Exploring Ancient & Modern Delphi

Exploring Ancient Delphi

Me at Ancient Delphi

The ancient site of Delphi was supposedly created when Zeus sent out two eagles from both sides of the earth. The eagles supposedly met above Delphi. The Greeks built a temple for the god, Apollo, and for his oracle here. In the past, people from all over Greece, and many other countries, came to Delphi to seek information or advice from the Oracle.

The Oracle of Delphi was a woman and was only available to offer advice for nine days of each year. She sat on a tripod-like stool inside the Temple of Apollo above a fissure in the ground. Gases came up through the fissure and the Oracle would breath these in. Supposedly she was receiving messages from the god Apollo. She was really just hallucinating and saying crazy things. The priests at Delphi interrupted what she said and then passed this information on to the person who asked the question.

Theatre at Delphi

Theatre at Delphi

Stadium at Ancient Delphi

Stadium at Delphi

During the nine days when people were waiting to see the Oracle, there were shows in the theatre. There were also sporting events held at the stadium that were supposedly better than the ancient Olympic games.

At ancient Delphi today, one of the grandest monuments is a sculpture of three bronze snakes wrapped around each other. Only part of this column of snakes can be seen today. The snakeheads and the golden tripod that was on the top are missing. This monument at Delphi is a replica because the original was stolen and taken to Istanbul. I saw the original in the Hippodrome when we were in Istanbul.

Replica Snake Column at Delphi

Replica Snake Column at Delphi

Snake Column In Istanbul

Snake Column In Istanbul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Modern Delphi

Delphi from Above

Delphi from Above

My family and I were in the town of Delphi, Greece for five days during Orthodox Easter. Easter is one of the most important holidays in Greece. On Good Friday after dark, the whole town walked through the streets with many candles and a giant cross with Jesus Christ on it. A marching band, followed by a priest, led the people through the streets. We watched from the sidewalk.

On Easter Sunday in early May, my family and I hiked from the centre of Delphi to the top of the mountain that Delphi is located on. The paths zigzagged up the mountain and it took us about 2½ hours to get to the top. Near the top, my dad, my sister and I climbed out on to a big rock that dropped off about 300 meters. My mother did not come because she was scared of falling off. Thousands of years ago, non-believers of Christianity were thrown off this rock to their deaths.

Locals Roasting Lamb

Locals Roasting Lamb

On Easter Sunday, before and after the hike the townspeople were roasting whole lambs on spits in the streets. Alex thought this looked gross and I thought it looked creepy. In the evening, there was dancing to celebrate Easter in front of the church that we got to watch with the locals. The teenagers were setting off fireworks and firecrackers all night, which was annoying because I could not sleep. Overall, I really enjoyed staying in Delphi and visiting the ancient site.

 

 

Dad, Alex & Me - Throwing Rock

Dad, Alex & Me – Throwing Rock

Ancient Delphi

Ancient Delphi

Temple of Apollo Close Up

Temple of Apollo Close Up

Locals Dancing on Easter

Locals Dancing on Easter

Amazing Physical Geography and Fascinating Geology of Turkey

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Chimney in Cappadocia

Cave Church Paintings - 10th C.

Cave Church Paintings – 10th C.

We visited several sites in Turkey where the physical geography and geology was unlike any other place I’d visited before. Cappadocia and Pamukkale are both sites where I was stunned by the amazing feats that Mother Nature could pull off – I mean creating a landscape of fluted rocks sticking up from an arid plain, and placing a huge mountain of calcite in the middle of nowhere is very impressive!

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House dug out of a chimney

Three volcanoes erupting frequently created the chimneys of Cappadocia. Lava flow formed a type of rock called tuff – a light porous rock formed by the hardening of volcanic ash. Wind and rain cut this rock into valleys of steep cliff faces with pointy and unusual chimneys sticking straight up out of the ground. At different times between the 3rd century C.E. and the 12th century C.E., the people of Cappadocia lived inside these rock formations, carving multi-level houses out of the soft stone. These Cappadocians were Christian; therefore, they also carved tombs, churches, nunneries, and chapels out of the chimneys. They would paint images of Jesus, Mary, various saints and disciples on the walls, some polychromatic and others monochromatic. The region of Cappadocia was amazing, I could go for a short walk through the middle of what felt like a desert and be able to visit these old cave houses and churches without restrictions. The feeling of exploration was exhilarating, and I imagined that my family and I were explorers finding these historic places for the first time.

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Some calcite pools on the side of the mountain

The physical geography and geology of Turkey continued to amaze me as we carried on to the small town of Pamukkale and its fascinating calcite mountain. This calcite mountain was created by a series of earthquakes. These quakes opened up numerous hot springs in this area. The water inside the springs has a high content of minerals, especially calcite. When the hot water evaporates and loses its warmth, the calcite that did not evaporate solidifies leaving white residue on any object that the water flowed over.

 

 

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Walking up the side of the mountain

The water from these hot springs flows over the mountainside and descends over one kilometer to the bottom. This creates a mountain that appears to be covered in snow from afar. In Turkish, Pamukkale means “Cotton Castle”, and after seeing this mountain of white from a distance, surrounded by cotton fields, I couldn’t agree more with its name. It definitely looked like a glacier in the middle of other green lush mountains. Though, given that it was over 30 degrees Celsius outside, a glacier would have been impossible!

 

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Walking up the side of the mountain

To protect the calcite deposits and to keep these clean and white, we had to remove ours shoes before entering the site and stepping on the calcite deposits. The water is continually flowing and these deposits form a hard-ridged pattern, similar to the ridges in sand on a beach caused by the waves. We entered the site from the base of the mountain and had to walk up the side of it. As we ascended, the water became increasingly warmer and pools appeared where we enjoyed wading in the warm turquoise water.

 

 

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Ruins in Heliopolis

At the top of Pamukkale rests the ancient city of Hieropolis. Once considered the city of the gods, anyone who was in need of healing came to the calcite springs to be cured. The people believed that the waters were magical. How else could such huge and amazing formations be created? They came from many far away places to be cured of their illnesses. Unfortunately, the water had virtually no healing powers. Because the diseased and injured people came from many different regions of Turkey, there are many different types of mausoleums, tombs, sarcophagi, and coffins located here. Today, the Necropolis of Hieropolis is one of the biggest and most diverse burial grounds in the world. Also located in Heliopolis are greatly preserved Greek ruins including massive columns, the remains of countless temples, old aqueducts, a huge amphitheater and much more!

Our experience at Hieropolis was similar to our time exploring the ancient houses and churches of Cappadocia. We could run around and explore almost the entire site with no rules or restrictions. It was astonishing that we were allowed to walk freely through such old and precious ruins. In most other countries that we have been in, guards were constantly telling us that we weren’t allowed walk too close to various ruins, never mind actually walking on them!

Exploring the physical geography and geology of Turkey was an amazing and fascinating experience that I thoroughly enjoyed!

Mom, Matt & I in Goreme, Cappadocia

Mom, Matt & I in Goreme, Cappadocia

We Slept in a Cave Hotel!

We Slept in a Cave Hotel!

Goreme, Capadoccia

Goreme, Capadoccia

Paintings in the cave churches, circa 10th century

Paintings in the cave churches, circa 10th century

 

Ampitheatre in Heliopolis, Turkey

Amphitheatre in Heliopolis, Turkey

Ruins at Heliopolis, Turkey

Ruins at Heliopolis, Turkey

Hiking to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

ABC

Arrival at Annapurna Base Camp (ABC)

Our 12-day adventure began at 7:30 am when we took a minivan from the tourist city of Pohkara along twisty and very bumpy mountain roads to a village of Nayapul.

Nayapul to Tikhedhunga: On the first day of hiking, we walked about five hours along a dirt road up the mountainside. The road was like a snake because it twisted around the mountains. It was very hot because there was no shade.

Mule Train

Mule Train

Tikhedhunga to Ghorepani: The second day we climbed up about eight thousand Gurung steps. The stone steps were not the same height as the one before it so it was really hard. There were many mules along the trail carrying goods or building materials. These groups of mules are called mule trains. The mule trains were sometimes scary because a mule would come barreling down the stairs towards you. Fortunately, we were not hit by a mule train because the mules have bells on their necks to warn you when they are coming. When the mules get close to you, you have to step to the inside of the trail so that you do not get pushed over the edge of the trail. There have been people killed by the mules because they were pushed off the side of the mountain.

