Category Archives: Travel

Desert: a non-sense of place

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As soon as you step into desert, no matter its size and its flora& fauna numbers, you feel completely different vibe and atmosphere. Project_20130324_0001  As if you entered an unknown room and closed the door after yourself. You do not remember roads full with speeding cars nearby, tine towns scrambled around or the life as it is outside. You shut the door and you breathe different air, walk through different time and stand on different ground.

Although the place I hiked through, Joshua National Park, includes desert only partly (actually, parts of two desert, Mojave and Colorado one), it brought the same feeling.

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The time almost stops there. You are blinded by bright sun, unbearable clean blue sky and light but guileful wind. Myriad Joshua Trees look like people’s shadows clinging onto the ground against stormy wind. And of course, the most of scenery is made of gigantic rock formations each having a nickname appropriate to the look and shape. Few times I had this feeling of dreaming, such unrealistic vision was in front of my eyes.


I always loved desert. Like mountains, the desert offers that pure loneliness and tranquility.  It possesses (dangerous) beauty. It possesses silence.

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Saint- Exupery, my favourite author-influencer of my childhood, so to say, had a striking connection with desert. “One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”

Looking into the daylight blue sky, I see white plane crossing over the ghost-like white gigantic moon. Time blends into the silence.

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For everybody, it’s hard but vital to accept his/her solitude. Aloneness is fundamental, and instead of running away from being alone one could live with it, maybe try to enjoy and appreciate. Then it will disappear  or rather won’t swallow one’s consciousness.

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Really, the ability to be alone makes you able to fall in love and could make you to allow others to love you.

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Singapore Tales II: Macaques

IMG_3101-86This post will be devoted to the Monkey world that I fully discovered in wild, while conquering Singapore. The commonly encountered type there is Long-Tailed Macaques. Well, I certify, tails are astonishingly long and strong. Oh, wait, that is the case with all monkeys. Turned out, their original habitat was in mangroves and sometimes they are still called Crab-eating Macaques (!). Would love to learn from them, so far all my attempts to eat crabs failed quite pathetically.

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They are cute when they do their favorite activity, grooming; they are very cute when they are doing their second favorite activity, eating. They are cute and make you a bit worried when they try to unzip (and actually succeed in this!) your camera bag, attempting to steal your sweater. IMG_3110-8223They stop to appear cute and start to be really scary when they snarl at you and show a row of myriad perfect tiny sharp teeth. I guess stumbling on hikers is not one of their favorite activities. Well, as the signs point everywhere, You do not touch them, They do not touch you. However, it is not a “scary walk-through” in some Adventure Park. Sometimes there are misunderstandings and there are occasional attacks of macaques on the passers by. The animals, too, can have anger management issues.

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Mostly macaques just sit and groom each other, which helps them to develop social and networking skills. Sometimes they do it in a completely inappropriate spot (that is for us, humans: for them the whole area is appropriate, of course). While walking through Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, I stumbled on the following romantic picture.

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Besides favorite grooming, they are, of course, occupied with searching for food and/or consuming it. It is amazing how logical is their behaviour: choosing the right shape of stone to crack the nut; dusting off nut/fruit before eating and rubbing it between palms like we do. He is doing it almost automatically like we do, not looking directly at action but rather observing environment around him.

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Hikers carry sometimes lots of food with them. Sometimes it is yummy junk food. And the macaques know that very well. So the whole row of macaques wait for you patiently in the parking lot, strategically choosing spots nearby cars. That’s when this monkey actually managed to unzip my camera bag while I was taking pictures. Why he needed my sweater, I’m not sure. Maybe it is his favourite style and colour, dunno. Or was it customs check for border crossing?

M'am, anything illegal transferring through border...?

The parking lot is located at the bottom of Nature Reserve (I think, the following is from Sungei Buloh, but not 100% sure).

In front of the parking lot there are few family houses located on each side of narrow pavement road. During half an hour we spent there, we saw only one person, woman hanging clothing to dry, and dozens of macaques wandering on the roofs, playing and quarreling with each other, falling onto the cars, grabbing-dropping-chasing food. Gush, that much noise and activity I haven’t experienced since the last time at bazaar markets in Moscow..

Getting ready for jump!

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That one was strange to observe: macaques found the Halloween skeleton (yes, Singapore was full of Halloween preparation!) and apparently considered it as unusual food supply. Another funny moment occurred with poor dogs teased by monkeys on the fence.

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I want to share with you my Singapore. Very interesting place.

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Among intriguing features of the city-state what struck me most were wild macaque monkeys wandering on parking lots, ridiculously clean streets, people talking in mysterious Singlish, rich cultural trio “hindu-arabic-chinese” representing the city, business heaven aside to enormous Buddhist Temples spread all over area, nature reserves’ rain forests with myriad species, that special soft type of singaporean rain during rain season, botanical gardens full of silent practitioners of Qigong at 4am, and of course, infamous “benevolent” dictatorship (lovely word combination, isn’t it?).

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Macaques. Although mainly they stay in or nearby nature reserves (images on left and below), one gets feeling that they are wandering around everywhere, even in urban area. You keep hearing their birdish-like crying even when returning to the city, I guess it is their singaporean charisma.

Most of them are occupied with the same kind of species, but some develop quite annoying and terrifying attitude towards people in desperate search for food. And no, they do not appear particularly cute and sweet once you saw their mouth full of sharp, angry, almost vampire teeth.

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No, I’m not exaggerating: you know, bit off finger is not the worst they did to passers by. But, for the sake of a beautiful day and sunshine in my mind, I’m presenting only sweet photographs of them in Fauna gallery.

I think I will devote the whole separate post to photos of those macaques, too much to tell and show to fit here.

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Singlish. Incredible language, basically it is English-based Creole spoken in Singapore. Every single tourist guide assured me that everybody speaks English there. No, it is not English: maybe it is based on it, but except of some basic vocabulary words, everything else is far from being related. No good lah’– sorry, no idea what you just said to me.

Obviously, nobody could understand me out there.

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Botanical Gardens at 4ish am is something unforgettable. You feel morning with your lungs, the air is so fresh and silent. The same silence is kept among people who woke up that early for jog, qigong practice, or just simple meditation.

We pass by each other, we smile, say “good morning”– but almost whispering. On isolated hill stands monk and meditates flowing above the ground. Several groups of (mostly) old ladies practice qigong, hidden behind enormous bushes.

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It might sound strange but these gardens were only ones to leave me actual feeing of being in Orient, of touching complete opposite side of the world.

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I came just in time for startup of rain season: November-December. The rain in Singapore is very punctual, by the way. You can check your watch with the rain: every day it started at the same exact time, and stopped hour or so later. The intervals were very convenient for planning the day. My huge surprise came when on the first day I noticed that the more rain is falling, the drier I become. Because of the climate, you don’t feel that it is actual rain. It is very soft (almost silky), and has the tendency to miss you with the raindrops falling too far from each other. I do not know how else to describe this phenomenon.

Buddhist Temples. The least I saw in there was trace of religion. I saw touch of death with crematorium and several rows of tablets with photos on them, I saw devoted following of traditions, I saw simplicity and space, I saw the thin trace of history. I did not see any belief, though.

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Little praying man

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Singapore remained in my imagery as Orient collage, as a westernized society and mosaic of colours, thick humidity and forgotten history.

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Iceland Kingdom

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Today early morning I started with cross country skiing. Along the beach.

Right, I could complain about Toronto as much as I can.. but where else I can indulge myself with skiing side by side to waves smashing on the rocks? Unforgettable experience. We had snowstorm yesterday, and lucky me, I don’t have to spend all weekend swearing, trying to dig the car from the bottom of 30” snow. I’m that annoyingly smiling girl, elegantly (so I think) sliding through sparkling crispy snow.

Of course I did not take any camera with me, although view was quite spectacular to regret it at least dozen times. The trees nearby beach are all covered in white fluffy hoarfrost, rocks in the water resemble huge icicles and stalactites.

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But I’m not leaving you without pictures, those are from my trip to Niagara just few days ago. Real Iceland Kingdom, kingdom of Snow Queen.

Although I went on trip all prepared, my fingers got so frozen to just be able to change iso and press shutter. i had to forget about changing lens, got stuck with 28-135mm. Ah, well, still not bad, right?

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Although original pictures were beautiful enough, I couldn’t resist Lightroom temptation, to create even more magic dreamy touch. As always, the color tone I choose is highly dependent on atmosphere and feeling: blueish tones came very natural, although I tried to keep in the pictures feeling from the warmth of sunny day spent with best person:)

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Up to you to decide, if I succeeded. I really need and want all your criticism, comments and encouragement to boost my photography! As they say, the knowledge and skills are great, but if one can’t share them.. what’s the point?

Icy Fog