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Trek to Land of Many Waters!

guyana-rainforest-guyana times

 Photo Credit: Pete Oxford/Nature Picture Library

In my last blog, I mentioned how nostalgia and images of my childhood life prompted a trek to the watery playground of my youth in South America.  As kids, our playground was a stream that ran through our backyard, and our young lives revolved around that stream.


Chris Leadbeater Photo

 I remember the stream was dotted with water lilies, and sometimes little yellow ducklings would swim by in a straight line.  We all learnt to swim in that stream, and spent most of our free time there.  A mango tree overhung the stream and we would climb the tree and pick ripe mangoes, or jump from the branches into the water.  We fished in the stream using bent needles as hooks, and cooked the fish we caught over an open fire under the mango tree.  Some of us made rafts out of banana suckers (tree trunk) and sailed down the stream looking for adventure.

 I was not seeking adventure on my trek, but it started off badly.  My flight originated from New York to the West Indies, a layover in Trinidad and Tobago, and then a connecting flight to Guyana in South America.  The flight was delayed and I made the connecting flight with minutes to spare.  When I finally arrived at the Guyana airport, I found that my luggage had not been transferred to the connecting flight.  It arrived the following day with several items missing, including my camera, video camera, and photographic equipment.   This was devastating to me, because I had planned to make a documentary of my trek.   To add insult to injury, it took countless hours shuffling among several unsympathetic staff, before I could file a claim for a paltry reimbursement.

playing in water

A Harmony and Travis pic of kids playing over a stream

  • Important Advice!

As savvy travelers know, expensive equipment should be stored in your carry on, not in your checked luggage.  If you are a first time traveler, please heed that rule!  Another word of advice when traveling to unfamiliar countries… please be extra careful with your luggage.  Persons pretending to assist you, or claiming to be taxi drivers can make off with them.  Additionally, when leaving that country, be vigilant of your luggage.  Airport workers have been known to slip drugs into your suitcases, and use you as an unsuspecting mule to bring their drugs out of the country.   If you are caught, the authorities are not very sympathetic to your plight, and you face jail time.

 If any of you blogging friends have encountered similar problems, please share them and make this a learning process for all of us.

 As you digest these warnings, I will stop here and continue writing about this trek on my next blog.

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Trek Memorabilia – Quest for the Cup.

During your treks you may acquire artifacts, souvenirs, and memorabilia to remind you of your trips. Some of them have great significance and you may never part with them. One of my memorabilia is a simple ceramic cup of minimal monetary value but with great significance.


This cup was given to WTC employees who returned to work when the building was reopened after the 1993 bombing. One of those employees gave me this cup as a gift during one of my treks to the top of WTC soon after the reopening.

You may recall that the World Trade Center was initially bombed in 1993. The attack, on February 26, 1993, killed six people in New York City and injured 1,000. A truck bomb exploded in the parking garage of the North Tower. According to CNN, “The blast from the homemade 1,500-pound urea-nitrate bomb blew a hole five stories deep and half-a-football field wide.” It took officials 11 hours to completely evacuate roughly 50,000 people from the massive buildings. The trade center stood in the darkness that night for the first time since it opened in 1973.

Many employees who received these cups on their return to work subsequently perished in the September 11, 2001 attack. I am trying to track other surviving owners of these cups.

Do you have one of these cups? I would be honored to hear from you and your story!


Categories: adventure travel, author, big apple, foreign travel, global, lifestyle, new york, novel, Photographs, photography, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | 18 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge – Fleeting – WTC – My Last Glimpse.

Weekly Photo Challenge - Fleeting - WTC - My Last Glimpse.

Twilight and Fleeting Memories

In response to this week’s photo challenge.

Categories: big apple, foreign travel, global, lifestyle, new york, Photographs, photography, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, Wordpress Weekly Photo Challenge, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Bare Foot Trekking in Minnewaska

While trekking in wooded areas, you will see a variety of trees, plants, birds and even some wild animals.  Running into a deer is pretty common in upstate New York, but what happens if you run into a bear?

Fortunately bear attacks are rare, and they tend to keep away from humans when they hear them approaching.  You can help them run away from you by making noise, singing, or ringing “bear bells”.  However, avoid surprising them! I’ve posed a link below on tips how to escape from a bear.


On one memorable trek in Minnewaska State Park Preserve, I was hiking on a very narrow, bushy, and secluded trail when I spied a bare foot partly visible through the foliage about 15 feet below the trail.  As you know, hikers wear hiking boots, so an immobile bare foot protruding from the brush was a cause for alarm.  Making as much noise as I could, I dashed off the trail and ran down an incline through the undergrowth to get to the area of the protruding foot.  The numerous scratches from the brambles and small tree branches helped me to shout louder (practically screaming), and the impetus of my descent sent me rolling down into a small rocky clearing by a hidden stream.

