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Day Eight: Marbella

Posted on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Dave!It should come as no surprise that I love Spain. Since I've started this blog I've been here in 2005, 2007, 2009, five months ago in 2010, and now today. It's probable I'll be visiting again next year because there's still so many places left I want to see.

This is my first visit to the Costa del Sol in the south of Spain, and it kills me that I am only here for two days. Tomorrow I plan to explore Málaga proper, but today was spent down the coast in Marbella. I had hoped to get on some kind of tour so I could go in-country and see a bit of beautiful Ronda but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. Maybe when I eventually get around to visiting Seville and Granada I can manage to see the city then.

Anyway... I awoke to a weather map that looked like this...

Malaga Weather

Coast of the sun indeed. Just yesterday I was schlepping my suitcase through the snowy sidewalks of Cologne.

Marbella is a major vacation city of the Costa del Sol, and home to many famous and extremely wealthy people. As a playground for the über-rich it also includes a marina complex, known as Puerto Banús, which was my ultimate destination today because it's home to the Hard Rock Cafe Marbella...

Hard Rock Cafe Marbella

The rest of the day was a delicious mish-mash of good food and cool places to walk though in Puerto Banús...

Marbella

Marbella

Marbella

And onward to Marbella...

Marbella

Marbella

Marbella

Marbella

Marbella

Marbella

Just a few photos from a beautiful day in a beautiful city!

And now off to bed before my legs collapse. I spent entirely too many hours walking today.

   
P.S. My suitcase was at the hotel waiting for me when I got back from dinner. As always, everything seems to work out in the end. Though all I really know for sure is that I'm glad to have clean underwear again...

   

Detour

Posted on Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Dave!And so my journey home continues... this time with pretty pictures!

Since it would still be less time to drive back to Seattle and go over the mountain passes, the first thing I did when I got up this morning was check the pass reports. One was closed. The other was "chains required" (and my car can't wear chains, even though I am legally required to carry them). And sooo... I had no choice but to continue the massive detour I was on...

This is how I usually get home. Travel time: 2hr 10min...

Homeward Journey

This is the detour I had to take. Travel time: 9hr 15min...

Homeward Journey Detour

Well... technically it's 9 hours and 15 minutes. With my overnight stop in Portland, it actually took me 16 hours and 35 minutes to get home.

And thought the long, long drive sucked ass, there were some cool things to see along the way. My first stop? THE BRIDGE OF THE GODS! In ancient times, there was a natural stone bridge that crossed the Columbia River. Native American legend says that the bridge was put there by Manito, The Great Spirit, because he was sympathetic to the hard time people had crossing the river. A mural at the foot of the bridge shows what this looked like...

Bridge Of The Gods Mural

Bridge Of The Gods Mural

But due to a jealous rivalry between mountain gods, the bridge was destroyed (you can read all about it here). And so in 1920 we had to build our own bridge, which looks like this...

Bridge Of The Gods

From there, I continued onward, eventually crossing the Columbia River into the small region of Maryhill, Washington. The place is kind of famous because of a World War I war memorial here... STONEHENGE! And unlike the old and busted Stonehenge in England, the Stonehenge here in Washington is new hotness...

Stonehenge Memorial in Maryhill

Stonehenge Memorial in Maryhill

Stonehenge Memorial in Maryhill

There are a lot of wind turbines in the area...

Maryhill Wind Turbines

The drive up through the Columbia Basin's county roads was pretty lonely. Most of the time I was the only driver on the road. Still, there was some nice scenery to be had...

Central Washington Roads

Central Washington Roads

Central Washington Roads

Central Washington Roads

And then, before I knew it, I was home. Exhausted and wanting to die... but home just the same.

Pretty as it was, I don't want to do this drive again any time soon.

   

Venice: Gondola

Posted on Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Dave!The quintessential "Venice Experience" is to take a gondola ride. I've never done it because the cost is outrageously expensive... about $120 for 35 minutes. For that kind of money, I'd rather take a ride of an entirely different kind.

But, alas, Venice is sinking and all that, and I didn't want to regret that I never rode in a gondola when I had the chance. So I didn't think about the money and decided to go for it.

Worth every penny.

It may be touristy and trite, but it really is the best way to experience this remarkable city...

Gondola Ride

Gondola Ride

Gondola Ride

Gondola Ride

Gondola Ride

The gondoliers have a fairly tough job that requires quite a bit of skill...

Gondolier Manouverings

Gondolier Manouverings

Gondolier Manouverings

Gondolier Manouverings

If you're ever in Venice, save some money for a gondola ride, it's worth the price.

There are two problems which plague a photographer in Venice. 1) Everything is leaning or warped or crooked, so trying to line up shots can drive you a little crazy. And 2) The stupid pigeons are everywhere and mess up a surprising number of shots you're trying to take. I've got dozens of photos that ended up being bird photos...

Bird flies into my shot of the Doge's Palace door!

Dodge's Palace Door

When I was last in Venice, I went to the top of the Campanile Bell Tower where I got this incredible panorama shot of the city. But it was rainy and dreary, and I longed to take another panorama in better weather. Like today. Which was sunshine and blue skies as far as the eye could see.

The problem is that something has changed since I was here last. There are heavy metal grates in place, so I couldn't really move my camera enough to take a panorama. I don't remember how I did it last time. Perhaps the grate is new? Or maybe they used to allow you to climb the stairs up past the observation deck and that's closed now? I can't figure it out. I guess I should be thankful that I've got one, even though it's in bad weather. Oh well. It's still a nice view...

The Campanile Bell Tower in Venice

Entering the Campanile

View from the top of the Campanile

View from the top of the Campanile

View from the top of the Campanile

After goofing around St. Mark's Square for a while, I decided to explore the area north of Rialto. It's there that the only McDonald's in Venice is located, and I wanted to use their free WiFi. Except the WiFi wasn't working, so I ended up going to Mickey-Dees for nuthin...

McDonald's Venice

Annnnd... I'm done playing tourist for the day. Time to seek out the perfect Venetian restaurant for dinner.

   

Behind

Posted on Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Dave!Time for another BEHIND THE SCENES episode of Blogography!

Thanks so much to everybody who has supported the debut issue of Thrice Fiction magazine! RW and I have been surprised... shocked even... by the number of people who have been kind enough to take a look and give us some nice feedback. In all honesty, I thought maybe 40-50 people would bother to download the thing. Sure it's free, but time is valuable, and I didn't think many people would give it a chance. Even more surprising, a good chunk of you actually bought the printed magazine from MagCloud. We don't make any money off of those sales, but knowing people like the magazine enough to buy it... well, that's better than money!

Okay, probably not... but when you combine all the downloads and printed issues, we've "sold" around 320 copies. Considering we haven't done any promotion outside of our blogs and Facebook, this is pretty remarkable.

Some of the nicest comments I received were saying good things about the artwork, which is really special to me considering most of it was a last-minute addition. Though, considering most people only see the crappy cartoons I slap together for this blog, I guess anything would be "good" by comparison! A few people had asked about the "medium" I used for the pieces, so I thought I'd do another "behind the scenes" entry to explain how the front cover came together...

STEP000.jpg

I suppose the first thing I should say is that this is not a painting. The painted "look" is just a couple of Photoshop filter effects. So what is it? Just a bunch of photo pieces that have been blended together to create an image based on this sketch I made to show "The End" of the earth...

STEPSKETCH.jpg

The first step was to find me a good star-field image. Fortunately, our tax dollars have funded the Hubble Telescope, which has provided thousands of hi-res images to choose from. I ended up rearranging the stars a bit, but this was the image that was most like I had in mind....

STEP001.jpg

All the other photos were taken from my extensive collection of travel photos. That way, I don't have to worry about obtaining permission to use them or get in trouble for copyright infringement or whatever. "The earth" is just a photo I shot in Southern Utah that has been turned upside-down and warped into the shape I needed...

STEP00Rocks.jpg

STEP002.jpg

The water was some tricky business. I found a photo I took on Kauai's north shore which made for a pretty good start...

STEP00Water.jpg

STEP003.jpg

Kind of rough there, but I didn't want to start painting the pieces together until I had the waterfall in place. Fortunately, that was made easy thanks to a photo I took at one of the Walt Disney World resort hotels (don't ask me which one)...

STEP00Falls.jpg

STEP004.jpg

In my original sketch, I had wanted a metropolitan cityscape in the background. The problem was that I couldn't make it look good. And believe me, I tried. I spent a good hour cobbling together skyscrapers in an attempt to get it looking right. But it never did. Rather than waste the rest of my life trying, I tossed everything out and started over. But this time I thought I'd go for something less urban, and found a shot I took last year at Portofino in Northern Italy. Cutting the city out, it fit perfectly. All I had to do was add a reflection in the water and paint in a shoreline, and I was set...

STEP005.jpg

I also cobbled together some photos of flat red rocks in order to make a better surface for the waves to sit on. I thought it looked a little more realistic. Though I suppose "realistic" is all relative when you're talking about a city floating in space.

