World Adventurers’ 2012 in Review


This year was a good one for  my blog, World Adventurers. In 2012, there were 116 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 911 posts. The busiest day of the year was April 4th with 3,919 views. The most popular post that day was Top Ten Things to See in Zambia (with Photos) when WordPress featured it on Freshly Pressed.

According to WordPress, 4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had about 57,000 views and 5,900 followers via Twitter and WordPress in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 13 Film Festivals. That’s a tall order! But just as notable is that readership and views this year more than doubled the past three years combined. How did World Adventurers grow so fast? Frequent posts with good content, photos, and detailed tags to help users find the right posts in search results.

 

 

Click here to see the complete report.

Happy New Years to All! May you have a peaceful and prosperous 2013.

The Christmas Tree


The Christmas tree has become the centerpiece of most modern Christmas celebrations. Whether its origins are Christian is unclear. Legend has it that Protestant reformer Martin Luther began the tradition of adorning trees with candles around 1500 A.D. after being awestruck by moonlight reflecting on a stand of evergreens. He brought a small fir tree home and decorated it with candles lit in honor of Jesus Christ’s birth.

Some claim that the Christmas tree has secular origins that range from the early Egyptian worship of evergreens to the Romans’ Saturnalia festival or Druidic rituals practiced during the winter solstice.

Whatever its origins, the modern Christmas tree represents something different to people who celebrate the holiday now than it did to their ancestors. The evergreen is a changeling in the sense that it can take any shape or form. It can be any color, tall or short, big or small, real or artificial, filled with lights, candles, garland and tinsel or none of them, topped by a star or angel, glittering or austere, and filled with identical ornaments or a hodgepodge of collectibles. The tree looks like whatever the person who puts it up wants it to be.

The only aspect that hasn’t changed through the centuries is that the tree should be a coniferous pine. Perhaps its evergreen nature symbolizes that it will always have a special place in people’s hearts, no matter what form it takes.

Tree

May your holidays ever be filled with the Christmas spirit.

 

 

snowflakeM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Christmas Nativity


The Nativity, or crèche, is one of my family’s favorite Christmas symbols. Introduced to Europe in 1223 by St. Francis of Assisi, who wanted to emphasize Jesus Christ’s birth at Christmastime by reenacting the event with humans and animals, the Nativity has become an iconic part of the Yuletide. Nativities can be both live or inanimate with pieces in all shapes and sizes.

My family loves to collect Nativity scenes from around the world. Each one is unique with cultural influences from the places where they were made.

Here’s a wooden one from Africa.

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This one is a ceramic set made in China and bought at a store in the United States.

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This is a ceramic Nativity from Peru in South America.

Nativity (3)

This set was made of cloth, metal, and twine in Zambia, a country in southern Africa.

Here’s a porcelain Nativity with Thai figurines from Thailand.

Although each set it different, they all symbolize Christ’s birth, and that has special meaning to our family on Christmas.

Have a blessed Christmas! May it bring you peace and joy.

 

snowflakeM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Santa Claus and the Spirit of Giving


Santa Claus. Saint Nicholas. Kris Kringle. Father Christmas. Known by many names, Santa is an almost universally recognized part of the Christmas celebration. To some, he’s an integral symbol of the holiday; to others, he’s a controversial, commercialized figure who’s pulled the holiday too far away from its origins honoring Jesus Christ’s birth.

To me, Santa represents the embodiment of a giving spirit. Like the 4th Century Greek bishop Nikolaos of Myra, or Saint Nicholas, who gave gifts anonymously and hid coins in the shoes of children, Santa Claus recognizes even the littlest among us. Like Santa and Jesus Christ, who lost his life for preaching a message of salvation, giving to others in need is something we can all do at Christmastime.

Whether in his Swedish, Chinese, American, or incarnation, Santa is one of the world’s most recognizable figures. I haven’t visited his home in the North Pole or Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland (if you ask the Finns), but he often stops by our home to give presents to good children and those who are young at heart.

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My son and I track Santa’s progress via the NORAD Tracker as he delivers presents to children around the world on Christmas Eve. When he’s a time zone or two away from arriving at our house, Alex writes St. Nick a note with his Christmas wish list, puts out milk and something sweet to eat, and darts off to bed. Whenever my son asks me if Santa Claus exists, I simply answer that he only visits those who believe in him. Those who don’t aren’t ready to accept his gift.

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May this Christmas season be a gift to you!

 

snowflakeM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Christmas Greetings


For general Christmas greetings and more, visit my Thoughts & Sayings.

