Sunday, October 2, 2016

Travel: Planes, Trains, Automobiles and Boats

One of the fun aspects of travel is the opportunity to try different forms of transportation. 

Cruise ships have their own culture. Some people love the ships as the destination and immerse themselves in the culture of the boat. We view the ship as a floating hotel and form of transportation and focus on itineraries that maximize the time in port and minimize the days at sea. Our first cruise was on the Oceana Nautica which visited destinations on the Black and Aegian Seas. We were told by a number of passengers that every cruise we went on after that would be downhill, and to some extent that has been true. We've since been on two more cruises, the Emerald Princess around the Baltic Sea and the Island Princess from Whittier, Alaska to Vancouver. The Oceana's smaller boat and fantastic food were not matched by either of our Princess cruises and we found the three full days at sea on our Alaska trip a little boring. 
The Oceana Nautica docked in Trabzon, Turkey.
In Nessebur, Bulgaria, the Nautica was moored offshore (see it back right) and we were brought back and forth by a small boat (center). 
The Nautica sailing through the Bosporus and the heart of Istanbul. That section was probably the most spectacular we've seen on a cruise ship, with views of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, etc.
The Island Princess moored in Ketchikan, Alaska, viewed from a float plane. It is a much larger boat, holding just under 3,000 people. 
We did have some amazing views from the Island Princess, including the Johns Hopkins Glacier in Glacier Bay NP, above.
The Hubbard Glacier in Glacier Bay NP.
The river cruise is a different animal. The boat and number of passengers are much smaller, the eating experience is more intimate and there is always something to look at while you are sailing (instead of just water in every direction). They cruise through the hearts of cities and dock downtown, unlike the cruise ships which generally dock on the outskirts. Our first river cruise was on the Viking Sun, down the Rhine River, from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam. Our other river cruise was down the Nile, between Aswan and Luxor. Both were wonderful. 
The Viking Sun docked in Kehl, Germany.
Docked in Koblenz, Germany.
View of the Viking Sun on the Rhine, near the confluence with the Moselle River, viewed from the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. 
Some ship travel is not designed for sleeping, but for sightseeing. We have enjoyed several fjord cruises. In Norway we went through the Aurlandsfjord and Naeroyfjord, and in Alaska we cruised into Kenai Fjords National Park (the latter was better from the standpoint of scenery and animal life).
A Norwegian fjord cruising boat.
View of the Chiswell Islands in Alaska on our cruise of Kenai Fjords.
In the Peruvian Amazon, we had to travel by boat (open air with a canopy) from Puerto Maldonado 45 minutes down the Madre de Dios River to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, our fun jungle resort. We used the same transportation to visit the Tabopata National Reserve and for a night excursion on the river to view wildlife. 
Down the Madre de Dios to our jungle lodgings. 
To and from the Tabopata National Reserve and Lake Sandoval in a downpour.
Into Lake Sandoval and around it we were on a much smaller boat, more like a large canoe, and experienced a true rain forest drenching.
The Peruvian rain forest.
Very fun, even when totally drenched.
In Egypt we took small boats out to visit Philae Island and to cross the Nile for a balloon ride. We took a small boat out on the Sea of Galilee in Israel at night to gain a greater appreciation for the lyrics to "Master the Tempest is Raging." 
Boats crossing the Nile.
Boat on the Sea of Galilee, built to replicate the boats that existed at the time of Jesus.
The lights of Tiberias viewed from the boat on the Sea of Galilee. 
We took two fairly docile river rafting trips (class 2) when the kids were younger and living at home. The first was down the Skagit River in Washington and the second down the Shoshone River outside Cody in Wyoming. We also kayaked into the Elkhorn Slough near Monterey and viewed harbor seals and sea otters. 
Judy at the Elkhorn Slough.
We took a row boat into the swamp in Cypress Gardens, South Carolina, viewing turtles and alligators. We also rowed out to the Church of Mary the Queen in Lake Bled, Slovenia. 
Cypress Gardens
Rowing in Lake Bled. It is more difficult than it looks. We took kind of a winding course both to and from the island. Judy had some fun knocking my rowing skills in the process. 
The row boat docked on the island in Lake Bled.
Air travel, of course, is a major part of most trips. Much of it tends to be quite similar. We have found that the airlines of Asia, particularly Japan, are more friendly and provide a better experience. I still remember my first flight, in 9th grade, leaving Salt Lake City for New York. Then in New York we took an Icelandic Airlines flight to Luxembourg, with a stop in Reykjavik. The stewardesses on Icelandic Air were beautiful. Our stop in Reykjavik was about 45 minutes in the heart of the December winter. The runways were surrounded by snow and we walked down a ramp and across a runway in swirling wind and viewed beautiful reindeer rugs in the gift shop. 
Our feet on the ground in Africa (Nairobi) for the first time. Fulfillment of a lifetime dream for me.
The runway in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. 
We recently experienced some adventure travel flights in Alaska which were fabulous. We took a plane with skis around Mt. Denali and landed on the Ruth Glacier and we took planes with floats to view bears in remote destinations. 
The fantastic Alaska Range and Ruth Glacier.
The top of Denali above the clouds.
This rates as one of our top vacation experiences.
Float plane landing in Pavlov Bay.
On Chichagoff Island, in front of our float plane, where we viewed brown bears.
Our float plane leaving us at Anan Bay to view black bears.
The float plane with the backdrop of Wrangell Island.
We passed up an (expensive) opportunity to take a hot air balloon over the Masai Mara, but succumbed in Luxor, Egypt where we viewed the Nile, the swath of green beside it and some of the temples, including that of Hotshepsut. This was another major highlight of our travel experiences.
A balloon with the Temple of Hotshepsut in the background. The Valley of the Kings is over the mountain. 
It was spectacular to be a part of multiple balloons in the air at the same time. 
Looking into the canopy of the balloon.
We landed in a sugar cane field and encountered an angry farmer.
I must admit I don't love train travel. I've never really sought it out for its own sake. I traveled with my parents by Eurail Pass in 9th grade. I remember lots of long stretches down cobble streets with heavy suitcases getting to and from train stations. I traveled a fair amount by train as a young missionary in England. More recently, we took a train from Lima to Cusco, and from Cusco to Machu Picchu, in Peru. We took night trains from Prague to Vienna and from Budapest to Basel. I found the sleeping cars very cramped, sleep was hard to come by, and the bathing not much better than a spit-shine. Trains for views are a little better. We saw some beautiful scenery from the Flam Railway in Norway on our way to and from our fjord cruise.

