Swampy Plain / Geehi – March 2011

The annual family camping weekend this year was a long weekend at Swampy Plain campground, on the Alpine Way. There’d been heaps of rain over the summer and everything was green and lush. The river had clearly flooded not long ago – lots of debris on the banks. We found a lovely grassy private spot by the river. There was some late overnight rain and one morning, but not enough to spoil the weekend, thankfully. Had fun crossing the river to get to Dr Forbes’ Hut – all still looking good there. We had a lovely swim in the (cold) river at Keebles’ Hut, did some walks and drives in the surrounding area. The Main Range occasionally revealed itself through the clouds (1800 vertical metres) and we had one brilliant starry night. No mobile phone reception so the outside world didn’t intrude, very relaxing. We drove home via Khancoban and Cabramurra. Memory lane for some of us!
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Posted on Thursday April 21st, 2011, tagged with events | comments disabled

UAE, Greece, Jordan – November 2010

Our latest adventure was a trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Greece and Jordan for a month in November. We have wonderful friends in Dubai with a magnificent house and guest room so their place became our base for seeing Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the northern part of Oman, and from which we headed off for longer forays to Greece and Jordan.

Dubai has to be seen to be believed. Everything is on a grand scale and thankfully some of the crazier projects have been put on hold as a result of the global financial crisis. Still, it is like a city on steroids, like something out of a science fiction movie. Lots of interesting, unusually shaped high-rise buildings, an ultra-modern above-ground railway, an indoor ski slope (!) and malls that look like palaces. There is still an old part of town near the Creek, with its port and spice, textile, gold and other markets – fascinating! The Burj Khalifa, currently the highest building in the world, is an elegant spire, quite breathtaking in its beauty.

A highlight of Abu Dhabi was the amazing Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Great Mosque. It is a magnificent building and no expense has been spared in embellishing all its surfaces with the intricate patterns so typical of Muslim architecture. There are plans for a major cultural centre at Abu Dhabi, including a Guggenheim Museum, Louvre, Performing Arts Centre and Maritime Museum, which will make it a magnet for tourists in the years to come.

We enjoyed the wild coastal scenery of the Musandam Peninsula in Oman from a tourist dhow we had all to ourselves and Suesy took us “wadi-bashing” up a rocky and inhospitable gorge. In Sharjah we took in the Museum of Islamic Civilisation and the Blue Soukh as well as a traditional courtyard home and school, preserved as museums.

We’d visited Greece in 1975 and this time around we found that some things had changed and others hadn’t. There are still a lot of ruins! In Athens they’re still restoring the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis, but have completed a magnificent new Acropolis Museum down below – truly outstanding. We visited several museums in Greece and found that just about all of them are watched over by middle-aged lady attendants who spend the whole time talking (loudly) on their mobile phones. Most annoying!!

Athens was fascinating – we stayed in Monastiraki, near the Acropolis- and we were surprised to see how many tiny little shops there still are in the narrow streets. We enjoyed shopping at the food markets and walking or catching the new Underground to the various sites.

Then it was off to the Pelopponese – Mycenae (Mykenai), with its magnificent Lion Gate (sans lions) and impressive walls , a lovely little village called Dimitsana overnight and then through many more picturesque villages to Olympia. Alas the Olympic Games site from antiquity was closed due to elections (Bah!). Back through more rugged and scenic country to Nafplion – a beautiful historic town, at one time Greece’s capital, situated on a wide bay. The next day we looked at the theatre of Epidaurus before driving to Delphi – what a beautiful setting on the slopes of Mt Parnassus! Spent many hours looking at the remains of the temples, treasuries, stadium , gymnasium and theatre there, and the museum, before driving to Meteora, much further north. Here there was a magnificent sunset over the monasteries perched on their granite tors, but alas, the next day the whole area was shrouded in cloud.

Back to Athens and a flight to Crete, where we stayed at Archarnes near Heraklion (in a lovely restored old courtyard apartment), visiting the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaestos, the Archaeological Museum and driving through the truly picturesque autumn countryside, full of orchards, vineyards and olive groves. Crete as a whole is rather rugged and the southern coastline particularly so. Chania in the northwest is a beautiful historic port; we stayed a couple of nights near the cathedral in the town centre and wandered the streets on foot (not really a place for cars!)

We returned to Dubai to regroup and spend a lovely day and evening with our friends before flying to Amman, for the last leg of our trip. We met our very friendly and competent driver /guide Wa’el and after a night in Amman, set off on our seven day tour of Jordan. Highlights included Salt, the Jordan Valley, Umm Qais with its view to the Sea of Galilee and the Roman ruins of Gardara, Jerash (another Roman town spectacularly preserved), three massive castles from Crusader times perched on steep arid hilltops (Ajlun, Kerak and Shawbak), the churches of Madaba and Mt Nebo with their early Christian mosaic floors, the Dead Sea (where you can float without effort and have mud baths!), Wadi Rum with its spectacular desert scenery.

But the jewel of the tour, of course, was Petra. What an amazing place! Everyone has seen pictures of El Khazneh (the so-called Treasury) which is a breathtaking sight at the end of the gorge known as the Siq, but there is so much more to explore beyond, a whole city in fact (mostly hollowed out or built by the Nabataeans and later added to by the Romans.) And the cliffs are such spectacular colours and patterns! We could easily have spent longer than the one and a half days (including one evening) that we had allowed. Alas, it was not to be. Back to Amman, Dubai, Brisbane and home to the greenest we have ever seen this part of the world – full dams and lush growth- lovely!
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Posted on Tuesday April 5th, 2011, tagged with travel | 2 comments

Mt Tennent – October 2010

It’s been a very wet spring and we thought that  the usually dry or only just trickling creek on Mt Tennent would be flowing for once, so we went to check it out. It was babbling and gushing away, and the surrounding bush was lush and blooming. A lovely spot for lunch – the sun even shone on us! And the view over the countryside below was also delightfully green. A pity Pete and Rohan weren’t there too, and that we didn’t have time to do the full walk to the summit, but it was enough to refresh the spirit!

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Posted on Monday November 1st, 2010, tagged with events | 1 comment

October 2010 – Mt. Taylor erupts..

…in bloom. Yes,we have had one of the wettest Octobers for ages and the countryside is green and lush. Mt Taylor has transformed from its usual seared dry look to a verdant grassy woodland and the native plants have been flowering as never before. There’s even been water flowing in the creeks and gullies, mossy marshy areas and the happy sound of frogs! So, here are some photos of the blaze of colour that greeted walkers this spring.
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Posted on Thursday October 28th, 2010, tagged with events | comments disabled

North Coast – July 2010

For a quick winter getaway, we headed north for ten days, rediscovering some old favourite places and finding some new ones. The weather wasn’t terrific, but definitely warmer than at home! Highlights were the Wollomombi and Ebor Falls on Waterfall Way east of Armidale, the Border Ranges National Park near Murwillumbah with its magnificent Antarctic beech trees (Mt Warning, alas, stayed in cloud on the days we were available to climb it!), catching up with cousins Bronwyn and Kacey and Kacey  and Rob’s two lovely children, the wonderful hospitality of Trev and Pirjo in Brisbane, and the Yuraygir National Park south of Yamba where we did a lovely walk along the coast. After driving south along the coast for a whole day of pouring rain we decided to cut the trip a little short and come home to sunny (but still pretty cold) Canberra and wish our gorgeous nephew a happy first birthday.

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Posted on Saturday August 7th, 2010, tagged with events | comments disabled

Shoalhaven walk -June / Fitzroy Falls – July, 2010

We spent a lovely weekend with Peter, Mandy, Geoff and Jen at Mandy’s place in early June. Saturday was a lovely day, so we had a good look at the large garden and then went for a walk at Nowra, along the Shoalhaven and up a side creek through lush bushland, below magnificent sandstone outcrops. The weekend included many other highlights. It’s a beautiful area and the hospitality was greatly appreciated!

On a subsequent weekend we did a walk along the cliff edge at Fitzroy Falls – what a stunning waterfall ! The cloud in the valley below made it even more interesting, we thought.

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Posted on Friday June 25th, 2010, tagged with events | comments disabled

Mt. Bogong – 21-23 May, 2010

Brothers Peter and Stephan have been going up to Mt. Bogong for a week’s cross-country skiing every winter for over 20 years. They have told tales of climbing up steep spurs laden with equipment, crawling along the exposed icy summit ridge in howling winds, magnificent long ski runs down through the trees, the steep climb back out of these chutes, the cosy hut at the end of the day, and lots more, so we thought it was about time we visited the mountain to see it for ourselves. The perfect occasion came up when Peter asked us to join them for the annual “taking up of supplies”  prior to the winter snows setting in.

There were six of us: Peter, Nadia, Stephan, Katrina and we two. We stayed at Eskdale Pub on Friday night and drove into the start of the walk (an hour and a half’s drive) the next morning. The weather was beautiful, sunny and quite warm. We left the car in a clearing and readied our packs. It’s been a while since we carried full packs but it came back to us!  The first bit was the hardest, a steep ascent from the clearing up to join the Australian Alps walking track, which we then followed along Long Spur, before climbing up to Bogong itself. There are other access tracks to Mt Bogong at Staircase Spur and Eskdale Spur but they are much steeper, and we were glad we weren’t struggling up those!

It is a magnificent mountain, massive and formidable – we were glad the weather was being kind. Many of the trees were burnt in the 2003 fires, but there is good regrowth and there was lots of lush vegetation and water flowing in the streams. We stopped quite a few times for a breather, snacks and lunch, and finally had the hut in our sights at about 3.15pm – very welcoming! Even better, four other hikers were already there and had a lovely fire going, ready for the cold night ahead. Some of us went to look at the sunset from the ridge above the treeline, others stayed in the warm hut and rested their legs.

We enjoyed a hearty dinner and cosy evening. It was a cold frosty night outside and we woke to a glorious golden sunrise, which turned the whole frosted landscape a vivid orange. Most of us walked to the summit after breakfast – a long but gently undulating walk once we were above the treeline. (Katrina did her homework in the meantime – very impressive!) The summit itself at 1,986 m is near the northern end of the mountain but the views are wonderful all along the summit ridge in all directions. The ground was sparkling with the thick frost and some of the valleys way below us were beneath the clouds. We could see the main range, Mt Pilot, Mt Feathertop, Mt Buffalo, to name just a few (Peter and Stephan know them all. They also pointed out some of their favourite ski runs -very steep!)

We returned to the hut and prepared for the hike out, retracing our route back down Long Spur. On the way we side-tracked to Howman’s Falls, the creek plunging over ice-covered rocks into a steep gorge – we’ll have to do some more exploring there next time. We had lunch on the grassy slopes before Long Spur once more led us away from the mountain and back to our cars.

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Posted on Sunday May 30th, 2010, tagged with events | 5 comments

Opening of Dr Forbes Hut – May 2010

We’d done some volunteer work with brother Peter in March at Dr Forbes Hut on the Swampy Plain River in the Kosciuszko National Park, and were keen to see the finished building, so we drove up for the day of the official opening. The hut had been more or less destroyed in the 2003 bushfires with much stone work needing to be totally redone. The builders worked from original and more recent photographs  and the rebuilt hut looked great, with the new roof, shutters, doors and doorposts, paths and stairs all finished. They’d cleared and removed more trees and brush from around the hut and hopefully that’ll protect it from future infernos! (The only thing missing is a toilet and that’s apparently still to  be built – they did have a Portaloo for the grand opening.)

It was a glorious sunny day. The tops of the crags above us were just obscured by cloud, but it was lovely and warm down below. At least 60 people attended (quite a few from the Kosciuszko Huts Association, of which brother Peter is a member, and of course many National Parks rangers and administrators) and it was all beautifully organised. There were several speeches and we heard about the early days of the hut from the son of its original owner and a family friend.  It was good to see Gary and Geoff get credit for all the hard work they’d done over only 55 working days, and to have the contribution of the volunteers also acknowledged. Finally  the ceremonial cutting of the ribbon took place. Everyone chatted, took photos and mingled.

After a picnic lunch we headed back home, stopping for a taste of schnapps at the schnappserie near Thredbo on the way.

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Posted on Tuesday May 18th, 2010, tagged with events | comments disabled

More mystery photos

It’s not as easy to take mystery photos as you might think! See what you can make of these…

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Posted on Saturday May 8th, 2010, tagged with arty | 5 comments

Mungo and Kinchega – April 2010

There’s been lots of rain (and flooding) in Queensland over the last months, sending floodwaters down the Darling (and elsewhere) and filling some of the Menindee Lakes for the first time in ten years. Plus there’s been quite a lot of rain in western NSW itself, so we thought we’d go and have a look at the “outback” looking verdant and lush, with some water lying around for a change. It’s a long drive and we were very glad to get as far as Hay without hitting a kangaroo ! (See Western Australia, 2008, part 1.)

Our first stop was Mungo National Park, part of the Willandra Lakes World Heritage area. There is evidence of indigenous people having lived here at least 50,000 years ago when the area was lush and the lakes were full. The last time they were full was 15,000 years ago, before the Lachlan River changed its course. It’s all pretty flat, with wide dry lake beds and ancient eroding sand dunes separating them, but there was a lot of interest in the plants that survive and flourish in this harsh landscape. As there’d been some decent rain here, it really didn’t look like desert at all. Every time it rains, the dunes erode a little more and some more evidence of past inhabitants is uncovered. We saw the old wooden station buildings that were erected in the late 1800s when sheep were farmed here. The woolshed is huge and all built from local native cypress  (callitris) timber. One of the highlights of our visit was the sunset colours on the “Walls of China”. And the campground was great – roomy individual sites and beautiful nights with no moon and a  spectacular array of stars.

We drove on to Menindee via Pooncarie, and stocked up before going into Kinchega National Park which borders on the Darling River and encompasses some of the Menindee lakes. Our campsite was on Lake Cawndilla, which was just starting to fill, the waters being diverted through a series of weirs from the Darling River through the lake system. Lake Cawndilla is still filling as I write this (on 7th May) -you can see the storage levels rise on the web at waterinfo.nsw.gov.au. We are intrigued to know what will happen downstream of the lakes once they are all full. There’s no doubt that everyone is heartened to see the waters flowing again; there were lots of people just watching the waters flow through the weirs – obviously a welcome sight!

At Kinchega we also visited the old homestead (now a ruin) and the shearing shed, only half the size of the original but still huge. It is said that six million sheep were shorn there between the 1870s when it was built, and 1967, when the area became a national park. Hard to believe that the river was the main transport route for many years – though we did read that the river boats were often stranded for months when the waters dropped .

After a couple of nights camping under the stars (it was pleasantly warm, even at night!) we headed down to Wentworth, then up the Murray River as far as Albury. We’d never been to the Hume Weir, so we checked that out on the way. Home to a lovely Canberra autumn display, and some more warm weather. No complaints!

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Posted on Friday May 7th, 2010, tagged with events | 1 comment

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