CAMBODIA

 

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.

© John Lovett 2017
Monastery accommodation is austere and simple.

© John Lovett 2017
Pau, happy with his life as a Monk.

© John Lovett 2017
Detail of intricate stone carving from Angkor Wat

© John Lovett 2017

Angkor Wat Temple

© John Lovett 2017

Stone gable carving Angkor Wat

© John Lovett 2017

Ta Phrom Temple – slowly being eaten by the jungle.

© John Lovett 2017

 

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.

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017 © John Lovett 2017 © John Lovett 2017  © John Lovett 2017

Temple monkey overcome with boredom

© John Lovett 2017

Temple monkey overcome with confusion

© John Lovett 2017

Temple monkey overcome with enlightenment.

 

© John Lovett 2017

Siem Reap petrol tanker – powered by a mechanical plough.

© John Lovett 2017

Fire pot vendor powered by a small motor scooter

© John Lovett 2017

Mattress vendor- powered by a small motorbike

 

© John Lovett 2017

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.

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VIETNAM 2017

There is nothing like the chaos of Hanoi to jolt a visitor into the strangely functional confusion of Vietnam. We had a couple of days in Hanoi to adjust to the pace of Vietnam before heading north to the mountain village of Sapa.

A low pressure system off the coast made the weather less than perfect, but we managed to find sheltered painting locations and were lucky to have a fine day to walk through the Hmong Valley and do some sketching.

From Sapa we travelled by coach back to Hanoi then flew on to Da Nang where we were taken by bus to Hoi An and the luxury of the Anantara Hotel.© John Lovett 2017
Rice Paddys near Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Hanoi Back Street

© John Lovett 2017
Electrical repair workshop – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Hanoi Flower Vendor

© John Lovett 2017
How many flowers can you pack on to a motor scooter?

© John Lovett 2017
Portable kitchen – Hanoi
© John Lovett 2017
Party Time – Hanoi street bar

© John Lovett 2017
Midnight peak hour – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Hanoi Rain

© John Lovett 2017
Coke and Hot dogs – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Unidentified Delicacys – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017Stainless steel tuk tuk

© John Lovett 2017
Mother and five chicks – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Small police wagon – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Hot water, Pumps, Microwave specialist – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Dangerous Verandah – Hanoi

 

© John Lovett 2017
Dangerous front yard – Hanoi

© John Lovett 2017
Mix your own paint.

© John Lovett 2017© John Lovett 2017
Most of the Hanoi motorcycles are pretty mundane, but there are some stand out models.

© John Lovett 2017
Sapa Evening

© John Lovett 2017
Sapa Duck

© John Lovett 2017
Rice paddy fire – Hmong Valley

 

© John Lovett 2017
Crazy Dancing Chicken

© John Lovett 2017
Hmong Valley

© John Lovett 2017
Black Hmong woman with pedal sewing machine.

© John Lovett 2017
Grant sketching in Hmong Valley

© John Lovett 2017
Sapa – small buildings replaced by tall skinny ones

© John Lovett 2017
Our painting group with Hmong women models – Sapa Markets

© John Lovett 2017
Hmong Women sewed busily while we sketched

© John Lovett 2017
Water everywhere as we left Sapa.

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© John Lovett 2017

 

Hoi An

© John Lovett 2017© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017
Rosa hijacks a river boat to get us to the Red Bridge Cooking School

© John Lovett 2017
Net Casting – Hoi An

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Red Bridge Cooking School – where we all became excellent Vietnamese chefs.

© John Lovett 2017
Painting by the river on the verandah of an abandoned building – Hoi An.

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MT MOFFAT & BLACKALL 2017

The Blackall workshops are always a lot of fun. We get to meet people from surrounding sheep and cattle stations and local Blackall residents in the first workshop then folks fly in or drive from all over the place for the second workshop.

This year we left a couple of weeks early so we could visit Mt Moffat on the way west. Mt Moffat is part of the Carnarvon National Park. It connects to the head of Carnarvon Creek at the western end of Carnarvon Gorge and extends south.

Similar eroded, pale sandstone to Carnarvon Gorge is found throughout the Mt Moffat section. Access is by 4WD – there are some deeply rutted tracks, sandy sections and steep climbs up onto the plateau.

 

There are interesting sandstone formations and many escarpments and rock faces with aboriginal art work.

 

 

Confusing sign if you don’t read English!

 

We camped at Dargonelly Rock Hole. It was the only water source in the area, so animal and birdlife was pretty spectacular particularly early morning and late afternoon.

 

On top of the plateau the view stretched out in all directions. The plateau is over 1200 meters above sea level – the highest plateau in Queensland. We drove up to the head of Carnarvon Creek, where the track winds through a forest of giant Mahogany trees.

 

Small slab hut on the road into Mt. Moffat

 

We were lucky enough to arrive in Blackall the night six musicians, all from different countries, were performing at the Living Arts Center where we were staying. It was amazing how well such a diverse group of musicians could all blend perfectly into music from any of the six countries. It was great to meet these musicians and hear their stories.

 

 

Old River Gum late afternoon – Tambo

 

We had a couple of days between the two Blackall workshops, so drove out to Yaraka – the last town on the railway line before it closed down in the 1990’s. Below is the small settlement of Emmet along the same defunct railway line.

 

Lost Chev – Yaraka

 

Sunset on Mt Slowcombe near Yaraka

 

I love visiting the Blackall wool scour. It closed down years ago but has been kept in running condition as a tourist attraction. It looks like something from a horror movie. Everything is belt driven, powered by a steam engine. Over a kilometre of leather belts keep everything moving. With all this mechanical movement there is barely a sound – it is all so well built and maintained.

 

Heading home we passed the Roma sale yards where one of the weekly cattle sales were in progress. It’s an amazing event. Road trains arrive from near and far, cattle are unloaded, auctions take place then cattle are re loaded and delivered to the successful bidders. The auctioneers speak their own language at a speed only understandable by those in colored shirts and big hats. It really is a spectacle.

CENTRAL AUSTRALIA WORKSHOP

A couple of weeks before Winter is the perfect time to be in Central Australia. The days are warm and sunny, the nights are still mild and the chance of rain is close to zero.

We flew to Alice Springs via Sydney which took us across the top of the Simpson Desert. It is amazing how big and empty it looks from 11000 meters.© John Lovett 2017

 

We also crossed the Birdsville and Strzelecki tracks that we drove down last year

© John Lovett 2017

 

Flying over the MacDonnall Ranges shows just how ancient and distorted the landscape is in that part of the country.

© John Lovett 2017

When we arrived in Alice Springs we met our Bus driver Natalie and her awesome big Mercedes Bush Bus. She was passionate and enthusiastic, showing us all there was to see around Alice Springs, the Western MacDonnalls and Uluru Katajuta.

© John Lovett 2017

Our first stop was Glen Helen Lodge. We based ourselves there and visited the gorges of the West MacDonnall Ranges. A great spot with fantastic food and a view from our cabin door to die for.

© John Lovett 2017

Late afternoon Glen Helen

© John Lovett 2017

Piano with boots

© John Lovett 2017

I took  a helicopter ride over the Glen Helen Gorge/ Ormiston Pound. These ranges sure are impressive from the air.

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

 

Ringneck Parrot

© John Lovett 2017

 

Ellery Creek Big hole

© John Lovett 2017 © John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

 

Painting at Ormiston Gorge

© John Lovett 2017

 

Ochre Pits

© John Lovett 2017

 

Standley Chasm

© John Lovett 2017

 

We were lucky enough to be at Uluru for the annual camel races. The traditional Calcutta is held at the pub the night before race day. Lots of excitement and some hefty prices paid for these racing dromedaries.

© John Lovett 2017

The races were wild and crazy – Camels seem to have limbs all over the place when they run…  © John Lovett 2017

…handsome animals though!

© John Lovett 2017  © John Lovett 2017 © John Lovett 2017

 

The day following the races we spent the morning painting at the camel farm. Some of these animals looked to be suffering severe, post race,  hangovers.

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

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Sturt’s Desert Pea       © John Lovett 2017

 

Mutitjulu Waterhole

© John Lovett 2017

© John Lovett 2017

 

Walking through Bruce Munro’s Field of Lights installation was disorienting and fantastic

© John Lovett 2017© John Lovett 2017

 

Shallow water in Lake Amadeus.

© John Lovett 2017

 

Herons at Glen Helen  © John Lovett 2017

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