The clank of the air conditioning unit. The footfall of my steps on the marble staircase. At the glass door the local stray moggie strolls across my path, dirty with yellow dust. Across the street an old woman in a fluoro vest and visor pulls a metal shopping trolley behind her. She wears a towel over her head to protect from the sun, despite the smog on the mountains giving the sky a grey pallor.
Recent Travel Adventures
1000 steps and I’m at the bottom of them, along with women clad in fluorescent active wear, hikers hauling weighted training packs and dads carrying kids. The Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, popularly called the 1000 Steps, is a short but steep walk in the Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.Read More ›
The Great Ocean Walk runs along the southern coast of Victoria, Australia. Despite a couple of steep sections, the short days and well-marked trail make it a scenic and relaxed hike, suitable for hikers getting their first taste of long distance walks. You’ll pass through the green forests of the Otways to the rugged coast, […]Read More ›
I am so excited to have a number of Melbourne appearances in March and April. I’ll be speaking alongside some incredible Australian authors. Whether your interest is in crime or science fiction, there’s something for everyone.Read More ›
With the recently released And Then… anthology chock full of amazing Aussie authors, I couldn’t resist drawing on their collective writing knowledge. I asked them for their best short story tips and they delivered!Read More ›
Two and a half weeks with only cabin baggage sounds terrifying to most people. And it’s exactly what I’m doing tomorrow morning. I’m flying off to the States with only a small backpack and my camera satchel.Read More ›
Over the new year I always love to take photos of fireworks. Nothing says celebration like a giant fireworks explosion! It was my first new year in Melbourne, so I sought out a great spot to take pictures in Footscray, watching both the 9:30pm fireworks in Footscray and the midnight fireworks over the city. My […]Read More ›
Bill is sitting on the front lawn of his suburban brick house on an orange plastic chair, stubby resting on his beer gut. His white moustache has the familiar yellowing stains of a cigarette addict. He is looking at the skid marks left on the lawn by his teenage son with a souped-up Holden.
Justin: Cherry Blossoms. They’re white, stand out white, adding a hue of serenity to the rolling hills.
We took the KTX train to Gyeongju which is about 20 minutes from Eonyang to check out the Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Festival. We met up with another Justin from our church in Ulsan. Justin and I share a few parallels aside from being blessed with such a just and mighty name. We pursued theological and musical studies, and left to our own devices we enjoy leisurely time at home, truth be told a little too much chillaxing is on the menu. So fortunately we have my indefatigable wife to engineer this outdoor adventure, the intrepid and highly organised Mrs Kat who arranged and controlled proceedings leading the two Justins.
What is an ultra-wide angle lens?
An ultra wide lens is anything that takes a photograph between 10-20mm. Ultra-wide lenses can be zooms or primes. I own a Sigma 10-20 f/4-5.6. While it’s not the sharpest lens in the shed, it is a lot of fun to shoot with and can come up with some great effects. Other popular lenses include the Nikon 12-24mm, Tokina 11-16mm and Canon 10-22mm.
Kat: A lot has happened to the monkeys in the last month, which would have been relayed to you, dear readers, much sooner if our internet would work. Yes, despite what you’ve heard about South Korean internet, we have not seen the super fast connections that allow Koreans to play Starcraft at warp speed in our apartment. My grandma has faster internet.
Kat: I recently spoke to my sister on Skype, who couldn’t believe I was actually in Transylvania. “Is that really a place?” she asked. I’d forgive anyone for thinking Transylvania was made up; the land of Count Dracula has been fictionalised in countless movies and books, until it’s become the clichéd setting for a horror movie. Yet it does exist in the northern part of modern Romania, amidst the Carpathian mountains. It retains the tall pine trees and striking cliff faces, yet these are the only similarities between that and 1950s vampire films.
Kat: In the past week I’ve dined at the Hilton, been pampered at a thermal spa and seen George Clooney (albeit in a film, but I’ll take what I can get). You may wonder how can we afford this luxurious lifestyle, but Eastern Europe is a budget tourist playground. Tea and cake at the Hilton: $5. George Clooney: $5. He’s rather cheap.
