Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dana's picks from the Melbourne Clinic

Had a little time this evening to go over the images from the Melbourne clinic  -  These really caught my eye... If you want to see LOTS of horse imagery from the Melbourne clinic and the Gold coast clinic, see my smugmug page at the following link:


End of the day rainbow

One gorgeous tree on the property - I revisited it several times throughout the clinic

This barn was on the way to the clinic from the town we were staying in. Functional high art.  

Love the attitude of the horse here.

Each evening on the drive back to town we came to the main road and the sky was doing something incredible...

Several times through the day the sky went from blue to gray...

Took a walk down the farm road at lunch. 

Had a little stormy weather, but it didn't disrupt the clinic at all.  Phew!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Melbourne, Bolinda, Dookie, and Rutherglen....also Howlong?

Just finished up five days in the Bolinda/Lancefiled/Riddels Creek area about an hour north of Melbourne -  Drove up to Rutherglen tonight on our eventual way to a clinic in Young on the 29th. First, yes, there is a town named Dookie, and I was reminded not only of the Green Day album of the same name, bit of all the other things that fall into the category of Dookie. Gotta love that name! The next town over from where we are tonight is called Howlong. I wonder too.

The clinic in Bolinda went fantastic - such an enthusiastic group and all of them made such progress with their horses. It is really fun to watch the difference in the riders and horses from Day 1 to day 5 of these clinics. It's such an intensive schedule you really get to know all the participants and that is an added bonus - Everyone we've met here so far (with the exception of a certifiable lady walking/yelling/screaming down the street in Sydney) has just been great - I feel like I've made many new friends who seem much more like old friends - Great people!

It's going into fall here, and the leaves are changing colors and the temperature is dropping. So strange to have my body thinking it is spring but experiencing wintry (for Florida, that is) weather.

The skies here have really been amazing - every day was different, and even from hour to hour the weather could change drastically - It was chilly this morning, but the day turned out to be a glorious fall like day - there was a circular rainbow around the sun for most of the day, and that was really cool. I saw a perfect rainbow, gorgeous storm clouds, perfect puffy clouds, frontal storm type clouds and other variations on those themes over the last few days - how cool is that? I'll tell you. Cool. Very cool.

During the clinic, we stayed in Lancefield, a cute little town about 15 minutes from the clinic site in Bolinda. The drive from Bolinda to Lancefield was gorgeous - a  two lane country road through rolling hills, lined with mature juniper and pine trees, some beech and eucalyptus (gum tree) too. If it isn't obvious yet, I am quite taken by the landscapes here. I could have spent a week driving around photographing most every field and tree I saw.

As we left the area this evening to drive north, it was more of the same - it is a wine growing region and there are valleys, hills, streams and sheep pastures as far as the eye can see. I was sitting in the back seat constantly thinking, "stop! There's another picture perfect postcard image I could make - let me jump out for just a few minutes. I won't be long." This went on until it was too dark to see... Did I mention it is beautiful here?

We have a relax and recuperate day tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to exploring the area a little after we sleep in a bit! All for now, g'day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More photos from Cairns...

Yesterday we had one of those adventure days where you just go and go until you can't go anymore, then you go a little more - totally worth it!

Started off with a helicopter ride out over the great barrier reef - Our Pilot Gus was awesome - (of course I'm saying that because we lived) It was a first for both of us, so we didn't know what to expect, but it is like being in a fish bowl that flies - incredible views in all directions and it almost feels like you are suspended in the air with nothing under you (except a big motor, of course...)

The reef runs 1300 miles along the northeastern coast of Australia and is much farther offshore than the reef in the Florida keys - it starts about 15 miles out and goes as far as 50-75 miles away from the coast  - There are lots of ways to access the reef - boat, boat, or helicopter. Or a really long swim across dangerous waters. For me, I like flying in a’s my new favorite way to see things.

After our flight, we hopped into a very small rental car (the guy at the rental place kept asking us how tall we were as we filled out the papers - by the time we were supposed to get the car, he had us wondering just how small the car was - he had a good laugh when it turned out to be a normally sized very small car...We walked in hunched over when we returned the car, saying our backs were out from having to bend over the whole time...he liked the joke...) 
So, driving in Australia is just the same as in the states, except completely backwards. Stay to the left. And try not to forget!  I let Karen drive, as I am not adjusting to the backwards thing as easily. She did great ( I’m glad to be here to say!)

