Miss U-RIVER-se!

If there ever was a beauty pageant amongst rivers, Cano Cristales, Miss Columbia would emerge as the sure-shot winner! 😉

For most part of the year, she’s as unremarkable as any other river could be. But for a short span, between September to November, it’s as if the rainbow dropped down from the skies and melted in the Cano Cristales!

It’s a riot of colors-  the turquoise waters slithering over moss-green boulders and the ochre of the fine sand from the riverbed clashing with the scarlet of the Macarenia clavigera, underwater algae unique to the region. No wonder the ‘River of Five Colors‘, as the Cano Cristales is commonly called, holds the distinction of being the ‘most beautiful and colorful river in the world‘!

Check out the magic nature wields with her painting brush:

Image Credit: iClickfun.com

Image Credit: iClickfun.com

Image Credit: portalvacaciones.com

Image Credit: portalvacaciones.com

Image Credit: Wildkick.com

Image Credit: Wildkick.com

Image Credit: DanteBw

Image Credit: DanteBw

Image Credit: Planetoddity.com

Image Credit: Planetoddity.com

Certainly looks like a piece of paradise that fell from the heavens, doesn’t it?

I stumbled across an interesting piece of trivia that lends itself perfectly well to the wondrous phenomenon that the Cano Cristales is! Have a read and see if you concur with these guys:

2013-07-09 17_12_24-the cristal pipe

Meet Macarenia Clavigera, the amazing algae, which in clumps, renders the river its bloody hue.

Image Credit: Peter Fitzgerald

Image Credit: Peter Fitzgerald

Image Credit: portalvacaciones.com

Image Credit: portalvacaciones.com

Image Credit: DanteBw

Image Credit: DanteBw

The bummer is that this handiwork of the Gods is almost in No Man’s Land. 😦 As part of the landscape of the breathtaking Serrania de la Macarena National Park, trekking through unmarked forest trails leading to the miracle is a given. It’s an arduous journey, but one that your camera will profusely thank you for!

QUICK FACTS:

What: Cano Cristales river, a succession of rapids and waterfalls. It originates from the plateau south of the Serranía de la Macarena and empties into the Guayabero River. It is 100 kms in length and 20 kms. wide.

Where: In the Columbian green lung Serrania de la Macarena, located in the province of Meta. Accessible via the nearest town ‘La Macarena’ that is serviced by an airport.

When:  Recommended from late June to early December. At its striking best between September to November.

For Whom: Anyone who needs a humbling down by nature!

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Namak Chamak

Image Credit: Flickr User Tomas Rawski

Image Credit: Flickr User Tomas Rawski

No, no. That guy walking in the clouds ain’t Jesus 😀 Nor is he Keanu Reeves! 😆

What you’re looking at is the world’s largest reflective salt desert, stretching across an area of 12,000 sq. kms! 😯

Any traveler worth his salt (pun intended) 😆 must give Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia a shot once in his lifetime. Juxtaposed against the fiery crimson of the Andes, this vision in white is a sight to behold!

Image Credit: Flickr User kk+

Image Credit: Flickr User kk+

The ground beneath your feet is pure salt, hard-packed and completely flat with an intricate honeycomb pattern to it. It almost appears parched under the scorching sun.

The miracle occurs when this high-altitude region receives a shower. The entire terrain transforms into a shiny mirror and reflects the heavens! Literally!!!

Image Credit: Flickr User Santiago S.V.

Image Credit: Flickr User Santiago S.V.

The origins of this mammoth salt flat can be traced back to the prehistoric ages. Lake Minchin, an extremely salty lake, stood in its place some forty thousand years ago. A host of climatic changes conspired to create the Uyuni. There being no decent drainage outlet owing to a mountainous perimeter, the waters of the lake slowly began evaporating leaving behind copious amounts of salt- as much as 10 billion tons!!!

With no apparent paucity of the mineral, there are some very exciting creations in store for you at the Uyuni. What if I tell you there’s an entire restaurant replete with furniture crafted from salt blocks!?! 😯 Check it out:

Image Credit: Flickr User Gorski

Image Credit: Flickr User Gorski

Image Credit: Flickr User Wallygrom

Image Credit: Flickr User Wallygrom

Let’s just hope they don’t have only one item on their menu. SALT!!! 😆 😆 😆

Not many sights in the world can boast of surroundings just as spectacular! Flanking the salt pan on the north is the imposing Volcan Tunupa, an active volcano that erupts into gorgeous hues!

Image Credit: http://tunari.tripod.com/landscapes.html

Volcan Tunupa

Skimming the fringes of the white-washed landscape might prove to be a rewarding exercise. You’ll spot the oh-so-adorable Lama if nothing else!

