VIDEO: Astronaut’s view of the world


Need a few moments of Zen? This video from NASA‘s Johnson Space Center has seven of them, traveling over the Earth from the coast of Namibia to the Amazon Basin to capture an astronaut’s view of the world. The incredible images are narrated by Dr. Justin Wilkinson, a soothing astronaut who points out the many rivers, mountains, deserts, and other features shown on NASA’s camera from far above. You can see Utah‘s Salt Lake, Sicily‘s cloud-covered Mt. Etna; there’s even footage of Hurricane Florence, forming a perfect spiral over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sit back, put the video in full-screen mode, and start dreaming of your next travel destination. What an astronaut’s camera sees.

What not to do on your safari

Bet you didn’t experience wildlife like this when you were on your last wildlife safari. Marlice van Vuuren is a Namibian animal conservationist and a woman very familiar with the ways of the African cheetah. She should know, her last 34 years were spent growing up around animals in Namibia, and she currently runs the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary with her husband Rudie.

It’s that sort of experience that’s prepared her for this close interaction with wild cheetahs, no doubt mixed with a healthy dose of bravery and maybe a shred of craziness. Check out this video where van Vuuren gets off of her dirt bike and walks around among the wild cats, often advancing towards them and showing her dominance — it’s a pretty amazing show.Unfortunately, the clip appears to be spoken in English, then dubbed in French, so here is a translation of what Marlice Van Der Merwe is saying about her encounter:

If I lower myself down to their level, they’ll approach as we appear to be be of similar size … I’m doing this to show how cowardly they are, not to tease them … But also, to get a rush of adrenaline … As soon as you turn your back on them, they attack … As soon as you look them in the eyes, they’re afraid of you … If you run, you’re prey. But, if you turn around, they stop … I think they’ve had enough

The world’s ten creepiest abandoned cities


Some cities die. The people leave, the streets go quiet, and the isolation takes on the macabre shape of a forlorn ghost-town – crumbling with haunting neglect and urban decay. From Taiwan to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, these abandoned cities lurk in the shadows of civilization. Their histories are carried in hushed whispers and futures stillborn from the day of their collapse. Some have fallen victim to catastrophe while others simply outlive their function. I think we can all agree on one thing – they are all very creepy.

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abandoned cities

Pripyat
Location: Pripyat, Ukraine – 100km from Kiev
Story: On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl reactor began its tragic meltdown. The incident was a huge blow to the viability of the nuclear energy platform, and still today, the town of Pripyat is an abandoned shell of a city frozen in a 1980’s Soviet time-warp. While the failed reactor has been entombed in a an appropriate sounding casing called a “sarcophagus,” the area remains unsafe for human life. The town has thrived in one aspect though. Wildlife has returned to the area in droves. Wolves silently hunt among the towering apartment buildings, and boars forage for food in the abandoned amusement park – which strangely opened the day after the reactor explosion in the midst of evacuation.
Abandoned since: 1986

abandoned cities

Sanzhi
Location: Sanzhi district, New Taipei, Taiwan
Story: This area called Sanzhi was originally a vacation resort catering to U.S. servicemen north of Taipei. The architecture could be called UFO futuro chic, and the abandoned resort community had difficulties from the beginning. During construction, many workers perished in car accidents, and other freak accidents were common. The urban legend online search trail places the death count close to twenty. The deaths were attributed to supernatural causes. Some speculated that the resort was built on a Dutch burial ground while others attributed the misfortunes to a dragon statue destroyed during construction. Either way, the ruins never took their first guest, and the stillborn project was abandoned.
Abandoned since: 1980


