Doomsday Bicycle Tour Lets You Ride To The End Of The World

Tour d'Afrique's Doomsday Tour of La Ruta Maya What do you want to be doing when the world ends in December? If your answer is exploring Mayan temples ruins, gazing upon volcanoes and waterfalls, and basking in Central America‘s warm autumn sun all from the seat of your mountain bike, then Tour d’Afrique has a pretty epic tour for you to consider.

Tour d’Afrique’s Doomsday Ride is a 2,300-kilometer (1,429-mile) transcontinental bike expedition along the “Ruta Maya” timed to coincide with the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. The trek begins in San Jose, Costa Rica, on November 17, 2012, and follows a winding, but well-scouted, route through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize. It concludes at the Lamani Mayan Temple outside of Belize City, Belize, on December 21, 2012 – the supposed date of the apocalypse.

Along the way, participants will get to check out Mayan ruins at Tikal and Copan; the great colonial architecture in the city of Granada, Nicaragua’s erstwhile capital; and villages, markets, rainforests, volcanoes, crater lakes and many other slices of life and nature off of the tourist track. If you can’t take off for the full five weeks of the expedition, Tour d’Afrique offers three shorter sections that average between 10 days and two weeks.

To learn more about the tour, the route, rates and schedules, check out Tour d’Afrique’s La Ruta Maya – the Doomsday Ride Blog.

Upcoming exhibition will debunk Mayan prophecy of the end of the world in 2012

An exhibition coming to Philadelphia will tackle this year´s hottest pseudo-archaeological topic: the Mayan prophecy that the world will end in 2012.

“Maya 2012: Lords of Time” at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology will explain the Mayan civilization’s complex interlocking calendar systems through interactive displays and a rich collection of art and artifacts. These calendars developed out of an advanced knowledge of astronomy and an obsession with the cyclical nature of astronomical events such as the solar and lunar years, eclipses, and the movements of the planets.

One of these calendar systems is the so-called Long Count, which starts a new cycle every 1,872,000 days, or approximately 5,125 solar years. The current cycle ends on December 21 or 23, depending on which scholar you believe. Most scholars say the Long Count doesn’t actually end on this date, it merely starts another cycle. The other Mayan calendars keep going too. No Mayan text says the world is supposed to end this year. In fact, some Mayan inscriptions actually mention dates later than 2012. They don’t mention anything about cosmic vibrations, visiting UFOs, or any of the other bullshit theories being bandied about either.

Dr. Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, said in an interview that the ancient Maya felt the end of a cycle was cause for celebration. Anthropologist and Maya specialist Dr. Judith Maxwell did what the New Agers didn’t bother to do and actually asked the Maya what they thought. While the ancient civilization is gone, the Mayan culture is alive and well in Mesoamerica and Mayan shamans, called daykeepers, told Maxwell that the end is not coming.

Apparently the exhibition organizers agree there’s nothing to fear. The exhibition runs from May 5, 2012 to January 13, 2013.

So the world isn’t going to end in 2012.

This ranks top on my list of “unsurprising news of the week.” I’m 42, and I have a hard time remembering a year that the world wasn’t supposed to end. Some hack writer or religious conman is always trying to scare us into thinking the world is going to end. The sad thing is, people embrace this nonsense. The world is not ending this year. You still have to deal with the consequences of your actions and you still have to shoulder your responsibilities. Chances are you will have to do that for many years to come. Chances are you will grow old and live through many more of life’s ups and downs.

That’s not a bad thing.

Vagabond Tales: How to roast marshmallows over an active volcano

This may sound strange, but one of my favorite aspects of international travel has to do with liability, or rather, the lack of it.

Although the age of personal responsibility seems to have gone the way of the cassette tape and litigation is now just another part of business, believe it or not, there are still a refreshing amount of countries out there where common sense and an acceptance of the risks involved are all that are required for most activities.

This is why you won’t see many people roasting marshmallows over slow-moving lava at Kilauea National Park in Hawaii, but you certainly might see the same at a place such as Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano in central Guatemala where I once dined over the 1500 degree Earth.

Set just outside the colonial outpost of Antigua, a town whose cobblestone streets bustle with Spanish language immersion students feasting on flan and savoring fresh local coffee, Volcan Pacaya has been actively erupting for the past 47 years. The undisputed highlight of the Pacaya Volcano National Park, roasting marshmallows over the active eruption has for years been a cheap thrill of travelers scaling the side of the mountain, and seeing as you could never get away with something like that back home in the US I was understandably keen to try it.For the grand total of $15 I arranged a tour with a company departing from Antigua for a late-afternoon ascent of Pacaya. In a decrepit old van stuffed with fellow adventure travelers, the rusty metal box climbed its way over dusty gravel roads high into the preserve. Local children with dirt-smudged faces swarmed our van upon arrival in an effort to sell us wooden walking sticks, but unfortunately for them I had already spent the last of my quetzals for the afternoon on the bag of sticky white marshmallows ready to be roasted. Had they accompanied me to the lava field I gladly would have treated them.

The lava on the mountainside is constantly shifting, however, and on some days the conditions are better than others for tracking down Mother Nature’s mountainside BBQ. On this particular day our guide Eduardo, a friendly, sun-weathered and semi-toothless gentleman informed us there was a fresh column of lava that was inching its way down the southwest flank of the mountain, so that’s where we were going to head.

Steeply ascending the side of the 8,373 ft. peak, the first hour was spent beneath a sweeping green canopy of forest and mud-soaked trail that had obviously seen a lot of recent use. When we finally rounded the corner to the southwestern flank and could see the whole of Pacaya opening up before us, my disappointment loomed large when it became apparent there was no lava to be seen anywhere.

No te preocupes” Eduardo ensured me. “You cannot see the lava from here, but when you reach the top, it looks black like the rock. From there you can see.”

With Eduardo’s guarantee we raced off down the sub-alpine scree slope until our shoes were full of tiny rocks. Although being buffeted by 50 mph wind gusts, our group nonetheless progressed up the flank of the mountain until reaching a point where the Earth suddenly seemed to be shifting.

Though I found myself standing on black lava rocks hard enough and sharp enough to slice right through skin, just a few feet away the same rocks had taken on the appearance of cake batter being slowly poured into a bowl. Black folds and ripples tinted with flares of orange bulldozed a molten path down the mountainside as I watched Earth being created before my very eyes. For the intensity of the moment, never had I seen such a violent and lethal force move so imperceptibly slow.

It was the faint trace of movement, however, which allowed the marshmallow roast to become a reality. With sticks acquired from the canopy floor beneath us, various trekkers squatted mere inches from a substance which could cut right through our bare flesh. With the nonchalance of a child next to a campfire, our handful of international volcano hikers sat in a semi-circle and dined on roasted Jet-Puffs from 6,000 ft above the valley floor below, all of us firmly taking responsibility for our own potentially dangerous actions.

So even though Kilauea National Park in Hawaii may have the longest running eruption in the United States (and myriad fences and boundaries keeping you at bay), if you want to dine on food roasted by nothing but the Earth, head to Antigua, Guatemala, a place where it’s still possible to gauge your own surroundings and be responsible for your own decisions.

Read more of the Vagabond Tales here.

10 unique modes of transportation around the world

chicken busCars, trains, buses, and planes aren’t the only way to get around a country. From the Bamboo Train in Cambodia to the Rail Cart in the the Philippines to the Couch Bike in Canada, here are ten unique modes of transportation from around the world.

Chicken Bus
Guatemala, Central America

While variations of the chicken bus can be found in many different countries (this reminds me a lot of taking the tro-tro in Ghana, Africa), this vehicle is used not only to transport people but also livestock, hence the name. These U.S. school buses are very eye-catching as they are colorfully painted and decorated. When taking one expect cramped conditions, as chicken buses tend to be packed to capacity, and hectic driving at Nascar speeds.Sled Dogs
Alaska, USA

Sled dogs are highly trained dogs that are used to pull a dog sled, which is a vehicle without wheels that glides over snow and ice. If you need a mental image, think Santa being pulled by reindeer, only you’re not flying and there are dogs instead of deer. Endurance and speed are the two main qualities that sled dogs must possess, and this transportation type has become a popular winter sport in other countries around the world such as Japan and Germany.

human powered rickshawHuman Powered Rickshaws
Kyoto, Japan

While urbanization across Asia has mostly done away with this traditional form of transportation, you can still find them used in certain areas where cars are not accessible in Kyoto, Japan, as well as in some parts of India. According to Kelvin Lim of BootsnAll, many rickshaw “drivers” wear a special foot-glove that helps them travel through various types of terrain without slipping.

India and Asia

In India and many places in South East Asia, an elephant is not only an animal but also a mode of transport. When I was Vietnam I actually went on an elephant ride with a local school owner named Roy who explained to me that “in many Asian countries we use animals to help with labor”. While once used to carry the wealthy around, today exploring a country on the back of an elephant is a big tourist attraction.

habal habal Habal Habal
Philippines, Asia

The Habal Habal is a unique motorcycle that can seat many people. The simpler versions seat 4-5 people, with a seat that extends over the back wheel, while the more complex type of Habal Habal can seat up to thirteen people and their luggage with the addition of wooden planks acting as benches.

Rail Cart
Philippines, Southeast Asia

The rail cart is most commonly found in the Philippines and is literally a cart that is pulled along rail tracks by a person, people, or a horse. The special wheels on the cart allow for quick transport but, unfortunately, are not always fast enough to get out of the way of the real trains that also use the tracks.

reed boatsReed Boat
Lake Titicana, Peru

Lake Titicana stretches across the countries of Peru and Bolivia and is home to many floating villages around Southern Peru. These villages are inhabited by the Uro people, who use natural resources, like reed, to construct homes and boats. The boats are light but resiliant and, built in the shape of a dragon, are said to have been used by the anicent Incas to ward off evil spirits.

Camel Back
Jordan, Middle East

While there are many places where camel rides are popular, one way to try out this transport option for yourself is by trekking through the beautiful rose colored deserts of Wadi Rum in Jordan. Cairo, Dubai, Mongolia, Morocco, and many deserts in India are also known for being camel riding hotspots.

couch bikeCouch Bike

When I found this highly unusual mode of transportation, I was kind of expecting it to be from America. The Couch Bike, which is literally a couch that you pedal like a bike, pokes fun at sedentary culture while providing an eco-friendly alternative to driving. Just make sure you know the traffic laws of the city you’ll be riding in, as the vehicle may not be legal to drive in all areas.

Monte Toboggan Ride
Madeira, Portugal

This unique transport mode is only for the adventureous. Once a popular mode of transport in the 1800’s-early 1900’s, it is a big tourist attraction today in Madeira. Passengers sit in a wicker or wooden tobaggan and ride down the mountain from Monte to Funchal. While an exhilerating experience, you don’t have to worry too much about crashing as there are two locals “steering” the vehicle from the outside. It’s kind of like being a kid again and having your parents pull you around in a sled, only your parents probably weren’t yanking you down a steep mountain with winding turns.

Frommer’s reveals top destinations for 2012

What destination are you dreaming of for 2012? The staff at Frommer’s have just unveiled their list of top travel destinations for the coming year. Included in the list is a little something for everyone: large metropolises, secluded beach towns, colorful riverside villas, and more.

But Frommer’s didn’t just rely on their expert editors and author’s for this years list–they also polled readers to find out where they wanted to visit in 2012. Click through the gallery below to see Frommer’s (and their reader’s) picks–including one surprising midwestern city that is the only spot in the United States to make the cut.

Other Winners:
Top Family Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Top Cruise Destination: Tromso, Norway
Top Beach Destination: Hanalei Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Top Adventure Destination: Moab, Utah
Top Food & Drink Destination: Lima, Peru
Top City Break Destination: Chicago, Illinois
Top Endangered Destination: Aysen Region, Chile
Top Value Destination: Albanian Riviera
Top Destination to Get Lost: Whitsunday Islands, Australia