Heiko Spallek | digital imaging: Blog http://photos.spallek.com/blog en-us (C) Heiko Spallek | digital imaging heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Mon, 09 Jul 2018 01:08:00 GMT Mon, 09 Jul 2018 01:08:00 GMT http://photos.spallek.com/img/s/v-5/u43379006-o1041325852-50.jpg Heiko Spallek | digital imaging: Blog http://photos.spallek.com/blog 90 120 Melbourne, October 2016 http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/6/melbourne-in-october-2016 In October 2016, we visited Melbourne for the first time using Sophia's school break. Melbourne is a very diverse city with immigrants from all over the world, specifically it is called the third largest greek city outside Greece by number of citizens of Greek decent—47% of all Greek Australians live in Melbourne—and the third largest city outside Italy—according to Wikipedia “over two-thirds of people in Melbourne speak only English at home (68.8%). Italian is the second most common home language (4.0%).”. We took advantage of this diversity and had each night different ethnic food, such as Greek and Japanese.

After flying two hours from Sydney to Melbourne, we spent the first day in the Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium. Highlight was a Glass Bottom Boat Tour above the 2.2 million litre Oceanarium to get closer look at a giant Queensland grouper (800kg) and a huge Grey Nurse Shark. The guide, called “Skipper” on this 20 metres “sea” journey, revealed many details of how the aquarium works behind the scenes.

We explored the tunnels that allow you to venture under the water tanks.

The penguins were fascinating to watch.

HEI_8948HEI_8948 HEI_8978HEI_8978 HEI_9040HEI_9040 HEI_9054HEI_9054

We were impressed how much you can see through the thick plexiglass walls.

HEI_9069HEI_9069 HEI_9080HEI_9080 HEI_9091HEI_9091 HEI_9108HEI_9108 HEI_9120HEI_9120 HEI_9105HEI_9105

On Thursday, we used the free tram to explore the second largest city in Australia with its Queen Victoria Market and Victorian architecture, often referred to as "cultural capital” of Australia. Melbourne is located on the large natural bay of Port Phillip which means that it has a huge inland body of water next to the city, but as many people from Sydney point out, no ocean beaches. According to Wikipedia "Melbourne rates highly in education, entertainment, health care, research and development, tourism and sport, making it the world's most liveable city—for the sixth year in a row in 2016, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is a leading financial centre in the Asia-Pacific region, and ranks among the top 30 cities in the world in the Global Financial Centres Index.

HEI_9199HEI_9199 HEI_9246HEI_9246 HEI_9249HEI_9249 HEI_9254HEI_9254

On Friday, we ventured out of Melbourne visiting the town of Gembrook via a historical train ride, a narrow gauge heritage railway operated by steam engines, from Belgrave to Gembrook, called the Puffing Billy. We were allowed to ride by sitting on the ledge of the open-sided carriages.

HEI_9478HEI_9478 HEI_9516HEI_9516

Here a time lapse video of our ride: 

On Saturday, we visited Captain Cook's Cottage located in the Fitzroy Gardens. The cottage was constructed in 1755 in the English village of Great Ayton in England by the parents of Captain James Cook. Then, in the 1930ies it was moved to Melbourne and is now a historical site and museum—deconstructed brick by brick and packed into 253 cases and 40 barrels for shipping. In addition to the actual building, one can walk a vegetable yard that mimics what English countrymen were growing in their yard in England at the time.

HEI_9662HEI_9662 HEI_9620HEI_9620 HEI_9616HEI_9616 HEI_9615HEI_9615

On Sunday, we visited the Old Melbourne Gaol and the old City Police Watch House next to it. the gaol was first constructed in 1839 operating as a prison between 1842 and 1929. It held and executed some of Australia's most notorious criminals, including bushranger Ned Kelly. Wikipedia states that "Prisoners convicted of serious crime, such as murder, arson, burglary, rape and shooting, would begin their time on the ground floor with a time of solitary confinement. They were also forbidden from communicating with other prisoners, which was strictly enforced by the usage of a silence mask, or calico hood, when outside their cells. They would only be given a single hour of solitary exercise a day, with the remaining 23 hours spent in their cells. Inside the cells, prisoners would be able to lie on a thin mattress over the slate floors. They could only bathe and change clothes once a week, and attend the chapel on Sundays (with a Bible provided to promote good behaviour). Prisoners might only have been allowed to finally socialise with other prisoners towards the end of their sentences."

HEI_9699HEI_9699 HEI_9702HEI_9702 HEI_9701HEI_9701 HEI_9703HEI_9703 HEI_9704HEI_9704 HEI_9705HEI_9705 HEI_9708HEI_9708 HEI_9709HEI_9709

On Sunday night, we returned to Sydney in windy weather on a very bumpy flight. 

