A Travellerspoint blog

Warning Savage Nature Advisory

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This ridiculously cute miscellaneous squirrel type thing is here as a warning. It is the adorable yin to nature’s brutal yang. On this trip, and particularly of late in the Middle East, we have seen what man is capable of, both in terms of cruelty and brutality. However, it can be easy to forget that it’s a dog eat dog world, and that natural selection only sucks when you’re at the bottom of the food chain.

This is your Warning Savage Nature Advisory. Should you not wish to see nature at it’s explicit and beautiful best then don’t continue on to the next picture.

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Ah shucks I just had to put in another one, look how cute he his!

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See you think he’s an adorable little bugger but he is just sitting back enjoying free tickets to the R18 Horror show.

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And the show in Africa is almost always brutal.

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No regret, no shame, just a killing machine.

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Killing.

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Strangely intimate moment, the weak slips away so that the mighty can thrive.

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Apex Predator.

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Lion's kill Zebra’s because they are finger lickin good!

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But surely he’s not going to do that!

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Err he did it… got right up on in there.

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Like I said Brutal.

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Jen and I call this “Nom Noming”

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“When the Lion kills, the Jackal profits” An Afghan Proverb

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But not while the Lion is watching.

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And sometimes Jackals pay for dinner… bigtime!

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This is his kill.

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When he has had enough Zebra rump steak.

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He takes a 350 kilo doggy bag with him.

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Lion’s Motto “Leave only footprints and scraps, take the rest with you”

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Filthy Jackals, you could lose an eye to that tripe … TWANG!

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Pondering a side of Jackal for his Zebra Steak.

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Or is he looking for a zesty kiwi for dessert?

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Key in the ignition … check… evil look in Lion’s eyes check… time to go check!

See you later King of the Jungle, that definitely counts as an interesting new experience!

P.S

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Ahhhh Shite!

Even with the cutest of nature’s animals, there’s always that one cheeky bastard who loves to ruin your beautifully symmetrical photo at the last second!

Posted by 19jenny79 15:11 Archived in Namibia Comments (2)

West Banksy

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“We build too many walls and not enough bridges” Isaac Newton

Build something high and wide enough and you should never have to worry about whatever it is that frightens you on the other side. Like the monster under the bed it can never get you if you don’t look. However, no matter how mighty the effort, there are some things that can never be locked away.

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How high is high enough?

On the west bank of Palestine we didn’t find terror or terrorists, we found Banksy, fantastically friendly people and a wall. In the biblical town of Bethlehem that wall has failed to contain the inhabitants spirit and has instead become the canvas for their freedom of expression.

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Banksy’s Art: Intelligent Activism

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The past or the future?

It is hard to imagine walls in any other context than as relics of bygone eras. Epic monuments to mans failed attempts to control and coral other human beings. History is littered with prodigious ramparts; Hadrian’s Wall, The Berlin Wall, The Maginot Line, The Great Wall… mighty in both scope and human endeavour they are unified mostly by their monumental failure to achieve their goals.

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Walls are some people’s future.

Between Israel and Palestine the Israeli Government is building a 12 metre high wall. It is currently 440kms and upon completion it will be more than 700km long.

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Successful walls keep dangerous entities where they can do no harm.

The wall effectively separates the West Bank from Israel. Palestinians and there families are spread all over both Israel and the West Bank. Palestinians in the West Bank are not allowed to go beyond the wall.

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The wall is known by two names; In Israel it is called the Separation Wall, in Palestine, it’s called the Apartheid Wall. Like so many things in life perception is defined by which side of the wall you find yourself on.

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Larger than life, a 12 metre high canvas.

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Banksy is the pseudonym of a famous graffiti artist, political activist and painter from the UK. His real name is unknown despite being an active artist for more than twenty years and his art being sold for as much $500,000. Renowned for his satirical street art and dark humour he travelled to the West Bank in 2005 to use his unique style of art to highlight the life of Palestinians behind the wall.

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Wandering the mean streets of Palestine wasn’t scary it was eerie and more than a little sad. Neither of us knew quite how we were supposed to feel but it was impossible not to feel that something wasn’t right.

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I spoke to a Palestinian accountant (Who spoke four languages) on the bus and mentioned we don’t understand how things work in Israel / Palestine, she looked at me and said “Why would you even try to understand, I have lived here my whole life and I can’t began to understand what is happening here”

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So we gave up trying to understand and just walked the walls of Bethlehem and let the art of Banksy and the people of Bethlehem tell its own sad story.

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Classic Banksy.

Walking in the shadow of a wall built to contain an entire people was one of life’s more surreal experiences. I don’t understand the problem. Don’t know the people or the politics. I am as naïve as anyone can be about this part of the world. But even so it is hard to believe that a wall could possibly solve the complex issues that exist in Palestine.

If it is the right solution, then that is very sad.

Remember the West Bank is dangerous! Always find a responsible and sensible driver to take you between artwork sites.

Here are a few photos that show the lighter side of a fantastic part of the world.

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Is that what I think it is?

Warm Palestinian fuzzy’s aside Jen and I packed ourselves and ran screaming when we noticed this suspicious looking “Tube” being assembled in a packed square.

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Palestinians know how to get the fire started, Hairdryer + Fire = GENIUS!

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Checkpoint Chicks, Forget GIRL Power its FIRE Power, Equal Opportunities… to be deadly, Girls can kill anything…

Unsurprisingly sexist comments in Israel have evaporated now that all the hot girls are packing heat.

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You can't be lost if you didn't know where you were to start with... right?

Following in the footsteps of the Romans and the Crusaders I wasn’t the first Westerner to get lost in Jerusalem I’m sure! Seriously I think Gaudi designed this city on a Spiral Draw while eating spaghetti and pondering a squiggle top.

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And lo and beyond, one wrong turn and that’s it… INSTADEATH. Thanks Jerusalem!

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I’ve heard the term “We all have our crosses to bear” but that’s just meant to be a figure of speech surely!

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No Jenny!

With so much gold lying around Jerusalem, and a couple of bankrupt travellers in need of nuptial rings, Jen figured no one would notice if this giant gold pillar went missing. While agreeing wholehearted in theory, I pointed out that as the gold pillar was part of Jesus’s burial tomb, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, what would made us rich in the present would basically guarantee we did poorly in the afterlife.

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Lightbulb Moment…

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So that’s why there's a shortage of Lampshades in Israel!

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Despite there "unique" hat choices its surprising easy for a guy to get a date in Jerusalem.

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It is not what you wear, it’s how you wear it.

The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem creates a pale contrast for the stern and stylish visage of a Hasidic Jew at his daily prays. Jen took this fantastic picture at the very end range of our 65x zoom. For me this picture sums up our experience in Israel and Palestine. It’s a strange and beautiful place, complex, harsh and fantastically different.

It’s not a place we will ever forget.

Posted by 19jenny79 10:22 Archived in Israel Comments (3)

Morning Swim

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Heres a vid us dipping our toes in a little history as we take our morning swim in Turkey.

Posted by 19jenny79 12:09 Archived in Turkey Comments (1)

O for Owesome Ostrich

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What you looking at?

Like most disasters this story started with a miscommunication. Driving down the highway I saw a roadside sign for an Ostrich Factory, I glanced at Jen enquiringly, she scowled, shook her head and then said firmly “No”. In the ancient manly tradition of misunderstanding I took this to mean she was keen to check it out. As I turned at that fork, life’s path changed, I am no longer allowed within a hundred feet of an ostrich in the sovereign state of South Africa.

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Its not what it looks like!

Sometimes you just have to front up to your shame early and tear it off like a plaster. There is no easy way to say this… but it’s not what you think! Yes I know I look a little sheepish… damn it… why did I have to bring up sheep. Anyway, I digress; I’ll return to the beginning, you all deserve a full account of how I found myself in this compromising position.

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Pulling into the Ostrich Farm I excitedly rushed us over to look at the giant birds. As I took this snap of Jen something about the tense set of her shoulders finally flipped off that innate (And fatally delayed) warning sense that all men possess. In a moment of stunning clarity I realised I was in the shit… she actually meant it when she said she had zero desire to go to an Ostrich Factory. Who could have guessed it?

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Making an ass of himself.

I tried to console her by saying that life could be worse she could have an ASShole boss like this poor donkey. Even lame humour didn’t work.

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If feather boas could kill.

As we made our way from intensely boring boa construction (This is much more dull than Boa constriction) to the egg-painting factory to the feather sorting plant I got more and more uncomfortable. Jen had been right this tour totally sucked. In fact it was the worst tour I had ever been on, I was never going to live it down. Then things changed and everything got much worse.

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Moment of Truth.

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True Terror.

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All there! Happily counting her fingers.

As we made it to the live Ostrich section of the tour my humiliation truly started. I caught Jen in this great moment of utter terror as the she fed the mammoth birds. I laughed so hard it hurt and then a light switched on as I realised that I had to feed the bloody things as well. That’s when the fear set it and the shame started.

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As I nervously eyed the avian equivalent of Andre the Giant I started to appreciate a few facts that I had failed to consider. The first was this was a monstrous bloody bird. The second was his beak was around about the perfect size to peck off my precious fingers. Lastly I got a chance to look into the eyes of the mighty beast. As I gazed through the windows of his birdy soul I could read with absolute clarity that he was evil. A terrible malevolent bird that wanted nothing more than to eat my fingers. I was terrified, so much so I could barely make myself attempt to feed him. This is what happened.

Yes I humiliated myself, in a particularly unmanly way, and was shown up by my much braver girlfriend. I could see the evil glint in Jen's eyes 1- 0 to her; she was ready to make me pay for taking this stupid tour. I nursed my shame as our guide Jaco led us to the next bird experience and was determined to do better next time.

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Guantanamo los Grande Pollos.

Opening a gate Jaco turned and faced us. “Ok we are going to go into this breeding pairs nest to stand on their eggs”. Gazing at the rest of the group I saw the same level of mute misunderstanding that I felt. However, we automatically set ourselves to the highest level of morality and intellectualism that tour group dynamics allow. Nodding vacantly we spoke as one “OK”.

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Jaco informed us we need not fear molesting the pair’s nest, all 52 kilos of him, grabbed a thorn bush twice his height “I’ll whack the birds if they cause trouble” he informed us. I figured that was worth a picture. Jaco was quite flattered and obliging submitted to pose for photo.

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However, as I idly snapped my throw away photo I noticed the beginnings of a real story looming up behind Jaco’s unsuspecting back. “Hey Jaco, turn your face a little more into the light” I said. “Of course “said a beaming Jaco.

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By this stage I knew that youtube fame and fortune were about to be mine if I could just keep Jaco distracted. “One hundred and forty five kilo bird teaches midget molester a lesson” It was to good to be true. “Look over your right shoulder and look fierce” I implored Jaco. “No problem” he gushed.

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Epic Disappointment!

Despite my Machiavellian attempts at cosmic karmic justice the mighty ostrich let me down. Sure Jaco probably had to change his pants after noticing the grim cheeper looming over his shoulder. But I never got my video and fame. Why have I built you guys up to this lame end? Well its simple really, if I had to suffer the disappointment of Jaco’s survival, I see you no reason why you shouldn’t as well.

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To show big bird my disappointment I stomped on his eggs.

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Jen is much better at walking on egg shells than me.

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What the…

The next stage of the tour came as somewhat of a surprise, things seemed to be spiralling out of control, one moment I was observing feather boa construction and a few minutes later I’d been humiliated, stomped on eggs and was expected to ride an Ostrich.

