NEWSFLASH! My book hits the road! Did you miss my Channel 7 Weekend Sunrise 'Downunder Dunnies' appearance? Watch the Video HERE!


Red Nomad OZ Wraps Up 2010

2010 - The Year of the Disaster!

Well, after 650 days away from work, I've finally lost the 'rabbit in the headlights' look! According to Pilchard, anyway. This proves what the REAL stressor was - despite 2010's disaster-ridden status, the 'look' has gone!

2010 got off to a great start when a marauding flock of sulphur-crested cockatoos descended on the veggie garden, nipping off all the corn stalks at the base. Destructive little buggers!! And go out to sea with just a thin layer of rubber between you and the creatures of the deep, add a few leaks – and that'll replicate our waterlogged Zodiac experience down at the beach shack!

Watching the sheep crossing the boundary fence to the quarry was a bit of a clue for the next drastic action required. Heatwave? Too bad! It had to be done - NOW!! The bright side? SO impressed by my abilities, a neighbour suggested I work for him as a trades assistant!! I don't THINK he was joking … so if things get too bad, I may yet call him on it!

During dual duelling dental dramas (how's THAT for alliteration!), the holding tank roof blew off in a freak wind storm. Travel? What's that, we wondered as our days became a dreary round of organising earthworks and repairs, visiting dentists and patching up the stockyard - there's only so much that baling twine will hold together … A few bouts of vermin-wrangling (mice, millipedes, mosquitoes) and we were ready for a change.

But not the one that followed … luckily, my parents escaped their car rollover relatively unscathed. At least the unexpected trip to visit was a positive bonus!

And then, my dear 'train buddy' K lost her brave battle with breast cancer, and the world turned black for awhile. The December Australian Womens Weekly tells me we spend $6 billion annually on our pets – but only $11 million on breast cancer research. Is it just me, or is that a bit weird??

But … another couple of dental dramas later, and we were on our way! Where to? Wherever the road took us, of course! With the benefit of hindsight, our wet Wet Tropics dramas were as nothing compared to the ensuing deluge that's put half of Australia under water – but in my defence it WAS the dry season at the time …

Back home again, and the fabulous memories of our trip faded away as tree branches – and whole trees! - fell on chook sheds, over fences and down at the beach shack with carefree abandon! Lambing season wasn't exactly a success either, with a number of ewe and lamb deaths/kills. Foxes AND dogs. Livestock and untrained, untethered dogs are SO NOT a good combination ...

And mending boundary fences on the steepest hills was only rewarding in that we ticked it off the 'to-do' list – and won't be required again for a long, long time! That's also the case with fixing the shack rust by repainting - by the time it needs re-doing, we'll be too old to care …

While I realise the decline of my camera is a disaster only to me, it encapsulates conflicting messages from our elected reps. Where's the consistency of NOT 'saving the planet' when I don't recycle newspapers, or turn lights off for 'Earth Hour', yet it's tacitly OK – nay, encouraged - to replace large appliances every year or two? I don't get it – perhaps my brain has turned to mush by not being at work ...

BUT … the year wasn't finished with us yet! A BIG thank-you to whatever anti-locust board who reported in the Stock Journal in early Dec that other than 'mopping up', locust eradication had virtually ceased as they were no longer a problem! Why, then, did our Xmas Day celebration include a plague of locusts? The endless swarms fascinated our interstate guests, as did the ceaseless munching of little mouths while the greenery disappeared from the hillsides … Perhaps someone can enlighten me about what our new 'bio-security' levy is meant to cover??

So are these things REALLY disasters?? In the ultimate scheme of things, no!  Lots of people had far worse 2010 disasters than these! But where's the fun in NOT being a drama queen??

A big thank you to all my wonderful followers, subscribers, regular readers and drop ins – it's been fabulous to have your support in 2010! Happy New Year!! Hope 2011 is a FAAAAAABULOUS year for you and those you love!!

Happy travels!!
PS If any other disasters befall me in 2010's dying hours, you'll be the first to know!!


Aussie Icons #1 - Largs Pier Hotel, Largs Bay, South Australia

OK, so now you're looking at the photo and thinking yep, Red Nomad OZ has finally lost it.  What's so iconic about an ordinary (albeit attractive and well preserved) Aussie seaside pub??

Well, this isn't just ANY Aussie seaside pub - this is the Largs Pier Hotel!  Yeah, so?  I hear you ask.

The Largs Pier Hotel is the stuff of legend in Australian rock music history - at least it is if you're aware of Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel, AC/DC, the Little River Band and the Angels!  Especially Jimmy - whose love-love relationship with the LPH is documented HERE in the eponymous track on YouTube! 

Unsurprisingly opposite the Largs Pier at the Adelaide beachside suburb of Largs Bay, the Largs Pier Hotel is still open for business.  Which may go to show what can happen when a working class man is reminiscing about taking a long line on the highway to hell!!

Sorry, I'll be better next year, promise!!

PS  And if you don't know what I'm talking about, don't panic!  It'll be back to the Scenic Public Toilets, Favourite Places, Oz Top Spots, Off the Tourist Trail and Only in OZ moments in 2011!!

Happy New Year!! 


Dear You ...

I originally posted this on Christmas Day, 2010 - for reasons I hope will become obvious!  As a travel blogger, there's really only one BIG tool of the trade I can't do without ... see if you can identify it below!

This FAAAAAABULOUS Thursday Theme day comes courtesy of Toni at Chick Chat!!  It'll be interesting to see if anyone else has this same tool of the trade!!


Dear You

We first met 19 years today – love at first sight, and we've been together ever since. We've been inseparable through all my Aussie adventures and you've been by my side at all life's important events. I never dreamed you'd bring me so much pleasure over the years - better even than ... Well, never mind about that!

You're so important to me that I rarely leave home without you and I can't imagine life without you. I always thought we'd grow old together, that you'd be with me through the frightening realities of old age - the scooters, the walking frames, the lifestyle village, the old folks home!

BUT ... now it's time for us to part.

You're too old for me, they say.  Too old fashioned.  Too unreliable.

Your performance isn't up to scratch, I know, with parts that don't always work properly. But I never thought that there'd be anything wrong with you that couldn't be fixed. A quick service, bit of a tune up, you'd be right as rain.

But no. They say you're too far gone.
My pleas that I don't want to abandon you fell on deaf ears. They say there's no point trying to fix you. Better get used to it and move on, they say.

Time to stop being sentimental.

Sentimental? Sentimental?? Puhleeeeese!! What's sentimental about not wanting to part? What's sentimental about trying to make it work – you still work brilliantly most of the time!

'Sentimental' indeed! I call it practical and sensible.

It's not like it's just between you and me now anyway. Our relationship has been recorded on this blog! People know about us. They've seen – and commented on – how well we work together! So why would I just toss you in the trash because they say you're too old fashioned?? And unable to be mended??

Sure, they laughed when I brought you in. That old thing, they said. It's not performing? You want the problems fixed? Don't bother even trying on something of THAT vintage!

I begged and pleaded. I don't care how much it costs, I said. Whatever it takes, I said.

They laughed again. Yeah, whatever.  Sure, we'll check if it's even possible, they said. The alacrity with which they returned meant either a resounding 'NO' or that they hadn't bothered to even ask the question.

Sorry, no can do, they said.

So who are 'they', anyway? And who are 'they' to dictate the terms of our remaining life together??

Those evil bastards at the camera shop, that's who! Who presumably are speaking for Pentax when they tell me that Pentax won't repair - or even service - a 19 year old 'Zoom60-X' camera in perfect working order but for a sporadic shutter button sticking problem! 

What a shame things were built to last back in 1991 (yes, SOOOO long ago!!).  You've lasted – and would last a helluva lot longer, but not without the support services to keep you going. What's the point, they say.  There's virtually no processing centres left, or shops that sell film.

I guess we learned that lesson – now Pilchard's 2 year old camera (that NEVER worked as well as you) is now not worth repairing because it's 'old technology'.

By an incredible coincidence, however, the head camera shop bastard just happened to have a brochure handy that just happened to have an offer on 'the best camera I've ever had in 35 years in the business'!! Amazing, huh?!?! What kind of a lucky break is that? I get to throw you away AND spend a mere $439 on a replacement with a number of amazing features that I'll probably never use ...

Of course I declined.  BUT ... I fear I'm just delaying the inevitable.  So I took a brochure.
'Ideas for life' it said. Huh? Give me a break!! It's not a time share in the Whitsundays, or a Xmas flight over Uluru, its a CAMERA!!!! And it'll probably be expendable in about 6 months …

Weirdly, I don't actually consider myself a photographer, but I've had a number of lovely comments about our photos from my kind readers – so maybe, just maybe I can start calling myself a happy snapper! Well, that's one step up from rank amateur! I wonder do our readers realise your amazing achievements – you're responsible for ALL photos on this blog (other than those credited elsewhere)!!

So, goodbye my faithful friend – I wonder will our readers notice a difference in photo quality when you've finally been replaced with something I don't want?
Only time will tell.


Only in OZ #9 - Big Koala, Dadswells Bridge, Victoria

The Big Koala many years ago, Dadswells Bridge, Victoria
Well, now that Oprah-mania has died down we're left with images of the Uluru sunset thing, the Opera House mega-thon and the koala hugging!

But I bet she didn't hug THIS koala!

Dadswells Bridge has the dubious honour (conferred by moi) of having one of the most grotesque and unashamedly unattractive 'attractions' I've encountered in Australia.  Conversely, however, that in itself makes it a FAAAAABULOUS 'must see'!!
This photo was taken by Pilchard MANY years ago - while I was smaller then, I'd still pale into insignifigance next to this monolith even if I'd grown twice as big (which I haven't)!  But maybe it proves you can't see a koala without wanting to hug it?

Or maybe not.  BUT ... like the Big Park Bench, it's nice to find something that makes one feel small!

In Victoria's wonderful Grampians region, the Big Koala of Dadswells Bridge guarantees a steady stream of visitors - and over the years it's variously contained a small business (see above - how cool would that be?!), souvenir shop or been closed.  There's even accomodation in case you want to view it by night - or check out the other attractions of Dadswells Bridge and region.  After all, why hug a real koala when this far superior experience is in the offing?!

Oprah doesn't know what she's missed!!

See you next time!!

PS  Unless I'm much mistaken, this post puts Victoria on the board for my blog!!


Off the Tourist Trail #3 - Woomera, Outback South Australia

Woomera? Or Stepford?!?!? Was our July 2008 visit during a particularly slow time, or are the wide, open streets normally this neat, quiet and uninhabited?

I guess we'll find out next time we visit – and there WILL BE a next time, because this unusual outback South Australian town just off the Stuart Highway en route to Roxby Downs and Andamooka is full of surprises.

Especially if you're interested in international pioneering space exploration and missile testing – think Deep Space Station 41, Nurrungar and the 'Europa' rocket!  BUT ... still well worth a visit even if you're not!

For us, this unexpected detour was gold! From the excellent Woomera Travellers Village, fascinating museum and exhibits, to the uniquely significant place Woomera holds in Australian history we were amazed and intrigued.

Start at the Woomera Heritage Centre – if you can drag yourself past the outdoor Missile Park that is! Incorporating the Rocket Range Museum, social history display and Len Beadell - the pioneering outback road surveyor and builder - memorabilia, it's an eclectic mix of space technology, indigenous and pioneering history, and such blots on the Australian historical landscape as Maralinga and the notorious Woomera detention centre, scene of riots, breakouts and demonstrations.

And for our next visit? Definitely a tour of the Observatory, History Museum, Marine Centre (no, you're not mistaken, it really IS that far from the ocean!) and a few other points of interest. There'll probably be photos of attractions other than missile park too – my film and the light ran out simultaneously on this trip!

AND ... who in their right mind would pass up the opportunity to legitimately enter the Woomera Prohibited Area?  Come on - ANYTHING prohibited has just GOT to be a drawcard - and this one's the size of England!!

SO ... was it Stepford or Woomera for you??  Let me know!!


Signs #8 - On the Beach

Don't panic!  As far as I'm aware, there are NO giant squid plaguing Australia's northern beaches - despite the graphic on this sign!!

But no giant squid doesn't mean there's no danger.  What IS prevalent during October - May in Australia's Far North is the Irukandji (carukia barnesi), one of the most virulent jellyfish in the world. Its sting (ie marine 'Stinger') brings on symptoms collectively called Irukandji syndrome and has caused death – although virtually invisible in the water.

And the vinegar below the sign?  No, it's not a repellent - or an emergency condiment supply!!  If you're stung – no, it's not an ATTACK, jellyfish have no brain – vinegar MAY help alleviate the intense pain.

So how to enjoy the tropics without threat?

Lycra 'stinger suits' can stop stings , and many northern beaches erect 'stinger nets' to form a stinger-free swimming enclosure.

The nets may have kept out the stingers many years ago in Cairns when Pilchard, along with some locals waiting for a swim, observed the nets being set up at the beginning of the wet season. But the enclosure was finished, they saw a dark shape in the water inside the enclosure – clearly (!) not a jellyfish! What could it be? Yes, you guessed it – a crocodile!

