Posts Tagged ‘Photography’

King’s Park and Botanic Gardens  is a must-see in Perth.  Not only is it a beautiful park and garden overlooking the city of Perth, it also boasts being one of the largest city parks in the world, beating out Hyde Park and even New York’s Central Park.  It’s a beauty.

The park offers free year-round guided walking tours several times throughout the day.  I was lucky enough to partake in a Wildflower walk which lasted an hour and a half.  We had two guides (to a group of 6) and they were very knowledgeable about the gardens and flower species.  All the guides are volunteers and that made the walk even more enjoyable…just knowing they were out there with us because of their love of the garden and flowers and that they wanted to share that love and knowledge with us.  I was a little intimidated when it became clear that all the walk participants had extensive botany knowledge.  One of the guides asked me if I had a keen interest in botany and I sheepishly replied ‘I appreciate beautiful flowers’.  (GROAN)

Perth’s Botanic Garden boasts about their focus on local (Western Australia) flora due to the extraordinary diversity and the fact that many of the flowers couldn’t be found anywhere else in the world.  How cool is that?! And still only about 3,000 of WA’s 12,000 species of plants are in the garden.

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In the slideshow you’ll see my photos of the acacia, eucalypt, and banskia varieties.  (Towards the end of the tour, I was even getting pretty good and differentiating between them.  No one was more surprised than me.)

The slideshow also has a photo of the solemn Perth War Memorial overlooking the city and my favorite garden feature…the Pioneer Woman Memorial Fountain.  You see a statue of a Pioneer Woman carrying her baby.  The fountain had several different small spouts of water that shot out randomly, representing the woman’s search for a suitable place for her family in WA.  After a few seconds, the small spouts go away and one big spout of water shoots out really high symbolizing that she found the place she wanted to make her family’s home.  Beautiful symbolism.  And to think, if I hadn’t done the walk, I might have just thought it was a nice-lookin’ statue.  🙂

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Ever read a book or see a movie or have a conversation in which you have so many  ‘A HA’ moments that your worldview has changed forever?  It’s happened to us a lot lately…chalk it up to nearing our (gulp) thirties.  Whatever the experience is, I know I could never go on pretending that I didn’t know what I know now.  These experiences make us face our lives in a whole new light; either armed with more information or more questions and often times both at the same time.  Game Changers.  Know what I mean?

This is the perhaps the best way to describe our 4-hour long adventure with Neil from Cooper Creek Wilderness tours in the Daintree Rainforest.  Neil and his family have lived in the Cooper Valley part of the rainforest for over 20 years.  He knows his stuff and (I imagine) blows the pants off of those guys giving scripted tours at some of the cheaper places doing day trips from Port Douglas or Cairns.

There were too many things that we learned and experienced to capture them all here.  In fact, we spent several hours after the tour frantically writing everything we could remember in my little notebook and I’m still fretting about things we may have forgotten.  The pictures from below aren’t all from the tour but were taken during our time in the Daintree.  Nevertheless, here are a few general highlights:

  • The Daintree or Gondwanan rainforest is the oldest-surviving rainforest in the world having survived over 135 million years.  Neil usually does 2 hour, eco-friendly, tours but we were unique in choosing the Greater Wilderness Tour which lasts half a day.  I think Neil said 20 couples/year choose the longer tour so summarizing his words, we were two of twenty people in the world to trek that deep into the longest surviving rainforest that year!

Fan palms and strangler vines

  • The Daintree is also a World Heritage Area meaning that this place in far North Queensland is one of the only places in the world where two World Heritage Areas meet.  “Where the rainforest meets the reef…”

Noah’s Beach – Daintree

  • EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.  EVERYTHING HAS A PURPOSE.  Rain to plants to insects to animals to humans.

