Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

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What a Manly Day!

Based on a Manly article by a fellow blogger, I put the Manly Scenic Walkway on my must-do list when in Australia. Manly is not only a state of being, but also a district outside of Sydney. The first thing that struck me when I arrived on June 9th was this:

The First White Man at Manly

Aussies are definitely not as “PC-scared” as Americans. I like that! Although it must be said: the 1928 sentiment of this plaque is a bit outdated, when you look at how the Aborigines were treated.

The Manly Scenic Walkway is about 10km, and passes through a great park in the middle. I saw lots of native plants I never even knew existed, along with quite a few local birds, lizards, and other animals. Absolutely a must for nature lovers.

Australian Bird

If the tide is low enough, you can walk along the beach in several areas and look into some cool tidal pools. A CPL (circular polarizing filter) helps reduce reflections when taking photos of them.

Aquatic Life in a Tidal Pool

I’m not sure what this flower is called, but apparently it’s very tasty to the local bees.

A Bee on some Australian Flowers

I was expecting to see more lizards, but then I realized: it’s winter! Most of them must be hiding below-ground when it’s cold and windy out. This guy braved the elements to catch a few rays in a wind-sheltered spot.

An Australian Lizard in Manly

Around Manly there are more sailboats than I’ve ever seen in one place (except perhaps Starnberger See in Germany).

Sailboats near Manly

And at Manly Beach you can see lots of surfers, or try it yourself if you want to catch a few waves. Definitely wetsuit weather in June when I was there snapping photos.

A Surfer catches a wave at Manly Beach

As you can see, Manly has a bit of everything. I even had a great fish & chips: grilled salmon instead of the standard fried whitefish! So, the next time you’re in Sydney, put Manly on your list of places to see. Especially if you’re a nature lover like me.

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:32 pm.

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Bats in the Daytime, and Sydney at Night

Strangely enough, the best time to see bats in Sydney is the middle of the day. They all sleep in the park! Apparently it’s a big problem, because they damage the trees they roost in.

Bats on a tree in Sydney Botanical Gardens

I took some photos for a friend in the hostel on June 8th, and thought I’d share them here as well. These are some seriously huge bats!

Sleepy bats in Sydney Botanical Gardens

I didn’t expect too much when a few bats took to the air. But my trusty Nikon D90 and 18-200mm VR did not disappoint. With a fast shutter and a bit of cropping, I managed to get this.

A flying bat in the daylight at Sydney Botanical Gardens

Okay, now that your skin is crawling, I’ll drop it down a notch. (Sorry, Emeril). Here’s what else I’ve got for today. I’m gonna say the bokeh has blurred this kid’s face enough for privacy. “What you doin’ on my walkway, mate?”

Some bird looking at a kid in Sydney Olympic Park

Now for the night shots! I’ll just put a few of the best ones. All are long exposures requiring a tripod, with ISO of 400 or lower to avoid noise. Here’s the Sydney Opera House, lit up on the side facing Circular Quay. The colors are projected in an ever-changing video.

Sydney Opera House lit up at night

Majestic downtown Sydney:

Downtown Sydney as seen from Macquarie's Point

And finally a nice combination of the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge.

Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge at night

If you’re interested in how to take nighttime photos, check some other articles on the blog where I explain a bit about it (e.g. Paris at Night). There will also be a post up shortly about night pics taken from Sydney Tower. Or just leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer your question!

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:06 pm.

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Sydney – Thick & Creamy

I really don’t know who had the idea for this “Brokeback” yogurt ad. Needless to say, the Aussie sense of humor must be pretty good if you can post an ad like this on a billboard.

"Brokeback Mountain" yogurt ad in Australia - Thick & Creamy

I continued June 7th in the Botanical Gardens, which has fantastic flora and curious fauna (and I don’t mean this aphid – more on strange park animals tomorrow).

A rose in the Sydney Botanical Gardens

From there I continued around to Mrs. Macquarie’s Point, where one can take great pictures of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and the world-renowned Opera House with its beautiful “sails.”

Sydney Opera House from Mrs. Macquarie's Point

I’ll also have shots of the bridge tomorrow, perhaps at night… mu-hahaha.

Another fantastic and much-overlooked attraction in Sydney is the Chinese Garden. This was built in cooperation with a Chinese sister city (which one, I can’t remember).

