New Years Eve 2012 – Sydney, Australia

 Held in Sydney Harbour each New Year’s Eve, this is Australia’s version of the Times Square in New York. Thousands line the shores of the harbour to catch 7 tons of explosives being detonated for their visual pleasure. This year I managed to get a front row seat at Garden Island looking directly at the bridge with nothing between myself and its majesty except water and a few dinghies. There were two displays, a family one at 9pm, and the spectacle at midnight. The family display used the barges only, with the fireworks on the bridge being reserved for the midnight show only. Enjoy the images below.

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Australian Moto GP 2011

20111015-164633.jpgThis year there have been some major changes at Phillip Island, some very welcome changes. First thing we noticed were the improved parking facilities. This gave as an introduction to the overall polish we would come to find with well prepared staff ready to facilitate us. Moving through the grounds we found improved paths to alleviate rain issues, and the corporate tents were completely segregated from the public with only two points of entry. This gave us our own toilets (awesome) and kept the unwashed masses away.
The weekend has been amazing with the weather, and only at the end of day two have we started to get a few drops of rain.
Incidents on the track have been few, but the historic event on day two in the morning provided a nice even spray of oil down the main straight and into turn one. The Moto2 class also had its share of excitement with a major rear end collision on turn three.
The crowds are already big on day two, and we’re all looking forward to seeing Casey Stoner start on poll tomorrow afternoon.
Race day gave us a mix of weather:sunny, then wet and windy, then sunny, then mayyyyybe rain… Typical Melbourne.
The Moto2 class was exciting as always with Marquez (causer of day 2’s rear ender) coming from his penalised position at the end of the pack to take a podium position of 3rd. Amazing stuff.
Moto GP gave us a battle of the Hondas with Casey leading the pack all the way and Pedrosa, Somoncelli abd Davisioso fight for second and third. Rain touched the track in the final two laps with riders sliding off on slicks as they tried to hold off calling into the pits. In the end Stoner came over the line winning the race. After a painful accident in qualifying by Lorenzo that removed half of his finger, stoner was free to claim the World Championship for 2011.
This gave him a win at home, on his birthday, and the 2011 crown.
Go Australia and go Casey on the Repsol Honda!

Moto GP 2010

Moto GP It’s day one at Phillip Island for the Moto GP, and there isn’t a bit of blue sky to be seen. It hasn’t stopped raining since about 2am this morning and there is mud, slush and water everywhere. I’ve had a look through the display pavilion, bought some stuff, looked over the bikes, and managed to see Wayne Gardner give a speech on behalf of the Flying Doctors. Although I did find out a little more about his latest doctors checkup than I anticipated.
I’ll keep this blog updated as the weekend progresses, so please feel free to check back.

It’s race day today and the sun is trying to punch through. I managed to wander around the circumference of the track yesterday during qualifying to get some different angles on the bikes. Plenty of knee down action from the GP bikes, with Stoner taking pole position for today’s race.

I was planning on doing my usual run up Gardner Straight after the race has finished, but they’ve removed the tyre wall and created a mud filled moat with an Arco fence. I’m doubtful I’ll be able to get myself and my camera gear from the Honda tent, down the hill, over the fence and onto the track without making a mess of it. Maybe next year…

So after another Australian win by Stoner, and an amazing battle between Hayden and Rossi, the 2010 Moto GP is over. The sun came out for all three races: 125cc, Moto2, and Moto GP. This provided it’s own challenges, with a mixture of wet and dry patches on the road creating numerous issues for the riders. But the sun quickly dried the track to allow for some exciting racing!

I’m looking forward to next year, and taking the 2500km round trip on my little Honda. Pack light, enjoy the ride, and have a beer with mates at the end of a day in the saddle.

Last Day Of Summer

This was a great day to be out on the bike. Starting at Williamtown we headed down through Newcastle and past Lake Macquarie to Wyong before moving west towards Kulnura, where we stopped for lunch at Jerry’s Diner. A huge burger later and I was fuelled up and ready to get back on the bike. We went north through Laguna and to Wollombi along some all-too-short twisty roads, before heading back east towards home.

Sunday Bike Ride-Gloucester

It was a fine (if very warm) day on Sunday, and a few of us went out for a ride through the Bulahdelah area. Using a little app for my iPhone, I tracked where we went on this 250km ride that had us stopping in Gloucester for lunch. Some of the roads were a little rough for my little bike, but there were some very fun bits of bitumen near Wootton. We made it back mid-afternoon, just before the cooling rains fell. Not a badly spent Sunday at all.

Kualoa Ranch Hawaii

Kualoa RanchKualoa Ranch is the site of movies like Godzilla, Jurassic Park and 50 First Dates, as well as TV shows like Lost. My day at Kualoa Ranch started early, and it was going to be a full day ahead of me.

Chinaman's HatFirst up was a cruise out in Kaneohe Bay to find some green sea turtles. The water was blue and pristine, a slight breeze, with the sun shining. We noticed a couple of turtles out on the sand bar, but they quickly dove away. Our boat continued out past Chinaman’s Hat (see picture right), giving the opportunity for some great photos of the surrounding scenery. On the way back the boat slowed by one of the reefs, and there one of the sea turtles popped his head above the water. Another one close by did the same, giving me a close view of these amazing creatures. I was going to be even more surprised later that day by one of these…

My second tour was through the gardens and around the fish pond (Molii Pond). We had the chance to see some of the local flora (most of it brought to the islands by the Polynesians) including fruits and flowers. A boat ride around the pond gave insight into how the early Hawaiians lured fish into the pond through a series of gates built into an 800 year old volcanic rock wall. The dock we departed from and returned to had been used in Lost (season 2 I believe, but I’ve never watched the show) to moor the submarine used in the show. The submarine was blown up, along with part of the dock. It was then back for a buffet lunch and a cup of Kona coffee (make that two).

