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On My Own in Nicaragua

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The wind is howling like a squall at the beach, battering my walls and patio. The palm tree outside my room is slapping up against my window, and the door, loose in its jamb, is rattling back and forth with every blast of wind. Small animals seem to be clambering on my tile roof; I hear scrabbling footsteps, little squeals, and the occasional thump. Surreal cloud formations have gathered over Volcano Mombacho, and the sunset is casting an eerie orange glow on the cone and its mushroom-cloud top. Children are screaming in the alley beside my room – in fun, I hope and assume – and all the lazy dogs I saw scrounging around in the streets today are now snarling and barking at each other in a most violent way. A car alarm has just gone off, so I decide to take a quick shower since the cacophony is seriously affecting my concentration. The water is lukewarm … no, now it’s cold. Welcome to Nicaragua! Nicaragua is awesome. Really. It’s not what I expected in the first few hours, but that is …

Time Slows Down: The Li River

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I’d had my fill of imperial palaces, warriors, pagodas, jade, and even pandas after a few weeks in China. Although I had been very pleasantly surprised by much of the Middle Kingdom and had relished the opportunity to see many big cities like Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu, and Shanghai, the hectic pace and smothering crowds had me ready for more of the countryside as I headed south to Guilin, the Li River, and the small city of Yangshuo. The Guangxi region looked and felt very different from much of the China I had seen in the preceding weeks. I felt like I’d stepped out of the craziness of big-city smog, traffic, and crowds, and into a time-forgotten traditional Chinese landscape painting. The Li River area had a misty, ethereal air about it – indistinct mountains off in the distance, a light haze rising off the river, and quiet country folk going about their daily business in the foreground. Time seemed suspended. The Li River flows languidly amid towering limestone karst formations. Wat…

Perito Moreno

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Surely the date function on my camera had malfunctioned. Last week I read about the collapse of a famous ice arch at the Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina, a place we had visited back in … I thought 2014, but apparently 2012! A review of my travel documents convinced me that yes, it has been over three years since our wide-ranging trip to Argentina and Uruguay and, to date, I have written very little about that journey. Why not begin with the glacier in the news and our trek there? Almost two weeks ago, on March 10, an ice bridge on the glacier collapsed for the first time in four years. Enormous chunks of ice fell into Lake Argentino, producing huge waves and a thunderous blast. The passage forms and collapses every three to four years, with the most recent rupture before this being in March, 2012, which must explain the shallowness of the arch when we saw it in December of that year. By the time it collapsed this time, the ice bridge was 250 meters wide and 70 meters tall. Our e…