Nestled deep within lush tropical foothills sits a cluster of over a dozen tiny villages that comprise the tranquil town of Ubud–the artistic and cultural center of Bali. The jungle-covered hills and terraced rice paddies surrounding this laid-back locale are dotted with ancient temples and palaces that still play a central role in the country’s complex culture.
If you’ve ever imagined a small desert down, Moab might be the place that you’ve pictured. This tiny Utah town is nestled between glowing red rocks and natural wonders that draw visitors from all over the world. It’s a mecca for outdoor activity, where adventurers come for world-class climbing, mountain biking, rafting and off-roading. Weeks of exploring could not even graze the surface of Moab’s wonders. However, if you have just 24 hours in Moab, these activities will give you a good taste of what it has to offer, and will surely leave you thirsting for more!
When people ask me about my cross-country biking adventure, they almost always ask, “Where was your favorite place to ride?” Perhaps it was because we were tired, sun-burnt cyclists, worn out by the consistent headwinds and 105-degree heat of Kansas, but my answer is almost always Missouri. Yes. I said, Missouri. Last summer,
The punctually repetitious ezan (Islamic call to prayer) will forever ring distinctly in my ears–that shrill wailing cry echoing from loudspeakers perched on minarets towering above nearly every town throughout Turkey. And never will I forget the hospitality that I experienced during my six weeks of cycling from the rocky eastern Black Sea coast, through the historic hills and caves of central Anatolia, and along the rugged sun-drenched Mediterranean coast before eventually turning north to Istanbul–the geopolitical gateway between Europe and Asia.
Trying to stay upright, I slowly place one foot in front of the other, and I focus on the encouraging face of my Malagasy guide. One false step and I’ll be in the drink with all my gear. I’m crossing a stream on a slippery log in southern Madagascar on my way to learn how to develop sanitation projects in remote communities. This is pretty incredible, considering that just 48 hours earlier I was staring at two male lions in the comfort of a Land Rover while leading one of Backroads’s most impressive trips: South Africa & Botswana Multisport. Now, here I am trudging through the lush green countryside of one of the poorest countries on earth: Madagascar.
If you’re taking a Backroads trip through Tuscany or Umbria, your pick-up city will be Florence. Before you meet up with your fabulous Backroads leaders, we strongly suggest that you take a day (or 2 or 3!) to acquaint yourself with this timeless city.
Oh, Canada…such a beautiful landscape, which we get to ride our bikes through! While the land of the maple leaf is known for its incredible scenery, what you don’t often hear about is the fantastic cuisine that can be found here.
I woke up toward the end of the drive from Salt Lake City to Southern Utah and realized the world had completely changed. The land was brilliantly red, and I could see across the sloping rocks for miles. It was unlike any landscape I had ever seen. The rocks there twist themselves into pillars, arches, giant craters and vibrating hoodoos as they reflect the brilliance of the sun. This land can be brutally hot during the summer, but it also invites you to participate in the world in a unique way. Since my first trip to St. George, Utah, I’ve never lost the awe I felt for the area’s interactive geography, myriad state parks, beautiful scenery and animal wildlife.
I’m flying down the hill at 50 miles an hour. Trees blow past me as I rapidly descend in elevation. Suddenly, smack in the middle of the road, I see two grizzly bears. I slam on the brakes, skidding sideways on my road bike. Somehow, I maintain control and stop, a mere 20 paces away from the two grizzlies. Startled, one runs to the side of the road, but the other holds his ground.
A hint of a sea breeze fills the air. The sky is a deep blue. From where I’m sitting I can see Table Mountain looming overhead. The waiter casually walks in and places my food in front of me. I look down, and I know I’m in for an exciting new culinary experience.
The first experience I had with the Italian fear of wind came after a gym workout with the host mom for whom I was au pairing. We both took showers, and she emerged with her hair dry. I knew we were tight for time, but I had a case of grease-head so I had done a thorough wash. I’m accustomed to walking outside while my hair air-dries, so I grabbed my stuff and met my mamma at the door. She looked at my wet hair with a horrified face. “Go blow-dry your hair, the wind will make you sick!” So I did.
One of the best parts of a Backroads trip is the connection with a place and its locals, and one of the best parts of being a Backroads leader is creating our own connections and facilitating them for our guests. At the beginning of my first season leading trips in Italy, I was unsure about my ability to provide this connection.
For me, the last few years have been nomadic to say the least, as I have lingered in no particular place longer than a month or two at a time. And the few phrases that I know in various Asian languages scarcely afford the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation. So, while traveling I choose to experience a culture in a different manner. I choose to experience a place through its cuisine. And that’s exactly what I did in Vietnam.
Minarets and church spires. The call to prayer and tantric beats of lounge music. These are just a couple of the contrasts you’ll encounter wandering the streets of Istanbul, Turkey. The dynamics of this city have been thousands of years in the making and while it’s known for its history, this fascinating international hot spot is quickly gaining a reputation for its contemporary culture.