Thursday, February 25, 2010
We went to the Aquarium while we were in Sydney, to see the new Dugong exhibit. Dugongs are mammals and although they live in the water, they have to keep coming up to breathe. They live in the northern seas around Australia. They were hunted for food for centuries and now they are fairly rare, so there is a plan to breed some in zoos and aquariums. Dugongs are harmless critters. They spend almost all of their time eating sea grass. That's one of the reasons that they are also called Sea Cows, because cows spend most of their time eating land grass. Old-time sailors thought that dugongs were mermaids. Dad says that the sailors must have been at sea too long. I think that dugongs are cute, just like ordinary cows, and I watched them for ages just feeding, going up for air, taking a swim around their huge tank and coming back for more food. The other fish in their tank seem to like them too, maybe because they leave a stream of chomped-up sea grass behind them as they swim.
I'm Sitting On Top Of The World
Well, not quite on top of the world, but I am 70 stories up. This is the window of the loungeroom of the apartment in Meriton World Tower where we stayed in Sydney last weekend. It's Dad's birthday next weekend so Mum and I took him to Sydney for a concert by his favourite band, the Shadows. Only the old like Dad can remember the Shads, but actually, most Oldies do. Oh yes, there was also a guy called Sir Cliff Richard along with the Shads. It was a great concert, Cliff and the Shadows are still as good as they were back when Dad was a teenager, maybe even a bit better. What I liked best about the weekend was sitting in this window and watching the city lights come on. More lights than this small bear can count. If you know Sydney, you may be able to recognize Darling Harbour and the Chinese Gardens. Very pretty, provided you don't look down; It's a long way to the street.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Anyone for Ice Cream ??
By the time they got to Loch Lomond on their trip around the UK the Oldies had been away from ice cream for almost a fortnight. I wouldn't have thought that would be a problem in a cold place like the UK, but obviously not. They had a half-hour wait for the boat that was taking them for a trip down the loch and Dad found the ice cream. Then it started. The Oldies appear with ice cream. Their Kiwi friends on the tour decided to follow suit. The guy who took the photo decided it looked good and got one. Then the tour guide and the bus driver, and soon the whole tour group was tucking into ice cream on a day that was so cold that everyone was wearing winter woollies. Sometimes I just don't understand human-type people.
You can find all sorts of boats in the marina at Hamilton Island. Some are small run-abouts, some are yachts of all sizes, and some are huge millionaire-type boats. The Oldies, Scruffy and I love boats and we spent lots of time walking around the marina and playing "this one's mine, but somebody is living on it". There are lots of places where you can stop your golf buggy and get good views of the marina as well. This photo was taken from the highest road that a golf buggy can go on. For higher roads you need a 4-wheel drive vehicle, so have to be with a tour group. Boats and boat trips, beaches, sun, koalas, aeroplanes up close and golf buggies to hoon around in; no wonder Hamilton Island is one of my favourite places.
One of the places that we stopped at on our trip across Australia on the Indian-Pacific was Broken Hill in western NSW. Broken Hill is one of the most important mining towns in Australia. We went on a bus tour while our train was being topped up with fuel, water and food, and one of the stops was at the mining museum. Actually, it was so early in the morning that the museum wasn't open, but we could see lots from the parking area. The town was on one side (I'll show you a photo next time) but on the other side was a real working mine. You can see the workings just poking up above the hill, and piles of old machinery just behind the fence. One day I want to go back to Broken Hill and see some mine stuff when we are not in a hurry. My grandfather, Mum's father, worked at Broken Hill when he was young, just after WW2, and he had lots of stories about life as a telegraphist back in those days. I need to get back to Broken Hill to check out some of his yarns.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
This aeroplane was the reason that we decided to go to Temora for their January flying day. It is a Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk, an aircraft type that has a special place in Australia's history. Back in World War 2, when the Japanese were moving towards Australia, the only fighter aircraft that we could get in any quantity were Kittyhawks. By that stage the Kitty was an old design, but it was tough and dependable. Even after Spitfires arrived, the Kitty remained in the front-line squadrons. They almost disappeared after the war, but now some of them are being salvaged and rebuilt. Temora is one of the places where you can see one flying whenever this one visits. Of course Dad and I have built model Kittyhawks, six of them so far, but it is really special to see a real one in the air.
Watching for Ships
Scruffy and I like watching boats almost as much as we like being on them. Whenever we can manage it we sit somewhere where we can see a harbour and count ships. That's pretty hard to do in Canberra, so there's another reason why we love holidays so much. This spot is a great one for ship-watching, although Dad took this picture when there wasn't a ship in sight. It is at a lookout on the south side of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. Melbourne is way up at the northern end of the bay, the entrance is on the southern end. What makes this an exciting spot occasionally is that the entrance can get really rough and dangerous. If conditions are bad the Rip starts to run and there are big waves and strong currents in the channel. There have been dozens of wrecks in the area you can see in the photo, but most of them have been cleared away. This was a calm day and we saw lots of traffic from fishing boats to huge container ships passing through the passage with no problems at all.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
There is only one problem in travelling with Scruffy. He insists that as he is the older bear, he should get the window seat. Now you might think that there is enough room at the normal-sized window for two small bears, but there's not when both of them bounce and fidget. Fortunately, this was not a problem on the longest trip we have done so far. The trip across Australia on the Indian-Pacific took three days and I feared that I would have a three-day fight for the window seat, but it turned out great. The Oldies splurged and got the Deluxe cabin. This is about twice the size of a standard cabin and has a lounge area as well as the usual bed. And two windows, one for each bear. We were able to see everything and only had to move at meal times. This picture was taken near the start of the trip as the train was zooming through the Blue Mountains. It got foggy soon after so we left the windows and explored the rest of the cabin, but were back as soon as the fog cleared.
This is a Great Duckpond
There has been alot of building on Hamilton Island between our two visits there. The very northern bit of the island had no houses on it back in 2005, but now there is almost no building site left. Fortunately, some of the area is being left "natural", or as natural as it can be with mansions all around. This is one of the prettiest bits. By damming a small creek they have made a big lake. It has water-lillies and fish in it, and there was even a couple of ducks swimming in it one of the days I was there. There was also a wedding party getting photos taken, so I guess that I am not the only one to think that this is a pretty place. I like to climb up onto the top rail of the fence whenever I can. You can see more from up there. It only has one drawback; Mum goes into fits, reads the riot act about falling into the water, and hauls me back as soon as she sees me.
Monday, February 01, 2010
The Fantastic Catalina
Last Sunday we went to the Temora flying day. The Aviation Museum at Temora is a great place. They have lots of historic aircraft , and they are all in flying condition. It is the only place where you can see TWO SPITFIRES flying. There is new Sabre jet fighter there, as well as a Hudson, Canberra, Boomerang, Tiger Moth, Ryan STM, Cessna Dragonfly and Meteor. The flying days are "must be" places for small bears and Oldies. This time there were a couple of special visiting aircraft, a Curtiss Kittyhawk and a Catalina flying boat. I really like the Catalina. It is the only one flying in Australia and it belongs to the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS). Catalinas were one of the most important aircraft in WW2. They hunted enemy ships and submarines, dropped bombs, mines and supplies (not at the same time), and kept an eye on thousands of miles of ocean, keeping the convoys safe. This is one of the slowest aeroplanes that I have ever seen; it's slow but it can fly for ages. And guess what. This Catalina is marked up to represent the aircraft that Dad and I made a model of! The only differences are that the big one is still missing its nose turret, and the original OX-Y was a true flying boat and could only operate from water, while the HARS one is an amphibian and can fly from water or land. My model is like the original. I love aeroplanes and it's great when you see one that you have made a model of.