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Aruba, One Happy Island

Posted on July 25, 2017 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

By Angelique Woudenberg


White beaches, a light-blue sea and sun are what Aruba has to offer mainly. But there are also sights on the island: white-lined Dutch gables in pastel colors, an old Frysian windmill, a lighthouse, lots of cactuses, sand dunes, a wild east coast, and National Park Arikok, which takes up a fifth of the island. And carnival on Aruba is something else.


When I think of Aruba, I see sun, white beaches, a light-blue sea and many tourists. During our nine days on the island, we found out that there is much more to explore. Aruba is only 31 km long and - at its widest point - 9 km wide, but during our trip from north-west to south-east on the island, we have seen different "faces". We also saw that Arubans really love carnival.


Bon Bini Aruba


After a nine-hour flight, we land on Aruba, one of the three leeward islands of the Dutch Antilles. When we leave the arrival hall, we are welcomed by a hot sun and a strong north-eastern trade wind. Bon Bini ("Welcome"). The transfer from the airport Reina Beatrix to Palm Beach takes approximately 25 minutes. The drive takes us through the capital Oranjestad, Eagle Beach and Manchebo Beach to our accommodation in Palm Beach.


Because of the five-hour time difference we have all afternoon and we install ourselves near the swimming pool. In the evening we take the Arubus (public transportation) to Oranjestad, the drive to the bus terminal takes 10 minutes.




Immediately behind the bus terminal and opposite the cruise ship terminal is the Royal Plaza Mall, which we call "Pink Sugar Palace" during the rest of our stay. It is a large, kitschy building, soft-pink, with lots of stores and jewelers which mainly cater to cruise ship passengers. This is cruise season and three times a week one or more cruise ships dock in the port of call which we will see later this week. It gets dark early and increasingly crowded, this Saturday night.


The big carnival parade


The carnival celebrations have started end January, but today the main big parade takes place; it's called the "Gran Marcha." The parade starts at 11 AM near the stadium, and will arrive in Oranjestad by 1 PM. We make sure we're in the capital by 12 PM to find a place in the crowds. We didn't expect that we'd have to wait for one and a half hours in the scorching heat and have to remain on our feet until 6:45 PM.


Finally we hear music in the distance and then it doesn't take long for the parade to arrive. The crowd, we too, are like little children, eagerly awaiting the long-expected parade. It is definitely worth the wait. There are different carnival groups in the parade and all participants wear beautiful costumes, with or without feathers, in bright yellow, shocking pink and other cheerful colors. Some costumes cost over 5000 dollars. At least, that's what we hear.


People are dancing and jumping enthusiastically to the rhythmic live music. It's quite different from carnival as we know it in The Netherlands. The Aruban carnival is a real folk festival. If you're on Aruba you shouldn't miss the parade. Just before sunset the parade ends, we had a great time. All of Aruba is in Oranjestad, so we don't stay and take the bus back to our hotel.


Next day our legs are still tired of standing for such a long time and we spend the day on the beach to recuperate.


Tour of the island

 

For a tour of the island, we can choose from mountain biking, horse riding, jeep safari or coach. Of course, we could rent a car, but that would have to be a 4WD because only the western part of the island has paved roads. But if we'd have a flat tyre in the "kunuku" (= inland), we wouldn't be able to change it ourselves, so this is not an option. Another reason we prefer an air conditioned coach is that the sun has done its work during the carnival parade. We don't want to get an even worse sun burn.


Our English-speaking guide takes us and a group of Americans from the Old Mill via the rich neighborhoods Malmok and Arashi Beach to the far north-west of Aruba. The Old Mill ("Olde Molen") originally was brought from Frysia in The Netherlands dating back to the 19th century. Around 1960 it was brought to Aruba and over the years housed a museum and a restaurant. Currently it's being renovated so we can't take a look inside, unfortunately.


On the way the guide tells us that all of Aruba's beaches are now public. There are no more private beaches. But that doesn't mean one can swim everywhere. The white sand beaches on the west side are quiet having clear-blue waters. But on the east coast the sea is dark-blue and wild. There are volcanic rocks on east coast beaches. The guide tells us not to swim or dive there. In Eagle Beach and Manchebo Beach on the west coast one can't swim everywhere either, because of dangerous undercurrents, but the beaches are still very pretty.


Before we visit the lighthouse, we take a drive through the mansion village Malmok, where prices for houses with or without swimming pools start at $350,000. The guide tells us that the nearer a house is to the sea, the more expensive. Everyone can buy a house here, he lets us know, in case we're interested. The median income on Aruba is around $14,000. We are surprised to find out that the palm trees here are imported. That’s what our guide says.


We can clearly see that Aruba is not flat, but hilly. In the distance we see a high mountain, Seroe Plat. On the way we'll see several hills and mountains, like the Hooiberg ("Haystack") and Jamanota. The lighthouse was built between 1914 and 1916 and behind it sits the former lighthouse-guard house, which now serves as a restaurant. The sand dunes behind the lighthouse form a sharp contrast with the surrounding barren landscape.


We drive along the golf course Tierra del Sol. The guide tells us that the golf course was designed by an American and that it's an expensive project, because it needs much water. The rain season is from October through March and during the rest of the year it's dry.


Best Time To Visit Argentina

Posted on April 3, 2017 at 12:40 PM Comments comments (0)

By Adventure-life.com


Argentina is a great year-round destination, depending on where you want to go, but December to March allows for the easiest access to the popular Patagonia region in the south, while September-November are great if you prefer a cooler environment in Buenos Aires, and the autumnal colors of the wine valley in March and April are marvelous.


The travel seasons in Argentina are generally considered:


High season (prices & tourism at its peak): Late November-February & July

Shoulder season: September-November & March-May

Low season: June & August


Best time to visit Buenos Aires


For a refreshingly crisp climate and moderate prices in Buenos Aires, September to November and April to June are the best times to visit. While January to February is the high tourist season in Buenos Aires, it is also accompanied by crowded streets, high prices, high temperatures, and muggy weather.


Best time to visit the wine valleys around Mendoza


March and April are the seasons when the foliage is in its stunning and colorful transition, especially in the Lake District/ wine valley region of the country, where visitors will see whimsically copper and gold vines and brilliant shades of orange in the beech groves.


Best time to visit Patagonia


The best time to visit the wind-swept Patagonia region is from December to February (winter). Because this is the high season, tour prices also tend to be more expensive during these months.


Best time to visit the beaches


Argentina’s hot summer runs from December to January and has perfect beach weather.


Best time to visit ski resorts


The Argentine winter extends from June to August, meaning that many beaches are closed but the mountain ski resorts are open for business.


Guyana's Path to Paradise

Posted on January 5, 2017 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

By Sarah Grainger, BBC Travel

 

Tourists arrive via the capital, Georgetown, where the country’s British and Dutch colonial past can be seen in the white clapboard houses and the dykes that keep the steamy, low-lying city above water. The Pegasus Hotel Guyana sits along Georgetown’s sea wall, and its poolside restaurant is a popular meeting place for the country’s elite.


Due to a lack of paved roads and other infrastructure, getting around outside of the capital is difficult for independent travellers. Most people take trips to the interior with experienced tour operators that are based in the capital, like Wonderland Tours and Roraima Airways. The most popular trip offered is a one-day tour to Kaieteur Falls, the world’s longest single drop waterfall by volume, located deep within the jungle’s southwest. Small 10-seater planes make the hour flight to the falls, approaching up the river canyon and swooping down close to the lip of the cascade for the perfect photo op, before landing at the nearby Kaieteur airstrip.


From there, an easy 10-minute hike to the falls takes you through Kaiteur National Park, where you are unlikely to see other groups of tourists but you can catch a glimpse toucans, macaws and golden tree frogs. The falls are 741ft, almost five times the height of Niagara and two times the height of Victoria Falls. They are also remarkably untouched – there is no guardrail or fence to warn tourists of the dangers of getting too close to the edge.


In the North Rupununi wetlands in Guyana’s southwest, visitors can take jeeps to the remote Dadanawa Ranch, after driving through open savannah and across floating pontoons, on a journey also organized by tour operators in Georgetown. The area is home to jaguars, giant anteaters and the Arapaima – the world’s largest freshwater fish. Birders come to see rare species like the Cock-of-the-Rock, the Blood Parrot and the Harpy Eagle.


Further down the Rupununi River, at Karanambu Lodge, world-renowned otter expert Diane McTurk welcomes guests to share her home and see her pioneering conservation work with orphaned giant otters. Guyana is one of the last existing strongholds for these native South American animals, and visitors can even swim in the river with them.


Those with a head for heights can keep following the river to the Iwokrama Centre, a river lodge and research centre where a canopy walkway gives visitors a new perspective on the rainforest. A 500ft trail of suspension bridges snakes 100ft in the air, through the forest’s mid- and upper-level canopy.


Guyana, aware of its potential as an ecotourism destination, is struggling to manage the competing demands of development and conservation. In November, the Marriott hotel chain began construction in Georgetown, and US air carriers, such as American Airlines are considering establishing routes to Guyana soon. Currently, Delta Airlines has services from New York to Georgetown and Caribbean Airlines flies between Port of Spain and Georgetown, connecting Guyana to the Caribbean and North America.


To counteract this development, the country is trying to implement a carbon credit scheme that will see richer economies pay to preserve the Guyanese rainforest and save it from destruction by gold and diamond miners. Former president Bharrat Jagdeo came up with this unorthodox plan to keep Guyana’s rainforest pristine and the Norwegian government has already agreed to participate, paying millions of dollars to Guyana to offset Norway’s carbon use. In return, Guyana has promised to guarantee the preservation of the forest in the immediate future, preventing illegal logging and mining and thus helping to put the brakes on climate change.


