Perth is known as the most remote city in the world. It has an edge of the world feeling, yet it is also strangely familiar (comparable to San Diego in terms of weather, demographics, size, and vibes). Same climate, sunny weather, surfboards, and carefree locals. It also features many unique places to photograph - that's if you can get past one minor thing...
Behind the scenes video.
It took three flights and 24 hours to get to Perth. It was my first time back to Australia in 25 years, so I was so excited to get another glimpse into the land down under. In fact, Australia was the first international destination I had ever been to (Sydney and Melbourne) and I was fascinated by the unique wildlife. I decided to visit the west side of this country and see Perth because it is relatively close to Indonesia, where I had been staying.
However upon arrival, I had the strangest customs encounter of my life.
"Why are you here?" - the customs officer asked
"I am visiting Perth" -me
"Do you have family or friends here?"
"What are you planning to see?"
"Pinnacles National Park"
"That's two hours away"
"I know. I am headed there right after this."
"You are going all the way there in a day?"
"Yes" - Mind you, it's 10am at this time.
"When does your tour start?"
"I don't have one. I am renting a car"
"When do you leave Australia?"
"Tomorrow at noon"
"That's an awfully short trip"
"Yes I know"
"Why such a short trip?"
The questions went on...
"What else are you planning to see" "Where are you staying" ...
Then a second officer asked us the same questions. They didn't stamp our passport. They didn't wish us a nice trip. They were in complete shock that they had visitors. Granted we were there for a short time, but with a welcome like that, it would seem like no one travels there. However, the Pinnacles and Nambung National Park attracts over 190,000 visitors per year.
Let me break it down for the travelers and customs officers out there on what Western Australia has to offer. Yes, Perth is remote but it is a city surrounded by many natural wonders, wildlife, and wineries which warrant it a visit.
I'll let the photos do the talking:
1. Pinnacles and Nambung National Park
Two hours north of Perth is the Nambung National Park. The drive is mostly isolated, starting with about 25 miles of upscale suburbs, and the next 100 miles of lone range outback scenery. Along the way, we spotted some road signs that said "wildlife in the area" with a picture of a kangaroo and an emu. That's something you don't see everyday.
Finally the scenery started changing. Pure white sand dunes emerged along the Indian Ocean on the left side of the road, which was indigo blue. Then we reached the Pinnacles. This national park features golden sands and thousand of tall stone pillars, some reaching 3.5 meters tall. They are like ancient desert sculptures. Visitors can walk, hike "aka bushwalk", or drive through the park. It looked like we were on another planet.
The park had a small visitor center but no restaurant, so we headed into the nearby town of Cervantes, a small cray-fishing town next to a windsurfing beach. Small - meaning one gas station, a handful of houses, and a bait shop.
On our way out of the park, we spotted a little critter along the road. It was a kangaroo! The kangaroo was eating grass along the roadside. We stopped to take photos of him. He continued to eat grass for a few minutes. Then he hopped away into the bushes. His feet were like spring boards (below is the kangaroo in mid-air). It was one of the coolest moments in all of my travels.
We reached a "country club" restaurant which was a very basic looking bar where you could order food. They sold the catch of the day, lobster, and Western Australian wine. It was a great ending to a rather strange start in Australia.
2. Fremantle Harbor
Fremantle is a city with a 200 year old history, beautiful 19th century buildings, naval sea port, and al fresco restaurants. It is also Perth's port. We stayed at the Be Apartments, located alongside the harbor. The apartments had harbor views and even included bike rentals. The city had bike and walking paths that wind through the city streets and parks. There is enough to do in this town to warrant a weekend visit.
3. Swan Valley
The Swan Valley is 3 hour south of Perth and contains Western Australia's numerous wineries. They are known for their tasty and pallet cleansing sauv blancs, as well the beautiful nature along the Margaret River. In our short trip, we did not have time for this, but we did taste the wine which was excellent.
The next day we had to leave. This time I asked the customs officers for a stamp on my passport (one of my proudest stamps and most difficult to obtain!).
So there you have it, that why we traveled all the way to Western Australia. Sometimes the places that are the hardest to get to are also the most rewarding. If you can get past the long flights and snarky customs officers, you will surly enjoy a treat in Perth.
Rotura is a unique area on the north island of New Zealand that offers many sites for photography lovers. This destination was not originally on my itinerary, but after much research I decided to extend my trip to include Rotorua. It ended up being well worth it. This area offers stunning geothermal sites, Maori culture, and entertainment which nicknamed the area Roto-vegas. The first thing you notice when visiting Rotorua is that the entire area smells of sulfur. Also, there is steam emanating from the ground in all directions. But that is only the beginning. The wonders of the geothermal sites will literally take your breath away, if the sulfur smell hadn't already.
Watch the behind the scenes video:
Music Credit: Beyonce "Haunted" | All videos shot with iPhone 6 | Editing: iMovie & Hyperlapse
The top attractions to photograph in Rotorua are:
Waiotapu Thermal Springs: This scenic geothermal area is about a half hour from Rotoua and contains a geyser, champagne pool, artist palate, and bubbling mud pools (all of which are featured in the video). The path around the area is about a two mile walk, with each of the sites clearly marked. You will see geothermal pools in wild colors, from neon green to neon yellow. The ground is also covered in colors that range from orange to bright green from the sulfur. If you time the trip right, you can see the geyser erupt.
Te Puia: This is the Maori cultural center that features a recreated Maori village, complete with basket weaving activities, wood carving areas, musical performance, and of course- food. The guide takes you through the unique Maori traditions and explains how they adapted to their geothermal surroundings, utilizing the boiling pools for cooking. The site is also situated on a geothermal area where you can see the Pohutu Geyser, which erupts to 35 meters high!
Rotorua Museum of Art: This museum is also worth seeing as it contains an interesting collection of Maori artifacts.
This photo shoot takes us to a destination known for its open spaces, mythical landscapes, and tropical beaches. It is a location that has inspired many epic movies, including The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, and Chronicles of Narnia films. It is a place that has been on my bucket list for years from the time I first saw the images of the otherworldly landscapes. New Zealand!
The trip was so epic that it deserves multiple blog posts to cover the different regions within the north and south island. In this post, take a peek into our visit to Rotorua, a geothermal wonderland on the north island:
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