Heiko Spallek | digital imaging: Blog http://photos.spallek.com/blog en-us (C) Heiko Spallek | digital imaging heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:54:00 GMT Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:54:00 GMT http://photos.spallek.com/img/s11/v29/u43379006-o1041325852-50.jpg Heiko Spallek | digital imaging: Blog http://photos.spallek.com/blog 90 120 Litchfield National Park http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/litchfield-national-park Following Kakadu National Park and Nitmiluk National Park, we visited Litchfield National Park.


The famous Magnetic Termites (Amitermis meridionalis) have wedge-shaped towers which are placed that the long side faces the shade and only the narrow side is exposed to the sun to reduce the temperature in the mound—aligning in the north-south axis to balance the temperature. These termites are found nowhere else on earth. Scientists discovered that the blind worker termites really build the mounds based on the magnetic field by exposing them to artificial magnets that change the direction—the workers dutifully repaired the mound to align it again with the north-south axis. The mounds are often 5 metres high, in comparison the termites are only 5 mm long.

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Then, we drove to the Florence Waterfalls and took a nice walk along the creek. The kids enjoyed swimming the the Rock Pool and I made it up the 170 stairs ahead of time and let the drone fly.

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We then stopped quickly at Wangi Falls that spill over the Tabletop Plateau into a large pool. The pool is closed when the water levels are high as strong current and the increase risks of crocodiles make it too dangerous to swim.

IMG_9146IMG_9146 We were able to see some Rainbow Bee-Eaters which fly way to fast and erratic to take nice pictures of these colourful birds.

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We also saw some kits and many large spiders. In the evening, we drove back to Darwin. 
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More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) amitermis australia litchfield magnetic meridionalis national northern park termites territories http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/litchfield-national-park Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:54:22 GMT
Darwin, Northern Territory http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/darwin-northern-territory In July 2017, we traveled to Darwin and from there tour the Kakadu National Park, including visits to the Nitmiluk and Litchfield. From Sydney, a 5-hour flight brings you to Darwin where we stayed at the Darwin Central Hotel. Darwin is a small city with a huge history. Its glistening harbours were strong holds for allied troops during World War Two. Gold was found at nearby Pine Creek in the late 19th century. Paul Hogan shone a global spotlight Down Under when he traversed its surrounding regions for crocodiles depicted in the 1986 movie Crocodile Dundee. While Cyclone Tracy also made worldwide headlines, devastating lives and homes in the mid 1970s. As Australia’s gateway to Asia and the outback, Darwin is melting pot of people and traditions. Indigenous culture, natural treasures, tropical weather and a laid-back lifestyle attract thousands of visitors every year. We heard many German tourists on the streets who were looking to explore Australia’s vast and majestic Top End. Darwin has only a population of approximately 112,000 people. Our Swiss friends arrived from Singapore only hours after us and we explored a bit of Mindel market and then found hidden garden restaurant, nice dinner outside.

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We also explored Darwin’s famous Fish Feeding spot. We took a walk from the hotel to the area enjoying the shoreline that features mangroves used as hunting ground for various water bird species.

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We had the opportunity to observe several fish, such as the Diamond scale mullet, Sting ray, really big Milk fish and Catfish.


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Next to the feeding station, we saw Crimson Finches in the mangroves. 

Several warning signs reminded us that Darwin is not a place to swim.

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More pictures here.


heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia catfish crimson darwin diamond finches fish milk mullet ray scale sting http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/darwin-northern-territory Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:51:21 GMT
Nitmiluk National Park http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/nitmiluk-national-park After exploring Kakadu National Park, we drove to the Nitmiluk National Park (Jawoyn Land) with the Leliyn (Edith Falls) being our first stop in the West of the park. After a picnic we were swimming in the lower pool going close up to the lower falls—the pool was open, but we were supposed to "be croc-wise”.


DJI_0054DJI_0054 Next, we went to Katherine, an important cross road in the Australian Outback with about 7,500 people living there from tourism and cattle farming.  

We continued to explore the Nitmiluk National Park taking a two-hour walk at Katherine Gorge to a beautiful lookout platform above the Katherine River. The Gorge is 30 km long and on average 100 m deep, housing 160 bird species. It was first explore by a Scotsman in 1862. 

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We took a boat tour in two steps with walking from one boat to another as they could not get with the boats over rapids in the dry season. But before boarding the boats we observed thousands of Red Flying Foxes hanging in the trees near the river. I attempted to photograph some when they changed positions to avoid direct sun exposure which seemed a futile exercise given that most trees were devoid of any leaves due to the impact of the fruit bats hanging there to the thousands— in fact signs warned of tree limbs breaking off due to the weight. 

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We saw crocodile indicators made of a plastic float that get damaged when crocs chew on it. If this happens then park rangers try to catch the crocodile and transported to Darwin adding it to a breeding program. Interestingly, Saltwater crocs defend their nest whose temperatures determines the gender of the offspring. The crocs crack the eggs and carry the young ones to the shore—however if it is a bad year with little food, they just eat them. The invading cane toads have reduced the crocs from thousands to hundreds as they have poorly adapted to the poisonous toads. Crows have figured out how to eat them by opening them and only eat the liver of cane toads. 

The sandstone in the Gorge has three colours: white signifying the original sandstone, black showing the dormant stage of an algae that is active in the wet season and red where water is coming to surface in the dry season and oxidised the stone. We learned that during the wet season the water amount going through the Gorge could fill up Sydney Harbour in 9 hours. 

We stayed overnight at Mount Bunny Station established in 1911 by Pioneer Buffalo hunter Fred Hardy. The original size of this cattle property was 1.1 million acres, or 4,000 sq km. Mt Bunny was one of the first pastoral leases in the Top End of the NT. We walk on the farm visiting water buffalos, wallabies, peacocks. At night, we enjoyed a dinner at home on the screened porch observing the geckos near the lamp eating the insects attracted by the light.

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Later we discovered a tree frog in the toilet. 

We were told that 30 meters from our porch the pond is full of "freshies" aka fresh water crocs and that 200 meters behind house is the Adelaide River (well, stream 20 m wide) where there are salties, aka salt water crocs.  

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Early next morning, Gisela and I walked around on Mount Bunny Station observing the farm animals, including the Water Buffalos and Peacocks.

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The Peacock family actually slept in tree in front of house and woke us up in the morning. 

HEI_6387HEI_6387 Our first stop was a German-run breakfast place that served coffee and sandwiches. The place was full of kitsch and the owner was quite rude showing many hints of a special Teutonic level of sensitivity. However, we enjoyed the breakfast and marvelled at the Banyan tree: This Banyan is a remnant of coastal monsoon forest vegetation which once covered most of the peninsula. Birds feeding on the small fleshy fruit of the Banyan deposit the undigested seed on other trees. The seed may then germinate and eventually develop long aerial roots. In order to obtain nutrients from the soil, as well as support its heavy crown, the Banyan finally strangles its host.

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia banyan buffalos bunny edith falls flying foxes katherine mount national nitmiluk norther park peacocks red station territories wallabies http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/nitmiluk-national-park Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:48:51 GMT
Kakadu National Park http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/kakadu-national-park During our trip to the Northern Territories, we visited the Kakadu National Park driving first to the Jabiru region. The park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres and is a UNESCO cultural heritage. In the language of the Aboriginal people, it is called Gagadju. We first stopped at the Fogg Dam Conservation Area where we were not allowed to walk on the dam due to the danger of saltwater crocodiles.


But, we observed Black-necked Storks with 2 metres wingspan and Straw-necked Ibis with up to 75 cm size.


I let me drone fly to get some nice aerial shots. 

Afterwards, we went to the crocodile feeding tour with jumping crocodiles. We learned that the crocs have a heart with four chambers, so they can never bleed to death. If a crocodile gets his arm or leg bitten off by another croc, he’ll just shut off that chamber, go somewhere quiet and secluded and simply wait for it to heal over. Crocs can survive for up to 12 months without food! It’s almost impossible for them to catch or get an infection even if they do graze their knee and then get a bit of dirt in it. They never stop growing; as they get older they just keep on getting bigger. When they snap those jaws that’s two and a half tons of pressure striking!

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Then, we bought some dinner for a picnic and Ubirr Rock at sunset. The park has a lot of aboriginal art, but as it was getting dark, we could not enjoy these paintings.

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In Jabiru we stayed in the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel that is built in the shape of crocodile. 

On the next day, we started to explore the Aboriginal heritage. Kakadu contains one of the greatest concentrations of rock art sites in the world and constitutes one of the longest historical records of any group of people. Archaeological excavations in the Park have revealed some of the oldest occupation sites in found in Australia dated at 50,000 years old. We visited some of this great aboriginal art at Nourlangie Park. The actual name is “Burrunggui” and “Anbangbang”. A sign describes that the aboriginal people live privately elsewhere in the park and leave this place for visitors to see now.  

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After enjoying a tasting plate with Buffalo terrine, picked Crocodile, Emu pate, smoked Kangaroo, Buffalo mozzarella, Davidson plum pickle, muntries chutney and damper at the Kakadu Lodge Cooinda....


... we enjoyed a walk near the edge of the one of the waterways hoping that the crocodiles are unaware of us eating one of their buddies only an hour earlier.


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We stayed overnight at the Kakadu Lodge Cooinda where we saw a snake near one of the cabins and a gecko running up and down the door or our room. 

Next morning, I flew the drone and took some aerial shots of Jim Jim Creek in the early morning light.

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Then, we participated in a flatboat cruise from Yellow Waters Cruises on the South Alligator River near Yellow Water.


We saw birds like the Rainbow Bee-Eater, Swifer, Snake neck bird, Purple swamp hen, Sacred kingfisher, Blackneck stork, jabiru and many crocodiles.

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One of the crocs was hunting fishes in the shallow waters of the swamps. We learned that there are three native species of bamboo in Australia. 


More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia kakadu national northern park territories http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/8/kakadu-national-park Sat, 12 Aug 2017 08:56:22 GMT
Jervis Bay http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/7/jervis-bay In January, we took a short weekend vacation to visiting the South Coast, Jervis Bay in particular, which is located at the southern end - Booderee National Park. The area is a coastal paradise in the Shoalhaven region. 

We took the scenic route of the Grand Pacific Driveway from Sydney to the Shoalhaven area. The route starts in the Royal National Park and continues for 140 kilometre as scenic coastal drive through rainforests, over the iconic Sea Cliff Bridge and through the coastal cities and townships of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama.

Sea Cliff Bridge

We used the GoPro mounted on the car's windshield to capture the scenic drive over the 665 metre Sea Cliff Bridge--a highlight along the Grand Pacific Drive. 

GoPro mounted

We admired the brave (foolhardy) young blokes jumping into the Kiama Blowhole. We were told that, with the right sea conditions, it can shoot water up to 25 metres in the air.



We stopped at the Two Figs Winery to purchase some of the excellent wines from the region.

The girls and I were snorkelling at Callala Beach and we enjoyed the local seafood as well as the relaxing atmosphere. 

Beach Vacation

At the beach, we found dried shark eggs.

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We finished the trip with a short stop at the Seven Mile Beach National Park located between between Kiama and Nowra.

Seven Mile Beach

And had lunch at the harbourfront Seafood Restaurant in Wollongong prior to driving back to Sydney.


Some video impressions here:

More pictures here.




heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) bay bridge cliff figs jervis sea shoalhaven shores southern two winery wollongong http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/7/jervis-bay Tue, 04 Jul 2017 03:16:13 GMT
Wentworth Falls http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/wentworth-falls During the weekend, we explored Wentworthville Falls, specifically the waterfall that plunges 100m to the valley floor and gives Wentworth Falls its name.

Wentworth Falls

We also walked on the National Pass and the Wentworth Falls Track, one of the Blue Mountains iconic walking tracks that was constructed in 1906-1907. There is also a nice picnic area nearby.

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"In 2002 the track underwent major restoration works that included helicopters depositing sandstone blocks along the trail and heritage stonemasons perching on cliff faces to set sandstone inserts into steps eroded over the years by weather and walkers. It's an inspiring walk, with fantastic views of the Jamison Valley and beautiful waterfalls at either end.” (ref)

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The actual water falls can be seen from many different angles and from various levels of the adjacent stairs:

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The drone video has captured the beautiful aerial moments.

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Blue Falls Mountains Wentworthville http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/wentworth-falls Thu, 22 Jun 2017 10:37:05 GMT
Bicentennial Coastal Walk http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/bicentennial-coastal-walk Last weekend, we walked part of the Bicentennial Coastal Walk. We started at Long Reef Beach at the Northern Beaches near Narrabeen Lagoon and made it up to Dee Why Lagoon. 

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Sandbanks shape beach breaks that are great for beginners and intermediate surfers.

HEI_4077HEI_4077 While we did not see migrating whales as we had hoped, we enjoyed an Eastern Osprey circling around us with his prey in his claws.

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The Australian Pelicans, Australia's only species of pelican, can have a body of up to 1.8 m long.

Australian Pelican

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From the headlands next to the Long Reef Golf Club as well as from Dee Why Lagoon, we started the drone to enjoy the arial view:

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Beach Beaches Bicentennial Club Coastal Dee Golf Lagoon Long Narrabeen Northern Reef Sydney Walk Why http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/bicentennial-coastal-walk Mon, 19 Jun 2017 20:20:00 GMT
Wattamolla, Royal National Park http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/wattamolla-royal-national-park On Sunday, Gisela and I walked 5 kilometres of the 26 kilometres Coast Track within the Royal National Park. We started at Wattamolla—a cove, lagoon, and beach on the New South Wales coast south of Sydney. 

4.5 km


We parked at the Wattamolla Picnic Area and walked South, taking pictures and letting the drone fly above us.


During our walk, we spotted two humpback whales traveling North along the shoreline.

Here more images.



heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Coast National New Park Royal South Track Wales Wattamolla http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/wattamolla-royal-national-park Sun, 04 Jun 2017 20:22:17 GMT
Central Tablelands http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/central-tablelands In August 2016, we visited the Central Tablelands in New South Wales. After meeting Aboriginal Elders and visiting several Aboriginal Medical Services under guidance of the Director of the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health, we explored the beauties of the Central Tablelands.

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Driving can be challenging on dirt roads.

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Airplanes and airports are often very small and everything is handled in a very informal way.

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We did not expect to see so many impressive waterfalls in a modest highland area that peaks at 1,500 metres. The "New England National Park” features a so called Waterfall Way that connects the various waterfall attractions.


We also enjoyed a tour of the L P Dutton Trout Hatchery that releases Rainbow Trout into the streams of New South Wales for fishing.

We were also lucky to spot the signature bird of the area, the Superb Lyrebird - the largest songbird in the world apparently. This bird can mimic man-made sounds, like a chainsaw, a car alarm and toy guns

Superb Lyrebird
Here a short video of the waterfalls and the Lyrebird.

Here more images.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Central Hatchery Lyrebird Superb Tablelands http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/6/central-tablelands Sat, 03 Jun 2017 18:54:46 GMT
Vivid in Sydney http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/5/vivid-in-sydney Vivid, the annual lighting festival, includes performances from musicians, artists and an exchange of ideas in public debates. I participated in the "Collective Walking Tour" with Canon to get advice on the best spots to capture the beauty of the various projections--the light show on the Sydney Opera House probably being the most impressive one.

Sydney Opera House - Vivid 2017

I had the opportunity to stand next to the light projectors on the cruise ship terminal. Next to the light projectors

In 2016, Vivid Sydney was extended to 23 nights from 27 May to 18 June and was attended by more than 2.3 million people according to Destination NSW. No numbers for 2017 yet, but there were many people...

Crowded walkways at Vivid   

Crowds at Vivid Crowds at Vivid

The Harbour Bridge is bathed in light as well.

Harbour Bridge

However, Vivid extents beyond just the iconic symbols of Sydney.

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Impressive projectors provide the light for the various displays.

Powerful Projectors at Vivid

Vivid displays can be seen from many angles and view points.

Small video here (mostly as time lapse):

More pictures here

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Canon Light Sydney Vivid http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/5/vivid-in-sydney Mon, 29 May 2017 06:11:54 GMT
Broken Hill http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/4/broken-hill In September 2016 and in April 2017, we made trips to Broken Hill, called the "Capital of the Outback". The first trip was with the family and the second one with Professor James Deschner from the University of Bonn. The "BH" in the world's largest mining company, BHP Billiton, refers to "Broken Hill" and its early operations in the city. The closest major city is Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, which is more than 500 km (311 mi) to the southwest. Unlike the rest of New South Wales, Broken Hill (and the surrounding region) observes Australian Central Standard Time (UTC+9:30), the same time zone used in South Australia and the Northern Territory. This is because at the time the Australian dominions adopted standard time, Broken Hill's only direct rail link was with Adelaide, not Sydney. Driving a few kilometres outside the town sets your mobile phone’s clock half an hour back as the time Adelaide time zones applies only inside the town borders.

We visited Silverton—I am not into "Mad Max” movies, but the Mad Max 2 movie was filmed in Broken Hill and Silverton. While Mad Max tourists stop at the Silverton Hotel for nostalgia, we actually had a good lunch there just because we were hungry.
Our drive to Silverton:

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After lunch, we drove to the Mundi Mundi plain overview, where much of the opening of the film was shot. We mostly enjoyed the breathtaking view despite the wind. The wide, flat Australian outback extends seemingly forever—in fact it is so flat and so devoid of trees and shrubs that you can see the curvature of the earth.

We visited the Day Dream Mine located northwest of Silverton and about 20 kilometres outside of Broken Hill. It was established in 1882 and now serves as tourist attraction. We were allowed to walk into the mine down to level 4 - a welcome change as the outdoors were extremely windy due to a strong cyclone over Southern Australia that caused major power outages and damages near Adelaide.

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Afterwards, we stopped by at the Line of Lode Miners Memorial and Visitors Centre, on the edge of the mullock heap.

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Broken Hill is home of one of the largest Solar Plant in the Southern Hemisphere due to its extensive daylight hours of sunshine—temperatures can go up to 47 C (116 F).

I had dinner with the local health administrators was in The Palace Hotel, formerly known as Mario's Palace and the place where The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) was in part shot. The Palace Hotel Broken Hill was used as a stop-over for the characters in the 1994 Australian iconic movie. Many favourite scenes from the movie were filmed in and around Broken Hill and throughout various locations within the Hotel

I got a tour of the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) base in Broken Hill that sends airplanes with doctors, dentists, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc. to many of the remote communities. The services include evacuations of patients that need help in hospitals and the transport of medical equipment. Residents have to make a “roo run” on the airstrip prior to the landing to chase kangaroos and emus away. Airplanes land on dirt airstrips near mobile clinics that often serve only 20 residents living in an outpost. The airplane waits until all patients have been seen and returns with the medical personnel and the equipment to the base (most remote locations have no sterilisation, so everything is carried back to base for cleaning and sterilisation). Recently, an airstrip lost power prior to a night evacuation (none have radar or any other electronic landing help) and the pilot had to instruct the person on the ground how to soak toilet paper rolls in diesel and set them on fire with the help of petroleum to mark the landing strip. Each two hour trip costs about $10,000 using modified $7.5 million King Air propeller aircrafts: The modifications include higher landing gear that elevates the engines farther from the ground when landing on dirt, a $1.5 million interior change that allows to change the inside of the plane in 30 minutes to an intensive care unit when evacuations are needed and a larger door for hoisting stretchers into the plane.  The RFDS proudly reported that they transported 90,000 patients last year. We also learned that they maintain "Medicine Chests” in remote areas where, after teleconference advice from centrally located doctors, residents can get prepared medicine for self-administration. 


We went with a guide to the Mutawintji National Park, driving for hours on dirt roads with a 4-wheel drive bus, going on bush walks with a guide and exploring the rich Aboriginal history.

Map from Broken Hill to Mutawintji Park


Many cars have roo bars (called bullbar or push bumper in other countries) installed to protect them from crashes with kangaroos. 

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The area around Broken Hill is characterised by sheep and cattle farms, each between 50,000 and 180,000 acres of size. We saw kangaroos, emus, Bearded Dragons and Shingle Back lizard.

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We also enjoyed the art at the Living Desert and Sculptures site.

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In the evening, we enjoyed a stargazing session with Outback Astronomy—a guide explained the constellations and we could look through a telescope and observe the rings of Saturn and other spectacular objects, including nebulae, star clusters and other galaxies in a sky not polluted by other light sources.

More pictures here.


heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Astronomy Australia Broken Hill http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/4/broken-hill Sun, 30 Apr 2017 06:59:38 GMT
Carriageworks Farmers Market http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/4/carriageworks-farmers-market This Saturday, we visited Carriageworks Farmers Market. The Carriageworks is the largest and most significant contemporary multi-arts centre of its kind in Australia. The building is on the old Eveleigh Rail Yards at Wilson Street, located near the University of Sydney's Business School and only a 5-min walk from the Redfern Train Station. The nineteenth century industrial atmosphere of the former railway carriage interestingly mixes with the offered foods from across New South Wales.

Carriageworks entry from Carriageworks Way:

Carriageworks Entry


Bustling Farmers Market on a Saturday:

Bustling Farmers Market

Produce by farmers and artisans:

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We purchased some mushrooms:

Purchasing Mushrooms

For lunch, we converted the purchased pasta and mushrooms into a delicious dish.

Mushrooms Mushrooms Mushrooms Mushrooms

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Farmers Market Produce Sydney http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/4/carriageworks-farmers-market Sat, 29 Apr 2017 20:21:47 GMT
Blackheath, Blue Mountains http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/3/blackheath-blue-mountains In January of 2017, we visited Blackheath, located near the highest point of the Blue Mountains, between Katoomba and Mount Victoria in New South Wales. According to Wikipedia, "the region of what is now known as Blackheath was originally known as East Lithgow. Surrounding areas were thought to be a summer corroboree meeting place for several Indigenous peoples of the Darug, Gundungurra and Wiradjuri nations."

We embarked on several bush walks marvelling at the colourful flora along the paths.


The resilience of the trees who have survived bush fires is impressive. Here a picture of a living tree.

Tree, many years after a bush fire.

Grass Trees are the first ones showing green after a bush fire. When you buy one of these plants for your garden, the instructions indicate that they "benefit from burning off occasionally". A Grass Tree can be seen on the Australian $2 coin. 

Grass Tree

Gisela almost stepped on a 40 centimetre long Blotched Blue-tongue Lizard.

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Evans Lookout is located at the top of the escarpment providing one of the best views.

Evans Lookout The Cathedral of Ferns was one of the highlights of the trip.

Cathedral of Ferns Cathedral of Ferns Cathedral of Ferns Cathedral of Ferns

We discovered the Victory Theatre Antique Centre which is the largest antique centre west of Sydney.

Victory Theatre Antique Centre

The Blue Mountain Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is a 252 hectare estate that sits on the summit of basalt capped peak. We enjoyed the plants and a lunch concluding our trip. The gardens are occupied by many lizards and we even observed a opossum in one of the shelters. 

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Here a small video of our travels through the Blue Mountains near Blackheath.

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Blackheath Blue Mountains Opossum http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/3/blackheath-blue-mountains Sun, 12 Mar 2017 06:07:34 GMT
Avalon Beach http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/1/avalon-beach Following a Sydney tradition, we spent most of Christmas Day on the beach—trying out our new beach tent. We drove about an hour North to escape the tourists who crowd the famous beaches, like Bondi, Coogee or Manly, to enjoy the sand and water at Avalon Beach

The beach is about 50 km north of our home in Northmead in the Northern Beaches region. The beach is mostly a surfing beach, but it also has a 25-metre salt water rock pool at the south end whose bottom is overgrown with kelp--watch the video below.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Avalon Beach Beaches Northern http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/1/avalon-beach Sun, 08 Jan 2017 22:06:11 GMT
Sydney New Years Eve 2016 http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/1/sydney-new-years-eve-2016 For New Years Eve (NYE, or hashtag #SydNYE), we set up our tent on Cockatoo Island camping in the middle of Sydney Harbour. Cockatoo Island is an old industrial site which reminded us of Pittsburgh given the many old steel manufacturing building there, like in the huge turbine assembly plant used for ship engines.

We watched the fireworks with thousands of other people who managed to get tickets to one of the campgrounds set up on the little Island. Others just put up chairs somewhere on the shorelines of Sydney Harbour, or charter a boat to see the fireworks from the water (between $1,000 and $3,000 per person depending on the boat). The city officials tweeted at 9:30 pm on NYE that “All Vantage Points in the City, Darling Harbour, and North Sydney are FULL. Do not travel into the city or North Sydney.”

spectators spectators

New Years Evening in Sydney is something very special! Before the family fireworks at 9 pm, there was an airshow and a Welcome to Country honouring the traditional owners of the land. Then at 9 pm, we watched the Family Fireworks Display that originated from barges that were anchored on the Sydney Harbour—one of them very close to Cockatoo Island providing us with a front-row seat. The Midnight Fireworks Display was spectacular as expected, but due to the direction of the wind, the fireworks were partially obstructed by the smoke emitted from the exploding pyrotechnic. After staying the night on the Island, we departed to our car via a ferry shuttle next morning. 

NYE Fireworks NYE Fireworks NYE Fireworks

More images here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Eve Harbour NYE New Sydney Years fireworks http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/1/sydney-new-years-eve-2016 Sun, 01 Jan 2017 20:08:22 GMT
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/12/sydney-to-hobart-yacht-race On Boxing Day, we spent five hours on a Sailing Boat, the "South Passage”, watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. This year was the 72nd edition of the Yacht Race that begins at 1 pm on the 26th of December. Yachts from 60 to 100 feet long get to start at the front line just north of Shark Island, while the second start line is 0.2 nautical miles behind and includes all other boat sizes. The vessels sail one nautical mile out to sea past Sydney Heads, then they turn south to Tasmania. We had a first-row seat on the South Passage as we were sailing only meters away from restricted race area. When the start canon fired, we sailed along, although much slower, until the racing boats, among them the eight time winner, Wild Oats XI, that had to drop out due to mechanical problems, turned into the Pacific. One of the boats passed the start line prior to the canon shot and had to turn around passing the start line again.

We left from Darling Harbour:

Darling Harbour

We observed the boats prior to race start:

before race start before race start


There were many observers--on the water and in helicopters:

observers observers observers


Then, the race started at 1 pm, sharp:

race race race race race

On our way back, the 100 foot gaff rigged Schooner, which was built so that all sails can be managed from the deck, put up its sails and we steered without engine underneath the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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Our 5-min video of the experience:


More images here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Sydney boat hobart race yacht http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/12/sydney-to-hobart-yacht-race Thu, 29 Dec 2016 19:12:08 GMT
Flying Foxes at Botanic Garden http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/12/flying-foxes-at-botanic-garden After a nice picnic at Mrs Macquarie's Chair, I attempted to take picture of the flying foxes that can still be seen outside the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, where they eat fruits from the fig trees at night.  For decades the Royal Botanic Garden has been the home to a large colony of native Grey-headed Flying Foxes, a large species of fruit bat. The colony (estimated to be over 20,000 strong at times) caused significant damage to the trees used for roosting, especially around the Palm Grove Centre where dozens of historic trees were killed or severely damaged. With the help of remotely triggered flashlights held by Gisela and Alexandra, I succeeded to take some pictures in near darkness:

Flying Fox




More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) bat flying fox fruit sydney http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/12/flying-foxes-at-botanic-garden Sat, 24 Dec 2016 20:41:45 GMT
Royal Botanic Garden Sydney http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/12/royal-botanic-garden-sydney During the Christmas break, we visited the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney--64 hectares located harbourside near Mrs Macquarie's Chair, immediately adjacent to the Sydney CBD and the Sydney Opera House. The Garden, established 1816, is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, currently visited by more than 3.5 million people each year. It is the oldest botanic garden and scientific institution in Australia housing an outstanding collection of plants (8,900 species) from around the world with a focus on Australia and the South Pacific. But, it also includes an herb garden with many common (e.g. basic and parsley) and exotic spice plants (e.g. Sweet Honey Leaf - Stevia rebaudiana). 

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HEI_0539HEI_0539 More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Sydney botanic garden royal http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/12/royal-botanic-garden-sydney Sat, 24 Dec 2016 18:59:40 GMT
Dubbo Zoo http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/9/dubbo-zoo The Dubbo Zoo is officially named the “Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo.” It is home to hundreds of animals from around the world and consists of a 6 km circuit that meanders through natural bushland and around large open style exhibits.

We liked the extremely large outdoor areas where African animals roamed almost freely. We have never seen a zoo where the animals looks so well kept and not suffering from “cage rage.” Zoo keepers, we learned later, make a lot of effort to enrich the animals’ lives. This includes distributing some zebra poo in the lion cage to make them excited. The zoo designers tried to provide as much as possible characteristics of their natural habitat for each animal.Given the temperatures in Australia, creating pseudo-natural habitats is obviously a bit easier than in, for instance, Berlin or Pittsburgh.

We stayed overnight on zoo grounds enjoying a Zoofari that is advertised as "an intimate retreat comprising stunning Guest House, luxurious accommodation, cuisine and guided Zoo tours, and offers a private and luxurious African safari style experience in the heart of the Zoo.” 

We started out with Hippo dental care:

Hippo Dental Care Hippo Dental Care

Giraffes were shown in an impressively large area and during our private zoo tour we were allowed to feed them:


Feeding Giraffes Feeding Giraffes

The Otter feeding was fun to watch:

Otters Otters Otters Otters

The evening feeding of the African Wild Dogs was an impressive spectacle:

Wild African Dogs Wild African Dogs Wild African Dogs Wild African Dogs

Early in the morning, before the zoo opened to regular visitors, we were permitted to watch the feeding and cleaning of the Elephants:

Elephants Elephants Elephants Elephants

Observing the animals in the early morning fog let us almost forget that this was not Africa:

Early morning fog Early morning fog Early morning fog

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Dubbo elephant giraffe otter zoo http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/9/dubbo-zoo Sat, 10 Sep 2016 23:40:26 GMT
Sydney Fish Market http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/8/sydney-fish-market On Sunday, we went to the Sydney Fish Market located on Blackwattle Bay, in the Inner West suburb of Pyrmont. The Sydney Fish Market was established in 1945 by the state government and was privatized in 1994. It is the world's third largest fish market. We did not see the fishing port and the wholesale fish market, but the fresh seafood retail market was accessible—if one can say so given that it was so crowded that we could barely fit through the aisles. 

In addition to usual things that you would expect at any fish market, we saw many exotic sea food items:

You do not need to take the sea food home and prepare it, as there are many restaurants and vendors which provide oysters and sushi, but also fried and cooked sea food.


On Christmas Eve 2016, or morning to be precise at 2 am, we visited the Sydney Fish Market again. This is a tradition for people in Sydney as the Market opens each year from 5 am on the 23rd of December for its annual 36-hour seafood marathon. By the time the market closes at 5 pm on the 24th, the six wet fish retailers serve around 100,000 customers about 700 tonnes of seafood; including 200 tonnes of prawns, 900,000 oysters and everything in between. We contributed this year purchasing prawns, tuna, trout and salmon for the holidays. The nightly visit is somewhat strange as you wouldn't expect such a large crowd in a store at that time of the day: 

More photos here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) fish market prawn salmon shrimp sydney trout tuna http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2016/8/sydney-fish-market Mon, 15 Aug 2016 03:15:19 GMT