Saturday, 10 September 2016

World Suicide Prevention Day

No matter how alone you feel, there's always someone right in front of you who wants to help you.

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Many of you don't know this (and some of you do) but one of my older brothers committed suicide in 2001 when he was 19 years old.

I can still vividly recall the police officer calling me out as I made my way down the stairwell at uni after class and being led to the faculty office where my mum's best friend was waiting for me - not my mum or dad but my mum's best friend - my whole body was instantly gripped in fear; there could only be one reason she came to get me instead of my parents: something had happened to my parents.

So many people who say that they would do this or they'd do that if this ever happened to them or that ever happened to them but I'm telling you now, no one - and I mean absolutely no one - knows exactly what they would do if they're ever faced with any extreme situation. When the police officer told me that my brother had committed suicide, I screamed. And screamed. And screamed a little bit more.

The aftermath of suicide is awful. My other brother and I think about moments we had with Carlin leading up to the day he died and we sometimes think that if we'd done this or that we could've changed his mind. And, as nearly every parent of a suicide victim does, our parents, who've both passed away since then, blamed themselves for Carlin's suicide. Not only did they have to deal with one of their children dying but they had to deal with the thought that their child was in such a state of mind that he had decided that he couldn't face life any longer and that they didn't do anything to try to help him. 

What we need to realise is, no matter how many things we think we could've done to try to prevent Carlin from jumping off that cliff, it was not our fault. I know that now. You can tell a parent or other family member or friend until they're blue in the face that it's not their fault but it's another thing for that person to actually realise and accept that fact and come to terms with that. In other words, it's a lot easier said than done. In the four years that my mother lived after Carlin's death, I don't think she ever fully realised that she wasn't to blame - this is probably the part that gets me the most nowadays. I've already come to terms that Carlin is gone but it still makes me sad that my mother died without being able to fully realise that she wasn't to blame for his death. 

Sometimes I wonder if the social media age might've made a difference to help Carlin when he needed it. There is just so much more information and help that's available and so easily accessible now compared to 15 years ago. He was well into computers (he used to pull them apart and put them back together again and still worked fine) that I'm sure he would've been on social media had it existed back then.

'Suicide' is not a dirty word; it's not a taboo subject. It's about life and death and trying to save your loved ones; it's about talking about it so that your loved ones can see that they are worth saving and that their life is worth living. It's about showing them how amazing life will be if they let people help them through whatever they may be going through and that they are not alone.

Suicide is also about supporting our friends and family who have lost someone else to suicide already. You don't have to keep quiet about it; suicide is not a reflection of you or your family; it is not something to feel ashamed of; it does not bring shame to your family. 

In hindsight we can see the signs that something was wrong but we missed it. That's why when we see our family and friends, if something doesn't seem quite right, we need to ask that important question: Are you okay?

And following up on that question is even more important.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Sunrise with the Lucky Bay Roos

Sunrise at Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand, Esperance, Western Australia. © T-Rex Photography | Tom Jessett | 2015
Ah, early mornings, don't you love them? Nah, me neither! But when you want to see kangaroos on a beach with sand that's so fine that it squeaks between your toes, you pretty much have to go with the whole early morning thing, which is what we did on Western Australia Day.

A few weeks ago, The Photographer and I were chilling out at home, doing a few housekeeping things for our trip around Australia. As usual, his mind is distracted by conjuring up ideas on what photos he can take that day or the next day or the next weekend or whenever he has any free time whatsoever. And, in following those thoughts, he asks me, 'Do you want to go to Lucky Bay this weekend to see if you can see the kangaroos?' My immediate reaction is 'Yes!' because I haven't seen the kangaroos at Lucky Bay yet, even though I have lived in Esperance for nearly two years and been to Lucky Bay a few times before. Oh my goodness, he's offering me the chance to join him on one of his exciting and fun-filled photography adventures by seeing the kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay! But, there's a catch – it's going to be a sunrise photography adventure...That conversation went a bit like this: Me: 'Ohhh. Right.'Pause.Me: 'Okay, in that case, you'll have to, (1) wake me up, (2) dress me, and (3) carry me into the ute.'Pause.The Photographer: 'Okay, you can go in your pyjamas.'Me: 'Okay.' And with that, the decision was made – we were going to see the sunrise and kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay in my pyjamas! Woohoo! This really got my hopes up. I know I shouldn't have had my hopes though because, even though it's common to see kangaroos at Lucky Bay, it's not a given – mainly because they're wild animals and they're not on any schedule to suddenly appear to entertain tourists who have come to see them in their bog-standard, natural habitat. 
Mama kangaroo hopping away from us.
Now, believe it or not, I was genuinely worried about the whole 'sunrise' part of this trip because I am not a morning person. Usually if I have an 'option' to rise early, after waking up from the alarm, I normally end up refusing to get up (I'm a right grumpy-pants when I'm tired) and leave my poor T-Rex to go out all on his own. Actually, I don't think he particularly enjoys having me around when he's shooting; I get a bored and he feels like he has to rush. But this time, I woke up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! (So to speak.) For clarity: I'm excited. At this point, I'm thinking, 'coffee', so that I don't fall asleep on the way or while we're get there. Although, given how excited I was, I probably didn't need coffee that morning. Anyway, as I start making coffee to take away, the Photographer is looking at me sideways and says to me, 'I was actually thinking of getting coffee and breakfast from the McDonald's drive through with breakfast.' Me: 'Good thinking Batman.' So I left the cold milk in the frother and off we headed to McDonald's drive through for coffee and breakfast before heading to Lucky Bay. 
Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand, Esperance, Western Australia. © T-Rex Photography | Tom Jessett | 2014
Driving out to Lucky Bay from Esperance takes about 45 minutes. If you have a four wheel drive vehicle, then you're allowed to drive along the beach.  I've read one review somewhere that complained that Lucky Bay isn't all it's cracked up to be as the 'best beach in Australia' because the sand is hard and compacted from everyone driving on it – he was sorely disappointed. The second part is true – the sand is hard and compacted because of everyone driving on it – but the first part is a complete misinterpretation of the fact that Esperance has, at some stage, been voted to have the 'best beaches in Australia'. However, Lucky Bay itself has never been voted THE best beach in Australia (which is obvious if you've ever visited Lucky Bay and compared it to other beaches in Esperance and many other Australian beaches – it's true, there are loads of beaches in Australia that are way better than Lucky Bay). Lucky Bay is popular because of the seemingly tame kangaroos on the beaches and the colour of the water. The fact that the colour of the water is famous, however, strikes me as a bit odd really because the water at every other beach in Esperance is that same colour – it's Esperance's standard beach water colour. Also, I think that that particular writer only visited two of the dozens of amazing beaches in Esperance and, in my opinion, having visited many of the beaches here, Lucky Bay is definitely not the best. Of the ones I've been to, my favourites would be Blue Haven, Hellfire Bay and Thistle Cove but that's a whole other post that I won't be getting into here.
 When we arrived at Lucky Bay, it was still dark but with a little glow on the horizon. We park up on the beach just to the left-hand side of the vehicle access, away from the campsite barbecue. As the sky starts to lighten but before the sun has come up over our horizon, The Photographer is noticing that all the clouds are disappearing. In normal people terms, this is awesome because sometimes it means it's going to be a cracker of a day. However, for The Photographer, it's disappointing. Why? Because he won't be able to get any epic reflections of the sunrise over the water, which isn't as good. But, because The Photographer is awesome, I know that he always gets amazing photographs no matter what the weather is doing. So, yeah – meh – I know he'll get some beautiful photos, even if he doesn't think he will! 
Looks are deceiving. That water is freezing. Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand, Esperance, Western Australia. © T-Rex Photography | Tom Jessett | 2015
As The Photographer is setting up his camera and taking photos of the sunrise, I'm somewhere close by, jumping up and down, kicking my legs and jogging around to try and stop my toes from going numb. FYI, it's freezing at Lucky Bay at 6:00am in autumn; you need warm trousers, a jacket and warm shoes...unless you're European, then 10 degrees Celsius is toasty warm and great for swimming in the ocean in your bikini, as did the girl we saw when we were that morning! F**king nuts if you ask me. She was definitely European - Europeans LOVE swimming in freezing cold water; Australians do not. 
My iPhone camera attempt at capturing the mama and joey. Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand, Esperance, Western Australia. 
With the sunrise photos done, it's now all about waiting for the kangaroos to appear…or not. After killing some time by driving back up and around some of the other nearby bays, we set ourselves up again on the beach at Lucky Bay. The most active times for kangaroos is dawn and dusk when they have their breakfast and dinner. I don't know what they do for lunch but I guess they graze during the day, or sleep, or hop around, or something. Around 7:40am, having still not seen any kangaroos, I'm starting to lose a bit of hope but, at the same time, probably prepared to hang around all day, just in case they do appear. I can tell The Photographer is thinking about leaving soon if we don't see any kangaroos but then he spots some movement in the distance to the west end of the beach, among the seaweed… 'KANGAROOS! IT'S A MAMA AND A JOEY! OH MY GOODNESS, I'M SO EXCITED!' We make a slow beeline in their direction, so as not to scare them off – even though they're used to humans gawking at them – because they can still be easily scared off. 
'Care to join me for breakfast?' © T-Rex Photography | Tom Jessett | 2015
As we're getting close to them, they move around and away from us but settle in another spot to graze in the seaweed. They start grazing again and we manage to get within about a metre from them and The Photographer managed to get this beauty (above) of the joey. The joey is curious and looks at us more often than his mum, which is how The Photographer managed to get this photo of him looking directly into the lens. His mum on the other hand, couldn't give a toss about us really 'cause she's just having her breakfast, it seems. 
The moment The Photographer took that photo.
Once we got our fill of photos and gawking, we started making our way back to the ute. Some of the people from the campsite came out to look at the kangaroos after we left but shortly thereafter, the kangaroos hop away back into the bush to do whatever the Luck Bay kangaroos do.

I finally got to see kangaroos on the beach at Lucky Bay!

The End!

The Photographer's photo was feature on Tourism Australia's Facebook page.

If you want to follow our journey around Australia and see more of The Photographer's talent, i.e., his photos, visit T-Rex Photography here:

Steller @TRex

Monday, 8 June 2015

Playing With Crab Holes at Observatory Beach

Light reflecting off the stairs down to Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
Last weekend was Western Australia Day. This meant a WHOLE EXTRA DAY to do stuff! Woohoo! So guess what we did? We went and took photos (surprise, surprise!) Usually, on Saturday and Sunday nights, The Photographer will head off to one of the beaches to take photos. Because I get bored of doing this every weekend, I stopped going, except on the odd occasion when it tickles my fancy and, on this WA Day Saturday, it just so happened to tickle my fancy to join him on one of his photography escapades. As usual, I rugged up in a hoodie, but forgot my scarf - believe it or not but it's actually cold and windy in Esperance in the evening - and we headed out in the Trusty Triton in search of a good viewpoint of the sunset over a beach.

'Stairway to Heaven' by T-Rex Photography. Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
Eventually, we pull up in the car park at Observatory Beach because it looks like there'll be plenty of reflections to be had in the water along this long beach. The Photographer unloads his camera gear and we head on down the Stairway to Heaven.

Skipping down the Stairway to Heaven. Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
When I'm in a particularly good mood, I have a tendency to skip - it's my happy walk! So I skipped down the stairs as The Photographer was clicking away on his camera. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs and landing on the beach, we head off straight for the rocks to the east end of Observatory Beach. The sun is not far from setting and the colour of the rocks with the sunlight against them is amazing - this is what attracted us to that end. I have no idea if The Photographer got any photos of those rocks as we approached them but I certainly enjoyed the view as we walked towards them.

Along our way to the rocks, I noticed that the beach had long clusters of 'bubbles' or mounds of sand in it. I also noticed that the usual tiny crab holes were positioned in the centre of each of these weird looking 'bubbles' in the sand. With my childish curiosity, I decided to investigate more - I 'popped' one of the 'bubbles' of sand and it collapsed! ...So I 'popped' another one, and another one, and another one - I had discovered proper crab hole caves! I was so excited - they were actual mini caves in the sand that the crabs had dug themselves into, and popping them was like popping the bubbles in bubble wrap - I was HOOKED! Don't worry though, the crabs had long gone back into the water by that stage (the tide was out and they weren't hanging around without any water), so I wasn't crushing any innocent crabs as I popped their single-use homes.

The Photographer was kind of getting impatient with me though because the sun was about to set and he wanted to get himself set up properly by the rocks and take lots of other photos before the sun actually set. So he stopped me from enjoying my moment of being a five-year-old and had to keep me walking along the beach to get to the rocks in time for the sunset. (I saw so many poppable crab houses on our way, I knew I had to go back and pop them when he was busy!)

'Reach for the Sky' - Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
One of the things I love about Observatory Beach is that the beach itself is quite deep and the tide goes out reasonably far, which means that we can walk over the rocks in the shallows before the tide starts to come in again. That evening's sunset was looking to be a real cracker - there were cool clouds everywhere, enough to create lots of reflection but not too much so that it would block the sun completely. The Photographer got out his tripod and started snapping away and somewhere in the middle of it, I offered my services to be a silhouette model in front of the setting sun. If you look closely in the above photo, you can see that I moved my arms at the wrong time - oops! I gave up after that one - The Photographer needed a still model (i.e. himself) and I wanted to get back to popping crab holes!

