Ladakh, India

Ladakh is full of gorgeous gompas (Buddhist monasteries) and stupendous stupas (Buddhist monuments), and I’ve spent a good part of the last few days visiting them in and around Leh.  They’re often located at the top of big hills, which makes for exhausting sightseeing but brilliant views over the countryside and the mountains.

Shanti Stupa

Namgyal Tsemo Gompa

Stupas near Shey

I also took a trip to Pangong Tso, a beautiful lake located on the India-China border.  The drive there was pretty memorable – six hours of bumpy, winding mountain roads, ascending to a height of 5289m above sea level at Chang La, where we stopped for a cuppa at the world’s third highest cafeteria before descending to the lake.

Road to Pangong Tso

Cafe at Chang La

Plus we met some local wildlife en route!

Marmot

Yak

The mountain scenery was absolutely spellbinding and the lake itself was equally lovely.  Once we’d arrived, we spent the rest of the afternoon watching the colour of the lake change from azure to darkest navy to grey as the sun went down, then got up at 5.30 the next morning to watch the sun come up over the lake before hitting the road back to Leh.

Mountains at Pangong Tso

Sunset at Pangong Tso

Leh, India

You know how sometimes you feel like you’re going to love a place even before you arrive there?  Ladakh is one of the places I’ve been most looking forward to visiting on this trip, and the major city in the region, Leh, is just wonderful.  It’s set 3500m above sea level in the most stunning mountain ranges, covered in colourful prayer flags and Buddhist temples.

Chowkhang Gompa, Leh

View of Tsemo Fort with prayer flags

The sun is shining; the views everywhere are spectacular; I ate delicious dhal and mint naan bread last night by the light of Chinese lanterns and candles (every now and then just by candlelight when the rather erratic electricity supply gave up the ghost), listening to the evening call to prayer from the mosque compete with Sandy Denny on the stereo; I’m staying in a cosy guesthouse in a room with the most enormous bed I’ve ever slept in; and once I’ve acclimatised to the altitude, I’m going to be trekking all over the place – can’t wait!

Hong Kong

Some more views of the Hong Kong skyline, taken over the last couple of days:

View of Hong Kong at dusk from Victoria Peak

View from Victoria Peak

Faye & I at Tsim Sha Tsui, with Hong Kong Island behind us

I’m flying to India this evening and am so excited – updates from the Ladakhi mountains to follow soon!

Hong Kong

What a contrast – from Australia’s vast national parks to the bright lights of Hong Kong Island, where I’m staying with my friend Faye for a few days.  Yesterday I wandered around the Soho, Sheung Wan and Central areas, taking in streetscapes and enjoying spectacular views of the city from some very high buildings:

Antiques shops on Cat Street

View from elevated walkway

View from Bank of China Tower

Then I took the Star Ferry to Kowloon in time to watch the city light up gloriously at sunset:

Star Ferry travelling to Hong Kong Island

Today I took another ferry trip to Cheung Chau Island, one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands:

Harbour on Cheung Chau Island

Street on Cheung Chau Island

I hired a bicycle (no gears and a very loud bell) and spent the day wobbling around the island.  I finished my trip with tea, sushi and cake at a lovely Japanese teahouse where the owner took photos of me drinking her tea and presented me with some line drawings of Windsor Castle.

Hometown Teahouse, Cheung Chau Island

Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, Australia

My last stops in Australia were two beautiful national parks in the Northern Territory, Kakadu and Litchfield.  I hired a car to tour around the national parks, which turned into a bit of an epic road trip – I covered over 1000km over the three days, soundtracked by my new favourite Ozzie radio station, Triple J.  I didn’t hit any kangaroos, although I did spot one by the side of the road which scuttled off fairly sharpish when it saw me approaching at top speed . . .

As well as doing some lovely walking in Kakadu, I saw lots of paintings created by the Aboriginal inhabitants of the region, many thousands of years ago.

Bushwalking

View from Nabab lookout, Kakadu

Aboriginal rock art

Litchfield was also gorgeous but completely different: another stunning Australian rainforest landscape with streams and waterfalls trickling through the park.  I think the rainforests are my favourite places in Australia – there’s just so much to explore and see in them, and of course so many lovely (croc-free!) places to swim in.

Litchfield National Park

 

Alice Springs, Australia

Feeling very far from home at the moment . . .

Only 15,030km to London!

I’m about to leave Alice Springs for Darwin, having been on a tour exploring Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta and Uluru for the last few days.

All three places were absolutely spectacular – gorgeous colours, skies and textures.  We had the opportunity to do some lovely walks around each area of the National Park, and to see the landscape change with the sunrise and the sunset.  Unforgettable.

Kings Canyon

Me at Kings Canyon

Kata Tjuta

Uluru

Me at Mutitjulu waterhole, Uluru

We camped both nights in rather dusty “swags”.  It was brilliant falling asleep by the campfire looking up at the stars, but a bit chilly in the mornings once the campfire had gone out!

Nicole, Natalie and me in swags

Brisbane, Australia

. . . has also been the location for my best-ever sunset photos:

Sunset on Mount Coot-tha

Ship passing by Tangalooma at sunset

Sunset on the beach, Tangalooma

Brisbane, Australia

I’m about to leave Brisbane after a lovely week staying with Helen.

We spent a wonderful couple of days on Tangalooma, a resort and former whaling station on Moreton Island.  I went snorkelling around the artificial reef created on the Tangalooma Wrecks, fifteen vessels that have been deliberately sunk off the island to provide a habitat for marine wildlife.

Beach at Tangalooma

 

Tangalooma Wrecks

We also fed the gorgeous wild dolphins that swim around the island every night, and had a go at quad biking up and down the sand dunes.  That was pretty fun but a bit hair-raising, particularly at the point where I had to get pulled out of a wattle tree by the very patient quad bike instructor!

Bella the dolphin

 

Quad bike on the beach

 

Helen & I on the quad bike

I’ve met some more Australian wildlife in Brisbane:

Wombat

 

Wallaby

And one of the highlights of my visit was definitely our trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where I got up close and personal with the cutest animal I have ever met:

Me with Vinnie the koala

 

Sleepy koala