ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “rock

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.

 


LOVE VALLEY, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.07

A short hike to the east from Goreme brought us to the Love Valley, a little valley with  bizarre fairy chimneys – rock pillars capped with dark basalt.  Compared to the ones in Goreme, the fairy chimneys in the valley are much slenderer.  We pretty much had the valley all by ourselves, except a few occasional hikers.  There wasn’t much signage so we had to find our way on our own.  Back then, there weren’t any smartphone with us too.  We ended up reaching the White Valley and the village of Uchisar towards the end of our walk.

love valley 1It was impressive to see all these fairy chimneys in the Love Valley.

love valley 2The trail first took us to a higher ground to appreciate the rock pillars.

love valley 3It isn’t hard to figure out why the place is called Love Valley.

love valley 4Despite the somehow arid climate in the area, the valley was quite green at certain places.

love valley 5It was hard to imagine from the first glance that the pillars were carved out from eroding the surrounding ground, instead of extruding out from earth.

near love valley 2As we walked to other areas, rock formations changed gradually.

near love valley 3There are actually numerous valleys around Goreme that we could visit: Love Valley, Rose Valley, White Valley, Red Valley, Pigeon Valley, etc.

near love valley 4Thick clouds gathered in the valley as we approached the village of Uchisar.

06ME17-29Equally stunning, the rock formations of the White Valley resemble a sea of white waves.

 


NATURE’S SCULPTURE PARK, Goreme, Cappadocia, Turkey

2006.05.07

Our bus arrived in Goreme at around 08:00.  Surprisingly the bus went all the way to the village centre, instead of the otogar at Nevsehir.  Arriving at Cappadocia in early morning felt like waking up in another world: minimal traffic, occasional herds of sheep, stone houses and cave dwellings.  But it was the bizarre rock formations, some of which towering straight up the sky known as fairy chimneys that captured our imagination.  The unique rock formations of Cappadocia began 2.6 million years ago when eruption of the ancient volcano Mount Erciyes covered the area (about 20,000 square kilometres) with lava and ash.  The ash later solidified into soft rocks exposed to erosion from wind and water.  As most of the soft rocks were eroded away, the remaining hard rocks appeared like stone chimneys towering towards the sky.

We checked in at Hotel Elif Star to begin our temporary stay in a cave.  The owner Jacky and her cat welcomed us.  Jacky pulled out a map and recommended to us a number of hiking trails around the area, and a few lookouts for sunset watching.

1In the midst of fairy chimney rock formations, unique valleys and the open air museum, Goreme is the main tourist hub in Cappadocia.

2Inhabited since the Hittite era (1800-1200 BC), cave dwellings had been constructed in the era for thousands of years.

3Throughout history, cave dwellings and underground structures have been carved out from the volcanic tuff.  These rock-cut houses of Cappadocia provided homes and hideouts for people escaping from wars and persecutions from close and afar.

4This world famous UNESCO world heritage town receives significant amount of tourists, reaching a record high of 3.8 million in 2019.  When we visited in 2006, Goreme still maintained a relatively peaceful ambience.

5Souvenir shops lined up the main street of Goreme.

6Remnants from the past were still visible on the fairy chimneys in the side streets of Goreme.

7Other than cave dwellings, other buildings in Goreme are also constructed with the local stones.

8We stayed at Elif Star, one of the many cave hotels in Goreme.

9This people-friendly cat approached us during our breakfast time at Elif Star.

10Late afternoon offers the best moment to photograph the unique rock formations.

11There are several popular spots to watch the sunset in and around Goreme.

12Everyday, if weather is fine, tourists should be able to appreciate the scenery of fairy chimneys blanketed in the orange glow.

13Around Goreme, there are a number of hiking trails to explore the interesting rock formations.

14Even without exploring the surrounding valleys, visitors at Goreme can still get close to the fairy chimneys.

15Cappadocia offered one of the best sunset scenery we have ever experienced.

16We watched the sunset everyday while we were in Cappadocia.

17At night, Goreme returns to its former tranquility after tourists make their way back to their hotels.


LITTLE ADAM’S PEAK, Ella, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.13

Day 9 (1 of 4).

On our final day in Ella, we get up early as usual.  We had a car arranged to leave town at 10:30am.  Before leaving Ella, we decided to do a bit more hiking.  Our plan was to head east to the summit of Little Adam’s Peak, then descend to the north to visit the iconic Nine Arches Bridge, and walk back to Ella via the railway track.  This is a popular tourist route for anyone who has 2-3 hours to spare in Ella.

With a shape resembling the much higher sacred Adam’s Peak (2243m) near Nuwara Eliya, Little Adam’s Peak (1141m) offers a much easier hike for everyone.  Climbing Little Adam’s Peak took us no more than an hour from the trailhead.  The scenery was pleasant at the top and there were only a family up at the peak when we reached the top.  Despite short, the hike was a great activity to start the day.

01To ensure we had plenty of time to walk around Ella in our last morning, we got up at dawn.

02After we put on our hiking boots and packed our water bottle, we stopped by our hotel terrace to enjoy the sunrise scenery of the Ella Rock.

03From the main intersection of Ella, we headed east on Ella Passara Road towards The One Ella guesthouse, where the trailhead of the short walk up to Little Adam’s Peak is located.

04On our way to the trailhead, we bumped into three familiar faces: an European couple and their baby boy, the friendly family that we kept on bumping into at different towns and attractions since our first encounter at the Quadrangle of Polonnaruwa.

05The short hike began from a small tea plantation.

06As soon as we arrived at an open area, Ella Rock immediately dominated the view.

07We passed by a tea farm in the first part of the hike.

08The last bit of the hike is a set of steps that go all the way to the top.

09At the top of Little Adam’s Peak, the panoramic view of the surrounding mountains was breathtaking.

10The iconic Ella Rock was right across the valley in front of us.

11The highend villas of the 98 Acres Resort seem to blend in perfect harmony with the surrounding natural landscape.

12A small Buddha statue marks the summit of the Little Adam’s Peak.

13Just below the peak of Little Adam’s Peak, Flying Ravana Mega Zipline established a range of recreational facilities including zipline and archery.

14Instead of returning to the trailhead, we continued our walk through a tea farm towards the resort ground of 98 Acres.

15The huts of 98 Acres across the valley from Little Adam’s Peak are probably one of the most luxurious accommodation in and around Ella.

16Beyond the compound of 98 Acres, we found our way towards the most well known attraction of Ella, the Nine Arches Bridge.


SIGIRIYA ROCK, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.09

Day 5 (1 of 3).

After watching the majestic sunset from Pidurangala Rock the day before, we were excited to climb the actual Sigiriya Rock in the next morning.  We get up early in order to arrive at the ticket office of Sigiriya right at 7am sharp.  A short tuk tuk ride dropped us off at the gate of the archaeological park.

Reaching almost 200m above the jungle, the fortress on Sigiriya Rock was the site selected by King Kashyapa (477 – 495 AD) for his new capital.  In 477AD, Kashyapa I seized the throne from King Dhatusena with a coup.  His half brother and legitimated heir to the throne, Moggallana, fled to South India.  Kashyapa moved the capital from Anuradhapura to Sigiriya, where he erected a city around the rock and a fortress/ palace atop the plateau.  Despite the effort of fortifying Sigiriya, the eventually downfall of Kashyapa was inevitable.  He was eventually defeated by Moggallana, who returned to Sri Lanka in 495AD with an Indian army.  After defeating Kashyapa, Moggallana returned the capital to Anuradhapura and converted Sigiriya into a Buddhist monastery which lasted for another 800 years.

01Our tuk tuk passed by the moat of the Sigiriya fortress.

02After getting the admission ticket, we entered the archaeological park of the Sigiriya Rock.  The short lived capital of Kashyapa lies pretty much in ruins now.

03We did manage to arrive earlier than most tourist groups, and enjoyed a short moment of tranquility at the base of Sigiriya Rock.

04Going through the natural triangular gateway, our 1200 steps up the rock officially began.

05A few dogs greeted us at the beginning of the ascend.

06At midway, we arrived at the Mirror Wall, a 3m wall covered with a glazed material that had been around for over a thousand years.

07Apart from modern markings, some graffiti on the Mirror Wall date back to visitors between the 6th to 14th century.  These markings remind us that marking graffiti at tourist attractions has been a thousand-year-old habit of humanity.

08A spiral staircase led us to a series of small caves where the famous ancient frescos depicting a group of beautiful ladies.  It is commonly believe that the depicted ladies are either celestial nymphs or the king’s concubines.  No photography was allowed.

09Continued onwards from the caves of frescos, we followed the only stepped path up.

10The name Sīnhāgiri, or Lion Rock, came from the lion like structure of the fortress gateway at the upper platform.  Two massive lion paws guard the upper fortress gateway.

11Beyond the lion gate, a narrow stair allowed visitors to ascend in single file.

12After some sweat and heavy breathing, we finally reached the top of Sigiriya.  The plateau top is pretty much occupied entirely by the ruins of the fortress/palace.

13Looking down to where we came, we could see the central axis of the entry path.

14Looking across the jungle, the lush green Pidurangala reminded us of the amazing sunset.

15We walked around the ruined fortress for about half an hour.

16The view from the top of Sigiriya was not bad, but it was not as stunning as the view from Pidurangala Rock.

17After an exhausting morning of climbing the Sigiriya Rock, we returned to the village and prepared for our departure.

18We would move on to Dambulla, a transportation hub in the region which is also famous for its Buddhist cave temples.


SUNSET AT PIDURANGALA ROCK, Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.08

Day 4 (3 of 3).

Anyone who has done travel research on Sri Lanka would probably come across the dramatic image of the Sigiriya Rock rising above pristine jungle.  Appearing on many travel literature and tourist promotions, the UNESCO World Heritage hilltop fortress atop Sigiriya Rock is on most tourist’s itinerary.  Climbing the nation’s most popular attraction is best done in early morning or late afternoon to avoid getting stuck with the crowds on the narrow stairways.  We decided to visit the hilltop fortress early in the morning.  In the late afternoon prior, we opted for climbing the lesser known Pidurangala Rock.

Rising in the jungle across from the famous Sigiriya, Pidurangala Rock has been gaining huge popularity in recent years because of the impressive view of Sigiriya it offers from the top.  Some travelers even suggest that climbing Pidurangala is more worthwhile than visiting the actual Sigiriya Rock.  After arriving at the village of Sigiriya from Polonnaruwa and had a quick lunch at Chooti Restaurant, we hopped on a tuk tuk to the trailhead for Pidurangala Rock.

01A short tuk tuk ride took us to the trailhead in the midst of thick dense forest.  The trailhead is actually located behind Pidurangala Rajamaha Viharaya, a historical Buddhist monastery at the foot of Pidurangala Rock.

02The 20-minute hike up the rock was relatively easy.  Near the top, we reached a large reclining Buddha.  In fact, Pidurangala Rock has been occupied by Buddhist monastery since ancient times.

03The tricky part of the hike came at the very top, when we had to scramble up boulders in order to reach the top.

