9 Nov 2019

The Big Dry

It was a a big family celebration in Port Macquarie last weekend. We were very fortunate that our plans were not derailed by bushfires. There was a huge fire burning south of Port Macquarie and another one to the north of Taree but the wind was blowing the smoke down the coast and it was enveloping Newcastle, the Central Coast and Sydney and the Pacific Highway was open. If we had been travelling this weekend it would be a very different story with catastrophic fires in the area closing the Pacific Highway and many other roads and destroying many properties. The problem is that the bush is tinder dry and even rainforests, which by definition are usually damp, are now dry and ready to burn.
After the weekend we headed inland into New England and up to Armidale. The original plan had been to drive the wonderful Oxley Highway from Wauchope up to Walcha and then onto Armidale. This is one of my favourite driving roads but it was shut due to a number of fires. So we headed north on the Pacific Highway and then onto a good substitute -the Waterfall Way via Bellingen, Dorrigo and Ebor to Armidale-a 298 km drive and there was virtually no traffic on the road once we had passed Dorrigo.
It's a beautiful part of the country. Vast National Parks on the Great Dividing Range and many waterfalls. Well there would be waterfalls if there had been rain but sadly the drought means that most of the waterfalls are dry or reduced to just a trickle.
The impact of the drought goes far beyond the poor farmers and the rivers. The towns are really suffering. Shops have closed and long faces are everywhere It is very tough time for people dependant on the land for their livelyhood.  Many cattle and sheep are on the Long Paddock-meaning they are grazing on the vegetation on the edge of the roads. Out in the paddocks cattle and sheep are being fed expensive bought in feed.
Although the coastal strip to the east of the Dividing Range is in drought some areas are quite green due to recent rain and as we drove back home on the superb Thunderbolts Way from Armidale to Gloucester we passed through one area which was really green. A local in the general store at tiny Nowendoc explained that this was due to a localised snowfall being slow to melt a few months earlier.
It was unseasonally cold and windy whilst we were in New England but there was no snow and the  light was, as always wonderful, and the sky was big. Here are my photos from the inland journey.

A green area on the Waterfalls Way north of Dorrigo looking south west towards the Gumbaynggin National Park

Ebor Falls on the Waterfalls Way. Usual a roaring torrent now just a trickle.

Roadsign for northern hemisphere tourists

Abandoned threshing machine near Dangersleigh south of Armidale

Mailbox for 133

Dangars Gorge, Oxley Wild Rivers NP. There was just a small pond of water under the huge drop which should be a waterfall.The gorge is a refuge for the brush-tailed rock wallaby but I was there too late in the morning to spot any.

Beautiful bush vegetation -above Dangars Gorge.
Abandoned farm buildings on road out from Dangars Gorge.

Where sheep may safely graze.Near Dangersleigh.

Werona Station, near Gostwyck

Near Gostwyck.

Cressbrook merinos


South of Nowendoc on the Thunderbolts Way.
Leica X Vario photos.

30 Oct 2019

Chromefest 2019

It was Chromefest-Hot Rod Festival- at The Entrance last weekend. It was HUGE. Much bigger than previous years. The weather on Friday and Saturday was not kind-very hot and windy. I chose to go on Sunday which was an ideal temperature and calm but the crowds were really big and getting good photos was very difficult . At the end of the day I came home with just two worthwhile photos-above and below-. All the car and bike shots were very ordinary with people everywhere. Not every egg is a bird. I'll probably give it a miss next year.

Leica Q photos

25 Oct 2019

A beautiful day

As regular readers of the blog may recollect I go for an early morning walk whenever I can and wherever I am. I have been doing this for as long as I can remember. The walk is usually 30-45mins and as well as keeping me fit I find it an excellent way to do some basic exploration of foreign places.
 I even went for a 45 minute nearly every day at 5.30am round the corridors of the cardiac floor of the Royal North Shore Hospital when I was confined there in mid 2017. It was very repetitive but I am convinced that it was good for me.
At home here in Terrigal most mornings the walk is sheer joy. It is better in summer with the lighter morning but even in the depths of our (mild) winters I find it worthwhile.
This morning the walk was joy plus. The promise was for a very hot day-36ºC+ -and even at 5.45am it was very warm. The sunrise was spectacular and there were a lot of people out walking even at the early hour. Australians are early risers a fact that was bought home to me recently in Portugal and Spain when at 6.00am I was walking totally empty streets apart from the street sweepers.
I used to take a camera out with me every morning here in Terrigal but over the last 12 months I have tended to leave the camera at home and to concentrate on keeping up a very brisk pace. Today was an exception and I took my Leica X1. I managed two photos shown here . The first is looking north from the path to the Haven . A man and his dog are silhoutted against the sea on the rocks below . The two kayaks in the sea are in fact seagoing fishing kayaks with some keen fisherman paddling them.
The second photo below was taken over the bay next to the Skillion. To make the morning even more special there was a whale swimming across this sunrise. Its fin appeared a few times but not long enough for me to include it in the photo. That really would have been a bonus.
It wasn't all lollypops and roses this morning. The flies were terrible and it was all I could do to swat them away and to keep them out of my ears. All the other walkers I saw on the cliff top coastal walk were also doing the Australian salute swatting the flies.
The day has turned out to be as hot as promised. Hopefully it will cool down overnight as on Saturdays I walk with others from the Terrigal Trotters. As the name implies the Trotters are a long established running group which does a run ever Saturday morning at 6.00am starting from the Terrigal Surf Club. Older members, and that includes, me walk.

Photos taken with my Leica X1 and colours and saturation have not been enhanced or changed in Lightroom.

23 Oct 2019

People from my travels

The great thing about travelling for me is the people I meet along the way. Often we are able to chat because fortunately so many Europeans are able to speak English. Often they speak so well that I am truly embarassed. Telling people that I am Australian is always a great conversation starter .
On the recent trip to Portugal and Spain I meet many friendly locals and some interesting tourists particular when I was on the Camino route to Santiago de Compostela.
Here is a selection of the people photos from the journey.

Four friends sharing a coat on a surprisingly cool early morning in Lisbon.

The proprietor of the Madeira Store, Lisbon.

Sitting in the afternoon sun, Flor Da Rosa, Portugal.

"Not sure that the hat suits you". Market, Barcelos, Portugal.

Portevedra,Spain. The ham was superb. She gave me a few pieces to try. Nice lady.

Old friends passing the time, Portevedra,Spain.

Prawns, market  Portevedra.

Garlic seller, Portevedra.

Pilgrims at journey's end, in the cathedral square Santiago de Compostela

Nun photograhing the cathedral entrance, Santiago de Compostela.

German pilgrims, Santiago de Compostelo.

Market, Santiago de Compostelo.
All photos taken with my Leica Q

15 Oct 2019

Big sky country

On the road again. Yesterday early morning classic Porsche run with Colin and Craig. Up the Yarramalong Valley, stop at Jerry's in Kulnura for an espresso and a Portugese tart. Then up to Wollombi, then on to Broke and ending up at Enzo's in Pokolbin for coffee and a bite. Then back the same route. Beautiful day. A 350km round trip and only two vehicles on the road ahead of us for the main part of the drive.
Big blue sky, some green in the paddocks at last, fabulous empty driving roads and a classic Porsche perhaps running better than when it left the factory. Perfection.

14 Oct 2019


The Spanish word,Tetilla, means literally little tits and is the name given to a cheese sold in the Galician region of northern Spain. Its flavour is creamy and slightly salty, its texture is fine and its colour yellowish ivory, although undoubtedly its greatest characteristic is the peculiar breast-like shape that gives it its name. It is a long established local speciality and its very distinctive shape was not in fact modelled on Madonnas conical bra.
Photo above taken in the market in Santiago da Compostela where the lady below was selling this fine selection of tetilla.

10 Oct 2019

Local sights

The sight of swooping swallows early in the evening is a very Portugese sight. If Portugal has a national bird surely it is the swallow. There are ceramic swallows on walls and every old archway, bridge or overhand seems to have little mud nests with, if you seem them in spring, little beaks sticking out of them. The swallows furiously circle looking for insects which they bring back to the young in the nests.
Photo above swallows nests in the entrance to the Mosteiro do Crato in Flor da Rosa. The castle/monastery is both a national monument and a stylish hotel -a Pousada-photo below. Our room was in one of the turrets of the monastery.

4 Oct 2019


I first visited Lisbon back in 2016. It was a latecomer to my list of "must visit" cities. I loved it then. It was a place I could easily have lived in-if I spoke Portugese that is. It is historic, stylish and had real character and most importantly for me it had largely escaped gentrification. Real people lived in the city particularly the old quarter, Alfama. See photo below.
Back in 2016 there were plenty of tourists in Lisbon but they had not swamped the city.
When we visited Lisbon in 2018 we felt that it had changed and in particular the number of tourists seemed to have increased exponentially due to the number of cruise ships making day stops and new airline routes opening up. Lisbon Airport passengers had increased by 9.0% in 2018 over 2017 and I am sure 2019 will see a similar increase.
Lisbon had become a "hot" tourist destination and also due to the relatively low property prices and the attractiveness of the city a fashionable place to invest and live. Even Madonna has purchased a "pad" -actually a minor palace-in Sintra outside Lisbon.
This year's visit, last month, was a shock. Lisbon is being swamped by tourists. There were three huge cruise ships visiting on one day of our visit. This probably meant a minimum of 12,000 passengers arriving right in the centre of the city. The airport is flat out around the clock. Early in the morning and in the evening you can see the aircraft landing lights as they line up coming into land. The airport is bedlam. The buses and trams are packed. The traffic is as bad as Sydney. And new building, gentrification and rebuilding is everywhere. The old Lisbon is disappearing fast. My dream city has disappeared.

Alfama, old quarter Lisbon in 2016. I suspect this scene has gone.
A TAP jet en route to Lisbon airport. There is another one coming in on the left just out of the frame
Essential Lisbon-the wonderful trams.
The wonderful trams are still there and are still a valued means of transport for the residents as well as a major tourist drawcard. I love the Lisbon trams. But beware of pickpockets and hold on tight.

Many old shops and cafes are still there but many others are being forced out and replaced by multinationals. How can the Portugese with their love of coffee possible tolerate having Starbucks in their lovely capital ?
A favourite shop for us in Lisbon is the tiny Madeira Shop on Praca Dom Pedro. It is tiny but it is in a prime position and the proprietor and his wife-pictured below-have run it since 1959. They are both over 80 and serve in the shop every day-although their daughter does "help out". The Madeira Shop sells beautiful handmade products from the Portugese island of Madeira. The shop is so modest from the outside that most passers by would miss it and as the owner explained to us nowadays very few people appreciate hand made products and prefer to buy something cheap made in China or stiched together by child labour in a sweatshop in Bangladesh rather than an item lovingly crafted by hand. We have bought at the Madeira Shop on every visit but sadly I fear that its days are numbered.

The tiny Madeira shop
The owners of the Madeira shop
Nicola cafe. Vintage Lisbon. Close to the Madeira shop.
Sunrise in Lisbon.
On our three visits to Lisbon we have stayed at a wonderful little hotel near the National Museum of Antiquities. It is away from the centre in a quiet neighbourhood but very close to bus and tram routes. Nearby is a set of steps down to the waterfront. As usual I was up at the crack of dawn-in fact before dawn-when I came across this scene above with the old guy watching a glorious sunrise. He started talking to me and seemed to be completely unconcerned that I could not understand a word he was saying. I said "Australiano" and pointed at myself but he jabbered on. Perhaps he thought that we speak Portugese downunder.

2 Oct 2019

Home again.

 Back home after a glorious three weeks driving in N Portugal and into N Spain. Jet lagged and tired from all the travel but I don't deserve sympathy I know. The older you get the worse the jet lagged seems although strangely it hardly affects me at all on the way out.
Lots to do to get the house and particularly the garden into shape again.
I've started on the task of sorting out my photos from the trip and here's the first one showing parking Spanish style on the street in Portavedra. This driver could not find a space close to the main shopping street so he did what came naturally-he parked on the pavement, on a corner, back wheels on a pedestrian crossing and front wheels on a no parking yellow line. In mitigation he did put his hazard warning lights on. This car was parked like this for at least 40 minutes as the streets came to life after the afternoon siesta shutdown and there was not a sign of a parking infringement notice.

23 Sep 2019

Portugal -part 3


 The final tranche of my look back at photos from my earlier Portugese travels.