Dec
22

Our Beautiful Planet

Humanity, the most intelligent species on the planet, capable of anything, but is governed by it’s aggression and youth. A species fast in developing but slow in maturing.

Once a species that cared about its home, it’s provider, let it’s ego dominate it’s decisions. A period of ignorance and neglect has had profound effects across the world. Effects which can be reversed, if nature is given the time to repair the damage.

Remember…

We only have one home.

(David Bayliss)

Feb
21

Exploring the Crystal Cave of the Giants

In a remote area of northern Mexico lies one of the most astonishingly mind-blowing geological wonders on earth – The Crystal Cave of the Giants. This beautifully shimmering natural wonder is found one hour south of Chihuahua and buried more than a thousand feet below the unassuming Naica lead and silver mine.

Crystal Cave of the Giants

Crystal Cave of the Giants

DISCOVERY
The Crystal Cave of the Giants was discovered in the year 2000 by two brothers searching for more lead and silver below the already existing Naica mine. The brothers were working for the Naica mine, which was investing in exploratory drilling in hopes of expanding a mine which had been in operation since the late 1700’s. What the brothers found was something of far greater beauty and wealth.

The Crystal Cave of the Giants might never have been found if not for the Naica mine above. The cave remained filled with water for over 600,000 years until it was inadvertently drained by the Naica mining company. Therefore, the Crystal Cave of the Giants is only temporary. The Naica mining company continues to pump over 16,000 gallons of water out of the cave 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year. Once the mining operations above are complete the Naica mining company will stop pumping water out of the cave and it will return to it’s natural state – submerged in water.

A THING OF BEAUTY
When you first step into the Crystal Cave of the Giants you are immediately greeted by some of the largest crystals on earth. Gigantic, shimmering spikes of crystal are seen jutting into the cave from every direction like magician’s swords being thrust into his trick box. The largest crystals in the Crystal Cave of the Giants are just over forty feet in length and weigh over ten tons!

The Crystal Cave of the Giants began it’s unimaginable formation over 600,000 years ago. A cave filled with mineral rich water remaining at a constant temperature of 135°F for over half a million years provided the perfect conditions for the formation of these massive crystal structures. The growth of these crystals relied on it’s being submerged in water. Its growth will remain stunted until the cave’s inevitable re-flooding.

FEELING HOT, HOT, HOT?
The Crystal Cave of the Giants is one of the most inhospitable places on earth. While most caves remain at a constant temperature throughout the year, the Crystal Cave of the Giants remain a constant 112°F with a humidity ranging from 90%-100%. Caused by a gargantuan magma chamber lying just beneath the cave, these unbearable and oppressive conditions make exploration a dangerously risky prospect.

With each entry into the cave comes the very real risk of heatstroke. A desperate crystal looter once entered the cave with bags of fresh air in hopes of nabbing a few of the precious crystals. His body was found the next day not only dead but completely roasted.

Entering the cave requires an elaborate outfit that consist of an ice pack-filled body suit and a respirator which continuously pumps cooled air. Even with the these aids explorers are only allowed to remain in the cave for twenty minutes at a time and require a lengthy period of rest and re-hydration before being allowed another entry attempt.

TRAVEL
Because of the intense dangers posed by the cave, only scientists and miners are allowed in the lower chambers of the cave. However, visitors are still allowed in the upper chamber. Arrangements can be made by contacting the Naica mining company.

This article was written by Jeffrey Binney, an expert
in the Mexico Travel category at www.yoexpert.com

Category: North America  Tags: , ,  2 Comments
Mar
04

Havana highlights, January 2010

Havana (La Habana) is an amazing and unique place to experience the Cuban history and lifestyle. As a capital of Cuba it hosts the Cuban government, various ministries and business headquarters.

Castillo del Morro view from Malecon

Castillo del Morro view from Malecon

Tito El Bambino – El Amor

I recommend starting exploration of Havana from Castillo del Morro (Morro Castle), a picturesque 16th century fortress, that guards the entrance to Havana bay. Sitting near its cannons you can enjoy marvellous view of the city and its Malecon (a broad sea-front promenade), Old and Centre part of Havana. Next to the Morro Castle there is Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña, commonly known simply as La Cabaña. It is a big 18th century fortress complex with several small museums. Every night at 9pm a beautiful ceremony of the cannon shot (ceremonia del cañonazo) takes place, where solders in costumes from colonial times signal the closure of the city wall doors and nightfall.

