Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Odd Bird

This week's PhotoHunt theme is yellow.

Across Australia you can find yellow signs warning drivers of the local wildlife. Someone doctored this sign because I doubt that the New Zealand Kiwi has immigrated to Australia. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bridge The Gap

This week's PhotoHunt theme is wooden.

The Mathematical Bridge is located at Queen's College in Cambridge. The famous wooden bridge was designed by William Ethridge, and built by James Essex in 1749. 
Tourist who visit structure often fall victim to the popular fable that the bridge was designed and built by Sir Isaac Newton and built without the use of nuts or bolts--that the timbers were arranged in a way that made the bridge self supporting. However, when the bridge was first built, iron spikes were driven into the joints from the outer side, where they could not be seen. These spikes have since been replaced with bolts.  Besides Newton died in 1727, 22 years before the bridge was constructed. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Respite In The Land Of Sand & Spinifex

This week's PhotoHunt theme is drink.

The Williams Creek Pub is a famous watering hole on the Oodnadatta Track that runs from Marree to Marla. Most people who travel the 617 kilometer long dirt track call in at the mini oasis in the desert for a cool drink before they continue their journey.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Faux Summit

From the first time we visited the Western MacDonnell Ranges just outside of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory we knew we would we return to take advantage of the  223 km long well marked Larapinta hiking trail. Our goal is to eventually hike it in its entirety, but up to this point we have been happy exploring sections of the legendary trail.
Our most recent visit was just over a year ago. We had scheduled a few days in Alice Springs as we traveled from Darwin to Adelaide. It was the beginning of winter. The frosty winds had arrived to the sunburned country, and with most nights dropping to below freezing we didn't expect too much competition for camping spots. Of course we had once again underestimated the hearty Australians and some of the larger campgrounds, especially those with amenities, were busy. Fortunately, there are some smaller sites, only reachable by 4wd, so we were able to find the solitude we were looking for. 

For 2 days we had explored a few of the gaps, gorges and waterholes of the area, and we were ready to tackle the Northern Territory's 4th highest mountain, Mt. Sonder. At a modest 1380 meters above sea level we knew the climb wouldn't be much of a challenge, but still we were looking forward to the 16 kilometer trek.
With the short days of winter, we had planned to hit the trail early. As we approached the trail head at dawn, the gentle light turned the rolling hills of the surrounding area a mystical blue and purple, colors that can only be found in the outback.

The track to the trail head took us past the ridge top campground. Even though there was only one campsite set up, we decided that to be on the safe side it would be best to set up our tent and claim one of the perfect camping spots.
By the time we hit the trail head, the landscape was no longer swathed in the soft pale pastels, but was now a pallet of  vibrant reds, oranges, greens and whites.
Under the brilliant blue sky, we walked along a dry sandy creek bed that was lined by giant red river gums. As we followed the white sandy track, it wasn't long before we arrived at the base of the towering red rocky cliffs, and we began our ascent. The trail zigzagged it's way up the hill, and within half an hour we had arrived at a saddle on the mountain's spine. For the next hour and a half we walked eastward along a rocky, gentle sloping ridge. We arrived at our final destination that was marked by a cairn, and were rewarded with sweeping views in all directions. As we sat down to eat our lunch and enjoy the view, we had no idea that we had not really conquered Mt. Sonders. Even though a plaque pronounced the area we sat on as Mt. Sonders, the real peak stood a mere 750 meters away. We didn't learn this until after the fact. But even though we only  sat at 1360 meters, the views were still spectacular.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Oldies But Goodies

This week's PhotoHunt theme is one.

