Cape Trib

Saturday, 26 August 2017 17:13
strange_complex: (Cities Esteban butterfly)
Ah, free weekend! How blessed and rare you are. Time to push on with my Australia posts, then.

After Brisbane, my next stop was Cape Tribulation. My stay here was probably the highlight of my travels, but it was also the least well-represented on Facebook because there is no mobile reception there, and only very slow / limited wifi. So this post will do more than some of the others need to to fill in the gaps.

Cape Trib (as it's called locally) is in Queensland, but a little over 1000 miles north of Brisbane, and I got there by flying to Cairns and then driving another 100 miles north in a hire car. Cape Trib is located in a large region called the Daintree, which bills itself as being 'Where the rainforest meets the reef'. This is the photo I took which best captures that - basically a forested mountain range sloping down to beautiful beaches, and with the reef about 20km off-shore.

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I got myself a good dose of both rainforest and reef by staying for two nights in an absolutely beautiful isolated log-cabin looking right into pristine rainforest, and then another two in a slightly-less-magnificent but still totally adequate beach hut which was part of a larger resort. This was the one single FB post which I managed to make while there, from the bar area of the beach hut resort. I didn't put comment under any of the pictures at the time, because I knew my connection could drop at any minute, but I've added a few in square brackets now.

14th July: rainforest and beach at Cape Tribulation )

The owners of the log cabin had set up a self-guided walk which you could follow through the rainforest, which I did on my first day, and which is where I took the pictures in the FB post above. It is pretty amazing just clambering through the rainforest all alone, and I took a little selfie video which I think captures how ïnto it I was:

[There is a video here in the LJ version of this post, but DW can't host it. Please click through if you'd like to see it.]

I also went swimming in a freshwater creek, which is what you have to do locally if you want to swim. Sadly, all those beautiful beaches aren't actually safe to swim off, because there are marine crocodiles in the area who can lurk unseen in the water, and will attack people paddling or swimming. I did want to take the opportunity to swim while I was there, though, as it was nice weather, with temperatures usually in the low-to-mid twenties, and the creek was quite idyllic, with trees overhanging the water and a shoal of fish swimming around in the swimming-hole. I chatted to a family from Melbourne having a winter holiday there while we lounged around in the water, and picked up a few tips for the next leg of my travels.

The following day, it was time to meet the reef, which I did by booking myself onto a snorkelling tour with these people. I have never snorkelled before, and it was a pretty choppy day to be heading out into the open ocean in not much more than a large motorised dinghy. We certainly got sprayed in the face a lot, although the guy at the wheel made it fun by playing stuff like Queen's Bo Rhap on the ship's stereo as we crashed through the waves. Then when we got there and I actually plunged into the water, I had a minute or two of thinking I wasn't going to be able to do it because I was trying to gasp for air and didn't like the way the snorkel mask blocked off my nose and restricted the amount of air I could pull in. But the lady who was guiding and instructing us all explained that I just needed to relax and breathe deeply and slowly through the snorkel, and after a few minutes I got the hang of that, put my face in the water, and it was all worth it!

Sadly, of course, there aren't any pictures, because I don't have a water-proof camera, so I can ony do my best to convey in words how amazing it was. Where we went, the coral was so close to the surface that you had to be very careful in a lot of places not to accidentally bash it, practically sucking your stomach in as you floated over. So it was an incredibly close-up view of huge amounts of marine life. And it really was teeming. I'd always assumed that documentaries etc about the reef were highly selective, focusing in on isolated highlights, but where we went the whole area was alive with brightly-coloured fish, coral, anemones, sea-cucumbers, starfish etc. It really didn't matter much which direction you looked in - everything was utterly amazing.

My most exciting moment was watching a blue spotted ray glide along the ocean floor and then disappear under a coral over-hang, but I also saw iridescent fish, brightly-coloured stripey fish, royal blue star-fish, fish cleaning each other's gills, plants undulating to trap tiny life-forms, spiky blue-tipped coral and giant clams. I didn't even think giant clams were real - I thought they were a joke from Doctor Who - but nope, they are absolutely real, and live ones have beautiful blue or purple tissues lining their shells. I'm not by nature an active sports person, and suspect I am unlikely ever to snorkel again - but I'm very glad I made the effort to do it, and will definitely remember it all my life.

The day after that I had booked another tour, this time in a small group with a local guy who has a four-wheel drive. The sealed roads up the Queensland coast end at Cape Trib, so if you want to go any further north you need something which can handle rough surface and plunge through creeks. He took us about another 20 miles north to Wujal Wujal, a community belonging to the local Kuku Yalanji people, where one of their number, who told us to call her Kathleen, walked us up to a beautiful waterfall. She explained all about how it is a sacred place for her people, and that there is another waterfall further up the same river which is reserved for women only, and is where previous generations of Aboriginal women went to give birth. (Some still do now, but most opt for the local hospital.) She also told us about how the coming of the seasons has changed over her lifetime due to climate change, including bringing crocodiles up to the waterfall part of the river when they didn't used to be a danger in her childhood. Apparently, her people are able to smell the crocodiles even when they can't see them - they smell of mud and fish, she said.

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Later, we drove along the river which the waterfall feeds, called Bloomfield River, looking for crocs out basking on the banks. It didn't take long for our efforts to be rewarded, although my camera was far from adequate at capturing the results. The first picture is my own, zoomed in as far as it would go; you can just about make out the crocodile about one-third of the way along the bank from the left. The second was taken by the guy doing the driving and emailed to us afterwards. This whole trip really made me realise that while my camera is excellent for taking photographs of buildings, often allowing me to get the whole thing in while people around me are stepping backwards and backwards and cursing that they can't get far enough back to do so, it is dreadful for capturing smaller things like wildlife for the same reasons.

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Anyway, I was very glad after having seen the zoomed-in photo to have been on the other side of the bank from that!

Finally it was time to drive back down to Cairns, but I stopped off half-way down for a couple of hours at the Mossman Gorge Centre. This was still within the Daintree rainforest, in land belonging to the same Kuku Yalanji people as live at Wujal Wujal, and one of the things you can do there is to book a guided walking tour through the forest led by one of them. This time our guide told us the name he goes by amongst his own people, and I tried so hard to remember it, and succeeded for most of the afternoon, but unfortunately it wasn't familiar to me so I have forgotten it again now, and can only record the alternative white-people name he gave us that I already knew: Skip.

I won't forget what I learned from him about his people and their relationship with the rainforest, though. This included things like how he learnt as a child which 40 or so out of the c. 150 fruits in the rainforest were OK to eat; how his people recognise six different seasons of the year, defined by things like hot, cold, wind, rain, dry etc., each with their own different plants and fruits; how in the past they lived in huts in the forest, but would only ever stay in one place for a maximum of three years to allow the ground around them to recover; how they interacted with the plains people and picked up the use of boomerangs from them, but of course couldn't throw them in the middle of the rainforest so just used them to bang for music instead; how they make body-paints from ochre and clay and what the various patterns and symbols mean (e.g. rain-drops, family groupings); and how they collected sasparilla from the forest edge and scrunched it up in water to get a form of natural soap.

The whole picture of a people living in symbiosis with the land until (implicitly - he didn't say this, but didn't need to) white settlers came along and ruined it all was incredibly humbling, particularly coming on top of having gaped in awe at the teeming life of the reef in full awareness of how much of it has already been destroyed by pollution and climate change. Australia is certainly a stark lesson in the impact of British colonialism if you're willing to take it. Anyway, I didn't take a photo of Skip himself, but these are his paints. I just hope there will even be anyone around with the cultural knowledge he has another generation from now.