View of Havana from the Morro Castle

View of Havana from the Morro Castle

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana

Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabana

Jesus Christo

To experience a little sea adventure you can take a local ferry from the ferry terminal at the foot of the hill where the statue of Christ (Jesus Christo) stands. It will take you to the old colonial part of the city right to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral “Our Lady of Kazan”. Then you can drink Aztec hot chocolate, mixed with black pepper and nutmeg in Museo del Chocolate close to the Basílica Menor de San Francisco de Asís, a wonderful example of eighteenth century architecture. The Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis has a 42 metres (138 feet) high bell tower that provides visitors with a stunning view out over Havana and out to sea.

Basilica de St. Francisco de Asis

Basilica de St. Francisco de Asis

Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas

Randy Malcon and Aned Mota – Gozando en la Habana (2010)

Plaza de Armas, first known public square of Havana, situated in the heart of the old city and it is always packed with tourists. There are some cafes with terraces close to the square where during the lunch time local bands play “Guantanamera” and the other famous Cuban songs. In a few steps of Plaza de Armas there is El Templete, a monument that pays homage to the place where the foundation of the town of San Cristóbal de la Habana was celebrated in 1519. Near the enterence to the monument there is a column which replaces a silk-cotton tree, under which the first mass and the first Council of Havana were celebrated.

The Catedral de San Cristobal de La Havana

The Catedral de San Cristobal de La Havana

From Plaza de Armas you can walk along Calle Obispo (Obispo street), perhaps Havana’s most vibrant street, that will take you to the Parque Central (Central park). The narrow roadway throngs with life, history, architecture and entertainment. In the old pharmacy in Obispo it is possible to buy the Nonix, juice from the famous noni fruit. On the same street there is the famous El Floridita bar, the favourite place of Ernest Hemingway, where the Daiquiri cocktail was created and now you can taste it with fried bananas there.

Ernest Hemingway statue in El Floridita bar

Ernest Hemingway statue in El Floridita bar

The Capitolio building is the main tourist spot in the centre part of the city. Built in 1929, it looks like Washington DC’s Capitol, but the government had been set there only until 1959. Nowadays, it is the National Museum of Natural History, where you can give one CUC (Cuban convertible peso) to the workers and they will allow you to make a picture inside the President office on the chair where Fulgencio Batista, the last Cuban president, was sitting before being overthrown as a result of the Cuban Revolution. Behind the Capitolio there is Partagas Cigar Factory that sells cigars in their well-stocked shop, La Casa del Habano, there also you can see how cigars are made from the tobacco leaves.

The Capitolio building

The Capitolio building

Partagas Cigar Factory

Partagas Cigar Factory

The best view of the city is from the highest point in Havana – Memorial José Martí, 109 meters (358 feet) marble tower situated on the Plaza de la Revolución (Revolution Square).

Memorial Jose Marti on the Revolution Square

Memorial Jose Marti on the Revolution Square

Coppelia ice-cream restaurant serves the most delicious ice-cream in Cuba and it is very cheap if you buy it in with Cuban national pesos at the back part of the restaurant.

Taxi cabs

Taxi cabs

Malecon during the day

The best place to meet sunset in Havana is in the Malecon. This sea-front street stretches for 8 km along the coast and represents the Cuban lifestyle. In the morning there some foreigner joggers run here along the Atlantic Ocean. During the day some small bands and single musicians play Cuban and other music, fishermen try to catch some fish, locals walk with dogs and tourists admire significant colonial and modern buildings restored and painted in all imaginable and unimaginable colours. On Fridays and Saturdays nights you will hardly find a free place to sit or stand. The whole Malecon is crowded with locals and tourists as if half of the city is going to spend the night here. Young people are kissing, drinking, dancing, talking and fighting with lots of tourist which tries to become part of the Havana`s nightlife.

Sunset on the Malecon

Sunset on the Malecon

Around midnights lots of night clubs host famous and not yet famous live-music bands. I recommend to spend a nice evening in the Jazz Café or Havana Café in Vedado distinct; to dance salsa in Casa de la Musica, Café Cantante Mi Habana or Salón Rosado de la Tropical.

Havana at night

Havana at night

Category: Cuba  Tags: ,  3 Comments
Sep
29

Magnificent Mount Elbrus

Mount Elbrus

Mount Elbrus is an inactive volcano and the highest peak in the Caucasus mountain range, in Kabardino-Balkaria and Karachay-Cherkessia, Russia, near the border of Georgia. During ancient times, Mount Elbrus was known as Strobilus and it was believed to be the location where Zeus had Prometheus chained to a rock. Its western summit reaches a height of 5,642 m (18,510 ft), while the eastern summit stands at 5,595 m (18,356 ft). The summit offers breathtaking views of the Caucasus Mountains and the impressive tributary valley systems.

Elbrus falls on the European side of the great tectonic rift running through the Caucasus that separates Europe from Asia. The Elbrus region, known as the pearl of the north Caucasus, has already been chosen as the reserve location for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Caucasus

The Caucasus always inspired poets like Pushkin (he was exiled here in 1820, where he wrote his famous poems Prisoner of the Caucasus and The Fountain of Bakhchisarai), Mikhail Lermontov (whose early romantic poetry was stirred by the beauty of the mountains, before he too died young from a bullet in a duel) as well as Tolstoy’s novels The Cossacks and Hadji Murad.

Elbrus

Mount Elbrus is not technically difficult to climb; it is good premier ascent for aspiring climbers who wish to test their skills at increasing altitude, that is why it attracts many visitors every year.

Mt Elbrus from Barrels

Mt Elbrus from Barrels

Mountain goats

Mountain goats

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Elbrus

Sep
12

Salsa is a language of the passion

“I should not believe in a God who does not dance.”- Friedrich Nietzsche

“If there is no salsa in heaven, I am not going there! Hell is right below”

salsa dance

The metamorphosis of salsa to what is heard and danced in clubs today has been a long, slow, and varied process. Not one person or place can be attributed as the founder of salsa. Instead, the dance and music have evolved over time through an elaborate syncretism of different sounds, cultures, and meanings.

“Son is the most perfect thing for entertaining the soul.” – Ignacio Piñeiro, founder of Septeto Nacional.

The Cuban Son is a root of most Salsa music today. The first time that the Clave rhythm was played in public was in the Cuban Son. After the Slave revolution and later emancipation in La Hispañola, many rich French Caribbean families and their house slaves emigrated to the Oriente province in Cuba from what is now Haiti. Some of these slaves were educated in music and knew both the European music and the African secular music.

Dale cintura – Salsaton

“Dance is like life, it exists as you’re flitting through it, and when it’s over, it’s done.” – Jerome Robbins

salsa hot dance

Around 1917 when the “Danzon” was the most popular national dance in Cuba, a new musical style known as the Cuban Son appeared in Havana. The Son was accepted with such enthusiasm that soon it became very popular without taking anything away from the “Danzon”. The “Danzon”, which had been the national dance of Cuba since 1879, could be found everywhere from the popular dance halls to upper class social clubs. The Son had the same elements as the “Danzon” but was different in its form. It is due to the Son that the African instruments came to light to animate the orchestras that were prevalent and typical at the time in Havana.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.” – Martha Graham

Salsa

Before and around the time of World War II, the music traveled to Mexico City and New York. It was in New York where the term “Salsa” was created. In fact, the use of the word salsa for danceable Latin Music was coined in 1933 when a Cuban song composer Ignacio Piñerio wrote a song Échale Salsita. According to the late Alfredo Valdés Sr. the idea occurred to Piñerio after eating food that lacked Cuban spices. According to Valdés, the word served as a type of protest against bland food. However, the term did not really take off until the 1960s.

Salsa cuba

“Dance is music made visible.” – George Balanchine

“This is a real sexy and sensual dance so if you won’t be able to focus on the dancing then it’s not for you.”

Following the Cuban revolution, the United States ended diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961. This action cut off the flow of music and musicians that had inspired the New York scene for decades. Four years later, immigration policy changes opened the door to migrations from previously excluded countries. Along with other demographic shifts, these two events altered the course of the Latin music in ways that defined it even more sharply as a New York phenomenon. By the late 1960’s, the Dominican community had burgeoned, and rhythms such as the Dominican merengue, Colombia cumbia, and Puerto Rican plena and jibaro styles had become part of the New York music scene.

La Excelencia – Salsa Dura
Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. (Maya Angelou)

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances. (Maya Angelou)

Since salsa has its roots in so many dances and is open to improvisation, salsa styles are very fluid: New York style, Cuban-style salsa (also called Casino), Salsa Rueda (Rueda de Casino), Salsa Filipina (Ronda Manila), Cumbia (Central and South America), Cali and Los Angeles. Dance styles are associated with their original geographic area that developed that style. There are often devotees of each of these styles outside of their home territory (except Cali style). Characteristics that may identify a style include: foot patterns, body rolls and movements, turns and figures, attitude, dance influences, and the way that partners hold each other.

“Dancing can reveal all the mystery that music conceals.” – Charles Baudelaire

Ismael Miranda – Se fue y me dejo