So the Haiti chapter of my life and career has reached a conclusion, two weeks ago in fact on the day I flew out and had a small farewell gathering with my colleagues in the coordination office — cake to thank them for all their hard and continuing work, also to sweeten my own sense of parting. Indeed it’s bittersweet to leave an assignment where I worked with such great people on ambitions which feel productive and purposeful. That said – it’s also nice then to have some down time with family and friends, and a chance to gain a bit of perspective after what were certainly 23 full and busy months!
These are the last of my photos from Haiti: colleagues and friends at that farewell gathering; some kids and their parents (teachers?) at a neighborhood daytime pre-carnaval parade in early February (eek! time flies!), some of my favorite views and panoramas from PaP. Plus a little gallery of the flowers I focused on in these recent months, when events in the world and my work life sometimes got just a bit too heavy. In the end it’s all good – I trust we’ll manage to remain optimistic and hope for a bit more peace and friendship in this fractured world, eh? Over and out, for now…
Also, if you’re interested and understand some French, here are links to two interviews I did on the radio, in Canada just after departing PaP. To hear my part of the first link, click ahead to 8:19 in the program which starts at 6:00.
Occasionally I manage to spend a few days with old family friend in northern Germany, before or after visits to our office in Amsterdam. When the weather permits, we always try to get out on our bikes. I love urban planning that leaves room for agriculture in between towns and villages. This region I visit, in Schlewig-Holstein, is similar to my own home in Sonoma County, in that the towns are reasonably contained, and the farms begin just outside town. (None of that classic southern-California or Florida sprawl for us.) I love bicycling through both for very similar reasons. Main difference: it’s really flat and far more green in northern Germany. Also: more cows, no grape vines in site :-). Enjoy the pastoral pleasures and the German-flagged cattle…
…and these last two are just to confuse you a bit: above, the Dutch city of Deventer as seen from the train; and below, a shot of an Autobahn underpass on our bicycle tour, which somehow went very artistic without my consciously doing anything. Serendipity, or ugliness?
The year’s gotten off to a busy start – lots of work, long days and weeks, not quite the amount of free time that gives much chance to get out and about with a camera, or sort & post the photos once I’ve gotten out. Still and all, I did manage another hiking weekend back to the lovely Auberge la Visite, at Seguin. This really is a lovely if challenging hike. (Because it’s rolling, very steep ups and downs, and almost all in blazing sun unless you start really early or get a cloudy day…without rain: you would NOT want rain on this road). This time I walked again with a few work colleagues. We started really early, and in late January so the sun rose above the mountains too the east a bit later, and we actually walked in shade much of the time.
The stars at night were wonderfully clear and abundant – we spent time studying the milky way & deciding which were planets, which stars, and which satellites. On the way back we were actually surprised when we reached the end: if you look in some of these shots below, you’ll notice one can see the road most of the way – and we thought we had yet another village, and another down & up road segment, to cover before reaching our end-point. The end point, if you’re curious, is the last village that any regular 4-wheeled vehicles come to from the north. From the south, you can get to about where we spent the night and even a bit further – but the middle chunk of this road is so steep and rocky that it’s foot, mule, and motorbikes only. I, for one, would not have any wish at all to be on those motorbikes: it’s how I felt backpacking the grand canyon; I trust my own feet more than the mules (in the canyon) or the motorcycles.
There are mules here but mostly as pack animals: very few were being ridden by people, though I suppose after they drop off their carrots or scallions at the market or transport towns, the folks may ride them back home… (I’m sort of assuming there are brokers or agents in the village where we start, who buy up what all these folks are carrying, then shuttle it the rest of the way into the PaP metro area…but I haven’t investigated further.) The only real downside to this time of year for a visit is that the waterfall is more of a lovely water trickle, not much of a fall. Oh well. Enjoy the shots, even though they’re probably quite repetitive with the ones I put up last summer…haven’t checked but I suppose I will shortly, just to see how repetitive I’m getting! Happy spring, to those of you in northern climes where spring has sprung.
In this shot below, plus the one at the very end and a few others scattered through the post, you’ll see these rock-strewn hillsides. My current suspicion is that this is the result of erosion — deforestation, as we know, has led to a lot of Haiti’s topsoil being washed into the ocean. I figure these rocks may have become more and more exposed, as the topsoil has washed away…but again it’s something I’ve not checked into. They make for an interesting sight, though, eh?
With this third visit to New Zealand, I’ve grown more aware of how the country lives in the outside imagination. For many, it’s the middle earth of certain much-loved fantasy films. For me – and clearly many more – it’s probably the single best place on earth to get an amazing range of very well supported and managed backpacking options. Hut-to-hut hikes abound throughout North Island, South Island, and Rakiura/Stewart Island, meaning one can travel a bit lighter without a tent if one chooses, and – particularly important down in Fiordland – have a solid roof and walls around one when the rains fall and/or the temperatures plummet even in high summer. The best known and most popular of these hikes are managed as ‘Great Walks’ by the superb NZ Department of Conservation. When I first learned of them, while planning my very first trip to NZ more than six years ago, I think I read there were eight Great Walks at the time. Now it’s up to nine; and I’ve hiked three of them in their entirety, while touching on a fourth during both my first trip and the most recent one. Some friends have said they’re saving developed-world tourism for later, and focusing on less-developed cultural-adventure type travel now, while they’ve got the physical and mental energy and fitness to handle travel to relatively challenging locations without great tourist infrastructure or support. I fully understand that logic, and I’ve heard it applied also to the US by many European friends.
However, let me through some of these posts suggest that places like NZ, and the great national parks of the Western US, offer outdoor adventures which are more difficult when one’s body has lost the appetite for overnight camping and backpacking…and if you miss out on these places now, you might regret it when you visit them later and are limited to their cities and paved roads, unable to get off the highway and into the wilderness. Herewith a few too many shots of the Abel Tasman Coast Track, as support to my argument. This is an unbelievably beautiful place that I am incredibly happy to have hiked and would very gladly return to many times. By hiking it, and waking up early to cross certain estuaries at low tide with my shoes tied together and strung around my neck, I’ve had the unique opportunity to lay down the first set of footprints on the soft sand of those estuaries, to see the sun brighten the sky and rise above the horizon or the moon sink below it, to greet the sun with a mug of tea from my thermos while reveling in the absence of any sound other than waves or bird song…and generally to experience that mystical oneness with my universe that, sadly, I for one simply cannot quite achieve while behind my computer or the steering wheel of any motorized vehicle. Tasman is neither the most famous, nor the most over-subscribed of the Great Walks…but I’d definitely do this one again. Believe it or not, I really did cut out a TON of photos from this post but there are still a lot, for anyone interested in getting a more thorough feel for what it might mean if you were to lace up your boots, grab your walking stick, and step out onto this lovely trek. To reduce the length of the post, condensed two sets into galleries and one set into a slide show. (The gallery just below this focuses on tidal crossings and other cool visual and experiential effects of the tide’s action along this trail.) I hope you enjoy!
smw, slt has been back in the hills, able for the first time in very nearly a month to get out and about. It was a gorgeous day – dry season has arrived, so it’s not too terribly hot…which was a real gift, since there was such an enormous group out for this popular hike through a rubber plantation near Port Moresby. With such a large group, after our brief stop at the waterfall you saw above, our group got a wee bit split up and I & some friends ended up with the group that didn’t follow the sanctioned path, and ended up doing a rather fun bit of bush-whacking – fun for some of us, not enjoyable for others who I think found it more than they’d gambled on. I’m glad of the good weather because I would not have enjoyed the bush-whacking in the wet, humid, hot season nearly as much…probably not at all in fact. As an aside, I’m sorry I was too wrapped up in a great chat with a(nother) friend to get any photos of the rubber-tapping cups on the trees. But you can always go back here if you wanna see yours truly’s take on rubber trees being tapped: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2006/08/20/rubber-trees/, from a stroll through another plantation in Malaysia some years ago. If that’s not enough, we’ll likely go to this plantation again and I’ll try to get some more rubber-tree shots for you then…I must also offer a FAR MORE important apology, right: turns out my lens had something on it, which I didn’t notice. I’m hoping it’s not a permanent scratch. I’ve decided most of the pics are still worth showing despite the fuzzy bit, and I hope you agree…this shot immediately below, taken during the up-and-down bushwhacking part that was not in the original plan, is an example. Cross your fingers with me that this is not something permanently on the lens… Above and below, and then again several times, you see the extraordinarily sheer and steep cliff drop-off where the water fall was. It’s shocking, dramatic, scary, and very beautiful all at once. I’d been on this hike once before last year, and forgot my camera that time. This time I was determined to have it along so I could catalog the views for myself.
I suspect I’m overdoing the shots of the cliff and drop-off, but it truly is so startling and compelling that I kept snapping. And I’ve been selective about what I put up on here, honestly! As you see, the walk took in grasslands with gum trees, steep hills strewn with boulders as though a giant had gotten angry and started throwing them about, and lots more. It’s great hike – I just wish my camera didn’t have that obnoxious bit on the shots of some of my favorite parts!
so smw, slt has been back in pom for precisely six weeks now, since the end of the vacation from which those lovely last photos of coastal fnq originated. thanks to all who liked and commented on that post – i seem to be picking up some readers who didn’t know me back when: i’m delighted that my pics and ramblings appeal to you. in this post – mostly photos from a wonderful hike just today, up a mountain to a swimmable many-tiered waterfall, past a mini-copper mine (we’re talking a watery mosquito-breeding hole in the side of a hill: don’t get excited), and back through grassy fields and hillsides. you’ll notice that rainy season has returned to pom, borne on the change of wind direction: which made possible the aerial photos of downtown and suburban-sprawly port moresby, including the majestic and rather dramatic house of parliament (a short walk, actually, from where i sit as i post this…), since the planes now land and take off in the opposite direction, northbound rather than southbound. honestly: i’ve never carried my camera aboard so many flights as i do in png, nor been as glad so often that i have it with me. i will write nothing more – you may have heard some distressing things in the news about png lately; those exist, as they do for the US and any other place where humans gather; but so do very many people, places and things of beauty. i’m choosing to focus on those, at the moment. enjoy.
…i was also in tari this week on a visit; the head decoration you see up above in the fourth photo is one of our colleagues there: many huli men routinely adorn their heads or their hats with leaves and other such accessories, which when you first arrive from the streets of LA or Paris seems unusual, but it really grows on you. the other shots above and below are from tari hospital and surroundings.
Here you really see how the coral reefs grow up closer to the water and how they differ from the sandy bottom or whatever else there is. At the top is a real island with sand around it; but below that there is only one area which barely was breaching the surface. This is off the coast of Gulf Province, west of POM, on the trip up to Tari earlier this week.
Below, depending on your browser and how it reads the layout: the airstrip at Tari; furhter below, you can see the old-town part of downtown at the top, and the sprawl of the suburban areas where I’m living and working, and where the House of Parliament is, all strewn around these lovely green hills. Well, now they’re green — a few weeks ago when I landed from Cairns they were getting mighty brown…
smw, slt has returned from a magnificent two-week vacation in Australia. The focus of this vacation was the Northern Territory and specifically Kakadu National Park. But since getting into and out of Port Moresby usually requires many connections and long waits in various airports, I chose to break up the trip by stopping in Sydney for a bit on the way in — where I took nearly all the shots in this particular post. In the floral section, below (yes, this blog post has different theme groups just so you can see I’m trying to keep it interesting and show a wee bit of editorial intervention…), you will see a few that were taken in Kakadu and one that was taken in Litchfield National Park…where, as Gene succinctly put it, we spent 1-1/2 hours on our way via Katherine Gorge (4 hours) to Kakadu. Where we spent four days. And could easily have spent another few without feeling bored, from my perspective. But it was a magnificent vacation, a great way to spend my birthday, and I am well rested and delighted to be back with my colleagues here in POM this Sunday evening, with what will no doubt be a full work week ahead of me. (The work inbox, which has now been turned on, is at about 133 emails I believe – actually not a bad toll for 15 nights away from my station!) Happy end o’ northern summer to those of you in the northern hemisphere – and hope you enjoy these.
Above and in the following set of photos you see either Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbor, or in some cases art installations, or the effects of art installations in the case of the mist on a clear sunny day above, at the Sydney Biennale. The Biennale is a fantastic large art show that takes place in many venues around the city, but with a major focus on this island well west of the main city, which over its post-European-arrival lifetime has hosted a prison and shipworks, and is now publicly held and open for tourism (great lodgings there, but not very easy access to restaurants etc.)…and, as you’ll see at the bottom, perhaps the best-located tennis courts I’ve seen. I’d have loved to play there.
You will notice that it was a day of bright sunlight and even though I arrived early, many shots were taken with bright mid-day sun so I just decided to go with the sharp-edged shadow look and try my own hand at a wee bit of artistic expression here and there. Hope you enjoy. 🙂
These yellow flowers appeared in every part of Kakadu where we traveled, so they are a teaser of the Kakadu photos that you’ll be able to see a bit later. We heard many times how they’re an important season indicator for aboriginal or traditional landownders — when they are blossoming is when the freshwater crocodiles have laid their eggs and people can go to the sandy riverbanks to dig for eggs.
The shot immediately below shows the flowers in situ, at Ubirr in the north of Kakadu. There are many, many more shots of Kakadu to come – it was amazing. But I like to go about things in an orderly manner…
Having shown you my “artsy” cluster of photos and displayed yet again my fondness for flower photography, I will now show you what magnificent views I had from the window of my inbound flights on this vacation – first over the islands and reefs of the Coral Sea, above and two below (this is all basically in the area of the Barrier Reef), then of the coast just south of Sydney airport — I started the entry today with my favorite shot from my inbound flight. Then…well, who doesn’t love the Sydney Opera House? Perhaps I’ve overdone it, I’ll readily admit…but I do find it endlessly interesting from all angles and in all weathers. Close second is the harbor bridge, and just the Sydney harbor generally which I really do think is lovely. Hope you enjoy. Cheers til next entry…