Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Man uses backpack to fight off robbers

SAN ANTONIO -- A man is shot after he used his backpack to try and fight a group of robbers.
This happened around midnight Tuesday on Remuda Street.
http://www.kens5.com/img/resize/content.kens5.com/photo/2017/01/11/
Police said a group of men in a red car pulled up next to the victim, in his late 30s, and demanded cash.
He refused and tossed his backpack at them. That is when they started hitting and shooting at him.
The victim was able to make it home and call 911.
Police said they are looking for three Hispanic males in a red vehicle with damage to the passenger side. So, far no arrests have been made.
(© 2017 KENS)




Sunday, January 8, 2017

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Seeds of friendship bloom on backpacking trip

Happiness is seeing a lean-to full of friends near Wakely Dam on the Northville-Placid Trail. (Herb Terns / Times Union) Photo: Picasa
Late one summer day two years ago, I hiked the Northville-Placid Trail just south of Piseco and poked my head into the Hamilton Lake Stream lean-to. The lean-to is a perfectly nice place to spend the night, but it isn't necessarily one of those "wow" places to camp. Shared from here
In the lean-to were three guys. We talked, we laughed and an hour later, I had to remind myself I wasn't spending the night at the lean-to and had to be moving on.
I thought later about why they were having so much fun. The three of them had known each other for a long time but lived in different places. They set aside time every summer to get together for a backpack.
I'd like you to be one of the happy people in the lean-to this year. I'd like you to go to sleep to the sound of a barred owl and wake up to a chorus of birdsong.
I admit, January is an odd time to be writing about backpacking. But it's a new year, a chance to change things and maybe to grow.
So stop reading for a second and think about some friends who've moved. Or maybe a brother or sister or cousins you saw often as a kid but not as much as you'd like now. Maybe they live across the country or maybe they live kind of close, but not close enough that you make the trip.
Do you have those people? Can you see their faces? Good.
The reason I'm writing about backpacking in January and not June is by the time backpacking season comes around, you probably have filled your calendar with all those things we fill our calendars with. Do it now when the summer is open.
In several studies, researchers have found maintaining connections to people outside the home is key to living longer. That means that while those guys at Hamilton Lake Stream lean-to looked like they were making fun of each other's bodily functions, telling jokes and complaining about sore knees, they were really finding the key to happiness and long life.
So, where to go?
First, pick up a copy of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" and a copy of Cheryl Strayed's "Wild." Then, put both books back down again, because, as good as they are, they won't help you. Backpacking is having its day in the sun in popular culture, but it's also having the same problem cycling did a few years ago — the longest and most extreme things are the ones that capture our attention. The Tour de France is as far from most cyclists' experiences as the Pacific Crest Trail is for most backpackers.
You don't need a trail name or to saw your toothbrush handle off (for weight) to get out there. Most of us weekend warriors just want a fun, somewhat comfortable trip through a pretty place. I'd suggest either Erik Schlimmer's "Thru Hiker's Guide to America" or "Backpacking New York" by Jeff Mitchell. Mitchell's book, in particular, understands that most of us aren't interested in backpacking 25 miles a day. He offers some humane, moderate trips, scattered throughout the state, that will make sure your friends are still talking to you by the time your adventure is over. You may even want to go again.
The other reason I'm talking about backpacking in January is Milo of Croton, a famed Olympic wrestler in ancient Greece. He trained by borrowing a newborn calf and carrying it around. Every day he carried the calf. As the calf grew bigger and heavier, Milo grew stronger.
You can be Milo. Load your pack with a few light things and walk around with it. In a week or two, add something else and then a few weeks later, add some more. By summer, you'll be able to carry a six-month-old cow — or, at least, your share of the tent and some cooking gear.
We think of growth as creating something new, but there is value in the established. There is growth in remembering things we've forgotten, in brushing the dust off memories to find there is still something bright and shining underneath. The flowers and trees blooming each spring aren't really new — they're the product of seeds planted in the past.
I hope for 2017, you'll find time to nurture those seeds. They usually just need some soil, some sunshine, and some water. You'll find all those things and more on a backpacking trip. If you're lucky, you can be as happy as those guys in the lean-to.

