Travelin’ Down That Lonesome Highway: Travel

Where would you like to travel in this world, if you were to make the money and time available?

I know people who can answer this question within seconds of its being asked: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Cairo, Cape Town, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sydney, Quebec, Rio de Janeiro or other cities.  Me, I never have a single answer for this question.  Moreover, I tend to name countries or regions not cities.

Nancy and I tend to explore the back roads: seeing a wild orchid or bird is more exciting than the newest night club, the architecture of a small town or village can be just as exciting as any skyscraper, the ocean with a snorkeling mask on beats any swimming pool, and some of the home brew Nancy and I have tasted are definitely more memorable than the best single malt scotches I have ever tasted.  I am also the first to admit that most the great meals we have eaten (other than the ones Nancy prepares) we were seated in a restaurant in a city not on a bench or rock in the outback.

It is difficult for me to go more than about six months without planning a preliminary itinerary to explore a country or region of this world.  I have a drive trip from Marshall, TX to Barrow, Alaska and back.  (Gave this trip up, temporarily, for a job assignment in Trinidad two years ago.)  I have another drive trip from Marshall, TX to Panama City, Panama; then sell the vehicle and fly back.

Then there is the jeep trip across North Africa, Nancy and I both picked this trip out of the National Geographic Adventure magazine’s “25 Best New Adventure Trips of 2005”.  Thirty days crossing 3000 miles of desert by way of Egypt to Morocco.  Nancy loves deserts.  This love of deserts must be something about growing up in the land of big pines of East Texas.  My brother says of all our dream trips this is the trip he wants to take with us.

That same year we also dreamed about “Indochina’s Waterworld”.  Can you think of anything more exciting and fun than kayaking Ha Long Bay a UNESCO World Heritage site, Xepian wetlands and a three day journey down the Mekong River into Cambodia and finishes by paddling into Angkor Wat temple complex!

This year’s May/June issue of National Geographic Traveler list “50 Unforgettable Tours”.  It didn’t take me more than a few minutes to find, “Silk Road Trip”.  Travel by truck through Russia, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Mongolia and northern China – just eleven weeks and only $8,840 ($115/day plus airfare).

And then I am emailed about a trip titled: “Trans Mongolia Express”.  Board the train in

Beijing, China to the Great Wall to

Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia to Terelj National Park to

Lake Baikal, Russia to Irkutsk, Ekaterinburg, Moscow ending in St. Petersburg

21-days crossing three countries and a quarter of the globe – how cool is this trip!

Trans-Mongolian Railway

We leave Mongolia on a two-night train trip (40 hrs) that takes us into southern Russia. This train is the most local of all the trains we take on this journey and we shouldn’t expect the height of luxury. A restaurant car is not normally provided and if it is, the food can be basic and limited. It’s a good idea to stock up before you leave Ulaan Baatar.

Sure the above are dreams but be careful of your dreams.  It was a Special Section in Traveler’s magazine titled “Passages through India, Six DREAM TRIPS in an Exotic Land” that hooked Nancy and me.  Next thing we knew we were boarding a plane for seven weeks of traveling through India!  This trip ended and the bonus trip of 16 days in Bhutan began.

The last two weeks has me investigating Indonesia and Malaysia.  Lots of birds, almost no one I know has been here, after our India trip we both want to see more of Asia, inexpensive to travel, not one but many different cultures in each country – another way off place.  We are thinking of doing four weeks in one or the other countries.

Did you know that Ramadan begins at the end of August?  This is important if you are planning a trip to Indonesia in early September.  Seems the drivers and guides can get a little grumpy while day-fasting for 30 days.  Oh, did I forget to mention that Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world; about 88% of the country’s people are of the Muslim religion.

You don’t see all of Indonesia in 30 days – the country is spread across 5000 km and includes 17,000 islands of which two-thirds are inhabited.  The eastern most island is Papau and the western most is Sumatra.  Papau is the western half of an island that is shared with Papua New Guinea.  Indonesia also shares the island of Timor with the new country, East Timor.  Last but not least Indonesia shares the island of Borneo with the countries of Malaysia and Brunei.

Indonesia is comprised of approximately 300 ethnic groups that speak some 365 languages. Indonesia is the home to more than 1300 bird species of which 336 are endemics, the orangutan, Asian elephants, dwarf buffalo, deer pig, tarsier (a nocturnal primate), Komodo dragons, and fantastic snorkeling and diving.  Other than the island of Bali, travel in Indonesia appears to be on the un-touristy side and inexpensive.  Just my kind of place!

Part of my original thinking was after Indonesia we would explore Singapore.  Therefore, I bought an Eyewitness Travel on Malaysia and Singapore.  Wow, what a country.  Big plus is that Malaysia is only about 60% Muslim and on the island of Borneo the percentage is even smaller.  That means fewer grumpy fasting people to deal with.

I picked up my book, Where to Watch Birds in Asia, to find a birding spot or two.  About three quarters of the way through the chapter on Malaysia I come across this description on Danum Valley: “and this is one of the best places for birds on earth”.  Now I am thinking Malaysia not Indonesia.

So today it looks like we will explore Malaysia and catch Indonesia on another trip.  Now all we have to do is fit a visit to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Fraser’s Hill station, and Georgetown plus the national parks of the Malaysian peninsula and the island of Borneo plus a day in Brunei –one of the smallest countries in the world and visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque into a four week itinerary.

Of course, we also want to see the longhouses and longboats, the Niah Caves, orchids, the rafflesia flower – the world’s largest measuring three feet across, Pitcher plants – a carnivorous plant, birds, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, tarsiers, Asian elephants, and what is a trip half way around the world if you don’t see the (wild) bearded pig.  However, I do believe we will miss a visit to the Snake Temple that is inhabited by three feet long vipers.

The one thing that every traveler fears is that age when the legs just won’t travel where the mind wants to go.  No issue for us.  I have already found a cruise trip across the Atlantic Ocean for Nancy and me.

  • Ushuaia, Argentina – a beautiful city we visited in 2003, to the
  • Falkland Islands – the largest albatross colony in the world, Magellanic penguins, and enormous elephant seals, to
  • South Georgia Island – King penguins and described as the Antarctic Galapagos to,
  • Tristan da Cunha Island – 300 people live on this island in the middle of the ocean, to
  • St. Helena Island — Yes, this is where Napoleon was exiled and eventually died, to
  • Ascension Island – an important breeding spot for turtles, to
  • Cape Verde Island – historically a way station for the slave trade, to the
  • Canary Islands – European and African bird species, and to
  • Madrid, Spain in 38 days and 36 nights.

For a trip like this I will make the time and money available – just keep driving my eight year old jeep until the wheels fall off.  Hopefully those wheels will fall off in a city and not on a back road somewhere in the outback of the U.S.!

Anyone who knows of a job in Abu Dhabi or elsewhere in the Middle East that only requires a six month (maybe a few months more) commitment, call me.  What the heck, make that any place in the world without a war.

Write me and let me know what your travel dreams are.  Maybe we can make your dream trip together.  If you write, I’ll assemble a list and reasons why if you include them, and send out to everyone a list of all of our dreams so that each of us can increase the number of places we can dream of visiting and exploring.

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