30 September 2013

Photo: Sea of jelly fish

An evening paddle as the sun was setting, my paddle bumping the jelly fish, sea turtles' favorite food.

Bribie sunset paddle_1_c


25 September 2013

Technique: pitching a tent on rocky slabs

My favorite natural environment is rock; granite to be precise.
I am not a rock climber these days but I have always gravitated to locations where exposed granite forms the landscape.
Last season I traveled to the  High Sierras, to a familiar area.
This season I chose to undertake a sea kayak trip instead where thousands of little island gently emerge from the sea and create incredibly smooth landscapes.
There is a strong similarity between the High Sierra and the Stockholm archipelago; both have glacially polished granite, the latter at sea level.
For the Sierras I chose a very light shelter since I knew I didn't need an inner tent to protect myself from insects.

PeeweeLake camp_c

For Sweden I chose a tunnel tent: a known design able to shed wind well.
I chose a non-freestanding tent over a more pitch-friendly free standing one because of weight and bulk. I dislike travelling with heavy gear and flying across the word to reach my destination usually limits my choice of equipment; there is an incredible difference between car camping and international travel.

Tunnel tents however pose some problems when pitching on hard ground.
Staking out the ends of the tent is essential  to keep the tent erect (unlike in a freestanding tent).
Since polished granite offers too much resistance for conventional pegging (like rock-hard ground!) a little tinkering on my part is usually necessary to have a secure shelter for the night.

Sunset at Windy camp_c

Instead of relying on pegs at the stake point I collect a stick and a couple of decent size rocks.
I insert the stick into the stake loop of the tent and place it horizontally on the ground where a large rock will secure it in place. I find that a rock on top of a stick is generally a way better anchor than a typical tent peg pushed into soft ground.

Furthermore, where the ground is a polished slab there are usually a few cracks.
Here is where I like to place a little wired metal wedge designed for rock-climbing  (aka stoppers, nuts, rocks etc).
A carefully placed wedge is bombproof and no amount of wind will rip that anchor out.

rock anchor_c
Black Diamond stopper
In locations where there is little to no trees, or large boulders to create a wind break, I am confident that my tunnel tent will stand  up to strong winds, even without any pegs secured into the ground.

Windy on Magic_c

rock anchor_gdn
Omega Pacific wedgie

17 September 2013

Photo: Kiss in the Storm


Kissing in the rain_c

A summer storm can't dampen the spirit of love.


10 September 2013

Destination: Magic Island

There is a place on the East Coast of Sweden, in the Baltic Sea, that I named “Magic Island”; I paddled to it on my recent Scandinavian sea kayak trip.
The seas were bumpy, created by the waves rebounding the rocky cliffs hitting the outer islands. I was paddling unprotected waters and the steady breeze from the preceding  days was sending a decent swell in my direction. My paddling companion Petra was a little concerned as her paddling experience was mostly limited to very different waters of land locked Austrian lakes; the last time she paddled salt water was in Pacific Ocean, Australia.
Rounding the South-East point still presented non land-able locations for a camp. The map showed a little cove but I was having a bit of trouble finding it; after all with 30.000 islands in the Stockholm archipelago alone I was now having doubts that I was in the right place… And suddenly there it was, as promised by my little map, a fantastic sheltered bay of polished granite.

Magic Is sunset_3

The action of the glacier of the last Ice Age some 11.000 years ago managed to shape this very hard granite into smooth rocky waves. The location of this island away from the mainland prevented a lot of vegetation from taking hold and the winter storms have dwarfed and shaped the small trees. The presence of this windy place was palpable; I felt exposed and vulnerable here. The skies turned to dark clouds and storms could be seen approaching.

Magic Is2_c

I climbed up a small rocky outcrop and could see lighting in the distance. The storm would be upon us soon and I made sure I secured our tent with extra guidelines anchored to the cracks in the granite. The wind came followed by a downpour and as we lay in the tent, I was glad that I was picky in selecting just the right tent site as small creeks ran down the smooth rocky slopes. We stayed dry and the tent proved to be solid. But as most summer thunderstorms this one did not last and eventually it passed leaving only a few puffy clouds around. The sun was getting lower and the magic hour was approaching (I borrow this term from my early inspirational photographer Galen Rowel. Galen describes the perfect time of the day to take photographs when the light is warm and the shadows long as magic hour). The rock was still wet but we wanted to see the sunset on the other side of the island, facing West.
We took a walk.

Magic Is sunset_4_c.Still002

Magic Is sunset_5_c

In Sweden, at such high latitudes, the sun sets later in the evening and the twilight lasts so much longer than at home in Australia; I did not have to rush to see the landscape in its best light but I could take my time to wonder around and pose to take it all in. Cold enough to wear a wind braking jacket I could feast with my eyes on the sensual soft shapes of granite waves sculpted by ice. A few birds were still trying to catch dinner before darkness fell and I kept on smiling, happy to be present in this magical place.

Magic Is sunset_3

Magic Is sunset_2

Video coming soon

03 September 2013

Photo: ominous evening sky

Evening brought heavy skies and wind.
The small cove of a rocky island was going to be home for the night.

Kyks on Windy Is_BW_c