Sunday, 6 August 2017

Our last trip in the 5th Wheel

The next few posts are from our trip last year that I never got around to finishing.

We have come back to North America to do one last trip in our 5th wheel. Lindsay really wanted to get some more bear pictures so the whole trip has been planned around going to Bella Coola and Likely in BC, Canada.

Antelope Canyon, AZ

I photographed Antelope Canyon in 2012 but wasn’t completely happy with my photos, so seeing as we would be in Page Arizona again to go to Horseshoe Bend Lindsay asked me if I wanted to try again. The only way into the canyons is to do a tour, but I didn't want to just do the normal tourist tour as there are too many people in the way and you can't use a tripod, so the only option is to do a photographic tour. Taking good photos inside the canyon without a tripod is difficult, I did that last time as I had trouble with my tripod and cast it aside. I wasn't going to make the same mistake again. When I first started looking for a vacancy three months ago, there were none, but Lindsay persevered and found a spot with another company.

Horseshoe Bend, AZ

While we have been to Page before back in 2012, we didn’t get to Horseshoe Bend which is just a short distance out of town. Around 11am is the best time to get everything bathed in sun, so we didn’t do sunrise or sunset shots as the bend is in shade. You have to get quite close to the edge to be able to fit everything in to the frame and a wide angle is the best. On the first day we did go there at sunset and as the sun started to drop I started to put my sunglasses in my camera bag, but Lindsay thought I wasn't doing it right and tried to help. The lens popped out of the frame and into the canyon. They were prescription glasses and replacing them on this trip was impossible as we were never in a town long enough for a new pair to be made up.

Monument Valley, AZ

Just as we were leaving Page, I remembered to grab the Road Atlas and put it back in the car. Checking our route to Canyonlands I could see that we would be driving right passed Monument Valley. We have been here twice before but hadn’t had very good experiences. The first time in 2012 on our first trip when we stayed in Goulding which is outside the park and Lindsay was too tired to drive me into the park at sunset. There was such as strong wind that we had to keep our van doors and windows shut to keep the red sand and dust out. In 2015 we came by again and stayed in the only campground within the valley. It’s not part of the park system as it’s on Navajo land. As they charge you a daily fee to go in and don’t open until after sunrise and shut before sunset, it is best to stay inside even though you get no hook ups and it’s usually hot. There was a huge storm and sand was flying everywhere, so again, not ideal for taking photographs. Maybe our third time would be more lucky.

We filled up with water on the way to our site and parked near the office so that we could get internet as there is no Verizon service anywhere for miles. We were very lucky to get one bar when we called an hour before we arrived to see if they had any vacancies as they only had three and we got one. When we arrived there was no-one else there so we were able to choose a campsite close to the office to be able to use their internet as cell reception is non existent.

Apart from doing the auto drive around the park, we went on foot to see if we could get better shots. At sunrise the buttes are silhouetted against the sunrise and at sunset the shadows quickly descend upon the valley, so you need to get your timing right to get the gorgeous warm light on the buttes before the shadows take over. No horrible storms came through so I was able to just walk a few hundred metres from our campsite to get both my sunset and sunrise shots.

6-12 August 2017

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Going home after 3 years

Melbourne Australia

Mt Martha bathing boxes on the Mornington Peninsula

It’s a cold windy day in Melbourne as I look through some of the photos from the last few years, trying to decide which ones I will print and put on the walls.

Dromana Pier during the day

Our tenants in our rental unit had left in October after four years and the place had started to look a bit drab. Our agent had tried to re rent it but it soon became clear that without some updates it was going to remain empty. With quotes of $4k for carpet, $4k for blinds and $4k for painting we decided it might be a good opportunity to go home and do the work ourselves. It was too late to cancel our accommodation in Puerto Vallarta in January and February so we still went there, but I did manage to get United to change our tickets from South America to Melbourne, even though it meant we were actually making two flight out of LAX, instead of one being a return flight which is normally a no no.

Dromana Pier at sunset

Arriving home at the beginning of March, Melbourne began its hottest March on record, every day was above 30°C which is not ideal weather for painting. Instead of just replacing everything like for like, we took the opportunity to bring the place into the current decade with new colours and ditched the horrible vertical blinds which are so easy to break. There were lovely surprises in store such as a hole in a bedroom wall that had been filled in with liquid nails, rubbish including a mattress hidden between the back fence and the garage next door and a broken plate glass window dumped under a tree in the front garden. The garden was overgrown after years of neglect, so we pulled out most of the bushes to make it easier for the next tenants. The grill in the oven appeared to be melted and one of the knobs on the gas hob didn’t want to turn, so they were replaced with new stainless steel ones. Weeds had taken over the back and side courtyard, so it was time to pave the courtyard and have the old tree stump removed. The bathroom fittings were either worn or broken, so these were replaced with chrome plated taps and fittings. Then hours and hours of scrubbing floors and kitchen cupboards and the place was fit to put on the market again. It had been the right choice to come home as there was so much more to do than what we initially thought, and as a bonus we managed to do everything for less than the original quotes.

It was really weird hearing the Australian accent on mass again after being away for three years and I really couldn't handle it - it sounded horrible! But it didn't take long before it just sounded normal. The traffic since we left is awful and our news has stories about a lot more violence such as road rage and blatant day light robberies which is very scary.

When we left the US in March, our plan had been to go back the following March to travel the South East of the US. Tornado season is usually June to November but they had three between March and April this year. After hearing this, we cancelled any ideas of driving across the bottom, it’s just too risky.

One of the things we did last year was join TrustedHousesitters because I thought it would be handy to find a housesitting job for the times we needed to be outside the US. We didn’t get the one I applied for in Spain, so I decided it might be easier to get some experience on our own turf. Lindsay would like to move down to the Mornington Peninsula but I am hesitant about moving somewhere that I have never stayed, so when I saw some house sits in Mount Martha and Dromana I applied and we were accepted by both. Both involved looking after the owners’ dogs and taking them for daily walks allowed us get to know the areas while getting some exercise too. We don’t need to live in a city and have made the decision that this is where we will move to. 

Lindsay walking Tiff & Ella in a bush park near their home

Now that we have decided that we aren’t going to do the south east of the US, it made sense that we go back sooner than later and sell up. If we hold onto our truck and trailer in the US we will feel like we should go back there each year and there are many other places we want to travel to.

Tahlia & Rusty

My sister and her husband had spent the last nine months building a house from scratch to sell and needed a well deserved break, with the sale in the bag, she decided it would be a good idea to go on a holiday while we were around to look after her two Labradors. Even though we had decided not to do any more house sits for a while; how could we refuse family? It’s not often you get to stay in a brand new 50 square house overlooking the ocean where the main bathroom is as big as our bedroom, so it wasn’t very hard to put up with.

Sunrise at Flinders Victoria
Cape Schanck Lighthouse
The area around the lighthouse is part of the National Park and pets are allowed in any national parks in Australia, so we couldn't go for a walk along the clifftop as we had the dogs with us.

Squid and Ralph

Squid and Ralph had the most interesting personalities and were the easiest of all three house/pet sits. Squid was like a harrier jet in the morning jumping up so high as she was excited about getting breakfast. Ralph is very sensitive and would always come back to walk with me if I had started to lag behind.

Portsea back beach