Back to Sedona for more Photography

I confess… I’ve fallen off schedule with my blogging these past few months… just been having too much fun, I guess - Kauai last month and now just back from ten days in Sedona. But I did work pretty hard at getting some great pictures and that’s what this blog’s all about.

We used Photographing the Southwest as our guide book for an intensive ten days of hiking and photography and it was a great resource for planning the best locations for the best shots. The above image was taken just 15 minutes into West Fork a beautiful trail that crosses back and forth over a small creek.

The next day we followed a scenic and well maintained gravel road for about 45 minutes to Palatki Heritage Site. This approach from the east was a wise choice, affording us spectacular views of the red rocks which surround Sedona.

Palataki is a cliff-dwelling site believed to have been settled 800-1000 years earlier, although some of the petroglyphs are estimated to be 5,000 to 6,000 years old.

We were a week or two early to see much in the way of desert flowers, but I did manage to capture these little purple fellows on a short hike in Marg’s Draw, just ten minutes from Uptown Sedona.

Of course no set of images from Sedona would be complete without this iconic shot of Cathedral Rock. This is one of the most famous images of the Southwest and I had to have it, even if it meant  standing in an ankle deep, glacier fed creek for almost an hour waiting for the late afteernoon sun to dip down low enough to paint the rocks with a rusty-red hue.

But the real bonus of the trip was this final shot as I was heading back to the car. I think it’s my favourite.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – # 5 – The Sechelt Sea Wall

The seawall in front of Sechelt is one of my favourite walks and I visit it throughout the year. I captured this image during a set of repeated early morning visits a few years ago. I love the intense colours of a winter sunrise and the sun was rising just far enough to the south-east to light up the entire sky over Trail Bay. The winter sun rises a little later in the morning so it wasn’t too much of a struggle to get to the seawall, each morning with enough time to get set up and watch this magical light show take place.

More often than not, however, the real attraction of the Sechelt Seawall for me is the opportunity to get in a very pleasant half-hour’s exercise with an interesting and incredibly scenic walk. My walk usually starts at Snickett Park with its beautiful large-rock outcroppings and views of the Trail Islands.  There are a few heritage cottages at this end of the seawall. Killarney Cottage and Kwitcherkicken were built almost a century ago when Sechelt was a stopping point for the old Union Steamships that travelled up and down the coast

photo courtesy of Sunshine Coast Tourism

Halfway along the seawall is the grand Tori Gate, built in 2002 by the Timber Framers Guild of North America as a gift to the community. The Tori Gate serves as an entrance to the Sechelt Pier which provides a great vantage point to look back at Sechelt. There’s an interesting set of pictures depicting how the shoreline looked during the Union Steamship days, and includes a historical description of the various buildings.  The seawall continues along through the Sechelt Indian Band Lands, where you’ll often see fishing nets hanging up to be repaired. There are a few small totem carvings along the way but the real treat can be found at the end of the seawall. There you’ll find  five majestic totems staring resolutely out to the ocean.  The totems were carved in the mid 1980′s to honour each of the four tribes which came together to form the Sechelt Nation, and the fifth to celebrate their achievement of self-government status, one of the first Indian Bands in Canada to do so. The Sechelts have carved over 25 totems over the past few decades and these five are fine examples of this beautiful west coast art form.Follow this link to learn more about our B&B www.coraclecove.com

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Bird Watching Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – The Birding signs of Spring on the Sunshine Coast

We’re hearing lots of old familiar sounds these days, more signs that the winter season is giving way to Spring. This Song Sparrow is one of the earliest singers and also one of my favourites. He has a beautiful song, with several bright notes followed by a sequence of warbles and trills . Listen to this recording - you may recognize it as one you’ve been hearing recently.

In nearby Sargeant Bay, the red-wing Blackbirds have been singing for a month. It is the males who sing in the birding world,  to both announce territory and attract their mate. The blackbird not only has a distinctive song but also flashes its brightly coloured shoulder markings while issuing its territorial call.  Red-wing Blackbirds can be found in marshy areas and often perched upon the furry seed heads of long cattails.

The Woodpecker family doesn’t sing but that doesn’t stop the males from drawing attention to themselves as they seek their mating partner. Instead, they drum upon trees and snags in the early Spring to announce their presence.

The most obvious is the drumming of the Northern Flicker with its impressive red slash across its cheeks. This common species inhabits our gardens and has discovered that drumming on chimneys and metal flashing produces a louder sound.

While homeowners ofter worry that these birds are drilling into the wood of their houses, this is not the case, but rather an ageless courting ritual that does no damage.  One way to get a closer view of these colourful and interesting birds is to hang a feeder filled with a suet mixture, as we’ve done here. Be sure to have your camera ready.

