Delicate Treasures for Ailsa’s theme

For this week’s photo challenge, Ailsa has asked us to share a photo of something delicate. Whenever I see a butterfly, I marvel at its delicate and beautiful wings. When it emerges from its pupa, a butterfly’s delicate wings are wet and crumpled, and it has to wait for them to dry before it is able to fly. Although the wings are really delicate, they have be strong enough to support its weight during flight. If these fragile wings should become torn, they never repair themselves.

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Many butterflies are very brightly coloured, and I read that in nature, bright colours sometimes act as a warning to predators that the owner is either dangerous, or is going to be a very nasty tasting morsel.

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Some butterflies have large ‘eye spots’ on their wings, to deceive would be predators into thinking they are much bigger than they really are.

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Darker coloured wings can provide good camouflage.

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One of the most beautiful butterflies I’ve seen, is this male ‘ Cairns Birdwing’ which is one of the largest  butterfly species in Australia.

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The female is not quite so spectacular, but still really lovely.

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“Our loved ones, whether by blood, marriage, or by choice, are delicate treasures. If we hold them too close, they break as a butterfly would. By honouring and enjoying the freedom of our loved ones, we gain our own freedom. Have the courage to trust that the beautiful butterflies in your life will return – or-not – as life intends.” ~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie

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WPC: Eerie places I’ve shivered in.

For this week’s challenge Cheri Lucas shared a photo taken by Merilee Mitchell entitled “Ghost Child.”  She said that “a photo doesn’t have to be blatantly macabre to be eerie. But it can have a mysterious, otherworldly vibe — the viewer wonders what lurks in the shadows. Something eerie has a story to tell — one you aren’t quite sure you want to know.”

Cheri asks that our pics be in B&W, so here are a few places I’ve visited on my travels, which have literally given me the shivers. If you click on the pics, you’ll get the full ‘eerie’ effect.  😯

In downtown Lima, Peru, below the ‘Convento de San Francisco’, along some secret passageways, are catacombs containing an Ossuary in which it is estimated lie the bones of 70,000 people. They are lined up along narrow hallways, and one area contains several large and deep holes, filled with bones and skulls arranged above each other in circular patterns. This 17th century Baroque church, originally had a normal graveyard for its members, but when space became a problem, the skulls and bones were removed from the graves and thrown into a deep pit, which over time, became the last resting place for most of Lima’s dead. When the place was discovered and opened up for archeological excavation in 1943, they found the bones just heaped up in there, and decided that the catacombs would have more ‘appeal’ if they were arranged artistically, so they placed the skulls together in a centre pile, with same length arm bones radiating outward, and matching leg bones extending beyond the arms; a rather eerie sight indeed.

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In the Italian Medieval town of Monterosso in the Cinque Terre, is the Romanesque style church of Saint John the Baptist, built of black and white Italian marble. Right next door is the Oratory of the Dead (also black and white), which was built by a brotherhood of good works. Their good work consisted of arranging funerals, taking care of widows, orphans, and the shipwrecked, and their symbols were a skull and crossbones, an hourglass, and the happy inscription “Death awaits us all.” There is a skull and crossbones above the door, and skeletons decorate the cornices.

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On 24th August 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city of Pompeii under twenty-seven feet of volcanic ash. The ruins were discovered in 1748, and in 1865, excavations began. At the time of its destruction, Pompeii had a population of some 20,000 people.  It was a really eerie feeling to be walking along the original roads, and to be able to see ruts made by the chariot wheels all those years ago, before this community was blanketed in a thick layer of hot ash.

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The Colosseum in Rome has a very bloody history indeed. In this arena, the Emperor entertained the public with free games, which started off with a few circus acts, but usually ended with fights to the death between wild animals and gladiators. To mark the inauguration of the building in AD 80, some 9,000 wild animals were destroyed. Today it stands as a monument to Roman imperial power and cruelty, where for centuries, literally thousands of people whom they saw as criminals, Christian martyrs, professional fighters and wild animals, were cold-bloodedly killed, just for sport. Standing there imagining the cheers of the 50,000 strong crowd, and the horrible gory spectacles, really gave me the shudders.