If you are wondering how this picture represents one, your have to go beyond counting the thrombolites, and look at the cell structure of these pre-historic living rocks. Scientist believe that the one celled organism is the earliest form of life on earth, and they date back about 3500 million years.  These relics are mostly extinct and exist only as fossils, but living examples can still be found growing a handful of places in the world. These oldies were photographed at Lake Clifton, 100km south of Perth.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On The Road Again

Everyday millions of people commute to work. Fortunately, as a housewife, this is one of those things I don't have to face. However, life hasn't always been so simple. Back in the late 70's, life in the Berry household wasn't sedentary. In a two year time frame we had moved  interstate (Indiana to New Mexico), intra-state (Las Cruces to Albuquerque), and inter-city (Near Northeast Heights to Spruce Park). By the time we hit the third move I decided I had had enough change and I was not about to switch schools mid-year. I'm not sure how the decision was made-probably lots of tears and hiding under the bed--but somehow I got my parents to agree that I could use public transportation between our new abode and my beloved mid-school halfway across town.
So with a mere 11 years under my belt, I joined the commuting forces.  It wasn't a simple journey and it involved a short walk, a 20 minute bus ride, a march across a deserted field, and a squeeze through a gap in the fence. For 7 long months, 5 days a week, I braved the elements. I didn't let anything, not even a flasher, stand between me and my beloved school. The bus ride was probably the highlight of my trip. It was a safe place where under, the watchful eye of the driver, I learned to have unconditional positive regard towards others.  Unfortunately, the school year eventually came to an end and my parents insisted that I transfer to the local school--a school that in reality was a much better place. However, that year of commuting taught me lessons that could never been learned in books and it was a very important part of my education.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Natural Canvas

This week's PhotoHunter theme is painted.

This colorful hill is located in South Australia's Painted Desert. Located north-east of Coober Pedy the multi-hued landscape is the result of the millions of years of weathering and erosion. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Come Together...

This week's PhotoHunter theme is together.

Normally I am separated from my mother by thousands of kilometers. Fortunately, this past May she made the long journey from Oregon to Western Australia. Here is a picture of us together at the Pinnacles. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Lesson Learned

The sun was already making its descent when we arrived at Avon National Park. Even though it was the middle of winter school holidays, we had taken our time arriving at the park because we were hoping that the sun would dry up some of the puddles from the previous night's rains. We had been told that the park was visited by few and that camping wouldn't be an issue. But still, we were anxious about finding a suitable spot. Fortunately, the park boasts 5 campgrounds, so we figured we would find something. 
The dirt roads were still a bit wet, and we were glad that we had rented a 4wd.  Slowly we made our way  into the park, and it wasn't long before we came across the first campground. Unfortunately, the place was chock-full of caravans so we carried on. We decided to skip the turn-off to the second campground and headed for the one at the top of the hill. When we crested the bald hill we were greeted with plenty of sunlight. The setting looked idyllic, but upon closer inspection of the established neighbors we decided it was best to continue our search. We headed back to the campground we had passed up. The road slowly meandered towards the valley and I doubted that we would a sunny spot in the hallows. Fortunately, the track didn't reach the canyon floor and the campground was on a sunny plateau. There were only two other tents in the area, but there was no one around. There was an isolated area off to the side, so we staked our claim. 
Rather then setting up camp we decided to hit the trail. A steep single track continued from where the road ended and we were quickly taken down to the canyon bottom. The recent rains had turned to the valley into lush meadow lands. Even though our journey had been short, I felt as though I had been transported thousands of miles away to the center of Ireland--with its 40 shades of green. I wanted to continue exploring the valley, but unfortunately the marked trail ended at a waterfall. We did see several secondary trails, probably made by roo's and feral goats, but the terrain was just too rough so we decided to return to camp.

Our neighbors had not yet returned, and no one new had joined us so we had the place to ourselves. We quickly set up camp and sat out to enjoy the late afternoon sun. It wasn't long before the sun disappeared. Even though it was the middle of winter the temperature was mild enough for us to sit through several games of cards, enjoy an alfresco meal, and watch the moon begin its ascent. 
By 7:30 we were amazed that our neighbors had not yet returned. One of the campsites had a car next to it, and the other campsite consisted of a single person swag with nothing else. We began to question if the campers were a group and out and about in a second car, or if the campers were out on the trail. 
By 8:00 we decided it was time to investigate. A quick walk through the campsite assured us that no one was asleep in the tents. A meal had been cooked and everything had been left neat and tidy. It appeared that the two campsites were a group. We still had no idea if there was a second car around, or if they were out walking. We worried that since a headlight was left outside the tent, if they were walking at least one person didn't have a light. I couldn't help but be concerned, but without knowing if there was a second car all we could do was wait until morning. So we tried to put our neighbors out of mind and enjoy the rest of the evening. 
Fortunately at some point in the night they made their return by car (we slept right through their entrance). The experience has made us realize just how important it is to leave hiking details on the car windscreen if nothing else as a courtesy to your neighbors. A lesson you think we would have learned on this adventure.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Many Uses

This week's PhotoHunt theme is patch.

When attempting to climb Cradle Mountain in Tasmania I tripped and fell. The accident left me without a fingernail, and I had to patch up my finger. Unfortunately, I was a bit short on bandages in the first aid kit, but I made do with a sanitary napkin. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Christmas In July

This week's PhotoHunt theme is backwards.

Winter coats for the 4th of July and shorts for New Year's Eve. After 3 years of living Down Under I still can't get used to reversal of seasons and the calendar always feels a bit backwards

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Our start of summer had been different than other years. Rather than being faced with dry, hot campgrounds we had been faced with flooded, swampy areas. On Christmas Eve, as we sat next to the river that had exceeded its banks, we never imagined that the excess of water in the drought stricken area would carry on into the heat of summer. We expected that with the arrival of the soaring temperatures the abundance of water would quickly dissipate leaving the land in a dry and barren state.There was no way that we could predict that the multitude of storms that were besieging the northwestern part of the country, thousands of kilometers away, would keep the rivers flowing at above normal heights in our neck of the woods. As I watched the flooding in Queensland on television, cars being washed away by powerful rivers, it all seemed so far away. I never dreamed that in less than a week's time I would come in contact with the same waters.
With Australia Day on the horizon we set out for a long weekend in Melbourne. I decided to travel by the Overland train, not because it was less expensive than flying, but because the 10 hour ride would allow me to sit back and enjoy the countryside. Unfortunately, my trip was not as stress free as I had hoped. Less than 24 hours before I was to embark on my journey not only had the floodwaters from the north had arrived in the state of Victoria, but local storms were exacerbating the situation and causing travel havoc. Roads were being flooded and closed. Fortunately, the railway remained unaffected and we had an on time departure. 
Just hours into our trip the impact of the recent rains became visible, as the countryside began to green up. As we traveled westward, towards the Grampian Mountains, the bucolic scenes of the pastoral wheat-belt turned into a swampland. The flooded fields and washed out roads were the result of an excess of rain, and the water had no where to escape. 

As we approached the banks of the Wimmera River, the train was no longer surrounded by stagnant pools of water, but rather a free flowing river. As we slowed to a crawl an announcement was made that the river had begun to flow across the tracks. Thankfully the waters were relatively tame, and we were able to continue on our journey without too much drama.  However, as I looked out the window and marveled at the water disappearing below our train, I couldn't help but be awed by Mother Nature.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Not Too Near

This week's PhotoHunt theme is near.

When we came across this big guy crossing the road on Kangaroo Island I knew I didn't want to get too near, since Tiger Snakes are venomous. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

You Got To Know When To Hold 'Em

This week's PhotoHunt theme is card(s).

When I looked at the theme for this week I almost went for a pass. Then I realized that Mark and I play Gin Rummy almost every evening before we eat, so I figured I had to have a picture with a deck of cards somewhere. As I was going through my files I found this picture taken on our anniversary last year. We were camping on Kangaroo Island and the flies were so thick that we had to sit inside our tent. If you look closely you can see Mark is posing nicely with his cards in hand.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Be Warned

This week's PhotoHunt theme is informative.

