Banff, 1959 - Conclusion: "Open Sesame!"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 12:42 PM 0 comments

There was a Swiss piano teacher that Summer in the Music Department at the Banff summer school, 1959. He loved hiking up to the higher elevations, above the timberline.

Often I joined his group, into that realm where Pika, Mountain Goat, and Bighorn Sheep roam. (This time I went along for the hiking, not field painting.) The change in my work also raised eyebrows of my landlady, Mrs. Parkin and her friends.

Later when I got back to Toronto, Dr. Goodman (who became the recipient of all my Banff landscape work) found the latest changes difficult to understand. The faculty must have noticed something within that I was not aware of. How about me? Well, I discovered a freedom with unlimited horizon. To be no longer enslaved to the conventional “real” in Art opened many doors, the most important being “Imagination”.

I always had a vivid imagination, but it was the faculty there who awoken it again. (However before attending the School, I’d already begun to break away from monotony of greys, greens and browns of mountain scenery. I included warmer colours, like “Threshold”, shown here.) “Echoes of Native Art”, done later at the School and won all those awards I mentioned earlier, ventured already into ‘surrealism’.

No more crawling like a caterpillar. Instead, soaring as a “flutterby”. Once imagination is tapped, inspiration follows. Charlie Chan says, “Human mind like parachute. Works best when open”.

When Ali Baba approached the cave, commanding “Open Sesame!” , the grotto opened, revealing a bounty of treasure. In another story, the Genie in the bottle granted three wishes, after which he was liberated from the bottle, exclaiming, “I am free! I am free!” In my case, Aladdin’s lamp was rubbed, and imagination leapt out.

To experience, to explore, to discover: this is what creates real adventure. Who would have thought the pleasure and joy of all those happy adventurous moments doing field painting, ‘en plein air’ in the Canadian Rockies, would be the last time I’d paint landscapes?

Another type of joy would replace it, such as that of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”, set to music by the immortal Ludwig van Beethoven. My outlook had changed, and now I was looking in, having “crossed the Great Divide”, in Banff National Park – of all places -- from “Landscape to Mindscape”. (C) Happy Trails! Henri

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Banf 1959, part 6

Posted by Kitara Julian On 6:42 AM 0 comments

One week before the final days of the Summer session and end-of-season exhibition, my work became more and more imaginative. The whole experience was like magic. On stage, a magician makes some things disappear into the ‘unknown’, while I was making things ‘appear’ from the unknown. There in the Canadian Rockies of all places, I crossed the “Great Divide”, or what I call evolving from “Landscape to Mindscape” (c).

What is “real” in art? We think that landscapes, still life and figurative works are real. We recognize the imagery; we see, translate and therefore ‘identify’ with the work. It is all a soothing exercise. In reality, of course, whatever an artist depicts on paper or canvass – say a mountain landscape or waterfall, pine trees and mountain flowers -- we cannot actually smell the fresh pines, swim in the lake, climb the mountain or take a refreshing dip in cascading waterfalls.

Often such imagery makes us “identify” with them. There are several reasons for this, mostly sentimental. Of course, representational works are recognizable, and can easily be ‘critiqued’. (“The best sailors are on the shore.”) However, one cannot argue about taste and preferences. All of us know what we like, don’t we?

In a sense the so-called “real” is in fact “surreal” or abstract. We don’t deny the existence of these phenomena in Nature, on the contrary; they are the blueprints, building-blocks and foundation that inspire and guide us. But in my case, such phenomena was used as a launching pad.

Returning to those weeks at the Banff school, I’d discovered a hidden bonus. Tossed into garbage bins were tubes of oil, watercolour, gouache -- still with lots of paint, caps half on, but perfectly useable. Plus brushes of all kinds, including sable; these had been discarded by others. Material I welcomed and made good use of!

Towards the end of that Summer session, many students and a few faculty were really surprised how swiftly my work had changed. Having set my compass to this uncharted direction of that vast ocean called Imagination, I embarked with joy on this new voyage of exploration, never to look back. With one exception: the person who sponsored my trip to Banff.

Dr. Wilfred S. Goodman of Toronto asked if I could visit his parents at their farm in Baldur, Manitoba before returning to Toronto. An eventful overnight bus ride from Winnipeg aboard the “Grey Goose Line” made this possible. While there. I did an oil painting showing their pond. This was the very last landscape painting I ever did. It is now with the Goodman family, together with all my other works from that eventful and pivotal summer, Banff 1959. More on that later. Signing off, Henri

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Banff 1959, Part 5: "Crossing the Great Divide"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 11:08 AM 0 comments
By now it was almost mid-July. One more month and summer school would end. Murray MacDonald, the faculty member who discovered me at Moraine Lake (see previous post), said I should meet the director.

And so it was that I met Donald Cameron. He gave special consent for me to register. Thus yours truly, who had no funds, became the first-ever (?) “guest” student at the Banff summer school. His decision was also influenced partly because I already had accommodation and meals in town.

Being mostly self-taught, this was an opportunity for me to receive “lessons in Art” from established faculty such as Charles Stegeman, William Townsend of the Slade School in London UK, and Murray MacDonald.

The classes had been in session for a month already when I joined. Great was my disappointment when they went on their next field trip and I wasn’t able to come along. Instead, I had to stay in Classroom #308, Donald Cameron Building. (Coincidentally, many years later, Natasha had her office right across the hall from this very classroom, when she worked there from 1980-85 as executive assistant to Presidents David Leighton and later Paul Fleck.)

Instructions were given to me: To avoid distraction from the natural scenery, Henri, we advise you to turn your back to the window”. Why this unusual advice? Because I had been asking all kinds of questions, such as: “Those greens, greys and browns here in the Rockies, after awhile they become monotonous. For a start, why can’t we change the colours to make the landscapes more alive?”

Already I had started painting in this way (see “Threshold”). This led to the faculty’s suggestion for me to put these questions to the test, and seek answers. Hence my back to the window!

Since I’d been in the Rockies on my own the past 2 months and created numerous landscapes (see earlier posts), it was worth a try. After all, the faculty were experienced artists themselves, well-established and respected. And so this great adventure into the unknown started. I began with a blank sheet of paper - - - no guidance of objects or phenomena.

Instead of rendering what’s “out there”, the process is reversed. Now I’d work on drawing out what was within. Soon I was comfortable being alone on those occasions when the others went field painting, and began painting some ‘imaginary things’. (But I still was not too pleased about being left out on the field trips!) However, this challenge gave me a new incentive.

