School girl in Panajachel, Guatemala, selling fabrics. She says "Why don't you buy my stuff?" I gave her a little Australian flag.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Beagle Channel, Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego is the big island located at the very southernmost tip of South America. The Beagle Channel provides a safe southern route lengthwise from east to west, allowing ships to bypass the treacherous Cape Horn further to the south. This narrow channel through the mountains is named after Captain Robert Fitzroy's ship the "Beagle", used during a British surveying voyage of 1834. On board was Charles Darwin the ship's naturalist and recorder of the expedition. His account is now a classic book and collector's item, the "Voyage of the Beagle" , which was a precursor of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

The Beagle Channel has spectacular mountain scenery with many glacier-filled fiords joining up with the channel. The best way to see everything is to take the weekly cruise ship "Terra Australis" (ca 120 passengers) from the Chilean port of Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan. The cruise goes easterly along the Beagle Channel to as far as Puerto Williams, which is a Chilean naval base on island of Navarino. Next port of call is to the northern shore and the Argentine port of Ushuaia, which is an important tourist and industrial town on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego. At Ushuaia the cruise ship drops off and takes on passengers and goes westward back along the channel to Punta Arenas, taking 6 days in all. When I did the cruise I left the ship at Ushuaia to explore that part of Tierra del Fuego for 10 days, then returned overland by bus to Punta Arenas

Docking at Ushuaia early in the morning. Snow still on the hills early November.

Old Chilean gun emplacement near Puerto Williams, one time guarding the Beagle Channel from intruders.

Allano views the Beagle Channel from the top of Cerro Bandera at Puerto Williams.

Friday, December 26, 2014

A visit to Volcan Masaya in Nicaragua

Volcan Masaya is an active volcano close to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. It is part of Parque Nacional Volcan Masaya with over 20 kms of hiking trails. However, you don't have to climb to the top because a road goes to the summit giving a view from the crater lip. Half way there is an excellent museum which explains all about the park and the volcanism of the region.
(Click on fotos to enlarge)

The Spaniards regarded this volcano as the Gates of Hell. Masaya last erupted in 1772. The highest point of the crater lip, with a large cross on top, is at 632 meters. There is a hiking trail to the top now closed for it being too dangerous. Parrots (chocoyos) nest in tunnels made in the soft volcanic ash of the crater walls.

Lunch time sitting at the Plaza Central in Granada city, Nicaragua.

The horse drawn cabs are for hire. It's nice to take one for a trip to the lake shore a few kms away.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Isla Grande de Chiloe .... a glimpse at historic Chile

Isla Grande de Chiloe, or Chiloe for short, is a favorite Chilean island of mine, for to disappear in for a week or more, to eat at seafood restaurants and drink vino, and just enjoy myself for awhile at little cost. The island measures some 180 km long and 50 kms wide and is only a short ferry trip from Puerto Montt, the capital of the Chilean Lake District.

Fuerte San Antonio guards the town of Ancud (pop 25,000) a northern fishing port and Chiloe's largest town. The fortress was built by the Spanish and was their last Chilean outpost, until their final defeat in 1826. Other major towns are Castro (central) and Quellon the southern fishing and ferry port, all located on the relatively sheltered eastern side of the island.

(click on fotos to enlarge)
Churches on the island are of distinctive design and built of wood with wood shingle cladding. Likewise houses are wooden with shingles and a corrugated iron roof.

Market day at Dalcahue, a small fishing village near Castro.

The main commercial activities of the island are fishing, salmon farming, tourism and transport. At Ancud you must visit the fishing fleet when it's in port and look in at the fish processing plant adjacent to the wharf. Salmon and shellfish farming is done in the sheltered shallow inlets of the east coast out from Castro. The island of Chiloe is used as a convenient transport route to the fiordland part of Chile because the mainland route is too mountainous. Buses and trucks go from Puerto Montt to Ancud, thence south thru Castro to the ferry terminal at Quellon. The ferries (transbordadores) go south to Puerto Chacabuco to service the Aisen Region including Coihaique. The ferry also goes eastward to the main land to the port of Chaiten, which was wiped out by a volcanic eruption in 2008.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Puerto Varas, Chile .... a great place to chill out in

Puerto Varas is a popular tourist town in the Chilean Lake District. Situated on the shores of Lago Llanquihue (= yankeeway) it is very pretty and small enough to walk around from your hotel or hospedaje. You can hike up the hill of Cerro Calvario beyond the railway line to admire the fantastic view of the lake and distant volcanoes of Osorno and Calbuco covered in snow.

