It's been a very busy year travel wise and I'm looking forward to
more interesting places to visit for the rest of 2003 and in 2004.
In July I went to Brazil and hooked up with some
friends I had traveled with before in Borneo for a two week Amazon
cruise. We flew upriver to the point where Brazil, Peru and Colombia
join and boarded our wonderful boat there. There were 20 of us on
board plus the crew.
This boat was our home for two weeks
on the Amazon river.
Sunsets were beautiful on the river.
The humidity made my hair curl.
We then headed downriver towards Manaus visiting many small rivers,
lakes and lagoons leaving the boat to do the exploring in canoes.
We visited some remote Indian villages that rarely have visitors from
the outside. One day everyone went fishing and we caught many piranhas
and grilled them on the top deck. They were suprisingly good to eat
but you had to be careful of their teeth!
Beautiful Indian girls in a remote village
we visited by canoe.
The whole group went fishing for these pirahnas and then
enjoyed eating them after they were grilled on the top deck.
On July 4th Captain Mo pulled over to a riverside cafe in a small
town and we had an impromptu party with lots of local beer and dancing.
The cruise ended in Manaus and after a few days exploring that interesting
city, everyone went home but I stayed on in Brazil to visit Olinda
in the north, and the amazing Egassu Falls way down in the southern
part of Brazil near Argentina.
In August, Laura and I met in Missoula, Montana and we explored
Glacier National Park, drove down through the State to beautiful Yellowstone
Park and then ended up back in Seeley Lake, where I visited Cindy
Gallea. Cindy was the musher I got to ride with in the ceremonial
start of the 2001 Iditarod sled dog race in Alaska.
Many Glaciers Hotel
had a beautiful setting.
Yellowstone Park was breathtaking.
We took one of the amazing red vehicles
to explore the interior of the park.
Visiting with Iditarod musher
Cindy Gallea in her home town.
I had long wanted to revisit Cambodia, which I had first known
briefly many years ago when I was returning to live in Europe after
several years stay in Japan. I had also heard Laos was wonderful and
it made sense to combine the two countries and use Bangkok as our jumping
off place. I talked Sarah Jane Paxton and Constance Chesnut into joining
me and off we went. After an overnight stay in Bangkok we flew
to Northern Thailand to the Golden Triangle. We crossed into
Laos by small boat and cleared immigration on the other side
of the Mekong River. We then were taken by another small boat to the
larger boat that would take us down river for two days. We ate on the
boat and did our excursions from the boat but slept one night in a wonderful
lodge run by the owners of the boat.
We stayed in Luang Prabang, known as the Pearl of Laos and were enchanted
by that beautiful town and smiling friendly people. I went to check
my email in the local internet cafe and was amused to see some monks
at an adjoining computer. We flew to Vientienne for 2 days and then
to Phon Phenh, Cambodia. From there it was on to Angkor Wat where
we spent three days exploring that complex of temples built in the jungle.
We returned to Bangkok and treated ourselves to three days in my favorite
hotel in the whole world... The Oriental.
Sarah Jane and I take an elephant
ride between two temples.
Back in Bangkok for a few days
of luxury at the Oriental Hotel.
Spent Christmas at a friend's horse ranch in beautiful Santa Ynez, which
is over the mountain from Santa Barbara.
Ramblin' Jack in concert
at the Western Folklore Center
in Elko, Nevada.
Went to Elko, Nevada for the Cowboy/Poet Gathering
in January. Heard some good music and it was fun to visit the place
that I had seen and heard about it in "The Ballad of Ramblin'
Jack" film. Even took a class in how to make sourdough biscuits
over an outdoor fire. Ramblin' Jack Elliott came to Elko on a train
from California and gave three concerts. Julia and I hung out with
him and had a really good time.
A week after I got back from Elko, Ramblin' Jack gave a concert in
Los Olivos, which is near Santa Ynez. I drove up and attended his
show which was great and then brought him back to my friend's horse
ranch for a day of relaxation. He had driven down from his home in
Marshall, California in his new truck.
End of February, for what would now become a yearly ritual, I went
back up to Alaska for the 2003 Iditarod.
This time I would be G. B. Jones's Idita-Rider and had also volunteered
to do some work at headquarters. I didn't know G.B. but we had exchanged
several emails and I felt like he was already a friend. I finally
met him just before the Musher/Idita-Rider lunch and he let me hold
one of his puppies, just three weeks old. I gave him a copy of my
book, though I realized he would have little time to read in the coming
weeks. He very kindly invited me to sit at his table that night at
the official Iditarod Banquet which is an honor. At the banquet the
mushers get their starting positions. G.B. got 35, right in the middle
of the pack of 63 mushers competing this year. There was very little
snow in the southern part of Alaska but it was decided to hold the
Ceremonial Start in Anchorage as planned, and they trucked in enough
snow for the downtown Anchorage start and the trail leading out of
town towards Eagle River.
I get to meet G.B. Jones in
he brought along one of his puppies.
G.B.'s lead dog "Sport" wanted to
ride in my place in the sled.
It was great to sit at G.B.'s table
at the official Iditarod Banquet.
G.B.'s dogs are raring to go!
Originally I had planned an overnight trip to Skwentna, one of the
earlier check-points to see all the mushers and dogs, and especially
G.B. come through. But snow and trail conditions caused the real start
of the race (known as the re-start) to be moved to Fairbanks and Skwentna
was eliminated as a check point. Part of the trail this year would
be new and then in mid-Alaska the teams would join the old Iditarod
trail. The Ceremonial start was exciting and noisy as usual with the
dogs howling in their excitement and throngs of people there to see
everyone off. Sport, G.B.'s lead dog decided to get into the sled,
which was where I was to sit and told me I could lead the team instead.
I was interview by Joe Runyan, a former Iditarod Champion and famous
sports writer. And then finally we were off! Then followed a mad scramble
on the part of all the mushers, dogs, dog handlers, volunteers and
fans to load everything up and drive 350 miles to Fairbanks. G.B.'s
regular dog truck was deemed unsafe for the trip so he made the trek
in a borrowed four wheel drive vehicle pulling a flat trailer. The
dogs were in their boxes on the trailer. Since the borrowed vehicles
had to return to Anchorage he spread out all his gear on a blue tarp
the next morning at the re-start site. The dogs were tied to nearby
trees. All his friends pitched in to help him sort the gear and load
the sled for the long trip ahead. Since the starting numbers are usually
attached to the dog truck, and G.B. didn't have one, I jokingly held
his starting number in my mouth so the officials of the race could
find him. I wished him luck and he was off.
When I returned to Anchorage I went to work in Zuma's email room at
Anchorage headquarters. Zuma answers emails from children all over
the world who write her with questions about the race.
It was a tough year for many mushers with the trail conditions very
difficult and many scratched from the race before they reached Nome.
A record number of dogs were dropped at the various check-points and
returned to Anchorage. Check out G.B. Jones' web-site: www.Alaskanmusher.com.
The famous "Zuma". As one of her helpers answering
e-mail I had to think and write like a dog.
My name joins other friends and supporters of G.B. Jones on
the wall of his musher cabin, which is next to the Iditarod
I will go to New Orleans for a few days mid-April and then
at the end of the month I head for Spain and the Canary
Islands. Other trips planned are Bali and a Spice Islands
cruise in July, Botswana and Namibia in October, and Peru