Salton Sea California | Let’s take on another weird place: Salton Sea, just a few miles south of Palm Springs in sunny California, and not too far away from the Mexican border. Disaster tourists find a gem here. Salton Sea is a highly toxic artificial lake. But this was not always the case. At its peak, Salton Sea California was drawing more yearly visitors than Yosemite NP. By 1960, the Salton Sea had developed into a well-known tourist hot spot. Names like Salton City, Salton Sea Beach, Desert Shores, Desert Beach, North Shore, Bombay Beach did draw a decent amount of attention among holiday makers. Several multi-million dollar yacht clubs and marinas sprung up around the shoreline of Salton Sea. Golf courses began to appear everywhere. Even a 500 mile powerboat endurance race established some kind of tradition: Thousands showed up to watch the so-called “Salton Sea 500”.
Unfortunately, little thought was devoted to the management of this artificial lake, that appeared in 1905 after water from the heavily controlled Colorado River accidently flew into Imperial Valley thanks to a chain of stupid moves by engineers of the CDC (California Development Company). Salton Sea lacks any outflow. In the late 1970s a series of heavy tropical storms caused the water level to rapidly rise and flood its banks. Surrounding towns were severely damaged, many beyond repair. Tourism began to shift away. In the 1990s the lake began to recede dramatically, shaking off most residences and businesses. Changing water-management priorities diverted more water from agricultural areas to other cities.
Since the Salton Sea has no outlet, the salt and chemicals dumped by agricultural runoffs and industries began to rise while the water level remained the same, resulting in increased concentration of toxic chemicals. Over the years, fish began to die in large masses – tens of thousands of dead fish and birds began regularly washing up on the shores. Then in the summer of 1999, approx. 7.5 million Tilapia died from oxygen starvation caused by the overabundant algae. The authorities knew: this case is lost. Trotting carcasses rimmed parts of the Sea for over ten years. Combined with the decaying algae, the smell was overwhelming.
On October 28, 2015 the smog-control agency for Los Angeles issued an odor advisory for the intense rotten-egg stench that was permeating the air of southern California’s Coachella Valley. The source: Salton Sea was burping up hydrogen sulfide, a gas created by decaying organic matter trapped beneath the water. It was the Salton Sea’s fifth odor advisory for October alone; depending on winds, the hydrogen sulfide can be smelled as far as 130 miles away in Los Angeles. But that smell is only one part of a more serious public-health problem, one that has the potential to affect millions of people in southern California and beyond. The Salton Sea is shrinking, a phenomenon due to rapid evaporation — summer temperatures around the lake routinely top 110 degrees. And the window of time to do anything about it is closed.
Hawaii – Setting the Record Straight | For decades the word “Hawaii” has been music in the ears of leisure travelers, mostly from Japan and the U.S. They listen to a smaltzy song like “Aloha Oe” by Queen Lilioukalani and start to have this delusion about Hawaii: a place close to paradise, wonderful weather, gentle breeze, nice locals, nice ocean, generally a good place to live forever. For inexplicable reasons U.S. News and World Report constantly rate Hawaii’s island of Maui the “best vacation destination in the United States”. U.S. News even rated Maui 4th best place to visit in the world and 2nd best place to honeymoon. Kauai was rated 2nd in the world in having the best beaches etc etc. Of course none of this is true. Nothing can compete with those honeymoon dream islands in Micronesia, Polynesia and the Philippines. So let’s try to set the record straight; starting with that warm Aloha and a shaka you expect to get from nice locals. Only a few will do that, mostly people employed by the tourist industry. Large parts of Hawaii’s locals are truly troubled. They are insanely obese because they don’t pay attention to the huge amounts of HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup) in their food. They are especially hostile to white people. And instead of math their kids are doing Meth. Still there is tourism …
Brief History of Hawaii Tourism
Mass tourism came to Hawaii around about the late 1950s, but its humble origin began almost a century earlier, in the 1870s. Tourism started when faster and more predictable steamships replaced sailing vessels in trans-Pacific travel. Hawaii’s first luxury hotel, the Hawaiian Hotel, opened for business in early 1872. It was located in downtown Honolulu near the harbor. In 1898 Hawaii was annexed by the United States. In that same year hordes of American soldiers were streaming to Oahu in particular, with the local Hawaii government through annexation finally placed on a firm foundation. Business boomed and tourists started swarming to Honolulu. In 1899 and 1900 the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (now a Y.M.C.A.) had to turn away guests because too many travelers approached the property.
In 1907, the Hilonian – a steamship owned by the Matson Navigation Company – was used to inaugurate San Francisco-Honolulu service. After that Honolulu became a main terminus for Matson in Hawaii. In 1910, the Matson company launched itself into the Hawaii tourism business with the addition of the 150-passenger ship Wilhelmina, said to rival some of the finest passenger vessels operating in the Atlantic. And with the arrival of air travelers in the 1960s tourism started to boom. It kind of never stopped since then.
Hawaii Tourism Today
Despite economical unrest, social conflict and high taxes on everything, the Hawaiian Islands remain the most visited place in the United States. But its tourism industry cannot outshine the better part of what Europe has to offer to tourists. Paris, Amsterdam, Italy and large parts of the Iberian peninsular lead the pack. Still for U.S. Americans, Waikiki with its beach, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel and surfboards are stuff of fairy tales such as 1001 Arabian Nights. Not having Hawaii listed in any realistic top 10 charts does not mean this is reason enough to dumb the former dream destination. So which places are worth visiting? There must be something. These are Chili and Churp’s top 5 spots in Hawaii:
Due to a stormy North Pacific in December, January and February, high swells at Oahu’s North Shore cause a concentration of surfing activity. There is one particular spot of Ehukai Beach, commonly known as the Banzai Pipeline, which is the most notable surfing spot. It is a prime location for competitions because Banzai Pipeline is very close to the beach, giving spectators, judges, and photographers great views. Every December the Banzai Pipeline hosts three competitions: Billabong Pipeline Masters, Reef Hawaiian Pro, O’Neill World Cup of Surfing.
Located on Big Island, Volcanoes National Park offers a unique, close up look at an active volcano and the recent landscape produced by it. Hot lava constantly flows down a mountain side, and dry lava covers the road, showing its unstoppable force. The gateway to exploring the Big Island of Hawaii’s volcanoes is the Volcanoes NP. The park, established in 1916, covers 500 sqm and reaches from the 13,677 foot summit of Mauna Kea – the largest volcano on earth – to sea cliffs where molten lava can be seen spewing into the Pacific Ocean.
A very scenic spot on Big Island is Waipio Valley lookout. Surrounded by lush cliff walls this fertile valley opens out to the ocean, where a black sand beach mets with white waves and blue water. The high viewpoint gives an awesome perspective.
Hana Road, Maui
The dramatic Hana Road on Maui is a scenic stretch of highway that runs from Pa’ia, through lush forests and along the ocean, to the remote town of Hana. This trip is worthwhile both for the stunning drive and to see the town itself. Hana’s location, relatively cut off from the rest of the island, has allowed it to maintain more of a traditional Hawaiian culture than other towns.
The entire island of Kauai is something like the ideal tourist spot. There’s a reason there are so many jaw-dropping scenes in Jurassic Park. Those views of Kauai can’t be rushed, and should be taken in from every angle. A helicopter tour will show you the stunning waterfalls; sailing along the coast will leave you feeling small and insignificant against the natural majesty; a catamaran snorkeling excursion reveals aquatic wonders; and Zodiac tours get you closer to sea caves, Hawaiian Monk seals, pods of dolphins, or green sea turtles. Kauai is the only island in the state with navigable rivers, making it perfect for a kayak adventure or inner tube excursion. Prefer a challenge? Hike the legendary coast, a 22-mile round-trip trail that is considered the state’s best backpacking route.
And what about some solar panel tourism? Tech fanatics might like the idea of visiting Tesla and the electricity cooperative in Kauai. It serves the Hawaiian island with renewable energy. In September 2017 Tesla opened a 13 MW solar farm combined with a 52 MWh battery installation to help the island reduce its fossil fuel consumption by about 1.6 million gallons of diesel and petroleum per year. Welcome to the future.
Where to stay in Hawaii
If you have ever been to the Cook Islands, Seychelles, Maldives, Bora Bora, Fiji or Tahiti, you will know what’s coming next. No property in Hawaii is able to compete in style, comfort or surrounding beauty. But ok. You have to make a decision now. This is what you can get:
-> Stay in the Heart of Lahaina (Maui) at Villa Samsara. It will almost cost you an arm and a leg (US$1,400 per night), but at least it got some swag.
-> The Bungalows at Napili Bay, also on Maui (12 Hui Drive, Kapalua, Kahana, HI 96761). The property is 32.2 km from Paia and 1 minute from the beach. You get it for $780 per night.
-> A 2-bedroom-shelter for $646 might be in your range at the 5-star St. Regis Princeville near Hanalei Bay, Kauai. The hotel is rated 8.8 by tourists.
Disappointing travel destination: Los Angeles | You’ve dreamt of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame for your whole life. You booked your ticket. Then you get there and it’s by far not what you expected. Hollywood Boulevard turns out to be run-down, dangerous and dirty piece of concrete with roughly 60,000 homeless people sleeping almost everywhere on the streets. Finding that Los Angeles is not even remotely like described in travel brochures might be an experience you share with many other tourists. But too late. Now that you are no longer able to avoid this pitfall, try to make the best out of your stay in L.A. Here are some recommendations.
