JOURNEYS OF DISCOVERY—Monday through Friday Listen in during the evening to the daily travel show airing over KRML radio in Carmel California. Log on to the KRMLCOM media player to listen to the full length show, anytime. Remember Clint Eastwood’s movie, Play Misty For Me? Well KRML is the station featured in the movie. Weekly shows run the gamut from things to do and see around the Monterey Peninsula to the far corners of the globe. The Daily travel show for KRML is in addition to my Audiolog travel show airing over California Central Coast NPR affiliates KCBX, KSBX, KNBX as well as a weekly, in-depth Audiolog NPR.ORG Podcast.
Text & Photography by Thomas C. Wilmer
“Shhh…Listen! Up there in the tree.”
Our naturalist guide, Dave Luck, points skyward, “See the vervet monkey? His call is definitely warning others of a leopard in close vicinity.”
Luck compliments us on our incredible good fortune with animal encounters and a second later Luck abruptly asks our local Botswanan guide, Kenneth Liwena, to stop the Land Rover. We suspect that Luck is pulling our leg about his savvy monkey-communication skills. But, a ten-yard detour through the bush delivers us eye-to-eye with a semi-somnambulant leopard, napping after a feast of gazelle. “Unbelievable” and “incredible” are the oft-repeated mantras of our surreal African safari adventure.
Who’s on First?
By Thomas C. Wilmer
Siilinjärvi, Finland—When my Finnish friend, Marjia, asked, “Would you like to go to a pesäpallo game?” I responded, “Why sure. You did say baseball, didn’t you?”
“No, you heard me right, our Finnish summer pastime, pesäpallo, is similar to American baseball, but there are definite differences. Our version of baseball was developed in the 1920s by professor Lauri Pihkala as a training tool for the Finnish military.”
The military’s connection with pesäpallo explains why if you have two strikes against you in Finland, you have been “wounded” twice. And if you strike out, in the game of pesäpallo you’re “killed”.
Nationwide, more Finnish women play pesäballo than men and more women’s teams qualify to play in the Super Pesäpallo league.
–An ancient island culture survives and thrives in the midst of Micronesia.
Text & Photos by Thomas Wilmer
People frequently ask me, “Where’s your favorite place in the world?” After 25 years of exploring the world–from the Arctic to Malaysia, Palau is definitely one of my treasured favorites. Naturally, the next question is inevitably, “Why?” Visualize vividly blue and green gin-clear water, accented with towering vibrant-green jungles. Add to the mix a Scuba divers paradise, amidst a culture with intact ancient morays and customs, accented with welcoming smiles and laughter.
Text & Photos By Thomas Wilmer
The Chattanooga Choo Choo—whenever I think of the enchanting riverside city in Tennessee, Glen Miller’s classic, 1940s Big Band hit inevitably starts playing in my mind. Locals get it too—Even though the distinguished circa-1909 Chattanooga train station no longer serves as a rail depot, its been reincarnated as the historic Choo Choo Hotel. You can even book a room for the night in a railcar. Locals are frequently heard to say, “meet me at the Choo Choo”—and everyone knows they’re not talking about the Little Engine that Could.
It all makes perfect sense, as Chattanooga’s history is tightly interwoven with rail transportation. Rail service predates the Civil War with the completion of the first line to Atlanta in 1850. And it was the city’s strategic rail junction rather than river transportation that spurred the bloody Battle of Chickamauga in the fall of 1863.
Modern day Chattanooga is a trend-setting, happening destination but the legacy of the Civil War and the Battle of Chickamauga remains none-the-less palpable—especially with the legendary battlegrounds such as Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge overlooking the city (six miles from town). A visit to Chattanooga would not be complete without a visit to the nearby Chickamauga National Battlefield, just across the border in Georgia.
Chattanooga hums with a dynamic, youthful energy that permeates the arts, culture, cuisine, and wide array of outdoor adventure activities—integral factors in the city’s recognition as one of America’s most livable cities by National Geographic Explorer Magazine.
The awesome annual Riverbend Festival draws more than 80,000 people per night throughout its nine-day run every June. The festival attracts major headliners—such as the Beach Boys and Huey Lewis and the News performing the two evenings we attended last summer. Since Riverbend’s inception in 1982 stellar performers such as Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Alabama, Ricky Scaggs, and the Pointer Sisters have rocked the house. Actually it’s not a house but a cool outdoor venue overlooking the Tennessee River.
Listen to Ruth Thompson with Chattanooga Parks & Rec., learn about the Southern Belle riverboat and the Chattanooga Aquarium’s River Gorge Explorer catamaran:
Skimming no more than a two feet above the water McGoo Little darts his tiny Robinson helicopter into a pocket of underbrush along the edge of the legendary, crocodile infested Mitchell River. He prods out a Brahman bull with the skid of his “heli” while simultaneously leaning out of the cockpit and firing rubber bullets at the rump of another recalcitrant bull — welcome to a typical day in Northern Queensland’s Outback.
Text and images by Thomas Wilmer
It took a while to comprehend just how big a 1.4 million-acre cattle station is…. actually I don’t think I will ever be able to properly comprehend just how big, big is in the Land of OZ. My second day on the Wrotham Park cattle station in Northern Queensland (350 km west of Cairns), I awoke groggily to what I first thought was the sound of a gargantuan mosquito buzzing above my head. As the gnat like drone intensified, I realized it was the sound of an approaching Robinson R-22 helicopter.
Discover the vibrant city of Belfast and Northern Ireland’s Coastal wonderland
Text & Photos by Thomas Wilmer
One hundred years ago Belfast was on a roll. The robust and vibrant city touted the world’s largest shipyard along with dynamic linen and manufacturing industries. Today, numerous elegant Victorian and Edwardian edifices remain as mute testimonials to the city’s boom-times.
During the dark days of the “Troubles” life was drab in Belfast–real estate languished, industry was stagnant and when locals partied is was typically within private homes. Rosemary, a Belfast born and bred acquaintance, explained, “when I was a teenager, there were basically three or four restaurants in the city and one was a pizza place. And my dad forbid me from driving the family car in to the city in fear it would get blown up!’
Not anymore. Belfast today is an incredibly peaceful, pulsating place that has re-established itself as a prime destination for visitors from around the world. Belfast City Center abounds with cutting-edge eateries—trendsetters in the “farm to fork” movement, serving fresh, locally sourced foods. The town’s burgeoning nightlife absolutely rocks. For example Rihanna and Britney Spears both commenced their recent European tours in the city by the River Lagan.
R.M.S. Titanic–The Legacy Lives on
By Thomas C. Wilmer
When White Star Lines’ R.M.S. Titanic was launched on May 31, 1911 the vessel was hailed as the world’s largest and most expensive ocean liner ever built. Touting every imaginable cutting-edge luxury such as electric elevators, telephones, a heated swimming pool, a Turkish bath, a squash court and two barbershops—the technological marvel was dubbed “unsinkable” by White Star’s vice president.
Financed by American industrialist, J.P. Morgan, the ship was outfitted with the finest woodwork, artwork, carpets and fabrics available at any cost. The piece de resistance was the Grand Staircase, clad in oak paneling with gilded balustrades and intricate wrought iron railings illuminated by a glass-dome above.
Attending the 100th Anniversary of Titanic’s launch at Harland & Wolfe Shipyards was a most touching moment in time. Time actually slipped away as ceremonies took place adjacent to Titanic’s dry dock and slipway where she first entered the water. Elementary school kids were in attendance, wearing clothing and shipyard worker caps-circa 1911. At the exact instant of Titanic’s launch, horns blared and kids cheered for a minute and a half. Belfast will savor the hours and days throughout the centenary year of Titanic’s birth. The Titanica museum is now open and showcases actual artifacts, including clothing, china, letters, playing cards and more retrieved from the ocean floor.
We interviewed key personalities from Belfast who talked about the anniversary week, the new Titanica Museum as well as the 9 story tall Titanic Museum presently under construction, scheduled to open March 31, 2012.
I produced a ten part audio podcast series in conjunction with Sunset Magazine’s upcoming Savor the Central Coast event this fall. (Follow the link and scroll down to the “audio interviews” section.)
In other news, I’d like to gratefully share this flattering review of my book Wine Seeker’s Guide to Livermore Valley. David Armstrong’s praise for my writing quality made my year!
I have a lot more news on its way, so check back in again soon.