Archives for posts with tag: Photography

Back on land in Airlie Beach I spend a night and when I awake the next morning I decide that, since I’m here, I really should go see the Great Barrier Reef so I figure I’ll fly over it. I pay $100 for a one hour trip and get into the backseat of this little plane with 4 other people (that includes the pilot). This is officially the smallest plane I have ever been into. We put our headsets on and off we fly towards the GBR. We go over Airlie Beach, Whitehaven Beach and many other beautiful islands and small reefs. Seeing them from the air is fantastic, especially after just having been there at sea level. As we start to get closer to the GBR I can see the massive deep water channel that runs alongside it, you can tell it’s really deep because the water is very dark blue. So it’s stunning to see the contrast between the aqua and teals of the reef areas and that deep blue depth. We see various reef shapes, one is even like a little heart and then quicker than we’d like it’s time to head back to land. A short trip but well worth it.

Uluru to Alice Springs.

Another very early morning, so early that it’s still dark out, we’re going to watch the sun rise over Uluru, from the same spot we saw it set the day before. Sunset turns out to be more interesting as the sun is shining on the face, creating that red glow so familiar from the countless photos I’ve seen at sunrise it is a silhouette. We breakfast while watching the Rock grow more luminous and once the sun is shining in full we pile back into the bus for the quick drive to the drop off point for the base walk around Uluru.

It’s a 10.6 km walk, over mostly flat ground but my knee is not up for it. Fitzy is terrific and, after dropping off the others, takes me to a point where I will only have to walk about 2-3 kms. I do this easily, taking my time, listening to my ipod and enjoying the solitude very much. It really is an endlessly fascinating pile of rocks. The most interestingly featured areas are typically the most revered so photography is prohibited there but there is so much else to see and photograph that it doesn’t really matter. It really is of epic size, the photos cannot do it justice, and it’s consistently astounding.

I meet up with Fitzy and help him prepare some snacks for when the others return and they soon start to trickle in. Once we’re all there we load up the bus again and head off for the long return trip to Alice Springs. On the way we make a pit stop at a salt lake for a photo opp and bathroom break. Also we stop at a place where we can ride a camel if we so choose. I choose to try and let me tell you it’s a very bouncy experience.

Once back in Alice Springs we are all dropped off and given a chance to get cleaned up. We meet up later at a bar for dinner and drinks, which turns into more drinks and then more. From waking up at sunrise I don’t get to bed until almost 4am. Long day but a great finish to one of the best tours I’ve ever been on. As I told Fitzy, it wasn’t like a tour, it was like going on a road/camping trip with 25 of my newest friends.

meshhat

TIP: If you are headed into the outback invest in a mesh hat, something like this. It will save you much aggravation from the THOUSANDS of flies that want to land on your face and climb up your nose, into your ears and down your throat. You will look silly but at least you won’t end up swallowing a fly like I did. Gah.

In Transit in Indonesia.

Awaking the next morning, slightly sore of head and body, we are arriving at the island of Rinca. Rinca is part of Komoda National Park and is a different island than the one we went to on the earlier trip. Not entirely convinced I should bother, having seen the dragons before and feeling the effects of the night before, I strap on my camera and head out with the group. Not surprisingly it’s pretty anticlimactic but it’s a chance to get my blood moving and to chat with some of the new people and actually listen to what the park ranger has to say while not being distracted by a crush.

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This trip is shorter than the last one, only 2 nights, and we’re covering a lot of territory so it’s a lot of time spent on the boat. We make a couple stops to snorkel and one stop on an island where we follow a trail through a small village for about 2 kms to reach a waterfall. You can jump off the top of the falls Tarzan style and it’s wonderfully cool and refreshing so we do it repeatedly.

I also continue to avidly pursue my newfound obsession of photographing people.

Andy and I have made friends with a Spanish man named Albert and we all decide to do a bit of travel together once we get back to Lombok. Ours plans include a stop in the Gilies Islands, a trip to Nusa Lembongan (where I have been before) and we’ll finish up in Ubad on Bali.

