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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Family-Friendly Rafting Trips on the Salmon River

Western River Expeditions will celebrate its 50th year in 2011. Founded by Colorado River rafting pioneer, Jack Currey, the outfitter quickly expanded beyond the Grand Canyon to the other great rivers in the West, heading north into Utah and Idaho. Next summer, the company will unveil a new adventure for families with children as young as five. Called the Salmon River Canyons Family Magic Trip, the five-day, four-night jaunt will include a River Jester, whose sole duty is to keep the kids happy, leading nature-oriented games and activities for the kids, cooking a separate kids dinner at night, and telling stories and singing songs around the campfire. The Class II-IV rapids are mostly on the mild side, well-suited for the youngins. Trips meet and end in Lewiston, Idaho, and cost $1,435 for adults, $1,245 for children ages 5 to 15.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/16/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New iPhone App Sends Postcards

Point. Snap. Postcard. World Nomads has just launched a Postcard App for the iPhone that makes sending postcards as easy as a push of the finger. Here’s how it works. Users download the free app from iTunes. Via PayPal, they purchase stamps (the cost of $2 per stamp works for delivery anywhere in the world). Users then snap a photo that is then turned into a postcard image. Type a message for the back. Add a delivery address and then submit everything electronically. The postcard is printed in the USA on real high-quality gloss paper, stamped and then sent to the address on the card anywhere in the world. When making stamp purchases there’s also an opportunity to donate to one of World Nomads’ Footprints Projects that funds community development projects and fights poverty worldwide.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/15/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quebec’s Winter Carnival

I just finished a story on winter carnivals in North America. One of the finest is in Quebec City, where for 17 days, the party never stops. More than one million people descend upon the fortified city to cheer on the competition in Le Grande Virée, a dogsled race that cruises through the heart of the historic Old City, or watch paddlers sprint across the turgid waters of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The French-flavored festivities continue with tours of the Ice Palace, a giant medieval castle constructed of pure crystalline water, parades, snow sculpture contests, inner tube sled rides, dancing to live music, and late night jaunts to heated tents to sample the potent drink called Caribou, made of whiskey, red wine, and maple syrup. One swig of this and you might be running naked through the snowfields.

While in Quebec City, spend a memorable night 30 minutes outside of town at North America’s only ice hotel, Hotel de Glace. 32 new rooms are created each year out of 12,000 tons of snow and 400 tons of ice, along with an Absolut ice bar, Jacuzzis, and a dance club. Bring those long johns. Temperature inside is a mere 27 degrees Fahrenheit.  
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Affordable Skiing in the Adirondacks

I grew up skiing little ole Maple Ski Ridge, just outside of Schenectady. Though I wouldn’t technically call it skiing. Every Saturday morning, my mother would drop me off with my ski class. I’d ski down once, straight to the lounge, where I’d order a hot chocolate and listen to Don McLean’s “American Pie” on the jukebox. Remember, this was long before Capilene and Gore-Tex products, when you froze your ass off in those plaid shirts and goofy overstuffed jackets. Maybe I’m feeling nostalgic or perhaps nostalgic for the ski lift prices of my youth, but upstate New York and the Adirondacks still offer some of the best deals in the country.

Big Tupper Resort in Tupper Lake re-opened in 2009 as a not-for-profit, no-frills, re-invigorated Adirondack ski resort run entirely by volunteers. With a 1,200-foot vertical drop and 17 trails of beginner-to-expert terrain, Big Tupper is the biggest bargain in the Adirondacks. Lift tickets cost only $15. Since the 1940s, Titus Mountain in Malone has been a hub for Adirondack skiing. Originally called Moon Valley, Titus has undergone some major changes in the past 70 years. Eight chairlifts, 27 trails, a ski school and a 1,200-foot vertical drop make Titus a great option for Canadians, as well as skiers and boarders from nearby Vermont. It’s also the third highest ski area in the entire Adirondacks, yet an all-day ski pass costs less than $40. Back at Maple Ski Ridge, a 4-hour ticket costs $32, with access to their new terrain park. Hot chocolate is extra.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/13/10 at 01:59 PM
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Friday, December 10, 2010

New Audubon Field Guide Apps

I first met David Bradbury a decade ago when he was playing a version of polo on mountain bikes in Burlington, Vermont. When I later had to write a story for The Boston Globe on hiking Vermont’s tallest peak, Mount Mansfield, I wisely chose David to take me to the summit. Of course, he chose the most challenging route, up the Hell Brook Trail. When he’s not hanging with his wife, Emily, my favorite PR maven in Vermont, or his young children, you can often find him making first tracks down Stowe in the early morning hours. So when I heard that David is on the board of a Vermont company called Green Mountain Digital, creating nature-based apps for Audubon Field Guides, I knew the product had to be good. So far, they have 30 apps categorized by geographic region (Texas, Florida, New England, etc…) and type of critter (birds, insects, butterflies, fish).  I checked out the Audubon Birds New England app and found the photographs and songs of the 370 birds to be of the highest quality. Just launched is the ORVIS Fly-Fishing Guide, with casting tips and detailed knot tying videos. The apps can be viewed on any iPhone, Google Droid, iPod Touch, or iPad. Makes for a nice Christmas gift.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/10/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Amman Imman: Water is Life

Today, I’m pleased to introduce my first guest blogger on ActiveTravels, my brother Jim Jermanok. I hope it will be the first of many guest writers!

Five years ago, following graduation from Yale, Ariane Kirtley went to West Africa as a Fulbright Scholar. Her career seemed assured. Almost overnight her life changed. Friends encouraged her to visit the Florida-sized Azawak Valley, the most abandoned region of Niger, the poorest country on Earth. In the Azawak, half the children die before reaching five years old, often of thirst. Ariane thought she’d seen everything in Africa, but she was so devastated by the conditions she found that she decided to dedicate her life to the people of the Azawak, and bring them water from unlimited supplies 600-1000 feet underground, much too deep for conventional wells to reach.
 
Since 2006, Ariane has worked against harrowing odds to save lives in the Azawak, among some of the most defenseless minorities in Africa – a half million Tuareg and Wodaabe nomads who have no water most of the year due to unremitting drought. Ariane set aside career goals and founded her own organization, Amman Imman: Water Is Life, to build permanent borehole wells for these nomads. Working far from civilization in suffocating Saharan heat, facing persistent health risks, Ariane and her team do major infrastructure work normally carried out by governments. In early 2010, persevering under the threat of Al-Qaida terrorists, she finished building her second borehole, the Kijigari “Well of Love.” This follows completion of Tangarwashane borehole in 2007-08. Each borehole serves 25,000 people and animals. 
 
Ariane’s dream is to build fifty such “Oases of Life” to eliminate water scarcity for the half million forsaken people of the Azawak. During this Holiday Season, please think about helping this brave woman save the lives of children and nomads who are on the brink, by donating generously to her 501c3 organization, Amman Imman: Water Is Life
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/09/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cruising the Marquesas Aboard the Aranui

When people find out that I’m a travel writer, they inevitably ask, “What’s your favorite trip?” It’s silly to distill the past two decades of work down to one locale so I try to evade the question. If they’re persistent, I’ll usually mention the Marquesas. In 1994, I took a 16-day cruise with my wife that ventured 750 miles north from Tahiti to the archipelago most distant from any continent. The only way to visit all six of the inhabited Marquesa islands was aboard the Aranui, an upscale freighter that offers air-conditioned cabins and three French meals daily. The ship’s main function, however, is to transport goods to the local residents. She comes bearing bricks and cement, pipes and tractors, fishing nets, medicines, and food, all the necessities for an isolated existence; and returns to Tahiti with copra, dried coconut meat that is processed into oil, soap, and cosmetics. 