In Australia there is no shortage of informative signs. This one provides informtion on how not to fall victim to Australia's dangerous holes.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Eye C U

Last February, when my mom finally bought her ticket to come and visit me in Perth I was thrilled. I was excited that not only we would be able to spend some quality time together, but that I would be able to share my new home and life with her. This wasn't her first trip to Australia so we would skip the touristy stuff and I could focus on showing her my day to day activities, as well as all the small things I love about the place I currently call home. In anticipation of her visit I decided I wanted to take her camping, after all, the bush has been such an important part of our life.  There would be no dramas since we have an extra tent and sleeping bag, and I figured we could always rent a RAV4 and she could sleep on the back if need be. As Mom's trip neared the days became shorter and winter began to settle in. A few weeks before her arrival the not only did the temperatures dropped and the rains arrived; I realized that camping with Mom would not be a joyful experience. So, we decided to go with plan B and show her how we experienced the Australian Bush before we dished out 25 buck for our tent--a night in an Ozzie  Caravan Park.
It was just our luck that just up the road in Cervantes was a Caravan Park we had previously visited. The place had been clean, and had all the amenities to provide a true experience. Unfortunately, the place was all booked up. So we moved on to plan C. We decided to stay with the destination because of its proximity to the Pinnacles, but we didn't want to pay to stay at the overpriced hotel in town. We remembered from our previous visit that the town boasted a Backpackers accommodations.
I was in a bit of a quandary and I had to question if I really wanted to put my mom through a hostel experience. I had only stayed at one Backpackers in Australia and it was extremely clean and comfortable, but I couldn't shake the vision of some of  my less that stellar experiences in Europe--like the place I stayed at the first year I moved to Granada. The University had recommended it as an ideal budget accommodation to stay at while we looked for apartments, but perhaps exotic would have been a better description. Sure, the centrally located Hostal was very clean and the family that ran the place were very nice and made you feel like part of the family. However, things became a bit too friendly when, during one of my curtainless showers, I became the star of a peep show. The door which was missing a door knob had a wad of toilet paper stuffed in the round hole, and half-way through my shower a human eye replaced the paper.
I put my past experiences aside and after much deliberation, we decided to give the Cervantes Backpackers a go since it would be for just one night. Besides the room  had its own ensuite, whereas at the Caravan Park we would have had to to make the midnight dash across the park to the Ablution Block.
As it turned out there was no need for the earplugs I had packed, as there were no drunk young'uns running around to all hours of the night keeping us oldies awake. In fact, we pretty much had the immaculate place to ourselves, and our room even had a view of the Indian Ocean and Mom was a happy camper.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'd Like To Report A Theft