Panorama sunset at Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
By this time, the sun was dipping just below the horizon and that's when the best colours often come out to play in the sky - absolutely breathtaking! The Photographer managed to get some AMAZING photos of the sunset with reflections of the colourful clouds on the water between the rocks, and over the surf along the beach - the photo above is one of my favourite sunset photos yet. I think he managed to capture so many awesome photos, that he doesn't know what to do with them all! 
'Where's Wally?' - can you find The Photographer? Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia

I was getting a little bored at this stage, so I just walked off and started popping the crab holes - so much fun! Honestly, just like bubble wrap, there are so many of them and it's addictive! In case you were wondering, I had never seen the hollow crab holes in the beach before - I'd seen zillions of crab holes in the sand on beaches before, obviously, but not the actual mini caves that these crabs had created, hence my fascination with these collapsible crab hole caves. During my childish activity, however, I hadn't forgotten that we were there to watch the sunset. So I stopped for a few minutes to watch the sunset in all its beauty (proper pretty, I tell you). I even managed to capture some photographs of my own - above, is what I call my 'Where's Wally' series.

T-Rex: 'I look like I'm taking a child for a walk.'  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
After the sun had well and truly gone down, we started making our way back to the Stairway to Heaven (to walk back up them, away from Heaven). On our way back, I couldn't help but stop The Photographer from standing on some of the massive crab caves so that I could pop them myself.

Light reflecting off the stairs down to Observatory Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.  Photo: © T-Rex Photography (Tom Jessett) 2015
Walking back up the Stairway to Heaven is quite long and steep - a great workout for the legs, bum and hips by the way - and we stopped on the landings to take more photos. Once we got back to the top, it was getting dark but the deep colours of the sunset were still lingering and the light on the side of the stairs was beautiful. The Photographer managed to get this last photo (above) of the stairs before we headed home. This is probably my favourite photo of these stairs and Observatory Beach.

Another T-Rex Photography session done and dusted!

Thank you for taking your time to read my waffling blog - much appreciated!

If you want to check out more of The Photographer's incredible photos, and follow our journey around Australia from this July (if all goes to plan), you can like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

My Top 3 Air Travel Accessories

What can I fit in my carry-on bag?

I'm one of those people who has a few little obsessions, such as, pretty stationery, high quality kitchen utensils and, of course, travel accessories. I love organising myself; I like accessories which make me appear organised; I like items designed for convenience. Because of my obsession for items of convenience, I do actually have a small collection of such items, including travel accessories. I love accessories that have a particularly useful purpose for the many trips that I'm lucky enough to be able to go on with my fiancé, The Photographer. I think it's because the travel accessories make me feel like the holiday is even more exciting – it adds to the excitement. Well, that's my excuse anyway! Below, I have compiled a list of my three favourite air travel accessories (because ground travel accessories are a whole other arena!) and why they're my top picks.

Koala ears headrests

1. Neck pillow

This is not just my favourite air travel accessory – I take this almost everywhere as a passenger. No matter how hard I try, when I'm a passenger, I almost always fall asleep on planes, in cars, on trains, on buses – basically on any journey more than about an hour long, to be perfectly honest. Regardless of how uncomfortable the ride may be, I am almost guaranteed to fall asleep. It probably helps that I have quite a small frame (I'm only five feet nothing (152cm)) so it's probably a fair bit easier for me to sit semi-comfortably on aeroplanes, unlike The Photographer, who is over six feet tall.

Let's face it, when you're flying, in transit/connecting, and waiting for hours, we all know it can be exhausting. As the saying goes, 'The worst part about travelling, is travelling,' right? Well, my solution to make the 'travelling' part of travelling easier for myself, is sleep. And, what better way to assist in getting a good sleep than having an awesome pillow!
Using a neck pillow means you don't have to rely on those koala ears headrests on the plane (the ones that fold out, away from the seat, and wrap around the sides of your head). You know how, when you rest your head on the koala ears, your neck and shoulders fall under the koala ears, thereby putting you in an extremely uncomfortable position with a kink in your neck – not ideal. Actually, as I write this, I am realising that, as I'm not a normal-sized person, this is a fairly unique problem for me. I'm guessing normal-sized people probably don't have this problem because they're tall enough so that the koala ears are at the right height for them and, therefore, support their whole head and part of their neck. For me, however, the koala ears are just a smidge too high and, consequently, they only support the upper third of my head, hence I have a tendency to slide right under them when I try to lean against them for support. With my neck pillow, however, I can sleep sitting up, in pretty much any aeroplane seat or airport chair.

Over the years, I've tried three different neck pillows: (1) inflatable, (2) memory foam, and (3) beads.

The inflatable ones are great for saving storage space (I used these for YEARS for this reason), however, they're uncomfortable and, if you're a frequent traveller, they're too fiddly to get it in and out of your bag and to inflate and deflate them.

As for memory foam, I have an aversion to that stuff altogether. Yes, it moulds to your body but that's the whole problem – it doesn't provide any support whatsoever; it just squishes under the weight of your body and doesn't push back – there's no resistance, which is what provides any hope of actual neck support. Meh. Not for me.