We have been on two of the three cog railways in the U.S. (characterized by a steep grade with a toothed rack rail): Pike's Peak Railway in Colorado and Mount Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. They are probably my two favorite rail experiences and I would highly recommend both. They provide breathtaking scenery and changes in climate and weather, while we were on them, that was impressive.  
Cog Railway at the top of Pike's Peak.
The track going up Mt. Washington.
Steep grade on the train up Mt. Washington.
I love to travel by automobile. I find driving relaxing, for the most part, except in large cities. Unlike a train, you can drive right to your hotel and carry your luggage with you, stop and eat or stop and visit or photograph at will, and venture in another direction. Autos allow a freedom that I find exhilarating. We've driven in the U.K. (Scotland, Wales and England), the Isle of Man, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria and perhaps our most adventurous trip, a driving vacation through the eight Balkan countries, including Albania, down dirt roads with wagons pulled by donkeys. 
Following a funeral procession in Bosnia.
Following a horse drawn wagon in Serbia.
A long wait at the border in Albania going into Montenegro.
We had a Jeep when our children were teenagers and I particularly relished a Jeep trip to Southern Utah with Sam when he was in high school, including a significant stretch through Canyonlands NP. For many years I went with my boys to Colorado each summer where we hiked fourteeners. I rented a four-wheel drive vehicle which helped us to get to the trailheads which often required high clearance. 
Andrew and Sam at the trail head for Mt. Massive in Colorado.
Big horn sheep near a Jeep on Mt. Evans in Colorado.
Another one of our incredible travel experiences was our trip to Kenya and Tanzania where we did wild-game safaris in long four-wheel drive vehicles with pop-up roofs which were perfect for viewing wild animals in safety while allowing photography.
Elephants in Buffalo Springs National Reserve.
Viewing flamingos on Lake Nakuru while cape buffalo range nearby.
A lion in Masai Mara.
Zebras cross the road in the Serengeti.
Wildebeest in Ngorongoro Crater.
A water buck watches from a distance while a cheetah devours her young fawn.
Another amazing experience was taking a four-wheel drive into the Erg Chebbi Dunes of the Moroccan Sahara driven by our Berber guide and fish-tailing through deep sand dunes.
The Erg Chebbi Dunes of the Sahara Desert.
Buses are standard for tour trips with large groups and are rarely memorable, but usually benign. We recently took an eight hour bus trip deep into the bowels of Denali NP, traveling on dirt roads much of the way and up and down some fairly steep and narrow roads. It may have set the gold-standard for interesting bus travel with gorgeous views and outstanding wildlife viewing. 
Our bus near a ranger station in Denali NP.
View out the bus in Denali NP.
Our trip to Egypt provided two trips by horse and carriage, one through the city of Edfu and one through the city of Luxor. In Edfu we went through snarled rush hour traffic to a night show at the Edfu Temple and in Luxor we did a city tour that went though a narrow bazaar where the carriage barely fit. 
Carriages in Edfu, Egypt.
Racing down the streets of Edfu. It was very fun.
The most fun form of transportation, except perhaps for the ski plane, is elephant and camel. We rode Asian elephants outside Chiang Mai, in Thailand, and we've ridden camels on a number of occasions: I rode a camel three-fourths the way up Mt. Sinai in Egypt; we had a brief ride near the pyramids in Giza; we rode camels from Petra out to Wadi Musa in Jordan; and we rode camels both into and out of the Erg Chebbi Dunes near Merzouga, Morocco. 
Crossing a river on elephants.
Riding through the jungle on elephants.
A camel at the base of Mt. Sinai.
Judy on a camel outside Petra.
Judy and her camel near Petra.
Judy and her camel in the Erg Chebbi Dunes.
A Berber tending camels in the Erg Chebbi Dunes.
Not quite as exciting as camel or elephant, but still very fun, is horseback riding. We rode horses as a family near Mazama in the North Cascades in Washington State and I took the grandgirls horseback riding in the Heber Valley of Utah.

Mode of transportation is a huge part of each vacation and varying it somewhat can really add value and memories. 


  1. One day I want to ride an ostrich like the Swiss Family Robinson.

  2. This may be my favorite of all your posts to date. It's a great recap of the many adventures we have been on together. I can't think of any forms of transportation we haven't tried, but I'm sure you'll manage to come up with a few. Here's to more travel!

  3. You've convinced me. You've done it all!

  4. PS One of our favorite kinds of vacation travel is Segway. You've got to add it to your list.

    1. Segway is high on my list. It looks like a blast.