Maybe you're just better off in the pool ...

Stay safe!!

PS  Yes, I've allowed myself the indulgence of a double negative (above).  But it IS nearly Xmas, so I know you'll humour me!


Only in OZ #8 - Talking Termite Mound, Mataranka, NT

Visit Australia's Northern Territory and it won't take long before the giant termite mounds become a bit commonplace. After a couple of photos, the average tourist won't even bother stopping!

Until they reach the amazing talking termite mound at Mataranka, that is!

Not everyone has the capacity to turn a termite mound into a tourist attraction – but the Mataranka locals have raised the bar by doing just that!

I mean, what better way to dispense information to visitor about local attractions than via a talking termite mound? I'm amazed no one else has thought of it! It IS a local icon after all!!  And wouldn't you be MORE likely to stay over and dip in the famous hot springs, discover 'We of the Never Never' country (and see the movie), and visit the excellent Stockyard Gallery and cafe across the road if this information was dispensed via a giant termite mound??

I can assure you that no ants were harmed in making this novelty centrepiece to the town's rest area. How do I know?

Because it claims to be the largest man-made termite mound in the WORLD!!

Upon seeing that claim, I plotted to build an even bigger termite mound on our return home to Farmworld. I mean, how often do you get the opportunity to actually break a world record? In your own backyard??  Without being a sporting superhero???

BUT … it's been nearly 2½ years since our return – and strangely enough, work has not yet commenced on our own record breaking termite mound. Why not??  Perhaps we're just not yet willing to pay the price of fame!

So I guess the Matarankan record is safe.

For now …

PS  For those wondering how to tell the real from the fake, here's a picture of the real thing for comparison purposes!  Note the proliferation of both Touristus Australianus and near relative Touristus Overseaus!!


Don't Miss This! Old Bakery, Stone Hut, SA

The unkind may call us 'Bakery Sluts' with some validity - but Pilchard and I prefer the term 'connoisseurs'! Either way, the Old Bakery Stone Hut took our extensive bakery experience to a new level. From the 'Best Pies in the Universe' claim around the side to the value-added local produce (including wine) in the cafe, this bakery has it all. Hell, it's even got its own accommodation!!

As well it might …

In the southern Flinders Ranges halfway between Laura and Wirrabara, the imaginatively named Stone Hut -actually a collection of stone huts left from its previous life as a Cobb & Co station - is another 'blink and you'll miss it' town. Or it would be if not for the bakery.

Tragically, I'm unable to confirm the BPITU claim as our October 2010 visit was inexpertly timed for morning tea. What I CAN confirm, however, is that if had I been there at lunchtime, selecting a pie would have been a tough job! Morning tea was hard enough – the astounding choice on offer that is the sure sign of a good bakery also slowed down the service for the unfortunates waiting behind us!

Sadly, no pictures of our purchases exist – there being no point photographing empty plates!!  But the expression on the faces of two hapless overseas tourists who came upon us in full mid-morning tea mode at an outside table, and their subsequent retreat into the bakery itself could only mean one thing – that we were a great advertisement for the bakery food. Or … maybe two - our excpetional food-wolfing abilities just MAY have been more than a little bit scary!!

Whatever the explanation, I'll bet almost anything you like that if (when!) you visit the Old Bakery Stone Hut you'll leave with more than you planned to!!

Happy eating!!


Off the Tourist Trail #2 - Brentwood, Yorke Peninsula, SA

Blink, and you'll miss the little town of Brentwood – so you've got almost NO chance of finding the Brentwood cemetery without local assistance!

Don't look at me - I'm not going to tell you exactly where it is!

But I'm not exactly going to hide it either. After all, it IS mentioned in official Yorke Peninsula Tourist information brochures, so it's not a total secret!

For a start, it's not actually in Brentwood. But Brentwood is at the junction of 5 peninsula roads – so you've got only a 20% chance of picking the right one. On the off chance you DO get it right, you've still got an uphill battle ahead of you. There's no sign. It's off the road. And it's on private property.

But I'm getting ahead of myself! First things first – so why is Brentwood Cemetery worth hunting down?

Well firstly, for the incredible spring wildflower display – the reason it's mentioned in the tourist information. Along with the prolific and spectacular display of freesias, there are several different orchid varieties - one of the reasons the exact location isn't widely publicised!

