Archive for the 'Travel' Category

The Broken Circle. A memoir of escaping Afghanistan. Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller

The Broken Circle. A memoir of escaping Afghanistan. Enjeela Ahmadi-Miller. 2019. ISBN 139781503903784.  The author was a small child when part of her wealthy family left Kabul for Delhi. She stayed behind with her brothers, two sisters and her father. She lived through the Russian invasion and war. She and her siblings fled Kabul with a guide and travelled ( walked, trekked) for two years to get through to Pakistan (over the Hindu Kush)  where they were reunited with their father.  Passportless they travelled to Bangladesh, Nepal and eventually India running the gauntlet of border patrols and security services. Eventually, they reunited with the whole family in New Delhi.  From there they would travel to America.  The story is told simply through the eyes of a child, but it is a dramatic portrayal of the life of refugees and the grinding poverty of the hill tribes in Afghanistan.  Well worth the read.

 

Iran: Make Love Not War. Mary Jane Walker.

Iran: Make Love Not War. Mary Jane Walker. 2019 ISBN 978047349160.  A concise and breezy trip through modern Iran.  The author is quite the adventure hound in the nothing ventured , nothing gained style.  She traveled mostly alone and met many helpful Iranians along the way. She has an eye for art and architecture and seems able to talk to pretty well anyone.  Her colour photos are worth the book. After reading this travelogue you will come away with a sense as to what the average Iranian thinks. As well, she finds that the locals are quite unlike and detached from the Muslim leaders, leaders who appear paranoid at being overthrown like they did to the Shah.  Locals are just folks getting by and apart from fearing for their future, you would feel quite at home with them.  This is also a short history lessons on Persia and Persian kings. The descriptions of the cities and architecture is also well done.  Your heart goes out to the mismanagement of water and top level corruption which imposes hardship on the locals.

Finite and Infinite Games. A vision of life as play and possibility. James P. Carse.

Finite and Infinite Games. A vision of life as play and possibility. James P. Carse. 2012. ISBN 9780029059807.   A seminal book on the subject, (Game theory)  which has became quite topical in the technology world with speakers such as Simon Sinek.  This is a deceptively thin book that will warrant several rereads to tease out the ideas Carse puts forward.  I would very often find myself lost in the ideas and then the author would hit me with a particularly resonating section. This would be sufficient to push me into the next few sections.  I found the first few sections challenging and then it caught in the dialectal discussion. Like the Phenomena of Man by DeCardin, this can be a mind changing book, full of life lessons.

Panama. The Country Beyond the Canal by Amanda Nordman

Beyond the Canal

by Amanda Nordman

 

Due to the political situation in Panama in 2005, we were discouraged from visiting Panama City during our Panama cruise. It has taken us 14 years and many discussions with various friends to finally make this trek.  The cruise lines are still telling passengers to skip Panama. How wrong they are! 

 

We spent the first four days upon our arrival exploring the highlights of Panama City. Our hotel, the Tryp Wyndham is situated in the El Cangrejo district central to the metro (subway), therefore nothing ventured, nothing gained, we headed down to the subway station and figured out the system. With two  ($2()etro cards in hand and a cost of 35 cents to travel to any corner of the city, we set of to explore this bustling city. It was hot, humid, with very little shady areas and no respite from the heat. We were sweating buckets but noticed that the Panamanians looked as cool as cucumbers! The locals were dressed in long pants, jeans, long sleeves, some with hoodies while the gringos wore shorts and T’s – something wrong this picture!

 

 El Cangrejo

The first day was spent getting our bearings and exploring the area. El Cangrejo or ‘The Crab’ founded in the 1950s, was the first Jewish quarter and was once exclusive. Now it’s known for its vibrant nightlife, with hip bars, laid-back brewpubs, casinos and mercados, many clustered around Via Argentina. We took a walk along Via Argentina which was getting a facelift at this time – widening sidewalks, underground cables, etc. It should look great when finished. Via Argentina is Panama City’s restaurant row with dining spots serving Cuban, Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, Mexican, Peruvian, Spanish, and Venezuelan cuisines.  Sampled some great churros at a cafe along this street. 

