The quirky extras.
King Kong challenging the mighty Niagara……Niagara Falls, Toronto, Canada
The Reclining Snow….Calgary, Canada
The stretched out snow wings on the cold dark mountains, the ecclesiastical aquamarine waters of Cavell Pond and one can gaze, transfixed for hours, visualizing warring armies and angels of mercy. The wing- shaped Angel Glacier in slow-motion-meltdown the north face of Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada, honors English nurse Edith Cavell who was an angel of mercy helping allied soldiers escape from German-occupied Belgium during World War 1. She was executed by the Germans for her actions and beliefs.
We follow the trail starting from the car park, climbing the stairs and past the Memorial for Edith Cavell, crossing a gurgling stream and instead of going straight to Cavell Pond through glacial debris left by the retreating Cavell Glacier, we climb past Teahouse Creek to the Cavell Meadows junction at 500m. A steady flow of climbers, young, old, four-year olds bravely leaning on mini walking sticks, school groups and tourists give us company. A squirrel insisted on following me or the Lays chips packets I was carrying and finally made its move the minute I rested on a rocky perch. My scream sent it careening off among the rocks and few minutes later I felt beady eyes glaring at me for being so squeamish.
Just beyond the junction the panoramic view of picture perfect Cavell Glacier on the far side of the pond, Angel Glacier in center and right above Cavell Pond and the near invisible Ghost Glacier clinging on to the ledge on the left, compensates for the rugged terrain and occasional rumblings and ‘the mountains shrugged’ performance. In 2012 the area was cordoned off due to flooding and ice fall and in 2013 September, though it had partly opened, we had to be content with ledge lookouts. Few brave hearts sneaked down to the edge of Cavell pond when a snowy grumble and ice fall prompted the supervisor to blow his whistle to stop further clandestine excursions.
The trail continues onwards 526m towards Cavell Meadows and a spectacular view of Mount Edith Cavell, Angel Glacier, Cavell Glacier and Cavell pond.I had stopped midway preferring the stillness of environment to tourist chatter till squirrelly ambitions interrupted my niveous reverie.
‘Playground of the Gods’ at Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area, Burnaby……Wood carvings atop Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area are a symbol of friendship between the Japanese and Canadians. The unassuming carvings meld with the scenic views of Downtown Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
The vintage, Camel cart snorting at the new mechanical carts.
The surprising part is that I am not a food person but gastronomic interjections have always been lurking in the background. In the 1970s while in the midst of understanding the nuances of the Romantic poets P B Shelly, Keats and William Wordsworth ( for Bachelors at Allahabad University) I would willingly miss lectures to gormandize on Sweet & Sour soup followed by Chicken noodles twirled in Chicken sweet ‘n’ sour.
Indian-Chinese food, especially the three mentioned dishes, was the ultimate in food luxury, McDonald’s and Pizza Hut were nowhere near Allahabad’s ambit, with restaurants and roadside food stalls were in business, forget the authenticity. Even our helper dreamt of returning to his native village in Bihar to open a noodle shop,even Maggie noodles would do and worked hard to invest in woks, ladles and packets of Maggi noodles. The ‘Genuine Fake’, as a salesperson on Nathan Road (Kowloon) would say, was gaining popularity.
Marriage and travels did not lessen the craving for Chinese food, in all its avatars, and my first choice in whichever part of India or world I would be in, would be noodles and Chilli Chicken or Sweet & Sour and second choice Indian Mughlai preparations. Our five-year stay (1995-2000) in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman was a diversion with Middle Eastern cuisine, especially Lebanese shawarma*, taking precedence.
In July 2008 I found my self winding down from Hong Kong International Airport to Kowloon. The lights and traffic could not wrap away the distinct aroma that trailed us on our walks in the malls, lanes and markets of the Island, Kowloon and the New Territories. My initiation into the wet markets, discovered by chance, was lamentable and urbane in turns. Initially, the raw meat smell forced me to walk away from the forked hanging pigs, the bloated ducks, the flowing tanks of unknown fish, prawns, scallops, colored crabs, clams, oysters and carts of dried sea food and chicken claws. My curiosity over rode my olfactory senses, guiding me to the markets and lanes of Sai Kung, North Point ferry station, Peng Chau and Cheng Chau islands, Tai Po, to Hung Hom lanes and Yau Ma Tai food streets and food vendors.
On occasions food masqueraded as outings on the stony trails of Ng Tung Chai waterfalls scrunched between bare rocks and tropical vegetation on the northern slopes of the cone-shaped Tai Mo Shan in Kowloon; on tram rides to the Peak and its surrounding attractions; ferried us to Discovery Bay, Lamma, Lantau, Peng Chau and Cheng Chau, Tung Lung Chau (off Clearwater Bay) and Tap Mun the Grass Island on the northern part of Sai Kung ( would be asked whether I had tried “iceless” cold milk tea, sun-dried fish and boiled squid and shrimp); on the Buddhist path to Diamond Hill and the Nunnery, the Monastery of Ten Thousand Buddhas (Man Fat Sze); the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen; Tai Ho, where I had gone to watch the Dragon Boat Race, famous for its gourmet delicacies the Loh Mai chee glutinous handmade rice balls stuffed with sesame and peanut paste or Cha Gwoh rice dumplings stuffed with mixture of Chinese herbs; Po Lin Monastery for its popular vegetarian fare and the concrete jungles of Central, Causeway Bay, Shueng Wan, Kowloon, Wan Chai for their pubs, cafeterias, fast evolving eateries and Michelin starred restaurants.
The Chin-India cuisine was replaced by Cantonese, Anhui, Fujian, Hunan, Szechuan, Jiangsu, Shandong and Zhejiang cuisine originating from different regions of China. The closest to Indian-Chinese is Szechuan, spicy and oily, though by now I was developing a taste for soup noodles and dim sums. In Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai I stuck to McDonald’s and KFC. The one time I tried traditional Chinese cuisine was a post wedding lunch at a village near Taizho situated south of Ningbo on the eastern coast of Zhejiang province, Mainland China. We had accompanied the groom’s friends and family to bring his wife from her parental home and were treated to a lavish wedding feast prepared by village cooks in the backyard. I had never tasted or seen so much exotic fish and would ask my friend the names every time a new dish was served.
My one grouse is that I can never walk into a Chinese food place on my own as the menu is mostly in Cantonese. Somehow learning languages has never been my forte and in six-years stay could manage ‘wai’ or Hello and that too because it is the most frequently used word. The goof up happened in Shanghai where I tried all possible actions, flapping wings, quacking, doodling to get across the ‘chicken’ word to the waitress. The girl, probably in a rush, as it was nearing closing time, came with our order that looked and smelled beefy. Our doubts confirmed by a young man had to be content with side veggies. Another impossible venture is using chopsticks as my fingers seem stuck in the ‘two left feet’ syndrome no matter what the encouragement or admonishment, ‘See…it is so simple..place it between thumb and fingers and voila the grain is in your mouth’. I wish it was so easy.
In between there were trips to USA, Canada, Japan and I preferred to try local temptations than the five-star presentations. In Hiroshima it was the ‘Japanese Pizza’ the ‘Okonomiyaki’ a thin layer of batter and a generous amount of cabbage on top of yakisoba noodles. One can opt for toppings of oysters, squid and cheese with bonito flakes, green laver and okonomiyaki sauce and optional extras, mayonnaise, pickled ginger, and seaweed. We were seated at a counter facing the chef preparing the okonomiyaki on a large griddle and could see other eaters drooling as he speed-chopped, layered, topped and presented the precursor of a snack called ‘issen yōshoku’ or “one-cent Western meal”.
‘Poutine’ was another luck-in was in Calgary, Canada, on a cold, snowy day. ‘Poutine’ or simply piping hot crispy fries and cheese curd cut into pieces dunked in gravy of choice, to meld in a unique flavor. Initially, I was hesitant in trying it out but then the first few bites had me scrapping till last bite.
Every city has its own aroma, sometimes familiar, and six years down the line the ‘Chinese Takeaway’, in words of Betty Mullard* has become more than a city to explore, it has become a way of life via the gourmet trail.
* Kowloon Tong. A novel of Hong Kong by Paul Theroux
The red-crowned crane or Tancho in Japan, are known to dance their elegant dance of dips and jumps in pairs, and watching the green pair I expected them to spread out their wings and twirl, choreographed by the mountain breeze. The birds have a perfect setting, surrounded by roses and multicolored flowers and greenery all around with spectacular views of sunset over Burrard Inlet, and at a distance the Indian Arm, the North Shore mountains and downtown Vancouver.
The metal eco-sculptures are filled with soil and covered with porous landscaping fabric. Plants are then inserted through the holes, made in the fabric, to hide the frame for a near perfect replica of the real cranes.
Tancho cranes carry a heavy esoteric burden as symbols of luck, longevity and fidelity. At traditional Japanese marriages 1000 paper origami cranes are included to wish 1000 years of happiness and posterity on the couple. To the Chinese and Vietnamese the crane is a carrier of spirits to heavenly shores.
2. Japan Atlas: Kushiro Marsh and Japanese Cranes (Tancho)
The real Tancho Cranes. (Wikipedia photo)
I have been slightly busy to take up challenges but I could not resist this one, the Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon. Since childhood I have always been fascinated with ‘horizons’ and would wonder what was beyond the meeting points. The Atlas and geography took away some of the magic but I am still intrigued by the imaginary lines no matter wherever I am.
On way to Jasper, Alberta, Canada (2013)…a never-ending highway.
The last two pictures were taken in Allahabad, my hometown and where as a child would worry that River Ganges would disappear into space and the other in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh…. the unfolding of the Himalayas. (2012)