The perfect neck pillow.  Photo courtesy of DQ & Co.
In my opinion, the beads type is the best. The tiny beads move around inside the pillow's fabric in accordance with your neck/head placement but it doesn't collapse completely like the memory foam does – it actually supports your head and neck. Unlike the inflatable one, you don't have to fiddle around with inflating or deflating it. In conclusion, the beads type provides you with good support for your neck and head and allows you to have dreamy dreams as you fly away high above the clouds!

I bought my neck pillow at Auckland International Airport and it's made by a company called DQ & Co. It has a little stretchy tab at the top with a strong button, allowing you to attach it around a strap on your luggage when you're not using it – very handy. You can buy bead-filled neck pillows at most airports (mainly in western countries).

Travel bottle set.

2. Travel bottles for cabin luggage

Plastics companies have probably made a killing since the rules for the volume of liquids in your carry-on luggage was restricted to not more than 100 millilitres. In a way, I love it too – travel sized stuff is just so awesome!
It took me years to find the perfect travel bottles (sadly, this is true). After buying and testing loads of different travel bottles, I realised that, until a few years ago, none of them seemed to possess all of the qualities that I wanted in my travel bottles. I learned that I wanted bottles that are: (1) squeezable, (2) non-leaking, and (3) holds more than a measly 30mL.

There are loads of cute little travel bottle sets that come with their own see-through toiletry bag. However, the main problem with those is, the bottles are not squeezable. It's bad enough trying to get the last 100mL of your shampoo or moisturiser out of a regular sized bottle, let alone a teeny tiny little travel bottle that only holds significantly less than 100mL! In theory, the travel bottle sets are great – very convenient and space saving. However, the bottles in those sets are always made with a hard plastic, thereby rendering them non-squeezable. This is completely useless when you need to be able to squeeze your moisturiser or shampoo or conditioner out of them, right? Well, I certainly think so. So, yes, squeezable travel bottles are essential!

Now, how many times have I arrived at my destination, slightly jetlagged, and I open my toiletry bag (to freshen up after a long journey), only to find that a bottle full of sudsy or moisturising liquid has leaked all through my toiletry bag or, worse, if it's loose inside my check-in luggage, it has leaked all through my bag and all over my clothes! Ugh, so annoying! And, nobody wants to spend the first part of their trip cleaning their bag and clothes! I like to think I've learned a few lessons after all the trips I've been on and, consequently, now I keep any loose toiletry bottles wrapped up in plastic bags for my check-in luggage. For my carry-on luggage, I make sure I only use leak-proof travel bottles – this saves a lot of time trying to clean up a mess of liquids in your bag!

Another problem I've come across with many travel bottles is that they hardly hold anything. Many travel bottles only hold about 30mL. Personally, I don't see the point in only holding 30mL when your limit is 100mL. Okay, if you're only going away for a long weekend, then 30mL is fine. However, if I'm going somewhere for more than three weeks, I'm going to need more than 30mL! There are quite a few which hold about 50mL but I prefer the 88mL bottles, especially for long trips.

GoToob travel bottles: squeezable, leak-proof, large capacity.
As mentioned in a previous blog, I've managed to find the perfect travel bottles by GoToob. Again, these are available at most international western airports.

So many carry-on luggage options!

3. Soft carry-on bag with wheels

Yes, a soft carry-on wheelie bag. Not a hard shell carry-on wheelie bag but a soft fabric carry-on wheelie bag. I used to always use hard shell carry-on wheelie bags. However, I discovered that I preferred the fabric carry-on wheelie bag because, (1) they're easier to squish into the small overhead storage if it's already jam packed by the time you get to your seat, or it's a small aeroplane with small overhead storage lockers, (2) you can rest your head on them comfortably if you want to lie down to take a kip in the airport, and (3) their carry handles are more versatile. As for having wheels, they're essential if you're planning on doing any duty free shopping!

In my experience, it's not uncommon to have ended up sitting on the aeroplane near the people who have somehow managed to get 50 carry-on sized bags with them and, consequently, they've left you with almost no room for your single carry-on bag. If you have a soft shell carry-on bag, however, you can easily squeeze your bag in between the bags of the people who've hogged all the overhead storage with their 100 carry-on bags. Now, could you do this with a hard case carry-on bag? Definitely not!

Believe it or not but I've actually tried to use my hard shell carry-on bag as a pillow before (I know, how desperate was I! FYI, it's not recommended.) With your soft shell carry-on bag, you can arrange it so that your in-flight jumper, cardigan or jacket is sitting in the top of the bag so that you've got some extra cushioning for your sleepy head when you use your bag as a pillow while in transit. For extra comfort, I also put my neck pillow on top of my carry-on bag.

