Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tips for getting paid for writing stuff!

Get paid for published articles you submit to the following sites.You may just have the knowledge, the experience and the insightfulness to get your work published.Hey, you've got to be good though! But each of us has a unique skill,knowledge or an experience no one else has got.Write about it.Submit it.
Who knows, there could be a future in it for you!

Paid writing websites.

Now bookmark these sites.Get intimate with each of them.They all have their way of doing things.Some will bulletin board a list of subjects they want articles submitted for.Others you can write upon a subject,have it listed, and if another party likes it enough to want to use it, then you get paid.
Keep browsing them as now and again a subject will be posted that you have the unique insight to go for!
Contact them.Show them your website blogs.Submit an article on any subject.If you live in some favoured travel destination and really know the area or country, make contact with them and suggest a subject to them.You never know, you may just make the editors turn their minds in that direction.
And keep plugging away.You'll be improving your skills,honing your insightfulness,making contacts,creating little ripples that may turn into a wave....or a tsunami!Get people to notice you and your style and area of expertise.
You've got your own blogsite up and running.Well you have haven't you?Better get on and set one up.Because some editors may want to look your work over.You've got to show them the quality of your work, it's uniqueness, it's fresh angle on a subject, and it's appeal ability.

Try these-

Set up your own blogsite free.Free website design, and free hosting.But there's a wee bit to learn.Just remember, take a step at a time.

Then get writing.
Spend time reading other blogs.Check out their style and format.Some subjects suit an essay approach.Others get more notice by bullet points or the ''10 tips on surviving ....!" style.Pitch the format to the subject and your audience.
I hope this is enough to inspire you.!

But remember, it's fun!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

So You've Thought About Volunteering Overseas?

I'd like to introduce our guest writer Norbert Figueroa from GloboTreks Travels .We've been chatting about volunteering as he's read a few posts of our volunteer experiences I've written about on this site.
So we both felt there is real value to our readers if we explore this subject in depth.And I'll follow up Norbert's post later on with thoughts and advice from our 'hands on ' experiences.Norbert poses some very relevant questions and offers great answers.Please, chip in and post any comments and questions.And if you have any voluntour experiences yourself, we'd really like to read them.

How to Select a Good Volunteering Program
Voluntourism (Volunteer Tourism) is an ever-increasing travel niche that has introduced itself into the travel mainstream –and with a good purpose. Volunteer travel is a way to explore the world while helping a community, a wildlife cause, a non-profit organization, or others in need. It is a way to give a hand, give resources, and give hope to people and places you never knew, but that you’ll never forget once you’re back at home.
When looking for a volunteer host or program there are a couple questions you should ask yourself in order to make an informed decision. This selection process will be beneficial for you and for your cause because, in the end, the resources will be highly focused and productive. Here are some of the questions to consider when searching for a volunteer program.

Why should you volunteer?
Your assistance as a volunteer benefits a given program or cause and helps them realize their goals or at least make them more achievable by being part of an ongoing effort.
Volunteering is also a way to enrich yourself in many aspects like gaining new skills, learning a new language, and others. It helps enhance your resume and your career as well. If you’re still in school, it opens more possibilities for scholarships and financial aid to further your education. But even more important, it fulfills your need to help others.

Why should you pay to volunteer?
Most service organizations are non-profits and they only receive funding through donations, memberships, and grants. Your payment will help cover costs like business expenses, local staff, host families, food, orientation and training, supplies, airport pick up and drop off, manuals, etc.
Prices vary drastically among different programs, from only $20 per week to $1000+ per week. Make sure you verify what is included in your total capital contribution. But in the end, all or a portion of your payment will create a positive impact in a local family or individuals.

How much are you willing to pay?
Following the previous question, you should establish how much you consider your volunteer work is worth. You will find different organizations with different price settings performing the same tasks. Evaluate their prices (your capital donation), and see which one does the best benefit under your price range.

What do you want to do?
Volunteering provides many work opportunities that include: animal care and rescue, education, health, construction, local communities aid and development, and others.
Make sure you know what is involved in the program and what will be your role. You should feel comfortable with your roles as a volunteer in order to give your best (the biggest benefit) to your cause.

Where do you want to go?
As a traveler this is probably one of the first questions you should ask yourself. Decide a destination of your interest and search what volunteer programs they have available. Then out of those programs available, narrow it down to the programs and causes that appeals to you.
Another method can be by knowing a specific cause you want to contribute to and by searching locations around the world that address that cause.

How much time do you have?
Time is a big factor when volunteering. Your volunteer time frame can vary from a week to a year and more. Be aware that you might introduce yourself to a project at the beginning, middle, or end of its timeline. Most volunteer opportunities are ongoing causes that have been active for some time and will continue indefinitely or until achieving their goal. Depending on the time you contribute to your cause, you might be able to see the direct impact of your work. If not, do not get discouraged. Volunteer programs have long-term projects that are accomplished through the help of many short-term participants.

Do you agree with the organization’s mission?
Do your research about the organization that you’re interested in volunteering with. Read their mission and make sure that their working philosophy aligns with your goals and interest. Study their previous projects, organization history, goals achieved, and others.
See how open they are about their funding. Most organizations have it on display on their web page or facilitate it to you when asked. Look at their spending breakdown and see how your volunteer fee is allotted.
If you feel comfortable with the above information, then feel free to go ahead with that organization; if not, then move along, as there are other organizations that can use your help.

What do former volunteers say?
Social approval and word of mouth is one of the best ways to know how positive will be your contribution in a given project. Some volunteer organizations have forums that connect volunteers and help them share their thoughts and opinions. Forums are also a great way to get in touch with other volunteers that might be working on your same project. Google for articles and blog posts about the organization and projects. Connect with them through social networks to have a more interactive relationship even before you start your volunteer work.

A good directory that can help you select volunteer programs around the world is It helps you narrow down your search by type of work, world region, country, and duration.

