pollution

Central America: From Zone 3 to Gringolandia

Central America: From Zone 3 to Gringolandia

by Betsy Herbert

Seems everyone around the world is interested in the US primary election, especially when it comes to Donald Trump. After flying from Quito, Ecuador to San Salvador on March 12 to begin a 16-day tour of Central America, I took a taxi to my hotel.

My cab driver was eager to discuss the US presidential election. He spoke no English, but by now my Spanish was pretty good. I began by stating my opposition to Trump. As if on queue, the cabbie launched into a rant about Trump's racism. He was incredulous about the level of support that Trump seemed to be getting from American voters. I explained that US politics was extremely divisive and that there were plenty of people who opposed Trump for many reasons, including his racist views. I also told him I didn't think Trump would win. He seemed somewhat relieved to hear my opinion.

Looking back on my year-long trip around the world, I realized that nobody that I met, with the exception of a few American travelers, had anything nice to say about Trump. While I have more serious concerns about Trump, I know that if he were elected, international travel would become a lot more uncomfortable and unsafe for Americans.

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Ecuador: Before the quake...floods & volcanic eruptions

Ecuador: Before the quake...floods & volcanic eruptions

by Betsy Herbert

After a memorable tour of the Galapagos Islands in February, I headed back to the Ecuadoran mainland to hang out for a couple of weeks in Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city. [I couldn't have known that six weeks later, on April 16, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake would devastate parts of Ecuador; even so, the quake did not seriously impact Cuenca.]

Cuenca is well known among American ex-pats as one of the most attractive places to retire. I wanted to see for myself, since I noticed that most of hype about Cuenca is published by the real estate and tourism industries. Whenever I read about a place that sounds too good to be true, well, I get curious. Cuenca is touted for its great climate...it's near the equator, but at 8,500 feet, it's not unbearably hot and humid. It's also known for it's beautiful old buildings and town squares and its cheap cost of living. 

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Patagonia: Wild, rugged nature via urban gateways

Patagonia: Wild, rugged nature via urban gateways

by Betsy Herbert

To venture into the wild, rugged, beautiful and remote Patagonia (the southern tip of South America), most travelers start out from either Santiago, Chile or Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Typical travel photos of Santiago are taken on those rare clear days when deep blue skies contrast sharply with snow-capped peaks of the Andes. But most likely, what you'll find when you arrive in Santiago is smog so thick that those glorious Andes fade out from view in a yellow blur.

I approached Patagonia from Easter Island, 2,400 miles off Chile's Pacific coast. My flight was delayed twice for mechanical reasons. So I arrived in Santiago, the capital city of Chile, three hours late on January 28.

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Vietnam on speed; where is it headed?

Vietnam on speed; where is it headed?

by Betsy Herbert

Scary border crossing. When we arrived at the Hanoi airport in north Vietnam on November 8, I feared my visa would not be accepted, since just hours before we landed I noticed that it had fallen apart along its fold-line. My passport had been opened and closed so many times since I left the states seven months ago that my Vietnam visa inside simply deteriorated. My fears proved to be well-founded; I was rudely questioned and detained for four stressful hours by immigration in Hanoi before I was finally issued a new visa and admitted into the country.

Not an auspicious beginning! But, at least, due to a little help from my friends (thank god for travel buddies), I was finally in Vietnam!

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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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India: Unpredictable, unexplicable and unforgettable

India: Unpredictable, unexplicable and unforgettable

by Betsy Herbert

When I first arrived in India after ten grueling days in Madagascar, I made a beeline for Goa, an old Portuguese port on India’s southwest coast known for its beach resorts. I was in serious need of R & R.

When I arrived in Goa I was completely exhausted so I was deliriously happy to see a sari-clad Indian woman waiting at the gate holding a placard with my name on it. . . my ride to the hotel!

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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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