Anyway... next up was the sky. I wanted a bright, almost surreal sky so that it would contrast nicely with the darkness at the bottom. So I went back to Southern Utah and found exactly what I wanted at Bryce Canyon. Well, not exactly. I had to do a bit of touch-up and color adjustment, but it's still a really cool sky...

STEP00Sky.jpg

After I popped it in the shot, I added a little bit more coastline waaaayyyy in the background to help add some depth.

STEP006.jpg

Time elapsed: 1 hour, 15 minutes. It would have been less, but I wasted time trying to smoosh New York and Chicago into a new city.

Then the fun begins. Hours of Photoshopping all the pieces together so they look like one cohesive scene. In particular, the ocean edge and waterfall. They never really "fit" together, and so it took extensive painting, warping, and blending to make it work. It's kind of hard to see in these tiny images just how much work I had to do, but at full print-resolution size, it's a big mess, and required a lot of time to make happen. I also had to adjust the colors of all the individual pieces so they look like they were in the same shot. It's only a subtle alteration, but it makes a big difference in the overall "feel" of the image.

Time elapsed: 3 hours, 30 minutes.

After that was all finished up, I ran a couple of Photoshop filters on the photo to make it look like a painting and, voilà, a cover was born...

STEP007.jpg

STEP000.jpg

Most of the other stuff in the issue was drawn in Adobe Illustrator, then ran through the same "painterly" Photoshop filters so I had a kind of "look" going on...

Time for a Story Montage!

And there you have it! Join us in two months for issue #2! And if you haven't checked out issue #1, you can download it for FREE at ThriceFiction.com!

   

Oahu

Posted on Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Dave!Honolulu is just a big city like most big cities except it has a really excellent location.

If you're into big cities then you really can't do much better in Hawaii than here, and I recommend it highly as a place to eat, shop, play, and (if you're lucky) work. The problem is that a big city is not really what people want to see when they visit beautiful Hawaii. Myself included. For this reason, I avoid Honolulu like the plague. I'd much, much rather spend my time just about anywhere except here. This usually means I end up on my favorite island, Maui, or taking side-trips to Kauai or The Big Island of Hawaii. I only come to Honolulu when work brings me here or I am changing planes or something.

Except...

For a very long time I had been treating the entire island of Oahu as if it were Honolulu.

All that changed one year when a colleague drove me to Oahu's East Shore for dinner and I was shocked to see that after you get outside of Honolulu, it's an entirely different world. Oahu is just as beautiful and amazing as the other islands... it just happens to have a big city on it.

So this trip I decided to not bail on Oahu the minute my work was over. Instead, I decided to stay here a few days and explore a bit.

And what better place to start than iconic Diamond Head?

Diamond Head Sign
It was a nice cool overcast day... perfect for hiking up Diamond Head!

Diamond Head Thistle
These cool thistle-like things were everywhere.

The view from the top is pretty spectacular
Looking down at Honolulu from the top.

Former bunker now a tourist attraction

The websites I looked at for Diamond Head had me worried to hike it with my messed-up back, but it was actually a pretty easy hike. I rewarded myself with a bag of fresh-cut pineapple spears when I made it back down to the visitor center...

Pineapple Spear at Diamond Head
Yes, it was insanely delicious, just as you'd expect.

Almost as cool as Diamond Head itself is how you get into the crater through a tunnel bored into the side...

Tunnel bored through the lava rock.
It reminds me of the Big-Foot alien's tunnel on The Six Million Dollar Man!

After that, it was time for fresh-n-hot malasadas at World-Famous Leonard's Bakery...

Leonard's Bakery Exterior

A box of malasadas.
Kind of a Portuguese version of a doughnut... but without a hole.

After stuffing my face with malasadas and getting sugar all over my rental car, I was going to go find a comic book shop for FREE COMIC BOOK DAY, but decided to consult Gowalla to see if there were any cool spots to visit. First on the list? Beautiful Byodo-In Temple...

Biyodo-In Temple Oahu, Hawaii
The rainy weather actually made for a prettier visit with the fog in the mountains.

Then I decided to continue driving around Oahu's North Shore. Here I stopped at a number of different lookouts and beaches, with one of the more interesting being Chinaman's Hat Island...

Chinaman's Hat island Lookout
The island is that blip on the right-hand side there.

Chinaman's Hat Island
A better view of Chinaman's Hat.

Despite being fairly close together, the many beaches each seem to have their own personality...

Pretty Beach

One of the more famous stops was "Sunset Beach" which was fairly empty now but, during the Winter, is overflowing with surfers. That's when some of the biggest and best waves on earth arrive...

Sunset Beach

Eventually I got tired of beaches and made my way to world-famous Matsumoto's General Store... one of the best places on the island to get a shave-ice treat...

Matsumoto's General Store

Shave Ice at Matsumoto's
I got "The Hawaiian" which had a colorful variety of tropical syrups on top.

The shave-ice wasn't enough cold sugar for me, so I stopped off at the Dole Plantation for a Pineapple Whip. If I were hungrier, I would have got for the Pineapple Whip Float, which is drenched with delicious Dole pineapple juice...

Dole Pineapple Whip

Even though it was still fairly early in the afternoon, I was getting tired and decided to head back to my hotel for a nap. But then I saw The Bishop Museum was on the way, so I had to stop and take a look. It's a beautiful, beautiful museum which does a great job of documenting Hawaiian history...

Bishop Museum Interior
The Bishop Museum is SHARK EXTREME!!!

Bishop Museum Interior

Once back in my room, I suddenly realized I was hungry. Since I was dead-tired I thought I might just order in room service, but decided I couldn't resist the urge to have yet another Puka Dog! This time I downshifted to "Spicy" garlic-lemon sauce instead of "Hot" because I wanted the Maui Sweet Onion Relish to shine through. This made a good thing even better...

Puka Dog Relishes
Delicious Puka Relishes on tap!

   
And now... I'm done. Time to kick back and read a few blogs before bedtime. All-in-all it was a pretty great day. Despite the off-again-on-again rainy weather, Oahu treated me pretty well, and I'm glad I took the time to get to know her a little better. Hopefully tomorrow will be just a fruitful.

   

Bullet Monday: Windward

Posted on Monday, May 9th, 2011

Dave!A second day of bullets for double damage!

Today's bullets will be fired from Part Three of my "Get to Know an Island" series: OAHU EDITION! Since yesterday was spent exploring the Leeward side of the island, today I decided to head East and take a look at the Windward region of the island...

Oahu Travel Map Day Three

   
• Nu'uanu Pali Lookout. I had just been here two years ago but, since it was along the way, I decided to stop again. This is actually a pretty gruesome place... it's where King Kamehameha the 1st and his army drove a bunch of their enemies off a cliff into this here valley...

Nu'uanu Pali Lookout

It's a lot nicer when the weather is good, but I was still glad I stopped.

   
• Kailua Beach State Park. And here it is... the best beach I've seen on all of Oahu: Kailua Beach. It's absolutely stunning, and on-par with my favorite Maui beaches. The surf seems fairly mild, which is why a bunch of para-surfers and wind-surfers were out and about...

Kailua Beach Para-Surfer

The sand is powder-fine and beautiful...

Kailua Beach

The park is in a residential area, which is kind of a nice surprise. The lack of hotels and resorts means that the beach isn't completely overrun like Waikiki. I'm guessing it's pretty crowded on the weekends, but on this Monday morning there wasn't a lot of people there. All I know is that if I wanted some beach-time when visiting Oahu, it would be Kailua and nearby Lanikai Beach all the way.

   
• Makapuʻu. Across from Oahu's "Sea Life Park" (where you can swim with dolphins and stuff), there's a strip of rocky beach that's a great place to look for crabs, fish, and other critters that call the place home. Typical of Hawaii weather, I was able to look North and see a rain storm moving in...

Rocky Beach North

Then look South and see sunshine...

Rocky Beach South

It was kind of nice to see blue skies, because it's been on-again-off-again raining my entire trip.

   
• Halona Blowhole. And so now I've finally seen a blowhole. This is a geological formation where a sea cave has an opening above it. When waves flood the cave, water is blown out of the hole. Hence the name...

Halona Blowhole

The volume of water that can shoot up is huge and makes a big impression in person. But in photos it's the smaller plumes that look more interesting.

   
• Lanai Lookout. I'm guessing the reason that this place is called "Lanai Lookout" is because you can see the island of Lanai from here. This seems odd, as I would expect that Molokai would be in the way... but whatever. I didn't see anything. Except interesting land formations and some pigeons chilling out and watching the waves...

South Shore Swirlies

South Shore Pigeons

   
• Hanauma Bay. This is the only place other than Pearl Harbor and Nu'uanu Pali that I've been to in Oahu outside of Honolulu/Waikiki on one of my previous trips. If you like to snorkel, this is an amazing place to do it...

Hanauma Bay

Unfortunately the bay has been ravaged by the masses of tourists who flock here. I'm surprised that the damage hasn't ruined the place completely, but there's still an abundance of marine life to be found. Park rangers are trying their best to educate people about how to minimize their impact, but the thousands of people who show up every day (except Tuesday) do take their toll. I worry that eventually they'll have to close down popular places like this in order to let nature recover a bit, but I suppose that's better than the alternative.