We returned to the car later than expected, but there was no doubt that our day of hiking in the Port Lincoln National Park had been successful. The sun was just beginning to dip into the Southern Ocean filling the evening skies with vibrant yellows, reds and oranges. We would have loved to stay and watch the entire show, but we knew we had over 20 kilometers of driving on an unsealed road to reach our campsite. 
Our hike had left us exhilarated, while at the same time exhausted. We considered a cuppa for the the road, but decided it wasn't worth taking the time heating the billy. Instead we decided to raid the bag of lollies--this would provide us with a burst of energy and the sucking action would help us focus on the road. I opened the glove box and pulled my treasured treats. As I peered into the small paper bag I was glad to see we still had a variety of candies to choose from. It was a hard decision but I decided to forego the toffees, creams, creamy mints, fruit jellies, and fizzes. Instead, I pulled out two hard candies. After all, I knew it would soon be time for a coldie and I didn't want to ruin my pallet.
Fortunately, the track we had to traverse was in good condition and we didn't encounter any 'roos or emus, and in less than 30 minutes we arrived at the campground. As promised, in the provided park literature, it was a bush campsite, and there were about a dozen spots to choose from. The only downside was that the place was a mess with garbage and broken glass strewn everywhere. There wasn't much we could do about the situation, so we decided to make the best of it. Besides, it was already cold and dark so we would be spending most of our time in the RAV4. 
After a few rounds of cards, and a simple supper of canned chile beans we decided to call it a night. We stashed our belongings in the front of the SUV--after years of living in bear country we  still can't get accustomed to leaving anything out. We crawled into the back of vehicle and it wasn't long before I was in a deep sleep. 
I had no idea how much time had elapsed when I was awakened by a rustling noise. I lay in the darkness focusing on the noise and when I was sure that there was something out there I poked Mark in the ribs and asked him if he left the trash outside. The response, as I knew it would be, was "no". When I told him about the rustling he said not to worry that it was just an animal in the bush. However, just moments later when he heard the noise that appeared to be coming from directly below us he decided to get out an investigate. With torch in hand he searched around and under the car. He couldn't see any animal or trash that could be making the noise. Eventually we decided it was an animal in the bush and the sound waves made it appear to be right below us since the rustling continued sporadically throughout the night. As we do with most bush sounds we pushed it aside and carried on with our slumber. 
We awoke early the next morning and quickly began to prepare to hit the road. I was in the process of transferring my bags from the front to the back of the vehicle when I noticed a piece of candy on the floor. When I picked it up I found that it was damp. I wasn't surprised since winter camping involves a lot of morning condensation in the vehicle. However, closer inspection of the fruit jelly revealed strange marks on the wrapper. I was a bit confused and wondered if I had dropped the candy the previous evening and the stepped on it. It didn't really matter how it happened, but I now had a problem since it meant that I would be one candy short (I buy all candies in pairs and they are evenly distributed at my discretion.) Hmmmmm,  I started to brainstorm solutions to my problem: I could always not report the situation and eat the other jelly on my own, I could try to pawn off the damaged candy or we could go halfers. I decided it was too early for such a hefty decision and decided to stash the evidence with the other lollies until later. 
You can imagine my surprise when I opened the glove box, pulled out the candy bag, and found it completely empty. I began to chuckle as I the events of the previous evening began to come together. I pictured our childhood treats being enjoyed by a small honey possum that snuck into the glove box via the car engine the night before! 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

I'll Skip The Bubble Bath

This week's PhotoHunt theme is dirty.

With all the mining in Western Australia you got to wonder what is being dumped into this river making it dirty?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire

The heat of summer lingered and continued to hold us in its grips even though the days were growing considerably shorter. We decided to head a couple of hours south to try and find some relief from the unseasonable heat. We had picked our final destination, Wellington National Park, not because of its several waterholes but for its magnificent eucalyptus forests and several hiking trails. 
We were on our final approach to the park when we passed a large smoke plume. The burning fire was far away and wouldn't impact us, but as I watched the billowing black smoke I couldn't help but feel sad since I knew the drought conditions would make it hard to control the fire.
At the park entrance we turned off the bitumen onto a red iron track. Slowly, we made our way deep into the forest, and we were soon surrounded by towering mahogany colored trees. At the campground, when we exited the car, a feeling of uneasiness came over me. I quickly realized\ we were surrounded by red. It was not just the ground and trees, but the air had taken on a red tinge--the result of the sun filtering through the haze created by the distant fire.
We were so anxious to hit the trail that we couldn't be bothered with setting up camp. Instead we set out a table and some chairs to mark our territory, and hit the trail. 
The single track followed a crystal clear creek, and even though the water looked inviting we knew we had to carry on, especially if we were to complete the 20 kilometer loop before dusk.  At least the temperatures deep in the river valley were cool. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before the track left the valley and headed up a steep escarpment. As we zigzagged our way up the hill the air became warmer and thicker. When we reached the top of the hill our view was hindered by the smoke that was rolling in over the valley. If we hadn't known where the actual fire was at this point we might have become concerned, but we knew it was far enough away that we need not worry. At least that was what we thought until we were an hour further down the rim. 
The eerie red glow that had accompanied us earlier that morning had been replaced by a shroud of grey. We stopped to scan the horizon for an indication that the fire was moving our way. There were no plumes or flames to be seen, but the thick warm air had been replaced with a searing hot breeze. We began to question if we had made a mistake and if the fire was closer than we thought or, even worse, had a second bushfire started in our vicinity. We tried to remain calm and kept trying to convince ourselves that if the fire were close we would see flames, and that it was just the wind that was carrying the heat and smoke. At that point we were less than half-way into the loop and it was time for us to decide whether to turn back towards our car or carry on. The decision was difficult, but we figured that, by continuing, within 30 minutes we would be at the dam and our return trip would take us along the river which would become useful if there was indeed a fire traveling our way. As we continued on I couldn't help but beat myself up mentally for not being bushfire prepared--we didn't have all cotton clothes and hadn't left our hiking plans with anyone--how could we have been so careless? This experience would certainly go down as a lesson learned in the outback.   
Our fast steps quickly brought us to the dam and even thought it contained very little water we couldn't help but feel relief.  As we dropped back down into the cool air of the river valley we knew our fear turned from fire to arriving back at camp before dark. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Walk In The SkyPark

