Monday, June 13, 2016

Snapshot of the Ultimate Safari

Ellies in Chobe Nat. Park Botswana
My articles take time, so I am sharing this snapshot of my African adventure to provide instant gratification for curious minds that need to know more about this epic journey through the last of Africa’s truly wild places.
Giraffes in Chobe River
 First stop, Botswana, the poster-child for eco-tourism, home to Chobe National Park where the largest remaining herds of elephants in Africa roam freely; next the Okavango Delta with its meandering water channels and flood plain that supports creatures great and small, including 450 species of birds; then off to Zambia- a less-traveled country with vast tracts of preserved lands where we enjoyed a day on the Kafue River. The climax of the Ultimate Safari is a visit to spectacular Victoria Falls.
Day on the river Zambia
 In Hwange Park in Zimbabwe we lunched at a watering hole watching all the animal players, elephants, hippos, crocs, kudus, pukus, impalas and giraffes, and more turn up for a drink.
We stayed three nights at each at four wonderful wilderness camps where we were treated like royalty. Glamping at its best!!
It is the hallmark of Overseas Adventure Travel to incorporate cultural tours into their trips. We stopped at a couple of local markets, broke bread with a family in a village, danced with ladies who make baskets for a living, and visited a school of 800 children eager to practice their English.
Sundowner in Botswana

The trip involves several flights in small planes and some tricky border crossings. Ask for Abiot Azuze to be your trip leader to ensure a seamless journey filled with wonderful surprises. Go the Oats website to see videos and learn more about this fantastic adventure.
My home on the river in Zambia

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Exploring the Wonders of Africa

Botswana Safari Companion: Photo Safari Companion (Safari Companions)Botswana Safari Companion: Photo Safari Companion by Alain Pons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoy all the great shots you won’t get because you don’t have the patience or opportunity to capture the light on the animals of Botswana. Thanks to these experts who do provide directions on how to get those lovely images you don’t have to. They take you to Okavango Delta, heralded as one of most fantastic wildlife sanctuaries in the world, and the Chobe reserve where herds of elephants line up at watering holes. This little book provides a good overview of what to expect in Botswana a country that limits the amount of tourists and tour companies to operate in its borders. It has whet my wanderlust and made me even more eager to explore the wonders of Africa.Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler's Tales

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Coming Full Circle with Riding Star Susan Hutchison

As promised here is my interview with riding Super Star Susan Hutchison. She is the rider I had in my mind’s eye while writing the Grand Prix jumping scenes in the The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. Susie melds with her mounts and flows with their movement giving them the freedom to enjoy what they are doing and to win. I saw her ride Samsung Woodstock the horse who took her to the World Equestrian Games in 1994. She is still going strong and was inducted into the Jumper Hall of Fame in 2015. I am proud to have my conversation with Susie featured in The California Riding Magazine.

ASusie Hutchison. Photo: Wendy Gleason /

It is very gratifying to see my book listed with two other great reads in the book review section of the California Riding Magazine. Writing the story has brought me full circle and back into the horse world in ways I could never have imagined. I wrote the story standing up at my breakfast bar. It took my mind off the extreme sciatica I was experiencing due to an injury to my back that forced me to give up riding. My protagonist has an accident on course that forces her to re-think her life and determine if the riding world is worth the sacrifice and discipline necessary to be a winner.

Review in California Riding Magazine                 
“Linda Ballou captures the energy, excitement and adrenalin rush of the Grand Prix jumping world that has kept me in the game all these years.” Susan Hutchison

Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, shares Great Outdoor days in L.A, as well as a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  available on Amazon or www.lindaballouauthorcom  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Early years in Kenya

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of ForgetfulnessCocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wonderful find. Alexandra Fuller captures the seduction of the African sun and burning landscape. The vast spaces that set the mind sailing seduced her parents and made them stay against great adversity. They lived in Kenya when British Colonists spent their days in royal comfort, but those days ended with a revolution and war in the 60’s. Ms. Fuller masterfully weaves the very personal history of her dramatic childhood and the life of her stiff upper lip parents against the backdrop of a tumultuous time. Her parents chose to remain in Africa after their lands were seized and to set up housekeeping in remote Zambia where they found peace under the” Tree of Forgetfullness”. I have ordered the third book in the trilogy of Ms. Fuller’s stunning memoir.

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Leaving Before the Rains ComeLeaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book in anticipation of my up coming trip to Zambia. I read Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, the second in Fuller’s memoir trilogy and was excited to carry on with Alexandra’s life in Africa. She painted an exotic, chaotic portrait of her parents living in Kenya and Zambia in the second book, and I couldn’t wait to get to the next chapter. In this book she acknowledges that her glamorous, amorous parents enjoyed the blissful comradery that comes when both parties are alcoholics. Their boozy parties with dancing on the table seemed less appealing to Fuller after living 16 years in Wyoming with the modern cowboy she married. Her husband was a rafting guide on the Zambezi River when they met. Pretty hunkie if you ask me, but that is not the point. The point seems to be that she and he were not compatible even though they loved each deeply. Fuller is a brilliant writer and an honest to the bone memoirist. There is nothing saccharine or banal in her reflections on her life in Kenya and Zambia while they were going through wars declaring their independence from colonial British dominance. However, I noticed the cover image on this book is of her looking away as though she still has trouble facing the truths in her life. Her mother often told her not to write any of her “awful” books about them. I was sad in the end, not because of her story, but because of Zambia’s story. In the 1990’s it was home to vast herds of elephants, giraffes, antelopes, and rhinos and cheetah. I do hope I will find the remnant of what remains of the wild animals, less than tragic and on the rebound. I hope African’s can contain the poaching that persists in the wildlife preserves in Zambia. As for Ms. Fuller, I am sure her brilliance will shine in many novels to come now that she is free of living with the conflict that comes with marriage to the wrong person.Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler's Tales

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Make Earth Day-Every Day

My stated mission is to get to as many beautiful places as I can before they are gone!
 This would include witnessing the wildlife that is quickly moving towards extinction as a result of exploding human populations. With so much negative news on the wildlife in Africa conservation front, I was getting depressed and afraid that I am already too late. But, Nova delivered a very heartening documentary about plans in North American and in Africa to create wildlife corridors that will enable mega fauna to traverse migration routes and to thrive once more.
 It was especially exciting to learn that in the regions I am exploring in May 2016 on my UltimateSafari with Overseas Adventure Travel is are part of the KAZA area. The KAZA TFCA is an initiative of the Governments of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is situated in the Okavango and Zambezi river basins where the borders of the five countries converge.

This video shows how the five countries have come together to solve the problems of shrinking habitat and hideous poaching that crosses international borders.

This model is a powerful message for all the world demonstrating how countries can join hands for the greater good of all.  It gives me hope that it is not too late for human beings to reverse the trends that have been so destructive to the creatures that make up our beautiful world.

On my journey I will looking for signs that this treaty between countries is having a positive impact on animal and human populations. Full report when I return.

Linda Ballou is the author of Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler's Tales. See more of her articles at

Saturday, March 5, 2016

March is Women's History Month.-I salute Ka'ahumanu

Chiefess Ka’ahumanu

On March 17, 1768 (some say 1777) Ka’ahumanu was born in a cave at the fortress hill of Ka’uiki in Hana. The fierce Moi of Maui, once her mother’s lover, became so enraged when she chose Ke’eamuoku over him that he set his warriors upon her parents. They chased them through Haleakala Crater, but lost them in thick mountain forests. While Ka’ahumanu was still a baby her parents fled from Hana to Hawai’i where they lived in royal comfort. Wai-nani,A Voice from old Hawai’i my historical novel (1750-1819) is inspired by the life of the precocious Chiefess Ka’ahumanu. To some she is remembered as the” loving mother of the people” and to others she is the “flaw that brought down the chiefdom.”
 Ka’uiki in Hana

Brave, athletic, strong, passionate, caring and centered in herself, I saw her as a forerunner of the modern woman. It was a tremendous gift to be given the opportunity to visit the cave where she was born. It took the entire crew of six members of the Hana Canoe Club to paddle me to her birthplace.  We pointed the tip of the outrigger into the oncoming waves that sloshed over the bow and paddled through the foaming surf to the protected shallow waters lapping at the lava rocks beneath  the cave where she was born. I climbed the jagged black lava to a path that led to a large opening with two indentations big enough to accommodate a human.  Her mother enjoyed a lovely view of Hana Bay and the green mountains floating on the horizon. Offerings of flowers were placed in front of the openings. Before leaving I floated in the waters at the foot of her cave considered to be healing by those who come here for sacred ceremonies. 
 Big Mahalo to friend and fellow author, Lorraine Brodek, for fulfilling my desire to visit the sacred birthplace of the woman that inspired my novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i

Written With Warm Aloha
In the Name of Ka’ahumanu

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Romance. Adventure. Horses - what more could anyone want in a book?

Review: by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing
Gemcie McCauley seems to have everything. She is a rider at the top of her game, making an unbeatable team with Marshal, a handsome Irish bred stallion, until an horrific accident changes everything.
 Fighting back from a dreadful injury she finds she has lost not only her nerve, but also her horse and husband to her arch rival, Domanique La Fevre. 

Reeling from the cruel blows Gemcie returns to her mother's home where she tries to pick up the threads of some kind of life and recover from her mental and physical injuries. Unable to settle to any kind of life Gemcie heads back to her roots and the mountains where she was conceived. Struck by the beauty of the wilderness and longing, for once in her life to be totally alone she feels drawn to life on the trail and persuades her hosts to let her ride the John Muir trail. 

When a black bear attacks and injures her horse she is rescued by Brady, a loner who lives in the mountains, working for the Bureau of Land Management. On a journey of discovery about herself Gemcie finds herself falling in love with this tough, yet gentle man. 

Brady though is not without his own problems and after he is forced to kill the bear that attacked Gemcie he abruptly ends their relationship, sending Gemcie back to civilisation. I was as devastated as Gemcie – their relationship seems to be so perfect.

During her time in the mountains Gemcie has learned a lot about herself and is determined to get her beloved horse back. Domenique has never got on with Marshal and after badly injuring him in a competition it looks as if his career is over. 

Gemcie, with a team of supporters nurse the horse back to health then begin the impossible and fight to get her riding confidence back in order to be able to pay huge vet and livery bills. She has to ride – and win – in order to be able to keep him.

This is a well written book, Ballou brings her characters and backgrounds to life in often tear jerking detail. Gemcie is likeable, readers will both empathise and sympathise with the situations she finds herself in. Ballou uses her text well, describing both the worlds of the wilderness and horse shows with convincing detail 

Readers cannot help but love this book. I was gripped from the first to the last page where Ballou brought all of the strings of her remarkable story to a hugely satisfying conclusion.  
by Jacqui Broderick of Lavender & White Publishing

Purchase on Amazon or on Linda's site and receive free shipping
Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, shares Great Outdoor days in L.A, as well as a host of travel articles on her site, along with information about her travel memoir, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler’s Tales, her historical novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i and her latest action-adventure novel The Cowgirl Jumped over the Moon  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sacred Sites in Hawai'i-In the Beginning

In my research for Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai'i, I learned a great deal about the significance of the numerous sacred sites scattered throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Some are well known, but others remain in relative obscurity. This post is the first of a series spotlighting historical sites with an explaination of why they are held sacred by Hawaiians.
In The Beginning:
There is controversy over when the earliest Polynesian voyagers landed on the shores of Hawai’i. It is generally accepted that they sailed in double hulled canoes from the Marquesas bringing dogs, chickens, pigs, breadfruit, taro and stow away rats with them.

Ka Lae-the southern most point of the Big Island, making it the southern most point in the nation, was the first landing place of early voyagers. Although not pretty to look at, and windy most of the time, it holds a very special place in Hawaiian history. South Point is the site of some of the oldest artifacts yet discovered in Hawaii (as early as 300AD) While it is said to be the first place the Polynesians came ashore, archaeologists believe it was a temporary fishing camp not a full-fledged village.
In nearby Pu’u Ali’i Sand Dune on Pinao Bay thousands of artifacts-that include over 2,000 fishhooks lead archeologists to believe that this was a re-current settlement for fishermen. Deep waters here provide rich fishing grounds, but currents are dangerous. The solution was to carve holes in the rocks where ropes were tied to secure drifting canoes enabling Hawaiians to catch big game fish. Some of those holes are still visible near the boat hoists at the cliffs. The cliffs with the boat hoists are not South Point. The real South Point is past the light beacon to the left of a place where a rock wall trails down to the sea. Next to the beacon is Kalaea Heiau, or temple, where offerings to the gods were placed to ensure good fishing.

Taro is the older brother that cared for all Hawaiians
Image of South Point courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Authority   
Image of Taro (HTA)/Tor Johnson

 Research for Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i became a beautiful obsession that called for numerous trips to the Islands. I visited sacred sites, interviewed elders, spent nights in Waipio Valley where the bones of ancient chiefs are hidden in caves in steep walls framing the canyon.

Lana'i-The Sweetheart Isle

Manele Bay-Susan Summerbell Chval

  Lana’i is a two-resort Hawaiian Island where people like Bill and Melinda Gates go to get married. The posh Four Seasons Hotel overlooking Manele Bay’s tranquil white crescent beach is where I met my fellow “Un-Cruisers” waiting to board the Safari Explorer. As I strolled the graceful grounds to the beach, lovers snuggled in cabanas and sipped fruity drinks. Seeing them made me a little sorry to be traveling solo, but a dip in the deliciously warm water and a snooze under a handy umbrella washed away those cares and the stress of a long flight and ferry ride from Maui. 
Manele Bay is home to hundreds of spinner dolphin who rest here after a night of hunting. It is also a top snorkel spot. The 150-foot Safari Explorer delivered us to Shark Fin Rock off the southern coast for a morning of snorkeling among thousands of tropical fishes floating in shafts of light.
Three thousand lucky souls live on Lana’i year round in the trim village of Lana’i City located in the cooler, higher elevations in the center of the Island. An afternoon shore excursion included a stop at the Lana’i Culture and Heritage Center which houses artifacts of native Hawaiians dating back to 350 AD through the days the island was owned by Dole and cloaked in fields of pineapple.

Sweetheart Rock 
The Koele Lodge nestled in the forest above Lana’i City is modeled after a country English estate. Cruising through the property’s golf course with its spilling cascades and elaborate gardens makes it easy for one to forget about anything else going on in the world. With only 30 miles of paved road, there is little to do on Lana’i except play golf, hike, swim, fish, dive, horseback ride, or read a good book. Since the days of old, Lana’i has been a satellite of Maui and served as a playground for royals. Billionaire Larry Ellison who recently purchased 97 percent of the island appears to be carrying on that tradition.
Our last stop on Lana’i called for a stroll up 80-foot Pu’u Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock, where legend says a heartbroken warrior leaped to his death over the loss of maiden so beautiful she brought mist to the eyes of anyone who gazed upon her. He had left her in a sea cave that was washed clean in a storm sweeping the lovely wahine to her death. He built a rock monument to her and then joined her in the watery depths. Today, sweethearts come here to make their vows to a love that lasts forever.