If you know anything about California today, it’s that we’ve had a lot of incredibly devastating wildfires recently. You’re perhaps less aware that we’ve also had floods and the kinds of landslide that result when the forests which stabilize slopes during heavy rain have been destroyed by fire. I could wax lyrical about the need for an evidence-based public policy, but we all know how far that’s going to get us in the current faith-based voter climate of battleground states like the state of my birth, so let’s just do a slide show instead, ok? 😊 When I flew home from Bangladesh suddenly in February, in order to be with Mom and (I thought) help nurse her back to strength through that clinical trial, I was trying to give myself enough time here at home in CA to steady my own nerves through my usual recourse to bike trails and tennis courts, while still spending most of my time in NJ with Mom. Thus, between February and April, I was back and forth a few times.
Two years ago I first learned of the big Santa Rosa-area fires when a friend from my local UU congregation called – as I sat in a doctor’s office with Mom – to ask if they could house displaced people in my apartment, since she knew I was away. During my times at home over the intervening two years I’ve tried when possible to keep photos of the natural and human environments I encounter. I’ve watched rains come, trees recover or give up the ghost, rocks recover their envelopes of moss, and I’ve been grateful that the heavy rains haven’t (so far) caused any bad landslides that I know of in my own area.This time, while I was out east, it was more about floods that I learned: one town in my county was reachable only by boat for a couple of days, since the flooded Russian River had risen above all the roads leading to it. And any time there was a long-enough break in the rain for me to hop on the bike and head out, I grabbed camera and/or phone and headed out. Here are the results, below…and after that, some post-fire regrowth and rebuild images as well, which I’ll likely caption and explain when we get to them. Sorry this is a long post…but it’s been a while. Hope you find it interesting.
And moving on the aspect of more obvious post-fire recovery, I’ve been really amazed at how rapidly the scars on the natural landscape have become less visible. A friend said I should find a specific location to watch, so I found my little “fire-line rock” to follow. I posted a gallery last year, showing photos taken over the first twelve months, as the visible burn line on its moss vanished; I also watched the trail uphill from where this rock grows, as the meadows lost their cover of charcoal and trees either regrew or gave up and died. After this text, you will see first a video taken after one of the rainy days earlier, about 2km or 1.5 miles downhill from the fire line rock. After that I’ve copied the same gallery from last October, with the addition of some new photos taken two weeks ago, so 21 months or so after the rock sat on the burning fire line. I can’t even tell which rock it is, any more – did the winters incredibly heavy rains move the rocks or have they just all gone back to their natural dry-season similarity? Not sure…and didn’t get up there when it was wetter, precisely because it was so wet and muddy :-). After that are some other post-fire shots both close up and farther away. Right now, in dry season especially, I have to look closely to see the charring on tree trunks that have already begun to regrow…
In the photo just above we are looking west on the Canyon Trail, which was the fireline when the Nuns fire was stopped before it had a chance to merge with the Tubbs fire, in November 2017. The meadow to the left of the trail burned; to the right, it didn’t. If curious, you can look at photos taken on a hike shortly after this part of the park was reopened, and compare things then and now, in this post from that time: https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2017/11/13/walking-the-fire-line-in-annadel/
In June I had the great good fortune to spend four nights and most of five days in and around Oslo, at the top of a long and lovely fiord in southeastern Norway. The training which was the purpose of my visit took up all of three days and nights in a small town east of the main road along the twisty-turny fiord, about an hour’s bus ride south of Oslo itself. This I know since I took the bus in twice in order to enjoy Oslo. Photos from Oslo itself went up on this blog first, a few entries ago. This time I’m showing you where I walked each morning and evening, before and after lovely days with colleagues in rather intense and fruitful training. The training site and hotel was just next to a few nature preserves that occupied much of a peninsula jutting out into the fjord, meaning we had many kilometers of walking trails dotted with a few small villages and farms, literally right out our door. Anyone wanting night life would have been deeply disappointed. Myself, urgently needing peace and space to integrate what I was learning and to rest from a few hard months of intense work…well, I took full advantage of the 20 hours of daylight for two long walks each day. I hope the shots give you some sense of how lovely and fun it all was! 🙂
Linger on the photos just above this text, long enough to see all six of my favorite photos taken in & around Freetown, during the eight weeks or so I spent in Sierra Leone between July & September of last year. I’d gone for a short assignment to cover for a friend who took an extended vacation. While there, I ended up working a bit more intensely than expected since my Sierra Leonean friends, colleagues, hosts and interlocutors all found themselves having to deal with yet another unforeseen crisis when massive rains led to flooding and landslides right in the hills above Freetown. That sad reality, yet another time this nation has had to demonstrate its resilience, is documented on many a news site from August and September. I’ll likely post a few personal photos from some of those affected areas in coming weeks – but in honor and thanks to the warm and hard-working colleagues and friends I’ve worked with on my now two short assignments in Sierra Leone, I want to begin simply by showing again some of the beauty I enjoyed when I went for walks or drives, evenings or weekends. It’s such an honor and a gift to broaden my horizons and experience humanity in such variety and richness as I do through this work. The silly complaints of the privileged, spoiled and unappreciative individuals in places like my home country then come into a more meaningful and constructive focus for me. There really are times when I wonder what the end-game for all these greedy, destructive capitalist captains of industry is… Peace and health, friends.
Sculpture in nature, plus the Moodna Viaduct (just below) which isn’t in the park but on a lovely winding route we took home, much to my smartphone’s map’s discontent. This is the second set of photos from our completely lovely day in Storm King two months ago – the first set was published here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2017/12/13/art-family-in-nature-storm-king-1/, and you can find many other entries from Storm King in past years. It and the Hudson Valley’s many other art centers are well worth a visit. 🙂
Ok,so since I’m on a roll I’m putting up the first photos from a completely **glorious** day at my own personal very-favorite day-trip location near NYC: Storm King Art Center, which I certainly remember visiting in the early 80’s if not before. As you’ll see here, and in upcoming posts, we had simply the most perfect possible weather, and Mom mustered the energy to hold up more than her half of the sky, even as she juggled a few health challenges of her own. If you’ve not been to Storm King, do go. And support your own local gardens & arts places :-). Peace, out.
The cal-fire site tells me that the Nuns fire complex ultimately burned 56,556 acres. The final report date on the site is November 6, which I suppose means it was 100% contained or fully extinguished on or before that date. Earlier, I’d assume, since the superintendent of Annadel State Park allowed parts of the park to reopen for hikers, bikers and runners on the 5th if I understood the signs well.
My last post contained all the photos I’d taken in Sonoma County between returning from Haiti (late April), and the day of the post. Today, I’m posting almost entirely photos taken yesterday in my beloved nearby State Park. Annadel is a gem on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa which has been a key source of recreation and mental-health management for me here in Santa Rosa. The fire burned through about 2/3 of it, and if the wonderful fire fighters (see thank you signs from my last post) hadn’t stopped it where they did, then it would have destroyed many homes near the park, and I guess there was a very real risk this fire complex would merge with the Tubbs complex, which had already destroyed so much to the north in Santa Rosa.
With many of the trails open, I got out there again yesterday to appreciate the park and take stock of the damage. I try to find silver linings: that it WAS stopped here is a silver lining; that green shoots are already sprouting among the charred grasses is also good to see. (See the round gallery a little lower down.) The rainy season has come – it’s sprinkling as I type this – and so we must hope for enough rain to allow plants to re-grow strong…but not so much as to cause too many land slides in all the newly-vulnerable areas whose trees and grasses have been burned.
If you look closely, you will really see how rapidly the fire passed through (burned areas surrounding unburned patches), plus the stark line where they stopped the fire: trees charred on the south side, still green moss on the north side. Rocks the same way. Since I already wrote more in the last post, I’ll leave it here for now. Gratitude, shock, slow return to regular life, I guess. Peace, everyone. Most photos have titles that’ll tell you what they are or why I selected them.
