Saturday, June 10, 2017

A child needs your help.




I believe that one of the greatest privileges in life is the opportunity to help someone else, and who is more deserving than a child.  I support my children through World Vision and I highly recommend this organization as reliable, accountable, well-organized and invested in helping children and their communities to take charge in improving their own lives. I would like to persuade some of my readers to support one or more children, too!

Please check out this link about supporting a child in any country you choose: Choose a child



There are so many children in the world who you can help with just $35 per month.  This money will help provide supplies for the child's education, medicine for when they are sick, and infrastructure improvements within the child's community.


Please check out this link about supporting a child in any country you choose: Choose a child

Thanks so much for your help and generosity.  I thank you and your child will thank you!


Saturday, October 8, 2016

National Geographic Nature Photography Competition

I just entered two photos in a National Geographic photo competition.  If you would like to help by voting for my pics, please click on these links and "like" my photo on Nat Geo's competition page. Thanks!

Photo #1: Puffin in the Daisies   Click here to vote for this photo.



Photo #2: Sunset Scorpion  Click here to vote for this photo



Thanks so much for your help!  :)  

Thursday, November 19, 2015


"ONE HUNDRED AIRPLANES CRASH, KILLING 26,500."  


Imagine if this was the headline today! Think of all the pandemonium this would create across the world. 

Now imagine that the very next day,100 more airplanes crashed...and 100 more the next, and the next and the next. It is unimaginable that something this terrible could ever happen.  

BUT IT DID--AND IT DOES! 26,500 CHILDREN DIED TODAY from preventable causes related to poverty, and it will happen tomorrow and the next day and the next.  

10 MILLION CHILDREN PER YEAR!!  

So why isn't this in the news?

HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT. (Pick any or all of these)





Thanks so much for helping!  :)

Children protected from malaria by a bed net.  A simple way to prevent the worst killer on the planet--the mosquito!



Friday, January 31, 2014

Living in Moroccan Paradise: Ifrane National Park

No, this isn't a re-make of a Weird Al Yankovic song.

There really is a Moroccan paradise.  


Cedar trees ring an ancient crater at center.  Another crater is visible at center right.

Imagine burnished blue skies and crisp mountain air.  Can you smell the clean aroma of cedar wafting on a warm summer breeze?  See the golden colors of yet another blazingly perfect sunset, then gaze up at Orion as he wields his bow across the northern sky.


Hear the rustle of fallen leaves under your feet as you wander the silent oak forest.  Then in winter swish your way through the swirling snow as boughs pregnant with snow threaten to unburden themselves under the next landing of a leaping macaque.


This is Moroccan paradise, and its name is Ifrane.


TO SEE THE PARADISE I JUST DESCRIBED, CLICK HERE



"Ifrane?  Where's that?"


This might be your question upon hearing the name of the home I love.

Ifrane is a small mountain town in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco, well-known by Moroccans but little-known to foreign tourists.

But Ifrane should be on your list of places to visit during your travels in Morocco!  Let me tell you why I love Ifrane:

1.  The town of Ifrane

Ifrane is a peaceful mountain town of approximately 40,000 set at the refreshing altitude of 1,665 meters (5,460 feet).  This altitude means that Ifrane is cooler than most lowland Moroccan cities during the hot summer months and it experiences all the seasons with brilliant fall colors (though of a limited spectrum)...



 ...AND the occasional heavy snowfall.


TO SEE IFRANE AS A WINTER WONDERLAND CLICK HERE

I enjoy the usual lack of traffic (except when Moroccan tourists crowd in to see the snow), the pristine air, and plenty of trees and flowers beautifully landscaped around the town.  A few good restaurants in the quaint centre ville add to the pleasant ambiance, and the town is small enough that you can walk everywhere.

Centre Ville (Town Center) of Ifrane
2.  The Cedar and Oak Forests

Living in a peaceful, stress-free town is nice, but what I really love about Ifrane is the surrounding countryside!

The oak forests that cover the hills around town look very similar to the scenery of southern California.  Most of the oak trees are surprisingly evergreen, so you can enjoy one of Morocco's really green areas even in the winter.

Oak forest.
The oak trees do lose their leaves, but not all at once.  New leaves grow only at the tips of the branches and older leaves further down the branch eventually drop to the ground leaving a pleasantly crunching carpet under your feet as you wander through the forest.

But the grandest of all trees is the Atlas cedar!  These magnificent giants tower to 35 meters (about 100 feet) and are up to 2 meters (7 feet) in diameter.  The countryside around Ifrane and Azrou is the best place to enjoy the cedar forest with 3 long chains of mountains, the closest only 5 minutes by car from the center of town.

