Saturday, December 13, 2008

some photo memories from this last year





How long ago?

Yes, i know, i haven't written in here for quite a long time. Apologies to those who keep logging on to the same post, but i got a bit despondent with traveling back to england so i didn't bother.

I have had the most amazing year, i left for on my trip around the world just over a year ago and have been back in the UK for just over two weeks. No idea of how far i have travelled in miles but in knowledge and experience a very long way indeed.

At one stage i thought that i was about to settle on the other side of the world and got all excited about a new job and living down under but it wasn't to be. On reflection, not the right time at all. I was on a journey and tried to curtail it too soon, causing myself all sorts of turmoil, though, through this, got to know myself a great deal better and am now more prepared to face the rest of my life.

I continued my journeys through New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii and California meeting some amazing people, enjoying the most beautiful scenery and having a wonderful time. I enjoyed being a tourist and doing all those tourist things, traveling and exploring out of the way places miles from the maddening crowd and probably the most fulfilling places were the homes of my helpX hosts, where i helped out for several hours a day, using and sharing my wealth of knowledge to improve their homes, make their properties more enjoyable and do the best i could to contribute whilst i was there. It gave me a sense of purpose and a reason for visiting some out of the way places. Kept me fit and provided me with countless experiences that i would never have achieved on my own.

And now? i have no idea, i am spending time with friends and family until the new Year, then will head off to europe to discover more of the world, improve my foreign languages and continue with my helpX experiences. Watch this space for more...............

Saturday, November 22, 2008

wine country





Have just had a couple of days in San Francisco checking out a few more attractions that i missed on my earlier visit. It worked out rather well, Cynthia brought Franck, another helpXer, into town at the end of my stay and picked me up from the allotted street corner the other evening. We then drove over the golden gate bridge to Sausalito, following the most awful google directions, to meet up with Elizabeth, an old college friend of Cynthias. We found the house in the dark, down steep winding streets and up a long flight of steps, a welcome glass of bubbly and a wonderful view out across the bay. It immediately reminded me of Dartmouth, but on a larger scale, and through the misty light of the morning it did look very similar.
After a fun night discussing trips, travel and whether France would be a good place to emigrate to, Cynthia and i said our goodbyes and hit the road to Napa, an hour or so up the road and an amazing wine growing region. We drove from vineyard to vineyard sampling some wonderful wines, took a vineyard tour, checked out the amazing fall scenery and enjoyed the November sunshine.
We stumbled across another restaurant farm, i guess they could be classed as competition, although i saw an opportunity of kindred spirit, an outfit to trade ideas, enthuse about the wonderful lifestyle, pitfalls and successes of the season and so on. It was great to see another farm to compare Love Apple Farm with.
The sun dropped behind the hills and we headed back to Santa Cruz. Dropping in on Zach, Cynthias son, at Berkley University for a bite to eat and a quick catch up on student life.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

mono lake ca




I know this is not in order, it goes after Yosemite, but i got a bit delayed in writing.

I emerged on the far side of Yosemite national Park, thick with forest and huge, impressive scenery into a vast open valley of nothingness. The view stretched way, way into the distance, flat, brown and featureless, save an area of shimmering water low in the distance and even more distant mountains beyond. It took a good half an hour to reach any signs or indication of where i was heading too, the lake still far away.

There was a local settlement, once, presumably, on the shore of the lake and now probably a mile away. They called it a town, Lee Vining, with a small general store, a couple of touristy gift shops, a pub, restaurant, gas station and various motels. Quiet and with character, standing the test of time, relying on continued passing tourists for income.

The lake has seen better days, now four times saltier than the sea and devoid of almost any life. Even the ducks have difficulty staying upright in the over bouyant waters. The lake continued to disappear until a few years ago. Los Angeles is to blame, according to the story boards in the information/gift store. Tributaries diverted and ground water sucked up to the surface to supply the ever increasing demands of the massive conurbations and the huge swathes of irrigated agriculture along the coast.

