I personalized this week’s challenge in its interpretation – to try to find pictures from various recent travels that derive a significant part of their character from the presence of lines in them. I was moderately successful, I think!
This is a picture from the window of our hotel room in Reno, NV, during a trip early in 2017.This is a picture of a hotel in Mammoth Lakes, CA. The lines on this hotel came to life in the early morning light.The lines on the sand dunes of Mesquite Flat in Death Valley, CA, are the only natural ones that I have in this collection of pictures. You will notice that these lines are the only ones where there are curves that are obvious. (There is probably a lesson somewhere in there!)A couple of months later we visited the New England area. This picture shows the lines on one of the trains on the Mt. Washington Cog Railway in New Hampshire. The engine is at a different angle than the carriage because it is stopped at the edge of the slope.Lines and angles dominate the picture of this covered bridge over the Ammonoosuc river in Littleton, NH.The lines on the Icefields Parkway dominated my six day bike ride through the Canadian Rockies in the later half of 2017.This picture was taken in St. Louis, MO later in 2017. It should not be difficult to guess what the subject matter of this picture is.This picture was taken at Middle of the Earth, just outside of Quito, in Ecuador on the equatorial line in November 2017.This picture is of a corridor in the Design Hotel in Chennai in India at the end of the year. This is considered a “boutique hotel“.I love the lines on the Boeing 787-9 that we saw at Charles de Gaulle airport on our way back from India.The lines of the roof at this gas station in Effingham, IL, caught my eye during a road trip earlier this year. Yes, we had some late-season snow in our part of the world, but it is all over now!
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.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a wonderful city to visit. It is the second highest capital city in the world, and the one closest to the equator. It has a long history and culture that includes the impact of the indigenous peoples and their one-time Spanish conquerors. The place has a lively spirit and an energy that you see and feel on the streets.
But the one additional element of the city that really stood out in my mind was its location. The city exists on the slopes of the Andes mountains and in the vicinity of volcanoes, some of them still active. It is a vast metropolis of over two million people that is sprawled out over the hillsides all around you and whichever way you turn. Not having experienced cities like this previously, it looks quite amazing to me. I wonder about the infrastructure that can keep a place like this going. Anyway, here is the one picture that captures this particular element of the experience of the city in my mind.
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.
The visit to Galápagos Islands and the rest of Ecuador was a great experience overall, but it did not go off too well from a perspective of my ability to take pictures during the trip. My DSLR camera which had been showing signs of some mechanical distress (a problem exacerbated by software in the device that I think could have been better designed to compensate for the situation) finally gave up the ghost on the islands. Fortunately, we had bought a point-and-shoot camera with an extended zoom as a backup. I had to quickly learn how to use it properly. This plan worked decently for a couple of days until I found out the deficiencies of the new camera. It was chewing up battery power at an unimaginable rate whenever I tried to use its zoom capability! You would think that the fact that the camera used standard AA batteries would be a plus in this situation, but the problem was that we were traveling in areas where availability of such batteries was limited. Indeed, the only batteries I was able to find in some of the places were of dubious quality, some with a local brand name, and some others with a date of expiry that had long passed. I did try out some of these batteries and they failed in the camera within no time. My last line of defense was the camera on the smart phone, a device that produced pictures of marginal quality. Anyway, I managed to get some pictures during the trip using both the smart phone and the point-and-shoot camera, the latter in a somewhat more judicious manner than I would have done otherwise.
Galápagos is an amazing place! The government of Ecuador has shown great foresight in establishing more than 90 percent of the land on the over hundred and twenty islands (of which only five are inhabited) as an ecological preserve. They have taken significant steps to make sure that the flora and fauna are not contaminated from the mainland these days. Although the ecology of these volcanic islands has developed in isolation for thousands of years producing unique species of flora and fauna (a circumstance that allowed Darwin to work on the theory of natural selection), the coming of man in recent years had begun to contaminate and change the place. Indeed, some of the islands have changed significantly because of human habitation (including the effects of cultivation and meat consumption, and the impact of the non-native flora and fauna that have been introduced on purpose or inadvertently), but amazingly there still are places you can see nature in its purest form, places where the birds and the animals are still not afraid of the humans. Visits to such places are managed carefully with a goal of preserving the local flora and fauna and their ecosystems. Where indigenous animal and bird populations have been depleted because of human encroachments, there are attempts at recovery. The giant tortoises of the Galapagos are making a comeback with help from the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz island. There are regular attempts to eradicate the rats and other pests that have been introduced on some of the islands, pests that are killing off the local species slowly. Some local species have disappeared completely over the years but there is still hope for many others.
Here are just a few of the pictures I took during during our visit. (More will be posted in a regular photo gallery elsewhere.)