The Advantages and Disadvantages of Travelling Alone

One of the main purposes of travel is to gain experiences that allow us to grow and develop as individuals and it is important that people travel the way that bests suits them at a particular time. For example, I like to go on adventure holidays and this invariably includes a small group and expert guide, and I frequently participate in writing retreats around the world with like-minded people. However for me, the real joy of travelling has always been to take off on my own and just 'see' what comes along the way. Of course this can sometimes be fraught with frustrations, difficulties and even dangers.

Advantages of travelling alone

  • Freedom Most people who travel alone generally cite freedom as the great motivating factor: freedom to please themselves, go where and when they want, change their plans on a whim when they hear about something that is a 'must' to see, and to accept spontaneous invitations by locals.
  • No compromises This is associated with the previous point. Even if travelling with one other person, be it friend, colleague, lover or spouse, there will always be some compromises required. Not everyone has the same interests or the same energy levels, some people need to be emotionally supported all the time, others are apathetic, some have different attitudes to time. With solo travel, there is no peer pressure over finances, the unspoken need to divide up restaurant bills equally, or guilt trips when you want to go off on your own for a while.
  • Meeting people Travelling solo does not mean that you will always be alone. In fact, it allows you to meet more people because other tourists and locals find an individual traveller more approachable than those in a tightly-knit group. Also, people in groups have very little need to reach out to others for communication. I have met more people, had more interesting conversations and invitations and made more long-term friends while eating alone in foreign restaurants or sitting alone at bars. But then I am gregarious. Travelling alone allows you to choose the people you wish to spend time with rather than having to face the day-after-day annoyances of the inevitable clowns and whingers found in any large group.
  • Discoveries There is a real sense of discovery involved in travelling on your own, and that includes self-discovery. You do not have to rely on an often ill-informed guide to lead you around on a leash, and there's the surprise and thrill when you find something you were not expecting, like the time I became lost and ended up in a small bavarian village with a monastery that contained a library with tens of thousands of Medieval manuscripts. Travelling alone allows you to discover more about yourself as you overcome simple challenges such as missing a bus or boat and realizing there is no other for a day or a week. Then there is the sense of achievement when solving much more challenging problems like finding yourself lost in a strange town at midnight or running out of money on a holiday weekend with no ATM in sight and the banks closed.

Disadvantages of travelling alone

  • The single supplement For those who like to stay in decent hotels, there is the unfair single supplement that can add thousands to the cost of your trip.
  • Lack of help There is no one to watch your luggage while you go to the restrooms at airports or train stations, no one to help with persistent touts, no one to be there for you if you get sick or if you are being stalked or harassed by a determined male in the street.
  • Photos There are times when I would like to have had more taken of myself in certain places, but there again, there are always people willing to snap one or two for you.

I know there will be times in the future when I will travel as part of a group out of choice because I want to visit areas where it is just not possible or sensible for a woman alone, or because I wish to be with family or like -minded people. However, due to my particular personality traits, my preference is to travel alone. I guess it really does not matter how people travel, but that they travel.

The Benefits Of Having A Travel Agent Prepare Your Holiday Itinerary

The world is full of beautiful places, some are gifts of nature and some are man-made. You read about these places; and they come alive as you surf the internet. You are not alone in dreaming to visit and see the beauty of these locations. This is everybody's fantasy. And going out on holiday is the biggest reward you can afford yourself.

Your most deserved respite to the hectic everyday work is to give yourself a break. You want to get-away to your dream place. Perhaps you want the beach or maybe historical places. Parents may want to take their children to theme parks like Disneyland in Florida, California, Japan and Hong Kong or Universal Studios in California, Florida, Japan and Singapore. In Australia, the theme parks in the Gold Coast are popular destinations. There are people who love cruising or pilgrimages.

You know that in traveling, your time is limited – just a few days. For some people, the funds are hard-earned savings. Both time and money should not go to waste. Thus this needs thorough planning. The itinerary had to be carefully drafted so that every minute of stay in the destination is optimized. As the traveler, can plan your trip? Do not you think it is better to consult a travel agent for a no-fuss planning?

Travel planners are everywhere. You can even consult one via the internet. However, if there is a travel agent in your vicinity, it would also be great to walk-in the office and talk to a travel agent. Telling the agent your plans, the places you want to see and your budget, a dummy itinerary can be customized to your requirement.

For your holiday, you go to places you have not visited before. Thus, you may not be familiar with your destination. Because of this unfamiliarity, organizing your journey can become a daunting task. You will be indecisive about the places to visit – where to go, what to do and how much time would you need. Just thinking about these can already exhaust your energy. Much more than this predicament, you can be stressed out about the cost of the trip.

