HIGH COUNTRY

Sometimes things just fall into place. Soon after agreeing to a workshop with the ASOC in Canberra, I received an email inviting me to a Canberra High School reunion – 5 days before the workshop.

Catching up with school friends from 45 years ago was amazing. Appearances had changed but personalities were just as they were way back then.

After the workshop and reunion we headed over the mountains west of Canberra and down to the high country and Kosciuszko National Park

 

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Driving down the New England Highway there are some very prosperous towns and others in slow decline. Back when these towns were established, being a days ride from the next town guaranteed their future. Today they are quickly passed through and forgotten. Here are the remnants of a few of them.

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Coolah Tops is a great National Park with sweeping views across the Liverpool Plains. I have never seen the country so green and cant believe the government would consider allowing a coal mine in, what must be some of the worlds best agricultural land.

snow8678 snow8689 snow8692 snow8702 snow8752 Falls near Sofala

snow8821This guy thought sticking his head under a rock made him invisible.

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We left Canberra and headed out through Brindabella to join the top end of the Long Plain Road. We were told the road was closed in winter due to snow, then re opened each October.

We drove in to find a locked gate leading to the National Park. As we were about to drive back a farmer, whose property the road runs through, turned up. After chatting for a while we were about to head off and drive the long way around when he kindly offered to unlock the gate and let us through.

Twenty kilometres down the track we were stopped by a fallen tree. Not being able to go back through the locked gate and unable to move the tree, our only option was to somehow get over it.

We built long ramps of logs and rocks to give us plenty of clearance. Unfortunately, as we descended the ramp the right hand front wheel sunk into the soft ground, hanging us up on the log. After four hours of jacking, packing and digging, all we managed to do was sink deeper into the soft ground.

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It was getting dark when we gave up digging so we spent an uncomfortable night camped at thirty degrees.

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The ground was too soft for us to lift the heavy truck so, in the morning, we contacted the National Park Office by satellite phone and explained our situation. They were fantastic and had a ranger up there with a chainsaw within a couple of hours.

As it turned out, National Parks were sending a tractor up to clear any fallen trees later that day. If only we had known. We could have saved 4 hours of hard work and camped on level ground! cutlogsnow9082 Coolamine Homestead was built in the late 1800’s when they used to run horses and cattle in the high country.

Today the cattle have all but disappeared but wild brumbies are breeding up.

snow9112 snow9116 snow9132 I spotted this mare laying on the ground way off in the bush above the plains. When I walked up I discovered she had died giving birth. Her head was resting on a log and her eyes were still open, looking out across the plains.

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The Kosciuszko High country is stark and beautiful, and the weather always unpredictable. Overnight temperatures were below freezing and, in spite of the sun, seven or eight degrees was as warm as the days would get – and this was late spring!

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SAN GIMIGNANO

After a great week in Cinque Terre we wound our way up over the mountains and on to Lucca to do some painting, then it was off to San Gimignano for the rest of the workshop. We painted in the the old town and also in the hill town of Volterra. We also managed a day trip to Florence to see the city and the Uffizi Gallery.  dsc00172 We had good weather most of the time in San Gimignano, which was great for painting. The couple of wet days made the town look amazing with reflections, umbrellas and spectacular skies.

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dsc00179The proprietor of the “Best Gelato shop in the world” describes, with passion, the  greatness of his product to a barrage of cameras

dsc00175Savage market guard dog.

316Ai Weiwei’s Exhibition in Florence

317Street Juggler – Florence

318_1Piaggio’s resting – Florence

319Man talks to dog – Florence

dsc00219Countryside around Volterra

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dsc00244 Clouds Gathering – Volterra

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The last day of the workshop we were treated to a typical Tuscan feast – plenty of Beer, Wine and Food and lots of stories of the adventures from the past two weeks.

© John Lovett 2016

Certificates were presented…

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…and, of course, selfies taken to remember what was a great workshop.

CINQUE TERRE

A week in Cinque Terre is a great introduction to an Italian workshop. Great food and wine, beautiful scenery and friendly people. We spent our days moving between the villages painting and sketching. Villa Adriana, where we stayed for the week, provided excellent meals – although Antipasto, Pasta, Main and Dessert were more than most of us could handle!

308Wine Delevery – Manarola

309Manarola – buildings by the sea

310Amanda – Watching Chickens

dsc00029Painting in Riomaggiore

© John Lovett 2016

What I thought was an ideal place to paint in Riomaggiore turned out to be the only place wide enough for delivery vans to turn around, so lots of juggling easels in between washes.

ital7820 Old Town – Monterosso

© John Lovett 2016Monterosso – Small truck pees on sidewalk.

© John Lovett 2016Fishing Boats – Monterosso

ital7875Manarola – from the water

ital7996Very Italian – National Park sign advising against stilettos for the walk between Monterosso and Vernazza.

© John Lovett 2016Cliffs near Monterosso

ital7922 Early Morning Vernazza

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Blue Umbrellas – Vernazza

ital7945 Vernazza before sunrise.

ital7976Between Vernazza and Monterosso someone has set up a feeding bay and shelter for stray cats. This guy hung around behind a mesh fence for a pat and a handful of dry cat food.

306Small bridge on path between Vernazza and Monterosso

ital8002Old Town – Monterosso

TOWNS AND VILLAGES

The towns and villages of Puglia are similar in style to the villages of Northern Italy, but the earthier colored sandstone and marble is replaced by lighter, often whitewashed surfaces. The most obviously different architecture is found around the town of Alberobello in the Itria Valley.

ital7575Martina Franca – a labyrinth of pale marble and white walls.

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ital7601Autobianchi

ital7579Main Square – Martina Franca

ital7558Dry stone walled and conical roofed Trulli buildings of the Itria Valley

ital7420Immaculate old Fiat.

ital7404Trulli houses, Alberobello.

ital7386Well worn stairs – Alberobello

ital7542Rain in Lecce

ital7545Lecce Piazza

ital7759Cruising the hills around Pisa in a Fiat 500 driven like a Ferrari – What a lot of fun.

ital7661Barga – back street bikers

ital7682Herbs and spices and a blue Vespa.

© John Lovett 2016Barga Rooftops

ital7733Retired Fiat Fire Truck

ital7738ital7813Down the mountain to Monterosso

 

 

PUGLIA, ITALY

Our workshop in Cinque Terre doesn’t start for 10 days, so we flew from Rome to Brindisi then caught a train along the east coast to Polignano where we met up with Amanda and Gordon for a week by the Adriatic.

ital6812 ital6830 I guess some people have trouble remembering which door to drive through and which door to walk through

ital6850 ital6855 ital6875 Our balcony in Polignano – Balmy breezes, local meats and vegetables, Birra Moretti and Limoncello.

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Polignano is built on the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Adriatic

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We were luck enough to coincide our visit with the Red Bull world Cliff Diving Championships. These towers are almost 30metres above the sea.

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Competitors jump from the towers, perform a series of twists and somersaults to slow their decent, then land feet first in the water at over 80 kph.

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Water entry can shatter bones and damage organs if not done correctly, so there were a lot more spectators than competitors.

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Fishing Village just out of town

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Small black snake catches a lizard

ital7335 Cave opening to the sea 100 meters inland.

 

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Polignano Cats

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UP THE STRZELECKI

Leaving Arkaroola we headed north along the Strzelecki track. It skirts the Strzelecki, Simpson and Sturt’s Stony Deserts. Most of the track was in good condition, but very dusty, which didn’t bother us much, since there was no traffic.

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88 (1)North Mulga Station – a long way from everywhere!

103Sturt’s Stony Desert

114Santos manage to suck oil out of all this dry sand.

90 (1)In 2010 this rig and all the others in the lower Strzelecki sat in 2 meters of water for the best part of 12 months. It’s hard to imagine that volume of water spread out over this incredibly flat land.

118These cattle must live on dirt and rocks – there doesn’t seem to be anything else to eat.

 

We spent a night at Innaminka on Coopers Creek, then wound our way over a slow track full of bad corrugations, washouts and bull dust. This took us to Coongie Lakes – a strange sight after winding over desert sandhills. The lake is massive and supports all sorts of birdlife

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91Caspian Tern

101Corellas

102Pair of Grass Parrots

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Serious looking Willy Wagtail

92 (1)Dingos howled most nights but they are very cautious and hard to see. I managed to get a photo of this guy early one morning.

ARCHITECTURE

These are some of the best examples of bush architecture we encountered along the way.

77Windorah – Once the old court house, now a comfortable abode

111Dynevor Downs shearing shed – like much of western Queensland wild dogs have forced a change from sheep to cattle, so this once mighty shed is in decay.

125 Yowah Qld – Corrugated Iron Paradise

124 Beltana SA – What cant you do with corrugated iron?

123 Maree SA – simple but effective

122Warrego Hwy – This old place has been added to and extended over the years – sadly, now abandoned and slowly disintegrating.

 

 

HOI AN

 

The old town of Hoi An stretches out along the Song Thu Bon River. A mixture of Chinese, French Colonial, Japanese and Vietnamese architecture give the ancient town an interesting character. The central markets run from before dawn till after dark. Every imaginable vegetable is available. Some weird cuts of meat, live ducks, chickens, fish, prawns and crabs are also for sale. Everything is fresh each day and the activity is mesmerising.Image © John Lovett 2015
Old Japanese Bridge

Image © John Lovett 2015
Fresh Fish

Image © John Lovett 2015
Meat and Cigarettes

Image © John Lovett 2015 Boat Lady

Image © John Lovett 2015
River Sunrise

Image © John Lovett 2015 Image © John Lovett 2015 Image © John Lovett 2015Vegie Market

Image © John Lovett 2015
For a few dollars this old lady will ferry you across the river.

Image © John Lovett 2015
Morning Fishermen

Image © John Lovett 2015
Boats along the River

Image © John Lovett 2015
Fresh Frogs

Image © John Lovett 2015
River Boatman (Hums Tom Waits Tunes)

Image © John Lovett 2015 Image © John Lovett 2015
Cast net Fisherman

Image © John Lovett 2015
Purple lanterns.

Image © John Lovett 2015
Cigarettes and Incense Image © John Lovett 2015
Purple Lanterns and Bougainvillea Image © John Lovett 2015
Fishing Fleet

Image © John Lovett 2015
Red Bridge cooking School where we cooked ourselves a feast and all became Vietnamese cooking experts.Image © John Lovett 2015
Lunar Festival Dinner

Image © John Lovett 2015
Lunar Festival Paper Lanterns

Image © John Lovett 2015
Lunar festival

Image © John Lovett 2015
Wooden boats

Image © John Lovett 2015
Afternoon Market

Image © John Lovett 2015Colored Lanterns.