When I travel I like to develop a theme (and often a sub-theme) for my photos so that I can have a unifying element in the photo books I make. It is an underlying thread that doesn’t direct my flow but, if I see it and it catches my eye; I will take the shot. For example when I went to France for my 50th birthday I took photos of house numbers from 1 – 50. The 50 was the last page of the book. (BTW I missed number 26 and had to get one from the interwebs) In Italy a couple of years before that I took, photos of doors. When I was in America in 2012, I took photos on a red, white and blue theme. Incidentally, I only took red white and blue clothes with me so in selfies I would fit the theme. (I know I know….what can I say!)
On my recent trip to New York I decided to take photos of photographers, professional and otherwise; taking photos. I had some fun, met some people when they caught me out and got a few good shots. Here are a few of the results.
I took the series above in Freeman Alley in the Bowery District. I went there to take some street graffiti pictures but found these fellows posing. I started chatting to the photographer and we had a bit of a laugh. You can find his work at @iamjustiniano on Instagram.
This series is on the Pebble Beach at DUMBO in Brooklyn. The engagement shoot was gate crashed by a photography tour who had set up for the sunset behind Brooklyn Bridge.
The photographer wanted her to hold that big wrench in a particular way and she just wasn’t getting it!
I am guessing these ones in fashionable SOHO were for Instagram.
These final ones below aren’t great photos in their own right and were in the reject pile but these people were all taking photos of a red tail falcon which was eating a pigeon in a tree. It turned into a little community for a few minutes with people sharing their shots.
I nearly always take photos of myself in reflections like this one. If I pass a mirror I can’t resist! A reflection and a mirror? Heaven!
I can see the twinkling lights on the land. A cluster of brightness surrounded by black. The wake being cast aside is fluorescent; although on closer inspection it could just be the lights from the ship reflecting off the white water. A delicate, cold breeze ruffles my hair as I lean over the balcony and breath in the salted air.
Perhaps the lights are Gosford? My smart phone, which still has a good signal, says we are somewhere north of Manly. We have been sailing for just on two hours and we are going nowhere. Well, nowhere in particular. This cruise; a 3-night comedy cruise; sails out the Sydney Heads on Friday afternoon around 3pm and turns left to head up the coast and then does a u-ey around Coffs Harbour and creeps home in time for work on a Monday morning.
They call it a Sea Break; I call it a rest. This is the sort of cruise I like. Some luxury. Some hedonism. Too much food. Too much drinking. Grand fun and it’s only three nights. Not long enough to get bored on board and no so long that all your New Year’s resolutions are thrown out the porthole. Long enough to let your hair down but not long enough to let yourself down. You can even still go to the gym if you want!
The 3 or 4-day cruise to nowhere is a relatively new option in the cruise offerings. With port fees being too expensive for ships to stay in dock, they go out for short trips in between their longer voyages.
This is my fourth short cruise in three years. I have learnt not to bring my ‘big’ camera. There are no real photo opportunities that the phone can’t handle. Nothing beyond friends doing silly things, playing trivia; corny stage shows and maybe the occasional dolphin. I have learnt to pack a series of nice frocks, so you can get dressed-up for dinner and forget the diet for a little while.
Cruising has come back in vogue and it’s a huge business. According to Statistica the global cruise industry was worth $US39.6 billion in 2015. This was a $US15 billion increase from the previous 5 years. Why is cruising so popular? I think it boils down to a few basic elements
1. You don’t have to plan much. Book your cruise and away you go. No itinerary to work out. No deciding where you are going to eat other than choosing from the options on the ship. You don’t need to worry about connecting flights, hiring a car, booking hotels etc etc.
It’s good value for money. Cruising is an all-inclusive ticket. I am no millionaire so the cruises I have been on have been very reasonably priced. The ticket includes food, entertainment and accommodation. If you are canny, you can avoid paying for anything else, provided you drink water, coffee and tea and stick to the included food options. On P&O and Royal Caribbean the included food options are very acceptable. The alcoholic beverages are about the same as in a suburban pub. If you are planning on partying hard you can buy drinks packages at various levels. There is enough free entertainment to keep you amused but you’ll have to opt out of the spa treatments.
You can do as much or as little as you like. Go to the gym, attend all the trivia sessions, origami, dance lessons, play board games on deck, swim, sun bake, sleep, drink and eat. It’s up to you. You don’t even have to get off for the shore tours when you get to port if you don’t want to. You can spend your whole time in the spa, get botox, attend lectures on nutrition. On themed cruises you can try your hand at stand-up comedy, go to cooking lessons, or photography lessons among many other activities.
A cooking class during a shore trip in Eden
You can find a cruise to suit your budget. On the Cruiseaway website the cheapest cruise leaving Sydney is $190 but you needed to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice for the 4-day comedy cruise to New Zealand. On the other end of the spectrum, you can spend a cool $40,000 on a 62 night round the world cruise.
