Rainbow Hippyvan

Let’s get out of here, you and I.
Grab a hippyvan and surf the coast.
Doesn’t matter how far we run;
just carry on towards that rainbow connecting heaven to earth…
the promise of a more vibrant tomorrow.

Photo taken on the Hume Hwy, NSW

Lake George, NSW

Strange how history repeats itself. I just realised that exactly one year ago, at this exact time, I was standing in this spot at Lake George, NSW. I’d just flown back from the US for Christmas, and was driving from Sydney to Canberra when I stopped by the darkness of the lake to show Megan the southern hemisphere stars away from the city’s light pollution. Tonight had the same fresh smell of dry grass on the flat, waterless lakebed and the soft buzz of thousands of crickets, except this time with bright moonlight that would make Middle-earth proud. Happy one-year Aussie Anniversary!

This photo was taken on a 30-sec exposure at Lake George, NSW

Alleppey Houseboats

After the absolute insanity that is Delhi, Kerala held some of my more relaxing experiences in India, albeit still full of surprises.

After haggling at the dock in Alleppey, we rented a private houseboat overnight on the backwaters with a crew of three. The two-story residence featured a dining area on the upper deck and striped cushions we aptly named the “tiger bed”. Lying there in the sun, isolated from the grind of the motor at the back of the boat, we floated tranquilly through the trees and out on to the lake (just check your head when you stand up, or you’ll get pole-axed by live electrical wires running the breadth of the river).

It was dubbed a “luxury” boat, but easter eggs included: the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in the bathroom, no toilet seat or paper, and a twin bed with a very generous tilt towards the edge of the boat. And the motor broke down.

Our cook went renegade too, demanding money, changing his mind that we couldn’t fish, said we weren’t allowed to watch TV after 8:30pm, and pushed again and again to drink our beer. When we docked and he demanded a tip, I shot my mouth off at him and the tour owner.

It did make the experience stressful, but that aside, as was often the contradiction in India, it was a very replenishing experience, largely because of the privacy of having our own boat, and not having to move bags around throughout the day. The food was spectacular (I just assumed the cook added his special sauce at some stage).

It was wonderful to wake up in the morning and watch people’s lives unfold around the river. Everything happens along its banks – washing clothes, brushing teeth, merchants selling food from boats, even hunting fish with a crossbow!

After our stay in Alleppey, we moved on to Verkala – a touristy beach town on India’s south-western coastline (we didn’t have time to make it north to Goa). The restaurants along its cliff walk were brimming with fresh fish each night at great prices.

I remember Verkala as the most relaxing place I traveled in India, so much so I don’t have any pictures to show you! So, instead take a look at life on the backwaters of Alleppey.

Munar Tea Plantations, India

During the month of May I will revisit the photographs from my trip to India. I took over 3,000 photographs on my month-long trip in December 2012, and finally I am getting around to posting some of them!

First stop is Munar, the beautiful and shapely hills of tea plantations in the south of India. I rented a motorbike with my girlfriend (she took a little convincing) and alongside some newly made friends from Germany, braved both the heat and cold of the mountains.

Munar tea pantations, Kerala, IndiaOnce outside the busy streets of the town of Munar itself, traffic was more relaxed, and the view spectacular! Tea bushes are pruned to English garden perfection, their cell-like structures coiling through gullies and up the slopes of the hills. I was surprised to find eucalyptus forests breaking up the vibrant green of the tea plantations – a sight, and a smell, transporting me to the Australian south coast.

It was so warm in the valley that morning that I had departed with only a t-shirt, but now high in the mountains I froze as I rode through the clouds themselves. The wind picked up at this altitude and I could see the white wisps washing through the trees. At the summit we pulled over to seek refuge with an Indian family who had stopped to build a fire beside the road. They didn’t speak English at all, so we could only offer plenty of smiles as we wedged our way into their group.

Down the mountain and into the next valley, my blood began to run again and we turned off the main road to explore a little village. I guess the townsfolk don’t get visitors that often with the way they stopped their work to stare at us. Again, no one spoke English, so it was with big gestures and smiles that we interacted with some kids who were hanging out their laundry on the best clothesline possible: floating across the top of the tea bushes themselves. A kindly looking old lady stopped to give me some fruit and pause for a photograph, as did another man carrying a giant blue loudspeaker.

20121216_IMG_7893_900My most striking memory of that day was watching workers build the road by hand high up in the mountains. Torrents of thick black smoke gushed from the furnace heating the tar, to which women dumped baskets of gravel scooped up and carried on their heads. All wearing flip-flops.

Distances in India often end up being much further than they appear on a map, given the dense traffic, livestock and just general hazards in whatever form you can think of. We finally found a waterfall that we should have, according to our “not to scale” map, encountered half a day earlier, and, since the light was fading, declared that we had successfully reached our destination. The truth was, we never had a destination in mind. With perfect, endless rolling green hills like those in Munar, you’re just there for the drive.

If you haven’t visited my website in a while, I’ve updated my films and photography, so take a look!

Camberwarra

I’m holidaying in Camberwarra at the moment – just outside of Nowra, south of Sydney. It’s a beautiful area with gum trees, wineries, brilliant green farm lands, and of course, the pristine white sands of Jervis Bay not far away.

It also happens to be the location where I filmed Denis Carnahan’s music video “Different World“.