Dragons in the Sydney Chinese Garden

Admission is only $6, making the Chinese Garden perhaps the cheapest activity in all of Sydney, besides throwing a penny in the talking-dog fountain by the Queen Victoria Building. (Wait… they’ve eliminated the penny… smart Aussies! Let’s make it 5c.)

Tomorrow: strange animals and a few nighttime pictures! Sign up with the orange RSS or Email buttons in the left sidebar to read more.

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:10 pm.

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The City of Sails

It rained on June 6th, so I found indoor activities before my plane departed for Sydney. First off: lunch! One thing I wasn’t expecting in New Zealand was fantastic mussels (almost as good as Belgium!). Besides tasting great, the mussels at Fox’s were HUGE:

Mussels at Fox's in the Viaduct complex

I headed across the street from the Viaduct area to the maritime museum, a perfect fit for Auckland, known as the “City of Sails.” If you like boats, you’ll want to go there for sure. On better days you can even sail on some historic boats. In the museum they exhibit everything from very old boats…

An old sailboat in Auckland's maritime museum

…to very new, advanced yachts, like the NZL32, winner of the 1995 America’s Cup:

NZL32, New Zealand's winning boat of the 1995 America's Cup

New Zealanders are definitely proud of their sailing and boating history!

I left NZ for 5 days in Sydney aboard another kind of vessel: the brand-new Airbus A380-800. That was a surprise, since I never expected to be riding one of these new beasts on my ~4h flight to Australia. The plane was only 1/3 full, making a stop in Sydney on its way to Dubai.

Airbus A380-800, Emirates aircraft

About the A380: I can say it definitely felt different from every other plane I’ve flown in. The takeoff was barely noticeable. Turbulence was barely noticeable. Every seat had a personal video system and every row had 110V outlets. It felt less like a long-haul plane flight than I’m used to… which I suppose is the whole idea of this plane! So, excellent job, Airbus. Now I just need to wait for the Boeing Dreamliner, in order to compare European engineering with American.

Tomorrow: arrival Down Under. Crikey!

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:52 pm.

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Auckland’s Markets

June 5th was a bit gray, so I started with a nice cup of tea. I love the sugar packets in the Skycity hotel:

Funny quotes on sugar packets

First I checked out the Britomart farmers’ market, where I sampled some local foodwarez and drank a homemade ginger beer (<1% alcohol… so “okay for the kids if they don’t have too much,” as I was told). There were some street performers there as well.

Street Musicians at Britomart farmers' market

For lunch I checked out Elliott Stables, a fantastic collection of restaurants and shops of all nationalities. I went for a Monte Cristo sandwich and some French mulled wine… mmm!

A huge variety of restaurants at Elliott Stables

As I said, it was a gray day. I didn’t take a lot of photos, but I think my street photography is improving. I did enjoy sampling all kinds of international foods, including a bit of smoky Lagavulin Scotch at one of the Elliott Stables shops. Cheers!

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:54 pm.

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The Sheep Dip

I flew into Auckland early on June 4th, so I had the whole day to look around after checking into my hotel. Sky City (a casino/hotel complex next to Sky Tower) is a decent hotel, especially if you’ve paid half price through hotels.com as I did – hehe.

Down by the wharf area, I thought the central ferry building was a fantastic piece of architecture:

The central ferry terminal in Auckland

In my wanderings, I stumbled into Albert Park, mostly filled with college students chillin’ out. It’s also home to a lot of HUGE and weird-looking trees of all types. This one had a support pillar to keep it out of the path!

Giant tree at Albert Park in Auckland

If there’s one thing the Kiwis can do well (and believe me, there are a lot more things than one), it’s lamb. So of course I went for lamb shank as my first dinner; I believe the bar was called Queen’s Ferry Hotel.

Tasty lamb shank at Queen's Ferry

What Germany is to pork, New Zealand is to lamb. I like lamb more, though. Mmm!

As for the Sheep Dip, it’s a Scotch that I saw up on the bar shelf. It fit so well with the Kiwi vibe (and with what I’d just eaten for dinner) that I had to try it. Pretty good for a blended Scotch!

Sheep Dip whisky!

The story is that the old distillers were trying to avoid paying taxes on some of their casks of whisky. So they labeled these “Sheep Dip” to trick the tax collectors. Whether it worked or not, I have no idea – but it makes for a good name, eh?

Scotch drinkers: what’s YOUR favorite single malt, and why? Currently I’m going with Mortlach, for its amazing unique flavor.

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:32 pm.

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WHAT is a Taro?

Native Hawaiians used to eat a lot of taro. It’s a root vegetable a bit like a potato, and has many varieties. Some can be pounded into poi, a purplish paste that is nothing like mashed potatoes. Poi has a strange sour taste that I didn’t really enjoy. And the letters are all right next to each other on the keyboard, which freaks me out.

But all you fans of Fritos and Lays are probably thinking, “it’s like a potato, can you deep fry it?”

The answer is, YES! (Though the sage among us know, you can deep-fry ANYTHING, even if sometimes you shouldn’t).

Hawaiian Chip Company Sweet Potato and Taro Chips

There are many Hawaiian taro chip brands, most of which are craft makers of small volumes of chips. Supposedly the taro is very delicate and requires a lot of attention to cut and fry it right. From the tastiness of these taro (and sweet potato) chips, I won’t dispute the hand-craft methods, though the price of over $4 per medium sized bag makes them a specialty item and definitely not for everyday snacking.

Closeup of Sweet Potato and Taro Chips. The Taro is the white/purple one on the right.

You might have had taro in a bag of Terra Chips. All I can say is, the Hawaiian Chip Company chips that I had were even better than your average Terra Chips. The crunch could fell a hundred year oak, and the taste could knock Hercules on his back. If you go to Hawaii, do try some!

By the way, for those following my one-a-day posts, this one counts as June 3rd. Though for me, there was no June 3rd – I crossed the International Date Line while asleep, and jumped from June 2nd to 4th!

Question of the day: have you ever tried Terra Chips? What did you think of ‘em?

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:06 pm.

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Top Attractions on Oahu

I’d been on Oahu, in Honolulu, for a few days. But when I came back through for just one day on June 2nd, I decided to rent a car. My reasoning: if it was going to cost me $20 to have some stupid luggage company hold my big backpack for the next 14 hours (because there are NO storage lockers at Honolulu airport), I might as well spend a bit more to get a car, and just lock my bag in the trunk.

I saw a lot in one day. Pearl Harbor, the Dole pineapple plantation, Sunset Beach, and many small towns around the island. Here’s what amazed me most from Pearl Harbor: the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial. Even today, Arizona survivors who pass away from natural causes ask to be buried on the old ship, alongside their shipmates who were killed in the Japanese attack on that fateful day.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor

I’m not a big history buff, but when I confront it in real life, I’m always absorbed by the truths of our past, and by the bravery of those who took part in such memorable events. The Pearl Harbor site has many ships, subs, and weapons for our viewing and education. I was struck by the Kaiten, the Japanese one-man suicide attack torpedo. What bravery and valor must have been required of a Japanese soldier to climb into such a machine? It reminds me that not every culture has the same views and values.

Next I moved to lighter themes. Sunset beach had very calm waters, and “big wave” surfing on the north shore was pretty much over for the season.

Sunset Beach on Oahu, Hawaii

Later I tried a Shave Ice (not shaved, don’t ask me why), which was delicious. I also found some Taro chips in the Shave Ice shack – more details on that tomorrow! I made it to the Pali viewpoint as well, to get a grand overview of the Honolulu area. Just imagine what this island must have been like before giant concrete buildings cropped up everywhere.

View from the Pali Lookout on Oahu

What do I recommend from this day? Everything.

  • The Dole plantation is great for botanical photos and for kids (think giant hedge maze), though it’s not cheap.
  • Pearl Harbor is fascinating for the historical aspects.
  • The beautiful beaches of the north shore of Oahu are quite a change from crowded Waikiki.
  • Shave Ice is delicious; I recommend to get it with the sweet beans.
  • The view from the Pali Overlook is truly amazing, even on a cloudy day.

Don’t think you can see it all in one day by bus; I would have never made all these stops without renting a car. Enjoy Oahu!

Tomorrow, read about my thoughts on Taro chips. Mmm…

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:35 pm.

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Pineapple Park

Hostels in Hawaii vary a lot by island. On Oahu, the Waikiki hostels are plentiful and full of people to hang out with. But on Kauai, there are only a few hostels, which mostly didn’t look up to par for me (either zero security, or insane manager). I did stay in Camp Sloggett on Kauai, a cool campsite/bunkhouse which was deserted when I stayed there. On Big Island, there are a good number of hostels, and again they are rather empty in May.

Here’s a view of Pineapple Park Volcano, a great facility where I had some nice conversations with the owner, Doc Holliday.

Pineapple Park Volcano hostel on Big Island

Doc has hostels in Hilo and Kona (Captain Cook) as well. I stayed two nights at the Kona hostel and it’s also a very impressive facility as hostels go: lockers (bring a lock or rent one), free wifi, great (clean!) kitchen, clean rooms & showers.

One thing I’d mention: the Volcano place is mostly set up for large groups of researchers or students. If you plan to go there, be aware you might be the only one. It’s a bit remote and there’s no internet. But I enjoyed the solitude and relaxation for a couple days, and heard great stories from Doc.

Now, if you’re with a large group and plan to cook in (not go out to bars), the Volcano hostel would be the perfect place – it’s nicely set up and Doc has everything (grill, pizza ovens, refrigerators, even a scenic pond with what I think are taro plants).

Pineapple Park Volcano - grounds overview

It’s a little damp indoors, but surprisingly little mold/mildew. The whole place is very well kept. Location: about half an hour from Hilo, and half an hour from Volcanoes National Park. Allow about an hour to get to the lava viewing area at the end of Highway 130.

Thanks, Doc, for an excellent stay, cool Hawaii stories, and great coffee in the mornings! If I come back to Hawaii, I expect we’ll meet again at Pineapple Park.

Taro plants in the Pineapple Park Volcano pond

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:59 pm.

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Coffee and Flowers

After making it up Mauna Kea, I relaxed for a few days while recovering from the cold. On the drive back to Hilo on June 1st, I stopped at few touristy places along the way.

In Kona, there are dozens of small, independent coffee farmers who cultivate their crops largely by hand. The place I stopped is Lions Gate Farms, a small plantation with coffee and macadamia nut trees. Like everywhere, they offer free samples of their products, and I’m sure many of the tourists (who aren’t backpackers with no space) go home with some tasty foodstuffs. I really liked the dark chocolate covered coffee beans, might order some online later – muhahaha.

Here’s a shot of the farm:

DSC_2670

And a close-up of some coffee beans on the branch, for those who’ve never seen ‘em before:

DSC_2672

Coincidentally, I am eating Kona coffee glazed macadamias as I write this.

Driving north from Kona toward Volcano takes one through some areas that look a bit alien.

DSC_2689

I guess these are recent lava flows from Mauna Loa (though there are several active volcanoes within an hour’s drive). There are miles of this strange scrub-brush & lava moonscape.

Next stop was to be my lodging at Pineapple Park Volcano (a fantastic place with a really interesting owner – just not very many guests there). But I got distracted on the way by Akatsuka Orchid Gardens:

DSC_2708

My first thought was, okay, what… $20 to see some orchids… but no, it’s free! This is really a big store, where you are welcome to just walk around and take pictures (as I did) without buying. There were almost as many orchid varieties as I saw in the Singapore botanical garden, just placed on tables for sale instead of planted in gardens along winding paths.

Here’s a $20,000 orchid, prized for its symmetry:

DSC_2694

At the end of the day I had a yummy slice at Pizza Hawaii and Deli. The proprietor is actually from Richmond, VA, and used to live about 3 blocks from my house on Ellwood Avenue! The California Gourmet and Bacon Ranch really took me back to Brick Oven in Charlottesville (Helen of Troy and Johnnycakes), so this place is now in my Top 3 pizza restaurants in the world. Next to Brick Oven (the best pizza restaurant in the world), and the Pacific Crest Grill in Truckee, CA.

Everyone seems to have internet ordering nowadays. You can order Lions Gate coffee & mac nuts, Akatsuka orchids, and even Pizza Hawaii online! Now, if only Pizza Hawaii delivered to Munich. (Or Auckland, where I sit as I write this).

Posted 8 years, 4 months ago at 3:33 pm.

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