Turkeys

This refers to the "Turkeys" in the Nov. 25 Travel section. I got such a chuckle out of the story about the lady who was left on the train platform with the luggage when the train took off with her husband still aboard, that I was inspired to write. I am 66, have traveled to more than 150 countries and have often found that "bad" things that happen to you in traveling can sometimes be turned around or lead to unexpected experiences.

One friend had her luggage stolen as she was waiting to check in at Kennedy Airport. Rather than miss her flight, she got on the plane without the luggage. She bought what she needed as she went along and actually enjoyed the trip more, unencumbered by luggage.

One of the worst (or best) horror travel stories I've heard is of the American family traveling by Volkswagen through Spain. The two children were in the back seat of the car with Grandmother when she died. The parents decided to phone the American Embassy for advice, but first had to find a phone. The children became hysterical with Grandmother still in the back seat, and there was no room in the front of the Volkswagen for all four of them. So the father wrapped the grandmother in a blanket and put her in the luggage rack on top of the car. (In emergencies you do what you have to do.) They came to a filling station and all piled out of the car to make the phone call, leaving the keys in the car. They returned to find the car had been stolen, along with Grandmother and their luggage and passports. They never did find any of their possessions, although they did learn a lot about reporting missing persons in Spain. The police thought that perhaps the robber discovered the body, panicked and drove the car into the ocean.

I've learned a few things in my travels, some of which I've never seen printed anywhere:

Before you leave, type names and addresses of everyone to whom you wish to send a card on gummed labels. As you travel, anyone you don't have a label for has already been sent a card. You also lose weight as you go.

To create hidden spaces for tucking passports, money, etc., expand the existing pockets in your pants. Cut the bottoms off the existing pockets, buy or make larger pockets (variety stores are a good source), and sew them on to the existing pockets. Fasten the top with a safety pin.

Use a lightweight bicycle chain to lock your luggage to the bed in a hotel room or to an overhead rack on buses and trains.

Never eat in a place called "Mom's."

Wilfred "Mac" McCarty U.S. Soldiers & Airmans Home Washington In response to "Trouble in Tunisia" in the Nov. 25 Travel section:

One person's turkey is another's banquet. Where the writer of the story found polluted beaches, this swimmer found wonderful sand, gentle waves and great sunshine. Roman ruins at Dougga and Thuburbo Majus remained unspoiled as hundreds of non-air-conditioned Renaults had not found the way. The variety of fresh fish and the wonderful seasonal fruit made meals a delight.

The culture was unfamiliar yet comfortable and is one I will happily revisit.

Caroline E. Van Mason Washington Congratulations on the unique "Turkeys" Travel section of Nov. 25. I read every word, because such articles are both amusing and informative, and perhaps help us learn to avoid similar misfortunes.

As a retired editor, I commend you for giving Page 1 treatment to the Fearless Traveler column, "Turning Turkeys Into Triumphs," and hope the contributors to the section read it and realized that many of their misfortunes were self-inflicted.

My travel to more than 50 countries, islands and territories has proved that by conducting research and making reservations for special excursions through tourist boards, one can eliminate bad experiences with hucksters, who are part of the tourism scene in every country.

Having recently spent 10 days in Tunisia, I was amazed at the article "Trouble in Tunisia." The author, in sharp contrast to the Fearless Traveler's philosophy, seemed unable to rise above typical travel inconveniences to enjoy herself.

Everything in the article was negative, and it did not describe the Tunisia that I observed.

I was at the Tunis airport three times but never observed any livestock or vegetable carts in that heavy vehicular traffic.

And my excursion into the Sahara (with three other people and a driver in a Landrover) was just what I expected.

Our two days visiting three oases and sleeping one night under a Bedouin tent proved an excellent living experience.

I found the Tunisian people very friendly, and I felt welcome wherever my travels took me. Glenn T. Lashley Washington Maui Roads I read with interest the article in the Dec. 2 Travel section about travails in driving the northern shore of Maui. While the writer's description would lead the reader to believe that her survival on her trek was nothing short of a miracle, I found the road to be an inviting change from the superhighways of our area.

Last December, when we were in Maui and I still hadn't adjusted to the time change, I drove the north shore road alone early one morning. I awoke at 3 a.m. and could not fall back to sleep (my body told me it was 8 a.m.). I had heard that the sunrise on the north shore was quite spectacular, and that there was a blow hole near the point where the road ended. (The road did not actually end at that point; access was just forbidden to rental-car drivers beyond that point.) I was determined to get to this point of no return and watch the sun rise. When I arrived there at about 5 a.m., it was raining and foggy. Since I already knew the road behind me, I decided to push on. To my delight, the road was a real challenge -- every bit as described in your article. (The picture above is, I'm sure, of the cow the writer made reference to.)

I would strongly recommend taking this road to anyone who has the least bit of pioneer spirit. However, I suggest renting a vehicle with high road clearance. Some of the ruts in the unpaved sections can be quite difficult to negotiate.

But the landscape was so virgin, I found traveling the road almost a religious experience. I liked it so much, in fact, that a few days later, my wife, my son and I retraced my early morning adventure. We rewarded ourselves with dinner at Mama's Fish House, where there were no prices on the menu and the food was spectacular.

W. Thomas Curtis Rockville Hawaiian Food I'd like to clarify a couple of statements in the article "Pass the Poi, Hold the Haupia," in the Dec. 2 Travel section.

The part of the taro plant that is used to make poi is a corm, a type of underground stem rather than a root. Also, while there are fiber cells in the underground stem, the starch is found in the parenchyma storage cells. To be even more accurate about the process, poi comes from the corm, which is ground (or pounded), cooked and fermented. It must be thoroughly cooked because of the calcium oxalate crystals, which create an itch or stinging effect (maneo) if the corm is undercooked. The fermentation is by lactobacillus, which produces some lactic acid, not alcohol, and gives poi the sour taste. The more fermented it is, the sourer the taste -- and many kamaainas prefer one- or two-day-old poi.

I agree with the writer's recommendation of the Aloha Poi Bowl as the place to go in Honolulu for good Hawaiian food.

I have been teaching a class in Hawaiian ethnobotany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa since 1961. I'm also a member of the board of governors of the Hawaii State Society of Washington, D.C. Alvin Keali'i Chock Bethesda We welcome letters from readers; they should be sent to The Travel Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Letters must be signed and include the writer's home address and daytime telephone number, and may be edited for clarification and brevity.