Wild Peru

I WANT to thank you for the piece about Manu and Manu Nature Tours ["Just Wild About Peru," Aug. 21]. I went there twice, while director of the W. Alton Jones Foundation, and had magical experiences both times. Reading your story brought back those moments . . . the cloud forest lodge, the bicycle ride, and the wildly exuberant nature of the tropical lowlands.

I'm happy to learn that it has affected others as profoundly as it did me.

Pete Myers


A TRIP TO South America and Machu Picchu has been a thought for some time, and after reading Dana Priest's article, I may have to convince my wife that Manu may be the place to explore sooner than later. If Ms. Priest's children can deal with the trip, I hope that my wife would as well. I really enjoyed the article.

Sam Ketterman


I WAS SHOCKED to read intelligence reporter Dana Priest's article expounding the wonders of Manu Nature Tours' trip to the Manu Nature Reserve only one week after returning from the same trip with opposite results.

Manu Nature Tours' monopoly on travel within the park means it has to provide only minimal effort once your check clears. On our trip, all nine travelers emerged feeling cheated by Manu Nature Tours' promises and are now asking for refunds.

The "scenic drive" to get to Manu Cloud Forest Lodge was actually 12 hours careening on a truck on dirt roads with sparse bathroom stops and no sightseeing. We were promised an optional mountain bike ride, but the guide laughed when we asked about it. We were rushed out of the Manu Cloud Forest Lodge before sunrise to prepare for the 12-hour boat ride that actually lasted 15 hours, so Ms. Priest's waterfall did not exist for us. During the endless boat ride, even those with the best binoculars could see nothing because the drivers refused to slow down for any reason. All three of our guides that week were incompetent at spotting, or even attempting to spot, wildlife.

I have taken several trips to the rain forest, to other nature preserves and to other remote locations. I have never had such incompetent guides who were so clueless about how to recognize wildlife. I have never experienced a company where every question we asked about travel and logistics was answered with a lie. Your readers should know this side of the story before wasting their money.

Dara Alpert


Traveling Gnomes

THE TRAVELING gnome "myth" is a well-documented reality [Travel Myths 101, Aug. 21]. Neale Ferguson, a friend and colleague who today lives in Ashburn, helped steal his brother's neighbor's garden gnome (named Gnorman) back in 1990 when they were all living near Sydney.

Initially, Gnorman didn't actually travel; several hundred co-conspirators on the VMSHARE electronic bulletin board (now defunct, but archived at http://vm.marist.edu/{tilde}vmshare) instead mailed postcards signed by Gnorman to his owners, recounting his adventures around the globe. We posted the contents of the cards from Thanksgiving 1990 through Christmas 1991.

Somewhere in the middle, Neale brought Gnorman and his replacement (Gles, also stolen) to a computer conference, and the Gnorman World Tour became more than just a prank -- we started passing the gnomes around and sending photographs back to the owners. Fifteen years later, Gnorman is still a legend within that community.

Neale wrote the story up in 1998 and posted it on his Web site at http://vm.marist.edu/{tilde}neale/gnorman.html, complete with maps marked with Gnorman's "visits" (both real and imaginary).

Ross Patterson


I HAVE BEEN under the assumption that the traveling gnome idea came from the 2001 movie "Amelie." Travelocity's gnome ad campaign came out quite a while after the movie's release and great success.

The main character, played by Audrey Tautou, absconds with the garden gnome from her father's garden and sends it around the world with flight attendants who snap photos of the gnome around the world. She sends the photos to her father with travel logs "written" by the gnome, in an attempt to inspire her father to break out of his reclusive lifestyle and follow his dream of world travel.

Tracy Ustach

Haymarket, Va.

Ouray, Cont'd

AFTER LIVING 20 years in Montgomery County and now having moved to Ouray, Colo., it was a pleasure to read Ben Brazil's article. We wish we would have been able to meet him. Ouray truly is the "Switzerland of America." We want to thank Ben Brazil and The Washington Post for spreading the word about this part of Colorado.

Jill and Steven Scheu

Ouray, Colo.

Royal Excuses

JUST WANTED to add to the story about Royal Travel [Coming and Going, July 3]. A friend of mine experienced the same situation approximately three years ago. She and her sister paid Terry Hawkins a deposit of $125 each for a three-day trip to a casino. The trip was canceled and she is still waiting for a refund. My friend is elderly and he had her running all over town to meet him at places where he either didn't show or told her he would give her the money later.

At this point, she has probably wasted $125 worth of gas trying to get her money back.

Marie Dorsey


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