Jenolan helictites

This week I visited the Jenolan caves in New South Wales. We toured The Temple of Baal and among the geographic features we saw were these helictites.

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crazy version of stalactites, that go wherever they want.

They are my entry in this week’s photo challenge: prolific, as they are random and…prolific in the Temple of Baal Cave.

Visit the caves – they are the oldest in the world.

Oddities at the beach

In response to Cee’s Oddball challenge this week, I am submitting a couple of photos of I don’t know what, taken at the beach.

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strange sea offering

They just got washed up on the shore and I tried to google any sightings of odd sea creatures at Semaphore, but nothing showed up.

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seaweed adds authenticity to this one

The patterning and colour is very like Aboriginal artwork.

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Each one is about the size of my hand.

They are soft and jelly-like (yes, I touched them). Mysterious, beautiful, creepy.

Safe beach travels. Watch where you tread!

Make a landing in Carnarvon

On the jagged north west coast of Western Australia, between Coral Bay and Monkey Mia, lies the town of Carnarvon.  We touched on its history and gardens, but only learnt of its links with space long after we’d passed the sugar scoop and parabolic disks.

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Residing alongside the jetty is the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage. It has been maintained and contains original artifacts, furniture, clothing and documents. We loved the view from the front door, when the back door is open, of the ocean beyond the back yard and we were fortunate to meet one of the family who had lived there. Just checking on things and collecting the gold coin donations, she told us how, as children, when the huge ships came in loaded with goods, she and her siblings would run barefoot down the jetty to watch them unload. They would spend all day at this, as the livestock and goods were loaded on to the tram, which went straight to town.

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The jetty itself was 1 mile long (1.6 km) and although it has been repaired and still has tram runs occasionally, it is shorter. There is a small fee for walking the jetty, which goes towards its maintenance.

We left the jetty and made for the River Gums Cafe, seeing good reviews on the internet and in brochures. It was an interesting drive and the winding dirt road entrance was picturesque. The attached caravan made it through the dips, no worries. We had freshly squeezed juice and an iced coffee, which were both very tasty, but the gardens we observed while we sat at our wrought iron setting, were superb. I have tried to locate the names of the plants I photographed, but I apologise, they were too many. If you know the names of any of them, please let me know.

Carnarvon is sprawled but the centre of town is like any big country town in Australia – wide centre median strip and two lanes on each side. As we moved easily out of town on the good highway, we saw the disks, or parabolas on the hill. My husband recalled something about space tracking.

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Well, the radar disks were involved in the Apollo 11 flight, tracking its progress and sending information across the world. Now almost inoperative, the disks are housed at the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum and it is written about very highly. We should have done our research and given this town more time, as the waterways, blowholes, views and museum, that we have since learnt about, would have been enjoyed.

We’ll just have to go back!

Safe travels! Take a hat, water and tourist information.

Millions of reasons not to ignore this Warning

 

As Australia drifted northward, 20-30 million years ago, it passed over one of the Earth’s hot spots, causing volcanic activity. Molten material formed the Mount Warning shield volcano and high rainfall created a myriad of streams and rivers which eroded the volcano into its present shape – one of the oldest calderas in the world. Fertile volcanic soil, high humidity and rainfall provided all the elements for the subtropical rainforest to thrive ( some of this reproduced, with permission, from the information board at Mt Warning). It is one of the Gondwana Rainforests and you are surrounded by ancient trees, dripping with moss. I think it is a good candidate for this week’s photo challenge: layered –  from the lava-rich soil, littered with decaying leaves making your ‘twisted’ way up to the tree tops, trickling over shades of green and brown.

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Tweed Heads has long conjured images of surf, sun and excitement. It’s nearness to the Queensland border and Coolangatta make it a popular holiday destination. But I had not known that the Tweed Valley, shared by both New South Wales and Queensland, was the site of an ancient volcano and that Numinbah Nature Reserve is at the base of this layered caldera?

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The Wollumbin National Park, formally Mt Warning National Park, was renamed in recent years to reflect the importance of the lava plug, that is Mt Warning, to the local Aboriginal People, including the Nganduwal, Galibal, Gidhabul, Bundjalung and Widjabal. Many of their Dreaming stories involve the monolith.

There are many walks to choose from and an information booth at the entrance to the park, giving detail, advice and options. We parked at the entrance to the park and walked to the Lyrebird track, which was quite short, but beautiful. The path was firm and bitumised in parts, and we crossed Breakfast Creek and made it to the lookout. If I visited again, I would do a longer walk, but the traditional owners prefer that people do not climb Warning.

I’m partial to walks through a rainforest  – it’s good for everyone, and everything, if we are careful where we tread and what we leave.

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There are excellent facilities – toilets and picnic areas. Take a hat, camera and water. Good walking shoes are not necessary on the Lyrebird trail but would be needed on others. Sunscreen and insecticide are useful, but remember the environment if you decide to dip in a limb.

 

 

Kalbarri

We only intended to stay 1 night but spent 3 in this hidden treasure of Western Australia.

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There is something for everyone, here, including fishing, as the man on Chinaman’s Point in the picture above shows. Huge waves crashed against his favourite spot and we had been warned about the currents at that opening, so it appeared Kalbarri had its share of adventure-seekers. But let me outline the more sedate experiences we undertook.

Arriving in the afternoon, we made our way to the caravan park then dashed out to see Natural Bridge, Red Bluff, Blue Holes and Shell House Grandstand, all accessible from the main road and then boardwalks. The coastline was dramatic and latticed. You could see why early Dutch explorers thought it uninhabitable.

The next day took us to Nature’s Window and Z-Bend in Kalbarri National Park. Now, there is a very long stretch of corrugated dirt road, so if you have a regular 2-wheel drive like us, you might have the same arguments about how best to get through it. For the record, the best way is to travel about 80km/hr, so you skim over the top of the bumps. If you have a motor home DO NOT ATTEMPT the road unless you have a system for bolting down your crockery. We met people whose crockery lay smashed on the ground, they didn’t know how far it was to go and had to turn back, knowing more destruction was likely.

The views are worth it, even when it is around 35C. You are warned to take 3L of water if you intend walking the loop, as it can get up to 50C in the gorge.

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The latticed rocks and layers of colourful sediment are impressive and while wondering why Z-Bend was called that, we spotted a white dot in the distance and zoomed in as far as we could to catch a goat, perched on the ridge.

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But wait! There’s more. While there, we spotted a goanna and directed a number of international tourists to the creature, that put on quite a display and was about a meter long. We also marvelled at the flowers produced by such barren soil.

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Later that day, we headed back to the coast for a look at Chinaman’s Beach, from the top and the shoreline, and Rainbow Jungle – an exotic bird sanctuary.  There are tales to be read of the Zuytdorp shipwreck, after which the cliffs are named and you’ll see gorgeous birds and flora.

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On our last day, we took in more of the coastal drives and walks, completing Mushroom Rock Loop and visiting Pot Alley and Eagle Gorge. The visitor centre has maps and information detailing the walks and some stops had signs up. The pipe rocks were pretty amazing – I haven’t seen them anywhere else.

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We finished the day with a sunset river cruise, where we learned a great deal about the demise of the cray fishermen and saw some riverbank scenery. It was inexpensive, but a little repetitive.

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A memorable place. There are diving activities, quad bike adventures, canoeing, absailing…something for everyone. Good access to a supermarket, playground, take-away and visitor centre. What are you waiting for?

Take a hat, water bottles and good walking shoes. Let me know if you have any questions about this area or somewhere else in Australia.

Safe travels.

Geraldton W.A.

Nestled on the Batavia Coast in Western Australia is the interesting town of Geraldton.

 

A large place, with a population around 40 000, it was cooler than the Coral Coast, 200km to the north and warmer than Perth, 400 km south. There are many attractions, which was fortunate for us, as we had developed some minor car trouble requiring a longer stay than we had planned.

 

Fear not, there is plenty to do and a great variety of scenery.

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Our first stop was the visitor centre, located in the Bill Sewell Complex. A beautiful Victorian structure, it began in the mid 1850’s as the local Victoria Hospital and grew in proportion to the development of the local and neighbouring areas. Now, in colonial times, neighboring areas meant anywhere on the mid-west coast so they serviced a huge area.

Across the capark is the Old Geraldton Gaol and Craft Centre. Originally built as the centre for hiring convict labour, it continued as a gaol until the 1990’s, making it the second oldest gaol in WA (outstripped by Fremantle Prison). Unremarkable from the outside, it is a lofty historical tour on the inside, oddly juxtaposed with local goods for sale in cells that are hired by the crafty.

The Batavia Coast is named after the wreck of the BATAVIA in the early 1600’s, off the featured coast. It is the second oldest wreck in Australian waters and fascinates me, given that we were not colonised until the 1800’s. Clearly the Dutch didn’t see any potential in our rugged shorelines. I believe part of the Batavia is reconstructed in the Geralton museum but we didn’t visit there.

For an unforgettable experience, you have to visit the HMAS Sydney II memorial. I have written about it in another blog, so perhaps go there for more information, but I promise you it will be worth the visit and the view isn’t bad, either.

A visit to Point Moore Lighthouse will also take you to the beach and a refreshing swim if it is hot. The tower itself was unremarkable, save for the stripes.

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Geraldton is a coastal town, so there are views to be had and water activities but if, like us, you are there when it is a bit cool, you can enjoy a coffee at one of the many DOME restaurants, that recreate a 1920’s feel. In fact, their not being present in SA, my husband and I asked if the original building was a train station, having been renovated so beautifully. The waiter was a bit confused at first and then informed us that all DOME cafes have the same look.

St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral is quite surprising. An impressive building on the outer, the paintwork has to be seen to be believed. Apparently the builder of the cathedral is responsible for several other unusual structures.

The Iris Sundial, across the park from the cathedral, was built by Bill Newbold and named after his wife. It is very interesting and I spent some time using the directions to check its accuracy – was that the teacher or the maths teacher in me? I couldn’t get over how complicated something like that would be to build. It is quite attractive, though, despite my poor photograph of it.

We walked extensively (yes, partly due to the car being repaired), the gentle hills of the town not overtaxing us and saw a great deal. The main street is neat and long, with everything you need.

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The above photo was of an old cinema, so 1920’s I couldn’t resist, but there are a great many styles and eras represented in the architecture.

Safe travels. Don’t forget the hat and water.

CAIRNS and PORT DOUGLAS

The lure of the tropics – palm trees, waterfalls, rainforest, rapids… we all have our daydreams. Cairns, in the north of Queensland, Australia, can fulfill them all and more.

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The colours will delight you, both above and under the water, for you cannot go to Cairns without doing a tour to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the 7 wonders of the natural world. Rapidly deteriorating, you had better make tracks if you want to see it at all. We have noticed a decline in the state of rainforests, too, as global warming reduces the rainfall to the area. So get to the Daintree Rainforest on the next day.

 

There are activities for young families and older ones and, depending on the time of the year, plenty of beach or pool space. Tours to the Great Barrier Reef leave from Cairns or Port Douglas and accommodation is plentiful in both. When the children were younger, Cairns was a good spot to stay, as the Cairns Coconut Holiday Resort (part of the BIG4 group) was outstanding. It had transport, bouncing pillows, putt-putt golf, tennis, evening cinema, aqua aerobics, and the list goes on. It is a holiday in itself!

My preference, now, is to stay in Port Douglas, hiring a car if we fly in. The town is quaint and small, with most things accessible by walking about 30 minutes or less. Caravan parks, motels and hotels are plentiful and the scenery picturesque. The local beaches are good in the right season, but check where the rivers are, as crocs are prolific.

The Barrier Reef tours vary in length so do some research to see what you want. Most take a while to get out to the reef, so if you suffer sea sickness, take tablets or if it’s calm, sit out on the deck. You can enter the water using snorkelling gear, as a diver or in a glass-bottom boat and viewing ‘submarines’ often do a quick tour, enabling you to take dry photos and see the waterlife without swimming. There is entertainment, food and wetsuits and gear provided. The only thing you have to work on is not opening your mouth in a wide ‘Oh’ as the fish dart up to you, multi-coloured and -specied. At the time we went, Wally the Wrass was the favourite frequent visitor. A wrass is an extremely large black fish with over-wide lips, that doesn’t eat people. My photos do not do justice to what you will see and experience.

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I would recommend white water rafting for the ‘over 10’,  as it is exhilarating, reasonably priced and gives amazing views. I don’t have any photos, given the nature of the activity and my amateur status, but google the Tully River adventures. Quad bike trails are for anyone and can take you through some nice landscapes.

There is bungee jumping near the Daintree, but I prefer to do the walks through this world heritage site. You have to pass Mossman Gorge and there are beautiful, accessible walks and tracks, here. Both sites have excellent information facilities and at Daintree we opted for the audio tour. Incredibly lush scenery. You will find all sorts of odd seedpods, insects, fungi and wildlife. You can even test the waters in the Mossman River.

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mossman was colder than I expected
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Mossman Gorge has good walkways, suitable for wheelchairs and they use recycled material that will not have an adverse effect on the environment. It is non-slip as well, which is important in the tropics. The Daintree visitor centre is managed by the Aboriginal people of the area and they will let you know what areas are restricted so that the local people are respected.

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A visit to Kuranda by train and maybe the chair lift is very nice for some village charm and a taste of history. The train is an old steamer and passes through great areas, stopping to view a waterfall at Barron Gorge (I think). Relaxing and well-priced, it is a good way to see some of the thousands of species of flora.

There is plenty of colour to be had in the region and its plants.

 

We travelled there in 2005 and 2012 and it is time to go again! There are lovely stops by the water, such as Ellis Beach Bar and Grill, but do be careful, as crocodiles have been seen.

Safe travels. Take a hat and water and your swimming gear.

Tasmania’s St Marys, Cornwall and saucy Evandale

We had read so much and heard other travellers speak of St Marys and the quirky shops there, that it became one of our last destinations.

