Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nepal: An Irreversible Loss of Priceless Heritage

by Praveen Kumar, CEO of TripHobo
Twitter: @TripHobo

What started off as a normal day, turned into the biggest nightmare for the nation of Nepal as a regular Sunday afternoon was ravaged with nature’s fury. Hapless people fled from the rubbles they once called home and held on to their loved ones as the earth beneath them shook with unanticipated outrage. The earthquake was triggered by the India tectonic plate, which is moving northwards at the rate of 5cm a year into central Asia. This has resulted in thrust-faulting and has thrown up the Himalayan mountain range too.

The tiny, picturesque landscape of Nepal that is blessed with unparalleled beauty changed within seconds into an unrecognizable chaos that has left an imprint on not just its terrain but its very soul too.

Natural disasters snatch away a lot from us; our belongings, our pride, our ego and our confidence. They leave us vulnerable and with a confirmed realization that everything in life is only temporary. The sardonicism of life is such that horrific natural disasters have managed to get people and countries closer and have made us forget our differences and animosities; even if only for a moment. As people in Nepal pick up what is left of their lives and look for the frazzled remnants of their near and dear ones, the world has stood up to the catastrophe and nations are united in their efforts to salvage Nepal from this unprecedented tragedy.

The earthquake that measured 7.9 on the Richter scale has brought about not just wide spread destruction but has also highlighted newer, deeper challenges of sanitation, food, medicine and rehabilitation. Even as the people stranded in the country quiver with the possibility of fresh tremors or powerful aftershocks, Nepal is faced with a mammoth task of handling the much more difficult aftermath of a natural disaster.

Even though the response of help from all over the world has been overwhelming, Nepal can do with as much immediate assistance as possible. If you wish to help, you could donate anything; from money to blankets or even clothes if needed. But before you do, make sure it is through a reputable charity that has a presence in Nepal and that the item you are donating is what is actually required there.

A primarily tourist driven economy, the ramifications of the earthquake are going to stretch wide and far even after Nepal manages to stand back on its feet. A number of its prized tourist attractions have been reduced to dust and its major tourist puller; the Himalayas has seen devastating avalanches that have buried many a brave hearts beneath the snow. The Old town of Kathmandu that was known for its ancient, beautifully preserved architecture like the Dharahara Tower (a UNESCO World Heritage structure) was reduced to apile of broken bricks. Many other heritage structures have been destroyed including almost all the iconic religious buildings at Durbar square in Kathmandu.

Amid all the destruction, there are a lot of lessons hidden in this tragedy. It has forced us to come to terms with the fact that life is transitional in nature and that no matter how many riches we amass, it will never guarantee our security against a natural disaster of this magnitude. Somewhere down the line, we have forgotten to respect nature and its power to make and break life. Incidents like these remind us that man can rarely control a natural apocalypse or escape unscathed from its temper. It has taught us that life is more than the stuff we own or the luxuries that we buy and that living is really about co-existing with the world rather than trying to outshine our fellow citizens.

The earthquake might have shattered buildings and cracked roads, but the beauty of human nature is such that even when all is lost, there still remains a sliver of hope that slowly but surely life will come back to being as beautiful as it is. The battered spirit will rise up from the ashes and rebuild the foundation of a better world. Even though these scars will take time to heal, they will remind us of a time where we rose to our strongest self in the wake of weakest circumstances.

Nepal needs not just physical or financial support but also moral encouragement. Let’s come together in our prayers for those who have endured this terrible catastrophe and pray for the souls of those who couldn’t make it.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Australian beauty queens trade heels for hiking boots to tackle Kokoda


Laura Dundovic and Erin Holland prove PNG’s famous trek is one for the girls


Two high profile Australian women, Laura Dundovic, former winner of Miss Universe Australia and Erin Holland, past winner of Miss World Australia, swapped their heels for hiking boots to walk Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) renowned Kokoda Track.

The women took on the challenging eight day trek, as part of a Do Kokoda campaign developed by the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority (PNGTPA), aimed at encouraging more women to trek Kokoda. Their adventure was filmed to create three short documentaries.

The videos can be viewed at along with other images and testimonials of their experience. is a hub of information and inspiration about trekking Kokoda including almost 300 stories shared by other Australians who have trekked the track, links to Kokoda trek operators, Frequently Asked Questions about trekking Kokoda and information on how to donate to support communities along the track.

Each year PNGTPA encourages advocates to trek the track and post content of their experiences on this site. Laura and Erin were selected as key Kokoda ambassadors for 2015 in an attempt to appeal to a female audience, following a hugely successful campaign featuring Sam Newman and Garry Lyon of the AFL Footy Show, who trekked Kokoda in 2014.

Peter Vincent, Chief Executive Officer of PNGTPA, says that the women were selected to demonstrate that the trek can be a hugely rewarding experience for all Australians and should not be dismissed as ‘one for the guys.’

“We felt Laura and Erin were the perfect fit for this project because they were prepared to get right out of their comfort zone to show other women that Kokoda is not only possible, but an incredibly rewarding experience. In addition to this Laura’s family connection gave even more depth to her experience,” Mr Vincent said.

Laura Dundovic said she was deeply impacted by the entire experience, which not only physically challenged her but allowed her to trace the history of her grandfather, Sir Thomas Blamey, a controversial figure of World War II.

