A Fast Week Down Under

This week has me in Australia of all places, for work-related meetings. My typical work travel generally takes me to cities in the continental US, when needed. But this is a rarity to go to such a distance for my job.

A week may not sound like a quick trip at all, but it really is when it’s this far away. Coming out here I drove south into Colorado, and departed from Denver International which brought me to Los Angeles, California (LAX). Then it was on for the long leg of the trip overnight to Sydney, Australia. The week definitely felt like it was shortened from the start when I departed on a Sunday evening and arrived, nearly 20 hours later, on a Tuesday morning (time zone shift).

Nearly every moment of the week would be taken with either meetings, dinners with colleagues or jet lag, so it definitely would not be the most conducive trip to outings. This made me want to use the opportunities I did have to see what I could.

2019-02-19 Sydney 01On landing, I had expected to be so tired and out of sorts I’d want nothing else to do other than sleep. However on arriving in Sydney, after working my way through customs, I felt nothing of the sort. Energized, I taxied to the hotel I was staying at and showered for my first excursion. On walking out into the street with iPhone walking map in hand, I began to find my way towards my only “must see” of the trip: The Royal Botanic Gardens. Interestingly, these oddly billed birds were everywhere. Much like you’d see pigeons in US cities, I later found these to be the Ibis. Local teammates later filled me in that the ibis is a wading bird, but much like most wildlife, was lured to the bigger cities due to trash and the result of humans enticing it inland.

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Hyde Park is really a beautiful green space where I was staying with my team. It is filled with buildings, monuments, fountains and the most gorgeous and impressive trees I’ve seen yet in my travels.

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Being at the lunch hour, the park was filled with those taking in the day as well as those taking lunch from work. This was a pretty intense game of chess in the park that had a small gathering intensely following each move.

2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 01Now keep in mind, I’ve just left Wyoming where it was snowing and cold and dry. At this point in my first day in Australia, I’m walking in the heat of summer in a more humid region. It quickly came to my attention I was struggling. And it wasn’t any one particular thing, but a combination of registering the fatigue from an entire 24 hour period of driving/air travel, feeling like the air was dripping off of me and noticing everyone else in the park was huddled under any shade available. Thus, my tour of the gardens became more direct and guided by shade trees.2019-02-19 Royal Botanic Gardens 02

I do not know the history of this monument to the Australian Desert Corps, but I’m interested now to find out.

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The fountain looked and sounded so refreshing on this hot day, I could have easily been tempted to walk right in (though I’m pretty sure I would have been asked to leave).

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I took this photo of this monument not for the monument, but as an example of the many park-goers who took refuge under any shade they could find.

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The park gates were noticeably ornate and very stately. The full gates were actually wider than I’ve captured here in the photo, but there were large advertisements for garden activities on either side so I elected to snap only the middle section.

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As I mentioned earlier, the trees were just amazing. Larger, very healthy, and sprawling. Each variety was distinct and offered welcome respite on the many winding pathways throughout the gardens.

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Due to the heat, this was one of the few bunches of blooming flowers I could find. The park was still massively expansive and full of lush greenery, but it seemed to be a bit past the blooming season we might expect in the US spring time.

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The ornate rose garden reminded me of the type of presentation a historic English manor garden might have (which of course I’m sure is reflective of the English/Australian historical relationship).

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The rose garden design was really quite lovely, even if it was in the heat of the summer-to-fall transition.

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Trees like this one have surely made for fantastic hiding places for birds and small children over the years. What stories these trees must know.

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I did find an interesting treat in the conservatory building where a carnivorous plants show was available indoors. Granted indoors was still in a tropic green house, temperatures and all, but it was a bit more comfortable.

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Hanging bromiliad arrangements were something I was surprised to see among the jack in the pulpits and venus fly traps. (But they do indeed belong).

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The “creepy” fog effects were a fun touch with added plant glass sculptures.

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With so much greenery and standout arrangements, it’s easy to not look down and admire the tiniest of the botanic carnivores, yet there they were.

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Someone obviously spent significant time planning, growing and building the living wall as the backdrop for it all.

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More jack in the pulpits.

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And this hanging display I have no idea what it was – you can see some growths that resemble pitcher plants but I’d need to do some research to figure out what they are.

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You simply can’t have a creepy botanic carnivore display without fright night movie posters setting the theme in the hallways, naturally.

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Just on the outside of the building here, was a giant-sized display of cloth and metal structures of pitcher plants and fly traps that definitely did the job in attracting attention of passing tourists.

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After I made the return walk back to the hotel of roughly a mile, jet lag began to set in. Honestly I thought I’d arrived unscathed and had evaded the price we pay for jumping time zones, but I was not to win that battle.

I elected to take a “short nap” before meeting colleagues for dinner that night. The short nap became a 6 hour rest that I realized included 2 hours of sleeping with my alarm going off. This was NOT a pleasant wake-up either. This was a near head-ache, foggy-brained, what-happened-to-me-sleep. Needless to say, after earnest regrets, I declined the informal dinner and after ordering a quick meal via room service, fell into another long sleep.

Sleeping in was not to be had, though. This began my habit this week of waking at unholy early hours (the following morning, my day started at 2 a.m.) as my body worked to adjust to having lost an entire day in time zones.

With business meetings, come business dinners. Our team enjoyed a delicious meal of superb seafood at Nick’s Seafood in Sydney off Darling Harbour. It was open air seating and eating and afforded us a beautiful view to enjoy while we ate.

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After this lovely night on the harbor, work resumed and the next two days were non-stop. I kept waking up at 2-4 a.m. every day and there was nothing for it other than to do some work online until breakfast and then start the day. Evenings usually extended through 9-10 p.m. until I returned to my room to take a quick shower and fall into bed.

However on the last day (Friday), after the last of the meetings concluded, those of us who remained one more night due to Saturday flight departures elected to make a last-minute run to Manly Beach via one of the area ferry boats.

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We passed the famous Sydney Opera House which was still striking despite the foul weather that evening. It sprinkled on us off and on nearly all evening but nothing so much that we couldn’t keep on with our little self-guided food tour.

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The views from the Ferry were just beautiful. It almost reminded me of a modern, Mediterranean town somewhere remote. What isn’t captured in these photos is the impromptu storm we rode out on the ferry. Swells rose to such a height the captain brought everyone inside the boat to ride it out as best we could. A few faces did look a little green.

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Once the storm clouds began to clear the sail boats came out to race and enjoy the evening light.

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Evening seemed to last quite a while and it seemed everyone who had a boat was out in it. It made for quite the show for the ferries.

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The sun started to go down though, as it always will, and we made it to Manly Wharf and then the beach walk just in time for a few final pictures before the night fell.

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The evening was really quite comfortable and the air surprisingly didn’t seem to smell that salty. However it was a harbor after all so I’m guessing the actual ocean-facing beach probably had a bit more salt in the air.

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We noticed this restaurant on the main walking street that strongly resembled Burger King from the US, quite a bit. We even walked up to it and took a peek into the restaurant and even the menu and interior was nearly identical. Possibly the Australian branch of Burger King?

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On our way back from an amazing restaurant we ate at, the Manly Grill, the shops and eateries were lit up for late night business and kept our path illuminated.

Our group just barely made it back to the ferry wharf where the boat was waiting and we enjoyed a peaceful and swift trip back to Sydney where we all collapsed back in our rooms, packed our bags, and took off the next morning for the long flight back to the US.

Rocky Mountain Getaway – Day 3

2017-06-17 Independence Pass 01Departing the hotel in Snowmass, we took an indirect path back so that we could hit a few sights along the way. One of these was to drive Independence Pass, which ultimately tops out at over 12,000ft. Fair warning – the speed limit nearly the entire way is between 25-35mph for good reason. This drive is not for the faint of heart.

2017-06-17 Independence Pass 02The views are breathtaking. This is truly God’s Country here; totally protected and preserved and just amazing. The contrasting peaks, summer snow, warm sunshine and shallow creeks and rivers seemed right out of a magazine. The roads are very narrow and you will be turning your wheel to take hairpin after hairpin but with a little backbone, it’s absolutely worth it. Pull over as many times as you like to take photos and thank the universe someone had the good sense years ago to set this land aside to be what it is today.

2017-06-17 Twin Lakes 01¬†Once we exited Independence Pass, we briefly stopped by a place called Twin Lakes as we started back east. Due to time constraints and needing to get home, we couldn’t explore here but it was a great view here from the side of the road at least.

2017-06-17 Dillon Reservoir 01While this is another similar lake view, this is actually Dillon Reservoir by Frisco also in Colorado. Another location I’d noticed on the map but had never seen in person before. It was just a few miles off the main highway to get to this spot. This wasn’t the spot I wanted to shoot from though. An impromptu wedding had taken over the overlook where we hiked to. It was an elderly couple tying the knot with maybe 10 family members present and was just about the sweetest moment I’ve seen and worth pausing a respectable distance away to witness their vows and silently wish them well before I left.

Somehow that moment seemed the perfect way to end our trip as we motored on back towards Denver then Fort Collins.

Rocky Mountain Getaway – Day 2

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 01Early morning (4 a.m. wake-up call) had wheels on the road by 4:30 a.m. driving towards the Maroon Bells 45 minutes away from where we were staying in Snowmass Village. This was the very first look of the Bells entering into the gatehouse area to the park (there is a fee to drive in and park). This is just after 5 a.m., stopped in the middle of the road with my headlights on without a soul around.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 02The shot of the morning sun bathing the Bells and the lakeside valley below is “the” essential picture to get. And one can usually find a good handful of serious photographer always setting up and getting this shot any given morning.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 03Being the animal lover that I am, I was fascinated by the photo of geese floating about in the reflection of the peaks as we waited for the sun. Needless to say, the geese have it good in this particular lake.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 04Seeing the moon still hanging over one side of the lake, high above, was an interesting contrast with the sun rising quickly behind me.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 05I’m still learning the finer art of light control and struggled a bit to keep focus on the peaks but still avoid washing out the Bells themselves with the bright sun and snow reflection. This shot ironically was the best one of the bunch for this vantage point and it was taken with my iPhone.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 06I was enthralled by the lake itself. It was perfectly clear and the reflection of the trees on the mountains beside it was serene. My next trip back here (hopefully in the fall or winter) would definitely include more focus on these views.

2017-06-16 Maroon Bells 07On leaving the park, I turned around to take one last look, and even though it’s not the usual composition, it’s my favorite shot of the Bells.

2017-06-16 Glenwood Springs 02After a hearty breakfast in Aspen and a nearly 3 hour rest while the hottest part of the day passed, the next stop was back to Glenwood Springs.

A quick trip to Linwood Cemetery include a chance to see the final resting places of Doc Holliday and Kid Curry.

2017-06-16 Kings Row Cavern 01The end of the evening held a 45 minute trip through the Kings Row Caverns at the Glenwood Adventure Park. A 10 minute gondola ride took us up to the park which sites on the top of  a hill.

2017-06-16 Kings Row Cavern 02The caverns (there were 2 tours that can be chosen from or taken one after another) were really interesting. Just long enough to make it worth your tickets but not so long that you get anxious for being underground.

2017-06-16 Kings Row Cavern 03The varying shades of rock and sediment were endless. I was torn between simply listening to the tour guide and looking with my own eyes and remembering to take pictures. Truly fascinating and was so much more than just these three photos convey.

2017-06-16 Glenwood Springs Hwy 82 01It was a very, very long day with other stops and driving between locations, but worth it. I snagged this shot when we pulled to the side of the road to photograph a particular mountain in the other direction, but I found the valley so peaceful and with so much detail, I couldn’t help but focus in that direction.

Rocky Mountain Getaway – Day 1

This month included the opportunity to take off a few days of work for a 3 day getaway into the Snowmass/Aspen, Colorado areas. En route there, a hiking trip happened near Glenwood Springs to see Hanging Lake.

2017-06-15 Glenwood Canyon 01The mouth of Glenwood Canyon heading towards Hanging Lake. There’s a well-kept rest area with restrooms there. Word of advice: Bring water.

Surprisingly, vibrant pink rose bushes line the sidewalk towards the hiking trail. Despite the lovely flowers here, the consistent small waterfalls and creeks that spill over rocks the entire way up, you are going to hike hard and sweat a lot. So bring that water. And there were¬†Marmots! I had never seen one before. Like little nerf footballs, with fur…and legs!

2017-06-15 Glenwood Canyon 05Parts of the trail up to and down from Hanging Lake were never flat and sometimes quite rocky.

2017-06-15 Glenwood Canyon 06The views become more canyon-like the higher you climb as you near the top and the lake. Most hikers will encourage you on as they descend, assuring you it’s worth it.

2017-06-15 Hanging Lake 01And then you arrive. After the strenuous hike, you’re not sure if you’ve just been transported to a tropical island somewhere. Truly, how can this be at the top of a mountain in the middle of Colorado?

2017-06-15 Hanging Lake 02Carbonate minerals dissolved in the water give the lake it’s coloration. I had to look that up as I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s the limestone or other factors, but I didn’t know what exactly produced that gorgeous water.

2017-06-15 Hanging Lake 03Small trout swim in the shallows against the current coming from the waterfalls and are hypnotic to watch when you’re catching your breath on one of the many wood benches that line the lakeside.

Oahu, Hawaii

Another travel photo gallery I’ve needed to relocate from a prior page here on the blog so I’m posting it here to avoid losing it. I ventured to Hawaii, specifically the island of Oahu in 2010. Return trip? Yes please!