Me at the foot of "Granddaddy Cedar."


The mightiest cedar of them all!
3.  The Wildlife

Morocco is, admittedly, not a safari destination, but Ifrane does have a variety of wildlife, including the charismatic Barbary macaque.

Many European bird species pass through Morocco during fall and spring migrations.  So far I've checked off 85 species in my bird guidebook.  My favorite is the hoopoe, but I also like raptors such as the short-toed eagle.

Short-toed eagle
You might be lucky enough to spot a wild boar in the woods.  Males can be quite large measuring 1 and 1/2 meters high at their shoulder hump.  The piglets are extremely cute with their spots and stripes!

TO SEE WILD BOAR IN IFRANE CLICK HERE

And, of course, there is the entertaining Barbary macaque, the largest population of which lives right here in Ifrane's cedar forest. It is good fun to watch them leaping from branch to branch and seeing the cute wrinkly babies in spring is a treat.



4. The Flowers


If you love flowers, then you should be in Ifrane from mid-May to early June.  Fields of scarlet poppies are common, not to mention a colorful cornucopia of violet, yellow, white, pink, blue and purple flowers that I wish I knew all the names of!  :)  Anyway, I love to photograph them all and can enjoy their beauty without knowing all their names.   Springtime is also the greenest time in Ifrane when the hillsides are covered in verdant grasses benefiting from the snowmelt and spring rains.



5. Hiking and Mountain Biking

Ifrane is an ideal location for hiking a mountain biking, and I've made my own list of 45 trails in the area (and still adding more!).  There is nothing quite like having a silent forest all to yourself as you listen to the breeze in the cedar branches and watch a black kite soar overhead.  


TO SEE 3 GREAT HIKES IN IFRANE CLICK HERE

Atlas cedar forest.
I often like to ride my mountain bike to one of my seven favorite spots--Kolin's Korner-- and read a book under a towering tree. I leisurely eat my lunch and read for a couple of hours, then tear off through the woods on my mountain bike across trails I've cleared,  finally arriving at home feeling invigorated and refreshed!

At the top of the Azrou Cliff.
For hikers, there are several interesting geographical features to visit such as (these are my names since they aren't named on the map) the Fox Bowl--an extinct volcanic crater 50 meters deep and circled by cedar trees; Raven's Roost--a rocky promontory that commands a spectacular view of the Azrou valley; the Azrou cliff--a precipitous drop that overlooks the town of Azrou; and the Sinkhole--a deep vertical shaft circled by cedars, whose cliffs are home to roosting owls, wood pigeons, and choughs, and whose boulder-filled bottom shelters a pair of foxes.

Hiking in deep snow among the cedars.
For mountain bikers, you can head off into the woods just over the hill from the Shell station and explore some of the old logging paths, but if you want to discover some of the best trails I would have to show you.  Some of their names might whet your appetite: the Panorama Trail, Sunday's Seven Hour Suicide Ride, the Cone, Rock and Roll, Macaque Supertrack and my very own 29 kilometer Tour d'Ifrane.


TO SEE MOUNTAIN BIKING IN IFRANE CLICK HERE

Riding my mountain bike at the Fox Bowl.
These are the reasons why I love my home, Ifrane.  This is why you should visit Ifrane next time you come to Morocco!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The GrandER Canyon

The Grand Canyon in Arizona, U.S of A is pretty grand.

BUT Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, the United States of Mexico is even grander!


Here are some pics to whet your interest:


That's me, near the town of Creel.

Can you see me at the edge of the precipice?  This was taken near Divisadero.
Copper Canyon (Barranca de Cobre in Spanish)  is a group of 6 canyons that, when taken together, are larger in area and at times deeper than the Grand Canyon.  When not so covered with trees and grass as in my photos (very unusual for the normally dry Chihuahuan Desert) you can see a greenish copper color in the rock walls, thus the name for the canyon.

The six rivers that formed Copper Canyon flow through the Sierra Madre Occidental and merge into the Rio Fuerte which empties into the Sea of Cortez.


It is along the Rio Fuerte that you can enjoy one of the world's most scenic train rides on "Chepe", the Copper Canyon railroad beginning in the lovely mountain town of Creel and ending at El Fuerte.


Map of train route.
Here are some of the views you can enjoy if you book a ticket on the Chepe train:





Don't ask me who this woman is...But I like her regal nose. ;)


Not only can you enjoy a wonderfully scenic train ride in Copper Canyon, you can also see Mexico's tallest permanent waterfall--Basaseachi--at a grand height of 246 meters:




In addition, you can meet the Tarahumara people.  They actually call themselves the Rarámuri which in their language means "those who run fast", and they are famous for running long distances (up to 200 miles/ 320 km) without rest!

The Raramuri people often live in caves or under rock outcroppings as seen here:


Note the handmade baskets on the shelf.  Great souvenirs.  :)


And you often see them selling their hand-woven baskets beside the train tracks of the Chepe train:





If you do take the Copper Canyon railway (the Chepe) you will most likely end your journey at the small but pleasant town of El Fuerte:


It was close to Independence Day when I visited.  Hence the banners everywhere.



You definitely don't want to miss Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico!

Too see even more great photos of Copper Canyon, the Raramuri people and Basaseachi waterfall click here

To help you plan your trip to Copper Canyon, here are some helpful links:

1. Official Mexico Tourist Website on Copper Canyon

2. CHEPE Copper Canyon's Railway

3. YouTube video about Tarahumara

4. National Geographic Article about Tarahumara

5.  A Great Video Slideshow about Mexico

Thanks for visiting Kolin's Travels!  See you next time! 





Thursday, November 21, 2013

Birthplace of the Gods

Let's take a little quiz:

1.  What is the 2nd most visited country in the Americas?
2.  What is the 12th most visited country in the world?
3.  What is the 11th most populous country and the 14th largest country in the world?
4.  What country boasts 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites?
5. The U.S. of A is not the only United States in North America.  What is the another United States?

The answer to all these questions is los Estados Unidos de México!  The stupendously scenic and intriguing country of Mexico!




TO SEE A GREAT VIDEO OF MEXICO SET TO A TOE-TAPPING SONG CLICK HERE

Please put aside your qualms about kidnapping and drug cartels.  Let me personally assure you that Mexico is a fantastic country to visit and, if you use common sense, it is very unlikely that you will run into trouble.  

I traveled in Mexico for 3 months from late August to mid November of 2008 and I had a marvelous time!

Initially, I planned to spend those 3 months traveling through Mexico and Central America. But when I began to discover all the wondrous sights of Mexico, I stayed there the whole 3 months, traveling to over 50 destinations from the Chihuahuan desert to the Yucatan peninsula.

This month I will focus on 4 great and perhaps little known destinations in Mexico.  The first one is the "Birthplace of the Gods."  Here's a peak at this awe-inspiring attraction:


This expansive and ancient (from 100 B.C) temple complex is known as Teotihuacan.  It is a mystery who made these magnificent temples. The name Teōtīhuacān meaning "Birthplace of the Gods" was given by the Nahuatl speaking Aztecs who "re-discovered" the ruins centuries after the creating civilization had disappeared!

Teotihuacan, at its zenith around 450 A.D., contained perhaps up to 125,000 people and was the largest city in MesoAmerica!

The most imposing structures are the Pyramid of the Moon:


The Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl--the Feathered Serpent God:




The Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl has some unique stone heads adorning it:

A Jaguar

I have no clue. :)

Quetzalcoatl is on the right.
And finally, the 7th largest pyramid in the world with a volume of 1.2 million cubic meters, the Pyramid of the Sun:

That's me!  :)

Yes, those are ant-sized people at the top.


Here is a map of Teotihuacan to give you an idea of how these pyramids were situated in relation to each other:



The site is aligned perfectly at 15.5 degrees east of North, supposedly because the sun rose at that angle predictably on the same summer day each year.

In case you were wondering...yes, human sacrifices did occur here; animal and human remains were found during excavations of these pyramids.  Oh, you know....the usual...heads chopped off, hearts ripped out, people buried alive...all to ensure the prosperity of the city.

Here is a final view from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun:


Wikipedia photo

Mexico is full of amazing ruins: Bonampak, Yaxchilan, Palenque, Monte Alban, Chichen Itza and my favorite-- Calakmul

I really can't end this post without saying that my visit to Calakmul was a dream come true.  I always wanted to climb the steps of a remote, little-visited, crumbling, jungle-enshrouded Mayan pyramid and only Calakmul met all of these criteria!

It was an unforgettable experience to be the only one in this ancient civilization for an afternoon. To be alone with the spider monkeys and to watch a pair of toucans fly by at eye level while I stood at the top of Calakmul's pyramid brought a tear of joy to my eye.  

Here are a couple of shots of Calakmul:




If Mayan ruins aren't your thing, don't worry!  

Mexico has so many other great sights, sounds, tastes and experiences to offer!

Mexico has gorgeous beaches (Cozumel and Tulum), diving and snorkeling (cenotes of the Yucatan, Isla Espiritu Santo), Copper Canyon which is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon of the U.S.A, and most importantly--great food and friendly people!

So what are you waiting for?  Visit Mexico!

HELPFUL LINKS:






See you next week at Kolin's Travels!