Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage

In the last post for now about looking back at old trips and old photos, I wanted to post and share the visit I made in 2004 to the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage.

This was a trip to go to the cricket in Colombo, but upon arriving with a couple of days up my sleeve, I went to Kandy first. Along with visiting the Temple of the Tooth, I managed to get out to see the elephants, before getting the train back to Colombo.

Pinnawala is a village in Kegalle District of Sri Lanka and was just a local bus ride out of Kandy. This was one of those amazing travel experiences, just getting out there, figuring out which bus, and also squeezing onto the bus with the locals. These are the times when being white and kinda blonde stands out the most!

According to this site, through a quick Google search:
The Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage was started in 1975 by the Department of Wildlife on a twenty five acre coconut property on the Maha Oya river at Rambukkana. The orphanage was primarily designed to afford care and protection to the many baby elephants found in the jungle without their mothers. In most of these cases the mother had either died or been killed.

At Pinnawala you can feed baby elephants, and even take part in their bathing, but from memory the time of day of my visit didn't allow for this. But just being in the same paddock as this cobbled-together herd of elephants, adults and babies, was just surreal.

Such an amazing travel experience.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Big Wool Bales

Coming back from Warrnambool yesterday, I made a significant detour to track down one of the Aussie Big Things, but also as a continuation of what felt like a bit of a farewell to the region, for now.

I ducked back inland to capture the Big Wool Bales in Hamilton. I am not sure why I haven't found them before, but I didn't really know where they are. You need to head out on the Coleraine Road to see them, but there is a sign about them on the main road.

They are not really that spectacular, but they meet the Big Things brief in that that are bigger than the item for which they are depicting. Apparently you can go inside for the museum of all things shearing, and there is also a restaurant inside! Big bales indeed!

The sign on the site, being on the edge of an industrial area, tells us that Hamilton is the Wool Capital of the world!

I did try and track down the Big Stockman, which is supposedly in Koroit, but didn't find him. There is a statue on the main road of a stockman, but he doesn't fit the Big Things fact, he may even be less than lifesize, considering my impression of a Stockman would be Hugh Jackman-build from Australia - no?

This detour allowed me to enjoy the view of The Grampians as it came into view in the windscreen, before filling my mirrors for quite some time. A spectacular sunset, with pink and purple clouds dotted all the way home, I also got to check out those gorgeous letterboxes along the road, at Wickliffe as I passed. Such an authentic, rustic, and pretty part of the world, just in our back pocket!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Eight Apostles

Today's roadtrip for work felt a bit like a goodbye to the Western District of Victoria, given my pending last day of work and travel plans. I shot down to Warrnambool, and managed a couple of detours on the way to and from, just in case it's ages and ages before I get down this way again. I mean, who knows when I will have the chance!!??

Once I got to my favourite bit of the driving part of my job, being the sight of the Camperdown Clock Tower, and since I was ahead of schedule (unheard of!), I took the turn to hit the Great Ocean Road, and complete the mission we amazingly failed at on our Roadtrip to Radelaide in January.

Taking careful note of the signs, I turned off correctly, parked, and walked the underpass to take in the view of this rugged coastline and the remaining Apostles. There is supposedly 8 now, of the 12 original (or so named), due to ongoing erosion.

Once you get out to the walkways positioned for the best views, the sight of the little formations out in the waves is spectacular. The cliffs, the blue, blue ocean, and the sunshine. Gorgeous, and enchanting!

The remnants of Apostles lost to the forces of the ocean and time can be seen in line, whilst you can't actually see all 12 at any one time due to the twists and turns of the coastline. Such an iconic view, and one of the gems of our state!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Changing Colours of an Uluru Sunrise

These photos are taken from the same standing point at sunrise, watching as the light of day changes the colours of Uluru. So amazing!

Part of this trip to the Red Centre, back in 2004, our tour group was up before the sun to head to Uluru for sunrise to watch the colour show of the rock. With the hoards of other tourists!

