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Papua New Guinea 375-001, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I recently conducted an interview with Anne Gordon, a well known Canadian travel writer. Anne had just recently returned from Papua New Guinea and in particular, a trip up the Sepik River where she visited local tribes and learned something of the Malagan culture).

See the Papua New Guinea documentary interview with Anne Gordon here

As a travel writer Anne speaks about the benefits of belonging to NATJA and other travel organizations, the benefits such as sponsored trips and the professional development opportunities that are open for travel writing.

As Anne said, “New Guinea is undoubtedly the most exotic and fascinating place she has ever been, there are over 900 tribes scattered throughout the island and an an ecosystem that spreads both above and beneath the surface”. Many of New Guinea’s tribes maintain customs and cultures that hold a special fascination for us in the west. Head hunting and cannibalism still exist in isolated pockets and have been practised quite commonly within the last 100 years.

Anne Gordon’s interview centres around the Sepik River and the carver’s of the Malagan culture, in particular the master carvers of New Ireland, she shows many incredible pictures of the tribes in that area and the tribal culture of New Guinea.

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snogof, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

This past weekend Jeff and I visited a spot in the forest where we had found a tunnel this past summer. We had been trying to dig into the tunnel but the bugs were terrible. Now that the ground is heavily laden with snow there is no such problem – now its the cold. Anyway, after about 4 hours of digging and levering frozen boulders we managed to create a hole large enough to look well into our suspected cave and what we saw within was an elliptical shaped tunnel that was plugged by boulders. A small waterfall dropped from the roof of the tunnel and beyond, a chamber in marble.

See video for Snowgof – breathing tunnel here.

We are yet to access the chamber, but with great difficulty Jeff photographed a small segment of the chamber. In his picture you can see a wall of pure white marble and you can hear the water falling within.

Near the entrance the roof is encrusted with frost thus indicating airflow from deeper in the earth. In fact it was the smear of frost on the wall outside the cave that first got us digging there in earnest. Based on its proximity to the edge of a steep slope and no apparent resurgence at its bottom I am left to conclude that the water flowing into the cave must be dropping down deep quite quickly. I suspect that it goes down a shaft such as you see in Twin Trickles Cave.

Spring will reveal what lies beyond.

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For cave exploring in Ontario this one is possibly one of the more exciting possibilities. This past weekend Jeff and I explored the tunnels for some short distance, but we were turned back by the conditions which were less than favourable – namely the cold, the prospect of a storm on the surface and my knee pads which kept sagging down and so my knees were torn to shreds.

nevertheless, for Adventure in Ontario I am still optimistic of eventually reaching the end. Thus far several pushes have not revealed the sump-point. On one trip we reached a spot called the aero-foil and past that a squeeze then bigger tunnels beyond.

I am thinking that the cave goes deep and the many sinkholes in the area must meet up with these tunnels somewhere beyond where we have crawled.

see the video here for Adventure in Ontario, Exploring the Wasteland Waterway Cave, Caving in Ontario, Canada

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India2, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

If you travel to Durban you will discover that it is heavily influenced by the Asian Indians who live there, in fact Durban has the largest Indian population outside of India – ironic that its at the tip of Africa.

See video on travel to Durban and explore the Indian culture here.

If you are looking to make your own curry, there is the mix your own spices section at the Hyper-mart. A great meal of ‘Durban Curry’ at the Riverside (formerly the Athlone Hotel) and saris aplenty at the mall.

Most of Durban’s Indians are descendant from indentured labourers who arrived from 1860 onwards. Local labour was discovered to be economically self-sufficient so there was a need for hired help. The first ship arrived from Madras and despite the initial intention to have Indians work the sugar cane plantations they soon made a name for themselves as clerks, market gardeners and traders. In fact I can recall a fellow who had a property near our house in Kloof – ‘Paddyarchie’ who was our source of vegetables, we used to pop across and gather Kaki Weed to feed our rabbits from the edges of his land. I suspect mum used to trade some of our ever increasing rabbit population for vegetables (never admitted).

Ghandi is said to have spent time in Durban, helping local Indians oppose a bill that obstructed their right to vote.

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Xibalba, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I have produced a short Mexican documentary on the Yucatan entitled ‘Cenotes in Tulum’. In this video I visit a number of cenotes around tulum, all reachable by bike from the town.

the cenotes are a favourite dive site and their density and their extent makes Tulum arguably, the cave dive capital of the world. admittedly, I think they mean cavern dive.

See the Mexican documentary on the Yucatan and Cenotes in Tulum here.

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epi, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

It was quite early on a misty morning and we were heading toward the Hluhluwe – Umfolozi gate.

To my surprise a large herd of elephant came rumbling across the road, not in a line, but bursting from the bush along a wide front, a tsunami of leathery, grey behemoths.

As a matron stood threateningly, ears set forth from her head and trunk waving back and forth one tiny fellow stopped briefly to push the car in front. I nervously played with the gear shift and considered that a rapid u-turn might be necessary.

See Elephants in Hluhluwe – African wildlife here

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rhino, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

as I was driving through Hluhluwe there seemed to be a huge number of rhino that were roaming the grassy areas beside the road. I believe that these rhino were white rhino because they tend to have a hump behind their shoulders and they have a broad snout that is well suited to eating grass. The black rhino browses on shrubs and has more of a pointed snout.

Apparently when a herd of orphan elephants was introduced to the area they went on a killing spree and killed 36 rhino. the killing only stopped when a few older elephants were introduced to the herd. I suppose elephants require guidance from the older members of their herd and without it they run amok.

See this you tube video of mine on rhino in Hluhluwe

You might wonder why both rhino are grey in colour and yet one is called the White rhino and the other is called the Black Rhino, it is supposedly related to the thought that the wide lipped rhino was pronounced as the white rhino by some afrikaans speakers and the name stuck, so if the one species is white, the other is black.

The horn on the rhino in my video is absolutely massive, hope he weathers the predation of poachers.

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sushi 101, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Jeff has spent several years in Japan and is what you might conservatively call a foodie – so who better to teach us about Sushi. I personally have long favoured a place called Hockey Sushi in Guelph, first visited with Maggie her boss and his family about a year ago, but Jeff suggested that we needed to try Kisara, a small restaurant on the corner of Wellington and Gordon. Admittedly we had tried to visit several times before, but the restaurant has been open intermittently. I remember this spot was once occupied by an establishment called The Red Papaya, but there were some less than stellar goings on and the restaurant closed.

See the video on sushi 101 (Guelph) – a lesson in sushi here.

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Yesterday was living proof (thankfully), that caving is more about the brain than the body. Branko, Ricci, Jeff and I explored an Ontario cave that has long attracted a certain kind of interested adventurer, but has kept something of its true extent hidden to all but the most dedicated explorer.

Branko – a large man (well over 6 foot with a sturdy frame) squeezed through a tortourous gap that he called ‘the jaw’ to access thus-far remote and difficult terrain.

See video of Branko going beyond the Jaws of Death getting stuck underground, here.

In returning back from his incredible exploration Branko become momentarily stuck underground in a situation that an ordinary person would have found appalling. Again – mind over body, where most would have been contemplating a gloomy future of hypothermia and eventual death beneath a cold, grey bed of rock, Branko found it within himself to think logically and calmly, resting and practising relaxing techniques to ensure that panic did not swell his muscles. As Branko said, “This is between me and the rock”. And in the end Branko seems to have negotiated his way beyond the impasse and returned to the surface unscathed.

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Secret Tunnel to Dracula’s Garden, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Leaving from Jeff’s house in Guelph, the three of us braved the winter evening and followed a secret tunnel to a place that is known as Dracula’s Garden. The garden is really a secret room beneath a city in Ontario. The trip there and back was exhausting. We were underground for just over 2 hours, crawling, duck walking and stooping. We waded through an old and crumbling passage that is known as the blood sluice – and at the end, a most incredible place that is decorated in soda straws and various other formations that are usually found in caves.

See video on the secret passage to Dracula’s Garden here

Jeff found a strange green marble that we called the “Dracula’s Eye” and SNAFU discovered a symbol part way along the hidden passage that was etched into the wall; I say it is for the Illuminati, but that is only wild speculation.

Most intriguing about the speleothems in Dracula’s Garden is the fact that they have formed so incredibly quickly.

Soda straws, curtains and stalactites are composed of calcite that has been leached out of the soil and rock above and re-deposited within an underground cavity. The basic process is that carbonic acid dissolves the calcite as acid laced ground-water passes through calcium rich substrate. Cool temperatures, lots of water and the presence of organic matter adds to the concentration of the acid. By the time the carbonic acid rich water reaches an underground cavity, and is is heavily laden with dissolved calcite, it gases off carbon dioxide and becomes super-saturated with calcite, thus it dumps this at the edge of a speleothem and grows it as some fantastic lacy rock pinnacle or curtain or cave pearl.

In Dracula’s Garden the speleothems have grown with amazing rapidity. Decorations like those seen here are usually thousands of years in the making, these formations are pure and white and hard and yet they could not be older than the cavity in which they’ve formed – about 100 – 160 years in age. Conditions for speleothem growth must be ideal. I had once seen a single soda straw in a sewer in Hamilton  (Stairway to Paradise), but it was puffy and porous – more like tufa than the pure and well formed soda straws in this spot.

Two hours of crawling and duck-walking leaves my legs in agony today. I can barely walk and I’m sure my companions are suffering some similar pain as well – SNAFU more his knees being a problem as being the tallest he found the height most dehabilitating and he crawled more than duck-walked. In the video you can hear this strange whump, whump sound in the background, that’s him crawling in his hip waders. As it is now dark I think a little hot tub therapy might ease the pain – standing after sitting is the worst and going down steps is almost impossible (I have to go down backwards on my hands and knees).

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