Archive for December, 2005

Northern Xmas

Posted in CCS-blog on December 28th, 2005

Christmas in the Northern Hemisphere is cold and, since yesterday, snowy. A walk in the Peak district in the cold and wind is a bracing way to celebrate! Hope you are all enjoying festive Sydney.


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.