INTERNATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY

Who knew that 27th February was International Polar Bear Day? I certainly didn’t, but it gave me an opportunity to reflect upon one the best trips I have ever been on.

A couple of years ago I was invited on a trip to Churchill, see the Polar Bears on the Tundra. After checking Google Maps to find out where Churchill actually was, I immediately jumped at the chance.

From Australia it is quite a trip: Adelaide – Auckland – Vancouver – Winnipeg then a very small plane to Churchill. Churchill is located on the banks of Hudson

Its Bloody Cold

Its Bloody Cold

Bay, just south of the Artic Circle. I had never been that far north before, and it was cold, very cold, like -9C cold (for an Australian that is cold). Churchill is a great place to see Polar Bears because they congregate in this region during October, once their hibernation has finished, to wait for Hudson Bay to freeze over so that they head out to feed.

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The Tundra is a flat featureless stretch of frozen land, that is until you venture out in the Tundra Buggy, then it is a land of suspense as you peer into the distance for a glimpse of a sighting. At first it takes the expert eyes of the guides to spot the bears, but soon we are all experts and spotting them like pros. The first sighting is a surprise because you expect the Polar Bears to be pristine white, but in fact they are golden in colour. The second surprise s that they look so cute, but are in fact killers.

Too much love!!

Too much love!!

Buggy Love

Buggy Love

We spent two days out o the Tundra, but could have spent more because. The days go so quickly and you never tire of spotting the bears doing what bears do….sleep, stroll, fight, swim and be curious. The highlight of any encounter is what they call Buggy Love, which is when a bear becomes so curious it comes to the buggy and raises itself on its hindquarters and checks out those inside.

If you ever get the opportunity to see Polar Bears in the wild, take it. You wont be disappointed.

Check out my video…..

 

See you next year

See you next year

Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

“From the four walls that currently surround you to the infinite potential of space, this week we’d like you to show us your take on room, rooms, or a room.”

Not one for being obvious, I didn’t want to fill this challenge with lots of photos of great hotel rooms. Instead I chose a few of my favourite “rooms”.

Athens

Athens

Ok I just said I wasn’t going to fill up on hotel rooms, but this is the view from my favourite hotel room overlooking my favourite city in my favourite overseas country. Whenever I can see the Parthenon sitting proudly atop the Acropolis, I feel happy….and very much at home. I’m sure I must have been Greek in a former life!

 

 

 

 

Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class

Singapore Airlines A380 Business Class

One of the biggest gripes that travellers have is the lack of room offered by airlines. Maybe one of reason why this is so is because Singapore Airline’s stole everyone’s extra space and added it to Business Class on their A380. There is so much room it can fit 2 champagne drinking passengers.

Moet et Chandon Cellars

Moet et Chandon Cellars

Speaking of champagne…..(nice segue) this stairway leads into the room that I discovered that I actually do like champagne, when you drink it at the source. This stairway leads to the Moet et Chandon tasting room which is at the end of a labyrinthine network of underground tunnels and cellars. After a tour of the cellars the corks were popped, the bubbles fizzed and my tastebuds did a hallelujah dance. The French sure know how to make champagne. Up to this moment I had only given a polite smile through gritted teeth whenever I had to have a glass.

Belvedere Ice Room Whistler

Belvedere Ice Room Whistler

Speaking of drinking… (another nice segue) one of the strangest rooms I have ever been in is one made completely of ice. The walls, the bar, the shelves, the seats were made of ice. It was called the Belvedere Ice Room and served ice-cold vodka.  On a trip to Whistler I found myself in this room tasting vodka after being kitted out in a heavy fur-lined jacket. It was great fun. The downside was that due to the freezing temperature, you can’t stay all night in the room, even though the cold spirit is warming you on the inside.

Bayon Temple Campodia

Bayon Temple Campodia

There are many different type of spirits (yep, another segue), some alcoholic and some spiritual. On a recent trip to Cambodia, while exploring Bayon Temple’s many rooms I was surprised to come across this buddha . Despite believing that the temples of Siem Reap were abandoned, it was obvious that I was wrong. The Buddha had been cloaked in a bright saffron-coloured sash and surrounding the seated figure were many offering. Some of them were recent offerings proving that this was still an active place of worship.