Mercado de Mariscos 

Three subway stops to Cinco de Mayo and a short walk, dodging crazy traffic took us to the city fish market. There are two parts to this market. The market proper, where you can buy freshly caught seafood fresh off the fishing boats you see in the bay. The other part of the market is where the restaurants are, where the freshly caught seafood is served up for your dining pleasure. They are not fancy joints, just sectioned off counters with tables and plastic outdoor seating under a canopy, more like Istanbul’s Karakoy Waterfront and San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The local specialty is ceviche, served in cups, where the raw fish is “cooked” in citrus juices. Not impressed with the ceviche at all, it was tough and too citrusy, Costa Rica and Mexico has far better ceviche. The seafood was certainly fresh but unfortunately they tend to deep fry the fish, plantains and everything else. On Wednesdays they have an open air farm market with tons of fruit and vegetables for next to nothing. 

From here it is an easy walk to Casco Veijo, the Old Quarter. 

Casco Veijo 

Also known as Casco Antiguo or San Felipe, is the historic district of Panama City, established around 1673 by Spanish colonists, the Catholic Church and other settlers. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. The narrow cobblestoned streets are filled with 16th & 17th century Spanish Colonial buildings that served as homes, cathedrals, churches and government buildings. There is the Presidential Palace, the plazas of Casco ViejoPlaza de Catedral, Plaza Bolivar, Plaza de Francis, Plaza Herrera . Some of the buildings have been painstakingly restored and now house museums, gourmet restaurants, quaint shops and upscale residences. There is a sharp contrast between old and new. Some buildings stand in disrepair or complete ruin and the homes of poor families juxtaposed next door with a remodeled, exclusive property.  At the Plaza de Francia is the Las Bovedas Monument which are vaults or dungeons that originally formed part of the fortification wall around the Old City. Above the monument is a promenade that runs along the top of the sea wall with great views of the bay and Panama City`s skyline. You then come to a vine and bougainvillea covered esplanade known as Paseo de Las Bovedas where the indigenous Kuna Yala women set up stalls here to sell their unique handicrafts called Molas. This hand made, colourful textile forms part of the traditional women’s clothing. They also adorn they arms and legs with beads. When you walk a bit further down the walkway you get a view of the Bridge of the Americas and the ships waiting to pass beneath it to enter the Panama Canal. Casco Veijo is of course the city’s hottest district where the “hip and trendy” gather after dark in jazz clubs, rooftop bars, etc. and where everything is twice the price. 

Miraflores 

We just had to visit the Miraflores locks which brought back memories of our canal cruise in 2005. Five subway stops took us to Albrook Mall, not a particularly attractive mall but it’s the largest shopping mall in Latin America, with a massive bus terminal. Every city in the interior of the country and within the City of Panama is connected by a network of bus stations, the prices range from 25¢ to $18.25. After much hand pointing and with our limited Spanish we finally managed to get on the right bus for a 20 minute, 25¢ bus ride from there to the Visitor Centre. This Center is made up of four exhibition halls; it covers the history, function, international importance, and the biodiversity of a man-made waterway, namely the Panama Canal, linking the Caribbean to the Pacific. It also showed the building of the third canal. The building has three levels for observing the Canal’s operation, the passage of ships through the locks and how they move. Unfortunately we were a little late getting there and just missed the 10:00 am ship transiting the canal. The next ship was scheduled for 2:00 pm, we debated but decided there were too many other areas to cover. 

Ancon Hill 

At the foot of Ancon Hill is Mi Pueblito, a mock village depicting three Panamanian cultures: Afro-Caribbean, the interior region, and indigenous groups. At the main entrance is a colonial Spanish hacienda-style building. The climb up Ancon Hill up takes about 30 minutes. The incline is quite steep but it is gradual and on a paved road. Through the thick jungle, you will see glimpses of the city along the way up. At the top there are two viewing platforms with great views back across the city center and the ocean. Another viewpoint gives you views of the new Panama Canal. 

Amador Causeway 

The Amador Causeway was once just a strip of tarmac used to link the capital to the small islands of Naos, Perico and Flamenco, now it’s a 6km-long stretch of road which extends into the Pacific Ocean at the point where the Panama Canal meets the sea. This beautiful new causeway was built using soil excavated during the canal’s construction. Today it is popular with walkers and cyclists. It also boasts beautiful views of the city and is the best vantage point for watching the large container ships enter and exit the canal. 

Biomuseo

The Causeway also leads to the Biomuseo. This brightly coloured, world class museum designed by Frank Gehry (he also designed the Gugenheim Museum in Spain) is an introduction to Panama’s genetic, ecological and biological bounty. It tells the story of the natural history of Panama, of how the isthmus of Panama rose from the sea uniting two continents, separating a vast ocean in two and changing the planet’s biodiversity. The story of humans in the isthmus since their first arrival up until the present. Also in one corner, 97 animals are suspended representing the cross-migration that took place once the isthmus of Panama rose from the deep to create a land bridge between North and South America some 3 million years ago. The Biodiversity Park beside the museum is a living extension of the museum’s architecture and exhibits, it features endemic and native plants. 

From the Museum we decided to rent this silly canopied pedal cart for two to complete our exploration of the causeway – walking was definitely out of the questions, we wouldn’t have survived the blazing sun. We made the 5 km to Isla Perico for lunch. From here you face the canal’s Pacific entrance and you can watch the ships passing. 

We had an early morning start on day 5 for the next part of our journey. It was back to the Albrook Mall for 2 bus tickets to David. The kindly ticket lady gave us the best seat on the bus, a double-decker and right up front with full view of the road ahead. The buses are comfortable with reclining seats and movies, of course they only played all the Marvel action-packed movies! It was a 7 hour journey – the only drawback, but the price was right at $18.20 per person versus airfares costing $500 for 2. The little discomfort was worth it! A 1 hour stop in Santiago gave us some respite for a bathroom break and a meal. The choices for meals were well overcooked fried chicken (definitely not KFC style), a couple of varieties of stewed meats, rice and a limited choice of salads. Oh, to be in Turkey again where they served great truck-stop meals. 

David 

We arrive David, the capital of Chiriqui at around 2:00 pm. The second largest city in Panama, with a population of over 145,000, it feels like an overgrown country town – not pretty at all. We pick up our rental car and head for Cerro Punta which is about 71 km (a little over an hour’s drive). We weave our way through nightmarish traffic with our GPS set for the Pan America Highway to Cerro Punta. One thing we did not know about driving around the country side is the number of police checkpoints, sometimes they will smile and signal you to proceed, other times they will check your ID. So we merrily watch the arrow on our GPS as we take in the country side, until we come to a check-stop. The officer looks at our passport, then asks if we enjoyed Panama. With a puzzled look on our faces we say, “Yes, we’re from Vancouver, Canada and am enjoying the warmth!”. We must look like respectable tourists so they wave us through. As we drive along, something just doesn’t look right, there seems to be chaos everywhere. There are tractor-trailer trucks lined up and lots of vehicles parked haphazardly everywhere. The area is extremely busy, with lots of shops, people waiting around and others trying to sell things. We check the GPS again and it dawns on us that the device has led us astray, the road seems to have veered off into an unknown direction. We realize we just crossed the border into Costa Rica, a half hour from the turn off for La Concepción!  Sign, what sign – signs are not prolific in the whole of Panama! Back we go and finally locate the correct turn off. 

