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Cycling Guide to Bicycle Touring Colombia

by on Nov.28, 2014, under Colombia, cycling

bicycle touring colombiaThis is a straightforward guide to bicycle touring Colombia, whether you want to travel for 6 weeks or 6 days. It covers routes cycling on main highways, secondary roads, paved roads as well remote dirt and gravel roads. The book focuses on where to go cycling in Colombia and how to structure your itinerary. It addresses a few relevant issues and sorts the country into easily digestible parts.

It is not a comprehensive guidebook repeating the same lists of attractions, accommodations and places where to eat published by every guidebook out there. It does not tell you how to repair a flat tire, not to mention how to adjust your brake or a derailleur.

And, it’s not a travelogue either though it’s based on author’s extensive bicycle tour of Colombia.

The guide covers 23 cycling stages. Each stage contains a summary, a GPS track map, an elevation profile, an exclusive link to author’s GPS file of that stage for more interactive details, including a Google Earth animation, a bird’s eye view of each ride from start to finish. Included are also links to over 4,000 photographs which provide more insight into each stage.

You can download the GPS Exchange Format (.gpx) files, the actual author’s GPS tracks of all the stages, and then upload them to your GPS device. The GPS track is your guide taking you by the hand and pointing the way. When you pop one or all of the tracks in your GPS device you’ll instantly know your way. The GPS tracks are invaluable as they’ll save you time trying to find your way. And you can use these tracks even if you may not plan to bicycle, whether you may walk or travel by car. You decide to what extent you wish to follow in author’s footsteps (or, more appropriately, his GPS tracks), or how you may feel is best for you to include some of his routes in your own itinerary. You can deviate from his tracks and even if you so decide his tracks are still there in your device helping maintain your sense or orientation and direction.

Most guidebooks overburden you with information. This is a guide where less is more. It is written by an avid cyclist and a travel professional that has been just about everywhere. It provides you with the right amount of information that stimulates your sense of self-reliance and curiosity, elevates your adventure spirit and feeds your ambition and need for discovery.

Bottom line, Colombia craves to be visited for the freshness of a country not yet spoiled or damaged by mass tourism. Cycling Colombia offers a genuine experience of the local culture and a pace of life unaltered and mutated to adapt to influx of tourists. And for that reason alone, time to visit Colombia is now! Check it out!

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Chinese fishing nets at Vypin Island, Kerala

by on Jun.17, 2013, under Kerala

Chinese Fishing Nets

Kerala and especially vicinity of Fort Kochi is known for the Chinese fishing nets believed to have been introduced by the Portuguese settlers who brought the nets from their offshore China stronghold of Macau. While in Fort Kochi only a few nets remain, on the Vypin Island to the north there are still number of them operated by local fishermen daily.

The nets are not open sea nets but shore based lift nets. The net is bowl-shaped, some 50 to 60 feet in diameter. The huge net is lowered mechanically, of cantilever design, where the large stones suspended on ropes create the counterweight and often only a single man is enough to operate the net. Typically at least two men work the smallest of nets, one lowering and raising the net, the other climbing the raised net to scoop out the catch, often only a single fish.

When I watched the fishermen work their nets they lowered and raised the net every five to eight minutes, as soon as sensing a fish coming into contact. Not always, however, they would raise the net and have a catch. In a span of an hour they would catch eight to ten small fish, each only six inches or so long on the average.

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Chengdu and Chongqing: Gateways to Western and Southwestern China

by on May.07, 2013, under city life

Statue of Mao in Chengdu

What mega cities of Beijing and Shanghai are to eastern seaboard of China, Chengdu and Chongqing are their counterparts to the west and southwest of China. The sheer size of these cities is mind boggling.

Chengdu city limits has a population over 7 million, while its metropolitan area exceeds 14 million. Similarly, urban population of Chongqing ,with its nearly 9 million, ranks third in China behind Beijing’s 12 million and Shanghai’s 13 million. While those numbers may not tip the scale in your mind, consider the sizes of the metropolitan areas and you’ll discover that Chongqing is by far the number one behemoth in China, with amazing 30 plus million compared to 20 million for Beijing and 23 million for Shanghai.

It could be you may feel overwhelmed by the monstrosity of these urban centers, they are nevertheless convenient gateways to your tour of China. With direct flights from Europe Chengdu is a perfect starting point for touring not only Sichuan but also Yunnan, tours along Silk Road as well as being an ideal jumping off point for heading into Tibet.

Chongqing, on another hand, is the launching point of the Yangtze River cruises. Should you want to venture to Guizhou, Guilin and Guangxi overland, then Chongqing is also your ideal starting point.

Despite the colossal sizes of these two cities, they have much to offer in the hearts of their urban monstrosities.

Chengdu has become dubbed as the homeland of the pandas and the Panda Breeding Research Center is the most visited site for seeing these lovely bears, though you can also see them in a similar setting in Chongqing.

But there is more to Chengdu then the panda and the modernity is not the sole character of the city. You can sample the ancient-style architecture in the Jinli historical district of Chengdu and by visiting the nearby Wuhou Shrine. For an authentic insight into traditional architecture make sure you venture also to the Wenshu Monastery.

Aside the slice of China decorative style, Jinli district offers also cultural continuity of China in other spheres, namely food and drink, and Chengdu’s teahouses and Sichuan fiery cuisine are indeed well rooted in this part of the city. Selection of teas is astounding and although sampling a glass of a green or jasmine tea may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s well worth enticing yourself with taking up the habit upon returning home as it is undeniably good for your health.

When in Chongqing you will be astonished and marvel at the futuristic elevated guideway transportation system that will whisk you efficiently around the city. As in Chengdu you can get a taste of the old Chongqing by visiting the Ciqikou Old Town near the once important Jialing River trading port, dating back to the era of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Though Ciqikou appears a little touristy at first sight, it does teem with authentic old buildings and temples.

A takeoff on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Chongqing sports much the same counterpart in the heart of the city. It is a massive structure blending traditional and modern styles of architecture and houses fascinating exhibits covering the cultural history of the region, the Yangtze River above all.

The heart of the city overlooks the confluence of the Jialing River and the Yangtze River, and is a must-see from a bird’s eye view for the incredible skyline of the city. For best viewpoints go to Loquat Hill or the Yikeshu viewing platform.

Not to miss in Chongqing is the Flying Tigers Museum housed in the former residence of General Stilwell. Recounting the history of American Volunteer Group that fought the Japanese during WW II, in this major battleground region of southwest China, the Flying Tigers flew supplies from India over the Himalayas along an epic route dubbed the Hum Hump Flight.

Last but not least when in Chongqing you must sample the local cuisine. Although the Sichuan fare underlies the taste in general, the Chongqing Hot Pot stands unique, promising to set your mouth on fire. If you like spicy food, this may be the day you’ll remember the most!

For large image slideshow of Chengdu and Chongqing: Gateways to Western and Southwestern China go to Flickr.

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Amusing commemorative plaques at Fengdu Ghost City on the Yangtze

by on Apr.28, 2013, under unique mountains

Palace of Heaven plaque

The key stop on the Yangtze River cruises is at Mt. Minshan to marvel at the legendary Fengdu Ghost City. The name instantly evokes scary images and indeed the legend has it that the temples and statues atop the mountain have been meant to inspire just that, a glimpse into passage the dead must navigate en route to netherworld. Sculptures of ferocious demons, evil creatures and eerie realm of ghosts line the way to the testing bride of Nothing-To-Be-Done before facing the judgment at the Ghost-Torturing-Pass. May be few hundred years ago the folk trembled at awe visiting this surreal slice of ancient Chinese depiction of Hell and set most to be good so as not to have to suffer the wrath of Yama, the King of Hell. In the old days the frightened folk no doubt crawled to the top of the mountain but today one can ascend hopping on a chairlift. While the artistic merit of this iconography certainly borders kitsch, and most visitors find the bizarre sculptures and monuments entertaining, the most amusing are in fact the commemorative plaques for the Palace of Heaven and the Homeward-looking Tower! Carved in steel, these two tablets are indeed priceless. How in this day and age, with so many Chinese having mastered the English language, could the Fengdu management let these two pearls slip, or was it done intentionally in order to lift our spirits when surrounded with so many terrifying images? Whatever the answer, the shore excursion to Fengdu Ghost City makes for an enjoyable break from your Yangtze river cruise.

Homeward-looking Tower plaque

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