Morocco has been my home for three years now. Yet, this place never stops amazing me – the natural diversity, the beauty of the people, the colours and the tastes, the lessons it has taught, and the ones it’s still teaching me. One of these moments of amazement arose a couple of weeks ago, when I was being chased through a cedar forest by a hungry monkey. Fortunately, the monkey was a Barbary macaque, and so (basically) a vegetarian (ie., it didn’t want to eat me) – not-as-fortunately, these vegetarians have massive canine teeth, unlike me. A bit further down, you can see the monkey in question, still posing in a deceptively friendly manner next to my hiking companions.
The monkey was chasing me, because he wasn’t entirely unused to getting food from passing apes, and the bread we offered was obviously not enough. Perhaps he was more greedy than hungry? I guess I can’t blame him. The macaque and his family pack are a part of a free-living, wild population found in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, more specifically in the protected Cèdre Gouraud Forest.
I’m planning on making a post dedicated to Barbary macaques soon (which, by the way, are the only primates found in Europe, apart from humans), but for now, I wanted to share some photos from a fun, interesting, and slightly unnerving hike through yet another stunning, wild area of Morocco.
Is this Morocco? Absolutely! The coniferous forests of the mountains are important habitats for many species, including the endangered Barbary macaques.
You hear things about England. I mean, at least I have. I don’t remember exactly what they are, the things I’ve heard, but they have created an image in my mind. I’m having difficulty putting those images into words, but fortunately, I have those images right here, where I can share them with you.
A year ago, I ended up visiting Cambridge with my partner. We were only there for a few days, but those days were enough to confirm and expand my views of this strange land, a place so utterly drenched in human history that it’s hard to imagine what it was like before our species inhabited it.
I took on the challenge to get to know the area by wandering along the river Cam, through campuses and fields, on paths tread by Darwin, Newton and Milton (to name just a few), and by having a couple of sweet old ladies try to save my soul in a park in full autumn colours. No souls were saved, but I continued to move through a surreal haze until it was evening, and I found a nice pub to clear my head in.
So, to get back to those images I promised I’d share… Enjoy exploring autumnal Cambridge through my eyes!
The last to hold on.
Eons ago, back in the year 2000, my mother took me on my first trip to “the south” (which people in Scandinavia call anything south of Paris, more or less). I was 14 at the time, and the furthest I had travelled was Denmark; this time, I took a leap to a whole new continent as we flew from Helsinki to Agadir.
Agadir is a coastal city at the foot of the Atlas mountains in Morocco. It was 36 °C on our first day there, which already was a marvellous experience to me. All in all, the trip was great: I learned lots of things, like the fact that boys seemed to communicate by whistling (maybe they knew I didn’t understand Arabic?); that Moroccan oranges in Morocco are the tastiest thing in the world; that tagine is a local dish that I could eat everyday; that some local people speak Finnish; and that if you’re a European, you can hang out on a part of the beach that locals can’t access. It was a mind-expanding and slightly terrifying experience.
A week ago, I returned – 16 years later. This time, everything was quite different – I’ve been living in Morocco for 3 years, I’ve seen more of the world, and, importantly, the experience wasn’t terrifying at all (and the boys weren’t whistling at me anymore).
The drive from Rabat, where I live, to Agadir, took about twice as long as the flight from Helsinki to Agadir did all those years ago. Driving through the mountains is always, including this time, a double-edged experience for me: it’s both exciting (because I love the mountains and we’re driving through them) and frustrating (because I love the mountains and we’re driving through them).
The magical Moroccan mountains – they never seem to run out of colours in this country!
On a dark evening in snowy March, as I was staying with a dear friend of mine, they brought a crow out of the freezer.
It’s been a while! Both in terms of this blog, and in terms of the theme of today’s post. This summer I spent two months in Finland – a period of at times being very busy, at times lying around on a newly built pier with a book and a thermos of tea, and sometimes even floating on top of the sea in a kayak and good company.
A few months earlier, I was contacted by an old student of mine and a fellow biologist, who was getting married in June and had heard that I was going to be in the country at that time. I was happy to be invited to be their wedding photographer, and even more so after I heard about the venue: Nuuksio National Park. What a brilliant idea! The national park is not far from the capital, Helsinki, and it’s a beautiful area covered in lakes and forests (and one of my favourite places in Finland).
Surrounded by beauty.
In short: pick them, crush them, press them.
Or a bit more in depth, if you’d like. People in the Middle-East and the Mediterranean region have been munching on olives for at least 5,000 to 6,000 years. It’s not one of those nice fruits that you can just enjoy straight from the tree, though – try it, and you’ll have a very bitter and in many ways unpleasant experience. Instead, olives become edible either by being cured and fermented, or by being pressed into delicious oil.
Olive trees often live for hundreds of years, and some have even been shown to be over 1,500 years old! They’re tough, drought tolerant, most often survive fires, and can produce fruit throughout their entire, very long lifetime. No wonder there’s a lot of myth and symbolism surrounding these trees.
Ok, back to the point. The opposite of short does not have to be a textbook.
Last autumn, I experienced olive oil production for the second time in my life. Unlike the first time, I decided to take part and document it (there might even be a video at some point, but one cannot be sure): everything from the olive harvest to the storing of the oil. Let me continue telling this story with the help of some photographs. This is, after all, a photography blog.
1. The Harvest.
No-one said the trees give up their fruit willingly – on the other hand, who minds spending the day climbing trees in the beautiful Moroccan autumn sun?
“Picking” might be the wrong word. Sure, there is some picking involved, but mainly, it’s about shaking branches, hitting the tree with sticks and gathering the fallen fruit from the ground.
We travel around the world in search of new experiences and mind-expanding adventures. I do it, as much as I can, and I love it. But sometimes there are instances when I wonder if it’s really worth it – in terms of cost, both financial and ecological. One of those times was about a month ago, when I was visiting a friend who lives close to where I grew up. I was walking past the chicken enclosure, looking at the hens eating snow and talking to each other. For a moment, I lifted my eyes and saw the small icicles that had formed on the edge of the tin roof – and there it was. The most beautiful, intricate, life-like shapes I had ever seen hanging off a roof. In that same instant, I realized that the reason it was the first time was probably only because I hadn’t looked well enough during the thirty years of my existence on this planet.
Fireworks? Algae? Or air trapped in frozen water.