Volcán 

We reach Volcán around 5:00 pm and get our first glimpse of the beautiful Volcán Baru, an active volcano and the tallest mountain in Panama at 3,475m. The town of Volcán sits on an old lava flow from Volcán Baru. With a population of just over 12,000, this is a quiet, sleepy little place, the town’s commercial district is about 10 blocks longDue to its rich volcanic soil Volcán is deemed the “breadbasket of Panama” producing most of the countries vegetables such as onions, potatoes, carrots, and more. In addition, most of the flowers and bouquets enjoyed by Panamanians all over the country, some are shipped overseas are grown in Volcán. It’s cool year-round climate and altitude allows many species of plants, trees and flowers to flourish here that you won’t find in other parts of Panama. 

After a quick consult on Mr. Google we chose La Carbonera for a quick meal. This restaurant came with excellent reviews and lived up to its name. After having mediocre to bad food in Panama City this was a real treat. Their 18” calzone was amazing and the fillet of pork, perfectly done. The whole meal with beer cost us a mere $24.00. With happy tummies we head off to Cerro Punta for our 3 day stay at Orilla del Rio.

Cerro Punta 

We found Orilla del Rio through Airbnb, an excellent find. Our host Gudrun (Canadian expat) was patiently awaiting our arrival. Located in the middle of an agricultural valley, it was a quiet retreat with great views of the surrounding mountains, a bubbling brook at the rear of the property and a beautiful garden buzzing with different varieties of birds and humming birds. Gudrun was a wonderful host providing us with more information about life in Panama than we could take in. She is also a yoga instructor and does shiatsu, qigong and other healing therapies. Her breakfasts were scrumptious, healthy, consisting of fresh fruit smoothies, fresh fruit, tasty omelettes with her homemade yoghurt, jams, bread and 2 coconut cookies to take with us on our hikes. Breakfast was served on the patio while basking in the early morning sun with views of the mountains – what else could one ask for! In the evening we would light up the outdoor stone fireplace and enjoy our dinner in front of it. We spent one evening with Marta & Antonio from Spain, cuddling up to the fire and enjoying an interesting conversation about their backpack travel through Costa Rica & Panama. 

Cerro Punta is the highest inhabited area of Panama, located on the west side of Volcán Baru at an altitude of 2,000 m above sea level. It is a picturesque town with sprawling fields and horse ranches and a nature lover’s paradise. This bowl shaped highland valley is also known as the green basket or food basket of Panama because every available meter of land on the steep slopes is dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables, supplying between 80% to 90% of all the country’s garden produce. A mist, which locals call bajareque, often engulfs the valley, then retreats back to the mountaintops. This leads to frequent, fleeting rain showers that keeps the valley green year-round. 

About a five minute walk up the road sits the little village of Guadalupe at an elevation of 2300 m above sea level. Guadalupe is at the end of the road where friendly Guaymi Indians reside. The downtown is only one block full of plant shops, produce shops, handicraft shops and little restaurants. The weekend market is buzzing with people, locals and tourists checking out the souvenir stands, vegetable and fruit stands, standing in line to sample chorizos on sticks, brochettes, etc.

 

While in Cerro Punta, Gudrun suggested we visit the following places: 

La Amistad 

Parque Internacional La Amistad lies about 5 km away. This international park, about half of which spills into Costa Rica is spread along the Talamancan mountain range.  The cool, humid cloud forests of this region offers access to some of the most diverse plant and animal life in Panama. Nearly 600 species of birds live within the park, as well as animals such as ocelots, jaguars, and pumas. There are trails leading through the forest that gives way to vast vistas, bamboo tunnels, and a cascading waterfall. 

Finca Dracula 

Located in the little village of Guadalupe, this orchid farm contains about 2,500 species of orchids. We took a guided walk through the nursery with a very knowledgeable guide who led us through the different species of orchids and their many different scents and shapes they have evolved in order to attract different pollinators. The site’s altitude places it in a unique position in a cloud forest that can host several species of orchids found nowhere else in the world. Their famous orchid is the Dracula and like its famous counterpart, sleeps during the day and opens up after dark. In addition to the orchid greenhouse, the 22 acres hosts beautiful gardens, a lake framed by tall palm trees and broad-leaved water plants, a waterfall, and many beautiful local species of plants and trees. 

Sitio Barriles

This is a very interesting archaeological site located near the town of Volcán. It has artifacts from 300-900 AD and is named for the barrel shaped object which was the first artifact found here. The site is on a private farm, the owners being custodians of the site. I swear the owners had about 101 Dalmatians. Unfortunately, after having to wait for well over an hour for lunch at the Black Mountain Cafe and finally walking out in disgust, we headed back to the Volcán Cafe (which we should have done in the first place), where they serve a delicious Caprese Salad. By the time we got to Sitio Barriles the heavy rains were starting thus making it impossible to view the complete site but managed to see some of the artifacts. The house and grounds are surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers and many birds.

Janson Coffee Farm

Gudrun managed to get us a private tour of Janson Coffee Farm located near the town of Volcán. The owner, Lief Janson met us and took us through the growing process. The farm is located at an altitude of 1300 to 1700 m, it is a family owned and operated farm producing award winning coffee. The Jansons focus on specialty grade Arabica beans and also produce the famous Geisha coffee which sells for $50-$500 per lb. In 2013 Janson Geisha coffee won second prize in the annual Best of Panama Coffee Competition. Janson Coffee Farm’s micro climate provides the perfect conditions for growing this high quality coffee. He then took us through a tasting of the Janson Family Coffee, Red & Green brand, the Geisha Brand and Tea made from coffee husks, on the veranda of their coffee shop with a stunning view of the estate and mountains. No doubt we brought some samples home. 

We say goodbye to Gudrun and head off the Boquete. 

Boquete 

The small town of Boquete, lies in a lush valley and surrounded by mountains. It is almost 2000 m above sea level and has a cool climate. It has become one of the top spots for expats to retire in and a destination for nature and outdoor lovers with umpteen hiking trails, waterfalls, hot springs, flora, fauna and exotic birds, white-water rafting, zip-lining, etc. If one is lucky enough, a hike up Volcán Baru (the highest point in Panama at 3,475 m), is rewarded with stunning views that stretch to both the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts. But, Volcán Baru is shrouded in cloud most of the time. The downtown is composed of an assortment of shops, eateries, cafés, and parks. The surrounding countryside hosts an assortment of coffee farms, parks, wildlife sanctuaries. Boquete didn’t inspire us in any way, we found the town somewhat messy, disorganized with far too many expats buzzing around, prices rather steep, plus it rained heavily in the afternoons making the place rather damp and drear. 

Reg took one hiking tour called the Hanging Bridges Tour where you cross 6 suspension bridges ranging from 70 – 135 m long and reach heights from 10-75 m. He did not see any exotic birds only a few native flowers, a waterfall and a few rivers. On the whole, rather disappointing. A day and a half stay in Boquete was more than sufficient. On Gudrun`s recommendation, she was correct when she said that we would not like Boquete, we then headed off to Las Lajas for some much needed warmth

We hit a heavy rain storm on our way out of Boquete, eased off when we hit David and picked up again as we neared Playa Las Lajas and the resort, after that it was sun, sun, sun. Playa Las Lajas is set along Panama`s Pacific coast and one of the most popular beaches in the area. The beach sand is gray, vehicles are allowed along this 12 km long beach (one of the longest beaches in Panama), the water about 27C with surf ideal for body boarding and fishing. When the tide is out, there is about a hundred yards of sand, when it’s in, the water is about waste deep for a hundred yards. Our destination is the Show Pony Resort. On the way to this resort we pass the small quaint village of Las Lajas with its small subdivision of houses, schools, cattle ranches; a number of small restaurants, grocery stores, where you can stock up on food and beer. The road to the resort is very rough, a 4-wheel drive would be advisable but the reward at the end was worth the trip. The small resort is owned by Canadians and situated in a very peaceful location. We had a beautiful, large one-bedroom apartment, complete kitchen, full bathroom and an outdoor honeymoon shower, for US$80 per night, breakfast included. Both the bar and pool were about 10 steps from each apartment doorway There are only 8 of these apartments plus one 4-bedroom suite. At the back of the resort is an eco area and mangrove estuary. The ocean enters through the mangroves inside the coast for more than 10 km, making a peaceful place to relax and watch the wildlife. We had the beach all to ourselves and especially the lagoon where the surf was really gentle. Also did some kayaking and a hike to see Mesoamerican petroglyphsThe owners have a rescue center for birds, and care for them until they are ready to be released into the wild. We enjoyed playing with 2 rescued toucans, such beautiful, colourful, gentle birds. We parked ourselves there for 6 days and enjoyed the tranquility of our surroundings. Got to know a very nice lad from France who was traveling through Costa Rica & South America on his motorbike. 

Then it was back to David to return our rental car and catch the bus back to Panama City. This bus trip however was not quite as comfortable as the previous, we were held up for about an hour due to some demonstration along the route and were bushed by the time we hit Panama City. Our stay here is at the Occidental Barceló in the Obarrio District which is the city`s financial district. As El Cangrejo is just across Via Espana, the main thoroughfare from Obarrio we were able to visit some of our old haunts plus enjoy a new range of restaurants in Obarrio. As we were quite tired after the long bus trip the day before, we spent the last day in Panama City revisiting Mercado de Mariscos for a seafood feast as well as Casco Veijo. 

Summary 

Panama does very little to advertise all the things that are offered there. It appears to be a reasonable place for expats to retire to, very affordable, good food available for purchase is you`re willing do your own cooking. Restaurant quality is mediocre unless you`re willing to pay a very high price. They seem to overcook meats and seafood. The locals are invariably friendly, interesting and happy. The economy appears to be on the upswing with locals reasonably prosperous. It suffers with the same corruption at the high level as any of the Latin & South American countries. Using the American dollar makes it easy to manage your way financially. Driving to the most part is very easy on highways but not in the bigger cities. Unlikely that we will return to Panama.

Jake Needham books. Samuel Tay and Jack Shepherd series

Jake Needham books. Samuel Tay and Jack Shepherd.  Needham writes about crime in Asia . Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Macau.  Samuel Tay is a steady Hong King detective who like DCI Banks in England may be thought to be long in the tooth, but his doggedness and human appeal gets him to solve the nasty crimes that others can’t.  Jack Shepherd is lawyer/fixer who seems to get mixed up with less than sterling clients despite his reluctance to stay law abiding.  Both  series are replete with curious characters, numerous bad guys and sleazy neighbourhoods. However the author keeps the plots rolling and ensures that the readers interest remains high.  Recommended if you wish a change form US or British based detective stories. Needham is good with his location descriptions and will take you on a bit of a travel guide to Asia.

Quick trip to the Republic of Ireland. Oct 22.2018

Quick trip to the Republic of Ireland. Oct 22. 2018. This was a pleasant and very enjoyable tour of parts of Ireland.  The weather was fantastic – blue skies and warm.

A complete trip description is on my wife’s blog . This is my short form.

Dublin was a hoot and we would like more time there. 

We went to Galway – which is the cultural center of Ireland – lots of music in the streets .

Great lunch in a cozy pub!

Then to the Coast – the cliffs of Moher .  We followed the WAW. Wild Atlantic Way – Highly recommend it

Limerick – which is cool and included a Medieval concert/banquet in a castle!

Quick stop in Adare. Very pretty 

Then off to Kerry . The Ring of Kerry is a do not miss  drive)   Great lunch with a view

 

Lovely country

 

Next Killarney.  

This is a pretty town – which for us includes a jaunty ride with great tales from our driver.

And another castle

Had to stop at Blarney – I was struck dumb after the stone kiss. My wife did not see much improvement however.

.

Waterford ( remember the crystal? ) was next – Needed deep pockets for this stuff.

Much happier.

 

Last stop in Ireland – Tramore

which included a song and drinks at Aggies pub, (300 year old mudwalled)

Great singer Richie Roberts

Local brew Beamish – like Guiness.