I want to depart from travelogues for a few days to focus on my favorite holiday, Christmas.

I love Christmas and its many traditions. The celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and the trappings of the season hold a special place in my heart. No matter where in the world I live or what cultural events and traditions I observe, Christmas will always be my favorite.

When I was young, I used to draw illustrated Christmas cards for family and friends. In the days before technology made it easier to do graphic design, I spent hours sketching cartoon characters and winter scenes by hand. I haven’t had time in years to sit down and sketch a Yuletide scene — I barely have time nowadays to send out an annual Christmas letter — but I still enjoy looking at cards from Christmases past.

Here are some of them. I hope they make your holidays a little brighter!

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Card (2)

Card (3)

Card (4)

Card (5)

Card (6)

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season!

 

snowflakeM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Eurasia: On to Munich


This is the fifth installment of a story chronicling my travels in 1994 as a college student. The six-month journey took me to 20 countries in Europe and Asia.

My journey from Frankfurt, Germany to Graz, Austria by train was filled with experiences that I will never forget—meeting interesting people, carrying an insane amount of baggage after my luggage carrier broke, and watching a mix of scenery pass by the window that left me feeling both satisfied and disappointed. This, after all, was my first trip to Europe, and I thought the landscape would fit my expectations. The train trip from Frankfurt’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, on February 28 lasted one and a half days with stops and transfers in München (Munich) and Rosenheim, Germany and Salzburg and Bischofshofen, Austria.

frankfurt

When I planned my itinerary, I decided to travel by train because I’d heard the rail system in Europe was one of the best options for point-to-point travel in a continent compact enough to traverse in a matter of days. I bought a Europass in the United States that let me travel around most of Europe for a couple weeks. A poor college student, I was grateful that I could be mobile for a pittance. At the time, before the advent of no frills discount airlines, rail was the only practical way to experience Europe on the cheap.

I made arrangements with my German friend Brigitte to spend one night with her family in Rosenheim and hopped on a slow-moving train to her berg about 60 kilometers from Munich. Brigitte and I had written to each other for several years as pen pals exchanging stories of life in America and Germany, but we had never met in person, and I was looking forward to a glimpse of the life she shared in her letters. She wrote me in nearly flawless English, but I would soon find out whether we would be able to communicate.

Without a shower and paltry sleep for the last two days, my jet-lagged body cried out for relief as I waddled through Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof with my luggage in tow and Europass in hand. My mind screamed for a bathroom and a bed, but time marched on toward my evening departure. The bags weighed me down like oversized balls and chains with two duffle bags slung over each shoulder and an overstuffed suitcase smacking my heels and the ground. I felt the unforgiving urge to find a toilet minutes before the train departed, but to my misfortune, I discovered that the only W.C. (or “vay-say,” as they say in Germany) in the train station was located in the farthest corner of the basement. My immobility and imminent departure kept me rooted to the platform. I tap danced to get my mind off the uncomfortable feeling gnawing at my abdomen.

trainnight

When the InterCity high-speed train bound for Munich pulled into the station, I tried to board as quickly as possible, but my ticket relegated me to second class at the rear of a long line of train cars. The ones nearby were reserved for first-class passengers. I jogged along the platform with luggage flailing behind me to the rear of the train in a 100-yard dash around a crowd of bystanders that would have impressed any obstacle course enthusiast. The hiss of stream and shrill whistle signaled that the train was leaving as I approached my assigned car. My teeth gripping my ticket, I jumped aboard as the impatient engine began to pull away from the station. I leaned on my bags piled against the wall next to the W.C. and chuffed with relief, catching my breath. I made it!

traindusk

My victory was short-lived when I peered into the adjacent passenger cars and saw that every seat had been taken. I would have to stand or sit on the grimy floor in the breezeway for who knew how long.

As the train made stops at stations from Stuttgart to Regensburg, passengers began to file in and out and pushed me aside in their harried rush to reach their destinations. About half way to Munich, I managed to snag a seat in one of the rail cars and hoisted my luggage into the rack above, leaving my jacket in the seat to stake my claim. Rummaging for my toiletries, I commandeered the W.C. and transformed it into a makeshift grooming parlor. I did my best to clean up as the rails jostled the small space and sent me swaying back and forth. The face looking back at me in the mirror was that of a vagabond with red eyes, ruddy complexion, and the start of a beard that looked like patchy scruff. I looked like hell. Not a good first impression for Brigitte’s family. I fished out my shaver and tossed it back when I realized it needed a European-style electrical plug adapter. My American one was useless.

