Parade of Light

An annual event, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the second largest Fringe in the world after Edinburgh, has many draw cards. Not the least, for the local crowd, is the Parade of Light. There were the usual wondrous colours and displays, but a new entry in the visual splendour called to mind today’s Daily Post One Word challenge – Above.


A thick smog of odourless and moistureless smoke hung over us as laser lights were shot through it.  Never surrounding us, but ever floating over and moving like some ionised cloud. Utterly spellbinding. I hope you can get a sense of it, here:


And what of the usual sights? I’ll try to couple the buildings by day with their light show doubles. These stately buildings are some of our oldest – being a fairly young country in terms of European occupation.

State Library

The Art Gallery of South Australia

Bonython Hall, University of Adelaide

Mitchell Building,  University of Adelaide

Elder Conservatorium


And the random buildings on North Terrace, in the heart of Adelaide, the outdoor eating areas, a full moon and the alleyways as Adelaide comes alive for the Fringe.

We ate at Parwana, Afghani food. Deliciously fresh. Great, friendly service. Ebenezer Place.

Travel Safely to Adelaide during February and March, for our festival season. You’ll need plenty of water, although other refreshment can certainly be found.

Sa Pa, Vietnam

Nearly two years have passed and yet I cannot forget the trip to Sa Pa, in Vietnam’s remote northwest. We took the train, and there the adventure began.


The train to Cao Lai on the Chinese border was very long and, as our first sleeper, the bunks and bedside snacks were snug and welcoming. As the train departed, though, I cannot begin to explain the various directions I was pulled in and rolled to and how many bodily functions I wanted to perform at once. Sometimes I stood outside our cabin, swaying in the coolness of the breeze that swept down the corridors through the open doors, monitored by one of the carriage guards. Motion sickness tablets work and I managed a satisfactory sleep, over the night. Someone knocked on our door at 5.15am and I awoke to the lush green vegetation of the hills whizzing past the window. It was lovely.

We were collected by a pre-booked local driver and guide and took the steep, winding road to Sa Pa. Apparently, you can take a bus from Hanoi to Sa Pa, but it is narrow and winding, so I’m not sure the journey would have been any better. My husband says the train trip was the highlight of our entire Vietnam holiday, so each to their own. The guide took us to a little shop for some breakfast and then we began our walk through the main streets, heading for Catcat.


WP_20160421_001WP_20160421_004 Heading out of the town, you quickly come to the terraces for which the area is known, and although it was the warm season, a thick fog cloaked the hills in magic.


Steep terraced hills are sewn with rice and hemp and water buffalo roam freely when not tied to a plough. Our guide, Cuong, was local to the area and he explained the rice growing seasons, dyeing hemp and the importance of marriage and children. He was clearly on the lookout for a wife and at one time displayed his skill with a flute.


Cuong took us through the market stalls of his people, explaining that they rely on tourism to survive. Inexperienced travellers, we only learnt much later that it is customary to tip and one of the great regrets I have is that we did not do so in Sa Pa. We were taken to the house of a friend of our guide and shown the hemp drying. The young woman, 20 years old and with 2 children, had a photo with my son, who was 23, outside the house where she dyes with indigo and weaves the hemp, as her mother and grandmother did before her.


We reached the beautiful falls and were told that the windmills are replaced often, as they do not last long.


At the top of the falls we were entertained by a traditional story, with music and dancing. The varieties of dress and props was extraordinary and the venue perfect.


Cuong took us to two schools, as we are teachers, and at the school where he went we spoke to the teachers. I was surprised that, instead of a bell, they have a large drum that can be heard around the mountains. No drum monitors, though; only the Principal can call the children to the classroom.


The paths were good and as we went higher once more, the mist swept in. We passed ancient stones whose purpose even the guide did not know, but he did know a good place for lunch, in Lao Chai, overlooking a deep river, dry at the time.



Back past terraced mountainsides, we went to Sa Pa and walked its steep streets.



