Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Burmese Nights

Blackouts in Burma (Myanmar) are common and daily experience. As night sets in, Burma’s 50 million people just slips into the darkness for a minute until neon and low wattage lights powered by private generators and car batteries kicks in. It's dark, but not so bad. Streets lit by cooking fire from food stands creates unique mediaeval like atmosphere. People adjusted their life to this daily routine by now. Restaurants. hotels and business able run without disruption, even have air conditioning on.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sintra - town from fairy tale

Sintra is small town on Atlantic coast of Portugal just short trip by train from Lisbon. It looks and feels like fairy tale set. Town and area was favorite hunting ground for King of Portugal, later popular retreat for English and European nobility. Great old palaces, churches and mansions used as summer houses discreetly hidden by ancient forest. Two highest mountain peaks of Sintra adorned with ruins Castelo dos Mouros, a fort built by Arabs the 8th Century and 19th Century Royal castle Palácio da Pena.

Build on the ruins of the Hieronymite Monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena by Dom Fernando II, the German husband of Portuguese Queen Maria II. Revolution of October 4, 1910 forced last King Manuel of Portugal to flee country. Everything in castle left intact, my favorite place was kitchen with number of huge cooper and brass pots and cooking utensils.
Castle surrounded by magnificent and mysterious Jardins de Monserrate - romantic park where local trees mixed with exotic subtropical plants and shrubs that were planted by Sir Francis Cook with the help of his head gardener James Burt.

BBC promo starring iPods

iPod fueled cultural revolution continues. Spot features Brian's Eno Music for Airports.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wildwood, NJ - town of glorious neon

Looks like 50's, 60's and 70's it was time when States was fun place and filed with cool big cars, funky roadside architecture, great movies and fun fashion. Cars rusted and was replaced with generic bubbles, fashion become trends and uniforms, plus ugly sweatshop made rags. Most period architecture still standing in California ( Palm Springs and surrounding area would be the best place to look).

On the East Coast, New Jersey has quite a few hidden gems. Wildwood, NJ working class sea resort is real museum. The place should be declared landmark and preserved. Here you see architectural manifestation of American imagination expressed in glorious neon, motel sign shapes and names. A whole town somehow managed survive. Really lasting experience and at the same time sad, all that beuty can be wiped away by developers any moment. Visit while is still here.

UFO in the desert

American Southwest is still one of most scenic and less explored places in the world. Just a short walk from the road is like step in time in 230 million years ago to Triassic Period. Blue-black desert sand is mixed with prehistoric sea shells and fossils. Area around Lake Powell on Arizona and Utah border was inland sea that covered the area. Wind shapes soft mountains formed from sand, clay and mud to the strangest surreal shapes. I spotted rock which looked like crashed and burnt down flying saucer. May it was real space ship, who knows.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tailor of Panama

Most of my trips partially inspired by films. Before I went to Panama I saw "Tailor of Panama".

I arrived to Panama City late at night. I was impressed by old Hotel Central on Plaza de la Independencia featured in the movie and wanted to spent some time here. Taxi driver said that hotel is closed, but I insisted to take me here. He was not very happy about my request. The moment we reached Casco Viejo ( old part of Panama City ) he crossed himself and cursed. Neiborghood looked seedy and dangerous at night. Atmosphere just like in the movie. Unfortunately taxi driver was right, hotel was closed. I revisited area at day time. Casco Viejo has a lot of character and feel of magic realism. It was quite dangerous place in 2001, things probably changed now. Panama City and country itself is on the fast track of gentrification. People was happy to get rid of Noriega. Looks like rare case when American intervention did something good for the country.

Beauties of Casco Viejo

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sticky camera

What camera is the best? For me is the one which sticks to my hand, becomes extension of my body, able to lay roots in my hand.

My favorite camera of all times is Yashica T4. It was was my main camera from 1996 to 2001. Nikon N90 was more back up camera. Then was Contax T3, great camera, but I still like feel of Yashica more. Liked Sony Mavica and CyberShot s75. Now I mostly shoot with Nikon D70, as sticky as SLR can get. I newer liked Canon. Total rejection. Tried Hasseldlad 503, love feel and shutter sound, but unfit for my shooting style. I wish I had Hasselblad Xpan. Wonderful camera, difficult to put down. I own Mamiya 7 instead. Can't tell much about this one yet, need more bonding time. Tried Rolleiflex and Yashica Mat. Sold the last one, but keeping Lubitel. Another Russian made - Gorizont panoramic camera crappy but still lovable. Holga can be fun. Lomo - waste of time and money.
The last acquisition Fuji Natura S Black, I have feeling that it might become my favorite camera.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Orinoco Delta

After Amazon, Orinoco River is considered one of the largest intact wetland areas left on Earth. The Orinoco delta is a vast, intricate labyrinth of waterways weaving through a simmering jungle to carry the waters of the Orinoco to the Atlantic Ocean. Area is home for Warao - "the boat people". They still maintain they own language and life style. Some of them migrate to the bigger cities where they not able adapt to city living and become homeless beggars. Venezuelan government provides monetary help and protection. Number of Cuban teachers and doctors works in the villages. That good, but handouts has some negative effect. People loosing any initiative to work, hunt or grow food. Most fertile land and water resources unused. In the villages built on the river almost hardly anybody fishes. Alcoholism is rampant. Orinoco delta is rich with still untaped oil fields. Soon more drilling and pumping coming to pristine rain forest. Can't expect anything good from that.

Venezuella still unspoiled by mass tourism, full charm and innocence. Looks like eco tourism to Orinoco Delta is picking up. All over I saw construction of jungle lodges. Every village have designated person who will take care of backpackers, show around and provide place to sleep.
Venezuelans are most warm, friendly and hospitable and generous people. I met by chance with area Mayor Selgio Ramírez (Alcalde Pedernales). Very nice and down to earth guy. If Venezuella has more politicians like him, country is in good hands. In general I have not heard any complains about Chavez and his politics. I think country has problem with high crime rate and total absence of police. Only army check posts reminds presence of authority. Military guys very friendly and helpful.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Parkour - True Sport of Urban Jungle

Parkour is the art of movement through concrete and steel jungle of contemporary city. Parkour was created by David Belle and his longtime friend, Sebastien Foucan while growing up in a Paris suburb under influence Belle's father, Raymond, an elite ex-soldier and firefighter in the late 1980s. Combination of Asian martial arts, Zen philosophy and old school hip hop attitude, Parkour seems to be natural self expression for neglected and abandoned by mainstream society youth of housing projects. Ugly dehumanizing concrete architecture creates obstacles and constrains for natural movement, as poverty, lack of education and a very few opportunities for advancement in life limits personal growth. This evokes inner need to overcome them. Art of movement evolves into something more, ability to break out of social and class restrains, be free as person and become Traceur - athelete, but more so, an artist.

Oleg “Red” Krasnyanskiy from Dvinsk Clan. Daugavpils, Latvia.

You see world with different eyes when you become a Traceur: architecture, the path, and your way of life transforms. As a Traceur person fulfill human need to move and live efficiently. And that is what parkour is, art of moving through our environments as efficiently as possible, and ability to find perfect escape route.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Recommended reading.

Burden of Dreams

My trip to Peruvian Amazon Basin was inspired by Werner Herzog's movie "Fitcarraldo". Film about Irish rubber baron named Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald. He had a dream to build an opera house in Iquitos, Peru, then bring Caruso to perform there. To make money for his grandiose project he came up with idea to pull a steamship over a mountain from one river to another in order to reach a rubber tree field.
Many things changed since this film was shot in Iquitos and around, but the spirit of Fitcarraldo still present.

''Burden of Dreams'' documentary Produced by Les Blank, close-up of Werner Herzog at work in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hope at Kilometer 45 (DVD)

Just finished working on Hope at Kilometer 45 DVD.
In the Peruvian jungle Curandera Norma Panduro Havarro runs a small place called Clinica Naturista "Jose Torres Vasquez" located 45 km. from Iquitos. Her healing method is a combination of Ayahuasca ceremonies, diet adjustments, spiritual guidance and chanting. She has helped many people to come back to life.

Bruno's Story 48 min.
Norma's Healing Center 9 min.
Ayahuasca Ceremony 9 min.

Curandera Norma Panduro Havarro and her apprentice cooking Ayahuasca.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Richard Fowler "Aukcoo" - Jungle Guide

If you want to explore heart of darkness and have adventure of your life experience, you will need jungle guide. There is number of tour operators in Iquitos competing for your buck, but only one guide is worth money - Richard Fowler ( ).
Richard is American born naturalist and adventurer living in Iquitos more than 10 years. He is highly decorated Vietnam war veteran, who volunteered to be in battlefield as way to get to jungle and have adventure on a government account. Richard prefers rough life in jungle over boring routine and comforts of suburbia or city. He works with best and most honest people in the area and highly respected by indigenous tribes. Lately he operates with the help of his caring wife Delicia who adds some balance to the whole experience.

To get an idea what Richard have to offer, one should read book "Trail of Feathers" by Tahir Shah. Author put dedication on the first page: "To Richard for keeping his promises". You should be realistic with your expectations, Amazon expedition is nothing like trip to local zoo or park, and you will be dealing with seasoned Vietnam veteran.

