Photography

Safari

Since I was five, I’ve always wanted to go on Safari. It’s been a dream of mine. Finally, this year it became a reality thanks to the good folks at Kapama Southern Camp http://www.kapama.co.za/kapama-southern-camp/.

Enjoy!

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I Love A Sunburnt Country – Dorothea Mackellar

It’s a well-known fact that despite a strong sense of National Pride, Australians will often venture outside of their own country before travelling around the six states and two territories we have on offer. It’s common to have done two or three but I’ve met very few individuals that have “completed the set”. This is not due to a lack of desire to explore one’s own land but rather it is often cheaper to fly to Bali, Fiji or New Zealand than to take a look around our own backyard. Despite this, I’ve been on a somewhat personal quest to complete an “Australian Bingo” if you will and cross off all of all the regions and thus was most excited to head off on my latest adventure to the “Top End” otherwise known as the Northern Territory.

I flew into Darwin for the start of my travels and other than my knowledge of the heavy bombing inflicted upon Darwin during World War II, the infamous Cyclone Tracey that tore through Darwin on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day in 1974 and the fact I should not swim at the beaches or anywhere marked with “Crocodile Warning” signs I knew very little about the city.

Coming in to land, I was immediately taken by the vast difference in the landscape even from the window of the plane.

Looking Down on Darwin © 2014 Kate Vista

Looking Down on Darwin © 2014 Kate Vista

Darwin has two distinct seasons (wet season and dry season) and thus it is important to time your travels for the dry season to avoid the daily monsoon showers over summer. Even from the windows though it was easy to see how flooded the waterways could become during the wet.

The warmth of Darwin was a welcome change from the 14 degrees of home and I checked into my hotel, eager to begin my adventure.  There are only two real areas of Darwin to stay, the city centre (Esplanade) or Cullen Bay.  For this adventure I was staying in Cullen Bay as I liked the idea of being near by the water.  As an aside, if you do ever venture to Cullen Bay, head to The Boat Shed, a local establishment that serves mouthwatering all day breakfasts (including the aptly named “Fatty Boomba” for any hungry boys in your group) and refreshing beverages such as a “Mango Tingle” that will leave you wanting more.

Fatty Boomba © 2014 Kate Vista

Fatty Boomba © 2014 Kate Vista

To be honest, you can probably “do Darwin” in a few days from a tourist perspective but this isn’t to say it isn’t worth the time. While in the city it is definitely worth a visit to the Darwin Military Museum www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au/ which is unique in it’s outdoor set up, extensive collection of military vehicles, weaponry and wealth of information outlining Darwin’s involvement in World War II.  Time in Darwin should also include a visit to the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory http://artsandmuseums.nt.gov.au/museums and a visit to Crocodylus Park http://www.crocodyluspark.com.au or other Crocodile attraction whereby you can hold baby crocs or full sized pythons, learn about the benefits of Crocodile farming to save species from extension and see Crocodiles being fed.

My favourite part of Darwin though was the remarkable sunsets. Being from the East Coast, it’s very rare (well impossible) you see the sun set into the ocean whereas in Darwin it’s cause for local gatherings (check out the Mindil Beach markets in time for Sunset on a Sunday) whereby tens of thousands of people line the beaches and then applaud in a most jovial manner as the sun sets into the ocean. It really is humbling at is easy to see why.  The colours are spectacular and you can’t help but be in awe.

Beautiful Sunsets © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Sunsets © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Crowds Gather at Mindil Beach © 2014 Kate Vista

Crowds Gather at Mindil Beach © 2014 Kate Vista

Sunsets into the Ocean © 2014 Kate Vista

Sun Sets into the Ocean © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From here, locals and tourists alike will enter into the markets for live music performances, street food and to peruse the stands of arts and crafts on offer. Another alternative is of course the Deckchair Cinema open from April – November http://www.deckchaircinema.com.au.

The main reason for tourists to head to Darwin though is for its entry point to some of the most spectacular national parks and outdoor locations in the world.  Litchfield National Park,  Katherine Gorge and Kakadu are all easy driving from Darwin, although I would recommend reading the fine print of your hire car contract carefully as many rental care places won’t just charge you per day but per additional kilometre over 160km … Lesson learned…

The road trip portion of the travels began with the pleasant one and a half hour drive out to Litchfield National Park. I was prepared for beautiful eucalyptus trees, gorgeous rock formations, spectacular Indigenous art and breathtaking swimming holes (checked for crocs by local authorities) but what I was not prepared for was the termite mounds. Seriously.  These structures were enormous, often several meters high and towered over me.  They were fascinating and I had no idea that they could be so large or would be so prominent throughout the landscape.