Canopy of Fan Palms

  • Half of what Neil sees on his tours he’ll never see again.  Neil has found wildlife that had not been previously found and as of yet remains unnamed by the scientific community.  Our wildlife pictures will follow in an upcoming post.
  • The rainforest needs our help.  For reasons still unclear to me, the government has done everything in its power to squeeze tourism out of the Daintree and before you think there might be some noble cause behind it, I assure you it has loads to do with money.  But without going to far into negative town, let me just say, VISIT the Daintree.  If you’re going to Australia, make it a priority.  It should be on the top list of places to visit in Australia alongside the the Reef and Red Centre/Uluru (which we’ve yet to visit).

Ryan and I were both so deeply affected by the rainforest that he’s written his own reflection HERE.

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Confession Time…

Sometimes we get so busy chasing happiness that we forget to just be happy.

Sometimes we plan for the next three (or five or ten) years and we don’t cherish the present.

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut complaining about things in life that aren’t perfect instead of focusing on the things that are.

And then…THEN there are the other times; like the portion of our Anniversary trip where we spent three days and two nights at Frangipani B&B in beautiful Port Douglas.

We walked into a beautiful B&B in Port Douglas and our cheeks hurt from smiling because the place is every bit of beautiful and peaceful as we had hoped.

One afternoon we did nothing but play cards for hours, listen to the birds, and occasionally look over the balcony at the beautiful pool retreat.

We played table tennis/ping pong one morning (who makes time to play anymore?!) and then biked along Four Mile Beach on the vintage bikes that Leona and Bob provided.

We had gorgeous brekkies full of fresh and tropical fruit.

We were relieved to find that great ol’ fashioned customer service is not dead.  Leona and Bob made every effort to ensure our stay was perfect.  They allowed us to do a load of our salty laundry from our snorkeling and boat trip and had left a bottle of sparkling wine in our room to help celebrate our anniversary.

We can’t say enough about the beautiful accommodation and service but more importantly, our restful and relaxing stay there reminded us that…sometimes WE can just BE.

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To kick off our Anniversary extravaganza we spent two days and one night on a sailboat (yes, sailboat, you heard right) at the Great Barrier Reef.  We booked with Vagabond Dive ‘n Sail per a recommendation from a fellow ex-pat blogger who had done the same during her family’s visit to Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of over 900 places in the world to be deemed a World Heritage Site, in other words, “part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.”  We were beyond excited for this stop on the trip.

We ran into a few hiccups and without dwelling here let me just say that a torn sail, rough waters, a bit of seasickness, and sunburned feet did not get in the way of this amazing adventure.  That attitude is the only way to approach trips of this nature.  They are once in a lifetime for a reason and we chose to focus on everything incredible and inspiring from the journey.  After all, we were two of only a million people who get to snorkel the reef each year…that’s out of the over 7 billion people in the world.  WOW.

We left Cairns on the Vagabond early in the morning and departed for Fitzroy Island (due to the poor weather).  We snorkeled for a bit, took a nap on a nearby beach, had a lovely conversation with other guests and the crew — Skipper Paul, Bel, and dive instructor Jannick — ate dinner, watched the sunset, and then headed to bed.

On another major positive note, my dear husband has changed his mind about the necessity of buying a sailboat upon our return to the US.  Let’s just say that sleeping on a boat is not our thing and the smile is still on my face for dodging that bullet.

Snorkeling was, of course, awesome.  I laughed at myself several times thinking that we were swimming with the fishies, in a non-mafia-movie-sort-of-way. *Sorry about the poor photo quality.  Our underwater cover for our little digi-camera worked okay but those darn fish move around making it really hard to capture the awesomeness.

The tropical fish were expected but I was not at all prepared for the other incredible marine life, aka the reef.  Some of the reef looked like things you’d see under a microscope in a biology class but with more vibrant colors.

