Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Year by year diary

Posted in Travel, Writing, Year diary on March 10th, 2009


Elections Elections Elections

The UK turns Tory aided and abetted by the Lib Dems. Labour out to pasture and a new leader after Gordon Brown retires defeated and depressed.

This year will see an  Australian federal election and the fate of Rudd’s government decided by the press and a gullible public. or am I thinking UK here? All the same really.

For the record, sterling slowly declines against the aussie dollar: 61pence to $1.

Spring in the UK is glorious and the clear blue skies belie the dark volcanic clouds of ash way above. The air is free of vapour trails and noise the 6 days and people here the birds once more around Heathrow and in Kew Gardens.

Autumn in Sydney is bright and breezy. Jessica, the 16 year old sailor, arrives at the Opera House after her global circumvention in her 30 foot yacht to be greeted by the PM and NSW Premier and crowds lining the harbour foreshore.
We sell and move back across the road.  Downsizing is difficult but satisfying.


December: Back to the land of X Factor and sailors going astray into Iranian waters and Tiger Woods refusing to come clean. Oh and yes the war and climate change- occasionally.

November: Interest rates go up again for the third time making Australia unique in the world for this - well it is unique any way but this is an unexpected surprise. For the record
100,000.00 Australian Dollars = 55,490.00 British Pounds a rate of 55 pence to the dollar.

In the Land of Oz while waiting for the recession to become depression we discover that Australia has bucked the trend and is coming up roses. Growth is small but the aussie dollar is king.

On September 24th 2009 the Red Centre came to Sydney turning the skies a murky pinkish brown and coating our tongues and other surfaces with a film of ‘bull dust’. People with memories of the London smogs compared the similar experience.

In Sydney we had 28 ships in 28 days including the Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2 and the new Arcadia.

I came to Australia with my family for the second time in 1957 on the old Arcadia. I remember the Suez canal as a ten year old and the signs of conflict in Port Said. I kept a journal at the time which was lost.
Resolve to return to blogging. I blame Facebook fiddling which takes up more time than I care to admit.


2008 Seems to have passed by without comment

And yet there was so much happening:

On August 4th Lulu Elizabeth Candy Shannon arrived in the world and made her first impact

In September the credit crunch became the bank meltdown and the global market fell into disarray from which it has yet to merge.

In November Barack Obama became President of the  USA and we all felt hope again.

2007 Highlights

July The Tour de France starts in London: the only two days of sunshine after weeks of rain and floods.

March: Uluru (Ayres Rock) and Kata Tjuta (Olgas)

At Longitude 131: 10 kilometres direct to the face of Uluru
Rain on the Rock turns it into a grey beast and the red desert into speckled green.

Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 converged in Sydney harbour over 40 years since their predecessors did the same. QM2 blocked our view of the Opera House as she turned on her way into Garden Island to dock. When QE2 arrived and passed QM2 they sounded their horns to one another barely audible under the helicopter noise above. Thousands gathered on the many harbour foreshores and the traffic all over the city snarled up. QM2 left that night. Later in the week QE2 crept quietly out hardly noticed.
In Sydney in the summer is hot and humid. A time to stay quiet and soak in the relaxation..

The first version of a website dedicated to Emma is finished and I have put some of my diary entries on this blog and linked to the site.

The UK in springtime: where else in the word would you get daily rain combined with a constant threat of drought?

It is June 2006 and World Cup fever runs high:

The English complain about the hot weather and lack of water in their first match against Paraguay.

In their very first World Cup victory, the Aussies come back from behind to beat Japan 3:1. Later they go out to a dubious penalty to Italy.

England is out: the ten men of England- minus Wayne Rooney battle on heroically and are knocked out on penalties by Portugal. National gloom coupled with relief in quiet corners.

Now both my teams are out.

Then Italy wins the cup!

Another gloomy drug doped year for Le Tour. Landis is shamed.

No more heroes.
2005 I went to Italy, England, Vietnam, New Zealand and Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Uluru at Longitude 131

Posted in Travel, Uluru on March 30th, 2007

The ‘ Tent’ is as far from the real thing as anyone not disposed to camping could wish for. Plump pillows, beds, cushions and an uninterrupted view to the Rock 10 kilometres ahead.

The first evening a table under the stars or rather the clouds that proved all too hard to penetrate. Our star master performed a tour de force inspite of the absence of the very reason he was there. Aboriginal and Greek stories came to his (and our) rescue. As before on Heron the Southern Cross eluded me.

The first morning we walked 7 kilometres around the base and saw the dawn strike the face into gorgeous red. Our small party trekked purposefully around the perimeter of the object of all our interests.

In the women’s cooking cave at sunset next day the rains came and all at once the Rock assumed the skin of an animate creature as the torrents poured into black stripes. The oxidised red surface turned instantly into a smooth lumbering soft grey beast. Our shivering group huddled back on the coach patiently longing for the comfort of tent city.

Here the world is as far away as you could hope for too. Only the people are there to remind you of civilisation and eveything it represents.

Uluru from Longitude 131 uluru

Conference Heaven

Posted in Travel, Heron Island on December 12th, 2005

The water is pale turquoise and like an aquatic moonscape. The contours of the reef are starting to emerge as the tide recedes. Over the reef the water ripples gently but at the edge, there is a marked shadow beyond which the sea rolls visibly higher. There too, birds cluster on a sand bank that has just surfaced: gulls and terns dip and whirl about with crazy abandon. In the distance two islands are now visible where there was haze before. The resort dive boat is just heading off to the outer edges of the reef. A squadron of giant black rays skirts the edge of the point followed by the white-grey shadows of a group of shovel nosed rays.


It is turtle laying time and the great creatures come up at dusk and return at dawn. Some, newly tagged, were laying for the first time, aged about thirty five years and returning to the place they hatched out originally. The navigation is by magnetic field, augmented closer to home by the water that they first taste on entering as hatchlings.


It is hard to believe this is a conference venue and that this particular one has been going since 1989. I missed the first one but have been a follower ever since. Computational Models of Creative Design is a topic that is just about as far from this remote island world as you could imagine. Here there are no mobile networks, no televisions, no motorised water sports or paragliding. Just the sea, the sky, and the animal and bird life of a coral cay that takes twenty minutes to circumvent.

Dawn on Heron

Posted in Travel, Heron Island on December 11th, 2005

Ahead the ocean blue water, mauve sky and a thin bluer line marking the reef’s edge. This morning up at 5 am woken by a phone alarm, the only function that a mobile can offer in this tech free place and straight to the beach, walking past the helipad and the marina in a greyish pale light. A brightly lit personal cruise boat hummed at the entrance to the harbour and two people slept soundly on the beach as we passed on the way to Shark Bay. From this furthest point on the island from human habitat, you can see the dawn break. For a while beforehand, the ocean is a smooth mixture of grey and blue and a few clouds hovering above the horizon give cover to the rays of pink light that are just beginning to show. At precisely 5.58 am a point of red light suddenly pierces the surface of the sea and the top of a red globe begins to make its way upwards imposing new warm colours on the sea and landscape. I watched it until the brightness was too much and felt the growing heat of the new day.


All Things Physical in Land of Long Cloud

Posted in Travel, New Zealand on December 8th, 2005

The Maori word for NZ is Aotearoa: it means Land of the Long Cloud and when you see they way the clouds lie thinly stretched out over the mountain peaks you can see exactly why the name is perfect.

The All Blacks beat Australia 24:0 while we were there and scooped the pool at the Paris rugby awards: there was a lot of quiet satisfaction around. The Kiwis take their sport seriously and any physical activity for that matter – they invented bungy jumping didn’t they? You can do any mad thing you want from jumping out of helicopters on skis onto precipitous slopes to standing in rivers for hours catching salmon or whitebait. For the physical and cinematic minded you can now fly, white water raft, jet boat or even walk into Middle Earth on Lord of the Rings location tours…if you like that kind of thing. There are also more sedate activities like paragliding and ‘tramping’ as they call it on the Milford or Kepler tracks. We did fifteen kilometres of the latter through the most beautiful woods I have ever seen.

Traffic Lights a First

Posted in Travel, New Zealand on December 8th, 2005

New Zealand is only two and a half hours from Sydney and yet some people over here think it is a long way. Think of the distance to Perth! It has unique landscapes from pristine alpine heights to turbulent volcanic and thermal activity and a way of life that is redolent of a long gone past. In Queenstown, the locals have reluctantly resigned themselves to having traffic lights – a first for the whole Southland region of about hundred thousand people as it happens. This has been made necessary because the winter ski visitors do not respect the “after you” protocol for getting across single lane bridges of which there are many.

Eight Wheels on Peninsula

Posted in Travel, New Zealand on December 2nd, 2005

Not minutes away from the centre of Dunedin is The Peninsula, a stretch of land that curls around Otago harbour and gives stunning views of the coast and city. The drive skirts the coast at close range and in normal NZ style, has no barriers. Coming home even slightly tipsy or a tired, a brief careless moment could end in the sea.

At the very end of the peninsula are two special places where wildlife is given space: the Albatross colony and Penguin beach. In a rash moment we opted for a drive into the penguin and seal areas in a cross between an 8-wheel drive amphibious craft and a golf buggy. This is the only way in and it was certainly worth the hair-raising ride. It began to dawn that it would be no sedate golfing ride from the clouds of dust billowing around the returning trippers and the strained faces. Undaunted, we donned green waterproofs and set off in the early evening climbing straight up narrow rough tracks to the highest point and then plunging down to beach level in what felt like an almost perpendicular drop.
Then the wildlife: NZ fur seals with day old pups viewed from a hide just feet away; two males sparring and, from an earlier battle a defeated corpse lay near by. Rare penguins popping out of the water to run to their nests in the shore bushland on a beach without human presence- except of course we intrepids hiding in the cunningly devised viewing shelter. Native birds in abundance: shags, black backed gulls and albatross (though to confess we did not see this last one). This place was one of Captain Cook’s four corners of the earth which he named as he sailed blindly past the entrance to Otago harbour. Another dog-leg cove like Port Jackson and Milford Sound that he left for others to discover.

Bloggery beginnings

Posted in Travel, Vietnam, Writing on October 29th, 2005

Back from an amazing two weeks in Vietnam and ready to embark on an experimental blog writing life style.

At the time I felt envious of the blog owners who could capture a sense of the experience as it was happening like virtual post cards! There were Internet cafes where you could get your fix daily. The best I could do was to write my travel journal from hand notes taken on the journey. This means (for new blog peekers) the travel posts are in reverse. The entries are made in date order and are a way off completion. Keep watching this space!

Vietnam in 14 days

Posted in Travel, Vietnam, Writing on October 28th, 2005

In the past two weeks I have had the privilege of travelling through an extraordinary country. Having lived my student days in parallel with the Vietnam War (to the Vietnamese, the American War), I needed to catch up with Vietnamese life as it is lived today. Until 1995, it was a closeted world but in ten years the transformation to a market economy is remarkable. And yet it is still a single party state, run tightly by the inheritors of Ho Chi Minh’s struggle for an independent nation. Fighting the invader has been long familiar: living the peace is posing all kinds of new and relatively unfamiliar challenges.

The journey passed through cities and villages, high country and coastal plains, rivers and bays. A modern life-style: motorbikes, mobile phones and iPods, mysterious masked girls riding side by side with elegant women in high heels.

A rural living by ancient methods: water buffalos ploughing rice paddies and limpet hatted workers weeding vast spaces by hand; ripened rice is cut by scythe and stacked, collected by hand cart,then beaten and cleaned by straw brush on the roadside before being shovelled into bags ready for collection. And then there are the more up to date methods like motor bike bearing chickens and pigs in cages!

The fourteen day trip was spent in the company of our tour leader and local guides and eleven other total strangers all of who became a kind of surrogate family, sharing meals, boat, coach and air trips and novel experiences. I came away promising to return: the people, the landscapes, the scenes of working life, the organised chaos of the traffic, are unforgettable.

Bird Flu

Posted in Travel, Vietnam on October 25th, 2005

Back in sanitised Sydney, I read in the SMH that there have been 41 deaths from bird flu in Vietnam- top scoring country so far. But then tonight the ABC reported seven only which does sound more likely. There was not much mention of it over there apart from an article in the English language daily Vietnam News describing attempts to vaccinate the whole chook population helped by new supplies of vaccine from China.

Stop press - the total is now 42 as of November 8th 2005!