Mountain Range

Mountain Range

On day three my parents and my sister got up at 4:30 am to head to Poon Hill to see the views of the mountains. I was too tired to go so I decided to remain in bed. That day we decided to take a break day to acclimatize. When hiking up a mountain, you need to take time to acclimatize to the altitude so that you do not get altitude sickness. When you get up higher, there is less oxygen in the air and it is harder to breathe. Taking a break day means that your body can make more red blood cells. More red blood cells means that your body can take in more oxygen and you can breathe better. Check out this article on All About Blood and Adapting to High Altitude to learn more.

Ghorepani to Chhomrong: On day four the views were great and you could see many mountains off in the distance – the Dhaulagiri range, the Annapurna range, Himalchuli, and Machhapuchhare. The rhododendron trees were blooming with red and pink flowers and were beautiful. We saw four Langur monkeys in the magnolia trees. They were eating the magnolia flowers. It was interesting to see them jump from branch to branch, reach up and pick a flower and stuff it in their mouths.

Ascending the Gurung Stairs

Ascending the Gurung Stairs

View of the Valley Below

View of the Valley Below

Me Descending into Valley

Me Descending into Valley

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chhomrong to Bamboo: On day five, we spent the day going up and down a lot of Gurung stairs because the terrain isn’t flat. It was really difficult because we had to go down one side of the valley, then up the other side and then back down. At the bottom of the valley, we had to cross a long suspension bridge and it swung when we walked on it. When we got to Bamboo, I spent time feeding the bunnies and smashing cans. This was kind of fun.

Bamboo Bunnies

Bamboo Bunnies

Bamboo - Smashing Cans

Bamboo – Smashing Cans

Bamboo to Deurali: On the sixth day we walked from Bamboo to Deurali. Bamboo is at 2145 meters and Deurali is at 3200 meters. So we walked about 1055 meters up but in total we probably walked 20 kilometers. It is very hard to measure distance in the mountains because of the large up and downs.

 

Crossing Rivers

Crossing Rivers

Deurali to Machhapuchhare Base Camp: On the seventh day we walked from Deurali to Machhapuchhare Base Camp (MBC). MBC is at 3900 meters. We got there just ten minutes before the really thick clouds rolled in. We played cards while sitting inside the lodge in the clouds.

Machhapuchhare Base Camp to Annapurna Base Camp: The next day we walked up to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC). It was a really hot and hard walk up because of the snow and altitude. ABC is at 4130 meters and even though it sounds as if this is not far from MBC, it is actually a very long distance and took over 2.5 hours to hike up. When we got there, it wasn’t what I had expected. Annapurna seemed a lot smaller than I thought it would be because we were now so close to the mountain. A cool thing about ABC was that when you go up and look over the moraine there is a cliff and you are literally standing on a glacier that has dirt on top of it.

Snowfield on way to ABC

Snowfield on way to ABC

The walk out: Then we walked down to Himalaya, which is a small village before Bamboo. On day ten we walked back to Chhomrong. Then we walked 8 hours to Pothana the next day. On our last day, we walked to Pheti and took a taxi to Pohkara where the next day we took a bus back to Kathmandu. This trekking experience was great because at the beginning I didn’t think that I would be able walk that far. At the end, I was happy that I had made it (with only one sore knee). :)

Exploring Myanmar By Foot – Our 14 Kilometre Journey!

Beginning our Hike near Kalaw, Myanmar

Beginning our Hike near Kalaw, Myanmar

The sun was already beating down on us, when our opened-back truck taxi dropped us at the starting point of our trek, an ox cart road that disappeared into the fields and mountains beyond. Nambo, an enthusiastic 20-something guide from a local ethnic group with thanaka on her cheeks and a wide brim hat, led us down the trail. We soon came upon a small schoolhouse, with two classes taking place inside, one for older children and another for younger kids. The older kids were doing long division, similar to the curriculum for grade 4 in Canada. The younger children appeared to have free time, and were screaming and running around the classroom while eating snacks. Many of them kept shaking my hands, and saying ‘hello’. It was pretty clear we had become a distraction, so after a brief visit we decided to continue our walk. Opposite the school was a monastery, with three monks in front cutting a tree into firewood. My dad helped brace the tree trunk while two monks used a ginormous hand held saw to cut it up.

Monks Chopping a Tree

Monks Chopping a Tree

Some Local Children in School

Some Local Children in School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cabbage Patches

Cabbage Patches

After meeting the monks Nambo lead us through a terraced field where locals were now growing cabbage, as it was the dry season. They grow rice during the wet months. There were two water buffalos grazing in some fallow sections of field and we had to nervously walk around the biggest one. The fields stretched off towards the west, where they ran into the small mountains we would soon have to traverse.

 

Tones of Ginger at a Local Farmer's Home

Tones of Ginger at a Local Farmer’s Home

As we continued on our trek out of the field, we came upon a small collection of homes.  The first appeared to have recently had a fire. Some men were taking apart the metal roof, and scavenging what they could for the house that they were constructing beside the burnt out one. Another house had piles upon piles of ginger that was being stored to plant during the next growing season. A little bit later we came upon two men cutting up bamboo. Nambo asked them what it was for and we learned that they were making coverings for marrow plants because marrow needs a cool shaded place to grow. They also informed us that bamboo grows 4 meters a year! Talk about growing like a weed!

Huge Terraced Valley

Huge Terraced Valley

A half-hour after leaving the village, we entered a huge terraced valley growing thousands of cabbage, lentils, ginger and oranges. There weren’t many farmers working in the fields as it was noon and the sun was blitzing. The mountain on the opposite side of the valley was shaded so we headed in that direction. As a hat can only do so much, we were grateful when we arrived for a respite from the brutal sun.  Once we ascended the hills we looked down to see an astounding amount of intensive agriculture in the next valley as well. All we could see were orange groves, green tea plantations, coffee fields, lentil bushes and more cabbage fields. We were continuously astounded by the sheer amount of land being used for agricultural production!

The Village Where We Ate Lunch

The Village Where We Ate Lunch

After walking closer to the edge, I noticed that there was a small village that appeared to be hanging off the side of the mountain. A ridge divided the valley into two. We headed for this small village and stopped at a home where the owner was manually preparing coffee beans in his front yard. Here we learned how coffee beans are made. First the coffee fruit (called a coffee cherry) is mashed up in a mortar and pestle-like device to remove the outer red skin. The white interior is then dried in the sun. After it is dry, this inside part is mashed again to ensure that the white thin skin is removed. The remaining beans are then dried once more.  Lastly, the farmers roast the beans and sell them at the local market. Matthew and I got to help mash some of the coffee cherries with the gigantic mortar and pestle-like device.

Nambo (Right) Preparing Lunch

Nambo (Right) Preparing Lunch

A few minutes later, we found ourselves sitting inside a local villager’s home, while Nambo prepared us a delicious lunch of clear soup, an avocado-tomato salad, along with stir-fried noodles and vegetables. Meanwhile, my brother was playing with some young village children. They were very energetic and loved running around and chasing Matthew. One of them found a pigeon with broken legs, which prevented it from flying away. He would pick it up, and swing it around, while I tried to get them to stop scaring the life out of the poor bird!

 

Local Man Enjoying the View

Local Man Enjoying the View

As we left the village to continue our hike down the other side of the mountain, we stumbled upon what resembled a garbage dump in the middle of a small creek! It was sad to see that the locals would throw their trash into the forest without a second thought. This does make sense though because there is, unfortunately, no way to dispose of the garbage in the mountains other than burning it. As we continued down and into the last valley we were to visit, we saw lentils, cabbage, mustard, avocado, marrow, oranges, taro, dragon fruit, green onions and more growing. The orange trees didn’t look very productive, as it is very dry. Nambo told us that oranges are being grown instead the opium poppies – the crop that the locals historically farmed.

As this 14-kilometer hike in the mountains of Myanmar drew to a close, we hopped into another open-back pickup truck, and while we drove back to Kalaw we watched the sun set over the mountains we had climbed.

Locals Working in the Fields

Locals Working in the Fields

Drying Green Tea Leaves

Drying Green Tea Leaves

Coffe Plant

Coffe Plant

Mashing Coffee Cherries

Mashing Coffee Cherries

Matthew and Some Village Children

Matthew and Some Village Children

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Dragon Fruit Plantation 

Vulture’s Canyon aka la Cañón de las Buitreras

Vulture’s Canyon is a wonderful place to be. The water of the river passing through the canyon is chilly, at about 13 degrees Celsius. Even though it’s temperature is so low, this river is an amazing area to relax and refresh after a long hike in the Spanish sun – that is, a hike that you must make to get there in the first place! I really enjoyed swimming in the cold water; I was the first to dunk my head – and I am always the last to dunk! That’s how hot I was. There were tons of minnows that were brushing up against my legs because of the algae that we were stirring up by stepping on the rocks! In parts of the river, some of these fish were ginormous measuring more then half a meter in length! Overall, I highly recommend visiting Vulture’s Canyon.

If you do visit, you should definitely bring: a picnic lunch to eat on the small rock island, sunscreen as the sun is very powerful here, a hat, a shirt that covers your shoulders and lastly, and probably the most important, is 2 liters of water per person as you can easily get heatstroke.

Thank you to Ingrid Knutson (a sister of a friend) who told us about Vulture’s Canyon!   Getting there can be complicated and she provided us with the instructions. We took these instructions and added photos to help others who might want to have a great day hike and swim while they are in this area!

Directions to Vulture’s Canyon aka la Cañón de las Buitreras:

Gaucín

–  Take the Medium Distance train to Gaucín station

–  When you exit the train, you will probably be on the wrong side of the tracks.

–  You need to find the main street.  Therefore, you will probably have to cross the tracks at the car crossing located at the far end of the station.

 

 

Main Street–  Walk along the main street.  Keep the buildings on your right, and the train tracks on your left.  Note:  There are some painted yellow arrows (in random places) that indicate the way, such as the one here on the concrete block.

 

 

Topographical Map–  After walking about 3 to 4 minutes, there will be a topographical map on the main street on your left.

–  There are instructions on the map, as to how to get to la Cañón de las Buitreras (the Spanish name for Vulture’s Canyon).

 

 

Ceramic Sign–  Keep walking straight until you see as ceramic sign that has Cañón de las Buitreras.   Note:  there is another painted yellow arrow on one of the posts here.

 

–  Walk straight for a few minutes

 

Fork in the Road–  There will be a fork in the road, take the path on the right – the left one has a dead end.

 

 

 

Follow Road–  Continue along the road for a few minutes, and turn left following the road.

 

 

 

 

Yellow Arrows–  Go straight for another 10 minutes (Note:  you should see three more yellow arrows – one on a post, one on a tree, and one on a tree stump).

 

 

 

TreesAnother Yellow Arrow–  You will pass many huge eucalyptus trees on your right and see another yellow arrow.

 

 

 
GateGate 2–  Right after the eucalyptus trees end, you should see a gate.  Note:  It may look like it is closed, but it is not.

–  Go through the door on the right.  If this is locked, you can deek around the gate on the left.

 

Worker's House–  Pass the abandoned workers houses.  Note:  they should be on your left.

 

 

 

 

Tubes–  You will see a big white tube going up a hill.

–  Climb up the left side of the tube for about 50 meters.

 

 

 

Steel Gate –  There will be a steel gate.  Go through it.

 

 

 

 

N–  On the other side of the gate, you will see another yellow arrow.

–  Follow this yellow arrow under the tube.

 

 

 

Path–  Follow the foot path for 45 minutes.  Note:  You are essentially following the river from above to the canyon.

– The railroad will always be above you and on your left.

 

 

Swinging Bridge–  You will come to a swinging bridge, cross this.

 

 

 

 

Footpath After Bridge–  Continue along the footpath for about 5 minutes. Note:  If you look up the left in the distance, you will see the train tunnel.  This tunnel is located above the canyon and can easily been seen from the canyon.

 

 

After Bridge Fork–  There will be a somewhat hidden footpath to the right.  Take this footpath down towards the river.

 

 

 

–  You will come to a clearing.  You have arrived at Vulture’s CanVulture's Canyonyon!