Category Archives: Wanderlust

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveller only who is foreign.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson

Scene from Sigsig

Years ago I spent an afternoon in a small town called Sigsig, about 60 km from Cuenca, in Ecuador. You could read a little about that experience in my blog post here. At that time of writing, I was on the road and didn’t have the chance to upload this photo, which to me perfectly captured the mood of that afternoon: a lady in a white bowler hat, a little shop with a signage that reminded me of of the name of a friend who was 10,000 miles away, and the slanted afternoon sun.

Sisig Photo

Funny isn’t it, that our memories can be carved in a particular standstill of a moment even though what we had experienced was really much more fluid.

Last year, I decided to take up oil painting. That scene has now been transported on to canvas in July!

Sisig Painting

 

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The Salt of the Earth

In 2013, when Sebastiao Salgado’s ‘Genesis’ photo exhibition was premiered in the Natural History Museum in London, I had the urge to fly into London just to see the exhibition. Such was the draw of a photographer who seemed to me both adventurer and artist, a winning combination of a dream life. It would have been extravagant for me to make that trip to London. Fortunately a year later, the ‘Genesis’ exhibition ┬átravelled to Singapore and I got to see them in the National Museum.

The 2014 film ‘The Salt of the Earth’ is about Salgado and the extraordinary images that he has captured throughout 40 years. Some of the most stunning and seemingly unbelievable images are that of the Serra Pelada goldmines of Brazil where swarms of people climb up ladders in ant like fashion – these photographs froze in time the height and madness of the gold rush. In the photographer’s own words, “when I reached the edge of that enormous hole, in a split second I saw unfolding before me the history of mankind. The building of the pyramids, the Tower of Babel, the mines of King Solomon”.

Salgado built his career and name as a social photographer: his photos of war, grief, poverty and suffering brought the world’s attention to these plights. These are not photographs that are easy to see. What goes through a person’s mind when thrusted upon with the sight of cholera, corpses and genocide in 1980s-90s Africa? A photographer isn’t just an image-maker, he or she is also a story teller, a quality which Salgado also demonstrated through his compassionate narration in the film. And yet the photographer’s job requires the unflinching steely clicks of the camera to tell the story as it is.

The ‘Genesis’ series remain my favourite: these photographs take us to the Galapagos islands (once my dream islands!), the paw of a Galapagos iguana that reminds me of a sequined ladies’ glove, the human-like penguin colonies in the Antarctic, the eye of a whale peeking out from her oceanic home, the depths of the Amazonian jungle with polyandry ladies of the Zo’e tribe and more. The photographs remind us of our pristine natural world. And in my case, sowing more (if that’s even possible) seeds of wanderlust.

I just watched this film today at a film festival and I highly recommend it!

The Trans-Alay Range/ the Pamirs

15 September 2015

I spent the whole afternoon strolling (and rolling!) on these golden meadows, with clear sight of snowy Lenin Peak.

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What a glorious day to greedily bask in the sun before the temperatures drop drastically when the sun sets.

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At lake Tolpur Kol, about 3500m above sea level.

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Looking at Lenin Peak, standing at 7134 meters tall, the highest peak of the Trans-Alay Range, the northern part of the Pamirs. At the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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I love these shadows over the pastures as the sun sets.

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Banya (bath)

After days of lush alpine scenery, I left Karakol for Bishkek. Originally I had intended to leave Bishkek as the last stop before I return to Almaty. Alas to catch a transfer to Arslanbob  I must go to the capital.

The mashrutka (minibus) from Karakol took a whopping 6 hours with a change of spare tire. Along the way the road meanders along a bit of the northern shore of lake Issyk-Kol. Issyk-Kol is 170km long and 70km across – so that’s probably about 8 times the size of Singapore. It’s the second largest alpine lake after Lago Titicaca of Peru and Bolivia.

After arranging for the shared taxi to Arslanbob  (which will be a gruelling 12 hours ride) tomorrow, I decided to check out the banya that’s across the hotel.

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Like most public baths I have been to in other countries, this bath is a place for people to unwind and socialise. Despite the amusing exterior, I’d consider it a good bath place and it’s very clean.  Under the big domes are cold pools – the women section’s pool is gorgeous. Fresh out of the baking hot sauna, I walked to the pool ready to dunk in. After all, a few days ago I had been strengthened by kymis – the traditional fermented mare’s milk that bred centuries of fearless nomadic horsemen in the great steppes.

Alas, I lasted a mere five seconds in the cold water.

In the pool, a lady in her 60s was doing laps.

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Optional are some twigs for self flogging.

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Wall decor of the waiting area.

I paid a bit more for a massage and it was heavenly.

          

Ala-kol

Just came down from the mountains after four days three nights.

It was a hard climb up to Ala-Kol lake and very steep climb up to the pass. Scary was the descent over snow-covered scree on a steep face. And camping in such cold conditions was excruciating. Note to self – next time, don’t visit later than August!

More of the hike later. Meanwhile here’s a photo of Ala-Kol, taken while my fingers were still nimble.

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