Monday 28 December 2015


 To be honest, I've been a bit stuck on what to write about Europe, I mean, what can you say that hasn't been said more eloquently and artistically by someone with actual writing chops? This goes a thousand times over for Paris - a place which haunted blokes like Hemingway, who has been known to turn out a decent sentence or two.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Travel Photography Calendars

Well it's been a bit quiet around this blog of late and that probably because the last 6 months have been anything but quite in our offline worlds.  We are hoping that we can inject a few more posts into the blog during some summer down time soon however I wanted to share with you a little product of my recent busyness and the trip...

The 2016 Travel Photography Calendar!

For those that don't know I've been putting together calendars pretty much every year for a while now however with all the travel this year trying to narrow it down to 12 photos was quite a challenge but I think the result is pretty darn good.  It features a mix of landscape (mostly natural) and wildlife photos from across three different continents so has a travel theme more than anything else.

This year I have also gone with a different printer and ordered in advance.  It was a bit of a scary process to go through for the first time but I think the end result was worth it.  The print quality is fantastic and it means it means I can sell them at a substantially lower cost.

The date pages are set-up with Australian public holidays and school term dates for all the states and territories, however I can ship them anywhere in the world.  Plus I'm pretty sure the moon phases are the same everywhere...

You can order them from my web site: 2016 Calendars
Or if you are not in Australia from my Etsy store.

Sunday 5 July 2015

Reims - It's French for Champagne! (well, not actually)

Deep beneath the town of Reims in France, about 2000 years ago, before it was called Reims and before there was such a thing as France, Romans were digging chalk mines (actually probably they had other people do it for them). Someone was digging chalk mines for the Romans. I'm not sure why they needed chalk, they hadn't invented blackboards yet I'm pretty sure. Maybe teachers still liked to fling chalk at children, even when they didn't have blackboards? But I digress. The Roman chalk mines left big holes in the ground, holes that were cool in summer and big enough to store lots of stuff. So the French came up with something to put in the holes. Champagne! Lots and lots and lots of champagne. So we went there. And we drank some. It was nice. We went to the Taittinger Champagne House and they took us on the tour of the aforementioned cellars. Between the Romans being there and us being there, there had also been monks there who left carvings and such around the cellars, as well as random staircases that originally would have led up into their monastery but now lead nowhere. I love being in a place where you can (try to) imagine all the people who have been there before you. Then they gave us champagne, and that was also nice.

Tuesday 30 June 2015

Photo Tips: Wildlife Photography

I'm not an expert photographer but I've had a bit of experience with wildlife photography in Australia, North America, Southern Africa and Europe now so I thought I'd go through my equipment for this trip, how I shoot & process and add as many tips along the way as I can.  While I'll try and keep it fairly general I'll probably be focusing on our African Safaris.

Freiburg and Triberg

The view from our accommodation...

If there’s one thing I love about the Germans (and to be honest, there are lots of things I love about the Germans), it’s the way they utterly embrace and celebrate whatever season they find themselves in. I think it comes from living in a country where the seasons announce themselves to much more definitely than Australia. When I’ve been there at Christmas time in the past, every house is adorned with traditional Christmas decorations – not the neon-lights-you-can-see-from-space kind (though those can be fun too) but carved wooden candle-holders in the windows and evergreen wreathes and beautiful old nativity scenes and gluhwein drunk in the snow at little stalls at the Christmas markets. This time we were there for spring, and Freiburg was going to be ready! Every window was decorated with traditional wooden eggs with delicate painted designs and spring flowers were growing in profusion in every garden. My prevailing memory of our visit to Freiburg, a university town in the Black Forest, was the market that was on around the church at the centre of town, where the locals (and tourists) had gathered to buy fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables, local meat, wooden toys and flowers – lots and lots of flowers. We wandered there quite happily for quite some time, also popping into the church, which had some pretty stunning wood carvings to see.

Friday 26 June 2015

On to Europe we go - Munich and Neuschwanstein

Two continents down, one to go! We sadly bid farewell to Africa after some R&R in Johannesburg (seriously, we didn't do one touristy thing. We hung out with a friend, did some shopping and went for coffee). We were also meeting Will's sister Fi in Munich so, as I said to my friend Tara at the time, finally I had someone to tell my travel stories to without them saying, "Yes, I know, I was there. And you made that last part up." Hooray!