Special thanks to Tony Greenfield for the inspiration behind this blog and the opportunity to share some of my birding images (click on images for a larger view.) Tony has been birding on the Sunshine Coast for over 30 years and leads birding groups on the first Sunday of each month. Contact us for more details.

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #4 – Homesite Creek Waterfalls

My B&B guests hiked into the waterfalls at Homesite Creek this past weekend and gave it a definite two thumbs up.  So the next day we set off with our backpack loaded with camera and a picnic lunch to check it out.

Homesite Creek is located north of Sechelt in Halfmoon Bay. Follow Highway 101 about 3km past the north end of Redroffs Road and watch for the small sign on the left of the highway. Take the trail to the left and follow the small arrows. You’ll  reach the falls in about 20 minutes.

The hike is best in the late Winter/early Spring when there’s lots of water flowing in the creek, and there was a pretty strong flow when we were there.  We could feel a definite force of air when we were down beside the falls, and it was a bit of a challenge creating these images without too much mist fogging up my lens.

We followed an easy trail up to the top of the falls where I was able to compose this third image using a very slow shutter speed to exaggerate the movement of the water. This was also a  good place for us to stop for our picnic lunch. We could enjoy the both the sight and sounds of the moving water as well as the verdant green of the moss-draped cedars in the mist-filled air above the falls.

This was another great hike and met all of the criteria to be included in the Sunshine Coast Walking Holidays Collection - it’s just a short drive away; it can be done in under an hour; and you’ll enjoy some magnificent scenery. Follow this link to read about some of our suggested walking experiences.

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Tripping through Indonesia with Trip Advisor – Yogyakarta, Java

Arriving in Yogyakarta, after three weeks in the rural landscapes of Bali and Lombok was definitely a change and this busy street scene speaks volumes to what we found. Scooters and motorcycles are the main form of transportation, together with bicycles, often laden with goods going to market.  Together they manage to weave in and out of traffic, like a carefully choreographed ballet. Indonesia also has the largest population of all the Muslim countries, and the five scheduled calls to prayer throughout the day were a comforting backdrop to the busyness of this large city.

Yogykarta has been described as the soul of Java. As the rest of this powerhouse island continues to modernize, Yogya maintains a careful balancing act between old and new, sustaining a slower, more conservative way of life in the quiet kampung that thrive only a stone’s throw from the throbbing main streets. And this is where our Trip Advisor research led us in our search for accommodation.

The Ministry of Coffee Guest House, located in the Prawirotaman kampung, is just a five minute bacek ride from the bustle of the Maliaboro area. The rooms were clean and reasonably priced, the staff extremely attentive, and we looked forward to our lattes each morning. Less than 100m down the road is Via Via Cafe, and with its ever changing menu, this friendly little restuarant quickly became our go-to choice for both lunch and dinner.

Via Via in Yogya is actually one of twelve planned gathering spots throughout the world, created to actively promote the concept of sustainable tourism. They also offer a number of small guided tours and we took advantage of several of these, including a tour of the magnificent Buddhist temple of Borobodur.

As a westerner, I must admit that I had little knowledge of the history and culture of the eastern world. I found myself repeatedly impressed with the architecture and detailed stone carvings of this 1300 year old temple, built at a time when western Europe was still in the dark ages. Equally impressive was another temple complex we visited. Pranbanan is one of the largest Hindu temples in the world and coincidentally was also built over 1300 years ago. What I found most interesting, however, was the coexistence in Indonesia of three of the world’s major religions, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. We have much to learn.

Our Trip Advisor Best Picks for Yogykarta, Java  -  Accommodation & Eating

  • Ministry of Coffee – quiet neighbourhood; clean and reasonably priced
  • Via Via Cafe – good selection of great food items; friendly staff
  • Via Via Tours – Borobodur; Pranbanan; Jamu Herbal Medicines

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Tripping through Indonesia on Trip Advisor – Gili Air & Lombok

   While Indonesia is the world’s fourth most populous country, its population is spread across 17,508 islands, both large and small, and strung like a 7000km pearl necklace around the neck of the equator.  After two weeks in Bali, we were ready to see more and we headed off to Padang Bai  Harbour, where we boarded a high speed boat, to explore one of the smallest of the Indonesian archipelago.

    Three tiny islands lie off the east coast of Lombok, and Gili Air, like the story of the Three Bears was just right for us. As you can see from the picture above, no cars or motorbikes, and the fewest visitors of the three, it is the quintessential, deserted tropical island, set in an emerald sea and fringed by white sandy beaches. Easily accessible coral reefs, teaming with sea life, lay just offshore. We lazed our way through three relaxing days, reading, walking and snorkeling. Our accommodations at Sejuk Cottages were also just right - basic, but pleasant and the breakfasts each morning were more than adequate.

    The larger island of Lombok was a shorter, more relaxing boat trip from Gili, and while we were initially attracted to the pottery of Lombok, we found one of the most beautiful, white, sandy beaches that we’ve ever experienced. Kuta Beach is sheltered from the strong forces of the open ocean by two large headlands, flanking each side of the beach and creating a crescent of powdery, white sand. To our continued good fortune, we found this jewel all but deserted, on each of the three days we were there.

    This beautiful beach came with a price… our luxurious accommodations at the Novatel Resort were slightly over $100/nt, so this 4-star resort was a tad above our Indonesian travel budget. But it was a nice little splurge, and definitely well worth the extra rupiahs.  The grounds were beautiful, including this hidden garden pool which I had completely to myself.

The resort has two restaurants offering good menu choices and generous portions, but… it’s a resort – you’re a captive audience, and resort prices are typically on the higher side. Fortunately, it’s easy to escape from their clutches. We hired a driver take us into town and do a return pick-up. Our Indonesian meal at the Ketapang Cafe in Kuta was certainly more reasonably priced, but even better, we got to explore another little town before our 9:30 pick-up arrived to whisk us back to the resort.

Lombok has just opened an International Airport and there are many other signs that it is being groomed as the next Bali. I asked many on Lombok, how did they felt about this; was this development going to be good or bad for their island?  Their answers were always the same – it will provide jobs for our people and we will have a better life.  We must be careful, therefore, from our own lofty lifestyles, not to judge too harshly.

Our Trip Advisor Best Picks for Gili Air & Lombok  -  Accommodation & Eating

  • Sejuk Cottages, Gili Air -  basic with air-con; great breakfasts
  • Novatel Resort, Kuta, Lombok – worth the splurge; a great beach
  • Ketapang Cafe, Kuta  - a reasonably priced alternative to resort food

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Tripping through Indonesia on Trip Advisor – Ubud, Bali

   My last post, on Southern Bali was all about white sandy beaches and relaxing, a much needed remedy for the jet lag, induced by my 21-hour cross-Pacific flight.  I was now heading to Central Bali to meet my wife Sheila, who had just finished a rigourous 12-day trek through the highlands of Papua, and we had chosen Ubud for our rendezvous.

  Sri Sunari Guest House is located on the outskirts of Ubud. Surrounded on all four sides by verdant, green rice fields it is accessed by a  little footpath. We had used Trip Advisor, again,  to research our selection and secured our reservation with an email.  Our accommodations far exceeded our expectations. A delicious breakfast was delivered to our large deck each morning. The staff, in typical guest house fashion were attentive and helpful, pointing us in the direction of good restaurants and interesting activities. They also provided reasonably priced transport on a number of occasions.

  One of these recommendations was a unique Jegog performance, a form of gamelon music played on a variety of large and small bamboo instruments. The deep resonating sound was the perfect accompaniment to a captivating set of traditional dancing. I loved watching the intricate hand and foot movements, and the large-eyed facial expressions.

    We kept pretty busy while in Ubud and made full use of Trip Advisor reviews to plan our activities. Here I am doing something I love – cooking. The day started with a tour through a very colourful and busy morning market to learn about the various ingredients which we would later use in our Indonesian cooking class. Back at the kitchen,  we rolled up our sleeves, started chopping, and were patiently guided through eight different recipes. The reward at the end, of course, was a wonderful tasty and filling meal. We were sent away with a  booklet of recipes to replicate our culinary experience and bring back all those great memories.

We were now using Trip Advisor extensively in Ubud, successfully choosing our accommodation, restaurants and a variety of activities. All were great choices, with no disappointments, which naturally added to the overall enjoyment of our trip. In turn, I completed six reviews myself, for the Ubud region, and am now a Senior Contributor.

Our Trip Advisor Best Picks for Ubud -  Accommodation, Eating & Activities:

  • Sri Sunari Guest House - exceeded our expectations; attentive staff
  • Wild Ginger – we ate two great dinners here; good value
  • Sari Organik – excellent lunch in a serene rice field location
  • Jazz Cafe – good food and a great night of music
  • Paon Bali Cooking Class – a wonderful experience (see above)
  • Jegeg Bali Cycling Tours – an exceptional day; full value

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Tripping Through Indonesia on Trip Advisor – Southern Bali

  We’ve just returned from an incredible trip through Indonesia,  made all the better by a positive, first-hand experience using Trip Advisor.  Visiting five islands in five weeks, and on the fly,  we made almost a dozen accommodation decisions, as many restaurant choices, and even a few tour packages by going online.  Trip Advisor is a powerful social media/web-based travel planning tool, that provides information and reviews in real time, and we used this data to research our travel picks.  All were winners, with each adding unexpected, but multi-layered details to our  travel experience. Best of all, we had no disappointments.

