BootsnAll Travel Network

Heart of Gold Film Festival – We Have a Winner!

March 29th, 2009


On the weekend Bec and I travelled up to Gympie in Queensland to the Heart of Gold film festival . It was a brilliant festival showing hundreds of short films from around the world, as well as meet-the-filmmaker sessions and seminars.

They also had a photography category, and out of 1000 entries from 20 countires this image I took in Nepal of Junu lining up before school won the overall prize!

 This meant getting up at the awards dinner and giving a speech in front of some semi-famous Australians who were on the film Jury, including Noni Hazlehurst who gave a wonderful speech later in the night (which included getting the enitre audience to stand up and sing “I’m a Little Teapot”, complete with actions), Peter Thompson who was the long-time film reviewer on the Channel Nine program Sunday, Jim Moginie from Midnight Oil, and the ABC’s Caroline Jones. I somehow managed to get through the speech without making a fool of myself, and picked up a nice little cheque for my trouble.

I’m now going out to buy a lottery ticket.

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Zion National Park: Where Angels Land

February 17th, 2009


We spent three nights in Southern Utah, staying at a glorious holiday house about ten minute’s drive from Zion National Park. The house was huge; four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a giant open plan kitchen-dining-living area with double height windows looking out onto the snow covered surroundings, two balconies, snow-covered gables, and a giant outdoor jacuzzi.

The jacuzzi didn’t cooperate on New Year’s Eve (the water was as cold as John Howard’s heart), but we got it working on New Year’s Day, and spent the evening on the first day of the year drinking Coronas in a bubbling jacuzzi surrounded by snow. ‘Twas a brilliant completion to a day that saw us traipsing over icy rocks and craning necks to look skywards at the domineering towers of red rock that formed Zion National Park.

A gentle river, the Virgin, snakes its way along the bottom of the canyon floor, weaving around thousand-foot high brutes of rock. We followed it’s edge as far as we could, to where the trail became too icy and the canyon too narrow.


We took another trail, this one up the side of one of the cliffs to some gentle waterfalls. Coats of ice covered the cliff face, and the water crashed into mounds of ice at the base.

A herd of wild deer emerged ahead of us, and crossed through the icy-cold river in single file, as the setting sun cast an orange glow across the water. We watched in silence, breath floating away in front of our faces.

Next morning I rose before dawn after just a couple of hours sleep, head murky from the Coronas the night before, and drove back into Zion on my own. I wanted to tackle the famous Angel’s Landing hike; a strenuous climb up 1500 feet to a lookout in the centre of the canyon, and with a last half-mile that is a fin of rock jutting out into the canyon little more than three feet wide in spots with an 800 foot drop on one side, and a 1000 foot drop on the other.

I donned Bec’s YakTrax for the trip – this was not a place I wanted to slip. Light was easing in as I started at the trailhead. There was no-one else around, just the noise of the river gently caressing rocks below me. The trail climbed up the side of the cliff, and my gloves and beanie came off as the sweat began to pour. The trail then briefly levelled out and turned into a gap in the cliff; Refrigerator Canyon. The gloves and beanie returned.

The trail climbed again, now coming from the back of the cliff, up a relentless series of twenty or so small switchbacks that had me gasping for air. The trail narrowed, and bunched up into a thin mound of ice covered rock that was too steep to walk up. A couple of feet to my right was a sheer 500 foot drop. A foot to my left was a sheer 800 foot drop. Chains had been nailed into the rock to haul oneself up with, though in some places they were frozen into the ice. I gingerly tried to pull myself up, trying desperately to get some sure footing.

After some nervous slips, I crested the rise, and about an hour-and-a-half after setting out reached Scout’s lookout; a (relatively) wide expanse that offered some stunning views back down the canyon, and was the resting place before one would normally attack the last fear-inducing, spine-tingling ascent. But I was out of time. We had to get to back to Las Vegas later that afternoon, and there was no way I could reach the top, take in the view, and make it back down in time.

As much as I wanted to keep going, to tackle a scary-as-hell climb up a narrow fin of rock covered with ice and snow, I had to let it go. I took some snaps from Scout’s Lookout (the big chunk of rock on the left of this photo is the trail leading up to Angel’s Landing), appreciating the fact that I had this stunning natural wonder all to myself, before realising I only had about half-an-hour to make it back down and to the house before the girls would start worrying.

And so I literally ran down the mountain. Down the ice-covered trail, bouncing along in Bec’s YakTrax (an absolute life saver).

Zion was almost overwhelming in its contradictions. Beautiful and powerful and peaceful and intense. I’d like to return one day. To Zion and to Bryce. To see them in the summer, stripped of their icy cloaks. And to reach the summit where angels land.


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Bryce Canyon: Hoodoo chile

January 26th, 2009


Bryce Canyon, just over an hour’s drive north of our accommodation in Southern Utah, was a stunning, ridiculously enchanting locale. It was small in comparison to the Grand Canyon from where we’d just come, but then, Europe is small compared to the Grand Canyon. America is a place that seldom does small. A car is only considered small if it has less than three axles.

It was the final day of 2008, and the holiday atmosphere had all in a good mood. We reached the park entrance only to find the booth unattended. Entrance was supposed to be $25, so we drove through to the visitor centre and approached the park ranger, informing him of the problem.

“Well,” he mused, “he’s probably out for a coffee or something, and I’m not really able to accept entrance fees here. So basically, if you pay on your way out, great. If not, well, happy new year!”

Bryce is made up of hundreds, maybe thousands of ‘hoodoos’; tall soldiers of orange rock that line the slopes looking not unlike the giant termite-mounds you find in the Australian outback. Our guidebook described them as looking like melting sandcastles. Being there in the winter meant there were trails of snow banked up on the hoodoos, leaving them looking like a bunch of naked Scandinavians left out in the sun too long; all white snowy hair and burnt orange skin.

After drinking in the view from the rim of the canyon, we walked down into the depths, following a snowy trail through giant amphitheaters open to the brilliant sunshine, where the sky above was the bluest of deep blues. It was like being deep in the ocean and looking up to the sunny surface, as if the graceful silhouette of a whale could go floating over us any moment. We walked deeper through the forests, and into narrow streets between the ever-larger rocks that seemed to glow orange in the reflected sunlight.

Bec wore designer gumboots borrowed from our friend Jill, winter tights, a woollen skirt, a funky short winter jacket, a hand-knitted scarf, and a woollen hat that my Mum knitted. She looked like a 60’s model on location for a photo-shoot; the most unlikely looking (but down-right sexiest) hiker you could imagine. This was brought into particularly stark focus as we passed a middle-aged couple (two of the very few other people we saw whilst walking through the canyon), supporting themselves with walking poles and who, at first glance, appeared to be wearing tennis racquets on their feet. They were, of course, snow shoes. This was some serious terrain we were crossing.

The reason Bec was able to rub shoulders with the likes of Federer and Sharapova over there whilst wearing gumboots was due to a nifty little attachment to the soles of her boots called YakTrax. It was a rubber sole that you stretched over your existing footwear, with a criss-cross of coiled wire on the bottom that provided traction. Bec and Jill had purchased them at the park visitor centre on the advice of the park ranger, whilst I, being a male (read: stubborn, ignorant twat) dismissed them with a wave of my hand, assuring everyone within earshot that I had the sure-footing of a mountain goat (cue mountain goat slipping off an icy ledge, Simpsons-style). I even had the friendly ranger convinced; “Yeah, you look wiry, you’ll be ok.”

I proceeded to spend the rest of the day slipping and skating down the slopes, spending more time with eyes trained on the ground in front of me than taking in the stupendous scenery. Wiry can only take you so far people.

The day was a brilliant outing; a wonderful way to spend the last day of 2008, and one of those times when nature’s astounding beauty truly does overwhelm you. As always, the photos just don’t do it justice….

Bryce 1Bryce 2Bryce 3Bryce 4

Bryce 5Bryce 6Bryce 7Bryce 8

Bryce 9

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The Grand Canyon: A Big Fucking Hole

January 20th, 2009

It was mid-afternoon, around 4pm, and the sun was already low in the sky, ready to kiss the horizon good night. I drove the big SUV, a Ford Explorer, through the snow covered plains north of Flagstaff, towards the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

I expected the landscape to be more dramatic, but the road refused to budge from its dead-straight line, easing across the lightly rolling land. Christmas trees lined the road, and patches of ice hung onto the asphalt in the shadows.

Entry to the park was paid, only $25 for a 7-day pass for the three of us, and we continued along the road as it began to slowly wind through the forest, yet beyond that the landscape offered no further clues as to the gaping cut that scarred the earth just up ahead. We reached the main village, perched near the edge of the canyon, but still it lay hidden; my eyes focussed on the slippery road, my mind concentrating on driving.

We were moving at little more than walking speed; the roads covered in ice. We began to leave the village. Two cars were stopped just up ahead where a sign showed a map of the area. I put the brakes on, a little harder than necessary.

“Holy fuck! There’s a big fucking hole!”

“What, where?” Bec craned her neck to look down at the road in front of the car, expecting to see a pot-hole that had stopped us in our tracks.

“No, out there!”

She turned to look out the passenger window, where to our right the trees had parted to reveal an earth that simply fell away to depths we couldn’t see, fell seemingly forever, laying bare jagged red walls dusted with snow. She gasped. Literally gasped. I don’t believe I’ve ever actually heard someone audibly gasp before. I hadn’t been to the Grand Canyon before.



I planted the accelerator, and we raced along the canyon’s edge. I wanted to look out the window, but had to watch the road. Cars stopped as four or five deer munched on the icy grass by the side of the road. We kept on, racing the sun as it dipped ever lower. A lookout was reached, cameras set on tripods and clicked and clicked and clicked. Colours changed, faded, slipped away. The sky melted from blue into pink into nothing. The canyon walls cried yellows and oranges and reds, or hid under the snow. The air grew cold, and my fingers began to hurt. Cameras clicked and clicked and clicked some more. Heads were shaken as glances were exchanged and smiles of incredulity spread across faces.

The sun was gone, replaced by a smiling moon. We drove back to our motel to eat some steak and listen to an old cowboy tickle Johnny Cash covers on his banjo.

Next morning was cold. Still dark and real cold as we started the car at a little after 6.30. We made the canyon as the first light began to creep into the sky. The canyon edge was covered in ice that had been worn smooth from constant foot traffic. My feet started sliding, and I crashed onto my arse walking from the car, holding the camera above my head as I landed. No harm done.

A light wisp of cloud swept across the sky and turned slowly pink as the sun, though still out of sight, shed more light on the immense hole below us. It was a mesmerising sight. The desert reds of the land told my eyes that it should be warm out, that the sun should be piercing with its heat, but my fingers were frozen, my beanie pulled down tight over my ears. The first rays brought welcome warmth, and the canyon walls began to sparkle in the light.

We spent the morning driving slowly East along the canyon’s south rim, stopping at lookouts for jaw-dropping views, and stripping off layers as the sun climbed and delivered an unseasonable but entirely welcome warmth.

We left the park a little after lunch, and drove north on Highway 89 across Arizona, through the Navajo Reservation, and across the border into Utah.

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USA: Words are overrated

January 19th, 2009

Words. They’re overrated. Well, I reckon, anyway. How do you describe the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, the self-aware buzz of New York, the far-out-are-we-still-on-planet-earth bizarreness of Bryce Canyon in Utah? You can’t. Well, by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’. I can’t.

When I started this blog back in, holy shit, it was June 2005. Really? That can’t be right can it? Wow. Er, where was I, yeah, back in June 2005 (I still can’t believe it’s been that long), I was debating the merits of writing a blog to keep a record of where we’d been and what we were doing or simply sticking with the flickr account I’d set up to send photos back to friends and family. I figured at the time that photography is a mightily expensive, somewhat obsessive I’ll-sell-my-first-born-to-get-that-canon-5D hobby, whereas writing, well, all you need is a Moleskine, a pencil and your thoughts.

Three-and-a-half years later and it turns out I’m better at photography than writing.

But shit, I’m not gonna let that stop me.

New York

A month in the USA. That is what Bec and I have just returned from. A month spent eating lots of pizza (I was almost going to say too much pizza, and then realised that, well, that’s just stupid. You can’t have too much pizza), bagels, sushi, burgers, good burgers too. Drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Brooklyn Brewery wheat beer, whiskey, wine, sake (too much sake. Yes, you can have too much sake), sangria, soda, and Coronas.

Unfortunately only one of these was consumed whilst sitting in a giant outdoor jacuzzi surrounded by snow and mountains in southern Utah, but that’s just a small gripe really. Like winning the lottery and then complaining because you’re being paid in US dollars and all the different denominations are the same colour and how am I supposed to tell them all apart when I’m buying a slice of pizza and the people behind me are starting to sigh just a little too loudly and my fingers start shaking because I’m nervous and I can’t tell the money apart and then I hand over a 20 to pay for a 2 dollar slice and the dude behind the counter shakes his head and I sheepishly dump a handful of money on the counter and he sorts through it and takes what he needs which may well have been the original 20 for all I know because all the bloody notes look the same but I don’t really care because damn man that’s a fine piece of pizza.

You know what I mean?

Most of our days were spent in New York, marvelling at the architecture (oh Flatiron, how I love you so), wrapping ourselves in coats and scarves to ward off the cold; a cold that I particularly enjoyed mind you. There’s something about being in a big city in the winter that feels somehow more authentic, as though you’re seeing the city more in its natural environment. Which is of course complete bollocks, because it doesn’t matter what the weather is like, if you’re in New York you’re in New York. And as nice as the cold was, and as still and haunting and simultaneously inviting yet aloof as Central Park was in the snow; it’s icy lakes and church-quiet trails seeming an entire world away from the hustle of 5th Avenue, fuck it was cold walking through there.

We saw some amazing gallery exhibitions, a particular favourite was the collection of Cornell Capa images at the International Centre of Photography, we took in the over-the-top spectacle of a Broadway show, where even I delighted in the back-story to the Wizard of Oz (who knew witches were funny?!). We trekked over the Brooklyn Bridge, which reminded me why I (sometimes) love being a structural engineer. Sometimes. Its beautiful symmetry, and abrupt, stout towers offset by sweeping cables, reminding us that functionality doesn’t have to come at the cost of style and elegance.

We took in a music performance at an art gallery Chelsea, ate hot dogs and drank giant beers at Madison Square Garden watching the New York Rangers build a 4-0 lead over the Washington Capitals only to throw it away and lose 4-5 in overtime.

We hit the Mercury Lounge, and shook our tail-feathers to Staten Island’s finest 9-piece funk/soul outfit, The Budos Band. We picked up some old blues records in the East Village, to help kickstart my record collection (I was lucky enough to be given a turntable for Christmas from my lovely wife).

We dodged crowds in Times Square, including the guys selling cheap comedy show tickets;

Ticket seller dude, as Bec and I attempt to sidle past unnoticed; “Hey, you guys like stand-up comedy?”

Bec and I in unison; “Nope.”

“Yeah, neither do I.”

We laughed and shivered and cried and danced and drank, and watched college basketball on ESPN, and ate the most amazing meal courtesy of our friends, Conor and Liz who treated us to dinner at the restaurant where they had their wedding reception recently (and who are now expecting their first child! Woo Hoo!).

We stood on top of the world at the Empire State Building, having survived it’s endless red-roped queues and theme-ride feel down below, we saw Elmo at the Rockerfeller Centre Christmas tree, we rode the subway and chatted to friendly New Yorkers, we watched Monday Night Football at an NYU bar, where about 30 people watched the game on no less than 11 tv screens.

We felt like little kids at the Natural History Museum, looking with wonder at the giant condors and moose and deer and bears and sealions and elephants. And the dinosaur. Whoa, the dinosaur.

We spent Christmas in New Jersey with Conor’s Mum and family and friends, and drank eggnog whilst we listened to a Polish couple sound like angels as they sang Christmas Carols in their native tongue.

We simply enjoyed spending time in one of the greatest cities on Earth.

And after a few weeks in New York we headed out West, to check out Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon, and a couple of National Parks in Southern Utah.

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Nepal: In black and white

March 24th, 2008

Now that I’ve run out of words, I thought maybe you folks who are still checking the site might be interested in seeing some of the photos I took whilst Bec and I were volunteering at the orphanage in Nepal last year, starting with a couple of black and white shots just to get the ball rolling….

If you have read any of the previous entries about our time at the orphanage, you’ll know that the kids were so so so so happy. Despite having nothing, they danced and laughed and joked and played as though they had not a care in the world. But there were always times when each child would be quiet, and thoughtful, and would appear to have deep thoughts running through their minds. But mostly these occurances and these expressions were whilst they were watching tv. Nothing like some tv to keep a roomful of kids quiet.






Nisha (again…)

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Whoa, it’s Thailand…

October 30th, 2007

In Chiang Mai, they have some strange guardians of their wats….

But most of our time was spent down south, lazing about on Koh Pha Ngan. First, it was Bottle Beach….

Fireworks on Bottle Beach

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Fireworks on Bottle Beach

Then, it was round to Haad Sadet, for another week of lazing about in hammocks, reading books, and eating seafood…

.../ .../ Watching the sun rise from our bungalow .../ Beers on the beach watching a lightning storm .../

Our view for every meal….


The End.

The End

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Look, there’s Vietnam!

October 29th, 2007

It can be tough riding through the streets of Hanoi

Hoi An – where we had our wedding outfits tailored, and managed to squeeze in a day chilling on the beach. I was well looked after by Long, the friendly tailor, who made sure my brown wedding suit was top notch. Yes brown. As if I’d get married in black!
.../ .../

In Hoi An we also met some of the friendliest locals….
Is she trying to steal my nose?

Onto Hanoi, where it was fifteen cent beers, hooning through the streets on motorbikes, and surviving vicious rain storms (whilst still drinking fifteen cent beers!). You can also see where those fifteen cent beers come from, although sometimes it’s best no to look…
.../ Love those pith helmets! .../ This is where Bia Hoi comes from. Sometimes best not to look...

And then it was onto Halong Bay, with its beautiful scenery…. (except for the redhead)….
.../ .../

Inside the Amazing Cave….

The Jump….
Thumbs up boysI thought I was readyShit, am I really gonna do this?!Go legs! Go!Faaaarrrrrkkkkkk......kkkiiiiiinnnnnnggggg hell!!!!!!!!!Uh oh...

And then a gentle swim….

Surrounded by other boats in the bay, as night fell….

On Monkey Island with my beautiful fiancee….

And eating a seafood dinner on a floating restaurant….

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More stuff to look at from Laos….

October 15th, 2007

Vieng Xai

Getting from Muang Ngoi to Vieng Xai, near the Vietnamese border, was a battle. We got on the bus in the middle of the night clambering over sleeping bodies in the aisle, it broke down for four hours (check out the engine parts laying in front of the bus), and asking for a seat was sometimes fraught with danger….
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Eventually we made it to Sam Neu (almost to Vieng Xai), where I took this photo in the local market. Something about the look on the guy’s face sort of creeps me out.

And then finally, we got to Vieng Xai, home of the Pathet Laos’ secret caves, complete with a statue celebrating the victory over the United States. And let’s face it, if another country bombed the crap out of me for nine years without a breather, and then finally fucked off, I’d probably erect a statue in honour of the occasion as well. We were also pretty shocked by the fact that the locals are still sweeping areas to check for unexploded bombs (the UXO on the sign stands for Unexploded Ordinance). On our second day in town, the most exciting thing that happened was Bec giving me a haircut…
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Remeber the story about getting into the over-crowded truck with crazy Swiss guy. Check this out…. and remember, in that first photo, I’m still to get in after Bec…
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Stuff to look at from Laos….

October 10th, 2007

Morning Alms, in Luang Prabang

Well, technically this first one below isn’t in Laos, but it’s damn near close enough. This is Bec with Sayan, the greatest, friendliest guesthouse/restaurant owner you could ever hope to meet, who runs the Easy Restaurant/Guesthouse in Chiang Khong, in the northeast of Thailand where most people cross the Mekong from Thailand into Laos. This was taken at immigration, after Sayan had given us a lift down there. Best. Guy. Ever.

After we left Sayan we had the Gibbon Experience, which you’ve seen. Following that it was on to Nong Khiaw, from where we took the wettest boat ride down to Luang Prabang. No photos of the boat ride, but here’s a couple of shots that show the beauty of Nong Khiaw.
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Luang Prabang, the town of a thousand monks. Here’s some shots from the morning alms giving, where each morning the monks walk through the town and accept offerings of food from the locals. It is quite a moving thing to see, and whilst I tried to respectfully keep my distance when taking photos, there were always folks getting way too close to the ceremony with their huge cameras.
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Taking a boat ride (the best way to get around in Laos) from Luang Prabang out to a small waterfall nearby.

After Luang Prabang, it was back up north to the village of Muang Ngoi, a single-road village on the Nam Ou river reachable only by boat. It was from here that we walked a few hours through rice patties to the tiny village of Ban Na, and passed on the way a cave from whence a stream popped up out of the rock. Along with the rice patties, we also had to walk along a muddy, leech infested track through the jungle/forest. First off, Muang Ngoi….
The view from our riverside bungalow… and then looking back to our bungalow from the boat as we left
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A kataw match (like volleyball, but played using the rules of soccer, ie – no hands, only feet and heads) in the main street…
Kataw match

The main street…
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Gran Mama….. The place we stayed at was run by Mama, who looked after us like her own kids (hence the title). This is Mama’s mama – Gran Mama….

And some shots from the walk to Ban Na…
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Aren’t photos sooooo much cooler than words. Words are like myspace – old and crap. Photos are like facebook – all new and shiny. Ooh yeah.

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