Geamana - Village that Turned into a Toxic Lake

Copper exploitation at the mines of Rosia Poieni in the Apuseni Mountains, in Alba county, in Romania, was like a curse for residents of the twin villages situated in the foothills where excavations were carried out. Their ordeal began in 1977, when Romania’s communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu decided to exploit the huge copper deposit discovered underground. The government forced the inhabitants of the nearby village of Geamana to leave their homes and abandon their way of life in order to make way for the toxic waste from Ro┼čia Poieni mining pit. Around 400 families were evacuated and their village replaced by an artificial lake that served as a kind of catch-basin for the mine’s contaminated sludge to flow into. The waters of the lake is highly toxic laced with cyanide and other chemicals. As the lake grew, it engulfed what was once a beautiful village. The tower of the church and a few houses are all that remains today.

























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Phuktal Gompa

Phuktal Monastery or Phuktal Gompa is one of the most isolated monastery in the south-eastern Zanskar region in Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir in northern India. The monastery is a unique construction of mud and timber built at the entrance of a natural cave on the cliff face of a lateral gorge of a major tributary of the Lungnak (Lingti-Tsarap) River. From a distance, the monastery looks like a giant honeycomb.

Phuktal Gompa was founded in the early 12th century by Gangsem Sherap Sampo, a disciple of Gelug founderTsongkhapa. Although the monastery was constructed in 12th century, it was hidden treasure for many until Hungaraian Alexander Cosmo de Koros visited the place and stayed between the periods of 1826-27.



Phuktal’s design and isolated location is of spiritual significance because ancient travelling monks sheltered and meditated in the caves of this area. The monastery has four prayer rooms, a library, teaching facilities, a kitchen, guest rooms and living quarters for approximately 70 monks in residence. Frescoes and ceiling decorate the old chapel and are popular with tourists.

Phuktal Gompa is one of the few Buddhist monasteries in Ladakh that can be reached only on foot. To reach Padum, one has to take a cab from Padum to Raru, where the road ends, and the trekking starts from there. A day’s or two’s walk will lead you to Phugtal via two small villages - Chatang and Purne. The monastery is about 7 km from Purne.



























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Paso Internacional Los Libertadores

Paso Internacional Los Libertadores, also called Cristo Redentor, is a mountain pass in the Andes between Argentina and Chile. It is the main transport route connecting the Chilean capital city f Santiago to Mendoza city in Argentina and so carries quite heavy traffic. With twenty nine hard switchbacks on an extremely steep incline, it is also one of the most challenging roads to navigate.

The road begins on the Chilean side with a steep rise, approximately 50 km from the city of Los Andes which lies 70 km north of Santiago. The switchbacks start soon after. The first 20 switchbacks stretch over 4 km with a change in elevation from 2,275 m to 2,550 m. The road then climbs gently for 2 km to an altitude of 2,650 m. The next 9 switchbacks take you up to an altitude of 2,800 m over a distance of 2.5 km. From this point, it’s another 5km to the Chilean immigration post and then two more kilometers to the start of the old road leading up to the summit.



A few kilometers beyond the Chilean immigration post, at an elevation of 3,175 m, lies a tunnel leading across the border into Argentina. Opened in 1980, the tunnel of the Christ is 3,080 m long, and serves as an important land crossing between Chile and Argentina. The path can be closed during winter because of heavy snows blocking both ends and the threat of rockfall.

At the summit (3,840m) is the famous statue of Christ the Redeemer unveiled in 1904 as a celebration of the peaceful resolution of the border dispute between the two countries. The Argentine side of the pass is of a gentler grade and much better maintained. It also carries more traffic as many tourists drive up and back to enjoy the views. From the summit, you’ll descend approximately 1,000m over 9km before reaching the Argentine immigration post at Las Cuevas.

The trip is best undertaken in the summer months, as the Paso Internacional Los Libertadores can close due to snow and inclement weather during the winter.















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Hotel in a Real Train

An old train parked on Santos beach in the harbor town of Mossel Bay in the Southern Cape of South Africa has been converted into a pretty little hotel. Called the “The Santos Express Train Lodge” or simply “Train”, the lodge sits on a pair of abandoned rails roughly 30 meters from the sea. There are seven coaches, of which four are identical with sleeper compartments, sharing two toilets and a shower. The fifth coach is converted into a 16 bed dormitory with a self catering kitchen. The last two coaches, the “Royal Ladies”, are two vintage coaches dating from the early 1920`s, each containing two very spacious suites. In addition, there is a restaurant that serves a good range of traditional South African dishes, such as bobotie (a dish of spicy ground meat with savory custard topping) and waterblommetjiebredie (water-flower stew).



Santos Express Train Lodge is not a luxurious stay. Each sleeper coach is separated into single, double and budget accommodation units and lodgers share toilets with others boarders, but the toilets and shower are clean. The rooms are tiny except for the Caboose, which has its own bathroom and a private deck. There are also no lockers on the compartments, so if you have any valuables, you could deposit them at the front desk for safe storage.





















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Breathtaking Photos of Hallerbos


Believe it or not, the mystical and fairy tale-like forest portrayed in these beautiful photos actually exists – it’s called Hallerbos (or Halle Forest in Dutch), and it’s located in Belgium.

The reason this forest looks like it’s been lifted right out of a fairytale is its dense carpet of bluebell flowers. These flowers thrive and bloom in spring and early summer, and it is their characteristic explosion of blue and violet that gives bluebell forests like this one their name.

The early spring blooms attract visitors (and photographers) to Hallerbos and to other forests like it in droves. Foggy conditions are especially good for photographers, giving the woods a mysterious and ghostly atmosphere.

Dense carpets of bluebells are usually an indicator that the forest in question is very old. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the trees in the area are old, only that the area has consistently remained wooded for at least 300-400 years.

































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