deforestation

Galapagos Islands...like no place else on Earth.

Galapagos Islands...like no place else on Earth.

by Betsy Herbert

My flight into Mariscal Sucre Airport, just outside of Quito, Ecuador, was the scariest of my year-long journey around the world. As the flight from Buenos Aires approached Quito, nestled at 8,200 feet in the Andes, I had a birdseye view of the city. The buildings of Quito snake up the sides of the huge mountains and around the lips of canyons that wind between them.

The airport runway sits atop a long narrow ridge top, edged on either side by steep canyons. As we approached the landing strip, the winds were blowing fiercely, buffeting our plane from side to side. Just 5 - 10 feet above the runway, the plane was wobbling so much that the pilot suddenly nosed it up, goosed it, and, and as we all hung on to our seats, he urged the plane slowly upward in preparation for another landing attempt. During the 10 - 15 minutes we circled the airport, as the heavy winds continued, I popped a Lorazepam, which I kept on hand just for such occasions.

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Easter Island's ancient history: Exploring the mysteries

Easter Island's ancient history: Exploring the mysteries

by Betsy Herbert

I've always been fascinated by the mysteries of Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui), which lies in the Pacific Ocean 2,400 miles west of Chile's mainland. One of the most remote populated islands in the world, Easter Island's nearest inhabited island, Pitcairn, lies 1,289 miles to its east.

Some of the remaining questions about Easter Island's ancient past include: How did people first get here? Why and how did they build the enormous stone figures that Easter Island is famous for, how did the island become a wasteland, and why did the population of Easter Island crash between 1500 and 1700 CE?

Easter Island, a province of Chile, is now relatively easy to visit. My flight from Tahiti took five hours. Easter Island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Most of the island now lies within the Rapa Nui National Park, and there are plenty of accommodations in the main city of Hanga Roa.

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New Zealand: A bump in the road in a sojourner's dreamscape

New Zealand: A bump in the road in a sojourner's dreamscape

by Betsy Herbert

When I first arrived in New Zealand, I had just broken off a romance with a man whom I had hoped to travel with here. I had discovered--by sleuthing on his Facebook page--an irrefutable trail of deceit that left me no alternative but to end the relationship.

So, here I was on my own in New Zealand, reeling from a disheartening betrayal. But, as I’ve said in previous blogs, life goes on while you’re traveling. . . and this was just a bump in the road.

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Downunder: Connecting with my inner outback

Downunder: Connecting with my inner outback

Just 10 days before, I was lazing on the beach in Phuket, Thailand, reflecting on my travels over the past three months in Africa and Asia. The next day I boarded a plane in Bangkok, headed for Perth, Australia.

Ah, Australia! I’d be able to drink tap water without worrying about getting sick. I was also looking forward to renting a car. In Africa and Asia, driving a rental car would have been suicidal for a Westerner.

When I got off the plane at Perth Airport just outside of Western Australia's capital city Perth, I wondered where all the people were. It was after midnight. I could see a sky full of stars above the terminal, but there were just a few folks milling around. I drew a deep breath in appreciation of this moment's solitude.

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Cambodia: Serpents, skulls, spiders & Siem Reap

Cambodia: Serpents, skulls, spiders & Siem Reap

by Betsy Herbert

Most people come to Cambodia because the fabulous temples of Angkor Wat are on their bucket lists. Many tours of Cambodia, though, save Angkor Wat for last. What you see on your way to Angkor Wat will no doubt change you, shock you, deepen your experience of Cambodia, and maybe even inspire you to act on this experience.

Prelude to Cambodia. When we left Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, our tour group was dreading the 7-hour ride on a public bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We assumed the bus would be hot, crowded, dirty, and generally uncomfortable. We were blown away when the shiny, new bus arrived on schedule, complete with A/C, upholstered seats, and wi-fi!

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Laos: A resilient people up against the odds

Laos: A resilient people up against the odds

by Betsy Herbert

Surrounded by China, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, Laos has the tragic distinction of being the most bombed country on Earth, as well as one of the 10 poorest. And yet, wherever you go, people are smiling and they are working hard.

I entered Laos (Laos People’s Democratic Republic), a Communist country, from the west through Thailand with a tour group. It wasn’t until we reached its eastern border with Vietnam eight days later that I realized the toll that the Vietnam War had taken on Laos, a country that was never declared as an enemy of the U.S.

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Thailand is for glitz: Temples, teak, elephants and ladyboys

Thailand is for glitz: Temples, teak, elephants and ladyboys

by Betsy Herbert

Just three hours after my flight left the New Delhi airport at 10 a.m. October 26 bound for Bangkok, the magnitude 7.5 Hindu Kush earthquake struck South Asia. Though the earthquake’s epicenter was in Afghanistan, there were hundreds of casualties in Pakistan and the tremors in New Delhi sent thousands of panicked people into the streets. I didn't learn of the earthquake until just after I arrived in Bangkok.

I had a few days to kill in Bangkok before meeting up with my next tour group, Intrepid Travel’s “30-day Indochina Loop,” which included Thailand, and later Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

I quickly learned that the Thais really know how to put on a show. Glitz is everywhere. . . in the ornate temples, the golden Buddhas, the orchestrated elephant performances, and the brash "Ladyboy" shows.

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Madagascar: Paradise lost?

Madagascar: Paradise lost?

by Betsy Herbert

I left Tanzania on September 15 bound for Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, where I would be on my own for 10 days. . . I was excited but wary. Why did I want to go to Madagascar? A popular travel guide describes Madagascar as follows:

"Lemurs, baobabs, rainforests, beaches, desert, trekking and diving: Madagascar is a dream destination for nature and outdoor lovers...and half the fun is getting to all these incredible attractions." -- Lonely Planet travel guide to Madagascar

Madagascar is made to sound like a paradise. But I knew from my own reading that deforestation, erosion, and water and air pollution were big environmental problems in Madagascar. I had keen interest in these problems, since forest management was the focus of my academic research and publications. I wanted to see Madagascar’s deforestation with my own eyes.

 

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