Many cities have reinvented themselves over the centuries, but few have had to rebuild as much as Berlin. With nearly four million residents from over 190 countries now living in its city centre, the largest city in Germany was a whole new experience for Intrepid Express reader Tori Salman…
“On my last visit, only a few short years after the reunification of Germany, Berlin was just one huge construction site. The Brandenburg Gate seemed like a dreary monument to reunification, set against a background of worksites. All these years later a stop in Berlin revealed a thoroughly refreshed and revitalised city. Now Berlin is almost too cool for school!
Our world is faced with one of its most extreme challenges yet, so Al Gore is preparing his ‘Truth Force Team’ for the road to Copenhagen. After three exhilarating days of training at The Climate Project, Asia-Pacific Summit, held in Melbourne, Intrepid’s Responsible Travel Manager, Jane Crouch reports…
“Intrepid Travel’s five sponsored trainees and I have emerged from an amazingly inspiring ‘incubator of learning’ from a fabulous range of teachers including the Honourable Al Gore, geneticist and environmentalist David Suzuki, eminent scientist Dr Graeme Pearman, Andrew Hewitt, Executive Director of OXFAM in Australia, Sharan Burrow, the President of the International Trade Union Confederation, Gaurav Gupta, Director of The Climate Project India, Agus Purnomo from Indonesia’s National Council on Climate Change and many more.
Al Gore referred to the concept of satyagraha as espoused by Gandhi – roughly translated to meaning ‘holding on to the truth’. So there we were, 300 delegates from 19 countries across the Asia Pacific region, there to be updated on the truth of climate science and solutions to this diabolical problem, and be empowered to go forth and share this knowledge in the coming months leading up to the December summit in Copenhagen. Here’s some of the impressions gained by the enthusiastic bunch of Intrepid’s sponsored trainees:
What’s over 2000 kilometres or 1240 miles long and can be seen from outer space? The Great Barrier Reef stretches from the tip of Cape York to Bundaberg and it’s one of John Kirk’s favourite places on the East Coast of Australia…
“The reef covers an area bigger than the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland put together. It includes 618 continental islands and contains over 2900 reefs and coral cays. It is home to 1500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4000 species of molluscs, 500 species of seaweed, 215 species of birds, 16 species of sea snake, 6 species of sea turtles, a large population of dugongs and a host of sponges, anemones, worms, crustaceans, shells, sea stars, and sea urchins… not to mention seasonal visits by several types of jellyfish and stingers.
Wild deserts, wild mountains and wild coastline, together with some of the most wonderful people on the planet. Morocco has all the things that Jeff Barnard, one-time Intrepid leader, looks for in an adventurous destination…
“One of the best trips I enjoyed was camping in the great sand desert on the edge of the Sahara – Erg Chebbi. It has to be one of the most fantastic landscapes imaginable. Huge sand dunes rising from the desert floor, constantly being sculpted by the wind and the colours changing with the setting sun.
We were camping out under the stars and had our safari vehicle pulled up in a valley between two dunes. Before we tucked into a superb dinner, our local guide Mohamed came over to me and said he was worried by the threat of high winds. Instead of sleeping out, he asked if we wanted to move to a caravanserai after dinner. It was a perfectly still evening and everyone was looking forward to sleeping under the desert night sky, so we decided to stay put.
‘Cheers’ is the most common expression when drinking in New Zealand, but you could also hear ‘Chur bro’ or even ‘Cheers cuz’. Pronouncing the place names is more of a challenge, but Intrepid’s resident Kiwi, Alison Mead, comes to our aid with some handy talking tips…
“Early colonists to New Zealand often experienced difficulty in mastering the local Maori place names. As a result, many names have passed into current usage in corrupt forms, such as Amuri (Haumuri), Petone (Pito-one), Mangahao (Mangahou), and ‘The Nunneries’ (Te Nganaire).
Trying to not get tongue-tied around Onehunga – an Auckland suburb, Mt Ngaruahoe – North Island Mountain or Whakatane – a gorgeous town in the Bay of Plenty, can be tough, but with such a strong Maori cultural history it is worth taking the time to learn the correct pronunciation, or you may get a giggle or two from a local Kiwi. Onehunga, often thought to be one (as in the number) hunga, should be said ‘o nee hunga’. Anything with a “Wh” at the start is an “f” sound, so Whakatane say ‘faka tar nay’.
The Intrepid Foundation’s ‘Intrepid Perpetual Fund’ has chosen to defy the global financial crisis and spend big on three causes we consider very important, timely and worthy.
The Australian Conservation Foundation and The Climate Project AU$40,000:
Congratulations to the five successful Intrepid Foundation-sponsored applicants (out of more than 120 through the Intrepid Travel promotion and over 2000 entrants in total), who will be trained by former US Vice President Al Gore at The Climate Project – Australia Asia Pacific Summit (A-P Summit). They are:
Aarti Bhalla, India – Intrepid group leader and responsible travel coordinator;
Harley Spence, New Zealand – the director of two environmental organizations;
Marita Manley, Fiji – agriculture and forestry policy adviser at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community
Penny Crossley, Australia – account manager with Flight Centre; and
Indira Naidoo, Australia – television journalist, broadcaster and producer.
Intrepid group leaders in Russia are sponsoring two babushkas (grandmothers) in Kyrgyzstan this year. Pensions in this region are inadequate and ‘babushka adoption’ enables these vulnerable women to meet their financial needs. Our adopted babushkas, Alexandra and Nina, look forward to visits from Trans-Asia Express groups when they are in Bishkek.
Alexandra, eighty, was born in Kyrgyzstan, attended school for seven years and then worked on a collective farm. She was married in the village and gave birth to one daughter. After becoming divorced, Alexandra moved to Bishkek in 1953 and started working as a seamstress in “Kirgiziya” factory. She was promoted to a tailor and then a manager and worked for forty-three years.
India is high on so many people’s ‘bucket lists’ and thousands of travellers make a pilgrimage to this country rich in culture and real life experiences.
Intrepid’s Yvette Thompson was overwhelmed by the beauty, contrasts, chaos and spirit of India, but it was the generosity of the Sikh temple that moved her to tears…
“Finally, I have found a religion that makes sense to me! Today we visited a Sikh temple: a place of peace and prayer in the middle of a seemingly disordered, dusty Delhi. As we made our way into the marble entrance, we walked through a pool of cool water, cleaning our soles, or perhaps cleansing our souls, or perhaps both. We made our way up the inside steps, the calm and quiet a vast difference from the perpetual beeping and yelling out on the streets.
For centuries, pilgrims have walked Spain’s Camino de Santiago to reach to the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela, where the apostle St James is said to be interred.
Intrepid Express reader Barbara Reid was among the weary worshippers whose spirits were lifted by the experience…
“My soul soared and reached the rafters with the magnificent censer in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela. After walking with my daughter through mid-northern Spain, we arrived in Santiago in time for the pilgrim service.
Intrepid Travel has given away more than 15,000 cotton bags to travellers on holiday in Thailand since 2005. Each printed with the important message, ‘Intrepid Supports No To Plastic’.
In addition to being a trendy keepsake, these bags have contributed directly to a cleaner and greener world in a remarkable number of ways…
The bags are produced by a women’s cooperative named Tae Moh Hai, or Our Friends Hands, in Sri Saket, north-eastern Thailand. The initiative was set up by ex-Intrepid Group Leader Dtor Dtae in her home village, to create work for families and to motivate local people to support environmental conservation.