Thursday, December 28, 2006

New Year Tradition : Escape to Lake District Cumbria

We might old skool generation. We always spend New Year far from dizzling fireworks or binge dringking. We love to back to nature, having walk in the country site. As our tradition with friends we escape to Lake District National Park, a beautiful area famous for the birth of mountaineering.

I spent 2006 New Year in Vientiane Laos on the way to Bangkok (Indochina trip). New Year in Asia were more like communal party on the streets. On that night we only had dinner in mexican resto by the river Mekong. Enjoy the local music and breathe the air. That's it and we went bed straight away. A lots of local specially youngsters were wandering around the city with their motorcycle until pass the clock. It was loud but we had good night sleep that day.

In Lake District situation are different. We'll stay in remote cottage, sometimes in the right end of the village. No shop no televison no internet (it's fantastic !). We were gathering around fire and having games all night. Because of the location of these cottage we had to shopping and cooking on our own. This year would be 11 people so if your turn to cook you have to serve dozen of hungry mouth. It always fun !

Our activity is walking walking hiking hiking. Yups there's no day without going out and do exercises. Sometime we split into two groups which the one will do little bit hardcore stuff like climbing snowy hills at night ('s only Jer -our friend from Aberdeen who volunteer doing this).

So these are my route :
Thursday, 28 Dec 2006 Telford
Friday, 29 Dec 2006 Liverpool (Mark's passport)
Saturday, 30 Dec 2006 Yorkshire Dales (Skipton) > Lake's Cumbria
Friday, 5 January 2006 Birmingham (Home Office thingis...)

Happy New Year 2007 for everyone, hope next year will give tremendous success to you.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Flickrsm : I am Not Pro Photographer (yet)

I am using Flickr for nearly a year now, mainly for blogging and fun stuff. Since Yahoo! bought them I found it extremely difficult to maintain my account. Yahoo! urged their user to have a flickr through their ID. But the problem is I used my Yahoo! ID already to be a original Flickr member. So yes, in fact I have two flickr account one with the old skool ID and other one with bloody Y!

I don't understand why Y! try to expand their services which they already have Yahoo Photos. In deep down my heart I am agree with Thomas Muller who protested with Flick Off !
As consumer it was just confusing how to re-create your pages. It felt like you've been strict from freedom. In the other hand I am not ready to declare myself as a "pro" How on earth a rookie like me who barely got camera a year ago then say, "Hi guys I am photographer now !" >> easy someone claim it in these days. Anyway, now I decided to go Flickr Pro after so many hassle and pester. There are few reasons :

  1. On free service you've only upload 200 photos, 3 sets which is totally inadequate for me. Ok I can create another Y! account and automatically get another space for my 200 photos. It's short term solution I think. it won't work for me who taking picture almost everyday.
  2. I would like create an online port folio that satisfy me both in user friendly and viewer friendly.
  3. I can crossposting photo to Blogger page and Multiply page without sweating.
  4. US Dollar little bit weak now so I am happy that only spend $24.95 or equivalent with SGD39.49 for one year subscription. It's become chrismas pressie for my self.
  5. Flickr urged to use CC Licence for it's user which I supported most.
  6. The groups in Flickr were enormously rich with inspiring pictures from all around the world, sharing without any doubt of brilliant talent.
  7. They've been improved with so called 'geo tagging' that you can put the location where you took the picture. It's useful because it will recall my memory specially with our geographic frantic movement now on. Since Mark bought Nikon, we can play more with inbuilt GPS connector. Problem is : Yahoo! Maps seemed need updated. Places in UK are most inaccurate. Another problem : the price of the cable connector is too high end compare with GPS receiver available.
So have a fun then...

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Like A Virgin : uh ah uh...

I wish found Madonna's song along on board transatlantic on Sunday 17th. Ok I am back to grim Weymouth now and goodbye blue sky California. It took 10 hours flight + 2 hours by coach down from Heathrow to Weymouth. Very smooth travel indeed.

When I tried looking for decent airlines from US-UK via opodo UK , only Virgin and British Airways available. I can get cheaper from American Airlines, Delta or Continental but they will not take me direct from London to San Fransisco. The price just cannot compare with the time you've to spend during transit. And stamina as well.

