Tag Archives | travel photography

Ancramdale, NY 12503, July 2014 part 2…

Soon I will depart for Greece, and Paros.  It has been splendid being back here. I have spent my time visiting with good friends and family, eating American food, driving around…

I joined the local gym the day after I arrived and have been able to work out 6 out of 7 days.  I have stuck with the treadmill.  Why not the stationary bike, you say?  Simple: boring.  All exercise aside, the stationary bike has none of the qualities I look for in bicycling. There is no wind in my face, no exhilaration of speed, no constant vigilance concerning traffic and/or obstacles.  It contains none of the rewards I glean in a long uphill slog on a rutted, rocky road.  So I hike the treadmill.  I have been able to walk 8+ miles (12.9 km) at a stretch, keeping a constant 4.3 mph (6.9 kmh).  The only variable has been the grade.  I start off at 6.5% and by the time I am finishing up mile number 4, I am at a 15%.  It is all downhill from there.  I finish at 0.0%.  I count the time, the miles, and watch the calories drip off.  I manage to burn off 1800+ per session.  I think, let my mind drift.  The exercise has allowed me to indulge the American palate.  To be honest I have also been eating a lot of watermelon and grapefruit.  At my age, I cannot pretend my metabolic rate is the same as when I was 40, or 30.  Move a muscle…

I attended an estate sale last week and purchased a neat little Pentax ME 35mm camera with a nice F/2.0 50mm lens and a F/3.5 135mm telephoto to go along with it.  I figured I couldn’t go wrong for $45.  I ran a couple of rolls of film through it as a test.  For technical sake it was roll of TRiX 400 and TMAX 100.  I developed them both using Rodinal 1:50 for 11.5 minutes.  They look pretty good.  The camera is light-weight and easy to use.  I will carry it with me.

I have missed Paros terribly.  My heart is there.  Greece has gotten into my blood.  My senses are full of the place.  I have succumbed to Her wiles.  The seduction is complete.

Pentax ME w/135mm lens

Pentax ME w/135mm lens

 

–JDCM

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49 years…

–Today is my birthday.  I have been on the planet, breathing the air, since February 17, 1965.  I am an Aquarian, and in the the Year of the Wood Snake to boot.  It’s a heavy combination, if you follow these things.  Those of you who know me well enough will see that the associated characteristics fit me to a “T.”

–My future family were traveling in Europe when I was born.  They settled in Dublin, Ireland for a year waiting for me to arrive.  When I was old enough to travel they hit the road again and stayed in Italy for a couple of months before heading back to America.  My sisters were 10 and 8.  Somewhere there are home movies my father made showing us all at the time.

–I have had my share of successes and failures.  Some of them have been of my own doing and some have been granted or inflicted upon me.  Such is life.  No one is immune to that dynamic.  I suppose it is how we roll with the punches, how we dust ourselves off, that matters.

–Yesterday I surprised myself.  After a tough 2-hour, somewhat technical, mountain bike ride, I bumped into a small phalanx of other riders on my way back home.  One invited me along for a leisurely ride into the hills.  I went.  I usually would not do this,  i.e., join in so quickly.  It was fun.  I met some people I hadn’t met before, had a couple small chats.  Nothing too committed, nothing too serious.  Then I came home.  

–I also had a superb and very difficult ride three days ago.  I rode from Paroikia to Lefkes (45 min.) and then from Lefkes to the radio aerials that sit atop the highest peak (1.25 hrs).  From there I rode down the south-western slope, along an extremely rocky track, that eventually turned into a decent farm road.  All unpaved, of course.  The route eventually led me to Kakapetra, an area just south of Paroikia and a stones throw from a friend’s house (45 min.)  I stopped by for coffee and a chat.  The image below is from that jaunt.  You can see the aerials far away in the distance.

–I have reapplied for my American passport via the mail and the embassy in Athens; I have washed a load of laundry;  I have shopped for cat food.  Tonight, I get to eat dinner with a good friend at one of my favorite restaurants on the planet.   I begin my 50th year as a photographer and an amateur mountain biker.  Looking back, when I turned 30 I was a chef de cuisine (10 years)  and a guitar player (15 years).  Like the snake, I shed my skin.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

Biking from the aerials on Paros.

 

 

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Looking for spring…

–It is February, the Longest Month and Winter seems to want to hold a bit longer here on Paros.  Her hand clutches with grey fingers, wrinkled and damp, thin from the cold.

–Meanwhile, Persephone is in a downstairs apothiki, packing her bags and checking her visa in anticipation of her departure from Hades.  She will arrive soon, skipping through the green fields, wild blossoms in her dark hair, her backpack resting by the side of the road.

–I popped a spoke on my bike the other day up in the hills.  Check my Flickr site to see where I was…

–It is not wise to ride with a single spoke missing.  It puts uneven strain on the others, then they pop and then your wheel “tacos” mid-spin.  That is a good image, and one I do not wish to experience.  So I am having it re-spoked at the local bike shop.  I am getting rid of the stock spokes that are currently on the wheel  and adding stainless steel units.  The old ones were pretty rusty.  I am also having stainless control cables installed and new chain.  This should get me ready for spring.

I feel like boycotting everything having to do with Russia.  Just my political 2 cents.   

JDCM

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Updates from the road…

I am in New York.  It is hot, humid and lush.  It is hard to describe the quantity of water on the land and in the air.  Back on my Parian home the heat is the same but the arid conditions make for a more pleasant experience.  Outside my window the trees and foliage are dense green, impenetrable without the use of a machete or  chainsaw.  I can hear it grow, sucking up moisture from the rich earth.

 

A view from my mother's front porch, Ancramdale, NY

A view from my mother’s front porch, Ancramdale, NY.

 

I am back in America to visit my family, and only for a month.  If all goes well I will be back on Paros on August 1st ready for the final push towards my solo exhibit of large format portraiture.  It has been almost two years since the project began and I am looking forward to the event.  I am nervous, yes, but in anticipation, not dread.  I know my work can stand on its own as a complete body.  I also know that whoever views it will bring something unique to the experience.  I am also currently designing a new website specifically for the portraits.  I will launch this site after the show opens on August 18th.

For the time being, I will visit with my elderly parents and my dear sisters.  I hope to drop in on a fellow student and alumna of the Aegean Center, but time and schedules will determine that visit.  I am able to catch up with good friends and compare notes on how our lives are faring.

I am experiencing a good amount of culture shock here.  The cars all all huge and the food seems heavy to my palate.  As I sit here at my computer I sweat.  Just sweat.  I am not even exerting myself.  There are no sounds of ferries docking, motor scooters riding down the narrow streets of my neighborhood.  No smell of the sea.  I cannot walk to my favorite cafe.   It is supposed to rain tonight and perhaps that will ease the heat, but it also promises high, hot and humid conditions for tomorrow.  I am not whinging, just noticing some differences.

Todays post has a new header image.  It is a section of wall behind my mother’s house.  The stones are slate and granite, green with growth.  So different from the Kykladic structures of which I have grown so fond.   Different, yet the same.  It serves the same purpose:  it is a retaining wall preventing the downhill slide of earth after the rains.

The skies have suddenly clouded over.  There is a low rumble of thunder in the air.

JDCM

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Return to Paros…

As the ferry rounded the northern tip of the island, opposite Naoussa, and I saw the lighthouse atop Cape Korakas, I knew that I was home.  I leaned against the port gunwales, waiting until we had passed the Cave of Archilochus, and then I went back inside the old ship and gathered my things.  I was the first person downstairs in the garage bay.   I walked off the NEL Lines Aqua Jewel with a feeling of deep relief and happiness.  I was home, back on Paros.  I allowed the noises and smells of a busy Greek island port to fill my senses as I walked back to my flat.

That was two days ago and since then I have taken care of essential business, mostly laundry.  I have come back to my favorite cafes and eaten in my favorite restaurants.  All is well with the world.  In other words, life continues and changes in small and big ways and I find myself, as usual, listening more than talking during intense discussions with friends.  My grandmother always said that was a character trait that would serve me well.  We’ll see…

I do have a lot to say, but verbally it seems that many others say it so much better than I, so why paraphrase?  Many years ago I was an avid musician.  I wrote music, songs, lyrics, played in bands.  I did this for many years-decades.  I had a lot to say then, or I thought so.  In the end the words became dark, sinister and negative.  The bands moved on without me and I dropped the music, along with a few other pastimes.   I can still play the instrument, but the desire to express with sound has left me.  Just part of the Great Circle, I suppose.  These days I have a quieter way to explain the world.  I find it much more calming, and good deal lighter in actual weight.  It lets me stop, look and breathe.  The shutter clicks.  I feel that this is where I should have been all along.

The island has become the color of worn brass and oxidized aluminum. The craggy, yellow-brown contours are set off by the blue sky and the deeper, indigo sea.  White buildings dot the arid landscape,  like so many chunks of salt-lick.  The tomatoes are rich and sweet and there is fish to savor in a nearby taverna.  In two days I leave Paros again, this time for America.  I will visit with friends and family, eat American food and have my senses bombarded with different sights, most of them very green and wet.  It will be humid and there will be rain.

En route I will stop in Athens.  While I am there I will visit the Benaki Museum and see a large photography exhibit by Constantine Manos.

Now I am rambling.  It is hot and I need to add some images to this post.  These are from my recent island hop.

JDCM

Folegandros

Folegandros

Folegandros

Folegandros

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Images from the past weeks…

I leave Folegandros in a couple of days and return to Parikia.  I have noticed that wherever I have stopped–Amorgos, Sikinos, Folegandros…I always seem to find a high vantage point, usually the Chora or a high mountain.  I peer north, searching for my lovely home and I see it.  Paros.  It is there, close at hand.  I am thinking like this now.  I am somewhat homesick.

I have rented a small car.  Today I will take it easy and drive around and take pictures.  I saw some areas along the road during the bus ride yesterday that demand attention.  Plus, I want to give my feet a rest.  No hiking today.  Maybe tomorrow and then to a beach.  I want to get home, but I am no hurry to get through the day.  Plus, at 1PM the sun is far too bright to be of any use to me.  I will wait until 3PM or so and head out.

JDCM

Short DoF image of some wall detail on Amorgos

Short DoF image of some wall detail on Amorgos

 

 

The Aspropounda Lighthouse on Folegandros, looking south.

The Aspropounda Lighthouse on Folegandros, looking south

Detail of the door of Episkopi, Sikinos

Detail of the door of Episkopi, Sikinos

Detail of some wall work on Folegandros

Detail of some wall work on Folegandros

A kouros statue found on the island of Naxos

 

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Sikinos, part 1…

I arrived here yesterday, 15 June.  I checked into the Hotel Porto Sikinos (charming and comfortable) and knew that what I needed was a brisk walk and then a leap into the sea.  So I did that. Nothing too strenuous or out of control.  Then I cleaned up, i.e. took a shower, and rode the bus up the chasm that separates Alopronia (the port) from the Chora.  It is a 5 km drive up the winding road.  I was told there was a decent restaurant there.  I ordered saganaki tiri, fried potatoes, fried eggplant and lamb chops (paidakia).  It was pretty good but I know a lamb shoulder chop when I see it.  “Paidakia”, my ass.  OK.  That’s what I give the restaurant–an ‘OK’.  After a long day of travel I slept like a log and woke up around 8:30.  The breakfast at the hotel was quite good, and plentiful.  I skipped the bready things and ate the yogurt, boiled egg, both honeys, coffee and juice.  Today I was going to hike to Episkopi!  Yes, I did eventually get there, but it was adventure I am not eager to repeat.  My fault, by the way.  This is the rundown…

I chose a well-traveled path out of Alopronia up the Chora.  No real worries, but I strayed off at one point and had to bushwhack through the thorny underbrush and eventually backtrack 500m downhill to where I joined the track again.  I arrived in the Chora an hour later sopping with sweat.  I refueled with some orange soda and bought some more water at a café.  Good thing I did.  I would need it.

There are two ways to reach Episkopi. The first is along the paved road that leads directly to the place.  The other is a donkey track just off the paved road that also leads right to the ancient temple.  Of course I chose the donkey track, or so I thought.  What I chose was a different donkey track that mirrored, for a while at least, the one I currently trod.  So I hiked along, enjoying the view of the archipelago (Folegandros, Milos, Kimolos, Sifnos, Andiparos, Paros and Naxos). Beautiful.  Stunning.  Then the path began to narrow. Hmmm…I continued since it was not a problem.  Yet. Then as I was happily sauntering along I came around a corner and there was the fence.  Shit.  The path continued on the other side…I could see it.  Then I realized my mistake.  I should have gone back, it would have been easy enough, but no.  I decided to go up and around the fence, or so I hoped.  Long story short…

This led to a three-hour uphill, across ancient terraces, through thorns that would pierce leather (and my skin) trudge.  I was able to find short stretches of paths, more goat tracks than anything else.  Then they would disappear into a thorny mass.  At this point I was aware of two things:  I had not seen any goat droppings in a while and the foliage was becoming more and more wild.  The fig trees were small and dried out, crackling under my grip.  The olive groves were overgrown and unkempt, the trees stunted from the wind and unpruned.  My reading of Homer told me that I was far from civilization.  Oh yes…water…I had 1 full liter left.  I was becoming disheartened, but what choice did I have but to keep pushing up and, I hoped, reach the road which I knew was there, yet I could not see?   My excellent topo map gave me a pretty good idea where I was.  So I scrambled and clawed my way through the thorns as they tore my skin.  I climbed ancient terrace walls, carefully planting my feet and hands.  Should one collapse, I was finished.  No joke.  I was getting worried.  I began to remember what I had packed:  Water, two cameras, my Swiss Army knife, two sarong for padding for the cameras.   They were brightly colored.  I could wave them to get someone’s attention in the case of an emergency, but there was no one around.  I also had both my mobile phones.  I ran several conversations through my head…I prayed a lot.  Asked for all kinds of help:  just 20 more meters; just over this terrace; just a little more.  I was loath to drink my water.  Only a half liter remained.

At one point the underbrush thinned slightly and I saw a real path.  Stony, uneven, but going up and without  many thorn bushes.  Thank you, thank you…whoever.  I moved up.  I clambered over a small pile of stones and then I saw it:  the guard rail.  The road.  The blessed road.  Only 50 meters now…30…20…10 and I was up and out standing on glorious tarmac.  I have never been so happy to see pavement.  I looked to my left and there was Episkopi.  I made it.  The breeze was blowing.  I began to feel chills, a sign of many things, almost all bad.  I walked the 100 meters to the glorious and historical building, seeking shade.  I walked along the side and plopped down on a small bench out of the sun.  I dropped my pack, took off my shoes and socks, hung my soaked t-shirt on a wall to dry and took some deep breaths.  Grateful, I leaned against the cool stone of the former-temple-of-Apollo-turned-Byzantine-church and blissfully felt my core temperature drop.  I took out my watch.  It was 2:20.  Now to get back to the Chora and the port.  There is a large cistern at the site and I refilled my water bottles but I needed potassium, salt and more water.  Juices. Cold juices.  And bananas.  That’s what wanted.  But first some pictures.

