Thursday, December 20, 2012

Across the Khasi Hills Day 3: Down to Nongriat

The famous Umshiang Double Decker Root Bridge in Nongriat Village. The only root bridge with two spans (I suppose to allow for two-way traffic). Living Root bridges are made by taking the roots of Indian rubber trees and placing them in hollowed out betel nut tree trunks that have been cut in half lengthwise. The halves of the betel nut trunks are lain across the stream that needs to be crossed, while the rubber tree roots grow through them. When the roots reach the opposite side of the stream, they anchor themselves in the soil. Usually a full bridge is composed of a number of such roots, sometime from two different trees that have had roots trained in opposite directions. Smaller roots are used to provide additional stability, while flat stones and bamboo poles are used to produce a surface to walk on. It apparently takes about 15 years for a bridge to become operational. Once the construction of the bridge is complete, the roots continue to grow, meaning that the bridges are in effect self-reinforcing: The older the bridge is, the more structurally sound it is. They can evidently last for many hundreds of years. Though the British knew about the bridges as far back as the late 19th century, as of the turn of the 21st the bridges were largely forgotten. Not long ago, the villagers in the area were contemplating tearing some of the bridges down in favor of less exotic wire suspension bridges. Thankfully, the owner of the Cherrapunji Holiday Resort in Laikynsew convinced them to keep the bridges around as a tourist draw.


Still moving right along......

Monday, December 17, 2012

Across the Khasi Hills Day 2: Soggy Preparations

My umbrella, at the entrance to a small, almost certainly illegal, coal mine. On the way to the Nohkalikai Falls view point, about 5kms outside of Sohra.

So, moving right along........

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Across the Khasi Hills Day 1: Getting to Cherrapunji

The Objective: The Nongthymmai living root bridge, at somewhere in the vicinity of 110 feet in length,  the longest (known) living root bridge in the Northeast Indian state of Meghalaya. Taking around 15 years to grow strong enough to become usable,  the Khasi Living Root bridges are some of the only examples of architecture that are grown rather than constructed...more on these later.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Utah 3: The Needles District

A particularly surreal patch of the American Southwest: One of the many caves in the vicinity of the Joint Trail, in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park. Nope, it's got nothing to do with getting high. Sorry.

So, this is the last part of my write-up on the nine days me and my family spent in Utah in July. For the last two days of our trip, we stayed at Squaw Flat campground, which is in a separate unit of Canyonlands National Park called the Needles District. Despite being, as the crow flies, only a few miles from the Island in the sky District, the Needles area is completely unlike anything in Northern Canyonlands or in Arches National Park. Both the rock formations and the colors they come in are completely different, creating a place that is, at least as far as I can tell, absolutely unique on the face of the planet.    

Friday, August 17, 2012

Utah 2: Dead Horse Point and the White Rim Road

A view looking northeast, from one of the first viewpoints along the White Rim Road in Utah's Canyonlands National Park. The river in this picture is the Colorado.

This post is going to cover the the most ambitious park of the trip my family and I took out to Utah last month, namely, the long drive along the White Rim Road, a four wheel drive path that I think ranks up there as maybe the most adventurous thing the Rogers Family has done as a complete unit. Actually, I would say that the drive turned out to be rather more of an adventure than we had been led to expect. Perhaps if one has lived for much of one's life in Utah, and is used to driving four wheel drive roads on a regular basis, the White Rim Road wouldn't seem like all that much of a challenge. However, we're all from Delaware, which, needless to say, is known for its chickens and banks, and not as four-wheel drive destination.  Also, we didn't have the right kind of vehicle (we needed something with a higher wheel base) and it was the wrong time of year to be doing what we were doing. In truth, we didn't know it at the time, but driving the road in mid to late July was probably not a good idea at all, even for an experienced four wheel driver, the reason being that, in the southwest you have a monsoon season that usually begins in late June or early July. Though by "Monsoon Season" its only meant that each day there's an increased likelihood of late afternoon thunderstorms (Assam it's not), the area still seems to get a fairly heavy downpour every few days. Due to the fact that there's little ground cover, these thunderstorms can easily create heavy flash floods. During such conditions, travel along the White-Rim Road would be impossible, as the route passes by the mouths of a number of large canyons, out of which, whenever there's any significant rainfall at all, comes hundreds of thousands of gallons of raging, silty, debris-filled water.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Utah 1: Big Rocks Around Moab

The Corona Arch, west of Moab, along the Potash Road, which for a few miles is paved and runs along the north bank of the Colorado River. This picture has been cropped by about a third so that you can see the little people (in the original photo they just looked like tiny dots). Note the climber on top, and the two people below. When this picture was taken, the man walking across the span was about to fix a rope on top of the arch and then descend off of it.  

This is, I think, the soonest after the fact that I've ever started working on a blog post. The picture above was only taken about a week ago. I've just come back from Utah, where me and my family (along with my brother's friend D.J.) visited the Red Rock Country around the surreal little adventure-nut-mecca of Moab. With only a limited amount of time, being rather at the end of our tether and out of our element, I think we did a hell of a job exploring the region. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

California 2: Death Valley


The view from Zabriskie Point, one of the iconic vistas of Death Valley National Park, just after dawn.

So, this is going to be about Death Valley National Park, which stretches over about 5,300 miles of the Mohave Desert in far eastern California (and a small patch western Nevada). The park encompasses not only Death Valley itself, but also a vast expanse of the Panimint and Last Chance ranges. The terrain is immensely varied, from Telescope Peak in the Panimints, which rises to 11'049 feet, to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the U.S., and second lowest in the Western Hemisphere, which is 282 feet below sea level. The series of ranges and valleys within the park are part of the Basin and Range Provence, where, as with the Inyo Mountains to the west, whole blocks of the earth's have either been pushed up or caused to sink due to tectonic forces. One of the results of these processes are valleys, such as Death Valley itself, that are actually below sea level, and are apparently still sinking. Instead of seeking out a path to the ocean, the water courses in this region flow down into the middle of the sinks created by the extremely low lying valleys and empty into huge salt flats, such as Badwater Basin.  

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

California 1: Lone Pine

The classic Lone Pine view, from the appropriately named Movie Road. Looking due west, over the Alabama Hills, directly towards Lone Pine Peak (about 13,000 ft). Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 at 14,505 feet, is the prominent triangular peak to the right of this picture. This area is one the all time great Hollywood shooting locations (right up there with the Vasquez Rocks further south). In perhaps the most famous film ever filmed there, Gunga Din, it stands in for what was then the North West Frontier Province of British India (The Sierras are playing the Himalayas). It also featured in an old Humphrey Bogart movie called High Sierra, and stood in for Afghanistan in the film Kings of the Kyber Rifles, along with serving as any part of the old west from Missouri to Oregon in (almost) literally billions of  western films and T.V. shows, including How the West Was Won. More recently, the area had short cameo in Gladiator (in a few of the shots where Russel Crow is tired on his horse, while improbably riding from the Danube to Spain in what seems to be two or three days), and in Iron Man where it is, again, a stand in for Afghanistan. I have been seeing this area all my life, most notably in the Kevin Bacon subterranean monster film Tremors , which makes excellent use of the picturesque, rounded granite boulders the area is famous for. Yes, I can now say I've hopped on the same boulders as Kevin Bacon.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Attempt at Rajasthan pt. 2

View over Amber from Jaigarh Fort

Hey there. So, I was looking over some of my posts from the past, and I saw that I had this one here about a third of the way done. All of the photos were uploaded, and some of the captions were written, but I had never finished it. Well, that's what I'm going to do now. Some of the details are going to be a little bit fuzzy, the space of time I'm covering being, as of now, more than a year ago, though it feels like even longer. Bear with me if it's a bit disjointed in places....


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Nagaland Odyssey Pt. 3: Konyak Country







A heady cultural mix: Human skull from a head taken by the former chief of  Shengha Chingyu, a Konyak Naga village in northern Nagaland, in front of a recently constructed Baptist church. The poor owner of the skull probably lost it some time in the middle of the twentieth century.

Hi. So, this is the final installment covering my trip through Nagaland. Up until this point, my travels in the state had been interesting and memorable, and the time had certainly not been wasted. That being said, I think that I can truthfully say that my time spent in Mon District, in northern Nagaland, ranks right up there with the craziest adventures I've ever had. Of course, as with most real adventures, there was plenty of bad with the good. My time with the Konyaks was frequently characterized by rather gruesome sights and morbidly humorous incidents. The full cultural blast of staying in a Konyak Naga village as the guest of its chief (or, Angh) certainly didn't leave me with an improved vision of human nature, though fortunately I didn't have an overly positive one to begin with. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Nagaland Odyssey Pt. 2: Ao Country

Figurehead at the front of an old (19th century) Ao Naga log drum in the village of Ungma, the Ao tribe's largest settlement. Log drums are whole trees that have been cut down and then hollowed out. They served a variety of functions, including inter-village communication, warning a village in case of attack, and ceremonial purposes. Apparently, back in the day, when a warrior would take heads he would first ceremonially drape them on the village's log drum, before hanging them on the villages special head-hanging tree. Log drums were mostly used by the more northerly Naga tribes, such as the Ao's and the Konyaks. Tribes such as the Anagami's and the Tangkuls didn't have them. However, various adjacent non-Naga cultures in Arunachal Pradesh, Burma, and South-central China did. The styles of log drums from tribe to tribe vary considerably.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nagaland Odyssey Pt. 1: Angami Country

The cross over hazy Nagaland. On the peak of Mt. Japfu (10000 ft), the second highest in Nagaland, after Mt. Saramati in Tuensang district.

Hi. So, this is going to be a series of three posts covering my whole trip to Nagaland. I'll be going over some of the same ground as before, though in much more detail this time around. 

Anyway, Nagaland is a state about as far east in India as you can go. I first heard about the Nagas (after whom the state is named) way back in middle school. I remember reading a book called Stillwell and the American Experience in China. A passing reference is made to the Nagas when the author is discussing the flight of General Stilwell (who was serving as Chaing Kai Shek's cheif of staff at the time) over the Patkai range in 1942, as the Japanese were overrunning Burma. But I have long wondered what this region of the world was like, and it was back then that I first remember taking any particular interest in India.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Sikkim: Dzongri to Thangshing to Yuksom


Postcard shot of Mt. Kanchenjunga (8586 m, 28,169 ft), the world's third tallest mountain, at about six in the morning. In the picture the peak doesn't look that far away, but that's an illusion. From where I took this, the peak is still roughly 15,000 feet higher. You just don't have vertical relief like that in the lower 48.

Hi there. So, I'm experimenting with putting the pics in a wider format. Please tell me if it looks weird!


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sikkim: Yuksom to Dzongri



My small blue home in the high Alpine meadow of Dzongri, with about 45 minutes to go before bad weather moved in. This was taken on a bright, warm, and sunny morning, before a dark, cold, and snowy afternoon.

First of all, allow me to thank the mysterious and illusive Mr. Leo Cloppenburg from Germany, without whom my trek to the base of Mount Kanchenjunga, the world's 3rd tallest mountain, would not have been possible. I haven't a clue who you are, but I am deeply in your debt.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Skull Shack

Hi everybody...

Well, I had been working on this post for some time, and then it all got erased, for reasons I don't quite understand, so this is my second attempt.

So, right now I'm in Dajeeling, for the fourth time, sorting out permits to go to Sikkim, for the first time. Hopefully by tomorrow I will have made it to the town of Yuksam, if what little I know about the region is correct, was where the first Chogyal (ruler of Sikkim) was crowned, by the three founders of the Black Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

I must say, it feels pretty surreal not coming here as part of Dr. Barua, of the University of Delaware's India Study Abroad Program. It was here that I first saw a true Snow-capped Himalayan peak, back in 2009, the day after Obama's inauguration, to be exact...and having spent some much time in the Himalayas thereafter, it makes my first time coming here feel like a very long time ago indeed.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Mokokcheung Madness

OK, so, again, I really don't have much time, so, I'm just going to try and provide a list of the highlights of the last few days.

I've definitely been having plenty of brightly colored experiences out here on the eastern fringes of India, and I don't feel like I've been wasting my time. On the other hand, it's become apparent that traveling out here in Nagaland is very different from going to a place like Ladakh, the Garwahl Himalayas, or the Andaman Islands..tourism is only just starting out here, and what there is certianly is'nt geared towards poor backpackers like myself. In order to explore this place properly, I would need vastly more time, money, and resources....however, all that means is that, now that I know what the region is like, I want to come back again, better prepared.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day in Nagaland

So, happy Valentine's Day.

I'm in Nagaland.

Hence:

Valentine's Day in Nagaland.

Where I am, the city of Khohima, was where the Japanese were stopped, in a prolonged battle with British and commonwealth troops, when they invaded India in 1944. That being said, I have'nt done much since I've got here...I'm supposed to meet my former professor's cousin's sister's Nagamese friend later today, and he said she'd help me out...my thought is to try and visit a place called the Dzoukou Valley just south of Kohima, probably visiting some villages along the way...but things are pretty up in the air right now.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Majuli Missing Masala

Hi folks.

Right now I'm in the town Kamalabari, on Majuli Island, in the middle the river Brahmaputra, in upper Assam. I've been here for two days, and I fear I have to leave tomorrow, though, like so many places in India, I barely feel like I've scratched the surface of the surface of this place. Certainly, I've never been to place that felt so close to my mental image of what "Assam" really is.


Monday, February 6, 2012

On the edge of the Unkown

Hey everybody.

So, right now I happen to be in the city of Jorhat in the Eastern part of the Indian state of Assam. Tomorrow I'm taking a ferry out onto the Brahmaputra to visit the world's largest river Island, and one of the great the centers of traditional Assamese culture. It's called Majuli, which I believe in Assamese means something like "Great Neck of Land." From what I understand, it was formed in the 1th century when a great flood cut off the base of what was once a huge peninsula. It's now cut off from the world but for a few ferries that come twice a day. But in 24 hours that's where I'll be.