Ben Grubb | Photography

The Land(s) Down Under…

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General, Photography, Travel | Leave a comment

  

It’s been a little while since my last post here, and it’s fair to say that a lot has happened. I am now a happily married man, and my wife and I have recently moved to north London. Thankfully it’s been over ten years since I had to take my driving test otherwise I could have been on course for the hat trick of the most stressful things you can do in your life!…

Actually, that’s not totally fair. The organisation of the wedding, by the end, was getting pretty stressful, but the day itself was amazing! I always slightly suspected that the whole “greatest-day-of-your-life” thing was a bit of a cliche, and something people just thought they had to say, but after doing it myself, I have to say that it is totally true! Simply the greatest party ever with all your friends, family and loved ones in the same room – you can’t go too far wrong really. Everything went to plan and all the guests seemed to enjoy themselves. I definitely felt that I could have done with another six hours or so to get round and properly speak to everyone, but come 3am when I finally went to bed, I was totally exhausted.

The fun wasn’t over then though, oh no! We still had the honeymoon to look forward to. A honeymoon that would take my new wife and I pretty much as far as it is possible to travel before you start coming back on yourself. Yep, we were off to explore Australia and New Zealand! The honeymoon destination was one of the first things we decided on (after the photographer: my friend Amy Murrell who did an amazing job). Snoo is very well travelled, far more so than me, however New Zealand was one of the places she’d never visited so it seemed like the perfect once-in-a-lifetime destination for us.

We’d booked to be away for three weeks, but when you factor in that it takes a day to travel each way, we decided that we’d need to head off the day after the wedding. It took a little mental preparation on my part for the flight, but it turned out to be not as bad as I was expecting. I’m sure the Premium Economy seats (check us out!) helped a lot, but I think after such a hectic build up to the wedding, it was nice to just have some downtime with nothing to do other than relax, watch films and pretend to sleep. Despite the length of the flight, the jet lag wasn’t too bad, and after accidentally falling asleep at 5pm on the first night, we got ourselves onto Antipodean time fairly quickly. We were still getting up early, but it’s always so much easier on holiday, isn’t it? We also used the early mornings to get out and shoot photos and timelapses around the city, and explore parts of Sydney in relative quiet. It was exciting.

This trip would be unusual for us, as it comprised of almost no climbing and a lot of “touristy” stuff. During our time in Sydney (which book-ended the trip) we would take a tour of the Sydney Opera House (I became pretty obsessed with it. Not only is it an incredibly iconic and beautiful building, but it has a fascinating history too), go up the Sky Tower, visit a friend in Manly and visit the world famous Taronga Zoo…

After a few days recovering and sight seeing, it was back to the airport and onto New Zealand. The scale of Australia is hard to take in, and where as I thought that the flight to New Zealand would be a short hope over the water, like travelling to France from the UK, it’s actually a good three hour flight. We were both very excited to visit a new country though and after a night spent with friends in Auckland it was good to stretch our legs (so to speak) and do a bit of driving. We only had a few days in the North Island but we managed to fit a lot in. We covered a lot of ground in our little hire car, and saw a good chunk of the island. Starting in Auckland we drove down to Waitomo (where we went Black Water Rafting – which I enjoyed a lot more than I was expecting) onto Ohkune, and along the Whanganui river road finally ending up in Palmerston North where we’d take a flight to the South Island. During this time I, and my already long suffering wife, shot a lot of photos and timelapses of the landscape. During a seminar by legendary film maker Philip Bloom which I attended last year about timelapse photography, he described it as the modern day equivalent to course fishing, and I think that is a great analogy. You set up somewhere, often very picturesque, and sit and wait for your camera(s) to finish doing it’s thing. This ended up being perfect for our trip. It slowed the pace down, and we’d often stop for an hour at a time at a stunning vista point and really, properly enjoy the view. It’s made for a very different experience to just pulling the car over, grabbing a quick wish-you-were-here snap and carrying on with your journey. Again, after the very hectic months previously, it was a welcome spot of relaxation. I really felt like we *saw* New Zealand…

From Palmerston North, we boarded a tiny little plane, through an equally tiny airport to fly to Queenstown. Even this internal flight (with a change in Christchurch) the flight to the South Island was longer than expected. It has to be said though, it was one of the most incredible flights ever. I thought that the North Island was beautiful, but the South is something else again! Flying over it felt like being in a huge Lord of the Rings establishing shot. It’s clear to see why they shot those films there as it does look like a fantasy world!

Queenstown was/is definitely my kind of place. It’s location at the foot of some impressive mountains makes it a hot bed for mountain biking, skiing and surfing, and as such, has the sort of vibe you’d expect. Like a cross between Boulder, CO and Newquay. Very relaxed and friendly, and bathed in plenty of apparently unseasonable sunshine. It even has a Disc Golf course which was great fun. Queenstown is also the home to the first ever Bungy Jump location (the Kawarau Bridge bungy), and seeing as we’d come all this way, it seemed wrong not to throw ourselves off a bridge with a glorified elastic band tied to our feet! I think that counts as my ‘do something I’ve never done before’ for 2012! It was over in literally a matter of seconds but it was amazing!

After a couple of days in Queenstown we headed north and west towards Franz Josef which delivered a Helicopter ride to the top of the Franz Josef glacier and some beautifully clear nights, perfect for some astrolapse photography (below is a stacked, single image of one of the timelapse sequences I shot in Franz Josef)…

…And a few more from Franz Josef:

 

Although this was not a climbing trip as such, we still managed to sneak in a cheeky day of bouldering at Castle Hill on our way to Christchurch. The Castle Hill area delivered more amazing scenery and an incredible climbing spot. We only visited Spittle Hill, which apparently is one of the areas which is a little thin on holds. Well, to our eyes at least. Similar to Fontainebleau, you have to look at things a little differently and get creative with what you can use to get yourself up the boulders. We did spend a frustrating couple of hours at the start trying to get our bearings as well as getting into the Castle Hill way of climbing. Being a rather friction dependant area, the fact it was in the mid to high 20′s didn’t really help but we found a few shady problems and get a few things ticked.

Christchurch was the last stop on our whistle stop tour of New Zealand, and it certainly left an impression. Christchurch is definitely a very beautiful city, especially when wandering through it’s vast and beautiful parks in the autumn sun. The fact that the city was struck by two huge earthquakes within a matter of months of each other, and seeing the devastation they cased is incredibly sobering. The bulk of the city centre is cordoned off while many buildings (including, potentially, the cathedral) have to be demolished and rebuilt. Looking over the barriers surrounding this portion of the city at the empty streets is like looking to some kind of post-apocalyptic landscape. I can’t imagine what it must have been, and still be, like to have to deal with something like that. The destruction wasn’t the only thing about Christchurch that left a lasting impression though. Since many of the shops in the city were either destroyed or closed, many have reopened in the form a small shipping container mall. When I heard about this, I thought it would be more like a market with containers instead of stalls. I clearly grossly underestimated the people of Christchurch! No, these were proper, fully finished shops and cafes with floor to ceiling windows and everything you’d expect from a more conventional brick and concrete store, but all contained within brightly painted steel. It was definitely a superb thing to witness first hand. A few random shots from Christchurch…

So, that was it for New Zealand, but we still had another week to look forward as we boarded a plane bound for Cairns in northern Australia. After a couple of weeks of pretty full on driving and moving from place to place we slowed things down a little with a four night stay in Cairns. We had planned to just spend some time sitting by the pool and on the beach, but we soon got twitchy after a morning of that, so on the second day we rented a car and did a big, looping drive around the area. The most exciting part being able to see some Koalas up close which was great! I didn’t feel like I could leave Australia without seeing them, and they didn’t let me down. Snoo pretty much melted at the sight of them which was entertaining to watch. They are very cute! This is Gina who we got to hold for a few minutes…

A day of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef followed which was yet another incredible experience, and luckily for me we chose a warm, sunny and most importantly calm day to head out on the ocean waves. It was a very long day (leaving at 8:30am and getting back around 5pm) and I think everyone on the boat had a great time, with the exception of a young girl of about ten or eleven who more or less spent the entire eight hours sat on the stairs outside with her face buried in a paper bag. I really felt really bad for her, but also thankfully that it wasn’t me, which it could well have been. As it turned out, we had a great time swimming with the fishes (not like that), even if we didn’t get to see everything we want (namely “Nemo’s” and Turtles).

We flew back from Cairns to Sydney, and that was that. We finished things off with a trip to the zoo and over to Manly, more delicious and very fresh seafood and a few finally timelapses for the road before it was time to fly home. I don’t think we could have asked for a better honeymoon! Pretty much everyone we came into contact with when we were there were very quick to tell us how fortunate we’d been with the weather, and how terrible the summer had been, and indeed we were fortunate. In lots of ways. I don’t know if or when we’ll ever make it back to that part of the world, but I certainly hope we do. There’s still plenty more to see!

I’m not doing it in Economy class though. Just so you know.

If you made it this far through this post, I am very impressed. Apologies for the bombardment of holiday snaps (I know how tedious they can be!). Thanks for reading!

 

 

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