The amazing rock formation above, captured by Flickr user oilfighter, is called The Wave. Set near the border of Utah and Arizona, the intricate lines have been etched into the sandstone by millions of years of erosion and wind. It makes for a visually stunning setting doesn’t it? If you’re interested in seeing this amazing geological oddity in person, make sure to plan ahead – the Bureau of Land Management only allows 20 visitors per day in order to protect the site from damage.
Yesterday I mentioned that Aberystwyth is a good base from which to explore western Wales. On our second day in Wales my wife, son, and I hopped on a local bus and went south down the Welsh coast to the ports of Aberaeron and New Quay. Aberaeron is about 40 minutes from Aberystwyth and New Quay is only about 20 minutes further south from Aberaeron.
While we didn’t have long in Aberaeron, we liked this tidy little Welsh town with its brightly painted houses and fine view of the sea. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and pubs and we got the impression that it might be a better place to stay than Aberystwyth. Like in Aberystwyth, we heard a lot of people speaking Welsh. Most signs are in both languages. It’s nice to know that the language is surviving in the age of globalized English.
At New Quay we stopped for lunch at a pub on a cliff overlooking a sandy beach and broad harbor. The view was nice but service was slow and the food substandard. Sadly, this was the case with all too many of our meals in Wales, even though we usually followed local advice as to where to eat.
%Gallery-129265%The famous writer Dylan Thomas lived here for a time and New Quay was the inspiration for his fictional town of Llareggub (“bugger all” spelled backwards). Visitors interested in literary tourism can follow the Dylan Thomas Trail.
We’d come to take a boat trip instead. My five-year-old had never been out to sea so we decided to remedy that by going on one of New Quay’s many dolphin tours. Dolphins are abundant in these waters; we’d seen several from the window of the Seabrin Guest House in Aberystwyth. We chose a tour run by the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, which uses its profits to fund research into the sea life on this part of the Welsh coast. The sea was calm and the sun shone fine so we weren’t worried as we stepped aboard an inflatable motorboat with a half dozen other people.
This good weather was our undoing. The calm conditions had made the fish move further out to sea, and the dolphins had followed them. As we made our way down the coast on our one-hour ride we saw exactly none. Oh well. It’s best to remember that nature isn’t there for our amusement.
This stretch of Welsh coastline is beautiful, with jagged rocks rising high out of the sea. The strata of the rocks is clearly visible, which allowed me to give the kid a lesson in geology, and the cliffs are dotted with numerous caves that smugglers (our boat captain called them “pirates”) used to elude the customs agents. My son was more disappointed about there being no pirates than he was about the lack of dolphins! All was made better when he got to sit in the captain’s chair.
One local told me that New Quay isn’t the most pleasant place to be at night in the summertime. A lot of rough people come into town to get drunk and start fights, and two of his friends got knifed in one incident. We saw a big fight in Aberystwyth too. This isn’t unusual in the UK. When I lived in London, I regularly saw fights on the street on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s just a sad fact of life in this part of the world.
Still, we had a nice day and the kid had a great time and got to experience something new, which is what really matters. Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about a steam train we took through some beautiful Welsh countryside. Unlike my last two posts on Wales, this one will be entirely positive!
Nature is all around us, but we don’t often stop to admire it. A sudden rainstorm is more of an inconvenience than a wondrous thing when you’re on your way to work and your clothes get soaked. That said, a hiking trip is a great way for travelers to rediscover that sense of wonder about the natural world. Today’s photo, courtesy of Flickr user AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker, reminds me of that feeling of awe you get once you’re out in the elements. The tiny hiker in the bottom left seems to be caught in a moment of contemplation, his body frozen in a moment of wonder at the sights around him.
Flights between Singapore and several Indonesian cities, including the capital Jakarta, have been grounded due to the latest eruption of Mt. Merapi. The volcano has been erupting for two weeks and has killed more than 130 people and displaced two hundred thousand.
Several airports have closed and while the ash cloud has affected international flights, domestic flights are continuing as normal. So far the suspensions of flights are up to the individual airlines, but major carriers such as Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Lufthansa and Cathay have chosen to play it safe.
Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in the Ring of Fire, a giant arch of tectonic activity around the Pacific. Back in 2006, an eruption displaced tens of thousands and prompted local villagers to try animist rituals to placate the volcano’s spirits.
[Image courtesy user Tequendamia via Wikimedia Commons]
Niah Caves are several large limestone caves that have attracted archaeological interest since the 1950s. Excavations have turned up the earliest human remains in eastern Malaysia, as well as artifacts from various periods from early prehistory down through the Iron Age. One cave has paintings of mysterious “coffin ships” dating back 1,200 years. This long period of habitation makes the caves especially interesting to archaeologists because they can see how lifestyles and culture changed over time. The caves are part of Niah National Park.
Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud plans to propose the caves to UNESCO for their World Heritage List. The caves and park are already a popular tourist attraction, and getting the caves listed as a World Heritage Site would add to their appeal as well as attract conservation funding.
Mulu Caves on Borneo are already a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are famous for having the largest cave chamber in the world, measuring 600m (1,969ft) by 415m (1,362ft) and 80m (262ft) high.
The minister also wants to bring the remains found in the caves by foreign expeditions back into the country and wants to build special facilities at Sarawak Museum to take care of them. Malaysia was able to get some artifacts from another site back from Cambridge University in 2008, part of a growing trend of developing nations demanding their heritage back from Western institutions.
[Photo courtesy Dave Bunnell via Wikimedia Commons]