Tag Archives: travel

Seven days of nature photography: last day

And so I come to the end of seven days of nature photography. It’s been huge fun. It is good to wade through the back catalogue every now and again, to remember gorgeous moments outdoors, whether at home or in an exotic location.

I might just have to set myself a new project next month – maybe my ‘best of the best’ and maybe even doing it for the entire month. Now, there’s a thought!

For my last day, there is no contest. It has to be one of my many gelada monkey photos from the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia. These are astonishing animals, who have zero fear of the trekkers that come through their territory and so it’s possible to get up close.

One evening, we walked out to a viewpoint near our campsite and couldn’t believe our luck when we saw this group huddled together, looking like a family trying to shield each other from the elements. The strange this is that it wasn’t yet dark and not yet cold.

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Seven days of nature photography: day six

Day six of seven days of nature photography and today, I’m back in Cuba. It was my second visit and I had arrived in Trinidad ahead of some Cuban and Australian friends. So I decided to do a walk from the centre of this gorgeous music-filled town to a waterfall.

I had time a-plenty (that’s the one big advantage of being alone) and so snapped every little detail that caught my eye. My favourite photo of the day was this up close detail of a vibrant green leaf.

I just love the colours and the sunlight shining through. It’s both abstract and recognisable, all in one glorious green macro.

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Seven days of nature photography: Day four – have a koala

Day four of seven days of nature photography. Have a koala. Taken in Brisbane way, way back in 2011. I wouldn’t want to hold one but they sure look cute curled up! This one is in black and white, as it emphasises the textures, whereas colour distracts a little from that.

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Going gaga on GoGo – in the Simien Mountains

Day three in the Simien Mountains was a day of expanding joy. It took us higher than the first two and the views were astounding. In the lead up to the trip, when I had been day-dreaming of being in the mountains of Ethiopia, these were just the views I had envisaged.

I jumped for joy up there.

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Here are my best pictures from the morning. I don’t really have the right lens for wildlife or birds but I think I’ve done okay.

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We had a long trek ahead of us in the afternoon, so I had a wee ride on the mule for a while (we had to hire one for medical reasons in the morning). I have always been quite sniffy about riding on a mule; as I gave myself a rest and gently plodded along, I began to shift my view on that. So restful!

Alas, we reached a point where the mule had to go back to its village and there was no escaping the long, hot path uphill.

There were more lovely views up there and every now and again, our guide pointed into the far, far distance and claimed our campsite was in view. He promised us a shower when we got there – with hot water. As the afternoon wore on, he urged us to speed up but we didn’t really understand why. But we did our best and as we clambered the final long push downhill, we found ourselves singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ for some bizarre reason.

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Eventually, we arrived at camp. To our huge disappointment, all the hot water had been used. All of a sudden, we twigged why our guide had been urging us to hurry. There was a limited supply of water in the tank. Instead, we had bowls of water – not quite the same but at least we got clean.

A lammergeier was floating overhead, so I had to race to get dressed again and grab my camera.

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Feeling slightly disgruntled for about 10 minutes in that weird way that comes with the privilege of having running water back home, we took ourselves off for a stroll to look at the view on the other side of the road. We lucked out – first, a great big old Ibex strolled into camp just as we were about to leave and then, when we crossed to the viewpoint, three gelada monkeys were huddled together on the cliff edge, giving me one of my favourite gelada shots of the whole holiday.

The perfect end to a perfect day.

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Ethiopia: Further into the Simien Mountains

A year ago, I had a month to go before travelling to Ethiopia. I was bouncy with anticipation and eager to get going. There were mountains to hike in, wildlife to see, coffee to drink.

I don’t know what happened when I returned; I failed to blog about the trip beyond my arrival and initial sight-seeing (Gonder) and my first day in the Simien Mountains. It wasn’t through a lack of enthusiasm. I had a truly fantastic time and one that I want to remember forever.

I’ve decided that it’s never too late to blog about a travel experience. There could be someone gearing up for a trip to this magical country now and who will find my posts useful. Or maybe someone just fancies looking at some cracking photos of Gelada Monkeys for a few minutes. You may simply enjoy travel blogs and stories. Whoever you are and however you have arrived here, you’ll find me blogging about Ethiopia for a while so that I capture the memories before a whole year goes by.

In this episode, we join our intrepid writer as she begins her second day in the Simien Mountains. I’d like to remind readers of our wonderful guide, as I’d like to think that he might get enquiries. Eshete Berju of Travel Simien really was a star.

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It was cold and barely light. Sunrise in the Simiens comes slowly. The ridges on the other side of the gorge were hiding the sun but the light was changing. Gold was beginning to light the grass and I bent down to capture the moment with a few photos. The air was so, so pure.

On our second day in the mountains we hiked for about 14km. It doesn’t sound much but when you’re tackling some steep uphill sections and still acclimatising, it’s tough! Tight chest, short breaths, pumping heart. It’s a vile feeling, as I felt as if I were a wimp and unfit but the minute I got onto the flat or downhill, I was right as rain. But it’s worth it for the views, the seclusion, the wildlife.

In the morning we saw buzzards and a young lammergaier.

It was hot that day. Or hot enough to make us very glad indeed to find out that our lunch spot was by a river. Tempted though I was to jump in, I resisted and instead, stuck my head under a miniature waterfall – half a metre of delicious, cold water.