Monday, January 2, 2017

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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Development short stories: Final stop for a homesick backpacker

A handicrafts shop in the Paharganj market, New Delhi.

H
e’d been travelling for just over three months but this was his final destination before returning home. The thought made him nauseous. There was not much waiting for him there except the high expectations of parents, which he had no idea how to meet. Join the family business, put that degree to good use, make some money and marry a nice girl. No thanks – he thought. Not me, there must be something better. But backpacking his way across a region, supposedly rich with history and opportunity, had done little to shed new light on how to escape his depressingly predictable destiny. As he pondered his predicament, he became aware of someone calling him – “Ron, Ron!” – repeatedly until he finally snapped out of his daydream and turned to see his latest travelling companion, Kris, waving at him a few yards further up the busy street.

“What is it?” he grumbled his reply.
“You need to come here right now and check this out,” said Kris loudly, waving him over theatrically. People were glancing in his direction now. It was embarrassing.
“Go on then, what is it?’ he snapped as he walked over – by now this country held few real surprises for him. Shitty food, people so hard to read, and the dreadfully embarrassing countrymen who seemed to pop up at every tourist attraction and guesthouse.
“Look,” said Kris pointing, “even more beggars than we saw yesterday. Where do they all come from, for God’s sake?”
Ron could see what he meant. There was a fairly big group of them, a dozen perhaps. They looked particularly incongruous in the city’s high-end shopping district. Dirty, and a little threatening, despite the kids they had with them. Babies on laps and filthy toddlers in badly fitting clothes. One of these children even had a Manchester United shirt on. It made Ron want to laugh at the absurdity of it all. They were hanging around by a bus stop with its garish corporate advertising, this one showing a perfect little family grinning as they ate some processed food out of bowls.
Some of the beggars just chatted but others sat and stared intently at the passing crowd. They had a sign with them – words scrawled on a battered piece of cardboard. Ron could not make out what was written and did not want to stare too long. These people always targeted the foreigners. He was sick of it.
“Sad, eh?” said Kris. “I mean, surely when you have a load of rich folk or whatever marching about spending a fortune in all these shops, driving nice cars, you shouldn’t still have poverty like this.”
“I suppose, but it’s been the same everywhere. What do you expect?” answered Ron. “And anyway they’re refugees, aren’t they? Come on, this is the main shopping area. We came here to get geared up – what is it you’re looking for?”
“Oh, I don’t know – not much good at shopping.” Kris shrugged. “What’s this place good for?”
“Clothes, I would imagine,” answered Ron. “I might get some music or something.”
Kris laughed loudly and some of the locals stared. “Music! For goodness sake, who buys music in a shop? Even here! Just download it.”
Ron felt humiliated so lashed out. “I suppose you’ll just want to buy something for that girlfriend of yours?” He knew all too well that Kris was on the rebound.
Kris just glowered and showed him the finger. “Very mature,” Ron muttered.
In the end the two decided to part company and do their own thing for a while. Ron felt relieved. You travel halfway round the world feeling a little lonely and homesick, then you meet someone from your own country who seems to be from a similar background, hang out – and then quickly discover being with them 24/7 is unbearable. He’d never been concerned about travelling on his own; you meet more people that way, he’d told his worried-looking mother, but he had not reckoned on most of them being clowns.
As he made his way up the street, the crowds seemed to get thicker and thicker. They jostled past him, but he was used to that. He cut his way through but somehow everyone seemed to walk with a purpose, whereas he ambled along and, now and again, changed direction as something caught his eye. This seemed to cause confusion. No one met his gaze, but he was occasionally pushed and shoved and at one point he had his foot painfully stepped on. He had been told this was the spot in the city for shopping but he was still amazed at how busy it was, despite all that he had heard about the increasingly desperate economic situation. Everyone just seems to shop, he thought to himself. Perhaps it makes them feel better? There were of course many foreign faces like his own; most seemed to stride along with a purpose, like they knew exactly where they were going.
He turned into a small side street to catch his breath. As he made his way down the narrow lane he found himself outside some sort of textiles shop and decided to step inside to get even further away from the hubbub. The small boutique was pleasantly calm inside but he was almost immediately approached by a pushy salesman.
“What is it you are looking for, sir?” he asked, a forced smile on his face. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone? He was sure he was being overcharged wherever he went because of the colour of his skin, and he certainly had bought several items he did not need and did not really have room for in his luggage.
“Well, er, hmm, you know – just looking for something for my mother.” The words came out before he’d really decided how he was going to respond. It was true, he did need a gift for Mum but what on earth was this place going to provide? It was hardly a souvenir shop. There were plenty of textile shops at home. But the salesman was off, pointing things out and encouraging Ron to rub various materials between his fingers, make admiring noises about the colours.
After what felt like an hour but was actually 10 minutes, he finally escaped complete with a red pashmina, gift-wrapped. At least it would not take up much room in his bag. Feeling slightly embarrassed by his purchase, and his inability to manage even the nicest and most gently spoken shop people, he quickly made his way further down the backstreets, following several twists and turns. It was not until he was pulling his phone from his pocket to call Kris to find where they were meeting for lunch, as per an earlier plan, that he realised his surroundings looked entirely unfamiliar. Surely he could not have strayed that far from the main shopping precinct? Damn it, he thought. Lost again.
Ron’s ability to get lost was almost legendary. At school he was subject to much teasing from the other boys for being clueless when it came to navigating the busy city in which he spent his entire childhood.
“Hey man – lost again, ha ha!” they’d call out, if he was ever late for class, before the teacher quietened them down and ordered him, shamefaced, to his seat. Now, at the age of 23, he was still teased by friends, girlfriends and family about his lack of any sense of direction.
His father had humiliated him in front of his aunties and uncles, brothers and sisters and all those that had gathered to see him off back in the spring, by presenting him with a map and a compass. “To help you find your way, son,” he laughed, and everyone joined in mocking him. Some even clapped.
“Just follow all the other people who look like you,” shouted his older brother, laughing. He blushed at the memory. A first-class computer science graduate and they just sodding laughed. He fumed when he thought about it.
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The street he found himself in looked quite depressing on this grey overcast day, and the sidewalk was littered with filth – uncollected rubbish, broken glass and dog mess. He looked properly at his surroundings. Boarded-up shopfronts, dwellings with grimy windows and scruffy front entrances, overgrown with weeds. Where the hell was he? This did not look like the city centre. He stared at his mobile phone. Oh great, he thought. No signal – again. Why was he not surprised? Either his phone was out of charge or the signal had gone. No Google maps then, he grimaced. He was reminded yet again of the joke map his father had presented to him. It was not even of the right bloody country, never mind the right city.
He was so busy thinking about whether he could retrace his steps, while still brooding over his humiliation back home, that he did not see the two men approaching him from behind. The first he knew about their presence was when one grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. The other shouted, “OK, we’ll have that!” The phone was snatched from his hand.
“You rich foreigners don’t need it anyway. You can just buy another.” Both were young – perhaps in their late teens – and one, to Ron’s horror, carried an ugly-looking little blade. Ron felt his guts lurch and bile rising in his throat.
“Money!” barked the taller of the two, while his knife-carrying colleague looked nervously about. Ron did not speak, just handed over his money and cards. His hand shook as he held them out and they were snatched from him. And then the men were gone. They had fled around the corner so fast he hardly saw them go. Afterwards, he struggled to remember what they had been wearing or their faces. They all looked the same to him anyway. He remembered the glint of the knife, though, and the thick accent of the taller one who spoke. Those memories visited him in his dreams for a long time afterwards.
It was not until after the meeting with the bored-looking police officer, a woman, the successful attempt to reach his distraught parents and, on the following day, the wiring of money and the purchase of a cheap phone, that Ron was able to get his stuff together for the trip home. As for Kris – well, he lost his number along with his iPhone, and he never saw him back at the accommodation. He was a loser anyway, and it was not as if he ever tried to contact Ron again.
It was later that evening, while he packed, that he found the pashmina under his bed. It was still in its carefully folded paper gift wrapping, in the bottom of a crumpled plastic shopping bag with little white handles and the store’s logo printed on the side. He’d clutched that bag right through the robbery. He had not even noticed he was carrying it and his assailants also seemed to have ignored it. Funny really, he thought. Then he burst into tears, sitting down heavily on the side of his hotel bed, putting his head in his hands. The shock of what had happened to him the day before finally hit him.
God, he missed home so much. This country had overwhelmed him, with its crass commercialism, bizarre cultures and behaviours, and its misplaced arrogance – particularly towards foreigners. He just wanted to get away. He did not care if it was steeped in shared history and was great for your Christmas shopping. Surely, all the hype around it was misplaced. Why did so many come here – even stay? It was beyond him.
Twelve hours later, he was heaving his rucksack through the airport, casting his gaze from left to right toward the other side of the arrivals gate to see if he could spot his father’s driver. There he was. Good. Right on time. The heat, noise and smells of home hit him as they left the terminal together. Source: Click here
As he sat in the back seat staring out at all the familiar sights he felt depressed once again. What the hell was he going to do? His trip really had changed nothing. Three countries visited, many new experiences notched up, and for what? Maybe his parents were right. All this backpacking, pretending you are poor, when really you could go and dine in the finest restaurant, check into a five-star hotel, or just fly home whenever you wanted, really was a waste of time. Worse, it was a lie.
They were now in the city centre, passing the columns and glass of the railway station, less than a mile from his parents’ apartment. The car ground to a halt yet again. The traffic certainly had not improved since he’d left.
“What’s the hold-up now, Gopal?” he asked the driver.
“Very sorry, Mr Rahul, sir. There is a cow at the top of the street holding everything up.”
Ron stared into Paharganj – now there is a crowded neighbourhood, he thought. He could see many western tourists strolling up and down and being hassled by hawkers and beggars. God, the last few times he had been down there were when he and his school friends used to go and buy fireworks for Diwali. Bloody dreadful place. What made people leave their own comfortable homes to visit such shitholes? He tried to remember the phrase he heard his father use despairingly once, when describing these young visitors to his country. What was it? “Development tourists,” that was it. What a joke.
“Just drive around, Gopal,” he instructed the driver. The car slowly edged forward, horns blaring all around. No place like home, he thought. He stared out of the window watching the sun turning orange on the hazy, polluted New Delhi skyline.
  • About the authorJames Georgalakis is director of communications and impact at the Institute of Development Studies and has spent almost 20 years leading policy communications and support for research impact for NGOs and researchers

