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Kaluts- The Lut Desert- Iran

In 2012 near the start of my journey along the Silk route between Istanbul in Turkey and China, I spent a month in Iran. A beautiful country and actually very hospitable people. Following the journey of Alexandra the Great to Persepolis, or next stop was the Lut desert to see the amazing sand formations known as "Kaluts". The Kalut is said to a sand mountain created by the effect of the dominant erosional agent in desert, i.e., wind making fascinating forms and shapes.

There are no threats, like scorpions or snakes, as the desert of Lut is an abiotic zone, which means that no single plant or creature can survive in such a harsh environment.

Rising from the sand dunes, these natural and astonishing sculptures are a real shock to your eyeballs and, while walking among them, you are likely to feel you are wandering around Mars or even better, a Star wars film set.

Posted by TheJohnsons 08:32 Archived in Iran Tagged mountains sky desert sunset view nature landscape canyon travel mountain golden sand summer sun hill red rock stone formation scenic land hot yellow natural east dry asia tourism geology iran kerman persia outdoor esfahan formations tehran persian kashan yazd iranian foggy misty massive background hottest lut kalut kaluts shahdat kalutes Comments (0)

Fairytale canyon "Skazka" Каньон "Сказка"

During my two month visit to Kyrgyzstan, a good amount of my time was spent in the beautiful Lake Issi Kul area.

Moving along the south coast of Issyk-Kul lake from Karakol town, before you reach the small village named Kadji-Sai, you have an opportunity to get into the most beautiful mountain landscapes.

The canyon was named because of its bizarre rocky landscape, which for many years has been transformed by erosion into amazing sculptures and formations. Some formations look like The Great Wall of China and you can also find other formations that look like snakes, dragons, sleeping giants and even whole castles. From the canyon you can see a majestic panorama of Lake Issyk-Kul and snow caped mountains.

Dedicated to my dear Photographer Compatriot; Natalia Arentseva!
This would make a great place for a photo shoot!

You can see Natalia's work here ; https://www.facebook.com/photographynataliaarantseva/

Posted by TheJohnsons 20:55 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged mountains trees sky architecture tower view nature landscape canyon travel mountain trekking lake scenery blue building woods summer beautiful red castle romantic rock old medieval scenic forest land attraction yellow natural asia gorge tourism geology german landmark orange fairy european tale bavarian bayern kyrgyzstan fantasy fairy-tale issyk-kul fairytale skazka fuessen Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Graffitti and Street Art Singapore

In 2013 I was in the amazing city of Singapore where I sought and found some of the wonderful street art you will see here in this slideshow

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:35 Archived in Singapore Tagged art architecture home view landscape singapore culture traditional street travel town thailand malaysia urban city new china white building house heritage window light red old festival wall asian beauty asia antique tourism shop style chinese vintage outdoor landmark design decoration colorful classic symbol exterior facade background draw vector illustration peranakan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Yarkand the deep south, not!


View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

large_1842667_13488163008352.jpgYarkand

Yarkand is not really a hot place to stay, well maybe if you count the temperature, but other than that it might not be worth a stop. We decided that we would do the southern loop round to Hotan [Hotan-travel-guide-221834] and the look at either completing it or cutting across the Taklamakan Desert to Kuqe. As we had no experience of Chinese buses and wanted to find out what they were like we thought we would break up the journey by doing a short trip (3hours) from Kashgar [Kashgar-travel-guide-1315664] to Yarkand first.

Well buying a bus ticket was easy, into the bus station at Kashgar and helped by the nice “Official” managing the ques we were able to make it clear that we wanted two seats to Yarkand.large_1842667_13488163012314.jpg Then once again kindly helped by another bus “Official” we were shown to our bus out in the Station (sounds likeIranexperience doesn’t it?). Bags stowed away under the bus luggage compartment and seated in clearly numbered seats (English numbers everywhere so far) we congratulated ourselves in getting this far through the system. Bear in mind this is our first ever trip throughChinaand language is completely different to anything we have encountered so far.

Comfy seats and a swift three hours saw us to the Yarkand bus terminal. We arrived around3.00pmand it was hot! We had read in LP that the Subiyi Aletun Hotel would take foreign tourists, WRONG! No they don’t, well not anymore, after a 10rb taxi ride to said Hotel we were told “no Tourists” in Chinese and hand signals….large_1842667_13488163011114.jpg .oh no, and we don’t speak English and they don’t speak Chinese. After much discussion and gesturing we managed to get them to understand that we needed to stay somewhere! I hit upon the idea of ringing our English/Chinese speaking tour operator we used for the border crossing fromKyrgyzstantoChinato help out. He advised us that he only knew of the “Yarkand” Binguan (hotel) that accepted foreign visitors there. So with some basic words and a bit of help from the manager at the Subiyi Aletun we got another Taxi to take us up the road back toward the bus terminal and drop us off outside the Hotel. At last, we booked in, funny how the price of this Hotel managed to be more expensive than the one we just left. Never mind, double room with air con, western loo and breakfast did us.large_1842667_13488163021337.jpg We had after all only wanted to stop for one night to A. break up the journey and B. visit a couple of sights we knew were there.

Thankfully nothing shuts early hear inChinaand once we had dumped our bags we were off out and back towards the sights were had come to break up the journey with. First stop the Mausoleum of Ammanisahan a Uighar Queen, revered musician and famed for her work collecting the Uighar muquam. Her Tomb was stunning; they obviously loved her very much as great effort had gone into its placement and construction with surrounding garden for her (see pics). A few meters away is the Mazaar cemetery where members of Yarkand Royal family from 16th& 17thCentury lie. Calm and slightly restored we saw maybe 30 tombs with intricate stone carving (see pics) with the main man (Sulitan Saidyidhans) centralised in the cemetery (also have pics of this).large_1842667_13488163033508.jpg Right next door to this Cemetery is the Altun Mosque Complex this one is an open style mosque and was built in 1533A.D. by Sulitan Abdureshidhan, another Royal member of Yarkand. It also was a cool and calm place and even though it was Friday we were able to walk round and take pictures, although I did run into afternoon prayer time so left a little earlier than I would have liked. We paid 15rb each to get into all three sights which I thought was reasonable considering how much I enjoyed it and how many sights we got for our entrance fee.

Tired, hungry & hot we decided that the next task was to find food, and edible food. There really is only so much shashlik a girl can eat. LP was pretty useless and it seemed that anything LP suggests turns out to be pretty expensive and quite a disappointment.large_1842667_13488163035508.jpg We decided to trust our instincts and let me follow my nose and eyes on the locals. Sure enough on the main road back to our Hotel we found a restaurant whose name I couldn’t read let alone pronounce, but I do know it was number 161 on the street. We walked in with other customers and followed the way they did things. Seated we looked around at what other patrons were eating which gave us a good idea of the kind of food they served. Great! Food at last, the obligatory pot of chai was brought to us and we basically pointed at what other people were eating and said “one of those please”. The staff was really friendly and brought us two Thali like plates with an assortment of chicken, beef (small pieces), some peppers and aubergine with cooked onions, and a decent portion of plain white rice.large_1842667_13488163036035.jpg Yum! At last a lovely spicy, filling meal. We were stuffed, we left after paying a whole 15rb for the two of us and this is what we had been looking forward to. We walked back to our hotel as we had already purchased our next day’s bus ticket to Hotan and wanted to make sure we had ourselves packed up and ready to go the next morning. Not the most exciting place inChina, but then again my view is it’s what you make it; it gave us a good introduction to Chinese buses and local “foreign tourist registered only” hotels and definitely a taste of good local food. Hotan here we come!

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Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in China Tagged sky desert nature culture travel town china map wild red portrait macro asia marker marked deer geography countries silk business push badlands hair corridor close-up tajikistan background bukhara afghanistan panj pamir fur pin antlers riparian badakhshan yarkand thumbtack cartography pushpin grazer bactrian wapiti lowland bokhara yarkant corridors herbivore chordata vakhan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out- Jeti Oguz


View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

large_1842667_13461539308537.jpgJeti Oguz

What is Jeti Oguz? I thought to myself when I first heard it being banded about as a destination. Well I can tell you now some of the most amazing and beautiful places I have seen so far inKyrgyzstan. Our drive took us approx 20km outside Karakol [Karakol-travel-guide-1019301] before veering off to the right and entering a much rougher road than we had previously experienced in this region. As we drove through the very wide valley we saw the high mountains in the distance both sides. Stunning! We noticed as we came into the narrower part of the valley the extreme red sandstone colour of the hills around us. Much like the Red sandstone found in ranges in theUS. Our carrier stopped just around an area called the broken heart formation, for obvious reasons the two large chunks of red rock looked like a broken heart, in two pieces (pics).large_1842667_13461539311268.jpg Behind us looked like some very nice hills, in front of them by the roadside were a collection of mobile beehives and vendors selling natural honey harvested in the summer season only. Next to these were a couple of Bird of Prey “Hawkers”. These were not your real traditional Hawkers, but ones that were “hawking” on the tourists. Takai warned us that if we started taking pictures they would start asking for money. I chose along with the rest of the group to ignore them and walk after our guide who informed us that we had a quick twenty minutes to walk to a lovely vantage point where we could photograph the “broken heart” rocks and view the vista around us. He was right, the view was great and we got some lovely shots of the rocks.large_1842667_13461539314161.jpg

Onwards we went, about another 150mtrs to our main walk in this area, the Dragon back Gorge. We were altogether in this walk and I was wowed by the sheer redness of the crumbling sandstone. A small stream worked its way through with us and we passed Kyrgyz folk with their Yurt and horses. Using the natural shape of the cliff breaks to create sheep pens. Newly fallen giant boulders reminded us that we should be careful of the fragile rock walls around us. Along this bit of the valley I did see and picture some flora and fauna, but the main event was the gorge.

When we reached nearly the end of the bit we could do, our group split into two, our guide, Talai took the other group and they started to climb what looked like a very steep ascent to the hill in front of us, whilst Angela and I walked back round with Talai’s dad, who coincidently started all the tours Takai does now.large_1842667_13461539322999.jpg We got back to the vehicle after about 30mins and crossed the road to take a closer look at the raging river that banked the other side of the road. A rest was welcome for my back at this point. About 30mins after that we spotted the second group coming over the hill approx quart of a mile ahead, so got back into the car to pick them up.

We continued along the road for a few kilometres when we stopped at The Valley of flowers (no flowers now as they flower during spring and early summer). Talai walked us up to a stunning view point which was quite steep in places, but as I looked back about half way up I could see the climb was worth it. As I reached the top I could see the huge rolling Jailoo below us with a huge linear forest of pine trees planted in between two large camps of Yurts.large_1842667_13461539321717.jpgDragon Back CAnyon with our group for scale, stunning rock formations here.This was planted for Gagarin by the Russians as he used to visit this valley to help him acclimatise after his visits in space. How nice (depends on your point of view) these trees are all in rows back dropping some beautiful mountains. To the left is a huge Jailoo pasture which had several Yurt camps and plenty of horses to match and on the right of the trees is another Yurt camp with a break before the mountain where you can walk to a waterfall. We all stopped for half an hour to catch our breath and then made our way back down to the vehicle. Picnic time! Except Talai had forgotten the tomatoes and cucumber, so our salad was a bit sparse. Takai took the group off to the waterfall; I stayed behind with his dad as A. my back had had enough and B. I could see the very large black rain cloud, I think Takai could too. I spent some time taking pictures walking through the Pine forest. Sure enough I was right, after about half an hour Angela returned with the rain on her back, and it poured.

We returned through the valley to the homestay and everyone agreed that they had had a lovely day.

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Posted by TheJohnsons 23:42 Archived in Kyrgyzstan Tagged sky desert view nature hiking landscape canyon travel mountain seven village grass tree blue valley summer beautiful hill red rock stone formation scenic central asia gorge tourism outdoor landmark shan design pattern abstract bulls range sandstone texture kyrgyzstan tian background kyrgyz kul geological karakol jeti jeti-oguz oguz issyk issyk-kul kirghizia Comments (0)

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