RSS

Tag Archives: Nature

A Little History of Archaeology – Brian Fagan

What is archaeology? The word may bring to mind images of golden pharaohs and lost civilizations, or Neanderthal skulls and Ice Age cave art. Archaeology is all of these, but also far more: the only science to encompass the entire span of human history—more than three million years!

This Little History tells the riveting stories of some of the great archaeologists and their amazing discoveries around the globe: ancient Egyptian tombs, Mayan ruins, the first colonial settlements at Jamestown, mysterious Stonehenge, the incredibly preserved Pompeii, and many, many more. In forty brief, exciting chapters, the book recounts archaeology’s development from its eighteenth-century origins to its twenty-first-century technological advances, including remote sensing capabilities and satellite imagery techniques that have revolutionized the field. Shining light on the most intriguing events in the history of the field, this absolutely up-to-date book illuminates archaeology’s controversies, discoveries, heroes and scoundrels, global sites, and newest methods for curious readers of every age.

Part of the Little Histories series, A Little of History of Archaeology is a good overview of the discipline.  As befitting of the subject, Fagan slowly uncovers the beginnings of the pursuit from King Charles of Naples, at Herculaneum, up until the present day.  The enthusiastic introduction sets the book up nicely, throwing in some choice, lesser known facts to hook the reader and begin a globe-trotting journey through time.

We start the journey proper in Egypt, and travel all the way through to the present day, seeing the gradual honing of the archaeological craft, from haphazard digs chasing treasures – real or imagined – to the more careful, professional approach which has led us to a deep and ever-changing understanding of the past.

Throughout we meet some fascinating characters; adventurers, vicars, museum curators, army officers, and the like who all contribute in some way to the learning of an art and the teasing of knowledge, quite literally out of the ground, through their failures successes and frustrations.  The writing style is very light and everything is set out in a simple manner giving the reader an engrossing narrative that can be dipped in and out of at anytime without undue confusion. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
 
2 Comments

Posted by on 24/05/2018 in Architecture, History, Science

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Walk in the Park Day 3

Now this is a bridge!  Wandering across it had me in mind of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the difference being that instead of a man trying to pull my heart out of my chest, it was firmly in my mouth.  Especially in the middle, where despite there only being a gentle breeze it was pretty swaysome.

Before we could get there though, we had to begin our day.  By the time we got going, the heat was already unforgiving and was only offset slightly by the now, de rigueur beauty.  After gifting snacks to the local children and the usual group photo, we took to heading down hill at a sideways jog, as it was easier than walking believe it or not.  Forty minutes of this and my already jelly legs from day two were feeling the pain and wobbliness once again.

Heading down into the above valley to the bridge was tiring, and at this point I was looking forward to ascending because I can ‘do’ climbing. The bridge itself, although not too high was another one of those wired together, trip hazards, though it does give the traveller a sense of adventure.  The openness of the mountain beyond was a good reason to slap on more sun cream and led me to ask the question, if the packaging says only apply four times a day, can I overdose on it?

Ryan Tejado

I was walking normally again by this point, which was handy as there were some demanding, long and steep sections of climbing (both track and path) that snaked around corners and took a good five minutes or more to climb.  A brief stop by a pool to let some kind fish eat the dead skin off our feet was reviving.  There followed a discussion about how much this service would cost in various countries, as we hoped nobody would call us to march again. Read the rest of this entry »

 
45 Comments

Posted by on 26/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Mountains of the Mind – Robert Macfarlane

Why do so many feel compelled to risk their lives climbing mountains? During the climbing season, one person a day dies in the Alps, and more people die climbing in this season in Scotland than they do on the roads. Mountains of the Mind is a fascinating investigation into our emotional and imaginative responses to mountains and how these have changed over the last few centuries. It is rich with literary and historical references and punctuated by beautifully written descriptions of the author’s own climbing experiences. There are chapters on glaciers, geology, the pursuit of fear, the desire to explore the unknown and the desire to get to the summit, and the book ends with a gripping account of Mallory’s attempt on Everest. Mountains of the Mind is a brilliant synthesis of climbing memoir and cultural history.

