Archive for the ‘cities’ Tag

Bridges   6 comments

Portland, Oregon is a town of bridges, like the Steele Bridge here spanning the Willamette River at dusk.

Portland, Oregon is a town of bridges, like the Steele Bridge here spanning the Willamette River at dusk.

The theme of the post is bridges, as inspired by Ailsa’s blog.  Check that out for many more bridge posts and pictures.  I live in a city with the nickname (among others) of Bridgetown: Portland, Oregon.  Most bridges span the Willamette River as it runs through the center of town.  But a couple cross the much larger Columbia  just north of town heading into Vancouver, Washington.

The view south from central eastside Portland takes in the Hawthorne and Ross Island Bridges.

The view south from central eastside Portland takes in the Hawthorne and Marquam Bridges.

The Morrison Bridge in Portland, Oregon opens for a pleasure boat.

The Morrison Bridge in Portland, Oregon opens for a pleasure boat.

When I go hiking out in the nearby Columbia River Gorge, there is a very interesting bridge I often cross in order to access trails on the Washington side of the river.  This is called Bridge of the Gods, named after the American Indian legend that tells of a natural span across the river at this point in ancient times.  It’s fascinating that geologists have, at this precise point along the river, determined that a landslide hundreds of years ago may have temporarily dammed the river.  In fact, if you climb up and view the area from above, you can see the remnants of this old landslide as plain as day.

The Bridge of the Gods crosses the Columbia River from Oregon to Washington.

The Bridge of the Gods crosses the Columbia River from Oregon to Washington.

The California Coast is the attraction to driving Highway 1, the Pacific Coastal Highway.  The Bixby Bridge is near Big Sur.

The California Coast is the attraction to driving Highway 1, the Pacific Coastal Highway. The Bixby Bridge is near Big Sur.

Along with scenic bridges such as those along the Pacific coast (such as the Bixby Bridge in California above), my travels have taken me across some great examples of foot bridges.  Take the suspension bridges along the trekking routes in the Himalayas, for example.  They receive constant traffic, both human and yak, and are just as important as highway bridges where roads not trails connect communities.  All of the supplies (not to mention the trekking tourists) that mountain villages rely upon must pass over them, so they are generally maintained.  I love any foot bridge, especially of the suspension variety, since you can make them sway and bounce so easily.  Strange that others on the bridge often get upset when I do this.

One of the main footbridges spanning a deep gorge on the way to Namche Bazaar in the Everest region of Nepal.

One of the main footbridges spanning a deep gorge on the way to Namche Bazaar in the Everest region of Nepal.

Mount Rainier's Wonderland Trail crosses a high suspension bridge over Tacoma Creek.

Mount Rainier’s Wonderland Trail crosses a high suspension bridge over Tacoma Creek.

I like how on some bridges the builders took some time to decorate the abutments, or bridge ends (as in the image below).  Also the bridge itself is often decorated.  I have seen and crossed many bridges that unfortunately I haven’t photographed well.  The bridges over the Seine in Paris, Florence, the ones in Venice of course.

A bridge abutment in Thailand is carved into elephant heads.

A bridge abutment in Thailand is carved into elephant heads.

I live in an area with many old covered bridges relatively close-by.  It is sad that I have not spent the time to photograph them well.  This challenge has given me a kick in the pants, and when I can get down there (hopefully very soon) I will post an addendum to this.

The red light of a stormy sunset illuminates the Willamette River as it flows under the Steele Bridge in Portland, Oregon.

The red light of a stormy sunset illuminates the Willamette River as it flows under the Steele Bridge in Portland.

Cape Town, South Africa   9 comments

A beautiful summer evening in Cape Town, and an illuminated Table Mountain looms over the city. View from Signal Hill.

Cape Town, South Africa is one of the few cities in this world that I have always wanted to visit.  I’m not a city person, but I do like those which have a scenic location or have an energy or layered history behind them (Istanbul springs to mind).  Cape Town falls into the former category, but was still not in my plan on this first visit to Africa.  I’m not sure why I changed my mind, but after a week camping in Kruger National Park, I found a long weekend in Cape Town, staying in a nice room by the seaside, was just what I needed at that point in a long trip.

Tidepools along the shoreline near Cape Town South Africa.

I flew into Cape Town from Jo’burg, but instead of checking in right away, I steered my rental car up towards Table Mountain.  I took a nice walk near its base, starting in neighborhoods perched on the steep hillside.  I followed a path upwards to a viewpoint of the city, with the blue sparkling southern sea stretching out before me.  From here, it looked like a fairly compact, easy to navigate city, and that’s what it turned out to be.

Fog often rolls in here, and when I arrived it seemed to be doing battle with the sun.  I would enter a fog bank, the temperature would drop 20 degrees Farenheit, and I would shiver.  Then I would break out into warm sunshine.  Ultimately, as I discovered next morning when I walked out of my small hotel in the Sea Point area, the sunshine happily won the battle.  It was a gorgeous summer day, and since it was a Saturday, locals were out in force enjoying it.

I walked along the beautiful promenade that extends for a few  miles along the rocky coastline.  Runners, walkers, a few roller bladers and bicyclists were full of smiles, mirroring the bright blue water.  Small beaches dot the coast, and it is very easy to access rocky tidepools as well (image left).

After hours of wandering and exploring the coast, I took the car and headed south down the western side of the peninsula that extends south to the Cape of Good Hope.  I wanted to find a great spot to photograph the sunset, and hoped to find one of the shipwrecks that this coast is known for.  I stumbled on a very popular beach at Houte Bay, and did some serious people-watching (image below).  The locals were a mixture of white and black, and I watched carefully for any of their interactions.

Beach at Houte Bay on a busy summer Saturday. The highlands of Table Mtn Natl. Park rise in the background.

I had noticed in South Africa that the two races do not mix unless they have to.  I am sure there are those who dispute this, but I regard these folks as exceptions to the rule, this latter-day apartheid.  I am not saying you won’t find some of this at home in America.  I’m simply giving my impression of the separation that remains a barrier to this country’s truly putting its past behind it.

Aside from the people, Cape fur seals were riding the waves in their pursuit of fish, and birds swarmed above them in a frenzy.  The image below I grabbed with my 70-200 f/4, since I had neglected to bring my 400mm.  I consider myself a competent body surfer, but these seals were showing me how it’s really done.  I waded into the water, but it was a very cool sea.  In fact, the entire Cape Town area was reminding me of my home coastline in Oregon: rocky, tidepools, cold sea, the parallels were stacking up.

The entire area is a playground for those with a good job and income.  But there are also black townships (Nyanga & others) in the area where the poverty hits you in the face.  I got lost once and ended up driving through one.  I wanted to stop for pictures, but without a guide I thought better of it.  You can drive all the way down to the actual Cape, but this requires the whole day to avoid rushing.  I skipped this, but see it as a reason to go back.  By the way, the Cape of Good Hope is not the southernmost tip of Africa, it is the southwestern-most.  To the east lies the southernmost tip of the continent, at Agulhas.

Cape fur seals surf the waves in pursuit of fish at Hout Bay near Cape Town, South Africa.

I stopped on the way back to Cape Town near a point of rugged coast at Camps Bay.  The view was incredible.  As my eyes wandered upward to the Twelve Apostles, peaks making up a big chunk of Table Mountain National Park, I thought of some history I had read of.  In the early days, when a trading post was being established here, lion, leopard, and other wildlife roamed the hills.  No longer; the land is relatively empty of wildlife.  The well-to-do build houses where large predators once hunted.  It is rather sad.  But the same cannot be said of the sea, which teems with fish, marine mammals, and the famous great white sharks of South Africa.  It is possible to book a scuba dive trip here where you enter a shark cage and are lowered into baited waters.  I scrambled down from the road and came upon a wreck lying just offshore.  I was able to get a decent shot looking north up the coast, the Twelve Apostles on the right (image below).

A wreck lies just offshore, near the Twelve Apostles south of Cape Town, South Africa.

Fossil mammal quarry at Langebaanweg, north of Cape Town, South Africa.

On my last day I drove north into the emptiness of the West Coast National Park.  It is easy to get out into the countryside in South Africa.  Roads are decent and if you can survive the very high average speeds that motorists travel, it won’t take much time to put many miles between you and civilization.  I stopped at a fossil quarry called Langebaanweg, which lies not far from the R27 via a signed turnoff to the right.  It only takes a couple hours to get here from Cape Town, so it is perfect for a day trip.  Long deserted beaches of the western Cape, part of the National Park, are easily accessible as well.

The fossil site, which documents the immediate predecessors of today’s African menagerie (such as giraffes with much shorter necks than today), is fascinating and not touristy at all.  There is a friendly tour of the fossil quarry, along with a small museum and restaurant, but everything is very much low-key.  With my background in geology, the staff were interested in talking with me about the fascinating connections with the related mammal fossils of Oregon’s John Day country.  This is just the sort of off-beat travel destination I love, where people are happy to get a few visitors, and who aren’t so busy processing hoards of tourists to spend time with you.  It can make the experience a much more personal one.

Cape Town is a place where I could happily live.  The environment is a clean one, with a nice balance of the city and outdoor life (like Portland, Oregon where I live).  My last night there, I drove up onto Signal Hill, where because of the gorgeous summer weather many locals were gathering as the sun went down.  We were all there to enjoy the stunning view of the city, the sea, and the illuminated face of nearby Table Mountain.

As the dusk deepened and “blue hour” approached (blue hour is that short time of deep blue skies just before total darkness, a time photographers love), I set up my tripod for a long exposure.  The top image in this post was the result.  I can feel the soft breeze when I look at this picture, and sense the southern Atlantic far below.  I was to leave South Africa for Namibia the next morning, and this time on Signal Hill, this picture, was really my way of saying: ‘Bye-bye South Africa, it’s been fun.  I’ll be back!

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