Tag Archives: Nina

Luck of the Irish

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I’ll tell you something you might not know about the Australian Outback – it’s peopled by young Irish! The subtle charm of saltbush and red earth does not account for the numbers in which they arrive: behind every counter, every laminate benchtop in every kitchen, pub, petrol station, cafe and caravan park between Darwin and Mt Isa there’s a Galway or Pipe lilt-a-lurking.

Whatever the Outback lacks in emerald green it makes up for in gold: the solid gold of a hard-earned wage – the kind it’s hard to come by in Ireland. Italians and French are drawn here too, for work, but not in the same numbers as the Irish – nowhere near.

At the Mataranka Caravan Park, at the end of a long day of hitchhiking, I inquire at reception about the cost of renting a tent pitch for the night: $36! It’s terrible news but pleasing nonetheless to hear it delivered in a running-stitch of tender Leinster tones! Battling to reconcile myself with parting with $36 for a patch of earth, I inquire whether management might have a spare tent they can throw into the bargain. To which she kindly responds, ‘No’.

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That night, lying under the stars, part-way-under a shared sleeping bag, with the sound of mob politics in the background, I ponder what it might be like, as a youth from an Irish village, to find yourself, suddenly,  in the Australian Outback. I feel baffled by what might draw someone this far across the earth to take up residence in a landscape only marginally less alien than the moon, to a culture as quixotic, contradictory and idiosyncratic as a pink bus called ‘Priscilla’. Surely it’s not just the money?

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On the second night of our hitch-hike across the Outback we’re saved by the kindness of the Irish. Tess, Mike and Lee are on a road trip that will take them from Sydney to Cairns. They’ve drawn up at the Barkly Homestead in their dusty blue station wagon and are happy enough to have their tents up, cans of beer in their hands and a good part of the driving behind them.

It’s cold. As they hug their coats closer about their shoulders their attention is drawn to the two weirdos (us!) who have wandered in off the road, under cover of darkness, and are spreading a layer of cardboard on the ground in order to shield themselves from the rising damp that would otherwise cost them a night of sleep.

‘We ha a tarpaulin if ya waaant it’, one of them offers, shouting over from the comfort of his canvas camping chair. He looks appalled to be witnessing our performance of voluntary impoverishment.

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On a mission in Phuket… in photos

cruising the beaches, yacht clubs, marinas and piers in search of a ride south...

cruising the beaches, yacht clubs and marinas in search of a crewing opportunity south…

that one would do...

that one would do…

... or that

… or that

checking out the competition at the Boat Lagoon Marina

checking out the competition at the Boat Lagoon Marina

spot the cheeky mugs! Putting ourselves out there...

spot the cheeky mugs! Putting ourselves out there…

Crew for you!

Crew for you!

It's not all hard work... strolling in old town Phuket

It’s not all hard work… strolling in old town Phuket

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local cats on the look-out

local cats on the look-out

high glamour in one of Phuket's more picturesque lane ways

high glamour in one of Phuket’s more picturesque lane ways

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a golden horizon of fishcakes

a golden horizon of fishcakes

power (present) & Portugal (past)

power (present) & Portugal (past)

another crumbling facade

another crumbling facade

Richie ogles the jackfruits in the market... eyes as big as saucers

Richie ogles the jackfruits in the market… eyes as big as saucers

dusk... and still 60% humidity

dusk… and still 60% humidity

a late night in the lobby finding WorkX, Wwofi, Couch Surfing and music opportunities

a late night in the lobby finding WorkX, Wwoof, Couch Surfing and music opportunities

Crew for you...

Crew for you…

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Angkor Wat

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library, Angkor Wat

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relieved Richie overcomes vertigo after descending the near-vertical stairs from the Bakan (inner gallery)
relieved Richie overcomes vertigo after descending the near-vertical stairs from the Bakan (inner gallery)
queuing for a sunset moment (shades of Vatican Museum)
queuing for a sunset moment (shades of Vatican Museum)
Bodhi tree growing from the ruins
Bodhi tree growing from the ruins
Ta Prohm, the 'Tomb Raider' temple
Ta Prohm, the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple

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swarming over Bayon
swarming over Bayon

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a dissolving apsara
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enigmatic faces, Bayon
Richie's remarkable elephant photo
Richie’s remarkable elephant photo
taking it all in
taking it all in

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Angkor art in action
Angkor art in action

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a cheeky face amid the ruins
a cheeky face amid the ruins
Richie & Paul, tomb raiders
Richie & Paul, tomb raiders

To see some more photo galleries of Angkor Wat check our Richie’s blog

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Stealing Jackfruit in Luang Prabang

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If there’s one crime that suits my disposition better than others it’s stealing fruit. In England, harvesting fruit without permission is a sport fondly referred to as ‘scrumping’. It’s a right of passage. No stigma attached. Even the prime minister would be forgiven fruit-stealing proclivities so long as he atoned by lowering the tax on apple cider.

Here on the banks of the Mekong, in a country twice removed from the grassy orchards of Somerset, there’s every chance that scrumping is an offence punishable by more than just a slap on the wrists.

The fruit that has got me wondering whether it’s ever right to steal, is none other than the king of fruits, the mighty mighty jackfruit: big as an Ox and knobblier than granny’s crochet blankets. This one’s a beauty: the fruit is roughly wombat-size, irregular, oblong, kissed with black at its extremities, and anchored to the trunk by a stem as thick and sinuous as an umbilical chord. The tree has delivered one hell of a baby!

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Thai jackfruit for sale in the market in Jinghong, China

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One Year of Faces: Part 2

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3 Pagodas, Dali

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3 Days in Chengdu

People's Park dancers, Chengdu

People’s Park dancers, Chengdu

After spending 83 hours on a bus to get there, I was prepared to love Chengdu. Gratefully, it wasn’t a hard task. The city was eminently likeable, not least the Tibetan enclave where we found lodgings at the auspiciously named Holly Hostel.

Growing up on a diet of leanly-timed rain-water showers I felt appropriately guilty as I treated myself to an inordinately long judicious scrub in the hostel shower room.

Sleeping was another matter. After an average of three to four broken half-hour sleeps per day, for four consecutive nights, seated above the rear-axle of a dilapidated Xinjiang bus,  I was stymied! My body clearly did not recall how to respond to tender treatment: a bed and clean linen. Horizontality was anathema. My head swam and my legs twitched. There were only two things for it: a walk and a Sichuan hotpot.

Sichuan hotpot, the ultimate food experience

Sichuan hotpot (huŏguō), the ultimate food experience

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