The Komodo Members Only Club

These majestic creatures are one of the few original links with our distant prehistoric past. They have been subject so several documentaries over the years including a starring role in the BBC’s epic natural history program Life narrated by the master himself Sir David Attenborough.

They are my favourite living dragon, their resilience is second to none, they are however dying out. The reduction in food and a large influx of tourism is seeing a decline in the population on dragon island. The Indonesian governments initial reaction was to consider banning tourists as the numbers have been steadily growing since its discovery in the mid 20th century, earlier in the century claims of giant crocodiles emanated from the island and its said it inspired the very first King Kong movie. The increase in ecotourism has been a mixed blessing, it raises awareness for important issues but in the same vein continues to destroy the very thing these people are trying to protect.

After some consideration the Indonesian government have come to an alternative solution, which if it works then it may help to solve the over all problem. In 2020 new membership fees of up to $1000 (one years access) to the Island will be put in place, tourists will be able to visit the national park without paying the membership fee which also houses the Jurassic lizards. In 2018 it is estimated that over 170,000 up significantly from 44,000 ten years previously. People visited the island which is crazy when you consider the size of it paying around $10 for access. That gives you some scale of the problem, its not just the dragons who are affected the indigenous population are at risk from displacement just as much as the dragons are.

Personally I feel that ecotourism does more hard than good, I appreciate that people want to help but visiting and staring will not help them, pouring money into the local economy may help in small doses but does not solve the problem. Time and space to rebuild the ecology of the island is the only thing that will help the decline.

Taboo

taboo
/təˈbuː/
noun
a social or religious custom prohibiting or restricting a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.
“many taboos have developed around physical exposure”
synonyms:
prohibition, proscription, veto, interdiction, interdict, ban, restriction, boycott, non-acceptance, anathema “the taboo against healing on the sabbath”

It is odd to think that there are some things which are still considered taboo today. Sex for example, periods or menstruation are just a few. There are many religious taboos, dietary requirements, smoking, imbibing alcohol or substances to intoxicate oneself, these are deep seated in the religion itself so you can understand how it has maintained, but societal taboos have no need to remain. The way in which we communicate has been revolutionised across the globe, we should be as open as it is easy to communicate via the internet, but not just there in the ‘real’ world too. There are and always will be advocates for openness but it doesn’t seem to be something we can stick with. I’m not just talking about getting drunk and spilling your guts, I mean explaining your true desire, what you really want. There is no need to be ashamed of being confident of what you want, the universe requires this so it can deliver it.

Periods are most certainly a taboo topic and as the Sunday Times Style Magazine reminded us in their top 5 facts about periods:

[In preparation for Ride’s trip aboard the Space Shuttle] Tampons were packed with their strings connecting them, like a strip of sausages, so they wouldn’t float away. Engineers asked Ride, “Is 100 the right number?” She would be in space for a week. “That would not be the right number,” she told them.

Sally Ride First American Woman in Space

Apparently, the male engineers then replied that “we just want to be safe.” Not sure what kind of safe they were thinking of but it is admirable that they tried, discussing it would have been uncomfortable for all parties but that doesn’t mean it should be. There are those who call for period pain to be a genuine sick day reason as it can be crippling for some, it us unfortunately something men will never experience or understand as its not a bodily function they possess unless you count morning erections which although are embarrassing don’t last between 3 and 7 days so empathy is a bit difficult. Its not that I feel that it should be a regular topic of conversation like the weather but allowing women to be open without fear of judgement is surely not much to ask.

I hope one day taboos will disappear and we can all be open and free in our speech, without fear of judgement or persecution and an appreciation that there is no ‘normal’ only ‘conforming.’

