Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Walking in Your Shoes Down Under

Gene and I will be heading off to Australia soon!  We were invited by the Australian State Tourism Committee to come experience an Aussie adventure.  The Tarkine Rainforest on Tasmania, Kangaroo Island in South Australia and the Great Ocean Walk of Victoria are just a few of the highlights.

Excited?  YES!
But after we made the commitment to go, I felt something else.  Something I don't think I have ever felt before in regards to my travels.  First of all, I am placing myself in the hopefully capable hands of a guide I trust, but do not personally know.  I won't be in charge or responsible for others and I'm not  running the show.  WOW!  I don't have to worry about the details?  How strange, but I think I can handle that -- for a while anyway.  

Then maybe I felt a bit nervous...what if I can't keep up?  What if the others are fitter, faster, stronger, younger and can leap tall buildings in a single bound? Who else is going?  What are they like? What if I am not comfortable with the people I am traveling with? What if we are doing something that I don't want to do?  What do I bring? What should I wear? (Yea that's a girl thing.) So many questions!

Then it hit me.  I realised that this must be how many of you feel the first time you sign up for a trip with us. Unsure? Uneasy? O.K., now I get that. So what can I learn from this personal experience to make your travels with the Walking Connection even better?   As we set out for our adventure down under, by walking in your shoes, I'll learn many new things I am sure. As I do, I'll keep you posted on how it is going with stories right here on my blog, images on Facebook and video on YouTube!   So check back, OK?

And for now I better get back to packing...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Whale of a Tale

You are never going to believe this, but it is for real...

We were taking the trail down to the beach for one last walk before heading home after a wonderful week in Todos Santos.  All of a sudden we heard a powerful whooosh.  Looked up and there was a spout from a whale right off the beach.  I mean -- RIGHT THERE!  So excited we hurried the rest of the way.  It was sooo close.  And then...we saw another whale and another and another.  There we were right in the midst of an unbelievable show and Gene without his camera that he ALWAYS carries.

Photo by Wendy Greenberg

Because the drop off from the beach is so deep they could swim right up almost to shore. They stuck their noses up in the air (do whales have noses?) and looked at us. We looked back.  They rolled in the sand, floated awhile and glided. We walked along beside them as they headed north. I think they liked our company.  They flipped their tales and waved.  We reluctantly turned away. Dragging our feet we had a plane to catch, a plane back to reality.

Photo provided by Todos Santos Eco Adventures

But I AM going back
so that perhaps I can walk with the whales once again... 
Come Walk With Me!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Best Cookies and my new most favorite hiking trail for the moment....

It is hard to pick which ones I want!
OK first the most important part: BEST COOKIES

1.  Sugar Mamas Bakery in Binghamton, NY owned by baking goddesses Marie Lupo Lawton and Susan Lupo Schofield (hoping this free plug will get some cookies sent our way)

2. Jacob Lake Inn's Bakery on the way to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon - it is a must stop.

3. The ones Janet Kummer is making for Gene's birthday this weekend!
Now on to how we earn our cookies - by going for a hike!  Recently we hosted a group at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  (If you haven't been to the North Rim you must go!  It is nothing like the South Rim, very quiet, very peaceful)  This is our third year that we have gathered a group together on "the other side".  Always looking for something new we decided to hike a trail that we had not done before -  The Ken Patrick Trail.  It is a 10 mile trail one way, but I only had plans to go as far as I felt like and then turn around.

I love this trail!  And I always love doing a trail that I have never hiked before.  Nobody else was on it besides us. (Thank you Kevin, Kathy, Sam, Wendy and Suzi for joining me)  It went up and down and up and down, rambling through pine forest then opening up to the new green growth of old burn areas. Fields of ferns topped by my favorite treat from nature -  wildflowers.  Purples and pinks, orange and yellows all embellished with lacy whites. Wildflowers make me smile... And then at the 3 and a half mile point the ground opened up before us, as GRAND as could be.  Silence.

Now back to cookies...nothing like sitting at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon watching the sun set after a full day of hiking savoring a Ginger Snap from Jacob Lake with a cup of tea.  Ahhhh...TITL (This Is The Life)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Safari Time

Maasai Mara, Kenya
If you have been to Africa once, you will understand...Africa gets in your blood. You long to go back. Images of the tawny landscape stretching deep into the hazy distance draw you in.  You crave the anticipation of what gift from nature a new day will bring. Elephants wallowing in the mud around a reed-fringed waterhole as a warning cry echoes across the water. A herd of waterbuck crash through the shallows at the sight of a wandering lion. You have to go back...

The Walking Connection has traveled to Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, South Africa and Zimbabwe in the past. This time we want to do something different... BOTSWANA! 

Botswana is one of Africa's success stories. It is a stable country with a booming economy. After their independence in 1966, its forward thinking leaders secured Botswana's borders from poachers.  The game concentrations multiplied and flourished.  Since then the country abandoned mass tourism and focused on high quality / low volume tourism as the best way to create a sustainable industry that would employ a large percentage of its people, while still preserving the environment.

Low volume tourism = a more intimate and personal experience.  Sounds perfect for the Walking Connection!  We are working on an itinerary for June 2012.  Are you interested?  e-mail me!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why We Go Where We Go!

I am asked all of the time where am I going next and why am I going there?  Well the short answer is... next I am going to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon because it is cool, quiet and I find it very peaceful.  After that, possibly Australia to take a look at some new Walking Connection Adventures. In November it is off to the Galapagos Islands with Walking Connection friends followed by more of an exploration of Ecuador in search of another volcano to conquer! (See Conquer the Volcano)

In regards to what trips I plan for The Walking Connection and why, it's simple:
Jo Ann & Gene at the North Rim 2010
timing, gut, my dream, you asked for it, new discovery, friendship with locals, up and coming destination, contacts, curiosity, media article that is intriguing, currency fluctuation in the right direction, something different and unique, a cool/interesting/special place to walk or hike and occasionally I ask Gene's opinion.

Do you have a destination on your bucket list that you think would be a great Walking Connection Adventure? If so e-mail me.  The World Is Our Limit! (At least for now...)