Nature

Why is it that we think of a retreat, of going away from it all, we always tend to go closer to nature?

I am fortunate enough to live in a community that is very close to nature. We have low-rise buildings, larger terraces, trees all over and abundant green spaces. I wake up with the chirping of the birds, and this continues all through the day, until they retire at sunset. A couple of bowls of fresh water, a few pieces of tomato and a smile in the heart is all it takes to connect with these birds. They have nested many times, and I’ve been privileged to see more than a dozen eggs hatch, and young ones being fed by their parents…

We are all extensions of nature – hence the term ‘Mother Nature’. We are born from nature, we live by nature, and when we are gone, we become part of nature again.

This cosmic bonding with nature is why we feel so calm and composed when we are surrounded by nature in it’s abundance. Take a walk in the morning sun, feel the green grass under your bare feet, run your fingers through the flowing water of a stream, hear the sounds of birds and crickets – being in nature, and with nature, is the antidote to any level of stress that you may experience. Being in nature can restore our mood, give us back our energy and vitality, refresh and rejuvenate us.

I just heard about the art of Shinrin-Yoku, or the Japanese art of forest bathing. Shinrin means forest, and yoku means bath.

Read more at:

A prayer for humanity

Group Sadhana for 11 days – Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, 108 times – for the country, for humanity. 

From home, but not alone. We all can – collectively, harmoniously, pray to nature, recognising our true place in the scheme of things. We are just a fleeting glimpse in the unending vista of images – let us be part of nature and not against it. 

ॐ द्यौः शान्तिरन्तरिक्षं शान्तिः 
पृथिवी शान्तिरापः शान्तिरोषधयः शान्तिः ।
वनस्पतयः शान्तिर्विश्वेदेवाः शान्तिर्ब्रह्म शान्तिः 
सर्वं शान्तिः शान्तिरेव शान्तिः सा मा शान्तिरेधि ॥
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

A world without Giraffes

The giraffe population worldwide has fallen 30 percent in the past few decades, and very few people have seemed to notice. “Giraffes are all over the place in popular culture,” says the Atlantic staff writer Ed Yong. “I think because of that, we forget that, actually, they are endangered.” In a new episode of The Idea File, Yong explains why it’s crucial to channel our reverence for these beloved animals into tangible conservation efforts.

Do also read through https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/04/how-to-tackle-a-giraffe/606787/

Bocche di Cattaro

bocche-di-cattaro
BOCCHE di CATTARO, in Italian (Bay of Kotor), BOKA KOTORSK (Serbian and Montenegrin) , known simply as BOKA (The Bay) is a winding bay in the  Adriatic Sea in south-westernmost Montenegro, just off the coast of Puglia, where it is wedged in a fjord coast for about 28km, creating a unique landscape suspended between sea and mountains.  Here is a great lake in which ships are moored .  These boats are precisely created for the sea and certainly not for closed waters.
bay-of-tivat
The bay is about 28km long with a shoreline extending 107.3km.  It is surrounded by two massifs of the Dinaric Alps : the ORJEN mountains to the west and the LOVCEN mountains to the east.  The narrowest section of the bay, the 2,300metres long VERIGE STRAIT, is only 340mts wide at its narrowest point.  The bay is a RIA of the vanished BOKELJ River that used to run from high mountain plateaus of Mount Orjen.The outermost part of the bay is the Bay of TIVAT.  On the seaward side is the Bay of HERCES NOVI.  The inner bays are the Bay of RISAN to the northwest and the Bay of KOTOR to the southeast.
Going down to the sea level, you can discover a small, but ancient city, declared  World Heritage by UNESCO in order to preserve the historical centre, its walls its Churches and the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon with its 12 squares and the TORRE DELL Clock.
kotor-old-town
The Flour Square includes the PIMA Palace and other buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.  The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon dominates another town square (originally built in the 9th century) after the catastrophic earthquake of 1667.  The remarkable façade with 2 towers is a unique example in Montenegro and frescoes dating back to the 14th century.  Near the Cathedral you can visit GRGURIN, a building that houses the maritime museum and its impressive collection of historical records of all the civilisations that have flourished in the Bay of Kotor.  Continuing along the road that runs along the Salt Lake, you can meet the surreal PERAST ( a small village) full of ancient buildings and fronted by two small islands, dominated by four Churches.  Continuing further, you go to RISAN, a town of ancient origin, in which the Romans built exceptional buildings  ——- whose mosaics are still visible ——- with the marble from Greece.
risan-town
Most of the inhabitants are Orthodox Christians, declaring themselves on Census Forms as either Serbs or as Montenegrins, while a minority are Croatian.  The Bay region is under the protection of UNESCO due to its cultural heritage.  Today, the Boka has about 100 Catholic Churches and about 200 Orthodox Churches.

Giethoorn

canals_-giethoorn

GIETHOORNS ( Goat Horns), the name originated from the first inhabitants’ discovery of hundreds of goat horns. 

Giethoorn is a village in the Dutch Province of OVERIJSSEL.  It is located in the municipality of STEENWIJKERLAND, about 5km southwest of STEENWIJK.

It used to be an auto-free zone, but nowadays, exceptions are made.  It became locally famous, especially after 1958, when the Dutch film-maker Bert Haanstra made his famous comedy FANFARE there.  In the old part of the village, there were no roads (though a cycling path was eventually added), and all transport was done by water over one of the many canals.  The lake in Giethoorn was formed by peat-unearthing.

giethoorn

Tourism has had a relatively small influence on the old traditional town.  The village, still only fully accessible by boat, is one of the several places commonly known as the Venice of the North or Venice of the Netherlands.

giethoorn_tourism

Giethoorn has 180 bridges.  Giethoorn is a very popular attraction among Chinese tourists.  The village of only 2,620 inhabitants sees between 150,000 to 200,000 Chinese tourists every year.

beautiful-giethoorn

Since all transport is done buy boat, Giethoorn has punts (traditional flat-bottomed boats that are used for transport over the canals.  Giethoorn has a long shape and is separated into three tiny settlements : NOORDEINDE, MIDDENBUURT & ZUIDENDE. The DORPSGRACHT is the central canal that connects these separate settlements.  The farms and houses are separated from each other by small canals.  The BULTRUGBOERDERIJ is a common type of farm in Giethoorn.  It seems to have a large bump because the barn is larger than the house in front.

Giethoorn is so peaceful, so different and has such simple beauty, that it hardly seems real ——- gently gliding along small canals past old, but pretty, thatched-roof farmhouses.  You can turn down a side street (another small canal) and drift under a wooden bridge where an elderly resident may be strolling over to see a neighbour.

giethoorn_summer

Giethoorn is Holland’s “water village”, and the loudest sound you can normally hear is a quacking of a duck or the noises made by other birds.  The little village is so dependent on its waterways that many houses cannot be reached by road.  When the postman delivers the mail, he travels by punt.

giethoorn_winter

Boating has been a popular tourist attraction here for years, with 90km of canoe trails and scores of motorboats to rent, but now, instead of conventional outboard motors, the hire shops stock so-called WHISPER- BOATS ———– dinghies driven by electric motor.  There are three canal-side museums to visit and the SCHREUR shipyard, where the Giethoorn punt is built.

Punta Cana

Punta Cuna


PUNTA CANA is the name of a town and tourist region at the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic,  The region, covering about 420,000 sq.m (approximately 1,100acres), is home to a coastline of sandy white beaches.

In the Province of LA ALTAGRACIA, with a population estimated at 100,000, the region borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east.  To the north, it borders BAVARO & EL CORTECITO Beaches.  It also borders CABEZA de TORO, CABO ENGANO and further west, JUANILLO.
Punta Cano has a tropical climate.  Although it is mildly windy, the ocean I the area is mainly shallow with several natural marine pools in which visitors can bathe.  The weather is fairly constant, with an average temperature of 26degrees C.  The hottest season lasts from April to November, and during the day the temperatures might reach 32degrees C.  From December to March, temperatures during the evening are around 20degrees C.  Very little rain falls around the area, mostly because of the flat landscape.  The summer months tend to be very warm and very humid.
Punta Cana was founded as a tourist resort and tourism still is 100% of the local economy.  Lots of resorts employ the tactics of scaring their visitors from venturing outside by propagating stories of robberies and murder.  These have to be taken with a pinch (or a pound) of salt.  People tend to be very friendly and helpful.  Still flashing jewellery, expensive gadgets or lots of money is not recommended.
There are quite a few interesting places to visit :

Altos de Chavon


(1)  ALTOS de CHAVON : A modern – day artist’s village, resembling a 16th century Mediterranean town.  It is set upon a spectacular hillside cliff overlooking the winding CHAVON RIVER.  It is home to a 5,000-seat amphitheatre, an archaeological museum, craft workshops, artists’ studios and an assortment of galleries and restaurants.


Juanillo beach

(2) JUANILLO :  It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Dominican Republic.  Until a few years ago, it was a very small village of fishermen.  The entire village was purchased as a part of a very large project called CAP CANA.  In return, for giving up their rights to occupancy, the residents were offered alternative housing, money and jobs  While Juanillo was at one time inaccessible to the public, it is now accessible to people staying at one of the Cap Cana Hotels and to property owners within the Cap Cana Project and their guests.

Santa Domingo


(3) SANTA DOMINGO : This is the Europe of the Western Hemisphere.  It has preserved its Colonial Heritage for more than five centuries, and is recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.


Saona Island


(4) SAONA ISLAND : It is set in the natural reserve of the PARQUE NACIONAL del ESTE.  You can relax on powder-white sans, where palm-studded beaches meet the soft surf of the Caribbean waters and sometimes even dolphins swim alongside your catamarans.


Dolphin Island


(5) DOLPHIN ISLAND :  A short boat ride takes you to a floating platform where visitors can swim with trained dolphins in the sea.  The package includes 15mins of free time with these unique creatures.


Punta Cuna

(6) DOMINICAN ALPS : (near the town of JARABACOA), where 18 waterfalls cascade between chasms of rock to water the rich, fertile earth below.  If you are a white-water fan, the RIO YASQUE is the longest river in the Caribbean and offers challenging kayak or rafting courses like the MIKE TYSON, which features a 12ft vertical drop.
(7) MARINARIUM :  In this water park, you can experience some of the best snorkelling in the area, complete with nurse sharks and sting rays.  Enjoy a COCOLOCO ( 100% pure coconut water) as you cruise along the coast to your final stop ——– a waist-deep natural pool in the sea.
(8) SEAQUARIUM :  You are provided with a diving helmet and allowed to walk the bottom of the clear waters with an unforgettable view of reef and coral life (no certification required)

Niihau

Niihau island


NIIHAU is the westernmost and seventh largest of the inhabited Hawaiian Islands in the US state of Hawaii.  The Island is about 4.9 million years old, making it, geologically, younger than the 5-million-year-old neighbouring island of KAUA’I.  NIIHAU consists of one extinct volcano that had a large landslide to the east.


Niihau


The Island is relatively arid and because it lies in the rain shadow of Kaua’i and lacks the elevation needed to catch significant amounts of trade wind rainfall, Niihau therefore, depends for its rain on winter KONA storms, when more northerly weather systems intrude into the region.  As such, the Island is subject to long periods of drought.  Historical droughts have been recorded several times, one in 1792 by Captain James Cook’s former junior officer George Vancouver, who had been told that the people of Niihau had abandoned the island because of a severe drought and had moved to Kaua’i to escape famine.


Niihau island


As an arid island, Niihau was barren of trees for centuries  ——– Captain James Cook reported it ‘treeless’ in 1778.  Aubrey Robinson, grandfather of current owners Bruce and Keith Robinson, planted 10,000 trees per year during much of his ownership of the island.  Robinson’s afforestation efforts increased rainfall in the dry climate.  Island co-owner, Keith Robinson, a noted conservationist, preserved and documented many of Niihau’s natural plant resources.  The Island is designated as a critical habitat for the OLULU, an endemic and endangered species of Hawaiian LOBELIOID.  AYLMER ROBINSON, a Pritchard palm tree, named for Keith’s uncle Aylmer Robinson, is an endangered  species native to Niihau.


niihau-island


Several bird species thrive on Niihau.  Intermittent PLAYA lakes on the Island provide the KOLOA MAOLI (Hawaiian duck).  The critically endangered MONACHUS SCHAUINSLANDI (Hawaiian monk seal) is found in high numbers on Niihau’s shores.  Niihau’s secluded shoreline offers them a safe haven from habitat encroachments.  “Conditions here are better than the Government refuges of the North western Hawaiian Islands,” according to Robinson.  When the Robinsons originally purchased Niihau, no monk seals were present, because they lived in the north-western part of the Hawaiian Island Chain (NECKER & MIDWAY Islands).  They have been relocated to the main Hawaiian Island Chain by NOAA Fisheries over the past 30 years, and some have found homes on Niihau.

Big game herds, imported from stock on MOLOKA’I RANCH in recent years, roam Niihau’s forests and flatlands.  Eland and Aoudad are abundant, along with Oryxes, wild boars and feral sheep.  These big game herds provide income from Hunting Safari Tourism.

Niihau island Hawaiian seal


Approximately 80% of Niihau’s income comes from a small Navy Installation atop 1,300ft-high cliffs.  Remote-controlled tracking devices are used for testing and training with Kaua’i’s Pacific missile Range Facility.  Modern missile defence tests are conducted at the site for the US and its Allies.  The Installation brings in millions of dollars a year and provides the Island with a stable economic base, without the complexity of tourism or industrial development.  The sale of shells and shell jewellery is an additional source of income.  Niihau’s beaches are known for their PUPU (tiny shells) that wash onto shore during winter months.


Niihau island ranch sheep


Species used for shell leis include Momi, Laiki or rice shells and Kahelelani.  The shells and jewellery are so popular that Governor linda Lingle signed a Bill in 2004, to protect Lei POPO O NIIHAU from counterfeiting.  A single intricate Niihau shell lei can sell for 1000s of dollars.

Many residents of Niihau were once employees of Niihau Ranch, farming cattle and sheep until the Robinsons shut down the operation in 1999.  It had not been profitable for most of the 20th century.  Honey cultivation was also no longer viable by 1999.  KIAWE Charcoal was once a large-scale export, but aggressive Mexican price competition ended that as well.  Mullet Farming has been popular in Niihau, with ponds and lakes stocked with baby mullet which reach 9 to 10 pound apiece before being harvested and sold on Kaua’i and O’ahu.
Niihau’s owners have offered half-day helicopter and beach tours of the Island since 1987, although contact with residents is avoided and no accommodations exist.  Since 1992, Hunting Safaris provide income via tourists who pay to visit the Island to hunt eland, aoudad and oryx, as well as wild sheep and boars.  Any meat the hunters do not take with them is given to the village.