Borneo, jungles, beaches and wildlife; a photographers dream. And we are expecting an experience like no other.
Borneo, the world’s third largest island. About 3 x size NZ and headed-off by Greenland and New Guinea. It is best known for its ancient 165 million years they say), bio-diverse rain-forest (15,000 plant species) , home to and incredible array of wildlife (over 1,4000 animal species) including the man of the forest, orangutans. But that is only the start.
Leaving Auckland incurs about a 40 minute delayed departure on 8 May. That’s traveling for you, and the first of a series of minor hiccups.
We arrive on May 8th. The Tawau forecast is for thunder storms, we fly though and above cloud and mist from KL the predicted weather does not eventuate.
Looking down on expanse of oil palm plantation through a break in cloud as we arrive.
Our bags though decide they want a holiday on their own and head off somewhere else. We’ve sent the search party out hoping to find, apprehend and return asap. Let’s hope, at least I have my cameras.
We are met by Zahari our naturalist photographer guide at airport 40 minutes late, but he turns out to be the nice guy we expected. He gets us to the Shervinton for or first night. A “flash on-the-outside but rough-as-guts on the inside joint”. Guess that’s the standard for the next 3 weeks but we didn’t come here for the hotels.
Tawau is a typically Asian city but with less motorbikes. The 3rd largest city in Sabah – Malaysian Borneo.
Earning a living. Row of umbrella protected shoe repair and second hand sales operators on street in Tawau and in local food market.
From Tawau we head to Semporna and our first resort. Lato Lato is a built on stilts resort that looks spectacular as we approach by boat. It touches no land but the shallow coral seabed where the stilts made out of slim tree trunks (I’m told they are ironwood, never rot and as hard as hell, but never-the less a little spindly looking) a bit like old fashioned fence post.
Through the chalet window at Lato Lato looks relaxing and wonderful, but this belies the underlying story.
We check and head to our room. Kind of unprepared for this we were. The room is rustic, but without charm, the bathroom has a dunny, no seat, a bucket and ladle as a substitute for a shower. a tap, a shower-head for appearances sake cos it ain’t plumbed. But something even more interesting, as we walked the gangplank, so to speak, to get here I noticed the external plumbing and wondered where the waste went. Looked specifically at ours and it appeared to terminate about where the tidal level then. We did a wee test, flushed the loo, and voila into the tide she flowed.
Hmm, went back to our guide and explained that we would not stay in that room and explained the environmental concerns we had. All denied, until we said we would photograph another test. Change of mind occurs, oh yes you right comes an admission, the tradie hasn’t quite finished comes the excuse, we’ll shift you.
Mattered not really because it wasn’t long before someone else was checked into that room. uuggh. Temps are about 30+f, humidity about 500 and only a fan to cool us during any time we spent in our room.
Tall palm trees on one of the Semporna islands we visit.
Children of sea-gypsies we pass visiting some minute tropical Semporna islands see us approach and paddle out in their little boats in hope of receiving some gifts.
Sea-gypsie mother and two small children peer out at us from window of their boat off a Semporna Marine Park island.
Decided to check out a day early from this place, the Lato Lato Resort.
Idyllic tropical sunrise from Lato Lato Resort, on the morning we leave, Sabah Borneo,
Our guide had to find somewhere else. we end up at an expensive but very nice Hawag Danum Valley Resort in the middle of the jungle.
It’s expensive, but lovely. aircon and a nice clean room. It’s a package deal, so we get their guides to handle us for our stay. Sagely, we’re advised to buy some leach socks.
Dumb Kiwi’s that we are we put these big baggy things on, as you do, under your trousers, then to to meet our guide who asks if we have leach socks. proudly we say yes, pull up our trouser legs and display them. Laughs from our guide, and no doubt others standing around as its explained you put them on the outside and tie them below the knew well we had that right).
Off we set, very soon to learn the importance of these things. By the time we get home the blood sucking leaches had beaten the socks and found ways to attach themselves all over us. Deprived of lots of blood and being in a place with no alcohol (that’s a blood substitute I’d always believed) we had to re-calibrate our expectations.
Although we spend 2.5 days being leached every which way (and i mean that) this was to turn out to be a beaut experience.
Dinner then a night drive. Bumping along a dusty on back of a ute with a couple of spotlight wielding spotters and our guide we look for critters under the trees, in the trees and flying about.
Venomous pit viper in Borneo in rainforest, Sabah.Danum Valley.
Brown wood owl high in tree in Borneo Rainforest, Danum Valley, Sabah
File-eared tree frog in Borneo rainforest at in Danum Valley, Sabah.
There’s a long story to be told here, but that best left for a seParate blog, or another time. It involves our guide, a few lies, and the police. enough said, but it becomes important to dump him.
Withe the help or a very nice Linda at Borneo Refugia, we are put in touch with http://www.bikeandtours.com , Simon and Tisha. Our luck changes. More on that next blog.
First night en-route to Wellington we stop at Taihape – wow. To get there we took State Highway 1 through the Desert Road.
A rustic kinda evening ensues as we checked into the River Valley Adventure Lodge. The workers shed somehow shows the rustic nature that is the lodge experience.
The lodge, on Rangitkei River is base for river rafting, kayaking and horse trekking. Some beautiful though raw scenery surrounds the lodge.
The rushing river and spring cherry blossom flowers create further contrasts for this memorable stop-over.
Then on to Wellington and WOW, and a couple of days drifting around our capital.
You will recognise these buildings for sure.
WOW was an experience, even for a women’s fashion numb-skull like me. Our hotel, the Museum Hotel had this piece on display from an earlier WOW event.
The hotel is a really nice property. Shame they see it worthwhile to practice the small minded surcharge on use of credit cards, regardless of their not insignificant tariff.
If I return I’ll seriously consider paying in cash, and then see them incur some real handling and banking costs, but under their policy, I won’t. Now got that off my chest!
Some of the capital city’s iconic street art outside the Museum hotel.
Wellington at night.
Had time to drop into Te Papa. Below a couple “engaging” with one of the vibrant installations.
See more Wellington images; https://www.brianscantlebury.com/New-Zealand-Town-and-country/Wellington-Capital-City/
Then we headed to South Island on the Bluebridge ferry. Passengers enthralled by and photographing the Marlborough Sounds as we head for Picton. As well as the dramatic scenery, salmon farming set-ups are part of the landscape.
Something to consider on this service, there is no access to the bow, so travellers can only look at where they’ve been, not where they are going.
Picton waterfront after dark.
Stunning spring tree colours, as we head towards Farewell Spit, appear more like autumn lining dry river bed.
A night at the golden beach of Kaiteriteri offers some evening shots and sunrise next morning.
The blue hour over the bay, then the sun breaches the horizon.
Above; pied stilt in farm puddle on way to Whakariri Beach
Braeburn Track, Lake Rotoroa lush green New Zealand native beech forest in Nelson Lakes National Park
Natural fresh clean water flowing through and around granite boulders through lush green New Zealand bush.
White buildings one each side of straight road passing between buildings and leading to distant hills in vintage style image at the Sunday Creek turn-off.
Anatoki, definitely worth a visit.
Father and two sons fishing in small picturesque lake, Anatoki in South Island New Zealand.
Anatoki River surrounded by dense bush and southern mountains.
Vineyards in Marlborough, you can’t go here without a wine stop or two. Long rows of springtime growth across flat fields running to foothills in distance
Possibly the world’s most photographed tree; “That Wanaka Tree”, willow tree growing in lake is popular tourist scene in long exposure with sunset colors reflected from snow covered mountains behind. Instagram “thatwanakatree”
More of the natural beauty of Lake Whakatipu, with jumping platform just of the shore in alpine Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island.
Collection of heritage signs and buildings brought together as tourist stop-off point on highway at Burke’s Pass.
iconic Church of Good Shepherd and tourists on a low Lake Tekapo
Two young women travelers in distance, walking on flat mud-rock ledge on Kaikoura coast
Seabirds, albatross just some of the wildlife of Kaikoura coast
Christchurch, post quake a new city landscape emerges with some remarkable new architecture
With the thousands of images I have returned with, it will be quite a while before I get through them all. So, this will be an evolving blog. It will be updated progressively.
And back to the “more than a few reasons;
Landscapes, I’ll bet you’ve never seen anything like what Namibia has to offer;
Sossusvlei dunes are breathtaking. Dead Vlei and Hidden Vlei are so immense and stunning
Touring photographers cast shadow on golden sand dunes.
Then there’s the Quiver Tree Forest with it’s unworldly aloes scattered randomly across a rugged rocky terrain;
Wildlife, big cats, Lions and cheetahs in particular, there’s more to come of these;
Great white pelican portrait
The diminutive long-tailed or paradise whydah
Pale chanting goshawk on top of acacia bush.
Flight of the flamingos at Swakopmund as sun sets over wetland
We came across these lions, him & her, not long after they had made their kill. Here feasting happily together. We went back next morning and watched him take charge and drag the rest of the carcass away from her. She then left the scene and headed to a water hole about a kilometer away, as the crow flies, where we came across her again.
All creatures great and small;
Small desert adapted lizard and a shy palmato lizard poking its head out of the sand
What about the people;
Portrait of traditional tribal woman holding child.
Dancing in the tribal way. The Himba people in their small remote village and woman sitting outside shack (below)
And finally some birds in flight, Southern Yellow Hronbill, pale chanting goshawk and lilac breasted roller below.
We head off for a family week on Koh Samui as the first of 2 Thai stops. Beautiful beaches
A 40 minute drive from airport see’s us at our villa for the week. A lovely place and it would prove to be a great stay. Magnificent and always cooperative staff make a huge difference.
Our main room, just one of the 6 massive bedrooms that are supplemented with a couple of swimming pools and everything else you’d expect. This Villa Pavana.
A visit to the market seems essential activity in this part of world.
The Samui Sunday night market fills a couple of hours. Typical bustle of toursists and vendors. No redeeming aspects here
The bottles of 40 baht motorcycle gasoline must have all sold out. The rack is empty. Although along the little sparsely populated road to our accommodation there’s about another 6 or so ramshackle sheds, shops etc that also sell the fuel by the bottle.
Morning walks along the beach are ever interesting. Sunrise is delayed by cloudy horizons most mornings while we are here. A small fleet of longtail fishing boats is moored a little way along. Above a silhouetted fisherman prepares for the day. Looking the other direction a light mist shrouds the shore, boats and distant islands.
Typical tropical island beach lined with coconut palms on another cloudy morning but later Blue sky and water highlight and reflect a classic fishing boat.
Buddhist culture dominates of course with shrines and pagoda all around. this pagoda is on the beach a few minutes walk from our fabulous accommodation. We’ve spent a week with our wonderful family here enjoying every minute of it. Can only say a great big thanks for the organisation, time and memories here and for the generous celebration and gift.
Our 1st week comes to an end tomorrow and we head off to capture some of the scenes and life in northern part of the country.
There’ll be no more SUPing, kayaking or beach walks at our next stop.
Next stop Chiang Mai
The streets of Chiang Mai are full of colour and vibrance, not to mention people and spots to eat or markets to buy everything from copy art to clothing and souvenirs. See more photos at;
more images on instagram : www.instagram.com/briansphotography/
Amsterdam, capital city, city for art and so many renown artists, famous for bicycles (more than people) the roof gable styles, cheese shops and where the streets are paved with litter and cigarette butts. Guess 6 mill tourists don’t help either.
Then there’s the plethora of vegetable shops.Strange thing tho’, they seem to only sell variety. Its a strange looking small green leaf. Seed shops too, but none of the common old garden variety flower seeds! Reckon these strange shop account for about 99.98% of the 6 mill visitors.
Grey skies dominate the days here as do bicycles, lots of walking, museums and galleries. An art lovers dream come true.
Unquestionably bikes exceed the population. there are acres of land covered with mostly old cycles.
They are parked everywhere. There’s buildings for them, there’s a 4 story one in Amsterdam
Our cabbie informed us the theft problem is so great that you only see old bikes. You can often buy your bike back late at night on the street, apparently. Noticed many are made to look worse by being sprayed with rusty looking paint or bright colours.
The streets are seething with some of the 6 mill, not to mention the odd local I guess. At the moment students are everywhere as their year starts. Raucous buggers they are as the enjoy their first week.
Busy street scene
First night wanderings see us accidentally in the De Walletjes (Red light) district as we head home after a meal.
Young couple in street scene. Note office for rent behind them!
Night scenes always provide a challenge and usuallyturn up some stunning shots, these are a few from first night.
Night scenes always proved some interesting challenges and often turn up some stunning images. Some early ones as we rush back to our digs. The National Monument in Dam Square, dark back street and reflected lights along a canal start the collection.
Canal and street night lights abstract
The canals are as busy as the roads. There must be 10’s thousands canal boats plying the miles of canals though these images don’t show it there really is, mainly for
tourists availing themselves of different day and night cruise services.
The Rijks Museum collection and archives date back to 1800. A phenomenally large collection of art and objects of real significance. This is one of many incredible galleries.
In the Rijks Museum, massive Rembrandt, one of the large collection on display in his home town.
The popularity of the this city and its galleries means that if you don’t book about 6 months ahead you are destined to waste a large part of your time here, if not your life, in goddam queues. For the Rijks Museum we spent about 40 mins in line in the rain for a good part of it waiting to get to the next queue. Yep, once in the door you then queue again for your tickets, another 20-30 minutes down the dunny, and if that’s not enough, bags and tripods (and of course I have both) are not permitted in, so another friggin line for 15-20 minutes to turn them in. Thankfully only about 10 minutes queuing need to retrieve my gear after a few hours inside. Inside this beautiful building I concluded it must have been designed by an artist, not an architect, finding your way round even using provided and google maps sees more time lost. And as you’d expect after all the waiting is that its pretty busy inside too, but that’s managable.
Inside Rijks, Rembrandt gallery in rear of image.
Gouda, the main variety around here
And the find of the trip so far; cheese shops. Mentioned them before, but these genuinely do compete numerically with women’s shoe shops in this city. But it gets better. They mostly offer tastings. So in what has already become an end of day ritual we assist a number of them to dispose of their chopped up curdy offerings. I’m in heaven. The sore feet, the wet backs, the tired and overloaded minds and senses all vanish at least temporarily while at great personal sacrifice I work to restrain Anne’s headlong rush from platter to platter!!!!!
There’s literally tons of the stuff. Trucks full stacked like this.
Gouda cheese market in nearby city of Alkmaar. Turns out to be a highly choreographed tourist performance. On our day there we battle not just the hordes and clouds but also frequent showers
A walk around including the Saturday Albert Cuypmarket provided opportunity for
The making of strawberry Dutch waffle.
a Dutch waffle. Couldn’t resist, following which kinda wished I had more willpower.
More Amsterdam architecture;
canal-side hotel that turned John Lennon and Yoko Ono away on their honeymoon. They were accepted by the Hilton and there started the famous “bed-in for peace” demonstration. their room at the Hilton now is a tourist attraction, bet they are glad they accepted them.
Magna Plaza building
Buildings reflected in canal along Damrak
Modern architecture features of 4 buildings in Amsterdam north across from Central Station
Houseboats on canals in the city are held on long term mooring leases. A tour boat takes passengers through these permanently moored on both sides beyond the collection of cycles locked to bridge and seat railings.
Along with the big renown galleries there a many lesser known places showing well known artists. Some we’ve visited include Banksy and Dali in one venue, then on our last day here Warhol and a collection of other pop-artists in another. Great stuff.
It;s been another full immersion in the streets of Amsterdam to conclude our time here. Dinner tonight, a sleep the on the train and outta here. Rotterdam here we come.
Gaudi’s architecture is somewhat bizarre, incredibly interesting, stunningly creative and innovative and a major drawcard to Barcelona. Recently uploaded selection at bit.ly/gaudian . Trust you’ll enjoy.
Mentioned last time how friendly and helpful French people have been. There has to be an exception. The other day walking through village yearning for a coffee, came across this cafe, door open, darkness inside (but that’s not unusual we are finding) walked in as you do. I’m about halfway into the joint when “monsieur, monsieur, monsieur” can be heard loudly from the doorway we had just walked through. Turn around and there’s this woman who had been sitting at a table outside smoking as they do, and talking loudly on the phone, as they do, like one of those undesirable customers every cafe owner must get.My rapid retreat is followed by some un-understandable volley of rapid fire french. At this stage I realise she is the owner. “Deux cafe au lait sil vous plait” I ask, “OK”, then feeling like a bite, a croissant or similar, as you do, I ask in broken French, “and something to eat”. “OK”.
Thinking we are heading in again, I stride purposefully forward, my eyes adjusting to the darkness seeking the counter to see if there is anything to select from. Voila! I see a cabinet, like those drink cabinets they point too, with a get your own sweep of the arm, if you ask for a cold drink, move towards it, open it and start to look inside. Just at that moment my peace is shattered. Blaring from near the door comes “MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR, MONSIEUR”(thought that had happened a moment ago). But this time the smoking, loud talking outside proprietor is now striding towards me yelling “THIS IS NOT A SELF-SERVICE (REPEAT)”in broken English. Now we are even, but I’m thinking hey we are not really welcome here, so I wave Anne out of the place and follow to the much more dulcet tones of she with the loud voice’s “au revoir”.
We got what we wanted from a much nicer man in a much nicer place just a couple of doors along.
Boujan Sur Libron, woman outdside Cafe D La Paix sits reading newspaper, Languedoc France
Cafes, as I’m sure you know, though different from ours in terms of offerings and coffee quality are an important part of daily life where dogs often outnumber patrons.
No we haven’t been to a bullfight.
Boujan Sur Libron bullring France.
But just as bullfighting in Spain is on the decline, we find a couple of rings in the area around us in France. Drove to a smallish village the other day and there near the entrance was a newish, small ring complete with toreador with horns on head statue.
Driving the vineyard lined narrow country roads is always an enjoyable experience for me. often vines give way to rough edges frequently with wild pomegranate, apples and escapee grape vines. The shooting season’s in full swing. Might have mentioned that before. Wandering the vineyards its amazing what you come across. And all that gunfire must have sparked the desire for a duck dinner. Well at least duck skewers on our bbq,
Many of the village entrance roads, and canal edges, are lined with plane trees. It is said Napoleon started this (somewhere I read the Romans did, so who knows) but now some are being removed as they have been responsible for car accident deaths.
Another constant here is the need for continual navigating around (well not always around as some just are not that shape), roundabouts that seem to have infested the country. The only things that contest these for popularity is churches. Even in our little town there are 2 I have found, usually locked only operating once of twice a month. Actually I think the roundabouts work quite well. some are large sods (I’ve driven around a number more than once trying to find the right exit. Others, small or barely existent. The need for so many, sometimes only metres apart, must come from the number of entry points each town has. Usually about six. On one occasion we “circumnavigate” a more triangular “roundabout”, and just when I think I’m through there’s a pedestrian crossing, an old couple waiting to cross, I wonder whereto and stop for them. They scurry across to some large wrought iron gates in the middle, open them and head into what is clearly their home. So a home in the middle of a roundabout, but that’s not all, as we leave the apex of the roundabout (?) I notice some impressive headstones. I guess the family burial plot, who knows, but in this triangular roundabout.
Round another corner, and another village. This one Poilhes has Canal du Midi running through it. A couple of significantly different boats pass on a bend in the canal.
Narbonne is a nice city for a day or two. Main attractions are its museums and cathedral, also the Canal de la Robine runs through it. Below the canal at night, part of the Cathedral of Saint Just, a recovered 1,000+ year old mosaic and a statue of someone I’m sure I know but just can’t recall for now.
By now the weather is turning colder and a strong wind is kinda making the day difficult.
Spent a night at a seaside holiday place La Port Nouvelle, lovely ocean beach, but not much else that’s memorable, except our hotel that is. The last place open I think, the room quite nicely done up with concealed blue lighting (ugh). The entrance was tiny, struggled to get our one bag though and even bigger struggle to get it in the lift, all so that when we reached our floor we could be assailed by darkness and an almighty stench. You know the one that you face when out of sheer desperation you are forced to enter a public toilet the local council has taken off its regular cleaning list. Shan’t be returning there. However did get some nice sunrise shots next morning.
We head to the area generally referred to as Aude Nature hoping to see and photograph some bird-life. Still seems scarce around the prime spots we were referred to, nothing to shoot, so give up on the west side of this great estuary and wetland area and head for the other side and the town made famous by the Newman’s. Not the Paul Newman’s, the Eric and Carol Newman’s.
On approaching Gruissan we come across another canal with a couple of old boat restorations going on. Here’s one of them.
Round the corner I spot some flamingos flying, not close enough, then go stalking storks.
Pretty much everything else seems blown away by the wind.
The wind we learn is the tramontane and can blow at up to 120k’s. It originates from the same central area as the better known mistral winds.
The town of Gruissan is like many here divided into new and old towns. The new is essentially built around 3 massive marinas. These are marina’s spectacular, ones that NZ boaties would just lust over. A really classy modern town that attracts 120,000 in the peak season. That’s over now and most shops and restaurants are closed. Enough are open though for us to get all the meals we need. The old city has the remains of a chateau on the hill, built about 1100 and a fairly typical small town, narrow streets, tight corners and streets littered with cafe tables and chairs to be navigated around. Oh of course a couple of great churches too. Not planning to, but late in the day we decide it’s worth staying longer and book into the 1st B & B (Chambres de Hotes) we come across. What a find. Probably the best accommodation on this trip, beautifully renovated and built from rock pilfered from the the chateau (you can what remains of the chateau below). All these places have so many stories. The proprietor of our B & B answers a lot of questions over breakfast and we learn a bit (I’m sure there’s a ton more) from him