Perito Moreno Waterfalls – Friday’s Weekly Travel Photo

Hiking Perito Moreno Glacier - Patagonia, Argentina

I love hiking near water.  I’m not sure if that love stems from early childhood when I was imprinted with wonderful memories while hiking along snow-melt fed streams in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, or results from having spent the majority of my life in the dry, dust-filled deserts of South-Central Arizona.  Regardless, the opportunity to hike next to/through/along/over rivers and waterfalls is always high on my priority list.  Thus, the chance to hike along and then out onto the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina was extremely appealing.  I signed up, geared up, and was off on a full-day hike.  What I didn’t expect, however, was to have the chance to hike along the base of a series of steep cliff faces decorated by rich, blooming vegetation and roaring waterfalls.  After all, when I think of Glaciers I think of snow and ice…not green vegetation and blooming flowers.  In the photo featured in today’s weekly travel photograph the glacier is immediately behind me.  The waterfall pictured flowed down across the path, before cascading over a swath of black rocks and then diving into a channel carved beneath the base of the glacier.

Would you like to see previous Friday Photos? View past travel pictures here.

Oasi di Alviano – Umbria’s Rich Nature Preserve

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

Situated a few miles outside of Orvieto and Terni the Oasi di Alviano, or the Oasis of Alviano, is a wonderful natural habitat and WWF Nature Reserve.  Our visit started early in the morning after a somewhat groggy departure from the nearby town of Citta della Pieve.   Despite an overcast sky and light rain we decided to press forward and to proceed with our birding and nature walk around the lake.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

As is usually the case when presented with these types of situations, I was glad we decided to brave the rain and press forward.  While gray and a bit wet the colors were vibrant, and the vegetation incredibly rich.   The vibrant red of the poppy blossoms had just begun which served as a delightful contrast against the rolling green of the fields that surround the oasis.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

In addition to two local cats which served as slightly sleepy but utterly adorable volunteer hosts, a wonderful local guide and researcher met up with us and began to explain the history of the lake and region.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

As it turns out the lake is actually artificial and was created in the early 60s when the Tiber River was dammed. By 1978 the Oasis of Alviano was officially established with an area of 800 hectares of land set aside.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

The shallow waters of the reservoir quickly attracted a wealth of migratory birds and before long had become one of the best places in the area for bird watching. In 1990 the WWF took over the wildlife reserve, and since that time they have made a number of improvements and additions.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

These include the creation of a number of birding blinds, camouflaged pathways and a resource center with information about the local flora and fauna.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

While most of the birds we saw were non-migratory and fairly representative of your typical lake birds it was wonderful to see them in the rich, natural environment of the Oasis. There were large, gorgeous swans, heron, ducks, and a wide assortment of water birds.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

While we were technically there to watch the birds, I found myself more drawn in by the local flowers and vegetation. The rich greens, diverse mixture of flowers and plants, and marshy nature along the path allowed me to re-connect with nature in a way I don’t get to enjoy often. Living in a major city, like Copenhagen, it’s always fascinating to me how quickly you end up feeling disconnected from true nature.

Oasi di Alviano - Umbria, Italy

Add to that the rich colors that the rain brings out of plants, and the added texture of raindrops dotting the plants and flowers and the final equation is one that left me eager to take deep breaths of fresh, clean air while soaking up the small details that made the walk something special.

Life In Umbria, Italy

At one point I discovered this oddity. As far as I can tell the quick growing marsh grass grew up, and through an old dead leaf. The end result was this otherwise impossible combination of new/vibrant and old/dead growth. It looks a bit like the main plant wanted a a scarf, doesn’t it?

Life In Umbria, Italy

While far from idea for walking and photographing, the rain ended up being light enough that it didn’t drench us, and still heavy enough to allow for moments like this with water laden leaves greedily struggling to soak up as much water as they can before giving up their prized catch to gravity and the ground below.

Life In Umbria, Italy

I know it is a bit silly to say, given that it was a nature preserve but it was delightful how alive everything in the park was. While there were the usual greens, browns and grays the wealth of different types of flowering plant and Lilly presented the eyes with a feast of color and contrast.

Life In Umbria, Italy

At one point our guide paused at a small pond surrounded by flowers. She pulled out a big net, and began to scoop moss and floating debris from the nearby pool. Then with a skilled hand she carefully upended the nets into a water filled tub. This allowed us to look at and learn about all of the micro-organisms that call the local waters home.

Life In Umbria, Italy

If you’re a fan of birds and nature I highly recommended the Oasi di Alviano…yes, even or perhaps especially if its raining.  The opportunity to spend time immersed in the local nature while still being in such convenient proximity to Umbria’s nearby towns was a welcome treat and one I’d gladly repeat given the chance.

Assisi From Above – Viewing Umbria From A Helicopter

Helicopter Ride Over Umbria - Near Assisi

Thwomp. Thwomp. Thwomp.  The roar of the wind echoed in my ears as the sound of carbon fiber slicing through the air at high speed nearly drowned out the low scream of the helicopter’s engine.  The pilot touched down briefly in a grassy field at the Valle di Assisi resort. Just long enough for myself and two other travel bloggers to trade places with the three passengers who had just finished their aerial tour of Assisi.  They were all smiles – grins from ear to ear – as they gave us the thumbs up and promised we were in for a real treat.

Helicopter Ride Over Umbria - Near Assisi

In moments I was strapped into the back seat of a pitch black Robinson R44 helicopter. Then with a smooth ease and grace which surprised me we drifted free of the grass and quickly began to climb skyward.  The day was partly cloudy which added a picture-perfect mottled lighting to the vivid green patchwork of fields, vineyards and small greenbelts which surround the historic hilltop city of Assisi.

I invite you to re-live part of the flight with me in the video above.  It helps convey the experience in a way which photos alone can’t quite express.  The main city you’re seeing in the distance on the hilltop is Assisi.  The town with Cathedral on the open plain at the foot of the hill is also considered Assisi.

Helicopter Ride Over Umbria - Near Assisi

The first building we flew over was the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli or Saint Mary of the Angels.  The basilica was constructed between 1569 and 1679 (whew!) and was created to enclose the Porziuncola, a 9th century holy place of significant importance to the Franciscan monks.

Helicopter Ride Over Umbria - Near Assisi

Before long we passed over Santa Maria degli Angeli and were presented with a close up view of Assisi’s most famous cathedral and defining landmark: the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the mother church for the Franciscan Order. The basilica was begun in the year 1228 – making it an incredibly old structure.  The opportunity to see it from above was a rare one and something I really enjoyed.  It’s one thing to look up at the Basilica from the plain that surrounds Assisi, or to walk its courtyards and gardens.  It’s a completely different experience to hover in the air and look down at the sprawling building from a vantage point that truly helps convey the complex’s size and unique architecture.

Helicopter Ride Over Umbria - Near Assisi

The flight was brief – about 10 minutes – but offered a rare and wonderful opportunity to see the Umbrian countryside from above. The region is gorgeous. Especially in late April when everything is blooming, the fields are all shades of rich green, and the air is crystal clear. When you’re on the ground and are immersed in it, you get to appreciate the finer details – a corner of a field, a small stone house, a carefully manicured vineyard, etc. – but you rarely get the chance to look out over it all and see the sum of the different parts.

A special thank you to the Valle de Assisi resort for the opportunity to take to the skies!   It was a rare and fantastic experience, one which I’ll remember for a long time.