Travelling Makes Me Tick

Having been brought up in what could be considered as a multicultural background, this is largely because in the rural Westcountry of England there were not many ‘foreigners’ as you might call them; both sets of grandfathers had met my grandmothers through the war on my mother’s side the Ukraine (as far as we can tell from her paperwork) and on my father’s side Hungary. My parents also took us away to France a lot, indeed my first trip was when I was three months old, we visited a tiny village in the south of France and my parents fell in love with the area. Soon along with their friends they bought a farmhouse to renovate as a holiday home (they had the barn conversion). This lead to private french lessons when we were back at home and many beautiful memories over the 25 years or so we had the house. My sister actually moved to Toulouse which is an hour away, she is now bringing up her first child with her husband there.My father travelled extensively with his job going to conferences and giving talks and we would on occasion join him, I was always delighted as it generally involved a trip to a new city somewhere. Foreign languages were not alien to me in the slightest and I quickly picked up the gist of most conversations where-ever we happen to be. I was lucky enough to have my grandfathers gift for languages which has served me well over my years of travelling across the world.I enjoy the excitement and smells of a new place, nooks and crannies to explore and languages to listen to. Even though I think the idea of a babelfish is great I think it would take the fun out of listening to others, to have information placed directly into your brain without actually processing it in anyway surely means that we will never learn or understand things – just to accept what we are fed.So now you understand a bit of why I love travelling and what makes me tick, would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, what is your favourite part of travelling? Picture is Chateau de Cornusson – Tarn et Garonne just across the valley from us.
Source: Travelling Makes Me Tick

The Joys of Sharing

Whether I have a little or I have a lot, I always share the things I can. When you travel you meet a whole world of different people, some might make you stop and think for a moment ‘how generous this person is’ and I have been very privileged to be recipient of such kindness, when travelling in California we were adopted by a local who showed us where to camp, brought us food at the bus station, we even ended up at an amazing art gallery opening party (but more about that another day). In Macedonia despite my misgivings was helped by some very kind people when my phone decided to stop working they gave me Internet and even called a taxi and spoke to the guy I was meeting for my keys to the apartment I had rented. The whole world and it’s cultures are very set in the traditions of behaviour we expect as with the rest of the world but the fact is that our expectations vary vastly and as we have seen in many amusing stories over the years how wrong we can also get it. Having said all that sharing is an enriching part of life and should be encouraged whether you are sharing a meal with someone or your knowledge to give them a helping hand it can only make the world a better place.
Source: The Joys of Sharing

An Indian Adventure – Into Kathmandu

The final leg of our journey was here, we had crossed the border some days ago and after the relaxing atmosphere of Chitwan we were back on the coach to climb the forbidding Himalayas once more. Many of us have heard of Kathmandu (usually for sad reasons – political unrest, child exploitation or natural disasters). I was intrigued by the stories I had seen online and wanted to see whether it was all true.The hotel we stayed at was quite amazing, and having drunk delicious black tea for the previous 2 weeks we fell upon the coffee bar for a refreshing iced coffee. The high altitude is a bizarre feeling, suddenly climbing the stairs is even harder than usual – I am not generally unfit and having done lots of exercise during the holiday I thought it would stand me in good stead but I wasn’t quite as prepared as I could have been.We had a tour of the centre of Kathmandu with our guide, there was opportunity for more shopping, sadly we were again plagued by people insistent on selling us expensive things that we just didnt want. One guy who followed us for quite some time ended up on the wrong end of our guide’s temper (there was much shouting in hindi and he eventually slunk off) unfortunately one of the group was not paying attention and ended up with a $20 pen which was frankly a plain biro with some pretty patterns on.The temples were incredible, and the site of the funeral pyres was what I call car-crash fascinating, I couldnt help but take pictures, it was crazy seeing the sheer number of burning bodies. As you can see they use many colours in their temples and shrines. One of my favourite parts of Nepal was the traditional food, we were blessed with local restaurant just outside the hotel grounds. I fell in love with Momo’s (much similar to wontons) and the curries were also delicious. As there was a laundry service available at the hotel we were staying at for very reasonable prices, we availed ourselves to reduce washing upon return. By the end of it all I had to wash was the clothes I would be travelling home in!Travelling back to Delhi was fairly stressful as the Nepalese are terrified of security issues (having been subject to a horrible attack in the previous years). The endless security checks were annoying but I guess necessary and we finally got to the plane. Once back in Delhi we changed planes and onward home to the UK.The trip taught me a lot about different cultures and the way in which we treat people. Some of the memories are happy some are sad, but either way it was one of the most special journeys I have been on.
Source: An Indian Adventure – Into Kathmandu

Cologne

After a hangover plagued train journey I arrived weary in Cologne where a hot shower and comfortable if a little warm room awaited me and possibly the cutest turndown present I’ve seen. Once showered and rested I ventured forth for dinner and an explore, having already seen the ‘hard to miss’ beautiful cathedral which is menacingly present in the centre of the city. My hotel was situated a 2 minute walk from the Rhine and the view was beautiful to say the least and a continuation in the knowledge that my trip was well planned although wishing I had allowed myself more time in Cologne as it was a truly enjoyable place, I even had my first schnitzel of the holiday although not as big as id hoped it cured my empty stomach nicely.
Source: Cologne

