30 Jul 2016

On the river bank

Another one of those photos which makes me uneasy . I was on a riverboat in Myanmar-just a wooden riverboat with small cabins not some ridiculous luxury cruiseboat/riverboat -but by the standards of these children I was on something beyond their widest dreams. Most were living on the river bank in appalling conditions. No clean water,no proper sanitation-just the river. They came down in the late afternoon light as the boat pulled away and they were all smiling and laughing.

 This shot was taken at another stop and shows the women doing the family washing and taking a bath in the same river. Look at the foul colour of that water. It could be a different world but sadly it is not.
Leica X1 photos.

28 Jul 2016

Just a rant about surveys

I am totally over online surveys. It seems as if you cannot interact with any service provider nowadays without them sending you an online survey.
Whist travelling in California for two weeks in May my inbox every day was full of surveys and for weeks after I was still receiving reminders to complete the surveys. Expedia even sent me a survey of my "Check-in" experience for a hotel which went into my inbox whilst I was travelling up in the lift after checking in at one hotel. How do you do a survey on a check- in experience?
Avis asked me to write a review on my US rental car experience as well as completing a damn long survey. Fat chance.
It was a cheap boring rental car. It was clean. It was ready when I arrived. It went OK and someone looked at it when it came back. It did not magically transform into a Porsche 911GT3RS whilst going up Highway 1 so there is nothing else to add.
Since California I have been to Uluru. A new wave of surveys. From Virgin Australia on the flight(s),from the hotel and from Hertz. Give me a break folks.

A few weeks ago the battery in my car died on our driveway. The local roadside assistance organisation -the NRMA- came swiftly. They fitted an expensive new battery and that was that.
I then was sent a long online survey about the experience one hour later. What is there to say? I phoned you up. A pleasant woman took the call. A man in a van came. He fitted an expensive new battery and I paid him and he wished me good day. End of story.

What do they do with the info from all the surveys?  And those amateur hotel and restaurant reviews on Trip Advisor ,Expedia,Open Table and really give me the proverbials. Have you read any of them? For me the last straw came in Seattle last year when I saw a review for an expensive restuaurant on OpenTable and the "reviewer" opened by saying that the restaurant "did great fries". So do McDonalds.

I am now refusing to respond to any surveys unless the service provider has screwed up and then I will complete the survey. Otherwise I see no point. They are a total waste of everyone's time.
 I see no evidence that they have any effect for most organisations. The bank who asked me to answer a few quick questions on my "experience" after I called them still took 10 minutes to pick up my call and it was still answered in a call centre in India by someone with a very heavy accent and I know that nothing will change even if 100.000 customers say the same thing.

26 Jul 2016

Field of Light

Bruce Munro's art installation in the desert at Uluru. 50.000 light spheres connected by fibre optics to projectors placed across the desert in the vista upto Uluru. All bought in from the UK-15 tonnes of airfreight.
On my birthday dinner in the desert under an extraordinary view of the stars-including a shooting star-and then a walk through the Field of Light. Superb. Top photo by Val and her tiny Canon camera. Bottom photos mine - 1 second handheld and no image stabilisation. No tripods allowed but I don't carry a tripod around with me anyway.

24 Jul 2016

Reflections on climbing Uluru

In 1984 when I first visited Uluru, or Ayers Rock as it was then generally known,climbing the rock was the main tourist attraction and so we climbed it. The hotel had shuttle buses taking visitors to the start point of the climb. The culture of the Anangu,the traditional owners,was not considered or even recognised publicly. When I next visited in 1996 not much had changed. Climbing the rock was still the main attraction. As this visit was at the height of summer I went out at first light and did the climb with some friends and was back in the hotel for a late breakfast.
Twenty years later much has changed. The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is now jointly managed with the Anangu traditional owners and there is a Anangu cultural centre at the base of the rock .
Aboriginal peoples regard Ulura as a sacred site and it seems as if at last climbing the rock is being seen as intrusive by many visitors.
The change has come gradually over the past ten years. Firstly visitors were politely discouraged from climbing the rock and then the discouragement became more active and now at the entrance to the climb route there are warning signs asking you not to make the climb and it is closed in adverse conditions. Last year an activist cut the vital safety chain used by climbers as a handhold on the climb. These actions will not stop all climbers but they really have cut the numbers.

Not climbing the rock is primarily a question of respecting the sacred site but it is also a question of safety. Many people have died on the climb over the years. It is a challenging and dangerous climb. It is very steep and the safety chain on the first section was absolutely vital and even when you are off the very steep climb up the side the ridge on the top there are sheer drops on either side. On the climb "up" climbers went up one side of the chain and "down" climbers came down the other side. Problems arose when "up" climbers froze on the ascent- a very frequent occurence- and decided that they had to get down. To pass climbers have to let go of the safety chain and on the section where the saddle is narrow one false step or a touch of vertigo and you are making a very rapid and probably fatal descent down a very steep smooth rockface.

The other problem is that there is absolutely no shade on the rock or any sources of water. It is totally exposed so on even a warm day yet alone a sweltering summer's day heat exhaustion is an issue for climbers. More climbers have died on Uluru due to heart attacks and heat exhaustion than have fallen to their deaths.
i stood at the bottom of the rock last week and looked up the climb route and I just cannot believe that I went up there so easily. The photos below show the chain route up just the first stage of the climb.

Of course it is easy for me to say now that Uluru should not be climbed because I have climbed it twice but I can say with all sincerity that if I had known then what I now know about the Anangu culture and the significance of Uluru to that culture,the environmental damage done by the climbers in terms of the litter left on the rock and the number of deaths and near deaths on the rock and the difficulties and dangers faced by rescue personnel when recovering injured climbers I would not have climbed it.

I do have some photos taken from the summit but they have to be located in the archives. Because Uluru stands on a vast flat plain and there are clear sight lines you can see,or think you can see,the curvature of the earth from the summit.
I guess I should count myself fortunate that I have been there despite my misgivings now about the propriety of my climbs.

The climb starts from the car park at the bottom of Uluru-where the vehicles are clustered in this photo.The climb goes up the saddle which stretches down to the car park.You can just see the line of the route extending up the saddle -it then goes across the top to the hump - the highest point.

21 Jul 2016

A Moke at Uluru.

My photos of Uluru below prompted friend,John Crawford,to send me this wonderful atmospheric photo of himself standing beside his Mini Moke at Uluru during the 1977 Singapore Airlines London to Sydney Rally. That strange object on the rock is a piece of foreign matter on the slide.
If you would like to read more about how a Mini Moke got driven across the world in arguably one of the world's toughest rallies read it on John's blog at this link MiniMoke .
And note John's absolute professionalism in wearing the rally sponsor's T-shirt for the photo.Or perhaps it was the only shirt he had because of the lack of space  in that little Moke.

18 Jul 2016

Out to the Red Centre

I've just spent three days at Uluru-previously known as Ayers Rock- in the centre of Australia- celebrating my birthday. Uluru is 494 kms west of Alice Springs in the centre of Australia. It is a very remote place.
This was my third visit to Uluru and my first in winter. In summer it is scorching hot 40ºC (104ºF) plus most days but as I found out in winter it can be bitterly cold and I experienced it at its coldest with the nightime temperature down to minus 3ºC and the daytime struggling upto 7ºC with a very strong cold wind.
My first visit was in 1984 and the Ayers Rock resort hotel had only just opened and the airstrip was a short dirt strip so I drove in from Alice Springs. Now there is a fully fledged resort complex with a fully equipped airport with frequent flights to Australian cities. It's just over 3 hours by 737 from Sydney. What really struck me was the number of tourists -local and international visiting the "rock". It maybe a long way from anywhere but it was humming and the Sails in the Desert hotel is world standard which is remarkable given its location.
Uluru itself and the nearby Kata Tjuta (formerly known as the Olgas) are the main attractions. It's not easy to get an original photo of either. They have been done to death photographically-at sunrise and sunset in particular. The sand of the desert  like Uluru is red-hence the Red Centre nomenclature- but due to the unusual amount of rain which has fallen this year the vegetation is surprisingly green and there were actually flowing streams and pools of water around. Very unusual. The fact that there was so much feed out in the desert meant that there were was no wildlife -camels,kangaroos and emus- foraging around the resort.
I took a helicopter flight over Uluru and came back with a couple of competent but hardly original photos of the rock. Here's my Uluru-Kata Tjuta collection.


Frost on flowers in the desert at sunrise.

Uluru from the air

Uluru from a distance.That's what the desert looks like out there.It is mainly devoid of features.

Kata Tjuta

15 Jul 2016

A milestone

I'm 70 today-15th July. Looking forward at 70 is not easy. Looking back is more pleasurable.
I recently found this photo of me taken in 1978. Since then my hair has retreated a long way. My shorts are longer. I've grown more cautious about going out in the sun. Was I really that tanned then? No wonder I keep having to have nasty things cut off my skin nowadays. My taste in beer has improved. My backyard barbecue is much more sophisticated and my cooking technique has improved or so I claim. And I'm still laughing or trying to and for some reason despite being right handed i still wear my watch on my right wrist.
Here's to the next X years........

12 Jul 2016

Mighty Big Mini

My first car was a Mini Traveller bought used in 1969. The highlights of many a race at Brands Hatch and Crystal Palace in the 1960s were the giant killing performances of the Minis. See photo below taken by me at Brands Hatch in I think 1969 -understeer redefined.

 I owned and competed in a Mini Cooper S for quite a few years in the 1990's and did the Targa Tasmania in it in 1996.  I have a soft spot for Minis although no way would I drive an early one today-way too small and too close to the accident for my liking. Photo below shows me at the wheel of mine on the very wet Targa-conditions which suited the Mini.

Friend Brett's partner has just bought a new generation LWB 4 door Mini Cooper S. Brett tells me she only had eyes for the Mini-it was an easy sale for the dealer.
This photo really brings it home how unMini like the Mini now is. Not quite a Maxi but surely Midi is more appopriate?

Both my photos taken with Leicas. Brands Hatch taken with a Leica 3A and 50mm Elmar lens. Brett's garage 2016 taken with a Leica X1.

10 Jul 2016

More from Le Mans

Well it seems as if this year's Le Mans Classic has been blessed with glorious weather. Typical - the one year I decide not to go the sun shines. That will be very welcome after the miserable conditions at the last Classic in 2014.
My good mate Patrick has gone and is sending back a stream of photos to make me jealous. He is camping there on the saturday night. He's welcome - my camping days are behind me -no ifs or buts.
Anyway two shots from Patrick's camera. The first shows a full grid of E-Type Jaguars lining up on the dummy grid to go out onto the track. It all looks glorious.
The second taken in what Patrick describes as the best car show in the world-the Le Mans Classic public car park-and shows a very original 912 Porsche.

6 Jul 2016

Le Mans Classic 2016

It's the Le Mans Classic this weekend and I won't be there. I've been to the last 4 but I am giving it a miss this year as it is a big birthday next week and I am off to Uluru -the Red Centre of Australia-to celebrate.
Anyway to all my friends who will be there and in particular my usual Le Mans companion,Patrick,I hope the weather holds up and that you have a really great time.
Some photos from previous years-rain and shine.

5 Jul 2016

My photo of the week.

Well the week is far from over but I can't see myself doing better than this photo-Warren in his workshop last Sunday polishing the handbrake assembly of his Porsche restoration project.

I reckon that it really captures  the atmosphere of the workshop. I have entered it in the July Clique photo challenge run by the Sydney Morning Herald. The challenge is for Black and White photos so I have entered the version -below.

3 Jul 2016

Still restoring after all these months.....

Regular followers of the blog may recollect previous stories on friend Warren's restoration of his Porsche. In summary his daily driver Porsche Targa failed to proceed over a year ago due to a piston ring failing. Warren decided to have a full rebuild of the engine and gearbox at Autowerks on the Central Coast of NSW and to take the opportunity to restore the car at the same time - but incorporating his own personalisation ideas.
 Like most big restoration projects it has gone way over schedule on time and budget on money but the end is in sight and he is still talking about it being ready for the Porsche Club NSW Concours in September. We shall see.
The engine rebuild is only about to start but the body is coming together. The upholstering has been a disaster and Warren is finding it very difficult to get  repossession of the seats and steering wheel from the upholsterer. So there are still a few bridges to cross. Here is the car as it stands now. Onwards and upwards....