Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Blue-faced Honeyeaters at Rainbow Beach. Shown at leftis the less colorful female. On the right is the male, who has the brilliant blue eyebrow that earned the species its name.

During my recent trip to Australia, I was fortunate to enjoy a few days of camping at pristine Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Each morning I was woken by flocks of Blue-faced Honeyeaters, who regularly descended on our campground. These birds were so bold that they ate broken crackers out of my hand. Males of most species are more colorful than the females, so they can lead prey away from nests where the female is sitting on eggs or raising chicks. But the Blue-faced Honeyeaters displayed one of the most stunning differences I have ever seen in birds. Read More

The vast and magnificent Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow Beach, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia

Click on title to view photo in large format. In the U.S., we would call it a giant sand dune. In Australia it’s a sand blow. The Carlo Sand Blow, located at Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, is one of the country’s biggest. A short climb via steps up the rear of the dune leads to a viewing platform at the top, which offers sweeping views toward the Pacific Ocean, Double Island Point, and the village of Tin Can Bay. But you may want to Read More

Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia

Click on title to view photo in large format. Circular Quay in Sydney, Australia, sits at the heart of the city. At the head of the Quay is the main ferry terminus, while the famous Harbour Bay Bridge lies at its foot. The location is more than practical; it was on this precise spot that the settlement of Australia was founded. Thus it seems appropriate that today a multitude of ferries depart every few minutes, transporting locals to and from work and tourists to Manly, Watsons Bay, Mosman, and Taronga Zoo. Read More

Whiling away the afternoon at the magnificent Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia

Click on title to view photo in large format. On any given day, crowds of tourists and locals while away the day at the magnificent Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia. With its unique design that mimics the sails of a ship, it is one of the most famous and easily recognizable buildings in the world. Upon awarding it World Heritage status in 2007, UNESCO called it “one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind.” Read More

It started with a single shiver. In the 90 degree temperatures of Bodh Gaya, India, I suddenly felt chilled. I pulled my sweatshirt jacket close and snuggled into it. A few moments later, my whole body was wracked by a second shiver. My teeth began to chatter and my skin grew cold and clammy. First my stomach clutched. Then the diarrhea started.

I had come to Bodh Gaya for two reasons. I’d previously traveled to the birthplace of Gautama Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal, and to Sarnath, India, where he first taught the Dharma to his small cadre of followers. But the most important pilgrimage site for any Buddhist is the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, beneath which Buddha attained enlightenment. After meditating beneath the Bodhi Tree, I planned to attend a ten-day Vipassana Meditation Retreat. But that was not to be.

Big Buddha statue at Bodh Gaya, India

Big Buddha statue at Bodh Gaya, India

For the next six days, I made a mad dash to the toilet every 20 minutes. Dressed in three layers of clothing, I climbed into bed and piled on every blanket I could find. And still I shivered uncontrollably while cold sweat poured off me. A jackhammer pounded behind my eyes, until I wished my head would split open, and stomach cramps had me curled up in the fetal position. Itchy red bumps appeared all over my torso and back. Even without a thermometer, I knew I was burning up with fever. Read More

Archeological excavations of ancient Buddhist monasteries in Sarnath, India. Gautama Buddha first taught the Dharma here. The three structures in the distance, from left to right, are the Main Temple, the Dhamekh Stupa, and the Jain Temple.

Click on title to view photo in large format. After his enlightenment, Siddhartha Gautama Buddha traveled to Sarnath, a village near Varanasi, India. There he shared the Dharma (teaching) with his closest disciples for the first time. He explained the four noble truths that became the foundation for the philosophy we now know as Buddhism. By the seventh century AD, more than 3,000 monks were living in Buddhist monasteries in Sarnath. The community thrived until the 12th century, when Turkish Muslims invaded and razed most of the monasteries. Read More