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In their day, the temples of Siem Reap would have been considered opulent, (here comes another segue) but nothing like the opulence experienced at an exclusive dinner in the Hall of Battles, one of the majestic rooms in the Palace of Versailles.  Believed to be the first dinner staged at the Palace since Napoleonic times, it was a privilege to feel like a privilege member of French Royalty.

Speaking of privilege (ok enough with the gratuitous segues), I have had the privilege and pleasure to have this as my view from my Santorini room.  Really don’t think there is anything more to say…just open a bottle of ouzo, nibble on some grilled octopus and just enjoy.

Santorini Greece

Santorini Greece

The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the weekly photo challenge, but with the added twist that every photo has to have a travel element to it. Enjoy! #postaday

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Split Second Story

In this week’s photo challenge, capture an image that tells a full story in a single frame. Every photo, I believe, tells a story, so I have taken a different approach and chosen some photos that capture a moment that makes you want to know what the full story is…or what happens next. These image do not tell the full story, they just leave more questions.

Bear kiss

Bear kiss

Out on the Tundra at Churchill, Canada looking for polar bears, we came across another Tundra Buggy. Just happened to snap the photo just as the man stuck his head out of the window as the bear reared up. What happened next?

 

 

 

 

roadside chat
roadside chat

 

This photo captured a moment in time on the streets of Beijing. We’re left wondering what are these two men talking about and why are they squatting on the side of the road chatting?

 

 

Hand feeding gulls

Hand feeding gulls

The split second moment that this Greek ferry passenger hand feeds a seagull. Is this a common occurrence? Did she do this often as the gulls seem to expect it?

 

 

A glimpse of Petra

A glimpse of Petra

 

The moment that you come across the break in the canyon walls and get your first glimpse of the Treasury Building at Petra in Jordan. It is the moment that you feel like Indiana Jones in the Last Crusade.

 

 

 

 

Dumb and dumber

Dumb and dumber

The split second moment that you wonder why you are about to re-enact a stupid scene from Dumb & Dumber while in an Ice Bar in Whistler, Canada. Why would you even think of doing this?

 

 

 

 

 

Extreme X-Scream

Extreme X-Scream

The split second that I thought I was going to die. The moment I thought that riding the X-Scream in Las Vegas was a stupid idea. Why would anyone do this giant teeter-totter, 866 feet above the ground?  Is being the only person on the ride an indication of how crazy this is?

Enjoying the ice sculpture at Lake Louise, Canada – the split second moment of serenity just before you get pelted!

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The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the weekly photo challenge, but with the added twist that every photo has to have a travel element to it. Enjoy! #postaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: ON THE MOVE

It is quite mesmerizing watching all types of vessels passing by my waterfront accommodation: big tankers filled with shipping containers, long transporters full of so much sand that the boat sits precariously low in the water, small wooden fishing boats that look as though they have been plying these waters for generations, modern speed boats ferrying expats from the safety of their gated communities into the hustle and bustle of the city, sight-seeing cruisers with camera snapping tourists, even large paddle-steamer style (sans paddlewheel!!) karaoke dinner cruises. While staying in Ho Chi Minh City, what has really captured my imagination, and is fitting for this week’s photo challenge, is “life on the Saigon River”. While the vessel may vary, the one thing they all have in common is that they are all ON THE MOVE.

The last few days have all been about ON THE MOVE, so this week’s photo challenge was quite easy. Over the course of 3 days I have flown from Australia to Malaysia then onto Vietnam.

The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the weekly photo challenge, but with the added twist that every photo has to have a travel element to it. Enjoy! #postaday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Letters

Put letters together to make words. Put words together to form sentences. Put sentences together to produce chapters. Put chapters together to tell stories.

There is an order to letters and to keep the letters in order there is the alphabet. To bring each letter to life is a picture that represents that letter, either physically, metaphorically or graphically.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words here is my 26,000 word essay!

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The Don’t Forget Travel Group is taking part in the weekly photo challenge, but with the added twist that every photo has to have a travel element to it. Enjoy! #postaday

THE COLD FACE OF GALLIPOLI

THE COLD FACE OF GALLIPOLI.

THE COLD FACE OF GALLIPOLI

THE COLD FACE OF GALLIPOLI

The Gallipoli campaign was brutal and not for the fainthearted. I went in believing I knew what I was in for and somehow came out the other side as the face of Anzac Day 2006.

Sitting at the stage area overlooking Anzac Cove

Sitting at the stage area overlooking Anzac Cove

Anzac Day is all about reflection, so let’s we reflect…

I had been prepared for the emotion of the occasion, but I wasn’t prepared for the coldness of the occasion. It was freezing with an onshore wind blowing off Anzac Cove. The day had been a sunny autumnal day, but this was just a tease. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the temperature didn’t drop, it plummeted.

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After a 5 hour bus trip from Istanbul (which they showed Mel Gibson’s “Gallipoli” on-board to get everyone into the mood) we arrived at Anzac Cove around 6pm on 24th April. Being on one of the first buses (as there isn’t public transport everyone has to belong to a tour group to gain access) to arrive we had options – lie on the grassed area behind the VIPs which would give you a limited view, but with the chance of getting some sleep, or sit in the stand where you would be guaranteed a great view, but very little chance of any sleep. I chose the latter as I thought “seeing” was whole point of being here.

Despite wearing a t-shirt, shirt, polar fleece jumper, windproof jacket, two pairs of Explorer socks, jeans, a beanie (purchased during the night from a local Turk) and all snuggled inside a sleeping bag it was not enough to ward off the cold that had now seeped its way into the core of my bones. I remember thinking I may be uncomfortably cold, but imagine also being wet and coming ashore under the cover of darkness, to a future that probably wasn’t going to end well.

To relieve boredom, every hour, on the hour throughout the night, either a Military band played, or a 15 minute documentary of the conflict, or a detailed description of where the troops were at that specific time back in 1915, or images beamed up on the big screen of the crowd from the closed circuit cameras. It was both entertaining and informative. A constant stream of buses depositing more people added to the carnival-like atmosphere. By 5.30am there was about 10,000 people squashed into Anzac Cove. I am pretty sure there was not one Australian backpacker left in London!

Amongst the crowd were AFL and NRL football jumpers, Wallaby tops, hats with

Crowd building with the Sphinx in background

Crowd building with the Sphinx in background

the Oz flag, the canary yellow of the Fanatics etc and the closest thing to nationalistic I had was an Austereo polar fleece with a capital A on the front. During the night I was feeling so unpatriotic I haggled with a local Turk selling flags – eventually getting a bargain for 4 Turkish Lira (approx. $4.00). I had got a great deal and I felt good. Back at my seat, with chest swelling with pride, I unfurled the flag to discover that it was only printed on one side. Damn you Turks, you got the better of us Aussies again. The reverse side was completely white!

It was at that moment when a camera on the end of a massive boom, swung around zooming in on me. I could see myself on the screens scattered around the amphitheatre. Luckily the wind changed direction so that the Australian flag side was visible; otherwise it would have looked as though I was surrendering by waving the white flag. I remember thinking “look solemn and pensive and resist the urge to make a face or wave maniacally”.

The service itself was quite stage-managed with many speeches by dignitaries. It

Last Post being played at Dawn Service at Anzac Cove

Last Post being played at Dawn Service at Anzac Cove

felt more like a celebration than a memorial service, so it wasn’t as emotional as I thought it was going to be – that was until the lone bugler played the Last Post and the Reveille – spine chilling stuff.

A few days later I discovered that it hadn’t been a closed circuit tv. The footage was beamed back to Australia and Channel 9 used my image as the opening and closing scenes of their national news bulletin! My cold, but solemn face had been on television every hour throughout the day all over Australia.

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I had turned up to pay my respects and walked away from Gallipoli as the face of Anzac Day.

The Don’t Forget Travel Group