The Plaza de Armas is close to the foreshore where you can stroll in the mornings or evenings and watch how the local lads catch a trout (1 to 2 lb) with a spoon lure from the end of the muelle (stone jetty). Nearby is the Casino and a small craft market, and a tour agency that will arrange for you a "Southern Lakes Crossing" to Bariloche in the Argentine Lake District.

Many of the hotels and hospedajes are on the flat near the Plaza de Armas and the Avenida Costanera which follows the lake foreshore. It is very pleasant taking the evening stroll and watching the activity and then maybe check out the Casino for a drink.

Artisans display their jewellery on a blanket and hope for a sale. The national gemstone of Chile is lapis lazuli of which there is some production from a site in the Andes north of Santiago. The blue of lapis lazuli blends in well with silver as rings and pendants.

A fun day may be had by taking the minibus to nearby Puerto Montt and perusing the wonderful craft market stalls along the road to Angelmo, the fishing port. It is easy here to spend a lost afternoon by having lunch at one of many dinky seafood restaurants. You will arrive back in Puerto Varas well fed and happy with your day's outing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cape Town....the tourist jewel of South Africa

Cape Town is an unforgettable city and is the tourist jewel of South Africa (or even Africa as a whole, but I am diplomatic). It is Table Mountain that makes it great. The city sprawls around the base of this flat-topped mountain which has welcomed mariners from afar looking for a safe haven and fresh provisions.
Foto above: The Lion's Head from the summit of Table Mountain. Click on fotos to enlarge.

Once you have settled in to your accommodation your first challenge is to climb Table Mountain and get a broad picture of the place. Fortunately there is a cable car going up to the summit which makes life easy. However there is no point in going up there on cloudy day when the "table cloth" is set, for you will see nothing. Watch the weather and pick your fine day. A mini-cab will take you to the cable car terminus, and a little further on to the Kloof where the hiking track starts, if you are that energetic. Details are given in my Bootsnall article Table Mountain

I have found Cape Town backpacker establishments very efficient. Always there is a "travel desk" where they will organize local tours or book you on the Baz Bus to go off on the Garden Route. Advice on "what's on this week" and city maps are forthcoming. When visiting Cape Town I usually take a tour somewhere, my favourite being a wine region tour like to Stellenbosh and nearby wineries.

Mementos to take home? Obviously nothing bulky. I always check out the textiles and traditional fabrics to buy as gifts for friends. Wall hangings, table cloths, table runners, scarfs, sarongs etc are often brightly coloured, and clothing items made from traditional fabrics. Jewellery made from beads and shells are worth inspection.

Cape Town is a fun city to explore. You wont be disappointed and will come back time and again to relax amidst wonderful beach and mountain scenery.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

South Africa's Garden Route

The southern coastal route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, known as the Garden Route, is the premier tourist attraction of South Africa. This is a distance of about 800 kms travelled by bus or car, private or rental. At each end, or in the middle at the town of George, you can hop on a plane and return to the hinterland at Johanesburg, and so go on to other destinations.

You need at least two days and preferably a week or more to "do" the Garden Route. The favourite single stopover is the seaside resort town of Knysna with its nice harbour, yacht club and many seafood restaurants. The route is very popular with backpackers and budget accommodation abounds. The unique backpackers' Baz bus services the region and makes it easy to stop off en route. A typical backpackers would be Wildfarm located near Wilderness. The Baz bus calls in and they pick up travelers at the George airport. You don't need a car as the staff run a shuttle service to local sights, including the beach, Knysna and Wilderness.
(Click on fotos to enlarge)

The Garden Route relies primarily on tourism for its prosperity. Transport, accommodation and services related to tourism are what keeps the cash register tinging. The top attractions are the beautiful ocean beaches with their whale watching, diving, surfing and fishing. Each little seaside resort town around Wilderness has a unique attraction linked up by an antique tourist steam train. A little inland is the popular Cango Caves in a limestone region where you can cool off underground in a world of stalactites and stalagmites.

Ostrich farms are a tourist attraction. You get to ride and "race" ostriches, and at one backpackers I was served an ostrich egg omelette for breakfast. Details of a visit to an ostrich farm are given in my Bootsnall article Oudshoorn

Not to be missed at backpackers is an evening braai, or friendly barbecue washed down with the local beer or vino. It is a good way to meet up with fellow travelers. Each of the stop over points listed above have their accommodation websites listed ranging from backpackers to luxury lodges and motels, which give details of local tourist attractions. For starters try exploring the accommodations and associated details offered at Knysna, the premier tourist resort town on the Garden Route.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dogs I have met in my travels

Dogs are man's best friend, much more so than any other animal. More useful than cats as can be seen by glancing to the right at the career opportunities listed for dogs. It is the Europeans, more particularly the Anglo-Saxons, who have realized this potential for dogs in helping mankind achieve a better life. Other cultures lag beyond in this regard. The Arab and some Asian cultures do not fraternize much with dogs.
I am fairly ignorant of dog breeds, so I will describe them like ordering coffee, e.g., small black, or large white etc. This small biege dog is taking me for a walk at a backpackers in South Africa, near the Drakensbergs mountains. He has a great life showing all the visitors the wonderful scenery. (Click on foto to enlarge it).