Cruises are great for families. You can book your little nippers in to the kids’ clubs and be free to spend the day as you wish. You’ll know they’ll be entertained and they can’t get up to too much mischief.
Cruising is not for everyone. If you are a serious adventurer, I would say that you’d find them a TAD boring. Some liken cruises to a floating RSL’s on a Friday night with the roast meat buffet and jelly cups. Lots of kitschy glitz, rusty tinsel, feather boas and bingo. Cruise companies have tried to appeal to the adventure market with on-board rock climbing walls, zip lines and water slides. At the end of the day though, you are stuck in the one place, for a few days at least.
For those who suffer sea sickness the thought of getting on a big white ship is terrifying. With all those decks towering above the water you might also worry about the risk of tipping over in big waves. Modern technology has it covered – to some extent. Stabilizers, which act like big under water wings, reduce the side to side rocking of the ship. They can reduce movement by up to 90%. The forward and back rocking can be reduced by sailing parallel to the waves. There is less movement in the core of the ship so you will do better in an inside cabin on a lower deck. Another benefit of inside cabins is that they are a cheaper. On the downside, they don’t get any natural light. This is great for sleeping in, but it will mess with your body clock. The view can get monotonous especially after several “at sea” days.
I would recommend cruising with a group of friends. Around 6 – 10 would be ideal. Decide from the start that you won’t get precious if you want to do different things and not spend every minute of the day with each other and only go for a few days. Be prepared to relax and party. Pack your dancing shoes and your slippers!
 RSL clubs or Returned Services League Clubs are usually large, brightly lit clubs with cheap drinks, cheap food and lots of poker machines. The entertainment is often provided by 1970’s has-beens or rip offs of has-beens. Some are very nice, but they can be bland.
There’s plenty to see and do in my home town. People come here for holidays! You can easily fill up a weekend with active fun and fab food with very little effort. This post is about some free things you can do to keep active while spending time in Wollongong. I am not going to say much about accommodation or cafes etc. I will keep that for a separate post. This is certainly not an exhaustive guide but gives you a bit of an idea of things to do.
Coming in for a landing
The Tank Traps – Port Kembla
Like swimming but not sand? Head down to the Continental Pools just on the other side of the breakwater from Belmore Basin.
Like swimming and don’t mind the sand? Wollongong has more sandy beaches than you can poke a boogie board at! From Stanwell Park in the north to “Farm” down at Killalea State Park there are all sorts of beaches.
If you are in the CBD, you can easily walk to City Beach or North Beach. The Bathing Pavilion at North Beach has been renovated and has good change rooms and showers and there are some cafes there too.
You can walk along the Blue Mile and around the lighthouses to get from one beach to the other. City Beach and North Beach are patrolled (by life guards) in season and you should swim between the flags. Belmore Basin is a small sandy beach on Wollongong Harbour. This is a great place for little kids and swimmers who don’t like waves. If you are a surfer have a look at this site for a few suggestions. http://www.backpackaround.com/things-to-do/destinations/new-south-wales/wollongong/wollongong-surfing.html
Bushwalking. There are some very fine bushwalks in the Illawarra area.
Sublime Point Walk. If you are a bit of an extreme exercise enthusiast, you might like to try the Sublime Point Walk. It’s short (less than a kilometre one way) but it’s straight up (more or less) the escarpment. Lots of people try to beat their own personal best and get it done one way in less than 30 minutes. That’s easy if you come down the track but not so much if you start at Austinmer and go up. The National Parks website tells you how to get there and where to park. You can take the train and get off at Austinmer. This is also uphill and will take about 20 – 25 minutes. Take water and snacks. There is a café at the top but it is not open 24/7. Apart from trying to beat the speed record lots of people aim to get to the top by sunrise, so many start the walk in the near dark. Please note: the local residents will get VERY narky if you park in their driveway so play nice if you drive. You should be fit to do this walk – it’s a hard slog and will be tough on your knees. You need to be comfortable climbing ladders and there are lots of stairs. But the view!! The view is amazing!
Kiama to Gerringong walk. At sixteen kilometres one way this is for those who like a more leisurely pace but a longer walk. Either drive or catch a train to Kiama and join the track. https://www.beyondtracks.com/walks/-/gerringong-to-kiama-along-kiama-coastal-walk/ You will need to either catch a train and walk both ways or have a car shuttle system worked out. There are no places for fresh water or food en route, so you will need to carry everything you want.
The Park Run: The Park Run is a global volunteer-organised running club. There are three places you can do the Park Run in the Illawarra if you are a registered member. One in Sandon Pont, another that starts from Fairy Meadow Surf Club and then down south in Shellharbour. These 5 km timed runs are all in great locations and attract lots of locals and travellers. http://www.parkrun.com.au/northwollongong/ . Links to the Sandon Point and Shellharbour runs are on this page. The runs are held on Saturday mornings.
