Mystery menu crossing the Gobi

The famed Trans-Siberian Express offers an interesting means for seeing some of the more remote parts of the world. It did not gain its fame, however, from its food service. Perhaps one reason is that there are no competing restaurants on the route across Mongolia and the Gobi Desert. We learned quickly that one has two choices: eat what is served or don't eat. At each mealtime it was a tough decision. The standard fare was a dish of rice which had been colored gray by the addition of something. There were also dark-colored bits and pieces of something else mixed in, leading to considerable speculation among ... [Read More]

Scraping through the bergs to Antarctica

  After flying to the southernmost point in Chile, my wife and I boarded The World Discoverer, a double-hulled vessel used for expeditions into waters populated by icebergs. It had the latest satellite navigation system and boasted a gourmet chef, but those amenities did not guarantee a smooth ride. We left Puerto William, in southern Chile, and steered across the famed Drake Passage to Antarctica.  There were times when the waves were higher than the ship.  On arrival and using inflatable Zodiacs, passengers paddled ashore to visit research stations that could not be reached by any surface transport.  As the ship moved farther south toward the Antarctic ... [Read More]

A high-tech solution to a bat problem

  We got a warm welcome to the island of Lamu in the old kingdom of Zanzibar off the coast of Kenya in East Africa. Not so welcome was the bat, which flew into our room through an unscreened window one night. It proved to be a difficult quarry. When we turned the light on, it hid. When we turned the light off, it whizzed around looking for who knows what. We finally solved the problem by leaving the light on. -Mac Conway [Read More]

How do we define poverty?

Around the world there are millions of people living in abject poverty. They have polluted water, inadequate food, and shelter that gives little protection in harsh winters.  Worse, they have no medical service nor police protection.  At the same time, there are millions of others living in somewhat different circumstances but also categorized as poverty level. These are people who have little cash income, do not own an automobile, and have no electricity or telephones in their homes. Take, for example, the Mexicans who live beside the lagoon shown here. They have plenty of water. There is a supply of food fish at their door. The ... [Read More]

Running a reef in Haiti

Many of the most attractive locations in the world are surrounded by coral reefs -‑ barriers of irregular and unpredictable size and shape made up of razor-sharp surfaces that can cut and maim any who fall into them. Pounded by the surf, they harbor forces that can wreck large ships or drown strong swimmers. Today, the big ships with their sophisticated radar and navigation aids can easily avoid the reefs (if, unlike the crew of a certain tanker, their crew is alert). For unsophisticated, small boats, however, the crossing of the reef has changed little for centuries. Years ago at Cap Haitien on the north coast of ... [Read More]

Close, but we dodged the bullet

About once a week the headlines tell of some disaster around the world that claims the lives of several travelers. The only way to avoid this risk is to stay at home. Like you, we go and hope we won’t be on that airplane that crashes or in the path of a volcanic eruption, tsunami or earthquake.   So, one afternoon as we were flying our Mooney to Portland, Ore., for a meeting, we saw Mount St Helens on the horizon. Recent  rumblings suggested that the long-dormant volcano might be getting to be active again, so we decided to swing by and have a look. We flew ... [Read More]

How to pick the wrong horse

My wife and grandson and I arrived late in the day at an impressive spread high up in the mountains west of Cody, Wyo., near the entrance to Yellowstone Park. While I took a nap, grandson Adam learned the names of every dog and cat around the ranch house and went to see the head wrangler to sign us up for a trail ride the following day. When we reported to the corral the next morning, I was alarmed to find that the wildest horse had been earmarked for me. I quickly reminded the wrangler that I was strictly a tenderfoot. He gave me a long ... [Read More]

Hijacked in Los Angeles

My wife, Becky, and I were on the way home from Australia in 1981 and had a change of planes in Los Angeles. Thus, early one morning we settled down on a Continental Boeing for an eastbound flight. When the flight attendant began making the cabin announcement, I noticed that she seemed out of breath. I said to Becky, “That girl must have run all the way to the airport.” We later learned that Continental had an emergency plan: If a hijacking was underway the cabin announcement would contain a certain phrase that sounded innocuous but which would tip off all crew members. The warning phrase ... [Read More]