Photo Journal: Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania

Australia was basically founded as one big convict colony island. Despite the fact that we’re a really quite a young country, there really aren’t many (any?) places left where you can see that side of our history.

IMG_0135

From the website, “The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830. Originally designed as a replacement for the recently closed timber camp at Birches Bay, Port Arthur quickly grew in importance within the penal system of the colonies.”

And who was shipped off to Port Arthur?
“After the American War of Independence Britain could no longer send her convicts to America, so after 1788 they were transported to the Australian colonies…. The convicts sent to Van Diemen’s Land were most likely to be poor young people from rural areas or from the slums of big cities. One in five was a woman. Numbers of children were also transported with their parents. Few returned home.”

And walking through the remains of the colony, from the prison building itself to the church, the asylum, the staff and family housing and the beautiful gardens, you start to get a real sense of how different things were for the convicts as opposed to the officers. Looking out over Carnarvon Bay, it was honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It must have been such a bittersweet feeling, arriving into this picture-perfect place, knowing that you’d most likely never see freedom again.

IMG_0188

You can read about the rest of the history on the website, but the thing that really surprised me about the site was just how beautiful it was; I had no idea. It has been really well looked after and restored, but even if it had been left to fall to ruins, the stunning natural setting is something else, particularly in Autumn when the sun is still shining and the leaves are turning.

IMG_0127

IMG_0142

IMG_0148

IMG_0158

IMG_0169

IMG_0172

Inside the hospital of Alcatraz

I can’t tell you why, but there’s something fascinating to me about abandoned old hospitals. The decaying abandoned furniture and equipment, the cliched but naturally haunting lighting, imagining the stories of the patients who went through there. For these reasons, I loved the movie Sucker Punch, and am an enormous fan of the work of Seph Lawless, who captures a lot of these degenerate settings so beautifully.

I’d love nothing more than to spend days exploring some of these abandoned buildings with my camera, but they’re not easy to get into. One of the greatest opportunities I’ve been afforded was to see inside the hospital of Alcatraz (which was closed back in 1934) when I visited in 2014. It was opened to the public for a few months after Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was invited to turn the rooms of the hospital into an art gallery, displaying his art examining human rights and free expression. You can read a little more about that exhibition here, but here are some of the photos I was able to take when I visited…

IMG_5969

IMG_5971

IMG_5970

Photo Journal: Philae Temple, Egypt

3.267

It’s funny; it didn’t seem to matter how many temples we visited in Egypt, they were all so different, and all so beautiful in their own ways. Philae Temple was a favourite for me, because it felt so secluded, isolated, and so peaceful.

3.272

Located on a little island in the middle of Lake Nasser, it’s believed to have been founded around 370 BC. “Philae” translates roughly to “the end,” because it’s location defined the southern limit of Egypt at the time it was built.

3.246

Much like Abu Simbel, also located on Lake Nasser, the original site of Philae temple was actually flooded, making it yet another wonder that was thankfully relocated and therefore saved for countless generations to come. It’s not located on an island called Agilika.

3.276

One of the things that really stood out for me were the intricate lotus petal designs that crowned the columns throughout the complex. The lotus features prominently in a LOT of the temples we saw, and held special symbolic meaning to the Ancient Egyptians, representing creation, rebirth, the sun.

3.261

For the most part, the hieroglyphs were still incredibly in tact, considering the age of the temple, and we did see something that completely amazed me: ancient graffiti. Below is one of the images I captured of a Coptic cross, defiantly etched over the original hieroglyphs by early Coptic Christians. They actually made their way through the temple defacing a lot of the original reliefs and art work, and it’s believed that a Christian altar was actually erected around 500 AD, in the courtyard.

3.253

My most concrete memory of this place, though, was the view that greeted us towards the end of our wanderings. Lake Nasser, in all its sparkly glory under the midday Aswan sun. It was perfect, and always will be in my memory.

3.282

Visiting the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut

3.346

This place was regal. Beautiful. Completely surreal. And stunningly enveloped within high rock faces of Deir el Bahari. The day we arrived coincided with a strong sandstorm, which, believe it or not, only made the whole experience even more incredible.

3.355

Quick history lesson:
– The temple is believed to have been built around 1480 BC, for the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut.
– She often depicted herself as a male, which you can see in some of the reliefs around the temple.
– The temple was built in dedication to the goddess Hathor, who was the guardian of the area, and you will also see a lot of statues and reliefs in her image around the site.
– Queen Hatshepsut has a reputation with modern Egyptologists as a prolific builder, and one of Egypt’s greatest Pharaohs, holding her reign for around 20 years.
– The site of the temple is often recognised not for it’s majesty and beauty, but for the massacre that occurred there in 1997, where 62 people (mostly tourists) were killed.

3.353
This temple was incredibly striking. The monotone beige landscape, the swirling sand and dirt that enveloped us, the colossal figures that completely dwarfed me, it all made for a really magical experience. I felt tucked away by the surrounding cliffs, which only gave me a sense of peace and calm for some reason. I find it hard to say it was one of my favourite temples in Egypt because they were all so infinitely fascinating, but this place was really something.

Desert sunrise, a police convoy, and Abu Simbel

I won’t lie – I was more than a little pissed off when our poor, patient guide Medo told us we’d have to be up around 4am to join the 4.30am police convoy to Abu Simbel the following morning. We’d just had a pretty long day, disembarking the Princess Sarah in Aswan and visiting the Nubian Village where everything had changed for me – I was physically and mentally exhausted. “But there’ll be a beautiful view of the sun rising over the desert! And I’ll bring you all breakfast!” Dude, 4am.

I’m a pretty solid morning person, with my body clock usually waking me up by 7am if I haven’t set an alarm. But 4am hurt. We piled into our little van and stared bleary eyed out the window as others did the same. We saw the police, dressed to the nines and accessorised with machine guns, directing the early morning operation. We sat together on the bitumen for a while, wondering what the hell was taking so long; eventually, engines started to hum to life and the convoy began the long, 300km drive from Aswan. We all found comfy spots in our little van and promptly fell asleep.

Why the need for the police convoy to get to Abu Simbel? Medo simplified it for us: “Money making.” Ahh… those two little words that make the world go round.

Anyway, credit where credit’s due – he woke us up just as we were about to drive into the sunrise and distributed breakfast lunchboxes to us all, with orange juices, chocolate croissants, and some strange but delicious packaged Egyptian sweet biscuits and breads. And he was right about the beautiful sun rise…

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

We finally rolled up, after what felt like an eternity, yawning and rubbing our eyes… It wasn’t what we were expecting. But then again, none of us were really sure what we should have been expecting. Not this. Not an absolutely stunning lake in what felt like the middle of nowhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Turns out we were standing on a plateau overlooking the beautiful Lake Nasser, the largest man-made lake in the world, spanning over 5000km². It was breathtaking. We all fell silent and eventually still; I looked around and realised we’d all stopped in our tracks, disregarding the winding path before us to see the temple itself, completely taken by the view over the lake. The photos do not do it justice – the water literally sparkled and glistened under the sun. No one ever speaks about this lake when Abu Simbel is mentioned, but they really should – it’s perfect.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

We were eventually hurried up by Medo – as one of the first groups to arrive, he wanted us to get as much time without the huge crowds as possible. Legend. We couldn’t for the life of us work out where this temple was – we were coming from up high, walking down a dusty path winding it way around to the left (as you can see two pictures up). We looked out, and couldn’t see anything. All of a sudden, the first of the group let out a huge gasp. As we came around the bend to the left the enormous structure appeared underneath the plateau we had started on top of. Words can’t justify it, and neither can photos. But here’s a try.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

I’d spent a lot of time imagining what it’d be like to stand before this leviathan, but it was beyond anything I could have pictured. The main temple is the Temple of Ramesses, one of the handful of temples constructed in the reign of Ramesses II. Over the centuries, the temple was eventually abandoned and covered by the desert sands. It was rediscovered in the early 1800s, and eventually an enormous re-location project began in the mid 1960s; the temple was under threat of submersion from the rising waters of the Nile that would come from the upcoming build of the Aswan Dam. Over four years, the entire structure was cut into blocks of around 20 – 30 ton per piece, meticulously recorded, moved and put back together around 65m above it’s original location.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

One of the most phenomenal feats of the relocation was the fact that the original temple was aligned so that on 22nd of February and October each year, the sun would shine through the entry of the temple and directly onto the beautiful back wall – the relocation was so exact, that the sun shines now on the 21st of the months – pretty close to the original. Not only did the relocation get it right, but the original architects, all those centuries ago, managed to nail it without any technology.

Standing at the base of those statues was so surreal – enormous doesn’t even begin to describe it. I stand at a pretty average 170cm (or 5’7) and as you can see below, I was utterly and completely dwarfed…

3.212

 

There is actually another spectacular temple at this complex which sadly doesn’t get quite as much attention – The Temple of Hathor and Nefertari. This beauty was built to honour Nefertati, the favourite consort of Ramesses II, and it marks the second time that a temple was dedicated to a queen. Nefertari is also depicted as the goddess Hathor, with the cow horns and solar disc on her head. This one was particularly special to me as I have that symbol tattooed on my wrist.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

After we’d been through both temples, taken our photos, stumbled around wide eyed and with our jaws to the ground, four of the five of us met up on a block overlooking the entire area. We just sat there in quiet reverence, and you could just tell that everyone really appreciated what they were experiencing. As we watched the other tourists running around with their cameras to their faces, listening intently to their guides, pouring over maps and guide books, we just sat there and watched it all. We stared at the temples and gazed at the lake, all in silent contemplation.

What the others were thinking about, I couldn’t tell you. What I was thinking about though was my life. How small and insignificant it is in the whole scheme of things. I’ll never be wonderful or grand, magnificent and well known. I’ll never be loved by the masses, nor will I be feared. People will probably never know my name, and there will certainly never be any temples or sculptures built in my honour. I’m just another girl leading another life. But on that day, I also thought about how happy I was and how proud I was of myself for having finally overcome some of my demons and for finally starting to live the life I’d so desperately wanted and coveted for so long. Yeah, I’ve had some luck along the way (I didn’t chose where or to whom I was born, for example, but I’ve been very lucky on both of those accounts), but it’s been a lot of hard work as well, actively seeking out opportunities, making the most of it all, planning, preparing… it was really beautiful to reflect on how far I’d taken myself, and how much further I could go.

And I was happy. We all were. That’s why I really love this photo.

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014