Remembering in December

My wandering field life passed the ten-year mark earlier this year. That’s ten years of finding my way into a new work environment and getting to know new colleagues once a year or so. In a more mundane way, it’s ten years worth of photo files to keep up-to-date and to try to remember to share on my blog. A cousin (thanks, Juliette!) noticed that the entries from my earliest days had lost their photos: mine was a rather early blog, and the ways of uploading photos have changed since then.  (Many of those earliest posts appear frankly so embarrassingly shallow to me now that I’m tempted to simply wave my editorial wand and have done with them…but thus far my sense for historical accuracy is controlling that temptation…) If my continued research succeeds, many of those photos will be directly restored onto the blog as I find their originals in backup hard drives and other obscure locations: ah, new year’s resolutions before the old year has even wrapped up!

In the meantime, I’m uncovering little treasures that never made it up here, while fondly remembering where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I was recently saddened to learn that Nancy Schrom Dye, former president of Oberlin College, had passed this year. During my years of active alumni-association work I greatly appreciated her contributions to my alma mater – so I was proud to join some other colleagues in taking her for an end-of-year meal which, the digital date stamp tells me, occurred in Beijing on December 31, in 2005. Up above are also a few rediscovered December 2005 Beijing-area shots which somehow didn’t get posted at the time. (Posting photos was more challenging in those early days…)

Just below are some previously-unposted 2015 shots: early-morning moonset at my home here in Haiti; me with my brother and a colleague when I gave a talk at Carnegie Mellon University earlier this year; and some shots from the lovely Frick House & museum in Pittsburgh, from the same visit. And since this put me in the mood, I’ve wandered through the many countries & continents, family meals & trips & assignments on four continents that have filled the years between these two sets of photos so very fully. Assembling them’s been fun for me so I hope viewing them is fun for you too :-).

This time last year? In December 2014, I returned from Sierra Leone & later went with great friends to enjoy the Ai WeiWei exhibit on Alcatraz Island (more photos from that one in the original post….though that particular set of great friends – you know who you are! – are remarkably camera-resistant):

Where’d I spend 2013? Living in PNG, participating in meetings in Amsterdam & dive trips in Australia, then celebrating the holidays with Steve & Mom in New Zealand:

I began 2012 in the US (where I visited Washington, DC in cherry-blossom season), turned 50 in the company of Howard & Gene at Kakadu National Park in Australia, and finished the year in PNG:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2011 was mostly Mweso, a little Lamu, a little London and a year-end back home seeing Frank Lloyd Wright homes of Pennsylvania with family:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2010…wow, what a year. Just seeing all the continents and countries where I spent time (actually meaningful time, with friends and family and work) makes my head spin even now. The photos evoked so much for me that I just couldn’t narrow it down to three or four…so I’m giving you a lot from 2010, a mix of Manipur (start of year) and Mweso (end of year), with a sprinkling of Sweden, Berlin, Paris & California in between:

House, Valley, Hills on Hike - Pre-Monsoon Season

I entered 2009 in Tahiti, yes it’s true: during the year I took off from work to help Mom with her house, I dedicated two months to exploring Australia (and watching the Australian Open!) and New Zealand, flying in via Tahiti with a few nights in Papeete, just because I could. The year ended, of course, in Manipur and included a great trip to see excellent sites of Rajasthan with Howard & Gene:

Ngauruhoe Summit View of Lakes & Clouds

2008 started in Nigeria, and ended in Tahiti…with a lot of good work in Nigeria, a short assignment for the earthquake in China, visits in Germany with my exchange family friends there….and a good deal of time in and around NYC (Mom, aunt Judy & I enjoyed a harbor trip past Ellis Island where our own immigrant ancestors entered the country, and also a trip to our favorite sculpture park up th Husdon)…with a side trip for some hiking in Sequoia and other California adventures:
Rivers-Abia Border Boats & River