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In the Black Hills of north-eastern Wyoming is the 386 metre high monolith called ‘Devil’s Tower’. This National Monument has been the source of many legends, and the story from the Cheyenne tells us that there was once a band of Cheyenne travelling to worship the Great Spirit at Devils Tower. One of the warrior’s wives was charmed by an enormous bear without a mate, so the warriors set out to find and kill it. They were chased by the bear, and climbed into a tree. The Great Spirit gave the men the strength to kill the bear, but the woman had also turned into a bear and made the great rock her home. Because of this, it came to be known as ‘Bear’s Tipi’. We were the only people around when we came upon this eerie sight looming in the mist. It really did look like the stuff of legends.

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Well I think that’s enough doom and gloom for one weekend. I usually say “I hope you enjoyed my pics for the challenge,’ but if you didn’t, I’ll totally understand. 😀

Have a great weekend.

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WPC: The Blue Hue of me

“Blue colour is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight” ~ John Ruskin

The color of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives. I think if I had to choose just one favourite colour, it would have to be blue. I’ve seen so many beautiful shades of blue, and they never fail to lift my spirits.

There’s the cool refreshing aqua of the ocean.

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The celestial blue of the sky on a clear day.

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The welcoming  shade of blue umbrellas on the white sandy beach.

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The indigo blue of the sky peeping through fluffy clouds.

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The gorgeous blues of the ocean seen from above the clouds.

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The always sparkling blue of our swimming pool here in Florida,

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and not forgetting the beautiful blues of the sea and sky back home in South Africa.

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“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive.”  ~ Eleanora Duse
To see more entries for this challenge, just click here.

WPC: My Saturated Phuket Boat Trip

When I saw that this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is ‘saturated’, I was reminded of a boat trip we did last year when we were on holiday in Phuket. We expected to have the same great weather we enjoyed whilst there in 2006, but unfortunately, Mother Nature decided otherwise. On this most memorable day, we were booked on a cruise, which was to take us across the Phang-Nga Bay in a traditional Junk boat, from where we would transfer to a long tail, to see the Grotto Cave, Sea Gypsy village and James Bond Island, supposedly arriving back at 5-30 in the afternoon.

After an early breakfast during which we  dubiously surveyed the deep grey skies and dripping rain through the dining room windows, we clambered into our minibus. As we approached the marina, the boats all looked very sombre against the grey water and even darker sky. When I saw the photo, I wondered why it was in black and white, but then realised that this was exactly how it had looked.

I hurried towards our boat, hoping to beat the rain which was starting up again.

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By the time we got on board, it was teeming down, and I was already quite saturated. The leaking roof had been patched with  sticky tape which was coming apart, so that water was dripping onto the table in front of our seat, and splashing all around. I wasn’t too happy about that, but as it turned out, this was to be the least of our problems. As you can see, plastic sheeting was rolled down at the sides of the boat. This obscured our view somewhat, but rather that than get drenched. Beach towels were handed out in case we wanted to go swimming later, which wasn’t going to happen, but they came in very useful to wrap around ourselves against the wind and rain. We soon got under way, and it wasn’t long before the islands loomed up in the grey rainy mist. Even on such a gloomy day, they were still spectacular.

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We sailed up to take a closer look at the caves formed by the sea’s erosion of these amazing limestone formations.

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How many images can you see clinging onto the side of this cliff? My imagination can make out  so very many strange and tortured-looking creatures.

Before we reached the Sea Gypsy Village island, we were each given a thin plastic raincoat with a hood, and told to put it on, together with a life jacket. I realised why, when we transferred to our long tail boat which was absolutely open to the elements. As we cut through the waves at quite a speed, we all got a thorough drenching. One young couple had brought along their small child, who was obviously scared witless, and wouldn’t stop screaming. I felt really sorry for them, but more so for myself, as they were sitting right behind me.

As we disembarked, we looked like a band of soaking wet, green plastic apparitions. My clothes were saturated and clinging to my body, but I was past caring. I just wanted to get inside and out of the rain.

