Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Alice Springs

Alice Springs is the second largest town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Popularly known as "the Alice" or simply "Alice", it had a population of 26,486 in 2005. Averaging 576 metres above sea level, the town is nearly equidistant from Adelaide and Darwin, close to the geographic centre of Australia. The site is known as Mparntwe to its traditional inhabitants, the Arrernte, who have lived in the Central Australian desert in and around what is now Alice Springs for more than 50,000 years.

In 1861-62, John McDouall Stuart led an expedition through Central Australia, to the west of what later became Alice Springs, thereby establishing a route from the south of the continent to the north.

A settlement came into existence as a result of the construction of a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line, which linked Adelaide to Darwin and Great Britain.
The OTL was completed in 1872. It traced Stuart's route and opened up the interior for permanent settlement. It wasn’t until alluvial gold was discovered at Arltunga, 100 km east of the present Alice Springs, in 1887 that any significant settlement occurred. Until the 1930s, however, the town was known as Stuart.

The telegraph station was sited near what was thought to be a permanent waterhole in the normally dry Todd River and was optimistically named Alice Springs after the wife of the former Postmaster General of South Australia, Sir Charles Todd. The Todd River was named after Sir Charles himself.

The original mode of transportation in the outback were camel trains, operated by immigrants from Pathan tribes in the North-West frontier of the then British India (present-day Pakistan) who were misnamed ‘Afghan’ Camellers.

In 1929 the Palmerston and Pine Creek Railway was completed from Darwin as far as Birdum, while the Great Northern Railway had been completed in 1891 from Port Augusta as far as Oodnadatta, South Australia, 700 km south of Alice Springs.

Araluen Centre for Arts and Entertainment - Alice Springs Cultural Precinct
The lines wouldn’t meet until 2003. On February 4, 2004, the first passenger train arrived in Darwin from Adelaide.
During the 1960s it became an important defence location with the development of the U.S/Australian Pine Gap joint defence satellite monitoring base, home to about 700 workers from both countries, but by far the major industry in recent times is tourism.
Almost in the exact center of the continent, Alice Springs is some 1200 km from the nearest ocean and 1500 km from the nearest major cities, Darwin and Adelaide. Alice Springs is now the midpoint of the Adelaide–Darwin Railway.

World War II
During World War II, Alice Springs was a staging base, known as No. 9 Australian Staging Camp, and a depot base for the long four-day trip to Darwin.
The Australian Army also set up the 109th Australian General Hospital at Alice Springs. Seven mile aerodrome was also constructed by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Indigenous history

The "Springs" that gave the town its name
The Arrernte Aboriginal people[4] have made their home in the Central Australian desert in and around the site of the future Alice Springs for more than 50,000 years. The Aboriginal name for Alice Springs is Mparntwe.
Three major groups Western, Eastern and Central Arrernte people live in Central Australia, their traditional land including the area of Alice Springs and East/West MacDonnell Ranges. They are also referred to as Aranda, Arrarnta, Arunta, and other similar spellings. Their neighbours are the Southern Arrernte, Luritja, Anmatyerr, Alyawarr and Western Arrernte peoples. There are five dialects of the Arrernte language: South-eastern, Central, Northern, Eastern and North-eastern.
Arrernte country is rich with mountain ranges, waterholes, and gorges; as a result the Arrernte people set aside 'conservation areas' in which various species are protected.
According to the Arrernte traditional stories, in the desert surrounding Alice Springs, the landscape was shaped by caterpillars, wild dogs, travelling boys, two sisters, euros, and other ancestral figures.

Alice Springs Desert Park, Sand Drawing Aboriginal
There are many sites of traditional importance in and around Alice Springs, such as Anthwerrke (Emily Gap), Akeyulerre (Billy Goat Hill), Ntaripe (Heavitree Gap), Atnelkentyarliweke (Anzac Hill), and Alhekulyele (Mt. Gillen).
There are roughly 1,800 speakers of Eastern and Central Arrernte, making it the largest spoken language in the Arandic family, and one of the largest speaking populations of any Australian language. It is taught in schools, heard in local media and local government.
Many Arrernte people also live in communities outside of Alice Springs and on outstations.

Modern town
The modern town of Alice Springs has both western and Aboriginal influences. The town's focal point, the Todd Mall, hosts a number of Aboriginal art galleries and community events. Alice Springs’ desert lifestyle has inspired several unique and interesting events such as the Camel Cup, the Henley-on-Todd Regatta and the Beanie Festival.

Built environment
Alice Springs Telegraph Station
Alice Springs has many historic buildings, such as the Overland Telegraph Station, Adelaide House, the Old Courthouse and Residency and the Hartley Street School. Today the town is an important tourist hub and service centre for the surrounding area. It is a well-appointed town for its size with several large hotels, a world class convention centre and a good range of visitor attractions, restaurants and other services.

Parks and gardens
The Alice Springs Desert Park was created to educate visitors on the many facets of the surrounding desert environment. The arid climate botanic garden, Olive Pink Botanic Garden is a short distance from the town centre. They were named after anthropologist, naturalist and artist Olive Pink, who lived in the town for almost 30 years and died in 1975. She was well known locally and referred to by all as Miss Pink. The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is located in the town centre.
The MacDonnell Ranges run east and west of Alice Springs and contain a number of hiking trails and swimming holes such as Ormiston Gorge, Ormiston Gorge Creek, Red Bank Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. The 223 km long Larapinta Trail follows the West MacDonnell Ranges and is considered among the world's great walking experiences.
The Simpson Desert, southeast of Alice Springs is one of Australia's great wilderness areas containing giant red sand dunes and interesting rock formations such as Chambers Pillar and Rainbow Valley.

Aboriginal population
According to the 2001 census, Australian Aborigines make up approximately 17% of the population of Alice Springs, and 29% of the Northern Territory. As Alice Springs is the regional hub of Central Australia it attracts Aboriginal people from all over that region and well beyond. Many Aborigines visit regularly to use the town's services. Aboriginal residents usually live in the suburbs, on special purpose leases (or town camps) or further out at Amoonguna to the South and on the small family outstation communities on Aboriginal Lands in surrounding areas.
The traditional owners of the Alice Springs area are the Central Arrernte people. As it is the largest town in central Australia, there are also speakers of Warlpiri, Warumungu, Kaytetye, Alyawarre, Luritja, Pintupi, Pitjantjatjara, Yankunytjatjara, Ngaanyatjarra, Pertame, Eastern and Western Arrernte among others.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fatehpur Sikri

Built from scratch in 1571 by Akbar in honor of the Sufi saint Salim Chisti, who had predicted the birth of a son, this grand ghost city is carved entirely from red sandstone. It was only inhabited for 14 years, after which -- some say because of water shortages -- it was totally abandoned. It's a bizarre experience to wander through these magnificent, architecturally fascinating sandstone arches, courtyards, and buildings.

The buildings combine a fine sense of proportion -- indicative of Akbar's Persian ancestry -- with strong Hindu and Jain design elements, indicative again of his embracing attitude to the conquered and their faiths. Upon entering, you will see Diwan-i-Khas, thought to be a debating chamber, on the right. Facing it is Ankh Michali, thought to be the treasury, which has mythical Hindu creatures carved on its stone struts. To the left is large Parcheesi Court, where Parcheesi (from which games such as backgammon and ludo were subsequently derived) was played with live pieces: the ladies of the harem. It is said that Akbar learned much about the personalities of his court and enemies by watching how they played, won, and lost. Surrounding the court are, from the left, Diwan-i-Am, a large pavilion where public hearings were held; the Turkish Sultana's House, an ornate sandstone pavilion; and Abdar Khana, where drinking water and fruit were apparently stored.

Walk between the two latter buildings to enter Akbar's private quarters. Facing Anoop Talao -- the four-quartered pool -- are the rooms in which he slept and his personal library with shelves carved into the walls. Also overlooking Parcheesi Court is Panch Mahal, the tallest pavilion, where Akbar's wives could watch the games and enjoy the breeze without being seen. Behind Panch Mahal are the female quarters, including Maryam's House and the Haram Sara Complex. The harem leads to Jodha Bai's Palace, a large courtyard surrounded by pavilions -- note the green glazed roof tiles. To the east is Birbal's House, a two-story pavilion noted for its carvings; beyond lie the servants' cells. From here you exit to visit Jama Masjid, a mosque even more spectacular than the larger one Akbar's grandson built in Delhi. Set like a glittering pearl amid the towering red-sandstone bastions, punctuated by a grand gateway, is the white marble dargah (tomb) of Salim Chisti, which has some of the most beautiful carved screens in India. It attracts pilgrims from all over India, particularly (given the good fortune he brought Akbar) the childless, who make wishes while tying cotton threads onto the screens that surround the tomb.
Again, the services of a good guide are indispensable to a visit here (don't bother hiring one of the "official" guides at the entrance, however).

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


The word 'hiking' is understood in all English-speaking countries, but there are differences in usage. In some places, off-trail hiking is called 'cross-country hiking', 'bushwhacking', or 'bushbashing'. In the United Kingdom, hiking is a slightly old-fashioned word, with a flavor more of heartiness and exercise than of enjoying the outdoors; the activity described here would be called hillwalking or simply 'walking'. Australians use the term 'bushwalking' for both on- and off-trail hiking. New Zealanders use 'tramping' (particularly for overnight and longer trips), 'walking' or 'bushwalking'. Hiking in the mountainous regions of India and Nepal and in the highlands of East Africa is sometimes called 'trekking'. Overnight hiking is called 'backpacking' in some parts of the world. Hiking a long-distance trail from end to end is referred to as 'thru-hiking' in some places.

Hiking is one of the fundamental outdoor activities on which many others are based. Many beautiful places can only be reached overland by hiking, and enthusiasts regard hiking as the best way to see nature. It is seen as better than a tour in a vehicle of any kind (or on an animal; see horseback riding) because the hiker's senses are not intruded upon by distractions such as windows, engine noise, airborne dust and fellow passengers. Hiking over long distances or over difficult terrain does require some degree of physical ability and knowledge.

Hikers often seek beautiful natural environments in which to hike. Ironically, these environments are often fragile: hikers may accidentally destroy the environment that they enjoy. The action of an individual may not strongly affect the environment. However, the mass effect of a large number of hikers can degrade the environment. For example, gathering wood in an alpine area to start a fire may be harmless once (except for wildfire risk). Years of gathering wood, however, can strip an alpine area of valuable nutrients.

Generally, protected areas such as parks have regulations in place to protect the environment. If hikers follow such regulations, their impact can be minimized. Such regulations include forbidding wood fires, restricting camping to established camp sites, disposing or packing out faecal matter, imposing a quota on the number of hikers per day.

Many hikers espouse the philosophy of Leave No Trace: hiking in a way such that future hikers cannot detect the presence of previous hikers. Practitioners of this philosophy obey its strictures, even in the absence of area regulations. Followers of this practice follow strict practices on dealing with food waste, food packaging, and alterations to the surrounding environment.
Human waste is often a major source of environmental impact from hiking. These wastes can contaminate the watershed and make other hikers ill. Bacterial contamination can be avoided by digging 'catholes' 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) deep, depending on local soil composition and covering after use. If these catholes are dug at least 60 m (200 feet) away from water sources and trails, the risk of contamination is minimized. Many hikers warn other hikers about the location of their catholes by marking them with sticks stuck into the ground.

Sometimes, hikers enjoy viewing rare or endangered species. However, some species (such as martens or bighorn sheep) are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. Hikers should learn the habits and habitats of the endangered species, in order to avoid adverse impact.

There is one situation where an individual hiker can make a large impact on an ecosystem: inadvertently starting a wildfire. For example, in 2005, a Czech backpacker burned 7% of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile by knocking over an illegal gas portable stove. Obeying area regulations and setting up cooking devices on bare ground will reduce the risk of wildfire

The Bulgarian Black Sea

The Bulgarian Black Sea coast is 380 km marvelous beaches with fine golden sand and natural dunes; calm and safe sea with low sloping sandy bottom and clear water; numerous mineral springs and beautiful nature. The Black sea water is amazingly smooth and is nearly fresh according to the Mediterranean and it is a real pleasure to swim or dive within. Holiday-makers have a huge selection of activities to choose from like yachting, diving, windsurfing, water skiing, snorkeling, underwater fishing and other aquatic sports.

The Bulgarian Black Sea Riviera (Bulgarian: Черноморие, Chеrnomoriе) covers the entire eastern bound of Bulgaria stretching from the Romanian Black Sea Riviera in the north to European Turkey in the south, along 378 km of coastline. White and golden sandy beaches occupy approximately 130 km of the 378 km long coast. The region is an important center of tourism during the summer season (May-October), drawing millions of foreign and local tourists alike and constituting one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. Prior to 1989 the Bulgarian Black Sea coast was internationally known as the Red Riviera. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, however, it's nickname has been changed to the Bulgarian Riviera.
The area's average air temperature in the summer is about 28°C, with the average water temperature at 25°C. There are more than 240 hours of sunshine in May and September and more than 300 hours in July and August.
The Balkan Mountains cross the country reaching to the edge of the Black Sea at Cape Emine, dividing the coastline into a southern and northern part. Parts of Bulgaria's northern Black Sea Coast feature rocky headlands where the sea abuts cliffs up to 70 metres in height. The southern coast is known for its wide sandy beaches.
The two largest cities and main seaports on the Bulgarian Riviera are Varna (third largest in the country) and Burgas (fourth largest in the country). Varna is located on the northern part of the coast and Burgas is located on the southern coast. The two cities' international airports, Varna Airport and Burgas Airport, are the main hubs servicing the region. In addition, the A1 and A2 motorways, currently in construction, would make the trip from the capital Sofia to the coast substantially easier and faster, while the A3 is planned to connect Varna and Burgas.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Maui Island

The island of Maui is the second-largest of the Hawaiian Islands at 727.2 square miles (1883.5 km²) and is the 17th largest island in the United States. Maui is part of the state of Hawaii and is the largest island in Maui County. Three other islands, Lanai, Kahoolawe, and Molokai, also belong to Maui County. Together, the four islands are known as Maui Nui. In 2000, Maui had a population of 117,644, the third-largest of the Hawaiian islands, behind that of Oahu and Hawaii. Kahului is the largest town on the island with a population of 20,146. Wailuku is the seat of Maui County.

Maui County welcomed 2,207,826 tourists in 2004; 2,263,676 tourists in 2005; and 2,405,257 tourists in 2006 with total tourist expenditures of US$3.5 billion for the Island of Maui alone. While the Island of Oahu is most popular with Japanese tourists, the Island of Maui tends to appeal to visitors mostly from the U.S. mainland and Canada: in 2005, there were 2,003,492 domestic arrivals on the island, compared to 260,184 international arrivals. The big tourist spots in Maui include the Road to Hana, Haleakala National Park, and Lahaina.
The Road to Hana is a highway that runs along the east coast Maui which curves along many mountains and beaches. Even though the drive is very long and curvy, the beautiful waterfalls and black sand beaches are well worth it. Haleakala National Park is home to one of the most beautiful sunrises in the world. Drive up the cold, dormant volcano to view the sunrise, but be sure to bring some blankets because it is much different from the weather during the day at the beach. The temperature from atop the summit can be as much as 32 degrees colder than the resort areas. Lahaina is one of the main attractions on the island with an entire street of shops and restaurants which lead to a wharf where many set out for a sunset cruise or whale watching journey. Snorkeling with exotic underwater creatures can be done at almost any beach along the Maui coast.
The main tourist hotel and condo areas are West Maui (Kaanapali, Lahaina, Honokowai, Kahana, Napili, Kapalua), and South Maui (Kihei, Wailea).
In April of 2008, Hawaii suffered a major loss in tourism due to the bankruptcies from both ATA and Aloha Airlines. The increased demand on the remaining airlines forced prices up, making travel to Hawaii less desirable

The Baffling Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle (also known as Devil's Triangle) is a nearly half-million square-mile (1.2 million km2) area of ocean roughly defined by Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southernmost tip of Florida. The Bermuda Triangle became popular through representation by the mass media as a paranormal site in which the known laws of physics are either violated, altered, or both.
One of the classic disappearances is Flight 19, a flight of Avenger TBMS (torpedo bomber medium)that dissapeared on December 5th 1945 while on a training flight.The squadron Leader Lt (jg)Charles Taylor reported being in trouble and disoriented 40 minutes into the flight. The controllers at Ft. Lauderdale tried to offer assistance, but lost contact with Flight 19. It has never been found.

While there is a common belief that a number of ships and airplanes have disappeared under highly unusual circumstances in this region, the United States Coast Guard and others disagree with that assessment, citing statistics demonstrating that the number of incidents involving lost ships and aircraft is no larger than that of any other heavily traveled region of the world. Many of the alleged mysteries have proven not so mysterious or unusual upon close examination, with inaccuracies and misinformation about the cases often circulating and recirculating over the decades.

Everything from aliens to electromagnetic energy has been used to explain the triangle.

The area known as the Bermuda Triangle encompasses 2,414,016 sq. km (941,466 sq. miles) of open sea between Bermuda, Puerto Rico, and the southeastern shoreline of the U.S. This bit of the Atlantic is the source of the most famous, and certainly the most baffling, legend associated with Bermuda.

Tales of the mysterious Bermuda Triangle persist, despite attempts by skeptics to dismiss them as fanciful. Below are three of the most popular. Can they be true? See what you think:
In 1881, a British-registered ship, the Ellen Austin, encountered an unnamed vessel in good condition sailing aimlessly without a crew. The captain ordered a handful of his best seamen to board the mysterious vessel and sail it to Newfoundland. A few days later, the ships encountered each other again on the high seas. But to everyone's alarm, the crewmen who had transferred from the Ellen Austin were nowhere to be found -- the ship was completely unmanned!
Another tale concerns the disappearance of a merchant ship, the Marine Sulphur Queen, in February 1963. It vanished suddenly without warning, and no one could say why. The weather was calm when the ship set sail from Bermuda, and everything onboard was fine -- the crew never sent a distress signal. In looking for explanations, some have theorized that the ship's weakened hull gave way, causing the vessel to descend quickly to the ocean floor. Others attribute the loss to more mysterious forces.

The most famous of all the legends concerns an incident in 1945. On December 5, five U.S. Navy bombers departed from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a routine mission. The weather was fine; no storm of any kind threatened. A short time into the flight, the leader of the squadron radioed that they were lost, and then the radio went silent. All efforts to establish further communication proved fruitless. A rescue plane was dispatched to search for the squadron -- but it, too, disappeared. The navy ordered a search that lasted 5 days, but there was no evidence of any wreckage. To this day, the disappearance of the squadron and the rescue plane remains a mystery as deep as the waters of the region.

How do those who believe in the Bermuda Triangle legend account for these phenomena? Some contend that the area is a time warp to another universe; others think the waters off Bermuda are the site of the lost kingdom of Atlantis, whose power sources still function deep beneath the surface. Still others believe that laser rays from outer space are perpetually focused on the region, or that underwater signaling devices are guiding invaders from other planets, and that these aliens have chosen the site for the systematic collection of human beings for scientific observation and experimentation. (Smacks of The X-Files, doesn't it?) Some, drawing upon the Bible's Book of Revelation, are fully persuaded that the Bermuda Triangle is really one of the gates to Hell (in this version, the other gate lies midway between Japan and the Philippines, in the Devil's Sea).

No matter what your views on these mysteries, you're bound to provoke an excited response by asking residents what they think about it. On Bermuda, almost everyone has an opinion about the island's biggest and most fascinating legend.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Daytona Beach - Florida

Daytona Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, USA. According to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city has a population of 64,421. Daytona Beach is a principal city of the Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which the census bureau estimated had a 2006 population of 496,575.

Daytona Beach is a year-round resort area. The city is historically known for its motorsports, with both Daytona International Speedway and the old Daytona Beach Road Course having hosted races for over a century. The city is also the headquarters for NASCAR and the Grand American Road Racing Association. Daytona could accurately be called a seasonal town, with large groups of out-of-towners descending upon the city for various events, most notably Speedweeks in early February when over 200,000 NASCAR fans come to attend the season-opening Daytona 500. Other events include the NASCAR Pepsi 400 race in July (now Coke Zero 400), Bike Week in March, Biketoberfest in October and Black College Reunion in March and April. In the past Daytona Beach catered to spring breakers, but in recent years many of the breakers have migrated to other sites, like Panama City Beach. Daytona Beach has tried to clean up its image but in the last few years spring breakers have come back again in smaller numbers

Daytona Beach is located at 29°12′26″N 81°02′16″W / 29.207309, -81.037900.[7] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 64.93 mi² (168.17 km²). of which 58.68 square miles (152 km2)is land and 6.25 square miles (16 km2) is water. Water is 9.6% of the total area.

The city of Daytona Beach is split in two by the Halifax River lagoon, part of the Intracoastal Waterway, and sits on the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered on the north by Holly Hill and Ormond Beach and on the south by Daytona Beach Shores, South Daytona and Port Orange. The major highways that serve the city are the east-west Interstate 4 and the north-south Interstate 95, which intersect near the city. Other major roads in the city include US 92/International Speedway Boulevard, U.S. 1/Ridgewood Avenue and A1A/Atlantic Avenue.

Daytona Beach has a humid subtropical climate, typical of the southeastern United States. Summers are hot and humid with highs usually in the 90s and a heat index often exceeding 100 degrees. Thunderstorms are frequent in summer afternoons and the hot, humid weather can last right through the fall months. Winters are dry and mild, marked by a constant series of cold fronts and warm-ups. Temperatures dip into the low 30s and upper 20s on occasion, and freezes are not uncommon. Frost occurs a few times a year mainly in the inland areas, but is rare along the beaches. Snowfall is very rare. Temperatures in spring are famously pleasant with warm afternoons, cool evenings, and far less humidity. This beach-going weather attracts tourists back to the beaches usually by early March.

Wotans Throne

Wotans Throne is a mountain summit in Inyo County in the state of California (CA). Wotans Throne climbs to 12,717 feet (3,876.14 meters) above sea level. Wotans Throne is located at latitude - longitude coordinates (also called lat - long coordinates or GPS coordinates) of N 36.566324 and W -118.279535.

Anyone attempting to climb Wotans Throne and reach the summit should look for detailed information on the Wotans Throne area in the topographic map (topo map) and the Mount Whitney USGS quad. To hike and explore the California outdoors near Wotans Throne, check the list of nearby trails.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Los Cabos

Los Cabos is a municipality located at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, in the state of Baja California Sur. It encompasses the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo, as well as the Resort Corridor that lies between the two. The area's economy, like many resort areas in Mexico, was based on fishing but is now geared towards tourism, though sport fishing is one of the area's main attractions.

One of Mexico's most scenic wonders, Los Cabos ("the Capes") is many things to many people: a desert oasis, a hot spot for night life, a traditional village, and an award-winning resort destination. EI Arco, a natural stone arch formed where the Sea of Cortes meets the Pacific Ocean, stands as a monument to the area's breathtaking contrasts.Los Cabos is made up of two distinctly alluring small towns-San Jose del Cabo to the northeast and Cabo San Lucas at the southern tip. Picturesque San Jose del Cabo, a sleepy 18th-century mission town, appeals to those in search of more than the wiles of modern resorts. The town is home to many artists, whose wares are often on display and for sale in the village square. Twenty miles down the coast, Cabo San Lucas pulses with shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. Those in search of lively beaches, kayak excursions, dancing to the wee hours, sunset cruises, and such will find Cabo San Lucas just their speed. Connecting the two towns is a coastal "corridor," along which lie resorts both grand and intimate and many famous golf courses. One side of the corridor offers endless views of sand and sea, while along the other side is the quiet desert, with the majestic mountains beyond.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Colorado State Capitol

Built to last 1,000 years, the capitol was constructed in 1886 of granite from a Colorado quarry. The dome, which rises 272 feet above the ground, was first sheathed in copper and then replaced with gold leaf after a public outcry: Copper was not a Colorado product.

Murals depicting the history of water in the state adorn the walls of the first-floor rotunda, which offers a splendid view upward to the underside of the dome. The rotunda resembles the layout of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. South of the rotunda is the governor's office, paneled in walnut and lit by a massive chandelier.

On the first floor, the west lobby hosts revolving temporary exhibits. To the right of the main lobby is the governor's reception room. The second floor has main entrances to the House, Senate, and old Supreme Court chambers. On the third floor are entrances to the public and visitor galleries for the House and Senate

Friday, August 22, 2008

New York City Waterfalls

New York City Waterfalls is an art installation by artist Olafur Eliasson, in collaboration with the Public Art Fund, consisting of four man-made waterfalls placed around New York City along the East River.

At $15.5 million, it is the most expensive public arts project since Christo and Jeanne-Claude's installation of The Gates in Central Park. The waterfalls officially began flowing on June 26, 2008. They will run from 7 am to 10 pm (under illumination after sunset), until October 13, 2008.

The sites chosen for the four waterfalls were Pier 35 in Manhattan, beneath the Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO, Brooklyn, between piers 4 and 5 — also in Brooklyn — and Governors Island.
Work on erecting the four support scaffolds began in mid-March, 2008. On the shore of Governors Island construction teams used pile driving to secure the scaffolding in place. This method was not used at the other locations for various reasons, including the effects of vibrations through car and subway tunnels. Once completed, the scaffolding would total 64,000 square feet and weigh 270 tons. Eliasson has said that the scaffolds themselves were designed to blend in with their urban surroundings, but that he purposely did not try to conceal them, explaining he "want[s] people to know that this is both a natural phenomenon and a cultural one.”
Construction involved the work of 108 different people, including two environmental consultants. The installation was designed to be ecologically-friendly. Some example of this are energy efficient LED lighting, energy purchased from renewable sources and the filters used to keep aquatic life from taking a ride up-and-over the waterfall. When the project has closed the materials will be made available for re-use in a future project

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rainbow's End (theme park)

Rainbow's End is a theme park in Auckland, New Zealand that opened in December, 1982. The park, wholly owned subsidiary of New Zealand Experience Ltd, is currently New Zealand's largest theme park. The park currently employs between 50 and 200 staff both full time and part time depending on the time of year. Its main attraction is New Zealands only Corkscrew Roller Coaster.

Rainbow's End Auckland Theme Park Rides

Power Surge – You'll be seated with your feet dangling below you as this intense thrill ride whirls you around in the air, spinning you in many different directions, flipping and twisting you as well as giving you the ultimate sense of freefalling!
Scorpion Karts – 2008 brings something very exciting. We have all new Scorpion Karts. Pure single-seater racing fun!
Dodgems – Our undercover dodgems are a very popular attraction, line up someone you don't like the look of and crash into them!
Cadbury Land Castle – This are is specially designed for our younger guests with a host or rides to keep them happy. Areas in the castle can be hired for under five birthday parties.
Corkscrew Roller Coaster – New Zealand's only corkscrew coaster. We take you up more than 90 feet in the air, then send you shooting down towards the ground into a complete loop, round a corner at teeth-rattling speed and then into a double corkscrew!
Goldrush – An exciting roller coaster-like ride through our very own abandoned goldmine. Watch out for falling beams, cave-ins, explosions and out of control mine karts!
Log Flumes – The Enchanted Forest log flume is one of our most popular rides, taking you and your friends on a magical ride through a waterfall and deep into the heart of a mountain. Watery twists and turns and hold on for the big plunge at the end of your ride!
Fear Fall – At 18 stories high, the ride takes two cars of four seated riders, each on a controlled ascent to the top of the tower, pause them for a few seconds and then drop them...reaching speeds of 80 kilometres per hour before a patented magnetic braking system brings them gently to the ground!
Family Karts – Show mum and dad what you're made of! Speed through our specially designed course full of twists and turns in these two seater races.
Pirate Ship – Ahoy there me hearties! A rollicking good ride on a galleon from old. For the best ride, sit in the last seats at the bow and stern and lift your arms in the air and your feet off the ground—if you dare!
Bumper Boats – Great fun on a hot day. Tear around the course in the bumper boat of your choice.
Motion Master – An interactive virtual theatre experience not to be missed. This ride has two rows of 12 seated riders watching a large screen. The chairs are hydraulically controlled and move in time to the on-screen action. New in 2008—Motion Master is in 3D now!

Rainbow's End Cuisine
We have a great range of meal options for your function. A mouth-watering selection of traditional theme park fare is available throughout the park from a number of outlets, everything from candy floss to hot dogs and hamburgers.
Rainbow's End Business Facilities
Put some serious oomph into your next conference! Conventional meeting rooms as well as the distinctive Golf Harbour Conference Village complex.
We can cater for groups between six and sixty and our packages are tailor-made incorporating all your day's needs including rides and refreshments. Did you know, you can also hire the park for an exclusive night function for your team (minimum attendance 150 people).
For further information about our Auckland attraction, please contact us or visit our Auckland theme park Web site.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Space Tourism

Space tourism is a recent phenomenon where wealthy individuals or corporations are spending up to $25 million for a chance to travel in low Earth orbit (LEO) and beyond. California multi-millionaire Dennis Tito spent $20 million on space tourism to become the first paying tourist, in 2001. Tito, the founder of Wilshire Associates and former JPL scientist, traveled aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule, launched by U. S. company, Space Adventures, Ltd, where he spent 7 days aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Space tourism has become a bigger goal over the past few years as NASA has announced they are cutting down on the ventures and the Shuttle will be retired in 2010.
NASA hopes to rely on the commercial orbital transportation systems (COTS) to shuttle astronauts and cargo to the ISS thereafter and it looks like commercial craft will be available by then.

