Posted by: Dudley | February 3, 2009

Last minute Island Paradise Special

Quick note to let everyone know that we have a Valentine’s Special trip to the islands of Principe and Sao Tome, off the coast of Gabon, in West Central Africa. Very short notice, I know, but this is a very sweet deal on a sweetheart of a trip! For more info, take a look at our website at www.dreamweavertravel.net/trips/#gabon1 .

Also, we have a new trip to Gabon’s Loango Park and another, coming up late this summer, which combines Loango Park with Dzanga Sangha Reserve in the Central African Republic – “Central Africa’s Best Kept Secret.” 

Elephants in Loango Park

Elephants in Loango ParkGorilla in Gabon

  

We’ll have information up on our website for this trip very soon. It should be available in July or August.

Posted by: Dudley | January 29, 2009

Return from Timbuctou

All in all a fantastic trip, with wonderful music at the  Festival at Essakane, a beautiful float down the Niger River, learning about the incredible traditional culture of the Dogon and the ancient Tellem people, and visits to ancient mud mosques and makers of mud cloth (bogolan). Not that there weren’t some trying times and unexpected twists – suffice it to say that I learned a lot from this year’s trip and it will all go into making next year’s Festival trip (and other Mali tours) even better.

One of the things we’ll be working on with our partners in Mali is establishing a more direct relationship with the communities we visit along the Niger River and in Dogon land. We’ll be holding meetings with village leaders to find out what their needs are and how we can help them work toward meeting community goals. We’ll also be working with them on issues such as hygiene, diet, safe water, and participating in good ecologically and culturally sustainable tourism practices.

Another thing we’ll be doing differently on future trips is to allow more time at the beginning of the tour for resting from the long flight, changing money, acclimatizing,  and just generally getting our feet on the ground and at the end of the trip for last minute craft shopping, organizing, and resting up for the long flight home. We’ll also try to break up each day’s travel with more opportunities for photos and visiting points of interest.  Very importantly, we’re going to be giving much more detailed information on each day’s activities, including lodging and the level of difficulty of any hiking or trekking (climbing…?) involved.

So – that”s what we (I) learned toward improving future trips, but what may be more important to anyone reading this blog is the fact that this was a wonderful trip to an amazing part of the world. The  Malian people are gracious and welcoming, curious and friendly, full of smiles and good cheer. Sometimes in the more touristed areas there is a little too much pressure to buy or give, but we found that, if you take the time to ask questions and show an interest in the local peoples’  lives and in sharing your own,  invariably the interaction became personal and fun. We try here at DreamWeaver to allow as much time as possible during our trips for these sorts of personal interactions between cultures.  We believe that, after all, that’s what travel is all about.

Stay tuned to this blog and to our website for some great new trips to Gabon, Central African Republic, Mali, Venezuela, and Bolivia.

“Be the Change You Wish To See in the World”

Posted by: Dudley | January 28, 2009

Mali Festival in the Desert

Mali – here we come!  We’ve got what appears to be a great group signed up for the Festival in the Desert trip to Mali in January. I’m really excited – we’ve tried to get a group together for the Festival for the last couple of years, but never quite made it. This year we’ve got two men from Great Britain and five women from the U.S. and, from my communications with them so far, I can tell it’s going to be a rockin’ good time.

The Festival itself is a wonderful conglomeration of traditional Malian music from the Tuareg and other ethnic groups during the day and a big stage at night with contemporary Malian and other West African artists.

Other highlights of the tour will be visiting Timbuctou, Dogon country and the Bandiagara Escarpment, and the famous mud mosque of Djenné. We’ll explore the making of bogolan, or mud cloth, and other Malian art and craft, as well as take a river boat down the Niger River.

Stay tuned for a report when we return…

First of all, I am really gratified that the U.S. has finally elected a President I can be proud of.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 8 years (at least), trying to explain to non-Americans that a great many of us here in the United States are not thrilled with our government either. I’m glad to be able now to lift my head, look people in the eye, and say with some confidence that I think now America can and will be a much larger force for good in the world.

