Category Archives: Countries

New York

The city has been beckoning me to visit since a very long time. The few times I have been in the United States, it’s only ever been to the west coast. After a close friend who moved to this city has generously agreed to host me, I had no choice but to visit. Cheap tickets and spring weather made it easier. A 14-hour flight later I was there.

A first timer’s trip to NYC is incomplete without a visit to Rockefeller for the views of Empire State. The price I paid to go up top and the additional sunset view surcharge only to notice the lack of any sun or sky, made me chuckle.

As the light faded, the city started to light up, from hundreds of thousands of homes sprawling across Manhattan, making me wonder if this city had just started to wake up.

On other days, I mostly experienced similar perspectives repeatedly from the streets down below. After living in the Netherlands for a few years, a country with mostly flat land and small buildings, the sight of real tall buildings crowding the streets was novel and a strangely belittling experience.

The visit coinciding with the September 11th anniversary ensued Americana on display everywhere.

I couldn’t stop admiring the iconic Yellow cabs all around, contrasting against the rustic colours of the buildings.

Residential areas wore relatively more vibrant shades. Perhaps “vibrant” is a strong word considering there was nothing particularly dynamic about the colours. Rustic pastels seem to suit the feel.

The sprawling subway system was surreal. It seemed a different world existed underground, defying the borders encased by the rivers, the coast, as well as the tall buildings and their foundations.

Of course, what is New York without fashion

or the perpetual seepage of steam from the underworld onto the streets. 

Five days and 100 kilometres of walking later, half of it constant rain, it just seemed that there was no end to the fantastic sights that NYC had to offer. Every one of them seemed un-missable, especially Times Square,

The Statue of Liberty

the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, plus a view of the bridge from the Dumbo area of Brooklyn. This particular view managed to trigger the strange feeling of “jamais vu” despite it being the first time I was seeing it in person.

Evening Blues

A sudden change in weather prompted that we take advantage of it. After biking for some time, a good friend and I ended up at a typical Dutch backyard beach, where we took to contemplation when presented with a sight of the evening blues and winter hues.

Sailing

Am often keen on doing things I have never done before. Sailing was one of them, which I jumped onto when an amazing colleague offered a spot on a sailboat he was borrowing for a day. We set sail from Monnickendam on a chilly weekend morning.

The feeling of cutting through water, wind and the elements in an non-motor-powered craft; through the waves up and down; rocking in the ripples emanating in the wake of other boats; the feeling of danger yet with calming knowledge of fact that the boat cannot topple; sounds of silence, of water splashing against wind and itself; was oddly relaxing, meditative while being thoroughly exhausting.

I was feeling adventurous, so I carried my drone, which in hindsight, could have benefitted from preparation of a flight plan. The take-off was easy, but the landing was fraught with difficulty, leaving us with some bruises as we barely recovered the machine. It brought back vivid memories of how I lost my previous drone

As we sailed, we took turns amongst us three, handling various duties onboard such as: enjoying the sun, steering and enjoying the sun; punctured by an occasionally call for all-hands for a huddle to perform tacking or jibing manoeuvres with the sailboat.

The notion of using headwind to sail upwind often did not compute in my head. I spent significant amount of time staring at the geometries of the various connected components in contemplation. I was in awe of physics and the classical perspective, triumphing over my romantic worldview.

After a frustrating bout of boredom as we had no winds for a long time, we started up our underpowered motor to make a pit stop at Haven van Marken for lunch.

Wind as a form of fuel on a sailboat combined with calories expended in human effort resulted in momentum for the boat and contentedness for the soul, leading me to speculate an imbalanced situation for the laws of thermodynamics. I thought to myself “Take that, physics”, as we entered the haven towards the end of the day.

Liège, Belgium

A sleepy little town that I always happened to pass through without ever stopping was Liege. It was just a point on my thoroughfare to reach some of the waterfalls and hiking trails slightly south of this region in Belgium. In the afternoon, on my way back, the sun was low and golden hour was almost upon which made for a compelling case to stop and walk around.

There was something peculiar about this place. Buildings were unusually tall and neatly stacked up. They were flaunting their geometry in parallels and rectangles. Colours tones were deep yet faded. All of which made the city evoke an air of a small cosy town.

No sooner the evening light was upon the city; the rooftops lit up in dazzling hues of the golden hour. Deep faded colours combined with orange shades of sunlight, draped the place in an afterglow.

The last of the cars passed through, and an eerie stillness took refuge in the quiet roads and narrow alleys. Time momentarily stopped, the light started losing its glow, and then we decided to get going.

Death Valley, California

Desert plains and scorching sun; Endless hills and reddish glum; Dried up shrubs and flowing sand; Hundreds of miles and no waters in sight. Death Valley almost lives up to its name, and it ultimately misses on expressing the incredible beauty that’s hidden behind the veils of prejudice set by itself.

For almost half a decade, I have been yearning to visit Death Valley, ever since somebody that I used to know planted that idea. It now feels like life has come a full circle. The visit through the valley was part of a much larger road trip beginning in San Francisco, through Sequoia National Park, Death Valley, Las Vegas and ultimately culminating at the Grand Canyon.

Following a visit to Sequoia National Park, I made a stopover at in a little town called Inyokern in California. The motel owner suggested two routes towards Death Valley, one through the well maintained Hw-395 and another more dangerous route via Hw-178. Of course, I ended up taking the later. It was desolated, deserted and deathly and I loved it.

At the first sign of gas station, I made a pitstop for refuelling. There was not going to be any more of such stops for the next several hundreds of miles.

Some ice cream to beat the heat.

I stared at the road, and the road stared back at me. How the distance passed and the time flew was lost on me. I think my mind was numb and lost in the beauty that was racing against me.

Apocalyptically appearing dead trees marked the approach towards the great Mesquite Sand Dunes.

No sonner than I reached, I took off hiking into the sand dunes, with camera gear under the blazing sun. After a never ending trek through the valleys of the dunes and over the sand tops, I waited to take some pictures

A few unsettling moments of Deja Vu later, I concluded that perhaps this is what Arrakis looks like.

On the road again

Gazing at the sprawling lands with sparsely spaced shrubs and lit under blue-yellow sky, from hill-top view points was amazing.

Artist’s Palette, a natural and colourful hill formation, resulting due to the occurrence of various mineral deposits in the valley. I was quite amused to hear fellow tourists tout amongst themselves that it was due to elements such as mercury.

Watching two travellers camp up with portable chairs was envied by many including me.

As the sun began setting, I began making my way out

Not before stopping near Badwater Basin to make long exposures and some classic desert shots