Image Credit: Flickr User Jessie Reeder

Image Credit: Flickr User Jessie Reeder

The south of the Uyuni is a photographer’s dream come true! Candy-pink flamingos flirting with the sapphire blue waters of sylvan lakes and the scarlet of the Andes overpowering the canvas!

Image Credit: Flickr User lepetitnicolas

Image Credit: Flickr User lepetitnicolas

I think I’ve given you enough reasons to go visit what the Times UK has pronounced ‘One of the Wonders of the World.’ Just don’t try to pull a fast one on me by pretending to be the Messiah and that you can walk on water! 😉

QUICK FACTS:

What: Salar De Uyuni, the world’s largest and highest salt flat. It lies 3700m above sea-level and covers an expanse of 12,000 sq. kms.

Where: In the southern altiplano of Bolivia.

For whom: For anyone who desires a taste of heaven!

What Lies Beneath?

Had the climax of What Lies Beneath been shot at the bottom of Roopkund Lake, even Harrison Ford’s Ford would not make it back to the surface! 😆

On the face of it, Roopkund is a high-altitude glacial lake nestled in the folds of the Trishul Massif located in the inhospitable Garhwal Himalayas . With its icy garb on, it is the picture of tranquility.

Aerial Shot of Roopkund Lake

Aerial Shot of Roopkund Lake

Roopkund Lake

Roopkund Lake

Come summer, when the frozen water body begins to thaw, what meets your eyes will make your blood run cold! Close to six hundred skeletons, some with bits and pieces of flesh and hair still intact :eek:, can be found strewn across the bed of the lake!!!

India Today's Exclusive on the Skeletons

India Today’s Exclusive on the Skeletons

Skeletons on the lakebed

Skeletons on the lakebed

A forest guard, H.K. Madhwal, was the first to stumble across this spine-chilling discovery in 1942. Immediately, everyone in British India began scratching their heads as to what could have triggered the simultaneous death of 600 people. Was it the plague? Or another dreaded epidemic? Swine-flu perhaps??? 😆

Did a Yeti run amok into the group of pilgrim tourists headed to the Nanda Devi shrine? Or were those the remains of foreign soldiers caught in crossfire? Did this gang succumb to the pressures of ritualistic suicide? Was Uttarakhand a killer even back then? 😉

Historians, until recently, were smug with the belief that this mass massacre had been ordered by Mohammad Tughlaq. Tough Luck Guys! 😉 The skeletons have been identified as dating back to the 9th. century AD, eons before Tughlaq was even conceived! 😆

In light of the recent scientific testing undertaken, the explanation that seems to be most plausible is the local folklore surrounding this mysterious occurrence.

Apparently in medieval times, the King of Kanauj, Raja Jasdhawal, embarked on a religious pilgrimage with his pregnant wife Rani Balampa and an entourage of servants, porters, hunters and dancers. Physical evidence gleaned consists of brass luggage trunks, precious rings, leather footwear, glass bangles, drums, spears, bamboo staves etc. which adds credence to the legend. The Nanda Devi Raj Jat is a huge festival celebrated every twelve years and it is surmised this group intended to partake in the festivities as a token of thanksgiving for bestowing the kingdom with an heir. Apparently the troupe got too boisterous in their merriment which incited the wrath of the local deity, Latu.

Scientists who were roped in by Nat Geo in 2004 to ascertain the exact cause of death point to a terrible hailstorm as the culprit where hailstones the size of cricket balls 😯 rained down on the pilgrim party! Check out the fracture to this one’s skull:

Skull shot

Skull shot

Here are the official findings:

Courtesy: Roopkund.com

Courtesy: Roopkund.com

It’d take a lot more than merely being a Ranbir Kapoor fan and having watched YJHD a trillion times to get you to trek to The Skeleton Lake as they call Roopkund these days 😆

This place is certainly not for the faint-hearted! After all, what with some of the corpses being so well-preserved in this natural morgue, they might just flutter an eyelid or part their lips to smile into your camera! Oooooo, my imagination is giving me the bumps all over!

If you do make it to Roopkund, make sure you don’t bring a skeleton back home as a souvenir!!! 😉

Images Courtesy: Ruchita

QUICK FACTS:

What:  Skeleton/Roopkund/Mystery Lake, a 2m deep glacial lake.

Where:  In the lap of the Trishul Massif in the Garhwal Himalayas, 5029m above sea-level (in present-day Chamoli district of Uttarakhand)

For whom:   Hardcore trekkers and everyone with nerves of steel. Superman included! 😉