Friday, November 28, 2008
Pearls in the Rough
Pearls are pretty things. Mum likes them a lot. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the people who farm them, and I guess a bit of effort from the oyster as well. Actually, Mum and the pearl farmers do pretty well from the process but the poor old oyster gets a rough deal. Here we are at the harvesting shed of Fiji Pearls farm in Savusavu bay. A series of oysters have been opened on the table to show how the colours of the shells can be different. You get different coloured pearls by using little bits of the shell as the "seed" when you start a pearl growing inside an oyster. The seed is inserted inside the gonads of the oyster; I don't quite understand that or why Dad winces every time it is mentioned. You can see a clean pearl on the green bag, and one waiting to be taken out of the oyster on the right. Scruff and I were fascinated by the way that the guy opening the oysters never sliced his fingers. And yes, it stinks inside the harvesting shed.
This is a mystery box. You have probably seen something like it on TV, a thing called the TARDIS. A guy called the Doctor uses it to zip around through space and time getting into all sorts of mischief. This one was sitting on a corner in Edinburgh and the Oldies took time to examine it closely and see if the Doctor came out or if it suddenly disappeared. It didn't, but it didn't flash a light and make swooshing noises either so maybe it is just a police box after all. How does a bear who was left with uncles in Canberra come to be sitting on a police box in Edinburgh? Maybe it is not just a police box after all. Who knows......
Here's a photo of two real sea monsters who never ever take a small bear with them when they go snorkelling. This day we were at the Low Isles near Cairns. At least the island has a lighthouse so there was something for me to explore while the meanies were terrifying the marine life. Snorkelling must be fun because they always have a big grin on their face when they come back to dry out, and they yabber on about the fantastic fish and coral they see. But Scruffy and I are always left behind so the only way we ever see fish and things is through the glass bottoms of see-through boats. Not fair to small bears!!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
He's Actually Quite Friendly
This guy looks really fierce. He is hissing and showing that he is ready to bite. But it is all bluff. He is just trying to scare me away because he thinks that I want to hurt him. After a while he calmed down and wandered over to see what I was. He is a Shingleback Lizard. Shinglebacks are also called Sleepy or Pinecone Lizards because they are usually seen dozing in the sunlight and they look like three pinecones joined together. This is a local one. You can tell that because he is almost black, so that he can soak up every little bit of heat from the Sun. In hotter places shinglebacks are much paler coloured. On our South Australia trip we saw ones that were a pretty sandy-pink colour, because there they want to keep cool. These are harmless critters, unless you are a snail or a strawberry. They eat insects and flowers as well, particularly yellow ones, and they love orange marmalade. Don't be scared if one wanders into your back yard, just admire it and maybe put a bit of marmalade out for its lunch.
Fiji Bus, Fully Airconditioned
You don't ride in Fiji buses if you worry about the weather. There are no windows, so while the bus is moving the breeze can keep the passengers cool. Provided it is not raining that is. Mind you, the rain that gets around the roll-down canvas screens keeps you cool too, and wet as well. Anyhow, it was not raining the day we set off to the 180th longitude line on Taveuni. Dad took these pictures of Mum, Scruffy and I as we were loading from the little boats onto the bus. Mum and I like the front seat if we can get it because that way you can see out the side and ahead as well. Mind you, on some of the roads we travelled on I wasn't game to look ahead. This bus had no coconuts in the storage bins like the one I showed you earlier, because we were going back onto "Reef Escape" for lunch. The driver wouldn't let me have a go, but the scenery was terrific.
