Happy 2017

It’s been a while since I posted here; life has been more in the photography-realm, and as such I’ve been posting more on www.ptanphoto.com

It’s been a great start to the year so far though. Very active. We ushered in January on the Overland Track, and we saw the close of the month on Mount Kosciuszko. If we have a goal for 2017, it is to do a lot more hiking and camping. May this be the year of enjoying and appreciating nature. 🙂

Turned another year older today as well. But after the amazing hike we just did, all I wanted to do today was relax and chill. So we just slept in, luxuriously, then had a dim sum brunch and napped again. In the evening, we turned on the grill and slapped on some steak, which we washed down with a beautiful bottle of Malbec and grilled corn and mango salad.

Thanks Jeff. 🙂

Kick-starting my 2017 goal

One of my goals for the upcoming year is to do my first ocean swim in Australia, from Manly to Shelly Beach and back.

To be honest, the distance isn’t really a problem. I just have this irrational fear of swimming in the ocean. And it’s completely irrational, given that I had a blast swimming in Croatia, and generally enjoy snorkeling and love scuba diving. I even look forward to seeing sharks underwater. 

It feels different somehow though, when the focus isn’t on looking out for marine life but just covering ground. I’m afraid that if I’m not paying attention, something sinister can come out from the depths, be it sharks or blue bottles. Then there’s the currents and riptides to contend with. And waves. Hahah.

Oh well baby steps. So, kicking off pool training for the moment, to get the confidence that I can cover the distance.

And although I haven’t really swum in forever, I managed a decent 2.5k swim today, after I clocked off work for the last day this year. Woot! Gotta focus on ramping up speed next too. 

It will be ok, hopefully

​Grateful for the opportunity Thursday to step away from the office and hit the open road to Wollongong to test drive a series of Audis. 

Like Obama said, the one certain thing is that the sun will rise – and it did, after heavy thunderstorms last night. It will rain again tomorrow and over the next couple of days, but on Thursday, feeling the wind in our hair and seeing baby whales joyously breaching in front of the harbor, gave us hope. 

People may suck, but nature is glorious. There in of itself, is hope.

How did we end up here

It’s not even so much that an ignoramus with clearly no interest in foreign or domestic policy gets elected (because even though the GOP has managed to sweep both the house and the senate, you’d hope there’s still enough checks/balances in government).

It’s more the fact that there’s still so many bigots / xenophobes / racists / sexists in the country that depresses the hell out of me.

Did we just move back 50 years as a nation? What will happen to the rights of women, gays, minorities? What will happen to the economy? What will happen to democracy? Or is democracy completely overrated?

Happy

What a beautiful, glorious day. I actually woke up at 420am, intending to catch the sunrise. But I’m a huge sucker for clouds at sunrise, and there wasn’t any to be seen this morning – just the stars. 

So I messaged C and we rearranged to soak in the sun instead, five hours later. 

We took a long, leisurely stroll around our neighborhood, through bushes, quiet residential streets with the lovely purple blooms of jaracandas, and wound up sitting alfresco at a cafe for brunch and Bellini. 

One of those days where, even if you didn’t do much, you feel so intensely alive, and happy. To see the clear blue skies overhead, watch the sparkle of the water below, feel the cool breeze on your face, and smell the gentle fragrance of flowers in bloom.

An interesting Spit to Balmoral Paddle

Joined a new meetup group today for some paddling, because Jeff is out of town and the group I usually paddle with was fully booked. 

We met bright and early at Spit Bridge. The original plan was to do a long full day paddle, with a beach BBQ in the middle, but the winds were strong, and expected to pick up as the day went by – gusts of up to 50km/h. So the new plan was to just do a 2 hour paddle to Balmoral and back. 

Sounded easy enough, and so our 12 boats, a mix of singles and doubles took off. But it quickly became apparent that this was no leisurely stroking in the sun. At certain points I had to physically punch into the wind to move forward. Still, everyone got to the nude beach Obelisk Beach upright.

It was when we turned back that things started going awry. The organizer was towing a lady who was out on the water for her very first time – and in a single! – so he went ahead. The rest of the group was quickly spread out, everyone intent on trying to staying afloat. Then the first boat capsized, a double. I tried to steer towards them to help, but even as I did so, I could feel my boat wobble dangerously in the waves. I saw another double kayak sprint towards them, so I decided to concentrate on trying to save myself.

When I next turned around, the other kayakers that had kept even with me were now out of sight. Uhoh. 

I caught up to the organizer who was looking increasingly anxious, so I took over the towing from him while he doubled back to round up everyone else. 

Thankfully, as we struggled back towards shore, a couple rescue boats came zipping by, and in minutes, had on board the kayakers who had capsized and couldn’t get back into their vessels.

When we finally reached shore, the tally: 4 boats capsized – of which 3 needed tows back in; the 1 lady that needed help from the beginning; and the 1 guy who called it quits at Balmoral Beach and flagged a cab back to Spit instead.