Conservation efforts have reduced the lakes decline, political pressure forcing water to be sourced elsewhere and awareness of the environment brought to the attention of city dwellers hundreds of miles away. One person started the campaign, slowly spreading awareness and enlisting the help of others until their voice was so loud that congress was forced to take notice and instigate the change.

Whilst the water levels are low, curious chimney like structures are visible along part of the shore. They formed underwater over thousands of years. Mineral rich ground water welled up from below, combining with the waters of the lake, triggering a reaction that caused a soft rock to form around the vents. Over the years the process produced numerous vertical tubes. These are visible at the moment and are an impressive sight, especially when reflected in the mirror flat water just before sunset.

Hopefully, in the future, they will again become submerged and continue growing below the surface of Mono Lake.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

my election day




The presidential campaigning has been endless..... constant interviews and adverts on the tv, people waving placards at road junctions, canvassers on the streets, signs in yards, on buildings, cars and trucks, tee shirts, baseball caps, badges and stickers.

Not only does the USA vote for their next president at election time, a whole raft of other decisions are put to the population of each state, ranging from electing the new Fire Chief or administrators to raising taxes for a new rail link or medicare projects, along with local government representatives, the list goes on.

Here in California hot voting topics are to do with decisions to abolish the right to same sex marriage, changes to animal cruelty laws, the rights of victims of crime, funding for new regional transport systems and decisions on renewable energy. Each ward of each county in each state has a different set of decisions to make, it is incredibly complex and allows the population to have a say in all sorts of matters that we in the UK have to rely on our MP's to deal with.

I shan't go on, apart from to wish "the new leader of the free world" success in all that he promises to do for them/us and be disappointed that, in this progressive state, the right for same sex marriages has been overturned. From what i have experienced, this is not what the majority of people wanted but was overturned due to confusion in the way the votes had to be cast. ie: vote NO to keep same sex marriage legal and vote YES if you disagree. It will be hotly contested.

My day was full. 'Chef' David from the restaurant invited me to visit a farm up in the hills above Monterey Bay. He wanted to check out what was going to be available for his spring menu. The farm is lovingly looked after by Jean, a retired, scientist, collector. He has the most diverse collection of citrus in north america, an ever growing collection of apples, barns packed with 1934 Ford cars that he restores. His wooden framed house is packed with interesting collections of bottles, boxes, jams, piles of obscure books and beautiful teak furniture. He enthused passion and excitement in everything he showed us. I could have stayed for weeks. We checked out the cars and the house, picked and sampled fruit from numerous trees; sweet, tart, acidic, dry, sour beyond belief, zesty, tangy, bland and mysteriously tasty. I understand why 'chef' likes the farm so much.

(the one illustrated is called 'budda's fingers')

After the farm we headed back to Santa Cruz, about an hour away, calling in on a locally renowned butchers for more inspiration. Caught the last of the afternoon sunshine on the porch with a delicious bottle of bubbly and then chilled in front of the TV whilst the election results came through.

Wine flowed and Pim conjured up a wonderful chicken noodle soup dinner for the small group of friends that had gathered. When the election result was beyond reasonable doubt, the noise of fireworks started to fill the night sky and whoops of joy could be heard from the street. We headed out, walking the two blocks to downtown into a mass impromptu gathering. Pacific Avenue was filled with people of all ages, all smiling and shouting and high fiving each other. A constant stream of cars with horns blaring, proceeded slowly through the crowds, smiling waving occupants rejoicing the news. The carnival atmosphere was unexpectedly emotional and, according to several people, a quite unprecedented reaction to the election of a new president.

We partied with the crowd for quite a while, soaking up the atmosphere and discussing the results. It was one of those occasions where complete strangers spoke and hugged and came together as one happy family. I hope that it is a sign of things to come. The Irish bar, the "Poet and Patriot" was packed and noisy and reminded me so much of the pubs back home, but still open in the small hours of the morning. Celebratory Guiness, passable for this side of the pond, went down a treat, a short stroll back to David and Pims. Destination sofa, to sleep like the dead.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Further Through Yosemite




My road trip continued to the easterly side of the park, through high mountain passes, clearings with ancient meadows where the indigenous peoples used to farm and down into the valley beyond. Again i was fascinated by the amount of effort the pioneers went to to access such inhospitable land, building roads that must have taken years, countless effort and probably several lives. Mining, unknown incentives of discovery and the promise of fortune probably provided ample encouragement at the time. Evidence now hidden as the modern world seeks to preserve wilderness and open spaces, disused settlements and old mines removed or abandoned and swallowed up as nature returns as best it can.