Travel/Yellowstone National Park: In backpacking heaven


Travel Yellowstone1.jpgLast summer, my eldest son and I decided to go to Yellowstone for our annual backpacking trip. After picking up our permits at the South Boundary ranger station, we began our trip by fording the Snake River. A small group of mule deer greeted us on the other side.

After passing some backcountry hot springs, we left the Snake River behind for a walk through the woods. The forest was alive with both wildflowers and mosquitoes, with dappled light showing through the trees.

After rejoining the Snake River, we cooked our lunch — toasted chipotle-cumin quinoa tortilla wraps — and watched osprey cruise above the river.

After lunch, we explored some nearby hot springs. One of them had the greatest variety of algae colors and textures that I've ever seen in Yellowstone, and another was fizzing like a soft drink. The features in this area tended toward a deep green-blue in color, and it was nice to have them all to ourselves.

Dinner was a Thai green curry with salmon and rice. A margarita chilled in the river didn't get as cold as we had hoped but went well with the curry anyway.

After a good night's sleep, we had a lazy morning. While packing up breakfast (eggs and breakfast potatoes with cumin), we saw a garter snake swim across the Snake River.

The day's hike took us above Red Creek, which forms a small canyon here. Farther on, we were surprised by frogs at several places where a trickle of water crossed the trail. After a lunch of pitas with tuna, capers, olives, tomatoes and basil, we hiked on to a wide, open basin. We would follow the well-named Basin Creek to our campsite for the night — an open field overlooking Overlook Mountain.

There, we enjoyed a martini with olive garnish before eating a salmon pasta with pesto.

At this point, you may be wondering how we handled food on this trip. We used ingredients that can last five days without refrigeration, like rice and pasta. Backpackers also rely on just-add-water items like sun-dried tomatoes, dried coconut milk and egg crystals. Fish in foil packets, tomato paste and spices are also key ingredients. In some cases, we just resigned ourselves to heavy food items like cheese, potatoes and avocados. Our mixed drinks were an indulgence for the first two dinners.

