Hanging around Cairns


img_6063-x3

As I previously wrote I chose to fly to Cairns primarily because It allowed me to visit the Barrier Reef and join the caving trip to Chillagoe, but as it turned out, Cairns was a pretty neat destination on its own.

I had chosen to save a few bucks by staying at a backpackers hostel and consider myself fortunate to have chosen one that was not on one of the blocks crammed with nightclubs etc. so I was able to get some sleep though like with all hostels there was a fair bit of noise at night. I picked Caravella on Esplanade, the pictures on the website were a little misleading though. The bay is not really visible from the hotel and consists of a tidal flat so most of the time  your looking at mud not picturesque water. It was a great opportunity for bird watching though and the boardwalk the ran along the shore makes a great place for a stroll.

 

 

The unplanned shopping trip I had to make due to my bag being delayed gave me a chance to walk around town and see what was there. I spotted a large colony of flying foxes roosting in the trees near the city library.

 

 

These are amazing to watch not only because of their huge size but their social behavior and the way they interact is very interesting. Just watch where you step.

Perhaps to make up for the fact you can’t swim in the bay they have one of the largest public pools I’ve ever seen over looking the waterfront.

 

 

I went for a walk out towards the edge of town and founf the botanical gardens which was a great spot to spend some time and photograph Australian bush turkeys, flowers, interesting plants and butterflies.

img_6347-x2

img_6091-x3

Then it was back to walking along the Esplanade to find a restaurant for dinner. I really enjoyed Cairns and of course its proximity to the Barrier Reef!

 

 

Advertisements

Before the I.C.S – The Great Barrier Reef!


img_3989-x3When I began planning to attend this years International Congress of Speleology in Australia (Nearly four years ago) , one of the thoughts for-most on my mind was here was my chance to visit the Barrier reef. I did some quick research and found out that most visitors to the Barrier reef set out from Cairns. Once the field trips for the I.C.S were posted I noted that there was a pre-congress trip to the caves near Chillagoe which would depart from Cairns. This seemed like a perfect opportunity.  With some suggestions from the organizer of the caving trips, Paul, I began choosing a dive outfit for the trip. I ended up choosing Pro-dive and this in turn was an excellent fit. I booked a 3 day trip aboard one of their live aboard dive boats which included 11 dives. Then I anxiously awaited my departure day.

My adventure began with the airline cancelling  my flight out of LAX. I nearly panicked when they informed me they wanted people to wait in motels or go home and they would notify them when they would be re-scheduled. I explained that I had a scheduled trip on a boat that couldn’t be rescheduled and they said they would see what they could do. Eight hours later I was scheduled on a flight to New Zealand and thanks to a much shorter layover in Auckland then the one I was originally scheduled for in Manila I arrived in Cairns just a couple hours later than originally scheduled. Sadly my luggage didn’t do so well and I was informed it was still in L.A. The folks at the pro-dive shop were very helpful in setting me up with some extra gear and I did a little shopping for clothes so I was all set to head out on the boat the next morning.

 

 

 

 

(while shopping I spotted Dead-Pool hanging out by the local mall?)

After dragging myself out of bed at what seemed a crazily early time I was met by a van that drove us first to the dive shop and then out to the boat. On board I was pleased to find two other cavers from the U.S.A were aboard, Kim from Maryland and George from West Virginia. We had a few hours ride out to the reef so we were able to grab coffee and a little breakfast as we sailed. It was a little rough heading out so the crew offered sea sickness meds which they encouraged people to take as a precaution. I declined and did just fine, though I noted a few passengers who were looking a little green by the time we reached our first dive site. Once the boat was secured to the permanent anchor points set up to protect the reef things calmed down considerably and soon everyone was readying to get in the water.

 

 

img_6036-x3

After a dive briefing about what to expect in the area, what depths and when we were expected back on the boat we began diving the reef. We started at Petaj Bommie, part of Milln reef. I did the first dive without a camera since I wanted to focus on the dive and not a rental camera I wasn’t familiar with, but there was so much to see, I knew I needed to bring the camera along on my subsequent dives. I did find a lost snorkel someone had dropped near the anchor point- looked like it had been there awhile.

img_3988-x2

The boat crew kept us on a busy schedule- dive, eat, dive, eat etc. and the food was exceptional. Of course nothing works up an appetite like spending time in the water but really the food was great. The crew was also great- high energy and very positive as well as very knowledgeable about the sites we were diving which was very helpful.

 

After the first two dives we dove on to Flynn reef where we dove Tracy, ski slope, tennis court Gordon’s Mooring, little Tracy’s reef and Coral Garden. Over the next three days we did 11 dives including 2 night dives. It was a busy and tiring schedule but very rewarding getting up early for the sunrise dive on the last day was especially tough but seeing the reef come alive as the sun rose made it very worthwhile.