Secondly, the cemetery is a fascinating slice of Yorke Peninsula history and heritage. According to Leon V Davey's excellent and informative 2000 guide, available from the Yorketown Historical Society, the cemetery was granted in 1878, with the most recent burial in 1973. Many well known Yorke Peninsula families are represented here, with further historical and genealogical information about relatives of the deceased in the guide. Intriguing headstones give glimpses into times gone by, family relationships and early settler life – and unmarked graves a puzzle with a few clues such as size and proximity to other graves.

Thirdly, it gives the traveller a completely different – and very picturesque – perspective of South Australia's Yorke Peninsula, better known to the tourist for its magnificent coastal scenery, natural attractions, beaches and lighthouses.

And if any more reason is needed, hunting it down means paying a visit to 'Harvest Corner', the excellent Visitor Information Centre in nearby Minlaton to ask for directions. Your visit to Minlaton need not go unrewarded – handmade chocs from the Chocolaterie next door, and a magnificent bakery across the road make it even more attractive!

Worth it? Absolutely!

Enjoy - if you can find it!!

PS  There's another FIIIIIINE bakery at Yorktown!!

I'm re-posting this to join in the wonderful new (ish!) Taphophile Tragics meme!  Love graveyards?  Then Taphophile Tragics is the place to be!!!


Australia's Scenic Public Toilets #9 - Brachina Gorge, Flinders Ranges SA

A public toilet in Teamsters Campground??  Sounds like something the Village People could be proud of!!  Or is that just me ...

Go west - or at least to the western end of Brachina Gorge, deep in the heart of South Australia's magnificent Flinders Ranges!  Teamsters Campground is the perfect spot from which to explore the pre-historic strata layers of the gorge's geological trail more closely.

The conveniences are, in turn, the perfect spot from which to reflect on the rugged (hhhmmm... another possible Village People connection!), natural beauty within which the campground is situated.

No denying it, whichever way you turn, the views are AMAAAAAAAAZING!!

But you'll have to come out of the bathroom to see them!!


OZ Top Spot #4 - Porcupine Gorge NP, QLD

We only made three mistakes when we visited Porcupine Gorge National Park in Northern Queensland's Outback. The wild, natural beauty of this spectacular gorge is a short drive (by outback standards) north of nearby Hughenden – with various points of interest along the way outlined in a self-drive tour guide available from the 'Flinders Discovery Centre'.

The town of Hughenden will be instantly recognisable to any dinosaur aficionado worth her/his salt as home of 'Muttaburrasaurus langdoni' and 'Hughie' a life sized skeletal replica in the Centre! The proud 'dinosaur country' legacy is kind of unmistakable, given 'Mutt' - another unique reminder (and fabulous photo opportunity) in the main street!

But I digress …

The first Porcupine Gorge sighting (above) is from a viewing platform high above the gorge – once you've negotiated the car park with camper van couples so clearly overcome by the natural beauty they've retired within to experience more of nature's delights, that is! Well, that was the case during our July 2009 visit!! There's no gorge walk from this point – it's purely for your viewing pleasure, with the main day area and camp ground a little further down the road.

For reasons I still can't really explain, we assumed the 2.4 kilometre (~1.5 miles) return walking trail down the gorge would a) be pretty easy, given its short length (?!) and b) end at the bottom. This was Mistake #1.

So, unfettered by such necessities as food and water (Mistake #2), we tripped lightly down the trail, pausing only to gasp at the amazing views. At the bottom, to our simultaneous delight AND horror, the end of the trail was the beginning of the gorge, and able to be explored both down the rocky river bed, and up to the magnificent 'pyramid' formation!

What kind of travellers don't let little things like absence of food and water and hot sun impede their exploration? Bl**dy idiots, of course!! BUT … the extra 2-3 kilometres we walked along the gorge bed (Mistake #3) was so magnificent we forgot our foolishness. Until it was time to return.

I don't know how many of those to whom I attributed my VERY frequent stops on the upward trail to 'admiring the view' actually believed me. Unfortunately, my beetroot-red face and heart-attack quality puffing and panting were probably a bit of a giveaway … and why are 'up' kilometres so much longer than 'down' ones??

BUT … I reckon I made many of the much older people who passed me on my tortuous ascent (and humoured my outright lie!) feel so much better about their fitness and abilities.

And with the wonderful benefits of hindsight, we won't be making those three mistakes again!!
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