As you can see, voluntourism is a great way to travel and get to know new places while helping others on the way. No matter how big or small your contribution might be, make sure that it is focused in something you are passionate about and that are willing to give your time and effort to improve it. In the end, you will have a gratifying experience and the satisfaction of having made a positive impact in the world.

Writer and Editor of GloboTreks Travels
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tsunami Blessing:Part 3.The Evil Sea!

Part 1-here
Part 2-here
Dec 27-1st Jan 05
Rather a sombre meet up that evening, for the start day with the Dragoman tour.Great mix of people.And more importantly still a tour! That truck had travelled down from Kathmandu and bush camped north of Chennai, right on the beach at a coastal village the night before.And packed up and headed off on the morning of the 26th around 7am and the Tsunami's first wave had rolled ashore just 2 hours later! Was that village obliterated? Were the children they had played with that night swept away? What would have happened if we hadn't left so early?!
I can recall the group asking those questions.What answers could be given?

As we listened to their conversation,these were a few of the comments made about their last night's tenting on that beach.
And James was talking about how he had been swimming in the sea that evening and walking back to the group and had greeted them saying "That sea feels evil tonight!" Why would he have said that?

And the biggie question now facing our tour was should our tour go ahead,or be diverted elsewhere.No one wanted to be gawking tourists travelling through such devastation, as our tour was going through a lot of the areas hit by the tsunami.
 So Babs, our tour leader,co- driver and general party animal rang ahead to a few of the hotels we were to stay at.Their message was imploring us not to cancel but to come, because all other tourists had skedaddled.Without tourists they would not earn any income.All their workers would have to be laid off.They needed us to continue.They needed our dollars!
Our Dragoman tour proceeded the following morning down to Mahabalipuram, our first night's stay.A most beautiful city, casuarina lined sandy shores, ancient temples and historical architecture.Here we found our hotel a km from the beach had been washed out.11 bodies had been found in the grounds.Our lodgings were transferred to another wing which had been mildly affected.We couldn't help noticing as we drove up the huge amounts of bedding, sheets, towels which had been recently washed drying on the bushes and trees lining the hotel driveway.And the cleaning up effort, all physical work being done by the women, while the men chose to exercise self importance of pointing out to the women where they should place the planks they were carrying! Well India is a very male dominated society  after all.
Mahabalipuram is a wonder of temples and sights.
The rock cut caves and temples cut from a single rock are awesome.And wandering along the road where stonemasons and artists show off their art is fascinating.I could have carted that statue home! I think she fell in love with me.Just look at that expression in her eyes! Pure wanton lust for me!
The Shore Temple  is one of the oldest of the south Indian Temples which were constructed in
the Dravidian style.The tsunami had badly damaged this World Heritage listed site and we were unable to visit as it was fenced off.We walked past a line of market stalls all trashed by the tsunami.Here once again the women cleaning and sweeping up,or shovelling mud out of their smashed up ramshackle shops, while men forcefully directed their efforts by telling them what to do!
Many of our group found a restaurant that had managed to reopen and were dragged in by the owner and seated for our midday lunch.An hour and a half later still no food served,(during this time I'd been off to do a bit of shopping down the street ) so I stepped to the rear of the restaurant to find out what the problem was.To see our man cooking all our various dishes over a single camp gas burner!The kitchen had been destroyed.And all his staff had gone to their wrecked village to help their families.He was on his own!
Next stop was Pondicherry that old coastal French territory (up until 1954) that still retains much of that Gallic charm and architecture.Beautiful colourful markets, flowers everywhere, rangoli (the geometrically intricate welcoming patterns on the pavements outside every house) and temples!

And panic! Absolute mayhem, and we got caught right up in it!.
Our huge overland truck inching it's way through such narrow crowded streets with just inches each side to spare, 5 blocks deep down this narrow road when from the direction of the beach crowds of people come running towards and past us.Some in panic.Others carrying toddlers or household goods.Waving and yelling.All heading the opposite way we were going....and we couldn't turn!
"Wave coming !"we finally hear someone yelling in English! "Wave Coming!"
The evil sea was coming again!Another tsunami!
Well, give Babs our leader and driver her due.Coolly she backed that truck up 5 blocks through those narrow streets.While we sat there wondering should we be running with the crowd.?..or sit there showing outer calm, no sign of fear, because that's what we foreign colonials would have done in the past? Carry on regardless, resolute, setting the stiff upper lip "What ho chum!Old boy!"
I think we all experienced a major bit of panic then, but sat there and stayed with the truck....Actually there was no way we could open the bloody door and run anyway!
We were later to find out the State Government had issued a tsunami warning which had turned out to be a false alarm.
But for us , the upshot was it cleared the last of the patrons out of all the downtown hotels!So when we turn up, and were booking into this cheap, basic concrete bunker of a backpacker type 2 star hotel,managers from hotels up and down the street were following us in, begging "You stay my hotel Sirs.You stay ,I give you cheapest rate!"
An hour later we had the best 5 star hotel in the street to ourselves.
And a few days layover to really explore the town, it's vibrant markets, walk the streets and admire the historical buildings.And to party hard for New Years Eve,...secretly.Because the State Government had decreed that no celebrations would be held for New Year.No parties.No alcohol to be served.Restaurants and hotels to be closed early.There were to be no incidents of foreigners drunk and partying, while India mourned it's dead!
We respected that.
But that night all the doors of our hotel were locked, blinds drawn,lights lowered,non house guests kicked out,....and Dragoman held it's New Year Eve party!And the hotel loved us because we were spending that money they desperately needed.

