Sunday, December 31, 2017

Winter on the Speed River

It’s a winter wonderland here in Guelph Ontario. As beautiful as it is by the Speed river that runs through town, I'm looking forward to getting away to Lima Peru tomorrow!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Going to Peru!

Grampa and Dax plan a Peru trip
I'm going to Peru! Peter Jaspers-Fayer, a FON volunteer and friend, will be traveling with me for the whole month of January. My daughter, Heather, will be there already and will join us for a week around Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.

Another friend and travel companion from the 1970s, Ralph White, will also join us for the trip to Machu Picchu and then a further journey to Lake Titicaca and into Bolivia. Follow this blog for updates and photos as we explore this fascinating part of the world!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Community Acupuncture

I've recently started a series of acupuncture treatments at the Guelph Community Acupuncture Centre to deal with a low back pain issue that's been bothering me.

After two sessions of seventeen needles strategically inserted around my ears, hands, wrists and ankles, I'm feeling 80% better ...and getting better each day!

I'll still go to a physiotherapist to address the underlying cause but for rapid relief without drugs I'm now a true-believer.  I don't know how it works but it does!

The nice things about community acupuncture is that you book your own appointments online; you pay what you can; and you relax in a comfy lounging chair for up to two hours!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thanksgiving in Alma NB

I have so much to be thankful for and in this post I want to express my gratitude for having a great sister and a wonderful extended family living in a charming corner of the world - the little village of Alma, New Brunswick.
Alex, Joanna and Karen Casey

I was able to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them, a time of beautiful fall colours.

If you're ever down that way, stop by the Parkland Village Inn and say "Hi" to these lovely ladies for me!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Algonquin Weekend

 Gail & I spent three gorgeous days in and around Algonquin Park last weekend.

We stayed at Blue Spruce Resort on Oxtongue Lake and went canoeing in the morning and for a cool dip in the lake in the afternoon.

We paddled to Ragged Falls; hiked several trails, learning about the ecology; and driving home, we saw a moose!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Double Eclipse of the Heart

I was reminded of the song Total Eclipse of the Heart when I focused the light from the eclipsing sun through my binoculars this week. Two crescent suns fell on my shadow during the partial eclipse that we experienced in southern Ontario.

The day didn't turn to night as it would along the path of totality but with 75 percent of the normal sunlight blocked by the moon it did become perceptively darker, rather like what we see when wearing sunglasses.

I'll be ready for the next eclipse around here in 2024!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Sleeping with the Sharks

How does one sleep with sharks? On an air mattress in a clear tunnel that runs through the shark tank at Ripley's Aquarium in Toronto! I did this last week with Gail (she loved it!) as my postponed birthday present. It appealed to my inner child!

I particularly liked the experience of being alone at the aquarium, after the visitors had left, free to explore the tanks, some floor to ceiling, filled with fish and jellies. So I put a short video together of some of my favourite encounters during my night at the aquarium.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

I'm a Grampa!

Daxton James MacDonald Bell was born April 11th at 7:42am at the Guelph General Hospital.

My eldest son Daniel and his wife Chelsey will be great parents for this little guy. And this old man couldn't be happier!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Naturally Canadian

Each year we celebrate the creativity of the young nature photographers in the Focus on Nature program with a public exhibition of some of their best work. This year, with some extra funding and in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, we're planning two exhibits called Naturally Canadian. The first show opened for a month on March 20th but has been held over until May 18th thanks to the on going public interest. The second exhibit with new photographs is planned for September.

Below are a few of my favourites from the show.  Click on an image to view larger.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hmong Hill Tribe

The village of Phaton where we slept the night
Paul and I signed up for an overnight trek and homestay at a Hmong village high in the mountains above Nong Khiaw. The Hmong people are one of the larger tribal groups in SE Asia having migrated south from China in the 17th century.

Children, hoping for treats, are ready to welcome us
Children seemed to have the run of the village as most adults were out working in the fields when we arrived. They were a little shy of the five tall strangers who showed up with gifts, but soon they were chasing the balloons we brought around the village.

Rather than candy, we brought balloons, pens and notebooks as gifts

We began the 2nd day of our trek high above the clouds

The 7-hour trek home took us through bamboo forests and rice fields

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Nong Khiaw

 From Luang Prabang Paul and I took a 3 hour bus ride to Nong Khiaw, a town on the banks of the river called Nam Ou. We had heard that it was in a beautiful karst mountain setting and "off the beaten track". We weren't disappointed!

 Each morning we woke to a fog that settles in over the river valley. By midday the sun had burned the fog away revealing the panorama of mountains that ring the town.

We made Nong Khiaw our base for this finally leg of our journey through SE Asia. We took a couple of excursions up river to visit smaller villages, waterfalls and a remote hill tribe living high in the mountains. Our trek to stay overnight with the Hmong people of Ban Phatam will be the subject of my next blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Luang Prabang

One of the many Wats or Buddhist temples in Luang Prabang
Our boat journey down the Mekong River terminated in Luang Prabang, a small city in northern Laos. Once the country's royal capital, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site rich with architectural, cultural and religious significance.

Setting off from our guesthouse to see the sites
It was Chinese New Year when we arrived and though the city is a maze of guesthouses, we had difficulty finding accommodations. Despite this being a tourist mecca there wasn't the typical hyper-activity of other Asian cities we had visited; there was leafy tranquility about the streets that was very attractive to me.

Monks receive alms each morning from both locals and visitors
Buddhism plays a large role in Laosian life. Many boys become monks at an early age and the wat, or temple, is at the centre of community life.

Old bombs decorate the courtyard of the UXO Lao Information Centre
Laos has a big problem of un-exploded ordinance (UXO), old bombs and land mines littering the countryside. Every year more people are killed or injured by this menace but at the current rate, it will take many more decades to clear them all away.

The travertine pools of Kuang Si
One of the most beautiful places that I visited was the Kuang Si waterfall, just outside Luang Prabang. Over time the calcium in the water has created a series of terraced pools that are a delight to swim in. It's a popular destination, so if you go, go early!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Long Boating

Sunset over long boats moored on the Mekong
Travelling by river on a long boat is a bit slower than taking the bus, but much more comfortable - and fun! You have time to get to know your fellow travellers while watching the local scenery drift slowly by.

On our overland journey from Thailand to Laos, we took two river journeys: a 4 hour ride down the Kok River from Tha Ton to Chiang Rai; and a two-day trip down the mighty Mekong, from the Laos/Thai border to lovely Luang Prabang.

7 passengers board the boat to Chiang Rai: 2 Americans, 2 Canucks, a Frenchwoman, and local mother and child

On the 2-day trip down the Mekong, we shared the ride with dozens of other travellers from all over the world
(Note: click any photo to expand its size.)

A flock of stilts fly by
A gorgeous kingfisher 
The Kok River runs through an area of tribal villages, farms and a National Park.

I was fortunate to see some interesting birds along the riverbanks,

...and the Lahu village we visited was holding a New Year celebration and the villagers invited us to join them!

More beer for Paul

Sharing beer and loud disco: Lahu girls like to party!

Water buffalo like mud baths but also bathe in the rivers to cool off
The Mekong carves its way though many karst cliffs and and mountains ranges
Morning light on the Mekong