“There were times when it seemed too hard but being able to walk in the footsteps of Australian soldiers and in particular my very own grandfather was so incredible. I just had no idea what they went through on Kokoda – and I don’t think you can grasp it until you’re on the track,” Laura said.

Laura and Erin are passionate about spreading the word of their inspiring journey and believe more women should consider trekking Kokoda.

“Kokoda got us away from our phones and pushed our physical limits, which was incredibly rewarding. Most of all it taught us about a poignant chapter in Australia’s history and we truly believe more Australian women should give it a go,” Erin said.

“I am definitely going to come back. I’ll drag a couple of girlfriends with me – and if not, I’ll come back by myself. It was amazing,” Laura said.

To view Laura and Erin’s videos from their time on the track and to learn more about Kokoda visit

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Historic Motifs Depicted Over a Thousand Years in and Around Moab Utah

Rock art sites are difficult to date. Clues are found in the subject matter on the panel, a rock wall or boulder. As days warm up in the desert, visiting rock art is a region specific point of interest requiring little demand physically to access.

Depictions of mastodon hints of a Pleistocene era, scenes involving horses necessarily occurred after 1540 A.D., at a time when Spaniards introduced horses to the New World and so on.

Two types of rock art can be found: petroglyphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs are scratched – pecked into rock surfaces. Pictographs are painted drawings. Please bring a camera or sketchbook to record these protected public treasures. Rubbings are forbidden. Touching art is forbidden, skin oil is transferred then damages the panel.

A simple pamphlet is available from the MoabInformationCenter providing detailed directions to sites. Or find the electronic brochure on The Moab Information Center also has books that introduce readers to a plausible lifestyle of the cultures which left the motifs.

Local Moab tour companies have trips which may include stops at a rock art site, however, when it comes to definitive interpretation, even the archaeologists and historians only speculate.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first law to recognize the importance of Archeological Sites. It prevented the removal of artifacts. It allowed the President to set aside federal lands as “National Monuments'. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 details prohibited activities and increased the financial and incarceration penalties. Selling, buying, transporting artifacts is unlawful. Defacing, damaging, removing items from federal sites is unlawful. Around Moab, hundreds of thousands of acres fall into the federal land category. By 1998 the ARPA was amended to establish programs to increase public awareness by land managers to protect resources.

In 2015, you are needed to help spread the word of protection of the precious places.

Discover Your Tropical Dream Home at Vunabaka in Fiji

There are few places left in the world that can be called a true tropical island escape.  But in the islands of Fiji, a resort experience called Vunabaka can make this claim - as the ultimate high-end tropical destination that marries all that is luxurious with the exotic Fijian island experience.

Vunabaka is a brand new residential and hotel development designed to allow those after the ultimate island escape to either own their own tropical piece of paradise in the heart of the South Pacific, or holiday at its luxury five-star boutique hotel, the Island Grace.

Nestled on Malolo Island, the Vunabaka resort development – which is designed at the level of the famed Aman resorts –  is a water-lovers' dream. Its entire design is set around two private marinas, 73 private luxury villa residences and the Island Grace boutique hotel.

As well as an unmatched level of luxury in its privately-owned luxury villas, the 5-star resort provides the ultimate ocean-based resort experience – world-class surfing, pristine beaches,  marina berths and a strong design that is both ecologically sound and architecturally luxurious, while still remaining true to the stunning Fijian island aesthetic.

The Island Grace is at the very heart of the Vunabaka resort, with bures (a traditional Fijian beach-side villa) running along the white sand beach and marinas. Available are studio bures with their own private garden and access to the beach, or garden bures with their own private plunge pool.

Vunabaka was designed by five businessmen who are not your traditional property developers. All five are avid surfers who wanted to build a water lover's paradise and luxury getaway that was about indulging your sporting passion as much as luxury relaxation – offering surfing, fishing, boating, sailing, diving, swimming as well as land-based activities such tennis, running trails and yoga.

"It is the ultimate ocean lovers' paradise. It's in proximity to some of the world's best surfing breaks, fishing spots, kite-surfing destinations and boating activities," says owner Andrew Griffiths. "The likes of global surfing sensations Joel Parkinson and Kelly Slater have said the world-class surfing breaks – five of which are in close proximity to Vunabaka – are some of their all-time favourites. "

In line with being a water lovers' paradise, the resort has a marina capable of berthing luxury boats.

Vunabaka is also the only marina development in the Pacific Islands with a white sand beach, blue water and marina, and luxury boutique hotel, all just 35 minutes travel by boat or 10 minutes by helicopter from an international airport.

It is also unique in that the two world-class private marinas have been created with a swimming channel that allows for all-tide beach use.

Every element of the project has been designed specifically for those with a taste for ultimate luxury and a love of the ocean – but also with a focus on minimising the resort's impact on the pristine Fijian environment. It runs on networked solar power, with an organic wastewater system and even has a reforestation programme in place to restore native rainforest and hardwood trees.

For more information:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Let's Travel Magazine. Issue 35 - April/May 2015

Another jam packed issue that will take you on journeys across New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Samoa, Tahiti, New Caledonia, Oman, Peru, India, Thailand, Switzerland, the UK, USA and more!

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