Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My final stop on the Australia itinerary had nothing whatsoever to do with work... for once. In a last-minute miracle of scheduling, solid flight prices and a cognitive decision on my part, or both our parts, to breathe, my dear, dear friend Justin flew around the world to meet me (ok, ok, and his family too) in Tasmania.

Justin's father, Dr. Brian Herman, relocated to Tassie over 5 years ago to continue practicing cardiology. Justin makes an annual visit and was kind enough to invite me to come check out Launceston, Tassie's 2nd largest "city".

A lot of sheep. A lot of trees. A lot of farm.

I'd love to write more, but at the moment am in the middle of a Cirque du Soleil load-in at MSG. Byyye for now!

Photo: Sunset from Dr. Herman's back window.

If a red door welcomes opportunity, what does a big red door mean? Justin, maybe you'd like to field this question, based on your experience with this door?

In any case, welcome to Tasmania where big doors stand alone!

Loving parent attempting to communicate with wandering daughter on October 7th, 2009:

Have you left for Tasmania yet? What adventures have you had?



Mere hours later...

"Tsunami warning for Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia" - Like I need your mother to see this scrolling along the bottom of the screen on the 10:00 news! What's the scoop? Whatever it is, stay safe! Remember, the shot is not worth it if you don't get to publish it!



True Dad, true.

Photo: Getting off the plane in Launceston, Tasmania.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunset from the patio... probably right around the time Angus was whipping up some delightful homemade Vietnamese cuisine and I stepped outside to collect my drool.

As mentioned a while back, my stay in a cozy harbor-front apartment (again, arranged so perfectly by Mr. Brad Hayward) was cut rather short due to an angry anarchist/feminist cat from Bushwick, Brooklyn. I'm honestly not sure which part of that I like least. Clearly kitty and I didn't jive too well, which for better or for worse, left me vagabonding it through Kings Cross. After a few nights swapping from hotels to hostels, my dear friend Andy was kind enough to connect me with his step-brother up in Neutral Bay, on the other side of the Harbor Bridge, who happened to be willing to take in a stray American.

Thus I was introduced to Sydney: Act II's lovely cast of characters: Ben, Tanes, Angus and Nadia. Ben and Tanes came to pick me up (in my favorite car ever - Jeep Wrangler/manual trans) at a cozy wi-fi cafe on Elizabeth Bay Road and took me for my first drive across the Harbor Bridge en route to the apartment.

Arriving at Ben's place, I stepped out on his patio to see this view of the city. Pretty cool neighborhood, pretty cool view, pretty cool... music library! First order of business? Commence the music swapping party!

As the great Malibu* might say, "Takin a little brewski, holdin' onto a hard drive full of music and I'mmm fiiiinnnne today."

*Running joke for the past 7 months or so - link courtesy of John.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lord Nelson Hotel, Sydney's oldest pub, or "hotel" as they call them. Such a wonderful establishment. Fire place, crafted beers and delicious meat pies with mushy peas! Brad was such an excellent tour guide that I was often left speechless with delight. So, let's hear it for Brad, history, beer, traditional cuisine and long, cold walks through the rain to reach fabulous destinations!

"Horatio the ghost requests that you do not hog the fire."

Horatio and I were obviously snuggled up close, telling stories by the fire place, right below this plaque, as this genius (who packed in August and was unsure if she was spending a month in Los Angeles or a month in Australia) didn't have enough warm clothes for what was jarringly colder and wetter than expected.

View of Harbor Bridge and Opera House from ferry.

Sydney kind of looks like Pittsburgh from this angle. Fireworks in celebration of the beginning of the Sydney Food and Wine Festival.

Sydney in the background. I'll have to get Brad to remind me (again) of this particular bay's name. I'm a terrible journalist.

