Trekking the Mountain Gorilla

Mountain Gorilla at Bwindi

Successfully traversing the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a feat in and of itself, but getting the chance to view Mountain Gorillas in their native habitat…truly priceless and well worth the effort it took to get there. The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (there is a reason that it is called impenetrable) is home to some 400 Mountain Gorillas, roughly half of the remaining world population of these amazing primates.

It was a 2 hour uphill climb just to get to the place where the gorillas were hanging out that day. Once there, it is easy to stand back in wonder as you experience the pristine forest environment, and then see the life that lives behind the leafy bushes and trees. One ape started walking towards me, and as instructed, I slowly bent my knees and squatted down and did not make eye contact with him. The Gorilla walked right past me, so close I could have reached out and touched him.

Trekking Gorillas is incredible and the proceeds that pay for the Gorilla Pass go to the Uganda Wildlife Department who work so carefully to protect both the forest environment and to ensure the safety of these precious animals.

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Lesotho…Who Knew?

I knew where Lesotho was on the map, but never dreamed that I would ever visit this tiny landlocked country embedded in South Africa. Lesotho is also known as the “Mountain Kingdom”, from the time King Moshoeshoe (pronounced “Mashwayshway) united the Basotho tribes and defended his united kingdom from the European invaders.

I stepped out of a cool spring day in Chicago and into a sunny, mild Autumn day in Maseru, the capital city. The leaves are starting to turn color here, signaling the advent of Winter. Lesotho has natural beauty…a variety of tree species (including fir and deciduous), amazing mountains, streams and waterfalls. The tourism infrastructure is still developing, but in my view, sometimes the best time to visit a country like this is before it is “transformed” to meet the tastes of Western visitors and loses the charm that makes it most appealing. This is an easy visit from Johannesburg and well worth the visit.

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Lalibela: A Great Place to Stay

Lalibela is a fabulous place to explore, with a lovely hotel and unique restaurant. The Mountain View Hotel, sits on the ridge of an escarpment, overlooking an immense valley with rows and rows of jagged mountains visible in the distance. We enjoyed the dining experiences…with Finnias, the chef at the hotel and at a neighboring restaurant, Ben Abeba, uniquely designed and run by a Scottish woman and her Ethiopian partner. We watched the sun set from the viewing deck of the hotel and saw stars that seemed close enough to reach out and touch from the restaurant.

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Lalibela: Ethiopia’s Hidden Treasure

Lalibela…the name rolls off the tongue, sounding melodic and mysterious; the experience will meet all expectations. It literally means Continue reading

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The Different Faces of Bali

Bali is a small island, just east of Java, with a combination of serene beaches, active night life, artisan craftworks, a culture of dance and theatre, rainforests, volcanic mountains, green terraced rice fields, and great cuisine. We stayed on the Nusa Dua beach in south Bali before heading north to Ubud. Ubud is a crafts center, in the heart of Bali, in a lush forested area, with Continue reading

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Jogyakarta: Ancient Arts Preserved

Jogyakarta was one of the highlights of our trip to Indonesia. Why? This city is the gateway to two ancient architectural wonders…Prambanan (Hindu) and Borobudur (Buddhist) temples, as well as being an arts center for crafts that could be easily lost (batik cloth, shadow puppets, dance, theatre) without careful preservation. In addition, Continue reading

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Indonesia’s Volcanoes and the Pacific Ring of Fire

While in Indonesia, we were able to see the beautiful mountain peaks wherever we went. These peaks are actually volcanoes as the islands of Indonesia sit on the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, which consists of the mountains, faults, and trenches that rim the pacific coasts on North and South America, Alaska, Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, Indonesia and New Zealand. Seventy-five (75%) percent of the world’s volcanoes sit on this notorious ring. Continue reading

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Indonesia: Island Archipeligo Adventure

This was my first visit to Indonesia and it was a wonderful surprise. Indonesia is the world’s largest island archipeligo with more than 17,500 islands, of which 6,000 are inhabited, and only 1000 are permanently settled. Don’t be misled by this island nation…the total land mass is roughly 3 times the size of Texas. The 5 major islands are densely populated, with the island of Java (about the size of New York state) being the most densely populated area on earth. Indonesia is home to beautiful green vegetation, golden beaches, and volcanic peaks. Each island has its own culture that has been beautifully preserved through dance, story telling, shadow puppets, and arts and crafts. The people are proud of their heritage and their nation (formed in 1948 after World War II). This is truly a place to experience a facinating blend of cultures, majestic landscapes, ancient arts and crafts, and Indonesian cuisine.

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Horses, Camels & Donkeys…Oh MY!

There are a number of ways to get to the carefully hidden ancient city of Petra from the entrance to this magnificent site. After entering, the options for transport are: on foot, on horseback, or by horse drawn carriage along the path to the Siq (canyon walk). We chose to walk since it was a beautiful, sunny day in January, and the path is well kept and easy to manage. The walk through the siq is breathtaking, with each turn displaying a shaft of unexpected light, changing colors of the rock face and

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Finding the Lost City

Lorene at Petra

Finding the Lost City of Petra

There is something truly exhilarating about exploring a hidden city, built and left uninhabited by a lost civilation. Walking the winding path of the Siq, between narrow canyon walls was a trek of building anticipation. Each turn along the canyon walk brings new hope of what will be seen next. At that final turn, one can see a slice of the “Treasury” building of Petra, gleaming orange in the gap between the canyon walls. I have wanted to see Petra ever since I watched Indiana Jones Continue reading

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