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia Melbourne http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/6/melbourne-in-october-2016 Fri, 29 Jun 2018 07:48:46 GMT
Two Creeks Track http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/6/two-creeks-track Gisela and I walked from East Lindfield to Echo Point Park via the 7.5 km Two Creeks Track that is managed by Ku-ring-gai Council and Garigal National Park. "Much of the western shoreline of Middle Harbour was declared a park in April 1892 and called 'Roseville Park' under the control of a board of trustees. Formal stone walking tracks, stone seats, stone bridges and sandstone steps were constructed in areas used by Aboriginal people for centuries. In 1917 during WW1, an Engineer Officers Training School was established and temporary bridges, walls and trenches were constructed. An inscription “C Coy Engineers” chiselled into rock near Moores Creek provides evidence of this. The gatehouse at the track entrance to Seven Little Australians Park was constructed in the 1920s by Council workmen. Additional track work was done in the late 1920s when the sewer was built and during the Great Depression by Government Unemployment Relief Scheme work gangs from 1932, when Eastern Arterial Road construction began." (Ku-ring-gai Walking Tracks)

The track passes under Eastern Arterial Road via the stormwater tunnel, which "may not be passable after rain” -- it was pretty dark while we walked there, but almost no water.

Stormwater tunnel under Eastern Arterial Road The track then is descending beside Gordon Creek to Middle Harbour and continuing along Middle Harbour to Roseville Bridge. Along the way, we saw post-war cobbled tracks and stonework and Coachwood forests. The Roseville Park was often likened to the Blue Mountains.


Some of the gumtree roots wrap around rock formations in an amazing way.

I used my GoPro capturing us walking on the tracks and let my drone fly obtaining impressive aerial views.

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia East Lindfield Sydney Two Creeks Track http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/6/two-creeks-track Sun, 24 Jun 2018 06:29:33 GMT
Wamberal, Central Coast, NSW http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/6/wamberal-central-coast-nsw In April 2018, we embarked on a short vacation to Wamberal, NSW Central Coast. We made walks at the nearby Wamberal Lagoon Nature Reserve and enjoyed the porch overlooking the ocean. The Wamberal Lagoon is an intermittently closed intermediate saline coastal lagoon. We took some relaxing walks on the near-empty beach.

HEI_2944HEI_2944 HEI_2943HEI_2943 HEI_2946HEI_2946 HEI_2948HEI_2948

HEI_3205HEI_3205 HEI_3213HEI_3213 HEI_3216HEI_3216

We also visited the nearby Terrigal with its prominent landmark, The Skillion, a steep cliff facing the ocean rising to a convenient lookout area that is easily accessed by a flat grassy area leading up from the reserve.

The Skillion

HEI_3037HEI_3037 HEI_3039HEI_3039 HEI_3027HEI_3027 HEI_3030HEI_3030 HEI_3034HEI_3034 HEI_3032HEI_3032

On several occasions, I flew my drone for an aerial view of the region.  

One highlight of the stay was the arrival of the Lyrids—a comet shower that peaked on April 22 and could be observed from Australia. "The Lyrids hold the record for the shower with the longest recorded history, having been observed since at least 687BC. That longevity is linked to the orbit of the Lyrid’s parent comet, discovered in 1861 by A. E. Thatcher. Comet Thatcher moves on a highly inclined, eccentric orbit, swinging through the inner Solar system every 415 years or so. Its most recent approach to Earth was in 1861.
Compared with many other comets, Thatcher’s orbit is relatively stable, as the only planet with which it can experience close encounters is Earth. This means the meteors it sheds continue to follow roughly the same orbit. Over the millennia, that shed debris has spread all around the comet’s vast orbit, meaning that for thousands of years, every time Earth intersects Comet Thatcher’s orbit, the Lyrids have been seen, as regular as clockwork. One study of the orbits of Lyrid meteors even suggests the shower may have been active for at least a million years."
As the comets can be best seen an hour before sunrise, I got up early as usual and spent time on the common-space roof of the apartment building in which we stayed trying to capture the comets—I was only once lucky.


While waiting for the comet shower, I took some pictures of the stunning landscape in the early morning hours.

DJI_0002DJI_0002 DJI_0011DJI_0011 HEI_2966-EditHEI_2966-Edit HEI_3202-EditHEI_3202-Edit

I also had a chance to fly my drone (DJI MavicPro) for the first time at night with two Lume Cubes attached. Here a short video from this flight taken from the drone and from a GoPro Hero 6.


More photos here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia central coast nsw terrigal wamberal http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/6/wamberal-central-coast-nsw Sat, 09 Jun 2018 06:41:26 GMT
Killcare, Central Coast of NSW http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/4/killcare-central-coast-of-nsw In January 2018, we rented a house with a huge patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean at the Central Coast, in Killcare, about one hour drive North of where we live.

HEI_2530HEI_2530 HEI_2533HEI_2533

We stayed mostly close to Putty Beach and the surrounding area that encompasses 27 ha including beach, rehabilitated sand-mined area, natural areas, Killcare Surf Club and public facilities.

