• Jonathan Shayfer

God's Own Country


Australia, 2007. I'd made pals with an Aussie teacher, Hamish, for a year and he invited me to come stay with him and his family in Sydney. A strange, beautiful, alien, welcoming, dangerous land where you're just as likely to be welcomed by a friendly local as bitten by one of its lethal wildlife.

What most amazed me was the sky. I've looked for decades into the constellations of a northern hemisphere. Here everything was crazily different. It really was like landing on another planet.

I promised myself ten days of solitary exploring in the Cairns area, Queensland. Quiet hinterland roads, striking scenery, deserted palm fringed beaches. My very own paradise.

I woke up unspeakably early one morning in Cairns to wander by the beach and see if I could take myself a decent snap of the sun rising. In the pre-dawn light, I came to a couple of palm trees, striking as silhouettes framing the forthcoming golden light. A single human figure will always enhance a shot like this. I waited patiently for someone to fill the frame and soon, an elderly jogger conveniently ran into my photograph. Click! and there it was. My obliging dawn runner. And a very nice piece of memorabilia for my records.

The postscript to this was that several days later at the tail end of my trip, I was 'jungle surfing', careering through the 100 foot trees on a high wire. Crazily, I was carrying my bulky SLR camera. Afraid of losing the precious memory card with my camera if I dropped it, I removed it from my Nikon and was about to transfer it somewhere safer when somebody tugged at my line and this postage stamp sized microcosm of my entire trip went sailing down into the Queensland jungle. I informed the Aussie high-wire guy and we afterwards walked to the tree where I'd dropped it and, amazingly, found it. He didn't have to pay for his lunch date.

So it goes.

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