Inner Temples Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Taman Ayun Temple
January rains wash over the palm thatch roofs of the meru towers in the inner sanctum of Pura Taman Ayun, Mengwi, West Bali, and turn the grass in the complex a soggy green.

You are taking a chance in the tropics during the wet season!

Bali, that volcanic tropical paradise just eight degrees south of the equator, is in the path of the west monsoon from October to April, with heavy rains typical from December through March.

But, there are a lot of reasons to love Bali, any time of year. The window of opportunity for my husband and myself was in January, so we crossed our fingers and booked our flights.

Bali is known for it’s “sunset spots”, with one of the more famous being the beautiful Hindu temple Pura Tanah Lot sitting on it’s own rocky outcrop in the Indian OceanAfter consulting with my old (1999) Lonely Planet guide and a local driver, I decided that would make a romantic spot for dinner. 

Bali is also known as the “Island of a Thousand Puras (Temples)”. About 83.5% of the population is Hindu, practicing a version of Hinduism that has its roots in Indian Hinduism, Buddhism, Balinese animistic traditions and ancestor worship. Wikipedia estimates that there are 20,000 temples and shrines around the island; I’m not sure if they are counting the shrines found in front of and within almost every home, but there are certainly temples everywhere, and you don’t walk more than a few feet before passing a shrine of some description.

We were staying on Sanur Beach, on the east coast – well situated for tropical sunrises over the jukung, the brightly painted outrigger canoes, that are anchored on the shallow waters. But Bali is such a small island – only 153 km (95 mi) wide and about 112 km (69 mi) north to south – that you can comfortably get from one side the other, and the meandering drive from Sanur to Pura Tanah Lot in search of a sunset left plenty of time for stops at sights along the way.

If only the rains would hold off…

Morning on Sanur Beach, Bali

Morning on Sanur Beach

Silhouette of a seated man at sunrise, Sanur Beach Bali

Watching the Sunrise
Even during the wet season, the rains can pass quickly, …

Indonesian outrigger boats in the sunrise, Sanur Beach Bali

Sanur Sunrise
… making for some spectacular sunrises on the east coast. The small wooden outrigger canoes known as cadik or jukung dot the shallow waters.

Pergola and a wooden boat in the Sunrise, Sanur Bali

Pergola in the Morning

Balinese woman placing offerings outside a gated courtyard, Surin, Bali

Making Offerings
Putting out offerings to gods every day is a normal part of Balinese routine. Old offerings often lay around in piles.

Woman in a sarong entering Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Entering Taman Ayun Temple
Built in 1634, Pura Taman Ayun was the main temple of the Mengwi kingdom. ‘Taman Ayun’ means ‘beautiful garden’; the temple is set in a beautiful park with trees and ponds, and surrounded by a moat. Access is across the moat and through the Candi Bentar, the entry gateway, which looks like an intricate tower that has been split in two.

Entry to the inner courtyard, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Kori Agung, Pura Taman Ayun
The access to in inner courtyard in a Balinese temple (the Kori Agung) is similar to the outer entry (the Candi Bentar), except that it is stepped and gated. It is closed to non-worshippers.

Dvarapala, Temple Detail, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Dvarapala
A fierce guardian (a dvarapala) statue sits each side of the entry to keep evil spirits out of the inner temple.

Floral stonework, Temple Detail, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Temple Detail
All around the temple, the cement is intricately cast and the stonework is beautifully carved. The lichen and mosses that grow in the humid climate only add to the beauty.

Banana-leaf offering tray, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Offering Tray
Banana-leaf trays of flowers, rice, and incense are dotted around the shrines as offerings.

Ornate stone and brickwork, Temple Detail, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Inside Taman Ayun Temple

Inner Temples Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Inner Shrines: Taman Ayun Temple
Taman Ayun Temple was built as a place to worship the royal ancestors. Meru, the multi-tiered tower-shrines, are dedicated to gods and ancestors; the tallest tower has eleven tiers and represents Bali’s second-highest mountain, Gunung Batukau.

Barong Cat, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Barong Cat
A Barong is a mythological animal with a cat, tiger, or pig face, that is a defender of good. As symbols of the protector, they are often represented in dance.