It was really amazing to watch the variations of colour around and of this magical natural icon over such a small space of time. This experience certainly added to the wonder of this part of our country. So beautiful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Ghan, Katherine Gorge and Uluru

The Red Centre, Uluru and travelling on the Ghan was something that I had longed to do, the more I got the taste of travel. Given that Australia has such a vast array of travel experiences at our doorstep, it's pretty remiss that so many of us have yet to see our own backyard.

This is a trip that I completed in August in maybe 2004, and I started it by flying up to Darwin to visit Braiden and Paul. After a few nights hanging out with them, I then boarded The Ghan, the great train journey from the top of Australia and through the middle. On arrival I found that there had been a mix-up with my booking and as a consequence I was given a twin Red Seater cabin all to myself, which meant a sleeper instead on the planned seat I had booked. Bonus! This meant that I had someone come and convert the little space with a bed, after being able to take in the passing Northern Territory from the window in blissful peace.

Leaving Darwin in the morning, the train made a lunchtime stop at Katherine, where I disembarked and joined a cruise in the beautiful Katherine Gorge, which was all arranged from the train.

Back on the train for the overnight portion, we arrived in Alice Springs in the morning where I joined a camping tour for a couple of days, to see Uluru and Kings Canyon. This wasn't hard core camping, but in luxury established tents, shower blocks, and with meals provided.

I had long decided that I would not climb the rock, in respect for our Indigenous brothers and sisters and their beliefs about the sacredness of this big stone in the middle of our country. As we reached the Uluru area we first visited the Cultural Centre, which highlighted this importance, but also provided further background to my rudimentary school-provided overview of Indigenous Australian culture and customs.

I walked around the circumference of Uluru, which was such a magical experience. The colours, the shadows, the quiet, and the feeling of being connected to the land and nature was so strong. The different personalities of the rock with each arc was surprising, and only reinforced the significance of this place to our country and to our Indigenous people. So beautiful.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Cranberries and Lenny Kravitz

Arriving at the Royal Botanical Gardens with the buzzing sound of the F1 cars racing around the town ringing out over the city from the next suburb over, I entered the grounds of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for a night of music under the stars. With the Melbourne skyline lit with the sun setting, I joined my sisters and a few mates on picnic blankets in the middle of the grassy area.

Being the second night of the F1 Rocks concert gigs, as part of the Grand Prix, I was surprised at the low volume of crowd both on the hill and also down on the more expensive seats in front of the stage. Wolfmother opened the night, who ended with their set with Joker And The Thief, which had the languid crowd suddenly spring to life.

The next act were Ireland's The Cranberries. Melissa and I were recounting that we had seem them live a couple of times in the late 1990s, and we reeled off the more obscure tracks we loved and wondered if we would hear play. Of course, as the grunge soundtrack to the end of high school for me, the No Need To Argue album, it featured heavily in this discussion!

Opening with the beautiful Dreams, and then Linger, Dolores and her band took us back to the tracks and lyrics we all loved so much.

Dolores was hard to photograph because she moves around so much on stage, and is never still with her crazy dancing! We had forgotten about her lively stage presence. Plus her light coloured suit and the lighting used had her appear as a blurred white figure on stage for much of the time. But her gorgeous Irish accent was unmistakable, and so cute! She was chatty, and called the crowd 'lads' and talked about celebrating St Patrick's Day the day before.

They gave us a few new tracks from Roses, but songs like Ode To My Family and When You're Gone pulled in the crowd for a full singalong. Free To Decide, and also I Can't Be With You, plus Salvation were in the mix, but Ridiculous Thoughts and the amazing Zombie to finish off the set were brilliant. Definitely had us wanting more from this Irish band, who has been so absent from the music scene in recent times.

Arriving on stage as the sky reached darkness, Lenny Kravitz was wearing a fur vest, grey scarf, jeans, and aviators. He oozed Sexy Rock God status all night, as he delivered his range from his vast album collection, and apologised for not coming to Australia for over 18 years.

Tracks like American Woman and Rock And Roll Is Dead were very big. Lenny had a horn section on stage, complete with a trumpeter who stole the attention on more than one occasion!

