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Tours & Cruises

An In-Depth Look at Mother Lode Country


On Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4, the tour company California Native will lead a three-day spelunking excursion. Leaving Los Angeles on the morning of Sept. 2, the group will travel north into California's Mother Lode country. Two nights are spent in the town of Angels Camp. Underlying this area of rolling hills where the California Gold Rush took place are layers of limestone. Over thousands of years, water flowing beneath the earth carved caverns through the limestone beds and surrounding rock.

The group will break into small teams, put on coveralls, hard hats and lights and enter the California Caverns. Members will spend the day crawling through passages, exploring crystalline chambers, crossing underground lakes. After returning to the surface, participants can soak in a hot tub, an activity followed by plenty of pizza and beer. The following day, the group will explore in a different kind of cave--a vertical cavern whose main chamber is so tall that it could hold the Statue of Liberty. Bones of ancient peoples discovered here are believed to be 13,000 years old. Using state of the art equipment, the spelunkers will enter the cavern through a hole leading down through the ceiling of the main chamber, and rappel down almost 200 feet. After removing gear, members spend several hours exploring the caves' many narrow passages and crawlways.

Cost: $330 per person, double occupancy, including motor-coach transportation from Los Angeles, hotel and caving equipment. Not included: meals. Contact: California Native, 6701 W. 87th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90045; telephone (800) 926-1140.

Staging London

Celebrate the New Year with Critic's Choice, International, in London on a theater tour Dec. 27-Jan. 6. Guests will spend nine nights at the Park Lane Hotel in London's charming Mayfair district, across from Green Park and a short walk to Harrods and Oxford Street. Activities include seven choice seats (stalls or dress circle) to a variety of London theater events (dramas, comedies, Shakespeare, musicals), a New Year's party on a River Thames cruiser, a half-day tour of London, a visit to an art gallery or museum and an excursion to the countryside. Guests also will meet and talk with drama critic Ed Kaufman, professor emeritus at USC's School of Cinema/TV/Drama.

Cost: $3,799 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare on American Airlines, theater tickets, some meals, full English breakfast daily, hotel accommodations, transportation to all events via motor coach, entrance fees, porterage and gratuities. Contact: Nancy Bland at Montrose Travel, 2343 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA 91020; tel. (213) 245-3158, fax (818) 248-5460.

Beyond the Canal

Meet the real Panama on a 15-day adventure trip Dec. 17, during which participants meet three different groups of indigenous peoples. The first will be the Choco-Embera in the rain forests of the Darien. Participants will stay four days with the Kuna of the San Blas islands, and then visit the Guaymi in the Bocas del Toro, which is an easy trek through the cloud forest of Baru Volcano. Members will see the Resplendent Quetzal bird, and go snorkeling in a marine park in the Caribbean. The guide, Hernan Arauz, is a naturalist from Panama.

Cost: $1,850 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, three meals a day and ground transportation. Not included: air fare to Panama. Contact: Peruvian Adventures, 444 Redlands Ave., Claremont, CA 91711; tel. (909) 626-2905.

Biking Vermont

See Vermont's fall foliage on an inn-to-inn tour via bicycle, riding along routes selected to avoid the leaf peepers that tour Vermont by car. Two- to six-day trips can be arranged through Oct. 27. Two tour leaders will guide cyclists, but participants can ride as slow or as fast as they wish.

Cost: A three-day trip is $315 per person and a five-day tour is $765 per person, including lodging in country inns, all dinners and breakfasts, full van support, daily maps and detailed directions to points of interest. Rental bikes are available for $35 for a three-day trip and $85 for five days. Contact: Bike Vermont, P.O. Box 207, Woodstock, VT 05091; tel. (800) 257-2226.

Mexican History

The San Diego Museum of Man is offering a tour to Mexico Nov. 4-18 to experience prehistoric, colonial and modern cultures in the Mexican heartland. Three different areas surrounding the central highlands will be explored. Sites in the first area include El Tajin, Cholula and the recently opened archeological area of Mexico, Cantona. The second area will feature the Valley of Oaxaca. Visits with artisans in small villages, where woodcarvers, weavers and pottery makers create distinctive and individual designs, have been specially arranged.

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