SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY: Blog https://www.saljohal.com/blog en-us (C) SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY (SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:39:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 07:39:00 GMT https://www.saljohal.com/img/s/v-12/u969826047-o498472479-50.jpg SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY: Blog https://www.saljohal.com/blog 120 85 Port Chalmers-Dunedin https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/port-chalmers-dunedin The wild natural beauty of Fiordland National Park now gave way to calmer waters and the green beauty of south island New Zealand. 
Entering the harbour in Port ChalmersEntering the harbour in Port Chalmers
The Otago Peninsula is what you may have seen pictures of in terms of sheep grazing on green hills, blue water harbours and wildlife unique to this south island region.

The main city in the Otago Peninsula is Dunedin, with Port Chalmers being a suburb some 15 kilometres away.  Port Chalmers is the main port for Dunedin and the region as it contains the only part of the Victoria Channel and harbour that is navigable by larger ships.

 

Dunedin itself is often referred to as New Zealand's architectural heritage capital, with its history dating back to settlers from Robert Burns statue at The Octagon in Dunedin (St. Paul's Cathedral in background)Robert Burns statue at The Octagon in Dunedin (St. Paul's Cathedral in background)
Scotland who wanted to create a town based on religion and safe community.  I was told that Dunedin was actually designed with the goal of replicating the Scottish capital of Edinburgh and maybe that's best demonstrated in The Octagon - a central feature of Dunedin that features a statue of Robert Burns right across from St. Paul's Cathedral.  Around The Octagon today are many of Dunedin's cafes and bars, and this part of town still serves as a meeting place in the centre of Dunedin

Another key part of Dunedin's history and present is Speight's Brewery.  The brewery was founded in 1876 when three employees of the existing malthouse - James Speight (a Yorkshire salesman), Charles Greenslade (a maltsman) and William Dawson  Speight's Brewery tasting room...mmmm!Speight's Brewery tasting room...mmmm! (a brewer from Edinburgh who went on later to be mayor of Dunedin and eventually an MP) - got together and bought the malthouse. 

Speight got the new brewery named after him and Speight's Brewery has been a New Zealand success story ever since, winning gold medals as far back as the 1880s.  Today, Speight's Gold Medal Ale is one of the most popular selling beers across New Zealand and Australia.  I did a tour of the brewery and definitely enjoyed the tasting session afterwards (btw, in the Port Chalmers-Dunedin photo gallery, check out the old photo of the brewery staff from 1932 and see if you can spot the Paymaster...look closely).  

Sailing out of Port Chalmers, we passed Goat Island which is home to some of the unique bird species that live in the Otago Peninsula region (including the northern royal albatross).  This is a beautiful part of New Zealand and in some ways reminds me of the beauty of British Columbia.

Goat Island at exit to Otago PeninsulaGoat Island at exit to Otago Peninsula

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/port-chalmers-dunedin Thu, 21 Nov 2019 08:07:35 GMT
Fiordland National Park, New Zealand https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/fiordland-national-park-new-zealand After leaving Tasmania, my travels continued towards the southern-most tip of Doubtful SoundDoubtful Sound
New Zealand (not counting the lone island at its very tip).  This involved cruising through the fiords of Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and Dusky Sound - three of the main sounds, bays and inlets that make up Fiordland National Park. 

Captain Cook and his shipmates were the first non-Aboriginals to travel through this area way back when in the late 1700s.  The national park was established in 1952 and encompasses an area of just under 5,000 square miles (it was also declared a World Heritage Area in 1986).  There are magnificent tree-covered mountains that tower above the low clouds and the glacier-carved fiords are full of waterfalls cascading into the deep blue waters.  At times the mountains look like vertical columns thrust up from the water and the many many waterfalls seem to be pouring white water from taps left open up in the clouds.

The day going through this magical part of our planet was misty and wet at times, but that just added to the extremeness of the natural beauty surrounding me - it really is an amazing spectacle of nature.

 

There are a few short videos from Fiordland National Park (and more photos) under the 2019-South Pacific collection that will hopefully give you a good idea of what this paradise is like.

Entering Doubtful SoundEntering Doubtful Sound

 

 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/fiordland-national-park-new-zealand Thu, 21 Nov 2019 06:43:11 GMT
Hobart Tasmania https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/hobart-tasmania Tasmania...wow!!  Over the years I'd always thought of Tasmania as some far away exotic and unique land way down there by Australia - and I certainly never thought I'd make it here one day but here I am in Hobart.    

After the wonderful yet energetic cities of Sydney and Melbourne, Hobart's small size and rustic nature were a pleasant change.  Hobart is the capital of the state of Tasmania and is home to The Hotel Alexandra and its Hope & Anchor Pub - the oldest licensed hotel and pub in Australia (1807The Hotel Alexandra and its Hope & Anchor Pub - the oldest licensed hotel and pub in Australia (1807  just over 230,000 people (which is about 40% of Tasmania's total population).  Coming into Hobart, you can tell that this city was established because of its ability to serve as a good port - in fact I learned that Hobart's port is actually the second deepest natural port in the world.  If you look on a map you'll see that Hobart is in the southeast part of Tasmania and is built around Storm Bay at the estuary of Derwent River, with its growth primarily being along both banks of the river and on land reclaimed from the bay.  One dominant feature in Hobart's skyline is Mount Wellington, which at over 4,000ft is the highest point on Tasmania.  Despite some modern developments, the city still has its old colonial architecture and some of the original ale houses and hotels are still operating (with modern amenities and beverages of course).  One of the oldest and best examples of this is the Salamanca district which is an area of buildings over 200 years old that still today house restaurants, shops and offices - some of which have ties to the whaling industry that was prevalent throughout the region for many many years.

 

The Salamanca districtThe Salamanca district
You no doubt know about British criminals being sent to Australia in the very early 1800s but many people don't know that Hobart was one of the key destinations for these criminals.  In the local museum, I learned that this part of Tasmania had actually been home to semi-nomadic Aboriginal tribesmen for as long as 35,000 years prior to British settlers arriving.  Hobart is naturally the financial and administrative centre of Tasmania and serves as the major tourist hub between mainland Australia and New Zealand.  The city is full of restaurants and art galleries that represent the variety of cultures that are present across Hobart and Tasmania today.  There is a major university in Hobart that has a large fine arts program and much of the student art is displayed throughout businesses, galleries and even lane-ways across the city. 

Original colonial-style business buildingsOriginal colonial-style business buildings Part of the stained glass along the bar in The WhalerPart of the stained glass along the bar in The Whaler

You can check out all my photos from Hobart in the Hobart gallery under the 2019-South Pacific collection folder on this site.

With more time, spending a few days in Tasmania's natural beauty across the state would be in order - for now it's on to New Zealand!

 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/hobart-tasmania Tue, 19 Nov 2019 07:37:45 GMT
Melbourne Australia https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/melbourne-australia As much as I liked Sydney, I really liked Melbourne even more!  The main parts of the city are on either side of the Yarra River and the city planners have Footbridge across the Yarra River towards Flinders StreetFootbridge across the Yarra River towards Flinders Street  done a terrific job in making sure that the river banks serve as great walking, cycling and meeting zones for the growing city around them.  Melbourne is 
literally growing upwards - I've never seen buildings as tall as some of the ones currently being built there.  I had thought about going up to the Observation Deck on the Eureka SkyTower but never made it, perhaps because there are already taller buildings being built and likely blocking the views!  However among the skyscrapers, there is a lot of old beautiful architecture right in the city still. 

Flinders Street Station The large Flinders Street Station is your classic colonial-style railway station and stands boldly kitty-corner from the equally magnificent Melbourne Cathedral.  Flinders Street is one of many all around Melbourne that have trams running along them and, along with the bus system, create a great transportation system for getting around the whole region.  Among the high-rises there are lovely old lane-ways with original brick buildings that today house many of Melbourne's cafes and restaurants, along with boutique shops and offices. 

Tram along typical downtown streetTram along typical downtown street Also dotting the historical and modern architecture are Melbourne's many parks and Melbourne Crust pizza shop in small brick laneway shopMelbourne Crust pizza shop in small brick laneway shop
botanical gardens that create a calm feeling to the city, and it's not surprising that a few locals told me Melbourne is considered the "most livable city in the world".  I'd debate that but only mildly - it really does have a calm feel about it even though it's home to some 3.5 million people. 

A large part of my day was spent out of downtown.  Being in Australia, I couldn't leave without having seen some of the animals that are unique to this part of the world.  Therefore I took one of the trams out to the Melbourne Zoo and the visit was well worth it.  It was Remembrance Day and the zoo was full of little (5-7yr olds) kids all dressed in school uniforms.  Luckily the zoo is divided up into many separate sections and so it didn't seem busy at all, and I managed to relax while seeing the classic kangaroos, koalas, emu and lots of other animals facing extinction (the Melbourne Zoo is one of four focusing on species facing extinction).

As with Sydney, Melbourne is certainly a place one needs to spend a week or more in and Melbourne Zoo - koala bearMelbourne Zoo - koala bear  it'll be on the list next time
I happen to make it to this part of the world.  You can check out all the central Blue-winged KookaburraBlue-winged Kookaburra
Melbourne and Melbourne Zoo photos in the Melbourne gallery under the 2019-South Pacific collection.  G'day!!

 

 

 

 

 

Tasmania blog and photos to come next!!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/melbourne-australia Sun, 17 Nov 2019 21:27:40 GMT
Sydney Australia https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/sydney-australia Okay so I'm a little late getting the Australia blog pages and photos up.  Part of it is due to enjoying each place as long as possible, and part of it is 
because I decided to just chill on the two sea days after leaving Tasmania for New Zealand.  More Ken Done artworkMore Ken Done artwork Now as for enjoying Sydney as long as possible, I have to say that I'm pissed at Holland America for only giving us six hours in Australia's largest city.  Sydney was the final destination for many people and so they got to get of the ship before the rest of us could get ashore.  As a result I got on shore around 10am and had to be back on-board by 4pm, however I still tried to make the most of the little time I had and hopefully the photos will give you an idea of how lovely the city is.

Bennelong Point and iconic Sydney Opera House across from Circular QuayBennelong Point and iconic Sydney Opera House across from Circular Quay Sydney is a wonderful city built around the harbours that dot the waterfront.  These harbours are home to many of the iconic Sydney landmarks that you've no doubt seen in pictures or on tv, with two most famous being the Sydney Opera House and The Harbour Bridge.  It is not only the largest but also oldest city in Australia.  There is some 50,000 years of Aboriginal history in the area and that is combined with the dramatic influence resulting from convicts shipped from Britain and original Rum Corps settlers moving into the area.  Today Sydney is as cosmopolitan a city as I've been to.  In addition to its original influences, folks from around the world have created a cultural and ethnic vibe that's not as present in other cities. 

 

As for my time here, I don't know if I've ever seen as much of a city in five hours as I did Sydney.  Sydney Harbour BridgeSydney Harbour Bridge
From hopping on and off open-top buses at least four times to walking endlessly, I pretty well covered most of the key areas that I thought I could fit in with my limited schedule here. 

Besides the Opera House and Harbour Bridge area (lots of green space and interesting old streets/markets), I thought Darling Harbour with its Pyrmont Street Bridge was a beautifully conceived walking/business area.  Among the countless seemingly cloudy-piercing skyscrapers, there were still streets where large elm trees create green canopies over the roads, countless walking paths and green spaces connecting the various historic and urban parts of Sydney.  Sydney's diverse history, nature and culture are ever-present throughout the city and make it a place that's definitely worth spending some time in and I've already got it on my list of places to return to.

 

The Pyrmont Street Bridge is a public footbridgeThe Pyrmont Street Bridge is a public footbridge
 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/sydney-australia Sun, 17 Nov 2019 21:01:17 GMT
New Caledonia https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/new-caledonia New Caledonia is definitely a place I had never even thought of visiting but am now certainly glad that I have been to this secret part of the world.  New Caledonia is a former French colony that is a cluster of islands in what is known as the Coral Sea containing a very large coral reef.  View of island of Lifou in New CaledoniaView of island of Lifou in New Caledonia Our first stop was a visit to the tiny "town" of Easo on the island of Lifou.  History states that Catholic missionaries landed at Easo in April 1858 and the name is derived from the local Drehu language in which "easo" means "smoking fire" - a reference to the whaling tradition of lighting fires to melt fat down to make oil.  The missionaries built the little chapel "Notre-Dame de Lourdes" on a lookout point and there are great panorama views of Llifou and the surrounding islands from there.  In addition, there is another old church and adjoining cemetery, and of course lots of lush palms and flowers throughout the island.

