Strange but true travels

Intrepid travel writer offers compendium of intriguing out-of-the-way destinations close to home

Most of us have probably driven past Al Conquergood's "car heaven" near Westwold without so much as parting the clouds.

We've savoured the cool mist of Margaret Falls above Shuswap Lake on a hot summer's day, but haven't stopped to ponder the image of Christ in the cataract.

And then there's Herb Higginbottom's push mower - all two tonnes of the world's largest grass cutter, just down the road in Enderby. Wait till you see his lawn!

Who would have known?

Quirky, out-of-the-way attractions such as these are scattered across the southern Interior, lending character to the country and unique attractions off the beaten path.

Teresa Kline, a seasoned adventure traveller, photographer and writer, has compiled them in a new, self-published guidebook, Teresa the Traveler Tells You Where to Go and How to Get There (Wayside, Kamloops, 2012, 89 pgs., $30).

From her home here, Kline has ventured all over the world - to Europe, the Middle East, South America and Central America - and lived and worked in war zones in Afghanistan and Bosnia. With this latest project she's taken a lighter approach with a handy companion for summer road trips with kids or with out-of-town visitors.

"There are places in here I didn't know about," Kline said.

The back story of what sparked this unusual guide is almost as fun as some of the attractions.

Kline was travelling by train to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru about 18 months ago during the worst time of year there - the wet season. The train got stuck in a mudslide.

"We did the only thing we could do," she recalled. "We had a dance party with a bunch of French egg farmers."

Leavened with a little pisco, a Peruvian liquor, they made the best of a bad situation: "We danced The Train on the train."

In the midst of this, she became good friends with a Czech traveller, Jan Kounic. She invited him to visit Kamloops some time later to experience this part of the world.

"When he got here, I had no idea where to take him. I grew up here, but he's in town for 10 days."

On a spartan budget, she wanted to show him some of the culturally interesting attractions, so she posed the question on Facebook and received a flood of ideas from friends. They easily filled eight days touring the area. She compiled the ideas into book form as a Christmas present for friends. That evolved into a full-fledged publishing project, linked to her website, www.wheretogoandhowtogetthere.com, which she continually revises, adding new attractions.

"Some of these places don't have websites. You just find out about them through word of mouth."

Higginbottom's tool museum in Enderby is but one example. He's been collecting tools for 50 years, so when his first wife got sick and needed his full-time care, he decided to make his home into a museum. His second wife told him that if he wanted to attract a crowd, he needed a big attraction, so he set out to build the world's largest mower.

Conquergood is transforming a former poultry farm off Hwy. 97 into a haven for vintage car buffs, complete with a service to assist owners, Wild Rides Restorations. As Kamloops' own Hot Nite in the City and Vintage Car Club demonstrate, there is no shortage of likeminded enthusiasts. There is a gift shop and Conquergood has plans to offer visitors a complete 1950s experience.

Then there's the face in the falls, Margaret Falls at Howard Provincial Park.

"It was a little-known fact in the Sorrento area that the face of Christ sitting on the throne can be seen in the falls," Kline said.

The book includes directions and suggested itineraries.

"The whole idea is to get people out and doing something cool with their families - go ahead and bond with people."

The guide is available in town at Walmart, Runner's Sole at Aberdeen Village and the Golden Buddha on Victoria Street.



Author hopes to plant seeds of democracy in desert

As with her previous ventures in publishing and photography, Teresa Kline intends to use the proceeds from her new guidebook in support of a distant yet deserving project she's focused on in Egypt.

She was on a backpacking trip there in 2005 when she met a German woman - the only other blond Caucasian woman around - at Kharga Oasis.

"We started talking - 'What the heck are you doing here?' - and she pulled out a set of blueprints and said this was her third or fourth trip to the desert."

Her friend, Christine Teppers, turned out to be a cancer survivor. To celebrate her survival, she took a trip to Egypt, where the sight of young children playing in a garbage dump struck her. She was told by locals that the children were orphans who lived there and had nowhere else to go in a country lacking social supports.

"I've travelled all over the world and seen lots of poverty. Still, when I see children selling statuettes at the Sphinx and in tattered clothing, it breaks my heart."

On her own initiative, Teppers rolled up her sleeves and embarked on a plan to build an orphanage, specifically a girls orphanage in the city of Mut. She purchased land and had foundations built, but then took sick while visiting a mosque in Cairo and had to be admitted to hospital. Two hours later the mosque was blown up.

"She missed the terrorist attack by being sick."

Since then, the project has been stalled, but Kline and two Kamloops friends are planning to visit in November to see if they can get it back on track.

"I'm visiting to make sure this gets taken care of. I feel I need to go down there, evaluate and make contact."

While it will be her first visit, she's worked on similar overseas projects before and helped rebuild a school in Afghanistan.

The idea of a girls' orphanage is to provide an option where none exists at the moment. Women are disempowered. They're not allowed to live independently. Education at the orphanage could serve as an impetus for social change. While the dust has yet to settle on political change in Egypt, the desire for greater democracy has been amply expressed.

"You really can't have a democracy if half your population is disempowered and not part of society. It's just the cultural thing. It's been like that for so long."

Experience shows that when educated, women apply that knowledge to the benefit of family and community because they're hard-wired to do so, she said.

"So by empowering the women, you're actually empowering the men."



COMING UP

Teresa Kline (www.teresathetraveler.com) will be sharing some of her favourite regional road-trip destinations - a few highlights from her guidebook, Where to Go and How to Get There - with Daily News readers in a series of articles to appear in Variety in the coming weeks.

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