The Photo Vault: The Birthday Tradition

 

The interactive and informative museum on the equator
The interactive and informative museum on the equator

Quito, Ecuador, May 2004

As my 25th birthday approached, I started coming up with ideas of where I would be to spend my quarter of a century. As I was travelling, the options were pretty much endless. I´m not sure where the idea came from, but I decided that visiting the equator and jumping backwards and forwards from Southern Hemisphere to Northern Hemisphere and doing a tip-toe balancing act on the equator would be an awesome way to celebrate my day.

I was travelling on my own and hadn´t met anyone else at that stage who wanted to tag along to the various equator attractions in Ecuador, so I went on my own. I visited the small, interactive site which is on the actual equator and did all the cool things like balance an egg on a nail head and watch water swirl down the plugholes clockwise, anti-clockwise, and straight down (over the equator). I tried my hand at shooting a blowdart into a cactus leaf and generally had a great time.

I then went to the official equatorial monument, a large and bland site, that is just slightly off calculation and therefore not on the actual equator.

Back at the hostel I went out to dinner with some others and when they found out it was my birthday they ordered me a cake and a sparkler. It was a great day.

Ever since this birthday, I´ve always done something interesting, different, or just gotten away from it all so that I could spend my birthday doing something that would make me happy because in my early twenties, I realised that my birthday is only special to me, so rather than rely on others to make it a great day for me, I had to take it into my own hands. Since then I´ve hiked in national parks, gone parasailing and kitesurfing, rafted through the Grand Canyon, visited Angkor Wat, biked around Rottnest Island, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge and hit the beach in Mexico.

This year, I´m back in South America for my birthday, just over the mountains a bit from Ecuador where the birthday tradition started. So today, for my first birthday in Colombia I went tubing in the rapids of the river in Minca, not far from Santa Marta. I never really expected to start such a tradition as I stood on the equator, but I love it and I´m keen to see what exciting things I do and interesting places I go for the birthdays to come.

* If you are interested in more information about the museum at the equator, The Souls of My Shoes blogged about her recent visit and more fun activities that can be found at the equator.

The Photo Vault is where I will be sharing my favourite photos (and their stories) that deserve better than being lost in the depths of my iPhoto never to be shared.

The Photo Vault: Millewa Pioneer Village

 

Millewa Pioneer Village

Millewa Pioneer Village, Victoria, Australia, 2006

A journalist friend of mine had a story to file about an open day at the Millewa Pioneer Park in Meringur, a tiny town about an hour or so from Mildura, so she invited me along for the day. I was very involved in my community, and this is just one of the types of things that would fill up my weekends.

The Millewa Pioneer Village is a site where a collection of buildings and vintage farm implements, show what life as a farming pioneer in the olden days was like. There is a good collection of history and displays that while interesting, also show the decline in population that is is an important issue in rural Australia.

The population drain on rural and regional Australia isn´t just the young people being drawn to the bright lights of the cities for study and work, but is also a result of changing farm practices, technological advances in agriculture and economics. In order to make a living, farms are bigger than they were when the settlers arrived to farm their parcel of land. Over the years farms have been consolidated, and what was once a viable farm for a family and their grown children also working the farm, no longer provides a living for just one family. So as a result of the growing farm sizes to support a family, the population in these rural areas has declined to reflect this change.

It´s a difficult issue because services that were once available, also become unviable. But one of the beautiful things about rural communities is their spirit and their tenacity. The open day was a success and many people came out to support the day, not just locals, but people from Mildura and other small towns.

I miss my community. I miss being involved in activities and events that make my hometown a better place. I miss the friendships and acquaintances I have there and I miss bumping into people I know and having a little chat truly caring about what they are up to. I haven´t yet found a way of carving out my own community here in Santa Marta, and perhaps that is another factor making me feel rootless at the moment. But this photo, of the mallee scrub, with a gorgeous flowering gum and the iconic corrugated iron water tank makes me feel that my community will always be there, waiting for me to return.

The Photo Vault is where I will be sharing my favourite photos (and their stories) that deserve better than being lost in the depths of my iPhoto never to be shared.

