ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “river

THE CITY OF NORIAS, Hama, Syria

2020.05.13.

In the city of Hama along the Orontes River, 17 splendid medieval norias stand as reminders of the city’s medieval past, when large norias were built to transport 95 litres of water per minute uphill to irrigate farms.  A looted mosaic from Apamea dated back to 469 AD depicted a large noria among with buildings and daily scenes of people suggested that norias have been around since at least the 5th century.  The oldest surviving norias in Hama dated back to the Ayyubid period in the 12th century.  These norias have no practical use today after modern pumps and piping have been installed.  As the icon of Hama, their presence is mainly for aesthetic and touristic purpose, maintaining the unique identity of Hama and attracting people to visit the City of Norias.  In fact, the norias of Hama are so famous in the country that they have appeared on Syrian stamps and banknotes.

06ME26-30Before the civil war, Cairo Hotel and Riad Hotel were two

Streetscape 2_01Exploring the medieval alleyways in Hama was an absolute delight.

06ME26-28At 6:30 in the morning, we headed out to visit the famous norias of Hama.  We followed instructions from the hotel staff to Um Al Hasan Park, one of the most popular spots for see the norias.

06ME26-32After a 10-minute walk, we reached Orontes River and the majestic Noria Mamouriya.

06ME26-33In 1900 there were more than 50 norias in Hama. Now only 17 still remain standing today.

Waterwheels 4A “noria” is actually a type of water wheel that raises water from a river to a higher level.

06ME26-31The Mamouriya Noria is a popular spot for local children to hang out.

06ME27-03Noria Al-Jabiriya and al-Sahiuniya, and the adjacent Nur al-Din Mosque together form the iconic picture of Hama.

noria 2Decreased water level due to population growth has increased the risk for preserving the norias.  When water level is low, the norias would cease to operate.  The longer the wood stay out of water, the more it becomes vulnerable to cracking and shrinking.

06ME27-07The norias of Hama have been submitted to UNESCO’s list of Tentative World Heritage sites.

streetscape 1Much of the old city of Hama was destroyed during the 1982 Hama Massacre, when the Syrian Arab Army and Defense Companies besieged the city for 27 days in order to crush an uprising by the anti-government Muslim Brotherhood.

streetscape 2Hama has always been a battle ground between the ruling Ba’ath Party and the Sunni Islamists since the 1960s.  In the 1982 Hama Massacre, tens of thousands of people were killed.  Since the, the government of Hafez al-Assad (Bashar al-Assad’s father) relied more on suppression for his ruling of Syria.

06ME27-14On 1st of July 2011, more than 400,000 protestors demonstrated on the street to stand up against Bashar al-Assad.  By August, over 200 civilians had been killed by the government force.

06ME27-11It was hard to tell the violent past from the tranquil streetscape of Hama.

06ME27-09We passed by a building named “Institu de Palestine.”  There was a statement and a map of the Palestine marked on the wall.

Institute of Palestine 2With a significant population of Sunni Muslims, it was not surprising to see a show of support for Palestine in Hama.

 

 


UNDERGROUND CITY, IHLARA VALLEY & YAPRAKHISAR VILLAGE, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.08.

At 09:30 we joined a local bus tour organized by a company called Greenline.  The first stop was the famous underground cities of Derinkuyu.  With 11 levels and roughly 85m at its deepest, Derinkuyu is the deepest underground city in the region.  The guide explained that since the Hatti and Hittite period, inhabitants of Cappadocia had recognized the unique properties of the region’s volcanic rock and began to dig and carve out rock-cut structures.  Underground cities were developed over many generations and expanded to their greatest extent during the Byzantine era.  Inhabitants sometimes were forced to stay underground for months during wartime.  Ventilation shafts, food storage, kitchens, churches and other essential amenities were found in the sophisticated sub-terrain network.

After Derinkuyu, the tour moved on to an 1.5 hour hike in Ihlara Valley, a lush green river gorge with some rock-cut churches and pigeon holes carved out on the cliff at both sides.  At the end of the hike, we visited a cave church, and then headed our way to a local restaurant for lunch.  After lunch, we arrived at the village of Yaprakhisar, which is often mistakenly claimed as the filming site of one of the Star Wars movies.  Whether it was part of a Hollywood film set or not really makes no difference.  The scenery of Yaprakhisar was phenomenal: local women and children in colourful clothing, shepherds and their herds of sheep, historical stone houses, cave dwellings and bizarre looking rock formations.  Not sure about the others, but for me it did somehow resonate with my imagination of the landscape of a strange planet in a galaxy far far away.

ihlara valley 1A herd of sheep and their shepherds crossed our path as we entered Ihlara Valley.

ihlara valley 2We followed the herd for a little while before turning into the valley.

ihlara valley 3We entered Ihlara Valley from the high point and gradually walked down.

ihlara valley 7Other than shepherds, we hardly saw any visitors in the valley.

ihlara valley 8For most of the short hike we were walking along the river.

06ME18-06We stopped by a sleepy village for lunch.

carpet shop near underground cityPerhaps due to tourism in the area, even a small village had some decent carpet vendors.

06ME18-17The village of Yaprakhisar offers us a peek into the peaceful rural life with a dramatic  backdrop.

06ME18-25Pigeon holes can be found on cliffs in Yaprakhisar.

06ME18-29The bizarre landscape in the surrounding is what makes Yaprakhisar famous.

06ME18-31With or without the unique rock formations, Yaprakhisar is a picturesque little hillside village.

06ME18-35Dramatic rock formations tower up the sky along the perimeter of the village.

06ME18-37For centuries, caves and pigeon holes were carved out from the cliffs of Yaprakhisar.

06ME18-36We had a brief moment walking around the peaceful village.

village nearby 6A brief encounter with the locals on the slope was definitely the highlight experience.

village nearby 5Despite we didn’t speak the language, we could feel the friendliness and peacefulness of the villagers.

village nearbyUnlike Goreme or other touristy villages in Cappadoica, Yaprakhisar offered us a glimpse of the rural life of the locals.

 


COMPLEX OF SULTAN BAYEZID II, Edirne, Turkey

2006.05.02

After the mosques, we found ourselves arriving at a Roman fortress tower.  The security guard was kind enough to show us around.  When we were done, he suggested we should take a short walk to visit the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II.  We followed his instructions to exit the old city and walk for a kilometer or two, before seeing our destination beyond Tundzha River.  The Tundzha River was lovely and the surrounding was peaceful.  The Complex of Sultan Bayezid II was a unique compound consisted of a mosque, a medical university, and a hospital during the Ottoman era.  Nowadays, part of the hospital complex is turned into a museum where visitors can get learn about Ottoman medicine, their medical treatment and long-term health facilities.  This hospital complex once treated a wide range of sicknesses, from eye disease to mental illness.  It was one of the first mental hospitals that treated patients with music, sound of water, and scents.  After the visit, we hopped on a minibus returning to the otogar for our return trip to Istanbul.  In Istanbul, we discovered a local eatery at Aksaray called Nederi Urfa. We ordered lentil soup, meat kebabs, pizzas, and dessert, a hearty meal to end the day.

06ME07-07On our way to the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II we passed by a produce vending truck.

kid selling fruitsThe youngest vendors appeared to be the most enthusiastic.

construction workersThe complex of Sultan Bayezid II stood beyond Tundzha River.  Two men sitting at the back of tractor waved at us as they drove by.

quiet streetscape At Tundzha River, a shepherd dog appeared from below the bridge, looked at us at a distance, and ran away.

dad and son fishingA kid and probably his father were fishing by the Tundzha River.

woman in front of Beyazit KulliyesiNear the entrance, we had a brief encounter with a talkative lady.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 2The scenery of the complex and Tundzha River is quite picturesque.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 3Built in 1488, the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II contained a medical centre that was in operation for almost 400 years.

06ME07-22Centered of the külliye stands the mosque with a 20.55m dome.  The complex is now a museum of the history of medicine, and a tentative World Heritage site.

06ME07-23The courtyard in the museum is a lovely garden.  It was here where patients with mental illness were treated with various methods including music, water sound and scents.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 4The complex offered holistic treatment including medicine and water and music therapy.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 5Similar to other Ottoman complexes, courtyard and lovely colonnades are essential component of the Complex of Sultan Bayezid II.

Beyazit Kulliyesi 6Continuous maintenance in the last few centuries ensure the complex is still standing today.

