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.

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

Scotland

The notion of Scotland, only ever consisted of spectacular moss-covered mountains filled with stimulating smells of raw nature, scintillating sights of sunrises & sunsets, the sounds of silence and the sights from Lord of the rings in my mind. Here are some pictures from a 4 day, 800 mile road trip, through the highlands and mountains which reaffirmed that notion.

I landed in Edinburgh and went straight out to the car rental place and drove off into the highlands. The final destination I had in mind was Neist Point on the west of Isle of Skye.

From Edinburgh, I drove until I found the castle Eilean Donan.

An american colleague mentioned about a small town of Applecross, which was only reachable via a high mountain pass. He described his ascent up the steep roads as ‘shitting my pants all the way while driving on the wrong side of the road’.

Sold, I was now on my way to see it for myself. But the weather turned sour, and the way up was devoid of any views to match up with expletives I had heard.

I had the good fortune of running into a Scottish gentleman, who happenstance was on vacation away from the Netherlands, preparing to light up a joint – who reassured me that I could indeed camp for free if owners were nowhere to be found to accept my payment. I obliged.

The next day at dawn, I began circling the peninsula to take the longer route around the mountain towards Skye.

Fair wind compelled me to get the drone out to attempt some aerial shots.

Somewhere along the way, I felt that I wanted to try taking that mountain pass again; No sooner that thought entered my brain, I found myself turning around for round two.

And after a frustrating drive uphill I experienced a replay of the expletives my colleague shared a few weeks earlier. I was not disappointed.

The view warranted the long-drive ritual of making some noodles to slurp on while sighing to the sights.

At the end of the thrilling descent was the road towards Skye, teeming with some wildlife a.k.a sheep.

A detour plan that formed in my head while I casually gazed at the grazing sheep, brought me to to the fishing village of Elgol.

That evening I met some local fishermen who agreed to take me on their day-long trip to the sea on their boats to catch some sea delicacies. Unfortunately the next day, the weather turned sour to the extent that the entire village called off fishing for next few days. I settled for a tourist boat ride to the nearby loch.


Dawn greeted me with sights of lazy yet curious farm animals, making me wonder, have they ever seen a brown person?.

Car camping in the cold left me feeling stiff. Leisurely making of fried eggs and tea for breakfast to these views, fixed me.

The last leg of the trip began, which brought me to the place I had been dreaming for a long time – Neist Point.

First snow 2017

After being snow-deprived in the past few years, except for that one time in some January, the first snow came in early this winter. While I thought I was going to miss the first snow in Amsterdam, little did I realise that a much grander treat would await me when I reached this little town called Enschede.

The views out of my friend’s window, the UvT campus overlaid in a carpet of trees and wooded parks, were fast filling up with snow. The smell of hot Indian food and Chai started filling up the tiny living room. It made us ecstatic and filled the air with this unexplainable feeling of joy and cheerfulness. Suffice to say; I had to, in anticipation of a hot brew, step out in the blistering cold to make some pictures.

Chai

Tea is another word for it, commonly used in the western world. To most, it is a hot beverage. I amongst many would describe it as a feeling. It never ceases to make everything – the look, the feel and the passage of time – ethereal. It shifts the state of life from the monotony of cell-phone and the instant messaging riddled world to that of just being – still and present.

On a rainy Sunday morning, my friend made some chai for us. We were all sitting by the window, sipping chai, watching the world go by. It was a surreal feeling.

Rainy afternoon in Amsterdam

Lights dazzling through the falling droplets, the dim ambience with latent moisture in the air, light reflecting off puddles, crowds flowing with umbrellas, leaves a feeling of poetic romance lingering in the air. I love it when it rains in Amsterdam.