I made it back, dear readers, yes, I made it back.  I have just counted the distance and I probably hiked a little over 12 km, the hard way.  Tomorrow I go to the beach and relax.  I will read my book, swim and let the antiseptic quality of the Aegean cure my lacerated limbs.  Then I will nap.  Tuesday I head to Folegandros.  I will be there for 5 days.  I am a lucky boy, in many ways.

thorns

Thorns that tore my flesh

JDCM

Episkopi

Episkopi

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Sitting here in limbo, sort of…

I departed Amorgos this morning at 6AM.  3 1/2 hours later and I am on Naxos, with a four-hour layover until the Aqua Spirit arrives and takes me back south to Sikinos.  The sunrise over Amorgos was lovely, storm clouds glued to its high peaks.  I fell asleep as we left Iraklia.  I woke up sailing through the Parian/Naxian Straits.  Just in time to stretch, regain blood flow to my arms, grab my pack and head below decks to the loading ramp.  I have dumped my big bag in left-luggage, et voilà,  here I am…waiting for the next boat to arrive.  It feels odd, having to backtrack on my small journey and be within waving distance of my Parian home.  I am updating this missive in the ‘Captain’s Cafe’, a shady yet empty spot on the Port of Naxos.  I have eaten an omelet (etsi-ketsi)and feel refreshed after the early morning boat ride.

If I had a month I could not cover Amorgos.   With hundreds of kilometers of hiking trails, not to mention the off-trail possibilities, one could hike, climb, clamber, scramble, bushwhack and otherwise reconnoitre that Kykladic gem until the goats come home.  Yesterday I ended up on what I thought was an established trail, but then noticed that there were no markers or paint spots.  The way was clear, however, so I persevered.  The afternoon grew longer and I eventually turned back.  That is the beauty of goat tracks.  I could have walked for days on end and never been lost.

Amorgos is charmed in many respects.  There are three natural harbors big enough for larger vessels, and they have been long-established. No others exist on the island.  The coast is too treacherous.  I thought the terrain was too rocky and steep for an airport, but a café owner told me that there was a former WW 2 airbase that was, at one time, considered for the project.  The Dimos scrapped that idea due to lack of funds.  A small seaplane is supposed to begin service–who knows when?   So for the moment it is an island that, although accessible, still retains an element of remoteness.

I rented a small studio from Pension Georgia which was clean, new, just off the port and worth the 35 euros a night.  The advertised wi-fi wasn’t so strong but I ended up hanging out at the Akrogiali Cafe, just on the port.  Very strong connections, friendly atmosphere and excellent coffee.  They’re also open 24 hours on the weekends to accommodate the odd arrivals and departures of the various boat companies.

The food, per se, was very good, although I did have one dud meal at the Corner Taverna.  It wasn’t bad, just so-so.  I had a wonderful dinner at a small place in Katapola called ‘Kapetan Dimos’.  The chef takes traditional recipes and adjusts them subtly.  It made for a wonderful meal, different from standard taverna fare.  Interesting and very tasty variations on tzatziki, fava and patatate, a stew made from potatoes and goat spiced with cloves and allspice.  Next on the list was ‘El Greco’.  I ate there twice, actually.  Traditional Greek home cooking.  Anyone who knows me is aware that this is my favorite type of food in general.  Excellent kolokithokeftedes, taroma and merides.    The third place was ‘Viktoras’, a very non-descript but satisfactory grill house.  Tasty pork kontosouvli, grilled peppers and mezithra.  I wasn’t able to make it to any of the tavernas elsewhere on the island, but a friend told me there are some fabulous places in Kamari and Vroutsi.  Next time.  Amorgos warrants a few more visits.

So here I am, waiting once again for the next leg of the hop.  There is a small museum here in town which I’ll go visit before my 1PM boat.  The ‘Aqua Spirit’ is an older ferry and travels at half the speed of the big Blue Star craft.  I will read my spy novel, snooze and  watch the islands slip by on Homer’s wine dark sea.

JDCM

View from a hike on Amorgos

View from a hike on Amorgos

View from a hike on Amorgos

Another view from a hike on Amorgos

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