This dog is a pedigree Rhodesian Ridgeback which is on a walk with me above the Mt Lebanon Park backpackers, also in the Drakensberg region of South Africa. The Ridgebacks have a peculiar hair ridge to their back. Originally they were a hunting dog and good for chasing lions. On my first visit to this backpackers I was greeted by 3 magnificent specimens. Next visit a year later they were no more. Gone to stay with Uncle Fred, it's rumoured, for they started chasing the neighbour's sheep. Bad luck for them.

This is a toy dog with wheels. It is an exhibit in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Well, you may say, what's so important about that? It illustrates that the Aztecs and Mayans had dogs and put wheels on their toys, but wheels on nothing else. No wheel barrows or drays or chariots. All their pyramids were built without the aid of wheels, by human beasts of burden, and llamas with the Incas. The Spanish conquistadores brought with them horses and the marvelous invention of the wheel. The thought gap from toy dog with wheels to the wheel barrow was not bridged in ancient Latin America.

This small white dog is a pet dog that likes to go to the pub with his master. The pub is on the south coast of South Africa at Mossel Bay.

Obviously a watch dog. This little white dog lived at an hospedaje (guesthouse, Casa Teresa) I was staying at in Puerto Natales, which is a seaport in the fiordland part of Chile. He knew everybody that stayed in the house and walked along the street. It was a shame he wasn't allowed to go walkies with the guests.

The water spout dog on a building in Guanajuato, Mexico. The chain guides the rain water away from the side of the building. Why don't we have them in dry South Australia? Answer, too many regulations in a nanny state.
I shall add more dogs as I find fotos of them. Cheers, Allano

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Antigua Guatemala is the place to go in the Western Highlands

Antigua was the original Spanish colonial capital of Guatemala but it was continually being wiped out by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions..... so the capital was shifted to the present location of Guatemala City (but still plenty of earthquakes). Antigua town remains surrounded by volcanoes which steam away dormant fashion and contribute to a fascinating landscape. It is the tourist centre for Guatemala, ranging from catering to the well-heeled tourist and backpackers, with accommodation to match all budgets.
Arco de Santa Catalina in Antigua

Two big attractions are the ready availability of Indian style handicrafts from shops and street vendors, and the huge numbers of Spanish Language Schools that cater for young visitors and oldies like me. I stayed for a week in a local home to brush up my Spanish and go to school again.

Street vendors are hard to resist when you are resting up at an outdoor restaurant or cafe. This little mite is fingering an Aussie flag I gave her. Soon her mate arrived wanting a flag too. One should always carry a stock of Aussie trinkets to give away. A most useful handicraft to buy are the woven bands or scarves which back home I wear as ties or cravats.

View across the Cenral Park and of Catedral Santiago, Antigua.

Antigua is the center of the jade industry for Central America. Valuable jadeite is mined locally and fashioned into exquisite jewellery. Replicas of Mayan and Aztec museum artifacts sell well. Here is a Mayan figure carved in black jade.
more to come

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

San Pedro La Laguna, the prize village on Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

San Pedro is my favourite village to chill out in around Lago Atitlan. One starts out by staying a few days exploring Panajachel, the main town on north shore of the lake. San Pedro nestles at the base of a volcano of the same name which is 3029 metres above sea level (Lago Atitlan is at 1562 metres).The direct "lancha" trip across the lake from Pana to San Pedro, a distance of about 12 kms, takes about 1 hour and may cost $3, with boats leaving every half hour or so.

A boat waiting to take you across the lake from Pana to San Pedro, with Volcan San Pedro (3020 metres) on the skyline.
The landing spot at San Pedro is quite steep and hilly and is dotted with cafes and restaurants. San Pedro is a favourite place for backpackers and hippies because of its cheap accommodation and lifestyle. There are many Spanish language schools. The hippies sell handicrafts, jewellery (and marijauna); there is a large coffee bean processing plant in town; economic activity revolves around the tourist with accommodation, restaurants, coffee shops and Language Schools.
Drying the coffee beans after processing.
Main street in San Pedro with many stalls selling handicrafts.