Another subject on my mind more and more of late is the state of the world’s environment and the negative effect travel has on it and on indigenous cultures. I’ve always been concerned that by promoting and facilitating travel by Americans and other Westerners to far-away and often remote locations, I’m bringing negative influences from the developed world to communities which, though they may not have a very high level of material comfort, do still have a traditionally strong sense of community and family.

I know there are benefits to be derived from adventurous travel to distant locations – benefits to the local economy and benefits in terms of positive exchanges between peoples of very different cultures and world-views. I’ve always believed that these exchanges were essential to creating bonds of understanding between people and that the odds of this contact being positive could be increased by facilitating the exchanges through education and discussion before, during, and after each trip.  So by providing these education and discussion opportunities, I hope and believe that DreamWeaver can avoid or offset any negative impacts and encourage positive exchanges.

As I mentioned above, I’m also increasingly concerned about the effect of air (and other) travel on the world’s climate and it’s contribution to general environmental degradation. Some time ago, we here at DreamWeaver considered adding a fee to all of our trips in order to contribute to organizations that invested in carbon-offsetting activities such as tree planting and carbon sequestration programs. At that time,  I was told that many of these programs actually didn’t do as much good as they were touted to and that it was mostly a “feel-good” gesture which did more harm than good because it allowed people to continue their consumption patterns without guilt. Not that I think we should all feel guilty about our travel, but I do feel that we should make a real effort to find ways to reduce our carbon footprints and to compensate for climate unfriendly actions by participating in climate-friendly ones. As it turns out, a lot of work has been done recently in the carbon-offset domain, and there are now several organizations which offer good, scientifically -justified programs allowing people to offset their travel and other lifestyle choices with contributions to programs which truly do offset the negative effects of our carbon footprints.

Carbon offsetting is a way to neutralize the carbon emissions you generate when you drive or fly. You can buy a certain number of “offset units” equivalent to the carbon the activity creates, and hence become “carbon neutral.”

Starting January 1, 2009, DreamWeaver will be adding a fee to each trip which will vary according to the distance travelled by car and air on the trip. Please see our website for more details (soon).

Posted by: Dudley | October 25, 2008

MALI, GABON, AND RWANDA/UGANDA

Mali – I’ve been trying for 3 years to get a group together to go to the Festival in the Desert in Mali and finally, this year, or rather, next January, we’re off! This festival, from all reports, is an incredible experience. Held in Essekane, near Timbuctu, it was originally organized by Ali Farka Touré, the late great “douaen”  (elder, or guru) of Malian music and has been put on annually for, I think, five years now. We’ve got a group of 6 people who are going for sure and 4 or 5 more who haven’t yet committed. Traditional Tuareg (nomads of the Sahara) and Wodaabé (of male beauty pageant fame) music and dance goes on all day and then at night there is a main stage with a playlist of Malian and West African musicians that will knock your socks off. On the edge of the Sahara, this is one of the most offbeat, and off the beaten path, festivals on the face of the earth. For more info, go to the Festival’s own official website at www.festival-au-desert.org . For information on DreamWeaver Travel’s 2009 Festival in the Desert itinerary, go to www.dreamweavertravel.net/trips/festivalinthedesert

Festival Camp

Festival Camp

Ready for the races!

Ready for the races

 

 

Gabon:

 

We’ve got a fantastic new wrinkle in our Gabon program. It actually came about because of a glitch in the operation of Ivindo Park in Gabon. It’s temporarily (we hope) not in service to tourists due to the Gabonese government not having yet identified a tour operator or lodge “concessionaire” (I don’t know what the real word is so I made that one up…) to run the lodging and guiding services at the Park. We work with Africa’s Eden, who run the tourist lodging and guiding thing at Loango Park, on the coast, and do a wonderful job of it. Elephants in Loango Park, Gabon  

On Iguela Beach - where the wildlife comes to relax!

On Iguela Beach - where the wildlife comes to relax!

