Landscapes of the Galápagos Islands – San Cristobal and Española

San Cristobal is the easternmost island of Galápagos and also the oldest one. Eroded volcanic peaks in the northern part of the island, and rich vegetation in the southern part.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the provincial capital and the second largest settlement in the islands.

We anchored in the harbour and walked down the beach to see animals and humans enjoying the evening, peacefully, together.

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Next stop – Española – the southernmost and also the oldest of the southern islands. Here a wide range of endemic species evolved.

This became our favourite island of the archipelago. Why? Because it perfectly matched our imagination of what the Galápagos islands would look like! And, it is home to the Waved Albatros – this magnificent, endemic, giant. We saw their mating dance and saw them waddle clumsily to the cliff and off…just to ”own” the air! I dare say Walt Disney managed to portray this bird very accurately in his movie…

Our magnificent day on Española ended in splendid evening sun, and,  as usual,

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our Cachalote and her crew were waiting for us to come back with the pangas.

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I wish you all a Good Night !

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Annonser

Landscapes of the Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands are of volcanic origin, and situated in the Pacific Ocean, about 100km east of mainland Ecuador. There are 19 larger islands, 42 islets and and numerous emerging rocks. Five of the islands are inhabited, and the population is around 25000.

Last December, we got the opportunity to visit 10 of these islands, and M/S Cachalote was our home for 8 days. I have posted about our journey on my blog Leya, so now I also want to show you some of the magnificent landscapes out here in the archipelago.

Let us start with Santa Cruz, where the giant tortoises live in the wild of the lush highlands. This island is the most populated island and Puerto Ayora a most charming town.

The islands are known for their vast number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle, as his observations and collections contributed to his theory of evolution by natural selection. The Charles Darwin Station has a Giant Tortoise and a Land Iguana breeding program, and also a program for saving the Mangrove Finch.

Next stop was two tiny islands uplifted from the sea – Islas Plazas. Here the landscape is rather flat, and the tall opuntias are impressive. The ground is covered in carpet weed, portulaca, castela and grabowskia. Iguanas eat opuntias and portulaca.

On the beach the big male rules his hareem of ladies…but there was also a Sea Lion bachelor colony where the young males slept lazily in the sun, only giving us a brief one eye glimpse…saying: ”not interesting at all”…

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More sunbathing – this giant male of Marine Iguana was really impressive. He had found a spectacular place to show off his dominance.

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Endemic species everywhere – and the next stop, Santa Fé, one of the smaller, older islands, is no exception.  Here the trail is steep and uneven, and you are surrounded by tall Opuntias, Palo Santo, salt bush, yellow cordia, thorn shrub and more. Mocking birds are different on each island, just like the lava lizards. The Galapagos Hawk was vigilant, but did not bother about us wanting him to lift and spread his wings.

After one more interesting day, we returned to Cachalote, patiently waiting in the lagoon. The crew taking care of us as if we were their children…

I wonder what tonight´s dinner will bring?

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Ziga, Baztan – Natural, Yet Sophisticated

In Navarra, Spain, there is a green valley of rolling hills where I left a piece of my heart.

We stayed a couple of days at Casa rural Zigako Etxezuria.

Everything here so neat and clean, rustic and authentic. Our hosts were genuinely kind and helpful with everything from sightseeing to choosing the right thing from the menu.The gastronomic traditions of Navarre makes eating a social event and all products come from the local farmers. Furthermore, Chefs from Navarre are among the most prestigious in the world of Nouvelle Cuisine.

After a delicious meal, it is time for a walk through the charming little village!

Navarra region is one of the regions with the highest quality of life indicators in Spain. And one of the greatest joys for me was all the farm animals – so many horses, cows, sheep, cats, dogs, hens and donkeys – and they were all well kept. Although some cats seemed to lead a rough life…

The last evening I had some difficulty in handling my feelings. Ziga and all its inhabitants had gone straight to my heart. I could live and die here. So I went out in the misty night to think.

Of all the places I have been to during my travelling years, I guess Ziga in Baztan, Navarre is the one that reminds me the most of my childhood at my grandmother’s and grandfather’s. All the animals I grew up with and the kindness and authenticity of the people. The landscape is of course even more beautiful here among the green hills, but still…

In the morning I waited for him to say goodbye…but I knew he would not come. I am glad we once met.

Lingering Garden, Suzhou, China

The Chinese garden is a landscape garden style which has evolved over three thousand years. It includes both the vast gardens of the Chinese emperors and members of the imperial family, built for pleasure and to impress, and the more intimate gardens created by scholars, poets, former government officials, soldiers and merchants, made for reflection and escape from the outside world.

The earliest recorded Chinese gardens were created in the valley of the Yellow River during the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). These gardens were large enclosed parks where the kings and nobles hunted game, or where fruit and vegetables were grown.

They create an idealized miniature landscape, which is meant to express the harmony that should exist between man and nature.

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Every detail is important. Carefully selected, crafted and put in its proper surroundings.

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Originally a classical private garden, the Lingering Garden (23,310 m2 ) is one of the four most famous gardens in China. Possessing typical Qing style, it is well-known for the exquisite beauty of its magnificent halls, and the various sizes, shapes, and colors of the buildings.

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Like other famous gardens in Suzhou, the Lingering Garden seeks to create stunning natural landscapes within limited space. In it, domiciles, ancestral temples and private gardens are included. Buildings, trees, and flowers blend harmoniously with their surroundings.

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Of the four parts, the central part is the essence of the whole complex. This part was the original Lingering Garden while the other three were added during the Qing Dynasty.

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Lingering Garden was commissioned by Xu Taishi (徐泰时), an impeached and later exonerated official in 1593 CE. Stonemason Zhou Shicheng (周时臣) designed and built the East Garden (东园) as it was initially called.

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Liu Su, another official in 1798 CE, reconstructed and renamed it Cold Green Village. He was an avid collector of Scholar stones or viewing stones( naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars), and added 12 more to the garden housing them in the ”stone forest”. The garden soon acquired the nickname ”Liu Yuan” from the owner’s surname. From 1823 CE the garden was open to public, and became a famed resort.

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During the Sino-Japanese War, the garden was abandoned and it even degenerated into breeding zone for army horses. After establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Suzhou government took over and renovated the garden.

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It was reopened to the public in 1954. In 2001 the garden was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list, and remains a major tourist destination.

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To sum it up, a typical Chinese garden is enclosed by walls and includes one or more ponds, rock works, trees and flowers, and an assortment of halls and pavilions within the garden, connected by winding paths and zig-zag galleries.

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By moving from structure to structure, visitors can view a series of carefully composed scenes, unrolling like a scroll of landscape paintings.

 

The Legend of the Isle of the Immortals

 A miniature version of Mount Penglai, the legendary home of the Eight Immortals, was recreated in many classical Chinese gardens

An ancient Chinese legend played an important part in early garden design. In the 4th century BC, a tale in the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) described a peak called Mount Penglai located on one of three islands at the eastern end of the Bohai Sea, between China and Korea, which was the home of the Eight Immortals. On this island were palaces of gold and silver, with jewels on the trees. There was no pain, no winter, wine glasses and rice bowls were always full, and fruits, when eaten, granted eternal life.

In 221 BC, Ying Zheng, the King of Qin conquered other rival states and unified China under the Qin Empire, which he ruled until 210 BC. He heard the legend of the islands and sent emissaries to find the islands and bring back the elixir of immortal life, without success. At his palace near his capital, Xianyang, he created a garden with a large lake called Lanchi gong or the Lake of the Orchids. On an island in the lake he created a replica of Mount Penglai, symbolizing his search for paradise. After his death, the Qin Empire fell in 206 BC and his capital city and garden were completely destroyed, but the legend continued to inspire Chinese gardens. Many gardens have a group of islands or a single island with an artificial mountain representing the island of the Eight Immortals.