If you've ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie "Total Recall" you'll know that space tourism was a central theme to that movie. But, space tourism is not just some pipe dream as companies like Scaled Composites, Blue Origin, and SpaceX are developing craft and programs to do just this.

Following Dennis Tito as the second to partake of the space tourism industry, in 2002 was South African millionaire, Mark Shuttleworth, who certainly was "shuttle worthy" as he also spent around $20 million to travel aboard a Russian Soyuz TM-34 and spend 8 days aboard the ISS.
Following Shuttleworth in 2005, was Greg Olsen, who spent the same amount on tourism to travel to the ISS via a Russian Soyuz capsule. And space tourism has not stopped there, as the third fee-paying tourist, Olsen rejected the "tourist" designation noting that he had conducted several experiments while on the ISS. Olsen is co-founder and chairman of Sensors Unlimited Inc., a company developing infared cameras and sensors. In 2006, Iran-born American citizen Anousheh Ansari became the fourth in the ISS tourism lineup and the first female to buy a ticket in the space tourism industry.

Some have argued that John Glenn in 1998 was the first official extraterrestrial tourist, but others discount that claim since Glenn was a non-paying participant in the flight. If you think also that space tourism is so expensive that nobody will want to go, then think again since there is a waiting list to be launched into LEO and aboard the ISS.

Space tourism has been criticized as being a "playground for the rich." And, while there may be some current truth to this, the vision for the future is to make space tourism affordable and available to the middle class in just a few, short years. While 'N Sync singer Lance Bass may have fallen short of cash and Madonna was voted down in her request, still many companies are working on making suborbital flights affordable to the general public.
Tired of Disneyland and Magic Mountain? Been to all the major continents and want more? Done all of the extreme sports and just can't get that adrenaline rush anymore? Space tourism may just be the Next Big Thing on your agenda in the not too distant future.

Even Bigelow Aerospace and the X-Prize Foundation are getting in on the act by offering monetary awards for breakthrough technology in the space tourism industry. By most estimates, space tourism may be a reality as soon as 2009 or 2010. Just as there was a "race to space" decades ago, now there is a race to space tourism in this decade.

So, if you've got the bug to travel and have always dreamed of going beyond the confines of Earth, that possibility may just exist sooner than you think. You'll have to wait a few years to book your flight though as all of the details are being worked out. Until, then come back to this site often to see what others are doing to advance the space tourism industry.


There over 20 villages surround Mt. Rinjani and there are many routes up the mountain, but the main access is from Senaru in the north and Sembalun Lawang to the east. The challenging three-day Rinjani Trek route from Senaru to the crater rim (Plawangan), down to the stunning crater lake then on to Sembalun Lawang, is considered one of the best treks in South East Asia. Those heading for the summit usually prefer to start in Sembalun Lawang.A model for ecotourism in Indonesia, the community-based activities are focused on the Rinjani Trek Centre in Senaru, the most popular starting point for the tough trek. Developed with New Zealand Government assistance since 1999, the Rinjani Trek Centre embodies under one roof (satu atap) the unique partnership of the National Park, tourism industry and local communities that has been forged to manage and protect the Rinjani mountain environment.

The Centre is located at the trailhead above Senaru traditional village. It offers information and displays for visitors on the trek, the National Park, Sasak culture and a range of activities available in Senaru.Displays include maps, Park interpretation, village walks and environmental guidelines. All trek arrangements can be made here, cultural tours booked and purchases made of local produce and handicrafts.Park Fees: Fees are paid at the Rinjani Trek Centre. They contribute to the protection, maintenance and management of the National Park, Rinjani Trek route, village attractions and visitor facilities.Guides and Porters: Trained and licensed guides and porters are available. You will need three days and two nights to trek from Senaru via the spectacular crater lake, to Sembalun Lawang (or the other way). More time will be needed to explore the summit of Mt. Rinjani.All trek arrangements can be made and paid for at the Rinjani Trek Centre. If not with a guide, please ensure you are well equipped and have knowledge of mountain safety

Lombok Island

Lombok is an island in West Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It is part of the chain of the Lesser Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east. It is roughly circular, with a "tail" to the southwest, about 70 km across and a total area of about 4,725 km² (1,825 sq mi). The administrative capital and largest city on the island is Mataram

The Lombok Strait marks the passage of the biogeographical division between the fauna of the Indomalayan ecozone and the distinctly different fauna of Australasia that is known as the Wallace Line, for Alfred Russel Wallace, who first remarked upon the distinction between these two major biomes.The island's topography is dominated by the centrally-located stratovolcano Mount Rinjani, which rises to 3,726 m (12,224 ft), making it the third-highest in Indonesia. The most recent eruption of Rinjani was in June-July, 1994. The volcano, and its sacred crater lake, Lake Segara Anak, are protected by a National Park established in 1997. The southern part of the island is a fertile plain where corn, rice, coffee, tobacco, and cotton are grown.The island's inhabitants are 85% Sasak (a people, closely related to the Balinese, but mostly practising Islam), 10-15% Balinese, with the small remainder being Chinese, Arab, Javanese, and Sumbawanese.

