TRAVEL MEMORIES -- Part 1 of 4
Australia - Germany

I decided to reminisce a little and write up some highlights from trips I've taken over the years to various countries around the world.
Some of my travels were on business, but most were for pleasure.

. . . . . . . . . . . .
Australia .....Botswana .....Brazil ........Ecuador ......France ......Germany .......India ...........Italy ..........Japan ..........Kenya .......Morocco .....Namibia ..

. . . . . . . . . . . .
Nepal ....Netherlands......Peru .....South Africa ....Spain .....Switzerland ...Tanzania ....Thailand .....Uganda ..United Kingdom ..Zambia ..Zimbabwe ..

Part 1 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 2 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 3 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 4 of 4 . . .
Australia - Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . India - Namibia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nepal - Switzerland . . . . . . . . . . . Tanzania - Zimbabwe . . .

Place the cursor over any photo for a brief description. Click on the photo for an enlargement.

Posted here 4-27-09. Text and photos copyrighted by Fred Gielow

The way back home.


Arial view of Ayers Rock.  The climbing route to the top is highlighted.  Photo from the Internet: Although I enjoyed spending several days in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, and Brisbane, the highlight of my two visits to Australia was an all-day trip to Ayers Rock, located about 200 miles from Alice Springs in the center of the country.

It's easy at the start of the climb.  Photo by FG. This chain is a big help in both ascending and descending.  Photo by FG. Some sections are pretty steep.  Photo by FG. The world-renowned sandstone formation is over 1100 feet high and a little less than six miles in circumference. At one spot along the base, a chain railing has been installed where visitors may climb to the top. It's not a walk in the park. It's a bit of a challenge. The rock is sometimes steep, sometimes slippery, and occasionally a little dangerous, particularly if you have a cumbersome camera you're holding onto with one hand.

My climb was exhilarating and the view from the top: remarkable.

Atop my camel, I'm ready for the trek.  Photo by a guide. Several people have lost their lives climbing Ayers Rock.  Photo by FG. I spent maybe 45 minutes at the top before descending.  Photo by FG. Oh, I almost forgot my camel ride. That certainly was fun. It was a several-hour trek across the barren outback. There were maybe a dozen of us gliding along in single file.

Probably most memorable were the flies. They were everywhere. There's nothing for miles in the outback except red dirt, scrub, and rocks. Yet, from out of nowhere they attacked, buzzing around my head (and everyone else's) and causing no end of aggravation.

It was then I understood why Australians wear those hats with corks on little strings along the brim. It's to chase away the flies!

The camel-back experience was great.


Those trunks are heavy!  Photo by Douglas Alan Groves. My in-the-bush luncheon companions were my brother, Jim (left), and a very large elephant.  Photo by Douglas Alan Groves. I’ve been to Botswana a couple of times, stayed at maybe a half-dozen camps, and had numerous thrilling experiences: mokoro rides, amazing lion sightings, and real up-close animal encounters. But clearly the highlight was the "Living with Elephants" morning my brother (Jim) and I spent with Douglas Alan Groves, who calls himself an "elephant guardian." He has worked for years with three elephants -- Marula, Jabu, and Thembi -- and has trained them to obey perhaps 75 commands. We had an intimate nose-to-trunk meeting with these amazing animals. We each touched their skin, tried to put our arms around an elephant's leg, examined closely their tusks, saw inside their mouths, and even led them along by holding out our hand while an elephant rested its trunk gently on the palm. What an absolute delight!

One of the elephants was taught to pluck a hat right off of your head and place it on its own head!  Photo by FG. One of the elephants was taught to pluck a hat right off of your head and place it on its own head!  Photo by FG. A look inside an elephant's mouth.  Photo by FG. The elephant's trunk is in my hand!  Photo by FG. Around mid-day we were led to a wooded section where a sumptuous feast has been prepared for us, laid out in buffet style. We filled our plates, sat down, and ate, as the elephants enjoyed their own meals just a few yards away. After that it was photo time. These pictures bring back wonderful memories of our special moments with Marula, Jabu, and Thembi!


The Santana III.  Photo by FG. A beautiful sunset over the Negro River.  Photo by brother Jim. The Amazon River basin is amazing. It's the largest river in the world by volume. It's total river flow is greater than the next eight largest rivers combined, and it accounts for about one fifth of the flow of all the world's rivers.

Three highlights come to mind when I think of the trip my brother (Jim) and I took there in 2001. First was our several-day cruise on the yacht Santana III. It was outstanding. We each had our own "stateroom," but it wasn't much bigger than a closet. But it didn't matter. We were cruising the Negro River (an Amazon tributary) on a beautiful, nearly-brand-new yacht! Yippee!

It was magical traveling along some of the streams and tiny waterways feeding the Negro.  Photo by brother Jim. Second was our excursions on a small boat into the marshes and tiny waterways along the Negro. It was like a dreamland. Reflections from the mirror-like water gave the illusion we were floating in mid-air. What we saw above us was identical to what we saw below us. Very eerie, but wonderful! Unforgettable!

Third was the ant encounter. Our guide navigated our little boat directly underneath an enormous black nest of ants, so we could get a good look at all the activity going on. It was fascinating to watch the tiny critters. They were dashing around in every direction. But as luck would have it, the boat must have nudged the branch supporting the nest, because it came tumbling down on us, hitting me in the head, then landing on the seat, and immediately ants were everywhere. And I do mean everywhere!

The nest was immediately thrown overboard, but several gazillion of its creepy-crawly occupants remained on board. And they weren't happy. And neither were we!

Hurriedly, our boat was driven to a nearby dock, where we jumped out, then did wild and imaginative dances trying to get the pests off us. Ants were crawling all over us: on our arms and legs, our heads, inside our clothing. Our guide shouted to us, "Don't worry, they won't bite."

This is the life!  This photo of me was taken on one of our last days on the Negro.  Photo by brother Jim. Nearly instantaneously, I yelped. "Ouch! One bit me! Ouch! Another! Ouch! Ouch! OUCH!"

It was hilarious! We were laughing and jumping, and swatting, and shaking. And we continued our little exhibition for maybe 15 minutes. It must have been a riot to watch.

Finally, when the boat and we were pretty much ant free, our party concluded its lively demonstration and headed back to the yacht. I've always wondered how the owner of that dock felt about the incident. All the ants we left behind became his problem.


Boats ferried us back and forth between land and the Bucanero.  Photo by FG. The 'Bucanero.'  Photo by FG. In 1988, my son, Tim, and I took a trip to the Galapagos. We flew to Guayaquil, looked around for a day or two, then flew to the islands, boarded our ship, the "Bucanero," and cruised around for several more days, making occasional stops to go ashore and see the sights. It was great!

The wildlife was very strange: ugly-looking iguanas, lots of unusual birds, and sea lions! One lady got a little too close to a sun-bathing sea lion and it nipped her. It actually drew blood.

Perhaps the highlight was of our trip was a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station to see the giant tortoises. They were assembled together on a specially-constructed rock platform and were being fed lettuce, if I recall correctly. They are amazing animals.

Tim (left) watches the tortoises.   Photo by FG. Watch out for the sea lions.  Photo by FG. This was an easy landing.  Sometimes the landings weren't so easy.  Photo by FG. Handsome little devil, isn't he?  Photo by FG. The Frigatebird displaying.  Photo by FG. One thing I wasn't so crazy about was all the restrictions. Don't step off the narrow path. Everybody keep together. Don't pick up anything. Don't touch the rock platform. I felt a little too herded.


Notre Dam.  Photo by FG. Cook's Tour in Paris. I've probably spent more than 30 days in France, as a result of perhaps a half dozen trips there, with most of that time in Paris. My first visit was part of a Cook's Tour when I was just 20 years old. That's a long time ago. As fate would have it, I was the only guy (besides the tour guide) in the group.

Paris was a thrill. I loved seeing the sights: Notre Dam, bookstalls along the Seine, the Eifel Tower, the Arc de Triumph, Sacré Coeur, the Champs-Elysées, the Louvre, the endless parks, impressive fountains, and countless charming streets. I timed my first visit so I could attend a YMCA conference conducted from August 12th to the 23rd.

The Eifle Tower's shadow edges across the Seine.  Photo by FG.
Sacré Coeur.  Photo by FG. The Arch de Triumph.  Photo by FG.

Cars line up for a traffic light on the Champs-Elysées.  Photo by FG. Mona Lisa at the Louvre.  Photo by FG. The Lycee Sasint Louis, site of the YMCA conference.  Photo by FG.


Crosses and memorials by the Berlin Wall.  Photo from the Internet: The Berlin Wall.  Photo from the Internet: On a business trip to Germany in March 1990, I found myself in West Berlin. As I recall, I got there Saturday afternoon and decided to walk around outside the hotel for a little exercise. A few blocks away I came upon a high and imposing wall. Slowly, I began to realize it was the Berlin Wall, which, after standing for some 28 years, and having become the most visible symbol of the Cold War, had fallen just four months before. The wall was still largely intact.

As I walked along beside it, I thought of the East Berliners who had risked everything to get to the West. Their hope of freedom was so great. Many attempted the 110-yard dash through mine fields and rifle fire to escape Soviet tyranny. More than 200 never reached their destination, and I found crosses, flowers, and memorials not too far from the Brandenburg Gate.

The scene was bizarre. Some of the huge concrete wall sections had been toppled over. Yet, many were still in place, and working on them was a small army mostly of kids, chipping and pounding on the wall with a variety of picks and hammers. Many seemed to be souvenir hunters, but others were collecting pieces large and small for sale to tourists who came to see the wall and contemplate its meaning.

I decided to buy a few chips myself, but then decided I, too, needed to pound on the wall. I borrowed a hammer and started whacking away. The wall was unyielding and I was able to dislodge only sand-sized particles. I beat at it for some time, harder and harder, finally dislodging a few fragments. It was an emotional experience: partaking in the process of removing this insult to freedom.

'Checkpoint Charlie' at the Berlin Wall.  Photo from the Internet: The next day, Sunday, I returned to the wall. This time I found Checkpoint Charlie, located at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße. A long line of people had formed there. They were waiting to cross over into East Berlin to spend an afternoon there. I decided to join them.

I wasn't in line for more than 15 minutes or so before I spotted two people I recognized: Betty Hauser and Jack Sauer. Both were in Berlin to attend the same meeting I was to attend the following day, and they were a dozen or so people ahead of me in line. We joined forces and spent an amazing couple of hours walking the streets of East Berlin, visiting a museum or two, buying some drinks and a few treats, and discussing the amazing transformation Germany was witnessing.

I still have those pieces of the Berlin Wall. I mounted them on a felt-covered board and framed them. They're displayed on a bookcase shelf in my bedroom.

Part 1 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 2 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 3 of 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Part 4 of 4 . . .
Australia - Germany . . . . . . . . . . . . . . India - Namibia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nepal - Switzerland . . . . . . . . . . . Tanzania - Zimbabwe . . .
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The way back home.