Including the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras, where I grew up.
Random shots from the first few days.
I departed the Washington DC area late in the evening on an Air France flight to Paris.My seat was at the tail end of the plane. At least it was an aisle seat. Unfortunately, the guy from West Africa in the middle seat insisted on spreading himself out. His thick leather jacket did not help. I kept my cool for the whole flight. Was a little concerned about the time it would take to deplane and get to the terminal for the next flight, especially in light of the layout of Charles De Gaulle airport, but it turned out to be OK.
The only notable adventure in Paris was the insistence by the security folks that the cans of tuna I was carrying could not be taken through. My argument that the folks at my airport of origin in the US had let me keep the food, and the fact that it was mainly solid material, did not convince the lady.
It was late in the morning in Paris when I departed town on the second leg of the trip. I experienced the second sunset of the trip from the Jet Airways A330-300 aircraft from the window seat as we passed a mountain range and a couple of snow capped mountain peaks, most likely in Iran.Arrived in Chennai after a long flight at an ungodly hour of the morning, something that is typical for international flight flights from the west arriving at Chennai. Trip home from the airport through the then quiet roadways in a call taxi was uneventful. Got home and managed to get into bed without waking up the folks until a more reasonable hour of the morning.
Good to be home once again.The house looks more exposed to the elements since the cyclone last year took down a lot of the trees in the compound. It is a pity. But the birds still come around occasionally. This one might have been looking to build a nest somewhere close by.I have not gotten a picture of the night heron yet although I did see it on the first day I was here.
Been taking it easy with a couple of trips into town to meet with old friends from school and college days.Uber and Ola seem to be the new ways to get around in town, but I am still working on getting this new technology under control.
Chennai still seems to be a place in a perpetual state of chaos during the day and absolute quiet (except for the stray cats and dogs) during the night. Traffic is crazy over here. You are at risk of losing life and/or limb if you try to cross a street during the busier times of the day. There are very few crosswalks, if any. The place where we live also experiences a dangerous and somewhat puzzling breakdown in the public infrastructure at the street level. Sidewalks, where they exist, are quite often in shambles. There are also the open drains that should have been covered a long time ago. Animals wander around and defecate wherever they wish. Pedestrians are forced onto the street to compete with the chaotic traffic of both four-wheelers and two-wheelers. You play chicken with the buses and other vehicles that are careening through the chaos and around the blind corners of the road. But life for the locals goes on in spite of this and other challenges. This is their home, and nobody can take this away from them. It does feel good to be back.
The weather is good and the mosquitoes are mostly leaving me alone, which is good. Waiting for the rest of the family and for further adventures to continue.
Today is the birthday of an old friend. We go back a long way, all the way back to elementary school. My friend is a remarkable person – full of joy, sweet, smart, kind, curious, adventurous, and always helpful. He is one terrific guy. I went on a bike ride with him this summer in the Rockies in Canada. Here are some pictures from the ride that capture his spirit, including his sometimes playful, dare I say, cheeky nature.
At the start of the ride.At the Goats and Glaciers viewpoint.The lovely couple.Do not know what happened here!Supporting a fellow rider up a challenging slope.He is his own man,but I am not sure what he is doing here.They both have one foot in the Banff National Park and the other in the Jasper National Park.The explorer on Parker Ridgeprobably looking at Saskatchewan Glacier (not in the picture) in the distance.He gives a friendly wave as we head out to our stop for the evening at The Crossing Resort.He was the first to venture into the glacier fed waters of Waterfowl lake. It was cold!Here he is returning from an exploration in the vicinity of Bow Summit.The friendly wave. Happy birthday and happy trails, my friend!
It could be difficult to find conditions that lend themselves to having a feeling of serenity during a somewhat hectic holiday trip, but we did nonetheless experience some such moments during our visit to Ecuador.
