Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back to Nepal

It was a couple weeks ago that we announced a break from the Nepal pictures. But now we're back! The intervening period did not take care of the overabundance of pictures we like, such as the one above. But our plan is now to put a limit on ourselves: By the end of October, we'll be done with Nepal. Yes, it's arbitrary. But we don't want to ask our loyal readers to look at sub-standard photography, so we have to impose some discipline around here. So: Steel yourselves for the October of Nepal!

(Yes, we know it's still September. We'll figure out some accommodation for the next couple days.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Goodbye to All That

We probably have some more good pictures from Afghanistan lying around somewhere. And once the dearth of exotic photo opportunities in Washington gets to us, we may go back and dig them all up. But this is the last one for now: A bunch of kids singing the Afghan national anthem at a vocational school graduation in Highly Kinetic Kunar Province, as shot from the stage behind the podium where they were singing, with an assistant holding a laptop with the backing music playing up to the microphone. (This part not pictured because it couldn't be done without showing the faces of the kids. We have a ton of cute/interesting pictures of young participants at various Embassy events, but we don't post them here, due to perhaps an excess of caution. Also not pictured, for different reasons, but not because it didn't happen: the sound system at the assembly hall alighting in a smoldering electrical fire.)

In any case, this was the last trip outside of Kabul your correspondent completed, and perhaps the last one until we're all going to Afghanistan for climbing or skiing vacations a few years hence when it's stable and peaceful. Until then... vacation pictures starting again on the Hollatomorrow!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One More from the Streets of Kabul

Last, for now, of the Hollavision photos. While we will continue to utilize our now fine-tuned skills for shooting out of a moving car window, we don't see many more armored SUV rides in our immediate future.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Afghanistan from Above 2.4

Tomorrow: Back to Afghanistan from the Ground.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Afghanistan from Above 2.2

Kabul from helicopter.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Afghanistan from Above 2.1

Near Asadabad. Or maybe near Kabul. But definitely near a takeoff or landing. I guess that's why we ought to try to post pictures in a little more timely fashion.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Afghanistan from Above 2.0

In the closing days of our time in Afghanistan, we went back to Kunar one more time. Usually the best pictures on any trip come from the air.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


A last picture from Bamyan. Not sure what the line of trees is marking.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Forest for the Trees

Women and children, obscured by trees.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Afghan Motorcycle Dudes

More from Bamyan, home of many a young motorcyclist. As always, shot through the window of a moving armored SUV.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan

As promised, some remaining pictures we like from Afghanistan, this one from the streets of Bamyan.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Road map

We're having a hard time editing pictures as aggressively as we really ought to. In part that may be because Nepal is so photogenic. Or maybe just because Washington is so un-photogenic, we'll need a lot of the back catalog to keep this journal rolling for the next year or so.

In any case, we're going to shift gears for a bit. Here's the plan on what's to come, to aid in your calculation of whether to bother checking back again soon: First, we'll finish off the Afghanistan stuff. Then, we'll go back to pictures from Nepal. Then India. Then Alaska. Then California. Then Colorado. Then stuff so old we don't even remember what it is. Did we ever post any pictures from Bergen or Oslo, Norway? I don't think so. That should get us through, say, February. By then maybe we'll have taken a few decent pictures of Washington. Or have gone somewhere else interesting.

Anyway, above is one more from Nepal. Back to more like this in a few weeks.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Yak Week, Part 5

Yak Week hurtles to its thrilling conclusion!

Here, the yaks share the spotlight with the dramatic scenery of the high Himalaya. In this case, around 18,000 feet high on what appeared to be a dried lake bed.

I know we've all enjoyed Yak Week, but tomorrow, on to other sights from the Everest Region!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Yak Week, Part 4

Today: Yaks take Manhattan! Or at least, yaks take the modest little villages that the trail to Everest Base Camp passes through.

Fun fact: In Nepalese, only a male yak is called a "yak." A female is called a "nak." Some will thus claim that those referring to all yaks as yaks are doing so in error. Those people are pompous asses. Sorry snobs, but in English, every yak is a yak.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Yak Week, Part 3

This yak was just lying around on the shoulder of the trail, perhaps on guard to make sure only patrons of the adjacent restaurant used the toilet.

