Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for July, 2015

Japan’s Ghost Island

By Linda Tancs

Less than 10 miles from the city of Nagasaki, Japan, Hashima is one of 505 uninhabited islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. It wasn’t always that way. Once home to more than 5,000 inhabitants during Japan’s coal mining heyday, the island’s abandoned concrete apartments are emblematic of a forgotten age and impart an eerie feel to the place. Also known as Battleship Island owing to its silhouette, it opened to tourism in 2009. The boat ride takes 30 minutes, and walks are limited to defined paths due to the site’s damage and decay.

Worms and Waterfalls

By Linda Tancs

A lush oasis awaits those seeking to avoid the fanfare of Bali, Indonesia. Just hop on over via speedboat to Lombok, a quieter escape offering pristine, unspoiled views like the one of Mount Rinjani, an active volcano. In that area you’ll find some of the island’s most popular waterfalls, like Air Terjun Sindang Gila, Benang Stokel and Benang Kelambu. Just be cautious of local touts demanding excessive guide fees. Another hotspot is Kuta Beach, a mecca for sunbathers and surfers. Unlike its namesake in Bali, though, it lays claim to an unusual ceremony presided over by the indigenous Sasak people. Each February they celebrate the arrival of marine worms, said to represent the long strands of hair of a mythical princess who ended her life in the sea rather than marry the wrong prince. This little delicacy is often wrapped in banana leaves and roasted.

The World’s Oldest Lake

By Linda Tancs

Curving through southeastern Siberia for 400 miles, Lake Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. At that length, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s more of a sea, but one fifth of the world’s fresh water is located there. Originating 25 millions years ago and plunging to a maximum depth of over 5,350 feet, you can only imagine the life forms dwelling in this ancient lake. In fact, over half of its species are unique to this watery habitat, such as the freshwater seal and its favorite meal, a translucent fish called golomyanka.

The Wild Atlantic

By Linda Tancs

Malin Head to Slieve League. Mullaghmore Head to Keem Strand. Killary Harbour to the Cliffs of Moher. Loop Head to Skelligs Viewpoint. Dursey Island to the Old Head of Kinsale. No matter which route you take, you’ll discover Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way. This is a west coast adventure combining history, culture and untamed nature along the world’s longest defined coastal touring route. At over 1,550 miles, it passes through nine counties, stretching from its northernmost point in Donegal to its southernmost in Cork.

Africa’s Oldest Park

By Linda Tancs

Founded in 1925 by King Albert I of Belgium and originally known as Albert National Park, Virunga became the first national park on the African continent, a refuge today for a quarter of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas. Located on the border of Uganda and Rwanda, it’s rich in biodiversity. Covering 3,000 square miles, the park features forests, savannas, lava plains, swamps, erosion valleys, the glaciated peaks of the Rwenzori mountains and two of the world’s most active volcanoes. Climb to the top of Nyiragongo volcano and you’ll be treated with a spectacular view of the world’s largest lava lake. Most tourists fly into Kigali international airport and take a three hour taxi ride to the border crossing at Gisenyi, Rwanda.

Upside Down in Thailand

By Linda Tancs

At the Upside Down House in Phuket, Thailand, you really can dance on the ceiling, Lionel Richie style. The directionally challenged home is a popular attraction that, it’s fair to say, will challenge your perspective. If your senses aren’t altered enough by the experience, then be sure to proceed to the garden maze behind the home.

A Medicine Magnate’s Mansion

By Linda Tancs

Dr. A. B. Seelye made his fortune concocting patent medicines, compounds marketed under colorful names in the 18th and 19th centuries as cures for various ailments. His success bought him a stunning 25-room Georgian mansion in Abilene, Kansas. One of the finest historic homes in the state, the Seelye Mansion boasts among its charms a Tiffany-designed fireplace, original Edison light fixtures, gold-laden French furniture and a bowling alley purchased at the 1904 World’s Fair held in St. Louis, Missouri. You can tour the patent medicine museum at the rear of the house.

Abe Lincoln Never Slept There

By Linda Tancs

The third oldest continuously occupied governor’s mansion in the nation, the executive mansion in Springfield, Illinois is a gem of Italianate architecture. It’s also rich with native son Abe Lincoln’s artifacts. For starters there’s the “smiling bust” of Lincoln, one he actually posed for. And then there’s the Lincoln table, a priceless work of art created in 1864 from more than 20,000 inlaid wood pieces. From the dizzying elliptical stairway leading upstairs you’ll find the Lincoln bedroom, comprising bedroom furniture given to the Lincolns for their use upon their anticipated return from the White House. Sadly, that was not to be. Although entertained at the mansion, Lincoln actually never slept there. Likewise, he never slept in the Lincoln bedroom at that other executive mansion—the White House.

Wolf Watching in Wyoming

By Linda Tancs

A must-see for serious wildlife watchers, Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley has been a wolf watching mecca since the wolves were reintroduced in 1995. The Lamar River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River; the river valley is bookended by mountain ranges and is also home to elk, bison, grizzlies and a variety of bird species. Keep your eyes (or binoculars) peeled during early morning or late evening hours.

Batting It Out of the Park

By Linda Tancs

Carlsbad Caverns is a national park in the Guadalupe Mountains in southeastern New Mexico, an underground wonderland of limestone caves (more than 119 of them documented) discovered by Native Americans centuries ago. The terrain yields fascinating stories about the Ice Age: a stone scraper discovered within view of the entrance goes back to Ice Age Indian hunters, and bones from Ice Age animals like jaguars, camels, lions and giant sloths have been found in the entrance areas of some caves. During summer, another thing you’ll find in the caves is a Mexican free-tailed bat community nearly 400,000 strong. The evening bat flight program takes place from Memorial Day weekend through late October, after which the winged mammals migrate to Mexico for the winter. Preceded by an informative lecture by a park ranger, the seasonal spectacle highlights the mass exodus of the bats in search of an evening meal. Their pre-dawn return to the caves is likewise impressive. During July and August, the herd is increased by newborn bats and migrating bats from northern climes. Photography or other filming at bat flight may be done under a special use permit obtained from the park at least two weeks in advance.

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