Hunger drove me to search for something to eat. I stumbled to the dining car but headed back to my seat empty-handed when I noticed a hamburger cost U.S.$7.00 in deutschmarks and drinks $3.00. Instead, I nibbled on some snacks I packed for the trip. The sacrifice saved some money but didn’t satiate the unfulfilling feeling gnawing at me. The glamour of European travel diminished with each crunch in my mouth.

I stewed in my seat as the train blew through the German countryside that I could not see except for the faint twinkle of lights, recounting in my mind what had gone awry since I touched down in Europe. Regret that I had bought an unwieldy suitcase and two overstuffed duffle bags instead of a backpack fell heavy on me. The reality of moving from station to station and train to train with such bulk blew away my assumption that I was on a one-way trip to student life abroad. I would have been better off a penguin herding my progeny.

I dozed off as the monotonous sound of the train wore on, broken only by the abrupt screeching and sudden silence that came with each station stop. I counted them like sheep as they passed one after another on the way to Munich, careful not to fall into a deep sleep and miss my connection. The stretched cloth-covered chair that barely reclined would be my bed for the night, a rare opportunity to rest before arriving in Rosenheim late in the evening. Who knew whether Brigitte would be there to meet me. We had spoken briefly on the phone to confirm my visit a couple weeks before I left the states; that promise seemed tenuous now after my recent misadventures.

traindusk2

To be continued.

Previous installments of Eurasia

1. Leaving America

2. Vancouver to Frankfurt

3. Adventures in Frankfurt (Part One)

4. Adventurers in Frankfurt (Part Two)

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Images courtesy of Microsoft.

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M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Amazon Monkey Reserve


This is the fifth article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about a monkey reserve in the Amazon. Previous posts highlighted the Amazon River, the city of Manaus, Amazon Ecopark, and piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on the rainforest and indigenous peoples. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

Not far from the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge on the banks of the Tarumã River lies a sanctuary for monkeys that have been orphaned, injured, or confiscated from illegal dealers. The dozens of primates who are rehabilitated and, if possible, released back into the wild find respite there from the harsh reality of the jungle. Visiting the reserve managed by the Amazon EcoPark and spending time with its friendly residents was one of the highlights of our trip to the Amazon region.

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The gray woolly monkeys, one of two genera of monkey at the reserve, greeted us upon arrival. Their name comes from their thick, wool-like fur that beckoned to be touched. Their longing eyes looked at us for hand outs with an eagerness that cast a spell over even the most calloused visitor.

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The gray monkeys are cousins to the brown, or common woolly monkey, the Colombian woolly monkey, and the silvery woolly monkey that live together in the same areas of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

Even though we didn’t feed them, a job we left to their caretakers, the woolly monkeys still mingled with our group. One took a liking to my young son, who fearlessly pet its soft fur.

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We also encountered red bald uakari monkeys. These were more timid and reserved than their woolly counterparts, preferring to linger in trees and making wide berths around our group. These distinctive creatures are from one of four species of uakari (pronounced “wakari”), the others being the black-headed uakari, Ayres black uakari and Neblina uakari. This one inspired the character “Manny the Monkey” in my book Alexander the Salamander.

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Both woolly and uakari monkeys prefer to spend most of their time in trees, although the reserve’s inhabitants might have been an exception because they seemed to spend much of their time milling about on the ground with the humans.  The woolly monkeys had long, strong tails that allowed them to balance and swing from limb to limb without using their hands, while the uakari’s strong arms and legs helped them jump long distances from tree to tree. Both used their arms and legs when they walked on the ground around us. It was fun watching them swinging in the trees as if putting on an acrobatic show.

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I watched the monkeys lounge around and eating food. Meal time was a shared free for all. The two species seemed to get along well as de facto neighbors in the reserve. None of them fought over their lunch and seemed content with their fair share, although I’m sure they’ve had food fights and monkeyed around.

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While some might disapprove of the close interaction between humans and monkeys and tourists wanting to pet and take photos with these creatures, I appreciated the efforts of the Lodge to help rescue and rehabilitate them. Their populations range from vulnerable to endangered because of legal and illegal hunting and habitat loss caused by deforestation, and the sanctuary’s efforts will help the monkeys survive for generations to come.

2008_07_17 Brazil Amazon Monkey Park

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More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus.

Click here to read about piranhas.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to read about the Amazon EcoPark Jungle Lodge.

Visit A-Z Animals for more information about woolly and uakari monkeys.

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

 

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

An Eco-Resort in the Amazon


This is the fourth article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about the Amazon Ecopark. Previous posts highlighted the Amazon River, the city of Manaus, Brazil and piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on its rainforest, indigenous groups, and wildlife. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

An hour-long boat ride upriver from Manaus brought us to the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge, an eco-resort on the Tarumã River, a tributary of the Amazon that flows into one of the main branches of the Rio Negro.

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Nestled in a quiet cove, the lodge was our home for five days in July 2008. When we arrived, I thought we had been stranded on Gilligan’s Island until we saw the carved wooden sign near the dock confirming that we were in the right place.

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The site was only accessible by water, and I felt like we were being marooned in the jungle until a boat took us back to civilization.

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The Ecopark offered plenty to see and do in the small area where we were permitted to wander without a guide (not that I had any desire to get lost in the jungle, mind you). We could walk on the beach, enjoy the view, or swim in the cove – an opportunity that my family reluctantly avoided. Other visitors were brave enough to take a dip, but we weren’t about to swim with the caimans, piranhas or needlefish. Instead, we walked around the lodge and snapped photos.

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The beautiful scenery whispered “Amazon,” coaxing me to tell its story and inspiring me to write Alexander the Salamander. The still pool of water from a small stream made an idyllic backdrop for the creatures featured in the book.

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Unplugged with no Internet or phone access that would have made ardent tech addicts stir crazy, the lodge made up for it with leisure activities. My son and I enjoyed many a game of pool and chess. While he had some trouble getting the pool stick to connect with the cue ball, the little chess whiz beat his dad over and over.

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Once in a while, dad got the upper hand.

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The Ecopark offered several off-site excursions to introduce visitors to the Amazon, including boat cruises to an indigenous village and the Meeting of the Waters at the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Solimões; rainforest hikes; visits to a monkey sanctuary; piranha fishing; and nighttime animal spotting. During a moonlight cruise, our guide suddenly sprang from the boat onto the shore and caught a small caiman that he showed us and later released. I marveled how he found saw glint in the creature’s eyes in near darkness.

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Before and after a long day of touring, we retreated to the dining hall for dinner or to the lounge for drinks. I still remember the caipirinhas I enjoyed on the veranda overlooking the cove as my wife sipped on margaritas and tropical juices. My son enjoyed the juices but liked playing with the tiny cocktail parasols even more.

Local residents occasionally popped by for a visit. A large lizard searching for dinner crossed our path. We steered clear of a parrot and macaw that hung around the bar. While they were the inspirations for the characters Polly and Molly in Alexander the Salamander, these one were quite aggressive. Molly the Macaw was downright ornery, shooing away visitors wherever she landed.

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2008_07_17 Brazil Amazon Resort

The Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge is just one of many resorts along the Amazon’s many tributaries. Other resorts offer similar amenities. We enjoyed its ambiance, activities, price, and close proximity to Manaus. We were grateful that was located on the mosquito-free Rio Negro, where the high acidity from decaying vegetation and low oxygen content prevents mosquitos from breeding. Although we contended with our fair share of spiders, ants and other jungle critters, the bloodsuckers left us alone.

Map picture

 

More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus.

Click here to read about piranhas.

Click here to read about the Amazon River.

Click here to watch the Amazon Eco-Park’s promotional video.

 

About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

 

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Australia


This article about a recent trip to Australia was published in the December 2012 edition of Thani Talk, a monthly newsletter based in Thailand.

In October my family and I visited Australia. We traveled to Sydney, a must-see destination Down Under, and Far North Queensland, a great jumping-off point to the Great Barrier Reef and the world’s oldest living rainforest. The country’s so big that the flight from Thailand was more than nine hours, much of it over Australian territory!

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We began our trip with a visit to Sydney Harbour, the best starting point to explore the city. The walking tour through the city’s old town known as The Rocks, Circular Quay port and shopping district, Royal Botanic Gardens, and the iconic Opera House is an excellent daytrip.

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Taking in the brilliant sunset from the Sydney Harbour Bridge is a breath-taking, once-in-a-lifetime experience that will awe even the most seasoned traveler. After sundown, return to The Rocks for dinner at one of the many restaurants that cater to the cruise liners moored in the Quay.

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A visit to Darling Harbour for shopping and entertainment, Taronga Zoo, and one of city’s ocean beaches are fun trips in Greater Sydney. Plan these excursions on Sunday when all public transportation, including ferries, costs just A$2.50 per person for the whole day.

The Blue Mountains west of Sydney are a great out-of-town getaway. We were awed by the Jamison Valley and the Three Sisters rock formation near the town of Katoomba. A trail descends more than 1,000 steps to the valley floor. It’s a three-hour nature hike to a gondola that carries visitors back up to town.

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A three-hour flight from Sydney, the city of Cairns in Far North Queensland is a launching point for trips to the Great Barrier Reef and Australia’s northern wilderness. The city has a laid-back atmosphere with a whiff of adventure. Tourists can enjoy cruises to the reef islands and shoals. We spent the day swimming with the fishes, snorkeling, and helmet diving courtesy of renowned tour operator Reef Magic, and making friends with Wally, a giant fish a la Dory from the movie Finding Nemo that loves to play with humans.

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2012_10_21 Australia GBR

No trip to Cairns would be complete without a drive up the coast to Daintree National Park. We spent the day on the beach at Cape Tribulation and exploring the Jurassic Park-like atmosphere of the world’s oldest rainforest at the Daintree Discovery Centre.

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Whether it’s the fascinating mix of Aboriginal and international culture or sweeping vistas, unique animals, or natural and manmade wonders, Australia is well worth a visit. Beware, though. Two weeks is barely enough time to catch a glimpse of this awesome place.

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clip_image001M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Storiesand Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Amazon River


This is the third article in a series about the Amazon region of Brazil featured in my illustrated picture book, Alexander the Salamander. This one is about the Amazon River. Previous posts highlighted the city of Manaus, Brazil and piranhas, a well-known fish native to the Amazon. Upcoming articles will focus on the rainforest, indigenous groups and wildlife in the area, and the Amazon Ecopark, an eco-resort. Enjoy these travelogues with photos and stories from one of the world’s mightiest rivers.

The day after we arrived in Manaus, we boarded a small green wooden motorboat with our luggage and headed about 25 kilometers up the Rio Negro to the Amazon Ecopark. The aging vessel was driven by a kindly Brazilian man who spoke no English but smiled a lot and helped us with our baggage. My son, wife, and I were the only passengers on the watercraft designed to hold 12 people plus luggage stowed in the aft. I chuckled at the sight of our bags lounging with a bird’s eye view of the river.

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As the city of Manaus disappeared on the horizon, the rainforest surrounded us and left me transfixed on its emerald beauty. The wake behind the boat blended in artistically with the swirling clouds.

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I’d seen other tropical forests, but the allure of the Amazon played with my mind and made the scenery utterly magical. The excitement of being in an almost-mythical place that I dreamed of visiting as a child grew as the boat glided deeper into the wilderness.

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The occasional bungalow and sagging structure along the waterfront reminded me that we hadn’t quite left civilization behind.

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More powerful boats zipped by us, throwing waves in our path and jostling our craft. I dreaded to think what we would find in the river if we fell overboard.

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Half an hour later, the boat slowed and veered away from the Rio Negro into a channel that took us to our resort hidden in a cove. The calm, serene water mirrored the rainforest that pressed in on us from all sides.

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The afternoon faded and the sun set behind the trees, casting its golden rays through the breaking clouds. The shadows deepened, painting the landscape in dark hues that blurred the outlines of the sky, forest, and river. Aside from the rumble of the outboard motor that sounded taxed by the hour-long journey from Manaus, the jungle was quiet. Life was all around us, but the stillness was deafening when the motor cut out.

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During our five days in the Amazon, we ventured up and down the lifeblood of the rainforest. The melding of trees, plants, wildlife, river and sky instilled a sense of natural harmony. I was grateful to have experienced this wondrous place in person, albeit as an outsider looking in.

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More About the Amazon

Click here to read about Manaus.

Click here to read about piranhas.

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About Alexander the Salamander

clip_image002A young salamander named Alexander living in the Amazon River Basin joins his friends Airey the Butterfly and Terry the Tarantula for an unforgettable jungle adventure. Come along with Alexander and friends as they meet birds, monkeys, and other creatures, enjoy the beauty of the rainforest, and face danger along the way.

The first book in the World Adventurers for Kids Series, Alexander the Salamander is an illustrated story inspired by the authors’ visit to the Amazon in 2008. Fun for kids and adults alike, the story teaches children the importance of listening to teachers and other authority figures.

M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories and Alexander the Salamander, a children’s story set in the Amazon. His books are available to purchase as an e-book and in print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.