Month: August 2004

Berlin 2

Television Tower. The Television tower (photographed in a similar way to KW Cathedral).It’s possible to get a lift to the top, but the queue length was incompatible with a 2 day trip.
We walked through Tiergarten, Berlin’s largest park in order to visit the Sony Centre at Potsdamer Platz.Potsdamer Platz was literally bombed into nothing at the end of the war, and existed as a no-mans-land during the cold war.It is amazing to see how a place can be transformed with hard work.

Made me wonder what the Lebanon could look like one day ?.

Sony Centre.
More of the Sony Centre. Once inside the Sony Centre, we had a couple of Beers (Sarah has asked me to point out that she had Wine) and had a look around.I configured my organizer, so we could brows the Internet (the whole area is set up for free wireless Internet).
We had a look in the Sony shop, which had prototypes of all the latest home entertainment.Here Frank looks at the latest state of the art televisions, which we could only dream of affording. Frank in a TV shop.
The Reichstag. Reichstag with the glass dome on top designed by UK architect Lord Norman Foster.Its from here, that Hitler planned world domination.It would have been easy to demolish it, and build a new building, for a new parliament.

Personally, I think its better to turn a symbol of tyranny into a symbol of freedom and tolerance, as the Berlin people have done.

The building across from the Reichstag is used for support staff office space and government accommodation.Its one of the most spectacular buildings I have ever seen, and must easily be a quarter of a mile long.Being super modern, it complements the traditional look of the Reichstag superbly. Support building.
Italian dinner. In the early evening, we walked back to our hotel on Friedrich strasse (the excellent Anglatere hotel).On route, we stopped for an Italian meal, which was excellent.
Frank had insisted that we visit the Egyptian museum.I was impressed by the bust of Nefratiti. Egyptian museum.
Technical museum. We visited the technical museum, which had an entire wing set aside to rail travel.Here, is a simple wooden box on wheels, which is considered to be the oldest railway in the world.
The Ka De We was shopping centre.Its the largest shopping centre in Europe, and Sarah wanted to go there.Unfortunately, it was closed on a Sunday, so here, she is photographed in the doorway, with the famous bears. Largest shopping centre in Europe.
Chocolate Titanic. Sarah also wanted to visit a really famous Chocolate shop, which was built in the mid 1800’s.They had chocolate replicas of the Titanic, and various landmarks from Berlin.
Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlins most famous Palace, just a short walk from the Centre of Berlin. Schloss Charlottenburg.
Topographie des Terrors museum. Topographie des Terrors, a fascinating outdoor museum about Nazi crimes and the Nuremberg trails.It is located on the original site of the Gestapo and SS headquarters.I know many blame the German people for the 2nd world war and the Holocaust.

Probably wont make me popular, but I blame their leaders. I think in similar circumstances, 70 years ago, the ordinary people of the UK would have done exactly the same.

Unfortunately half the exhibits were only in German.

This is a small memorial to Holocaust victims, located next to a graveyard ransacked by the Nazi’s.If he was captured, tried and executed, Osama Bin Laden’s body would not be interfered with, once a person has gone, they should be left in peace.These were not terrorist’s. They were just ordinary people who’s loved ones buried them, so they might rest in peace. Holocaust memorial.
Marx and Engles statue. Marx and Engels statue near Museum Island.You might notice that someone has vandalised the statue with graffiti.In Singapore, they would be flogged for doing this !.

Berlin 1

Frank and I in Berlin. Frank, Sarah and I pack our day sacks, and head of to the amazing city of Berlin.Here, Frank and I Pose in “unter den linden” a boulevard of lime trees, which literally means under the limes.
The famous Berlin Sculpture.Before I set off, I saw lots of pictures of it, on the Internet, but they all made it look about 100 metres high.I deliberately Photographed it with 2 people walking under it, so a measure of its real size, could be gauged. The Berlin sculpture.
A remaining section of the Berlin wall. A remaining section of the Berlin Wall, next to the Topography of Terror museum.
Checkpoint Charlie.A superb museum, about escape attempts from east Berlin was next to it, and was the highlight of our trip. Checkpoint Charlie.
CC sign. Leaving/Entering the Checkpoint sign.Everyone always seems to photograph it from the other side, which says “you are leaving the American sector”I decided to photograph it from the other side.The sign is a replica, the original, was donated by the American government, to the Checkpoint Charlie museum.
The Berliner Dom cathedral on museum island. Berliner Dom cathedral.
Stasi building. Taken from the steps of the Egyptian Museum.To the right of the Berliner Dom, is the Stasi building.The Stasi building is extremely controversial, and is to be torn down soon.
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche.I have tried to photograph things from different angles, as otherwise you just end up with the same picture as the one in the guide book. Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedachtniskirche.
Centre of world culture. Centre of world culture.Built by the Americans during the cold war.Unfortunately, the roof collapsed in the 80’s and had to be replaced.
Brandenburger Tor.It was the busies place in Berlin, at the top of “unter den linten”.There was a memorial nearby, to the Russian soldiers killed taking Berlin at the end of the 2nd world war. The Brandenberg gate.
Peddle Taxi. Overall, the city was very modern, and here, featured peddle power taxi’s.
The Jewish Museum.Designed by Daniel Libeskind 1998 (museum opened 2001) Jewish museum.Some information states that it is modelled on a “burst” star of David.I have also read that it maps geographical events in Jewish history, and the building plots a course across these locations.

Impressive and moving.

The Jewish Museum.
Garden of Exile. The garden of exile, next to the Jewish Museum, which contains the memorial to victims of the holocaust.

We arrived early in the morning, when no one was around.

Cairns (3/3)

 takeoff  My view from inside the helicopter. You can see the quicksilver pontoon in the foreground.
 A view of Port Douglas from the helicopter. Apparently Bill Clinton has a house there.  port_douglas
 capetribfromair  Cape tribulation from the air.
 A tree growing in the see, at cape tribulation.  treeinwater
 tjapukai I visited Tjapukai aboriginal centre. They had an authentic aboriginal camp, and showed us how to light fire from friction, and build shelters.It was really nice to walk around, and we had buffet breakfast while we chatted to them (bushcraft is one of my hobbies, and I found the conversation fascinating).
We visited the Wujai Wujai aboriginal village during our 4 wheel drive trip into the rainforest.I had imagined it to be quite traditional, but found it had modern houses and jeeps.It did have a large fire area though, and they spend most evenings outdoors sat around the fire.  wujai
 waterfall  We took a walk up through the village, and stopped at a waterfall for a picnic.
I had never tried ballooning so just had to have a go.We had to get up at 4:30 in the morning. The balloon we flew in, was one off the largest commercially available.  balloonlaunch
 ballooninsky We went up to a height of 1000 feet (I was able to check on my Suunto watch). The thing I noticed was the silence. It was amazing to be travelling hi above the ground and not hear a sound.Our guide cracked a joke and asked if everyone know how he steered the balloon.

He then said we don’t, it goes where the wind takes it.

Cairns (2/3)

 roots An amazing fact I found out, is that the roots of trees, do not grow bellow the ground in the rainforest.This tree, for example is actually growing in sand. It would be possible theoretically, to construct a rainforest in a car park, if it was hot and the air was moist enough.
The famous “wait a while vine”. It grows with prickly stalks that fasten to other plants and pull it skyward, so it can gain access to the sun.They can be used for water, but if the prickly part catches on your clothing, you should stop and carefully remove it, rather than continuing. That’s where it gets its name. waitawhile
 snake Back to Habitat, a small child plays with a snake. I loved the way the Australians were so in tune with nature.Daintree School had actually written to the American Space Program and asked them if spiders could make webs in space.They actually sent specimens of spiders from the Daintree into space to answer the children’s question. Yes, they can.
I have never been interested in diving, but once on the reef, I decided to go at it with Frank (who loves the sport).Unfortunately, I should have prepared, and had real difficulties, which resulted in me getting out of the water and not completing the dive.It was a low point on the trip for me, but at least I had a go.  diving2
 diver_fish Frank diving in the reef with tropical fish (a few of them bit him !).There was a viewing area near the diving centre.
 Some reef coral from the viewing area.  coral1
 sub  Another lifelong ambition, to travel in a submarine !
 Inside the submersible, it was a bit cramped, but the view was amazing.  inside_sub
 copter Travelling from the quicksilver pontoon, to where the helicopter I had booked for a trip across the reef.

Cairns (1/3)

 me_capetrib Standing in cape tribulation bay.It is so named, as Captain Cook ran aground here, and needed 7 weeks of repair to fix his ship (its next to a place called weary bay).

My experiences were different. I thought is was fantastic.

Its funny, in modern times, any child can purchase a map showing the reef, which would have saved Captain Cook all that trouble !.

 Taken from a hill side overlooking cape tribulation bay. capetrib2
 heritageroad The road leading deep into the rainforest.A few miles down this road, is a resort called Heritage where I stayed overnight.
This was my room for the night. It was miles away from any other of the hotel buildings, and I sat on my porch with a glass of wine.It was cool to be all alone in the rainforest, and watch the sun set.  home
 habitat_walkway The habitat Zoo in Port Douglas. It was amazing to see so many wild animals in this environmentally friendly, indoor zoo.This is one of the walkways, which allowed you walk high above the river and swamp lands.
 A tree climbing Kangaroo, in the habitat zoo. It uses its tale as a counterbalance when climbing.  tree_roo
 feeding_roo Me feeding a Kangaroo.The Kangaroo’s were just as I had expected, and were very friendly.
Into the rainforest. Our guide Tanya took is to a “Boarded” section of the Daintree Rainforest (the oldest Rainforest in the world).She showed us all the different trees and plants, and the damage the ferile pigs can do in the wild.  tanya_walkway
 rf_walkway  I had always wanted to stand in a real Rainforest, and wandering around like this was a high point of my trip.
 Me on the boarded walk, with the Mossman river behind me.  me_daintreeriver
 crock_boat We had lunch at the brilliant Fern Tree lodge, a couple of the other people went in the pool.After that, we went Croc spotting on the mossman river.

We saw about 9 Crocs, although they were bellow the water line with only there heads and snouts visible.

 Since the crocks in the Mossman river wouldn’t surface, I have put up some crocs that I saw at the habitat zoo.  crocks

Sydney (2/2)

aboleanto If you have visited this web site before, you will know that wilderness bushcraft is one of my hobbies.I have always found shelter building fascinating, and this is an abo lean to, on display in botanical garden.
This is one of the largest trees in the botanical Garden.I sat under it, when I had a picnic with Frank.I also fulfilled a childhood dream by purchasing a boomerang, and throwing it in the botanical garden. bigtree
 bridgefromferry On the ferry coming back from Manly, I got a brilliant shot off the harbour bridge.I heard reports on the radio later that day, that Wale’s were visible from the bridge.I loved walking across the bridge.
 A Koala bear in the Blue Mountain Zoo.  koala
 bluemountain1  The blue mountains. tragically, the weather wasn’t very good on that day, as I would have loved to see them in the sunshine.
These mountains are only a 40 minute drive from Sydney.Our guide pointed out that it would be possible to walk more than a hundred miles through the forest, without seeing another person.  bluemountain4
 forrest I asked the guide if there was a camp site in the forest (which is bigger than the lake district !).His reply was everything that I love about Australia – “the whole thing is a camp site, all you need is a map to find where the water is, the rest is up to you !”
In the rainforest zoo, there was an albino kangaroo.Its extremely unusual to find one, as they are normally killed by wild animals very quickly.It was a friendly and charming animal.  albinoroo
 shark Slightly less friendly, I saw a real shark in Manly aquarium.I have always wanted to see a real shark and like so many of the things that happened on my trip, it fulfilled a lifelong ambition.
Some baby penguins.They were so tame, that instead of moving away when I stood next to there enclosure, they actually came over to have a look at me.  penguins

Sydney (1/2)

ohfrommanlyferry A classic picture of the Sydney opera house from the ferry.During the opera house tour, I saw the famous staircase that leads nowhere. I was struck by the innovative nature of Australians.The opera house was paid for by a lottery fund, and not taxes, so nobody paid towards it that didn’t want to.
A view of the amazing botanical garden from the steps of the opera house.I liked the way the skyscrapers in the background contrasted against the plants and trees. viewfromohsteps
 me_leaves There are signs around the botanical garden, saying please walk on the grass.The point is that they wanted people to actively visit and enjoy the park.It was amazing to be there at lunchtime and see people taking time out from work to have a picnic.
The opera house from the Harbour Bridge.Circular bay has the opera house, the rocks, the botanical garden and several nice shops and bars.Its one of the most vibrant places I have ever been.  ohfrombridge
 me_roo  On a trip to the blue mountains, we visited a campsite where Kangaroos run free.
I caught the ferry to Manly island.It was named that, as the first explorers saw some local abo tribesmen, and described them as very “Manly”.I loved it here.  manly_bay1
 manly_path There was a six mile walk along the shore in manly, and as I am not much of a beach person I walked the whole length of it.There was a fantastic view.
Frank outside the opera house.Although I am comfortable travelling on my own, it was great when he arrived.There are pictures of Frank all over this web site, he is my closest friend, we have travelled all over the world together and I would trust him with my life (I actually have done several times !).  frankfrontoh
 bills Back home in the UK, we have a cookery program called Saturday kitchen.They feature an Australian Chef called Bill Granger who runs an internationally respected restaurant called “Bill’s”.I decided to actually go there whilst in Sydney.I was blown away to be actually sat in a building which I had seen on TV from the other side of the world.
Although its hard to qualify, the scrambled eggs at bills are said to be the best in the world.Scrambled are my favourite eggs, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity. It is made using cream, and tasted delicious.The T shirt I am wearing, is one of 6 I bought in Australia, as they were so inexpensive, it was easier to buy new clothes, than wash dirty ones.  john_breakfast
 me_rock In the blue mountains.The rock formations were stunning to look at.Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t very good on that day, and I ended up buying a coat to keep warm.
An Emu in the blue mountain zoo.An international symbol of Australia.Of all the places I have ever visited, Australia was the most beautiful.I will definitely return there !.  emu

Alice Springs (2/2).

Img_0131 The aborigines didn’t like people climbing Ularu (although no one was specific about why).As an alternative, there was a circular walk around the base of the rock, which we did early on when it was cool.

The scenery and views around the rock were breathtaking.

I decided to climb Ularu. I was clear about this from the beginning, nature put it there before men and religion existed and it was meant to be climbed.Unfortunately, Frank didn’t agree and I walked it on my own. It was unusual to be anywhere near a mountain without Frank !

Good news was that my expensive cross trainers and hours of fitness paid off, and flew up it even though it was very steep.

me_ularu Me at the top of Ularu.I was lucky to find some people from Perth at the top to take my picture.
Ularu at night.We had a glass of wine, and watched the son set over the rock.

I got chatting to a few off the people on the Safari and made some friends.

canyone2 On the 3rd day of our trip, we visited Kings Canyon.The walk wasn’t particularly hard, but it was very hot.

This is a view of the Canyon. It was like a sheer wall, and is very popular with rock climbers.

Its a bit hard to see, but at the bottom of the Canyon is the Garden of Eden, a really special place with clear water which I sat in for half an hour relaxing.

We had such a good time, that when we got back we all went for a night out in Alice Springs.I had Kangaroo steaks, and we all got loads of pitcher’s of beer.

I have spent to many weeks of my life with holiday makers, it was great for a change to be surrounded by travellers and people with a taste for adventure like me.

girls Julia, Sonja and the Anouk holding a 4 pint pitcher of beer.

Alice Springs (1/2).

 olgas The Olga’s.I went on a 3 day Safari around Ularu and the desert around the red centre.

The heat on the trip was stifling, and we had to get up at 4am each day.

Valley of the winds.As we completed the walk around the Olga’s, we came to the valley of the winds, which is sacred to the aboriginal people. valleyofwinds
 wild_camel There are Camel farms all over Australia, and approximately 400,000 Camels live wild.I had to use the zoom on my Camera to capture a picture of this camel.
I thought it was amazing in the desert, but I had to drink at least 4 litre’s of water each day.I knew when I was dehydrated, as my appetite would go, I would feel tired, and then get headaches.I had always imagined doing a long distance walk in the outback, but I discovered the amount of water you would need to carry, meant traveling without a vehicle was practically impossible.  me_olgas
 tent Whilst on the safari, we stayed on a camp site in tents.These were unlike any tents I had ever slept in, as they were built like nuclear air raid shelters.The Kings Canyon cattle station where we stayed on the 2nd night, actually had a pool, which we made good use of.
Our guide Darren cooked these chicken meals on the coals off the fire.He asked if anyone knew how to light I fire, and I couldn’t miss an opportunity like that. I have never seen wood so dry.It wasn’t necessary to use kindling, as a piece of wood the thickness of a broom handle could be lit with a match !.I had the fire roaring within about 10 minutes, and everyone in the camp complimented me on my fire lighting skills (I neglected to mention to them, that I had been trained by some of the UK’s finest Bushcraft instructors !).  chicken
 frankandtone Frank and Tony outside a hostel in Alice springs.I stayed mostly in expensive hotels while on my trip. I actually found that sometimes, the more money you spend, the less atmosphere you seem to get.I am glad I did a “James Bond” on this trip, but next time I am going to rough it a bit more.
Quad biking in the desert.Not like in the UK. No 25 minute safety brief, the instructor hands you a helmet, asks if you know the controls (and looks unimpressed if you dont).Then says simply “try and keep up with me” and off we go.

An amazing experience, the highlight of my trip was hitting a ramp and having all 4 wheels leave the ground.

That feeling of being airborne was incredibly exhilarating.

 me_camel This is Mo, the Camel I got to ride whilst in the desert.The camel driver was explaining that Camels have a reputation for being bad tempered, when in reality they associate emotions with memories.This means that if a camel is shouted at in a field, it will always be ill tempered in that field.I had always wondered about this, as I cant actually believe that an animal can be “nasty”.I also found out why they are called the ship of the desert. They rock as they move