blue flower in cubbon park

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“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time.” 

Georgia O’Keeffe.

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Himalayas

 

 

 

 

New routes

Tbilisi, Georgia.

Baku, Azerbaijan. Then, right across the Caspian Sea.

Ashkhabad, Turkmenistan. A carpet of city lights spread out below us in the intense darkness of night.

These are the cities we flew over as our British Airways flight carefully negotiated the skies, avoiding all areas of known conflict. Following the route map on the computer screen on the back of the seat in front of me was both fascinating and saddening. Fascinating because of the frisson of excitement I feel while flying over lands that are mysterious to me, and whose names taste like new flavours on my tongue when I say them to myself. Saddening because of the Malaysian Airlines plane that got shot down just four days before, taking 298 innocent people with it. Editorials and articles by experts have stopped making sense. Politics and Religion – of the sort that hurt or kill people – make even less sense.

I looked out the porthole at the night sky. There was a sliver of a moon, and the stars were much brighter from 12,250 meters higher than where I usually see them from.

The Big Dipper was in the distance, sort of behind the plane. Auriga, the Charioteer, was just above the horizon with its big star Capella shining like a diamond. The bow of Perseus was just outside the porthole, and the Andromeda galaxy ‘near’ it was so clearly visible that the light years between us seemed diminished.

We met the rising sun as we flew east over Afghanistan, towards Islamabad. It was a fiery sunrise, all crimson and gold.

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As we hovered over the outskirts of Bangalore it felt good to see the red soil and green fields again. Home!

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Hiking – and waterfalls

Beautiful weather in NJ, perfect for hiking.

We did a short 3.5 mile hike over some of the farms on Monmouth Battlefield state park on Tuesday afternoon, walking through apple and cherry orchards and cornfields.

On Thursday we drove to Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. We saw three waterfalls that morning, each one pretty in a different way: Buttermilk Falls and Silver Thread Falls in NJ, and Dingmans Falls in Pennsylvania.

In the afternoon we walked down part of the McDade hiking trail for a distance of about 2.6 miles – up to a point and back. It was a warm day, though the sun did go behind clouds often enough to give us some respite from the heat. There were a lot of irritating insects that hovered right in front of our faces and tried to get in our eyes and noses, so we had to constantly swipe them away.  At the starting point of the trail there was a warning put up about ticks, so I pulled the sleeves of my shirt down to my wrists and hoped for the best.

Yesterday, we spent the morning walking around Bushkill Falls in Pennsylvania.  2 ½ miles of partly trail and partly boardwalk. Very picturesque. Lots of families with excited little kids livening up the place.

After a short break for food we drove to a point from where we could access a part of the Appalachian Trail. Trekking up Mt. Minsi was good exercise. It was neither too hard nor too easy – just right to give you a sense of achievement. Some of it was flat ground, but there were lots of parts where you had to scramble up boulders too. There were small white paint marks on trees or on rocks at points where you might get confused. There was tree cover almost throughout, and a light breeze as well. Climbing to the top and back down was about 6 miles. A quarter of the way up we met a man called Scott who was doing the whole Appalachian Trail; he had covered 1,300 miles since April, starting from Georgia towards Maine!

The view of Mt. Tammany from the top of Mt. Minsi was “totally worth it” as a bunch of kids we met coming down the hill told us.

When we reached the bottom of the hill again we rested on a bench with a view of  Lake Lenape which had lily pads floating on it, and very loud frogs croaking in the shallow water at the edge.

Battle of Monmouth,1778

That was fun to watch!

The Battle of Monmouth was a turning point in the American Revolutionary War. It took place on the 28th of June, 1778, between the British Army and the American soldiers under General Washington.

A re-enactment of the Battle of Monmouth is usually held over the third weekend of June every year. The scene of the battle is the Monmouth County Battlefield Park, a 10 minute drive from where we are staying. As this is our first visit to NJ in summer, we got a chance to see it.

It was a sunny Saturday. We found a patch of shade under a maple tree to sit down. The gently sloping hillside was filled with a large holiday crowd of happy Americans. Young families with energetic little kids had spread bright sheets on the grass and opened picnic baskets. While a lot of the little boys were armed for battle with swords, bows and arrows, and rifles, none of the little girls were! Why not?

The two armies approached each other dressed in costumes of the period. The costumes had been created in painstaking detail and did give us a feel of being in the 1700s. Rifles and canons were fired, so there was lots of noise and smoke and the smell of burning gun powder. Soon there was a decent body count on the battlefield that made it all look quite authentic!