Unlike most hard case carry-on bags, my carry-on bag comes with three different strap options, (1) a long removable shoulder strap, (2) two side straps that can be strapped/hook and loop fastened (Velcro) together over the top of the bag, and (3) a small handle on the end of the bag, which sits at the top when you're using the wheels/trolley handle. Personally, I've removed the shoulder strap from my bag because the long, wide strap makes the bag swing around too much for my liking – I think that's got something to do with me not being big enough for it to sit properly. The side handles and the end handle, however, I use them all the time. I always pick up my bag with either the side handles or the end handle and often I hook the side handles together over my forearm so that the bag sits in the crook of my elbow, so that I can carry it just like a handbag – perfect!

Because I love the convenience of a trolley-style (on wheels) travel bag, the wheels on my soft case cabin bag are brilliant for when I have to traipse from one end of a massive international airport (think, Heathrow, KLIA, Dubai) to the other end – a good way to help save your energy for when you reach your destination!

Soft shell, carry-on, wheelie bag.
I bought my soft shell carry-on wheelie bag from Strandbags in New Zealand (also in Australia). Again, most western international airports will have a whole plethora of soft shell carry-on wheelie bags to choose from.

So there you have it – my three essential air travel accessories. Actually, to be honest, I take all three of these items with me on ground travel trips too!

What are your favourite air travel accessories? Leave a comment and let me know what your favourite accessories are and I'll see if I can give them a go too!

The Photographer (T-Rex Photography) in action at Twilight Beach, Esperance, Western Australia.
For some epic astrophotography, and landscape and travel photography, check out The Photographer's masterpieces on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Six Weeks Until Our Australian Road Trip

Camps Australia Wide 8th Edition

Camps Australia Wide 8th Edition (Camps 8)

We just bought the latest edition (Camps 8) Camps Australia Wide book – the ultimate guide for budget and freedom campers in Australia. I am ridiculously excited! So many things to do and amazing places to see!

Camps Australia Wide is not on Twitter

One thing I noticed, however, is that Camps Australia Wide is not on Twitter. To me, this is quite surprising, considering the huge travellers' community on Twitter. Imagine how much potential exposure Camps Australia Wide could get if they had an active and interactive Twitter account?
Squeezable, non-leaking travel bottles, under 100mL

Travel-friendly bottles for liquids

We first saw the Camps Australia Wide book in our local Esperance Camping World & Workwear shop. I love that shop – I have an addiction to travel and camping things, for example, those squeezable travel bottles for liquids. We've done a fair bit of flying around the world (in 2013 alone, I did over 30 flights and The Photographer did over 45!) and I'm obsessed with having the perfect travel bottles for liquids of less than 100 millilitres (for aeroplane carry-on luggage). Do you know how hard it was to find good quality, squeezable bottles that, (a) hold less than 100mL but, (b) hold more than a measly 40mL, and (c) are squeezable (because what's the point of non-squeezable plane-friendly travel bottles? How am I meant to get my moisturiser out if I can't squeeze the bottle to get it out?), and (d) which don't leak? A couple of years ago, I found it very difficult to find good ones until I noticed these squeezable travel bottles in airports, thanks to GoToob – absolutely genius!

Camps 8

So, getting back to camping, rather than flying, Camps 8 is literally the ultimate guide for finding cheap or free camping sites all around Australia. It's perfect for budget-conscious backpackers and people with fully self-contained recreational vehicles (RVs).

Part of the legend in Canps 8
How to read each site listing in Camps 8 
Camps 8 has a brilliantly comprehensive and easy-to-understand key, a few of which are shown in the photo above. We think one of the most useful ones for us will be the 'Fees applicable' and 'Fees above specified limit' and, every few days, 'Showers'! Yes, we are expecting to go every few days without showers – it's just what you do when you're camping around Australia without an RV.

A page from the Western Australia section of Camps 8

'Fees applicable'

This is particularly useful for us because we want to spend as little as possible on accommodation/campsites so that we can have more to spend on activities along the way. As you can see in the picture above of a typical page in Camps 8, it's easy to see which sites have a fee and which ones don't. Not only that but where there's a 'Fees applicable' symbol ($), you can be almost sure that those camping grounds will be $24 or less per person to stay there (because fees are subject to change without notice, you may want to call ahead to check what the current fees are). I think The Photographer and I will be looking mainly for the listings that are free from any 'Fees applicable' symbols in order to get the most out of our camping budget.

'Fees above specified limit'

We will be looking out for this symbol ($+), particularly when we're looking for sites that have showering facilities. We are expecting that, if a site has hot shower facilities, there's likely to be a higher cost attached to it.


This could be a tricky one if you specifically want a hot shower. You may have to call them in advance to check or, if the campsite you're interested in is listed on TripAdvisor, you could find out, either in the description or in the reviews, as to whether their showers are hot or cold.

Australia is massive

There are so many places we want to visit on our trip and we're worried we may not have enough time – Australia is huge. Ideally, we'd be aiming for a whole year driving around Australia but unfortunately for us, that's not currently a realistic expectation, so we're hoping to get up to six months instead.
It's over 450 kilometres from Alice Springs to Uluru (Ayers Rock)

It's a similar distance from Manchester to Brighton in the UK
An example of Australia's massiveness is the misconception that Alice Springs is 'close' to Uluru (Ayers Rock) and, therefore, people tend to stay in Alice Springs, thinking it'll just be a hop, skip and jump to visit Uluru. Not quite – Alice Springs is 463 kilometres away from Uluru (on fully sealed roads). In the UK, this is similar to the distance between Brighton and Manchester.
Photo by (found on Google search)
So, you know those photos of Australian road signs showing distances of hundreds of, if not over a thousand, kilometres? Yeah, they're fairly normal around here. Suffice to say, we'll likely be taking an extra fuel can or two with us to ensure that we don't run out of fuel in the middle of the Outback, nowhere near a petrol station.

It's going to be a big road trip but it's also going to be the best way to see this vast country – the countryside in between all the towns and major tourist attractions is just as breathtaking.

Where to go?

Our plan is to visit as many places around Australia as possible, plus, visit all the friends and family we have living around Australia. Two places that I'm particularly looking forward are, The Pinnacles in Western Australia and Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the Northern Territory.

Have you taken a camping road trip around Australia before? We're open to suggestions! 

If you would like The Photographer to capture some stunning photos of your Australian town, let us know via Facebook or Twitter:

The Photographer – Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

The Photographer's Fiancée – Twitter

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mother's Day – Going Bush

Beautiful centuries-old salmon gum trees. © T-Rex Photography
Today is Mother's Day (5 March 2015). To celebrate both Mother's Day and the end of Seeding 2015, we've been invited by Our Aussie Family (a lovely family of farmers, located 120 kilometres north-west of Esperance, Western Australia) to drive an hour north of Our Aussie Family 3's farm for a barbecue picnic in the middle of the Australian bush.

We're meant to be meeting Our Aussie Family at 10:00am in a gravel pit (yes, you read that correctly) somewhere near Our Aussie Family 3's farm, for morning tea with Aussie Mum 3, who is heading back to Perth that day (and, therefore, cannot join us for the barbecue), before we head onwards for a barbecue in the bush.

This weekend, The Photographer and I, spent the weekend in the little studio/bedsit flat that we rent in Esperance. It takes me an hour and 20 minutes to drive to the farm in little red Larry the Lancer – that's about 20 minutes longer than everyone else who drives a ute and takes the shorter route via more gravel roads than the route that I take. In order to get to the gravel pit on time, I've worked out that I will have to get up at approximately 7:00am.

Now, I don't know about you but, I'm not a morning person, even at the best of times.

7:10am or thereabouts, The Photographer's alarm goes off. I try to keep sleeping. The Photographer checks is phone then rolls over and kisses me good morning (always checks his social media and football results first). As I've not been able to sleep in, I'm tired, which means I'm grumpy. I think The Photographer is slowly learning that being around me when I've not had enough sleep is not much fun really – I get a little grumpy and short tempered, and a bit snappy.

So anyway, I'm finally up and ready to go at 7:40am and as I'm trying to get going, The Photographer decides he wants to load all his farm groceries into the back of Larry, just because Larry is right outside the house and The Photographer's ute is a 30 second walk away from the house in a communal parking space at the end of the block of flats that we live in – too far for him to carry his groceries apparently. But, because I'm determined not to be late getting to the farm to drop off Larry, before we head off to the barbecue – because it takes me way longer than him to drive to the farm – I tell him No, demand a good-bye kiss, and drive off. Poor Photographer. I am a bit short with him sometimes. I really should work on that.
Endless beauty driving out to the farm.
The drive out to the farm is beautiful. There's a whole lot of nothingness but it's absolutely beautiful. Long roads, miles of vast fields, grazing cattle and sheep, and occasionally there are horses in the fields closest to the highway. If you look carefully, sometimes you can see kangaroos grazing with the livestock – it beats seeing a kangaroo hopping in front of you on the road (poor little Larry wouldn't stand a chance; he'd be a complete write-off). Today is a lovely time of the year because there's lots of greenery around, rather than the dry fields in summer. I love driving out to the farm in the daytime; it is just so picturesque.

About 10 kilometres away from the farm, I see up ahead, a vehicle cross the last intersection (there are only three intersections to the farm once I'm on the South-Coast Highway) before the farm. Turns out it's The Photographer. I don't know when he left the town house but after only seeing less than half a dozen or so other vehicles in those 120 kilometres to the farm, the likelihood of seeing The Photographer at the last intersection before reaching the farm, is bloody slim. Suffice to say, even though I left before him, he still got there before me. I wish I had a ute.
Emus on the farm.
On arrival at the farm, Our Aussie Family 3 is still sorting out Dino for our trip out to the bush. Dino is a big Toyota Land Cruiser, top of the line when it was new – over 30 years ago. These days, however, old Dino is the farm's cruddy old ute that gets used about twice a year. Aussie Dad 1 is vacuuming Dino and trying to make him all spic 'n' span for our trip out to the bush.

About an hour or so later, after we've packed all our bush gear into the back of Dino – including The Photographer's camera Goodie Bag and tripod – at 10:30 (which, of course, is the time we're meant to be AT the gravel pit), we set off on our journey, with the Seeding 2015 Casual Kiwi guy pointing out to us all that Dino smells like dead mice. Down go the windows.
On arrival at the gravel pit, I notice that it really is a gravel pit – there's gravel in a pit and everyone is parked around the edges of the pit and set up camping chairs (all West Australians have camping chairs – fact) and having coffee in the middle of the pit, where the gravel has pretty much compacted into a fairly stable surface. We are late (obviously). After a quick coffee and the rest of our crew laughing at our old utes (because everyone else has brought their regular good utes), Aussie Mum 3 heads off to Perth and the rest of us head off for our barbecue in the bush.

Turns out, this is the sandiest, bushiest, bumpiest and roughest terrain I will probably ever cross in my life and it's in the back of a 30-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser that smells like dead mice, with the windows down and dust swooshing inside the ute as our 'air conditioning' and an excellent mix between the two-way conversation of our six-ute-strong convoy, an Australian country music CD (I can't remember the name of the singer) and general conversation amongst the passengers bobbling about inside the 30-year-old Land Cruiser, as the entertainment for our one hour off-road drive… to have a barbecue in the middle of nowhere. We've got a great day ahead of us.

After driving around fallen trees and dodging the trees still standing, we get to our chosen destination. My uneducated guess is that we're about a kilometre away from one of the many salt lakes that Australia is known for, which we can see in the distance. The rollercoaster ride seemed to have tightened the belt across the bladder somewhat, so The Boss's Wife and I head off in opposite directions, bog roll in hand, to nature's loo.
The utes all lined up. © T-Rex Photography
Back at the barbecue site, three camp fires have already been lit for the hot plates, the camping chairs are out again and the picnic table is covered in deliciousness to go with the barbecue. No sign of The Photographer.
Chasing the shadow of the tree. © T-Rex Photography
Lunch/afternoon tea/dinner is a delicious rolling feast of barbecued Australian meat with homemade salads and desserts. Unlike last year's end of seeding gathering (cold, raining, bees nest, dropped cake filled with smashed glass plate that it had been sitting on, windy), it was a lovely sunny warm day and, consequently, we all got up periodically and moved our chairs around a nearby tree, following its shadow.
Surrounded by beautiful salmon gum trees. © T-Rex Photography

Our surroundings were beautiful – peaceful, off-road, miles away from anywhere, surrounded by beautiful centuries-old salmon gum trees and the occasional sighting of majestic birds of prey high in the sky or in the trees. Suffice to say, given our surroundings, I noticed several times during the afternoon that The Photographer was missing. I think I must be getting used to his disappearances because I didn't panic and worry so much about him today whenever we disappeared to take photos. I guess, seeing as we were in the middle of nowhere, he wouldn't go far and there's nothing out there to get him… except maybe a few brown snakes! Well, no, I think all the snakes are mostly 'asleep' – as I like to call it – at this time of year. Although, having lived in Western Australia for some time, I have learned that snakes don't actually hibernate like bears. They just sleep a lot and become less active during cold weather – it's called "torpor". This also means that, because it was a sunny autumn day, in my mind, there was a good chance that a snake or two would be out sunning itself, especially in the bush where we were!
Packing up in the fading autumn sun. © T-Rex Photography
As the sun was getting low, The Photographer set off to try and get some more epic photographs. By this stage, however, it was getting late and old Dino doesn't have any headlights. Much to The Photographer's disappointment, this meant that we had to leave during daylight and before sunset, which of course, is when you get awesome colours and lighting for landscape photography.

I felt disappointed for him but I wasn't too worried either because I knew he would've got lots of awesome photographs that day anyway (he always does, regardless of the weather or colour of the sky). Plus, it means we get to go there again another time to watch the sunset together. Well, if I can bear another trip out across the roughest terrain ever to get there!
Nevertheless, The Photographer has confirmed that he intends head out there again so that he can take more beautiful photos to share with the world soon! Watch this space!