Termine Mounds! © 2014 Kate Vista

Termine Mounds! © 2014 Kate Vista

One of the other highlights were the spectacular Tomer Falls which cascades over two high escarpments into a distant, deep plunge pool.

Tomer Falls © 2014 Kate Vista

Tomer Falls © 2014 Kate Vista

If you are anything like me though, you will be happy with your map and simply hike for hours, find a beautiful vantage point for lunch and continue hiking into the afternoon. This pattern continued for days but it is possible to venture out simply for a day trip to the park.

Although Litchfield was beautiful, Kakadu was by far my favourite place in the Northern Territory.  A national park that is larger than Switzerland, you could spend weeks there and not cover all the ground you wanted to. For this reason my top two pieces of advice would be pick some trails that will take you to look at the plethora of details Indigenous Art depicted on cave and rock walls and make your way to Ubirr for sunset.

Rock painting was used to illustrate a part of a story. It may have been a creation story, a hunting experience or some other facet of daily life.  Some rock art stories are not for everyone to know, some is sacred and not for everyone to see.

Dancing © 2014 Kate Vista

Dancing © 2014 Kate Vista

Lightening Man © 2014 Kate Vista

Lightening Man © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s inspiring to think that these images have battled the elements, colonization and discrimination for hundreds of years and yet their colours and yet their colours and messages have remained vivid and are finally being recognised with the significance they deserve.

The beauty of Ubirr made me want to cry.  I don’t feel I have the words to sufficiently express how powerful a landscape can be so I will leave you with these images to speak for themselves.

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Ubirr at Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

No trip to the Northern Territory would be complete without visiting Australia’s beating heart, Uluru a fantastic monolith depicted in images worldwide. It is possible to drive to Alice Springs from Darwin but in this instance I flew.  Much like Darwin, Alice Springs is a cultural center, steeped in history but often used as a base for tourists to get to Uluru, Kings Canyon or Kata Tjuta.

Despite being in the same state, the landscape of Alice Springs was different again. The soil really was a brilliant burned orange and in contrast to Darwin, which sees heavy rains, the dryness of Alice was on a whole new level.

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Brunt Orange Soil © 2014 Kate Vista

Brunt Orange Soil © 2014 Kate Vista

The drive out to Uluru is well worth doing.  For one, the chance to drive at speeds above 110 kilometers an hour is a new experience in itself and it also is a spectacular way to see the sheer vastness and might of the Australian desert. Surprisingly the highway also seemed to be where white goods came to die with no fewer then five abandoned washing machines along the route.

Eventually, after passing though tiny towns such as Stuart’s Well and Mt Ebenezer the impressive formation that is Uluru could be seen in the distance.

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Uluru Emerges © 2014 Kate Vista

Up close though, it is even more awe inspiring.

 

Uluru Up Close © 2014 Kate Vista

Uluru Up Close © 2014 Kate Vista

While staying in the heart of the country, do try to take advantage of the sounds of silence fine dining experience.  While I didn’t really want to pay exorbitant prices for accommodation I was willing to indulge a little to experience fine dining under a canopy of stars http://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/sounds-of-silence/ and what an experience it was.

Champagne and canapés on arrival at sunset, as magic silhouettes danced and empahsised Uluru.

Fine Dining In the Desert! © 2014 Kate Vista

Fine Dining In the Desert! © 2014 Kate Vista

Silhouettes Dance © 2014 Kate Vista

Silhouettes Dance © 2014 Kate Vista

Fine Dining @ Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

Fine Dining @ Sunset © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Magic Sky © 2014 Kate Vista

Magic Sky © 2014 Kate Vista

Traditional custodians then blessed the land and shared stories before we were served mouthwatering food. The evening progressed with star gazing and music. It was one of those nights you will remember for the rest of your life.

One of the great features of the region is that Kata Tjuta is so close to Uluru and it is truly just as spectacular.

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

Kata Tjuta © 2014 Kate Vista

 

And with that, my journey came to an end.  Another region is now crossed off my list and my national pride continues to grow. I can see why Dorothea Mackellar loved a sunburnt country so my advice would be to all those interested is to go out and see this land of sweeping plains.

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

 

Mexico

When I finally landed in Mexico City at eleven pm, some nine hours after my scheduled arrival, my stomach was in knots. Mexico City was one of those places I had heard all kids of stories about. Glorified drug lords, horrendous corruption, unsuspecting tourists and kidnappings all too common. I didn’t speak a word of Spanish, I had no way of contacting the company arranging the driver to inform them I was horribly delayed. I had a piece of paper with the name of my accommodation on it and all the good intentions in the world.  I just had to hope that someone showed up to meet me.

 

Mexico - © 2014 Kate Vista

Mexico – © 2014 Kate Vista

Sure enough, they did. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see my name written on cardboard.  I wanted to hug the driver when I saw him standing there. However, my joy was short lived because as I followed him obediently through the airport I soon realised I was entering a car park devoid of other vehicles (unusual for a city of nearly nine million people). My heard sank as I saw a single white van with heavily tinted windows.  I seriously considered running. Every conversation I had ever had with my parents abut hopping into vehicles with strangers as a child played through my head but I also realised my plan B (hopping in a taxi, alone as a female tourist, who didn’t speak the language) was seriously cautioned by nearly all travel websites.

I said a prayer (ironic for someone who isn’t particularly religious) and hopped in. At that point, I remember two hands around my mouth and…No, just kidding.  The drive was fine. It was long, and I was scared in parts as we drove through the dark alongside flaming trash cans and some favelas four around 45minutes but I arrives safely at my accommodation before having a stern talking to myself about the dangers of believing stereotypes.

From Mexico City I made my way to Puebla to see the Capilla del Rosario, a beautiful baroque chapel I had heard about from my cousins and was eager to see first hand.  The chapel really is a perfect example of why one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The façade gives no clue as to the opulence within. Ornate sculptures, gold leaf and paintings cover every centimeter.

 

Ornate Ceiling © 2014 Kate Vista

Ornate Ceiling © 2014 Kate Vista

Gold Leaf © 2014 Kate Vista

Gold Leaf © 2014 Kate Vista

 

As beautiful as it was, it wasn’t to be my most memorable experience of worship in Mexico.  Some 8 days later, en route to Playa del Carmen, I stumbled upon the village of San Juan Chamula, in the mountains of Chiapas. It was here that I had a truly memorable day.

San Juan Chamula - © 2014 Kate Vista

San Juan Chamula – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

San Juan Chamula is one of the only remaining Mayan villages full of traditional customs, rituals and a constant military force. Initially Chamula, appeared to be just like any other mountain village, people selling goods, children playing in the streets and dogs roaming aimlessly. If you did not enter the church, you would leave non- the wiser. It is illegal to take photographs in the church (if caught tourists can go straight to jail) which is why non appear but you will have to take my word for what occurred inside.

Church in San Juan Chamula - © 2014 Kate Vista

Church in San Juan Chamula – © 2014 Kate Vista

Unlike Capilla del Rosario, the church in San Juan Chamula has no pews, there is no alter and there are no ornate statues. Instead, the walls are lined with glass cases, each housing a saint representing Mayan gods. The ground is alight with a thousand flames as rows and rows of candles burn.  Praying with candles doesn’t seem particularly unusual but what is more surprising is that worshippers often bring bottles of pure spirits (often mixed with Coke) and proceed to drink to the point of intoxication. I’m told that people, albeit irresponsible, are often more honest when they are drunk and thus praying when drunk ensures the saints are only privy to honest prayer. As I hold my breath, it is pointed out to me that each of the saints, to whom the individuals pray, has a mirror around their neck. My new friend/village guide informs me that this idea goes hand in hand with being intoxicated. It is said that we can often lie to others but when we are unable to lie to ourselves and thus when individuals see their reflection in the mirrors of the saints must only speak the truth.

I must admit I left the church before any chickens were slaughtered (on many occasions chickens will have their necks broken as an offering to the saints).  They will then later be removed and eaten by the family who made the sacrifice.  Instead, I wandered around the village with a newfound respect and appreciation for those who lived there.

San Juan Chamula Locals - © 2014 Kate Vista

San Juan Chamula Locals – © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Colours in San Juan Chamula - © 2014 Kate Vista

Beautiful Colours in San Juan Chamula – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My visit to San Juan Chamula only enhanced my time in Merida (Yucatan province) where I was desperate to see the famous Chichen Itza and explore Mayan ruins. So much has been written about Chichen Itza and one can only marvel at the architecture and the impressive engineering of the indigenous civilisation, thousands of years ago.

Chicen Itza - © 2014 Kate Vista

Chicen Itza – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

It really does take your breath away. What is equally impressive though are the Dzibluchatun and Champeche runis.  These impressive pyramids stand amongst thick scrubs and “mountains” which I later learned were actually pyramids that due to “lack of funding” had not yet been explored.  One literally did not know what treasures lay within.

What Lies Beneath? © 2014 Kate Vista

What Lies Beneath? © 2014 Kate Vista

IMG_3721

What Lies Beneath – © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being in Yucatan, I felt I really should visit Cenote Ik Kil, natural swimming holes formed thousands of years ago.  To be honest, they were well worth a look and the water is incredibly refreshing but they were a little two crowded for my liking and so I didn’t stick around too long.

Cenote Ik Kil © 2014 Kate Vista

Cenote Ik Kil © 2014 Kate Vista

Having explored the cultural side of Mexico for weeks now, I decided to end my trip with some quality beach time. Again, in an effort to avoid the crowds, I made my way to Playa del Carmen (the lesser occupied cousin to Cancun). I hate myself a little bit for saying this, but I can see why tourists flock to this region.  For one thing, look at the water.

