Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Gift of Understanding-Kahuna Garden

Pi'ilanihale-Hana, Maui
A rutted road in Hana, Maui leads to the site of Pi’ilanihale, the largest remaining heiau (temple of worship) in all of Polynesia. You must cross over a creek to get to the entrance of Kahanu Garden where the heiau was hidden from sight until 1999. It is hard to believe that this immense structure spanning three acres built of basalt rocks could be so overgrown with jungle foliage that it would go unnoticed until modern times. The side facing the sea rises steeply in five stepped terraces. Construction of the main terrace dates back to the 14th century when remote, water-rich Hana was heavily populated by Hawaiians.
Lono -God of Agriculture

Our guide, also named Pi’ilani, one of 14 children in a blended Hawaiian family, explained that Lono, the god of fertility, was worshipped here for agricultural bounty.  She said, the Hawaiians were so embarrassed about the paganism in their past that they let the heiau become overgrown. They may have also wanted to spare it from being demolished like so many of the ancient sites were at the behest of missionaries who prohibited hula, surfing, and even the language in schools in the 1800’s. Perhaps, the gods did not want this structure trampled upon by disrespectful tourists. Regardless of why it was hidden from time, the people of Hana cut back lush jungle foliage that threatened to swallow the edifice fifteen years ago, revealing a monument to a race of industrious, ingenious and loving people.

Kahanu Garden where the Pi’ilanihale is located is a flat expanse of green overlooking a tempestuous Pacific Ocean crashing on black lava cliffs. It was a landing place of early Polynesian settlers bringing plants they would need to survive. It was chosen by the ancients to be the site of the Makahiki Festival that ran for four months from November to February.  Warring was forbidden as this time of peace that allowed warriors to practice skills with contests and games. Elders played Konana, a form of checkers, and talked story while children frolicked. The tax collectors came around at this time collecting the bounty of the common people to be given to the royal class.

 Chief Pi’ilani, who ruled here in the 16th century was beloved by his people for uniting the warring tribes of Maui and bringing prosperity in his reign.  Under his rule the Pi’ilanihale (House of Pi’ilani) Heiau that began construction in the 1200’s was completed. Rocks from as far away as Hana Bay, seven miles away, were used to finish the task.
Wandering the grounds that boasts the largest collection of breadfruit trees in the world, as well as samplings of all of the indigenous plants brought by early settlers in double-hulled canoes, you can imagine the joyous village that thrived here under Chief Pi’ilani’s rule.  Our guide, Pi’ilani, talked to us about the many uses of the kukui nut used to keep the fires burning at night. She said the day began in the evening when the work was done and people came to share what they had gathered that day in their fish nets, in their taro gardens, and fruits from the mountain trees.
Linda, Lorraine, and Pi'ilani

 Pi’ilani generously answered all of my questions about the realities of the people of old. At the end of our tour she told me she wanted to empower me with the gift of her knowledge. Instead of correcting or judging my tale of her ancestry in my novel Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i, she told me that she understood that my work was built on what I knew. She said that she would be happy to add her knowledge, as it was handed down to her, to my pool of understanding. We held hands while as she invited us to join her in a chant to the gods who reside at Pi’ilanihale and give thanks for the bounty of the Kahanu Garden, a gift to all who find their way there.A big mahalo to my friend Lorraine Brodek, author of Nobody in a Somebody who resides in Hana, for making this very special tour possible for me.

Linda Ballou is the author of Wai-nani: A Voice from Old Hawai'i, Lost Angel Walkabout-One Traveler's Tales and The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon. www.lindaballouauthor.com

Monday, August 29, 2016

Living Spiritual Temple-Mo'o'kini Heiau

Mo’okini Heiau sits high on a knoll and enjoys a panoramic view of the Upolu Point of Kohala and the distant shores of Maui. It stands in the center of a once-royal complex that was a vital center of sacred and secular power. It is one of the first luakini heiau (temple of human sacrifice) built by the Tahitian Priest Paao in the 12th century. Legend has it that it was the site of countless thousands of human sacrifices to the gods. The current site includes remains of the sacrificial temple measuring 250' x 130' with an open stone paved court enclosed by 20-foot-high stone walls and the sacrificial stone. According to oral tradition it was built in one night by 15-20,000 men passing stones to one another from the Niuli’i, nine miles away.

