Category Archives: back packing

Postcard From The USA – Lake Powell and The Glen Canyon Dam

Lake Powell Post card

Lake Powell is a man-made reservoir on the Colorado River on the border between Utah and Arizona and is the second largest man made reservoir in the United States after Lake Mead, it stores thirty cubic kilometres of water when full.  It was created by the flooding of Glen Canyon by the construction of the controversial Glen Canyon Dam, which also led to the creation of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area which is a popular summer destination for tourists.

The reservoir is named after the explorer John Wesley Powell who explored the full length of the river in three small wooden boats in 1869.

Construction of the dam started in June 1960 and the last bucket of concrete was poured and smoothed over in September 1963.  Over four million cubic metres of cement were used to create  the dam which is two hundred and sixteen metres  high and cost a hundred and fifty five million dollars and eighteen lives to build, which was a lot less than the one hundred and four deaths that were caused by the construction of the Hoover Dam further down river thirty years earlier.

Glen Canyon Dam Postcard 02

The dam has always been controversial, many opposed its construction in the first place, some associated with the decision to build it now think that it was a mistake because it has spoilt the environment and the Glen Canyon Institute is an organisation which even today continues to advocate for decommissioning.

We visited the dam and walked from the visitor centre to the other side of the gorge and then we took the elevator down inside the dam to view the hyro-electric generators.

Back on top the sun was coming out now and we took the short journey into the town of Page for lunch.   Page is a new town that was created in 1957 to house workers and their families during the construction of dam and the site was obtained by the government in a land exchange with the Navajo Indian tribe.  I hope they had their wits about them during the negotiations and didn’t get fobbed off with somewhere useless!

Glen Canyon Dam Bridge

There was not a great deal to hang around for in Page and after lunch the coach took us over the Glen Canyon Dam bridge which is over a thousand feet long and about seven hundred and fifty feet above the Colorado River.  Before the bridge was built it was an almost two hundred mile drive drive to the other side of the canyon.  Over the bridge we followed a road along the western side of the water and stopped off soon after to take a cruise on the lake from the Wahweep Marina.

This is easily the  best way to see Lake Powell because most of the features that define the lake,  the sheer cliffs, intricate narrow gorges, twisting canyons and towering mountains are inaccessible from the road and the shoreline and can only be fully appreciated from the water.  It was only a short cruise but it was fabulous because the sun was shining and the water was a calm but vibrant cerulean blue and the boat took us close to the marbled rocky sides of the lake and into the narrow canyons beyond.

I am not sure about the debate over whether creating this lake was the correct thing to do or not but today I simply enjoyed the experience of cruising over the water bathed in sunshine under a big blue peaceful sky.

After returning to dry land we boarded the coach for the journey to the city of Kanab which was over the State border into Utah.  The scenery was as barren and empty as it had been all day and it was less dramatic than it had been earlier in the trip and we were looking forward to arriving at our destination and getting the beer out.

Lake Powell Boat

Thursday Doors, Amorgos in the Greek Islands

Amorgos 09

After walking around the village we set off back to Aegiali and came across a group of walkers who enthusiastically showed us a short cut but it was down a tricky path and they had stout walking shoes with leather non-slip soles and knotted laces and we had inadequate synthetic sandals with dodgy Velcro so we ignored the advice and stuck to the road instead.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an Image to scroll through the Gallery…

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Thursday Doors – Santorini in the Greek Islands

Santorini Greek Door

More doors from Santorini here.

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

More Greek Doors…

Thursday Doors – Amorgos in the Greek Islands

Thursday Door Amorgos 1Thursday Door Amorgos 2Thursday Door Amorgos 3

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favourite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments’ on Norm’s site, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American Eastern Time).

Travels in Italy, Updated

I have got a few gaps in the map, so I will have to get travelling…

Italy Visited

A Recommendation…

Recommended

I have stumbled upon and started to follow a blog with a series of posts based on letters sent home by a traveller in the 1960s.

It is really good and I think you might find it as interesting as I do.

This is how the blog introduces itself and it contains the link to the posts…

 

Published by Tone’s 1960s Travels

Tony is 79 and lives with his wife in South West England. Aged 26-29, he travelled the world with his friend Colin, cataloguing their adventures in his letters home – and he’s now revisiting those memories, 53 years later. Tiffany is Tony’s daughter, a features journalist who loves tales of true life. She’s set up this blog to share her father’s letters and photos. Jackie is Tony’s wife, who’s in charge of dictating the letters, using voice recognition software. Jackie has now been nicknamed ‘The Dictator.’ Tony, Tiffany and The Dictator welcome you to Tone’s 1960s Travels!

