We’ve gone all out to prepare an especially practical (as well as entertaining) program of educational tours for the coming year. Despite the fact that fuel prices have caused travel costs to increase, we feel that our new group of far-flung, unforgettable adventures are worth every cent you'll pay. They are, in fact, three unique experiences that you'll treasure for a lifetime!
A Solar Tour of Israel
The fuel crunch itself was the inspiration for the first of our 1980 odysseys because Israel, a land with 320 days of sunshine a year, is (as you'd imagine) by far the world's most advanced nation in terms of the development and use of practical solar technology.
With a study of that solar know-how in mind, we've joined with Michigan's Jordan College (a school that has rapidly gained national recognition for its pioneering efforts in the development of sun systems and alternate-energy academic programs) for a 10-day, $1,090 trip that will give you firsthand exposure to the latest Israeli solar developments. The trip will run from February 15 to 24, and the low price includes round-trip airfare from New York; luxury hotel accommodations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Tiberias (on the Sea of Galilee); breakfasts; air-conditioned coach service; and a number of guided tours.
Although there will be lots of free time to work on a winter tan at exclusive Mediterranean resorts, browse in Jerusalem's enchanting bazaars, explore Tel Aviv's intriguing night life, and wander among the antiquities of this ebullient land, you can bet our "solar studies" agenda will be jam packed.
According to your interests, you'll be able to look into residential and commercial solar installations, solar irrigation and greenhouses, solar manufacturers and retail sales, solar extraction of glycerol from saline solutions, night-operating photovoltaics, kibbutzim solar usage, extraction of potash from the Dead Sea, solar protein ponds, solar energy and the law, and sun-power research in Israeli universities. Additionally, there'll be lectures and discussions with some of the nation's top alternative-energy scientists and researchers. (Needless to say, the trip is sure to be educational, exciting, and enjoyable!)
Plants of the U.S.S.R.
MOTHER EARTH NEWS' second tour to the Soviet Union—from May 18 to June 8, and once again sponsored in cooperation with the Citizen Exchange Corps—begins in Leningrad, a metropolis that's a museum in itself. Once we've marveled at the incredible art treasures found in the ancient city, the tour's theme of "Medicinal Herbs and Wild Plants of the U.S.S.R." will begin to emerge as we travel to semi-tropical Sukhumi, a Black Sea resort that's famous for its botanical gardens, profusion of flowers, and remarkably vibrant centenarians.
Moving on, we should find the village of Pyatigorsk—perched in the Caucasian foothills—ablaze with wildflowers. While there, we can take herb walks on the many hiking trails used by patients from all over the world who come to this old Czarist health spa for natural cures.
We'll leave the lower elevations by way of a bus ride through the soaring Caucasus and over a spectacular mountain pass that was familiar to Strabo, the Greek geographer, and Pliny, the Roman historian. We hope to spend the night in a small hotel along the way, in order to search out some of the more than 4,500 species of lush plant life that flourish in this wild, misty range.
Our scenic bus journey will end in Soviet Georgia's hospitable Tbilisi, a city that will cure any shyness you might have about exploring on your own. Here, should you stop a local citizen to ask directions, he or she will likely take you to your bus stop, get on with you, pay your fare, accompany you to your destination, show you around... and then invite you home for dinner!
Upon leaving this region of ready smiles, we'll strike out for Kazakhstan, an Asian republic that borders China. Our destination will be beautiful Alma-Ata at the foot of the Tien-Shan range, where bears, snow leopards, and chamois roam freely through the mountains.
Few Western visitors ever come to this distant, romantic valley, which is surrounded on three sides by slopes full of wild apricots and other native fruits. Our stay will include a trip to "the bluest lake in the world," Issyk-Kul, whose shores bloom with flowering plants that are three times larger than are the same species anywhere else on earth.
Then we'll be off to Siberia and the city of Irkutsk, a former frontier town that was once the home of exiles and revolutionaries. The highlights of our stay here will be a boat excursion on the 5,200-foot-deep, crystal-clear waters of Lake Baikal (the largest freshwater lake in the world) and a hike through the Irkutsk area's emerald-green woods, which abound in an incredible variety of wild foods.
Finally, we'll end our venturesome herbal trek in magnificent Moscow, the political and cultural heart of this vast and varied land. The cost of the Soviet expedition is $2,390, and it only takes $100 (refundable up to six weeks before departure) to reserve a seat.
Food Production in China
As we've noted before, North Americans use 20 to 30 calories of energy to produce one calorie of food, while in China farmers expend only one calorie of energy to produce as much as 30 calories of food. Naturally, we want to find out how a nation—which was recently subject to periodic famines and chronic undernourishment—has learned to feed its huge population so well.
So MOTHER EARTH NEWS has arranged—in cooperation with the China Travel Center—a 21-day trip that will leave from the West Coast on September 8 or 9 (depending on airline schedules) and fly, via Japan, to Peking. After taking in such fabled sights as the Great Wall, the Ming Tombs, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace, we'll travel to China's fabulous, fertile southlands.
Our first stop will be in Chengtu, with its huge irrigation system that was built over 2,000 years ago. The area also has the distinction of being the country's main herb-growing center, and—besides providing curative and culinary plants for China's own people—now ships its increasingly popular herbal and vegetable products all over the world.
Kunming, our next destination, is another major link in the Chinese food chain. The city sits at 6,000 feet above sea level and boasts a moderate climate all year round, as well as numerous beautiful geological formations, temples, pagodas, and parks.
From there we'll travel even farther south to Nanning, a city that was established during the Mongol Dynasty and is now the capital of the Kwangsi-Chuang Autonomous Region, a self-governing area populated by many minority groups. This industrial/agricultural settlement is set in a subtropical area with ancient pavilions, towers, and lovely gardens, but its fame lies in its abundant fruits (many of which aren't found anywhere else in the world!) and its fantastic caverns.
The Chinese—who, unlike our Soviet friends, are somewhat new to tourism—like to keep things flexible, so we can't tell you exactly how long we'll spend at each of our stops. Once we've received your applications and know your interests, we'll pass the information along. Our schedule will—we hope—be arranged accordingly.
At any rate, on September 27—after 17 days in still-mysterious China—we'll depart from the city of Kwangchow (a major Canton port with beautiful parks and zoos) for two days in Hong Kong. Finally, you'll have the option of stopping over (at no extra airline charge) in Korea or the Philippines, Japan, Hawaii, and the West Coast on your way home.
This truly rare excursion is priced at $1,950 (which Includes all land costs in China as well as accommodations and breakfasts in Hong Kong) plus airfare (at present rates that will cost $1,166). A $200 deposit is required, $50 of which is nonrefundable. Even though this trip is almost 11 months away, we urge you to act quickly as we expect the tour to fill up rapidly.