We mostly enjoyed the beach in the early mornings before it got too hot. 


Each morning, we admired the newly built nets of the Garden Orb Web spiders. 

HEI_2541HEI_2541 HEI_2681HEI_2681

We also hiked in the Bouddi National Park, a park that was established in part by the relentless fight for the environment by bushwalker, Marie Byles (1900-1979). The close-by bay area features a huge marina and many stores and cafes next to the shoreline which we exploited for late breakfasts during our stay.

Sophia and I snorkelled from the beach finding a luscious underwater flora:


During one of our beach walks, we found several washed-up Bluebottles.


It was still moving a little bit:

Alexandra invited her boyfriend, Alex, over and both enjoyed swimming in the ocean.

Both, Sophia and Alexandra, modelled for me while I was flying my drone over the sandy beaches.

We had breakfast in town where the Rainbow lorikeets unashamed visited the restaurant tables.

HEI_2808HEI_2808 HEI_2826HEI_2826 HEI_2834HEI_2834 HEI_2850HEI_2850

Finally, I pieced together the best drone shots and came up with this movie:

In June 2018, we visited Killcare again for a few days to enjoy watching whales that can be seen passing the shores at this time of the year on their migratory route from Antartica to breed in warmer tropical waters. Between the month of October and November, they can be seen making their way back to the rich waters of Antartica to feed after giving birth. We learned that the common species are Humpback Whales and Southern Right Whales. We spent several hours at Captain Cook's lookout to observe breaching Humpback Whales.

Humpback Whale   HEI_4647HEI_4647   HEI_4717HEI_4717 HEI_4656HEI_4656 HEI_4676HEI_4676

I assembled a video from the best snippets taken while flying my DJI MavicPro drone from Captain Cook's lookout:

Our four-months-old Parson Russel Terrier, Lilly, enjoyed Putty Beach that permits dogs off leash.  

HEI_4526HEI_4526 HEI_4521HEI_4521 HEI_4611HEI_4611 HEI_4516HEI_4516 HEI_4466HEI_4466 HEI_4390HEI_4390

More pictures here.


heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) Australia bluebottles central coast dog beach drone humpback whales killcare lorikeets nsw swimming http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/4/killcare-central-coast-of-nsw Mon, 02 Apr 2018 06:35:29 GMT
Canberra, ACT http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/1/canberra In January, Gisela and I spent three days in Canberra, the capital city of Australia which is inhabited by ~400,000 people. The city is located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 280 km (170 mi) south-west of Sydney. We drove the Federal Highway — the motorway that links Sydney with Canberra passing Lake George-an endorheic lake that has no outflow of water to rivers and oceans. The 25 km long lake is currently half empty creating a strange, perfectly flat, meadow with grazing sheep and cattle.

Lake George

Upon arrival, we visited Canberra Glassworks observing glass artists working in a hot room with blast furnaces blowing and melting glass. The venue also showcases art by several local glass artists serving as an inspiration for Gisela's art.

Canberra Glassworks HEI_1860HEI_1860 HEI_1877HEI_1877 HEI_1897HEI_1897 HEI_1916HEI_1916 HEI_1920HEI_1920 HEI_1933HEI_1933 HEI_1962HEI_1962 HEI_1970HEI_1970

HEI_1827HEI_1827 HEI_1828HEI_1828 HEI_1842HEI_1842

HEI_1854HEI_1854 HEI_1849HEI_1849 HEI_1848HEI_1848

In the evening, we had dinner at The Boat House with a fascinating view of Lake Burley Griffin and the beautiful lakefront. We had a 4-course menu of Modern Australian Cuisine including cherry-wood smoked duck which we liked.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the Urban Pantry. We started the day visiting Parliament House admiring Canberra's most recognisable landmark up close: the stainless steel flag mast with the Australian flag flying above Capital Hill. We have learned that “the flag mast is the main focal point of the Parliamentary Triangle and you can walk directly under it when you explore Parliament House's grass roof. You can also see it from vantage points all around Canberra. The design of the flag mast pays homage to Walter Burley Griffin's plan for a pyramidal Capitol building—a ceremonial public space that would celebrate the achievements of the Australian people—which he envisioned as the centrepiece to his design for Canberra.” The flag is 12.8 metres long and 6.4 metres high and flies 24 hours a day—under the Australian national flag protocols, it can be flown at night because it is floodlit.

HEI_2045HEI_2045 HEI_2046HEI_2046

We enjoyed easy access to the building's 'law-making axis', on which the House of Representatives and Senate chambers are located. Parliament House was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988 and consists of 4,700 different rooms of which many display stunning architecture and design.

HEI_2047HEI_2047 HEI_2049HEI_2049 HEI_2053HEI_2053 HEI_2054HEI_2054 HEI_2059HEI_2059 HEI_2062HEI_2062

At the National Gallery of Australia, we enjoyed Indigenous, Australian, Pacific, Asian and European art.