 


VILLA ROSA, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.10

Day 6 (1of 3).

“Steeply up the hill” was what many tuk tuk drivers referred to when they heard us mentioning the name of our guesthouse.  Every time we head back or out of Villa Rosa would be an exciting uphill or downhill tuk tuk journey.  High above Mahaweli River, Villa Rosa was more than a tranquil retreat of several spotless rooms with amazing views of the river valley.   Sitting on our private terrace looking over the river valley in search of returning flying foxes in early morning, having a fine Sri Lankan dinner at the outdoor patio in a breezy evening, resting in the airy bedroom surrounded by traditional wood furniture, these pleasant moments would live long in our memories.

03Greeted by friendly staff and three dogs, we were glad to arrive at the entrance foyer of Villa Rosa after the car journey from Dambulla.

04Flanked both sides by guestrooms, the entrance foyer, upper living room, and the courtyard bisects the complex of Villa Rosa.

01Accessed from a covered veranda, our room was situated at a corner on the upper level.

02At the upper living room, we spent a short period of time flipping through an architecture book on Geoffrey Bawa, one of the most famous architects in Sri Lanka.

05Our room was spacious and spotless.  The ambience was relaxing and the river views from the terrace was amazing.

06Even the bathroom revealed a tropical sense.

07Sitting at the terrace to enjoy the river scenery was a delightful morning activity.

IMG_6842After heavy rain at night, a rainbow emerged for a short period of time in the second morning during our stay.

08The 335km long Mahaweli River is the longest river in Sri Lanka.  It passes by the valley right below Villa Rosa.

09The courtyard offered views to the river valley and the dense forest beyond.

10In the courtyard, small lily ponds and sculptures are put together in perfect harmony.

11The courtyard is a well tended garden for all guests to enjoy.

12Another classical sculpture somehow goes well with the surrounding tropical vegetation.

13Despite their size, the dogs were pretty friendly.  The staff was helpful too.  We were especially thankful that they were able to get us two reserved train tickets for from Kandy to Ella, something that had been sold out online 1.5 month prior to our arrival in the country.

14One of the dogs has its own resting mat in the foyer.

15The dogs play together every morning.

17We had two breakfast and one dinner at the patio facing the river valley.  Fruits were always served during breakfast in Sri Lanka.

18For dinner, we had local prawns as one of the main dishes.

19And tuna steaks for the other main dish.

16Fine details at the veranda reveal some lovely touches from the owner.  Staying at Villa Rosa for two nights was truly a remarkable experience.


DAY 9 (4/4): SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.02

Charbagh is a Islamic quadrilateral garden based on the four gardens of Paradise in the Quran.  Across the Yamuna River exactly opposite to the Taj Mahal lies the ruined site of Shah Jahan’s charbagh.  Identified by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the most appropriate location to view the Taj, Mehtab Bagh was once occupied with pavilions, pools and fountains, and planted with fruit trees and flowers.  With an identical width and perfect alignment with the Taj, the garden was seen as part of the master plan of the Taj Mahal.  However after years of neglect, Mehtab Bagh was almost forgotten in the modern days until a major restoration work in 1990s.  Today the garden has become the most popular spot in town to view the sunset of Taj Mahal.  Our tour guide Gautam Pratap with Agra Walks took us to Mehtab Bagh by car.

IMG_2819The car took us to cross Yamuna River.

IMG_2826After we crossed the river, we soon arrived at some underprivileged neighborhoods.

IMG_2845According to our guide, the neighborhood that we passed by was mainly occupied by a “lower” caste of inhabitants.

IMG_2862According to our guide, interactions between people of different castes is usually rare.

IMG_2868Even life for domestic animal is harsh here.

IMG_2878Children having fun along the road.

IMG_2891After paying an admission, we were led to the central axis in the garden directly facing the Taj Mahal.

DSC_2970Ruins of the former pavilion and platform lie directly across from the Taj Mahal.

DSC_2997Once the official royal garden to view the Taj Mahal, Mehtab Bagh has become a popular place once again for tourists to view the Indian icon during sunset.

IMG_2921Pollution of the Yamuna River poses a major threat to the timber fountain and marble facade of the Taj.  Due to river pollution, millions of small bugs appear at Taj Mahal and produce green excrement on the marble walls.

IMG_2935Some visitors would go to the riverside ground east of the Taj to photograph it without paying the admission fee.  The ground is particular popular in early morning.

DSC_3016From Mehtab Bagh, it is the riverside sunset that draws tourists and locals for a magical moment to end the day.  For us, it was the grand finale for our Agra experience.  Before sunrise the next morning, we would board the express train for our return journey to Delhi.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 9 (1/4): CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2018.12.02

On the banks of Yamuna River stands one of the world’s most recognizable man-made wonders that has captivated the imagination of people for generations.  Its perfectly proportioned domes, minarets, white marble facades with spectacular stone inlays, represent the utmost architectural beauty and splendid craftsmanship of the Mughal civilization.  The complex immortalizes the eternal love of Emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628 – 1658) towards Mumtaz Mahal, whose marvelous tomb complex has become the most famous national icon of India.  This tomb complex is of course the magnificent Taj Mahal, which literally translates as Crown of the Palaces.  The Taj Mahal stands out as the single most important monument that draws travelers from all over the world to India.  Not a mosque or a palace, the Taj Mahal is indeed the final resting place for Queen Mumtaz Mahal and Emperor Shah Jahan.

It would be absurd if we made two visits to India without seeing the Taj Mahal even once.  Fitting Agra into our Rajasthan itinerary and completing the Golden Triangle was easy with the frequent train services between Agra, Jaipur and Delhi.  In Agra, we purposely picked a guesthouse at Taj Ganj, the district right next to the Taj Mahal.  Though not many good hotel options were available in the area, staying at Taj Ganj placed us just a few minutes of walk away from one of the gates of Taj Mahal.  Hoping to experience the golden sunrise at the Taj, queuing at the gate about half an hour before sunrise is a common practice for both foreign and local visitors.

Before the trip, we were a little worry about the restoration work and scaffolding conditions of the Taj.  Since 2016, scaffolding were up at different parts of the Taj for a major cleaning work to restore the original white colour of the marble.  The process had been painstakingly slow.  By October 2018, the cleaning was almost over except the main dome.  It would be a woeful view if the central dome was covered in scaffolding.  Luckily, the authority had decided to delay the cleaning process until the end of the tourist high season, meaning that the Taj would be scaffolding free from November 2018 to April 2019.

DSC_2485After purchasing the tickets at the gate, we queued in the foreign visitor line for about 20 minutes before going through the security check and arriving at the Jilaukhana Forecourt in front of the Great Gate.

DSC_2603Beyond the Great Gate, we arrived at the starting point of the Water Channel.  The channels symbolize the four rivers in the Paradise mentioned in the Koran.  A tint of orange gradually lighted up the east side of the minarets and domes.

DSC_2609We slowly walked to the central pool and platform at the centre of the Charbagh Garden.

DSC_2624From the Central Pool, the majestic Taj Mahal looked beautiful and poetic under the early morning sun.  No tourist brochure or travel literature could do justice on conveying the true beauty of the marble architecture.  We were grateful for not seeing any scaffolding on the Taj, and could see clearly all the major components of the iconic building: four minarets, five domes and an octagonal central structure.

DSC_2648_01It was a little hazy looking back to the Great Gate.

DSC_2655It was a huge relief to see the Taj scaffolding free.  We slowly walked towards the main tomb structure to pay a brief visit of the interior.

DSC_2681No photography was allowed inside the tomb, where the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan were on display.  Their actual resting place is off limit to the public below the main deck.

DSC_2682After touring the interior, we stayed on the marble platform to check out the minarets and marble facades.

IMG_2336To the west of the Taj stands a beautiful mosque.

DSC_2713To the east, an identical building was used as a guesthouse.

IMG_2339To the north, Yamuna River provides a peaceful backdrop to the Taj.

IMG_2367From the marble platform, we could admire the details of marble carving on the Taj.

DSC_2684Standing face to face to the exterior marble walls, we were overwhelmed by the marble relief and stone inlay.

DSC_2724From the grandeur of the minarets to the splendid carvings and stone inlay of the marble walls, Taj Mahal is truly an amazing man-made wonder.

DSC_2689The sun get higher as time passed, and so as the number of visitors.

IMG_2393We circled the Taj to examine its beautiful marble walls before heading back down to the Charbagh Garden.

DSC_2744Back in the Charbagh garden, we could once again admire the overview of the Taj Mahal,

IMG_2432Back at the Central Pool, we took a few more shots of the classic view of the Taj once again.

IMG_2444Visitors continued to pour in from the Great Gate as we were about to leave the Taj Mahal complex.

DSC_2752We passed by the Khawasspuras (tomb attendant living quarter) one last time before exiting the Great Gate.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi

 


DAY 3 (1/2): MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県), Japan, 2018.05.27

Dawn came before 5am.  Taking a walk in Kamikochi before most tourists came out was a charming experience.  Walking southwest along the serene Azusa River before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル), a small metal plaque at a small water pond reminded us the early mountaineering history in Kamikochi back in the late 19th century.  Known as the Weston Memorial, the bronze plaque was made in honour of Walter Weston, whom many referred to as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan.”

Before the late 19th century, the Japanese Alps was largely unknown to the Western world, and climbing mountains just for fun was a non-existence.  Employed by the Meiji government, English surveyor William Gowland became the first foreigner to summit Mount Yari (槍ヶ岳) of the Hida Mountains (飛騨山脈) in 1878.  His adventure started a trend of mountaineering in Japan and was the first person to coin the term “Japanese Alps (日本アルプス)”.  In 1891, English missionary Walter Weston also climbed Mount Yari.  Sometimes referred as the “Father of Mountaineer in Japan”, Walter Weston wrote about his experiences and published “Mountaineering and Exploration in the Japan Alps”, an important travel literature that promoted this part of Japan to the Western world.  He continued to adopt also Gowland’s term “Japanese Alps” in his publications, and established the first Japanese Alpine Club in 1905.  Each year, the Weston Memorial Festival takes place in Kamikochi to commemorate Walter Weston.

DSC_6392Walking at 5am along Azusa River was a lovely experience.  The charming scenery under the early morning sun gave us an uplifting spirit.

DSC_6394The turquoise water of Azusa River led us southwest towards the volcano Mount Yake.

DSC_6403It seemed that our fortune with perfect weather continued.

DSC_6407The rising sun was behind us as we moved along the river in a leisure pace.

DSC_6410The volcano Mount Yake in the distance was our intended hiking destination later in the day.

DSC_6424Before reaching Kamikochi Onsen Hotel, we came across the bronze plaque of Walter Weston.  The memorial could be reached via stepping stones in the pond.

DSC_6435Soon we reached a path that led to the trailhead of Mount Yake (焼岳).  The trail up to Mount Yake (焼岳) can be done in a 6 hour hike (round trip).  It was our intended destination for later today.  But our hotel manager said the snow conditions on the trail was not too convincing, and recommended us to do the day hike of Dakesawa (岳沢) instead.

DSC_6437Continuing south we reached the Tashiro Bridge (田代橋), where we had a fine view of Azusa River, Kamikochi Onsen Hotel (上高地温泉ホテル) and the mountains beyond.  Crossing the bridge, we began to turn back towards Kappa Bridge.

DSC_6454Along the riverside, there were occasional park benches and tables where hikers were enjoying outdoor breakfast.

IMG_6100On our way back, the rising sunlight finally reached the summits of Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).

DSC_6469Before the arrival of tour groups, hikers can enjoy a moment of tranquility in the early morning.

DSC_6476Looking at Mount Yake (焼岳) from Kappa Bridge, we decided to drop by the Visitor Centre to ask for their advice on the trail conditions of Mount Yake.

DSC_6477If the hike up Mount Yake was not possible, we would turn to the Dakesawa (岳沢) trail going up the slope towards Mount Hotaka (穂高岳).

DSC_6486At the Visitor Centre, the staff confirmed that the trail up Mount Yake was still quite snowy at the upper section.  Unless we had snow crampons they advised us not to go for the volcano.  They said even the Dakesawa trail could be covered by snow at the upper sections, so we could go as far as we could accordingly to the trail conditions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack at Nishi-Itoya Mountain Lodge, we enjoyed our scheduled breakfast at 7am.  It was a tasty and filling meal before we embarked onto the hike up to Dakesawa Hut.