Saturday 13 June 2015

Okavango Delta and Morami, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is somewhere Jackie and I had been looking forward to for a long time and was actually the primary goal of time in Africa. However things didn't quite turn out the way we had planned...

Our African safaris were one of the first parts of this trip that we found and booked in so that we could time our flights properly, which was great, till our Botswana safari fell through.  This resulting in much scrambling and searching while we were away in North America till we found another group safari on dates that fitted with our flights and was within our budget (which was, admittedly, not very high).  As it turned out, we were the only ones on the trip which was a little weird but also had some perks.

Sunday 7 June 2015

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe is a national park in North East Botswana (and the name of a river on its border) that is world famous for amazing wildlife.  We stayed a couple of nights in Kasane and were lucky enough to have three trips into Chobe, two as game drives and one as a boat trip.  We saw heaps of amazing wildlife but here are a few highlights.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Victoria Falls the Second

Important things first. This is where I was finally reunited with my bag 10 days after arriving in Africa. There was a hairy moment when the place I was picking my bag up from said 'Bags, no, we haven't received any bags...' but it turned out that bags always get sent to their other office in town (they couldn't have said that first???) Ah, that sweet reunion! Imagine me spreading all of my belongings out on the bed and wallowing in the glorious variety of it all. I didn't actually do that, but you can imagine it if you want.

So our amazing time in the national parks of Zimbabwe was at an end and we were back where we started, Victoria Falls, albeit on the Zimbabwean side now. We went back to the falls to see them from this side and I personally think the view from Zimbabwe is better than the view from Zambia. Feel free to contradict me - you'll have to travel to Zambia and Zimbabwe to be able to so I reckon that would be worth it. And while we had other close encounters with baboons, these ones at least kept their hands to themselves. Also, we didn't get quite so wet. That's not because we actually stayed dry, just because it would be scientifically impossible to be any wetter than we were on the Zambian side.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Bomani Tented Camp, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Bomani Tented Camp is in the south of Hwange National Park, and it is remote. To get there, we had to take a their tram, which they run on the colonial-era rail tracks built by some bloke with a great vision of trains running from South Africa to Egypt but who didn't count on the post-colonial administration taking the particular turn that it has done so the tracks are not in great shape now. Useful for us though!

More early mornings, more safari drives, more lists with lots of commas or again I could just tell a couple of stories.

Sunday 24 May 2015

The Hide, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

Elephant: "Hello!"

Okay, so this is where the blog posts have the potential to get really boring. You see, I could tell you about how we got up really early and went for a drive, had a siesta, then went for another drive. I could write a really long list with lots and lots of commas (and I do like commas) with all the animals that we saw. But really, you just want to scroll down and see the photos (in fact you might already have done that).

Before you do though, let me tell you just a couple of stories from our stay at The Hide in Hwange National Park.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Chundu Island, Zimbabwe

Chundu Island is a little (very little) island in the Zambezi River between Zambia and Zimbabwe. They run on solar power and tank water. They have no internet. There is apparently one spot where you can sometimes get phone reception if you hold your phone up in the air. And somehow, from this island, a lovely couple, one Zimbabwean, one originally British, run a lovely safari camp.

Saturday 16 May 2015

Victoria Falls the First

If you ever find yourself at Victoria Falls in Zambia in late February on a beautiful sunny day, and you see the men renting out raincoats and you think, 'That's silly, why would I need a raincoat? It's so sunny!' then you are a fool who deserves everything that you get. I rented a raincoat from them - I did pack a raincoat but then my bag didn't make it to Zambia so that was totally worthwhile - and it's a massive, made-of-some-kind-of-reinforced-canvas monstrosity poncho of a thing. Plus, you wear a plastic bag raincoat underneath. And you still get soaking, hair dripping down your back kind of wet, should have worn a shower cap and swimsuit kind of wet, glad I'm wearing Will's thongs (flip flops for the Australian-challenged) kind of wet (which meant Will didn't have thongs, which meant that he wore his hiking shoes which he tells me 'filled up with water'). There's a lot of water going over them there falls!

Friday 15 May 2015

New York

If you're reading this, then you have almost made it to the end of the North American portion of our travels, as New York was our last stop before Africa. We had two days in the city and spent one of them sightseeing, then spent the other running general errands like posting home extra winter gear, getting haircuts and repacking for flying (had to find all those pesky gels and liquids that make their way into your handbag). I don't think you particularly need to hear about the errands day, but here's what we did with our sightseeing day (and the night before).

Sunday 10 May 2015


Boston is very proud of its history, particularly its history as regards the American Revolution, so not surprisingly most of what we did while we were there related to that. The rest of what we did involved snowbanks taller than me, but that was the less fun part of the visit so we won't talk about that (just a lot of frustration involving traffic, no carparks and general difficulty getting around). Here's the highlights of what we did in Boston.

Where in the world: Blog Map!

Ok, so we are actually in Trondheim in Norway staying with friends when we started trying to figure out just how far we had driven in North America which is apparently pretty close to the distance from Melbourne to Trondheim!  That's a long way.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Nova Scotia - Halifax, Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg

If you read the last post, you know that we had to skedaddle from Prince Edward Island because there was a storm coming in. This meant that we spent a day in hibernation in Halifax, Nova Scotia while some kind of horrible rain/snow hybrid fell. However, we did have to eat, so we ordered Chinese food from a local takeaway and then went walking to collect it (they normally deliver but couldn't because their driver hadn't made it back from one of his deliveries...). It's only a couple of blocks away, we thought, how bad can it be (and what choice do we have)? Turns out, not so easy. Let me tell you about what happens when it rains on snowbanks (Canadians and other people used to snowy winters, you can probably skip to the next paragraph). So it snows. Unless the weather clears enough for someone to come out and clean it up, you now have a layer of snow on the roads and the pavements - plus gargantuan snow banks everywhere they don't need to clear. Then it warms up enough for it to rain. The rain and the melty snow make puddles in the still frozen snow. The snow gets churned up all day by people walking by and the rain falling on it, so when night comes and it is cold enough to freeze again, it tends to freeze in horrible tyre-rut type formations, rather than a smooth walking surface. Put enough pressure on the surface (say, a human being walking on it) and the surface breaks and you find your feet in freezing cold puddles of water. So we ever so gingerly made our way (uphill of course, in the dark and walking in the middle of the road because it was the clearest) to get our Chinese. Bit of an adventure to say the least!

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Prince Edward Island

Oh how do I love thee Prince Edward Island! I have dreamed of your gilded shores since first reading Anne of Green Gables as a girl and despite your potential busloads of Anne-obsessed tourists I have longed to see you. Turns out, winter keeps the busloads away but does not diminish the joys of Prince Edward Island at all. Green Gables itself is closed, but you can go in guerrilla style (if the PEI Tourist Board calls, it wasn't me...) Unfortunately, the storm to end all storms was descending on Prince Edward Island when we were supposed to be there. After some anxious discussion about whether to cancel and go to Nova Scotia earlier, we decided instead to cut PEI short (so sad) so we had one night, then one day to cram every single PEI thing into before we fled the island in the afternoon. Good thing we did too, they were apparently digging themselves out for a week and we would have been completely stuck. Okay, so maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing except we had a schedule to stick to!

Sunday 26 April 2015

Quebec City

After the terrors of a very cold and snowy Montreal, we came up with a cunning plan. The only plan that tourists in a cold city can come up with. When walking around town, one must stop constantly for food. It's expensive, and hard on the waistline, but it's pretty much the only way you can linger indoors in warm places (art galleries and museums excepted - though they're not always warm). So I came up with a walking tour of Quebec City which included multiple coffee/ hot chocolate/ snack stops. Luckily, though it was still cold as a frozen-over version of hell, it was sunny in Quebec City when we were there too. I always think everything is easier to cope with when the sun is out, even the cold. Another advantage Quebec City has over Montreal is that Quebec Old Town is quite compact and easy to walk around, and most of what we wanted to see was in Quebec Old Town. Easy.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Photo Tips: Yosemite National Park

I'm by no means an expert on Yosemite, we spent a grand total of two days in Yosemite Valley but here are a few tips I can offer you.  If you want to read about what we actually did when we were there you can check out the blog here with lots more photos.

Early mornings and late evenings

Plan to get there (your photo location) at least 30 min before sunrise and to leave at least 30 min after as the light begins long before sunrise and finishes long after sunset.  It is also the time when the contrast between the sky and the land is lower so it fits within the cameras dynamic range better and when you get the best light on the clouds.  It is also worth noting that the gate western entrance gate is a long way from the Yosemite Valley and the road is quite slow and windy which adds to your drive time (probably in the dark).

