Thursday, July 30, 2009

Random Travel Update 47

Last locations: Kauai, Hawaii
Arrival Date: July 15, 2009
Departure Date: July 29, 2009

Current location: SLC, Utah (layover)
Arrival Date: July 30, 2009
Departure Date: July 30, 2009

Next Locations: Tucson, Arizona
Arrival Date: July 30, 2009
Departure Date: unknown

If you do one thing in Kauai, make it the Napali Coast Trail. Conflicting interests made the total 22 mile round trip a no go for me this time around but I did succeed in getting Jon and my mom to accompany me on an 8 mile round trip section of the trail on our final day. It was, in my opinion, absolutely magical with dramatic terrain and even more dramatic views. I saw the rest of the trail looking inland from a catamaran, and I am confident that it is impressive in its entirety.

Every other worthwhile activity on the US island, with the exception of trail and beach activities, will cost you. The activities I enjoyed, but am not necessarily advocating because of the price, included a one hour helicopter ride over the island, a five hour catamaran trip down the Napali Coast in good weather (dolphins!), a four hour kayak and hike to a waterfall that was very much overrun with tourists, and a luau.

Equally good and free or next to free activities include, hiking to one (or several) of the many waterfalls on the island, boogie boarding ($6 per day or $20 per week rental fee), picking through smooth glass and chasing crabs on the glass beach on the southern coast, and snorkeling with sea turtles, eels, sting rays and fish at one of the many reefs.

We did some diving on the North and South shores which was quite enjoyable, but I saw near as much diversity of wildlife snorkeling the shallower reefs, and the price of diving on Kauai is very high. Sea turtles and eels are plentiful but visibility is mediocre. Unless this is your only opportunity to dive for awhile, I recommend saving it for another vacation.

As for vegan food. The world renowned vegan restaurant Blossoming Lotus, one of my expected trip highlights, closed its doors shortly before our arrival and moved to Portland. Tragic. Now the options include a multitude of Thai restaurants, some Mexican, a few good health food stores, a bakery with vegan cheese pizza, and Taco Bell.

I am not sure whether I've mentioned it before, but if you have any say in the matter, never ever fly Delta. The whole operation is a joke and an embarrassment to The United States. They keep their prices low by cutting everything including legroom, personal entertainment, air-conditioning, meals, windows on window seats(!), and most noticeably customer service. We have yet to have a positive experience with them. American Airlines is also pretty awful.

Salt Lake City is fantastic. Even the airport.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Random Travel Update 46

Last locations: Amman, Jordan; Petra, Jordan
Arrival Date: June 30, 2009
Departure Date: July 2, 2009

Current location: Tucson, Arizona
Arrival Date: July 2, 2009
Departure Date: July 15, 2009

Next Locations: Kauai, Hawaii
Arrival Date: July 15, 2009
Departure Date: July 30, 2009

This update is mostly to inform you that I have three newly edited and fully captioned photo albums up on Picasa from the Middle East, that we are currently in Tucson, and that we are leaving today for Hawaii.

Our short stay in Jordan was really fantastic. Petra was spectacular and very deserving of its spot on the New Seven Wonders of the World list. We stayed late our first day and arrived early on our second to enjoy the whole site to ourselves. Having a site as grand as Petra to ourselves was an experience unmatched by any other, and the absence of other tourists was a welcome change from what we had come to expect in South America.

Amman, too, was more than worth the short time we spent there. My favorite thing about the city is prayer. Muslim prayer is a regular occurrence, happening five times a day in every populated area in the Middle East (with the exception of Israel). But it is particularly wonderful in Amman, where the prayer, always spoken in song, reverberates off Amman’s many hills creating the echo effect similar to that of an organ in a Cathedral. Except that in this case, the whole city is the Cathedral. The effect is magical.

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