Azure Blue Water! © 2014 Kate Vista

Azure Blue Water! © 2014 Kate Vista

For another, look at the sand.

IMG_3040

Beautiful White Sand © 2014 Kate Vista

 

I don’t think I’ve ever lived up to so many tourist cliché’s in three days but if there was a sail boat, I was on it, if there was a sun bed under an umbrella, I lay on it, if there was a cocktail to be consumed at sunset I ensured I partook in the drinking of it.

Sailboats © 2014 Kate Vista

Sailboats © 2014 Kate Vista

Sun beds © 2014 Kate Vista

Sun beds © 2014 Kate Vista

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My time in Mexico was coming to a close and I would thoroughly recommend spending time there to anyone who was keen.  I will state that you do need to exercise caution, as my trip was not incident free. I was held up at gun-point (as a means of encouragement to acquire some fresh bananas) and there was more than one incident of paying an individual more than perhaps I needed to in order to travel from A-B.  I would also suggest that speaking Spanish would be a distinct advantage.  In terms of running away though to a place with adventure, relaxation, history, culture and colour Mexico meets all of the requirements.

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

I’m not accustomed to meeting people and then, within an hour, being naked from the waist up. There is a certain level of vulnerability that comes with that kind intimacy. Yet I knew the opportunity to stand for Emma Hack, the internationally acclaimed artist, was one I was not going to pass on.

Dwelling Facade - Lisbon  © Emma Hack

Dwelling Facade – Lisbon
© Emma Hack

I’ve been captivated by Emma’s works since my first encounter and I know the initial feeling of being drawn to intricate patterns, bold colours or subtle curves is then heightened to sheer joy and fascination upon making the discovery of a human form, an animal or both carefully camouflaged within a piece.

Fans © Emma Hack

Fans © Emma Hack

 

Like all ‘sensible’ individuals, I chose to ignore the advice of Emma and proceeded to diet for six weeks prior to the day of creation. This, when coupled with a severe bout of bronchitis, laryngitis, low blood pressure and the flutter of butterflies in my stomach, resulted in my fainting within 15 minutes of arrival. Needless to say I was mortified as I lay on the floor topless, my leggings half way down my thighs while the women I was shamelessly trying to impress fetched me water, pasta and a pillow of sorts.

We were off to a slow start…

Thankfully, the first things you will notice about Emma though are her presence, her patience (her works can take up to 23 hours to create) and her ability to make you feel at ease. As she continued to reassure me that it ‘happened all the time’ and shield me from the nosy eyes of Adelaide’s passers by on King William Rd, I was desperately hoping the reality of the day I was experiencing, would catch up with the vision for the day I had so confidently pictured in my head.

 

Studio  © Kate Cameron

Studio © Kate Vista

 

After sufficient carb loading and armed with Powerade and chewing gum we soon established a routine and the transformation began.  And what a transformation it was. For the better part of a day, Emma carefully, yet swiftly, recreated the lines of the Florence Broadhurst ‘Tropical Floral’ print. (Learn more about Florence Broadhurst at http://www.florencebroadhurst.com.au or check out some more of her designs at http://www.signatureprints.com.au)

The creation of the artwork happened in stages and each stage brought with it key points and vivid memories. Notable mentions have to go to having a flesh coloured g-string glued to me, the last point of being able to sit, or bend my abdomen, for fear of smudging the design; or the experience of having the inside of my nostrils painted (which is a highly unique, yet bizarrely pleasant sensation) so as to avoid hints of pink during the photography stage.

The end of a long day's work © Kate Vista

The end of a long day’s work © Kate Vista

As Emma continually moved back and forth between the camera and myself I tried to remain motionless when required, as the slightest movement could ruin the image. But for the most part we were able to speak freely about her new collection, travel, love and music and before I knew it the reality of the day I was experiencing had begun to exceed the reality of the day I had envisaged.

The transformation was complete. I was part of the optical illusion, the magic, the world of art and most surprisingly was feeling a powerful sexiness that came with being totally incognito.

 

The Finished Work - Tropical Floral © Emma Hack

The Finished Work – Tropical Floral
© Emma Hack

 

If you want to learn more about Emma you can do the following

Peruse her website http://www.emmahackartist.com.au,

See her work in  Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UVNT4wvIGY&list=PLB33D5D049C5DD552

Visit her pop up gallery April 19th – June 15th 2014

124 King William Road, Hyde Park Adelaide.

Hydrangea Cradled Owl  © Emma Hack

Hydrangea Cradled Owl
© Emma Hack

 

 

All rights reserved © 2014 Kate Vista