PinzgauerThe third tour straight after lunch was an offroad tour in a six wheel drive Pinzgauer up the mountain range (see left). It was rough, bumpy and fast, but a hell of a lot of fun! There were some amazing views from up there of Kaneohe Bay as well as Kaaawa Valley (where the Gallimimus stampeded in Jurassic Park). It was a mad dash back down the hill to make the final tour. Ranch AerialThis was the Ranch and Movie Tour, and took us around the back of the range we had just driven up. The end of the range (closest point to the ocean in the photo) housed the bunkers for Army Command back in WWII. This was later used in the movie Pearl Harbour, and inisde contained history of the movies in the location including:
Mighty Joe Young,
Jurassic Park,
Tears Of The Son,
50 First Dates,
Pearl Harbour,
George Of The Jungle,
Lost TV Series,
You, Me, and Dupree, and
From there it was down into Kaaawa Valley itself to see the locations first hand. We stopped at the log from Jurassic Park that Sam Neill and the children hid behind, where Adam Sandler waited for Drew Barrymore each day, the plane landed in You, Me And Dupree, and Nicholas Cage ran across the battlefields of Windtalkers.

The day didn’t end there though. It was off around Kahana Bay to Laie Point for some very cool rock formations and a beautiful view back the way we had just came. The drive around the island continued past Shark Bay and Turtle Beach where I was fortunate enough to finally see a Green Sea Turtle up close, and I mean close. He was sunning himself on the beach, and you could get within a metre of where he lay. Exciting stuff! Then it was back to the house for a quiet night in after a huge day out.

Hawaii Big Island

New lava flowing over old lava

My second weekend in the Hawaiian Islands was spent on the largest of the island chain, known as the Big Island. This is the home of lush rainforests, lava flows, earthquakes, Kona coffee, and the largest island mountain in the world.

We flew from Honolulu to the Big Island on Friday 8th May, landing five hours after a minor earthquake shook the island. A quick trip up the coast from Hilo led us to some beautiful lush jungle and coastlines. We then drove up to the Volcano National Park where we were staying for the next two nights, minutes from the rim of the crater.

Saturday morning was an early start as we headed up the coast to the home of the Kona Coffee that I love so much. I managed to sample a cup of 100% pure Kona, which was a lot smoother than the 10% blend I’ve enjoyed previously. Anywhere that looked interesting on the way, we stopped to check out: Black Sands Beach, Green Sands Beach, South Point (the most southern part of the United States), Captain Cook’s Monument, The Painted Church, The Kona Coffee Museum, and anywhere the scenery was breathtaking. Which was often.

We returned back to the cabin to change out to jeans and covered boots for our lava viewing extravaganza that night. We made our way to Kalapana, which was outside the Volcano National Park, and parked the car. It was a short trek out over lava fields to the site, and in the distance we could see steam rising from the ground where the laval flow travelled. There were quite a few people in the viewing area, and I found a spot where I could set up my camera. I used my bag as an improvised tripod, set up my 400mm lens, and using the new camera’s live view, framed my shot. The live view saved me trying to lean down and look through the eye piece to frame shots. I attached the remote shutter release, and then just watched to lava hit the water, pressing the button anytime I saw something spectacular. I pressed that button a lot.

While there I got talking tot he couple next to me, giving them a few tips on how to use their Canon DSLR. I even lent them my 24-105mm to make shooting a bit easier. They were still using the kit lens with the camera, so the one I gave them was a welcome temporary upgrade. Nearby someone overheard our conversation, and asked where I was from in Australia. I discovered he had been at the same ANZAC Day dawn service as I just two weeks before, and had also been out at South Point earlier that day, remembering my bright green and gold shirt. He is also going to be in Washington DC at the same time as I will be in a week. Small world.

Once I had my fill of night time lava, we drove back to the Halema Umau crater to view the open crater at night. I took a number of long exposure shots before the rain set in. I had the imperssion of a blacksmith’s furnace looking at this phenomenon at night.

Chain Of Craters lavaOur last day was going to involve a lot of driving and walking. We drove down Chain Of Craters Road towards the coast. There were a number of stops along the way showing recent lava fields and craters, as well as older craters well covered with vegetation. At the edge of the cliff face a magnificent vista spread out before us (through the vog – volcanic fog), and the flows of lava could be clearly seen below like black rivers leading to the ocean. We drove to the end of Chain Of Craters Road where the flow of lava covered the road ahead (see pic right). A trek over the flow revealed an alien and interesting landscape, before we reached the end and had to turn around.

PetroglyphsThere was also a walk out to a collection of petroglyphs about a kilometre off the road. These were markings engraved into the hardened lava rock by native Hawaiians, and it was amazing to see how far from anywhere they were. Looking around all that could be seen for miles was rock, and it made me wonder what made the natives come here to this one spot to leave their mark. This was our last stop in the Volcano National Park, and from here we headed back up the road to the park entrance, and on to Hilo to see the local waterfalls. We stopped at Akaka Falls firstly, which was an amazing waterfall simply due to the height of it. Our last location was Rainbow Falls in Hilo itself, as well as the Boiling Pots nearby. After climbing over the rocks, it was time to head to the airport, and back to Oahu.