El Capitan and Half Dome from Tunnel View Lookout well after the sun had set

Off to the East Coast: Kingston and Montreal

And so, since there was no way to top Disneyland, we got on a plane and left the West Coast behind, headed for the second leg of the trip - the East Coast.

Removing a whole lot of powder from the car in Montreal
Stay tuned for - cold weather in Montreal and Quebec City, wintery chaos on Prince Edward Island and in Halifax, snow banks as tall as me in Boston and slush in New York. Yes, all the snow that they didn't have in California, they were apparently storing for us out East. When we picked up our rental car at Toronto Airport, there was a snow scraper included. We soon appreciated that little piece of thoughtfulness!

Thursday 16 April 2015


I love Disneyland. Seriously. Huge, heart palpitating, pupils dilating love (no, I'm not on any illegal drugs, why do you ask?). Just for the record, this does not mean that I forgive Disney for their gender politics or their physical representations of women. But Disneyland!

Will was not by any means convinced that Disneyland was a good idea. However, it was close enough to my birthday to make going my gift from him so away we went. As it was winter, there was a lot of maintenance going on, so a number of the big name rides were closed - no It's a Small World, no Splash Mountain, no Matterhorn Bobsleds. Other rides were out of the question because I get ridiculously motion sick (which would make you question my desire to go to amusement parks...) so no Mad Hatter's Tea Party (I can't even watch that one) though I unwisely went on the Star Wars Tour and Space Mountain and needed a good, long, quiet sit down after each of those.

Tuesday 14 April 2015

Death Valley

So death valley wasn't really on our radar until I got talking to a guy while stuck in traffic in an Arizona snow storm.  He said it was the highlight of his trip so we did a google image search and it quickly made our list.

Aside from the dramatic scenery Death Valley is known for being a hot (like very hot), dry, stark place that people seem to like going running in.  By the time we were there in late Jan or early Feb it was not too hot, not too dry and in places there was even snow on the mountain peaks (even although we weren't far from the uncommonly snow free Yosemite).  The valleys and mountains that make up the area are spectacular, particularly in when the weather is doing cool things like busting out some rainbows.


Monday 13 April 2015

Big Sur

A real live otter in the wild!
Like 99.95% of the world's population, I think otters are awesome (the other 0.05% have problems bigger than I can help them with). So one of my big aims when we drove the Big Sur was to see real, live, wild otters.

In service of this aim, we started our Big Sur trip with a drive to a small marine reserve called Point Lobos. It, like the rest of the Big Sur, is gorgeous. Dramatic cliffs and rocks rising out of an azure sea and all that. You will be able to see that in the photos. What you can't see in the photos is that Point Lobos smelled freaking amazing. I have no idea what it was. I tried to make my fervent sniffing as subtle as possible. A lovely place to linger. There were lots of sea birds including some truly ugly brown pelicans (Will objects to my calling them ugly. They look much prettier in his photos) and egrets that stood on the top of the kelp out at sea, so they looked like they were walking on water. As we were watching the sky turn all sorts of spectacular colours, we saw an otter! He was just chilling in the ocean, fluffing his fur, twisting and turning in the ocean, generally looking like he was having a good time.

Friday 10 April 2015

San Francisco in a Day

We had a flying visit to San Fran as we realised that we had way too much to pack into our last week out west. A visit to Death Valley (post to arrive soon) came highly recommended so we decided to make time.

San Francisco is a nice city of steep hills with cool houses and the need for mad parking skills but we didn't really know what to do with our one day as tourists. A bit of research showed up Alcatraz, Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard St and the Golden Gate, so we formulated a plan.

Alcatraz was actually pretty cool. I was a little skeptical but the stories were interesting and I think I got some cool industrial detail photos that I wouldn't normally go looking for. Jackie obviously loves the whole morbid history of the place.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Yosemite National Park

View of El Capitan as you enter the Yosemite Valley
I think when we were planning this trip, I had Yosemite and Yellowstone kind of confused in my head (they both start with Y, okay?) so I didn't really know what to expect from them. Turns out they're different places!

We were rather hoping for snow, since seeing the national parks in winter was kind of the point, but California was having a warm spell, so no snow for us. There was a plus side to this, since there were extremely confusing and ambiguous online rules about having snow chains on your tyres to enter the park - and you can't put snow chains on a hire car. On the down side however, given we were there on a weekend, that everyone in San Fransisco had decamped for Yosemite. We saw some interesting tourist behaviour, like a guy who, having had a friend take about 300 photos of him in front of the same bit of rock, took his shirt off to get a further 300 photos in front of the same rock, only this time with no shirt on, and a mother who pushed her perhaps 8-year-old daughter ever closer to a clearly nervous fully grown male deer, stacked to the rafters with antlers, so she could get a good photo. Hmmm. It's moments like that you really wish you weren't a 'tourist' because it's a word that puts you into a group with some serious idiots.