04All the sweat of hiking up was more than worthwhile when we saw the scenery of Sigiriya Rock right in front of us.

05The top of Pidurangala Rock is an open plateau, a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

06We could hardly see the fortress on Sigiriya from Pidurangala Rock.

07The colour of Sigiriya gradually changed as the sun set.

08Rice paddy fields beyond the dense forest.

09Apart from hikers, a few small dogs wandered around the top of Pidurangala Rock.

10We picked a spot to sit down among other tourists to watch the sunset.

11Watching the sunset on Pidurangala was one of the most calming experiences we have had among other sunset watching locations we have been to around the world.

12Like most visitors, we stayed till the sun was gone before descending.

13It got pretty dark by the time we returned to Pidurangala Rajamaha Viharaya at the base of the plateau.

14We exited the monastery and reunited with our tuk tuk driver, who had been waiting for us at the trailhead.

15For dinner at Sigiriya village, we picked Kenoli, a restaurant recommended by quite a few travelers online.

16The friendly restaurant owners invited us to check out their kitchen, and showed us their cooking techniques.

17We ordered a chicken kottu, a popular Sri Lankan dish with chopped rotti and chicken meat to complete our eventful day.


RANKOT VIHARA, LANKATILAKA & GAL VIHARA, Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.08

Day 4 (2 of 3).

Parakramabahu I (reigned 1153–1186) is often considered as the greatest ruler of the Polonnaruwa Kingdom.  Under his rule, Sri Lanka had entered a prosperous time.  The ambitious king unified the island into one kingdom, expanded and beautified the capital city, constructed extensive irrigation systems, reformed the army and religious customs, and conducted in military campaigns in Burma and South India.  Today, many surviving structures of Polonnaruwa, such as the Royal Palace, the circular Vatadage at the Quadrangle, the Lankatilaka Viharaya and the Buddhist statues of Gal Vihara, all could be traced back to the majestic ruler.  King Nissanka Malla (reigned 1187 – 1196AD) continued the building spree of his predecessor Parakramabahu I, and spent much of the nation’s resources on construction.  One of his most prominent projects was Rankoth Vehera Stupa, the largest stupa in Polonnaruwa and fourth largest in Sri Lanka.  With a base diameter of 550 feet and an original height of about 200 feet, Rankoth Vehera was the skyscraper of ancient Polonnaruwa.

01Our third stop in Polonnaruwa was Rankoth Vehera Stupa, the tallest structure in the ancient city.

02Similar to the stupas in Anuradhapura, small shrines known as vahalkada were constructed at the four cardinal axes of Rankoth Vehera Stupa for offerings of worshipers.

03Completed in 1190AD, the Rankoth Vehera Stupa was constructed in a similar style as Ruwanwelisaya in Anuradhapura, which was built over 1000 years prior.

04An beautiful tree at the base of Rankoth Vehera Stupa provides a great spot for worshiper group to gather and perform Buddhist chanting.

05Around Kiri Vehera, smaller stupas were also constructed as burial place for royalties and high priests.

06On our way to Lankatilaka Monastery, the fourth highlight of Polonnaruwa, we passed by Kiri Vehera, the second tallest stupa in the ancient city.  Kiri Vehera is believed to be built by King Parakramabahu the Great (1153-1186 A.D.) in memory of his Queen Subhadra.

07Then we arrived at Lankatilaka Image House or Lankatilaka Vihara, the largest image house in Polonnaruwa.  Unlike traditional stupas, the building focused on presenting the religious image, a large standing statue of the Buddha.  Two tall pillars frame the entrance of the building.  The original pillars were thought to be two times the existing height.  The building was part of the Alahana Pirivena Monastery complex erected by King Parakramabahu 1 (1153-1186).

08Two beautiful guard stones mark the entrance of Lankatilaka.

09According to some accounts, the building was originally five storey high, while the statue was 41 feet tall.  The entire structure, including the main Buddha statue, was made from clay bricks.

10Near Lankatilaka, we passed by an impressive pool in the Alahana Pirivena complex.  This pool was part of a larger bathing and water storing network.

11Gal Vihara, the impressive rock temple featuring four Buddha relief statues carved from a single piece of granite rock, was our last stop at Polonnaruwa.  15 feet of rock was carved away to create the surface where the statues were carved.

12The statues at Gal Vihara are considered some of the best ancient Sinhalese sculpting art.

13Some believe that the 22’-9” standing statue was not depicting the Buddha, but instead monk Ananda with a sorrowful look standing adjacent to the reclining Buddha at his deathbed.

14The 46’-4” reclining statue depicting the parinirvana of the Buddha is the largest statue in Gal Vihara.

15The Gal Vihara marked the end of our brief visit of Polonnaruwa by car.  Ideally if we had more time, we would spend more time walking or cycling around the archaeological park to fully appreciate the scale, planning characteristics and other highlights of the ancient capital.


BRIEF TASTE OF MOUNTAIN AND SEA, Pottinger Peak (砵甸乍山) to Shek O (石澳), Hong Kong

When we are short of time but still want to have a brief getaway from the city of Hong Kong, we often hop on a bus to Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a relatively new residential district at the eastern end of Hong Kong Island for a short hike over Pottinger Peak to the cozy surfing beach of Big Wave Bay (大浪灣) and Shek O (石澳).  The hike takes a little over an hour, and is relatively simple, involving two sections of stepped path, one going up the Pottinger Peak and one descending down to the beach.  No matter how many times we have walked this route, it was always a pleasant surprise to reach the top of the Pottinger Peak and have the first glimpse of the turquoise water south of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2899The trail begins in Siu Sai Wan (小西灣), a residential neighborhood at the eastern tip of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2917Looking north during the ascend to the Pottinger Peak, the Victoria Harbour outside of Junk Bay (將軍澳) is busy with cruise ships and boats of all sorts.

DSC_2919Looking down from the uphill trail, the residential area of Siu Sai Wan looks quite densely populated.

DSC_2924 croppedWatching beautiful butterflies hopping between flowers is a pure delight.

DSC_2931Looking south from Pottinger Peak, the peninsula of Shek O and Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) lie right ahead.

DSC_2933A ruined shelter on Pottinger Peak has been used as a temporary shrine.

DSC_2934It seems that the temporary shrine is dedicated to Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy.

DSC_2936Walking ahead, one can clearly see that much of the seaside land between the Big Wave Bay and Big Wave Bay.

DSC_2944On the downhill route, there are several Camellia trees (茶花) by the trail. 

DSC_2947The stepped path continues to the hill adjacent to the Big Wave Bay.  The noise of the crowds and public announcement from speakers can be heard long before we reach the beach.

DSC_2948.JPGBig Wave Bay (大浪灣) is a decent little beach at the southeast of Hong Kong Island.

DSC_2949The natural rock formations around the area of Big Wave Bay are quite interesting.

DSC_2955Though the beach can get a little crowded during summer weekends.  For the rest of year, it’s popular for surfers.

DSC_2967Some prefer to stay away from the crowds on a rocky slope near a BBQ site.

DSC_2985For families, small streams out to the sea can be an interesting playground with small fish and seaside creatures.

DSC_7696About half an hour of walk south of Big Wave Bay, there is a Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲), a tied island linked to the mainland of Shek O Village by a tombolo.  On the tombolo, a narrow blue bridge is built for pedestrians who wish to visit Tai Tau Chau.  The area is popular for couples taking wedding photos.

DSC_8048At one side of the tombolo, a peaceful tidal pool acts like a perfect mirror.  The colours of the rocks around the pool reveal the varying water level from time to time.

DSC_7698The coastal granite of Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲) are quite interesting after so many years of natural erosion and carving by the waves.

DSC_7740Despite the occasionally scary waves at this part of Hong Kong, many still brave the danger and climb onto the uneven coastal rocks for wedding photos.

DSC_7816The waves at Tai Tau Chau are beautiful but also terrifying sometimes.

DSC_7885Like the Geoparks in Sai Kung and Northeast New Territories, the coastal rocks at Tai Tau Chau are quite unique.

DSC_8856Just a stone throw from Tai Tau Chau lies the bigger beach of Shek O, a really popular outdoor destination for city dwellers of Hong Kong.

 


280 MILLION-YEAR-OLD GEOLOGICAL PARADISE, Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), Hong Kong

Ma Shi Chau (馬屎洲), which literally means “horse excrement island”, is a tidal island off a traditional fishing village Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) at the northeastern New Territories near Tai Po (大埔).  Facing the Tolo Channel opposite from the dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖), Ma Shi Chau belongs to the UNESCO Geopark network in Hong Kong.  The remote tidal island is famous for its unique rock formation and outcropped strata dated back to the Permian Period (280 million years ago).

Ma Shi Chau is accessible via Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡).  A short hike on known as Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail will bring visitors to walk along the southeast coast of the island.  Along the coastal areas, unique and colourful rock formations are visible everywhere.  Millions of years ago, Ma Shi Chau was a basin in which surrounding waters continuously to deposit sediments such as sand and gravel.  Over the years as water level changed and so as the kinds of sediments accumulated.   Sedimentary rocks were formed after the process of lithification.  Vaults and folds are also visible on Ma Shi Chau as tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities transformed the rock surface.  Like many parts of Hong Kong, granite is also present at Ma Shi Chau as a result of magma intrusion during the Jurassic Period.  Other than rocks, views of the Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) to the north, and the new town of Ma On Shan to the southeast across the Tolo Harbour (吐露港) are equally impressive.

DSC_3191Sam Mun Tsai (三門仔) is a small fishing village inhabited mainly by former boat people (fishermen families who lived on their boats in typhoon shelter).

DSC_3195From Sam Mun Tsai, a short walk brought me up to a hill dotted with graves.  On the high point, fish farming nets in the waters of Plover Cove.

DSC_3197The trail continued to wind through the ridge of a hill dotted with graves.

DSC_3202The trail then went downhill to the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar (馬屎洲橫水渡), a natural sand bar that originally would be submerged in water during during high tide.  Over the years, villagers put boulders and sediments on the sand bar, so that it would be exposed above water even during high tide.

DSC_3205Today, the Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is a convenient venue for a leisure stroll and water activities such as sea kayaking.

DSC_3204The Ma Shi Chau Sand Bar is also the gateway to the Ma Shi Chau Special Area, part of the Hong Kong Geopark.

DSC_3247On Ma Shi Chau Island, there is a short trail called Ma Shi Chau Nature Trail (馬屎洲自然教育徑) bringing visitors to a number of coastal woods and rock beaches.  Giant Golden Orb Weaver, one of the largest kinds of spiders in the world, are quite common in the woods.  Some of these are about the size of a human palm.

DSC_3267Visitors are usually fascinated by the rock formations when arriving at the first open coastal area.

DSC_3295Vaults and folds are visible at Ma Shi Chau due to prehistoric tectonic movements caused by volcanic activities.

DSC_3299Many of the outcropped strata and rock formations are colourful and eye catching.

DSC_3310Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3319Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3331Details of interesting rock formation on Ma Shi Chau.

DSC_3347To the northeast of Ma Shi Chau across the Plover Cove (船灣海), the 2km dam of Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣淡水湖) is only a few hundred metres away.

DSC_3352To the southeast across Tolo Harbour (吐露港), the new residential developments below Ma On Shan (馬鞍山) look like a bunch of toy blocks.

DSC_3359Construction of the new town of Ma On Shan began in 1980s, including private residential developments and public housing estates.

DSC_3363

DSC_3366Fishermen may still test their luck in the Tolo Harbour.

DSC_3371In late afternoon, Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺) north of Ma Shi Chau looks gorgeous.

DSC_3374Under the shadow of Pa Sin Leng Mountain (八仙嶺), the tiny island of Yeung Chau and the fish farms in the Plover Cove (船灣海) look like a peaceful picture.


NATURAL vs. MAN-MADE WONDER, High Island Reservoir East Dam (萬宜水庫東壩), Sai Kung (西貢), Hong Kong

Completed in 1978, High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫) is the largest reservoir in Hong Kong in terms of volume.  Situated at the southeastern end of Sai Kung Peninsula, High Island Reservoir is surrounded by some of the city’s most scenic country parks and pristine beaches.  Designated as an UNESCO geopark, the coastal areas near the East Dam (東壩) of the High Island Reservoir is filled with hexagonal volcanic columns unseen anywhere else in Hong Kong.  140 million years ago, catastrophic volcanic eruption covered much of the area in layers of tuff.  The tuff cooled throughout time and gradually solidified to form rock.  The hexagonal columns were formed from contraction during the cooling.  Today, remnants from the highly active volcanic era become one of the most spectacular natural sights in the city.  Equally impressive at the East Dam are the concrete dolosse blocks at one side of the Dam along the coast.  Each dolos block weights up to 20 tons.  They are used as wave breakers to protect the dam against the rough sea.  To complete the beautiful picture, there are also sea caves and stack islands dotted around the coast, and the azure sky and boundless South China Sea.

01From Sai Kung Town, the taxi ride to the East Dam, the furthest point of High Island Reservoir (萬宜水庫), takes about 45 minutes.

02The spectacular High Island Reservoir East Dam separates the buffer lake of the reservoir and the boundless South China Sea.  Known as Po Pin Chau (破邊洲), the magnificent stack island outside of the East Dam is famous for its tall volcanic columns on one side of its cliff.

03The concrete East Dam structure that separates the two sides of blue water is really photogenic.

04The dolosse blocks pile up on the seaward side of the East Dam, creating a chaotic yet beautiful barrier.  Walking on the dam, we could hear the waves but weren’t be able to find an open view of the sea unless we climbed on the dolosse blocks.

07Once we climbed on the dolosse blocks, we were immediately overwhelmed by the sight of the powerful waves hitting against the coastal volcanic hexagonal columns.

05We climbed down the dam, sat on one of the step and had a quick picnic lunch.

06Looking inland, we could see the inner East Dam that separating the buffer pool with the main reservoir above.  The massive dam structure looked to us as if merged with the adjacent natural landscape.

08Sea caves are common features near the East Dam.

09At the East Dam, natural volcanic hexagonal columns appear side by side with the manmade dolosse blocks.

10To explore a bit of the surrounding coastal landscape, we decided to walk further into the trail heading to Fa Shan (花山) and Pak Lap (白臘).  The trail was not very well defined, but we managed to find our way in the hill of shrubs reaching waist height.

10aOur goal was to at least to have a closer look at the cliff of volcanic columns of the stack island of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

11The coastal landscape in the area was truly spectacular.  Some like to explore the area by sea kayaking.

12Passing by the stone beach of Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘), we saw a few hikers watching the powerful waves.

13Some visitors didn’t mind to get wet and chose to explore by boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we reached the closest lookout overlooking the magnificent Po Pin Chau (破邊洲).

14The stone columns of Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) appeared like a gigantic church organ.

16We then found our way down to the Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) to get a even closer look and even touch of the volcanic columns.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll cliff sides at Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣) or Rolling Stone Beach (滾石灘) were covered with stone columns.

17After the hike out to Po Pin Chau (破邊洲) and Kim Chu Bay (撿豬灣), it was already late afternoon by the time we returned to the East Dam.

18.JPGInstead of calling a taxi, we decided to walk back out to the main road where we could take a public bus.  The route led us to go along a little over half the perimeter of High Island Reservoir and took about two hours.

19Beyond the haze we could see the Sharp Peak or Nam She Tsim (蚺蛇尖) in a distance, a popular challenge for hikers in Hong Kong.

20Soon the full moon was up over the tranquil water of High Island Reservoir.

21The scenery of High Island Reservoir was serene and calm.

22We enjoyed a few minutes of perfect sunset when we reached the West Dam (西壩).  Beyond the West Dam was Port Shelter Sea (牛尾海) and a series of islands.  The closest island was Tai Tau Chau (大頭洲).

23As the sun gradually set, we picked up our pace of walking.  Known as the Maclehose Trail Section 1, the trail surrounding High Island Reservoir was long but relative flat and easy.  By the time we reached the bus stop at Tai Mong Tsai Road it was almost dark.


DAY 3 (2/7): NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.05

After the peaceful stroll in the nearby neighborhood, we approached the Sammon Gate (三門) from its side.  Built in 1628, the enormous 5-bay Sammon Gate stood proudly at the entrance plaza of Nanzenji Temple.  The timber structure of the Sammon Gate darkened as it aged.  The reddish tone of the wood matched well with the autumn foliage.  Sammon, or triple gate, is a common feature of a Zen Buddhist temple.  It is the short form for sangedatsumon (三解脱門) or gate of three liberation.  To obtain liberation and achieve enlightenment, Zen Buddhism believes the three liberation: to understand that nothing in this world has a distinctive character, therefore there is no fixed form, and as a result there is nothing in this world to be sought after.  The staff wasn’t there so we didn’t get a chance to climb up to the upper deck.  From the Sammon Gate, we walked straight into the middle courtyard where a number of pine and beautiful maple trees stood.  In the middle, the Hatto or Dharma (法堂) was not open to the public.  We could only circle the building from the outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sammon Gate (三門) of Nanzenji is one of the biggest in temple gate in Kyoto.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClose up of a timber column of Nanzenji’s Sammon Gate (三門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are five bays in Nanzenji’s Sammon Gate.

04The majestic Sammon as seen from inside the compound.

05Hatto or Dharma (法堂), the large lecture hall, was not open to the public.

We then made a turn to the right side of Hatto, reaching a uniquely long structure, Suiro-kaku Aqueduct (水路閣).  The arched brick structure was built in the Meiji Period (1889) as part of the water infrastructure that brought water from Lake Biwa to Kyoto.  Today, the Suiro-kaku still maintains as the only Western style aqueduct in the city.  Standing 93m in length, 4m wide, and 14m high, the aqueduct bisects the temple complex into two.  Originally seen as a clash with the Buddhist structures, the skeptical Kyoto citizens soon became fond of the new addition to Nanzenji.  Today, the Suiro-kaku Aqueduct has been designated a national historical site, an integral component of the temple ground of Nanzenji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConstructed in late 19th century, the Suiro-kaku (水路閣) Aqueduct passes through the compound of Nanzenji.

08The red brick archways of the Suiro-kaku (水路閣).

09The magnificent design details of the Suiro-kaku (水路閣).

Behind the Hatto stood the Hojo (方丈) or abbot’s quarter.  The Hojo turned out to be a great place to check out karesansui or dry rock gardens.  Ohojo Garden, the karesansui or dry landscape rock garden of the Hojo, contained six stones of various sizes, abstractly depicting a tiger cub crossing a river.  The garden was created by Enshu Kobori in the Kanei Era (1624-1644).  Another dry garden in the Hojo was Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園).  Constructed in the model times (1966), this dry garden aimed to illustrate the Chinese character of “heart”.  Further into the complex we arrived at Rokudo-tei Garden (六道庭), a series of Zen gardens created by Ueyakato Landscape Co,. Ltd.in 1967.  This garden was much larger and aimed to conceptualize the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation in six realms” into the garden design.  We wandered in the gardens a bit and moved on to visit other sub-temples in the compound.

11One of the rooms in the Hojo (方丈) or abbot’s quarter with screens open to the attractive Zen garden.

12Timber screens and veranda of the Hojo.

13 Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園), created by Ueyakato Landscape (植彌加藤造園) in 1966, depicts the Chinese character of heart.

14Detail of a stone and the ripple gravel pattern in the Kohojo Garden (小方丈庭園).

15Ohojo Garden (方丈庭園) was created by Enshu Kobori (伝小堀遠州) in the 17th century.

16Vivid maple and moss covered rocks at the Ohojo Garden (方丈庭園), a dry landscape rock garden that abstractly depicts a tiger cub crossing a river.

17Rokudo-tei Garden (六道庭), by Ueyakato Landscape Co,. Ltd.(植彌加藤造園) in 1967, expresses the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation in six realms”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARokudo-tei Garden (六道庭)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARokudo-tei Garden (六道庭)

20A tea ceremony house was called Kyushin-tei.

21Rain chain at the veranda of the Hojo.

dsc_2533The tea room of the Hojo was not open yet when we left the building.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 1 (2/6): RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We first learnt about Ryoanji Temple and its world renowned garden of zen dry landscape or Japanese rock garden, karesansui (枯山水), back in our university years from the lectures in our class ARCH 249 – The Art and Architecture of the East.  Since then, we had longed for visiting this legendary zen garden.  Our chance had come at midday in a fine late autumn day.  The Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple is situated within a garden compound, consisting of a water pond, woodlands, gardens, pavilions, and the main building complex where the Abbot’s Chamber, Tearoom, Buddhist Hall, and the famous zen garden can be found.

It was a short walk from the San-mon (山門), or the main entrance, to the main building complex.  We took our time to admire the magnificent autumn foliage along the way.  Once inside the main building, we took off our shoes and purchased admission tickets.  First came a dim exhibition hall showcasing artefacts, calligraphy, and artworks related to the temple.  Beyond the exhibition hall was the bright wooden veranda where most visitors gathered.  On one side of the veranda was the Hojo (方丈), or Abbot’s Chamber, while on the other side lay the famous zen garden: 15 rocks of various sizes abstractly arranged in a 248 s.m area of dry pebbles.  Since the 15th century, there were various interpretations regarding the design and meaning behind the rocks, from symbolism of ancient Chinese mythologies to representation of traditional character.  It is open for everyone’s imagination and interpretation.  We sat down at the veranda to contemplate the rocks and pebbles.  The garden was too crowded with visitors for any decent meditation or tranquil moment in heart.  Against the centuries-old oil-earthen wall and the autumn foliage beyond, the garden still captured our eyes visually despite the undesirable midday sun.

After putting back on our shoes, we followed another path that meandered through a small woodland of amazing autumn foliage, passed by Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals, and strolled along Kyoyochi (鏡容池), or Mirror Pond, where we enjoyed a picturesque scene of reflections, water plants and autumn foliage.  Before setting off for our next destination, we had a quick skewer of sweet rice balls near the entrance of Ryoanji.

01A sense of autumn immediately beyond the San-mon (山門) or the main gate of Ryoanji.

02An illustration of the Ryoanji Temple compound with the famous rock garden at the centre back location in front of the orange roof Abbot’s Chamber.

03We were just in time to see the last bit of amazing autumn foliage of Kyoto.

04Tree-lined path leading to the Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

05Steps leading to Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many temples in Kyoto, we had to take off our shoes before entering the temple building of Ryoanji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditional illustration of the rock garden, which is believed to be constructed in the 15th century.  Who was the original designer remains unknown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first view of Ryoanji rock garden under the unforgiving midday sun.  It would be much better off if it was overcast and gone with the shadows.

10Rock clusters, moss, pebble patterns, earthen walls and red foliage coincided to form a harmonious imagery.

11Patterns of the pebbles are carefully maintained by temple staff,  a daily duty for Zen Buddhist monks in the past.

12The timber floor decking and supporting members were soft and warm to walk on and appealing for touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATimber details of the eaves and column.

14Interior of Hojo (方丈), Abbot’s Chamber, in which the centre point should be the ideal viewing spot of the entire rock garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe timber veranda continued to wrap around the courtyards into the temple sections not open to public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonderful pine tree against autumn foliage in front of the main temple building.

17A side door of the rock garden remained closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out we walked through a small woodland of magnificent colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe autumn foliage in Kyoto is quite different than the ones we used to see in North America, in terms of leaf sizes and colour ranges.

dsc_1000Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals.

dsc_1014Duck and autumn foliage at Kyoyochi (鏡容池), Mirror Pond.

dsc_1027Despite the amount of visitors alongside, it was a nice walk along the Mirror Pond.

dsc_1032After a pleasant visit of Ryoanji, we were ready to see the other temples in the area.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China

Another UNESCO World Heritage enlisted Suzhou garden, the Lion Grove Garden (獅子林園) is much smaller in scale compared to Humble Administrator’s Garden.  The garden is famous for its artificial Taihe rocks, where visitors can meander through a labyrinth of rocks that were grouped and constructed into miniatures of mysterious landscapes.  Originally built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty, the Lion Grove Garden had been famous for centuries.  Throughout history, the garden had gone through several cycles of restorations and declines.  In early 20th century, I. M. Pei’s grandfather became the owner of the garden, and put great effort to restore the garden to its former glory.  Today, the garden is owned by the state, and has become an icon of Suzhou.

After Humble Administrator’s Garden, we only had time for one more gardens before our return train to Shanghai.  We chose Lion Grove Garden over the others because of its famous rocks.  By the time we entered the garden, the afternoon sun was casting neat shadows and a yellowish glow to the rocks and pavilions.  Many local tourists were around, but we managed to enjoy ourselves much better at Lion Grove Garden than the Humble Administrator’s Garden.  The scale of Lion Grove was more intimate, and the dozens or so pavilions were neatly placed at strategic locations ideal for framing interesting views of the garden.  Seeing some of the traditional design elements of the Lion Grove Garden made us realized that some geometric motifs of I. M. Pei’s architecture might have come from his childhood’s experience of this magnificent Suzhou garden.

Before heading back to the train station, we dropped by the restaurant Wu Men Ren Jia (吳門人家) for a quick afternoon tea.  Made its name by hosting a number of international guests and famous individuals such as I. M. Pei and local politicians, Wu Men Ren Jia wrapped up our brief Suzhou visit with a memorable taste of the regional cuisine.

DSC_0453An exquisite sculpture in the drawing room at the first courtyard of the Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0458_02An octagon and then circular gateways greeted our arrival to the inner garden area.

DSC_0492The scene of a tree standing behind a series of stained glass windows was one of our favorite images of the Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0496The abstract rock design of Lion Grove Garden serves as a visual attraction when viewing from afar, and also stands as an intimate labyrinth in which a network of hidden paths allow visitors to meandering through the rock clusters at different levels.  Unfortunately it was simply impossible to appreciate the rock garden without the crowds.

DSC_0529Pavilions, artificial rocks, zigzag bridges and reflective pools are the common elements of a traditional Chinese garden.

DSC_0554Like the Summer Palace in Beijing, a stone boat offered a special attraction to the garden complex.

DSC_0555For some reason, ancient Chinese were very fond of the abstract looking rocks.

DSC_0561Water gave a sense of coherency and softened the atmosphere of the rocks.

DSC_0573A young woman was making Chinese water colour drawings at a pavilion.

DSC_0583View of the garden through the stain glass window of the stone boat.

DSC_0588The main zigzag bridge of Lion Grove Garden.

DSC_0600Most visitors were wandering only in the central pool and rock garden areas.  Here at a quiet corner at the side, we found a moment of serenity under the late afternoon sun.

DSC_0605Bamboo grove and wooden veranda provide a good buffer between the interior and the exterior.

DSC_0607A window opened to the small courtyard, framing the tree and an ornate screen motif like a painting.

DSC_0616After the visit to the Lion Grove Garden, we had about a bit of time left before our scheduled train back to Shanghai.  There was a local restaurant called Wu Men Ren Jia just a stone throw away.  The restaurant was tucked inside a narrow lane way which took us some time to find.

DSC_0614At Wu Men Ren Jia, we sampled two local dishes: the slow-cooked braised pork and the river shrimp stir fry with green tea leaves. The dishes were on the oily side for us but they were well cooked with the right balance of flavors. Having the opportunity to taste the authentic traditional dishes from South of the Yangtze was a bonus for our brief visit to Suzhou.

DSC_0621The sun was setting behind a willow by a canal.  Given the dusty construction sites all over the place and the busy traffic in the city, today’s Suzhou must be very different than what it used to be.

DSC_0627We bid farewell to Suzhou as we entered Suzhou Station under its gigantic canopy.

***

Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China


ALGONQUIN LEGEND AND MAZINAW PICTOGRAPHS, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

Once there was a legend…

Before the creation of land there was only the expanse of boundless water, on which a large floating raft carrying all kinds of animals searching for land.  Great Hare, the chief among them all, urged the beaver to dive into the water and bring back a particle of earth.  The beaver went reluctantly into the deep deep water but after a long time came back exhausted and empty handed.  The animals then turned to the otter for the request but it too failed reaching the bottom.  The animals fell to despair amid fears of floating in the endless water eternally, then came the small and weak muskrat who was willing to give another go.  Off it went for a day and night and finally resurfaced unconsciously with belly up and paws closed.  The animals pulled the muskrat onto the raft, and opened its paws one by one.  Not until the last paw was opened then they found a single grain of sand.  The Great Hare dropped the sand onto the raft and the magic began.  On the raft, the sand started to grow larger and become rocks and then mountains and then the entire world where all animals could thrive and find their own food.  The first generation of animals lived happily since then and died peacefully.  The Great Hare then created humans out from the various animal corpses, such as the elk, bear and fish, each with their own dialect and tribal origin related to the deceased animal.

This version of a cosmogonic legend was passed down orally throughout generations of the Algonquians, the people who dominated pre-colonial Eastern Canada including the Atlantic Coast, Quebec, Ontario and the Great Lakes regions.  Their ancestors roamed over these lands since thousand of years ago, leaving vivid evidences of their beliefs with pictographs and petroglyphs discovered throughout the Canadian Shield.  The tale combining water, animals and Algonquin pictographs is the story of Bon Echo Provincial Park.  With the exact etching dates still unknown, the 250+ pictographs on over 65 cliff surfaces along Mazinaw Lake at Bon Echo Provincial Park is widely recognized as one of the oldest First Nations pictograph sites in the Canadian Shield region.  Etched with red ochre (a natural mineral of silica and clay with iron oxide), these pictographs of human, animal and abstract figures were applied onto the cliff surface by people on canoes.  Most of these rock art were used in search for helping spirits, or in rituals of shamanism, when the shaman used these pictographs for healing, prophesy and vision quests.

On a Friday evening in early summer 2013, we headed off to Bon Echo Provincial Park after work.  After over a decade since Angela first explored the park in a canoe trip, we decided to revisit this beautiful provincial park for its starry sky, pristine lake scenery, and mysterious pictographs on the 100m Mazinaw Rock cliffs.   After almost three hours of driving from Toronto, we arrived at Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area south of Bon Echo.  Unfortunately half the night sky was covered with clouds.  We left disappointingly and headed for our accommodation at Northbrook’s Pine Grove Motel, about 15 minutes drive south of Bon Echo.  After midnight, the sky cleared up and we had some fine moments of stargazing outside the motel.  Early in the next morning, we drove north on Highway 41 and entered Bon Echo Provincial Park.  After a short walk along the shore of Mazinaw Lake, we rented a canoe at Bon Echo Outfitters to explore the lake.  We left the small cove at Lower Mazinaw Lake, passed the unique channel The Narrows, and paddled along the cliffs of Mazinaw Rock at Upper Mazinaw Lake looking for the Aboriginal pictographs.  At one point, we docked our canoe by the shore and hiked up to the summit of the rock cliff for a birdeye view of the park.  After canoeing, we returned to the Narrows where a bench and a lamp post offered a magnificent spot to enjoy the scenery of Mazinaw Rock.  We stayed at the Narrows for the rest of the afternoon, braving the cold water with our feet, taking time-lapse photography of the scenery, watching boats coming through the Narrows every twenty minutes or so, listening to the sound of gentle waves and occasional songbirds, and enjoying every tranquil moment of daydreaming under the warm afternoon sun.   It was the perfect picture of Ontario landscape, the legendary homeland of Aboriginal Algonquins, and one of the splendid settings of our delightful Canadian memories.

17That night, we were the only visitors staying at Pine Grove Motel in Northbrook.

18The sky cleared up after midnight, and we indulged ourselves with some splendid moments of stargazing under shooting stars and a faint Milky Way.

19That night was cool with mild wind. The dark sky was not entirely clear but we still got a glimpse of the Milky Way with naked eyes.

1The next day, we entered Bon Echo Provincial Park under the morning mist.

2We decided to rent a canoe to explore the vast Mazinaw Lake.

88_01Canoeing is the best way to enjoy Mazinaw Lake.

4Given the cliffs of the 100m Mazinaw Rock, Bon Echo is also popular for rock climbing.

9Aboriginal pictographs on cliff surface.

10We docked our canoe and walked up to the top of an island for its amazing view.

7We paddled by this quiet lone bench and lamp post at the shallow channel called The Narrows..

5The bench at The Narrows was the perfect spot to spend the afternoon.

6When there was no wind and boat, the lake was like a perfect mirror for Mazinaw Rock.

3We tried a few times walking into the shallow water in front of the bench at The Narrows as it seemed temptingly clean.  Despite less than a foot deep and the warmth of early summer, We couldn’t stand the freezing water for long.

11We stayed at The Narrows till late afternoon.

12The tree roots by the water at The Narrows looked sculptural.

13Peaceful Mazinaw Lake represents the beauty of Ontario landscape.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe low sun reminded us that it was almost time to leave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATripod, lamp post and Calvin.

15Final view of Mazinaw Rock at The Narrows through the viewfinder.

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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario