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Monday, 31 October 2016

From Leh to Lamayuru, India

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Here in the valley of the Indus, the sharp peaks of the Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges pierce the sky like jagged swords. The Indus River flows through the high Ladakhi plateau swiftly, sculpting the greater Himalayan landscape. Fifty million years ago, the Indian plate surged across the Tethys Sea to collide with the stationary Eurasian plate. This dramatic impact resulted a colossal pileup as sediment from the bottom of the sea was thrown up to form Earth’s highest plateaus and mountain ranges. Today, the high desert landscape of Ladakh looks sepia toned in the unfiltered light of the mid morning sun. Mountains of limestone, red sandstone and shale dominate the horizon. We follow the Indus River from Leh to Lamayuru as it curves along the mountain ridges; the foamy white water rapids catching the sun now and then. Several Himalayan villages dot the water’s edge like welcome desert oases. The…
Sunday, 01 May 2016

Greenland: A Snow-white Pearl

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When traveling to Greenland, you are about to discover an invaluable Arctic pearl. No place on earth is similar to the world’s largest island. The landscape is stunning and the inhabitant’s culture is unique and heartwarming. People who find joy in exploring the world, should definitely have Greenland on their travel bucket list. Because of the enormous Greenland Ice Sheet, most of the country is covered by snow and ice. More precisely, the Greenland Ice Sheet takes up more than 80% of the total landmass. The glistening landscape is adorned with beautiful icebergs in every size you can imagine. The smallest are not bigger than a hut while others are the size of skyscrapers. The most fascinating thing about the majestic icebergs is the story each one of them tells. Nature’s development has left its mark on the enormous sculptures so you will not be able to find two similar…
When I told my friends that I was visiting Arizona in January, I was bombarded by responses of jealousy because I would be avoiding the cold winter of Massachusetts for ten days. I was expecting the same. Arizona’s state sign is an image of the sun beaming colors over a bright yellow backdrop. The very thought of Arizona evokes thoughts of sunshine and desert, blue skies and cacti. There is, however, another side of Arizona that can be seen in rare moments in the little known mountains of The Grand Canyon State. My father spent years researching southern parts of the United States where he could spend his winters away from the blizzards of the North East. Not being one for the boring terrain and triteness of Florida, he headed west in search of a more rugged experience, while still enjoying sunshine even in January. Boasting of having the best…
We had the chance to make it to Parque Nacional Conguillio in Chile´s 9th region (Araucania). Conguillio is east of Temuco, situated around Llaima Volcano. This national park has over 15,000 acres and is a UNESCO Biosphere Araucarias Reserve. From Conguillio you have an amazing view of the Llaima volcano (10250 feet above sea level) and access to Lake Conguillio, the Truful River, and Laguna Verde — all of which have good fishing. There are also the Captrén and Arcoiris Lagoons and the Las Araucarias and Las Vertientes paths and the Sierra Nevada. Wonderful flora and fauna abound in all directions. Conguillio features some of the most incredible hiking we've found anywhere in South America. With the crunch of lava rock under foot, smoke on the waters, and ancient sounds in the air, this is the kind of place that will make you lose your context immediately, wondering where you…
Sunderbans: Worth a brisk visit for the sake of a Spectacular Starlit Sky, if not for the Royal Bengal Tiger And why do I say that? Because, contrary to Census reports of about 400 tigers inhabiting the region, in reality these tigers are a rare view (in fact almost nil) in this vast landscape of salty water and mangrove forests. Often, tourist guides can be heard saying that if anyone has ever been successful in spotting a tiger in Sunderbans they are the white skinned tourists (or the Non Indian tourists). This happens primarily for two reasons. Firstly, the population density of tigers is quite low in this vast expanse of estuarine forests and saline mud flats spread across numerous tiny islands. However, in terms of absolute numbers, this region has the highest population of tigers compared to any other natural reserve in the country. Sunderbans cover an area of…
Saturday, 27 December 2014

