Category Archives: Africa

Washington’s Newest Museum

African-Americans’ struggles & triumphs shown.

The 19th and newest component of the exemplary Smithsonian Institution on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.  is the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). Its 12 galleries contain more than 3,000 images and artifacts, plus s interactive and  oral histories.

Media who previewed it have singlee out an exhibit showing how separate and unequal life was for African Americans during segregation at the turn of the last century. Others feature a slave cabin from the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island that was dismantled and painstakingly reconstructed piece by piece inside the new museum, a replica of the set of Oprah Winfrey’s television show, a room with pieces of an actual slave ship that wrecked off the coast of South Africa and an airplane used by Tuskegee Airmen, who like the Navajo code talkers in World War II, are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The NMAAHC also honors the better-known African American musicians and sports heroes.

The windows of the $540-million museum are placed to frame views of other iconic buildings around the city. The Contemplative Court is off the history galleries with glass and copper walls and a central, cascading waterfall to enable visitors to begin processing what they have seen.

Consulting chef Carla Hall, a popular Top Chef contestant and one of the country’s best-known African-American chefs of the modern era, is credited with The Sweet Home Café whose four stations serve food from four regions: the agricultural South, the Creole coast, the Northern states and the Western range.

As with all Smithsonian institutions, admission to the NMAAHC is free. Timed passes, which give visitors specific time windows for entry.

Marvelous Memoir of Extended Honeymoon

Newlyweds’ epic adventures chronicled in new book.

CrocodleLove-coverI met Josh Berman at some writers’ event a number of years ago. We went through the usual “what do you write about?”, “where are you from?”, “where do you live?” pleasantries. I learned that he had written a couple of guidebooks to Nicaragua and Belize, that he was wrapping a up a gig as a book editor and, most interestingly, that he and his wife Sutay had traveled around the world for something like two years under the auspices of the Peace Corps and American Jewish World Service. He was planning to write a book about their adventures and experiences.

Then came a few gigs as a fixer for Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain filming in Nicaragua, a book about the Maya calendar that “predicted” the end of the world in 2012 and a transition to teaching Spanish — and he and Sutay, a nurse, childbirth educator and doula, had three little girls. Hop ahead to the end of 2014, when the book came out. It is called Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon, and it is a very good and lively read about the couple’s experiences in Asia and Africa.

Highlights include Sutay’s unique family legacy in Pakistan that opened many strange and unexpected doors, experiencing the world’s great religions through a traveler’s lens, three months of volunteering on a tea plantation in India, two months with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana and most poignantly, their unannounced arrival in the mud-hut Gambian village where Sutay had lived as a Peace Corps Volunteer ten years earlier.

I couldn’t wait to read it, so I wove it into the busy holiday period, but it is also the kind of book I like to read when traveling.  The short chapters are further divided into sections, which means it is easy to start, put down and restart without losing the thread. The inspiration for the unusual title doesn’t come until the end, and it’s worth waiting for. I hope you read the book, so I won’t spoil it for you.

A Visit to Harman’s House

‘Cowboy artist’ remembered in Poncha Springs museum.

026My son started attending Fort Lewis College in 2001, and he has lived in Durango ever since. I haven’t counted how many times I’ve traveled U.S. 160, but the last time, my husband and I finally stopped to visit the Fred Harman Art Museum. In my/our defense, it is open six days a week (10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.) in the warm months and open only by appointment in winter, and that schedule doesn’t usually coincide with our travel itinerary.

Volunteer docent shares stories of  Fred Harmon's life and points out important and interesting pieces
Volunteer docent shares stories from Fred Harmon’s life and points out important and interesting pieces

The Harman is one of those fascinating little museums that is too often bypassed. Fred Harman was a gifted self-taught artist who at one time entered into a short-lived, failed film partnership with Walt Disney in Kansas City. Disney went to Hollywood, and Harman  returned to his native Colorado to ranch and make art, working with oils, watercolors, pen-and-ink and bronze. He is best known as the creator of the Red Ryder comic strip, which at its height was syndicated to more than 750 newspapers on three continents.