Can you spot the photo in the gallery above is not taken in Anndel? It’s this entry’s tribute to our first-responders. 🙂
In a post last year, I did a selfie while taking a breakfast break lying on one of these two tables, at the junction of Marsh & Canyon trails. Canyon was the fire line through this portion of the park — the photo above, here, with straw over where fire fighters had widened the line is on Canyon trial, west of this point. To compare then and now, check this link or others labeled Annadel, or Sonoma County, or Napa & Sonoma (I need to work on my tags…) — https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2016/08/19/dry-hillsides-live-oaks/
When I returned from the two year assignment in Haiti, I landed first in a late Canadian winter/early Canadian spring, then came south to spend a week with my mother in New Jersey. A thing that’s changed since I was a youth here is more wildlife — time was when it was rare to see deer even in larger state parks; now they roam our little local streamside parks, where some of these photos were taken. So, as autumn advances in the northern hemisphere, a reminder of this spring and springs to come :-). Enjoy.
A thing I learned long ago is that Haiti is almost entirely deforested. In the last post I put up, from a short trip I took up the coast to Arcahaie (about an hour north of PaP), you could see evidence of this fact in the hills I showed. And PaP too is nearly treeless – and full of cars, people, and dust at this time of year. Last weekend four colleagues and I drove to a town about an hour south of PaP, beyond Kenscoff village high in the mountains at the southern base of PaP, to a point where even a good 4wd vehicle really won’t be able to cover the road any more. (As we learned in our onward walk, motorcycles DO make the onward journey, though it’s not one I’d relish making that way.) In any case, the point of being deposited in this little town is that one can – and every weekend some handful of expats living in the capital, and apparently some straight-up tourists as well – do get dropped off in that town and start the walk further south, aiming to end up (after four or five hours of walking in hot sun on mostly shade-free road) and spend the night at what turns out to be quite a lovely little guesthouse set inside what’s now Parc Nationale La Visite. One reads, in a lovely coffee-table book available for sale at the guest house, that the national park is recently created, and that less than 2% of Haiti’s forest is protected. During the visit we played cards and chatted a bit with another American guy who’s part of a program to pay landowners to not cut down their trees for firewood or to sell for making charcoal, construction, etc.
As you’ll see in these shots, the deforested steep mountainsides can certainly be beautiful…but look closely and you’ll also see apparent evidence of erosion, and of rocks left behind in landslides. (Some of the rocks seemed to be eroded lava from more ancient flows, but I’m no geologist so I might be quite wrong.) We wondered how much longer before all the top soil washes into the sea…and without trees to rot and replace it, what will be left? Again, not my area of expertise, but when I consider the amount of agricultural products I saw being carried on people’s heads or panniers on mules, and which we ate during our short stay at the guest house, I hope enough is retained to keep providing PaP etc. with food to eat. (That handful of expats hiking the road weaves into a much larger stream of foot, mule and motorcycle traffic, much of which is clearly geared at getting nice fresh produce to market.) For us it was mainly a lovely 2 days of walking and enjoying beautiful vistas and some stretches of forest which, without realizing it, we’d all grown to miss during our weeks and months on the dusty, busy streets of PaP. I did edit the photos, but not enough, I acknowledge. Sorry – after weeks with little but buildings to look at, I got a bit shutter-happy.
You’ll notice these three shots in a row show the same things from different angles and perspectives. My attempt to give a sense of how things fit together in this steep mountainous zone of windy roads...
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!
…and other views from Tongariro National Park, a place which can truly and safely be described as otherworldly. One factor that makes it a world heritage site is the presence of three volcanoes right next to each other. You will see more than you want of these three, in this post…sorry. The moods and clouds, the light and colors just change so often that when one is there one just can’t stop! I am blessed now to have visited New Zealand three times, and I am going to work my way through the (too) many photos I took there roughly in chronological order: this was the first major place our group visited as part of the big Howard’s-turning-50 tour. What a great start! (Btw if you’d like to see Tongariro in other moods, and more shots from the top part of the Tongariro Crossing day hike, check out the post from my last visit, which is here: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/tongariro-crossing-the-summit-of-mt-doom/)
I won’t say much here. NZ is so lovely and so endlessly various and fascinating that the photos better speak for themselves or I’m not doing my job right. For those curious, I’m back and settled in the bay area, in great health thanks, and trying to put down some roots here in the this intermezzo before the start of my next assignment…about which more, when the time is right :-). Peace. Oh, and btw: linger on the shots below: it’s a slide show of Ruapehu, which is sort of currently the biggest, though not the oldest, of these three volcanoes – and one that I explored in more detail this time than when I was last there, from up close. (More on that further down.) All the photos have names which pretty well identify them.
A few weeks ago, I got back to East Sepik again for the first time since July of 2012. It was great to see the towns and have a sense of continuity; also great to see it through eyes that have now been around PNG a bit longer and come to understand the extent to which the arts of the Sepik region are represented all around the country. At Ambua Lodge near Tari, the dining room is full of magnificent woodwork carved by folks from Sepik. This set of photos is all from the settlements on both sides of the river at Pagwi, which so far as I can see is the first place along the course of the river, in its run from the mountains at the Indonesian-PNG border to the Bismarck Sea, where a sealed road gets to the river’s bank. The detail of roof decoration above is from a lodge I photographed at that time as well; but then I’d not seen the gorgeous close-up mask that I shared with you all back when the orchid show was happening down the road from us at the house of Parliament….which was built in the style of a House Tamburan, a men’s house for traditional ceremonies in the Sepik region, from what I understand.
It’s good I went for the orchid show and took those shots of the lovely facade of parliament house when I did, because not long after, the speaker of parliament had the lovely row of traditional masks just above the lintel taken down and (at least partly) destroyed, for religious reasons – something about idolatry, I think. This caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the local media. I remain somewhat shocked that in such a multi-cultural country, such a senior leader can get away with simply destroying something of that sort which, as I see it, represents both part of the wondrous heterogeneous cultural patrimony of this rich nation, and beautifully skilled artistic craft. This blog, it would appear, is one of the few places where one can easily see images of the original, intact facade of the lovely house of parliament. That entry, and another example of a lovely traditional larger mask like the one above can be found in these entries:
and here, though I think some of these masks have origins from other regions as well:
If you’d like to see the rainy vs dry season comparisons, go check out a few of the river shots from the entry below:
if you scan through that entry you’ll see a few shots of the same stretch of shore above and below; there’s one where many people are unloading from a boat that’s down below where I was shooting from: that spot is where the boat is in shot just below. I figure the river is a good several metres higher in these shots than last time I was here.
On the other side from Pagwi is a crocodile farm, with riverine crocodiles. Compared to the massive saltwater crocs I saw in Northern Territory two years ago, these guys look cute and cuddly. Still, I’d rather not step on one or even share the same patch of water with them! And as the wonderfully decorated skull below shows, even these freshwater guys can grow to substantial size if not captured by croc hunters like those pictured above and then sold for either meat or leather.
This is where we spent the last few quiet, peaceful, absolutely blessed nights on South Island, there at the tail end of 2013 with my mother and brother. These are the Marlborough Sounds; if you’re so inclined, google ‘linkwater marlborough’ and you will see exactly where on the map of the world the shots above were taken: at the base of the Grove Arm. With Howard and Gene, five years ago, we drove fairly rapidly through this area en route from Nelson to our Kaikoura Coast Trek, but I remembered it as a lovely spot well worth revisiting. Now I’ll remember it as one of those places on earth I could very happily live, or retire, if I could ever afford it. 🙂 A lovely mix of pastoral, agricultural, maritime, small-town, outdoor-adventure…you name it, you got it there from milk cows to fantastic kayaking and world class wines. (Wonder if NZ tourism will give me a cut for the referrals here…) Btw below are the panoramas giving you about a 280-degree view from the pier on which the above photo was shot.