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Thailand

Wednesday, 9 August 2017 17:48
strange_complex: (One walking)
As explained in an earlier post, I am trying to capture my recent trip to Forn Parts here on DW / LJ by replicating and linking to the FB posts I made at the time, but also adding supplementary photos and text for anything I feel deserves better documentation. BTW, if you are reading this on DW / LJ and we're not already FB friends, I'm very happy for that to change. Here's my profile; please leave a note saying who you are on DW / LJ if you think I'm unlikely to recognise the name you go by on FB. Stuff about Thailand follows below, with material already posted on FB under the cu-tags, and additional DW / LJ-only material at the bottom.

29th June: first evening's impressions )

30th June: a day in Bangkok )

1st July: summer palace, Ayutthaya, river cruise )

1st July: anniversary of Mum's death )

That covers the main outlines pretty well, but I tended to use my Proper Camera when going round the temples and palaces, and photos from that aren't so easy to upload instantly to FB. Now that I've downloaded and sorted them all, here are a few for the record, under headings naming the locations:

Grand Palace, Bangkok )

Wat Pho temple, Bangkok )

Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, near Ayutthaya )

Temples of Ayutthaya )

Tributes to the deceased king )
strange_complex: (Me Mithraeum)
Dear Livejournal,

Happy birthday! It is ten years today since I first set you up. I didn't actually start writing entries here until the following April, but today is the day I joined the LJ community and started reading and commenting on other people's posts, so I think this is the date that counts.

You and I have changed a lot over the last ten years, and sadly not always in ways we probably would have chosen. Certainly, on my side, between parental health issues and appalling workplace mismanagement, the last six years of my life have been pretty shit, all things considered. I know it's naive to expect life to be in any way fair, and I have tried to make the best of things and not get angry and resentful about it all, but it's got to be said that I thought my thirties would be more about happiness and achievement than they have actually turned out to be. Still, you have been there for me all that time, whether I needed to write about the problems I've experienced directly, escape from them into various sorts of film- and television-related fantasy worlds, or (just occasionally) explore and express enthusiasm for new things. I wish there'd been more of the latter in particular, but I'm grateful for all of it.

As for you, the sad reality is that other social networks have chipped away at your userbase. Facebook offers ease of usage, other blogging platforms offer search engine visibility and a sense of professionalism, Pinterest makes sharing picture content quick and easy, Tumblr encourages collaborative discussions, and Twitter captures trends and breaking news and opinion in a way that you never could. As a ball-park figure, I think only about one quarter of the people on my friendslist are actually now active here in any way at all, and my stats tell me that my posts now rack up about 2/5 as many views apiece as they did five years ago. Inevitably, these things snowball, so that once people start drifting away there isn't as much left here to keep the remaining people interested, and in turn they drift too. What started as a slow but noticeable decline three or four years ago has definitely speeded up over the last two years.

And yet, somehow, here you still are in spite of it all. Just like me, in fact. What that tells me is that you still have something to offer which other social networks can't match. Obviously for any individual user, part of it is a combination of nostalgia, and the particular friendship connections we have here. But most of my LJ friendship connections are replicated on other social networks, and yet it obviously still seems worth it to me and to others to keep writing here. LJ allows long discursive writing and considered discussion threads, all of which other blog platforms can match. But where it has and keeps the edge, I think, is the ability to do all of that in a personalised format, addressed to a reciprocal audience of known and trusted friends - either pseudonymously or even completely privately.

Twitter and blogging platforms are largely predicated on the assumption that they are publicly visible and associated with known identities, while once-cool Facebook is now increasingly full of work colleagues and family members whose expectations of our personas may be restrictive - indeed, this is a recognised factor in driving teenagers off it. But LJ is both old enough and small enough to somehow have slipped under all of those nets. The fact that it is unknown territory to those who are anyway unlikely to 'get' it has always been part of its attraction. Certainly, I can write here about my parent and job woes in a way I wouldn't dream of on Facebook or Twitter, and I've seen many other LJ users coming here after long absences in similar circumstances. But it isn't just that. I can write long, self-indulgent film and TV reviews here which are about how I responded to a story, including expressions of extreme geekiness and digressions into my personal history, which I feel comfortable sharing here to a known (and often equally geekish) audience, but wouldn't want associated with my professional identity on a blog.

In short, I still love you LJ, and I don't intend to stop writing here any time soon. You are still an essential element in my online life, even if you're not the only one any more. In fact, I have made you a present in honour of our ten-year anniversary. See, I'm not saying everything I write here is cutting-edge essential content, but it matters to me and I do like writing it. I also think that one consequence of your drifting user-base is that there are people out there who might like to read some of it, but no longer even really know that I am posting here.

So I have finally done something I've been thinking I ought to do for a while. I have sifted through my Facebook friendslist, and put all the people who are or were once on LJ themselves, or who never were but whom I don't mind knowing about the sort of stuff I post here, onto a single 'LJ friendly' filter. From this entry onwards I am going to link to my public LJ posts from my Facebook feed, but filtered to that group only. Not, I think, the friendslocked stuff, but at least my film and TV reviews, and probably some general 'what I've been doing lately' updates too.

I hope you like it, and here's to the next ten years. I'll still be here if you are.

Lots of love,

Penny

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

strange_complex: (Claudia Cardinale fan)
IMDb page here. Watched on DVD from Lovefilm.

This is a long, slow epic of a film; large and grandiose, but with a great deal of small detail and personal intimacy, too.

I watched it partly because one of the main characters is played by the delectable Claudia Cardinale. Indeed, many moons ago I made this icon of her character holding a fan to use when registering my appreciation of LJ posts which I sincerely liked but did not have anything specific to say about in a comment. (It fulfils, of course, the same role now served by the 'Like' button on Facebook - and oh I do wish they would get on and implement something similar for LJ!). But I also watched it because it deals with one of my favourite periods of Italian history, the Risorgimento, here seen specifically from the point of view of a noble Sicilian family.

The head of that family, Don Fabrizio - the 'leopard' of the title, somewhat surprisingly but very powerfully played by Burt Lancaster - takes a sanguine view of matters. He speaks a great deal about the antiquity of Sicily, very much focussing on the longue durée, and fundamentally believes that the unification of Italy will make little difference to the everyday experiences of the Sicilian people. But at the same time a clear contrast is drawn between the old ways which he represents and the new ways of his nephew Tancredi - an energetic and passionate young man, who fights actively for the revolution and willingly throws himself into the politics of the new regime. By the end of the film, Tancredi is deeply in love with Angelica (Claudia Cardinale's character), who is vital and spirited but distinctly ignoble. There is a frisson of attraction between Angelica and Don Fabrizio, too - but ultimately it is something which cannot be pursued. While she and Tancredi swirl ardently together at the ball which forms the climax of the film, Don Fabrizio, now tired and somewhat dejected, walks out into the streets of the small town beyond, finally disappearing from sight altogether into a dark archway. He has done his bit - but the future belongs to Tancredi and Angelica.

The cinematography and direction of the film are very typical of the 1960s. The colour palette revolves around Glorious Technicolor, while the direction is very much theatrical. This has its own charms, but I felt that the landscape of Sicily perhaps wasn't shown off to its best advantage as a result. A modern director would have given us lots of aerial shots of the landscape, capturing the rolling shapes of the hills and coastlines by flying over the scenery. Visconti, though, treats the landscape above all as a backdrop, always static behind scenes of human action. Perhaps that is what he wanted to capture - a sense of Sicily as still and unchanging while its people act out their small-scale human dramas. But I felt that something of its potential majesty was lost as a result.

I wouldn't recommend this film to everyone - it is slow-paced, and assumes a pre-existing interest in the circumstances of the characters rather than seeking to establish one. But if you happen to like 19th-century Italy, 1960s cinematography or indeed Claudia Cardinale, Burt Lancaster or Alain Delon (who plays Tancredi), it is definitely a fine example of its kind.

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