This week's PhotoHunt theme is looking down.

A visit to Singapore wouldn't be complete without heading up to the new Sands SkyPark--an impressive 12,400 square metes of space that stretches acoss the top of 3 towers that are 54 stories tall. The privileged observation deck allows visitors some wonderful photo opportunities while they are "looking down" on the majestic city.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This week's PhotoHunter theme is cluttered.

The streets of Bangkok always seem to be cluttered with cars, motos, buses, and tuk-tuks.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bali Low

The coastal area of Bali had proved to be a disappointment. Rather than small quaint villages we had found massive urban sprawl, chock full of thousands of motorbikes and tourists. After just one day we decided there had to be something else and we headed to the hills in search of a mountain paradise.

The trip began with a late night clandestine call from the Hotel's Courtesy Shuttle Driver, who had offered his services on his day off. Because of what we assumed to be a conflict of interest he would be unable to pick us up at the hotel, and instead we would meet him in Seminyak.
So bright and early we caught the shuttle to town, to rendezvous with our driver, Wayan. Our transition from hotel to private car went smoothly and we were soon on our way. It didn't take us long to realize that we were not the only tourists on the island with the same idea, as we joined the long snake like line of private buses and cars that filled the windy, narrow road. An hour into the trip, a stop in the village that specialized in Batik Cloth was suggested. Unfortunately, rather than being delivered to a small plaza where we could wander and discover the intricacies behind the local textile industry we were brought to a large warehouse. We were given a mini demonstration that included the complex steps behind the final product--spinning, weaving, sewing and applying wax--before being ushered into a large showroom. As we wandered the aisles among the multitude of shirts, sarongs, dresses, and scarves, I could not help but reflect back on the laborious process that I had just witnessed outside the doors and wonder how so many products could really be handmade.
 As we continued our journey, visits to other villages that specialized in woodcarving, silversmithing, and painting were offered. We decided to skip these stops, since we weren't really looking at spending our day as consumer tourists, but instead were in search of the "real" Bali.
I am not sure what I had expected to find in Ubud. I haven't read Eat, Pray, Love so I wasn't drawn to the city by a best selling author. Perhaps it was my past experiences with mountain towns--places where communities live and survive from the land. Unfortunately, it wasn't a serene village set amongst rice paddies and rainforest that I found and instead I was once again faced with the ugly side of consumer tourism. There didn't appear to be small shops showcasing handcrafted arts; instead it was storefront after storefront of knick-knacks that can be found across the world. The town boasts that it is a treasure trove of museums and galleries--perhaps they are hidden behind closed doors--but all that met my eyes were large canvases depicting scenes not representative of Balinese culture-- pictures of Michael Jackson, nude women, and elephants being devoured by tigers.
We asked our driver for some time to explore by foot, and he left us in the center of town. As we navigated the hole riddled sidewalks, we were constantly  assaulted by offers for peoples services and products and the endless honking of the taxi drivers wanting us to climb in their cabs. At the gates of the Ubud Water Palace we entered in hopes of a reprise from the chaos that surrounded us. And though passing though the gates allowed us to leave some of the unpleasantness behind I was soon face with another atrocity--lurking in the shadows of the magnificent palace and gardens was a Starbucks. As my stomach began to turn I knew it wasn't the dreaded Bali Belly, but the ubiquitous presence of global corporate interests that made me queazy as any hopes of finding what I was searching for in Ubud quickly dissolved.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


This week's PhotoHunt theme is digital.

Thanks to digital technology the Very Large Array, in Socorro, N.M., has an impressive ability to tune in on black holes, supernovae and the rest of the deep space menagerie.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

All Squared Up

This week's photohunt theme is square.

The Plaza Mayor in Madrid is my favorite city square in Spain.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Put The Pedal To The Metal

This week's PhotoHunt theme is road.

The 2793 km drive from Perth to Adelaide includes traveling along the country's longest straight road. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Australian Native

This week's PhotoHunt theme is trees.

The classic Australian tree would have to be the Eucalyptus. There are over 700 species of the tree and they can found across the entire continent. Eucalyptus trees are evergreens, but many species shed their bark--like the tree showcased this week. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dancing With Mother Nature

On one of our long outback journeys we listened to Breath by Australian novelist Tim Winton. As we drove across the barren countryside with oases shimmering in the distance the  story transported us to a coastline thousands of kilometers away. The words made me hear the roar of the sea and feel the spray of the ocean water on my face. However, I was unable to visualize what Winton described as a ballet  featuring man and water. It wasn't graceful and eloquent movements that came to mind as I tried to picture the surfers in the story. Instead, my thoughts turned to Bondi Beach and its hoards of men and their boards. I reflected on an afternoon I spent watching the surfers and a choreographed dance is not how I would chose to describe the interaction between the agile athletes and mother nature. Instead, I would have to say it was an activity driven by testosterone. Each wave provided the surfers an opportunity to dominate the water. It was as though they wanted to conquer the the free flowing liquid in the same way that civilization has conquered the surrounding landscape by filling the horizon with concrete.
This past weekend I was able to walk the coast where Winton's story took place. Unlike Bondi, the land here remains in its natural state. The coast and the waters are wild, and there is no one attempting to conquer either. As we walked along the coastal trail, I was mesmerized by the crystal clear blue water. Each movement--up, down, forward and backward--blend into the contours of the earth, crashing then receding in a free flowing dance. Suddenly, as though a curtain, has been drawn open, a second element joins the scene. No, it is not humans, but several dolphins riding the surf. As I watch them swimming, jumping and riding the waves I reflect back to Tim Wilton's words. I am now able to visualize the surf's ballet where dolphins are the performers, water is the dance scape,  and the pounding surf is the orchestra.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tennis Anyone?

This week's PhotoHunt theme is closed.

Cook is an outback town that was built in 1917 to help support the Trans-Australian Railway from Adelaide to Perth. The small community included a tennis club, golf course and swimming pool for the local  residents. In 1997 when the railways were privatized the new owners decided they no longer needed a support town in the middle of the Nullarbor and the town was essentially closed down. Today, Cook is said to have a population of four, and is essentially a ghost town.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


In addition to a central location and amazing view, the Condor Tower also has historical importance. The project, which took a vacant 10-storey building and added an additional 18 floors, is believed to be unique not only in Australia but worldwide. The transformation of an obsolete building into a state of the art landmark won an award which recognized the major engineering challenge that faced the architects: the strengthening of the existing foundation to support the additional weight. By overcoming structural obstacles, the architects were able to demonstrate how existing structures can be recycled and transformed.
With the Condor being such an outstanding example of innovative Australian engineering, I have to question the entry into this world class building.
The brass and silver doorway falls short of capturing the grandeur that should accompany such an architectural feat. Perhaps the artist had hopes of demonstrating how the mighty condor is the king of the urban jungle. Unfortunately, the etched v-shapped bird fails to represent the strength behind of the condor. Instead the bird brings to mind a common seagull, and there is nothing majestic or powerful with this association. Could it be that the artist felt that the building could stand alone in its own glory? I don't know but each time I enter the building I can't help but wonder if who ever commissioned the door feels like they were conned? If so, perhaps, that is what the artist was trying to convey with his masterpiece.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Twinkle Little Firefly

Our recent holiday in Kuala Lumpur was planned as a long city trek, and we hadn't made plans to do any traveling outside of the city. After two full days in the of hustle and bustle we knew we had made a mistake and we needed to escape to the local countryside. Unfortunately, we didn't have a guide book or access to the internet to help us plan a day trip. We decided the best thing to do in this situation was to head down to the concierge, where after discussing our options we decided on a group tour to Selangor River, home to millions of fireflies.
Our tour ended up being us, the guide, and the driver. At first, we were a bit worried about having to keep a conversation going for the next six hours, but within moments we knew that there would be no problem keeping the conversation flowing with our very knowledgeable guide, Raj. In fact, by the end of the evening we really had a better understanding of the history and present day situation of the multi-cultural country that we were visiting.
The start of our journey took us past old rubber and palm oil plantations and small villages as we worked our way towards the Firefly Sanctuary. Kampung Kuantan is one of only two places in the world--the other being along the Amazon River in Brazil-- where millions of fireflies can be seen congregating in the same area.
When we arrived at the mangrove, we had to wait until sunset. Then, we were loaded by fours onto a small sampan--a traditional boat powered by a standing man rowing from behind.

We were surrounded by pitch black. It was as though everyone was holding their breath in anticipation, and the only noise was the rhythmic splash created by the oars. Suddenly, as if a power supply had been tuned on, the trees on the horizon began to twinkle. It was as though thousands of Christmas lights had been strung in the trees, but as we pulled closer to the banks it became very apparent that this was not man made show but a natural phenomenon. Once again, Mother Nature showed here true power as she took my breath away.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Signing On The Dotted Line

We sat at the table with a stack of papers between us. With a simple signature our dream to live at the Condor would become reality. We knew there would be some struggles but were sure that we could overcome them. I had always complained that the flat in Glenelg was too large, so maybe it was time to downsize. Getting rid of some of the junk we have collected over the past couple years wouldn't be a bad thing. In fact,  we could use a cleansing. But, I couldn't help but wonder if we would be able to adjust to the single 16 inch bar in the closet. As I looked at my forearm, the approximate length of the bar, I tried to visualize just how much clothes we would be able to hang. At least we would each have our own closet and our own little bar. Still, it looked like I'd be making a trip or two to Salvo's with some donations.
Fortunately, we hadn't overlooked some of the more technical issues like the lack of a heating/airconditioning unit and sunshades.  Luckily the owner had agreed to install them, though he didn't believe we needed shades since it would be impossible to see into the 23rd floor. He eventually understood that it wasn't peeping eyes, but rather the sun's searing afternoon rays that we wanted to keep at bay.
Of course, we knew there were some other issues that would be impossible to resolve. We would have to learn to ignore the scratched walls, blemished marble counters, and stained window pane. We knew the pool pump would not be fixed before the end of summer. An empty car space in such a prime location would necessitate the constant need to call in maintenance to clamp illegally parked cars.
As we discussed and debated the severity of each and every one of the issues, we agreed that in the end they were insignificant when compared to the choice location with a perfect view.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aptly Named

This week's PhotoHunt theme is license plate.

Not the best photo but Kermy was a no tortoise.