Archive for hiking

Images on the Road ’16-’17

Practicing Tai Chi – Beside the Forbidden City, Beijing

I’ve been on the road for over a year; Spain, Italy, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Nepal, India, soon to be Ethiopia (flying visit), Lebanon….. I enjoy taking photographs and I challenged myself to pick a few of my favourite images to show you. I came up with these.  All taken on my Mum’s old phone.

Girls dressed up for a festival – Kathmandu

The Togean Ocean – Sulawesi, Indonesia

Annapurna 1 – Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

Graffiti – Valora, Albania

One of a Billion Diety – Kathmandu, Nepal

Have a coconut – Pondicherry, India

Green Canopy – Somewhere in Indonesia

Shepherd Family – The Accursed Mountains, Between Albania and Kosovo

Flower Shower – Tiger Leaping Gorge, China

Chai Stop – Mcleod Ganj, India

Books by the Fire – Pokhara, Nepal

Snack Time – Kolkatta, India

Guru Bar – Anjuna, Goa

Incense Offerings – Henan, China

Streetside Art – Lecce, Italy

Mountain Donkeys – Annapurna, Nepal

Little Monks – Kopan Monastery, Nepal

Old Men Gambling – Guangxhi Province, China

Concrete Nightmare – Guangzhou, China

Baba – Kathmandu, Nepal

Home grown Chilli – Longchi Rice Terraces, China

La Azhoia Sunset – Murcia, Spain

Longchi Rice Terraces, China

Meditation – Kopan Monastery, Nepal (Taken by Jase Web)

Monkey Minds – Bins, Mcleod Ganj

Sewing Machine – Kathmandu

Riding Effortlessly on the Great Wall – China

 

 

Advertisements

Comments (6) »

Beautiful Snowdonia – Mountain Photos

Snowdonia from the Isle of Anglesey, St Bodwyns Grave.

Here are some recent pictures of Snowdonia,

just after the Easter snows this April.

Obelisk above Nantlle Valley.

Snowdonia over a 7th century stone circle, Nantlle Valley

Sunsets over the Snowdon Horseshoe.

The Nantlle Valley, the gateway to Snowdon.

The hills of Llyn Peninsula

First blossom on the trees, winter is finally leaving.

Happy Wanderer

Peace, Love and Light from WalesXXXXXXXXXXXX

Comments (19) »

2012 – the Mayan Calendar and the Flor De Maize School

A Mayan Calendar

Happy 2012XXXXXXXXXXXX

Whats it all about then?  I hear the world is ending?  What is happening to the Mayan people today?  Where did they all go?

2012 is here, the hysteria grows and the end is nigh! Sounds like the perfect time for a new beginning.  Are we about to start over?

I am fortunate to have visited Guatemala and Southern Mexico in 2005, the highlight being the ancient Mayan cities and the incredible Mayan culture.  This experience has given me a truer perspective on the ‘end’ of the Mayan Calendar.  This ‘worlds end’.

There are too few Mayan voices, online and in books, that talk of their own culture and its calendar.  Here is a youtube clip of a Mayan elder passing on the true message of our ancestors:

So nothing changes on 21st December 2012 that is not changing now.  5125 years end and another begins.  We are in a constant state of transformation, every moment an awesome shift.  The words of our Mayan ancestor are these:

‘Let the morning come, let the dawn come, do not be afraid, spread this message around the world.’

The 13th b’ak’tun of the Mayan long count calendar is ending, that is what we believe.  One of the first westerners to study this was the brilliantly named Maud Worcester Makemson, who wrote  “the completion of a Great Period of 13 b’ak’tuns would have been of the utmost significance to the Maya”.  Without mentioning an end to this reality.

It seems this concept arose later, a chap named Micheal D. Coe wrote “there is a suggestion … that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th [b’ak’tun]. Thus … our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012]when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”  Armageddon (something to do with Gog and Magog as I remember!) and annihilation, it seems that Micheal D. Coe had a touch of the Dan Browns.   

Fear is the primary agenda of many of the 2012 ‘experts’ and ‘pseudo scientists’.  They have an alien mind-set to that of the ancient Mayans.  The attempt to fathom the Mayans connection to the universe and earth through the eyes of a modern mind will always fail.  We are too deeply affected by our societies consciousness, which is surely light years away from that of the ancient Mayans, the Egyptians, Hindus etc, etc.  We can only dream such things.