We went south along a coastal valley, between mountains, through sugar cane fields that completely filled the valley for our entire journey 120 kilometers to the south. It is fall here, and the cane is tall and very green, so the drive was beautiful. They have a small rail system set up to harvest the cane - the rails go unused 11 months out of the year, but when it is harvest time, very small trains are all over the place, crossing the major highway with huge loads of cane. There are no crossing gates or guards, so it might get interesting looking out for all the mini trains at harvest time....
We passed several banana plantations, and the bunches of bananas are in bags to protect them from cockatoos. I can’t believe they have to cover every bunch of bananas to keep the birds off. Super labor intensive. Think I won’t start one of those type gardens. We also saw papayas being grown in large groves - the trees are full of ripening papaya right now, and they look like a large art installation. Beautiful countryside.

We stopped at a few waterfalls along the way to our real destination which I’ll get to momentarily. the Boulders in Babinda and Josephine falls a little farther down the road were both lovely spots in the rainforest. They have a few signs like ‘don’t touch this or that plant, and don’t swim here or there, but mostly it is assumed you won’t go off running through the rainforest, as the flora and fauna are quite inhospitable in places. One vine is called the ‘wait a while vine’ - I think that means something like this...You think it hurts now?  Wait a while...!
We ended up at a magical place called Paronella Park in late afternoon, just in time for the tour - It was built by a Spanish man who was way before his time in many ways - It functioned as a sort of theme park starting in the 1930‘s. Located next to a sizeable waterfall, he installed a generator to provide his park with electricity, many years before the nearby town had power. He built two eccentric looking castles - not huge, but gorgeous works of art. He landscaped the gardens and grounds with tropical trees and plants, and provided a ballroom with a stage for shows and movies. He also installed what was most likely the first disco ball in Australia in the 1940’s, predating the 1970‘s American disco craze by at least 3 decades...

We took a night tour a few hours later (so I could do some photography, thanks Karen...) What an amazing spot - I wanted to stay for several more hours as it was a photographer’s wonderland, but I’m happy with the images I made while there.
There’s a lot more history to Paronella Park - if you’re interested, go google... 
We’re off to Melbourne this evening and we teach again starting tomorrow, so our adventure in Cairns is coming to an end, but it has been a fantastic side trip. 
Ok, so I talk too  much, but I’m sitting in an airport waiting for a plane.
And it is a long wait. 
Enjoy the photos!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Cairns, Queensland

In Cairns now, North Queensland - tropical, lush, humid, wet, rainy, palm trees, tropical plants, rain forests, barrier reefs - nice town from what we’ve seen so far. Wanted to see the barrier reef but it looks like the weather isn’t going to cooperate today - fortunately there are lots of other fun things to do in the area so we will pack in a full day tomorrow doing things other than dodging box jellyfish and great white sharks....

We took a gondola ride today up over a National Heritage Rainforest site - it was beautiful - super lush and green - birds, butterflies, huge tree ferns and waterfalls along the way made it a wonderful experience. The cable runs 7 kilometers to a cute little town called Karanda - touristy, but there were several stores with really nice aboriginal art - some of it is just beautiful - it’s also good to see the artists can make a decent living from their artwork...

Here's my found art shot of the day - glue from a sign that had been removed... 

After Sydney, I was quite fit from all the walking, but I think I’ve gained a few kilos (yes, kilos) since then from all of the great food we’ve been eating. Think I need a restaurant intervention...

More tomorrow...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Gold Coast and Brisbane Area

It's been a whirlwind five days in Gold Coast - so busy I haven't even had time to write about what we've been up to, so I'll try and fill in the blanks from the last several days...yes, we leave for Cairns (1600km north) tomorrow after the clinic ends, so onward with our itinerary!

Upon our arrival to Brisbane, we were picked up by Irma who drove us to her place north of Brisbane - She has a lovely home and made us a great dinner which we shared with a few other people, Fiona (who helped arrange all the clinics in Oz) and Silka (who was one of the attendees at the clinic here.) Saw lots of photos of Irma and her husband Neville's cattle station (huge ranch) which was located several hundred kilometers west of Brisbane...Made a mental note to visit if the chance arises in the future...

Next day we woke up to a gorgeous view - the house was in the middle of their property on a hill and there were open pastures all around - She has kangaroos and koalas on her property, but we did not see any - we were warned the night before about the cane toads, who have become a major nuisance in Australia - Handling (and especially licking them) is not recommended, as they secrete toxins through their skin or glands or somewhere...) Originally imported to eat cane (sugar cane) beetles, the toads refused to eat a single beetle, but flourished on the continent regardless - peril at every corner apparently, but we managed to stay safe so far, so phew...

Speaking of peril, ask Karen to tell you about her spider story!

We made our way to Gold Coast where the actual clinic is being held - It was a shock to come into a city that looks a lot like Miami Beach - huge skyscrapers on the beach, super touristy, super posh, and trendy. We have a room on the 26th floor of one of the high rises, and drive ten minutes every morning to a nice horse facility - We are told that this area of Queensland has the highest concentration of horses in Australia  - hard to believe amongst the skyscrapers and all. We look at the beach every morning when the sun rises, and keep meaning to walk on it, but we are too tired! Yes, we are working that hard... Tomorrow morning we promised ourselves we will take a morning walk at 6 a.m.. Who needs sleep anyway!

Ten ladies are attending the clinic, and it has been a great time getting to know them and their horses. It's been fun photographing them and watching them make positive changes in their riding skills - At the end of each day, I come back to our room, download images, edit, tweak, and post the images to my smugmug site. Makes for along day, but how lucky am I to be working here!  Everyone at the clinic is super enthusiastic about Karen being here and we are daily asked "when are you coming back?"  Our answer for now is... ask Karen...I'm ready!

The birds here are something else - super colorful, loud, big, exotic, and fun to watch and listen to - There are a few Kookaburras who show up every morning and they make the coolest noise - think of the Tarzan tv show monkey noises - that is the kookaburra's call. Too cool. Just learned they are a type of Kingfisher - you learn something new every day!

Have enjoyed the people everywhere in Oz. We were treated to a lovely dinner this evening by  Eliza and Kelly, two of the clinic participants - It was fun to visit with clinic attendees outside of the daily classes. Eliza has been a fantastic help  - she has been our wheels while here, picking us up in the morning and taking us back to our hotel every night - It's so nice to have the driving taken care of, as the whole wrong side of the road driving thing is still confounding to me...

Ok, so late, so many good things to say, so little time! Will try to catch up at our next stop in Cairns - we visit the great barrier reef and rain forest there, so we are looking forward to it!

Monday, April 12, 2010


Last day in Sydney today - We're having a morning cappuccino and croissant at the Tropicana cafe as we have the last several mornings - we come here for the free internet (and the incredible food and coffee...great excuse, huh?) It's a few blocks up a hill from our room and has been a nice morning ritual.

Yesterday was just incredible - Paula and Graeme of Ribbleton Warmbloods took us for a drive north of Sydney to Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park - Along the way we made several stops to eat and sightsee - the mountain roads reminded me a bit of curvy two lane roads in western North Carolina, but with eucalyptus trees and sandstone boulders. Gorgeous drive on a glorious day - couldn't have been more beautiful, and it was great to get out of the city to see the nearby countryside. There is much water along the route and so many beautiful overlooks and public places to enjoy the scenery.

We had a light snack at a little waterside cafe before heading up to an amazing overlook of Barrenjoey headland, where we saw some sort of large (3 feet long) dragon lizard thing...

Ventured further inland to have a nice lunch at Pie in the Sky cafe, a meat pie specialty place up in the mountains - All sorts of meat in a pastry crust, and they put gravy on the french fries and peas I had on the side. And I thought only southerners put gravy on everything...

We had a visit to Ribbleton farms to feed the horses before heading back to Sydney for dinner and it was a lovely place - beautiful grounds and horses -

To top off the day, we made our way back to town about dusk and had dinner on the north side of Sydney Harbor, overlooking the bridge and Opera House - I felt like I was living in a postcard.The view was lovely and Paulette and Graeme were just wonderful hosts for the day, so it was a very special time indeed.

We fly up to Brisbane this afternoon for the next leg of our adventure.

Enjoy the images!

Pie in the Sky!

