Hydra by night. A perfect long weekend getaway. In mid-September, the heat backs off and the water is still warm. A long trek or two gives good coverage of the island. Food is excellent, especially if fish and seafood are your thing and you don't mind feta, local cheeses, and Greek wine. Throw in an afternoon boat ride along the southwestern shore, a few dips in the Gulf of Hydra, some late afternoon strolls and a lie-in or two and you'll have the makings for a perfect shoulder/mid-season break.
Holy Trinity Russian Orthodox Cathedral, one of the main landmarks of Karakol, Kyrgyzstan. The city stands as a crossroads of culture and history -- from its beginnings as Russian garrison outpost to the intersection of Turkestan, Central Asia and even Dungan culture of western China. This diversity spills into the town markets, its cuisine and daily life. More on Karakol up on the blog (link in profile).
Catch the morning train! From our Colombo bound train, from the hill town of Ella, via Kandy. School kids pull over to allow our train to pass before heading back into the tracks. We did our share of track-walking, too. Sri Lankan trains (as trains in general), are arguably the finest way to move about and visually absorb the country. Cheap, too...you can travel across the country for a couple of dollars, and just down the line for as little as 6 cents!
Inside the rock fortress and ancient city of Sigiriya, a 5th century bit of urban planning in central Sri Lanka. Also called Lion Rock for its gateway in the form of a gigantic lion (only the huge paws remain.) Lions feature prominently in Sri Lankan myths and creation stories even though they last roamed the place about 39,000 years ago.
Tea garden walk to Lipton's Seat. Everywhere tea bushes. And on this day, mist that combines just so with the aroma of ripe tea drawn from sun-baked top leaves in the early morning. We mainly took the road from the town of Dambatenne (and its tea factory), for the beauty and interaction with local people. Later, we ducked into the short-cuts through the gardens on the return. #SriLanka
Reservoir dawn. All sorts of early morning light play. Taken on the edge of Maskeliya Lake, Central Sri Lanka. A crucial tuk-tuk stop en route from Adam's Peak (Delhousie) and Maskeliya. In these woods run everything from barking deer (yes, that's what they're called), mongoose and families of wild boar -- all of which we encountered on our 2AM ride out to climb the peak.
Pilgrims and prayer flags, the sunrise descent from Adam's Peak (Sri Padaya), Sri Lanka. You set off at 2AM for a 3-hour walk up the steep path and staircase, encountering chanting pilgrims in both directions. The idea for most visitors: to arrive at the summit temple for sunrise. Although the sunrise was remarkable, the beauty of the shifting view over lakes and cloud banks in the early morning light of the descent is what we'll never forget.
Every evening, I close the light and bend it just so.
In a retreat of my own in southern Sri Lanka, my evening ritual included parking myself at the confluence of breaks, a strip of sand carved by the day's waves. Sunsets like snowflakes, no two evening's images were ever the same.
Southern Sri Lanka, home base for the last several days. The plan: beach hopping around the town of Tangalle. Instead, I hopped between my bungalow and this sprawling, secluded wonder. One the more beautiful beaches I've experienced. Rest and decompression: good for body and mind.
Happy 2017 from Wrocław, Poland! As fireworks and light shows turn the sky electric, it occurs to me that we humans have the power to transform the real to surreal. May we use our energy in this next year to the better. All our best to you and yours in the coming year!
Old Town Hall -- Wrocław Market Square. A slice of late Gothic in southwestern Poland. As Christmas and Hanukkah wind down, the city gears up for the new year. Remarkable to consider that it has been part of not only Poland, but Germany, Bohemia (Czech), Austria, Hungary and Prussia over the years. You can see and feel the influence in life, language and architecture.
This year's winner of the "pull out the map and find someplace interesting and close" destination to escape the new year firework brigade in Berlin: Wrocław, Poland. Where the skies are crisp, and the pierogies ample. Today's lunch: traditional Ruskie and kapusta (cabbage) and mushroom pierogies. On tap (besides Polish and Czech beer -- yes, there's a Bernard tap room): old town strolling, spa and massage chilling, 2017 tackling.
Audrey takes a break on our hill scramble around the restorative holy springs at Manjyly, Kyrgyzstan. We are surrounded by mountains, as one is, on the Southern Shore of Lake Issyk-kul. Although this time we are here for some community development work, we mark a return to one of the most memorable spots from our early days of travel and to a visit we made here in August-September 2007. Hard to believe. This time, the mountains are even more spectacular with snow.
"Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time...that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” — Hermann Hesse
Nature is a lens through which to interpret our world and ourselves. Taken on the descent from Jyrgalan to Karakol in the Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan.
"Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” - E.O. Wilson
No less true is this observation than where I took this photo, at what I call “The Summit of the Lakes” on the new trekking route carved out above the town of Jyrgalan, along the southeastern shores of Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan.