The museum was Fred Harmon's home and studio.
The museum was Fred Harmon’s home and studio.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.
Harmon always depicted Native Americans accurately and respectfully, not to be taken for granted. The museum features works by Native artists, and he was made an honorary member of the Navajo Nation.

Having finally visited and been captivated by the modest museum and its contents, I am putting it on my recommended list for anyone traveling that way. The address is 85 Harman Park Drive, but you really can’t miss it if you follow the signs on the south side of U.S. 160, just west of downtown Pagosa Springs. The phone number is 970-731-5785. And admission is just $3.

Sweet Amenities at Brown Palace

BrownPalace-logoIs there anyone who hasn’t liberated a little in-room hotel amenity bottles of shampoo or body lotion from the hotel bathroom? I certainly have — mostly a little bar of fine soap or a bottle of body lotion that I haven’t used up. If I were staying at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, some of the new Rooftop Honey Amenity Line of facial and bath soap, bath gel, shampoo, conditioner and hand and body lotion would be coming home with me. The products are made with real honey – in fact, with honey produced on the rooftop of the hotel. It’s thought to be the only hotel amenity line in the country to be made with a hotel’s own honey.

Back in 2010, The Brown Palace began to nurture a colony of bees on the rooftop, intending to use the honey at the hotel’s signature Afternoon Tea. The hotel even began producing a specialty craft beer served in the Ship’s Tavern. Now come the beauty and skin products since honey is known to moisturize, work as an anti-aging agent and fight bacteria. The sweet smelling, paraben-free Bee Royalty Honey Amenity Line is created with natural essences and honey harvested from the hotel’s rooftop beehives, and is also used in The Brown Palace Spa.

Guests who fall in love with the line can purchase more exclusively at the hotel’s spa. FoMoInfo: 303-312-8940.

Namibia’s Black Rhinos in the Wild & in Preserves

West African country protects highly threatened species & other wildlife

Namibia-mapSome 15 years ago, my husband, my son, a friend and I ventured to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. After the thrilling climb, we and a local Arusha guide set off to see wildlife. We visited four national parks and preserves and saw many, many elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, wildebeest, zebras, Cape buffalo,  dik-diks, springbok, baboons, hyenas, warthogs and even a handful of hippos at closer range than we could have imagined. In a sense, our most thrilling sighting was in Ngorongoro Crater, where off in the distance, slowly rising from the high tawny grass were two long, dark shapes — identifiable only through strong binoculars or with a very long camera lens. Black rhinos, our guide told us, among the last in the country. We thrilled to see them and mourned what seemed like extinction in the not-too-distant future.

Two black rhinos in Tanzania's Ngorgoro Crater in 1997.
Two black rhinos in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater in 1997. The rhinos are in the center of the picture. The black shapes on the right are something else.

According to Save the Rhino, an international species conservation organization, “At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos across Africa and Asia; in 1970 there were 70,000; today, there are fewer than 29,000 rhinos  surviving in the wild. Between 1970 and 1992, large-scale poaching  caused a dramatic 96% collapse in numbers of the Critically Endangered  black rhino. 95% of all the rhinos in the world have now been killed.”

The organization believes that there are now 20,165 white rhinos and just 4,880 black rhinos in Africa. According to a chart compiled in late 2010, Namibia is home to some 1,750 of these rare animals, second only to South Africa. In the all of Tanzania, only 113 black rhinos remained. In fact, it boasts the largest free-roaming population of black rhinos and cheetahs in the world and is the only country with an expanding population of free-roaming lions. That, to me is a signal to move Namibia way up on my bucket list.

Conservation: It’s the Law

Namibia was the first African country to incorporate protection of the environment into its constitution, and the government has reinforced this by giving its communities the opportunity and rights to manage their wildlife through communal conservancies. After Independence in 1990, visionary conservationists in the field and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism enacted policies that allowed rural communities to benefit from wildlife by forming conservancies.  In 1998, the first four conservancies were registered. Today, 65 registered conservancies embrace one in four rural Namibians. A sense of ownership over wildlife and other resources is encouraging people to use their resources sustainably. Wildlife is now embraced as a complimentary land use method to agriculture and livestock herding. More than 40 percent of Namibia’s surface area is under conservation management — national parks and reserves, communal and commercial conservancies, community forests and private nature reserves. Continue reading Namibia’s Black Rhinos in the Wild & in Preserves

Most Ethical Destinations Cited

 Best practices + superb scenic and cultural attractions = ethical travel destinations

EthicalTraveler-logoEthical Traveler’s annual survey of the world’s most ethical tourism destinations highlights 10 countries  in the developing world that have all demonstrated a clear and continuing commitment to environmental protection, human rights and social welfare. They are places you can visit with a clear conscience that you are supporting destinations that exhibit best practices and also offer great scenery and cultural attractions. This year’s 2013 top ethical destinations, in alphabetical order, are Barbados, Cape Verde, Costa Rica, Ghana, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Palau, Samoa and Uruguay. 

“This year’s winners are doing a great job showing the world that you can have a successful tourism industry along with sustainability and social justice,” said Ethical Traveler Executive Director Jeff Greenwald. “With the number of international arrivals expected to top the 1 billion mark in 2013, travelers have more power than ever. Every dollar we spend is a statement about which countries and governments we choose to support. By visiting the countries on our list, savvy travelers can have great vacations and promote the values we all share.”

Ethical Traveler used publicly available data to evaluate destinations on a broad spectrum of criteria including ecosystem support, natural and cultural attractions, political rights, press freedom, women’s equality, commitment to LGBT rights, and— the survey’s newest indicator— terrestrial and marine area protection.

Among the three examples of best practices: “Ghana maintains a high degree of freedom of the press, has a stable democracy which just re-elected a pro-environment President; about 15 percent of its territory is environmentally protected in some form. Latvia is well-rated for human rights and press freedom; it was also the most-improved country on the Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) Environmental Performance Index (EPI). In Uruguay, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and women’s rights are among the best in the region.”

This year’s report also includes a section recognizing “Destinations of Interest” for the coming year.  While not part of the 10 Best Ethical Destinations, Ethical Traveler encourages potential tourists to peer behind the “media curtain” and explore controversial countries like Burma, Cuba and Namibia that are in the midst of dramatic social changes.”

Cruise Key Largo Canals on the Real ‘African Queen’

100-year-old vessel back in action — tourist action this time

The original “African Queen” from John Huston’s classic 1951 film by the same name is back in service, and visitors to the Florida Keys can take a ride. Registered as a National Historic Site, she underwent a major $70,000 restoration project to provide for structural, mechanical and cosmetic repairs. The movie starred starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, and last month Stephen Bogart, son of the late film star, was there for the relaunch last month. The “African Queen’s” 100-year history began when it was built in 1912 at England’s Lytham shipbuilding yard. Originally named the “Livingstone,” she served the British East Africa Rail Company shuttling cargo, hunting parties and mercenaries on the Ruki River what became the northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo, until 1968. When  Huston saw the vessel, it was temporarily pulled from service for the film.

Bogart and Hepburn in the 1951 film, "The African Queen."

In 1968, the boat was purchased and shipped via freighter to San Francisco but was stripped of almost all gear.  A restaurant owner who had purchased her tried to run tourist trips using an outboard engine for propulsion. Around 1970, Hal Bailey found and purchased her for the price of the boatyard bill and put her into seasonal passenger operation on the Deschutes River in Oregon seasonally. Success prompted him to move her to Ocala, Fla., so he could make cruises available year round, but plans fell apart.

In 1982, late attorney (and Bogart buff) Jim Hendricks, Sr., discovered the vessel languishing in an Ocala, Florida, horse pasture and purchased the piece of movie history for $65,000 and ultimately invested roughly that amount to get the boat operational. Hendricks began offering visitors rides in 1983 while the vessel was homeported at Key Largo’s Holiday Inn, but in 2001, the engine broke. The enngine was not repaired, but the boat remained on display for curious tourists and film buffs to see. Continue reading Cruise Key Largo Canals on the Real ‘African Queen’

New Luxury Camp Near Yellowstone

Safari-inspired  “glamping” comes to Montana

When I think of “luxury tent camps,” Africa comes to mind. When we were in Tanzania, my family and I camped on Mt. Kilimanjaro but overnighted in comfortable lodges in four national parks and preserves. Still, sleeping in a true luxury tent camp has been on my bucket list for quite some time. (My husband and I also did stay in a yurt for a comfortable, but not at all luxurious, experience at an eco-camp in Chile a few years ago.)