HEI_2072HEI_2072 HEI_2129HEI_2129 HEI_2135HEI_2135 HEI_2083HEI_2083 HEI_2122HEI_2122


We extended our visit to the outside where one can find the Sculpture garden between the National Gallery of Australia and the shores of Lake Burley Griffin.

HEI_2156HEI_2156 HEI_2162HEI_2162 HEI_2165HEI_2165

We then visited the National Carillon—a very tall bell tower.



Before dinner at Sage Dining Rooms, we stopped at the Australian War Memorial— Australian’s most visited landmark. The Australian War Memorial brings together a world-class museum and a shrine of remembrance to offer a diverse experience of war. 

HEI_2204HEI_2204 HEI_2207HEI_2207 HEI_2218HEI_2218 HEI_2221HEI_2221 HEI_2212HEI_2212

The next day, we started with breakfast at Little Brother Cafe at the Red Hill lookout with friends. Afterwards, we visited the National Library of Australia which dates back to the early years after the Australian Federation in 1901, admiring work by Peter Dombrovskis. Clearly, Tasmania moved up on our bucket list of destinations. His technical expertise was amazing! He clearly not only waited for the right time for the light to have good tone but also waited for the wind to produce the desired ripples on water for the best reflection. We really liked the colourful bark of the Snow Gum.

HEI_2233HEI_2233 HEI_2232HEI_2232

At the Old Bus Depot Markets, Gisela was again looking for inspiration for her Glassart.

HEI_2242HEI_2242 HEI_2243HEI_2243 HEI_2255HEI_2255

Finally, we went to the National Museum of Australia and experienced the epic narrative of the Songlines, Tracking the Seven Sisters. Remarkable! We really liked the dome with the two short all-around movies projected to the ceiling. 

HEI_2285HEI_2285 HEI_2287HEI_2287 HEI_2288HEI_2288 HEI_2290HEI_2290 HEI_2293HEI_2293
On our way back, we stopped by at a winery for a quick lunch and some tasting. 

HEI_2334HEI_2334 HEI_2332HEI_2332

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia canberra parliament house http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/1/canberra Sun, 21 Jan 2018 07:54:42 GMT
Lake Parramatta Reserve http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/1/lake-parramatta-reserve On Saturday, we were bush walking at the Lake Parramatta Reserve, a 73-hectare bushland reserve located within two kilometres of the Parramatta central business district. It is the largest bushland remnant surviving in the Parramatta Local Government Area. It is also recognised as one of the most significant and beautiful bushland remnants in Western Sydney.

We enjoyed the many Eastern Water Dragons that run away when approached as well as the colourful flowers. 




HEI_3735HEI_3735 HEI_3757HEI_3757

More pictures here.


heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia bushwalking dragon eastern lake parramatta water http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2018/1/lake-parramatta-reserve Sun, 31 Dec 2017 17:30:00 GMT
Singapore http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/12/singapore In October, we used our strategic geographic location to visit Singapore--an 8-hour flight that is considered a short flight, given the relative distance of Australia from pretty much everywhere. Singapore, a city-state, is comprised of 75% Chinese, 13% Malay, 9% Indians and 3% other minorities where you can do literally hundreds of things.

Gisela and I explored the city at 30 C combined with 90% humidity—the normal conditions in Singapore located only 137 km away from the equator. 

We visited the Gardens by the Bay, with the Cloud Forest Flower Dome probably the most impressive plant display that we ever encountered anywhere. We were impressed by the lushness of the vegetation:


HEI_0263HEI_0263 HEI_0273HEI_0273 HEI_0274HEI_0274 HEI_0301HEI_0301 HEI_0302HEI_0302 HEI_0303HEI_0303 HEI_0333HEI_0333 HEI_0341HEI_0341

HEI_0300HEI_0300 HEI_0297HEI_0297 HEI_0310HEI_0310 HEI_0317HEI_0317

The Super Tree Grove is illuminated at night:

Super Trees

HEI_0580HEI_0580 HEI_0559HEI_0559 HEI_0600HEI_0600 HEI_0563HEI_0563

While walking between the domes, we spotted a Water Monitor Lizard in close proximity to our path:

Water Monitor Lizard

The entrance of the Marina Bay, where the Gardens by the Bay are located, is guarded by the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel. "The complex is topped by a 340-metre-long (1,120 ft) SkyPark with a capacity of 3,900 people and a 150 m (490 ft) infinity swimming pool, set on top of the world's largest public cantilevered platform, which overhangs the north tower by 67 m (220 ft)." HEI_0519HEI_0519

Inside the Marina Bay Sands:

HEI_0450HEI_0450 HEI_0451HEI_0451

More pictures from the Gardens by the Bay here.

We used a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to learn more about Singapore and also to get around. We learned that the port manages 90,000 containers per day making it the largest trans-shipment container port in the world. Singapore has also a thriving medical tourism with half a million foreign patients per year. We also visited Chinatown which is a cultural centre of the city given the large proportion of citizens with Chinese background.

HEI_0189HEI_0189 HEI_0458HEI_0458 HEI_0471HEI_0471 HEI_0460HEI_0460 HEI_0172HEI_0172 HEI_0542HEI_0542 HEI_0729HEI_0729 HEI_0738HEI_0738

HEI_0744HEI_0744 HEI_0743HEI_0743 HEI_0782HEI_0782 HEI_0790HEI_0790 HEI_0764HEI_0764 HEI_0749HEI_0749 IMG_0607IMG_0607 IMG_0679IMG_0679 IMG_0657IMG_0657

More Singapore pictures here.

Based on recommendation by our Faculty’s General Manager who is from Singapore, we had breakfast  at Tiong Bahru and actually found something to eat from the thousands of different offerings. Our breakfast was delicious, but it was so much that we could not finish the SGD 3.50 meals.


HEI_0612HEI_0612 HEI_0614HEI_0614   HEI_0625HEI_0625

HEI_0663HEI_0663 HEI_0643HEI_0643 HEI_0641HEI_0641  

  HEI_0688HEI_0688 HEI_0690HEI_0690 HEI_0693HEI_0693

More pictures from Tiong Bahru here.

On our last evening, we had dinner at the Salt grill & Sky bar on level 55 of ION Orchard in the heart of Singapore enjoying the stunning panoramic views of the city and sea. As we only left at 10 pm from Singapore flying overnight back to Sydney, we spent our last day at the Singapore Botanic Gardens with its National Orchid Garden that impressed us beyond comprehension. The variety and lushness of orchids seen here appeared to be unreal and we wondered several times if these are actually real plants or fake ones. Since 1859, orchids have been closely associated with the Gardens. The products of the Gardens' orchid breeding programme brings over 2000 hybrids to the Orchid Garden. Due to the high humidity, we speculated that the gardeners are mostly busy cutting back the overgrow, but pretty much everything else is taken care by the natural conditions in Singapore. We also learned that Singapore is the biggest orchid exporter in the world—we did not need to be convinced to believe this as orchids grow everywhere like weeds.

HEI_0806HEI_0806 HEI_0800HEI_0800 HEI_0832HEI_0832 HEI_0833HEI_0833 HEI_0823HEI_0823 HEI_0860HEI_0860 HEI_0869HEI_0869 HEI_0864HEI_0864 HEI_0895HEI_0895 HEI_0897HEI_0897 HEI_0825HEI_0825 HEI_0899HEI_0899 HEI_0930HEI_0930   HEI_0913HEI_0913 HEI_0933HEI_0933 HEI_0855HEI_0855

When leaving the Botanic Garden, we observed huge catfish, a water monitor lizard and turtles in a large pond:

HEI_1004HEI_1004 HEI_0988HEI_0988 HEI_0949HEI_0949

More pictures from Singapore Botanic Garden here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) bay by garden gardens national orchid singapore the http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/12/singapore Wed, 27 Dec 2017 22:49:04 GMT
Cairns, Queensland http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/10/cairns-queensland In August 2017, we flew to Cairns to explore the tropical north of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. We landed in Cairns in the evening, right on time to explore the city’s landmark Esplanade which fringes around the shoreline for two kilometres.

Esplanade, Cairns Esplanade, Cairns We saw a colony of huge Australian Pelicans and Fig Birds. We enjoyed a seafood dinner right next to the boats at sunset.                                                             Australian Pelicans   Fig Bird sunset, Cairns                                                                                                      
The next morning, we took a ferry to Green Island for a day of snorkelling.

Green Island

While snorkelling, we saw a sea turtle eating underwater as well as starfish and all kinds of tropical fish including coral eating parrot fish.


I explored the Green Island National Park in the afternoon letting the drone fly above the water for over a kilometre away. We also watched Pale White-eyes, feeding in bushes along the western shore of the island.

Taking a break from the water, we headed to Wet Tropics World Heritage in Kuranda on Saturday. However, I first spent two hours in the early morning at the shoreline to view the sunrise over the bay.

HEI_7696HEI_7696 HEI_7709HEI_7709 After a bus ride to the station, we entered the area via the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway across the canopy of the rainforest.

HEI_7728HEI_7728 HEI_7750HEI_7750

HEI_7753HEI_7753 During the trip, we learned from a botanist that a small part of the rainforest plants grow taller than the canopy of the rainforest, and these plants are collectively referred to as "Emergent" trees. The mature Kauri Pine is an example of such a rainforest giant that uses as little leaves as possible to work up and concentrate on the sunny place to grow. It is continuously peeling bark to shed all other plants that might grow on its bark. The Kauri Pine can grow up to 50 meters, is the tallest tree species in Queensland. However, it is difficult to determine the age of these trees as there is no dry season so all plants grow all year around, resulting in the absence of any growth rings.

Kauri Pine

We also saw a blooming King Orchid that flowers only every 3-4 years and wilts after just a few days.

King Orchid

The Southern Cassowary is a huge endangered seed eating bird. They are usually shy birds, but are dangerous and unpredictable as they use their clawed toes as weapons, jumping and kicking with both feet at once. We learned that the rainforest plants need big seeds because they require a lot of food reserves for the seedling to get to sun. So big seeds mean big seeds eaters. In fact some plants will die out if not passed through the Cassowary's gentle digestive system.


eggs, Southern Cassowary

We looked at the Barron Falls that carried almost no water at this time of the year, but can become dramatic water falls after a Cyclone. The falls are located in the traditional homelands of the Djabugay Aboriginal people. We read about the Barron Gorge Hydro-Electrical Station that produces 60 Megawatt and was commissioned in 1963.

Barron Falls
In Kuranda, we first visited the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary which is the largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit in the Southern Hemisphere with over 2,000 butterflies from a variety of species. We spent most of our time in the main aviary, but also checked out the laboratory and the egg laying area. We were most impressed by the Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion)--the largest of all Australian butterflies found along northeastern Australia. "The female’s wingspan can measure 18cm. As soon as adult butterflies hatch they mate quickly because they only live for 4 to 5 weeks.”

Cairns Birdwing They are mating only once in their lifetime—between 8 and 14 hours with the male hanging upside down.

Cairns Birdwing, mating

In the hatching area, we saw a Hercules Moth appearing from its cocoon. This is the world’s largest moth that is only found in North Queensland and New Guinea. "The largest Hercules moth ever recorded was a huge female caught in 1948 at Innisfail, just south of Cairns. The Guinness Book of Records states it had an incredible wingspan of 36cm (14.17 inches).”

We then visited the Australian Venom Zoo which also serves as harvesting station for spider, scorpion and snake venom. The dungeon-like facility showed some of the most venomous snakes of Australia, and the world, on display. One of the harmless snakes was trained to be carried around the neck by tourists. 

On our way back, we used the Kuranda Scenic Rail—a historical railway line established in 1891. But before we boarded the train, I had my drone explore the Barron River near the Kuranda Railway Station. 

The next morning we explored the Great Barrier Reef from a boat. We signed up for a full day snorkelling tour including lunch on the boat. It took the boat about two hours to reach the outer reef. 

HEI_8699HEI_8699 HEI_8700HEI_8700 IMG_9568IMG_9568 IMG_9576IMG_9576



On our departure day, we visited the Cairns Botanic Garden with its unbelievable diversity of tropical plants. We saw many heliconias, cacti, orchids, bromelia and tropical trees, such as Teak with huge leaves.

HEI_8738HEI_8738 HEI_8818HEI_8818

HEI_8807HEI_8807 HEI_8803HEI_8803

HEI_8823HEI_8823 HEI_8782HEI_8782

We were particularly impressed by the Tassel Ferns that evolved 400 million years ago—150 million years before flowering plants.

HEI_8741HEI_8741 HEI_8739HEI_8739

Many leaves were of enormous size.

HEI_8845HEI_8845 HEI_8769HEI_8769

Other plants showed spikes on their stems to scare off any unwanted guests.

HEI_8801HEI_8801 IMG_9625IMG_9625

Near the mangroves, we were able to observe Mudskippers and colourful Fiddler Crabs.


HEI_8960HEI_8960 HEI_8955HEI_8955 HEI_8939HEI_8939 HEI_8940HEI_8940

More pictures here.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) australia barrier great green island kuranda queensland reef http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/10/cairns-queensland Mon, 09 Oct 2017 09:08:32 GMT
Adelaide and Kangaroo Island http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/10/adelaide-and-kangaroo-island In Adelaide, I attended the International Association for Dental Research (IADR) Australia and New Zealand Conference that was held at the Adelaide Health and Medical Sciences building, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, and was hosted by the Adelaide Dental School.


While in South Australia, Gisela and I could not miss a visit to the Penfolds Winery at Magill Estate Cellar Door, the birthplace for some of the most famous Australian winemaking stories, dating back to 1844.

HEI_9048HEI_9048 HEI_9057HEI_9057 HEI_9061HEI_9061 HEI_9066HEI_9066

The Magill Estate Cellar Door offers fine dining and serene views of Penfolds first vineyard. It’s located just 8 kilometres from Adelaide CBD in the sheltered haunches of the Mounty Lofty Ranges, making it one of the world’s few urban single vineyards.

HEI_9047HEI_9047 After the success of early sherries and fortified wines, founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold planted their vine cuttings they had carried on their voyage over to Australia. In 1844 the fledgeling vineyard was officially established as the Penfolds wine company at Magill Estate. In 1948, history was made again as Max Schubert became the company’s first Chief Winemaker.