Car Rental | Under all circumstances rent a car! There is almost no public transportation available that carries you comfortably between the tourist sites, spread all over the region in great distances. And don’t forget: you are not in Europe. There are no car-free streets or pedestrian zones anywhere.
Getty Center | Once you took care of a car, you may start with the Getty Center in the morning at 10:00am when crowds are still limited and parking lots are plenty. The Getty Center itself is for free. You will only pay a parking fee. The Getty Center’s core purpose is to show off the art collection of a guy called J. Paul Getty. He was a super-rich American industrialist (1892 – 1976). While traveling around the globe and taking care of his oil business he also purchased art – in large amounts. Example: In 1983, his Getty Museum acquired 144 illuminated medieval manuscripts from the Ludwig Collection in Aachen, Germany. At least his foundation paid for it. So nobody can ever compare him with colonial-style art robbery a la France or Great Britain.
Hollywood Walk of Fame | Roughly check the position of your favorite artist online before you hit Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Go straight there, take your snapshot and escape this place as fast as you can.
Hollywood Sign | Since there is no major road leading you close to this famous landmark, instead of annoying local residents you might just hang out at the 4th floor viewing platform of the Hollywood and Highland mall. The view is okayish. If this is not enough, I recommend driving up to Canyon Lake Dr through Beachhead. It routes you through some nice winding streets. You end up at the top of Ledgewood, that is quite cool and free of ice cream trucks, tourist shops, beggars and other BS.
Lakers and Clippers | For basketball fans all the above will not matter much. L.A. remains a magnet for NBA event tourists. There is no more Kobe Bryant on the court. But guys like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan compensate fans when slam dunking over you and both your parents combined.
Disappointing Travel Destination Four Corners Monument, United States | The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint in the Southwestern U.S. where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. This location is – hold your breath! – the only point in the United States shared by four states. Now this must be something, somebody thought. And the idea of a tourist attraction was born. Using hands and legs one can step into all four states at once. But that’s pretty much it. There is nothing else to do. So move on. And by the way: In 2009 a spokesperson for the U.S. National Geodetic Survey admitted the monument is placed 1,807 feet (551 m) east of where modern surveyors would mark the point. However, he defended the accuracy of the original survey, stating surveyors “nailed it” considering the primitive tools they used in the 1912.
Event tourism Woodstock | For the local tourism industry it was a disaster beyond any comparison, for the tourists it was the most amazing event ever: Woodstock Music & Art Fair near the town of Bethel (NY) between August 15 and 17, 1969, attracted an audience of over 400,000 people. And nobody did pay for accommodation.
It was only a 2.5 hour ride from New York City up the Hudson River to Woodstock, near the Ashokan Reservoir; seemed like perfect for a weekend trip. But local residents of the Woodstock area did not like the idea of hosting a “hippie concert”. And for the organisers (working under the name “Woodstock Ventures”) the event grew into a never ending headache for years to come. Initially Woodstock Ventures settled the concert on an industrial site near the city of Wallkill. But permits were revoked just one month before the festival was to take place. Residents opposed the project. In early July, the Town Board passed a law requiring a permit for any gathering over 5,000 people. On July 15, 1969, the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned the concert on the basis that the planned portable toilets would not meet town code. Reports of the ban turned out to be a publicity bonanza for the festival. Luckily Woodstock Ventures stumbled into Max Yasgur,owner of a dairy farm in nearby Bethel. For $75,000 in return the Bethel Town Attorney and a building inspector approved the permits, although the Bethel Town Board refused to issue them formally. Clark was ordered to post stop-work orders. But there was no way back. Too many stars did already sign contracts.
In April 1969, newly minted superstars CCR (Creedence Clearwater Revival) became the first act to sign a contract for the event, agreeing to play for $10,000. The promoters had experienced difficulty landing big-name groups prior to CCCR committing to play. Once CCR inked their deal, it become easy to sign other stars. A list of the monetary breakdown:
1. Jimi Hendrix – $18,000
2. Blood, Sweat and Tears – $15,000
3. Joan Baez – $10,000
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival – $10,000
5. The Band – $7,500
6. Janis Joplin – $7,500
7. Jefferson Airplane – $7,500
8. Sly and the Family Stone – $7,000
9. Canned Heat – $6,500
10. The Who – $6,250
11. Richie Havens – $6,000
12. Arlo Guthrie – $5,000
13. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – $5,000
14. Ravi Shankar – $4,500
15. Johnny Winter – $3,750
16. Ten Years After – $3,250
17. Country Joe and the Fish – $2,500
18. Grateful Dead – $2,500
19. The Incredible String Band – $2,250
20. Mountain – $2,000
21. Tim Hardin – $2,000
22. Joe Cocker – $1,375
23. Sweetwater – $1,250
24. John B. Sebastian – $1,000
25. Melanie – $750
26. Santana – $750
27. Sha Na Na – $700
28. Keef Hartley – $500
29. Quill – $375
Woodstock was designed as a profit-making event. Tickets cost $18 in advance and $24 at the gate (equivalent to $120 and $160 today). Ticket sales were limited to record stores in the greater New York City area, or by mail via a P.O.Box. Around 186,000 advance tickets were sold. Those $3,35million earned would have covered all investments, leaving the promoters with a decent profit. But things took a different turn, making them pay off debt for another decade …
The late change in venue did not give the festival organisers enough time to prepare. At a meeting three days before the event, Woodstock Ventures felt they had two options: #1 was to complete the fencing and ticket booths, without which the promoters were almost certain to lose more money. #2 involved putting their remaining available resources into building a proper stage, without which the promoters feared they would have a disappointed and disgruntled audience. The decision fell in favour of the stage, and that was the right move. Because fences became an oxymoron anyway, and the stage needed to withstand a lot of heavy rain.
