Lockdown Reflections 12 – Agra, India

Agra is the home of marvels none greater than the Taj Mahal

In some ways it overwhelms the other significant sites of Agra

So lets save it for last and start with the Tomb of Akbar

Akbar the Great led a huge expansion of the Mughal Empire and built both its military and economic strength.

Akbar arguably took the Mughal Dynnasty from Warlords to Emperors ruling over lands from Uzbekistan in north and well into southern India in the south and to Bangladesh in the east.

Coming by road from New Delhi to Agra the Tomb of Akbar is the significant monument you will come to first as you enter Agra

The Red Fort or Agra fort was the residence of the Mughal Dynasty

The Fort is better described as a walled city given its huge size

But the huge fortifications are definitely fort like

Inside the fortifications the remains of the sumptuous apartments give an indication of the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by the Emporors who resided here

The Fort became a prison for one emporor Shah Jahan, who had commissioned the Taj Mahal, the tribute to his wife who had died.

While the Emperor was ill his youngest son seized power, imprisoning Shah Jahan, in a wing of the fort

From where he could peer out at the tribute to the love of his life and mother of his captor

The Taj Mahal – the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Shah Jahan.

As you walk through the entrance gates you can not be taken by the beauty of the Taj Mahal

I’m sure Ive read it is the most beautiful building in the world and from my first sight I can not fault that claim

From afar

From every angle it is truly an awe inspiring building

Up close the detail of the carving in the marble and the inlay work is breath taking

The view from the main deck of the Taj Mahal back to the main gate one surveys the opulence of the grounds.

And of course I could not help but admire the beautiful colours that are India

Lockdown Reflections 11 – Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

The Water Palace, Jaipur

I have seen so little of the wonderful country that is India

A country so diverse, and full of contradiction and colur

I think the its the colours in India that stay with me as the most remarkable memories.

Join me as I reflect on the my small taste of India during the next few posts

Starting with Jaipur, the pink city, the capital Rajasthan

The colourful chalk drawings on the elephants in the streets

The ocre and pink tinged buildings that lend the city its name

And the amazing palaces, the Water Palace (top of page)

The amazing Wind Palace

The Maharaja (or City) Palace where the Maharaja still resides

I was most impressed though by the Yellow Fort.

Especially is you take the elephant ride to the main entry to the palace.

Then while winding through the rooms and alleyways of the Palace

There are special treats awaiting

Like snake charmers

With such a burst of colour

Of course a trip to Jaipur would not be complete without a Rajisthani feast – Vegetarian of course

A meal fit for the Maharaj!

Knowing your local place intimately – the bike trail

View of Melbourne City from Seaholme

It is into the 4th month of lockdown in Melbourne, Australia.

Movement is very restricted but lucky for me the Bay is near at hand.

One of the activities, one of places that soothes me is an evening ride along the Williamstown to Altona.

I have learnt to watch the colours of the sky, and know the spots to get the best views intimately.

Might have been my years of sailing that makes me such an avid weather watcher.

Early sunset from Altona Coastal Park

I can tell as the sun slowly sets that there is going to be a beautiful show tonight.

The early stages of of the sunset reaches across the bay and lights up the CBD.

City view from Altona Coastal Park

There is the perfect moment when the sun reflects of the city’s glass towers making it glow before the cities artificial lights try to steal the show.

Its hard to believe from this angle that the metropolis is quiet and largely deserted as it sparkles in the sunset.

Its a short ride over a little ford to my favourite viewing point to see the birdlife on Koroit Creek

This night it is the swans gliding and feeding on the creek up near the ford, under the reddening sky

By the the time I reach the estuary end of the creek the fiery sunset is reflected in the still water

At the Jawbone Marine Sanctuary the last minutes of the suns day is an orange smudge across the sky

Gotta say in these difficult times, to be able to be in and rejoice the natural beauty nearby is a special tonic.

I check the lights on my cycle and head home.

Lockdown reflections 10 – The big cats of the Masai Mara, Kenya

Of the big cats of the Masai mara the Cheetah is the at the smaller end and hard to find

And we were lucky to find this one resting under a tree.

In contrast the lions, the Kings of the Jungle were out in the open and unafraid

Such photogenic beasts and totally unafraid in their domain

Even when courting

And mating

The Leopard is more illusive and its young are vulnerable

So the they are kept safely up a tree

But like all young, juvenile leopards don’t always stay put when told to

and decided to climb down our of the tree and take a walk

All of a sudden out of the bushes dashed the mother too fast for me and my camera.

She grabbed up the escaping cub and was gone back into the scrub

But all the action revealed

A second cub hiding in the tree.

On leaving the area we came upon a hyena clan out hunting

Hyena are major predators for leopard cubs and will camp out under a tree waiting for an opportunity to get a cub if the find a tree.

These hyena have tracing collars attached as part of a research project that is being undertaken into the social structures of these amazing animals.

In Ethiopia, in the city of Harrar, I learnt a new respect for the hyena.

This city has a special relationship with hyena that goes back centuries.

Which in more recent times has led to the hand feeding of the hyena and many many mill around

And if you are game

You may feed them yourself

I guess you are wondering if the hyena found the leopard cubs?

When we went back the next day – Both cubs were in the tree!

This brings to an end my reflections on journeys to Ethiopia and Kenya.

I has planned to travel to Morocco this year but Covid 19 put an end to that, but I look forward to visiting some more the diverse countries of the amazing African continent.

Lockdown Reflection 9 – The big beasts of the Masai Mara, Kenya

The Elephants are the biggest of the beasts of the Masai plains

You really appreciate how big when you get up close

This huge animal was slowly walking slowly sideways

Our driver creeping forward forward just as slowly

Keeping the elephant the back corner of the van

The driver said that the elephant was trying to get into a position to charge

I think it was just moving us away slowly from its family

The Masai Giraffe is the largest of all the giraffe types

These huge animals are quite a lot larger with darker and more pronounced markings that the Rothschild Giraffes at Lake Nakuru.

Unfortunately, like many of the great wild animals the Masai Giraffe in endangered.

My final big beast of the Masai Mara in the Hippopotamus

A huge beast who has the reputation as the deadliest large land mammal.

These huge beasts weigh around 2,250kg

But it is rare to see more that their head