7 Super Photos from My Travels

My seven super photos below show the some of the things that amazed me and the memories I cherish from my many travels.  I think I was tagged for this a few months ago.  I can tell because I had begun placing candidate photos in a special folder but I couldn’t find a post…  Thanks to Lola (@LolaDiMarco) for tagging me.  I will need to think about who to tag since she probably hit some people I would have hit and I also don’t want to hit the person who tagged me months ago! (and I can’t remember who that is… my apologies, I was trying to get it done!)

Here it goes!

a photo that takes my breath away

Flying over the Andes

Crossing the majestic Andes…

a photo that makes me laugh or smile

Walking like Egyptians... In Egypt.

Walking like Egyptians… In Egypt.

a photo that makes me dream

In the Greeks Islands:  A sunset in Mykonos

I dream of returning to Mykonos…

a photo that makes me think

Village savings and loan members posing near Mwanza, Tanzania

Village savings and loan members posing near Mwanza, Tanzania: not begging for help, but taking control of their livelihoods. How we have lost that in our own country…

a photo that makes my mouth water

The grapes that yield a delicious Bordeaux...

The grapes that yield a delicious Bordeaux…

a photo that tells a story

A victim of Vesuvius in Pompeii

Hated taking this pic but it was very moving to see this in Pompeii…

a photo that i’m most proud of (aka, my NationalGeographic shot)

Overlooking Queenstown and The Remarkables in glorious New Zealand

Overlooking Queenstown and The Remarkables in glorious New Zealand

The Adventure Capital of the World – Queenstown

Queenstown’s claim to fame, perhaps among others, is that bungy jumping was invented not far from the town.  By now, taller and scarier jumps have been created in Queenstown and elsewhere but that original bungy jump exists in the same bridge.

Now, I am not sure if Queenstown is indeed the adventure capital of the world.  For instance, I thought me eating guinea pig in Lima would make Lima the adventure capital of the world, for me at least.  But there is definitely plenty of adrenaline-pumping activities all around town as well as the more traditional and sensible activities of skiing and snowboarding.  I heard people talking about the different things they did while there an dhow much they paid and I concluded (not rocket science!) that the reputation of the city as adventure capital certainly helps the city with revenues as these adventures are not cheap!

I arrived in Queenstown at the start of the winter season after crossing a good but of the west coast of the south island from Franz Josef.  It was a beautiful drive with the only issues being some black ice once we left the coastline and headed inland – it was cold!!!  The west coast is less populated than the east coast of the south island and it showed.  Very few towns, very small if they existed.

Queenstown seemed like a metropolis after my passing through Greymouth, staying at Franz Josef, and seeing the small towns along the west coast.  We did pass some inland towns that were a little more substantial with Wanaka being one of the nicest ones (on the shores of Lake Wanaka).  It seems to attract similar type of tourists as Queenstown for skiing and other activities but it is smaller and retains a smaller town feel to it.  I would not have minded staying there and exploring…  Anyhow, back to telling you about Queenstown.  It was littered with skiers and snowboarders and all the types of businesses that cater to this crowd (average age must have been 20!).  I could have been anywhere in ski country USA – the town had that type of feel to it.  My motel was a walk away from the center of town but was very adequate and the staff was great.  As far as places to eat, I was surprised at how good a semi-hidden joint on The Mall was.  Its name was Chico’s Bar and Grille and the beef and venison pie was simlpy outstanding!  The Peregrine Saddleback pinot noir was a nice wine to drink with it.

A view from a square by the lake

A view from a square by the lake

My “Adventure” 🙂

So what adventurous activity did I undertake?  Well, all the hiking in Tasmania and at the glacier ruined my left knee to the point that days later even walking hurt.  So I had to drop my plans to ski at one of the two main sites (Coronet Peak or The Remarkables).  I was bummed.  I considered white water rafting but even with a wet suit, I could not stomach the thought of the frigid waters.  It was frigid just walking around – I had not appetite for trying the waters!   I could not just sit around all afternoon so I opted for a float and a massage.  Not adventurous?  Well, the float thing was new to me and it required getting into this sort of enclosed tank and laying there on very salty water floating in the dark for 30 mins.  That was adventurous to me!

I also got to go up the mountain right above town using a gondola for some excellent views of the town, of The Remarkables, and mountains beyond.  I do not know if the skiing is worth the trip down under but certainly viewing The Remarkables made me want to come back and get a shot at their slopes!

The Remarkables range (and the adventurer; I'm very proud of this pic!)

The Remarkables range (and an adventurer; I’m very proud of this pic!)

Tasmania – Starting Our Visit to a Southern Paradise

Well, I got to Melbourne from Sydney but will delay writing about Melbourne until I have covered more ground here.  Instead, I thought I would share about my very short 3-day visit to Tasmania, a place I only dreamt of ever seeing given how remote it feels to me as a Southeast U.S. resident…  The visit was short but, what a visit!

Getting There

Before telling you about the visit, I first have to comment on how easy one navigates domestic air travel in Australia.  Not sure if that is good (speed, less hassles) or bad (security concerns) but it is certainly different than in the U.S. and parts of Europe.  For domestic travel, you only need to be there 30 mins in advance.  Security lines are short and speedy (TSA, take a field trip to Australia).  Only laptops need be pulled out of bags.  Liquids are OK to carry on.  A breeze!  Of course, feeling sad when saying bye to relatives is just as hard here.  I saw a boy of about 5 with his parents saying goodbye to his grandparents and his uncontrolled sobbing after passing security was truly heart-wrenching…

What to Do in 3 Days in Tasmania?

I posed this question in a forum and on Twitter and I think people thought us insane to attempt to cover much ground in 3 days.  Well, it is true that you can only cover so much in 3 days but we were not expecting to do it all or do any one site to its fullest extent.  No speeding up the laws of physics.  We were told to stick around the southeast corner (or so) near Hobart which was not bad advice at all, but I think we had our heart set on a couple of places.  So what did we aim for?  Covering the island (er, state) like the dew…


Day 1 – Hobart to Cradle Mountain

We took the 7AM flight from Melbourne (one of those sacrifices we had to make…) for the hour-long or so flight over to Hobart.  The flight was smooth as could be (which made me VERY glad we did not take the overnight ferry ride on fairly rough seas…) and getting through the airport and car rental went pretty smoothly and fast.

We decided that we still needed some breakfast and coffee as we expected to have a 4.5 hr drive through the Cradle Mountain National Park to get to the lodge we were going to use as base to see Crater Mountain and the neighboring lakes.  So, before embarking on that long drive, we decided to head into Hobart center to the weekly Saturday market in Salamanca Square.  We had been told it was worth checking out so we got to kill two birds with one stone (does that sound too violent?) and enjoy coffee and a donut while browsing.  The setting was very nice, the produce being sold by the same farmers that grow it, and the arts/crafts section pretty much like any festival in any city I have been to, except some of the arts stuff was more unique to the area.

We began our journey inland following the riverside until eventually we left it and headed to the national park.  The map in this entry may make it seem a straight drive but we went sort of west and then sort of north across a mountain range.  The views were simply amazing; it seemed very lush with eucalyptus and ferns everywhere – and the occasional hydroelectric plant with the huge set of pipes funneling water from up high to the plants for extra push.  The roads got a little windy but not excessively so.  It was definitely a drive we enjoyed.

A Stop in a Queenstown

Around 1:30 PM we stopped at the first town we had seen that seemed to have open businesses (this was on a Saturday afternoon) or, for that matter, that just had businesses!  This town was a mining town called Queenstown.  The neighboring hills/mountains seemed to be iron since the color was a rust color on exposed rock and reddish on rocks that perhaps were more recently exposed.  The town felt like a frontier town though I have never been to a real mining town.  There was no trace of tourists (‘cept us).  We ate at a small eatery (not sure what to call it) – a souvlaki for $6.50AU which was a real bargain compared to any other lunch I have had in Australia!

And Finally to the Lodge!

After another 1.5 hrs of our 4.5 hr trip, we made it to the Cradle Mountain Lodge (not the Chateau) (http://www.cradlemountainlodge.com.au/).  This lodge is close to the entrance to the park and had better recommendations than the chateau.  We really enjoyed the feel of the lodge with its “living room” with a humongous fireplace where we sat before and after dinner sipping nice Tasmanian pinot noir.  Our cabin (our type was called Pencil Pine) was very functional and the day bed was really a full bed and quite comfortable.  Our cabin overlooked a pond and had its own local wildlife right there.  At the lodge you could eat at a restaurant or the tavern and we chose the latter.  The food was actually quite good (I had chicken schnitzel) and had the only TV for the guests which helped one disconnect from the world.  We were exhausted after our early start (and after dinner and some wine) so we called it a night so we could have a decent recovery ahead of our hike the following day.  The lodge offers a number of organized activities from hikes and walks, to movies and wine tastings.  Something for everyone and, seemingly, a place to stay for 2-3 days easily while enjoying nature.

Our first day, though tiring, was quite a succesful day and we thoroughly enjoyed the scenic drive we got to do through the heart of Tasmania.  Here is what awaited us the next day…

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