Of course, those ingredients can attract bears. Yellowstone's backcountry campsites all have strong log poles at least 12 feet off the ground, long enough so that you can hang food more than 4 feet from the supports (which are usually trees). All trash gets double-bagged in Ziploc bags to reduce smells, and you cook at least 100 yards from where you sleep. We also wash up meticulously to keep food smells off our hands and faces.

Those precautions made possible our next breakfast — croissants with avocado, scrambled eggs and chiles. That proved to be our messiest meal, and we made a point of leaving the campsite clean.

The day's hike took us through a forest that had somehow escaped the 1988 fires in this area. Heart Lake would be our home for the next two nights, a luxury destination in Yellowstone's backcountry. Our campsite had a composting pit toilet — with no smells, but also no walls or seat.

The campsite was popular with wildlife, including many birds, squirrels, chipmunks, mule deer and a beaver. We had a beautiful view of a sunrise across the lake each morning and could watch the sun set behind Mount Sheridan at night. Our local beaver came out and swam in front of us after dinner.

Mount Sheridan was our destination the next day — about a 9-mile round trip and almost a 3,000-foot climb. We had the entire trail to ourselves and great weather. We could see much of Yellowstone, as well as the Grand Tetons and parts of Jackson Hole.

When we got back to camp, we met a ranger who had just inspected our site. We were happy to learn that we had successfully followed all the bear-safety rules.

Dinner that night was couscous with salmon in a sauce with a sun-dried tomato base. After dinner, we went down to the lake for sunset and a visit with the local beaver and ospreys.

We hiked out the next day through the Witch Creek and Factory Hill thermal areas. This is an attractive thermal area comparable to some of the drive-up sites in the park. Like almost all of our trip, we had it all to ourselves. The final few miles of our expedition were mostly wetlands with a lot of mosquitoes — we kept a brisk pace and reached the trailhead before our pickup time.

Hungry, we went off for an unhealthy lunch. In short, the experience was everything you'd want a backpacking trip to be.

Robert Pahre teaches political science at the University of Illinois and regularly takes students to national parks in the summer.

Cheap Backpacking Asian Travel ideas 101 [Cities & Cost Included]

Memories Of Asia -A One Year Travel- GoPro HD
If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine, try these 3 cheapest holiday season destinations in Asia! Go island hopping in the beautiful beaches in Boracay Island, Philippines; explore temples and architectural marvels in Chiang Mai, Thailand; and have a day just relaxing and sunbathing in the breath-taking beaches in Goa, India.
(Photo: Vaga bones/YouTube)
source: Travelerstoday
If you're into cheap travels with a bag and public transport only, backpacking is just perfect, especially in Asian countries. It's a different feel of touring a place; it's more of cultural and social immersion where a traveler has longer duration of trips experiencing everything personally. In here is the list of the best "Cheap Backpacking Asian Travel ideas 101," more so here will be the compilation of the nicest countries to do backpacking.
To begin, the best "Cheap Backpacking Asian Travel ideas" to start backpacking are countries within the traveler's easy reach. Initially, there's Pokhara, Nepal which is currently the most affordable site to visit, it's not the main city though it's also an emerging tourist hub now. The total cost for this travel without any activities will be $18 a day. Hanoi, Vietnam is up next! The world's cheapest beer, Bia Joi, can be found here. And, the small city is good for eating bonanza; it's really nice to visit this location for just $19 a day.
Furthermore, Manila is also a great place to do backpacking. Indeed, it's the Philippines main city so it's rich with iconic locations. Also, the nearby cities around it are likewise filled with exciting beaches and site to see which cost $23 a day.
In essence, Student Universe adds other "Cheap Backpacking Asian Travel ideas"; they are India and Thailand. What to see in them? If a traveler is into temples and wilderness, India will be the excellent choice. Mumbai City can be visited with just $28 a day, the tourist spots can be seen in a day only so it's cheaper to stay for 1 or 2 nights only.
Lastly, Thailand is also great for backpacking because it has cheap hostels and food. Bangkok City is filled with world-class cuisine, Buddhist Temples, and architectural masterpiece, its selling point is history and exotic islands. In just $24 a day anyone can enjoy the impressive sites.