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The neatest place you have never heard of: Tajikistan

Posted by on 9:24 pm in Travel | 15 comments

The neatest place you have never heard of:  Tajikistan

Why go to Tajikistan? In the 1990’s Fred served at the U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan, while Sharon served at the Embassy in Kyrgyzstan. Sharon’s country seemed like a happy Dr. Seuss country, while Fred’s was embroiled in a nasty civil war.   This conflict had transformed the USSR’s best mountain adventure destination into a no-go zone with landlines littering once-pristine trekking routes in the high Pamir mountains…home to numerous peaks over 6 and 7,000 meters. After peace came in 1997, the two of us often...

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Argentina’s Clever Orcas: Part Two

Posted by on 3:28 pm in Travel | 5 comments

Argentina’s Clever Orcas:  Part Two

Seeing the clever Orca “Killer Whales” of Peninsula Valdes has long been on our bucket list of things to do.  Our last blog talked about visiting the Southern Right Whales’ breeding grounds around Peninsula Valdes, and this second part centers on another fascinating whale-watching reason to stop here – – its unique Orca population. In addition to Southern Right Whales and Orcas, the Peninsula Valdes  marine nature reserve, which is the highlight of the Atlantic coast of Patagonia, is also home to other beautiful...

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Whales in Patagonia – Part One

Posted by on 1:47 am in Travel | 5 comments

Whales in Patagonia – Part One

We love whales.  We live in Langley on Whidbey Island and regularly see both Orcas (Killer Whales) and Gray Whales from the deck of our house. We are involved in Orca Network’s Langley Whale Center, and haven’t hesitated to travel to see whales in Maui, Mexico, Oregon and Maritime Canada.  So it will be no surprise that one of the reasons for the Lundahls visiting Patagonia was for the chance to see whales on the Peninsula Valdes. Seeing whales is all about catching them at the right spot during their annual migrations....

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Patagonian Cowboys and their Rodeos

Posted by on 10:20 pm in Travel | 7 comments

Patagonian Cowboys and their Rodeos

Argentina’s vast plains–the green pampas in the north, and drier steppes in the south–are similar in many ways to the American west.  They have spawned a historic horseman culture not unlike our own. Before we visited Patagonia, we knew a little of the Argentine gaucho culture, horsemen who herded cattle and other animals, using weighted ropes called bolos, rather than lassos, and who had their own unique costumes and horse tack. We were charmed by this vibrant culture.  We had the chance to watch both great feats of...

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Chile & Argentina

Posted by on 5:28 pm in Antarctica Majestic, Shopping Overseas, Travel | 6 comments

Chile & Argentina

During our recent trip to Patagonia, we visited both Chile and Argentina.  We liked the flora, fauna and folks in both countries, but wondered why they have had so much trouble getting along throughout their history. Looking closely at a map–you notice that there is a section of their joint border in the southern Patagonian ice field, the third largest hunk of ice in the world, where they can’t agree on where the border lies…even today.   Friends in both countries explained that this odd fact is because the mile-deep ice...

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Why Patagonia?

Posted by on 10:24 pm in Culture, Travel | 12 comments

Why Patagonia?

Fred and Sharon spent November of this year in Patagonia–that windswept expanse of flat lands and high mountains of southern Argentina and Chile. Why, our friends asked, did you go to a place not known for rugs or textiles and where, uncharacteristically, you can drink the water out of the tap? Yes, Argentina is less “exotic” than our usual travel destinations, as Europe has been the main source of immigration and influence on the area.   Even though the population does look pretty much like Europe, and the food centers...

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By Rail in Mongolia

Posted by on 11:49 pm in Culture, Travel | 12 comments

By Rail in Mongolia

Fred loves train travel.  You meet an interesting cross-section of a population and get to peer into a country’s backyards as the train passes.  Wherever we go, we take train trips, and Mongolia was no exception. The vast country has relatively few kilometers of rail–all built for them by the Soviet Union.  Besides a few spur lines to mining towns, the only rail line in the country is the one that connects Beijing with Moscow.  The fancy Chinese spur to the Russian Trans-Siberian zips people straight through Mongolia, but Fred...

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The Far Corner of Mongolia

Posted by on 12:28 am in Travel | 9 comments

The Far Corner of Mongolia

People who have been visiting our shop since our trip to Mongolia this June have been happily shopping for our unusual felt slippers, as well as colorful purses and bags decorated with elaborate hand-embroidery.  Where are they from?  They are all made by Kazakh-ethnic women who live in the mountainous far-western corner of Mongolia. Fred and his friend Jeff visited this Mongolian corner and spent almost a week in the Kazakh-majority far-western province of Bayan Olgii.  They went trekking in Tavan Bogd (the “five saints”)...

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“Gers” and “Yurts” in Mongolia

Posted by on 12:19 am in Culture, Shopping Overseas, Travel | 6 comments

“Gers” and “Yurts” in Mongolia

Mongolia is a wonderful country whose vast landscapes are scattered with round portable nomad tents.  The majority of the Mongolian population call theirs “gers”, but the minority Kazakh people in far western Mongolia call theirs “yurts”.  Kazakh yurts, however, should not be mistaken for Mongolian gers.  There are a number of differences. The two nomadic dwellings rang from the same sources, but have developed differences over the centuries.  In contemporary Mongolia, you often see a mix of gers and yurts in tourist...

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Driving in Mongolia

Posted by on 1:31 am in Antarctica Majestic, Shopping Overseas, Travel | 11 comments

Driving in Mongolia

  Mongolia is a vast country–13th largest in the world–with a small population–3 million.  Of interest to the driver, is that it has fewer kilometers of road per person than any country in the world, and some of the worst urban traffic. Until the 1990’s virtually all vehicles, and there weren’t many, were of Russian manufacture.  Now those old and patched-up Russian vehicles have migrated to the far corners of the country. They have been replaced in most places by foreign, mainly Japanese-made,...

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