Hajar mountains
The public holidays over Christmas and New Year provides a nice little break and this year I decided to do something with them by heading to Dubai and Muscat. Spent a few stress free days in Muscat lazing around the hotel but took a 4WD tour out into the Hajar mountains. Turned out to be just me and the driver taking the wadi road to Wadi Bani Awf and then up the mountain road and over to Nizwa. Amazingly beautiful countryside and I now wish I had organised more tours out into it.

Burj al Arab

Inside the Burj Al Arab
Words fail me nearly completely! What an amazing hotel with equally amazing service. Yes it’s outrageously expensive to stay there and Christmas Day/Boxing Day was probably less than ideal timing but the two level suite is more like an apartment and the service from the floor customer service person and the butler was impeccable. Hired a helicopter to do a tour of Dubai which meant my floor customer service person finally got to visit the helipad when he escorted me up there! Finished my stay with a great afternoon tea before taking Etihad’s chauffeur service back to Abu Dhabi airport and my flight to Muscat.

Photo Books and Calendars

On my return from the Faroe Islands and Iceland, and after seeing Ren Provo’s Indian photo book, I decided to give one a go. My first problem though was I wanted to include place names in their native Faroese or Icelandic and that presents a problem to most systems that only accept text in US-ASCII. Both have the letter “eth” (Ð) and Icelandic also has the letter “thorn” (Þ). Fortunately PicPress in Australia supports multi-lingual text (not sure about Asian scripts but certainly accented latin characters and eth and thorn) so that made the decision for me. It was more expensive than using Shutterfly (like Ren) but I got the text I wanted and the output was quite nice. One thing I didn’t like was their requirement to leave packages at your door should you not be in (and I wasn’t).
There are lots of sites that also produce Calendars and although I haven’t produced any as yet I’ve created a couple at RedBubble and–sland and will see how they turn out once I can be home when they are delivered.

Faroe Islands and Iceland

In August I took a 3 week holiday in the North Atlantic. Firstly I went to the Faroe Islands (Føroyar) and spend a week on their inter island buses visiting Tórshavn (the capital), Klaksvík (in the northern islands), Runavík and Sørvágur (plus some villages along the way). It has spectacular scenery and crazy sheep, that must know how to abseil 🙂

Definitely a place to visit if you want to escape the tourists and enjoy the countryside.

The second major stop was Reykjavík in Iceland, where I was joined for a couple of days by Hollie and Paul. More spectacular scenery and more tourists. We did the “standard” Golden Circle tour, although we travelled in style in a SUV rather than a coach and that allowed us to vary the tour and most importantly go at our own pace. After Hollie and Paul returned to their family holiday I went out to the Westman Island (Vestmannaeyjar) and finally caught up with some Puffins on the wing (although they were no longer nesting so you couldn’t get close).

Zimmerman House

Another Frank Lloyd Wright house to add to the visited list. The Zimmerman House is located in the north end of Manchester, New Hampshire. It is an Usonian house designed in 1950 for Dr. Isadore and Lucille Zimmerman.

Techs in Paradise 2008

DSC_1703Techs in Paradise is the joint “Joint Techs” and “APAN” meeting held every couple of years in Hawaii. It’s a pity that it has to be Honolulu but that’s where the main campus of the University of Hawaii is located. Anyway it gives me the opportunity to take photographs of the sunset when I can escape the meetings & the bar 🙂

Mauna Kea again

DSC_1516Third visit to Mauna Kea and it seemed like it was going to mirror my first visit when we heard that the road to the summit was closed due to icy conditions. Fortunately subsequent messages were more promising and so we set off for lunch at “HP” and would evaluate the situation after lunch. By the time we arrived at the visitor centre conditions looked good and so we were on for tours of both Gemini North and Keck.

The guides at both Gemini North and Keck were excellent and the tours were quite comprehensive. At Keck we disappointed a tour group, who were only allowed in the visitors’ gallery, when we were escorted past them into the observatory. At both facilities we were allowed to check out the primary mirrors close up and Keck even moved the telescope around and allowed us (one at a time) into the mirror barn to have a look at the recently coated mirrors.

Volcanoes National Park

DSC_1432Volcanoes National Park is a surreal place even without flowing lava. I flew in direct from Australia (via Tokyo and Honolulu) to Hilo and was picked up by Paul and Hollie and after a very nice pizza for lunch we headed up to the national park. We had booked in for Thursday night at Volcano House and while it was very tempting to just crash I decided that a drive around Crater Rim Drive would be interesting. This turned out to be an excellent idea since it was fairly quiet and the following day Rangers were recommending that people not get out of their cars near the Halema`uma`u crater due the sulfur level in the fumes. When we were there it was pretty bad, made worse when the wind picked up an blew them at us.

On Friday we visited the Thurston Lava Tube and then headed down Chain of Craters road. After an earthquake last year the flow of lava has changed and it is no longer visible but there are plenty of scenic lookouts down the road and the “end of the road” is quite an interesting area.

Home again

A month away is just the right length of holiday, enough time to relax without going crazy.


IMG_0749As is usual I broke my journey home in Singapore. My visit nearly coincided with Singapore’s National Day holiday. Saturday turned out to be a rehearsal for the celebrations and naturally they were centered near where I was staying, around the Marina area. I got to see a few flyovers, especially a Chinook that continually passed over the city. People wanting a Duck Tour would have been disappointed since the water seemed to be out of bounds with the Navy playing with their boats.

Singapore’s answer to the London Eye, Singapore Flyer, is taking shape with one capsule attached. While it is still officially scheduled to be completed in March 2008 there is hope it will be ready for Valentine’s day.