Before blogging about the first signs of spring I would like to share some winter photos with you that I took in Germany last year. They depict a weather phenomenon, which is both beautiful and dangerous at once.
Frozen ski lift on the Fichtelberg, the highest peak of the German Erzgebirge
In December, Saxony’s low mountain range (Erzgebirge, East Germany) was wrapped into thick fog layers lasting for weeks. The high air humidity coming along with the fog covered the region’s trees with hoar frost, which built up to a 30 to 40 cm thick ice crust. Needless to say that trees snapped off like matches under the heavy weight.
To avoid accidents, local public services decided to impose a ban to enter the forest above 800 metres. Streets were blocked for days and ski lifts had to shut down when some tree branches threatened to fall on the ropes.
Once streets reopened, we wanted to have a closer look at this newly created winter wonderland and went on a day trip to the highest point of the German Erzgebirge, the Fichtelberg (1,215 m), which looked as stunning as I had never seen it before. Me and my camera(s) got all excited; I could have easily spent the day looking at the most bizarre ice formations, but the cold…the severe cold…
People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be. When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, “Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.” I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds. ~ Carl R. Rogers
Photo details (please click on the image for best quality):
Canon EOS 60D, 70mm, ISO 100, F32, 30 sec., no filter, no flash.
Location: Darwin, Australia.
How could I ever squeeze the words “freezing”, “dry”, “red”, “traditional”, “heat”, “crocodile”, “billabong”, “blue” and “bushfire” into one photo essay description without writing a novel? You’re right, I can’t. So let me just briefly discuss some weather phenomenons of the Northern Territory, which create a huge natural variety and diversity on the 1,800 kilometres between Australia’s tropical North and the continent’s arid centre.
During our first week in the Red Centre — around Alice Springs — we didn’t see a single cloud. Unfortunately, that clear blue sky over the desert didn’t offer much protection when temperatures dropped from comfortable 20°C over the day to uncomfortable 0°C at night. Camping fun!
That said, taking the plane to Darwin to spend our second week in the Northern Territory’s tropical North sounded like the greatest thing since sliced bread. Due to the wet season, when tropical cyclones and monsoons reign the northern top end, the Darwin region gets 9 times more rain each year than the central desert. While it didn’t rain during our stay (July = dry season), we got to see some clouds up north; and we were finally back to comfortable camping temperatures at night.
Let’s have a look at how these weather differences influence(d) the land, nature and animals of the Northern Territory.
Typical morning routine: A hot beverage to forget the freezing night temperatures
Uluru — Ayers Rock — is the reason why thousands of tourists travel thousands of kilometres through the Australian desert each year
Some shapes, like this wave, are inexplicable (if you don’t believe in the Aboriginies’ mythology)
The moon over Uluru, which isn’t all that smooth on the surface and actually reminds me of New Zealand Kauri
Each evening, Uluru does its magic when it’s turning redder and redder
Every morning the same procedure…
Sunrise over The Olgas (Kata Tjuta)
These large domed rock formations are not far from Uluru but lesser known
The Kata Tjuta Rim Walk leads through beautiful landscapes, though it’s often unsheltered and tough in hot summer temperatures
Kings Canyon, another red National Park in the NT
To be honest, I preferred the walks and views over Kings Canyon to Ayers Rock and The Olgas
Enjoying the sunrise on the Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Ghost Gum, a rare evergreen eucalyptus tree growing in rocky and arid regions of the NT
Harsh desert conditions are tough on plants, which often appear spiky
That’s the soil such plants can grow on in the West McDonnell Ranges (Trephina Gorge) near Alice Springs
A species found in the East McDonnell Ranges
Ormiston Gorge reflections (sorry for the mind play :) )
Perfect reflections like this one are only visible in the early morning or late evening hours when the wind settles down
Ellerlie Creek Dolomite Walk — a kangaroo’s paradise
Nature is the best artist!
