Christmas down under

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” Unknown

Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria

I won’t be travelling far this Christmas but I’m looking forward to a very special time with all of my family, which for me is the most important thing about this time of the year. Along with our usual celebrations of Christmas and New Year, we also have the joyous occasion of my niece’s wedding in early January. I have the job of taking her photographs, which we will do against the backdrop of the spectacular Great Ocean Road.

I would like to wish everyone, wherever you may be in the world, a very Merry Christmas and a safe, happy and prosperous New Year.

In the spirit of travel, and Christmas ‘down under’, here are some photographs of my favourite places in Australia. I hope 2013 is full of adventurous travel for everyone! 

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The unusual, and slightly comical, wildlife of North Seymour Island

“The natural history of this archipelago is very remarkable: it seems to be a little world within itself.” Charles Darwin

North Seymour Island walk

My favourite excursion in the Galapagos Islands was to North Seymour Island, where we spent two hours meandering along a trail spotting wildlife. We had close-up encounters with magnificent frigatebirds, great frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, lava gulls, swallow-tailed gulls, brown pelicans, sea-lions, seals, marine iguanas, land iguanas, lava lizards and painted locusts.

      Blue-footed booby Juvenile frigatebird       Sea-lionBrown pelican        Marine iguanaJuvenile frigatebird         swallow-tailed gull  Lava lizard         Land iguana Blue-footed booby with chicks   Painted locust   Frigatebird with chick

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Ireland… tall tales, joyous songs and lots of apples

My arms are elbow-deep in a sticky mush created by the juicing machine as it devours countless apples. Taking a break to taste the thick, sweet syrup, I listen to Sean, who has decided it’s time to convince me of his story-telling prowess. His tall tales are of murder, bombings, inside information about the IRA, and his intention of robbing Fort Knox.

Apples

I’m at Ballytobin in County Kilkenny taking a break from my travels around Ireland to participate on a short-term voluntary workcamp. Ballytobin is a Camphill community providing a sheltered environment for children and adults in need of special care – and our job is making enough apple juice to last the community the next 10 months.

Founded by Dr Karl Koenig in 1939, the International Camphill Movement has grown from its humble beginnings in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, to about 100 schools, homes and villages in 22 countries. Koenig’s vision was “that in later years Camphill might become a place where the true destiny of the handicapped child will always be known”.

Ballytobin cottage

Ballytobin is government funded but in many ways self-sufficient and the community is run by a group of dedicated volunteers, mostly from abroad. Initially recruited for a year many have stayed longer – drawn by the peace and tranquillity of this place and the sense of belonging you feel even after a few days.

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Window on wilderness

“I think myself fortunate amidst the peace and quiet of nature.” Conrad Kain

Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

View from the Icefields Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

The journey from Lake Louise to Jasper via the Icefields Parkway is one of the most scenic trips I’ve ever experienced. Referred to as a window on wilderness, the road cuts a trail through the breathtaking scenery of Banff and Jasper national parks in the heart of the Canadian Rockies. It’s a spectacular land with crystal-clear rivers, rushing waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and emerald lakes; where alpine meadows are adorned with colourful wildflowers and wildlife abounds. Below are some photographs I’ve taken on two trips along the Icefields Parkway.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise

‘The jewel of the Rockies’ is Lake Louise in Banff National Park. At first light a mirror image of Victoria Glacier shimmers on the lake and this is the best time for taking photographs.

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