Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Desolate beauty

Páramo de Oceta, near small Colombian town Mongui is fantastic place. Páramo (from the Spanish word for "desolate territory") is a unique ecosystem. It is located in the high elevations, between the upper forest line (about 3000 m altitude) and the permanent snow line (about 5000 m). The ecosystem consists of mostly glacier formed valleys and plains with a large variety of lakes, peat bogs and wet grasslands intermingled with shrub lands and forest patches. Nearly 57% of this ecosystem worldwide is found in Colombia.

The plants here very unusual and beautiful, would take time and special knowledge to explore about 5000 different plant species. About 60% of these species are endemic, adapted to the specific physio-chemical and climatic conditions, such as the low atmospheric pressure, intense ultra-violet radiation, and the drying effects of wind. Most spectacular from them is Espeletia, commonly known as Frailejón. It grows 1 cm a year. Many of them are 200 - 300 and up years old, and remember Spanish conquistadors. The flowers are usually yellow, similar to daisies, or tiny Sunflowers. Old dry flowers remains on stem forming protective layer. Look what reminds Joshua Tree.
Páramo ecosystem is very fragile.What is still remains is very close to area inhabited by people, under the threat of farmland expansion. Gradually native flora getting replaced by more useful potato plant... Locals have a hope to make Páramo de Oceta a tourist attraction, but too many visitors can be equally damaging.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Short Colombian trip

Tunja bus terminal 
Bus ride in Colombia is a pleasant experience. Mountain scenery is very beautiful, full of flowers and lush greenery. Private land very well kept and tended, bordered with neat fences. Nothing that resembles to the country locked into permanent internal social conflict. Colombia probably more safe than many Latin American countries. Fighting still going on, but pushed down to remote areas. I took night buses, no problem.
People relaxed, friendly and ready to help. They very happy to see foreigner coming to see their country.
Small towns compete for the name of Most Beautiful Place in Colombia  Old colonial buildings lovingly restored, streets are clean full of colors and flowers. Very few tourists - a big plus.

Mongui - town of football ball makers.

Food is simple, but good quality and filling. I was always was able get fish. Prices at Supermarkets like in US, I think too expensive. In eight days I  was not be able to try all exotic tropical fruit varieties growing in different areas and altitudes.
It was short pleasant trip, I need to come back for more.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Easy Access

If I not listening music on vinyl, I listen it from compact cassettes. Much more easier to pop in tape than dig out something from hard drive. Barely touching any CD's lately. 95 % of my tape collection coming from NY streets. Music collections put together by other people years ago. Latest finds: pile of cool Jazz and Funk, 2 boxes of South America Jazz from 70's and classic music recordings from NY radio, shoe box with 80's pop and rock. It takes time to go through all that treasures, but its rewarding process with plenty of discoveries.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Vinyl Landmarks of the Sound

The more digital world gets the more analog my life becomes. Already for a few months I listen music from compact cassettes and vinyl records only. I tactile interaction with media. And in case of LPs, I love wonderful pre computer art and photographic work. Airbrush, grainy photography, innovative foldouts and sleeve cuts - pure joy to handle. I listen records more ritual and art work than sound quality. Most of my eclectic record collection comes from trash piles of New York. Worn an abused, reminders of the time when record release by favorite band was real cultural event and thrill of anticipation.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I went to see EUR, suburban area of Roma reachable  by Metro, because Michelangelo Antanioni filmed L'eclisse  here. EUR water reservoir or  “fungo” of this upper class neiborhood was present in many scenes and stuck in my head.  Obviously that M. Antanioni chose this location for unique look and feel.  I wanted to see and explore area for myself.  it was raining.  I have intended to  spent  a couple hours, look around, snap a few pictures, homage way. The moment got out of strange Metro station painted in Yves Klein blue it felt not like an ordinary place. Big and deeply dug in  construction project next to the station emanated quite subtle industrial soundtrack consisting of power tools and truck engines noise coming from depths of concrete orchestra pit. Audience consisted from two middle aged man with umbrellas observing action from the street level. Il Fungo was visible behind artificial lake and tall trees. It's look slightly changed  by presence of mobile communications antennas and by not working electronic clock display. Rain made streets almost absent of human presence, eerie Chirico like urban landscape. Monoliths of office buildings and modernist residential towers cut by park, private estates and various embassies behind the gates. Architecture here is very interesting expensively build modern of 50's and 60  surrounded by pine and cedar tree green.

While taking pictures across the street I have noticed tall woman dressed in long black coat and light beige shoes who was smoking a cigarette. She looked like someone waiting or have nowhere to go.
It seemed odd, somebody standing in the rain and place like that. She had big grotesque looking pale face. I was continuing shooting. Smaller ratty looking woman joined woman in coat across the street. They exchanged a few words, smaller one started walking to me obviously not very happy, since by talking picture of crossing I have pointed my camera at them. I realized that to woman are  prostitutes, and the big one most likely is a trannie. No wonder she looked so odd. I didn't expected to see them here in the early afternoon. The small one started bitching about me taking pictures and that she needs to work to feed her children. They mistook me for journalist, they don't want publicity. I explained that I didn't really took picture of them, but architecture, buildings. It why I'm here for. Not I'm not from the newspaper, I'm just curious tourist. She calmed down, I started walking away. She followed me just to be sure that I leaving her territory. I was moving towards Mushroom on the hill, structure surrounded by posh fenced residencies, and park. Here again I have noticed Middle Eastern looking youth in late 20's dressed in track suit aimlessly wondering among the trees in the rain. Most likely male prostitute. Destitute and void of the place just got stronger.

There is a restaurant at the top of water tower. Expensive, and I got impression,  not very welcoming one. I have trying to imagine what kind of clientele dines here. In the parking lot of establishment I found half bottle of red wine. I took a swig out it. Wine was sweet and cheap tasting. I wonder who drinks this kind of wine in Italy? Took bottle with me to the park to finish for the sake of experience. It was revolting sweetness, but I poured it down to my throat.  Took some more pictures and started walking back. Smaller prostitute was still at her street corner. I waved her good bye, she waved me back. Transexual was gone.

Monday, January 04, 2010

World Made by Hand

Nowadays, real luxury is being identified with craftsmanship. Tradition of making things by hand, fixing old stuff and maintaining feel of time still very much alive in Rome. Many business exist out of necessity to maintain old Roman apartments and lifestyle. Tiny shops and workshops maned by one person or staff of few busy with restoring antique art and furniture, creating wooden and metal architectural elements. Music instruments are made and the old ones travel from around the world to be lovingly restored here. Small independent fashion designers and shoe makers create individual pieces for people with style and taste. Design, materials and painstaking workmanship are exquisite. If you can't afford, just good too know that old traditions still alive and artisan skills in demand.