Then sat in a square, opposite the church, as the fog set in and we waited for our ride back to Lao Cai.


Where we sat and remembered the band of peddlers who seemed to follow us around the countryside. The Hmong people, of whom there are black Hmong, white Hmong, red Hmong and many more, are among the most marginalised people in Vietnam. They had the best English as their livelihoods depended upon it and we became quite fond of them, really.


Sa Pa, full of beauty and struggle. You can do home stays (we met a couple of Frenchmen who said it was amazing), hire motorbikes (we’re told that’s quite dangerous if you don’t know the roads) or book treks over the mountains. We  went cautiously, as is our way.

Safe Travels. Tip generously. Buy bottled water.

Tour Guide – Parafield, South Australia

An unknown suburb of a quiet and often un-visited State, Parafield is surrounded by many beautiful water catchments. It is my entry in this week’s photo challenge, tour guide.


The council of Salisbury, in which Parafield sits, has over 50 wetlands which have made it a leading centre for water conservation in the driest State, of the driest continent. Parafield is nestled between the Little Para River and Dry Creek, with the salt lakes a stone’s throw away, making it swampy 50 years ago, barren 20 years ago and now a beautiful habitat for wildlife we hadn’t seen before.

The Watershed Restaurant, possible due to the storm water catchments
The Watershed Restaurant, made possible by the storm water catchment

Mawson Lakes is 5 minutes away, with it’s higher education facilities, modern housing and opportunities for remote-controlled boats, walks and stunning sunsets.


Our small suburb is home to an airfield, that may have become Adelaide’s major airport, but was seen to be too far out of the capital city. It hosts one of the last pilot schools and many international students come here. If you’re very game, you can pay to have a spitfire flight over the nearby coast.


I personally think this was short-sighted, as Parafield sits on Highway 1 and the northern train line, the latter carrying The Ghan (to the Northern Territory) and the Indian Pacific (to Sydney).  Why! Either a short, scenic walk, a shuttle or a personal chauffeur could take you there. Only a little fog in winter, as we are on the plains.

cofcof Did I mention nearby coast? Only 15 minutes by car and you are at Semaphore Beach. Ideal for families, dog-friendly and plenty of fish and crabs, not to mention to the huge range of eateries.


Parafield has the largest population of Filipinos outside of the Philippines and is also home to a Khmer Buddhist Temple, the wall of which we watched being built by hand over a couple of years.


Multi-cultural, as old as the State, with delightful waterways, we have a forest of native trees that lure rosellas to the area all year long. We have sulphur-crested cockatoos in the warmer months but they fly west in winter.

Welcome to Parafield.

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Safe travels.



Corny Point

On the ‘toe’ of Yorke Peninsula, South Australia, lies the small town of Corny Point. It was named by Matthew Flinders, who thought it resembled a growth on the toe of the peninsula, which is shaped, like Italy, in a boot.

Corny Point is a popular destination for surfers – body and board, and for many people it is beyond phone range, making it the ideal getaway.


the steep stairs to Berry Bay
Body boarders in medium swell

The caravan park is accessible in terms of transport and price and there is a range of accommodation options, good facilities for all the family and excellent advice on surfing, fishing and touring. If the cockies wake you in the morning you can catch a lovely sunrise through the sheoaks and gums.


The nearby beaches of Berry Bay are the best in the area for body boarding and board surfers aren’t usually disappointed. It is usual to see between three and five dolphins cresting the water and coming in quite close to catch their share of the waves. Nearby coastal access also provides anglers with plenty of salmon and other fish, although without a boat I haven’t, personally, had much luck.

Berry Bay from South Berry to the lighthouse.

The area near the lighthouse has a lovely sheltered bay, suitable for individuals and families, to explore, swim or fish. The way down is a little steep, but a well-worn path exists and we go there every year, to be delighted each time by the colours and limestone formations.


The 15m high lighthouse was occupied and lit in 1882 and became automated in 1920. It provides important navigational aid to the coastline.

Corny Point was established in 1881, in response to the lighthouse being built, with the first settler being in the area 40 years earlier. It is an agricultural area, with mostly barley, lentils and chick peas grown there, now. In its early days, the successful dairy produced milk for the whole peninsula and it was carried by dray to Moonta, about 150 km away. In the heat of Summer, the condition of the milk upon arrival was not always great and it was not uncommon for people to try and waylay the load before journey’s end.

No dairy exists today and there is a tennis club, cricket, surf school, general store, church shared by three denominations and a pub. Nearby towns such as Warooka and Point Turton provide easy destinations for food and sight-seeing, but you can’t go past Innes National Park, Gleeson’s Landing and Pondalowie Bay for dramatic coastline, good surf for the experienced and endless fishing and camping.

While good highways and roadways get you to the main towns, there are plenty of dirt roads, some corrugated, and little development – this is a true escape.

Take a hat, sunscreen and water. Pack your board, or hire it from Neptune’s Surf School.

Safe Travels.

Silence of the Lake

For this week’s photo challenge – silence, I picked one of a small number of places where the silence stilled me completely; Lake Argyle, Western Australia.


In actual fact, shortly after this the wind picked up and we were in for high seas and, while the silence remained, it was charged with emotion.

Safe travels. Take water, a hat and it helps if you can swim.

11 days in Vietnam; a short summary

We have only travelled outside of Australia once, and that was in response to our critics, who challenged us to look beyond our beautiful shores and have a different experience. So we booked to go to Vietnam in our fortnight of school holidays.


Our excellent travel consultant, Joan Newbery, from Phil Hoffmann Travel, advised us that if we planned to attempt the whole country in 11 days, we would go far and see little. She advised us to do the north, the south or a region. Researching weather and places of interest, we decided to do the north. Ha Noi, Sa Pa, Halong Bay, Hue and Hoi An.

Day 1 – 10 hours of flying to Ha Noi, then familiarisation

Day 2 – Tour that included temples, lakes, museums, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Centre of Ethnicity, the Temple of Literature and an on-the-spot art gallery.  Water puppets in the evening.

Day 3 – Hoan Kiem Lake, Museum of Revolution, St Joseph’s Cathedral, walking Ha Noi, overnight train to Cao Lai .

Day 4 – Drive to Sa Pa (most marginalised region of Vietnam), guide through the town and villages, then back to Cao Lai and overnight train to Ha Noi.

Day 5 and 6 – chauffeured to Ha Long Bay, via Dai Vien factory (worked by victims of Agent Orange), for 2-day cruise.


Day 7 – chauffeured to domestic airport in Ha Noi, via Dai Vien again and a massive Catholic Church. Flight to Hue.


Day 8 – Hue. We walked to the tourist operator area and booked a driver for 4 places, at $27. We went to the Citadel, Thien Mu pagoda, Thế Miếu temple, The Tomb of Khải Định and another that I can’t recall. We were taken to lunch at a place near the temple and the driver also stopped at the incense village where we made incense and then we bought some. We were also taken to Khai Dinh Tomb. Much more than the agreed destinations so we tipped him well.

Day 9 – Drive to Hoi An with a guide, via a roadside stop at the birthplace of the last queen, also known for eucalyptus oil manufacture, then Hai Van Pass, fish farm, Red Beach for lunch, arriving at Hoi An. The Central Markets were an interesting haggling experience and then food choices were plentiful.

Day 10 – Old town, tailors and lanterns.

Day 11 – Private car to My Son. 11th Century buildings. Took a shuttle to the beach in the afternoon – pretty chilled.

Day 12 – A morning at the pool, then flights from Danang to Ho Chi Minh City, then to Melbourne and then home.


A lot of distance, a very different experience from Australia, so much colour, so many people.

I’ve tried to keep this blog short, so if you have any questions or want more detail, please let me know, as I am happy to add anything if I can.

Make sure you tip. Wear a hat, do tours and shop in the remote areas.

Would we go overseas again? Vietnam is unforgettable.