Luna Park, North Side of Harbor Bridge

Our fantastic hosts, Graeme and Paulette

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday there, Monday here...

Nice day yesterday, went to the Art Museum of New South Wales - saw some awesome Aboriginal art as well as many other great pieces of art from the last several hundred years - a beautiful museum and exhibits. One of my favorites was the final art projects for high school seniors - super creative and well thought out works - Knocked my socks off...

Also visited the maritime museum (I am such a tourist all of a sudden...) learned a lot about Australia's history I had forgotten about  - fascinating and I have no patience to tell you about all that...Aussies love their sailing and one section of the museum was dedicated to sailboat racing - my favorite covered the annual beer can regatta held up in Darwin - People make boats out of beer cans and have a 'regatta' - (Aussies predate the Red Bull flugtag by several decades, but a similar idea. good stuff...)

While at the museum, we were visited by these gorgeous little lorakeets - we saw some at the park the other day and were amazed at their color (and vocal prowess...loud!) These little guys were everybody's best friend as long as the food held out...

We ended up at world famous Bondi Beach at sunset and watched the surfers and beautiful people from a restaurant overlooking the beach. Fish and chips are an aussie staple, so we enjoyed some as the sun went down. See photo...

All for now - are off to see a National Park today with a local Warmblood breeder - looking forward to another lovely day...

Saturday, April 10, 2010!

Have spent the last two days all over Sydney, at least the parts we could see in two days.  We started at the Opera House on Friday and took the tour - what an amazing structure and story. We then wandered over in the Botanical gardens which are huge and absolutely gorgeous - we were harassed by a large flock of cockatoos - they are loud and obnoxious and comical at the same time. I'm glad they don't live near my bedroom window.

Later in our exploration of the gardens, we heard another noise up in the trees - we looked up to find hundreds of fruit bats hanging upside down. They look like small dogs with vampire wings (not mentioning any small dogs by name, mind you) and are harmless but quite freaky when they are flying nearby - they show up as a large shadowy figure approaching in your peripheral vision - yikes!  No vampire bat bites to report at this time...

We then proceeded to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge (with help of course...) It was an amazing climb - we went up at dusk and reached the summit of the bridge at twilight - looking out over the city and the Opera House was absolutely spectacular. The bridge is almost 400 feet above the water at that point and what an adrenaline rush to be up there! Good times.

I've posted a few of my quick picks here for all to see - the only shot I missed was the one on top of the bridge - they don't let you take cameras up there for safety reasons - I was kinda bummed at first until I was on the climb and realized you don't need to be fumbling with a camera on the climb - too dangerous....

anyway, my hour of internet cafe is about to run out, so I will post images and be back later...

quick captions - Koala, wildlife experience or something like that, next to Sydney Aquarium
Darling Harbor at dusk, dinner at a fine Thai restaurant...
Botanical Gardens, downtown Sydney
View from atop our Motel at Rushcutter's Bay
Sydney Harbor Bridge - look closely and you can see people climbing up and down the top spans of the bridge - Been there!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Landed in Oz

What day is it? Friday? Thursday in Florida, Friday in Sydney. Ok. 15 hours ahead here. Ok. Jet lag?  Not bad, except I wake up at 1 in the morning and am ready to stay up. Toilets, yes, they flush backwards..not the handle, but the water. Goes counterclockwise. What does it do on the equator?  More interesting things to worry about I am sure...

It is a long plane flight here. But you chase the darkness and it says dark for 83 hours or something like that so you think you need to sleep on the plane so you do, and eventually you think you should be landing soon, and then it is only another 5 or so hours 'til you land, so all is well.

Sydney is beautiful. A lovely city and very friendly people - Had a little exploring yesterday, but today we start in earnest, capped off by an evening climb on the Sydney bridge, right at dusk. Was getting my camera gear all ready for some amazing photography until someone told me they don't let you take anything up with you (something about cars and such below being at risk from fumbly fingered photographers. Or car keys falling out of pockets, etc.) so I will have to describe that instead of showing with photographs.. Drat!

Anyway, staying at a lovely place next to a park and enjoying life in Sydney for the next few days - we fly up to the Brisbane area early next week to begin our work here, so will be sure to soak in the funtime while I can. Photos to follow when I have some time this evening or tomorrow morning.