Wednesday, November 23, 2016

CREATIVE TRAVEL WORKSHOP IN FEZ, MOROCCO

I am thrilled to have just booked my spot for the Full Nomad's Creative Travel 5-day workshop in Fez, Morocco in 2017. Steffani Cameron, a world traveller, writer, and photographer is leading this exciting retreat from April 27 to May 2, 2017.



Here's a little bit of what Steffani says:

A year into nomad travels, and I can tell you that sentiment in this photo rings true from my own experience. Luckily, I force myself to stop and write, and I’m so glad I do, or all my experiences would blend together in a hazy whirlwind.
After all, there's not greater blink-and-you'll-miss-it experience that the trip of a lifetime.
That's why I've made it my new
mission to help people unlock the art of creative travel.




Read all the details of this opportunity including cost and accommodation: http://fullnomad.com/2016/11/23/creative_travel_workshop_fez/#comment-321.



The Blue Gate
©Sabino Parente (www.sabinoparente.com) via Bloomberg



Join the Full Nomad and discover the art of creative travel, of being in the moment, and recording it for posterity. Together, we’ll unlock the beauty of Slow Travel and create a blueprint for future reminiscing.





Are you interested?


Friday, November 18, 2016

THE INDIAN CANYONS, PALM SPRINGS, CA


Andreas Canyon Pride Rock
I always try to visit the Indian Canyons south of Palm Springs when I stay here. They are some of the most beautiful canyons and oases to visit and today was my fifth time. I never tire of hiking and photographing them.

We packed a picnic and set off about 10am on a cloudless day with temps expected to reach about 77F. The Andreas Canyon has a gurgling stream running through it, one of the few, and the mile loop is one hike everyone should do.We set off heading west on the north side with

fantastic rock formations on our right hand and the tightly packed palms along the stream on our left. 

The narrow trail climbs with rock steps and winds around the outcrops. I heard the stream all the way up as I stopped round every corner to take photos. I remembered to always turn back to see the views behind me as we would not return this way. It's cool here as the trees provide shade in most places.


I felt I would never reach the turn-around point but, of course I did. Pausing for a rest and looking high above us, I could see houses built into the barren rock of the mountain side.


Cahuilla Indians have lived here for thousands of years, artefacts have been dated to 3,000 years ago but the oral tradition indicates they have been around a lot longer. Andreas Canyon must have been a paradise for them in this barren, inhospitable desert.

Tops of the palms with the mountains
behind that I'd just walked beneath

The hike back to the trailhead is totally different on the south bank of the stream. It's high above the canyon floor and there are distant vistas of the mountains that I walked below on the way up. Here we were in full sun all the way down to the car.

Animals that also frequent the canyon include coyotes, deer, bobcats, to name a few. I saw none, but the scat of coyotes. Lots of birds too.

Out came the picnic and we rested under the shade of palm trees listening to the song of the stream flowing past us as we ate with good appetites. I always love a picnic. 


I wanted to go to the gift shop to find some American Indian flute music that I love. The shop is at Palm Canyon that lies at the head of the valley, a place I'd also visited many times. It's very different from Andreas Canyon — wider and much longer. One feature of the road in is Split Rock. One car can just squeeze through at a time.

I recommend a day out in the canyons to anyone who can walk on rough terrain. Hiking boots make it easier and safer. Take water with you and a camera. Rangers give interpretive talks and lead hikes.

There is a small concession stand at the parking lot at Palm Canyon but nothing at Andreas. Neither are accessible for people with mobility issues. But the drive is also enjoyable.

IF YOU GO:

  • www.Indian-Canyons.com
  • Cost: Adults USD $9.00; seniors and students $7.00; kids (aged 6-12) $5.00; military free.
  • Hours: 8am to 5pm (last car in at 4pm)

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2016. All rights reserved.



SPINNING MY WAY TO THE TOP OF MT. SAN JACINTO

The Palm Springs Tram
I finally rode the famous spinning Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the top of Mount San Jacinto after twenty years of visiting the Coachella Valley in Southern California.

The closest parking lot had space, thank heavens! The walk up to the Valley Station is very steep and then three flights of stairs. We were just in time to photograph the tram coming in. It carries a max of 80 passengers for the two and half mile ride through Chino Canyon to the top.

Everyone sees everything because the floor slowly rotates about three times on the journey. And, what a journey it is! To me it was the highlight of the visit. We swooped over the four towers as we passed changing rock cliffs and views down the canyon. As we rose, the flat Coachella Valley came into view — the wind farms and Palm Springs in the west to the Salton Sea in the east. Cameras clicked, people oohed and aahed.

The four storey Mountain Station perched on rocky outcrops has an elevator, a cafeteria and a restaurant, two movie theatres, a natural history museum, a gift shop, and a park ranger to assist. Out back are the trail heads through the evergreens and there are many to choose from, the shortest being a mile loop.
Atop at the Mountain Station

We went up to the top storey and out to the observation deck that leads up to Grubb's View. The sky was deep blue and criss-crossed with con trails below thin high cirrus clouds. Visit when the sky is clear, not when clouds cover the peak! The views in various directions at 8,500 feet were, for me, another reason I came. I was not disappointed.

Usually the temperature at this altitude is about 20F to 30F below the valley heat, but today it was surprisingly warm. I took many images but missed the shot of the tram coming into dock.

I came for lunch too and chose to eat in the more expensive restaurant — Peaks. Every diner has a view here as the tables are arranged on terraces. The food was not worth it — my avocado BLT on crispy French bread was poor. Wilted lettuce, a scrape of avocado, stale bread, unripe tomatoes, and overcooked hard bacon.

The ride down was crowded but, if anything, more exciting than zooming up. There is more sensation of speed as the rock walls flash by and the valley rises to meet you. Cameras overheated again!

If you go:

  • Wear stout walking shoes or hiking boots.
  • Take a sweater or jacket
  • Book online at https://www.pstramway.com/ 
  • Cost in USD: Adults $25.95; seniors $23.95; Kids (3-12) $16.95
  • Arrive 30 mins before departure from Valley Station, some parking lots are a long way away.
  • Accessibility for visitors with mobility challenges — it would be wise to call ahead and find out more about assistance from the parking lots. The Valley and Mountain Stations are accessible, but not the short climb to Grubb's view or the hikes.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2016. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

RED JEEP SAFARI NEAR PALM SPRINGS, CA



On our way to the mountains, canyons, and oases of the
San Andreas Fault
A plume of dust rises behind the red jeep as we bump our way into the sandy reaches of the San Andreas Fault east of Palm Springs in California. We're at the most southerly point of this famous 800-mile fault line that marks the junction of the North American tectonic plate with the Pacific plate. Houses are only one storey here; swarms of minor tremors occur often but are rarely felt; and the topography is rugged, caused by eons of upheavals.

Our guide, Cheyenne, drives home the need of hydration in this arid and hot desert today. Then we stop on flat sand for a geology lesson before we reach the mountains and canyons. It's sobering. This fault is 200 years overdue for a massive and destructive earthquake of over 8 or 9 on the Richter scale.



Palms show an underground water course

The jeep rumbles to life and we head directly at the long ridge of low mountains. Below them lies a line of indigenous California Fan Palms. They indicate an underground water course — a huge aquifer lies below this area and small streams occasionally flow close to the surface. The flat plain in front is an ancient sea bed, and the mountains show striations and wadis caused by erosion and are penetrated by narrow canyons. Desert plants look nearly dead, but aren't — they are just adapted to deal with the heat and evaporation loss from leaves.


I've been here once before but it's my traveling companion's first time. She's fascinated, madly pointing her camera in all directions. I'm hoping I won't have seen it all before. Soon I realize that we are visiting places I didn't go to last time. 



Serpentine Canyon
We're lucky, one of our fellow tour members is a member of the First Nation who have lived here for more than 10,000 years. He tells us about the oral histories, storytelling of his grandfather, and his spiritual traditions. I listen, wondering how anyone could survive in this wilderness of sand and rock.

The jeep winds along barely discernible tracks in the sand as the rocks pile up beside us and seemingly lean over the vehicle. Narrower and narrower. A crow attacks a Cooper's hawk high above us. Wildlife exists here — coyotes, wasps, desert mice. And rattlesnakes; we have to keep our eyes on the ground when walking.


Serpentine Canyon (above) is an old watercourse that was created by huge flash floods in the past and which still occur, but rarely, from massive rainstorms to the north. The heat is stifling in the sun and the canyon sides shelter us from any breezes. The small round holes in the rock face are created by pieces of rock that is harder embedded in the softer silt stone. Erosion takes place around it until the pebble falls out of the round opening. Small creatures then take up residence.

A wide section of the slot canyon

The slot canyons here are a highlight. We squeeze our bodies upwards as we slowly trek through. Sometimes we have to turn sideways to get our shoulders past and bend forwards or backwards to get through as the rock walls press inwards. I see the marks of water erosion as the floods pour through, swirling and twisting. At the top is a small cave that we can climb to for a photo op. Some visitors find this canyon intimidating and claustrophobic. I didn't, but was acutely aware what might happen here in a big earthquake. I heard a sigh of relief from one person as we emerged at the bottom again. 


We explore a big oasis that is managed by the Cahuilla tribe. Here water trickles on the surface, palms crowd around the stream, arrow weed bushes grow thickly –the indigenous peoples made arrow shafts from
California Fan Palms with grass skirts
their straight branches – and creosote bushes. I discover that palms are related to grasses not trees and have rows of shark-teeth thorns at the base of the leaves to keep herbivores from eating them. It's cool in the shade from three well established palms with long grass skirts. 


The Red Jeep tour ends at a recreated Cahuilla village. The longhouse has artefacts showing their way of life as hunter-gatherers and their system of three ponds — top one for drinking and cooking water, middle for washing containers and food, the lower for washing bodies (grey water). Wise conservation and use of water is not a new concept here.


The 90F heat assails us as we move away from the rocks and oases at the end of four and a half hours. Normally the tour takes about three+ hours, but we were delayed by a movie shoot in which we were extras. .


Red Jeep Tours has been operating in the desert for over twenty years. Each guide is very knowledgeable and welcoming. The jeeps hold six guests and one in the passenger seat. Red Jeep supplies endless bottles of water and make you drink it, and granola bars. Choose the morning tours, rather than the afternoon tours as the heat is at its highest from 2-4pm in the winter months.


I heartily recommend Red Jeep and the choices of tours in the Coachella Valley.

IMAGES: © Photos by Pharos 2016. All rights reserved.



Saturday, October 8, 2016

SOLO TRAVEL IS NOW FOR ME

I'm used to travelling solo by choice, but now I have to go alone. My husband passed away ten months ago and after two years of being unable to travel and then ten months of dealing with his estate, I am now able to spread my wings again.

I have plans, BIG plans for 2017.

I have booked a Russian cruise for September 2017 after a week in the UK visiting friends. After three days touring Moscow, we sail north for seven days to St. Petersburg, which we tour for another three days.

After spending a few days in Paris, I head for Amboise, which is the base for my small-group, chateaux and wine tasting tour in the Loire Valley. I'm going to add a couple of extra days at the front end of this adventure.

Back to Paris for a couple more days, and thence to Ottawa on my way home to see family and perhaps stay till after Thanksgiving.

My biggest shock has been the single supplements (SS). Some are as much as a 100% of the per person cost — I won't go there! The Russian cruise ships have single cabins and a very reasonable SS. And this is partly the reason I'm not cruising the Loire River. The other reasons are that the road tour has a much cheaper SS and visits the chateaux I'm interested in. The vineyards offered are better too and I shall get to eat in French restos, not on a ship.

I haven't firmed up my trip in April yet as I'm waiting for a few adventures to firm up. But I will be going to Morocco, hopefully for a writers' retreat, and back through Gibraltar and Madrid to visit the Prado.


My passport is about to get a work-out! But first, my annual golf pilgrimage to Palm Springs in a month.