Music Integral To ‘Grannies On Safari’

The travel bug bit Regina Fraser at an early age. “My father [trumpeter Rex Stewart] was with Duke Ellington for about 15 years, and traveled all over the world with his orchestra,” she says. “He’d come back with a traveling trunk full of colorful stickers from all over the world. He’d point out the ones from France, Australia, Russia, and so on, and he was a great storyteller. I was fascinated, and thought, ‘I’d love to go to all of those places.’”

That’s exactly what she does with “Grannies On Safari” co-host Pat Johnson, with whom she checks out food and culture from India to Zanzibar to South Africa on Mondays at 5:30 p.m. on WTTW-Channel 11.

The Chicago-based duo include a lot of local music on the show; the Peru episode included an indigenous Incan folk troupe playing music related to the elements as well as Andean music and an Afro-Peruvian group.

“Music is really critical to us,” says Johnson, who’s been an avid traveler since she was a teen. Chicago jazz trumpeter and composer Orbert Davis, whom the pair has known for years, composed the show’s theme song. They also asked Carlsbad, California-based Afro-Venezuelan composer Allan Phillips to create music for the show, and he jumped at the chance. In 2008, “Grannies” won a regional Emmy Award for his music.

Fraser sits on the board of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic and is a marketing, media, and communications strategist, while Johnson is an arts administrator. (Both are, indeed, grandmothers). They’d traveled in the same circles since the 1970s, but didn’t meet formally until they worked together on an international arts-exchange program in the mid-’90s. Fraser hit on the show idea in 2003, and asked Johnson if she wanted to be part of it – even though she had her hands full as founding director of the Museum Of The African Diaspora in San Francisco.

“I twisted her arm and made her quit and come back to Chicago to join me,” says Fraser. They sold their fur coats and Fraser drained her 401K to fund the first shows with help from Fraser’s husband and other family members. They’ve limped along financially, picking up sponsors here and there, until the current season, which is sponsored by the AARP. The pair also became involved with local initiatives serving seniors. “There’s still a lot to learn in this world – and travel is a good way to meet new people and expand your horizons,” says Johnson.

“When you travel, you have the ability to come back and tell family members about your experiences and inspire them to travel,” says Fraser. “If they don’t understand that the world doesn’t revolve around their immediate area, they’re going to lose out on making cultural connections and finding out where their place is in the greater world.”

The pair also lead tour groups, and made international news when they were in Cairo for a four-day cruise on the Nile during the January uprising and couldn’t get out. “It was kind of dicey,” says Johnson, recalling that the demonstrations became a full-fledged revolution in front of their eyes and they couldn’t get ahold of the U.S. State Department to get them out. The two had enough travel smarts to keep their group calm – including an 82-year-old grandmother from Columbus.

They’re currently kicking around ideas for season number four – ideal destinations include Brazil, Croatia, and Cuba – or perhaps even a trip on the trans-Siberian railroad.

“It depends on if we can get the necessary support for that,” says Johnson.

“Like funding!” says Fraser, without skipping a beat.

ODDS N SODS: Pilsen’s youth-run Latino community station Radio Arte (WRTE 90.5 FM) is slated to be sold by the National Museum Of Mexican Art, along with the two-story building that houses the station and its youth art-training program. The newly formed Latino Media Cooperative says it plans to bid on the 14-year-old station’s license, antenna, transmitter, name, and frequency. Chicago Public Media, DePaul University, and California’s Radio Bilinguë have also been mentioned as potential buyers. The 73-watt station covers a 14-mile radius and has been a broadcast home to hundreds of kids since the museum purchased a Class D radio station from the Boys And Girls Club Of Chicago a decade-and-a-half ago . . . Kudos to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) for launching an inquiry into former FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker’s transition from Comcast regulator to Comcast senior vice president of public affairs just months after voting to approve Comcast’s merger with NBC-Universal. Perhaps she was trying to one-up former FCC Chair Michael Powell’s gig heading up the National Cable And Telecommunications Association. Now, is urging FCC commissioners to take a pledge not to work for AT&T or T-Mobile – whose merger is under consideration – when they leave office. “Unless they take this public stand and stop the revolving door, public trust in government will be impossible to restore.” Um, what trust?

Peru's new highway to the future

Today, his house and workshop are on a paved road. “This was an animal trail in those days," he says.

For years, Assis was the end of the road. Traveling on through the Peruvian Amazon and over the Andes was an adventure on mud tracks. Asked how business is at his roadside mechanic's workshop, the Brazilian gives a thumbs-down. And the lack of a road didn't just hurt his business, but also cut billions of dollars in potential trade between Brazil and Peru.

That’s about to change. After decades of delay, Peru is on the verge of completing the $2.75 billion Interoceanic Highway connecting Mr. Pereira's house – and the rest of Brazil – to the west coast. Pereira, and millions more Brazilians and Peruvians, will see their lives change radically once they live along the continent’s first true transcontinental highway.

Think you know Latin America? Take our geography quiz.

Traffic is already growing. Cesar Bonamigo, a diplomat at the Brazilian embassy in Lima, says 3,500 people crossed the border in 2006. As crews laid asphalt in 2009, he says, that rose 10-fold to 35,000.

The last major link in the Interoceanic Highway, a bridge over the Madre de Dios river 143 miles away, is set to open this month. The last rivet in the bridge will be like the golden spike which, in 1869, completed North America’s first transcontinental railroad. There is a road connecting Argentina to Chile, and a roundabout route through Bolivia. But this is the first two-lane, year-round highway across the continent's waist, from the Amazon directly to the Pacific.

From Sao Paulo, near the Atlantic, the highway traverses 2,439 miles of Brazil, crossing coastal hills, soy-farming plains, and the cattle pastures where Amazon rain forest once stood. At last, just beyond Pereira's home, it crosses the Acre River into Peru. The Christian Science Monitor traversed Peru's new road to glimpse its villages and landscapes before they change beyond recognition.
The bridge

From the border, it's a two-hour drive south across rolling farmland to the tiny village of Triunfo. Scattered spindly trees by the highway are reminders of the rainforest, long since logged over. Miles to the right, where the forests remain more intact, indigenous groups live in voluntary isolation, avoiding industrial society.

Top 5 summer travel destinations of 2011 (PHOTOS)

As Summer Solstice marked the first day of summer across the world on June 21, 2011, travel experts at Travel Ticker, a leading U.S.-based travel portal, released “Where To Go Now & How Guide” this summer season.

Based on the seasonal trends, summer travel deals, weather conditions, tourist traffic, entertainment options and the cultural experience, here are the best five summer travel destinations of 2011:

1. Chicago, Illinois, United States

Why Now: From the summer festivals, Wrigley Field bleacher seats, Millennium Park concerts, walking along Lake Michigan, to outdoor shopping and dining – it's no secret that Chicago is enjoyed to its fullest in the peak summer months. And with Chicago surrounded by numerous unique neighborhoods, there is a great chance to explore other places for each visitor.

Value: Hotel rates are higher in the summer, but only by about $20-$30 compared to the off season. This makes the Windy City one of the most affordable "splurges" considering the big experiences that you can have. It also tends to be one of the lower-priced big cities in the country to fly into as well. Hotel rates range from $99-$139.

The Amalfi Hotel Chicago starts at $139 on select dates, June 29-September 9. Stay near the Magnificent Mile, plus get a complimentary room upgrade, breakfast, cocktails, & WiFi

Ben Fogle on the year he found adventure and himself

In 1992 I found myself. It was the year that set me on my meandering course of life. It was also the year I saw both the very best and worst of humanity.

Fresh out of school, I was just 19 years old and had the world at my fingertips. I bought a one-way ticket to Rio de Janeiro and set off for a year in Latin America.

It was a period of youthful naivety. I didn’t know the language and didn’t have a plan, but Latin America – Brazil in particular – seemed suitably mysterious and promised to be full of opportunity and adventure.

I spent a couple of days parading up and down the two-and-a-half mile Copacabana beach, but my pasty white torso was no match for the lithe and fit Brazilians. So I took a bus to Belém, a city on the banks of the Amazon estuary in northern Brazil. As a child I had spent hours poring over atlases and maps and always dreamt of visiting this mighty river. I spent several days wandering up and down the bustling port until I found a ship laden with biscuits heading upstream to Benjamin Constant in Colombia, more than 3,000 miles away.

As it transpired the journey was long, hot, and very, very boring. Six weeks later we chugged into Iquitos. I wasn’t in the least bit sad to wave goodbye to that insect-riddled boat.

Ash from Chile's Puyehue volcano disrupts air travel

Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala, confronted Tuesday with canceled flights due to the ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue volcano, resorted to traveling by boat instead of airplane to keep an appointment with Argentine PresidentCristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

A day earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, also eager to meet with Fernandez, caught a bus for the 400-mile ride from Cordoba, Argentina, to Buenos Aires. His flight from Bogota, the Colombian capital, had been forced to land before reaching the Argentine capital because of Puyehue.

The officials, like thousands of other would-be air travelers, found themselves searching for alternative ways to reach their destination days after the volcano erupted June 4 in southern Chile. Humala, who is having a series of meetings with South American leaders, was traveling from Uruguay to Argentina.

The ash cloud over the Southern Hemisphere has spread as far as South Africa andAustralia.

The eruption has forced the evacuation of thousands of residents in Chile's Ranco province but caused little disruption of Chilean flights. On most days, northeasterly winds have sent the ash plume into neighboring Argentina.

"It's a release of the volcano's internal pressure and of course it has brought grave consequences for air traffic and farming," said Roberto Page, director of Argentina's Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources. "It's not possible to know with exactitude what will happen in the next few days, nor predict how long the phenomenon of the rain of ash will last."

Buenos Aires' international airport in Ezeiza has been closed for all or part of five days since the eruption. Several major airlines canceled flights Tuesday into and out of Argentina, Uruguay, Australia and Brazil. In a statement, Brazil-based Gol Airlines said it was taking measures out of concern for "the safety of our clients and employees."

Even as the ash cloud continued to cause misery for air travelers, officials offered little hope for short-term improvement. One government geologist said Chilean officials have informed him that the volcano "continues in emission and could continue for the next two days."

In addition to disrupting air travel, the volcanic ash is casting a cloud over Argentine agriculture, prompting authorities to declare a state of emergency for farmers. Tourism in Bariloche and Villa La Angostura, two popular winter sports destinations, has been thrown into disarray by the fall of up to 18 inches in ash.

Although Argentina's aeronautical authorities on Tuesday gave airlines the green light to reschedule flights, Ezeiza airport remained closed through the early afternoon. The volcano is about 1,000 miles southwest of Argentina's capital.

In Bariloche, the mountain resort city just 100 miles from the Chilean volcano, dense ash lying in thick layers made soggy by rain caused power and telephone outages and forced authorities to suspend classes. TV reports showed a city whose streets were deserted. The roofs of dozens of houses, mainly in low-income districts, collapsed under the weight of the ash.

Farm officials were concerned about the prolonged eruption's continued effect on the 2 million head of sheep that graze in southern Argentina. Farmers in Chubut and Rio Negro areas said they have suffered five years of drought and the ash could destroy the little pastureland still serviceable. Rio Negro officials said 60,000 head of cattle also are "at risk."

Haroldo Lebed, director of the national Agriculture Emergency and Disaster office, said he has declared a state of emergency for some Patagonian farm regions.

"This phenomenon on top of the years of drought the region has suffered is overwhelming in terms of the economic impact it is causing," Lebed said. "It's impossible to quantify the scale of the disaster."

Special correspondents D'Alessandro reported from Buenos Aires and Kraul from Bogota.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

increase text size decrease text size


« Previous Story More World - world news, international news, foreign policy news, foreign affairs news - Next Story »

Italian voters reject Berlusconi's measures Italian voters reject Berlusconi's measures
CIA plans drone strike campaign in Yemen CIA plans drone strike campaign in Yemen

Related stories
From the L.A. Times

Gates calls for more NATO allies to join Libya air campaign

Comments (0)
Add comments | Discussion FAQ

Currently there are no comments. Be the first to comment!

Comments are filtered for language and registration is required. The Times makes no guarantee of comments' factual accuracy. Readers may report inappropriate comments by clicking the Report Abuse link. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.
L.A. Times on Facebook
Hugh Hefner engagement off
Hugh Hefner engagement off | Photos: Hefner's women
Weiner doll crashes website
Weiner doll crashes website
Editorial: Tracy Morgan crossed the line
Editorial: Tracy Morgan crossed the line
Snoring husbands can irritate wives. Really.
Snoring husbands can irritate wives. Really.
For Dad: $25 for a Men's haircut and scalp treatment package ($50 value)
For Dad: $25 for a Men's haircut and scalp treatment package ($50 value)

Latest News
Most Viewed
Most Emailed

Terrelle Pryor says he's sorry to Ohio State for 'conduct off the field' - L.A. Times - Sports 06/14/2011, 5:39 p.m.
Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris: Wedding is off - L.A. Times - Entertainment News 06/14/2011, 5:33 p.m.
300 Edison customers without power after vault explodes in La Puente - L.A. Now 06/14/2011, 5:30 p.m.
Football: Steven Mitchell picks up UCLA offer - Varsity Times Insider 06/14/2011, 5:30 p.m.
Sports Legend Revealed: Did the U.S. vote against sending NBA players to the 1992 Olympics? - L.A. Times - Sports 06/14/2011, 5:27 p.m.

Daughter of former Laker Robert Horry dies at age 17 06/14/2011, 5:20 p.m.
White House to provide lawmakers with more details on Libya 06/14/2011, 4:39 p.m.
Montana halts search for militia member 06/14/2011, 4:12 p.m.
Terrelle Pryor apologizes to Ohio State for scandal 06/14/2011, 3:42 p.m.
Playboy's Hugh Hefner and Crystal Harris call off their May-December wedding 06/14/2011, 3:15 p.m.

Snoring husbands can irritate spouses. Really. 06/14/2011, 2:39 p.m.
Google creates $280-million solar power fund 06/14/2011, 6:00 a.m.
When hard work is a joy 06/14/2011, 12:00 a.m.
'Conduit' muni bond defaults draw scrutiny 06/14/2011, 12:00 a.m.
Memory training improves intelligence in some children, report says 06/14/2011, 12:00 a.m.

Reader Travel Photos »

Share your vacation photos and view images submitted by others. Above, a spring in Bali.
Get the World Newsletter
The latest in daily news developments from around the globe.
See a sample | Sign up

Luxury travel to Machu Picchu, Peru

Last year my aunt from South Africa turned 80 years old and when I asked her what she wished for her birthday, she said she'd like to see my children. I told her "your wish is granted": Come to Peru.

Six month ago, she sent me an email saying that she had made reservations with KLM and was preparing herself and my uncle, 90 years old, for a trip of their lifetime.

All I had to do was to make sure they'd never forget their trip to Peru, and so I did.

Luxury vacation to Machu Picchu
Stay at Inkaterra's hotels in Cusco and Machu Picchu Pueblo

Try out Inca Rail for the Cusco to Machu Picchu trip.

Thinking about visiting Machu Picchu? Contact the travel department,, where local knowledge meets world class service.
Besides visiting various nice and interesting places in Lima, I booked a luxury trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu, staying at Inka Terra La Casona and Inka Terra Machu Picchu and traveling with Inca Rail that only opened 18 month ago.

We left Lima at 10 a.m. and chose Peruvian Airlines, which not only is the newest national airline of Peru, but it also offers the same prices to both foreigners and residents of Peru. Check-in took less than 5 minutes and we walked straight to the gate and left 30 minutes later. Service inboard was excellent and the seats were comfortable.

AllTravelPeru is a comprehensive Peru travel guide promoted by Peru Gateway Travel, the leading travel company for traveling in South America, search for destinations by location, or use our travel tools to plan your vacation in Peru. Looking for things to do in Peru? Check out our travel guide, tourism information and attractions, find destination information on the latest events, attractions in Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu and beyond.
You may also easily be in touch with us calling our toll free phone or just opening a chat with our travel specialist, just click on the icon on the right border.
Happy surfing