2007…I began the year based in Colombo but spend the new year’s period with Mom & Steve at  Angkor Wat, returned to Colombo to finish out an assignment, headed on for training in Paris where I also got celebrate Mom’s 71st birthday…back to the US to reorganize my life after my first two years in the field, and then off for a new assignment in Nigeria. At the time it felt big. Now it’s all fond memories:

…which will bring us back to year two of this current phase of life’s great adventure, the lovely year 2006. From Beijing & Yunnan in China, to Polonnaruwa & Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (where I was based at year’s end), with family time on Cumberland Island (Mom’s 70th birthday dinner!) and in Germany in between. With a special souvenir from Seoul, where I had the opportunity to work a bit with the young ladies pictured with their daffodils. In a small-world twist, I had dinner with one of those two young ladies just a few nights ago in Port au Prince, which she visits sometimes in her current work with the CDC. So much small world, so little time for it all. Happy end of 2015, and many good hopes for a 2016 of more peace and health to everyone, everywhere.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Ambling Around Canberra

Parlt House Coat HangerParlt House EntranceCanberra is one of those cities oft-mentioned but  never visited, thus far. Especially in the past two years, based as I was in the next nation north of Australia, the city came up. Like capital cities everywhere, folks love to hate it and hate to love it.  On the way out of PNG, I was fortunate enough to be welcome for some meetings with various folks who work with Australian Aid, as well as various politicians  in the capital about what we’ve been accomplishing in PNG and what the unmet needs are, etc. If you’re interested in that work aspect of the visit, I say most of what I’d write in the following radio interview, taped while I was there:

National Museum Lake & MtnsPalrt House to Nat Museum Pano

For those interested in a few of the sights and landscapes of this grand national capital created as a compromise between Sydney and Melbourne (which have always argued over who’s #1 in Australia…), these shots give an impression. I walked a lot. It’s a very suburban city, reminding me of the old saying “there’s no there, there.”  I suspect if you’re raising kids, it’s great; I think for a single person looking for the urban life, it would tire rapidly. As an exit-ramp from two years of hard work in PNG, it was a nice in-between station.  Here you’ll see mostly the public spaces – lots of parliament house, sculpture garden at the national gallery of art, lots of the lake and the national museum building, which is that unusual multi-colored construction by the lakeside. All the  shots have names which say what they are. Enjoy.

Nat Gallery Sculpture Garden w Frienship Mem & Nat Carillon Airborne ArtPinecone
Canberra ChurchPaul at Lake Burley Griffin Nat Gallery Sculpture 3Nat Gallery Sculpture Garden Nat Gallery Sculpture Nat Museum Sculpture Along Canberra AveOld Parlt House &  War Memorial Old Parlt House from NewPaul at Parlt HouseOld Parlt Hse & War MemorialPano Reconciliaition PlaceParlt House Flag Parlt House Side View

Recon Place & Coat Hanger Recon Place & High Court

Bidding Adieu, Closing a Chapter

Farwell CakeBlue Butterfly at Base

Like this butterfly which kept me company on my last afternoon in POM after I’d left the office & gone home to pack, I’ve spread my wings and flown away. (Ah, soooo many flights: pom->cairns->sydney->canberra where I pressed the pause button for three nights; then canberra->sydney->beijing->frankfurt->berlin where I pressed pause for one night then berlin -> amsterdam where I sit in the jetlagged early AM as I post this…) Farewells are not my strength, at least the social part of them: I tend to just get up and go, since for me belaboring the departure simply makes it more painful. I prefer, as it were, to pull the band-aid off in one painful pull rather than try to gently remove it – those staying on have the rest of their lives to get on with, and I…well, I had about a dozen flights awaiting me! And the rest of my own life, I guess. So yeah: the PNG chapter has come to a close, and as of last night when I wrapped up the debriefings I’m again a free agent in the world, unemployed and homeless but at least stranded for now on the shores of Europe where I’ll get to see lots o’ good friends and such in the coming two weeks. Yippee!

It’s become a habit for me to try to photograph, as I leave a project, as many of the faces of the colleagues I’ve been working with as possible. It helps me remember the generous, kind and hard-working people who will carry on the work after I’ve left. There’s a gallery here full of those shots, and otherwise mostly the farwell pizza-party & cake lunch that I threw for the office on my last day, last week on Friday. Otherwise this entry contains only the butterfly who visited me, and one shot of the coast near Cairns…at least I’m fairly sure that’s what it is. I suppose it might be the coast near Sydney airport but I don’t think so. This is also, after all, a farewell to that entire region including Australia which I flew into and out of, or visited long or short, many times while there. The next entry should show some views of Canberra during that three-day intermezzo. Ciao, thanks, peace.

Spread Your WingsAssembling for Gruop Shot

Farewell Lunch
Last Day in OfficeGroup Shot FarewellSaying Thanks & Farewell

Coast by Cairns

Under the Waves – Outtakes Edition

So obviously I went shutter-happy under the waters of the Coral Sea a few weeks ago, and enough of my loyal friends and readers looked at and said nice things about the photos to make me think maybe at least some of you would like to see a few more, perhaps the ones I edited out only with some pain. In my most recent post I invited opinion about the outtakes edition, a director’s cut so to speak, of Paul’s excellent underwater adventure. All three votes cast were in favor of posting a few more, which I choose to call a landslide in favor. Go ahead, twist my arm. So here you are…. a few more shots illustrating how at peace I felt 20m below the waves swimming with the fishies. Hope you enjoy. Peace.

Blue Fish - Blue Fish Giant Clam in Brain Coral Angel with Long Tail Pairs Swimming Event Curious Fish The Shallow Blue Sea Swimming out of the Frame Yellow Tail & Beady Eye Aquarium Scene w Coral Blue & Yellow Yellow & Black Red Fish & Coral Discrete Coloration Speckles and A Big Eye

Eight Views of Sydney Harbor Bridge


…And other wonders both structural and natural. In past visits to Sydney I’ve amply represented the harbor bridge and devoted substantial space to the magnificent Opera House, which you can barely make out behind a buoy in the shot above. This time I decided to do something of an homage to Hokusai and show my own set of views of the bridge, which really is huge and pops up suddenly from any number of different angles and parts of town. These are the last shots from the recent Australian dive-and-city vacation – unless I decide to dig through the underwater out-takes and pop up the director’s-cut extra features, maybe a few of the shots I was sad to leave out but omitted b/c of worry that the entry was already too big. Feel free to weigh in on that question: to post or not to post more of those underwater shots. Don’t bother being kind, either. 🙂 Hope you enjoy these. It’s back to work now in POM for several weeks til I head back for some meetings in Europe. Cheers.


Coogee Beach panorama, above; and I just loved this insignia on the horse barracks near where Trudi lives. Thanks for being such a great host, Trudes!




DSC02895There’s beautiful ironwork, and highly structural blossoms, everywhere one looks in Sydney. The ironwork and stonework has always been something I love about Sydney – it’s not just the bridge; if you look closely enough, it’s everywhere. And the blossoms are sooooo structural!

DSC02910 DSC02894DSC02904 DSC02917



That’s South Head and Watson’s Bay behind me. Above is a lovely old house I found on a walk around Vaucluse, very much not my kind of neighborhood (much, much too BelAir or Sutton Place for my taste), but which has a lovely walk path along the harbor between it and Rose Bay which I’d not previously discovered.

DSC02906 DSC02911




Bondi, above. Rose Bay and the CBD, an Australian abbreviation that means downtown, below.
DSC02915Panorama of Manley and both North Head and South Head below….and then a few shots further below another shot looking across Manly Cove at the thin strip of Manly town before you hit the open ocean just the other side – if you look closely you can see it. That’s the north side of Sydney Harbor.
DSC02934 DSC02920DSC02932DSC02935 DSC02937 DSC02939



Back Above Sea Level

Over the Ribbon Reefs 3

And now smw, slt has has enough relaxing days in Sydney to sort through the trove of aerial shots of the Great Barrier Reef and of the flora and vistas of LIzard Island and share with you some views of what life looks like above sea level out there in far northern Queensland. Naturally I’ve learned more about the GBR, which extends hundreds of miles both north and south even of the rather extended area covered on our cruise and in these aerial shots. There are dozens of what they call “Ribbon Reefs” scattered from the level of Cairns up to Lizard Island, and there are also other little reefs  here and there. Then the whole thing continues a good chunk further south, and I believe even further north. Many of the shots from underwater which I posted earlier this week were taken at Osprey Reef, which is an overnight boat trip to the north and east of Lizard Island, out in the true Coral Sea and apparently not officially considered part of the GBR. Live and learn. Hope you enjoy these shots. Cheers.

On Lizard Island

Lizard island Botany

Paul Bday AM Onboard

Lizard Island Panorama

Slopes of Lizard Island

130809 Sunset Onboard

Below, the mandatory shot of our wonderful crew, and below that a shot of the 17 passengers on the leg that I joined. The ship does a weekly circuit and 7 of the folks this time stayed for the full  out-and-back from Cairns, seven nights & six days; ten of us were on the four-night, three-day outward leg; and then more flew into Lizard Island on the planes that took us back. They + the seven who stayed will have worked their way back south toward Cairns, with dives along the ribbon reefs on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and then docked at Cairns again Thursday AM, to board a whole new group again Thursday. This experience was quite wonderful and I really do recommend it for anyone who loves to dive. Do either the 7-night or the 4-night option though – Osprey Reef was amazing and isn’t part of the return leg.

Ship Crew

Ship Passengers

Islands & Coral

Lizard Island & Sea Beyond

Last View of The Ship

Look closely at the photo below, and you will see the airstrip from which we departed Lizard Island for our one hour+ low-altitude flight back along the ribbon reefs to Cairns. Along the way we saw two different groups of minke whales from the air- a wonderful sight because you see both the whales breaching, and the shadow of their bodies under the water in a clearer way than you can from the air. Both of those occasions passed too quickly for a photo…plus they were on the left side of the plane each time, while I was seated on the right. Ah well…memories. And above is the last shot of the boat which provided such a comfy and well-fed home for a few days.

LIzard Island Airstrip 130809 Surnise Onboard Lizard Island Botany 2 Paul & Two Shadows on Lizard Island Lizard Island Pre-Dawn Lizard Island Sunrise Maritime Flag & Mini Lizard Island

Over the Ribbon Reefs 1

Over the Ribbon Reefs 2
Over the Ribbon Reefs 4 Over the Ribbon Reefs 5 Over the Ribbon Reefs 6

Shipwrecked on a Ribbon ReefOver the Ribbon Reefs 7
Paul Bday Sunset Onboard Reefs & FNQ Mainland Reefs & FNQ Mainland 2 Sailing by the CoastAt Cairns Airport 

Our charter flight ended up at a different side of the airport (literally across the runway from the commercial terminals), so I got to see this wonderful hangar and sign… 🙂Offshore Island & FNQ Mainland

Immediately below, you see the coast of Trinity Beach where I stayed in January, during the trip from which came the shots in this blog post:

It was fun to fly right past this at the end of this current trip; the building in which I stayed is quite visible, as are the headlands and bays that gave me such pleasure on my long walks and runs back then. Cairns and its region begin to feel like an almost home-away-from-home-away-from-home for me, though deeper inside I still long to be biking along LA’s bike paths. 🙂

Trinity Beach from the Air

Neutrally Buoyant – Underwater in the Coral Sea & GBR

Cornered & Dangerous

smw, slt has learned how very much more there is to just this one little world than we’d even previously realized: though I’ve dived before, somehow this 4-night, 3-day, 11-dive live-aboard is an experience that’s likely to resonate for some time to come. It’s reminded me how multi-dimensional our world can be, and my mind is still wrapping itself around all I’ve experienced and how big a change it is from my daily life in Port Moresby. It’s roughly 36 hours since I landed at Lizard Island and left my waterborne home of the prior four days behind. Still my body has the feeling that the earth is moving, and I woke in my snuggly bed chez Trudi here in Sydney, feeling the roll of the waves. So we’ve learned Paul’s inner ear adapts well to the waterborne world but takes time to readapt; and we’ve learned seasickness doesn’t seem a worry. We’ve also learned that definitely the best way to see the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea beyond it is to do a live-aboard: what you can reach from Cairns by dayboat is simply too limited and too over-dived. I will add only captions after this and beg your forgiveness for putting so darn many photos up: I’ve never been under water with a camera before, and I wanted to let those of you who’ve wondered why I do it to get an idea of what you can see down there. These are pretty crappy photos but they’re best I can do to give you an idea; trust me, the reality is much more vibrant.

Aquarium Scene

…most of the shark photos you’ll see are from an event Mike Ball does which feels a bit hype-ish to me, but is nonetheless quite educational in the sense that it gives a more visceral meaning to feeding frenzy and law of the sea. We all dive to a certain depth in the water where there’s some dead coral and rock which makes a virtual amphitheater, and they lower a bucket (locked, at first, then released once it’s down and we’re all seated around the amphitheater (of sorts) – the bucket has tuna heads in it. There’s a scrum of sharks down below, and both that and all the other shark pics are from that event. They are magnificent creatures. These are just white tipped and grey-tipped reef sharks, nothing terribly threatening to us. By and large the dangerous wildlife doesn’t seem to know what to make of divers, but that doesn’t make the experience any less real when you’re in it.

And since I was  curious, I searched my memory and determined the only other time I’ve lived aboard a boat was 3.5 yeas ago when I spent two nights on houseboat on the backwaters of Kerala — a very different but equally rich experience documented here, should you be curious:

A Jaws Moment

Angels in Coral Garden

Angel in Coral Garden Paul the PhotographerThat’s me – all the shots of someone diving and taking pics etc. are me, taken by dive-buddy Scott. We were both learning how to work with cameras underwater. Just in case anyone wants to know what I look lke down there – yeah, that’s the camera in my  hands, taking one of these shots, perhaps…

Yellow & White

Aquaium Scene w Diver & Bubbles Aquarium Scene 2
Big Eye 1 Clam 1 Clam 2 Clam 3 Coral & Little Grey

One thing it’s very hard to do is get photos that capture some of the lively color of the underwater world, without strobe flashes and high-tech gear that’s beyond my price and capacity at this point. I love the clams because they are amazingly beautiful and sensitive, shifting and closing down significantly when they sense you near them; watching them move to close creates a shimmering array of colors on top of the colors already in their shells and bodies. Below is that feeding-frenzy scrum I mentioned.

Feeding Frenzy Giant Stride - ScottThat’s the boat, and a pic I took of my dive-buddy Scott entering the way most of us did it – it’s direct and quick, though there’s always that flutter in my stomach as I prep to dive in….Hide & SeekPaul the Photographer 2
Pleasure to Meet You Red Fish Reto Investigates

Algae on Mooring RopeThat’s not me doing the upside-down thing; it’s dive-buddy Reto but I liked how it seems he’s headstanding on the coral (he’s not, just looking at it close up). The multi-colored bit is just algae clinging to the mooring rope…actually on the way up from the shark dive, which was a heavy-current day so I clung to it so as not to have to fight too hard back to the boat…


Shark - Diver - Bubbles Shark & Potato Cod Shark SilhouetteUpsdie Down 1 Well Camouflaged Yellow 2 Yellow 3

This Morning in Cairns

Cairns Sunrise 1 This morning in Cairns smw, slt went for a dawn run & a stroll along the esplanade and the boardwalk, watching the strollers stroll, seagulls wheel, and joggers jog. It’s about to be our birthday again, and we try hard not to be at work on our birthday. Since where we live & work tend, these days, to be places where  a day off just means hanging around in a gated compound and not having much fun, this usually means we leave our home-of-the-year and go somewhere far away. So yesterday I boarded the morning flight across the Coral Sea, from POM down to Cairns. I dined last night on the nicely-decorated terrace of a lovely restaurant where I ordered vegetarian laksa. Anywhere in the world, finding vegetarian laksa is a challenge. After four months in POM, that plus the late-night star-gazing stroll around the chilly quiet streets of Cairns felt like a tastes of what, for me, = paradise: freedom to roam and good food. What more could a boy (or an ageing geezer, depending on one’s p of v) ask for, around his bday?

Cairns Marina & Mountains

Well, thanks for asking. Since the ol’ bday arrives (again!!) at midnight (here in my time zone it’s already Thursday morning the 8th), and since I’ve spent the past 17 months living surrounded by some of the world’s greatest scuba diving while only getting myself below sea level ons single time (documented, you may recall, a few entries right here on this very blog), … well, I’m finally doing that live-aboard drive trip I’ve dreamed of for the past decade+. (This is true. Both that I’m doing it, and that I’ve dreamed of it.) Shortly after finishing this post, I shall re-pack my gear, drop it off at the dive office, then enjoy a free day in Cairns. At 6pm today, I shall board the boat that’ll be my home for the next four nights, out on the Great Barrier Reef. I’ll wake up tomorrow rocking on baord a ship somewhere out over those coral formations they say you can see from outer space, and do five dives – one of them a night dive. The following day, I’ll do the same thing. In between dives, I’ll be chilling and watching the sunshine glimmer on the water. On Sunday evening we’ll wind up near Lizard Island (you can google it ), roughly halfway between Cairns and Cape York. Monday morning, we will do a low-altitude flight back along the reef, from Lizard Island to Cairns. Now, does that not sound a mighty fine way to spend one’s birthday? I thought so, too. That’s why I’m doing it, and that’s why I thought I should post these now, since I hope they will soon be eclipsed by more unusual shots: I’ve no clue if theres internet on the boat (sorta doubt it)…if there is, maybe I’ll post daily pics of all the fishies and corals I’ve been viewing! If not…well, once I get to Sydney  next week, I’ll bring you all up to speed.

In the meantime, feel free to imagine the lovely flight I’ll be taking on Monday by re-visiting my Coral Sea from-the-air shots from this January – I didn’t bother taking new ones yesterday since I knew I would soon have even better views from the low-altitude flight on Monday! But here’s the last time so you have a wee sense of what your’s truly’s about to be viewing:

Cairns Sunrise 2 Cairns Beach AM Cairns Beach  AM2   Cairns Promenade PoolCairns Beach Breakfast

Cairns Beach AM3

Flora, Fauna, Waves – Northern Queensland Beaches

Barnacled Beach Log - Kewarra

It’s been a very quiet week here in what smw, slt has learned is sometimes called fnq: far northern Queensland. It’s been all about runs by the water in the early hours, walks by the water in the evening hours, and being a lazy schlub with tennis on tv in between. All in all a quite restorative little respite just across the ol’ Coral Sea from POM. Herewith, and without further introduction other than the occasional caption, some of the things I’ve been seeing this week. (Yes, there were philosophical moments during all those walks, but I can’t remember any of it at the moment. Aren’t you glad?!)

Sunrise - Trinity Beach

Paul - Trinity Beach Eucalypts

Colorful Coastal Trees


Erosion in Action - Kewarra

this is called tidal erosion made visible – above and below

Erosion and Roots - Kewarra

Coastline at Trinity Beach

Fruit Bat Migration - Trinity BeachSome flora & fauna in honor of Cate, whose dad mentioned this week that she’s enjoying seeing new members of the animal kingdom when the opportunity arises. Above: fruit bats on their morning migration back to their treetop roosts in the mountains, after a night’s foraging. Below, a gaggle of parrots and all I can say is any number of parrots creates an enormous racket. I have the impression there are lots of Australian-native species of parrot and parakeet and other such. These were the easiest to photograph here because they’re quite numerous; another white parrot was equally loud but higher in the trees and less numerous. Below that, there’s what I think is a kukaburra — stress the “think.” He was hanging out in a tree on my run this AM. 

Gaggle of Parrots

Parrot Eating

Parrot Eating 2Parrot in Tree

Kukaburra - I Think - in Trinity Beach

Crocs Sign Trinity Beach

… it would hardly be coastal  northern Australia without warnings for salties, and the occasional story of lost pets or worse. (Here, pets; in NT: occasionally the odd person, but the NT salties can beat up the FNQ salties any day.) ‘Twas awareness of the possible salties that made me extra wary when my runs and walks took me close to the mangrove areas – I felt most brave doing so. 🙂Trees in Wetlands - Kewarra Beach

Waves - Rocks - Trees

Santa Claus in Trinity Beach

Paul - Sunset Trinity Beach

Pink Sky and Islands - Trinity Beach


Ocean and Mountain - Kewarra Palm Trees and Kewarra BeachTrees and Ocean and MountainsCloudy Morning - Trinity Beach

Kakadu, Katherine Gorge & Litchfield – Out & About in NT!

On our last morning in Kakadu National Park, we took a boat ride along the East Alligator River, which separates Kakadu National Park from Arnhem Land, all within the political boundaries of Northern Territory in the contemporary nation-state of Australia. By that point I’d seen Aboriginal rock art that’s been dated back, in some cases, as far as 20,000 or more years. I’d heard how the current estimate of how long Aboriginal cultures have lived in this part of the world is now up to about 60,000 years — as archaeologists continue their studies and dig deeper down the layers, they can carbon date and look other clues to the time of each layer, based on known climate changes or changes in what animals were in which area when.

Anyway, so here we were coasting along this river with a very personal narrative from a guy who grew up here, whose parents grew up here…whose ancestors, one presumes, have been in and around this spot of land on the planet for something like 20,000 or 60,00o years or so. I’m seeing crocodiles much like the one below — huge saltwater (estuarine) crocs that look magnificently primeval and dinosaur-esque, I’m seeing beautiful and timeless landscapes on both sides of this deep green river. I’m imagining the flow of time. I’m thinking about where my own ancestors might have been 20,000 to 60,000 years ago – times when northern Europe was under mountains of ice, so they sure as heck  still wandering somewhere else.

My most immediate thought was this: if global warming does sort of end contemporary late-capitalist civilization as we know it; if some of the movie fantasies that show up in films like Water World do come to pass…I bet the aboriginals of Australia will keep on going. So my first thought was about how these are people who have merged their culture with their land, with their fairly harsh environment surrounded by extremes, in ways that I and mine haven’t come anywhere near for millennia, if ever.

This was the relatively simplest expression of a wide range of far more complex reflections that I was having throughout my two weeks in Australia, about race and colonialism, history and society, and so on. While in Darwin after Kakadu, we saw an excellent Aboriginal & Torres Straits Islander art competition. The winner in one category (works on paper, maybe?) was drawn from a few facebook discussion groups about aboriginals, with a lot of really astoundingly racist and ill-informed or frankly ahistorical and anti-reality based comments about what Aboriginals are and represent in Australia. I had that to think about, compared with the (so far limited) experiences I’ve been having in PNG, a colonial-created modern nation, which from 40,000 years ago until about 100 years ago was hundreds of individual cultures…then went through a short phase as an Australian colony and is now working its way towards being a modern nation-state governed democratically by its own indigenous inhabitants who themselves have been around about as long as the aboriginals of Australia have. So there are interesting comparisons – Australia more like the US in that Europeans arrived and stayed, claimed primary ascendancy in governance and politics and rapidly outnumbered their predecessors; vs PNG where Australians did that for a period then left, leaving behind a created state.

There’s no way I could do a decent job of sharing the complexity of my thoughts. I have no conclusions. It worries me that humans are still tribal by nature, at a time when our technology and sheer numbers can have such global impacts. But we’re endlessly creative and problem-solving, we modern humans (meaning our species since about 100,000 years ago or something of that sort…not my field). So here’s hoping we’ll sort this out rather than continue to tear each other and our world apart.

Enough seriousness. Enjoy the pics! Northern Territory, Kakadu and so on ROCK.

What you’re seeing so far… Immediately above: Paul contemplates the impressive scariness of a termite mound at Maguk campsite in Kakadu. Above that, all shots from the various parts of Kakadu where we camped. Below, a suite of shots from Litchfield National Park (closer to Darwin – the two waterfall shots) and then Katherine Gorge (south of Kakadu).

NT is marked by extreme seasons: a very wet wet season, then a very dry dry season, called “the wet” and “the dry” by locals I believe. In the shot of Katherine Gorge below, you’ll notice many trees bending strongly in the downriver direction. This is from the wet, when half of the gorge is full of water and all the trees are deep underwater, and bent over by the force of the current. That’s when saltwater crocs can come all the way south the Katherine Gorge even though it’s hundreds of kilometers from the ocean, because there’s so much water they can easily swim in, then get stranded when the wet ends and the various bits of the gorge get more disconnected by rapids and rocky stretches as below.

…Howard & Gene enjoying a swim at Florence Falls in Litchfield, above; and the sunset at Katherine Gorge, below.


And now, as of the shot of me above, we’re back in Kakadu. Immediately above: rock art showing inflamed joints, interpreted traditionally as the local spirits of a bad place punishing people for being there. Modern science tells us that there’s a lot of uranium in the spots that have traditionally be identified as not good for humans, but reserved for spirits instead. About rock art: the red color can last longest, so in the very oldest paintings it’s only the red that will hold up. The yellow, white, and some of the other colors can last a few thousand years – but the red can last tens of thousands, literally. And below is our tour guide, referred to above, demonstrating how to use a spear thrower to increase the range of a spear. Below that, Paul with the spears after he picked them from the river, once we were back on the boat. Yes, the same river where we’d been seeing 5-meter-long salties. 🙂

 A car crossing from Kakadu into the fully-aboriginal-reserved Arnhem Land. Below, me in Katherine Gorge…yeah, some of these are a bit mixed up. Artistic license? 🙂

This is maguk — a waterfall, a big deep swimming hole below and a lovely set of pools above. Immediately below: how Paul spent the better part of an afternoon relaxing at the upper bit of Maguk.


Some views of the nature where we were. Immediately left (if this shows up as I hope once finalized), sunning itself on the sand by the side of Katherine Gorge, is a freshie – freshwater crocodile, not really a threat to swimmers etc. unless you step directly on them. A saltie (esturaine or saltwater croc) is showing off her teeth above. There are thousands of magnificent birds all over Kakadu – migrating waterbirds, parrots and singing or raucous birds of all sorts. And, of course, the ever-present agile kangaroos. And then, below, another freshie doing the crocodile rock… :-/

 The timing of this vacation was set to overlap with my 50th birthday. Howard & Gene had  a few surprises on the evening of my actual birthday at the absolutely gorgeous Maguk area – as you see below.

Below: if you wonder how I got some of the angles on water, rock, and the landscape below…that’s me the intrepid travel photographer at work.