Posted by: travelrat | September 27, 2016

Glacier Bay: Video


Glacier Bay: 11th May 2016

There’s not much more to say about Glacier Bay; the accompanying video can probably say it better.


Music: Frost Waltz (Alternate) Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Posted by: travelrat | September 25, 2016

Travel Theme: Fierce


fierce-snakeHaving read Bill Bryson’s ‘Down Under’, I feel that he did Australia a bit of a disservice. He gave the impression that, if the riptides don’t get you, and you don’t get lost in the desert, there’s deadly wildlife around every corner intent on causing you a lot of pain, if not actually terminating your contract.

So, let me say … I lived in Australia for four years, and I’ve since visited half a dozen times, but I can count the number of snakes I’ve seen in the wild without taking my socks off. Add to that one red-back spider, two sharks (one, a harmless wobbegong), one jellyfish and a little crocodile not much bigger than a goanna (although we were assured that Mum wasn’t far away!) Suddenly, Australia doesn’t seem quite a dangerous place.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t do any harm to find out what such things look like, so, in the unlikely event you see one, you can take the appropriate steps … which, in most cases, are long, fast ones in the opposite direction. Chances are, though, that, unless you come across a really grumpy, gnarly saltwater crocodile, the creature will usually be more frightened of you than you are of it.

An exception is the Fierce Snake, the most venomous snake in the world, which is extremely bad news, for it’s one of the few that will attack without provocation. Fortunately, it’s rather rare, and has a rather limited range! I did see one on the late Steve Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter series … and I think that’s the only time I’ve seen concern on his face, for little Bindi got a little bit too close to it.

But, I got a picture of one … at Australia Zoo. I’m usually a bit reluctant to take photographs through glass, but in this case, the more glass they have between me and ‘Hissing Sid’ the better!

This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. See more ferocity at

Posted by: travelrat | September 22, 2016

Adelaide Video


Here’s my video of a few of the things to be seen in Adelaide … by no means everything, though. If I get a spare few hours this winter, I may add some footage from visits in previous years. And I still won’t have got everything.

Music: At Rest Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

Posted by: travelrat | September 20, 2016

‘Turandot’ in Sydney Harbour


Sometimes, they say that watching a cinecast is almost as good as being there. In some ways, it’s better. Every year, we go to the cinecast of the André Rieu concert from Maastricht; indeed, a couple of years, we’ve gone to the live concert AND the cinecast … we try (so far, without success) to spot ourselves in the audience.

We’re agreed that the cinecast is cheaper, we don’t have to travel so far, the seats are more comfortable … and there’s nothing like the queue for the toilet at interval time that there is at Maastricht.

Last week, we went further afield … well, we only went to Salisbury again, but you know what I mean! There was a cinecast of the performance of the opera ‘Turandot’, from the Floating Stage in Sydney Harbour.

Now, for most people, all they know of the opera is the song ‘Nessun Dorma’. It’s sung in Italian, of which I know about ten words (and most of them are swear words). So, how do we know what’s going on?

If you attend a ‘live’ opera, they usually give you a synopsis of the plot in the programme … I downloaded mine from the Internet, just in case. But, it wasn’t necessary. Since it’s film, they simply add subtitles. The plot doesn’t really matter, anyway; it’s the singing you came to hear, isn’t it?

I wonder if the composer Puccini, who died in 1924, ever conceived of his work being performed against the dramatic backdrop of Sydney Harbour by night? One thing’s for certain … if we’re ever in Sydney again, attending a performance of anything on the Floating Stage is definitely high on the list.

Posted by: travelrat | September 18, 2016

Travel Theme: Seasonal


It happens four times every year. On the 1st of March, June, September, and December, a newsreader or weather forecaster will announce:

‘Today is the first day of Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winter (delete where not applicable)’

And, there is always someone (usually me!) who will yell at the TV:

‘No, it’s not! That doesn’t happen till the 21st!’

Which does sort of make sense, for these are the dates of the Solstices and Equinoxes. (that’s the longest and shortest days, and the days of equal day and night)


But, since when did Mother Nature take any notice of calendars? We’ve all had years when it’s snowed in April, or we’ve been cutting the lawn in late November, when the mower should have been put away a month ago.

We still make notes of these days, though. In my house, the Spring Equinox is always marked by the Switching On of the Fountain and the Getting Out of the Barbecue and Patio Furniture … even though it may well be a couple of months before they see any use.

And, several uniform organisations used to have fixed dates when they must change into summer or winter uniforms; they were ruled by the calendar, rather than the climate.