Craco
Location: Craco, Basilicata, Italy
Story: Built on a summit, Craco’s utility was initially derived from its ability to repel invaders. The town’s placement on a cliff precipice also threatened its integrity. After being rocked by a number of earthquakes and subsequent landslides, Craco was abandoned for lower ground. Today, the empty village is great for exploration and houses a number of interesting old world churches such as Santa Maria della Stella.
Abandoned since: 1963

abandoned cities


Kolmanskop
Location: Kolmanskop, Namibia
Story: Once a successful diamond mining community, Kolmanskop is now a desert ghost town where the houses welcome only sand. The desert city was originally built when Germans discovered great mineral wealth in the area. They built the town in an architecturally German style with a ballroom, a theater, and the first tram system in Africa. The desert reclaimed the town when the miners moved on. The sands have filled houses, covered the streets, and slowly erased most signs of civilization aside from the towering homes and public buildings. The sight of a decaying German town in the shifting sands of the Namib desert is anachronistically delightful.
Abandoned since: 1954

abandoned cities


Ghost Island
Location: Hashima Island, Nagasaki, Japan
Story: During the industrial revolution in Japan, the Mitsubishi company built this remote island civilization around large coal deposits in the Nagasaki islands. The island is home to some of Japan‘s first high rise concrete buildings, and for almost a century, mining thrived on the island. At its peak, the 15 acre island housed over five thousand residents – coal workers and their families. Today, a post-apocalyptic vibe haunts the abandoned island and the dilapidated towers and empty streets exist in a creepy industrial silence. In 2009, the island opened to tourists, so now you can take a trip to explore the Ghost Island’s abandoned movie theaters, apartment towers, and shops.
Abandoned since: 1974

abandoned cities


Oradour-sur-Glane
Location: Oradour-sur-Glane, Limousin, France
Story: During World War II, the Nazi troops came upon Oradour-sur-Glane and completely destroyed the village, murdering 642 individuals. The burned cars and buildings remain frozen in time as they did in 1944, a reflection of the monstrosity of war and a memorial to the villagers who lost their lives. The massacre was one of mankind’s most vicious moments. All visitors to the “martyr village” are asked to remain silent while wandering the melancholy streets of tragedy.
Abandoned since: 1944

abandoned cities


Centralia
Location: Centralia, Pennsylvania, United States
Story: The entire city of Centralia was condemned by the state of Pennsylvania and its zip code was revoked. The road that once led to Centralia is blocked off. It is as if the city does not exist at all, but it does, and it has been on fire for almost fifty years. In 1962, a fire broke out in a landfill near the Odd Fellows cemetery. The fire quickly spread through a hole to the coal mine beneath the city, and the fires have been burning ever since. Smoke billows out from cracks in the road and large pits in the ground randomly open up releasing thousand degree heat and dangerous vapors into the air. The city has been slowly evacuated over the years, though some residents have chosen to stay, believing that the evacuation is a conspiracy plot by the state to obtain their mineral rights to the anthracite coal reserves below their homes. Smells like lawyers to me.
Abandoned since: still marginally occupied by 10 or so brave souls


Humberstone
Location: Northern Atacama desert, Chile
Story: Declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2005, Humberstone was once a bustling saltpeter refinery in the desert of northern Chile. Life on the moonscape of the Chilean pampas is extremely sparse, and outposts like Humberstone served as work and home for many Pampino miners. The hostile environment proved a menacing part of everyday life for Humberstone residents. Their efforts to extract nitrates from the largest saltpeter deposit in the world transformed farming in Europe and the Americas in the form of fertilizer sodium nitrate.
Abandoned since: 1960

Bodie
Location: Bodie, California, United States
Story: The poster boy for a ghost town, Bodie is absolutely stunning in its dereliction. The boom-town over 8,000 feet up in the Sierra Nevadas was a gold rush outpost, and, at its height in the 1880’s, allegedly one of the largest cities in California. 65 saloons lined the dusty mile long main street, meaning the saloon to resident ratio was definitely high enough to keep the sheriff busy. Beyond the swilling of brews though, Bodie developed into a city filled with big town characteristics like churches, hospitals, four fire departments, and even a Chinatown district. Today, visitors are free to to walk the deserted streets of this town built on gold and hope.
Abandoned since: 1942, though the last issue of the local newspaper, The Bodie Miner, was printed in 1912.


Kayaköy
Location: Kayaköy, Muğla, Turkey
Story: Thousands of Greek speaking Christians lived in this town just south of Fethiye in southwestern Turkey for hundreds of years. The rather large village has been a virtual ghost town since the end of the Greco-Turkish War. Over 500 houses and several Greek Orthodox churches populate this garden of decaying structures. Some hope exists for a resurgence of this old city, as organic farmers and craftsmen have began to trickle in to this fringe community.
Abandoned since: 1923

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Enter the Put Foot Rally for an African road trip adventure

The Put Foot Rally promises to be quite an African adventureAdventurous travelers looking for a unique road trip this summer may want to checkout the Put Foot Rally, which is scheduled to get underway in June. The event begins in South Africa and promises to send teams on a 7000km (4350 mile) long odyssey through the wilds of Africa.

The 17-day rally will kick off at two separate starting lines, one in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg. Once underway, competitors will navigate on their own, and are free to take any path they like, but are required to reach certain checkpoints along the way by certain times. For instance, the first checkpoint is located at the Andersson Gate, just outside Etosha Park in Namibia. How you manage to find your way to that destination is entirely up to you, but you’ll certainly want to get there on time, as each of the checkpoints will play host to a party as well.

Subsequent CP’s will be located on the Okavango Delta in Botwsana, in Livingstone, Zambia, and on the edge of Lake Malawi in Malawi. From there it is on to Inhambane in Mozambique before proceeding on to the finish line in Swaziland. All told, counting the starting and finish line, there are seven checkpoints, and seven parties, in all.

The Put Foot is accepting just 50 crews for the inaugural 2011 rally, and as of this writing they are about halfway to filling that quota. A crew can consist of as many people as you want, but they all have to fit inside one vehicle. Speaking of which, you can also drive any type of car, truck, or SUV you want, as long as it gets you to the checkpoints on time. You can even elect to ride on a motorcycle if you prefer. Organizers of the rally estimate that about 95% of the route can be done on paved roads, which means a 4×4 isn’t necessary to compete. But part of the fun will no doubt be getting off the beaten path and finding interesting ways to reach the checkpoints. Just don’t take a wrong turn and end up in a country you weren’t expecting!
While the rally is going to be great fun, and will certainly provide plenty of opportunities for amazing travel experiences, it isn’t being run just for the adventure. The Put Foot Rally organizers have joined forces with the Bobs For Good Foundation to raise funds and awareness of that charity, which focuses on providing shoes for underprivileged African children. Many of those children might not ever own any kind of footwear under normal circumstances.

If you’d like to put your own crew together and enter the Put Foot Rally, you can register for the event, which gets underway on June 22nd, by clicking here. Be warned though, this is no organized jaunt down the well marked highway. It is instead a self guided safari through some of the wildest places in Africa, and if you’re not prepared for the challenges you could find yourself in real trouble. That said however, if this sounds like your kind of adventure, the rewards could be amazing as well.

Personally, I think Team Gadling would rock this rally!

Black Tomato launches Epic Tomato, an ambitious new adventure offshoot


For years Black Tomato has delighted old travel hands with its inventive, bespoke itineraries to various corners of the globe. The company is especially good at showcasing beautiful destinations not yet well-known to most travelers beyond the surrounding region. Among others, Belgrade, the Carpathian foothills, the Kuronian Spit, and Bhutan have all been embraced by the company.

This morning, Black Tomato launched Epic Tomato, which showcases a selection of hardcore adventure experiences to very hard-to-reach places. These adventures are scheduled for lengths of between four to 21 days, and are grouped into five categories: Polar, Desert, Jungle, Mountain, and River. They are all led by serious expert guides, some with SAS (British special service) military backgrounds.

Bolivia’s Apolobamba mountain range, Mali’s Dogon region, the Star Mountains of Papua New Guinea (see above), the Mosquito Coast of Honduras, and East Greenland are just a few of the destinations reached by Epic Tomato tours.

Epic Tomato’s frankly epic experiences don’t come cheap. At the bottom end of the scale, three adventures come in at £5995 ($9660): 14 days in Papua New Guinea’s East New Britain and Duke of York Islands; a 21-day trek in Tibet and Nepal; and eight days in Chilean Patagonia. At the very high end: 12 days on Canada’s Ellesmere Island for £67,495 ($108,720).