I booked the airlines online from Virgin Atlantic's site which is really user friendly. With e-tickets they only confirmed with ticket number and booking references. The good things is you can choose your seat number and check in online. Their system similar to Virgin's partner in Asia, Singapore Airlines. Check in online only available for 24 hours before departure time. Really easy and convenient. Virgin called this as DIY (do-it-yourself) check in.

Once you've done it you only need drop in your baggage in the counter. In Heathrow, staff will ask about US immigration and weight the whole lots. Since flight to US gives more weight allowance, I had two big suitcases and a rucksack for computer, camera, lenses and stuff. Virgin limited the hand baggage into 6kg. Pheww ! I had to leave lenses by hiding bits beneath my coat. Heathrow authority only allow you one piece hand baggage. Things that worried me about laptop batteries turned out to be dismiss.

On my surprised when aboard from UK, the staff asked me to fill questioner. Basically about their services. I had to say that they did perfect. I reckoned they picked the information from the site because I did book flight on the whole leg on myown, not through third parties such as travel agents or booking websites. Also that was my first flight with them.

Virgin's staff in San Fransisco were really friendly. They did not weight my rucksack and Mark's (thanks God !). He had two laptop and Nikon camera with several lenses, paperworks etc. I bet it will weight about 10kg !

We started love Virgin. Now I am using broadband from virgin and using mobilephone from them as well. Next? Hmmm the spell of Richard Branson...

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I Want to Touch Jellyfish !

Sunday 10th Dec 2006 we supposed to go whale watching in Monterey Bay. But last week west coast been battered by heavy showers and storm. On the last minutes we tried to call the boat. We decide to go there anyway, expecting that weather will change soon.

It was wrong (again). After get up early morning grab a coffee we set off early from Sunnyvale. We knew that chasing whales will be canceled, the lady said that actually now it's not a good times to see this massive fish. February-March would definitely the best time, and you might see killer whale if you are lucky.

Anyway to spend our time while we were in Monterey we have a look into Monterey Bay Aquarium which renowned for the jellyfish exhibition. The tickets are $21.95 as I thought quite expensive. The building of the Aquarium taken from sardines canning company. In early 1920's-1940s Monterey well known for producing seafood on cans.

The entrance was a brief history about how the fish industry in Monterey used to be. In heyday of sardines, people from the beach can see the 'silver wave'. As they described the mass movement of fishes swimming follow the surge of water. I just found out that to put in the can then put in the huge steaming machines. We followed the route to the kelp forest. It was a big tank with many sharks around. The WOW effect were present here.

Then we went upper floor to see the jelly fish tank. It was great presentation of the many kinds jelly fishes here (Ashamed that I thought they are only few !).

See photos of close look at I Think I see Jellyfish Everywhere !

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ordinary Saturday Night in Palo Alto

If I am talking about pub most of you will remember about how dingy and dodgy place such in Indonesia. Pub also referring to karaoke, girls with sexy skirt or lines of man or women looking for one night stand. Nups...not even closer than that.

In England pub (the name is : public house sort as pub) is just like "angkringan" a place where man gathering in localized street vendor enjoy coffee or tea in my hometown Jogja. We are talking about anything to nothing, politics to completely rubbish conversation. I used to stay overnight in angkringan with my buddies back in uni dark ages. It was an escaped melting pot for insomniac like we do. Assignments, projects, magazine, reports, papers, printing etc will cost our night and we were just bumped each other in indomie ( a bowl of egg noddle) and wedang jahe (a glass of hot ginger tea).

My affair beginning with walking in england country-site. I always wonder why these people wandering around villages for 7-10 miles for a route to get a glass of beer in pub ? And then I understand when we had long walk in winter, cold, breezy day all you want just some place that warm. Pub historically dating back in Gregorian life when people traveling with horses. Pub stared servicing accommodation and became INN or hostel.

In America pub's tradition not entirely like british. People here know better for 'bar' which also sell beverages. But bars perhaps were famous on coboy-indian movies. A place to meet, to gamble, to crawl and fighting ,ended up with shooting on the streets.

When we had a session on Saturday night in pub near Palo Alto, I thought I will see something different. topless girls, no Hell's Angel ganks. Only plenty peanuts (free !), beers, and games such as dart, pool, and american football table. Van Hallen in the background while we were playing darts made me back to early 80's. Graffiti in the wall full of people's name or some formula's wrote by silicon valley geeks and left over peanuts on the floor. The owner obviously di not bother to sweep the floor so often. It was a dingy but lot more fun .....

See complete album at When Boys Were Playing

Attention regarding Blooger Beta
: there is a problem on Blogger script about spacing, so if you find this page little bit funny ok I am still working on it ! Anybody has same problems?

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Thursday, December 7, 2006

Greeting from Kyrgyzstan

Agustinus sent another postcard from journey through ex-Soviet country. He said :

"Zdravtvui", is Russian-greeting for you. Let me also say "Takshy syzby" in Kyrgyzstan. Two years ago I travelled into this country only with basic Russian now I can say Kyryz -a language I learn few days ago. This language is different than many languages I've learn before. There is "vowel harmony" which playing with equation every time you’ve create new sentence. It’s difficult but once I started saying it I began to see Kyrgyzstan in different way. Hope you’re fine in America”

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

There’s a mixed feeling about travelling on your own. First you’ve got to be ready if anything happen to you. The decision entirely on you not someone’s else. You’ve got to deal with local, speak with them, ask for help. Language is a bridge to communicate what you need.

Agustinus had a talent that not many people have. He is fluent in many languages. Suroboyo –where he grown up, Madura –another east java language, Chinese –he went university in Beijing, Urdu and Hindi –when he travelled in India, English –as you can read on his blogs, Arabic –I bet he learn in Iran, and many more. That’s the key why he survived in the rough path he went. Maoist in Tibet, Taliban in Afghanistan, Kashmir in India.

Language is also open the door of understanding of culture and sociology. You know why muslim and hindu always in battle (India), why Pakistani boy want to kiss other boy etc. I have to admit that I am jealous. I have to read the book, see movie or television to get to know what the meaning of gestures, smile, waves, hugs etc but Agustinus just being there to learn in real world. His note about people he met always new discovery for me. It's open up my door through his journey. Thanks Gus !

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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Behind the Scene (Yosemite 5 end)

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer - and often the supreme disappointment. -- Ansel Adams

I have been photographing landscapes for a few years. My love of photography back when I was in uni or even further my childhood. But the only thing that led me being a photographer because I love the beauty of nature. As George Mallory answered when he asked why he was climbing the mountain : Because it's there !

Yosemite wasn't an exceptional. It's's beauty that drove people to see it. I have to admit before set off to National Park I am just want to be there, sit and watching. Say : ah...ah..ah then grab a camera snap...snap..snap ! After that I realized that to explore this place you've got to walk, climb, crawl, cross the river and fighting with temperature.

I was there with a friend Olivier. He is a serious photographer who armed with lovely EOS D5, many lenses and tit bits in his compact rucksack also Photographer's Guide To Yosemite Book. A night before we sat together watching his photo taken last year in spring. It was lovely collection, most of them were landscapes and macro -the two area that I played most. Mark in the other hand is an experienced hobbyist. He had been playing with camera for about 21 years since in uni. His major is in macro and wildlife animal. He will spend hours chasing animal and taking photographs. Anyway I wasn't that keen.

So Yosemite I have been surrounding by 'expert' but to add misery we did not take tripod and many lenses with us. Only monopod that Mark uses it for wildlife which aim to take active movement. We relay on cameras to do as we told, praying that light will on our side. In autumn the sun will the only source of light, and because Yosemite is a valley you couldn't get much lighting to cover whole area. The valley is built by massive granite wall circulating for 2 miles across.

Now I understand why Olivier was in fully arms. The light conditions was not an ideal for landscape. You've got to deal with the situation. Take photos now or never.... So yes I took it for granted. We had two brilliant days for climbing upper Yosemite Falls. The next two days was not bad, apart from early birds down to the Valley and Mirror Lake.

As a bonus Mark met bobcats for the first time in wild world. I was thinking it looked like a mountain lion. I was wrong to send him take photos and end up in 30 minutes worrying something will happen. Olivier said last year he met two brown bear at the same place I spot the bobcat. Early morning obviously a favorite time for animal looking for prey. Ok it's noted.

Season also play important rules. We were in autumn near winter. The sky still clear, temperature quite mild, no snow and no gusty wind or storm. But nature can change just in blink of eye. One moment I can see the blue sky, then turn misty cold thick clouds covering the peaks. Temperature can drop easily. We ended up had several layers of clothes including gloves and hat. I get used to play camera's button with the bare hand. But since the cold unbearable I had to put the gloves on and off.

