The Wonders of the Forest

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img_4801One day, long, long ago (okay that’s not true), we went to see frogs in their natural habitats, in Springside Nature Reserve. I didn’t catch any, but some other kids did, all pretty small. One was veryย  small. He was a cute, black, bush squeaker. The other frog was a lot bigger, and he was light brown, with light green spots on his sides. This was a Natal Tree Frog. Like you might expect, he had the classic ‘tree frog’ eyes. Others were caught, too. There was a small, light brown one, with a yellow stripe, all the way down its back. I was able to identify this frog as a Quekket’s River Frog. As I identified every frog, I tried to find my own. I even went far from the group, and listened to their calls. For some reason, I could never quite tell where they were. Well, that’s nature. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes, you don’t.

img_1811We also went hiking into a lush, green place, called Giba Gorge. We hiked through relatively cool forests and grasslands. We were going to McIntosh Falls, a waterfall with a pool below it. The waterfall actually looked like the river creating it split into many rivers before recombining in the pond. There we saw a dragonfly laying eggs. It was strange, because the male was attached to the female, and she took so much time, but it was still wonderful. We saw other animals, like frogs and centipedes, and went through forests that almost made it feel like home. Almost. It was very hot and humid, which did not feel like home. At all. Oh, the wonders of the forest.

The Dazzling Drakensbergs

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We hiked up, up, upโ€ฆ into the dazzling Drakensberg Mountains. We explored all around, at one point seeing a small black bird with a ๐ŸŽถ VERY long tail-thing ๐ŸŽถ. How could it fly like that? Dunno. Well, as you’ll soon see, our adventure in the Drakensberg Mountains was just beginning. drakensberg

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Safe in the cave!

The rain came. It got very, very wet. Isn’t that obvious? We stopped, and discussed whether to go hide in a nearby cave. All of the sudden, it started hailing! We dashed into the cave and climbed onto a pile of rocks. The whole rest of the cave got wet. LOLOLOLOLOLOL!
We are so prankster gangster! Too bad for the bugs and stuff!

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Amazing rock art of elands.

We had been on a hike to see Bushman cave paintings. The Bushmen, also called San people, are hunter-gatherers, who started out around 100,000 years ago. That’s possibly as old as humanity! Many of the Bushmen were eradicated by farmers, black and white, which is unfortunate, because their paintings are absolutely amazing! The paintings showed light and shadow, and were even carefully detailed. The ones we saw were fairly recent, dated from 300 to 500 years ago, but were painted on top of older paintings originally painted thousands of years ago. One of the paintings was of a lot of eland, but one of them showed signs ofโ€ฆdying. However, our guide explained that it was actually symbolizing a shaman in a trance. We also saw a painting of a hunt, and a dance the shamans did to enter their altered state of consciousness. Another painting showed a bunch of tick marks, seen when shamans start to enter their altered state of consciousness.

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This beautiful rainbow emerged after the intense rain.

The paintings were amazing, however the landscape was no less amazing. Dramatic mountains, completely green, rose up from the ground with lines of rock streaming across them, created when lava pushed up the layers of sedimentary rock. Curved mountains, pointy mountains, mountains above the clouds, you name it! All were there. ๐ŸŽถย  Trees and trees covered the land! They spanned from town to town! ๐ŸŽถ Actually, there were only short patches of trees. We were informed of controlled burning of the grass in dry season. Why? Toย  prevent more dangerous fires from happening. Also, when the grass is burned, it grows back greener than before. That means that the grass is getting nutrients from its own ashes. Gross! That’s self-cannibalizing! And wrong! Self cannibalizing? Yuck!

garden-castleWe climbed up, searching for a river. We were on one of the hiking trails near Garden Castle. Then we found it. We scrambled towards the river, which was really more like a stream. We followed it to a series of three pools, where we sat down, and got comfy. After a long rest, we got up, and went back the way we came.

Wow, the Drakensbergs were dazzling!

Crazy Casablanca

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img_1678We stepped through the door. We were in Casablanca, eating a nice meal at the cheesiest restaurant in town. I won’t tell you the name of the restaurant, but I will give you a hint: it’s the main scene of the old movie *Casablanca*. Yep! We went to Rick’s Cafรฉ! Of course, it was a complete imposter, but still! Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesy!
I had a delicious burger! A burger! We hadn’t had burgers for a month! Crazy, huh? However, it *is* healthy. Well, we had a tasty meal at Rick’s Cafรฉ!

Inside the amazing King Hassan II Mosque
The amazing King Hassan II Mosque

Also in Casablanca, we saw the amazing King Hassan II Mosque! It is the third largest mosque in the entire world, and is made of material almost entirely from Morocco! Wow! That must be hard to do! Apparently, it holds twenty-five thousand people. Imagine twenty-five thousand people, simultaneously praying in the mosque. What a sight that must be! Twenty -five thousand people! Also, when it is hot, or the weather is nice, guess what they do. They open the roof up! It opens in three seconds, and closes in two. Amazing! Unfortunately, we did not get to see them open the roof up, but when they do, I imagine it is amazing. You must be very lucky if you see the roof. Also, we saw a room where they wash themselves before praying. There, they had special, natural de-humidifying columns. I don’t remember what they were made from, but I do remember that the recipe involved raw eggs. Yuck! From what I can tell, Casablanca was CRAZY!

High Hiking

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Standing near one of the caves the family lives in. This bunch of caves is considered a sort of base camp for the family.

Up, up, up, we went, up the rocky hill. I was hiking in the Atlas Mountains with my mom. Dad had a stomach bug, so he couldn’t come. We hiked through the barren landscape through the Todra Gorge, up into the Atlas Mountains. It was a tough and slow hike up, but we got to a small hut near some caves, where Berbers lived. Mom and the guide had tea there. A couple of young girls where there with their grandma. They curiously but shyly watched us from a distance. The guide explained that they stayed with their grandma year-round, while their parents moved around the country in search of food. They were the nomadic Berber people, the indigenous people of Morocco for over 3,000 years. Other cultures came and went, such as the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Arabs, the Spanish and French, but all of them found the native Berbers. And so did we! We hiked back down the rocky, barren hill, into the valley and the town by Todra Gorge!

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Me in a dragon mask with our mule

We also hiked near Imlil in a two-day trek to a Berber village and back. I know I said that the Berbers are nomadic, but some of them settled down into villages and towns. We had a long hike, during which we saw an amazing waterfall. But, man, was the waterfall cold! No, no, no, I didn’t get in it! Why would I do that? The spray went everywhere! That’s how I could tell it was cold! The village was pretty cool, though. It was around a couple centuries old. Wow, that’s really old! We stayed the night in the village. Our room was plain, but I’m not complaining. We slept in sleeping bags. Why? Because nights are cold in the Atlas Mountains! We were warm, though. And I found that I prefer sleeping in a sleeping bag to sleeping in a bed! Yes! Really! I think it is because I like my whole body surrounded by warmness and softness. With a sleeping bag, I get that! With a bed, I don’t. Well, the next day, we loaded our stuff on the mule and headed back to Imlil!

Fresh Chefchaouen

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img_1488We scrambled up the muddy slope, trying to avoid spiky branches. We were in the Rif Mountains around Chefchaouen, taking a long hike to see a waterfall. As it turned out, there really wasn’t much of a waterfall, but it did lead to a pond with a lot of caves in the surrounding cliff. It was a beautiful place. In fact, it influenced my writing. I hope to make a whole story based on it. On our way back, we saw some monkeys. I didn’t even know that they had monkeys in Morocco! Did you? Well, turns out they do. Mom got some great pics! One baby monkey was on top of a tree, kinda far away. He was so cute, though! The monkeys got closer and closer, until they were right above us. We were worried they were going to attack us, so we continued back down the trail. When we got back to the village below the waterfall, it was like a party. Haha. ๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ˜„. Fooled you so hard! If you read my post Terrific Tangier, you probably didn’t fall for it. As I said, I’m not that famous. People continued on with their days and lives, just as we did. We hopped on a shared taxi and away to Chefchauen!
In Chefchauen, we didn’t really do much, but we did walk around and eat new foods. Chefchauen is the bluest city I have ever seen. In some streets, even the streets themselves are blue! Wow! One night, I tried meatball tajin. Yummy! It’s very good! It’s my favorite Moroccan meal! Meatbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalls! ย  I also tried pigeon and rabbit. The pigeon tasted a bit like chicken, but not just like chicken. I don’t know how to describe the rabbit, but it sure was tasty. Savory. Yum, yum, yum!
dsc_5154One day, we went to the countryside near Bab Taza in the Rif mountains. There, the main crop is cannabis, a crop used to make marijuana. Don’t worry, we didn’t smoke any marijuana. We went hiking in the nearby mountains. It was a good, long hike. At night, we all gathered around and read some Moroccan folk tales. A lot of them have to do with death and marriage. Yuck!

Super Stavanger

Hike James Kjerag

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Moving energy through my body

At the science museum, Vitenfabrikken, I placed my hand on the plasma ball. All the plasma shot to my hand. An employee held a light bulb out to me. I grabbed it, and it lit up. She explained how the energy moved through my body to the bulb, which lit up. We also watched a space presentation in English (which was really more of a presentation on how space exploration has changed our everyday lives). I also tried to break a glass with my voice. I was close, but not successful. It was so hard!

Viking James DressupWe also went to the viking museum and farm, Avaldsnes. At the museum, I had a sword fight with a Norwegian boy. We learned that the vikings mainly used spears, instead of axes or swords, because they were cheapest, and had no horny helmets. There used to be a woman from Siberia,ย Ljufvina, who had married a Norwegian king, Hjor, became queen, moved to Avaldsnes, and had two sons. One of the sons, Prince Geirmund the Black-Skinned, was supposedly the most successful settler of Iceland. However, when he came back home to claim the throne, he found he was too late and the kingdom had already been taken over by Harold Fairhair. That must’ve sucked! He went back to Iceland for good. We also saw the model farm, and I got to do some archery. I even shot the rubber warthog in the neck!

Hike James SnowballFinally, we went on famous hike, to Kjerag Rock. There were three sets of climbing chains. Each of us slipped on the chains. When I slipped, I landed on my back with a thump. However, I felt no pain. At the top, it was incredibly foggy. There was still snow on the ground, too. I played in the snow, but got wet, cold, and miserable. Then we took pictures of Dad on Kjerag Rock with a 3,000 foot drop below him. What a way to end Norway!

 

Miles of Tea and an Orange Stream

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Guide
Our guide

We crossed over the orange stream, which was not dyed orange, but it was orange because it had orange mud. It smelled. Next we crossed a larger river. I jumped from one rock to the other. I almost missed! I found myself tottering above the small waterfall, saved only by the guide’s hand. He wasn’t there to show us the way, he was there to save our lives! Then I nearly fell again. Later, when we were crossing a rock with a trickle of water running down it, I tried to walk across, but slipped! I managed to cross by crawling sideways! Near the end of our hike, we crossed a river with a big gap between two rocks. I tried to jump, but missed! I fell in the water down to my waist! Quickly I scrambled onto the rock I had just been on. I jumped again, but this time my right side fell in the water! Then I just walked across a submerged rock. I have to admit, that was scary, almost dying four times in one hike!

Smelling Tea
Smelling the finished tea

The next day we saw some very pretty tea. Miles of tea, rolling up to the mountains with trees and bushes spotted here and there. It was also fun to see a machine make the tea leaves into the stuff you see in tea bags. They were cut four times, dried, and ground. The tea, though – that stuff was glorious! Good thing they actually made something, instead of turned into a tourist attraction!

Himachal Pradesh

The view from Triund (outer Himalayas)
The view from Triund (outer Himalayas)
Lots of monkies!
Lots of monkies!

Shimla was nice. We walked through the mall, which is a big open plaza. We had delicious Indian street food. We saw crowds like never before and got honked at on the way there, which made me mad. We also experienced Diwali. It was full of fireworks. We saw a few things, too. My favorite was the Monkey Temple, which is dedicated to the Hindu god Hanuman, the monkey god. The statue was awesome. It was full monkeys, which are super cool. That was my favorite part.

Soccer with Monks
Soccer with Monks

After Shimla, we went to Rewalsar on the way to Mcleod Ganj. Relwasar is a cute tiny village surrounding a lake that is holy to Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs. We stayed in a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. For two nights in a row, I would play soccer with the younger Tibetan Buddhists, then go play Minecraft with our new Dutch friends who live in Ahmedabad. That was so fun. Their names were Izerd, who was 12, Fanka, who was 10, and Freya, who was 8.

Hiking with friends near Rewalsar
Hiking with friends near Rewalsar

The second day was very different. We went to the caves and hiked up a steep hill. Then we walked into the forest and found a scary abandoned house. There was a big rock with sheets of metal near it. Inside the rock was the abandoned house, which was filthy. The door was broken down and in pieces, there were dirty sleeping bags all over the room, and bowls half submerged in dirt. Then we hiked back down to Rewalsar. The next day it was just me and my family. We fed the fish in the lake puffed rice. There were thousands of fish in that lake. Holy … fish? Yes, those fish were holy. Rewalsar was amazing. I recommend you to go there.

Playing Carrom
Playing Carrom

On our first day in McLeod Ganj, we saw a documentary about the modern Tibetans in China. The film used a small section to describe them being tortured, beaten, imprisoned, and executed because they deserved independence and knew it. That is not right. This made me mad. It was mainly about a small group of about 15 Tibetans’ adventure across Nepal into India to Delhi and finally to Dharmsala to meet the Dalai Lama. While we were waiting, I played a fun Indian board game called Carrom. It is a board game were there are some chips and one chip that was flatter and wider then the rest called the cue, which is white. The rest of the chips were black and white. One was red. I didn’t quite understand the goal of the game, so you can google it. Another day, we got a taxi and went to Norbulingka Institute, where they preserve Tibetan culture and crafts. We also went to Gyuto Monestary, which is known for the monks chanting. The sound was hypnotizing. Next we went to the cricket stadium, which is known for its mountain views, but the next day, we found even better mountain views at Triund. The views were awesome. You could see Paramount Mountain (which is actually called Mount Moon). We took a 4 1/2 hour hike to get there. The hike was tiring, but I liked it. McLeod Ganj was awesome.