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Alas, there was no escaping the wetness, as this medium-sized market was absolutely flooded out.

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We waded ankle-deep through the rivers of water which gushed along the walkways, whilst rain ran in waterfalls from overhanging tarpaulins.

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I couldn’t have been wetter if I’d been swimming the English Channel. The understandably glum-faced stallholders were not in luck that day, as none of us was in a ‘retail therapy’ frame of mind as we paddled doggedly past the displays of T-shirts, swimwear and souvenirs.

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The only sales they made, were half a dozen pink plastic raincoats at less than a dollar each, to replace the green ones, some of which had torn already, and were leaking badly.

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Most of the houses here were mere hovels, but we did see quite a contrast, when we came upon a rich man’s house, alongside his poor next door neighbour’s  leaky cottage.

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It was the most unenjoyable shopping expedition I’d ever embarked upon. We stood in a soddenly saturated group on the jetty, impatiently waiting for our longtail to come pick us up, to take us to view the Grotto Cave. These longtails, or ‘Rua hang Yao’ are so-called because they are long and slim. They have a long rod in the back of the boat, which holds up the motor and the propeller, and are extremely noisy, sounding more like dragster racing cars. No wonder the air was once again saturated with screams from the terrified baby, as we gathered speed.

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We gratefully waved goodbye to the saturated Sea Gypsy Village, and I wondered what it must be like to live there all the year round, especially in the monsoon season.

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We were all hungry, and soaking wet as we journeyed to view James Bond Island, made famous by the 1974 movie, “The man with the golden gun,” starring Roger Moore as Bond, and Christopher Lee as Scaramanga the world’s most expensive assassin, who charged $1m per hit.

We skirted the tall thin island,

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and carried on to the Grotto Cave, Our boat sailed right through it, next to several people out canoeing in the pouring rain. They seemed to be quite enjoying the rain, so I thought I’d better just learn to like it too.

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Finally, we met up with our Junk boat again, and clambered aboard. Oh the luxury in spite of the leaky roof, to be reunited with our towels which we could wrap ourselves up in, as well as dry off our feet. A buffet lunch of fish, chicken, rice and salad was served, together with a couple of bottles of Thai wine, which did warm us up a little.

It felt good to know that we’d soon be back at our resort, and able to have a hot shower before dinner. Unfortunately, we caught up with another boat which had left the harbour at the same time as us. They’d completely run out of diesel, and it was still a long way back to port, so our crew had to set about fixing up a tow line, and we started off once more, amidst much hilarity and joking between the two crews.

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Of course it was now going to take us much longer to get back with the extra load on, but we could hardly leave them stranded, could we?  We’d been towing them for about half an hour, when we noticed something was banging against the side of our boat, and a head popped up over the side. No, it wasn’t pirates, just the other boat’s motor dinghy, with two of its crew carrying a large plastic container. They were hauled aboard, and up came the trap door, so that diesel could be syphoned from our tank into the container, as they needed to be able to maneuver their own way into the harbour. Once they had the required 20 litres, off they went back through the extremely rough waves to their own boat.

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We were all watching this exercise with our fingers crossed, as it was really very tempestuous out there. They made it back on board, but as they were trying to secure the dinghy, the rope slipped out of the one guy’s hands, and off went the little craft, bobbing merrily away through the waves. Once more, our captain came to the rescue, rounding up the dinghy, almost like herding cattle, and pushing it over to the other boat, until a man could jump in and tie it up. It was quite an expert bit of seamanship, and I was most impressed.

The adventure ended well, I suppose. Once back on ‘dry’ land, the rush hour traffic was made even worse by the pouring rain, but we eventually arrived at our resort about an hour late, to be greeted by the staff, who wrapped us up in thick towels and handed us cups of hot chocolate. What a day it had been, and a never to be forgotten trip.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my saturated tale, even though it’s maybe not quite what Michelle had in mind. I did saturate some of the more colourful pics, which makes them look more cheerful. 🙂

To see more bloggers’ interpretations of the theme, just click here.

WPC From Lines to Patterns: At Green Cay Nature Reserve.

On Saturday we decided to visit one of our local Florida nature reserves. I was looking for alligators to show Phil, but they must have all been sleeping in the reeds, for we didn’t see even a tiny one. We did however see some wonderful birds which I’ll show you in another post. I was thinking about the ‘Lines to Patterns’ challenge as we set off along the boardwalk. As we walked along the lines of the wooden boards, I could see the pattern of what looked like rain clouds in the sky.

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A fellow nature lover was coming towards us, and as we drew level with one another, she stopped and pointed at something in front of us. “There’s a lion right there,” she announced. Now. a lion was certainly not something I was expecting to see in Florida, but sure enough, right at our feet was a knot in the wood which closely resembled a lion’s face. I’m sure I would have just walked right on over that lion if she hadn’t told me it was there.

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I loved the pretty pattern of these wild flowers amongst the lines of the surrounding grasses.

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The majestic palm trees had many lines on their trunks, leading up to the lovely pattern created by their fronds.

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This one even had an extra bit of pattern.

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We enjoyed a bit of welcome shade inside this Chickee hut. As you can see, the dried palm fronds have been made into thatch to create this interesting roof pattern. These huts have quite a history. They were invented in the early 1800’s, when the Florida Seminole and Miccosukee tribes were chased into the Everglades by American troops. As they needed to be always on the move, they required shelters that could be easily constructed and taken down at a moment’s notice. Chickee is the Seminole word for ‘house’, and these huts consisted of thick cypress posts which supported a thatched roof, and had a raised wooden platform. In 1990, the Seminole tribes were granted the right to build these huts wherever they could find business, regardless of zoning and without special permits. They are now a reliable source of income for the Seminoles and can be found at some of the finest Florida resorts and private homes.

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As we neared the end of our 2km walk, i noticed how the straight lines of the roof on the Interpretive centre, contrasted very nicely with the pattern of fluffy clouds above it.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my lines and patterns for this week’s challenge.

‘Tilting at Windmills’ for the WPC

“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.

“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”

“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills.”  ~ Don Quixote

Yesterday as we sailed into die Nederlands, the focus seemed to be on windmills, and I thought you might also like to see some of what I saw along the riverbank.

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Windmills are an essential part of the Dutch landscape, and responsible for keeping half the country above water. They convert the energy of wind into rotational energy by means of vanes, which are called sails.

There are still over a thousand windmills throughout the Netherlands and they are often the first thing that people recall about the country. I remember visiting some of my dad’s family in Amsterdam when I was a child, and the windmills left a lasting impression on my memory.

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Windmills are said to have existed in Holland from about 1200, and today, are characteristic of the Dutch landscape and a symbol of the Dutch people’s endless struggle with water.

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In the nineteenth century, Holland had about 9,500 windmills. Can you imagine what it must have been like with all those turning sails, working virtually day and night?

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Originally windmills were developed for milling grain for food production, but over time they were adapted to many other industrial uses.

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An important non-milling use is to pump land water for drainage. Since the 16th century, the Dutch have made more and more progress in the fight against their hereditary foe, water, and have managed to keep their country dry, in spite of the fact that it lies several feet below sea level.

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Holland owes its creation as well as its development in the most literal sense to the windmills, for it was thanks solely to the windmills that is was possible to repeatedly reclaim new land for the evergrowing population.

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Since the 16th century, many Dutch people have been living on land that lies below sea level, or has even been reclaimed from the sea.  In order to make this possible, windmills were used to drain the ‘polders’ and keep them dry.

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Late yesterday afternoon, we went on a tour of Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the most picturesque and iconic sites in Holland.

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Kinderdijk got its name after a notorious flood which devastated the area in 1421. A heavy storm off the North Sea coast caused tsunami-like waves that broke through the dikes, swallowing the surrounding villages. Legends were told about the tragic event which claimed thousands of lives.

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One such legend was about a child in a cradle that was kept afloat by a cat jumping from side to side, in order to keep it balanced. The cat and the cradle became a popular fairytale, and the area became known as “Child’s Dike” which is Kinderdijk in Dutch. To this day, all the cats around windmills are protected and honoured as “windmill cats.” Here is a reconstructed room in one of the windmills.

