Australia

(To any Australians reading this, please don’t be upset with anything I write. Your country seems rather unusual to many of us from tamer parts of the planet.)

I planned a two week trip to Australia; I stayed for six. I had no idea I would be so bowled over by the place. Plus, it’s, um, big. I wanted to stay six years.

That said, Australia is full of extremely dangerous things: while cruising down a river in the northwest, the man operating the boat, a tough and sunburned outback-type, went pale when one woman trailed her hand in the water; he shouted at her to stop – this incredibly macho guy was manifestly disturbed by the prospect of a crocodile snatching a passenger off his boat. “They live to kill,” he said in a numb voice. He proceeded to tell me how these huge “salties” (one was over 15 feet) kill after mating, eat their kids, and are patient, sly, and obscenely dedicated killers. He transferred his dread to me with the telling. (Yet, in practically the same breath, he asked would I come live with him out there on his houseboat, but I demurred. He needs to work on his pickup skills.) That was definitely not my only scare; the continent is chock full of ways to die; stressed guides everywhere were constantly having to shout, “Watch out! Don’t touch that! Don’t step there!”

Australia boasts lots of “mosts” and “ests”: steepest ride; most venomous animals; largest ecosystem; oldest surviving civilization (50,000 years!); oldest fossils; most dangerous birds (birds!) . . . and the safest airline.

I spent a lot of time on trains: first from Sydney to Queensland; then Adelaide to Darwin on The Ghan, with a stop in between at the Red Center; then Perth to Sydney on the Indian Pacific. Sadly, one has to fly to Broome; I never wanted to leave that place, but for the crocodiles . . .

Another crazy story: Australia has a lot of wild camels. Because the roads in the Outback are so empty, drivers go very, very fast, and camels and other critters suffer the consequences. There were so many carcasses, carrion birds were said to have developed health issues from the unhealthy diets of easily-picked fatty organs. Roadsigns hoping to get folks to drive slower read LIFT UM FOOT.

Yet another story: once I was having lunch on the second floor of an open-air restaurant in Sydney, the country’s most-populated-with-humans city. Halfway through my sandwich, I saw that there were hundreds of bats hanging upside down in the trees an arm’s-length away. How I did not notice that right away I will never understand.

Also, kangaroos are not out in the wild: they’re in the neighborhood, hop hop hopping along, cruising around like the neighbor’s loose dog.

In those six weeks, I hiked the Blue Mountains and King’s Canyon. I cruised the Daintree River. I saw a platypus. I rode in a submersible in the Great Barrier Reef. I camped in Kakadu. I explored the fantastic Red Center, including Uluru, or Ayers Rock, and Kata Tjuta, or The Olgas. I visited Broome in the far northwest, and it holds a place of special affection in my heart. I toured the gold-seeking Super Pit, with its machines with 13-foot-tall tires. I crossed the Nullarbor Plain. (I did NOT climb the Sydney Bridge.)

What a place. Hope you enjoy the photos. I thought using the bat photo as the header was appropriate for this time of year. There will be more photos of Down Under next week, and no talk.

High on eucalyptus.
Off Cairns, on the Barrier Reef.
My lunch companions.
See the little joey?
A lot of areas looked like the Flintones’ neighborhood.
Ancient art.
The Olgas, or Kata Tjuta, which enchanted me.
And of course, Uluru, or Ayers Rock (although neither name makes everyone happy).

Visit Australia.

Some of the Best Days of My Life

The Galápagos Islands are magnificent. I’m guessing they are a lot like Hawai`i once was. I got to spend ten days on a boat going from island to island, and during the voyage, there was a full moon.

Magic.

While sailing I read The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner, which upped the trip’s coolness factor by 100%.

Next week Galápagos: Birdie Edition.

Some critter’s tracks.
These two fellows were scraping.
It’s the law to stay at least two meters from critters, but it’s almost impossible. I mean, this is the pathway.
That would be a seal having a beach day.
The pleasure of warm rocks.
Solitario Jorge, the last known Pinta Island tortoise.
Upward dog.
Post Office Bay is how people used to communicate – if you saw a letter there addressed to someone who lived near your home, you were supposed to take it and deliver to them. Nowadays, people just write graffiti or stick stickers.
Me and a Galápagos racer. One of the boat’s crew really wanted my hat (it says University of Hawai`i), but I wouldn’t give it up. I told him I’d send him one, but I never did. I’m sorry.
Iguana art.
These iguanas are gorgeous and freaky at the same moment.
I could totally live here.
Iguana spa.
Critters all hung out with each other.
Next week is Galapagos Birdies Edition, but I felt that I couldn’t post a post about the Galapagos without at least one shot of a Blue-Footed Booby.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

ANTARCTICA: CRITTERS EDITION

So, with the first photo below, look for the reddish mark on the lower left of the berg. It turns out it’s a thing for captains to push their ship’s bow into an iceberg and leave a mark. This took a few hours. When done, we pulled away and sailed on. It was weird. To me, anyway.

I hope you enjoy the photos. Next week: the Galapagos Islands! Seems like this is turning in to a Friday thing.

The ship had a former life in the Chilean Navy.
Dangerous critter!

I took this photo from my own Zodiac. Climbing down the side of the ship on a rusted, rickety ladder to get in the Zodiac was an adventure in itself.

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

This Just In From The BBC

I made up “cloudbow” and now I know the scientific term – if you can’t read the caption, it’s “An upside-down rainbow, more technically known as a circumzenithal arc, fills the sky in Burnley, Lancashire. Photo by Weather Watcher Syed Bukhari.”

So that’s in England, and I also got a report of a sighting in Buffalo, New York. Cloudbows are trending!

For more loveliness from the BBC:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/1sMtbgQKBf0BtB4vPNHDFMg/pic-of-the-season-summer-2021

SIMULTANEOUSLY SEEKING SAFETY AND SANITY

I’m going (more) nuts. I want to get on a plane and go soak in a Kyushu hot spring, hike Taiwan’s Dongyanshan National Forest, wander Hanoi, float along the Mekong, sit still in Siem Reap, sleep in a 4.5 star Hilton in Kuala Lumpur ($57 a night!) and take in Singapore’s Chihuly exhibit. I want to circle Sri Lanka, dive The Maldives, safari in southern Africa. But instead I remain here in front of my computer, scrolling through old trip photos, now too scared even to venture to Kona, what with the mutants and maskless.

I’m revisiting old trips for their use in distracting me. I’ve come to realize that my normal method for staying mentally steady (and un-grumpy) is travel-related activity: checking out guidebooks from the library, subscribing to travel newsletters, imagining trips, planning trips, taking trips – the possibility of flight. But lately it’s been about canceling trips (fact: I’m supposed to be in Paris today, at a hotel near the Gare de Lyon, in the 12th arrondissement, steps from the Seine).

The photos I’ve been scrolling through the last few days are from a trip to Antarctica. You may think of it as a white place, but there are so many shades of blue and green.

With travel out of the question, I’m seeking equilibrium through laughter. Have you something that makes you laugh out loud? If yes, please do share. Awkward Family Photos, BBC’s Ghosts, and Los Espookys are providing that service for me at the present, but I welcome suggestions. Cuz without distractions, I’m consumed by this depressing time of stay-homedness, taking photos like this instead of the Seine:

MY FIRST CLOUDBOW

Spectacular sunsets are pretty much a daily given from my lanai, since I live near the ocean on the west side of an island. Once I even saw a lightning storm over distant O`ahu. Whales, dolphins, Coast Guard ships, fishing boats, canoes, SUPs, scuba divers, blue skies and fluffy clouds are the norm. But lately we’ve had some weather, and I captured some serious clouds and offshore rain. Then, lo and behold, my first cloudbow! It was as stunning as the sliver moonbow I once saw on the North Shore of O`ahu.

Lucky I live Hawai`i.

I’ve included a photo of a vociferous family that visits daily, more photos of my neighborhood, and a couple more West Hawai`i roadside attractions.

I also get treated to dreamy moonsets.
There was just one narrow downpour near the center of the horizon
Mauna Kea in the distance.
This plant has hollow flowers about three inches long.
If the weather’s just right, I can see Maui from here, but my camera can’t capture it.
Near the entrance to Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, looking east.
POOP.

Stay safe. Read the real news. Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Look at pretty photos.