Tuesday, September 29, 2015


It's Floriade Time Again

Once again it is time for Floriade, the Canberra flower festival. We usually go there a couple of times during the month that it runs, so that we can see the flowers at different stages. This year we started by going to Nightfest. The gardens are lit up after dark for a week and there are concerts and light shows as well. I was looking forward to this. Most years I get to check in among the tulip plants to see if I can catch some of the garden gnomes tip-toeing through. I have never seen any in daylight, so thought that they may be more active at night, but I saw no sign of any. They are all concentrated down on the gnome knoll again. I guess it's their once-a-year corroboree and they are busy catching up with gossip. The most spectacular thing this year was the crown thingy in the main pond. Every 15 minutes it flashed laser beams and puffed smoke in time to songs. I couldn't get close enough to get a photo of the lasers and smoke; big people just don't give small bears any room. One bear that did get room was the giant Dream Bear. You can see how huge he is compared to me. And in case you are wondering if his lady friend is a giant, she is actually on stilts. What a pair - a giant, glowing, dreamtime-painted bear and a lady who is clever enough to walk on stilts in the dark. Always something interesting to see at Floriade.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Rangitoto Volcano

As cruise ships leave Auckland harbour in New Zealand they pass through the Rangitoto Channel. This channel separates Rangitoto Island from the mainland and passengers get a great view of the island as the ship passes. Rangitoto is Maori for "Bloody Sky", named after the death of a chief during a battle. Rangitoto is a dormant volcano, one of the 50 or so volcanoes in the Auckland area. I am not sure that I would like living in the middle of a volcano field, even if the last eruptions were around 550 years ago. Auckland civil defence groups have evacuation plans ready, just in case. The island is about 6km across and the volcanic cone is 260 metres high. Over the years the island has been a Maori settlement, a quarry site, the site of many military installations during WW2, and a wrecking ground for old ships (you can still see some on the northern beach at low tide). You can visit Rangitoto via ferry from Auckland. Since 1890 the island has been a recreation reserve and day trips have been run pretty well since then.Today, there is a walking track to the summit and 4WD tours of the island. And there are little lighthouses marking the safe channel, so this small bear had a happy time as we passed by on Voyager of the Seas in December 2012.Actually, we will be passing there again on Christmas Day this year; Dad and I are taking Mum on another cruise on Voyager for her big birthday (if any of you are on this cruise, do come and meet me).

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Monday, September 14, 2015


Lachlan Valley Railway

Just 2 hours drive north of Canberra there is a great railway museum. It is part of the Lachlan Valley Railway, based at Cowra in central western New South Wales. In the early 20th century, Cowra used to be a huge railway base servicing trains on the railway line joining the main north-south line to the main east-west line. The line, from Demondrille to Blayney, was built between 1885 and 1887. Cowra was the operation base and workshop. A large roundhouse and turntable were built in the early 1920s, and up to 30 trains could be at the base at a time. The line was closed in 2009. Lachlan Valley Railway was formed in 1974 to save as much of the locos and rolling stock as possible. It ran "tourist trains" from Cowra up to the time when the government closed all lines around Cowra. Now its locos operate from Cootamundra , Wagga Wagga and Sydney. The museum at the roundhouse is well worth the visit. You can see engines being restored, like this 53 class called "Rosie". I was allowed to climb into the driver's cabin and check out the controls. The turntable is still so finely balanced that it can be pushed around by just one person. I had a go, but it was a bit too big for me (can you see me trying?). If you look closely, you can see a scar in the concrete just to the left of the rotating part of the turntable track. That is the mark from an accident  (in the 1950s?) when a loco missed the rotating section and went nose-first into the turntable pit. Cowra rail museum is a place full of history, with staff who really know all about it. Another favourite place for this small bear.

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Dads' Day

Sunday before last was Father's Day, so, naturally, I took Dad out for lunch (and Mum, naturally, lent me the money to pay for it). Knowing that for Dad the best possible lunch is steak and beer, we took him to Chifley's Bar and Grill. This is in the historic Hotel Kurrajong, the hotel where lots of members of parliament used to stay back in the early days of Canberra. The steakhouse is named after Ben Chifley, the 16th Prime Minister of Australia. This was his favourite hotel, and his favourite bar. The hotel has just been renovated, keeping as close to the original 1926 feel. The hotel is heritage listed and Dad says that the steaks should be heritage listed as well; they definitely have his seal of approval.

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Friday, September 04, 2015


Taiaroa Head Lighthouse

As I have mentioned before, cruise ships often allow you to get great pictures of lighthouses. I think that this one on Taiaroa headland is one of the prettiest. It is at the entrance to Otago harbour, the harbour for the city of Dunedin, in New Zealand. It was built in 1864. We photographed it on our 2012 cruise on "Voyager of the Seas". Cruise ships dock at Port Chalmers and passengers usually spent the day exploring the port and Dunedin. Next time we are there I want the Oldies to take a trip out to the headland. Besides the lighthouse, there is a lot to see there. The headland was the site of fairly extensive forts and you can visit the tunnels and gun emplacements. There is a fully restored 1886 Armstrong disappearing gun in one of these. I have never seen a disappearing gun and would love to see it doing its disappearing act. You can often see whales, dolphins, orcas, seals and sea lions from the headland. There are colonies of penguins on a nearby beach, and a large breeding colony of royal albatrosses that you can visit with a ranger. Definitely a target for the next time one of Dad's lecture cruises takes us to Dunedin.

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