In front of the pyramid of the great jaguar, Tikal, Guatemala

We are left to marvel at their genius when looking at the ruins of their great cities, temples and pyramid sites, now being reclaimed by the jungles.  Many of these sites are still not excavated, covered in roots.  How many are left undiscovered?  How much do we still have to learn?  Surely it’s not about deducing, it is way beyond our system of reasoning.  These ‘secrets’ cannot be found by digging in the ground, but will be unearthed within ourselves.

The Mayans were not using the sciences as we know them, these institutions had not been formed.  The universe was their realm and the mind their laboratory.  The results are there to be seen, one of histories greatest civilizations with complex social structures, huge cities and deep understanding of the universe, nature and the human mind.

2012 has become a commodity, propagating hysteria and money.  Have you seen the movie?  Neither have I, but I get the picture.  2012 has been used as a marketing tool for individuals egos.  The actual date has never been agreed upon, interestingly on stele in Coba the date is 13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.0.0.0.0, that’s either 41 octillion years (these are real number) years in the future, or maybe, in the past.  That makes it 3 quintillion (one followed by 30 zeros) times older than the age of our universe according to cosmologists.  That day is floating around within that window of time.  When?  Difficult to be sure.

The shamans that I spoke to in Guatemala had a clear message of peace and global togetherness; a hope to raise our collective consciousness and a return to a higher state of being.  The state of being experienced by the ancient Mayans.  No mention of an end; only a new beginning, the cycle continues.  In fact, it seemed that the Mayan people who are not looking for short-term financial gain by aligning themselves with this ‘phenomenon’ are using the increased awareness of their culture as a platform to spread a the message of unity with humanity.  Replacing a sense of fear with a message of universal love.

Depiction of Mayan God 'Quetzalcoatl'

I think some tend to forget that the Mayan people and culture is still alive today.  The great era, the epoch of the ancient civilization is long gone and the Mayan people have suffered greatly ever since.

The epoch was really over when the handful of Spanish (and Portuguese) Conquistadors arrived and decimated and pillaged the entire continent (that’s Central and South America).  Their work has been continued admirably by the Catholic Church and the greed of man, with a lot of help from the U.S.A.  Amazingly, against incredible odds, the culture lives on.  Mainly in Guatemala, which is over 90% indigenous Mayan.  There are over 6 million Mayans, making them the largest indigenous group in Latin America with roots stretching back over 2000 years.

There are sixty different dialects being spoken, traditional dress is worn and ancient traditions practiced.  This, like in most areas of our increasingly homogenized world, is under threat.  The neon, modern world is encroaching and many young Mayans are disillusioned with their heritage and lack of material opportunity.  They are enticed by the flashing lights of the capitalist dream, many selling their ancestral lands to rich Mestizo and U.S. land owners to squander their inheritance on motorbikes and modern clothes.

Colourful dress of indigenous women

Some Mayan villages I stayed in still had a matriarchal ruling structure.  The Mayan women are incredibly resilient and are holding the communities together.  It seems again, like most places in the world, the men generally lack intuitive wisdom, are racked with greed and are easily led and manipulated.

There are high rates of alcoholism and domestic violence.  All over Guatemala, I witnessed mothers and daughters helping their staggering men back home.  If money came into a family, it soon disappeared in a drunken binge.  The life of an indigenous man is tough, the plight of an indigenous women is tougher.

The Guatemalan government, with U.S. support, has committed acts of genocide against the Mayan people for over a 100 years.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemalan_Civil_War, but this is only a small reflection of the atrocities that the Mayan people s have had to face.  I have never been to a country where hope has been so close to fading out (I did visit in 2005, just after the tragic hurricane that claimed hundreds of lives, this will have had a huge effect on my experience).

This general air of hopelessness is only heightened by poor inter-tribal relations and a terrible history of violent crime within communities.  Without a common language, many elders do not speak Spanish, a cohesive civil movement has been impossible.  This leaves a tiny minority of mestizo (normally of Spanish decadence) to rule and oppress the masses.

Then, some light, I met Javier and Jose in the village of San Pedro on Lago Atitlan (“the most beautiful lake in the world” Aldous Huxley).  Two Tzu’tujil (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tz%27utujil_people) brothers who were running a small Spanish language school named Flor de Maize.

They are not only great language teachers but are real activists for social, political and ecological change.  They are offering hope for the new generation of Mayan children in the area.

Here is the website: http://fdmspanishschool.org/main/?page_id=14

Javier and Jose are incredible, a true inspiration.  Taking on the dangerous and corrupt Guatemalan system requires huge amounts of dedication, bravery and strength.  Their methods are diverse social projects.  Organic gardening helps to set examples for and educate local farmers on traditional practices. moving them away from slash and burn practices that leave the land infertile and people hungry.   Reforestation, replacing logged trees and educating people about local ecology.  They also arrange for greater exposure of the Tzu’tujil culture via homestays and special events.

With friends and Javier (in red) above Lake Atitlan 2005 (that is the bald version of me with the crew cut and green vest)

Javier and Jose have also started projects to raise money for the schooling of local children.  They help the children daily with their homework and provide all uniforms and resources needed.  School fees are also taken care of.  There have been many success stories, I regularly receive photos of children holding certificates alongside proud parents.  Without this level of secondary education in Guatemala, you have little chance of escaping the hard life of a poor subsidence farmer.  Basic education is very poor and does not teach the children of their own dialect or culture.  As usual in San Pedro, this is where Javier and Jose step in.

Flor de Maize receives no grants from the government and it relies on tourists to enrol for Spanish language classes, or to get involved with one of their social projects.  They run hiking and camping trips up volcanos (http://www.trekforkids.org) or prepare family dinners (with the lovely organic veg) open to all comers in their home.

Javier and Jose's family

I have fond memories of the guys at Flor de Maize.  Demis taught me Spanish under a tree near the lake (he tried his best anyway!) and Jose and Javier invited me each week to their family home for dinner.  Javier took the students for an overnight camping trip to a peak overlooking a row of simmering volcanoes (there is a fault line running straight up the country).  The sunset and sunrise up there will always colour my mind.

I lived with the local mayor, Joseph and his family in the village. It was a special experience.  They treat me like a long-lost son.  The family spoke mainly Tzu’tujil, but we muddled by with my broken Spanish.  We ate black beans and gorditas (small fat maize tortillas) which Josephs wife Rose and I hand rolled and toasted every morning in a lean-to.  Their son was a moody teenager, who listened to a lot of Eminem at full volume.  The family was completed by old granddad, who shuffled around the place chuckling and a blind cocker spaniel who wanted my blood.

The only English Rose spoke, always followed by a huge guffaw, was ‘Hello Lee Majors, the bionic man!’  This was her regular greeting for me, I was known around the streets as the bionic man.  I still have no idea where Rose got this from.  I can remember her in a traditional, brightly coloured dress, four feet tall, laughing her heart out at this.  I didn’t mind, I have been called worse.

It seemed that no matter what happened, Javier and Jose would manifest their dream of a brighter future.  Their regular emails show to me that things have certainly developing, a new premise has been moved into and the comments from students remain as positive as ever.

Flor de Maize is always struggling for funding and you will find opportunities for  donating on the websites.  A few pounds go along way in Guatemala and it will always benefit the children.

I am approaching 2012 with an open heart, mind and soul.  Wishing for an end to all suffering throughout the world and a greater understanding of each other; our planet and the universe, following the example of my Mayan friends and the words of our ancestors, “Let the morning come… do not be afraid.”

The first few minutes of this video are quite Hollywood, but I thought the Quiche shaman, Wandering Wolf’s, words are a fitting way to end:

To learn more of the 2012 phenomenon look here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon

Comments (2) »

Lost in Spiti Valley, Himalayan Images, Tabo 23rd June 2010

Once upon a time in Spiti Valley, Falco and I went for a walk and almost lost ourselves along the way…. 

Leap!

Off piste

Falco by name....

Scramblin’ Man

Falco, cheers for the pics.

Leave a comment »

The Source of the Ganges 23/5/10, Trek from Gangotri to Gaumukh, Uttaranchal

I opened my eyes at 5, seeing only blackness and my breath.  I realised it was bitterly cold, but not where I was.  This can be a regular occurrence when you wander much with a sleepy mind and dodgy belly.

I gathered my senses and my belongings, I had a brisk ice cold water bucket bath.  I was in lovely little Gangotri, the end of the road in Northern Uttaranchal (Tibetan border a hop, skip and a jump away). There was a route to Tibet through the mountains, but the Indo-China war closed it down.  There is nothing north of here, except the source of the Ganges, snow capped mountain ranges and some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever witnessed.

Gaumukh is a very holy place for Hindhus, some say the holiest in all of India.  Many Sadhus (Hindu Ascetics) live in caves up in the mountains, year-round.  They chose a life of non-attachement and meditation, in complete peace and serenity, focusing on attaining Moksha (enlightenment whilst living).  Many are said to be 100’s of years old and have attained super-human powers (Siddhis) through mastering yogic forces.   India is a truly a land of magic and mystery.

Gangotri is one of the famous pilgrim routes in Uttaranchal, many Sadhus take the 15 day walk up here, some take jeeps.  There is a temple to Goddess Ganga here that only opens at certain times of the year, depending on the stars and moon.  It had just opened a couple of days previously, so the place was heaving with pilgrims.  I seem to be following crowds of pilgrims around, I must enjoy general chaos and traffic jams.

It took 5 days from Rishikesh to get here.  As I mentioned, it was busy, the narrow mountain roads struggled to contain the crush of jeep and bus.  I stopped in an ugly town called Uttarkashi for a night’s rest that turned into three days in bed (well mainly sat on the toilet) with the most horrific case of the shits.  Unfortunately one of these days was my birthday, 32 (good age), which I celebrated with a super noodle, my only companions a small family of cockroaches that lived in the bathroom.  I had a wee TV and watched the USA Female College Gymnastic Championships 2010 intently.  Arkansaw dominated.  I think it was a case of giardia and I carried it with me proudly up the mountain.  It regularly took the edge off the scenery.

I strode down the one street in the one donkey town.  The freezing damp mist was swirling around the small huts and the huddled Sadhus,  wrapped in sheets and sitting in rows with alms bowls at their shoeless feet.  I wondered how they made it through such a night, such an austere life.  I could smell wood smoke, the chai was on and hopefully a piece of nutella toast too.

As I walked out of the village and towards the national park, I could see them in the distance, towering over the horizon.  Icey, majestic, demanding awe and wonder.   These things were beasts, real mountains, Badrinath was the tallest at +6000m.  I began to question the sanity of any person who decides it’s a good idea to climb one of these things.  They look like a place were humans should not be.  We are not welcome up there.  If there is a God, he lives on one of these, with the mountain goats.

The Ganga flowed, beige and disturbed, on my right.  Regular rapids added an acoustic to the already naturally stunning environment.  I would follow her up the valley, heading straight for the mountain range.  The walk was around 16 kilometres over an undulating trail.  My first walk of the trip and I was eager to get on.

I reached the entrance hut at the national park just as the sunrays began to pour through the pine trees.  A kind man counted my bananas and biscuits, naturally I was a little confused, but they have tightened up on the littering policy and every piece of potential rubbish must be accounted for.  I felt heartened by this and its working, not much litter at all on the trial.  Hoorah.

I strode off into the forest, the smell of pine and crisp air spurring my on like high-octane fuel.  I was off like a shot, soon to be overtaken by four men carrying a little bundle of a lady in a make shift chair/throne vehicle.  They were followed closely by two porters carrying oil drums and large metal boxes on their heads.  I took a rest, I was knackered and not yet used to the altitude.  I was at around 4000m and my lungs were wondering were all the air had gone.

‘Dire, dire’…..  Slowly, slowly….  I made my way along the winding trail, over mountains streams and landslides.  Regularly surrounded by a 360 degree panorama of snow capped peaks, swirling and shimmering in the sunlight.  I regularly stopped and looked in awe with my mouth open.  Aghast at what the wonderful world has to offer.  Mountains goats hopped over the trail and blocked the way.  I felt it unwise to mess with wild animals when, to my right, I was faced with a steep drop into nothingness.  I let my heavily horned friends dictate the pace for a while and wondered if their hooves were made of rubber (their grip and balance is awesome).

I met many pilgrims on the trail, most older and wearing what looked like Marks and Spencers slippers.  I was inspired by people like Mr R.P. Sharma, 75 years young, making his way up the trail with a chirpy attitude and smile.  For many pilgrims it’s a once in a lifetime experience and I felt blessed to be able to wander with them and try to understand the magnitude and piety of the whole journey.

I made good time to the base camp/ ashram.  Ran by a kindly Swami and a man who wore a leather biker jacket and mirrored shades throughout my stay, he looked like an Indian ‘Fonze’ and served up some great Thalis (rice and daal).  Served on the floor with the other pilgrims.  I met a nice Israeli couple, Ben and Tamara and we shared what was a small stable of a room.  We slept on the smelly floor and were regularly woken by small rodents, I thought they were gerbils.  Rather cute.  I woke in the night to take a trip to the outside squatter (toilet area), realising that the entire universe was on display above me.  A perfect snapshot of whats going on out there.  The stars lit my ablution.

Across from us slept a group of four snoring Sadhus who were just completing a four month walk across the Himalayan Range, visiting remote temples along the way.  These guys don’t take the roads, they go vertical, across tiny mountainous trails wearing only flip flops, fantastic beards and thin blankets.  Only the Sadhus know these routes.  You can’t imagine four more radiant, amiable chaps.  We had no common language, but communicated through big smiles and laughter.  I’ve never seen people eat rice like these guys, kilos per sitting, they definitely needed the fuel.

The Ashram is a cluster of squat buildings, a magnificent operation.  All foodstuff and supplies must be lugged up the pass by teams of porters and donkeys.  It’s a vital part of the route, in one of the hardiest of earths environments.  I can’t imagine what winter must be like, this was summertime !

I woke at 5am (again!) and went to stand on a large rock in the Ganges to watch the sunrise.  It took ages and the wind chill froze me to the core.  The sunlight was just catching the platinum craggy mountain tops, casting wonderful shadows.  Light at this altitude is different, it has an ethereal quality and clarity.  The vastness of the valley was filled with complete silence.  One giant triangle of a peak stood prouder than the rest and mini white cyclones whipped around it.  Snow dust blowing up towards the bright blue sky.  Overall it was rather pleasant, a dreamlike vision.

We set off towards Gaumukh.  It was a rocky trail, hard going.  We skipped and picked our way over scree and boulders, heading to the valley end and what seemed like the top of our world.  We eventually reached a small shrine (an assortment of rocks and colourful flags) to Shiva and Goddess Ganga, set in a barren, lifeless plain.  Bleak, like Mars.  Another 20 minute scramble and we were there.

Wizened Sadhus smoked ceremonial chillums and chanted mantras perched on rocks in front of the giant blue crystal glacier.  The mighty Ganges poured from a dark cave at its base.  No trickle this, a real torrent.  stalactites and a few mites formed a cathedral-like backdrop to the raging brown water.

Some pilgrims had beat us there and were splashing around in the freezing water, wearing only their grey y-fronts and wide smiles.  Ecstatic and shrieking (due surely to cold bits, and reverence).  The holiest place in India and the Hindus where making a joyous racket.  This behavior marks a major difference between more staid,  sedate religions.  Hindus have alot of fun and don’t take themselves too seriously.  I felt comfortable and accepted, seemingly a constant.

I made my way down, past the elderly French photographers, to take a tame head and toe dip.  More than enough I felt.  I collected some of the water, its is said to have many super powers.  It could come in very handy along the road.  It is said that a Hindu cannot lie when holding this water.  Holy Truth Serum.

The sound at the base of the glacier was deafening, the sheer force and presence of the Ganges awesome.  I could feel the roar going through my body.  Looking up, I could see three towering mountains and the crystal new day sun.  It was a moment I will (hopefully) never forget.  Worth every step and loose bowel movement.  Uttaranchal has an outrageous amount of ancient spirituality and ascetics wandering the streets and mountains.  Enter only with an open heart, mind and soul.  The rewards are endless.

Comments (2) »

Images of a Uttaranchal Hike, Gangotri, India, May 2010

Half way to the Himalayas, Gaumukh Trek, Uttaranchal

+6000m Badrinath, view from the camp, Himalayas

Big old Badrinath, Dawn, Gangotri National Park

Morning scrub, Gagnani, Uttaranchal

Comments (1) »

%d bloggers like this: