Category Archives: Photography

Trip 3:Tuesday, September 5

Travel day.

I was up at 6:30, finished packing, had a cup of tea and a shower, and headed out the door.

Entrance to Broome Airport

Plane visible through the foliage.

The hotel provided transportation to the charming little Broome International Airport. I was amused to see flights written on a chalkboard just outside the front door–but then there aren’t a lot of flights going through Broome. I checked in and then walked the 20 feet to my gate.

The jet I boarded had a surprising amount of legroom. Sorry I can’t fly Sydney to LA with this much space! Taking off, we swiftly crossed back across the land we had taken two weeks to traverse.

Broome from the air


A lovely snack was served on the Broome to Kununurra leg of the journey (finger sandwiches with crusts trimmed off and chocolate chip, macadamia nut shortbread–could they possibly have made anything richer!), and lunch was served between Kununurra and Darwin (chicken breast and large, chilled shrimp–yum). No need to buy lunch at the airport.

The Darwin Airport is larger than Broome’s facility, but still small enough that passengers walk from their planes to the terminal. The plane was air conditioned, and after two weeks without A/C, it felt strange, and I felt more comfortable during the walk from my little Broome plane to the terminal. It is another spectacular, hot day. However, the airport was also air conditioned. I’ll adjust. The terminal was crowded, but was bright and comfortable.

The flight from Darwin to Adelaide was on a bigger jet, and it was really packed. I was a little surprised, but maybe it’s because it also goes on to Melbourne and Sydney, after dropping me off in Adelaide.

I’m sorry to be leaving this part of the country. I always feel like I’m on my way home once I leave the outback, even though I have two more weeks in Australia. However, I’m grateful for those additional two weeks, because I’m not ready to leave Australia yet.

I fell asleep almost while the plane was taking off and became conscious again forty minutes later, when beverage service came through. Below me, there was a whole lot of nowhere. The amazingly rugged landscape stretched to the horizon, with mountains, rivers, fault lines visible, but only rare signs of anything approaching civilization.

At least from up here, it’s evident that I’m somewhere specific. At most airports (unless they are little ones, like the one in Broome), it’s generally hard to tell where you are. No matter how much “personality” an airport has, in all but the smallest airports, it’s hard to feel like you’re anywhere but an airport, and all airports are in the same place—at the center of arriving and leaving. And at every airport, I’m doing the same thing, arriving, leaving, or waiting, usually with a view that consists solely of runways and airplanes.

The broad expanse of wild ruggedness below me has now turned from the brown and green of the Top End into the red of the Centre. A three-quarter moon hangs in the blue sky just to my left and forward. The fairly consistent clouds of the afternoon up north have given way to rare wisps. My view changed dramatically as we continued south, from red land to solid cloud cover. Still, from the air, even endless clouds are astonishingly beautiful. It’s one of the things I love about flying.

Then finally, partial clearing and the ocean shore, as we approached Adelaide. The pilot reported a temperature of 11˚C (roughly 52˚ F). It was 38˚C (or just over 100˚F) when I left Darwin. I’m glad I have a jacket.

The sun was just setting as we landed, which made even the airport splendid. Richard (Nikki’s husband) was waiting for me at the airport. He’d been in town for work that day, so it was quite convenient for him to pick me up. Saved me having to take a bus north.

The drive to Nuriootpa took just about an hour and 20 minutes. Nikki had dinner waiting when we arrived. Richard’s brother, Sandy, was visiting from Sydney, and the four of us dined and chatted and drank wine and chatted some more until 10:30. Then it was off to bed, to get a good night’s sleep before heading off on the next adventure.

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Trip 3:Sunday, August 27

Beautiful sunrise. Flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos and caroling butcherbirds greeted us. The rising sun painted the pale-trunked ghost gums and curving humps of spinifex in changing pastels.

Bush brekkie, bush loo, then back on the track. I am endlessly impressed by the skill with which John handles the seemingly impossible (and sometimes undiscernible) “roads” that we are traversing.

After a couple of hours, we rejoined the highway, turning north again, retracing our route toward Kununurra. The boabs reappeared as we neared the coast. There were none farther inland. It’s a trade-off: the spinifex that was so abundant inland has now disappeared. However, there are always eucalypts and termite mounds.

Approaching Kununurra, we passed Lake Kununurra, which is in fact a huge reservoir created by the damming of the Ord River. Having previously seen it in the dark, it was nice to see it in daylight. Easy to see why it’s a popular holiday destination.
Lake Kununurra
We had a couple of hours free in Kununurra, while Kate shopped for food and John had some work done on the truck. A few people did laundry. I wrote all my postcards and got them into the mail. And we all had lunch. I had a meat pie—my first this trip. Delightful.

I took a few photos of “downtown” Kununurra and of some of the local flowers (including the insanely fragrant plumeria-frangipani pictured below). Then it was time to hit the road again, headed for the legendarily rough car-wrecker, the Gibb River Road and the remote and still largely untouched Kimberley region.
Plumeria-Frangipani-lighter
Fork-tailed kites, whistling kites, and sulphur-crested cockatoos became more common as we got farther from town. We passed the entrance to El Questro Wilderness Park, which is home to everything from campsites to an incredibly posh resort, where you can sleep in luxury and still wake to the rugged beauty of the Kimberley. But we’d be going far deeper into the region than this.

The scenery remained utterly spectacular as we continued along the Gibb River Road. The remains of huge, ancient plateaus towered above the increasingly arid, hilly landscape. We stopped at the Pentecost River crossing, which cuts across the road. This is one of those places that reminds you why you want to have a good guide and driver—because it’s not entirely clear that there is a way across. Rocks and water and no sign of a road. It is, however, a beautiful spot, with egrets wading nearby. After a few photos, we continued on, with John skillfully negotiating the crossing—and, happily, making it, since this is a tidal river, which means saltwater crocodiles, so we wouldn’t want to wade.

Pentecost River crossing

Pentecost River crossing


As we continued on, a few clouds appeared, making shadows on the landscape. Next stop was the lookout over Home Valley, facing the Cockburn Range. Incredible. Like looking at the ruined fortress of an ancient civilization, only more wonderful.
Home Valley-Cockurn Range Cockurn Range
A few more stops along the way, and then on to the Durack River. What a beautiful spot. The sun was setting beyond the hills, and the clouds and water were dusted with pink and violet. I managed to get a couple of photos while the light lasted, then we set up camp.
Durach River Sunset
The campsite at which we had stopped had showers, though no lights and only cold water. But it was running water, and we enjoyed cleaning up after a couple of days of being hot and grubby.

The stars were incredible, and the frogs, night birds, and river supplied calming music. Bats were delighted with the insects drawn to our camp light (there is one lantern on the 4WD), and we could see them swooping through the edges of its beams. A gentle breeze made the evening more perfect still.

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Thoughts on Photographs

Just one more post on the issue of thumbnails, and then I’ll get back to the trip.

I realize that in some cases–close ups of flowers or sunsets — the thumbnail is probably enough to give you an idea what I’m talking about. But there are times that the thumbnail really doesn’t show anything — and even an image that runs the full width of the column doesn’t offer all the full-size image. So I was wondering if I could ask you that, if a thumbnail looks like nothing, like just a blob of color, could you click on it then? Because every image is picked because it shows something of interest, and there are times you’re just not going to see anything without clicking. (And since I’ve been writing this blog since 2007, it’s too late to go back and change all the photos).

Here are a couple of examples, just so you know what I’m talking about.
Thumbnail — you can’t see the pandanus (the palm-like leaves) at all.

Pandanus

Pandanus


Full column width
Pandanus

Pandanus

Here are some fabulous, worn rocks from a few days ago.
Thumbnail — looks pretty much like nothing
Nganlang Rocks 1
The full column width version is better, but still doesn’t show all the detail you get when clicking on it and seeing it full size.
Nganlang Rocks 1
Of course, because I’m a writer first and foremost, I’ll still be happy to have you just as a reader. The words are the most important part of this site–which is exactly why I diminished the photos in the first place. But I also love Australia, nature, geography, and all the wonderful stuff that is out there to see, so I do hope you’ll occasionally look at the photos.

And tomorrow, back to the writing.

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Questions

I’m interrupting the flow of this trip to ask a couple of questions. I’m hoping some of you will answer.

WordPress lets me know if anyone clicks on things on a post–links, videos, or photo thumbnails — so I know that only about 2 out of every 75 people actually click on the thumbnails, to see the images full size. Why do you think most folks don’t click on thumbnails (or, if you’re in that group, why don’t you click on the thumbnails)? There are some really remarkable images in the several hundred posts on this blog, but most of you have never seen them. Are images less important to you than words?

When photos are particular favorites, I’ll add a note encouraging folks to click on the thumbnail. Can you think of anything else I could do to encourage people to look at the photos full size? Or are you unfamiliar with Australia and don’t expect the photos to be interesting?

Any insight would be appreciated. I’ll keep posting, but I may cut back the number of photos if you feel that photos are not all that important. Thanks.

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September 11, part 4

Continued to stop at any place marked as a lookout. At many of these, including the at the Twelve Apostles, when I reached them, the salt spray from the waves far below was being whipped by the wind up over the cliff edges. And in some places, the waves themselves were topping the cliffs. It was too beautiful to leave, so I ended up fairly drenched. What an amazing place.