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Can you tell the difference between these two?

Jenny attempted to mentally prepare for the riding challenge by channelling Ostrich in this startlingly accurate imitation.

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Just an innocent platonic pat to calm my nerves.

Which leads me to my fully legitimate and 100% legal reason for molesting the bird as seen above. It really wasn’t what it looked like! I was just… bonding with the bird pre awfully risky riding experience.

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Ok you got me. There’s just no excuse for that.

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Jaco ruined what would have been one of my favourite photos. Bird wrangling with a Sheppard’s crook. This place really did seem to get more and more like Guantanamo Bay with every moment. Then there was no more time for excuses I mounted my faithful Ostrich… wait let me rephrase that… I got on an Ostrich to give it a ride… hang on… oh I give up.

I quickly made an absolute ass of myself with my terrible riding skills. Honestly it felt like I’d been on the thing forever and I was just desperate to get off alive and in one piece. Needless to say Jenny showed me how a true master rides an Ostrich.

So that was it, once again Jen had completely shamed me. Out braved in the feeding challenge, out skilled in the riding challenge and caught “Allegedly” molesting the animals. Fortunately the handlers cheered me up with an Ostrich race.

In all truthfulness this tour was a blast. I can’t even begin to count the number of morally ambiguous and plain wrong situations we ended up in. A true animal rights activist would rightfully have fits at the whole thing. But I can honestly say that I don’t think I have laughed so hard or so long on a tour before. Or had so many totally unexpected experiences. Sometimes you choose to turn at a fork in the road and fantastically strange things happen. I will go to my grave knowing that for three and a half seconds I successfully rode the greatest bird in the world. All for the grand sum of $8, lawyer’s bills and court costs.

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Just so you guys know Jenny did the weird neck thing as well.

Posted by 19jenny79 22:05 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

High on Altitude

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“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves” Sir Edmund Hillary

Sometimes you take a journey that goes further than you could ever have imagined. From the chaotic and glorious mess that is Kathmandu to the serene airlessness of the upper Himalayas. Jen and I travelled through a land where beauty and hardship are so intertwined that the line blurs between what is real and what is imagined. Amidst this surrealism we finished one fantastic journey and started our greatest adventure.

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For twenty-two days we trekked through the wilds of the Himalayas. Here are our photos of Nepal and its beautiful people.

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Rickshaw relaxing, Kathmandu.

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Would you buy a dusty coke from this man?

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Mobile apple stall at the bus station.

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The thirteen-hour ride in.

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The journey begins.

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Enter the valley.

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Woman carrying thirty kilo loads.

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Life etched into her face.

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Clean ma socks chick.

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Beast of Burden.

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Man of Burden.

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Maybe i'm not such a big deal.

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Hardship and beauty.

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Found it! The legendary Yeti.

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Girl, monastery, mountain.

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Tibetan character.

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Jaunty step.

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Jen ruining my favourite family photo ever.

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In action.

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In training.

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For the big leagues.

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And not happy about it.

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Monastery with a view.

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Mountain life.

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No description necessary.

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A stroll amongst the Yaks.

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Shovelling shit with a million dollar view.

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My favourite road sign.

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Slippery footing.

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She collects Yak poo …

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So her grandchildren don’t freeze in the winter.

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The path travelled.

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Eerie.

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Serene.

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Dwarfing giants.

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Welcome to Manaslu, 8163 metres.

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But at 5000 metres this is only considered a hill in Nepal.

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Glacial Lake.

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High on altitude.

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First light.

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Cold start.

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- 15 Degrees

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Surreal.

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Humbling.

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Alpine mule train.

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Can’t breathe.

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Nearly there.

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5160 metres.

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Jenny McCallum, a woman to walk the mountains with.

Posted by 19jenny79 19:39 Archived in Nepal Comments (22)

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