Professional photographer Mirjam Evers, co-founder of Photo Quest Adventures (PQA) worldwide photography workshops, has traveled to and photographed more than 75 countries. Yet among all her journeys one of the most memorable was PQA’s recent Myths and Mountains trip to Nepal. “Some of the credit has to go to the country itself, the beautiful people and the gorgeous landscapes surrounding the snowy peaks of the Himalaya,” Mirjam reflects, “but I doubt I would fully appreciate the wonder of Nepal without the expert guidance of Toni Neubauer and the local guides.”
Nepal is a photographer’s dream, and Myths and Mountains “went above and beyond our expectations,” Mirjam says. “We were introduced to the real Nepal. We communicated with many of the local residents, experienced the impressive READ community centers, and, of course, were taken to some of the most beautiful places in Nepal, in perfect lighting conditions.” The October 2012 trip was so successful that PQA is already planning a return to Nepal.
Whatever the destination the beauty of travel photography is that, as Mirjam says, “It can celebrate the landscape and the human condition while also exploring larger issues. The travel photographer can address political and social issues while, at the same time, sharing intimate, profound moments that exemplify humanity.”
For travelers wishing to improve their photography, Mirjam offers the following tips:
Although Chile and Argentina do not require visas for US travelers, both countries require travelers holding US passports to pay a $160 reciprocity fee in order to enter. This amount is equal to the amount that Argentines and Chileans are required to pay for visas to enter the United States. To streamline the immigration process, new procedures will take effect at the end of the year in Argentina. It’s important to be aware of these changes since travelers who fail to follow the new procedures could find themselves stranded at the airport unable to enter country.
Starting December 28, 2012, US visitors to Argentina arriving on flights into either of the two airports in Buenos Aires (Ministro Pistarini International Airport, more commonly known as Ezeiza, and Aeroparque Jorge Newbery) must pay the reciprocity fee online in advance. Beginning January 7, 2013, online prepayment of the reciprocity fee will also be required for travelers crossing into Argentina by land and sea (although cruise ship passengers will be exempted from the fee until June 30, 2013). The receipt for prepayment must be shown upon arrival in Argentina. The website for payment is: http://www.migraciones.gov.ar/accesible/templates/reciprocidad/reciprocidad.htm
For the third year in a row, Myths and Mountains President Toni Neubauer has been named Condé Nast Traveler’s Top Travel Specialist for Nepal. The experts included on this prestigious list represent what Condé Nast’s Director of Consumer News and Digital Community, Wendy Perrin, calls “the best blend of destination knowledge, insider connections, user-friendliness, and value for your dollar that I've found in more than two decades of scrutinizing the travel industry for this magazine.”
Inclusion on the list is a true honor. As Perrin notes on the Condé Nast website, “Of the more than 10,000 travel agents and tour operators who have tried to break onto this list since its inception 13 years ago, only a tiny fraction have made the grade—this year, 150 specialists. Getting into this group is, statistically speaking, tougher than getting into Harvard. Staying on it is tougher still: It requires not only an absence of valid reader complaints but also ongoing positive assessments from readers.”
Far from the airport in Paro and the seat of government in Thimphu, Eastern Bhutan sees far less tourists than the western part of the country, and yet has rich cultural heritage of its own. For many years, I have wanted to visit the semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the eastern villages of Merak and Sakteng in the area around Trashigang, and finally set off this fall to do so. We were a group of four - three women and two men - three of us in our 60s and one in her 70s.
The trip began with a flight from Delhi to Guwahati, the capital of Assam. Here we were met by Kinley, our guide, and Sangay, our "Buddha" driver. From Guwahati, we headed out on a chaotic drive to the Bhutanese border town of Samdrup Jonkhar. The road was under repair and a blend of elephants, busses and trucks belching diesel fuel, bikers, cars, and other assorted vehicles that defy definition. It took slightly over four hours to arrive at the border, check out of the insanity of India and into the relative quiet of Bhutan.
Lodging in the east is rather basic, to say the least, and we overnighted at the basic TLC Hotel. Rumor hath it that with new hotel competition coming in, TLC is going to do some renovation, but "nothing is real 'til its real!" For now, rooms are basic, hot water is sporadic and food is heavy in carbohydrates and light in spices.
The town is simple, perched with a market near the border that picks up on weekends. There is a simple temple or gomba, and our visit connected with the chanting of the monks. There is also a cement plant and some small industry, but overall, this is not a place for great sightseeing.
As Myths and Mountains approaches its 25th anniversary, Founder and President Toni Neubauer looks back at the early days and the continually evolving journey of bringing her dream to life.
How did it all begin?
It was 1983 or so when my friend Nancy phoned and said, “I’m going to Nepal. Are you coming?” I said, “I guess if you’re going, I’m going.” We phoned another friend, and she decided to go, too. Four of us ended up going, and we all had an incredible trip.
At the time I spoke five languages and taught French, Spanish, and English, but knew nothing about Nepal – a place where the most basic things of life - how you eat, how you say “hello,” or how you go to the bathroom – are different. On that first trip, a temple guard almost shot me for sitting on Vishnu – He looked like a rock to me! Returning to the States, I found a freshman from Nepal at Bryn Mawr and said, “Okay, you teach me Nepali, and I’ll teach you how to use a washing machine!” She became my adopted “Nepali daughter,” and her parents adopted me in Nepal. After learning Nepali, I returned to the country. People asked if they could go with me, and then, “Where are we going next?” That was the beginning.
What made Myths and Mountains different from what other travel companies were doing?