Over the course of this  blog series we’ll share some of our experiences, from trekking through the highlands of Papua to the finding the best white, sandy beach we’ve ever seen.

   We’ll also share some of our strategies for using Trip Advisor, based on our experiences as B&B operators. Coracle Cove has received almost 60 Trip Advisor Reviews. We have a good understanding of both sides of the Trip Advisor equation, and used this knowledge to develop an effective strategy for interpreting the reviews, and then picking our Indonesian winners.

And just in case we do manage to inspire you to go to Indonesia, we’ll also share our Trip Advisor Best Picks (see below)

  Now back to our trip… the image at the top of the page was taken at Uluwatu, a cliff-hanging ancient Hindu temple, built over 1000 years ago. This west-facing directional-temple looks over the Indian Ocean, and I took this second image from the top row of the outdoor amphitheatre where I was sitting, just minutes before the start of a mesmerizing evening performance of the epic Asian folk tale of Ramayana.

  I would actually see portions of this traditional performance several  times over the course of our trip. I was intrigued by the story and captivated by the intricate foot and hand movements, and the meditative beat of the gamelon orchestra. The Kecak Fire Dance at Uluwatu was definitely a great introduction for me to the cultural side of Indonesia.

Interestingly however,  I would probably have missed this experience entirely, without the good advice from the small guest house that I found through Trip Advisor. Teka Tiki House, in Seminyak, Bali is operated by Jules, an ex-pat, Aussie school teacher and Donni, her Balinese husband.

I was attracted to Teka Tiki by the large number of good reviews they had received on Trip Advisor and based on the five days I stayed with them, they are well deserved. As a B&B owner I  always try to book into other B&Bs, because I know that I’ll get good, personalized service and lots of local information. Teka Tiki arranged drivers, provided restaurant recommendations, and even invited me to join them for a wonderful seafood BBQ at an out-of-the-way oceanside restaurant where the food was great and the evening sunset… well that’s for another blog. Stay tuned for the next instalment, and a few more of our Trip Advisor Best Picks.

Our Trip Advisor Best Picks –  Accommodation, Eating & Activities:

  • Kendi Kuning: Nusa Dua, seafood – excellent food and beachside location
  • Made’s Warung: Seminyak, Indonesian – good evening entertainment
  • Warung Bale Bali: Seminyak, Indonesian – quiet restuarant with good food
  • Kind Villa Bintang Resort: Nusa Dua – a perfect place to relax upon arrival
  • Teka Tiki Guest House: Seminyak –  great location, great value
  • Espace Spa: Seminayak – Ahhh…. the best answer to jet lag

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Falling for the Sunshine Coast – Part 2

There is a peacefulness about the Fall season. Maybe it just feels that way after a busy summer, but there are also some definite physical changes underway and I find it very relaxing.

I took this picture a few years ago on a first day of Fall, September 22nd. It’s mid-day, the water is a flat relective surface, and mirrors the white clouds floating above.

This picture was taken just a few days later, the early morning mist wrapping everything in a protective cocoon. The water is still,  with a few ripples from a passing boat.

The protective mist extends deep into the forest, releasing moisture laden droplets on everything, both large and small.

To see more of my images of the Fall season at CoracleCove, visit my website www.coraclecove.com where I’ve produced a short video of some of my other favourites … enjoy!!

 

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Walking Holidays on the Sunshine Coast – #3 – Foraging for Wild Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season on the Sunshine Coast. The few days of rain we had last week  have coaxed these delicacies of Nature to make their annual appearance. If you’re patient, and know what to look for, and where to look you will be rewarded. We found a small patch of these Coral Mushrooms with the help of Tyler Grey, owner of Mikuni Wild Harvest, who grew up on the Sunshine Coast.

We were in pretty good hands. Tyler has been foraging for wild mushrooms for most of his life, a passion that was handed down to him by his mother. That’s him on the right with my youngest son, Colin and they’ve just found a patch of Hogshead Mushrooms – a healthy handful that we enjoyed later that day in a savoury wild mushroom pasta, cooked with some garlic that I’d been drying in my cellar, and olive oil. That was all we needed – talk about letting the ingredients speak for themselves.

The ultimate find for the day, however, were the covetted Chantrelles (pictured below) and we were rewarded a number of times for our patience.

Mushroom Foraging is a popular Autumn activity on the Sunshine Coast and it seems that everyone has their own secret place or two.

The Second Annual Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival takes place this weekend in Pender Harbour. Several workshops on identifying mushrooms are offered and most of the local restaurants will be featuring wild mushrooms on their menus. If you’d like to get some expert advice on identification this is a great opportunity. Of course any opportunity to escape from the big city to visit the Sunshine Coast is always worth considering.  Happy hunting!!

 

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