Mysterious giant footprints

Our expedition of four - Richard, Fernando with his brother Mayer and me were walking on sandy jungle path ( about 400 km from Iquitos, down on Rio Uayacuali, Peru ) when we stumbled on huge footprints not far from our camp. It resembled giant human footprints and lead to the thick jungle spot. I thought it was big monkey or something, but Fernando assured me that it is not. He newer saw anything like that. Brothers was obviously scared and distressed. Fernando kept his cool, but his brother almost got heart attack. It turns out that local people have a legend about giant one eyed Inca guard, who gets alive once a while for some unexplained reason. Some older hunters had a fews sightings of this elusive creature times long time ago.

Mayer was so scared that he deserted expedition and run away back to his village. He sent back guy with the gun and dog, but rain washed away prints. We spent another night in the area on the guard, but nothing happen or appeared.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ramon - last authentic Shuar shaman

With the help of Richard Fowler I had chance to meet Ramon - probably the last authentic Shuar shaman who still lives with his extended family deep in the Peruvian jungle. Very gentle man with soft voice, not what you would expect from the person who still remember how to shrink human head. The only signs of civilization I spotted at his place was old shotgun, a few aluminum cooking pots, one empty photo film canister and plastic Coca-Cola bottle converted to the baby rattle. When we arrived Ramon was getting ready for the healing ceremony. Someone from the tribe was very sick, not able to walk. I had chance to accompany Ramon on his canoe trip in search of medical plants. We were paddling down the river for couple hours. Huge footprints of caimans left in the mud was all over. Nothing like in the movie, animals usually hide and avoid humans as much as possible. Most likely they are aware of the shotgun presence in our canoe.

When shaman found right tree he started talking to it, explained why he is here and asked for the healing power, energy. Without any rush and with highest respect he harvested some tree bark, then covered wound of the tree with moss and left some tobacco as offering to the spirits of jungle. Healing ceremony was performed very late at night. I heard distant Ramon's voice chanting ancient rites, caiman splashing in the river, and tree frog performing mating song. I was very tired and struggling to be awake. The sound slowly faded away.

Masato - Jungle wine

What can be better in the middle of the hot tropical day than masato: fermented drink made from cooked, smashed yucca and woman's saliva. Part of the yucca what goes to preparation is chewed and spit back to the whole batch. Saliva helps to start fermentation process. By the time when drink is ready to drink it has low alcochol content. Masato tastes like low fat buttermilk.
Great stuff!

Tasty worms

Adventurous travelers who like and dare to try strange and exotic food will find plenty options to indulge in Belem market (Iquitos, Peru). Here you can find everything what jungle and river can offer: from medicinal plant concoctions and exotic fruit drink to freshly prepared fossil like catfish dishes, turtle eggs and wild animal meat. In order to supply large families with scarce protein and earn a little cash, local hunters will kill any wild animal big enough to cover expense of single shotgun cartridge. Keep in mind that your interest in bush meat and skins of predators will encourage meaningless animal killing what is beyond survival necessity.

There are plenty other choices. Highly recommended dish is grilled palm worms with boiled yuca and corn.The flavor of "palmworms" (Rhynchophorus palmarum) has been appreciated throughout the tropical world for centuries.

These nice and fat grubs lives in the bark of palm and can get as big as kiwi fruit. Their taste slightly reminds pan seared buttery scallops with crunchy skin; very, very tasty. If you able eat shrimps, mussels or snails, you should be able to treat yourself with this great dish.


One of my favorite movies is Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-up. It's rare case when elements perfectly fits together creating timeless work of art. Screenplay loosely based on Julio Cortazar short story "Babas del diavolo", action set in stylish Swinging London of sixties. Herbie Hankock wrote music and early The Yardbirds appearing in the club scene. Antanioni wanted British fashion photographer David Bailey to play main character, role eventually filled by David Hemmings. Add Vanessa Redgrave and a few fashion models and we have a picture. Story is interesting and original, but not a most important thing in the movie. Antonioni focusing attention on the main character, successful fashion photographer who constantly moving, looking for "something else", "other things". His mind drifting around, his piercing and critical eyes scanning surroundings. Trained photographers eye able to see absurdity and illusionary qualities of life. His reactions to world and people are individual, sometimes cynical but never abusive. Just plain pleasure to follow Hemmings character for the sake of it. Just like listening a good record. Countless critics and film writers trying to find hidden symbols and meanings in this movie. Wonderful things happen every day and they not necessary needs to be explained or categorized.

Why I am doing that.

I really don't like writing. It's so damn difficult and time consuming to come up with something worthy and put words in the right order. Plus English is not my native language ( I'm lithuanian ), but I like to challenge myself and do things that I am reluctant to do. Sometimes I just want to put my thoughts in words and make my inner dialog more coherent.