Africa’s Eden has just begun providing services to and at Doli Lodge at Dzanga Sangha Wildlife Reserve in the Central African Republic and have put together a trip which combines Loango Park and Dzanga Sangha. It’s an amazing trip which combines time on the ocean at Loango with what is probably the best viewing opportunities of forest elephant and lowland gorilla in the world.  Participants will also be able to experience a day in the life of the BaAka Pygmies, who are living much as their ancestors have for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. In the next few days I’ll be putting a full itinerary up on our website – so check back soon!

 

Rwanda/Uganda :

Gorilla familyBwindi NP veranda and viewVirunga Veranda

Mountain gorilla watching at its best! We’re working with Volcanoes Safaris, the premiere gorilla safari outfit in the world. I met them at the 2006 World Travel Market in Berlin and, after long discussion, knew that they were a company I could, and wanted to, work with. They are fervent believers in sharing the benefits of tourism with local communities and they are passionate about preserving the natural world. And, not least, they own their own beautiful and comfortable lodges, most of which are very sustainably built with local materials and traditional architecture.

Posted by: Dudley | June 21, 2008

NEWS AND UPCOMING TRIPS!

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Posted by: Dudley | February 22, 2008

More on our November Bolivia/Peru trip

After a wonderful dinner and overnight at the beautiful Hotel Rosario del Lago in Copacabana, we got an early start the next morning for Lake Titicaca’s Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun), the the legendary birthplace of the Inca, or actually, of all humanity, according to Inca mythology. Wonderful 3 hour boat ride on the blue, blue waters of Titicaca to the northern end of Isla del Sol and the enigmatic La Chincana, or Labyrinth, ruins. At this time I left the group for a much-needed hike along a section of original Inca trail to the beautiful community of Challapampa, with wonderful vistas of the lake along the way and a quaint harbor with little cafés and guesthouses on the shore. The boat, with my group, met me at Challapampa for the return journey to Copacabana, where we arranged for an early transfer to the Peruvian border and the meet with our Peruvian guide, Marco Palomino, and our transport to Puno and the Q’elqetani Hotel.

Next day we explored the famed Silustani funerary towers near Puno before continuing on to Juliaca for our flight to Arequipa, site of the 2008 International Alpaca Fiesta, where we met the rest of our group – Keith and Anne Schroder, Richard and Renate Gyuro – and spent the night at the fabulous Hotel Conquistador.

Very early to rise the following morning for our pick-up and transport to the site of the traditional vicuña roundup, or chaccu. I wasn’t sure if all of our group, some of whom were in their seventies  (Suzie turned 80 during the trip!), would be able to participate, as the chaccu could be rather hard hiking over rough terrain and is held at nearly 15,000 feet altitude! But all were game and we all had a glorious time as small groups of 1-5b vicuña tried to break through the human chain fencing them in and moving inexorably toward the corral at the end of the valley. A few escaped, but we were able to corral about 20 of them for shearing. Before the shearing could begin, though, a traditional ceremony thanking the apus (nature spirits) and the vicuña for the gift of vicuña fleece was held, with a ceremonial bloodletting to ensure another year of fertility to man and beast alike. A long ride back to Arequipa and our hotel and time to clean up and attend the fashion show with all the latest in chic alpaca wear. 

The next day, Nov. 16, we joined in a wonderful tour of two alpaca mills, complete with a museum devoted to a history of the alpaca industry in Peru and a great show highlighting traditional Andean music and dance.  That evening we were given a fascinating tour of the beautiful and historical St. ? Monastery and ended the tour with lots of Peruvian music and local food.

 All too soon our Arequipan odyssey was at an end and the next morning we flew to Juliaca, were met by our driver and transferred to Puno, where we left most of our luggage at our now-familiar Q’elqatani Hotel and boarded yet another boat for an excursion on the northern end of Lake Titicaca.  About a 3-hour boat ride later and we arrived at our destination for the day – Taquile Island – where we were introduced to our host families and hiked off in different directions to our houses for the night.  A somewhat intimidating experience for some, for me it was a unique opportunity to get a peek into the daily lives of a people who’s culture has changed very little since the days of their ancestors, the legendary Inca.

stopping at the Uros Islands on the way. The Uros people, during a difficult time in their history when they were being pushed out of their territory surrounding Lake Titicaca, devised the strategy of building islands of totora reed out in the Lake. They built the island of layer upon layer of reeds and then constructed their houses, furniture, etc also of the totora. They subsisted until recently upon fishing the lake and selling their reed mats and furniture on the mainland. They continue to survive on their “reedsmanship,” but now they mostly make models and household ornaments for passing tourists.

Posted by: Dudley | January 22, 2008

Recent “Alpaca Roots” trip to Bolivia and Peru

Recently DreamWeaver Travel sponsored an 18-day trip to Bolivia and Peru, with the 2007 Alpaca Fiesta in Arequipa, Peru as it’s centerpiece. Trip dates were November 8-25. We had a group of 3 travelers plus Dudley for the first phase of the trip (Nov. 8-14) and 4 more folks joined us for the second phase (Nov. 15-25), beginning in Arequipa. I think we’d all agree that we owe a great deal of credit for the success of this adventure to our excellent guides, Wendy in Bolivia and Marco in Peru,

Starting out in La Paz, Bolivia, the highest capital city in the world, Suzie, Jerry, Susan, and I were met at the airport and transferred to the Plaza Hotel. Tired, but happy to be starting our adenture, we had a short orientation and hit the sack.

 Next morning we had a great tour of La Paz , including the “witch’s market” and then an

                                                     RootsBoliviaValleyoftheMoon

excursion to the Valley of the Moon, including a great lunch at the Oberland Hotel in Mallaza on the plains above the valley in which La Paz is located. That evening we had dinner at a “Peña”, which is kind of like a dinner theatre, with traditional music and dance as the entertainment. Good food, good fun, great day!

On Day 3 we left La Paz and headed south for Sajama National Park and Tomarapi Ecolodge, where we checkd in and had lunch before heading back out to explore the countryside surrounding Mount Sajama where we were treated to the sight of many alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, and local and migratory birds for the remainder of the day. Dinner at the Tomarapi lodge consisted of local specialties such as quinoa soup, alpaca, good local bread, boiled corn, and chicha morada (a non-alcoholic corn drink).

 The next day we got to witness an alpaca shearing at the farm of a member of the local alpaca cooperative. Shearing was by hand with knives and simple hand shears.

                                                            DudleyshearingTomarapi

 It was interesting to note that 4 years previously, shearing was done totally by knife and that hand shears was considered to be a very “high tech” improvement! After the shearing, we left for a long drive to the South to visit the ancient colored tombs near the village of Macaya. Then the long drive back to La Paz , dinner, and the comfort of our beds at the Plaza.

On Day 5 we visited the ruins of Tihuanaco on our way to Lake Titicaca.

                                                             Roots2007TihuanacoSunGate

The Tihuanaco ruins are famous as being the best example of ancient Aymara culture and the precursors to the Inca. The culture was thriving between 1580 BC and 1150 AD and was one of the most advanced societies of its time. We visited the extensive ruins and the wonderful museum on the grounds.

Then it was off to Taraco, on the nearest shore of Lake Titicaca, where we boarded our private launch to Pariti Island. Simple but tasty lunch on the way, visited the interesting museum on the Island, then on to Huatajata Harbor where we met our car and driver for the drive on to the wonderful Hotel Rosario del Lago in the center of beautiful little Copacabana.

                                                        RootsParitiIslandLakeTiticaca

 That’s all for now – stayed tuned for more on the 2007 “Alpaca Roots” trip to Bolivia and Peru! We’re going again in October this year, with participation in the biggest vicuña roundup (chaccu) in South America as the centerpiece of the trip – and lots more!

Posted by: Dudley | January 15, 2008

Dreamweavertravel’s Weblog

WELCOME to DreamWeaver Travel Company’s new Weblog (Blog)! Stay tuned for reports on some of our travels and news of upcoming trips. Please feel free to use this blog to ask us questions, comment on a trip you’ve taken, or to share information or opinions on Sustainable Travel, African Travel, South American Travel, Cultural Sensitivity, or any other subject you feel is relevant to users of this blog.

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