Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where Did The Year Go?

OK, so what have I been up to in the past year that has made me too busy to keep up my blog? Well, for one thing, I haven't been that busy, and certainly not on the travelling front. One thing that I have taken a bit of time to do, is to have a look around a bit more of England, which I had barely really seen before (you always neglect what's on your doorstep). So over the past year I've had the opportunity to discover the Peak District, Dartmoor and some of the Home Counties around London. Although England will never have the spectacular scenery of Pakistan, or the Caucausus, there is, nevertheless, a homely charm in its rolling hills, quaint, orderly villages and verdant countryside. Plus it's very close by so you can go for a day trip or a long weekend. I've also been lucky enough to find some people to kick my lazy behind out of the house and get out and about, because if left to my own devices I will slob a weekend away in the blink of an eye.

I did, however, manage to take some time off to do one trip abroad last year, and that was to Croatia - a little 3-week jaunt, starting in the south and flying out of Austria (god bless Ryanair - no matter how much people complain about budget airlines, even with all the surcharges and crummy service it is still incredibly good value for money). It only served to reinforce my love for the Balkans, which certainly has my vote for the best region in Europe: stunning scenery, easy to get off the beaten path, relatively cheap (although Croatia didn't quite make it into that category), a fascinating history and crazy, endearing locals. The bijou coastal towns and dainty islands were pretty, but what enchanted me were the mountains and national parks inland from the coast - the karst landscape of the Velebit arm of the Dinaric Alps rises straight from the coast, and yet despite its accessibility it is possible to get away from it all and marvel at the majesty of nature and geology. And since a picture paints a thousand words, I'll let some of my hack photos do the rest of the talking for me:

The pristine white peaks of Rozanski Kukovi.

The setting sun sets the white limestone and autumn leaves ablaze. The little hut partially hidden behind the trees is where I spent the night: although all it contained were a few wooden boards and a wood-burning stove, the view across the Adriatic to Italy was priceless.

The path off the mountain went through this (partially cleared) minefield and I'm too stubborn to turn back and take the same way back.

Autumnal colours.

Moth stopping for a quick drink on Hvar.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Mauritania and Morocco Pics

Here is the continuation of my pictures, this time from Mauritania and Morocco.

Heavily overburdened pick-up (converted Peugeot 304) at the Nouakchott fish market.

The dry, desert landscape around Terjit.

Alfijo and Branko's Dyane (that's Alfijo checking out motor) with me squeezed in a small space in the back.

The iron ore train in northern Mauretania. Not the most comfortable ride I've ever had, but one of my most memorable - the front was about 30 carriages away, but the rear was over 70 away.

The flotilla of hulks in Noudhibu's bay.

Attending a wedding in Western Sahara (the groom, dressed in his finest boubou, is the balding one in the middle).

The old town of Essaouira seen from the port (pesky seagulls kept getting in the way!).

Leather slippers hanging in a shop in Essaouira's bazaar.

The Jemaa El Fna at night with all the food stalls and street performers.

And the last one: a couple of camels going for a ride.

Mali Pics

As I was unable to upload any pictures from my trip whilst I was out there here are a selection of my favourites.

A fisherman casting his net on the mighty Niger close to Segou.

Mother with baby slung behind her in typical Malian fashion.

The cheapest accommodation in Mali (and it's still very expensive for what it is): a bare mattress on a roof. At least I had a lot of room to spread out!

The imposing mosque at Djenne - the world's largest mud-brick building. On Monday's the town is transformed into a crazy hive of activity by the weekly market.

Obviously this biker must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

The landscape of the Niger Inland Delta is one of straight horizons with very little separating the water from the sky.

The legendary Sankore university in Timbuktu.

A tailor in the cloth market in Gao showing off one of his creations. Traditional clothes in that part of Africa are very bright and colourful.

Atop the Dune Rose with the Niger river on one side and the dry Sahel on the other.

Our taxi brousse to Bandiagara got a flat (not surprising seeing the condition of the car) and so we wait as the driver changes the tyre.

Beautiful tree in the early morning on the Dogon plateau.

The Bandiagara escarpment dominates the Dogon Country.

Climbing up the steep Bandiagara escarpment.