Why Traveling Abroad is Important for Young People

Posted on November 29, 2016 at 7:10 AM Comments comments (0)

By Hannah Peterson, Greenhearttravel.org


In high school and college it is likely that you will receive some kind of encouragement to travel, study or work abroad. It may seem like you have a lot going on so you don’t seriously consider these opportunities or maybe you write them off since you plan on traveling later in life. I would encourage traveling at any age, but the earlier you begin it, the better lessons you get.


When you are young you are still finding yourself and preparing for your school and career. The skills and experience you gain from traveling abroad can give you life-long personal benefits as well as a leg up in the professional world.


In high school and college you have the luxury of having flexibility since you can study anywhere in the world and have relatively long study breaks. It is a prime time to take advantage of your freedom and youth.


Top 6 reasons to travel abroad while you are young:


1. You’ll Get Out of Your Comfort Zone


As young people most of us have a pretty established comfort zone. At home with mom and dad, in a community that has known you for probably a good part of your life. You have your established, friends, activities, hangouts and possibly jobs. We become comfortable in these daily roles and the idea of breaking out them can be scary and uncomfortable.


The problem is, you learn the most in uncomfortable, unfamiliar situations. In our daily routines, you know how to act and respond to people and your surroundings. Being in a new place, with different people, who hold different values and go about life differently (or not so differently you may find) strips all that familiarity away.


It can be scary, but once you figure out that you can connect with people despite differences, and you can navigate foreign environments, you become a smarter, more competent individual. Embrace the discomfort. Search for it, because it is helping you grow.


2. Traveling Builds Confidence


As you conquer the obstacles of figuring out how to use public transit in a foreign country, or asking for simple things in a grocery store, you are building a confidence and ability to adapt in foreign situations. I remember moving to a country where I spoke little to none of the language.


When I returned home, I moved across the country to a state where I had no family, friends or connections. The prospect of that move may have intimidated me before living abroad, but then I thought to myself, ‘Well, if I can do it abroad in a completely foreign system, I will be just fine in a place where I at least share the language.’


You realize that you CAN do things, despite the obstacles and suddenly the obstacles seem less obstructive and more like welcomed challenges.


3. You Will Develop Cultural Sensitivity


Being culturally sensitive is key in our globalizing world. It is not enough to say “people from X country are like this.” It is important to look for underlying values that may explain a certain behavior in order to practice cultural sensitivity. A good example is when I was in Spain (especially in the south), where they take a 2-3 hour siesta and lunch in the middle of their work day.


Many people view this cultural norm as the people just being lazy when it really has a lot more to do with the fact that historically Spaniards value family face time. Eating together as a family is more important to them than maximizing work time by scarping a sandwich down at their desks.


Being aware of cultural values and norms is not only fascinating, but can help us understand international issues and conflicts, or even relate to the cultural norms of a foreign business partner. It is an important skill to be able to shift perspectives and see where someone else is coming from.


Cultural sensitivity will help you with your communication on both business and personal levels.


4. You Can Adapt to Globalization


Whether you like it or not, with the internet and social media, we are globalizing quickly. It is not unlikely that you would end up with a job that have you travel for business or take part in conference calls with international business partners. In our globalizing world it is important to be culturally sensitive and it can’t hurt to know a foreign language.


In the business world, having lived abroad can give you a competitive edge. Use the confidence and cultural sensitivity that traveling helps you develop and help it make you successful.


5. Be Immersed in a Second (or Third) Language


Before I lived abroad I never truly understood the beauty of becoming fluent or even proficient in another language. In the United States we don’t need to know another language, or many would argue that. Once you travel abroad you realize that especially in Europe, almost everyone you meet speaks at least two languages somewhat proficiently.


We in the States have a bit of a disadvantage since geographically we cannot country-hop as easily as Europeans can, and our only neighbors speak English and Spanish. This is why traveling, especially for us, is even more important. I would argue that in the globalizing world it really can only benefit you to speak another language. Not to mention, it opens up a whole new world of people you can now connect with and understand that you would never have gotten the chance to get to know had you never learned their language.


Living abroad is really the best way to learn a new language since you are forced to challenge and practice your skills on a daily basis.

 


6. Infinite Opportunities to Network


I have studied and worked abroad and made some incredibly valuable connections. If you are interested in working internationally or even just having a couch to stay on in a country that you love, never underestimate the value of networking wherever you go.


One thing I have learned in my time abroad is that people are generally very friendly and love to talk about their home and culture. This is not always the case, but more than often it is. Making friendships abroad can make this big world seem a little smaller and help you feel more connected wherever you go.


The best advice I can give is to meet as many people on your travels as you can. It will definitely make your time abroad more enjoyable since the locals know best! Plus you never know when these connections will come in handy in the future whether visiting each other for fun or otherwise.

 



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