It made for an amazing drive through a constantly changing landscapes of dense forest, towering mountains, scree, bare rock areas with the occasional tree clinging on for dear life, tranquil lakes and glimpses of earlier snow fall, clear blue skies and chilling of the air and then way off into the distance, a view down into the valley beyond.

Lake Mono lay at the foot of the road, miles off in the distance, and apart from the National Park Entrance booth and a couple of 'rest rooms' i had hardly seen a building since i left the hostel that morning. It was like entering another world and another hour or so before i arrived at Lee Vining, a little, once lakeside, settlement where i planned to stay that night. A small row of motels, tourist shops, an excellent visitors centre, general store and garage made up the main street. Out of season it was fairly closed, but with one all purpose diner open for food and a motel with a comfortable bed i was set for the night.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Love Apple Farm

I know that this may be old hat for loads of you, but i just learned a new trick to show you other sites that may be of interest, by linking them to my blog. All you have to do is left click on the differently coloured words and you will be taken by magic to another page. Try it here: Love Apple Farm and explore where i am living and learning at the moment.

Yosemite Photographs



Yosemite National Park



Road trip fever strikes again. Off to see a bit of the wilderness whilst the weather is fine and the fall colors are good. The Yosemite National Park is a good 5 hours from Santa Cruz which was great until darkness fell and the interior light remained on in the car. Soon fixed with duct tape and the darkness was much better to drive in.
Its exciting to arrive somewhere in the dark and have to wait till the morning to see what the scenery is like. Wow, yet again, amazing. The hostel nestled in a small wooded area, concealing everything until i headed out in the car. A large wide U shaped valley, lined with fir trees and bright yellow aspen wound through the landscape deeper into the park, revealing ever larger rocky summits and outcrops, often reflected in still mountain streams. The road ended in an area of car parks and visitor attractions in true US style, fields of rv's and tents, people enjoying the great outdoors before the weather turns too much. It had already snowed here a few weeks ago, but has melted since.
I had a good, energetic hike up to an impressive waterfall with Dan, an English lad from the hostel. It took us several hours and we had to race back in time to see the sun set from a highly recommended viewpoint way up on the side of the valley. We only just made it, with some crazy driving and a sprint through the scrub, just in time to catch the last rays of the day, followed by beautifully changing hues of pink and orange on the peaks and summits around.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

interesting fruit




I was checking out the downtown area of Santa Cruz and looking for somewhere to get a bite to eat when i came across a great Thai place. The food was delicious and there were some interesting photographs of carved fruits and vegetables on the walls. It turned out that the owner, Petcharee, gave classes on the thai art of fruit carving and there was a class coming up. So i booked a place.

There were four of us taking the class, the others, local ladies, one was on her second class, another had been sent from work to learn and the third another complete novice. We sat round a table in the restaurant for three hours, carving fruit and vegetables with a handy little knife, that we got to keep. Starting with small easy pieces to get used to handling the equipment we soon progressed to more intricate work, culminating in the water melon. I managed to go wrong part of the way through, so improvised much to the amusement of everyone else. The three hours passed quickly and we all had great fun. I just need to practice a bit to make sure that i keep my new found skill.

To keep in the artistic theme for the day i joined up with Stephanie, who had also taken the class, and spent the afternoon touring around some local art studios. Artists coordinate and open their studios once a year to promote their wares and share their passion for whatever type of art they enjoy. I ended the day more than inspired, having visited over 30 studios, some for a matter of minutes if they weren't to our taste, and a few more in depth,if we found things that caught our eye.

I was caught again, this time by glass work. Small intricate designs formed by heating glass in a flame rather than a furnace. The artist gave a demonstration which was fascinating and i have signed up for a class with him too later in the month.

Friday, October 17, 2008

a pig and a party



I didn't really know what to expect. Cynthia explained that David 'chef' and his girlfriend Pim were going to host a party for their friends at Love Apple Farm on Sunday. David would arrive before dawn and set up a whole pig roast, ready to be served to the guests mid afternoon. We spent plenty of time cleaning the house and getting prepared for the event. The carpets were cleaned and everything was shiny and polished, even the dogs got a trim, so it was going to be some do.

I got up early to help wrestle the pig onto the spit. it went on several different ways before we found the correct angles for it to be secured for its journey into roastedness. It would have been awful if a leg had dropped into the embers because it was improperly secured, or it had slumped, half cooked off the spit into the fire. The hot fire soon browned the porker and it was duly wrapped in aluminum foil to keep it moist and succulent whilst it cooked through. Chef basted and stoked and added herbs from the garden through into the afternoon.

I snuck off when things were calm and checked out a few art venues. The county has an amazing open studio event once a year with local artists showing their wares at home or in their studio settings. Pottery, pictures, jewelery, glass, clothing and more, definitely worth a look. It was a good opportunity to check out more of the area too. I got back well before the party got underway as i knew i would be needed to help out.

Pim arrived and organised the guests as they arrived, to set out the tables, fill coolers with ice, open wine and champagne, set out their dishes ready for the feast. She knew exactly what she was doing, and how to get it done. Well, she should, as a professional foodie, just check out here blog and you'll see what i mean. www.chezpim.com "My Martha Moment" and see pictures of the party in full swing......(i completely forgot to take any pictures)

I was probably introduced to fifty or so of the eighty guests, so forgive me for not remembering all their names. Quizzed about the garden, sent to fetch things for chef and for Pim, plied with very fine wine and some exquisite food and had a great time. Loads of people had not been to the garden before and they were so excited and impressed by the set up, i felt proud to be able to tell them a bit about its history and its relationship with the restaurant and to identify the vegetables that folk were curious about. Maybe i actually like gardening.......

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monterey




Now that i've acclimatised to the californian speed of life and slowed down from the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, its time to head out and explore the area some.

Monterey is a good hour away on the southern side of the bay from Santa Cruz. I got to use the Loveapple truck for a day so took full advantage of my wheels. The area produces a huge percentage of the fresh produce consumed in the US. Flat fields and a great climate allow extensive agriculture to flourish. Massive fields of strawberries are being cropped at the moment, the fragrance fills the truck as i drive through the landscape, a waft of celery hits me before i even see the plants and there they are, stretching out into the distance. Irrigation keeps the farmland green, the rest of the landscape burned brown by the constant sunshine and warm winds blowing towards the sea from the baked interior. Death valley, the hottest place in the world is not that far away. It hasn't rained here since March 25th. They even remember the date!!

The highway winds round the bay through places called Seaside and Marina and Moss Landing, i watch the view from the truck and mentally note to call in on the way back. I never did, it was far too late by the time i passed back through and completely dark. Warnings for blowing sand and a big sweeper trundled along, removing the beach from the road as it blew in from the coast, keeping the road clear.

Monterey is a showcase seaside resort for the wealthy, the old sardine canning buildings down by the wharf converted to deluxe shopping malls and attractions, exclusive restaurants offering seafood and fine wines, sea view houses hidden behind security fences out of sight from prying eyes A private road, 17 Mile Drive, charges motorists for the privilege of taking a peek at the best stretch of coastline. I'm not surprised, the whole place would be overrun if there was unlimited access. Lush golfing greens roll down to the sea, the glint of sun reflected from the windows of mansions hint of their presence in the wooded hills, white sand bays with seals and numerous seabirds defy the neatness with their droppings and organic odors.

People have spent many, many hours carefully balancing pillars of stones along a large stretch of beach, just because they can. A little further along the drive, a famous tree, now with image copyright , the Monterey Pine balances on a rocky outcrop overlooking the pacific ocean.

Even the farmers market is scheduled for party people. It doesn't open until 3pm and continues into the evening, allowing late risers and people with full time jobs a decent opportunity to stock up on local produce. Most of the stalls tempt with free tastings, and timed right, a hungry boy can go for a whole lot longer by slowly strolling through the streets selecting tasty morsels of freshly baked bread, delicious cheeses, dips and relishes and of course more fresh fruit and berries than should really be allowed. I stocked up too to treat Cynthia and Manuel, my hosts, to a good feed on my return to the farm.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

love apple farm




I took the greyhound and i would nearly have been better off walking, it took over 6 hours to cover 75miles but i have escaped the city and swapped it for the country location of love apple farm.

Yes, the humble tomato, however you choose to say it, is here in force. Cynthia and her band of helpers and volunteers specialize in tomatoes and grow vegetables for a local restaurant. That is to say a two michelin star establishment supplying fine dining to the uberrich of silicon valley so they don't put up with bugs on their greens. I am here to learn what i can, help out and enjoy the Californian autumn for a couple of weeks.

It is great to get up at 7am to help with the harvest, before the heat of the day kicks in, picking the best of the best from nearly 200 different crops all neatly laid out in their raised beds and have it all ready for when 'chef' calls by at lunchtime to inspect and collect. There are hens of every flavour imaginable, supposedly busy laying eggs for 'chef' too but they are sulking at present, producing only 7 eggs a day from 70 birds. Light brown, dark brown, blue, gray, speckled and even white.

I have spent my spare time chilling, reading books and exploring the local village, Ben Lomond,a short way outside Santa Cruz, usually with one of the dogs. How great it is to stop for a while, catch up with myself and have a wonderful garden to help out in. Maybe a week isn't going to be long enough after all.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Tourist City




The hills are getting easier, the sights further afield and i must be getting fitter again.

Am loving China town, the shops full of indescribable items in glass jars or piled high in boxes, numerous dried foods from the homelands, roots and leaves, fungus and fish, i'm glad they know what they have to do to make them edible. I bought salmon, quite quickly, after looking round the fishmongers writhing displays of nearly live fish, eels, tortoises, octopus and realizing that i recognized nothing else that i could cook. The clothes shops and home goods are full of things that i would readily buy if i could just pop home. Maybe a trip to China sometime???

From china town to Japanese gardens in the vast golden gate park, a wonderful oasis of peace and tranquility in the heart of the city and just round the corner from the De Young museum. Packed with tastefully displayed artifacts from around the world, i recapped on places i have been and intrigued myself with places new, whilst waiting for my allotted time to view the Chihuly Exhibition at 1.30. The exhibition closed the next day and the whole place was packed. Not surprising when i got to see what all the fuss was about. Modern glass, huge sculptures of every shape imaginable, themed by room and inspiration, colour and design and well worth the wait.

For a contrast, a bit of culture, gay culture, with a stroll through the Castro and its alternative and designer shops, cafes, bars and the Harvey Milk Memorial Plaza, a reminder of harder times and a tribute to the first openly gay politician who did so much for the community and was assassinated for his efforts along with the then mayor. Riots followed in San Fransisco when the ex-cop, assassin, was handed a lenient sentence for his crimes. I stayed in the Castro for the day, soaking up the atmosphere, sunshine, eye candy and enjoying the relaxed feel of the place. The night life was something else!!

Alcatraz was the most talked about trip in the hostel, i tried to go on a couple of occasions but it was always fully booked so i arranged a visit for the end of the week. It is unsurprisingly run down now, but as foreboding as a top security correctional facility should be. Closed several decades ago, Alcatraz has since been occupied by indians as a protest to having their ancestral lands confiscated, it worked and the policy has been reversed, though i am unsure how much of the land they ever had returned. The three hours i spent on the island was long enough and it was great to get the short ferry ride back to the wharf and freedom.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

San Fransisco

I haven't stopped since i got here, there is so much to do and see and strangely it feels that i have been here before. That must be from the pictures films and books i have read. Tales of The City appears round an amazing number of street corners, my hostel is one block from Grace Cathedral, I've walked through the Summit, Nob Hill, stumbled across The Endup and seen houses that remind me so fully of Barbary Lane it is spooky. Those of you who have not read the books will be wondering what i'm going on about, but it's all good.

My legs have not had so much exercise since NZ, the town is crazily hilly and they're steep. No wonder there are cable cars and trams everywhere. Wonderful architecture both old and new, famous and unknown and with a bit of effort it is all walkable.

Golden Gate Bridge has been hidden in low cloud most mornings, its feet in the water and tops poking out into the blue sky above. Its quite eery. The obligatory sight seeing tour on a red open top double decker bus whisked us round town, the recorded commentary pointing out all the places of interest and reeling off random facts and figures about the city. I have spent plenty of time since, revisiting those sights of interest and trying to keep my dollars in my pocket. Unsuccessfully i may add, as many of the attractions charge and become 'have to do' events once there. As do the cheap clothes and constant supply of tempting food.

I shall soon be citied out and will head off to the countryside for a change and to give my wallet a bit of a rest. Yosemite and Grand Canyon are calling, from how far away i have no idea, they look close on the map and the greyhound is always running.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Yurt




A yurt is a modern adaptation of the ancient shelter used by Central Asian nomads for centuries. The compact shape of the yurt and combination of lightweight members in tension and compression mean that the structure is highly efficient in maximizing strength while minimizing the use of materials.

The yurt is a lightweight, low-cost, state-of-the-art version that retains the sense of wholeness of the ancient form while delivering the structural integrity, longevity and low maintenance demanded by modern users.

Though generally classified as a tent, the yurt is much stronger and weathertight. The yurt is a circular structure that consists of a durable fabric cover, tension band and a wood frame that includes a lattice wall, radial rafters, central compression ring and a framed door.

Have a look at www.yurts.com and see where i stole the text!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

hawaii hawaii







Another day, another island.........

A quick interisland flight and i'm on hawaii island in the hawaiian islands, otherwise known as the big island to reduce confusion.

The newest island in the chain with the most active volcano and quite different to Oahau where i was before. It is also the highest mountain in the world, if measured from base and not sea level.

I can see the plumes from the volcanic activity from my yurt, some gas spewing from a huge crater and the more spectacular display consisting mainly of steam, created as larva flows downslope into the sea, instentaneously boiling the waves as they crash over the red hot rock. Best viewed after sunset, as the evening draws in, allowing the colours to show through better in the dim evening light.

My hosts, Camille and David, moved here from the mainland several years ago and have constructed their home from scratch, all shipped from the mainland in containers, from yurt kits, furniture and right down to the ikea kitchen. Their plan is to create a self sufficient lifestyle, growing cacao for chocolate as a form of income, along with all their fruit and veggies. An uphill struggle with weeds growing at an alarming rate. The areas i cleared at the start of the week are already green again and the grass appears to have grown again no sooner as it has been cut. A good foot every couple of days. It is very pleasant working outside in the tropical sun, view out over Hilo bay to the distant volcano, relaxing on the lanai (deck) with two well seasoned travellers, exchanging stories and retiring to bed in my very own yurt, falling asleep listening to the sounds of the tropical night.

Explored the island in a 48hour mad dash ina hire car, 450 miles and as many sights as i could fit in. The most southerly point in the USA, an amaing orchid nursery, i could have filled a car and brought them all home, plenty of haaiian history, amazingly similar to what i have already seen in New Zealand, with shared ancestry, the polonesian inhabitants created a highly ordered kingdom until discovered by the well travelled Captain Cook who introduced them to european ways before being dispatched to the next world after a tragic misunderstanding. He was later buried at sea. The scenery on the route round the island varied dramatically, due to climate and elevation, there are 13 distinct areas, ranging from raw lava fields, through savanna, rain forest, mountain pine forests and even winter ski fields. each region incredibly different.

If the volcano wasn't enough, the islands are frequently affected by tsunami, there are frequent reminders along the coasts with memorials to past disasters, towering trumpets ready to warn the locals at a moments notice and evacuation route signs indicating where to head for safety. All very well if the cause is across the ocean and there is plenty of warning, but locally produced waves, caused by the volcanic shelves collapsing under the sea can cause devastation with only a few seconds warning. Good for a visit, but i don't think that i shall be setting up home here.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Aloha







Greetings from Waikiki beach on Oahu, Hawaii.

Monday, just gone, lasted for the longest time. Leaving after my last night in Queensland i got to the airport for 10.30 in the morning, flew to Sydney, waited 4 hours for my onward flight and an additional 3 hours delay before flying out on a 10.5 hour flight to Honolulu. When i landed it was still only 11.30 in the morning, having crossed the international date line, so still within the same day got a decent afternoon in the sun on Waikiki beach after all that travelling.

It is so different here, on the biggest tourist attraction that the USA has to offer. Thousands of holiday makers of all shapes and sizes, huge high rise hotels and appartments and flash shops and malls. It is a really exciting change to be in the thick of it again. Not sure how long it will remain fascinating, but loving it at the moment.

Had a great surf lesson with a wonderful old guy, he had been teaching for 57 years off the same beach and provided the best instruction i have had so far. I went with two other guys that are staying in the same hostel as me.

We hired a car today and headed off for a whirlwind island tour. Snorkelling by 8.45am. Look at the line of people arriving as we departed just before 11. Around the southern point of the island past volcanic rock formations, a very impressive blow hole, golden beaches, sparkelling blue sea and a landscape that changed from crisp brown to lush green as we hit the windward side of the mountains. High rises behind us, the coast rose steeply out of the sea with towering cliffs rising a short way inland. The coastal area dotted with villages, farms and the occasional town. A huge contrast to the towering hotels on the dry sunny side. Stopping at beaches for a swim to cool of or at roadside stalls to pick up exotic fruit snacks and a local garlic shrimp dish on rice for lunch. To the north shore, famous for its huge surfing waves at certain times of the year. Not hugely impressive at present, but far larger than i would attempt yet. It was good to watch the professionals from the beach and to decide which house would be most suitable to live in should the opportunity arise. A small wooden shack on the beach surrounded with palm trees and a bit of a garden would be fine for a while.

The road doesn't quite reach right round the island, but an inland highway cuts through the two mountain ranges to bring us back into Honolulu town just before sunset. We raced up the southwest coast trying to catch the sunset photo opportunity but the traffic was too heavy and the speed limits ridiculously low, failed miserably, but got some wonderful palm tree silhouettes instead.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

riverfire brisbane

videoRewind a week or so, a video clip of the Brisbane Riverfire firework display that went on for a good 20 minutes accompanied by music broadcast throughout the city on the local radio network. Spectacular.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bunya Mountains




Not quite like the mountains of New Zealand, these were created many many years before and as such are slightly more eroded now. Large mounds of 'hill' in the middle of some very flat and depressingly dry land. Its amazing how soon after leaving the flat plains that the vegetation changes and becomes greener and lusher, the southern side, away from the harsh sun, tending towards rainforest in its appearance. The bunya trees, once harvested for their timber are part of the monkey puzzle family - real prickly and with cones reaching 10kg, dangerous to be underneath in October.

Tons of wildlife, an amazing variety of birds of all descriptions, plenty of signs describing snakes, lizards and spiders, though thankfully too cold to see many of them about at the moment!!! And wallabys that graze the campground grass keeping it neat and tidy, these two were outside my van when i got up this morning and were later joined by several others.

Am glad to have left the last helpX place, it was rather strange to say the least. I thoroughly enjoyed the luxury apartment living and views of the river, but missed being involved with the rest of the inhabitants of the farm. Its just how that place worked i guess - an experience. Now in Dalby, inland from the Sunshine coast by several hours. A couple of people have already asked me why i have come this way, so they probably don't get many tourists here. Will stay a while and see what i can.

Thanks for the messages and olympic updates.... its cool to hear all your news too.