Wednesday, January 03, 2018


A Bartboat!!

Santa did it for me again. Over the years he has brought me all sorts of vehicles, mostly in the markings of the Royal Aussie Bear Force. The missing vehicle has been a boat. Well, early on Christmas morning I headed for the tree and, sure enough, there was a parcel there for me. It is a bit of a struggle for a small bear to rip through layers of wrapping, but I dug away and there it was - a rocket-powered hydroplane speedboat. Now to find a place where Mum will let me take the risk of getting wet... Actually, I think that I have this Santa thing sorted out. For the last month before Christmas, Dad was busy cutting and shaping panels and blocks of balsa. His only explanation of what he was up to was "Elf business". Sounds pretty certain to me that Dad "Elf" could actually be the household Santa, but it pays to keep quiet while the presents keep coming.


Sunday, December 24, 2017


Christmas Greeting


Brindabella Hills Birthday Bash

Mum's birthday is just 3 days before Christmas. She considers that to be a mean trick because (before I started organizing things) people would always combine her birthday and Christmas celebrations. So yesterday I took her out to our favourite winery, Brindabella Hills, for a special lunch. Bros Trent and Nathan came too. If you compare these photos with earlier ones you can see that there is a lot of work being done to the vineyard and the restaurant by the new owners. The thing I like best is the way they are clearing some of the scrub so that you get a great view of the river valley. What's the wine like? Well, it is better than any of the other local brands and most of the other Aussie ones. How old is Mum? I'm not allowed to tell you, but she is older than she looks.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017


Sailing Back Into Sydney

No matter where we travel and how much fun the trip has been it is always good to be back in Australia. The prettiest homecoming is sailing into Sydney harbour at the end of a cruise. The ships usually enter the Heads just before Sunrise and the view is one of the few things that will get the Oldies out of bed early. The first things that you see are the blinking lighthouses at Hornby and Macquarie (search earlier posts for photos of them). The first photo is South Head and if you look carefully you can see the light from Hornby. Near the city the first ferries are starting out past the Opera House. The ship passes Fort Dennison just as its small lighthouse turns off. Smaller ships like Sun Princess pass under the Harbour Bridge to White Island Terminal, and by the time disembarkation begins the Sun is risen. A great way to return to Aus.

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Monday, December 04, 2017


A Most Spectacular Lighthouse Site

 Ships leaving Hobart and heading east around the south coast of Tasmania pass the most spectacular cliffs that I have ever seen. They are made of massive vertical basalt columns that look like drainpipes. At the place where ships can head east around the end of the Tasman Peninsula is Tasman Island. This is a small island, just over a square Kilometer in area, but it is up to 300 metres high. The keepers of the lighthouse there were some of the most isolated people in Australia. The lighthouse was made from cast iron in England. It came to Tasmania as a prefabricated kit and the bits had to be hauled up those steep cliffs in rare periods of calm weather and reassembled. It is the highest (above sea level) active lighthouse in Australia. Keepers lived on the island from 1906 to 1977 when the light was fully automated. Today the keepers' cottages are falling into disrepair. The old supply gear of flying fox and tramway is in ruin, although you can still see the tracks on Google Earth. The only access is by helicopter. The best view of the site is from a cruise ship or one of the boat tours from Hobart or Port Arthur.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017


Hobart Short Call

"Sun Princess" stopped overnight in Hobart. We had spent time in Hobart during our February road trip and did most of the touristy things then, so we just took it easy. We went across to the Hotel Grand Chancellor for a "Hi, we're back" cocktail. The manager recognized us and let us go up to the top floor to take photos (nothing better then the ones from Feb). Of course, we had fish'n'chips at Mures; every visitor to Hobart has to do that. I can't decide if the f'n'c at Mures are better than the ones you get on the wharf at Auckland, maybe I need another trip to NZ to help me decide. We left Hobart late afternoon. The tug was a huge one that was normally based at Port Headland in WA. You can see the way it was pulling (tugging) the ship's stern away from the wharf. The Pilot boat is in the background waiting to escort us down the Derwent estuary. I think that the passage into and out of Hobart is one of the prettiest parts of the cruise, and it has lighthouses (check the image of Iron Pot from our previous trip, and wait for the next post)....

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Back to Burnie

First port of call on our Tasmania cruise was Burnie, on the Bass Strait coast. Burnie was founded in1827 and by 2011 it was the fourth largest city in Tassie. It once was the site of Australia's largest paper mill and also several smaller industries including a paint pigment factory. Pollution of the city and the harbour became a huge problem and most of the manufacturing industries have closed. Today, forestry and farming are the major industries and the port is the largest cargo port in Tasmania. One of the chief exports is wood chip, and there was a large pile right next to where the Sun Princess docked. I watched the conveyors dumping chip into a pile and a bulldozer spreading it out to make room for more. The Oldies hired a car and we zoomed off to Bev's Cross Craft, the largest and best craft shop that I have ever seen (photos in posts from Feb), and then on to Anvers Chocolate Factory for lunch. There was another "target" for us in Burnie, the Round Hill lighthouse. We failed to find it in February, and only caught a quick glimpse as we drove past it this time. Fortunately, lighthouses have to be visible from the sea and we managed to get a look at it in the distance as we left port. It is a tiny one built in 1923, never manned, and automated in 1980.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Short Break Cruise