Kat: With intrepid Monkey #2 down with the flu, this week’s blog is up to me! He’s been out for the count since Munich, snotting his way through public and international transport. I’ve been discovering the joys of Middle Europe, which unlike Middle Earth, has no volcanoes whatsoever. Although currywurst provides explosions of another kind… enough about that!
This week I visited Munich and Salzburg, but one thing really stood out from my travels this week. It was my trip to Dachau, the former concentration camp outside of Munich. The place where the NAZI party created their concept of “work camp”, where countless Jews and other minorities died. Munich was where National Socialism began, where Hitler came to power and where the first concentration camp was created. I felt like it would be inappropriate to blog about anything else in the same post. I have produced a photo essay of unaltered images that can give you an idea of what it was like in the camp. I found the place to be incredibly moving and hope you do too.
Kat: Rome. A city full of history from Emperors to Popes. A city with notoriously lax attitudes to time. A city where the vocal volume goes to eleven. Love it or leave it, Rome is one of the great cities of the world. And we spent the last week powering through the great landmarks of Rome and Vatican City with my parents in what is now known as hardcore tourism. None of this softy-soft wishy-washy let’s take a break and relax crap. Just keep tourin’ until your knees bleed with pain and the tingling sensation in your feet turns to numbness.
Justin: “Ahhhhhh…Venice” to quote Indiana Jones in the third installment of the intrepid adventure archaeologist. And this is exactly what this leg of the trip was about – adventure culminating in one of the greatest archaeological finds known to man. We are in Italy and boy is it good to be here. I found out in New Jersey that I have a great-grandmother apparently from the Mediterranean region, this explained why I have a blood condition called Thalassemia minor, an abnormality in the red blood cells, normally found in people of the Mediterranean region. So in some distant way I am going back to some roots here. Italians are not that dissimilar to Hungarians, a little quirky, a little hot-blooded and have the tendency to do things their own way. Italians have serious style too, it’s obvious why the titans of fashion labels come from the topographical boot. Everyone in their own way looks a little ruffled modelish and all the cops are sporting my style of authority sunglasses.
Kat: The moment you’ve all been waiting for. The glamour. The glitz. The celebrity holidays. Yes, the monkeys have made it to the South of France, home of all that is expensive, luxurious and chic. You may be wondering why we’re even in this neck of the woods in our matching fleeces and hiking pants. But we’ve been overtaken in the style stakes by my infamously more fashionable father, Gary.
Kat: On the eve of the last year of the world, according to the Mayans and Roland Emmerich, I’m sitting in a Paris apartment blowing my nose and watching the fog roll on and off the Eiffel Tower. There will be no fireworks this year due to austerity measures, a small note the French forgot to mention to all the tourists when they booked holidays in Paris over New Year. However, as the French bureaucracy is not always to be believed, I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a light show anyway.
It’s a beautiful night in Paris, lights are sparkling, the Eiffel Tower is all aglow and only a few hours until Christmas morning. While most of our lovely readers will already be celebrating Christmas down under, I’ve put together a selection of Christmassy images for your delight as my way of saying thanks for reading this past year. I’ve just got back from the Christmas markets on the Champs Elysees, a beautiful spot for last-minute shopping. And what could be more French than watching sunset over the Eiffel Tower atop the Galeries Lafayette? Amidst this assortment you’ll find some beautiful Christmas lights in Europe, with Christmas trees from London and Dublin alike.
Kat: During our travels Justin has earned the nickname “Marcus Brody”, for his ability to “get lost in his own museum”. So it was with great reluctance we parted ways on our first separate journeys in the last four months. I went to Ireland to visit some friends, while Justin left for Cardiff in Wales.
Kat: London, city of history, musical theatre and many red telephone booths. We’re finally here after various passport troubles and jet lag from crossing international time zones. Christmas is nearly upon us, but I haven’t felt like it despite the wreaths and carols on every corner. Maybe because it’s not hot (although I hear it’s 12C in Sydney). We’re in our fourth month of travelling and now in the routine of living out of our backpacks, navigating foreign cities and exchanging currency.
Justin: From the Big Apple to the Big Chill. 5 hours across timezones, and no not the arcade game place, and we landed in good old Iceland. It was sad farewelling the USA but you know the inevitable fate of all good things. And we got a fresh smack of blasting chilly air that serves as a window to our European sojourn. Going through Reykjavik airport was a very speedy experience, to my astonishment they didn’t even look at my name when clearing me through customs, they just stamped the second page of my six page temporary passport without a grunt or a batting of an eyelid and hey presto we were in Iceland.
Kat: Look, let’s face it. I could write about all the things we did in New York like going to museums and checking out art galleries, but who cares when I tell you that I got to fly a plane over New York at night, do 2 take offs and help co-pilot a landing. As my sister said “Who put you in charge of a plane?!”
Justin: One of my favorite films is the Fugitive, it actually really got me interested in the grandeur and architecture of Chicago. Its location shooting and ability to capture the chilly realism of Chicago still blows my mind when I watch it. In the film Harrison Ford essentially hides, ducks and weaves from pursuing authorities as he alters his identity to find his dead wife’s killer.
Kat: In 1965 the great (but not late) Bob Dylan released an album that would become one of the most influential of all time: Highway 61 Revisited. It contained one of his most well known songs, Like a Rolling Stone, and combined the blues and rock sensibility he was known for. Dylan himself lived near the highway for a time, hitching rides to shows. 61 is the blues line, a road full of music that defines a nation; Elvis, Muddy Waters, BB King, the list goes on.
Kat: Louisiana is best known as the vampire capital of the world. You’d think we’d get bitten with Lestat, Louis, Bill and Sookie all in the same state. But it is where the melange of American culture meets with African American, Creole and French. We’ve spent the last week in New Orleans, celebrating Halloween and learning more about blues, bayous and BBQs.
Kat: They say when you visit each state in America it’s like visiting another country. No more is that true than in the Appalachian mountains, where old-time music plays along hidden roads to the beat of running streams and falling leaves. The byroads that run through Virginia and North Carolina are world-famous, more so in the season of autumn, where the trees display a fascinating explosion of colour ranging between reds, oranges and yellows. We began our journey in Shenandoah National Park, a national park that runs 100 miles along the ridges of the Appalachian mountains. The road that runs through the park is called Skyline Drive and displays some fantastic views of the Virginian landscape.
Kat: Los Angeles: a bright shining ray of California goodness. Over the past week we stayed in Hollywood, and while everyone we talked to told us it was awful we actually enjoyed the area. We visited Graumann’s Chinese theatre and put our hands in the concrete. I have the same hands as Bing Crosby (believe me he had small hands!) and Justin shares the same size palm as the great Michael Caine. Better put on a right proper accent for that one.
Justin: We’re in the Grand Canyon, our last leg of the American national park circuit and it’s been an adventure for sure. This past week has thrown up some memorable moments, vistas, people, places and toilets.
The southwest USA is known for incredible rock formations made all the more interesting by variety of colours due to oxidization. Monument Valley and Grand Canyon as opposed to other national parks have a certain air of eternal stillness that captivates you deeply. You just really feel and touch the sands of time here.
Justin: Growing up I had difficulty getting to sleep, with memories of Australia’s most wanted drifting into my subconscious, playing dancing devil on my shoulder at night and keeping me up long into many nights: rigid, vigilant, the constant watchman (which also went with being the elder brother, the protector), both alert AND alarmed.
Justin: I really was taken aback at the sheer majesty of Yosemite National Park straight away, there were so many vantage points along the twisty roads that lead into Yosemite, that persuades you to pull over and snap, snap, snap photos for ages; mouth agape in wonder and awe.
Kat: In the past week we’ve been driving from LA to San Francisco. A classic route well-known among beatniks and hippies, searching for sun along the rocky cliffs of Big Sur. The roads wind around the cliffs for hours upon hours, until they disappear into the grey Californian fog, the dramatic coastline imitating the highlands of Scotland at times. Authors such as Henry Miller and John Steinbeck called this area their home. It is a writer’s paradise; the lone silver rocks forming out of the ocean, the crazed cliffs and mind-bending bridges.
Going into a camping shop is almost like going into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. There are so many gadgets it’s hard to know if you really need the James Bond belt that has a grappling hook hidden inside the buckle. Here are what I believe to be the 15 top travel accessories for backpackers, in no particular order.