But the sun was shining and nobody was freaked out. Which was really quite incredible! Everyone had the most positive of attitudes, even the first timer who couldn’t tell which way was up on her paddle. And so we spread out our picnic blankets in the sun and had a delightful BBQ.

All’s well that ends well. 🙂

Start of alfresco dining

alfresco dining love

I’ve been down fighting a cold for the past two weeks, and it seems, half the Australian population as well. But the weather is improving, and yesterday was such a beautiful day that we couldn’t let it go to waste.

So we finally strung up the hammock and invited our friend over to hang out. Nothing like good wine, mouth watering grilled barramundi on banana leaves over the barbie, to bring the promise of summer.

Catching Vivid 2016

The verdict’s unanimous – Vivid this year rocks. That’s what everyone has been raving about at any rate, even jaded photographers online who say they are otherwise tired of jostling with the crowds.

So I checked it out. Once, on Wednesday, when I walked home from work. Through Circular Quay and up the Sydney Harbor Bridge. And another time last night with friends. We walked to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair first, thinking that we’d be able to cut across the Botanical Gardens to the Opera House, but it turns out they’d only opened a small portion of the Botanical Gardens for the light festival, so we had to walk the long way around. Still, despite the crowds, it was a beautiful evening to be out.

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View from Mrs Macquarie's Chair

View from Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

Loved the video projections on the tree, very Avatar-esque

Loved the video projections on the tree, very Avatar-esque

Intel had a drone light display

Intel had a drone light display

The cathedral of light walk

The cathedral of light walk

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Weekend in the Blue Mountains

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Lithgow Glow Worm Tunnel

We went up to the Blue Mountains last weekend. Because we had made plans to meet friends at the Three Sisters lookout at Echo Point early Sunday morning, I decided we could make a weekend of it and go camping. And get both the Lithgow glow worm tunnel and astrophotography checked off at the same time. Heh.

The forecast was rainy earlier in the day Saturday, but I figured since our main agenda during the day was the glow worm tunnel where it’s covered, a bit of rain did not matter. In any case, by the time we made it 30km past the bumpy gravel road to the trail, the rain had stopped.

The glow worms in the tunnel are much smaller – and sparser – than the giant ones we saw in Waitomo caves New Zealand. So much so that on our first pass through the tunnel, we completely missed them. But once we turned off our headlamps and stood a few seconds in the pitch blackness to adjust our eyes, we could see the blueish glow. Faint, but visible. And I’m stoked I finally managed to get a couple pictures of them.

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Night sky at Perryman’s Lookdown

By the time we finished our walk, night had fallen. We drove in the darkness back out to Blackheath, and ducked into the first restaurant we saw for dinner. Ashcroft Bistro – awesome food, and better money spent than on a couple of overpriced beds. Haha. In fact, we made it back to the restaurant the next morning at 8am!

Initially, I’d picked out Ignar Campsite near Wentworth to set up camp for the night, but given that it’d rained the day before and the reviews warned of a boggy road to the grounds, I decided to scout around for another site. There was Blackheath Glen right around the corner, and a short drive away to Govett’s Leap lookout for good astrophotography. But it was a built up campsite and we wanted something a bit more rustic, so we checked out Perryman’s Lookdown. By then the clouds had miraculously cleared and I was able to get off a couple quick snapshots of the milky way before we retreated to our little strip of woods to set up camp.

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I love our new lightweight tent, but geez, I was somewhat chilly the entire night even in my -15 degree bag. The temperatures went down to as low as 1 degree, just above freezing, but I’ve really acclimatized to the temperate New South Wales weather!

Perrymans Lookdown Camping-5342

And in the morning, we made it back out Echo Point in time to catch up with our friends, especially H who is visiting from Singapore for the week. The sun came out in full blast too. What a glorious day!

 

An Italian afternoon in Annandale

This past Sunday, I surprised Jeff with a four hour cooking class at Cucina Italiana, where we would learn how to make pasta, risotto, chicken scallopini, and coffee semifreddo.

I’d no idea what the structure of the class would be really, imagining that we might have our own stations and be in charge of whipping up our own three course meals from start to finish. But because ours was quite a sizable class of 18 or so people spread out all over owner Luciana’s kitchen, we really only got our hands dirty making the dough for the pasta, then turning it through the pasta machine to make tagliatelle and ravioli. Luciana demonstrated the techniques and process for the rest of the steps.

While we would have loved to have been more hands-on, we had a thoroughly enjoyable time soaking in Luciana’s tips, tricks, and nuggets about traditional Italian cooking. Her demeanor and humor also reminded us of those nostalgic evenings in Bill St John’s cellar, learning about all things wine.

We got to feast on our creations in Luciana’s long dining room with its elaborate ceiling mouldings. Between the decor, traditional Italian food, and copious amounts of Italian wine, we felt transported back to Italy. What bliss.

Afterwards, we went away with our own pasta maker, and a box of risotto. Monday evening, before our Game of Thrones night with C, we whipped out a batch of dough from Sunday’s class and rolled our some tagliatelle. Yum.

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