Throughout this tour,faced with the effect of the devastation on people's lives,it was being clearly exampled just how much people depend on tourist dollars.So we didn't see many other tourists.They had taken off. We had carried on, but very aware that they were having to pull their lives back together.And in this traumatic time,in this country where tourism is so important to a family's going hungry or not,the decision to carry on was the correct one.
What we saw and experienced  has meant a lot of soul searching over our travelling.And has profoundly changed the manner of our travels,and where we go and how we go.Nowadays, we choose places and style of travel wherein we can maximise our interaction with communities.Where we can contribute back.Get involved in projects that have an effect at a local level.Volunteer projects, particularly in wildlife conservation that also work closely with locals at a village level.

So no one has yet commented upon my calling this series, Tsunami Blessing. Why? Because it certainly wasn't for over 300,000 people killed in this huge natural catastrophe!
But there was a blessing.And a very personal blessing.Which unexpectedly touched me deeply.

I'll tell you about that in the final chapter.Stick around.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Gap Adventures Dunes, Deltas & Falls Discoverer

I have been asked about our trips to Southern Africa so I have revised this report on the trip we did in July 2008 that I had originally posted on GAP Adventures forum.The Wateringhole ,Gap Adventures forum
Trip Report-DAFD Original July 1st 2008.
This is my report on the Cape Town to Windhoek segment of the DAFD tour.I got off in Windhoek and my wife carried on for the full tour through Botswana to Victoria Falls.

My wife and I have travelled on many tours,with many companies, and on comfort or overland styles.But this tour ranks as the best we have ever experienced.An amazing and thoroughly enjoyable time.
It could be a difficult tour, with long drive times, and because of limited accommodation options, there are a few nights where this becomes an issue.And I know GAP have worked hard to address these issues, and improve/refine this tour, and make this now one of the great tours in their African portfolio.
It also takes a very special person as a tour guide to make every moment on this trip interesting,the long drive days pass by so quickly in good conversation, and for the whole tour to be a marvellous learning opportunity..
And it really helps if fellow travellers realise this is adventure travelling and that not everything is going to be as you want or expect.Surprises abound in this type of travel.We were blessed with companions who all showed a positive spirit .

Saasfeld Lodge and our transport awaits!

Saasfeld Lodge,Kloof Street, Cape Town, the start hotel, was adequate.New owners could do quick tidy up with a little paint here and there.Showers are tricky.But overall, it’s positioning more than made up for it’s shortcomings.It's just a short walk down to town, the cafe's , markets and historical buildings.
Guesthouses (Sir Lamberts Bay Guest House)in Lambert’s Bay made us feel warm and comfy.Really homely.
The Felix Unite Tented chalets at Gariep,on the Orange River were in such a picturesque setting.Loved that place.
Klein Aus Guest Farm dormitory lodge on the 4th night was an experience.And some people will find this an issue.But there is not much alternative accom. In the area, and so we approached this with a ‘go with the flow’ attitude.Even though it was cold and wet, and electricity had shorted out, our group showed a very positive’ Hey, it’s only 1 night.Let’s enjoy it”attitude.
And from there it was all uphill with great lodges, at Nubib Nature Camp, then Namib Desert Lodge.
Dunedin Star ,Swakopmund,clean and reasonable,and well positioned.Great service from helpful staff.
Igowati Lodge,Khorixas,Damaraland was a great nights accom, with many animals and birds wandering the place.
Etosha was tenting at Okaukuejo.Which was great as we were able to position our group close to the main watering hole viewing area.And the temperatures at night had warmed by then.
And where else could you have a honey badger snuffle silently up to you when drowsing off to sleep and give me a big smoochie through the tent canvas!?
Auas Hotel in Windhoek was excellent for positioning , cleanliness, and service.Right near a major shopping mall.

                                                                                          Our Okaukuejo,Etosha campsite.
Our 28 seater small bus had total of 18 , plus guide, guide assistant and driver.Which meant it was not too crowded.
With it’s truck chassis, it handled the unsealed roads very well.Not as gutsy, or grunty looking as an overland truck, but a very good comfortable choice for this type of travel.And at Etosha, very suitable for the game drives, as all the game was well in view from the various tracks.We felt no compelling reason to opt for going with the optional game drive safaris.And saw plenty of game, and including 3 lions from our bus.For that time of year, when game is concentrating around the main watering holes,there is not quite the need to take the optional game safaris.Quite different perhaps during wet season where game has to be searched for.Optional game safaris may be the best option then.

Our guide Gerhard Schwanepol, was an exceptional person.Always enthusiastic, an excellent conversationalist,a great sense of humour, and extremely well organised.Gutz was right up there as a leader.Enthusing us all with being great adventure people.Who’d have thought anyone could get 18 tourists to lie on the ground at Dead Vlei, spelling out GAP for a photo shoot?
Gerda, our assistant guide was a wonderful , cheerful and enthusiastic person.
Joseph our driver, worked hard on those long drive days.

              Our Gutsy guide!

The water hole at Okaukeujo,Etosha
Driving up the C35 into Damaraland, we were greeted by a lone cow elephant,browsing a mopani tree by the side of the road.
"Welcome to my territory" she seemed to say."And here is my family"as the rest of the herd crossed the road right in front of us.A 14 strong herd I was to meet up with 8 days later on my EHRA volunteer project I would be joining.This was the main desert elephant herd headed by huge matriarch Mama Africa.
At Etosha, there was an endless stream of game coming into the watering hole at Okaukuejo.Springbok,oryx,impala,kudu,zebra,elephants etc.And at one time there were 6 black rhino in view .
Our game drive in the bus found us observing 2 lionesses over an oryx kill and a male at a nearby water hole.
Heading into the dry season now will see more animals concentrate around the main holes.