I got really inspired by the friendliness of the local people while I was on Flores Island in Indonesia. Their sincerity, beauty and humour constantly surprised me, as well as their willingness to pose for my camera, even when I got right up in their faces. These are the results of that. Click on any picture to make it bigger.

Flores, Indonesia.

We awake in the morning refreshed and when I head downstairs for breakfast I discover that Andy has had the guys move a table and chairs outside so we don’t end up dining in the grand hall or the homey place, instead we sit with Marcello and the staff, drink some barely decent coffee and enjoy the shady coolness of the garden. We head into town for the promised coffee (it really is good) and I get to make my phone calls, happiness. We make a quick stop at a market just outside the door of the cafe before heading out of town.

Market.

Market.

Market fresh

Market fresh

It’s the final day of our road trip and we have a fair bit of road to cover so we continue along the wending highway of Flores and make a stop at a waterfall, requiring us to walk down many flights of stairs in the growing heat of the day. At the bottom the water doesn’t look too appetizing so we decide against a swim but we marvel at the sight of the mega rush of water falling inside a cave. It really makes me want to go stand underneath it, like a giant shower, but Marcello advises against it, too strong he says.

Waterfall cave.

Waterfall cave.

Back up at the top of all those stairs we encounter an adorable little child, who just won’t take his hands out of his mouth, or let go of his toy truck so (with his mother’s permission) I take his photo anyways. We also find a group of young teens just hanging out and, in exchange for getting to practice their English, they let me take their pictures as well, I’m in heaven.

Driving, driving, and more driving and then we make a stop. I don’t actually remember why we stopped here, some tourist attraction, but when we arrive Andy is not feeling well at all. We are required to hike to whatever this destination was and she just doesn’t feel up to it. I leave her to rest for a little bit in some shade and to drink some water maybe that will help. I find some more kids, more willing photography victims and snap happily away. Rejoining Andy she’s still not well and has a bit of a breakdown, I rub her back and speak soothing nonsense to her, I think she is overwhelmed with heat, too much coffee and not enough water and the terrifying prospect of getting back into the car with our sick inducing driver is all just too much for her. When she calms down a bit we talk to an older local couple and they recommend a herbal remedy. It consists of powdered ginger among other things and Andy goes for it, backing this up with some Gravol as well for good measure. While we are waiting to see if it takes effect I chat up this couple, they let me take their photos and the woman teaches me how to catch and hold a chicken without getting pecked. Not sure I would attempt this again without the professional supervision but it was neat and the chicken was surprisingly light for its size, I guess they are all feathers.

How to catch a chicken.

How to catch a chicken.

Andy starts to feel a little bit better but decides to take a pass on the hike (I’ve just remembered what it was we came to see; a series of rice paddies shaped like a spider web) and I decide not to bother either as I’m not overly entranced by the prospect. Back in the car Andy promptly passes out, which is probably the best thing for her, and I amuse myself with torturing Marcello with my musical choices and singing aloud as well. It’s mostly all driving today though we do make a brief stop for lunch where I meet a few people who become targets for my camera, knowingly or otherwise.

Finally we arrive back in Labuanbajo and find ourselves a lovely place to stay. Andy is feeling much better and we treat ourselves to a very nice dinner out, with wine and everything. A good night sleep and we have one almost full day in town before we get back on board the Perama boat for the trip back to Lombok with a whole new group of people. Andy spends the day going for a dive and I spend it at the spa, a massage, a body scrub, and a facial (which I feel asleep during, awakening with a snort). As if that wasn’t enough pampering, I went right next door afterwards and got a pedicure and for the first time in 6 months had my hair straightened. Buffed and shiny I made my way back to the hotel to wait for Andy to return from her dive. Her boat was delayed by quite a bit so I packed all her stuff up, left it at the Perama office for her and headed down to the boat for my second welcome/goodbye party. Andy made it to the boat in enough time and we had a lively evening (no Italians for me this time) that cumulated in me thinking that trying to chimpanzee across some metal bars would be a good idea and discovering about halfway across that I was, in fact, too inebriated to do what I was thinking I could do and falling heavily to the floor. Drunk logic, never good, it always leads to poor decision making but you never seem to remember that when you’ve had a few. Fortunately I only had a couple bruises to show for my stupidity. We went to bed on the deck again, ready to revisit the Komodo Dragons in the morning.

It’s been quite a while since I last wrote, firstly because I have been so caught up in the traveling that writing about it wasn’t high on my priority list and secondly because I was dreading writing this post. I was worried I couldn’t do it justice and in fact I’m not sure I did but here it is anyways, sorry for the delay.

Flores, Indonesia.

We awake very early in the morning, it’s still dark out. We hop on the back of motorbikes Crystal has provided and are driven up a narrow windy road to the parking lot for Mt. Kelimutu. Mt. Kelimutu is sacred to Indonesians, it’s a trio of multihued crater lakes whose colours change periodically and are so intense they almost appear to be the thick like paint. Minerals in the water are the explanation for its’ chameleonic colour scheme, although the turquoise lake never changes colour the other lakes can fluctuate to blue, yellow, orange, red and green. The colours don’t change often, I think it’s been about 3 years since the last change so it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen right under our noses but still it’s a “must see” place.

In the parking lot we pay for a quick cup of something that vaguely resembles coffee, gulp it down and then start up the path. We’re rushing as sunrise is fast approaching but the views are lovely and the birds are chirping. Up a steep path and many stairs and we arrive at the lookout, a concrete slab with a tiered statue for seating and views in all directions. We’re perched on a hilltop in between the 3 lakes. To the east we can see 2 lakes divided by a narrow wall of jagged rocks, one is a pale almost milky aqua blue with a few steaks of yellowish-green and the other is a rich dark turquoise.

Close up of the dividing wall.

Close up of the dividing wall.

To the north there are a series of seemingly uninhabited hills and mountains stretching away into the darkening blue distance.

The space between, where I scattered mom's ashes.

The space between, where I scattered mom’s ashes.

In the west is another lake, set deep into a deep hole, it is so dark a blue that it appears black.

The "black" lake.

The “black” lake.

Back to the south is the trail which we have come up to arrive here. It’s quiet up here, not crowded, there are only a few other tourists here to take in this glorious sight. Crystal takes us off the slab down onto the hillside which overlooks the 2 lakes, he’s brought blankets and spreads them out making us a cosy nest. We sit and enjoy the view, sunrise rising and slowly creeping over more and more of the surface of the lakes, exposing the colours to us. It’s a lovely spot, a serenity fills the air, spoiled only by Crystal’s inability to stay still or quiet for more than 10 seconds, did I mention the ADD?

Sunrise over kelimutu

Sunrise over Kelimutu

This feels like a right place to leave some of my mom’s ashes behind so I whisper to Andy what I am going to do and I wander off to the spot looking out over the northern stretch of mountains, between the lakes. I’ve been carrying a small baggie in my wallet which has some of her ashes in it, waiting for a moment like this. I take this bag out and empty its contents into my hand, it’s the first time I’ve ever actually done that, put them in my hand, and it feels a bit weird and uncomfortable but also like I am closer to her in some way. I squeeze my hand tight around her and tell her about where I am and how I’m going to leave some of her behind here. I think about how much she would have liked the beauty and the stillness of this place and as the tears fall down my face I throw my hand up and release her ashes. There is very little wind so I can watch as some of the heavier pieces come to the ground in front of me but the lighter bits float in the wind and gently scatter and disburse until I can see them no more. I sit on the ground and have a cry but it all feels good and right so it doesn’t last long. While my tears dry I think about her, I couldn’t tell you what exactly I thought about except that choosing this place felt like a very right thing to do. When I am ready I go back to join the others, sitting beside Andy she hugs me and we rest quietly in this very special place.

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When we are ready to go we head down to the parking lot and back onto the bikes. We’re going back to Moni to have some breakfast, (yay coffee!), and pack up our bags so we’re ready to leave later in the afternoon. We have pancakes and coffee and afterwards, as we digest, Crystal pulls out a whole bunch of my white hairs for me. I love this because I now have too many to be able to get rid of by myself and it’s a normal thing that kids do for their older relatives here. It’s also a very soothing feeling, I can see why monkeys pick fleas from each other all the time.