The next place we stopped was indeed the most idyllic paradise I've ever been too, without exception.  Ile de Pines (Island of Pines) is a tiny island that has the most incredible beaches and waters that I've ever seen anywhere.  The island has the usual tropical palms and lush vegetation but it also has countless tall pine trees which were originally brought and planted there by James Cook. 
View of a beach on beautiful Ile de Pines ("Island of Pines"), New CaledoniaView of a beach on beautiful Ile de Pines ("Island of Pines"), New Caledonia The trees were planted as a resource should future expeditions run into foul weather or other issues and require repairs to masts -- tall straight timber being in short supply in the tropics.  Today, these pine trees stand out as unique guardians over the beautiful beaches of this island paradise.  I would not mind being deserted on Ile de Pines for a while!

Following the relaxing swimming and tanning on Ile de Pines, the next stop was to the New Caledonia capital of Noumea.  Local women in Place des Cocotiers "Coconut Tree Square" in central NoumeaLocal women in Place des Cocotiers "Coconut Tree Square" in central Noumea
Noumea is the heart of New Caledonia and it seemed strange to be speaking French here in the south Pacific.  It is located on the largest of the country's islands, Grand Terre and is a mix of French culture and tropical beaches.  There is of course the government and business side of New Caledonia here but it is also hub for aquatic and nature tourism throughout New Caledonia.  Again, the residents were incredibly friendly and the food was delicious!

New Caledonia photos are in the "2019 - SOUTH PACIFIC" collection on this website  -- and stay tuned and look for the blog and photos from Australia and New Zealand soon!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/new-caledonia Fri, 08 Nov 2019 09:39:28 GMT
Fiji https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/suva-fiji A few days after leaving Vancouver, there started to be a coughing bug that began to circulate around the ship.  More and more people started to have a deep raspy cough and perhaps that's why we had the one seriously ill person who led us to motor quickly to Honolulu (we were too far for any air rescue).  Well, a day out of Pago Pago in Amerika Samoa, we had another person get in serious condition and so the captain made the decision to divert to the Fijian capital of Suva rather than head to small port of Savusavu on Vanua in Fiji - partly due to the fact that this person was ambulatory and Suva was a docking port and Savusavu was a tender port (go in on small tender boats).  Nevertheless, this provided us with the opportunity to visit Suva which is the capital of Fiji.

Suva is an interesting place in that it is of course the government centre and so there are interesting government buildings and related Suva resident wearing the traditional "sulu" bottoms and accompanying leather sandalsSuva resident wearing the traditional "sulu" bottoms and accompanying leather sandals museums and other interesting sites to visit.  It is also the home to the Flying Fijians -- Fiji's national rugby team -- and their support is visible everywhere through locals wearing official jerseys or t-shirts and team flags flying in the city.  The city is built around the harbour and there is a large bus depot and public market adjacent to the harbour. 

Like people on the other Polynesian islands, Fijians are very friendly and they were very happy to greet you with the traditional greeting of "Bula bula" and offer a big smile. Path along Dravuni islandPath along Dravuni island
 

Following the city visit of Suva, the ship stopped on the incredible island paradise of Druvani.  Less than two miles in length, the island is a natural wonder in the Kadavu Islands of Fiji.  It is fully of palm trees and banana plants that are surrounded by gorgeous beaches along the island's shores.  The very few residents (I heard its population is roughly 100) live in a few homes in a central part along the less-windy beach.  There is a school, a church and some gardens but other than that it is simply a lush island with no electricity other than some solar panel power and communication via satellite dish.  Overall, this was a great place to swim and unwind in an island paradise!

After Druvani we moved on to the port city of Lautoka, also known as the "Sugar City".  The large sugar refinery in Lautoka started operation in the early 1900s and is still the largest sugar mill in the southern hemisphere.  With the refinery offering work, Lautoka has become the second largest city in  Rail cars full of sugar cane going to the large sugar refinery in Lautoka, FijiRail cars full of sugar cane going to the large sugar refinery in Lautoka, Fiji Fiji and is a wonderful friendly place full of people from various parts of Asia.  In Lautoka, you will find Indian and Chinese restaurants offering their delicious ethnic dishes along with local coconut-based Polynesian delicacies.  There is an Lautoka produce marketLautoka produce market
interesting narrow-gauge rail line right alongside the main street in Lautoka that is used to bring in railcars loaded with harvested sugar cane from across the
island to the sugar mill adjacent to the port.  Lautoka is a very interesting city that blends a variety of cultures with the natural beauty of the Fijian islands.

 

All the photos from Suva, Dravuni and Lautoka are in the "Fiji" folder in the "2019 - SOUTH PACIFIC" collection.
 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/suva-fiji Fri, 08 Nov 2019 09:00:54 GMT
Amerika Samoa https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/amerika-samoa Yes it is known as "Amerika Samoa" and the currency is the US dollar as it continues to be a protectorate of the United States.  There is also "Samoa" which was the New Zealand portion of the main Samoan Lush hillsides in Pago PagoLush hillsides in Pago Pago islands but it is independent and known simply as Samoa.  This is Polynesia at its core - it is lush, laid-back and beautiful.  There is a National Park here that is actually spread out among three islands and is of course the only American park south of the equator.  But the whole place is a national park - the tiny place we visited is Pago Pago (pronounced "Pango Pango") and is set in dense lush forested mountains.  There are trees laden with mangoes, papaya, bananas and other tropical fruits all over the mountainsides, and they all border a lovely harbour full of fishing boats and travelling sailboats.  Apparently there are strict building bylaws that restrict the height of buildings and so the natural beauty of Pago Pago is unhindered by major development.  The residents are incredibly friendly and definitely seem more linked to their Polynesian neighbours of Tonga, Fiji and the region than their closest American compatriots.

 

Pago Pago harbourPago Pago harbour

All the photos from this lovely island can be viewed in the "Amerika Samoa" gallery under the "2019 - SOUTH PACIFIC" collection.

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/amerika-samoa Fri, 08 Nov 2019 08:17:51 GMT
Of to the south Pacific https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/of-to-south-pacific A part of the world that I've never even been close to is Australia and New Zealand.  That may be because it's so far away from British Columbia or perhaps I've just been too busy ticking of other areas of our planet and have been waiting to get "down-under".  Whatever the reason, an opportunity presented itself this summer when I discovered an interesting cruise for the fall and thought the time was right to travel again.  The trip's itinerary looked appealing as it left from Vancouver and went all the way to Auckland with great stops along the way.  So with the weather getting cooler and wetter, I left Vancouver on the MV Noordam on October 13th and started the journey I'm calling "2019 - South Pacific". Leaving Vancouver after sailing under the Lions Gate BridgeLeaving Vancouver after sailing under the Lions Gate Bridge In terms of the places I'll be visiting the itinerary is as follows:  three islands in Hawaii; Amerika Samoa (that's how it's spelled); three stops in Fiji; three stops in New Caledonia; two ports in Australia (but I'll be returning there to visit other places after Auckland); and a whole bunch of places in south and north New Zealand. I'm sorry but I'm not going to put on my creative writing hat and write a lot about each place I'll be visiting, but I am going to write just a little bit and definitely post enough photos in the "2019 - South Pacific" collection that you'll get a sense of what each place is like.


Surf boards stored at Waikiki beachSurf boards stored at Waikiki beach The trip to Hawaii was to take 6 days but there was a passenger who got seriously ill - to the point that there was a call of O-Negative blood donors - and so Captain Scott (I haven't asked if he's a descendant of the famed South Pole explorer) got the ship moving and we got to Honolulu in 5 days instead.  That was fine with me as it gave us an extra evening there.  I had only been to Hawaii once before and that was also Honolulu coincidentally at the time Don Ho passed away.  Honolulu is on the island of Oahu and is the capital of the state of Hawaii.  It is the southern-most major city in the United States and seemed to have grown a lot since I was here before.  Today it boasts over 400 high-rises, which apparently ranks it fourth in that category in the USA.  While the buildings look impressive, I still appreciate Honolulu for its naturally beauty and so enjoyed the beautiful beach of Waikiki, the endless palm trees, the warm waters and laid back lifestyle of the place.  I had been up Diamond Head on my first visit and so didn't go there again but it still strikes a great outline from the beach at Waikiki.

After the big city of Honolulu, next stop was the more tranquil Lahaina on Maui.  Lahaina was a whaling centre many many years ago but is sailboat destination today and attracts tourists year round.  There is still an old fort with original cannons, a history museum in the heritage Baldwin House and of course breathtaking scenery across the whole island.  The centre of Lahaina has Banyan Tree Park, which is home to a giant banyan tree that was planted in 1873 (I believe to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Christian missionaries arriving on Maui). Two sides of rainbow leaving Kona, Hawai'iTwo sides of rainbow leaving Kona, Hawai'i The final stop in Hawaii was the city of Kona on the island of Hawai'i.  Kona was where Hawaii's original royalty lived and today is more known for its coffee, natural beauty and abundant sea-life.  The island has some fantastic spots for snorkeling, diving and swimming with turtles and dolphins.  In terms of history, just south of Kona is where Captain Cook first set foot on the island in 1778 and where he was later killed in fact.

You can view all my Vancouver-Hawaii photos by visiting the first gallery of the "2019 - SOUTH PACIFIC" collection.  Next up is Amerika Samoa!

 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2019/11/of-to-south-pacific Fri, 08 Nov 2019 07:57:25 GMT
Cartagena https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/cartagena "Away, I'd rather sail away; Like a swan that's here and gone"

 

Before going into the exotic islands of the Caribbean, I had one last port of call on the South American continent - Cartagena, Colombia.  Like other S. American capitals, Cartagena has a rich colonial past going back to the 16th century and today is a city with a broad blend of preserved history and modern development. Cartagena from the sea - old city is on far rightCartagena from the sea - old city is on far right

Cartagena was founded as Cartagena de Indias in 1533 by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Heredia and, due to its strategic location in S. America, the city grew in importance as it became a key port for exporting wealth (especially gold and silver) from the newly discovered continent to Spain.  As Spanish ships travelled in convoys to Spain only once a year, treasure for export was stored in the city for much of each year and inevitably pirates came onto the scene in numbers.  Dutch, French and English pirates attacked often and, in 1586, Francis Drake Entrance to old walled city of CartagenaEntrance to old walled city of Cartagena captured the city with the aid of a thousand desperados and proceeded to loot it of its wealth while burning much of the city to the ground, before leaving when there was nothing left of value.  With raids by pirates continuing, Cartagena was fortified via fifteen forts built in the inner walls and six more in the outer fortification ring.  In one of the last pirate raids, a large British fleet led by Admiral Edward Vernon attempted to take the city but were met by a Spanish Admiral named Don Blas de Lezo who in earlier battles had already lost one eye, an arm and a leg.  Faced with heavy losses and the spread of disease, the British suffered an embarrassing defeat -- but one in which the British Admiral introduced the practice of the "naval rum ration".  

In the mid 1500s, Cartagena also became a main port for the slave trade, with the slaves being sold in the main square and then moved to all parts of S. America.  The Spanish were not pleased with this and eventually the feared Spanish Inquisition came to Cartagena.

In the early 1800s, with increasing tensions between the local people and their Spanish rulers, ‌the region of Cartagena declared independence from Spain.  A series of bitter sieges and recriminatory actions by the Spanish followed in which over six thousand locals died, but in October 1821 the city was taken by local patriots and Spanish rule came to an end.  For the next hundred or so years, Cartagena was of little importance but all that changed when oil was discovered and a refinery was built in the Bay of Cartagena in 1926.  Since then, the city has been Colombia's leading port for the export of oil and a key port for platinum and coffee exports.

The old walled-city of Cartagena is a major draw for tourists from across South America.  The old city features narrow winding laneways with the same colonial buildings as in Narrow winding laneways in old walled cityNarrow winding laneways in old walled city other Spanish colonial cities across the continent.  There are ornate balconies, numerous churches and treed plazas throughout the fortified city.  Today, many of the colonial buildings have been restored but converted to offices, hotels and restaurants.  At the same time as the city embraced its colonial past, Cartagena is a growing city with large white skyscrapers spreading across its coastline and modern hotels and businesses popping up in numbers.  The city certainly appears more affluent than the cities I visited along S. America's west coast - as clearly seen in Cartagena's harbour full of sailboats and yachts Macaw parrotMacaw parrot .

  Balconied colonial buildings in old cityBalconied colonial buildings in old city     

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) cartagena https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/cartagena Tue, 20 Feb 2018 22:29:53 GMT
Panama Canal https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/panama-canal "Your time has come to shine; all your dreams are on their way. See how they shine."

 

Looking towards Panama City at Pacific entranceLooking towards Panama City at Pacific entrance In the early 1900s, a few men left the small Indian village of Salempur in Punjab to find work in Panama during the building of a great canal; and in 1930 my grandfather and great-uncle made the same long journey.  Because of that history, it was a special experience for me to finally see and travel through the Panama Canal.  The full crossing took nine hours on a hot humid day and I stayed on the outside decks most of the day to see as much as possible and reflect on what experiences my relatives and others would have gone through, a hundred years ago in this tropical rainforest.  Besides the family connection, learning more  about the actual building and functioning of the Panama Canal was fascinating in itself.  Before getting into the details on how the canal works, here's a bit of history on the region and the building of the canal.

Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot in Panama when he came here in 1502 (I was surprised to learn that this was the only landing he ever made on the American continent - apparently he landed at the site of Manzanillo, which is where the city of Colon is now situated).  It was eleven years later that the Spaniard Vasco Nunez de Balboa became the first person to see Panama flag on MV AuroraPanama flag on MV Aurora the Pacific Ocean from Panama, and so the port of Balboa on the Pacific side of Panama is named after him.  However it was actually the French who took the initiative to try to build a canal through Panama.  Ferdinand de Lesseps had famously just completed the Suez Canal in Egypt, and in 1876 he led a committee to design and build a canal across Panama.  With money from many European investors, de Lesseps and his team brought over tons of equipment, workers from all over the world and plans for construction of a canal in the same manner as the Suez Canal.  Unfortunately they horribly failed to take into account the vast differences between building a canal in an arid sandy region and one in a mountainous tropical rainforest.  Their plans to dynamite and cut through the Continental Divide valleys failed miserably; their construction would see some progress and then days on end of heavy rain would flood worksites and cause avalanches of mountain boulders to fill in valleys they had worked on.  In the end, after little progress, the company was forced to abandon their work and declare bankruptcy.  At that point, American investment came forward to take over the project and designs were changed to better suit the terrain and climate and work progressed.  Instead of clearing mountainous land to make room for ships to go through a canal, the Americans built a dam on the Chargres River and, from 1907 to 1913, the vast Gatun Lake was formed.  This lake provides the deep channel for ships to sail across Panama; and at the same time locks were added on the Pacific and Atlantic sides to raise and lower ships on entry-exit to Gatun Lake.  This plan proved to be a success and, although the inhospitable climate, malaria and other diseases and countless construction accidents led to thousands of worker deaths, the Panama Canal finally opened to traffic in 1914.

Although the 48 mile long Panama Canal is a remarkable engineering feat, the way it works is actually quite simple.  Depending on the direction of travel, there is a series of three Waiting for water levels to equalize in Miraflores LocksWaiting for water levels to equalize in Miraflores Locks locks that raise or lower a ship to various key The 2 cruise ships entering Pedro Miguel LocksThe 2 cruise ships entering Pedro Miguel Locks levels much like going up or down a staircase.  Coming from the Pacific side, the ship enters the first chamber of the Miraflores Locks - the first chamber gate is closed behind the ship and water from the second chamber is added to the first chamber until the two are at an equal level.  At that point, the ship enters the second chamber, gate is closed behind it and water from Miraflores Lake is added to bring the ship to the level of Miraflores Lake; the two-chamber system has raised the ship 54ft from the level of the Pacific Ocean.  This lake is only a mile long and the ship then enters the single-chamber Pedro Miguel Lock, which raises the ship another 31ft to the height of Gatun Lake.  The ship then travels through the Culebra Cut, a nine mile long path that slices through the Continental Divide, and into the massive Gatun Lake.  Finally, at the eastern end of Gatun Lake, the three-chamber Gatun Locks lower the ship 85ft to the level of the Caribbean Sean and Atlantic Ocean.  The full transit for a mid-sized cruise ship takes 9 hours while a container ship will take 24 hours to go from one ocean to the other via the canal.  New Approach Channel on left and the Pedro Miguel Locks on rightNew Approach Channel on left and the Pedro Miguel Locks on right

Here are few other interesting facts/figures...

  • each lock chamber is 1000ft long and 110ft wide, and capable of holding up to 11 million gallons of water;
  • the gates of the Miraflores Locks are the largest and heaviest at 82ft high and weight of 730 tons;
  • the way the gates are pointed towards the bulk of the water for locking efficiency was originally envisioned and sketched by Leonardo da Vinci;
  • the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks have a rail system to control ships through the locks and the cars that keep ships aligned in the chambers are called "mules" (our ship had a clearance of 2 inches to the lock walls!!);
  • the new locks are wider and so tug boats are used to guide the large cargo ships through the lock chambers;
  • since it opened in 1914, over a million ships have used the canal and it is now used by some 14,000 ships a year;
  • without the canal, a cruise ship would have to travel over 12,000 miles around S. America to get from one side of Panama to the other;
  • it is not cheap; a typical cruise ship is charged $400,000 US to transit the canal and container ships are charged even more;
  • the cheapest fee paid to transit was by Richard Halliburton who paid 36 cents and took 10 days to swim the canal.
     

In 2007, the Panama Canal Expansion Project was started.  It included deepening and widening of the two ocean entrances, widening and deepening of the Culebra Cut and Gatun Lake, building of a new second set of locks and water-reutilization basins, and adding a new four mile Pacific Access Channel.  Today, with the second set of locks in operation, larger tankers are able to travel through the Panama Canal and work is progressing on adding a third set of locks and traffic lane to allow even larger ships with expanded cargo capacity to use this man-made wonder. One of many Panamanian container portsOne of many Panamanian container ports These and other photos from this really interesting experience are in the "Panama Canal" gallery under the 2018-Rediscovery folder.  Now it's of to Cartagena and then the Caribbean -- cheers!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) panama canal https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/panama-canal Tue, 20 Feb 2018 16:52:46 GMT
Peru and Ecuador https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/peru-ecuador "Call it impulsive; call it compulsive; call it insane."

The large ports of Chile behind us, we continued the journey north and soon entered the waters of Peru and, two and a half days later, Ecuador.

Callao is the port city for Peru's capital city of Lima.  Only 9km from the centre of Lima, Callao is essentially a huge suburb of Lima and the two make up a densely populated capital city of some 9.7 million people, and it seems there are just as many vehicles in the city!  The roads are crowded with cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles; but thankfully many of the busy roads have their multiple lanes Musician busker on local bus - LimaMusician busker on local bus - Lima separated by treed boulevards featuring two-way bicycle and pedestrian paths.  The roads are so busy that it takes 30 Famous wooden balconies of LimaFamous wooden balconies of Lima minutes to drive just10 kilometres either in a car or a bus.  Despite a few warnings of pickpockets and "gangs", I ventured on a local bus to get to the heart central Lima.  The two sol ride (compared to $15 taxi fare) was fine; the bus was relatively comfortable, buskers and popsicle vendors would hop on for couple of stops at a time and people got on and off whenever it slowed down.  I got off on the super busy Avenida Abancay at its junction with the pedestrian-only Jiron Ucayali (I think "jiron" means street) and walked along Ucayali towards the main Plaza Major (like in other S. American cities, this "Plaza des Armas" is the main square).  Jiron Ucayali is a beautiful wide street with some great examples of the magnificent early architecture of Lima.   In particular, this pedestrian-only street has buildings that feature the unique wooden balconies Lima is known for.  These balconies were additions to buildings as a form of "air conditioning" and are beautiful wooden structures secured to outside walls with either iron brackets or ornate wooden frames.

Playa Mayor - LimaPlaya Mayor - Lima Lima was formed by the Spanish in 1535 and christened as "Ciudad de los Reyes" or City of Kings.  It was the jewel of the colonial S. America and there's still evidence of that in the churches, mansions and other attractions in the central Plaza Mayor and surrounding historic district.  The Plaza Mayor is home to the large Government Palace, the mustard-coloured Municipal Hall and the ornate Basilica Cathedral of Lima.  Besides Plaza Mayor, there are others plazas (such as the UNESCO World Heritage site Plaza San Martin) and interesting areas around Lima that make the city a popular destination for tourists from other parts of Peru and S. America.  Of course, one can't talk about Peru without mentioning Peruvian ceviche.  This dish consists of shrimp, fish and shellfish cooked and marinated in lemon juice, coriander and onions and then served cold.  Ceviche is available across Chile, Peru and Ecuador (I didn't see it on the eastern side of the continent), but apparently Peruvian ceviche is the best of them all. 

 
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is actually 150 miles east of the port city of Manta where we docked.  Manta itself is rather quiet but it is the main Ecuadorian port and is the centre of the country's large tuna fishing fleet and home to an automobile assembly Weaving Panama hat in local market - MantaWeaving Panama hat in local market - Manta plant.  Manta EcuadorManta Ecuador Around Manta, there are quaint fishing villages with beautiful beaches, (Manta is home to the S. American windsurfing championships), tropical dry forest of the Pacoche Natural Reserve and the town of Montecristi.  Founded by the Spanish in 1628, Montecristi is famous as the birthplace of the famous "Panama hat".  These hats have been woven by hand here for over 400 hundred years and their design has barely changed at all.  The finest Panama hats made in Montecristi can take months to weave and can cost thousands of dollars - although I think the one I bought for $20 is pretty nice itself! Old friends hanging out in main park - MantaOld friends hanging out in main park - Manta

At 9:23pm the ship was at 00 degrees and 00 minutes longitude -- meaning the Equator; so I've now crossed the Equator by sea north-to-south and south-to-north!  Next, I'm of to travel through the Panama Canal and then stop in Cartagena, Colombia before hopping among the Caribbean islands.  As for today - happy Valentine's Day to some and Happy Single Person's Day to the rest of us :)

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/peru-ecuador Wed, 14 Feb 2018 22:11:26 GMT
Chile https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/chile "I dreamed I saw the silver spaceship flying, in the yellow haze of the sun"

Chile is a very long country along its north-south axis on the west coast of South America.  Once out of the fjords in the deep south, the expedition made the long journey up the Pacific, stopping in three key Chilean ports:  San Antonio, gateway to the capital Santiago and surrounding wine regions; Coquimbo, gateway to Chile's "Norte Chico" (Little North) region; and Arica which is Chile's most northerly city at only twelve miles from Peru.  These are some of the oldest cities in S. America and the surrounding regions hold evidence of an even more ancient history.  

The entire length of Chile is defined by the Andes Mountains that extend some 5,000 miles down western S. America and then seem to slide into the cold waters at the tip of the continent.  The Andes are responsible for the other main geological feature of northern Chile, the Atacama Desert.  This extremely arid desert stretches 1,000 miles from the Peruvian border to just north of San Antonio.  The Atacama often receives no rain for years on end, primarily due to cold Peruvian winds cooling any moist air and creating fog that embraces only the coastal regions.  In addition, the Andes prevent any moist air from the Amazon basin from coming close to the desert. San Antonio fishing boats While each of these cities has its unique features and history, there are a few similarities across them.  Foremost is that all three have extensive port facilities that load and unload thousands of large tankers with containers full of commodities ranging from grains to silver to fruits and wines.  At the same time, the ports are home to countless commercial and private fishing vessels - creating a buzz of activity and painting a colourful picture as one enters each city by sea. One nice feature of each place that I really appreciated was the pedestrian-only streets full of regular shops, street vendors and musician buskers (some quite good!).  These streets create a sense of community spirit and liveliness that make them a pleasure to stroll around in.  Finally, the Spanish conquistador influence can be seen in each city through distinct colonial architecture and the presence of strong religious symbols such as statues of various saints and impressive cathedrals.  Besides walking in these port cities, I took a Greyhound-type bus, a metro system and clunky local buses to also visit Santiago and La Serena nearby.  Here's a little more on each place...

San Antonio is the busiest port on the west coast of S. America and the commercial and fishing hub for the entire Chilean coast.  It sits approximately 100km from Chile's capital of Santiago and suffered extensive damage in the major earthquake that hit the Santiago region in 1985.  Another quake in 2010 seriously damaged the port facilities but the city has recovered and is embracing its tourism potential as gateway to Santiago and the nearby wine regions.  As with other parts of Chile, archeological evidence has revealed that this area was home to hunter-gatherer settlements going back thirteen thousand years.

Santiago was a 90-minute bus ride from San Antonio and its central plaza Pedestrians-only main street was a further short metro ride away (I really should learn Spanish!).  Founded in 1541, Santiago is a sprawling city with everything from crowded- Female Chemamull from Mapuche burial suburban sections to central areas featuring winding roads with grandiose Spanish-style buildings and treed-plazas.  The city certainly seems to be flourishing as the metro appears quite extensive and big retailers, hotels and restaurants have all set up here.   Again the pedestrian-only streets within the central part of the city were a nice feature - the main one has big stores on either side and locals selling merchandise (shoes, hats, smokes, clothes and other nic-nacs) on blankets strewn among the broad variety of tourists strolling along.  One of the interesting places I visited here was the Museum of Pre-Columbian Chile.  This museum had fascinating exhibits dating back thousands of years, including wooden figures known as "Chemamull" that in ancient times were placed on top of burials in Mapuche cemeteries.  These figures reminded me of the ancient totems I saw when I went up to the Haida-Gwaii islands off the British Columbia coast.

Coquimbo was founded by the Spanish in 1544 and is the major port for the Local musicians in La Serena export of copper, wine and fruit from the surrounding region.  Grapes from this fertile region are the foundation for Chile's national drink, Pisco.  One of the key sights in Coquimbo is the "Cruz del Tercer Milenio" (Third Millennium Cross) which is an 83-metre tall concrete cross that overlooks the city and is considered to be the tallest monument in S. America.  From Coquimbo, I took a bumpy local bus to the more interesting colonial city of La Serena.  This city is the capital of the Coquimbo region and is more-celebrated than its commercial and fishing port neighbour.  Having been a stopping point for Spanish missionaries the city is full of churches and convents, and also features treed-plazas and boulevards and public markets.  Tourism, both local and international, is an important industry for La Serena and, with a number of nice beaches nearby, the city has become a destination for Chileans looking to get away from the bustle of Santiago (~300 miles).

Arica is just twelve miles from Peru and sits between the Pacific Ocean and the Atacama Desert.  Explorations in the valleys near Arica have unearthed some amazing finds - not the least of which are Arica mummies of Chinchorro residents dating back some ten-thousand years.  In fact, not far from the city, ancient geoglyphs are visible on the hillsides on the edge of the desert (geoglyphs are Chilean dancers in Arica large ancient drawings of simple-form animals and humans), giving further proof that this region was inhabited thousands of years before the city's formation in 1565.  Arica's importance as a city grew once silver was discovered and exported to Spain; which led to Sir Francis Drake to stop here in 1578 and pirate away a lot of the town's silver (that 1578 voyage was the one by which he became the first person to sail around the world).  Arica has had its hard times too with major earthquakes in the 17th century, wide-spread malaria outbreak in 1713 and wars with Peru and Bolivia until it legally became part of Chile in 1929.  An interesting history in Arica is that, following a massive earthquake in 1868, it was Gustave Eiffel and his team who were tasked with rebuilding the town's cathedral and the government building (yes, the guy famous for the metal tower in Paris).  Today, Arica seems to be doing quite well with a busy port, auto assembly and fish-processing plants, and a growing tourism industry.  I liked Arica partly due to its embracing of ancient history, a strong arts and culture vibe and its friendly people.

 

I took quite a lot of photographs among these five cities (and journeys there-to).  As a result, I've decided to leave out examples of Spanish colonial buildings and similar stuff and instead have included more of my people-photos.  I've separated them into two sets so look for the "Chile 1" and "Chile 2" galleries if you'd like view what these places are like.  Cheers!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) chile https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/chile Mon, 12 Feb 2018 03:54:24 GMT
Southern Tip of Earth https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/southern-tip-of-earth "And even when the song is over; Where have I been --- was it just a dream?"

After experiencing the macro-UK that is the Falkland Islands, the next part of the journey was to go south of all real land, go through the Beagle Channel and Magellan Strait, visit the most southern city in South America, travel through glacier-filled Chilean fjords, and then head north to explore the west side of this continent.

From the Falklands, we headed due south (to bypass Argentine waters) and then due west to attempt the passage around Cape Horn.  I say attempt because this can be a challenging effort even in the summer and regardless of ship size; fortunately the waters were "the great lake" rather than "the great shake" on the day we got there.  56deg-56min South - Cape Horn56deg-56min South - Cape Horn Cape Horn is essentially the most southern point of land in South America and is located on Isla a Hornos (also known as Hornos Island and Hoorn Island).  The island is part of a group of small islands at the southern end of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago and the Cape Horn waters are the meeting point for the Pacific, Atlantic and Southern oceans.  The currents from the three oceans can create some extreme weather.  While the summers can sometimes be rough, the winters bring gale force winds of over 100 mph and waves more than ten storeys high, and so "rounding the horn" and going through Drake Passage (named for Sir Francis Drake) has always been a legendary act of daring among sailors.  However in the early days of plundering and trade across South America, even though this was the shortest route to cross from one side of the continent to the other, the treacherous conditions made for a perilous journey and early traders chose to move their goods by land instead.  Despite years of border disputes between Argentina and Chile, it is now internationally recognized today that Cape Horn is Chilean territory and their navy maintains a lighthouse and station on Isla a Hornos.  Nearby the main station on the island, a memorial has been erected in the shape of an albatross to remember the thousands of sailors who perished while trying to "round the Horn."  I passed Cape Horn and now can say that I've been as far south as 56deg. 56min. south, which is sort of cool as I've already been north of the Arctic Circle during my time working in Whitehorse.

North of Isla a Hornos, the Beagle Channel traverses east-west within the Tierra del Fuego group of islands, and separates the main Tierra del Fuego island in the north from the smaller islands to the south and west.  The channel's eastern part is the formal Chile-Argentina border, while the western Beagle Channel glacierBeagle Channel glacier section lies completely within Chilean territory.  As the name suggests, the channel was named after the HMS Beagle which was the ship Charles Darwin travelled in when he explored this area in 1833-34.  For me, it was a beautiful morning as we slowly headed west in the Beagle Channel; the first glacier appeared about 8am on the starboard-side and two others popped up further down the channel.  These glaciers are among snow-covered mountains in the part of the Andes range that essentially sinks into the ocean a this southern tip of S. America.  To cap of a great journey through the channel, some Dusky dolphins appeared in early evening and swam alongside for some time. Dusky dolphinsDusky dolphins

 

 

                                                     The Strait of Magellan is a key passageway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, north of the treacherous Drake Passage.  The strait is named after Ferdinand Magellan, who discovered the strait in 1520 during the first successful circumnavigation of the planet.  Although it is a safer alternative to the storm-laden Drake Passage around Cape Horn, Magellan Strait is still considered a difficult route due to its often foggy and windy path through numerous islands and narrow channels.  Prior to 1914, the strait was an important sailing route but the completion of the Panama Canal led to a saferand much shorter alternative for marine movement of goods, but it is still used by many ships rounding South America today.  At the heart of the Strait of Magellan sits the Chilean city of Punta Arenas, the largest city south of the southern 46th parallel and most-southern city in S. America. Magellan Strait and Punta ArenasMagellan Strait and Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas ("Sandy Point" as it was earlier known) is a gateway city with Patagonia to its north, glacial fjords and national parks to the west, Cape Horn to the south and Tierra del Fuego to the east.  Located on a peninsula north of the Strait of Magellan, Local Chilean vendorsLocal Chilean vendors the city was originally built in 1848 as a small penal colony to maintain sovernity of the strait, and it continued to grow due to increasing traffic and trade travelling through Magellan Strait to the west coasts of South and North America.  Later on, in the late 1880s and  early 1900s, a gold rush and sheep farming led to an influx of Europeans (mostly Russian and Croatian) and their influence is reflected in the names of many shops, streets and buildings today; and many of their descendants continue to live here.  Punta Arenas is the main corridor to the Antarctic and so there are all sorts of scientific groups, travel companies, government agencies and companies providing related-services located in the city; and in addition, tourism, fishing and general trade provide a sound base for Punta Arenas to continue to flourish as a connector between the Atlantic, Pacific and Antartica.

Heading out of Magellan Strait, we entered the many channels and fjords that start up the west side of Chile.  Unfortunately the weather finally decided not to cooperate and we had a couple of cloudy grey days as we sailed in and out of fjords with steep sides and waterfalls from melting glaciers. PIO XI GlacierPIO XI Glacier

I've included a map of this part of S. America as the first photo in the "Southern Tip of Earth" gallery.  Take a look at the white boxes as they identify some of the places/waterways I've written about, and check out the route (red dashed line).  Cheers!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/2/southern-tip-of-earth Fri, 02 Feb 2018 22:26:25 GMT
Falkland Islands https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/falkland-islands "It may be raining; but there's a rainbow above you."

[My apologies for not getting the descriptions in for the Montevideo photos.  Wifi is slow, spotty and expensive - and my time ran out before I could add in that info.  I've now updated them with titles/info]

Even though all the previous places I've written about have been uncharted waters in terms of my explorations, walking about in the Falkland Islands really does give me a bit of a special feeling.  I'm really south now; about four hundred miles east of the southern coast of Argentina (one says that name quietly on these islands).  The Falklands are actually two larger islands, each about 80 miles north-south and 140 miles east-west, and some 700 smaller islands.  These two main islands are romantically named East Falkland and West Falkland, and the capital of Port Stanley is home to the majority of the three thousand residents.  Interestingly, it is purported that there are anywhere from one hundred to three hundred sheep for every human in the Falkland Islands, making it the highest number of sheep per capita of anywhere in the world! Stanley Harbour and Port StanleyStanley Harbour and Port Stanley

The Falkland Islands have an interesting history, including: exploration by French, Portuguese, Dutch and English sailors in the 16th and 17th 1982 War Memorial1982 War Memorial Jubilee Villas - English-style housesJubilee Villas - English-style houses  centuries; visits by Charles Darwin on the HMS Beagle in March 1833 and March 1834; British Navy sinking four German cruisers in 1914 and also a German destroyer during World War II; and a serious conflict in 1982 when Argentina invaded the islands but were defeated by British forces after 72 days of fighting (strong tensions are still very evident today and thus "Argentina" is a bad word here).  As a result of this history, there are a number of museums and other points of interest in and around Port Stanley, along with a weird presence of all things British - even though this British territory is over 8,000 miles from its motherland.  There is no doubt though that the main attraction for travellers here is the diverse wildlife.  

 

The islands and their waters are home to seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins and countless species of birds, most notably five species of breeding penguins.  The many wind-swept bays and coves are home to King, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Magellanic and Macaroni penguins; the colourful King and slightly smaller Gentoo being the most common.  Although it was a very windy day out at Bluff Cove, I had a great time wandering among the many King and Gentoo penguins that raise their young there.  King penguins keeping their eggs warmKing penguins keeping their eggs warm The King is the second largest penguin after the Emperor and, after near extinction, there are now one King in classic penguin poseKing in classic penguin pose thousand breeding pairs of King penguins around the islands.  The King penguin is 36 inches tall and is distinguished by a bright orange patch on its head and an orange/yellow neck.  They lay only one egg which is incubated for 54 days on their feet and gently shifted from male to female and vice versa as they take turns to go out to sea to hunt for fish and squid.  After hatching, the young King penguin  is kept warm on its parents' feet until it is big enough to stand alone and will stay with its parents for about a year.

Gentoo penguinGentoo penguin The other common breeding penguin in the Falklands is the Gentoo penguin, of which there are some 120,000 breeding pairs.  Gentoos are the third-largest penguin, about 30 inches tall and weighing 12-15 pounds.  While King penguins live up to 30 years, the Gentoo's life span is only 10 to 12 years.  These agile creatures are the fastest of all penguins and can dive for over five minutes to depths of 600 feet.  They are easily recognizable by a bright orange beak, yellow-orange feet and a white stripe above their eyes.  Unlike King penguins, the Gentoo lays two eggs in shallow ground nests and the parents take turns to incubate the eggs for approximately 35 days.  Once the chicks are born they are fed via regurgitation by both parents, and after 30 days the fluffy grey chicks form creches.  They continue to be fed by their parents for a further two months and eventually go to sea at 100 days old.  While the Falklands are home to a third of the world's Gentoo penguins, these cute birds have been classified as "near threatened". Gentoo baby being fed by regurgitationGentoo baby being fed by regurgitation

On a funny note, locals and future tourists may see a large King penguin walking around with a Jack Nicklaus Bear Mtn golf cap one day.  When I first arrived at Bluff Cove, I went to put my lens cap in my pocket but unfortunately it slipped out of my hand and fell to the ground.  The wind picked it up and rolled it beautifully through two large groups of penguins and chicks, over some rocks and across 600 feet of sandy beach before dumping it into  the Atlantic.  All I could do was watch and laugh along with other visitors.  Then, mere five mintues later, it was my ball cap's turn to take a ride even though it was tightly on my head.  Alas, it took the same path and it too ended up in the Atlantic, prompting a local wildlife ranger to walk over to me and joke that a King Penguin will likely come up out of the water and end up with the cap perfectly perched on it's colourful head!

Visiting the penguin colony was an experience I won't forget soon and of course I took a lot of photographs.  I've included some of the best shots in my "Falkland Islands" gallery, along with a sequence of photos showing the dramatic sunset as I left the islands and headed south towards Antarctica.  I'm getting excited as we continue to head south and get close to the end of land in the south.  Hopefully I'll have some more interesting stories and photos for you!  Cheers. 

Sun setting - 854pmSun setting - 854pm

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) falkland islands https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/falkland-islands Tue, 30 Jan 2018 22:09:51 GMT
Bienvenidos a Montevideo https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/montevideo "Can I sail through the changing ocean tides; Can I handle the seasons of my life"

 

Slotted between Argentina to the south and west and Brazil to the north, Uruguay is the second-smallest country in South America.  It is a country of scrubby woodland and large grassy prairies that extend into the northern third of Argentina.  More commonly known as the Pampas, these nutrient-rich prairies Bienvenidos were formed by finely eroded materials deposited here from the Andes Mountains by wind and water.  Much like the Canadian prairies and the US midwest, the Pampas are considered the breadbasket of South America and are used to raise cattle and grow cereal grains.

More than half of Uruguay's nearly four million residents live in the port city of Montevideo.  The capital of Uruguay, Montevideo was discovered in early 1500s when the Spanish explorer Juan Diaz de Solis sailed into Rio de la Plata, the estuary of the Parana River system (apparently this is the world's largest river estuary).  He claimed the whole area for the Spanish Crown but was later killed by Indians a little further down the estuary in what is today the Spanish-style city of Colonia.  As no gold was found in those early days the Spanish put little effort into developing the region, and it was only after several clashes with the Portuguese and French over the next two centuries that the Spanish finally formed Montevideo as a fortress to keep others out.  Today, the broad Rio de la Plata estuary serves as a natural border with Argentina along its southern shore and Uruguay to the north; and further west into the estuary sits Colonia directly across from the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.

Montevideo is a beautiful city full of well preserved colonial Spanish architecture, over thirty museums, countless plazas and parks full of trees and  Las Misiones Cafe from 1907 fountains, and lovely sandy beaches.  The friendly and welcoming residents are mostly of Spanish and Italian heritage and, along with many open-air cafes and restaurants, give the city a strong European feel.  The city (and Uruguay overall) seems so welcoming - the streets are clean, parks are full of trees and benches and circuit-training equipment, public transport is everywhere and there don't appear to be large slum areas anywhere.  Uruguay has been a leader in the Western Hemisphere and certainly on the continent with respect to social programs; there is an eight-hour working day, paid holidays, seniors' social security, free medical, nationalisation of essential services, and numerous other programs designed to foster a high standard of living and strong democratic processes.  Even with all the positives going for it and the exception of key beach areas to the east of Montevideo, Uruguay is still not a major tourist destination and most visitors are from other South American countries - but that doesn't take away from the fact that Montevideo is a great place to visit. Zabala Plaza

One of the biggest plazas in Montevideo is the Plaza Independencia with the mausoleum of General Artigas in the centre, Government House and Teatro Solis (main opera house) along its east side, and the Canadian Embassy on the north side (it was closed for siesta from noon-2pm!).  Meanwhile, on the west side of the plaza is a large apartment building that stands in stark contrast to the colonial stone buildings around the rest of the plaza.  Another beautiful plaza/park is the Plaza Zabala which is dedicated to a former governor who founded Montevideo in 1726.  

 

 

Of all the museums in the heart of Montevideo, I'm glad I walked through the Museo del Gaucho (Gaucho Museum).  Gaucho Museum - old spurs Located in a beautifully preserved Spanish-style mansion, the Gaucho Museum covers the history of these "South American cowboys" and features displays of their weapons, tools, leathers and other equipment.  The gaucho came about in the late 1700s and made their living by capturing wild horses that had escaped from large ranches starting to form across the land, and they would then use these horses to capture stray cattle on the plains.  Their nomadic lifestyle led to legendary stories of the gaucho roaming the plains with a thick poncho over his shoulder (serving as a blanket at night and a shield during a knife fight), eating livestock as needed and selling hides to buy tobacco, rum and tea.  With a kerchief around his neck, "bombachas" (roomy pleated pants) tucked into his boots, and distinctive sash and belt, the gaucho had a unique look as the South American cowboy.  

One of the things that I saw everywhere in Montevideo and had Drinking mate not Mate seen at all in Brazil was the drinking of "mate".  Going back to the Guarani culture before the Spanish arrived on the continent, mate is the drink made by adding hot water to yerba (dried leaves and twigs from the "Ilexparaguayensis" tree).  While tea became a popular drink in Europe mate grew in popularity across South America - primarily in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay.  Today, it is very common to see people either sitting or walking around with a gourd (the mate), a metal straw-spoon with a bulbous end with fine holes in it (the bombilla) and a thermos of hot water.  The yerba mate (tea-like grind) contains caffeine and other nutrients and apparently makes a very stimulating tonic when placed in the mate gourd, a little water is added and the infusion is sipped through the bombilla.  While a kettle was used in the old days, adding a thermos has made mate drinking a very mobile and social activity.  Nope, I didn't get the chance to try any.

I can't finish this post without adding a little piece about a thrill I got.  In 1930, FIFA held its first ever football World Cup.  First ever World Cup trophy The tournament was held in Uruguay and the host country became the first winners of the Jules Rimet Cup (original World Cup trophy, replaced decades later by today's globe-like trophy).  The National Stadium in Uruguay is also home to the Museum of Football and this place has a pretty good collection of national and international memorabilia.  Among the many exhibits are the football trophies Uruguay won in the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, and their 1930 and 1950 Jule Rimet Cups as FIFA World Champions.  It was great just seeing the trophies and reading old articles, but after taking a few photos I couldn't help but try something.  Some of the trophies were just sitting in the open while others were behind plexiglass with small openings.  I probably shouldn't have but I just couldn't resist putting my fingers through one of the openings and touching the very first Jules Rimet Cup.  Having played football all my life and being a diehard fan, this was a pretty neat thrill.

This post is definitely longer than the previous ones but I really liked Montevideo and thought I'd share as much with you as I could. I think I'd like to see more of Uruguay (Colonia and the Pampas for sure) and so it's definitely going on my list of places to travel to again one day.

All the photos from Montevideo can be found in the Montevideo gallery within the 2018-REDISCOVER collection.  Adios for now!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) montevideo https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/montevideo Thu, 25 Jan 2018 20:54:36 GMT
RIO!! https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/-ah "When she passes, each one she passes goes 'Ah' "

 

Rio de Janeiro is the second-largest city in Brazil after Sao Paulo and is known simply as "Rio".

Looking towards Ipanema beach In 1502, Portuguese sailors entered a large bay and thinking it was a river estuary named the spot Rio de Janeiro (River of January).  Following some key battles with the French, the Portuguese finally settled the broader area in late 1700s and Rio flourished as a major trade port for gold, sugar cane and other good being sent to Europe. Christ The Redeemer

Today, Rio is a city of about 7 million people.  It is well known for it's magnificent harbour surrounded by lush mountains - the iconic Sugar Loaf and Corcovado being the two prominent landmarks.  Corcovado Mountain (literally "hunchback mountain") is home to the world-famous statue of Christ The Redeemer.   Built out of soapstone, the statue was completed in 1931 and is 125 feet tall and weighs over 1,100 tons.  There are views of the entire city, beaches and Atlantic from Corcovado and I was fortunate to be there on a clear day (apparently it's hazy and overcast more often than not).

Ipanema Beach Of course Rio is also famous for its beautiful beaches, the most popular ones naturally being Copacabana and Ipanema but Flamengo Beach at Botafogo Bay and Leblon are just as lovely and busy.  The beaches are packed with people sun-tanning, playing beach soccer and volleyball, or just hanging out with groups of friends.  There are countless colourful flags of soccer teams, counties, businesses or other groups flying as markers of where different groups are camped out on the beach.  Copacabana is indeed the playground of the rich and not-so-rich.  The curved two miles of beautiful sand is followed along by hotels and apartment buildings; young people who bought relatively inexpensive apartments here many years are now senior citizens who walk across the street to enjoy the magic of Copacabana.  However, alongside the apartment buildings, more and more hotels have popped up these days.  The same is true for Ipanema beach, across from which a large favela has developed on the hillside. 

Favela in central Rio

Favelas are commonly considered to be slum areas of Rio but in fact not all are true slums.  Many of these areas formed as people returned from fighting in wars only to discover that there was no work for them.  With no money or job and nowhere to stay, folks started living in run-down shacks within and around the city.  Today, there are quite a few favelas in Rio and efforts have been made to recognize them as residential areas.  Many have had roads put in, schools and clinics built, mail service started and city registration of addresses to recognize land ownership.  Some of the "shacks" are actually quite well built and even have air conditioning in them.  That aside, it is true that both petty and serious crime are on-going concerns within the  favelas and Rio itself, and I had quite a few people warn me along Ipanema and Copacabana to be careful with my Nikon as I wandered about. 

In talking to some of the locals, there's a sense of frustration that this city is falling apart due to serious government corruption.  Folks told me that the stated inflation rate of about 3% is a joke as it's more like 30% for the average citizen - prices of everything have gone up dramatically over the past two years and there's almost a feeling of apathy that nothing is going to change even with elections coming up later this year.  A music producer here put it best when he said that people in Rio just don't think as a group and that there's no public togetherness in terms of protest and outrage over blatantly obvious corruption.  At the same time he says Rio is Rio and it still is a magical place. Corcovado Mountain

It's hard to write about Rio - it's a city that has a unique feel and pulse to it.  I can only imagine what it must be like during the famous Carnival that's held here every February/March depending on when Easter falls. 

 

All my Rio photos are in the Rio de Janeiro gallery - adeus!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) rio https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/-ah Sun, 21 Jan 2018 17:38:32 GMT
The New World https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/the-new-world "Misty taste of moonshine; teardrop in my eye"

After four full days crossing the Atlantic, the Portuguese "Bon Dia" has been mostly replaced with the more casual "Ola!" as I arrived in one of the oldest cities in the New World - Salvador da Bahia, capital of the state of Bahia.  "Ola"Local lady offers a hello Known simply as Bahia to Brazilians and Salvador to the rest of the world, the city lies on a peninsula at the eastern Todos os Santos (Bay of All Saints); and for over 300 years it was Brazil's most important city flourishing with the export of sugarcane, diamonds and gold and importing African slaves.  The broad African influence continues to permeate throughout Salvador today.  Sadly, with Rio de Janeiro taking over as Brazil's main city in the 1700s, Salvador started on an economic decline that continues with unemployment and homelessness impacting many of the 2.25 million residents despite a major tourism push and modern chemical industry development. Pelourinho Elevator from lower city to upper city

Salvador's city centre is starkly divided into a lower and upper city with a clanking electric lift (Elevador Lecerda) taking 50,000 passengers daily between these two distinct areas.  A few blocks from the elevator, there is also a blue fenicular railway that moves people up and down every three minutes.  A key part of the upper city is the Pelourinho, a historic area where gold-filled churches and beautiful homes from the glory days have been preserved and renovated and now serve as a major tourist attraction.  The Pelourinho has been described as a treasure of humanity by UNESCO and it's easy to see why as you stroll through cobbled streets lined with the world's largest collection of Baroque architecture. There are beautiful churches, bright homes and hotels and countless museums set up in renovated mansions.  With all the preservation and renovation efforts and it's African influences, Salvador (and in particular Pelourinho) offers a fascinating walk back in time.


After Salvador, it was a journey further south and west to the beautiful beach resort of Buzios.  Defined by beaches and secluded coves, Buzios is a town full of boutiques, restaurants and lovely villas situated on a small peninsula in the state of Rio de Janeiro.  Buzios This paradise was an essentially unknown fishing village until the 1960s when Brigitte Bardot chose to escape the paparazzi hounding her and her boyfriend and came to his native Brazil.  Brigitte Bardot statue With no electricity at that time Buzios offered a simple life away from the hustle and bustle Bardot was enduring.  However her visit shone a spotlight on this quiet village and soon stars such as Mick Jagger, Madonna and others followed suit and it transformed into somewhat of a trendy resort paradise - fortunately without the big hotels and associated businesses.  Bardot's influence is still very much evident throughout Buzios.  The house where she first stayed is now a small hotel named Pousada do Sol; her name is attached to classic part of its famous cobblestone main road and the cinema, and she is immortalized in a bronze statue situated on the oceanfront pathway.

Looking back at its history, this peninsula was first settled by the Tamoio tribe about a thousand years before the Portuguese arrived in 1400s.  A hundred years after that, European pirates would take advantage of the many coves to attack ships Tour boats taking gold from Salvador to Europe.  Eventually the Portuguese overcame French efforts to take over the area and established Buzios as a safe haven for travelling ships and fishermen to shelter and fix their nets.  Today Buzios is still a small town, only stretching just over eight kilometers long and dotted with beautiful sandy beaches and quiet coves. I'd like to have visited with Brigitte.

 

You can see all my photos from Salvador and Buzios in the Salvador & Buzios gallery.  Next is Rio!!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) salvador and buzios https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/the-new-world Sat, 20 Jan 2018 20:19:28 GMT
BO NOITI https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/bo-noiti "Tonight there will be a party. On the corner at the end of the block."

Four hundred miles of the coast of Senegal, the Cape Verde Islands (CVI) are the most westerly point in all of Africa.  We arrived here after two days at sea from Madeira.  There are nine islands comprising a land mass of some 1,500 sq. miles for a population of about 400,000.  That's the basic info - the other details are what separate this place from the beauty and comfort of Madeira.  City of Mindelo - capital of St Vincent in Cape Verde IslandsMindeloCity of Mindelo - capital of St Vincent in Cape Verde Islands

These islands were actually formed by active volcanoes that rose from the ocean.  The large island of St. Vincent is home to the port of Mindelo which formed as a large volcano's crater broke away on one side and created a natural deep-water port.  As a result of this geology, Cape Verde holds some of the most infertile rough land in the world.  Unlike Madeira, there is little to no agriculture here - early settlers brought goats that quickly ravaged any vegetation that existed and today there are only pockets of arable land where some basic produce is grown. 

The history of CVI is short and not particularly sweet, due primarily to their geographic location.  The volcanic rock that folks say is "the face on the mountain"The Monte de Cara (Mountain of the Face) In the days of galleons and sailing vessels, wind currents made it likely that all ships travelling between Europe and the Americas or the East would end up among these islands.  They became a stopping point for repairs and rest.  Portuguese explorers discovered these islands in 1400s and, with no hostile inhabitants to confront them, settled here and formed the oldest European city in the Tropics.  Unfortunately they also started trading in a commodity that was common with colonization at that time - slavery.  For many centuries, various nations fought over CVI but regardless of the colonizers the slave trade continued until it went in decline and was finally abolished in 1876.    The residents were given Portuguese citizenship in 1961 but the fight for independence continued until it was finally granted in 1975.  The majority of the population live in the two cities of Mindelo on St. Vincent and Praia (the capital) on island of Sal.  The main language is Portuguese but there is also a fascinating dialect called Crioulo common among the residents; it is a combination of Portuguese and various African dialects.  

 

There are lots of fruit/veggie street vendorsThere are lots of fruit/veggie street vendors Mindelo is very different from Madeira - but it is still an interesting place and the people are equally He wanted to see himself in black and white!!Local mealThis guy let me take his photo but also wanted to see it in black and white! friendly.  The Monte de Cara (Mountain of the Face) lies along the top of a mountain ridge and locals will debate with you as to who's face it is on the mountain.  There are open air markets and lots of street vendors selling mostly basic produce and lots of fish to locals; and there are of course businesses now catering to the tourists coming to town.  The islands are making a large push to develop tourism here.  They have guaranteed beautiful weather, lots of beaches and are an ideal port for cruise ships and airlines - so there's increased development of hotels and related services going on these days.

 

To see all the photos from Mindelo, go to the St. Vincent gallery through the 2018 - REDISCOVERY link.

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) cape verde islands https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/bo-noiti Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:46:49 GMT
BOM DIA! https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/bom-dia [PLEASE NOTE:  There's opportunity for me to capture many more images in ports than can be posted into a blog. So in order to better share with you what each place is like, I've started putting photos from each port into a gallery on this website. The gallery is called "2018 - REDISCOVERY" and I'll have folders in there for you to view all the photos from each place in a slideshow. The first folders are already posted - "Ilha da Madeira" and "St. Vincent"...enjoy!]

"The First Mate shouted from the Crow's Nest: 'I think I might see land out there'."

After two full days at sea, I have to admit it did feel good to see the lights of land as the ship arrived in Ilha da Madeira just after sunset on January 6.  FunchalFunchal, MadeiraThe city of Funchal on Ilha da Madeira There are three other small islands in this Portuguese archipelago just west of Morocco, but Madeira is the main island with over ninety percent of the 300,000 population.  The island is famed for its flowers, tropical  fruit, stunning cliff tops, pine forests and the famed Madeira wine (think of port).

Polite lady let me take her photo - but still looked grumpy :)Lady selling flowers in townPolite lady let me take her photo - but still looked grumpy :) It's history goes back at least 600 years as some of the churches and other buildings here are from the mid-1400's. Based on its location, it's likely that early explorers used Madeira as a stopping point for rest and supplies on their voyages of discovery out of Portugal, Spain and England.

Local street in FunchalLocal street in Funchal The capital city of Funchal is the main port and is a beautiful city. Fruits and nuts at Mercantile Natal market Spreading out along the bay, the city also climbs up the mountainsides with terracotta roof tops adorning pastel-coloured homes. There's a cable car that takes you high above the seaside to Monte, where there are some magnificent old churches and residences converted to classic hotels - all with great views of the area.

Madeira is also well known today because of one former resident; Madeira is the birthplace of Cristiano Ronaldo and there's a CR7 statue, hotel, museum and restaurant right on the waterfront.

It's a beautiful place set in a lovely location - check out the city through my photos in the Ilha da Madeira folder through the "2018 - REDISCOVERY" link.

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) ilha da madeira https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/bom-dia Fri, 12 Jan 2018 16:08:51 GMT
The Fair Breeze Blew, The White Foam Flew https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/the-fair-breeze-blew-the-white-foam-flew "Hark now hear the sailor's cry.  Smell the sea and feel the sky..."
Cruising on a lazy afternoon, that's what the story is today and has been for past three days. 
With a fireworks show to see us out of port, the MV Aurora left Southampton at 6:30pm on January 3 and we've been cruising full speed towards our first port of call ever since. Leaving Southampton   Actually it's more like bobbing towards Madeira as the sea has been angry my friends, like an old man trying to return soup at the deli.  The ship is definitely being pushed around (there've been some big waves) but it's not so bad that folks are getting sick; we're just shifting from side to side as we plow through some heavy seas, much like a BC Ferries ride in winter winds.  
The MV Aurora
We have had all sorts of weather so far - everything from strong winds to bright sunshine to pouring rain.  Being at sea hasn't really lent itself to good photo opportunities so this post is simply to share with you a map of this long journey we're on and some interesting shots of the sea/sky.
 
 
 
Rainbow in rough seas
Evening sun setting
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Evening sky
 
I'm looking forward to land in Madeira tomorrow.  Madeira is a Portuguese island that is surprisingly quite south.  It's pretty well of the coast of Morocco/Western Sahara.  After that we'll be heading even further south as we visit the Cape Verde Islands which are of the coast of Senegal (picture the horn of Africa).  With their diverse  backgrounds and interesting history, I'm hoping to get some good photos in both these ports of call to share with you in my next post, which I'll do sometime as we cross the Atlantic towards Brazil.  Till then, remember your days are getting longer and spring is just around the corner; as for me, I'm heading to mid-summer in the southern hemisphere! 
Here's the map of the whole route...click on it to see it fuller.
Map of planned journey, with stops
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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/the-fair-breeze-blew-the-white-foam-flew Sat, 06 Jan 2018 17:43:07 GMT
Please Mind The Gap https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/please-mind-the-gap  "It reminds me of the place we used to go.  But all I have is a photograph..."

It doesn't seem surprising to me that my first blog post in 3 years is while I'm sitting in central London.  This place has always held a soft spot in my heart - primarily due to the nine years Natural History Museum we lived in Southall with dear family and friends nearby, but also because of the school trips from Northolt Primary School to various spots of interest in around London.  Those school trips and history classes left me with a love of anthropology and history such that any walk about around this city still makes me dream about what life was like here centuries ago. 

It's not just the royalty and related stuff but more so the age and style of everything London holds - the buildings, the Underground, the numerous parks, the statues...it goes on and on.  Each little part of London has it's own history and uniqueness about it. Cross of Christ at Spire House, Lancaster Gate

Of course royalty and related folk are the subject of many of the sights in London.  There's Buckingham Palace, Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace and various other such spots.  But there are many other things about the city that I enjoy being in and around.  The Kensington Park parks are fabulous - large and green and treed and everywhere.  It's easy to get from one part of London to another by simply walking through various green spaces; yet you can still walk less than two blocks and find yourself at one tube station or another...there can be no complaints about getting around this city. 

I've been here three years in a row now and it seems double-deckers and the tube station signs aren't what my eyes are attracted to these days.  More so it's the old architecture, the streets and houses/residences that tug on my memory.  Many remind me of the streets and mews around the towns and cities we used to hang out in as kids.  There's something about the old stones and bricks, the designs and street layouts that I still find intriguing.  It's thought-provoking to me how such a large city from such an ancient time could have life flow so smoothly through it with today's population and hustle and bustle.

Of course the charm and beauty of a place has its price.  I can't believe (or maybe I can) how expensive it is to live here!  Condo/apartment living will set you back about 2 Million Pounds to own - and that's in the Kensington area.  Meanwhile even renting would be tough for most folk these days; average rents that I saw at realtor/to-let offices were in the range of 500-800 Pounds A WEEK!!  Yup - beauty, culture, history and allure have their price. 

The Serpentine waterway in Hyde Park

It's been great two days here but it's time to move on tomorrow (Wed.).  Prince Henry The Navigator An interesting thing happened yesterday - I saw a statue that I don't recall ever seeing before.  This is Prince Henry.  He is also known as Henry the Navigator.  It seems fitting that I should run into him on this visit as tomorrow is when I set off on my adventure to circumnavigate the South American continent.  Prince Henry is the one who taught most of the famous explorers we've all heard about - Columbus, Magellan and the others.  They all learned about naval navigation from Henry the Navigator (yes, you can insert your joke about how Columbus "discovered India" but it was in fact America!).  So, in part it's thanks to Prince Henry that I'm of to go through the Straits of Magellan and go around Cape Horn -- thanks Henry! 

That's it for now - check back for updates on the adventure that starts tomorrow.

Happy New Year everyone - may it bring you safe, happy and healthy adventures!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) london https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2018/1/please-mind-the-gap Tue, 02 Jan 2018 23:46:07 GMT
More of Paradise https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/6/more-of-paradise  

Animals aren't the only natural wonders we get to enjoy in our little island paradise.   Victoria is sometimes referred to as "The Garden City" and that's not surprising given To see all the plant photos, visit the DDS gallery on my website. the vast variety of flowers and plants that make our city and region such a colourful place to live.  Aside from the trees and vines and shrubs, we are lucky to have some wonderful flowers in various gardens throughout the captial region. 

Stunning roseStunning rose in LGG's rose garden on Rockland Avenue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the best gardens in the city is the large garden at the Lieutenant Governer General's residence on Rockland Avenue.  There is a beautiful fenced-in rose garden that has roses of all shapes and sizes and colours; and there are other varieties of plants and trees spread out across the grounds there that it's definitely worth visiting a few times a year.

Pink RosePink Rose B&W version of a plant that I'm not familar with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, there's a reason the beautiful rose garden is fenced in!!

 

 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/6/more-of-paradise Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:47:55 GMT
Nature in Paradise https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/6/nature-in-paradise It's amazing how, even after 22 years of living here, I still have days where I say "wow, I can't believe I live in such a beautiful city!".  I think people know about Victoria and it's "small city" feel and the ocean and the greenery and the tourists -- but it really is neat for us locals to still be awed by the natural beauty that surronds us here in the capital.

Heron in Beacon Hill ParkI was so lucky to capture this heron flying out of his tree in Beacon Hill Park for 5pm meal somewhere.

This past month, our little DDS club picked "Animals" as our topic to work on our photography skills (I tried to get Don to narrow it down to birds, mammals or something but in the end we stuck with "animals").  When I started thinking about where and what animals I would try to photograph, I realized we actually have so many options here.  From the abundance of deer (some say too many but I figure they have as much right to be here as we do!), to the vast variety of birds, the small critters in our parks, and ocean life that surrounds us (Darcy got a great photo of something he wasn't sure of and we finally figured out it was the stomach of a starfish - yes, when starfish eat they push their whole stomach out of their body and into the water...looks like a big blob of pink bubble-gum!!).  Anyway, I went out to Beacon Hill Park one evening with my pal Joe who lives right across the street from the park (what a front yard he has!) and managed to get a shot of a heron flying out of a tree and the two park residents below.

Squirrel in Beacon Hill ParkSquirrel in Beacon Hill ParkWhat you looking at??? Peacock in Beacon Hill ParkPeacock in Beacon Hill Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's wonderful that we still have so much green space in and around the city - and I'm glad that places, like my golf club Cordova Bay, are committed to the environment and nature.  Cordova Bay Golf Course is certified as an Audubon Society enivornment - a place dedicated to maintaining and restoring natural ecosystems for birds and wildlife.  That's one reason it was the next place I decided to go photograph animals.

Female Red Winged Blackbird at Cordova Bay Male Red Winged Blackbird at Cordova Bay Golf Course

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, there's one animal that loves to come out and see how us amateurs are doing duffing our golf balls around their habitat...and he has a lot of friends out there :)

Deer at Cordova Bay Golf CourseDeer at Cordova Bay Golf Course

To see the full size version of these photos, check out the "Victoria" gallery on my website.  Enjoy the summer!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/6/nature-in-paradise Fri, 13 Jun 2014 18:31:25 GMT
Splash of Colour https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/5/splash-of-colour Team Pole Trix before the Splash of Colour...   ...and Team Pole Trix after the Splash of Colour!!

Holy, Holi Batman!! Holi is an Indian festival that sees people having tons of fun throwing coloured powder all over their friends and family - and it seems the fun and revelry of this tradition is spreading across the world.  Just a month ago, Paris had its first "Splash of Colour" run, as hundreds of joggers ran among the famed streets of Paris as volunteers at different colour stations tossed bright powders all over them. 

In Victoria and Kelowna and Vancouver, the Easter Seals Society holds its own "SPLASH OF COLOUR" events each spring.  The Victoria event is held on the grounds of Royal Roads University and is a one of a kind experience focusing less on speed and more on enjoying a colour-crazy morning with friends and family - all with the goal of raising funds to help send kids to Camp Shawnigan.  As a supporting sponsor of Easter Seals, I once again took my camera and got lots of photos of everyone having fun supporting this great cause.  The event started with a Zuma warm-up session to the lively music played by DJ Jim.  Following that, groups of runners, walkers, joggers, strollers took of through the forest trails of Royal Roads.  The first colour station was ORANGE and once people went through that and the four other colour stations, there wasn't a clean shirt or arms or legs or face to be seen :)

Going through one of the colour stations

This was a really fun event to photograph -- danger for my camera and lens from the fine powder everywhere but fun nonetheless.  It was great to see lots of people participating as families and groups of friends who entered together.  In the end, not only did everyone have a great time but an amazing $33,000+ was raised for a wonderful cause...and kudos to the gals of Team Pole Trix who raised over $1,000 as a team!

Now that's a splash of colour!!   The guys of Team Goblin Empire!!

A quiet moment with a friend.        Splash of Colour really was a fun event for families and friends to do together.

To see all my photos from the Splash of Colour, please visit the Easter Seals gallery on my website.  As for more fundraising to help send as many kids as possible to Camp Shawnigan, we've got the Easter Seals 24Hour Relay at UVic coming up on May 31 -- come on up and check it out!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/5/splash-of-colour Thu, 29 May 2014 19:34:40 GMT
WATER https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/5/water I'm really liking the fact that I'm getting out with my camera more than ever!  Part of the reason is this blog - I created it so I'd force myself to take more photos - the other reason is our fun little photo group (see the earlier "Red" blogpost).  Our subject for the past month was WATER, and it was great to see the variety of photos each of us took. 

For me, this topic provided the opportunity to try high-speed photography once again.  I had tried to capture "drops" earlier in the year and, even though those sort of photos could be consider "water", I thought I'd try something different...water balloons exploding! 

Blue balloon with waterYou can see how the balloon has burst and collapsed into the bottom right, but the water still holds the shape of the balloon for a split-second. I picked a nice sunny day and got things together in the backyard: camera on tripod, 60mm macro lens, cable release, string, dowel clamped to garage eavestrough, and of course water balloons.  Fortunately I was smart enough to keep the camera away from my rigging until I knew it would work - and sure enough my first three attempts at hanging a filled balloon resulted in soaked shorts and feet!  First time the clamp didn't work, the second time the dowel held for a second and then shattered, and the third time the balloon just exploded in my hand as I hung it.  When I did get the set-up all sorted out, it was then a matter of somehow capturing the precise moment that the balloon bursts but the water hasn't fallen down yet.  I managed to do that in this photo where the blue balloon has collapsed to the bottom right but the water is still in the shape of the balloon...it's weird how some of the water burst upwards.

Red food colouring in water balloonIt's interesting how the ball of water looks red but individual drops appear clear. Now that I figured out how not to soak myself, I thought I'd try some variations just for fun and so added some red food colouring to the water.  This photo was actually a yellow balloon filled with red water - you can't see it because it actually collapsed backwards and so is behind the water.  Fortunately I managed to capture the red ball of water just a split-second before it fell to the ground...sort of looks like a juicy strawberry!  After a few more of attempts like this (it was really difficult getting the shutter to click right at moment of bursting), I tried to time the burst with the camera set on self-timer.  It didn't work as well but I did get a good shot of the water as the water ball collapses - it has a strange gel-like appearance to it.

Missed the timing slightly!The balloon burst and the water ball collapsed just before the shutter clicked. This is something I'm certainly going to try again - but for next month, the guys picked "Animals" as our topic so stay tuned for those photos...meanwhile, enjoy the sunshine and remember to laugh....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14IRDDnEPR4

 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/5/water Fri, 02 May 2014 17:50:27 GMT
In Memory... https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/4/in-memory I was thinking earlier this week that I hadn't done a post for a couple of weeks now (although the blog idea is working and I'm taking more photos), and so today I was going to do a new post and share some recent work.  However, in reading the news online like I do most mornings, I struck by some sad news and had to change my planned blog for today. Anja NiedringhausPhotographer killed in eastern Afghanistan April 4, 2014.

Earlier today in eastern Afghanistan, two journalists were shot by an Agfhani policeman as they sat in a car with others.  It is a day before the start of the national election and they were just doing what they loved.  Fortunately Canadian reporter Kathy Gannon was only wounded in the unexpected attack, but sadly Asscoiated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed.  Anja was a highly regarded photographer whose photos not only showed the war/fighting side of the news, but also told the stories and lives of the local people and the impact of events around them.  I had seen some of her work on the net over the years and thought it was great.  The following link shows some of her work: 

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2013/11/afghanistan-seen-through-the-lens-of-anja-niedringhaus/100621/

Anja is just the latest of many photographers killed while doing their jobs.  There were at least 70 journalists killed around the world in 2013, and there has already been 14 killed so far in 2014.  Some of the ones I read about in 2013 were the following cameramen.

Molhem BarakatMolhem Barakat died on Friday Dec. 20, 2013 as he took photographs in Aleppo of a battle over a hospital between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. On December 20, 2013, Syrian photographer Molhem Barakat (photo on the left) Yasser Faysal al-JoumailiIraqi freelance cameraman Yasser Faysal al-Joumaili. He was killed execution-style by an al Qaeda-linked group in Syria, becoming the first foreign journalist killed by insurgents in the Syrian conflict. was killed as he photographed a battle over a hospital between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.   Molhem worked for Reuters on a freelance basis and, like Anja, as well as covering the conflict took pictures showing the life of ordinary Syrians in Aleppo.

A few weeks earler on December 4, also in Syria, Yasser Faysal Al-Joumaili (photo on right) was killed execution-style by members of the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.  Yasser was a freelance Iraqi cameraman and was the first foreign journalist to be killed by an armed opposition group in northern Syria.  Sadly he's not been the last.

Of course it's not just Syria and Afghanistan where photographers have faced death while doing their work; they risk death all over the world in an effort to ensure the rest of us see what's happening in areas of turmoil and distress.  One of the saddest of these stories in 2013 was the death of Ahmed Assem, a young Egyptian photographer who unfortunately chronicled his own death in July while covering the violence between Egyptian security forces and pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters.  Ahmed AssemThe 26-year-old was one of more than 50 people killed when security forces opened fire on supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted president Mohamed Morsi. The video shows Assem filming a sniper, who then turns to point his rifle at the camera which in turn goes black. Twenty-six years old, Ahmed worked for Egypt's Al-Horia Wa Al-Adala newspaper and was among over 50 people killed after security forces opened fire on a large crowd camped outside the Egyptian army’s Republican Guard officers’ club in Cairo.  Ahmed had been filming as morning prayers ended and turned his camera to the security forces firing into the crowd from a high vantage point in an adjacent building.  This work became his last as Ahmed's video captures a soldier shooting at the crowd with a rifle and then the gunman turns his aim directly at Ahmed - and the video goes black. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X5aoRbE44Q

 

I know we'll hear of more tragedies like the deaths of these fine journalists as strife and turmoil continue around the world.  However, let's make sure we honour their work and bear in mind the risks photographers and journalists take each day to bring us the stories and photos that need to be seen.  Next time you see a photo or video from a conflict zone, take a second to note the name of the photographer/journalist who risked their life to capture that moment for the world to see.

[photos courtesy of various sources from web]

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/4/in-memory Fri, 04 Apr 2014 21:09:52 GMT
RED https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/3/red RED...no, no - the Russians aren't coming; they're still in Crimea!  RED is the first subject that we picked for our SuntanningRedhead sitting on second-level deck of houseboat in Fisherman's Wharf new little ad-hoc camera club.  Don got a camera for his birthday last year (we won't bug him much that it's a Canon); Darcy got himself a very nice Nikon this Christmas; and I'm still learning new stuff with my Nikon D300s.  So, over some post-work beers in early February, we decided that a good way to encourage each of us to get out and use our cameras more would be to have this DDS Club.  Each month (or 4-6 weeks), we'll get together for drinks and each of us will share a few photos intrepreting the previous month's subject -- in this case, RED.  Then, we're going On Guard"Watchman" guarding entrance to houseboat in Fisherman's Wharf to pick a new subject for the next month.

I had a number of ideas for RED - everything from long exposures of red tail lights to red doors to dressing up a friend in bold red - but in the end, I just went exploring around town on George Harrison's birthday looking for interesting things to photograph.  Fisherman's Wharf was a gold mine, what with red lines on boats, red kayaks and red buoys - but even better, that's where I found the stunning redhead suntanning on a houseboat and nearby, an old watchman guarding his houseboat.

With the evening rains we had, I never did get out and get photos of red tail lights or other  night shots.  Instead, I decided to tackle something I've been wanting to try for a long time - capturing drops as they hit a surface.  I've often thought about how I'd do this but never really tried it, so RED seemed like a perfect time to experiment.  To get some colour and contrast I tried a wine glass full of milk and used red wine (with a bit of food colouring) as my drops.  I had issues with getting the scene bright enough and will need to work on that next time; plus I didn't have my macro lens and so tried a telephoto zoom (which limited exposure options), but in the end I was pretty pleased with the results of my first attempt at this sort of photography...and I'll definitely do more of this.

Red wine drop falling into glass of milk

 

Here are a couple of the "drop" photos.  To see these and the others as full-size or as a slidehow, click on any of these photos or just check out the RED folder in the DDS collection on my website.

Come early April, I'll be adding the new subject gallery in the DDS folder too, and more subject galleries as we progress with our little club.  If you have any ideas for a subject for us, please add a comment or send me a note -- and of course, if you'd like to join and get more use of your camera, you're more than welcome so just let me know!  Near collision of wine drops hitting glass of milk

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/3/red Fri, 14 Mar 2014 22:09:29 GMT
John Paul George Ringo https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/2/john-paul-george-ringo "It was fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper told the band to play...." Okay the line really is "..20 years ago...", but it really was 50 years ago that, in February 1964, The Beatles came to America and Beatlemania spread from UK to USA and Canada.  The BeatlesThe BeatlesThis is a photo of a beautiful area rug that was on sale in The MIRAGE in Vegas, where I saw "LOVE" by Cirque de Soleil.

I grew up with The Beatles; and their music and story have been a big part of my life.  While the lives of each of John, Paul, George and Ringo have been interesting to follow, it's their music that has always captivated me.  Their music is what my sister and older cousins used to play in London...along with beautiful soul sounds of Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Jimmy Ruffin and others.  I loved that stuff!!  Then, when I moved to Canada, The Beatles early songs are what I used as I practiced typing on an ancient portable Remington typewriter.  Love Me Do, Help!, Yesterday and all those hits were so ingrained in my mind that it really helped my typing as all I needed to do was look at the keys at first and not any text.

I have this weird ability to remember lyrics to songs I've listened to (some I'd love to forget) and it seems the entire Beatles' library has its own large folder deep in the folds of my brain (insert your own joke here!).  But I don't mind, as there's many a time when I'm walking to work or elsewhere that singing In My Life or Hide Your Love Away to myself makes it even more enjoyable.

 

One of my favourite memories of my nephew and niece growing up is how, when each was first learning to talk, we would play on the carpet and sing "Ya, Ya, Ya" as She Loves You played on the record player (yes, I played records!).  Then, as they got a little older, we didn't even need the song playing as we'd just say "Ya Ya Ya" whenever I'd see them at my sister's house or they'd come to mum's down the street.  Of course, later on I made sure they graduated to "Na na na nanana na, ..." as they learned Hey Jude :) Love is all you needLove is all you needAnother photo I took of beautiful area rug... There's nothing you can do that can't be done Nothing you can sing that can't be sung Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game It's easy Nothing you can make that can't be made No one you can save that can't be saved Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time It's easy All you need is love All you need is love All you need is love, love Love is all you need

Anyway, when I need an escape, I can put on any Beatles album and drift back to happier times - that's what their music does for a lot of us.  Nowadays, it's usually specifically George's music - either from The Beatles time or when he went alone - that takes me away...whether it's Something (which George Martin calls maybe the best love song of all time) or Here Comes The Sun or My Sweet Lord, they're all brilliant.

So, John, Paul, George and Ringo - thanks for the music and the memories...and Happy Birthday George (next Tuesday), we miss you.

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all


 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/2/john-paul-george-ringo Sat, 22 Feb 2014 00:34:20 GMT
Sadness and Hope https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/2/sadness-and-hope We came into work today and learned of some sad news.  One of our colleagues had gotten ill a couple of months ago, was diagnosed with cancer and sadly, he passed away over the weekend. 

Solitary watchSolitary watch

Colin was well known to most of us not only for the work we did together but also all the interesting chats he'd have with many of us.  Colin and I talked baseball - one of his joys was going to spring training each year and we talked about that every spring and the World Baseball Classic last year.  He'll be sorely missed as a colleague and friend by us all; and we can only imagine what a difficult time it is for his family and dear friends...our thoughts go out to them.

The evil that is cancer continues to torment our lives.  We all know too many people who have been impacted by this terrible disease,  and we can only hope that a cure or better treatment is found tomorrow.  I've had too many friends taken too soon by this disease.  Now, over this past month, two more of my friends have been diagnosed with cancer - both are now undergoing surgery to remove it from their bodies.  I hope and pray that the surgeries are successful and that they are free from this affliction for the rest of their long and happy lives still to live; and likewise for the many many others who go through this trauma every day/week/month/year.

LightLight

 

If only


If only we could see the splendour of the land
To which our loved ones are called from you and me
We'd understand
If only we could hear the welcome they receive
From old familiar voices all so dear
We would not grieve
If only we could know the reason why they went
We'd smile and wipe away the tears that flow
And wait content.

[Anon.]

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/2/sadness-and-hope Tue, 04 Feb 2014 00:49:22 GMT
You say it's your birthday!! https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/1/you-say-its-your-birthday Well, happy birthday to you!! There are two periods each year for me when it seems there's one family or friend birthday after another - and January is one of those.  Starting with my great bro-in-law Ajit's birthday on New Year's day through to lovely Stephanie in Boulder, CO. on January 28, there are so many birthdays in January that it's sometimes hard to keep up...and those are just the ones I happen to recall dates for!  One I got to celebrate in person was our good friend Mike Grover's 50th on Saturday 11 - we celebrated then as he and Jenn were of to Phoenix to celebrate his actual bday (15th) in Arizona sunshine..congrats Mikey! Surprise Mikey!He thought he was going for a quiet dinner with Jenn, Dani and David - but look who was already there to surpise him!

I wish I could have celebrated in person with some of the others who had birthdays this month, but please know that I was thinking of you very much and wished you all very happy birthdays!  So, here's to Ajit, Sanjiv, Leslie, Sarah, Sarah (yes, two Sarah's a day apart!), John, Donna, Paul, Stephanie, Rumnik, CMac, and my good friend David who's birthday it is today (happy birthday Hootie!!)...and here's a special song just for you all....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwKIC4AK-s8

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/1/you-say-its-your-birthday Thu, 23 Jan 2014 00:18:41 GMT
Morning Smiles https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/1/morning-smiles Most of us have a morning routine each day, part of which is the trudge into work.  For me, one thing that makes that bearable is being greeted with a smiling face or two each morning.  Not only do I walk into Serious Coffee and get a great cup of coffee, but I also get greeted by big smiles from Steve, Katie, Renata (and the other gals) - and, when there's time, Steve and I get to chatting about our golf games and how we'd like to be out on the course instead of at work :)    Serious CoffeeSerious Coffee TeamKatie, Renata and Steve delivering coffee and smiles each morning. CandaceCandaceSecurity guard Candace welcomes me to work each morning.

Coffee in hand, it's then through the sliding doors of "the institution" and the warm smile of Candace at the security desk. 

Greeted each day by folks like that, sure makes it difficult not to have a smile on your face as you start the day!!

 

That brings me to people that don't make us smile.  We all know those people - the ones that have their own issues and demons and, perhaps for that reason, go through life choosing to make others miserable.  Is it because putting others down and being insulting or degrading makes them feel slightly better about themselves???  I think that's partly why they do that - no doubt they must get some pleasure out of it because it seems to be their standard routine - and most of the time we seem to put up with it.

I'm just glad there are many more Steves, Katies, Renatas and Candaces in the world that bring smiles to people's faces, than those who choose to be negative and hurtful.  At the start of this year, let's make a conscious decision to spend more time with people that make us smile rather than the ones who make us miserable - it'll put more smiles on our faces, and that's always a good thing..Happy New Year :)

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2014/1/morning-smiles Fri, 03 Jan 2014 18:26:45 GMT
Happy Trails...New Beginnings https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/happy-trails-new-beginnings Wow, 2013 is about to be over!  Although we seem to say it every late-December, I have to say "Didn't this year go by ever so quick!"  It wasn't the fastest but, looking back on it, it does seem strange to be starting another year already. 

Leave it in the wake (taken with Samsung Galaxy S3)

I have to admit 2013 wasn't one of the best years I've had.  It was probably my second worst year at work, mostly due to the fact that we went from having one of the best work groups I've ever been part of  to being chopped up and scattered around, seemingly with no ryhme or reason.  On top of that, this year I tried to tackle some issues that come and go but which put up a pretty good battle with me when they want (I won some battles but the war continues).  In the end though, I'm grateful for many things from this past year, not the least of which is having had the chance to spend time again with family, friends and loved ones.  I wish I could have done more of that but circumstances don't always make it possible.  Anyway, I'm definitely not taking the "woe is me" approach to the things that didn't go well and will do what I can to make 2014 that much better.

The VisitorThe Visitor

 

So, as 2014 comes a-knocking, toss overboard any troubles and grief from 2013 and leave them in your wake!  Look forward to where the roads, seas and skies can take you in the year ahead..and enjoy life!  Mostly though, make the time to enjoy the company of friends and family - and who knows who may come visiting at your door!!

 

 

Have a safe and happy end to 2013, and all the best to you for 2014 and beyond!!

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/happy-trails-new-beginnings Tue, 31 Dec 2013 01:29:26 GMT
Talking to Strangers https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/talking-to-strangers Why don't people talk to strangers?  I talk to strangers fairly often.  I just find it interesting to meet new people, especially seemingly unique people (I know, we're all unique in our own way but you know what I mean).  Sometimes, that first step of stopping and saying hello is all it takes to start a conversation that can be fascinatingly revealing. 

Bruce the street musician.Bruce playing his trumpet on Fort St. at Christmas time. I was walking down Fort St. on Wednesday and heard some cool trumpet music from half a block away.  As I got closer, I noticed a couple of things.  First was that the trumpeter paid no attention to all the people just walking past him without a glance or pause to drop a dime in this trumpet case; present-laden bags hanging from their shoulders and hands.  The second thing probably explains the first - he seemed totally engrossed in his music as the sounds from his trumpet blended together to create a soft melody.  I stayed at somewhat of a distance and listened for a minute or two; then I went to carry on my way, pausing to place some coins in his case which looked quite bare.  Once again, I talked to a stranger. 

 

I said hi and he stopped playing, smiled and said "You know, people like to hear some carols but they really don't pay attention so I just play the sweet sounds I like to play".  I told him I thought his playing sounded good and that's when his love of music really came out.  He started telling me stories about Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr. and others - not just stuff you may already know, but neat stories about compositions and back-up musicians and concerts and battles and so forth.  He went on to talk about J. Geils and Frank Zappa and the interesting musicians they had in their bands.  He told me about neat dvds he's watched, about records he had lost and slowly repurchased, and things I should look for at Lyle's.  Everytime we'd near the end of a story, he'd say "I don't want to keep you but let me tell you this one story about Peter Wolf and Seth Justman when they were with J. Geils".  Next thing you know we're talking about the benefit concert for Boston Strong (J. Geils performed), and Amy Winehouse and others.  I certainly listened way more than I contributed to the conversation, and fought the urge to ask him about his own story and how he ended up a street musician in Victoria (he mentioned where he lived and that led me to not delve into his history).  As I listened, people continued to stroll by with their Christmas shopping.  After about fifteen minutes, I had to leave but I held out my hand and said "I'm Sal".  The trumpeter smiled and took my hand and said "Oh yeah, I'm Bruce - nice to meet you". 

[with Amy Winehouse being the last person Bruce and I chatted about, I thought I'd share this little video/song with you... enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOEQKCqCjOo]

BruceBruce

 

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/talking-to-strangers Thu, 19 Dec 2013 19:22:06 GMT
Itchy Palms https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/itchy-palms There's an old saying my mum used to bring up whenever someone would scratch an itchy palm (she still does!) - she'd say an itchy palm meant that either someone was thinking of you or money was coming your way. Since I've never won the lottery or suddenly found money when I've had an itchy palm, I've been inclined to think about the first part of this saying.  Weird as it may seem, the "I was just thinking of you" situations have come up many times moments Number 2 with Mt. BakerA view of Mt. Baker and number 2 green at Cordova Bay after I've had an itchy palm! It can be that the phone rings or an e-mail/text pops up, or you're with people and two or three start talking about the same thing out of the blue. I'm not sure I believe in these things but it's happened too often to just toss it aside as an old wive's tale. How many coincidences do we get in our lifetime - is there a set number or can we always keep having coincidences? 

I caught up with a friend yesterday and something similar came up. We got talking about how it can be a small shudder or strange feeling but inevitably you start thinking of someone - be it someone still with us or someone who's passed on. Do these moments happen because a small bit of energy or other thing already stored in our mind pops up on part of our brain and we respond to this memory/thought?  Or - wait for it - is it that each of us have vast energy that bounds all over the Earth and space and, every now and then, some piece of that energy connects with another person's energy, leading to reflection/thoughts of that person? I'm sure people's ideas on coincidences/energies/superstitions run the gamet from "yeah whatever" to "totally believe in that stuff" - Number 11Hummingbird tee on Number 11 at Cordova Bay but whatever it is, there clearly are moments when some little thing moves our mind to think about someone or something when we weren't going there.  And, more often than not, it's nice to have pleasant thoughts of a friend or family member who's moved on or is no longer wish us.

 

In terms of reflection, one of my favourite places to walk around and just think and relax is Cordova Bay golf course. It's so peaceful and pretty out there when we're not golfing - and the recent cold snap has provided some beautiful sunny days to just stroll and reflect.  The photos in this blog are from this special place. Campbell's CrossingOctober colours on display at Campbell's Crossing on number 16 at Cordova Bay

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/itchy-palms Thu, 12 Dec 2013 21:23:57 GMT
Goodbye Madiba https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/06/goodbye-madiba Nelson Mandela (Madiba)(photo by: Alexander Joe - Reuters) This isn't the way I wanted to start a blog on my photography website - but it seems maybe I was meant to start it today given the sad news late yesterday. 

Nelson Mandela - Madiba - was a man who I admired so very much, and his passing yesterday did come as a shock, even though he had lived such a long hard life.  Using the word "man" to describe him almost seems worng.  There are only a few people who I've considered as unique gifts to our human race -- Lincoln, Gandhi, ML King, Mother Tersea, and Nelson Mandela. 

Yes, the ANC he was part of was involved in some violence in the early stages of the struggle against apartheid, but those early days required this resistance before the seeds of change could be sown.  Twenty-seven years in prison is something we can't even imagine.  Yet Madiba kept his spirit and drive alive and was not broken to despair.  His eventual release and the long-awaited end to the cruelty of apartheid was just the start of the miracle he gave not only to his country and people but also the rest of the world.  At a time when most expected tremendous bloodshed and violence, Madiba showed that it is possible to follow a path of forgiveness and reconciliation to reach the goal of peace and harmony among people. 

Let's hope this message and the spirit of this man lives among not only world leaders but all of us for a long, long time.  RIP Madiba.

BTW, check out this flash mob... http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MHHjP7XrBq0

[Photo courtesy: Alexander Joe of Reuters]

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(SAL JOHAL PHOTOGRAPHY) https://www.saljohal.com/blog/2013/12/06/goodbye-madiba Fri, 06 Dec 2013 23:52:07 GMT