Monday 23 March 2015

Photo Tips: Roadside Photography - North America + Photos

Western Scrub Jay
We've found road tripping are a great way to see the world but if you are anything like me (and Jackie), every time you see something interesting you want a photo of it!  While it might sound surprising roadside photography can be a great way to get amazing photos so I thought I might fill you in on my experiences in North America.

In the US and to a slightly lesser extent in Canada people always give stopped cars a wide berth and will usually change lanes if there is a car stopped beside the road, even if you are well clear of the road.  While it's not a big issue it kinda makes you feel bad about pulling over for photos, particularly if the roads is busy.  

Friday 20 March 2015

Redwoods National Park

If you were to set a movie in Redwoods National Park, you’d have to make it either a ‘woman walks into the wilderness with nothing but a pack and a pair of hiking boots and ends up discovering herself’ kind of movie or a ‘group of frivolous teens spontaneously plan a camping trip and end up getting picked off one by one by a serial killer’ kind of movie. It’s a place that definitely has both vibes going for it. On the one hand, it has soaring, gigantic trees and gently filtering sunlight and rugged trails which wind through before opening out into gentle, green clearings. On the other, it has twisted tree limbs hanging with Spanish moss, monstrous spiders webs and a dark, foreboding canopy overhead.

We stayed a little way down the road at a place called Patrick’s Point, which I would actually have liked to stay and explore longer. We were just over the road from the sea, though we couldn’t see it through the trees, and we got there after dark and left early the next morning. Oh well, something to do next time. Here’s some pictures from both of us...

Thursday 19 March 2015


We stopped in Portland because we needed a place in between our stops in Canada and the national parks down the coast of California. Plus, if you haven't heard of Portland then there's something wrong with your internet. Like, you don't have any. According to my internet, every cool thing that the hipster world embraces seems to come out of Portland. Beards? Food vans? Amigurumi? Portland, Portland, Portland. Okay, so I have no actual evidence for any of this, but since when did that stop anyone from saying anything on a blog?

Still, I'm a bit torn on Portland. The place obviously has some very cool things going on including a fantastic food scene, great live music, craft and vintage shops to die for, gorgeous residential architecture, however, I found the highly visible poverty and homelessness extremely challenging. I don't know if it's there because people in tough situations come to Portland because it has compassion on them, or whether it shows that under a veneer of social justice, actually nobody cares. I like to think the former.

That's all a bit drab and depressing, isn't it! Here's the touristy stuff we did in Portland...

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Canada Fly-By

Golden Eagle in Montana
So the next part of our road trip takes a turn from wildlife and landscape to people.  We noticed that Yellowstone was about an 8 hour drive away from some very good friends of Jackie's so, being a little crazy, we decided to make a side trip to Redclif, near Medicine Hat in Canada.  While this was a L O N G day of driving, it was a fantastic chance to catch up with (or meet) old friends, and, as it turns out we saw some pretty cool things along the way.  Jackie had always been told driving the prairies of Canada was pretty boring but we saw another side of them in sunset on snow, with a Chinook arch on the horizon (it's a Canadian weather thing).  We also finally got a good shot of a golden eagle in Montana beside the road.

Monday 16 March 2015

Yellowstone Landscapes

Yellowstone is well known for its amazing wildlife but there are some pretty amazing landscapes too.  There were a few photos of geothermal landscapes in the snow mobile post and some 'wildlife landscape' in the wildlife post but I thought I'd throw up a few more from in and around the park.

Friday 27 February 2015

Quick Tips: Coffee! (and tea)

Commuter Java Press
People the know me know that I like coffee, good coffee that is. So while there is coffee everywhere
in the north America, it isn't well know for good coffee and I've been a little worried about getting my fix.  Here's the low down on my plan and how it all worked out..

On landing in LA near the top of my shopping list was a travel coffee cup plunger and some good coffee to look after my addiction.  I had done a little research and headed to REI in Santa Monica however they didn't have my first choice for plunger cup so I picked up a GSI Personal Java Press anyway.  A few weeks later I replaced it with the Commuter Java Press because it would fit in cup holders (just) and seemed to make more sense for what I needed.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Wake Up to Wildlife and Other Close Encounters of the Animal Kind

Quick shot through the windscreen but sets the scene well.
Before embarking on this trip, Will and I agreed that what we wanted to see in Yellowstone was wolves. I mean, who wouldn't? Wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone twenty years ago so they must be everywhere by now right? Wrong. On our first afternoon, driving ourselves around, we saw a whole slew of people sitting by the road with their spotter scopes out (wildlife watching tip #1 - if you see a bunch of people stopped by the side of the road, stop and see what they're looking at, it's probably worth it). We got out, sidled up and nonchalantly started a conversation and were offered a look through the spotting scope. They were really excited. It was a wolf. It was lying down in the snow. It was 5 miles (8 kilometres) away. Even through the spotting scope I could have been looking at a rock or a log in the snow, I really wasn't sure I was even looking at the right grey splot. And there were about 15 people who had been sitting for a good forty five minutes, in the snow, watching this wolf through their scopes.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Snowmobiling in Yellowstone

Old Faithful
Now I don't know about anybody else, but I pretty much have a constant soundtrack-to-life playing in my head. Sometimes, it makes sense - like driving around California singing Joni Mitchell's California in my head (or okay, sometimes out loud). Sometimes it's a little more obscure - like seeing the eucalyptus trees in California and getting Give Me a Home Among the Gum Trees stuck in my head (Will did not help with this - as we drove around he would point to a stand of trees and say 'What kind of trees are those again?' so he deserved every ear-splitting rendition he got). Sometimes, my internal soundtrack is flat out bizarre. So, when you imagine me snowmobiling through the wintery wilderness of Yellowstone, it needs to be accompanied by a rousing chorus of the title song from Oklahoma -

 O-----klahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain
And the waving wheat, it sure smells sweet,
When the wind comes straight behind the rain...

and so forth. It was pretty funny. My face was freezing off and I'm singing about waving wheat, which I'm pretty sure is a summer phenomenon.

Just so you can fully appreciate the full experience, auditory and otherwise.

Monday 16 February 2015

Where in the world: Halifax

So we've been on the road about a month and a half and have so far blogged about 2 weeks worth so we thought we'd do a quick update to let you know where we are.

Lower Yosemite Falls
Right now we are in Halifax and we got here just in time to be a part of a nasty winter storm that brought lots snow and rain to the area in temperatures below -10°C which messes up the road, drainage and apparently sewage systems a bit (and produces some nasty ice on the car).  Don't worry, we are fine, we got the chance to get some rest but it has meant seeing less of Nova Scotia.  Tomorrow we head towards Boston with a stop-over in St John and then after that to New York for a while before flying out to Africa!

And to catch you up on where we've been, well we completed the loop back to LA after passing through California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, British Columbia, Washington State and Oregon safely with a few stories to tell.  Then after flying to Toronto we have been through Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and now Nova Scotia.

So there's the brief catch up and we hope to bring you some more in depth stories soon!

Will & Jacq

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Quick Tips: Touring Monument Valley

The main highway
I thought Monument Valley was just an area you drive through on the highway with some impressive rock features, turns out the most interesting part is off the highway on a Navajo Reservation.  To see the monument you can take a tour with a Navajo guide or you can self drive so I thought I'd share a little info that might help you make that decision.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Photo Tips: Antelope Canyon

Entrance to the upper canyon
We had a fantastic trip to Antelope Canyon so I thought I'd give you some tips about getting the best shots you can out of your visit and maybe show off a few more photos.  I definitely no expert, I've only visited once, in winter, early in the morning but hopefully it will still be useful.

Firstly, there are two Antelope Canyon's, the upper and the lower canyon.  We went to see the upper which is the narrow and probably the more famous one, I've heard good things about the lower and more open canyon and the photos tours available but it was closed while we were there.  Also if you want the iconic 'rays of light' photos then you need to be there in summer (or at least not winter) and pick the right times of the day (well documented elsewhere).  Make sure you book your tour in advance, even in winter.

Monday 2 February 2015

Arches and Canyonlands National Parks

North Arch, Arches National Park
By now we were getting quite accustomed to the Arizona/Utah landscape. Not in the sense of 'meh - seen it', we still stopped every time there was a decent butte on the side of the road, but just in a gentle acclimatisation sense. It was just there, every time we walked out the door. That's the thing. It's not just the national parks in Arizona and Utah - everywhere you go there's a canyon or butte or mesa (though honestly I'm not too sure on what makes something a butte as opposed to a mesa - could google it but I'm also not sure it matters too much in terms of my general enjoyment of life). So Arches and Canyonlands, whilst spectacularly beautiful in their own way, just didn't knock my socks off in the same way as the Grand Canyon or Monument Valley. They were different though. The former were all about the drama - the huge scale of everything is what makes it remarkable. Arches and Canyonlands were more subtle, their attraction was more subtle, softer, with rounded edges. There wasn't just one amazing feature to look at but many. It was like being in a room full of models rather than in a room with one supermodel (I know this because I have extensive experience being in rooms with supermodels... although in another life as a Melbourne Fashion Week dresser, I do have experience being in rooms full of models).

Sunday 25 January 2015

Monument Valley

I've worked out the problem with travel blogging. We've only been at it for a few weeks, plus we're desperately behind on our posts so I've only really done a week's worth of travel and I'm already running out of superlatives to describe the things that I've seen. Plus, the internet generation throws around too many of the things anyway - not everything can LITERALLY be the MOST AMAZING thing you've ever seen. It just can't. Not even if the dictionary now thinks that literally can mean the opposite of literally (but don't get me started). The alternative is to be lukewarm about everything and say it was 'nice' and nobody wants to read that. I have total new found respect for really good travel writers. Maybe you should go and read something by one of them....

Monday 19 January 2015

Photo Tips: Horseshoe Bend + photos

Horseshoe Bend is a stunning location on the Colorado River located just outside Page, about a 10 minute drive to the car park and then a 20-30 minute walk over the hill to get to the viewing area on the edge of the cliff/canyon.  Make sure you are there well before sunset and bring warm clothes and a torch so you can stay till well after too as there are many great shots.

View from the top of the hill on the walk in.

Friday 16 January 2015

Quick Tips: Hire Cars

Picking a hire car company was a challenge, trying to figure out a reputable company that wasn't crazy expensive and met a few key things such as:
-Sufficient milage
-Ability to go into Canada
-Sufficient insurance coverage (since we don't have a US credit card or existing US insurance)

Included all of those things into the decision I picked Alamo for our LA car hire although there were some complaints on the reviews they seemed fairly reputable and were cheaper than most.

Our first dusting of snow, that shut down Arizona.
Pick up was interesting, there was a huge turn over of cars arriving and leaving and people just kept rolling in.  Unfortunately for use there was a distinct lack of small SUV's (for the number that had booked them) and the guy in the yard was trying to convince people into different cars, premium's etc.  We said we would prefer an SUV got given a medium SUV however after after a quick check under the car we found out it wasn't 4wd so we requested another.  They said they couldn't guarantee it but we fairly quickly ended up with an AWD Dodge Journey which served us well.  If you are thinking of going to areas with a potential for snow then I would definitely recommend getting a 4wd, particularly since most car hire companies I looked at would not allow you to fit chains.

Monday 12 January 2015

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is a little canyon just outside Page, Arizona. Page seems to be a town that exists solely because there is a whole bunch of really amazing stuff within spitting distance. That’s actually not the case, Page was founded because they were building a dam and needed a place to house the workers, so they bought the land from the local Navajo people, but there are so many beautiful things around here – Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell as well as Antelope Canyon – we could easily have stayed longer.
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon. I say that like I know what it means, right? Well, as far as I can tell, it means a super narrow, winding canyon where if you get distracted for a second, say, checking the photos on your camera, you are most likely to end up walking face first into a rock formation. At certain times of year, Antelope Canyon gets these light shafts down through the canyon. Photos of the canyon with these shafts of light are making it onto the internet and into travel books. We were not there at that time of year, so if you want to see those photos, you’re going to have to Google it, but it really didn’t matter, as you will see when you see the photos. As long as you have some light coming down into the canyon, it’s all good.

Friday 9 January 2015

Photo Tips: Grand Canyon

I'd heard various things about the Grand Canyon being a bit overrate and not worth spending a lot of time at however we loved it and one night was definitely not enough.  This was partly due to our adventures in getting there but I would recommend two nights and aiming not to arrive late and leave early on your travel days either side.  Obviously we were there in winter so some of these tips may not apply to other seasons and one visit for one night hardly makes me an expert but I hope these are of use to someone...

View points

Sunrise at Maricopa Point looking west.
Typically the best view points for the Grand Canyon are the ones the let you look along the valley the most.  We shot sunrise at Maricopa Point because I forgot the map and were running a bit late, but we later visited Hopi Point which allows better shots along and into the valley (in line with the sunlight) however it would have been busier too.  Note that the view points to the west of the village are only open to public vehicles in winter, at other times you have to take the shuttle to get to these locations.  While we were there they were well covered in packed snow but were very drivable.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

The Photography Couple

Common the world over, the photography couple can be seen in particular proliferation around sights of great beauty or cultural significance. As with many creatures in the wild, the male of the species usually has the most impressive display. He is often equipped with a complicated looking backpack featuring many different compartments and straps and will always be seen with a large, expensive camera body and several accompanying lenses. In most, but not all, cases, the male will also carry a tripod with which to mark its territory. His call is rarely heard, though if someone happens to walk through his shot, his grunts can become aggressive, especially if that person is in possession of a selfie stick.

The Grand... Canyon!

View from Ooh Aah Point on the South Kaibab Trail.

I've travelled a bit. I've seen a few of the things that regularly make it onto those Seven Wonders of the World lists - like Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef and the Taj Mahal. Plus a few that occasionally make it onto those lists - like Halong Bay and Angkor Wat. I know this is utterly shameless travel name dropping but I do have a point!

Before I saw any of these things (and the Taj Mahal was the first one I saw), I always kind of thought those lists were a bit overwrought. You know the feeling - someone talks something up so much that the reality is inevitably a let down. Let me tell you, I've been wrong about that every single time. The Taj blew my mind. The Great Barrier Reef is incredible (although get there fast I reckon, in the five years between my two visits it's gone downhill significantly). And so on and so on.

Friday 2 January 2015

The Grand.... Traffic Jam?

Imagine all those movies that you’ve seen that have road trips – not the gross-out comedy type, the meaningful driving-as-self-discovery montage type. Got it?

An essential Hollywood road trip montage must have:
  • Driver and passenger singing along to classic rock
  • Someone with their arm out the window catching the air currents with their hand
  • The long, straight road stretched out ahead as the sunlight plays on the buttes and mesas of the passing landscape
  • Ridiculously attractive people gazing pensively out the window, probably filmed from an angle that allows us to see them in the wing mirror
  • All set to a soundtrack of thoughtful, romantic, just slightly edgy music.

Packing - For Photography

Hi, my name is Will and I'm a cameraholic.  But more seriously, I love photography and taking photos however packing (and carrying) camera gear can be a real pain in the neck (or back).  Decision about what to take, how to pack it, what to pack it in tend to drive me mad but I thought I'd write a bit about my decision process and some cool gear incase it helps you out.

Define some parameters

Where are you going and what will you be shooting?

I'm about to do a bit of an around the world trip which will involve lots of landscape and wildlife photography followed by more city touring.  I would be doing lots of walking both city and trail and will want my camera with me.  [Regions: US, Canada, Southern Africa, Europe, UK]


Selfie from Santa Monica (after a long haul flight).
Hello wide world of interwebs.

We are Jacq and Will. A little while ago, we came up with a vague plan. It grew out of the idea of a (Southern hemisphere) summer holiday to take photos in various national parks in Western USA. Then we thought – what if we just keep going? So we have both taken 6 months off from our regular employment (primary teacher and engineer) to wander around and see what there is to see.

When asked the question, ‘Where are you going?’ the easiest answer has been, ‘Everywhere!’ but that’s not terribly instructive or even terribly accurate so more specifically… we will start off by spending about 5 weeks in Western USA, concentrating on national parks and other wild and interesting places. Then we fly to Toronto, head east to the Canadian coast at Halifax, then down the coast to New York. From there we fly into Africa for three weeks of safari, ending in Johannesburg. Then we fly into Munich. That’s at the end of March and we don’t have any commitments from there until the beginning of June when we meet up with Jacq’s dad for a three week coast-to-coast walk in England. The plan for that time is to explore Europe and the UK.

We’ll be blogging as we go. Between us we cover a range of interests. Will is, among other things, into photography, particularly wildlife and landscapes, and food. Jacq, reading, writing, history, art and craft. We’ll be blogging any travel tips we think are useful, but mostly just general musings on our experiences. This blog is chiefly for friends and family to keep track of us, but of course everyone is welcome!