Mr Cab Driver and the new Black and White America tapped into his experiences as a black man in America and also the story of his parents' inter-racial marriage, before Always On The Run.

The beautiful Believe had our little group singing along, given the anticipation of this favourite track, and Stand By My Woman and It Ain't Over Till It's Over were also lovely. The rocking Are You Gonna Got My Way, and then Fly Away were very full tracks, loud and strong, and much loved by the then, very involved crowd.

For the epic encore of Let Love Rule, Lenny had the crowd singing and dancing along. In want turned into the never-ending track, he then seemed to get very carried away with the singing participation and then instrumental solos, before declaring that he would not leave it longer than 3 years till he returned to our shores again.

Keeping on with the chorus singing shared with the crowd, Lenny then declared that he was "coming down then", donned his scarf again after just being singleted by this time, and jumped down from the stage to run along the front row and the adoring punters reaching out to him.

Once he had reached the other side of the stage, the lighting and the stressed security then followed him as he weaved through the edge of the crowd, to the middle walkway, and then up further to the fence to our general admin area. Here, at a couple of intervals he jumped up to our level, and reached out to the people around him. At one point, he stood, arms stretched, stilled leading the chorus singalong, in the centre of the whole crowd...for ages!

Returning to the stage after completing a full lap of that front section of the Bowl, Lenny then lead this epic song right down to a slowed, mellow and sultry point, and then raised it back up to his powerful finish.

A surprisingly enjoyable show, after not really considering tickets to this would garner the kind of night we had, given the length of time since either act has been playing consistently on the airwaves (apart from shuffle on my iPod!). My voice is pretty shaky today, a sign that we sang along to much of this show of musical hits and memories. So good, and such a fun show!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's Starting To Get Very Real....

As the final big piece of the puzzle to untangle myself from my current life falls into place, the realisation, and the excitement of the next adventure is oh so slowly creeping in.

I just sold my car, this morning! This sets me free!

I have also given notice at work a couple of weeks ago, and finish up at my job in 2.5 weeks. On Friday I said goodbye to one of my favourite clients (with one more to go in the coming week!), which was actually pretty tough. Always hard to let go of the ones you have worked through such a journey with!

My little house of the last 2 years has a For Lease sign out the front, and I have a final date for me to vacate. I have also posted online to try and sell my bigger furniture pieces, to save my poor Mum from having to store them for who knows how long!

I also got my tickets, and all the bits and pieces booked for my stopover on the way home, for my return to the West Indies for the cricket next month. I fly out on Good Friday for the 3 test series.

My plans after that trip, which is really to take a hard-earned break from my 5 year slog in my current job, and the added madness of part time uni studies for the past 2 and a half, is still not 100% locked in, but I need to complete a 3 month full time placement within the Social Work field. I am holding my breath and have my fingers crossed that this will be in a far away land...

The nerves are very present, about whether I am doing the right thing, giving up my job and heading off again. But I always counter that with the knowledge that know that I will always manage to find work in the mental health and welfare field. It's just the nerves about whether I have enough money to get me through almost 5 months of not working!

So, so excited to be doing something that feels very big, again!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Twin Towers

Going through my photos of old trips, and pre-digital cameras, these couple of shots here seem surreal to me now! Their presence in my old physical photo albums stopped me in my tracks for a bit.

This first one of the World Trade Centre in New York City was taken in 1999, when I visited Talia on my way to a 3 month stay in Nashville. This was the view from the end of her street, when walking to the subway.

Shrouded in clouds, the tops of these towers had vanished on this particular day. Standing tall above the city, high above everything else. It was December, and there was the remainder of a recent snow storm all around the streets.

These photos, along with rolls of others I took on this excited first visit to NYC, were poorly developed by a place I took them to in Nashville, thus the pink shading. I was so devastated about the quality of these developed photos, which taught me to remember and savour real time images like this, rather than counting on photos, or taking in the view from behind the camera.

This photo of the Manhattan skyline with the towering Twin Towers was taken on the way back from Nashville, in about February 2000, again when visiting Talia as a stopover on the way home. This shot is taken from Jersey City overlooking the Hudson River to the city. A crisp, cold day, it was amazing to me that it could be so cold with the sun shining!

During these visits, Talia and I went to the WTC, and used the subway stop a couple of times. I remember trying to get the whole building into a frame of my little camera from the foot of one of the buildings, and I know we also went up to the floor where you could access the observation level. But we didn't go any higher. Who was to know that just 19 months later, no one would get the chance again!

I remember how I heard about the planes going into these buildings, and those Western world changing weeks and months afterward. I'm sure everyone does.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Niagara Falls

I have been doing a bit of travel lust thinking about Canada of late, and like this post, have been checking out some photos from very old trips of mine. These are the best photos I have of a visit to Niagara Falls, from October 2001.

This was during a trip to visit my mate who was living in New York, and we went to Niagara for a weekend to mark both of our birthdays.

We flew up to Buffalo from Newark, and I don't recall how we crossed over to the Canada size, but I vaguely remember stopping on a bridge to get stamps in our passports. We stayed on the Canada side, in the Vegas-like neon strip.

Taking in the falls from the land vantage point, we also got up close and personal with this wall of water.

First up we went on the Maid of the Mist, the ferry that takes you on the water at the foot of the falls. Provided with blue ponchos to protect yourself from the splash, some of the journey was just like a rainy day. But it was pretty amazing to be so close to that much cascading water.

The other way to get close to the water was Journey Behind The Falls. I actually had to look this up, to be reminded that it is a series of platforms and tunnels behind the falls, to view the flow from behind the wall of water. I do remember that we got yellow ponchos for this one!

These Horseshoe Falls at Niagara were pretty impressive, and one of those places in the world that you just have to go to if you ever get the chance!

This weekend trip is actually my only venture into Canada, making me able to colour the whole country on my Visited Countries posts, but really there is so much more to see!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Gorgeous Sentinel Building in San Fran

I have just starting to think about packing up my things after giving notice on my rental property, and in doing so, I have managed to spend several hours flipping through my old travel photo albums. Back in the days of film, having photos developed, and eventually putting them in an album. This has taken me back to my pre-blog trips, and reminded me of some amazing times.

This photo has to be one of my favourite shots ever taken, and was captured back in 2000 in San Francisco. I was on my way back home after spending 3 months in Nashville on a Working Holiday, and was visiting Nicole for a couple of days.

This copper-coloured corner building is the Sentinel Building, or the Columbus Tower as it's also known, and houses Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope studio. Behind it is the distinctive TransAmerica Pyramid building.

Ohh, and I have used a lamp to try and frame the shot! My obsession with light fittings seems long in-grained!

God, I had forgotten how much I love this photo!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Travel Inspiration

What ignites and inspires people to travel is such an interesting topic to me. Reading this post from the Travel With A Mate blog, I was keen to jump in and write a post for the Inspiration Initiative. Even though I am not eligible for the awesome trip on offer.

I was talking to Mum a couple of weeks ago about her influence on my football, and tennis interest, and also linked her to my travel bug. She wouldn't have a bar of that idea, whilst she was happy to take credit for the others. But the thing is, when we were little she used to take us to the airport just to watch planes take off. I remember that we had learnt all the tail symbols of the different airlines during these times. She even took us on our first flight, a charity flight down to Sale for the day, and then our first overseas trip all together, to LA and Disneyland.

I remember plotting out an elaborate plan to travel all over Europe, as the end of my Bachelor degree was approaching, with a friend at the time. We made a massively long list of all the places we had ever heard of and wanted to see, and began plotting it out. But I also remember being dissuaded from this plan when someone talked about how hard it would be to drive around somewhere where we didn't speak the language. What a silly reason not to go now, looking back!

That friend then followed our idea of nannying in NYC once we finished uni, whilst I went back to more study. But her time away led me to visit a couple of times, and this opened me up to flying solo to the other side of the world, and to wandering around New York City on my own and discovering all the wonderful things there were to see and explore. Still one of my favourite cities in the world!

My biggest travel inspiration, and life changing experience, was my time in Cambodia, and that happened through hearing someone else's experience as a volunteer with the AYAD Program, and then landing my role with the Program, being one of 2 I applied for. This time in Phnom Penh really got my travel lust started, with side trips to other parts of the country and SE Asia. And it also opened my eyes to a whole working and expat life within a country working on rebuilding and struggling to develop in every way.

Of course, my Working Holiday in London allowed me to jump to many of the European destinations of that first travel plan. My love of cricket has led me to travel to South Africa, to the islands of the Caribbean that make up the West Indies (and will again next month!), Sri Lanka, and there are still a few more crickting countries to get to!

Since figuring out my first name was Russian when I was little, I had always wanted to visit Russia. But then back when Liz and Cathal were planning it, and then talked about their experience on the Trans-Mongolian railway, it was something I had always wanted to do. And then when Cass and Flash said it was one of the best things they'd done, our amazing 2010 trip was born.

My current yearning to travel was reignited on my week long visit last year to Galle, Sri Lanka and the experience of figuring out the local bus on my own. It lit that desire to just roam, and wing it and figure things out, and interact with people in their real, everyday life again. To get back on the road, and experience sunsets from a bus window, just like that day.

People's stories of places, and their experiences, always have me adding to my travel lust list.

So coming to nominate other travel bloggers to join, write and enter this competition for a luxury trip away, I have checked who in the Travel Blogger world follows me on Twitter, and is eligible to win (being a UK resident). Here goes, I nominate:

Iain Mallory of Mallory Travel, via @MalloryOnTravel

Any (or all!) of the 5 bloggers from RTW Backpackers via @RTWBackpackers

Laurence at Finding The Universe

Nate on Yomadic via @Yomadic - although, to be fair, I can't tell where this world traveller is from! Ha! Such a compliment!

Our Wee Trip via @OurWeeTrip

Thanks for following, guys, and I look forward to reading your travel inspirations, and perhaps hearing about your amazing trip via this prize! Ha!

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Like Crazy

Seeing a preview for the movie Like Crazy, the presence of a track by Canadian band Stars had me interested. Even though a standard romance movie is not usually my style. Jenny and I met for dinner after my first day back at uni for the year, and after eating at Grill'd, we grabbed some treats at Brunetti for the movie, at Nova.

My initial impression of the synopsis was surprise that anyone would be silly enough to violate the terms of a visitor visa, in any country. I am always totally cautious, and anxious, about Customs, and the power these people with the country stamp hold. The experience of arriving into the USA is always a stressful time, as they ask the same 4 questions in 10 different ways, in random sequence, seemingly to trick you into saying something you shouldn't. And of course, living in London on a Working Holiday visa was always a challenge when coming back into the country after a weekend away, never quite sure what you needed to say to keep your status right.

Maybe it's just because I have never met anyone that I would violate visa conditions for.

Like Crazy is about a love that started between Anna and Jacob whilst she is studying in the US for a semester. They meet, become inseparable in a sweet and lovely way, as her return date to the UK looms.

It's a cute movie about a long distance relationship, and the troubles of distance and time. But it is also about the repercussions of a decision to overstay Anna's visa, and the mess this makes.

I loved the way time was portrayed, particularly the time of her overstay - very clever. Plus the trips down memory lane for us both, as Anna rode the tube back from Heathrow alone.

The best part of the film for me was the knowledge that the scenes were essentially unscripted, and thus these two actors played out the scenes themselves, according to TimeOut's article. This improv made the emotions so raw and real, and is a real testament to these two young actors. The idea that the poem on their first date was something that Felicity Jones wrote herself, and first read out on their first take is amazing.

...I thought I understood it, I could grasp it, but I didn’t. Because it’s the halves that halve you in half...

I was provided a double pass to see the movie via Way To Blue, and Paramount Pictures.
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