Frankfurt

The bus from Cologne was a reasonable journey and for a mere 7 euros you couldn’t complain – the free wifi was also impressive (take note bus companies of Britain you are archaic in your transport facilities.A confusing start with the help of google maps and the discovery that there was a gay pride festival in the square near my hotel.Hotel Ziel is a simple clean affair well suited for the centre of town, the breakfast served a variety of hot and cold options by friendly staff.A walk after breakfast yielded some interesting discoveries of graffiti art work on the neighbouring walls Also some beautiful architecture both old and modern. Also happened upon a very nice noodle bar for delicious ramen – the heat made it difficult to eat the extensive fried German menus.
DSC_0030_1.jpgSource: Frankfurt

An Indian Adventure – Into Nepal

The drive to Chitwan National Park was a long and slightly scary one, it was hot and then we started climbing into the Himalayas. The traffic was awful (I’m not sure I understand why) and the 100 ft drops to the side of us seem to be awfully close. The journey was however worth every minute spent on that coach, we also got to see the variety of different ways in which truck drivers and coach drivers decorate their vehicles with colourful paints and beads – quite the sight!Once we had arrived at the national park we unpacked in our little huts which were to be our home for the next few days. It was a magical place with stunning scenery and animals to see.We rode on elephants to explore the park further and we were even lucky enough to see some rhinos which absolutely made the trip for me, they are such majestic creatures. In the evening we watched a traditional village dance and many of us joined in – some inebriated others not.Its onward to Kathmandu from Chitwan – another trip further into the Himalayas and higher altitudes.
Source: An Indian Adventure – Into Nepal

An Indian Adventure: Varanasi and Lumbini

Varanasi is an interesting place. Filled with a mixture of tourists, beggars and locals, the tourist shops sell a mixture of fake religious artifacts, candles and cheap knock-offs. Walking through the crowds can be a distressing experience, the number of street gangs of children clawing at your clothes – employed to sell their postcards and bracelets. The problem being if you give to one then you should give to all and that is impossible. You shrug them off for as long as you can, relieved as you pass through the narrow streets lined with hundreds of people, this is not necessarily a memory I wished to take from India but it is one that stuck. We attended one of the candle ceremonies (an Aarti) at the rivers’ edge the thousands of candles floating in the Ganges along with flower petals and lanterns, offerings are sent to the Goddess Ganga. These rituals are performed everyday and when complete the devotees will cup their hands over the flame and raise their palms to their forehead to gain purification and blessings. I had the opportunity to visit Sarnath, the place in which Buddha gave his first teaching after attaining enlightenment. A stunning park and some perfectly preserved archaeological remains. After a trip in some Hindustan Ambassadors and another night in the hotel it was off to Nepal – Chitwan National Park to be precise.Apologies
Source: An Indian Adventure: Varanasi and Lumbini

Brussels

After an auspicious start, a bus journey plagued by accidents on the motorways and meaning that I got to the Eurostar terminal with literally 5 minutes to spare before I jumped on the train it was a quiet journey along the Highspeed track and a reassuring redress in the balance of the holiday.Le Neufchatel, Bruxelles – A very nice off-centre city hotel and a comfortable start to the travelling with simple yet interesting decoration.The first ‘bought’ morning coffee of the trip, noteworthy because when it was made the guy that made it didn’t need a stencil for the pattern…an impressive trick I thought.Then a walk past the most random shop I have passed in a while, a blue gorilla and an animal fur print pet bed!The Palace of Justice – in the process of some structural work by the looksof thingsEgmont palace – has a beautiful park open to the public for picnicking andthey also have a café should you so wish to have a coffeeEglise Notre Dame du Sablon A wander round the centre of town produces pictures of the main square and various other random shops/museumsOne off the bucket list, a dinner of moules et frites washed down with (a few too many retrospectively) Belgian beers and a near trip to a local gig which was somewhat impeded by the allure of beer and people watching.Belgium was a nice start to the holiday although the trilingual issues with street names and map reading somewhat alluded me coupled with the Belgians not being as friendly as expected marred the overall experience, I think it would be best to return with other hapless people in tow to enjoy the experience more
Source: Brussels