We were all sitting in the hot, stuffy dining room of our hotel in Nepal Gunjafter a long day's library inauguration. Next to me was Smita, a small,slender waif of a girl, who looked about 16 at most. To imagine her inher late 20s and a top reporter for one of Kathmandu's best newspapers wasimpossible! I asked her how she had achieved so much, and she told me astory.
Smitagrew up in Rukum, a province in far west Nepal that was very poor and backward evenfor one of the world's least developed countries. For many years, Rukumhad been controlled by the Maoists, and operated as an autonomous state withinthe country. The literacy rate was one of the lowest in all Nepal, manypeople had no electricity and most lived below the poverty level. Ofthose children who did attend school, almost all were boys.
Smita'sparents were illiterate farmers, but they did believe in education, sending hertwo older brothers to school. Her uncle was a school teacher, himself anda very important man in Smita's life. When she was young, he would tellher stories and encourage her to dream. She loved him very much.
Oneday the uncle traveled east across the country to Kathmandu. While there,during a random conversation, he learned that years back men had landed on themoon - something of which he was heretofore unaware.
Returningto Rukum, one of the stories he told Smita was about the moonlanding. She was amazed when she heard of such an inconceivable event -men so far up in the sky on the moon! Astonishing yet an inspiration forher! Even though she had never been to school, Smita dreamt of being adoctor one day when she grew up. If men could land on the moon - totallyunimaginable earlier - atleast she could go to school and study.
Sinceher brothers were students and her uncle supported Smita's wish to learn, herparents let her go to school - the first girl in her village to ever attendclass. Not only did she graduate, but she managed to get a scholarship tothe university in Kathmandu. Along the way, she changed her mind aboutmedicine and became a newspaper reporter
WhenI asked her what gave her the strength to do what no other woman in her villagehad done, she smiled and referred to her uncle.
"Thatstory meant the world to me. I knew at that moment that my dreams could become real. I toocould shoot for the stars," she said solemnly.
"IfI did not reach the stars, I could always land on the moon!"
Bruce and Barbara Exstrum recently returned from a custom Myths and Mountains journey to Peru! Below is an intriguing account of their experience and a few photos, snapped along the way....
We wanted to celebrate ourmilestone birthdays with a special trip.Our planning started with Machu Picchu and escalated from there.How much could we fit into 14 days butspend enough time to get to know each place?Allie took our wish list and turned it into a well-crafted customitinerary:deep rain forest for aweek, then Cuzco-Machu Picchu-Sacred Valley, followed by a scenic bus ride toPuno with a home stay on Lake Titicaca, and just enough time for a day's tourof Lima before heading home.We emergedat the other end exhausted (by design) but very happy and with many wonderfulmemories.We made all of ourconnections, the accommodations were as advertised, and our guides were veryprofessional, knowledgeable, and fun to be with.
We highly recommend the TambopataResearch Center for getting the full rain forest experience, complete with arare spider monkey sighting (plus watching the expert river pilots in both lowwater and very high water), Machu Picchu of course (no pictures prepare you forhow breathtaking that first view is), the bus from Cuzco to Puno (we weredubious about the wisdom of taking a 9-hour bus ride, but it's a reallycomfortable bus with interesting stops and as it turned out, we appreciated thechance to sit for a while), and the home stay on Taquile Island in LakeTiticaca, whichcame with beautifulpeople, beautiful views, and some of the best food of the trip.
However, we may not yet be able toclaim membership in the Adventure Travel community because 1) Everything wentas planned.2) The closest we cameto a "crisis" was having the soles of Barb's hiking boots come apart (bothshoes!) halfway through our visit to Machu Picchu. In an uncharacteristic fitof packing light, Barb had brought only these shoes on this part of the trip,but was saved by a kind vendor at the market in Aguas Calientes who not onlyhad superglue for sale, but helped us apply it to make sure it would work(temporarily, but long enough to get us through the day). 3) We spent our lastseveral hours before our late flight from Lima observing the local culture atthe high-end cliffside Larcomar shopping center (but there is a small satelliteof the Gold Museum there).Did wemention we were exhausted and not thinking clearly?
Thanks again to Allie, Katie, andeveryone at M&M and their excellent local providers for giving us such amemorable experience and several future months of sorting and editing thephotos.
On November 2nd, 2009; The Founder and President of READ- DrAntonia Neubauer - was felicitated by Nepal Tourism Board for her outstandingcontribution in developing rural tourism through literacy.
