What I Did on My Autumn Vacation, Ep. 2

Let’s see what I can share today. One thing it was impossible to ignore is that the scenery surrounding my vacation was downright breathtaking. So let’s get to it, shall we?

Australia

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This is Uluru (known to the white folks as Ayers Rock), a massive sandstone formation out in the middle of a lot of flat desert. The Aborigines first encountered it over 20,000 years and have conjured all sorts of stories regarding its origin. Over 300 meters tall–it still makes an impression!
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I took a six-mile walk around Uluru. Visitors were forbidden to photograph some formations on the rock (to do so would interrupt the Aboriginal dream-time story connected to them). These caves, however, could be photographed. 
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Several miles away from Uluru is Kata Tjuta, a collection of massive rocks that are even taller–400-500 meters! Our group hiked through a gorge between two of them. I managed to walk into the gorge and back without incident–I waited until I tried to sit on a camp chair to fall over.
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West of Cairns, Queensland, is an impressive rain forest. Climbing up and over this forest is a cable car/gondola system. Remarkably, I didn’t freak out from the height. Too busy photographing the scenery!
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Another view of the Kurunda rain forest. I thought that little railway bridge was high!
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The water out at the Great Barrier Reef was a lovely, bright blue…and it rocked up and down the entire time.
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For those of us too motion-sick to suit up for scuba, there was a semi-submersible vehicle to view the critters underwater. I kept my lunch down by occasionally focusing on the edge of the window.
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Yep: this is the Great Barrier Reef–one tiny piece of the longest coral reef system in the world. Lots of this weird stuff to see.
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Fish swimming among deer antler coral.
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Yes, I covered this under Architecture, but really, this is a gorgeous bridge. Not so gorgeous that I felt the need to climb up the arch like some of the people on my tour, but it’s worth photographing.
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The Sydney Opera House is interesting to photograph from almost any angle. This is the landward side looking out toward the harbor. There are a lot of restaurants on the shore leading up to this area…it’s a popular place because people like looking at beautiful places. Go figure.
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On the seaward side of the Opera House are the Royal Botanical Gardens, which are gorgeous and restful after all the hubbub of the Harbour.

New Zealand

Okay, I’m not going to lie: New Zealand had a lot more natural wonders to gawk at…

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Okay, so I’ll start simply: here’s a shot of Auckland Harbour.
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Another shot of the Harbour with rolling hills in the background…and MORE hills beyond that.
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My inner Irishman loved this country–plenty of green, plenty of rolling hills, plenty of critters.
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Another shot of Auckland Harbour. It’s also called the City of Sails. Wonder why?
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So as far as i can recall, this was just a random hillside i captured on one of our bus segments. Seriously, the whole country was like this: random pretty everywhere. Showoffs. 😉
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This is a place in Rotorua called Te Puia, which is both a national park due to the geothermal activity there, as well as a Maori cultural center, where young Maori can learn about their culture and take that knowledge back to their homes.
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Yep: geysers! Unlike Old Faithful, these naturally powered fountains seemed to spout continuously.
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Hot springs…hard to capture, but the ground isn’t just steaming, but bubbling.
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Another random hillside on the South Island. I understand that the yellow plants are an import from Scotland which, while pretty, is now considered an invasive pest.
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Hillside seen on the way to the Franz Josef Glacier. Poles and wires aside, it’s nice country.
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Because hills and greenery weren’t enough, they also have waterfalls.
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So, yes, I like waterfalls.
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This is the Franz Josef Glacier, seen from a distance of 2-3 kilometers. A hundred and fifty years ago, the glacier’s edge covered the place where I was standing, so yeah, there’s been some warming here.
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A shot of Lake Wakatipu, the longest lake in New Zealand. It’s a startling, powdery blue thanks to runoff from the nearby mountains. And yes, it’s pretty much like this from any angle.
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Milford Sound (which is really a fjord) has some astonishing land forms and, yep, more waterfalls.
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Another Milford Sound waterfall, with a tour boat in the foreground for some perspective/scale.
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Milford Sound is just ridiculously pretty.
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Another Milford Sound waterfall.
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A shaded bank on the north end of Lake Wakatipu.
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This forest clearing appeared three different times in the Lord of the Rings movies (I’ll have a separate posting about LOTR locations). Just teasing you a bit.
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Saw these cliffs with friends. The rock faces are nesting places for gannets, which are busy seabirds.
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Up close with the rock faces by the gannet nests. Even the rocks are interesting in New Zealand!
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More captivating sandstone.
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A last shot of Auckland Harbour as I was heading out of town.

 

 

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