PhotoGRAPHy 101: Week 1

As I have been travelling for two days during this week I haven’t had the time to register for this challenge  so I am putting together a post to meet the five themes introduced this week and at the same time introduce you to my new neighbourhood (albeit temporary).

Home

HomeSydney, NSW, Australia is home to 4.576 million people and is the most populous city in Australia and Oceania. It is also home to my eldest son and family.

 Street

Corso in Manly

The Corso in Manly is one of Sydney’s more famous streets and runs from the harbour side at Manly Wharf to the ocean side at Manly Beach. In my image the focus is on the Victorian building on the left of the street with the palm trees and the people forming the background.

Water

Sydneysiders are lucky to have many beautiful beaches on their doorstep. This is the surf at Dee Why, one of the northern beaches. Finding this odd iron piling along the beach I couldn’t decide whether a vertical or horizontal composition suits it best. Which version do you prefer?

Bliss

Bliss
Lorenzo in his ‘sunnys’

This theme asks you to consider what the word bliss means.   To me, today, bliss means that first cuddle with a new grandchild. Bliss to him was wearing his shades to block out the glare of that Australian sunshine.

Solitude

solitude

The Manly Scenic Walkway at Shelly Beach. Today we are asked to consider placement of the subject in a photograph. My focus was on the bench, but I waited until a solitary figure appeared on the bend of the track and lined up the horizon with the metal railings to frame the sea from the sky. I was also rather pleased that the bench colour matched the sea and the lines were at a nice angle to the lines of the railings. Often a photo can look to be accidental, but I moved around quite a bit to get this deliberate shot.

WPC: Minimalist

water dragon

An Eastern Water Dragon

An artfully executed minimalist photograph is anything but mundane. It illustrates a moment in time, or an artistic perspective, with simplicity and grace.

Journey to the red centre

It was August 2003. We were in what felt like the middle of nowhere in the thriving, spirited outback centre of Alice Springs.

Some of you may know Alice from the 1950 novel by Nevil Shute or the subsequent film ‘A Town Like Alice’. We were there to set off on an adventure into the deep centre – to the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park about 463 kms  direct by road from Alice in the Northern Territory of Australia.

It is one of those iconic places that you fear will not live up to the hype. That you will arrive and be disappointed. And it was a long drive to be disappointed at the end of it.

Setting out in our hired Toyota Land cruiser (a giant beast that was total overkill as there was only the two of us, but the smaller Rav4 was unavailable) we headed for our first stop in Kings Canyon.

Red-Centre-Way

Feeling adventurous I decided that we would travel west through the West MacDonnell Ranges to Glen Helen, along the Mereenie Loop Road which is unsealed most of the way but passes incredible places along the way like Standley Chasm, Palm Valley and the Glen Helen Outback resort (all of which we had explored during the two previous days.) Nowadays I believe you need to purchase a permit to travel along part of this route, but then it was not required. And it is now known as the Red Centre Way. You cannot travel on an unsealed road in Australia in an ordinary hire car so make sure if you want to follow this route that you book a 4WD.  All you have to deal with are pretty bad corrugations in places which take some adjustment in finding the optimum speed where you are not shaking the teeth out of your head, nor going so slow that you feel every bump! It is a lovely drive through some beautiful desert country, certainly more appealing than the much longer detour along the sealed highway.

If you don’t make any stops along the route the drive to the Kings Canyon resort is around 3 1/2 hours. There  you will find 300 metre sheer cliff faces and a palm-fringed swimming hole and you can take the Kings Canyon Rim Walk for breathtaking views over the red landscape. We stayed in a basic cabin and enjoyed a walk in the valley before heading to the restaurant for barbecued steaks and a live country music band who invited people to get up and dance.  Of course things will have changed since this trip and you can now have an ‘Under a Desert Moon Fine Dining Experience‘ which will more than likely set you back a whole lot more than what we paid for the entire trip!