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Kinderdijk is a tiny village located on a strip of land between the Lek and Noord Rivers,and has the largest concentration of operational windmills, nineteen of them dating back to the 14th century. I didn’t see any windmill cats around, but they were probably far too sensible to be out in the pouring rain. We arrived back at the ship, looking like ‘drowned rats’, and had hardly any time to make ourselves presentable in time for the Captain’s dinner. 🙂

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my post entirely focused on windmills. 🙂 To see more interpretations of the challenge, just click here.

WPC: Carefree grandkids

I’m feeling really carefree at the moment, having just finished my packing. Next time I post, it will be from the cruise ship in Basel. Yay!!

Here are some carefree grandchildren pics. Don’t you just love the way children’s faces shine with happiness when they’re having lots of fun?  Of course in this first one you can’t see Sienna’s face, but her legs look pretty carefree to me. 🙂

Sienna at the pool.

Sienna at the pool.

The trio  having fun at a Florida mall play area.

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Having fun at the mall.

Sienna's visit to the aquarium in South Africa.

Sienna’s visit to the aquarium in South Africa.

Taylor at Great Grandma's 100th birthday party

Taylor at Great Grandma’s 100th birthday party

Hope you’ll all have a wonderful carefree weekend, but do take care. 😕

To visit the WordPress photo challenge this week, just click here.

WPC: One Shot, Two Ways

This week I’ve been rushing around the Cornish countryside, trying to see as much as possible in the short time we have. I thought I would do a short post just to show you all I’m still here. Yesterday we visited the Wheal Coates tin mine on the cliff tops between Porthtowan and St Agnes. I had been longing to see this place for myself, ever since I saw wonderful photos of it, taken by Cornwall photographer Chillbrook. His amazingly beautiful pics really sparked my imagination, and I was not disappointed when I saw it in real life. This morning on our way to St. Michael’s Mount, hubby and I were delighted to be able to meet up with him for coffee at a quaint old pub in Victoria, where we sat and chatted for about an hour. He was just as nice as I had imagined him to be, and it was like meeting an old friend.

He told us that ‘Wheal’ is Cornish for ‘place of work’. The tin mine on this site was worked for centuries, but the surviving buildings date from the 1870s when deep underground mining began here. These historic buildings were stabilised, preserved and maintained by the National Trust in 1986.

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Whilst we were looking around, a hang glider came into view. Looks like a very dangerous sport to me.

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I have hundreds of photos of beautiful Cornwall, so expect to see many more posts once I have sorted them, and have a bit more time to blog.

To see more posts for the challenge, ‘One shot. two ways’, just click here.

WPC: Masterpieces, man-made and natural.

The photo challenge this week brought to mind the thrill I felt when I first saw the majestic beauty of this man-made masterpiece carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. I just couldn’t imagine how someone could conceive of such a fantastic project. The sculptures are 60 feet high, and the entire memorial covers 5.17 km². The construction of this masterpiece commenced in 1927, and was completed in October 1941 at a cost of $989,992.

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Just imagine how David Livingstone must have felt when in November 1855, he suddenly  found himself face to face with this masterpiece of nature, which he named Victoria Falls, in honour of Queen Victoria. The indigenous name ‘Mosi-oa-Tuny’, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’, continues in common usage as well, and in this photo you can see why it was so named. This colossal waterfall is the world’s largest sheet of falling water, being twice the height of Niagara falls, and twice the width of Horseshoe Falls.

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To see more interpretations of this week’s challenge, just click here.

WordPress Photo Challenge: Fresh Guinea Pig

I thought I’d be a bit different for this ‘Fresh’ challenge. I do have pics of fresh fruit and veg, as well as delicious looking drinks, but what about really fresh meat?

It doesn’t come much fresher than this poor guinea pig in a market in Ecuador.

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These fat ones were still happily running around in their pen, waiting to be chosen for the barbecue.

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This one’s luck had just run out. 😦

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To see more entries for the ‘Fresh’ challenge, just click here.