For an inexperienced traveler, consultation with a travel agent will offer solutions to your qualms. Here are some highlights on what these professional planners can do for you. As these experts have a long string of networks, they can design your itinerary based on your budget. This will eliminate your problem of the sufficiency of your funds. The agents have connections with airline companies, hotels as well as tourist guides; they can get discounts which they can definitely pass on to you for lower quotation. With this, you are guaranteed some savings.

You might choose to go out of the country – to a place that may require tourist visas. The travel agent will guide you and help you with your visa application. Without passport, they can help you in securing a passport and other travel documents, including documentation when necessary. As these people are already very knowledgeable about your destination, they can present to you the attractions of the place including a timetable so that your time is maximized.

One very important reason for hiring a travel planner is contingency plans. It is inevitable that some unexpected eventualities may come such as delayed or cancelled flight where you can be stranded in the airport. Your travel agent will be informed about this and you will be given assistance. The travel agency may have counterparts in your destination and arrangements will be made to make your travel convenient and safe despite the misfortune.

Your travel agent may charge you some fees for his services. If you choose one of the agency's tour packages you will only pay the quoted amount. Whether you have opted for a designed package or a customized itinerary, you will realize that because of the service, you save time, money and energy. Your journey goes smoothly and you are sure to enjoy one great holiday.

Travel and Living in Colombia: Four of Colombia's Most Feared and Dangerous Animals

Travel and Living in Colombia: Four Deadly Denizens

For those adventurous and intrepid few who might be considering travel and living in Colombia, here are five of the region's deadliest denizens. Depending on your itinerary, you may post poised to meet and greet any or all of these animals. Be prepared.

1. Piranha. A large school of hundreds of piranhas can strip a cow to the bone in as little as five minutes. Smaller, roaming schools of these voracious flesh eaters can still left nothing more than a pile of cleaned bones in less than an hour on a slow day. In many small towns and villages in the Colombian and Brazilian Amazon, they're referred to as "donkey castrators" for reasons you can likely figure out for yourself. They're attracted not only by blood, but also splashing and noise in the water. When fishing for them, you slosh your rod tip back and forth in the water a number of times, then drop your baited hook into the water. You rarely have to wait for long if any razor tooths are in the area. They're not bashful about grabbing the bait either. Just do not try to remove the hook from their mouths bare-handed.

2. Vampire Bats Of the nearly 1000 species of bats, only three are classed as vampires or blood-consuming bats. Whenever I visit the Choco region of Colombia, a vast tropical rainforest inhabited by the typically field-mouse-sized vampire bats, and among others, often much larger fruit and insect-eating bat species, I always take special precautions at night to avoid being "the blue plate special". I use a sturdy mosquito net with an extra-fine mesh and drape a translucent plastic sheet across the top of the mosquito netting for a little extra protection from "bat droppings". At night, in the pitch black interiors of local resident homes, you will not see them, but you'll hear the furry flyers as they flap around your bedroom. When they make "droppings", and they will do so frequently, you'll hear the plop, plop, plop as these hit the plastic sheeting you've draped over the mosquito netting for just this occasion. Feel free to engage yourself in a smug expression quietly in the darkness thinking, "they may get you, but they did not get me!" Then go back to sleep – if you can.

3. Giant Squid These denizens of the deep are not a myth, they're real enough to take the lives of at least a couple of local fishermen on Colombia's Pacific coast each year. Attacks are most common at night when fishermen in wooden launches of 25 feet or so in length use fire-lit torches or car battery powered flash lights to attract schools of fish to their boat. At least two of the longer tentacles have bony hooks to help hold prey and the mouth is a deadly hooked beak-like structure which can easily scissor its way through flesh and bone. Even a "small" squid of three feet or so can be potentially dangerous if it gets hold of a hapless fisherman or a "visitor" like you swimming in the sea offshore at night. Larger ones from three to five meters or more are virtually inescapable on the open ocean, especially if you're in the water.

4. Sharks A fisherman in a small wooden launch frantically waved my guide and I down off the coast of the Utria Ensenada National Park on Colombia's Pacific coast one December afternoon. As we approached, we noticed his boat slowly swirling in a tight circle with his line locked at a steep angle into the blue-green waters. A two and a half meter long Bull shark had swallowed whole his live catch of a 20 pound Bravo and was now hooked himself. Ultimately the shark would have damaged the boat, sank it and added the fisherman to his Christmas Eve meal ticket had we not happened along. The shark was the one who got eaten this time, but too often the ending is much different for fishermen in the seafood-rich waters of the Pacific Ocean between Nuqui and Bahia Solano.

Nature Lovers and Adventure Seekers Delight

The Pacific Ocean coast of Colombia's "Choco" region is both a nature lover's and adventure Lover's delight. Whether you're up for some world class deep sea sport fishing, a relaxing soak in a natural thermal pool, the region has something for you to enjoy. Travelers to Colombia can not always know what's next. There's almost never a dull moment.

The Pros and Cons of Group Holidays

When I was 17 my friends from college and I went on a group holiday to Ibiza. It was a week of excessive drinking, falling out and broken ankles. Upon our return out of 12 of us only 4 were still talking to each other. Until recently that experience was my only one of group holidays and I was always very dubious. Family group holidays are a slightly different kettle of fish and have the potential to be even more troublesome.

So what are the pros and cons of a group adventure? The cons are fairly obvious:

  • It is harder to make decisions meaning simple things like eating become a massive argument.
  • Travelling with people you know and in some case do not know can put a strain on your personal space. It's difficult to find 'alone' time on holiday.
  • It can prohibit freedom. Trying to get a large group somewhere or to do something is tiresome and sometimes you do just want to go wandering down an interesting laneway.

The pros:

  • Shared experiences. Have you ever been on holiday with your boyfriend / girlfriend and then tried to explain your amazing trip to your friends? Well often they lose interest after the 90th photo. Travelling with them means lifelong memories that will bond your forever.
  • There's someone else to rely on. If you get into trouble you're surrounded by your close friends and / or family who will help you out whether that's sitting in a Greek hospital while your broken foot is mended or lending you some cash.
  • Safety. As with the above groups are often safer than travelling alone, Thieves and pickpockets are less likely to target you if you're with a group of men and women.
  • It can work out cheaper. Booking in bulk and usually for groups of 10 more can result in a nice discount and you do not need to worry about single supplements.
  • Travelling in groups allows you to do things you might not get to do otherwise. Say, for example, your husband loves trekking and you do not, you can travel with friends somewhere else to say, lie on the beach or visit India. You do not miss out and neither does he.

Are there any destinations which lend themselves to the group experience? Yes lots. Ever wanted to climb Kilimanjaro? Well the majority of people who trek are in either a group of friends or social club, or they're singles who are out together in a group through a travel company. Trekking is a solo pursuit to some extent but you still need other company trekking alongside just in case. If you decide to climb Kilimanjaro you will need a guide to show you the way. There are lots of holiday companies that offer Kili trips and they will either let you book as a group of friends or as a single. You will then end up in a group of other single trekkers who you can rely on for the duration of your trip and I'll bet become lifelong friends with.

Away from trekking, long trips to developing countries or activity holidays also lend themselves to group holidays. A week in Andorra rafting, cycling and walking is a week best shared with your partner, friends or family. If you are a single passenger then try an adventure company as they will no doubt run a solos trip meaning you can make friends there. The ongoing / round-the-word / gap year trip can be daunting alone as much as we might think we want to do it. Places like India, Thailand or Peru are hot destinations for groups of friends, school groups and solo travellers alike. The 'foreigness' of these places means most of us feel happier with a group of travellers than alone.

With all of the above in mind and my recent climb to Kilimanjaro I have to come to the conclusion that while we'd all love to go it alone, going together is actually more fun and safer. A shared moment is a living moment and not one you might doubt later.

5 Best Extreme Sports in Peru – Peru Travel Guide

Many foreign visitors to Peru are happy with a relaxing few days travelling around ancient Inca archaeological sites, kicking-back in luxury hotels, and riding exclusive trains to Machu Picchu. But if your dream getaway is a taking things to the max in search of extreme thrills and fun, then you will not be disappointed either! Peru can offer it all! Here are the 5 best extreme sports in Peru.

Extreme Mountain Biking

Peru was made for mountain biking, after all the Andes – the world's longest mountain chain runs right down the centre of the country, peaking at 22,132 feet (6,746 m) in the Cordillera Blanca in central Peru. Possibly one of the most extreme sports in Peru with locals and foreigners alike, there are literally thousands of places to find fast fun down-hill thrills. In Cusco there is a handful of specialist travel agents that offer a range of different day (and multi-day) trips, with full suspension Kona bikes. Our favourite extreme ride is the 1 day Mega-Avalanche single track ride, that starts at the top of Abra Malaga in the Sacred Valley (close to Cusco) and descends 1600 meters to the village of Ollantaytambo. Oh, and you can do it three times!

Surfing

You would not think so, but yes, Peru is actually one of the world's best surfing spots. Along the northern coastline, Peru offers waves for everyone from beginners to pros. Peru has produced many world surfing champions, and it's easy to see why when you understand just how good the waves are. Chicama has the world's longest left-handed wave in the world at 4km's long, and Mancora (close by) has the world's largest left-handed point-break in the world. Extreme sports in Peru do not get much better than this!

Sand-boarding

During the 1960s, the small oasis town of Huacachina was once a holiday hot-spot for rich limenians. Nowadays, this rather less glamorous place is the home of one of the most fun and extreme sports in Peru – Sand-boarding. Located 7 km's from the main city of Ica, Huacachina is surrounded by vast sand dunes which stretch as far as the eye can see. There are only a handful of hostels in the town, but all of them will rent you sand-board for a few soles per day. Cover yourself from head-to-toe in sun-block and start climbing! It's fun, cheap, thrilling and often painful!

White Water Rafting

With so many mountains, there are bound to be quite a lot of fast flowing and rocky rivers to enjoy. Rafting is probably one of the most common extreme sports in Peru, and in the region of Cusco, there are many expert travel agencies that will take you out on the river. The Urubamba River (in the Sacred Valley) offers a thrilling full day experience which is suitable for beginners through to intermediary rafters. But hard-core rafters looking for the ultimate thrill need to go a little further afield. Cotahuasi Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world, and is also home to one of the world's toughest rafting challenges. The route includes 6 days of full-on, technical class 4 – 5 rapids, uncharted pre-Inca ruins and spectacular campsites. Extreme sports in Peru do not get much better than this! But be warned the Cotahuasi raft is for only the toughest travellers!

Zip Lines in the Jungle

15 Km's from Machu Picchu, close to the village of Santa Teresa is Peru's first canopy top zip line (also known as flying fox). A series cables with a total length of 2500 meters are broken up into six sections, with the longest section being 400 meters in length. At the fastest point on the wire it is possible to reach speeds of 60 Km / h (37 mph), which is enough to give the sensation of flight! Make sure that you are not scared of heights either, as part of the line hang 150 meters above the jungle floor. Extreme sports in Peru do not get much more fun than this!

Of-course there are a whole bunch of other great things to see and do in Peru, but if you think that there are better extreme sports in Peru than the ones listed, we would love to hear your thoughts!

History of Whitewater Rafting

It is interesting to note that whitewater rafting was one of the earliest forms of transportation. It was not only used for carrying people but also for transferring goods from one place to another. However, it became quite popular as a form of leisure activity in the 1980s.

In 1811, the first recorded attempt to navigate the Snake River in Wyoming was planned by the Overland Astorians. While attempting to boat the stretch below Jackson Hole, the river was found to be too treacherous and it came to be called? Mad River.?

The rubber river raft is believed to have been invented in the early 1840s. It was first made by Lt. John Fremont, who was then serving in the US army and Horace H. Day. They invented the rubber raft with the intention of surveying the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains. Although the raft was invented in the mid-nineteenth century, it was not until the turn of the century that the first ever commercial whitewater trip was undertaken. At first, surplus military rafts were used as boats and it was only much later that inflatable rafts were used.

Private companies played a major role in augmenting the rafting business. In 1956, one of the members of the most affluent business families of America, John D. Rockefeller built a resort that introduced one of the first floating trips in the country. However, it only evoked a lukewarm response. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, exclusive whitewater rafting companies were formed. These include the Becker-Cooke Expeditions, Hatch River Expeditions and Slickrock Adventures.

Rafting was first included in the Munich Olympic Games, 1972. Subsequently, it was included in the 1992 Barcelona Games and the 1996 Atlanta Games. In 1996, the Ocoee River in Tennessee Valley played host to the whitewater events of the Summer Olympic Games.

Jamaica's Black River Crocodile Adventure

Time to Explore

Jamaica is such a beautiful country, and Negril, as I have said before, has amazing beaches with crystal blue water. We would have been just fine staying at our all- inclusive resort, because it had everything that we needed. I always want to see everything a country has to offer when visiting it and the Negril side of Jamaica was no exception.

Along Jamaica's South Coast

Comfortable and Safe excursions are only achieved when you use a licensed and insured company to provide your tour. There are many tour operators in Jamaica that I trust. We always felt totally safe and comfortable in our air conditioned van, as we drove to Jamaica's south coast toward our Black River croc adventure.

We drove for about an hour, until we reached the town of Black River, located where the Black River flows into the Caribbean Sea. The Black river is Jamaica's longest river and is a fantastic place to see many types of animals, such as Egrets, Cranes, and of course crocodiles. In fact, the Black River is the main crocodile area in all of Jamaica. The river got its name because of its dark color which is caused from the tannins that stain the water, not from pollution. In fact I did not see any signs of pollution anywhere in Jamaica.

The Crocodile Hunter

Our tour began at the mouth of the black river where it flows into the Caribbean Sea. I think we had the best tour guide that was available, because he was entertaining, and as you will read, and see, did some extra things that we were told the other tour guides will not do, because it is too dangerous! We were now all on the boat heading up the Black River in search of Crocodiles. Our guide did point out some Egrets and some baby crocs that we saw while we were still getting started.

Looking For Crocs!

Well the baby crocodile was cute, but we did not go on this tour to see a baby crocodile, we were looking for big crocodiles! Our guide took us up river quite a distance until we reached a split in the river. The area to the left was the part of the river that flowed down from the mountains, and the water to the right, was where the Crocodiles tended to congregate. It was not long before we saw a large Crocodile lying in the sun on the river bank. We slowed boat and came to a complete stop. What happened next was so unbelievable!

WOW! Patricia the friendly Crocodile! (If you have food)

I want to remind everyone that we were in the wild. We were not at any crocodile farm, or zoo, we were right in the middle of the Black River. All of a sudden, this crocodile, our guide called "Patricia" started swimming toward the boat. While it was swimming, our guide put his hand in the water and was calling the crocodile, saying "come, come, come, while splashing the water with his hand. When she came close to the boat, he put some chicken skin in the water and the croc suddenly lunged for the food with a huge splash! Then he let us pet the crocodile as she came right next to the boat. for some great pictures of our encounter with Patricia, check out our blog post.

Our guide left Patricia and showed us a couple other regulars, and called them over to the boat, but told us that we could not get that close to the others, because they had a tendency to jump at the boat, or any hands and arms that were hanging off the boat. YIKES!

A Great Lunch

It was a great time to interact with the crocodiles in their own environment. When we arrived back at the dock, we were greeted with an authentic Jamaican lunch! We all enjoyed it very much and they had a very nice eating area there that was comfortable. The tour was a great deal, as we got to go on the croc adventure, have lunch provided, and then it was off to the YS Falls!

Layap – The Nomadic Herders of Bhutan

The mule skids on the wet ice and slides forward on the steep track. The man springs forward and grabs it by the muzzle. They both strain against the slope, breaking skids on the edge of the sheer precipice. The mule is lying on its belly, its forelegs dangling over the cliff. Braced precariously, inches from edge, the man strains to hold the animal on the narrow track. Within seconds, the man's teenage son runs back and deftly unloads the mule, handing over the heavy packs to the woman standing behind the animal, holding it by its tail. Together they haul the mule back on the path. Far below them the mist swirls over the jagged rocks which line the bottom of the deep gorge.

A few meters behind, a 73 year old woman is sitting on an icy path, inching forward on her buttocks, using both her hand and feet to maintain her balance. She sits still and watches calmly as her son, daughter-in-law, and grandson save the family mule and a year supply of food grain.

An hour later, along with other families, they reach a swift stream. Without a thought the men, women, children hitch up their Ghos and Kiras (Bhutanese dress) to the waist and wade across, oblivious of the water which is at about freezing point. Young men pass lewd remarks at the women who are forced to expose their upper thighs to avoid getting their kiras wet. The women respond with quick witty remarks.

By evening, families are camped along the way in caves or under leafy trees. They care for the horses first and then sit down to a simple hot meal. By dark, after a few bottles of Ara and Sinchang (Local brewed alcohol and wine); they share their experience of the past months. This year, the highlight was the meeting in Gasa (District Head Quarters), where they met their King and Queens. They marvel that their king walked just as they did, all the way.

THE LAND

The four day journey from Punakha, usually stretched over several weeks as they relay a year's food supply, brings the Layaps home to one of the most spectacular region in the Kingdom of Bhutan, the raw natural beauty of the high alpine range.

Spreading upwards from 12000 feet above sea level, Laya sits on the Lap of the 7100 meters Masagang, One of Bhutan's 20 virgin peaks which are above 7000 meters. The mixed conifer forest above Gasa Dzong, dotted with maple and rhododendron in full bloom, merge into groves of birch, juniper, maple and mountain cane. The entire slopes are richly colored by wild flowers.

Across Bari-la and Kohi lapcha, two rugged passes, the terrain leaves behind the tree- line and the vast alpine grassland undulate towards the great northern glaciers. High above the crystal waterfalls which often cut through the ice formations on the cliff side, and the clear rapid streams, are their sources, the turquoise fresh water lakes many of which the local population hold in sacred awe.

This is the world where the snow leopards roam, where the blue sheep, Sambar, and Musk deer graze in solitude. Lower down, this is the home of Takin, the Himalayan black bear, numerous deer and the wild dog. The winged inhabitants of the region include the raven, wild pheasants, snow pigeons, the red billed cough, the alpine swift, the snow partridge, and the black necked crane.

HISTORY

The Layaps called their home Bayu, the hidden land, with good reasons. The cluster of villages is completely hidden by ridges and appears suddenly when the travelers reaches the first houses. The people believe that they are protected by an ancient gate leading to the main village. It was here that their guardian deities kept a Tibetan invasion at bay. In an important annual ceremony, the Layaps pay homage to the protective forces which turned all the stones and trees around the gate into soldiers to repel the invaders.

But if such legend is history in Laya, history is also Legend. This was the place where Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal entered Bhutan. In a journey which resounds with conquest of human and supernatural dimensions the Shabdrung crossed a chain of Mighty Himalayan ridges and entered Laya from Tibet. In a small meadow below the villages, called Taje-kha a chorten shelters the footprints of the shabdrung and his horse.

History and legend are still the realities of today. The pristine mountain ranges have not succumbed to changes over the centuries. Neither have its people, like in many other parts of Bhutan, the land nor have the people existed in a harmony which the modern world does not adequately appreciate. And it is in this context that the Layaps must be viewed. It is against this rugged backdrop that they must be understood.

THE PEOPLE

"The Layap smell", is one well known comment. "You can not depend on the Layaps, is another, often from civil servants." The Layaps are backward ", say people living in the lower valleys." The Layaps are alcoholics, "say many who know them, most people stop to look when a layap woman passes by in her distinct, perhaps 'quaint' kira. Some would point her out to friends.

The Layaps is all of these, if you do not look beyond the surface or if you do not understand him in the right context. A discerning observer would probably find, however, that the Layap has far more substantial qualities to be admired than those passing these derogatory comments.

If the Layaps are weather beaten as the alpine rangelands they are as untamed and unpredictable as the forces of nature which are sometimes harsh That is why, perhaps, the frustration of a civil servants who finds that the Layap can not be bound to a deadline or even to a responsibility. When you call them they always say yes but never turn up, explains one District official.

The Layaps are also as open as their environment, normally free of social inhibition. Men and women are open and relaxed on issues like the boundaries sexual behavior. This, in fact is, often exploited by occasional visitors like tourist guides, military patrolmen, and civil servants.

Survival has also sharpened the wiles of the Layap. Today, it is a nightmare for District officials to pin a Layap herder down on a number of yaks in his herd because he wants to avoid tax. Call a Layap family for official duty during the busy season and the best bet is an old woman who is not needed at home.

But inside the rough Layap exterior is a tenderness which is invisible to the casual observer. Every Layap, for example, identifies with a 46 year old horse owner who risked his life to scale and icy cliff to his horse which had fallen. The man was oblivious to the bitter cold as he sat with his dying horse for two days, feeding the animal water from his cupped palm, the water mixed with his tears.

The Layaps are most tender in their feelings for the Yaks which are the mainstay of their semi-nomadic existence. They officially own about 2000 of Bhutan's 30000 yak population, both believed to be reduced figures. The 300 to 400 KG beast of burden is a source of food, shelter, draught power, transportation and part of the layap Identity.

THE LIFE

The carefree life-style comes with the alcohol consumption by the layap men. Nearly every men drinks heavily, often losing time, effort and hard earned money in drunken stupors and converting all the hard toiled food grain into alcohol. 63 years old Ap Tshering claims to be a typical example of the Layap man. "I have lived a hard life," he says with a proud smile. "Now I have two important goals in life. I brew sinchang (local wine) during the day and I drink it at night."

In this patriarchal society where girls are married early and move to the husband's home, polyandry is on the decline. With clear cut gender roles the woman bears a serious domestic responsibility, looking after the Yak herds, digging the fields, weaving the traditional clothing, and generally keeping the home and family together. The men are responsible for trade and the transportation of goods, their own and for the Government.

THE COMMUNITY

With about 60,000 semi nomadic pastoralists spread across the kingdom's northern region, the 800 or so layaps share a strong community spirit. They are fiercely protective about the image of their community. Internal squabbles are normally settled within the community and even a child will not divulge the name of a Layap who is guilty of some wrong doing.

As a community, the Layaps are also proud of their self sufficiency in the basic necessities of life despite the day to day physical difficulties. Wealth is measured by the number of Yaks in a herd or the volume of rice. The Layaps are also quick to inform the visitors that they constitute an important proportion of the Workforce in Gasa District.

THE SPIRITUAL

There is a strong spiritual element in the cohesion of the Layap community. The men pay obeisance to their Pho-la, the local guardian deity. Every archery match, every business trip, every journey, every development project starts with a prayer at the Pho-la's sacred shrine, a small chorten above the village.

Like the broader Bhutanese society the advice of the village astrologer is sought on most activities and the local medium is usually consulted during illness. It is the legacy of the Shabdrung that the Layaps celebrate the Bumkar festival to plant barley and the Aulay festival during harvest.

A superstition is strong and is, in fact, one of the protective forces of the Layap identity. Eg, the distinctive Kira (women's cloth) of Layap women has been kept partly because of the belief in its necessity. A superstition also controls etiquette and other aspects of the local traditions.

TRADE

The layaps are traders, bartering their animal products for food grain and other edibles every winter. Starting in late October, when nature offers a respite between the rains and the snow, they move to Punakha, their horses and every person laden with Yak meat, butter cheese, incense plants from the wilderness and sometime trans border goods like dried fish, shoes and brick tea. By March, when the trail becomes accessible, they move back with rice, oil, salt, sugar, chillies, clothing and shoes.

The only relief in this annual venture is a visit to the popular Gasa Tshachhu (hot spring) where they join people from all parts of the country in the baths which are believed to be of curative value and a boost to general health.

Products account for Yak 49% of Layaps earning, 18% comes from trade, 15% from animal transport and 4% from tourism, the last Benefiting only 5 or 6 horse owners are On WHO COMPLETE in contract with tour operators in Thimphu.

CHANGE

It is largely the exposure from these annual trips that have given Layaps a view of a rapidly changing world outside. A handful has ventured as far as Thimphu. And, in recent years, they have watched the widening gap in economic progress with some dismay.

The urge to reach out and pluck the fruits of progress which their fellow citizens are enjoying is beginning to gnaw at the roots of Layap culture. The goal of one man was to build a house like the one he saw in Punakha, a woman preferred a car so she would be spared a heavy loads, a young girl envied the Punakha School girls, and an eight year old boy rolled his father's hat around the campfire, his mind on the plastic toy cars he had seen in the shops.

Two women who had been selected to visit Thimphu in a cultural entertainment team returned embarrassed about their Kiras because they were clumsy compared with the nylon kiras of the Thimphu women. When told by a Thimphu official that the beautiful and unique Laya kira should be preserved she retorted. "So you can send tourists to take photographs of us?"

PROGRESS

It is an enlightened policy that the Royal Government of Bhutan has sensitively pursued in the mountains of Laya. The goal is to improve the life of the people without upsetting the delicate balance in the distinct cultural identity of the people, the pristine natural ranges, and the rich wildlife.

Finely tuned to the migratory pattern of the people, the priorities reflect an emphasis on improving the Yak herds and fodder, on the crops, on the road, and on the transportation of goods.

But the main benefits of development in Laya have come from the establishment of Health unit, a veterinary service, and the School. The Layaps however, place their long term hopes on a 100 or so children who represent the education of the community.

The Layaps have not been aware of the image of backwardness they suffer among a section of Bhutan's population. "Once educated, our children can face other people with pride," said one weary mother. A 56 year old father summed up the general sentiments, "Last month, when I went to Thimphu, my son read the bus ticket and showed me where to sit," he said glowing with pride, his right hand gripping the boys shoulder. "I did not have to face the shame of sitting in the wrong seat."

BEING A LAYAP

Laya today confronts an issue which Bhutan, as a nation, has been grappling with for the past four decades. If change is inevitable, will the experience be more harsh than the bitter winds which blow over the mountains?

It is a question with a familiar ring to it. It is a question facing Bhutan. The Layaps represents the Bhutanese population on a smaller scale, the harmony with their natural environment, the deep pride in their unique cultural identity, and the fierce will to protect their home.

"We Layaps have our good points and bad points." Explains one village elder. "But in the end, our biggest pride is our land and our self. Yes we go out to trade, buy supplies, to drink, to flirt. We complain about our hardships, the heavy workload, and the tough road. We are embarrassed about our backwardness. but we would never want to be anything but a Layap. "

What Is the Ideal Car for Namibia? 2×4 and 4×4 Car Hire in Namibia, Africa

There is a plethora of car rental companies in Namibia. Some reputable, some that would never be recommended, and others that should do visitors a favor and simply close shop. So how do you decide the right car rental for your Namibia holiday?

1. Match your itinerary with the roads you'll travel -gravel and / or paved (tarred).
2. Determine number of passengers, height / weight, etc.
3. Determine how many pieces of luggage each passenger is carrying? What is the size of luggage?
4. Determine how much space in the vehicle you would like?
5. Is saving money by renting a standard sedan worth being uncomfortable?

When a large portion of your itinerary is coasting along the paved roads of the Trans-Caprivian and / or Trans-Kalahari Highway's, a two-by-four (2×4) will be a better option. Why a two-by-four (2×4) and not a standard sedan? In a standard sedan you're simply too near the gravel when you do venture from the paved roads; Etosha National Park, Waterberg Plateau, and the Cheetah Conservation, are all examples of times you'll leave the paved road. This causes your travels to be bumpy, uncomfortable, slow, with greater chances of blown out tires. Travel smoothly and with greater reliability by paying the extra costs to rent a four-by-four (4×4).

Travelers to Namibia, time and again, are glad they decided on a four-by-four (4×4) over a sedan or two-by-four (2×4). Although most itineraries never require "real" off-road four-wheeling, the benefits and comforts of a four-by-four (4×4) are numerous. The most obvious, four-by-four (4×4) have plenty of clearance between you and the ground, thus allowing speeds to be maintained and the ride to be smooth. Also, more times than not, they are more spacious.

Every traveler, especially those on a limited time frame pray for a hassle, problem free holiday. The gravel roads in Namibia can be both rough and dangerous. Sharp stones, especially along the C19 road towards Sossusvlei, and thorns in Etosha National Park frequently puncture tires leaving travelers stranded in remote corridors with little option. When renting a four-by-four (4×4) the tires are stronger and more reliable than sedans. Rental companies supplying, or even specializing in four-by-four (4×4) rentals supply their clients with, sometimes, up to two spare tires and an air compressor.

With only 10-12 days to see Namibia, travelers often follow the same route -Windhoek, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Damaraland, Etosha NP – traveling between both paved and graveled roads. Is it worth your time to be stranded in the middle of the Namib-Naukluft only because you wanted to save a few dollars?

To a smooth expedition. What are some reputable car hire companies based in Windhoek, Namibia? http://wildsafariafrica.com/about/your-specialist-in-african-safari-planning/

Tourism Industry Is Growing Fast in Nepal

Tourism industry is growing speedy in Nepal. It has been included in the top ten travel recommendation 2010 worldwide. Nepal, the land of mountains, is one of the most spectacular places on earth. It holds eight of fourteen highest mountain peaks of the world. Due to presence of mighty mountains in Nepal, it is preferred destination of trekking and mountain climbing. It is developing as adventure tourism destination. It is globally acclaimed destination for adventure travel. The adventure sports like trekking, hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, rafting, paragliding, etc. Nepal also provides the options for wildlife tourism and nature sightseeing.

The developing infrastructure and growing hospitality is contributing a lot in the sharp development of tourism industry. The improvement in mode of transportation allows the tourists to travel comfortably in hot destinations of Nepal. Many hotels are standing in the cities to provide comfortable accommodation to the guests. Travel operators are also providing many facilities to attract tourists.

It is paradise destination for adventure lovers and nature lovers. They can trek in popular treks like Everest region, Annapurna region, Dolpo region, Kanchenjungha trekking trails, Langtang regions, etc. These trails are best places in the world for trekking. Trekking in Nepal can be made very adventurous and playful with right preparation and planning. Trekkers should pack their bags in right manner. They must carry winter clothes, knife, water bottles, necessary medicines, etc. It is advised to plan trekking under the guidance of trekking guides. The guides will provide you safety gears to trek in the adventurous trails. Nepal trekking tour is the main selling point of Nepal tourism. Mountain flight for sightseeing is also very contributing in growing tourism industry. The options of trekking attract numerous adventure seekers from all corners of the world.

To promote tourism with greater pace, many tour packages are being launched by both Government Corporation and private travel operators. According to source it has been confirmed that Nepal hosted more than five lacks tourists in 2010. It has also been confirmed that most of the tourists are from India, China and Sri Lanka. Such a sharp development of tourism is attributed development of tourism infrastructure and effective management that include accommodation and transportation.

If you also want to visit this preferred and globally acclaimed tourism destination, then plan a trip to Nepal. Enjoy trekking and sightseeing in Nepal. Nepal trek is very adventurous for the adventure crazy people. Many rivers originated from the mountains of Nepal. These mountainous rivers are very ideal for rafting and boating.