Nepal’s earthquake – How can we help?

Hi everyone,

A couple of friends have already asked about how we might be able to help with relief efforts for Nepal.

We are going to put our heads together and come up with a plan…. A few ideas are already generating.

If anyone wants to participate at a grass roots, no overhead, direct to a particular village (likely Khamding as that is Tendi’s village) level, please stay tuned, or better still – perhaps you have some good ideas to share here on the blog or to me personally.

Tendi's mum and dad and me at their home in Khamding

Tendi’s mum and dad and me at their home in Khamding

Nepal’s earthquake disaster

I’ve just arrived home from a wonderful trip. Within moments of turning on the news and hearing about the massive earthquake in Nepal, my phone rang and it was Tendi.

He and all his family in Kathmandu and in the village are uninjured. We only talked for a couple of minutes because his cell phone died. There’s no power in Kathmandu so I don’t know when we’ll have contact again.

He has his children with him. His apartment is relatively undamaged but houses on both sides are not in good shape. He says there are still after shocks and that it is really scary. There is a great deal of damage around him and I’m not sure if they have access to water.

As much as I feel tremendous relief they are personally relatively OK, I’m also deeply saddened because Nepal really doesn’t need more tragedy. The country is ill equiped to deal with this sort of devastation.

Several of you have sent me emails expressing concern for my Nepali family and friends and I thank you for your kind thoughts.

I’ll blog the last couple of days of Kathy’s and my Greek adventure tomorrow.

Mega hike pictures

Over joyed to be at the beach, Kathy checks out the water temperature. Too cold to swim.

Overjoyed to be at the beach, Kathy checks out the water temperature. Too cold to swim.

On our way back home after the hike we stopped at this church high on a hill top. Just for fun I rang the bell.

On our way back home after the hike we stopped at this church high on a hill top. Just for fun I rang the bell.

This is "Yellow Bird" returning to the equally narrow (but paved) main road from the hill top church.

This is “Yellow Bird” returning to the equally narrow (but paved) main road from the hill top church.

Hiking up the main path. You can see the beach far below. We were about half way back to the car at this point.

Hiking up the main path. You can see the beach far below. We were about half way back to the car at this point.

Hiking through underbrush on the non-path going down to the beach.

Hiking through underbrush on the non-path going down to the beach.

Donkey being loaded up with a jug of water.

Donkey being loaded up with a jug of water.

21 April – Mega hike or day at the beach.

Many of you know that Kathy has been to Kea before. She’s been enjoying showing me the various hikes she did during her last visit. Yesterday was no exception. She recalled a pleasant short downward stroll on a wide, paved, evenly stepped path to a pretty beach. Less than an hour’s walk. How lovely.

We we packed our lunch and beach towels. It was a glorious swimable sort of day. We even packed art supplies so we could relax in the sun on this fabled beach and sketch. How perfectly divine.

“Yellow Bird” took us up to the parking spot on the road at the top of the trail.

We set off, first exploring a tiny hamlet and watching some men load a well hung donkey up with a heavy jug filled with water from a spring. There’ll be a picture of that in the next post.

We begin down the trail. Quite narrow, no sign of a stone path, very overgrown. It gets more rough, much more steep, much less of a trail, even more overgrown. Bush and cobweb whacking ensues. Kathy says she doesn’t recall this trail as being so densely overgrown, but she was here in October after a summer of drought so everything was crispy brown and dead. Surely that accounted for the difference?

We are supposedly on path number 8 of the Kea walking trails. I only see signs saying path number 3 but Kathy sees 8s peeking out of the dense vegetation as well. Our written instructions indicate paths 3 and 8 share space….

At one point we head off on a tangent following blue dots but realize after about half an hour that despite this being a well trodden path it is going in the wrong direction. We back track, then back track further to a place I can 100% identify on the map. Then onward again, this time actually walking right in the steam bed (dry) watching for some form of trail leading in the correct direction. We find it, deep in shade, well disguised as an unused goat path. Without the assurance from the map we’d never venture in this direction. There are no 3s or 8s or blue dots. Just dense scratch bush and cobwebs. We are now deep in a ravine – where we should be according to the map but can’t see much of anything to landmark our location.

