Monday, December 24, 2007

Uluru - Australia

The Place: In the Red Centre of Australia, Ayers Rock (Uluru) stands 348km high and 9.4km in circumference.
Some features: Spent an afternoon exploring the rock from its base. Saw it change colour from red to gold at sun set. Woke up at 4.30am to observe the rock at sunrise. Just as amazing was the colours of the sky and land, with bright greens, reds, whites and yellows all around.

Kata Tjutu - Australia

The Place: 43 km from Uluru, Kata Tjuta (meaning 'many heads') rises more than 500m out of the ground. It's a collection of more than 36 heads and is considered sacred to the Anangu people who are the traditional owners of this land. Unlike Uluru which is sandstone, these structures are formed from conglomerate rock.
Some features: Spent the day walking different routes in some areas of these incredible outcrops, inluding the 7.4km Valley of the Winds walk which took us right inbetween these looming domes, showing us a great view of the flat and vast outback. Waited for sunset and was lucky enough to see a rainbow stretching out over the heads.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sydney Beaches - Australia

The Beaches: Spent the day just chilling on Bondi beach with Ilse after her arrival. It's is a great hangout for surfing backpackers. Arriving there immediately puts you in holiday mode where you can just chill on the beach or go for beer and a burger at beachfront cafe.
Played some frisbee and tried out a boomerang on Palm beach with Ilse, Nick and Lindsay. Spent a day on the beaches of Manly.
Strange Observation: The Aussie's seem to take Christmas to a whole new level! There are stuffed Santa's hanging from balconies, climbing the walls of houses, and riding motorbikes on the road sides. Dressing up as Santa is popular too, as evidenced by the Santa party in the Manly beach surf pavilion - pictured above.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sydney - Australia

The Place: What was almost a splash landing, touched down on the mini peninsula runway strip of Sydney airport after 24 hrs from London via Singapore.
Some features: Great to see that a major city can be as relaxed as Sydney. Met Nick and stayed at his place right on the waters edge. From there, getting into the city was a 10 minute ferry trip almost directly from his door step to the cities edge.
Had a great time seeing the activities around the harbour bridge and opera house - including the Scots college's +-50 strong, marching rendition of Walzing Matilda on a bagpipes & drums, and two aborigines playing traditional music on their didgeridoo and sticks mixed with electro phunk.
From the botanical gardens you get an amazing view of the opera house and bridge, with bats and cockatoo's that fly freely around the park.
Met a phillipino third order apostelic nun in a boomerang shop. After a lengthy chat she kindly went to fetch her veil for me to take a picture of her.
Visited the Taronga zoo to get a good look at some aussie animals. The zoo was a huge highlight with great bird shows, brilliant views of the city and funky wildlife including wombats, wallabies, potoroos, gliders, tasmanian devils, and the duck-billed platypus.
Strange observation: Watching a game of chess in the city park is wierd when the guy dominating the game is dressed in dirty clothes and is shouting obscenities to his park mates (also playing chess).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pamplona - Spain

The Place: In the north of Spain (Basque country) the San Fermin festival is held annually for the running of the bulls, where everday from the 6 - 14 July the bull run commences at 8am and the festivities never cease.
Some highlights: Camped out in Ezcaba (15 min from Pamplona) with Tim, Steph, Alexandra and Carlos. Our arrival was momentous since it seemed the bus drivers were having their siestas - had to walk for 2 hours along the highway with our luggage to the campsite. Enjoyed fireworks and float processions on the eve of arrival. Soaked up the sun and enjoyed swimming in the camp's pool. Walked the streets of pamplona with its bands and parades during the 4 days there and partied till late during the nights. Watched a matador show which was cruel yet spectacular. The atmosphere was amazing (and so was the sangria - which ended up all over us). Ran the bulls on the sunday with Tim, had a balcony viewing the mon and ran again tues.
The run: The 1st time (8th July), in sheer terror, arrived in the arena before the bulls. Once all bulls are in they are herded out, and then 6 are released one by one charging into the arena to the cheers of the crowds. Half the fear was not knowing how long this would keep up for (roughly 40min) and the other half was knowing the bull was charging around dropping people like dominoes, out of sight because of the crowd. Got the hang of it and realised its better to chase behind the bull (so that he's in sight all the time) and then flee when he changes direction, then try to get behind him again.
The second run (10th July) was much more fun having picked up tips from the first. For starters actually ran with them in the street this time. Managed to touch a bull in the arena with my rolled newspaper and had one bull jump over me as I crouched with about 10 others at the gate from where they're released (they do this every time a bull is released and though sometimes someone catches a hoof I didnt see anyone get hurt).
Most intense adrenaline rush!! Will never forget!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Capoeira - London

The event: The 5th batizado of our London capoeira group (ACER).
Some highlights: Some great capoeira from the best - some from brazil and some from the UK. Maculele (a dance linked with capoeira) was displayed. Samba band and dancer getting the crowd excited. Getting graded!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beachy Head - England

The place: On the mainland's south coast lies the white cliffs of Beachy Head not too far from Dover (further west).
Some features: Cliffs . . . that are white. Had a great time with Ilse and her friends seeing the cliffs aswell as driving to some of the other little towns in the Sussex region.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Paris - France

The Place: After getting my Schengen visa a day before departure (phew), I took the Eurostar under the English channel to arrive in Paris. Together with Ilse, Gordon and Lea we had an amazing easter weekend.
Highlights: Visited Rodin Museum to see his works including the famous ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Kiss’.
Partied locally (near the hostel) in a jungle-house-acid-sort of-drum-bass little club till 3 in the morning.
Breakfast at the Sacré Cœur which was my favourite – a white 3 domed church looming on top of a steep green hill. If you’ve watched Amelie this is where she leads the weird id photo collector guy to return his briefcase.
Eiffel where we made a day of it chilling on the grass, watching some capoeira under the tower, waiting in queues and walking up. Great views of Paris from the top!
Found a salsa club in the latin quarter and watched some interesting moves between some weird couples – a good laugh.
Took a trip on the Seinne past major landmarks including the gargoyle-guarded Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel, and other impressive bridges and architecture.
Had supper at a greek restaurant (Les Argonauts) in Paris’ latin quarter – very vibey, lots ofs fun. The greek waiters/dancers picked up Lea and Ilse and made them dance on the tables!
Went out afterwards and danced the night away in a club next to the Moulin Rouge.
Our last morning took a trip to see the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysees. Had some crepes at a sunny sidewalk café.
Last but not least went to take a peek at the Mona Lisa and wander in awe amongst the Louvre art galleries.
Strange observation: French waiters have to be in control of everything otherwise you get some serious attitude! Walk up to ask for the bill ‘L’appetite s'il vous plaît’ before they’re ready and they may simply command you to ‘Sit!’.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Transkei - South Africa

The Place: On the wild coast, 3 hours from East London, including a 2 hour journey over muddy roads through the rolling green hills of Transkei, stopping for cattle or to hoot ‘hello’ to the locals we reached the Wavecrest resort.
The event: The marriage of Shaun and Leigh.
Some features: The resort’s sundeck with swimming pool and jacuzzi overlooks lagoon, beach and dunes, cows and horses roaming freely around the resort.
Highlights: Cricket on the beach on ‘the oval’ (a patch of beach between lagoon and sea), swimming in the lagoon and sea, afternoon booze cruise along the estuary.
18 March the sun, earth and moon aligned to call an enormous tide which in a day covered the entire beach. With the oval submerged and no beach we were left to wonder in awe at the enormous waves and the visibly powerful tide pushing into the estuary in sets of waves.
The weather cleared long enough for a great wedding (which was held indoors just to be safe), and to top it off a rainbow appeared outside the glass sliding doors as the vows were being told.
The wedding included djembe drums, African chorus, piñata smashing, drinking from the quafe (not sure of spelling), poi, and lots of dancing!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

London - England

The Place: With easy access to Europe and a strong currency to make other countries affordable, London for me represents the centre of the traveller's world. Now in my third year of living and working here, there are a number of highlights that make London an amazing city.
Some features: My favourite sights on the river Thames are without a doubt St. Pauls Cathedral (2nd from top), Parliament buildings, and the tower bridge. What's great is that a stroll down the South Bank presents the opportunity to see all of these sights within walking distance from one another.
London is great for its art museums (Tate Modern and the Dali musem being my favourite) as well as its Theatres and Productions. Enjoyed 'Rocky Horror Show' in Wimbledon, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (performing Carmina Burana) at the Royal Albert Hall, and rhythm spectacular 'Stomp' on West End.
The parks are incredible in summer, especially since the sun goes down after 9 during that time, which enables a few hours after a full working day to still enjoy sunshine (though admittedly these days are few and far between). Went to the Hyde Park Calling Fesitival to watch Aerosmith, O2 Wireless Fesitival with my capoeira group to do some demos.
Modern London is also crazy. Canary Wharf (bottom), where I'm currently working, is like a glass antfarm with trails of suits scurrying in and amongst the skyscrapers.
Strange observation: The amount of nationalities in London. I stayed in a houseshare with 2 Poles, an Italian, Columbian, New Zealander, and Ghanian Londoner!