Luxury wood-floored safari tent practically at the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park.

Now I don’t have to go to Africa or anyplace distant for the experience of nature just outside the tent but without truly roughing it. In fact, I can stay in my own time zone at the gateway to one of my favorite places on this planet. Yellowstone Under Canvas is a new luxury camp near West Yellowstone, Montana with its premiere season from May 14 to September 13. It is part of an international movement called “glamping,” which refers to luxury camping — a contraction of “glamour” and “camping.” Continue reading New Luxury Camp Near Yellowstone

Squaw Valley Panel Discussion on World Travel Topics

Tahoe area panel explores “Conscious Travel”

If I were within striking distance of Squaw Valley, California, I would put the Squaw Valley Institute‘s panel on “Conscious Travel” on my calendar for tomorrow evening, August 26, at 7:00 p.m. Three women on the panel among them are both expert travelers and travel industry experts. Discussion topics will include modernization of the developing world, “the tipping dilemma,” picture taking, bargaining, how to dress, the impact of tourism, environmental considerations and giving back to places visited. The panel discussion will be followed by questions and comments from the audience.

Ruth Anne Kocour is a photographer and world trekker based in northern Nevada whose subjects include the culture and landscapes of the American West, Asia and mounaineering expeditions. Julie Conover is co-host, co-producer and writer of the PBS series,”Passport to Adventure.” Toni Neubauer, president of Myths and Mountains, a tour operator headquartered in Incline Village, Nevada, which offers cultural immersion tours that balance American-style luxury travel with cultural insight and sensitivity.

The program at the Inn at Squaw Creek is free, but a $10 donation per person is requested. The Squaw Valley Institute’s goal is to “enhance the quality of life within the unique mountain environment of Squaw Valley, North Lake Tahoe, Truckee and surrounding communities” through programs and activities “having artistic, cultural, educational and entertainment value..that bring together visitors, residents and friends…[and] foster a sense of community.” The Institute is at P.O. Box 3325, Olympic Valley, CA 96146; 530-581-4138.

Thailand to Revert to Siam?

“Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it’s Turkish delight on a moonlit night…”

Those are lyrics to an old tune reminding people that place names change. Like so much else in present times, cities and countries have shed part of their pasts — colonial and otherwise — and taken on new names or returned to old ones, or now have several names instead of one during un-unification. Rewind only as far back the changes since what schoolchildren learned mid-20th century geography classes, and it’s clear why even veteran travelers have problems keep things straight. Some relatively recent and current names in the world atlas are:

  • Belgian Congo – Zaïre – Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Burma – Myanmar
  • Bombay – Mombai
  • British Honduras – Belize
  • Calcutta – Kolkata
  • Ceylon – Sri Lanka
  • Chung-King – Chongqing
  • Czechoslovakia – split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia
  • Federal Republic of Germany (West or BRD by its German initials) and German Democratic Republic (East or DDR in German) – Germany
  • French Congo – Central African Republic
  • Palestine – Israel and Jordan
  • Persia – Iran
  • Peking – Beijing
  • Southern Rhodesia – Zimbabwe
  • Thailand – Siam
  • Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) – Russia (the Socialist Republics being Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, Uzbekistan, Kahzakhstan, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Moldavia, Latvia, Kyrgyzistan, Armenia, Turkmenistan and Estonia, which are now independent countries)
  • Yugoslavia – assembled from half-a-dozen countries in 1946 and half a century later split into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia

Wait a minute! Why is Thailand on that list. Is it reverting to Siam? As in “Anna and the King of….”? It hasn’t happened yet, but it could. According to an article posted on eTN/eTurbo News, during a recent conference on tourism and globalization, “Dr. Charnvit Kasetsiri, a respected historian from Thammasat University in Bangkok, introduced the debate on changing the name of the country from Thailand back to ‘Siam’ by showing a newly released video and presenting the possibility of a name change in one of the next constitutions to come. “

The change from the historic name of Siam (also sometimes spelled, Sayam) to Thailand occurred in 1939. We could see a reversion in our lifetimes.