I'm not at all sure why in part 1 of Yak Week we said that the yak was "our worst enemy" as well as our best friend, other than that the writer assigned to that piece was literally falling asleep at the keyboard as he tried to compose the post. We've decided to leave the record intact and not revise that entry, but really, we hold no ill will against the noble yak.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yak Week, Part 2

Welcome back to Yak Week. For your viewing pleasure, please find above another picture of a yak.

Yak trains are something of a fixture on the walking trails of the Everest region. We saw plenty of people carrying heavy loads up the mountains on their backs (about which more later), but clearly those who can are wise to let their yak do the carrying. We regularly passed packs of yaks on the trail, usually in groups of five or so, carrying bags of produce or gear for Everest expeditions. The yaks range from well-shorn to quite wooly, with above examples staking out a sensible middle ground.

Among the more unique souvenirs available at all variety of small shops along the trail were yak bells, which are usually a lot like cow bells, except: you know, for yaks. Upon deciding that acquiring an attractive yak bell on the door would be a prudent anti-theft device for some theoretical future home, we became obsessed with getting a suitable-for-framing picture of the sincerest yak with bell that we could. So we wound up with a lot of yak pictures, and our guide probably thought we were a little crazy for so thoroughly documenting the yak population. This turned out to be a pretty darn sincere yak, whether despite or because of the North Face duffel bag.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yak Week

So we edited all the pictures from Nepal down and we only have 150 or so for display here. If we ever managed to post every day, that would still be five months or so of Nepal pictures. That's probably too much. Probably. But we are going to try to narrow down to highlight some key themes from our time there.

Anyway, without further ado... a week of pictures of our worst enemy and most beloved friend in Nepal, the yak. Enjoy!

Pictured above: A yak.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Of Nepal: Lukla International Airport

The raison d'etre for our visit to Nepal was a long spell of trekking in the Himalayas. We spent 11 days or so walking from the town of Lukla up to Everest Base Camp and back. I gather that back in the olden days of Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, you had to just start walking in Kathmandu. It is, to put it mildly, a fairly popular walk now, and climbers or trekkers can cut several days off by flying to Lukla.

However, perhaps one reason they didn't think to fly some supplies in to Lukla back in the day is that there really isn't anywhere nearby that is flat enough for long enough to serve as a runway. Luckily, some engineers figured out that if you land your plane going uphill, it stops faster. Contrariwise, if you take off by going downhill, gravity gives you a little boost. So this runway is much shorter than you would typically see even for the small aircraft coming in and out of Lukla, and slanted uphill at a good 10 degrees. And if your plane is just a bit short or long, there's a plunging dropoff at the foot of the runway and a not-insignificant rock wall at the head. (The above picture is taken from the top of the wall, where there's a nice pedestrian walkway that is really the only way to get from one side of the airport to the other.) Seems unlikely to become popular for 747s any time soon, but it was fun for the one landing and one take-off we did while there.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Airport Security

In the flood of 9/11 retrospectives this week, some are taking a close look at whether we have appropriately balanced our heightened security concerns with the principles of liberty on which our nation was founded. To this, I will add this note on airport security outside of the U.S. Authorities in India (no strangers to terrorist attacks themselves) have prohibited boarding an aircraft with firearms, hazardous chemicals, explosives, radioactive materials, "miscellaneous dangerous goods" (which apparently includes knives and cleavers), and coconuts.

Why all airports haven't taken this prudent step, I cannot say. However, I cannot rule out the possibility that it is only due to their thoroughness that none of the flight crew on our flights in South Asia were subdued by blows to the head with a coconut, nor were any innocent bystanders injured by the unpredictable effects of a coconut responding to changes in cabin pressure or flying across the plane during turbulence.

We're sure there's a reasonable explanation, but also sure we can't say what it is. Google searches for various combinations of words like "airport", "security", "India," and "coconut" proved fruitless. Do let us know in the comments if you have any insight.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Nepal Continued

Oh, criminy.

One takes a tactical pause to do some photo editing, then a long weekend out of town, and before you know it, it's been 10 days of silence on the Holla. It wasn't our plan. But we're quite close to having things sorted to regale you all with photos of our various May-through-September exploits soon, hopefully in a pretty regularly posted fashion. Or at least without random week-plus pauses in the middle. Above, a totally random picture from Nepal until we are really truly ready to go.

Sorry. We really do appreciate that you all stop by here and we don't mean to waste your time.