Koalas and the Redwood Forest. RTW Blog 28

As I mentioned previously, I hadn’t seen a koala since arriving in Australia.  Yesterday I got some great shots of several.  I had to go to the Moonlit Sanctuary, though, to get them. 

And for an extra $20 Australian (about $13 US) I got to pet one.

After the visit to the Sanctuary, we stopped at three wineries for samples and one stop at a cheese shot to have a small sampler plate.  The wine was good but I preferred the cheese.

My friend, David McKern, has been carting me all around this part of Australia.  In three weeks you can see a large part of New Zealand but 12 days in Australia is like trying to see the US in 12 days.  It can’t be done.  But we’ve seen a lot.  We’ve been up and down the Great Ocean Road multiple times moving from one location to another and back again for sunrises and sunsets.  The same for the Grampions mountains northwest of the coast.  We’ve been up and down the mountains multiple times to different lookouts.

Lastly, today we visited the Redwood Forest in Yarras Rangas National Park a little more than an hour from David’s home.  There are 1476 redwoods here.  Not quite a John Muir location but who would have expected a redwood forest in Australia.

To wrap up this blog post, I decided to publish a short Australian/USA thesaurus.

What is:

AUSSIE                   USA

Give way        —      Yield

Take Away    —       Take out at a resaurant

Bonnet           ..        Car hood

Boot                —       Trunk

Windscreen   —       Windshield

Brekkie           —       Breakfast

Chippie          —        Carpenter

Sparky           —         Electrician

Powerpoint  —        Plug in, electrical outlet

And my favorite road sign…only seen once….

Traffic Calming Devices……Speed bumps.

I leave tomorrow, Monday, Dec. 9 from Melbourne at 11:30am. and arrive in Dallas at 12:5o pm…also on Monday.  Those are local times.  Actually, I leave here at 6:30pm Sunday night CST in the US and arrive in Dallas on Monday at 12:50 pm also CST.  I fly to Sydney, change planes, and then fly non-stop to Dallas.  I pick up one day crossing the International Date Line.

I get home Tuesday the 90th day since leaving Girard.  It’s hard to believe I’ve been on the road for three months.  There may be one more post after I get home.

Thanks for following the blog!



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Three Days in the Mountains. RTW Blog #27

Halls Gap, Victoria, Australia is located in the Grampians, a mountain range about three and a half hours north and west of Melbourne.  Again, David had been here multiple times beginning as a youngster on trips with his parents.  We headed for many of the lookouts in the mountains and made plans to return to one location for sunset that evening and another for sunrise the next morning.  Sunset was about 8:20 and we got there early to stake out our location.

Lots of wind but not a great sunset.  Sunset the second night was better with some great sun rays but the low clouds didn’t give us much of a look at the sun or the color in the clouds we were hoping for.

Sunrise the next morning meant we were up at 4:00. and all we got was fog.  All I was able to get was these trees in the fog near the lookout.

We’re staying in a campground just outside of Halls Gap.  We have a great three bedroom cabin with a large open field behind it.  Each morning there are many kangaroos hanging out here and many have a joey in their pouch.

I caught of couple starting their day with their kick boxing exercises!

These are the first kangaroos I’ve seen on the trip and they are plentiful around the campground, in town and, like deer in southeast Kansas, along the roads.

There are also a number of emu here.  They look a lot like ostrichs but smaller.

We slept in ‘til 4:40 for our second sunrise and went to a new location along the shores of Lake Fyans (pron. “fines”).  It was our best so far.  The dead trees in the lake made a very good foreground and, in my opinion, made the sunrise a success.

Here are two images from the same series.  Tell me which one you like best.

#1                                                #2

David promised me we’d see several animal found in Australia, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, platypus and koalas.  We haven’t seen the platypus and koalas yet and we had to go to the Halls Gap zoo to see the wombats.  These little creatures are about the size of a small pig but heavier with sharp claws and teeth.

I did get an image of a rare white kangaroo at the zoo and saw a bluebird next to one of the pens.

How long does it take to play a game of cricket?  I’ll tell you in my next blog.  I think you’ll be surprised!




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Welcome to Australia!