Since the last post, I have been on a short cruise to some ports in Tasmania.  Our ship this time was "Sun Princess". The Oldies wanted to check out Princess Cruises and compare it with the other cruise lines we have travelled on. The ports of call were Burnie, Port Arthur and Hobart. We drove to all of these during our Tassie road trip earlier this year (check the posts from February) but it is always interesting and exciting to come into the same place by sea. Instead of leaving from the International Cruise Terminal at Circular Quay, this time we left from the new White Bay cruise terminal. This is on the western side of the Harbour Bridge, so the larger ships can't use it. We didn't have much clearance between the top of our funnels and the underside of the bridge on our way out. Before going under the bridge we passed the new developments at Barangaroo. This used to be a run-down area of old wharves and sheds, but is now parkland, walkways and high-rise apartment blocks. Like most cruises, this one had interesting things happening right from the start.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017


I Am 15 Now

It's hard to believe, but I have been with the Oldies for 15 years now. In that time I have seen lots of the world with them and traveled on lots of boats, planes and trains and have shown you lots of my favourite places via this blog. For a small bear, 15 is a significant milestone, so my birthday celebrations lasted for 3 weekends. They started 3 weekends ago at my favourite winery, Brindabella Hills. It was just after Aunty Enid's birthday (I won't tell how old she is, but it is a lot more than 15) so we had a joint celebration. The thing I love about Brindabella Hills, apart from the magnificent wine and food, is the view along the Murrumbidgee valley. The new owners are clearing a lot of the scrub and the view is superb. The next weekend the Oldies took me for High Tea at the Burberry Hotel. Here the view was over the government buildings in central Canberra. I like the tasty nibbles that come with High Tea and of course good Champagne really makes it special. Then last weekend we joined Big Bros Trent and Nathan for lunch at a new winery they had "discovered". It is called Contentious Character and is on the other side of Canberra to Brindabella Hills. The view here is open woodland and acres of vines. The food is good and the wines are also. Canberra has many wineries surrounding it. Some are good, some are just so-so, but Brindabella Hills and Contentious Character are truly worth the visit - and they both take good care of visiting small bears with a taste for the product of the vines.

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Friday, October 20, 2017


Beware the Guards

Here are two of the most embarrassing moments of my stay in Perth. In the foyer of Crown Towers there are two things that look like huge slabs of gold. I was trying to get a scrap of material off this one so that I could test it and see if it was real or not when I was grabbed and taken outside to the lion. He didn't look very fierce and wasn't moving at all so I thought he would be friendly. No way! As soon as I was feeling like he might be a new friend he moved like the Flash and quick as a wink I was in his mouth. Fortunately, the Oldies were nearby and Dad snatched me out of the mouth before the jaws closed. I still don't know if that's really gold in the foyer. Mum just laughs when I ask her and wants to know how I was planning on taking it home if it was real.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017


A Shorter Lighthouse

Here's a lighthouse that is a bit different. Instead of being built on a clifftop or near the bank of an estuary, it is on the top of a 100m high hill 500m from the ocean. The lighthouse is only 20m tall, much easier for visitors to climb the stairs for the view from the balcony. It is the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse in Western Australia. It was built in 1904 and went into service the next year. It is built from limestone which was quarried nearby. It is one of the few lighthouses that still use their original Fresnel lens. I like these lenses because they are a clever way of making a big lens that is much lighter and flatter than a conventional lens. If you get the chance to look closely at a lighthouse lens you will see that is a lens that has several steps ground into it, sort of folding the lens into itself. Fresnel lenses were actually originally invented for lighthouses. Mum still aims to get to every accessible lighthouse in Australia, including historic lighthouse ruins and ones that have been deactivated and moved into museums . This was number 91.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2017


Super-size Sundial

One of the favourite beach suburbs of Perth is Cottesloe. As you can see from the first photo, it is just north of Fremantle. This photo was taken from a headland at the southern end of the long sandy strip of the beach. On the headland I noticed a strange-looking structure and headed down a convenient path to see what it was. If I had been tall enough to read the signpost at the start of the path I would have seen that this is the Cottesloe Bicentenary Sundial. It is very different to the small garden sundials you often see. It is actually two sundials, a morning one and an afternoon one. The big limestone ramps are gnomons, which throw their shadow onto the curved brass strips. These strips are engraved with time markers. The curvy markings show the difference needed to correct the time shown by the shadow to Western Australian Standard Time, which is set at Kalgoorlie, 4.3 degrees east of Cottesloe (click on the photo for a larger view). We were there at 3:17 pm and the sundial and Dad's watch agreed on the time. This sundial is similar to the giant 18th century ones at Jaipur in India. The beach? Well, it's not bad, but in my opinion we have much better ones in the eastern states.

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Thursday, September 21, 2017


Sandalford Winery

Our cruise up the Swan River took us to Sandalford winery. As you can see from the photo of their award wall, this is one of the best-rated wineries in Australia. Our only problem was that we arrived soaking wet from the trip between the wharf and the winery. A large golf buggy was there to take us, but it had no side curtains and we got soaked anyway. Fortunately, there was a fire going in one of the dining rooms and we were able to steam ourselves dry. Near the fireplace were 2 large candle stands. These looked like something out of Frankenstein's castle as the melted candle wax had been allowed to drip down and form fascinating patterns as it solidified. Before lunch was served we had a lesson in the art of wine tasting. There were 6 samples and the idea was to test and rank them. Mum did OK, but Dad's idea of wine tasting is to raise the glass and gulp the contents. Actually, Sandalford wines are pretty good. There is, of course, a large cellar door shop and we left loaded down with wine "gadgets", presents for family and friends. Is the Sandalford cruise worth it? Too right, even in bad weather.

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Friday, September 15, 2017


Swanning Up To Sandalford

During our stay in Perth we took a cruise up the Swan River to Sandalford winery. Our boat was Captain Cook Cruises' "River Lady". Like nearly all the vessels that go upriver from Perth, she is built low to fit under some of the bridges. In fact, at a really high tide there is one bridge that she has to wait at for the river level to drop. The weather on the day of our cruise was terrible - heavy rain and gusty strong winds. The map tells the story, Perth is right under the densest part. The weather system stayed pretty much the same all day. Anyhow, I had fun. The captain was a lady named Catherine. I called her Cap'n Cat and she let he help drive. I worked the throttles while we were clearing the dock, and did a lot of the steering when we were on our way upriver. How does a small bear steer when the wheel is so big that I can't reach all the handles? I just jump on the appropriate handle of the wheel until the boat is aimed in the right direction. As this was a winery cruise, we had wine tasting on the way. I managed to get a small taste of Mum's samples; 4 whites and 4 reds. I think whites are much nicer, but reckon that the ones from Marlborough in New Zealand are the best. Mind you, we tasted some really good wines later during our road trip in the Margaret River region south of Perth. We met some wonderful cheeses as well. One was so good that the Oldies bought a Kilogram back with them; it didn't last long. If you have a free day in Perth, this winery cruise is well worth doing, regardless of the weather.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017


A Light Between Two Oceans

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse is on a headland that is near the spot where two oceans meet. To the right is the Indian Ocean and to the left is the Southern Ocean. Now I should mention that geographical nit-pickers will claim that the Southern Ocean is only south of 60 degrees latitude and the cape is only at 34 degrees. But there is only ocean south of this point until you hit Antarctica, so as far as most Aussies are concerned this is indeed the meeting of the two oceans. I reckon that I could see the churned-up area of ocean where the currents of the Indian and Southern were meeting and causing bigger, rougher waves. In fact, some ships have been badly damaged or sunk by sudden gigantic rogue waves in the ocean to the south. The cape is named after the Dutch ship Leeuwin (Lioness) which was the first European ship to map this area of coast in 1622. The lighthouse is built of local stone and was built in just 1 year. It has been in operation since 1896. There has not been a shipwreck on the cape since then.

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Mum's Eye

Well, another long break between posts due to family troubles. Mum has had a rough couple of weeks and I have been busy being nurse and comforter. 14 days ago Dad foolishly left a box in the doorway and Mum tripped on it and really banged up her leg. The bruises and swelling have still not completely gone. That is bad enough, but yesterday she was due to have a thing called a cattyrack (Bart means cataract - Dad) removed from her eye. Naturally she wasn't going to let a small thing like a bunged-up leg stop her so she went ahead with the surgery; I am not sure if that rates as bravery or stubbornness. Anyhow, she saw the surgeon today, the eye shield came off, the surgery was successful and she can now see properly out of both eyes again. Here's a photo of her just after coming out of surgery and one of her just after arriving home. I kept her company and wore an eye patch for the rest of the time just to make her feel a bit better.


Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Well-guarded Lighthouse

One of the places we visited in Western Australia was Cape Leeuwin. This is the most south-westerly point on mainland Australia, and has a magnificent lighthouse on it. It is the tallest mainland lighthouse in Australia and has been in service since 1895. Before you can get to the lighthouse you have to pass its fierce guardian, the Moorine Marauder. This pirate cow is complete with eye patch, rum keg, hook replacing a hoof (presumably lost in previous fighting), telescope and parrot. She keeps a sharp eye on all visitors coming up the path from the car park. She is one of the multitude of pieces of cow art made for the international cow parade in 2010, and is probably the only one remaining in her original location. I quickly made friends with her. She let us pass but would not let me sample her rum. More of the lighthouse next post.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Worrying Signs

Occasionally I see a sign that worries me a bit, or makes me chuckle. Here's a couple of them. The first one was spotted near a Canberra petrol station. Just across the road is an empty paddock that sometimes has cows put in to keep the grass down. The truck parked here on this occasion must surely worry any cow that can read. You would expect them to be really anxious about their fate. Given the relaxed attitude of the cows near the truck, I guess that none of them can actually read. The second photo is of a seagull perched on a car in the parking area near one of the lighthouses we saw on our WA trip (photos soon). The car is a hire car from the "No Birds" company. Now either the seagull can't read or it is being deliberately disobedient. From my observations of seagulls and their behaviour, I strongly suspect that disobedience is the case.


Friday, August 11, 2017


Back From WA

As some of you noticed, I have been away for a couple of weeks; thanks for your emails asking if I was OK. Nothing bad had happened, I was in Western Australia. The Oldies decided to see a bit of Australia that was new to them, the south-western bit of WA. Naturally, this corner of the continent has many wineries and some lighthouses. That seems to be the way that the Oldies plan itineraries these days. It takes 4 hours to fly to Perth (I used to call it Perf when I was younger) so the Oldies decided to use all our frequent flyer points and go business class. We had great flights over and back in this aeroplane. For a couple of days at the start and end of the trip we stayed at Crown Towers in Perth. Big brother Trent managed to get us a special deal there and we stayed on the second floor from the top. We had great views over the city, but the weather turned bad for most of our stay and I couldn't try out the pools; I guess Mum wouldn't let me anyhow, she has this thing about me getting wet. Despite the rain and wind, we saw 3 amazing lighthouses and visited some superb wineries.

