What a treat to have two weeks painting in Cornwall and The Cotswolds. Beautiful little villages, quaint stone buildings, historic old fishing ports and, amazingly, fantastic weather!
What a lot of fun to wander around the city of London with a little, inconspicuous camera…
Big Red Bus
Victoria and Albert Museum
Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Box RAH
Lunch at the Hop Pole
Earl’s Court Station
Small patch of sun – St. Paul’s Cathedral
Boats on the Thames
Following our workshop in Calgary, we drove back into the USA to cross the Rockies in Montana. Driving through Glacier National Park on Going to the Sun Road is one of the most spectacular drives. We plodded our way slowly, stopping every chance we got to take in the view and do some walks.
The weather closed in as we reached the top of the mountains, but the rain, snow and fog sure added a wildness to the spectacular atmosphere of the mountains.
Driving out of Glacier National Park, we headed west across Montana. The country flattens out and is dotted with small ranches.
Mobile road block occupying 100% of the bitumen.
We met this guy and his wife, who live in the woods at the foot of Glacier Nat. Park. Their dog chases away bears.
Crossing Idaho and into Washington the landscape turns to rolling hills of wheat and canola farms.
We reached an interesting little town called Hunters in Washington State. It looked like nothing much had changed there since the 1950’s. From here we turned North, drove back up into Canada and the Okanagan Valley for another workshop in the town of Kelowna.
After the workshop at Tanque Verde Ranch, we picked up a hire car in Tucson and headed over to Tombstone. The old town is still pretty well intact, but relies heavily on tourism, so has a bit of a theme park air about it. Lots of cowboys, bar girls and guns, but the old historic locations are all well preserved and very interesting.
From Tombstone we drove out to a few old ghost towns and abandoned mining towns in the region. We discovered some great old buildings in various stages of decay.
Cowboys on the boardwalk
More – of I don’t know what?
After a great workshop in Vietnam, Dianne and I flew over to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see the Angkor temples and waterside villages on Tonle Sap lake. The Cambodian people are happy and friendly. The country is 97% Buddhist and many of the children, from poorer families, go into the monasteries to take pressure off the families.
We met Pau, who entered a monastery at eight years of age and is now in his early twenties. He enjoys the discipline of the monastery. He speaks good English and is studying education. His goal is to open a village school to improve the chances for young people to work and study.
Angkor Wat Temple
Stone gable carving Angkor Wat
Ta Phrom Temple – slowly being eaten by the jungle.
Thom Bayon Temple features large carved stone heads of Buddha and beautiful, intricate relief carvings of daily life back in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Temple monkey overcome with boredom
Temple monkey overcome with confusion
Temple monkey overcome with enlightenment.
Siem Reap petrol tanker – powered by a mechanical plough.
Fire pot vendor powered by a small motor scooter
Mattress vendor- powered by a small motorbike
With the luxury of a small truck, there is nothing you can’t carry.
From Siem Reap we travelled by tuk tuk down to Kampong Phluk – a village of stilt houses, some colorful, some old and thatched, built in the Tonle Sap Lake. It’s a fascinating village – life is lived entirely on the water. Kids grow up in boats and soon become skilled fishermen.
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
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.
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.
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.
It was getting dark when we gave up digging so we spent an uncomfortable night camped at thirty degrees.
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! 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.
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.
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!
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. 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.
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.
Certificates were presented…
…and, of course, selfies taken to remember what was a great workshop.