Temple Cat, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Temple Cat
There are several real cats – as opposed to Barong cats – scattered around the temple grounds.

Temple Kitten, Taman Ayun Temple, Mengwi Bali

Temple Kitten

Two caged Asian Palm Civets, Taman Ayu Sari Agro, Bali

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus)
Just down the road, we stopped in at a luwak (civet) coffee plantation and outlet.

Young Balinese woman hand-roasting coffee, , Taman Ayu Sari Agro, Bali

Roasting Coffee
Billed as “eco tourism”, mini-plantations where visitors are shown coffee, tea, ginger, and other spice plants, are dotted all over Bali. A demonstration of hand-roasting coffee, followed by coffee- and tea-tasting is part of the brief tour.

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus), Taman Ayu Sari Agro, Bali

Asian Palm Civet (Paradoxurus Hermaphroditus)
There is some ethical controversy over the most expensive product: kopi luwak or civet coffee, made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the civets, then passed through their digestive tracts. I was pleased that some of the civets here were loose, friendly, and appeared well cared for.

Pura Batu Bolong silhouetted against gray sky and ocean, Tanah Lot Bali

Pura Batu Bolong
Sitting on a rocky promontory jutting into the Indian Ocean, Batu Bolong Temple is a small shrine a short distance north of the famous Tanah Lot Temple.

Pura Batu Bolong silhouetted against gray sky and ocean, Tanah Lot Bali

Pura Batu Bolong
Even in the pouring rain, with the waves crashing in, it is a delicately beautiful shrine.

Rain and high seas over Tanah Lot Temple in West Bali.

Tanah Lot
On another promontory just further south, Tanah Lot is one of Bali’s most venerated sea temples, and probably the most-photographed. Even in the grim January weather, tourists and pilgrims are huddled in raincoats and under umbrellas on the connection pathway.

Rain and high seas over Tanah Lot temple in West Bali.

Tanah Lot
Rain blows down and waves splash up over Pura Tana Lot. We won’t be treated to a sunset tonight, I fear.

Portrait backlit Balinese Singer, Tanah Lot Temple in West Bali.

Balinese Singer
Instead of a sunset, we make do with a serenade over dinner as we wait for the light to fall.

Even in a tropical paradise like Bali, I suppose it’s a bit greedy expecting both a sunrise and sunset on the same day!

Text: Happy TravelsOne out of two is still pretty good – 

And, we had a lovely day long the way.

Pictures: 25January2017

Landscape: Dürnstein Stiftskirche and Castle Ruins, Wachau Valley Austria

Dürnstein Stiftskirche and Burgruine Dürnstein
The distinctive blue and white tower of the Durnstein Parish Church, the Stiftskirche, with the ruins of the the Kuenringer Castle high overhead, is considered a principal landmark along the picturesque Wachau Valley in Lower Austria.

It’s hard to imagine how the Wachau Valley could be any prettier!

“The Wachau” is the name given the narrow gorge where the Danube River runs between the Bohemian Massif on the northwest, and the Dunkelsteiner Woods to the southeast. For roughly fourty kilometres between the Lower Austrian cities of Melk and Krems, the hilltops are dotted with castle ruins and the hillsides are covered with vineyards and apricot orchards punctuated by delightful towns.

The best way to appreciate the area’s charm is by boat. We were lucky: my husband and I were enjoying a seven day cruise along the Danube, starting in Nuremberg and stopping in Regensburg, Kelheim and Passau. We’d spent the morning exploring Melk Abbey, and had returned to our boat for an early lunch, and the much-anticipated cruise along the Wachau.

UNESCO-listed as “a landscape of high visual quality”, the Wachau is recognised for its “medieval landscape which has evolved organically and harmoniously over time”. People have lived here since the Palaeolithic age: the Venus of Galgenberg (about 32,000 years old) and the Venus of Willendorf (approximately 26,000 years old), two priceless examples of stone-age art, were discovered in the region. The early Celtic settlers started clearing the forests here during the Neolithic period and planted grapes. In 15 BC, the Celtic kingdom of Noricum became part of the Roman Empire, and the Romans elevated the local wine production to a real art. By the Renaissance, 31 monasteries in the Wachau owned vineyards. Today, the Wachau continues to attract connoisseurs and epicureans for its high-quality white wines.

I think we had a glass or two with lunch…

View of Castle Schoenbuehel, from a boat window, Wachau Valley, Austria

Schönbühel-Aggsbach
We caught sight of Castle Schoenbuehel from our cabin window as our boat left its moorings in Melk. That signalled the start of our cruise through the Wachau Valley; it was our cue to go up to the decks to watch the scenery roll past and to listen to the purser’s explanatory commentary.

Canal Boat on the Danube River in the Wachau Valley Austria

Canal Boat on the Danube River
Our boat heads into the gorge that forms “the Wachau”.

Castle Schoenbuehel on the Danube, Wachau Valley Austria

Schloss Schönbühel
Castle Schoenbuehel sits 40 metres (130 ft) above the bank of the Danube; it was begun in the early 12th century as a defensive fortress.

Hotel Donauterrasse, Aggsbach Dorf in Wachau Gorge, Austria

Aggsbach Dorf
Small communities and tourist enterprises nestle in the bends of the river.

Hotel Donauterrasse, Aggsbach Dorf in Wachau Gorge, Austria

Hotel Donauterrasse – Aggsbach Dorf

Aggstein Castle ruins on a Hilltop, Wachau, Austria

Ruine Aggstein
A few minutes further down the river, we come to the ruins of the 12th century Aggstein Castle.

Aggstein Castle ruins on a Hilltop, Wachau, Austria

Aggstein Castle
Sitting 300 metres (980 ft) above the right bank of the Danube at the Wachau’s narrowest point, this castle was once home to robber-barons who plundered passing ships.

St. Johann im Mauerthale on the Wachau, Austria

Another Village, Another Church
This charming church in the district of Rossatz-Arnsdorf is St. Johann im Mauerthale.

Vineyards and Villages, Wachau Valley Austria

Vineyards and Villages, Wachau Valley

Two Men in a Danube canal-boat wheelhouse, Wachau Austria

The Wheelhouse
While we watch the passing scenery, the men in the wheelhouse keep track of our progress.

Vineyards - Wachau Valley Austria

Terraced Vineyards – Wachau Valley
The Wachau is a source of Austria’s most prized dry Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners. The region has it’s own strict internal guidelines for wine classification and labelling. 

Hinterhaus Castle Ruins Spitz, Wachau Austria

Hinterhaus Castle Ruins, Spitz
The hillside behind the old market town of Spitz is dominated by the ruins of the 12th century Hinterhaus Castle. The ruins are said to be haunted by Adelheid, the dead wife of ‘Henry the Iron’, who married a little too hastily after Adelheid’s death.

Church of Saint Rupert, Hofarnsdorf, Wachau Austria

Church of Saint Rupert, Hofarnsdorf

Train going through the tunnel to St Michael, Wachau Austria

Through the Tunnel to St. Michael

Fortified gothic church of St Michael, Wachau Valley Austria

Wehrkirche St. Michael
Around the year 800, Charlemagne erected a sanctuary to St Michael here, supplanting a small, much older, Celtic sacrificial site.

Fortified gothic church of St Michael, Wachau Valley Austria

Wehrkirche St. Michael
The foundations of the fortified gothic church of St Michael which stands here now, were started in 1395 – although most of the building and it’s defence systems were built in the 1500s.

A man sitting on a chair on a sandy spit, fishing on the Danube, Wachau Valley Austria

Fishing on the Danube

Wösendorf and Weißenkirchen in der Wachau, Austria

Wösendorf and Weißenkirchen in the Vineyards

Church in Wösendorf an der Donau, Wachau

Wösendorf an der Donau
The late Baroque church in Wösendorf was one of my favourites.

Weißenkirchen in der Wachau, Austria

Weißenkirchen in der Wachau
Creamy-white buildings with red tiled roofs feature in the pretty little town called – appropriately enough – “White Churches in the Wachau”.

Statue of Richard the Lionheart and Blondel the Minstrel, Wachau Valley Austria

Statue of Richard the Lionheart and Blondel the Minstrel
In the 12th century, Richard the Lionheart, King of England, was imprissioned near here at the Kuenringerburg Castle (now in ruins) for showing disrespect to the Austrian flag. His French aide Blondel is said to have helped negotiate his release, which cost “a kingly ransom of 35,000 kg of silver.”

Durnstein and Kuenringerburg Castle from the Danube, Wachau Valley Austria

Dürnstein
The ruins of Kuenringerburg Castle can just be seen on the hillside as we approach Durnstein.

Dürnstein Stiftskirche Durnstein Parish Church and Castle from the Danube, Wachau Valley Austria

Durnstein Parish Church and Castle Ruins
The distinctive blue tower of the Dürnstein Stiftskirche (“Pen Church”) is one of the best known landmarks of the Wachau Valley. The blue colour is from smalte, an early cobalt pigment much loved in ancient Egyptian decoration, in Venetian glass production, and in Baroque painting.

Unterloiben Parish Church Pfarrkirche

Pfarrkirche – Parish Church – at Unterloiben

Krems an der Donau and Benediktinerstift Göttweig from the Danube, Wachau Valley Austria

Krems an der Donau and Benediktinerstift Göttweig
Göttweig Abbey, sitting up on the hill behind Krems, was founded as a monastery in 1072. The current abbey replaced the monastery that burnt down in 1718.

Donaubrücke Stein-Mautern Krems a.d. Donau from the Danube, Wachau Austria

Donaubrücke Stein-Mautern Krems a.d. Donau
When we approach the Mauterner Bruecke between Mautern and Krems, we know we are coming to the end of the Wachau, 

Krems a.d. Donau
… as the very pretty town of Krems is the official end of the UNESCO-listed valley.

The end of the Wachau Valley, 

… but not the end of our trip.

We navigated through the locks and continued downstream to Vienna.

Text: Safe Sailing

More about that some other time.

In the meantime,

Safe Sailing!

Pictures: 20August2014

  • Gabe - April 13, 2017 - 5:43 pm

    Sailing through this portion of the Danube was beautiful.ReplyCancel

Roots of rhododendron trees in Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Rhododendron Forest
It is easy to imagine faeries and wolves in the foggy rhododendron forest of Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Walking between Ghorepani and Tadapani is like being caught in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.  

The roughly-hewn stone pathways curve up and out of sight through angling sun and patches of low-lying fog, hemmed in by forests of lofty trees coated in lichens and festooned with drapings of Spanish moss. The ground is strewn with pink and red rhododendron blossoms like the trail to Sleeping Beauty, and it is easy to believe that the rose-coloured gnarled and twisting rhododendron trunks hide wolves with unwholesome intents and bears with strange habits.

There were moments when the otherwise-incessant trill of birdsong would just stop – without apparent reason – and I felt like I had walked into a hushed warp in time. 

My husband and I were part of a small group walking the Ghorepani/Poon Hill trek under the guidance of Angfula Sherpa. We had set out early from Ghorepani (see: Magical Mists and Mythical Mountains) and had worked our way up through the misty morning sunlight, our steps rising incessantly until we reached our day’s summit at Deurali Pass by mid-morning.

Now, finally, we were descending steeply over the rough stone steps and muddy pathways where a momentary lapse of attention could mean a twisted knee or ankle – or worse. We followed the waterfalls down the stony banks of the Thulo Odar Kkarka before climbing back up to Ban Thanti for lunch. 

And so it went: up and down rocky slopes, in and out of fog and sunshine, along creek beds and through forests, until we reached the final, short-but-brutal ascent up the stone stairs to Tadapani. As I surmounted the steps into town, a local man I couldn’t see for the fog said to me in a congratulatory tone:

“No more up!”

That was a great relief!

Old hut on a waterfall on the Thulo Odar Kkarka, Annapurna CA, Nepal

Hut on a Waterfall
Patches of snow and multiple waterfalls accompany us as we follow the Thulo Odar Kkarka downstream.

Wildflowers near a waterfall on the Thulo Odar Kkarka, Annapurna CA, Nepal

Flowers on the Waterfall
There are small wildflowers dotting the landscape, hiding in the shadows.

Rhododendron in the Mists, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Rhododendron in the Mists
Overhead, the last rhododendron flowers cling to the trees.

