Travel and Adventure


Last Saturday, I was on my way from San Diego to Corona Del Mar when my car broke down. Although I made it safely to the side of toll road 73, I was especially perturbed because I had to call AAA to be towed to the nearest garage, where the repairs took until mid-afternoon. I had missed my favorite conference of the year: the Women’s Sailing Convention, held at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club.

 

Even though there are many ways for women to learn to sail, this one-day convention is one of the most anticipated experiences on the U.S. west coast. “Gail Hine created the Sailing Convention for Women in 1975, and since then she and her team of instructors have helped countless women learn the brass-tack skills needed to safely and successfully run cruising sailboats, including dealing with unforeseen mishaps ranging from engine woes to rigging issues,” says Sail-World in their interview of her.

Women Sailing

During the Women’s Sailing convention, on-the-water workshops focus on skills such as climbing the mast to make sail repairs, while indoor workshops hone skills such as navigation.

I was the ship’s navigator and my husband was the Captain during the eight years we sailed Pacific Bliss around the world. And although my husband—a life-long sailor—could have taught me how to sail, I preferred to learn through certification courses offered by ASA (American Sailing Association). I started from the beginning, with Basic Sailing, Advanced Sailing, Basic and Advanced Coastal Cruising, and Basic and Advanced Coastal Navigation. Then together we took what I call the “basic training for ocean cruisers,” a 1000-mile sail offered by John and Amanda Neal of Mahina Expeditions. My husband and I had been partners in business, each with different responsibilities, and we naturally carried that over into our circumnavigation. I’ve learned from cruising the world that those couples who stay together and continue their mission have a clear separation of duties and responsibilities and have learned to work together as a team. That means that each partner must be confident, and women’s sailing courses allow that confidence to build.

Women’s Sailing Associations have been formed all over the world. Some go beyond educating their members to conduct community outreach programs; for example, CIWSA (Channel Island Women’s Sailing Association) strives to also foster a love of sailing in local girls, particularly those who might not otherwise be exposed to the sport.

How did you learn to sail? Do you prefer courses for women only, mixed courses, or courses for couples? Why?

The Long Way Back by Lois Joy Hoffman

Lois works at her laptop computer on Pacific Bliss. http://www.LoisJoyHofmann.com, From The Long Way Back

Author of Maiden Voyage and Sailing the South Pacific, Lois Joy Hofmann’s latest book, The Long Way Back is now available.

Advertisements

One of the pleasures of traveling is encountering the unexpected. If you keep your options open and avoid planning and filling every hour of every day, you’ll experience all kinds of unforeseen adventures.

Lois and Günter at the bus stop in Port Sudan

Lois and Günter at the bus stop in Port Sudan

During our world circumnavigation, Gunter and I encountered the unexpected many times. On one occasion, we were guests at a tribal meeting in Sudan. We had a long, hot day running errands in Port Sudan and were dead tired by the time our bus returned us to the bay in Suakin where Pacific Bliss, our catamaran, was anchored. While filling our dinghy with produce and supplies, we encountered Kirstin and Hans, another couple from our cruising fleet.

“Ten minutes, tribal meeting. Mohammed has ordered the minivan for our group,” Hans announced.

“What does it involve?” I asked.

“Dancing,” he said.

“How long?”

“Only an hour.”

“OK, let’s go!”

The meeting was on the outskirts of Suakin. The van emptied, and we walked toward the performance area. Packed bleachers faced each other across a dusty circle; between them stood a  three-sided tent fronted by a row of white-robed, white-turbaned men sitting in overstuffed chairs. We spotted a podium to the side of the tent. Our group of ten cruisers made its way through the crowd of men and boys. Plastic chairs were brought in to seat us in front of the side bleachers.

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.50.16 AM

Turbaned politicians attend a tribal meeting in Suakin, Sudan.

One white-robed speaker after another came to the podium. After each speech, the crowd shouted hearty agreement, and everyone raised his staff.  This sequence continued for an hour or more, and it was getting dark. The speakers went on and on, and because we didn’t understand what was being said, it appeared as if they were just getting started.  The crowd loved it and erupted into rousing cheers for each message.  Finally, the last speaker wrapped things up, and music suddenly blared from two huge speakers.

The entire crowd rushed to the small circle of dirt in the center of the venue, with staffs and sticks waving high into the air. And the dance began! Chris, our crew, was right out there with them, having a blast. I stood atop my plastic chair taking movies in the fading light. I was over the dancers’ heads, shooting down into the crowd. I could see our friend Patrick standing on his chair, cheering and shouting. Then he couldn’t resist the excitement; he jumped off his chair and into the chaos.

The song seemed interminably long, but suddenly the music stopped.  And that was it! Men crowded around us yachties, laughing, smiling, and shaking hands. We hated to see it end. We’d have liked to spend more time with them, but we were herded into our mini-bus and driven back to the dinghy landing.

The following day, Boris of Li clarified what had happened: “That was a meeting of all the chiefs of the local tribes. They converged on Suakin for their meeting, and politicians joined them to represent the Sudanese government. Last night, each tribal chieftain gave a speech of praise and thanks to the government.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, two years ago, Boris explained, “Suakin had no electricity, no schools, and no hospital. These improvements have all been completed within the past two years. So now it is time to show appreciation.

“There were no women present. Why?” I asked.

Apparently, they don’t go to political rallies. These are for men only.”

I’m glad I was not born Sudanese!

Given the town’s poverty, the meeting must have been expensive. Each attendee received a can of soda and a candy bar, and during their stay, Suakin more than likely provided food and lodging for its visitors. We cruisers appreciated being invited for an unexpected glimpse into the culture of Sudan.  This event made our visit to Suakin even more worthwhile.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Adapted from The Long Way Back by Lois Joy Hofmann. Available from Amazon and www.loisjoyhofmann.com. Photos © Lois Joy Hofmann.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gunter and I have been members of The San Diego Zoological Society for decades. At the San Diego zoo, we often stood in hours-long lines to see the offspring of pandas that had been loaned to this zoo for breeding. Eventually, these delightful pandas would be returned to Chengdu. The panda program has been conducted in partnership with the Chengdu Panda Base. During dozens of visits to the exhibit in San Diego, I never dreamed I would ever visit the sister facility in China!

Imagine my surprise when Chengdu was included in Great China Tour by Australia’s Intrepid Travel!

During our tour, we flew to Chengdu on China Southern Air and checked into the Tibet Hotel there. The ethnic décor of our room would surpass that of any five-star hotel. A lone lotus bloomed in a pedestal vase; a quilted headboard covered one entire wall; dimmed halogen lights glowed above the bed and below the nightstands; moody lights backed the sofa; and the bathroom featured two sinks and counter that ran the entire length of the room.

The day of our arrival, we had a “free” afternoon before dinner, so we immediately went for a city walking tour. Although Chengdu has more greenery than most Chinese cities, the sky is always gray. Angi, our local guide, told us that the lack of sunshine is the result the city’s low altitude (500 feet) and the 82 percent average humidity. “The girls from Chengdu are considered beautiful because they have light skin,” she told us. “It is because they don’t have sun.” I suspected the gray was smog, not fog. Although Chengdu is not an industrial city, it had 4 million inhabitants (11 million including the suburbs) when we visited in 2006. By 2017, the city had grown to 7.8 million with 14 million in the administrative area.

Excerpted from The Long Way Back: “Chengdu, nevertheless, is a delightful city. Old men walk their songbirds in the part or sit around in their teahouses playing cards and having their ears cleaned. Old women play Mah-Jongg. Both men and women participate in outdoor exercise sessions. They appear content in their old age; wisdom lines their faces—as if they know more than they can possibly tell. And they do. During the Cultural Revolution, most of China’s park lands were torn up. We observe how Chinese love and appreciate their flowers and parks and birds; the terrible loss must have stripped them of all joie de vivre.

Tianfu-Square-e1508039633122

Photo Credit: Intrepid Travel

Motorbikes, electric bikes, and pedal bikes are everywhere. One must be careful crossing the street or entering a taxi for fear of being hit. These are the machines of Chengdu’s youth, for whom life is fast-paced, determined and busy. How they survive the onslaught of the traffic here is a miracle, but they do manage to drive those electric bikes up to 50 kilometers to work, where they plug them in for recharging before the precarious ride home.”

The next morning, our Intrepid group toured a part of the extensive grounds, but not all of it.  The Chengdu Panda Base covers an area of almost 200 hectares! Since the center isn’t crowed, I revel in taking one photo after another, something I could never do in San Diego.

While the cubs frolic, the parents pose as if they aim to please their visitors.

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was founded in 1987 with six giant pandas rescued from the wild. By 2006, it had over 100 panda births. Its stated goal is to be a world-class research facility, conservation education center, and an international educational tourist destination. It has partnered with many organizations to improve ways to conserve giant pandas. The research center has not taken any pandas from the wild for over twenty years.

01_PANDA_HEAD_STATUE_AT_PRESERVE

What a precious opportunity! If you travel in China, be sure to take one day to walk around the city of Chengdu and another to visit the Panda Base.  You won’t regret it!

 

 

 

Happy Hanukkah!

The eight-day Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah or Chanukah commemorates the rededication during the second century B.C. of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. Often called the Festival of Lights, the holiday is celebrated with the lighting of the menorah, traditional foods, games and gifts.

My husband Gunter and I visited Jerusalem twice, once as a side trip during the 1990s as part of a business trip to Ein Gedi and Tel Aviv, and again during our world circumnavigation, when we docked our catamaran, Pacific Bliss, in Ashkelon.  Stories and photos of that second trip are included in my recently published book, The Long Way Back.

My favorite city in Israel—a country not much larger than New Jersey—is Jerusalem, her capital. To me, Jerusalem is the one place in the world where past, present, and future become one. I felt that portentous-yet-exhilarating sense of past and future both times.

These are some of my favorite pictures and places in that grand city:

318a

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre built with the ubiquitous Jerusalem stone

325a

These olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane may have been there in Jesus’s day

327a

The wall at the Temple Mount, sometimes called the “Wailing Wall”

Jerusalem had been called some 70 names: Some of the better-known ones are: Ariel (Lion of God), Kiryah Ne’emanah (Faithful City), Kiryat Hannah David (City where David camped), Betulah (virgin), Gilah (joy), Kir, Moriah, Shalem (peace), Neveh Zedek (righteous dwelling), Ir Ha’Elohim (City of God), Gai Hizayon (Valley of Vision), Oholivah (My tent is in her) and, more recently, International City.

Despite its problems, I know I will always love Jerusalem. And despite the danger, I’d very much like to go back again. Have you been in Jerusalem? Would you go back again? If you have not traveled there, is it on your Bucket List?

We writers are expected to wear two hats, that of an introvert who retreats to her writing cave and excels in words, phrases, and commas; and that of an extrovert, a flamboyant artist who tells tales and binds an audience under her spell. And sometimes, we’re expected to wear both hats at the same time.

This summer and fall, I couldn’t wear both hats and meet my publication deadline for the final book in the trilogy, “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss.” Something had to go, and that something turned out to be this blog. My sincere apologies to my followers.

2017102095085418

My lowly gardening and pool hat and my expressive roaring twenties hat. I failed to wear both at the same time.

Last Monday, The Long Way Back went on the press in Anaheim, and since then, I’ve donned my extrovert hat. I’ll be launching the book after it’s printed.

Meanwhile, here are photos from the press check:

 

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My book designer, Alfred Williams of Multimedia Arts, and the owners and staff of LightSource Printing have been wonderful! I can’t wait to unveil the gripping conclusion to my nautical trilogy, “In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss.” Coming soon to Amazon and www.LoisJoyHofmann.com.

Gunter and I first landed on Turkey’s shores in the summer of 2007. We confidently left Pacific Bliss “on the hard” in Marmaris Yacht Marina. The following spring, we returned to Turkey for the final leg of our sailing circumnavigation. While touring Istanbul, I was surprised to learn that tulips and St. Nick both originated in that country.

That spring, Istanbul was alive and glowing, in a festive mood. The city was celebrating its annual tulip festival, and colorful blooms were everywhere. Istanbul, with its bridges across the Bosporus Strait, straddles the two continents of Europe and Asia. After enjoying the city for two days, my husband Gunter and I took a ferry trip to view the city from the river. It was a sun-splashed Sunday. We spent hours relaxing and chatting about Turkey’s past and its hopes for the future. Much of the conversation centered around the peoples’ love and respect for Atatürk, a charismatic leader, military genius, and celebrated reformer who modernized Turkey. “He made Turkey a secular country,” our said proudly.  “As a result, Turkey will never be like the other Muslim countries; in fact, we look forward to joining the EU.” The future for Turkey looked as rosy as those tulips fronting every landmark from the Blue Mosque to the Aya Sofya.

2008 C 100 Yellow tulips.jpg

We ordered coffees, and while we waited for them, our guide changed to another topic, the legend of St. Nick. “Did you know he came from Turkey?”

“I had no idea!” I replied. “I thought the Saint might have come from Russia. Our own legend is that he and his elves and reindeer live at the North Pole.”

DSC01722 Santa at the beach.jpg

“I know your popular image is of the big belly, the white beard, and his reindeer, but that depiction came from your Coca-Cola ads in the 1930s.  Here’s the real story: Centuries before the Ottoman Empire, St. Nick got his start as a fourth-century bishop in what is now Turkey. He was born a rich man’s son, but he took his inheritance and gave it to the poor, supposedly dropped down chimneys. Poor people in Turkey are very proud; they would not have accepted gifts if he had just handed them to him.”

We all take a sip of our Turkish coffees while we listen intently. “Mainly, St. Nicolas helped the children and gave them gifts.”

“Where in Turkey did he come from?” Gunter asked.

“There is a statue of him with children in Demre, a town in Southern Turkey, and the old Byzantine Church of St. Nicholas is there.  Lots of Russians go there, but it’s not big on tourism.”

Reportedly, the Islamist government of President Erdogan has worked hard to promote the country’s Ottoman history, but he has repeatedly ignored Turkey’s rightful place in Christian history. I don’t expect the current government to promote the St. Nicholas story.

This Christmas of 2016, I look back on that Turkish Spring of eight years ago. And I fear for Turkey’s future. Turkey is overwhelmed with problems—frequent terror attacks, huge populations of Syrian refugees, and mass arrests and incarcerations after a failed coup. All this makes the country dangerous and drives tourists away. I don’t know whether I’ll ever visit Turkey again, but the country and its people will always hold a special place in my heart.

A very merry Christmas to you and yours!

 

Blog 3, Danube series.

The Wachau, Die Wachau, is an area of Austria you don’t want to miss. This part of the Danube is only 30 kilometers (19 miles) long, but it’s a historic and epicurean microcosm of Austria. Centuries of stone terracing enclose vineyards framed by the Melk and Gottweig Monasteries. Gunter and I—along with my sister Loretta, her husband John—disembarked at Krems and took a bus tour to Melk. Our tour group walked partway on a path along the Danube, where we experienced spectacular views of vineyards clinging to riverside hills and sprawling into lush valleys.

dsc01236-the-wachau-region-of-the-danubedsc01237-crumbling-castle-along-the-wachau-walkdsc01240-a-river-ferry-motoring-to-the-other-side

The Benedictine Abbey Stift Melk, a UNESCO world heritage site that sits like a fortress on a high cliff, guards the western entrance of the Wachau region. Abbot Berthold Dietmayr began the construction the famous, baroque building during the 18th century. It took more than 30 years to build. A mighty church towers over numerous buildings and seven courtyards. It was quite the walk through the campus! And from the heights, the view of the countryside was stunning.

dsc00785-melk-abbey-in-melk-a-monk-looks-out-of-each-window-is-an-old-saying-in-austria

In Melk, a monk looks out of each window

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As a writer, I was most impressed by the library, containing 100,000 volumes. The book bindings were designed to match the library decor. Because photos were not allowed, the following photo was “lifted” from the souvenir book, Die Wachau. More photos of Die Wachau can be viewed on Gerd Krauskopf’s photo gallery. 

Back on the ms/Ariana, we learned that two rivers, the Melk and Pielach, flow into the Danube at the foot of the cliff on which the Abbey is built. Archeological finds from the Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages indicate that this site was a popular settlement choice. Later, the Romans built a small fort and lookout post that was probably set up where the bridge now crosses the Danube. Eventually, Slavic peasants from the East and South settled the area up to the mouth of the Enns River. The Slavic name Melk, meaning a “slow-moving stream,” comes from this time. In 1089 the monks arrived in Melk and since then, they have lived and worked in Melk without interruption. Melk is inseparably joined with the beginnings of Austria as a nation. Next stop: Vienna!

Next Page »