The Photo Vault: Bogotá Street Art

 

Street art in Bogota, Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia, September 2011

Having just come back from a quick trip to Bogotá where there was no time to sight-see in amongst the errands we had to run, a striking piece of street art took me back to the 4 weeks I spent in Bogotá in 2011 before travelling to Santa Marta and meeting mi novio.

One of the things the most notable things in Bogotá is the street art. I saw it everywhere as I wandered the streets of La Candelaria and I wanted to find out more. The street art in Bogotá is particularly striking because it is more design and imagery and less simple tagging. To me this is art.

I stumbled across a flyer on the pinboard at my Spanish school for a graffiti tour and managed to talk two classmates, including a girl who has also produced her own street art in Switzerland, into going on the tour with me.

We met with Christian, an Australian expat and the man behind Bogota Graffiti Tours, at the Parque de los Periodistas for the tour and learned that they were in their first few weeks of operating the tours. Christian took us around La Candelaria and then further afield to see major street art pieces by well-known local and international artists and explained the many techniques and signature styles of the work. It was fascinating.

Seeing walls like the one in this photo make me happy. It feeds my soul. All of Bogotá is a gallery and these pieces have their place in time. From the moment they are completed the murals begin to change and evolve with weather and other factors. But this also is accessible art where you can get up close to, touch and photograph the pieces without a security guard telling you off.

For me, the street art in Bogotá was the first sign of a cultural smorgasbord waiting to be discovered in the city. I can´t wait to keep discovering more.

The Photo Vault is where I will be sharing my favourite photos (and their stories) that deserve better than being lost in the depths of my iPhoto never to be shared.

The Photo Vault: Brazilian Coastline

 

A slice of Brazilian paradise
A slice of Brazilian paradise

Itacaré, Brazil, 2004

The small town of Itacaré between Porto Seguro and Salvador wasn´t listed in my Lonely Planet Shoestring Guide to South America. I ended up here tagging onto a group of travelling Brazilians and one Swiss guy who had joined up to form a sizeable group of eight people. Nine including me. One of the Brazilians spoke good English, and of course the Swiss guy, but I communicated with the rest of my new friends with exchanges of smiles, laughs and gestures and just followed them like a little lamb. It was fun!

Brazilians are great travellers in their own country, especially at Carnaval time when they will take a month off and travel. I loved this attitude and vowed to take this idea back home, where we usually plan out our domestic trips carefully and save the random wanderings for other countries.

I never would have discovered a string of breathtaking beaches and this coastline had it not been for my Brazilian friends adopting a little lost Aussie. I also wouldn´t have learned how to wear a Brazilian bikini, confidence most definitely required but any show of butt crack is unacceptable so instead you should forget about trying to modestly cover your butt cheeks and allow your bikini bottoms to creep into a wedgie.

This photo served as my screensaver on my old computer for many years. It is a beautiful coastline and it always makes me think about the friends I´ve now lost touch with, but who I will always remember for their openness, sharing and vivacity.

The Photo Vault is where I will be sharing my favourite photos (and their stories) that deserve better than being lost in the depths of my iPhoto never to be shared.

The Photo Vault: Statue of Christ

 

A striking crucifixion of Jesus statue in Encarnacion, Paraguay
A striking crucifixion of Jesus statue in Encarnacion, Paraguay

Encarnacion, Paraguay, 2004

I was in Encarnacion to visit the Jesuit ruins and took this photo in the early evening while wandering around the city after having just arrived. I never made it to the ruins (instead I visited those in Posadas, Argentina) as it rained all day and ended up indulging in a trashy day watching MTV and jumping around on my double bed in a private room to the music. The small joys of budget travellers. However the image of this statue has stuck with me all these years and is on my list of favourite statues for its construction and materials. I love the pose and the skyward look. The hands are so interesting and kind of alien, taking in far less detail than the face and crown of thorns. He also doesn’t have feet and instead the gown ends in a Casper the Friendly Ghost esque tail, signifying Jesus’ transition I suppose. I guess one of more obvious parts is that Jesus isn’t on a cross, and that’s what makes this statue interesting and unique.

If you celebrate Easter, whether for religious or chocolate reasons, I wish you a wonderful weekend.

The Photo Vault is where I will be sharing striking photos (and their stories) that deserve better than being lost in the depths of my iPhoto never to be shared.