Source, Wikipedia

Water Village, Yangtze River, China

 

On arriving by boat to the Water Village, you used to anchor up by this pavillion.  Facing the new, big cruisers, another, bigger pavillion has been built.

The evergreen waters, the silent mountains – and the lifting fog –  brightened my spirit. I knew this would be the highlight of our journey.

Cruising along the Yangtze River, you can still see fishermen rowing a wooden boat from which they fish. The history of fishing on the Yangtze River can be traced back seven thousand years.

The small wooden boat is usually twelve feet long and three or four feet wide, the boat usually has five to six cabins including the navigation cabin, engine room and the living cabins. With the rise in living standard along the Yangtze River, fishermen have installed diesel engines on their boats to save manpower.

To catch fish, there are usually two ways: net casting and using hooks. Daytime, fishermen cast nets with large stones as anchors. Then, one or two boats drag two ends of the net to catch the fish. Fishing hooks are put out before sunset and reeled in with the fish in the morning.

Every year, the fishermen repair the boat during the hot days of July and August. When the Chinese traditional Lantern Festival comes, the family usually eats a reunion lunch in the cabin and sticks incense on the fore at the same time burning papers and shooting off firecrackers to sacrifice to the water god for good sailing and good catch.

On our walk along the river, we were first met by stone faces speaking to everyone about what to do to fend off Evil…

Then – soft flute music reached our ears. A beautiful girl standing on the deck of an old wooden boat, and a man playing the flute, releasing its silvery tunes over the river.

Of course they were posing for us – but the old ways of this people, the Tujia, were both breathtaking and esthetically shown to us. As a visitor I could not but use my eyes and ears in silence. It hurts to watch the beauty and the sad loss of the old ways  – even if we know about the hardships they meant as well. It is the same everywhere in the world.

Following the wooden pathway by the river, the silent calmness and serenity  overwhelmed me. This was indeed a picture of a Lost Paradise.

The lush bamboo  and the stillness in the air, the boats and the fishing nets – and the sun lifting the veil of mist.

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Only the faint sound of the flute faraway, and the sound of birds rustling in the foliage. Tears in my eyes. It doesn’t matter if this gloryfying of the old is just…gloryfying. This little village shows the essence of old Chinese life, art, painting and poetry.

Leaving this Paradisiac painting and hiking further into the river valley, we approached some water wheels and an old homestead.

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On the little arched bridge, a young couple was standing – obviously this used to be a popular place for lovers to meet.

Soon we were to see a little performance on the marriage customs – Weeping Marriage of the Tujia Ethnic Minority.

The marriage date for girls of the Tujia Ethnic Minority ia usually welcomed with crying. According to custom, the new bride should begin to cry half a month or one month before the wedding ceremony. Whether a girl could cry about her marriage became a criterion to value the girl’s ability and virtue.

In order to be regarded as a good girl, the girl begins to study how to cry for marriage when she is twelve years old. Some will invite an experienced person to teach them. When 15 years old, girls will invite each other to match who cries best and teach each other.

There are songs which are sung when weeping for marriage. These include singing for parents, sisters, brothers, the matchmaker and ancestors. When singing the weeping marriage songs, the emotions are fully expressed through the mournful tones. They say that on hearing the vivid and strong words of the song, even the toughest man can’t fight back his tears.

The weeping songs can be sung by one person or by two. If one girl sings, she will cry for her destiny, the deep affection to her relatives and the feudalistic marriage custom she suffers under. When two girls are weeping together, it is called ”sister crying.” The bride cries and sings first, and then the other one will sing together with the bride to console her.

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The Bride unveiled

It is said that the weeping marriage custom originates from the marriage system in the old times. Girls sang and cried denouncing the marriage system and dreaming of flinging off its chains. Today, although Tujia girls can choose their loved ones freely, they still cry out of tradition.