Bike riding: Fancy a long ride along the beach? There is a bike/walk path that goes from the just south of the city up to Thirroul in the North – around 10 km all up. You will wind your way past several beaches, Bellambi Lagoon and some urban areas. You can also ride around Lake Illawarra (about 31 km) http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/facilities/sportrec/Pages/CyclingGuide.aspx
6. Wollongong Botanic Gardens. For those who prefer a more gentle walk the WBG are a real treat. Both Native and exotic plants are on display with picnic areas and secret trails. http://www.wollongong.nsw.gov.au/botanicgarden/Pages/default.aspx. They also host a Sunset Cinema in summer (which is not free). You could also duck across the road and have a wander through the University of Wollongong’s grounds.
Need a rest?
The following ideas, while not active may also be of interest to round out your weekend!
Feeling Spiritual? Australia is a secular country but there are several large temples and churches in the Illawarra area that are interesting to visit.
Nan Tien Temple. The Nan Tien Temple is a huge Buddhist Temple and conference centre. It has beautiful gardens and you can wander around and look at the interesting buildings, gong the peace bell and sit in on the free lectures about Buddhism. There is a very good vegan café. This page has information on how to get there and what to wear http://www.nantien.org.au/en/visitor-info/directions-and-dress-code
Sri Venkateswara Temple. This Hindu temple is in the northern most suburb of Wollongong; Helensburgh. While accessible by public transport and a 4 km walk, a car would make it much easier! It is closed between 12 – 4pm on week days. Once again you can buy vegetarian food here. Find more information here
Illawarra Museum: This cute little museum which is run by the Illawarra Historical Society is right on the beach and in the old court building. It’s free to enter but they can use a donation if you would like to contribute. See their website for more http://www.illawarramuseum.com/
First time visitors to Israel may be surprised to learn that things pretty much close down on Friday afternoon through to Saturday evening. While not all Israelis are observant Jews, the retail trade for the most part keeps Shabbat. You will, however, find many restaurants and cafes open. Just don’t expect to do any shopping or use public transport. Think of Sydney in the late 1960’s when you had to rush up to Woollies before 12 on a Saturday!
The roads are quiet with less traffic and the din of traffic abates. The streets are less hectic, and everything is slow and peaceful. It might be quiet but if you are into people watching head down to the Shlomo Lahat Promenade which snakes along the Mediterranean coast for a few kilometres from Tel Aviv Port down to Old Jaffa in the south. There is a good choice of eateries and plastic lounge seats on the sand where you can enjoy a beer or glass of wine.
I spent almost an entire day walking along the Promenade last week and had a great time! I enjoyed classical music, dancing, singing and watching people exercise outdoors.
Joggers and power walkers pound down the pavement dodging bike riders. There is a dedicated bike track,although in some of the more narrow sections, it gets a bit tight so you need to keep an eye out.
Surfboards and paddle boards are available for hire, but for an Aussie, the surf was not much to write home about. Speaking of surfing, the sand on the beach is pretty good. Pale gold- grey and small grain size so comfortable on the feet but NOT squeaky! There were people out surfing (in wet suits) but no swimmers. According to the signs, swimming is prohibited.
The Leonardo Art /Hotel building (a disused shopping mall??) which straddles a road has some interesting street art.
The dancing was fascinating. Tel Aviv’s answer to boot scooting. A large group of more than 100 people dancing in a circle to traditional folk tunes. I asked a woman in the crowd and she told me it happens every Saturday. Some come alone, some in groups or with their partner.
There is exercise equipment, a swimming pool and plenty of space for beach volley ball (mostly younger people) or a version of noisy tennis with hard rackets and a small ball (Mostly older people).
These photos show some of the fun from that day. I would give it a 10 out of 10 for a cheap day out depending on how much you stop and eat and drink. Allow yourself three hours at least. Not so great on a cold, windy wet day but you could visit the Museums that are open if the weather is nasty!
 Have a look at this blog post for a summary of what is an isn’t open on Shabbat. It was written in April 2017 but seems a good summary based on my own experience. http://tlvxp.com/eng/shabbat
Last year I took a road trip to a town called Bright in Victoria. It is just over 600km from home. My goal was to join up for an Instameet at the Bright Autumn Festival. I took a very scenic route and passed through the towns of Nerriga, Berridale, Thredbo, Corryong Beechworth and Yackandandah. Oh! Australia has some fun place names!!
Australia’s native trees are not deciduous so we don’t get the showy colour changes you see in the Northern Hemisphere, unless there is a deliberate planting of exotic species. Bright has exactly the right climate for bringing out the spectacular foliage and its Autumn Festival is designed to take advantage of it.
The instameet was a great experience. I meet lots of terrific people and made new friends! All the while taking photos in the spirit of collegiality.
Brendan, the organiser, went out of his way to take us to some really great locations. You can find him at @brightmystic on Instagram.
You can get information about 2018’s festival here.