The Magdalen Islands

The Magdalen Islands (French, Îles de la Madeleine) form a small archipelago in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence with a land area of 205.53 square kilometers (79.36 sq mi). Though closer to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the islands form part of the Canadian province of Quebec.
The islands form the territory equivalent to a regional county municipality (TE) and census division (CD) of Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine.

The islands also form the urban agglomeration of Îles-de-la-Madeleine, divided into two municipalities. These are Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine (2006 census pop. 12,560), the central municipality, and Grosse-Île (pop. 531). The current mayors are Joël Arseneault and Christopher Clark.

Tourism is now a major industry in the Magdalen Islands, as in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, partly because of the depletion of the fish in the area. The islands are particularly appealing to French-speaking Québécois, who can enjoy the ocean and speak their native language. The island has many kilometres of white sand beaches, along with steadily eroding sandstone cliffs. It is an excellent destination for bicycle camping, sea kayaking, windsurfing and kitesurfing. During the winter months, beginning in mid-February, eco-tourists visit to observe new-born and young harp seal pups on the pack ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence surrounding the islands.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Way Kambas National Park

Way Kambas National is situated on the coast of Lampung province on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia. Bounded by the Java Sea to the east, and to the southeast and west by rivers the park is almost entirely flat (elevation between 0-60 metres a.s.l.). As such the park is characteristic of the coastal lowland plains of eastern Sumatra. Approximately 1,300 km2 in extent, the park was originally established as a wildlife reserve in 1937, but between 1954 and 1974 was intensively logged. In 1978 it was proposed as a national park, with provisional declaration in 1989 and final declaration in 1997
Way Kambas National Park is a large national park covering 1,300 square kilometres in Lampung province, southern Sumatra, Indonesia.
Way Kambas consists of swamp forest and lowland rain forest, but was extensively logged before becoming a reserve in 1972 so there is little primary forest. The reserve still has a few Sumatran Tigers and reasonable numbers of elephants. It is also provides excellent birdwatching, with the rare White-winged Duck among the species present. Accommodation is available at the village of Way Kanan, where there is a small guest house.

Another special feature of this national park is the Sumatran Rhino still present in the area. Only 275 remain in South East Asia today. In Way Kambas a managed breeding center or Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary (SRS) has been build up in 1995. At this moment 5 Sumatran Rhinos live at the Sanctuary, most have been translocated from zoos to the large enclosures (with natural habitat) at the SRS.

Way Kambas is also rich in other herbivores such as
- the barking deer (Muntiacus muntjak),
- rusa deer (Cervus unicolor),
- mouse deer (Tragulus javanicus and Tragulus napu)
- Asian tapir (Tapirus indicus).
- The sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) is common.

At least 286 species of bird, including the rare white-winged wood duck (Cairina scutulata) have been sighted. Remote camera surveys carried out by this project have shown that Way Kambas holds the a complete collection of Asian cats, including:
- the flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps),
- golden cat (Catopuma temmincki),
- leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis),
- fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)
- marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata)
- clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)
- besides the Sumatran tiger itself.


Wayang Kulit (Shadow Puppet)

Shadow Puppet performances have become a part of Indonesia's cultural heritage. The puppets are lovingly handcrafted out of buffalo or goatskin with moveable limbs that are worked by a highly skilled puppeteer from behind a backlit screen, casting the shadows of the puppets into a spellbinding story. The puppeteer is usually the director, producer and main narrator of the shadow world. The stories have their origins in classic Hindu mythologies and Ramayana tales and are narrated in the local dialects.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Victoria Falls

The Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) is a waterfall situated in southern Africa on the Zambezi River between the countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The falls are, by some measures, the largest waterfall in the world, as well as being among the most unusual in form, and having arguably the most diverse and easily seen wildlife of any major waterfall site.

located in Victoria National Park in Africa, this world famous waterfall is truly breathtaking. At 350 feet high and 5700 wide the falls appears to be a falling sheet of water.

By the end of the 1990s, almost 300,000 people were visiting the falls annually, and this was expected to rise to over a million in the next decade. Unlike the game parks, Victoria Falls has more Zimbabwean and Zambian visitors than international tourists as they are accessible by bus and train and therefore comparatively inexpensive to reach.[4]
The two countries permit tourists to make day trips from one side to the other without the necessity of obtaining a visa in advance, but visas issued at the border are expensive, particularly upon entering Zimbabwe. In 2008 Zambia increased the prices of their visas, and a U.S. or U.K. citizen can expect to pay US$135 or US$140 for a 3-year multiple-entry visa. Citizens of other nations will pay varying rates for a 3-month Visa, typically about $50, but may need to purchase a visa each time they cross the border.[13]