Cairns on the Thulo Odar Kkarka as trekkers continue downstream, , Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Cairns on the Thulo Odar Kkarka
Countless cairns dot the banks of Thulo Odar Kkarka as trekkers continue to pick their way downstream.

Portrait of a Nepali porter saluting, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Porter Dalman
One of our young porters salutes the camera.

Cairns on the Thulo Odar Kkarka, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Cairns on the Thulo Odar Kkarka
The rocks in the riverbed are ideal for cairn construction.

Two Nepali men building a rocky cairn on the Thulo Odar Kkarka, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Angfula and Pasang at Work
Our sherpas build a cairn for our group, …

Cairn on the Thulo Odar Kkarka, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Our Cairn
… and I must say it is magnificent!

Rocks on the Thulo Odar Kkarka river, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Water over the Rocks
Meanwhile, the river continues downstream over the rocks.

Flags and Cairns on the Thulo Odar Kkarka river, Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal

Flags and Cairns on the Thulo Odar Kkarka

Shankar Hotel and Restaurant Ban Thani, Nepal

Shankar Hotel and Restaurant
I was greatly relieved to see our lunch-spot; the morning’s walk had given me an appetite! The entry to the hamlet of Ban Thani was draped in prayer flags, and the buildings wore the blue ubiquitous in the region: a colour I call “Himalayan Blue”.

Nepali woman cooking in a dark kitchen, Ban Thani Nepal

Woman in a Kitchen
It amazes me how people manage to whip up tasty meals in dark and very simple spaces, …

Orange flower in a lettuce patch, Ban Thani, Nepal

Flower in the Lettuce, Ban Thani
… using fresh home-grown ingredients.

Dirty lunch dishes on the ground, Ban Thani

Lunch Dishes – Ban Thani
Even washing-up is kept simple; there is plenty of clean (cold) running water from the river.

Trunks and roots of rhododendron trees in Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Into the Rhododendrons
Our path out of Ban Thani leads back into the misty woods …

Foggy path in a rhododendron forest in Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Steps into the Mists
… where wolves and faeries could be hiding.

Foggy path in a rhododendron forest in Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Steps Up and Up …

Grasses on the side of a misty hillside, Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Grasses in the Clouds
The clouds lower down around us …

Tree in the mists on a hillside, Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Tree in the Mists
… as we continue to rise up the hillside.

Walkers descending a trail, Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

Last Blooms of Spring
Briefly, the sky clears  …

Walkers descending a trail, Shikha, Mid-Western Development Region, Nepal.

The Path Winding Down
… and we descend again along winding tracks through the rhododendrons.

Rhododendron petals on the path into Tadapani, Nepal

Petals on the Path

Walkers climbing into a mist at the top of the steps, Tadapani, Nepal

The Climb up to Tadapani
The last climb up to Tadapani seems endless …

Pack ponies in a mist at the top of the steps, Tadapani, Nepal

Ponies at the Top
… as it leads past pack-ponies at the ready, …

Last Climb up to Tadadapani in a cloud, Nepal

Last Climb up to Tadadapani
… and the afternoon light grows dim in the falling rain.

Text: Happy Walking!

“No more up!”

How happy I was to hear that.

I did indeed feel as if I’d summited a mountain!

Until next time,

Happy Walking!

Photos: 22March2017

  • Gabe Gajdatsy - April 6, 2017 - 12:30 pm

    The photo’s are better than I expected. They capture the eerie feel of the woodsReplyCancel

Trekker at the top of stone stars in slanting sunlight, Ghorepani Trek, Nepal

Upward into the Sunlight
The early morning light is surreal in the Nepali rhododendron forest as we climb out of Ghorepani towards the Deurali Pass.

There is a mystical magic in the rhododendron forests of Western Nepal

It was day four of a short trek under the patient and watchful eye of our guide Angfula Sherpa, and I was finally hitting my stride. My husband and I were part of a small group walking the Ghorepani/Poon Hill circuit in the Annapurna Conservation Area of the Himalaya. The walking we had done the three days prior (more abut that anon) had been tough: the constant rocky uphill climbs had taken their toll on my aging knees and hips and my gasping lungs, and had left me wishing sincerely that I had trained better in preparation for what was feeling more like an ordeal than a holiday. I was so much older and less fit than the last time I walked these trails (Heaven and Hard Work). 

