Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vienna Crowned Again

For the third year in a row, Vienna has been crowned by Mercer consulting firm as having the highest quality of living in the world.  Some of my favorite aspects of the city are its extensive public transit system, the relative safety, the many public activities available all year long—many of them free,  the widely used honor system for payments, waiters that allow you to have leisurely meals or coffees, the many parks and public gardens, great architecture, and a compactness that promotes walking and biking.  Well done, Vienna!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Through a Rainy Bus Window

If you fly into the Ayer's Rock, Australia airport, chances are you will stay at the one nearby hotel and camping complex.  For travel around the area, it is possible to rent a car—or a camel—but it's quite likely you'll sign up for one or more organized tours.

We found ourselves looking out of bus windows through the unusual rain during several tours.  Some of our guides had worked in the area for decades said they had only seen rain once or maybe twice a year.  So if you are lucky enough to be in a bus in the rain in the Australian Outback you take photos, right?   All of the following were taken through bus windows.

As we approached Kata Tjuta, an outcroping of rock similar to Uluru, the sky lightened temporarily, turning the rain on the rock into silvery rivers and waterfalls.  Not a common sight.

As we arrived closer to Kata Tjuta, the waterfalls became more distinct.

Kata Tjuta from a distance.

It was into one of these polka-dot puddles that my straw hat fell.  It took an hour of scrubbing to remove the orange stain.  Had I known it would take so long to clean I would have immersed the hat completely and kept the new color.

These may border on what some would consider odd images but I like the shapes and colors; they were taken at one of the hotels in the complex as we waited for more passengers.

As the sky lightens and we wait for the rain to slow a bit more, the view through the bus window is softened and smeared.

Back on the bus, ready to head home to the hotels, we get a brief view of the sand road  illuminated by another bus.

Purple Trees

Sydney's prolific Jacaranda trees with their purple flowers attract attention and lift the spirit.  These were on trendy Oxford Street.  During our month in Australia we completely missed out on Austria's autumn colors...but experienced a lovely second spring. So visually, 2011 was the year I had two springs and no autumn.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Short Walk into the Outback

More than snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, more than walking through rain forests, more than driving the Great Ocean Road, more than seeing exotic plants and animals and the great sights of Sydney, walking in the Australian Outback thrilled me to the core.  Memories of it still make my heart go pitty-pat.  What should have been a three-minute walk took me an hour and even then I felt rushed.  We were incredibly fortunate to visit the Australian Outback in the rain and see the desert exude life in this short, temporary condition.  It seemed the desert was in a state of euphoria—contagious euphoria. The trip nearly half-way around the world was worth it for that one hour walking through the Outback.

By the way, there's a new feature here I think you'll like; if you click on an image you should get a window with the series of photos enlarged.  It works on old posts, too.  Please try it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Outback Sunrise

We arose early to see the sunrise on Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, in the Australian Outback.  It had rained in the desert during the night and I found the illuminated red-soil path to a viewing area an appealing match to the sunrise.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Treetop Walk at Otway Fly

The privately-owned Otway Fly Treetop Walk is located in a rainforest near Australia's Otway National Park.  Previously logged for timber, the area has been allowed to regrow.  Only 50 years old now, one can only imagine how enormous the trees in the ancient forest must have been.  Otway Fly offers an opportunity to go zip-lining between the treetops, walk on an elevated walkway or follow ground paths through the rainforest.  It was chilly and raining the day we went—perfect conditions as the snakes would be snoozing and the rainforest would be rainforest-ing.

The blurry parts of these photos are due to raindrops and no matter how often I wiped the lens dry, by the time I took the photo rain would be back on the lens.  
Mountain Ash, the tallest of all flowering plants, perfumed the air with their eucalyptus scent and shed their red bark in long ribbons.

The walkways and tower at Otway Fly provide great views of the rainforest. 

I walked while David zipped through the treetops but I couldn't have been happier.  My slow, quiet time alone in the forest was absolutely heavenly.

The equally enchanting woodland floor is lined with large ferns in many areas.

Watch out for the dinosaurs in a special area kids will love.