Crashing Waves

Crashing Waves


The Twelve Apostles is probably the most famous of the rock formations along the Great Ocean Road, even though only nine of the twelve rock pillars remain standing. It is the last of the great, towering formations along the Great Ocean Road, and the closest to a major city (an easy weekend away from Melbourne). These and the other formations are reminders that erosion has been the main shaping force, at least for the last few millions years, of Australia’s landscape.
Two of the "Apostled"

Two of the “Apostled”


Finally, the road turned inland, climbing into the Melba Gully rainforest and then into the mountains of the Otway National Park. Here, the scenery alternated between wild moors, forested mountains, and rolling sheep paddocks. A light snow began as I climbed higher.
Weather closes in

Weather closes in


At Laver Hill, I stopped at the charming Blackwood Gully Tearoom, owned by the daughter of a woman I met at Binna Burra, near the beginning of this trip. The daughter wasn’t in, but the weather had turned ugly, so I pulled a chair up to the fireplace and gazed out the picture windows over the mountains as I enjoyed a pot of tea and bushman’s pie for a late (4:00pm) lunch. Then, back into what was becoming an actual blizzard. I headed down the far side of the range, through dense, beautiful forests of eucalypts and tree ferns.

As I left the mountains and neared the coast, the clouds began to part. It was a bright early evening as I pulled into Apollo Bay and began my search for accommodations.

Apollo Bay

Apollo Bay


No funky, old hotels here. Just as well, since I’m cold, wet, covered with sand and dried salt spray, and just as glad to pay a bit more for a nice motel with attached bath and a heater in the room, plus a TV and tea making facility. Also, I’m just across the street from the beach, and they say the sunrise here is beautiful.

Actually, probably because of stiff competition during the summer season, when people from Melbourne flood to the area for fun in the surf or the nearby mountains and rock formations, the Apollo Bay Hotel-Motel is quite nice, and would probably cost a lot more in finer weather. The walls are wood paneled and the ceiling is woven grass of exactly the same golden color as the wood, with a handsomely tiled bathroom–that I don’t have to walk down the hall to reach.

Soon, I was clean, cozy, warm, and dry, after a wild, wet, but glorious day. Not a bad way to end a day of wonders.

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Echoes of Earth

When L. Sue Baugh announced to the writing group a few years back that she and her friend Lynn Martinelli wanted to document the oldest places on earth, there was no way for those in attendance to know how serious she was–and how glorious the results of that project would be.

Sue and Lynn sought to experience landscapes that resembled what ancient Earth might have been like long before humanity appeared. Their search led the two women into remote regions of Western Australia, Canada, Greenland, the United States–and eventually into territory not marked on any map.

The outcome of their research is Baugh’s book Echoes of Earth: Finding ourselves in the origins of the planet. The work combines science and philosophy, but it is dominated by the photographs that so gloriously capture the primitive beauty of the places explored. The book is remarkable not only in its subject matter and beauty, but also in its format. There are die cuts, half pages, and fold-outs, making the book an interactive experience.

While Baugh says she loved everywhere she visited, she said Australia was the place that most captivated her. She relates, “I don’t think my heart ever fully came back from there.” Of course, that’s a sentiment I share with her.

The book is not just getting noticed by Baugh’s associates in local writing groups. It has in a short time racked up an impressive number of awards:
• A silver medal for Photography/art from the Nautilus Book Awards
• Awards in two categories from the Benjamin Franklin Awards (Baugh is happiest with the award in the nature/environment category).
• A gold medal for science/nature/environment category from Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

Not too surprisingly, the book is available on Amazon. However, if you want a signed, numbered version–with additional materials–you can go to the website for Wild Stone Arts.

Echoes-of-Earth-book-cover-web2

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The Olgas

In the post on Mt. Conner, I mentioned that there are three giants in the Red Centre. However, the third of this group shattered and has weathered into a cluster of domes, rather than offering the monolithic profile of the first two. These are the Olgas, named by explorer Ernest Giles for Queen Olga of Württemberg. To the local Aborigines, they are Kata Tjuta, or “many heads.”

Though broken and worn, the Olgas are still impressive. Mt. Olga, the central and tallest rock in the group, is actually taller than Ayers Rock, rising 1,500 feet above the surrounding plain. The cluster of towering rock domes covers an area of 11 square miles.

I had been to the Olgas on my previous visit to the Red Centre, so I did not join our group for the standard hike into Olga Gorge. Instead, I wandered off on my own, to be alone with my thoughts and the land I had come to love, and to think about what had happened to me, now that my six-months was drawing to a close. It was immensely quiet once I was away from the group, with nothing but the breeze and the rustling of the fragrant brush around me to break the silence. However, I was not so introspective that I failed to examine everything. My camera being one of the ways I try to attach myself to a place, I also took a fair number of “parting shots,” including the one below.

The Olgas/Kata Tjuta

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