Waterhole at Ellerlie Creek (10°C)
Taking the plane from Alice Springs to Darwin; flying over the beautifully meandering Adelaide River
Must do from Darwin: Visiting the Kakadu National Park
Marveling at the sunset over these wide plains with heaps of billabongs
It isn’t recommended to go close to billabongs since crocodiles live in there
So we focused on the tiny animal world…
…and flowers growing on arid soil
The NT is and always has been home to many Aboroginies
Their culture and dreamtime stories are well documented and explained in the National Parks as well as museums nearby
Kakadu NP: yellow flowers
Kakadu NP: Yellow Water
When joining a Yellow Water Cruise, locals will guide you really close to these inhabitants of the billabongs
Crocodile blending in. That’s why they’re so dangerous and unpredictable
Lotus flowers on the Yello Water billabongs
Bushfire between Kakadu NP and Litchfield NP
Litchfield is known for its amazing termite mound landscapes. Besides the cathedral mounds that you can also see in Kakadu NP, Litchfield is home to magnetic termites, building their mounds in a Nort-South direction to avoid that their homes heat up too much
This cathedral termite mound is over 3 metres tall
Litchfield’s waterholes serve as natural pools, which are frequented by locals as well as tourists
After walking around this natural pool in the midday sun, nothing could stop us from jumping straight in
Last sunset over Darwin before heading East to Queensland (photo essay to come)
If you like this article you might also want to check out my:
Are you as excited about the latest The Hobbit trailer as I am? Five weeks from today I will sit in one of those wide and comfy cinema armchairs, glued to the screen, absorbing Peter Jackson’s latest visual tricks like a sponge, while marvelling at the Trilogy’s sceneries.
Mt. Ngauruhoe aka Mt. Doom, in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Best thing about it: I have been there! Most outdoor scenes have been filmed in New Zealand, just like most scenes for The Lord of the Rings. New Zealand is officially Middle-earth; and Mt. Ngauruhoe in Tongariro National Park is the most popular location among orcs fans, as they can attempt to climb “Mt. Doom” and conquer Mordor.
One does not simply walk into Mordor? Oh well, I must have gotten lucky the last 6 times I visited. Yes — visited. I looked and behaved like a tourist in Mordor, and of course I captured it on film (in the form of a 16 GB memory card).
On a foggy day, the region is indeed all about doom and gloom (like in the movies). But on all other days, Tongariro is one surprisingly colourful place to discover. I have been lucky enough to visit the region during all 4 seasons. Each season is unique and totally worth it. But let’s allow some photos to talk for themselves.
SPRING: Parts of the Tongariro Crossing are still covered in snow
View over the Red Crater
Turn around 180° and you will see the Blue Lake
Turn around another 90° and you will discover the Emerald Lakes
Getting close to the Emerald Lakes
Occasionally, Tongariros volcanos can smoke (a lot)
SUMMER: Not how you imagine summer? Weather forecasts are nearly impossible for Tongariro
But you can always marvel at the Park’s “low altitude beauty”, like the Tawhai Falls
Heaps of flowers
On a rainy day you can visit the thermal pools in Tokaanu
Beautiful underwater landscapes at Tokaanu
Or you can stroll around Lake Rotopounamu; a natural shelter from the rain
Rotopounamu is a bird’s paradise; this little fellow is a North Island Robin
AUTUMN: Returning to Tongariro in autumn looked like summery doom and gloom all over again
Though magic was in the air
The next morning looked very different
Perfect day for the Tama Lakes Walk
Or the walk to the Taranaki Falls
Passing the most colourful moss
Moss in all kind of shapes
WINTER: There is rarely snow on the lower altitudes
Only Tongariro’s volcanos are covered in snow
Perfect place for a snowboarding session
Skiing is fine too of course
Whakapapa ski field in Tongariro
What an enchanted place!
Who else is looking forward to rediscover New Zealand in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies?