Sydney Harbour – Hermitage Foreshore Walk to Neilsen Park

I got out for a walk today.  Down to Sydney Harbour and along the Hermitage Foreshore Walk to Neilsen Park.  It’s a long time since I have been down that way, so it was lovely, despite the initially cool weather to see the views over the Harbour and walk along the cliffs.

It was very much a “stop and smell the roses” kind of day today.  So I took the camera along with me and made the most of the excursion…

John.

 

 

Fiji

Have you ever been to Fiji?  Until a couple of weeks ago, I had not.

I visited Vanuatu way back in 2005, which was a very interesting experience (and one that I would like to repeat one day), but I had never made it to Fiji.

As regular readers may know, travel with my clients has become a regular thing and I now take up to four bookings each year for longer dates to travel with clients who would like a companion to share their holiday with.

It is an extreme privilege for me to be invited to do this and I do my best to both make the trip itself memorable, and to document it photographically so that my client has a set of photographs and a photobook to relive the trip for year to come.

This trip to Fiji was no exception and I would like to share a few of the photos that I was able to take.  Tropical paradise is not overstating Fiji’s charm and I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to escape the winter and relax for a week with white sand and warm seas.

In preparation for this trip I attended a scuba diving course and gained my PADI open water diving certification.  I now have the basic scuba diving qualification that allows me to dive to eighteen meters.  This is all you need to be able to take advantage of much of the fabulous scuba diving that Fiji has to offer.

I had expected to have lots of photographs from the eight dives that I went on during this trip, however my plans were thwarted when the batteries for my dive camera being lost while clearing security scanning at Sydney Airport.  It was a huge disappointment, however it did not detract from the experience of diving itself.

I had the most amazing experiences, including watching eagle rays drift out of the gloom and glide past my group, then fade back into the depths, having a sea turtle heave itself up and circle around me – curious, before heading off to another part of the reef.

And then there were the sharks.  At a place called The Cathedral, where deep waters plunge away from rock and coral pillars, groups of two and three white tipped reef sharks – fine and streamlined – cruised in to look at us and circled around before heading away again into the dark.  And overhead, unexpected, and seen only as a heavy silhouette – a bull shark, a powerful predator easily more than two meters long.

It is hard to describe how being in the world of these creatures makes you feel – besides small.  The beauty of hard and soft corals and myriad life that they support, the schools of fish that flash silver as they turn in perfect unison when startled, even the tiny colourful fish that hover over corals and retreat as a family between the branches as you approach.

We are clumsy down there, able to exist only through our machines, and even then, only for such short times before we have to leave again and go back to the waves and the sky above.

But you don’t come back the same.  You can’t.  When I look at the water now, I am transported back to those moments of rolling back off the side of the dive boat, mask held in place with a finger tip, taking those first strange, cool rushing breaths of air from the regulator – and then the bubbles clear and your eye follows the shafts of light down to a wonderland garden below on the sea floor.  And all you can think of is getting down there and seeing what mother nature will show you this time – making every breath of air in the tank count.

Little wonder that diving is so addictive.

And then it’s over, all too soon and you are slowly heading back to the surface, stopping to decompress, caught half way between one world and another.  A moment to reflect on that place and its inherent fragility.

We drop anchors that break coral, we cast lines that snag and tangle, we set nets that take fish and other creatures wholesale.  And while we stay on the surface we have no idea what is down there and what we do to this place of unfathomable complexity and beauty.

The chance to dive is a chance to become a larger person.  A chance to know a bigger world.  It is a chance that I am extremely grateful to have been given.  And one that I fully intend to continue to explore.

Back above the waves, Fiji is no less beautiful.  Beaches of white sand unroll around green atolls, and the sun, filtered through a thicker atmosphere than I am used to in New South Wales and Victoria needs less sunscreen to fend it off.

Perhaps one of the best parts though of Fiji is her people.  Friendly, open, and lovely.  They take a never ending tide of visitors into their land and make you feel a part of their family, sharing freely despite lives that are nowhere near as wealthy as ours.  It’s a trait that stands out starkly in this age and makes Fiji such a lovely surprise to visit.

Another surprise to me was just how many American tourists I met in Fiji.  For me it was a four and a half hour flight from Sydney to Nandi Airport.  For many of them it takes eighteen hours or more to get to Fiji, yet they come here – many of them year after year, for something that they simply can’t get in the Caribbean, or other parts closer to home.

And while American tourists often have a dubious reputation (as do Australian tourists it must be said), I was delighted to meet many Americans who represented the very best parts of their culture and were fun people to spend time with.

All in all, I can highly recommend Fiji to anyone who is thinking of going there.  It is a wonderful place, especially if you are looking for some respite from the “real” world.

John.

Canberra road trip – 2017

I’m often asked to travel for my work, which is great. It’s an opportunity to take photos and explore – even when it’s somewhere like Canberra that I have been many times.

So here is a short story in tweets and photos from a road trip to Canberra!

No trip is complete without a camera (or three!).  This was only an overnight trip though, so I limited myself to my big camera, two lenses, and my phone. More than enough surely!  I managed to prove myself wrong, but it still worked out fine.

Leaving Sydney was mercifully easy, with only light-ish traffic on the M5.

The clouds in the distance were a harbinger of things to come…

In the spirit of good concentration and staying safe, we stopped regularly to “Rest, Revive, Survive”.

Tea is my beverage of choice – well, just about everywhere, and it’s a good choice when travelling as it helps me avoid the empty calories of soft drink that beckon from rest stop service station fridges…


The further we drove, the darker the horizon became!  In the past (including once on a motorbike) I have been caught in torrential downpours south of Sydney that were so heavy that all of the traffic had to pull over to the side of the road.

I was really hoping this wasn’t going to be one of those storms.

And then it hit.  Really serious rain!  But thankfully not serious enough to make us have to pull over – although it did have it’s moments.

Much to our relief, the rain eased (a little anyway) when we got to Goulburn, so I was able to get a quick photo of The Big Merino!

If you’re not familiar with Australian regional highway culture, then this is the pinnacle of that culture: the BIG [insert regional speciality].

Examples include:

  • The Big Banana (Coffs Harbour)
  • The Big Potato (Robertson, NSW)
  • The Big Playable Guitar (Narrandera – apparently it’s the largest playable guitar in the world – who knew?)

And of course in a wool growing region like Goulburn – The Big Merino (sheep). There are many, many more “big” things dotted around Australia.

Random trivia: The Big Merino was moved from it’s original location, about 100m across the road to the new service centre in Goulburn some years ago to make way for a Bunnings hardware store.  The jury is still out as to whether or not this improved Goulburn’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.

Rambo (as he is locally known according to Wikipedia) was sporting a very festive red thing around his neck.  Good to see Goulburn getting into the Christmas spirit.

We set off again and continued through patchy rain for Canberra and took a moment to stop at Lake George.  Actually two moment – as there are two quite good rest stops to view the lake from.

Now my tweet about the lake was somewhat confusing for some people.  It’s called Lake George – but where’s the water?  The answer is that Lake George is highly seasonal (and sometimes doesn’t fill up very much at all for years).

So most of the time Lake George is a flat plain of waving grass that hosts various birds and in the back ground a low line of hills – topped, controversially in recent years with a forest of wind turbines.

It was quite the view with the storm clouds coming over as you can see below!  Click on the image to see the full panorama

If you love dramatic skies, then these photos are for you.  It really was a beautiful scene and I was just a little disappointed that I hadn’t bought my equipment to shoot time-lapses!

The last time I stopped to take photos at Lake George (about a year ago) I managed to shoot a beautiful time-lapse with the passing clouds and the play of light and shadow over the lake grass.  You can see it near the star of this video…


We waved Lake George goodbye and made the final run into Canberra before the sun set.

Now I’m a big fan of public transport and I much prefer light rail to busses.  But it was disappointing that Canberra cut down all of the beautiful eucalypts that lined the middle of middle of Northbourn Ave to build theirs.

I suppose that they couldn’t really do much else, but it is a shame to see all of those trees gone now to be replaced with concrete and rails.  I am hoping that they will replant with something once the rails are done, but who knows?

Hotel rooms in Canberra rarely have a beautiful outlook, but this one was rather pleasing.

While walking out to find some dinner, we discovered that one of the roundabouts in Braddon had been painted up in LGBTQI colours in support of the same sex marriage non-compulsory, non-binding, (totally-not-a-plebiscite) postal vote.

It’s nice to see such public, unambiguous support of marriage equality.

And it has become quite the tourist draw too – I wasn’t the only one taking selfies on it!

A burger and chips with a beer from Grease Monkeys Cafe seemed like perfect road trip fair!  Not the finest dining in Canberra to be sure, but it was quick and easy and cheerful food food after a long drive.

Jump forward to the next day and we headed back for Sydney.  It was a far better day to be driving!  No rain and barely a cloud in sight.

Leaving Canberra though, there is an avenue of bottle brushes that were in absolutely spectacular bloom!  This isn’t the best photo ever taken, but you can clearly see the beautiful red bottle brush flowers covering them.

The drive home was uneventful – but did include me sleeping for an hour!  Lets just say that I am not a nervous passenger.

As always, there were many, many trucks on the Hume Highway (and a fair seasoning of highway patrol police too).  It never ceases to amaze me the shear volume of “stuff” that we move around the countryside on trucks.

Despite roadworks and the usual disaster that is the M5 motorway, we made good time back into Sydney and I was soon home… 

This was only a quick trip, but I am available to travel pretty much anywhere you might like to go.  From a day or two locally, to a week or more in Australia or overseas.

John.

 

South Lawson waterfall circuit

Sydney has its problems, but distance from various spectacular natural attractions is not one of them.

I had some time this afternoon, so I decided to take my new camera – and drone out of Sydney and explore nature.  My destination was the South Lawson waterfall circuit.

It’s an hour a little over an hour drive from my place in Olympic Park to Lawson, so it was a convenient destination that is reputed to have some fabulous scenery.  And I have to say – it did not disappoint!

Don’t forget to click each image to see the full size version.

So, if you are contemplating a date with me and would like to take a walk in nature, then just let me know.  There are so many special places to explore in Sydney and close by.

John

 

The Camino Way

St Jean Pied de Port“The Camino de Santiago known in English as The Way of Saint James among other names, is a network of pilgrims’ ways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups” – from Wikipedia

BiarritzFor those who follow my Twitter account (@JohnOhOfSydney) you will know that I was lucky to be booked by a client to join her for a few days walking The Camino de Santiago from the South of France down into Northern Spain earlier this year.

It was a fabulous trip – filled with beautiful scenery, physical challenge, and the solitude of wild places.

Golden eagle on the French PyreneesI am not a religious or spiritual person, but you don’t need to be to enjoy this trek and to grow as a person from the experience. I had the opportunity to practice my photography skills along the way and I can say that the scenery was truly stunning – like nothing that I have ever experienced. I love Australia and the Australian landscape, but I have always had a strong reaction to the deep and vivid greens of European lands and forest.

Camino way Pyrenees forestSomething that surprised me was discovering that there was very little animal life – other than domestic animals – as we walked over the French Pyrenees Mountains. There was some bird life (including golden eagles which were most impressive), but I literally didn’t see a wild animal until we reached Pamplona – and that was a solitary red squirrel.

The food in southern France and Northern Spain was surprising to me. It was probably the biggest cultural difference from Australia. The local food was very limited in its variety. A lot of bread, cured meat, and cheese – and quiche! I love all of those things, but you can have too much of a good thing…

Lunch at OrissonIt emphasised to me how much Australia has benefited from migrant culture. We have such diversity in the food available to us on any given day on in any place. There will always be Asian food, European food, American food – the list goes on. And our fresh produce is, I think, second to none in the world, and that makes a huge difference to the quality of dishes.

The walking itself was serious and requires preparation. The first day from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Roncesvalles is approximately 27kms. Forest path near RoncesvallesIt would be a long walk just on flat ground, but this part of the trip climbs 1,200 meters over the French Pyrenees and down another 500 meters into northern Spain. It’s a walk that many people split over two days rather than one, but we did the whole thing in one go. It was quite an achievement and a spectacular experience.

For anyone contemplating this walk, I would definitely recommend that you take your time. Don’t rush to get to your next destination. Walk slowly. Stop often. Look around. Take lots of photographs.

There is always another days walk ahead, but taking the time to really enjoy where you are (and will likely never be again!) is invaluable.

If you are contemplating a trip and would like a companion for your travels, then please seem my Travel Page for rates and conditions.

John.

Parsley Bay – Sydney

Sydney in spring can be just glorious.

In the spirit of urban exploration yesterday I visited Parsley Bay, a place I never even knew existed until recently.  It’s a quiet little harbour side bay that is home to beautiful waters – and water dragons and stingrays!).


It’s still a little cold in the water, but it made for a pleasant hour or two sitting in the shade admiring the view and photographing the scenery – you can click on any of these images to see the full sized version.

As the weather warms up (and the water too!) I will definitely have to come back for a swim in this delightful little spot – and hopefully see some stingrays!

There are some lovely overhanging rock features.


Definitely time for a haircut…


John.

Shoalhaven River walk

My job as a male escort for women is never dull.  I have said many times that I consider it the best job I have ever had. In large part this is because I regularly meet new and interesting people and often do things that I may not have the chance to otherwise.

A case in point is a trip that I have been asked to take with a client who is fulfilling a dream to walk the Camino Way in France and Spain.  I am going along for the first few days of her odyssey then flying home while she continues on across the mountains.

It will be my first time in both France and Spain and I am looking forward to experiencing new places and cultures, not to mention the views of the Pyrenees Mountains – which we will be walking over.

To that end I need to be in good hill walking shape, because – while the Camino Way is a well worn route that thousands of people walk every year, it’s still a serious climb!  So, in preparation I am varying my normal exercise routine – mostly riding my kickbike around the very flat Olympic Park and its surounds – and adding some serious hill walking.

My first walk was down to the Shoalhaven River in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, a couple of hours south of Sydney.  The Shoalhaven River sits in a very deep gorge that it has carved for itself over the millennia.  And the walk in and out is steep.  The views are beautiful, in that understated Australian landscape way and despite the cold and wind on the valley rim, it was calm and warm down by the river.

It made for an excellent walk that definitely taxed me!  I will be doing similar walks again a few times before I go, and based on the challenge of the first walk it should stand me in good stead for walking the Camino Way!

John.

Saturday night Winterlight…

One of the many things that I enjoy about my work as a males escort for women, is that you never know what’s around the corner.

I saw a lovely couple from Melbourne in Parramatta (Sydney) recently, and as I was heading home, navigating Parramatta’s somewhat mind bending one way streets, I discovered that I was passing Prince Alfred Square, where they hold Winterlight in recent years.

Winterlight is a little bit “European winter”, a little bit “Sydney Royal Easter Show” – and a little bit commercial non-sense, but it’s pretty, and fun for the kids, and who can object to ice skating really?  I didn’t know anything about Winterlight at that point where I stopped for a look, but I parked the bike and threw caution to the wind and dove in.

You can see a short video compilation here:

I texted my partner some photos while I was walking around and was challenged to acquire a sideshow prize for her.  So, $20 and ten darts later, Red The Penguin was acquired!

You can see my masterful dart throwing talents in the film above.

There was also plenty of food to be had – making an amusing if not wholly convincing attempt to be European – although I think that the two women making sausages-in-a-bun were in fact German, so full points there!

By the time my phone and camera battery were flat it was definitely time to go home especially since the cold was seeping in past my leather jacket.  Thankfully I didn’t have far to go, but I was still frozen stiff by the time I got home to a hot shower and cup of tea.

It made a enjoyable night of work into a fun outing as well – and as Tallahassee said in Zombie Land: “You’ve got to enjoy the little things”.

John.