Monday, December 6, 2004

Michael Palin Goes the Dzong in Bhutan

“If the fabled Shangri-La exists beyond the legend, this is it.” – Michael Palin

English comic and now celebrated travel documentary maker, Michael Palin, is currently enthralling television audiences with his enriching odyssey, Himalaya.*

Over six, one hour episodes and through a lavish accompanying book, Michael regales the viewer with his adventures through the various countries and kingdoms in this enchanting part of the world.

Western travellers have long been attracted to the Himalayas for its magnificent mountains, deep mysticism and colourful cultures.

Outside of the more heavily trafficked regions of Nepal and India, lies the secluded and peaceful kingdom of Bhutan. Once a reclusive and isolated country, Bhutan is now cautiously opening its doors to tourism, ever mindful of the “corrupting” influences of western culture.

This remote, isolated kingdom appears to stand still in time while the world rages around it. Like some real-life Brigadoon, Bhutan carries on untroubled and unfussed by the tribulations elsewhere on the planet, providing a whole new meaning to the hackneyed old phrase “getting away from it all”.

Bhutan is truly one of the last remaining outposts available to the world-weary traveller. Parochial without being backward, introspective without being paranoid or hostile, the Bhutanese appear blissfully ignorant of the stresses and anxieties that plague us in the so-called modern world.

In final episode of the series, Michael passes Tiger’s Nest Monastery and treks towards the Base Camp of Chomolhari where he meets Dorji, a nomad with a penchant for yak songs. Heading down to Paro in time to enjoy the great Buddhist festival, or Tsechu, he witnesses the sacred Black Hat Dances in the fortress-like Dzong; archery contests in town; and the unfolding of the giant scroll, or thankha, during the night of the full moon. In a bar in the capital, Thimphu, Michael discusses reincarnation and the pursuit of happiness with Dash Benji and Ashi Khendum, the King’s cousins, and en-route to Bangladesh is taken by Benji to Popshika valley to see the extremely rare black neck cranes.

Tour Details

Adventure Associates invites you to experience some of this magical kingdom with their 16-day, fully escorted tour; “Bhutan, the Last Shangri-La.” Departing Australia on April 15, 2005 there are only a scant few places remaining on this much sought-after tour. And with strict tourist quotas applied by the Bhutanese Government, these numbers are definitely limited. Please book immediately!

Tour cost is A$8500 per person twin share, fully inclusive. For bookings and further information, please call Grahame Dann at Adventure Associates on (02) 9389 7466 or visit the website at:

Michael Palin's Travel Site:

Lone Father Starves For Months in Freezing Conditions While Raising Young

As politicians and union officials debate the many facets of parental leave, Australia’s longest established tour operator to Antarctica, Adventure Associates, reminds us of some exemplary behaviour already existing in the natural kingdom.

The largest of the world’s 17 species of penguin, the majestic Emperor of Antarctica, raises its young on the hard sea-ice of Antarctica huddled together against the biting winter winds. In a display of paternal instinct uncommon in the animal world, this intensely arduous task is performed by the Emperor males alone while the females stock up on food for a spring-time return.

The "Emperors of Antarctica" expeditions aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov, offer adventurers the rare opportunity to visit the Emperor Penguin colonies in the Ross Sea before the fledglings leave for the open ocean.

Dr Kirsten le Mar, a naturalist who has worked for several years on Adventure Associates’ voyages, has studied Emperors in detail.

“The male Emperor Penguin is virtually abandoned by the female after the single egg is laid. He is left alone for the 70-day incubation period during the dark and bitterly cold winter months, going completely without food for this period, the male feeds the newly-hatched chick with thin regurgitated “milk”.

“The female, gorged with squid and fish, returns soon after the chick has hatched and relieves the exhausted, emaciated male who must now walk and “toboggan" over the one hundred kilometres or so of frozen wasteland before he can reach the sea to feed. This meal will be his first for about six months and the ordeal is costly, leading to a higher mortality rate amongst the doting fathers, than the females.”

The females occasionally fail to return from this dangerous quest, falling prey to Orcas or leopard seals. The male is then faced with the heart-breaking decision of having to abandon his chick before he himself starves to death.

The surviving young chicks grow slowly at first, taking on their distinctive black and white plumage around the head that gives them a great deal of appeal to observers and photographers. At about seven weeks of age, the young huddle together in crèches for warmth while the parents search for food to satisfy their hungry little ones.

With the approach of summer, the ice breaks up, bringing the open ocean closer to the colony. It is during this time that most shipboard visitors arrive and many chicks are well advanced and the first are beginning to moult.

By January the young are ready to fend for themselves and head out independently to the open ocean, saying goodbye to their devoted parents forever.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


The aim of the game of Pétanque is simple, quoting partly from the BPA Coaching Course. If playing football is kicking a ball into the opposite goal and keeping it out of your own, playing pétanque is placing your boule nearer to the cochonet (coche) and keeping your opponents boule away. In fact the first aim of the game ought to be PLACING YOUR BOULE where you want them, rather than knocking objects out of the way. The game is played between two teams, it can be two players, one against one (French "Tête-a-Tête" ) with three boule each, or four players, two against two ( "Doubletts" ) again with three boule each, or six players, three against three ( "Triplette" ) playing with two boule each. The team winning the toss starts by drawing a circle about 35 to 50 centimetres (14 to 19.5 inches) across, standing inside it and throwing the coche (pronounced cosh) forward, not less than 6 metres or more than 10 metres away. The team that throws the coche also throws the first boule. The opposing team throws the second boule. From then on, the team furthest away from the coche after each throw, throws the next boule. This continues until one team has thrown all its boule. After this, the other team throws all its remaining boule. Getting near to the coche can be achieved in various ways: a) A boule can be thrown to it. b) The coche can be moved closer to one of your own boule. c) The opponent's boule nearest the coche can be moved further away by playing your own on to it. A team claims as many points as they have boule nearer the coche than the opposing team. When both teams boule have been thrown and the points assessed, this constitutes an end (French "Mène" ).The team winning the end gets to start the next end. The team first to 13 points wins the game. Courtesy

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Bhutan: A Place for Travellers and Magicians

Few people could answer even the most basic trivia questions on the isolated mountain kingdom of Bhutan. And for centuries, that’s exactly the way the deeply religious Bhutanese have liked it.

Only in the last decade or so has the Kingdom of Bhutan opened even slightly to the outside world. Tourists arrive in an orderly, metered trickle with numbers deliberately regulated to preserve the cultural and religious integrity of the tiny country. Even though modernisation is taking place gradually and carefully, the focus is on communication

infrastructure, health and social projects. Nowhere is there a garish western fast-food outlet or gaudy franchise to be seen.

However, Bhutan has begun delicately exporting its cultural heritage and complicated belief system via the medium of film. Acclaimed filmmaker and revered Bhutanese lama, Khyentse Norbu, has tantalised international audiences with his two recent productions, The Cup (1999) and Travellers and Magicians (2003). Acutely aware of the power and stigma of modern “Hollywood” style filmmaking, Norbu believes he can use a more subtle and romantic approach to convey the respectful and pious message of his country without employing crass evangelism.

“People automatically associate film with money, sex, and violence because there are so many such films coming out of Hollywood and Bollywood," says Norbu, "but if only they had access to films by the likes of Ozu, Satyajit Ray, Antonioni, people would understand that film-making doesn’t have to be like that. In fact it is a tool. Film is a medium and Buddhism is a science. You can be a scientist and at the same time, you can be a film-maker.”

By all accounts, Norbus’s sensitive portrayal of Dondup, a young government official stationed in a remote outpost from which he is eager to escape, has touched viewers with its sheer vitality and powerful storytelling. His cautionary tale of morality and misplaced desires is completely in keeping with the teachings of Buddhism and the national psyche of Bhutan.

Following on the overwhelming success of his previous two journeys, Adventure Associates Founder, Mr Dennis Collaton, is planning a third group tour to the fabled land of Shangri-La in April 2005.

“Even after a lifetime of travel to every continent on Earth,” says Dennis, “nothing prepared me for the spectacle of Bhutan.”

Bhutan is truly one of the last remaining outposts available to the world-weary traveller. Parochial without being backward and introspective without the paranoia or hostility, the Bhutanese are many stresses and anxieties that plague us in the so-called ‘modern’ world.

Interested in travelling to Bhutan?


Monday, July 5, 2004

Kamchatka: Where Giant Gomuls Roast Whole Whales Over the Fires of Volcanoes

Long hidden behind the impenetrable veil of Soviet secrecy, the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russian Far East is now becoming an irresistible wilderness location for expeditioners in search of unexplored locations.

Kamchatka was born of fire, like the Earth itself. For most of the Earth, though, the violence of creation ended long ago. Kamchatka has never seen quiet -- its history is one of continuous, violent rebirth.

Researcher and explorer, Andrew Logan, has traveled extensively through the region and has long been smitten by the wonder and beauty of this wild, untamed region.

“The native peoples of Kamchatka are intimately familiar with this fiery history. They have always feared the peninsula's volcanoes, whose peaks they believe to be inhabited by giant mountain spirits known as gomuls.

“Legend tells that by night, the gomuls take to the sky and hunt whales, returning home with the leviathans impaled on each finger and proceed to roast them in the great mountain fires. The natives believe that great heaps of whalebone lay on the mountaintops, but are too fearful to ascend the volcanoes to find out for themselves.”

The Kamchatka Peninsula has 29 active volcanoes, and despite this omnipresent ferocity, the area teams with wildlife. Bears, seals, walruses, whales and birdlife abound, reveling in the pristine fertility of this region on the edge of the ‘Ring of Fire’

“Karymsky Lake is one such mystic location, “ says Logan, “Its water turned to acid from recent eruptions and is uninhabitable now. But on its shores, life is slowly returning. Ash and mud from the eruption feed the soil, spurring the growth of plants, which in turn attract insects, birds, and larger wildlife. It will be somewhat longer before life recolonizes this particular lake, but in half a century all traces of this natural catastrophe will disappear. It is a process repeated countless times in this lake, on this peninsula called Kamchatka, where the earth is still young and unsure of itself, and where nature, like an unsatisfied artist, constantly destroys and remakes its canvas. “

Stop Press: Adventure Associates announces June 2007 departure to Kamchatka aboard Spirit of Enderby.

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Miss Universe Compere Declares Galapagos “The Wildlife Adventure of a Lifetime”

The recent Miss Universe competition has the put the spotlight on the tiny South American nation of Ecuador, and with our own Jennifer Hawkins triumphing in the coveted title, Australians are now in no doubt about the little nation’s cultural and natural allure.

Sydney’s Adventure Associates, coincidently located in the same part of Sydney as our new Miss Universe (Bondi Junction), has offered travel packages to Ecuador and the Galapagos for over thirty years.

Over 600 million television viewers witnessed the event that included a comprehensive coverage of Ecuador’s many tourism, cultural and natural attractions and included a declaration by the event’s compere and entertainment journalist, Billy Bush, that the Galapagos Islands were “a wildlife adventure of a lifetime.”

A part of Ecuador since 1832, and world-renowned as one of our planet’s foremost natural treasures, the Galapagos Islands were declared a national park in 1959. A “mecca” for naturalists since Charles Darwin spent five weeks there in 1835, the Galapagos Islands and Quito were amongst the very first sites chosen by UNESCO for World Heritage listing in 1978.

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Russell Crowe Stars in The Galapagos’ First Ever Feature Film

In the highest traditions of swashbuckling adventure, Australian Russell Crowe portrays Captain “Lucky” Jack Aubrey in the current blockbuster “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”.

Acclaimed filmmaker and another Australian, Peter Weir, excels even himself with the authenticity and sheer high drama of this landmark period adventure.

Weir, well known for his meticulous attention to detail, created filmmaking history by being the first and only director to ever take a feature film crew to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Galapagos Islands and uses the location to full effect in capturing the wonder of exploration and discovery in the early 19th century.

“It’s the only point in the movie you actually see land,” points out Production Artist, Robert Stromberg, “making it a centerpiece of the movie. Peter wanted to make The Galapagos look almost like another planet to the men aboard the Surprise.”

Ship’s Surgeon, Dr Stephen Maturin, played by Paul Bettany, is completely engrossed by the unique biological treasures he discovers during their short stay on the Galapagos that predates Charles Darwin’s arrival by some thirty years.

Adventure Associates have been sending passengers to The Galapagos since 1973 and these remote Ecuadorian islands remain one of the most popular destinations for all travellers to South America.

For more information on Adventure Associates’ “Galapagos and Amazon Adventure” please call 02 9389 7466 or Toll Free 1800 222 141 or visit

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