Practically at the northernmost point of Taiwan there’s a place that’s categorically necessarily mandatorily recommended for a visit: it’s the Yehliu Geopark, whose main attraction are the very rare natural phenomena of which there are just a few specimens throughout the world: hoodoo formations – outcrops made up of horizontal layers of rock of varying hardness. As a result of some not-fully-understood geology, tectonics push these formations up to the earth’s surface, then they’re eroded by the wind and rain – with the lower, softer layers being worn away quicker than the upper, harder ones. The result: totally inconceivable shapes. Sometimes they’re so far-fetched and extraordinary it’s hard to believe they’re 100% natural.
Tag Archives: must see
The other week I had a quick – six day – outing over to Lake Baikal in Siberia. As could have been expected, it was a delightful trip, with the six days passing so quickly it was as if time itself had been shortened. Ice, snow, endless expanses, entrancing enjoyment. And – oh my gigabytes – a ton of photos we appear to have taken. Ok, while I’m sifting, selecting and editing, I’ll give you some traditional aperitif-pics to whet the appetite…
Ladies and gents, boys and girls!
If you wake up one morning in a hotel room and open the drapes to see this here scene – don’t rush with the cheerfulness. Appearances can be deceiving…
So, what’s not right in that pic? First: the beach – it’s empty, as in – no folks. Second: not a single human head to be seen bobbing about on that there sea. Third: those palms are looking more than a little distressed with their leaves flapping about frantically in the wind.
So yes, this is not a day for the beach. But not to worry – that means it’s a day… for a helicopter excursion!
The albatross is one of the most astonishing birds in the world. It can fly for thousands of miles from the shore, it can actually live up in the air for years without landing, epic poems are written about it, epic songs are sung about it, it’s considered an omen, and generally there’s an air of mystery around the species. I mean, like, how did they learn to fly just soooo far? How do they sleep up in the sky? How do they sniff out smells of potential prey from miles away?.
The first time I saw some albatrosses was while sailing on a research vessel through the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica, as you do. They seemed to appear out of nowhere, soared so low over the ocean it looked like they were touching it, circled round the ship (just curious?), and then disappeared never to be seen again; and never once did we see them flap their wings! Like, really: zero times! Indeed, they can glide for hours (or is it days, weeks or months?) upon airstreams caused by large ocean waves and wind – both of which they need both to survive; calm, windless conditions are lethal to the albatross. No wind means it simply can’t fly off – not from water, not from land.
In fact, the species has gone so far down the evolutionary road that’s led to its extraordinary gliding abilities that their wings are hardly flappable like other birds’ wings any more. Instead, they have special retainers into which the bones of the wings stick into, fixing the two-or-three-meter-wide wings in place to resemble a glider plane – with no muscles being used at all and zero energy expenditure.
How do they sleep if they’re up in the sky for years (the first six years of their lives they never touch land once!)? Apparently it’s still not known. It might be that the two halves of their brains take it in turns to sleep and be awake, much like whales and dolphins’ do.
Great albatrosses are expert fishermen and fisherwomen. Much like the boobies, they’re super-fast divers, though they don’t go as far deep into the ocean as boobies. They can sniff out ‘food’ from miles away; they drink seawater (they have a special organ in their beaks (the little bumps with the holes thereon) that filters out the salt!!). They nest and breed only in one place – where they were born. That is, after several years and hundreds of thousands of kilometers of flying gliding they return right back to their birthplace.
Truly fantastic fowl.
Simply seeing an albatross would probably have been the main Ecuad-awe-someness of our second day on the Galápagos Islands. However, what made it even more incredible was that we saw the first ever flight of a young great albatross! But I’ll get to that in a bit…
Rewind! A new day – a new island. Next up: Española Island, which is the main breeding ground of the Galápagos Islands.
Here we were – in the sunny Galápagos islands, after having flown in from the mainland and boarded the small ship we’d be on for the next seven days. And like I’ve already mentioned, on every one of those days we were treated to one large extraordinary Ecuad-awesomeness, plus several smaller ones. But let’s start with day one, whose main Ecuad-awesomeness was – the blue-footed booby!
Yes, I just wrote booby in a blogpost folks! Never thought I’d see that… But boobies with blue feet?! Ye gods!…
Before your imaginations get the better of you, here are the boobies:
As promised, herewith, more tales from equatorial-Ecuadorial…
After several days of our habitually lowland-residing organisms struggling to cope with the extreme altitudes of the Ecuadorian highlands, plus a wholly unusual seeing in of the New Year, our willy-nilly-wonky route returned us back to sea level and to the Galápagos Islands. Oh yes. Here:
As you can no doubt tell by these pics, I was recently in China. In fact, a trip to China is becoming a bit of an autumn tradition already, timed perfectly to catch the lull after National Day Golden Week holidays (in honor of the founding of the People’s Republic), during which practically the whole country takes the full week off work. It’s a bit like the first week of every year in Russia: the whole country comes to a stop. Don’t even try getting anything done – work-wise (no ones’ working) or tourism-wise (the locals are doing the home-grown tourism thing so the lines you have to wait in are just silly).
Apparently, some 700,000,000 Chinese (!) were on the move during this this year’s Golden Week. Yes folks, you did read that right: a full eight zeroes there! So as I say, best to keep away during Golden Week. The week after though: knock yourself out! All the parks, cities… in fact any tourist attractions are practically empty – for a good two weeks.
Which is just as well, for China – being as massive as it is – has a lot of phenomenal natural beauty that needs checking out. I mean, the country is number two in the world on the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites (after Italy). Formidable rock formations, voluptuous valleys overgrown with gorgeous greenery, lovely brightly-colored lakes, and more – ensuring China has a full 10 entries on my list of the Top-100 Most Beautiful Places in the World (+ six bonus tracks:). And this list of mine I occasionally edit as and when new places need adding. And they need adding in China more than in most other countries. See for yourself:
You’ve seen what the Faroe Islands look like down on the ground. Now, let’s have a look at them from up above in a helicopter.
Hardly any words today folks; just a ton of oh-my-green-and-glorious pics for your viewing pleasure…
This is the north-western edge of the islands; the best pics were taken in the morning – against the sun. But I think a sunset view of these parts needs to be checked too. That will have to be for another day though.
Off flies our ride! But he promised to return a while later…
Oh how I wanted to get up some of those clearly volcanic peaks for trek/climb in such clear and beautiful weather. Maybe I will one day…
Stroll time – on the westernmost island of the Faroes – Mykines.
I like paths; walked a great many; but I can’t recall one with views all around as breathtaking as this one!
‘Faroe’, btw, means ~’sheep island’ in Faroese. Well, as I can vouch personally, nothing’s changed in thousands of years!…
In closing – a few words about the Faroese climate.
Though my first impressions were positive, it does turn out that the internet doesn’t tell lies: the weather here is pretty darn awful generally. We were just very lucky: a full day of bright sunshine is very much a rarity here. More often than not it’s rainy, foggy, windy, murky and bleak.
(Btw – those are birds up in the sky; we didn’t see a single mosquito)
Windy, as per usual:
So if ever you’re heading here – take some good weather with you. Otherwise…
PS: the hotel we stayed at was wonderful. Highly recommend: the Foroyar. The food was outstanding.
Cattle sheep grid!:
Kunst in the rooms…
…And in the restaurant:
And that, folks, is it from the fair Faroes. Gotta get back here and get some trekking in. If only there was a season when it didn’t rain…
All the photos from the Faroe Islands are here.