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Turquoise Tour Transportation
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Four wheel drive is essential in the deep soft sand of the wash leading up to the entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon. It is important to maintain speed in soft sand which our Navajo guide and driver, did with a flourish and zeal.
Our Navajo guide drove the tour pickup truck like a demolition race driver, but played the native flute in the slot canyon, like a prince. The three Japanese photographers, who completed the “client” group, with Ed and me - were fun, polite, and dedicated to their photography.
Upper Antelope slot canyon is a short canyon. It seemed little over 100 yards long to me, but the tour pamphlets list it as longer. I’m glad I went. The lighting in Upper Antelope was far too challenging for my photography skills and stubborn refusal to use a tripod. A sturdy full size tripod is pretty much a requirement to get “good” photographs in this canyon.
I’m not a “tour group” guy (I’m the antithesis), so I much preferred my 2008 experience with Lower Antelope slot canyon. It was prettier, better lighting, you could drive to it yourself, no guide required, and no time limit on how much time you spent in the slot canyon.
So, I offer up a few snapshots, taken hand held with a point and shoot Canon for my memories, and to give any thinking of doing the same tour, some glimpse of the experience.
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Making one motel reservation after another and staying one night allowed us to cover a lot of territory. We stayed in Motel 6s whenever possible. It is easy to make reservations and if plans change, they have a generous and easy to achieve cancellation policy.
That said it was a real treat when we made reservations for two nights in a row. We did this at Moab and we did this at Page. You get a lot more quality use out of your rooms this way and it nice to break up the constant long distance travel each day, even if you are seeing lots of cool stuff.
So when we left our motel rooms Tuesday morning, we left most of our stuff at the motel and took only what we needed for the “Wave lottery” and the Upper Antelope slot canyon tour, with us in the Jeep.
There were some nice photo ops driving to the Paria River Rangers’ station that morning. The sky was clear and the morning sun is always great hitting the sandstone cliffs and mesas. We were not successful in winning a spot for Wednesday morning to hike the Wave. Only ten people get the walk in permit by lottery and there were 52 of us there hoping to get one. We shrugged off the attempt and headed for the tour guide headquarters for our Upper Antelope tour.
By the time we had finished the Upper Antelope tour I was disappointed and considered it the least desirable stop of the entire road trip, along with the Zuni Pueblo visit. But time puts things in perspective. Now I’m glad I went. The Martres photo guidebook I had along with me, warned that taking good photos in Upper Antelope was a “challenge” and I knew I would be using either my Canon G9 or G10 and stubbornly refuse to use a tripod, though I took a small metal tripod with me.
When the company switched us from the promised ride in the Suburban to the back of a bouncy exhaust fume filled pickup truck I was irritated, but not too much. The ride up the wash was kind of fun, despite the fumes. Then when we got inside Upper Antelope, Ed and the three Japanese clients with their expensive and cameras and tripods accepted that I was along for the hike and didn’t let it bother them at all that I was going to try to take photos with an advanced point and shoot rather than a DSLR with correct lens, and sturdy tripod.
Our guide however asked to see my camera when we were a short ways into Upper Antelope and before I knew what he was doing he started changing all the settings on my camera saying “too many automatic settings”. Well I kept my cool but it really made me mad. I asked him to return my camera and to return ALL the settings he had changed back to those I had on “my” camera, before he started making all the changes.
From then on all got better. The guide accepted me as an old stubborn, (probably stupid), hiker and snapshot artist, instead of a serious photographer. All of us got along famously and I was really pleased to see Ed in his element with some serious photography challenges and opportunities. The three Japanese were first class all the way, letting me take my turn at photo ops and always smiling and enjoying the canyon photo ops experience.
By the time our time was up in Upper Antelope Canyon we were all happy. Our guide played his flute inside the slot canyon and did a great job of it. The flute playing “fit” and added to the experience.
Out of the photos I took in Upper Antelope Canyon more than half of them were badly blurred, no matter how steady I thought I was holding my camera with the slow shutter speed required of the reduced and contrasting light. BUT the photos that did come out are memory makers for me. It will remind m
Coto Doñana national park, Sevilla, Spain - November 2007
By Jo Williams
The Parque Nacional de Donana is one of Europe's most important wetland reserves and a major site for migrating birds. It is an immense area; the parque itself and surrounding parque natural or Entorno de Donana (a protected buffer zone) amount to over 1,300 sq km in the provinces of Huelva, Sevilla and Cadiz. It is internationally for recognised for its great ecological wealth. Donana has become a key centre in the world of conservationism.
Donana is well known for its enormous variety of bird species, either permanent residents, winter visitors from north and central Europe or summer visitors from Africa, like its numerous types of geese and colourful colonies of flamingo. It has one of the world's largest colonies of Spanish imperial eagles. The park as a whole comprises three distinct kinds of ecosystem: the marismas, the Mediterranean scrublands and the coastal mobile dunes with their beaches.
The configuration of the Parque Nacional de Donana is a result of its past as the delta of the Guadalquivir river, the 'big river', or Wada-I-Kebir, of the Moors. But it is a delta with a difference. Unlike most, the river has only one outlet to the sea, just below Sanlucar de Barrameda. The rest of what used to be its delta has gradually been blocked off by a huge sandbar that stretches from the mouth of the Rio Tinto, near Palos de la Frontera, to the riverbank opposite Sanlucar, and which the sea winds have gradually formed into high dunes. Behind this natural barrier stretches the marshlands (marismas).
The effect of this extraordinary melange of land and water was to create an environment shunned by people but ideal for wildlife. As early as the thirteenth century, the kings of Castille set aside a portion of the Donana as a royal hunting estate; later the dukes of Medina Sidonia made it their private coto too. One of the duchesses of Medina Sidonia, Dona Ana de Silva y Mendoza, indulged her antisocial instincts by building a residence there that was more hermitage than palace. As a result, the entire region came to be known as the 'forest of Dona Ana', or Donana. In the eighteenth century, Goya is known to have visited the Duchess of Alba at the Palacio de Donana when she was its proprietress. Subsequently, the land passed through many hands before the official creation of the parque nacional in 1969.
Meanwhile, adjoining areas of wetland were being dramatically reduced. Across the Guadalquivir vast marshes were drained and converted to farmland, until only the protected lands of the Donana remained intact. For centuries there had been only a vacant spot on the map between Lebrija in the east and Almonte in the north west, but in recent years whole towns and villages have sprung up west of the Guadalquivir, and the resort town of Matalascanas has brought urban sprawl to the south-western edge of the Donana, a place once occupied by reed-thatched fishermen's huts. The proximity of these settlements has further complicated the work of the park's wildlife guardians. Two of the Donana's precious lynxes, for example, have been run over by cars on the highway to Matalascanas; cats and dogs straying out of the nearest towns have killed animals in the park, and birds that have overflown the fences have been gunned down by trigger-happy hunters despite stringent conservation laws.
A more permanent threat to the Donana's ecosystem are the new ricefields and other agricultural projects north of El Rocio, whose run-off waters sluice pesticides into the marismas and the sulphur mines upstream at Aznalcoliar which was effluvium into the river.
Marismas de Odiel, Huelva
Marismas de Odiel, Huelva
Entrance to the park is strictly controlled. You can take half-day trips with official guides or explore the environs of the visitors' centres on foot.
To visit the principal visitors' centre at El Acebuche, take the A483 south of Almonte and about 12km from El Rocio is the signposted turn at Km29 for Centro de Recepcion El Acebuche (959 44 87 11), 1?km from the main road. Alternatively, you can drive 3km north of Matalascanas to the turn-off at Km29. The centre has an exhibition about the park, a cafe and a shop selling maps and books. From the centre is a signposted 5km trail through scrubland and pine trees. Next to the centre is the El Acebuche lagoon, with bird hides, where you can see purple gallinules, among other birds.
From El Acebuche there are four-hour trips into the park run by the Cooperativa Marsimas del Rocio (959 43 04 32), which must be booked in advance. The four-wheel drive vehicle can seat 21 people and guides speak some English. There are two trips a day (excluding Mondays), at 0830 and 1500 (1700 in summer). Full day trips can also be organised for groups, with lunch in Sanlucar de Barrameda. A typical trip will take in all three ecosystems in the park - dunes, matorral and marshland - but the amount of exposure to each environment varies with the seasons. One thing is gua
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