At the moment, a soft rain is falling on a Port Moresby Sunday morning, and I expect only to wake up in Port Moresby (or PNG more generally) on only seven more Sunday mornings. After having done precisely that for most of the past 104 Sundays, this comes not as a shock, but as awareness of imminent change. Friends on the email list have already started hearing from me about the plans, and in the months after March this space will feature more of North America and Europe than the South Pacific. And I’ll hopefully spend a lot of time on my bike and in the yoga studio. For now, my goal is stay focused and keep things on a steady course as we head into the home stretch. That’s all I shall say now: enjoy these shots of the Marlborough Sounds and Marlborough wine region, and some of the west coast and central South Island mountainy areas we drove through getting from Christchurch up to Linkwater. Peace, out, more at some point…
All of these initial shots, up until the last photo of the bay with the green boat and the tree, which comes just after the display of mailbox pride in the Marlborough Sounds, are from the basic Linkwater area. If this appears correctly, below you see a rainbow and if you look closely you’ll note that it’s actually double rainbow. It was, in fact, the fullest, clearest and sharpest full double rainbow either Steve or I had ever seen. (Mom was napping.) After the mailboxes, you’ll see various photos taken of the mountains, rivers, and vineyards that extend around the middle of the island south of the Grove Arm and north-northwest of Christchurch, through which we drove on…the rainy 29th of December, to be quite accurate. Enjoy! Happy new year!
And here some shots again of the Cook Strait as we departed South Island and headed back to North Island: below, Picton Harbor from on board; and a few shots below the exit from Tory Channel into Cook Strait with North Island in the distance; and further down a panorama shot in which you see both North and South Islands from the boat in Cook Strait.
When last I myself visited the wild, entirely rug, very wet & green & remote & spectacular southwestern expanse of South Island that’s known as Fiordland National Park, I managed to squeeze in a day trip on Doubtful Sound. (Which is so named because, in the days of sailing ships, captains usually doubted they’d find the offshore wind which would allow them ever to escape from the narrow, deep sound.) This time around, knowing a multi-day hike such as we undertook last time was out of the question, I thought I could still get Mom and my brother out for an overnight – and so we spent the night of 23rd December snugged into a little anchorage in the midst of, probably, the most remote and wild place any of us had ever spent a night…and we’ve been a few places, so that’s saying a bit of something. Our little boat had eleven passengers and three wonderful crew, and despite omnipresent rain and mist, it was simply an extraordinary experience which left us all feeling quite privileged.
Thence we drove on up to Queenstown, on Christmas Eve, where we had the lovely dinner whose dessert course you see having its five minutes of fame above. I’m popping these photos up on the blog at the start of New Year’s Eve, here, knowing that tomorrow we all fly back to our current home countries – me to PNG, they back to North America – and that the first weeks of 2014 will be full and hectic for me. Happy new year & lots of love to all my readers, known and unknown.
And for anyone interested in other, often sunnier, photos of the Fiordland region, check out these entries:
https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/definitely-doubtful-sound/ in which you can see how Doubtful looks when the sun’s shining a bit, and another shot remarkably like the top photo here…and with blue sky. Ah well, don’t tell my family. Cheers.
Since I figure many of you will only be interested in a few of the atmospheric, misty-foggy-rainy waterfall shots, I’ve plugged several of them into a gallery, below, where you can either skip over the thumbnails or click to see the full-sized shot if you’d like. Below the gallery are a few more full-sized foggy-misty shots for the atmosphere and then a shot of Lake Te Anau from the southern shore, and then a few from Queenstown and the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
Looking at the opening shot from Dunedin’s lovely town center, called The Octagon for clear reasons, I am reminded how lovely blue skies can be. As you will see in subsequent posts from Doubtful Sound and here in Christchurch where we’ve been now for two days, this semi-clear day in Dunedin earlier this week was, roughly, the last bit of blue sky and sunshine we’ve had. Ah, for the sunny blue skies of our Cook Strait crossing!
That said, the Northern Royal Albatross, perhaps the most iconic fauna of Dunedin’s gorgeous if wet Otago Peninsula, only flies when it’s windy and seems to prefer the wet to the dry. Thus we were able to really enjoy seeing quite a few of the adolescents on the wing during out time around Taiaroa Head at the tip of said peninsula. Below is one shot of such a bird in flight, but no still image, not even something on film, could really capture the remarkable grace and perfection – for their evolved purpose of circumnavigating Antarctica in the roaring 40’s 80% of their time – of these creatures of the air. Their wings are multiply hinged, so that they unfold in sequence to reach a much greater length than you might think, if you saw one nesting on the ground as we did from the hilltop perch whence we first viewed them.
On the same remarkable day we saw all the yellow-eyed penguins, some of them up rather close and personal. They’re (one of?) the most endangered penguin species in the world. And, a correction to those whose imaginations have been over-stimulated by Happy Feet etc., most of the 18 extant penguin species are NOT ice-dwellers, but nest on beaches and, yes as seen here, in coastal-adjacent grasslands. What makes the yellow-eyed ones so rare? They’re the only anti-social penguin species. They won’t nest in sight of other penguins! So when Euros showed up here and started cutting down the coastal trees and scrub, these guys’ nesting habitat was greatly reduced. They also won’t nest if they see humans around – they’re very habit-driven creatures and do not like the size of humans. So on this working sheep farm, the owner a few decades ago decided to start tunneling down under camouflage nets that he’d erected to hide himself. These underground paths lead to what are now basically viewing blinds scattered over the acres of headland where the yellows come back now every year to nest and lay their one egg and hope it hatches and rears well. If you look closely in in the shot that should be more or less at the end of this block of text, you’ll see gray ball of fluff which is a several-week-old chick, the only one who’s hatched on this patch this year of about a dozen or so nesting pairs. Yellows are something like the third-tallest species of penguin. We also saw some little blues, aka fairy penguins (yay!), in the water, but they’re too small to capture well. (If you’re curious, there’s this from my last visit in Dunedin: https://somuchworldsolittletime.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/littlebluepenguin.jpg) — these guys are more numerous but they’re truly a bite-sized morsel for many an airborne or seaborne predator, so they try to camouflage well from both below and above and thus are hard to capture well on film. Because we so rarely get to see truly wild and natural penguins in their own habitat, I went a bit shutter-crazy, but to spare those of you without so much interest, I’ve tucked most of the penguin shots into a small thumbnail gallery below; the penguin-lovers among you can click on the individual shots to see them in fuller size; there’s another shot of the chick w/parent in there as well.
Anyhoo: I hope you enjoy these wildlife shots. Despite its Scottish weather, I find Dunedin – this time as last – a surprisingly appealing and magnetic town that I can somehow imagine living in. Who knows, maybe some day. Especially if I meet the right reason, as it were… Cheers and happy new year, one and all.
