street scene in kathmandu

street scene in kathmandu

Monday, 29 November 2010



Read about two exciting new books! You already know about Rachel's Shoe - well the sequel 'The Causeway' is now available!
Also take a look at the collaborative book project 'Passage to Redemption'

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Title: Project Alien InvAsion: we have to stop it!



The Asociación Rutas y Caminos de la Sal is a group of people of different European nationalities, which since its inception has “had as its objective the promotion, diffusion, protection, and conservation of the natural environment of the Natural Park of the Lakes of La Mata and Torrevieja”. (Art.3 Statutes of the Asociación Rutas y Caminos de la Sal)

Since 2004 the volunteers of this association have actively collaborated with the staff of the Natural Park of the Lakes of La Mata and Torrevieja in various tasks such as giving information to visitors, collating catalogues of fauna and flora in various languages, detection of incidences in the areas allocated to public use, or collecting rubbish, amongst many other things.

However it was in 2009 that this environmental volunteer group committed itself to confronting the problems arising from the introduction and expansion of exotic invasive vegetation (VEI) in this Protected Natural Area.(ENP). The project of “Alien Invasion” was launched.

The above project is based mainly in noting not only the causes but also the consequences of the introduction of this type of species into the Park. With this in mind the project is based on two major and indivisible concepts: alerting the local population to and control of the exotic invasive species of vegetation.

To achieve this the staff of the Protected Natural Area (ENP) train the volunteers and plan the work schedule, organising this in four work groups: Communication, Elimination, Posters and Detection and Control.

Since December 2009 until now the volunteers have taken part in 12 activities, which have eliminated some 77 cubic metres of invasive species such as Carpobrotus sp, Yucca alaifolia, Opuntia subulata and Aptenia sp, among others. These actions have resulted in the recuperation of an area of 1650 square metres.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cartagena Romans and Carthagenians

Recently a few of my friends and I visited Cartagena to see the Romans and Carthagenians parade. Wow! A couple of hours of exotic costumes, music and dance...
We were lucky to find a bar/restaurant on the main street and sat in comfort sipping wine and savouring tapas as the parade passed only a couple of metres from our table!
A fabulous evening out - just one of the many first class celebrations that take place here throughout the year.......

Protecting the environment in Spain

Here at home in Spain our local group of environmental volunteers visited an exhibition in Valencia and guess what - we were the stars of the show!
Our group was 'mentioned in dispatches' for the work we have done pulling up invasive plants and replacing them with indigenous ones - as you can see on a couple of the photos of the exhibition boards
This project brings us together for some 'hands on' environmental work with the staff of our local Nature Reserve --and is great fun!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Nepal – a land of mystic beauty!

The Himalayan country Nepal is known as a unique natural, cultural and adventurous destination in the tourism map of the world. Nepal is a land of eternal attraction, a place where one visit is hardly ever enough. It's a land of colorful cultures, ancient history and people, superb scenery and some of the best walking on earth.
Natural Beauty: Nepal is a land of stunning natural beauty, with hundreds of miles of forested hiking trails, rivers and streams, green lush valleys and hillside villages filled with rural women who sing folk songs as they tend rice paddies. The snowy peaks of Mount Everest and Annapurna draw thousands of trekkers and climbers from around the world. People from around the world come to Nepal, dream of Nepal, because of the natural environment. Nepal is a heaven for nature lovers.
Geographical and cultural diversity: Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of bio-diversity due to its unique geographical position and latitudinal variation. The elevation of the country ranges from 60 m above sea level to the highest point on earth, Mt. Everest at 8,848 m, all within a distance of 150 km with climatic conditions ranging from subtropical to arctic. This wild variation fosters an incredible variety of ecosystems, the greatest mountain range on earth, thick tropical jungles teeming with a wealth of wildlife, thundering rivers, forested hills and frozen valleys.

Within this spectacular geography is also one of the richest cultural landscapes anywhere. The country is a potpourri of over 100 ethnic groups and sub-groups who speak their own languages and dialects. The peaceful coexistence of multi-religious system and beliefs is one of the most fascinating aspects of Nepal, where over 100 ethnic groups with their own religious, cultures, languages and life-styles exists, is unique among the cultures of the world.
People: With the population of thirty million, Nepal is a melting pot of many races and tribes. The main characteristic of Nepali people is their simplicity and hospitality. Nepalese are simple in every way. Their means of livelihood, way of life, dresses, expenses etc. are all simple! They are very friendly and cooperative.
Nepalese are well known for their hospitality. Nepalese have a saying “aateethee deva bhawa” which means ‘guests equal god’. The way Nepali respect and honor the guests are finest in the world. Thousands of tourists return Nepal every year just because of Nepali people and their simplicity and hospitality!
Kathmandu valley: Kathmandu - Nepal’s capital is slowly turning into a modern metropolis, but within its bustling streets and squares remain numerous temples and monuments of great beauty and historical significance. The rich tapestry of the cultural heritage of Nepal is synthesized in Katmandu, representing an epitome of harmony in urban design, elegant architecture, refined culture, colorful bazaars and simple hospitable people. Once a separate kingdoms in it, Kathmandu valley contains three fabled cities - Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. Out of ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal, seven cultural heritage sites are in Kathmandu Valley. All those heritage sites are like open museums!

Trekkers’ paradise: Nepal is a trekkers’ paradise! Trekking in Nepal is to travel by foot in the remote and unexposed mountainous areas where life has not changed in generations. In a trekking, people walk through picturesque village and valleys, deep gorge and passes, river and forests, mixing with the people and their unique way of life and sampling the breathtaking scenery which offers a unique blend of physical challenge, mental relaxation and spiritual uplift. Nepal offers varieties of options of day hikes to three weeks trek.

You can fly to Kathmandu from Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Frankfurt, Vienna, Amsterdam, Doha, Dubai, Dhaka, Karachi, Munich, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Bahrain, Paro, Lhasa, Chengdu, Guanghhou, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, New Delhi, Mumbai, Patna, Calcutta, Varanasi etc.

Nepal Airlines, Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Indian Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, Biman Bangladesh, Gulf Air, Indian Airlines, Jet Lite, Jet Airways, Air China, Druk Air,Silk Air, GMG Airlines, Ethihad Airways, Air Arabia,Dragon Air, China Southern, Korean Air fly to Nepal regularly.

Summary: Nepal offers an astonishing diversity of sightseeing attractions and adventure sport, travel & tours opportunities found nowhere else on earth. The influx of new sights and sounds are full of energy and life, and rich with genuine excitement.
Tourism in Nepal is the most important sector of the economy after agriculture, and contributes substantially to uplifting the quality of life of her people. As a socio-economic activity, tourism touches the life of every Nepali citizen in one way or another.
For comments:

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Cruises and Costa life

I've added a couple of photos from the two cruises I recently enjoyed, but if you want to see more visit my Facebook page, where you'll not only see more holiday pics but a few of what life's like at home here in sunny Spain! For more about life at home also check out the La Mata volunteers blog:

Sunday, 4 April 2010

House of Skulls

Human skulls hung from a beam, staring vacantly at mortals below. What do they know that we still have to discover? I wondered. Death should have been instant – the head being severed from life-giving blood in one stroke of the blade - but surely it must have taken at least a few cuts, plus no doubt a bit of sawing back and forth to release bone from sinew. And this after first hacking through skin and muscle. God only knows how that must have felt – anything but instantaneous I’d have thought.

We stood beneath them, lined up as they were, with grass 'hair' hanging limply over their crowns. I counted 42 in all. Did their families come and visit, to stare at their relative’s rotting flesh? It must have stunk in there in the heat, and how the flies must have feasted. It didn’t bear thinking about – what on earth could you say to a child gazing up at Daddy’s empty cranium?

‘He fought well, my son. Be proud. His head will hang there for 300 years and instead of flies, it will attract visitors from all over the globe.’ Better than an anonymous grave, I suppose.

We had driven for about 30 minutes from Kota Kinabalu in the Sabah peninsula of Borneo, Malaysia, to Monsopiad Cultural Village in the surrounding countryside. The village is named after a famous Kadazan native headhunter and warrior, and lies on the banks of the Penampung River. It is almost obscured from view by shady trees and is surrounded by paddy fields. It would be easy to drive past it and miss it altogether.The skulls have been collected by villagers for 300 years. Apparently no one could match Monsopiad’s prowess. His descendants have preserved the skulls and run the village in his honour. Also on display was the thigh bone of the giant Gantang. Perhaps he was the famous Wild Man of Borneo, whom one of our group was for some reason desperate to encounter?

After viewing the gruesome skulls we walked past traditional farmhouses to watch a cultural dance performance and sample the rice wine tapai, which tasted quite weak to my alcohol-friendly system but was, I’m told, quite strong.

We were ushered away from the skulls towards an open barn where local dancers were preparing for a performance – just for our benefit.

Weird clashing noises emanated from behind a screen, when suddenly out popped a semi-naked man wearing full warrior regalia, accompanied by pretty girls in colourful tunics, immaculately made up and groomed. I wondered when Madame Arden had taught them how to embellish their naturally beautiful complexions with cosmetics and creams. An inevitable extension of nature’s own potions I guess: humans have always liked to disguise themselves behind masks of some sort. And sure enough, within moments the warrior reappeared sporting a terrifying shield, and began leaping around the platform making threatening gestures, stopping every now and then to glare at one spectator, who looked around nervously to check that he was not doing anything unacceptably remiss. The warrior brandished his blowpipe ostentatiously for a few minutes, then withdrew a ‘poisoned’ dart from his quiver and set about waving it in front of the by now worried-looking gentleman. He needn’t have feared – the dancer gestured for the spectator to join him, handed him the bow and pointed to a rather incongruous yellow balloon hanging at the corner of the platform. Aha! The idea was to have a go at shooting the dart by blowing it into the balloon! Relieved, our hero had a go and managed to pierce said balloon, to thunderous applause from the six other members of the audience. Our warrior leapt around for a few more minutes, adopting scary postures every now and then, and skipped away behind the screen.

It was our turn now to provide the entertainment. As an accomplished fool I joined in the next act – after all I’d had experience at bamboo pole dancing during my tour leading days. The idea is to hop between long poles which are clapped together in time to an ever increasing beat without getting your ankles trapped. Looks easy, sounds easy, and is nigh on impossible, especially in heavy hiking boots. Fortunately this time I was wearing trainers, slightly easier to lift every second or two. Three of us visitors stepped gamely, if hesitantly, up the steps onto our stage. The music began; the screeching pipes and reed-like voices of the singers creating a nearly authentic ambience (a pity that most of the spectators had gone outside for a fag) and to a rapturous clap we stumbled down from the platform.

Outside, my friends were attempting to cross a rope bridge suspended a few metres over a muddy river, no doubt imagining themselves as Indiana Jones striding along a swaying cord hundreds of metres above swirling rapids.

From the village we made our way to the Rasa Ria luxury resort to walk through their beautifully appointed cabins towards the jungle, where we were among a privileged few allowed to see orphaned baby orangutans in the wild. These delightful creatures cling onto their handlers for dear life, insecure and lonely, until after a few months they are left on a platform in twos, to rehabilitate them for independent life in the surrounding rainforest. Cameras clicked, there was much ooh-ing and aah-ing, and after forty minutes or so we made our way down to a nearby beach for a swim in the gloriously warm South China Sea.

Unfortunately we shared this spot of paradise with hundreds of jellyfish who found us as irresistible as we had found the orangutans, and promptly headed full speed towards us. We must have looked comical hopping towards the shore, especially as one of our group was a six-foot-seven giant of a man whose tombstone teeth made him look rather like Jaws from James Bond movies, and whose arms hung from his shoulders at a 45 degree angle, his biceps being too large to lie flat against his ribs. A direct descendant of Gantang, perhaps? I bet he wouldn’t have run away from a few measly jellyfish…

So ended our day our in Borneo, one of the loveliest destinations in the Far East, and well worth a visit - if only to be able to return with a photograph of a real human skull.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Year End Cruise Diary

December 11th
After a long and traumatic flight (hours of delay and an unexpected extra stopover) I have arrived at Fort Lauderdale. Our ship, the Independence of the Seas, was Royal Caribbean's biggest and bestest until a couple of weeks ago when their new monster ship was launched. I wake up and go onto my balcony to look out over the port where the hugest ship I've ever seen is moored, right opposite the hotel. Its lights sparkle, reflected in the water. It has to be ours, surely? I'm too excited to sleep anymore even though it's ony 5.00a.m. I only slept for a whole day on the flight, and seven hours here, so I will get back into bed and try to catch up....
A hundred and twenty of us from all around the world are here to participate in one of Landmark Education's courses - called 'Celebration'. I begin by walking around to orientate myself. The ship is 14 decks of luxury! Sumptuous dining rooms and staterooms, casino, theatre, ice rink, disco, bars and pools galore, plus a shopping mall and food outlets too numerous to name. It is a playground for adults and children alike, and the service is friendly and efficient. You really can have everything you want. Something to celebrate already!
15th December
Our first port of call is St. Maarten, where my cabin buddy Sarah and I take a private taxi to the other side of the island where we stroll along a nudist beach, chatting about men with our amply built 'sister' Jenna. She gives us the benefit of her advice on how to keep a Caribbean man under your thumb. I'm thrilled to be roomed with Sarah who is way ahead of me in self development, and an inspiration to be with. She does like to indulge in shopping, not my favourite activity, but I accompany her anyway as we talk about getting what we want for our lives.
It is then I decide to share the abundance of this cruise with my family and spend a fortune on Xmas gifts for them in the duty free shops.
Dinner is formal tonight. We get our glad rags on and shimmy into the chandeliered dining room, to be serenaded by the restaurant staff from the sweeping central stairs. After dinner we dance till two in the disco and stagger into bed exhilarated and exhausted in equal measure.
16th December
Next stop St Thomas, where I go parasailing – an activity I have wanted to do for the last seven years. As I soar into the sky and the boat recedes rapidly from view, I experience complete silence. It is peaceful up here, and the deep blue of the sea looks inviting. Just as well, as a dip is obligatory on this boat. When my turn comes I'm delighted to find that the water is warm, and admire the skill of the captain who can dip my parachute up and down safely whenever he chooses.
Afterwards I take a bus ride into the shopping area but see nothing to inspire me – burned out from yesterday no doubt – and I board our beautiful white liner for another evening of fun.
17th December
In Puerto Rico I take a jungle canopy tour where we zoom along zipwires among the treetops from platform to platform, after climbing a punishing slope in the wet heat. When our driver drops us off in the capital, San Juan, I am to find that this place reminds me of Cuba, with its pastel-walled houses, elegant colonial buildings, and blue cobblestones. There is even a Starbucks for me to enjoy my favourite coffees in. And as happens throughout the days and evenings of this cruise, I meet and share with other course participants who enrich my life, and know that I also contribute to them.
More dining, cocktail drinking and dancing under the stars, and it is suddenly our last port of call, Haiti – or rather, a playground extension of the ship called Labadee.
18th December
It is paradise: the Caribbean water is warm and silky, the sand like talcum, the drums irresitable, the barbecue delicious, and the company inspiring. I take a jetski trip and after the first ten minutes of sheer terror at the speed I have to go to keep up with the others, I let go of my fear and trust the universe to take care of me. I open the throttle to maximum and my body relaxes as if someone has given me a shot of a recreational drug. Now I can't get the jetski to go fast enough. This has been a real breakthrough for me and I'm excited once again about what I can achieve in life if I let go of my history and live in the now.
At every course session, normally from 4pm till 7pm, I come away with something life-changing – but mainly, we celebrate life and all its aspects. We sing, dance, play games and laugh a lot. We share our breakthroughs and concerns as we conduct our enquiry designed to give us the life of our dreams for ourselves and others. Powerful stuff, and worth our full participation.
Next morning, our last day at sea, I have a go on the FlowRider, a surfing experience, and follow it with a margherita in the sun with several of my new friends for life, swaying to the kettledrums as we exchange more ideas and contact details.
December 20th
The airline has done it again. We are delayed three hours (they board us first, then tell us the plane has a fault) and I miss my connecting flight to Alicante. I spend the day at Madrid airport, snowed in, waiting for an onward flight home. Good job I'm able to practise being present to the now, else I'd have very high blood pressure and spend the day complaining. But I'm not – I'm glad to be alive. I have a great life, a wonderful family and friends, and I've just treated myself to luxury I didn't know existed. Who could possibly ask for more?