Felling confident we continue our painfully slow progress through under brush and over rough terrain. We manage to get one rusted gate open and climb another. Clearly no one uses this route. Eventually we come upon a place where the main trail intersects this one. Eureka! Kathy knows where she previously had come down a different trail. Here we are intersecting with it.

The remainder of our  expedition was a pleasant walk Рas advertised Рand soon we were at the beach. Our 40 minute stroll had taken almost three hours. We have added numerous new scratches to our scabs and half healed wounds from our Crete misadventure! We enjoy our picnic lunch, a bit of time to recharge our batteries then head back up Рon the main trail, with #8s Рonly 8s Рclearly marked all the way. Our entire return trip Рup hill every step takes about an hour!

By the time we got home – in faithful little “Yellow Bird,” the sun was setting, it was windy and getting pretty chilly. We lit a cozy fire and settled in for a nice home cooked meal. It’s great travelling with Kathy – I chop veggies and she produces delicious meals.

Pictures coming.

20 April – Continued sublime exploits on Kea

Kathy drove “Yellow Bird”, I navigated and we went up to the start of a marvelous little hike from the hills, down to the coast to visit two ancient – 6thc BC temples. One to Apollo and another (where we ate lunch and had a snooze) to Athena. It really couldn’t have been better. It had been a cool morning with a tiny bit of rain, but the sky cleared and it was warm and sunny for our visit.

The temple to Athena

The temple to Athena

ELM Kathy taking some time out from energetic motion to enjoy the serenity of this special place.

ELM Kathy taking some time out from energetic motion to enjoy the serenity of this special place.

Kim knows how to relax and get some shut-eye just about anywhere.

Kim knows how to relax and get some shut-eye just about anywhere.

While much smaller than Athens’ Acropolis, this place exudes a sense of wonder and peacefulness. It sits high on a promontory with beaches below on both sides. The wild flowers are in full bloom, the scent of clover and sage filling the air. Swallows swooping and diving overhead as they hunt unwary insects. Bees buzzed contentedly among the flowers. Waves lapping gently at the shoreline in soft whispers. A donkey braying in a field below us. Sun warming the ancient rocks upon which we sit to eat our picnic. Simply wonderful.

More pictures may follow……

20 April – Continued peculiar exploits on Kea

Today Kathy and I were joined by a new friend – “Yellow Bird” – you will see her picture at the end of this post.

For the past week Kathy has been carrying around an unstamped post card to mail to her parents. They don’t do electronic communications and like post cards. But every time Kathy has gone to find a stamp the place that sells them is closed and the places which are open don’t sell them. Today she asked the car rental guy if he knew when the post office might open. He says that the post man will be around shortly doing his drop offs and pick ups. Kathy explains that she needs a stamp first. Not required, she’s told, the post man has stamps and will sell her one. This is indeed what happens.

Kathy buying her stamp at the mail delivery and pick up van.

Kathy buying her stamp at the mail delivery and pick up van.

The chickens in the back of the chicken truck

Chickens in the back of the chicken truck – the story about this is a bit further down the page.

The car rental guy is driving us to pick up “Yellow Bird” when he spies the postal Van. We stop and they get out and very soon Kathy has joined the que to do road side postal business. Her card gets its stamp and is taken by the postman for mailing. Now can any of you imagine a postal carrier in Canada providing this sort of service? (Sorry Brad – you’re the best anyway!)

Yesterday we were puzzled by a large blue truck driving along while some sort of presumably political rhetoric and music was being blared from it. Today it passed us as we were driving along in “Yellow Bird”. Much to our surprise the back of the truck was partially open and inside we coud see stacks of chickens merrily eating as they were driven along. Not political rhetoric then, but a chicken truck selling chickens.

So for reasons beyond my simple comprehension these pictures are not posting where I want them to. There’s more to tell you and show you about our wonderful day but it will be on a separate posting.

Our new friend "Yellow Bird"

Our new friend “Yellow Bird”

18 and 19 April – Our adventures on Kea

This very friendly donkey is obviously used to hikers stopping by to give him treats. As soon as he saw us, he came up to the stone wall and began making faces.  He was quite funny. I fed him dandelions which seemed to please him. As you can see he does not lack for tender edibles on his own side of the wall.

This very friendly donkey is obviously used to hikers stopping by to give him treats. As soon as he saw us, he came up to the stone wall and began making faces. He was quite funny. I fed him dandelions which seemed to please him. As you can see he does not lack for tender edibles on his own side of the wall.

Our current abode at Red Tractor Farm is an outstanding studio. Here's Kathy enjoying a glass of wine on our front balcony. We also have a private little courtyard garden!

Our current abode at Red Tractor Farm is an outstanding studio. Here’s Kathy enjoying a glass of wine on our front balcony. We also have a private little courtyard garden!

Kea is a gloriously beautiful island! We've  been here two days and are enjoying hikes which are a bit more "civilized" than the adventures of Crete!

Kea is a gloriously beautiful island! We’ve been here two days and are enjoying hikes which are a bit more “civilized” than the adventures of Crete!

hThe advantage of the studio is the kitchen wherein we can prepare a few of our own meals. Last night we had a delicious lamb roast. When we went to the butcher's he brought the whole carcass out from the freezer and cut off the chunk we requested. Of course while the meal cooked we enjoyed appies and wine in the sun. Pretty tough life! The advantage of the studio is the kitchen wherein we can prepare a few of our own meals. Last night we had a delicious lamb roast. When we went to the butcher’s he brought the whole carcass out from the freezer and cut off the chunk we requested. Of course while the meal cooked we enjoyed appies and wine in the sun. Pretty tough life!

One of the famous icons of Kea, this natural rock formation has a smiling lion's face carved into it. No one knows the origin but general consensus seems to be that it may date from the 6thc BC.

One of the famous icons of Kea, this natural rock formation has a smiling lion’s face carved into it. No one knows the origin but general consensus seems to be that it may date from the 6thc BC.

A few more pictures from our busy day in Athens

The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion. Pronounce that after a few glasses of wine! Another of the Acropolis wonders. These are copies. The originals are now housed in the Acropolis museum.

The Caryatid Porch of the Erechtheion. Pronounce that after a few glasses of wine! Another of the Acropolis wonders. These are copies. The originals are now housed in the Acropolis museum.

In the mid 1960s my dad took a picture of my sister and I sitting here in the Theatre of Dionysius. So here I sit again too many years later.

In the mid 1960s my dad took a picture of my sister and I sitting here in the Theatre of Dionysius. So here I sit again too many years later.

Looking up at the Parthenon on the Acropolis. Beautiful and serene even as a ruin.

Looking up at the Parthenon on the Acropolis. Beautiful and serene even as a ruin.

A gold death mask.

A gold death mask.

One of the temples of the Acropolis. There were very few buildings during our visit that didn't have masses of scaffolding due to some major restoration work.

One of the temples of the Acropolis. There were very few buildings during our visit that didn’t have masses of scaffolding due to some major restoration work.

The Acropolis Museum sits on stilts over a recently discovered Athenian settlement. Much of it can be viewed through glass floors. This section is an open atrium.

The Acropolis Museum sits on stilts over a recently discovered Athenian settlement. Much of it can be viewed through glass floors. This section is an open atrium.

A model of some of the statuary which once adorned the roof line of the Parthenon. Many of the originals were smashed when they were tossed from their perches by Christians intent on destroying the idols of the Ancient Greek gods.

A model of some of the statuary which once adorned the roof line of the Parthenon. Many of the originals were smashed when they were tossed from their perches by Christians intent on destroying the idols of the Ancient Greek gods.

A few pictures from our day in Heraklion

The view from our room at a lovely little hotel, The Kronos, in Heraklion. The fortress is Venetian and the port is where we sailed from to return to mainland Greece.

The view from our room at a lovely little hotel, The Kronos, in Heraklion. The fortress is Venetian and the port is where we sailed from to return to mainland Greece.

Here are a few of the artifacts from the ancient Minoan palace at Kato Zakros. They are now displayed with many others in the Archeological Museum in Heraklion Crete.

Here are a few of the artifacts from the ancient Minoan palace at Kato Zakros. They are now displayed with many others in the Archeological Museum in Heraklion Crete.

This is the peculiar Natural History Museum of Crete which has practically nothing to do with Crete specific natural history at all.

This is the peculiar Natural History Museum of Crete which has practically nothing to do with Crete specific natural history at all.

Sips of high octane honey infused  Layraki at sunset. Something similar, though not as smooth is served gratis after ever meal here. It's going to be a traditional Greek hospitality that we'll miss.