I came to a rest plumb in the middle of a large group of skinny dippers!

I found myself surrounded by about 20 nude men, women, and children staring at me in awe.  Dumbfounded, I finally managed to stutter, “Sorry, I took the wrong trail”, and scrambled back up the incline.  As I dodged branches and brambles on my way up, I heard someone say, “I think we scared him away!”

I have nothing against skinny dipping or nudity, but I was caught off guard and totally unprepared for the sudden change in scenery.  I was expecting a bear scene, but fortunately it was just a bare scene.

beluga whales

Skinny dipping with the Beluga whales.

When scientists needed assistance in taming wild beluga whales at a captivity center off the shores of the White Sea near the Arctic Circle, they called on a Russian scientist free diver named Natalia Avseenko. Aveensko braved the -1.5 degrees Centigrade waters, diving in nude in order to interact with the beluga whales.

Minnewaska State Park Preserve

This preserve is situated in Upstate New York’s Ulster County on the Shawangunk Mountain ridge that rises more than 2,000 feet above sea level.  The terrain is rugged and rocky, blanketed by dense hardwood forest encircling two lakes.

There are also running streams that emerge in waterfalls. The picture below captures the waterfall in winter.

dsc_2357bwsmall-waterfall winter - serabi-meghan KW

Hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing are very popular activities, with 35 miles of old carriage roads, and 25 miles of footpaths.  Swimming is permitted in the lakes at certain sections and posted times.  There are many beautiful scenic spots, and some require long hikes, so always bring maps and basic hiking equipment.  Remember to pack emergency supplies in case you get lost.


This is Lake Minnewaska surrounded by cliffs.  Cliff diving is not permitted, and there are designated swimming areas at lake level.  If you have visited this area, I would like to know your experiences, and if you have ever seen a bear around.

Link to: How to Escape from a Bear.

Categories: adventure travel, author, big apple, global, humor, lake, lifestyle, new york, novel, Photographs, photography, river, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, united nations, world, writer, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

My Trek to the Quiet Palace on the Mountain Lake

Mention to someone that you are from  New York, USA, and immediately they picture images of tall skyscrapers, Broadway shows, and bustling Times Square.  While it is true that New York City is a crowded, bustling concrete city  ( there were 52 million visitors to New York in 2012) ,  there are some wonderful scenic and uncrowded places located outside the city.

One of my most memorable New York treks occurred over twenty five years ago when I was practically a newcomer to the Big Apple.  I was hiking up a forested mountain trail a mere hour and half outside of the city, when I had the surprise of my life.

On top of the mountain, hidden from the view below, suddenly appeared a sparkling blue lake and a magnificent palace.  For a minute I thought I was delirious from the summer heat, or had been astrally transported to a kingdom in some far off land.  Several pinches later, I realized that I was not dreaming, and this scenic beauty was indeed real.


The Mohonk Mountain House was built on the cliffs around Lake Mohonk in 1869 by Quaker twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley.  This Victorian castle currently boasts 269 rooms and is set on 1200 acres of scenic woodland.

Initially it only accommodated 40 guests who were mostly close friends of the two brothers at the time.  But as its popularity grew, it was expanded during the period 1871 to 1910 to attract the well to do and the educated as a sanctuary and retreat from the noisy world.  The Quaker brothers forbid the drinking of alcohol, card games, and dancing.  Instead, for entertainment, they built a huge library for the guests, and provided lectures, nature walks on 85 trails, and a variety of plants and summer houses for added enjoyment.

I was allowed to walk on the grounds but was told that silence was required.  The few people I saw were either whispering or not talking.  Awed, I followed suit!  I found a barn and stable with horses and carriages, and the blacksmith whispered to me that cars were not allowed.  There was a parking lot hidden somewhere below, and visitors were transported by horse carriage up the rustic trail to the main house.  The setting was reminiscent of the Victorian era, and guests were required to dress formally for breakfast and dinner in the large dining hall.  No alcohol was served, but tea was served at a specific tea-time each day.  I’m sure there were crumpets too, but did not dare to break my vow of silence and ask.

fred hsu

As I mentioned earlier, my visit was over 25 years ago, and I always planned to revisit but unfortunately, never did.

However, I did some recent research and found that Mohonk Mountain House still exists today, as beautiful as ever, and is now an upscale resort for the wealthy and pampered…spa included.

A stay at this historic palace will cost you around $600 a night, but it is well worth the experience if you can afford the price…and yes, there is now a fully stocked bar!


I plan to revisit Mohonk Mountain House this summer, but unfortunately not as a paying guest, although I would love to.  However, if you are interested in a visit, here is a link to this scenic beauty.


Categories: adventure travel, author, big apple, food, foreign travel, garden of eden, global, lake, lifestyle, new york, novel, photography, river, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, victorian palace, world, writer, writing | 30 Comments

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