Last weeks Monday morning walk at the beach on Lyall Bay Wellington
Really busy right now so instead of words here is a photo-based blog of water from around the world – well not all over the world, just some that were already web-sized and still on my laptop.
China, India, Wellington and Christchurch, New Zealand and Florida too – which is where the mermaids are to be found.
In India, architectural heritage is often linked to the major religions of the country: Buddhist stupas and monasteries; Hindu and Jain temples in many styles – many share structural characteristics such as stone columns and horizontal blocks carved with sacred imagery or decorative motifs sculptures of the vast pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses are everywhere the various deities have many manifestations which becomes confusing as their names, like many Indian cities, are interchangeable.
Udaipur, Rajasthan, is a fairy-tale city with marble palaces and lakes – and I will blog about them later. In the meantime, here is a slideshow (23 pics) some of the local wildlife.
When you travel to less developed countries, you might think that just by being there you’re helping give a better quality of life for the locals. Seems you, we, could be wrong.
Just $5 of every $100 you spend stays local and after searching I found the United Nations Environment Programme reference to the negative impacts of tourism here.
Tourism is one of the most powerful change agents on Earth and we consumers must vote with our wallets and support local people with local businesses.”
I blogged about this issue (first published in a newspaper column) some years ago and reprint it here. I’ve also written a small book on the same topic A Love Letter to Malaysian Borneo – and if you have read it I’d really value a review on Amazon or Goodreads. 🙂
Here’s that column I wrote . . .
What is an eco-tourist? Ecotourism?
Like Asians need rice, Italians love pasta, British their curry, and us Kiwi’s love fish and chips, I need to travel and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to rather than have to go the destination flavour of the month.
This means I’m often in places that are not on the tourist trail. As a slow traveller I can stay longer and get to know people, to absorb the local culture and flavour. This also means that although I don’t always sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism – a word that’s often thrown around and frequently means nothing.
My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are that’s it an activity that has minimum impact while providing maximum benefits to the locals.
I believe independent travellers are most likely to be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country while those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.
Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.
Life on an Asian marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes the natural sites and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does stay with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave, taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags and straws are left on the beach.
Have travel agents sold us too narrow views of places to visit? Given us a list of sights we ‘must see’ or activities to take part in? This produces problems all over the world with buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors and fumes to see wonderful pristine or historic sights.
It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting alone with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However I know that beside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.
The problems of being poured into these tourist funnels will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.
This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”
So, what can we travellers do? I don’t know what you will do – what I do is travel slow, travel cheaply, and use local products when I can.
So, by combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints, along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’m able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.
Just some of the birds I enjoyed watching during my week at Kannur Beach House, with Thalassery Beach, a river, plus a brackish lagoon makes it ideal for birdwatchers.
With a couple of free days in New Delhi, and having already visited many of the tourist sites on a previous visit this time was pretty laid-back, relaxing before I went to a conference. But first I have to check out the wildlife!
I left my hotel (and will write a blog about all my various and diverse accommodations I used in India later) and went to Lodi Gardens. My Uber driver got lost despite his GPS and when he dropped me off said ‘I was here last weekend and you will see black swans whites swans – they are beautiful.’ I had not imagined what sort of birds or animals I would see in New Delhi so assumed the swans were left over from colonial days.
Here are the photos of the birds and creatures I saw:
. . . as you can see, not a swan in sight!
Away from Lodhi Park I also saw one monkey, and a gaggle of geese at the cricket grounds at a private school.
Had a short ride with a ferryman yesterday. We picked up a couple of women and on my return to the landing spot saw an elephant leave the river side Hindu Temple. Here’s a photos – sorry I didn’t take any on my phone and the internet is too slow for uploading so once again you’ll need t wait until I’m back in NZ and can blog about birds and elephant and potters and weavers all near The Pimenta here in Kerala.
The joys of travel
The very first feathered signs of spring arriving have landed in my old home city. Along with the daffodils, the godwits have landed in Christchurch (New Zealand) – arriving from the Alaskan Arctic Tundra where they raise their young.
Christchurch (and a few other places in New Zealand) is where they escape the Alaskan winter and have a summer holiday while feeding up large, building up their weight and strength before heading north again to reproduce.
So, in a few months, this annual, epic journey by some 80-thousand Eastern Bar-tailed godwits will migrate back to their breeding grounds.
Their journey – of 11,500 kilometres – usually takes about six days! Its nonstop when they head south while heading north they have a few stopovers in Asia
Christchurch locals farewell them from our shores and when they return the bells peal out to welcome them back to their summer feeding grounds here on the Ihutai/Avon-Heathcote estuary such a short distance the centre of our city.
But first, I have to talk about lessons learned.
With a travelling alone, with someone else, or in a group, it’s important to be equally careful despite the circumstances.
I’m not sure I did this while in Mongolia.
Many years ago, I recall my daughter saying, when she joined me to spend a month in Turkey, ‘how on earth do you get around the world on your own without looking at maps or street signs?’ It seems that after nine months of solo travel as soon as I was with her I had abdicated all responsibility for where we were going!
I had not even noticed I’d done so. Perhaps I did something similar at the beginning of this trip.
In Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on my last day, I had my camera stolen.
As you photographers know, I didn’t really care about the camera but was, initially, devastated to lose irreplaceable photos. I wasn’t angry at the thief – but could not believe that after all these years of untroubled, no drama, no insurance claims travel, I had somehow let my guard down. People don’t steal without opportunities and I obviously, somehow, had provided an opportunity to someone.
The next three hours were a comedy as I tried to report the loss to the local police: not because I thought I’d get my camera back, but knew I needed some sort of evidence for my insurance company. So, two different police stations, a ride in two different police vehicles, and strange three-way conversations between me, a non-english speaking detective, and someone on the phone who spoke a little English!
I’m glad Judy was with me :):)
During this time, we saw one police officer change trousers in the corner of the room, while another put his shoes and socks on; during our second journey in a police jeep, we pulled up while the police officer-driver spoke to a group of people who seemed to be trading out of the back of their cars – and was apparently telling them to move on. They argued back and the loudspeaker conversation lasted a few minutes high excitement for two travellers just trying to report a missing, stolen camera.
I never got a report! The only evidence I have is this – written in my diary by policeman number one under instructions from english-speaker number one! I think is says the time and places things happened – and I’m not sure how the insurance company will accept that as proof.
I could add more about those three hours, but this blog is about lessons learned, so here they are:
backup your photos daily – no excuses, tired or not, back them up
if for some reason this is not possible, have many memory cards and change them often
Memories of my photos have not disappeared, just the physical copy of them!
I can clearly ‘see’ the photo I took of a horseman driving his horses up a slope. As soon as I had taken the photo I announced ‘OMG, that is the photo of the day.’ And it was. Drama, action, atmosphere, flying dust, great composition. However, the photo I do have of that scene was one taken seconds beforehand in which I put up on Facebook as I wanted to save my ‘fabulous’ one for an article.
Another photo I specifically remember was of the setting sun and wonderful light on the hills around the Chinggis Khan horse statue and camp, ‘I could live with that photo on my wall’, were my thoughts, but of course, because I hadn’t backed up my photos, it too remains in my mind and nowhere else.
So, the only photos I have of my trip to Mongolia are ones I took on my phone and my tablet, as well as a few I’d posted on Facebook and Instagram.
Luckily the woman I was travelling with has shared all her photos with me and, for much of the next month, gave me her camera to use – while she used my small, waterproof one. Naturally, any photos I use of hers I’ll credit to her.
NOTE: these few ARE my photos:)