The Tahitians believed that there was not enough respect on the part of resident Hawaiians for the gods, and they set out to strengthen the kapu system by building this temple and enforcing the strict laws of the land (kapu). Paao summoned the warrior chief Pili who brought stones from one of the most sacred sacrificial temples in Tahiti and placed the bodies of fresh victims beneath these stones used as pillars to consecrate Mo’okini Heiau. Mu, or body catchers, collected the humans to be sacrificed. These were most often conquered warriors or members of the slave class. Women and children were generally spared. The bodies of the victims were then baked and the flesh removed from the bones. The bones were used for fish hooks or parts for weapons.
The oldest, largest, and most sacred heiau in old Hawaii is all that remains of the royal Kohala complex dismantled by sugar plantation owners in the 19th century. To Hawaiians it is a living spiritual temple and not a cultural artifact.

It was long held to be strictly kapu to visit, but In November of 1978 Kahuna Nui Leimomi Mo'okini Lum rededicated the Mo'okini Luakini to the "Children of the Land" and lifted the restrictive Kapu. In doing this she made it safe for all persons to enter the Heiau and created a new legacy for the Mo'okini Luakini as a place of learning for future generations to discover the past. Kahuna Nui Lum followed closely the wishes of her father Kahuna Nui Dewey O. Mo'okini who visualized this sacred site as one for the children of Hawai'i and the entire world. 

Take Highway 270 north from Kawaihae. Near Mile Marker #20 turn left at the sign to Upolu Airport. Just before the airport, turn left on the unmarked dirt road and travel approximately 2 miles. The site is on hill to the left.

 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. .www.lindaballouauthor.com

Friday, August 5, 2016

Spotting Spouts on Dana Wharf Whale Watching Adventure

Dana Pride-Dana Wharf Whale Watch
For a day beneath tender blue skies with a teasing sea breeze rippling aquamarine waters head to Dana Point Wharf for a whale watching adventure!!
 It felt wonderful to leave the smoke-smudged skies from recent fires behind and to breathe deeply of unsullied air.  We motored through the harbor past the breakwater to a deep channel where “Red”, a humpback whale, has been feeding for that last couple of weeks.
Whale Salute-Eric Frigger
We watched him dive and flip his tail in salute before heading on to find a splashing pod of common dolphin. These guys are smaller than the bottle-nose dolphin often seen on the California coast that are about four times their size. They travel in great numbers and seemingly fly through the water at an alarming speed. Occasionally they take time to do a flip, or splash to the cheer of the guests leaning over the bow of the boat to get a good view of the action.
Common Dolphin- Dana Wharf Whale Watch

The giant blue whales run in July, but we were not lucky enough to catch sight of one. The Gray whales are seen in numbers in the winter months when they are migrating from the icy waters of Alaska to Magdalena Bay in Baja California where they give birth to their young. Common dolphin sightings are consistent all year round. Sea lions and sea faring birds are often seen on the cruise. Your Captain shares information about the creatures you see as you patrol the shimmering blue water in search of marine life..
Sea Lions-Eric Frigger
There is a galley on board if you need a burger and a libation during your voyage. Back on shore  Proud Mary’s with open patio seating overlooking  the sparkling bay offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.  
Capt. Bringing us back to Dana Pt. Marina

Sailings on the “Pride of Dana”, a luxurious catamaran with viewing decks above and enclosed dining area below, go daily from dock #1 located in the Dana Point Marina. There is plenty of free parking in the marina. During the week the crowds are light even in the heaviest tourist season. What better way to beat the heat of the long, dog days of summer?
Linda cruising on the Dana Pride

For sailing schedule and  reservations go to Dana Wharf Whale Watching  www.danawharf.com

Based in Los Angeles, Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, is the author of Lost Angel Walkabout-
One Traveler's Tales. Find travel articles on her site www.LindaBallouAuthor.com

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Epic African Journey

I made it to Africa and it was all that I had hoped for and more!!
Journey of Giraffe on the Chobe River

It’s late May in Chobe National Park, Africa’s third largest wildlife preserve, and creatures great and small are fat and sassy. Tall golden grasses are plentiful. They are the favorite of the many herds of massive elephants and a host of antelope along with Cape buffalo, zebra, and more. The sable with its handsome striped face, the kudu with its elegant curled horns, and the seemingly thousands of impala all glow with good health. They look at us in our open-air, tiered safari vehicle with curious eyes as we trundle along sand tracks.
Leopard-Courtesy of OATS

I got to share highlights of the trip in this video clip on Around the WorldTravel. A wonderful excuse to go to Santa Barbara, my favorite get away. Your comments  are welcomed on this YouTube video

The finale of the trip was a stop at spectacular VictoriaFalls  where I embarked on an Elephant Back Safari spotlighted here in FabSeniorTravel newsletter.  

I traveled to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This piece" Botswana Highlights" is the first in a series of three giving more d
details onn what I experienced in each country.

Sunday, July 24, 2016



With so many independent book stores biting the dust, it was very exciting to learn about
the Diesel Book Store that is alive and well in Brentwood. The store is buzzing with customers eager to find their next good read. Manager Lynn, keeps displays revolving and shelfs refreshed with the newest best sellers. Super supportive of local authors like myself, she was eager to put all three of my books on display. It is great to see such enthusiam for print books. I have a kindle and it is fine for travel, but I love holding a book in my hand.

Wai-nani sits prominently on the GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS table dedicated to female protagonists and memorbable women in history. Wai-nani, inspired by the life Ka'hahumanu who rose to become the most powerful woman in old Hawai'i deserves a seat at this table.
Lost Angel -Great Summer Read

I am so proud that my travel collection, Lost Angel Walkabout, just got a ringing endorsement from Julie Rosendo, Producer of the Emmy Award Winning PBS show Travel Scope hosted by her husband Joseph Rosendo. Makes my heart sing to get recognition from these top professionals in the travel world.
The Cowgirl Jumped Over the Moon received recognition in the 2015 Indie Excellence Awards. Horses, Romance and Adventure! " Who could ask for more from a book?" says publisher Jacqui Broderick who lives in Ireland AKA horse heaven.

The Brentwood Country Mart at 225 26th St in Santa Monica is a great place for lunch on the patio where ocean breezes keep it cool all year round.  Many gourmet choices along with baskets of chicken and ribs make this a great place to feed body and soul.

Adventure-travel writer, Linda Ballou, 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 at-www.LindaBallouAuthor.com.  

 Subscribe to her blog www.LindaBallouTalkingtoyou.com and receive updates on her books, and travel destinations.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Botswana: Poster Child for Wildlife Conservation

Lunch with a bachelor herd of ellies
It’s late May in Chobe National Park, Africa’s third largest wildlife preserve, and creatures great and small are fat and sassy. Tall golden grasses are plentiful. They are the favorite of the many herds of massive elephants and a host of antelope along with Cape buffalo, zebra, and more. The sable with its handsome striped face, the kudu with its elegant curled horns, and the seemingly thousands of impala all glow with good health. They look at us in our open-air, tiered safari vehicle with curious eyes as we trundle along sand tracks.

Giraffes stare with soft, round, chocolate eyes sheltered in three-inch lashes posing nicely, and then turn to splash through the waters of the Chobe River in a gangly display of limbs and towering necks as they gallop away.
A saddle-backed crane with his striking red beak pokes through the reeds along with gray crowned crane and spindly avocet.
Saddle-backed crane-Tom Schwab photo

 The animals show off their young this time of year. Month-old elephants hide beneath mother’s belly while the big-eared offspring of the baboon ride on their mother’s back. The proud father of young impala herds his harem away from us as they kick their heels high in the air practicing getaways from predators. A parade of gray giants cross our path to reach the clear waters of Chobe where they linger in the green grasses. After a night’s hunt, a husky, black-colored male leads a pride of fourteen lions to shade where they will sprawl for the day. 

It is winter and the temperatures are mild with a warming sun shining brightly in cerulean blue skies. Bush willow glows golden and the mopane trees are still dressed in fall colors of yellow and orange. This perfect safari day began with a chill that crept into my luxurious tent home in the wee hours. I awoke to a herd of water buffalo just outside my door tramping through the camp and sounding like an army on the march. The drumming of our escort guide at 5:30 AM signaled time to rise.
Dawn on the Chobe River
It was hard to leave my comfy bed set upon teak wood floors and sheltered under a pitched thatched roof, but it was time to join the rest of the guests for breakfast by a warming fire in the boma.

Like all four of the bush camps on the journey with Overseas Adventure Travel in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, communal meals are enjoyed buffet style in the main lodge.
Main Lodge Baobab Camp
Each lodge has its unique flavor and rests in a different ecosystem to be explored. The Baobab Lodge opens to a valley where animals come to drink at a watering hole. It is a ring side seat for searing African sunsets reflected in the Chobe River.

Meals in the camps are a healthful mix of fresh vegetable salads prepared in creative ways. Fare included fish in a tasty curry sauce with rice, tender beef stew with roasted potatoes, and lemon chicken with fresh fruit and cheeses for dessert. We are offered tea on our drives, cool wash cloths upon our return, and a welcome from the staff who do all they can to ensure we are treated like royalty.

A short flight took us to the Okavango Delta, a 6,000-square mile mosaic of open savannah, flowing rivers, floodplains, and lagoons. The Banoka camp overlooks a champagne colored meadow where all manner of wildlife from elephants to hippos, to the endangered wattle crane busy spearing frogs, to vultures riding high on thermals enjoy their freedom.

Me and Cowboy
Here we fish-tailed through deep sand in our safari vehicle with eyes peeled for game.
Our guides, Cowboy and Wise Guy, stopped the land rover to read the tracks in the road. A big cat had been active in the night. We were off on the hunt! Cowboy charged through thickets and deep gullies, crying “hold on!” when he hit brush that cracked and snapped against the bottom of the jeep as we powered on. Unlike Chobe, a national park where you may not leave the roads, our lodge in the delta rested in the private reserve leased from the Kwai villagers leaving us free to wander. We followed the tracks bouncing like we were riding a bucking bronco for about 45 minutes. Finally our guides circled around a pride of five lions resting after a night of hunting.
Sisters taking a snooze
The stately fawn-colored male with a dark brown mane stared at us with disdain. His mate and their two adolescent daughters remained in quiet repose as we snapped our cameras like paparazzi.

We left the cats to their naps and set out to explore more of nature’s most splendid creatures. We spotted waterbuck with their distinctive toilet seat markings, and red lechwe antelope with sweet brown eyes. A cruise through the flood plain cut through by a meandering river garnered sightings of two lethargic crocodile sunning on the shore and a monitor lizard slipping into the drink. A couple of secretary birds strolled by and an elegant grey crowned crane poked in the grasses. The ubiquitous hornbill birds lifted at our approach.
Hornbill-Tom Schwab photo
As I rode shotgun next to Cowboy, the sun warmed my legs while a cooling breeze carried the scent of sage, and shimmering grasses of the savannah tickled my nose. I felt every bit the bush bunny. My heart swelled with joy as we rolled along on the warren of dirt roads then bounced off-road to take a closer look at a critter or bird of interest.

Independent from Britain since 1966, democratic and prosperous Botswana has a population of some two million people who reside mainly in the northern sections of the country that is not encroached upon by the Kalahari Desert sprawling over 80 percent of the land. Good leadership in this land-locked republic provides universal education and medicine for the people and conservation measures for the last remaining wild herds of elephants, buffalo, zebras and more, along with 400 species of birds. The flag of Botswana has black and white lines in the middle of tender blue—the color of the pollution-free skies. It speaks of the good relations between races.
The zebra with its bold markings is their symbol of unique pride and unity. Botswana stands as a model for other African countries trying to re-establish themselves after declaring independence from colonial powers in the 1960s.

Note: This is a first in a series of articles detailing the Ultimate Safari experience with Overseas Adventure Travel, aka OATS, in the countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. There is simply too much ground to cover in one article. First published in National Association of Baby Boomer Women. 

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

View all my reviews

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 / Malibu5StarNaturals.com

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.

View all my reviews