Each time I popped my head out of the water I couldn’t fathom that all of that life was just under my toes.  It’s a little unsettling but in a good way.  The next morning we woke up for brekkie, did another round of snorkeling, and then headed back to Cairns.  Because the Reef is a World Heritage Area no one is allowed to take pieces of the reef home for souvenirs even though there are tons of pieces and shells on the shore.  We as law abiding citizens left the reef intact for the many future generations and who knows, maybe we’ll be back for our 25th anniversary.

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How to summarize our week-long holiday in Tassy – Australia’s island state…so many walking trails walked, delicious meals eaten, beautiful views seen, and amazing memories made.  Too many to point out here, in fact.  So here are our Top Five Things To Do in Tasmania, in no particular order

1. Cradle Mountain Lodge  Dove Lake Walk – about an hour’s drive from Devonport is the beautiful Cradle Mountain National Park and Dove Lake.  There is an easy two-hour trek around the lake which is full of beautiful sights and smells.  We got there fairly early in the day and there weren’t a ton of people doing the walk.  When we arrived back at the carpark there was three times the amount of people so I’d recommend starting early.

We stayed at the beautiful Cradle Mountain Lodge, our favorite of all the places we stayed in Tassy.

*Image from: Cradle Mountain Lodge

We stayed in a Pencil Pine cabin which was the perfect size for the two of us.  The first day we arrived it rained all day so we read books and played cards by the fireplace.  So that’s what a relaxing vacation is like?

2.  Brekkie at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm in Elizabethtown – on a recommendation from a friend from Tassy we stopped at this farm and cafe for brekkie on our way to Cradle Mountain.  It was a beautiful little raspberry farm with a quaint cafe, complete with a real fire crackling in the background.  We had one of the best meals in Tassy at this place, including raspberry chocolate french toast and a big country brekkie with raspberry sausage.

3.  Hawthorn Hawks vs. Sydney Swans at Aurora Stadium in Launceston – Yes, my hubs is a huge AFL Footy Hawks’ supporter and yes, I added up some major wife points by attending yet another Hawks’ game with him.  Best.Wive.Ever.  The Aurora stadium in Launceston is about 70,000 seats smaller than the MCG but it allows you to get right up there close to the action.  It was a perfect day for a game, making me homesick for fall Sunday afternoon football.  We won’t discuss the outcome of the game.

4. Salamanca Place and the Salamanca Market in Hobart– We spent a couple of days in Hobart and a majority of those days we were at Salamanca Place.  One night we had some darn good pizza at Cargo and the next morning we went to the famous Salamanca Market.  While the size and variety of the market is bested by other markets we’ve visited, there is definitely a special feeling at Salamanca with the old-style buildings and the backdrop of Mount Wellington.

5. Tasman Island Cruise at Port Arthur – this was amazing and too much to include in this post so there is a full post dedicated to this.  Click HERE to read about this incredible experience.

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Taking the family on the Great Ocean Road was a highlight for us (and them too, I think).  We visited the “musts” like Gibson’s Steps, The Twelve Apostles, and the London Bridge for the second time.  But we also made stops at Erskine Falls, outside of Lorne, to admire the beautiful water cascading down a 30m drop.

In Lorne we also made time for Teddy’s Lookout, which provided a spectacular bird’s eye view of the road.  This place has been called a photographer’s dream and I can see why.  I was dreaming about a new panoramic lens.

We experienced Cape Patton for the second time but with the overcast weather it was almost like experiencing it for the first time.

Must remember to bring an Iowa sticker from home to put on the Cape Patton road sign next time…

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Little did we know…

  1. Just less than four short hours outside of Melbourne, a spectacular mountain range looms in northwest Victoria.
  2. The Grampians National Park covers 167,000 hectares and is one of the largest National Parks in Victoria.
  3. The Grampians is home to many important historical Aboriginal rock-art sites.  Some of which we visited and mention in an upcoming post.
  4. The national park includes 600 km of roads and 160 km of walking tracks.
  5. There are lots of things to do in the Grampians ranges from walking, hiking, rock climbing, indulging in spa treatments, abseiling, site-seeing and wine-tasting.