But, then it all changed:

The walk into the forests on morning of day four was just magic. The stone steps led ever-upward, but not as steeply as they had done the days prior. The world felt hushed – in spite of the constant blanket of birdsong high in the trees overhead. Snow lay in patches on the ground, and mists rose all around us. Morning light angled through the forest of tall rhododendrons, maples, and oaks. And I was smiling.

This is why I love to walk!

Ponies in a train, Ghorapani Nepal

“Follow the Ponies to Tadapani”
We tumble out of our lodgings early in the morning, but the pony trains are on the paths well before us!

Fresh snow on Annapurna South through the fading rhododenron flowers on the track out of Ghorapani, Nepal

Fresh Snow and Spent Rhododenrons
We are teased by glimpses of Annapurna South as we climb through the tall forests of rhododendrons with their fading flowers.

Trekker at the top of stone stars in slanting sunlight, Ghorepani Trek, Nepal

Up, Up, Towards the Sun …
The early morning light on the pink trunks of the textured and twisting rhododendron trees as we left Ghorepani told me immediately that this morning was going to be different!

A Nepali porter under the "Leaving Ghorepani

“Leaving Ghorepani”
I am constantly in awe of the porters who carry 2-4 times what we do, and make it look effortless.

Sunlight on new growth at the base of rhododendron trunk, Ghorepani Nepal

Light on the New Growth
March is spring in the Himalaya. Left-over snow from a fall two weeks prior hides in the shadows while new growth finds the sun.

Trekkers in shafts of light in a rhododendron forest, Ghorepani Nepal.

Up through the Sunbeams
Spring is also higher-risk season for avalanches further into the Annapurna: less than two weeks before our trek, an avalanche buried a hotel at Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) and killed three tourists. The area was still closed off when we reached Gorepani, making our trails and teahouses much busier as trekkers had to re-route their journeys. Although we shared the way with many other groups, this morning still felt hushed and quiet. I think everyone was captured by the light.

Mt Dhaulagiri from Deurali Pass Track, Nepal

Mt Dhaulagiri
Seventh highest mountain in the world (8167 m – 26,795 ft), Mt Dhaulagiri shows itself through the trees and clouds.

Fresh snow on Annapurna South through the fading rhododenron flowers on the track out of Ghorapani, Nepal

Annapurna South
Although it appears more dramatic than Dhaulagiri, Annapurna South (7219 m – 23,684 ft) is actually much less high.

Pony and Trekkers at Lower Deurali Pass, Nepal

Pony and Trekkers at Lower Deurali Pass
When we reach a clearing, ponies, porters, and trekkers alike are ready for a rest.

Pony and Driver at Lower Deurali Pass, Nepal

Pony and Driver
The viewing tower at Poon Hill is just visible on the highest hill (3210m – 10,531 ft) behind us.

Portrait of a Nepali man in a wool hat, Lower Deurali Pass, Nepal

At Home in the Mountains
Everywhere we go, the people are friendly and welcoming.

Trekkers in shafts of light in a rhododendron forest, Deurali Pass Nepal.

More Up!
As the sun rises in the morning sky, we continue to climb.

Dhaulagiri and a Break in the Forest, Deurali Pass Nepal

Dhaulagiri through a Break in the Forest

Black and white yak on the hill, Deurali Pass Nepal

Yak on the Hill
Herds of domestic female yaks – more properly called naks, as yaks are male – graze on the high hillside.

Cairn at the top of Deurali Pass Annapurna South and Hiunchuli in the background, Nepal

Cairn at Deurali Pass
Finally! We reach our highest point for the day (3090 m – 10,138 ft); Annapurna South and Hiunchuli sit majestically in the background.

Buddhist prayer flags and Annapurna Mountains, Deurali Pass Nepal

Prayers and Mountains
Buddhist prayer flags send wishes out on the winds as we admire the mountain views.

Trekkers on Snowy Trails, Deurali Nepal

Snowy Trails
Thankfully, the rest of our day is (mostly) downhill.

