Aoraki or Mount Cook National Park has New Zealand’s highest mountains and largest glaciers. Its pristine alpine wilderness looks and feels prehistoric and very mysterious. I could almost see the Megalosaurus showing up behind the next turn of our path, which had no trail to follow but sometimes aimed towards an occasional small pile of rocks in the distance. On the way to Ball Pass, these piles were the only vague reminder that human beings had wandered through these mountains before us. The attitude towards nature conservation in New Zealand impresses visitors right from the Airport BioControl, which checks their shoes and backpacks for foreign soil and organisms, to the many days spent without seeing any human impact or even a single other person in nature. The moment captured on my photo, however, was one of the rare days when we did encounter someone deep in the wilderness. The photographed person is Jaz, a 62-year-old Kiwi hiker and climber whose kindness and generosity impressed us even more than his stamina. When my friends and I ran into him on the last day of our hike, we were already trying to hurry coming down the mountain and drive back to Dunedin before Monday morning. To our shock and surprise, Jaz offered the keys to his car after having talked to us for no more than 15 minutes! Our vehicles were parked by a shelter at the very end of the national park, a good three hours of walking further away from where he left his. Unbelieving and filled with gratitude, we planned for my two most tired friends to drive everyone’s backpacks with Jaz’s car, leaving his keys with the shelter keeper. Without our heavy loads of tents, sleeping bags, crampons, ice axes and helmets, we felt so light we could almost jog back to the cars. We reached Dunedin by 2 instead of 5 a.m. and I was ready to go to my Environmental History of New Zealand lecture in the morning to learn more about the unique relationship between Kiwi culture and the island’s nature.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India - vibrant in both color and sacrosanct stature. It is located along the banks of the venerated holy Ganges River. Two northern tributaries: the Varuna and Assi Rivers form the Ganges. The blending of the rivers’ names is how the colloquial name, Varanasi, was formed. The city Varanasi is also called Banaras, city of light or Kashi, which means “luminous one”. In this picture, vibrant ‘light’ melds with a luminous depiction of life by the river.
Here an Indian man is simply walking along the Ghats (steps down to the holy water) after his morning, holy bath. The image poignantly depicts him not only following the water but also following that of a holy cow. Many people, such as this man, bathe in the holy waters every day. This individual appears to be on his daily, poignant mission but without fanfare. This one image, purely replicates the day-to-day holy bathing that is an “every day thing” for so many Indians. It is a divine, purifying and revered act of one’s existence in the land of Varanasi.