Tuesday, September 20, 2005

September 20th, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

I spent the last three days on a liveaboard dive boat on the Great Barrier Reef. I did 11 dives (including 2 night dives, way cool!), got my Advanced Open Water certification in the process, saw reef sharks, barracudas, sea turtles, rays, tons of the usual tropical fish, corals and who knows what. Oh and Nemo! But I don't have my own underwater camera equipment (yet) and the rentals were very dear so no underwater pics. Nemo says hi!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Technical note

My notebook computer has a very narrow vertical viewing angle, terrible contrast and has a very hard time displaying shades of yellow, orange, red and brown. It's essentially useless for processing images which is exactly what I'm using it for. So if the colors in any of the posted images look particularly bad drop me a note and I'll try to correct it...

Day 38: 'Killer smile'

Estuarine Crocodile, Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 37: 'Top Goose'

Magpie Goose, Mamukala Wetlands, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 36: 'Salty the Croc'

Estuarine Crocodile, Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 35: Azure Kingfisher

Yellow Water, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 34: 'Between a rock and a hard place'

Devil's Marbles Conservation Reserve, Northern Territory, Australia

September 14th, Northern Territory, Australia

Unlike many other natural formations in the Outback these two rocks don't appear to have any spiritual significance to the native Aboriginal population. However, they are a very powerful magnet to the landscape photographer. An icon in their own right they feature in every guidebook and on postcards throughout the territory. This location was very high on my to-do list when I initially researched the itinerary for this portion of the trip but a look at the map cooled my enthusiasm. The collection of boulders, known as The Devil's Marbles, is in the centre of a vast empty area more than 800km north of Uluru and almost 1200km south of Darwin by car. The Australian version of the middle of nowhere is a very big place. Just how far was I prepared to go for a picture?

With no radio reception, no CDs and no MP3 player it was going to be long drive. For entertainment I counted the kangaroos I passed. Sadly, every one of them was dead. The number of carcasses rotting along the road, not just of kangaroos but also of other small mammals and even livestock, was astounding, especially as the only warm-blooded wildlife I spotted during the drive were grazing cattle. Not wanting to add to the body count I followed the recommendation against driving through the outback at night. That, and unlike many of the vehicles I passed, rental cars don't come with 'roo-bars as standard equipment. Soon I lost count and instead looked for Wedge-tailed Eagles occasionaly circling gracefully above fresh road kill.

While the outback contains a lot more vegetation then I expected it is still predominantly flat and featureless. The road I followed for most of the way is the Stuart Highway which bisects Australia linking Adelaide in the south and Darwin in the north. It has no posted speed limit except around the tiny communities that sparsely sprinkle its length providing drivers with gas and free coffee. With a continuous supply of caffeine, many seemingly never-ending straights and lack of cruise control in my compact rental I frequently caught the needle of the speedometer pointing south of 190 kilometers per hour (usually after briefly becoming airborne on a bump in the road). This was unfortunately to the detriment of the local lizard population which chose the black surface of the highway to sun themselves (as if the ambient temperature topping 36 degrees Celsius wasn't enough).

Final death toll, a regrettable three lizards and a soft projectile which I assume was a small bird...

Day 33: 'Old Timer'

Wauchope, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 32: 'Bloody long way from anywhere...'

Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 31: 'Many Heads'

Kata Tjuta, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Monday, September 12, 2005

Day 30: 'Easy does it!'

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 29: 'Scenic Drive'

Uluru, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day 28: 'Uluru Awakening'

Uluru, Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

Day 27: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Royal National Park, New South Wales, Australia

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Day 26: Eastern Water Dragon

Royal National Park, New South Wales, Australia

Day 25: Sydney Harbour

Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Friday, September 09, 2005

September 10th, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia

A quick note in case you're wondering what's going on with me. For the last week I've been travelling around the Australian Outback and I simply can't find anywhere where I would be allowed connect my computer to the internet to upload new images. I don't expect this to change until I get to Cairns on the morning of the 15th but expect a new batch of images soon thereafter!

Friday, September 02, 2005

September 2nd, Royal National Park, New South Wales, Australia

After four days in the city I decided to take a daytrip. Royal National Park, half an hour south of Sydney by car, was established in 1879 making it the world’s second oldest national park after Yellowstone in the United States. Australia has an amazing 2000 national parks but unlike their counterparts in the United States or Canada they are managed at the state level. This technicality becomes relevant when you try to purchase an annual pass as each state issues their own and valid only for access to parks in that state. If, like me, you plan to visit only one or two parks in each state it actually works out cheaper to pay the daily rates for each park. But I’m digressing.

Quarter of an hour into the park I spotted a snake sunning itself by the side of the road. I pulled off onto a wide shoulder a few hundred feet past it. As I was walked back a small truck stopped just across the road from the snake and a young man in the day-glow yellow jacket of a road construction worker jumped out to get a closer look. ‘Tiger snake. Very venomous. Could kill you!’ he exclaimed as I approached. With Australia being home to all ten of the ten most venomous land snake species in the world, and with some 50% of all species being venomous (the percentage increasing to 100% in Tasmania), this didn’t exactly come as a surprise. He pointed at the faint but distinct stripes in the snake’s coloration. ‘Yup, definitely a tiger snake! Could kill you!’. To my amazement having positively established the snake as highly dangerous he proceeded to pin it down to the ground with a stick and then casually picked it up. Holding it with two fingers just behind the head he brought it up to eye level, not six inches from his own face, for detailed examination. I wonder if they teach you this in school here. That’s apparently where his imagination ran out. ‘I don’t know what I should do with it.’. I really wanted to say ‘Well, you shouldn’t have picked it up then!!!’ but decided better against trying to get smart with a fellow holding a five foot deadly venomous reptile and helpfully suggested he move it away from the road so it doesn’t get ran over. After putting it down he shrugged and with a goofy smile announced ‘Could kill you. I probably shouldn’t have picked it up.’. A-ha… It could kill you.

I pulled off again a few miles down the road to write this incident up while it was still fresh in my mind. Before I even got my laptop out I saw a small dark shadow on the side of the road. I got my camera and got out for a closer look. I was looking at an echidna, a mild tempered egg-laying spiny anteater similar in appearance to a porcupine. In the mid-day sun I didn’t get any usable images but had a blast nonetheless watching it destroy a small anthill!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Day 24: BridgeClimb

Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia