Right after my hike of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, I went on safari to Lake Manyara, the Serengeti, and the Ngorongoro Crater. One of the best views during the safari was seeing the sunset… Magnificent!
Before my trip to Jordan, I had this mental image that Jordan was mostly a desert. I knew Jordan faced the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea and I recalled from my quick visit to Petra (on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), that Petra would have some reddish color to it. But it’s like, if I thought how Jordan would look like, I would have said “fairly mono-chromatic”.
OK, I exaggerate a little. But the range of vivid colors I encountered during my visit became quite apparent once I was home walking through each of the 3,000+ pictures I took during my 9 days there (yes, quite a few were duplicates as I tried different settings and angles for a given “scene”; so far I am down to around 2,000). What I found out is that that desert color was a perfect background for all the others colors to pop. And pop they did!
So, I have decided to share where I found color that caught my eye that will, hopefully, give you a glimpse into Jordan! When you are done, I would love to hear back from you on which of these photos you like the most (photos are numbered for ease of reference!).
I found color in the landscapes in Jordan…
Much as I had experienced back in 1998, I got to see the colors typically associated with deserts. But on this trip, I also saw the color of canyons and gorges. White, sand, red – all colors represented in the landscape around me as I hope the following pictures show…
I found color in the markets of Jordan…
I found color in the architecture – old and new – in Jordan…
I found great blues in the waters around Jordan…
I found color in sunsets over the Dead Sea…
I found color in Jordanian artisans’ art…
And I found a colorful people in Jordan!
Thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for showing me all the colors in Jordan.
Based on the recommendation of the local contact at work, I decided to spend the weekend exploring Lake Titicaca and its islands (Uros, Amantani, and Taquile) with a boat tour. I barely scratched the surface as I stayed within the Peruvian side of the lake (I really had wanted to go to Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side). I joined, among others, folks from The Netherlands, Belgium, and China.
Venturing into the lake – The Touristy but Nevertheless Curious Uros Islands
To get out of the bay of Puno, you pass through the Uros Islands. These islands are built on the reeds that grow naturally in the lake. The history of the islands – so we were told – is that the local people on the shores of Lake Titicaca were being attacked 600 yrs ago or so by the expanding Inca empire. They didn’t want to be subjugated so they moved to the lake itself.
The islands have as a base the 3ft-deep root system of the reeds. They pull and tie the reeds together to build the islands. Then they add layer after layer of cut reed. Each layer crisscrosses the other. After about 3-6 feet of this, they have their island! They replenish the top frequently as the bottom layers of reed soften up over time (the islands have a life span of 30 yrs). The islands are big enough for several huts and other key spaces but are really not too big. They even have a school floating island. By the way, they are called floating islands but they are anchored
When you visit the islands, of course, the locals sell arts and crafts they make so if you are looking for some souvenirs, this would be a good spot. The visit is quite colorful though I am sure is the same thing repeated for every boat. While it may seem that their way of life has been “adulterated” for tourism purposes, I do believe they have their right to earn their livelihood as best they can. Getting to the islands from the boat in the low floating canoes makes for a thrill ride – and excellent photography as you are very close to water level!
Here is a short clip where the local women send the visitors off with a song-and-dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIt7mJ29pZo.)
Further into the lake – Visiting Amantaní Island and Staying with a Local Family
After the visit to the Uros Islands we moved into the main part of the lake itself to visit a real island, called Amantaní (around 4,000 residents). We were going to stay overnight on this island as the lake waters apparently become dangerous after the mid-afternoon. Therefore, since there are no businesses in the island, much less hotels, visitors who stay overnight, stay with local families who are very poor and subsist on the food they grow in their lots.
Someone clued in that there was an opportunity here both for the locals (income) and for the tourists (staying with a local family). Local families were trained on how to host tourists at their humble homes and they PROUDLY display their certificates. In return for providing lodging and meals, they receive some income from the company organizing the visits and they get to sell their crafts to their captive audience – er, guests (GREAT deals though). Guests are expected to bring a bag of rice, sugar or something similar as a gift to the host family.
The family is trained on what food to prepare for their guests as guests have nowhere else to eat on the island. The hosts prepare 2 meals for the guests: dinner and breakfast. All the houses served exactly the same menu for the meals we had (the group compared notes when we left the island) and the food was mild and of the low risk kind.
Challenged to Make a Gender ID
Upon arriving in the island, the group had been divided into the host families in groups of 2 or 3. The 3 of us who were traveling solo got grouped together with one family to share a massive bedroom with a few beds. The beds were OK (I sleep on ALMOST anything) and with about 3 or 4 woolen blankets each (there was neither heat nor electricity available). I slept in my jeans with gloves and my traditional hat.
For bathrooms, we had outdoor latrines which were fairly nice as far as latrines go, though I suspect these were built with the tourists in mind. They were “fairly nice” because the seating area wasn’t actually above the latrine hole but, instead, by pouring a bucket of water, the stuff was pushed through a pipe to the latrine hole proper a few feet away. Having used regular latrines, I was happy for this improvement!
Who did I stay with? A Belgian woman (who I still keep in touch with named Liesj) and… someone else. No, not trying to be mysterious. We had no idea if said person was a man or a woman. The person was from China and the name was something we didn’t know if it was male or female (Chong, I believe). By the person’s physique we could not tell either what gender the person was. Adam’s apple, breasts, etc. were not perceptible. Liesj and I had a moment alone after arriving at the home and we asked each other, almost at the same time, if the other knew what Chong was. We both laughed and shrugged it off as we walked downstairs to have dinner served by the owners. At different moments, we tried to ask Chong questions that we hoped would give us via her answer the right piece of data as to its gender. We failed miserably. For the moment…
So let me make a parenthesis here needed for the story: Part of the entertainment for the evening is to have a little party where the boat’s guests get together, listen to local music, and buy a beer or two. It also entails wearing some local attire: a poncho for guys and a skirt & blouse for the women. Remember this.
Back to the story… Liesj spoke Spanish and Chong didn’t. I did most of the talking to the owners (whose main tongue is actually Quechua). They were quite shy (perhaps somewhat uncomfortable hosting people from other countries? or perhaps simply their nature?) but I tried to ask questions to learn more about them. Our hostess, it seems, was sharing Liesj’s and my struggle as she asked me during our conversation (how smart!) how many ponchos and how many skirts/blouses she needed to get for us. I told her with a smile: Ï don’t know (how smart!). Liesj and I quickly had an aside in Spanish and we came up with a BRILLIANT plan: we told the lady to bring two of each and THEN we would know what Chong was!
When the moment came to get ready, Chong volunteered that she didn’t feel like wearing the skirt and blouse so she would do the poncho! We were thankful that Chong didn’t just take the poncho without that comment because that comment solved our riddle!
A Hike up to Heaven’s Very Doors
That afternoon we hiked to the top of the mountain to see pre-Inca temples and watch the sun set over the lake. The hike was hard as most of us hadn’t been in Puno a full day yet and we were hiking to 4100m… (Puno sits at 12,421 ft or 3,860 m). At some point, a young woman from another boat asked me “Are you from Atlanta?”. I was a little surprised that someone guessed and when I said that I was she said: “Oh I work at Figo Pasta and I recognize you because you go there a lot.” Guilty as charged and so amazed she could place me in such a different setting!!! Me? Oblivious…
The lake is a beautiful blue and the sky picture-perfect. You can see in the distance the high peaks on the Bolivian side of the lake covered with snow. Since it is so high there, the air is thinner and the color of nightfall seemed different. The images will stay with me forever!
A Final Island to Visit – Taquile
As we left Amantaní we headed to neighboring Taquile Island which did have more of an infrastructure. We went to the main square (a small hike but on a very pleasant path) and enjoyed a great lunch at a local restaurant.
I have to say that though Taquile has more of the comforts, Amantaní and the “realness” of the experience made it far more memorable for me! While not a crazy adventure, staying in the quarters we did may not be for anyone but I actually recommend it if you normally do not things like that – it is only one night and it will give you stories of gender ID, latrines, or just about the beautiful night skies high up in Titicaca!
You cannot tell this sunset is happening in Copenhagen. But it is. This is from our hotel (the Marriott, an awesome property in the chain!) facing the Tivoli Gardens on a beautiful mid-June sunset.
And these two are some of the most important special people in the world to me: my nephew and my niece. No amount of money, of travel experiences, or anything tops having these two. I love this picture and I think will treasure it more as the years go by…
(Picture taken with Canon EOS Rebel T1I)
My seven super photos below show the some of the things that amazed me and the memories I cherish from my many travels. I think I was tagged for this a few months ago. I can tell because I had begun placing candidate photos in a special folder but I couldn’t find a post… Thanks to Lola (@LolaDiMarco) for tagging me. I will need to think about who to tag since she probably hit some people I would have hit and I also don’t want to hit the person who tagged me months ago! (and I can’t remember who that is… my apologies, I was trying to get it done!)
Here it goes!
a photo that takes my breath away
a photo that makes me laugh or smile
a photo that makes me dream
a photo that makes me think
a photo that makes my mouth water
a photo that tells a story
a photo that i’m most proud of (aka, my NationalGeographic shot)
We started the day by going to the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town as the Ocean Volvo Race was expecting its first arrivals on the first leg of this round-the-world regatta that morning. They were expecting the Ericsson team to be the first to arrive from Europe and, sure enough, when we got there, the crew was already packing up sails, etc. It was neat to see them getting with their families after however long they had been in the ocean. It was then time to leave to go see the famous Cape of Good Hope which is NOT the southernmost tip of the continent (I felt taken in!).
Leaving Cape Town and heading south passes through beach areas that I only wish I could have enjoyed!
Driving from Cape Town to Cape of Good Hope is a neat drive. The peninsula is rather small so the distances are short. There seem to be 2 main roads going down, one along the west coast and another further east. We decided to go down one and come up another. As we trekked down the beach towns south of Cape Town, we greatly enjoyed the views of the bays, mountains and beaches along the way. The drive around Chapman’s Peak has to rank up there among the most beautiful coastal drives in the world (http://www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za/). Unfortunately, the final part of the drive for us, south of Hout Bay was closed to traffic (not sure why but maybe rock slides?) but the views were breathtaking and we even got to see whales pretty much near the rocks at the bottom of the cliff we were standing at. It was a beautiful day to be driving around (early November). Due to the crossing we had to back track up to Hout Bay but that allowed us to drive by Constantia which seems a neat area to visit some time.
We decided to head straight to Simon’s Town and stop there for lunch.
We also realized it was known for the penguins so we decided to take a look at them too. We had lunch at a great hole in the wall called the Salty Sea Dog [good eats] where we had fantastic fish and chips. There were many choices on the fish and it was all very fresh. The penguins were, as promised, perched on the rocks but I felt, as the tourist restricted to a wooden pathway, as the wildlife under observation!
The landscape south of Simon’s Town got more beautiful the more we drove. We saw different types of wildlife along the way. We entered the park and soon found ourselves at the Cape of Good Hope. At first, it seemed just a big old pile of rocks. However, soon the colors from the late afternoon soon, the wild waves, and the hike up that pile of rocks began to yield truly magnificent views. We hiked up and set up our own rock pile atop the Cape where others had done the same. As soon as we began walking further at the top, it started raining so we had to make a run back down in the rain. Too late, we were drenched. Fortunately, it wasn’t too cold!
We then drove over to Cape Point, right next door and probably a walk over had it not been raining, and STILL not the southernmost point of the continent (Cape Argulhas is) though you are informed it is the southwesternmost point on the continent (I wondered about whether such a distinction is necessary; what is the southeasternmost point? maybe Port Elizabeth?). We hiked up Cape Point and then all the way down as far as you are allowed above the lighthouse. Cape Point was far more spectacular than its more famous neighbor in terms of the views. You can look north and see the peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on the west and False Bay on the east.
More info on the capes at http://away.com/features/south_africa_cape_point_1.html.
As we drove back up the west coast after nightfall, one of my favorite views was a lighthouse that we looked down upon from the road we were driving on. It was between Kommetjie and Scarborough, I think. Due to a road accident that killed 5 in Kommetjie, we had to backtrack a good way and ended up driving up the east coast (got to see the lighthouse again!).After a few misses in small towns north of Simon’s Town, we finally found a town that looked like it had places to eat (it was Sunday night so maybe many places were closed, hence those towns looked like there were no eateries…). In Kalk Bay we found an eatery called the Brass Bell right by the train station on the water. It was a pub/seafood place – it was great! Basic as it was, the food was quite good, the setting pretty cool, and the beer nice and cold! Maybe we were just too hungry??
After dinner we just went due north past Muizenberg to our hotel to get ready for our visit to wine country in Stellenbosch.
Does anyone know of interesting towns in the peninsula or good places to eat in that area?