Extreme snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is a blast, and it can get you out into some great mountains around Vancouver. But some guys take the sport to the extreme. Watch the YouTube video.

Photos from the Foya Mountains

The Foya mountains is one of the remotest mountain ranges in the world. Although I have always dreamt of going there, I had actually never seen good photos. This site on insects of Papua has a bit more information on the area, including photos and a location map. This site on the CI expedition to the Foya Mountains has some more information.

New species in Foya mountains

A team of Conservation International biologists returned to the Foya Mountains (map) in northern Papua (Indonesia) this year. This pristine rain forest, considered one of the last great unexplored areas of the world, once again yielded some great finds, including a giant rat, and display behaviour of a black sicklebill bird of paradise. I saw these gorgeous birds in the Wandamen range near Wasior in northwestern Papua. These iridescent black birds with their very long tails are truly stunning.

My friend Will and I had been wanting to go to the Foyas ever since we came to Papua, but the area is just too remote, unless oyu are with a well-organized expedition. It’s no wonder that it took Bruce Beehler 25 years to get there.

However, looking at the Google map of Papua, I was shocked at the number of new roads in the area around the Foyas. In the early ninetees, there were none. I even saw entirely new transmigration areas along the north coast. Rather depressing.

Everett’s Top 10

As I have noted many times, Top 10 lists are popular these days. Probably in a large part due to the overload of information. People can choose from 1,000s of options these days, but they still just want someone to tell them what the best places to go/see/stay are. They trust the opinions of their friends, family, favourite magazine, other traveller.

Opinions of  travel writers count too. Here is the list of one travel writer, Everett Potter. It’s good to see that as usual, the list includes a Canadian destination. This time heli hiking with CMH. Good to see that Bhutan is represented too.

People lie about green travel

People who are asked how green their travel behaviour is, tend to lie about it, according to an article in the Edmonton Journal.

Alternatives to Nalgene bottles

Nalgene PC bottleNow that MEC has pulled all their polycarbonate bottles (including most of the famous Nalgene bottles, right) off the shelf, due to fears over health risks of these bottles, it is time to look for alternatives.But first, how do you know if your favourite bottle is polycarbonate? Just look on the bottom for a #7 recycling logo, often accompanied by PC.

It turns out that #7 types of plastic are the hardest to recycle. HDPE, which is used in the original Nalgene bottles (picture below), is a #2 type plastic, and much easier to recycle. Another good reason to not to buy bottles made from #7 plastics.
Alternatives to polycarbonate bottles

Nalgene HDPE bottleSigg offers stainless steel bottles. Their latest line looks like the Swatch of waterbottles. Create your own favourite design.

(from Ben Miller, on Gravsports) :

1. Guyot Designs Stainless steal bottles. Classy, indestructable, and the only thing better to store liquids in than stainless steel is glass or titanium. [BluePeak: only problem is that they are about twice the weight of a plastic bottle… ]

2. Camelbak just came out with some new Bisephenol-A free bottles. [BluePeak: they are CamelBak Performance bottles, made of a #5 polypropylene]

From Marsha on Besthike:

Swellz offers an interesting alternative – based on the European wine bags. [BluePeak: Although by the looks of it, they’d be hard to clean.]

Guess it is time for an expedition to MEC or REI for some new containers!

MEC pulls Nalgene bottles off shelves

Nalgene PC bottleAccording to an article in the Globe and Mail, MEC has supposedly just pulled all their polycarbonate bottles (including most of the famous Nalgene bottles) off the shelf, due to fears over health risks of these bottles. They are said to leak Bisphenol A into the contents.

But do also read this entry on the Besthike blog and especially the comments. This is a heated debate, with no clear answer either way. Will Gadd offers a good opinion as well. I agree with him: there are good alternatives, so no need to take too much of a risk with PC bottles.

How do you know if your favourite bottle is polycarbonate? See my next posting on alternatives to Nalgene bottles.

Voluntourism in Canada

One of our staff just wrote a short article on voluntourism for the CTC’s daily email newsletter. It concludes that  despite the fact that many people think of volunteering in developing countries, there is room for voluntourism in Canada as well, especially when helping research projects, or working on farms.

Marketing Nunavut

Nunavut is one of my favourite destinations in Canada, so I am always happy to promote the territory. Here is an interesting post on the challenges Tourism Nunavut faces in marketing such a remote destination on a small budget.

Buying airline tickets online

I had to quickly order an airline ticket to Indonesia yesterday. A good test for online bookings. I had three choices: Eva Air, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

Eva Air
I gave up on Eva Air in frustration, because I couldn’t get past an error message “there is no flight on the day you chose”. Even after I consulted the handy pop-up timetable. Instead of a generic error mesage, tell me when the next flight is! Or if there are no flight in winter, tell me! So they instantly lost my business.

Cathay Pacific
Good site, and I could find what I wanted relatively quickly. The results showed me immediately if there was room on the flight, before bothering me with prices. I had the opportunity to easily choose other dates if I wanted to. Nice touch: the fare shown includes all taxes, so no suprises. The fare details also showed me instantly if the flight qualified for AsiaMiles (their own) or AA Miles (not all flights qualify for these).

The only feature that would have been nice, was a simple table with a combination of about 4 departure and return dates with different fares for each. NorthWest and Singapore Air have this feature. If you’re not stuck on one set of dates, this can save you quite a bit of money. We shifted a trip to Europe because of Northwest’s advice.

Singapore Air
The best site of the three (what else would you expect of them!). They offer an option to choose flexible dates, returning a number of options with different fares. A few small problems: when selecting dates/destinations, you can choose for a schedule or book now. Book now is a misnomer – you want to see available flights/fares, and only book if you like what you see. People will be reluctant to press book now. The schedule button is good, but once you see a flight you like, you can’t select it to add it to an itinerary.

Also, if a flight is full, it gives a basic error message (no seats or flights available, choose another date), instead of providing help. The biggest problem with Singapore Air is that they are pretty much always full, so that doesn’t help them get my business.

I did check Expedia, but their cheapest option was about $200 more. I have never had luck with those guys yet.

In the end I went with Cathay. I ended up booking the ticket through the phone, though, as I wanted a ticket with an open return option, which was hard to get through the web. Nothing beats a human at the other end. It would have been nice if I could have called directly from the website, with the person on the other end knowing where I was stuck to speed things up.

Lately, I have always booked directly from an airline. Other than a wild range in the quality of their sites, it appears that they often offer the best fares these days.