Welcome to Australia!  I arrived early on Wednesday, Nov. 27 and was met at Melbourne airport by my friend, David McKern.  David and I had been roommates on my Iceland trip a year ago.  Melbourne is a city of more than 4.5 million and growing.  We spent most of the first day getting organized and then headed to the coast southeast of the city to shoot our first sunset.

The following two days were spent exploring places along that coast on day trips.

It was on one of these day trips that I thought I spotted my first kangaroo.

It was a wallaby, not a kangaroo.  Wallabies are smaller but look very similar to a kangaroo.

At one roadside park, we saw cockatoos.

Some rosellas.

A kookaburra later at a botanical garden..

Saturday, we left Melbourne for the coast southwest of the city.  This is an area that features The Great Ocean Road.

One of the best known sites along this highway is the 12 Apostles.

A group of sandstone rock formations just offshore.  There used to be 12.  Now there’s just 7 remaining.

But there are lots of others to explore along with awesome beaches.  We experienced winds gusting to about 50 knots along the coast with normal winds averaging 25-30 knots.

David has photographed this area extensively and took me to all the popular tourist spots as well as a number of his secret locations.  We frequently went back to a location for sunrise or sunset.  There are tracks the tourists use and we used them too.

and there are trails that David led me to and not many tourists can find.

One location, known as the Bakers Oven, is a rock formation we visited the first evening.

Later, he showed me a picture someone had taken with water coming through the opening.  We figured that it had to be during high tide and the next one was about 1pm the next afternoon.  We made plans to go back.  There was a lot of wave action from the high winds but only a trickle of water through the opening.

The next high tide…supposedly a larger high tide… was a 3am the next morning.  We made plans to go back and then stay up to shoot a sunrise.

It was pitch black when we got to the spot but only a small amount of water was coming through the hole.  We continued visiting many other rock formations along this section of highway.

On the third day, we went back to Bakers Oven one more time to consider it for that night’s sunset location and the water was pouring through the opening.  I finally got my shot!

After three nights in Port Campbell, we headed northwest to Halls Gap in the Grampion mountains.  That’s where we’ll pick up the story in my next blog.

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Northwest Through Arthur’s Pass – RTW Blog Post #25

We had a little excitement, Southeast Kansas style, last Monday in Christchurch.  A tornado hit about 3-5 miles from where we were staying.  We heard a loud noise and the wind starting blowing quite strongly.  We found out later that a tornado had killed two people from flying debris not far from us.  A grill got blown across the patio and a propane bottle was blown over but no other damage.

We left Tuesday morning heading northwest across New Zealand’s South Island.  The entire spine of New Zealand from the North Island through the South Island is the Southern Alps as they’re called.  We were headed through Arthur’s Pass.


Our goal was Paparoa National Park midway between Greymouth and Westport on the west coast.  Specifically, we were headed to the Pancake Rocks.  We found a three bedroom cottage about a mile down the road from them.

The first look here was Tuesday afternoon and it was raining pretty hard.  We covered up our cameras and made the best of it.

The next morning the sun was trying to come out and we were able to put our tripods down and shoot some slow shutter speed blurred water shots before the rain started up again.  And ‘no”, I don’t know why they’re called the Pancake Rocks.

The last image is of one of the blowholes in the rocks.

Wednesday night was spent with Toni’s brother at his home on the northeast corner of the South Island near our ferry location in Picton.  On Thursday we made the three and a half hour ferry trip back to the North Island.  We were lucky on both of our trips on the ferry.  It was a extremely calm sail across the Tasman Sea.

After a repeat visit with David’s friends, Chris and Jackie, we headed back to David’s on Friday.

Tuesday I fly from Tauranga to Auckland for one night before catching a 6am flight to Melbourne, Australia to meet another David, a roommate from my Iceland trip a year ago.

More from Australia in my next post.



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Seeing the bottom of New Zealand! Blog Post #24

After leaving Otematata Sheep Station last Monday, David and I headed south through the Dansey Pass on our way to Cromwell.  As we came over a small rise, we were met by a flock of sheep being driven north.  (Just a warning, clicking on these images may seriously improve the quality of what you see.  Click at your own risk!)

We stopped the car and let the sheep work their way around us.