“It’s easier to start an argument than to start a painting from a blank canvas, you know.” (Henri van Bentum)

After doing a series of abstract images on paper, I began to have fun. Soon I had more confidence and started to work on masonite or canvas board. Next came a series inspired by my meeting with the First Nations chiefs (see earlier post), depicting their neglected and declining culture. Being in Canada less than 2 years from the Lowlands, I was taken aback by decline of their culture.

At the end of the summer school season, an exhibition was held of our work. Great was my surprise when one of the First Nation’s series won not only First Prize in oils, but a scholarship for the 1960 summer session, plus the Purchase Award for the School’s permanent collection. (See “Echoes of Native Art”.) Still to come: one or two more posts about this crossing of the “Great Divide”, Banff, 1959. Happy Trails! Henri

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Banff, 1959 Part 4 - unexpected company

Posted by Kitara Julian On 1:20 PM 0 comments

To do field painting in a natural environment sharpens the “noticing and observing senses.Each change of shadow, light, movement, wind, clouds, temperature, plus the myriad variations of the colour Green alone, how and where you put your feet - - - all this and more serve to ‘sharpen the pencil’.

Painting outdoors in the Rocky Mountains is different from visiting as a tourist or hiker. For an artist, it’s not the same, no matter where. The act of painting (or anything done with absorption) can lead to a timeless state of mind. Speaking of things “not being the same”, landscape painting has never been the same since the Impressionists took their art out of the conventional, academic studio environment, and placed it outdoors to capture on paper or canvas. Here in Canada we had the Group of Seven, who came later and were “our Impressionists”.

You have to respect the courage, the challenges that were faced by these painters working in the field. In France --- the Mistral and the fierce summer heat; in Canada, mosquitoes and black flies. Yet, they kept going.[Today the public loves the Impressionists and great artists such as Vincent van Gogh, and here in Canada, the Group of Seven. But that’s easy; after the initial scoffing and mockery, a century has gone by bestowing and recording praise upon praise on these pioneer artists, now household names. ]

OK let’s move on. Since arriving in Banff early May, I’d done several oil and oil pastels in remote locations throughout the Park. Some days while hitchhiking early in the morning I’d get a ride into Canmore where I did “The Three Sisters” in oil pastel.

Several times I gave paintings to strangers who offered me a lift back into Banff. In those days, I was grateful for the being there, I believed I could always do more some other time. Little did I know what was in the lap of the future, or I would have kept every one. Now I’ve completely lost track of where these paintings are, no record for our archives.

The grandson of Mrs. Parkin, my landlady, lived in Calgary. He visited sometimes, and one day his grandmother said, “Why don’t you take Henri to Calgary, for the Stampede?” And so he did, and I stayed for the full Stampede week. What an experience! I have never forgotten this extraordinary spectacle. (Remember at this point I’d been in Canada less than two years, coming from the Lowlands, where as boys we grew up under the spell of Cowboy and Indian movies.)

Back in the Rockies, one morning I’d already spent several hours painting at Moraine Lake when a big van pulled up with several students and two faculty members which later I learned were from the Banff summer school.Earlier, my landlady mentioned “that School” up on Tunnel Mountain, but I’d not been there to visit. (From what I’d heard, I couldn’t afford the fees.)

The students, all women, set up their easels. One of the faculty came over to me and introduced himself: Manly MacDonald. He looked at the work on my easel, then asked a few questions, including who was I, where did I come from, where was I staying, and how long had I been painting? He also enquired if I’d ever visited the “School”. Mr. MacDonald then said, “I think you should come and visit the School sometime.”

I finished my painting and waited until the group was ready to return, hoping to get a lift. This worked out well.A few days later, I walked up Tunnel Mountain to pay the School a visit.

That July day, 1959, at Moraine Lake, destiny guided me towards an unexpected and unknown road into the future. A path I am still walking. More on this, later. Happy Trails! Henri

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After seeing the woman sketching here at the seashore, not one but several doors opened into my ‘memory mansion’. Here we are already on part 3, yet, the most important part of the Banff story (other than the memorable experience of simply being there) hasn’t begun. Of course this isn’t a play-by-play colour commentary on the full summer of 1959 in the Rocky Mountains.

Actually my motivation for recording all this is the fact that though I did numerous landscape paintings ‘en plein air’ at Banff National Park, it was there that I ‘crossed the Great Divide’. The wheel was set in motion for a major evolution in my work.

But let’s not be too hasty, first things first. On my early morning painting treks into the mountains, I’d see chipmunks and also lots of Gophers everywhere. Gophers would swiftly pop up and down into their holes. They whistled shrill warnings to their family while I set up shop in their neighbourhood.

Since I was always alone in the wilderness, one of the fishermen who gave me a lift to the road leading up to Peyto Lake warned me to be careful not only of the Grizzly and Black Bears, but also the Wolverine. This was good to know. Coming from Holland less than 2 years earlier, I’d never heard of Wolverines.

Anyway one morning I was seated, totally absorbed in trying to capture the intriguing shape and milky turquoise-colour of Peyto Lake. I was looking down on the Lake below, when suddenly I heard a rustling and crackling sound. Oh-oh! A bear or wolverine!” I thought to myself. Slowly I turned my head around. A few feet away, there was a chipmunk nibbling, very dapper, on one of my sticks of oil pastel! He was holding it gently in his front paws, having already carefully removed the wrapper. A breakfast snack.

I’d come back to Banff soon after high Noon, if I could get a lift. The temperature rose high and fast in these early days of summer. Back in those days, 1959, “Indian Days” were held every summer, just outside the town of Banff. First Nations chiefs of the Blackfoot, Stoney, Blood, and other nations sat outside their large ‘wigwams’. They’d answer questions posed by curious visitors.

One of the Chiefs said something I’ve never forgotten. He said to our little group, “White man is funny, because when we say ‘There are only twenty ocelots left’, some of you would say, ‘Oh, let’s go shoot them, before they’re all gone.’”

Tomorrow, I’ll share with you amongst other events, how I was ‘discovered’, at Moraine Lake! Signing off, Henri

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Banff 1959, Part Two - Wildlife face to face

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:44 AM 0 comments

Memory can be like a clear mirror, but only when what the eye views is “seen” with full attention as things happen. Otherwise the mirror becomes foggy, as if “breathed” upon. Or to put it another way, ‘when we let the film role with the cap still on our lens of the camera’, no picture will be developed.

Banff in 1959 was a sleepy town. There was the classy Banff Springs Hotel; a trail riding outfit for horseback riding, and the Banff summer school up Tunnel Mountain. Banff Avenue had no T-shirt stores, jewellery shops, no Japanese signs in the windows, no mall.

There was a small Western “Chinese” restaurant, typical of the 1950’s, also a grocery store. During that summer, a male black bear got into the back of the store twice and feasted on the sweets. I say twice; after he was caught the first time (tranquilized and carted off), he came back and did the same thing all over again! Tranquilized, this time he was taken far from the town, never to return that summer.

Sometimes very early in the morning, I’d go over to the golf course at Banff Springs Hotel to collect golf balls that were here, there and everywhere. I sold these, for extra income. On those occasions I encountered the odd coyote or black bear in the distance, but was never threatened by them.

By mid-June, everything came to life. Snow was gone except on higher peaks. Flowers sprung up everywhere. The bears awoke from their lengthy hibernation. Mothers and cubs hung out in the outskirts of town at the garbage dump. (This was 1959, remember.) Scolding their cubs, chasing them, getting them out of the trees – this was a sight to behold.

Out on my daily expeditions into the mountains, I’d often spot elk, whitetail deer, Bighorn sheep and mountain goats. And, bears. Now that they were up and around, extra caution was needed.

One morning I came ‘face-to-face’ with a black bear, less than 15 metres away. “Oh-oh. What to do now? I’d been told never to turn my back to a bear. So then what? I began to whistle a tune. The bear stood up on its hind legs, gave me a good look, and then lumbered off on all fours into the undergrowth. Phew! That was some moment! Another caution: never come between mama and her cubs. (But the trick is to know where the cubs are!)

Late one morning I was painting near a lake. Suddenly something bizarre slowly appeared out of the water. Dripping greenery hung from its long snout. Huge flat antlers, long gangly awkward legs. Had never seen anything like it! Looked like one of Mother Nature’s ‘misprints’. Later my landlady when she saw my sketch laughed and exclaimed, “Oh, Henri, that was a Moose!” Signing off, ‘til Part 3, coming up. Henri

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Crossing the Great Divide, Banff 1959

Posted by Kitara Julian On 1:57 PM 0 comments

Something we seldom see here at the sea walk - - - someone sketching. She was a passenger from a cruise ship, or so I guessed. Beside her was a Holland America bag and a Holland America ship was docked very nearby. I went over to take a look, her subject was the Olympic mountain range across Juan de Fuca Strait. From personal experience, I know that most outdoor or ‘plein air’ artists wish to be left alone, not disturbed or distracted. So, I quietly observed, saying not a word.

Seeing her sketching lit up my memory-chamber, transporting me back in time to the spring and summer of 1959 in Banff, Alberta and the Rockies. There, I’d been doing lots of field painting on-the-spot, “en plein air”, like the Impressionists and Group of Seven.

My trip out west began when a doctor specialist in Toronto encouraged and sponsored me to spend some time in the Canadian Rockies, this after having been less than two years in Canada. Early May 1959, I boarded the CPR train from Toronto to Banff. An adventurous and memorable journey in itself, at any time.

It was hailing when I got off the train in Banff. I found a place to stay and settled in to 206 Otter Street (now called “Parkin House” and a heritage building). Next day I was eager to scout the region. A light snow was falling, dusting the streets white. Mount Rundle and Tunnel Mountain received an extra pack of winter’s last visit.

Mrs. Parkin lent me ear muffs and gloves. I’d brought along a small wooden easel, paint box and minimal supplies. The first few paintings were snowscapes.

Within a week the weather was milder, the snow quickly melted. Every day I went out, like the French Impressionists, selected a location and finished a painting on the spot. Sometimes in oil, sometimes oil pastel. By the end of May I’d rendered several paintings within walking distance of town, up Tunnel Mountain, over to Vermillion Lake.

When morning light started earlier, my landlady suggested I get up to Lake Louise. All very well, but I had no car or bicycle. Then one day on a morning walk, looking for a spot, a station wagon stopped. “Need a lift?” I replied, “Where to?” “ We’re going trout fishing, we can drop you wherever you like, for an artist there’s lots to paint in the Park, you know.” Thus began another chapter.

In those days there was little tourism, every morning I’d hitchhike and would always get a lift early in the morning, most often with early-rising fishermen.This opened the way to Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, Emerald Lake, Takakkawa Falls, White Fish Lake and Moraine Lake. Getting lifts in the morning was easy, but not always so later in the day. Often I had to wait quite awhile to get back home to Banff.

Many times in appreciation to a driver for the lift, I would give them the painting or pastel I’d just painted (much to their surprise). Unfortunately we have no record of where these early works are now. Thus began a journey, not only changing my life, but also my career. Should you still have time or be interested (what with all the goings-on, such as elections and the economy), then I’ll gladly continue to share the next ‘installment’ of Banff 1959 in a post to follow. Having had many unusual encounters with wildlife, and was often alone in the wilderness . . but that's for next post. Signing off, Henri

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A reader asked if I could kindly follow-up my story from the Machu Picchu post of September 1. Here goes. (I feel like a mis-gendered "Sheherezade".) After the Machu Picchu visit, I took a train to Puno at the edge of Lake Titicaca to board the ship “ss Ollanta”.

It was almost nightfall. Embarkation process was like stepping into a reverse time zone. Customs and immigration was handled by one official who spoke no English; his office was an old wooden shack, a mottled green. My passport was stamped by candlelight.

A full moon was rising on the horizon. I was being shown to my quarters when it suddenly struck me, “How did this antique vessel ever get way up here on the highest navigable lake in the world? And, from where?” Here’s what the Chief Steward told me.

It all began in the late 1860’s when renowned British shipbuilders Earle’s of Hull, UK received an order from the Peruvian government. It was to build a two 70-passenger vessels, later named “Yavari” and a sister ship “Yapura”. These would provide the only transportation between Peru and Bolivia (Bolivia is a landlocked nation.)

It was to be an extraordinary feat of engineering: somehow, the ship had to get over the Andes Mountains! And, all the way to Lake Titicaca, 3,810 metres above sea level (12,500 ft.).

The ships (with eight British engineers) were brought from England around Cape Horn, aboard “Mayola”, 2,766 packing crates all marked and numbered and weighing a total of 210 tons, plus two crankshafts. These were first transported by train from the port of Arica on the Peruvian coast, inland to Tacna (on the oldest railway line in South America.

Then onwards over the Andes, by mules - - - over a “moonscape of the driest desert in the world with mountain passes higher than European peaks and sub-zero windswept wastes of the Altiplano”. Also something to keep in mind is the air at such an altitude requires for most of us extra oxygen.

For example the “Tren del Sol” (another amazing achievement of engineering) from Lima to Huancayo, which I also took in 1969, carried oxygen tanks in each compartment of the train. “ss Yavari” became the blueprint for “ss Yapura”. Later, she was followed by “ss Ollanta”, and this was the historic vessel I sailed aboard. She had been launched 39 years earlier, in 1930.

Following the Chief Steward's explaining how this remarkable vessel got to Lake Titicaca, (after temporarily being transported into that “believe it or not” realm of amazing human achievement), he proudly gave me a complete tour of “ss Ollanta”. Suffice to say the interior of First Class was elegant and luxurious, with mahogany, rosewood, teak, polished brass everywhere, and lace curtains over the port holes. The dining room featured pure linen, genuine silverware, crystal glasses and decanters; while the galley was a feast for the eye with copper pots and pans.

During my crossing aboard “ss Ollanta”, there were about 20 passengers. The food was five-star. I’d only ever experienced such lavishness back in the late 1940’s when I was a waiter in the top-quality restaurants of Amsterdam and later a dining-room steward with Holland America Line where I served Hollywood movie stars. (More on this some other time.)

Who could ask for anything more, to sail from Peru to Bolivia on the highest navigable lake in the world – Lake Titicaca, the spiritual realm of the ‘Altiplano’ people, with a full moon! Signing off. Henri

p.s. The now-famous reed boats of this Lake are the only reminder of the ancient ways. Imagine the reaction of the native people who first set eyes on the steamships, smoke-spewing metal monsters, which crossed their sacred Lake Titicaca? And what about transportation today? The native people still use their reed boats, while hovercraft and catamarans ply the Lake, to bring the human family back and forth between Peru and Bolivia. Progress! Adios, Henri

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Memory Lane

Posted by Kitara Julian On 5:06 PM 0 comments

The sea walk is more popular than ever it seems, with this summer sun bonus. The benches are taken most of the time now. No matter, can sit on our balcony and watch the sky, the nautical, human and animal world.

This morning, seagulls in Rambo mode chased away a fish-eagle (Osprey), and, for an encore, a Blue Heron, who’d been waiting patiently focused for its breakfast.

This aggressive behaviour by the seagulls took me back a few years to South Georgia, Antarctica when fearless Skuas dive-bombed penguin chicks (and us too).

Other vignettes came next like frames in a movie, flashing images from the past, each one could be chapter in itself, but this is a blog, so here they are in “point form”. (It’s intriguing how all this is recorded and filed away into that mystery chamber called “memory”.)

-from the Skuas to an Elephant Seal Cub who roared at me like a lion, to the zodiac ride amongst icebergs where we could smell the fishy breath and almost pluck the barnacles from the humpback whales

- to the penguin family who used icebergs as a slide into icy waters

-to Albatross chicks we viewed after climbing a slippery, steep hill for a glimpse of the nests

-the millions of King Penguins, amongst whom we cautiously wandered

-massive Elephant Seal bulls, skirmishing with rivals to protect their harem

-this transferred me to an incident while snorkelling in the Galapagos when a male Fur Seal literally tossed me out of the water

-Blue-Footed Boobies, who performed a dapper parade, showing off their power-blue feet

-while all this talk of “elephants” took me back to The Elephant Orphanage in Sri Lanka, where I stood amongst the herd

-to 1972, when I spent a week with the Masai, as guest of a former trophy-hunter turned photographer-guide

-to Kenya, witnessing in the middle of the night at “Tree Tops Lodge” a Bush Baby (a nocturnal creature) with its enormous eyes, sitting quietly on a tree branch right, peering into my window

-a few years later, while on safari in Tsavo Park, a pride of lions having a siesta right in the middle of the road; our jeep coming to a full stop while we awaited the end of their nap

-still at Tsavo Park, when our guide suddenly came upon a herd of elephants, and he told us to be absolutely quiet or else we would upset the bull elephant that was keeping a wary eye on us and who started to flap his ears; but one of the female passengers suddenly started screaming in a primordial outburst of fear. Only the cool and clear mind of our driver got us out of that one! Never experienced a vehicle backing up so fast!

-reveries brought me next to Ibiza, 1961, where I had a donkey who came with rental of my dwelling; one day he hurt his leg against a small boulder on the road as we descended a hill into town; then upon returning from our trip to get art supplies, he refused to go on that section of the road, and made a big detour in a field. He remembered! They’re not all that dumb. And not the only ones with a ‘memory’.

“Waking up”, and signing off, Henri

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Audio pollution and politicans

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:18 AM 0 comments

We all know elections are on their way, both in Canada and in the ‘good old' USA. Just after the last post about the Florida couple who strolled by wearing their “Stars and Stripes”and “Star-spangled banner” attire, yesterday on my visit to pick up the weekly ‘Quiz’ at the local Internet Cafe, the topic was politics.

We changed the subject to the Antarctic because a book about this last-frontier realm was on display. We’ve been there on a few occasions. Soon the topic switched from Antarctica to the Arctic and the rapid melting of ice caps and glaciers. You get the picture.

Returning though to politics and the election, although we believe strongly in a true democratic process, I’ll let you in on a secret, about how we "see" the euphoria and hysteria, the hype and instant care for us by the politicians.

Don’t know how many other people on this planet can say this, but yours truly has never heard the voice of the U.S. President, and that’s after eight years in office.

For that matter, this includes the whole Administration, and the voices of many other so-called ‘world leaders’, as well as our own here in Canada, none of these have entered my ears. This would be an “invasion”, or pollution in my view. (Promises and more promises, they all make. Most suffer from a Santa Claus or Robin Hood complex, treating us like we’re four year olds.)

And how do I manage to keep these voices and sounds away? Well, first of all we have closed-captioning. And last, but not least, I have a buddy, the “Mute” button on our TV remote! Signing off for now, Henri

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We’re having a “First Nations” summer here in beautiful Victoria. Early last Thursday morning, eleventh of September, another Alaska-bound ship docked at Ogden Point, nearby our home. This was one of the smaller and luxurious vessels, not the huge ships which usually visit our port-of-call.

It was mid-morning; I was sitting at a bench right by the ocean, enjoying watching the world go by on this balmy September day.

An older couple came by; she wore a “Star-spangled” blouse with bright, Sky Blue pants while he was dressed in white and wore a hat with “Stars and Stripes” head-band. Signalling they were friendly neighbours from the south. Or, as the Bushman (San) would say, “I saw them coming from afar.”

You both look dapper and colourful, are you from the ship?” I asked. “Yes, we are, we’re heading to Alaska. Is it always so nice and sunny here in September?” They stopped strolling, but didn’t sit down.

Sometimes it’s sunny like this, but not often. This year we’re experiencing a “First Nations Summer”, was my reply. What’s that?” asked the woman. Well, most people say “Indian Summer”, but I call it “First Nations Summer”. I continued, “Indians are people from India. Columbus made a mistake.” The woman asked if I lived here. “Yes, I live right there in that building”, pointing to our apartment just 25 metres away.

With their attire, I asked if they were celebrating their anniversary or some other special occasion. His eyebrows shot up, and he said, “Don’t you know it was 7 years ago that September 11 happened?.”

Sorry”, I replied, “I completely forgot”. Silence.

We’re very proud of being American!”, he exclaimed, “we’re not from New York, we’re from Florida, but we feel it, you know, said the gentleman. The lady did not seem amused. They walked slowly away, mumbling “Can you imagine? He didn’t even remember . . . etc.” I couldn’t catch the rest since their voices faded away. . .
I would have liked to tell them about the sea otters that come by and frolic in the kelp beds, about the eagles, Great Blue Herons, about James Bay village (where we live), and how the very spot where they stood was originally was the home of the “Swengwhung” nation.

But that’s how it goes. Some ships anchor, while others just pass by in the night.

Anyway, I trust our Floridians are having a memorable journey and cruise to Alaska. At least the weather is cooperating. ‘Til next time, Henri

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India, 1967 conclusion and a "Post Script"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:19 AM 0 comments

1967 - and here is the last post of nine posts (starting September 2nd): another memorable event was a cocktail party and supper held on our last evening in Bombay at the home of our host and hostess in Malabar Hill.

(For those of you who haven’t read the previous “#x” posts, our host was the former Mayor of Bombay, and had adopted us after we’d arrived in Bombay on the train with only the clothes on our back.)

At the “cocktail” party (where no alcohol was served) other than the delicious exotic juices, a first for us was Rose Petal Water. Dinner was a tasty tandoori and specialty curry dishes. “Now you know a little bit about the ‘other India’”, said our host. “Yes”, I replied, “we’re much obliged and thankful for your generosity and hospitality. Good-bye, and may you live long and in good health.” “It was our pleasure to have the opportunity to give you both the experience.”

Next morning, his chauffer Sharma took us to the airport for our flight back home. All things, pleasant or unpleasant, come to an end. The only permanence is impermance.”

Postscript: In my boyhood during WWII, I’d seen the bombs drop and experienced real hunger and privation. After going through all that, I thought nothing would ever move and shock me again. That is, until twenty-two years later, when we experienced India.

For those of you who haven’t yet been to India, it would be some experience to witness the “raw and real” of that paradoxical and enigmatic continent. Not always recommended, though, for the faint-hearted. Of course these posts speak about our experiences forty-one years ago. Since 1967, I’ve been back a few times, under different circumstances. No matter how you experience India, it will leave you with lasting impressions.

In our case, after witnessing the “roller-coaster” before we reached Bombay (see previous posts), we were offered a ride in the “Golden Coach”, and hopped on. And now, we have a choice: when the Golden Coach stops again, offering us a ride, we can either accept it, or say, “Thank you, we’ve done that already.” A la prochaine! Henri

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"Bollywood", an inside view, 1967

Posted by Kitara Julian On 11:46 AM 0 comments
1967. A few days after the wedding reception, courtesy of our host, we visited “Bollywood”, the unique world of Indian film.

Anyone who’s been to India cannot miss those huge, colourful billboards with movie stars depicted very large. A movie made in India is not just any movie. It’s a never-ending Epic with extraordinary choreography, singing, drama, all the emotions - - -joy, anger, jealousy, hatred, laughter.

Except kissing and other intimacies. But you observe in these movies sensual gestures, elegance, discipline, coquetry, incredible set designs, plus the ancient classical finger, hand and head movements. Only India has a patent on this art form.

We spent the whole day on a “set”, including a visit to the make-up department: masters in the art of cosmetica, wigs, the works. Two ordinary-looking cast members walked in, then later walked out looking like goddesses.

Then we toured the costume area, and dressing rooms. Non-stop activity, like being in a ‘human beehive’. And the clothes, what a variety of fabrics, plus endless rows of costume racks. The prop department was another wonder. There was also a horse stable, plus three elephants on this particular set.

Next, we sat-in on the “rushes” (screening of the day’s takes), in particular a dramatic episode between two families. Then a two-hour rehearsal for an elaborate dance number, beginning with 3 dancers and ending up with 300! They rehearsed and rehearsed, it seemed to go on forever. Then there is the music and singing, which is always a big feature of any Bollywood movie.

Everything about Bollywood is gigantic (not only the billboards!): the orchestras, cameras, lights and stage sets with recreations of entire villages. Although many Indian movies film on location, featuring agricultural and rural regions, villages and Nature parks.

By the end of day, you’d have to be a Zombie not to fall under the spell of this magical “Bollywood World”. Anyone who’s never seen an Indian move ought to; it’s something you’ll never forget.

Two days later, we had another invitation, to meet the leading movie star at his home, up in the hills of Bombay. There, the air is much more pleasant, and the view spectacular.

Many cast members were there, plus friends and neighbours. The movie star had three Dobermans, and a security system (and this was back in 1967, when security was not a big problem.) A swimming pool of course. Each room in the villa had a fan which in itself was a work of art. He was relaxed although he smoked a lot, as did most of the others. Housekeepers, butler, all the staff wore white gloves.

Another memorable moment of our stay (and there were many), was a private “cocktail” party and dinner at the home of our host (for those of you who haven’t read the previous posts about India, he was the ex-Mayor of Bombay, and had ‘adopted’ us). He also lived up in the hills; the garden was full of bamboo furniture, painted white. “Cocktails” turned out to be passion fruit,mango, papaya, orange juice and last but not least, Rose Petal water. It was an excellent dinner, caringly prepared and beautifully presented.

The days flew by and throughout it all we were in a state of awe, like being in a dream. Signing off for now, there’s one more post still to come about our Indian adventure of 1967 . Henri

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Bombay 'upper crust', 1967: we reached the Bombay Cricket Club without further incident. Our host’s wife was already there.

1,200 guests were invited to the wedding reception. The groom’s father had hired and flown in from New York a nine-piece jazz band. There were also Bengal dancers, and classical Indian tabla and sitar players.

Never before had we seen such glitter, such elegance, such vanity and such pride.

It was a fashion parade. Beautiful women in saris, many woven with real gold and silver threads and bedecked in precious and semi-precious jewels. A cat-burglar would have had a field day. Some wore Western clothing, Parisian ‘dernier cri’ fashions. Most of the men, as well, but more Italian-style, while some wore Nehru-style jackets.

There was a stage set up for the entertainers. The bride, (our host’s niece), was dressed Western-style as well, so too the groom. He looked just like his uncle-in-law, top hat and all.

The new vogue in those days was, “Our wedding, our reception, our party, our celebration is bigger and better than anyone else’s”. It may have been mostly a Western-style reception, but other than beer, there was no hard liquor or wine.

Food galore, delicious traditional Indian cuisine, but also Hot Dogs and Hamburgers! The celebrations on that beautiful day went on from Noon until evening.

A different India from our experience in Bihar. As different as Moon to Sun. Signing off for now, Henri

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The second visit to the tailor proved the skill and craftsmanship this gentleman still possessed. Only a few alterations were needed and they’d be done the next day. Trousers fitted perfectly, so did the Raw Silk jacket. Now, 41 years later, I still wear it.

So by the next day all three pieces were ready. I told the tailor that he was a genius and should do more of his line of work. “No, not a genius, just very good tailor”, and with that we parted. Back at the Taj I put on my newly acquired attire. With my star-ruby ring, I looked like a Maharaja.

Meanwhile the wedding reception was coming up soon (hence all the tailor-visits and shopping). This time our host came along in the limousine, my partner and I in the back, while our host sat in the front, next to Sharma the driver. He looked debonair in his swallow-tail black jacket, vest, stripped trousers, ascot, patent-leather shoes, and top hat. He also carried an ebony walking stick with a silver handle. He was pleased with our appearance , different from when we met, at the art exhibition.

India in 1967 was not what it’s become today. Beggars were everywhere. On the streets you witnessed every stage of life from birth to death, and all the illnesses in between. Amongst them, amputees missing an arm or leg (sometimes both), or with a smashed-in face. A regular “picture horror show”. It’s hard to believe at first but some are deliberately maimed as children by their parents, to ensure a livelihood (as beggars).

At one point the limousine had to stop to allow a few ‘holy cows’ pass. They took their time! A beggar approached the limousine and stuck out his’ stump’ arm. I rolled open the window to give him a few rupees. Suddenly, whack! The cane of our host landed on my wrist, sending the rupees flying. Please close the window, quickly. Do not ever give them baksheesh. We’d never get out of here, there will be dozens around in no time!” I was in shock. He’d seen the proceedings in the rear-view mirror and reacted accordingly. A lesson, well learned.

Next stop: the wedding reception, and high society of Bombay. Signing off, Henri

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1967: Two housekeeping staff knocked at the door of our “surprise” suite in the Taj Mahal Hotel. We learned they were to take our measurements. A female for my partner, male for me. Meanwhile, room service pampered us with delights of Indian cuisine, 5-star style.

We asked ourselves, “What’s going on”? Then a basket of fruit arrived with a card informing us that everything would be taken care of, all our meals and the suite. A few hours earlier, we’d arrived by train not knowing where we’d spend the night, looking like a pair of “vagabonds”. Next thing we’re rested, refreshed, bathed and, it appeared, about to get a new wardrobe. However, I did not shave my long beard!

Ah, The Taj Mahal Hotel, what a view! We thought we’d landed in Paradise.

Our suite faced the harbour and famous Gate of India, the granite arch 26 metres high.

The next morning the ex-Mayor’s chauffeur, “Sharma”, took us on a tour where we visited the extraordinary “Towers of Silence” and other landmarks. After a few hours, heat and humidity brought us back sooner than planned.

The phone buzzed. “Could Madame be ready the next day, for some shopping with Mrs? Yes, oh good, then we’ll pick her up at 10 am”. There was another call for me. “We have an appointment for you with a tailor, you’ll be fetched at 10 am.”

Next morning the limousine stopped some distance from the Taj, in front of an old building in a ‘down and out’ neighbourhood. Here is the tailor, sir, I’ll wait for you”, said Sharma.

A dark and smelly stone stairwell took me up to the second floor. A faded magazine clipping was pinned to the door, showing an English officer decked out in a fancy uniform with red tunic. Must be the tailor, I thought. Knocking, the door opened and a short, elderly man exclaimed, “Yes, yes, come in, come in, I’ve waited for you. I am tailor, very good. Make all uniforms, suits for British officers, long long ago”.

Then he took out a binder, blew away the dust, and proudly showed many uniforms he’d created in the far past. We make for you a Raw Silk jacket, and two pairs of white trousers, best material, no problem.” He measured me ‘by eye’, walking around, taking notes, then said to come back in the morning for a fitting. So that was that.

When I got back to the Taj, a card sat on the table, decal-edge, gold embossing. “You and Madame are invited to the wedding reception of our niece. It takes place at the Bombay Cricket Club, etc.” Meanwhile my partner returned with more clothes and presents from her shopping trip with our host’s wife. The phone rang. “Did we receive the invitation? Did you get to the tailor ok? Sharma will take you back tomorrow for the fitting. Are you enjoying Bombay?” I responded immediately, “Oh yes, very much!” But little did we know what lay awaiting. (To be continued). Signing off, Henri

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Opulence of India (arrival in Bombay)

Posted by Kitara Julian On 8:32 PM 0 comments

This ‘going back in time’ could fill a book of life’s adventures. A blog isn’t a book, but since our experiences in Bombay were the complete opposite of Bihar (like the other side of a coin), I felt like sharing this. That’s why there are now several posts on our visit to India. Travelling anywhere by train can be memorable, especially lengthy trips. When we reached Bombay (now Mumbai), we had no idea where to stay. All I had in way of plans was to experience the “Towers of Silence”. This is the site of the Parsi (Zoroastrian) funerals, where the dead are exposed to vultures, providing the individual’s final act of charity. All we had were the clothes on our back. We both wore sandals and I had a long beard of three months. We looked, to say the least, “dusty”, but welcomed the chance to stretch our legs.I noticed a sign “Art exhibition, upstairs, 1st floor”. That got my attention. Upon entering the gallery, we immediately felt out of place. It was an elegant ‘vernissage’, or opening reception. Ladies in saris, or dressed in latest Parisian fashions. Men in Nehru jackets or well-tailored suits with shirt and tie. And shoes, shining like mirrors.
It was like “Look what the cat brought in.” I focused on the paintings, which were mostly tropical still-life’s of flowers, and made some “comments”. A smartly-dressed gentleman came over and in Oxford English said, “Welcome. Who are you? Where do you come from? I overheard your commentary on the show to your lady. May I ask, are you an artist?” I replied, “Thank you, sir, we’re from Canada. Actually my partner is from the USA. We just got off the train from Calcutta, via Bihar, where we spent a week with Oxfam. And yes, you could say I know a little bit about Art.” His eyebrows went up dramatically. “Good Lord, my friend, did you say Bihar? I myself have never been there” but he didn’t react to my being an artist. “Bihar, my friend, that is some experience you must have gone through; and what are your impressions of India?”
Says I, “Well, yes, we had great adventures, a real eye-opener, but that all belongs to our nomadic nature.”

Where are you staying? Did you reserve a room somewhere?” I replied, “No, sir, this is our first time in Bombay.” “But Bombay is a huge city, and the lady surely must be tired and would like to rest?” He said he would like to be our Host and that he would like to show us the other side of India. Then he introduced himself and it turned out he was no-less than the ex-mayor of this great city! And all because of a curiosity to look at an art show, 20 minutes after arriving in Bombay. He gave us his card and gave some instructions to his chauffeur to take us to a hotel. The car was a black Mercedes limousine. We got into the car, and began our first real “sightseeing” of Bombay. The “hotel” was none other than the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel. So we two vagabond-looking people arrived, with no luggage, at the posh five-star hotel.

When we approached the Front Desk, a man came up to us. “Ah, you must be the people we are expecting”. Meanwhile the crowd in the lobby stared, curious about these new arrivals. We had entered their ‘Sanctum Sanctorum’ and looked like we belonged in the ‘down and out’ quarters of the city. Although, I was wearing my star-ruby ring I’d acquired in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), much earlier in our adventure.

And thus began the chapter of “the other side” of India looked like. But that’s for the next post. Signing off, Henri

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India, Part Three: Home of the Maharaja

Posted by Kitara Julian On 4:14 PM 0 comments

1967 - it was unusually quiet as we passed through the village. We found the Maharaja's palace.It wasn't tall, but set in vast grounds. Surrounded by high walls, you could just see the terracotta roof. The entrance was an enormous, closed wooden door, fortified with brass bolts. We heard peacocks nearby. No bell, clapper or cord to pull. I knocked 3 times. No sign of life.

Then I spotted a small opening at street level. Pushing with my foot, it moved (like a cat door). I crawled through on hands and knees. My partner was not amused, she wasn’t keen on entering in such a lowly fashion! However I got in and this prompted her to follow. We were in a long courtyard with a veranda, set with two bamboo “Peacock throne” chairs.

The place was deserted, but a table with fresh bouquet of exotic flowers indicated there must have been people around.“Hallo? Anybody there? Anybody home?”, I asked. Hope we’re not intruding or trespassing” (which of course we were.) No reply. I was curious, where were the elephants? We entered a formal garden. Some peacocks sat on the wall, while others strutted. A few peahens sat in the shade of an ancient Banyen tree.

There were flowers and blossoms everywhere. The fragrance was almost overpowering. Fountains, one with a statue of Ganesh, the Elephant God. Another, Shiva Lingam. It was like a dream, and hard to believe we were actually standing in the garden of a Maharaja.Beside the Banyen tree was a small temple with shrine.

Suddenly we noticed a Sadhu. He had a long beard, was covered in grey ash, and was completely naked. He stood on one leg, perfectly still, holding a Trident. If it wasn’t for his deep, lively brown eyes, he could have been a statue. Trying not to disturb his peaceful state, we walked quietly in the other direction. Imagine the scene: two Westerners appear from nowhere (my partner was a tall blond Scandinavian). He noticed us of course, but took it all in without the slightest distraction, as if we didn’t exist. (We learned later he was the Maharaja’s holy man, or guru.)

There may have been elephants, but we didn’t go further into the premises. The only sign of life was the Sadhu, plus of course the abundance of plants, Banyen tree, and the peacocks. Not even a cat or dog. We went back through the ‘cat door’on our hands and knees.

Luckily our taxi driver was still there.Returning to the train station, I asked him “Is that usual, for there to be no one at the palace? And what about the ‘cat door’?” Nodding his head in that unique Indian manner, he replied, “Maybe you were being quietly observed. And the low door means visitors must enter in humility, and bow down before going into the Maharaja’s domain. As for the elephants, they’re there all right, at least half a dozen.”

Back at the station, we were amazed to discover we had only been gone for three hours. It seemed like a lifetime, or that we’d entered another world, which in fact we did. Six hours later we boarded the train, onward to Bombay. To be continued. Til next time, Henri

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We continue with our impromptu stop in Bihar, the poorest region of India. It’s 1967. Earlier the Oxfam team (from Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and the US), spared us a 4 hr. walk on a hot, dusty road “to nowhere” (after we’d headed out from the train station in the wrong direction).

With our new companions we played Scrabble, bridge and checkers in the evenings, and slept under mosquito nets (although there were no mosquitoes because of the drought).

Early next morning we joined the team to witness firsthand their work and see the local people.

We picked up the local workers (mostly farmers) and headed to where a well was being constructed. The Oxfam philosophy is “help people to help themselves”. So, Oxfam doesn’t give away water, they show people how to build and maintain their own water supply to irrigate their land, in this case, by building a Well.

In 1967 most of the country people in this region were illiterate. They lived in huts made of straw, clay and cowdung. (Cowdung was also used for cooking fuel). Rows of brick-like blocks layed on the ground. We’re digging a deep well, and these bricks will line the walls”, explained the foreman, “You see in the distance a field of green? That’s where we built the first well; the locals make the bricks, and we provide the equipment and expertise to build it”.

He told us the locals were very friendly, but lived under austere conditions. They usually earn only a few rupees per month, and twice a year, a travelling doctor or nurse visits. If a local person wants to send a letter to a far-off family member, they get charged by a local ‘scribe’. “It’s not always a two-way street here”, said the Belgian group leader. After a couple of hours, we had a break. Then another 2 hours work, followed by a light ‘lunch’. We noticed some were reluctant to return to work after the meal. Once you give them food, they stop working; this attitude will change, but for now that’s just the way things are”, explained one volunteer.

My partner and I were travelling ‘light’, but we had some extra clothes. We ended up giving everything away except the clothes on our back. After a week it was time to move on. Our friends drove us to the station. We hopped a train (after a 5 hour wait) to Bombay. Altogether our unexpected ‘hop off the train’ in Bihar was an educational and eye-opening experience.

We weren’t aboard the hot and crowded train for long, however. Guess what? Once again I decided to get off. The reason? We’d heard from a fellow in our compartment there was a Maharaja’s palace nearby, and suggested we pay a visit. “Elephants and all”, he said. As soon as I heard the word, “elephant”, my mind was made up! Bombay could wait. This time we learned our lesson, no more walking off into ‘nowhere”. We hailed a shiny taxi and were dropped a ten-minute walk from the Palace. The driver said “the road is too bumpy for my car.” Next instalment . . . the Palace! Sarva Mangalam, Henri

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Surprise Visit to Bihar (Part One)

Posted by Kitara Julian On 5:13 PM 0 comments
The flooding in India today carries us back to our experience in Bihar in 1967. We'd arrived in India after a memorable sailing with friends aboard a freighter from Holland via Africa, Burma, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to Calcutta. We had an Indian train pass which was valid for two months, and boarded the train from Calcutta, destination Bombay (now Mumbai). The trains in India are packed; we luckily got a second-class ticket. (There’s also “fourth-class” hanging onto the sides and sitting on the roof.)
Seated across from us was a man with a restless creature with a long snout, on a leash. Curious, I asked, “What kind of animal is that?”“Oh, this is mongoose, my friend”, he replied in a friendly voice, “my bodyguard against cobras.” From him I learned the mongoose is the nemesis of a cobra. I am a salesman”, he went on, “and travel often to places that have such snakes, so it’s good to have my mongoose with me. Family back home feel better when I travel, and so do I”. There was no air conditioning in our compartment. On impulse, we decided to forget about Bombay for now, and got off the train. We liked the look of the local people. The morning was still cool. We set off, having been told there was guest room at a farm within walking distance.

In no time we were in the countryside. A young girl walked behind two Brahmin bulls ploughing a field. She had a basket atop her head, and scooped up the dung left by the bulls, putting it in her basket. It got hot, no shade or trees in sight. Crows and buzzards flew overhead. We’d been walking along this dusty country road. There wasn’t a house to be seen, anywhere.

Then out of nowhere, a truck approached. Where are you guys off to?”, said an English voice. We told them. That’s in the other direction, this way you’ll be walking for hours! Hop in, we’re with Oxfam.” We gladly got in. And so, destiny connected us to the heart of Bihar. These Oxfam volunteers were intimately familiar with the local region and people; the nearest shelter happened to be their base. Oxfam was there to help the people build their own wells, so they could irrigate their land. It hasn’t rained here for2 years”, said one. We could well believe it. I’d noticed the enormous cracks in the earth caused by severe drought. And currently in the news we learn of this major flood in that very region, an area at the mercy of elemental wrath. (Perhaps now, made worse by climate change.) To be continued. Signing off for now, Henri

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An Impromptu Visit to "Machu Picchu"

Posted by Kitara Julian On 9:28 AM 0 comments
Here we are again. Not by Tam-Tam or smoke signals, forgot the password (ho-ho). Yesterday we received a question from New Zealand asking if I’d been to Machu Picchu in Peru. Yes, I had the good fortune and privilege of seeing this ‘new’ one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was 1969, the aftermath of yet another shipwreck.
A group of us were en route from Guayaquil to the Galapagos or “Enchanted Islands” aboard the “Cristobal Colon”, an icon in Equador. After only ten hours’ sailing we hit an island (not an Enchanted one!) This abruptly ended our hopes of getting to Galapagos. [No, I am not a subscriber to shipwrecks, I've only experienced two from multitudes of sea voyages.]
It would be another 20 years before I got to the Galapagos, on a dive-snorkel expedition with Valerie and Ron Taylor.However the Galapagos shipwreck opened up another adventure waiting in the wings. What’s good luck, what’s bad luck?In Guayaquil a ship was heading for Gallao, Peru. Some of our group got tickets. In Lima we boarded the “Tren del Sol” to Huancayo high up in the Central Andes. An amazing feat of engineering. (The train carried oxygen tanks.)
From Huancayo by bus to Cuzco, "the navel of the world", where we explored the region, then onwards by another train to the station (at 2,000 m, 6,000 ft) nearest to Machu Picchu. This was 1969, no five-star hotels, no ‘conveniences’ for tourists. From the station we had to hike up to this great ‘city’, located at 2,400 metres above sea level (7,875 ft) and perched on a mountain ridge above Urubamba Valley.

The setting of this terraced settlement is awesome. Aside from the feat of constructing something at this altitude and location, Machu Picchu was a city of an advanced Inca civilization.

The ingenious irrigation system is an engineering wonder. (Later, far away, we’d see a similar system of levadas on the Portuguese island of Madeira). Not to speak of actually practicing agriculture on those steep mountain slopes. We had already seen the massive granite blocks at Cuzco which look as if they’re cut from cheese with a knife.
They fit together in such a way you can’t even put a razor blade in between. Another enigma. Seeing is believing.
Being there is what counts. Different from reading about it or seeing a documentary on TV.

When our group left to return to Cuzco, I remained at Machu Picchu and decided to spend the night, camping out near the ancient Sundial at the Temple of the Sun. It was an unforgettable night, and full moon. (When the Sun goes under it’s cold up in the Andes. No wonder they worshipped the Sun.)
During my vigil that night, I encountered a remarkable event: after the visitors have left Machu Picchu, a man (who is descendant of the Incas wearing traditional Incan attire), strides briskly around the site, chopping away the foreign spirits with a machete. While doing so, he utters incantations in Cetchua.
Next morning, I continued on with my travels by train, to Puno at Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. There I boarded the ancient vessel “Oleanta” and crossed Lake Titicaca by another moonlit night, to Bolivia. But that’s another story. Adios, Henri

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