We can finally skip to Sydney as I'm having technical difficulty retrieving my photos from Cape Tribulation and the like. In a way, that's a good thing as I've already managed to make my way back to New York for yet again, my most jam-packed insanely busy weeks of the year. On that note, if I don't call/see you, you know why. And no, no it's not what you think it is. I haven't decided to go to Australia three days before I'm supposed to leave... again.

Hopefully, between Cirque and a bunch of music (including the most epic rock show of the year), I will have some stellar imagery for you in the future.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I really dislike this time constraint nonsense. Too many stories, not enough days.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

Overcoming fears one wild snake at a time. That is not my hand, but I held it too!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sweeeeeppppy. This roo is straight up passed. out.

Dearest Cait,

I searched and searched the Great Barrier Reef for the elusive magenta fish known as Queen Cait III, but was unfortunately unable to locate her. However, this photo reminded me of Maria and/or you, so I thought you would appreciate it all the same. I can't wait until you come to NYC again.



Hi Bird. You're not a flamingo, but I'll let it slide.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sunrise over Port Douglas, our next base camp for exploring Cape Tribulation, just up the coast.

(If you might be wondering why I don't have a photograph of our aforementioned aboriginal friend, Ernie, it's because I have the tendency to be a moron. I made the conscious decision to leave my camera in the car as our day was packed (waterfalls, navigating seriously unknown territory, quiches, putting out figurative fires of varying degrees) and I didn't think I'd have much time to shoot the way I wanted to. Big mistake. I sat through the whole interview intently staring at this man's hands. They were beautiful, seemingly over-worked, but still so gentle. The way he held them, laying his right over his left and loosely grabbing his knuckles made me just want to clasp my hands over his... or photograph them for three hours. I did neither. So you get yet another sun(rise/set) photo.)

I usually don't post images of places I stay (mmm perhaps because they don't usually look like this?), but it was outrageously kind of the Australian Tourism Board to put us up in a gorgeous three-bedroom serviced condo for our stay in Port Douglas on the next part of the trip. With outdoor BBQ, private pool and spa, it was nice to come back to such unexpected luxury after days of hiking. Since we had Andy, our dear friend, trusty guide and coincidentally the chef from Mike Ball's dive live-aboard, along for this trip, we ended our stay in Port Douglas with his magic hands grilling up some kangaroo, lamb and steak. As we were dining at the table, it was one of those moments where I didn't want to be anywhere else.

For more information and much better photos, please visit

Trust me, my standard jungle hike accommodations usually include two tarps, some twine and a few sticks (They didn't call me MacGyver for nothing), so this was certainly a bit of a change.

Thank you again to the Australian Tourism Board for all of your kind assistance.

Color negative of another Vuarnet image. Purposefully left the rim in frame. Though not my favorite of all the Vuarnet shots, I still like it. You can see where the sun is by the density of the color. If you look closely at the various color changes, you can also see where one mountain level begins and another ends. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, look at how many colors are in the lower right corner. That's how well these glasses pull depth.

Millaa Millaa Waterfall. The first of three waterfalls on the circuit below the Tablelands.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spotlighting wrapped up our day out and about with the wonderful Wet Tropics' experts, Julia, Martin and Paul. Now... we were on our own exploration of what the Wet Tropics World Heritage area had to offer.

First stop? A drive south to visit an aboriginal and a waterfall circuit.

If you're wondering why I didn't post a picture of a (real) kangaroo crossing, it's because I don't have one. Each time I found a (real) kangaroo crossing sign, we were always in the middle of the highway. My dive partner would refuse to pull over. Not that I blame him that much, but that meant I had to settle for the above.

As I later learned, tree kangaroos are actually more adorable than real ones and probably far less delicious... on that note, did you know that you can eat kangaroo? And that it is the world's leanest and most protein-packed meat?

"Freeze possum punk!"

Caught red-handed (or red-eyed I should say), this one...

Part 37 of this adventure? Spotlighting for possums climbing high in the forest canopy up on the Tablelands. Spotlighting, of course, is also just as it sounds. You get a giant spotlight and scan the trees until you catch a flash of red nestled in the branches. It's like hide-and-seek for naturalists!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Next on our to-do list was a visit to the Tolga Bat Hospital in Atherton. Aside from noticing that these little buggers were much more adorable than imagined, we were taught a bit about the speckled flying foxes. Since the mid-1980s, the species has been under stress from tick paralysis. This affliction is just as it sounds... a tick bites them and in a matter of hours, the bat is paralyzed.

Volunteers spend hours scouring the Tablelands for paralyzed bats, with the good intention of bringing them (via cozy baskets) to the bat hospital where the decision is made to treat or euthanize.

A lot of this to me seems, unlike the fire-proof trees below, not according basic principles of Darwin. I'm not quite sure why we are interfering so much with nature, but maybe I don't quite understand as well as I should. Maybe it's because some humans care about one aspect too much. Cute and playful does not mean fit to be in the environment forever. I'm sure they play a large role in the ecosystem in northern Australia, but if they disappear, doesn't nature adapt?

Photo: A speckled flying fox being treated with anti-toxin at the Tolga Bat Hospital.

Flying Fox, flying fox, does whatever a flying fox does...

Hangs upside down, of course!

Bearing slight resemblance to a gremlin, this micro bat...

Look! It's Eddie Munster!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

After our explorative hike on Mt. Lewis, our next destination was the Atherton Tablelands. While the above is not a part of the Tablelands, it is indicative of the kind of burning Cairns and its surrounding areas have been experiencing in the past few weeks. Sooo why are the trees still a) standing and b) green? Many of the trees in the area have actually become fire resistant, thus hindering a fire's progress. 

I found these burnt landscapes to be beautifully Darwinian and certainly worth a roadside stop. You just want to shout out, "F-I-R-E you ain't got no strategy, go trees! Go! Go! GO TREES!" (Everyone has roots, you know... haha... get it? I was a cheerleader? Trees? Roots? Ha!) Furthermore, I think fire-resistant anything is awesome.

On an loosely related note, we get Monday Night Football  in Tasmania! (My current location, which at this rate, I'll get to blogging about it in March of 2010). I also ate a hot dog. Partially because it was was running under the guise of a sausage and moreso because it was free. What can I say, I'm a woman of principle. 

Note: Compare the above photo to the below. Drastic landscape change, eh?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The water atop Mt. Lewis is so pure and cold, you can splash some on your face thennnnn refill your water bottle... 28 times.

This little American misses her outdoor activities... who wants to go hiking/fishing/camping when I get back? Ok, we'll hike now and camp/fish in the Spring. Sounds great.

Right place, right minutes.

Some serious hiking through pathless, dense rainforest. I don't know how I always find myself in jungles in snake-infested countries, but somehow, I do. And guess what. I have yet to have a run-in with one of those slithering, fanged goobers. Knock on wood, of course. The closest I've ever come was a recently dead 8-foot-long (didn't stick around to ask what species) on the side of the road in Siargao, Philippines annnnd that was terrible enough.

While in Australia, however, I've been working on my serpent fear. In fact, I held a wild tree snake while in Port Douglas. So a handler was holding its head. Big deal. Baby steps, Alli, baby steps.

Martin's fingers with another cool forest item. This time, it's edible! Well, I suppose, the lizard was also edible, but I had plenty of eating live things with legs on Lizard Island. What did I eat, you may ask? Ants. Green ants. Mmmmm tangy! Hey, if someone asks me, "Have you ever eaten an ant?" I'll never have to say no again!

On another note, this forest plum was pretty good too.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Good with colors. Not shapes.

Only about 100 people have ever trotted up the mountain to this point atop Mt. Lewis just north of Cairns. I'm quite grateful to Julia of the Wet Tropics Management Authority and her zoologist partner Martin for allowing us up with them. These guys not only know their territories, but also are photographers as well. I usually don't like wandering with so many cameras, but roaming with cameras that will get down in the dirt with me? Much respect.

Photo: Martin getting a low-angle of the landscape.

Top of Mt. Lewis. Despite the cloudy, dusty, smokey views we had prior, we finally reached an altitude where the view, flora and fauna were not affected

Trek through rainforest, changing lenses every 5 steps... Holy macro!  Oh wide shot! Macro! Wide! Portrait! Wide! Macro! 

Finally we move on to the Wet Tropics section of this trip. Again, I will apologize for being delayed in posting as it's definitely not how I prefer to write. 

When we departed from the live-aboard, our itinerary was instantly filled with rainforest. Rainforest and more rainforest. Unfortunately for many of our photos, we are in the dry season of Australia and unexpectedly, one of the worst in years. That means a lot of brush fire. Coupled with the outrageous dust storm that hit Sydney when we were diving, let's just say that many photos were not as bright as anticipated.

This little guy, being held by one of our local wildlife/terrain experts, Martin, is not what looks like a salamander, but a lizard. In fact, Australia doesn't have salamanders, which I took as a major bummer. It's ok though, because this little guy is awesome. He's a tiny bit iridescent! Like our shower curtain in NYC!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Sunset over the Coral Sea through the Vuarnets. Pretty rad.

How many bananas do we rate this one, Mr. McClellan?

So much to say, but not many words to say it. If you look close enough, you can see mainland Australia.


Without fail, these extended trips abroad are always good for creating more questions rather than answering them. Again, I find myself reflecting on life in New York and the importance of home whilst I'm thousands of miles away. I know what I'm doing there, but what AM I doing there? What IS success? A life on an Eco-friendly dive live-aboard seems pretty darn great too. Eat, dive, read, sleep for two weeks on end, one week off to bungee-jump, surf, travel, eat. Rinse, repeat.

Ready for the crazy part though? As wonderful as all that sounds, for the first time in my life, I miss my roommates. I miss one of my best friends who is in the process of planning her wedding. I miss another best friend who works her butt off for a crazy music biz mogul in LA. I miss another who's spent the last month working on the set of Tony Scott's latest movie that's filming in Central PA. I miss another who just moved herself by car from San Francisco to Boston. I miss another down in Tennessee who I've not seen since junior year of college and yet another I see almost everyday. I miss another who I have no idea what she's doing other than bouncing around from NYC to Pittsburgh and one who I've been dancing with for most of my existence. I miss Manhattan. I miss the Garden. I miss my assortment of fall/winter coats. 

I miss family.

I will say, however, that I've been fortunate enough to find family in each city I've been in thus far. Some of the most hospitable and kind people I could have ever hoped to find. 

Photo: Spoil Sport's crew!

Reef at low tide.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Mangroves on Lizard Island.

Our dive live-aboard, Spoil Sport, moored off of Lizard Island.

Yellow-bellied sunbird on Lizard Island off the northern coast of Australia. Moves like a hummingbird.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I find this photo funny. Too unlikely friends in a little cave on the GBR.

What a little angel, this one.

I cannot wait to see some of these kids somewhere down the road again. Everyone I grew to know within Mike Ball's dive operation had such amazing life stories ranging in age from mid-twenties to greatest-story-teller-on-earth status. The mark of a good business, in my opinion.

One of my favorite fellas I've met in Australia is actually not Australian at all, but a darling Canadian fisherman who relocated to Thailand then to Australia to dive and see/learn as much about the world as possible. Great moves/motives, if you ask me. Much respect for his mellow and appreciative life outlook.

I could say that about basically the whole crew, but I just happen to have an adorable photo of Kim. This kid brings such a smile to my face. Just love him.

My underwater camera system doesn't really shoot well on night dives as it lacks a focusing light and fiber-optic hook-ups, but after about 8 different lighting attempts, finnnnally got this one (close to) right.

You thought I liked the seal-faced pufferfish? Well, this guy above? The potato cod? Just about as big as me and plays around like a puppy. Love. Oodles of love.