Karen Girls in the Truck Bed, Ban Mae Pae School, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Karen Girls in a Truck Bed
Getting from A to B in the hills of Northern Thailand takes all kinds of transport; as I watch the girls behind me in the bed of the truck I’m in, I can’t help but think about safety laws in other countries, and worry about the probability of rain.

It was a Sunday. And the sky was full of rain.

In spite of that, hill tribe children were at school, scrubbed and dressed in their traditional clothing, ready with smiles to greet our group of visitors.

It always amazes me how cheerfully Thai students – especially those from farming hill tribe families in the remote northern regions – go the extra mile to continue their educations: they often have to live in school dormitories for much of the year because the roads to and from their homes are long, rough, and completely impassible in the rains; they fill in countless forms and spend hours waiting for or participating in interviews if they want to receive a small stipend to help cover study expenses; and they participate in these visits with project-funders and scholarship-providers with good spirits.

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to spend four days travelling around Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son visiting schools and students with a small group of educators who manage the Thailand Hilltribe Education Projects (THEP). THEP helps northern hill tribe children stay in school (see: Ursula’s Weekly Wanders: THEP). Local educators Apichart and Usa Intra are good at identifying project needs: a new dormitory here, new bunkbeds there, mosquito nets, garden projects, canteens – all the small and big things that make live-in schools manageable, but that the Thai Department of Education doesn’t pay for. For over 25 years, one of THEP’s originators, Susan Race, has managed to find funding – corporate, agency, or private – for these many projects, and has helped supervise their completion. THEP organisers receive no pay for their time and effort; community members don’t get money for their labour when they help construct project buildings; and teachers receive no extra pay when they stay at the schools to keep an eye on students in dormitories or travel with students to weekend interviews.

It is the enthusiasm of the students themselves that keeps teachers, principals, and village representatives putting in this extra time and effort. 

We covered a lot of miles on this trip – many of them on rutted dirt roads that seem to wind up into the rain clouds – and we visited a lot of schools and talked to a lot of students.

On the first day of our travels, we visited a number of projects and met several students (see: The Faces of THEP). The second day was spent at the Department of Education Office in Mae Sariang interviewing scholarship students. On the third day, we drove high into the mountains to look at a new school dormitory (see: Roads Less Travelled), and then to an old canteen and dormitories in need of repairs and sprucing up. On the last day, Sunday, we examined a water project in need of a pump, and stopped en route back to our flights out of Chiang Mai to meet three more students.

Everywhere we went – in spite of the extra work, the waiting, and the rainy weather – we were met with smiles.

Fluorescent-lit Department of Education Office with students waiting at tables, Mae Sariang Thailand

“Hurry up and Wait!”
Twice a year, students who receive study scholarships are expected to submit their marks and a letter outlining their financial circumstances. Susan Race and Khru Apichart Inta conduct regular student interviews at schools and Department of Education Offices.
On Friday morning, this group of students was expected to be at the Education Office by 8 am. They travelled long distances down wet and winding roads – many in the back utility trucks or crammed onto small motorcycles – to get here. We all then waited for the local Director to arrive, so he could make a speech and have a photo taken with the students. 

Karen schoolgirl in a Department of Education Office with students waiting at tables, Mae Sariang Thailand

Teen-Aged Ornwara
After travelling down from the Hills with a teacher, the students spend much of the day waiting for their turn to be interviewed. Ornwara, from a Karen family, is now in Middle School; …

Portrait: Smiling Karen girl with short hair

Seven-Year-Old Ornwara
… I’ve been watching her progress since she first started Grade One in 2011.

At six pm, when the lights in the Education Office went out (automatically), we – and a few pockets of students – were still there. No one can say the poor students (and their teachers) don’t work hard for the small study grants they receive!

Karen school boys doing dishes at Ban Tha Song Kwae School, Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Boys Doing Dishes
Saturday, after a morning at at Ban Huay Mae Gok School where we looked at new dormitories, we drove to Ban Tha Song Kwae School to check out the leaking roof over the canteen. The youngsters had just finished lunch, …

Karen school boys doing dishes at Ban Tha Song Kwae School, Mae Hong Son, Thailand

Boys Doing Dishes
… and were doing the dishes in the kitchen.

Karen Students outside their Dormitory at Ban Mae Pae Village School, Thailand

Students outside their Dormitory
Some schools have large dormitory populations. These children are all Karen – distinguishable by their traditional hand-woven clothing.

