Al Hambra & Gardens

There is no reference to the Alhambra as being a residence of kings, until the 13th century, even though a fortress had existed since the 9th century. The first kings of Granada, the Zirites, had their castles and palaces on the hills of the Albaicin, and nothing remains of them. The Nasrites were the emirs that built the Alhambra, starting in 1238.

The complex of palaces; this residence of the kings of Granada was constructed from the ruins of the former fortress, by the founder of the dynasty, Alhamar, who commenced work in the thirteenth century. Mostly the buildings that have survived however, date from the fourteenth century.

The Alhambra became a Christian court in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) conquered the city of Granada.

Palacios Nazaríes – Alhambra

A night visit to the Alhambra

We waited patiently as the sun set over the Alhambra. As the light faded into the west, the sun dipping down below the horizon, spreading shadows across the walls of this majestic palace. The security man, lifted the barrier and we entered; for our night visit to the Alhambra….

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Granada, Plaza del toros.

A Week in Spain

On Saturday morning, we went to Granada’s Plaza Del Toros; to have a look at the Bull Ring. There was no fight on at this time of day and the arena was closed; for cleaning. I asked the janitor who was hosing down the dust, if we could have a look inside. He very kindly agreed and let us in to have a look around.

“EL TOREO ES TORTURA NI ES NI ARTE NI CULTURA”

Everest Base camp trek 2016

everest_base_camp_via_gokyo_trekking_map

I went to Nepal in 2007 with the intention of trying the Everest base camp trek. Mainly due to the circumstances of the weather that year the flights to Lukla were rained off. I’ve been to Nepal several times since, but on each occasion there was some reason or another why the base camp trek remained an unfulfilled ambition. However, this year 2016, that ambition was realised.

Lukla, is the start of the Everest base camp trek. Lukla itself is at an elevation of 2,860 m. It has what is described as the ‘most dangerous’ airport in the world. The runway is only 527 m long and as the planes come in and out of Lukla airport it is easy to see how it gets its reputation.

We arrived at Lukla airport, flying in on Tara Airlines, on the 14th May 2016. We were meant to be flying the day before, but considering this was Friday the 13th – the day after seemed like a better option.

We set out on the trek going through the initial check posts and then got into our stride. The trek to base camp is a 12 day round trip; coming down obviously taking less time than getting up. We decided that we were not going to try for base camp itself, but only to Kalla Pathar, which is one stop before Base Camp. Kalla Pathar, is at an altitude of 5550 meters, and the place from where almost all of the iconic shots of Everest have been taken.

So we headed off towards Namche Bazaar, with a climb that is reckoned to be the hardest part of the trek. Namche is at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) at its lowest point. In the burning heat of the sun we climbed and climbed this winding route which seemed never-ending. And finally in pouring rain, exhausted and already suffering from altitude sickness, I arrived at Namche.

There was an acclimatisation day here, where I got my first sight of Everest, then we continued the trek the next day.

The altitude as we got higher and higher, became more of a problem for me. Hari, my friend and guide on this trek, seemed entirely unaffected by the altitude and the exertion, but then he is a very experienced guide and has been at the trekking game a long time. He never seemed out of breath and nor once did he break a sweat. While the sweat poured off me and walking and even talking was very difficult.

We made it through Tyengboche, where there is a large and famous Buddhist Monastery. With another siting of Mount Everest in the clear light of the early morning – the day after we arrived.

We pressed on, but by now the altitude was taking its toll. In the end we made it to “Lobuche”. This sits at an altitude of 4930 meters (and which is 16,175 feet). But I was suffering severely from altitude sickness by this time, with an upset stomach, headache and double blindness; which is having double vision and being out of focus at the same time. Altitude sickness is a serious business and cannot be taken lightly. We were going to stay at this altitude in one of the Lodges – but Hari advised that we needed to start heading down immediately. It was a great disappointment to me and somewhat reluctantly, I took his advice and we set off down the mountain. We did pretty well on the way back down, making good time, getting back to Tyengboche in one stage, and Namche Bazaar the next day. We didn’t need the rest days on the way down and on the following day we were back at Lukla ready for the flight home. I was on the whole and particularly in retrospect pleased with my performance. Having finally seen Mount Everest for myself – I was satisfied and we returned to Kathmandu the next day.