It's time for lunch and a beer.
More fotos to come.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lago Atitlan, the jewel of the Western Highlands of Guatemala

All roads lead to Panajachel, main town on the shore of Lago Atitlan. Well, there is only one road to the lake which is sheltered within the Western Highlands of Guatemala, with mountains and volcanoes surrounding it. Population is about 14,000 and elevation above sea level is 1560 meters, or 5115 feet. The lake measures roughly 8 km across and 18 kms lengthwise. It originated some 85,000 years ago with the massive Los Chocoyos volcanic eruption which left a gaping crater that filled up with water. Further volcanic activity left numerous volcanic cones around the circumference adding to the present scenic landscape.

Panajachel, or Pana for short, is a great place to rest up awhile, or chill out. It caters for backpackers and well-heeled tourists alike, with accommodation ranging from $10 to $100 or more per night, with many cheap hospedajes and luxury tourist hotels, so take your pick. Along the lake front are many restaurants offering meals and entertainment with superb views of the lake.
Besides enjoying the Guatemalan cuisine there are ample opportunities to buy Indian handicrafts, such as fabrics, weavings, wall hangings etc, you name it and they've got it.

You can do an all day boat tour of the lake, stopping for food and drinks and buying handicrafts at the lakeside villages of San Pedro, Santiago, San Antonio and many more. San Pedro is more favourite and is worth staying there a few days or longer. You won't want to come home. Next week I shall post some fotos of San Pedro. Cheers, Allano
PS; Click on fotos to enlarge somewhat.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Allano's eBook Trilogy on Latin American Travel

Allano has recently publish on the Internet the third travel ebook on his adventures traveling as a backpacker in Latin America. This final one covers his exploration of Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Brazil. The trilogy can be found at the following Smashwords websites:

Allano's Travels in Mexico and Guatemala
Allano's Travels in Chile and Argentina
Allano's Travels from Venezuela to Brazil

Check here for all ebooks written by Allano

Happy reading. Cheers Allano

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Armchair Travel is Free and Enjoyable

This Christmas and New Years I have stayed home in Adelaide and enjoyed reading books about other parts of the world. When it gets too hot, like 3 weeks ago, we had two consecutive days of 43 C maximum, I drove over to Brighton Beach which is a kilometre away and had a dip in the sea water (22 C) to cool off (not having air conditioning).

Today the temperature is a more moderate 32 C. To read books I lie on my bed (psuedo armchair) with a small fan to stir the air. The world is at my arms reach for I have a bedside clock radio, shortwave radio, mini-iPad (for Word, digital radio, FB, email etc), Kindle and mobile phone. The books I read are English based detective ones and some of my favourite collectables.

I have always been a fan of Arthur Ransome of "Swallows and Amazons" fame, first published 1930, which relates the sailing adventures of a group of children on a mythical lake in the English Lake District. My hard covered copy with dustsheet is a 1958 edition and is the 32nd impression. So I have refreshed my memory of the Lake District without spending a penny!

What wonderful wholesome lives children lived in the 1920 -30s! Not one mention of drugs, booze, idiocy, bullying, violence, foul language etc activities that seem to be common among today's youth. I can't imagine any of them sailing a dingy anywhere. Today's teenagers seem not attracted to read books, let alone the children's classics.

The books "Swallows and Amazons", "Pigeon Post" (my favorite because of mining and prospecting activities), "Swallowdale", The Picts and the Martyrs" and "Winter Holiday" have their adventures based in the English Lake District. These books are still a great read for people who have enjoyed camping, sailing, fishing and observing Nature. Sadly teenage readers have now been replaced by the oldies who relive their adventurous past.

Also this Christmas I have re-read "Coot Club" and the "Big Six" which relate the children's sailing adventures in the Norfolk Broads. So without leaving my bed I have enjoyed reading about the landscape and nature of the region enclosing Norwich, Wroxham and Yarmouth. Similarly, "Great Northern?" gives their adventures when sailing "Sea Bear" up the west coast of Scotland in search of the rare Diver bird.

There are eleven books in the children's series which have become collectors' items. Amazon produce Kindle editions for about $10. Ebay and Booktopia have a ready supply of modern paperback editions for $15 to $28 and hardcover ones for $30 to $35 each. The early hardcover editions (1940 - 60) have long ago been sold off from public libraries and may sometimes be picked up for a dollar at church fairs.

Finally, fishermen will find enjoyable Arthur Ransome's book "Rod and Line" which is a collection of 50 fishing articles he wrote for the "Manchester Guardian". Well, that's a good list of holiday reading to keep you busy over the summer (or winter up north). Cheers, Allano