Why travel?

In May I was on a bus from Queenstown to Milford Sound as the sun came up over heavily frosted farms. It glittered and sparkled on the ice, creating fields of diamonds, whose beauty was simple, but breath-taking.

My thoughts wandered to a friend who has never travelled far, and has no desire whatsoever to do so! She is content to be an armchair traveller and see the world on a screen. This all got me thinking about why I travel – of course my reasons may not be your reasons – and what do I get out of my travel? How do you convince someone to get out of the armchair and explore the world? I am also a great armchair traveller, but for me these programmes serve to inspire further journeys, and thus the bucket list just keeps on growing!

The south island of New Zealand is renowned in the astronomical world for its dark skies, and it is quite something to stand outside on a clear night and ponder the universe, which can be seen to an extraordinary scale once you’ve escaped bright city lights. We stood recently, all alone, on the shore of Lake Tekapo, and sought to make sense of the night sky. It is a humbling experience when you appreciate first-hand the vastness of the Milky Way, and realise just how small we really are. Personally, the enormity and endlessness of space frightens me a little, as it poses far more questions than I have time for answers! On the plus side though, it also reinforces the knowledge that Earth is a very special place and that I should make every effort to sample its wonders, for, as has been said by many: “life is short”.

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A glimpse at western France

La Rochelle

In 2008, fleeing the transport nightmare that was Paris, we did a flying visit to La Rochelle with our daughter,  just to see what it was like. We fell in love with the place and will have to go back sometime. La Rochelle was easy to walk around with a beautiful, large central park. The shopping centre was colonnaded like a Roman forum and great to stroll around. The marina area was lively with plenty of outdoor dining available. If you like mussels this is the place to go, though, because this town caters more for English tourists than Aussies, your mussels will probably come with chips! Continue reading

Birks of Aberfeldy

Scotland has an unfathomable allure to almost everyone you meet. The mention of Scotland elicits the almost universal comment “Oh, I love Scotland, it is so beautiful!” My husband, who has Scottish heritage, is one of these and is quite obsessed with all things and places Scottish.

I have no love for the barren cragginess of much of the highlands but I do adore the lush greens and burbling waterways of Perthshire. I have written previously of the absolute beauty and serenity of sitting by the River Tay on the flower studded grass of Dunkeld Cathedral. Continue reading

A Surprise on Orkney

Orkney has been on the bucket list for many years, with the famous Neolithic ruins of Skara Brae beckoning. However, this is not a tale of prehistoric ruins but of something more recent, totally unexpected and absolutely beautiful both for its art and for its story of human spirit and endurance. It is a place that has to be shared, and thus preserved for future generations.

The Italian Chapel.

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Wonders of Nature

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all the Earth’s natural wonders and beauties. There are many we have not seen and probably won’t. There are others we have been fortunate enough to visit, such as the Grand Canyon (USA), Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), Pamukkale and Cappadocia (Turkey) and of course the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), but they are stories for another time. This will be a glimpse at the extraordinary beauty we have found in a tiny part of the world: Croatia and Slovenia.

Some time ago we saw a television documentary about Croatia, where we first saw the stunning Plitvice Lakes and determined these must be seen. Slovenia was never on our radar, Ljubljana (capital city) happened to fit logistically with our itinerary, but after only 3 days there it is firmly in our sights for a return visit!

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A different view of Hong Kong

Wanting to break the long haul flight from Sydney to London in 2008, Hong Kong seemed a good option. The flight to Hong Kong is a medium length but can be done during the daytime, thus avoiding an interminably sleepless night. Going via Singapore, back in the days when Qantas flew to Europe via Singapore, tended to land you in town or leaving town at an obscene hour in the morning.

Many moons before, we had done the touristy thing in Hong Kong. This time was meant to be a relaxation stop before the longer flight to London, so I researched alternatives to Hong Kong’s 24/7  of sensory overload. I found a surprising gem tucked away on the far side of Lantau Island – the island the airport is on. Continue reading

Inland route: Bowral to Port Macquarie

Just for a change, instead of going straight up the coast from Sydney to Port Macquarie to visit my Dad, we veered inland, spent a week in Bowral and then headed to Barrington Tops National Park. Not the conventional route by any means.

On leaving Bowral we headed for the botanical gardens at Mount Annan. These are located in the far western reaches of Sydney and, as we live in the far south, this is not our usual stomping ground. The gardens are huge and consist of a number of extensive walking tracks. It was the middle of the day and very hot so we had lunch at the cafe, followed by a stroll through some of the closer displays. Lunch was good and the outdoor dining of the cafe very pleasant, however, being a coastal dweller, I have forgotten the joys of inland, rural life: flies, flies and more flies!  Aeroguard would have been a definite bonus. We’ll have to come back in late winter to try the whole gardens, sans flies.

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Mount Annan

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Vast areas of walking tracks, Mt Annan

On to Dungog, the town nearest to where we were staying at Chichester Dam. We passed through Clarence Town with our teeth almost rattling in our skulls the road surface was so bad! We thought this to be a one-off – until we reached Dungog, where the main road through town was just as bad.

Luckily we had picked up a glossy booklet of the area in Bowral, as, despite arriving at the Visitor Centre a full 15 minutes before closing time, it was locked up tight.

The Barringtons Country Retreat was somewhat of a Fawlty Towers experience. The website says it is under new management, so maybe this will change. We had arrived in the early evening secure in the knowledge that it had a restaurant, only to find that it was closed for refurbishment (a fact that had been omitted when we booked) and we had to turn around and bump our way 20 km back to Dungog to find food. The RSL club had good food at reasonable prices and we ended up eating there on about 3 occasions. A myriad of other, mainly small problems were encountered, but despite these we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. The accommodation was rustic, to say the least, but it was set in such beautiful and tranquil surroundings that all glitches were forgiven. Each morning we sat on the verandah, totally relaxed, watching the wallabies, the horses and the birds.

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The King Parrots were quite tame and if you offered them food they would climb right onto you.

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Two wallabies and a brush turkey. If you look carefully, the back wallaby has a joey.

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The verandah of our cabin complete with parrots. 🙂

We had seen posters advertising the Dungog show, and as it had been about 25 years since we last went to the Sydney show, we thought it would be fun to go. It was! As it was hot we spent a lot of time in the grandstand watching horse events including a very entertaining muster, the grand parade and a display of vintage tractors.  We wandered into the chicken display tent just because it was there, not realising what a vast range of chickens there are, and how interesting they can be! Some of them were absolutely huge and the roosters were very noisy. Quite a cacophony.

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Grand parade, Dungog Show.

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Vintage tractor

The farmyard display had miniature goats, very cute, a positively enormous sow that had recently given birth and totally frightened us when she stood up and looked as if she was going to trample all her tiny piglets! There were two alpacas. One had just been shorn and we were given a sample of the wool. It is so soft and light, really beautiful stuff. The black alpaca was waiting to be shorn and was truly a sight to behold.

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Newborn piglets, blissfully unaware of their impending danger!

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Check-out the dreadlocks.

Then there was the piglet racing; no, not the newborns. One minute there was a huge mass of sleeping piglets, the next, after some imperceptible signal, they were clamouring and squealing loudly and incessantly at the starting to gate, raring to go. Then the gate opened and the piglets bolted around the track, had a congratulatory feed at the finish and went back to sleep! Lots of fun.

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Bliss.

Our glossy booklet enticed us with pictures of beautiful rivers amongst rocky outcrops and native forests. It also told us that the roads to Barrington Tops were accessible by all vehicles. Don’t believe everything you  read! After a very long, tiring, dusty and bumpy trip, that our car did not enjoy, we abandoned any thought of cool, soothing water, went for a reasonable walk and returned to our verandah with the wallabies. I was so disappointed I almost left then and there for Port Macquarie!

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Check out the distances on the road sign – we were a long way from anywhere!

Abandoning my glossy booklet, I pored over a smaller brochure outlining bird-walking trails, which I had picked up at the RSL. I found a walk along the Williams River which sounded promising; so we stayed.

Firstly, being so close to Chichester Dam we thought we ought to have a closer look. What a beautiful spot! This, alone, was enough to satisfy my need for water and it was right on our doorstep! No need for the wild goose chase of the previous day at all.

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Beauty and tranquility.

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View from the dam wall.

The drive from Chichester Dam to the Williams River goes out along the Salisbury Road. I have now been to three places called Salisbury: in England near Stonehenge; the capital of Rhodesia (now Harare); and the tiny hamlet, nowhere in particular in NSW. The drive, though, was very pretty with all the spring-flowering.

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Large stands of flowering paperbarks served as wind-breaks on the farms

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The Silky Oaks were just magnificent.

On to the Williams River picnic area, a great spot where we had lunch before heading out on the Blue Gum loop trail, a 3.5 km walk through a beautiful Sydney Blue Gum forest. This was a really gorgeous walk with towering trees and exquisite river vistas. An absolute must-do if you are in the area. There is a swimming hole, but it was down a steep track and we stumbled on it right at the end of the walk and it was too much effort – even for me, the water-baby!

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Amazing trees – so tall and straight

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1. Path through the Blue Gum forest. 2. Creek crossing. Difficult to play “Pooh-sticks” here!

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I promised water! Waterfalls and pools …

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Babbling brooks …

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More water and fascinating rock formations.

Definitely a case of saving the best till last.