Then catch the ferry to Wales from Rosslare, Irish Ferries is surprisingly good – good food too!

We ended up in Cardiff– which is very scenic, compared to the devastation of Western Wales from English industrialization. 

Liked Cardiff castle. 

 

That evening a Welsh dinner and concert at the Millenium Hall. Fantastic.

 

Next day Bath my maternal  grandfather’s home. I have always liked this town.

Roman Baths

Georgian terraces

Of course Stonehenge – with its hordes of tourists – still pretty neat.

One of the pesky tourists spoiling the shot.

And we end up on London.  Whether we are there for a few days, a week or longer,  we just can not get enough of London. The Brits do tradition so well.

That evening we had a Thames cruise- recommend it

 

Lots of poking around still to do.

You do not go on this tour  for the cuisine.  If you seek out the fresh fish special (not deep fried) its usually superb. The full Irish breakfast can get tedious.  The Irish are so friendly, social and hospitable that it makes the trip. The Guinness is always fresh – damn fine. The country views are outstanding, and the cities are so walk-able and interesting.  If you have not been – bucket list item for sure.

 

 

 

Nemesis. One man and the battle for Rio. Misha Glenny.

Nemesis. One man and the battle for Rio. Misha Glenny. 2015. ISBN 9781448181575. A sympathetic story about one man’s journey from working family man to eventually become head of one of the largest criminal favella syndicates in Rio. You read about the crushing poverty of the favella residents, the smothering corruption of the Brazilian public sector and the harsh justice dealt out by the warring criminal gangs/police. Contrast that with the very few criminal Dons like Nem who see their role as protectors of the poor, when the state does nothing. Its a strong light shone on Rio’s dark underbelly that its politicians just hope would go away.

Travels. Michael Crichton.

English: American author and speaker Michael C...

Travels. Michael Crichton. 1988. The author of many famous science related thrillers and movies like Jurassic Park, Crichton pens a concise story behind his life. He  covers his time as a medicals student and why he quite after getting his degree.  It certainly seems that he  was a very efficient writer, publishing The Andromeda Strain while still in med school ! He  details his background  and physical and mental journeys through many different experiences.  I was surprised at his dedication to research, his eclectic interests and playful nature toward everything ( Ie a very open mind) .  A real bonus is the appended speech he was to give at Cal Tech on Science and Mysticism. It is a very coherent analysis which presents the material in an open fashion and is well worth the read.

South! The story of Shackeltons last expedition 1914-1917. Sir Earnest Shackelton

Flag of South Georgia and the South Sandwich I...

South! The story of Shackeltons last expedition 1914-1917. Sir Earnest Shackelton.

I have read parts of this book, watched a few documentaries,  heard lectures on Shackelton and seen many of the points of land he talks about while cruising the Antarctic. Yet the book still takes you well beyond all that. It is an inspiring story about will, leadership, skill and perseverance that would resonate with many of today’s leaders.  This issue includes the three parts of the voyage; the trapping of the Endurance and Shackelton’s heroic seamanship and struggles to  get to South Georgia in a very small sailboat and the rescue of the men on Elephant Island, the men left ashore when the Aurora is cast adrift and their work/travails at establishing supply depots across the shelf, and the voyage and rescue of the Aurora and its crew. Plus the appendices contain records of the meteorologic , geological and ice studies carried a out as well as a good analysis of the whaling activities in the areas.  Through it all the author maintains a laconic, non boastful accomplished style, sadly lacking in much of today’s self aggrandizing press.  I highly recommend this book.

The Sky Below. A true story of summits, space, and speed. Scott Parazynski cw Susan Flory

English: STS-120 mission specialist Scott Para...

The Sky Below. Scott Parazynski cw Susan Flory.  2017.   The author is a medical doctor, mountaineer, astronaut and free diver.  He grew up living around the world and became very adaptable. His life story is thrilling, historic, and encouraging.  Its also an easy read. There are similarities to books written by other mountaineers, who are also driven black and white people.   A good four hour flight book.