Traffic Jams on a Sri Lankan Safari

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We tourists are steered sleepy eyed towards our jeep and climb the ladder to the high seats like it’s a bunk bed. The engine starts as alarm bells still ring in our heads, and the truck pulls out into haphazard streets. Shops strewn with advertisements peter out to tracks crusted with red mud, and we watch dawn reflected pink in flooded paddy fields. Dusty roads lead to more dust until our jeep suddenly stops at a watering hole, where a wild boar and a buffalo have congregated. The boar takes off on its hairy trotters before long, but the buffalo doesn’t move a muscle. He looks at us, and we look at him. The guide says “dangerous”. We retreat. We haven’t reached the park yet, so we keep driving, until the land opens up into a savannah. From here on we aren’t alone – 20 other jeeps meet us at…
He jumps - careless of the winter’s water temperature - into the still, untouched surface of the waterfall’s rock pool like it’s something he’s done countless times before. John Carter’s pile of clothes is dumped in a heap next to the water’s edge. There is no towel, the water is icy cold and the 5 o’clock shadows are starting to cover the rock pool. But this hasn’t stopped him from trading the Gold Coast hustle and bustle for the tranquility of Purling Brook Falls. Perhaps it is the calmness confined within the tall trees and natural rock faces that best encapsulates this remote spot. Purling Brook Falls is about a half hour drive inland from Mudgeeraba on Regency Place. “I try to finish work early and come here at the end of the week to wash off the office cobwebs,” says Mr Carter, standing with water dripping from his solid…
Monday, 01 September 2014

Plaza Blanca, New Mexico

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“Anyone who doesn't feel the crosses simply doesn't get that country.” - Georgia O’Keefe My phone scuttled like a beetle across the dash of the Subaru. Expected in Santa Fe hours ago, we don’t know where we ‘re headed. Our mood was worn out but content. We had just completed a southwest loop through Chaco Canyon, Canyon de Chelly , and Mesa Verde. In Chaco, we saw remnants of macaw bones that suggested trading from lands as far as Peru. In Canyon de Chelly, a Navajo guide drew four sacred peaks in the rich valley mud to show the boundaries of “his” people. And the drought in Mesa Verde allowed us to walk right up to cliff dwellings usually blocked by four feet of snow. The memories were as pungent and satisfying as the desert sage that stained my boots. But a tip from a hotel clerk outside Chinle had…
Monday, 30 June 2014

Going with the Lava Flow

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Navigating the treacheries and discovering new land at one of Earth’s fieriest national parks A towering plume of sulfur-smelling smoke explodes from the crater of this desert landscape reminiscent of the aftermath of an atomic bomb. Pictures of the A bomb detonated in barren Alamogordo come to mind. A tepid breeze blows the sweet scent of jasmine and pushes the sinewy smoke over the devastated plateau that tumbles down into an abyss worthy of Mordor. However, this isn’t 1945 New Mexico or fictitious Middle Earth, and this destructive, smoke-filled scene is not the cause of man or Mt. Doom. This is Hawai’i, and this smoke is belching forth from one of the most active volcanoes in the world, one in which the visitor can get up close and personal. Free-flowing lava, steam vents, and lava benches that can collapse at any moment comprise Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, located 30 miles…
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Kawah Ijen: The Capricious Crater

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I’m in the bowels of one of Indonesia’s active and most notorious volcanoes, deep inside its crater, more than 8,500 feet above sea level, crouching, fetal position employed. It’s my only defense against the suffocating sulphuric cloud that has shifted direction and now saturates the air. Even though the skies are crystal clear and the Milky Way is spell-bindingly resplendent above, visibility is down to an inch. For how long, who knows? The toxic smoke encases me. The acid sears my eyes, grates my throat and burns my lungs. Surgical mask and scarf combination guarding my airways: futile. Distant muffled coughs permeate the fog. I dare not attempt another breath. I’m utterly at the mercy of Kawah Ijen and all I can think about is Sherlock Holmes. More specifically, my thoughts are of his creator. I’m thinking what if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had personally witnessed Ijen late in the…

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