Photography. It’s all about capturing the light, and rainbows are a pretty raw form of that substance. I challenge anyone not to be amazed by their colour and beauty, the way they appear to follow you, or run away from you, always elusive, always stunning. Below are some of my favourite rainbow photos that I have taken.

Double Rainbow in Germany, shot from the car

Rainbow in waterfalls, Mitchell Falls, Western Australia

Double rainbow at sunset in Australia

If you liked these photos, why not take a look at my other photo theme posts, or have a look at my album featuring my 100 favourite shots from Australia. Enjoy!

Photo theme - Rainbows

Photography. It’s all about capturing the light, and rainbows are a pretty raw form of that substance. I challenge anyone not to be amazed by their colour and beauty, the way they appear to follow you, or run away from you, always elusive, always stunning. Below are some of my favourite rainbow photos that I have taken.

Double Rainbow in Germany, shot from the car

Rainbow in waterfalls, Mitchell Falls, Western Australia

Double rainbow at sunset in Australia

If you liked these photos, why not take a look at my other photo theme posts, or have a look at my album featuring my 100 favourite shots from Australia. Enjoy!

Read More

Today’s guest post comes from Amanda Williams of A Dangerous Business. Amanda lived in New Zealand for a number of months, and kindly agreed to share her tips on what do do as a first timer in NZ. This works out wonderfully for me as I’m flying to New Zealand for a year in a week today…

Tips For Your First Time… in New Zealand

Southern AlpsSo you’re planning a trip to New Zealand. Aotearoa. “The Land of the Long White Cloud.” It’s a great little country to have an adventure in. Whether you want to try out some of New Zealand’s adventure sports, tour some of the country’s notable wineries, get a taste of the popular rugby culture, hike some of the most beautiful tracks in the world, or simply get lost in the area’s “no worries” attitude, there’s ample opportunity.

But with so many options, how do you choose what to see, where to go, and what to do?

As someone who has spent a fair bit of time in New Zealand, I’m happy to share some suggestions. Here are a collection of Top 5 lists covering all the “musts” in New Zealand, as I see them.

Must-Visit Cities

Auckland

Auckland Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city. It’s often referred to as “the City of Sails” due to its large harbour and vast number of sailboats that can be seen on the water during the good-weathered months (which are many in this northern city). Explore the city by bus or on foot, making sure to visit the waterfront and take a stroll down Queen Street.

Side tracked:

For a truly unique day trip, sign up for a tour to “Hobbiton,” the movie set that was used in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Located in the small town of Matamata, Hobbiton is an easy 2-hour drive from Auckland. If you book through Red Carpet Tours (www.redcarpet-tours.com), expect plenty of behind-the-scenes stories and glimpses.

Rotorua

WaiOTapuLocated near the centre of New Zealand’s north island, Rotorua is best known for its  geothermal activity and Maori cultural offerings. Book a tour to Wai-O-Tapu and the Lady Knox Geyer to get your fill of natural wonders, and then visit Tamaki Village or Te Puia for a Maori cultural celebration and traditional hangi – dinner that is smoked in an earthen oven.

Side-tracked:

If you have time, make the short journey to Taupo from Rotorua. Taupo is a small city that sits on the shore of the great Lake Taupo, with views of three of New Zealand’s most notable volcanoes – Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ruapehu, and Mt. Ngauruhoe. Taupo and its surrounds are said to have some of the best trout fishing in the world.

Wellington

WellingtonWellington is New Zealand’s political and cultural capital. The city is situated right on the southern tip of the country’s north island, and is characterized by its vibrant harbour, hilly landscape and quirky atmosphere. Spend an afternoon learning about New Zealand’s history at Te Papa – the country’s (free!) national museum – then head further downtown for a tour of the country’s Parliament buildings, one of which is nicknamed “The Beehive.”

Grab a bite to eat on the culturally-infused Cuba Street, take a stroll along the waterfront, and head to Courtenay Place after dark for a lively nightlife scene. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, either take the historic cable car up to the botanical gardens, or take a bus to the lookout atop Mount Victoria.

Side-tracked:

Looking for a day trip from the Wellington region? Head out into the Wairarapa wine country for a tour and some tastings.

Christchurch

Christchurch Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s south island, is often referred to as “the Garden City.” The city is overflowing with greenery and flowers, along with plenty of interesting churches and architecture. Visit Cathedral Square, take a trolley tour of the city, or even go punting (think like a gondola ride) on the river Avon.

Side-tracked:

If you’re looking to get out of the city for a day, head a couple of hours north up the coast to the quiet coastal town of Kaikoura. Kaikoura boasts New Zealand’s best whale watching experience, as well as opportunities to swim with marine life such as dolphins and fur seals. Plus, the little town is nestled right at the base of an arm of the Southern Alps. Note - since this psot was published, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake, unfortunately rendering much of the city centre inaccessible. Re-development is in progress though!

Queenstown

QueenstownQueenstown, located on the lower half of New Zealand’s south island, is the place to go if you’re in search of skiing, or any of the country’s popular adventure sports. Sitting on one end of Lake Wakatipu and at the foot of the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown is a stunning locale, no matter what you’re aiming to do. Try bungee jumping or jetboating, take a dinner cruise on the lake, do some souvenir shopping, or take the Skyline Gondola up over the city for an impressive view.

Side-tracked:

Many day trips from Queenstown are available. You could book a day tour to Milford Sound (arguably the most popular tourist destination in New Zealand), or, if you’re looking for something a bit quieter, head up to the town of Glenorchy on the opposite end of Lake Wakatipu for some great scenery. For a bit of history, drive half an hour to the old gold mining village of Arrowtown.

Honourable mention:

Dunedin

BaldwinStreetDunedin, while mostly a college town, is still worth a visit if you’ve got some extra time while on the south island. Visit the Cadbury Chocolate Factory downtown for a Willy Wonka-esque tour, admire some of the city’s gothic and Victorian architecture, and climb up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world.

Side-tracked:

If you’ve got some extra time, definitely take a drive out to the Otago Peninsula from Dunedin. Here you can tour New Zealand’s only castle (Larnach Castle), see rare yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Place, and visit one of the only land-based colonies of wild albatross birds in the world at Taiaroa Head.

Must-Have Experiences

1. Attend an All Blacks rugby match. Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, and the kiwis are very supportive of their national team. If you’ve never seen rugby played before, get oriented by seeing one of the world’s best teams in action.

2. Sail through Milford Sound. Whether you visit this natural wonder on an uncharacteristically clear day or on a more typical wet one, Milford Sound is stunning. Tall mountains rise out of the sea, and, when it’s raining, hundreds of waterfalls pour down into the dark water. When it’s sunny, the blues and greens will take your breath away.

3. Take a helicopter ride or fixed-wing plane flight over the Southern Alps on a clear day. Fly from Queenstown to Milford Sound (or vice versa), taking in the snow-capped peaks and crystal-clear mountain lakes. It makes for an expensive afternoon, but I promise it’s worth it.

4. Drive the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins. Take a roadtrip from Dunedin to Invercargill, being sure to snake along the coast of New Zealand’s south island via the Southern Scenic Route. You’ll pass through an area known as the Catlins, where wind-swept coastal scenes will quickly drain your camera battery.

5. Visit Mount Cook. During your south island travels, be sure to make at stop at Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain. Getting there, you’ll pass Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo – both scenic lakes with uniquely blue water due to glacial runoff.

Must-Try Adventure Sports

TaupoBungy1. Bungee Jumping. This crazy sport was purportedly invented in New Zealand, and A.J. Hackett bungee operators won’t let you forget it. There are a number of places to bungee across New Zealand, but for the original spot (the Kawarau Bridge) and some truly panic-inducing sites, head to Queenstown.

2. Zorbing. Head to Rotorua for this zany experience. You dive into what looks like a giant plastic hamster ball, and then you tumble down a hill. It’s a blast.

3. Jetboating. Zip through narrow canyons at high speeds and pull 360-degree turns in a boat that skims along the top of the water. Again, you can jetboat all across New Zealand, but the best operation is the Shotover Jet in Queenstown.

4. Skydiving. Want to jump out of a plane? New Zealand offers plenty of opportunity to do just that. Some popular spots to skydive are the Bay of Islands, Taupo with its lake and volcanoes, scenic Wanaka, and, of course, Queenstown.

5. River Surfing. Forget about white water rafting. Instead, coast over those rapids on a modified boogie-board. This Queenstown-based adventure sport is not for the physically unfit, but it’s definitely a rush!

Must-Eat Foods

1. NZ lamb. Since there are roughly 40 million sheep (and only 10 million people) in New Zealand, you’re likely to find lamb and/or mutton on just about every menu – including Subway’s.

2. Kiwifruit. This delicious New Zealand specialty comes in two varieties – the traditional green kiwifruit, and the slightly sweeter golden kiwifruit.

3. Vegemite/Marmite. While definitely an acquired taste, this dark brown paste – made from yeast extract – is an experience any first-time visitor to New Zealand or Australia must have. It’s thick, salty, bitter and sticky, and is most often eaten on top of toast.

4. Green-lipped mussels. These mussels are a New Zealand specialty, not to be found anywhere else in the world. They are large and fatty, and have dark green shells with (can you guess?) a green lip, giving them their name.

5. Hokey-pokey ice cream. Looking for a tasty dessert? Go for the hokey-pokey. It’s essentially a vanilla ice cream with hunks of sponge toffee mixed in, and it is nothing short of delicious.

Things on My “Next Time” List

Even though I’ve spent a lot of time in New Zealand, there are still some things that I never got around to doing. My “next time” list is extensive, but here are my top 5 things that I’d like to do on my next visit.

1. Hiking the Tongariro Crossing. This 18.5-kilometer, day-long trek within Tongariro National Park is supposed to be the best one-day hike in New Zealand – and possibly one of the best in the world. The crossing spans the length of Mt. Tongariro and takes 7-9 hours. It’s not the easiest trek, but all the photos I’ve seen of it (especially the Emerald Lakes) make me think it would totally be worth the sweat and sore legs.

2. Franz Josef Glacier trekking. This 12-kilometer-long glacier sits within Westland National Park on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. The glacier extends from the Southern Alps through temperate rainforest, and is one of the main tourist attractions on the west coast. Guided and unguided hikes on the glacier are available, as well as helicopter tours that drop you off atop the ice field for a guided trek.

3. Attending the Rugby Sevens in Wellington. Each year in February, Wellington hosts a rugby sevens tournament at Westpac Stadium. Rugby sevens is a modified version of rugby, played with only 7 players on a team (as opposed to the normal 15), and with much shorter matches. Teams from 16 countries compete in the Wellington tournament, and tens of thousands of spectators attend each year. The Welly Sevens has a reputation for having a party atmosphere, and many fans come in elaborate, silly costumes.

4. Swimming with Hector’s Dolphins in Akaroa. On the Banks Peninsula, not far from Christchurch, sits the little resort village of Akaroa. This French-infused town is said to be beautiful and charming. Rare Hector’s Dolphins (only found in New Zealand) call the Akaroa harbour their home, and swimming with these small, friendly dolphins is a popular attraction.

5. Visiting Nelson. This city, located near the top of New Zealand’s south island right on Tasman Bay, is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is best known for its quirky, artsy atmosphere. Nelson also has one of the best climates in the country, often topping national statistics for sunshine hours.

RugbyAs you can see, there’s so much – maybe too much! – to see and do in New Zealand.  The possibilities really are endless. I lived there for 5 months and still didn’t fit everything in!

But, rest assured, no matter what your travel style or interests, Aotearoa will have something just for you.

 

Here’s to hoping your first time (in New Zealand) is memorable!

Thanks Amanda for a truly great post! Amanda can be found talking more about travel and New Zealand on her site, A Dangerous Business. You can also follow her on Twitter, where she posts as @DangerousBiz.

Tips for your first time… in New Zealand

Today’s guest post comes from Amanda Williams of A Dangerous Business. Amanda lived in New Zealand for a number of months, and kindly agreed to share her tips on what do do as a first timer in NZ. This works out wonderfully for me as I’m flying to New Zealand for a year in a week today…

Tips For Your First Time… in New Zealand

Southern AlpsSo you’re planning a trip to New Zealand. Aotearoa. “The Land of the Long White Cloud.” It’s a great little country to have an adventure in. Whether you want to try out some of New Zealand’s adventure sports, tour some of the country’s notable wineries, get a taste of the popular rugby culture, hike some of the most beautiful tracks in the world, or simply get lost in the area’s “no worries” attitude, there’s ample opportunity.

But with so many options, how do you choose what to see, where to go, and what to do?

As someone who has spent a fair bit of time in New Zealand, I’m happy to share some suggestions. Here are a collection of Top 5 lists covering all the “musts” in New Zealand, as I see them.

Must-Visit Cities

Auckland

Auckland Auckland is New Zealand’s largest city. It’s often referred to as “the City of Sails” due to its large harbour and vast number of sailboats that can be seen on the water during the good-weathered months (which are many in this northern city). Explore the city by bus or on foot, making sure to visit the waterfront and take a stroll down Queen Street.

Side tracked:

For a truly unique day trip, sign up for a tour to “Hobbiton,” the movie set that was used in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Located in the small town of Matamata, Hobbiton is an easy 2-hour drive from Auckland. If you book through Red Carpet Tours (www.redcarpet-tours.com), expect plenty of behind-the-scenes stories and glimpses.

Rotorua

WaiOTapuLocated near the centre of New Zealand’s north island, Rotorua is best known for its  geothermal activity and Maori cultural offerings. Book a tour to Wai-O-Tapu and the Lady Knox Geyer to get your fill of natural wonders, and then visit Tamaki Village or Te Puia for a Maori cultural celebration and traditional hangi – dinner that is smoked in an earthen oven.

Side-tracked:

If you have time, make the short journey to Taupo from Rotorua. Taupo is a small city that sits on the shore of the great Lake Taupo, with views of three of New Zealand’s most notable volcanoes – Mt. Tongariro, Mt. Ruapehu, and Mt. Ngauruhoe. Taupo and its surrounds are said to have some of the best trout fishing in the world.

Wellington

WellingtonWellington is New Zealand’s political and cultural capital. The city is situated right on the southern tip of the country’s north island, and is characterized by its vibrant harbour, hilly landscape and quirky atmosphere. Spend an afternoon learning about New Zealand’s history at Te Papa – the country’s (free!) national museum – then head further downtown for a tour of the country’s Parliament buildings, one of which is nicknamed “The Beehive.”

Grab a bite to eat on the culturally-infused Cuba Street, take a stroll along the waterfront, and head to Courtenay Place after dark for a lively nightlife scene. For a bird’s-eye view of the city, either take the historic cable car up to the botanical gardens, or take a bus to the lookout atop Mount Victoria.

Side-tracked:

Looking for a day trip from the Wellington region? Head out into the Wairarapa wine country for a tour and some tastings.

Christchurch

Christchurch Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s south island, is often referred to as “the Garden City.” The city is overflowing with greenery and flowers, along with plenty of interesting churches and architecture. Visit Cathedral Square, take a trolley tour of the city, or even go punting (think like a gondola ride) on the river Avon.

Side-tracked:

If you’re looking to get out of the city for a day, head a couple of hours north up the coast to the quiet coastal town of Kaikoura. Kaikoura boasts New Zealand’s best whale watching experience, as well as opportunities to swim with marine life such as dolphins and fur seals. Plus, the little town is nestled right at the base of an arm of the Southern Alps. Note - since this psot was published, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake, unfortunately rendering much of the city centre inaccessible. Re-development is in progress though!

Queenstown

QueenstownQueenstown, located on the lower half of New Zealand’s south island, is the place to go if you’re in search of skiing, or any of the country’s popular adventure sports. Sitting on one end of Lake Wakatipu and at the foot of the Remarkables mountain range, Queenstown is a stunning locale, no matter what you’re aiming to do. Try bungee jumping or jetboating, take a dinner cruise on the lake, do some souvenir shopping, or take the Skyline Gondola up over the city for an impressive view.

Side-tracked:

Many day trips from Queenstown are available. You could book a day tour to Milford Sound (arguably the most popular tourist destination in New Zealand), or, if you’re looking for something a bit quieter, head up to the town of Glenorchy on the opposite end of Lake Wakatipu for some great scenery. For a bit of history, drive half an hour to the old gold mining village of Arrowtown.

Honourable mention:

Dunedin

BaldwinStreetDunedin, while mostly a college town, is still worth a visit if you’ve got some extra time while on the south island. Visit the Cadbury Chocolate Factory downtown for a Willy Wonka-esque tour, admire some of the city’s gothic and Victorian architecture, and climb up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world.

Side-tracked:

If you’ve got some extra time, definitely take a drive out to the Otago Peninsula from Dunedin. Here you can tour New Zealand’s only castle (Larnach Castle), see rare yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Place, and visit one of the only land-based colonies of wild albatross birds in the world at Taiaroa Head.

Must-Have Experiences

1. Attend an All Blacks rugby match. Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, and the kiwis are very supportive of their national team. If you’ve never seen rugby played before, get oriented by seeing one of the world’s best teams in action.

2. Sail through Milford Sound. Whether you visit this natural wonder on an uncharacteristically clear day or on a more typical wet one, Milford Sound is stunning. Tall mountains rise out of the sea, and, when it’s raining, hundreds of waterfalls pour down into the dark water. When it’s sunny, the blues and greens will take your breath away.

3. Take a helicopter ride or fixed-wing plane flight over the Southern Alps on a clear day. Fly from Queenstown to Milford Sound (or vice versa), taking in the snow-capped peaks and crystal-clear mountain lakes. It makes for an expensive afternoon, but I promise it’s worth it.

4. Drive the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins. Take a roadtrip from Dunedin to Invercargill, being sure to snake along the coast of New Zealand’s south island via the Southern Scenic Route. You’ll pass through an area known as the Catlins, where wind-swept coastal scenes will quickly drain your camera battery.

5. Visit Mount Cook. During your south island travels, be sure to make at stop at Mount Cook, New Zealand’s tallest mountain. Getting there, you’ll pass Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo – both scenic lakes with uniquely blue water due to glacial runoff.

Must-Try Adventure Sports

TaupoBungy1. Bungee Jumping. This crazy sport was purportedly invented in New Zealand, and A.J. Hackett bungee operators won’t let you forget it. There are a number of places to bungee across New Zealand, but for the original spot (the Kawarau Bridge) and some truly panic-inducing sites, head to Queenstown.

2. Zorbing. Head to Rotorua for this zany experience. You dive into what looks like a giant plastic hamster ball, and then you tumble down a hill. It’s a blast.

3. Jetboating. Zip through narrow canyons at high speeds and pull 360-degree turns in a boat that skims along the top of the water. Again, you can jetboat all across New Zealand, but the best operation is the Shotover Jet in Queenstown.

4. Skydiving. Want to jump out of a plane? New Zealand offers plenty of opportunity to do just that. Some popular spots to skydive are the Bay of Islands, Taupo with its lake and volcanoes, scenic Wanaka, and, of course, Queenstown.

5. River Surfing. Forget about white water rafting. Instead, coast over those rapids on a modified boogie-board. This Queenstown-based adventure sport is not for the physically unfit, but it’s definitely a rush!

Must-Eat Foods

1. NZ lamb. Since there are roughly 40 million sheep (and only 10 million people) in New Zealand, you’re likely to find lamb and/or mutton on just about every menu – including Subway’s.

2. Kiwifruit. This delicious New Zealand specialty comes in two varieties – the traditional green kiwifruit, and the slightly sweeter golden kiwifruit.

3. Vegemite/Marmite. While definitely an acquired taste, this dark brown paste – made from yeast extract – is an experience any first-time visitor to New Zealand or Australia must have. It’s thick, salty, bitter and sticky, and is most often eaten on top of toast.

4. Green-lipped mussels. These mussels are a New Zealand specialty, not to be found anywhere else in the world. They are large and fatty, and have dark green shells with (can you guess?) a green lip, giving them their name.

5. Hokey-pokey ice cream. Looking for a tasty dessert? Go for the hokey-pokey. It’s essentially a vanilla ice cream with hunks of sponge toffee mixed in, and it is nothing short of delicious.

Things on My “Next Time” List

Even though I’ve spent a lot of time in New Zealand, there are still some things that I never got around to doing. My “next time” list is extensive, but here are my top 5 things that I’d like to do on my next visit.

1. Hiking the Tongariro Crossing. This 18.5-kilometer, day-long trek within Tongariro National Park is supposed to be the best one-day hike in New Zealand – and possibly one of the best in the world. The crossing spans the length of Mt. Tongariro and takes 7-9 hours. It’s not the easiest trek, but all the photos I’ve seen of it (especially the Emerald Lakes) make me think it would totally be worth the sweat and sore legs.

2. Franz Josef Glacier trekking. This 12-kilometer-long glacier sits within Westland National Park on the west coast of New Zealand’s south island. The glacier extends from the Southern Alps through temperate rainforest, and is one of the main tourist attractions on the west coast. Guided and unguided hikes on the glacier are available, as well as helicopter tours that drop you off atop the ice field for a guided trek.

3. Attending the Rugby Sevens in Wellington. Each year in February, Wellington hosts a rugby sevens tournament at Westpac Stadium. Rugby sevens is a modified version of rugby, played with only 7 players on a team (as opposed to the normal 15), and with much shorter matches. Teams from 16 countries compete in the Wellington tournament, and tens of thousands of spectators attend each year. The Welly Sevens has a reputation for having a party atmosphere, and many fans come in elaborate, silly costumes.

4. Swimming with Hector’s Dolphins in Akaroa. On the Banks Peninsula, not far from Christchurch, sits the little resort village of Akaroa. This French-infused town is said to be beautiful and charming. Rare Hector’s Dolphins (only found in New Zealand) call the Akaroa harbour their home, and swimming with these small, friendly dolphins is a popular attraction.

5. Visiting Nelson. This city, located near the top of New Zealand’s south island right on Tasman Bay, is surrounded by mountains on three sides and is best known for its quirky, artsy atmosphere. Nelson also has one of the best climates in the country, often topping national statistics for sunshine hours.

RugbyAs you can see, there’s so much – maybe too much! – to see and do in New Zealand.  The possibilities really are endless. I lived there for 5 months and still didn’t fit everything in!

But, rest assured, no matter what your travel style or interests, Aotearoa will have something just for you.

 

Here’s to hoping your first time (in New Zealand) is memorable!

Thanks Amanda for a truly great post! Amanda can be found talking more about travel and New Zealand on her site, A Dangerous Business. You can also follow her on Twitter, where she posts as @DangerousBiz.

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Sauerbraten black and white 2 Here’s another update on my rapidly dwindling days in Germany. The last of these will be spent in Berlin, because, well, I figured I’d go visit it since I’m here. However, for now that is in the future. Instead, this is what I’m up to at the moment.

I have been to not one, but two, birthday parties in the last three days. The world is aging, it would appear to be an unstoppable process. The ages being celebrated were 45 and 91. I recall a time in my life when I was partaking in 18 and 21 celebrations. I wonder if those halcyon days are forever behind me.

The first birthday party was held in a pottery shop. I expressed my doubts as to the wisdom of this, as a birthday from my understanding involves drinking, and drinking and pottery shops are not something I believe go well together. I was, however, assured that it was not that sort of party. I obviously panicked somewhat at this point. What do we mean by not that sort of party? Would there be no drink? No riotousness? No crazy falling over into pottery? It turned out that it was largely the last part of these that was the case. There was certainly plenty of drink, and delightful food, and lots of pottery to avoid falling into. I succeeded in this task, imbibed plenty of drink, and weaved onto the last train home.

The second birthday party was a more serious affair. My girlfriends grandmother had turned 91, the sort of age which everyone in the family turns up to celebrate, as there is always the worry that the next year may not be being celebrated. So multiple family members were there. Photos were taken, in which I featured. All tremendously exciting.

Of course, the highlight of the evening was the trip out to dinner, where I had my first try of a classic German dish known as Sauerbraten. This literally translates as sour meat, which isn’t the most appetising sounding of dishes.

PotteryLuckily, translation isn’t always the best way to judge a meal. The meat (which can be from a variety of animals, including horse, but more commonly cow), is marinated for a few days in a sort of pickle type juice, including wine, vinegar and a variety of spices. It is then dried and cooked with the strained marinade in a pot roast, for a prolonged period of time.

The end result had a very similar texture to salt beef (a favourite of mine), with a slight tang of vinegar, and a rich gravy. It was melt in your mouth stuff, and really excellent. It was served, as is traditional, with Knödel, another German favourite. These are basically potato based dumplings made without yeast, which look innocuous enough on your plate, and but mysteriously act as weighty balls of lead in your stomach. Multiple Knödel cannot be eaten without much practice.

The whole thing was washed down with beer, and then finished off with a giant pancake thing. Healthy eating this was not. Still, grandma seemed happy, and that is presumably the idea with any birthday event.

Birthdays, Sauerbraten and Knödel

Sauerbraten black and white 2 Here’s another update on my rapidly dwindling days in Germany. The last of these will be spent in Berlin, because, well, I figured I’d go visit it since I’m here. However, for now that is in the future. Instead, this is what I’m up to at the moment.

I have been to not one, but two, birthday parties in the last three days. The world is aging, it would appear to be an unstoppable process. The ages being celebrated were 45 and 91. I recall a time in my life when I was partaking in 18 and 21 celebrations. I wonder if those halcyon days are forever behind me.

The first birthday party was held in a pottery shop. I expressed my doubts as to the wisdom of this, as a birthday from my understanding involves drinking, and drinking and pottery shops are not something I believe go well together. I was, however, assured that it was not that sort of party. I obviously panicked somewhat at this point. What do we mean by not that sort of party? Would there be no drink? No riotousness? No crazy falling over into pottery? It turned out that it was largely the last part of these that was the case. There was certainly plenty of drink, and delightful food, and lots of pottery to avoid falling into. I succeeded in this task, imbibed plenty of drink, and weaved onto the last train home.

The second birthday party was a more serious affair. My girlfriends grandmother had turned 91, the sort of age which everyone in the family turns up to celebrate, as there is always the worry that the next year may not be being celebrated. So multiple family members were there. Photos were taken, in which I featured. All tremendously exciting.

Of course, the highlight of the evening was the trip out to dinner, where I had my first try of a classic German dish known as Sauerbraten. This literally translates as sour meat, which isn’t the most appetising sounding of dishes.

PotteryLuckily, translation isn’t always the best way to judge a meal. The meat (which can be from a variety of animals, including horse, but more commonly cow), is marinated for a few days in a sort of pickle type juice, including wine, vinegar and a variety of spices. It is then dried and cooked with the strained marinade in a pot roast, for a prolonged period of time.

The end result had a very similar texture to salt beef (a favourite of mine), with a slight tang of vinegar, and a rich gravy. It was melt in your mouth stuff, and really excellent. It was served, as is traditional, with Knödel, another German favourite. These are basically potato based dumplings made without yeast, which look innocuous enough on your plate, and but mysteriously act as weighty balls of lead in your stomach. Multiple Knödel cannot be eaten without much practice.

The whole thing was washed down with beer, and then finished off with a giant pancake thing. Healthy eating this was not. Still, grandma seemed happy, and that is presumably the idea with any birthday event.

Read More

Wave crashing at sunset - Western Australia - Australia

I did a post recently on my highlights of Western Australia, where I covered my four favourite spots in Western Australia.

Unfortunately, after much thinking, I have concluded that it’s just too much of an amazing place to be happy with only highlighting four spots.

Here, therefore, are four more spots that you should try and take the time to visit if you are lucky enough to have time to spare in this amazing state.

From desert to water, and mountains to sealife – you won’t run out of things to do in WA!

Blowholes and pinnacles – more of WA

Wave crashing at sunset - Western Australia - Australia

I did a post recently on my highlights of Western Australia, where I covered my four favourite spots in Western Australia.

Unfortunately, after much thinking, I have concluded that it’s just too much of an amazing place to be happy with only highlighting four spots.

Here, therefore, are four more spots that you should try and take the time to visit if you are lucky enough to have time to spare in this amazing state.

From desert to water, and mountains to sealife – you won’t run out of things to do in WA!

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Today I’m going to do something a little bit different, and share some basic photography tips. If folks like this idea, I may expand it into a recurring theme. I’m going to tackle a useful subject when it comes to photography, that being depth of field and how to manipulate this when taking pictures to get the results you want.

The first question of course, is what is depth of field? Put simply, it’s all about how much of the shot you are taking is in focus. The best way to demonstrate what I mean is with a couple of photographs.

Photography tips – depth of field

Today I’m going to do something a little bit different, and share some basic photography tips. If folks like this idea, I may expand it into a recurring theme. I’m going to tackle a useful subject when it comes to photography, that being depth of field and how to manipulate this when taking pictures to get the results you want.

The first question of course, is what is depth of field? Put simply, it’s all about how much of the shot you are taking is in focus. The best way to demonstrate what I mean is with a couple of photographs.

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I always find flowing water to be mesmerising, be it in the form of waves, rivers, or as the case with the photos here, falling over edges. The power of a waterfall can hold my attention for an age, watching the water tumble endlessly onto the ground below.

These shots show some of the waterfalls I saw on my trip around Australia. Australia may not have the waterfall height or majesty that you would find at say Niagara or Victoria Falls, but every waterfall is unique and worth watching for a while in my opinion!

Waterfall - Otways National Park - Victoria - Australia

Waterfall - New South Wales - Australia

Waterfall in NSW

If you liked these photos, why not take a look at my other photo theme posts, or have a look at my album featuring my 100 favourite shots from Australia. Enjoy!

Photo theme - Waterfalls

I always find flowing water to be mesmerising, be it in the form of waves, rivers, or as the case with the photos here, falling over edges. The power of a waterfall can hold my attention for an age, watching the water tumble endlessly onto the ground below.

These shots show some of the waterfalls I saw on my trip around Australia. Australia may not have the waterfall height or majesty that you would find at say Niagara or Victoria Falls, but every waterfall is unique and worth watching for a while in my opinion!

Waterfall - Otways National Park - Victoria - Australia

Waterfall - New South Wales - Australia

Waterfall in NSW

If you liked these photos, why not take a look at my other photo theme posts, or have a look at my album featuring my 100 favourite shots from Australia. Enjoy!

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Copy of Part of Hitlers bunker We spent a night over at Vera’s grandparents cottage in the countryside this weekend, the location I have previously described as being almost James Bond like in it’s wonderful sixties vibe. I may have mentioned then, as I will also now, that the cottage is near the site of one of Hitler’s bunkers from the Second World War.

When one mentions Hitler’s bunker, the mind is usually drawn to the Berlin based complex where the last few days of the war panned out for the man himself. However, this wasn’t the only bunker that Hitler had, even if it was the most famous. Hitler had fourteen bunkers in total, situated in various strategic locations, which served as field headquarters during the war. He also had a train, which served as a mobile command post.

The bunker near the cottage was known as the Felsennest, or Rocky Eyrie, and it was one of Hitler's first field headquarters during the war. A fairly simple four room affair, it was used by him earlier on in the war, when things were going fairly well for the German army. It was from here that he coordinated the invasion of France and the other low countries on May 10, 1940. He was also here during the battle of Dunkirk. Key members of the German command visited during this period, including Goring and Himmler.

Me in part of the remains of the bunkerOf course, a bit of time and some high explosives have somewhat changed the site from it’s heyday in the 1940’s. It suffered allied aerial bombing twice and in 1945 the retreating German army laid charges and blew it up, prior to it being captured by US troops on the 7th of May, 1945.

These days therefore, quite a bit of imagination is required to get an idea of what the site may have looked like. What is left are giant boulders of concrete with steel reinforcement rods poking out haphazardly, spread across a wide area. Where the bunker itself was is merely a hole in the ground, the force of the explosion having pushed out all the concrete to form a vague rim.

Original bunker interior showing Hitlers bedroom The trees and shrubbery have come back with a vengeance, and moss coats nearly every surface. There are no signs or markings to indicate what happened here over half a century ago. There is a definite sense that the dereliction is intentional, that the events of the past are not worthy of any memorial. In time, the forest will entirely reclaim this spot and it will exist only in history books, photos and memories.

We left the bunker and returned to the cottage, quiet in our thoughts. On the way, we crossed the field which served as the airstrip to ferry dignitaries to and from the site. It was hard to believe the events that happened here, in what seemed to be a sleepy little village on a hillside, set in rolling fields with cows all around. Once these skies played host to heavily armed aircraft, and the hills to soldiers. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and reflect upon.

A visit to Hitler’s bunker

Copy of Part of Hitlers bunker We spent a night over at Vera’s grandparents cottage in the countryside this weekend, the location I have previously described as being almost James Bond like in it’s wonderful sixties vibe. I may have mentioned then, as I will also now, that the cottage is near the site of one of Hitler’s bunkers from the Second World War.

When one mentions Hitler’s bunker, the mind is usually drawn to the Berlin based complex where the last few days of the war panned out for the man himself. However, this wasn’t the only bunker that Hitler had, even if it was the most famous. Hitler had fourteen bunkers in total, situated in various strategic locations, which served as field headquarters during the war. He also had a train, which served as a mobile command post.

The bunker near the cottage was known as the Felsennest, or Rocky Eyrie, and it was one of Hitler's first field headquarters during the war. A fairly simple four room affair, it was used by him earlier on in the war, when things were going fairly well for the German army. It was from here that he coordinated the invasion of France and the other low countries on May 10, 1940. He was also here during the battle of Dunkirk. Key members of the German command visited during this period, including Goring and Himmler.

Me in part of the remains of the bunkerOf course, a bit of time and some high explosives have somewhat changed the site from it’s heyday in the 1940’s. It suffered allied aerial bombing twice and in 1945 the retreating German army laid charges and blew it up, prior to it being captured by US troops on the 7th of May, 1945.

These days therefore, quite a bit of imagination is required to get an idea of what the site may have looked like. What is left are giant boulders of concrete with steel reinforcement rods poking out haphazardly, spread across a wide area. Where the bunker itself was is merely a hole in the ground, the force of the explosion having pushed out all the concrete to form a vague rim.

Original bunker interior showing Hitlers bedroom The trees and shrubbery have come back with a vengeance, and moss coats nearly every surface. There are no signs or markings to indicate what happened here over half a century ago. There is a definite sense that the dereliction is intentional, that the events of the past are not worthy of any memorial. In time, the forest will entirely reclaim this spot and it will exist only in history books, photos and memories.

We left the bunker and returned to the cottage, quiet in our thoughts. On the way, we crossed the field which served as the airstrip to ferry dignitaries to and from the site. It was hard to believe the events that happened here, in what seemed to be a sleepy little village on a hillside, set in rolling fields with cows all around. Once these skies played host to heavily armed aircraft, and the hills to soldiers. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and reflect upon.

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bungle bungles Western Australia. A state so big and varied that you could easily mistake it for a country in its own right. From the giant trees of the south, to the harsh desert of the centre, to the rugged coastline and wilderness of the north, and finally to the cosmopolitan delights of Perth, there is something here for everyone.

Unmissable Western Australia

bungle bungles Western Australia. A state so big and varied that you could easily mistake it for a country in its own right. From the giant trees of the south, to the harsh desert of the centre, to the rugged coastline and wilderness of the north, and finally to the cosmopolitan delights of Perth, there is something here for everyone.

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Statue of Beethoven in Bonn Today one of the folks I live with suggested I accompany her into Bonn, as she wanted to pick up a book, amongst other errands. Said student has been mentioned before, being a student of philosophy, and thus interesting as a conversational companion.

I figured I had nothing else to do, the sun was shining, and Bonn is a rather lovely town, plus wandering around with someone new always takes you to places you weren’t expecting, so I agreed.

In this case, the places that we visited were of a largely student based nature. This is a societal sector that I currently blend in with fairly seamlessly. It could be the dreadlocks, it could be the hemp based clothing. Who can tell.

Our primary mission for the day was to find a book on a topic that so confused me I almost fear to bring it up here in case someone asks me what it was all about. Nevertheless. It was titled Paraconsistent Logic, which after some thought I concluded must have something to do with logic. Other than the first paragraph, which explained that the idea for the 701 page tome cropped up in a pub, the rest of it was a deep mystery to me. Still, I tried.

Bonn university buildings Books being the mission, libraries were the target. After a short train ride, we arrived in Bonn city centre and headed straight for the university and it’s reassuringly book filled shelves. The mark, no doubt, that serious study is possible here. The musty tomes practically oozed knowledge.

After a brief stop off in a small, philosophy only library, we headed to the main university library, a modern building which looked almost entirely unlike a library. Inside, there were no signs of actual books, just a lot of students and computers, presumably the vision of the modern day library. However, as it was an actual physical book we were after, and not a computerised version, we were let loose in the basement to search..

The basement, it turned out, was absolutely massive. Rows and rows of books stretched off, seemingly ad infinitum. There was a numbering scheme, which didn’t appear to conform to any actual system of number ordering, which was helpfully combined with a colour scheme in case random numbers weren’t doing it for you. It reminded me somewhat of the Tokyo Underground. Doors were randomly stumbled across, some open, some closed, some closed and alarmed. I started to seriously fear that we would  never get out of this place, developing instead a new life as book dwellers, feasting on paper mulch and ink, occasionally coming across the skeletons of other book hunters.

This was not the case, of course. After much wandering, and me quoting a bit of Indiana Jones for company, we finally found the book we were after, and then found our way back to the surface, via the tomb of a hidden king (I may have made that up). Here we decided that book hunting was hungry work, and headed off to the student eatery for food.

In case you can't read this, it says that Beethoven was born here. Culture, tick.I was advised that the food was likely to be awful, but it was also likely to be cheap. Since I’m generally happy to eat pretty much anything I agreed. I was also particularly interested to see what German student food was like. The last meal I’d had in student surroundings was at one of the staff tables in the Oxford colleges, where they serve you wine with your lunch. This was not, I suspect, a standard student eating experience. It certainly wasn’t reflective of my student days at Nottingham, where the idea was that anything and everything was better off deep fried.

As it was, the food was not a tremendous surprise. Being Germany, the dish of the day was wurst (sausage), with mashed potato and sauerkraut. It was, however, an absolutely massive plateful, and it was seriously tasty. Plus it was cheap. Victory all round. We ate in the student canteen, where I observed that students seemed pretty much the same in Germany as the UK. Probably no huge surprises there.

Following lunch, I enquired of my companion, who had studied at Bonn University for four years now, what she knew of the city. Interestingly, she knew very little. Philosophy, it turned out, meant she spent a lot more time inside her own head than observing the places she was at. Also, the old adage that you never really visit the places you live in came true. So I dragged her to see a church, Beethoven’s statue, and the house where Beethoven was born. Not exactly mind blowing stuff, but well, a bit of culture is never going to hurt.

Beer. Always a good thing. We then retired to a sunny outdoor terrace by the Rhine, where we talked at some length about life, the universe and everything. It’s hard not to have a philosophical discussion sometimes. Particularly when there is fine German beer at hand, the sun is shining, and you have nowhere else in the world to be. We discussed travelling… life.. the quest for happiness. All the good stuff. Then.. finally.. it was time to head home.

Days like this are really lovely, and what make travelling so interesting. For me, one of the main reasons I travel is to meet new people, share new experiences, stumble upon the unexpected and explore new perspectives. All of which I achieved. Oh, and there was sausage. Which is always a good thing..

Student for a day

Statue of Beethoven in Bonn Today one of the folks I live with suggested I accompany her into Bonn, as she wanted to pick up a book, amongst other errands. Said student has been mentioned before, being a student of philosophy, and thus interesting as a conversational companion.

I figured I had nothing else to do, the sun was shining, and Bonn is a rather lovely town, plus wandering around with someone new always takes you to places you weren’t expecting, so I agreed.

In this case, the places that we visited were of a largely student based nature. This is a societal sector that I currently blend in with fairly seamlessly. It could be the dreadlocks, it could be the hemp based clothing. Who can tell.

Our primary mission for the day was to find a book on a topic that so confused me I almost fear to bring it up here in case someone asks me what it was all about. Nevertheless. It was titled Paraconsistent Logic, which after some thought I concluded must have something to do with logic. Other than the first paragraph, which explained that the idea for the 701 page tome cropped up in a pub, the rest of it was a deep mystery to me. Still, I tried.

Bonn university buildings Books being the mission, libraries were the target. After a short train ride, we arrived in Bonn city centre and headed straight for the university and it’s reassuringly book filled shelves. The mark, no doubt, that serious study is possible here. The musty tomes practically oozed knowledge.

After a brief stop off in a small, philosophy only library, we headed to the main university library, a modern building which looked almost entirely unlike a library. Inside, there were no signs of actual books, just a lot of students and computers, presumably the vision of the modern day library. However, as it was an actual physical book we were after, and not a computerised version, we were let loose in the basement to search..

The basement, it turned out, was absolutely massive. Rows and rows of books stretched off, seemingly ad infinitum. There was a numbering scheme, which didn’t appear to conform to any actual system of number ordering, which was helpfully combined with a colour scheme in case random numbers weren’t doing it for you. It reminded me somewhat of the Tokyo Underground. Doors were randomly stumbled across, some open, some closed, some closed and alarmed. I started to seriously fear that we would  never get out of this place, developing instead a new life as book dwellers, feasting on paper mulch and ink, occasionally coming across the skeletons of other book hunters.

This was not the case, of course. After much wandering, and me quoting a bit of Indiana Jones for company, we finally found the book we were after, and then found our way back to the surface, via the tomb of a hidden king (I may have made that up). Here we decided that book hunting was hungry work, and headed off to the student eatery for food.

In case you can't read this, it says that Beethoven was born here. Culture, tick.I was advised that the food was likely to be awful, but it was also likely to be cheap. Since I’m generally happy to eat pretty much anything I agreed. I was also particularly interested to see what German student food was like. The last meal I’d had in student surroundings was at one of the staff tables in the Oxford colleges, where they serve you wine with your lunch. This was not, I suspect, a standard student eating experience. It certainly wasn’t reflective of my student days at Nottingham, where the idea was that anything and everything was better off deep fried.

As it was, the food was not a tremendous surprise. Being Germany, the dish of the day was wurst (sausage), with mashed potato and sauerkraut. It was, however, an absolutely massive plateful, and it was seriously tasty. Plus it was cheap. Victory all round. We ate in the student canteen, where I observed that students seemed pretty much the same in Germany as the UK. Probably no huge surprises there.

Following lunch, I enquired of my companion, who had studied at Bonn University for four years now, what she knew of the city. Interestingly, she knew very little. Philosophy, it turned out, meant she spent a lot more time inside her own head than observing the places she was at. Also, the old adage that you never really visit the places you live in came true. So I dragged her to see a church, Beethoven’s statue, and the house where Beethoven was born. Not exactly mind blowing stuff, but well, a bit of culture is never going to hurt.

Beer. Always a good thing. We then retired to a sunny outdoor terrace by the Rhine, where we talked at some length about life, the universe and everything. It’s hard not to have a philosophical discussion sometimes. Particularly when there is fine German beer at hand, the sun is shining, and you have nowhere else in the world to be. We discussed travelling… life.. the quest for happiness. All the good stuff. Then.. finally.. it was time to head home.

Days like this are really lovely, and what make travelling so interesting. For me, one of the main reasons I travel is to meet new people, share new experiences, stumble upon the unexpected and explore new perspectives. All of which I achieved. Oh, and there was sausage. Which is always a good thing..

Read More

UFO Combi VanOne of the great things about being on the road and staying in a different place nearly every night is the variety of people you meet. My year long trip around Australia was certainly no exception.

We were living fairly basically under canvas, which took us to some pretty out of the way locations for sleeping – the budget was tight, so free or incredibly cheap was the way forward. We slept beside rugby pitches and bowling greens, in trailer parks and on beaches. We camped under the stars, in the outback and in parking lots. Nowhere was out of bounds, if there was a free (and legal, of course) camping option, we took it. And we weren’t the only ones.

We met a whole range of folk, from the grey nomads who had permanently moved to a lifestyle lapping Australia by RV, to fellow work and travel visa holders, to families who had just upped sticks and headed out, all of us united in the goal of finding somewhere to stay the night at minimal cost.

On the road we encountered wonderful kindness, usually of a food and drink based nature. I will never forget being presented with a dish full of buttered chicken whilst parked deep in the outback, merely because I had remarked of our neighbours (the only other visible humans for perhaps hundreds of kilometres in any direction) that whatever they were As long as you wake up to coffee, where you camp is almost irrelevant! making smelt good. Nor the chap, out fishing for the day, who noticed at 11am that I looked a bit hot, and calmly presented me with a chilled beer for my journey.

We also encountered some pretty, well, interesting folk. At the top of the list, without any doubt at all, was the man we later referred to as UFO man. I’m sure he had a name beyond this, but it has been forgotten.

Our encounter with UFO man started off well. We were in the north-western corner of Western Australia, just south of Coral Bay, coming from a few wonderful days snorkelling on the Ningaloo reef. We pulled into one of the free camp areas just off the highway, which was possibly one of the least visually appealing sites we had visited. It was a large car park, with a couple of shelters, and the obligatory pit toilets, set in the middle of a barren wasteland. This was also the first day in around three months where the weather was not wonderful blue skies. It was, in fact, grey, windy and threatening to rain.

Cheap camping. It's not all champagne and caviar folks.This obviously worried us a little, as our camping set up wasn’t really geared towards strong winds and rain. We struggled for a while to erect camp, as the wind swept across the barren plains and pelted us with dust and giant spots of rain. Clearly, this was a sub-optimal solution. After struggling for a while however we had managed to rig up our tents in a vague approximation of uprightness, partly sheltered by our vehicle. It wasn’t perfect, but we figured it would have to do.

Then a chap approached. He had, he said, a large coach, waving to the other side of the car park, where indeed, a giant coach, painted all in black, was parked. Perhaps we would like to set our tents up in the shade of it, thus getting a lot more protection than our landcruiser was providing. This seemed like a wonderful idea, and thankfully we deconstructed our attempts at shelter and moved to the shade of his, entirely blacked out, coach. And it was a big thing too. Clearly converted for a lifetime on the road. Perfect for shelter provision.

I should add that we were not the only inhabitants of the car park. A couple of Belgian girls had their combi van nearby, in fact this was their second night at the spot. I’m not sure why they had elected to spend two days in what was essentially a car park off the main highway, but Belgium is pretty flat, so perhaps it felt like home. Anyway, Our camping in the rain skills evolved as the trip progressedthere is the scene. We were firing up dinner and getting to know our new friends. We cracked out the remains of our beer and whiskey supplies, and got through them. Darkness fell. All was well with the world. We chatted about the usual things, where we had been, where we were going, who we were.

Sadly, just after darkness fell, we ran out of alcohol. This was not a problem, informed our new coach driving friend. He happened to have a large supply of bourbon. We were welcome to have some. A bottle was procured, of a brand I had not heard of. We tried it, it was fine. Some shots were consumed. After we had drunk a fair portion of the bottle, it was revealed that the brand on the bottle was in fact largely irrelevant, because the chap brewed it himself. We looked at each other slightly nervously. We were accepting home brewed bourbon from someone we had only just met, who lived in a giant and, now it was dark, fairly sinister looking coach. In terms of things not to do when travelling, this was perhaps one of them. Even more suspiciously, he didn’t seem to want any himself.

Slightly unnerved, and handling the “bourbon” with a bit more fear than previously, we continued to chat, hoping that the fears were needless. After all, the Belgian girls had been there the night before, and they hadn’t been dissected in the back of the coach or anything. All must be well.

Some more time passed. All seemed fine. Some Korean chaps appeared, and made camp nearby. I was clearly worried about nothing. Then of course, the conversation went a little bit weird.

“Did you see that?”, said the coach man.

“See what?” We replied.

“The UFO that just flew by..”.

Close encounters of the rock art kind I goggled at him. My mouth was, I suspect, somewhat agape. I think I may have managed some quiet gurgling, which was not meant to be affirmative.

He went on: “I see them all the time of course.”

I really wasn’t sure where to go with this whole line of conversation, being somewhat out of my depth. I mean, I have chatted generally, and usually over beer, as to the possible existence of other life forms in the universe. When staring into the vastness of an outback night sky, it is hard not to.

But to have someone sitting right opposite me, in the shade of a darkened coach, clearly state that a UFO just flew over us, and that this happened regularly, was a bit beyond my standard repertoire.

Luckily, I was saved from having to actually come up with anything intelligible to say by one of my travelling companions, who was very interested in the whole thing. She asked all sorts of questions on the subject of UFO’s, from which we learnt all manner of thing. For example, we learnt about the different kinds of aliens that visited. We learnt their reasons for coming to earth. We learnt about human organ harvesting. We learnt that in a few Mostly the camping lifestyle was in fact, totally awesomeyears the whole earth was going to split in two, with only the chosen few being likely to survive. All very interesting stuff, all delivered with absolute conviction. All of which I tried desperately to listen to with a straight face and a calm, don’t cut me up in the back of your coach as a non-believer air.

After a while, I made my excuses about needing an early night, and headed to my tent, which wasn’t exactly far away. The Belgian girls had already made a run for it. My travelling companions weren’t far behind. We left the UFO man, rambling to himself at this point, to it. The next morning, we woke up happily still all whole, packed up, and left before he emerged, wondering quite what had happened. At least the bourbon had been good, and the conversation certainly hadn’t been boring.

Have you had any weird encounters whilst travelling? As always, let me know in the comments section below!

Close encounters of the camping kind

UFO Combi VanOne of the great things about being on the road and staying in a different place nearly every night is the variety of people you meet. My year long trip around Australia was certainly no exception.

We were living fairly basically under canvas, which took us to some pretty out of the way locations for sleeping – the budget was tight, so free or incredibly cheap was the way forward. We slept beside rugby pitches and bowling greens, in trailer parks and on beaches. We camped under the stars, in the outback and in parking lots. Nowhere was out of bounds, if there was a free (and legal, of course) camping option, we took it. And we weren’t the only ones.

We met a whole range of folk, from the grey nomads who had permanently moved to a lifestyle lapping Australia by RV, to fellow work and travel visa holders, to families who had just upped sticks and headed out, all of us united in the goal of finding somewhere to stay the night at minimal cost.

On the road we encountered wonderful kindness, usually of a food and drink based nature. I will never forget being presented with a dish full of buttered chicken whilst parked deep in the outback, merely because I had remarked of our neighbours (the only other visible humans for perhaps hundreds of kilometres in any direction) that whatever they were As long as you wake up to coffee, where you camp is almost irrelevant! making smelt good. Nor the chap, out fishing for the day, who noticed at 11am that I looked a bit hot, and calmly presented me with a chilled beer for my journey.

We also encountered some pretty, well, interesting folk. At the top of the list, without any doubt at all, was the man we later referred to as UFO man. I’m sure he had a name beyond this, but it has been forgotten.

Our encounter with UFO man started off well. We were in the north-western corner of Western Australia, just south of Coral Bay, coming from a few wonderful days snorkelling on the Ningaloo reef. We pulled into one of the free camp areas just off the highway, which was possibly one of the least visually appealing sites we had visited. It was a large car park, with a couple of shelters, and the obligatory pit toilets, set in the middle of a barren wasteland. This was also the first day in around three months where the weather was not wonderful blue skies. It was, in fact, grey, windy and threatening to rain.

Cheap camping. It's not all champagne and caviar folks.This obviously worried us a little, as our camping set up wasn’t really geared towards strong winds and rain. We struggled for a while to erect camp, as the wind swept across the barren plains and pelted us with dust and giant spots of rain. Clearly, this was a sub-optimal solution. After struggling for a while however we had managed to rig up our tents in a vague approximation of uprightness, partly sheltered by our vehicle. It wasn’t perfect, but we figured it would have to do.

Then a chap approached. He had, he said, a large coach, waving to the other side of the car park, where indeed, a giant coach, painted all in black, was parked. Perhaps we would like to set our tents up in the shade of it, thus getting a lot more protection than our landcruiser was providing. This seemed like a wonderful idea, and thankfully we deconstructed our attempts at shelter and moved to the shade of his, entirely blacked out, coach. And it was a big thing too. Clearly converted for a lifetime on the road. Perfect for shelter provision.

I should add that we were not the only inhabitants of the car park. A couple of Belgian girls had their combi van nearby, in fact this was their second night at the spot. I’m not sure why they had elected to spend two days in what was essentially a car park off the main highway, but Belgium is pretty flat, so perhaps it felt like home. Anyway, Our camping in the rain skills evolved as the trip progressedthere is the scene. We were firing up dinner and getting to know our new friends. We cracked out the remains of our beer and whiskey supplies, and got through them. Darkness fell. All was well with the world. We chatted about the usual things, where we had been, where we were going, who we were.

Sadly, just after darkness fell, we ran out of alcohol. This was not a problem, informed our new coach driving friend. He happened to have a large supply of bourbon. We were welcome to have some. A bottle was procured, of a brand I had not heard of. We tried it, it was fine. Some shots were consumed. After we had drunk a fair portion of the bottle, it was revealed that the brand on the bottle was in fact largely irrelevant, because the chap brewed it himself. We looked at each other slightly nervously. We were accepting home brewed bourbon from someone we had only just met, who lived in a giant and, now it was dark, fairly sinister looking coach. In terms of things not to do when travelling, this was perhaps one of them. Even more suspiciously, he didn’t seem to want any himself.

Slightly unnerved, and handling the “bourbon” with a bit more fear than previously, we continued to chat, hoping that the fears were needless. After all, the Belgian girls had been there the night before, and they hadn’t been dissected in the back of the coach or anything. All must be well.

Some more time passed. All seemed fine. Some Korean chaps appeared, and made camp nearby. I was clearly worried about nothing. Then of course, the conversation went a little bit weird.

“Did you see that?”, said the coach man.

“See what?” We replied.

“The UFO that just flew by..”.

Close encounters of the rock art kind I goggled at him. My mouth was, I suspect, somewhat agape. I think I may have managed some quiet gurgling, which was not meant to be affirmative.

He went on: “I see them all the time of course.”

I really wasn’t sure where to go with this whole line of conversation, being somewhat out of my depth. I mean, I have chatted generally, and usually over beer, as to the possible existence of other life forms in the universe. When staring into the vastness of an outback night sky, it is hard not to.

But to have someone sitting right opposite me, in the shade of a darkened coach, clearly state that a UFO just flew over us, and that this happened regularly, was a bit beyond my standard repertoire.

Luckily, I was saved from having to actually come up with anything intelligible to say by one of my travelling companions, who was very interested in the whole thing. She asked all sorts of questions on the subject of UFO’s, from which we learnt all manner of thing. For example, we learnt about the different kinds of aliens that visited. We learnt their reasons for coming to earth. We learnt about human organ harvesting. We learnt that in a few Mostly the camping lifestyle was in fact, totally awesomeyears the whole earth was going to split in two, with only the chosen few being likely to survive. All very interesting stuff, all delivered with absolute conviction. All of which I tried desperately to listen to with a straight face and a calm, don’t cut me up in the back of your coach as a non-believer air.

After a while, I made my excuses about needing an early night, and headed to my tent, which wasn’t exactly far away. The Belgian girls had already made a run for it. My travelling companions weren’t far behind. We left the UFO man, rambling to himself at this point, to it. The next morning, we woke up happily still all whole, packed up, and left before he emerged, wondering quite what had happened. At least the bourbon had been good, and the conversation certainly hadn’t been boring.

Have you had any weird encounters whilst travelling? As always, let me know in the comments section below!

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The pretty lights of the outdoor area. I was hoping to be writing an insightful, witty and brilliant piece on the wonders of going out drinking in a foreign city today. I intended to sparkle brilliantly on ponderings such as the cultural differences that I noticed on the evening. Much humour would have been had.

As it is, the very act of researching the cultural differences has left my brain a soddled mush of a thing, so you are instead going to get, well, the below. I will try. Be gentle.

Firstly, I had heard it said that continental Europe starts their drinking somewhat later in the day than the UK. I can now confirm this to be true. By the time we left the house to hit Cologne, it was nearing midnight. In the UK, if you head out at midnight, you are likely to be wandering darkened empty streets from closed pub to closed pub. 24 hour drinking is, in theory, legally allowed, but most pubs still adhere to an eleven or twelve finishing time, at which point you need to find an overpriced club to drink in. For this reason most people in the UK are out much earlier, with the mindset that as much as possible must be drunk before the doors are closed.

Germany does not have such complex drinking restrictions, so the night was still young when we left the house, despite it being nearly the next day already. We had prepared ourselves by consuming a number of Kölsch’s at home, for the journey as it were. Kölsch, for those not in the know, is the beer local to Cologne. Other beers are probably available. These are not mentioned in polite company.

We wandered, remnants of our home beer in hand (another wonder of Germany, drinking on the street is entirely legal) to our venue for the night, a local and somewhat alternative venue by the name of the Underground, which, contrary to the name, wasn’t.

Currywurst being created. Image slightly fuzzy due to camera being held by inebriated manUpon arrival, I was quickly whisked to the on site sausage stall, and provided with a large pile of currywurst and chips. Another uniquely German idea, currywurst is your average giant German sausage, smothered in spicy curry sauce. Presumably the intention was to  give me strength for the night ahead. Strength was needed. As well as a huge outdoor seating area, where multiple parties were carefully engaged in beverage review activities, there were two dance rooms, plus a whole room dedicated to table football. Which is a game to be taken very seriously in Germany.

Strengthened by sausage and more refreshing Kölsch, we hit the dance floor. The music was skating dangerously close to grungey metal, with the result that the dance floor was less about dancing and more about trying to survive in the mass of bodies. To the uninitiated, it may have looked just like a large fight set to pounding German metal. Perhaps, in fact, it was. Memories are a tiny bit hazy.

Some carefully trying to avoid being trampled later, we retired outside. It was a fairly warm evening and the surroundings were genial. Coloured lights lit up the courtyard area, much jollity was being had. Conversation flowed, all of it, I expect, brilliantly sparkling and witty. It was a rather wonderful time.

However, as with all wonderful times, they must end, and the time arrived whence we opted to quietly stagger home. I am incredibly lucky to go out with a girl who shares a love of anchovy coated pizza (amongst other things), so we stopped off en route for a romantic pizza in a nearby kebab house. The chap who created the pizza was a genuine artist, forming the pizza base from actual dough in front of our very eyes before lovingly coating it in lashings of cheese, tomato sauce and those little salty fishy wonders. I quietly hiccupped my thanks at him and trundled home, whereupon the pizza was devoured before the bed was hit.

Hangover recovery food

Later on in the day the morning dawned beautifully. I slept through this, and woke up as the afternoon was just coming around. It was a blisteringly hot day, just what you need when your skin feels like all the moisture in it has been surgically removed.

Luckily the “day after drinking” regime is no different in Germany to the UK, so we staggered to the nearest cafe and ate as much fried food as we possibly could, accompanied by strong black coffee, at which point I started to feel a lot more human.

We left Cologne in the afternoon sun, with the top down in the convertible, the temperature in the mid twenties, and some suspiciously bad German hip hop on the CD player. The green leaves of the trees flitted overhead and I wondered to myself, as I often do, how I had managed to get so lucky as to be able to experience moments like this in my life. Even if the day seemed a mite fuzzy around the edges…

Kölsch in Köln

The pretty lights of the outdoor area. I was hoping to be writing an insightful, witty and brilliant piece on the wonders of going out drinking in a foreign city today. I intended to sparkle brilliantly on ponderings such as the cultural differences that I noticed on the evening. Much humour would have been had.

As it is, the very act of researching the cultural differences has left my brain a soddled mush of a thing, so you are instead going to get, well, the below. I will try. Be gentle.

Firstly, I had heard it said that continental Europe starts their drinking somewhat later in the day than the UK. I can now confirm this to be true. By the time we left the house to hit Cologne, it was nearing midnight. In the UK, if you head out at midnight, you are likely to be wandering darkened empty streets from closed pub to closed pub. 24 hour drinking is, in theory, legally allowed, but most pubs still adhere to an eleven or twelve finishing time, at which point you need to find an overpriced club to drink in. For this reason most people in the UK are out much earlier, with the mindset that as much as possible must be drunk before the doors are closed.

Germany does not have such complex drinking restrictions, so the night was still young when we left the house, despite it being nearly the next day already. We had prepared ourselves by consuming a number of Kölsch’s at home, for the journey as it were. Kölsch, for those not in the know, is the beer local to Cologne. Other beers are probably available. These are not mentioned in polite company.

We wandered, remnants of our home beer in hand (another wonder of Germany, drinking on the street is entirely legal) to our venue for the night, a local and somewhat alternative venue by the name of the Underground, which, contrary to the name, wasn’t.

Currywurst being created. Image slightly fuzzy due to camera being held by inebriated manUpon arrival, I was quickly whisked to the on site sausage stall, and provided with a large pile of currywurst and chips. Another uniquely German idea, currywurst is your average giant German sausage, smothered in spicy curry sauce. Presumably the intention was to  give me strength for the night ahead. Strength was needed. As well as a huge outdoor seating area, where multiple parties were carefully engaged in beverage review activities, there were two dance rooms, plus a whole room dedicated to table football. Which is a game to be taken very seriously in Germany.

Strengthened by sausage and more refreshing Kölsch, we hit the dance floor. The music was skating dangerously close to grungey metal, with the result that the dance floor was less about dancing and more about trying to survive in the mass of bodies. To the uninitiated, it may have looked just like a large fight set to pounding German metal. Perhaps, in fact, it was. Memories are a tiny bit hazy.

Some carefully trying to avoid being trampled later, we retired outside. It was a fairly warm evening and the surroundings were genial. Coloured lights lit up the courtyard area, much jollity was being had. Conversation flowed, all of it, I expect, brilliantly sparkling and witty. It was a rather wonderful time.

However, as with all wonderful times, they must end, and the time arrived whence we opted to quietly stagger home. I am incredibly lucky to go out with a girl who shares a love of anchovy coated pizza (amongst other things), so we stopped off en route for a romantic pizza in a nearby kebab house. The chap who created the pizza was a genuine artist, forming the pizza base from actual dough in front of our very eyes before lovingly coating it in lashings of cheese, tomato sauce and those little salty fishy wonders. I quietly hiccupped my thanks at him and trundled home, whereupon the pizza was devoured before the bed was hit.

Hangover recovery food

Later on in the day the morning dawned beautifully. I slept through this, and woke up as the afternoon was just coming around. It was a blisteringly hot day, just what you need when your skin feels like all the moisture in it has been surgically removed.

Luckily the “day after drinking” regime is no different in Germany to the UK, so we staggered to the nearest cafe and ate as much fried food as we possibly could, accompanied by strong black coffee, at which point I started to feel a lot more human.

We left Cologne in the afternoon sun, with the top down in the convertible, the temperature in the mid twenties, and some suspiciously bad German hip hop on the CD player. The green leaves of the trees flitted overhead and I wondered to myself, as I often do, how I had managed to get so lucky as to be able to experience moments like this in my life. Even if the day seemed a mite fuzzy around the edges…

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Weather, and in particular stormy weather, can be a tricky subject matter to photograph, what with managing the available light, capturing the scale of the event and keeping your equipment dry. When in Australia I was witness to some pretty spectacular lightning storms, and I managed to get a few shots of lightning that I was pleased with.

Photographing lightning is definitely a case of hit and miss, as you never know where it’s going to go off next. My technique largely involved pointing the camera at the storm, opening the shutter with my remote, and waiting. Hundreds of pictures of blackness, or just out of shot bolts ensued, but sometimes, I got lucky. As the shots below show. Let me know what you think.

Lightning over Cape Le Grande

Lightning over Kalgoorie Boulder

More Lightning over Kalgoorie Boulder

If you enjoyed these photos, feel free to browse my other photo themes posts!

Photo theme - Lightning

Weather, and in particular stormy weather, can be a tricky subject matter to photograph, what with managing the available light, capturing the scale of the event and keeping your equipment dry. When in Australia I was witness to some pretty spectacular lightning storms, and I managed to get a few shots of lightning that I was pleased with.

Photographing lightning is definitely a case of hit and miss, as you never know where it’s going to go off next. My technique largely involved pointing the camera at the storm, opening the shutter with my remote, and waiting. Hundreds of pictures of blackness, or just out of shot bolts ensued, but sometimes, I got lucky. As the shots below show. Let me know what you think.

Lightning over Cape Le Grande

Lightning over Kalgoorie Boulder

More Lightning over Kalgoorie Boulder

If you enjoyed these photos, feel free to browse my other photo themes posts!

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The lake was nice. Fraser Island.

Given that previous entries in this series have focused on entire states, it may seem a bit odd to dedicate an entire article to one small island off the Queensland coast where we only spent three days. But Fraser is a very special island, and I believe you will agree, entirely worthy of it’s own piece.

Memories of Oz: Fraser Island

The lake was nice. Fraser Island.

Given that previous entries in this series have focused on entire states, it may seem a bit odd to dedicate an entire article to one small island off the Queensland coast where we only spent three days. But Fraser is a very special island, and I believe you will agree, entirely worthy of it’s own piece.

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Kindle eReader I haven’t embraced the eReader revolution that is currently replacing paper tomes with digital versions as yet, but friends of mine have, and I received a request to make my blog available via the Amazon Kindle store, something I had no idea was possible.

I looked into this, and found an excellent tutorial on the process here (labnol.org). I signed up, and within 24 hours this site became available on the Amazon Kindle Store, both the US and UK versions.

The subscription to the service comes at a price, which is less than a pound a month. The good news is that I get 30% of that. Admittedly this isn’t exactly going to make me rich quick, but every little helps.

If you want to check it out, the blog is available on the Amazon UK kindle store, or the Amazon US store.

If you own your own blog, and want to get it on the store, the remarkably simple sign up is here, fill in a few fields and away you go:

https://kindlepublishing.amazon.com/gp/vendor/members/home

Let me know if this is the sort of thing you find useful.. or conversely if you find the idea of paying monthly for something you can get for free completely odd.. let me know too!

Finding the Universe now on Kindle

Kindle eReader I haven’t embraced the eReader revolution that is currently replacing paper tomes with digital versions as yet, but friends of mine have, and I received a request to make my blog available via the Amazon Kindle store, something I had no idea was possible.

I looked into this, and found an excellent tutorial on the process here (labnol.org). I signed up, and within 24 hours this site became available on the Amazon Kindle Store, both the US and UK versions.

The subscription to the service comes at a price, which is less than a pound a month. The good news is that I get 30% of that. Admittedly this isn’t exactly going to make me rich quick, but every little helps.

If you want to check it out, the blog is available on the Amazon UK kindle store, or the Amazon US store.

If you own your own blog, and want to get it on the store, the remarkably simple sign up is here, fill in a few fields and away you go:

https://kindlepublishing.amazon.com/gp/vendor/members/home

Let me know if this is the sort of thing you find useful.. or conversely if you find the idea of paying monthly for something you can get for free completely odd.. let me know too!

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Fluffy - our Toyota Landcruiser 80 series.

When I set off on my trip around Australia in 2009, I knew very little about off road driving. After completing the 60,000km road trip around Australia in an off-road vehicle, covering surfaces from smooth tarmac to unsealed gravel to, well, no clearly definable surface at all, I thought I would share some of the things I learnt.

These might help out if you are a first timer considering spending some time off the beaten track, or even if you have been off-roading for a while.

Going offroad – things to know

Fluffy - our Toyota Landcruiser 80 series.

When I set off on my trip around Australia in 2009, I knew very little about off road driving. After completing the 60,000km road trip around Australia in an off-road vehicle, covering surfaces from smooth tarmac to unsealed gravel to, well, no clearly definable surface at all, I thought I would share some of the things I learnt.

These might help out if you are a first timer considering spending some time off the beaten track, or even if you have been off-roading for a while.

Read More

Clowns at flea market Efforts at sorting out of the random detritus of life have been stepped up a gear in the last week, with the culminating finale being the attending of two flea markets in nearby towns over the weekend.

I have mentioned before quite how much stuff my girlfriend has managed to accumulate over the years. Suffice to say, it is a lot. And a lot means more than just your average trinkets, cd’s and dvd’s.

The hospital IV drip holders, for example, were consigned to the bin prior to the flea market. The horrific pottery chicken shaped egg holder was not.

To the flea markets!

Clowns at flea market Efforts at sorting out of the random detritus of life have been stepped up a gear in the last week, with the culminating finale being the attending of two flea markets in nearby towns over the weekend.

I have mentioned before quite how much stuff my girlfriend has managed to accumulate over the years. Suffice to say, it is a lot. And a lot means more than just your average trinkets, cd’s and dvd’s.

The hospital IV drip holders, for example, were consigned to the bin prior to the flea market. The horrific pottery chicken shaped egg holder was not.

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In case Australia didn’t already have enough to offer you, what with the endlessly beautiful outback, the stunning and often empty beaches, the mountains to climb, the surf to ride, and so on, here are some reasons that might give the film buffs out there some extra excuses to visit on top of everything else.

Below are four films that you may recognise which were predominantly filmed in Australia. In my opinion these showcase some of the best scenery and locations that outback Australia has to offer. I was lucky enough to visit all of these locations on my recent trip down under.

Four amazing outback Australia film sets

In case Australia didn’t already have enough to offer you, what with the endlessly beautiful outback, the stunning and often empty beaches, the mountains to climb, the surf to ride, and so on, here are some reasons that might give the film buffs out there some extra excuses to visit on top of everything else.

Below are four films that you may recognise which were predominantly filmed in Australia. In my opinion these showcase some of the best scenery and locations that outback Australia has to offer. I was lucky enough to visit all of these locations on my recent trip down under.

Read More

In all the recent excitement with naval gazing posts, photo based posts, New Zealand posts, and Oz posts, I may have slightly forgotten to report on the here and now of my current life. I am still in Germany, with just under five weeks to go before I head south. A few things have happened in the last couple of weeks since my return from the UK that are worthy of a brief mention.

Me eating cake I ate some Christmas cake. This is not a massive deal for most people. Normally you sit around with your folks, and eat it after you have stuffed yourself to the gills with all the other Christmassy stuff. Unless you don’t celebrate Christmas of course. Anyhow, one of the disadvantages to long term travel is that some of the times of year that would traditionally involve spending time with family become times of the year where you are reminded of the distance between yourself and loved ones. Last Christmas, my parents were in Wales, and I was in the middle of nowhere in the South Australian outback. My mum baked me a tiny Christmas cake, which she had lovingly preserved, and she presented it to me when I popped over this August. So I brought it back with me to Germany, and ate it. As the picture demonstrates. It was excellent, of course. I did have plans to take it with me to New Zealand, but after reading about their seriously intense quarantine regulations, I decided I’d forego the potential of hefty fines and consume it in the here and now.

The house I’m living in held its annual party, an excuse to thoroughly tidy the place, invite a lot of people round, and drink large amounts of beer. As, from what I can tell, a thorough tidying including gardening only happens once a year, this was a fairly major task. Still, I am pretty good at any kind of gardening that involves the destruction of The love of beerweeds and the trimming of vines, so that went fairly well. As did the party. It turns out that the tradition over here is for the party hosts to provide the alcohol and some food, and for the party guests to turn up with more food, and sometimes, more alcohol. There was, therefore, an absolute pile of excellent food and wine to get through, which took us a number of post party days to get all the way through.

We have been to another wedding. I reported in more detail on the last wedding we attended here. This one was a slightly more relaxed affair, with less formal speeches and games and more focus on just having a terribly good time, accompanied by lots of beer and piles of bbq’d meat. A BBQ at a wedding folks! The good times just roll on.

Vera and some stuffMy dear other half is continuing the seriously long process of sorting through a lifetimes  accumulation of stuff. Part of this process will culminate this weekend, when we head to a pair of flea markets to attempt to pawn these things off on unsuspecting passersby. Presumably someone is going to be interested in empty bottles of liquid cocaine. My contribution currently involves digitising a lot of video and audio into a more portable format. I have a lot of coffee to help me with this.

That, therefore, is where I am. In the few weeks remaining to me before we leave, I am hoping to visit Berlin, as spending four months in Germany without making it to the capital feels like a violation of some sort of rule. Otherwise, it’s sorting, relaxing, and preparing. Largely I do the middle one, and Vera does the first and third. This seems to work…

Germany update

In all the recent excitement with naval gazing posts, photo based posts, New Zealand posts, and Oz posts, I may have slightly forgotten to report on the here and now of my current life. I am still in Germany, with just under five weeks to go before I head south. A few things have happened in the last couple of weeks since my return from the UK that are worthy of a brief mention.

Me eating cake I ate some Christmas cake. This is not a massive deal for most people. Normally you sit around with your folks, and eat it after you have stuffed yourself to the gills with all the other Christmassy stuff. Unless you don’t celebrate Christmas of course. Anyhow, one of the disadvantages to long term travel is that some of the times of year that would traditionally involve spending time with family become times of the year where you are reminded of the distance between yourself and loved ones. Last Christmas, my parents were in Wales, and I was in the middle of nowhere in the South Australian outback. My mum baked me a tiny Christmas cake, which she had lovingly preserved, and she presented it to me when I popped over this August. So I brought it back with me to Germany, and ate it. As the picture demonstrates. It was excellent, of course. I did have plans to take it with me to New Zealand, but after reading about their seriously intense quarantine regulations, I decided I’d forego the potential of hefty fines and consume it in the here and now.

The house I’m living in held its annual party, an excuse to thoroughly tidy the place, invite a lot of people round, and drink large amounts of beer. As, from what I can tell, a thorough tidying including gardening only happens once a year, this was a fairly major task. Still, I am pretty good at any kind of gardening that involves the destruction of The love of beerweeds and the trimming of vines, so that went fairly well. As did the party. It turns out that the tradition over here is for the party hosts to provide the alcohol and some food, and for the party guests to turn up with more food, and sometimes, more alcohol. There was, therefore, an absolute pile of excellent food and wine to get through, which took us a number of post party days to get all the way through.

We have been to another wedding. I reported in more detail on the last wedding we attended here. This one was a slightly more relaxed affair, with less formal speeches and games and more focus on just having a terribly good time, accompanied by lots of beer and piles of bbq’d meat. A BBQ at a wedding folks! The good times just roll on.

Vera and some stuffMy dear other half is continuing the seriously long process of sorting through a lifetimes  accumulation of stuff. Part of this process will culminate this weekend, when we head to a pair of flea markets to attempt to pawn these things off on unsuspecting passersby. Presumably someone is going to be interested in empty bottles of liquid cocaine. My contribution currently involves digitising a lot of video and audio into a more portable format. I have a lot of coffee to help me with this.

That, therefore, is where I am. In the few weeks remaining to me before we leave, I am hoping to visit Berlin, as spending four months in Germany without making it to the capital feels like a violation of some sort of rule. Otherwise, it’s sorting, relaxing, and preparing. Largely I do the middle one, and Vera does the first and third. This seems to work…

Read More