Our plan for the day is to visit some local sights (rice paddies, waterfalls, fruit market) see how traditional Ikat weaving is done and visit a small traditional village. In the afternoon we will meet up with Marcello (our driver) and start our journey across Flores back to Labuanbajo.

I had a moto driver take me up to Kelimutu in the morning but now that it’s light, and I have had coffee, I am itching to drive myself. I’m allowed to do so and happy as a clam when I get on the bike. We go a couple kilometers down the highway and then down a twisty and potholed dirt road, past schoolchildren yelling out “Hello Mister” and we reach our first stop, the Ikat weaving. It’s made by a few families in a neighborhood not far outside Moni. The older generation have betel-red stained mouths and teeth and a bit of a cynical attitude but not unfriendly, the younger people are shy and beautiful. I meet a child there who is so gorgeous that he inspired me to photograph him, getting in really close, starting a new photography addiction I still can’t shake.

inspiration

inspiration

Andy wants to buy Ikat so as she tries to decide between 2 different pieces I drink coffee with Crystal and ask people to let me take their photos, most folks are very accommodating. They tend to want to pose though, and I want “life” so I start to learn how to take the first photo, show them, and then keep photographing them while we laugh about something, getting some of the better shots this way, more relaxed, mouths open to reveal stained or missing teeth, smiles wide, laughing eyes, I’m hooked.

I help Andy dicker down a price for the Ikat she’s chosen and we head off again. We drive back through Moni and then further along the highway, heading to a traditional village.  Once there we have to suit up in traditional garb, it’s not flattering and hot as hell as we’re wearing it over top of our regular clothes, a necessity I assume so we do not offend.

The things I have to wear sometimes....

The things I have to wear sometimes….

The village is set in a circle around a burial mound of jagged stones, the homes are made of wood with carvings of wheat, fish, rice, fruits etc. done by each home owner so the quality varies according to each person’s artistic ability. Each front door is flanked by 2 pairs of carved breasts, quite lovely ones actually. The village itself is not that inspiring to me, quite dusty and hot, but the people are wonderful, super friendly and more than happy to accommodate my new-found joy of getting in their faces with my camera.

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We head back into Moni for a late lunch and then we meet up with Marcello to start our road trip. It turns out he likes to drive really fast and between sitting in the backseat and the curvy roads of Flores it’s recipe for motion sickness for me, Andy gives me a Gravol and I pass out promptly. I wake up when we come to a brief stop at the green-blue stone beach, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s surprisingly pretty though. The people who live along the beachfront collect these rocks and sell them for use in finishing construction, think inlaid floors, decorative walls, water fountains etc. There are piles of the stones all along the beachfront but it seems there is no shortage of rocks so the collecting continues.

Blue-green rocks.

Blue-green rocks.

We make our stop for the night in Bajawa. We sit down with Marcello to discuss our itinerary and run into problems. He tells us that what we had arranged with Crystal is not actually possible and he wants to change our plan. As we’ve agreed on a price and time-frame we’re a bit miffed about these late breaking developments but after some discussion, only a little heated, we come to an agreement. Plans made we retire for the night, it’s been a long day.

With so much time on my hands while waiting for the visa extension and a motorbike that’s already paid for I spend my days in Lovina exploring along the main coastal road and also up into the mountains.

On one trip I drive way up into the mountains to see the view over two neighbouring lakes, on the way I pass lots of rice paddies.

Rice Paddies

It becomes apparent that some of the main agricultural crops of this mountainous area are mandarin oranges and hydrangea flowers, they are being sold from roadside stands all the way along the road.

Orange Trees

A roadside shrine catches my eye, the colours of the umbrellas brilliant and crisp against the (briefly) blue sky.

Roadside Temple

Offerings

It’s cold up here, really cold, and I am unprepared, shivering in the wind and fog on my moto bike. I make a brief stop near one of the highest points overlooking Lake Tamblingan. I buy a cup of horribly strong and sweet tea from the roadside stall and have a rest, trying to warm up, teenagers playing Balinese pop music on one side of me and serious motorbikers dressed in leather drinking the same tea and smoking copious clove cigarettes on the other.

Lake Tamblingan

I drive down the other side of the mountain and down a dirt road beside Lake Buyan to find a small temple complex and some fisherman doing their thing in dugout canoes.

Lake Buyan Temple.

Fisherman at Lake Buyan

On another day I make it to Lake Bratan, it’s misty/foggy when I go to take the mandatory photos of the temple sitting on a small spit of land jutting out into the lake, I like the results. There are some musicians playing traditional Balinese music in the large complex, the colours of their clothes is fantastic. Also a large pond with many water lilies, a subject I can never seem to resist snapping a photo of.

Lake Bratan Temple in the mist

Lake Bratan musicians

Lilies at Lake Bratan

Another random stop is the magnificent Meduwe Karang Temple, however the mandatory suggested donation is $10.00, I’m feeling cheap this day so I skip going all the way inside and content myself with photos in the free areas.

Meduwe Karang Temple

Meduwe Karang Temple

As I discover this area of Bali I watch as more and more Panjors are built and erected in honour of the upcoming festival. Panjors are tall bamboo poles with simple decorations are placed outside the entrance to every house creating a festive atmosphere. They are made by weaving coconut leaves into the bamboo and they are then decorated with fruit, cakes and flowers.

Panjors lining the streets

Panjor

I really enjoy the explorations of this area of Bali. It’s still busy with tourists but doesn’t have the same sort of crazy feel that it did down south. I’ve adored having the motorbike with me, it’s an indescribable feeling of freedom that I really enjoy, being able to go anywhere at any time, I love it.

Some more of my street photography efforts, round 2. These were all taken either in Singapore or Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

As always your opinions, advice, comments and critiques are very welcome.

He was so engrossed in his magazine it didn’t matter that I wasn’t prepared. I literally had to pull my camera out of my purse, turn it on, adjust the light setting and framing and THEN I finally took the picture. He didn’t notice a thing.

This man didn’t notice me either, possibly because he’s so sleepy?

He looked up right at the last second, I quite like his response.

I’m not sure if this man notices anything, let alone me.

He had his back to me, looking off into the distance. I was all prepared, camera in hand and preset for the light, yet somehow his spidey sense must have tingled, he turned around right as I took the shot. Nice smile though.

I think she was ignoring me. I was trying to pretend to shoot something behind her. Not sure if this works or not but the kid is adorable.

I grabbed these guys in motion.

This last one is in colour, I think it works better that way. She JUST woke up.

I desperately want to go up a volcano, I want to peer over the edge into a crater. I want to see lava boiling, maybe even some smoke billowing. Alas, I have this $*?%& up knee, and I can’t manage all the UP and DOWN that its required to get a glimpse of something not too  touristed. So, I book a tour, I have to acknowledge that it’s the only way I’m getting up and close with a volcano.

This tour will take me (and about half the other tourists in Indonesia right now, or at least it feels that way) direct from Yogyakarta to Bromo (Cemoro Lawang actually), a full days drive, and then onwards to Denpasar on Bali, another full days drive, and a ferry thrown in for good measure.

In Cemoro Lawang  we will spend the night in a pre-arranged hotel of dubious cleanliness (though there is a promise of hot water), wake up at 3:00am, and be driven to a viewpoint to observe the volcano during sunrise. We drive in a 40-year-old jeep that would probably give us carbon monoxide poisoning if it was actually possibly to seal the windows shut.

After watching said sunrise with approximately 200 other people from a very crowded platform, everybody jostling trying to get the “perfect” photo,  we will then be driven back down the very bumpy road and across a dusty, ashy plain until we get as close as possible to the base of the volcano where we are given the option of paying for an ill-tempered pony or walking up the trail that leads to the steep 250 stairs that take you to the top. These stairs are practically invisible due to the build up of volcanic ash on them. The ash and the dust  billows wildly around us in the gusting wind as we climb single file up the “stairs” hands clutching at broken handrails and using shirts/scarves/whatever is handy to cover our mouths.

Once at the top we are greeted by a very smelly pile of rotting garbage and so many people milling about catching their breath that we are all in danger of being bumped over the (barrier free) edge, either back down the outside or, more terrifyingly, actually INTO the gaping black maw of this, still active, volcano.