From our B&B in Cromwell, we headed north to photograph three popular New Zealand sites:  Mt. Cook, New Zealands highest mountain,

The Church of the Good Shepherd, a popular tourist location that is usually a favorite for the bus tours.

and, eventually, the Wanaka Tree.

David and I sat for about an hour on the shore of a river next to the church trying to get a shot that wasn’t crawling with tourists.  We got close but there’s still one guy standing there.

Then we moved on to Wanaka to photograph another famous location, the Wanaka Tree.  This willow sits in Lake Wanaka about 50 feet from shore.  You don’t usually have to fight a crowd of tourists around the tree but there are usually a number of photographers vying for a spot on the shore.  This morning wasn’t too bad.

Wednesday evening we met David’s wife, Toni, at the Queenstown airport.   She’s joining us for the rest of the trip.  After a night in a private, rural inn, The Nestledown, we headed into Fiordland National Park and Milford Sound.  It was a misty, foggy day but it seemed perfect for this family.

Despite the less than perfect weather, I was able to get some good images of the surrounding mountains.

Thursday night we stayed in a campground very similar to our KOA Campgrounds.  We each had a cabin.

Many others parked their rental campers all around us.

From Fiordland National Park, we headed south around the bottom of New Zealand to Bluff…the southern most tip of the country.

and on to Curio Bay, Tautuku Penisula and Nugget Point.  This area is known as the Catlins.

Winters here can be very windy and cold with strong winds, called the Roaring 40’s, blowing in from Anarctica.  Lots of trees end up looking like these.

There are lots of waterfalls with snowmelt filling the streams.

It’s been a week since leaving the sheep station and we’ve covered a lot of ground.   We’ve  made our way back to Christchurch again.  We’re taking a day to catch our breath and will leave tomorrow, Tuesday, for the northwest coast and eventually back to the North Island Friday or Saturday.

More later.




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The Otematata Sheep Station…RTW Blog #23

I arrived in New Zealand on Monday, Nov. 4th and was met by my friend, David, who lives on the east side of the North Island.  This is David and Toni’s backyard.

After a day relaxing at their place, David and I left for the South Island.  That trip included a visit with David’s friends near the ferry terminal in Wellington.  It’s about a two hour ride from the North Island to the South Island and we were blessed with a very smooth ride.  We were going to spend the weekend of Nov. 8-11 at a working sheep shearing station called Otematata a couple of hours south and west of Christchurch with New Zealand professional photographer Scott Fowler.

Scott actually used to be a herder at this 104,000 acre sheep station.  Yes, that’s right….it’s 104,000 acres of mostly mountain.  We spent Friday and Sunday at a house near the base of the mountain and Saturday night we were at this hut…two bedrooms with bunk beds for five people in each and a kitchen/dining room (a picnic table with bench seats).

From here we loaded up into two 4-wheel drive vehicles to head to the top of the mountain at about 5,000 ft.  It was a rough but beautiful drive with a little excitement thrown in to keep things interesting. We were never in any danger of rolling but from inside it looked felt like we were.

At the top, Scott led our group the last 10-15 minutes to the top for a look down on the other side….1818 meters high.

We spent time shooting images around the main house  and some of the old buildings on the property near the base of the mountain

and watching one of the herders bring her flock of sheep…along with her dogs…into the paddocks.  These sheep will someday have their wool turned into merino sweaters.

The herder works with a flat whistle in her mouth and uses the dogs…each has specific jobs, some hunt out sheep in the mountains and others move the sheep around to where the herder wants them.  It was fascinating watching her maneuver them where she wanted them with just the dogs.

Also, got a chance to shoot a portrait of my friend at a window in one of the old buildings.

On Monday, we closed up camp and David and I headed south for another two weeks of photography.

We’ve been so busy traveling and photographing that I haven’t taken the time to post.  I’ll try to get caught up soon.

New Zealand is a beautiful country and David has told me several times that I’ve probably seen more of the country that many New Zealanders have.  David’s wife, Toni, joined us on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and together we’ve been on the move.

This is a country that is accessible to everyone and while the opportunity to work with professional photographer Scott Fowler has been a great learning experience for me, this is a place anyone of any age can come and see some fantastic landscapes.  I’d strongly suggest you add it to your bucket list!

More to come!