We stayed at the Finch Bay Hotel on the island of Santa Cruz while in the Galapagos. We spent our evenings at the hotel while making many day-trips to different places to take in the sights. While at the hotel, you could sit out in the open area next to the swimming pool and look out over the bay. On a clear night, one could see the cruise ships resting in the bay under the peaceful light of the moon.One was also likely to be greeted by the great blue heron (who seemed to have set up residence in the neighborhood) in the quiet early morning, and one could also join it in greeting the dawn of another new day.Back on the mainland, on our way from Quito to Otavalo, we stayed in cabins beside the San Pablo lake. The lake was beautiful in the early morning light. A light mist rose over the quiet waters.The awakening birds flew low over the waters of the lake as we looked out over it. It was very peaceful.At Papallacta, a little village situated in a mountain valley high in the Andes, we could see the the lazy clouds floating across the sky in the evening light, past the snow-capped Antisana volcano, as the sun began to set.In the morning, while we were taking a lazy walk, we saw the cows grazing peacefully on the mountain pastures with not a care in the world.We traveled further east to the Amazon region of the country. In the evening light, under the gently rising clouds, we could see the winding Napo river wend its way towards the Amazon, just as it has been doing for thousands of years. This was the view from our room in the resort where we stayed.We experienced the sunset on the Napo river. The river and its surroundings, and even the repetitive phut-phut sound of the engine on the boat, have a calming effect, as we head back to the resort for an evening of relaxation.Our hacienda on a mountainside near Patate was also located in very serene surroundings. The view included the Tungurahua volcano in the distance.
We stayed one night at a place called Cabanas Del Lago located on the shores of Lake San Pablo, in the shadow of the Imbabura volcano. This place is near the city of Otavalo.It was a beautiful location.This was the view across the lake in the morning. The mountain behind is the Mojanda volcano. It is inactive and there are actually lakes at the top.The Imbabura volcano is behind the village.We were introduced to some Quechua culture that evening, and the next morning, as we were leaving, we were entertained by a couple of Quechuan ladies singing some of their folk songs.Teresa captured their singing.
It took some effort for us to get to North Seymour Island from the Finch Bay Hotel where we were staying. We had to first walk to the dock to take a boat to the town of Puerto Ayora. We then got on a bus for a ride from the town (which is towards the south of the Santa Cruz Island) to the north of the island, to the point where one takes the ferry boat to Baltra Island (which used to be called South Seymour Island) to get to the airport. Instead of taking the ferry to Baltra, we transferred to a rubber dinghy, which took us to a yacht that sat out in the middle of the waterway between the two islands. We then took the yacht to get around Baltra Island, heading in a south to north direction. We finally made a landing on the rocks of North Seymour Island from the dinghy after transferring from the yacht. Once on the ground, we followed our guide, Soto, as he took us on a walk along the rocky trail around the island.It was towards the tail end of our walk, when we were getting back to the seashore, that the following scene played out.
Soto had sighted two different kinds of sea lions in close proximity to each other on the rocks next to the ocean. It was apparently something that he did not see that often. Furthermore, he had sighted the pup of the fur sea lion hidden under a rock. It appeared to be resting.It did not take much to wake up the pup and to have it come out of hiding.The pup seemed to be well aware of the people who had stopped to look at it, and it was approaching them while making some sounds, while the parent kept a careful eye on it.The parent would occasionally try to caution the pup about getting too far away by making some sounds, and the little one would respond, not necessarily by turning back, but by making some sounds itself.Nothing seemed to stop the curiosity of the young one. It was also pretty noisy. There was a different kind of sea lion sleeping close by with its young one. The pup that was out-and-about tried to wake the other little one up, but there was no reaction. The parent of this other pup also seemed to be asleep through the whole incident.Soto noted that seeing this episode play out was something very exciting and special even for locals like him. We stood by for a while enjoying the spectacle, and then it was time to move on to our next amazing experience on the trail.
The birds and animals of North Seymour Island have not learned to be afraid of people, and tourism is done in such a manner as to protect the environment of these creatures. The experience that results when you are there is quite unique.