Tag Archives: photography

Christmas in Ho Ho Hobart

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Ho ho ho on his Harley

The silly season caught us on the hop this year, with so much to organise and work to wrap up before we took off to Hobart, to ‘squat’ in our house in Sandy Bay and fix some pesky maintenance issues.

Who knew those seconds shops had enough stuff to get you through three weeks without a stick of furniture in the house, and without breaking the budget?

Christmas morning wanderings, discovering the hidden beauty in the valley behind our Tassie house.

Christmas morning wanderings, discovering a hidden valley behind our house.

But all work and no play has never been our strong point so, between the weeding and fixing, we’re indulging in all the things Hobart has to offer. And there are many…

At this time of year, on those perfect summer days, the Taste of Tasmania is on the menu, as well as the always-fabulous Salamanca Markets, endless bush walks, the wrap of the 70th Sydney to Hobart yacht race, and more…

On Sunday, we joined the crowds lining the Derwent River in Hobart to watch Wild Oats XI take line honours.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Wild Oats XI – a spectacular site!

Even the two-hour wait for the yacht to arrive didn’t dull the excitement as it tacked across the harbour to finally cross the line, a finish hailed with a giant boom of the old canon.

A cheer went up and most of us took off towards Constitution Dock where the boats will moor as a week long celebration kicks off.

The Taste of Tasmania is in full swing, with fabulous wine, food, entertainment. And more wine. And food. And way too many people.

I’ve never been one for crowds, but somehow we’re caught up in the joy of life here. The friendly jostling and people spread out on lawns or squashing up at tables is all part of the fun.

What’s not to like?


Work and fun in the West

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Street art in Freo…

The first two things I noticed when I arrived in Perth, Western Australia, was how this city has come of age since I was here almost a decade ago – and the delicious dry heat (bliss for my asthma that chucks tantrums in the tropics).

I’m here for work so, after long days immersed in health and safety systems, I’m ready for a drink and looking forward to EB arriving for the weekend.

Meanwhile, I amuse myself people-watching in the Pan Pacific hotel restaurant. Dotted around the room, commuters like me sit alone or with co-workers, smart phones and iPads ever at the ready.

I take a sip (a long sip) of my pinot noir, but refuse to even take mine out of my bag – smart technology is easy to hide behind, but you miss life in the process.

Like the Japanese family who come in, do a polite ‘who sits where’ dance, before settling in their seats… then immediately get up to explore the buffet.

Or the business lady on her own who manages to simultaneously devour juicy prawns and incessantly check her iPad and phone, all without making a complete mess of herself. I manage to drop stuff on myself even when I’m concentrating :-/

And over there, two businessmen talk about risk assessments at a mine, crunching the numbers, and getting another beer. Mining is big business in Western Australia and the reason this city has taken off.

Freo markets

Freo markets

It’s a long week and I’m pretty excited when EB arrives on the midnight flight.

The next day, we hire bikes and cycle around the Swan River circuit. In all that dry heat, with not a hill in sight, and a bit of wildlife to see, it’s a great ride – even if my handle bars did drop down suddenly when I braked hard!

Then we jump on a train to meet EB’s family at our favourite place here – the eclectic port city of Fremantle, 30-minutes from Perth.

This is the place to head for if you love boutiques and galleries, buskers and bands, markets, great places to eat, and micro-breweries to hang out at, like the Monk Brewery and Kitchen.

Oh and put Margaret River wine region, Esperance, and Broome on your list. We have – for next time.

There are moments when we think we could (almost) live here. But I could never bitch about cycling up hills again, and where’s the fun in that?

Copyright: Louise Ralph

More street art in Freo

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Streets of Fremantle


Heaven’s here on Earth… at Black Rocks

Copyright: Louise Ralph

We went back to Black Rocks in Bundjalung National Park this weekend…I meant it when I said we love this place.

This time we took our kayak and paddled up Jerusalem Creek. It was a gorgeous, although not exactly leisurely, paddle.

While I practice my zen paddling technique upfront, EB makes like an outboard motor in the back.

Somehow it works… well, having a rudder stops us turning circles at least.

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd I get to take photos along the way (with my trusty iPhone in its LifeProof case – and no, this isn’t some dodgy promo!).

The isolation, where the creek meets the sea, is simply sensational.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd then there are those endless walks along Ten Mile Beach… where paw prints reveal the nightly wanderings of wild dogs in search of shorebird eggs, and huge bluebottles – some with four-metre stingers – are strewn along the tideline.

We weigh up the odds of getting stung, figure they’re all stranded on the beach, and plunge into the icy water.

Luckily we escape unharmed, in time to spot a mother and baby whale making their way down the coastline along the whale ‘super highway’.

Closer in, three dolphins glide in and out of the waves.

Later, along the walking tracks, wildflowers are bloomin’ fabulous, grass trees raise their flower spikes to the sky and a bee homes in on a solitary flower.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Back in our campground, tiny birds feast on grass seeds and a goanna wanders through our camp, tasting the air with a flick of its tongue.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It reminds me of the words of a Tracy Chapman song…

“I’ve touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I’ve been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven…
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven’s here on earth…”

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 


Blissed out at Black Rocks…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

After a busy week or even a slow one, it’s too easy to head off to the usual short-break destinations. So a few weekends ago, we went somewhere we hadn’t been before. Funny how a simple change can reveal yet another favourite place in the world. In a National Park of course…

Black Rocks campground in Bundjalung National Park is a hidden gem, with a stunning coastline, fabulous creek and coastline walks, a pontoon on the creek for paddlers, amazing birdlife, and super-private campsites.

The campground gets its name from the black rocks (also called ‘coffee rocks’) along a rugged coastline. The rocks are soft, crumble exactly like coffee grinds,  and have been eroded by wind and sea into spectacular formations…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Espresso anyone?

Copyright: Louise RalphWe’re hooked and ready to explore. After downpours in the area the day before we arrived, we discover  the Emu Loop trail is a chain of ponds. Well, puddles really.

But we get to be carefree kids again, splashing along the trail.

There is something primal about it. You feel more connected to the earth… especially when you occasionally find yourself ankle deep in mud.

The next day, we ditch our shoes again for the six-hour Jerusalem Creek walk, alternating between thongs and bare-foot wading.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Along the trail, the vegetation is amazing – from rainforest to paperbark swamp to coastal lowlands to open grasslands.

We walk to a chorus of frog calls, with gorgeous birds adding in the high notes – and sometimes diving into the puddles in front of us to snatch a bug-snack…

A family of kingfishers are a flash of spectacular teal and russet, lorikeets sip nectar from flowering bottlebrush, a whistling kite soars overhead, and tiny birds are startling streaks of colour in constant motion among the branches…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Along the trail, there are signs of life. The slithering snake tracks are there too, on sandy parts of the trail, reminding us to watch where we put our feet.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…who goes there?

At the end of the track, the creek meets the sea. Here, migratory and resident shorebirds rest, feed and breed in peace.

There are pied oystercatchers, little terns, beach-stone curlews, sandpipers and two tiny mysterious birds whose little black legs are a blur as they run back and forth along the water’s edge.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

… some tiny mystery waders

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…and a pied oyster catcher

Copyright: Louise Ralph

‘Peppa’ the Ozpig… nice

Later that night, we are two blissed-out campers. You can have your posh hotels and even your cozy B&Bs.

There is nothing like sitting in front of a fire (our fabulous Ozpig), under the stars and the swish of the Milky Way, with mysterious rustlings in the bushes, miles from civilisation.

Okay, okay, we are sipping on a rather smooth pinot noir.

There are some civilised things you should never give up…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 

 


Snakes alive… on Amedee Island

Copyright: Louise Ralph

There’s a lot to love about the trip to Amedee Island on the Mary D. Swimming with resident green turtles is a major highlight in a totally relaxing day.

But I just couldn’t go past the snakes – well, without nearly stepping on one.

I’d just taken some photos of the awesome lighthouse, rising up in the perfect light against postcard cloud formations. Turning to catch up to EB, I only just caught sight of something slithery at my feet…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s not like you can miss something this dramatic. This black and rust striped Tricot rayé (Striped sea snake) and several snakey-mates are curled up along the pathway and very close to my feet. Nearby, there are blue and black-striped ones.

These gorgeous sea snakes are more venomous than cobras but totally chillaxed! Which is pretty lucky considering I am totally distracted by nature, and tend to not pay attention to where I put my feet!

Later, walking along the beach, a gorgeous specimen slithers past on its way to a shady spot among the rocks…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

These shy, reclusive creatures still have lungs, so they come onto land to hang about and digest their food (usually fish and eels), then head back into the sea to hunt at night.

Fascinated as we were with them, there is so much to do here – a glass bottom boat, a trip out to the reef, snorkelling, swimming, island fare and entertainment, or just wandering around this peaceful island…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But seriously, those snakes…

copyright: Louise Ralph

 

 

 


Another world…Aquarium des Lagons

Hands up if, like me, one of your earliest career choices was Marine Biologist… Let’s take a trip back to the future in New Caledonia, where fascinating marine life thrives in a pristine environment…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

New Caledonian is surrounded by a barrier reef, the second largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s created a perfect environment for marine life to survive and thrive.

I usually avoid stats like the plague, but these are pretty impressive:

  • 454 marine plant species
  • 1,965 fish species
  • 2,150 mollusc species
  • 4,000 crustacean species
  • 150 types of coral formations.

And that’s not all… There are major nesting sites here for marine turtles, as well as breeding areas for dugong, humpback whales and seabirds.

Of course, the best way to see it is diving or snorkelling. But you can get up close and personal with this mindblowing diversity, without getting your feet wet, at the Aquarium des Lagons…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s not often you get an underwater perspective of critical habitats like these mangroves…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Fishy colour and movement – including eye makeup apparently

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Things that make you go…awww (now anyway) – a baby black-tipped reef shark…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

There are 150 types of coral in the New Caledonia lagoon…some that glows in the dark!

I felt like a kid hanging over the re-created rock pools, full of all sorts of marine wonders…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph Copyright: Louise Ralph

No doubt I also looked like a kid with my face pressed against the glass of the huge aquariums, pretending I was back scuba diving – something I haven’t done for at least 20 years.

Now that’s what I call relaxation therapy…


Winter beach escapes…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The tourists have gone, the cafes and shops are quiet, and the camping areas are almost empty except for intrepid grey nomads on their way north to escape the southern chill.

A crisp wind sweeps the beach, where only the locals brave the elements to fish, walk or give their dogs a run.

Surf and sun are definitely big drawcards, but winter is my favourite time at the beach.

When our kids were little, we’d wrap them up  all cozy and warm and we’d go to the beach to play – to search for shells and other treasures, make icy sand castles, brave a paddle, throw a ball, look for dolphins.

Here in northern New South Wales, from June to November, humpback whales are coming and going along their migratory highway. Seeing them breaching and playing just off the beach makes you want to wait forever for each magical glimpse.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But there is plenty to do around here that doesn’t involve the beach – or practicing your whale whispering techniques.

Try an early morning climb – with that last chain-assisted scramble – up Wollumbin (Mt Warning), the remnant central vent of an ancient volcano and an icon of the region.

Or slightly easier (with goosebumps of a different kind), paddle up the river towards the mountain. Along the way, you’ll see raptors riding the thermals above you. Last weekend, we counted twelve raptors, possibly square-tailed kites, in one breathtaking group…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

If you’re not into chilly water sports or ‘hill’ climbs, there are so many forest walks around here – and so many stories. Like the walk to Protestors Falls on Terania Creek near Nimbin, the birthplace of Australia’s environmental movement in the late 1970s.

Or head down the trail in Springbrook National Park to the Natural Bridge, created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of a basalt cave.

For something a little more civilised, the Taste of Kingscliff is a delicious foodie fest in July 2014. We’ve booked in with a bunch of friends for the Long Table feast under the stars, so more on that in July…

Then there are weekend markets, the Mt Tambourine wine trail, theme parks, the Currumbin Sanctuary, places for golfing and cycling, cozy bars and cafes, music, and more.

This is the kind of place where, once you dig your feet in the (now chilly) sand, you never want to leave. For too long, anyway…

 


From tagging to masterpieces – street art in Brooklyn

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphIn New York, like so many cities around the world, graffiti or ‘street art’ has risen from the subways to urban spaces, becoming more fashionable, accepted and even collected…

It’s the organic, transitory nature of street art that makes it so fascinating to me. And it has an edginess you don’t get in other art forms.

Maybe that’s because much of it remains illegal, with artists fined and potentially jailed and their work buffed off at a high (and resented) cost to the city.

No surprise then that one of the highlights of our trip was the New York Graffiti and Street Art Tour in Bushwick, a working class district on the north side of Brooklyn.

Our guides Izzy and Mar took us on a fascinating journey into this artform – from tagging to masterpieces and beyond.

TAKI 183 is recognised as the one who started it all in New York City, with his simple signature (tag) attracting the attention of a New York Times reporter.

The story ran in 1971 and TAKI 183 became the ‘father of contemporary graffiti’*

If the street art in this city started with TAKI 183, he did the place a service (although I’m sure many would disagree)! Here are some of the works you might catch in Brooklyn – if you’re quick.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…and some ‘shoeffiti’

We highly recommend taking the tour… and when you’re done, stop into the Rookery in Troutman Street, where the atmosphere, service, food, craft beer and wine really hit the spot. Try their signature comfort food dish Oxtail Sloppy Joe (not recommended for vegetarians!).

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Never let go…

* Read the NYT article here and TAKI 183 bio here


The (sea) eagle has landed

Travelling is always enlightening, often life-changing and mostly awesome. It also opens your eyes to the things you love about home.

Like family, friends… and little things you love about where you live. Like walking along the beach at dusk and coming across a sea eagle having a fishy feast…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphThese eagles have landed too (which thankfully didn’t involve fish gizzards).

It’s a long flight from NYC to Australia – even longer when you get a bonus three-hour wait on the tarmac at LA airport. Not that we’re complaining about technical difficulties with fuel tanks being solved before take-off!

New York was amazing… there are more stories to be told.

And more adventures to be planned. Because this trip confirmed what we’ve always believed in –>


Take a walk on the wild side…in Central Park

Copyright: Louise RalphThere may have been flash flooding in New York City last night, but today the sun is out in full force – and so are the people. Everywhere.

Definitely time to escape the seething sidewalks and get back to nature in Central Park.

Yep, there are a lot of people here too, but it’s not as frenetic (well, except for the joggers and cyclists and power walkers).

If you want a break from the touristy stuff and the crowds, head to the northern end of the park where there’s a little more breathing space and plenty of wild creatures out and about.

Which suits me, since I am a certified freak for nature! Here’s a sneak peak at the wild side of the city…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Catching some rays, turtle style

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

This clever American Robin built a nest right over the path about two feet above eye level – but nobody (except us) looked up.

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Hollows make cozy nesting places. Some wildlife won’t breed without suitable hollows to nest in…

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

And after all that action, it’s time for some R&R…