Gannet colony, Muriwai Beach

Charlene vagabonding 8 Comments

Auckland, October 2017 The gannet colony at Muriwai Beach, an hour or so outside of Auckland, was an accidental discovery. Flemming and I had headed to Muriwai on a location scouting mission. It quickly turned into a bird watching one. There is a cliff walk on the south end of Muriwai, where we observed several groups of brightly clad tourists appearing and disappearing from the entire time we were on Muriwai. Never ones to dismiss paths of little resistance, we nosed our way there too. It promised a view of cliffs and sea. We never dismiss those either. Thoughts of views disappear around the bend in the path, approaching the crest though. The cacophony of birdcall, and the sight of dozens of them in the …

Scenes From a Week in Auckland

Charlene vagabonding 6 Comments

Auckland, October 2017 Auckland city probably deserved more time than I gave it, but between volcanic beaches, fifty-something volcanoes in the metropolitan area, and arresting scenery spitting distance from the city center, it was hard to want to be downtown. Having just spent four solid months in crowded, uber urban Singapore, all I want at this point, is space. And if it came with volcanoes, black sand beaches and spectacular vistas around every hair pin bend in the road (and there are many), heck, why bother fighting crowds in the city? Well, for one thing, being so far from the equator, there is the light. That amber, slanted light I sometimes can’t believe comes from the same sun. In equatorial cities, it’s thick with moisture and …

Black sands

Charlene vagabonding 14 Comments

Auckland, October 2017 Five years ago I transited in Auckland with my friends Sherry and Jeff for a couple of days, on our collective way to the USA. They brought me to the volcanic beaches of Karekare, Piha and Te Henga. At some point in those 2 days I decided I really, really wanted to live in New Zealand. Since that wasn’t likely to happen at the time, I then settled for “I really really want to come back for a long time.” I left quite reluctantly, and later waxed all kinds of lyrical about that one day we visited those black beaches. And here Flemming and I are after all this time, with almost 2 months of road tripping ahead of us. Magnetically, the …

On returning home

Charlene journal, vagabonding 2 Comments

Singapore Home is so often the hardest place to return to. As I celebrate 4 years on the road, I’ve noted feeling something suspiciously akin to gladness at being in Singapore. This is unusual for me, given the isolation of coming back to empty spaces of friends and family who have left, sets in too quickly, and by the time I’ve been here 2 weeks, I’m desperate to leave. I arrived at the start of December, this time around, and it’s been different. December and January have been exceptionally rich months with the important people in my life. I got to see both my sisters in short order of each other, which is incredible, given one lives in Malaysia and the other in the USA …

A change of tide?

Charlene journal, vagabonding 8 Comments

​I mark 4 years of this nomad life in a few days. I’ve always celebrated this particular anniversary in the hardest place to travel: back home. January is a difficult month. This January has been different though. I marked the first day of 2017 with friends I missed, and went to fetch Flemming from the airport, after a month of him being elsewhere, all in the same day. Last night I met a wonderful group of local photographers from Her Side Of The Street, a global street photography community. In the course of photographic conversation, I started to think that I might one day figure out a way home.

An ode to red rock: Arches and Canyonlands national parks

Charlene journal, vagabonding 6 Comments

I’ve been trying to write this post for a very long time, finding it difficult to articulate the hold that Arches National Park has over my imagination. It is the one national park that I could swear, knows me by name. It’s a ridiculous thing to say, particularly for someone who’s a city slicker to the core. If the park did have a voice and addressed me by name, I doubt I’d hear it. I am equipped to parse urban environments, but the outdoors fill me wonder for more than just their magnificence; my utter unfamiliarity with the code of natural environments is also rather awesome. The park is, appropriately, full of natural sandstone arches – it has the highest density of these peculiar, majestic formations of anywhere in the world, along with spires, fins and other varied geological forms. …


Charlene journal, vagabonding 5 Comments

Over dinner, we tell each other about our mothers and rice cookers. I once took a cross-continental flight with a rice cooker on my lap. It was a modest appliance which only cooked for 4, not 7; miniaturized for the student. At the point of departure, having managed to avoid this thing for weeks, my mother foisted it on me in the most persuasive way possible – loudly, in the middle of an airport, surrounded by airline staff, peers and 475657 other travellers. “Take it!” she cried. “You can’t eat ang moh* food all the time!” Hers visits with persistent cajoles about adding a rice cooker to the kitchen. “You need one. I buy for you!” “No, Mummy.” “How can you cook rice then?!” “In a pot.” We chuckle …

Belgrade to Bar, and Back Again

Charlene journal, vagabonding 8 Comments

May 2016, Serbia to Montenegro “Are you looking for something specific?” the big, craggy man sitting next to me wanted to know, having listened to my camera schnicking away since he got in from one of the small towns near the border. “No,” I responded. “Just the scenery. It’s beautiful outside.” “It’s beautiful to you because you’ve never seen it before,” he said, waving a hand at the vista rushing by. “But I see it all the time!” Two weekends ago, Flemming and I took a very long train ride from Belgrade (Serbia) to the port town of Bar in Montenegro, and back again. The Belgrade to Bar railway makes it to The Guardian’s list of 10 spectacular rail journeys … that you’ve probably never heard of, Business Insider’s 10 spectacular rail journeys to take in your lifetime, among many others. There was …

The ticketing interlude

Charlene vagabonding 11 Comments

The first thing that hits as you when you enter the ticketing area of Belgrade’s main station is the smell of piss, then the sudden muting of the urban bustle just outside its walls. We walked in, didn’t see any signs we knew how to read, and decided to start at the information desk. “Hello,” I said to the lady behind the counter. “We want to buy tickets from -” “Ah!” She leapt to her feet, barked a string of instructions in Serbian, and gestured violently at one of the counters in the row behind us. “Tickets there?” we hazarded tentatively. Vigorous nodding. Her other hand joined in the gesturing for emphasis. Off we trotted to counter 18. Watched the pair of customers before us haggling about tickets they’d just bought, cutting off a crafty old fella who tried to …

Wet Collodion (Belgrade Day 5)

Charlene journal, vagabonding 21 Comments

I got into photography from sheer stubbornness. When I first picked up a camera, people told me, among other things, that I was wasting my time, that I was ridiculous to think I could do it, that photography wasn’t for someone like me. So of course, it became the one thing I had to do. But my entire photographic life has been digital: equipment, education, process, community, and dissemination. I read about how much I’m missing out on by skipping the film process all the time, but only had the opportunity to enter a darkroom once. Until now. Darko Ilic: On day 3 in Belgrade, Flemming and I met photographer and art historian Marija Konjikušić, a friend of my old friend and fellow transient, Carmen. Two days later we found ourselves on a bus to …