Portrait: Thai monk at Ban Mae Pae Village School, Thailand

Visiting Phra
Many organisations – local and international – help the still-disadvantaged Hill Tribe groups. This monk was part of a group of visitors from further south in Thailand; they had brought lots of warm clothing for donation, and plenty of fresh, seasonal fruit to give away.

Karen school children in traditional clothing, Mae Hong Son, Thailand.

Karen School Kids
It was early the next (Sunday) morning that we drove out to Ban Mae Pae Village School. The resident children came out to greet us in their colourful traditional clothing. 

Karen school girls in traditional clothing, Mae Hong Son, Thailand.

Karen School Girls
In this Karen subgroup, the girls’ hand-made white cotton tunics are intricately interwoven with patterns in colourful wools.

Portrait: Two Karen school children in traditional clothing, Mae Hong Son, Thailand.

Two Karen Girls

Karen Girls in a Truck Bed, Ban Mae Pae School, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Kids in the Truck
This school has no piped water, and the tank runs dry in summer; we all piled into trucks to have a look at a local water project that wants funding.

Thai man with a Water hose, Ban Mae Pae School, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Water Project
With the pump turned on …

Karen girl with a Water hose, Ban Mae Pae, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Girl with a Hose
… the water runs for a while.

Thai man with Karen school girls, Ban Mae Pae, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Water Project Group
One of the men involved with the project poses with a group of Karen girls.

Karen Girls in the Truck Bed, Ban Mae Pae School, Mae Hong Son Thailand

In the Back of the Truck
This time of year, there is no shortage of water, and as we head back to lunch, the skies open up!

Simple Thai school kitchen, , Ban Mae Pae School, Mae Hong Son Thailand

The kitchen is simple – dare I say “rustic” – but the meal we were fed was wonderful!

Portrait: Thai Man and Woman

Khru Apichart and Khru Usa
Apichart, who is now a principal in Chiang Mai, and his wife Usa, who has finished her Masters of Education in Second Language Learning, have been going “the extra mile” for their students for a lot of years; …

Portrait: Thai Man and Woman

Khru Apichart and Khru Usa
… as I said when I originally posted this picture from 2011 (see: Schools at the End of the Road), they both work full time at their respective schools. Although they have growing children themselves, they give up many weekends and spend a lot of “after hours” liaising with and advocating for the students and schools in their area.

Hills of Mae Hong Son planted with vegetables, Thailand

The Hills
With inspections finished and lunch enjoyed, we wend our way back down the mountain. There is a bucolic beauty in the hills that belies the back-breaking work that goes into planting crops on such steep slopes.

Rich pink Euphorbia milii hybrids Crown of Thorns flowers

Crown of Thorns – Euphorbia Milii

Girl on a Motorcycle on a muddy bridge, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Girl on a Motorcycle
It may only be 20 km back to pavement, but it feels further!

Thai man with a motorcycle Riding in the back of a SongTaew Bus, Mae Hong Son Thailand

Riding the Local Song Taew
It is not everywhere that you see a motorcycle on the back of a bus.

THEP personal and three Thai students around a table, Hod Thailand

Interviews in Hod
We made one last stop, halfway back to the airport, to visit with scholarship students who had been unable to get to Mae Sariang.

Thai dog on a cement table, Hod school.

Courtyard Dog
The school dog watched on.

To the Future (text)If these students (and teachers) continue to work as hard as they are currently doing, they will go far in the future.

I wish them well!

Photos: 11June2017

  • susan race - September 15, 2017 - 2:52 am

    Great again. Thank you Ursula.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 16, 2017 - 1:01 am

      Thank go to you! It is such a pleasure watching the kids grow up. 😀ReplyCancel

Driftwood and Entire-leaved Gumweed, Beachcomber Regional Park, Nanoose BC

Driftwood and Entire-Leaved Gumweed
The coastal tide pools of Nanoose Bay, on the protected east coast of Vancouver Island, are a unique ecosystem and still home to clumps of grindelia integrifolia, or entire-leaved gumweed, which nestle on the rocky beaches in the shelter of washed-up drift wood.

There is something invigorating about tall trees, a mountain backdrop, and ocean breezes.

It is always a pleasure exploring the woods and waters on and around Vancouver Island, on the West Coast of Canada. My husband and I return regularly to our favourite walking and sailing places, but we also try to explore some new terrain on each visit.

Recently, during a summer stay in Nanoose Bay – a small community on the east coast of Vancouver Island overlooking the waters of the Strait of Georgia – we decided to play proper tourists, and let some local experts show us the sights. We signed ourselves onto the Monday afternoon “Parksville Qualicum Beach Treasures Tour” with the locally run and operated Pacific Rainforest Adventure Tours.

