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.

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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 http://portarthur.org.au.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 http://www.cowragarden.com.au/

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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From My Window

My new home has great views over the suburbs to the west. That makes my favourite window a prime spot for watching sunsets.The Oldies take loads of pictures of them from our balcony. Here are just a few of my favourite images. I particularly like the "running man" that vapour trails made, and the sun rays beaming through holes in clouds. Sometimes the sunset looks like there is a big fire behind the hills; I hope I never see a real bushfire from my window.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

 

My New Home

Well, the time since my last post has been the busiest of my life so far. The Oldies sold our old home and bought a brand new apartment. They will tell you that it was to get away from the stairs that their ageing joints were finding too hard to cope with, but whatever the reason, I really love the apartment. It was 5 weeks of stress, strain and worry, but we are now pretty well settled in. Only a small bit of unpacking and storage to do now. We own the top floor apartment that wraps around the end of one wing of the complex. If you look hard at the first picture you can see Mum and I on the balcony, looking at the view. It is easier to see us in the second picture. I have picked my favourite window sill to sit on and soak in the Sun and the view. I can see right across to the Brindabella Range. One day it even had snow on the high peaks. My other favourite spot is on the balcony rail. The most exciting thing I have seen from here so far is some firemen fixing an alarm that went off when some idiot knocked a fire sprinkler off. I am going to really enjoy living here and watching the views of hills, clouds and people.

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

 

Sunday Steam

I just love steam engines, so when I heard that the Canberra Railway Museum was running trains to Bungendore over the Fathers' Day weekend I organized the Oldies into doing one of the trips. Originally the engine was going to be a big 60 class Bayer-Garrett, the last operating one of its type in Australia. Bayer-Garretts were the largest engines in the southern hemisphere. I always wanted to see one of these huge articulated engines up close, but it was not to be. The Garrett had mechanical troubles and was replaced by a smaller 30 class. Still, it was live steam and the crew were happy to let this small bear see everything, even in the driver's area. At Bungendore the engine was uncoupled and switched to the other end of the train; it ran backwards on the way back to Canberra. The track from Canberra has a steep section through Molonglo Gorge. We have had lots of rain and the views down the gorge were impressive, with lots of rapids and fast flowing river and creeks. Actually, because the demand was so great and there were so many carriages, there was a diesel engine attached to give extra power for the trip through the gorge. Maybe next time I will get to see the Garrett.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

 

Lone Pine Koala Cruise

During our last visit to Brisbane we did a special river cruise. Fifty years ago, when Mum was a little girl, her parents took her to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and she cuddled a koala for the first time. Readers of my blog know that she has cuddled lots of them since then (search koala). Anyhow, it seemed like an anniversary that we should celebrate, so Dad and I shouted her the trip. It is a beautiful cruise up the Brisbane river to the sanctuary, lots to see, interesting commentary about the history of the river, and a great crew. The steep path from the jetty to the sanctuary entrance really tested the Oldies fitness, but they managed it. So here's Mum, 50 years on, cuddling an absolutely huge koala (not the one from 50 years ago). As most of the koalas are much bigger than me, I just talked to them whenever I could find one that was actually awake. Koalas sleep for over half the day and eat for most of the rest of it. Lone Pine was founded in 1927 and is the world's first koala sanctuary. Do visit it if you are looking for something to do when you are in Brisbane.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

 

Country Cathedral

I am not one of those small bears who is overly impressed with churches and cathedrals but this one, St Patrick's, in Boorowa is a beaut. It is actually the second church of the same name in Boorowa. The original opened in 1855 and was demolished 130 years later. You wouldn't expect to find an impressive cathedral in a small New South Wales country town, but back in the 1870s the strong Irish community in Boorowa decided to build a splendid one that would also commemorate Daniel O'Connell, the "liberator of Ireland". The interior is really impressive, with Italian marble altars and statues. Most of the windows are stained-glass art commemorating the founding families of the town (there are a couple of plain windows left for late starters). The window above the main entrance shows the Irish connection. The 3 large sections show St Patrick, St Bridget and St Columba. The 3 small circular panels show the Irish harp, Daniel O'Connell and the badge of St Patrick. Our weekend explorations of country towns and places near Canberra are finding some wonderful surprises.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

 

Memorial Clock

An hour and a half drive from Canberra is the small town of Boorowa. We have driven through there many times but never noticed the significant difference in the War Memorial clock tower. Dad read about it in one of our books, so we drove up two weekends ago to take a closer look. Look at the clock faces. They do not have numbers on them, they have the name ANZAC. The memorial was designed by a World War 1 veteran and built in1933 in memory of the local soldiers who served in the war. Plaques honouring them and those who served in later conflicts are attached to the sides of the building. I haven't been able to find records of other clocks with ANZAC instead of numbers, so if you are passing through Boorowa stop and take a look at this (possibly) unique monument.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

 

De-stressing Saturday

Last weekend started with stress in our house at its highest. The Oldies decided during the past few years that they would have to sell our house and move into an apartment. They are both getting too aged and decrepit to cope with the stairs. Well, they found a great apartment and have been waiting for over a year for it to be completed. It is almost ready to move into, so they put our house on the market a month ago. We suffered 3 weeks of strangers inspecting the place and some of them were keen enough to come and bid at the auction on Saturday. By the time of the auction the Oldies were in a fine old state of stress. But guess what? The house sold for more than they expected. You can see that they were ecstatic when the photo was taken. Well, I had to calm them down a bit, so found a new road for them to explore. Just west of the city is a bridge across the Murrumbidgee River, at a spot called Uriarra Crossing. Mum and I hadn't stopped there before. While the Oldies relaxed, I spent time sitting on a stump watching traffic, and on the bank watching fish try to swim upstream against the fast-flowing current. Now we wait patiently (I can just see that happening) for the banks and the legal guys to finalize the details so that we can move into the apartment and the buyers can move in here.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

 

Sunday Afternoon Drive

Whenever we have a free day at the weekend we try to find a different country road to drive. We find some great views and interesting stuff on these drives. Here's some photos from last weekend. The first photo is of Lake George, which has water running into it for the first time in decades. It has a long way to go before it gets deep enough to run speedboats on it again, but we look like having a very wet winter so maybe I will actually see the lake full. It has been empty all of my lifetime. Check out earlier photos of the lake by using the search box at the top of the page. The bridges on Australian country roads are a mix of styles ranging from rickety old timber plank structures to really classy-looking steel and concrete ones. This one is across Dick's Creek on the road between Murrumbateman and Gundaroo. I like the lattice truss sides. Just a bit further along the road is a quarry with interesting coloured layers in the rocks. A good spot for a stop for drinks and nibbles for the Oldies and a tree break for this small bear.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

 

Seen From Fiji Roads

On the few afternoons when the rain was not falling, we did a couple of road trips along the western side of Viti Levu, the main island of Fiji. If you do this, don't expect superhighways. The roads are narrow, sometimes very rough and potholed, and they wind along the shore and across fairly high mountain passes. There is never a dull moment with lots of interesting views, buildings and people. Here are just a few. From many places you can glimpse islands out beyond the fringing reef. This one is Beqa (pronounced mbenga). It has great snorkelling and diving spots, but is too expensive for the Oldies to take me there. Along the road you often come to roadside stalls where the locals are selling their garden produce. This one had bundles of something I had not seen before. It is Taro, one of the staple diets of islanders, but not of small bears. There are cows tied by the roadside with no sign of who they belong to, and horses just wandering around loose. It turns out that they all belong to local villages, not to any particular person, and if you need milk or a ride you just use the nearest critter. We passed this happy "cowboy" on the road north of the Warwick. He was on his way to harvest some bananas. Someday I may get back to Fiji and see more of the big islands; we saw lots of the smaller ones during our Fiji cruises and you can see lots of images of them in my older posts.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

 

A Real Manor House

June 11 to 13 was a 3-day weekend, celebrating the Queen's birthday. The weather was great, so Mum looked for somewhere new we could drive to. She found that Sunday was an Open Day at Iandra Castle, just over 2 hours drive away. Although Iandra is commonly called a castle it is not really one. It is more like a manor house with castle-type bits added. It is 26 km north of Young in central New South Wales. Originally it was the homestead of George Young's Mt Oriel Station. Built of reinforced concrete around 1909, the "castle" has 57 rooms. We spent a couple of hours there and didn't see every room. There is a chapel somewhere, but I couldn't find it because there were hordes of visitors and time ran out on us. There is also a separate building with stables, a blacksmith's shop, storage for buggies and big bullock drays, and living quarters for some staff upstairs. And of course there are acres of gardens and lawns.  I couldn't identify all of the fruit growing in the orchard; the Oldies wouldn't let me pick any for taste testing. The whole estate is on the NSW State Heritage Register. Definitely worth visiting if you are in the area on one of the open days.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

 

Despite the Weather

Despite the absolutely lousy weather during the two tropical lows and Cyclone Xena, we did enjoy most of our holiday at the Warwick Fiji. The lagoon was beautiful in the two brief periods of sunshine. Dad even managed an hour of snorkelling; he says that the cyclones had mangled the coral, but the fish were magnificent. During the rainy days, Mum and I spent time in the lounge colouring a batch of stamped cards that Mum took with her, just in case. The restaurants (Yay! spelled it right) were great, far better than the buffets. As usual, we added some colour and class to dinner on a couple of nights. And sunsets from the terrace were among the best I have ever seen. In good weather the Warwick would be great.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

 

Fiji Firebears

We found this cute little trolley parked under the stairs at the Warwick. The labels on it claim that it is a fire engine. With the weather being all rainy and windy, it didn't have to be used during our stay. But if it had been needed there was a crew ready for it - The Fabulous Fiji Firebears (actually 2 bears and a small cow, but Milkshake is an honorary bear). Scruffy and I are just big enough to turn on the fire extinguishers by jumping on the handles and Milky's job is to yell directions at the 2 husky Fijians who pull the trolley and aim the hoses. We practiced a lot and would have been right there if and ready for action if fire had threatened.

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Saturday, May 28, 2016

 

Kula Eco Park

Apologies for the 10-day silence. I have been very busy looking after a very sick Mum. Anyhow, here's some photos of a happy Mum meeting some of the critters at Kula Nature Park in Fiji. This small zoo was close enough to the Warwick that we could get to it even though the major roads were flooded in several places. The aim of the park is to preserve Fiji's endangered animals and birds. The most spectacular things I saw there were the green iguanas. Mum made friends with a Banded Iguana called Kevin. He was quite happy to have visitors handle him, provided they washed their hands first. There are also Crested Iguanas at Kula, but they are too nervous for visitors to nurse, and they can run and climb really fast so they are kept in special enclosures. The aim is to breed and release these rare reptiles. Mum also played with a small Boa Constrictor. She is not scared of snakes, but I kept well out of the way; I didn't like the way it was looking at me. The large parrots are also now rare in the wild. The red guy is a Crimson Shining Parrot and all he was interested in was chewing a small log to bits. The Masked Shining Parrot in the next cage was much more suspicious and kept us under close observation the whole time. You can see lots of rare species at Kula Eco Park, so put it on your Fiji bucket list.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

 

Look What It Did To Our Lagoon !

The Oldies planned to spend lots of time snorkeling in the lagoon at the Warwick. Well, 2 tropical lows and a cyclone made that impossible. These photos show why. The first 3 show the large debris that came over the reef into the lagoon. The photos only show the bits that were big enough to be caught on the lagoon bottom. There were other bits that were drifting on the surface with the current. Logs, from small firewood chunks up to whole trees were being dumped into the lagoon almost continually for 5 days. The heavy rain caused major flooding along the rivers, trees were uprooted, and all sorts of debris from the river banks and low-lying areas was washed loose. The flooded rivers carried all this out to sea, the current bought it along the outside of the reef and the big waves caused by the weather tossed it over the reef into the lagoon. Tides were exceptionally high due to a combination of Full Moon and storm surges. The lagoon had to be closed; moving logs and swimmers are not a safe mix. After the cyclone passed, staff were hard at work from small boats clearing out the lagoon and picking up the muck that was littering the beach. Maybe next trip the Oldies can snorkel.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

 

Cyclone @ Fiji !!!

Of our 8 days in Fiji, 7 of them had bad weather. The only good weather was the afternoon we arrived and the following morning, and the morning we left. On day 2 it started to rain and over the next 3 days we had 2 tropical lows dump about 20 inches of rain on the island. Much flooding, roads blocked and we were marooned in the Warwick. But it looked like worse was to follow. The top left image is a cloud map of what was following the lows; The 2 main islands of Fiji are outlined centre right. The map shows the last of the lows passing over the big island. We were staying about where the tip of the smaller blob is. The systems were moving from west to east (left to right). You can see a huge cloud mass following. That developed into a Category 3 cyclone, named Zena, heading straight for us. For those not sure what a cyclone is, it is the same thing that is called a hurricane or a typhoon, depending on the country you are in. Fortunately, the cyclone slightly changed track and the worst of it passed just south of us during the night of April 6. The second photo shows the track of the cyclone. The bottom photos show the storm clouds building up in the afternoon and the last one was just before dark. Much rain and the palm trees are all bent backwards to what you see in my other photos. We were told to stay inside, the doors were locked, windows taped, restaurants closed (Hey! I spelt resserterornt right that time), and we waited for the storm. Well, the wind peaked at about 200 kph, coconuts were blowing off the trees like canon balls, and it rained and rained. No bad damage to the Warwick and the next two days were a bit better. My first cyclone and I don't want ever to be any closer to the central path.

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Wednesday, May 04, 2016

 

Exploring Around the Warwick

Fijian Resorts have lots of interesting things for small bears to explore. I managed to escape from the eagle-eyed Oldies one morning and found some fun things to do in the gardens. You can see me in the photos if you look carefully. Just outside the reception driveway is this tiny waterfall. I had a real battle with my conscience - to swim in the pool at the bottom, or not to. Remembering what Mum would say if I came back soaked, I just sat in the spray for a while and dried off in the Sun before going back to the room. Some of the trees had vines growing right up the trunks. I found one that looked just like the pictures in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, so I tried climbing up to see if that giant really did exist. I still don't know, because one of the big Fijian gardeners hauled me down; actually he could have been a small giant. The gardeners turn every tree stump into strange sculptures. I had a look inside one that looked like a warrior, and he was hollow. Actually, palm tree trunks have soft insides that are easy to scoop hollow and were used as water pipes and gutters in the olden days. The tiny umbrellas? Well, after a strenuous session of exploring, small bears like a cool, refreshing cocktail. The best cocktails have tiny umbrellas in them for some strange reason. You can see that I did a lot of exploring.

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Thursday, April 28, 2016

 

Where We Were In Fiji

We spent 8 days in Fiji this time. We were going to stay on one of the Mamanuca Islands, but Cyclone Winston flattened the resort and blew it away, so we stayed at this place instead. It is the Warwick Fiji, on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu, the main island of the Fiji group. The Warwick is one of the "grand old ladies" of Fijian resorts and has been reconditioned many times. It is still a great place to stay. These pictures were taken on our first day there. You can see that it has a large, clear lagoon, sheltered by a reef that runs right along the western and southern coasts of the island. The Oldies intended to spend lots of time snorkeling in this lagoon, but the weather decided otherwise. It was fine this day, but then a chain of tropical lows and yet another cyclone hit Fiji, rain pelted down and the lagoon became dangerous for swimmers. So we spent lots of time in the dry areas of the lounges, particularly the Sunset Lounge deck. I will put up a few photos that will show you how it got its name. A bit disappointing, but still a reasonably good time.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

 

Flying to Fiji

Flying with Virgin on long-haul flights is usually fun. It is a 4-hour flight to Fiji and the Oldies splurged and booked us into business class. I managed to get a quick look into the flight deck before we left. Passengers are not allowed in there, but small bears can sometimes take a peek from the cabin door. The flight crew were well into their pre-flight checks, but I couldn't stop and listen because of all the passengers coming on board. The cabin crew were magnificent. I made a new friend, the cabin crew boss lady, Kara. She is a very nice lady and loads of fun. Notice how she and Dad are photo-bombing what should have been a serious photo of Mum. I am now her number one boyfriend! The photo of a Boeing 737 like the one we flew in was taken on arrival at Nadi International Airport. The first thing you notice when you arrive here is the heat (around 30ยบ C), next the humidity (always nearly 100%), then the superb sound of Fijians singing their welcome song. Unfortunately, this was the best weather of our whole trip - more about that later.

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'Bye to NZ For Now

Did anyone guess where I have been since the last post? A country with 4 letters in its name, only 3 of them different? It was, of course, Fiji and there will be a batch of Fiji photos following over the next weeks. Let's finish this series of New Zealand photos with these taken on the way out of Auckland harbour. The channel to the north is fairly narrow and marked with many lighthouses. Here are a few that I managed to see on our way out. The top left one is the Bean Rock light. This is off North Head of the  Hauraki Gulf at the entrance/exit of the inner harbour. It has been there since 1871. The next photo is of Rangitoto Island and its red and white striped tower. This tower was built in 1905, but it has never had a lantern room on top, just an open light. Rangitoto is a dormant volcano; it will make a real mess of the harbour when it decides to go active again.The third photo shows some ships waiting at the end of the channel for "Voyager of the Seas" to exit. The smaller ship fitted in with us, but the big car carrier decided to anchor and wait. In the background you can see Tiritiri island. On the south-eastern end of the island is Tiritiri Matangi lighthouse. Built in 1865, this is NZ's oldest active lighthouse and it and the keepers' cottages are being actively preserved. You can take a day trip to the island by ferry from Auckland. The photo was taken at extreme magnification on Dad's camera; sometimes the old guy can keep pretty still.

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