This book is much more than a simple history of mountaineering, it’s a venture into the psychological history of Westerners (mainly the British) and how mountains ( European for the most part, with a dash of Himalayas) have imprinted themselves on our consciousness, changed our attitudes, and inspired great feats.

…and it is a physical as well as a cerebral horror, for to acknowledge that the hard rock of a mountain is vulnerable to the attrition of time is of necessity to reflect on the appalling transience of the human body.

The book starts off with the author describing how, in childhood, he discovered climbing through reading books. This beginning is written in such a wonderfully literary way and engages straight away and which carries on throughout this engrossing chronicle.  MacFarlane’s enthusiasm is infectious from the off, each page is crammed full of interesting facts and anecdotes. It’s a true love letter to the mountains but also a warning over the obsessions that come with it.

Like so many writers including Mark Twain, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Bryon, Dr Johnson, Keats, Ruskin, Coleridge, and Tennyson; whose lyrical observations have inspired millions, the reader’s imagination is inflamed by the talk of crevasses with snow that fell several centuries ago, perfectly preserved bodies, ice caverns, strange creatures and so on.  It’s easy to visualise the look, age, and height of these natural edifi, and feel the author’s deep love and sober respect for the mountains, through his words. Read the rest of this entry »

 
14 Comments

Posted by on 24/04/2018 in History, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

A Walk in the Park Day 2

Day two started with a nosebleed, not for me but everyone else, which is what Filipinos joke about when they speak too much English, reminding me to up my game with the language learning.  Staggering out of the tent into the pleasantly cool morning air, it was hard to reconcile it with last night’s fog.  This morning was composed of a beautiful blue sky and as ever, accompanied by lovely views.  We were all glad it hadn’t stay foggy until we left.  Before leaving we met the Barangay Captain who came to see that all was well with us.  This position as well as I understand it, is pretty much the leader of the area in charge of getting things done and liaising with local government.  The Barangay is the smallest administrative area so I suppose village leader would be an accurate, if inelegant way of putting it.

Thanks as ever to each of the photographers who contributed. Ryan Tejado

Gazing at the landscape it is hard not to be overawed by the raw power of the earth, geologically in evidence all around. It is terrifying to contemplate the raw forces that could carve out such gashes in the Earth, the power of glaciers, volcanoes and other such forces really are harrowing in the contemplation.

And so to the travel, the morning was lovely, hot, a few too many mosquitoes but there was a gorgeous pool to sit in after a pleasant, unhurried walk.  The refreshingly cool water collecting in a natural bath tube encouraged us to all to strip down and cleanse ourselves.  After such an unexpected surprise, we refilled at the last water source for a while and made our way to yet another bridge this one a lot higher but thanks to photo opportunities, everyone went across one at a time.

Amir Deomel Rogayan

It was then that the struggle s started. It was up, up, and more up from the rice terraces, coming to a gradient that just went up and on for such a time. After many stops on the slope, we made it to a school where we had lunch in the grounds.  It seems children run up and down these incline to the school every day, we on the other hand, dropped down and imbibe as much water as possible. Read the rest of this entry »

 
22 Comments

Posted by on 22/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

Tags: , , , ,

A Walk in the Park

On the way to our last hike, I mentioned the joy of experiencing EDSA.  This time we enjoyed it at rush hour on a Friday night – which was exhausting in itself – before finally making it to a well-known fast food joint, that was to be the meeting place for our hiking group. I was grimly worrying about how I would survive three days of mountains, strung across three provinces (Benguet, Ilocos Sur, and La Union ). I have to say it was a mixed bag of results over the whole walk but victory was assured for all of us, mainly because we were awesome, and me least of all.  Throughout our collective struggles there was much camaraderie and laughter and I wouldn’t swap any of it for anything, including a big pile of first editions.

Getting only half an hour’s sleep on the journey to our destination didn’t bode well, although a breakfast of chicken curry did help balance this out.   The view once we stopped however was something to gladden any heart.  The beauty of being surrounded by mountains with only the odd local and fellow group of hikers to greet made for an exciting feeling of alone in the wilderness.  A vast sea of greenery and overlapping peaks spread far into the distance on all sides.

Thanks to Ryan Tajedo for permission to republish the photos

Once we had limbered up, we set off and it felt great to walk and breathe in the clean air, unsurprisingly we took many, many photographs. I took more on this day than any other day for reasons which will become clear as you read through each day’s adventures. A few of my fellow hikers have kindly allowed me to show their photos here which are a lot better than my efforts.

The bridge looked fun but as I approached and looked down, the usual slatting problem was in evidence.  It doesn’t fill the walker with confidence seeing this and realising it is the first and easiest obstacle you will come across.  It’s part of the adventure though and wouldn’t be the last time we would encounter such a bridge.

One of things I love about the travels up in this region (for we were only around about 120km from where we last hiked ) is marvelling at the road building and how challenging it must have been to get here and complete it, not to mention plan it.  Once again rice terraces were in abundance and as made our first ascent we left them far below as we rose to a spectacular view of the surrounding area and every so often let out a big woop.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
49 Comments

Posted by on 12/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

Tags: , , , ,

Maligcong

This is the reason why we feel compelled to travel. Before heading to new places, I always make sure to avoid all photos of anything exciting I may encounter, it was the right decision here.  This vista was a stunning surprise and well worth the short hike up Mt Kupapey.

Jumping up at 6am, having had a restful first night, we loaded up on the local coffee, and with a wave at the view which was slowly becoming defogged we started on a climbing experience, that was for the first twenty minutes, brutal.  Thanks, in part to the altitude and also my laziness of late with not walking too far due to the nature of the traffic around the local area.  Once it levelled out and we had a rest for the obligatory selfies, it became much easier and I felt healthy, as opposed to the imagined teetering on the edge of unconsciousness.

Getting to the top generated a good feeling of camaraderie, thanks to what we were looking down on and experiencing together.  It was a perfect place to just exist in the company of the few people who joined us.  The terraces reminded me of Machu Picchu and I pondered how Hiram Bingham must have felt when he accidentally stumbled across it.  Bizarrely the sounds of The Lion King soundtrack which was playing from someone’s mobile was oddly appropriate for the occasion.

That view alone easily justified all the travel.  We then wandered over to the other side of the mountain and found yet another valley rich in beauty.  It felt like a timeless place of natural rhythms, coming down the terraces it was virtually silent (which I hardly noticed at the time) apart from the odd stumble from our group, it felt like descending into a land that time forgot.

The rice terraces were pretty steep in places and the paths, a mixture of concrete or compacted soil,  It made for slow going as the sun beat down but also provided many chances to take in the view and greet the odd traveller or worker who passed by.  Although later in the year the terraces are a sea of green, I liked the patchwork effect and the different colours on offer. In short, it was blissful. Read the rest of this entry »

 
26 Comments

Posted by on 07/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

Tags: , , , ,

Going Over to Suzette’s House

The jeepney rumbled off and we were left to soak in the peaceful atmosphere, hardly anyone around, no bustle of any kind ,just peace and the glorious knowledge of being in parts less travelled. As luck would have it – or should I say the kindness of Anne and Louie, who sorted this adventure out for us as a wedding gift – we landed in Suzette’s homestay which had the best view of the rice terraces.

It is certainly a place conducive to writing, especially on the balcony where all the residents can gather and load up on the free coffee, encouraged by the friendly and welcoming staff.  That first afternoon – just before a generously proportioned meal of chicken and rice – I sat to reflect on our first short walk just taken and the journey that we undertook to get here.  The view (below) was what met my gaze.  A gentle breeze was blowing, a few birds and crickets making their own casual noise, a distant bark of one of the many dogs that roam free up here and plenty of sunshine, It is just the sort of place one would come to write a novel.

With homestays and hostels, there is always a high chance of meeting some really interesting people and as the sun went down, we made the acquaintance of good number of such people.  Plenty of stories of past hikes were being exchanged, mostly in Tagalog which was fine, I got the gist but also enjoyed the game of working out what was being said and piecing sentences together as the rapid fire of conversation bounces around me.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
34 Comments

Posted by on 05/04/2018 in The Philippines, Travel

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: