(and sometimes the beast!)




On a recent holiday to Vanuatu, I discovered snorkelling... on my last two days unfortunately and this is my favourite photo taken on the last day. Stunning rainbows as well as a sweet, blue fish.  
I had previously only gone snorkelling once, under protest, as I'm not a strong swimmer. That was out from Green Island on the Barrier Reef. I didn't enjoy that first time and don't recall seeing anything as I was too busy trying not to drown or choke on the water that kept getting into the snorkel. I couldn't get back to the boat fast enough.  This trip changed all that so I'll be looking out for holiday deals to tropical reef locations...
Where we were in Vanuatu, the reefs were close to shore in fairly quiet, clear water so I didn't feel out of my depth and was able to work out the breathing without feeling like I was going to die. 
My daughter had lent me her underwater camera and I was keen to see what, if anything, was under the surface. Sometimes it was hard to get a good shot with the current buffeting me around (lots of blurred photos), while concentrating on staying afloat as well but on the whole I'm happy with what I got. Wow! Wow! Wow! Here you can see bits of food in the water which was attracting lots of fish to our location. Annoyingly, sometimes though, the camera focussed on the food rather than the fish.
More rainbows and a brilliantly coloured fish.
[EDIT: lemon peel angel fish!] 
 Look at that face, he made me laugh out loud, underwater, luckily I didn't swallow any water...
 I was fascinated by these extremely colourful things. I got too close at one stage and they disappeared!
I've found out they're called Christmas Tree worms (explains them pulling their heads in) or Spirobranchus giganteus and some did look just like tiny white Christmas trees. 
I noticed in the above photo that there was something else and still not sure what it is, but the close up shows the little stripey thing could be a very tiny fishling I guess. 
A lot of the fish I saw I couldn't find names for but this one is an orange finned anemone fish, what a cutie.
Even the clams came in stunning colours.
During a reef walk, not snorkelling, just out from our accommodation we saw lots of other things at low tide.  I hadn't realised sea slugs came in so many shapes and colours.  I didn't like the walk as everything crunched underfoot and I had the feeling we were killing off sea critters. The villagers who lived nearby are out there every low tide looking for various eats.  Our guide said even dugongs turn up at high tide but we didn't see any. 
These blue starfish were everywhere at low tide.  Loved the pattern of the water on this one. 
Little crab playing hide and seek. 
Photobombing was an occupational hazard. I was trying to photograph some of the coral (not an awful lot where I was) when this common reef fish swam into the shot. 
Another UFO (Unknown Fishy Object) swimming out of the pink coral. 
More coral...
This guy just appeared, possibly thought I had food and I was too close to him to get the full view (complete with fin of another photobomber) but his head is a vision isn't it? 
I don't think these shots do the colours justice but I think you get the idea. Imagine it 3 times more vivid!
Can't wait to go again...



Nelsons Bay/Port Stephens area. Still not sure what it's called... This spot is Shoal Bay 
Panoramic shot from further around. It had rained all the way from Valla Beach but arrived here to brilliant sunshine.  I'll be back next year for a WRANS Reunion.
I 'camped' in the campervan at the Shoal Bay Holiday Park which was ideally situated for me but I won't be 'camping' again.  Not cut out for it any more. When I was a teenager I camped in a tent a few times down the Track in NT with friends. Ah those were the days.  Before I left, managed this shot of the sunrise.  More clouds but it didn't get any more colourful than this.
Next stop Gundegai and here you see the proof. I stopped at a 711 servo along the way to use the facilities and did some celebrity spotting. Keith Urban pulled up with his 2 children! Highlight of the day up until then. 
The plan was to stay overnight but as it was only 3pm I decided I'd push on to Albury. After all, what does an OAP do in a strange town on her own? Then when I checked times and mileage, discovered it would only be another 4 hours to my friend's house north of Melbourne.
This is where my training as a graduate of my ex-husband's School of Holiday Driving kicked in...  "Why stop when you can keep driving?"  Hit the road, Jack... 
Along the way I did manage to notice the scenery.  I actually stopped to snap this tree because I thought it was very handsome.
And these boulders near Tooborac were stunning, helped by the impending sunset; I came to a screeching halt. They are granite and litter the countryside like giant marbles in the Mitchell Shire, Victoria.
 Didn't notice the horse grazing until I zoomed in...
This was the sunset, which, annoyingly, got even better once I was on the road again with nowhere to pull over or when I was able to, no view.  
Here are more boulders taken elsewhere the next morning. Not as pretty without the sunset but impressive, nevertheless.
From there it was a short drive to my friends' house where I could continue my romance with this handsome hunk... And discontinue my 'camping' to sleep in a real bed.



Prior to retiring earlier this year, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life really when I became an Old Age Pensioner (OAP). Then one day as I headed to Brisbane for visit family, I passed a small motor-home which gave me the romantic notion that I could travel like that, cat in tow.  My wise daughter suggested I hire something similar before committing hard earned savings to my (possibly hair brained) idea. Surely a camper van would be not much different to a motor home I thought? How wrong I was...

Things I discovered on the journey:
1. Camper vans are for young agile backpackers with strong bladders, not aging romantics who need to visit the loo a couple of times during the night.
2. I apparently had never forgotten my training as a graduate of my ex-husband's School of Holiday Driving; his motto was "Why stop when you can keep driving?" and was a strong believer in "time stopped was time wasted."
3. I really need to prepare and plan before I make important life choices.  Duh...
4. I don't enjoy my own company for long stretches.    
5. If I think there's a chance I may have strayed onto a toll road I should pay up front just in case, after all, OAP's can't afford unpaid toll fines...  Idiot!

You can read the full story of my recent trip to Melbourne here.  Posts on this blog are more a fuller photographic journey of that trip.
First stop Chinderah for fish and chip lunch. The many seagulls spoilt it a bit by crowding me and screaming for a chip.  I soon set off for Ballina where I didn't even get my camera out and ended up in Valla Beach where I stayed with a friend for 3 nights. Not in the camper van... phew!  
Valla Beach is a beautiful spot and I enjoy my visits there. This is Deep Creek near my friend's house. Fish and rays lurk beneath the surface but I couldn't get any shots of them jumping out of the water. 
A selection of the many birds around the Valla Beach area. 
Looking from the seaward side of the bridge over the creek, to the right is a bird sanctuary.
View of Sawtell Beach. 
Panoramic shot of the beach at Urunga. 
A rainy day visit to the Coffs Harbour lookout was a little disappointing, would be fabulous on a clear day.
Muttonbird Island adjacent to Coffs Harbour.
Gratuitous (and timely) shot of the Easter Bunny to brighten up an otherwise dull photographic collection thanks to the weather.
Last time I saw paddle boarders at Valla Beach, this time just the gulls...
The clouds were never far away that week and this sunrise on my last morning at Valla Beach was dulled by their cover although if you squint you can just see the moon...
I found myself thinking of opal for some reason. Better was to come the further south I went.

Part 2 to follow...



Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time outside trying to get a photo of some blue triangle butterflies which were dancing around my neighbour's mock orange (Murraya paniculata) but gave up in disgust, seeming to have only snapped vast skies of perfect blue behind the flowers, just missing the subjects each time. But then I uploaded the shots to the computer and after a bit of cropping, it turned out I had caught a lovely dance off, not just the butterflies but including a bee! A joyful moment indeed.
To top it off, I'd also unknowingly captured a dandelion seed heading off to parts unknown... But that meant I didn't get to wish on it.



Today I seemed to notice more insects than usual on my walk and in the garden (perhaps because I got stung by a wasp yesterday), but my favourite was this graphic flutterer dragonfly! I'd never seen one before but it was the fluttering that gave it away. I found him hard to photograph because it was so skittish, the slightest movement on my part and it would flutter off and because it's so small it was difficult to focus on with a background of flowers and foliage. Luckily, I was able to move slightly to put the house wall behind it. I would have loved to see it's face but alas, that would have meant trespass! I think it looks like a bi-plane... "Chocks away, Ginger!"
Not the best shot of a blue banded bee, but I'll take what I can. They don't land for long on flowers (in this case some comfry), not as long as a honey bee anyway.
This pretty ladybird spent at least 2 days on the chive flowers; must not have heard the call to "fly away home". Such a tiny, shiny little bug, dulled only by the pollen. On a side note, Pam told me you can eat the chive flowers (seems logical now I know) and I munch away on them whenever I'm watering the garden.  The buds thrown in a salad would give a little garlic hit.
I think this is a hoverfly. Difficult to tell with its head shoved into a basil flower.
March fly I'm thinking, too high up to get a look at its head front on and I didn't want it landing on me anyway.
[edit 11/3/17 - Found this shot taken a few weeks ago of a March fly on the clothes line which is much sharper and shows its face!]
Naturally, the garden is alive with spiders and I will keep running into the webs around the place. Ugh, many a "spider dance" accompanied by requisite shrieking done around here. This guy is so tiny, and prickly looking.
This fellow was busy bundling up his lunch (of decaying bugs by the look) this morning. I went back later and he, and it, had gone. 
There's always something happening in the garden if you look.

It is common knowledge now that we depend on insects for our continued existence; that, without key pollinators, the human population would collapse in less than a decade. John Burnside