Saturday, 27 August 2016

Agua Azul Waterfall, Mexico near Palenque

Agua Azul near Palenque, Mexico ©Solange Hando

Barely an hour from the Maya ruins of Palenque, Agua Azul is one of the most stunning waterfalls in the Chiapas State of Mexico, south of the Yucatan peninsula.

It may not compare with Victoria or Iguazu  but at the confluence of several streams, it's an impressive series of cataracts and rapids which you can explore along a steep 7 km trail with rest and picnic spots along the way.

Rainforest and Rocks ©Solange Hando

On a site managed by the local community within the National Park, the waterfall looks almost surreal, all shades of turquoise and blue framed by lush green jungle.

The highest drop is just six metres but there are cliffs and shallow canyons, islands and here and there trees and rocks eerily coated in solidified limestone.

Agua Azul, Meeting of the Waters, Mexico ©Solange Hando

When the light travels through these mineral rich waters, all the colours are absorbed except blue (azul) which then bounces back from the river bed to the surface.

Every cascade is different but to see the colours at their best, it's best to avoid the rainy season, around June to October, when the water is often murky.

Blue, White, Green and Gold at Agua Azul©Solange Hando

The falls attract a fair number of visitors but few venture far from the first cascades and  market stalls so birdwatchers and trekkers are sure find a quiet place to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Swimming and rafting are allowed in designated areas though even there, one should beware of currents and underwater rocks or trees. Fatalities have occurred and the most treacherous stretch goes by the ominous name of 'liquidiser'. 

Agua Azul Favourite Spot ©Solange Hando

But for those who prefer to take it easy, nothing beats the obligatory photo stop by Agua Azul's favourite cascade.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Images of Pembrokeshire Coast, Scenic Wales

West Wales, Pembrokeshire Coast ©Solange Hando

The Pembrokeshire coastal path meanders over 80 miles to reveal some of the most gorgeous scenery in the country but if you're not up for the challenge, just take to the road and seek out a few of the beauty spots.
Broad beaches or secluded coves, rugged cliffs, grassy slopes, quiet harbours, the landscape is delightful and for ever changing.

Harbour in Lower Fishguard ©Solange Hando

Nestling in a crescent of wooded hills, the lower town of Fishguard has a lovely little harbour which inspires myriad artists and writers. No wonder the writers holiday is so popular. It is held twice a year in Goodwick's Bay Hotel and runs painting as well as writing courses.
But Fishguard also has a place in history for it is here that the last invasion on British soil was repelled, with the help of local women. Don't miss the fabulous tapestry depicting the event in the town library, entrance is free.

Footpath near St Davids Head ©Solange Hando

The colourful village of St Davids claims to be the smallest city in Britain thanks to a superb medieval cathedral tucked out of sight in a green hollow. It is of course dedicated to the patron saint of Wales.
Just like the namesake headland jutting out into the sea with spectacular views on both sides. It's accessed only on foot but you can see it from the popular Whitesands Bay.

Solva in Pembrokeshire ©Solange Hando

On this finely indented coast, you will find many fjord-like inlets which never lose their charm, even at low tide.
Look out for Solva where you can stroll along the  harbour or head for the clifftop to enjoy glorious views.

St Catherine's Island in Tenby ©Solange Hando

Down south you come to Tenby, long known as 'little England beyond Wales', an elegant resort with a picturesque harbour, sandy beach and fabulous views.
Explore the cobbled lanes, walk to the island at low tide, or hop on a boat, then lunch on crab salad or fresh fish down by the harbour.

Freshwater East, Pembrokeshire ©Solange Hando

Here's a wild beguiling spot away from it all with broad sweeping sands backed by dunes protected by a nature reserve. Along the coast are stunning red sandstone cliffs, just one of the scenic wonders in Pembrokeshire.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Rome Colosseum

The Colosseum by Night ©Solange Hando

Started in 72 AD by Roman Emperor Vespasian and completed by his son, the Colosseum is indeed the pride of Rome and its top attraction, most beautiful at night when the crowds have gone and in the soft golden light, you almost forget the deadly games once held within its walls.
Massive and oval shaped, rising 50 metres above the ground, it could hold 60,000 spectators, all carefully segregated, while the Emperor occupied his seat in the centre of the podium.

Close-up of the pits in the Colosseum ©Solange Hando

It is said that during the 100 days of celebrations following the inauguration, some 9,000 wild animals were killed. Then the arena would be cleaned and filled with water so naval battles could ensure further entertainment. Here gladiators fought and died and most probably early Christians. 

Inside the Colosseum

Over the centuries, the amphitheatre was put to different uses, medieval entertainment, housing, workshops, fortress and quarry.
In the 18th century, Pope Benedict XIV declared it a sacred site where a way of the Cross would remember Christian martyrs. To this day, every Good Friday, a torch-lit procession led by the Pope follows the sacred way.

The Arch of Constantine seen from the Colosseum ©Solange Hando

Erected to celebrate Constantine's victory over Maxentius, this triumphal arch is decorated with a strange mixture of earlier works and spans the 'Victorious Way' used by emperors entering the city.

So close to the Colosseum, it's another reminder of this ancient civilisation, so cultured and advanced in many ways yet so cruel at times and filled by a war-like spirit to conquer the world.