A loyal company man and true innovator, Schubert would propel Penfolds onto the global stage with his experimentation of long-lasting wines - the creation of Penfolds Grange in the 1950s. In 1959 (while Schubert was perfecting his Grange experiment in secret), the tradition of ‘bin wines’ began. Here all the vintages of the Grange in a long row.


The first, a Shiraz wine with the grapes of the company’s own Barossa Valley vineyards was simply named after the storage area of the cellars where it is aged. And so Kalimna Bin 28 became the first official Penfolds Bin number wine. In 1988 Schubert was named Decanter Magazine’s Man of the Year, and on the 50th anniversary of its birth, Penfolds Grange was given a heritage listing in South Australia. After the tour and the wine tasting, we enjoyed a tasting menu of (1) mussels + lemongrass + chilli, (2) beef tartare + fries + béarnaise, (3) roasted cauliflower + lemon + nuts, (4) snapper + parsnip + beetroot crisp + cassalinga, and as last course (5) chocolate parfait + honeycomb + ginger + rhubarb. And of course, all with wine pairing. 

HEI_9055HEI_9055 HEI_9064HEI_9064 HEI_9054HEI_9054 HEI_9119HEI_9119

On Wednesday, we started our 3-day vacation on Kangaroo Island, the third largest island off the coast of Australia with a population of 4,600 on an area of 4,416 square kilometres (155 kilometres long and up to 55 kilometres wide). We rented a cabin at Hanson Bay. Due to its isolation, the impact of  European settlement is minimal on the island’s flora and fauna. When accessing the island via the SeaLink car ferry, many warning signs make visitors aware of the dangers of contaminating this pristine island with pests only found on the mainland.

IMG_0110IMG_0110 HEI_9169HEI_9169 It also features the oldest bee sanctuary in the world being home to the only pure strain of Ligurian Bee stock. Fifty stationary bee hives at Hanson Bay produce honey on a 20,000 acres foraging area which is 90% old growth native woodlands and 10% native grassland. 

HEI_9917HEI_9917 HEI_9903HEI_9903 IMG_0275IMG_0275

HEI_9573HEI_9573 HEI_9435HEI_9435   HEI_9398HEI_9398

Arriving at our cabin at Hanson Bay, we enjoyed the spectacular ocean view of the rugged coast and Southern Ocean and learned that we were surrounded by the 2,000 hectares (5,000 acres) Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.  

HEI_9629-EditHEI_9629-Edit HEI_9650HEI_9650 HEI_9672HEI_9672

Porch at Hanson Bay Cabin.

On Thursday, we visited the Koala Walk among Eucalyptus trees. Koalas are an introduced species on Kangaroo Island with their population exploding in the past years.

HEI_9187HEI_9187 HEI_9204HEI_9204 HEI_9218HEI_9218 HEI_9252HEI_9252 HEI_9304HEI_9304 HEI_9313HEI_9313 HEI_9331HEI_9331 HEI_9347HEI_9347

HEI_9377HEI_9377 HEI_9385HEI_9385

During our visit, while walking between the Eucalyptus trees and in an open grassland area observing the Wallabies, we were attacked by Australian Magpies. We were able to find many of the Cape Barren Geese, the rarest geese in the world. 

HEI_9419HEI_9419 HEI_9495HEI_9495 HEI_9527HEI_9527 HEI_9517HEI_9517

On Friday, we visited the Remarkable Rocks, a formation of rocks that was exposed to erosion (heating, wetting, cooling and drying)  for the last 200 million years creating a granite dome.

HEI_9683HEI_9683 HEI_9694-EditHEI_9694-Edit HEI_9706HEI_9706 HEI_9739-EditHEI_9739-Edit

Near the Remarkable Rocks, we saw a colony of Australian sea lions and Long-nosed fur seals at Admirals Arch. We explored the board walk at Seal Bay.

HEI_9823HEI_9823 HEI_9866HEI_9866 HEI_9854HEI_9854 HEI_9815HEI_9815

We also saw Echidnas, but only as road kill, but these egg laying mammals can sometimes be seen when they forage for ants. While our first visit to the platypus water holes was unsuccessful, we drove to the same location later at night again and saw for first time in the wild these very elusive animals coming. They came out when it was almost dark, so my pictures leave much to be desired.  

IMG_0263IMG_0263   HEI_9942HEI_9942

On Saturday morning, we drove at dawn back to the SeaLink ferry. During the 150 kilometre drive we stopped counting the kangaroos and wallabies on street when we hit about 50 and estimate that we saw far more than 100 hopping animals on the road... which made as slow down so much that we almost missed the ferry.

HEI_9923HEI_9923 IMG_0195IMG_0195 IMG_0200IMG_0200 HEI_9925HEI_9925

Here are more pictures.

heiko@spallek.com (Heiko Spallek | digital imaging) adelaide australia barossa penfolds valley http://photos.spallek.com/blog/2017/10/adelaide-and-kangaroo-island Mon, 09 Oct 2017 09:08:13 GMT
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.

HEI_6394HEI_6394 HEI_6393HEI_6393
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.

HEI_6418HEI_6418 HEI_6442HEI_6442 HEI_6422HEI_6422 HEI_6432HEI_6432


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.

HEI_6679HEI_6679 HEI_6672HEI_6672

We also saw some kits and many large spiders. In the evening, we drove back to Darwin. 
HEI_6636HEI_6636 HEI_6657HEI_6657

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.

HEI_4403HEI_4403 HEI_4404HEI_4404 HEI_4405HEI_4405 HEI_4410HEI_4410


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.

HEI_6772HEI_6772 HEI_6749HEI_6749   HEI_6989HEI_6989 HEI_6990HEI_6990

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


HEI_6885HEI_6885 HEI_6879HEI_6879 HEI_6830HEI_6830 HEI_6818HEI_6818 HEI_6789HEI_6789 HEI_6837HEI_6837

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.

HEI_6886HEI_6886 HEI_6887HEI_6887 IMG_3315IMG_3315

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”.



A short drone flight gave us a good overview of the area and provided stunning visuals.

Next, we went to Katherine, an important crossroad 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 explored by a Scotsman in 1862. 

HEI_5539HEI_5539 HEI_5530HEI_5530

HEI_5697HEI_5697 HEI_5698HEI_5698 HEI_5718HEI_5718 HEI_5696HEI_5696
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. 

HEI_5892HEI_5892 HEI_5821HEI_5821 HEI_5873HEI_5873 HEI_5547HEI_5547 HEI_6026HEI_6026 HEI_6014HEI_6014 HEI_6050HEI_6050 HEI_6048HEI_6048 HEI_6101HEI_6101

We saw crocodile indicators made of a plastic float that gets 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. 

I took a time lapse video during the tour:

The sandstone in the Gorge has three colours: white signifying the original sandstone, black showing the dormant stage of an alga 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.

HEI_6289HEI_6289 HEI_6285HEI_6285 HEI_6287HEI_6287 HEI_6295HEI_6295

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 freshwater crocs and that 200 meters behind the house is the Adelaide River (well, stream 20 m wide) where there are salties, aka saltwater crocs.  

HEI_6310HEI_6310 HEI_6312HEI_6312
Early next morning, Gisela and I walked around on Mount Bunny Station observing the farm animals, including the Water Buffalos and Peacocks.

HEI_6376HEI_6376 HEI_6384HEI_6384

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 Territory, 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!

HEI_4476HEI_4476 HEI_4597HEI_4597 HEI_4531HEI_4531 HEI_4605HEI_4605 HEI_4506HEI_4506   HEI_4524HEI_4524

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.

HEI_4788HEI_4788 HEI_4828-EditHEI_4828-Edit

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.  

HEI_4845HEI_4845 HEI_4867HEI_4867 HEI_4864HEI_4864 HEI_4873HEI_4873 HEI_4879HEI_4879

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.


HEI_4436HEI_4436 IMG_9029IMG_9029 HEI_4948HEI_4948 HEI_4941HEI_4941

HEI_4916HEI_4916 HEI_4919HEI_4919

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.

DJI_0035DJI_0035 DJI_0039DJI_0039

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.

HEI_4708HEI_4708   HEI_4718HEI_4718 HEI_4973HEI_4973 HEI_5109HEI_5109 HEI_5136HEI_5136   HEI_5411HEI_5411 HEI_5291HEI_5291


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.

shark eggs shark eggs

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.

HEI_4287HEI_4287 HEI_4260HEI_4260 HEI_4363HEI_4363 HEI_4375HEI_4375

"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)

HEI_4334HEI_4334 HEI_4341HEI_4341

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

HEI_4294HEI_4294 HEI_4345HEI_4345 HEI_4360HEI_4360 HEI_4352HEI_4352

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. 

Map Long ReefMap Long Reef

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.

Eastern Osprey Eastern Osprey Eastern Osprey Eastern Osprey

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

Australian Pelican

HEI_4101HEI_4101 HEI_4102HEI_4102

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.

IMG_2086IMG_2086 IMG_2049IMG_2049

Driving can be challenging on dirt roads.

Driving on Dirt Road HEI_6532-EditHEI_6532-Edit


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

Moree Moree

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.

Umbrellas    MCA

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:

Silverton Silverton Silverton Silverton

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.

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine

HEI_7848Day Dream Mine HEI_7848Day Dream Mine


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

Miners Memorial Miners Memorial Miners Memorial Miners Memorial Miners Memorial

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. 

Roobars Roobars Roobars Roobars Roobars

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.

Reptiles Reptiles Reptiles Reptiles Reptiles Reptiles

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

Living Desert and Sculptures Living Desert and Sculptures Living Desert and Sculptures
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