Monday, March 30, 2009
A Special Day for Bears
Yesterday was a special day. It was the day of the Teddy Bears' Picnic, and guess what....... I was a co-host. That means that I was the secialistest bear there. The theme of the Picnic was Aliens, Astrobears and Bearonauts, so Aunty Vicki made me a special star cape for the day, and it even matched the pattern of the stage curtains. Dad's astro-vest didn't. I was introduced to all of the people and bears there by the guy they called the MC (I'm not sure why). I helped the Canberra Astronomical Society show people how telescopes work. We aimed them at Black Mountain tower and looked at people on the walkways there, because there's not many stars showing in daytime. I had a big board with some of my postings on it and gave away lots of my business cards showing people where to read about me. For some of the time I was helped by George Platypus ( or was it Zoe? It's a bit hard to tell under that space helmet) and his buddy the space-bear Yoyo. We got taken for a spacewalk by a couple of giant spacemen, and met hundreds of other bears and critters, some of them looking like nothing on Earth. I made a new special friend too. He is Morris the reindeer and he lives with some nice ladies. Morris spent time with me in the astro-tent helping out, and we managed a quick nap between crowds. Teddy Bears' Picnics are great fun but you go home feeling absolutely "done in" (I had another word here but Dad scrubbed it out and told me I couldn't use it).
Sky Full of Fire
The weekend before last we went down to the lake just after dark to see something called "Skyfire 25". I had no idea what that meant. Mum explained that for the last 25 years one of the local radio stations, FM 104.7, has been putting on a fireworks display called Skyfire, and this was the 25th year it was on. Great, Mum, so why is it the first one you ever took me to? This was the first time I had been to a big fireworks display, although I hear the bangs from the showground sometimes. At first I was a bit scared of the noise and all the people, but I snuggled down inside Dad's warm jumper with my head just poking out and soon got really interested in all of the colours and sparkles. Because of the thousands of people there, we watched from a spot across the lake away from the main crowd. So we didn't see some of the low-down fireworks, but I like the ones that go zooming up and exploding in a shower of colours and we saw all of them. Small animals get really scared by fireworks, but this small bear kind of like them.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Gaol Break By The Bear
These old sheds are the gaol at Cook, out in the middle of the Nullarbor. They are not very big, but there weren't many people in Cook even when it was one of the important stations on the Trans-Australian railway, so there weren't many prisoners. Now it is still an important stop for the Indian-Pacific but the trains are much better now and only 4 people live there. The gaols aren't used now. I wondered what it would be like to be locked up in a small corrugated iron shed in 40 degree temperatures. Of course Dad was keen to help, sometimes I think he is bit too keen to put me into places like this. Well, it's not nice in there and I bet the prisoners were very happy to hear the train coming to haul them away to gaol in Adelaide. At least I was able to get out fairly easily. I bet no other "prisoner" has ever managed to climb up the back of the door and out through the little window hole. Can you see me making my escape? I enjoyed the adventure, Mum was not amused and Dad had the riot act read to him.
A Lot of Australia Looks Like This
This is what most of Australia looks like when you get away from the areas where most people live. Most of the country is semi-desert like this bit near Broken Hill. The soil is sandy and very red. The trees are low and scrubby. Most of the animals only come out at night and spend the days in burrows or whatever shade they can find. The only animals you might see in daytime from the Indian-Pacific are camels. Camels haven't been in Australia for long. They were bought to Australia back in the late 19th century to carry stuff across country like this to outback towns and stations. They were turned loose when trains and trucks took over and now their decendents live in the "red centre". We went through country like this all the way from central New South Wales across to the start of the Nullarbor in South Australia, and again during the last day in the south-western part of Western Australia. Scruffy tried to count trees but I tried counting animals. I had it easy because we only saw a few rabbits and some birds, not a single camel.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Look Who's Driving!!
Here's some pictures of our locomotive (that's an Oldies' word for train engine). Our engine was the biggest one I have ever climbed on. It is an NR class diesel-electric, one of 120 built in Australia in the late 1990s. This is some tough loco. It weighs 132 tonnes and is powerful enough to haul just on 1,000 tonnes. Our train wasn't that heavy. We had 16 passenger carriages and two car-carrier carriages and these weighed just over 700 tonnes. At times the engine could haul us at 100 km/hr, especially on the long straight stretch across the Nullarbor. The pictures were taken at a place called Cook, which is in South Australia, just about half-way across Australia. Cook used to be a busy town back in the days of steam engines, but now only a few people live there to refuel and water the trains. We had a stop there while our train was serviced. Scruff and I made friends with the drivers and we spent some time in the drivers cabin learning how to drive the train. It is a lot simpler than the steam engines I had a go at on other trips. See the bears in the window? Unka Mark, eat your heart out.
Off to Perf
Well, we are back from our trans-Australia trip from Sydney to Perf. Scruffy and I had a ball. We travelled in trains, planes, boats, buses, taxis and trams. The oldies suffered a bit from the heat because it was over 40 degrees some days, but us small bears had no problems. Dad says that is because we are stuffed anyway; I don't understand him sometimes. Anyhow, here I am on the platform at Sydney Central, sitting on Mum's cabin luggage, waiting for the carriage doors to open. Our cabin was just across the carriage from the window I am near. And what a cabin it was. Bigger than the other cabins, because the Oldies splurged a bit. It even had a table at the right place for Scruff and I to sit with a window each and watch the country whizz by. There was even a welcoming bottle of wine and two glasses there. I figured that two glasses and two bears were obviously meant to go together but the Oldies figured differently and took our wine away before we got stuck into it. We spent a lot of time on this table during our 3 day journey and over the next few months you will see lots of photos taken out of these windows.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
I'm Off Again
I will be away from the computer for two weeks, so no postings for a while. The reason is great. We are off tomorrow on one of the world's classic train trips. We leave Canberra really early, about the time the Sun rises, and take the train to Sydney. In Sydney we get on a train called the Indian-Pacific which will take us right across the continent to Perf (Dad notes: of course Bart means Perth but his pronunciation is a bit off sometimes). The train is called the Indian-Pacific because it travells from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean (or the other way around the way we are doing it). It will take us four days and three nights to get to Perf and along the way we will do some side trips to see big mines in Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie. The longest straight stretch of railway track in the world, 478 kilometers, is on this trip. The whole trip is 4352 kilometers long. Yes, Scruffy is going with us even though he has been getting a bit snooty since he watched Star Wars and is convinced he has Wookie ancestors. The train will be nothing like the one in the little photo, I just put that in because I like trains that make lots of smoke. See you later, with lots of new photos.
They Haven't Got the Wind Up Yet
On Saturday we went for a drive to see how close we could get to this new windfarm. You can see it on the hills way over the other side of Lake George as you drive between Canberra and Sydney. I love windfarms. The first ones I saw were in South Australia and I have been hoping there would be one near home sometime. Anyhow, we drove to Bungendore first because Dad says that is where you can get the best breakfast in Australia. Then off we went up the road to Tarago, trying to get close to the wind farm. You can see the rotor towers for a long time, way off to the left of the road, but there aren't many roads that get you close. The only ones we found for ages all had "Trespassers prosecuted" on them so we had to go back. We met a lady on one of these roads that told us about another road that would get us close, and after a while we found it. You can't get into the farm but we found a great spot to get photos. I had to climb up a small tree to see over a gully (at least that's my story and I'm sticking to it). Later on I managed to climb up a big mound of dirt and see even better. Naturally enough, Mum wasn't happy about messy fur. They are still building the windfarm, so I could watch big cranes lifting towers and rotors into place. I love watching big machinery. Maybe I can drive some someday. When it is finished the farm will have 63 rotors and provide power for 90,000 houses. I will visit my lookout site every so often while they are biulding the farm and will show you how things are progressing.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Something Really Unexpected
This is something you would not expect to see and hear. The Oldies were coming back to their tour bus after the sound-and-light show at the Sphinx and Pyramids during their Egypt trip. The show was surprisingly good. It was even better than normal because there was a storm off to the south over the desert and the lightning added some spectacular effects to the show. Anyhow, what did they hear while they were trying to find their bus but the sort of music they had heard the previous fortnight in Scotland. As they got closer and could hear more clearly, what did they see but a genuine Egyptian bagpipe and drum band. They were playing "Scotland the Brave" and they sounded really good. Pharaoh Ptolomey's Pipers maybe?? Travel is always full of surprises.
Boats are wonderful things. I like them all, but this sort is really special. These are some of the harbour fire-boats at Newcastle. They may be small as far as ships go, but they sure are tough. They are powerful enough to get to burning ships really fast and squirt tons of water onto them and put the fire out. I spent a lot of time at a harbourside cafe (I still can't spell restaurant) watching them while the Oldies were busy talking to friends there. I was hoping that a big ship would come in with problems and I could see the fire-boats in action, but it must have been a quiet day as far as shipping accidents go. I could sit watching harbours for hours and hours, there is always something happening, even if fire-boats aren't needed.
Bear in the Bush
There are some really beautiful spots in Australia. The problem with them is that they are so far apart, and you have to drive and walk a fair way to see some of the best of them. Take this spot for example. It is on the track out to Red Point and Boyd's tower near Eden. You can drive most of the way but there is a half-kilometer walk out to the tower. Now that may not seem like much to people, even my Oldies can do it easily, but to short-legged small bears it is a loonnngggg way. Fortunately there are some seats along the way where you can sit, watch the view, look for birds and critters and get your wind back. I really love these trips to pretty places, but I do wish they were easier on the legs.
Monday, March 02, 2009
He's 66, Not Out
Friday was Dad's birthday. He is getting pretty old now, he's 66, and actually he's not pretty at all. Mum and I wanted to get him some more Scrumpy Jack for his birthday but Australia is completely out of it at present. So we got him something special instead. Watching Dad undoing presents is really frustrating because he tries to get all of the sticky tape off without damaging the wrapping paper. Most of us just rip the paper off. I tried to help using a big letter opener I found in Mum's stationery drawer. Actually, it is just the right size for a small bear broadsword so I will take it with me the next time I go hunting Blackbear the Terrible's treasure. Anyhow, the present eventually got unwrapped and there was a great little weather station. Now Dad has to figure out how to set it up and get it operating. That may take some time; for an astronomer Dad is surprisingly techno-deficient. Fortunately he has small bear help on hand. We took him out to dinner on Saturday with Big Bro Trent and our special friends Enid, Barry and Ian. To a steakhouse of course. You will know that Dad is a dangerous carnivore if you have been reading my blog for long. Our friends gave Dad another bear. His jumper (the bear's, not Dad's) is labelled "Friends Forever" so we call him Friendzy (or Frenzy when he's hyped up). For a small guy he climbs pretty well. We found this big rack thing with hundreds of bottles in it and were almost up out of reach of the Oldies when we were caught and dragged back down. It seems the owner doesn't like bears in his wine rack. Anyhow, the old guy is another year older and marginally less in debt so that's another year out of the way for him. I'm aging at the same rate as him but don't think I will ever catch up.
Show Time Again
Last weekend was Canberra Show time. We always go to the show, mostly because it gives Mum a big cow fix. She takes loads of pictures of cows there and drags Dad and I around to every place that cows are camped in. Actually, I don't mind cows. They are, mostly, gentle critters and interested in seeing what small bears are up to. I watched some of the competition judging in one of the rings. Some of the cows behaved nicely but some others mucked up and wouldn't do what their handlers wanted. I picked out the ones that I would give the prize ribbons to, and the judges usually agreed with me. Maybe I can be a cow-judge. Actually, my favourite animals this year were a mother donkey and her foal. They had just had a bath but they looked happy about it because it was such a hot day. Mum didn't let me have a bath even though it looked like fun splashing around under a great big sprinkler. Lots more fun than the tub and soap sort of bath. I like the machinery exhibits better than cows. How about that groovy quad bike. Just imagine the fun I could have with something like that if only I was big enough to reach the controls. And as for the diggers... well, I could dig really big holes with the scoopy bucket thing, and drill deep crab traps with the driller. If only these things came in small bear size.