Breathtaking Kaniku Lava Flow Sunset, Hawaii Big Island

Dawn and dusk are often a special time in Hawaii. I don’t know if it’s the island chain’s location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but its amazing how often the rising or setting of the Sun can really take your breath away.

Haleakala summit on Maui at sunrise

Haleakala summit at sunset

One evening we were crossing the Kaniku Lava Flow on our way back to our apartment in Waikoloa on the Big Island, when Rich unexpectedly pulled the car over to the side of the road. At first we thought there was something wrong. But as Rich grabbed his camera and got out of the vehicle, we realised he’d seen something that the rest of us had missed.

To the east a storm was brewing over the volcano Mauna Kea. What Rich had spotted was the iridescent glow of a resulting rainbow. As we watched, a second rainbow appeared.

Turning to the west, we were greeted by one of the most colourful and richest sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. The contrast of the black lava and the fiery orange sky was truly awe-inspiring.

The scene reminded me so much of the Serengeti Plains, where I come from.

The oranges and violets were amazing, it was almost like another rainbow

Tell me this doesn’t look like something out of a Mad Max movie

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Words beginning with ‘I’ (in this case ‘Iridescent’) from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Glow from Jen H. of The Daily Post and Storm from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?

 

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The Spruce Goose: The Biggest Airplane Ever Built

I love airplanes, but my brother Bisckits adores them. So he couldn’t have been happier when, during a West Coast roadtrip from Seattle to San Francisco, we called in to see a very special aircraft.

Me and Bisckits at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

Just outside McMinnville, Oregon, is the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum. It has an incredible collection of air and spacecraft. But it’s pride and joy is the Hughes HK-1 (H4) Flying Boat.

The colossal Hughes Flying Boat

This aircraft is special for so many reasons. Firstly, it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind, never to be copied, prototype.

Secondly, due to wartime restrictions placed on the designers, it is built almost entirely of wood.

Thirdly, at over 218 feet long, with a wingspan of almost 320 feet and a height of more than 79 feet, it’s the biggest airplane ever built.

The Spruce Goose: a scale model beside the real thing

The towering tail fin

The aircraft is powered by eight Pratt & Whitney engines

The original idea came from businessman Henry Kaiser in 1942, but it was the famous film director Howard Hughes that actually designed and built the aircraft.

The Hughes Flying Boat dwarfs everything around it…

… including this replica of the famous Sprit of St. Louis, the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic at the hands of Charles Lindbergh, just 20 years before the Spruce Goose‘s brief flight

The Hughes Flying Boat has been called many names, not least of which is the Hercules, because of its size. But it’s best known as the Spruce Goose, a belittling nickname given to it by the press of the time, which Hughes hated. It’s also inaccurate, since the ‘Spruce Goose’ is actually mostly constructed of birch wood.

Inside the belly of the Goose

The nose of the aircraft from the main cargo area

Inside one of the giant wings

During a test taxi run in Long Beach Harbor, California, on November 2nd, 1947, Hughes (who was at the controls) made the unauthorised decision to take off. In that moment, the Hughes Flying Boat went from simply being the biggest airplane ever constructed, to being the biggest airplane ever to fly.

The flight deck, looking forwards

The flight deck, looking backwards

The Spruce Goose flew above the waves for around one minute, covering a distance of about a mile. Hughes had proved to the World that his massive flying boat could fly, even though it would never do so again.

The cockpit

Howard Hughes’ pilot seat

At the pilot’s controls!

Nevertheless, Hughes kept his beloved creation air-worthy until his death in 1976, just in case. Afterwards, it was displayed in a museum in Long Beach, before finally moving to its current home in Oregon, where it went on display in 2001

On top of the World… well, on top of the biggest airplane in the World, anyway

Although the Hughes Flying Boat was mocked in its day by the press and Howard Hughes’ critics, Bisckits and I think it’s Exceptional. We couldn’t have been happier to see, and even go inside, the Spruce Goose.

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Happy from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge,  Scale and Exceptional from The Daily Post and Names from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?

 

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New Arrivals at Chester Zoo

I visited Chester Zoo in England early in the New Year, just in time to see a couple of their new arrivals. I have to admit to having mixed emotions about zoos, but Chester is one of the good ones, involved in tons of important conservation work around the World, not least of which is the captive breeding of endangered animals.

On a chilly February morning, we were among the early hardy visitors through the gates. Almost immediately we were greeted by our first new arrival of the day, seven-week-old Indian Elephant, Indali Hi Way.

The Dawn Patrol

Indali Hi Way and her mum, Sundara

Indali and Sundara are joined by Indali’s cousin, Nandita

It was an absolute pleasure to watch Indali going for a walk with her mum, Sundara Hi Way, playing with her one-year-old half-sister, Nandita, and learning to feed with the other elephants of the Hi Way herd.

Feeding time

Can I have a go, Mum?

I challenge you not to say, ‘Aw!’

Just two weeks before our visit, Chester welcomed a second baby Indian Elephant into the World. The newest arrival’s name is Nayan, but he was still too small to be out and about with his cousin Indali when we were there.

Eventually, though, it was time to pull ourselves away from Indali and the Hi Way family and head over to what, for me at least, was going to be the highlight of the day.

We arrived at the giraffe house to find most of the herd outside, taking an early morning stroll around their enclosure.

Heading our for a walk

But the big draw was inside, in the form of tiny Murchison, the newest member of Chester’s herd of Rothschild’s giraffes. Born just five weeks before, on Boxing Day, Murchison had only ventured outside for his first walk two weeks earlier.

Heading back in to check on Murchison

On the morning I met him, he was taking it easy indoors. But he was a joy, nonetheless!

Is it just me, or does Murchison look rather regal?

Unless threatened, both giraffes and elephants are by nature calm animals. And you can’t help but be calmed yourself, watching them gently go about their daily lives. Especially when they’re only a few weeks old.

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Words with the letter ‘G’ in them from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge,  Pedestrian from Krista of The Daily Post and Calm from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?

 

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The Eden Project, Cornwall

Cornwall’s Eden Project is a fun place to visit, even in the depths of winter, as I did. Although the weather outside was frightful, it was warm and cosy inside the massive domes at its heart.

In 1999 the site that would one day become the Eden Project was an abandoned clay quarry. Four years later, after a miraculous transformation,  it was the amazing exhibit we see today.

The majority of the old quarry is given over to the Outdoor Gardens. Admittedly these weren’t looking their best in December. But even then, you get a strong impression of how magnificent they must be in the spring and summer.

Panorama of the Eden Project site

I have to admit, the Outdoor Gardens felt a little like Hobbiton!

The Outdoor Gardens, like the whole of the Eden Project, are full of artworks

For most visitors, it’s the two biome domes that really make the Eden Project unique.

We began in the Mediterranean Biome, inside which conditions mimic the World’s Mediterranean-like climatic zones, including the Mediterranean itself, California and South Africa.

The Mediterranean Biome

Next up was the Rainforest Biome. Inside it was noticeably more humid than the Mediterranean Biome, mirroring conditions in places as far afield as Southeast Asia, West Africa and tropical South America.

The Rainforest Biome (with the Mediterranean Biome in the front right)

They’re not kidding when they tell you this is the largest rainforest in captivity

The dome is over 160 feet tall

Like the Mediterranean Biome, the Rainforest Biome is full of interesting features, such as…

A Malaysian hut

A rice paddy

Plants used to build canoes

Another hut

Artworks

A banana plantation

Appropriate birdlife (these are Roul roul partridges)

And a big red flower-thing! (Or perhaps it’s a triffid)

Clearly an exhibit on this scale takes a lot of daily maintenance

One of the highlights (no pun intended) of the Rainforest Biome is the Rainforest Canopy Walkway, which allows you to walk through, and even above, the rainforest canopy!

Heading up to the highest part of the walkway

I can see a waterfall from up here!

Another indoor part of the Eden Project is The Core education, arts and events centre.

The Core (foreground) with the biomes beyond

Looking down on The Core

One of The Core’s many interactive exhibits

At the core of The Core is Seed, an amazing sculpture weighing 70 tonnes, carved from a single piece of Cornish granite

Even in the depths of a wet British winter, the Eden Project was an amazing experience. I hope I get to see it in its full spring glory one day.

Wintery weather at the Eden Project

The locals don’t seem to mind the December chills

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Windows from Michelle of The Daily Post, Fun or Flowers from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, and Cosy from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack?

Posted in Adventure, Environment, The World, Travel, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Monument (to the Great Fire of London)

On September 2nd, 1666, over three-quarters of London was burned to the ground in what has become known as the Great Fire of London. The blaze started in the King’s baker’s house in Pudding Lane, not far from the northern end of London Bridge.

Just 11 years later, in 1677, construction of a monument commemorating the Great Fire was completed.

The Monument at dawn

In fact, when I say ‘a monument’, I should say ‘the Monument’, since that is what it is called nowadays… simply ‘the Monument’.

The Monument is a fluted Doric column of Portland limestone, capped with a golden urn of gilded fire.

Inside, the column is hollow, and a spiral staircase of 311 steps allows visitors to climb to the viewing platform, just beneath the urn.

In total, the Monument is 202 feet high and is located in Fish Street Hill. This height and spot were precisely chosen, because if the column were tipped over towards Pudding Lane, the urn would land on the spot where the blaze began.

The Monument from the top of The Shard

But Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke designed the Monument as more than a memorial to a major event in the history of the British capital. It also originally doubled as a scientific instrument and telescope, in part thanks to a hatch in the top of the urn and laboratory below its plinth.

More recently, the viewing platform of the Monument was where I met Ernest, and so marks the true start of my exciting adventures in London, captured in the thrilling Jaspa’s Journey 2: The Pride of London. Order your copy today and join in the excitement!

The Monument, fittingly with a fire engine

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Steps from Ailsa of Where’s My Backpack? and Layered from Ben of The Daily Post.

 

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Changing of the Guard in Athens, Greece

It’s mid-afternoon on a Tuesday in springtime. We wait almost-patiently in Plateía Syntágmatos (often called Syntagmatos Square by English speakers, meaning Constitution Square) in central Athens. In front of us is the Vouli Building, once a Royal Palace and today home to the Greek Parliament.

The Greek Parliament Building

Beneath the main facade of the Parliament Building is the Monument to the Unknown Soldier. It was unveiled in 1932 on March 25th, Greece’s National Independence Day.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the ceremonial guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

As the hour approaches 4 pm, our anticipation grows. Then our guide, Maria, points to where three members of the Greek National Guard (known as Évzones) have appeared in the northeast corner of the square, marching smartly. They wear their traditional uniform of white kilt, leggings and pom-poms on their clogs.

The three soldiers approach the tomb. Through a slow and complicated series of drill manoeuvres, two of them take over from a pair of their comrades, who have been standing guard until then.

Another Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens has been successfully completed.

The quiet job of guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier resumes

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Waiting and Anticipate from The Daily Post and Words that start with the letter C from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

 

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Caernarfon Castle, Wales

I love castles. Especially the medieval castles of North Wales. UNESCO agree with me, since they made The Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd a World Heritage Site in 1986. And my absolute favourite is Caernarfon Castle.

Bizarrely, the only photos I have of Caernarfon Castle from the outside are at night

There’s been a castle at Caernarfon (previously spelled Carnarvon or Caernarvon) since the 11th Century, and before that the Romans had a fort at nearby Segontium.

The northern (town-side) wall of the castle, with the bridge leading to the King’s Gate visible part way along

The western end of Caernarfon Castle, from across the mouth of the River Seiont

The current fortress was commissioned by King Edward I of England in 1283, in an attempt to keep the local Welsh under control. After an initial building frenzy, lasting a decade or so, work continued on Caernarfon Castle until around 1330. At that point, construction all but stopped, with some inner parts of the building still incomplete.

Looking west from the top of the East Gate

Eagle Tower from Queen’s Tower – the former gets its name from the stone eagles that adorn it

Looking east from Eagle Tower

The castle itself is massive, at around 575 feet long and 220 feet at its widest point. Some of its beige stone walls are 20 feet thick at their bases. And the castle itself was part of a large fortified wall, which surrounded the medieval town.

Inside the walls: the lower passage between the Queen’s and Chamberlain Towers

Looking along the south wall towards the modern town, with the mountains of Snowdonia in the distance

Caernarfon Castle had an unusual design, with a narrow ‘waist’ essential splitting the structure in two, giving it an hourglass or figure 8 shape from above. The area east of the ‘waist’ is known as the Upper Ward, with the Lower Ward to the west.

The ‘waist’ of Caernarfon Castle, with the King’s Gate on the right and the Chamberlain Tower on the left

The Upper Ward, with the circular slate platform upon Prince Charles became Prince of Wales in 1969 at its centre

Today Caernarfon Castle is under the protection of CADW Welsh Historic Monuments, an organisation of which I’m proud to be a member.

View along the length of the castle towards the Eagle and Queen’s Towers in the distance

Medieval castles can be hazardous structures

Expand the minds of you and your children by travelling the World with Jaspa’s Journey adventure novels! The first two, The Great Migration and The Pride of London, are now available in both paperback and ebook formats from Speaking Volumes! The third instalment, Jaspa’s Waterloo, is coming soon. Click here for more information.

Jaspa’s Journey: Perfect for Kids 8 – 80!

This post was inspired by the photo themes of Structure and Enamored from The Daily Post, Colors that start with the letter B from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge and History from Nancy Merrill Photography.

Sorry the images aren’t up to my usual standard, but they’re scans of actual photographs!

 

Posted in Adventure, History, Travel, UNESCO World Heritage Site, United Kingdom | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments