I'm not sure why it happened, it certainly wasn't planned, but 2003
has turned out to be the heaviest travel year I've had in more than
15 years. It seemed as if once I got started, I couldn't stop and
I always found the time and the energy to add just one more trip.
After I got back from my third Iditarod in Alaska (read about this
in my earlier travel archives) I made a brief trip to New Orleans
with Sarah Jane, who had never been there. Our hotel was in the French
Quarter and we happily did all the tourist things; a jazz cruise on
the Mississippi, a swamp tour, a carriage ride around the old quarter
area, a streetcar through the garden district and ate lots of good
I was back only a few days before I set out again for Spain and
the Canary Islands
. Started my trip in Bilbao
the amazing Guggenheim Museum and then based in Madrid, we also got
to visit Segovia, El Escorial and Toledo
on day trips. All
We then flew to Tenerife
and based in Puerto de la Cruz, explored
every mountain and cove and town of that amazing island. Way up on
top, near Spain's highest mountain, Teide, we saw scenery that looked
moonlike and were reminded of the many films that had shot here, including
"1,000,000 BC" and "Star Wars". Our trip did not
include any visits to any of the other Canary Islands and that is
something I intend to do someday
May was more than half over by the time I got back and after taking
a few days breather, I set off again with Sarah Jane to Laughlin,
. She seems always ready to take a trip on a moment's notice
and we both love the poker machines as well as our hotel rooms on
the Colorado river. Bargain trip: $79 for two people, includes two
nights at the Riverside Resort in a river view room, two Prime Rib
dinners and two boat rides on the Colorado.
June 22nd was Sarah Jane's 92nd birthday party, known among all her
friends as the Polish Picnic and I invited Ramblin' Jack Elliott and
his daughter Aiyana, to stop by for the festivities. Sarah Jane had
seen the film "the Ballad of Ramblin' Jack" but had never
met Jack in person, so it was a big thrill. He serenaded her.
Then it was time for me to celebrate my birthday, and I did it in
. In the parking lot of Iditarod Headquarters in Wassilla,
where G.B. Jones was camping out with some of his dogs in order to
be the first one to sign up for next year's race. G.B. passed the
word around about the party and everyone picked up some food and we
celebrated near where he was camped out. We also enjoyed trying out
a training cart and by letting the puppies have a run through the
woods. The Iditarod volunteer picnic, which is also sign-up day for
the mushers was a wonderful event.
Celebrated my birthday with my favorite musher, G.B. Jones
in the parking lot of the Iditarod Headquarters
At the picnic with four-time
Iditarod winner, Martin Buser
I had rented a car and drove up to Fairbanks and stayed with
Jan, a lady musher and also visited nearby Chena Hot Springs. Took
a day trip on a river boat. On the way back I stopped overnight in
Talkeetna, a rustic town near Denali before ending up for a final
few days in Anchorage. Alaska sure looked different in the summer.
You would have thought that would have been enough traveling for awhile,
but I had lots of Continental miles that were just begging to be used,
so I found out that I could get to Bali
free on them, by going
through Hawaii and Guam. I arranged on the web a 7 day trip on a motor/sailor
"the Sea Safari" to visit the nearby lesser Sunda Islands,
which are East of Bali. That included the island of "Komodo",
the only place on earth where the Komodo Dragon roams free without
any predators. We got to see three of them, each larger than the previous,
the final one about 10 feet long, but very passive and sluggish. We
had to assume it had just eaten recently, as those creatures can be
very dangerous. On another island we saw a water buffalo race through
The Komodo Dragon have the whole
island to themselves
This Komodo Dragon was huge
but seemed very sluggish
Getting to Bali was interesting, because I was put
on Continental Micronesia's "Island Hopper", a plane that
takes 14 hours from Hawaii to Guam (instead of 7 hrs on the direct
flight) and stops in many islands that are part of the Carolina and
Marshall Island chains. I was upset at the idea at first, but it gave
me a chance to try out my new digital camera from the window of the
plane, and to get on and off the flight 7 times. Breathtakingly beautiful
part of the world and I will certainly go back there one day and explore
some of those islands.
After the cruise on the beautiful Sea Safari I went to Ubud
in Bali and stayed for three days. Loved every minute of it, especially
the massages and other spa treatments which were not only a delight,
but amazingly reasonable. Food was great too and the hotel very beautiful.
I actually stayed put in August, except for a few
days visit to the horse ranch in Santa Ynez
. I also took Sarah
Jane for another impromptu small trip by car in California and we
ended up in a beautiful B&B on the Kern River
out that Barbra Streisand and James Brolin had stayed there on their
The Kern River B&B served
an incredible breakfast
The new Mr. and Mrs. Richard
In September, I went to Lake George, in New
York State for Aiyana Elliott and Dick Dahl's wedding. It was a most
unique wedding, held on an island in the lake. Ramblin' Jack had driven
across the country in his truck, stopping to do several gigs in various
towns that his agent had arranged.
In October I headed for Africa
, a three week trip to Botswana,
Namibia and Zimbabwe
. We were a small group and traveled by bus,
small planes, safari wagons, and even canoes in the Okavango Delta.
We joined in on impromptu dances with the staff at the various camps
and lodges we stayed at.
Curious school kids in Namibia
Spectacular African sunsets
Biggest vine I ever saw. You
on it and swing
Talk about outdoor plumbing!
When you are in Africa and up close and personal
with elephants, lions, buffalo, cheetahs, giraffes, leopards, etc.
you do ask questions about your safety, especially when you have been
told elephants will come right into your camp and might be tearing
down trees right near your tent. Are the elephants dangerous? I inquired.
Not really, I was told, the only ones that can be are the big males,
especially when they are in rut. Just stay in your tent, do not surprise
them in any way and do not go outside until they leave. So one very
hot afternoon in Botswana, when I was trying to nap, the walls of
my tent shook and I heard crashing sounds very close. I peeked out
through the netting and saw a very large elephant with huge tusks
having a go at all the greenery around my tent. And then I noticed
he had a huge erection, hanging down almost to the ground. I was afraid
he could smell my fear and needless to say I did not leave the tent.
When he finally did go, about 2 hours later, I noticed that he had
greatly improved the river view from my tent with his efforts.
The trip home from Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe took 33 hours.
First by safari wagon to a jungle air strip, then a small plane to
Victoria Falls, changed to a passenger plane to Johannesburg, SA,
where we waited at the airport a few hours. It was then an 18 hour
trip back to NYC via Dakar and finally another 6 hours back to LA.
I slept for about a week afterwards at all the wrong hours trying
to get back on some normal schedule. I loved Africa, enjoyed every
minute of the trip, and would like to go back next year, perhaps to
Finally, in December went to Peru
with friends Jim and D Hester.
(Had met the Hesters on an earlier Borneo trip and they were also
on the Amazon cruise I did last year). We flew to Lima
joined the rest of the tour group. After visiting Lima we then went
by plane to Cusco
where we explored the Valley of the Incas
by small bus, went rafting on the Ururumba river and ate guinea pig
at a home hosted meal. Cooked, the little beasts looked strange and
tasted a bit like dark meat of chicken. The highlight of the trip
was our visit to Machu Picchu
where we were lucky enough to
spend one and a half days visiting that amazing place. When we went
back up the second day, it was early in the morning and we had the
place almost to ourselves, so were able to explore to our heart's
content. We were in Machu Picchu on Summer Solstice, and we had sun,
rain, mist, wind and various combinations of all of these.
The weather changed rapidly in Machu Picchu
but it was all breathtaking...
...and I had the place to myself
on the second day.
Near Cusco, a Peruvian family
with their llama
Mysterious large stones at
Christmas day was spent in Cusco which is 12,000 feet
high and which has interesting ruins in the surrounding areas. The
main square in town was really busy on the day before Christmas.
Got back to LA in time to celebrate New Year's Eve at Sarah Jane's
Laurel Canyon house as usual.
2004 will take me back to Alaska in March for my fourth Iditarod
(this time I will also go back to Nome) to New Zealand in April
for a Women in Film International Summit and maybe a river trip to
the Black Sea in the fall.