Anyway we always hoping that we will back doing some more photography sometime. But as I wrote this blog I glanced to other screen show my Yosemite's pictures. I can feel the magic, I can feel the grandeur.'s worth to die for.

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Monday, December 4, 2006

Titip Pesan Lewat Pohon (Yosemite 4)

Trees go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far! -- John Muir

Saya dulu suka manjat pohon, apalagi jika itu mangga milik tetangga dan berbuah lebat. Entahlah saya suka sekali berada diantara pohon-pohon tengah hutan. Ada rasa takut gimanaaa gitu jika melihat pohon-pohon besar. Saya jadi ingat Treebeard dalam Return of The King-nya JRR Tolkien. Pohon yang memimpin para ents menghancurkan Isengard. Rasanya kok pohon itu memang mengerikan ya...

Day 4 Sunday 26th November 2006 Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Hari terakhir Yosemite saya putuskan menengok Mariposa Grove - pohon sequoia raksasa. Tempat ini diketemukan oleh Galen Clark seorang mantan penambang emas yang divonis tak bakal hidup lama karena infeksi paru-paru. Pak Clark ini begitu terinspirasi dengan pohon sequoia yang mampu hidup hingga beribu tahun akhirnya memutuskan menjadi tukang jaga Yosemite dan Mariposa. Dan hebatnya karena hawa gunung yang dihirup tiap hari bisa menyembuhkan sakitnya hingga ia meninggal di usia 95 tahun ! Waw ...

Bukan kebetulan kalau hari itu saya ngg sengaja bareng dengan laki-laki yang mengaku berumur lebih dari 100th. Saya tidak percaya pengakuannya, apalagi dari fisik ia nampak gagah. Hanya rambut panjang putih yang ditutupi topi serta jambang panjangnya persis seperti foto Galen Clark. Apalagi ia tidak berjalan dengan tongkat, seperti wajarnya seorang kakek-kakek. Ia tampil dengan gaya modern lengkap jeans belel dan jacket hood. Pfff...
Tapi dari cerita yang disampaikannya saya mengamini. Ia bilang hutan ini memberinya semangat untuk tetap hidup, seperti halnya pohon-pohon disini.

Jadi pohon sequoia itu apa sih ? Nama aslinya Sequoiadendron giganteum atau Siera Redwood atau Pohon Raksasa. pohon ini bisa tumbuh tinngi 50-85m dan tercatat paling tua adalah berumur 3,200 tahun berdasar lingkaran tahun. Kok bisa awet sih? nah rahasianya adalah kulit pohon yang tahan terbakar, kemampuan menyebarkan bibit dalam cones, dan juga di Mariposa ini benar2 dilindungi. Gak ada logging semenjak 1853.

Biasanya pengunjung hanya sampai Lower area. Tapi kami putuskan hingga lebih nanjak lagi untuk melihat lebih jauh. Kami ngambil rute memutar melewati pohon2 yang jelas bekas terbakar. Ah ya disini kalau musim kering gampang sekali tersulut apalagi dekat dengan pinus yang mempunyai daya pantik.

Hingga di perbatasan sampailah saya di pohon yang dilobangi untuk bisa lewat. Iyah si pohon ternyata masih bisa bertahan hidup dan terus tumbuh walaupu jutaan orang melewati lubang menganga. Saya sempat juga menjumpai padang edelweis ketika mendekati puncak bukit. Waaaaaa...kalau di Indonesia mungkin sudah habis diambilin untuk buah tangan. Bedanya yang ini tipenya seperti tanaman merambat di tanah, hanya bunganya nampak menjulang seperi semak. Harumnya itu....

Di Mariposa ini ditemui banyak burung seperti jay atau woodpecker. Bahkan rusa liar nampak begitu bersahabat dan tidak takut dengan manusia. Belum lagi bajing yang saling melompat mencari ceceran kacang ditanah. Ah tak heran Pak Clark begitu menikmati hutan ini....Biasalah kalau sudah bertemu binatang bisa makan waktu lama untuk foto2. Tak terasa sudah waktunya kembali ke rumah. Anyway next time kami akan kembali.

For more picture please see Pohon..rusa..bajing ..dan edelweis.

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