Thursday, October 15, 2009

When bad things happen to good birds

I don’t mind it when skillful and cunning businessmen and businesswomen of the tourist world take advantage of their lesser intelligent visitors. The fake pashminas, carpets and “antique” pots made in the backyard and dirtied with mud for authenticity are fair game. What grinds my gears is when innocent animals are involuntarily involved in sketchy transactions like the one I witnessed today on the street in Thamel.

A man was carrying a stack of tiny cages in which he had trapped some gorgeous colorful birds, few parrots and few white rabbits. The cages in which he had the birds were so small that the parrots could barely fit – something like the cages in which farmers in the west keep the chicken that end up as your McNugget. It really was heartbreaking to see the animals stuck like that and that was the catch on which he ran his business.

This group of Europeans was walking past; they’ve seen the cages and the girls started ohh-ing and awh-ing feeling sorry for the birds. The salesman (well, the salesanimal would be a proper term) approached and offered them the birds for a cheap price. It might seem silly to try and sell a live animal to a person who will be leaving the country in a few days but a friendly local who happened to be there suggested they buy the birds and set them free. What a grand and benevolent idea.

The tourists grabbed their wallets, picked out two colorful birds and symbolically released them into freedom. They made videos and took pictures of their compassionate act.

There are two things very wrong with this scene – first of all – the nearest branch for the parrot to land on in Kathmandu is probably a day’s flight away so the poor bird, even though its out of the nasty small cage, is stuck in an unfriendly environment and its doubtful if it’s gonna make it out alive. The second thing - the idiots like these particular tourists who provide these villains and poachers with cash. Did they really think they are hurting him by releasing the birds after he received money for them?! By not doing anything, few animals will indeed suffer and that’s a horrible thing but by sponsoring such behavior you will just increase the number of birds that will be hunted and another idiot will then do the same thing and our villain will be able to afford more traps and cages and maybe upgrade to more exotic and rare species in the future.

If you feel like helping – write to WWF or donate money to charity.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Few more portraits

It's been a hectic few days with trains and busses across the country to finally reach Kathmandu. Here are a few portraits of beautiful and friendly Ladakh people.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Road to Leh

The road to leh is still very much under construction and it looks like it might take a while to finish it since the gravel is made by hand right on the side of the road by these poor people.

The sad thing is that India is a member of G20 and they say that it is going to surpass USA as the #1 economy in the world in the next 20 years and this is how they conduct their public works.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Lamayuru Panoramas

The second stage of our trip was Ladakh and the first stop the small village with a famous monastery, the oldest Gompa in all of Ladakh – Lamayuru. Unfortunately, our stay there was only brief. Since the buses from Srinagar to Leh were on strike (well, the bus drivers were on strike – not the buses) we had to take a jeep across the state and that did not allow for overnight stops in the villages along the way.

The Gompa is set amidst some incredible scenery. The moonlike landscape is a bottom of an ancient glacial lake. The legend is that a Buddhist saint prayed to the guardian spirits and the lake was miraculously drained away. To me it seems ridiculous that somebody would pray to turn a beautiful lakeshore into desert that Ladakh is in today – it seems more like an act of an Environmental Terrorist than a saint – but the landscape is nonetheless breathtaking and the monastery is perched on top the hill overlooking the valley and the village.

Being a popular spot with tourists and photographers (Lumen Dei workshop was there only few days after us) the locals became adamant about requesting ‘baksheesh’ for posing for our cameras.