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Our lovely Tujia guides. The basket on their back will show if they are married or not. Carrying flowers – free, carrying a baby – married.

Before reaching the waterfalls, we saw the bamboo forest swaying – monkeys! Maybe we would get closer on the other side of the river.

But first – the falls. Not very big, but fresh  mountain water falling through the lush bamboo forest. Have you ever seen an old  Chinese painting?

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The narrow gorge ahead of us.

Hiking back, quietly, everybody pondering and reflecting on their impressions…

…I suddenly found more reflecting and pondering faces – monkeys. This one became my favourite during the short time we were listening to them and watching them climbing rocks and branches. He was sitting there on the rock with his wise little face turned slightly upwards. Sometimes he glanced at his hands and into the greenery, but never jumped around making ooooooooooo – sounds like the others. I called him the Philosopher.

These monkeys had bushy tails instead of sleek ones to use for gripping branches. Unfortunately none of our guides could name the species. I tried to find them when I got home, but the closest I get is Rhesus Makak. If anybody knows – please write me!

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This trip back into the China of old; customs, art, painting and writing, I am certain will stay with me forever.

Because this is no more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintervandring i Vedema I

Som vanligt, klicka på bilderna för att förstora – Click the pictures to enlarge.

Eftersom min mamma inte kände sig riktigt bra, så fick jag göra vandringen med bara Totti. En fin, solig dag – men utan snö. Vid den här tiden på året brukar jag aldrig gå här, men ju grönare vintrarna blir, desto lättare blir det. Annars finns inte mycket positivt med de snöfria vintrarna.

My mother didn’f feel well today, so my hiking had to be with only Totti. I seldom visit here during this season, but the greener the winters become, the easier this walk will be. Not much else is positive about a winter without snow.

Tidig förmiddag och en blek sol skiner in.

Early sun is shining in when we start.

Snart skiner solen ordentligt och de mossiga stubbarna är som självlysande.

Soon we have glorious weather and the mossy stubs and stones are all aglow.

Inga kreatur på ängarna, men ett fint ljus att glädjas åt. Det har kommit mycket regn senaste tiden och allt från pölar till hela sjöar översvämmar öppen mark.

No cows, but a lovely light making me smile. There’s been much raining the last month.

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The chilly morning has its own art work.

Snart dags för lite vila och fika, tycker Totti och jag

Some rest would be right now, Totti says – and I agree.

Eller kanske gräva lite? Finns det några goda rötter eller kanske någon mus att jaga fram?

Maybe some digging? Are there any appetizing roots or some fast mice to be had?

Efter fika- och grävpausen vandrar vi vidare, men jag upptäcker inte förrän efter 20 minuter att vi tagit fel stig. …

Some rest, some coffee and some digging – then on our way again. It’s not until after 20 minutes I realize we are heading in the wrong direction…

Winter – where are you?

En vandringstur på en av de få soliga dagarna i jul. Vart tar vintern vägen?

One of the few sunny days this Christmas – Where is Winter?

Vi bestämde oss för att starta tidigt, mamma, jag och Totti. Jag hade noga kontrollerat vädret timme för timme, och den här dagen skulle inte ett moln finnas på himlen.

We started out early this morning, my mother, Totti and me, and I had made sure that the weather was going to be perfect. Coffee, bread, buns and fruit – and a little something for Totti.

Några av fjolårets rotvältor ligger fortfarande kvar, och vatten finns det gott om.

Some of the fallen trees from last year is still here, and there is no lack of water.

Mamma  och Totti trivs bra tillsammans, men båda saknar Mille. Här brukade han rusa ut och hämta de första kottarna att lämnas till mamma.

My mother and Totti  go well together, but both are missing Mille. Here he used to run ahead of us to get cones for mum to throw and hide.

Tunn is på tjärnen – det närmaste vi kommer vinter.

Thin ice on the water – the closest we get to real winter.

Vad dessa kapslar/frön är kunde jag inte lista ut, men lätt och fint svängde de i vinden.

What tree this is I couldn’t figure out – but these little capsules were dancing gracefully in the wind.

Stigen vindlar vidare, och snart vill vi nog ha kaffe…och Totti är redan törstig.

We follow the winding path and soon…we will want some coffee. Totti is already thirsty.

Två rör sticker fram vid vattnet – det ena mossklätt och det andra plastigt vitt. Undrar om det mossklädda röret är av plast eller betong? Jag vet vilket jag föredrar …

Two pipes here – one in moss and one in white plastic. I wonder if the moss clad one is concrete or plastic? I know which of these I like best…

Fikapaus!

Ah, finally…!

För stora kontraster sol/skugga, så mamma får bli svartvit!

Too much contrasts sun/shadow, so my mother ended up in black and white!

De sista solstrålarna på väg nerför horisonten, och då blir det snabbt kallare. Men vi njuter alla.

When the last sun rays are leaving the air is rather chilly after some hours of walking. But we all just love it.

De sista? Vi förevigar oss på den finaste dagen av sol.

The last rays? We had to have a group picture from this lovely walk.

En sista lövrullning kanske?

A last roll in the leaves?

Alla nöjda – och avslutningsvis en fin lave, med möjligen ale eftersom den är såpass rödaktig.

Everybody satisfied with the day, finishing with these fine trees, possibly alder wood since it is red.

 

Tillbaka vid vägen hem igen. En härlig vandringstur till ända.

Back to the road leading home again – a lovely hiking day has come to an end.

Edinburgh Part I – Old and New

Last time we visited, in the 70’s, the city met us with a gloomy drizzle – this time with it’s most delightful face! A warning – ancient history and the beauty of the old is best found with Seonaid at breathofgreenair. Do enjoy her stories and poetry! Here I will only give you my impressions on this bright summer’s day in August. You are welcome to enjoy it with me too.

Our hostel was not far from Greyfriars, and I guess, being a dog person, the story of Bobby has never left my heart. I will tell you more about him in next part of Edinburgh. We went to see him the first night – and returned our last day too.

The morning after, we started out in glorious weather, walking the Royal Mile. This is the main street between Edinburgh Castle and Palace of Holyrood House – the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

An endless row of old stone buildings, very well kept. And in the windows – everything from typical kilts to magnificent wedding dresses. If I were to remarry – I would be wearing this! But, I guess this photo is the closest I will ever get …

 

The Parliament building was not here in the 70’s, but was built in 1999 by the Catalan architect Enric Miralles. I read it was both hated and much loved, and won many awards. It is said that he wanted to create a building uniting the Scotish landscape and culture with the Scotish poetry.

I think he succeeded. Colours, materials, structures…I love it. What do you think? Is it that controversial? Maybe it was 15 years ago…

Close by the Parliament is ”Our Dynamic Earth”. On the city map – and in reality – it looks like a cocoon or a monstruous caterpillar. It’s a scientific centre with ”Arthur’s Seat” in the fond.

Here you can for example make a virtual tour inside the Earth, and there is also a visitors’ and conference centre inside. It’s mostly about geology. Very elaborate.

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This little guy was posing for his mother by the globe with – Our dynamic earth. They work very well together…

Of course we had to stop by here…

…at The Writers’ Museum, and go looking for famous names on the ground. Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

And at world famous Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling had a table overlooking (underlooking?) Edinburgh Castle.

We had coffee and a muffin – very tasty and delicious. Then I followed my blogging friend’s (Seonaid) advice to have a look at the toilets… More about what I found of Harry Potter here.

While we were having fun, we continued with Museum of Childhood. Not very big, but very charming and conjuring up old memories – at least for people my age. Enjoy!

 

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