Archive for May, 2006


Originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Grant is balanced precariously on a ridge that separates two deep holes along the hillside where the digging occured. Unfortunatly for the miners the known gold was all concentrated in the one single spot where it had initially been discovered.

The local geology is such that with the upwelling of the Deloro Pluton and the subsequent cooling of the surrounding rock, the crust contracted and cracked. These fissures all spidered out around the edges of the pluton and it was up these that “superheated waters blasted out from far below. The cooler surface temperatures led to the deposition of quartz that had been carried upward in the mineral/water cocktail as well as numerous metals and of course, gold.

“Guess they figured they had run out”. I ventured that there must be more, “I mean why would it all be concentrated in such a tiny area?” Grant was of the same opinion, “Where there is some – there is more. They’re mining near Bannockburn right now. All you need is the money and the guys to dig”. This observation bought to mind the old addage, spoken by the bitter fortune hunter of a failed gold rush. “A gold mine is no more than a hole in the ground with a fool at the bottom, a liar up top and a crook in the office”.

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Blog02t[1], originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Another amazing picture from Anne’s travel library see her website in the del.icio.us links “Anne Gordon Images” (sidebar to the right). Anne’s own description seemed the most fitting explanation for the chance encounter.

“I had taken this image at Pushkar on the fringes of the Great Indian
Desert in Rajasthan. It is an Important religious centre for
those of the Hindu faith. This old man is a sadhu; a priest in the Hindu religion.

There are close to 5 million sadhus in India today. They are
men who have given up all wordly things and live in
caves and temples relying on other Hindus to provide
sustenance. I had managed to capture this image in the early evening while walking alone down to the mela to photograph the
sunset. It is a most sublime feeling watching as the great glowing orb sinks behind the dunes.

The sadhu stopped me and pointed to my camera and himself indicating that he wanted his picture taken. The Hindus were gathering for prayers beside the lake and the strident sounds of the day were replaced by bells, music and song. In preparation for worship they set adrift thousands of leaves, each carrying a minute flickering oil lamp”.

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IMG_3875, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This is Greg Warchol in front of one of the caves. Their entrances are generally low and eliptical. All are clustered along the edges of abrupt blind valleys their narrow expanses thickly packed with vegetation. One of the larger cavities is literally big enough to drive a van into. Skylights in the roof lead up to an overgrown forest floor.

We had hoped to find the landowner at home when we returned from our hike but were told that he was at the local “fish fry”. There was a delicious aroma in the air and in following our noses we soon found the gathering. A sign out front of the community centre announced the event and it seemed that the whole village (at least eight families) had turned up. We were five minutes to late, he had eluded us again – “Gone to let the sheep out” we were told”.

On his previous visits Greg had overlooked a boulder in the mouth of a tube at the back of one of the caverns. We surmised that with a microblaster we might now be able to open a new lead. Greg is an expert in this technology. Another visit and the land owner’s permission would be required to pursue this course of action.





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IMG_3884IMG_3884, originally uploaded by Mic2006. The forest floor was illuminated by patches of dappled-green light. Greg and I were moving quickly as we wished to avoid having to return along illusive, seldom travelled paths at night. Beneath the trees the going was rugged. Deep ruts in the rock, holes, coils of brambles and fallen logs left me with bruised and bleeding shins.

Greg had visited a warren of sea caves in this area several years ago and as we were passing through he thought I might like to see them. I had slipped while jumping the fence at the edge of a nearby field and almost castrated myself on the rusty barbed wire strands beneath. Greg joked about the possibilities of sugical reattachment and I just considered the good fortune of my flailing arms finding the fencepost and taking most of my weight.

There on a ridge, beneath a thick green mop of moss and saplings we found the caves. Several gaping sockets looked out over the forest floor, all, according to Greg, formed when the nearby lake was significantly higher. This water body can at times generate storms of awesome ferocity. The pounding surf will work at fissures and crevices along the shoreline enlargening them to sizeable caverns.

Near Cypress Lake on the eastern edge of the famous Bruce Peninsula it is possible to visit one such grotto. It is only a short hike from the parking lot. A warm summer day will find many picnicers gathered around there swimming and enjoying a vista of unparalleled natural beauty.


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Michaelblog01[1], originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check out this angry critter. If this is not a loud, snorkeling protest, I dont know what is. My mother is a travel writer (see her website in my Del.icio.us links in the sidebar to the right – “Anne Gordon Images”). This superb picture is but one from her vast photo library. I hope to feature a sample of her work from time to time.

Somewhere in the furnce blasted dunes near Jaisalmer travellers arrive at an unusual scene, two hundred camels crouch in moaning ranks waiting for a rider. A mirage of desert splendor shimmers on the horizon and the heat climbs to unbearable levels by midday. Still these dusty beasts crouch; all tasseled and bejewelled in beaded harnesses and bells. They are a dissatisfied lot. The camel is seldom happy and will voice his dissatisfaction whenever given the remotest possibility of an audience.

When visiting Morocco I remember paying a camel herder a few dirhams for a ride on one of his charges. The creature would not co-operate and howled and moaned until the herdsman beat him with a stick. Roaring he stood up – hindlegs first, toppling me onto his neck. Seizing the opportunity, “a nice juicy Canadian boy” he lunged around and bit me. His master gave him such a beating I had to pay him double the initial fee to stop.

The cameleers sit paitiently sipping char from cloudy glasses. They are dark-skinned, fierce, hawk-featured men whose grandfathers were once feared desert warriors. Here, in the Sam Sand Dunes, on the border of Pakistan they chatter quietly amongst themselves waiting for money laden Western tourists to people their strange caravan.

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Originally uploaded by Mic2006.

D and I were visiting the area around Hepworth a few weeks ago in an attempt to find the supposed resurgence on a nearby sinking stream. We were slogging throught the marshy ground around the town and noticed a set of tracks in the mud.

As you can see the print is quite large with an expanse almost the size of my hand. there appear to be three toes and a sharp claw at the back. The prints were quite widely dispersed in the mud which to me either indicates a significant stride or something running. The dug-in aspect of the front of the print implied to us that this thing was well-adapted to running. I have laid a “toonie” (Canadian coin) by the one toe for a size reference.

D suggested that the markings might be an ostridge’s spoor but neither of us know of any such wild beast in Ontario – not that it is impossible. I once met-up-with a wild lama in thick bush on the shores of a river near Horning’s Mills. Climbing up a bank I found myself staring at this wierd foot almost level with my nose. It gave me quite a fright when I realized that this foot did not belong to the local inhabitants. Fortunatly the animal seemed indifferent to my presence. It was not until I tried to coax it into moving that it started getting “ornery”. Not knowing much about lamas I thought it best to retreat back down into the river and continue on in that direction.

Anybody have a theory as to what this is? Is it of the species that we know or another mythical beast yet to be discovered, “a three toe’d sinkhole sasquatch, a binary claw’d bigfoot, an illusive northern emu”?

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Originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Cartago was once the capital of Costa Rica but it was replaced in 1823 by San Jose. The town began to grow in the 1500’s and as early as 1562 the pious locals erected a church to St. James the Apostle. Unfortunately the quakes and eruptions of the nearby Irazu Volcanoe threw down every structure that was ever raised on the site of the old church. Finally in 1910 the townspeople gave up. A massive gothic cathedral that had been erected there was shaken down by an earthquake once again. It was just not meant to be.

The town sits on pretty shaky ground, all of the grandest of colonial buildings have been destroyed and what remains is subject to a continual trembling assault. Earthquake damage is a fact of life here. Renaldo , our taxi driver explained the outrageous crevice running down the middle of the road near Parrita as being from the earth quake six months ago.  The bridge just outside town also appears to have moved. The tar is stretched up to the edge of the concrete, like distorted skin over a broken bone. The cars had to slow to a virtual standstill to negotiate the bump. 

Irazu’s last eruption was in 1994 whereupon it poured ash over the area for more than two years. Roofs collapsed from the weight, the stench of sulphur was ever-present and as though they lived in an endless ash storm, locals waded through the settling mire with black-stained umbrellas. Nearby San Jose had to clear their streets with a snow plow.

The site of the toppled cathederal is known to locals as “Las Ruinas”. It is a gloomy place at the town’s centre. The windows are high and narrow and a great arching span of rock supports a precarious stairway within. It is far to fragile for human feet and so it is now only trodden by angels. The populous live close to their gods and miracles and divine intervention is an ever present fact of life.

The curious are kept from the cathedral’s gardened centre by bars across the entry portals. Ferns now grow from between well trodden paving stones within. We skirt the outer perimeter of this apparently impenetrable structure and find our most advantageous view beneath a large green bell. It would likely have rang out desperately as the earth shook and the roof tumbled inwards.

Along it’s streaked grey walls local teenagers gathered. Several girls in school uniform flirted with youths attired in the height of American fashion; baggy pants, hoods and runners. It is the Costa Rica “gangsta” look. My attempt to photograph the gathering was met with the characteristic modesty expected of young ladies. They turned their backs and walked away.

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originally uploaded by Mic2006.

In some parts of Africa a bat flittering by at the onset of twilight suggests some coming evil though in Ireland it is indicative of good fortune. So what you might ask is the symbolism of a dead bat floating in an underground pool? I found this unfortunate critter decaying in a ball of fungus, one spiny limb protruding from the corpse. I suppose he had died at some time in the winter and had been washed out through the sump that we hope to negiotiate soon.

Greg Warchol, a well respected local caver (and regular companion to my travels) had e-mailed me this morning to remind me of this cave’s importance as a bat hibernaculum – they reside here in the winter – not just any hole will do, they require very specific conditions for each stage of their life.

The bat is becoming an increasingly endangered inhabitant of the province, it is essential to not disturb their winter slumbers. Come spring when the insects are again humming in their opressive swarms the bats emerge to make our lives more tolerable. “Are the insects out yet? Greg asked.

To wake a bat during hibernation could well mean its demise. The bat has a finite store of energy and in causing it to utilize the fat in a premature awakening without a food source (insects) it might not be able to muster the appropriate fuel for a second Spring “kick start”. Cavers are generally very conservation concious, to belong to a community such as the caving one invariably means that your fellows teach, guide and mentor you. Rob Laidlaw is the Toronto Cave Group’s bat expert, he has written an exceptional article on bats in the club’s magazine, “The Toronto Caver”. With his permission I will attempt to reproduce it on the web some time soon.

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IMG_3722, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

You will no doubt have noticed by now the striking similarity between the cave’s entrance and a keyhole. The tunnel likely started forming underwater hence the rounded pheratic appearance of its upper portion and later wearing by running water would account for its more trench-like appearance lower down.

My caving partner e-mailed me a picture of the waterfall found deep within the passages beyond the sump. We are to say the least “totally pumped” for a more comprehensive exploration and photo session within the next few weeks.

There was once a theory that had been built around the results of a dye tracing experiment that suggested that these tunnels were in fact the overflow outlet of a large, well known system whose entry shafts are situated a few kilometres away.

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P0000119, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

An old guy staggered out of this seedy looking establishment with a pail of some kind of fruit. Inside it was dark and dingy- like a bar, but it was early in the morning and the place was still pretty crowded. I think prostitution is legal in Costa Rica and my impression was that this was a brothel (I might be wrong). As I mentioned in a previous post we passed the “Porno disco” on the banks of the Sarapique River, “river-boat access only”.


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