You can follow a single file path in either direction away from the mob at the stairhead, though god help you if you meet up with someone who wants to pass you in the opposite direction. From the single file pathway you can gaze down into the deeply shadowed pit of the volcano, the steeply sloping sides covered in various corn husks, flower offerings, candy wrappers and the ubiquitous plastic bags. This litter may have something to do with offerings to “feed” the volcano so it doesn’t get hungry/angry (aka hangry) and erupt. Ok, that’s fine, I don’t want to insult anybodies religious beliefs but damn it looks really ugly.

Finally, due to the fact that it’s REALLY early in the morning, the sun is at such an angle that it’s not high enough yet to actually light up the inside of the gaping hole you came to see, it’s all in shadow.

After this you have to climb back down the precarious stairs, or you can do what I did and say screw it, to hell with my knees, suck up the pain, I’m hopping/running/bounding down this freaking volcano! So I did. And I got yelled at by my fellow tourists for “stirring up the ashes.” Oh um, I though it was the GALE FORCE WIND that was doing that?

After making it down off the volcano and trudging however many meters back to where the jeeps are parked, that’s right jeeps, about 100 of them. Who knows which one is yours? But find it you must, and while waiting for the rest of your group you empty about 2 kilos of the  sand, dust and ash combination out of your filthy socks and shoes.

Driven back to the hotel where buffet breakfast is included, and it’s not bad, especially since you’ve been up for about 5 hours without any food or coffee. So looking forward to that promised hot shower you head into your room and turn on the shower head. Nothing. Not even cold water. Oh. You go find the man who last night VOLUNTEERED the information about there being hot water available in the morning, something that you hadn’t been expecting but once you heard about it were pretty thrilled to hear as its COLD here. But no, no hot water, in fact see that bucket, and that scoop? There you go. Fine, at least it’ll get the dust off.

Back onto the bus for a full day with a lunch break, sleeping for most of it. Waking up about half an hour before you arrive in Denpasar (Bali, finally!) and feeling very ill. Vomitous in fact. Keeping your shit together as some nice people you met during the journey arrange the half hour taxi ride to Kuta and, once there, find you a hotel that has a decent bathroom so you can finally throw up, yay. You feel better after, thank goodness, and sleep for about 10 hours.

Sunrise View

The Approach

Almost at the stairs

View of the crater (note the garbage)

Looking back.

Alright, I admit it,that IS pretty!

Ok, so this post is a little tongue-in-cheek. I know, the sarcasm is dripping and my bitchy side has come out. It wasn’t THAT bad. Keeping in mind that everything I have said is true, if you could manage for a moment to block out the crowds, the garbage, the ice-cold mandi bath in 10 degree Celsius weather and the dust storm on the stairs it was actually really beautiful.

And normally I would be able to handle all that stuff  a whole lot better. But I’m really tired, burned out, travel-fatigued and, quite frankly, kinda homesick. I’ve been on the road for almost 4 months. Ive had this lingering ear infection, I feel tired constantly and honestly, I feel over it. This is not good. I’m supposed to spend upwards of another year on the road, how can I possibly get myself back into happy travel mode?  It’s time to stop and rest up for a bit. For real. So I have a plan. More on that soon.

I’m currently in Yogyakarta and I’m so amazed by the street art here. I find it hidden, tucked down tiny lanes and it’s also glaringly out there, slathered all over main thoroughfares. I’m loving it. Graffiti has long been a favorite art form of mine, not the senseless sloppy scribbling of a monotone tag, but the glorious, colourful statements that I wish I could transfer to a canvas and take home to hang on my wall. Street art has a bad reputation at home, many people still consider it vandalism and either remove it or paint over it quickly, but I personally think many a boring blank concrete block wall has been vastly improved by the work of a talented spray painter. All forms of art will elicit an emotion or provoke a thought, graffiti is the same. Whether it be creepy or cheerful, humorous or political, graffiti can make you think, make you smile or just be a beautiful image to enjoy. In my opinion this is a vastly underrated art form. What do you think?