Don’t take a predetermined tour. The tour leaders are sure you don’t want to meet the real people, but a sanitized version of folk presentations. Travel independently, and don’t always stay in the travel destinations, the tourist towns; stay in smaller towns or villages, spread your money around. Look that street vendor in the eye while you negotiate some mystery meat on a stick. Return her smile. Not only will you have more fun, more memories, but that street vendor will remember that some Americans actually cared enough to want to see her village, and how she lives.
We rode our tandem a few thousand kilometers across and through the middle of Australia, through the Kimberly, in the far northwest. The Kimberly region is the size of California with 41,000 residents. Think of that. We rode for two to three days without seeing human habitation. There are bulbousbaobab trees and bush fires on the land, crocks and huge snakes in the billabongs and camels stomping around the tent in the night. Lovely.
We arrived in Broome probably the most remote town in the English speaking world, just in time for our anniversary, so it holds a special place in our hearts. The coast there is like all the coasts in Australia, spectacular. But the Kimberly coast is special for it’s remoteness and the austere red rock beauty and beautiful, but often violent weather.
We leave September 1 for Chengdu, Sichuan, China to begin a tandem bicycle tour of SW China and SE Asia. We begin in Chengdu, Sichuan, where the earthquakes killed thousands last year. We will visit some pandas and probably visit our first important Buddha statue before heading into high country where the Himalayas transition from the Tibetan plateau, giving birth to all the great rivers of SE Asia. After a long crossing into Yunnan, we will drop into the sub tropics of Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and end probably in Bangkok, one of our favorite cities.
More than 1,000 Womens Air Service Pilots, WASPS, served important and often dangerous missions testing and delivering the aircraft that would fly over Germany and Japan. Seventy-nine of them were injured or killed during the war. They were central to the war effort, yet had to buy their own uniforms, and they took up collections to return bodies of their fellow WASPS home after a death. They of course were all volunteers.
After the war, they were rejected by the American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Veterans Administration, and as they aged, they were denied veterans benefits. Finally Barry Goldwater stood up for them in 1977. It is estimated that 300 to 400 are still alive.