Posts/Travel

Journeys Through Six Continents

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Somewhere in Ladakh

It’s like any other addiction, I suppose. One needs a fix, may be not right away, but the hankering continues until satisfaction looms inches away. The frequency varies but the desperation rarely does. One can feel it in the bones, evoking a very physical response. Occasionally living vicariously feeds it, but mostly it makes it worse. Like other addictions, it invariably causes problems. Especially of the financial kind. How does one without deep pockets feed the habit?

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Lone tiger in a scrub forest

Wanderlust is both my purpose and undoing, all at the same time. This addiction to travel drives me to the ends of the earth and drags me into unpredictable experiences. It has been this way for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid, if I was not outdoors and on my feet, I could be found on a tree, book in hand, reading about faraway lands. It’s an integral part of me, makes me who I am. Never believe someone who claims to be free of addictions. And never befriend them if they truly are so.

I am a millennial but my travels make me feel older. Wiser, you ask? Ah, that I’m not too sure of. A wise woman never calls herself wise, anyway.

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Puerto Iguazu and the Iguazu Falls

There was a slight mist rising from the middle of the forest green and body of water. It seemed like a plume of fumes rising more than fifty feet in the air and was visible from miles around while everything around it was still. I gasped in sudden realization just as the aircraft turned and we had our eyes glued to windows on the right side through which we could still see what we had come so far to see. I exclaimed,"That must be the falls!" as the airplane started its descent to the Aeropuerto International Cataratas del Iguazu - we hadn't seen the falls itself, just the indication of its existence.

The Iguazu (Iguassu or Iguacu) Falls, considered amongst the world's largest waterfalls, straddle the state of Parana in Brazil and the province of Misiones in Argentina. They form a semicircular shape, running some 2.7 km along the Iguazu river, and divide the river into upper and lower parts. They are said to be the result of a volcanic eruption which led to the formation of a large crack on the earth's surface. The Iguazu Falls are said to be made up of some 275 smaller falls, many of which have their own name (such as Bosetti Falls, Devil's Throat, and San Martin's Falls), with the Devil's Throat (Garganta del Diablo in Spanish) being the tallest of them all at a spectacular 80 m height.

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The Iguazu Falls

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Desert Dynamics

With an area of more than 40,000 sq. kms., Kutch is unquestionably the largest district in India. It is in the north-western part of the state of Gujarat in India, and beyond the upper borders of the state is the country of Pakistan. The land, its people, and their culture are shaped and moulded by the extremities of the area and the climate. They lie at the confluence of different cultures and these influences exist today for all to see, in the clothes, traditions, food, lives, and beliefs of the people. It is a unique landscape for where else in the world can you find a desert ecosystem with three distinct seasons (summer, monsoon, and winter), pockets of which transform into wetlands for a third of a year, is pretty much an island surrounded by two Gulfs and a salt desert, and for a few months in a year metamorphoses into the largest grassland in Asia.

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Desert sunset

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An Inordinate Fondness for ... Butterflies!

"I turned to the teeming small creatures that can be held between the thumb and forefinger: the little things that compose the foundation of our ecosystems, the little things, as I like to say, who run the world." - E.O. Wilson

A few months ago, I went on a hike with my extended family in one of the many wonderful State Parks that dot the state of Texas. By the end of the short, two mile trail, I received the comment - "You know, we are usually through with the trail in half hour or so!" We had taken about four hours to complete the same trail, all thanks to my birding. Just for perspective, a half mile or less stretch took our class of fifteen students more than 3 hours, when the focus shifted to the 'teeming small creatures', on a field trip for our course on Invertebrate Ecology. With that shift in scale, when one stops to look at every little thing that is best seen with a magnifying glass, time shifts in scale too, me thinks.

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Pill Millipede

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The Masai Mara National Reserve

The Masai Mara is synonymous with wildlife, safaris, and an event that has come to be called the 'great migration'. Mention Africa, and a picture of game from here springs to mind right away: zebras and giraffes, wildebeest and hippopotami, lions and cheetahs, amidst the tall grasses of the savannahs and murky pools of the waterholes. The Masai Mara National Reserve is the best known of Kenya's parks and reserves, and along with the Serengeti, epitomizes Africa and the word 'safari'.

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The Masai Mara plains

Contiguous with the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, the Mara is a large game reserve in Narok County in south-western Kenya, just below the equator. It is named in honor of the ancestral inhabitants of the area, the Masai people, and their description of the landscape when seen from afar, Mara. In the Masai language, "mara" means "spotted"; the plains do indeed seem dotted with trees, shrubs, herds of animals, and shadows from the clouds, along the savanna.

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Edinburgh in a Day

Edinburgh (pronounced ed-in-burr-a) is the beautiful capital of Scotland. I cannot stress on the word 'beautiful' enough. It is not big by most standards and walking through the alleyways, exploring the city was tremendous fun. With the Edinburgh Castle being the highlight of the skyline, the undulating streets and cobbled pathways, made exploration a pleasure - the view that met one's eyes at every turn and climb never ceased to please or surprise.

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This is how a place begs to be explored!

The buildings seemed to reek of history, the streets too ... The entire city, actually. I occasionally felt transported back to medieval times - the city truly seemed to come alive with history while still being somewhat cosmopolitan.To add to the charm, it has been home to the who's who of the literary world, from Sir Walter Scott to J.K.Rowling, and McCall Smith of course. Every nook had a story to tell, quaint pubs with quaint-er names would beckon silently for an experience from an earlier age, filled with tales of famous regulars, long dead now and rolling in their grave ...

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Bali, Indonesia

Lost in a volcano

All was quiet. A respite from the almost constant music of the wind. Nothing moved. The lake was a dark marble of reflections and surprises. A pause. But not for long. The wind blew gentle ripples on the still and placid waters of the lake. Everything above the surface of the water was a haze of deep purple and saffron, thanks to the setting sun. The skyline was smudged with undulating hills of a dark green, the peaks wrapped in a blanket of white clouds. It was an alien landscape. Silent, beautiful, desolate, and surreal. One could hear the wind conducting multiple distinct orchestras.

The swish of the chilly breeze so characteristic of being in the mountains and the grating noise of our bike cutting through the harsh wind. When you stop, lost in the spectacular beauty of the terrain, you hear the ripple of the small waves being sculpted on the surface of the water. The gentle rustling of the leaves on the occasional tree. There is magic in the air. The lake is the prestige of a master illusionist. The colors play tricks on my eyes, metallic splotches of shades in a tapestry of modern art that change with the light. Rock formations jump out, a fluoroscent green where the rock touches the waters of the lake that then erupts into a pastel riot of colors. A miniature volcano of hues.

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Land ahoy! The island of Bali as seen from the Bali Sea.

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Portraits and Landscapes

It was twilight. Almost. The setting sun visible between two peaks of a mountain range, reminding one of the crayon masterpieces that kindergarten kids wave into existence. The clear, blue, and cloudless sky of the day somehow transforms into a haze of purple and diffused pink. The flat desert terrain encapsulated by towering, slaty mountains, almost the color of obsidian in the play of glows and shadows. I had picked up a fragment of the black glass just that morning, a treasured keepsake from a harsh land.

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Shadow play

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