Sips of high octane honey infused Layraki at sunset.
Something similar, though not as smooth, is served gratis after every meal here. It’s going to be a traditional Greek hospitality that we’ll miss.

Anecdotes from Heraklion and Athens 16 and 17 April

After our very predominantly rural experiences of the past two weeks we’ve just spent two consecutive days in large urban centres. Culture shock.

On 15 April we took a bus from near Kato Zakros to Heraklion. Kato Zakros is a tiny hamlet, Heraklion the capital city of Crete. In Heraklion we had a nice room in a small boutique hotel right by the port. We spent our day visiting two museums and madly shopping for gifts and a few trip mementos. The first museum was the world famous archeological museum of Crete in which are marvelous treasures found in the various Minoan palaces of the area. It was particularly enjoyable for us to see the treasures recovered from the Minoan palace ruins of Kato Zakros. This however is not the museum visit I’m going to tell you about.

We also went to the Crete Museum of Natural History. It had a good write up. We expected to see exhibits of Cretan flora and fauna. There was an interesting exhibit about northern lights. There were many exhibits of animals from all over Europe – wolves and bears, hedgehogs and badgers. As far as we know, none of these creatures live on Crete. Crete has a wild goat called a Krikri yet there was not one Krikri to be seen. Nor were there any of Crete’s many vegetations on display. But all was not lost. We went to a seismic exhibit. There were a lot of charts indicating global frequency of earthquakes. There as also a live demonstration. Seriously.

This is how that unfolded. We went into a simulated children’s class room and sat at desks. There was a commentator and visual display. We were told that we’d experience a 5.5 earthquake. The class room started shaking. We went through four scenarios each one a bit more severe than the previous. The worst quake we were subjected to was based on the Kobe Japan quake in 1996. (I think I have the year right) It was pretty significant, our desks moved around, we rattled about, it lasted some time. The demonstration was a perfect learning tool for children. Kathy and I however were chuckling as we carried on exploring past realistic dinosaurs that moved and blinked their eyes as we walked by.

The entire museum left us rather flabbergasted. It was quite odd. It had next to nothing to do with Crete in particular as far as we could tell.

After our overnight ferry trip to Piraeus we took the metro into Athens. We emerged within sight of the Acropolis! Thrilling. We stored our packs and began a day of exploring antiquity. First we climed up to the Acropolis and wandered about in awe of the fabulous Parthenon and various temples that crown that hill. Truly amazing how well these buildings have survived throught the ages.

One bit of information I learned was that during the fairly early days of Christian domination in this part of the world, Christians came and smashed the statues of Athenian gods adorning the Parthenon’s roofline by throwing them down to the ground far below. Too bad some people seem to never learn from past intolerant behaviours. How exactly is smashing each other’s artistic endeavours and icons of belief systems OK? Why is this sort of behaviour still happening? When will humans grow up and act like reasonable adults? Please can somebody explain the logic of wanton destruction.

Another new bit of info learned is that many of those beautiful white statues and buildings we associate with the Acropolis site weren’t always white. Many were painted vivid reds, blues, yellows and greens with natural dyes found in various rock powders. It must have all looked extraordinarily bright and festive. Can you imagine the Parthenon decked out in full colour?

Back to the damaged statues. They have been carefully retrieved after centuries of lying around in bits and pieces and now they are gloriously displayed in one of the best museums I’ve ever seen. The new Acropolis Museum is a masterpiece in itself. It’s upper floor with floor to ceiling windows offers views of the Acropolis above. The artifacts of the Parthenon are displayed in a modernized real life version of the original building.

During the museum’s construction an early Athenian settlement was discovered. Now the museum hovers on stilts above these ancient remains. Glass floors enable people to view the excavations below. Very innovative.

We also visited the older National Archeological museum. Our fourth in two days. Perhaps we were a bit tired of seeing yet more headless statues of half naked women and men, but the place seemed a bit tired. The outside is certainly very run down and unattractive. We did enjoy the gold death masks – you are probably familiar with the famous mask of Agamemnon. There are several similar masks on display as well as a great deal of other gold funeral finery.

After a quick spin through the museum we were off to catch another ferry. It left on time. We did not sample any food.

And now we are on the small laid back island of Kea. A whole new adventure. Back to hiking. I’ll blogg about some of our lastest exploits in a day or two.