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Travel Features From Spa To Spoleto, On A Greyhound?

As I hunch over my laptop computer here in a Milwaukee coffeeshop, I think about the knot in my neck and the strain on my eyes. A trip to a spa would be nice right now, wouldn’t it? A fine complement to my iced chai, at least. But, alas, I’ve never been to such a den of rejuvenation! Enter Content Producer Sabah Karimi, a Brit-turned-Wisconsinite, who gives us some pointers for our next (or more aptly, our first) trip to a spa. Sabah’s article “How to Spa” is concise and practical, focusing on expectations and etiquette instead of on treatments and services (since those vary dramatically). I doubt I’ll be pampering myself anytime soon with a facial scrub or a foot massage, but if the opportunity arises, I’m better prepared thanks to this short piece.

When I do think about relaxation, I think of Europe’s rough and lesser known gems – the sort of Alpine nooks and Andalusian coastal towns vacationing celebrities frequent to avoid the big cities. One of these more quaint destination is Italy’s Spoleto, introduced to us by Content Producer Logan Hamilton. Logan’s article covers this small Umbrian city of 40,000, now popular for its summer art festival. As we learn, personalized tours here are the norm, offering Italian hospitality with a slow, warm bustle. Complete with some detailed history of the area, Logan’s article sells us on this easy excursion from Rome.

The trip from Rome to Spoleto may be a short one by train, but the trip from New York City to Austin by bus is anything but brief, as we learn from Racheline Maltese. In “Surviving Long Distance Bus Travel”, Racheline looks back at a gutsy solo bus adventure, full of curious characters and nagging delays between New York and Texas – both ways. She took it like a trooper and lived to tell the gritty details, including her draining conversation with a recently released, shoe-toting prisoner

Her tale reminds me of a college spring break that I spent on a Greyhound with my friend Jodi, shuttling ourselves from eastern Pennsylvania all the way to a farm town outside of Rochester. Though my seven-hour journey was far less epic, Racheline’s story made me strangely nostalgic. Taking a Greyhound is indeed one of those things that everyone should try, but once is usually enough!

With Racheline’s epic bus adventure in mind, I’ll end this week’s column with a pick-me-up courtesy of Roy Barnes from Cheyenne, Wyoming. Reminding us that travel writing is valuable and vital, he nudges us to keep turning our personal experiences into travel stories. In”Travel Writing: Jumping Over the First Hurdle of Negative Mind Talk”, Roy gives us a brief pep speech, using examples of travel articles that he’s written in spite of the pesky negative thoughts that almost kept him from trying. But you fabulous AC content producers would never let a brief bout of negativity bar you from writing, right? Right?!

Tips for Travel Planning

For travelers looking for a great trip on a budget, there is no better place to go than Africa, where motorcycle tours, safaris, and gorilla trekking are abundant. Siyabona Africa Safari Company offers a wide array of vacations for the discerning customer, including motorcycle tours, safaris, and wilderness excursions. An example of a great motorcycle tour through Siyabona Africa Safari Company is their 14 day Africa Extreme motorcycle tour.

Starting from the beautiful city of Johannesburg, vacationers take a motorcycle route to South Africa’s renowned Kruger National Park. Within the park, vacationers have the opportunity to join park personnel in observing wild game in all terrain vehicles. Including the tour of the park and driving game throughout habitats, vacationers get the opportunity to camp within Kruger National Park.

From Kruger National Park, the motorcycle tour heads to Swaziland’s Mlilwane National Park. Tourists get another opportunity to tour wildlife habitats as well as additional white water rafting or horseback riding depending on the vacationer’s particular interests. From Swaziland, motorcyclists ride through Lesotho Mountains, the Sani Pass in South Africa, and the famous Comrades Marathon Route, site of one of the most grueling marathons in the world.

Siyabona Africa Safari Company is not the only purveyor of motorcycle tours, but their tour pricing is competitive. While spending over $2000 on a vacation may seem like a lot, spending two weeks in the beautiful environs of Africa is certainly worth the money. Motorcycle tours in Africa are incredible, memorable experiences worth the investment.

Travelers looking to experience nature’s beauty should look no further than a gorilla trekking trip to Africa. Gorilla trekking essentially involves traveling through a gorilla habitat, observing gorilla behavior, and experiencing the beauty of natural African habitats. Siyabona Africa Safari Company is among the many services that provide vacation services in Africa and an example of one gorilla trekking trip is their three day trek to Parc National Des Volcans in Rwanda.

The trek begins with a flight from Nairobi, Kenya, to Kigali and the first day of the trip is devoted to a tour of historic Kigali. With a night spent at Kiningi Lodge, vacationers begin their trek in earnest on day two, with the benefit of English-speaking tour guides and all wheel drive transportation, ensuring a safe, enjoyable tour. Tracking gorillas and experiencing their habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and certainly one that trekkers do not forget.

Siyabona Africa’s gorilla trek in Rwanda costs between $1160 and $1370, depending on the time of the travel season a person purchases the package. This includes the three days of accommodation, both hotel and camping, meals, and a permit to travel through gorilla habitats and learn about their environment. Similar vacations in the United States or in Europe are nearly as expensive without the benefit of being immersed in such a beautiful area. As well as the gorilla trekking, vacationers can experience beautiful lakes in Buhra and Ruhondo and get their money’s worth in sight seeing.

One of the great natural wonders in the world are the Victoria Falls in Africa, which is situated between Zambia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa. For vacationers and tourists, the Victoria Falls provide a great vacation trip on a relatively moderate budget compared to other international trips. Siyabona Africa Safari Company and others offer great trips to the Victoria Falls and Siyabona has a fourteen day trip from Swakopmund to the Victoria Falls for a great price.

The fourteen day trip includes visits to the beautiful and secluded Cape Cross, observation of abundant wild game and vegetation in the Okavango Delta, and of course, considerable time observing the beauty of the Victoria Falls. For vacationers interested in getting immersed in nature without spending their entire budget, this trip offers the opportunity to camp for two weeks in terrain close to the Falls. Some of the activities included with this package are tours of bushman wall paintings, flights over the Delta, fishing trips, and safari in the Moremi Game Reserve.

For this fourteen day trip, Siboyana offers an extremely budget friendly price of $770. The reason that this trip is so affordable is that instead of utilizing hotel facilities, the entire trip’s accommodations involve camping as well as the relatively low costs of traveling into nature preserves. Traveling to the Victoria Falls or any other African landmark on a budget is easy when travelers take the time to research different travel companies.

The Beaches of Washington State

The Northwest offers scenic coasts for swimming, kite flying, driving, horseback riding, walking, surfing, clam digging and bird watching. There are places to observe the marine life, places to relax and watch the waves, and places to seen the majesty of nature. In Washington state, from Long Beach on the south end to Ruby Beach on the north, there is enough variety to satisfy all needs.

Long Beach is on the little peninsula jutting north in the southwest corner of the state, the Pacific Ocean on one side and Willapa Bay on the other. One of the longest open beaches in the United States, it is the home to the annual Washington International Kite Festival held the third week in August. The long sandy beaches are also attractive to swimmers and surfers.

It was on the Long Beach peninsula that Lewis and Clarke ended their quest for the Pacific Ocean. A Discovery Trail to commemorate that adventure stretches 8 miles from Ilwaco to North Long Beach. Also, for those who enjoy walking, there is the ½ mile Long Beach Boardwalk with interpretive centers, viewpoints, and picnic areas.

Long Beach is a busy place, and going there on a weekend or during one of their many celebrations the traffic will be very congested. There are many celebrations beginning on January 1st with fireworks to celebrate the new year, to the Water Music Festival in December, there is always something going on in Long Beach.

There are five state parks on the peninsula, including the most visited state park, Cape Disappointment; and, Washington is the only state in the west without day-use fees.

Westport and Ocean Shores could reach across Grays Harbor and shake hands, if that were possible. Ocean Shores is on a southern jutting peninsula and Westport in on a northern-jutting peninsula, at the mouth of Grays Harbor. It’s in Aberdeen where you need to make the decision of which beach to go to.

Westport is popular for clam digging and hosts the annual Cranberry Harvest Festival in October. The beaches here aren’t as sandy, but it’s a quieter place and great for whale watching, beach combing, and is home to the tallest light house on the Washington coast, the Grays Harbor Lighthouse.

Ocean Shores is another popular destination for those seeking sandy beaches. In June is the International Kite Challenge competition and July is the month for motorcycle enthusiasts. The Harley Owners Group Sun amp; Surf Run attracts about 2,000 visitors every July. Ocean Shores is very family oriented, with many places to stay close to the beach, good restrooms, a grocery store, and fast food restaurants. Many people enjoy renting the little yellow scooters and mopeds that can be driven on the beach. Horseback riding, picnicking, and swimming are also very popular activities.

If you need someplace a little quieter, head up State Route 109 to Ocean City, Copalis Beach, Pacific Beach and Moclips. Along the way you will see many nice places to stay, such as Ocean Crest Resort, The Sandpiper, and Iron Springs Resort. Those places fill up fast, so reservations are a must.

From Moclips you can head back east to Highway 101 to go north to Lake Quinault, where you will find the Quinault Rain Forest. With an average rainfall of 12 feet and moderate temperatures, the trees grow to enormous heights. There are a variety of hikes and walks you can take through the rain forest to experience something you won’t see anywhere else in the United States. It is one of four temperate rain forests located only in Washington State. Be sure to stop at the historic Mercantile on the South Shore Road, right next to the Museum and Lodge. Their ice cream cones and milk shakes are great, plus it’s a great place to pick up your souvenirs.

Heading farther north on 101, you reach Kalaloch, pronounced “claylock”. A great place to camp, it offers many interesting beaches. Some of the beaches are reached by meandering trails, climbing over driftwood, to pebbly beaches. On one of the beaches you will see bulwarks of wrecked ships from the 1800’s, at the mouth of Steamboat Creek. Whale watching, beach combing, and storm watching are some of the activities here. There is also a lodge with a restaurant for those needing a good bowl of chowder.

Ruby Beach, with sea stacks, tidal pools, and driftwood galore, is about 10 miles north of Kalaloch. It is breathtakingly beautiful. The beach gets its name from tiny garnets found in the sand. Another rocky beach, it does have some good waves for surfing. You can sit on a large piece of driftwood to each your lunch, or climb on the stacks jutting out of the ocean to watch the waves crash at your feet.

From Ruby Beach, Highway 101 turns inland to the Hoh Rain Forest and the Olympic National Park. You can completely circumnavigate the Olympic Peninsula on Highway 101, ending up in Olympia, the state capital.

Public Transportation In Cameroon

Public transportation is the nearly universal form of travel in Cameroon, a country on the corner between Central and West Africa. Cameroonians use public transportation whenever they leave their villages or travel around in a town or city.

Most of Cameroon remains unpaved 45 years after independence. Paving or not determines what type of public transportation you will find when you travel. Where there are paved roads, you will most often find smaller cars, such as Peugeots, being used as taxis. Drivers will jam up to 10 people into a car and then speed down the roads in excess of 120 kms per hour. It makes for a very scary and uncomfortable trip.

The more common type of public transportation on dirt roads is the infamous bush taxi. The bush taxi is about 10 feet tall and painted white. It looks like a milk truck with holes cut out for windows; it seats 24 on the three long benches in the back and two in the front comfortably. Drivers regularly jam up to 32 people in the back and four in the front of a bush taxi. This does not include children, who sit on people’s knees, or the bagboys, who handle passengers’ luggage and hang off the back of the bush taxi like firemen during the trip. Either passengers shove their bags under the seats or bag boys secure the bags on top for a fee. These can add another four to six feet to the bush taxi’s already considerable height.

The bag boys will fight you for your luggage, so make sure you stick it underneath early. No taxi leaves until it’s full, so you can wait up to six hours to leave. If you get there early, you can get a good seat up near the driver and put your luggage underneath. Be careful about sitting directly behind the driver, however, as this is where the engine sits and the wall can become very hot.

The roads are quite rough, riddled with washboard, ravines and potholes. In the rainy season, they turn to red mud, with small ponds that can extend all the way across a road and get a taxi stuck. Then, everyone has to get out and push. Accidents are common, making travel dangerous, since dirt roads are only a lane-and-a-half wide and other large vehicles like logging trucks will literally push a bush taxi out of the way.

A major problem of public transport and travel in general in Cameroon, particularly in the East Province, is the establishment of impromptu control points coming in and out of major cities by members of the Cameroonian Army, called “gendarmes”. Gendarmes will demand to see national identity cards, especially from anyone who looks foreign, then attempt to intimidate a bribe of 1000 CFA (the local currency) out of the unfortunate passenger. White women traveling alone using public transportation in Cameroon can have an especially unpleasant time, since Cameroonian women are not allowed by law to travel without the permission of their husband, father, brother or male guardian.

In a large town or city, you can get a taxi on the street or at certain spots in or near taxi parks by hooking your fingers as it passes by and hissing. As with long-distance travel, the price is usually fixed. But since most other prices are negotiable and ripping off strangers is a national pastime, the driver may try to inflate the price. Regular prices for taxis also vary according to city or town. They’re cheapest in the East Province and most expensive up north. A cheaper alternative to the taxi is the mototaxi, where you can travel on the back of a small motorcycle behind the driver.

The most comfortable way to travel, by far, is plane. Until recently, you could take Cameroon Airlines from Maroua to the country’s capital, Yaoundé, or further south to Douala in the South Province. These planes were medium-sized modern airplanes with the usual safety features, though the seats were a bit narrow with not much legroom.

The easiest way to travel by public transportation in Cameroon is by train, but it doesn’t go everywhere and has the odd derailment. The railroad goes from Douala north through Yaoundé to Ngaounderé, the capital of the Adamoua. If you want to travel further north, you need to take a taxi. The roads are paved, but bandits occasionally put up roadblocks to rob the passengers.

In most places in the world, first class on public transportation is not worth it-it is worth it in Cameroon. You have two classes for the train: first and second. In first class, you are guaranteed a seat, at least in theory, and passengers can get on in an orderly fashion. For night trains, you can pay extra for a berth in a four-bed couchette. If you come on in the middle of the route, your couchette may no longer be available by the time you get on.

 

Second class is a different story. Nobody is guaranteed a seat and more tickets than seats are always sold. People therefore scramble in a big pile to get on the train and if you don’t watch it, you will get your pocket picked. You then have to get a seat. The seats come in sets of four. Second class on the Cameroon railroad is a wild travel experience. But it’s not a very comfortable one, especially when traveling alone. You can, however, get food at the different railroad stops from either first or second class. People will come up to the train and sell you peanuts, bananas, papayas, bushmeat, plaintains, beef and bottled water or soda through the window. Avoid buying water and bring your own. Cameroonian water usually needs to be boiled before it’s safe.

Travelling on public transportation in Cameroon is a real adventure and can be scary at times. But if you know French and take a little time to learn your way around, it’s a beautiful country to visit. Just keep a hand on your pockets and a sense of humor firmly in place at all times.