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Bilbao: Exciting building, but I must admit I liked the museum better on the outside than in.


Toledo: This must be one of the
most beautiful cites in Spain



Canary Islands: Tenerife was awesome and I found out lots of movies had been filmed here



Trying my luck at the nickel poker machine in Laughlin, Nevada



Ramblin' Jack was a surprise guest at Sarah Jane's birthday party



Great boat trip in Fairbanks



BALI:



Tried out my new digital camera
from the plane as we passed
over Micronesia


The Sea Safari: Our home for
7 days as we explored the
Lesser Sunda Islands



On one of the islands you tie a wish to a tree for good luck



My hotel room in Ubud


AFRICA:



This is the way to get around Africa's roads...



...and this is the way to get around Botswana's Okavango Delta



There was nothing between me and a very large male elephant except these canvas walls



This elephant crossed the Kwando River right in front of our boat



It was fun to fly over Africa
in these small planes



PERU:



Exploring the Valley of the Incas



The Peruvians meet every train and bus in hopes of selling their local crafts




UPDATE, January 2004:

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 local food.

I was back only a few days before I set out again for Spain and the Canary Islands. Started my trip in Bilbao to discover the amazing Guggenheim Museum and then based in Madrid, we also got to visit Segovia, El Escorial and Toledo on day trips. All staggeringly beautiful.

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, Nevada. 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 Alaska. 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 water.


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 and found out that Barbra Streisand and James Brolin had stayed there on their honeymoon.


The Kern River B&B served an incredible breakfast

The new Mr. and Mrs. Richard Dahl

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 could sit
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 Tanzania.


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 and 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
Sacsayhuaman fortress

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.