So, we’re just coming up to Autumn … although it doesn’t feel like it. The leaves haven’t started to turn yet … and, for me, it’s not going to happen until they do. Then, it will be time to break out the sweaters, the thick socks and the hot chocolate … and enjoy one of my favourite seasons of the year.

That is, until winter sets in, and that will become my favourite … for a few weeks, then I’m off to South America, where it’s suddenly summer again!


This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. See more at

Posted by: travelrat | September 15, 2016

Glacier Bay


Glacier Bay: 11th May 2016

I really ought to light a candle to whichever saint looks after photographers, because we had such a perfect day in Glacier Bay that it was almost impossible to take bad pictures.

At the mouth of the bay, a boat came out from the Visitor Centre, and some US National Park Rangers came to join us, bringing with them books, interpretative leaflets … and US National Park passports, which you could have stamped at every National Park you visited, for 2016 is their 100th Anniversary. I didn’t take a passport, for I didn’t have any plans to visit any more National Parks this year. But, I did take a sticker for my scrapbook. And, the Rangers were quite prepared to give presentations and answer questions.

When Captain George Vancouver visited in 1795, he could only get about five miles into the bay. But, by 1879, the ice had retreated and conservationist John Muir was able to sail another 40 miles. These days, you can travel 65 miles up the bay.

Now, I’m no scientist, but don’t these figures indicate that the retreat of the glacier … or nowadays, the glaciers (plural!) is actually slowing down?

Truly, this is an ‘At Sea’ day to end them all, not only for the superb scenery but also the chance (it didn’t happen!) of seeing orcas or whales. However, I fully accept that such creatures don’t appear to order.

We spent almost the whole day in the bay, sailing within yards of one of the Margerie Glacier, one of the biggest, where we remained for almost an hour. I’m told it’s ‘traditional’ for visitors to be photographed in the ship’s swimming pool, with a backdrop of glaciers and snow-capped mountains, but nobody seemed keen today. One Holland America tradition was observed, though, when crew members served out mugs of Dutch pea soup.

Surprisingly, ours was the only ship there. I’d have expected cruise ships to be milling around like flies around a jampot. But, the whole area is a National Park, as well as a World Heritage Site, so maybe the numbers are restricted in some way?


Posted by: travelrat | September 13, 2016

Aboriginal Art


I was sitting in the Art Gallery in Adelaide when a friendly volunteer stopped to speak to me. I was looking at a painting called ‘The Sailor Prince’. He said he didn’t know which Prince, and I said, judging by the ships and the uniforms, which looked late 18th/early 19th Century, it was probably the Duke of Clarence … later to become King William IV, after whom King William Street is named.

As regular readers know, I do volunteering myself, and we often find the exchange of information is, like this, two way.

What I’d really come to see, though, was a temporary exhibition of Aboriginal art. Most people will be familiar with it, even those who’ve never been to Australia, and think of the rock paintings and carvings to be found all over the country … some of which cannot be explained, or even, sometimes. seen by anyone outside the tribe.

Then, there’s the more familiar stuff, decorating many a souvenir. Some of it’s pretty authentic, based on actual paintings, but there’s a lot around, painted by the ‘aborigines’ of Taiwan, or somewhere.


This, though, is rather different. It’s more traditional art, crafted by artists who just happen to be First Nations people. But, a lot of their culture still goes into it. Have a look, and see what I mean.


Posted by: travelrat | September 11, 2016

Travel Theme: Transport

Some time ago … well, not long ago, actually, for it’s been endlessly repeated on cable TV … I saw the excellent Michael Palin’s TV series ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, and subsequently read the book. Later came a TV series and a book by Charley Boorman ‘London to Sydney: By Any Means’. The common denominator was that both travellers aimed to use only surface transport, and not to fly. If I remember correctly, Palin achieved this, but Boorman had a choice of using a plane, or missing a ferry connection and having an unacceptable wait for the next one.

Both achieved a formidable list of different kinds of transport, and I thought at first of making a list to see if I could better them. That idea was soon abandoned, and I concentrated on forms of transport that I’d used and they hadn’t. I don’t believe either of them used a dogsled at any stage, and I also claimed a device called a Supacat. The best way to describe it is a six-wheeled quad bike; I don’t think I have any photographs, for I don’t think it went into production in any number.

Anyway, I don’t want to bore you with a list of ‘Things I’ve Ridden In’. You’ll find a plethora of these elsewhere in the blog. So, to give you a sample of one of the best, I just opened it at random, and came upon:

Only a short distance from Brighton Pier lies a railway. It was the brainchild of one Magnus Volk … who, despite his rather Germanic-sounding name was Brighton born and bred … and what we see today is the railway pretty much as it was when he constructed it. Apart, of course, from its rather ‘lived in’ look, and the fact the driver no longer wears a ‘Come to Jesus’ collar and a ‘Go to Hell’ tie, and doesn’t sport a bushy moustache. They wouldn’t have looked right on her, anyway!

To describe it verbally makes it sound like only a slight thing; an open-sided, single-car unit running for just over a mile along the seafront. But, have a look at the wrought iron entrance arch, which proclaims it to be ‘Volk’s Electric Railway’ and carries the date 1883! In those days, an electric railway wasn’t just an amusing novelty but, to quote a sadly overused phrase, cutting edge technology. In fact, in was one of the first, if not THE first electric railway anywhere.


This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. More at




Posted by: travelrat | September 9, 2016

The Abraham Principle


‘If you have a violin, you’re not a violinist, just somebody who owns a fiddle. But, if you have a camera, you’re a photographer’

I suppose you could call it a corollary to last week’s ‘Smoke Signal Syndrome’ The simpler it becomes to operate something, the less thought goes into what it produces. It’s so easy to take a photograph these days, and most of them get confined to the digital equivalent of the shoebox under the spare bed, never to see the light of day again.

I first became aware of this trend several years ago, on an organised walk. We rounded the crest of a hill, and beheld a beautiful valley, and a guy near me whipped out his camera and took a picture without breaking step!

Since then, I’ve usually carried my camera in my bag, so that, if I want to take a picture, I have to stop, and take it out … and think about how I’m going to compose that image.

This, I call the Abraham Principle, named after the Abraham brothers, George and Ashley. They were noted photographers in the English Lake District in the first half of the 20th Century. Until fairly recently, if you picked up a postcard in a souvenir shop, it would be likely that the Abraham brothers took it.

Now, in those days, you couldn’t just slip your camera into a pocket. They were expensive, hand-crafted affairs, usually with a lot of wood, leather and brass in them, weighing about 20 lbs. Add to that a tripod, on which you could mount a light field gun, and a couple of boxes of photographic plates, and you’d have quite a load to carry.

Now, I don’t think they’d pack all that gear up, haul it up the mountain and set it up until the conditions were right, and they really wanted that picture. And, they probably wouldn’t do it unless they were certain of a perfect one.

Above all, they thought about it. And that, to my mind, is what distinguishes an ‘image’ from a rather mundane ‘snap’. It’s a picture into which some thought has gone. And, if you can do that … you’ll be a photographer, my son!

Posted by: travelrat | September 7, 2016



As we sail towards Glacier Bay, maybe we should have a word or two about glaciers?

Some folk describe them as ‘a river of ice’, and, in essence, that’s just what they are. It starts with a snowfall, back in the Year Dot. If that snow doesn’t melt, there’s another snowfall next year, which just lies on top of it. Repeat this process for a few thousand years, and the snow is compressed into ice. Just the same as if you squeezed a snowball really tightly, you’ll finish up with an iceball.

Slowly but surely, the ice heads off downhill until it reaches a level where it can melt; on the way, it carves out those great formations that mountain-goers and fjord enthusiasts love.

If it wasn’t for the action of glaciers, most of our mountains would just be boring, featureless hills.

Most glaciers are in retreat; at many of them, you’ll see photographs or pictures of how it used to look in bygone years. And, before anyone starts yelling ‘Global Warming’ … I’ll just say it’s a natural process that’s been going on since the last Ice Age, and will probably continue until the next one. If it wasn’t for that retreat, most of Northern Europe would still be under an ice sheet.

On this trip, we’ve already visited the Mendenhall Glacier and, if you can scroll back to 2013, the Svartisen Glacier in Norway. That’s the only one in mainland Europe that finds its way down to sea level.

Back in 1988, I actually walked on a glacier. That was on a Joint Services expedition to Norway’s Jordal Glacier. Officially, though, it was a ‘course’,  because the ‘Whitehall Neddies’ don’t like the idea of the troops having fun at the taxpayer’s expense. So, very little time was spent just walking and admiring the view. Most of the time, we received ‘instruction’, mainly on how to get out of a crevasse, and how to get other people out of a crevasse.

Really, we only learnt one thing, if we didn’t know it already:

‘Don’t fall into crevasses!’

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