Sharing her motivation for establishing libraries invillages of Nepal,Dr Neubauer said that the trekking guide inspired her to set up a library inNamche village in 1981. She added that it was due to inspiration from a guidethat she understood the importance of education in Nepal's villages. Sheexplained that READ is about educational, economic and community development asa whole. National Planning Commission former vice-president and Emeritus boardmember of READ Nepal Dr Mohan Man Saiju said READ has been identifying tourismpotential destinations and establishing libraries at those places so as toproduce skilled human resources which can deliver standard services totourists visiting the country. "The libraries have not only developed readingculture in Nepal but alsohelped in disseminating information to tourists visiting Nepal," said
Nepal Library Association president Bhola Kumar Shrestha. He added thatliteracy is one of the important millennium development goals set by thegovernment.
During the ceremony, there was a presence of the CEO ofNepal Tourism Board, Press and Media and READ Nepal well wishers. The news waswidely covered by Nepalmedia.
This is a great honor for READ to berecognized by the government body of Nepal.
We received this wonderful note from Daniel and Evgeniya, who recently returned from their 10-day "Magic of Machu Picchu & Lake Titicaca" customized journey with Myths and Mountains. In the spirit of travel, we thought it would be nice to share their experiences with all of you, our adventurous fans. Enjoy!
I am very sorry that I found time to reply only now but as a young mother of a very active eight months old baby I think I have an excuse :)
On behalf of my husband and myself I would like to thankeveryone and especially you for a WONDERFUL trip to Peru. We fall in love with thisbeautiful country. We really enjoyed every moment of being there. The Machu Picchu was amazing and powerful place to be. We got big supply of energy in this mysterious place. I liked the Machu Picchu but the floating islands on lakeTiticaca impressed me themost. When we disembarked from the boat I was able to sayonly: " WOW!!!!" . I wished wecould spend overnight on theislands to get better the culture and thelocal people.
The Peruvian people are veryfriendly and helpful. I like that they are not importunate on the markets. We bought so many good things. I am not a shopaholic but I couldn't stop myself of buying nice stuff there. :) The Peruvian food was absolutely delicious. Finally we tried guinea pig we didn't havetime to do it in Ecuador. We found top end restaurantin Cusco and tried there ravioli with guinea pigand alpaca steak. Where else in theworld you can try such exoticfood? I think nowhere, in Cusco only.
I left my opinion aboutour guides and hotels on the commentpage.
Also I want toshare our story on Titicaca with you. We really enjoyed it at the end but... how it all happened.
The first two hours ofkayaking were enjoyable and pleasantdespite the wind blowing againstus. The third hourwe began to be tired but we almostdidn't stop to take a rest. Thefourth hour I got horrible painin my arms but I the thoughtthat I can"t leave my husband alone, really motivated me to continuerowing. After four hours of kayaking we finally reached theisland. We were exhaustedbut happy. :) For therest of the day and whole night I have experienced the worst pain in my life. I couldn't move my arms at all. The nextmorning I was absolutely fineand happy.
We want to come back to Peru in few years to do Inca trails andspend few days in the jungle and will do it with your company for sure.
Once again, thank you very muchfor the great time we havehad on the land of Incas and unforgettable memories that will be inour hearts for years to come.
Returning to Guayaquil from a week in the Galapagos, we intrepidly rented a car to explore the Ruta Del Sol - Ecuador's coastline. After my first trip to Ecuador I returned home talking about the ruleless roads of Ecuador and vowed to NEVER drive in this country. Here I was a year later on my honeymoon boldly renting a car. Carpe diem. After checking in at the car rental counter, the kind girl said she didn't have the mid-sized car we reserved and was going to have to upgrade us to an SUV. Hallelujah I thought. A bigger car equals more safety. After completing the paperwork, we headed out towards the car. The scariest part was about to begin; getting out of city of Guayaquil. The attendant must have felt sorry for us, or maybe he thought we were crazy, because the sweet and helpful man got in his own car and we followed him to the highway. Exiting Guayaquil we felt the fear dissipate and we kicked back and turned on the I Tunes. Driving in Ecuador turned out to be a breeze.
After 45 minutes of enjoying Bob Marley and driving through desert with tumbleweeds blowing across the road, we were at the beach and cruising the Ruta Del Sol (Road of the Sun).We stopped at a roadside stand for our favorite local dish of humitas, which are similar to corn tamales, and a coca cola. We continued along the Ruta Del Sol, hugging the coastline, crossing over from arid desert to lush jungle, passing through dusty villages, palapa style restaurants and homes, honking at cows and waving at the bicycling children. The long stretches of beach, sandstone cliff line and the rolling waves reminded us of our native Northern California coastline. The views were breathtaking.