Happily we saw more gelada monkeys. It’s a fantastic daily occurrence up there.

The afternoon was tough and when we reached our second camp – Gich – we had reached 3,650m. It was still early when we got to camp but as it was near a village, there was a good deal of people watching to be done. Locals gathered and children played on the high open high. It was easy to sit and watch, taking shot after shot as the light changed. Here’s a selection.

Here are the best photos from that second day.

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The next day was spectacular. We went up to Mount Gogo and experienced the views we had dreamt of before we set off. More about that tomorrow!

My top Boston travel tips

I’ve visited Boston many times in the past three decades, as my Aunt moved there when she got married. I love the city but don’t go as often now, as Margaret lives in Atlanta. But I’ve been back recently for Christmas and weddings, as two of my three wonderful cousins are still there.

So I thought I’d share my tips. They are probably well known but I if they’re useful for even one or two people about to go there, then that’s a job well done.

  1. Make sure you see the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Prioritise it, as it’s unique and lovely, and filled with a staggering array of art.
  2. Walk. Boston is a small enough city to get to know on foot. Walking from Boston Common, to Quincy Market, to the North End is a great way to spend the best part of a day. Even better, you can have a fantastic Italian lunch and cake in the North End.
  3. Do visit the Holocaust Memorial when you’re walking in the Quincy Market area. There are many around the world but I find this one particularly haunting and moving.
  4. Book a table one evening at the Atlantic Fish Company on Boylston Street. Not only is the Lobster simply supreme but pretty much everything else on the menu makes my mouth water. It’s a blow out because it isn’t cheap but it is very much worth it if you love fresh, perfectly cooked seafood and fish.
  5. Sign up to ‘Secret Boston‘ – it’s an email service that lets you know of cheap/exclusive/unusual things to do. They’re all at really short notice, so it’s best to sign up shortly before you go.
  6. Have a drink in the Top of the Hub – the bar at the top of the Prudential Center. The views are fantastic and the drinks are not outrageously priced. Obviously it makes sense to do this on a clear day, though! Now that the John Hancock tower observatory has shut, this is the place for views and if you want the full 360 degrees, you’ll need to pay $17 for the Sky Walk a couple of floors down, as that’s where the full landscape can be seen.
  7. If you have time for more than one museum, make your Number 2 visit the Museum of Fine Arts. It is fantastic. A great collection and they always have fantastic exhibitions too.
  8. If you have time for a third culture vulture experience, go on an Art and Architecture tour of the Boston Public Library. I did this for the first time on my most recent trip and I was very glad I did. It has a gallery upstairs filled with murals created by John Singer Sargent and they are a wonder to behold.
  9. Visit Harvard. It’s lovely just soaking up the atmosphere but there are good museums too.
  10. Trinity Church on Copley Square has free lunchtime organ recitals. If you want an unusual break during the day, it’s impressive. This is on a Friday only.

Here are my photos from the Art and Architecture tour of the library and the views from Top of the Hub.

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Do you have a ‘happy place’?

“Years ago I decided that the greatest need in our Country was Art… We were a very young country and had very few opportunities of seeing beautiful things, works of art… So, I determined to make it my life’s work if I could.”

Isabella Stewart Gardner, on the creation of her Museum, 1917

Whenever I walk up to the Floral Hall of the Royal Opera House in London, my spirits lift. Even if they are good to begin with, they lift. I call it my ‘happy place’. I find it impossible to be anything other than filled with joy when I am there.

The same is true of my favourite museum in the world; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, USA. Even though I now feel I know the collection well, I like to go there each time I visit Boston, revelling in the courtyard, the cloisters and delighting in discovering a piece of art I missed last time or simply enjoying my favourite painting.

Isabella Stewart Gardner was a wealthy art collector who created her museum in 1900 and opened it in 1903. She had travelled extensively and had a profound love of Italian art and architecture, so she had the building designed to look like a 15th-century Venetian palace.

Walking in through the modern entrance and arriving at the old part of the museum, first-time visitors gasp with pleasure when they arrive at the courtyard. Even though it no longer surprises me, I still have a mental gasp as I look out onto the atrium-covered terrace, as its beauty staggers me every time. With a central square of roman mosaics, the courtyard is filled with Greek, Roman and Egyptian sculptures nestled among seasonal flowers and plants.

A cool, calming cloister surrounds the courtyard and it is almost a struggle to drag oneself away from it but delights and surprises are tucked away on three floors of galleries, so it does pay to move on when you can bear to.

The Spanish Gallery houses the best jewel; El Jaleo by John Singer Sargent. I will never tire of being drawn in to this picture. I am transported to a cave in Granada or Jerez, and want to stamp my feet and clap along. It is so intense that I can almost hear the guitars and mournful wailing of Flamenco singing.

There are many more Sargent’s to discover, along with two ground-floor rooms stuffed full of glorious early 20th-century paintings and two floors that offer an A-Z of masterpieces from Fra Angelica to Anders Zorn. Play the ‘which one piece would you take away, and only one’ and you will struggle to decide. Will it be a haunting Whistler landscape or a priceless renaissance masterpiece?

If you do ever get the chance to visit Boston, prioritise The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Yes, you need to troop around Faneuil Hall and do the Freedom Trail, I’m not going to tell you not to. But give yourself a wonderful cultural treat and get to Fenway for art and not the Red Sox!

In the meantime, here are my few photos to give you a flavour of what’s in store!