Machhapuchhare - Fishtail Mountain through the trees, Deurali Nepal

Machhapuchhare
The sacred Fishtail Mountain peaks out through the forest canopy.

Deurali from the trail, Nepal

Deurali
Dressed in a colour I think of as Himalayan Blue because it is so prevalent in this region, the little town of Deurali comes into sight.

Tibetan Market Goods, Deurali Nepal

Tibetan Market Goods
The tables in Deurali are loaded with prayer flags, hats and mittens knitted from yak wool, pashmina/cashmere woven scarves, and Tibetan Buddhist trinkets in bronze and bone.

The markets would have to wait …

Text: Happy Walking!I was more than ready for my spicy masala tea! 

That – and the wonderful mountain air – would keep me going for the rest of the day’s trek.

Until then –

Happy Walking!

Photos: 22March2017

  • Guava - March 30, 2017 - 11:21 pm

    Hi Ursula!

    I really enjoyed the photos and story. I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to go on a trek like this anymore. I developed serious nerve damage in my lower spine after a bout of sciatica a couple of years ago.

    I found carrying all my Nikon gear and Think Tank belt system around Thailand a real ordeal so bought my first micro four thirds camera 18 months ago. What a revelation! I sold off all my Nikon gear and reinvested the money into my new system, adding a second body and full compliment of lenses. I love the small rangefinder style bodies and combined with prime lenses am having a ball!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - March 31, 2017 - 1:23 am

      Hi Guava,
      Lovely to ‘see’ you! Sorry to hear about your sciatica. I was very worried that my knees and hip might give out during our trek, but was very lucky. I did take my anti-inflammatories every day… the joys of aging!
      A lot of my pro friends are on the new mirrorless systems, and I watch them with envy. I can’t afford the swap, but at least my Spiderbelt keeps them off my neck.
      Cheers,
      UrsulaReplyCancel

  • […] trek under the guidance of Angfula Sherpa. We had set out early from Ghorepani (see: Magical Mists and Mythical Mountains) and had worked our way up through the misty morning sunlight, our steps rising incessantly until […]ReplyCancel

Giraffe silhouetted in the Sunrise, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Giraffe in the Sunrise
The view from the truck, as we bounced across the roads in Northern Namiba’s Etosha National Park, was just breathtaking!

It was a dream-come-true: riding around in a truck with a pop-up roof across the open grasslands of Northern Namibia.

When I had the opportunity to travel with a small group of photography enthusiasts under the guidance of photographer Ben McRae and local guide guide Morne Griffiths, I had a momentary pang of guilt: I don’t know how many times my husband and I had planned travel to Africa, only to have something crop up in our schedules to make the trips impossible.

The guilt passed quickly once I was sitting overlooking a Namibian waterhole! (see: A day at the Waterhole)

I had my first taste of the African waterhole experience at a bush camp in Kamanjab, where we stopped overnight before continuing on to the magical Etosha National Park. Waterholes are like a zoo in reverse: people are behind protective fences or in their vehicles while the animals come and go as they please. 

It was nerve-wracking driving across the savannah, scanning the seemingly empty horizon and then seeing SOMETHING! anything – and stopping; standing on the seats of the vehicle to aim the cameras out from under the pop-top. Oh, how I envied the other people with their 400mm zoom lenses!

Watching the waterholes, on the other hand, was absolutely mesmerising: you sit, anytime of day or night, and the animals follow their own rhythms – coming and going. We had pitched our tents at Namutoni Camp for two nights, next to the King Nehale Waterhole on the eastern side of Etosha National Park. I could wander out to the waterhole and watch the animals all day long; I could set up my tripod and attempt to take pictures under the low, low, yellow light that was cast over the scene after dark; or I could lay in my tent at night and listen to the jackals fighting over the jerky someone had left in the next tent, with the roar of lions in the distance.

Never mind “Out of Africa”; I was finally in it!

Waterbuck Kobus Ellipsiprymnus at a waterhole, Kamanjab, Namibia

Waterbuck – Kobus Ellipsiprymnus
If you build a waterhole, the animals will come … especially if you are in a game reserve.

Waterbuck Kobus Ellipsiprymnus at a waterhole, Kamanjab, Namibia

Waterbuck – Kobus Ellipsiprymnus

Rock Hyrax Procavia Capensis on a rocky outcrop, Kamanjab, Namibia

Rock Hyrax – Procavia Capensis
Many of the animals are a delightful surprise: hyraxes are a primitive mammal with characteristics in common with elephants, manatees and dugongs.

Rock Hyrax (Procavia Capensis) on a rocky outcrop, Kamanjab, Namibia

Rock Hyrax – Procavia Capensis
They are like irresistible teddies with grins.

Pririt Batis - Batis Pririt in bushes, Kamanjab, Namibia

Pririt Batis – Batis Pririt

Hyena in the Sunrise, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Hyena in the Sunrise
An early morning ride in the truck gives us unique views over the veld: the hyenas are up early.

View from the Truck : Hyena in the Sunrise, Etosha National Park, Namibia

Hyena (Hyaenidae) on the Veld

Etosha Pan, Etosha National Park Namibia

Etosha Pan
In the language of the Ovambo people, Etosha means ‘great white place’; the Etosha Pan, which covers approximately 4,800 square kilometres, is the largest salt pan in Africa.

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella), Etosha National Park Namibia

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella)
The large oryx are a beautiful animal – and a popular menu item in Namibia where “vegetarian” is a foreign concept.

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum), Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum)
Our reward for getting up early is a white or square-lipped rhinoceros – with a couple of giraffe on the horizon for good measure! The largest of the five rhino species, the white rhino has been brought back from the very brink of extinction, but is still considered threatened.

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum), Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhino (Ceratotherium Simum)
The massive beast doesn’t tolerate our presence long before shuffling away at surprising speed.

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis Kori), Etosha National Park Namibia

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis Kori)
I couldn’t help but think of “All Creatures Great and Small” as I watched the small birds and huge mammals that co-exist on the savanna. The kori bustard is the largest flying bird native to Africa.

Guinea Fowl (Hamanumida daedalus), Etosha National Park Namibia

Guinea Fowl (Hamanumida daedalus)
While the fat-bodied guinea fowl can fly, they are more likely to run around at ground level.

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella), Etosha National Park Namibia

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella)

Gemsbok (Oryx Gazella), Etosha National Park Namibia

Oryx on the Run

Springbok jumping away, Etosha National Park Namibia

Springing Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis)
I never tired of watching the dainty-looking springbok hop and run. Protected in Etosha National Park, in nearby game parks, springbok are raised for their popular meat.

Two Gnus on the salt pan, Etosha National Park Namibia

Two Gnus
Not the most elegant of antelopes, the large wildebeests tended to cluster near the waterholes.
I grew up listening to Flanders and Swann’s songs about animals, including: “I’m a Gnu”. Every time I saw these creatures, I’d end up singing: “I’m a g-nu, spelled g-n-u… You really ought to k-now w-ho’s w-ho!”

Zebra, Etosha National Park Namibia

Zebra
In distinct contrast with the gnus, the zebras are quite beautiful.

Laughing Doves

Laughing Doves

Black Backed Jackals (Canis mesomelas), Etosha National Park Namibia

Black Backed Jackal (Canis Mesomelas)
In the evening, as the light and temperature drop, the jackals come out to the King Nehale Waterhole on the eastern side of Etosha National Park.

Black Backed Jackal (Canis mesomelas), Etosha National Park Namibia

Black Backed Jackal (Canis Mesomelas)
I love how the angled evening light catches their fur!

Giraffe in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

Giraffe at the Waterhole
After dark, the animals come out: …

Giraffes in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

Giraffes at the Waterhole
… singly, and in pairs.

White Rhinos in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhinos at the Waterhole
The rhinoceroses are a treat; an added layer of hush falls over the animal-watchers around the waterhole when they come out.

White Rhinos in the dark, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia

White Rhinos at the Waterhole

Oryx and Rhino, King Nehale Waterhole, Etosha National Park Namibia.

Oryx and Rhino
It is fascinating watching all the animals take their turns.

And then, there were the elephants! 

They stand alone, so I’ll save them for another day.

Until next time – 

Happy Travels!

Pictures: 18-20August2015