The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is politically one region, but in reality is two distinct places. 95% of the visitors to the province only visit the island of Newfoundland. Most people never bother to take the 15km trek across the Strait of Belle Isle to visit the other half of the province. Earlier in 2013 I had the pleasure of visiting the southern coast of Labrador, which is perhaps the most accessible part of Labrador. The purpose of my trip was to visit Canada’s newest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Bay Basque Whaling Station, but I discovered much more.
Monthly Archives: December 2013
Gary’s Global Hangout #1 – Elisa Detrez
As 2013 comes to a close, I’m introducing a new feature: Gary’s Global Hangout. I will be using Google+ Hangouts to talk with interesting people from all around the world. The format will be an extremely informal interview style lasting around 30-60 minutes.
My first guest is Elisa Detrez, who won the recent Best Job in the World contest with Queensland Tourism. She’s been working as a park ranger in Queensland, Australia since last August, visiting and working in various parts of the state. We talk about her experience winning the Best Job in the World and about visiting Queensland.
UNESCO World Heritage Site #263 – Australian Fossil Mammal Sites
From the World Heritage inscription:
Australia is regarded as the most biologically distinctive continent in the world, an outcome of its almost total isolation for 35 million years following separation from Antarctica. Only two of its seven orders of singularly distinctive marsupial mammals have ever been recorded elsewhere. Two of the world’s most important fossil sites, Riversleigh and Naracoorte, located in the north and south of Australia respectively, provide a superb fossil record of the evolution of this exceptional mammal fauna. This serial property provides outstanding, and in many cases unique, examples of mammal assemblages during the last 30 million years.
The older fossils occur at Riversleigh, which boasts an outstanding collection from the Oligocene to Miocene, some 10-30 million years ago. The more recent story then moves to Naracoorte, where one of the richest deposits of vertebrate fossils from the glacial periods of the mid-Pleistocene to the current day (from 530,000 years ago to the present) is conserved. This globally significant fossil record provides a picture of the key stages of evolution of Australia’s mammals, illustrating their response to climate change and to human impacts.
This site is a serial site divided between Naracoorte Caves National Park in South Australia and the Riversleigh fossil site in Queensland. I visited the Naracoorte site, which is the more accessible of the two. It is located roughly between Adelaide and Melbourne in rural South Australia.
I have been to several paleontology/archeology sites during my travels and they usually share one thing in common: there isn’t much to see. The sites are significant because of what they found in the ground, but those things have long since been dug up and placed in museums. Some sites like the Sangiran Early Man site in Indonesia were very disappointing. Others, like the Messel Pit Fossil Site in Germany, at least provide a decent visitor center where you can learn about the discoveries which took place at the location.
Naracoorte is the only fossil site I have ever visited where you can still clearly see in situ fossils in the ground! The Naracoorte caves basically served as a giant pit trap for animals for hundreds of thousands of years. Over that time animal bones piled up in such numbers that researchers haven’t found it necessary to dig up everything.
The visitor center in Naracoorte is also very good with recreations of the animals they found in the caves. If you ever wanted to know what a giant, meat eating koala looked like, then you need to pay a visit.
View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
North American National Park #6 – Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park sits in northern Montana long the US/Canadian border. Across the border in Alberta is Waterton National Park, which is its sister park. Together they make up the Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Glacier, as the name would suggest, best known for its glaciers, many of which are no longer visible in the summer months. It is also the home to Lake McDonald and the Lake McDonald lodge, one of the great lodges in the US National Park system.
One of the primary means of visiting the park is to drive the 50 mile Going-to-the-Sun Road which connects the eastern and western entrances of the park. While the views from the road are incredible, there were many stretches which didn’t allow you to pull over to take photos (especially when there is traffic in the park).
The closest airport to the park is Glacier Park International Airport near Kalispell, Montana near the western entrance to the park. As with most parks, it is probably best to visit as part of a longer road trip. Any trip to the park should include a visit to the adjacent Waterton National Park in Alberta as well.
North American National Park #5 – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Located due south of Yellowstone National Park and connected by the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway, Grand Teton National Park offers some of the most picturesque mountain views in the United States.
Named after the largest peak in the Teton Range, the parks is home to elk and moose as well as Jackson Lake and the Snake River.
Grand Teton can be easily accessed via Yellowstone National Park or nearby Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A combined visit to Grand Teton and Yellowstone is highly recommended as both parks are in close proximity and and offer complimentary features which cannot be found in the other.
My 2013 Travels in Airport Codes
Believe it or not, I didn’t qualify for elite status on any airline this year! Many of my flighst in the summer were on LIAT which doesn’t have a frequent flyer program. My flights to Africa on South African Airlines were only given 1/2 credit by United. I will end up 13 miles short of elite status on United. My next Star Alliance flight is on January 1, 2014 out of Sydney!
My other flights were scattered amongst other airlines. This is one of the reasons I am giving up on chasing elite status. The benefits just aren’t worth it anymore.
Where you see a | symbol, I transferred between airports by ground or water.
Total flights: 84
Unique Airports: 72
Shortest Flight: 12 minutes (St. Martin to Saba)
Longest Flight: 15 hours, 50 minutes (Vancouver to Sydney)
Lost Bags: 3 (Virgin Gorda to St. Martin, Boston to Dublin, Vancouver to Sydney)
North American National Park #4 – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is not only the first national park in the United States, but the first national park in the world. Created in 1872, Yellowstone has held its position as the greatest of the parks in North America.
What makes Yellowstone so special is a combination of the geothermal activity which accounts for the hot springs and geysers, the landscape which creates such spectacles as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and the large number of megafauna which inhabit the park.
Its uniqueness was recognized when it was one of the first 12 sites to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
Yellowstone is one of the most difficult to get to parks in the continental United States as there are no major cities in close proximity. The closest airport is in West Yellowstone, MT but flights to Jackson Hole, Bozeman and Boise can also get you to the park with some driving. The best option is to have your own car as the park is very large. Plan to spend at least 3 days to see the park properly.
Yellowstone is one of the few places which I would never refuse a return visit. I hope to make a future visit in the winter to photograph the park covered in ice and snow.
North American National Park #3 – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt is one of my favorite national parks and perhaps the most underrated national park in the entire US National Parks system. I visited the park as part of my 2009 North American road trip.
Located in the Western North Dakota Badlands, Theodore Roosevelt was named after the US President who spent time in North Dakota and owned a ranch on what is today the park.
The reason I found Theodore Roosevelt such a great park is the abundance and proximity of the wildlife. From my car, I was able to easily see bison, wild horses, mule deer, and prairie dogs. Even in Yellowstone, I wasn’t able to see so much, so close. Also, because the park is primarily grasslands, nothing is hidden in trees.
The park is located along Interstate 94 and is divided into norther and southern sections on either side of the road. It takes a while to drive to the park from wherever you are coming from, but it is well worth the effort. Someday I’d like to visit the park in the winter to photograph the bison, horses and deer in the snow.