My Holidays in Malta, Mgarr in Gozo

Fishing Boat Mgarr Gozo Malta

“Gozo remained an utterly private place and lucky the man who could find the key, turn the lock and vanish inside.”  – Nicholas Monserrat

Mgarr GozoSculpture Mgarr Ferry Port Gozo Malta

This is the port of Mgarr in 1997 when I first visited…

Mgarr 1991

Greek Islands, Old Doors of Syros

Syros Mansion WindowsSyros delapedated windowsSyros Greece Old DoorSyros Greece Old Door

Greek Islands, Syros, Bus Ride and Gyros

Syros Helmet Greece

After the Herculean exertions of the day walking to the top of two high peaks and negotiating hundreds, maybe thousands, of steps we were in no mood to march a great deal further this evening and so rather than walk to the town or the harbour we stopped instead at a gyros restaurant (and I use the word restaurant in its loosest and most generous sense here) and ordered some fast food and some white wine served from a plastic bottle.

After two weeks we were ready for this and the really good thing about the Greek Islands is that there are no McDonald’s, Burger King or Kentucky Fried Chicken because fast food here is all about the gyros which is a Greek speciality (sold all over the World now of course) where the object is to cram an entire meal, meat, chips, vegetables and sauces into a pitta bread wrap and then try to tackle it without it falling apart and the contents dribbling down the front of your shirt or falling onto the floor.

greek-gyros

Well, this was absolutely divine and I am not knocking all of the restaurants and tavernas that we had eaten in so far but it just might have been the best evening meal so far.  We drooled over it, we described it to each other in ever-increasing gastronomic superlatives and we mopped our plates clean.  Disappointingly of course this was fast food and it was all over in a flash and were back in the hotel sitting on the balcony and looking out over the lights of the town and the reflections on the water which spread and shifted like a kaleidoscopic diesel slick over the water.

The next morning over breakfast on account of the fact that we had completed two days intended walks in just one we had to make some alternative plans so we thought we might find the bus station and take a ride around the island.

Syros Street Decoration

Bus services in the Greek Islands used to be reliably unreliable but things have changed since our last visit and the entire bus service thing appears to have been privatised.  Gone is the inefficient fleet of state-run cream and green coaches with their tatty seats, worn out curtains for shade, belching engines and groaning gear boxes and they have been replaced with a fleet of modern Mercedes-Benz vehicles with engines that meet EU emissions standards and have air conditioning, recliners and seat belts.  The price to pay for this little bit of progress is that the new bus service is much less regular.

Those were the days – Serifos (2009)…

Old Greek Post Pre-Privatisation

So we took the ride to the nearby village of Vari on the south coast.  As we left the bus we instinctively knew that this wasn’t the sort of place where we would want to spend the entire day so we examined the bus time-table and noted that the next bus back was in forty minutes, which was too soon and after that an hour and ten minutes and we thought that we might be able to manage that.

To be fair there was a nice beach and we had a swim in the sea and then a drink in the water side taverna and then strolled back to the bus stop and waited, and waited, and waited and waited.  The bus did not come so after half an hour we gave up and started to walk back to the taverna.  Suddenly a bus appeared and we sprinted like Olympic athletes back to the bus stop only to have our hopes dashed and be told that this was a school bus and there was no way we would be allowed on that even though we had just given a whole new meaning to the term ‘school run’!

The driver told us that the next bus back to Ermoupolis was in about an hour so we wandered back to the taverna and ordered lunch and waited.

To be honest I wasn’t at all confident that there would be any sort of bus back at all but sure enough one eventually arrived and we thankfully got a ride back to the port.

Syros Church and Statue

It was our third and final night in Syros and because we had enjoyed the gyros so much the day before we just went back to the same place for our evening meal.

The following morning we had an early morning ferry to Tinos and then on to Mykonos so after settling our account we followed the steep path down to the ferry terminus and waited for the Blue Star to arrive.  It turned up dead on time and Kim immediately stood up and started pushing her way to the front of the line.

Kim is from the North-East of England where most people have a lot of Scandinavian heritage but I swear Kim is an exception and has French blood pulsing through her veins because she just cannot be in a queue without wanting to get to the front of it.

When the boarding gates opened she did her best Lionel Messi impression and swerved and weaved her way skilfully through the crowds of people, scattering children and elbowing people aside if anyone dared get in the way.  I have reminded her several times that it is all completely pointless because I am left way behind and eventually she will have to wait for me because I am the one with the tickets!

Anyway, we eventually got on board the Blue Star, made our way to the top external deck and watched as the pastel colours of Syros faded away behind us as the ferry made its determined way to nearby Tinos.

Tinos Greece Ferry

Greek Islands, Ferry Ride from Ios to Syros

Greek Ferry

From Ios we were travelling now to the island of Syros and I had found a reasonably priced ferry ride for just €16 each.  This was a seven hour journey (I suggested to Kim that she thought of it as a sort of cruise) stopping off at Sikinos, Folegandros, Naxos and Paros along the way.

I have been visiting the Greek islands on and off for over thirty years and island hopping for the last ten and I have noticed that things are beginning to change, and not always for the better either.

There are new roads being constructed on the islands and EU funded improvements to ports, traditional mini-markets are becoming supermarkets, bus services are being privatised and updated and the ferries are beginning to change.  New roads are fine and improved port facilities are good, personally I prefer the dusty old shops with surprises in dark corners and the inefficient buses but I have to say that I am really disappointed by the ferry changes.

This year again there were new routes and unfamiliar boats and these were all high speed and modern and they are not nearly as much fun.  They are more expensive, have inside allocated airline style seats, in some cases no access to the outside deck and generally lack character or individuality.

I understand that these changes are welcomed by the people who live on the islands, who now have faster and more convenient transport options, but it is a sad day for back packers and island hoppers.  I prefer the uncertainty of missed schedules, the battle with the elements and the confusion and commotion associated with getting on and getting off in preference to the reliability, the smooth ride and the orderly airline style of boarding and departure.

In 2006 I travelled from Naxos to Ios on an old rust bucket called the Panagia Hozoviotisa (named after the monastery on Amorgos) and there was a real sense of adventure. It was two hours late and there was a force seven gale and the boat struggled through the heaving seas but it was an honest hard working boat and the journey was wonderful.

I used it again in 2007 but now it is laid up out of service in Piraeus.  So too the G&A ferries the Romilda and the Milena that used to run the western Cyclades but have now been replaced with charmless monsters called SpeedRunner, Highspeed or Seajet, boats named without thought or imagination and completely lacking any sense of romance.

Using the traditional old ferries was even more of an adventure because the island hopping guide advises that most of them should be avoided if possible.

This year only the Ventouris Sea Lines Agios Georgios was left and we used it twice, once between Serifos and Sifnos, and then from Sifnos to Milos and we really took pleasure from sitting on the open deck with a mythos, listening to the gentle ‘sha sha sha’ as the prow scythed through the water cutting an arrow head of foam into the blue, enjoying the sun and watching the islands slowly slipping by.

On the old boats it is possible to move freely from deck to deck, get close and see inside the bridge and watch the captain plotting a course and then at the other end watch the crew at work at the stern and a mad rush of activity when they came in to a port and then left again shortly afterwards.

It was noisy and fun with creaking ropes and rattling chains and the men looked like real sailors.  On the new boats there is only a monotonous hum from the modern engines and the crew, dressed in smart corporate uniforms, don’t really like you leaving your seat and wandering about unless you are going to the overpriced bar.

This regrettable change is driven by the desire to improve but is in part due also to stricter operating rules imposed on ferry operators after a disaster on 26thSeptember 2000 when the Express Samina Ferry sank off of Paros while the captain slept and the crew watched a football match on TV.  Several of the crew were convicted of manslaughter and sent to jail and the General Manager of the company committed suicide when he jumped from his sixth floor office window in Piraeus.

I am glad that I had a few years of travelling between the islands on the old boats and I suppose I will have to come to terms with the fact that these days have gone but the journey from Ios to Syros on the Aqua Spirit was a reminder of those good old days.

To be completely honest I enjoyed it a whole lot more than Kim because after five hours or so at open sea her patience tanks began to run dry and she certainly didn’t enjoy the last leg of the journey from Paros to our destination port of Syros.

I know this for certain because she reminded me several times!