White-water rafting and kayaking: They define Colorado adventure, help forge friendships and, right now, are roaring into action. Thanks to this winter's snow, Colorado's 13 river systems are in tiptop shape for the state's white-water season. The rivers change in shape and feel each year because of the melted snow, or run-off. So water-lovers keep coming back each season for more surprises. From families seeking mellow float trips to experienced, death-defying thrill-seekers, people from all walks of life flex their paddle power on Colorado's rivers. River experts say rafters and kayakers will be able to enjoy sustained flows throughout the entire 2005 season on the Cache la Poudre, Arkansas, Animas, Yampa, Green and Colorado rivers. Flows are expected to be at their best across the state from mid-May to the end of June. Early season, in April, is the perfect time to catch the wildest white-water and beat the crowds, however. It also is the best time to catch the early-season deals. Toward the end of the season in July and August, meanwhile, is when smoother waters prevail -- making it perfect for float trips. To experience a white-water adventure in Colorado, trek to the high country for an overnight trip, or take a day trip as part of a camping adventure to the mountains. Alternatively, gather a troop of weekend warriors and cash in on group discounts offered by most outfitters throughout the season. Once there, get ready for the ride of your life. Colorado river guides know the rapids like the back of their hands, but they'll also make you laugh, cook for you and educate you on some of the flora and fauna indigenous to the area. Most river outfitters provide all of the gear you'll need. They are professional leaders and safety experts as well, so even if you are not a pro on the rapids, you can rest assured that someone is watching your back.
VeniceVenezia, La Serenissima, Queen of the Adriatic, the Most Serene Republic of Venice is the city of canals, churches and palaces that captures the hearts and minds of all who visit. Venice is home to wonderful tourist destinations famous the world over - St Mark's Square, Rialto Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs - but the true joy of Venice is found just wandering around and finding architectural and artistic wonders around every corner.Transport:getting there and getting awayVenice is served by two airport, Marco Polo and Trevino. Transport into the city is by bus or from the latter by water bus.Trains terminate and depart from Santa Lucia train station on the west side of Venice. The station fronts the Grand Canal where water buses (vaporetti) or water taxis are available. Cars and coaches arrive on the far western edge of Venice at Piazzale Roma. There are no roads in Venice so from here on it's by boat or on foot. Venice is the World's only truly pedestrian city and walking is a serendipitous adventure of discovering vistas in the magnificent urban landscape.Ships arrive at the Stazione Marittima.Water buses are best for longer trips and for visiting the islands. There are also the more expensive water taxis. Gondolas are really just for short romantic hops and having your photograph taken.ClimateSummer is hot in Venice. Temperatures average 27C but high humidity results in a close, uncomfortable atmosphere. Sometimes, hot sirocco winds sweep in from the south. January and February are the coldest months with temperatures ranging from 0-7 C. Snow is rare owing to the city's lagoon location. Spring is fresh and clear though rainfall can be heavy. Mists are common in late autumn.Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resortsCheck on the internet for the range, location and cost of Venice hotelsEvents:what's on and what's hotVenice has the character of a stage set so its many festivals are spectacular.* The first event of the year is the Regata delle Befana held on 6 January. * The next month sees the major event in the Venetian calendar namely Carnevale,which is a masked and costumed extravaganza. * May sees the Festa della Sensa (Feast of the Ascension) which celebrates the Sposalizio del Mar (Wedding with the Sea). * The arts fest is held every odd-numbered year in June in the Giardini Pubblici. * Festa del Redentore in July features a regatta and fireworks festival. * The Venice International Film Festival is held from late August into SeptemberTurinTurin has been called the European capital of Baroque due to the style of many of its palaces and churches. In many ways Turin differs from the typical Italian city. It exudes a strong French influence with its broad boulevards with white buildings. With the Po River flowing through the city, and the Italian Alps standing in the distance, it's a place of great charm. Transport:getting there and getting awayBy planeCaselle Airport lies north of the city and is connected to the city by bus and taxi. Turin is also easily reached from Malpensa airport. Turin has two main railway stations, Porta Nuova and Porta Susa. The former is for long and mid-range trips the latter mainly for local trains.Turin has an efficient public transport system of buses and trams and an underground line was opened for the 2006 Winter Olympics. The City of Turin has recently established a network of bicycle paths throughout the city.Climate:Turin is gloomy with rain and fog in the winter temperatures tending to remain single digit. The summer months between May and September are milder though rain is still common.Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resortsCheck on the internet for the range, location and cost of Turin hotelsEvents:what's on and what's hot* April sees the Festival Internazionale di Film con Tematiche Omosessuali is a five-day international gay and lesbian film festival.*Cioccolat in early March is a two-week celebration of cocoa. Turin see cocoa tastings, sculpture competitions and stalls around the city centre.*Salone Internazionale del Gusto is a five-day festival of food and wine held biannually. The event is international in flavour with traditional producers from around the world showcasing and selling their wares in a giant street market.RomeSteeped in history and rich with monuments famous the world over - the Vatican, the Colosseum - Rome stands as a captivating symbol of history and culture.Transport:getting there and getting awayLeonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) airport is 16 miles southwest of the city with the Stazione Termini direct train running hourly into the city. The main bus station is located outside the Stazione Termini. Buses run from 6:00 a.m to midnight with some all-night services. The Rome Metro service has two lines, both of which go through Termini. It runs from 5:30 a.m to 11.30 p.m. and 0:30 on Saturdays.Climate:The climate is mild with sunny skies and pleasant temperatures. However July and August can be oppressively hot, November is often rainy, and December to February can be chill. Accommodation:from cheap stays to luxury resortsCheck on the internet for the range, location and cost of hotels in Rome.Events:what's on and what's hot*Holy Week (Easter) is time when Catholics from all over the world arrive on pilgrimages to visit the city's churches and to hear the Pope at the Vatican. On Good Friday a procession of the Cross goes from the Colosseum to Capitoline Hill.*The Estate Romana (Roman Summer), is at the heart of Roman social life from June to September. It's a time when the city reverberates to free concerts, street theatre and outdoor cinema. *In September museums, galleries and shops stay open all night from 20:00-08:00 on the occasion called Notte Bianca (white night). It's also a time of free concerts and other happenings all over the city.
The Flinders Ranges are one of South Australia's most popular outback tour destinations, and are world-renowned for their rugged mountain landscapes, spectacular gorges, sheltered sandy creeks lined with majestic River Red Gums, and their abundant flora and fauna. An authentic Australia outback destination, the Flinders Ranges are nevertheless easily accessible from the South Australian capital of Adelaide. The Flinders Ranges are a perfect location in which to witness and marvel at nature on a grand scale. Home to magnificent, rugged and uncompromising landscapes, they are truly a destination where you can get away from it all. Though they seem a million miles from the hustle and bustle of city life, the southern areas of the Flinders Ranges begin only 220 kilometres from Adelaide. Wilpena Pound is around 450 kilometres (five hours drive) from Adelaide. Many different routes are available to explore the Flinders ranges, and all offer excellent scenery. To fully appreciate the area, a few days at least are necessary. For those without transport there are several Flinders Ranges tours operating from Adelaide. The Flinders Ranges National Park is situated in the Flinders Ranges between the outback South Australian towns of Hawker and Blinman. Covering over 950 square kilometres, the park is about 450 kilometres north of Adelaide and offers a broad range of outdoor activities for all ages and tastes including camping, bushwalking, scenic touring, photography, birdwatching and Aboriginal and European tour activities exploring the history and cultures of the region.The Flinders Ranges join the Gulf of St Vincent to the South Australian outback. The landscape of the region is truly spectacular, particularly in spring when wildflowers are blooming and carpet the countryside. Bush walking is a popular and rewarding activity in the ranges, including walks around the Arkaroola Mt Painter Wildlife Sanctuary, the Heysen Trail, Mt Remarkable National Park and Wilpena Pound. The indigenous Adnyamathanha people have lived in the northern Flinders Ranges for many tens of thousands of years, and the ranges remain of enormous cultural significance to them. Adnyamathanha (hills or rock people) is a term now used to describe the Pangkala, Pilatapa, Yadliaura, Kuyani and Wailpi peoples, the traditional indigenous owners of the Flinders Ranges. These groups share a common identity based on the Yura Muda, the culture and language of their ancestors. While European geologists explain the formation of the Flinders Ranges in scientific terms, the Adnyamathanha understand the landscape through the Yura Muda dreamtime stories, which invest the physical landscape with spiritual significance.The Flinders Ranges appear are mentioned in the journals and diaries of many Australian explorers. Matthew Flinders explored the upper reaches of Spencer Gulf in 1802. Sturt and Eyre traversed the area during their journeys north in search of an inland sea. Pastoral runs were established at Arkaba, Wilpena, Aroona and Oraparinna from 1851. By 1863, European settlement extended far beyond the ranges, and copper mining was booming in the region. No rain fell in the Flinders Ranges area from 1864 to 1866, when the saltbush plains were stripped bare and huge losses among both stock and native fauna occurred. Many pastoral runs were deserted and mining virtually ceased. The deserted runs were gradually reoccupied and stocking rates reduced. Today, the pastoral industry remains viable with greatly improved practices and sustainable stocking rates. An intriguing combination of both moisture-dependant and arid-adapted plants co-exist in the Flinders Ranges. The specialised habitats of local indigenous plants are bound to the geology of the region, and are shaped by landform, climate, soil and fire. A majority of the plants found in the Flinders Ranges National Park are arid-adapted. Cypress Pines are found across much of the park, while Porcupine Grass is found on stony hills. Black Oak and Mallee trees are found on the deeper soils in the north-east of the park, and Pearl Bluebush, Broom Emubush and Red Mallee are found on alkaline soils. Fringing the moister quartzite slopes of Wilpena Pound, Guinea Flowers, Grevilleas, Bush Peas, Shrub Violets, Native Cranberries and Fringe Myrtles are common. Nocturnal animals such as dunnarts and planigales are rarely seen as they are mainly active at night and are generally quite small. Bats represent one-third of the native mammal fauna of Flinders Ranges National Park. Their high pitched sounds can frequently be heard as they hunt insects attracted to the light of camp fires at night. Echidnas (native Australian porcupines) are common within the park in early spring (Sep-Oct). Over 100 native bird species are found in the Flinders Ranges National Park, including colourful Australian Ringneck Parrots, Pink and Grey galahs, the migratory Rainbow Bee-eater, the small Elegant Parrots and the Red-capped Robin. Tree-lined creeks and springs provide an ideal habitat for a large variety of reptiles, including skinks, geckoes, legless lizards, lizards, goannas and snakes. Now rare, the large Carpet Python can be found in tree hollows, on rock ledges, and moving on the ground to hunt at night.
I simply love aircrafts and long haul flights. We board award winning Singapore Airlines with about 30 hours to go. With 8 magazines, 6 movies, 4 meals and a sleeping pill, I arrive relaxed and ready to explore. American airports are still not people friendly. Singapores ultra-modern airport invites you to linger with free internet terminals, a cinema, rooftop swimming pool, aromatherapy spas, oxygen bars, indoor nature garden with waterfalls and koi pond. Im escorting my smallest group yet with 28 singles. Over 60 had begged me to offer these destinations, but most bailed last minute claiming fear of bird flu. So its like a vacation for me with this quality over quantity entourage of culture-vultures. We begin with an orientation tour at the top of Mt. Farber with spectacular views. I can see the group is impressed with this sparkling metropolis located between Malaysia and Indonesia. Here is the leader of S.E. Asia, a bustling port that was modernized by the British Empire. Its called the Lion City and inhabited by 4 million souls. 76% are Chinese and the other minorities blend harmoniously. Singapore is a city, state, capital and country all in one and draws 8 million visitors per year, yet few Americans have yet to discover it. We check into the opulent Regent Hotel of the Four Seasons. Im given a suite and swear this wins the award for the most gracious staff on the planet. Weve arrived at a perfect time now with the Great Shopping Festival on. There is nothing like some retail therapy to soothe our jet lag. Orchard Road, like a tree lined Fifth Avenue is a block away and center of all life. Shopping is the national obsession and bargain hunting can become a blood sport here. There are 150 mega-malls with some that never close. Im a label slave and purchase a used authentic Rolex with documents for a fraction of its original cost. We have only 4 days here. So much to do 24/7, its like Hong Kong on steroids. The Arts Festival is on with a multitude of venues. After dark, it becomes party city at the trendy Clarke Quay area by the river.We have an astute and friendly guide named Farida who shows us all the sights along with a great sense of humor. We visit the lush National Orchard Gardens with 60,000 orchids, China Town with its markets and temples as well as Little India with its intense aromas and vibrant colors. Then on to the ultra-contemporary financial district, Merlion Park with its landmark fountain and the historic colonial area that was established by Sir Stanford Raffles. We stop to sip a Singapore Sling at the famous Long Bar of Raffles Hotel where rooms start at $700 per night. Other tours included Jurong Bird Park and the Night Safari at the zoo, considered the best in the world with its free roaming cages for 2500 animals. In free time, we ride rickshaws around town and take the cable car over to Sentosa Island. Some of us opt to head back to the zoo for a Jungle Breakfast with the Orangutans. At night Terry & I dine on jumbo chili crabs and rice cakes. This vibrant island-state of Singapore is glistening clean with purple bougainvillea bushes lining the highways. All cars are equipped with alarms to sound if one exceeds the speed limit. No graffiti, no gangs and in this tightly controlled democracy, its the death penalty for drug traffickers. We all make jokes about getting caned for chewing gum or jay-walking. Its been a leisurely visit here. I usually feel like Jack Bauer on the TV series 24 on my trips with non-stop itineraries. I feel rested as I board our 3 hour flight to Vietnam. We arrive to another world with rice paddies, sampans, lotus blossoms, coconut milk and noodle soups. Its like time machine travel back to the 15th century in this graceful land that is steeped in history. It is far poorer than I anticipated. There is however, an alluring charm which is found in the gentility of these people with the sincerest of smiles. I am a fan of the Third World. Whereas Singapore was dynamic, Hanoi is culturally stimulating. The city is studded with lakes and shaded by tamarind trees. It is a dichotomy that bustles with Chi-energy and yet is tranquil at the same time. We check into the deluxe Sheraton Resort, an oasis of calm amidst the chaos. Our fabulous guide named Hong will be with us for 6 glorious days. His first lesson was in teaching us how to cross the streets. The traffic of 7 lanes is horrendous with 2.4 million motor scooters. Its called the Chicken Game. Hong says. Dont run, dont stop, just walk slowly so drivers can predict your direction. That afternoon I stand in fear stranded 20 minutes curbside as this lesson goes against all instincts. There are entire families on a single scooter, called the Vietnamese sandwich. Everything is transported on these mopeds, 8 piglets, a dozen chickens upside down, a TV, a tree and more. Pollution is bad. The inner city looks tired and worn. Suddenly theres a monsoon downpour. People drape ponchos and it becomes raincoat city. It dissipates as quickly as it began and life goes on. The sun shined on our daily tours which included the Temple of Literature, One Pillar Pagoda, the French Quarter and the memorial to Ho Chi Mihn. We line up with hundreds of people to enter the tomb where his preserved body is visibly encased just like Lennon in Moscow. Communist armed soldiers command us to silent reverence, no cameras, umbrellas, sunglasses and arms at our sides. Later we visit Hoa Lo Prison, or Fiery Furnace. Built by the French in 1896, thousands of political prisoners were tortured here until 1954. We view the dungeons with leg irons, torture equipment and head cutting machies. In the 1960s the Vietcong used this as a prisoner of war detention center for American pilots shot down during the Vietnam War. It was our captive pilots that sardonically named this place The Hanoi Hilton. We also do a walking tour through the Old Quarter where each narrow lane was named for its ancient craft: Silk St., Coffin St., Grilled Fish St., etc. Hong leads us to a food market with turtles, sea slugs, pig heads and other unmentionable creatures for sale. Thit Chow is dog stew which is considered peasant food here. Country rat is ceremoniously served at all birthday parties. Most of our meals are included with elaborate breakfast buffets and 10 coarse lunches. Every restaurant is affordable. One evening my dinner menu presented salad of jellyfish, deep fried eel, ginger crickets and sticky rice with tender roasted pigeon. It seems the Vietnamese will eat anything that moves because it tastes like chicken. We attend the Water Puppet Show, a ancient art form unique only to Hanoi. This blend of music and dance on water was the source of entertainment of villagers long ago. We then scatter to explore the city, Asias oldest capital. Some go for massages and pedicures at prices that cant be resisted. Some shop for souvenirs while others have clothes tailor made for them. I have an embroidered silk dress cut to my body in 4 hours for $45. We also visited the handicraft villages for bargains in art, ceramics and lacquerware. The currency is a great challenge for us as $10,500 dong equals 65 cents. We felt like millionaires yet it was disheartening to learn that the annual per capita income is just $320! We tip generously throughout. Vietnams pulse is found in its cities whereas its decorous grace is found in its villages. We head out through the countryside for a full day cruise at Halong Bay. The air is fresh as we pass rice paddies, duck and prawn farms. It is rice harvest time and hundreds of rice farmers are bent over their ponds. Timid children wave as we drive by. We arrive at this natural UNESCO World Heritage Site and board our private wooden junk boat. Quietly we sail into a dreamscape that looks surreal. 3,000 islands of sheer limestone cliffs emerge from the emerald sea. There is a timeless, haunting quality to this scenery. Nat. Geo. calls it magic in stone and water. We enjoy a seafood lunch with fresh caught crab and prawns. Its a perfect day in the sun for escapism and serenity. The highlight of the trip for me was our group cyclo-tour through Old Hanoi on the last day. We turn a corner downtown to see 28 bicycle-rickshaws lined up to peddle us individually for an hour through the narrow scooter filled lanes of oncoming traffic. There are some near-misses at the red lights which are always ignored. We all laugh as locals stare. Terry at 64 is considered huge even in America. Here he looked like King Tut seated on a throne as his 90lb. driver peddles him effortlessly in line with our group. We later go our separate ways for independent exploration. After several hours, I found myself lost in an area of town with no taxis. I had to get back to join others for dinner. No choice but to hire a ride on a scooter. Dressed in a skirt with my arms full of bags, I mount the tiny seat and were off. On the highway, I wrap my arms and legs around my driver like an octopus. He laughs the entire way to the Sheraton. We fly back to Singapore for a good nights rest at the Le Meridian before our long flight home to Los Angeles via Tokyo. I reflect on another journey well done with new insights gained on history and cultures. It was like visiting two different planets within one vacation. The contrast of this trip is evident in our photos from the contemporary garden paradise of Singapore to the new renaissance of traditional Vietnam. This is certainly an Asian affair never to be forgotten.
Argentina is on the way back from the economic crisis of the last few years. If you are looking for a travel destination, Argentina is amazing and cheap.Economic WoesWhile Argentina has unlimited beauty, it also has unlimited corruption. The massive corruption finally lead to an economic crisis at the turn of the century. With the currency devalued and jobs hard to find, Argentina was a decidedly dangerous place for travelers. At one point, the country was going through Presidents faster than I go through coffee. At one point, the country went through five of them in a month! Wait, that might not be such a bad idea. Regardless, things appear to have stabilized and the country is back on the travel map. So, whats to see?Buenos AiresPrior to landing in "Buenos Aires" , you are strongly encouraged to glue your jaw shut. Buenos Aires is a city of jaw-dropping beauty. In many ways, you will feel as though you have magically been transported to Vienna. The European impression is overwhelming. The city is elegance itself. If youre a meat eater, make sure you experience one of the steak houses. You wont be disappointed.Mar del PlataYouve been doing sit ups, right? The Mar de Plata is the hot beach area. Literally. Damn hot, sometimes. If you wish to pursue a little melanoma research, this is the place. If you prefer to pass on the cancer research, you can hit the Mar de Plata Aquarium, play golf on five different courses. The area is also rife with discos. Try the ones on the Noisy Avenue, but dont mention my name. There wereproblems last time I was there.Iguaz FallsIf you like waterfalls, this is the place for you. The Iquaza Falls are twice as wide and taller than Niagara Falls. The Falls actually consist of over 250 cascades that came into existence due to a volcanic eruption. If you can, try to visit the falls in the spring or fall as it is ungodly hot and humid in the summer.Tierra del FuegoWelcome to the end of the world. At least, thats the hook for "Tierra del Fuego" . Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, is the southernmost city in the world. From the city, you can take the end of the world train to see incredible snow covered mountain ranges in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. Words fail me, but the area is definitely worth visiting. Come on, you rode the elephants in Thailand, didnt you? PatagoniaNo, we are not talking about the clothing line. Patagonia is located in a vast area below Buenos Aires and is famous for uncompromised beauty. Greater Patagonia is actually split between Chile and Argentina. The section in Argentina is filled with glaciers, national parks and so on. I cant possibly describe it, so Im not even going to try. Just know that you will not be disappointed.ArgentinaFrom glaciers to beaches, from elegant cities to friendly little towns, Argentina is a top travel destination. With the economy stabilizing, now is the time to go.