A highlight of the trip was after one of the dives when someone spotted a Minke whale. Many of us were able to jump back in and watch underwater as the whale circled the boat a few times to see what we were up to.

img_4538-x3

A big thanks to the crew for making it such a memorable trip and proving us with some wonderful memories.

img_4688-x3

You can see all the pictures I took at https://captnemo.smugmug.com/Places/Australia/Barrier-Reef/ (including the bump headed parrot fishes grouped together for the night pretending to be a coral bommie)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to Vegas or the T-rex ate my bike!


img_2297-x2

It turned out the reason we didn’t have reservations in Henderson for the trip home from Ely was because I had booked a non-refundable night for the following weekend, So what the heck it’s only 700 miles or so round-trip so I loaded the bike and off I went.

My first obstacle was as I neared Baker a huge dust storm hit. These are pretty impressive in a car, on a bike not really something I’d recommend experiencing. The pictures don’t really do it justice since I hid my camera away to protect it during the worst of it.

I made it through though and stopped in Baker to wash off some of the dust and check out Alien jerky.

I also stopped by a large solar collector field that had an unearthly glow as the focused sun beams shone through the dust still in the air.

I arrived in Henderson Nevada to find Dinosaurs had taken over the town!

I made it safely to my hotel though (T-Rex didn’t get me) and checked in and went and got some dinner before heading out to see the Vegas strip. I decided to take a ride on the new “High Roller” Ferris wheel. you start out by stepping into one of these.

img_2194-x2

Before long you are climbing into the sky, they have screens that remind you how high.

img_2255-x2

and the view once you’re up there is wonderful…

img_2239-x2

I walked along the strip a bit then cruised it a couple of times on the bike before the crowded traffic got to me and it was time to call it a night. So I headed back to the hotel in Henderson.

Whitney Portal


I decided to head out this weekend on the motorcycle and escape the heat here in Bakersfield. In hindsight maybe heading into the desert wasn’t the best choice for this but overall it worked out very well. Early morning riding past Tehachapi was nice and cool and it wasn’t till I neared Mojave that the smoke from nearby forest fires clouded the air.

I continued North up through Red rock Canyon and soon I was riding in clean cool air again though as the sun beat down it was getting noticeably warmer. By midday it was becoming hot so I was glad to take a ride up Whitney Portal road. This very steep road soon had me up at cooler climes and I was able to relax near a stream for awhile. I had intended to pop into the portal shop for a bite to eat but there was a considerable crowd up by the trail head/ parking area so I decided to make my way down back towards 395 instead. Progressing along the interstate it wasn’t long before I realized  a. it was pretty darn hot out and b. the air quality was significantly worsening as more smoke flowed out of the forest fires.  The smoggy skies did make for an impressive sunset as I passed back through Red Rock Canyon so I stopped for a few pictures and as I headed towards Mojave a gusty wind started blowing which while it made riding a little uncomfortable did cool things off.

450 miles later I was home, a very enjoyable outing.

See the rest of the pictures HERE

PackSaddle 2016


 

Waterfall at the creek

Creek

Last year I managed a visit up to Packsaddle cave but it was mid summer and I headed up a bit late in the day which made for a too warm trip. Well honestly it was hot but I survived. This year I joined a local hiking group and they wisely headed up early in the morning and picked a weekend when the weather was really very pleasant. I managed to pack extra water and even had some ice left in one of the bottles upon returning to the motorcycle for the ride home.

As evidenced in the photos there was more water present then last year which in turn meant more wildflowers and unfortunately more poison oak but I think we managed to avoid it all.

Hiking across the ridge

Hiking across the ridge

 

wildflowers

wildflowers

Hiking up the hill

Hiking up the hill, if you look real careful there’s people up near the top 🙂

It was a surprisingly large group, close to 30 people but everyone seemed to enjoy the hike and no one complained that I took my time coming up the hill as I stopped to take just one or two more pictures.

lupine

lupine

Finally we reached the cave. Here I was disappointed to find my flashes weren’t triggering from the radio transmitters but I did have optical slave as an option so I took a couple shots with that and found that my dive light made a fairly good substitute as well.

flash

flash using optical slave in the cave

dive light

dive light

So at least I got a few in cave pics then it was time to hike back down the hill.

There were still plenty of flowers to photograph on the way back

Mariposa Lilly

Mariposa Lilly

and I got back to the motorcycle early enough to enjoy a pleasant ride through the canyon before heading down to the valley where it was getting pretty warm again.

More wild flowers

More wild flowers