The huge influx of attendees to the concert site was simply overwhelming. It created massive traffic jams. Eventually, announcements on radio stations as far away as WNEW-FM in Manhattan and descriptions of the traffic jams on TV news discouraged people from setting off to the festival. To add to the problems and difficulty in dealing with such large crowd, recent rains had caused muddy roads and fields. The facilities were neither equipped to provide sanitation nor first aid for 400,000 people. The hippies found themselves in a struggle against bad weather, food shortages, and poor sanitation.
Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at Woodstock. Hendrix took the stage at 8:30am Monday morning. The remaining audience was now reduced to about 30,000; many of them merely waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before they had to urgently leave during his performance. Don’t forget, it was a Monday. Most people needed to go back to work.
Woodstock ’69 turned out to be an epic success – the most famous music festival ever. It was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and the conditions involved. Nearly every second adult was stoned. Still there were only two recorded fatalities: one from what was believed to be a heroin overdose, and another caused in an accident when a tractor ran over an attendee sleeping in a nearby hayfield. There also were two births recorded at the event: one in a car caught in traffic and another in a hospital after an airlift by helicopter.
Very few reporters from outside the immediate area were on the scene. During the first two days of the festival, a predominantly arrogant national media coverage only emphasized the problems. Front page headlines in the Daily News read “Traffic Uptight at Hippiefest” and “Hippies Mired in a Sea of Mud”. Coverage became more positive by the end of the festival, because parents of concertgoers called the media and told them, based on their children’s stories, the media reporting was misleading.
The New York Times covered the prelude to the festival and the move from Wallkill to Bethel. Barnard Collier, who reported from the event for The New York Times, asserts that he was pressured by on-duty editors at the paper to write a misleadingly negative article about the event. According to Collier, this led to acrimonious discussions and his threat to refuse to write the article until the paper’s executive editor agreed to let him write the article as he saw fit. The eventual article dealt with issues of traffic jams and minor lawbreaking, but went on to emphasize cooperation, generosity, and the good nature of the festival goers.
The documentary film Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, was released in 1970. Artie Kornfeld (one of the promoters of the festival) went to Fred Weintraub, an executive at Warner Bros., and asked for money to film the festival. Artie had been turned down everywhere else, but against the express wishes of other Warner Bros. executives, Weintraub put his job on the line and gave Kornfeld $100,000 to make a very very successful documentary. What a lucky move! Woodstock helped to save Warner Bros. at a time when the company was on the verge of going out of business.
Right after Woodstock approximately 80 lawsuits were filed against Woodstock Ventures. But the documentary financed all settlements and even paid off another $1.4 million of debt the organizers had incurred from the festival. Today the Woodstock album released in 1970 is listed as #24 in the all time list of best-selling albums by year in the United States. Woodstock 2 – released in 1971 – is ranked #47.
Farmer Max Yasgur refused to rent out his farm for a 1970 revival of the festival.
Bethel voters tossed out their supervisor in an election held in November 1969 because of his role in bringing the festival to the town. New York State and the town of Bethel passed mass gathering laws designed to prevent any more festivals from occurring.
Woodstock quickly became a pilgrimage destination for hippies and their children. Still it took locals almost 30 years to realize that they missed out on a lot of financial benefits from this “one-in-a-million” event. Many ill advised attempts were made to prevent people from visiting the site, its owners spread chicken manure, and during one anniversary, tractors and state police cars formed roadblocks. But in 1997 a community group put up a welcoming sign for visitors. The mood slowly changed. Unlike Bethel, the town of Woodstock made several efforts to cash in on its notoriety. In 2006 also Bethel’s stance changed. A Center of Arts opened in 2006 at the site of the 1969 Music and Art Fair. The town now embraces the festival. Efforts have begun to forge a link between Bethel and Woodstock. Too late. Even the children of the Woodstock generation are now in their 50s. The show ended without a cut for the local tourist industry.