7 Super Shots

I am taking part in Hostelbookers 7 super shots thread, because they’ve started lots of travel bloggers scouring their digital photo archives on dark winter evenings (if you live in the northern hemisphere, that is) with this winning idea to inspire those with itchy feet.

Here’s my two penn’orth:

1) A photo that…takes my breath away
Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Iceland. It was an October afternoon, a couple of degrees above zero and blowing in a force 4-5 gale off the sea. But still it’s so beautiful that a couple of friends and I spent nearly two hours here taking photos. Just as we though we’d captured the sunset, someone set the sky on fire…

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Iceland

 

2) A photo that…makes me laugh or smile
A baby Orangutan flicking a crafty ‘v’ sign on his cheek at me. This youngster and his parents oozed character, and make for some fabulous photos.

Baby organutan, Lok Kawi zoo, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

 

3) A photo that…makes me dream
Back to dear, lovely Iceland again. This time to Grundarfjörður, on the north side of the Snæfellsnes peninsula in the west of Iceland. Out hiking in a rainstorm west of the Kirkjufell, a small glacier-carved mountain now forming a peninsula at the edge of the fjord, I stumbled upon some lovely wooden cottages. Maybe one day I will own my own cabin around here…

Wooden cabins, Kirkjufell, Grundarfjörður, Iceland

 

4) A photo that…makes me think
My trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau remains one of the most moving days of my life. I spent most of the day in tears at the awful things that humans can do to other humans, and the sheer scale of the loss of life. These small stones, lovingly inscribed with names and dates of those lost by their dependents and placed on the railway tracks at Birkenau, stun me every time I look back at the photo.

Memorial stones on the railway tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau

 

5) A photo that…makes my mouth water
In stark contrast to the above, a very simple shot of my friend Jamie thinking just how much he would love a Pieminister pie at that moment in time. The added bonus is that this was taken at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, one of my favourite places in the world, at the stall next to the also-legendary Brothers Cider Bar in the West Holts.

Do you know what...? I love Pieminister!

 

6) A photo that…tells a story
These two young novice monks, at Wangdue Phodrang monastery, Bhutan, look all sweetness and light. But until about three seconds before I took this photo, they were having the most violent and un-monklike fight in the monastery’s courtyard!

Novice monks, Wangdue Phodrang monastery, Bhutan

A secondary story is that this was one of my Grandma’s favourite photos from my travels. I spent several hours at her house with the laptop talking her through my photos, but she was captivated by these monks above almost anything else (even the Great Wall Of China, which she had always wanted to visit but never did). I hear she told my Dad and many friends who visited her about “those two little lads who were growing up to be monks”.

 

7) A photo that…I am most proud of (aka my worthy of National Geographic shot)
This ‘accolade’ simply has to go to my photo of the stunning Yamdrok-tso lake, in Tibet. I often have this photo as my desktop background on my work computer, and people cannot believe it was taken with a compact camera, and has not been digitally enhanced (or even cropped) in any way. I was just lucky, and in a supremely beautiful place.

Yamdrok-tso, Tibet

 

This photo tag game has been going for a couple of weeks now, so I’m going to nominate 5 posts I’ve seen that I really like (and that inspired me to blog my own – thank you!):

  1. Cam & Nicole at Travelling Canucks and their 7 super shots
  2. Alex at Virtual Wayfarer and his 7 super shots
  3. Erin at De La Pura Vida and her 7 super shots (particularly love that baby sloth!)
  4. Cathy at Traveling With Sweeney and her 7 super shots
  5. Anja at Hitting The Road and her 7 super shots

Singapore Zoo

Landing from Borneo with 12 hours before my flight home, there was time enough for more exploring of Singapore. Having already seen a barrel load of monkeys on this trip, I decided to enlarge the barrel!

With my finances in end-of-trip mode I decided against an airport taxi, and opted for public transport to Singapore Zoo (it’s an easy ride to Ang Mio Ko MRT station, then a 138 bus, should you ever wish to try it for yourself).

You can buy a joint ticket for the Zoo and Night Safari but, having visited the Night Safari at the start of my trip, I can confirm it’s not worth bothering (too dark to see most animals properly. Or at all, in some cases).

Top tips:

1. Walk round, don’t take the zoo train. It’s not a huge area to walk round even in the heat (and/or heavy rain), and going at your own pace means you get to spend more than seven seconds with each animal.

2. After the entrance, turn immediate right for proboscis monkeys. Easy to miss, hilarious to look at with those noses.

3. The best bit (of course!) is the orangutans. Head to the center of the zoo, behind the middle restaurant, and you can see them swinging on ropes directly over the footpath. And your head! Here’s the most expressive Mother and her two babies (she’s carrying one) playing tig
image

4. Don’t ignore the Primate Zone (oh, and the zoo train can’t get in here), which has about eight different species.
Walking round a corner to see the Hamandryas baboons, in their enclosure carefully built to resemble their natural habitat of the African Rift Valley, I thought I’d stumbled upon a war council on the Planet Of The Apes
image
By the way… what is the collective noun for a group of baboons?
I’m going to refer to it as a ‘bum rush’ from hereon in!

5. Observe all signage
image

Other animals are, of course, available, but I concentrated on those looking a little like small dinosaurs in a certain light
image
…the ‘cool as’ penguins
image
…and otters . Who move too damn quickly to photograph (they probably have a very good agent who’s fiercely protective of their image rights. Or something).

Anyway, back to the monkeys…
I was taking this selfie with a statue of a famous former resident when the lazies in the zoo train (see above) came past. Cue much laughter.
image
I think I’m in a lot of people’s holiday photos.

Kinabatangan River

My two-day stay with Orang Sungai (translation: people who live by the river) began at the the Kopel reception centre in Kampo Mengaris village on the banks of the Kinabatangan river.

We ate lunch with the locals, learning a little about their way of life, and how the Miso Walai Homestay programme and their conservation and tourism organistation (MESCOT) had been set up with the help of the WWF in 1997.

Getting onto an open boat, we cruised down the river to see some of the seven types of rainforest, plus many of the birds and monkeys that live along the banks of the longest river in Sabah province. We saw proboscis monkeys, longtail macaques and the silver leaf monkeys (re-named ‘Beckham’ by the locals because of their spiky hair). There were also herons, hornbills and beautiful kingfishers with cobalt blue and vivid yellow colouring.

The first night, we ate and slept at the beautiful Tungog Rainforest Eco Camp in the forest by Tungog oxbow lake

image

Halim, our guide, took the group out on foot for a night safari in the forest, to see the flora and fauna up close. I admit I was a little terrified of the prospect of meeting a huge snake in the dark, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After a cold shower of collected rainwater in a cubicle shared with a bat, several spiders and a couple of small lizards, I headed for bed. Bed was a mattress on the floor of a “camp deck”, a wooden platform raised off the ground away from snakes and other wildlife.

image

I fell asleep to the intense wall of jungle sounds and actually found it very relaxing, having one of my best night’s sleep of the trip!

Day two bought another river cruise (different wildlife up and about at 6am) and some conservation work, helping to plant fig trees in the forest alongside the river. The head warden told us that 760,000 hectares have now been reforested, and managed under the jurisdiction of organisations such as MESCOT and the Sabah forest authority.

We then returned to Mengaris village, where I spent the afternoon getting to know my homestay hosts.

In the evening the locals put on a culture show. I had a bit of a dance, but also got myself a temporary job as lead percussionist in the steel drum band (one of the others has photos…I’ll add to this later).