It was a good decision: local knowledge makes the ‘wild’ much more accessible. Our guide for the afternoon was owner-operator Gary Murdock, an ex-Forest Technician and local conservationist who knows where all the natural treasures are, and who had no trouble answering any of the questions we could pose.

Join us for an easy day of short walks.

Rocky outcrops on Craig Bay, Nanoose Bay BC Canada.

Rocks on Craig Bay
When my husband and I stay at our usual accommodation near Nanoose Bay on BC’s temperate Vancouver Island, we make of point of enjoying a morning walk around the rocky tide pools of Craig Bay.

Garry Oak over Craig Creek Estuary, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Garry Oak
… and through the overhanging Garry oaks (Quercus garryana) along the Craig Creek Estuary.

Signboard at the entry to Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Brickyard Community Park
Although the waterfront is dotted with resorts and high-end housing, there are also several reserves and parks that everyone can enjoy. Even though I’ve checked out the Tourist Information and regional maps many times, we had never visited these particular parks before.

Blackberry Leaf on the Foreshore Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Himalayan Blackberry Leaf (Rubus Armeniacus) on the Foreshore
Brickyard Community Park is a tiny five-acre (2 hectare) chunk of rocky outcrop nestled amongst the expensive waterfront homes perched on the cliffs on either side.

People on a rocky bluff in Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

People on the Point
The rock bluffs of Brickyard Community Park allow spectacular views over the Winchelsea Islands

Sailboat in the Winchelsea Islands

Sailboat in the Winchelsea Islands
… and to snowcapped mountains on the mainland across the Strait of Georgia.

Profile portrait of a man with a spotting scope, Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Gary with his Spotting Scope
Our local guide sets up his spotting scope to check out the seals and otters in the bay.

People on a forested path, Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Back up the Path
The group heads back up the trail to the the van, through the towering Douglas firs, …

Vanilla Leaf , Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Vanilla Leaf (Achlys Triphylla)
… and past lush, sweet smelling native vanilla leaf …

Pink flowers on Himalayan blackberry, Brickyard Community Park, Nanoose Bay BC Canada

Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus Armeniacus)
… and the pretty blossoms of the invasive Himalayan blackberry bushes.

Guide in the Woods, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Guide Gary in the Woods
At our next stop, Beachcomber Community Park, Gary points out a eagle’s nest …

Eagle Baby in a Nest, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Eagle Babies in the Nest
… high in the trees over our heads.

Two eagle Chicks in a nest, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Eagle Chicks
Douglas firs can grow to between 20–100 metres (70–330 ft) tall; I have no idea how tall this one is, …

eagle Chick in a nest, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Eagle Chick
… but even with a zoom lens and a crop, the baby eagles – already with deadly-looking beaks – are a long way off!

Bald Eagle in the Trees, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Bald Eagle in the Trees
Clearly, however, we are close enough! One of the parents keeps watch from a perch nearby.

Crazy twisting trunks of Coastal Pacific Madrone, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Crazy Coastal Pacific Madrone (Arbutus Menziesii)
The trunks and branches of these Northwest native evergreens twist crazily against the coastal winds.

View of Mistaken Island from the Foreshore, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Beachcomber Community Park Foreshore
From the rocky shoreline of Beachcomber Community Park, the privately-owned Mistaken Island is so close you can almost touch it.

Dried roots of a driftwood tree, Beachcomber Community Park, Nanoose Bay, BC Canada

Driftwood Art
The elaborate driftwood washed up on the shoreline gives a clue to the “Beachcomber” name.

Fields trees and mountains, Qualicum BC Canada

Our next stop – at the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Mooberry Winery – is in the middle of the kind of pastoral growing country that supports a working dairy farm: …

Signs on a door at the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks and Mooberry Winery

The Cheeseworks
… a dairy farm with a sense of humour. And, they make great cheese. We picked up a few treats for dinner.

Tourists on the bridge over the Englishman River Falls, Parksville BC Canada

Bridge over the Englishman River Falls
Our last stop for the afternoon is at Englishman River, where we cross the river … 

Water flowing over the top of Englishman River Falls, Parksville BC Canada

Englishman River Falls
… and get a good view over Upper Englishman River Falls, where the waters cascade …

Water flowing the bottom of Englishman River Falls, Parksville BC Canada

Englishman River Canyon
… into a deep and rugged canyon below.

Sunset over Craig Bay, Parksville BC Canada

Sunset Parksville
In the evening, we enjoyed another glorious sunset …

Sunset over Craig Bay, BC Canada

Sunset over Craig Bay
… over the waters and rocks of Craig Bay.

With drinks in hand, we sat watching the sun set over the tall trees and tide pools of Vancouver Island; a perfect ending to a lovely day in one of my favourite places.

Text: Happy RamblingWe hope to get back there one day soon.

‘Till then,

Happy Rambling!

Pictures: 15June2015

Close-up portrait of a Tawali child, Milne Bay PNG

Tawali Child
Big, serious eyes and solemn expressions were a feature of many of the Papua New Guinean children that I met on my recent travels.

Papua New Guinea is not the easiest place in the world to get to.

I was starting from Australia, a near neighbour and – for almost 60 years – the former administrative head of PNG. Even so, limited flight options into and out of the capital Port Moresby are only available certain days of the week, making travel planning difficult.

It is also not the easiest place to get around. In spite of intense investment from the World Bank and targeted international foreign aid (e.g.: Construction Begins on K89), much of the country is not well served by roadways. Many of it’s centres simple do not connect to each other, except by way of isolated and dangerous walking tracks, waterways, or expensive internal flights.

And the scheduled domestic flights – as our group of twelve travellers under the guidance of photographer Karl Grobl from Jim Cline Photo Tours discovered to our dismay – are dependent on weather and visibility, mechanical repairs and replacements, and resolution of pilot disputes. We were stranded in Mount Hagen for a full day and grounded in Port Moresby Airport for several hours, cutting a day and a half off our planned time in the beautiful Milne Bay.

Papua New Guinea is also a difficult place to get one’s head around: it can be hard to reconcile the contradictions between the idyllic surrounds and the gentle-eyed people on the one hand, and a history of head-hunting, stories of cannibalism, and ongoing tribal warfare on the other.

And yet, on the ground in the country – whether in the down-at-heels city of Port Moresby, stranded on the Sepic River in a broken boat, rubbing shoulders with tribal groups at the Sing-Sing in the Mount Hagan highlands, or visiting a Skull Cave in the coastal Milne Bay area – I never once felt unsafe or unwelcome. 

The light can be as unforgiving as the old tribal ways: the inky-dark jungle contrasts with the streams of burning brightness that sneak through the canopy. Light bounces wildly off the clear waters. Art photographers don’t like “hot” patches in their pictures; I sometimes don’t mind them, because they tell some of the story of what is: glaring light and darkened shadows co-existing in a balanced patchwork of extreme contrasts, rather than a smoothly blended hegemony. 

To try to sort out these contradictions, I’m starting at the end of my trip – sharing a selection of the photos I took across two idyllic days spent based at the remote and lovely Tawali Resort, which sits on a limestone bluff, high over Hoia Bay, about two hours east of the Alotau Airport.

Of course, getting there was in keeping with the theme: we were already a day behind schedule because of a pilot’s dispute. We arrived at the Port Moresby airport early to check in for our flight to Alotau, but (with no explanation) the plane itself was hours late arriving. So, we spent all morning in a spartan domestic terminal, not sure if we’d ever get off the ground.

That was only the start of the adventure!

Spinner Dolphins - Stenella Longirostris - leaping, Milne Bay

Spinner Dolphins – Stenella Longirostris
After a bumpy and harrowing 90 minute bus ride along dirt roads with holes the size of small craters and over bridges that were little more than rough planks, we were pleased to transfer ourselves and our luggage onto one of the boats that are the only mean of accessing Tawali Resort. We were even more happy to find a late lunch on board, as we’d been stuck in an airport terminal without food for several hours. The scores of dolphins that came out to play with the boat wake were a bonus.

Spinner Dolphins - Stenella Longirostris - leaping, Milne Bay

Spinner Dolphins – Stenella Longirostris
It is impossible not to smile watching the dainty dolphins cavort.

Spinner Dolphins - Stenella Longirostris - in blue water, Milne Bay

Spinner Dolphins – Stenella Longirostris
The waters below us are so clear that it feels like we can touch the bottom.

Dinghy landing tourists at Skull Cave on Milne Bay, PNG

Dinghy on Milne Bay
To compact our planned activities into our shrunken time-frame, and to take advantage of the the remaining daylight, we over-shot the resort and took the dinghies ashore for a short walk into the jungle.

Elderly Papuan man in a canoe on Milne Bay, PNG

Canoe on Milne Bay
A local man, going about his business on the turquoise waters near shore, watches us with a smile.

Foreshore under a mangrove tree, Milne Bay, PNG

This is an area of limestone karst caves; the foreshore is rocky and shaded by mangrove trees.

Piles of human skulls in the dark, Skull Cave, Milne Bay, PNG

Skull Cave
The limestone caves are pitch black, with uneven floors and rough walls – – –
and are piled full of countless human skulls; a macabre sight in the torch light.

Piles of human skulls in the dark, Skull Cave, Milne Bay, PNG

Skull Cave
One story we were told to account for these skulls was that three neighbouring villages of head-hunters were in competition to collect the most trophies. Just over 100 years ago, missionaries arrived in the area and prohibited the custom of headhunting and the practice of cannibalism, driving villagers to hide their prized skull collections underground in these ‘secret’ caves. Some credence is given to this story by the fact that all the skulls seem to show spear injuries in the same place.
The other explanation is that when revered people died, they were buried upright with clay pots placed over their heads. When the body decomposed sufficiently, the head was removed and placed in the cave as a show of respect. Apparently these skull caves are relatively common across the country.

Baby in on mother

Baby in Arms
Back outside in the dappled jungle light, local villages sit with their beads, wooden carvings, and shells for sale to the tourists.

Shells for sale, Milne Bay, PNG


Family in the Jungle, Milne Bay, PNG

Family in the Jungle
The people seem quite shy, and although they must be used to tourists, …

Two Papuan children, Milne Bay, PNG

Beauties in the Jungle
… they mostly just watch us.

Portrait: Tawali Girl, Milne Bay, PNG

Tawali Girl

Portrait: Tawali Girl, Milne Bay, PNG

A Shy Smile

View through a boat windsceen: Papuan man and Milne Bay coastline, PNG

Boat in the Spray
We ride the boats a little further up the coast, …

Coastal Papuan woven houses on stilts, Milne Bay PNG

Village Life in Hewiia
… where we take a short walk through a simple local village, …

Waterfall in Hewiia, Milne Bay PNG

Waterfall in Hewiia
… and back into the jungle to a lovely waterfall.

Papuan girls in school uniform at the Hewiia Waterfall, Milne Bay PNG

Schoolgirls at the Waterfall
Local children follow us, …

Papuan girls in school uniform at the Hewiia Waterfall, Milne Bay PNG

Schoolgirls at the Waterfall
… and watch us with curiosity.

Portrait: Papuan girl, Milne Bay PNG

“Little Beauty”
This solemn-faced young woman was wearing a t-shirt that read: “This Beauty doesn’t need a Beast.”

Bird Eating Spider, Milne Bay PNG

Bird Eating Spider
The jungle is full of surprises.

Tourist Boat, Milne Bay PNG

Tourist Boat

Papuan woman on a boat, Milne Bay PNG

Simple Grace
As the day closes, we finally head to the resort, where we once again discover how ill-prepared Papua New Guinea is for tourism: the bar has plenty of tonic and lime, but no gin!

Ferns in the Jungle Tops, Milne Bay PNG

Ferns in the Jungle Tops
The next morning, we were up at 4am for a short boat ride and a long walk (straight up!) to see the indigenous birds of paradise. Unfortunately, our group was too large and too loud – or perhaps it was the drizzly weather – and, although we could hear the male, high in the trees over our heads, calling to his mates, all the birds remained hidden.

Rainbow over East Cape, Milne Bay PNG

Rainbow over East Cape
As if apologising for the early morning start and the lack of bird-sightings, the Bay threw up a lovely rainbow as we motored back to the resort for breakfast.

Old Papuan man and two children in an outrigger, Milne Bay PNG

Outrigger on the Water
After breakfast, we headed back out onto those richly coloured waters to dock on a sandy tropical island for lunch under the mangroves … 

Reef Fisherman,a Drone and Snorkelling Tourists, Milne Bay PNG

Culture Clash
… and snorkelling on the reef under the watchful camera of a drone. (iPhone6)

Reef Abstract, Milne Bay PNG

Reef Abstract
Leaving the cameras safely on dry land, I played with the iPhone over the coral reef while I kayaked on the crystal waters. (iPhone6)

Young Papuan boys with spears, Tawali Resort, Milne Bay PNG

Young Warriors
The rainy evening pushed the muu-muu (ground-baked pig, wrapped in banana leaf) and the sing-sing (a cultural gathering of costume, music and dance) indoors. Young boys with spears …

Young Papuan girls in feathers and grass skirts, Tawali Resort, Milne Bay PNG

Little Birds of Paradise
… prepared to surround and ‘kill’ birds of paradise. Looking at all the bird feathers used in the intricate headdresses, it is no surprise that the birds remain elusive in the wild.

That children’s performance says it all: wide-eyed innocent dancers telling the beautiful but gruesome story of a hunt that ends in the death of a rare and exotic creature. 

Text: Happy Travels

Papua New Guinea is, indeed, a study in contradictions.

But, a fascinating and beguiling one.

Until next time,

Happy Travels!

Pictures: 23-24August2017

  • Karl Grobl - August 31, 2017 - 2:21 pm

    Excellent post and photos Ursula. I anxiously await each and every one of your blog posts. Thanks for taking the time to share this!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 1, 2017 - 12:44 am

      Thanks so much, Karl! Your trips are always full of highlights; I always enjoy travelling to new places with you. I’m looking forward to the next time…ReplyCancel

  • Diane Rosenblum - August 31, 2017 - 3:58 pm

    I loved the post and your pictures. You got the dolphins! And your children are lovely. (Really like the cropping of the first child image). Now I know why Karl waits to see your blogs to find out where he’s been and what he’s done!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 1, 2017 - 12:46 am

      Ha Ha Ha!! I wait to get home to see where I’ve been and what I’ve done. 😉 I am looking forward to all the tribal portraits, but they still seem a little overwhelming…
      It was lovely to meet you – there WILL be a next time. 😀ReplyCancel

  • JEANNE LEWAND - August 31, 2017 - 4:06 pm


    • Ursula - September 1, 2017 - 12:40 am

      Many thanks, Jeanne! It was great travelling with you. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Jan Lively - August 31, 2017 - 10:57 pm

    Yet again Ursula, you have come through with pictures and words that so artfully tell the story of our amazing time together in Papua New Guinea. And when friends ask me about our trip, I am going to suggest they check out your blog, for indeed, you are a master story teller. It was great to travel with you again too.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 1, 2017 - 12:42 am

      Thanks, Jan, you too kind! It’s always a joy to travel with you and the Handsome-Lew-Man. 😀ReplyCancel

  • Kat Miner - September 1, 2017 - 1:47 am

    Wonderful, Ursula! Such fun to read about your experience! In spite of all of the bumps along the way, it sounds like you made the best of it!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 1, 2017 - 2:21 am

      Nice to have your visit Kat. It really is a different – albeit beautiful – world!ReplyCancel

  • Jen - September 6, 2017 - 2:59 am

    Beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing, very well done!ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - September 6, 2017 - 11:35 am

      Thank you, Jen! Looks like you enjoyed the rest of your trip. 😀ReplyCancel

Tony Joe White, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Tony Joe White
Who doesn’t know “Polk Salad Annie”?
Tony Joe White was part of the first Bluesfest I attended, several Bluesfests since, and a big part of my youth. I had tears in my eyes while watching him this year; although he performed as powerfully as ever, he seemed frail. We are all getting older …

Isn’t it wonderful how a particular song can take you right back?

Back to the time and place you were when you first heard it? Music makes connections – across people, across continents, and across time.

The first time I attended the Byron Bay Bluesfest, back in 1999 when it was still called the East Coast Blues & Roots Festival, I felt as if the 25-odd years that had intervened between myself and the music concerts of my teens had simply fallen away. While listening to Taj Mahal, Jimmy Webb, Dr JohnTony Joe White, and other sounds from my adolescence, I remembered all the best things about those years. Even the songs associated with teenaged heartbreak felt sweet.

Every time I’ve returned to Bluesfest since then, I’ve had moments like that: moments of nostalgia, where old memories are as sharp as if it was yesterday – where I can remember the person I was as clearly as if there have been no changes in the many years intervening, while still retaining some of the perspective that comes from “growing up”.

This year was no different: mixed in with the cutting edge new performers were some of the “big names” from my youth. Truth be told, none excited me quite as much as the appearance of Robert Plant – from my beloved Led Zeppelin – whom we enjoyed in 2013 (see: Singing the Blues), but I was keen to hear the other contributors to the soundtrack of my adolescence who were on this year’s lineup.

They did not disappoint.

The Mojo Tent in the dark, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Waiting for the Doobie Brothers – The Mojo Tent
The “big” names tend to be in the big tents. Even though those tents are jam-packed with people as keen to hear the old favourites as I am, the atmosphere makes it worth it to just be there. (iPhone6)

Camera and Lights up a girder, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Camera and Lights
The big tents are equiped with spot lights and cameras, so even without a direct view of the stage, you can still watch the screens either side of the stage, or outside.

Doobie Brothers , Byron Bay Bluesfest 2014, Australia

Doobie Brothers (2014)
I managed to get reasonably close to the wonderful Doobie Brothers when they performed in 2014 (see: Full Blast and Full Colour), and I was hoping for a repeat this year.

Doobie Brothers, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Doobie Brothers (2017)
With members all well into their 60s, the band continues to tour regularly. I (and the rest of the packed-in audience) enjoyed them as much as ever!

Tom Johnston - the Doobie Brothers, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Tom Johnston
A multi-instrumentalist, Tom Johnston was a founder of The Doobie Brothers, and has been a contributing guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter, off and on, over the band’s almost-40-year existence.

Patrick Simmons with The Doobie Brothers, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

The Doobie Brothers
Bass guitar player John Cowan and Patrick Simmons on acoustic guitar.

Marc Russo, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Marc Russo – The Doobie Brothers

Tom Johnston and John McFee, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Tom Johnston and John McFee – The Doobie Brothers

Mavis Staples, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Mavis Staples
American rhythm, blues, and gospel singer; actress; and civil rights activist, Mavis Staples scored her first hit in 1956, and has continued to influence music to the present (see: Blues Women Rock!).

Patti Smith, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Patti Smith
I’ve mentioned Patricia Lee “Patti” Smith before in Blues Women Rock! An American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist, she became a “punk poet laureate” with the album Horses in the mid 70s.

 Rickie Lee Jones, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Rickie Lee Jones
Another woman who was part of the soundscape of my youth, Rickie Lee Jones looked tiny next to her big guitar – but her personality and sound commanded attention (see: Blues Women Rock).

Jimmy Buffet, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Jimmy Buffet
On the second day of this year’s Bluesfest, the older festival-goers were all decked out in their Key West – Margaritaville-inspired flowery clothing, ready for the escapist, feel-good music of Jimmy Buffett and his band. I’m not sure who had more fun during the performance: Jimmy, or the “Parrotheads” in the audience!

Bonnie Raitt, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Bonnie Raitt
With a career spanning from the 1970s, blues singer-songwriter, musician, and activist, Bonnie Raitt was part of the zeitgeist of my era.

Buddy Guy, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Buddy Guy
It is clear that 80-year-old Buddy Guy loves what he does.  We’ve enjoyed him before and caught him twice this year: he’s a virtuoso musician and consummate performer. As Jimi Hendrix once said: “Heaven is lying at Buddy Guy’s feet while listening to him play the guitar.”

Waiting for Jethro Tull, Crossroads Tent, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Waiting for Jethro Tull
Another day, another packed-out tent: this time waiting for Jethro Tull, the legendary British group dating back to the late 1960s.

Ian Anderson and Florian Opahle, Jethro Tull, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Ian Anderson and Florian Opahle
The lead vocalist and flautist for Jethro TullIan Anderson, is the driving force behind the progressive rock band. German rock guitarist Florian Opahle is the youngest regular musician to work with the group.

Santana logo on a phone screen, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Santana on the Screen
People take pictures of the backdrop as they wait for the next big name to make it out onto the Crossroads stage.

Santana on stage under Lights, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Santana under Lights
I have loved the music of Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana since my days of high school “Sock-Hops” – the pre-cursers to Discos, before “discs” were even invented.

Santana on Guitar, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Santana on Guitar
His distinctive guitar melodies set against Latin and African rhythms have seen him listed as number 20 on the 2003 Rolling Stone magazine list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Cindy Blackman on drums, Santana, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Cindy Blackman
Percussion has always been an important part of Santana’s music. The featured drum solo went to the jazz percussionist, Cindy Blackman-Santana.

Madness, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Graham “Suggs” McPherson has been the lead vocalist of the English ska band Madness (formed in 1976) since 1977. Most of their songs that we recognised dated to the 80s and later.

Tony Joe White and Drummer, Byron Bay Bluesfest 2017, Australia

Tony Joe White
“Swamp Music” is a genre all it’s own, and Tony Joe White is the epitome. and in spite of being born eons away from swamps, I connect – immediately!

Hearing again those songs that were played daily on the radio, or that I listened to in a friend’s room via 45’s or albums, I was taken straight back into the past –
Text: To the Music

– not the real past, of course; 

the remembered past, filtered by the lived years in between.

I SO love that I can enjoy the music and the memories without really going back to the world that was when I was that age!

To the MUSIC!


Photos: 14-17April2017

A Man surrounded by bags of spices, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi India

A Man and his Goods
There are so many nuts and spices for sale in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk that they extend beyond the shops and into the streets.

India is a sensory feast: a multilayered tapestry of sights and sounds in colours that pulsate, wrapped in a rich weave of smells, where the aromas of flowers and cardamon battle with the stink of dust and refuse and the unwashed. Even the air has tangible depth.

Nowhere is this better epitomised than in Chandni Chowk, one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi

Designed by the favourite daughter of the ruling Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650, the bazaar originally featured a central pool – long since gone – which shimmered in the moonlight, leading to the name: Chandni Chowk or “Moonlight Square”. The area is still home to historic mansions and the ageing homes of tradesmen and craftsmen; old mosques, churches, temples and shrines; and shops and restaurants selling all manners of goods and foods. Said to be the largest wholesale market in Asia, the goods and services spill out of the myriad of shops and into the rabbit warren of streets already packed with boxes, people, stray dogs, and the odd car. Some of the winding laneways are positively claustrophobic, with unbroken rows of four-story shophouses closing out the sunlight, and a hot, muggy sky, tangled with electrical wires and the odd bits of tinsel overhead.

And, like everywhere else in India, it is almost as if the colour and the chaos is putting on a cultural show especially for the passing tourists. I’ve spent time in Chandni Chowk on a few occasions over the years: twice with organised photography groups, and once on my own. On each visit, I’ve discovered something different. And, each time, people have either posed for portraits, or actively invited me and my camera to play “voyeur” as they go about their daily lives.

Truly a photographer’s paradise!

Pedestrians and cycle-rickshaws in a Chandni Chowk Street, Old Delhi, India.

Street in Chandni Chowk
The streets that make up Chandni Chowk are always crowded: full of pedestrians and people on cycle-rickshaws clutching their purchases. 

Indian people in a Crowded Laneway, Chandni Chowk Street, Old Delhi, India.

Crowded Laneway
From turbaned Sikhs

Chandni Chowk Street, Old Delhi, India.

Chandni Chowk Shoppers
… to beaded and pony-tailed Hindu priests – …

Shop Fronts, Chandni Chowk Street, Old Delhi, India.

Shop Fronts
… there is something for everyone.

Old Indian Woman Selling Marigolds, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Old Woman Selling Flowers
Not everyone has their own shop. A simple burlap tent is one way of demarcating territory. Marigolds are always in demand as temple offerings.

Melons for sale, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

My favourite part of any market is the fresh produce…

Vegetable Grocer, , Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Vegetable Grocer
… and the characters who sell it.

Man selling Vegetables, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Man Selling Vegetables

Portrait: young man, , Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Juice Wallah
I’ll settle for a smile!

Young man pouring Juice , Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Pouring Juice
You can buy freshly squeezed juice on the street.

Indian School children in uniform, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

School Kids
There is a new sight around every corner. These children were piled into their pedicab to go to school. It always amazes me how crisp and clean they always look!

Two Indian men on a Stoop, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Men on a Stoop

Indian Muslim Shopkeeper, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Muslim Shopkeeper

An elderly Indian woman making garlands, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

More Marigolds
There are temples and shrines throughout the market, so flower sellers do a good business.

Arched Gateway, , Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Chandni Chowk Gateway
There are the odd quiet corners, …

Two Indian men with a pale of boxes, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

A Heavy Load
… but most laneways are a hive of activity.

Men in a spice shop, Khari Baoli, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Spice Shop
Khari Baoli Street in Chandni Chowk is the spice market …

Men in a spice shop, Khari Baoli, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Spice Seller
… where all kinds of spices, nuts, herbs and other dried food products are available.

Dried Fruits, Nuts and Pulses for sale Khari Baoli, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Dried Foods in Khari Baoli
Dried fruits, nuts, spices and pulses are priced and on display.

Men playing cards in the street, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Men Playing Cards
All kinds of activities are conducted in the streets; …

Man being shaved in the street, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Street Barber
… the local barbers have customers lined up …

Man being shaved in the street, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Close Shave
…for shaves and haircuts.

Indian men in a Pappadum Shop, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Pappadum Shop
The shops are crammed full …

Pappadum Shop, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

… with their colourful goods.

Indian men in a Pappadum Shop, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Pappadum Shopkeeper

Men in a Religious Paraphernalia for sale, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Religious Paraphernalia

Khari Baoli Road, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Khari Baoli Road
Shophouses and their billboards, wooden carts, pedicabs, piles of rubbish, and traffic: the wholesale spice market is a busy place.

Dog in Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Dog in Chandni Chowk
Street dogs just watch the scene.

Young Man at a Shopfront, Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi, India.

Young Man at a Shopfront

I love Chandni Chowk – but I have to limit my time there. In this network of crowded streets full of shops and people, “sensory feast” can easily tip into “sensory overload”.  

Text: Happy Travels

Like an overly-rich meal, a little can go a long way!

Until next time,

Happy travels!

Pictures: 12April2008, 08April2010, and 04November 2013