For some travellers, this tour with long drive days may be trying.But for myself ,with an interest in Biology, I found that there was never a boring moment.In fact I relished the opportunity to observe the ever changing environment as we travelled up from Cape Town and into true desert areas.Southern Africa has very unique plant life, and it was a joy to observe many plant species we may grow at home as houseplants,flourishing in their natural state.As you travel through various vegetation zones, you will observe how various specie become dominant, then others take over.
Take an interest in how various plants have adapted to survive in these arid areas.From the geometrically beautiful forms of various Aloes, to the spiky candelabra Euphorbias,and the occasional protea, or fields of stonecrops/crassulas.
And for the tours going through Namarqualand in Late Aug/early Sept, you should be enjoying the veld come alive in brilliant colour as wildflowers will be at their best.We were lucky to see only some sparse early showings.

Overall, this trip exceeded our expectations.On the 10th day my wife and I looked at each other and virtually said at the same time-“We’ll have to cancel our North American tour next year , because after this,America is going to be too tame for us!”
The big fear we have now, is how can any future tour ever be as good!?

And for anyone reading this and thinking about an African trip with Gap Adventures,I can fully recommend them.And hey!You can help us adopt a baby elephant here-
How? Because if you do want to enquire or book your trip with Gap Adventures, click on the Gap Adventures or Discovery Tours advert you see on the right of this page.Any tour booked online which originates through those adverts means this site earns a commission on sales from Gap Adventures.And all that money we earn ,less any tax, we will be donating back to wildlife conservation.
So help us help Africa's wildlife! Doesn't cost you anything extra, but your booking can save an elephant orphan!
And that will put a smile on everybody's face then!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Weekly Desktop Photo

"We love your hat Mr Jim!"
Nothing quite like the smile on a kids face is there? And I often put this photo up on my computer desktop screen just to remember these kids.
Look at that boy's fantastic smile! Brilliant white teeth, a cheeky furtive look sideways, peeking out from under my hat. I love it! And all the other kids so engrossed in the moment, everyone a different pose or expression, but all caught at that perfect moment of total enjoyment.
Not the best quality photo sorry but came across it on my Sony Handycam and I had taken a few stills on it. Only 3MP. But it still is a GREAT photo.
Anixab, Damaraland, Namibia. The kindergarten at A Gariseb Primary School that EHRA have 'adopted' to renovate and repair. Pop along to this link and enjoy the reports here -EHRA School Program
Here is EHRA's latest report-
Over the next month three intrepid schools are coming to EHRA to complete our Wilderness Challenge Expedition. The first is our good friend King Alfred's School from London, UK. We have 13 students and 2 brave teachers coming along. The students have been busy raising money for their project at A.Gariseb Primary School, which this year is a huge vegetable garden to compliment the hostels feeding programme. Indeed whilst planning the garden we have realised that it involved ALOT of hard work and we are going to have to really push to finish it with in the week. However we have no doubts that we will suceed!

Secondly comes 14 students from Felstead School through World Challenge in the UK who were also here last year. Felstead School are going to be the first group performing rennovation work at EHRA's new partner school, Frans Frederick Primary in Fransfontien. The school has not seen a lick of paint in the last 50 years so we have our work cut out. However, having revamped A.Gariseb over the last 6 years we know that anything is possible with a bit of hard work, cement, polyfilla, paint and willing hands!

The third school is a new visitor to EHRA, St Andrew's School from Canada and we have 22 students and 4 teachers coming along! St Andrews are also heading through to Fransfontien and as they are such a large team we are expecting great things from them! Each group, after completing the rennovation project will then go on to trek through the Ugab River and learn to navigate using maps, a compass, a pencil and a ruler! The highlight of their challenge is to navigate on their own from one camp to the next, a journey of about 25kms.

So, we say a huge thank you in advance for the hard work fundraising and the hard work to come, and very good luck for the navigation trek!


Friday, July 16, 2010

Diamonds at my feet.

The unwary traveller.

Where on earth did that big lizard go? It was just too big to disappear like that. I was sure it crossed the road about here in front of our 4WD. We'd slammed to a stop after seeing a huge monitor type reptile stalk across the Gibb River Road, Western Australia, and I'd grabbed a camera and ran back to try for a picture, but it had disappeared. Once it got into the knee-high grass it must have shot off so quickly. Must have been nearly 2 metres long.
Then I see diamonds at my feet in the grass. Beautiful yellow and black diamonds seeming to sparkle in the early morning sunlight, lying scattered in the long grass along a deep dark, scaly, greenish body, and as my eyes follow the diamond trail my mind is just starting to recognise the outline of that huge Bungarra so perfectly camouflaged in the grass just centimetres from my boots. I flick my camera to video. Then I kick it's tail....
                   A smaller  Bungarra seen at Tunnel Creek later in our Extraordinary Taxi Ride.

Whooosh, that Bungarra takes off so fast before I realised I hadn't even turned the camera on!
Doug, our driver had warned me they can take to you and leave a nasty bite. But I hadn't given that a thought. It was just such an unusual event for any Kiwi out in the Australian Bush, and seeing such an incredibly beautiful reptile overrode any sense of caution I should have used.
 I often had to stop and think about that lack of caution, because here in New Zealand we grow up in a country that has no dangerous animals, and very few toxic plants either. Our original natural biosystem had no land mammals apart from native bats and seals. Oh, sure there is our Katipo spider that may give you a nasty poisonous nip but very rarely encountered. But no bears in our woods, no crocs in our rivers and lakes, no snakes in our fields. We have such a safe environment for the hiker or even that family picnic at some riverside. So in my travels, I have had to consciously be very aware that I am in another country, and I cannot just go haring off into their veld or forests without learning about the dangers that may be waiting-no matter how low the actual risk- because the unexpected encounter can happen.
I've just been discussing with my wife this concept of being ignorant of other countries wildlife. She reminded me of a friend's story about their business-sponsored family trip to Zambia many years ago. Hot and sweaty, the river's edge seemed like a great spot to cool off for her and her toddler child. While she was reading her book on the bank, she was shocked to look up to see a native walk out of the high grass and down to the river and abduct her child! She was about to scream for help when the child was brought to her in his arms, and placed before her.
"Crocodiles, Madam. No play by river, Madam".

And I'm reminded of one of the scariest moments I have ever had.
In the desert in Damaraland, Namibia, on a volunteer project with Elephant-Human Relations Aid, EHRA, building a rock wall around a farm well. We'd camped in a dry riverbed near our work site, cooked over a campfire, thrown our sleeping bags on the ground, slept in the open under our billion-star hotel, and woken before dawn to make an early start. Around midday, I go wandering off seeking privacy around a bend in the dry river bed to answer call of nature. That mound of leaves blown into a pile under the bank looked just the perfect spot. Squatting and just about to go in Nature's bathroom when the pile of leaves rustled so if something was moving through the leaf pile rapidly. Right beneath my exposed rear!
This Kiwi jumped up and made the fastest dash out of there! Who knows what it was. Snake or lizard? Gee, that was one heck of a shock! Heart thumping stuff!
And this moment I wrote about here- Elephant behind me!
These encounters may be rare but they can happen, so now I like to do a little research before a new journey just so I'm aware of how I need to react when something surprises me again. And so when my friend mentions he'd like to walk part of the Appalachian Trail or in that general area, while in the USA visiting relations, I thought I'd Google around for info for him. He's not all that computer savvy. But he's another dumb Kiwi with no knowledge of wildlife in the area, no sense of caution and I just can't let him get chased by a bear in those woods, can I?
Observing wildlife, however dangerous it may be, is one of the true delights in hiking backwoods areas. And I'm sure he'll be overjoyed if he is lucky enough to come across a black bear, but whether he's got enough nouse to know how to handle the situation is another matter. According to this report, bear sightings are slim but becoming more frequent-  Bear sighting report -a sign of a growing population hopefully. As that report says,they're hardly likely to be seen and just as unlikely to attack. And like most wild animals, unless cornered, they'll want to avoid you. I read that hikers are encouraged to make noise as they hike when in bear areas, to give them a chance to avoid you. And that is where we Kiwis need to learn about where we are hiking because, back home, we would normally hike in silence so as not to scare wildlife away, and to be able to listen to our birdlife. So we need to adapt to where we are. We Kiwis can be very rowdy at times! I'm sure he will be.
And then there are snakes, bobcats, and coyotes, etc, all part of that wonder of Nature. And we are lucky if we do see them. But usually they'll slink away silently soon as they hear or even smell you coming.
I'm sure the Hocking Hills trails of southern Ohio will be a delight for him to walk, and even more delightful would be the  experience should he do have a chance encounter with bears. Getting back to Nature is what draws a lot of people to hiking any wilderness areas, wherever they are. And dangerous animals are just a part of that natural wonder. Without them,the experience would be lacking. We shouldn't  be put off walking these trails because of our fears, but we can learn to understand nature and embrace it.
Umm... but don't embrace bears !


Thursday, July 15, 2010

EHRA Elephant-Human Relations Aid

There are a couple of posts in my Archives EHRA 2008 regarding my time with EHRA, Elephant Human-Relations Aid.A private organisation based in Damaraland, Namibia working to  mitigate human/wildlife conflict there.From our perspective Elephants are such marvellous creatures, and we are slowly beginning to understand that they possess a very high intelligence, and an amazing social structure and awareness.Sometimes when I read about the research that is going on with these creatures,I can't help thinking it's we humans who are the dumb ones.
And that's all very well, but then we also need to look at elephants from the perspective of locals, the villagers and farmers that have contact with them every day.And in their search for water and food, in a country that, at most times of the year, is very dry and the vegetation sparse, with growing herd numbers, elephants are now moving back into areas where they have  been unknown for over a century.Shot out of their traditional roaming areas, their return brings them into conflict with  humans who have moved into these areas and whose sole income in most cases is their farms and their sheep, goats and cattle.
So village or farm water points,wells, storage tanks, and pipelines are sought out by thirsty elephants who need to drink over 40 litres a day.And for most times of the year, rivers in Namibia are just a dry, sandy riverbed.Here and there a waterhole, or water may be close enough to the surface for eles to dig a seephole.
But if  you're a local farmer,and eles are breaking down your facilities as they try to drink from your well, you will want to protect your livelihood.You've got mouths to feed.And you have no money for repairs .
But you have got an old rifle........
That's one way to solve the situation for yourself!
But EHRA work with the community to offer another, long lasting solution which solves the conflict and encourages local people to live with elephants.
Building rock wall protection around water points, at a height which still allows eles to get their trunk over and drink, but without damaging expensive facilities.Simple.Effective.
But expensive from a communities point of view.Johannes Haasbroek recognised the problem and came up with a solution.A volunteer project where the volunteer pays to fund the materials needed, and actually builds the rock wall.
Easy.But why would someone from an affluent background pay to go and build a rock wall in Namibia?
I kept asking myself that question after I signed up for the project for July 2008.And I'm still asking that 2 years later as I look forward to signing on again.Perhaps I'll find the answer this time.It's crazy but so many volunteers go back there.Or go on to other volunteer projects, either in Africa or other parts of the world.
For me at the time, it was a real desire to just get as far away from my lifestyle as I possibly could.Push out those boundaries we tend to draw closer around us as we age.Seek out a challenge.And also to answer a need to be involved with wildlife I'd felt for so long.

So for others reading this,who are thinking about a volunteer project, I can only encourage you to do it.And EHRA will be a great start.Ask me any questions you have.I'll be glad to answer.
Meantime there is a website here  to read an excellent report on EHRA and the work they do.
Enjoy !

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boxing Day Tsunami Blessing Part 2.

The Day After.Dec 27th 2004
The Driver's Revenge!
Please refer here for -Part 1

The Tsunami had hit the East Coast of India on the morning of our arrival day in Chennai, wreaking destruction all along the  east coastline.Luckily Chennai city itself was spared major damage because it's major port and breakwaters took the brunt, although many ships were damaged and lives lost in the harbour area.We had arrived in the city late that evening, unaware of the event.
The following day was our start day with Dragoman,on an overland truck tour from Chennai down the South East Coast to Cape Comorin and up the west side to Goa and finish at Mumbai.
Dragoman Chennai to Mumbai
It's amazing how blissfully unaware we were that this destruction was having on our friends and family back home.Being in the strike zone you don't get the same perspective of the calamity, that they were getting back home.We were seeing very little evidence,but  TV news gives a roundup of all the worst bits of disaster, and runs them together endlessly.So they were panicking for our survival....we were out sightseeing.They were ringing our travel agent,airlines, embassies etc...we hardly even thought about ringing them or even emailing.We've been told off about that.I think the kids were even thinking how much the inheritance was....
So Kay, Lynley, (our close friend and travel companion) and I met up with another traveller for the Dragoman trip, Patrick( a guy who seems to wander up and down mountains around this world's 7 continents, when not cycling in far off places) and we all hired a taxi for the day and took off sightseeing.Now Indian taxi drivers will try to  rip you off.So we had written down on paper the places we wanted to see.And I'm sure this driver feigns not being an English speaker and takes off with his car full of hijacked passengers.He kept on saying 'Go Mahabalipuram", but we didn't want to go there, because that was first stop on our tour.But half an hour later, we figure we're halfway there and this taxi driver wants to run up a huge taxi bill. So it was a very surly driver that finally turned around after 4 very irate passengers threatened to thump him.Gee you've got to have your wits about you with Indian taxi drivers.Never a word out of him for the rest of our tour, as he sunk into his silence.I'm sure he wanted to get back at us.
But we got to see Fort St George and St Mary's Church.Then off to Santhome Basilica.Built over the tomb of Saint Thomas, and that's unusual as only 2 other churches in the world are built over the tombs of Saints.The others are Basilica of Saint Peter built over the tomb of St.Peter in Rome,and the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela built over the tomb of St.James in Spain.  Even more interesting is that Saint Peter arrived in Chennai way back in AD 52.Spreading Christianity long before the arrival of the Portuguese.
Basilica of Santhome
So that was a must see for us.
The inside has been renovated recently and is well worth viewing.

But it was outside when the stark face of the tsunami disaster hit us.Outside,  to the rear of the Basilica were groups of men and women crowded into a large semi open sided warehouse type building.Some were cooking.Others lined up at a makeshift kitchen being served a small bowl of rice with nothing else added to it.I struck up a conversation with a local and was told that these were survivors of the tsunami.
"The fisher people from the beach ,the children were washed away sir!".
And for so many families there, there were so few young children......
The Church had opened it's heart to the people of all faiths,and were feeding the masses.
We found a Church aide taking donations and gave what we had.Simply not enough.These were people who not only had lost loved ones, but all their few possessions, all their clothing,even basic cooking utensils.These are the survivors of the fishing families that lived in makeshift huts, eking out their precarious living and raising their lost children amongst their boats,along the adjacent beach.And along with the wave went their livelihoods.Their fishing boats smashed, their nets shredded, and other gear swept away.
I only took 1 photo as I had no wish to intrude further.

And we'd had enough sightseeing.This really put us off .But we asked our still surly driver to take us along the beach to see the wave damage.It was only now beginning to sink in just how much devastation had occurred, so surely we'd be able to see it as we drove past.
But to us as we drove slowly by, there seemed to be very little.No real damage to see.No bodies, no smashed huts or wreckage.Where was it all?We couldn't get on to the beach as the police were keeping everyone off it.So I remarked "Doesn't seem to be much damage to see here!"
"16,000 people lived on that beach sir."came the quiet reply from our driver."The wave swept them away".
This gawking tourist cringed, as that driver set his knife of revenge in and twisted it!
That sticks in my mind.
What was more frightening about the tsunami strike on India , we were to read in the newspaper when we got back to our hotel.India has 27 nuclear reactors, most placed around it's coastline, where desalination plants supply cooling system water.Imagine reading how the tsunami caused major damage and 50 deaths at the  nuclear power plant worker's village,just 80 kilometres away from Chennai! Luckily, no sea water entered the cooling system intakes.
More to follow.Bookmark this.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Our Family's New Dog!

We have a mut. A rescue mut. She was supposed to be a wee dog when we got her. But you never can really tell when they're 4 month's old just how big they will eventually grow. Size of the feet! That's a pointer to their adult size. Works most of the time, but in this case someone didn't mention how long their legs could grow!
So we ended up with a horse!

That is one long legged, mongrel! Grown from a pup, who had been lost on Wellington's streets for months, probably a Christmas puppy gift, abandoned, found just skin and bones, starving, lost most of her hair, in such bad shape SPCA were going to euthanise her. But they took her in, gave her 2 weeks to respond to feeding or it was the end for her. Luckily she recovered.
We'd seen many dogs that left me cold that day at the Wellington SPCA when we went there to get another after 2 long time family dogs had passed on. And we'd made a pact it was going to be a small dog, something easy to manage, a dog we could leave with friends when we took off on our often long gone travels. When we saw her we knew nothing of her past, just a pup being walked past us on a leash by a wonderful volunteer walker.
When this pup walked past us, something just clicked!
And I said that's our dog.
And Lilly became part of our lives. Well, mainly mine. She and I walk to work each day. She minds my shop. Barks like mad to tell me a client is coming up the drive, then walks out the back to allow them in. She's my companion at work. Deaf to my endless rabbitting on. Forever pretending attentiveness to my latest profound diatribe. Never argues back. Just takes it on her chin as if to say "Get it off your chest. I'm listening!"
Why can't all the women in my life be like that?!!

And now our family has another dog.
Well not at home, but in Namibia. And it's not a dog you would want at home as they're rather untameable. Our new dog is an African Wild Dog or Painted Dog- one of Africa's most endangered animals. Originally estimated to number in excess of 500,000 and ranging across vast areas in Africa below the Sahara. Now sadly numbers have declined to less than 5,000! Hunting, disease and loss of wild habitat have all taken their toll.
african wilddog
At Naankuse, Namibia last August we had the privilege of seeing these up close. There are two brothers in a huge enclosure, as when taken in as pups, close human habituation has left them vulnerable if released into the wild, having lost their fear of humans. Sometimes sanctuaries have to balance up the ethics of keeping an animal in captivity against the realities of an uncertain fate if released.
Read about Naankuse here- Naankuse sanctuary
NaanKuse have recently taken in 14 wild dog pups from an area where they face persecution. With less than 200 wild dogs, (some estimates as low as 150) in all of that huge country of Namibia, there was very slim chance those pups would survive. But with possibly 10% of the entire wild dog population's survival at stake,what else should have been done?
Naankuse on facebook

Sure, the pups now in care will be human habituated, and now be unsuitable for survival if released.
This website has been set up with the object of helping fund conservation projects just like this. So our family has adopted one of these pups. And around May 2011, we will visit Naankuse and see first hand how our pup is. Take that first step in direct assistance in protecting Africa's diminishing wildlife. Adopt a Wild Dog Pup. That pup needs you!
If you have Paypal already set up then you can send the donation to
and put in the notes £50 for wild dog pup. Or use your credit card.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Face of Beauty.

This is the Face of modern beauty today-
Yep do you like this picture?
Do you cringe with disgust and recoil in horror from such a beautiful face, the modern face of youthfulness, of never ageing, of unlined and unblemished perfection?
Hey, it's just a rhino missing half its face, namely it's horns. Don't worry, they've just been chainsawn off while it's still alive but drugged or heavily tranquilised -yes surely-so it didn't feel any pain...until it wears off! And now the Chinese retailers of rhino horn are demanding and paying for the best, and that's got to come from live rhino, not those shot and then hacked off.
No, it's  got to be alive because then it's got the highest potency. And when people around this world have got the dosh to spend trying to beat the effects of ageing to retain their youthful looks, to fool themselves or be in denial that they are ageing or getting more wrinkles, crows feet, and more blemishes, and in desperation seek out  any exotic remedy to beat Nature, it just doesn't matter that a little pill of powdered rhino horn can be bought.
It's only a little bit anyway. Just a little...but that's another rhino doomed!

Well that rhino's face was once beautiful. And one of the most beautiful sights you'll ever see is the face of a rhino, with a full set of horns, and a young rhino beside her. But sadly that rhino will suffer horribly and die. Hopefully a game ranger may euthanise her.

The other face of beauty.

And this is the other face of beauty.
Read the report here-

She has since recanted and protested it was just a joke.
A joke!
Elle says joke!

This is the reality of rhino poaching, fuelled by it's use in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an aphrodisiac. And powdered rhino horn is also prescribed to treat chest pains, convulsions, snake bites, food poisoning, fevers -anything almost– and now it looks like a new folklore has sprung up around it as an anti-ageing remedy.
How many people reading Elle's outlandish statement may be desperate enough, and rich enough, to want to believe it?

South African National Parks (SANParks) reports suggest that rhino poaching in South Africa has escalated even further since the beginning of the year, with 92 rhinos having been lost in the past five months alone.

The Kruger National Park is being particularly hard hit : 33 rhinos have been lost so far this year.
Four of the five rhinoceros species occupy spots on the top 100 EDGE endangered mammals list .

We visited Kruger National Park August last year, and were privileged to view rhino on a number of occasions. Their poor eyesight allowing you to sit quietly in your car,while their massive great bulk amble slowly towards you like a creeping armoured vehicle, cropping the grass as they came. And it was really comical as one used a huge rock to scratch itself.
So this photo is the face of real beauty -a rhino with it's horn- as it should be.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Boxing Day Tsunami Blessing.

Boxing Day Tsunami Blessing Part 1.

There may (but hopefully not!) come a time in every one's life when you're confronted by the reality of the personal tragedy inflicted upon a family, or even a whole community,by the sometimes cataclysmic power of Mother Nature.A hurricane, a flash flood after torrential rain, or the greater damage of a tsunami generated by an earthquake perhaps.A sudden clash of Earth's tectonic plates.Caused by that slow increase of tension as the earth's plates move ever so slightly against it's neighbours, building  up stress over perhaps centuries, and finally reaching a breaking point , suddenly released in a massive violent explosion of energy.So often we feel minor quakes here in New Zealand , a country spreadeagled full length on a major earthquake-generating collision zone between two of the Earth's great tectonic plates.
An awesome event, but it happens to others.Somewhere else.We read about it in the news.Watch it sometimes on the TV.Sure we stock up on survival gear,heeding the warnings issued from Civil Disaster bureaus, and throw another can of beans towards the back of the cupboard, and store away another bottle of water, for that oneday, someday emergency.We've done our bit.We're ready .
But are we really?
And are we really aware of how it affects those survivors?.....................................
But throughout this discourse, keep in mind how drastic the effects are on people who have nothing, being hit with a major disaster like this tsunami, and how they go about picking up their lives from the wreckage.

Boxing Day,December 26th, 2004. Arriving in Singapore airport, in transit for our onwards flight to Chennai, blearily wandering through the lounge areas,briefly seeing a TV screen showing a schematic map,arrows pointing outwards from a bulls eye in the Andaman Sea,but too many people gathered around with eyes transfixed on the news report for us to bother to stop and see what was going on.
Eventually carrying on with our flight and arriving in Chennai very late in that evening.A taxi to our hotel through eerily empty streets in the dark.Shops all shuttered.No one on the street.Strange?.Not the India we were expecting.Where were the masses?The huddling, heaving, grasping masses of poor street people desperate to grab a tourist and shake him til a dollar drops out of his pocket.Where were they?Why so silent?Where were the markets, the pavement vendors, the hawkers, the vibrant colour and life of India we'd read so much about?
Staff at our arrival hotel in broken English greeting us with ''Big wave Sir.Big wave"
Responding with a tired big wave from me in return.And a bellhop taking our bags to our room.
"Big wave sir!"A big wave back to him as we fish out small change for the tip.
"You watch TV sir!"
"No we want to go to bed!"
"Watch TV sir.You watch TV!"
And we watched TV.
We watched and we watched TV!
As the enormity of the drama, the tragedy visited upon India , and the rest of the countries surrounding that arrowed sea on the airport TV screen hit us!
Yeah, a big wave alright.A huge frikken wave!
More, much more to follow.Stay tuned!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Lucky Lizard!

Reg and Jim's Extraordinary Taxi Ride courtesy Tourism Western Australia on YouTube here-
taxi ride on youtube
That lovely lizard was a lucky fellow as 5 4wds ran right over the top of him.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Be In To Win An Extraordinary Prize!!

Here's a great prize to be won here on Holes in My Soles!
One pair of Extraordinary Shoes as worn by me on Tourism Western Australia's recent promotion to be won by a lucky man .
These shoes have been tried and tested, dunked in Tunnel Creek,climbed Mitchell Falls,walked the red dirt of the Gibb River Road, and kicked the cr*p out of salwater crocs that got too close at Windjana Gorge.Actually they didn't do that but might have had to if they'd got too close.
Anyway, they held together, lasted the distance,kept me comfortable,with  just the slightest hint of a blister after 10 days solid wear throughout our adventure.

 So the idea is to make some lucky winner another pair.And you can win a pair.
On the right hand side , scroll down to 'Followers', click on the 'Follow 'Icon and you'll be guided through a quick process.You may need to create a Google account.
A short explanation is here-register
By registering on this site I get to know I've got readers.Wouldn't be the same if I'm just chatting to myself all the time.So to make it worthwhile, these Extraordinary shoes will be won by a draw from all my first 100 registered Followers!

Now why getting my readership up is so important is this-this site is 'Monetized'.
(That means this site can earn a few cents from any click on any advert carried on this site.Now this does not mean you are paying.It means the advertisers pay me if someone clicks on an advert.)Now you can play a part in this by-
1.Spreading the word around your contacts.
2.Linking to this site.
3.Checking out the adverts, and if you want to book an adventure tour with Gap Adventures,click through from their advert on this page and I get a few dollars.

And when this site begins to earn a few dollars every month, ALL those earnings (less any tax) will be donated back to wildlife conservation.Now take the time to have a browse over this site, The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust based near Nairobi, Kenya.
Read about the wonderful work these people are doing in rescuing baby elephants, often found suckling on their 3 day dead mothers teats after poachers slaughtered her just for her small tusks!Yes, you and I can work together to raise the few dollars neccessary to adopt 1 or more of those baby elephants and help in their protection work.
Or this-
How about those beautiful wild dogs!?Only 150 left in all of Namibia.Sad, but we can help.

Do you think it's all worthwhile?
Well, to help make it worthwhile I'll make some lucky guy a pair of the Extraordinary Shoes(as seen on TV :-) here-
the adventure traveller

The extraordinary taxi ride

Youtube Taxi Ride

So scroll down on right hand side, and click on 'Follow' and let's get some animals saved!
And for all you ladies,I'm sure there's a special man in your life you can win these for!
PS.As in all competitions, the judges decision is not open to question.:-)
Drawn when we hit 100 Followers.
Winner's name drawn from my first 100 followers.(includes current followers)
Winner's name will be posted on this site and on my Facebook page.
P&P included.

Uluru disrepect!
Rocking the world this week is this news that a stripper climbs and is filmed dancing on Uluru(once called Ayers Rock) in Northern Territory, Australia.Well personally I'm appalled.
Well can you imagine how we would feel if the same act was performed in some of our sacred sites?Westminster Abby,The Vatican, or even inside your own local church down the road.
Sure, she can now attempt to justify her actions,(now that she's made her claim to infamy in the news media and no doubt some women's magazine is now discussing just how much they will offer her for her story...) but the repercussions may go further.
Because the local indigenous tribe the Anangu are rightly offended and since they are the owners of Uluru which is leased by the Anangu people to Parks Australia, perhaps they will now move to ban all visitors from climbing Uluru.
Alison Hunt, traditional owner and member of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of management said she was "angry and disgusted" at the stunt.

"This is an important spiritual place," she said. "It's not a tribute to the traditional owners, it's an insult.
"We try to share our land and work together and we think it is disgusting for someone to try and make money out of our sacred land," Ms Hunt said.
Yes, the Anangu share Uluru with us all, and do ask us, the visitors there not to climb Uluru and treat it with respect.It's theirs.They have a right to ask that.
And they certainly have a right to have their sacred sites, their property respected as they would want.

I posted the following over at my favourite travel forum-
The wateringhole.gapadventures travel forum
Looks like it may have it's repercussions in bringing in a closure of climbing earlier than was intended.
There are some ignorant acts done by unthinking people ....sad to see this happen.

And away there where the wind is blown
Never before felt so alone
More aware of skin and bone
I watch the parade of human folk
Strips of rubber,cans of Coke
Making dust and blowing smoke

Where the awe-inspiring power of time
Leaves some fearful,some sublime
White man feels his progress prime
Black man feels no urge to climb.

John Williamson , 1989 Warragul recording of Ancient Mountains.A CD I brought back from our Kimberley adventure.It's a song about the diferent atitudes Aboriginal and Europeans have to the mountains, and Uluru in particular.

Do we all practise respect for other cultures, their beliefs and religions as we travel?