   
• Diamond Head State Park. This is a very nice park, but parking is crazy. Even on a Monday afternoon. Cars are piled everywhere, so eventually I just waited for somebody to leave and got a spot next to the Amelia Earhart memorial that's there...

Earhart Monument

A lot of surfing going on...

Diamond Head Surfers

And here's the lighthouse I was looking down upon from the top of Diamond Head two days ago...

Diamond Head Lighthouse

   
• Puka! Since I had a late 9:00pm flight, there was time for one last dinner in Waikiki. Despite having eaten there three times already, I could think of only one place I wanted to go... PUKA DOG!!

Last Puka Dog

Despite the $7 price tag, it remains my favorite meal on the island. Soooo good and a fitting finale to my trip.

   
Annnnnd... that's it for my trip to Hawaii. I am really glad I took the time to explore Oahu and see some of the many great things the island has to offer. Unfortunately, one thing it doesn't offer is free wi-fi at Honolulu International Airport, so I'm afraid this entry won't be posted until I get home. Stupid airport.

   

Day 04 – Uluru

Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011

Dave!Alrighty then. Now that I'm back to civilization, bugs didn't carry me off, and I have internet once again... I suppose it's time to start getting caught up on my trip to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock).

After a 3-hour flight from Sydney I landed at Ayers Rock Airport, then hopped the bus to the Ayers Rock Resort where my tour group was waiting. After purchasing my $25 park ticket, we headed out.

Surprisingly, the first stop we made was not Uluru, but Kata Tjuta... another giant rock formation in the neighborhood...

Kata Tjuta
A photo can't do it justice, but that's all I got for you.

Kata Tjuta
Yes, it's really that red. My camera is set to "vivid color" and has a polarizer, but this isn't Photoshop trickery.

Kata Tjuta
The trail for the "Valley of the Winds" walk.

Kata Tjuta
Saying goodbye to Kata Tjuta as we leave the area.

   
Next it was at last time to head to Uluru for the sunset...

Kata Tjuta
A dingo ate my baby! Then boarded this bus...

Kata Tjuta
Uluru as the sun is low. Note the haze in the background.

Kata Tjuta
That haze is actually smoke from bush-fires in Central Australia. Scary, but makes a pretty sunset!

Kata Tjuta
Uluru turns purple after the sun goes down... which doesn't show too well in this photo.

   
From there it was back to camp for dinner and an early bedtime. Tomorrow, it's time to get up-close-and-personal with Uluru.

   

Day 05 – Uluru

Posted on Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Dave!At this point, I'm into day two of being covered with flies all the time. No mosquitoes, thank heavens (I was told that's the biggest problem when visiting Uluru), but more bugs than you'd ever care to encounter. After a while, you kind of get used to them swarming you constantly, but you never get used to the flies crawling on your face. Particularly up your nose and on your eyes (where I guess they're searching for moisture or something).

On more than one occasion I found myself regretting that I didn't get an Aussie Cork Hat or a Bug Net Hat... no matter how stupid they make you look. They exist for a reason.

Anyway...

As the tour had us viewing Uluru (Ayers Rock) at sunset last night, they had us viewing Uluru at sunrise this morning. For which I had to get up at 4:30am. It was nice, but not 4:30am-worthy spectacular...

Uluru Sunrise

Uluru Sunrise

And to prove I was there at that godawful time of morning, a photo of me ready to go back to bed after sunrise...

Dave2 at Uluru

And then it was time to hike all the way around Uluru, which was a fascinating 2-1/2 hour journey. The rock looks completely different depending on where you view it. Some areas are sacred and not allowed to be photographed, but I picked out a few of the hundreds I was allowed to shoot...

Uluru Walk

Uluru Walk

Uluru Walk

Uluru Walk

Uluru Walk

Uluru Walk

Once my blisters had blisters and I had made my way around the site, it was time for a visit to the Uluru Visitor Centre which was a look into some aspects of Aboriginal culture. Most of their way of life is highly complex and secretive, but even the basics are fascinating. What I found particularly interesting is how their stories and teachings are place-sensitive. Meaning that you can only speak of some events at the place where they happened. If a story takes place at Uluru, but then moves to a different location, you will only hear about the part that's at Uluru. In order to hear the rest, you have to travel to the place where the story continues. Also, men and women live completely separate lives, so all aspects of a story can change depending on the sex of the person telling it. Remarkable.

The tour ended after lunch, at which time I decided I hadn't spent enough money (ha!) so I signed up for a helicopter flight over Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers Rock). It was kind of a bummer, because most of your time is spent getting there and back, but what precious little time you do spend at the sites is pretty impressive...

Kata Tjuta by Air

Uluru by Air

Uluru by Air

Uluru by Air

Some cloud cover had rolled in, which made the already deep red color even deeper. Those are some very sexy rocks.

This area of Central Australia is known as "Red Centre" which is not quite an accurate description as of late. Over the past two years, unprecedented rainfall has caused the ground to really green up. This makes the rocks look even more foreign and strange, but in a good way.

My original plan was to take in some kind of sunset dinner at Uluru tonight, but I am pretty much Uluru-ed out now. I'm also thoroughly exhausted with blisters in places on my feet I didn't even know I had.

And so... my vastly overpriced bed in my massively overpriced hotel room is calling...

   

Day 09 – Daintree Rainforest

Posted on Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Dave!While trying to fall asleep as American tourists were fighting on the balcony below mine last night, it suddenly occurred to me that I have no idea what's going on back in the USA. I haven't once bothered to look at a news site, glance at a paper, or watch TV news since I got here. For all I know, President Obama resigned after declaring war on Canada, and Lindsay Lohan did her patriotic duty by stepping up to run the country after staging a military coup where she firebombed Montreal*.

I'll bet Seattle never gets a Tim Hortons' now. Thanks a lot, President Lohan.

Anyway...

I had just three goals here in Cairns.

  1. Visit with my friends.
  2. Dive The Great Barrier Reef.
  3. Visit the Daintree Rainforest**.

There are quite a few ways to visit the rainforest. Most involve tours, and I really, really hate tours. I also really hate renting a car, getting lost, and driving into a crocodile den where I get eaten as an appetizer. So I decided to split the difference by ignoring my fear of heights and taking the "Skyrail Buckets of Death" up over Daintree...

Skyrail Buckets of Death!
The controlled-burn fires in the area really smoke up the horizon.

Skyrail is (of course) the longest tram line system in the world. Which means the terror never seems to end. Indeed, you can't even see the end of the damn thing from high up in the buckets...

Skyrail Buckets of Death!
WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIEEE!

Along the way there are stops you can take to see the local sights. Like Barron Falls...

Barron Falls East View
Apparently during monsoon season the falls overflow and is quite an impressive sight.

But the main attraction once you reach the end of Skyrail is the village of Kuranda. There's all sorts of stuff to see and do here with plenty of eateries and shops to keep you busy. I was told more than once that the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary was worth a stop. I thought it was included in my Skyrail ticket cost, but that's not the case... it costs $18 AUD to get in. EIGHTEEN DOLLARS! I very nearly skipped it, but had four hours to kill, so I bought a ticket. And wow, was I ever glad I did...

Barron Falls East View
Some of their wings were so raggedy that I was surprised they could fly at all. Poor butterflies.

After lunch I got a little bored with Kuranda and headed back to the train station for my trip back to Cairns.

And so there I was waiting to board the train back to Cairns when I hear this shrieking coming down the stairs. It's a woman dragging her offspring down the steps to the station. The little hellion is obviously not hurt, he's just being a little brat. But that doesn't stop a woman on the platform next to me from saying "Oh, the poor dear, I wonder what's wrong?" Whereas my first instinct is to douse the little shit in holy water and scream "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU! THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!" in an attempt to perform an exorcism. On the brighter side, the station is pretty nice...

Kuranda Rail Logo
Established 1891... and still going strong.

Kuranda Rail Station
Probably the best-maintained rail station I have ever seen, which is very cool.

Kuranda Rail Engine
I think that's a representation of the giant snake that the Aboriginal people believe carved out Barron Canyon?

I paid extra money (too much money, probably) for the "gold service" which allows you to sit in the luxury compartment with free drinks, free snacks, and a souvenir gift (a pin and a pen). The car itself was quite beautiful, and very probably close to 100 years old...

Kuranda Rail Gold Car
The chairs are probably new, but the interior is carved wood. They don't make 'em like that any more.

The train ride down is pretty special. Most of the time you're clinging to the side of a cliff where the onboard entertainment system beguiles you with awesome facts like "This section of the railway was the most difficult to build because the rock kept crumbling away." Not exactly something you want to hear, which is why I wanted to scream "HOLY CRAP! WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THIS NOW?!? But I just gritted my teeth and enjoyed the views...

Barron Canyon Overlook
The train makes a quick stop so everybody can look down Barron Canyon... from the West this time.
In all honesty, this photo doesn't do it justice. This canyon is SUPER MASSIVELY HUGE!

Stoney Creek Falls
Stoney Creek Falls, which seems like it's at the half-way point to Freshwater Station.

Stoney Creek Falls Train Bridge
The bridge over Stoney Creek Falls on the opposite side of the train.

Once I got to Freshwater Station, my Skyrail ticket included a transfer back to my hotel via bus, which was nice. Now I'm hungry, but don't dare risk a dining experience as crappy as my "nachos" last night here at the hotel. Since I have an early, early, early flight, I guess I'll just go hungry.

And dream of Tim Hortons doughnuts.

   

*And don't think that they didn't have it coming. Lindsay Lohan may spend most of her time drunk off her ass in a cocaine-fueled frenzy, but she knows the strategic importance of a first-strike scenario where the French-Canadians are concerned.

**Okay, I'll admit that visiting the Daintree Rainforest was not actually on my list of goals. But you can't fly after diving for at least 24 hours, so I had to do something.

   

Day 11 – Brisbane

Posted on Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Dave!Today was doubly lucky for me as I got to meet with one of my long-time blogger friends, Mooselet, and visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary!

Koalas, like most animals, are adorable when they're babies. Unlike most animals, koalas stay adorable no matter how old they get. So, as you can imagine, visiting a sanctuary which has 104 koalas on the premises is guaranteed cuteness overload.

And it didn't disappoint.

I've seen koalas in zoos before, but at a distance and in a very different setting. The experience you get at Lone Pine Koala sanctuary is something entirely different...

Sleepy Koala
Koalas are mostly nocturnal, so you see a lot of sleepy guys in the daytime.

Sleepy Baby Koala
Baby koalas are, as you'd expect, a veritable explosion of cuteness.

Sleepy Koala
This guy is about as relaxed as you can get when it comes to sleeping in a tree.

Koala Pair
Everybody starts to wake up.

Momma and Baby Koalas

Momma and Baby Koalas
Baby koalas get to hitch a ride wherever they go. Must be nice.

Momma and Baby Koalas
Looks kind of like he might be koala surfing on momma there.

Koala Pals
Koala pals.

Koala Cuddles
Koala cuddle cluster. You find yourself saying "Awwwwww!" a lot at this place.

Dave2 Holds a Koala
Talk about cute overload! (I'm the one on the left).

Lone Pine has more than just koalas though... they've got all kinds of animals, reptiles, and birds around...

Crocodile Smile
Crocodiles have a killer smile.

Crocodiles and a Turtle
RUN, TURTLE! RUN YOU FOOL!

Tassie Devil
Tasmanian Devils, which I just love, are highly endangered and will be extinct in the wild soon.

Chubby Wombat
Wombats are too adorable. Like fuzzy piglets or something.

Feeding a Kangaroo!
Feeding a kangaroo. They're amazingly polite about it.

Kangaroo and Wallaby
A wallaby and a kangaroo hanging out.

Momma Kangaroo and Joey in the Pocket
A momma kangaroo with a joey in the pocket!

Baby Joey in the Pocket!
Joey on the lookout.

Feeding a HUNGRY Kangaroo!
I CAN HAZ CRUNCHY FOOD PELLETS? NOM! NOM! NOM!

Soggy bats try to sleep through the rain
Soggy bats try to sleep through the rain.

After rain broke out at the koala sanctuary in yet another bizarre weather change (there were flawless blue skies when I arrived this morning), Mooselet was nice enough to drive me up Mount Coot-tha for a look over the city...

Mt Coot-tha Lookout

After lunch, the rain started letting up, which made for a nicer view of Brisbane...

Mt Coot-tha Lookout

   

Pretty much the perfect way to spend a vacation day... thanks for coming along, Mooselet!

   

Day 13 – Fiji

Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Dave!I walked out of my apartment this morning and had sweat pouring down my face before I could take a half-dozen steps. By the time I had walked across the road to meet some friends for breakfast, I was soaking wet. The heat and humidity were already a lot more uncomfortable than I'm happy with, and the day hadn't even started.

Luckily, I'd be spending most of my day at sea, where at least the wind would keep me from melting...

At Sea

Sailing

Arriving at the reef...

Sailing

At Sea

Time for a snorkel...

Fish Explosion!

Fish Explosion!

Pretty Blue Starfish

Pretty Fishies

Ugly Fishy

Rainbow Fishy

Coral Fishies

Corals

Glass Glowy Fishies

After snorkeling, we headed to "Plantation Island" for lunch and to goof off at a resort. By the time we got there, clouds had moved in and it was overcast. This caused a couple people to be quite upset... saying "THE CLOUDS ARE RUINING OUR HOLIDAY!!" I just smiled politely while being secretly thankful that the clouds would muffle the direct sunlight that was killing me. It was still hot, but at least I wasn't melting.

After lunch it started raining, which caused even louder protests from the peanut gallery. I just secretly laughed to myself because, at last, it was cool enough to be comfortable again. Besides, Fiji is so fucking beautiful that it still looks amazing... even in the rain...

Plantation Island

Plantation Island

Plantation Island

Unfortunately for me, the cloud cover did nothing to filter out the burning rays of the sun. I should have reapplied sunscreen after I was done snorkeling, but with the rain and all, I thought I'd be safe.

Er... Not so much...

Lobster Dave!

I am frickin' Lobster Boy here.

Oh well. I'm in frickin' Fiji, and it's going to take a lot more than a sunburn to ruin that.

   

Day 14 – Fiji

Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Dave!Yesterday's rain decided to continue all through the night and, when I woke, it was still going strong. This put my snorkeling trip into doubt, as first I got a call saying it had been canceled... then I got a call saying it was clearing up and was on again.

And thank heavens.

My second trip out was even better than the first.

When I arrived at the dive shop, I was greeted by SCUBA-Cat, who was not very impressed to see me...

SCUBA Cat!

The tide was still out. This meant a lengthy trek out to the boat. Our guide had a little extra equipment to carry, but he was a real trooper...

Bula Snorkel Mud Flats

This snorkel had quite a bit more interesting things to see than my last one. Like a SEA SNAKE!!!

Sea Snake!

Sea Snake!

SHARKS!!!

Reef Sharks!

Reef Sharks!

Reef Sharks!

EEL!!!

Moray Eel

FISH!!!

Yellow Fish!

Fish in Pink Coral

Red Fishies

Stripey Fish!

Spotty Fish!

Glowy Blue Fish!

After two really good snorkels at some impressive locations, it was time to head back. But guess who decided to show up...

Dolphin!

A dolphin!

Dolphin Racer

A LOT of dolphins! They were racing along with the boat for a good while...

Dolphin Pod

Dolphin Pod

Dolphins on the Bow!

Dolphins on the Bow!

Dolphins on the Bow!

Doesn't get much cooler than that! Quite a send-off, really.

The tide had come in quite a bit, but there was still a long walk back to the SCUBA shop...

Higher Tide

Higher Tide

Back on dry land, I decided to have some lunch at the resort restaurant. Look who finally decided to get interested in my presence...

SCUBA Cat Returns!

Unfortunately, neither my toasted egg & cheese sandwich nor my fries were cat-appropriate. But the sun was shining again, which was kind of nice. But really, really, melt-your-head-and-set-your-hair-on-fire hot. That's the tropics for you...

Fiji Blue Sky

And now its time to pick up some souvenirs and crap so I can head back to Australia tonight. Three days in Fiji... no matter how much you fill them... is hardly enough. I could have easily spent my entire two weeks here and never been bored.

Sigh. Yet another awesome place I have to find time to get back to before I die.

   

Bag

Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2011

Dave!So there I was loading up my camera bag on my second day in Sydney when I realized "Holy shit, I'm carrying a purse!" Because when your camera content drops below 50%, I think it pretty much ceases to be a camera bag. I had sunscreen, aspirin, my wallet, room key, iPhone, cash, stamps, passport and all kinds of other assorted crap that I need to get through the day.

Oh... and my camera.

Now that I'm back home, I'm missing my "camera bag." It's kind of handy having all your stuff with you all the time. I'd just start carrying it again, but it got a little dirty as I was hiking around Uluru in the Outback.

So now I'm in the market for a new "camera bag." The problem is that there's so many awesome designs to choose from that I can't make up my mind! After a week of looking, I think I have it narrowed down to five choices now...

Purple Bag

Juicy Bag

Orange Bag

Colorful Bag

Hello Kitty Bag

   
Yes. Yes I know... the Hello Kitty "camera bag" skews a little young for me. But I totally think I can pull it off!

The problem is that my Batman Chuck Taylors don't go with it very well, so I don't have the right shoes. So I guess that means I'll be buying some new footwear once I decide on the "camera bag" I like best.

The life of a photographer ain't an easy one.

Tags:
Categories: Photography 2011Click To It: Permalink  17 Comments: Click To Add Yours!  

   

V

Posted on Saturday, December 17th, 2011

Dave!Verily!

Virtuous Victims Vying Vivaciously for Vindication...

   

Room Five

   

   

   

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