It's about to happen! In just a few short weeks (on May 31), MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Health and Nutrition U.S.S.R. tour (arranged by the Citizen Exchange Corps) will be off on a three-weeks-plus study of the secrets of the amazing centenarians of the Caucasus! Better yet, MOTHER EARTH NEWS has opened up the trip to make space for any of you folks who might still decide that you just have to go along.
Of course, the big excursion to the U.S.S.R. is only one of the educational vacations that this magazine has planned for the coming months. And, after you've read the descriptions that follow, we're sure you'll agree that every single one of our tours is something special.
South America Tour: From Andes to Amazon!
Under the guidance of two experts on South American travel (Glynn Custred, professor of anthropology at California State University, Hayward, and Rosalie Rienzo, professor of Spanish at Merced College), we' ll study the people and cultures past and present of the Andes and the Amazon. (The cost of this unforgettable journey is $1,490 plus airfare. The trip will be so comprehensive that—as is true of all our other foreign tours—you can even get college credit for it!)
Our expedition (July 7-29) will begin in Ecuador—the Switzerland of South America—where snow-capped volcanoes surround lush fields of alpine foliage. It would be hard to imagine a more invigorating environment, and the valley in which Quito—our first stop—sits simply begs to be explored and photographed.
The heart of old Quito, known as "El Centro," is an exotic jumble of white colonial-style buildings, narrow cobbled streets, and bustling activity. Its many fine restaurants, often located in beautiful ancient homes, offer a range of excellent food (including huge steaks for $5.00 or less! ) and some of the richest coffee in the world. You'll be able to roam through back streets and byways, and dicker with the Indians who sell their wares along the roadsides. Gaily embroidered shirts can be bought for $6.00 to $10.00, while equivalent bargains can be had on rugs, wall hangings, wood carvings, and a seemingly endless variety of other handcrafted items.
Next, we'll explore the "Lake Country" of northern Ecuador. This portion of our trip will take us to the Otavalo region, where each village is known for a particular skill. In one settlement, for example, everybody is a wood carver. In another, the entire populace makes marzipan Christmas ornaments. And in yet a third hamlet, weaving looms clatter in every dimly lit house and back rooms crawl with the guinea pigs which are being fattened prior to roasting.
From Ecuador, our tour will take us to Lima, Peru—situated in one of the driest deserts in the world—which gives the impression that it desperately needs a good bath, for it never rains on this active, alive, dusty city. Yet, in spite of its poverty and incredible traffic, the cheerful inhabitants love their "City of the Kings." Its restaurants are terrific (particularly Tomba del Oro, just off San Martin Plaza, where you can feast for between $5.00 and $10.00).
After Lima, we'll journey to Cuzco, Peru, which has the population of a city but the "feel" of a red-tiled, whitewashed village. It's a highland town (set at around 11,000 feet) and its thin, clean, clear air attests to that altitude. Towering impressively on the green, treeless hills above the city—and looking like a giant parade ground—are the huge stones of the Kenko Ruins. The real parade, however, is on the area's roads, where Indian families, flocks of llamas, and traditional weavers are typical sights.
The next stage of our travels—a four-hour ride by rail to Machu Picchu—is an adventure in itself! While zigzagging up to a 12,000-foot pass, our train will often seem to go in both directions at once, only to crest the mountains and snake along the Urubamba River, with its everchanging views of the craggy Andes and ancient Inca ruins.
Once off the train, buses will take us up another 1,000 feet to Machu Picchu's entrance. This elaborate Incan fortress swirling with mists is more impressive and beautiful than any photograph could hope to show.
Then, after two days of exploring the "hidden city," we'll move on to a total change of scenery: Our group of adventurers will fly to the lush Peruvian Amazon, which is the antithesis of treeless Lima. Beautiful, multicolored butterflies are everywhere, dramatic clouds mirror themselves in the river, and thatched homes on stilts accommodate the waterway's annual rise of a dozen feet or more. The Amazon region seems to demand a slower pace than that of the Peruvian mountains. No newspapers are necessary, because word-of-mouth conveys any important information throughout a community in minutes. And the evening jungle noises are nothing short of fascinating!
A Touch of Easter Island
Then, if you still haven't satisfied your hunger to explore, you have the option to fly on to Santiago, Chile, where a special charter flight will take us 2,350 miles out into the Pacific to the ancient isle of Rapa Nui—also known as Easter Island—which is, of course, famous for the giant statues (almost 1,000 in all) that are scattered in clusters about the striking landscape.
During the stay, our numerous outings will include a study of local community life, a visit to the quarry at Rano Raraku (where 200 figures illustrate every step of the statue carving process), and a special side trip to Ahu Akivi, a beautifully restored group of seven stone "monuments." Each is nearly 15 feet high and weighs over 15 tons apiece!
This option costs $790 plus the extra airfare to Santiago. Write us for details, or send a $200 deposit for the South America trip, and an extra $100 if you'd like to reserve a "front row seat" on the Easter Island excursion.
An Ecological Kenya Safari
And to try to top all that, Nature Expeditions International (the same group that put the South America trip together) has been hard at work making the arrangements for our 24-day tenting safari to study the wildlife, plants, and people of East Africa, as well as the delicate ecological ties that bind these living things together.
To help us understand all we'll see, Richard Peirce (professor of biology at Pasadena City College) will travel with us—by microbus and on foot—through Kenya's great game reserves and national parks. Dick has participated in many educational/research expeditions in this area and has a special love for the large mammals of the region.
As pointed out in a recent National Geographic TV special, "The Last Stand in Eden," East Africa is the final stronghold of that continent's mighty herds of animals. Unfortunately, a swelling human population threatens to crowd the beasts out of even this sanctuary ... which is one of the reasons why MOTHER EARTH NEWS thinks it's important for us to see and understand more about this unique ecosystem.
The cost of the once-in-a-lifetime safari (August 3-26) is $1,590 plus airfare. For an additional $390, you can extend the adventure for another week while we explore the exotic, colorful Kenya coast.
So, if you've always dreamed of camping under a starry African sky and lazing with brightly colored fish in the warm Indian Ocean, send us a $200 deposit, plus another $100 if you choose the coastal option.
Canyonlands Nature Photography
Finally, since we always look for the best talent in any field, MOTHER EARTH NEWS is very pleased to announce that Steve Crouch—a professional photographer with 25 years' experience—will be the instructor on our camera tour of the canyonlands (September 21-30), priced at $790 from Cedar City, Utah.
Steve's work as writer and photographer has appeared in numerous publications, including Steinbeck Country, Peninsula Pictorial, and the book Desert Country. His photographs are included in such collections as those in the Minneapolis Art Museum, the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Even the most experienced camera buff can profit from Steve's expert guidance as we explore the awesome spectacles of the American Southwest. A $100 deposit will hold a place for you.
According to our agreement with NEI, the initial deposit for any expedition is refundable up to 60 days before departure less a $50 handling charge. Any cancellations after 60 days will result in additional charges based on nonrecoverable deposits and expenses. The world is waiting for you!