…a northern royal albatross in flight, above; and a fur seal at rest below. There were tons of fur seals and even a few adorable, squeaky little pups hidden in the rocks and among their protective elders, but I didn’t get many good shots of the seals, either here or later in Fiordland where we again saw quite a few in the water and hauled out on land. They’re show-offs in the water, when a boat goes by, I can tell you that for sure. 🙂
In the shot above, you’re looking down from the Octagon toward the train station in Dunedin, a grand building erected during Dunedin’s reign as wealthiest town in NZ (late 1800s or so, due to gold finds around inner Otago region) which they claim is now the most-photographed building in NZ. Having not photographed it last visit, I figured I’d do so in my usual off-angle way this time around :p)
smw, slt has been back from the 1.5-week Australia holiday for three weeks, and tomorrow we’re off again for meetings in Amsterdam, the annual gathering of us all from the various parts of the world to talk about strategy, planning, management, what have you. It’s been nearly a year since I last had much in-person interaction with my peers and HQ colleagues, so I’m quite looking forward to the meetings, even if I’m not so excited about the 30-hour transit time it wil take to get me from a Port moresby mid-day to an Amsterdam early morning. With such long flights pending, and deep vein thrombosis always a known risk, I’ve been out diving and hiking, swimming and playing tennis to keep this old circulatory system and these weary bones working as well as possible. Herewith a few shots from the most recent bushwalk, up to that lovely hike along the ridge and mountains through the rubber plantation to where the world falls away in one of the most dramatic cliff drops I know of. (Ok, it’s not grand canyon, but it’s pretty remarkable, no?) This time I remembered to record a bit of the rubber-tapping and collection process for your enjoyment or edification. Enjoy…or be edified :-).
When you see wide, skinny shots like this it means I’m trying out my camera’s panning panorama function. The one above should have been tatken at higher resolution b/c now it appears a bit pixellated…but let me know: aside from the image-size and pixellation issue, do you find these panoramas an interesting addition to the mix, or do you prefer standard-format shots? Also, you will have noticed that we’re fairly well into the dry season at this point. Quite a different level of vegetation, lushness and greenery from, say, a highlands rainforest walk, suh as these shots from earlier in the year up at Ambua: https://somuchworldsolittletime.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/moss-mushrooms-a-rainforest-walk/
I admit that I love that shot below: it’s a hardened blob of tapped rubber, after being tipped out of a drip bucket like the ones you see in both of the prior shots (immediately above, and higher up)…but doesn’t it look almost like a luscious dollop of whipped cream atop a mug of mocha with a sprinkle of nutmeg? 🙂
Let me please begin by stating again that this is not a work blog, that this is my own personal photo-driven reflection of where I am, who I am now (how much or little fuzz there is on the top of my head or around my cheeks, etc.), so that my friends and family can keep track when I am away for long periods of time…as has been true most of the time quite a while.
Still and all, I am a person who works. A person for whom work occupies a tremendously large place in my life; a person who works for an organization whose accomplishments and principles make me proud. And a person who happens to be where he is, more often than not, because that’s where work has sent me. And let me just say, as I have a few times in recent months, that work has been filling my days quite full. My general rule is that if something about the work I’m engaged in has made the public media sphere, then I can share it on here.
So it’s known here in PNG that MSF’s first project responding to family & sexual violence in PNG, based in Lae, handed over back to the hospital within which it’s based. The handover ceremony was on 21st June, and I was nicely quoted in the media and received a few lovely gifts and very kind words of appreciation on behalf of our many hardworking colleagues. I also took a lot of pictures. The pictures showed wonderful cultural sights, dancers who danced along the road to the FSC (family support centre) where I handed over the key to the Deputy Secretary for Health…the dancers were made up and dressed beautifully, one presumes in the style of Morobe Province. The dancers sang “MSF” and various other things as they danced along the road. I have…had…wonderful pictures of these dancers! And of me posing with them!
…Until I needed to spend a few days in a new places here in POM, helping the project team for our new project settle into their new digs. You know, helping hand kind of thing. You can imagine, new place and new habits and your usual patterns fall apart and you do something F***ING idiotic like…put all your stuff from yoru overnight back in the bottom of the one wardrobe in your temporary bedroom and there’s no desk, but you want your wet tennis gear to dry overnight, so you hang it on the hangers in the … one wardrobe … where they drip … onto your computer … onto which you’ve transferred the photos from the Lae handover and, in a fit of organization deleted them from the SD card in the camera … and your computer fries, completely, battery eroded. I suspect the dripped sweat from the tennis gear was just the final straw after the humidity of PNG, but that’s one fine and expensive laptop down and dead, and one set of lovely photos sadly lost and no longer share-able. Sorry, folks.