We recommend…

1.  Doing the Central Grampians half-day drive and stopping at the lookouts.  Most are less than a kilometer walk from the carpark, although there are a few that can be accessed via longer and more challenging hikes.  We really enjoyed the Boroka Lookout…

and the Balconies lookout…

2.  Take a walk/hike to Mackenzie’s falls known as “mingunang wirab” to Aboriginals meaning ‘black fish floating on top of water’ but be prepared for quite a steep walk down to the falls and then as you may have surmised, a pretty intense climb back up to the top.

3.  Stay near Hall’s Gap which serves as a good base for visiting the Grampians.  We loved our night at Corella Rise B&B.  Read our post about our stay.

4.  Don’t plan on a nice dinner or evening out in Hall’s Gap.  We had a less-than-enjoyable evening out at one of the local supposedly “nice” establishments.  Without naming any names, let me just say….it’s a tourist town and you’ll get tourist food and tourist service, if you’re lucky.

5. Do visit some of the Aboriginal sites.  In Victoria there aren’t many places to get an up-close glimpse into the longest surviving culture in the world.  More to come on this in a future post…

Overall, DO visit the Grampians.  There is a lot to do and see, of course, but you can also just relax and take in the beautiful scenery.   It makes for a great weekend or long-weekend mini-vacation from the city.

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Ryan and I spent the days leading up to the new year at the Grampians.  Stay tuned for a a couple of upcoming posts about our lovely time there.  New Years Eve we stayed at Corella Rise, a peaceful B&B slightly off the beaten track between Halls Gap and Stawell.  Kevin and Sandy were the perfect hosts and everything about our stay, including the fabulous cooked brekkie, was more than we could’ve asked for; peace, relaxation, and tranquility.  We spent a whole afternoon laying on the bed, reading a book, listening to the quiet sounds of the wind through our bedroom screened door…paradise.

The scenery was, in a word, beautiful.  It was the perfect way to bring in the new year and so it felt truly serendipitous when I saw Max Ehrmann’s famous “Desiderata” or “Desired Things” hanging on the wall of a hallway at Corella Rise.  What am amazing outlook to bring into 2012.  I’ve included the text below along with pictures from our surroundings to give you a sense of our New Years at the Grampians.

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Happy 2012 from our household to yours!

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If you like orchids than you would love the Orchid Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Many of our readers may know what orchids look like but in case you are like us — and didn’t know there are so many diffferent colors and patterns — we have included a myriad of different photos.

Living in America you will see these dainty flowers in the local supermarkets for sale in pots for outrageous prices and if you are foolhardy enough to purchase one you will find that they are beautiful for a bit but after their short “beautifying” existence, they lose their flowers and then just turn into 3 – 4 broad green leaves (with a certain impending death if they live in our house…sorry, Wife).

However these delicate flowers thrive in the humid, hot and basically soaking wet country of Singapore.  The garden consisted of 30,000 – 40, 000 different types of orchids and within the first 10 meters you will agree with your partner that your $10.00 total to enter the garden was well worth it.

After walking through the steamy garden you start to dream for an air-conditioned room and if you keep to the signs and follow the path that leads you to the cool room you will find your dream a reality.  Within this cool room you will find an array of carnivorous plants and orchids that grow in the highlands of Asian countries.

We walked, we talked, and were amazed by the sights and scenes in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, including this Curtain of Roots (Princess Vine).

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Birds of Paradise

One of our favorite things about Melbourne is the abundance of beautiful flowers.  The fresh and floral landscape is also the cause for some of the worst allergies either of us have experienced in our lives but that’s a post for another day. 

The Birds of Paradise flower, Crane flower, or Strelitzia, is one that neither Ryan nor I can walk by without stopping to admire its exotic bloom.  Native to South Africa, the flower resembles a bird in flight.  The colors are so bright and bold that we wanted to share just a few of our favorite shots of the one blooming right outside of our church.

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