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Sunday, July 16, 2017


Hobart Boat Festival

The day before we left Hobart to fly back home boats began arriving for the Wooden Boat Festival. This is a 4 day festival celebrating Australia's rich maritime heritage and is usually the biggest exhibition of wooden boats of all sizes in the southern hemisphere. Unfortunately, we only saw the very first arrivals. Constitution dock had the usual metal boats moved out and wooden ones began moving in. Here's are some of them. I think that the white steam yacht looks like it was built just for small bears to own; the current owner didn't agree. The dock was slowly filling with sailboats ranging from small sailing canoes to fairly large ships. The car parks were filling with beautifully built small craft, some still under construction. From the top floor of our hotel, right across the road from the docks, I could watch boats coming up the Derwent estuary right into the docks, so a lot of my last afternoon in Hobart was spent at the window there. If the Oldies take me back to Tassie I will try to get them to stay while the festival is on. I love boats.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017


The Road to Queenstown

 One of the longest drives we did in Tasmania was from Hobart across to Strahan on the west coast. The road passes through some spectacular wild scenery, but none more spectacular than the drop down into Queenstown. The town is in a valley on the western slope of Mt Owen and since the early 1880s it has been a mining town. The area around Mt Owen and Mt Lyell was one of the most mineral-rich areas of Australia. The first mining was for gold, then copper became the main export. A railway was built between Queenstown and Strahan to carry the metals to ships at Macquarie Harbour. The railway still operates as a tourist railway, but we didn't have time to do that trip. The last 15 Km of the road into Queenstown takes you from open forest and rocky hills into a narrow, winding pass between the bare, eroded remains of old mines, mullock heaps and hills that have been stripped back to bare rock and discoloured by fumes from the old smelters. All of the original forest was felled and used to fire the smelters, so any soil has long since been washed away. Today the smelters are no longer operational and mineral concentrates from the mines are shipped to India for final processing. Vegetation is starting to grow again on the hillsides, but the spectacle of these stark multi-coloured hills is something that this small bear will remember for a long time. It is a bit like I imagine the Moon's surface might look. I will also remember just how carefully Mum drove down this bit of road. Queenstown is much smaller than it was in the heyday of the mining boom but, given the unexplored area of Tassie wilderness, there is always a chance of new workable mineral deposits being discovered nearby and maybe the town will boom again.


Thursday, June 29, 2017


Tamar Lights

Tasmania's second largest city, Launceston, is on the Tamar River in northern Tassie. The Tamar is actually the estuary of both the North Esk and South Esk Rivers. These join at Launceston to form the Tamar. In the late 19th century, Launceston was the commercial capital of Tasmania and its port was busier than Hobart. The entrance to the Tamar has lots of reefs and there were lots of shipwrecks here in the early 1800s. Naturally, a series of lighthouses was built to guide ships into the entrance and along the narrow channel. On the east side of  the river mouth is the spectacular Low Head lighthouse, the third lighthouse built in Australia. The first tower here was built by convicts in 1833. It was replaced by this one in 1888. I really love these red-striped Tasmanian lighthouses. There is also a small channel marker light just below the big lighthouse. Further up the river there are 2 smaller lighthouses marking the safe channel. The  left hand image on the second row is of the middle Channel Light and the right hand image is of the She Oak Point Light. You can see both of these lighthouses in the left hand image on the bottom row. This image was taken from near the Low Head lighthouse. The last image is of the Low Head area taken from She Oak Point. The big lighthouse is obvious. The buildings on the river bank are the Low Head Pilot Station. This is the oldest Pilot and Signal Station in Australia and has been in continuous use since 1833. All of these lighthouses are easy to get to, there is sealed road all the way from Launceston.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017


Sinister Sarah Island

Our Macquarie Harbour cruise included a visit to Sarah Island. This was the site of one of the worst penal settlements in Australia. It only operated from 1822 to 1833 and was intended to hold the worst convicts and those that had escaped from other convict settlements. Although any convict escapee would have to first cross the cold water of the harbour and then battle through the dense rain forest and its snakes and insects (see my post below), around 20 of them did escape. Most were recaptured or died in the attempt. The most notorious one was Alexander Pearce. In September 1822 he escaped with 7 others, and survived by killing and eating the others before he was caught again. He escaped again the next year, this time with a young convict; again Pearce survived by killing and eating him. On 19 July 1824 he was hanged in Hobart for his crimes. Another group of convicts escaped in a ship they were building in the government shipyard and sailed across the Pacific to Chile. When the penal station closed, the convicts were transferred to Port Arthur (see earlier posts). Today the island is part of the heritage area. The only remains of the penal colony are ruins, some in roped-off enclosures with explanatory signs and many just slowly eroding away in the jungle.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Fish Farms

During our Macquarie Harbour cruise we stopped for a couple of minutes at the salmon farms. Those dark discs that you can see in the photos are the tops of fish cages. In the bottom photo you can see the fish in one cage being fed. The spray is full of fish food and whatever medicines are needed. Naturally the gulls try to grab as much as they can. Because these farms are close to the Franklin-Gordon Wilderness they have been a source of some anger and concern, in case the farming impacts the World Heritage area. At present there is a limit on the number of fish that can be farmed and the effects on the heritage area is being closely monitored. It is not just gulls that the farmers have to cope with. The big danger is when they have to go diving to inspect the netting and repair any damage. The local seals and sea lions are keen to get at the fish inside the netting and have attacked several of the divers. I don't think it is a good job for small bears.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017


Tassie Wilderness Cruise

Apologies for the break in postings, the Oldies have both been sick and I have had to be Nurse Bart for the past week or so. Anyhow, back to our Tasmania photos. One of the places that is a "must see" is the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. This is one of the wildest places left in the world and is World Heritage listed. The original explorers of the area came upriver from Macquarie Harbour and into the rainforest looking for timber suitable for shipbuilding. They found it in the majestic Huon Pine. Some of these trees are over 3,000 years old and over 20 metres tall. The early logging, bushfires and later flooding of the rivers for hydro-electric dams severely reduced the number of big trees, but since the area was made heritage in the 1980s new trees are coming back. Our cruise from Strahan took us up the Gordon river to Heritage Landing where a boardwalk lets visitors see into the dense forest. Keen walkers can also start their treks into the national park here. Many of our cruise passengers got off the boat, went a short way into the woods and returned very quickly; the flies here are huge and love the taste of human flesh. If you intend to walk through the area, take plenty of insect repellent and cover as much of you as possible. Fortunately, small bears aren't bothered by big flies so Dad and I took lots of photos of the boggy ground, the ferns and mosses and the occasional Huon Pine sticking up through the low scrub. This forest includes some of the most ancient plants on Earth, surviving from the time of Gondwana. It is definitely worth a visit (provided you prepare for the bitey flies).

