Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Hand Stand

This week's PhotoHunt theme is standing.

When I saw this sculpture in Melbourne I wanted to use it for last week's PhotoHunt, but I wasn't able to download the photo to my netbook. Luckily the photo works well for this week's theme as well.
Standing high above Melbourne on the lawns of The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is the "Hand of God" by Carl Milles.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Looking For A Handout

This week's PhotoHunt theme is hand.
It was no problem to get this wallaby to eat out of my hand. She even let her little joey have a taste. The picture was taken at Cleland Wildlife Park. You are able to buy special pellets to feed the animals. You should never feed wallabies and kangaroos in the wild since they can get lumpy jaw. An infection that causes their jaws to swell and is usually fatal in kangaroos.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bee Feral

We were closer to home, but with 400km still in front of us we decided to stop for the night. We pulled out the map and decided that the Murray Sunset National Park looked like the best place to camp. We figured that its isolated location, vast open spaces and lack of water would provided us with the solitary bush experience that we have come to love. After all who would travel hundreds of kilometers to camp next to a dry salt bed in the middle of summer. 
We were disappointed when we pulled into the campground to see a few other tents, but fortunately they were all congregated next to the long drop. We were able to find a campsite without neighbors.
As we pitched the tent we noticed that there were a fair number of bees flying around. This was a bit of a concern since I am allergic to bee stings. Fortunately, our tent is easy to assemble and I quickly took refuge, hoping that as the sun set on the horizon the bees would also disappear. As Mark continued to set up camp, I was leafing through the Park's brochure, and there in the top right hand corner was a warning of feral bees. Apparently, some of the exotic honey bees that were introduced into Australia over 170 years ago have escaped and become a pest. They especially become a nuisance during the summer months when they aggressively seek out water to cool their hives. Further reading informed me that it isn't just H20 that they are attracted to, but that they love human perspiration. I didn't need to read anymore. I knew that even with my EpiPen nearby I still did not want to experience an allergic attack should I be stung. I had no choice but to imprison myself in our tent.  Mark couldn't have agreed more; truly, he dreads the day when we are hundreds of kilometers from anything and he has to stick me in the leg with epinephrine. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Casting A long Shadow

This week's PhotoHunt theme is shadow.

This photo was taken when visiting Pinnacles Desert at sunrise. You can read all about our 1st road trip in Western Australia here. I am also happy to announce that we will soon be calling Western Australia home and we will be moving to Perth at the end of the month. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Then I Saw It Fall. Now I'm A Believer.

On one of our first trips to the Australia Bush we came a across a sign that warned of falling limbs. At the time we found it a bit comical and I had to snap a picture. As we moved into summer the same warning started turning up all over the place. In fact, I even heard a reminder on the local radio station. I found it strange since the days were becoming longer and hotter, not windier. So when visiting the Adelaide Botanic gardens I took the opportunity to ask an expert about the warnings. 
It turns out that it is not uncommon for the Australian Red Gum to drop a limb, especially when it is hot out. So I was once again told to keep my eyes up, ears open and not sit or camp under large trees when in the bush. We heeded the warning and for the next two years we kept a look up, especially when parking our rental cars--didn't want to have to explain a crushed roof. However, after countless hours spent in the bush and walking along the tree lined streets of Adelaide I had yet to personally witness a falling limb and I couldn't help but wonder if the warnings were valid. But we still continued to park the car out in the open. This is not always easy, as I hate to keep the vehicle in the sun especially in the summer.
So during our Christmas road trip as we slowly worked our way across the low lying hill surrounding the Snowy River, I tried to convince Mark we needed to park in the shade. He refused and parked smack in the middle of an open clearing. Having lost the battle I grabbed my towel and headed to a grassy area under the trees for a pout while Mark headed down to the river for a dip.
I sprawled out on my large beach towel and closed my eyes. I was quickly blanketed with the thick warm air. I was surrounded by an eerie silence. The buzz of flies, calls of birds, and even the babble of the creek were muted by the soaring heat of the day. Suddenly the silence was broken by a loud crack. Just to my left a very large branch came crashing to the ground. In one brief moment Mother Nature had converted me into a believer. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wild And Free

This week's PhotoHunt theme is free.

The Snowy Mountains in south-eastern Australia are a haven for free-roaming feral horses. We came across this Brumby while hiking from Dead Horse Gap to Mt. Koscuiszko. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

All In A Day's Drive

It wasn't dreams of Santa's gifts that brought about our Christmas Day predawn wake-up. Instead it was the boisterous calls of the dozens of birds that had flocked to the swollen banks of the Murray River. From the chirps, tweets, whistles, quacks, coos, chatter, squeaks and laughs I could only assume that these jolly birds were rejoicing  the arrival of water in a drought-stricken land. The abudence of water had left the air thick with humidity, and our environment reminded us more of the bayous of New Orleans that the southwest corner of Victoria.

We quickly took down our campsite, partially because of the mozzies but also because our next destination lay over 10 hours away. We anxiously hit the road, excited to discover the surprises the twisty journey would bring.
Even though we soon left the river--bursting at its banks--behind us, the impact of the recent record rains remained visible. With each flooded field and/or washed out side-road we passed, I couldn't help but feel that too much of a good thing had arrived too late. That even though there was some greening up of the heartier vegetation no amount of water would be able to bring back to life the crisp skeletons of trees and vegetation that lined the horizon. There would be no salvaging the ineptly planted, water dependent, cotton crops, which had been abandoned long ago because their yields were too small to be profitable, yet large enough to create a Christmas Day snowlike storm in the middle of Australia.
Late in the afternoon, as we approached the Great Dividing Range, the scenes of destruction disappeared. As we slowly began to climb, the landscape turned from burnt brown with speckles of green to a countryside slashed with various hues of green. It was obvious that this part of the country had not suffered from lack of water and that the recent abundance had just added to the lushness.
Our final destination, high in the snowy mountains, was very distinct from the swamp lands where we started over 9 hours and 700 kilometers earlier.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Not Home For Holidays

As an ex-pat I find the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, the hardest time to be away from home. In late November I find myself longing for the many traditions that prevailed in my life for over 30 years. Each year I try to replicate the traditional foods I miss the most--fruitcake, rumballs, bizcochitos, turkey, pozole, tamales. However, even though I am accompanied on my mission to merge my past with my present with Christmas songs by El Vez and Tish Hinojosa, it is the camaraderie of cooking and baking with my mother, tias and close friend that can not be replaced. There is not the constant chatter of the newest mitote, stories from the past or the scoldings about rumballs being too large. Instead I listen to waves in the bay softly pounding the sand-- noise that brings me peace but at the same reminds me that I a massive body of water separates me from my loved ones.
My attempt to create the Christmas spirit extends beyond the kitchen as I decorate the house. My cholla cactus with over 500 lights and 100 hand-painted ornaments has been replaced with a few knick knacks collected over the years. The Wihelm-Schweier pewter Christmas tree that graces our coffee table seems so out of place, though its presence transports me to the Christmas Markets in Germany. The memories of freezing toes and gluhwein are a sharp contrast to my current reality of ice-cream and flip flops. The single strand of star studded lights that hang in our window are rarely turned on since the days are getting longer, and we often are in bed before the sun has completely set. I find my attempts to create a familiar Christmas environment comical as the thermometer outside steadily climbs with promises of breaking 40° C (104° F) by Christmas Day.
It is hard to believe that it has been 7 years since we bundled up on Christmas Eve and headed out to walk the neighborhoods of Old Town to look at the luminarias after a meal of pozole and tamales. Instead we have created a new tradition that revolves around the Australian bush. A warm meal has been replaced with cold smoked ham and salads since you can never predict when there will be a fire ban. Our light show, the millions of stars that twinkle against the velvety sky, is accompanied by the carols sung by the birds of the Australian outback. Instead of being in the company of friends and family I am with the love of my life and several kangaroos. I can’t help but wonder, when it is time to move on will I miss these new traditions, and will the have impacted my life enough that I will attempt to recreate them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fuzzy Wuzzy Was A Wombat

This week's PhotoHunt theme is fuzzy.
Not only is this little guy fuzzy, but when I saw the normally nocturnal creature in the middle of the afternoon I got all warm and fuzzy inside.