorophyll molecules absorb red and blue wavelengths of light from the sun but hardly any green, meaning that green wavelengths are reflected back to our eyes and hence the leaves appear this color.

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Twisted – The Battle to Be the World’s Largest Ball of Twine

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Four behemoths vie for the title, but nobody has officially measured them all. Until now. TIM HWANGSEP 9 2014, 7:45 AM ET

After more well-known and celebrated sites such as Wall Drug, South of the Border, and the Mystery Spot, the four giant twine balls claiming to be the “world’s largest” are arguably among the very best roadside attractions North America has to offer.

The balls themselves are colossal monuments, each representing a massive cumulative investment of time, attention, and resources on the part of their creators. As a set, they average more than 17,000 pounds, the equivalent of more than three large SUVs stacked one upon the other. The average ball is more than 36 feet in circumference, with the tallest in the set towering at a staggering 11 feet in height.

Unlike more singular sites of weirdo tourist kitsch, the giant twine balls are connected to one another through a distinct historical lineage.

But which one of these balls is the biggest? It turns out that the answer to that question is hotly contested. All four giant twine balls claim to be the world’s largest, no one has provided consistent, up-to-date documentation of all of them. Very few have had the interest to travel the requisite 3000 miles to see all four sites, and even fewer have come with a mission to make an archival record of these artifacts for future generations. Until now.

In August 2014, I assembled a trusty team of friends, and we embarked on an extended journey to develop the most extensive collection of material ever generated about these sites. This is what we found.

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Presenter Michael Palin and film-maker Roger Mills look back on 25 years of globe-trotting

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Without the award-winning film-maker Roger Mills, there would never have been a Michael Palin, travel presenter. Here, the duo look back on a decade spent criss-crossing the world – the tiffs, the bungee jumps, the fermented spittle…
IAN BURRELL Sunday 14 September 2014

“Do you remember when you had to drink the old lady’s fermented spittle?” Michael Palin is being asked to reminisce on the many discomforting tasks he’s been obliged to perform by Roger Mills, the mischief-making Oxford classicist with whom he has travelled the world.

“I didn’t know it was the old lady’s fermented spittle until we asked what it was – I thought it was rather nice,” Palin recalls. It was pink and yoghurt-like, and he quaffed it on the banks of the Urubamba River in Peru. “They were having a celebration. It was a welcoming thing and I couldn’t turn it down; it would have been very, very rude. So I drank it.”

Aside from having to imbibe the saliva of elderly Peruvians, Palin has many reasons to be grateful to Mills – the man he calls “The Professor”. For it was this self-same Roger Mills, a seasoned and much-awarded documentary-maker, who turned the vendor of the Dead Parrot into a real-life Phileas Fogg a quarter of a century ago.

Palin was then at the peak of his 1980s success, but as co-producer of Around the World in 80 Days, Mills had the power to transform his life. Although Palin was one of Britain’s most popular comic performers, he was not quite a shoo-in for the new show, which would re-create the fictional itinerary undertaken by Fogg in Jules Verne’s 1873 novel of the same name. First, Mills had to dampen the wanderlust of Alan Whicker, then the unrivalled doyen of British travel broadcasting and anointed by BBC bosses for the Phileas role. Fortunately, Mills knew how to dissuade the famously smooth Whicker from taking the gig. “Stress the discomfort of it,” he advised co-producer Clem Vallance, who, like Mills, preferred Palin for the job.

Over a lunch with Whicker in London’s Kensington, Mills made clear what the job would entail: “Alan,” he said, “you will have to share deck space with the crew between Oman and Bombay.” From then on, Mills says, “He looked into the middle distance and took no further part in the discussions. He wrote a letter the next day to the effect that he thought the pace of the show would be such that he wouldn’t have time to prepare his interviews.”

That seven-night, eight-day dhow journey to Bombay – with 18 Gujarati crew but no radio or radar – was the making of Palin as a travel presenter. The audience warmed to the sight of him sleeping under the stars on deck, not to mention relieving himself via the precarious outboard toilet. “Never have I been in a situation where, for so long, I depended upon a group of people quite different from me in wealth, class, race, religion and circumstance,” Palin writes in Travelling for Work, the third and latest volume of his diaries.

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Cuba – A country where toilet paper is rarer than partridge

imagesBy Sarah Rainsford BBC News, Havana

Years after the collapse of the USSR, Cuba remains a bastion of communism, central planning… and shortages of basic goods. Anyone returning from a trip abroad therefore takes as many of these as they can carry – even if they are flying from Moscow.

The bright orange bottle of cleaning fluid was probably the oddest item stuffed into my suitcase this time, wedged in beside the tennis shoes for one friend and pile of baby clothes for another. It’s a ritual I’ve grown used to: every time you leave communist-run Cuba with its centrally-planned economy and sparsely-stocked stores, you go shopping.

But as I packed my bags last week to head back to Havana, I did a double-take. I was in Moscow, heading home from a work trip, and as usual carrying as many presents and supplies as I could. And yet it wasn’t so long ago that I’d stock up in the same way for trips to Russia.

I was a student there in the early 1990s as the country emerged – very painfully – from seven decades of communism. The shops then were stomach-achingly bare.

My friends and I would head out each day with empty bags to scour the shelves of gloomy, musty stores. We got used to buying whatever there was, not what we wanted – pickled tomatoes, perhaps, or canned fish on a good day.

But the new Moscow I visited last week is chock-full of shopping malls, its streets lined with global brands and coffee chains. My closest friend there, Natasha, now makes most of her purchases with a few taps on her iPad.

When I told Natasha about my mad shopping dash for Cuba, we remembered her own first trip abroad, to Britain, a year before the Soviet Union disintegrated.

My mother had taken her out one day for the weekly food shop. “I remember there were all these different cheeses and 10 types of everything.” Natasha laughed, recalling her first encounter with a Western supermarket. At first I was excited – then I started crying my eyes out.

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In the wettest place on Earth – Meghalaya in North West India they use the roots of live trees to make bridges.

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Meghalaya: The Wettest Place on Earth AUG 22, 2014

Photographer Amos Chapple took these amazing images in  the state of Meghalaya, India, reportedly the rainiest spot on Earth. The village of Mawsynram in Meghalaya receives 467 inches of rain per year. Laborers who work outdoors often wear full-body umbrellas made from bamboo and banana leaf. One of the most fascinating and beautiful features in the region are the “living bridges” spanning rain-soaked valleys. For centuries, locals have been training the roots of rubber trees to grow into natural bridges, far outlasting man-made wooden structures that rot in just a few years. The bridges are self-strengthening, becoming more substantial over time, as the root systems grow.

In a scene played out every weekday morning, students of the RCLP School in Nongsohphan Village, Meghalaya, India, cross a bridge grown from the roots of a rubber tree. In the relentless damp of Meghalaya's jungles, wooden structures rot away too quickly to be practical. For centuries the Khasi people have instead used the trainable roots of rubber trees to "grow" bridges over the region's rivers.
In a scene played out every weekday morning, students of the RCLP School in Nongsohphan Village, Meghalaya, India, cross a bridge grown from the roots of a rubber tree. In the relentless damp of Meghalaya’s jungles, wooden structures rot away too quickly to be practical. For centuries the Khasi people have instead used the trainable roots of rubber trees to “grow” bridges over the region’s rivers.
Three laborers walk into Mawsynram under the traditional Khasi umbrellas known as knups. Made from bamboo and banana leaf, the knups are favored for allowing two-handed work, and for being able to stand up to the high winds which lash the region during heavy rainstorms.
Three laborers walk into Mawsynram under the traditional Khasi umbrellas known as knups. Made from bamboo and banana leaf, the knups are favored for allowing two-handed work, and for being able to stand up to the high winds which lash the region during heavy rainstorms.
Examples of the of thin aerial roots which locals have knotted into place to manipulate rubber trees into bridges and ladders which can stand up to the rain-soaked environment of Meghalaya
Examples of the of thin aerial roots which locals have knotted into place to manipulate rubber trees into bridges and ladders which can stand up to the rain-soaked environment of Meghalaya
A local guide demonstrates a tree root bridge being developed to replace an older, circuitous route across a gorge deep in the jungle near Mawsynram
A local guide demonstrates a tree root bridge being developed to replace an older, circuitous route across a gorge deep in the jungle near Mawsynram
In the valley beneath Mawsynram, the village of Nongriat maintains the best-known example of the "living bridges" which have been used for centuries in the region.
In the valley beneath Mawsynram, the village of Nongriat maintains the best-known example of the “living bridges” which have been used for centuries in the region.

Original Article

Silent Darien – The gap in the world’s longest road

PanAmericanHwySilent Darien – The gap in the world’s longest road By Carolyn McCarthy

Stretching from Alaska to the pencil tip of Argentina, the 48,000km-long Pan-American Highway holds the record for the world’s longest motorable road. But there is a gap – an expanse of wild tropical forest – that has defeated travellers for centuries.

Explorers have always been drawn to the Darien Gap, but the results have mostly been disastrous. The Spanish made their first settlement in the mainland Americas right here in 1510, only to have it torched by indigenous tribes 14 years later – and in many ways the area remains as wild today as it was during the days of the conquest.

“If history had followed its usual course, the Darien should be today one of the most populated regions in the Americas, but it isn’t,” says Rick Morales, a Panamian and owner of Jungle Treks, one of a few adventure tour companies operating in the region.

“That’s remarkable if you consider that we live in the 21st Century, in a country that embraces technology and is notorious for connecting oceans, cultures, and world commerce.”

The gap stretches from the north to the south coast of Panama – from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It’s between 100km and 160km (60-100 miles) long, and there is no way round, except by sea.

After the conquistadors, the Scots also wagered badly here. Having established a coastal trading colony in 1698, most settlers perished from disease and Spanish attacks. The loss would deplete enough Scottish wealth to compromise their independence less than a decade later, when the country opted to sign the Treaty of Union.

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