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Hell's Gate

One of the largest harbours in the world, Macquarie Harbour, is on the west coast of Tasmania. It is nearly 250 square kilometers in area, but unfortunately it is not very deep so larger ships can't use it, most of the traffic being small cargo and timber ships. The first European settlement here was a penal colony which operated on Sarah Island from 1822 to 1833 (more on this in a later post). The entrance to the harbour is narrow and has very dangerous tidal currents and rips. It is known as Hell's Gate and has been the site of many shipwrecks. As there are 3 lighthouses marking the safe passage, we just had to make the trip through Hell's Gate. As luck had it, we had absolutely perfect weather, unusual for this part of Tassie, and our catamaran was able to take us outside the entrance for a look at Cape Sorrell lighthouse. This is the second-highest lighthouse in Australia. It has been operating since 1899 and is heritage-listed. There used to be three keepers' cottages and an engine shed here as well, but they have become ruins since the light was automated. Two small lighthouses on Entrance Island and Bonnet Island mark the safe channel through the "gate". Several tour boats operating out of the town of Strahan cruise the harbour. We went with one operated by World Heritage Cruises and it was excellent, taking us to the lighthouses, the old penal settlement and the Gordon River wilderness - more photos are on the way.

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Friday, May 12, 2017


Wagga RAAF museum

Just east of Wagga Wagga is the Forest Hill RAAF base. This is the site of the RAAF College and the recruit training school. All of the recruits for non-flying areas of the RAAF learn their trades here. The RAAF doesn't use the airfield any more, it is now the Wagga Wagga airport. At the entry to the base there is a Heritage Museum and a paddock with several preserved jet aircraft on display. The aircraft have been treated for outside display. They have the canopies blacked out, the engine intake and exhaust areas closed, and armament removed. That means that the visitor can get right up to the aircraft, with the exception of the F-111. Naturally, we had to stop here. Mum really likes aircraft that look like they going supersonic even when they are on the ground, so she enjoyed "close encounters" with the F-111 and Mirage III. Dad is more into the older classics, so he spent ages checking every little bit of the Sabre, Meteor and Canberra. This small bear likes all of them and you can find me in 3 of the photos.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Kapooka Tragedy Memorial

Kapooka is an outer suburb of Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Today it is home to Blamey Barracks, the training centre for Australian Army recruits. During World War 2 part of the Defence Force site was the Royal Australian Engineers Training Centre. On May 21, 1945, the worst accident in Australian military history happened here. 27 soldiers, most of them only 18 to 20 years old, were in a bunker being taught to prepare demolition charges. Something went horribly wrong and 26 of them were killed in an explosion. We visited the site on our last road trip and there is a simple, impressive memorial there. A rectangle of 26 trees and a series of explanatory signs surround the memorial site. Each tree has a small plaque at its base with the name, rank and age of a victim. A large rock has a memorial plaque on one side and on the other, rough, side the word UBIQUE. This is a Latin word meaning "everywhere", and is the motto of most Engineering Corps in British Commonwealth countries. Here is a larger image of the words on the plaque, I think they are sad, solemn and superb. We should never forget our history.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017


NSW Railway Engineering History

Last week, Mum had a few days off work so we did and overnight roadtrip to check out some historic things a few hours to the west of Canberra. The top images are of the Junee Roundhouse. Junee is nearly exactly half-way on the main southern railway line between Sydney and Melbourne. The line started operations back in 1878 and Junee became an important railway depot. In 1947 this huge roundhouse was built to service and repair locomotives and rolling stock. It is one of the few completely circular roundhouses and had the largest turntable in the southern hemisphere. The rail depot closed in 1993 and the roundhouse was taken over by commercial companies who use half of it to recondition locos. The other half is a museum. It is impossible to get a photo that shows the whole roundhouse, so I have copied a section of Google Eatrh that shows it. The bottom images are of a clever bit of railway engineering near the town of Bethungra, north of Junee. Here the line has to climb a steep gradient and until the early 1940s several extra engines had to be attached to boost the trains up the slope. The solution was to build a diversion that spirals around a convenient hill. That made the climb possible for all trains. Trains going downhill still use the original line, trains going uphill use the spiral. The closest I could get was a small parking bay off the highway where I could see three lines of track - the original line closest to the road and two lines of the spiral track going up the hill. Once again, Google Earth shows it clearly although you probably need to check it out using GE to get a bigger view.