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While being very pretty, and sustaining brightly-coloured flowers, the opening hours of most of the shops did not include Sunday morning. So we had a quick stroll, took some snaps and made our way to Evandale.

There is a tourist paper that Tasmania makes readily available, Travelways, and this alerted us to an area called Cornwall, an old coal mining district still in operation and a family sauce-making business in Evandale. Cornwall was like so many mining areas in Australia – victims of the change in politics and environmental action. The history of the miners and the monument was very interesting and alluded to plenty of stories and local heroes.

The Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company was an absolute treat. Easy to access and find, just off the main road, we were able to try about 13 sauces, I think. We bought home jam, sauce and pickles and were shocked at the low cost. I think the plum and pepperberry relish was the favourite and disappeared very quickly. We will be ordering online, for sure.

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So, if you get time, stop by these two towns (but check opening hours) and be delighted.

Safe travels.

Bicheno and Waubs Bay

It is an easy drive from Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park to Bicheno, where there are many accommodation options. We took a cabin in Bicheno Cabin Park, which had very good facilities and was a five minute walk to Waubs Bay. The sound of the surf at night was only just louder than the rain.

Of course, you cannot speak of Bicheno without mentioning the blowhole. We drove the short distance there and headed across sand and lichen-covered rocks to the attraction. You can hear it from the road, but don’t realise it until you have seen it. Shooting pretty high, it is the most accessible blowhole I have visited and fascinating enough to capture your interest for at least 30 minutes. I would be wary of taking young children nearby, as the waves from the ocean crash over the rocks that form the blowhole and it is not hard to imagine anyone getting swept out to sea.

There are a number of bakeries and eateries, a supermarket and a gallery. We tried to find the lookout but were unsuccessful and as the hour was late we couldn’t ask anyone in time to catch the view.

Waub’s Bay was a good spot for exploration and we saw a couple of young surfers in the water. Again, if I had young children I would keep an eye on them, with all the rocks and constant waves, but if you didn’t have a wetsuit I wouldn’t be heading in anyway.

Apparently, Waubs Bay is named after Wauba Debar, an Aboriginal woman of the area with a remarkable story. She and her family endured terrible things at the hands of sealers, yet she married one and saved him and another sailor during a storm, as she was an exceptional swimmer. When she died an early death in the mid-1800s, members of Bicheno raised funds to build a monument to commemorate her heroic deed. We did not have time to find her memorial.

Safe Travels.

From Strahan to Hobart

Leaving Strahan with Hobart in the GPS, we made it to Queenstown in good time, stopping for any exceptional views along the way.

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Queenstown is like many towns in Australia that began as booming mining ventures and died a slow and unattractive death as the mine failed. There are quaint and ornate buildings in the town and impressive monuments to soldiers and to miners. Large hills form a protective backdrop to the town and the train station and Empire Hotel are beautifully maintained.

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Just out of town we stopped at the mine, where the green pool at the base of the deep stratified pit made the copper deposits obvious. Apparently, Abel Tasman noted that his ships’ compass needle shot north while passing this island and knew that Iron would be found in large quantities when someone found a way to approach safely.

En route to the capital we visited Nelson Falls, which was an easy and picturesque 20 minute return walk to the tiered falls. The vegetation along the way was sub-tropical ferns and trees, very green and dotted with moss.

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A roadside stop took us to a narrow and sometimes steep track to the Franklin River and one-person suspension bridge. I think that for both of us it was a milestone to see the river that had been at the heart of so much controversy in the ’80s. We were a little surprised to see the number of cars parked there, suggesting that at least 20 people had undertaken the Overland Trail – lasting 5-6 days. Good examples of fungus and bright flowers were caught.

Another stop at Derwent Bridge was special. There is a well-appointed visitor centre there, and we made use of the tables to have lunch with a great view.

 

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Reading that Tarraleah had a distillery, we made our way into that town but only found the Hydroelectric station. It is pretty impressive, with information that it is merely one of a series of such stations along the river. Commanding views.

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The little town of Ouse (ooze) was our signpost to turn off to Mount Field National Park and Russell Falls. The tourist literature said it was the most impressive of Tasmania’s waterfalls, with tiers over which it cascades. The drive was beautiful and, once there, the walk was easy and the falls pretty good, considering the locals said they hadn’t had much rain and it was the start of Autumn.

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Although our GPS took us to a wall that must have featured on the heritage list, rather than our expected accommodation, a quick phone call to Motel 429 brought us to the desired establishment in Sandy Bay. A good location, opposite Wrest Point Casino and calm water, beneath the brooding shoulder of Mt Wellington. There were supermarkets, restaurants and food vans on the weekend, all within an easy walk. If that wasn’t enough, we got a stunning sunset.

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We were set to explore Hobart.

Safe travels.