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A Visit to the Local Market – RTW Blog #22

Yesterday I visited the Ben Thanh local market.  It’s a large market a couple of blocks from my hotel with everything from soup to nuts…..literally!

The first row is fresh fish and veggies.

And a young guy crushing ice to keep the fish cold.

The second row was primarily meat.

Along aisles were people serving meals.

The rest of the market was an assortment of fabrics, clothing and just about anything else you might want.

On the way back to the hotel I ran across this lady getting lunch on the go!

And this guy cutting your glasses lens to order.

Must be plastic lens!

More in a few days from New Zealand.



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The Mekong Delta – RTW Blog #21

Today wraps up my visit to Vietnam.  I visited a couple of historic museums in the city but skipped the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels among others.  The War Remnants Museum is a collection of US warplanes, tanks, etc. left behind after the Vietnam War and the Cu Chi Tunnels show off what the locals refer to as the “steel frontier”….the tunnels used by the Viet Cong to move troops south and where several people I know fought.  I saw several marketing pictures of cute blonds smiling as they popped up out of the tunnels and I doubt whether any of those who actually fought in these tunnels came up smiling.

I did learn about life on the Mekong River from my two day/one night trip there.  Tourists go there to see how people live on the river but it is not a tourist site.  It also shows how commerce is conducted in the floating markets. I also visited the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh City.  I’m going to make these two different posts.

First, the Mekong River Delta.  People use the river as transportation, commerce and home.  Today was laundry day for this lady.

People fish on the river although I was told there’s not a lot of fish here.  Some fish for themselves and others fish to sell in the market.  Most seller boats seemed to be couples working together.

In the floating market, large boats collect produce from farmers inland and bring it here to sell to wholesalers who will sell it to resellers in the towns.  Others, in smaller boats, will buy produce to sell to people living on the river.  For many along the river, there are no roads that come to their homes.  They depend on delivery to their homes.  A reseller loads  potatoes in the first image and watermelon in the second.  When sellers come to the floating market they may be here a day or several weeks depending on how fast they sell out.

The first boat below sells along the riverfront and the second is referred to as a 7-11 boat because it offers a variety of product from soft drinks to everyday needs.

On this boat, rice husks are being loaded and will go to a factory for making different products.

Kids still have to go to school.

For some kids, when they get to school age, they live with grandparents on land while Mom and Dad live on the boat.

Along some of the side channels, we visited some families who produce different products for local sale like rice paper for making spring rolls.

The mixture is cooked then dried and the cut into smaller pieces.

Rice noodles are done similarly.

A mixture of 30% tapioca powder and 70% rice powder is mixed with water, cooked, put on reed racks and dried for a week.

They’re stacked and in this form have a consistency of heavy plastic.  Thinner than floor mats in your car but nearly as indestructible.  They’re then sliced for packaging.

They end up here.

In the next post, I’ll show you my visit to the Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh City….







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I’ll Give You a Hand…or Two! RTW Post #20

I arrived in Hoi An, a city about a half hour from Da Nang, on Saturday.  I’ve spent the last three days seeing a variety of sites around the city.

One of the places I wanted to go was the Golden Bridge.  It’s about an hour from Hoi An and according to what I’d learned doing my research the place is elbow to elbow with tourists arriving by the bus loads with tours from Da Nang and Hoi An.  So….I hired a private driver for a 5:30 am pick up that would get me there before the first cable car heads up the mountain at 7am.  I wanted to be on that cable car.  And I was.  I rode up with some employees and this was my view.  The Golden Bridge is at 4,000 ft. (Sorry for the water marks on the glass but the attendant wouldn’t wipe it down as it went around the bottom of the lift.)

Yes, it was a little foggy.

The Golden Bridge is part of an French entertainment center similar but a lot smaller than Disney World.   I wasn’t interested in coming to Vietnam to see a Disney World but I did want to see the Golden Bridge.  This is why.

The Golden Bridge appears to be supported by two sets of hands.  Due to the fog you couldn’t see but one at a time.  By being there before most tourists, I got a fairly uninterrupted view.

There were three photographers shooting wedding pictures there, too.

If you strain a little you can see another wedding couple in the background.  By 8:15, the first buses were arriving and the crowd began to thicken.

As I started back down at 8:30, the cable cars were full and by 9:00 or so, I’m told the bridge appears to be elbow to elbow with people taking pictures of themselves.  It seems like many people are more interested in a picture of themselves then they are of what they came to see.  “Here I am in front of (pick a place) then they are in the place itself.”

The driver cost me $50 ($10 per hour for five hours) plus $32 to get into the theme park to see the bridge.  Not a bad deal, at all.

I also spend a couple of evenings wandering around the night market and photographing the lantern boats and a lighted bridge over the river.

A lady floats a candle-lit lantern into the river.

I’ve eaten 90% of my meals at street side places like these.  The only restaurants I’ve been in in Vietnam are as part of tours or when I was on a cruise.

Another excursion took me to My Son (pronounced…me son) Sanctuary.  This is a Hindu temple and surrounding buildings built around 400-1300.

According to my guide, it was bombed during the war.  As an aside, at home, it was the Vietnam War…here, it’s the American War.  As one reader ask, “What do the Vietnamese think of America?”  According to a few I’ve talked with since being ask that question, I think the answer is that it’s been such a long time ago that it doesn’t bother them any more.  I haven’t had the opportunity to visit with anyone of that era.  Most of the young people that I’ve encountered are too young to remember it or are also in the tourism industry in some form or other, and aren’t going to speak negatively about Americans who are spending money here.  The general feeling I have is that they were angry for some time but it’s been so long ago that they’ve largely put it out of their minds.  I’m not sure if that would be true for those my age who fought in that war from either the United States or Vietnam.

I’ll have a little more to say about this after I visit Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) on my next stop.

Back to the My Son Sanctuary.  This place is similar to Angkor Wat in Cambodia but a lot smaller.  A couple of interesting construction points.  If’ you’ll notice, the bricks have no mortar between them yet they are said to be connected.  Also, the tight shot of the sculpture brick, they assembled the brick, smoothed it, then carved out the designs.

Also, there’s one image here of sanskrit.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I landed in Da Nang.  From what I saw, Da Nang is more a coastal resort city.  I saw multiple luxury resorts on my way to Hoi An.  Similar to golf resorts in North Carolina coastal areas or beach resorts in Hawaii or Florida.  Its  a much more modern city than Hanoi. The roads both in Da Nang and here in Hoi An are good.  There is lots of develop in the works with cranes and construction sites everywhere.

Today is my last day in Hoi An.  I’ve enjoyed it here.  Tomorrow I fly to Ho Che Minh City for my last few days.  Sunday night I leave for New Zealand.

I covered a lot in this post.  I hope you enjoyed the information and the images.



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A Daytrip to Ninh Binh, Vietnam’s First Capital. RTW Post #19

I took a day trip to Ninh Binh today.  It’s about 3 1/2 hours southeast of Hanoi.

First, here’s a look at motorbike traffic during rush hour this morning as we were leaving town.  The downtown streets were nearly impassable.

Ninh Binh is Vietnam’s first capital from 968 to 1010.  Prior to that, Vietnam was ruled by the Chinese.  When they won their independence from China the then king of Vietnam decided to make Ninh Binh the capital because it was easy to defend being located in the limestone mountains and with rivers all around it.

In 1010, a new king decided that their army had grown enough to defend the country and  the population of Ninh Binh had also used all it’s available area and could no longer expand, so he moved the capital to Hanoi.

Today we visited the original capital and the temple that honors the first king.

The grounds are beautiful even for something as old as it is.  The original capital building has been destroyed but the temple is still there. Pictures are not allowed in the temple.

After lunch we went for a boat ride on the river where the women row with their feet.

The nearly two hour ride up and down the river was very quiet and relaxing.  We went through three caves/tunnels.

I learned a valuable lesson on this trip.  Don’t raise your camera over your head to take a picture in a dark cave.  Especially if you don’t know how much clearance you have overhead.  Luckily for me nothing was damaged except for a scrape on one knuckle and a little embarrassment.  The picture wasn’t all that great anyway!

And no matter the mode of transportation, there’s always someone who has to be on their cell phone while driving!

I fly to Da Nang tomorrow.  $38.  The ticket says the fare is $7 with $31 in taxes.  I believe it.

More later.


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