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Monday, April 24, 2017


Historic Port Arthur

One of the "must see" places in Tasmania is the ruins of the historic Port Arthur convict settlement. Port Arthur started as a small timber cutting station in 1830, but quickly grew into penal settlement with over 1100 convicts. The convicts worked at timber getting, ship building, brick and shoe making. The first 5 photos are of the large penitentiary, which actually started out as a flour mill (note the small bear climbing on the foundation stone). The large flat area of land in front of the building was initially the harbour, but one of the physical punishments inflicted on the convicts was to make them cut trees, haul them down to the harbour and sink them with stones and earth to build gardens and lawns. Tree trunks are visible in the drains here today. Imagine the immense number of trees buried here and the hard labour imposed on the convicts. The 6th and 7th images are of the Asylum, a separate prison where the worst convicts were kept in solitary confinement and where most of them went mad. The last 2 images are of the guardhouse at the entry to the penitentiary, and the ruins of the guards' barracks. The barracks were a small castle with turrets; not much remains today. Port Arthur closed as a penal settlement in 1877. On April 28, 1996, Port Arthur was the site of one of the worst acts in Australian history when a gunman, Martin Bryant, killed 35 tourists and injured 23 others before being captured. This was one instrumental in leading to Australia's strict gun laws. Mum was visiting Port Arthur just the day before. More photos of the site are coming. A good summary of the history of Port Arthur is on the website

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Hobart Docks

One of the places we stayed at during our Tasmania trip was the Grand Chancellor Hotel. This is just across the road from the docks and the marina where small boats  moor, and the terminal where cruise ships moor. The large cargo port is some way around the harbour. Just about every day we stayed there I could see cruise ships there for the day, sometimes one getting ready to depart while another was arriving for its turn at the cruise terminal. I saw 8 different cruise ships during the 6 days we were in Hobart. The area around the docks is very interesting to walk around (or be carried around if you are a small bear). There are lots of boats, great fish 'n' chip shops, and some very good restaurants (hey, I spelled it right!!). More photos of the dock areas coming soon.

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Monday, April 03, 2017


Do Your Homework !!

Here's a prime example of why you should always do your homework before visiting anywhere. One afternoon during our Tasmania trip we just headed off following the coast to see what we could find. Along the way we came to a great lookout point where we had good views of the lower Derwent river and the yachts that were sailing there. There was also a canon on a concrete base and a plaque saying that this was the site of the Alexandra Battery, built in 1804 to protect the entry to Hobart harbour. I don't think the canon is any use now as the only thing it would hit is the tree in front of it. We spent a bit of time watching the boats and then drove on. However, if the Oldies had done their usual checking up on what we could expect to see on the drive they would have known that just over the curve of the hill there is the remains of the battery fort. The last photo (from Google Earth) shows just how close we were. The white G is where the canon is, the X is where we sat, and lower down the hill you can see the old gun emplacements and remains of the fort. So the Oldies got no photos of this historical site at all, not even of the round control hut we sat near. I have had harsh words with them and threatened to demote them from official drivers, navigators and photographers on my future expeditions.

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Friday, March 31, 2017


Card Craft Heaven

Mum and I found a really superb craft shop while we were in Tasmania. It is Bev's Cross Crafts in Spreyton, a little town near Devonport. It doesn't look like much from the outside, but inside it is full of the sort of stuff that card-makers like us drool over. Literally a couple of acres of card, stencils, dies, stamps, paints, tools, magazines, everything our craft room needs (except space). When we parked the car Mum told Dad that we would only be there for about half an hour; we were actually there for more like 2 hours and only left then because we had a long drive ahead of us. The luggage was significantly heavier on the flight home.

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Thursday, March 23, 2017


Mt Nelson Lookout

One of the best lookout points in Hobart is Mt Nelson. You get splendid views of the city and the harbour from there, but I was more interested in the signal station. This was built in 1811 and controlled ships entering and leaving the port of Hobart. The little control hut has display panels explaining how the signals were sent by flags and semaphore. From its windows I could right out to the entry to the Derwent River. Right at the mouth I could just see Iron Pot lighthouse. I got better photos of that when I sailed past on "Voyager of the Seas" (check my post from Nov 27, 2014). There are two roads that take you to the top of Mt Nelson, an new, easy, broad, fairly straight road off the highway and an old, narrow, winding, steep and rather dangerous road. I won't embarrass the Oldies by telling you which one they tried first, but you can no doubt guess. As well as the historical signal station and the great views, there is a good cafe at the top where you can get the necessary reviving fluids if you have driven up the old road.

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Monday, March 20, 2017


skyfire 2017

Every year the week-long Canberra festival ends with a fireworks display sponsored by local radio station FM104.7. This year over 110,000 people crowded along the lake shore, some of them spending most of the afternoon there to be sure of a good viewing spot. Dad fixed that for us, he bought tickets for a lake cruise that took us to THE best location. There were other boats on the lake, you can see one that is much closer to the pontoons where the fireworks were being fired, but I reckon they were too close to see the full show. There were also some drones flying around and above the fireworks. I wanted to see one get wiped out by a rocket but the operators were too careful. Maybe next year.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Devonport Lights

Vehicles traveling from mainland Australia to Tasmania usually cross Bass Strait from Melbourne to Devonport on the ferry "Spirit of Tasmania". The first photo shows this ship docked at Devonport. If you  look carefully, you can see the loading ramps ready for the next load of motor vehicles and passengers to board. Devonport is on the Mersey River, which is rather narrow and has a difficult channel through the mouth. Many shipwrecks occurred here until the Mersey Bluff lighthouse (photo 2) was completed in 1889. This is a pretty lighthouse with three vertical red stripes to make it more visible during daytime. The weather was a bit wild when we were there, so Dad wasn't allowed to clamber out on the seaward side to get a photo showing all the stripes. It is easy to get to the lighthouse, just follow the road out of town along the west side of the river. Following the river road back into Devonport you will see some channel markers. We found two. The third photo shows one that is a small lighthouse and the last photo is an obelisk containing a strip light. These markers indicate the safe channel to ships using the port. Tasmania has many lighthouses that are easy to get to, and some that are impossible for my fragile Oldies.

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Friday, March 10, 2017


Historic Bridges

Most of the really old buildings and engineering structures in Australia were built by convict labour in the early 1800s. Tasmania has some outstanding examples of their work. Here are two historic bridges on the roads between the capital, Hobart, and the second largest city, Launceston. The top images are of the oldest stone bridge in Australia and is still in use. Completed in 1825, it crosses the Coal River at Richmond. The bottom images are the bridge across the Macquarie river at Ross. This is the third oldest bridge still in use in Australia, completed in 1836. The bridge has great carved ornamentation around the arches. and the sides. This work was done by one of the convict stonemasons, Daniel Herbert. Both he and the convict foreman, James Colbeck, were freed when the bridge was completed.I think they deserved their freedom, it is a beautiful bridge. Both bridges are on the Register of the National Estate and the Australian Heritage List. Although the highway between Hobart and Launceston now bypasses Richmond and Ross, it is worth the short detours to see these wonderful bridges.

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Monday, March 06, 2017


Millennium Falcon!

Mum and I are total Star Wars fans and have been pestering Dad for years to make us some models of the spacecraft used in the movies. Dad checked availability and prices and decided we could wait. In the meantime, he did find a reasonably-priced kit of the Enterprise, from that other great series, Star Trek, and you can see the result in my post from April 3, 2014. Well, we were in Sydney for a concert a weekend ago and Dad finally found a kit of the Millennium Falcon that didn't shock his wallet too much. In fact is was tiny, just over 10cm long (4" if you think non-metric). However, I have to admit that he did a great job building it, with my help of course. Here is the result, pictured on a mission to the region south of the Galactic Centre.


Wednesday, March 01, 2017


The Nut

One of the long drives we did in Tasmania was to the Nut. This is the remnant of a huge volcanic plug near the town of Stanley in far north-west Tassie. The Nut has been used as background for several films. You can walk to the top, or take the chairlift. The Oldies didn't do either; they just stopped at the cafe at the end of the road for coffee and photos. I found a seat on a rail and watched the seabirds. Back in the 1820s, Stanley was the headquarters of the Van Diemen's Land company (VDLC), set up by a group of London merchants to farm the new colony, using convict labour for some jobs. You can see the ruins of one of the guard barracks near to the entry of Highfield House. This house was the residence of the company manager and it, along with a lot of the old farm buildings, has been restored and is open to visitors. The road from the Nut to Highfield has lots of great spots to get great photos of the Nut. Personally, I was really happy to see that the local cows have such a great view. On a sad note, it was the bounty that the VDLC placed on the head of the Tasmanian Tiger that was largely responsible for the tiger's extinction.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Old Hobart Town

Hobart is the capital of Tasmania. It was founded in 1803 as a penal settlement and, because of its superb harbour, quickly became a centre of whaling, sealing and shipbuilding. Actually, today the fastest ships in the world are built in Hobart by Incat engineering. Hobart is the second oldest Australian state capital, after Sydney. Just north-east of Hobart is the town of Richmond, and here you can see a model of just how Hobart was in the 1820s. The model village, Old Hobart Town, is historically accurate. It has all the buildings to scale and also has small people doing their daily chores. Visitors are given a map of both old and new Hobart so that you can check out how the parts of the city you know have changed. One big change is right where we stayed. The bottom photos show the dock area. The model shows Hunter Island, connected to the town by a causeway. The "now" photo is of the same area, looking along the causeway from the town (out of our hotel window). You can see that the area near the causeway has been filled in. Some of the old buildings are still there to the left of the roadway, but all of the area to the right of the road is reclaimed land. Our hotel is just where the old causeway joined the mainland. If you are interested in history, a visit to Old Hobart Town in Richmond is a must.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Back From Travels in Tasmania

I am just back from an exciting fortnight traveling in Tasmania. Dad and I had never been to Tassie, so Mum organized our travels around Australia's island state. We drove over 2,500 kilometers and I have to say that some of the roads that Tasmania calls highways are not what the rest of the world would; frankly, some of them are really third-class roads. Anyhow, here I am in the first picture waiting for our aircraft to be readied for the flight from Melbourne across Bass Strait to Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. We made Hobart our base for exploring, with a couple of nights in other places, but most days we came back to this view over the Hobart docks. There is always something happening in docklands and I spent hours at the window watching boats of all sizes from cruise ships to fishing boats. The bottom images show me helping with navigating the car on one of our longer drives, and relaxing on a cruise in a World Heritage area. Dad has the photos all downloaded, so over the next few weeks I will show you some of the best parts of Tassie (that Aussie-speak for Tasmania).

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Friday, January 27, 2017


Australia Day 2017

January 26 is Australia Day, the national holiday celebrating the anniversary of the arrival of the First Fleet in Sydney. The First Fleet was a load of sailors, soldiers bringing lots of convicts who had been sent out from England to try and set up a colony in New South Wales. The English had classed Australia as "Terra Nullis", uninhabited land. Naturally, there is a bit of angst from the indigenous inhabitants, who had been living there for around 50,000 years. I really do hope that all of inhabitants of this great country of ours will stop sniping at one another and work together as a single group - AUSTRALIANS. The Oldies always have a little celebration on Australia Day, where they dress like caricature Aussies and toast the country in suitable brews. So here we are this year, and I would like to claim that this small bear had no in choosing the headgear.
January 26 is also the national day of India. There are several Indian families living in our apartment complex and we all agree that the best thing that our self-proclaimed colonial masters (the Poms) did for our countries was to introduce us to that magnificent game, cricket.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017


