Thursday, July 31, 2014

Carrara, Italy

Carrara is an accidental location since I never planned to go there; it just happened.  And I was delighted.  From the port of Marina de Carrara the mountains where the marble quarries look as they are covered with snow.  The famous quarries has been mined for more than 2,000 years and some of the most famous marble sculptures, such as the statue of David were made from Carrara marble .  It took Michelangelo two years to liberate David from its marble grave.  Now a day it probably will take hours using a computer guided carvers to create a David with more exacting tolerances.  But will it still be called art?

Going from the coast up to the mountain thru a narrow winding road with sharp curves is thrilling.  Particular when one encounters a huge trailer truck with large blocks of marble going to the port.  These truck drivers are very experienced and watching them handling the steep hills and curves is impressive; of course since they have the biggest vehicle one has to yield or rather…intimidated?  In the late 1800’s the “Marble Rail” was built do transport the blocks to the coast, it was about 10 miles long but it was replaced by trucks.  One of the highlights of the trip is the Marble Railway Bridge that is now abandoned. It very picturesque structure crossing a ravine that will give and idea of the rough terrain that has to be traversed to reach the mines.  There are also numerous facilities along the road where the marble is cut to order to be shipped all over the world.

The marble is quarried both in the surface and underground.  There are concerns within the European Union regarding the surface mining defacing the environment and as to what amount of marble is left. I guess based in the vastness of these mountains, there are another 2,000 years of marble left to quarried, that is if the miners last that long.
I took a tour of the underground mine and I was amazed as to the huge excavations.  It was cold and wet since water percolates from the surface; marble is porous and water can move thru it.  About these images, these were taken between 16, 000 and 25,000 ISO so that is the reason for the not so perfect quality.  But I could have not taken these photos with film or for that matter, with a digital camera 3-5 years old…the advances of technology.

The miners probably have lots of idle time while the marble blocks are cut and use the spare time to carve graffiti in the walls as well as attempting to create works of arts. There also memorials to those who made the quarrying of the marbles possible as well as those who lost their lives in the dangerous mining industry.  In the marble below, the images of horses was created by a modern Leonard di Vinci, notice the two holes at  the center left; these are drilled and thru them the cutting wire is passed.  The groove at the right is the track left by a cutting wire.

The blocks quarried are exported to the world for the creation of sculptures as well as architectural wonders.  I am sure that if you look around where you live that the odds are that you will find a piece of Carrara marble. Who knows what I accidentally will run into next.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bandhavgarh…more than Tigers.

This was my second visit to this park and in lots of ways, different than the last time.  The crows were not there; particularly the absence of foreign tourists was noticed, the local nationals dominated this time.  More tigers were seen than last year during the same time period.

While there last year BBC was making a documentary of the “one-eyed tiger” called Kantaki.  She had 3 cubs then but all were killed; this year two.  She was very protective of them and we did not see them.  The story that I heard is that she lost the eye in a territorial fight with another female and was defeated.  But after healing she returned and killed the previous victor.  My friends were intensively focused in the opportunity to photograph the famous “one eyed tigress” called Kankati. I was lucky to photograph her walking in a creek after cooling herself; the temperature at the time was 112 degrees F.

The monkeys are always there staring at you wondering why you are such a big monkey and they so small.  I would say that the most abundant are the langurs.  One Langur threatened to break my camera with a stone but I was not intimidated; his terrorizing face did not stop me. They spent most of the time moving thru the forest looking for food and the young ones playing in what look like serious fights.  These monkeys are smart…they take a siesta in the middle of the day.  And the Rhesus monkeys stare back at you trying to figure out what you are.

And there are spotted deer, probably the most abundant ungulate in the park , as well as the wild boards and the jackals…this was the first time I had seen one in the park.  The Sambar is the largest deer in the park.  They wade in streams and feed on  the grass growing at the bottom of the streams.  In the image below the male was guarding the female from other males that were trying to mate with her.

The peacock is very abundant and most often,  displaying their feathers to atract the peahens.  I was lucky to catch one flying; not easy since they just unexpectedly fly up or down from a favorite perching branch.  Next is the Crested Serpent Eagle; this is an old acquiantance from last year. I recognized it since it is blind in one eye, I was pleased to know that it has survived one more year with such a handicap. The thicknee is also another special bird for me since I had seen them or their close cousins within the genus  Burhinus (but diferent species) in Africa, South America and Australia.  It is a very peculiar plover with large eyes and as the name implies “thick knees”.  

 This time I had the opportunity to travel at sunset along the small farming communities in the viscinity  of park.  What an exhuberance of colors and friendly people. There were lots of activities as collecting the wheat crop, making bricks,  finishing walls and looking for firewood and pumping water from the community wells.  Rather than providing more details, I rather post a few images.

I cannot catchup updating the blog since I have recently been in the “unfriendly skies” going  places  and catching strange diseases.  So I will part with a photo of a resort in Yala that saw better days.