Kathmandu Streets

“Kathmandu is alive, vibrant, magical a living city. I have never know a more colourfully textured, rich and aromatic place. To give it it’s due, Kathmandu is a very busy place. Everybody seems either constantly on the move, or quite conversely – sitting through the heat of the midday sun. It is a peaceful city despite its, diversity and noise. Eagles fly silently above the city heights, dogs scrap for left overs in the streets, and kids run a muck. The pollution in Kathmandu can be unbearable, but which does not detract from my love of it in the least.”

 

Snow Mountain Annual Pauite Pow wow 2014

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to be able to attended the Snow Mountain Paiute Annual Pow wow 2014. I was visiting a friend in Las Vegas. Part of my reason for the trip, certainly the timing, was that the Annual Paiute Pow Wow was being held just north of Las Vegas, in the Snow Mountain reservation. We arrived in late afternoon and waited for the event to begin. The Sun was sinking when we arrived.  There was a prayer to the four directions going on as we entered the dusty area where the Pow wow was to be held. This prayer involved traditional beliefs intertwined with Christian ideals, which surprised me. Four of the elders, led by drumming and chanting from the various competitors, moved out into the arena to “clean” the ritual space. Each took a direction. They then in turn danced and seemed to offer prayers to their chosen direction. This they did for each of the four directions in turn until they came full circle. Then the Pow Wow could begin. The Competitors entered the arena behind flag bearers, holding aloft the American flag and triumphantly danced their way into and around the arena. It was an incredible display of colour, skill and finesse. The competition began; the dancing was something else. There were representatives present from what seemed like every corners of north America including Canada – the competition was divided up regionally, presumably as the dance styles varied so much. The outstanding dances for me were the Chicken Dance and the very energetic Warhorse Dance. For each type of dance and in every category they entered the arena. In bright colours and feathers, they took their turn and danced into the night, to a delighted crowd……

Grand Entrance

Prayer

Dance commences

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Chicken Dance

Warhorse Dance

Night falls

Young Warrior

The women

The night carries on

Kathmandu 2013

Kathmandu is a diverse city with all its noise and pollution, its poverty and its culture. The most striking thing about Kathmandu is its abundance of life, people carving out an existence under sometimes difficult circumstances. In Kathmandu for instance there is a load shedding system on the power. Electricity is off for fourteen hours in any one specific area then comes back on for only six on a circulatory system. Also in the winter water because of the frozen reserves in the mountains, is at a scarcity and then tap water not even drinkable when available. Despite this Kathmandu is rich in myriad ways, not rich in the sense that the people have very much (in the way of money or possessions), they have very little. What I find in Kathmandu is that people because they have so little are in fact noticeably happier – there is still a sense of community, everybody shares what they do have and mostly everybody smiles – there is a level of happiness we could only aspire to in the west.

Rider on the road
Rider on the road
Rush hour
Rush hour
Light on the street, Thamel
Light on the street, Thamel
Homeless
Homeless
Local teams battle it out on a Saturday
Local teams battle it out on a Satruday
Saturday afternoon Volleyball
Saturday afternoon Volleyball
Street magician
Street magician
A street vender
A street vender
Wild dogs on the streets of Kathmandu
Wild dogs on the streets of Kathmandu
The Indian slums of Kathamndu
Indian slums
Military zone
Military zone
Tundikhel park, Kathmandu
Tundikhel park, Kathmandu
Tundikhel, Kathmandu
Tundikhel, Kathmandu
Tundikhel Park
Tundikhel Park