South American trip (9) – Nazca and Caral

Nazca was really another highlight of the South American trip. It was impressive and nothing short of the expectations I had built up over time, from reading books about the mysteries of the world as a child to documentaries on Netflix.

It’s wow. But for some the flight can be bad, being a small plane. But I really liked it. Pilots tilt the plane far enough, and often enough, that every part of the plane can look at every important drawing. There are a lot of gigantic drawings. The lines are said to have been created by the Nazca culture between 100 BC-700 AD. The specialists used satellite images, but also on-site research, walking these lines. In total, these lines are 4.4 km long.

These drawings are not only visible from the plane, but also from the surrounding hills.

Some of the drawings feature images of animals such as birds, llamas, monkeys, human forms, fish or jaguars. Some images are simple geometric shapes and lines, while others feature more complex symbols such as trees and flowers. The shapes were first drawn by removing the reddish stone above to expose the earth below. While the exact purpose of the shapes is unknown, most scholars agree that they carry some religious significance.

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South American trip (8) – Peru – Cusco and Machu Picchu

There is much to tell about Machu Picchu. Although the ruins are indeed breathtaking, fascinating, the experience itself is strongly touristic. To take the bus to the site, you have to stand in a huge queue, which nevertheless moves quickly. Once at the site, you have to struggle to find a window without other tourists behind you, the area being extremely crowded even in the early hours of the morning.

They are two different aspects, yes the ruins are extraordinary and there is nothing inferior to the pictures, but the tourist experience is one of a dozen.

As I wrote before, some people have a projection very different from the historical truth about South American civilizations, including the Inca. Some yes, they are shrouded in strong mystery, being very old, as we later found out in Caral. But Inca is neither old nor lost nor so mysterious. Not to be confused with the Maya, the Olmecs or the Caral culture. The history of the Inca is quite well known, the Inca being the name of those who conquered this area, subjugating the tribes in the area to be conquered by the Spanish conquistadors who took advantage of the differences and dissensions between the populations of the new empire.

All I can say about Machu Picchu is that it is impressive. Let the pictures speak for themselves.

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South American trip (7) – Bolivia

La Paz, Tiwanaku and Titicaca Lake

As a country, Bolivia was the most authentic and interesting part of the South American trip. It is a poor country, cheap but without tourist traps. The most interesting experiences were the witch market in La Paz and the fascinating Tiwanaku. Lake Titicaca is included in this article, although it is on the border with Peru.

I know I’ve probably used the words fascinating, extraordinary, magnificent, galactic a lot. But this trip was full of highlights.

Located 72 km (44 miles) west of La Paz, near the southeastern shore of Lake Titicaca, lie the ruins of one of the oldest and largest urban cities ever built.

The ancient buildings and ruins (pre-Columbian, pre-Inca) show you the obsession of the people of that time for geometric perfection. Tiwanaku. 

But first, we got to cross to Bolivia and stop on the way, we got to visit Titicaca and the amazing universe of the Uros natives. We visited the witch market of La Paz. Solar de Uyuni is described in another separate post.

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South American trip (6) – Salar de Uyuni – Salt Desert in Bolivia

The experience there at night leaves you speechless. I could say magnificent, galactic. I was in an area of the desert flooded with water about 10-20 cm from the “permasal”. I got rubber boots and went down to the pictures. The water was very very cold and you could feel it even through your boots and 3 pairs of socks.

Photo credit: Attila Munzlinger

We managed to take magnificent pictures. I didn’t manage to get exactly the mirrored galaxy effect in the water, because there were still a few gusts of wind that stirred the water a bit and distorted the reflection in the water mirror a bit. But the pictures turned out super amazing anyway and the Galactic experience, the sky being extraordinarily clear, without light pollution.

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South American trip (5) – Moon Valley and Flamingos

About the Valley of the Moon, what can I say? It was yet another transcendental experience.

We stayed all night to take pictures of the starry sky and the rock formations in the valley of the moon park. And a funny incident or adventure. The park is closed at night as is normal. But we, that is, me and Valentin Grigore, after taking pictures and exhausting the potential of the belvedere observation point on the side of the road, we decided to enter the park anyway.

Well don’t imagine that belvedere point was right on the side of the road I did some climbing and stayed for hours at that point. But it wasn’t enough for a whole night, was it?

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South American trip (4) – Chile

Atacama Desert, Valley of Death (Valley of Mars) and ALMA Astronomical Telescop

The time spent in Chile, I divide it into 2 parts, one before Easter Island, the 2nd, after Easter Island. Although the eclipse event is placed in the first part of the Chile experience, I would say that the second part was much more attractive and much more beautiful in terms of landscape and nature.

Thus in the 2nd part of continental Chile we had the opportunity to see a giant stone hand in the middle of the desert, to see the monument of the tropics, take night pictures in the Moon Valley, a place with gems all over de ground, walk the sand dunes in the Valley of Death or the Valley of Mars, where I saw sand dunes surfing and an almost Martian landscape.

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South American trip (3) – Easter Island

I couldn’t wait to get to Easter Island, one of the highlights of the trip.

The island is located in the Pacific Ocean, quite far from the coast of Chile, approx. 3,500 km.

Although it belongs to Chile, it has an autonomous status and its inhabitants are Polynesians, being the eastern extremity of Polynesia.

I wonder how those people would have arrived on such a vast territory spread across the entire Pacific Ocean.

Btw, the photo on the Home page is not mine, is a photo taken by Attila Munzlinger.

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Barefoot in the wild, Vrancea Mountains with bears and Jacuzzi

I arrived in the mountains of Vrancea by a coincidence of life and discovered an extraordinarily beautiful, wild and clean area. I had a lot of firsts.

It crossed my mind to stay barefoot on the first day so I walked 15 km barefoot up the mountain with 12 kg on my back.

We saw free bears, deer and more deer.

We walked the volcanic paths, through the spruce forests and barefoot through the grass to the barn.

I slept in the pen in the tent, next to the sheep.

And I paid with my blood for it, the mosquito tribute.

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West Coast of Canada and Vancouver Island

At the beginning of June 2018 I went to Canada to see the most interesting kind of place, where the ocean meets the mountains. The West Coast of Canada confirmed everything I imagined about such a place. It is the ideal place to live, surrounded by majestic landscapes, the freshness of the great mountain ranges combined with the ocean breeze. The ocean, the mountains, the lakes, the rivers, the wildlife and the freedom of man – that’s what the Canadian West Coast means to me.

Of all, Vancouver Island is the most precious, it has all this without being affected by major urban developments, and this on an area about the size of a small European country.

Being from Europe, In Canada it had that feeling of Terra Nova, at least on the west coast where I was.

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A Brocken spectre within glory rings

On August 13, 2016, in the Parâng mountains.. The name Glory refers to the saintly halo, the aura seen around the shadow cast by the sun’s rays against a background of clouds or fog, under certain specific and rare conditions.

Besides, the name spectrum comes from the projection of the shadow on that background. The Brocken Specter.. because near Brocken Peak in the Harz Mountains, Germany, it has been frequently observed due to weather conditions conducive to its formation.

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The Great American Eclipse 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse lasted only 2min 17sec, that’s how long the fragment of totality on August 21st was. The main goal was to see the eclipse.. But as the USA is a vast territory with many challenges and attractions, the eclipse turned out to be only one of the many attractions of the tour on the North American continent. Thus, the “Great American Expedition” took us through 8 states, from one ocean to another, through more than 6 national parks, 5000 km of driving and 3 domestic flights. It was a very dense tour in objectives, in which I discovered an America that was nothing exaggerated compared to the movies, as I understood them, and far beyond the opinions of those who had been there before me and shared my a priori viewpoints.

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Northern Ireland – treasure hunting, cheerful people and fresh nature

I was in Northern Ireland in response to the invitation of George Toma, a Romanian settled in Portaferry. It seemed to me an unmissable opportunity to visit a geographical and cultural space that I have always felt attracted to. So I readily accepted when George issued an invitation to a mate detection party to visit him, detectors and all, in the small town on the strait at the entrance to Strangford Lough.

Incidentally, Strangford Lough comes from the Old Norse language, meaning strong gulf. The strait has the second strongest ebb tide in the world, it is said, being located in a region heavily anchored in the past of Viking invasions and colonization.

Put that alongside the gorgeous scenery, low prices, cheerful people and permissive UK metal detecting legislation and then the decision to go there is irresistible.

We found no treasure in Portaferry. The few coins picked up with the detector were close to the shore in the bay after low tide. I found common coins from 100-150 years ago, including a silver one, but very very dull and uninteresting. The treasure, however, was the trip itself.

I have the impression that trips where you go with a purpose other than visiting touristic sights are much more interesting. What do you think?

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Trip to Russia – Moscow and St. Petersburg

The cathedral with sweets in the spire.

In Russia we also found a world with many parts very similar to ours, the Eastern European world, but also with very different parts. I can’t say it’s an exotic world, it’s not that different from ours, but I can say surprising.

The trip took me through Moscow, a few cities close to the capital and then through St. Petersburg.

Two very different metropolises. Moscow with a communist touch and Petersburg with a Western European air.

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The Himalayas, the ascent of Imja Tse (Island Peak) at 6200m and a cultural immersion into Nepal

The ascent to 6,200m on Imja Tse (Island Peak) was the hardest project I had done up to that point. Without taking into account the traffic of an ordinary day in Bucharest.

Nepal is another world compared to here. I’ve seen Everest and Nuptse, but in 2016 I wasn’t prepared for anything other than admiring them. The Himalayas through Nepal was also the most interesting travel experience, spiritually I might say, at the risk of using a word used like many others, far too much and far too wrongly lately.

The people, the way they understand how to live in hostile environments – with dignity, the immensity of the landscapes combined with the external and internal silence during hours of walking a day, take your mind to a place you either want to run from or you don’t want to anymore to leave. It’s the kind of trip where you can fall in love with something or someone every day. Or you begin to reanalyze your entire existence.

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Penteleu mountains, the berry district

I finally found the right time and the best place to catch up on lost sleep…

I spent two days, Saturday and Sunday, in the mountains of Buzăului, towards the end of August. On the first day I climbed through the forest with rocks, at night I camped at the bivouac in the forest, sat by the fire and meditated in the dark and on Sunday I woke up with a clear head and climbed the Penteleu peak – small but difficult. On the way I ate a lot of berries. That in a nutshell.

I like the effort in nature no matter how difficult the climb. The worse the conditions the better, you feel alive. However, I hate waking up early on the weekend after a whole week racking your brains over financial data at the office. And what I don’t like about weekend outings is the road to and from the mountain, leaving Bucharest and coming back. You sit for hours in the same position you used to sit at your desk only you are so close to escape..

But that was me on Saturday morning. Luckily I had packed the night before. This thing also has disadvantages. With so much time at my disposal, I packed a lot of things that I didn’t need: the DSLR camera that I didn’t take out even once during this shift, solar panel, a hammock made to be transported by car I think, because it had two large rather heavy wooden sticks, metal spoon. I thus reached about 19 kg in a 60+ liter backpack. Very much for a 2 day outing in the summer!!. But I said not to get used to the Mont Blanc luggage..

An incursion into the wilderness of the Buzău mountains, where we can go with minimal luggage, sleep in a super wild place, with improvised shelters, regardless of the weather conditions… That’s what Ioan Stoenică promised us – an exceptional person, our guide in this tour – see guides page.. ticked ticked ticked except for the baggage minimum and the weather conditions turned out to be perfect..

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5x Parang Mountains and 2x Glory

I stayed in Parâng for 4 days in August. In short, I had the great chance to catch a rarer optical phenomenon – Gloria – two days in a row. We met blueberry pickers on the way but also the object of the activities we enjoyed during the climbing breaks. We bathed in Lake Mija, had a fire by the lake, played the tilinca, the drums and reached 5 peaks with landscapes that take your breath away.

I’ve written this before and although it’s obvious, I can’t help but comment again on the enormous difference between the state of mind affected by the polluted traffic in Bucharest and the one produced by the serenity of the moment of waking up in the tent, in the mountains. Especially if you leave Bucharest on Friday evening, whatever the destination. On this tour I drove a van for the first time and that distracted me from the crowds. The road to Petroșani looked gorgeous in the headlights, too bad we did it at night – but the asphalt is so smooth in places that I bet you could play billiards. And that is rare in Romania.

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The roof of the Western Europe – Ascent of Mont Blanc

I had 4 days of July allotted for the ascent but at a holiday pace, without the slightest intention of taking time off. In fact, in the 9 days allocated for the trip from France. i climbed mont blanc, walked a bunch through saint gervais, chamonix, one day was set aside just for the pool and i still managed to get bored. 5 – 6 days would have been more appropriate. Mont Blanc – doable if you can manage on the ridge, in winter, in Romania, with beavers and ice axes. Overrated in weight, underrated in beauty, dangerous in places but not difficult, expensive if you count the boulangeries, wine, French refuges and glacier water beer.

At 4809 or 4810m, Mont Blanc is not the highest peak in Europe. The 4th I think. But it is the highest in the European Union. And certainly the highest alpine peak in the world :)). Alps.. alpine..

Don’t laugh but some of the discussions after my ascent of Mont Blanc were like this: “but it doesn’t have 4809, it has 4810!”.. well the snow cover varies.. “but it’s not the highest in Europe!”. . yes and no.. What I mean is that Mont Blanc is not a destination to brag about, if you climb it like a normal person, with refuges and on the standard route. In fact, in good weather there are groups of tourists / guides, climbers every 100 m. There are many who make the ascent of Mont Blanc a sporting performance, with tears and crying at the top. They seem exaggerated to me. Maybe the standard route is not for beginners. But it’s not just for performance athletes either, it’s not that big of a challenge. And anyway it’s not cool to do it for performance.

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South America (2): Introduction to Chile and the Solar Eclipse

Valparaiso, Solar Eclipse and the Penguins

Let me tell you about the mega trip of about 6,000 euros for a month in South America, the trip where I visited Buenos Aires in Argentina, Chile, saw the solar eclipse in Chile, went to the desert, took night photos, I saw petroglyphs in the desert but also Easter Island in the Pacific 3,500 km from the coast, I was in the salt desert of Bolivia with its cacti island, I saw Machu Pichu, Nazca and the old pyramids of Caral. Really fascinated.

Most of the South American trip took place in Chile for a two-week period, half of the trip. In Chile we also achieved our final objective, that of observing and photographing the Solar Eclipse 2019 and also in Chile we took the most night photographs in fascinating, interesting, strange places such as the Hand of the Desert monument in Atacama or the formations of semi-precious stones from Death Valley (or Mars Valley) and Moon Valley.

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South American trip (1): Buenos Aires

Tango dancers in the Plaza de Mayo.

About Buenos Aires I can say that it leaves you with a special flavor – un cierto sabor. At first glance it looks like a European city teleported to South America.

The architecture and the people give you that impression.

Then you hit on its South American personality with the first couples dancing the tango in the street. I only stayed 2 days in the city.

The exponents of life and death stuck in my mind – the cemetery, which is a smaller town in itself and the fascinating tango show seen from the most famous club in town.

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