W H E R E T R AV E L C A N TA K E YO U
A FA R .CO M
The Next Great U.S. Food Region
# T R AV E L DE E P E R
Chelsea Handlerâ€™s New Favorite City
Your Own Personal Iceland
DREAM TRIPS THE
14 Reasons to Visit Canada This Summer
Just Back from Oman
Explore the world of Platinum Membership at americanexpress.com/exploreplatinum
ÂŠ 2017 2017 0 Am 01 meri errican caan an Ex Exppre s Com Compan ress panny.
NEW YORK - BOSTON
Amber Truett, Photographer
IN SPACE Journey
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JULY/ AUGUST THE DREAM TRIPS ISSUE
An American searches for puffins and peace in the land of fire and ice.
by TAFF Y BRODESSER-AKNER
AN UP-FOR-ANYTHING MENTALITY PERMEATES ISLAND CULTURE. Adventure is always a priority: swimming, hiking, exploring and photographing the Ôaina (land) ultimately leads to a deeper understanding of place—an irreplaceable knowledge that echoes through the rhythms of everyday life. OÔahu Ð HawaiÔi
A blind manâ€™s trip will change the way you think about safaris.
What secrets can a traveler find in the jungles of Peru?
OUT OF SIGHT by RYAN KNIGHTON
VISION QUEST by WELLS TOWER
DESTINATION INDEX ALASKA 72, 74 ARGENTINA 69, 74 AUSTRALIA 66, 74 BELIZE 70 BOTSWANA 74, 84 BRAZIL 70 CALIFORNIA 15, 56 CAMBODIA 70 CANADA 34 CHILE 69 CHINA 72
COLORADO 56 DUBAI 74 FIJI 70 FINLAND 74 FRANCE 43, 68 FRENCH POLYNESIA 69 GEORGIA 66 GREECE 72 HAWAII 15 HONDURAS 74 HONG KONG 15 ICELAND 88 IDAHO 74
INDIA 28, 70 IRAQ 69 ITALY 70, 74 KENYA 84 MALDIVES 70 MEXICO 56, 66 MONTANA 15, 56 NAMIBIA 66 NEPAL 69 NEW YORK CITY 15, 55 NEW ZEALAND 59 NICARAGUA 26, 74 NORTH POLE 74
OMAN 112 PANAMA 66 PERU 74, 102 PHILIPPINES 70 RUSSIA 74 SCOTLAND 70 SOUTH AFRICA 84 TANZANIA 84 THAILAND 15 VIRGINIA 49 WYOMING 56 ZAMBIA 74 ZIMBABWE 74, 76
W A T C H
B E Y O N D
BR 03-94 BLACK MATTE CERAMIC · Bell & Ross Inc. +1.888.307.7887 · e-boutique: www.bellross.com
JULY/ AUGUST THE DREAM TRIPS ISSUE
The just-opened Anvil Hotel offers a local take on Jackson, Wyoming.
WANDER 26 NEXT STOP
Changes are coming to Lake Nicaragua’s tranquil archipelago— the time to go is now.
34 GOOD TRIPS
O Canada! Fourteen ways to celebrate the 150th birthday of our neighbor to the north.
28 WANDERING COMEDIAN
Chelsea Handler visits the temples of the gods, hangs with locals, and shops for saris in Mumbai.
Souvenir shirts that fit our travel philosophy to a tee.
CONNECT 43 WORKSHOP
Get fired up for a trip to France’s oldest crystal maker.
Virginia’s seafood-rich Tidewater region is the next big thing in Southern eating.
Summer goals: Master the art of the minibreak.
59 SPIN THE GLOBE New Zealand brings out the social side of Alton Brown.
SPECIAL SECTION 65 LIVE YOUR TRAVEL FANTASY
Yes, dreams do come true—travel dreams, at least. Here’s how to tackle yours, whether you want to live in a castle or learn to cook on a Greek isle.
14 AFAR.COM 16 FOUNDER’S NOTE 18 FROM THE EDITOR 22 CONTRIBUTORS 112 JUST BACK FROM
In Oman, AFAR’s digital executive editor finds dunes, desert swimming holes, and one sweet gin cart.
ON THE COVER
The view from behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall is the quintessential Iceland shot, no filter required. Find the Iceland of your dreams on page 88. Photograph by Frédéric Lagrange
FROM LEFT: DANIEL TRAUB/GALLERYSTOCK, COURTESY OF ANVIL HOTEL
© 2017 MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL, INC.
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AFAR ID Statement AFAR® (ISSN 1947-4377), Volume 9, Number 4, is published bimonthly by AFAR Media, LLC, 130 Battery St., Sixth Floor, San Francisco, CA 94111, U.S.A. In the U.S., AFAR® is a registered trademark of AFAR Media, LLC. Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts, art, or any other unsolicited materials. Subscription price for U.S. residents: $24.00 for 6 issues. Canadian subscription rate: $30.00 (GST included) for 6 issues. All other countries: $40.00 for 6 issues. To order a subscription to AFAR or to inquire about an existing subscription, please write to AFAR Magazine Customer Service, P.O. Box 6265, Harlan, IA 51591-1765, or call 888-403-9001. Periodicals postage paid at San Francisco, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to AFAR, P.O. Box 6265, Harlan, IA 51591-1765.
AFAR.COM Introducing AFAR-Recommended Hotels
The right hotel can turn a humdrum trip into an exceptional experience. Finding a great place to stay that matches your travel needs and style, though, can take work. We’re here to help. On July 17, our new hotel channel debuts on afar.com, and you can find editors’ picks for hotels in more than a hundred destinations around the world. Read on for a sampling, then check out afar.com/hotels and start planning your next trip.
A SELECTION OF PROPERTIES ON OUR LIST
THE GREAT OUTDOORS Amangiri Utah (pictured)
Clayoquot Wilderness Resort British Columbia Tierra Atacama Boutique Hotel & Spa Chile SANDY ESCAPES Anantara Seminyak Bali El Blok Puerto Rico Elbow Beach Bermuda
FOODIE HAVENS Ballymaloe Country House Hotel Ireland The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas The Vines Resort & Spa Mendoza, Argentina SOCIAL SCENES Faena Hotel Buenos Aires
Ham Yard Hotel London Wythe Hotel New York City WELLNESS RESORTS Amansala Tulum, Mexico Calistoga Ranch Calistoga, California Como Shambhala Estate Bali
COURTESY OF AMAN RESORTS
Look for the AFAR Recommended badge on our site to know which hotels made the cut. Browse through lists of our favorite hotels divvied up by city, country, region, and style.
ROMANTIC RETREATS Ashford Castle Ireland Halekulani Honolulu Las Ventanas Los Cabos, Mexico
ALL IN THE FAMILY
These U.S. retreats promise to keep the whole brood happy.
1 MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL ISLAND OF HAWAII
Beyond the white sand beaches, there are plenty of free daily activities, such as lei making and hula dancing.
Travelers who appreciate the little details will want to base themselves at these three sophisticated city lodgings. The Siam
Why We Love It
Owned by the family of a former Thai rock star, the Siam is the closest thing you can find to a resort in Bangkok. Bill Bensley, one of Asia’s top architects, mixes a 1920s jazz theme with colonial touches.
Upper House was designed by architect André Fu to feel like a modern home. Reclaimed-timber walls in the rooms lend a warm feel, and more than 400 works of art hang throughout the hotel.
London-based designer Kit Kemp is the creative mind behind the Crosby Street Hotel (pictured), which stands apart for its whimsical aesthetic, dominated by bold patterns and colorful artwork.
Set on the Chao Phraya River, the hotel has its own dock where guests can catch a 25-minute boat ride to reach Bangkok’s main pier. The Vimanmek Teak Mansion is a short walk away.
Situated on the east side of the Pacific Place mall, Upper House is within easy reach of the design stores, markets, and nightlife of the Wan Chai neighborhood. Hong Kong Park is a nearby oasis.
Located in the heart of Soho, the Crosby Street Hotel is a short stroll from some of the city’s best boutiques and art galleries and the nearby Nolita and Greenwich Village neighborhoods.
Our Favorite Rooms
Connie’s Cottage is a traditional villa that was once the home of Bangkok socialite Connie Mangskau. It has been restored and furnished with a four-poster bed and antiques from local markets.
All 117 bamboo- and oakclad rooms have impressive views, especially the Studio 70 Harbour View lodgings. Rooms 4607 and 4707 have two walls of windows that look out over Victoria Harbour and Kowloon.
The Meadow Suite has a terrace with its own mini “meadow” of flora, and the granite and oak bathroom has a deep soaking tub. Rooms are quieter on the east side of the hotel, away from Crosby Street.
2 CAVALLO POINT CALIFORNIA
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT, COURTESY OF: MAUNA KEA BEACH HOTEL, CROSBY STREET HOTEL, THE RANCH AT ROCK CREEK, CAVALLO POINT
Families enjoy direct access to the Bay Area’s best to-dos, including 75,000 acres of hiking and biking in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
3 THE RANCH AT ROCK CREEK MONTANA
A kids’ club frees adults to explore this working cattle ranch.
Crosby Street Hotel New York City
Ganesha, the Hindu god known as the remover of obstacles, is also a patron of travelers.
with Sale Sproat
To “Let Hawai‘i Happen” you need to get off the beaten path. Just ask Sale Sproat, a 4th generation mule man. Sale loves his home, an island with no trafﬁc lights and no buildings taller than a coconut tree. Here are his top Moloka‘i spots: KALAUPAPA GUIDED MULE TOUR “I happen to work here! You’re surrounded by the beautiful sounds, sights and smells of nature as you ride down the highest sea cliffs in the world on a sure-footed mule. My absolute favorite photo spot is along these 3.2 mile sea cliffs.” KALAUPAPA TRAIL “All the views you’re witnessing are mind blowing. The view that you see when you come around the ﬁ rst turn takes your breath away. At the bottom is Kalaupapa, a truly special place like no other you’ll ever experience.” SWEET EVIE’S SNOW FACTORY “Very different from shave ice, the consistency of the snow is like a soft pillow of ice cream.”
Get inspired at # LetHawaiiHappen #VisitMolokai
Wanted: An Imperfect Trip brochure that said, “India vacation: rough roads, slow buses, and mishaps guaranteed!” Would you go? Ten years ago, my friend (and now business partner) Joe Diaz and I were on a crowded bus making our way along the bumpy roads of Wayanad, India. We approached another bus coming in the opposite direction. Our driver slowed from his already lessthan-rapid pace. We heard a screech. The bus stopped. No one seemed concerned. The drivers of both buses got out and started talking. Joe and I got out to see what had happened. The road was so narrow, the tops of the two buses had scraped and gotten locked together. And now we were stuck. Our driver went back inside our bus and pulled out what looked like a billiard ball. He put it underneath one of his tires, got back behind the wheel, restarted the bus, and moved it backward a few inches. The angle of our bus changed, leaving just enough room for the other bus to drive past. It was no big deal for anyone except for us two Americans, who gleefully IMAGINE A TRAVEL
admired the MacGyver-like ingenuity. Trips are full of unexpected incidents, and one of the things I love most about travel is getting in the mind frame to appreciate them. Getting lost, breaking down, waiting in line—each is an opportunity to witness something new, to enjoy the journey. Am I this patient in my daily life at home? Not so much. But isn’t that part of the point of travel? To put aside the demanding, perfectionseeking side of ourselves and embrace the hiccups along the way? You can bring this attitude to any destination, not just bumpy roads in India. Wherever you’re headed next, I encourage you to welcome the unexpected and the imperfect. GOOD TRAVELS,
Greg Sullivan Cofounder & CEO
Send me an email about your perfectly imperfect trips at email@example.com.
Three Perfect Pins:
FROM THE EDITOR A Pregnant Pause I’M EXPECTING MY SECOND
maybe inspire some new dreams while we’re at it. As I spend the coming months envisioning destinations yet unvisited and adjusting to life with a new human, I hope you’ll get out there and explore. And please drop me a line from your own private paradises found. Reach out to me on Twitter @jules_afar and tag your photos with #traveldeeper on Instagram, so I can vicariously satisfy my own wanderlust. TRAVEL WELL,
Julia Cosgrove Editor in Chief
Try AFAR’s new trip planner tool to plot your next adventure at afar.com/saveplango.
child, and as I write this I have reached the no-fly stage. For someone who loves to travel as much as I do, necessary grounding is a harsh reality. Yet my timing could not have been better, because this issue is devoted to exceptional travel experiences, the perfect theme for fantasizing about dream trips, even from my back patio at home. This year, led by executive editor Jeremy Saum and editor at large Ashlea Halpern, we’re taking you to destinations as diverse as Iceland (page 88), Zimbabwe (page 76), New Zealand (page 59), and Peru (page 102). Are you obsessed with spotting a rare black rhino in the wild? Turn to page 66. Prefer exquisite dining? Book a tour to every three-Michelinstar restaurant in the world (page 72). Do you dream of hiking the Himalayas? It’s a great time to head to Nepal (page 69). We’re here to help you make your travel fantasies come true—to find that private island, to book that around-the-world trip—and
A loyalty program that loves you. For being you. Introducing World of Hyatt. A loyalty program that starts with understanding you — and connects you to the people, places and experiences at the heart of your world. To learn more, visit worldofhyatt.com
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WELCOME TO THEIR WORLD
9 I NTI M ATE SH IPS • 7 C O N T INENT S • OVER 800 PORT S • INFINIT E POSS IBIL IT IES
Every voyage, every suite, every detail — when exploring the Galápagos Islands, the hallmarks of Silversea Cruises remain, allowing you to truly enjoy the exotic and exhilarating. Come faceto-face with a giant tortoise, snorkel with sea lions, hike over lava fields with an expert naturalist, pass iguanas lounging in the sun. Just follow your instincts and leave every detail to us.
THE EVOLUTION OF THE GALÁPAGOS EXPERIENCE
benefits include: 7-day Galápagos Expedition aboard Silver Galapagos Roundtrip Economy Air between Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands Two-night pre-cruise hotel stay with breakfast at the Quito JW Marriott Evening tour of Quito’s historic city highlights Post-cruise hotel day room at Hotel Oro Verde in Guayaquil National Park, Ingala Transit Card and porterage fees Select transfers
To reserve your suite, contact your travel professional, call Silversea at 888.737.4583, or visit Silversea.com/afar-galapagos.
Getting out there: “I felt so at peace in Iceland— it was like I was experiencing the country in slow motion. There were few people around, so it was very quiet.” And staying out there: “My assistant and I rented a car and drove around the island for nine days. We had only planned to stay a week but extended our trip because there was so much land left to see. If you go to Iceland, be prepared to not want to leave.” Peer through his lens: on Instagram @fredericlagrange
Expanding her consciousness: “I’ve never tried ayahuasca—or had any kind of psychedelic experience—so I had to rely on the author’s story to imagine the emotional experience.” And illustrating it: “My art has a surreal element to it—I like to portray dreamscapes and represent memories that viewers can interpret for themselves. I usually work in black and white, so working in color on this project was complicated for me. But I also had more freedom.”
On traveling blind: “For me, a blind man, travel is a bit of a paradox. I’ve lived within the same four blocks for the past 20 years, and my mental map is so rich that I can get around without a cane. When I go to a place I don’t know, the world gets smaller.” Tasting bliss: “The food at the Singita Pamushana Lodge was insane. One night, we had a barbecue in the bush, and I tried many different types of impala.” See his views: on Twitter @ryanknighton
On breaking his routine: “I thought Spin the Globe sounded like a great idea—until 24 hours before I left. I’m a researcher, but this time, I hit the ground without having done my homework.” Which is the point: “It made me realize that, in past travels, I had robbed myself of freedom by trying to remove the unknown. In New Zealand, there were places I went for no other reason than I saw a sign on the side of the road.” Follow his adventures: on Instagram @altonbrown
A new angle: “Ryan’s story was about experiencing a safari in a nonvisual way, so my priority was to take photos that felt sensory—not to take typical safari photos.” Fear less: “If someone had told me before I went to Zimbabwe that a hyena would pass within a foot of me, I might have freaked out. But I didn’t feel unsafe at any moment. I trusted that if the guides weren’t anxious, I didn’t need to be.” Explore with her: on Instagram @caitoppermann
Photographer Iceland p.88
Visual Artist Vision Quest p.102
Writer Out of Sight p.76
Writer Eats Well with Others p.59
Photographer Out of Sight p.76
EVERY OUNCE OF YOUR TRAVEL EXPERIENCE SHOULD BE INSPIRED For over 400 years, Trieste, Italy has been the gateway to coffee culture, as beans have made their way through this Adriatic town to coffeehouses in Vienna, Budapest and Paris. The same is true today, as the third generation Illy family continues to import, roast and create the unique illy blend in Trieste since 1933, delighting coffee lovers around the world with its beautiful taste. Visit illyusa.com. Sip. Savor. Be Inspired.
ILLY® and illy logo are registered trademarks of illycaffè S.p.A. via Flavia 110-34147 Trieste — Italy. © 2017 illy caffè North America, Inc. All rights reserved.
O F F I C I A L H O T E L O F T H E 3 5 T H A M E R I C Aâ€™ S C U P
CURIOUS TRAVELERS ONLY
NOE DEWITT / TRUNK ARCHIVE
Mumbai is the pulsing, intoxicating entertainment capital of India. In other words, itâ€™s a perfect fit for late-night queen turned Netflix superstar Chelsea Handler. On page 28, see her picks for where to shop for saris, visit temples, and drink like the locals.
Jicaro Island Ecolodge Isleta El Espino
Café de las Sonrisas
Isleta El Espino
Fact Sheet Location
On the verge of development, Las Isletas de Granada, Lake Nicaragua’s tranquil archipelago, has a get-here-before-the-world-does feel. by ANNA VODICKA
Twenty thousand years ago, the eruption of Nicaragua’s Mombacho Volcano formed Las Isletas, a series of islands just a 10-minute water taxi ride from Granada, the former colonial capital. Today, archipelago real estate is exploding, along with Granada’s food scene and other developments, including a controversial canal project that threatens to wreak environmental havoc on lake life. Make for the pristine islets while you can. 26
It’s easy to do, given that most lodges are located on private islands. Try the nineroom Jicaro Island Ecolodge or reserve one of five rooms at Isleta El Espino, where the staff can tell you the story behind every hand-hewn object, down to the hammocks (made in a hearing-impaired weavers’ workshop in Granada). To get a sea-level perspective on the archipelago, paddle a kayak between islands. Spot a
Espressonista, where local ingredients come together in plates such as osso bucco with spicy mango and herbed yogurt; and Ciudad Lounge, an airy den of modern Nicaraguan food—try the rib eye with yucca root and cacao-laced butter. Before retreating to Las Isletas, hunt down a hammock from El Espino’s source, Café de las Sonrisas, where the walls are covered in sign language pictograms. Back on your island, a sunset Dark ’n’ Stormy—house-brewed ginger beer and Flor de Caña rum—savored with views of the volcano may convince you to extend your stay.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF JICARO ISLAND ECOLODGE, JENNIFER YOUNG, ALANNA HALE, COURTESY OF ISLETA EL ESPINO, MARIANNA JAMADI, JENNIFER YOUNG
ISLANDS OF PLENTY
guardabarranco, the national bird, as it flits from tree to tree, and see fishermen cast nets into the mar dulce or “sweet sea.” El Espino can arrange lessons in the atarraya fishing technique (the circular toss of the nets is not as easy as it looks), as well as volcano tours and cruises to artisan villages. Balance island time with a day trip to Granada. Caffeinate with a coco mu (black coffee with coconut oil and butter) at Bristol Coffee Bar, a new café located half a block from the landmark Granada Cathedral, then climb the cathedral’s bell tower for views of the rainbowhued buildings below. Over the last six years, Granada’s cuisine has begun to transcend gallo pinto, the national red-beans-and-rice dish. Two eateries of note:
Take a water taxi from Granada’s port
WE ARE MEANT to
wander in wonder
When was the last time we did something for the ďŹ rst time? If we go looking, we just might ďŹ nd that we can still surprise ourselves. Get the guide at Colorado.com
A CLASSIC TOUR “For a very India experience, wander past the iconic Taj Mahal Palace hotel and around the Gateway of India monument, then take the 90-minute ferry ride to the Elephanta Caves, east of the city. You can shop for spices and bangles on the carts in Gharapuri [the village at the ferry port], then walk up the 200 or so steps to explore the caverns where Shiva and other Hindu gods and goddesses are carved into stone.”
“The hand-embroidered saris and kurtas are incredible. I bought some for all my friends’ kids at Colaba Causeway.”
As anyone who is familiar with Chelsea Handler knows, the late-night talk show host finds joy in uncomfortable situations. It’s why she loves traveling and why Mumbai ranks as one of her all-time favorite cities. Earlier this year, Handler and her Chelsea production crew descended on the buzzing megalopolis for three weeks. Here are a few of the places you might see in the India-centric episode, which airs this summer on Netflix. by NICK PACHELLI
LOCAL SPIRIT “The Dhobi Ghat (or ‘washing place’) is known as the laundromat for all of Mumbai. Clothes are hanging everywhere and people are working, but it’s a really welcoming place. Kids were running up, hugging us, and asking for pictures. Everyone has preconceptions about India—that it’s so sad, and there’s so much poverty. That’s true. But there’s so much spirit as well. It’s infectious.” 28
Season 2 of Handler’s show airs every Friday night with scenes from not only Mumbai but also New Delhi, London, and Paris.
A TASTE FROM THE MELTING POT “Food in Mumbai highlights the city’s blend of cultures. The Pali Village Café mixes French, Italian, and Indian. There’s also San:Qi, at the Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai, which spans everything from Japanese to chicken tandoori. Afterward, you can go to the rooftop bar Asilo at the St. Regis Mumbai for views of the Arabian Sea and a lime and soda, the local drink of choice.”
STAYING IN A BUSY CITY “Whenever I travel, I love being right on the water. In Mumbai, I stayed at the Taj Lands End, which is flanked by the Arabian Sea and the Mahim Bay. From the Taj, we would drive three and a half miles across the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link bridge to reach the center of Mumbai. On the other side, I discovered that the lounges at the St. Regis are also some of the best places in the city for an afternoon snack.”
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: COURTESY OF THE TAJ MAHAL PALACE MUMBAI, KAHO OF CHUZAI LIVING, COURTESY OF THE ST. REGIS MUMBAI, OFFSET SHUTTERSTOCK /ALEJANDRO MORENO DE CARLOS; ILLUSTRATIONS BY SAM KERR
WE’VE SPENT MORE THAN 140 YEARS CRAFTING YOUR NEXT JOURNEY. All Holland America Line cruises are born of 140+ years of seagoing expertise. Our Baltic itineraries, for example, include an overnight stay in Copenhagen—so you can experience the evening magic of Tivoli Gardens. Meanwhile, our long history in Alaska allows special access to the stunning sights of Glacier Bay. All while enjoying Holland America Line’s classic onboard service and style. And our Destination Guides, in partnership with AFAR, offer personalized recommendations on exploring ports of call around the world.
Ships’ Registry: The Netherlands
WEAR THE WORLD
The T-shirt: cheesy souvenir or the best way to flaunt your travels? Here at AFAR, we think the latter fits.
DISCOVER THE MEANING OF MANA If you want to understand Tahitian culture, start with Mana. It’s a mythical concept and spirit that connects all living things. There are countless ways you can embrace Mana as you explore The Islands of Tahiti. You’ll brush up against Mana while pursuing adventure or the arts, browsing at local markets or dining in chic restaurants. You can relax or seize the day, delve into underwater worlds or hike lush peaks that deliver stunning views. You can do all these things and more in one amazing trip because if an activity doesn’t exist on one island, you’ll ﬁnd it on another. Here are four of the many ways to experience Mana. One-of-a-Kind Adventures The aromatic Tiare Apetahi ﬂower is so rare that it only blooms here on Mount Temehani. It’s a moving sensory experience to hike up the volcano’s slope at dawn, when you can hear the petals open with a crackling that’s been compared to the sound of a woman’s heart breaking. Underwater Thrills Divers in search of an adrenaline rush will ﬁnd it in Rangiroa. You’ll be carried along in a current past hammerhead sharks, dolphins, and tornadoes of jacks. This thrill ride culminates in a sparkling lagoon where scores of colorful ﬁsh congregate.
Cultural Immersion Ancient Polynesian communities once gathered to worship in open-air sanctuaries called marae. And these sacred sites across the islands still host ceremonies today. Pay your respects and attend an enchanting traditional dance show Ôori Tahiti. Relaxed Seclusion Spread a picnic for two on the pristine white sand beaches of Bora Bora, a volcanic island on one of the world’s most alluring lagoons. With endless views and the soundtrack of gently lapping waves, you’ll have found Mana indeed.
To discover Mana for yourself, visit Tahiti-Tourisme.com
© Myles McGuinness
F L OW
There are many sides to The Islands of Tahiti. Yet they are all connected by Mana. Mana is a life force and spirit that surrounds us. You can see it. Touch it. Taste it. Feel it. And from the moment you arrive, you will understand why we say our Islands are
To discover Mana for yourself, visit Tahiti -Tourisme.com
© Grégoire Le Bacon
LEFT TO RIGHT FROM TOP: DAVID DE VLEESCHAUWER, IAN WILLMS, TEGRA NUESS; JEREMY KORESKI, COURTESY OF THE HOTEL WILLIAM GRAY, JONATHAN POZNIAK; AMEL AIDA, DAVID DE VLEESCHAUWER, COURTESY OF MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TORONTO
It’s Canada’s 150th Birthday. Go Wild.
Yearlong celebrations mark Canada’s sesquicentennial (July 1), giving travelers even more reason to head north.
BVITOURISM.COM 1-800-835-8530 The British Virgin Islands is treasured respite from winter’s chill. It’s the warm breeze that ﬁlls your sail on sapphire seas. The curiosity that blazes trails on towering mountains. The whispers shared over picnics on deserted beaches and the understated attention to detail, woven into luxe accommodations. More than anything, it’s the satisfaction of knowing these personal experiences can be kept all to yourself.
I THINK I’LL KEEP THIS TO MYSELF
Masters & Meteors These museums—some new, some expanding—capture the breadth of Canadian culture. by ELAINE GLUSAC
MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART This fall, Toronto’s MOCA moves to the Tower Automotive Building, a 1919 industrial facility with a dramatic 16-foot ceiling supported by massive columns. museumofcontemporaryart.ca REMAI MODERN The world’s foremost collection of linocuts by Pablo Picasso anchors this new museum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, opening this year in a striking prairie-modern-style building. remaimodern.org
Why a trip to the remote Canadian Arctic is worth the effort. by SARAH PURKRABEK
My guide wanted me to see the grocery store. She was hoping I’d buy her a soda, but I couldn’t justify spending $6 on a can of CocaCola, no matter how good she was at her profession. Did I mention my guide was a sevenyear-old girl? I first met her when she ran excitedly to hug me as I stepped off a Zodiac boat that had just pulled into her hometown of Ikpiarjuk, an 870-person hamlet in the territory of Nunavut. Along with 180 other passengers from the
Ocean Endeavour— a vessel operated by Adventure Canada— I had landed on Ikpiarjuk during a 12-day expedition cruise around the Canadian Arctic and Greenland. The trip is a dream for adventurers enamored of wildlife and dramatic landscapes: We saw polar bears, narrow fjords, icebergs half-submerged in turquoise water. The only way to reach this remote area is by boat or plane, and the Ikpiarjuk supply plane was late. The town’s soda stock
was dwindling, so the price had been jacked up higher than usual. My grade-school guide overcame her disappointment quickly and marched me across the village, pointing out landmarks. There was her cousin’s house, the school, the moored sailboats where she and her friends played. There was another relative, her step-step-cousin, in a traditional amauti (parka) hand-sewn from seal skins and caribou hides. And there was the jungle gym. By
this time our group had expanded to include a bunch of little kids from the village. Clearly the playground was the grand finale. I spent the next two hours pushing swings, boosting kids up to the monkey bars, and watching a series of informal gymnastics competitions. Looking back on the trip as a whole, I have the fondest memories of Ikpiarjuk, where I was more than a sightseer. I had the privilege of being someone’s playmate. adventure canada.com
ROYAL ALBERTA MUSEUM By early 2018, a new 419,000-square-foot space (pictured below) in downtown Edmonton will house the museum’s live invertebrates, woolly mammoth skeletons, and a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite. royalalbertamuseum.ca BEAVERBROOK ART GALLERY Salvador Dalí’s Santiago El Grande gets its own room in the Beaverbrook’s three-story addition, opening in Fredericton, New Brunswick, this fall. beaverbrookartgallery.org
My Secret Canada “Mountain biking in Kamloops, British Columbia, is fast and varied,
with spectacular views. My favorite area: Pineview Valley, where the Mine Trail offers rocky, technical climbs and a steep descent.” —Catharine Pendrel, Olympic bronze medalist
Find 50 insider picks from influential Canadians at afar.com/secretcanada.
FROM LEFT: B&C ALEXANDER/ARCTICPHOTO, JEFF WALLACE
IT’S GOOD TO KNOW YOUR PLACE IN THE WORLD.
IT’S EVEN BETTER WHEN SEARCH AND RESCUE KNOWS.
With an inReach® satellite communicator, you can navigate, trigger an SOS, send and receive text messages, and share your GPS location with friends and family from anywhere on earth, even when there’s no cell phone service.
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HOW TO BEAT THE CROWDS AT BANFF
4 Fancy a Fête?
Banff, Canada’s first national park, is also its most visited. Some 3.9 million nature lovers swarmed the park last year, and with fees being waived for 2017 (happy birthday, Canada!), those numbers are bound to surge even higher. Here are three ways to dodge the worst of the crowds while still seeing the best of Banff.
Montreal triples-down on festivities, celebrating two birthdays (Canada’s 150th and the city’s 375th) and the 50th anniversary of the Expo 67 World’s Fair.
by BILLIE COHEN
by MAGGIE FULLER
LA GRANDE TOURNÉE (Weekends, through mid-September) The city’s 19 neighborhoods host consecutive block parties featuring performances, treasure hunts, and local cuisine.
A Banff backpacker pauses to take in the spectacular Valley of the Ten Peaks, home to a huddle of snowy summits that all top 10,000 feet.
ÉLECTRO PARADE (September 2) Expect outrageous costumes and DJs spinning atop roving floats at this citywide electronic dance party.
Taking in the Views
Spending the Night
Ultra-turquoise Lake Louise is a stunner, sure, but walking its narrow path during high season can feel more like standing in line.
The Banff Gondola provides a tame glimpse of the park’s beauty, hoisting visitors to a tourist-mobbed boardwalk and observation deck.
The town of Banff’s location within the park is convenient, but its streets are swarmed, and the souvenir shops are predictable.
In-the-know hikers hit Banff Sunshine Village for pristine mountaintop lakes, blooming wildflowers, and a 360-degree view of the Canadian Rockies from the Standish Express chairlift.
Earn your views by scrambling along the challenging via ferrata courses of ladders, handholds, and cables on Mount Norquay. It’s a shot of adrenaline the gondola can’t touch.
Choose Canmore as your base, a town brimming with affordable restaurants, boutiques, and beautiful hiking and biking trails. Bonus: It’s 24 minutes from Banff town by public shuttle.
6 My Secret Canada
“Three hours north of Toronto, in Muskoka ‘cottage country,’ the Torrance Barrens Dark-Sky Preserve is a true stargazer’s delight. As darkness descends and the Eastern Whip-poor-wills sing from their perches, the Milky Way emerges in all of its shining glory.” —Julia White, sculptor
ANDREW QUERNER/GALLERY STOCK
WHERE TO STAY Montreal’s newest hotels are contemporary and cool. The Hotel William Gray features a glass-encased living wall and a marble staircase. Hôtel Monville offers skyline vistas from its rooftop terrace. Or go nouveau bohemian in one of 70 arty cottages and boats at the Village by the Locks in the Old Port. hotelwilliamgray.com, hotelmonville.com, villagedesecluses.com
Hiking the Trails Skip this
LEONARD COHEN: A CRACK IN EVERYTHING (November 9–April 1) Local and international artists pay homage to Montreal’s late, great songwriting son at the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal.
Go here instead
LA BALADE POUR LA PAIX (Through October 29) Celebrate Expo 67’s ideals of humanism and tolerance while perusing 67 works of art at this open-air exhibition.
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TA H I T I | F R E N C H P O LY N E S I A | F I J I | S O U T H PAC I F I C
CONNEC T WORKSHOP p.43
SPIN THE GLOBE p.59
The oldest crystal workshop in France is located in a remote 8,000-acre forest. Turn to page 43 for the story behind the timeless craft.
photograph by CÃ‰LINE CL ANET
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A glass cutter at the Saint-Louis Cristallerie cuts a floral pattern into a footed Botticelli wineglass.
Best in Glass
Far from the lights of Paris, the oldest crystal workshop in France burns brightly. by AISLYN GREENE photographs by CÉLINE CL ANET
HE YEARS DROP AWAY as you arrive in Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche. Block out the pavement and the Peugeots and it could be 1621. Or 1857. Or 1932. Things don’t change much in this 600-person village in northeastern France, so close to the German border that ja is as common as oui. Your passage is marked
by ancient row homes and, all around you, the forest that sustains the Saint-Louis Cristallerie, France’s original crystal workshop. “We are in the middle of nowhere, to be honest,” Jérôme de Lavergnolle, the company’s CEO, says. “Why are we here, in fact? This is the main question we get.” As in a fairy tale, the answer lies in the
forest. In 1586, when the workshop was built, furnaces required a steady supply of wood to generate the Hades-like temperatures that melt sand into glass. So savvy glassmakers built their factories near forests in the most remote corners of the country. But trees were only the first ingredient. Water was—and is—also crucial to JULY/AUGUST 2017
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Clockwise from left: Glassblowers in the hot workshop; shaping a paperweight; vintage glass in Saint-Louis’s museum, La Grand Place.
glassmaking. At Saint-Louis, water was piped in from surrounding streams to cool the pieces as glass cutters made the intricate incisions for which the company became known. The workshop also drew sand, an ultrafine white grit that’s nothing like beach sand, from the forest floor. And it sourced potash, a substance that helps sand melt at a lower temperature, from the forest’s ferns. Today, the furnaces are powered by natural gas and the potash is created in a lab, but Saint-Louis still sources much of its sand and water from the surrounding forest. For years, the workshop made plain glass in relative anonymity. Then in 1767, King Louis XV, impressed with the quality of the glass, 44
bestowed letters of nobility on the company that allowed it to use the royal moniker: SaintLouis. Fourteen years later, in 1781, Saint-Louis introduced lead, the key ingredient in crystal, and became the first company in continental Europe to perfect the crystal-making process. The growing company built a new workshop crowned with a roof designed, it’s believed, by Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel’s red roof and the iron tools used in the manufactory below have changed very little since then—not even when Hermès acquired the brand in 1989. To make glass, sand is mixed with potash and melted in a 3,632°F oven. (That’s more than one-third the temperature of the sun!) The addition of lead gives crystal its heft,
sonority, and refraction, a fancy way of saying it sparkles and sings in a way your water glass never will. But while it’s possible to grasp the basics of glassmaking on paper, it’s much more fun to see a glass born from a ball of fire. “It’s primeval,” says Anne Lhomme, SaintLouis’s creative director. “On my first visit, I thought I had gone back to the past—like in Back to the Future—but to two centuries ago.” Two hundred artisans work and live in this time warp. Many of them were handpicked from the best schools in France, and several employees even represent the seventh generation of their families to work in the cristallerie. “You don’t learn the métier in the schools,” de Lavergnolle says. “It’s a neurological and
Watch a video of a glass coming to life at afar.com/crystal.
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From left: Travelers can buy crystalware, such as this Tommy cocktail glass, at the gift shop; the workshop in Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche.
visual transmission. You need to watch and repeat, day after day, the same gestures. To be good at your job, you need at least 10 years.” On a guided tour of Saint-Louis (details at right), you’ll visit the museum, gift shop, and two main parts of the nearly 540,000-squarefoot manufactory: the hot workshop, which lives up to its name, and the cold workshop, which is more room temperature than arctic. In the hot workshop, a glassblower might blow a parison, or bubble, that will become the bowl of a wineglass, or roll glowing crystal on a marver (steel bench) to form the dome of one of the company’s prized paperweights. For de Lavergnolle, the process never fails to amaze. “Seeing a glassblower take the pipe, turn it in the furnace to gather the molten crystal, and then blow it in front of you is a magical experience,” he says. “From this fireball something new appears—a vase, a glass.” As you watch in the cold workshop, glass cutters may hold a Deauville vase up to a spinning metal wheel to make the collection’s signature deep, precise cuts, or paint the lip of a red Roemer wineglass with 24-carat gold. 46
Before that glass leaves the workshop, it will have been handled by 28 different people over the course of 25 days. If approved by the quality control team, the glass will be stamped with the Saint-Louis logo and then shipped to a customer who ordered online, or to an Hermès boutique, or to one of the company’s 25 (and growing) stores around the world. Despite the company’s reverence for the past, it isn’t trapped in glass. “There is no future without the past,” Lhomme says. “But I’m always pushing to try new things.” Take Saint-Louis’s new Folia line, a collection of crystalware, lighting, and in a new move for the company, a few pieces of furniture. It’s all very modern. Designer Noé DuchaufourLawrance’s inspiration for the line? The forest, evoked in the leaflike designs on every piece. As the world hurries forward, Saint-Louis maintains a steady heat. Maybe the company will introduce virtual reality into its stores— one of its ideas about how to bring the atmosphere of the workshop to you. Maybe it will partner with a champagne company to create a cooler inspired by the next James Bond film,
How to Visit the Saint-Louis Cristallerie Take a train from Paris to Metz, a one-hour ride, and rent a car in Metz (about $50 per day). The workshop is 90 minutes from Metz by car. Or rent a car in Paris and drive the four hours east. The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Ninetyminute guided tours of the workshop are offered at 9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Saint-Louis also offers guided tours of the village. Museum visit $6.50, workshop tour $16, village tour $11. saint-louis.com
as it did with Bollinger in 2015 when Spectre debuted. But the furnaces and savoir-faire that fire the brand will remain unchanged. “Saint-Louis is more than a product,” Lhomme says. “We never forget that behind the glass, there is a man, a furnace, a village, and a forest.”
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While the country swoons over New Orleans and Charleston, the port cities of Virginia’s Tidewater region have created a one-of-a-kind cuisine that’s ready for its close-up. By JOHN T. EDGE
Photographs by TEC PETA JA
In Norfolk, LeGrand Kitchen twists Southern classics. Case in point: Toasted brioche with house-made pimento cheese.
MERICA HAS FALLEN HARD
for Southern food and drink. First it was New Orleans, then Charleston, now Nashville: Our national love affair with all things grits and greens shows no sign of stopping. In the rush to canonize the citadels of New Southern
Cuisine, however, the country has ignored Virginia’s Tidewater, the constellation of sister cities—including Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach—that spirals out from the Chesapeake Bay. And from the waters of this region, where immigrant cuisines thrive and the measure of chefs’ mettle is their prow-
ess with oysters and crab and rockfish and shad, the country’s next great food region is beginning to surface. I have known the Tidewater since boyhood. As a middle schooler, I traveled from my home in Georgia to Williamsburg for primers in colonial history and faux period lunches of JULY/AUGUST 2017
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Harper’s Table From left, belly up for an all-local feast at Terrapin; chef Harper Bradshaw of Harper’s Table.
sausages and rye bread on pewter platters. But those were bucolic images, rendered in sepia. My introduction to the Technicolor Tidewater began several years ago, when I traveled to Oak Island for an exposition of modern Virginia foodways, hosted by chef Harper Bradshaw of Harper’s Table restaurant. After an evening of Pleasure House oysters slurped from the shell, handfuls of sea salt–roasted Virginia peanuts, and conversation with local oystermen, chefs, and farmers—all convinced that the rest of the nation did not appreciate the excellence of the food community then coalescing—I angled to explore further. The Tidewater I glimpse on my return is grittier and more compelling than my childhood memories. Working ports dot the coastline. Cranes tilt skyward. Tugs cut deep furrows in the brackish water. And stacks of shipping containers, painted deep blues and reds, ride piggyback on behemoth ships. Trade and the military made this place—and so did immigrants. In Virginia Beach, the legacy of Filipinos 50
who arrived in the early 1900s to take jobs at naval ports lives on at Laguna Bakery & Filipino Food, my first stop. Here, Therese Lee, a native of the Philippines’ Bulacan province, channels her heritage with yam porridge and lumpia, those crisp, cigarillo-shaped treats so ubiquitous that some locals refer to them as “Manila french fries.” The neighboring city of Norfolk, on the other hand, is the province of Chineseinspired egg foo yong sandwiches, disk-shaped omelets of eggs and onions and pork on mayonnaise-smeared white bread. Like barbecue joints and fried chicken hutches in the deeper South, restaurants such as Patsy and Haymond Wong’s Sing Wong serve as portals to the Tidewater’s working-class culture. My sandwich reminds me that port cities, coursing with people from all lands and latitudes, have long affected the American experiment. Great food regions are rich with both low and high diversions. On the higher end of the spectrum is the $24 flounder and houseground rice grits served by Stephen Marsh
at LeGrand Kitchen, also in Norfolk. Marsh opened the restaurant in the summer of 2014. Much of his food, from creamed vegetables capped with a sunny-side-up egg to a deviledegg schmear with Ritz crackers, is minimalist, the attitude almost punk, like a Momofuku for the Mid-Atlantic. His band, the Great Dismal Swamis, plays stripped-down music, Marsh tells me. “And this is stripped-down food.” Indie chefs such as Marsh drive dynamic food scenes. In this American moment, when white tablecloth dining has ceded the conversation to more casual restaurants that deliver local provenance without fuss, chefs partner with farmers to revive heirloom vegetables. More important, chefs validate the foodways of a place by presenting traditional dishes, such as a pimento cheese sandwich, in novel ways. Bradshaw, who hosted the dinner that got me plotting more Tidewater travels, is one of the modern interpreters of those foodways. At his downtown Suffolk restaurant, 20 miles west of Norfolk, set near a stretch of old, but still operational, peanut warehouses and
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The Tidewater Culinary Circuit Located three hours south of Washington, D.C., the lower reaches of Virginia’s Tidewater region are ripe for a food-focused road trip. Eat your weight in crabs, punkedup scallops, lumpia, and egg foo yong sandwiches as you wind through these four Chesapeake Bay cities. 1
Norfolk LEGRAND KITCHEN In his bunker restaurant (named for LeGrand Records, the Norfolk label that launched Gary U.S. Bonds), Stephen Marsh cooks food with a rock-and-roll
edge: scallops with smoked peanuts, and flounder with buttermilkthickened rice grits. 4515 Colley Ave. legrandkitchen.com T&T SEAFOOD MARKET You can’t visit the Tidewater and skip
crab. Go for crab lumpia and the fried garlic crabs at this working-class establishment. 4106 Colley Ave. (757) 489-7874 2
Virginia Beach LAGUNA BAKERY & FILIPINO FOOD Therese Lee makes the classics she grew up with in the Philippines: yam-leaf porridge, turons (flutes of caramelized plantains), and beefstuffed lumpia. 5394 Kemps River Dr., No. 105 (757) 366-0704
TERRAPIN RESTAURANT In his elegant restaurant, Rodney Einhorn speaks fluent farm-totable. The seafood in his chowder is sourced from the Chesapeake Bay; the mushrooms he pairs with fresh scallops are locally grown. 3102 Holly Rd. terrapinvb.com 3
Portsmouth SING WONG RESTAURANT There are many classic Chinese dishes on Sing
Wong’s menu, but skip those and instead order the Americanized egg foo yong sandwich: an egg, onion, and pork omelet, stippled with hot sauce and stacked between mayonnaise-smeared white bread. 1411 High St. (757) 399-1467 STOVE, THE RESTAURANT Sydney Meers’s restaurant may be playful (a variety of bulbous and misshapen squash are displayed like prized china; a stuffed deer
has a bottle opener affixed to its rear), but his food, such as local rockfish in a tomato concassé, is seriously delicious. 2622 Detroit St. stoverestaurant.com 4
Suffolk HARPER’S TABLE Chef Harper Bradshaw combines an eat-local ethos with fresh interpretations of Southern classics to create such dishes as oyster stew, fried catfish, and oyster gumbo. 122 N. Main St. harperstable.com
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From left, cocktail hour at Harper’s Table; chef Sydney Meers of Stove, the Restaurant.
decorated with vintage duck decoys and oyster cans, I eat an elegant oyster stew strafed with arugula and black pepper. “This place is where it all began,” Bradshaw says, when I ask what inspires him. “You can make an argument that American food culture started when settlers and Native Americans first met. That’s a powerful story, one I get to tell with the ingredients I choose and the dishes I cook.” In the kitchen, he translates that vision into dishes such as Eastern Shore oysters and potatoes, seasoned with country ham fat and lemon. Not all of the Tidewater chefs making waves are newcomers. Sydney Meers—owner of Stove, the Restaurant—is a gleeful subversive who has led the good food movement here for the better part of 20 years. Late in my trip, when I tell him I came to the Tidewater to eat country ham and I don’t want to leave before I taste the real thing, he escorts me across the street, where he has installed one of those prefab hutches sold at building supply stores. With a flashlight, he pans his rafter-hung
prizes before plunging an ice pick into one of them to release its scent. “I’m going to use this on your cheese platter,” he tells me, carrying a mug of lard as we head back. I’m not sure whether that’s a promise or a threat. But I follow, because Sydney is the Tidewater’s most alluring jester. Succumbing to his will, I eat brown sugar– coated twigs of pork that he calls Smoochie Bear. I nibble at a wedge of cheddar drenched in that silky ham fat. Local rockfish in a tomato concassé follows, with a glass of chardonnay vinified down the road at Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek. If a great culinary destination requires one restaurant that could not be replicated anywhere else, then Stove is that Tidewater restaurant. When it comes time to head home, I realize that I haven’t whacked any crabs, and this region is the ideal American place to do that. So I double back to T&T Seafood Market, just down the street from LeGrand Kitchen. The line is long. In the kitchen, a cook works a battery of fry baskets filled with sook (female)
and jimmy (male) crabs. I yell into the kitchen to ask the difference. A woman seated alone in the dining room, picking meat from carapaces shrouded in cornmeal crust, answers me: “One is supposed to be sweeter,” she says, licking her fingers clean. “But I can never remember if that’s the female or the male. So I always order a pair.” When the counterwoman looks my way, I order a pair too. And soon, I’m malletwhacking those crabs, pulling the aprons off their undersides, rooting with an oversize fork for sweet white meat. Yes, the Tidewater should be part of our conversation about the Southern culinary renaissance. But this region is Southern on its own terms. It isn’t rich with grand old-guard restaurants like New Orleans. These people don’t hew to the genteel ways of Charleston. Here in the Tidewater, you’re more likely to find yourself busting open crabs and trying not to flinch as shell shrapnel flies, while seated beneath a sign like the one at T&T that warns, we are not responsible for anything caused by crabs. JULY/AUGUST 2017
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WHAT’S HAPPENING AT AFAR
We channeled the vibe of Belize at our Evenings AFAR party on January 24th, transforming New York’s The Happiest Hour into the Caribbean hot spot. The vibrant atmosphere and live Kriol music got the crowd energized and inspired them to plan a trip to Belize. * * *
On March 8th we celebrated the opening of chef Charlie Palmer’s latest restaurant, Charlie Palmer Steak New York, at Archer Hotel New York. AFAR executive digital editor Arabella Bowen and chef Charlie Palmer welcomed the crowd, and guests enjoyed delicious dishes and signature drinks. * * *
Top left: AFAR cofounder Joe Diaz with panelistsToby Trevarthen, Aza Ziegler, and Javier Arrendondo at AFAR Conversations. Top right: AFAR executive vice president and chief revenue oﬃcer Ellen Asmodeo-Giglio and Belize Tourist Board director of marketing Karen Pike. Bottom center: AFAR executive digital editor Arabella Bowen and chef Charlie Palmer at Charlie Palmer Steak New York opening party.
On March 23rd we gathered in The London West Hollywood’s state-ofthe-art screening room for our latest AFAR Conversations event, “Arms Wide Open: Engaging Today’s Global Citizen.” The panel was led by AFAR cofounder Joe Diaz and featured Javier Arredondo, founder and president of Travesías Media; Aza Ziegler, founder of vintage-inspired fashion label Calle Del Mar; and Toby Trevarthen, author of Narrative Generation.
CONNECT S T A Y
The secret to mastering the minibreak is all about where you decide to check in. by JENNIFER FLOWERS
COURTESY OF 1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE
I WAS SWADDLED
in my robe, swaying in my in-room hammock at the newly opened 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, facing my unobstructed view of the Manhattan skyline, when it struck me: I had no idea what time it was. I was in the middle of New York City—the place I call home—but I felt worlds away. I had spent the afternoon reading fiction for the first time in months, eating a chocolate-chip cookie the size of my face in the café dowstairs, taking an obscenely long bath in my slateclad bathroom, and test-driving the custom-built furnishings (including the fabulous hammock) that I dreamed of having in my own home. When I was ready to go in search of city life, the DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Over-
pass) neighborhood was at my doorstep. The best part? Within 24 hours, a refreshed version of me was back in the saddle before anyone even knew I was away. The 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge is the ideal minibreak: an easyto-reach retreat that simultaneously offers insider access to a destination and to a host of hedonistic pleasures and gorgeous spaces to indulge in before reality comes crashing back. As the demands of modern life intensify (half of Americans leave paid vacation days on the table each year), it’s
1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE Brooklyn, NY
CONNECT S T A Y
I also hiked on trails across the 4,200acre property and ate an unforgettable farm-to-table dinner at the Barn restaurant. And I have reason to return, now that the resort has upped the ante with the recent debut of Bramble Hall, a concert venue accessible only to guests, where musical artists-inresidence (Kacey Musgraves and Luke Bryan among them) perform in an intimate setting. Next on my list: the iconic Claridge’s in London, not only because I want to spend quality time in their Sisleystocked spa, but also because guests have access to impossible-to-score tickets for exhibits at the Victoria and Albert, among other art museums, thanks to Claridge’s partnerships—no small perk when you want to maximize your precious minibreak hours. 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, from $350. St. Regis Mexico City, from $605. Blackberry Farm, from $845. Claridge’s, from $736.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, New York 56
ANVIL HOTEL Wyoming
RELAX, REFRESH, RECHARGE
Make Your Getaway
Five more not-too-distant retreats that offer exclusive experiences and sybaritic indulgences. 1
Farmhouse Inn CALIFORNIA
A labor of love from brother-and-sister owners Joe and Catherine Bartolomei, this resort in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley recently underwent an $8 million renovation. Nine new, light-filled rooms feature four-poster beds and fireplaces, while the new Spa at Farmhouse echoes a vintage stable. Thoughtful details include wine at check-in, attentive staff at the Michelin-starred restaurant, and fresh-baked cookies
at turndown. From $545. 2
Collective Vail COLORADO
Launched in 2015, Collective Vail sits on 1,000 acres of working ranchland in the Central Rockies, about 25 miles from Vail village. Six spacious tents, outfitted with antler chandeliers and wood-burning stoves, surround a low-impact lodge serving local game and seasonal produce. If you don’t care to join a horseback ride or a cattle drive, the on-site
winery can arrange tastings. From $500. 3
Anvil Hotel WYOMING
New York design firm Studio Tack transformed a Jackson motor lodge into this 49-room, Shakerinspired hotel, complete with iron bed frames and Woolrich blankets. Shop for Western gear at the general store or sip a cocktail at the zinc-topped bar. From $195. 4
The Resort at Paws Up MONTANA
This summer, the 37,000-acre resort in Greenough unveils North Bank Camp, a new site along the serene Blackfoot River fea-
turing six two- and three-bedroom tents with furnished decks and en-suite bathrooms. After a day of horseback riding or canoeing, guests can share stories by the fireplace in the glass-walled dining pavilion. From $703. 5
Hotel San Cristóbal MEXICO
Situated on quiet Punta Lobos, an hour north of Cabo San Lucas, this 32-room beachfront retreat designed by Austin hotelier Liz Lambert features Guatemalan furnishings and fabrics. Work on your tan by the 2,200-squarefoot pool or forage for medicinal herbs, volunteer to help endangered sea turtles, or learn to surf. From $258. —J.F.
FROM TOP: COURTESY OF ANVIL HOTEL, COURTESY OF 1 HOTEL BROOKLYN BRIDGE
good to have places like these in our back pockets—all only a short drive or nonstop flight away—for those much needed breaks from the daily grind. My own list of quick getaway hotels is growing. I checked into the St. Regis Mexico City over a recent long weekend. Yes, the hotel is a cocoon of luxury with round-the-clock butler service—but the hotel doesn’t want guests just to stay inside its walls. My passing inquiry about local markets turned into an eyeopening tour of the bustling Mercado de San Juan with the hotel’s chef de cuisine, Olivier Deboise Méndez. He led me to my first-ever taste of escamol (ant egg) tacos and introduced me to his favorite mole vendor. On a weekend trip last summer after the Bonnaroo music festival, I checked into Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tennessee, where I spent my idle hours in an enormous fourposter bed and on my private veranda.
Whether youâ€™re looking to change your life or improve your skills, the legendary school has a program for you. Take part in the nine-month Grand DiplĂ´me and learn classic French techniques in culinary and pastry, or study hospitality management and discover what it takes to run the restaurant or bakery of your dreams. There are nutrition programs too, and short workshops on everything from macarons to wine. Take a class during your next trip to Paris, London, Ottawa, or beyond. To learn more or register online, visit cordonbleu.edu
WHAT CRUISES TOP YOUR WISH LIST? We want to hear about the cruise lines and destinations inspiring your wanderlust. Vote now through June 23. afar.com/travelerschoiceawards
CONNECT S P I N T H E G L O B E
Eats Well with Others
AFAR sent chef, television personality, and self-professed loner Alton Brown to New Zealand with a day’s notice. Turns out he loved making friends as much as he loved eating the food. illustrations by LEAH REENA GOREN
Barely 24 hours have passed since I received an email reading “Auckland.” I’ve crashbrowsed a couple of guidebooks and have decided on an angle for my New Zealand expedition: I will eat only at establishments recommended to me by total strangers. Since I am a notorious loner with a tendency to travel like a ghost, this will force me to interact with the local population using the universal language of food.
Having lost an entire day over the ocean, I am badly in need of caffeination. Luckily, just outside baggage claim, there’s a small Airstream trailer retrofitted as an espresso shop. There are three main things on the menu: espresso, a flat white (which is kind of like a latte), and a long black, which I thought was an Americano by another name. Yet, as I watch the barista, I notice that instead of pouring hot water into the espresso shot, she pulls the espresso into
Over the Equator
the hot water, thus preserving the crema. It’s tasty, with better body than an Americano. The barista actually looks me in the eye and smiles. Eager to try out my kindness-of-strangers travel plan, I inquire of the young lady as to the best local fare. Turns out she has plenty of opinions on the matter and is more than happy to share. Thus I venture to Karangahape Road, or “K’ Road,” which, a century ago, was a shopping district on par with London’s Oxford Street. Now it’s like San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury circa 1980, only with Edwardian architecture. St. Kevins Arcade, with its glass roof and tiny shops, connects K’ Road to Myers Park. Amidst a couple of used book shops, another coffee shop, a Lebanese joint, a wine bar, and a Japanese tapas place, I’ve found a gem of a sandwich shop called Fort Greene. And now before me is an empty plate where once rested the best sandwich I have ever consumed. It was JULY/AUGUST 2017
CONNECT S P I N T H E G L O B E called “The Fish One” and was composed of house-smoked kahawai fish sticks with mushy peas and pea shoots on house-baked bread with tartar sauce. The kahawai, I learn from owners Andrea and Liam, is an oft overlooked local fish that’s oily like a mackerel, which is why it smokes so nicely. Since I’m already fretting about my next meal, I question the couple regarding the culinary scene and have to break out my notebook to get all the suggestions. When Andrea starts gathering beverages for some other customers and Liam heads back to the tiny kitchen to pull fresh bread from the oven, I’m left with their five-year-old daughter, who introduces me to each item in her cookie cutter collection. I am a stranger from abroad spending a few lovely minutes with a delightful, well-mannered child. Her parents look on and smile. I feel a very long way from the United States. After a nap, I hop in a cab and tell the driver I’m hungry. “Dumplings?” he asks. I reply, “Heck yeah,” and we’re off to Dominion Road, which, the driver explains, became the young city’s main artery back in the 1880s. (I try to remember the last time a New York City cab driver spoke to me, but it makes my head hurt.) He drops me at his favorite Chinese noodle place, where a few minutes later I face a dozen steamed pork and onion dumplings. That’s the smallest order they offer at Barilla Dumpling, which is as known for its grumpy and unhelpful staff (who revel in their inability to speak a lick of English) as it is for its dumplings. I learn this from the young couple at the next table, who offer to rescue me from culinary monotony by trading me some of their pot stickers. I accept, and pretty soon they’re talking up a storm with A TOTAL STRANGER! AND DID I MENTION WE’RE ALSO SHARING FOOD? I learn about their family, their teaching jobs, and how the multicultural neighborhood has changed as young people continue to move in. They ask questions and actually seem interested in my replies. We laugh and never once look at our phones, even to Instagram the dumplings. When the couple leaves for their date night at the cinema . . . I miss them. MONDAY MORNING
I’m at Eighthirty Coffee Roasters on High Street having my third “long black” of the morning. Walking around Auckland, one quickly learns that Kiwis love their coffee more than Portland hipsters do, and when they say “coffee” they mean espresso and they 60
don’t mean Starbucks. Independent shops and roasters are the norm here, and although the concept of “to-go” isn’t actually verboten, it’s frowned upon. Coffee is to be enjoyed while sitting and chatting with other ridiculously friendly New Zealanders while they enjoy theirs. Refusing to be lulled, I ask the counter-folk where I should eat breakfast. The unanimous answer: Greedy Guts. Housed in an alcove just off the sidewalk, Greedy Guts features three two-top tables, a square foot of counter, and a kitchen the size of a broom closet. I order salmon, avocado, and pea sprouts on wafer-thin toast, a bacon and cheese sandwich, and a bowl of something called Bondi Bircher, which is named
of the road) to visit the famed Bay of Islands, which remind me of the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest, only with bluer water. I’m sitting in my car just south of the town of Paihia, watching sheep watching me eat strawberries. The sack in my lap contains approximately two pounds of diminutive crimson orbs that were grown just up the road. The young man who sold them to me from a folding table out the back of his van comes to this spot from his family farm twice a week during the season. I stick my head in the bag and breathe in big gulps of December summertime. The sheep, fearing I’m hyperventilating, bleat for a doctor. I sit for a long time in a Proustian daze, remembering my high school sweetheart and
As I depart, full and happy, a smiling waitress runs down the sidewalk after me. Am I to receive a hug? for Maximilian Bircher-Benner, the Swiss physician who popularized muesli, and for Bondi, the famed Australian beach where they traditionally soak their Bircher in fruit juice and grate apple on top. Up until this moment I have always soaked my muesli in almond milk or dairy. But no more. Apple juice is king, and more apple should be grated on top. As I depart, full and happy, a smiling waitress runs down the sidewalk after me. Am I to receive a hug? Ah: I forgot to pay the bill. “No worries,” she says. More smiles. Good tooth care here. MONDAY AFTERNOON
Bay of Islands
I’ve driven north for hours (on the wrong side
the lip gloss she was wearing the first time we kissed. I go back for another bag and apologize for my gluttony. “No worries.” TUESDAY
Dragonfired is little more than a trailerhitched wood-fire oven that sits not 20 feet from the sand of Little Oneroa Beach on Waiheke Island, about an hour and a half by ferry east of Auckland. I’m sitting in the shade of a pōhutukawa tree, its wide, spread-out limbs fat with fuzzy crimson blossoms, as I scarf caramelized onion and feta with fresh asparagus on a pizza crust spun as thin as the skin on a snare drum. There’s another flavor I
Go behind the scenes of Alton’s trip at afar.com/altonauckland.
CONNECT S P I N T H E G L O B E can’t put my finger on. It takes three slices to realize that the tree, called “Christmas tree” in New Zealand, is shedding petals directly on to the pizza. I make a note to ask the interwebs if this will kill me. Children play on the beach, tossing balls and disks, laughing and running and falling and being kids. Again, I note the absence of devices. Up the beach, parents eat pizza and read books. I fall asleep right there under the tree, the pizza box still on my chest. WEDNESDAY MORNING
I’m grateful for the nap yesterday, because it’s 4 a.m. and I’m being tortured by the annoyingly arrhythmic song of a bird I’m calling the Five-Note Sleep Smasher. I decide to beat the crowds to Ringawera, the tiny bakery that the folks at Dragonfired told me about. Eschewing the (tempting) croissants, I snatch a loaf of olive sourdough and a pillow-light ciabatta. It’s half an hour later and I’m still here, the car redolent of herbs, my mouth smeared with oil, ciabatta nowhere to be seen. I have yet to consume a bite of food in this country that isn’t exemplary. WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON
The two young lovebirds who manage the inn where I spent the night told me of a beach on the far southeast side of Waiheke Island where one can stand on the shore at low tide and harvest the best oysters in New Zealand, no license or permit required. Armed with an oyster knife from a local bait shop, I venture across the island on a tiny road that meanders through a ridiculously beautiful, if eerily desolate, landscape to Orapiu Bay, which seems to be populated by five people and some 20 quintillion oysters. All you have to do is knock them off the rocks, open, and devour. They’re tough mothers, and my hands are scratched and bleeding a bit, but the flavor is worth it: metallic, bright, the brine a balance of South Pacific salt and the kind of sweetness most often associated with high school romance. I build a cairn with the empty shells of the 35 I’ve just finished off, a monument to my appetite. I haven’t seen another human in hours, and I kinda wish there were some New Zealanders around for me to shuck oysters for.
as invisible trucks rock my tiny rental car. I’ve spent the day wandering the town of Rotorua on the shores of Lake Rotorua, soaking up Māori culture (the area is considered sacred) and marveling at volcanic sites. The entire town smelled of sulfur, as the ground is constantly belching and farting and spurting and steaming. Now I’m Auckland-bound again, following a hot tip to visit the night market, a moveable feast that pops up in different locales around town. The drum of rain on my roof is pleasant, but the siren song of street food is even louder. I decide to make a break for it. THURSDAY NIGHT
Auckland Night Market
Part street fair, part flea market, part food stall roundup, the Thursday night market in the Auckland suburb of Henderson fills the lower-level parking deck under the Kmart. Water drips down through the seams in the concrete slabs, giving the scene a visceral, Blade Runner–gone-to-carnival vibe. The air is a stew of aromas: curry, fryer oil, sausage, and smoke. I sit at one of a dozen plastic picnic tables watching urban hipsters with beards and cuffed khakis mingle with Māori shoppers and working joes with gaggles of kids. There is noise, music, conversation, laughter. And there is a stall for everything: chestnuts roasting in bowls of black rocks stirred by unseen forces; Japanese taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes) filled with red bean paste, swimming alongside “American” hot dogs; takoyaki (battered octopus balls) cooked on vibrating molds, which apparently keep them nice and round. There’s ice cream and Asian dumplings of every shape and size, and cheesecakes and churros and spiral watermelon skewers. Skewers, in fact, seem to be impaling everything from squid to small rodents that I don’t recognize. I consume pretty much all of it. I’m an utter stranger, yet everyone’s happy to talk to me. My final bite: fried halloumi, its pale curd squeaking happily in my molars. So this is New Zealand. British and Māori descendants, immigrants from Japan and China, the occasional Aussie—all living together out here in one of the most isolated island nations on the planet. And they seem to be having a really great time. I close my eyes right there, under the Kmart, rain dripping through the slabs, and freakin’ love everyone.
It’s dark and I can’t see a damn thing through the rain. I’m sitting on the side of Highway 1
Air New Zealand Flight NZ6
I’ve never traveled so far, to a place I knew nothing about, to spend such a short time. All I know for sure is that I want to come back. In fact, I could live here. I want to be a Kiwi. Or at least an honorary one. Do I recommend the journey? Fervently. But don’t go to New Zealand for the food (which is great) or the coffee (unparalleled) or the landscape (breathtaking) or the sheep (innumerable). Go to New Zealand for the people. They may look like you and me and sound like the BBC, but if you ask me, they live in a parallel universe. Maybe it’s because they are out there in the Pacific all alone. But whatever the reason, Kiwis are better mannered than Americans, friendlier than Americans, and more respectful than Americans. So go when you can, and meet the kind of people that we could be if we set our minds to it.
I sincerely believe that if you really want
Writer Alton Brown is profiled on page 22.
THURSDAY LATE AFTERNOON
50 Miles South of Auckland
to understand a culture, you must visit its grocery stores. The New World market in Freemans Bay is as mega-mart as mega-marts get, and I’m impressed with the offerings. The first thing I notice in the produce department? Dirt. The fresh potatoes have big, dark clumps of dirt clinging to them. Americans would freak and run, while tweeting the CDC. Here it’s completely normal. And then I notice the kiwifruit. New Zealanders call themselves “Kiwis” after an adorable flightless bird with a long beak—not after the fuzzy fruit, which is the only New Zealand product I can think of to have reached a level of planetary ubiquity. I purchase several and find the gold variety far more interesting than the green ones we get in the States. Now to the cheese. I’ve noticed during my travels that Kiwis are mad for halloumi cheese. Halloumi is originally from Cyprus, and I’ve encountered it on no more than a dozen menus in the States. (Americans rarely eat it unless it’s doused with ouzo and set afire in a Greek restaurant.) After passing stacks of eggs, unrefrigerated in the European style (cue more screaming from the Americans), I find the cheese department, which is indeed filled with stacks of halloumi. I ask a young man stocking the case about his country’s curdy obsession, and he replies with a smile, “I don’t know. Fries up nice, I reckon.” On my way to the register, I make accidental eye contact with three total strangers, and every one of them smiles back.
Summer is road-trip season, and in Switzerland that means one thing: The Grand Tour is calling. This epic 994-mile route takes you from palm trees to glaciers, through cosmopolitan cities and sleepy Alpine hamlets, and past all 12 Swiss UNESCO World Heritage sites. It’s a chance to experience Switzerland in all its varied glory and choose your own adventures. As of 2017, an extensive network of about 300 charging stations has made the route newly accessible for electric cars. You can also refuel with the Grand Tour Snack Box: regional specialties like sausage, cheese, and honey, perfect for an impromptu roadside picnic. We’ve mapped out eight highlights to get you revved up for Switzerland—curves and photo ops ahead! Start here.
Switzerland’s most visited monument is a crowd pleaser from the outside (scenic location on a Lake Geneva island) and the inside (medieval banquet halls and murals).
6 Admire this formidable pyramid-like peak on a hike along the Matterhorn Glacier Trail; on a cable car ride from Zermatt; or at the high-altitude Gornergrat Kulm Hotel.
Steep terraced vineyards along Lake Geneva make Lavaux one of the most intoxicating wine regions. Paths wind by frozen-in-time villages and wineries oﬀering up whites from the Chasselas grape.
Prepare for one exhilarating curve after another on the Furka Pass, one of ﬁve Alpine passes on the Grand Tour of Switzerland. Reaching the highest point on the Grand Tour—7,969 feet—the Furka Pass is also the site where James Bond pursued a villain in Goldﬁnger.
Rural Switzerland doesn’t get more enchanting than this Alpine region of crystalline lakes and waterfalls, pine forests, clanging cowbells, and enduring folk festivals.
Strung along Lake Lugano, this easy-on-the-eyes village emanates a Mediterranean vibe with cypress trees, waterfront cafés, and centuries-old stucco homes.
Europe’s largest waterfall gushes mightily along the Rhine River, about 30 miles north of Zurich. Peer down from viewing platforms, take a boat tour, and explore nearby castles.
Ride to the top of Chäserrugg for 360-degree views of six—count ’em—countries and alfresco dining at the striking restaurant by starchitects Herzog & de Meuron.
Discover the best oﬀers for your holiday on the Grand Tour at MySwitzerland.com/grandtour
HELPING STUDENTS EXPAND THEIR WORLD Learning AFAR, an award-winning program from AFAR and non-profit organization No Barriers USA, and World of Hyatt are helping Chicagoarea students expand their world by traveling to Costa Rica this summer.
Learning AFAR program. Thanks to a number of generous member contributions, an additional student will be able to join the trip this summer, bringing the total number of students to eleven.
Inspired by the belief that travel is a spectacular form of education, this program will make it possible for these students to take part in a lifechanging experience as they immerse themselves in Costa Rica’s rich culture, history, and geography.
To find out more, visit LearningAFAR.org.
For the first time, World of Hyatt members were given the opportunity to contribute their points to help fund students’ participation in the
World of Hyatt point contributions are no longer being accepted. Point contributions have enabled one additional student to join the Learning AFAR program, bringing the total number of students attending the program to 11. Hyatt reserves the right to alter or withdraw this offer at any time without notice, where required, Hyatt will offer an alternative offer of similar value. Void where prohibited by law. Hyatt®, World of HyattTM and related marks are trademarks of Hyatt Corporation and/or its affiliates. © 2017 Hyatt Corporation. All rights reserved.
Live Your Travel Fantasy EVEN THE MOST EXPERIENCED TRAVELERS DREAM OF TRIPS NOT YET TAKEN. HERE ARE 43 WAYS TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE. edited by ASHLEA HALPERN JULY/AUGUST 2017
LIVE YOUR TRAVEL FANTASY
Atlanta-based traveler Gloria Colley got to snorkel alongside these massive fish in Mexico—an experience so powerful, she made the sharks part of her life back home. WAS LUCKY enough to go on one of the first excursions offered by EcoColors Tours. My husband and I met the company’s founder, Kenneth Johnson, in Mexico in 2000, and soon after that he started leading snorkeling trips out to Isla Holbox, an island 40 miles north of Cancún. I jumped at the chance to join. The island is a well-known hangout for whale sharks from June to August. That first trip, it was just us, Kenneth, and his family. The sharks were large and intimidating, but I trusted Kenneth. He had already taken me out on the water
so many times, I was comfortable anywhere he brought me. Whale sharks really are gentle giants. Some can be the size of a school bus—so you always swim to the side of them, and never go near their mouths. You don’t want to get pulled in! They’re mysterious animals. We still don’t know a lot about them, like how they mate or why they travel all over the world. But we do know that they can be found from Cancún all the way up to Florida, as well as in Madagascar, Australia, and the Philippines. Like humans, they seem to prefer tropical waters. Being near them is incredible.
as told to SARAH PURKRABEK
A menagerie of other fantastical animal encounters.
TRACK BLACK RHINOS IN NAMIBIA
Namibia’s Palmwag Concession is home to one of the largest populations of free-roaming black rhinos, plus zebras, lions, leopards, and cheetahs. Track the rhinos on foot on Adventure Life’s 15-day Namibia tour, which includes a two-night desert walk, a visit to a Himba village, sea kayaking with dolphins and seals, and a game drive in Etosha National Park. From $7,995. adventure-life.com/ namibia 2
TRAIL A JAGUAR IN PANAMA
Legends of the Wild’s 11day research expedition has one mission: Catch an endangered jaguar deep in the jungles of the Darién Gap, fit it with a GPS collar, then release it back into the wild. Guests accompany naturalist Ricardo Moreno, traveling by foot, canoe, and helicopter to the rugged Cana Valley and Pirre Mountains. From $8,000 for five people. legendsofthewild.com 3
TREK FOR GLOWWORMS IN AUSTRALIA
It’s nothing short of magical: happening upon a galaxy of glowworms twinkling in the pitch-black rain forest of Melba Gully, in Great Otway National Park (a three-hour drive from Melbourne). During the day, the area is also popular for bush walking, thanks to its enormous ferns and moss-blanketed trees. parkstay.vic.gov.au —CELIA SHATZMAN
DUDAREV MIKHAIL / SHUTTERSTOCK
SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS
They’re very, very quiet. They just stay near the surface and feed on plankton—a collection of algae, small sea animals, and bacteria. That’s also why they like Isla Holbox so much: Right there, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean Sea, the conditions are perfect for plankton, and therefore for whale sharks, too. You can observe the sharks as long as they linger, but you’d better be fast getting in the water once you spot one. After the food is gone, they don’t stick around for long. I was so moved by the experience—which I have repeated several times since that first trip, including last season—that I started volunteering at Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium, where we have four whale sharks in a football-field-size tank. People can swim with the sharks in this controlled environment, but it’s nothing compared to seeing them in the wild.
Make your dream come true: Whale shark excursions with EcoColors Tours start at $144 per person. For more info, visit ecotravelmexico.com.
I’ve always wanted to . . .
Call of the Wild
Land of Enchantment.
LIVE YOUR TRAVEL FANTASY
I’ve always wanted to . . .
BIKE THE TOUR DE FRANCE
San Francisco–based traveler Roger Tanaka and his fiancée flew their wheels to France, where Trek Travel helped the hardcore cyclists fulfill their racing fantasy.
H AV E CO MP E T ED IN
triathlons—including three Ironmans—so I wasn’t super nervous going into Trek Travel’s nine-day Classic Climbs of the Tour last July. Trek does a great
job prescreening travelers for the trip: Many of the riders had done several century [100-mile] rides and no one was a novice. Still, I’m not the best cyclist. I knew I’d be in the slower group, unlike my fiancée, Anna, who rides fast and
is always way ahead. Our trip started just after the Tour de France, which meant we were cycling the same mountains that famous cyclists such as Chris Froome had ridden two weeks earlier. We cycled up Mont Ventoux, an iconic, windswept mountain in Provence. We saw the spot where Froome had crashed and then run on foot to finish the last couple hundred meters of the stage. Then there was Alpe d’Huez. It’s probably one of the most famous climbs in the world. It’s not steep, but it has something like
21 switchbacks. The best part of riding it: going back to the States and knowing that everyone—in the cycling world at least—knows what it is. I picked up a jersey with the Alpe d’Huez symbol—a marmot—and when I ride Mount Diablo in Northern California, people always comment on it. Alpe d’Huez isn’t the worst climb, though; it’s just the most famous. Col du Galibier is the worst. That’s where the weather is especially unpredictable. All of a sudden, there’s a cloud overhead and it’s pouring. That’s what happened to us on Galibier. Plus, the
Four ways to
Big trips that will test your physical and mental mettle.
HIKE THE HIMALAYAS
Nepal’s 1,050-mile Great Himalaya Trail traverses a sacred wilderness of alpine meadows and snow leopards. Take outfitter World Expeditions’ 152day trek, or tackle sections such as the icy Makalu segment, with views of Mount Everest. $28,959; sections starting at $3,190. worldexpeditions.com 2
FROM TOP: EMILIANO GRANADO; AQUA EXPEDITIONS
SKI IRAQI KURDISTAN
Go off-piste in northern Iraq on a 10-day ski trip. Starting in historic Erbil, ply backcountry trails near Mount Halgurd, Iraq’s highest peak, then meet with a local Nordic club to explore Penjwen, on the Iranian border. The Kurds are famously warm, so don’t be surprised to find yourself sharing cake with Peshmerga soldiers. $2,450. anotherworld adventures.com
pass is long—20 miles up, 20 miles down—and steeper at the top than Alpe d’Huez. The best part of the trip was the group energy. There were some diehard guys who were really into the Tour. They knew all the climbs and who had dropped out where, so it was interesting to hear from them. But it was especially fun, after a long day’s ride, to gather for food, drinks, and stories. You get a group of cyclists together with wine, beer, and food—lots of food—and you’ll always have a good time.
Experience rugged gaucho culture on a 14-day Ride Andes horseback tour from Argentina to Chile. The 127-mile route passes through Patagonian steppe and Valdivian rain forest; horses swim the Puelo River to reach Ventisqueros Valley and its hanging glacier. From $5,910. rideandes.com
as told to SARAH PURKRABEK
CROSS THE ANDES ON HORSEBACK
Make your dream come true: Trek Travel’s Classic Climbs of the Tour package starts at $4,999 per person. For more info, visit trektravel.com.
Life on the Edge
Be the captain of your soul—as well as a Caribbean yacht or a European canal boat. Or hitch a ride through the South Pacific.
1 HIRE A PRIVATE YACHT
Make like Jay-Z and Beyoncé in Saint-Tropez and charter a yacht with GetMyBoat, the mariner’s answer to Airbnb. With 65,000 boat rentals in 171 countries, options range from basic (sailing on a 45foot cutter rig from Portobelo, Panama, to Cartagena, Colombia, with a stop in the San Blas Islands, at $525 per person) to swank (chartering a 47-foot captained catamaran in Auckland to circle the Whangaparaoa Peninsula at $1,405 per day). getmyboat .com
3 TRAVEL BY CARGO SHIP
It’s the French Polynesia conundrum: Tahiti and Bora Bora are easily accessible, but popular; touring the Marquesas, north of the Tuamotu Archipelago, avoids the resorts but requires a private yacht. The solution: The Aranui 5, a cargo freighter with 103 no-frills cabins accommodating some 254 guests, which stops at remote islands on 14-day routes from Papeete. Beds in an eight-person Class C dormitory from $2,920. aranui.com
2 CRUISE AROUND THE WORLD
Want to see Melbourne, Dubai, Barcelona, and Pago Pago, all on one trip? It’s possible if you have 119 days and at least $17,999 to spare. The MSC World Cruise, launching from Genoa, Italy, in early 2019, makes 49 ports of call in 32 countries (msccruises .com). Equally epic, Silversea Cruise’s 2018 World Cruise visits 60 ports in 121 days. Prices start at $57,850 per guest and include butler service and dinners at the ship’s Relais & Châteaux restaurant (silversea.com).
4 JOIN AN EXPEDITION
Aqua Expeditions’ small ships not only have A/C, a full bar, and gourmet meals by renowned chefs, but they also explore remote waterways such as the Peruvian Amazon and the Mekong River. In 2017 and 2018, the conservationist cruises (from $3,645 per person) led by oceanographer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau are as close as one can get to an adventure with Jacques, Jean-Michel’s late father. aquaexpeditions.com —NICHOLAS GILL
LIVE YOUR TRAVEL FANTASY
Twelve ways to
PICK YOUR PARADISE Whatever your budget, you can escape the everyday and live it up on a dream trip.
Get the overwater bungalow experience at respectable prices just off the coast of Dangriga, Belize, where Thatch Caye Resort offers a collection of air-conditioned, en-suite bungalows, each with a private deck and a hammock. From $399. thatchcayebelize.com
For the price of a hotel room in San Francisco, enjoy a seven-bedroom property on Brother Island, a whitesand speck 10 minutes by boat from the nearest village (Ligad) and two hours from El Nido in Palawan, a province of the Philippines. From $534, meals included. airbnb.com
Even commoners can afford the royal treatment in Newbridge, Scotland. Book the private ﬁrst ﬂoor of Illieston Castle, on former royal hunting grounds, and spot herons, buzzards, and kingﬁshers by the river, or play a round of croquet on the lawn. From $114. airbnb.com
Choose your own adventure with AirTreks’ multidestination ﬂight-planning tool, or book one of its preplanned round-the-world itineraries, which depart from major U.S. hubs and stop in Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, and beyond. Fares start at less than $2,000. airtreks.com
A mojito-making station, sunken bathtubs, and a private chef are just three of the perks at Song Saa’s Royal Villa in Koh Rong, Cambodia. The two-bedroom overwater bungalow is located on the resort’s private island, with only 24 rooms total. From $890. songsaa.com
Just two hours from Rio de Janeiro, off the Angra Dos Reis coast, Ilha Grande makes for a memorable group getaway. The private island’s six-bedroom house includes kayaks, paddleboards, and a staff ready to whip up caipirinhas. From $1,659, two-night minimum. airbnb.com
On a hilltop in Piedmont, the Castello Dal Pozzo offers wide views of Lake Maggiore. Home to the royal Visconti family in the 13th century, the villa was later remodeled in the English neo-Gothic style. It sleeps 16, with an on-site restaurant and wine bar. From $3,847. airbnb.com
Luxury outﬁtter Abercrombie & Kent is partnering with four New York Times veterans, including former foreign correspondent Alan Riding, who will share ﬁrsthand insights into Marrakech, Easter Island, Havana, and other stops on a 26-day trip. From $135,000. abercrombiekent.com
The world’s largest overwater bungalow, Gili Lankanfushi’s 18,300-square-foot, fourbedroom villa on a private reserve in the Maldives, has a customizable wine list, private spa, waterslide, natural coral pool, and 24-hour personal assistant. From $12,495. gili-lankanfushi.com
Expect over-the-top extravagance at Laucala (pictured), a resort island in Fiji with its own rental submarine. Bring friends: There are 25 villas on 4.6 square miles, with rain forests, beaches, cliffs, a lagoon, and views from one of the island’s highest hills. From $170,000. laucala.com
The presidential suite in the Maharaja’s Pavilion at Raj Palace in Jaipur, India, is a four-ﬂoor, 16,000-squarefoot masterpiece with four bedrooms and gold and silver furniture. Accommodations include a private elevator, bar, and museum, plus an on-site spa. $15,000. rajpalace.com
This August, DreamMaker unveils its Passport to 50 jet tour: you (and 49 besties) in a private Boeing 767 visiting 20 cities in 20 days. Flat beds, sleep-tracking tech, and an onboard hypnotherapist ensure restful ﬂights. From $13,875,000. passportto50 .com —SARAH PURKRABEK
COURTESY OF VLADI PRIVATE ISLANDS
HOP ON A JET AND FLY AROUND THE WORLD
LIVE LIKE ROYALTY IN A PALACE
HAVE AN ISLAND TO YOURSELF
SLEEP IN AN OVERWATER BUNGALOW
LIVE YOUR TRAVEL FANTASY
Florida-based traveler Colleen Nelson packed up her family and brought them to the small Greek isle of Ikaria, land of good eating and even better living.
T ALL STARTED with a
recipe I found online. The dish was called Spicy Black-Eyed Peas and Greens with Smoked Herring, and it called for an insane amount of olive oil. I mean, two cups insane. I remember thinking that it must be a mistake. But I always follow a recipe exactly the first time. It created a rich bean stew you can eat with rice or bread—and it was delicious. I was so intrigued, I looked up Diane Kochilas, the cookbook’s author. That’s when I found out she offers weeklong summer cooking classes at her home in
Ikaria, Greece. Diane’s cookbook is more than a book of recipes; it’s an homage to the Ikarian way of life. There are six rules: 1) Eat locally, 2) Live deliberately, 3) Enjoy sleep, 4) Let things go, 5) Let your body heal itself, and 6) Walk. It sounded like a great vacation from my hectic American lifestyle. I signed up with my husband and our two teenagers, who were 16 and 18. I always want our family trips to be about more than just seeing the landmarks, but this was even better. We cooked daily, but instead of it feeling like a class, it felt like we were visiting
as told to SARAH PURKRABEK
Culinary trips you can really sink your teeth into.
FORAGE IN THE WILDS OF ALASKA
Discover the rugged flavors of rural Alaska at Tutka Bay Lodge outside Homer. The resort’s four-day culinary retreat takes you to an oyster farm, into an old-growth spruce forest for foraging, and inside the Widgeon II, a 1940s crabbing boat, for lessons on filleting, deboning, and cooking regional seafood. From $2,185. withinthewild .com 2
EXPLORE THE ORIGIN OF CHINESE TEA
Led by scholar Jeff Fuchs, who has spent the last decade researching traditional tea culture, the 10-day Ancient Tea & Horse Route experience with Whole Journeys takes you from Xishuangbanna, China—where tea originated—to the Tibetan lands that inspired the myth of Shangri-la. Along the way, you’ll learn about tea’s uses from the people who cultivate it. From $5,450. wholejourneys.com 3
GO ON A MICHELIN BINGE
Cross the world’s best eateries—yes, all of them— off your bucket list on VeryFirstTo’s three-Michelinstar trip. Hungry travelers will hit 12 countries in six months for an unbeatable eating tour of all 109 three-Michelin-star restaurants. If the price makes you balk, consider a DIY trip to Tokyo, home to 12 of the restaurants. From $228,413, including flights and hotels. veryfirstto.com —SARAH PURKRABEK
LEARN TO COOK
our Greek friends’ home. We prepared multicourse meals with fresh vegetables from Diane’s garden, then dined alfresco on her patio. My son and Diane’s son hit it off and went surfing together. We also sourced local ingredients: I milked a goat—a challenge for a city girl—and we met with a beekeeper and learned how the tastes and medicinal properties of honey differ, depending on which plants the bees visit. One night we danced in the village streets, as people spilled out from a restaurant. In just one week, we truly experienced the island’s way of life. It’s a Blue Zone, known for its residents’ longevity, but what struck me was their zest for life and generosity with their time. They are industrious and hardworking, but without our hunger for more material things. They don’t rush. They live deliberately.
Make your dream come true: Diane Kochilas’s weeklong Ikarian cooking courses cost $3,250 per person. For more info, visit dianekochilas.com.
I’ve always wanted to . . .
The Main Course
W H E R E AWAY F E E L S L I K E H O M E W H E R E Y O U C A N C AT C H U P O N H I S T O RY W H E R E E V E RY S TAY I S A S T O RY
EXPERIENCE DCâ€™S MOST STORIED HOTEL.
OVERLOOKING THE WHITE HOUSE | WWW.HAYADAMS.COM | 202.638.6600
LIVE YOUR TRAVEL FANTASY
Just when you thought your travel wish list couldn’t get any longer.
lavish Poseidon and Neptune suites have floor-to-ceiling windows peering directly into a 3-million-gallon aquarium. Sharks and stingrays are among your 65,000 roommates for the night. From $8,000. atlantisthepalm.com 6
GLAMP IN AUSTRALIA NEAR ULURU
Fifteen luxury tents sit in the shadow of 1,141-foot-tall Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, one of the world’s grandest monoliths. From $1,098. longitude131 .com.au
MASTER CLASSES 7
PAINT LANDSCAPES IN THE ITALIAN COUNTRYSIDE
Panoramic views at this art school in the Marche region span olive groves, vineyards, and centuries-old villas. Attendees take watercolor and plein air painting workshops. From $1,400. lemarcheretreat.com 8
TANGO LIKE A LOCAL IN BUENOS AIRES
EXPLORERS WANTED 1
COMB THE OCEAN FLOOR IN A PRIVATE SUBMARINE
Captain Karl Stanley takes two passengers at a time out on his yellow-submarine tour of Honduras’s Cayman Trench. In deep waters, travelers have the chance to spot a chimaera, or “ghost shark.” From $500. stanleysubmarines.com 2
FIND A FLOWER NO ONE ELSE HAS SEEN
On International Nature & Culture Adventure’s eight-day Wild Orchids of Machu Picchu botanical tour, search for rare blooms in the Urubamba and Ollantaytambo canyons and the jungle near Machu Picchu. From $4,395. inca1.com
FOLLOW IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MARCO POLO
Wild Frontiers’ 47-day Great Silk Road Adventure traverses six countries and 7,456 miles between Beijing and Istanbul, stopping at 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites en route. From $12,736. wildfrontierstravel.com
BEDS WITH A VIEW 4
WATCH THE NORTHERN LIGHTS FROM A GLASS VILLA
The cubes overlook Finland’s frozen Bay of Bothnia, near the SnowCastle, a complex of buildings made of ice and snow. From $373. visitkemi.fi 5
SLEEP WITH THE FISHES IN DUBAI
At Atlantis, The Palm resort, the
A one-hour class teaches you the basics. If you’re feeling bold, you can show off your moves at a milonga, an Argentine tango gathering. From $95. narrativetangotours.com 9
TAKE ON CLASS III RAPIDS IN IDAHO
This five-day intro to whitewater kayaking provides amateurs with the gear, skills, and knowhow to tackle the frothing (but not too fierce) Salmon River. From $1,399. oars.com
FLIGHT PLANS 10
FLOAT IN A HOT AIR BALLOON OVER THE NORTH POLE
The tethered ride is just one of several unforgettable activities on Quark Expeditions’ 14-day arctic adventure onboard the
50 Years of Victory, the world’s largest nuclear icebreaker. From $27,995. quarkexpeditions.com 11
BUNGEE JUMP FROM VICTORIA FALLS BRIDGE
Fling your trembling body off the bridge that straddles the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and you’ll free-fall 230 feet toward the Zambezi River. Masochistic add-ons include a bridge swing and a zip line. From $160. victoriafalls.net 12
FLY A MIG-29 JET FIGHTER OVER NIZHNY NOVGOROD
A veteran test pilot guides you through this supersonic, onlyin-Russia experience. Choose between a high-altitude “edge of space” flight and an aerobatic flight with wild loop-theloop maneuvers. From $16,000. incredible-adventures.com
WILD (AND CRAZY?) 13
MUSH A TEAM OF SLED DOGS THROUGH ALASKA
Multiday wilderness tours of the untouched Yukon–Charley Rivers National Preserve cover 20 to 25 miles a day, with the huskies running for as long as five hours. From $500. bush alaskaexpeditions.com 14
SURF AN ACTIVE VOLCANO IN NICARAGUA
After an hour-long schlep up Cerro Negro, you’ll slide down the 2,388-foot volcano’s face on a flimsy wooden plank. It takes about five minutes to reach the bottom. From $28. volcanoboard.com 15
DIVE WITH 1,000-POUND CROCODILES IN BOTSWANA’S OKAVANGO DELTA
This eight-day expedition is a real heart-pounder, bringing you within 12 inches of the most powerful jaws on the planet. From $14,800. biganimals.com —DANA BRINDLE
Fifteen ideas to
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A blind man journeys through the wilds of Zimbabwe. by
As our Land Cruiser nosed through the brush,
cicadas buzzed above us like power lines. My wife and I had been in Zimbabwe only a few hours. So far, our guide on our first safari drive, Alan, had already spotted several species of antelope, and I was already concerned that for me—as a blind man—this was going to kind of suck. I might as well be at a drive-in movie. Here, you try: Close your eyes. Over there is a kudu, whatever a kudu is. Welcome to a blind safari. Dharmesh, the driver, stopped the vehicle. Alan suggested in his lovely baritone voice that we step out and stretch our legs on the dusty path and have a drink, or “sundowner.” Robert, the animal tracker, dismounted from his seat on the vehicle’s grill to pass around beer and snacks. In the distance, apparently, a giraffe could be seen slipping into the trees. Tracy, my wife, watched quietly as Alan began his work, describing the animal and its behavior and its place in the ecosystem of the locale, the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve. My can of lager, because I could taste it, was more real to me than the giraffe. How a blind man can be guided, how I might connect with unseen sights in an unseen JULY/AUGUST 2017
Left, Tracemore, an animal tracker at Singita Pamushana, enters one of the lodge’s subterranean wildlife-viewing blinds, which allow for observation without disturbing the animals. Right, the spotted hyena is the only hyena species that laughs.
place, would be Alan’s challenge for the next seven days. A few years earlier, he had guided his first blind client through a game reserve on the western boundary of South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The experience had radically enriched his approach. “Whether you’re sighted or not, the bush is overwhelming and confusing when you first arrive. It’s an onslaught of stimuli,” Alan told me. “But guiding a blind person helped me realize the significance, the depth, of our other senses. I could use them to enhance my voice as a guide. A taste, a sound, touching or holding something, these experiences slow everything down to a different focus.” A safari, by cliché and assumption, is overwhelmingly driven by photography. Tourists survey a living museum of wild animals and, as their primary experience, merely look through cameras and screens. But with Alan at the helm, here I was, ready not only to experience what a safari might reveal to the full spectrum of sensory input, but also to try to deepen my own understanding of what it 80
means, or can mean, to be guided. Being blind, I’m a bit of a connoisseur. Daily, I’m dragged and steered and told where and how to move, perpetually hitched like a wagon to the elbows of strangers. You could say I live in a chronic state of guidance. But getting around without getting killed isn’t anything like having a sense of place. Perhaps a professional guide could impart some of that. So far, I’d nursed a beer and heard rumors of a giraffe. Suddenly Alan’s hand clamped my shoulder, communicating everything in a grip. Do not speak. Do not move. Adrenaline shot through me. We were in a clearing surrounded by bush and shadow and, well, something else. Something not-giraffe. Silence, for the blind, is often the most terrifying sound. Alan’s grip firmed and pivoted me a few degrees to the right, aiming my attention like a satellite dish. At what? “Elephant,” he whispered. “Twentyfive meters.” I strained to hear it. To hear something. Was it moving? Had it seen us? Alan’s hand
gently squeezed my shoulder, then again, and again, as if counting the animal’s steps. “Fifteen meters,” he whispered. I couldn’t hear my wife. I couldn’t sense where our vehicle was, or how far we were from its safety. Alan’s hand assured me we were fine for now, but it also implied, by its constant grip, everything could change in an instant. “Ten meters.” Finally, a faint noise. The plodding of a six-ton bull. Something I’ve never heard. An elephant’s loose-structured feet expand, landing with a small, dispirited squish, like the sound of spiking a semi-deflated football. Now I could understand how something so large could glide so quietly through the bush. Squish, squish, it lumbered toward us, deciding whether it would charge, or not. Alan’s hand clenched harder. The animal had stopped. I could sense its stare, Alan angling my body toward its gaze. Neither I nor the bull knew what to make of the other. Then, squish, squish, it stepped off into the bush and was gone. An odor followed.
Left, evening game drives at Singita Pamushana Lodge usually include a stop for a sundowner, before resuming with a spotlit search for nocturnal wildlife. Right, poaching and habitat destruction have pushed giraffes onto the threatened species list.
Wet earth, like parched land after a first rain. Later, Alan would explain that I had smelled the elephant’s method of cooling and hygiene. Mud retains moisture, so elephants coat themselves in it to stay cool. When the mud dries, they’ll scrape themselves against leadwood or baobab trees, the hardened earth taking parasites from their skin. An elephant waxing. I hadn’t seen that, but I’d smelled my way into something. Alan’s grip on my shoulder finally loosened, and a quick pat of assurance told me everything was OK now. Nothing to see here. I was, in a word, awestruck. “Well,” he chirped, “that doesn’t happen every day.”
Singita’s Pamushana Lodge is, by all sensory metrics, a stunning nest of luxurious thatched villas atop the sandstone cliffs of Malilangwe Lake. This game reserve, formerly a commercial cattle ranch, sprawls across roughly 130,000 acres and remains
privately owned and operated by a nonprofit trust. The land itself has been rewilded, its natural flora and fauna allowed to return. It’s thick with mopani and acacia groves, dry riverbeds, and rising stone bluffs. Caves and rock paintings can be found, too, evidence of the land’s human occupants in centuries past. Revenues from safaris like ours fund the trust’s conservation efforts. A sampling of notable resident species includes rhinos, both black and white, lions and leopards, African wild dogs and cape buffalo, cheetahs, baboons, wildebeests and hartebeests and, of course, elephants. Biologists and an on-site lab are part of the reserve, as is an anti-poaching force. Whenever we stepped from our Land Cruiser, Dharmesh would radio central command to record our location, as the security team would find and track any unreported human footprints. Mornings at the lodge begin early. The aspiration was to be on safari by sunrise. Most large animals would be on the move by then, in search of water before the day’s heat could
stamp every living thing into lethargy. “Today,” Alan posited over breakfast, “perhaps we should try our luck at the blind.” Yes, the blind guy was going to—a blind. But this blind referred to a semi-underground hideout, like the ones used by hunters. Pamushana had constructed one next to a shallow seasonal pan where water, and animals, naturally collected. It would allow us to get close enough that I might smell and hear any number of thirsty species, from zebras to hippos to elephants, within a mere few feet. Alan’s style of guiding was to set a soft goal for the day—in this case, to check out the blind—but to take the long way, leaving our experience open to whatever caught his attention. We’d barely descended the sandstone heights of the lodge when Alan flagged Dharmesh to stop the Land Cruiser and strolled off into the bush. You know, like he was popping into a convenience store, not a forest that could conceal a lion’s jaws. “Here, take these,” he said as he returned to the vehicle. He handed Tracy and me some JULY/AUGUST 2017
leaves. “Crush one between your fingers and touch it to your tongue.” My reflex was to ask what we were about to taste, and why. Nobody wants to close their eyes and put an unnamed unknown in their mouth. But I didn’t ask. I shoved leafy bits into my mouth. Instantly my tongue went dry. Ridiculously dry. “That’s from all the tannins,” Alan explained. “This is the leaf of a mopani tree. Now you know why most animals don’t eat them. Except elephants.” Given the tonnage of greenery they consume, it makes sense that elephants would possess the digestive capability to tolerate a nasty plant that attracts few competitors. “Now we also know what animal we’re likely to find in a mopani grove and why.” He handed me another leaf, this one attached to a twig and nestled tightly among short, sharp barbs. Acacia. Whereas the mopani protects itself biochemically, by taste, the acacia deters predators with pain. Imagine, Alan noted, that you are a blunt-nosed browser, such as a rhino. To get between the barbs for the leaves would be nearly impossible. Giraffes, on the other hand, have long, narrow faces and long, narrow tongues that nimbly
Above, Jephat, a Singita Pamushana guide, feels a mopani leaf. Right, the art of the Shangaan people inspires the lodge’s decor.
work between thorns. Where you find acacia, you find giraffes. More than getting a botany lesson under the sun, I was learning about a way of guiding that begins with the animal’s own sensory experience. Leaves are food, so Alan had us approach them by taste and touch. Because most safaris work toward a photographic goal, 82
the tendency is for guides to simply point to a distant scene and label it with names and facts like captions. Over there is acacia. Giraffes eat those. That’s a mopani tree. Elephants like those. But Alan wanted us to experience the reality that everything around us is a living, working system of taste and tactile strategy for survival, not just a view. Soon we stopped again. “Give me your hands,” Alan said. I couldn’t help myself. “What is it?” I asked. Something in his tone made me wary, as if he knew better than to tell me what he’d found. “Just feel this. Hold this,” he insisted. “It’s really something.” Please don’t let it be a snake, I thought. He dropped into my hands a rough and fibrous ball—dry, the size of a melon—of what felt like steel wool. I couldn’t guess what it was as I rolled it around between my palms. Nothing snakey, that was for sure. “Rhino poo,” he said. I swear I could hear him smiling. Then he laughed. But you have to pause and appreciate such an act of bravery. Really. Imagine the potential offense of taking advantage of my blindness for a joke. So many people treat me like a child, or a fragile soul. Yet Alan had already figured me out. At least well enough to know I wouldn’t get upset when handed a ball of rhino poo. In addition to interpreting nature, a good safari guide must also interpret the other people in the Land Cruiser. Our destination that day, the blind, was nothing like the structure I’d imagined. In my mind’s eye, we would crowd behind a lean-to, perhaps a wall of branches and logs among the trees, from which we’d spy on animals. Instead, we entered an entire room of comforts dug into the earth next to the water, its conical roof perfectly resembling a massive termite mound. A few steps down and through a door, we were shown into a lounge, complete with couches and a restroom and snacks, where we could wait for wildlife to arrive. Dharmesh and Robert opened the windows, two long slats that squinted from ground level, with no screens, no barricade from whatever might visit the watering hole just feet from us. The potential dangers of this were real. Dharmesh told us they once found a six-foot black mamba snake stretched out behind the couch cushions. I had just started to doze a little in the dusky cool when Alan whispered, “Rhinos are coming. Two. A mother and calf.”
Zimbabwe Singita Pamushana Lodge
I jumped to the open windows and listened. Soon I heard a snort and some stamping in the mud, all of it just a few feet away. But the water was also being upset somewhere to my right. A splashing, distant, then closer. “Uh-oh,” Dharmesh whispered. “Hyenas.” I felt a familiar tickle in my spine. The tension that precedes violence. Three hyenas approached as the rhinos continued to drink, unfazed. I feared that, at any moment, the three could attack, or chase, or scare the rhinos. If you can’t see, your awareness hangs on the slightest changes in rhythms, maybe of the hyenas’ feet, of their breathing, anything that might indicate where the situation is going. One hyena groaned, low and loud and clear, and then drank. For now, little seemed to be happening in the peaceful distance between species, including us. So many people go on safari with the desire, above all else, to see a lion. If you ask Alan, however, it is the least interesting purpose to have. Lions sleep most of the time. What is to be taken, to be remembered, from that? Here in the blind, the hyenas just feet from the rhinos, I stumbled on my own purpose, or a hope to guide me. I wanted to hear a hyena laugh. It would be a trophy of sound. My audio postcard, something rare and otherworldly and off camera. But the hyenas wouldn’t give a peep. Shortly after they arrived, they finished drinking and darted off into the hills, but not before the biggest one dropped the nastiest, most eyeburning carnivore fart ever blown into the face of a blind man. It was as if she knew I wanted to hear her laugh, and instead mocked me by obliterating my sense of smell. The stench was so foul and expansive in the blind that we were driven out and called it a day. As we left, the rhinos continued to drink, as they will. Our villa at the lodge, inspired by the mor-
Get out of the Safari Vehicle These six experiences take you way beyond the 4x4. by JENNIFER FLOWERS
COMMUNITY VISIT At Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe, where writer Ryan Knighton stayed, you can spend time with members of the Shangaan tribe at Kambako Village, where you’ll learn ancient hunter-gatherer survival techniques related to the local landscape. Try your hand at creating fire with friction, locating a water source with a divining rod, or weaving baskets with wild ilala palms. singita.com HORSEBACK RIDE The Great Plains Conservation Ride KenyaMara program is one of the only ways to see the renowned Maasai Mara reserve on horseback. Seasoned riders staying in one of two camps visit scenic escarpments and cross through rivers on two-hour rides to spot cheetahs, elephants, and wildebeests. greatplainsconservation.com MOONLIT TREK Between June and November, Natural Selection guests can take a Full Moon Makgadikgadi Walk to Botswana’s baobab tree–covered Kubu Island. Starting at one of the company’s three luxury camps in the Kalahari desert, travelers cross Botswana’s lunarlike salt pans on foot by the light of the moon, where they’ll encounter Stone Age tools and such wildlife as brown hyenas and meerkats. naturalselection.travel CANOE RIDE A stay at Wilderness Safaris’ Vumbura Plains Camp in Botswana offers close-up views of the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta via mokoro (dugout canoe). Guided by an expert poler, guests venture down the delta’s inlets through tall grasses to see miniscule painted reed frogs, the occasional hippopotamus or crocodile, as well as elephants and antelopes drinking along the shore. wildernesssafaris.com CANOPY WALK Deeper Africa arranges excursions to Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park to see birds and primates in their natural habitat, including silvery-cheeked hornbills and vervet monkeys, as well as black mamba snakes, wild orchids, and countless butterfly species. Sleep amid a mahogany forest in one of the 10 stilted suites at andBeyond’s Lake Manyara Tree Lodge. deeperafrica.com; andbeyond.com RHINO MICROCHIPPING To help travelers understand anti-poaching efforts, Epic Road offers rhinoceros microchipping experiences in southern Africa. In South Africa’s Eastern Cape region, guests staying in Kwandwe Great Fish River Lodge follow a veterinarian and a biologist as they locate and tranquilize a rhino. The group helps with DNA testing, chipping, and examination. epicroad.com; kwandwe.com 84
Zimbabwe is home to nearly 700 species of birds and 199 species of mammals, including Burchellâ€™s zebra.
tarless stone walls of the royal palace of Great Zimbabwe—the now ruined 11th-century capital 100 miles north of Singita Pamushana—had few right angles. Pillars and rounded corners softened any edge. I often pinballed off them and was sent randomly wandering our cool, snaking rooms, lost and disoriented. At least I knew that we faced the lake. When confused, I listened for the hippos below our deck. Their old-man grunts and guffaws were my North Star. Every morning I awoke to their sound, and to the birds. Four percent of the world’s bird species are represented on the reserve. Imagine the variety and volume that creates. I would notice a specific call, and Alan would affix a name. Bulbul and oxpecker, quelea and ghost bird. My favorite quickly became the go-away bird, whose cry literally mimics a plea to, yes, go away. On the thatched roof above our breakfast table, we heard the foraging of hyraxes, creatures something like a marmot or a prairie dog, their name something from the pages of Dr. Seuss. I relished the pleasure of so many new and strange names, their peculiar sound and shape in my mouth. My own call. My own guffaws and song.
When you are a blind man
strapped into the tracker’s seat on the grill of a Land Cruiser, you feel as if you are floating through the air, because you are. And dangling out in front like that, you are really just a hunk of bait. Or at least that’s how I felt. I wasn’t forced to this perch, mind you. Alan was cool with me taking over Robert’s post, and was curious what would happen if the tracking were turned over to my senses. On the third day, we began motoring through mopani groves and along riverbanks, and I became increasingly aware of myriad odors, some bold, some subtle, but all of them coming at me with Alan’s descriptions of the quickly shifting landscape. Perhaps I smelled dying yellow grasses, then suddenly the sour chemical of umbrella trees, their canopy passing above, then just as suddenly gone, all smells lifted, replaced by the breezy blank of an open, sandy flatland. As I inhaled the air, suspended on the tracker’s perch, my mind’seye image of where we were grew clearer and clearer, and more alive, than ever before. Soon I could raise my hand, flagging to Alan inside the Cruiser that something was disrupting the smell of the land, something that might be of note. A few times I noticed the same thin marbling in the air, a faintly sour streak, sweaty
Above, Jephat, a guide, feels the bark of a rain tree. Left, Singita Pamushana Lodge overlooks 130,000 acres of protected land.
like a horse. Moments later, off in the trees, perhaps 50 yards away, Alan saw the giraffe. How rare it is that I guide anybody. Not that I was very good at it. Mostly I flagged the same pungent smell, only to be told I’d stopped us in the middle of another rhino latrine. But I didn’t catch a whiff of anything before Dharmesh slammed on the brakes. Alan immediately reached through the lowered windshield to where I sat on the tracker’s seat, and clamped my shoulder. You know, the way he had done when we’d faced down an elephant. This time I was alone in front, and exposed. “Black rhino,” he whispered. “Just be calm.” We didn’t want to startle it. Quick movements can alarm a rhino enough to charge. Black ones, in particular, are nervous and prone to acting out. So Alan began to whistle like a bird, letting it know we were here, small and unthreatening. It turns out rhinos are nearly blind. Wouldn’t that be funny, I thought, the blind goring the blind? I heard it take a step. A snort. It was coming closer, curious. And closer. A few more steps, then it rushed at us, but stopped short. Sweat slicked my back. The rhino was perhaps 30 feet in front of me, staring me down, with nothing between us. No smell helped me track its movement. No sound hinted at what it would do next. The rhino and I just hid in our blind silences. Then it took off for the safety of the bush, exit stage left. And I retired from my experiment as a tracker. On one of our last days, the call I’d been hoping for came over the radio. Five hyenas
had been spotted with a kill in the water near the blind. At that moment I was on my hands and knees tracing the shape of a fresh leopard track Robert had spotted in the sand. We were more than a half hour’s drive from the blind. The hyenas could easily scatter before we got anywhere near. Then again, if they did run off, we could try our luck tracking them. It was a question of every safari’s diminishing resource: time. Burn an afternoon chasing nothing, or run after a specific experience and forsake others along the way? We loaded up and took off in pursuit of hyenas. By the time we arrived at the blind, things had escalated. Yes, the hyenas were still in the water with what looked to Alan like the leg of an antelope, possibly a hartebeest. But a pack of African wild dogs had gathered at the water’s edge. The species is nearly extinct. Only 50 dogs live in the entire reserve, and more than 20 of them were here, closing in on the hyenas to either take their kill or pick a fight. The air smelled of blood. Hundreds of queleas, tiny birds, tornadoed above the dogs in a humming swarm. The wind from their wings blew in my face. Soon there was a howl. Then a rumbling groan. And another. Warnings from the hyenas. Then I heard it. Their nervous laughter cut through the air. It was like a forced chuckle after a bad joke. Suddenly, an explosion of water and splashing as the wild dogs attacked. They rushed in on the hyenas, trying to disable them, mobbing, circling, confusing them from every side. The cries of wild dogs are the most alien noise I’ve encountered, like a chorus of twittering computers. Vicious, the dogs bit. The hyenas bit back and laughed, or, wounded, squealed like pigs in slaughter. The sound at times grew so intense that I wanted to turn away, as if I couldn’t bear to look. All of this went on, the dogs circling our Land Cruiser, the hyenas fighting, the chasing, the noise, for hours. It wasn’t pretty. Or so I assume. But I can say I listened, as did Alan and Tracy, Dharmesh and Robert. We listened and we knew, given the dogs’ near-extinct status, that we were experiencing one of the rarest sounds in the world. In fact, their fight may have been the only sound of its kind made on earth that day. And I can still hear it. Ryan Knighton is a screenwriter and the author of Cockeyed: A Memoir. He and photographer Cait Oppermann are profiled on page 22. JULY/AUGUST 2017
A TRAVELER SEARCHES FOR PUFFINS AND PEACE IN THE LAND OF FIRE AND ICE.
BY TAFFY BRODESSER-AKNER PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRÉDÉRIC LAGRANGE
This page: The Borgarfjörður Eystri area, in the eastern fjords, is known for hiking and bird-watching. Previous spread, left: Icelandic horses graze along the Ring Road near Seljalandsfoss waterfall. Previous spread, right: Icebergs flow from Breiðamerkurjökull glacier into Jökulsárlón Lagoon.
LAST AUGUST, I FOUND MYSELF wrung out and miserable over the
state of the United States—the vitriol of the presidential election, the deep chasms of reality where we all seemed to find ourselves. I wanted to get the hell away, but not just away. I wanted out. I wanted nothing that resembled where I was coming from. I wanted everything new. I chose Iceland, which was in the last few minutes of its tourist season, when the roads were about to become impassable. I packed my bags and decided I needed to get there not just before the roads went bad, but before the puffins migrated. Puffins! What could be more new to me
than puffins? My weary eyes needed to see things they weren’t accustomed to, and the country’s Mars-like terrain, its misty pools, and its strange flocks of puffins all felt right. Besides, how many times could you see Iceland near the top of all those happiest-people lists before you decided to investigate? I had a fantasy that if I could just be around the puffins in this place I didn’t know, I’d be rid of all I did know, at least for a moment. So a couple days after landing in Reykjavík, I found my way to Landeyjahöfn, 80 miles southeast of the capital, and took a ferry to a tiny island called Heimaey, because someone told me you could see swarms of puffins there. It should have been true. The Cantonese restaurant featured a cartoon of a puffin in a pointed bamboo hat. The armrests on the park benches were shaped like puffin heads. The gas station had a puffin pumping gas painted on it. I arrived at the Hotel Vestmannaeyjar at 8 p.m., two more hours of daylight to go, and the young man at the desk told me how to get to the beach where I would find all the puffins. Well, I went, and I drove up the mountain on the one-lane gravel road, and I hiked down the rocks to the beach, and I didn’t see one puffin. Not one. And so I went back to the
desk and demanded of the young man: “Where are those puffins?!” “I’m sure they’re there,” he said. “I saw them yesterday.” I had heard the puffins would be migrating soon, so I said, “Maybe they were there yesterday and they’ve left today.” And he said, “It doesn’t work like that.” But what is migration but being in one place one day and not the next? The young man took out a map and showed me again where he knew for sure the puffins were. I went again—the whole island is only a few miles wide—and stood in the rain, because it rained every day I was in Iceland, and still nothing. And I wondered how I’d ever be able to say I’d seen Iceland if I hadn’t seen puffins. I wondered how bereft my experience of the country would be for not having gotten a chance to see them flock together, sitting still or batting around like manic deformed penguin impersonators. Think on that for a moment while I make this point: Everyone comes to Iceland with a version of Iceland they’ve made up for themselves—a place of infinite happiness or infinite pools or infinite fermented shark or infinite Björk—and a visit to Iceland is very much about that particular Iceland, the one that really exists only in your mind.
2. BUT BEFORE THE
puffin pursuit. On the first day of my trip, a few hours after I landed in Reykjavík, an American I know who lives there said to me, “You’re not going to go to the Golden Circle, are you?” You should have heard the contempt in his voice. He moved to Iceland a year ago, and he loves it, but he finds
it hard to avoid the Americans, and therefore the America, he was escaping. The Golden Circle—a route that allows you to see several of the country’s main attractions in a day’s drive—was inundated, he said: Geysir, the geothermal spout after which all other geysers are named; Gullfoss waterfall; Thingvellir National Park; plus the Blue Lagoon, the spa that’s not officially part of the Golden Circle but is often included on the same daylong tour. It’s all such a quick trip from the capital, too tempting a day trip to pass up, so it’s crawling with the hundreds of thousands of American tourists who somehow discovered that there is a beautiful, exotic country a mere five hours from our Atlantic coast. “You won’t see Iceland if you see those things,” my friend said. “You’ll see Americans being American.” “But you’re an American,” I said. “Just you wait,” he said. “The Blue Lagoon selfie is ruining this country.” It is true that Iceland is full of tourists. In 2010 the country’s main airport received 459,000 visitors. In 2016, that number was nearly 1.8 million. A waitress told me she thinks the tourist boom happened when the United States rediscovered Iceland after the Eyjafjallajökull volcano eruption in 2010. My expat friend thinks it has to do with Icelandair offering free stopovers. I said that maybe we were looking for beauty and something fresh. Maybe we were looking for some inspiration. Whatever it is, tourism saved the Icelandic economy after the banking bust in 2008, and I am going to just throw it out there that our newly discovered proximity to the place might just save us, but more on that later.
So I set out in search of Iceland in my rental car.1 I decided yes, I’d avoid the tourist traps— no Blue Lagoon for me—and instead I would traverse the country via its main paved highway, Route 1, the Ring Road. And I would find the Iceland I was so desperately looking for.
3. I WENT SOUTH FIRST
, to a waterfall called Seljalandsfoss, just beyond inclusion in the Golden Circle. Seljalandsfoss’s best feature, other than being a waterfall and waterfalls being impossibly beautiful, is that you can walk behind the waterfall and look out onto all the tourists taking pictures of it from the other side. If you drive down the road a little farther, you can see more waterfalls, and it is almost disturbing how quickly waterfalls become ho-hum. (I should confess here that I’m not exactly what you’d call a scenery person. I love a gorgeous flash of scenery, but once there is much more than a scene or two—and Iceland is basically all beautiful scenery—the beauty of the scenery fills me with a kind of dread, a sense that I’m somehow not enough in awe of nature. But Iceland gave me its best shot: I saw so many rainbows, so large and up close that I could see the delineation of each and every Roy G. Biv color. Still, after a while, oh look, another rainbow, bravo.) At Seljalandsfoss, someone told me the better waterfall was down the road at Skógafoss, so I hightailed it there, stopping at a small house on the side of the road that’s a museum for the Eyjafjallajökull eruption, run by a family that had to evacuate their nearby farm
My economy rental car boasted something called SkyActiv technology, which must be the word for when you have a push-button ignition that only randomly actually starts the car. Or maybe it’s Icelandic for “We didn’t put windshield wiper fluid in this car before you left with it.” I don’t know—I’m not a car expert. I do know that the car, which became a menace on my trip, had a push-button ignition, and if you walked away from it with the keys and you forgot to shut it off, which you might if you’ve never driven a push-button ignition before, it stayed on. Perhaps I did this several times. Perhaps I left my car running for an hour at a time before returning to it. But Iceland, like a perfect older sister, has a crime rate of nil and actual negative unemployment, and so its people let my car run, for hours sometimes, while I went off to see the country. I was also outfitted with a GPS that was temperamental when it decided to function at all. It only functioned in Iceland, which, fine, but when you typed into it, you had to use the edge of your left-hand middle fingernail. I had previously thought my fingernails were all identical, but it was only that particular one that would work on the thing. The GPS matters, and so does the car, mostly because when I left Reykholt in the west, after seeing the cultural center built where Iceland’s most famous poet, Snorri Sturluson, wrote his sagas, the GPS took me on a road it had no business taking me on. Now, I’m not the kind of person who thought I was susceptible to GPS trickery. I am shocked when I hear stories of people driving into ditches because the GPS told them to, so please hear me out: There are a lot of roads off the main artery, Route 1, that aren’t quite paved—even Route 1 isn’t a smooth concrete ride for the duration—but they’re not treacherous. They’re just gravely, and a little pebbly. I had two choices for getting back to the Ring Road from the Snorrastofa Cultural and Medieval Centre, which includes a tiny church, a tiny geothermal pool, a tiny graveyard, the remains of the tiny home in which Snorri wrote, and a very large exhibit and gift shop. One choice was a long road to Route 1; the other was a shorter one. Which would you choose? Exactly. So I headed down the faster road, and then there was some gravel and then there were some pebbles, and then suddenly there were some rocks, some fairly big rocks, and then it seemed they were boulders. I looked around to find that I was on an elevated pathway of these rocks that was very narrow, meaning I couldn’t make a three-point turn and get out. I could either ride backward the roughly two miles and hope I didn’t veer right or left by more than six inches, or I could drive four miles per hour while weeping loudly and figuring that eventually this road must end because eventually everything ends, right? Up ahead coming right at me was a Jeep, and I tried to signal to it that it had to go off-road OR SOMETHING since I was in a crappy car, and it stopped and flashed at me and someone got out and shouted to me that I was not where I should be and that it got worse up ahead. He offered to drive my car down while I drove in his Jeep with his fellow geologists, because apparently the only reason to be up there is if you are an actual rock person. I made it down. The point is don’t rent an economy car in Iceland.
A 10th-century Icelandic parliament restricted livestock importation to protect their prized horses. Now, the breed is one of the purest in the world.
Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is only two miles off the Ring Road, midway between Vík and Skaftafell. Opposite: Simon Duur, a retired fisherman from the western coast.
—— — ——O —— — O —— —S — — — C—— — —N ——— W——— —— —— —R — — — — — F — — —L— —N — — — H —— — —E— — A —— — P ——— O——H — — — —E —V —S —— — L—— —E—— O — ——F — — —I — —— —A — — N —— — — — —R — —F—— —T———— —O — — —— — R—— —N — — — I ———— —E — — —N — —D—— S———— —O ——— —N — — —T—E—— —J — —K ——
during the eruption. No one was hurt; the lava moved so slowly that the locals could make an easy run for it. The museum sold not only the usual volcanic ash, but also books and T-shirts with the name of the volcano, and I asked one of the clerks why anyone would want to wear something that reminded them of something so painful. “No,” she told me, “we remember it as a time we all worked together and took care of each other.” I made it up to Skógafoss, which had a hotel with a restaurant where I had lamb stew while looking out over a pasture of lambs, which was awkward but unavoidable; lambs dot every square inch of scenery in Iceland. The waterfall was beautiful, too. You could climb up and look over it. But also, it was another waterfall. I asked a gas station attendant what I should see around there that was something the locals loved, and he told me about Seljavallalaug, which is a man-made pool built into the side of a mountain. You change in front of everyone and there are definitely no attendants or towels. How much less touristy could you get? It sounded perfect. I hiked a full mile over a not quite paved path—what other American would do this? I thought triumphantly—realizing that I didn’t
have anything that passed for a towel and that it would be very, very cold when I left. I changed into my bathing suit in full view of everyone, and immersed myself in the most delicious warm water of my life while rogue lambs walked up and down the lava rock surrounding the pool. I swam back and forth, talking to my fellow bathers. There was a woman burning up her severance on an extended European vacation, a couple making the most of their pre-child years. There were two women on an Eat, Pray, Love quest, a new classification of traveler who is trying to get over something and find her truth. They were all American.
4. THERE ARE TWO KINDS
of pools in Iceland: man-made pools and natural pools. The manmade pools are where your average Icelander socializes. Beer wasn’t legal in the country until 1989, and so socializing was done not in bars, but in pools. The natural pools are another story. They’re bubbling, steamy water right there amid the rest of Iceland. So one day in the middle of my trip I headed over to a natural pool called the Secret Lagoon,
located in Flúðir. Now, I’m not dumb enough to think that a secret lagoon listed in a Lonely Planet guide is secret. But it is off the path of the regular tourist attractions, far more inland, and I was thinking maybe the tourists would have had their lagoon lust satisfied by the Blue Lagoon. So I drove off the Ring Road, way down another road, and as I slowly rolled up through the woods, it appeared that the lagoon was on fire: Dusk was setting in, with a bright golden light that turned out to be the reflection of the setting sun on one of the greenhouses surrounding the lagoon. You wouldn’t believe the variety of people I met at the Secret Lagoon! There were Americans from New York. There were Americans from the Midwest. There were Americans drinking 16-ounce beers; there were Americans drinking 24-ounce beers. There was this particular strain of American that anyone who has visited Iceland recently can identify: the bro who decided this was his summer, and he was going to go to Iceland with his fellow bros, and he maybe brought a couple of squealing, bikinied companions who scream, OHMYGODITISSOHOTTAKEMY PICTURETAKEMYPICTURE. What I wasn’t prepared for was the fact of
CHOOSE YOUR OWN
Wayside waterfalls and a ring-around-the-country route have made Iceland a popular road trip destination—but to really get to know Iceland, you’ll need to wander off the Ring Road. These six journeys can take you deeper. by MAGGIE FULLER DIVE BETWEEN CONTINENTS
Peer between two tectonic plates on Black Tomato’s weekend dive—or snorkel— tour of the Silfra Fissure, where the glacial water offers 250 feet of visibility. Four days, from $4,300.
HIKE THE HIGHLANDS
Trek Iceland’s 34-mile trip along the Laugavegur Trail crosses the glaciers, lava ﬁelds, and rainbow-graced mountains of the Landmannalaugar highlands and
Thórsmörk Valley (June through mid-September). Six days, from $1,500.
SEARCH FOR WHALES AND PUFFINS
Enjoy hot chocolate and cinnamon buns aboard one of North Sailing’s eco-friendly Icelandic sailing sloops while marveling at humpback whales and the 200,000 pufﬁns on Lundey Island (mid-April through August). From $112.
TRAVERSE THE WESTFJORDS
Explore Iceland’s remote reaches on Borea Adventure’s Hornstrandir glamping trip. Hike the razor-edged Hornbjarg cliffs and perhaps even glimpse an elusive arctic fox (June through August). Three days, from $1,150.
KNIT THROUGH EAST ICELAND
Knitting retreats with Icelandic Mountain Guides celebrate the country’s most iconic craft. Learn about lace and elven folklore during the
late-June trip to the lessertraveled eastern fjords. Eight days, from $3,255.
DRIVE THE HIGHLAND ROADS
Travel from the nubby volcanic formations of Skaelingar to the hidden waterfalls of Skaftafell before arriving at the ﬂoating glaciers of Jökulsárlón Lagoon, stopping at hot springs along the way, with Extreme Iceland (July through August). Six days, from $1,800.
Volcanic activity created both the hexagonal basalt columns and the famous black sand at Reynisfjara Beach outside of VĂk.
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson collaborated on the design of Reykjavík’s Harpa concert hall. Opposite: Geothermal energy feeds both the power station at Bjarnarflag and the nearby Jarðböðin hot spring.
WE SHOULD ALL B E A S K I N G O U R S E LV E S W H AT T H E ICELAND OF OUR MINDS IS.
Dettifoss, a remote waterfall in northeast Iceland, is thought to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. And no, there are no protective guardrails.
actually being in a pool. Sitting/floating/walking in a pool is the opposite of traveling/exploring/wandering and getting there. A pool is a place to sit and to think, and the most jarring aspect of this is how ill equipped I and the rest of the Americans were to sit there and enjoy and feel and be, without asking, now what? You sit and you think your thoughts about beer and puffins and bikinis and why your GPS buttons only respond to pressure from the corner of your left middle fingernail and you ask yourself if you’re done and realize you don’t really know what done actually is. You don’t really know what it means to not be an American who is moving with velocity and purpose. You don’t really know another way to be.
5. BACK IN MY RENTAL CAR,
I gunned it for the north. Someone on Twitter had sent me a picture of a hotel up there that sat so close to a fjord that the water reflected it, and I had to see it. Siglufjörður is a tiny, tranquil town that thinks its main draws are its herring museum and its folk music museum (which are both excellent), when in fact its prime attractions are things you can’t sell tickets to: a lack of Americans, a dearth of tourists, and a front-row view of just how happy and peaceful a small town full of about 1,200 Icelanders can be. The man who owned the hotel where I stayed took me fishing. We sped on a dinghy outside the fjord into the Atlantic Ocean, where I caught cod after cod (after pollock) after cod and felt like a Viking. I saw Icelandic culture distilled down to its essence, and I realized in Siglufjörður that it is easy to be Icelandic. The Vikings came from Norway to a basically undiscovered land. They didn’t have to kill anyone to take it for themselves. Plus, almost everyone looks the same and is the same race and religion, and it is pretty hard to immigrate here. There is very little to fight over. It’s not like being American. We have so much fodder for fighting. And it has driven us to Iceland, even if just for the week.
6. OK, BUT ABOUT THE PUFFINS.
Since I never saw any that rainy night on Heimaey, I prepared to leave the next morning disappointed. But the ferry I had been planning to take was cancelled because of the fog. So was the next ferry. I sat in front of a huge mural
near the port that depicted a toddler playing with a ship in a puddle, but the puddle was the ocean and the land around it was Heimaey. Imagine knowing how small and contained you were; imagine knowing that and not feeling trapped, I thought. So I went in search of the puffins again. I came back and folded my hands across my chest and stamped my foot at the hotel clerk and said once more that he was wrong, that the puffins were most certainly gone, and he came out from behind his desk and told someone in the office he was taking his break. His name was Fridrik, as it turned out, and he was the son of the hotel’s owner. He was on a pro handball team, and he was thinking about studying abroad in the States during college. He would come back, he said, because everyone goes abroad and they come back because they don’t see a way to emulate anywhere else the life they have here in Iceland. Fridrik asked me to drive him home, where he changed out of his hotel suit and into a sweat suit, and he directed me back up the mountain. He knew the puffins were there because every night, he and his friends go to the mountain and guide the puffins. Puffins are not the smartest animals, so they are attracted to the lights of the city. I said I didn’t think that was that stupid, to love the lights of a city, and Fridrik shrugged and said anyway. Anyway, he and his friends guide them back to the beach where they belong—all the teenagers do—so that they don’t get fooled by all the action, they don’t think that there’s more to be had just because it’s brighter or more populated elsewhere. We drove and drove and then we got out of the car. We went to the beach, where seals bobbed their heads just a few feet from the shore. This is where I’d been, I told him. But he told me to go farther up, and we climbed and climbed on a not not-dangerous, not notslippery hill in the fog. “Look,” Fridrik said. I turned my head and there were hundreds of puffins, just hanging out on the hill, ridiculous, standing by until I found them. They stood in regal waiting, no place to be for now, not until the dark descended and the city lights came back on and their curiosity got the best of them. They were just there, being puffins, unaware of how badly I had needed to see them. I hugged Fridrik and whooped with joy. I had found my Iceland. By then I knew that my Iceland was just the Iceland of my mind and not anyone else’s.
Someone else’s Iceland could be hiking all day; another’s could be turf houses and troll hunts. Friends who told me to eat fermented shark or whale because it’s what Icelanders do—that’s the Iceland of their minds. The Icelanders I met laughed and said it’s cruel to eat whale and disgusting to eat shark; they would never do it, and they were surprised that this is somehow someone else’s authentic Icelandic experience. But how could you begrudge someone the Iceland of their mind? How could you say that someone else’s desire is less real than your own, even if you live there? We should all be asking ourselves what the Iceland of our minds is, and we should all be looking for ways to find it. If your authentic Iceland is eating fermented shark and puffin soup, then be your authentic Icelandic self and eat those things (though really you shouldn’t). If putting silica on your face and floating in the Blue Lagoon for days is your trip, then you should enjoy it, because it is your trip to Iceland and because all your trips are ones you have earned—you have earned them by paying for them, but also by yearning for them, by being as curious as you are. My theory on why Iceland is now inundated with tourists is this: I think Americans who visit Iceland today are seeking a break from ugliness. We want to expose ourselves to a way of life that works, to a place more attentive to what bubbles beneath the surface, where submerging is the national pastime. We want to bring home a souvenir that reminds us that when the volcano erupts, we can all take care of each other. Maybe that’s how Iceland could save us. And I shouldn’t leave out this part: On my way to the airport, I stopped at the Blue Lagoon. The Blue Lagoon is a hot blue pool surrounded by old lava rocks, and yes, it was overrun by Americans, but that didn’t take away any of the heat in the water, the energy bubbling up from below. No, in fact, the Americans, with their squealing and drinking and their body heat, they added to its warmth. I was proud of us for coming here. I was proud of us for trying. I applied my complimentary silica mask and took a selfie. Writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner wrote about her Spin the Globe trip to Switzerland in the January/February 2016 issue of AFAR. Photographer Frédéric Lagrange is profiled on page 22. JULY/AUGUST 2017
WRITER WELLS TOWER TRAVELED TO THE JUNGLES OF PERU TO EXPERIENCE AN ANCIENT RITUAL.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT PUSHED HIM TO HIS LIMITS.
PHOTO ILLUSTRATIONS BY AYUMI TANAKA
W E W A T C H S H A M A N P E R C Y B R E W T H E M E D I C I N E . N O B O D Y S AY S “ D R U G ” O U T H E R E .
“Medicine” is what they call it on the ayahuasca trail. What does the medicine cure? asks a bearded young traveler. Cancer, depression, black magic, says the shaman, turning a palm in a the-list-goes-on sort of way. As the believers have it, there is nothing this medicine can’t do. Overcome your diabetes, drug addiction, PTSD. Blow out the past lives that clutter the attic of your soul. Reveal the future. Facilitate communion with God, dead relatives, and elves. Disintegrate the bonds of ego and disclose the meaning of consciousness. Known to indigenous South Americans since centuries ago, ayahuasca is now having its global moment. You can find ayahuasca “ceremonies” (we do not say “trips”) from Berlin to Brooklyn and even in my little town in North Carolina, where some of the village folk are known to get astral in a tobacco barn. But those who seek an ayahuasca experience at the source flock to the medicine’s ancestral headwaters in the Amazonian jungles around Iquitos, Peru. Hawkers flog ayahuasca at the Belén Market in Iquitos and at stands along the main highway. Local backpackers’ cafés offer ayahuasca menus—bland foods for travelers on the cleanse. Ayahuasca retreat centers infest the forests here almost as densely as the ayahuasca vine itself. 104
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS PROVIDED BY JESSE PADDOCK.
The medicine is, by all accounts, no joke. Ayahuasca is to LSD or psychedelic mushrooms what pure grain alcohol is to a chardonnay spritzer. The effects can last eight hours. They include vomiting, diarrhea, severe hallucinations, extreme disorientation, and debilitating dizziness. So choose your retreat with care. There are shoals to avoid. Example: My travel companion, Jesse, and I came close to booking at another establishment until we learned that months before, during a session, one of their guests reportedly threatened another with a kitchen knife. But we could find only positive comments about Shaman Percy, by all accounts an experienced curandero (healer), whose retreat occupies an unelectrified tract of jungle an hour from Iquitos. And so here we are at the healing center—where we arrived late last night—and it feels authentic enough. There is no juice bar, no massage room, no yoga studio. Accommodations are thatched shanties without running water. Our group bathtub is a gooey bend of beige river. (Do not bathe in the compound’s retention pond; it is full of piranhas.) The air strobes with emerald hummingbirds and iridescent blue butterflies the size of dishrags. Men with large-bore shotguns patrol the grounds at all hours—whether against jaguars or bandits we are not immediately told—lending a tang of risk to the whole experience. While his cooking fire flares, the shaman explains to his visitors (11 of us) the medicine’s pharmacological basics. The stuff we’ll drink in the ceremony is a highly potent extract whose active ingredients are the ayahuasca vine and the leaves of plants called huambisa and chacruna. These latter vegetables—which Percy calls “the eyes” of his brew— contain dimethyltryptamine, or DMT, a powerful hallucinogen that is activated by chemicals in the ayahuasca vine. Percy adds the leaves and shredded vine to his gurgling boil-pot. The water takes on a rich caramel tint. To achieve full potency, the stew will go on stewing for 24 hours, reducing 60 liters of water to a single viscous liter of medicine. Percy’s distinctive recipe also calls for 12 adjunct botanicals, among these, a leaf of datura. “Datura is very toxic,” Percy says through his translator. “It can give you death.” So, why, exactly, Shaman Percy, do we need to drink something that can give us death? He does not volunteer this information, but he does offer the tip that if your house ever gets robbed, you can put datura leaves under your pillow, and the burglar’s identity will come to you in dreams. I’m thinking, Sheesh! As if that would hold up in court! But my fellow campers are all nodding like, Wow! For real? I suppose I get it. A shortish, fortyish, shirtless, round-bellied man in Crocs and gym shorts, Percy nevertheless emanates authority. Some protuberant intensity around the eyes. He could be the actor Peter Lorre’s Peruvian twin. His career in ayahuasca is extensive. His training began when he was 10 years old. The child of farmers, he grew up in a jungle village a threehour trek from the nearest road. Hiking to town on market days, Percy’s grandfather, a curandero himself, would point out various plants and their properties. Percy first drank ayahuasca at age 14. In order to, in Percy’s word, “graduate” to full shamanhood, he had to stay drunk on sugarcane moonshine for three days. His training also required him to eat lots of manioc porridge and drink both cologne and perfume. Let me restate that drinking ayahuasca is a medically serious business. It can kill people with heart problems and inflict severe damage on people with psychiatric disorders or who are using other medications. Hence the question in my mind: Am I the only one a wee bit anxious about placing my health and sanity in the hands of a practitioner whose credentials include “can drink perfume” and who believes that a pillowcase full of toxic leaves is a good way to find out who stole your stuff ?
Apparently, yes. When Percy opens the floor to questions, Will your potion kill me or make me insane? is something no one asks. Instead, my fellow guests ask things like, Is it true that curanderos have wives in the astral world? During the ceremonies, can you see our visions? And, Do psychedelic mushrooms have a spirit?” “Every plant has a spirit,” Percy replies. So when we eat vegetables, are we ingesting the spirit of the plant? The shaman looks fatigued. “No more questions,” he says.
E T I D O H A V E Q U E S T I O N S , chief among them: What are we doing here? “I want to be a better version of myself,” offers a middle-aged Irishwoman who will be staying at the center for a six-month stint, doing as many as three ceremonies a week. “I’ll either go home nice and shiny or in a straitjacket, or somewhere in between.” She has drunk ayahuasca a staggering 32 times. I ask her: Does the medicine get gentler the more you do it? The answer is no, she says, recalling a recent ceremony. “I was clearing past lives and just vomiting and vomiting and vomiting,” she says. “They said there were sounds coming out of me that weren’t even human. I was burning hot, and I had taken off all my clothes, stark naked. At the end of the ceremony, I was just laughing, laughing, I was so pleased it was over. But the vomiting: oh, my God. Well, they say the medicine doesn’t give you what you want, but she’ll give you what you need.” So what do I want from the medicine? What do I need? Why am I here? Plain old curiosity is a big part of it. I’m interested to know whether ayahuasca is in fact the magical soul tonic its adherents claim it to be. I’m also excited to see what this stuff might do for me. People I respect say that ayahuasca has liberated them from the bad habits of their own psyches, that it has made them less wrathful, more compassionate and creatively expansive. I’m guardedly optimistic that it might do the same for me. I would like to get my novel finished. I would like not to get so mad at people who stand still on airport walkways. I would like to be the most patient and loving father I can be to my infant son. It’s probably fanciful to think the medicine can smooth out my assorted wrinkles in the mere two ceremonies we’ve booked. But perhaps it’s a start.
A T 7 P . M . T H E D A Y A F T E R O U R A R R I V A L , we report to what is called the maloca. This is an octagonal wood-and-frond tabernacle whose flyingsaucerish design came to Percy in an ayahuasca vision. Inside, we are each assigned a mattress and a vomit bucket. The shaman sits on a wooden throne and tokes a roll-your-own cigar. Before him on a low table is a dusty array of shamanic goods and fetishes: plastic bottles dark with occult fluids, herbs, crystals, folk textiles, a ceremonial wooden goblet black and sticky with pungent residues. The sun sets suddenly, as though a pot lid has been slammed over the maloca. Nearby, two shotgun blasts ring out. This is to discourage the locals from plundering our shanties while we are off in the astral. A practical gesture, but one not exactly designed to soothe apprehensive nerves. One by one, we are invited to Percy’s throne to take our dose. My own trepidation is really pretty minimal. I have done LSD. I have done mushrooms, though not in about 30 years. I go to the throne. JULY/AUGUST 2017
Percy pours a dollop into the goblet and passes it to me. A quick shot, straight back. One is not prepared for such black viscosity. One is not prepared for such a very horrible flavor. It tastes like licorice and Fernet-Branca stewed in a flaming tire. One is especially not prepared for the quantity of cigar smoke Percy blows into the cup before he forks it over. I accidentally drink the smoke straight down. The immediate upshot is that my lungs stop working. I go to my mattress, belching vile vapors, making sea lion noises, and leaking at the eyes. I can’t draw breath for what feels like minutes, an inauspicious and frightening start. Moments pass. Percy sings a gentle shamanic ditty and shakes a clutch of dry leaves. Sounds of a general vomit rodeo begin resounding
through the tabernacle. I can hear my friend Jesse suffering wrenchingly into his bucket. I would like to go help Jesse out, but I am too busy lying in the fetal position awaiting the medicine’s fearsome gifts. Behind my eyelids, visions take form. Blue neon. Dark figures in silhouette. It is a familiar image. It is the cabinet artwork from the old Space Invaders arcade game. The picture shifts, assumes a rounded head, a stern mouth, and piercing blue eyes. Is that you, Jesus? No, it is . . . RoboCop. What does RoboCop want? I don’t get the chance to ask because now I am eye to eye with Batman, who playfully sprouts a platypus bill. Fair enough, subconscious, but I know what you’re up to here. I
drank some terrible goop in search of moral illumination and help with my book, a fatuity for which my brain is ridiculing me with a mindless supply of kitsch. Fine, brain. Amuse yourself. And thank you, by the way, for not making me hurl. The visions begin to shift away from anything so jolly and recognizable as Batman with a platypus bill. I am now an eyeball on the end of a very long rope, swinging through a breakneck suite of psychogeographic terrains—broken cathedrals, mountains of raw rock, the red rooms of the heart. They hurtle past too quickly to decipher, but the emotional texture of the montage is immediate and palpable: wreckage, desolation, loneliness, and ruin. I have no control over the images or the pace of their emission. This is distressing. Even more troubling: The part of my mind that makes words has broken. I cannot generate a single inner syllable of reason or consolation. Robbed of language, I feel terrifyingly stripped of whatever makes me me. Groping after something comforting and familiar, I try to summon the faces of my wife and son. This produces a painful jolt, like reaching for a lamppost from a whirling merry-goround. My neurons buckle and sprain. The drug (this is no medicine), I come to feel, is fascistic in its demand for complete obedience. Think of nothing. Do nothing. Do not move. Do not breathe. To breathe angers the drug. Do not breathe and you will be OK. Actually, you won’t. Now I am hugging the bucket, barfing like an open hydrant. In time (about six hours after taking the stuff ), the astral gears cease reeling. I can speak. What an absolute goddamn nightmare are the first words I whisper to myself. When, close to 3 a.m., we can at last sort of walk again, Jesse and I stagger from the tabernacle and compare notes. Independently, we have done the simple arithmetic and found the same answer: Explosive Nausea + Nightmarish Hallucinations = No Way Are We Doing This Again. But the following morning, the group—most of whom, judging from last night’s chorus of misery in the maloca, had just as wretched a ride as we did—effuses over what a lovely time everyone had.
“The medicine gave me so much love last night,” says a young woman from Alaska. “A lot of my experience was making a list of why I love myself.” “I was taken up by Ganesha,” says someone else. “I had waves and waves of joy going through my body.” “It was so beautiful,” says a fellow from Romania. “I was on the wings of a fly that carried the entire universe.” Someone asks me how my ceremony went. I allow that it was rather a rough ride and that I won’t be doing another. They tell me, more or less, that what I’ve misinterpreted as pointless misery was in fact a precious teaching. “You can’t have light without the darkness,” says the Romanian guy. “You can’t have rainbows without the rain,” says the Alaskan woman. In other words: Drink more crud or keep stumbling along in a delusional, bourgeois smog of general hunky-doriness. Not to be a stick-in-the-mud, but I’ve never understood that a shortage of discomfort was an existential pandemic howling for a cure. Taxes, marital friction, parenting, professional stresses, leaky roofs, global warming, the Islamic State, Donald Trump, the daily march toward the grave—all yours to fret over from the comfort of your living room. Must one really schlep to the Amazon and guzzle psychotropic tar to discover that life is not all peaches and cream? Most of what happened last night is unreconstructible, but what I remember most keenly was the joy and relief I felt when the visions subsided and the faces of my wife and child returned to me. The sensation left this admonition resounding in my head: If you take this drug again, you are sinning against your family. In this sense, ayahuasca imparted pretty vehemently the wisdom I was seeking about how to be a better dad. The lesson is this: A good father does not leave his family and journey to the Amazon in order to risk his sanity and commune with Platypus-Batman. With all the politeness I can muster, I tell the group thanks anyway, but the medicine has told me in the plainest terms not to go back for seconds. “How can you be sure it’s the medicine talking?” the Irishwoman asks. “Maybe it was ego telling you that because ego wants you to be enslaved.” I could confess that my idea of freedom is not puking into a bucket and begging for mercy from RoboCop. But I don’t. Jesse and I simply tell Shaman Percy that he can keep the money we’ve already paid him, but we’ve had all the healing we can handle. Percy is dismayed. He insists that we come to the next ceremony as planned, though we are permitted to abstain when the doses are ladled out. And so, at ceremony o’clock, we prostrate ourselves in the maloca and listen to our fellow travelers purge, pant, and hurt. When, toward midnight, a chime tolls, announcing that the ceremony is at an end, Jesse and I spring up from our mats and go skipping back to our huts, feeling fit as absolute fiddles. “It’s very beautiful, the inner peace that washes over you when you’re lying in the dark, listening to people who aren’t you going through utter hell,” I observe. “Totally worth the price of admission,” Jesse says. “I’ve never been so glad to not do something in my entire life.” Writer Wells Tower traveled to Mexico for Spin the Globe in the September/October 2016 issue of AFAR. Visual artist Ayumi Tanaka is profiled on page 22.
To watch a video of Shaman Percy explaining his process, visit afar.com/ayahuasca.
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