There's Something About Trains
Yes. there's definitely something fascinating about trains, especially big tough steam trains. Well, here I am sitting on the front of one of the toughest steam trains in Australia. It is a South Australian 400 class Beyer-Garratt engine and it spent its working life hauling huge loads of stuff from the mines at Broken Hill and Leigh Creek down to the smelters and ports in South Australia. Now it is one of the exhibits in the SA Railway Museum at Port Adelaide. Garratts were strange beasts. To get the maximum power out of a steam boiler there were two engines coupled to it, one at each end of the boiler. That made Garratts look a bit different but they could really pull. There were some cases when diesel locos got stuck on frosty tracks on the Sydney-Canberra line and Garratts could unstick the whole train, diesel engine and all the fully-loaded carriages, with no trouble at all. I would love to have been able to drive one of these puffing monsters, but they are all retired now. Do go to railway museums whenever you are near one. Trains are lovely things and museums like the SA one do a magnificent job in preserving old ones for small bears to daydream over.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I am not sure if I should be smug or horrified at this effort. I mean, have you ever seen anything like it? A tie made out of glittering beads. This is surely one of those things that you only wear on very special or suspicious occasions. I found it in a pile of shopping that Mum brought home last week. I am not sure what she wants it for, and I am not sure if I should give it back. It's just too tacky not to be totally fascinating to a small bear like me, so I will probably wear it to the next astronomical society dinner.
Mum's Favourite Critter
If you ask most people they will tell you that cows are Mum's favourite animals. Well, she sure does like cows, but they are not the favourite. These little guys are. This is a gecko, actually a Fijian gecko but you get similar ones almost anywhere you go in the tropics. He lives in the crack in the walls in this old Fijian hotel. Geckoes are lizards with very special feet that allow them to climb walls and run across ceilings. The feet are covered in millions of microscopic hairs that cling to almost everything; teflon is the only stuff known that geckoes can't climb on. Every night the little guys come out and stalk insects for food, so people in the tropics usually are glad to have a family of geckoes running around the walls and ceilings keeping the flies and mozzies in check and chirping away talking to each other. Every time we are on holidays Mum checks for geckoes and is really happy when she sees them. The geckoes might not be so happy to see her though, because she scares them with the camera flash trying to get their picture.
Favourite Pole, Favourite Island, Favourite Boat
This has to be one of the best spots for small bears. A thick bamboo pole above the reach of crabs, a beautiful island and crystal-clear water, and in the background our very own boat just waiting for us to come back on board and head for somewhere else just as interesting. The island is Manava Cay, the boat is "Reef Escape" and the Oldies are in the water. I could spend a long time doing this, just cruising around from island to island, soaking up the scenery and watching the antics of the people who share the boat with us. I just have to convince the Oldies to go somewhere special on their holidays and to take Scruffy and I along with them. Now where do I talk them into going next year??
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Flowers Tell the Stories
Remember how I told you that this year the theme for Floriade was Aussie films? Each big flower bed was designed around a film. This one was based on "The Dish", the story of the Parkes radio telescope and its part in the first Moon landing. The flowers were actually arranged to give the shape of a radio dish and looked quite good if you could get high enough to see the whole thing (hard for small bears). Problem was that the resemblance to the Parkes dish was not there. The flowers actually looked like the drawing on the sign. The real telescope is different, see it in the little picture. With just a little bit of redesign the flower bed could have been so much better and escaped critical comment from this small bear. Still, it looked pretty and "The Dish" is a great movie, even if it is only 95% historically correct. Dad used the Parkes telescope a lot during his 40 years in astronomical research. He liked the movie too, and he has played cricket inside the dish just like they do in the movie.
Little Grass Shack
There are some songs that warble on about little grass shacks on islands. Usually they go on about how great it would be to be there with the person of their dreams. Well, here's a real little grass shack on a beautiful tiny island. I was there but the only people there with me were Scruffy, the Oldies and a boatload of "Reef Escape" passengers. No sign at all of my dreambear. The island is Manava Cay and the shack is where the Fijians who own the island stay when they come across from the mainland on fishing trips. Scruff and I spent some time on this great bamboo rail. I think it was there to dry fishing nets on but it made a great spot for small bears to see everything that was happening on the island (not much actually). It was also safe from crabs. Manava Cay looks very pretty but Dad found out that it has hidden dangers when he walked across the grass in bare feet. The grass is full of big, sharp bindieyes (that's a very tough type of prickle for those of you who don't speak Australian). The hut is actually fairly impressive. It is kept clean inside and lets the air through but not the rain and it stays together even in the big storms like the one we had the day before. I really do love islands, despite those pesky crabs.