I can, however, share with you a few more links to very public things we’ve been saying about our work, my colleagues and I. Links to quite a few of them are below, and do note that one of them has links to both TV and radio coverage.
And I can share these new photos I made on last week’s POM Bushwalker hike: further view of Port Moresby, taken from a hike entirely within the greater POM area, from close to where I live up and over the ridges to Burns Peak at the edge of downtown. It’s from the road that goes through the pass next to Burns Peak that many of the lovely views of the harbor that appeared here a few weeks ago were taken. The start of the hike was wonderfully atmospheric because of the heaviest low-lying fog I’ve experienced here. It really made for a wonderful mood, although it made the views a bit less clear and spectacular. It also blocked the sun for which we were happy hiking up all those steep hills!
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!
…the Kokoda Trail, that is. To quote beloved Wikipedia (do donate…where would we be without them??!!), “The Kokoda Trail or Track is a single-file foot thoroughfare that runs 96 kilometres (60 mi) overland — 60 kilometres (37 mi) in a straight line — through the Owen Stanley Range in Papua New Guinea. The track is the most famous in Papua New Guinea and is known for being the location of the World War II battle between Japanese and Australian forces in 1942.”
Last Sunday, the POM Bushwalking group (there’s a facebook page, you know?) dipped its toe into the first chunk of the Kokoda Trail, from Owers Corner down to the Goldie River. It is very beautiful, very muddy, intensely steep in many places, and if the sun is shining then downright brutal coming back uphill. I may be playing tennis a few hours a week in the evenings here, but I still felt like my little old heart would give out on the uphill return in the hot sun. One goes through that marker directly above and then steeply downhill past what you can see in the very first pic: notice how, behind the grass, all you see is the next range of hills — well, that’s on the other side of the Goldie River, I guess…and you notice it doesn’t look all that far away, meaning one goes very steeply down, then very steeply back up. And to do the whole trail, one does this many times in the space of the above-mentioned 96km. This may give some idea why, in WWII, the front line between Allied and Japanese forces ran along the mountains here.
…this is a short post. We’re intensely busy at work, but as you know, I don’t really do work on this blog. It’s about me and what I’m seeing here. So we’ll leave it at that for now and hope this small taste of the trail is interesting for y’all. Peace, out.
smw, slt has now been back in PNG for three weeks, after our lovely lazy long holiday in Los Angeles. Much is happening on the work front which has kept me busy and often feeling rather overwhelmed. Thus the usual Sunday outing during my extended visit to Tari this past week was very welcome: we went to Ambua Lodge and walked around their ravine and rainforest during a rain that ranged from quite strong to dripping mist, over the course of our couple-hour ramble. I got into the mood of it – so long as I’d be ending muddy and wet regardless, I decided to disengage my brain from daily mundane worries and look at all the layers and varieties of life packed into each square centimeter of ground, tree and even air that I could find. Hope you enjoy these views of a wet walk through the rainforest near Tari.
…And often, as in the case of this mushroom and moss-bedecked tree, or the long red hanging berries (anyone know what those are??), I couldn’t decide which angle or close-up I found most fascinating for viewing it. So you get both…hope it doesn’t bore you.
In 9th grade biology class I was required to design a controlled experiment of my own – this was a first for me. I recall that my experiment involved, among a few other kinds of plants, New Guinea impatiens – which you see, above, in their native habitat. Who knew that … thirty-five years later?! … I’d end up on the other side of the world seeing them in their native land? Below you see what I think of as the departure lounge at Tari Airstrip, where I waited for 2.5 hours for a delayed flight on Thursday only to get cut off as darling AirNuigini decided, for reasons unknown, not to let everyone with boarding cards board. You wonder why I don’t encourage my friends to come here for tourist reasons, much as I’m obviously enjoying it as a work location for myself? Among other reasons, its air travel situation requires more patience & flexibility than most people want to need on vacation — even Americans who’ve adapted to the farce that is air travel in the US these days.
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.