sky

Leaving Kings Canyon the following day (though I would recommend spending two nights at the resort if you can as there is much to see) we continued south along the Luritja highway for 300km to Uluru which is a huge monolith created some 600 million years ago.  As we reached the Lasseter Highway we could see the third largest monolith in the distance – Mount Connor –  (located 100 kms east of Uluru) which never gets much of a mention, but is quite a sight, rising up in the middle of the desert. You can book a 4WD day trip from the Ayers Rock resort which includes dinner at the Curtin Springs Station’ homestead and provides you with a quintessential Aussie Outback experience.

crested pigeons

So on to the main event – Uluru. If I had thought that Mount Connor looked impressive I was totally astounded by this rock which is accepted as the largest Monolith in Australia and claims to be the largest monolith in the world. After dropping off bags in our accommodation in the Outback Pioneer Hotel and Lodge, we set off for the base of the monolith to have a walk and then to get into position to see the sunset.

uluru

You don’t have to spend a fortune when visiting this part of the world (which is now rated to be the third most expensive resort to visit) as you can camp or stay in cabins and drive around yourself taking in the views and the park, and walk around the base (9 km) or in Kata-Tutja. Of course if you want 5* luxury spa hotels, flights over the rock, rides on camels or Harley Davidsons and dine outside under the stars with gourmet dining, then you can. But we didn’t.

uluru-2

The next day we got up early to watch the sun rise. The rock really does glow and there is something very magical about it. Its history, its significance in Aboriginal culture, its location, the peacefulness. Even with the crowds it still feels special. We carried on to the Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) which are further on into the park and where there are two walks open to everyone: The Valley of the Winds, a 7 km beauty that makes a loop to two spectacular lookout points, takes about three hours and is easy-going. Do it in the early morning to avoid the crowds and the Walpa Gorge Walk, an easier 2.6 km stroll that takes in a nice representative of the native wildlife and plants of the park.

olgas

I can’t recall which trail we followed, but walking between the steep walls of red sandstone, listening to flocks of finches, looking at the wild flora, and above all, the feeling of space and no crowds of people, was my favourite part of the trip. Like Ayers Rock, these rock formations are most spectacular at sunrise and sunset when the light seems to give them a magical red glow.

the-olgas

Returning to Alice along the Luritja Road we turned off onto Ernest Giles Road (unsealed for about 70 km) for a ride on a rich red and dusty road – take care though, as this is the one and only time that I literally took off! Driving too fast over a hidden dip, the land cruiser flew through the air before landing somewhat shakily on the other side, after that I took things a little more slowly.

red-road

A few kilometres before the road joins the Stuart Highway leading back to Alice we passed the Henbury Meteorite Conservation reserve where we stopped for a stretch of legs and a walk around this unusual site. Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve contains 12 craters which were formed when a meteor hit the earth’s surface 4,700 years ago. The Henbury Meteor, weighing several tonnes and accelerating to over 40,000 km per hour, disintegrated before impact and the fragments formed the craters.

meteorite

Uluru was even better than I had imagined, despite the amount of tourism (and I suspect it has increased over the past 10 years) and  unexpectedly the walk in Kata Tjuta and the drives on those mystical red dusty roads through the Outback were additional highlights for me.

Have you visited an iconic site? And if so did it live up to your expectations or were you left feeling a little bit cheated?

 

H for Harbour Bridge (Sydney)

frizztext hosts a weekly A – Z Challenge

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Description: Every Tuesday I offer the “A to Z challenge”, walking step by step through the alphabet.

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The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. Opened March 19 1932. Wikipedia
Manly Ferry
Manly Ferry

I have walked across it, driving across in a car, taken a train over and driven under in the tunnel. I have climbed up one of the towers you can see at either end to get some lovely photographs, but I have never climbed the bridge, and I never will!

If you have a spare AUS$200 then maybe you’d like to try it? Or perhaps you have.

Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the Manly Ferry
Harbour Bridge and Opera House from the Manly Ferry

A tale of cassowaries and aliens…

cassowary
Photo of a cassowary is courtesy of betta design on flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I chose to stay in the youth hostel in Mission Beach, northern Queensland because of its unusual name and location. The Treehouse built on stilts and surrounded by verdant rain forest is a big open plan log cabin with bare wooden floors and bamboo framed glass-less windows with shutters.

The small number of bamboo doors that exist are open at the top so all sounds drift effortlessly inside and out. Comfortable shabby sofas are arranged in cosy corners encouraging the residents to gather together and chat or make music. Or you can grab a random paperback from one of the many bookcases and curl up in a hammock on the shady veranda and lose yourself in the plot. The air is filled with incense and a touch of dank decay.

On my first morning I am woken early by the torrential rain, thunder and lightning and with the smell of rich earth assaulting my nostrils it almost feels like camping and only slightly drier. The close proximity to the rain forest also means that as soon as dawn cracks an opening in the night sky a cacophony of kookaburras crash into your dreams with the subtleness of falling pan-lids.

It is not a place conducive to much sleep.

It is here that I meet Andy. I have noticed him over the past few days as he bumbles about the place. He’s a quiet, unassuming young man who appears very solitary. On the third morning I am disturbed by the cleaners who start sweeping the floors at 5 am and I can’t get back to sleep. I feel irritated and headachy; I had a hard time dropping off last night due to a group of travellers talking and drumming well into the early hours. The swish, swish of the brushes sweeping over the wooden floors is as annoying as the whine of a mosquito. It’s no good, sleep eludes me. Drowsily I stumble into the kitchen and find Andy with his head in the fridge. Over strong coffee and cereal on the sundeck overlooking the swimming pool we exchange names and watch as the rain drips languidly through the forest. He then tells me about the cassowaries that live here.

Later that morning, once the rain has eased, I catch one of the shuttles into Mission Beach and ask to be dropped off at the Rainforest Walk, which is about a 6 or 7 km circuit. It is very green and very gloomy in there and almost silent apart from the occasional shriek of a bird. I strain my ears listening out for the ‘boom’ sound which the southern cassowary makes and every time a twig snaps or a giant leaf falls noisily to the ground I can feel my heart pounding in my throat remembering Andy’s story.

…a single kick from one of them birds can rip open your stomach as they have a dagger-like claw

It strikes me as a rather unpleasant way to die with your intestines hanging out; alone in a soggy, dark forest. Fresh droppings close to the pathway do nothing to ease my anxieties and as I walk I nervously consider every tree as a place to hide behind should one of these magnificent flightless creatures run across my path.

The fathers will be minding the chicks now and are fiercely protective, don’t get anywhere near them.

The air is thick and still, the plants and trees still dripping from the night’s rainfall; it all feels extremely claustrophobic.

That evening, back in the safety of the Treehouse, Andy shuffles over with a bottle of cheap plonk and over a glass or two we chat some more. Obviously relieved that I’d survived any cassowary attack he makes a decision to confide in me.

I was driving through the outback, not so far from here when I noticed that there were lights behind me. I thought at first it was another truck. I slowed down to let the truck pass, but it appeared to slow down too. The lights moved up and down and sometimes disappeared altogether, before coming back closer and brighter. They were definitely tracking me.

The lights are known by the aboriginal people as “Min Min” lights and some scientists explain their appearance as a natural phenomenon; however Andy, along with many others, is convinced that the lights are from aliens who are attempting to communicate with us.

Some people think I’m not the full quid, but I am you know, I’ve seen these lights around Melbourne too.

At 10 o’clock, light-headed with exhaustion, I make my excuses and head for bed; it’s all getting a little bit creepy. And as I stare at the full moon piercing the shadows I shudder to think what might be out there.

Less than 2 weeks later I found myself in Winston, the centre of the area which is known for the ‘Min Min’ lights, but sadly I didn’t see any aliens.

(Daily Post: Creative Commons)