A landscape like this widens my eyes with its expansiveness, then draws and demands my attention to its finest details and dimensions -- as long as I allow it the time to do so.
Yurt encounter, Kyrgyzstan — spanning the generations. Grandmother and grandchild from the Chuy region of Kyrgyzstan.
Show curiosity and you will be rewarded. This holds true in most of our travels, but especially in Kyrgyzstan where people are often just as curious about you as you are about them. Ask a question and next thing you know, you’re hanging out in a yurt with a grandma, the local elders, and their grandchildren.
We experienced this in our interactions with Kyrgyz visitors of the World Nomad Games, as well as the participants. People were having fun, living life, and they wanted to share. To say of Kyrgyz culture that it’s “welcoming” is sort of an understatement. Kyrgyz people might not even refer to themselves as welcoming, rather “This is just who we are.” More on our interactions at the World Nomad Games in the latest post on our blog (link in profile).
The World Nomad Games 2016, Kyrgyzstan: Game of Thrones, Genghis Khan, The Olympics and Burning Man all rolled into one. Goat carcass polo, wrestling on horseback, hunting with eagles (one of the competitors, pictured here), stick wrestling, and even the “intellectual sport” of sheep knuckle toss. If that’s not enough, men ablaze on horseback and an appearance by guest of honor Steven Seagal.
If I didn’t see it for myself, I would not have believed it. How it all went down is the latest post on our blog (link in profile).
As I attend the World Nomad Games, I notice the importance of horses to so many facets of everyday life in this part of the world, and to the Kyrgyz culture. You can even flag down a horse taxi to take you across the vast jailoo (pasture), from one game or exhibition to the next. They are often driven by local men wearing a kalpak, the traditional felt hats that are ubiquitous in Kyrgyzstan.
Late afternoon light at Kyrchyn Jailoo, the place where shepherds take their animals to graze at altitude in the summer months above Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan. This image is from a sort of open-air festival celebrating nomadic and Kyrgyz culture at the World Nomad Games. Of all the beautiful yurts I saw today (there are 300+ from across the region) this one is my favorite from the outside. Although they may appear small at a distance, yurts are surprisingly large once you go inside.
Trekking, Kyrgyzstan style. Azamat, one of our Kyrgyz horsemen, pulls up at an 11,400 feet (3,475 meters) pass, looking south across the Teskey Ala-Too subrange of the Tian Shan Mountains. Our guide, Sascha, points us to the second and final pass we’ll cross that day.
Over the course of three days, we hiked 55+ kilometers (34+ miles) over three mountain passes and across a string of high alpine lakes. We were grateful for Azamat and his crew to carry tents and food as we focused our attention on the trek, the atmosphere, and broad landscapes like these. Taken on the Jergalan (Jyrgalan) Valley Hike from the town of Jergalan en route to Karakol on the southeastern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan.
Jyrgalan Valley trek, Kyrgyzstan. Taken Day 2 on the approach to the second of two mountain passes (in the Tungey Ala-Too range) we crossed that day. This is Kyrgyzstan, a country 93% of whose landmass is mountainous.
As we head into the mountains above the town of Jyrgalan, I'm reminded of a visit to nearby Karakol from our previous trip to Kyrgyzstan. This is a photo from the epic Sunday animal market...and reminds us of the epic characters you meet in Kyrgyzstan.
Today, we fly. We're excited to return to one of our favorite destinations: Kyrgyzstan. Years ago we spent close to two months there while making our way through Central Asia. This time, we look forward to trekking a new area in the Tian Shan Mountains...and to attending the World Nomad Games. <-- more on that event in a week!
The Berlin Wall stands now only in memories and fragments -- including this portion, one might call The Dictator Series. Last weekend, we cycled the entirety of the wall's path, 100 miles. I was struck not only by the metaphor of division (something apparently humanity still struggles with today), but also the idea of tipping or inflection points. Have you ever found yourself caught up in something, only to look back and wonder how it all happened? #Germany#streetart
Have you ever had a Pale Blue Dot moment? I talk about that and more in our latest piece about our recent visit to Chobe, Botswana now up on the blog (link in profile). In this image, what you see is what you get. Yes, that’s the moon above the top branch left side of the tree. Because of the seasonal variability of water levels on the Chobe River and surrounding woodland savannah, dead trees are a fixture. And to my mind, they offer the perfect sunset composition to ponder life on planet Earth.
Botswana: First Impressions now up on the blog (link in profile). In this image: Dust! Late afternoon game drives at Camp Leroo La Tau served up astonishing beauty of all sorts, including dazzling shades of light and dust silhouettes as elephants and a herd of zebra, spooked by a jackal, take off en masse down the Boteti River. Taken in the Mkgadikgadi Pans National Park.