My New Cat Cobber

Our family increased by one last week. Mum brought home a cute cat to join Scruffy, Milkshake and me. We have named her Ivy Bella, because our apartment block is the Ivy, and "bella" means "beautiful" in Italian. I think she is the cutest thing; Milky is showing signs of jealousy. And guess what, she likes cricket. There is a big cricket series on at the moment, the Big Bash League, and we have spent the evenings right in front of the TV watching every minute of the games. Our favourite team is the Melbourne Stars, and so far they are right at the top of the ladder.
Otherwise, things have been pretty quiet here for the last couple of weeks as we enjoy settling into our new home. However, things are about to get exciting again, because I see the oldies planning some road trips and cruises. I should have some new places to show you soon.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2017


Beary Christmas 2016

Due to some technical glitches, mostly caused by Dad, I wasn't able to wish you all a great Christmas and New Year before now, so please accept my best wishes for you and yours for the coming year. I was a bit worried that Santa mightn't be able to find me now that we have moved into the new place, so I set out some markers and lures. First step was to make the balcony obvious to those hypersonic STOL reindeer that haul Santa around. Some battery-powered ornaments and a string of flashing Christmas lights marked out the runway. Then some munchies to get Santa in a good mood. The Oldies say Santa likes beer, chocolate and fruit mince pies. Funnily enough, so do the Oldies. Anyhow, it all worked because next morning the munchies were gone and there were two notes for me from the old whiskery guy. One said that teenage bears should be able to choose their own presents, the other note was a $100 one. Presents are being contemplated, but I am overwhelmed by the available choices. Of course there is always a clown in any Christmas gathering. Dad found a reindeer happily singing to itself and managed to get bitten by it. Funny, I couldn't find the rest of the reindeer on the other side of the wall; these deer of Santa's are really extraordinary critters.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016


OOPS!! Here's Some

Silly me. All my photos of the Japanese Memorial Gardens at Cowra were taken years before Unka Paddy talked me into starting this blog. So for those readers who have been trying to find images of the gardens, here are a few. The gardens are more like a formal park with clumps of plantings that look random but actually form part of very clever landscaping. It is a great place for small bears to clamber among the rocks and trees and to come back over the year to see the trees change colour (most Australian trees don't). The garden is close to the site of the old POW camp and to the Japanese War Cemetry where all of the Japanese war dead, from anywhere in Australia, have been formally buried. There is a much better collection of images, and an explanation of the ties between Cowra and Japan that developed from the POW years, on the garden's official website

Friday, December 09, 2016


Once Was POW Camp

These pictures are of the site of Australia's Number 12 Prisoner of War camp at Cowra, New South Wales. We visited the site last weekend. During World War Two the camp held mainly Italian and Japanese POWs. The Japanese were in separate compounds for officers and other ranks. On the 5th of August 1944, 1100 Japanese prisoners attempted to escape. 359 of them succeeded in breaking out and were recaptured over the next 10 days. This was the largest prison escape of the war. 4 Australian soldiers and 231 Japanese prisoners were killed and 108 Japanese wounded. Most of the escapees intended to make their way to the coast and try to get boats; they obviously had no idea of the size of Australia. The camp was operational until the last prisoners were repatriated in 1947. Many of the Italians chose to remain in Australia. Today, all that remains at the camp site are some concrete foundations of the hospitals and mess huts. The other buildings were made only of wood and have long since disappeared. There are several memorials on the site and a replica of one of the guard towers. The site is on the Australian Register of Significant Heritage Sites. Nearby are the Japanese war cemetery and a beautiful memorial garden; you can find pictures of the garden in some of my older posts.

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Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Give Way To These

On our weekend trips we often meet interesting traffic. It is harvest time at present and here are two of the wide vehicles that we met last weekend. The wheat fields around Parkes in central New South Wales are being harvested and there are lots of these machines on the roads. You can see that both of them have their off-side wheels off the edge of the road. Even so, the red one took up all of its side of the road and a bit of ours as well. We had to drive on the very edge of our side of the road as it went past. We saw some harvesters at work in the fields, but too far away to get pictures.

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Monday, November 21, 2016


Historic Mayfield Mews

A fortnight ago, on one of our sunny Sunday drives, we found a piece of Australian history in a most unlikely place. This house in Bowning, a small town north of Canberra, may not look like much but it has links to two of Australia's best poets and to the Melbourne Cup. The house is Mayfield House. It belonged to the aunt of poet Henry Lawson and he lived here occasionally between 1899 and 1913. Another poet, Banjo Patterson, was sometimes a guest. Google these guys and you will find out about a "feud" between the two poets. It seems like a put-up job to this small bear as they wrote a lot of stuff in the same house and sent it to Sydney on the same train from Bowning railway station. Trains don't stop at the station anymore. Most of the tracks have been pulled up and people live in part of it. The old Coach House and stables are now Mayfield Mews, a garden centre and cafe. There is some interesting local art for sale as well and some of it makes a great climbing frame for small bears; can you see me? Back in 1861, the racehorse Archer was stabled here on his way to Melbourne where he won the first Melbourne Cup (actually, he won again the next year as well). I love our weekend drives, we always find out something new.

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Monday, November 07, 2016


Winery Lunch

We have settled into our new home and can get back to our drives on weekend days when the weather is fine. Mostly we try to go somewhere new for lunch, and the many wineries around Canberra are well worth a visit. These pictures are from Brindabella Hills Winery, just a 20 minute drive from home. It is on the hills just above the Murrumbidgee River, with beaut views of the river valley and surrounding countryside. The food is good and the wines are great. Well worth visiting. One road sign caught my attention. Does it mean that all the animals in the area are cranky? I couldn't see any, maybe they were hiding.


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