Since there are very few adequate docks in the Marquesas, travelers go ashore in wooden whaleboats to meet the locals. Burly crew members guide passengers on and off these boats quicker than they can toss a sack of rice to each other. Obviously, this is no normal luxury cruise ship. There is no shuffleboard, no stage where entertainment continually bombards you throughout the day, and no dress code for meals.

In its place, you’ll visit the island Nuka Hiva, where a 22-year old sailor named Herman Melville jumped ship and wrote about his experience with cannibals in his first book, Typee. Paul Gauguin’s gravesite rests on the neighboring island of Hiva Oa. Sitting under a plumeria tree on a hillside over the bay, the stone is simply inscribed, “Paul Gauguin, 1903.” A three-hour cruise from Hiva Oa brought us to the verdant island of Fatu Hiva.  Here, you can take a ten mile hike into the stunning Bay of Virgins, the most majestic site of the voyage. Towering, storm-worn basalt rises from the ocean’s depth, forming a v-shaped buttress that’s illuminated by the sun’s yellow-green rays. In the distance, serrated ridges, cloud-piercing peaks and impassable gorges stand as a monument to the centuries of volcanic fires that formed this fantastic landscape. That sight is hard to forget.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/08/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Have Skype, Will Travel

This past month, I was home only three days, traveling to Kenya, Mexico, and Chicago. That’s a long time to be away from my family. My antidote for homesickness is a video call on Skype, where I can see and talk to my wife and children. The clarity of the call is exceptional, far superior to any international cell phone I’ve ever used. All you have to do is sign up at Skype, pay a nominal fee (it averages about 10 cents for a 10-minute call), and start adding all the significant people in your life as contacts. For travel writers and all other businesspeople who find themselves on the road a good chunk of the year, it’s the most essential tool to connect with your loved ones.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/07/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, December 06, 2010

Mexican Travel is Safe and on the Rise

The time between America’s Thanksgiving and Christmas is usually slow season for many resorts and travel destinations. For warm-weather locales, the big surge happens from late December through early April. So I was surprised to find that many of the resorts I was visiting on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula were filled to capacity with a mix of Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and South Americans. Destination Weddings are still the big trend in travel, with daily nuptials being held as many as three times a day at some of the resorts I stayed at. American media loves to focus on crime in Mexico, but I found the Yucatan to be incredibly safe. The United Nations Climate Control Conference was being in held in Cancun while I was there, with many heads of state including the Mexican president, staying next door to me. So Federal Police were everywhere. Yet, even away from Cancun, making my south to Tulum, I never felt unsafe. That is, until I made my way to the swim-up bar at Iberostar Paraiso Maya and was surrounded by a group of drunken Saskatchewanians. That’s always dangerous.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/06/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tulum, Mexico, No Longer a Sleepy Seaside Town

The southernmost town on the 80-mile strip of sand referred to as the Riviera Maya, Tulum has always been a perfect getaway from Cancun to see the Mayan ruins. Only well-traveled European backpackers would consider spending the night in one of the bungalows on the beach. Lately, however, a small sampling of all-inclusive resorts have opened in this sleepy seaside town. It's ideally suited for young American families on their first international trip. Children learn about the historical significance of the Mayans by touring the impressive ruins. Then they can snorkel at Xel-Ha and go for a dip in one of the natural swimming holes called cenotes. Plus, those same white pearly sands that cater to the Spring Break crowd in Cancun can be found on Riviera Maya in a more serene setting that families find attractive.

I’ll be headed to the Yucatan all next week and most likely won’t have the time to blog. I know I’ve been traveling quite a bit this past month and missed many a blog, but stay with me. I have great travel advice, film footage, and photos from Kenya that I’ll be sharing upon my return on December 6th.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Make sure to work off that turkey by doing something active.  And, as always, thanks for checking in!

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/24/10 at 02:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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